« October 2007 | Main | December 2007 »

November 26, 2007

"Deep Insight" Commentary on Election

Digby passes along an analysis of the upcoming presidential election from a friend she calls Deep Insight.  When the incomparable Digby says someone is sharp and a well-informed observer and participant, I listen eagerly.  Here are a couple of excerpts:

On some days, it appears George Bush could care less if he drives the GOP over the cliff in 2008. His pursuit of rightwing foreign and domestic policy continues unabated. Iraq will remain a mess for years and millions have already fled the country. Our wonderful ally, the President of Pakistan, declares martial rule while we funnel billions in cash to his military cronies. Meanwhile, the Taliban now controls parts of Northwest Pakistan. Bush’s decision to veto the Children’s health proposal cements a nice brand image for his party as reckless and incompetent on foreign policy and heartless on healthcare for kids.

But, lest we get too confident, our commentator goes into depth on the following:

The GOP remains confident, however, on its messaging ability and willingness of the mainstream media to carry its talking points.

The key is tying the Republicans tightly to George Bush, according to Deep Insight:

So far, the GOP race has been the gift that keeps on giving to the Democrats. But George Bush must be made into the GOP nominees’ political brother. 2008 will be a “change the course” election and the electorate is clearly not thrilled with Washington DC priorities or institutional arrangements. So, the Democrats need to ride this tide both on the Presidential and Congressional levels.

<snip>

Congressional Democrats, however, sometimes act as if it is still 2002 when they were still in the minority. The big bad Republicans will distract the country and beat them into submission. Bush has a 25% approval rating. There is absolutely no political price in opposing the initiatives of the GOP. On national security issues, the Democrats need to take the “kick me” sign off their backs. Bush has weakened our national security with this reckless war in Iraq. Bombing Iran will only add to the terrorist threat. This has to be clearly stated.

Posted by Lynn Allen on November 26, 2007 at 07:32 AM in National and International Politics, Strategery | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 17, 2007

Wobbly Pakistan

Boggles the mind.  What is happening now in Pakistan is possibly of more concern than what is happening in Iraq or Iran.  The question - Are Pakistan's nuclear weapons safe from Islamic radicals?

When the history of this time is written and the failures of the Bush Administration ranked, it may well be the lack of attention to Pakistan that will prove to be at the top of what is likely to be a very long list.  Pakistan is particularly worrisome because it has the potential of combining the three most serious challenges to the West  - Al Qaeda, the Taliban and nuclear weapons.   

Putting the threads together

Let's start with al-Qaeda and the Taliban, a potent combination on their own.  Here's what the Washington Post  had to say six weeks ago in an article entitled "Pakistan Seen Losing Fight Against Taliban and  Al-Qaeda" , just before the current crisis in Pakistan erupted. 

Pakistan's government is losing its war against emboldened insurgent forces, giving al-Qaeda and the Taliban more territory in which to operate and allowing the groups to plot increasingly ambitious attacks, according to Pakistani and Western security officials.

The depth of the problem has become clear only in recent months, as regional peace deals have collapsed and the government has deferred developing a new strategy to defeat insurgents until Pakistan's leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, can resolve a political crisis that threatens his presidency.

Meanwhile, radical Islamic fighters who were evicted from Afghanistan by the 2001 U.S.-led invasion have intensified a ruthless campaign that has consumed Pakistan's tribal areas and now affects its major cities. Military officials say the insurgents have enhanced their ability to threaten not only Pakistan but the United States and Europe as well.

The article goes on to note that deals with insurgents, about staying put in the historically ungovernable Northwest Territories, have fallen apart.  As they did in Afghanistan in the early 1990's, the Taliban have recently taken much of the rural areas and are creeping closer to the more secular cities.

And the Nukes?

The NYT has an article up in the Sunday edition describing that problem.   The U.S. has apparently never been able to get a full understanding of the nature of Pakistan's nuclear network or the number of actual nuclear weapons, although it has been estimated at between 55 and 150. 

Three years ago, there was enough pressure on President Musharraf that he was forced to rein in Dr. A. Q. Khan, the leader of the hugely successful Pakistani nuclear program.  Khan's renegade activities included providing technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.  No one really knows if Musharraf was successful - or even tried to be successful - in reining in Khan.  Nor does anyone know if Musharraf's promise - that he has a team in place to safeguard the nuclear arsenal - is realistic. 

But the worst scenarios seem to be about times when the government is very wobbly, times like now:

If General Musharraf is overthrown, no one is quite sure what will happen to the team he has entrusted to safeguard the arsenal. There is some hope that the military as an institution could reliably keep things under control no matter who is in charge, but that is just a hope.

“It’s a very professional military,” said a senior American official who is trying to manage the crisis and insisted on anonymity because the White House has said this problem will not be discussed in public. “But the truth is, we don’t know how many of the safeguards are institutionalized, and how many are dependent on Musharraf’s guys.”

Even if it never comes to a loss of control over weapons or their components, the crisis carries another level of danger. Administration officials say privately that if the chaos in the streets worsens, or Al Qaeda exploits the moment, Pakistan’s government could become distracted from monitoring scientists, engineers and others who, out of religious zeal or plain old greed, might see a moment to sell their knowledge and technology.

Dr. Khan did just that. Some of his most profitable moments, including sales of centrifuge technology to Iran that the International Atomic Energy Agency is still investigating, took place at moments of great government weakness in Pakistan.

As I said, boggles the mind.  Have the Bushies been doing anything useful in the last seven years?

Posted by Lynn Allen on November 17, 2007 at 10:56 AM in National and International Politics, Policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Keep the Dream Going

Emily's List has another ad up encouraging women to vote.  It's called "Dream".  Take a look. 

You might remember the series of ads with prominent actresses last year, called "The First Time" that had the same focus.  I love these ads.   If indeed, as Emily's List contends and polls back up, "when women vote, women win" they are right on target. 

It may be seen as politically incorrect but I'd also like to see a couple with dreamboat actors at card tables in front of grocery stores or health clubs asking startled, tongue-tied women if they vote.  Can you see it now?  Calling George Clooney, Sean Penn, Ben Affleck, all guys who are definitely on our side.  Come on, Emily's List, what do you say?

Posted by Lynn Allen on November 17, 2007 at 10:41 AM in Media, Strategery | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 16, 2007

Boeing Spies on its Employees

For just a moment, let's put aside the knowledge that our government is relentlessly devising new ways of spying on us and focus on the fact that companies already have the intent and means to surveil their employees. By now, we should all know there's a reason to curb the use of personal emails through company accounts. But there are some things we don't expect our bosses to engage in -- like having someone tail us outside of work, just like a stalker.

Boeing, it seems, has given new meaning to the phrase "carte blanche":

One such team, dubbed "enterprise" investigators, has permission to read the private e-mails of employees, follow them and collect video footage or photos of them. Investigators can also secretly watch employee computer screens in real time and reproduce every keystroke a worker makes, the Seattle P-I has learned.

For years, Boeing workers have held suspicions about being surveilled, according to a long history of P-I contact with sources, but at least three people familiar with investigation tactics have recently confirmed them.

One company source said some employees have raised internal inquiries about whether their rights were violated. Sometimes, instead of going to court over a grievance on an investigation, Boeing and the employee reach a financial settlement. The settlement almost always requires people involved to sign non-disclosure agreements, the source said.

I find this exceedingly interesting. Avoiding public scrutiny. Financial settlements. Non-disclosure agreements. It's almost as if Boeing, rather than its employee, has something to hide. Reading further into the article is the story of the employee who was followed in his hours outside of work, based on company fears that he had talked to the media regarding Boeing's compliance (or non-compliance) with a 2002 reform agreement.

Whistleblowers have slightly more protections than the average Joe who's being followed around by investigators for who-knows-what. But while Washington State law has fallen behind in fending off company surveillance tactics, Boeing is not just a Washington company. Its corporate headquarters are in Chicago, Illinois, and it has manufacturing plants in other states across the nation. By any measure, Boeing's tentacles are long, reaching into Asia and Europe, where it has contracted with facilities there for 767 Dreamliner manufacturing. On top of all this, there are Boeing's military contracts with the federal government.

So, which laws cover employee surveillance? State laws? Federal laws? And what are the ramifications of Boeing's behavior in light of the fact that Hewlett-Packard got nailed two years ago for spying on its board members? The most obvious difference between the two situations is that the aggrieved parties at HP were willing to come forward in accusing the company. Of course, a board member has more power and autonomy than an employee. In addition, California law offers more protections than Washington's does. Boeing has, so far, dodged a bullet by encouraging (convincing? threatening?) its employees to avoid public condemnations of the company by promising pay-offs for their silence. But that was before the story broke in this morning's P.I. No doubt, there's more to come.

Posted by shoephone on November 16, 2007 at 11:04 AM in The Politics of Business, Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (3)

November 10, 2007

On the Road to the White House - Clinton Jujitsu

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past 15 years, you know all about how Bill Clinton is the most famous people-pleaser on the planet and about how politically savvy he and Hillary are. But, this is just too wacky:

Bill Clinton is never at a loss for company. When he's not globe-trotting or charming audiences for as much as $400,000 a speech, he's often schmoozing visitors in his suite of offices in Harlem. Last July, the former president sat down with a billionaire impressed with the William J. Clinton Foundation's campaign against AIDS in Africa. The two men chatted amiably over lunch for more than two hours, and the visitor pledged to write Clinton's foundation a generous check. But there was something unusual, if not plain weird, about the meeting. NEWSWEEK has learned that the billionaire so eager to endear himself to the former president was Richard Mellon Scaife—once the Clintons' archenemy and best-known as the man behind a "vast, right-wing conspiracy" that Hillary Clinton said was out to destroy them.

<snip>

The Arkansas Project largely came up empty, and most of the stories were ignored by all but the most avid Clinton antagonists. But one Scaife-backed conspiracy theory got widespread attention. In 1993, White House aide and Clinton friend Vince Foster was found dead of a gunshot wound in a park outside Washington, D.C. Three official investigations concluded the death was a suicide. Yet Scaife dollars helped promote assertions that Foster had been murdered—the not-so-subtle subtext being that the Clintons had something to do with it. Scaife hired Christopher Ruddy, a reporter who doggedly pursued the conspiracy theory in a Scaife newspaper, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Though discredited, the story resonated with people who believed Clinton was hiding dark secrets. Scaife and Ruddy later started Newsmax, a Web site and magazine that attacks their enemies and lauds their heroes.

<snip>

Whatever the reasons for Scaife's change of heart, it's not hard to figure out why the Clintons would embrace a former nemesis. As they prepared for Hillary's presidential run, the Clintons made quiet attempts to disarm, or at least neutralize, some of their most vocal opponents. Last year Hillary accepted an offer from Rupert Murdoch (who always hedges his bets) to host a fund-raiser for her Senate campaign. The New York Times reported that the Clinton camp has also made efforts to open a line of communication to blogger Matt Drudge, who has served as a conduit for anti-Clinton GOP leaks.

Yes, there is something to be said for neutralizing the opposition, not to mention, forgiving your enemies. But this just seems so transparently opportunistic it makes me wonder if there is any line that can't -- and won't -- be crossed in the quest for power. I guess ambition trumps all. Considering that there seems to be a stable of Democrats willing to vote with Republicans and sell-out the U.S. Constitution and human decency at a moment's notice, it's probably just business-as-usual and I should relax and forget a