Monday, January 30, 2006

Sheehan meets Chavez 

I don't think going to Venezuela is going to help her credibility.
Cindy Sheehan, the peace activist who just announced that she is weighing a run for Senate, plans to protest again outside President Bush's Texas ranch, Venezuela's president said Sunday with Sheehan by his side.

Hugo Chavez, his arm around Sheehan's shoulders, told a group of activists that Sheehan had told him that during Holy Week, in April, "she is going to put up her tent again in front of Mr. Danger's ranch."

"She invited me to put up a tent. Maybe I'll put up my tent also," Chavez said, to applause from activists invited to his weekly broadcast on the final day of the leftist World Social Forum.

Sheehan, whose 24-year-old soldier son, Casey, was killed in Iraq in 2004, thanked Chavez for "supporting life and peace" and she was impressed by his sincerity.
I supported the idea of Cindy Sheehan-a mom who lost her son to what seemingly is a bunch of lies-but she doesn't need to coddle leaders who openly scorn the U.S. Now, calling her "far left" sounds about right. I can understand why elected officials didn't join her protest in Crawford.


Friday, January 27, 2006

Rap Wars 

There's a new East Coast/West Coast rivalry brewing, and it's ugly. Check it out.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Imus in the Morning 

Anyone else catch Presidential wannabe George Allen on Imus, this morning? I don't have the transcript, but the issue of whether or not the Government takes care of injured returning soldiers came up, (Imus, clearly and rightly, thinks they are not getting the best care) and Allen was asked his opinion. He gave a rambling answer about how he's visited wounded soldiers a few times, how he's supported some Virginia VA hospitals, etc., but he clearly came off as the lightweight many say he is. He didn't seem to take the issue seriously, or even think there is a problem. Imus gently chided Allen's response, but if he's the Presidential candidate the conservatives want, it's a really weak field.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Jerry Lewis (No ,not THAT one) 

Attended an interesting dinner the other night with some well connected colleagues, who do a lot of business in California, and they believe that Lewis will NOT be in Congress too much longer.

Update 1/25 10:37AM: Forgot to add this nugget: Apparently, Rep. Lewis didn't realize that E-Mail stays on your computer/server, even if deleted. Oops.


Friday, January 20, 2006

Ali Mohamed 

One of the names that pops up in Peter Bergen's new book, is Ali Mohamed. Former Egyptian officer, U.S. Army officer, failed CIA informant, FBI informant, Al Qaeda member, Egyptian Jihad member, bomb mastermind, U.S prisoner, now MIA. Who is he really?


Thursday, January 19, 2006


Here's an interesting piece from the UPI about the Iraq war possibly creating a new Bin Laden. Authors Peter Bergen and Steven Coll are featured. Coll's Ghost Wars is a must read for anyone who wants to know the history of the "War on Terror", and I'm currently reading Bergen's new book, which truly allows you to understand who Bin Laden really is-something you don't get in most books/articles about him. I highly recommend both.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Female Prisoner Release 

Looks like someone's been negotiating with terrorists:
Iraqi justice ministry reports early release for insufficient evidence of 6 of 8 Iraqi female prisoners held by coalition forces

January 18, 2006, 7:05 PM (GMT+02:00)

The announcement, not confirmed by US officials, was made the day after the abductors of American journalist Jill Carroll, 28, threatened to kill her in 72 hours if all Iraqi women prisoners were not freed. Carroll was kidnapped 10 days ago, her Iraqi translator shot dead.

/Hopefully, Jill Carroll is freed.


To My Readers 

Sorry for the lack of posts over the last 2 months. I also apologize for not giving a "heads up" to the fact that new posts would be very light. Anyway, I've recently received a promotion, which is fantastic, but on the downside, I'm a lot busier than expected. Therefore, my key blogging time-during the day-has become harder to pull off. This isn't "goodbye", far from it, but it is "I may need some space from time to time".


Friday, January 13, 2006

October Surprise 

Stupid asks a not-so-stupid question:
Name: Stupid
Hometown: Chicago
Hey Eric, it's Stupid to revisit the original October Surprise: the charge that Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign covertly worked with Iran to keep American hostages in captivity until after the 1980 elections. I'm embarrassed to admit this (especially to -this- readership), but I thought this had been debunked years ago. I couldn't have been more wrong. In 1992 there were Congressional investigations, but the focus was on whether President Bush (I) was involved in certain particulars. The broader conspiracy revolved around Reagan's campaign chairman and later CIA director William Casey (who died in 1987). Many of Casey's records mysteriously disappeared and his family refused to produce others, even under subpoena. The Senate's Special Counsel decried the lack of cooperation. Even so, the Senate found that Casey had at-best acted "at the outer limits of propriety." The House’s investigation was more extensive, but after the ranking Democrat (Lee Hamilton) pronounced Bush I innocent, the rest of the investigation quickly dropped off the radar.

Fast-forward to January 20, 2001: Dubya's inauguration day, and the effective date for the Presidential Records Act, a Watergate era reform which ordered the release a President's records 12 years after leaving office. Reagan’s papers were to be released, however White House counsel Alberto Gonzales ordered the papers withheld for "review." Ari Fleischer promised such reviews would not exceed 90 days, but Gonzales ultimately orders three reviews. On November 2, 2001, Dubya signs an executive order giving a sitting president the right to block releases under the Act (in 2005 he relied on the same executive order to withhold some of John Roberts papers).

Today the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis stares us in the face, thanks to the ascendancy of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Given the nuclear stakes involved and the circumstantial evidence surrounding Casey, don't we need to know whether Iran has a blackmail card against the current Administration? Admittedly, if they did you'd suspect they would have used it during the Iraq-Iran war. But up until now I've thought the Administration's drift/wimpiness on Iran (they can't really believe that an oil-rich nation can be sanctioned into compliance, can they?) was merely reflecting political realities. Am I cracking-up or is there reason to be more paranoid?

P.S. Hopefully I e-mailed everyone who wrote to suggest computer sources, but if not let me thank you here. A couple of places donate the kind of computers we're interested in to local charities and if what they told me is typical, the digital divide isn't shrinking as much as the free marketers would have us believe. Anyway, the contribution jar is still open (I've got a LOT of packing to do!) at IraqSchools@hotmail.com and I promise not to make fun of Carolina contributors after the Bears win this Sunday.

P.P.S. FYI, descriptions of some of the withheld Reagan docs:

"Talking Points on Iran/Contra Affairs";
a two-page memo for the President from the Attorney General, "Appeal of the Decision Denying the Enforcement of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1987."
memos dated 22 November and 1 December 1988 for the President entitled, "Pardon for Oliver North, John Poindexter, and Joseph Fernandez";
memo: "Use of Military Aircraft by Mrs. Reagan."



Now's probably not the best time for some Democrats to take a trip to Jamaica, to discuss security and trade (and Margaritas):
MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica Six members of the Congress arrived in Jamaica today to begin a five-day tour of the island.

The delegation includes Democratic representatives from New Jersey, New York, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio as well as Representative Lynn Woolsey from Petaluma.

A spokeswoman for the Jamaican Embassy in Washington D-C says the members will discuss security and trade issues while visiting tourist sites.

The trip comes as Republicans and Democrats in Congress consider new restrictions on members' travel following lobbyist Jack Abramoff's guilty plea on felony charges involving influence-peddling in Washington.
I don't care if this trip is paid for out of their own pockets, it just looks bad. Will Democrats ever learn? I'm beginning to think not.


Thursday, January 12, 2006

T. O. No 

Only 30 more teams to go:
A day after the Eagles gave agent Drew Rosenhaus permission to seek a trade for expelled receiver Terrell Owens, one of his Dolphins' clients said N-O to T.O. During a radio interview on 790 The Ticket (WAXY-AM) on Wednesday, Dolphins tight end Randy McMichael passionately voiced his opinion against adding the outspoken five-time Pro Bowl receiver to his tight-knit team. "I don't need a guy like T.O. in the locker room," McMichael said. "Because I don't need that virus like that. The guy destroyed two locker rooms already and it's only a matter of time before it happens again. "The guy's a great football player and I'm sure he's a great person, but I just don't want him to mess up everything we built down here."



I've beaten this drum before, but i'm telling you, this man is running for President:
Former Vice President Al Gore will deliver a scathing speech Monday at Constitution Hall in Washington -- just blocks from the White House -- at which he will declare America is faced with a constitutional crisis, RAW STORY has learned.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day speech is set to take place at noon at the Daughters of the American Revolution's Constitution Hall. Gore will be introduced by onetime Georgia Republican congressman Bob Barr.

A source close to the erstwhile vice president related details of Gore's expected speech to RAW STORY Thursday. The source noted that Gore prepares the final editions of his speeches just before he delivers them, but that the tenor of the speech would focus on what the Tennessee Democrat has described as a President acting above the law.

The aide related how Gore was framing his address.

“We are at a point of constitutional crisis," the aide said, relating how Gore has articulated his speech. "The president who has violated the law is acting above the law. It’s a wakeup call for Congress, the American people and the courts. If we continue down this road we will have a different constitution.

"Nixon’s quote about if the president does it it is legal, it’s kind of like Bush saying, if it’s about national security, it’s legal. This is going to be called transpartisan; it’s not about who your party is, it’s about what America stands for."

Gore, the source said, will talk about the framers of the constitution.

"You can’t defend freedom while abandoning it at home," the source said, speaking of Gore's planned remarks. "The founders thought about this. They didn’t want a king, that’s why they didn’t set up a system to anoint a king. We have checks and balances in this country and we cannot abandon them."


Wednesday, January 11, 2006


No journalistic integrity.


Charlie Wilson's War-Movie 

I like what i'm hearing:
news on a project called CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR that Universal is doing with Mike Nichols in talks to direct. Tom Hanks is attached to star in the flick which was scripted by Aaron Sorkin. Variety says that Julia Robert is also in talks to reteam with Nichols in this flick... Here's the Hollywood Reporter description:
Mike Nichols is in discussions to direct "Charlie Wilson's War" for Universal Pictures. Tom Hanks is attached to star and is producing with Gary Goetzman via the duo's Playtone banner. Aaron Sorkin, creator of "The West Wing," wrote a screenplay adaptation of "War" -- based on the book written by George Crile, who had been a longtime "60 Minutes" producer -- for Universal Pictures and Playtone. "War" centers on the CIA's covert operation in Afghanistan to arm the mujahideen. The covert ops were engineered by Charlie Wilson, a charismatic, wheeler-dealer, liberal Texas congressman who teamed with a rogue CIA operative. The two manipulated Congress, the CIA and a host of foreign governments in order to assist the Afghan rebels in their fight against the Soviets in the 1980s. Many of the men armed by the CIA went on to become the Taliban's enforcers and Osama bin Laden's protectors.
If you haven't read the book yet, go get it. It's a real eye opener.


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Someone Call Disney 

Slate has an interesting piece on being the warden of the Yugoslavia Tribunal detention center:
What's more, these interethnic bonds appear to go beyond arms-length tolerance within the prison walls: "I have observed lasting friendships and mutual support," McFadden says, "that go outside their interaction within the prison, which cross the ethnic boundaries." It often begins with the shared struggle of the inmates' families to negotiate the difficult path to visit their loved ones in Holland. "If you have a [Muslim] family from a backwater village in the back of beyond in some mountain town in Bosnia, and you say to that woman, 'Uproot and bring two kids and go to The Hague, and then get the train from Schiphol Airport, and then get the No. 17 tram …' then how is she going to know what to do? But someone who's done that before and who may be of Serb origin can say, 'Look, my wife is coming on the same flight and she knows the way.' So, they put the two [wives] together and, you know what? They like one another! Because one has the knowledge the other doesn't have. And that's very common. [In the evenings] a lot of the family members actually go to eat together! So, it's not just a phenomenon within these walls, it actually extends outside."

I was skeptical at first. But then I remembered how, as our small group was walking down one of the prison corridors, we heard the murmur of a small gathering. It turned out to be a cell block celebration for a prisoner who was being released later that week. As we passed by the open door of the recreation room, McFadden leaned in and told the group that he would drop by for a chat once he'd seen us on our way. I glanced into the room while McFadden was talking, and there, plopped in the middle of about five other inmates, sat Slobodan Milosevic. His hair and casual clothes were rumpled, a piece of sheet cake sat on a paper plate in front of him, and he was holding a bite halfway to his mouth on a plastic fork. Right next to him at the low table, also sitting on the hard plastic seat of an elementary-school-style chair, was one of the tribunal's most prominent Bosnian Muslim defendants. And I thought to myself, the Yugoslav people, to the extent they ever existed at all, have vanished from the face of the earth. But somehow an ersatz version lives on within the walls of this high-tech jail, where Slobodan Milosevic—the Serb once known as the Butcher of Belgrade—can now share a quiet piece of cake with a Bosnian Muslim at a farewell party for their mutual friend


Monday, January 09, 2006


I'm sure there's more to this story:
The head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards ground forces and at least 10 other officers have died in a plane crash.
The small Falcon jet came down near Oroumieh, 900 km (560 miles) north-west of the capital, Tehran. State TV said it was attempting an emergency landing.

Officials blamed bad weather and engine failure for the crash.

Last month, a military transport plane crashed in Tehran, killing 128 people. It came down in a residential district, hitting a 10-storey apartment building.

The latest crash happened at around 0930 (0600GMT) near the Turkish border.

Revolutionary Guards' spokesman, Gen Masoud Jazayeri, said the plane "crashed near the airport due to bad weather, lack of visibility and failure in both engines."
Sounds more like sabotage.


Friday, January 06, 2006

Nuclear Iran 

I'd like to know more about this incident that Ross mentions on AndrewSullivan.com. It reads like it could be the screenplay for Munich Part II:
Matt Yglesias flags an excerpt from James Risen's new book, in which it's revealed that the CIA may have given the Iranians defective blueprints for a nuclear bomb, in the hopes that this would send their nuclear program down a primrose path to failure. The excerpt casts the whole incident as a fiasco that may have actually helped the Iranians, though as Matt points out, it's hard to tell from the details whether the plan backfired or succeeded. And the story seems a little fishy in any case. But either way, it's not terribly shocking that we'd attempt something like that. As my Atlantic colleague, Terrence Henry, pointed out in last month's issue, this kind of skullduggery is an obvious way to sabotage a nuclear program that can't be stopped by diplomacy or direct action. It's quite likely that we've tried to sell Iran defective parts, ensured that certain ships bound for the Persian Gulf have found their way to the bottom of the ocean, and plotted acts of sabotage against Iran's uranium-enrichment facilities.

What's less likely, however, is that we've taken up the Israeli approach to covert anti-nuclear action:

Iraq bought the cores for the Osirak reactor from France. Originally they were to be shipped to Iraq in April of 1979, but shortly before their departure an explosion ripped through the warehouse that held them. An organization calling itself the French Ecological Group, which had never been heard of before (and hasn't been heard from since), claimed responsibility. Shipment was delayed for six months while the cores were repaired.

The next year Yahya al-Meshad, an important scientist in Iraq's nuclear program, arrived in France to test fuel for the reactor. The morning he was to return home a maid entered his Paris hotel room and found that he had been stabbed and bludgeoned to death. (The only person known to have seen the scientist the previous night, a prostitute who called herself Marie Express, was killed a few weeks later in a hit-and-run accident. The culprit was never found.) Soon afterward workers at firms supplying parts for the reactor began to receive threatening letters from a mysterious group called the Committee to Safeguard the Islamic Revolution. Bombs went off at the offices of one of the firms, in Italy, and at the home of the company's director-general. Over the next several months two more Iraqi nuclear scientists died in separate poisoning incidents.

Not that Israel ever claimed responsibility for any of this, mind you. And it's worth noting that even after all this effort, it still required an air strike to permanently take down the Iraqi nuclear program


Mafia State 

Check out Newsweek's interesting interview with former Syrian VP Abdel Halim Khaddam, who's now living in exile in France. I assume he doesn't start his car without first checking for a bomb.


Trojan Idiots 

With plans like these, it makes you wonder if they came up with it over some beers at a happy hour. It reminds me of the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, when one of the Knights makes a Trojan Bunny, which is taken into the castle without anyone inside. Since they forgot that part of the plan, nobody could leap out of the bunny in a surprise attack.
The story dates back to the Clinton administration and February 2000, when one frightened Russian scientist walked Vienna's winter streets. The Russian had good reason to be afraid. He was walking around Vienna with blueprints for a nuclear bomb.

To be precise, he was carrying technical designs for a TBA 480 high-voltage block, otherwise known as a "firing set", for a Russian-designed nuclear weapon. He held in his hands the knowledge needed to create a perfect implosion that could trigger a nuclear chain reaction inside a small spherical core. It was one of the greatest engineering secrets in the world, providing the solution to one of a handful of problems that separated nuclear powers such as the United States and Russia from rogue countries such as Iran that were desperate to join the nuclear club but had so far fallen short.

The Russian, who had defected to the US years earlier, still couldn't believe the orders he had received from CIA headquarters. The CIA had given him the nuclear blueprints and then sent him to Vienna to sell them - or simply give them - to the Iranian representatives to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). With the Russian doing its bidding, the CIA appeared to be about to help Iran leapfrog one of the last remaining engineering hurdles blocking its path to a nuclear weapon. The dangerous irony was not lost on the Russian - the IAEA was an international organisation created to restrict the spread of nuclear technology.

The Russian was a nuclear engineer in the pay of the CIA, which had arranged for him to become an American citizen and funded him to the tune of $5,000 a month. It seemed like easy money, with few strings attached.

Until now. The CIA was placing him on the front line of a plan that seemed to be completely at odds with the interests of the US, and it had taken a lot of persuading by his CIA case officer to convince him to go through with what appeared to be a rogue operation.

The case officer worked hard to convince him - even though he had doubts about the plan as well. As he was sweet-talking the Russian into flying to Vienna, the case officer wondered whether he was involved in an illegal covert action. Should he expect to be hauled before a congressional committee and grilled because he was the officer who helped give nuclear blueprints to Iran? The code name for this operation was Merlin; to the officer, that seemed like a wry tip-off that nothing about this programme was what it appeared to be. He did his best to hide his concerns from his Russian agent.

The Russian's assignment from the CIA was to pose as an unemployed and greedy scientist who was willing to sell his soul - and the secrets of the atomic bomb - to the highest bidder. By hook or by crook, the CIA told him, he was to get the nuclear blueprints to the Iranians. They would quickly recognise their value and rush them back to their superiors in Tehran.

The plan had been laid out for the defector during a CIA-financed trip to San Francisco, where he had meetings with CIA officers and nuclear experts mixed in with leisurely wine-tasting trips to Sonoma County. In a luxurious San Francisco hotel room, a senior CIA official involved in the operation talked the Russian through the details of the plan. He brought in experts from one of the national laboratories to go over the blueprints that he was supposed to give the Iranians.

The senior CIA officer could see that the Russian was nervous, and so he tried to downplay the significance of what they were asking him to do. He said the CIA was mounting the operation simply to find out where the Iranians were with their nuclear programme. This was just an intelligence-gathering effort, the CIA officer said, not an illegal attempt to give Iran the bomb. He suggested that the Iranians already had the technology he was going to hand over to them. It was all a game. Nothing too serious.

On paper, Merlin was supposed to stunt the development of Tehran's nuclear programme by sending Iran's weapons experts down the wrong technical path. The CIA believed that once the Iranians had the blueprints and studied them, they would believe the designs were usable and so would start to build an atom bomb based on the flawed designs. But Tehran would get a big surprise when its scientists tried to explode their new bomb. Instead of a mushroom cloud, the Iranian scientists would witness a disappointing fizzle. The Iranian nuclear programme would suffer a humiliating setback, and Tehran's goal of becoming a nuclear power would have been delayed by several years. In the meantime, the CIA, by watching Iran's reaction to the blueprints, would have gained a wealth of information about the status of Iran's weapons programme, which has been shrouded in secrecy.

The Russian studied the blueprints the CIA had given him. Within minutes of being handed the designs, he had identified a flaw. "This isn't right," he told the CIA officers gathered around the hotel room. "There is something wrong." His comments prompted stony looks, but no straight answers from the CIA men. No one in the meeting seemed surprised by the Russian's assertion that the blueprints didn't look quite right, but no one wanted to enlighten him further on the matter, either.

In fact, the CIA case officer who was the Russian's personal handler had been stunned by his statement. During a break, he took the senior CIA officer aside. "He wasn't supposed to know that," the CIA case officer told his superior. "He wasn't supposed to find a flaw."

"Don't worry," the senior CIA officer calmly replied. "It doesn't matter."


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Kennedy Assassination Theory 

As a believer in conspiracy theories, this one actually makes sense:
Cuba lay behind the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy by Lee Harvey Oswald and its agents provided the gunman with money and support, an award-winning German director says in a new documentary film.

Wilfried Huismann spent three years researching "Rendezvous with Death," based on interviews with former Cuban secret agents, U.S. officials and a Russian intelligence source, and on research in Mexican security archives.

The film, shown to journalists in Berlin on Wednesday, says Oswald traveled to Mexico City by bus in September 1963, seven weeks before the Kennedy shooting, and met agents at the Cuban embassy there who paid him $6,500.

Oscar Marino, a former Cuban agent and a key source for the documentary, told Huismann that Oswald himself had volunteered for the assassination mission and Havana had exploited him.


Former CIA official Sam Halpern told Huismann: "He (Castro) beat us. He bested us. He came out on top, and we lost."


Laurence Keenan, an officer of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) who was sent to Mexico City immediately after Kennedy's death to investigate a possible Cuban connection, said he was recalled after just three days and the probe was aborted.

"This was perhaps the worst investigation the FBI was ever involved in," Keenan said. "I realized that I was used. I felt ashamed. We missed a moment in history."

Keenan, 81, said he was convinced Kennedy's successor, Lyndon Johnson, blocked further investigation because proof of a Cuban link would put him under irresistible pressure to invade the island, a year after the Cuban missile crisis had brought the United States and Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear war.

"Most likely there would have been an invasion of Cuba which could have had unknown consequences for the whole world," he told journalists at the screening, saying that was why Johnson preferred to accept Oswald was "a crazed lone Marxist assassin."

Interviewed for the film, Alexander Haig, then a U.S. military adviser and later secretary of state, quoted Johnson as saying "we simply must not allow the American people to believe that Fidel Castro could have killed our president."

"And the reason was that there would be a right-wing uprising in America, which would keep the Democratic party out of power for two generations," Haig said


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Love Lost 

A jilted lover may bring down the corrupt GOP K Street machine:
Scanlon was implicated in the Abramoff scandal by his former thirtysomething fiancee, Emily J. Miller, whom he met in the late 1990s while working as communications director for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), three former associates who worked with Scanlon at DeLay’s office said. Colleagues say Miller went to the FBI after Scanlon broke off their engagement and announced his intention to marry another woman.


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