Archive for the ‘War On Terra’ Category

Senate Passes FISA Bill with Telecom Immunity

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

The vote was 69-28. Way to go, you defenders of the Constitution! (That was snark, just in case anyone wondered.)

More than two and a half years after the disclosure of President’s Bush’s domestic eavesdropping program set off a furious national debate, the Senate gave final approval on Wednesday afternoon to broadening the government’s spy powers and providing legal immunity for the phone companies that took part in the wiretapping program.

The plan, approved by a vote of 69 to 28, marked one of Mr. Bush’s most hard-won legislative victories in a Democratic-led Congress where he has had little success of late. Both houses, controlled by Democrats, approved what amounted to the biggest restructuring of federal surveillance law in 30 years, giving the government more latitude to eavesdrop on targets abroad and at home who are suspected of links to terrorism.

Senator Hope and Change voted Yea, while Senator She’s an Evil Corporate Minion of the Status Quo voted No. Gee, I’m stunned.

The issue put Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, the presumptive Democratic nominee, in a particularly precarious spot. After long opposing the idea of immunity for the phone companies in the wiretapping operation, he voted for the plan on Wednesday. His reversal last month angered many of his most ardent supporters, who organized an unsuccessful drive to get him to reverse his position once again. And it came to symbolize what civil liberties advocates saw as “capitulation” by Democratic leaders to political pressure from the White House in an election year.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who was Mr. Obama’s rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, voted against the bill.

Not to worry, though. If you’re not doing anything wrong, this bill won’t affect you at all. Kit Bond says so:

But Senator Christopher S. Bond, the Missouri Republican who is vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said there was nothing to fear in the bill “unless you have Al Qaeda on your speed dial.”

Our Alabama Senators covered us with glory, with Shelby voting Yea and Sessions not bothering to show up. I can’t believe Jeff wasn’t there to support his beloved W.

The roll call is here. I’m going to crack open a cold beer and pretend this is a bad dream.

via Shakesville

Supporting the Troops, Republican Style

Friday, April 4th, 2008

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) shows his support:

We spent the night in the Green Zone, in the poolhouse of one of Saddam’s palaces. A little weird, I got to be honest with you. But I felt safe. And so in the morning, I got up early — not that I make this a great habit — but I went to the gym because I just couldn’t sleep and everything else. Well, sure enough, the guard wouldn’t let me in. Said I didn’t have the correct credentials.

It’s 5:00 in the morning. I haven’t had sleep. I was not very happy with this two-bit security guard. So you know, I said, “I want to see your supervisor.” Thirty minutes later, the supervisor wasn’t happy with me, they escort me back to my room. It happens. I guess I didn’t need to work out anyway.

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I don’t support the war in Iraq. Never did. But our soldiers are over there doing their jobs. They shouldn’t have to kowtow to entitled chickenhawks like McHenry.

In other news, John McCain still hasn’t signed on to the new GI Bill.

H/T, Jeff at Shakesville

Green Light for Torture

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

This morning, Del sent me a link to this must-read article from Vanity Fair on the development of the Bush administration’s torture policy. It’s long, and I’m not even going to try to excerpt. Read the whole thing. I’ll warn you that you’re likely to come away nauseated and disgusted. If there is any justice in the world, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Addington, Gonzales, Yoo, Bybee, and a string of others will find themselves before a war crimes tribunal.

No, I’m not holding my breath. I don’t know whether to throw things or throw up.

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After you finish your reading assignment, check out ahab’s post on yesterday’s release of the Yoo torture memo.

Five Years and Counting…

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

…since George W. Bush chose to invade a country that had not attacked us, using phony links to al-Qaeda and fears of non-existent weapons of mass destruction. Five years since Dick Cheney told us our soldiers would be greeted as liberators. Five years since Donald Rumsfeld told us the war would last “six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.” Five years since the Bush administration threw our credibility and moral leadership in the toilet and took a giant crap on it.

And, by the way, more than six years since we sent troops into Afghanistan to root out the Taliban, an effort that took a back seat to Bush’s war of choice in Iraq. Here’s what the Dear Leader had to say about it last Thursday:

“I must say, I’m a little envious,” Bush said. “If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed.”

“It must be exciting for you … in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You’re really making history, and thanks,” Bush said.

I don’t know why he can’t just head on over if he thinks it would be such fun. He’s only two years older than this guy, and all that mountain biking keeps him in good shape. We’ll be glad to give him a little more vacation time. He’s already taken off more than 450 days since he took office in 2001. What’s a few more months? Maybe he could use some of that flight training he got before he left the Texas Air National Guard during Vietnam.

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Melissa has more at Shakesville. The war protesters were out in force in Five Points South today. They report that the public response was very positive, a far cry from the epithets and middle fingers they got five years ago. Only 307 days till January 20, 2009. It can’t get here soon enough.

House Holds Closed Session To Discuss Warrantless Wiretapping

Friday, March 14th, 2008

The US House held a rare closed session last night to discuss the pending FISA bill that would regulate government spying on phone calls and emails. Ironically, according to the Rachel Maddow Show, House members had to wait several hours to start the session so the chamber could be swept for bugs.

George W. Bush, who insists that the new FISA bill must include immunity for telecom companies who broke the law by allowing the government to eavesdrop on customers without proper authorization, is pulling out all the stops now. Having failed to frighten House Democrats with the specters of national security breaches or telecom bankruptcy, he’s now playing the patriotism card. To wit, telecoms that broke the law were showing their love of country and should be rewarded for it.

Apparently it has slipped his mind that those same telecoms cut off their “patriotic” wiretaps when the government failed to pay its phone bill.

The House is expected to vote on the bill today before adjourning for the Easter recess. Bush has vowed to lie down on the floor and kick and scream veto it if he doesn’t get his way.

UPDATE:  The bill passed 213-197.  It will go to the Senate after Easter break.

Why Am I (Not) Surprised?

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

Lots of stuff going on in the world lately; not a lot of posting here. Chalk that up to crazy busy real life. I have been following the news, as I know you have, and one huge story is the declaration of martial law in Pakistan. It isn’t exactly a huge shock that a military dictator will do anything to hang on to power, and I know I shouldn’t be surprised that the response from the Bush administration has been a bit subdued. And I wouldn’t be the first to comment on the similarities between the two, er, regimes — using the specters of judicial activism and terrorism to trash opponents and stifle dissent. Hmmm, where have we heard that before?

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Help me to understand

Friday, October 5th, 2007

Okay. So the “Muzzle the Mercenary Dogs of War” bill passed with only 30 Republicans voting against it. So, I thought I would look up how our own Alabama reps had voted, just to shake my head with disgust because (surely!) all the Republicans would have voted No. But…lo and behold all except Mike Rogers voted Yes. Jo Bonner voted Yes! Spencer Bachus voted Yes! And this is after Mr. Bush clearly gave a strong condemnation of the bill!

As Moe Szyslak would say, “Wha…?” Don’t these loyal Republicans understand that the security of the Justice department rests on Blackwater’s professionals being able to, um, handle situations as they see fit?

Unintended Irony Edition

Monday, September 24th, 2007

Dear Husband and I just turned on the TiVo to watch last night’s broadcast of Ken Burns’ “The War”, and we heard these introductory words: “Corporate funding for The War is provided by…”

DH completed that sentence: Halliburton, Blackwater, and the oil companies.

Oops.  Different war.

Military Officers Caught Up in Contract Graft Investigations

Monday, September 24th, 2007

This just makes me sad.

CASTOR, La. — On the fourth Sunday in July, John Lee Cockerham was here in his hometown for the baptism of his twin sons…

…Less than 24 hours later Major Cockerham was behind bars, accused of orchestrating the largest single bribery scheme against the military since the start of the Iraq war. According to the authorities, the 41-year-old officer, with his wife and a sister, used an elaborate network of offshore bank accounts and safe deposit boxes to hide nearly $10 million in bribes from companies seeking military contracts.The accusations against Major Cockerham are tied to a crisis of corruption inside the behemoth bureaucracy that sustains America’s troops. Pentagon officials are investigating some $6 billion in military contracts, most covering supplies as varied as bottled water, tents and latrines for troops in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The inquiries have resulted in charges against at least 29 civilians and soldiers, more than 75 other criminal investigations and the suicides of at least two officers. They have prompted the Pentagon, the largest purchasing agency in the world, to overhaul its war-zone procurement system… (read the rest here)

Gee, I wonder where these military personnel got the idea that it was okay to take bribes from military contractors.  A few names come to mind: former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA), Brent Wilkes, Mitchell Wade, former head of House Appropriations Committee Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), former #3 at the CIA Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, and former Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL).

According to prosecutors, Wilkes and Wade generously remunerated Duke Cunningham for steering government business their way. Wilkes, prosecutors allege, gave Cunningham more than $600,000 in bribes, including two checks totaling $100,000 and $525,000 to pay off a mortgage. (Wilkes, through his attorney, denies these allegations.) In February [2006], Wade pleaded guilty to bribing Cunningham with over $1 million—but he operated with more panache, indulging Cunningham’s taste for outsize antiques. The trove he offered included Persian and Indian rugs, sleek Louis-Philippe and Restoration commodes, a $24,000 Victorian china hutch, leaded-glass cabinets, and silver candlesticks worth $5,600. “Duke liked his antiques big and he liked them expensive,” explains a Maryland antiques dealer, who despaired of his taste. (Duke got other gifts as well: a secondhand Rolls-Royce and the use of Wade’s 42-foot boat, renamed the Duke-Stir.)…

… In March, Cunningham was sentenced to eight years and four months in prison—the harshest sentence ever received by an ex-congressman for corruption. But the investigations are far from over, and allegations continue to surface implicating other legislators and government officials. California Republican congressman Jerry Lewis, head of the House committee on appropriations, is currently being investigated. So is Wilkes’s best friend from high-school days, Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, who was until recently No. 3 at the C.I.A., and who is alleged to have accepted lavish favors from Wilkes—a trip to a Honolulu estate, for instance, renting for $50,000 per week—in exchange for arranging lucrative C.I.A. contracts for his friend. (Wilkes, Lewis, and Foggo have denied any wrongdoing.) Republican congresswoman and senatorial candidate Katherine Harris, of Florida, a source familiar with her activities tells me, is also being scrutinized for her dealings with Wade—in particular, for receiving $32,000 in illegal campaign donations, and for a lavish dinner she enjoyed last year for which he paid more than $3,300. (Harris says that she did not know the donations were illegal and has since given the money to charity.) In addition, Wade, who is cooperating with the authorities, has told the F.B.I. that Wilkes kept hospitality suites in the Watergate Hotel and Westin Grand in order to entertain legislators and government officials with evenings of poker, cigars, and, on occasion, for Cunningham, prostitutes.

It’s good to see the word “former” preceding most of the names on my list.  It’s dreadful to know that some people in the military decided that what was good for government officials worked for them too.

Fact-Checking the Decider

Friday, September 14th, 2007

If you watched Bush’s speech tonight, you may be interested in this analysis from the Washington Post. As I have been so frequently of late, I’m simply stunned to see that our Dear Leader didn’t exactly stick to the facts in his “I’m pretending this isn’t more of the same ‘stay-the-course’ bullshit that I’ve been spewing for the past four years” spiel.

And in case you’re still in doubt that Gen. Petraeus would choose to tell W just what he wants to hear (Monday night’s exclusive interview on Faux News should have been a big clue), Centcom Commander Adm. William Fallon called Petraeus an “ass-kissing little chickenshit” — to his face — for sucking up to superiors.

Ah well, at least Bush says he’ll bring home some of the troops.  Just in time to take the pressure off of Congressional Republicans struggling for re-election.  He’s still determined to hand off the mess he created to the next occupant of the Oval Office.