Sunday, June 29, 2008

Seymour Hersch on the U.S. and Iran

Go read it all here, but there are 2 excerpts below:
A member of the House Appropriations Committee acknowledged that, even with a Democratic victory in November, “it will take another year before we get the intelligence activities under control.” He went on, “We control the money and they can’t do anything without the money. Money is what it’s all about. But I’m very leery of this Administration.” He added, “This Administration has been so secretive.”

“The coherence of military strategy is being eroded because of undue civilian influence and direction of nonconventional military operations,” Sheehan said. “If you have small groups planning and conducting military operations outside the knowledge and control of the combatant commander, by default you can’t have a coherent military strategy. You end up with a disaster, like the reconstruction efforts in Iraq.”

Admiral Fallon, who is known as Fox, was aware that he would face special difficulties as the first Navy officer to lead CENTCOM, which had always been headed by a ground commander, one of his military colleagues told me. He was also aware that the Special Operations community would be a concern. “Fox said that there’s a lot of strange stuff going on in Special Ops, and I told him he had to figure out what they were really doing,” Fallon’s colleague said. “The Special Ops guys eventually figured out they needed Fox, and so they began to talk to him. Fox would have won his fight with Special Ops but for Cheney.”

The Pentagon consultant said, “Fallon went down because, in his own way, he was trying to prevent a war with Iran, and you have to admire him for that.”

Obama smear email

I've seen the email and perhaps you have too. It's the one that attempts to smear Barack Obama in racist and theocratic tones. The email asserts that Obama is a Muslim "by birth" and then goes on to say many other things about the man that I won't re-print here. Of the many problems with the email is that it's filled with lies. In fact, while it sounds like it may be credible to some the entire email is filled with lie after lie. The media has reported on it, Snopes has debunked the lies, and yet it still spreads.

Well, today the Washington Post has a fascinating article on how such an email starts and spreads. This is good stuff as it points to how these types of attacks have affected McCain and Kerry as well as Obama, but also how the Internet has now become a major battleground for unfounded accusations and lies. The lack of a central distribution network is nothing new. I recall reading William S. Burroughs discussing the advantages of such networks though admittedly he was discussing rebels and assassins. Then again, what else is this if not character assassination? From the article:
"What I've come to realize is, the labor of generating an e-mail smear is divided and distributed amongst parties whose identities are secret even to each other," she says. A first group of people published articles that created the basis for the attack. A second group recirculated the claims from those articles without ever having been asked to do so. "No one coordinates the roles," Allen said. Instead the participants swim toward their goal like a school of fish -- moving on their own, but also in unison.
FWIW, the origins of the Obama smear cannot be located due to this technique. However, some of the roots traced in the article are in Illinois (a political rival), Boston, and, alas, Washington State.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Frist and Santorum - still fleecing voters

From USA Hooray:

Santorum's committee, America's Foundation, brought in nearly $800,000 from January 2007 to March 31, campaign finance reports show. The committee donated $19,500, or 2.4%, to candidates.

Frist's Volunteer Political Action Committee, known as VOLPAC, raised more than $900,000 from January 2007 to May 31. The committee kept two-thirds of the money and the rest went to its division helping Tennessee state candidates, according to state and federal campaign finance records. Together, the VOLPAC committees donated $26,500, or 2.9% of the total raised, to other political committees.

So, where's the money going? Good that donors might want to know.

America's Foundation spent $263,599 on direct mail expenses since the beginning of last year, according to CQ MoneyLine, a nonpartisan group that tracks campaign finance data.

The PAC's second largest expense — $150,218 — was for management fees, many of that paid to former campaign staffers. Of that, $113,320 went to Capitol Resource Group, which is headed by Rob Bickhart, who is also executive director of America's Foundation and once served as Santorum's fundraising chairman during his re-election campaign. An additional $20,000 went to Mark Rodgers, who was Santorum's chief of staff.

The PAC's staff, Davis said, had many responsibilities, including managing Santorum's media requests, developing and maintaining a website, and overseeing fundraising. Davis, a former Santorum Senate staffer, has been paid $20,217 through March 31.

Similarly, VOLPAC spent nearly $825,000 on overhead in 2007 and the first quarter of this year, records show. Nearly $76,000 of that went to firms connected to Catignani, a longtime fundraiser for Frist, and $35,000 more went to Brian Kennedy, a former Iowa GOP chairman who headed VOLPAC's Iowa operations in 2006 while Frist was mulling a possible presidential run.

Read the whole thing with charts at the link above.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

White House blocking Army's Contracting reforms

From Huffington Post:

The Office of Management and Budget, President Bush's administrative arm, has shot down a service plan to add five active-duty generals who would oversee purchasing and monitor contractor performance.

The boost in brass was a key recommendation from a blue-ribbon panel that last fall criticized the Army for contracting failures that undermined the war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan, wasted U.S. tax dollars, and sparked dozens of procurement fraud investigations.

As the Army's contracting budget ballooned _ from $46 billion in 2002 to $112 billion in 2007 _ it had too few experienced people negotiating and buying equipment and supplies, according to the panel. Worse still, there wasn't a single Army general in a job with contracting responsibilities. That meant the profession had little clout at a critical time.

Senior officers are needed to make sure past mistakes are not repeated, said the panel, chaired by former Pentagon acquisition chief Jacques Gansler.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


I'm not here to say that the government is always right, but when the government tells you to do something, I'm sure you would all agree that I think you all recognize that is something you need to do.

That's Senator Christopher Bond, R-Mo., yesterday on why his fellow Senators need to provide immunity to the telecos for their illegal wiretapping for the, um, government. Lest you think I lack context, here's the original story.

Ridge and Albania

Former head of Fatherland Security and current national co-chair of the McQueeg campaign either doesn't know the laws about registering as a lobbyist of a foreign nation or he doesn't think it applies to him. From Roll Call (registration required) via War and Piece:

For almost two years former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge failed to register a nearly half-million-dollar lobbying contract that he had with the government of Albania.
Ridge filed a registration statement on behalf of the country earlier this month after being contacted by the Department of Justice.

"It was brought to my attention after the contract expired and my lawyer said under the circumstances I probably should have filed," said Ridge, who is a national co-chairman of Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) presidential campaign and has been mentioned as a potential vice presidential running mate. "I didn't think it was [necessary] to register."

The Foreign Agents Registration Act requires agents to register with the DOJ within 10 days of signing a contract with a foreign government and before performing any duties for the client.

Additionally, "foreign agents" must file biannual reports detailing any agreements, income received and expenditures on behalf of foreign countries or corporations owned by countries.

Ridge, the former Pennsylvania governor, represented Albania from October 2006 through the end of August 2007 on issues ranging from homeland security to NATO membership.

On May 7, 2007, Ridge and Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha met with Sens. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) to discuss "various reforms undertaken by the government of Albania to comply with NATO and EU requirements," according to the FARA supplemental statement. Ridge and Berisha met with Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.) to discuss the same issues on May 8.

The time stamp on Ridge's registration statement with the Justice Department is dated June 12, 2008. ...

Ridge's registration was spurred by a DOJ inquiry after press accounts surfaced noting Ridge's connection to the country. ...

After a meeting with Justice and his counsel at Blank Rome, Ridge decided to file his FARA registration.

"Once we were made aware of certain contacts by Gov. Ridge, we advised him to register, which he did," said Topper Ray, a spokesman for Blank Rome. ...

I love that last bit. Ridge can't even claim that he got bad legal advice because he didn't tell his lawyers. Once they knew, then they told him to go register.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Build it and they will drill

McQueeg and Bush want to support offshore drilling of oil to reduce the nation's dependency on foreign oil (which could also be addressed if we reduced our dependency on oil in general, but I digress). I guess they forgot about the shortage of oil rigs in the world that won't let up until at least 2012 and quite possibly, beyond that year. So much for a sound energy policy based on facts. From the second link:

Demand is so high that shipbuilders, the biggest of whom are in Asia, have raised prices since last year by as much as $ 100 million a vessel to about half a billion dollars.

“The crunch on rigs is everywhere,” said Alberto Guimaraes, a senior executive at Petrobras, the Brazilian oil company that has discovered some of the most promising offshore oil but has been unable to get at it.

“Almost 100 percent of the oil companies are constrained in their investment program because there is no rig available,” he said.

As a result, drilling costs for some of the newest deep-water rigs in the Gulf of Mexico — the nation’s top source of domestic oil and natural gas supplies — have reached about $ 600, 000 a day, compared with $ 150, 000 a day in 2002.

November election

"Do you think that McCain can win?" That was the question put to me this weekend by a friend.

"Yes," I said.

"Really?!? Do you think that people are stupid enough to vote to continue the same awful government, the same damn policies that have brought them to this point 8 years later?"

Perhaps not an exact quote, but pretty close. I've given it some thought since I said that McQueeg could win and I've decided that it wasn't really the correct answer. The real answer is that Obama could lose.

Keep in mind, that's not the result that I want. I have my problems with the Democratic party (particularly not being progressive or democratic enough), but these past 8 years make the Reagan government look like a group of nice, competent managers. I've excoriated the Bush government on several occasions. McQueeg has turned his back on the promise that he showed in 2000 and become nothing more than a mouthpiece for the continued failed policies of his buddy, Bush. If we return the White House to someone of this caliber, then we'll plunge the country into even greater pain than it's going to have to face with Obama in charge.

The problem is that Democrats have a history of screwing up elections. Take Gore in 2000. Challenged by Nader on the left, Gore attempted to distance himself from both Clinton and his progressive roots. He was the VP in one of the more economically successful governments of the latter 20th century and he should have been a shoe-in given his opponent. But, he mucked it up by not acknowledging his mentor and not working harder to appease progressives. He only began to come back when he became more populist - a theme that Democrats are loath to heed.

Dukakis is another example. In the summer of 1987, he held all of the cards. Then VP Bush was a member of a government that was definitely in decline. Iran-Contra, psychics in the White House, a president who admitted to sleeping through meetings were all part of the headlines that were dragging the government's approval ratings into the ground. Dukakis was by one poll 15 points ahead of Bush and it seemed like he was ready to take the White House with a Democratic Congress behind him. Then the debates came - a lackluster performance - followed by silly pictures in tanks and, again, a final surge towards populism that, while it gained momentum, came too late to have any real effect on the outcome.

Could Obama's team make the same mistake? Sure they can...especially now that he's taking on so many of Hillary's advisors. We saw how well they managed that campaign, not to mention Gore's. They could certainly screw up Obama's chances as well. I think the candidate is smarter than that, but I've been fooled before, so I wait and see and worry.

McQueeg cannot win this race. He has a history of flip flops on a number of issues. He sold out his integrity when he (literally and figuratively) embraced Bush. Ross Perot has called him an "opportunist" and he can be proven to be so in a number of ways. His economic policies are a disaster. His foreign policy is 30 years old and not applicable to today's world. He is ill tempered, dictatorial, and somewhat megomaniacal. McQueeg 2008 is probably the weakest candidate that the Republican party has put forth since Gerald Ford in 1976. Even so, he may find himself in the White House given the Democrats ability to shoot themselves in the foot.

There's another thing that troubles me, that might portend a McQueeg White House. I brought this up to my friend this weekend. It's that little voice in my head that reminds me that Americans love a divided government. My country doesn't like to hand the reigns of power over to any one party. They prefer a division of government so that it can at least pretend to have some system of cheques and balances. Reagan and Bush worked with a Democratic Congress. Clinton got his Congress switched to Republicans. The current administration lost it's Republican stronghold in Congress (though one can argue that there is little difference). By all appearances the next election is going to be a landslide in favor of the Democrats in Congress. Will Americans then vote for a Democrat in the Whiite House? If so, I wouldn't be sitting too smugly if I were Reid and Pelosi as the following election is likely to become a windfall for Republicans. It will be a delicate balance for the Democratic leaders in Congress if Obama wins. They'll naturally want to deliver some of his policies, but they'll also have to show enough independence in order to remain electable themselves.

The next government faces some huge challenges. The current crooks have screwed things up so bad that it's going to take years to properly right the ship. It's a daunting task. The economy needs attention (and, perhaps, a recession which is never good for a sitting government). The department of Fatherland Security needs an overhaul and the Pentagon needs to be reigned in (which I suspect the Democrats won't be quick to do). A proper accounting of war costs needs to be done and the troops in Iraq need to come home for the most part while some will be re-deployed in Afghanistan (not my choice, but that's the reality of it). Health care costs need to be reigned in and neither party has a good plan to deal with that, but it's going to run our government spending through the universe if it's not addressed. We need to win back the trust of much of the world in foreign policy and learn how to become a team player/leader and not just a saber rattling bully/fool. I fear that the task is likely to be so large and unwieldy that it will bring down the next president regardless of who occupies the office. Still, I trust Obama to handle it far better than McQueeg. The question is, after one party rule that screwed us up so badly and after any potential gaffes by the Obama camp, will the American public agree with me?

Wait, see, worry.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Originally uploaded by B.D.'s world
Pictures from the Fremont Solstice Parade of 2008. This is one of the marchers for the opening of the parade. We had a great time killing most of Saturday around this.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Annoyance with Firefox 3

I've been testing the betas of Firefox 3 on my machine. I had no problems and when the official version came out this week I highly recommended it to friends and family. It's a much better release than FF2. I didn't experience any difficulties with the product until this morning when I went to watch a video on YouTube. The video played fine, but there was no sound.

I first checked the video in IE. After installing the flash plug in for IE, I found that the audio and video played fine. So, it wasn't a YouTube issue at all. Checking again in FF3, it still didn't play. Time to search the forums at Mozillazine.

I eventually came across this link after doing a search. It turns out that the issue was the way Vista, my OS, interacted with Firefox 3. I'm copying the steps here for Vista and Firefox users just in case someone comes across this issue and Googles it.

Windows Vista volume mixer

  1. Open Firefox and visit a site that should play sound.
  2. Click the volume icon in the Windows task bar.
  3. Click Mixer. The Volume Mixer window will appear.
  4. Make sure the Firefox slider isn't at the bottom.

Now playing on VLC: Nomo - Brainwave
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, June 19, 2008


After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts, and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.

Maj. General Antonio M. Taguba (USA-Ret.), preface to Broken Laws, Broken Lives

Read the report in full.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Habeas Corpus

The Republican nominee for president does not know what habeas corpus means...why should he? It's only in the Constitution, a document that his predecessor has shown so little regard for. Quote:
We are now going to have the courts flooded with so-called, quote, Habeas Corpus suits against the government, whether it be about the diet, whether it be about the reading material.
That, dear readers, is fear mongering and ignorance to a high degree.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Let the mudslinging begin!

Now that the Democrats have wrapped up their nomination process pundits can turn their eyes towards McQueeg. He's been pretty upset that he hasn't had much time in the spotlight recently. However, I'm not sure that this is the sort of attention that he wanted:
First off, I find it fascinating that John McCain, who is refusing to vote for the GI Bill for our troops because "it's too generous," is himself getting $58,000 a year, tax-free, from the US government for his military service. Had McCain been getting that amount every year since Vietnam, that would total $2,000,000 for the man who isn't into overgenerous government. I just find that interesting.

I mean, the man built his own lake to go fishing at one of his 8 or 9 houses. Yes, he served his country. But something is wrong when we're paying millionaires $58,000 a year, especially when those same millionaires complaine that we were being "overly-generous" to our troops currently fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the very least, it's terribly hypocritical.
Perhaps McQueeg will prefer the foreign press:

Ted Sampley, who fought with US Special Forces in Vietnam and is now a leading campaigner for veterans’ rights, said: ‘I have been following John McCain’s career for nearly 20 years. I know him personally. There is something wrong with this guy and let me tell you what it is – deceit.

‘When he came home and saw that Carol was not the beauty he left behind, he started running around on her almost right away. Everybody around him knew it.

‘Eventually he met Cindy and she was young and beautiful and very wealthy. At that point McCain just dumped Carol for something he thought was better.

‘This is a guy who makes such a big deal about his character. He has no character. He is a fake. If there was any character in that first marriage, it all belonged to Carol.’

...But Ross Perot, who paid her medical bills all those years ago, now believes that both Carol McCain and the American people have been taken in by a man who is unusually slick and cruel – even by the standards of modern politics.

‘McCain is the classic opportunist. He’s always reaching for attention and glory,’ he said.

‘After he came home, Carol walked with a limp. So he threw her over for a poster girl with big money from Arizona. And the rest is history.’

Err, perhaps not. For the record, the second article includes McQueeg's first wife endorsing his candidacy.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Fox tries to ambush Moyers

Faux News sent a producer from O'Really's show to ask Bill Moyers why he was attending a conference (of "left wing journalists") and why he has not appeared on The O'Reilly Factor. Moyers, ever gracious and smart, refutes the producer's framing of the questions and in turn asks him to come on his show and explain Rupert Murdoch's claim that we went to war in Iraq to keep oil at $20/barrell. Amusing as all get out. The producer is then chased by camera holders and reporters in the same manner that the producer uses to ambush his subjects and, well, he doesn't like it very much.

Counter Intelligence

The new Senate Intelligence committee report presents more disturbing evidence that the U.S. government under the Bush administration has been uniquely vulnerable to the intelligence schemes and foreign policy freelancing of discredited individuals and deemed fabricators such as Manoucher Ghorbanifar, and potentially even counterintelligence threats of an Iranian or other nature. It details how top officials in the Bush administration endeavored to permit such an ill-advised channel, took affirmative measures to conceal it in order to bypass the professional intelligence service, and then took steps to protect their role in the matter by shutting down the counterintelligence investigation launched by the Pentagon and to stall the Senate probe. The report also documents that Ghorbanifar has been able to influence US policy and intelligence channels in particular through Ledeen's contacts within Cheney's office and the Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz Pentagon.

"The questions is: is information from Ledeen and Ghorbanifar still going to the vice president's office, and is it affecting them?" a former senior CIA offiicial said. "It's a logical assumption. That is what is known in the intelligence business as circular reporting: the same information, coming through the same source, peddled through different channels, slightly altered to make it look like it's coming from multiple sources. And it's one of the biggest dangers in the intelligence business. That is what Iraq Niger was all about."

More here.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

McClellan on Daily Show

Incredible interview by Jon Stewart.

Revealing quotes?

Muckraked has an interesting post of excerpts from a forthcoming book by reporter Richard Engel. Among the quotes attributed to Bush:
- “‘This is the great war of our times. It is going to take forty years,’” [Bush told Engel]. “Bush said in forty years the world would know if the war on terrorism, and conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, had reduced extremism, helped moderates, and promoted democracy.”

“I know people are saying we should have left things the way they were, but I changed after 9/11. I had to act. I don’t care if it created more enemies. I had to act.”

- Bush also explains that he’s open to meeting with Iran, describing the administration’s attempt at dialogue with Syria, but that he’s doubtful it would be effective:

We can have meetings. Talking is not the problem. We can talk to Iran. But Iran wants nuclear weapons and I’m not going to let that happen. Not on my watch. We tried to have dialogue with Syria, right after the war, didn’t get much.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

McCan't's new moniker

I've been calling him McCan't for a few years, now. I've seen the McCane moniker, but found a lot of hatred and little humor in it. Today, however, I've been introduced to a new moniker and I like it even better. Dear audience, he will now be known as McQueeg.


On Sunday I took on the task of baking 2 loaves of bread using the whole wheat flour from Bluebird grains farm. For the record, their 2 pound bag of flour makes 2 loaves of bread so my supply is gone. For this first batch, I followed the recipe from their site. First, I made a sponge using yeast, molasses, water, and flour and let it sit for 1 hour. Next, I made the mix using boiling water, molasses (and a little agave syrup as I had run out of molasses), flour, and flax seeds and let it sit for 1 hour. Both sat in my oven under the proof setting which maintains a 100 degree temperature.

After the hour, I mixed the two together. Then I added 3 cups of flour a half cup at a time until the mix came away from the bowl. The recipe then called for laying the dough out on a flour covered surface and kneading it "for 15 minutes". I kneaded it for about 11 minutes. By this point my experience told me that was enough. I put the dough back into an oiled bowl and covered with a towel. It went back into the oven until it doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Next, I punched the bread down and kneaded it some more (about 6 minutes). I formed 2 round shaped loaves, covered them with a towel, placed them on a baking sheet with parchment and let them stand another hour or so (until doubled in size again). I pre-heated the oven to 375 degrees with a baking stone inside. Before placing each loaf in the oven, I buttered the tops of the bread with melted butter. They came to temperature in about 30 to 35 minutes.

Results? Well, you might have noticed that above I said that "For this first batch...". Yep, it's darn tasty. Their recipe came out a little dense, so I was glad that I stopped kneading when I did! However, the flavor produced by their flour is fantastic. It's nutty with the sweetness of the molasses (a quarter cup plus 1 teaspoon) just shining through. There's also a hint of fruit scent and flavor in the bread that's quite appealing.

We're giving away one loaf to the neighbors as thanks for letting us borrow some house cleaning supplies (to clean our siding). I may try and make their recipe next weekend using Bob's Red Mill wheat flour as a comparison. My guess is that it won't even come close to the flavors I got from this flour. Fantastic!

Monday, June 02, 2008

While the focus is on McClellan

The Washington Post reports:

Getting lost in the media furor over McClellan's memoir is the new autobiography of retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the onetime commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, who is scathing in his assessment that the Bush administration "led America into a strategic blunder of historic proportions."

Among the anecdotes in "Wiser in Battle: A Soldier's Story" is an arresting portrait of Bush after four contractors were killed in Fallujah in 2004, triggering a fierce U.S. response that was reportedly egged on by the president.

During a videoconference with his national security team and generals, Sanchez writes, Bush launched into what he described as a "confused" pep talk:

"Kick ass!" he quotes the president as saying. "If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher than hell! This Vietnam stuff, this is not even close. It is a mind-set. We can't send that message. It's an excuse to prepare us for withdrawal."

"There is a series of moments and this is one of them. Our will is being tested, but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!"

A White House spokesman had no comment.


Several good points in this video, plus the presenters made me laugh.

Sunday, June 01, 2008