Archive for June, 2007

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Taking a week off…

June 22, 2007

I’m posting this just in case anyone is wondering why I’m not responding to your comments.  I’ll be on vacation for a bit, and away from a computer. I’ll be back after a little fun in the sun.

Update 6/30:  OK I’m back.  Some tennis, volleyball, canoe, timber sports, and I saw a bear.  Time flies when you’re havin’ fun!

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The Story That Snuck Past Everyone: DEA Busts “Prince of Marbella”

June 22, 2007

Two weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Justice released a statement claiming that the Spain arrested Monzer al-Kassar (aka “Prince of Marbella”) based on a year-long operation conducted by the DEA: International Arms Dealer Charged With Conspiracy to Kill Americans and Related Terrorism Violations

You’d think that with a headline like that, you’d see a little more traction from this story.  I mean, here we have a guy with a resume that resembles Nick Cage’s character in Lord of War, with the added attribute of having a penchant for killing Americans.  Add to that the fact that we’re supposedly in the middle of a ‘war on terror’, along with the little detail that he was #26 on Iraq’s ‘most wanted’ list for supplying weapons to the insurgency, and you’d think this would be bona fide news. 

But what do I know?

Anyway, here’s what he’s charged with:

  1. Count One: Conspiracy to provide material support or resources to adesignated foreign terrorist organization, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2339B;
  2. Count Two: Conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2332(b);
  3. Count Three: Conspiracy to kill U.S. officers or employees, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1114 and 1117; and
  4. Count Four: Conspiracy to acquire and use an anti-aircraft missile, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2332g.

And here’s what he looks like:

alkassar.jpg

More from the article:

“Monzer al Kassar has long been one of the most prolific arms dealers in the world. He has supported terrorists and insurgents by providing them with high-powered weapons that have fueled the most violent conflicts of the last three decades,” said U.S. Attorney Michael J. Garcia. “Today, Kassar and two of his criminal associates face charges for agreeing to arm a terrorist organization whose aim it was to kill American citizens.”

“Monzer al Kassar commands a global munitions empire, arming and funding insurgents and terrorists across the globe, particularly those who wish to harm Americans,” said DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy. “He operates in the shadows, the silent partner behind the business of death and terror. Kassar’s capture is a testament to DEA’s unique investigative skills and broad reach of its international intelligence network.”

Sounds like good news to me.  Amazing what slips past us when Paris Hilton decides to have a nervous breakdown, eh?

Update:  I did some more searching on Digg, and noticed that WaPo had a story on it, but it’s hard to find many others mentioning it.

Update:  It didn’t slip past Pat Dollard.

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His Royal Cheneyness

June 21, 2007

There’s already a consensus that Dick Cheney is the most powerful VP in our nation’s history, and it’s no secret that he has a long history of being a proponent of almost unlimited power for the executive branch, but this is getting pretty surreal: Vice President Exempts His Office from the Requirements for Protecting Classified Information

The Oversight Committee has learned that over the objections of the National Archives, Vice President Cheney exempted his office from the presidential order that establishes government-wide procedures for safeguarding classified national security information. The Vice President asserts that his office is not an “entity within the executive branch.”

As described in a letter from Chairman Waxman to the Vice President, the National Archives protested the Vice President’s position in letters written in June 2006 and August 2006. When these letters were ignored, the National Archives wrote to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in January 2007 to seek a resolution of the impasse. The Vice President’s staff responded by seeking to abolish the agency within the Archives that is responsible for implementing the President’s executive order.

For documentation purposes:   Fact Sheet on the Vice President’s Efforts to Avoid Oversight and Accountability (pdf)

In my quest to figure out what that really means, I spotted a great post from Scholars:

Having the Vice President, and a Republican at that, responsible for egregious breaches in national security sets a very poor example. After all, if the Vice President’s office can be exempt from secrecy requirements, then other offices could be as well. How long will it be before the entire Justice Department uses the identical argument (its duties are split between the executive and judicial branches, after all) to exempt itself from annual ISOO oversight?And what are the sanctions for breaking this particular EO?

Is “What the hell is he hiding?” a fair question?  Does it have anything to do with what happened to Scooter Libby?  

If you’re not part of the legislative, judicial, or executive, I suppose that leaves some sort of position of royalty.  How should we address thee?

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Right Wingers Find Their Inner “Truther”

June 21, 2007

I happened to stumble upon a blog post over at Right Wing Nut House concerning this story about the possibility that Osama himself chartered a flight for a couple handfuls of Saudis shortly after 9/11.  Check this out:

Another nagging question is what the 9/11 Commission staffers made of these memos when they read them? One would think that a mention of Osama Bin Laden in an FBI report on the Saudi flights would have raised every red flag possible and led to hauling Mueller, Clark, and the investigating agents before the Commission to explain themselves. The fact that Commission staffers either missed these reports or never acted upon them is just more evidence that the Commission itself had flawed investigative procedures.

Or they never saw the reports at all. This raises other, more troubling questions, about what else the FBI failed to give the Commission.

Looks like they’ve discovered some unresolved issues with the 9/11 commission report, doesn’t it?  Perhaps they should be added to the list?

Disclaimer:  I don’t consider myself part of the “9/11 truth movement”.  I pretty much put my curiosity about the event itself or any possibilities of a conspiracy to bed years ago.  I do, however, believe that we are all entitled (as Americans) to know the whole truth about that day and related events both before and after.  So I’m making this post to prove the point that it’s OK to have questions about 9/11.  While it’s irresponsible to put forth theories that have little basis in fact, the quest for truth is a good thing.   No one on the right or left should be afraid to ask questions about those events. 

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What’s With All The “Pundit” Bloggers?

June 20, 2007

…and why do they all seem to lean right?

I’ll admit, I noticed this early on when I started this blog.  In fact, I came across so many of them that I decided to give them their own section in my sidebar (see “Pundits Anyone?”).  Here’s the list:

Now, I know a few of those are more popular than others, and at least a couple of them seem to be defunct and have moved.  I think its pretty clear that there is sort of a “Pundit” phenomenon going on, however.  Can anyone explain why there doesn’t seem to be any leftys among them*?

Anyway, I guess I mention this because I stumbled upon another one today, AcePundit.com (who, for the record, claims to be an independent libertarian).  I’ll add more to the list as I discover them.

*If you spot a lefty “Pundit” blogger, or if there is one on that list that I missed, please let me know in the comments.  Actually, let me know if you spot any other “Pundit” blogger not on the list, drop a comment (I’ll give you and/or your blog a hat tip in the post).

Update:  Commentor Triguy76 points out that there is a free hosting service called punditpending.com (which I was completely unaware of).  I think we’re going to exclude those, unless there are particular bloggers that use the service whose handles or blogs are labeled as “______ pundit” or some similar variation.

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Bloomberg Goes Indy

June 19, 2007

Should this be a surprise?  Bloomberg Leaving Republican Party

Michael R. Bloomberg, a longtime Democrat who switched to the Republican Party to run for mayor of New York City in 2001, announced this evening that he is changing his party status and registering as an independent…

Is he running?  Just for the record, from Rasmussen: 27% Likely to Vote for Bloomberg as Third Party Candidate

This could get pretty interesting….

Update:  I just spotted a fellow WordPress blogger who has another take: Bloomberg in the Race

Update:  According to the NYT, he insists he’s not running.

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PBS FRONTLINE: “Endgame”

June 18, 2007

Since this seems to be related to my previous post, I thought I’d mention that I’ll be watching this program tomorrow night at 9pm (tptHD).  Here’s the summary:

Endgame

coming Jun. 19, 2007 at 9pm (check local listings)

(60 minutes) As the United States begins one final effort to secure victory through a “surge” of troops, FRONTLINE investigates how strategic and tactical mistakes brought Iraq to civil war. The film recounts how the early mandate to create the conditions for a quick exit of the American military led to chaos, failure, and sectarian strife. In Endgame, producer Michael Kirk (Rumsfeld’s War, The Torture Question, The Dark Side, and The Lost Year in Iraq) traces why the president decided to risk what military planners once warned could be the worst way to fight in Iraq — door-to-door — and assesses the likelihood of its success. Top administration figures, military commanders, and journalists offer inside details about the new strategy. (read the press release)

..and a short teaser vid posted on YouTube:


(Hat Tip: Hot Air)

I’ll post more here after I watch the program. Should be interesting. 

Update:  “The plan was, there was no plan” …wow

Update:  OK, I just finished watching it.  I gotta tell ya, it was sobering.  In a nutshell, we’ve been making our ‘plan’ up as went along. 

I think I’ve learned more about the Iraq conflict in this 60 minutes than I have in 4 years of watching media outlets like CNN and reading stories on the internet.  It was an excellent account of the behind-the-scenes events that have led us to our current situation.

My opinion?  I’m pretty sure that Shinseki would be vindicated.  In order for this to have worked, we would have needed several hundred thousand troops employing Col. McMaster’s ‘clear, hold, build’ blueprint from the very beginning.  If that had happened, we probably could have seen serious success within a year or two.  As it sits right now, however, it’s hard to be optimistic.  

If you want to view the full program online, or view extended interviews with key military players, strategists and journalists, go here

Update:  One more thing I figured out.  Bush hasn’t been straight with the American people about this war since the very beginning.  Not until his Jan. 11 address from this year did he decide that it was finally time to level with us (a little).  This is, of course, deplorable.

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Duh! Headline Of The Day

June 17, 2007

Blair knew US had no post-war plan for Iraq

!

Tony Blair agreed to commit British troops to battle in Iraq in the full knowledge that Washington had failed to make adequate preparations for the postwar reconstruction of the country.

In a devastating account of the chaotic preparations for the war, which comes as Blair enters his final full week in Downing Street, key No 10 aides and friends of Blair have revealed the Prime Minister repeatedly and unsuccessfully raised his concerns with the White House.

Well, on second thought, that might be news. Sorta. But I think we all suspected or assumed that this was the story ever since all those British memos surfaced back in 2005 (there was another one that came out late last year, although that had more to do with the dog and pony show).  I guess it does put those “WTF were they thinking?” questions back out there again though. 

BTW- I still want to know how Blair came up with the whole ’45 minutes’ thing.  Maybe he thought of it while he was shaving or something. 

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Just In Case Romney Wins The Nomination

June 17, 2007

I saw a post by Denny that showed Romney’s polling advances, so I thought I’d keep this video handy:

Null Set!

Kevin Drum said it best:

WTF? Does this kind of stuff run in the family? (Yes, I know I’ve already made that joke once before.)

Question: does Romney genuinely not know that both the IAEA and Hans Blix’s team had hundreds of inspectors in Iraq prior to the war? And that those inspectors found nothing?

Or does he know it perfectly well and has simply calculated that no one in the media cares enough about this stuff to make a big deal out of a howler like this? In any sane world, this kind of thing would be enough to disqualify a candidate from running for dogcatcher, let alone president of the United States.

Wonderful thing, that YouTube. 

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The Other Surge In Iraq

June 16, 2007

I caught this headline in the AP RSS feed: Private US security companies involved in Iraqi hostilities

US private security companies are reportedly getting increasingly involved in military action in Iraq, fighting insurgents, enduring attacks and taking hundreds of casualties that have been sometimes concealed.

Citing unnamed US and Iraqi officials and company representatives, The Washington Post said that while the military has built up troops in Baghdad, the security companies, funded by billions of dollars in US military and State Department contracts, have been engaged in a parallel surge.

They have boosted manpower, added expensive armor and stepped up evasive action as attacks increase, the report said.

One in seven supply convoys protected by private forces has come under attack this year, the paper said, citing previously unreleased statistics.

One security company reported nearly 300 “hostile actions” in the first four months.

The majority of the more than 100 security companies operate outside of Iraqi law, The Post said.

Remember…

support-our-mercs-ribbon.gif

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Trent Lott Isn’t Hannitized

June 15, 2007

Oh brother, some politicians just say the oddest things:

Comments by Republican senators on Thursday suggested that they were feeling the heat from conservative critics of the bill, who object to provisions offering legal status. The Republican whip, Trent Lott of Mississippi, who supports the bill, said: “Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem.”

At some point, Mr. Lott said, Senate Republican leaders may try to rein in “younger guys who are huffing and puffing against the bill.”

I noticed they were talking about this over at Hot Air.  They ain’t happy.

Alas, Trent Lott is NOT a “Great American“.

BTW- If Sean Hannity and I were ever on the same page about anything, it would probably be immigration.  New laws don’t inspire confidence because we aren’t really enforcing the laws we have now.  I’ve always assumed that America is, by law,  kind of like a gated community. People can go in and out, but there’s a protocol to be followed.  Right now our gates are being overrun.  To me that seems like a pretty simple concept, but maybe I just don’t know what the heck I’m talking about (I haven’t read the gazillion-page bill myself).

For the most part, I probably agree a bit with Lott here in a way.  Guys like Hannity would repeat statements alleging that the Democrats don’t want us “listening to terrorists” or some other outrageous spin on the topic of the day.  These programs just ooze spin.  Become a “Dittohead”!  Subscribe to the “Medved Memo”!  You haven’t been Hannitized!  Lets face it, if these on-air pundits aren’t controlling the opinion, they sure as hell make it look like they want to be.

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What Does “American” Mean, Anyway?

June 14, 2007

 First, Harry Reid referred to 12 million “undocumented Americans“.  Watch it:

Second, the uproar! [1], [2], [3], [4], [etc.]

Then, while I was out grabbing lunch yesterday, I heard Rush Limbaugh take a call from someone (named ‘Carol’, I think) who claimed that the phrase was technically accurate.   Argument being?  Well, everyone living on the North or South American continents are “Americans”.  Rush was stunned.  In fact, he even felt he had to call the woman back (which he claimed was a first for his show).

Now, I know that Reid was probably making the characterization out of political correctness or whatever.  “Illegal aliens” just sounds so, well, threatening and mean after all.  Or, maybe he was stating in the context that these people are actually contributing to “American” life in some shape or form, but are suffering from the handicap of being ‘undocumented’.  Put that aside, and I think there is something to be said about ‘Carol’s’ argument however…

Of course, there’s the whole issue of colloquialisms and semantics.  When someone says “I’m an American”, they usually assume that you are a citizen of the USA.  But “America” (the continents) were named well before the United States existed.  Have we just monopolized the term?  I mean, someone from France is as much French as they are European, right?  Same would go for a man living in the Congo would be considered African?  Is the term “American” in use to describe a citizen of the US just an acceptable inaccuracy?  Is a Canadian really just as “American” as I am? 

Is this a silly topic for a post?  I don’t think so.  I think I could get a lot sillier.  This “American” thing gets weirder, if you really think about it.  Here we go…

A commonly accepted euphemism for a black person is “African American”, right?  But is that an accurate description of race?  I mean, it would seem a little odd from a logical point of view to call the aforementioned man from Congo an “African American”.  Even stranger would be to call a white US citizen who immigrated from South Africa the same thing, even though it would seem to be more technically accurate than the previous example. What about “Native American”?  That would refer to the group of people who can trace their lineage on the continent back to before European colonization.  That term appears to be much more logical. 

Uh oh.

Well, technically, the majority of Mexicans can make the same claim.  From a certain cultural-historical-geographical point of view, most of those 12 million illegal aliens can say that they are more “American” than I am.

So there.  That’s my silly little deep thought of the day, even if I haven’t really answered the question.

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Persistent Troll Thread

June 14, 2007

If you ever wanted to check out a really annoying troll, check out this thread.  The comments will get deleted eventually, I would assume. 

enter in a phony email if ya want, the info should stay in there after each post

Update:  This may be a Godzilla wannabe:

godzilla.jpg
It was a peaceful and productive forum; lively, congenial and a bounteous source of useful information. Then one day, completely without warning, Godzilla arose from the depths and blew his scalding breath on everything in his path. A phalanx of Warriors mobilized to attack the monster, only to be crushed like so many toy tanks under Godzilla’s mighty feet. Godzilla soon reduced the forum to searing and consuming flames. Just as abruptly, he rumbled back beneath the waves, leaving all to tremble in fear of his return. Net life would never be the same. Sadly, many netizens who survive a Godzilla attack will become Xenophobes.

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General Lieberman Speaks (Followed By General ChenZhen)

June 12, 2007
First, from the other day:

WASHINGTON (AP) – Sen. Joseph Lieberman said Sunday the United States should consider a military strike against Iran because of Tehran’s involvement in Iraq.

“I think we’ve got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq,” Lieberman said. “And to me, that would include a strike over the border into Iran, where we have good evidence that they have a base at which they are training these people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers.”

My initial response was this (from another blog):

ChenZhen said…
    “I want to make clear I’m not talking about a massive ground invasion of Iran,” Lieberman said.

That’s the problem. Unless we’re prepared for full-scale war, I think any attack inside Iran’s borders is just plain foolish. For one, said attack probably won’t halt Iran’s involvement. In all liklihood, the attempt would backfire, even if we did destroy some training camp somewhere. They’d probably just come back at us harder, and the situation would escalate.

Nevermind the fact that this would be exactly what al Qaeda in Iraq wants us to do.

It’s a nice fix Bush has gotten us into, eh?

 ———–

DesertSage said…
Oh boy…General ChenZhen is giving us military advice.
WE.MUST.LISTEN.TO.GENERAL.CHENZHEN!
June 10, 2007 5:45 PM

I wonder if I should put some stars in my sidebar?

Sure enough, a real general weighs in:

Senator Lieberman’s saber rattling does nothing to help dissuade Iran from aiding Shia militias in Iraq, or trying to obtain nuclear capabilities. In fact, it’s highly irresponsible and counter-productive, and I urge him to stop.

generalchenzhen.gif

Update:  Excellent and related read from Ezra Klein: Let’s Get Serious  —  What do liberal hawks actually want to do regarding Iran?

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