Archive for January 10th, 2008

Mr. Popularity

Popular! You’re gonna be popular!

No, really!

Bush’s job approval numbers may be mired in the low 30s right now, but U.S. News’ Washington Whispers reports that Bush aides predict he’ll be at 45 percent when he leaves office:

He’s a poll cellar-dweller whom even GOP presidential candidates sneer at, but George W. Bush and some congressional backers see happy days for the prez this year. His fans have dubbed it his “legacy year,” when they hope to lock in his achievements on the domestic front.

Among the items Bush’s GOP congressional allies want to work on this month: continuing his tax cuts and extending the controversial No Child Left Behind Act. As for the war, they say, the news has been good, and Bushies believe that their guy will eventually get credit for opening the war on terrorism. But more immediately, they are predicting a remarkable poll shift to about 45 percent favorable by the time he leaves office next year.

You know your president sucks when you’re trying to convince people that his approval rating will climb to the lofty heights of… 45%. And no-one believes you!

It’s like the nerdy kid in junior high bragging that by the time he graduates, he’ll only be getting one wedgie a day…

January 10th, 2008 at 09:24pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush

You Know, They Have The Automated Bill-Paying Now…

Yet another revealing look at the depth of our government’s commitment to fighting terrorism:

Telephone companies have cut off FBI wiretaps used to eavesdrop on suspected criminals because of the bureau’s repeated failures to pay phone bills on time.

A Justice Department audit released Thursday blamed the lost connections on the FBI’s lax oversight of money used in undercover investigations. In one office alone, unpaid costs for wiretaps from one phone company totaled $66,000.

In at least one case, a wiretap used in a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act investigation “was halted due to untimely payment,” the audit found. FISA wiretaps are used in the government’s most sensitive and secretive criminal and intelligence investigations, and allow eavesdropping on suspected terrorists or spies.

“We also found that late payments have resulted in telecommunications carriers actually disconnecting phone lines established to deliver surveillance results to the FBI, resulting in lost evidence,” according to the audit by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine.

More than half of 990 bills to pay for telecommunication surveillance in five unidentified FBI field offices were not paid on time, the report shows.


The American Civil Liberties Union called on the FBI to release the entire, unedited audit. The group, which has been critical of some of the government’s wiretapping programs, also took a swipe at telecommunication companies that allowed the eavesdropping � as long as they are getting paid.

“It seems the telecoms, who are claiming they were just being ‘good patriots’ when they allowed the government to spy on us without warrants, are more than willing to pull the plug on national security investigations when the government falls behind on its bills,” said former FBI agent Michael German, the ACLU’s national security policy counsel. “To put it bluntly, it sounds as though the telecoms believe it when the FBI says the warrant is in the mail but not when they say the check is in the mail.”

It really is amazing that telecom companies were so willing to accommodate the Bush administration’s mass surveillance demands without requiring actual warrants, but would be such sticklers about unpaid bills. Hell, maybe that’s why there were unpaid bills – the Feds figured the telecoms would let them get away with anything.

You know, the automated bill-paying is really easy to set up. If I can figure it out, surely the FBI can.

January 10th, 2008 at 08:41pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Terrorism

Blackwater Knows Gas

The US continues to narrow the gap on Saddam. Unlawful imprisonment? Check. Torture? Check. Murder? Check. Rape? Check. Gassing civilians and your own people? Well, no, we haven’t sunk thatCheck.

The helicopter was hovering over a Baghdad checkpoint into the Green Zone, one typically crowded with cars, Iraqi civilians and United States military personnel.

Suddenly, on that May day in 2005, the copter dropped CS gas, a riot-control substance the American military in Iraq can use only under the strictest conditions and with the approval of top military commanders. An armored vehicle on the ground also released the gas, temporarily blinding drivers, passers-by and at least 10 American soldiers operating the checkpoint.

“This was decidedly uncool and very, very dangerous,” Capt. Kincy Clark of the Army, the senior officer at the scene, wrote later that day. “It’s not a good thing to cause soldiers who are standing guard against car bombs, snipers and suicide bombers to cover their faces, choke, cough and otherwise degrade our awareness.”

Both the helicopter and the vehicle involved in the incident at the Assassins Gate checkpoint were not from the United States military, but were part of a convoy operated by Blackwater Worldwide, the private security contractor that is under scrutiny for its role in a series of violent episodes in Iraq, including a September shooting in downtown Baghdad that left 17 Iraqis dead.


“You run into this issue time and again with Blackwater, where the rules that apply to the U.S. military don’t seem to apply to Blackwater,” said Scott L. Silliman, the executive director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at the Duke University School of Law.

Officers and noncommissioned officers from the Third Infantry Division who were involved in the episode said there were no signs of violence at the checkpoint. Instead, they said, the Blackwater convoy appeared to be stuck in traffic and may have been trying to use the riot-control agent as a way to clear a path.


Blackwater says it was permitted to carry CS gas under its contract at the time with the State Department. According to a State Department official, the contract did not specifically authorize Blackwater personnel to carry or use CS, but it did not prohibit it.

The military, however, tightly controls use of riot control agents in war zones. They are banned by an international convention on chemical weapons endorsed by the United States, although a 1975 presidential order allows their use by the United States military in war zones under limited defensive circumstances and only with the approval of the president or a senior officer designated by the president.

“It is not allowed as a method or means of warfare,” said Michael Schmitt, professor of international law at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. “There are very, very strict restrictions on the use of CS gas in a war zone.”

In 2003, President Bush approved the use of riot control agents by the military in Iraq under the 1975 order, but only for such purposes as controlling rioting prisoners. At the time of Mr. Bush’s decision, there were also concerns that the Iraqi Army would use civilians as shields, particularly in a last-ditch battle in Baghdad, and some officials believed that riot control agents might be effective in such circumstances to reduce casualties.

A United States military spokesman in Baghdad refused to describe the current rules of engagement governing the use of riot control agents, but former Army lawyers say their use requires the approval of the military’s most senior commanders. “You never had a soldier with the authority to do it on his own,” said Thomas J. Romig, a retired major general who served as the chief judge advocate general of the United States Army from 2001 to 2005 and is now the dean of the Washburn School of Law in Topeka, Kan.

Several Army officers who have served in Iraq say they have never seen riot control agents used there by the United States military at all. Col. Robert Roth, commander of Task Force 4-64 AR of the Third Infantry Division, which was manning the Assassins’ Gate checkpoint at the time of the Blackwater incident, said that his troops were not issued any of the chemicals.

“We didn’t even possess any kind of riot control agents, and we couldn’t employ them if we wanted to,” said Colonel Roth, who is now serving in South Korea.

Which kinda begs the question: How did Blackwater even have CS in the first place?

And sure, this is nowhere near as bad as Saddam using deadly gas against the Kurds, but I would think that if the US is really trying to win hearts and minds, our military and paramilitary forces should be trying to minimize their resemblance to Saddam, not maximize it. And really, using riot gas to clear traffic? What the hell is WRONG with these people???

(Yes, Blackwater claims it was an honest mistake and they thought they were smoke canisters, but if that were the case, why were they equipped with them in the first place, how did a helicopter and an armored vehicle both make the same mistake at the same time, and why would they be using smoke canisters to clear traffic anyway?)

2 comments January 10th, 2008 at 07:11pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Iraq,Republicans,War

Go, Dan, Go!!!


Great news. Dan Rather will join the 5,732 other people (in addition to the American public as a whole, of course) who have a legal claim to see all those emails the White House has already disappeared (h/t pontificator). The judge in Rather’s lawsuit has decided to grant him discovery for his lawsuit.

…On Wednesday evening Justice Ira Gammerman of the New York Supreme Court in Manhattan made a preliminary ruling denying the TV network’s motion to dismiss Rather’s $70 million lawsuit. “I think discovery should go forward,” said Gammerman.


Now that the case will be moving forward, Rather’s lawyer Marty Gold wants CBS to start forking over internal emails and documents to prove his case, including exchanges between network brass and the White House. Naturally, this has CBS lawyers asking the court to limit the scope of the discovery. “It seems pretty clear they don’t want to produce [the documents],” said Gold.

So let’s see how those typical White House excuses are going to work…

State Secrets? The White House would have to claim that CBS was party to its biggest secrets, thereby proving that CBS is nothing but a party propaganda organ. Though of course, that’s effectively what they’ve said about Judy Judy Judy, both before and during Iraq.

Executive Privilege? For a case intimately involving whether Bush cheated his way out of military service? It doesn’t matter who it is, they’re not going to want to admit that anyone close enough to invoke privilege was “deliberating” about those TANG documents.

Which pretty much leaves the last refuge of the Bush Administration: the dog ate my emails. All of them.

Which will make it all the more interesting when the White House has to tell us what the state of their backup tapes is in approximately 3 days.

My bet is that if they can’t use the Dog Ate My E-Mails defense, the WH will invoke Executive Privilege, as they claim it covers anyone who has regular contact with the president, regardless of whether said contact is what’s actually being investigated.

I wonder what CBS’s e-mail retention policy is…

4 comments January 10th, 2008 at 11:17am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Corruption/Cronyism

You Wouldn’t Like Me When I’m Angry

So, according to Chris Bowers, Hillary won New Hampshire because she was more appealing to angry, dissatisfied voters there:

Did Obama’s message of conciliatory unity cost him the New Hampshire primary? Sure looks like it. According to exit polls, 30% of Democrats identified themselves as “dissatisfied” with the Bush administration. Obama narrowly won those voters, 39%-38%. However, among the 62% of participants in the Democratic primary who described themselves as “angry” with the Bush administration, Clinton won 39%-34%. And thus, we have Clinton’s 2.6% margin of victory almost precisely.

Democrats are pissed off at Bush, I mean really pissed off and angry. There simply isn’t anyway to win this primary without winning the support of those voters. It appears “change” isn’t enough to put one over the top in that category, at least here. Clinton won the angrier voters, and so she won New Hampshire.

This makes sense to me, but here’s what I don’t get. If you review the data at the exit poll link Bowers cites, it also shows that Edwards does slightly better among Dissatisfied voters than Angry ones, 18% to 16%. Yet of the top three candidates, Edwards has by far the most adversarial message. Even if his campaign isn’t strong enough for him to beat out Clinton and Obama with Angry voters, I would expect him to at least have his biggest success there.

Maybe the Angry voters don’t think he’s tough enough?

2 comments January 10th, 2008 at 07:17am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Clinton,Democrats,Edwards,Elections,Obama,Politics

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