Saturday, February 25, 2006

Going Backwards

The number of Iraqi army battalions judged by their American trainers to be capable of fighting insurgents without U.S. help has fallen from one to none since September, Pentagon officials said yesterday.

But the number of Iraqi battalions capable of leading the battle, with U.S. troops in a support role, has grown by nearly 50 percent. And the number of battalions engaged in combat has increased by 11 percent.


When Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in September that the number of Iraqi battalions capable of fighting independently of U.S. troops had dropped from three to one, the news triggered an uproar among Democrats arguing for an early pullout.

So, the Iraqis are becoming more dependant on the US troops, not less.

Oh No She Didn't!

Rita Cosby has her own program on the MSNBC news channel. Here she is offering commentary on the Demcrats' electoral strategy on the nightly program "Hardball" hosted by Chris Matthews:


COSBY: I am offended, I think, that churches would turn over their rosters [to Republican electoral campaigns]. There needs to be this clear separation of church and state...And I also like what the Democrats are doing. I mean talk about a wacky thing: they're going after the "hoodlum vote." I mean that, I think, is clearly racist. Clearly they're going after the African American vote. And I think on both sides it's pretty disgusting.

MATTHEWS: Wait, back up a notch. Going after "the hoodlum vote?"

COSBY: Yeah, they're going after the felons. They're going after the convicted felons. They're going after these rosters and saying some of these felons should be able to vote. So what they're doing in turn is saying: OK the conservatives are going after these churches,...we'll get the votes of those with criminal records.

It will be interesting to hear how she tries to spin her way out of that crack. Once again the media showing much love to minority communities.

Friday, February 24, 2006

War President

So much for that...

From a political perspective, President Bush's national security credentials have clearly been tarnished due to the outcry over this issue. For the first time ever, Americans have a slight preference for Democrats in Congress over the President on national security issues. Forty-three percent (43%) say they trust the Democrats more on this issue today while 41% prefer the President.

The preference for the opposition party is small, but the fact that Democrats are even competitive on the national security front is startling. In Election 2002, the President guided his party to regain control of the Senate based almost exclusively on the national security issue. On Election Day that year, just 23% rated the economy as good or excellent, but the President's Party still emerged victorious.

The only thing "startling" about this finding is that it took so long for Americans to figure out that Democrats have been trying to put together a real national security stance, while Mr. Bush was merely posing and throwing out his chest. John Kerry and Chuck Schumer have been trying to get Bush to focus on the lack of security at America's ports for years.

I've Heard of Early Voting, But...

Black Box Voting, which studies the problems with electronic voting machines, has been on the case of Palm Beach County, FL, for a long time. After finally getting hold of the voting records from the 2004 election, she found:

The internal logs of at least 40 Sequoia touch-screen voting machines reveal that votes were time and date-stamped as cast two weeks before the election, sometimes in the middle of the night. Black Box Voting successfully sued former Palm Beach County (FL) Supervisor of Elections Theresa LePore to get the audit records for the 2004 presidential election. After investing over $7,000 and waiting nine months for the records, Black Box Voting discovered that the voting machine logs contained approximately 100,000 errors.

In other words, some large number of votes that appear to have been included in the final tally also appear to be completely bogus.

"ATM"-style electronic voting machines are a dangerous solution to the problem of punch cards and chads. Simply put, there is no way to know whether the machines are correctly recording the votes that the voters cast. Even if the machines offer a paper receipt, there is no proof that the the machine's memory actually reflects what is printed on the reciept.

Given dramatic demonstrations in recent years of underhanded behavior surrounding elections, there is only one way to hold a trustworthy vote: with paper ballots that are counted by hand. This is the direction the US must move in.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Iraq Civil War, Step 4.1

From the Washington Post:

BAGHDAD, Feb. 23 -- A wave of sectarian violence, executions and recrimination swept Iraq Thursday following Wednesday's attack on a revered Shiite shrine.
Authorities in Baghdad, struggling to restore order, expanded an existing curfew in an effort to get people off the streets after dark. They cancelled all leaves for Iraqi security forces. Politically, the process of negotiating a new government appeared to be in even deeper trouble than before, as some Sunni politicians, protesting what they said was a lack of protection for Sunni mosques attacked overnight, said they were pulling out of the negotiations.

There were a great number of disturbances reported across the country Wednesday night and Thursday, too many to accurately track let alone verify.

As Mr. Bush will stubbornly refuse to start even pretending to pull the US out before the new government looks like it's up and running, the stalled negotiations are just what we don't need to hear right now.

The article then goes on the list just a handful of examples of the chaos exploding around the country. It closes with this disturbing coda:
Followers came running late Wednesday when a Sadr preacher took up a bullhorn outside Sadr's offices to give the direction that the armed, angry crowds were waiting for. The mosque attack was the work of "occupiers," or Americans, "and Zionists," said the cleric, Abdul Zara Saidy. In Iran, Shiite leaders echoed the accusation.

When the Shiite start believing that en masse, it's game over, son.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Not Just "No..."

At 4:10pm, CNN reported that Republican Congresswoman Sue Myrick of North Carolina issued a statement on the UAE port deal:

"Dear Mr. President: in regard to selling American ports to the United Arab Emirates, not just NO, but HELL NO!"


Iraq Civil War, Step 4

In response to the bombing of the Shiite mosque this morning, the following has happened:

**BAGHDAD - At least 28 Sunni mosques and an office for the Iraqi Islamic Party in Baghdad were attacked by gunmen after the bomb blast in Samarra. Police said one mosque was completely burnt while others were attacked by gunfire and rocket propelled grenades. Three clerics and three bodyguards were killed, and another cleric was kidnapped, according to interior ministry sources. Gunmen used rifles and RPG rounds in the latest mosque attack, in the southern Saidaya district of Baghdad, a witness said.

**Hussein al-Falluji, a leading Sunni politician, reported attacks on at least 75 Sunni mosques around the country with most in eastern Baghdad.

BASRA - Storage depots belonging to the main Sunni religious body in Basra, 550 km (340 miles) south of Baghdad, were reported by local police to be on fire after three grenades were thrown from moving cars while residents were at prayers.

Update: missed this stuff too:

Police found nine bodies of Sunni Muslims, most of them shot in the head, in two neighborhoods of Basra, according to a police official who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of militia reprisals. Protesters in Najaf, Kut and Baghdad's Shiite slum of Sadr City also marched through the streets by the hundreds and thousands, many shouting anti-American and anti-Israeli slogans and burning those nations' flags.

Really Im-Port-ant

This thing with the United Arab Emerates controlling American ports is getting very interesting:

President Bush yesterday strongly defended an Arab company's attempt to take over the operation of seaports in Baltimore and five other cities, threatening a veto if Congress tries to kill a deal his administration has blessed.

Facing a sharp bipartisan backlash, Bush took the unusual step of summoning reporters to the front of Air Force One to condemn efforts to block a firm from the United Arab Emirates from purchasing the rights to manage ports that include those in New York and New Orleans.

Why is this so important to Bush? He hasn't vetoed anything his entire presidency. But this? Now would be the time for journalists to do, well, you know, their job.

Choice bits from the article:

...some of the hijackers involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks used the United Arab Emirates as an operational and financial hub.

Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) called Bush politically tone-deaf.

No kidding.

"If the president insists on using his first veto on this bill, Congress should give him the opportunity to do so," said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who, along with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), has promised legislation to ban firms owned by foreign governments from controlling operations at U.S. ports.
Finally, something for Hillary "National Security Democrat" Clinton to show some chops against Bush on.

"It's strange that the administration didn't consult Congress," a Republican leadership aide said.

Oh, how cute and naive.

The United Arab Emirates provides docking rights for more U.S. Navy ships than any other nation in the region...

Ah ha! Payback for letting the US secure the oil flow..

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

So Basically, Two Years of Chaos For Nothing

Boy the Bush crew must be disappointed about this headline:

Exiled Aristide says he's ready to return home to Haiti

Well, That Was Quick

Wasting no time testing out Alito's chops:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Supreme Court wasted little time jumping back into the contentious abortion issue, agreeing Tuesday to review the constitutionality of
a federal law banning a controversial late-term procedure critics call "partial
birth" abortion.

The case could provide a judicial sea change with new Justice Samuel Alito, who joined the high court January 31, replacing Sandra Day O'Connor.

O'Connor, the first woman on the high court, was a key swing vote for a quarter century, upholding the basic right to abortion. The views of Alito, a more conservative jurist, could prove crucial in the new debate.

A federal appeals court had ruled against the government, saying the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Act of 2003 was unconstitutional because it did not provide a health exception to pregnant women facing a medical emergency.

Here we go, folks. Step one in what could be the climactic battle over the right to choose.

So Full Of It...

What idiots. They scheduled a P.R. stunt promoting Bush's push for renewable energy research at the lab where he just cut funding for renewable energy research.

On Tuesday, Bush plans to visit the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., to talk about speeding the development of biofuels.The lab, with a looming $28 million budget shortfall, had announced it was cutting its staff by 32 people, including eight researchers.

But in advance of Bush's visit, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman over the weekend directed the transfer of $5 million to the private contractor that runs the lab, so the jobs can be saved.

We saw this coming a few weeks ago.

No Rules

The US kidnapped an innocent foreigner and sent him another country to be tortured. And that's OK, right?

NEW YORK -- A federal judge has tossed out a civil rights lawsuit filed by a Syrian-born Canadian man who claimed U.S. counterterrorism officials deported him so he could be tortured in Syria.

Maher Arar had sued the officials in 2004 in what was believed to be the first case challenging extraordinary rendition - the policy of transferring foreign terror suspects to third countries without court approval.

U.S. District Judge David G. Trager rejected arguments that Arar was protected by the Torture Victim Prevention Act, which allows U.S. courts to assess damages for human rights abuses committed abroad.

Trager said that as a non-citizen, Arar couldn't demonstrate that he has a viable cause of action under that statute. Citing "the national security and foreign policy considerations at stake," the judge said Arar had no grounds in a U.S. court to claim his constitutional right to due process was violated.

Now, if he had been a terrorist, the US courts would have had jurisdiction. He could have been tried here. But since he not a terrorist and not a US citizen, he has no standing in US courts. That sounds fair, right? Anything for "national security." Really, I don't understand why Bush doesn't just start ordering the permanent detention or summary executions of Democratic leaders and liberal activists, claiming that secret evidence that he is not required to reveal shows that they have been vacationing with al Qaeda.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Silence Ain't Golden

Steve Gilliard found something interesting out of New York:

A founder of a black police organization said yesterday that he was facing departmental charges for publicly criticizing the city's handling of a terror alert last fall.

If the disciplinary action were to result in dismissal, Captain Adams, a 22-year veteran scheduled to retire on March 17, could lose his pension. Mr. Siegel said that the captain was planning to run in Brooklyn for a seat in the State Senate.

Adams's crime is that he went on TV and and said that that subway terror alert last fall was a cover to excuse Mike Bloomberg for skipping a mayoral election debate at the Apollo theater in Harlem.

I've long felt the same way: the "alert" was one of those quasi-meaningless alerts that Tom Ridge had raised to an artform when he was Homeland Security Director. And the information had been held back for days and released on the very night that Bloomberg was planning not to face the voters of Harlem.

But the funny thing is how blatant the NYPD is being in trying to dismiss this guy days before his pension kicks in. Do they really think we won't figure out what's going on? Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly have spent the last 4 years cleaning up the mess that Rudy Guiliani had made of the relationship between the police and the black community. If they pull this stunt, it will undo most of that work in one shot.