Friday, September 07, 2007

The recent arrests in an apparent bombing plot in Germany may well have been helped along by NSA communications intercepts. And that's making Kevin Drum wonder about Dubya's legislative strategy:
Everyone — literally everyone — was immediately willing to amend the FISA law to restore NSA's capability to monitor communications between two foreign locations. ... Instead, we likely lost a couple of month's worth of surveillance because the White House was bound and determined not merely to fix FISA, but to expand its scope dramatically.

That was a helluva gamble. Sure, the German terrorists were already under intense surveillance by German police by that time, but the story from the U.S. folks is that the intercepts from this year were vital to the investigation too. You'd think they'd want to get that back online as soon as possible, especially for a plot whose goal was massive American fatalities. Instead they played politics until the end of July, hoping both for some partisan juju as well as a chance to increase the unfettered power of the executive branch. Nice job, guys.

It's almost as if Dubya's crew wants the intercept program, not just for intercepting communications from foreign threats, but also for something else entirely --- something which, say, the FISA court would find far more disagreeable, but which is important enough to Dubya that they'd hold the entire program hostage until they get it.

Now, what ever could that be?

Wondering who's supporting Rudy Giuliani for President, when native New Yorkers, even those who supported him as Mayor, are appalled at the prospect?

Then I commend to your attention this post on Dan Drezner's blog. Not Drezner's post itself, which merely relays the common observation that a Giuliani presidency would be a disaster. But the comments. Like this:

The repuration [sic] Giuliani has here in Atlanta is:

1. He got the crime out of New York;

2. He was tough after 9/11;

3. He's had an awful lot of wives, mistresses and stuff; but

3. We can forgive him all those wives and that social liberal stuff because of 1 and 2.

Could you elaborate on why all the experts think that gives us an unmitigated disaster as prez?

And this, from someone who signs himself "Houstoner":
Keep in mind that what is a "civil-rights violation" to Al Sharpton is a "crackdown which Sharpton calls a civil-rights violation" to most of the rest of the country. Boo hoo, the enablers of thugs and hoodlums are whining! That is a feature, not a bug. ...

Lastly, I'm not interested in democracy. What is so magical about democracy? Democracy just means the thugs can vote to steal from me rather than try it themselves. If Iraq has taught me anything it is that, when the proportion of those who sympathise with thugs reached a critical point, democracy doesn't work. I'm put that point at about 30% and I will state categorically that certain cities have long ago passed that point. New York was one such city under Dinkins; and then there is Baghdad and (I'd argue) Houston.

This is what the modern Conservative movement has brought to America: Fascism, at least in the mold of Mussolini and Franco, is now respectable enough to walk around in public without embarassment.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

As Dubya's rhetoric towards Iran heats up, Glenn Greenwald applies a thermometer. He's particularly struck by Dubya's statement in a recent speech that
We will confront this danger before it is too late.
Rumors are swirling from the liberal blogsphere to The New Yorker that this sort of thing presages a bombing campaign on Iraq Iran. And indeed, the London Times (for pedants, that's "the newspaper called 'The Times' that is published in London") had a recent article describing details of at least one war plan for such an attack.

Now, there are reasonable questions to ask about such a plan. Questions like, "Wouldn't pissing off Iran, with a potential Chinese ally, and numerous retaliatory options ranging from disruption of the oil markets to seriously attacking our forces in Iraq, be really stupid?" Or like, "Would the Bush administration ever be deterred from doing any particular thing merely because it's really, really dumb?" But the Times article supplies some perspective:

Bush is committed for now to the diplomatic route.
Readers will recall the way Bush was committed to the diplomatic route in October and November of 2002. He was committed to the diplomatic route as a way of establishing a pretext for military action which he'd already decreed months before.

Re the edit above: blog in haste, repent at leisure.

Wikipedia aims to be a ready reference for all sorts of knowledge. To this end, trusted people are designated as administrators, to ensure that all additions meet Wikipedia's high standards.

Recently, one such administrator (who reflects the nobility of his pursuit with the dignified handle, "ButSeriouslyFolks") decided that essentially none of the Wikipedia pages on the IEEE, the professional society that is to electrical engineering roughly what the government of the state of Wyoming is to the territory, met these high standards. He couldn't figure out, simply from reading them, that the subjects were "notable." So, he did what anyone would do under the cicrumstances --- he summarily deleted them all. Called to account, he protested:

I never said these things were not notable. I don't know whether they are in fact notable, and it is not necessary for me to have independent knowledge of the subject according to the rules of this project.

The changes were, as it happens, undone. But in keeping with Wikipedia's high standards of decorum, the user who first complained about the deletions was roundly and unanimously sanctioned for his incivility, in calling this attitude "militant ignorance."

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

In a new book, Dubya says he was unaware that Bremer was going to disband the Iraqi army before it actually happened. Bremer himself begs to differ; he's showing the New York Times an exchange of letters:

After recounting American efforts to remove members of the Baath Party of Saddam Hussein from civilian agencies, Mr. Bremer told Mr. Bush that he would “parallel this step with an even more robust measure” to dismantle the Iraq military.

One day later, Mr. Bush wrote back a short thank you letter. “Your leadership is apparent,” the president wrote. “You have quickly made a positive and significant impact. You have my full support and confidence.”

Of course, there may be less here than meets the eye. When Dubya was exercising his most substantive duty as (the nearly powerless) governor of Texas, deciding whether or not to spare convicts from execution, his main concern was that the proper legal forms had been observed. In New Orleans after Katrina, he not only said, but probably believed, that "Brownie" was doing a "heck of a job", because he'd gotten a proper dog-and-pony show, never mind the scenes of horror that were showing up even on Fox. And so, in Bremer's exchange, the Times is quick to observe that the note about dissolving the Iraqi Army is on the third page of the letter, hinting that even they think he might have simply not read that far.

Such is government under Dubya.