Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Dubai is the staging point for Iran invasion

Man oh man, this DP World ports thing just gets better and better. Mike Whitney lays it out clearly. Look at the map:

"The importance of UAE as a staging area for future hostilities cannot be overstated. No military strategy can hope to succeed without first establishing a beachhead across the straits in Iran so that the danger of blowing up oil tankers and blocking passage is removed. This tells us that plans for an attack may be on track for late March as originally threatened by Israel. "

Frist wants to kill Senate oversight of Intelligence

With BushCo’s numbers falling over a cliff, Senator Bill Frist is attempting to savage the attempts by Senate Democrats to investigate the NSA wiretapping and the President’s role in it. He has sent a letter to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, threatening to restructure the Intelligence Oversight Committee, or possibly dissolve it. Here again we are witnessing another naked power grab.

Why isn’t this guy in jail yet?

Glenn Greenwald has more:

"With the March 7 vote looming on Sen. Rockefeller’s motion for the Committee to finally hold hearings to investigate the scope and nature of the Administration’s NSA warrantless eavesdropping on American citizens -- and with several Committee Republicans indicating their intent to vote for hearings -- Majority Leader Bill Frist threatened the Committee yesterday and warned it not to hold any hearings.Frist specifically threatened that if the Committee holds NSA hearings, he will fundamentally change the 30-year-old structure and operation of the Senate Intelligence Committee so as to make it like every other Committee, i.e., controlled and dominated by Republicans to advance and rubber-stamp the White House’s agenda rather than exercise meaningful and nonpartisan oversight."

Over on Balkinization, there’s more talk and analysis.

Update (Friday 3/10/2006): The NewYork Times has an editorial on just this subject: The Death of the Intelligence Panel

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Dept of Homeland Security on the case, blocks credit card payment

This is the kind of shit that Boxer, Feinstein and Pelosi voted for: a perfectly average American citizen, flush with a little cash and trying to pay off his credit card, is nailed as a potential terrorist by DHS’s massively intrusive rules and regulations. Via Steve Bartin.

They said it couldn’t happen here, Gentle Readers, but it already is. Did 9/11 change everything? Damn straight, and here’s an example:

From The Providence Journal, by Bob Kerr

"We're a product of the '60s," he said. "We believe government should be way-away from us in that regard."

He was referring to the recent decision by him and his wife to be responsible, to do the kind of thing that just about anyone would say makes good, solid financial sense.

They paid down some debt. The balance on their JCPenney Platinum MasterCard had gotten to an unhealthy level. So they sent in a large payment, a check for $6,522.

And an alarm went off. A red flag went up. The Soehnges' behavior was found questionable. And all they did was pay down their debt. They didn't call a suspected terrorist on their cell phone. They didn't try to sneak a machine gun through customs.

They just paid a hefty chunk of their credit card balance. And they learned how frighteningly wide the net of suspicion has been cast.

After sending in the check, they checked online to see if their account had been duly credited. They learned that the check had arrived, but the amount available for credit on their account hadn't changed.

So Deana Soehnge called the credit-card company. Then Walter called. "When you mess with my money, I want to know why," he said.

They both learned the same astounding piece of information about the little things that can set the threat sensors to beeping and blinking. They were told, as they moved up the managerial ladder at the call center, that the amount they had sent in was much larger than their normal monthly payment. And if the increase hits a certain percentage higher than that normal payment, Homeland Security has to be notified. And the money doesn't move until the threat alert is lifted.

Walter called television stations, the American Civil Liberties Union and me. And he went on the Internet to see what he could learn. He learned about changes in something called the Bank Privacy Act.

"The more I'm on, the scarier it gets," he said. "It's scary how easily someone in Homeland Security can get permission to spy."

(Bob Kerr is a columnist for The Providence Journal. E-mail

Monday, March 06, 2006

Robert Fisk says something bad is coming in Middle East

Robert Fisk, one of the few reporters in Iraq with a head on his shoulders and some depth of experience (30+ years) in the Middle East is reporting that he thinks that perhaps the possibility of a civil war in Iraq is a little over-rated. He points out, as I have previously, that the folks are tribal, inter-married, and not nationalist.

Further, he thinks that maybe somebody is playing fast and loose with for-real death squads in that poor place, and I for one believe him, as I have run across others with suspicions about the possibility of CIA -linked mercs blowing stuff up. But the whole of the Middle East is restless, and rightly so.

There’s more, and none of it happy news:

From: Information Clearing House:

ROBERT FISK: Yes, but the Middle East has never been in such a terrible situation, it's never been so dangerous. I've never found myself going on assignments of such danger as I do now. Iraq's the worst assignment I've ever been on, ever.

I think that our hypocrisy towards the Middle East, and the ruthlessness of its own leaders, Arab leaders, has reached such a stage now that there's some kind of… I mean, some kind of explosion is going to come.

Over… I did a CBC interview in Toronto, which I've got a copy of, three years before 2001, and I said an explosion is coming. And obviously…

ELEANOR HALL: But do you think an explosion is still coming?

ROBERT FISK: Oh yes. I don't… it doesn't have to be a real physical one like 'bang'. It might be. But something is coming. I mean, I feel it very strongly.

When I go back, when I went back for the book, I realised I was feeling it because I live there, I live in a Muslim society, I live in the Middle East, and all the people around me are Muslims. And, clearly, living there, breathing that environment, I knew something was going to happen. And I still think something's going to happen.

I don't mean September 11, but something.

California Dems voted for Patriot Act

We Californians certainly have a lot to be thankful for: fresh air (most of the time), lots and lots of sunshine, Big Sur and Yosemite, and an organic connection to the earth, most noticeable right about Richter 4.0.

Sadly, we also have some things not to be thankful for: the John Birch Society, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, all right-wing cranks, but not a wimp in the bunch, and proud of their niches in the California Hall of Cranks.

Sadly, the newest entries in the political wing of the Hall of Cranks are none other than a bunch of limp-wristed political wimps, to wit: Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein.

Each one of these so-called liberal Democrats have caved (yes caved) under some craven concern that maybe somebody might call them soft on the ‘war on terror,” and VOTED FOR (did not even abstain from) the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act.

Personally, I am disgusted, and even though Feinstein had responded to my concerned emails with a bunch of platitudes last January, I didn’t think she would really do it.

Shame on you all.

Those who got it right are:

Hawaii's Daniel Akaka, New Mexico's Jeff Bingaman, West Virginia's Robert Byrd, Iowa's Tom Harkin, Vermont's Patrick Leahy, Michigan's Carl Levin, Washington's Patty Murray, and Oregon's Ron Wyden.

And a big thumbs up to Wisconsin’s Senator Russ Feingold, patriot and leader, and Vermont’s Green Mountain independent Jim Jeffords.

In related news, Sen Byrd has introduced legislation establishing a commission to investigate the NSA mess. The bill, S. 2362, would establish a commission to “examine and report upon the facts, causes, and use of executive authority relating to any warrantless surveillance conducted inside the United States.” Read the full text of the bill here: