Blogs

FISA, Feingold, and a Filibuster?

| Mon Jun. 23, 2008 4:56 PM EDT

In the wake of the House of Representatives' passage of a bill last week that grants the White House wide latitude to spy on American citizens, and that effectively forces courts to throw out lawsuits against lawbreaking telecommunications companies, Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wisc., predicted today that the Senate would likely follow suit, despite strong protests from civil liberties groups and a majority of Democratic party members.

"I'm very worried we're not going to be able to prevail," Feingold said.

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Rove Empties Out the Obama Smear Catalog

| Mon Jun. 23, 2008 1:56 PM EDT

prettyinpink-768996.jpg This has gotta be sign of desperation, right? Rove's newest frame on Obama:

Even if you never met him, you know this guy. He's the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by.

Yup. Because when I think of a half-black guy who grew up with a single parent in Kansas, Hawaii, and Indonesia, I definitely think of a 1980s teen movie prepster/villain. The picture of classic American privilege, that Obama.

Bush Administration "Shot Down" Army Contract Oversight Measure

| Mon Jun. 23, 2008 1:21 PM EDT

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By this point, war profiteering in Iraq has become legend. The conflict has generated well over a hundred billion dollars in contracts for private business—many, like KBR's contract with the Army, awarded without competitive bidding and featuring a "cost-plus" arrangement, essentially entitling companies to name their own price for services rendered (or not rendered, as the case may be.) As contracts have swelled in size, so, too, has the size of contract-related fraud, waste, and abuse. Last year, the Defense Contract Audit Agency identified $4.9 billion wasted on overcharging or fraud, and an additional $5.1 billion spent without any documentation. Just imagine what the IRS would say.

In response to such reports, the Army sponsored a blue-ribbon commission to study the problem and propose possible fixes, which it did in a report (.pdf) issued last November. Among the recommendations was the assignment of five generals to oversee the contracting process and guard against the sort of waste and abuse that had plagued Army operations up to that point. The Army took the suggestion to heart and included $1.2 million in a budget request to fund the new positions—an amount so modest compared to the scale of the larger problem that the measure would surely be approved, right? Wrong. The Office of Management and Budget slammed the brakes on the proposal.

The VP Frustrations of John McCain

| Mon Jun. 23, 2008 12:09 PM EDT

Joe Klein reports over at Swampland that McCain's top three choices for VP, according to a source Klein trusts, are all automatic non-starters.

1. Former Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania--McCain loves the guy, I'm told, and Ridge might bring Pa. into the Republican fold...but he's pro-choice. Fuggedaboutit.
2. Former Governor Jeb Bush of Florida--Ahhh, Florida. But, oy, that last name.
3. Senator Mel Martinez of Florida---Ahh, Florida....and brings Latinos, too! But born in Cuba, so ineligible for the office.

The same goes for McCain's top sidekicks, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham. The first is technically an Independent Democrat and thus a big believer in choice and the second is dogged by persistent rumors about his sexuality.

War Disappearing From Television News

| Mon Jun. 23, 2008 11:31 AM EDT

Good grab by hilzoy, who points to a NY Times article about the dwindling coverage of the Iraq War on network television:

According to data compiled by Andrew Tyndall, a television consultant who monitors the three network evening newscasts, coverage of Iraq has been "massively scaled back this year." Almost halfway into 2008, the three newscasts have shown 181 weekday minutes of Iraq coverage, compared with 1,157 minutes for all of 2007. The "CBS Evening News" has devoted the fewest minutes to Iraq, 51, versus 55 minutes on ABC's "World News" and 74 minutes on "NBC Nightly News." (The average evening newscast is 22 minutes long.)
CBS News no longer stations a single full-time correspondent in Iraq, where some 150,000 United States troops are deployed.
Paul Friedman, a senior vice president at CBS News, said the news division does not get reports from Iraq on television "with enough frequency to justify keeping a very, very large bureau in Baghdad." He said CBS correspondents can "get in there very quickly when a story merits it."

Hilzoy notes that 181 weekday minutes of Iraq coverage equals two minutes per network, per week.

Good Day for Ombudsmen

| Mon Jun. 23, 2008 11:23 AM EDT

Taking care of business at the WaPo and the NYT.

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Sad Update to NY13

| Mon Jun. 23, 2008 11:15 AM EDT

Just FYI. Remember that post about the New York congressional seat that is being vacated by the super-disgraced Republican congressman Vito Fossella? The one where the Republican candidate was being challenged by his son, a carpenter, punk rocker, and libertarian, who admitted he was in the race because he didn't want his dad to win?

Well, the father, a guy named Frank Powers, died of a heart attack on Sunday morning. Sad for the Powers family, and yet another bizarre turn for the district. Powers was settled upon by the Republican Party after other, more attractive candidates all declined to run.

Minnesota Senate Race Hits an Embarrassing Low

| Mon Jun. 23, 2008 10:51 AM EDT

Maybe you've been following the latest developments in the Franken-Coleman Senate race in Minnesota. Liberal bloggers got worked up last week at the possibility that Coleman's wife Laurie had been green-screened into a odd-looking TV ad. It was further evidence, they said, that the Colemans, who reportedly live apart while Laurie pursues a career in LA as a model and actress, have an unconventional or strained relationship. The video is at right.

But instead of just releasing video clips that make it evident no green-screening was used, the Coleman campaign decided instead to mock the whole situation and Franken himself with a second video, one that looks like it was made by a high-schooler. Is the second Coleman video supposed to be amateurish? Of course. Does it lower the state of the debate and embarrass the campaign anyway? No doubt.

Let's leave the jokes to the professionals, okay Norm?

"Sons of Iran-Contra": Some Clues in Former CIA Director Tenet's Memoir

| Sun Jun. 22, 2008 1:50 PM EDT

It's instructive to read the recent Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the 2001-2003 meetings between Pentagon officials and Iran contra figures Michael Ledeen and Manucher Ghorbanifar, side by side with the 2007 memoir of former CIA director George Tenet, At the Center of the Storm (Harper Collins, 2007, pp. 311-313). Indeed, doing so fills in a few details that were redacted in the Senate report, and amplifies others.

A couple points jump out in Tenet's account of what he dubs "the Sons of Iran-contra" episode. Chiefly, related to my latest article on signs of a possible federal investigation reviewing the matter, that Tenet writes that CIA lawyers threatened in 2002 to file a crimes report with the Justice Department if the channel to Ghorbanifar persisted. And persisted the channel of course did, for more than a year. Tenet:

On July 11, 2002, a senior CIA officer was told by the ambassador to Italy that Ledeen had called him to say he would be returning to Rome the next month to "continue what he had started." Our Rome representative met with his Italian counterparts and asked them not to provide any assistance to Ledeen unless the ambassador or CIA requested that they do so. A senior CIA lawyer contacted his NSC opposite number and asked whether anyone at the NSC had authorized Ledeen's visit. If not, he suggested, CIA might have to file a "crimes report" with the Justice Department., a requirement when we learn of a possible violation of the law.
About two weeks later, the NSC lawyer contacted CIA to say that Steve Hadley had called Ledeen in and "read him the riot act," telling him to "knock it off." In light of that, he said, they didn't see any need for a crimes report.

But Ledeen, and a Pentagon official Harold Rhode, did not "knock it off." Indeed, Rhode went on to meet with Ghorbanifar in Paris in June 2003 - in a meeting Ghorbanifar, laughing at the absurdity of the claim, told me was not in any way accidental, and which the Senate report further documents was planned (Rhode flew from Turkey to Paris for the meeting), but was not apparently authorized by the White House. There may also have been further meetings between Rhode and Ghorbanifar associates in London, the Senate report documents. And possibly another meeting as well in the fall of 2003, on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Rome, that Ledeen definitely and Rhode possibly attended, according to the Senate report, which was never able to definitively determine if Rhode was there.

Barack Obama for Graphic Designer In Chief

| Fri Jun. 20, 2008 8:23 PM EDT

mojo-photo-obamaseal.jpgI've written before about the artwork inspired by Barack Obama's run for the presidency, as well as his own campaign's choice of fonts, and it's all good, but their latest design choices are apparently causing some controversy. While the campaign's eschewing of the candidate's name on podium placards raised eyebrows, their current podium design has even the Drudge Report giving it an alarmist link: "Obama Changes Presidential Seal," he claims. It turns out the campaign debuted a new design (right) that appears to be "inspired" by the actual presidential seal, but with some important differences, as the Associated Press reports:

Instead of the Latin 'E pluribus unum' (Out of many, one), Obama's says 'Vero possumus', rough Latin for 'Yes, we can.' Instead of 'Seal of the President of the United States', Obama's Web site address is listed. And instead of a shield, Obama's eagle wears his 'O' campaign logo with a rising sun representing hope ahead.

After the jump: the dreaded "P" word, and I don't mean "public financing."