DeLay bit for Texas Gerrymandering; CBS producer defends National Guard memo story; no time for Tookie

1UP for Russ: Russ Feingold is chilling around the Internet while fighting the renewed Patriot Act. Now that's class. Also he speaks in favor of withdrawing from Iraq. So Quadruple Infinity Bonus Points -- he's trying to kill Bowser and save the Princess. The Odds are Slim but entirely worth it.

While Iraq prepares for another round of 'something', (and election irregularities around Mosul are apparently expected) a memo (PDF) from the Department of Justice indicated that career Justice lawyers believed that redistricting Texas would illegally marginalize minorities. Meanwhile a Crips co-founder is going to get injected. And who says minorities are oppressed in this free country?

(fortunately the DOJ's new policy has "barred staff attorneys from offering recommendations in major Voting Rights Act cases, marking a significant change in the procedures meant to insulate such decisions from politics." - thx Marshall.)

Charting sleaze: This big ass Abramoff chart is almost big enough to encompass the mega-scandal. Marshall on this as well. There are quite a few Democrats on there. Where are the House ethics complaints anyway? Polls show that corruption is a leading concern in America nowadays.

Secret laws? The Bush Administration apparently claims that secret regulations require people to present IDs at the airport. Why secret? Secret courts, secret evidence, secret prisons. Laws too? And they call us on the Internet obsessed with conspiracies! :-D (via Kevin Drum)

It's a really big information war: I don't feel like putting a lot more words in. But this NY Times article, "Military's Information War is Vast and Often Secretive," reaches into great detail about psychological operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Although really, I have to think that most of the locals see right through this stuff and scoff at it. Even if it's supposedly hidden through private contractors, I suspect they aren't really taken in that easily.

It also makes me wonder about psy ops dimensions to such things as "Shootout! Battlecry Iraq: Ramadi" coming Dec. 14 to the History Channel.

Meanwhile dead US soldiers apparently back come as commercial freight. So much for honoring the heroes. If it were my kin, I would be crushed.

Juan Cole reflects on Iraq in our Strib. Background on activities of the Badr Corps, now the de facto Inner Militia of the Interior Ministry. Tactics seem to escalate in Afghanistan, no matter how many radio stations we control. Damn. Juan Cole's site will be a good spot to follow the election results, and i think this bit pretty much sums up the evolving problem:

Al-Zaman/ AFP: Muntadhar al-Samarra'i, the former commander of the Iraqi special forces, said Sunday that the Minister of Interior, Bayan Jabr Sulagh, appointed 17,000 fighters from the Badr Militia as police officers in his ministry at a time when they still receive their salaries from Iran. Al-Samarra'i accused the Badr Corps [the paramilitary of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq] of employing torture on detainees in prison. He showed AFP a film he himself had shot of torture in Iraqi prisons. He said all of the high officials in the Ministry of the Interior are from the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and Dawa (Shiite parties), whereas the detainees are Sunni Arabs. Al-Samarra'i also said that the special police speak Persian with one another (the Badr Corps fighters had been expatriates in Iran). He spoke of several secret prisons, some with as many as 600 inmates, and said there were also jails for women.

An interview with Sy Hersh, if you want more gory details. He puts in this fun bit about rigging the last Iraqi election:

...the three provinces that – according to the actual rules, the three provinces voted against the constitution – you had to have a two-thirds majority against it – it was defeated, and there is no question that in two of them this happened, and the third, Mosul province, the amount of fraud and jiggering of election ballots and manipulation was just outlandish. I do know, at least I have been told that, before the… if you remember the election day, I think it was initially supposed to be August 15th. The election day…

Horton: October 15th, I think, right?

Hersh: Right, right, October 15th. It was extremely quiet, and it's my understanding that the resistance actually had been talking to the UN – the UN had an advisory role in the election process, which it still has – and they had made it quiet not because intimidation of coalition forces and the American government but because they decided, they said, "The UN will do it straight. Because if it's a straight, honorable election, you won't get your constitution through. We'll defeat you in three provinces." There was a great, a great deal of agitation among the Sunni resistance about the fraud that was involved. I don't know what's going to happen. Nobody knows. I think the Sunnis… I think the election will take place. That won't be spoiled by rioting and distress and disturbances, but I think afterwards – I think the Ba'athists are sort of curious, the Sunnis, to see what happens – but afterwards, I think we could even see a significant escalation, already, of the kind of damage we're having.

So Talabani will probably play the Katherine Harris role in the coming production. All right. Hersh also has lots of info about the insanity of the air war ramping up -- as airstrikes replace American soldiers, and no one's around to film all the civilian casualties.

You are looking, if you break it down, to, oh, roughly 100 bombs being dropped an hour. Twenty four hours a day for the last 15, 16 months. That's a hell of a lot of bombs.

Indeed. And that's only estimated from one section of the airborne military forces. And also this: after the election,

we could end up with Iranian operatives helping to guide and direct American bombs against targets that are against our interests. This is all in the realm of possibility. Yes.

Oh yah, also this:

The Israelis are investing in their good partners the Kurds, they support an independent Kurdistan, or at least a strong Kurdistan. And for sure, there are operations going on, Israeli-led operations are going on inside Kurdistan into Iran, Syria, absolutely. The Israelis have a platform there.

Not terribly shocking. But I'm sure it will work itself out. A final bit, on dear Michael Ledeen and the Niger forgeries:

The one thing that makes me a little skeptical is Michael Ledeen is certainly, really smart, I disagree with everything, you know, he and I are on the other ends of the world, but it is such a bad forgery, I mean, it is such a bad forgery.

Well that's true. We ought to expect more finesse from him. Anyhow, lots of quotes, but Hersh is still the Dude on these matters.

Syria talks tough: I missed this one. About a month ago Assad said that Syrians had to stick together and fight, as the US has a plan to crush the Arab nations. It was basically a pretty hard statement from a country that the US has been openly belligerent towards for years now. But it suggests that Assad is not going to fold... With a little luck the neo-cons will fall in Washington before they can generate a Tonkin Gulf incident in the Syrian desert, as Raimondo put it. Syria accuses US of launching lethal raids over its borders.

The National Security Agency reflects on Tonkin Gulf: they put together a nice website with lots of original documents on the incident that got spun up to spark the Vietnam war, in an attempt to provide clarity. Good for them.

Venezuela and USAID operations against Chavez: This bit by Tom Barry from the International Relations Center talks about USAID and its various means of influencing politics in Venezuela. Part of the shadow boxing between Chavez and Washington. Also the ever-altruistic National Endowment for Democracy pops up as supporting 'democratic organizations.' Mysterious.

Former CBS producer stands by Texas National Guard documents: Right wing bloggers rode Dan Rather's battered remains to glory last year, but it might turn out that (surprise!) they're full of it. Mary Mapes, the producer supposedly responsible for acting as a Kerry henchwoman, has returned to tell the tale of the National Guard documents. Lo and behold she found that many Guard docs have the same features that everyone said made Bush's docs forgeries. She wrote a book "Truth and Duty" about it. There was a good interview with her on DailyKos exploring all this stuff. Here's the documents she dug up.

Florida logic: Robert Novak says that Florida Republicans are trying to get Katherine Harris to duck out of the Senate race. Also interesting stuff about how in Florida the Dems are starting over from scratch, all over.

To Live and Die in CA: They say that the man from the Crips, Stanley 'Tookie' Williams, is getting executed about now. I oppose the death penalty for anyone (including hapless Iraqi soldiers), and in this particular case, it strikes me as especially harmful to kill a figure who has managed to find a peaceful political strategy to defuse violent gang conflicts. (Possibilities of rioting. Only a massive LA riot could round out this ridiculous year.)

When steroid-sodden leaders, with quite soft support of their own, need to shore up that sense of solidarity among the Base, well why not get rid of a 'lead gangster'? Perhaps that's not fair because clemency ought to rest on the case itself. But I heard the same tone when a radio talk show host on CNN suggested that even if more than a hundred innocent people have been let off death row, it's still better to kill because they are plotting to kill more people in prison. Why not just shoot everyone? Horrible.

Drunk Trashy White Power, Mate: Elsewhere, in Australia there's been riots after some Lebanese immigrants were accused of assaulting a lifeguard. Naturally the Australian far-right has apparently latched onto the situation as an opportunity to demonize immigrants. Mean right wing lady Lucianne Goldberg said "Finally, a WASP riot as beer soaked beefy Aussies bash Muslims at beach" (via nomoremisterniceblog). Something to be proud of when neo-Nazis are circulating videos about 'the Battle for Cronulla'. Even more horrible. 12thharmonic is following this. Radio host Alan Jones is whipping things along:

The riot was still three days away and Sydney’s highest-rating breakfast radio host had a heap of anonymous emails to whip his 2GB listeners along.

"Alan, it’s not just a few Middle Eastern bastards at the weekend, it’s thousands. Cronulla is a very long beach and it’s been taken over by this scum. It’s not a few causing trouble. It’s all of them."

Froomkin's getting Posted: I think everyone knows how lame the Washington Post usually is these days. Somehow they seem to be getting upset about how all over the Internet people spit at them. Now one of their better writers, Dan Froomkin, is getting a bunch of crap from the WaPo editors because his column, the "White House Briefing", is perceived as too liberal, and by too liberal, they mean it is not always buried in the torrent of spin and propaganda masquerading as 'balance'.

Political Editor John Harris is a jackass here. Marshall and Firedoglake with more on it. Since Froomkin might go down over this, lets give him a couple paragraphs to explain himself:

Regular readers know that my column is first and foremost a daily anthology of works by other journalists and bloggers. When my voice emerges, it is often to provide context for those writings and spot emerging themes. Sometimes I do some original reporting, and sometimes I share my insights. The omnipresent links make it easy for readers to assess my credibility.

There is undeniably a certain irreverence to the column. But I do not advocate policy, liberal or otherwise. My agenda, such as it is, is accountability and transparency. I believe that the president of the United States, no matter what his party, should be subject to the most intense journalistic scrutiny imaginable. And he should be able to easily withstand that scrutiny. I was prepared to take the same approach with John Kerry, had he become president.

This column’s advocacy is in defense of the public’s right to know what its leader is doing and why. To that end, it calls attention to times when reasonable, important questions are ducked; when disingenuous talking points are substituted for honest explanations; and when the president won’t confront his critics -- or their criticisms -- head on.

The journalists who cover Washington and the White House should be holding the president accountable. When they do, I bear witness to their work. And the answer is for more of them to do so -- not for me to be dismissed as highly opinionated and liberal because I do.

Cheers dude, cheers. How the hell did you ever get that column anyway? Perhaps I'm not being totally fair with the Post. They did hook us up with the Abramoff chart and DeLay memo above. But why are they still such punks?

Viveca Novak twist in the Plame scandal: Weird. Digby if you want the ugly details. NextHurrah, E&P, Atrios, needlenose, Talkleft, & the firedoglake again for more. Apparently VandeHei suddenly said that Hadley was Rove's source on Hardball (a slight bombshell) and no one even noticed, probably because they have all gotten aneurisms by now. She tries to explain herself but its shady. Eccch whatever.

Hong Kong activists ask for quiet at WTO: According to the Guardian, the stalwart crew of rebels against the Communist order in those parts distributed notices:

In what passes for Hong Kong's alternative press, a cut-out-and-keep rioters' guide to Hong Kong was hardly a call to arms. Under R for Rioters, it said: "This is a peaceful place and your shenanigans will only make it harder for us once you leave, so leave the rocks at home." G for Globalisation noted: "While we are on the topic, what is your beef anyway?"

Could be some of that neo-Communist Propaganda though.

Wikipedia hoaxer apologises. The guy says it was a workplace prank. Old story about a Mac SE 30 made into a bong. The worst video game art ever. Hilarious.

Clinton messed with Bush at the global warming thing in Montreal. It is actually really good Clinton is wielding his residual 'soft power' to pressure the US on global warming, while saving a tiny bit of dignity for Sane America with the rest of the world.

Wake Up Neo, the screensaver. When you are listening to Massive Attack's Dissolved Girl and your mescaline-toting hipster friends show up for warez, you know you need to follow the white rabbit.

 Rovenge Rovenge 01Star and stripe resign: A spoof. Rove's on the case. The little dog is a nice touch.

Al Qaeda Santa Connection - via elf torture: Sam Seder and Bob Knight from Air America's Majority Report point out the value of a war on Christmas (video here):

SEDER: Listen, as far as the war on Christmas goes, I feel like we should be waging a war on Christmas. I mean, I believe that Christmas, it's almost proven that Christmas has nuclear weapons, can be an imminent threat to this country, that they have operative ties with terrorists and I believe that we should sacrifice thousands of American lives in pursuit of this war on Christmas. And hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money.

PHILLIPS: Is it a war on Christmas, a war Christians, a war on over-political correctness or just a lot of people with way too much time on their hands?

SEDER: I would say probably, if I was to be serious about it, too much time on their hands, but I'd like to get back to the operational ties between Santa Claus and al Qaeda.

PHILLIPS: I don't think that exists. Bob? Help me out here.

SEDER: We have intelligence, we have intelligence.

PHILLIPS: You have intel. Where exactly does your intel come from?

SEDER: Well, we have tortured an elf and it's actually how we got the same information from Al Libbi. It's exactly the same way the Bush administration got this info about the operational ties between al Qaeda and Saddam.

... Yes, well, Kyra, I mean, listen, I would like Bob to tell me who is the person who has been offended by someone saying Merry Christmas to them? I've never met that person. I don't celebrate Christmas. But if someone says "Merry Christmas" to me, I either think, well, it's a little bit odd, it's like me saying happy birthday to you on my birthday, but no one cares.

But I will tell you this, as we wage the war on the war on the war on the war on Christmas on our radio show. News Corp., Fox News, those people who have started this entire war on Christmas mean, fake war, they're having a holiday party.

President Bush saying "Happy Holidays." Tokyo Rose, Laura Bush, saying "Happy Holidays" to her dogs in the video, I'm sure you've seen it. I mean, these are the things that we should be talking about when we are waging this war in Iraq, we should be equating it to the war on Christmas.

Tags for DeLay bit for Texas Gerrymandering; CBS producer defends National Guard memo story; no time for Tookie