Saturday, February 04, 2006

I Don't Need No Civil War.

Mr. President, perhaps you should finally listen to what Rep. Murtha has to say.

AP: Sunni Chiefs Raise Warnings of Civil War

NASA: Too Science-y For Bush's Tastes

This administration's animosity towards science is becoming scary.

An update to the NY Times story about a scientist at NASA's claims he was being silenced...

NASA Chief Backs Agency Openness
A week after NASA's top climate scientist complained that the space agency's public-affairs office was trying to silence his statements on global warming, the agency's administrator, Michael D. Griffin, issued a sharply worded statement yesterday calling for "scientific openness" throughout the agency.

"It is not the job of public-affairs officers," Dr. Griffin wrote in an e-mail message to the agency's 19,000 employees, "to alter, filter or adjust engineering or scientific material produced by NASA's technical staff."

The articles speaks of presidential appointees attempting "to control the flow of scientific information".

One example-
Repeatedly that year, public-affairs directors at all of NASA's science centers were admonished by White House appointees at headquarters to focus all attention on Mr. Bush's January 2004 "vision" for returning to the Moon and eventually traveling to Mars.

"Focus on space, nigga, the United States of Space. Write this down, M-A-R-S, Mars, bitches! Cause that's where we're going. Yai yai!"

And another, more Pat Robertson-y example-
In October 2005, [presidential appointee] Mr. Deutsch sent an e-mail message to Flint Wild, a NASA contractor working on a set of Web presentations about Einstein for middle-school students. The message said the word "theory" needed to be added after every mention of the Big Bang.

The Big Bang is "not proven fact; it is opinion," Mr. Deutsch wrote, adding, "It is not NASA's place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator."

Yes, you read that right. NASA needs to focus on intelligent design and religion.

And when do we stone Galileo?

The article concludes with-
The only response came from Donald Tighe of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. "Science is respected and protected and highly valued by the administration," he said.


Darn That Liberal Media, Part XXIV

Eric Alterman looks at the differing media treatments of Clinton's blowjob and Bush's war lies...

Lies About Blowjobs, Bad. Wars? Not So Much.
...Oddly, given the many obvious and quite consequential differences between a blowjob and a botched war effort, the Washington press corps appears to have reached a consensus that the former is a far more serious matter. Pundit "dean" David Broder, who whined that Clinton "trashed the place, and it's not his place," has declared himself uninterested in the question of whether Bush & Co. deceived Congress and the nation into its ruinous Iraq adventure. "This whole debate about whether there was just a mistake or misrepresentation or so on is, I think, from the public point of view largely irrelevant," Broder explained to his chum Tim Russert on NBC's Meet the Press. "The public's moved past that."...

...But the insider press corps cannot connect Bush's war lies to his unpopularity, because it has so much difficulty acknowledging either one. Nor have its members--so many of whom, not just Judy Miller, helped lay the groundwork for this Administration's criminal deception by parroting its lies and propaganda--seen fit to take responsibility for their role. Even today, Bush remains a far more respected and admired figure among insiders than Clinton, much less Al Gore, Ted Kennedy or any of our leaders who sought to save us from the Iraq catastrophe.

Clinton's 1998 State of the Union address was the most progressive of any President's in two decades, but it mattered little because, it turned out, he'd lied about his sex life. Eight years later Bush's State of the Union address will matter much more, because, after all, he only lies about everything.

Thank goodness our fragile republic was saved from Clinton's menace.

Now if you'll excuse me, there's some new British documents about the war I'd like to ignore...

Attention- Fellow Blogger Users...

Is anyone else having major problems today?

Blogger keeps eating my posts. I think Karl Rove put 'em up to it.

Well Now, Isn't This Getting Out Of Control...

This is why I am not a particular fan of religion-

(And, hello, Muslim protestors, they were just cartoons, ya know.)

AP: Syrians Storm Embassies Over Caricatures

Rage against caricatures of Islam's revered prophet poured out across the Muslim world Saturday, with aggrieved believers calling for executions, storming European buildings and setting European flags afire.

Thousands of outraged Syrian demonstrators stormed the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus, setting fire to both buildings...

Embassies burning, cartoonists in hiding fearing for their lives... it's a Pat Robertson wet dream!

BTW- My favorite protest sign:

Yea, take that, ummmmm, freedom.

This picture taken from Greg Saunder's good, and sane, take on this story-
Thin-Skinned Religious Extremists

Links of the Day

Your links, sir...

-Who would've thought Dick Cheney's right-hand man would be capable of deceit?:
More Allegations of Libby Lies Revealed-
Judge's Report Shows Cheney Aide Is Accused Of Broad Deception

-Democrats get a boost from new candidates even Karl Rove may hestitate smearing:
Iraq war vets enter US political fray

-Many come to pay respects to Coretta Scott King, lying in state in Georgia:
Crowds Greet Coffin of Coretta Scott King

No Comparison

I've seen a few versions of this story on the AP (the earlier version I saw last night discussed Cheney and Rumsfeld's role in the Ford administration, trying to fight post-Nixon reforms), comparing the debate today on warrantless wiretapping and presidential power to that occurred which in the mid-1970s. I think the comparison misses a point.

AP: Papers: Ford White House Weighed Wiretaps
The White House was eager to protect its ability to gather foreign intelligence. Congress was eager to rein in executive power. What sounds like a new debate over the president's ability to eavesdrop without warrants occurred 30 years ago.

Documents from the Ford administration reflect a remarkably similar dispute between the White House and Congress a generation before President Bush acknowledged that he authorized wiretaps without warrants on some Americans in terrorism investigations...

The point missed is this... That debate occurred 30 years ago because President Nixon had been forced to resign for all the same crimes that President Bush is doing now (illegal surveillance, deceit about war, claims of unlimited executive power, etc). These were things that led Congress to approach impeachment against Nixon. This debate was based on the idea that those abuses must never be allowed to happen again. They now have. In addition, the FISA law and system had not yet been passed during the Ford administration; it was set up because of this debate and was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Carter in 1978. And, as Sen. Specter now posits in his letter to the Attorney General, "President Carter's signature on FISA in 1978, together with his signing statement, [is] an explicit renunciation of any claim to inherent Executive authority under Article II of the Constitution to conduct warrantless domestic surveillance when the Act provided the exclusive procedures for such surveillance".

And that's the point.

The AP article does have this good money quote-
Lisa Graves, senior counsel for legislative strategy at the American Civil Liberties Union, said comparing the Ford-era debate to the current controversy is "misleading because no matter what Mr. Cheney or Mr. Rumsfeld may have argued back in 1976, the fact is they lost. When Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978, Congress decisively resolved this debate.

"Unlike the current administration, the Ford administration never claimed the right to violate a law requiring judicial oversight of wiretaps in foreign intelligence investigations if Congress were to pass such a law."


The abuses of the Nixon era spawned important laws to accomodate needed surveillance, but do so with oversight to prevent an unchecked, all-powerful executive from being a law unto himself. President Bush has broken those laws, by his own admission, and has become the unchecked, all-powerful executive we hoped we would never have again after Nixon resigned. That is the issue. And it must be resolved.

That will, hopefully, begin on Monday.


...That's what the Iraq war costs per minute.

Seattle Times: Iraq war is costing $100,000 per minute

Good thing we don't have any poor or needy people here in America.

Gallup: More Than Half of Americans Feel Bush Deliberately Misled Country on Iraq WMD ]

...Same As The Old Boss

The GOP Congress continues its quest to pretend to clean up Washington...

AP: Boehner's Empire Resembles DeLay's

Over the years, new House Majority Leader John Boehner has built a political empire with similarities to the fundraising machine of the man he's replacing, Rep. Tom DeLay.

The Ohio congressman, who won an upset victory for the House GOP's No. 2 post, has distributed roughly $2.9 million to Republicans from his political action committee since 1979, according to the campaign finance Web site Political Money Line. Some of the recipients this week returned the favor in voting for him...

...Boehner, 56, was characterized as an agent for change by Republican supporters who elected him over Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri. But like DeLay and Blunt, Boehner has connections to indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff....

Were no Republicans without Abramoff ties interested in the position? None?

Also, the highlight from his rise to power-
Only a few years later, Boehner was caught handing out tobacco industry money on the House floor. He apologized, then went on building his political empire.

"My bad!"

And the beat goes on...

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Adventures of Dick and Scooter, Pt. II

Update to the last post... Murray Waas reports the President was likely briefed on Wilson's Niger trip-

Fitzgerald Court Papers: Bush Was Briefed on Joe Wilson

The Adventures of Dick and Scooter

Countdown 11 months until Scootie goes to trial...

AP: Judge Sets Trial for Libby in CIA Leak
A federal judge on Friday set former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's trial date in the CIA leak case for January 2007, two months after the midterm congressional elections.

The trial for Libby, who faces perjury and obstruction of justice charges, will begin with jury selection Jan. 8, said U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton. The judge said he had hoped to start the trial in September but one of Libby's lawyers had a scheduling conflict that made that impractical.

Libby's lawyer said he was "very happy" with the date because it "will permit us the time we need to prepare Mr. Libby's defense"... And keep the trial out of the press until after the elections, natch.

This after new reports that, before Joseph Wilson spoke out, Mr. Libby and his boss, Vice President Cheney, were informed that the Iraq-Niger uranium claims were false (in addition to previous CIA warnings prior to Bush's '03 State of the Union). When Wilson spoke out, the Vice President's office began their smearing of him anyway.

From the National Journal: Iraq, Niger, And The CIA
Vice President Cheney and his then-Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby were personally informed in June 2003 that the CIA no longer considered credible the allegations that Saddam Hussein had attempted to procure uranium from the African nation of Niger, according to government records and interviews with current and former officials. The new CIA assessment came just as Libby and other senior administration officials were embarking on an effort to discredit an administration critic who had also been saying that the allegations were untrue...

Read the full article for a detailed history of this and how it lead to the Plame leak.

Think Progress notes this now proves untrue statements made by the Vice President.

The Left-Coaster also explores these revelations in-depth: Treasongate: Libby and Uranium from Africa

And don't forget (though the media's failed to mention it)... the deleted White House emails.

Patrick Fitzgerald's got his hands full on this one.

[PS- The Plame Page is a great resource for materials on this case.]

He's Only 12, But He's Rebelling At An 11th Grade Level

If only we could get Osama to write a school essay, the government might be able to find him...

AP: Child investigated for homework threat to Bush
The Secret Service on Thursday said it was investigating a Rhode Island student who wrote a rambling essay advocating violence against President Bush and major U.S. corporations.

A homework assignment asked 7th-grade students at John F. Deering Middle School in West Warwick, Rhode Island, to describe their perfect day. The boy under investigation wrote it would involve unspecified violence against Bush, Coca-Cola Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. executives, and TV talkshow host Oprah Winfrey, school officials said...

The article as posted in today's Metro paper also noted he threatened his local Walgreen's.

More of a Duane Reade kid, I suppose.

Police v. Police

The NYPD's surveillance and monitoring of protests has snagged an odd set of victims...

...New York City police officers.

NY Times: Surveillance Prompts a Suit: Police v. Police

The Mohammed Cartoons

It's a pretty hot topic right, so I'll just throw in my quick opinion and move on-

1- The cartoons are provocative, but not intentionally offensive
2- The newspapers have the right to print them if they desire
3- The overreaction of the Muslim world is insanely militant, to say the least
4- The reason I just don't care to discuss the issue beyond that is because of the right-wing blogosphere obsession over it. Pretending as if they suddenly care about a free press (when they have spent years treating our press like a villain) is no more than a transparent attempt to engage in more Islam bashing while appearing to be taking a high ground. That the Muslim reaction is increasingly undefendable is almost beside the point. These right-wingers are the same people who who treat any critical looks at Christianity (ie. NBC's now-cancelled "Book of Daniel") or religious imagery (the Kanye-Jesus Rolling Stone cover) as an all-out assault on their very being. They obviously fall short of jihad, but America's radical Christians are no strangers to angry overreactions. The hypocrisy goes on and on. Boycott France for opinions, Support Denmark over cartoons. The general points about free press and Muslim overreaction are right, but the right-wing is exploiting this issue for their own ideological reasons. When the right defends our free press in America, I'll start to care. Until then, the Pajamas crowd can just go crawl back into bed to cower in constant fear, happily surrending their rights to their protector King George.

That's my two cents. Have a solemn 'international day of anger', everyone.

Impeachment Discussion- Coming Soon To Political Circles Near You

"If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy."
-James Madison

Between controversial and new revelations about the buildup to the Iraq war to continued stonewalling on numerous investigations to the President's declaration of unlimited executive power in light of revelations about his warrantless domestic spying, the question of whether it is necessary to impeach President Bush has reached the mainstream. Bush's loyal supporters are quick to dismiss this, yet the issues surrounding all this (executive overreach, domestic spying, and war) are the same ones that led Congress to seek impeachment hearings against President Nixon. When Nixon's hearings began, he still had many supporters despite sinking approval (as Bush does now), but the facts came to light through the process and he was forced to resign as impeachment loomed over. And it was his abuses that spawned the very surveillance/national security laws that the President has broken here.

This isn't just about political issues or ideology (nor it is an objection to an agressive war against terrorism, as Karl Rove wishes to frame it), this cuts to the most basic foundation of our system of government and our Constitutional rights. Whatever the end result, there is no doubt in my mind that impeachment hearings have become absolutely necessary once again.

A new in-depth article discusses this- the likelihood of it and how we got here:
The case for impeachment

It's not just for radicals anymore

I recommend reading the full article. It's long, but detailed. They note that-
Clinton was impeached when all the legal experts say he shouldn't have been. So Bush could clearly be held to account for crimes that are more serious than lying about an extramarital blow job. What is being alleged against the Bush administration are misdeeds that have resulted in tens of thousands of deaths, the torture of people in US custody, blatant and unapologetic violations of the Fourth Amendment, and the shredding of American credibility around the world – all of which are ongoing, claiming new victims everyday.

That's why the advocates of impeachment say we can't afford to wait two years for another election. Besides, they say, stopping the imperial ambitions of a president is precisely why the founders created the tool of impeachment.

Bold added by me

At the very least, Trupiano said, Congress needs to aggressively push for answers to troubling questions about why the administration invaded Iraq and what the president's team is doing under the guise of keeping the nation safe from terrorists. Call that oversight, accountability, or impeachment, but Trupiano said it's a job Congress has failed to do.

"Impeachment is a process, it's not an indictment," he said. "We need to lay out the case, then we ask the American people to sign on. We just want the truth. Is there anything more nonpartisan than the truth?"

All this is in light of recent polls showing 52% "want Congress to impeach President Bush if he wiretapped American citizens without a judge's approval". That this isn't reflected in the mainstream political dialogue- yet- doesn't matter. No doubt the politicians and media are cautious to approach this. And that's understandable after the Clinton debacle. But the support for it is there.

As the article notes, "the public sentiment [is] way ahead of the political leadership" on impeachment.

This after Bush's defense in the State of the Union did little to convince anyone-
LA Times: Bush Stretches to Defend Surveillance-
The president's justification for his spy program has disputable roots, as do some of the facts and figures he put forth in his speech.

Defending the surveillance program [is] crucial in a time of war, Bush said ... However, warrantless surveillance within the United States for national security purposes was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1972 — long after Lincoln, Wilson and Roosevelt stopped issuing orders. That led to the 1978 passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that Bush essentially bypassed in authorizing the program after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Let's hope Arlen Specter's hearings act as a check and balance, not a rubberstamp once again for this President.

On that note, I think the money quote from the Bay-Guardian article is this:
As long as the Republican-controlled Congress is willing to play a subservient role to the president, this might not be a problem. But if the public demands accountability and Bush and Cheney refuse to give up their imperial stands, impeachment might not just become an option. It may become the only option.


I end with a slew of links, all addressing the President's NSA program and his imperial posturing...

-NY Times: Senate Panel Rebuffed on Documents on U.S. Spying Democrat: White House built 'wall' around spy program

-Boston Globe: Specialists doubt legality of wiretaps-
Many rebut assertion of presidential powers

-Slate: Sign Here
Presidential signing statements are more than just executive branch lunacy.

-Washington Post: Bad Targeting

Defending Our Democracy: A Bipartisan Effort

Karl Rove's talking points continue to get smashed as Republicans come to the forefront on the spying scandal-

A recent article looks at the many prominent Republicans opposed to Bush's actions-
Political opposites aligned against Bush wiretaps
...Despite coming from opposite ends of the political spectrum, [Larry Diamond and Grover Norquist] agree on one other major issue: that the Bush administration's program of domestic eavesdropping by the National Security Agency without obtaining court warrants has less to do with the war on terror than with threats to the nation's civil liberties...

...[A] number of prominent Republicans, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona, have criticized Bush and the wiretapping without court warrants as a violation of the law and basic civil liberties. So have other well-known conservatives, including former Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia. Bruce Fein, a lawyer who worked in the Justice Department under President Ronald Reagan, wrote in a commentary in the Washington Times last week that Bush should face "possible impeachment" if the practice is not stopped...

...Referring to what some see as a conflict between fighting vicious terrorists and upholding all civil liberties, Norquist said: "It's not either/or. If the president thinks he needs different tools, pass a law to get them. Don't break the existing laws."

And here is a blog post from Sen. Russ Feingold addressing the same issues-
Pre-1776 Mentality
I've seen some strange things in my life, but I cannot describe the feeling I had, sitting on the House floor during Tuesday's State of the Union speech, listening to the President assert that his executive power is, basically, absolute, and watching several members of Congress stand up and cheer him on. It was surreal and disrespectful to our system of government and to the oath that as elected officials we have all sworn to uphold. Cheering? Clapping? Applause? All for violating the law?...

In short, two points:
1- Support for an agressive war on terror is bipartisan.
2- Support for our basic Constitutional principles is even more bipartisan.

This Modern World

Links of the Day, Early Edition

Wanted to do this before I get to the BIG STUFF....

-Christine Todd Whitman gets slammed for telling those around Ground Zero it was safe to return:
Judge Slams Ex-EPA Chief Over Sept. 11

-More news on not taking the President's energy promises too literally:
Bush's Goals on Energy Quickly Find Obstacles

-The Patriot Act gets another short-term extension as Senators work out the kinks:
Congress Extends Patriot Act Five Weeks

Thursday, February 02, 2006

"You said we're headed to war in Iraq -- I don't know why you say that"

More proof that this administration was always going to war... and would do anything to get there-

Guardian (UK): Bush told Blair we're going to war, memo reveals
Tony Blair told President George Bush that he was "solidly" behind US plans to invade Iraq before he sought advice about the invasion's legality and despite the absence of a second UN resolution, according to a new account of the build-up to the war published today.

A memo of a two-hour meeting between the two leaders at the White House on January 31 2003 - nearly two months before the invasion - reveals that Mr Bush made it clear the US intended to invade whether or not there was a second resolution and even if UN inspectors found no evidence of a banned Iraqi weapons programme...

One plan they had to force war involved this:
President Bush said: "The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach."

Disgraceful. 2,245 Americans dead. Tens of thousands of civilians dead. Half a trillion dollars spent.

What has to be revealed before these people are held accountable for this?

What Conservatives Believe

From Karl Rove's mouth to Carl Moore's ears.

T-Shirt Wearers Must Be Arrested Or Removed...

...But a man with known connections to Osama bin Laden is most welcome.

Read about the President's Saudi guest of honor here-
A 9/11 Conspirator in King Bush's Court?

Mo' Money, Mo' Problems

Instead of holding the administration accountable for the billions 'lost' and/or mismanaged, they're ready to write another big check. Hey, Rummy, does this mean you can finally afford to send adequate body armor to the troops? Or is this money already earmarked for pet projects? And something tells me the Iraqis might want some of this for the reconstruction we're said to be abandoning... And remember, save your receipts!

AP: Bush to Request $120B More for War Funding
The Bush administration said Thursday it will ask Congress for $120 billion more for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and $18 billion more this year for hurricane relief.

If approved by Congress, the war money would push spending related to the wars toward a staggering half-trillion dollars...

What's a half trillion between friends?

I am glad to see hurricane relief is included, of course.

So what's being cut to make way for this new money request. Let's see-
AP: House Sends Bush Budget-Cutting Bill
The budget-cutting bill awaiting President Bush's signature may only make a small dent in the nation's huge deficit, but he is expected to propose more cuts in his 2007 plan, including farm subsidies, Medicaid and Medicare.

The House on Wednesday sent Bush a major bill cutting benefit programs like Medicaid and student loan subsidies. The president is ready to sign the five-year, $39 billion budget-cutting bill and move on to next year's budget cycle...

Ah. Nothing important then.

Meet The New Boss...

House Republicans have chosen their new Majority Leader-

AP: Rep. Boehner Elected House Majority Leader
Rep. John Boehner of Ohio was elected House majority leader Thursday to replace indicted Rep. Tom DeLay.

Boehner defeated fellow Republican Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, 122-109, after lagging behind his rival in a first, inconclusive ballot...

Better a Boehner than a Blunt, I suppose.

By the way- The reason the first ballot was 'inconclusive'? According to Roll Call:
"The first count showed more votes cast than Republicans present at the Conference meeting."

Oops. Looks like someone tried to pull a Diebold.

Links of the Day

Hey, did someone give some kind of speech this week... I can't remember....

-Everyone's buzzing about Alito's first ruling. I say- wait until the cases about executive power:
Alito parts with conservatives on execution

-House Republicans think new reforms are "overreacting". Poor babies:
Lobbying Changes Divide House GOP-
Many Resist Leaders' Proposed Reforms

-Finally, in lighter news, is Spring on the way? Punxsutawney Phil says yes:
Punxsutawney Groundhog Sees His Shadow

Another Sad NY Post Rant

The NY Post has an editorial ranting about Cindy Sheehan's "attention-getting stunt"-

This even after the Capitol police apologize and admit, gosh, she had committed no crime.

To President Bush's most loyal and non-stop defenders like Murdoch's Post, exercising one's First Amendment rights is some sort of 'stunt'. The only attention-getting stunt that occurred was the Capitol police arresting an innocent woman, an event that got much coverage after the address. And that's what Bush defenders are really mad about- that the unconstitutional actions of the Capitol police distracted from a State of the Union that even many conservatives agree was lackluster. If Ms. Sheehan had been left alone, her attendance at the event would have been a non-story.

Agree or disagree with her admittedly radical stances, she was an invited Congressional guest to the event (as was Republican Beverly Young, whose ejection the Post glosses over). She had as much right to be there as any other guest. She had no plans to disrupt the event and had violated no laws.

As Andrew Sullivan notes- "Wearing a t-shirt is not a crime. Nor is political speech. There's something deeply creepy about the way in which the president is routinely secluded from hecklers, demonstrators or even hostile t-shirts. He's not a monarch." For the NY Post to make her the villain in this particular story says more about the Post than it does Ms. Sheehan.

Shame on the NY Post for the latest in a continued series of such rants.

Darn That Liberal Media

Paul Waldman wonders if maybe that liberal media should actually start featuring some liberals...

NN announced recently that it was hiring Philly's own Glenn Beck, whose right-wing rants now air on 200 radio stations across the country, to host an hour-long show on their secondary network, Headline News.

Some might be wondering when one of these bastions of the supposed "liberal media" is going to give a show to - stay with me now - an actual liberal?...

Cartoon Bad, Rumsfeld Good?: Pt. II

Tom Toles and the Washington Post defend the cartoon-
Toles, Post Respond To Joint Chiefs Letter

Good for them.

They Destroy Evidence, Don't They?

More on the story of the missing White House emails...

Raw Story: Fitzgerald admits White House may have destroyed some emails potentially relevant to CIA leak case

AP: Fitzgerald hints White House records lost

Read My Lips

I hate to say I told you so (especially when being right means more suck), but... Before the State of the Union address, the 'oil addiction' line and the calls for energy independence were the most leaked/discussed aspect of the speech. Now here's the reality just one day later...

Knight-Ridder: Administration backs off Bush's vow to reduce Mideast oil imports
One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn't mean it literally...

Oh. Out of curiousity, what parts did he mean literally?

So what did the President mean (literally)? Well-
What the president meant, they said in a conference call with reporters, was that alternative fuels could displace an amount of oil imports equivalent to most of what America is expected to import from the Middle East in 2025.

But America still would import oil from the Middle East, because that's where the greatest oil supplies are.

Well, of course! I mean it's so obvious that's what he meant.

And then there was this-
He pledged to "move beyond a petroleum-based economy and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past."

Not exactly, though, it turns out.

"This was purely an example," Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said.

No doubt! No one expected the President to mean anything he said literally, they were just examples and allegories.

Like when he said "we are winning" in Iraq. That's just an example... of what the President wants to believe is happening. Or when he said his warrantless domestic spying program is "based on authority given to me by the Constitution and by statute", that's just an example of a weak legal argument he hopes Congress will buy.

So why then did the President say these things? Well-
Asked why the president used the words "the Middle East" when he didn't really mean them, one administration official said Bush wanted to dramatize the issue in a way that "every American sitting out there listening to the speech understands." The official spoke only on condition of anonymity because he feared that his remarks might get him in trouble.

Oh, he was just being dramatic, okay. PRESIDENT BUSH IS A LIAR. Dramatic like that?

Or was he going for a more subtle, method acting approach?

Ironically enough, this was a top headline today from the AP:
Bush Urges Confidence in His Leadership

Gosh, I can't imagine why Americans have lost confidence in his leadership. [*scratches head*]

[Related- Bush Says Don't Expect Oil Price Breaks (AP)]

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Maybe Arianna Was Right...

...Maybe Rep. Murtha should have delivered the Democratic response.

Rep. Murtha sent the President a suggestion-filled letter today about the war in Iraq.

Read it in full here- Murtha's Letter To The President..."Iraq Has Diverted Our Attention Away From The Fight Against Global Terrorism"...

Burlesque Show?

I've been thinking about a comment Chris Matthews made on yesterday's 'Hardball' all day. Matthews and his panel of guests were discussing the Sheehan arrest. Matthews wondered if people like Ms. Sheehan weren't hurting the legitimate anti-war movement. He stated that people like Sheehan or Michael Moore who get all the media attention come off to many people as a "burlesque show" of anti-war sentiment and this makes it seem trivial. He noted that the majority of Americans do not support the war and want the troops home (on this he is certainly correct, as polls show), yet they also do not identify with Ms. Sheehan. His conclusion was that the attention paid to Ms. Sheehan distracts from the legitimate debate occuring amongst the many Americans who have lost patience with the President and no longer support the war.

It's a fair point. I don't disagree.

But isn't this a) the way it's always been, and b) as much a product of the right-wing as the left? Regarding the first point, this was the same during Vietnam. As much as the "hippies" came to symbolize the anti-war movement, there was certainly a more representative discontent in the heartland that we never saw. The people who get in the spotlight are... the ones who are spotlighted.

Regarding the second point, I think the right-wing likes to keep these people in the spotlight (I am reminded of Drudge's big 'Cunning Stunt'- get it?- headline when Ms. Sheehan was arrested outside the White House this past Fall). It allows them to marginalize the legitimate anti-war movement by making them all out to be radical, cartoon-ish villians... just like in the late 60s/early 70s when all the protestors were blown off as a bunch of pot-smoking hippies. The right-wing refuses to acknowledge the anti-war sentiment and the poll numbers, ignoring it all together on their news programs, and calling anyone who does speak out a "moonbat".

And while Ms. Sheehan is very famous, but not representative of the general anti-war sentiment, the same can be said of conservative icons like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly. These people (and their ilk) spew radical nonsense and propaganda on a daily basis. And unlike Ms. Sheehan, they have been given media outlets to do so. And they certainly seem quite popular! Shall I assume (and therefore blow off) every conservative living in America because of the popularity of this Republican "burlesque show"?

I do not, because I know many conservatives personally and know them to be smart people with a legitimate point of view... just as I know many Americans (including myself, natch) who don't support this war or the President and know this point of view is also legitimate- despite how it is often portrayed.

So there is a lot of political theater in this country, let's not pretend either side has a monopoly on it.

Officials Realize They Violated First Amendment, Attempt To Backtrack

That's my translation of the following headline...

AP: Police Apologize, Drop Charge Vs. Sheehan
Capitol Police dropped a charge of unlawful conduct against antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan on Wednesday and apologized for ejecting her and a congressman's wife from President Bush's State of the Union address for wearing T-shirts with war messages.

Isn't it amazing that a day after the speech, the Capitol Police now realize they were wrong to remove these people? A cynical person might again note that then the reason for removal was not based on law and likely just a desire to cleanse the hall of potential dissent, even though neither were disruptive, before his majesty, the President arrived. I do not wish to be cynical, of course.

The money quote-
Capitol Police did not explain why Sheehan was arrested and Young was not. However, Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer was asking the U.S. attorney's office to drop the charge against Sheehan, according to Deputy House Sergeant of Arms Kerri Hanley.

And this quote from Deputy House Sergeant of Arms-
"They were operating under the misguided impression that the T-shirt was not allowed," Hanley said Wednesday. "The fact that she (Sheehan) was wearing a T-shirt is not enough reason to be asked to leave the gallery or be removed from the gallery or be arrested."

Really? You don't say!

Charges dropped or not, I'd still like to see Ms. Sheehan or Ms. Young push this issue, as a reminder of the constitutional confusion this President has created. This isn't the first time this has happened, nor do I expect it to be the last.

Scootie Gets Ready For Trial

From the NY Daily News, news that Scooter Libby wants access to thousands of pages of documents that Patrick Fitzgerald obtained from the White House to help with his defense-
Libby will show that "any errors he made in his FBI interviews or grand jury testimony, months after the conversations, were the result of confusion, mistake or faulty memory rather than a willful intent to deceive," his lawyers argued.

No doubt a man with Libby's reputation at his job and attention to detail merely got confused.

And then there is this at the end of the article-
Fitzgerald, who is fighting Libby's request, said in a letter to Libby's lawyers that many e-mails from Cheney's office at the time of the Plame leak in 2003 have been deleted contrary to White House policy.

Oops. An accident, no doubt as well.

Josh Micah Marshall explores this issue at Talking Points Memo.

Cartoon Bad, Rumsfeld Good?

This Tom Toles cartoon ran in the Washington Post last week-

Angry, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have a sent a protest letter to the Post.

You can read the letter- here.

I saw the cartoon on the Washington Post website last week and thought nothing of it. I suppose I can see how a wounded soldier might be upset by it, but to act as is if Mr. Toles meant any slight toward the soldiers is ridiculous. They were not the target of the cartoon- Rumsfeld was. You know, Donald Rumseld, the inept Secretary of Defense responsible for leaving our troops unprotected in the battle field, failing to plan for a post-war Iraq, and continued defense of torture. That Rumsfeld. I see nothing wrong with the cartoon (or the letter), but perhaps the time of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would be better spent demanding accountability from the Secretary of Defense responsible for so many of the wounded soldiers lying in hospital beds. It certainly wouldn't be the first time they had to school him.

[PS- I'm curious how many Bush supporters will condemn the cartoon or the Post, given their defense of recent controversial cartoons in a Denmark paper that have angered (to say the least, apparently) many Muslims.]

State of the Union Fallout, Pt. III: Does The President Know What It Means To Forget New Orleans?

In case you blinked and missed it, here's what the President said about New Orleans-
A hopeful society comes to the aid of fellow citizens in times of suffering and emergency – and stays at it until they are back on their feet. So far the Federal government has committed 85 billion dollars to the people of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. We are removing debris, repairing highways, and building stronger levees. We are providing business loans and housing assistance. Yet as we meet these immediate needs, we must also address deeper challenges that existed before the storm arrived. In New Orleans and in other places, many of our fellow citizens have felt excluded from the promise of our country. The answer is not only temporary relief, but schools that teach every child … and job skills that bring upward mobility … and more opportunities to own a home and start a business. As we recover from a disaster, let us also work for the day when all Americans are protected by justice, equal in hope, and rich in opportunity.

And that's it.

On September 15 of last year, the President stood in New Orleans' Jackson Square and gave a lengthy prime-time speech to address the disaster. It was a speech so great in scope and rhetoric that, following it, pundits were comparing his proposals to Roosevelt's New Deal and Johnson's Great Society. In that speech, the President promised "one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen". And that's no small promise. He pledged that "we will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes, to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives". He spoke of the horrors we watched, seeing "fellow Americans calling out for food and water, vulnerable people left at the mercy of criminals who had no mercy, and the bodies of the dead lying uncovered and untended in the street". He rightfully compared the destruction to the events of September 11th, noting that "Americans have every right to expect a more effective response in a time of emergency" and also stating that, as President, he is "responsible for the problem, and for the solution". Discussing how Congress would assess what went wrong and how we can move forward, he stated that "Congress is preparing an investigation, and I will work with members of both parties to make sure this effort is thorough". In short, he promised us that "This government will learn the lessons of Hurricane Katrina".

From all that to just one paragraph in only four months. How sad.

Here's the reality of current events...

MSNBC: Katrina investigation gets limited support-
White House cooperation on hurricane response failures less than promised

Ratcheting up a battle with Congress, the Bush White House is now refusing to turn over Hurricane Katrina related documents or make senior officials available for testimony. The administration contends executive branch discussions about the storm are not open to review by Congress...

...It was Senator Lieberman, the president‘s favorite Democrat, who on Tuesday alleged the Bush administration‘s refusal to cooperate has killed the Katrina investigation. "There has been a near-total lack of cooperation that has made it impossible, in my opinion, for us to do the thorough investigation we have a responsibility to do."...

AP: Probe Faults Feds for Katrina Response
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff or another top official should have been a central focal point of the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina, congressional investigators asserted Wednesday, saying the lack of a clear chain of command hindered relief efforts.

The Government Accountability Office also found that the government still lacks sufficient plans and training programs to prepare for catastrophic disasters like the Aug. 29 storm that devastated much of the Gulf Coast area...

This is a disgrace. Democrats (or someone), please hold them accountable for this. The people of the Gulf Coast deserve better.

[PS- Craig Crawford looks at this as well- SOTU: The Six Sentence Disaster]

State of the Union Fallout, Pt. II: Silencing Sheehan

The story is this- Yesterday, Rep. Lynn Woolsey invited Cindy Sheehan to the State of the Union address as a guest, giving her an official ticket to attend. Ms. Sheehan arrived and was seated, but was then arrested and removed from the building. The reason wasn't well known at first. The hysterical Michelle Malkins of the internet (who think Rep. Woolsey should be punished for inviting her at all), outright giddy at her arrest, passed around the rumor that Sheehan had "unfurled an anti-war banner inside the House chamber". She had, in fact, done no such thing. Ms. Sheehan was removed for wearing a t-shirt that said "2,245 Dead - How Many More?". You can see a picture of the shirt from earlier in the day- here. At this time, Ms. Sheehan is considering a First Amendment lawsuit against the government over her arrest.

Cindy Sheehan explains her side of the events:
What Really Happened at the State of the Union

It should be noted (as many like Will Bunch have) that political statements on t-shirts are constitutionally protected free speech, as per the result of the 1971 Supreme Court decision in Cohen v. California. That case involved a man who wore a "Fuck the Draft" shirt in the corridor of a courthouse and was arrested and convicted for disturbing the peace. The Supreme Court reversed the decision on first and fourteenth amendment grounds. This decision still stands.

Bush apologists wasted no time in attempting to blow this off. Matt Drudge dug up a 1999 story of a Pennsylvania school teacher who was removed from the Senate's impeachment trial for wearing a t-shirt that said "Clinton doesn't inhale, he sucks". He offered to cover up (as Ms. Sheehan did as well), but was removed anyway. They also point to another story from last night's speech, that the wife of Rep. C.W. Bill Young was asked to leave for wearing a t-shirt that said "Support the Troops Defending Our Freedom". She reluctantly did so. I am not sure what the apologists hope to prove with these two examples; both were wrong as well. Two wrongs do not make a right.

It should also be noted that those two were not arrested as Sheehan was. The man in 1999 was questioned and removed, but not arrested or manhandled. The wife of the Congressman wasn't removed and was simply asked to leave. I can only surmise that what happened to Ms. Sheehan was deliberate. Whether you support her or think she's an unamerican Hanoi Jane, she had done nothing wrong and her arrest was unjustified.

Glenn Greenwald explores this topic in-depth, looking at previous examples and legal precedents-
Learning from Dear Leader

He notes that visual political statements (ie. last year's purple finger waving) have been common at these events.

Bottom line is this- It is hypocritical for President Bush to preach about the importance and values of democracy to the rest of the world in a speech just moments after his staff has removed people, with tickets to attend the event, who were expressing their opinions in a quiet and non-disruptive manner. The President needs to worry less about how democracy fits into his flawed foreign policy and more about how it's supposed to work here at home.

[Related blog post- First Amendment, Two Shirts -- Cindy and Beverly]

State of the Union Fallout, Pt. I: Making With The Funnies

The Onion gives their satirical reimagining of the speech-
President Creates Cabinet-Level Position To Coordinate Scandals
In his State of the Union address to the nation last night, President Bush announced a new cabinet-level position to coordinate all current and future scandals facing his party.

"Tonight, by executive order, I am creating a permanent department with a vital mission: to ensure that the political scandals, underhanded dealings, and outright criminal activities of this administration are handled in a professional and orderly fashion," Bush said...

Nominated for Scandal Secretary are Tom Delay, Michael Brown, Jack Abramoff, and Scooter Libby-
The Scandal Secretary will log all wiretaps and complaints of prisoner abuse, coordinate paid-propaganda efforts, eliminate redundant payoffs and bribes, oversee the appointment of unqualified political donors to head watchdog agencies, control all leaks and other high-level security breaches, and oversee the disappearance of Iraq reconstruction funds. He will also be responsible for issuing all official denials that laws have been broken.

Sounds like they've got it covered. Great work, guys!

Links of the Day: Post-SOTU Edition

Here's three different takes on the speech on this day after...

-The AP looks at the big issues being discussed in the aftermath of the speech:
Bush Tries to Ride Post-Speech Momentum

-The Washington Post analyzes the speech:
Lowered Expectations Reflect Political and Fiscal Realities

-Finally, the NY Times looks at the supposedly-renewed focus of Bush's agenda:
Bush, Resetting Agenda, Says U.S. Must Cut Reliance on Oil

State of the Union: The Aftermath

They're spinning away on the cable news networks! Go pundits, go!

In summation: The speech itself was better than we're used to... but only because the bar has been set so low in the past 5 years. So many proposals that sound good on paper (alternative energy, fighting AIDS, etc) ... but will never actually be accomplished by this President who lacks the genuine will and political capital to even know where to begin. A lot of statements about progress (in Iraq, in the Gulf Coast)... if only they were true. In the case of the former, the administration is responsible for the mess to begin with; in the case of the latter, they are actively stalling politically on investigations and rebuilding. Typical rhetoric- ie. complaining about "second guessing" not being a valid strategy for Iraq... But is it really second guessing when you're just trying to acknowledge the realities the White House has shielded itself from? Also, the constant calls for bipartisan unity rang hollow, as we all know that what the President really means by that is 'You better support me, but I won't promise the same in return'. It's become obvious now that whenever the President says he "urge[s] the Congress to act responsibly", he means he urges the Congress to promote his agenda, thereby making it seem that those who don't are somehow irresponsible. If he were as good at governing as he is at rhetoric, we'd be living in a utopian wonderland.

On a final and important note, his defense-by-offense on the NSA wiretapping issue was painfully insulting to the intelligence of anyone who has followed the story- it again failed to acknowledge that he already has the power to spy on terrorists (but to do so legally and with oversight), threw in some pre-9/11 revisionist history, and made the false charge that the laws give him the power to do what he did, when the real issue is that he violated the surveillance statutes.

In short, more of the same. In two weeks, no one will remember this speech.

Also, Tim "There's a better way!" Kaine's response was better than expected. Read it- here.

Moving on, the AP fact-checks the speech:
Bush Skips Complex Realities in Address

ThinkProgress is also fact-checking the hell out of the speech. If interested, you can read their rebuttals on: civility in politics, upholding Coretta Scott King's legacy, Iraqi elections, global terrorism, Afghanistan, strategy for victory in Iraq, supporting the troops, dealing with Iran, homeland security, Patriot Act, 9/11 hijackers, how previous Presidents handled surveillance, notifying Congress, job growth, the economy, tax cuts, the deficit, healthcare, foreign oil dependence, renewable energy, science education, betraying the public trust, post-Katrina rebuilding, and poverty.

The Huffington Post has blog reactions from Sen. Feingold, Sen. Reid, and Rep. Pelosi among others.

Andrew Sullivan did some live blogging tonight for CNN. His bottom line-
Sorry ... but I thought this speech lacked a real focus, and rehashed thoroughly exhausted tropes and phrases. The speech's key attention-grabber was the "addicted to oil" line. But after five years of being the oil-president, he needs to add a lot more substance to back up the counter-intuitive headline. On the critical question, Iraq, he said all the right things; and I believe he deserves support in navigating the path ahead, however twisted the path to this point. But I'd like to see more meat on those bones, and clear evidence of political progress and improved security. I guess, on this subject, I've just learned to follow what he does, rather than what he says. The calls for bi-partisanship, on the other hand, and for an entitlements commission, for Pete's sake, sounded ... well, desperate. Bottom line: this speech will rise without trace. And be remembered by almost no one.

I also like this post-
We must not allow our differences to "harden into anger." Anyone who tells me not to get angry ... pisses me off.

Angry Americans... smash?

Finally- King George demonstrates what democracy and freedom mean in his own country:
Activist Cindy Sheehan Arrested at Capitol

Her crime? Wearing an anti-war t-shirt. Get this terrorist out of the sacred Capitol halls!

Heck of a job!

The kingdom is safe once more... for now. Goodnight and (as they say on TV) God bless America.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

State of the Union

From ThinkProgress, the full text of the speech-
Embargoed: State of the Union Text

[Related- Christian Science Monitor: Bush scaling down his agenda]

Blueduck to Say 'Bush Is Addicted to Rhetoric' in Blog

From the AP, a preview of the State of the Union-
Bush to Say 'America Is Addicted to Oil' in Talk
President Bush, in a push to take charge of the election-year agenda, is expected to say Tuesday that "America is addicted to oil" and must break its dependence on foreign suppliers in unstable parts of the world...

ThinkProgress looks at how this is a familiar tune:
2002: “This Congress must act to encourage conservation, promote technology, build infrastructure, and it must act to increase energy production at home so America is less dependent on foreign oil.”

2003: “Our third goal is to promote energy independence for our country, while dramatically improving the environment. … [We should be] much less dependent on foreign sources of energy.”

2004: “I urge you to pass legislation to modernize our electricity system, promote conservation, and make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy.”

2005: “I urge Congress to pass legislation that makes America more secure and less dependent on foreign energy.”

Plenty of rhetoric, no results: 66 percent of our oil was imported from foreign sources in 2005, up from 58 percent in 2000. If America is addicted to oil, George W. Bush is our dealer.

I'm sure this time he totally means it, though.

Oprah and News Reporters...

...One demands people be held accountable for their lies, the latter doesn't.

The Daily Show looked at this odd phenomenon last night.

Video: A Million Little Laughs

The Truth, The Whole Truth, And Nothing But The Truth

As the Washington Post story about Sen. Feingold challenging Attorney General Gonzales on comments made during his confirmation hearings makes the rounds, the questing being asked is... Did Gonzales perjure himself? The answer seems to be 'yes'. Mr. Gonzales said during the hearings, under oath, that "it is not the policy or the agenda of this president to authorize actions that would be in contravention of our criminal statutes". Of course, Gonzales was very involved in the authorization of the President's wiretapping program which violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (among other things). ThinkProgress explores the misleading statements that have been made.

Via AmericaBlog, here is the AP image of Gonzales being sworn in:

Andrew Sullivan weighs in:
It seems to me clear that the attorney-general lied under oath to the Senate. In his confirmation hearings, he described warrantless wire-tapping of Americans as a "hypothetical situation," when he was fully aware that such wire-tapping was already in place. We impeached a president for perjury about a civil sexual harassment suit. And Gonzales gets to perjure himself in front of the Senate on a basic matter of national security ... and the world yawns?

What he said.

So Congress- We now know the Executive branch's top legal authority is a liar. What are you going to do about this? Many Americans need to know if we are still a country that believes in the rule of law and that there are consequences for those who betray the public's trust. Is anyone on the Capitol keeping score of all of this?

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You (Alito Confirmed)

Well... it's official. Not much to say that hasn't already been covered.

AP: Senate confirms Alito to high court
A sharply divided U.S. Senate on Tuesday confirmed Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, backing a second conservative nominated by President George W. Bush in his effort to move the nation's highest court to the right...

Expect to see Justice Alito highlighted at the State of the Union, a reminder that while the President is screwing up the things that matter (illegal domestic spying, the continuing struggle in Iraq, the Hamas victory, stalling on New Orleans investigations/rebuilding, stonewalling on Abramoff contacts, jobs being moved overseas, etc), he can at least claim one partisan victory under his belt.

For those interested, here's who voted 'No':
Sen. Chafee (R-RI), Sen. Jeffords (I-VT), Sen. Akaka (D- HI), Sen. Baucus (D-MT), Sen. Bayh (D-IN), Sen. Biden (D-DE), Sen. Bingaman (D-NM), Sen. Boxer (D-CA), Sen. Cantwell (D-WA), Sen. Carper (D-DE), Sen. Clinton (D-NY), Sen. Dayton (D-MN), Sen. Dodd (D-CT), Sen. Dorgan (D-ND), Sen. Durbin (D-IL), Sen. Feingold (D-WI), Sen. Feinstein (D-CA), Sen. Harkin (D-IA), Sen. Inouye (D- HI), Sen. Kennedy (D-MA), Sen. Kerry (D-MA), Sen. Kohl (D-WI), Sen. Landrieu (D-LA), Sen. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Sen. Leahy (D-VT), Sen. Levin (D-MI), Sen. Lieberman (D-CT), Sen. Lincoln (D-AK), Sen. Menendez (D-NJ), Sen. Mikulski (D-MD), Sen. Murray (D-WA), Sen. Nelson (D-FL), Sen. Obama (D-Il), Sen. Pryor (D-AR), Sen. Reed (D-RI), Sen. Reid (D-NV), Sen. Rockefeller (D-WV), Sen. Salazar (D-CO), Sen. Sarbanes (D-MD), Sen. Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Stabenow (D-MI), Sen. Wyden (D-OR)

[Related- Washington Post: Kennedy Seen as The Next Justice In Court's Middle

NY Times: In Alito, G.O.P. Reaps Harvest Planted in '82]

Democrats Plan SOTU Response: 'We Quietly Disagree'

The Democrats have selected newly elected Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine to deliver their response to the State of the Union.

On paper, this seems like a nice idea. He's not overly partisan and therefore won't offend anyone, he can appeal to the centrists and Christians that others can't, and his election was heralded last November as positive sign for Democrats as Congress faces midterm elections.

So what's the problem then? Well many are correctly noting that maybe Gov. Kaine is not ready for primetime in terms of oratory ability and credibility. Also, many of his positions (ie. on gay marriage) are not in line with what most Democrats believe. He is also non-critical of the Iraq war, defending it in speeches. I'm not saying the Democratic response should revolve around slamming the President over the war again (there's another time and place for that), but shouldn't the response at least involve a honest assessment of the status of that conflict?

I have nothing against the Governor, he has an important place in the Democratic party, but it seems the sole criteria in selecting him over others of equal status was that he won a red state. Is that the entire agenda of the Democratic party now? To try and win a red state? Big cultural/political shifts help parties win over previously out-of-reach states, not transparent pandering. Why don't the Democrats actually tackle the big issues, stand by their principles no matter how Melhman tries to spin them, and explain to the American people why their party is better and how the Republicans have betrayed them and sold them out... and then they will win a red state. The people are ready to hear that; hey, they've been paying attention.

I disagree with Arianna that Rep. Murtha should have been selected (though her reasons are valid); I personally would've preferred Russ Feingold. Given that we're very close to hearings on the wiretapping scandal (and that issue will likely be the one that finally brings all the President's other imperial misdeeds to the forefront), who better to deliver a response than the Senator who was at the front of the train on those issues before half the Democrats even boarded?

Another Civil Rights Hero Passes Away

Rest in peace, Ms. King

AP: Coretta Scott King Dies at 78

King George's Ownership Society

In his State of the Union tonight, President Bush is set to discuss health care initiatives, specifically health savings accounts "which allow people to set aside tax-free dollars to cover medical expenses". To me, this just sounds too similar to his misguided (and destroyed) Social Security proposal from last year. Now look, I know the conservatives supposedly hate the government controlling all aspects of our lives (except when interfering in a family's personal suffering, telling people who they can and can't marry, etc, etc) and that's all well and good (if practiced correctly), but there are basic things in a modern, civilized society that the government should help to provide for its citizens. Social Security is one. Medical coverage is another. And yet these are things that the President thinks should be made private and left to such random factors as 'market forces'. No one wants the government running our lives, but to help provide for the health of its citizens is a no-brainer, not sending them off to save money they don't have to 'shop around' for privatized medical care. If the government can't even do that, then what good are they? Asking people to take personal responsibility is one thing; asking them to save money they don't have is another. The only people this plan will benefit are likely the ones who already have adequate coverage or savings.

Greg Saunders tackles this issue, stating that "Only a rich kid like the King George would ever think [that] it makes perfect sense for Americans to save up for something they can’t afford". He continues by reposting an earlier entry he did when the President made similar proposals-
I wonder if Bush has ever had to lay all his bills out on the kitchen table and figure out which ones he can pay immediately and which ones can wait until the next paycheck? Or if he’s ever lived in an overcrowded apartment with hand-me-down furniture, eating the same thing six days a week because it’s cheaper? Or if he’s ever had to settle for a job slightly less shitty than the one he had in high school because there weren’t any jobs in the field he majored in? Of if he’s gone through the process of figuring out which generic brand products at the grocery store are as good as the name brands and which ones aren’t?

As most of you know, I’m not just describing poverty here. This is normal life for many Americans. Some live paycheck to paycheck, while others are able to pinch enough pennies to save a few bucks. Either way, most people don’t have thousands of dollars to spare.

Practically speaking, savings accounts for retirement and heath care a huge mistake, but for entirely separate reasons. With the latter, the rub is that health care is expensive. Let’s say you have an medical emergency with costs in the $20-30K range. How long would it take you to save that much? A few years? Even with the vague incentives, we’re still looking at a plan that’s the equivalent of asking every American to buy a new car that he/she may never drive.

Bingo. And that's what an 'ownership society' means in King George's world.

[Related- Budget to Hurt Poor People on Medicaid, Report Says]

Justice O'Connor Bows Out

As Alito nears confirmation, a look back at the O'Connor era on the Court-

USA Today: O'Connor era ends at court, continues in law

"I have NO sympathy for her -- sorry"

For a truly interesting (disturbing?) sociological journey into the mind of Bush's base, read the denizens of FreeRepublic comment on the kidnapping of U.S. journalist Jill Carroll with a mix of indifference and glee-

Free Republic: New Video Shows Kidnapped Reporter Weeping

Alberto Gonzales Is A Liar...

...And Sen. Feingold calls him on it.

Washington Post: Gonzales Is Challenged on Wiretaps-

Feingold Says Attorney General Misled Senators in Hearings

Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) charged yesterday that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales misled the Senate during his confirmation hearing a year ago when he appeared to try to avoid answering a question about whether the president could authorize warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens.

In a letter to the attorney general yesterday, Feingold demanded to know why Gonzales dismissed the senator's question about warrantless eavesdropping as a "hypothetical situation" during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in January 2005...

Alberto, you gots some 'splaining to do.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Putting The War On Terror In Perspective

Joseph Ellis had a great editorial in the NY Times over the weekend offering historical perspective to recent events, posing the question- "[W]here does Sept. 11 rank in the grand sweep of American history as a threat to national security?". He looks at previous conflicts he feels were more threatening "to the survival of the American republic" (Revolutionary War, War of 1812, the Civil War, WWII, and the Cold War/Cuban Missile Crisis) and the believed-to-be-justified abuses of power they spawned.

Finding a Place for 9/11 in American History

Regarding abuses of power (like Bush's use of torture, domestic wiretapping, etc), he concludes-
In retrospect, none of these domestic responses to perceived national security threats looks justifiable. Every history textbook I know describes them as lamentable, excessive, even embarrassing. Some very distinguished American presidents, including John Adams, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, succumbed to quite genuine and widespread popular fears. No historian or biographer has argued that these were their finest hours.

Bold added by me.

In his final conclusion, he further states-
What Patrick Henry once called "the lamp of experience" needs to be brought into the shadowy space in which we have all been living since Sept. 11. My tentative conclusion is that the light it sheds exposes the ghosts and goblins of our traumatized imaginations. It is completely understandable that those who lost loved ones on that date will carry emotional scars for the remainder of their lives. But it defies reason and experience to make Sept. 11 the defining influence on our foreign and domestic policy. History suggests that we have faced greater challenges and triumphed, and that overreaction is a greater danger than complacency.

I concur.

If only some of our nation's more vocal politicians and pundits were old enough (post WWII/early Cold War) to grasp this perspective. Or at least have studied American history well enough to have found it there. Vigorous, strong war on terror? Most definitely. Acting as if we have never faced (and defeated) such threats before and sacrificing the basic tenets of our democracy in the process? Definitely not.

Also- Tom Tomorrow has a good blog about a perilous era Americans lived in... and lived through:
Wide eyed innocents

Steven Milloy Is In Flavor Country

Another journalist found to be on the payroll of people whose propaganda he regurgitated.

And at Fox News, no less! [*slaps cheek*]

New Republic: PUNDIT FOR HIRE-

Smoked Out

State of the Union, Pt. II: Looking Ahead... To More Of The Same

Anyone who's seen all of President Bush's addresses to date knows that he always addresses the same general issues, makes the same empty promises and sweeping generalizations, and spices in a bit of current events to keep it up to date. Plus 9/11 references, gotta have at least a dozen of those. Besides addressing some domestic issues (the aforementioned energy alternatives, repeating the social security idea but with health care instead, etc), the 2006 speech should likely play out as a two-fold political pitch. On one hand, he will try to restore America's faith in the Republican party amid numerous scandals as they face midterm elections this year. Secondly, he will try to save face himself by downplaying bipartisan criticisms of his illegal spying by insisting to Americans that he is the big-time, serious War President who is personally standing between us... and the terrorists. Criticize him at your own peril.

ThinkProgress has compiled a great resource (entitled 'The State of Presidential Credibility') which enumerates "the distortions, misrepresentations and broken promises in Bush’s four previous SOTUs". This includes a detailed document- here- which I highly recommend reading. It breaks it up by issue (health care, terrorism/national security, economy, etc.) and explores previous statements and the reality. They have also created a video (for those who prefer watching to reading) making most of the same points, available here.

They also plan to be all over this year's address.

Dennis Kucinich blogs on his concerns about the State of the Union-
The Truth About The State Of Our Union
...What the President has in store for his message this year is not known yet. But, we do know the President Bush will speak in glowing terms about the state of our union. The truth is the state of our union is in great peril. This Administration is conducting a war with no end in Iraq, illegally spying on Americans at home, overseeing an economy that is increasingly leaving more and more Americans behind and abandoning Gulf in their hour of great need.

If recent history is any precedent, then next week we should see more of the same old dance around reality that has been the hallmark of President Bush's annual address.

And Marty Kaplan asks "Is there a bigger crock than the State of the Union speech?"- State of the State of the Union

The Washington Post explores what's at stake- Bush's Midterm Challenge

Finally... for a preview of the President's address, check out this parody video:
State of the Union 2006 -- Bush Impression

Sounds about right to me.

State of the Union, Pt. I: George W. Bush, Environmental Crusader?

Tomorrow night is the annual State of the Union address from President Bush.

The AP previews one focus of the speech- Bush Speech to Outline Energy Alternatives

Energy alternatives, eh? Shhhh, don't tell Exxon!

If the President truly cared about salvaging a legacy, this should be issue #1.

Shall I hold my breath?

The articles notes that 'In Bush's vision, drivers will stop at hydrogen stations and fill their fuel-cell cars with the pollution-free fuel. Or they would power their engines with ethanol made from trash or corn. More Americans would run their lights at home on solar power'. That sounds like hippie stuff to me! [*pats SUV*] Of course, many Americans have been utilizing these technologies (solar panels, ethanol-based fuel alternatives) for their own uses for many years and the government has never shown much/any enthusiasm for stepping in to mainstream it. In many cases, it has been quite the opposite.

The article also features a quote where the President states he agrees "with Americans who understand being hooked on foreign oil as an economic problem and a national security problem". He does? This is news to me.

So color me positively intriqued, but skeptical. This is a good issue to focus on, but given their record on environmental and energy issues, I can't imagine much being done besides a lot of talking. The article does note that "Bush has been talking about these ideas since his first year in office"... and I note again that he hasn't done much else beside that. I also remember that as Vice President, Al Gore often brought up the need to reduce our oil dependence and look to alternative energies (and proposed timelines to make it possible)- and was smacked down by the GOP Congress and special interests. One would have to be naive to expect better results (or even sincerity) at this point from President Bush.

If I'm powering my car with corn in a year or two, I'll apologize.

'How Partisan Democrats Will Stop At Nothing To Smear President Nixon, Next on Hardball'

Funny blog post imagining Chris Matthews and Joe Scarborough discussing the Watergate scandal (particularly the events of the Saturday night massacre) and what a political winner it is for President Nixon and the Republicans-

Spittle & Ink: If Today's Media Reported Watergate

Check out the photoshopped picture- Groovy, guys!

King George and Prime Minister Cheney: Dissent In Their Ranks

Behold the story of unruly patriots who dared to question the wisdom of our wise and royal leaders...

Newsweek: Palace Revolt-

They were loyal conservatives, and Bush appointees. They fought a quiet battle to rein in the president's power in the war on terror. And they paid a price for it. A NEWSWEEK investigation.

...These Justice Department lawyers, backed by their intrepid boss Comey, had stood up to the hard-liners, centered in the office of the vice president, who wanted to give the president virtually unlimited powers in the war on terror. Demanding that the White House stop using what they saw as farfetched rationales for riding rough-shod over the law and the Constitution, Goldsmith and the others fought to bring government spying and interrogation methods within the law. They did so at their peril; ostracized, some were denied promotions, while others left for more comfortable climes in private law firms and academia. Some went so far as to line up private lawyers in 2004, anticipating that the president's eavesdropping program would draw scrutiny from Congress, if not prosecutors. These government attorneys did not always succeed, but their efforts went a long way toward vindicating the principle of a nation of laws and not men.

The rebels were not whistle-blowers in the traditional sense. They did not want—indeed avoided—publicity ... Rather, they were conservative political appointees who had been friends and close colleagues of some of the true believers they were fighting against. They did not see the struggle in terms of black and white but in shades of gray—as painfully close calls with unavoidable pitfalls. They worried deeply about whether their principles might put Americans at home and abroad at risk. Their story has been obscured behind legalisms and the veil of secrecy over the White House. But it is a quietly dramatic profile in courage...

Off with their heads!

And their opponent inside the royal palace-
The chief opponent of the rebels, though by no means the only one, was an equally obscure, but immensely powerful, lawyer-bureaucrat. Intense, workaholic (even by insane White House standards), David Addington, formerly counsel, now chief of staff to the vice president, is a righteous, ascetic public servant ... Counsel to the vice president is, in most administrations, worth less than the proverbial bucket of warm spit, but under Prime Minister Cheney, it became a vital power center, especially after 9/11.

And where we stand now-
After the electronic eavesdropping program leaked in The New York Times in December 2005, Sen. Arlen Specter announced that the Senate Judiciary Committee would hold hearings that will start next week. The federal courts have increasingly begun resisting absolutist assertions of executive authority in the war on terror. After Cheney's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, pleaded not guilty to perjury charges in the Plame leak case, Addington took Libby's place. He is still a force to be reckoned with in the councils of power. And he still has the ear of the president and vice president; last week Bush was out vigorously defending warrantless eavesdropping. But, thanks to a few quietly determined lawyers, a healthy debate has at last begun.

Healthy? Nay! Such debate is an insult to his majesty! Prepare the gallows! These 'public servants' will pay for their rebellion.

Links of the Day

Ate too many pancakes yesterday... catching up on my bloggin'. Hope your week is well.

Here's some links to start it off-

-ABC journalist injured in Iraq; was sent to Germany for medical care:
ABC's Woodruff, Cameraman Injured in Iraq

-Your tax money at work in Iraq... and will anyone ever be held accountable for this?:
Audit: U.S.-Led Occupation Squandered Aid

-President Bush gives the religious right ("Condoms BAD!") much of the AIDS prevention money. Ugh:
Religious Groups Get Chunk of AIDS Money

To Filibuster Or Not To... Waste One's Political Energies

Sen. Kerry blogs to defend his Alito filibuster efforts:
The Vote Of A Lifetime

Personally, the closer we get, the less and less comfortable I am with this. I'd just as soon go on a date with Jeff Gannon as I would support the dreadful nomination of Samuel "I bow to the unitary executive" Alito. But a filibuster is not a viable alternative at this point. Kerry and the others supporting it just aren't organized enough to pull it off (the fact that you had Kerry calling for it and Reid denouncing it on the same day proves this) and they don't have the votes. It's a simple numbers game. Also, they don't have an angry public to fall back on for support, as the general public seems more confused by Alito than anything. I'm all for standing up for your beliefs and not being afraid to do so in the face of defeat, but this is one case where it can accomplish nothing for them. The filibustering Democrats will not look like principle heroes fighting the good fight, the Republicans will ensure they come off like losers and the braindead media will assist in that point of view.

If Kerry and co. can convince some sane Republicans to put the party line aside and join them, then go for it, otherwise don't bother. Of course, when Alito sells us all out, we will remember who did and didn't vote for him. I believe that this energy would be better used to convince enough Senators to vote 'no'.

John at AmericaBlog tackles this issue in length- Why I Oppose the Filibuster

We Do Not Negotiate With Terrorists...

...But insurgents, well sure why not?

Newsweek: Exclusive: Direct Talks—U.S. Officials and Iraqi Insurgents
American officials in Iraq are in face-to-face talks with high-level Iraqi Sunni insurgents, NEWSWEEK has learned. Americans are sitting down with "senior members of the leadership" of the Iraqi insurgency, according to Americans and Iraqis with knowledge of the talks (who did not want to be identified when discussing a sensitive and ongoing matter). The talks are taking place at U.S. military bases in Anbar province, as well as in Jordan and Syria. "Now we have won over the Sunni political leadership," says U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. "The next step is to win over the insurgents."...

Hey, all kidding aside, I'm for almost anything that can get this over with sooner rather than later. If talking means less killing, talk away guys! The article also notes that the U.S. and Iraqi insurgent groups share a dislike and fear of Iran (which the leading Shiite party has ties to), which is one area the two sides could find common ground on.

Sen. Hagel: Bush “Can’t Unilaterally Decide That A 1978 Law Is Out of Date And... Violate The Law”

Sen. Chuck Hagel joins a growing list of Republicans opposed to the President's law breaking-
Karl Rove wants the American public to believe only one political party disagrees with Bush’s warrantless domestic spying program. But this morning on ABC’s This Week, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) said the program was illegal:

HAGEL: I don’t believe, from what I’ve heard, but I’m going to give the administration an opportunity to explain it, that he has the authority now to do what he’s doing. Now, maybe he can convince me otherwise, but that’s OK.


HAGEL: Not yet. But that’s OK. If he needs more authority, he just can’t unilaterally decide that that 1978 law is out of date and he will be the guardian of America and he will violate that law. He needs to come back, work with us, work with the courts if he has to, and we will do what we need to do to protect the civil liberties of this country and the national security of this country.

Crooks and Liars has video.

Sunday, January 29, 2006


How The Hamas Victory Refutes The Bush Foreign Policy Myth

In the days since the shocking Hamas electoral victory in Palestine, most of the world has reacted with shock and concern. The big exception seemed to be President Bush, who sidestepped the issue for the most part. He was speaking cluelessly in Thursday's press conference about "watching liberty begin to spread across the Middle East". His administration didn't share such sentiments, as Sec. of State Rice was quick to make clear the U.S. would not deal with Hamas unless they changed their positions. Many people (including moderate conservatives like Andrew Sullivan) noted that this victory represented the crumbling of the Bush foreign policy foundation- that forcing democracy into the Middle East will bring about peace and marginalize terrorists- and a huge setback for Mideast peace. But the Bush P.R. machine had to avoid overall negativity (or risk acknowledging this loss for his foreign policy) and this was reflected amongst the opinions of his most loyal supporters who shrugged their shoulders with a "hey, sometimes in democracy you don't get the winners you like" sentiment. This sentiment ignores that the Hamas victory was the latest in a growing trend of fundamentalist Mideast victories after similar ones in countries like Egypt and Iran (and to a lesser extent, the overwhelming Shiite victory in Iraq). The people of the Mideast do not desire our style of government... agree or disagree with their stance, it must at least be acknowledged.

Those wishing (such as National Review editor John O'Sullivan on this week's 'Left, Right, and Center') to defend the Bush foreign policy, and look for the silver lining in this cloud, opined that this is an unavoidable, necessary step in the slow road to peace- the terrible twos of democracy, if you will. This position holds that the people of Palestine do want reform and that's why they threw out a corrupt government. And now that they have put Hamas in power, the bluff will be called and Hamas will actually have to fulfill the basic needs of government, leaving less time for terrorism. If it doesn't work, the pundits posit, the system will simply self-correct, as the people can just replace the government in the next elections. It's an optimistic point of view, but is it also hopelessly naive? It assumes that the reason Palestinians elected Hamas was because of reform... and not as a violent 'fuck you' to the West. It also assumes that such a radical change will foster a self-correcting political environment. Hopefully, their optimism will trump harsh reality. Still, the Bush democracy-plan for the Mideast never pitched interim terrorist governments that would hopefully collapse under their own inability to govern as the Soviet Union did after 50 years.

More importantly, this attitude of 'Hey democracy doesn't always work the way you like, but the people have made a choice, and they must correct it themselves' directly refutes the rationale for the invasion of Iraq (the current removing-Saddam-to-liberate-the-people one, not the original WMD and Al Qaeda one). By this current attitude toward Hamas, the U.S.'s attitude toward Iraq should've been that Saddam Hussein was a democratically elected madman who we avoid relationships with, but was a problem for the people of Iraq to 'self-correct' either democratically or through other means. If we accept that democracy must be allowed to take its course (even if unpleasant results occur) and people are responsible for correcting problems electorally, was Hussein then not our concern, but that of the Iraqi people? Saddam Hussein was not a threat to the U.S., this is accepted fact now, we invaded to remove a leader who was politically our enemy and to nation-build in that country. I mean this not to defend Hussein's barbaric dictatorship in any way, but to note the hypocrisy in policy. We see this same hypocrisy in the hostile way the Bush administration is dealing with Venezuala's Hugo Chavez.

The Bush foreign policy myth is thus exposed on two levels- that invading Iraq was never an altruistic desire to liberate oppressed peoples of a secular society, and that the idea that you can force democracy upon a hostile region and bring about peace is a farce. As Sullivan noted, the Hamas victory "represents one critical pillar beneath the Bush foreign policy crumbling into dust".

Or if you live in the President's world- "liberty begin to spread across the Middle East".