The stated objective of the Bush administration's "surge" of troops into Iraq was to suppress the violence. Its unstated purpose was to get the occupation off the radar of the news networks in order to tamp down the war as a campaign issue against Republicans in this cycle. If it bleeds, it leads. Conversely, no blood, no coverage.
In that sense, the surge can be counted as one of Bush's rare successes. According to a new poll from Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, coverage of the Iraq occupation by television news was reduced to barely a blip last month:
[ Pew] found that the number of news stories devoted to the war has sharply declined this year, along with professed public interest. "Coverage of the war has been virtually absent," said Pew survey research director Scott Keeter, totaling about 1 percent of the news hole between Feb. 17 and 23.
One of Bush's top military leaders has resigned, purportedly because of a dispute over the administration's Iranian war policy:
Admiral William "Fox" Fallon, the U.S. Centcom commander who has spoken up several times at Congressional hearings and to the press the past year to suggest a military confrontation with Iran would be ill advised, has resigned, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has just announced.
Josh Marshall suggests Fallon was "too sane" for the Bush regime:
By all accounts, the points of contention between Fallon and Bush administration officials centered on three points: 1) his belief that the indefinite occupation of Iraq is a disaster for the US military, 2) that diplomacy has a central role in American foreign and national security policy, 3) that war is not a credible policy for the US to pursue in dealing with Iran. The last of these was believed to be the key issue.
Democrats believe Fallon --- whose conflicts with the administration were covered in an Esquire article in this month's issue --- may have been pushed out in order to silence his criticism. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, "I am concerned that the resignation of Admiral William J. Fallon, commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East and a military leader with more than three decades of command experience, is yet another example that independence and the frank, open airing of experts’ views are not welcomed in this Administration."
That's "one small step for freedom of speech," our friend Jesse Dyen writes to us this afternoon.
Dyen was arrested, along with a number of other freedom fighters who had the temerity to show up near Bush's "brush ranch" in Crawford, Texas, several years ago to protest against the war, only to be arrested (twice) by police enforcing an ordinance, passed by the locals after Cindy Sheehan's original stand there in the Summer of 2005, that no such protests on public lands were to be allowed.
Today, he writes to let us know that the guilty charges were overturned by an appellate court that decided [PDF] in favor of the U.S. Constitution, the First Amendment, and other quaint old notions such as those.
See below for Dyen's missive explaining what happened back then, and in the court decision today, to the courageous arrested "Prairie Dogs" (who happened to include legendary "Pentagon Papers" whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, as well as a number of other notables), and a video made from one of our favorite songs, as written by Dyen, during the original historic tipping point moment in Crawford back in the Summer of 2005…
In an incredibly heated exchange today during a U.S. House hearing (see video at left) Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) grilled Sec. of State Condoleeza Rice on whether she ever saw pre-war intelligence that countered the administration's claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
In a statement just released by his office, Wexler says she "falsely testified" in response to his questions...
Four days later, after 17 years as a television host, Montel lost his job. Variety reported on Wednesday that the "Fate of 'The Montel Williams Show' was sealed when key Fox-owned stations opted not to renew it for the 2008-09 season."
Here's what happened...
Despite the tease at the end of those uncomfortable three minutes, that Williams would be back for more after the break, he was not there when the show returned from commercial.
More details on the above three minutes on Fox and Friends, and the fate of "former Marine and Naval officer," Montel Williams, here...
In a promo airing on MSNBC Chris Matthews states that "politics at its best is a battle of ideas where one person with some guts and belief takes on someone else with some guts and belief and those who watch get to decide who is right."
Unfortunately, those who watch the January 15th Democratic debate in Las Vegas will not see one of the gutsiest candidates since NBC recently revamped its own rules in order to kick Congressman Dennis Kucinich out of the debate. One can't help but wonder if this is because of some of Kucinich's ideas - bring the troops home now and vehemently anti-war - are anathema to NBC's parent company, General Electric (GE), which is also a large military defense contractor.
At a minimum, the exclusion of Kucinich certainly makes Matthews a hypocrite. As he says, "those who watch get to decide who is right", not those who run media conglomerates. Should one feel inclined to ask Matthews to stand by his words and let the people decide, his email is email@example.com.
COMMENT FROM BRAD: Or does it have something to do with his asking for a hand count of the votes in the NH Primary? After all, Kucinich already had his anti-war position when he was initially invited to participate in the debate originally, several days ago. But he was then un-invited the morning after he announced his call for a count of the NH primary ballots. Just FYI.
The State Department stepped in and literally "rescued" a 22-year-old woman being held captive by Halliburton in Iraq for 24-hours in a shipping container without food and water after she reported being gang raped in 2005, according to Representative Ted Poe (R-TX), who intervened after being contacted by the victim's father.
Yet none of the "six or seven perpetrators" has been brought to justice and it is not even clear if an investigation was ever conducted. Attorney Brian Wice surmises that the DoD, State Department, and DoJ have not pursued the case further because they "don't want this case to see the inside of a United States courtroom."
Reprentative Poe also believes that the federal government has the obligation to pursue the case and "hold [the perpetrators] accountable."
MSNBC's Dan Abram's coverage is at right. Visit the victim's Foundation for more information.
According to CNN's Bill Schneider, "Iraq is not a top issue to Republicans" in the coming election. Thus, Senator John McCain, who is seen as the GOP candidate "Best Able To Handle Iraq" does not gain much traction with voters whose interests have shifted to the economy and to other issues.
In Bushworld, incompetence must be rewarded (in order to prevent the incompetent ex-employee from writing a tell-all book):
Nearly three years after Paul Wolfowitz resigned as deputy Defense secretary and six months after his stormy departure as president of the World Bank --- amid allegations that he improperly awarded a raise to his girlfriend --- he's in line to return to public service.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has offered Wolfowitz, a prime architect of the Iraq War, a position as chairman of the International Security Advisory Board [ISAB], a prestigious State Department panel, according to two department sources who declined to be identified discussing personnel matters. The 18-member panel, which has access to highly classified intelligence, advises Rice on disarmament, nuclear proliferation, WMD issues and other matters.
"We think he is well suited and will do an excellent job," said one senior official.
Right. What harm could he possibly do as head of this group:
The Secretary of State's International Security Advisory Board, formerly called the Arms Control and Nonproliferation Advisory Board (ACNAB), provides the Department with independent insight and advice on all aspects of arms control, disarmament, international security, and related aspects of public diplomacy. The ISAB is sponsored and overseen by the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security. The Board provides its recommendations directly to the Secretary of State. The Board currently has 18 members and is chartered to have up to 25. Board members are national security experts with scientific, military, diplomatic, and political backgrounds. The Board meets in a plenary session on a quarterly basis.
The position was previously held by former lobbyist and U.S. senator, Fred Thompson, who is currently a Republican candidate for president.
After Blackwater guards opened fire and killed 17 Iraqis in the Nisoor Square section of Baghdad on Sept. 17, in true Bushie fashion, the State Dept. unilaterally conferred limited immunity on the Blackwater personnel who were on the scene --- including apparently the guards who opened fire --- in exchange for their statements detailing the events.
According to an ABC report, of the 17 Blackwater guards at the scene of the incident, only five fired their weapons. And an investigation by the FBI reportedly has turned up evidence that only three of the 17 people shot had been involved in attacking the Blackwater detail.
Officials cautioned that the decision to begin a grand jury inquiry did not mean that prosecutors had decided to charge anyone with a crime in what they said was a legally complex case, The New York Times reported. Some government lawyers have expressed misgivings about whether a federal law exists that would apply to the actions Blackwater employees are accused of committing...
The limited immunity given to the Blackwater personnel presents another question: Would it prevent justice from being served if the grand jury finds evidence that the killing of the 14 apparently innocent Iraqis was unprovoked?
Howard Krongard, the inspector general (IG) for the Bush State Dept., has recused himself from a second major probe under his purview. The new recusal was announced yesterday and came at the "request" of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA).
This new development follows a dramatic moment during a hearing before Waxman's committee on Wednesday when Kronberg was forced to recuse himself from an investigation into Blackwater after it was revealed that, despite his earlier denials, his brother sits on an advisory board for the controversial paramilitary government security contractor. Making matters potentially worse for Krongard, his brother, Buzzy Krongard, issued a statement after the hearing contradicting Howard's testimony regarding the timing of when Howard learned that Buzzy had accepted a seat on the Blackwater board.
It is unclear at the moment whether Democrats on the committee will pursue perjury charges against the State Dept. IG.
Krongard's latest recusal stems from what appears to be obstruction of justice and witness tampering in a criminal probe by the Dept. of Justice into the way billions of dollars in contracts for the construction of the U.S. embassy complex in Baghdad were let by the State Dept.:
A report by the committee's majority staff referred to the Justice Department probe and also said that Krongard, against his staff's advice, met in August with someone implicated in "potential criminal activity" uncovered during a State Department audit of the embassy contract.
Then, the report said, Krongard met in September with someone else under investigation by the Justice Department. A source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, identified that person as [Mary French is the embassy project coordinator based in Baghdad]. When Krongard arrived in Baghdad, he was warned by his deputy that French had become a "subject of investigation" and that he should not meet with her, for fear of tainting the investigation. But, the report said, "Krongard went through with the meeting and spent several hours with this individual."
James L. Golden, an embassy project overseer who works on a contract basis for the State Dept. in Washington, and who is also said to be a subject of the DoJ probe, may be the other person of interest Krongard met with.
Sean McCormack, a State Dept. spokesman, said Krongard recused himself from the embassy contracts investigation at Chairman Waxman's request:
"That was at the request of Congressman Waxman's committee because they are doing their own inquiries into the new embassy compound," McCormack said. "Because of the reporting relationship between the IG and the Congress, of course, Howard honored that request."
Despite Krongard's removal from the two highest profile investigations by his office, McCormack says he still has the confidence of Sec. of State Condoleeza Rice.
The White House is probably busy right now dusting off a Medal of Freedom --- as well as complete and full pardon --- for Howard "Cookie" Krongard, their inspector general (IG) at the State Dept. It appears that in Krongard's testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform yesterday, he made false statements under oath about the membership of his brother, Buzzy Krongard, on an advisory board for Blackwater, the controversial paramilitary security contractor based in North Carolina's Dismal Swamp.
Blackwater has close ties with Howard Krongard's bosses in the Bush administration, who have awarded over $100 million in contracts to the company since the invasion and occupation of Iraq began. The fact that the brother of the Bush State Dept.'s chief investigator into Blackwater's activities in Iraq is on Blackwater's payroll would appear to be a conflict of interest, to put it mildly.
Early in the hearings, Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) laid out a series of allegations from officials in the State and Justice departments that Krongard has been stonewalling investigations into corruption and illegal activities by Blackwater and other U.S. personnel and companies in Iraq.
Here is video of Waxman's questioning and Krongard's evasive responses:
Laters, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) asked Krongard if his brother was a member of the Blackwater advisory board:
Howard Krongard responded, under oath, with a flat denial:
"I can tell you very frankly, I am not aware of any financial interest or position [my brother] has with respect to Blackwater. It couldn’t possibly have affected anything I’ve done, because I don’t believe it. And when these ugly rumors started recently, I specifically asked him. I do not believe it is true that he is a member of the advisory board, as you stated, and that is something I think I need to say."
But during the break, Howard Krongard called his brother and found out that Buzzy did, indeed, sit on a Blackwater board:
In what may be one of his most ironic public statements to date, far-Right Fox "News" commentator Bill O'Reilly charged last night that Dallas Mavericks owner and media mogul Mark Cuban's "arrogance is horrifying."
He then went on to call the billionaire blogger Cuban "anti-American" and noted, approvingly, that "during WWII President Roosevelt might have incarcerated" him and "General Patton would have slapped the tar out of him."
Why? Because Cuban's cable television network, HDNet, is distributing Brian DePalma's new film Redacted, apparently.
After Cuban, the billionaire entrepreneur, had earlier noted in his address that while he might feel O'Reilly was "a moron," for the various attacks the news commentator had unleashed upon him, he had thought better than to blog that point, noting that the written word hangs around forever on the Internet.
When The BRAD BLOG, who was present at the speech, later asked him during the Q&A if he felt O'Reilly's attacks have been a "net plus or minus" in regard to Redacted, the amused Cuban said that he was "very grateful" to O'Reilly, who he called his "new best friend" for all the attention he'd brought to the otherwise small film release.
Last night on The O'Reilly Factor, the Fox "News" host shot back, promising still more publicity for the film, by calling for the public to show up outside theaters showing Redacted with signs reading "Support the Troops." O'Reilly claimed that he will personally be at theaters holding up such signs, charging that "Mark Cuban has a grudge against his country" and that he is somehow "putting our troops in danger."
At the end of the segment, O'Reilly promised that he would "have more information about what we're going to do and when we're going to do it...coming up."
His "Talking Points Memo" tirade (video below) charges that "subsequently the effort became extremely difficult," after opposition to the Iraq War was brought by "the far-left." He then went on to include a quick, out of context video clip from Cuban's BlogWorld address. He did not show the part in which Cuban said he was "very grateful" to O'Reilly, or that he considered him his "new best friend."
Here's O'Reilly's "outraged" comments from last night's The O'Reilly Factor on Fox "News," along with a discussion with a Republican and a "Democratic" analyst which follows. (Thanks to Alan Breslauer for the video!)...
UPDATE:Cuban blogs on the ridiculous O'Reilly situation, in a piece which begins "I've grown to love Bill OReilly. Seriously. If there is anyone who can publicize a political movie, it's Bill and I truly appreciate that about him."