On The Subject of Kenneth Pollack

Kenneth Pollack, our intrepid media's example of an Iraqi war opponent, wrote a book called "The Threatening Storm: The Case For Invading Iraq." I have it. I bought it because I saw Joe Lieberman hold that book up in the U.S. Senate as a book we should all read when we consider invading Iraq. He used the book twice in his floor speeches to bolster the case for invading Iraq

It was not just Joe Lieberman. Kay Bailey Hutchison quoted twice from Pollack's book and ensured that certain quotes made their way into the record. Jon Kyl used an article of Pollack's to give us a specific quote: "war now or war later." George Voinovich reminded us all of Pollack's book in his support for an emergency supplemental bill for Iraq and Afghanistan. Even Edward Kennedy cited Pollack when he made his own argument for war against Iraq.

Pollack and his partner in crime, Michael O'Hanlon, are providing political cover for wavering Republicans while trying to salvage their own reputations. In short, this is just more of the same from these two. Don't get fooled again.

Powered by ScribeFire.

New 9-11 Video: But Larry Silverstein Said "Pull It"!

The latest debunking video I've made available at YouTube, I hope.

Powered by ScribeFire.

What's Behind The Data-Mining Curtain?

Via Josh Marshall (short post, so that's the whole thing):

As you can see, we now have the first hint of what was at the center of the Ashcroft hospital room showdown. According to the New York Times, what the White House calls the 'terrorist surveillance [i.e., warrantless wiretap] program' originally included some sort of largescale data mining.

I don't doubt that this is true as far as it goes. But this must only scratch the surface because, frankly, at least as presented, this just doesn't account for the depth of the controversy or the fact that so many law-and-order DOJ types were willing to resign over what was happening. Something's missing.

Of course, 'data mining' can mean virtually anything. What kind of data and whose you're looking at makes all the difference in the world. Suggestively, the Times article includes this cryptic passage: "Some of the officials said the 2004 dispute involved other issues in addition to the data mining, but would not provide details. They would not say whether the differences were over how the databases were searched or how the resulting information was used."

To put this into perspective, remember that the White House has been willing to go to the public and make a positive argument for certain surveillance procedures (notably evasion of the FISA Court strictures) which appear to be illegal on their face. This must be much more serious and apparently something all but the most ravenous Bush authoritarians would never accept. It is supposedly no longer even happening and hasn't been for a few years. So disclosing it could not jeopardize a program. The only reason that suggests itself is that the political and legal consequences of disclosure are too grave to allow.

Late Update: The Post has a follow story on the data mining issue. It covers most of the same ground but hints a little more directly about possible interception of emails and phone calls. The article suggests that examination of "metadata" was the issue here. But, again, it doesn't fit. The intensity of the covering up doesn't match the alleged secret.

So what does match the intensity of the covering up?

First, a word about data mining. That Wiki article will give you all the info you need, I expect, but here's what I'd like to emphasize. You have a vast amount of data, too much for one person or even a dedicated group of people to pore over. Therefore, you use a computer to search out key phrases or data sets to help focus your search. The computer can cut through the chatter and find the key phrases, giving the investigators a greatly reduced amount of data in which to perform more focused searches, or even to simply start laying human eyes upon.

Say you're in the FBI, and you want to hunt terrorists. You know that the terrorists are using the Internet, for example. So you find a way to allow your data mining program to intercept email messages and scan them as they travel down the tubes. The ones with the key phrases get flagged, and the ones that don't are flushed.

This is my question: where do the key phrases come from?

I rather doubt that the terrorists are talking freely about wanton destruction in any way. There's got to be some kind of coded message, and it needs to be rather innocuous sounding small talk to escape detection. "I got oranges at the market today, but I couldn't lay my hands on any rhubarb." And so bin Laden knows that the cell leader talked to one crucial member of the cell but couldn't find another.

How do you data mine a conversation like that? How do you even know what they are talking about?

This is off the top of my head, but tell me why it wouldn't work. You do some initial surveillance. You do the monitoring of telephone calls to known al-Qaeda members outside the country. You come up with a pared-down list of people in the United States that may or may not be talking to the terrorists about terrorism.

Then you track down their email accounts. You feed the telephone conversations into a text analyzer.

And then you crack those emails and telephone conversations open. You use text analysis to identify common phrases and words, you put human eyes on this mass of data to see if humans think these conversations sound fishy, and then you boil it all down to key phrases to focus the larger task of data mining.

And then you do it all over again. You identify people who are using the same key phrases in their emails and telephone conversations. You boil them down, crack open their conversations, and work the process again. Hits begin to accumulate, maybe. Misses gets refined out of the process, maybe. But since the key phrases are likely innocuous sounding, you get hundreds of thousands of misses.

It's the chicken or the egg problem: which comes first, the data mining or the key phrases?

What if, to get a huge jump start on the process, the Bush Administration violated the privacy rights of thousands of Americans, again and again and again? What if career prosecutors were unwilling to accept any of the tainted results because they would never be admissible in a court of law if the original and continued process of validating key phrases became known? What if millions of dollars were thrown into this kind of a program, all to get the vast amount of evidence thrown out and the guilty set free?

Okay, don't listen to that - it's all about this:

Well, well. As we wrote over a year ago, after combining careful examination of how Republicans parse their statements with network engineering knowledge available through open sources:

Long story short: (1) Internet surveillance is Bush’s goal, not voice calls; (2) the Republican “wiretap” talking point is a diversion, to voice, away from from Internet surveillance; (3) Bush’s domestic surveillance system would pose no engineering challenges whatever to NSA. No rocket science—or tinfoil hats—required.

Can we please stop talking about “wiretaps” now? It’s not your voice communications Bush wants. It’s your mail.
Because email and all Internet communication is sent by packets all around the Internet, some of the packets could go outside the United States. That means the entire message could be forfeit. For all we know, they intentionally direct email out of the country so that they can then grab it.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Gonzales Committed Perjury On Tuesday

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON - Documents show that eight congressional leaders were briefed about the Bush administration's terrorist surveillance program on the eve of its expiration in 2004, contradicting sworn Senate testimony this week by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

The documents, obtained by The Associated Press, come as senators consider whether a perjury investigation should be opened into conflicting accounts about the program and a dramatic March 2004 confrontation leading up to its potentially illegal reauthorization.

..."The dissent related to other intelligence activities," Gonzales testified at Tuesday's hearing. "The dissent was not about the terrorist surveillance program."

"Not the TSP?" responded Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. "Come on. If you say it's about other, that implies not. Now say it or not."

"It was not," Gonzales answered. "It was about other intelligence activities."

A four-page memo from the national intelligence director's office shows that the White House briefing with the eight lawmakers on March 10, 2004, was about the terror surveillance program, or TSP.

The memo, dated May 17, 2006, and addressed to then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert, details "the classification of the dates, locations, and names of members of Congress who attended briefings on the Terrorist Surveillance Program," wrote then-Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte.


Powered by ScribeFire.

Cheney Contemplating a Run?

From Think Progress:

This New York Sun editorial explores the idea of Richard Cheney running for president.

Mr. Cheney has virtues as a candidate in his own right. He has foreign policy experience by virtue of having served as defense secretary, and he has economic policy experience, having served as a leading tax-cutter while a member of the House of Representatives. His wife, Lynne, would be an asset to the ticket in her own right, a point made by Kathryn Jean Lopez in a post on the topic at National Review Online back in February. By our rights, Lynne Cheney would make one of the greatest First Ladies in history. Mr. Cheney, in any event, is more than four years younger than Mr. McCain, and, if elected, would be 67 years old at his inauguration, younger than Reagan was when he took office. His health, while a topic of frequent speculation, hasn't interfered with his service as vice president.

Lawrence Kudlow wrote a column a while back saying he hoped President Bush asked Vice President Cheney to run for president in 2008. It was a fine idea then and it still is — not because the current field is particularly weak, but because Mr. Cheney is so much more experienced and shrewd a figure, one who could help settle some of the arguments about the Bush years in favor of Mr. Bush. A White House aiming to get Mr. Cheney elected could also avoid some of the hazards that befall lame-ducks — drift, brain drain, irrelevance. Such a campaign might lift Mr. Cheney 's own standing in the polls.

The vice president's stature would put him instantly into the first rank of contenders on the Republican side. On Monday, speaking in Alabama, the vice president received such a warm greeting that he began his remarks by saying, "A reception like that is almost enough to make you want to run for office again." It is hard to imagine the vice president did not comprehend how tantalizing such a remark would be. He used the same opening line on March 24 when he spoke to the leadership of the Republican Jewish Coalition. This is not an endorsement, and there are things we find attractive about many of the other candidates. But for those of us who are concerned with extending Mr. Bush's campaign for freedom around the world and cutting taxes at home, a Cheney campaign is attractive.

Oh please please please please please please PLEASE don't throw us into that briar patch, Brer Cheney.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Talking To Your Kids About Internet Porn

This is from Savage Love, a great sex advice column which is no-holds-barred and no-nonsense. I think that should be the gold standard for advice columns, but anyway, on to the quote, which is not actually from Dan Savage, but one of his readers:

This is in response to IPRUDE, the mother who's worried about her son's online porn consumption. I'll never forget the day my mom found my porn magazines. She never confronted me; I simply lifted the mattress one afternoon to find my precious Penthouses gone. In their place: Sunset magazine and Good Housekeeping. It was a reminder that (1) I needed to do a better job of hiding my porn, and (2) that she wouldn't have found it in the first place if she didn't have to clean my damn room for me. It was the most effective nonconversation we ever had.

Here's an update for the internet age: IPRUDE should clear the cache of her internet browser, so the zillions of porn website addresses don't show up as soon as she begins typing a URL. Cache cleared, Mom should type in some made-up URLs: www.stoplookingatporn.com, www.asianslutsarepeopletooyouknow.com, and www.fortheloveofgodjasonquitwatchingexploitativeasianporn.net, etc. It won't matter that these websites don't exist; the browser's autocomplete function will list them as soon as her son types the first letter of his favorite porn URL.

It's funny because it's true.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Generation Chickenhawk: Max Blumenthal Interviews College Republicans

The highlight? Tom Delay, who had a brilliant idea on what those 40 million aborted babies coulda growed up ta do.

Powered by ScribeFire.

The Final Gasp: Bush Asserting That Executive Privilege Trumps Oversight

Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege.

The position presents serious legal and political obstacles for congressional Democrats, who have begun laying the groundwork for contempt proceedings against current and former White House officials in order to pry loose information about the dismissals.

Under federal law, a statutory contempt citation by the House or Senate must be submitted to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, "whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action."

But administration officials argued yesterday that Congress has no power to force a U.S. attorney to pursue contempt charges in cases, such as the prosecutor firings, in which the president has declared that testimony or documents are protected from release by executive privilege. Officials pointed to a Justice Department legal opinion during the Reagan administration, which made the same argument in a case that was never resolved by the courts.

This is it. This is the endgame. Bush just drew a line in the sand and said, "Bring it on."

The Congress has an obligation to challenge this. They must. This is the final battle - who has the ultimate authority in the American government, the President or Congress?

We have heard a lot about the American experiment. This may actually be the end of it. If Congress knuckles under or loses this battle, the President may as well start wearing a laurel wreath because he will be Emperor. If Bush can block any inquiry into his actions, if he can commute and pardon those who keep the truth from being known, then the gig is up. America will be so far gone from what the Founding Fathers intended that we might as well tear down their monuments now. It would be a more fitting and honorable memory of them.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Give Them An Inch

Owen, Rogers Brown Back on Short List

Leading Senate Democrats are already warning against solidly conservative nominees, and that could make confirmation difficult in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Still, some of Bush's political advisers believe he would be better off tapping a strong conservative who would rally the base -- especially a nominee with a compelling life story who would be difficult for moderate Senate Democrats to oppose.

In that camp are federal appeals court Judges Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown. Both were filibustered by Senate Democrats after Bush nominated them as appellate judges and were eventually confirmed after Senate leaders struck a compromise on judicial nominations.

Either could have been a likely replacement for O'Connor in 2005, but leading Senate Republicans told the White House not to nominate them because they were seen as too controversial at the time. Now that both are on the federal bench, the White House has put them back on a working short list.

Of the two, Owen is the best known in the White House and is generally considered less controversial than the more outspoken Brown.

Owen, like Brown, also has gotten high marks from her colleagues on the federal appeals court. But Owen's friendship with Karl Rove could hurt her, especially in a White House vulnerable to charges of cronyism.

Whatta surprise.

Chris Dodd's Talk Clock for the Debate

Very smart idea, not only to see the candidates' allocation of time, but also to see the moderator's talk time in comparison.

The only person who spoke more than Wolf was Clinton and Obama. Wolf just edged Edwards by a whisker. It's clear who the media sees as the people to take seriously.

Everyone says Biden did well, but he has less time to make a mistake than most. Maybe that's a secret Biden should employ more often.

Help Me Choose My Daemon!

It's not as bad as it sounds. This is a neat promo doohickey from the upcoming Golden Compass movie. It's fun!

Go find your own! Check out the movie site. It's going to be coo-ul!

The Soundbites: But WTC7 Wasn't Hit By A Plane!

Here's the final version of the last video I released. All better!

The Rove-Crow Exchange

At the Huffington Post:

In his attempt to dismiss us, Mr. Rove turned to head toward his table, but as soon as he did so, Sheryl reached out to touch his arm. Karl swung around and spat, "Don't touch me." How hardened and removed from reality must a person be to refuse to be touched by Sheryl Crow? Unphased, Sheryl abruptly responded, "You can't speak to us like that, you work for us." Karl then quipped, "I don't work for you, I work for the American people." To which Sheryl promptly reminded him, "We are the American people."
At Fox News:
Crow and "An Inconvenient Truth" producer David walked over to the presidential adviser's table, where David suggested that Rove "take a new look at global warming." David said Rove was rude with her, but witnesses say David was very aggressive.

Rove said David came over to insult him and succeeded.

Crow tried to calm things down but was instead drawn into the debate with Rove, telling him, "You work for me."

Rove responded, "No. I work for the American people."

Writing about the encounter on The Huffington Post Web log, the Hollywood mavens gave a colorful recount of the discussion.

Click here to read The Huffington Post blog entry.

"In his attempt to dismiss us, Mr. Rove turned to head toward his table, but as soon as he did so, Sheryl reached out to touch his arm. Karl swung around and spat, 'Don't touch me.' How hardened and removed from reality must a person be to refuse to be touched by Sheryl Crow?" they wrote.

The two also weren't impressed by Rove's apparent argument that the United States would lose it's competitive edge by acting unilaterally.
"I am floored by what I just experienced with Karl Rove," David said later. "I went over to him and said, I urge you to take a new look at global warming. He went zero to 100 with me. ... I've never had anyone be so rude."

Rove said: "She came over to insult me and she succeeded."

As the debate intensified, Crow tried to calm things down but was drawn into the debate with Rove instead.

"You work for me," she told Rove, according to the Post column "The Reliable Source."

"No," was his response. "I work for the American people."

Heather Lylis, a spokeswoman for Crow and David's global warming tour, said Sunday that Crow's response for Rove was: "Yes, and I'm an American citizen."
Reliable Source:
"I am floored by what I just experienced with Karl Rove," David reports. "I went over to him and said, 'I urge you to take a new look at global warming.' He went zero to 100 with me. . . . I've never had anyone be so rude."

Rove's version: "She came over to insult me and she succeeded."

Things got so hot that Crow stepped in to defuse the situation and then got into it with Rove herself. "You work for me," she told the presidential adviser, according to singed bystanders. "No," was his response. "I work for the American people."

News of the dust-up filtered quickly through the room. Some witnesses said David was very aggressive with Rove; a shaken Crow later said that Rove was "combative and unresponsive."
I just found it interesting who would tell the whole story, and who wouldn't.

Bolo YouTube: But WTC 7 Wasn't Hit By A Plane!

UPDATE: I've pulled this for a couple of reasons. I will repost it next Thursday.

Bolo YouTube: How Fast Did Building 7 Fall?

Yep, done by little old Bolo. I don't get into it much here, but I'm a rabid debunker of 9/11 conspiracy myths online, and I've finally gotten a setup to make YouTube videos with. So here's the first short I did. I expect to do one of these a week, and eventually the expected Video Response, when and if I ever get a camera.

So anyway, click and enjoy.

UPDATE: Hmm. The YouTube isn't working. Well, anyway, here's the Google Video link:

2nd UPDATE: YouTube is done hiccuping.

I Discovered Second Life Last Night!


I made my avatar and learned to walk and fly, Wow!

I went to Help Island, played games, got some free stuff, learned to dance, got a bike, Wow!

I transported to the Main area, Wow!

I walked around, and walked around, and flew, and ran into red barriers, and looked at stores and casinos, and couldn't find anyone in place after place.


Maybe if I find some people, it will be more fun.

I'll post snapshots later.

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To Syria

I'm in a work cycle here, so it's been hard to understand exactly what happened when Nancy Pelosi went to Syria. I know what a lot of partisan people are saying about it, on both sides of the aisle, and seeing where my seat is situated, I know who I think has the more solid take on the matter.

Still I don't want to pass judgment just yet. I'm quite willing to believe that the Speaker is capable of making a mistake. She definitely did when she supported John Murtha over Steny Hoyer for House Majority Leader. But that was a good mistake; it showed how loyal she could be to a friend. In the end, Hoyer won the vote handily, and though it was hard to see Murtha up there behind the podium, still he was there, and it was because of Pelosi. Mistakes like that we need more of.

Let us gather the facts, if we can find them. And let's be as basic as we can about the facts, starting with this one: Nancy Pelosi has just recently been on a trip to Israel and Syria.

During the trip, on March 30th, Speaker Pelosi's office released this statement:
As recommended by the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan delegation led by Speaker Pelosi intends to discuss a wide range of security issues affecting the United States and the Middle East with representatives of governments in the region, including Syria.
Pelosi's press release reads like it is a response to the comments made by the White House:
Q Dana, the Speaker of the House is traveling to Syria next week. Wondering what the White House's view on that is.

MS. PERINO: Well, as you know, we do not encourage -- in fact, we discourage members of Congress to make such visits to Syria. This is a country that is a state sponsor of terror, one that is trying to disrupt the Siniora government in Lebanon, and one that is allowing foreign fighters to flow into Iraq from its borders. And so we don't think it's productive to go to Syria and try to -- well, I don't know what she's trying to accomplish. I don't believe that anyone in the administration has spoken to her about it. But in general we do discourage such trips.

Q So specifically on this one -- this will be the highest-ranking U.S. official to go to Syria since the Hariri assassination, even before that, and apparently she's going to meet with President Assad. Would you have a specific message to the Speaker of the House about meeting with President Assad at a time when the administration has even withdrawn our ambassador from Damascus?

MS. PERINO: Well, again, I don't know if anyone has spoken to the Speaker. I do think that, as a general rule -- and this would go for Speaker of the House Pelosi and this apparent trip that she is going to be taking -- that we don't think it's a good idea. We think that someone should take a step back and think about the message that it sends, and the message that it sends to our allies. I'm not sure what the hopes are to -- what she's hoping to accomplish there. I know that Assad probably really wants people to come and have a photo opportunity and have tea with him, and have discussions about where they're coming from, but we do think that's a really bad idea.

...Q Dana, normally when a congressional leader goes on a trip, no matter what party they're in, they consult with the State Department. Were there any consultations between her and --

MS. PERINO: I don't know. I just learned about this trip right before I came out here. We'll check. Our initial check was that nobody was aware of any discussions, but we'll confirm and let you know.

Q Do you know, did anyone from the White House try to dissuade her from going on this trip?

MS. PERINO: As far as I know, we just found about it. I just found about it.
So at this point, the White House doesn't know if the State Department talked to the Pelosi group, but in general, they say, they discourage people from going. It sends a bad message. It only gives President Assad a photo opportunity.

The State Department, same day, about an hour and a half later:


QUESTION: Nancy Pelosi is visiting Syria. The White House criticized her decision to go. I was wondering what you think of this. And it's my understanding that the Bush Administration tried to dissuade her from visiting Syria at this time, didn't think it would be appropriate.


QUESTION: Can you speak to that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we've -- you know, our message both to Republicans and Democrats alike who either have visited Syria in this recent period or intend to, as Speaker Pelosi does, has been consistent, it's been the same. In our view, it's not the right time to have those sort of high-profile visitors to Syria mostly for the simple fact that the Syrians, despite a number of different pleas and approaches from the United States as well as other countries, have refused to change their behavior vis-à-vis support for Palestinian rejectionist groups, for their support for -- their unhelpful stance with respect to Lebanon. And we don't think it would be appropriate for high-level visitors, even those from the Congress, to pay a visit to Syria right now.

A typical Syrian MO on this is to use these visits to tell the rest of the world and say, "Look, there's nothing wrong. We're having all these visitors come to Syria, coming to Damascus, there's no problem with our behavior," and they point to the visits as proof that there is no problem with their behavior and that they are not, in fact, isolated. So that's the simple reason why we have encouraged others as well as Speaker Pelosi not to travel.

That said, congressmen and representatives are going to make their own decisions about where they travel. And in this case, they made the decision to go forward. We are going to provide all the support that might normally be expected to be provided to a member of Congress traveling to a foreign country. We provided a briefing for Speaker Pelosi's staff and those traveling with her. So that's about -- that's really where we stand right now.

QUESTION: Will anyone from State be accompanying Speaker Pelosi?


QUESTION: Sometimes, you send along a little help (inaudible).

MR. MCCORMACK: A little help --


MR. MCCORMACK: Not to my knowledge, not to my knowledge. Of course, other people on the ground are ready to assist the congressional delegation in setting up meetings and even attending those meetings if that's what the congressional delegation wants.

QUESTION: But Ellen Sauerbrey was there and --

MR. MCCORMACK: A very specific mission dealing with the humanitarian issue of Iraqi refugees and she went in -- talked to somebody at her level, her counterpart on a very limited scope mission.


QUESTION: Just to sort of -- has there been a presidential or vice presidential visit to Syria?

MR. MCCORMACK: To Syria? When?

QUESTION: Has there been?



MR. MCCORMACK: I'm going to look over here. George. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Jimmy Carter met with President Asad, I think in Geneva. So did --

QUESTION: So did Clinton.

MR. MCCORMACK: In Geneva. And Secretary [Madeline] Albright, I know, visited there for the funeral and then --

QUESTION: [Warren] Christopher --

QUESTION: Christopher went a couple of times.

MR. MCCORMACK: [James] Baker's been there numerous times.

QUESTION: Even Sean McCormack, I think might have been to Damascus once or twice. Is that true?

MR. MCCORMACK: I made one trip there, yeah. Not that that's important. (Laughter.)
I include the last part to show just exactly what a big deal the Speaker in Damascus is. The last high ranking official to go to Damascus was actually Secretary Powell , who was there in 2003. But since then, the Bush Administration has not been too happy about anybody meeting with Syria.

The meetings have happened, though. It seems recently the floodgates have opened. On March 30th, three Republican representatives were already in Israel getting ready to go to Damascus.

The Assistant Secretary of State had gone to Damascus earlier in March, as the briefing above points out, on a limited-scope mission.

The US had even sat down with Syria in multilateral talks about Iraq that month - in Baghdad.

A few months earlier, in December 2006, Arlen Specter had gone to Damascus. Arlen's been there a few times, and most notably was in Damascus the day that the former President Bush had begun dropping bombs on Baghdad:
Mr. Specter, who visited Syria despite loud objections from the Bush administration, did not say what conditions Mr. Assad gave for restarting talks with the Israelis. Syrian officials were not available for comment.

Mr. Specter's visit came on the heels of trips to Damascus by Democratic Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Christopher Dodd of Connecticut.

A bipartisan panel on Iraq recommended earlier this month that the United States engage Syria, Iraq's neighbor, toward returning stability to Iraq.

The United States has limited diplomatic ties with Syria because of its support for Hezbollah and Hamas, which the United States deems terrorist organizations. President Bush has expressed reluctance to seek help from Damascus on Iraq until the Syrians curb that support and reduce their influence in Lebanon.

...Mr. Specter said before he left that he and other Republicans are concerned that the administration's policies in the Middle East are not working and that other GOP members may follow in his footsteps.
And the day after Pelosi's visit, Darrell Issa would meet with Assad as well.

A name or two keeps popping up here: James Baker and the Iraqi Study Group. Hold onto that.

On the 31st, Pelosi and the bipartisan delegation met with the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert. While meeting with him, Olmert spoke to Pelosi about Syria and the peace process.

Pelosi left that meeting, intending to communicate a clear message to Syria:
Pelosi has said she will tell Syrian leaders that Israel will talk peace with them only if Syria stops supporting Palestinian militants. She has said she will also talk to the Syrians about Iraq, their role in neighboring Lebanon and their support for Lebanon’s Hezbollah militants.
On April 1st, she met with Israel's acting president Dalia Itzik, who defended the idea of Pelosi going to Syria:
"Your expected visit to Damascus has naturally touched off a political debate in your country, and of course, here," Itzik said in televised remarks.

"I believe in your worthy intentions. Perhaps a step, seen as unpopular at this stage ... will clarify to the Syrian people and leadership they must abandon the axis of evil (and) stop supporting terrorism and giving shelter to (terrorist) headquarters," said Itzik, a member of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's centrist Kadima party.

...Pelosi, who met Olmert earlier in the day, held aloft during her dinner speech in parliament replicas of the dog-tags of the three captive [Israeli] soldiers.

"They (the dog-tags) are in my office, I carry them with me today, with the promise that we must never rest until they are all safely at home. And yes, I will mention this to the president of Syria," said Pelosi, the top House Democrat.
On April 4, Pelosi flew into Damascus. An Australian network filed this report, before the Speaker had met with Assad:
KIM LANDERS: But should the Democrats be dabbling in US foreign policy?

Charles Kupchan is a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

CHARLES KUPCHAN: The Democrats are making an assault on President Bush's monopoly over foreign policy in the United States, both through legislation, on getting troops out of Iraq, and now also conducting their own independent diplomacy by heading to the Middle East and meeting not just with the Syrians, but a host of other countries.

KIM LANDERS: He says Nancy Pelosi is picking up on the recommendations of the independent Iraq Study Group, which recommended engaging with Iraq's neighbours, including Syria.

CHARLES KUPCHAN: If we could find some way of having a working relationship with the Syrians, that would help us in Iraq, particularly on Anbar province, which is where the al-Qaeda network is still alive and well, and that's an area that's very close to the Syrian border.

KIM LANDERS: But Robert Lieber, who's a Professor of Government and International Affairs at Georgetown University, has doubts about the merits of the senior Democrat's trip.

ROBERT LIEBER: There are real grounds for concern about the appropriateness of this, given the role that Syria has played and the fact that any number of political actors and sometimes government officials have had their pocket picked, in policy terms, in travelling to Syria to meet with the elder or now younger Assad.

It's a dicey game.

KIM LANDERS: By asserting themselves on the foreign policy stage, are the Democrats showing too much ambition?

ROBERT LIEBER: Possibly, yes.

I think there is a very important piece of information we don't know. We don't know what Nancy Pelosi is going to say to the Syrians.

If she delivers a smart, tough message, which I would think some of the key figures in Democratic foreign policy making would want her to do, that's one thing. If on the other hand she delivers something that is fatuous or which seems overly indulgent to the Syrians, or inclined to take Bashar Assad at his word, then I think the impact of the visit will be counterproductive and even destructive in policy terms.

ELEANOR HALL: Professor Robert Lieber speaking to Kim Landers in Washington.
Professor Lieber appears to have not been paying attention to Nancy Pelosi. Every indication from her was a smart, tough message. I mean, she had replicas of the Israeli soldiers' dogtags around her neck.

But the ink seems to be already dry on the script of how Pelosi's visit would be played.

There's more to this story, much more. But I fear it must wait till tomorrow.

Powered by ScribeFire.

So, The Update

Well, it was something to do. It took a couple of hours to tweak and what not, but finally here it all is. I hope nobody was married to the old format.

I was for a while. I'd puttered around with an old Blogger template, which is the greatest way to learn anything. The result pleased me well, but then I saw a recent YouTube that emphasized one great revolution of the Internet - the ability to manipulate form independent of content.

That's what convinced me to change: I saw what an old grump I was becoming about the very idea of change.

But to resist change is to eliminate yourself from the vital conversation. And I'm not ready to pull back from that just yet.

I've just gotten a copy of Edward Bernays' Propaganda, another one of those books that every high school student should read. You may have heard of that "invisible government" line - you know the one:
Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.
But even in the quotation of this vital first chapter at Wikipedia, a key paragraph is snipped loose. It's a single sentence, but it changes the entire character of the message. Here it is:
Our invisible governors are, in many cases, unaware of the identity of their fellow members in the inner cabinet.
At once, the thrust of the book pulls back from the Orwellian mold into which it is usually cast, even in the blurb on the back cover. "A fascinating and controversial look at how governments and corporations control how we think and act"? Two added words would make the description more accurate: "seek to." Governments and corporations seek to control how we think and act, and they can be largely successful.

But they can also not be, because the invisible government remains invisible even to itself. This might be an irreducible fact of human society.

The Internet is one more place that we seek that old Egyptian principle of Ma'at. We must make sense of the world, and once found, we relinquish that hard-won understanding only with suffering.

But we must do so when necessary, and should do so when fitting.

Well, anyway, that's enough of that.

Powered by ScribeFire.

New Theory of Great Pyramid Construction

And is the presentation ever splashy:

The secret of the construction of the pyramid of Khufu in Egypt has always held people in fascination. Numerous theories have been put forward but none has yetstood up to analysis.

Eight years ago, the architect Jean-Pierre Houdin had a flash of intuition and developed a revolutionary theory. Considering Khufu' monumental undertaking as the first industrial construction project in history, he turned to Dassault Systèmes technology to test his hypotheses and feed his thought processes. So it was that he joined the 'Passion for Innovation' programme.

Having demonstrated the validity of the theory with the aid of their scientific 3D solutions, Dassault Systèmes invite you to enjoy an extraordinary journey through time and space. Relive the Great Pyramid construction project in real-time 3D!

This guy has explained it down to cracks in the King's Chamber. I've yet to see the 3D presentation, but I can't wait - apparently it cycles through the entire 23 year process of building. And by Houdin's estimates, it may have taken only 4,000 people to build instead of the 100,000+ usually quoted.

If Imhotep did not do it this way, he missed a hell of a chance.

YouTube: Bernard Herrman Documentary

Bernard Herrman is the legendary film composer of such films as North by Northwest and Taxi Driver.

Here's the first section:

Click through to find the other sections. It's very well made, and probably hasn't been seen in the States.

It's On

The Senate voted to end the war.
The Senate approved a spending measure with a timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, setting up a showdown with President George W. Bush, who has vowed to veto any congressional demands to end the war.

The $122 billion emergency spending legislation funds military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and provides money for domestic needs such as relief to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The proposal calls for U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq to begin 120 days after final passage of the measure, with a goal of having most forces withdrawn by March 31, 2008. The Senate, during debate on the war-funding measure March 27, voted 50-48 to retain the withdrawal timeline. The entire measure was passed today 51-47.

Democrats have been ratcheting up pressure on Bush to change strategy in Iraq since winning control of both chambers of Congress in the November election.

``We have given the American people what they want, and now it's up to the president,'' Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said. ``He has a responsibility to sign this bill.''
Of course he won't. Bush's war on rationality will continue with his second veto ever. The first, you'll recall, continued the federal government's "funding restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research." And now Bush has this. Fox News will be happy to report the talking point that it's all just posturing to make Bush deny funding for the troops. Well, the bottom line is, he will. Supporting the troops is less important to this president than ending a failed policy. He screwed up and he can't admit it.

It's the same mistake, really. Bush made his Solomon choice of cutting the stem cell issue in half, which pleased nobody, and yet he persisted. Iraq is the same thing. Nobody in Iraq appears to be happy with the American presence. The Sunnis are in the fight of their lives, the Shiites are biding their time, and the Kurds are ready to break loose and start inciting separatist violence in Turkey. And Bush definitely doesn't want all that feces-meet-rotary-device endgame on his watch.

But why shouldn't it be? If anybody should have the "You break it, you buy it" sign pointed out to them, it's this president. And that's the political motivation behind the President's stance. It's as nakedly political as anything else in Washington. But we're used to to Bush condemning others for his own vices. It's one of the things that remind me how human the man is. Nevertheless, the failure of the Iraqi occupation is the direct result of Bush's policies and decisions. If there's to be an violent civil war, it belongs to Bush.

There will be a violent civil war if we leave, won't there?

Powered by ScribeFire.

James Dobson Doesn't Think Fred Thompson Is A Christian

From US News & World Report, the latest proclamation from Pope Dobson - Fred Thompson, the former Senator from Tennessee and a possible candidate for the Republican presidential nomination isn't a Christian.
In a follow-up phone conversation, Focus on the Family spokesman Gary Schneeberger stood by Dobson's claim. He said that, while Dobson didn't believe Thompson to be a member of a non-Christian faith, Dobson nevertheless "has never known Thompson to be a committed Christian—someone who talks openly about his faith."

"We use that word—Christian—to refer to people who are evangelical Christians," Schneeberger added. "Dr. Dobson wasn't expressing a personal opinion about his reaction to a Thompson candidacy; he was trying to 'read the tea leaves' about such a possibility."
Didn't Jesus have something to say about people who talk openly about their faith?
"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
It doesn't get much more red-letter Jesus than the Sermon on the Mount.

Clearly Romans 14:4 needs to be front and center in this presidential campaign. Who are you, James Dobson, to make yourself a judge of another man's servant?

Or perhaps that's the problem. Pope Dobson is making it clear that Fred Thompson would not be his servant. "Christian" for Dobson and company doesn't mean "someone who follows the teachings of Christ," but "someone who does the will of James Dobson." This is one more thing that shows James Dobson for the power-hungry hypocrite that he is.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Behold, He Blogs Again

No, really this time.

I've got this new gadget on my Firefox called ScribeFire. Blogging is just as easy as pie. So, I've got no excuse. Blogging must be done. The hobbit is back in business.

No, really.

Powered by ScribeFire.