Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Aviator 

I saw Scorsese's Howard Hughes Biopic "The Aviator" yesterday, and think it was brilliant. I see multiple Academy Awards in Scorsese's future, and wouldn't be surprise if Leo gets nominated, and also Alan Alda, who plays and important supporting role as Maine Senator Ralph Owen Brewster, and the always great Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn. Going in, I knew very little of Howard Hughes brilliance, and had heard of his descent into madness. Coming out, I learned Hughes was indeed nuts, but had quite a vision, and put his ideas and dreams to work (with the help of an inheritance). The film is just under 3 hours long, but for the most part, travels as fast as Hughes's planes. I highly recommend "The Aviator", but I imagine I'm not alone.


Midnight Mass 

I attended Midnight Mass on Christmas, and got more than beautiful Christmas music, and a well decorated church. During the homily, the priest praised our men and women serving over in Iraq, for helping to bring freedom to the Iraqis (I agree with the praise). Then, he proceeded to slur our troops' service by using the tired Bush line of the "Terrorists are attacking us because of our freedoms". I couldn't believe what I was hearing. The terrorists can give a rats ass whether or not we are free too chose was banks to use, what movies to go to, or what car to buy, because they hate us for our policies!! They don't like our support for Israel, how we talk about hating dictatorships, but support Pakistan's Dictator (and Egypt's, Libya's, Saudi Arabia's, etc) , our use of sanctions in Iraq, etc.

I shouldn't have been too surprised by the priest's Bush rhetoric because, before the election, the same priest was reminding voters to vote "Pro-Life", but did not name the candidate(Bush obviously). I guess we know what side he's on.


Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays! 

(More posts later)


Thursday, December 23, 2004

"We have a head scarf stuck in lane 10" 

News I never thought I'd read:

NEW YORK - Late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat invested $1.3 million in a company that owns a popular bowling alley in Greenwich Village, newly released documents show.

Arafat made the investment in New York City-based Strike Holdings, owner of Bowlmor Lanes, through a holding company he created called Onyx Funds, Bloomberg Markets Magazine reported Wednesday.

Bowlmor is located several blocks from the campus of New York University and is popular with Manhattan hipsters, who pay about $8 a game per person to play on evenings and weekends.

For some reason, I have a hard time picturing Arafat and his PLO buddies hanging out at the local bowling alley, planning on destroying Israel, wearing those funny shoes.

Nixon on the other hand...


All Apologies? 

I guess the right-wing media will apologize to the reporter now?
NEW YORK In his first public account of last week’s controversy, Spc. Thomas Wilson says that he came up with the now famous armor question for Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld on his own, without the help of oft-criticized reporter Edward Lee Pitts. And he adds, "If this is my 15 minutes of fame, I hope it saves a life."The account appears in next week’s edition of Time magazine.

Wilson, who serves with Tennessee’s 278th Regiment in the National Guard, tells Time that he befriended Pitts, an embed for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, at California's Fort Irwin, where his unit trained. Later, in Kuwait, after Pitts learned that only soldiers could ask questions at the upcoming town hall meeting with Rumsfeld in Kuwait, he urged Wilson to come up with some "intelligent questions."

After his convoy arrived at Camp Arijan in Kuwait, Wilson found hundreds of fully armored vehicles promised to another unit months down the road. Wilson says he asked if the 278th could use them in the meantime, and was told no. That inspired his question about the shortage of armor, which he showed to Pitts.

The reporter, far from being the protagonist, suggested that he find “a less brash way of asking the question," but Wilson “told him no, that I wanted to make my point very clear."

Wilson says he also came up with three alternate questions on his own.

The Time account continues: “As for Rumsfeld's brusque response -- that even a fully armored vehicle ‘can be blown up’ -- Wilson says, ‘Personally, I didn't like that answer.’”

But he added, “I hope I didn't do any damage to Secretary Rumsfeld.”

The question and the damage done.


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

N. Ireland Robbery 

This is one "massive headache" that I'd like to have. (Ok, except for the possible life sentence, if caught)
Pulling off one of the largest and most daring cash robberies of all time is one thing. Disposing successfully of the loot and enjoying the benefits is another matter.

For the criminals who have made off with more than £20m from the headquarters of Northern Bank in Belfast, the problems may only just be beginning...

Police in the United Kingdom and across Europe will be hot on their trail while shopkeepers from Ballymena to Brighton will be alert to any large or unusual purchases for the next few weeks. Secondly, the sheer size of the robbers' horde could turn out to be a millstone around their necks.

Getting rid of £20m without causing huge suspicion is likely to tax even the most resourceful and determined of criminal minds. Not only do the stolen notes each have their own code, making them easy to identify but the majority are denominated in Northern Ireland currency.

It'll be interesting to see who was behind the robbery (if we ever know), but some are already pointing to the IRA, because of some of the tactics used. While that could be case, the law enforcement and compliant media seem all too eager to convict on this one. Who's to say it wasn't a gang of Loyalists, as opposed to the IRA? The IRA has a lot to lose, if they are found to be the ones behind this. What would they be using the money for, do they have a looming Social Security crisis as well?


New Primary Order 


EVALUATING DNC CHAIRS. Via Josh Marshall, I came across this Wall Street Journal profile of Steve Rosenthal, the political chief of Americans Coming Together. Rosenthal, according to the Journal, has some ideas about the primary calendar:

He suggests Democrats place the five closest states from the previous general election (Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, New Mexico, and Wisconsin) first in the 2008 primary calendar to help tune up for fall battles.

I agree with Josh that this is a pretty smart idea for the Democrats. And I think you could take it even further. Two points. First, a party that was thinking long-term and strategically about how to become a majority party would make a habit of this practice -- of continually shifting the primary calendar every cycle to put whatever states were closest in the last election at the top of the list for the next one. Such a schedule would put a premium on Democrats who fit the "persuader" type, who can win back the voters who in many respects should be voting for their party, but for various reasons did not.

Second, I think a stated willingness to reform the primary calendar, either a la Rosenthal or with some other system of rotation, should be considered a threshold qualification of any aspiring party chairman who wants to earn the "reformer" label. There are lots of things the party chairman doesn't have a lot of influence over and can't really be held accountable for. But this is one of the things he or she does have influence over. And the New Hampshire and Iowa potentates who insist, against all logic and reason, that they should be first on the schedule are no less a part of the party's problem than the Beltway class that gets so much grief.

These are the fresh ideas that the Democrats need, but what scares me is that there are some out there who still don't get it, and are willing to continue the status quo. The GOP doesn't have the biggest majority, yet the Democrats have to earn the votes, and not expect the GOP to just fall apart and cede the majority to the Dems.


Tanker Truck Explosion 

This accident occurred about a block or two from where I live, yet I had no idea it happened.
ARLINGTON, Virginia (AP) -- A fuel tanker truck crashed near the Pentagon early Wednesday, sparking multiple explosions that sent flames nearly 50 feet in the air and shut down a major highway for several hours overnight.
Also about a block away, is a Fire Department that wakes me up practically every night answering calls. Everytime it wakes me up, I think a terrorist attack or something has happened. So last night, when something does happen, I sleep through it.

Blame it on the visions of sugarplums dancing in my head.


8 Votes 

Every vote did count
OLYMPIA, Wash. - Democrats have claimed victory in the race for Washington governor by a razor-thin margin of eight votes, citing preliminary results of a hand recount they say puts Christine Gregoire in front for the first time. Republicans maintained the race was still too close to call.

The stunning turnaround was reported late Tuesday by the head of the state Democratic Party, who said party officials' analysis of hand-counted returns from King County — the last county to finish the grueling process — showed that Gregoire had eclipsed the dwindling margin that Republican Dino Rossi has held since Election Day.

"We're confident Christine Gregoire has been elected the governor of the state of Washington," Democratic Chairman Paul Berendt said. "I believe Dino Rossi should concede."

And, according to MyDD, the lawsuit that is pending is Gregoire's, so the race is most likely over.


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Syria Meddling? 

From Asia Times:
There is disagreement in Syria about what the government knows about such supposed ties and what it does about them. One adviser to the Foreign Ministry called it "inconceivable" that the government would allow, let alone condone, support for the Iraqi insurgents. "Those people may go and fight, be trained, learn all kinds of things and come back to make trouble," said Syrian adviser Riad Daoudi, indicating that the insurgency in Iraq is not in Syria's interest.

Prominent human-rights lawyer Anwar al-Bounni takes a different view. The government seems to be taking its precautions by arresting fighters who return from Iraq, he said. At the beginning of December, a man who had been held for four months after crossing back visited his office, he said. He is reported to have told Bounni that at least 50 more former fighters were languishing in the same jail. The lawyer estimated that there must be many
more elsewhere.

The government has indeed clamped down on some of the people who were calling for a jihad in Iraq, said Bounni. In Hama, a town that has a reputation as a fundamentalist stronghold, 16 preachers who were calling on their followers to go to Iraq were arrested in September, said the lawyer. This was done, he claimed, not because the authorities wanted to stop the flow of fighters completely, but because they do not want it to happen "outside their control".

If this is true, than it sounds like Syria doesn't want to end up like Saudi Arabia did in the early 90's, with an influx of Jihadis looking for a new playground. Of course Syrians and other Arabs have crossed the Syrian border into Iraq, it's too big of a border for Syria to completely control, but, we should have and enough soldiers locking down the border on Iraq's side, from Day 1.


Saturday, December 18, 2004

A Schrocking Demotion 

From committee member to Staff Director.

U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) said yesterday that he has offered a job to Rep. Edward L. Schrock (R-Va.), who announced last summer that he would not seek reelection after a Web site said he had solicited gay sex.

Davis said Schrock has accepted his offer to be the top staff person for one of the subcommittees of the Government Reform Committee, which Davis chairs and Schrock has served on. Schrock will supervise a staff and be responsible for developing policy about government regulation, Davis said.

"Ed was a great member of this committee. We're just delighted that he accepted my invitation," Davis said. Davis added that Schrock "will take that knowledge base as a member. This allows us to continue a good working relationship."

I'm amazed that he can even show his face around the halls of the Capitol. Is this a job to keep him quiet?


Thursday, December 16, 2004

Chevy Chase 

Shows once again why I like him.
He deployed the four-letter word that got Vice President Dick Cheney in hot water, using it as a noun. Chase called the prez a "dumb (expletive)." He also used it as an adjective, assuring the audience, "I'm no (expletive) clown either. ... This guy started a jihad."

Right thing to say, but wrong place. Just as Cheney shouldn't have used the F-word on the Senate Floor, Chase shouldn't have said it at an awards show, at the Kennedy Center. Perhaps, he was just doing his Gerald Ford impression?


Osama Adapting? 

Dr. Evil has new ideas, do we?

As Osama bin Laden surveys the international scene from his secret base in Pakistan, he has convinced himself the American empire can be defeated in Iraq and Saudi Arabia much the way his mujahideen guerrillas defeated the Soviet empire in Afghanistan. In his videotape released four days before the U.S. elections, bin Laden referred to the way the Afghan resistance had bankrupted the Soviet Union, which he used as a model for inflicting a similar fate on the United States...

In Pakistan, Bin Laden has access to the local and international media, CNN, FOX, BBC, al-Jazeera and other Arab satellite channels. He heard Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tell FOX News he had not anticipated the strength of the Iraqi insurgency "because no one has a perfect view into the future." He also listened to CNN as Gen. Lance Smith, deputy chief of the U.S. Central Command, said a bold, innovative insurgency in Iraq is becoming more effective against U.S. supply lines and explosive attacks have slowed military operations. The United States has begun using large military cargo aircraft to ferry food and equipment high above dangerous roadways, bringing the total cost of Afghanistan and Iraq to $6 billion a month.

As an Arab prone to exaggeration, he cannot believe the number of U.S. killed so far in Iraq is 1,300. He assumes it is several times that number. He has also read the Pentagon confirmed that 5,500 U.S. military have deserted to Canada rather than fight in Iraq; that the Army National Guard is short of 5,000 citizen-soldiers; that lawsuits have been filed by those whose duty period has been involuntarily extended; that soldiers have refused to go on dangerous missions without proper equipment.

Osama bin Laden presumably knows why some 7,500 jihadis who fought against the United States in Iraq have been trickling back to their homes in the Muslim slums of Western Europe. They returned with new terrorist skills and the ability to form sleeper cells and/or encourage others to sign up for jihad. Europe's Muslims - about 20 million of them - are for the most part moderate and good citizens of their country of adoption. But the silent majority has been cowed into silence by growing numbers of unemployed who are alienated, angry and refuse to integrate in European societies. They are also vocal in favor of bin Laden as the new pinup who rivals Che Guevara on university campuses.

But, this is the truly sad/scary part:
Three years after 9/11, bin Laden sees his ratings in the Muslim world and among Muslim minorities in Europe have far surpassed President Bush's on the scale of credibility and trustworthiness. The Bush administration's Israel-right-or-wrong policy has now been confirmed - for bin Laden to read in dozens of newspapers - by no less an authority than Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to Bush 41...

Bin Laden has read what prominent non-royal Saudis have said about him - e.g., in a truly free election in Saudi Arabia he would win hands down against the royal family, which is now cordially and widely disliked, if not despised. The world's most wanted terrorist also has friends in high places in Pakistan, where President Pervez Musharraf is also widely despised by a majority of the population. In Pakistan as a whole, bin Laden scored a 66 percent approval rating. In the two provinces governed by the pro-al-Qaida, pro-Taliban coalition of six politico-religious parties, bin Laden's popularity rating as a freedom fighter climbs to above 80 percent.

Bin Laden must also have concluded that another 9/11 - which would have to be even more deadly than the first - is not possible in the light of ever-tighter security precautions. America's European allies that back the war - Britain and Italy in particular - offer the same opportunities as Spain did with the train bombings last March 11. The "new" Europeans have already announced a steady reduction of their small troop levels in Iraq.

Bin Laden is a lot smarter than some give him credit for. I'm not convince he's "winning" the War on Terror, but I don't think he's losing either. However, he seems more willing to adapt than we.


Saudi Strike Update 

Didn't happen.
Saudi police made several arrests as anti-monarchy protesters attempted to stage demonstrations in the kingdom's main cities.
Witnesses reported gunshots, at least six arrests and dozens of people being chased in the streets by security forces in Jeddah on Thursday.

There were reports of minor protests outside government offices in Tabur and Hail but the capital Riyadh was calm.

Exiled dissident Saad al-Faqih had called for protests against the regime.

Mr Faqih's call for peaceful protests came on the anniversary of demonstrations which saw up to 100 people take part.


Drop Cropp 

Send a note to the person who single-handedly could stop Baseball from coming to Washington. Not that Mayor Anthony Williams should escape blame-would any other big city Mayor get steamrolled? Mayor Daley of Chicago? Rendell in Philly? Giuliani? Absolutely not. Williams dropped the ball, but Cropp kicked it away.


Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Lieberman says No 

Just when Bush thought he had some "Joementum", Lieberman goes and turns down the Homeland Security job.
Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman has twice in recent days said "no" when approached about the possibility of a major job in the second Bush administration, CNN has learned.

The Cabinet vacancy at the Department of Homeland Security was the subject of the latest overture, according to congressional and other government sources. Those sources said the earlier overture was to see whether Lieberman might be interested in becoming the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

White House officials declined comment, saying they do not discuss personnel matters.

Good move by Lieberman. If he took any job, his Senate replacement would be appointed by Connecticut GOP Governor, which would give Repbulicans an extra Senate seat, which they could use to stop a Democrat filibuster. Lieberman is a Iraq War hawk, but he is a liberal at heart. He's no Zell Miller.


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Is there a Doctor in the....um.. Senate? 

Kooky Senator-Elect Tom Coburn doesn't seem to think that being Senator is a full-time job
Republican Sen.-elect Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a politician and an obstetrician, wants to deliver more babies after he takes office Jan. 4, a request apparently at odds with Senate conflict-of-interest rules.
Coburn "merely wants to break even with his costs to maintain his medical practice," and he has had private discussions with GOP leaders as well as members of the Senate ethics committee, spokesman John Hart said Friday night.

Neither the Senate nor the executive branch allows elected or appointed officials, or employees of any kind, to practice medicine on private patients.

Senate Leader Bill Frist, also an M.D., handles this issue a bit different. From Roll Call (subscription only):
Coburn’s position contrasts with that of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), an acclaimed transplant surgeon before entering politics. Frist continues to perform some surgeries on a charitable basis when not engaged in Senate business. Frist also covers the costs of his malpractice insurance out of his own pocket.

Apparently, Coburn isn't hurting for money either, (again from Roll Call):

Coburn’s annual income from his medical practice was far more than the $158,100 he will make as a Senator next year. He also served in the House from 1995 to 2000.
During 2003, Coburn earned slightly more than $380,000 from his medical practice, according to the financial disclosure form he filed as a Senate candidate. Coburn pocketed an additional $25,000 from other sources in that same period. Coburn’s net worth is between $1 million and $3 million.

Thomas A. Coburn Inc., of which Coburn is president, provided Coburn with a salary and “business income” of more than $190,000, while the Muskogee Allergy Clinic paid Coburn $121,500 in salary, and another $67,339 in “business income.” Coburn is a managing partner of the clinic.

Coburn, a family practitioner who specializes in obstetrics, is listed as the manager of Maternal & Family Practice Associates of Muskogee, Okla., and is a managing partner in two real-estate partnerships, one of which is apparently tied to his medical practice. Coburn also serves as the president of a residential construction company and a golf course. He is a director for a publishing firm and for the Family Research Council, a prominent conservative organization.

Coburn had a well-publicized struggle with the House ethics committee over the same issue several years ago. While originally advised he would not be able to practice medicine, he ultimately prevailed. Coburn threatened to retire if they didn't change thier view.


Coup Coming in Saudi Arabia? 

A strike planned for Thursday:
This Thursday appears to be a red letter day for dissidents and militants within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, based on a series of postings found on Arabic language message boards.

Thursday, December 16, groups opposed to the Saudi royal family have scheduled a country wide demonstration, and are trying to organize a general strike with Saudi Arabia for the same day.

There is a good deal of misinformation floating around as a result of erroneous machine translations, which imply that a major terrorist attack is being planned for this Thursday. But based on a careful reading of the original Arabic texts, it appears that the plans being discussed on the message boards deal with protest marches, and not a terror strike.

This is not to say that we discount the possibility of a terror attack being piggy-backed upon the event; but the plans on the internet do not detail such an attack. The US State Department has issued statements in the wake of the attack on the US Consulate in Jeddah indicating that they believe further terror attacks may well be in operational stages.

One statement of concern in the planning document that was found on the internet does entertain the possibility of the demonstration turning violent:

The length of the strike may increase, and it may turn into armed combat against those in authority. It is important that you do not retreat.

At another point in the document, it discusses who those individuals who might be martyred in the course of Thursday’s demonstration should be remembered.

As the martyrs of this uprising carry the shehada of blood with their sacrifice, so do you, the citizen. You are responsible for spreading the word, in the media and elsewhere, because the martyrs blood will be wasted if we do not spread the news.

The nation-wide protests are being planned in exquisite detail on the web; a 28 page document was published yesterday providing high levels of detail as to how people should prepare for the demonstration and their behavior during the event.

In some ways, the planning reaches the level that one would see in corporate image standards. For example, the organizers have laid down strict guidelines on signs, banners, and slogans. It specifies what can be contained in the slogans, and advises people to email their suggestions to an ad hoc committee which has been established to approve such slogans.

Protesters are being urged to write the text in large clear print and to hand them well up in the air at government facilities, educational institutions, apartment buildings, in retail districts, and along roads.

Detailed instructions are provided for followers to use in maximizing media attention as well.

Could it be an organized strike, coupled with a terror attack to show how serious they are? I think the Saudi Royals are despicable, but who could replace them is much worse. These won't be ordinary Muslims, but extreme Wahabbi's taught to hate America and the West. A coup in Saudi Arabia will most certainly cause the U.S. to intervene, at the least, to protect the oil fields. Some may think U.S. intervention will be the best option, not only do we get rid of the Saudi Royals, but we can then attack the Saudi extremists, and from there, find a moderate Saudi to rule. Stay tuned...


Monday, December 13, 2004


From Talking Points Memo:
Very, very interesting.

From the Cash-n-Kerik-Catch-Up front, in the Monday Times piece

by David Sanger, White House officials, including Scott McClellan seem to make quite clear that they were aware of all the issues now being discussed about Bernard Kerik's background. And that it was only the alleged nanny problem, which they had no way of discovering absent Kerik's volunteering the information, that came as a surprise. And that it was that alone that sank his nomination.

Now, clearly the White House is trying to walk back the quickly congealing sense that they were sloppy and impulsive in selecting someone to run the department that covers the issue that President Bush has made the defining issue of his presidency.

But look what that means.

They seem to be stipulating to their knowing about and being untroubled by a) Kerik's long-standing ties to an allegedly mobbed-up Jersey construction company (see yesterday's piece in the Daily News and tomorrow's in the Times), sub-a) that Kerik received numerous unreported cash gifts from Lawrence Ray, an executive at said Jersey construction company (Ray was later indicted along with Edward Garafola, Sammy "The Bull" Gravano's brother-in-law, and Daniel Persico, nephew of Colombo Family Godfather Carmine "The Snake" Persico and others on unrelated federal charges tied to what the Daily News called a "$40 million, mob-run, pump-and-dump stock swindle." b) that Riker's Island prison became a hotbed of political corruption and cronyism on his watch, c) that he is accused by nine employees of the hospital he worked at providing security in Saudi Arabia of using his policing powers to pursue the personal agenda of his immediate boss, d) that a warrant for his arrest (albeit in a civil case) was issued in New Jersey as recently as six years ago, e) that as recently as last week he was forced to testify in a civil suit in a case covering the period in which he was New York City correction commissioner, in which the plaintiff, "former deputy warden Eric DeRavin III contends Kerik kept him from getting promoted because he had reprimanded the woman [Kerik was allegedly having an affair with], Correction Officer Jeanette Pinero," or f) his rapid and unexplained departure from Baghdad.

None of this stuff gave the White House or Al Gonzales second thoughts?

Makes you wonder what St. Rudy really was thinking by putting this guy's name out there. I guess Kerik will be settling down in a small New Jersey town.


Hunting Bin Laden 

Why haven't we gotten Bin Laden yet? Because our "friends" Pakistan. Interesting piece in the NY Times on how the hunt is going, hardly any surprises.
Hunting for Osama bin Laden, the C.I.A. established a series of small, covert bases in the rugged mountain frontier of northwest Pakistan in late 2003. Mr. bin Laden, the terrorist leader, was being sheltered there by local tribesmen and foreign militants, the agency had concluded, and controlled a group of handpicked operatives dedicated to attacking the United States.

But since the bases opened, the C.I.A. officers stationed there have been strictly supervised by Pakistani officials, who have limited their ability to operate and have escorted them wherever they travel in the Pakistani border region. As a result, it has been virtually impossible for the Americans to gather intelligence effectively, say several officials familiar with the operation who would only speak anonymously.

More than three years after the Sept. 11 attacks on the Pentagon and New York transformed Osama bin Laden into the most wanted man in the world, the search for him remains stalled, frustrated by the remote topography of his likely Pakistani sanctuary, stymied by a Qaeda network that remains well financed and disciplined, sidetracked by the distractions of the Iraq war, and, perhaps most significantly, limited by deep suspicion of the United States among Pakistanis.

Prodded by the United States, Pakistan began an offensive along its northwest border this spring to flush out forces of Al Qaeda that had escaped from Afghanistan and to help find Mr. bin Laden. But after suffering heavy casualties and causing civilian deaths that stirred opposition, the Pakistani Army declared victory two weeks ago and announced that Mr. Bin Laden was not in Pakistan. Many American intelligence officials are confident that he is, however - and that he is as dangerous as ever.


Friday, December 10, 2004

The Strange Case of Corporal Hassoun II 

New details in the case of the Marine who was dead, then not dead, lost, then found, lost again, dead again, finally found. Turns out, he was a deserter all
A U.S. Marine who disappeared in Iraq -- and then showed up in a purported hostage video before later appearing as a free man in Lebanon -- has been charged with desertion, Pentagon officials said Thursday.

Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun will also be charged by the Marine Corps with larceny and wrongful disposition of military property in connection with his service-issued 9 mm handgun that disappeared with him and never turned up, officials said...

Military investigators reopened the Hassoun case last month after several personal items -- including his military ID and civilian passport -- were found in Falluja, the city from which he disappeared in June.


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

You Go to War With the Army You Have 

The always care-for-the-troops-first Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld met with some troops in Kuwait yesterday, and took some questions. The big question that came up was about the lack of armor on many vehicles:
Army Spc. Thomas Wilson, for example, of the 278th Regimental Combat Team that is comprised mainly of citizen soldiers of the Tennessee Army National Guard, asked Rumsfeld in a question-and-answer session why vehicle armor is still in short supply, nearly two years after the start of the war that ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?" Wilson asked. A big cheer arose from the approximately 2,300 soldiers in the cavernous hangar who assembled to see and hear the secretary of defense.

Rumsfeld's response:
"You go to war with the Army you have," he said in a rare public airing of rank-and-file concerns among the troops.

How inspiring! It's not like this war wasn't planned ahead of time. Using humvees with armor seems pretty common sense. But, with the way our soliders were expected to be greeted in Iraq, you don't need armor for roses. I assume the insurgents also go through the landfills for armor to put on their suicide bomb cars...


Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Senator Rock Star 

After a disappointing Presidential election, it's great for the Democrats to have a Senator-Elect to be excited about. Amy Sullivan applauds Obama's fist big staff hire:
OFF TO A GOOD START....The future just keeps getting brighter for Barack Obama. Pete Rouse, chief of staff to outgoing Democratic Leader has just agreed to head up Obama's Senate office, bringing instant credibility and invaluable institutional knowledge to the operation. And he also provides a connection to the new crop of leaders on the Democratic side--Rouse once served as incoming whip Dick Durbin's CoS in the House.

A Hill veteran who started out answering constituent mail along with fellow legislative assistant Tom Daschle, Rouse is so well-respected for his political skills and knowledge that he's often referred to as the 101st Senator. Obama will be fortunate to have Pete's steady hand at the helm, particularly given the enormous expectations that will accompany him into office

But, Roll Call's Stuart Rothenberg wants everyone to take a deep breath (subscription only), before Obama's give the Democratic Presidential nod in 2008:
While I believe that the Democrat would have won no matter whom he faced in November, let's remember how he got to the halls of Congress: He never drew the intense scrutiny that most Senate Candidates receive.

He won a bloody primary, where neither of the frontrunners were willing to risk an attack on the only credible black candidate in the primary contest, or Obama took few hits.

Secondly, the Republicans were in chaos for the general election, with Jack Ryan, the GOP primary winner, pulled out of the race when his custody papers went public. Then, the Illinois State Central Committee chose to select Maryland-based conservative Alan Keyes as the Republican Party's nominee for the Senate. Keyes nomination was a joke, and his selection transformed the Illinois Senate contest from a serious race to a coronation for the Democrat...

More importantly, the GOP didn't use their opposition research on Obama
They say he failed to vote (or voted present) on a number of anti-crime initiatives, including one that would have expanded the definition of "sexually violent offenses" and another that made it more difficult for abusive and neglectful parents to regain custody of their children. They cite his record on taxes and his controversial comments on the Iraq war.

Rothenberg closes with:
Obama surely has plenty of skills, and he has the potential to move up his party's Senate leadership and to become a spokesman for the Democratic agenda. But, he is very much a Blue State politician, and it's silly to be talking about him as a national figure-or for higher office-at this point.

Now, I view Rothenberg as a center-right pundit, whether he's "outed" himself that way or not, but his analysis typically is pretty sound. I agree his main point, Obama may have a bright future, but let him serve a day in the Senate, before he's made out to be the next President. Now, the Democrats feel like the guy who was about to marry the model, only to get spurned at the alter, who's now left looking for someone new and exciting to show his friends. Take a deep breath.


Steve Clemons 

Until now, I have not mentioned how good I think Steve Clemons's blog is. It's very interesting and informative, spotlighting the innner-workings of Washington D.C. Go check it out, you'll be quite impressed.


Sunday, December 05, 2004

Clarence Thomas 

Well, it looks like the new Democratic leader in the Senate, Harry Reid (NV), has some punch in him after all:
When asked to comment on Thomas as a possible replacement for Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Reid told NBC's "Meet the Press": "I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court.

"I think that his opinions are poorly written. I just don't think that he's done a good job as a Supreme Court justice.

He does later praise Justice Scalia for being a "smart guy", but that's ok, let him start with Thomas.

Side note: About 6 months ago, I had the opportunity to meet Senator Reid, in his office located in the U.S. Capitol building. After seeing the office, I can see why a Senator would want to be Leader or Whip, their offices look like they could be located in one of Saddam's Palaces. They're unbelievably large, beautifully funrished, and there are fireplaces in every room. If I had one of them, i'd never leave to do any work. Oh, and he is a very nice guy (I was too distracted looking around his office, to really form to much of an opinion of him).


The Orange Revolution 

Must read Kristof:
KIEV, Ukraine — Here's a suggestion for President Bush from the protesters behind the democratic "orange revolution" here: Wear an orange tie.

"If he wore an orange tie, people here would be crying," said Yuri Maluta, a protester from Lviv. "It would show that the American president supports democracy here."

The request says something about the lighthearted and pro-American spirit on the streets. Since my father grew up in what is now southwestern Ukraine, I decided to come here to join my people - and I found that waging revolution has rarely been such fun.

Young people enveloped in orange scarves, hats and ribbons alternately chant slogans for freedom, boogie to rock music, eat oranges, warm up and flirt at McDonald's, and disappear into their downtown "tent city" to make love, not war.

The protest organizers have placed gorgeous young women in the vanguard of confrontations with troops, so the troops will be too dazzled to club them.

Most Ukrainians love the U.S., and to be an American here - any American - is to be a rock star. Protesters overhear me speaking English and line up to ask me to autograph their orange ribbons with a big "U.S.A."

Exciting times in Ukraine, and it's nice to hear about a country that is pro-American as well. Why not skip your trip to the Islands, and go to Kiev instead?

Not that we didn't know it before, but I think Putin's behavior regarding Ukraine, shows the true Putin-someone who longs for the "good old days" of the USSR. Some much for looking into his soul.

Yet for all the giddiness among the protesters here, particularly after the Supreme Court's landmark ruling in their favor yesterday, this is as much about Russia as it is about Ukraine. And the first thing to say is that Vladimir Putin has behaved utterly disgracefully.

Mr. Putin seems to regard the Ukrainians as Russia's serfs, bound to obey the will of their master. Mr. Putin was a co-conspirator with Ukraine's outgoing president, Leonid Kuchma, to tilt the campaign and fix the election in favor of the pro-Moscow candidate, Viktor Yanukovich, whose criminal history (he served almost four years for robbery and assault as a young man) would make him a fine Putin stooge.

Mr. Putin visited Ukraine twice during the campaign to help Mr. Yanukovich, used the Russian news media to promote him and then congratulated him publicly before the results of the stolen election had even been completely counted. President Bush and other Western leaders need to make it clear to Mr. Putin that he has no right to extend his quasi dictatorship to other peoples.


Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Thou Shalt Walk 

Now, for something completely different:

I'm not sure how long this has been floating around the internet, but here's a truly inspirational story, no, not Democracy being born in Iraq, but a two-legged dog who found out how to walk. Very funny, and true!



Looks like the OSI is alive and well:

On the evening of Oct. 14, a young Marine spokesman near Fallouja appeared on CNN and made a dramatic announcement.

"Troops crossed the line of departure," 1st Lt. Lyle Gilbert declared, using a common military expression signaling the start of a major campaign. "It's going to be a long night." CNN, which had been alerted to expect a major news development, reported that the long-awaited offensive to retake the Iraqi city of Fallouja had begun.

In fact, the Fallouja offensive would not kick off for another three weeks. Gilbert's carefully worded announcement was an elaborate psychological operation — or "psy-op" — intended to dupe insurgents in Fallouja and allow U.S. commanders to see how guerrillas would react if they believed U.S. troops were entering the city, according to several Pentagon officials.

I'm all for a Psy-Ops campaign, a successful propaganda battle is a major part of the war itself, but i'm more worried about this:

Di Rita said there was general agreement inside the Bush administration that the U.S. government was ill-equipped to communicate its policies and messages abroad in the current media climate.

"As a government, we're not very well organized to do that," he said.

If we can't communicate our "policies" and "messages", how the hell can we ever expect to win the "War on Terror"?!? They don't hate us because of our freedom, they hate our policies. Our government knows there is a communication problem, will they fix it?


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