Tuesday, February 27

Skullduggery in the Middle East

Seymore Hersh turns in another New Yorker tour de force on what the Bushies are up to in Iraq, Iran and Lebanon.

The man is a marvel. Who else would bury an exclusive interview with Hezbollah boss Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah -- complete with skull and dagger details -- on like page 17?
Security arrangements for the meeting were secretive and elaborate. I was driven, in the back seat of a darkened car, to a damaged underground garage somewhere in Beirut, searched with a handheld scanner, placed in a second car to be driven to yet another bomb-scarred underground garage, and transferred again. Last summer, it was reported that Israel was trying to kill Nasrallah, but the extraordinary precautions were not due only to that threat. Nasrallah’s aides told me that they believe he is a prime target of fellow-Arabs, primarily Jordanian intelligence operatives, as well as Sunni jihadists who they believe are affiliated with Al Qaeda.
Lots of juicy stuff in Hersh's piece, but the jist is this: The White House has shifted its strategic allegiances back to Sunni states like Saudi Arabia, despite their occasional tacit support for Sunni extremists who are intertwined with Al Qaeda, in an attempt to counter Iran and the rise of a Shiite crescent in the region.

Also, interesting echoes from the Iran-Contra affair, when the Reagan White House defied Congress to fund the Contras in Nicaragua. (They raised money by selling arms to...wait...don't tell me...oh yeah, IRAN). A lot of the players from those days, like deputy national-security adviser Elliott Abrams and Saudi national security adviser Prince Bandar, are involved in the latest machinations. And of course VP Dick Cheney is reported to be deeply involved as well.

Interestingly, Hersh reports that former Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte (a veteran cold warrior who was involved in Iran-Contra) stepped down as because he could see history about to repeat itself.
The former senior intelligence official also told me that Negroponte did not want a repeat of his experience in the Reagan Administration, when he served as Ambassador to Honduras. “Negroponte said, ‘No way. I’m not going down that road again, with the N.S.C. running operations off the books, with no finding.’ ” (In the case of covert C.I.A. operations, the President must issue a written finding and inform Congress.)

Friday, February 23

Spectator Sport of the Year, 2007-2008

Everyone's full-contact, no-holds-barred, ultimate fighting challenge, the U.S. Presidential Elections, is heating up waaaaaaaaaaaay too early, some 20 months before we vote, but boy is it going to be fun to watch.

Yesterday's proxy fight, undoubtedly a mark of things to come, featured advisors for Barack Obama versus advisors Hillary Clinton in a very public tit-for-tat. I won't bore you with details, but it looks to be a very ugly primary campaign -- Hillary's people have already tried to smear Obama in the crassest of ways: "He attended a madrassa! And his middle name is Hussein!"

The field as it stands is at six: Obama, Hillary and Edwards for the Dems; McCain, Romney and Giuliani for the GOP. Recommended for the daily ins and outs of the campaign is ABC News' daily email, The Note. From today's edition:
Making it tougher still to break in: the media's obsession with the man who would make the Big 6 the Big 7. Basically, the political press wants to tempt Al Gore into the race, and then they will destroy him as a flip-flopping, exaggerating, stiff loser. And Gore knows this.

In a piece that will make the Clintons glad they have spent all that Rupert time, the New York Post's ed board writes: "Anyone who says he is inspired by the prospect of Barack Obama's ascension to the White House at this stage in his career is delusional."

World's Best Alarm Clock?

The blog Gordasm has found what looks to be a brilliantly well-designed alarm clock that will minimize the existential dread and bodily pain that comes with getting up every morning much earlier than another clock -- the exquisitely designed one inside your body that has been developed for the last few million years -- would prefer:

"First off, this small, battery-operated, brick-shaped clock is wrapped in a funky yellow rubber, so it can handle being smacked and/or knocked off of the nightstand and still look good while doing so. It’s large face does not illuminate unless you hit the oversized snooze bar (another bonus), so no more glancing and keeping track of what times you woke up during the night.

Like most clocks, it has an adjustable volume switch for it’s alarm, but here’s the best part: you can record up to seven seconds of your own sounds using it’s built-in microphone. For fun, the first thing I did was record the chorus of Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You, Babe” so that I could channel Bill Murray in Groundhog Day."
I've been looking for years for a clock like the one in Groundhog Day that has those flippy numbers (the only photo I could find comes at the 2:29 mark in this YouTube video) but it looks like this might be the next best thing.

I'm going to buy two: One for me and one for my wife, whose fondness for the snooze bar borders on addiction, which has weakened my early morning morale on more than one occasion.