Saturday, February 18, 2006

Bush's Flawed Policy

To say that the Bush administration's neoconservative policy of redrawing the ideological map of the Middle East by militarily forcing democracy into an unstable region has been a failure should be obvious now. Sure, there remains a possibility/hope that the people of that region will ultimately move away from radicalism and slowly adapt to more Western styles of democracy, but that should've been their decision, and their decision alone, from the beginning. Our heavy-handed (and clumsy) interference in the Middle East has increased the very problems we sought to eliminate. The fact that President Bush and his followers still perpetuate this democracy-spreading = peace myth while simultaneously working to undermine the newly elected governments of the region shows the arrogance at the heart of this policy.

Shibley Telhami (a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland) had a good column recently in the Washington Post where he explored this issue and the lack of options available-
The reality shown by Hamas's victory in the Palestinian elections is this: If fully free elections were held today in the rest of the Arab world, Islamist parties would win in most states. Even with intensive international efforts to support "civil society" and nongovernmental organizations, elections in five years would probably yield the same results. The notion, popular in Washington over the past few years, that American programs and efforts can help build a third alternative to both current governments and Islamists is simply a delusion...

...Whatever the message of American foreign policy on democracy, it has not been clear in the Middle East. Most Arab governments see the American advocacy of democracy as primarily aimed at pressuring them to cooperate on strategic issues (such as Iraq, the war on terrorism and the Palestinian-Israeli issue) and at diverting attention from the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The majority of Arabs surveyed in our poll do not believe that the United States is serious about the pursuit of democracy and that the Middle East is even less democratic than it was before the Iraq war.

These statements may sound harsh to some, but it is the reality that is more and more being accepted. Henry Hyde, the Republican Chairman of the House International Relations Committee, openly questioned recently the "magic formula of democracy" the Bush administration has tried to sell, stating such a notion requires "an open-ended commitment of time and resources, which we cannot and will not do". This cautionary stance is becoming increasingly accepted on the Hill.

Despite this, most would agree that a peaceful Middle East is something worth fighting for (though not in the Bush/military/shock-and-awe way). So is there any good way to help achieve this goal with risking a further destabilization of the region? Telhami ponders this question-
Given this, skepticism about the real aims of these groups should be balanced by openness to the possibility that their aims once they are in power could differ from their aims as opposition groups. This requires partial engagement, patience, and a willingness to allow such new governments space and time to put their goals to the test of reality. Hamas, in fact, could provide a place for testing whether careful engagement leads to moderation.

If we are not willing to engage, there is only one alternative: to rethink the policy of accelerated electoral democracy and focus on a more incremental approach of institutional and economic reform of existing governments. There is no realistic third party that's likely to emerge anytime soon.

Such a more relaxed, cooperative approach might not be the policy of choice for some in the administration (ie. Rumsfeld), but I believe it is one that others (ie. Rice) are more predisposed to embrace. As Chris Matthews noted on a recent Hardball, most of the hawks have fled the administration after the Iraq war began to crumble. Hiding out at the World Bank is certainly preferable when the American people start demanding accountability for the war. That could be a good sign that at least some people, if not Bush himself, have learned their lesson. Time will tell on that one as we watch how the Iran situation is handled.

[PS- The LA Times has a look at how the Iraq war has strengthened Iran.]

Pat 'Flip Flop' Roberts: I Was For Oversight Before I Was Against It

Sen. Pat Roberts struggles between his desire for oversights and his loyalty to the White House...

Yesterday: Senate Chairman Splits With Bush on Spy Program (NY Times)
The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Friday that he wanted the Bush administration's domestic eavesdropping program brought under the authority of a special intelligence court, a move President Bush has argued is not necessary...

But just as quick, a clarification-

Today: Senator Wants Court to Oversee Spy Program (AP)
But less than a day later, a top aide to Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., sought to clarify his position...

...The Senate Intelligence Committee's majority staff director, Bill Duhnke, said the Times story did not reflect "the tenor and status" of the negotiations between Congress and the White House, as well as within Congress.

Duhnke said Roberts is looking at changes within the federal law but not necessarily involving the approval of the court.

Thanks for clarifying, sir. Say hi to Karl for me.

[PS- For those worried about where this scandal is headed, Glenn Greenwald urges patience:
The Long Hard Slog ]

Paging The Democrats...

Elizabeth Wilner and Chuck Todd at the Washington Post believe the Democrats can learn a lesson from the '94 election. The question is- Are the Democrats paying attention? My guess is no. I hope I am wrong.

Dems Need A Newt Of Their Own-

The Party Can't Have a Revolution Without the Revolutionaries

Links of the Day

Anyone else see Bill Maher last night? Wasn't too impressed; seemed all over the map.

Oh well. Here's some links...

-In a town that could really use a party, it's Mardi Gras time once more:
Mardi Gras rolls on in storm-weary New Orleans

-Jesus Christ: Republican Activist is kicking ass, but mostly taking names:
In N.C., GOP Requests Church Directories

-The Muslim cartoon protests come to NYC; all fast-food locales remain unharmed:
More Than 1,000 Protest Cartoon Depiction of Prophet

PS- This look at Duke Cunningham's crimes is quite illuminating.

Non Sequitur

The Empire Spins Back

One of the political themes that has bothered me in the past few years is the conservatives portraying themselves as the underdog (ie. the 'liberal media' complaints). Somehow, in our current political climate, Christian conservatives Republicans are still being persecuted by the people in power, which is... not them, apparently.

On this note, the Daily Show did a funny bit on a video that was shown at the annual Republican party retreat with House leaders. The video was a parody of 'Star Wars' featuring the rebels trying to destroy to Darth Nancy (Pelosi) and her evil Democrat Empire. If they band together, these rebel incumbents can thwart Darth Nancy and her Death Star of democratic change. Jon Stewart had this to say on the video-

"I got news for you. If we're gonna do the 'Star Wars' analogy, the Democrats are at best Ewoks. At best. Believe me, you'd be pumping up their egos to call them Jawas. Why can't the Republicans just admit it- You're in charge! You control the White House, both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court. You're not a bunch of ragtag rebels fighting the Empire. You're the Empire."

See video here- Headlines: 'Use The Force'

[PS- Stewart has shot down this notion before, in his interview with Bush fanboy Fred Barnes.]

Friday, February 17, 2006

It's Time For... New Rules!

Real Time w/ Bill Maher is back. Set your VCR/Tivo/DVR.

Tonight's guests: Sen. Russ Feingold, commentator Fred Barnes, actor Eddie Griffin, reporter Helen Thomas, and Iraq advisor Dan Senor. Something tells me Bill and this crew will have no shortage of topics to discuss.

Bill has a preview video: New Rules: Season 4 Preview

Yea, I'm a little too excited for the show. So what?

Might As Well Face It, You're Addicted To Oil

The NY Times has a story about how a 1996 law (passed during the Clinton administration and later expanded by the Bush administration) is resulting in a huge windfall for oil companies who get oil from public lands:
U.S. Has Royalty Plan to Give Windfall to Oil Companies
The federal government is on the verge of one of the biggest giveaways of oil and gas in American history, worth an estimated $7 billion over five years.

Royalty-Free Oil and Gas New projections, buried in the Interior Department's just-published budget plan, anticipate that the government will let companies pump about $65 billion worth of oil and natural gas from federal territory over the next five years without paying any royalties to the government...

Have we reached a crazy point when Arnold Schwarzenegger is the sensible one?-
Governor to push global warming fight
Bold policy gambits expected in bid to lower greenhouse gases
(San Francisco Chronicle)
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration is expected this month to release a plan to combat global warming that recommends raising petroleum prices and requiring industries to report, for the first time, their greenhouse gas emissions.

The increase in gas prices would fund research into alternative fuels.

The question is- Does he mean it literally?

[PS- Rep. Ed Markey has a good blog post on this-
White House- 'Addicted to Oil' or 'Conflicted by Oil'?]

Fightin' Dems

Earlier this week, I wrote about the Democrats' odd move to force out Iraq war vet Paul Hackett from his Senate seat in favor of a more established candidate. Such a move, I stated, was antithetical to the 'party of change' motto they are running with this year. But Hackett was not the only Iraq war veteran running under the Democratic ticket this year; there are about a dozen currently running. There are over 50 veterans (of all wars) running for Congressional positions as Democrats this November.

Though their presence in the race underscores what an unpopular issue the war is for Republicans, they are not running on a platform solely based around the war. Their agenda is diverse and well-outlined. The party would do well to show them a little more love.

AP: Iraq war veterans fight for US Congress seats
Iraq war veterans are set to make their mark on the campaign for US congressional elections this year that could see President George W. Bush's Republican Party lose control.

About a dozen candidates who have fought in Iraq are running in the November midterm election, including Asian-American helicopter pilot Ladda "Tammy" Duckworth, who lost both legs when she was shot down in 2004.

Nearly all of those who have been in Iraq are political neophytes. And despite a US military that has a pronounced Republican leaning, most of the contenders are Democrats...

Let's hope Charles Schumer leaves these ones alone.

Ari Berman also has a good column at The Nation on these candidates:
Fightin' Dems

Port Insecurity?

Here's an interesting tidbit I came across in my travels... A United Arab Emirates-based company now has control of several NY ports. Many people (including many in Congress) are concerned by this move because of known terrorist connections the United Arab Emirates have. Personally, I'd need more info before rushing to judgment, but I definitely understand the concerns. We are conveniently 'friendly' with many nations (ie. Saudi Arabia) that have ties to terrorism. This may be one of the crazier examples of that to come to light recently. Surely there are U.S. companies that could operate these ports, no?

The NY Times has the information on this story:
Despite Fears, a Dubai Company Will Help Run Ports in New York

Links of the Day

Thank God It's Links...

-Mudslides in the Philippines leave fears of hundreds dead
Mudslide rescue suspended for night

-Benefits? We don't offer no stinkin' benefits. A look inside Walmart:
On Private Web Site, Wal-Mart Chief Talks Tough

-Finally, a more detailed look at the cost of the military's anti-gay policies:
More Details on the Financial Cost of DADT

Checking and Balancing

Sad proof that some Republicans are scared of the 39% approval rating President and his hired goon Karl...

NY Times: Senate Panel Decides Against Eavesdropping Inquiry, for Now
The Senate Intelligence Committee decided today not to investigate President Bush's domestic surveillance program, at least for the time being...

...Mr. Roberts said "an agreement in principle" had been reached with the administration whereby lawmakers would be given more information on the surveillance operation run by the National Security Agency...

Yes, you read that right. A few Senate Republicans in that Committee are willing to give the President a pass on illegal actions and potential Constitutional violations (and help make it easier for him to do so) if they just promise (pretty please!) to be a little more open with them on what he is up to. Hey Senator Roberts, we have this thing here in America called "separation of powers" and "checks and balances", meaning the very fact that you have to ask and make lop-sided bargains with the White House to get them to fulfill their legal duties shows that we have a problem.

This is the problem with one-party government. No self-respecting conservative would be so okay, let alone eager, with such an increasingly imperial President. It goes against their core beliefs (of course, so does much of what Bush does). But it is a Republican President and is an election year, so they comply. If there was a Democrat in the White House, we'd have multiple investigations, a special prosecutor, and real impeachment buzz by now. Forget Jack Abramoff, this is the real corruption of Congress- corruption of basic Constitutional principles.

At least we have still have the Senate Judiciary Committee's ongoing hearings, because as reported in the Washington Post yesterday, Sen. Specter still intends to call former Attorney General John D. Ashcroft and former Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey to testify (despite objections from Alberto Gonzales). Specter plans to inquire about the legal issues in the case, including objections made by Comey and others who warned the White House their program was illegal. Stay tuned for more on that.

The Times article also states-
While Mr. Roberts's announcement signaled that the administration's eavesdropping program would not be subject to Senate scrutiny, at least for the time being, there was no guarantee that the House would not go ahead with an inquiry of its own.

Well bad news for that spineless royal servant Pat Roberts, because...

NY Times: Accord in House to Hold Inquiry on Surveillance
Leaders of the House Intelligence Committee said Thursday that they had agreed to open a Congressional inquiry prompted by the Bush administration's domestic surveillance program. But a dispute immediately broke out among committee Republicans over the scope of the inquiry.

Representative Heather A. Wilson, the New Mexico Republican and committee member who called last week for the investigation, said the review "will have multiple avenues, because we want to completely understand the program and move forward."

So this issue is not over yet.

The Times article also states that "For weeks, the Bush administration has been strongly resisting calls from Democrats and some Republicans for a full review into the National Security Agency's surveillance program". Glenn Greenwald notes that this strong effort to fight inquiries (including political threats from Karl Rove and strongarming from Vice President Cheney) contradicts their assertion that they welcome the debate because it will benefit them politically. They claim that somehow this scandal will be a "winner" for them. Yet, as he notes, "they are doing everything they can to kill the scandal and make it go away. Isn't it obvious that they fear the scandal and realize it has the potential to do great harm? Why else would they be trying to suppress these investigations? Is Karl Rove's childish bravado really that blinding that it can erase basic logic?".

The White House knows they have done something wrong; they know they are in trouble here. A new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows that the majority now believe that Bush broke the law by authorizing warrantless wiretaps. But they cannot act like they have have done anything wrong. So they stand tough, asserting that they had the legal authority the whole time and that this scandal will once again prove what tough guys they are.

That remains to be seen, but it's clear their efforts to kill this story is meeting genuine resistance.

"We Do Not Torture"

Salon has even more new pictures of the Bush/Rumsfeld policy at work...

Warning: Some pretty graphic stuff

Salon exclusive: The Abu Ghraib files

Never-published photos, and an internal Army report, show more Iraqi prisoner abuse -- evidence the government is fighting to hide.

Scotty Theatre

[Hat tip for cartoon- State of the Day]

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Justice Department Ordered To Release Spy Program Documents

This too is a big deal...

AP: Judge Orders Action on Spying Documents
A federal judge dealt a setback to the Bush administration on its warrantless surveillance program, ordering the Justice Department on Thursday to release documents about the highly classified effort within 20 days or compile a list of what it is withholding...

Glenn Greenwald (who's been all over this story like white on a Republican senator) dissects this decision in detail, including what could happen from here (he obviously expects an appeal). In a nutshell, here's how this started-
On the very day the New York Times first disclosed the existence of the warrantless eavesdropping program, The Electronic Privacy Information Center ("EPIC") filed a Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") request with the Justice Department seeking the disclosure of four categories of documents relating to the NSA program, including documents reflecting the method used to determine which American citizens were eavesdropped on, as well as documents pertaining to the legal "justifications" for the Administration's eavesdropping program.

The Justice Dept. ultimately didn't comply and... here we are now.

As Glenn notes, the Court's decision states that-
[A] meaningful and truly democratic debate on the legality and propriety of the warrantless surveillance program cannot be based solely upon information that the Administration voluntarily chooses to disseminate.

His majesty will not be pleased.

This may, of course, end up going nowhere, but it's a good sign of a genuine pushback...

PS- Greenwald has two other great columns on this scandal this week:
-The NSA Scandal and public opinion myths
-The NSA scandal grows & other matters

Highly recommended reads. Print them out, share them with friends.

Dick Cheney: A Law Unto Himself

Most legal scholars might take issue with this, but the Vice President insists that he has the power to declassify government secrets at will (depending on how it suits his political needs at the time). This assertion will likely be crucial to the countering the Plamegate prosecution, because if Cheney can insist that any information passed to reporters had been personally declassified beforehand, then it will become harder to prosecute on national security violations.

Yes, that's BushCo- Abusing national security matters for personal gain since 2001.

AP: Cheney Says He Can Declassify Secrets
Vice President Dick Cheney says he has the power to declassify government secrets, raising the possibility that he authorized his former chief of staff to pass along sensitive prewar data on Iraq to reporters...

Byron York has an excellent column at National Review exploring this matter. The Executive Order from which Cheney's claims to this odd authority originates is Executive Order 13292, issued by President Bush on March 25, 2003. While such power was previously only held by the President, this Order also grants it to the Vice President. The Order only specifically mentions the power to classify, but Cheney appears to be using a broader interpretation of it to grant the power to declassify as well. Pretty serious, and scary, stuff.

While York doesn't specifically address it, the timing of this Executive Order is the key to this story. The Order was signed by Bush right around the time the war began (and as their WMD case began to crumble almost immediately). Then, a few months later, after Wilson's criticism goes public with his NY Times article, administration officials leak the Plame identity to reporters. No doubt the White House wanted to give itself the tools necessary to deal with the fallout from that. As Andrew Sullivan notes, "the circumstantial evidence seems pretty clear to me that the president gave the vice-president constitutional authority to smear Joseph Wilson. It also seems to me that this is a big deal."

Well, no disagreement there.

The Washington Note's Steve Clemons also tackles this issue:
Can Cheney be His Own Declassification Machine?

The question for the media- Will this get the attention you gave the Whittington matter? I'm skeptical.

[PS- This headline says it all- Cheney Mishap Takes Focus Off CIA Leak]

I'll Have Roses of the Prophet Muhammad With A Side Of Freedom Fries, Please

Proof that Iranian and U.S. leaders have the same grade-school reaction to imaginary enemies...

So nice to have something in common, no?

AP: Iran Renames Danish Pastries

Links of the Day

Enjoy your links, don't spend 'em all in one place...

-The U.N. urges the closing of Guantanamo; the U.S. refuses:
U.N. Report Urges Gitmo Shutdown

-Is the Justice Department probing its own behavior in the NSA scandal?:
Justice Dept. is probing OK for Bush's spying

-Finally, more info on the Bush administration's effort to hinder scientific research:
Call for Openness at NASA Adds to Reports of Pressure

Riddle Me This, Infidel

Batman faces his most deadly enemy yet. No, not Clayface... Al-Qaeda.

My money's on Batman.

AP: "Holy Terror, Batman!" Superhero takes on Al-Qaeda

Newly discovered tapes reveal that...

...Saddam Hussein was an evil man who hated the United States. Wow!

Hey libs, what do you think of your boyfriend Saddam now?

These tapes totally justify this clusterfuck of a war! [*high-fives fellow Freeper*] Half a trillion dollars well spent. After all, what Saddam was doing 10 years ago before all the sanctions and air strikes crippled what was left of his power totally has relevance to George W. Bush's decisions in 2003! The very fact that he was even thinking about hurting us (which we totally did not know before already) is more than enough justification to invade a whole nation. Being the only world leader who has ever hated the United States, Saddam was definitely the right person to go after in lieu of Osama bin Laden. Plus he said the word "terrorism" while discussing us in the mid-90s so obviously he knew about 9/11 because, after all, terrorism was only a hypothetical concept at that point and the idea of it in the United States was unheard of! We finally got our smoking gun (and it didn't even need to come in the form of a mushroom cloud)! This is why a spokesperson for the national intelligence director said that "while fascinating, from a historical perspective the tapes do not reveal anything that changes their post-war analysis of Iraq's weapons programs nor do they change the findings contained in the comprehensive Iraq Survey group report". Oh. Hmmm.

Well we've been grasping at straws for three years, so we'll take anything! [*turns on Fox for validation*]

Man I am so glad we started this war.

And it's working out so well too!!!

[*passes out from mental exhaustion*]

President George W. Bush: Uniting Americans...

...Against him.

Two concerned Americans raise questions about the President's actions-

Sen. Byrd gave a speech yesterday in the Senate. Some highlights:
...We cannot continue to claim that we are a nation of laws and not of men if our laws and, indeed, even the Constitution of the United States itself, may be summarily breached because of some determination of expediency or because the President says “trust me.”....

...When such practices are sanctioned by our own President, what is the message we are sending to other countries which the United States is trying to convince to adopt our system? It must be painfully obvious to them that a President, who can spy at will on any citizen, is very unlike the model of democracy that the Administration is trying to sell abroad.

In the name of “fighting terror” are we to sacrifice every freedom to a President’s demand? How far are we to go? Can a President order warrantless house-by-house searches of a neighborhood, where he suspects a terrorist may be hiding? Can he impose new restrictions on what can be printed, broadcast, or even uttered privately, because of some perceived threat to national security? Laughable thoughts? I think not. For this Administration has so traumatized the people of this nation -- and many in the Congress -- that some will swallow whole whatever rubbish that is spewed from this White House, as long as it is in some tenuous way connected to the so-called war on terror.

And the phrase, “war on terror,” while catchy, certainly is a misnomer. Terror is a tactic used by all manner of violent organizations to achieve their goals. It has been around since time began, and will likely be with us on the last day of planet Earth. We were attacked by Bin Laden and by his organization Al Qaeda. If anything, what we are engaged in should, more properly, be called, a war on the Al Qaeda network. But, that is too limiting for an Administration that loves power as much as this one...

Sen. Byrd urges all to forget politician affiliation and demand the restoring of Constitutional sanity.

It is now up to the Senate/House Republicans to decide if they're loyal to their party or the country.

And conservative staple George Will has his take on the President's authority, although obviously his feelings aren't as strong as the Senator's. After all, he just wants to help-
No Checks, Many Imbalances
The next time a president asks Congress to pass something akin to what Congress passed on Sept. 14, 2001 -- the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) -- the resulting legislation might be longer than Proust's "Remembrance of Things Past." Congress, remembering what is happening today, might stipulate all the statutes and constitutional understandings that it does not intend the act to repeal or supersede...

...Besides, terrorism is not the only new danger of this era. Another is the administration's argument that because the president is commander in chief, he is the "sole organ for the nation in foreign affairs." That non sequitur is refuted by the Constitution's plain language, which empowers Congress to ratify treaties, declare war, fund and regulate military forces, and make laws "necessary and proper" for the execution of all presidential powers . Those powers do not include deciding that a law -- FISA, for example -- is somehow exempted from the presidential duty to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed."...


I trust these two dangerous terrorists will be put on the list immediately.

Red Alert, All Cronies On Deck

As we'll see in the next post, bipartisan criticism of Bush's imperial overreaching continues...

Better raise the alert level!

[Hat tip for image- PSoTD]

Tony Blair: The Other George W. Bush

Dishonesty, using fear to manipulate, political ineptitude... I'd hate to have leaders like that.

The Independent (UK): The politics of fear (or how Tony Blair misled us over the war on terror)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Vice President Cheney Still Refuses To Address The Public...

...He'll speak to his pal Brit Hume on Fox News tonight instead.

Excerpts indicate the interview is very sympathetic to Cheney who is, by the way, very sorry.

[PS- The Vice President would like to again thank the press and the public on behalf of the White House for continuing to focus on this story as if it's the most scandalous thing this administration has ever done, let alone has done just this week alone. The unintentional distraction/cover they have provided is appreciated this week with new revelations about the CIA leak conspiracy, continuing news on domestic spying and polls showing public opposition, the scathing Congressional Katrina report, continuing bipartisan concern about Iraq, the Abramoff fallout, budget concerns, unrest in the Middle East, falling post-State of the Union poll numbers, and new Abu Ghraib torture pictures threatening to infect the blissfully preoccupied minds of Americans everywhere. Excellent job all around by the media.]

Links of the Day

So how about those Abu Ghraib pictures, huh? Amazing how bloody those fraternity hijinks can get, no?

-NSA whistleblower Russell Tice speaks of an even worse spying program:
Whistleblower says NSA violations bigger

-Michael Chertoff promises "Wow, I totally won't fuck up as much next time!". Thanks, Mike:
Chertoff Says He'd Do Things Differently

-Finally, President Bush discusses health care at... Wendys' headquarters?:
Bush on Health Care, Biggie-Sized

White House Tries To Kill Spying Probe

Does Congress still care about check or balances? Or even their own relevancy? We'll see...

Washington Post: Congressional Probe of NSA Spying Is in Doubt-
White House Sways Some GOP Lawmakers

Congress appeared ready to launch an investigation into the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program last week, but an all-out White House lobbying campaign has dramatically slowed the effort and may kill it, key Republican and Democratic sources said yesterday.

The Senate intelligence committee is scheduled to vote tomorrow on a Democratic-sponsored motion to start an inquiry into the recently revealed program in which the National Security Agency eavesdrops on an undisclosed number of phone calls and e-mails involving U.S. residents without obtaining warrants from a secret court. Two committee Democrats said the panel -- made up of eight Republicans and seven Democrats -- was clearly leaning in favor of the motion last week but now is closely divided and possibly inclined against it...

For weeks we've seen Republican senators very concerned with the President's action and demanding inquiries.

Why the change now? Well-
They attributed the shift to last week's closed briefings given by top administration officials to the full House and Senate intelligence committees, and to private appeals to wavering GOP senators by officials, including Vice President Cheney...

...Sources close to Rockefeller say he is frustrated by what he sees as heavy-handed White House efforts to dissuade Republicans from supporting his measure. They noted that Cheney conducted a Republicans-only meeting on intelligence matters in the Capitol yesterday.

You read that right. Yesterday, Vice President Cheney was still hiding from the press after nearly killing a 78 year old man, but took the time to strongarm Republican senators into backing off the spying probe. That's classic Cheney.

I weep for our poor little democracy.

A Failure of Initiative

A 520-page report on Katrina, titled "A Failure of Initiative", is being released today.

The AP has details:
House Probe Blasts Katrina Preparation
The deaths and suffering of thousands of Hurricane Katrina's victims might have been avoided if the government had heeded lessons from the 2001 terror attacks and taken a proactive stance toward disaster preparedness, a House inquiry concludes...

President Bush can be seen looking down on the report here-

[See also Village Voice- Water, Logged
Document by document, inquiry skewers Bush's Katrina cover-up

Just A Few Bad Apples

More Abu Ghraib abuse photos have been uncovered-

The photos America doesn't want seen

I'm sure someone will be held accountable for this any day now. Yep, any day now...

Racist Rush

Rush Limbaugh, giving his own take on the Paul Hackett story, says that the Democrats are only pushing Rep. Sherrod Brown because he is black. He even chides the NY Times for not reporting that he is black! Sherrod Brown is, of course... white. Gee, what might cause Rush to think Sherrod Brown is an African-American? Probably the same honest mistake that would cause to call the Mayor of New Orleans "Mayor Naygar". Honest mistake(s); could've happened to anyone.

Audio here- Is Rush On The Stuff Again?.

The Muslim Cartoon Rioters Have Gone Too Far...

...They are attacking our beloved fast food icons.

If there is one thing Americans will not stand for, it's someone threatening their fast food.

They also went after Pizza Hut!

AP: Cartoon Protesters Rampage in Pakistan

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Vice President Missing, News At 11

I know I am breaking my own admonition from my previous post about not obsessing on the Cheney shooting story and focusing on the larger crimes of this administration, but I thought this update was worth noting-

AP: Hunter Shot by Cheney Has Heart Attack

I guess it's time to stop joking.

In addition to this news, it was reported that many of the pellets will be stuck inside him forever. Obviously this incident was more serious than the White House is admitting (but we're used to that by now). And there are lots of questions about the timeline, including suggestions that Mr. Cheney may have been intoxicated at the time of the shooting (explaining the delay before authorities arrived and were able to actually speak to Cheney or anyone beside the ranch owner). Once again, the White House has brought this speculation upon themselves with their lack of honesty and openness.

And a bigger question is begged: Where is the Vice President?!!

Why is it that whenever something big like this goes down involving his office (ie. Libby's indictment, etc), the Vice President is nowhere to be seen and little to no chatter comes forth from his office? Doesn't Mr. Cheney have an obligation to explain himself and clarify the story for the media? In previous administrations, an incident like this would've required an immediate and public press conference from the Vice President to issue a statement (imagine the right-wing outrage if Al Gore had shot someone and then gone into hiding). In George and Dick's America, that is no longer the case. Such formalities are disregarded in favor of spin and secrecy. It is the new standard in their America to have a shadowy Executive branch which answers to no one, has little to no legal obligations, and only appears before the public when they deem it necessary for their own needs.

They have done far worse than this, but once again remain accountable to no one for their actions. Perhaps it's time for the press to declare joke time over and demand that the White House treat this matter seriously and bring the Vice President out from his undisclosed location. He did shoot someone in the face, ya know.

Democrats Push Hackett Out Of Senate Race

The Democrats just don't get it.

Here's the backstory: Paul Hackett is a longtime Marine who decided to run for Congress in his native Ohio last year after returning from duty in Iraq. In that special election, he came very close to defeating 'Mean Jean' Schmidt in a highly Republican district. Many Democrats rallied around him after this. He decided to run again this year, this time for Mike DeWine's Senate seat. His candidacy was creating a good amount of buzz. Until today...

AP: Iraq Vet Abandons Ohio Political Bid
Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett, a Bush administration critic who had been recruited by top Democrats to run for U.S. Senate, said Tuesday he was reluctantly dropping his campaign and declared his political career over.

Hackett said he was pressured by party leaders to drop out of the Senate primary and run for the House against Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt instead...

At this time, Hackett says he won't go back to the congressional race and is done with politics all together. You can read his statement on this at Talking Points Memo. Hackett says key Democrats were concerned about his chances in this key election and decided to go for a safer candidate... meaning someone with a bigger campaign treasure chest. I understand that logic, but then why not just help Hackett raise more money? I think that this was a mistake. The Democrats just aren't seeing the bigger picture of the political landscape.

Americans are not just tired of corrupt Republicans, they are also tired of career politicians in general. They just feel detached from the whole system, which they see as having little or no connection to their own lives (this is, obviously, far from the truth). Outsider candidates like Hackett should've been put front-and-center by the Democrats as the new face of the party. They have no connections to lobbyists, no loyalty to corporations or thinktanks, and are not yet beholden to any special interests. As I mentioned in a post last Thursday, former Sen. Max Cleland is rallying with a band of veterans joining the congressional fight in races all over the nation. Candidates like this not only provide a fresh voice, but have strong credibility on national security. But the Democratic leadership (Dean, Reid, Pelosi) have made not mention of these "fighting Democrats" and their role in the '06 campaign, in the same way they are ignoring Rep. Murtha, the only Democrat to go public with a clear and workable opposition strategy for Iraq. Instead, the Democratic leadership insist on pushing their own, in-house candidates.

They think they can cruise to victory on anti-Republican sentiment alone, as was their essential strategy in the 2004 presidential election. And how'd that work out?

This should be an easy election for the Democrats to win; at very few points in recent history has the other party been so mired in scandals. And not just little ones either. Big scandals. Big, and important, scandals. The Democrats say they will be running as the party of change. That's certainly the right angle, but then they pull a move like this, casting aside a symbol of change for the 'safe' choice. Now is not the time to play it safe. That has never worked for them before. Now is the time to put all their chips on the table, lay out their agenda for the people to see, and go for broke. It worked for the Republicans in '94.

And, really, what do they have to lose?

The Cost Of Discrimination

This makes for a nice companion to my entry about Frist's planned gay marriage vote...

AP: Report: 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Cost $363M
Discharging troops under the Pentagon's policy on gays cost $363.8 million over 10 years, almost double what the government concluded a year ago, a private report says...

Do we need any further proof how ridiculous and backwards this policy is?

In an age of recruitment shortages and military budget problems, surely the Pentagon has bigger concerns than a few army officers being made uncomfortable by a fellow soldier's orientation? That $363.8 million could've paid for a lot of body armor, no?

Links of the Day

Still need to make Valentine's plans? White Castle can help.

Here are some links for you and your loved ones...

-President Bush continues to embrace Middle Eastern democracy:
U.S. and Israelis Are Said to Talk of Hamas Ouster

-Ladies and gentlemen, your tax dollars at work:
Bush Spent $1.6 Bil. on 'Spin'

-The cartoon rioters sink to a new low... attacking a KFC:
Protesters in Pakistan Target West

Cheney's Real Crime

Media/Bloggers: You've had your fun, let's go back to the big stuff now.

[PS- Washington Post looks at the jokes- After Cheney's Shooting Incident, Time to Unload]

Gay Marriage Is The New Abortion

With Republicans buried in scandal and struggling in polls, they resort to one tactic they know will work...

...A cheap, go-nowhere issue that they know will drive their fundamentalist base to the polls anyway. Frist plans June vote on gay marriage

Do working class Republicans really hate gays so much they will continue to screw themselves over like this? Does an irrational fear of homosexuality truly trump U.S. job loss, healthcare, education costs, environmental issues, domestic debt, or the other big issues? Maybe my brain is configured differently from theirs (in more ways than one), but I just don't get it. Surely, someone in the Democratic party can explain to these working class all across America how they are being used?

Or is that just Stephen Colbert's job?

American Bar Association: Bush Exceeded His Powers

This is a big one.

The American Bar Association is officially opposing the President's warrantless spying program.

AP: Lawyers Group Says Bush Exceeds His Powers
The American Bar Association denounced President Bush's warrantless domestic surveillance program Monday, accusing him of exceeding his powers under the Constitution...

The article states the organization adopted a policy of opposition to these actions.

Can't wait to see the right-wing smearing of the ABA begin.

I also note this-
The ABA has urged Congress to affirm that when it authorized Bush to go to war, it did not intend to endorse warrantless spying.

They definitely should, but even at the time they were clear it did not.

A National Failure

A report on Katrina coming tomorrow apparently will rip the Bush administration a new one...

AP: Damning report says Katrina response a 'national failure'
A Congress report accused the US administration of leading a "national failure" over the Hurricane Katrina disaster, forcing authorities to announce a major reorganisation of the Homeland Security Department...

The Washington Post has more: Katrina Report Spreads Blame
Homeland Security, Chertoff Singled Out

Hurricane Katrina exposed the U.S. government's failure to learn the lessons of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as leaders from President Bush down disregarded ample warnings of the threat to New Orleans and did not execute emergency plans or share information that would have saved lives, according to a blistering report by House investigators...

The questions remain-
Will any heads roll for this or will it just be another scathing wrist-slap?

[See previous entry- An Absence of Leadership - for detailed thoughts on this topic]

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Rove Connection

New details arise about Rove's connection to...

...Jack Abramoff:
AP- Abramoff Said to Claim Close Ties to Rove

...And with the woman on whose property Cheney shot his friend in the face:
TPM- Karl Rove had a chat with Katharine Armstrong...

Cheney's Got A Gun, Pt. II

All jokes aside, there's lot of serious discussion and speculation about the Cheney shooting incident. The questionable delay before the media was informed of the bizarre accident has raised some questions. There are many good takes on this, as well as other questions. Here's some of the more interesting-

- More Questions Raised About Delay in Reporting Cheney Misfire (Editor & Publisher)

- Cheney's Chappaquiddick (AmericaBlog)

- Not a Laughing Matter (Firedoglake)

- These guys at the top are despicable characters, aren't they? (ScienceBlogs)

- Texas Sheriff Barred From Interviewing Cheney About Shooting Incident (ThinkProgress)


- Talking Points Memo analysis (TPM)

See also video of McClellan handling the questions:
Scotty McClellan on Cheney Shooting

The Politics of Leaking

Newsweek's Jonathan Alter explores the politics of the President's L.A. terror plot revelations-

The Shoe (Bomb) on the Other Foot

President Bush’s revelation about a foiled bomb plot shows the dangers of declassification for purely partisan purposes.

Poor Porter Goss. First, the longtime Florida congressman leaves his safe seat to become director of the CIA, only to find that he’s been neutered by a new bureaucratic setup where he reports to John Negroponte, the director of national intelligence. Then he writes an op-ed piece decrying intelligence leaks in The New York Times on Friday, the exact same day as a story appears identifying today’s biggest leaker of antiterrorism secrets in Washington—President George W. Bush...

Remember kiddies: When a series of concerned government whistleblowers leak information to expose Presidential wrongdoing and potential national security violations by the Executive branch, that is BAD. When said shameless Executive branch leaks national security information for their own gain, that is GOOD. Got it?

Torture Is The New American Way; Love It Or Leave It

Do you oppose the use of torture? Then you are not welcome in George W. Bush's war on terror.

The Sunday Times (UK): CIA chief sacked for opposing torture

No comment; this one speaks for itself.

[See also: Years After 2 Afghans Died, Abuse Case Falters]

"Must've hit her pretty close to the mark to get her all riled up like that, huh, kid?"

Glenn Greenwald struck a nerve in his analysis of Bush supporters' new definition of "liberal".

Glenn dissects the reactions, looks at conservative/liberal blogs, and outcast conservatives-
Follow-up to the Bush post yesterday

Guess What President They're Talking About...

"President [____] exercised the powers of the imperial presidency to the utmost in the area in which those powers are already at their height — in our dealings with foreign nations. Unfortunately, the record of the administration has not been a happy one, in light of its costs to the Constitution and the American legal system. On a series of different international relations matters, such as war, international institutions, and treaties, President [____] has accelerated the disturbing trends in foreign policy that undermine notions of democratic accountability and respect for the rule of law."

And here-
"Seven judges on a secret court have authorized all but one of over 7,500 requests to spy in the name of National Security. They meet in secret, with no published orders, opinions, or public record. Those spied on May never know of the intrusion. Now, [_____] has expanded the powers to include not only electronic, but physical searches.

The aftershock of [____] sent Congress scurrying to trade off civil liberties for an illusion of public safety."

They were talking about President... Clinton.

The first quote is from John Yoo, architect of Bush's military torture policy.

The second quote is from a Free Republic post dated 11/30/2000. And that was when President Clinton was actually using the FISA courts! What a difference a fear-induced irrational state few years makes.

Guess Greenwald was right after all.

As Freeper Jim Robinson said in that 2000 post- "This does not bode well for continued freedom."

The New Definition Of 'Liberal'

I'd still be a liberal anyway, but Glenn Greenwald nails it with this new definition of "liberal"-
Do Bush followers have a political ideology?
It used to be the case that in order to be considered a "liberal" or someone "of the Left," one had to actually ascribe to liberal views on the important policy issues of the day – social spending, abortion, the death penalty, affirmative action, immigration, "judicial activism," hate speech laws, gay rights, utopian foreign policies, etc. etc. These days, to be a "liberal," such views are no longer necessary.

Now, in order to be considered a "liberal," only one thing is required – a failure to pledge blind loyalty to George W. Bush. The minute one criticizes him is the minute that one becomes a "liberal," regardless of the ground on which the criticism is based. And the more one criticizes him, by definition, the more "liberal" one is. Whether one is a "liberal" -- or, for that matter, a "conservative" -- is now no longer a function of one’s actual political views, but is a function purely of one’s personal loyalty to George Bush.

We see this narrow definition at work in how politicians (ie. Sens. Hagel, Specter, McCain, and others) and pundits (ie. Andrew Sullivan) are decried by their fellow conservatives. Ignore that Bush has betrayed not only the values we liberals hold dear, but most of the ones conservatives do too... the conservative bases still demands total obedience.

Greenwald further examines this new base-
The anti-government ethos espoused by Barry Goldwater and even Ronald Reagan is wholly unrecognizable in Bush followers, who – at least thus far – have discovered no limits on the powers that ought to be vested in George Bush to enable him to do good on behalf of all of us.

And in that regard, people like Michelle Malkin, John Hinderaker, Jonah Goldberg and Hugh Hewitt are not conservatives. They are authoritarian cultists. Their allegiance is not to any principles of government but to strong authority through a single leader.

And that's a very scary thing.

Cheney's Got A Gun

News that the Vice President shot a friend while hunting has the joke machine cranking overtime...

-Dick Cheney’s Top 10 Excuses For Shooting Fellow Hunter

-EXCLUSIVE: First Photo of Cheney Shooting Victim

-Cheney Shoots Guy

Expect to see all the late-night talk shows hosts on this one tonight.

Congress Concerned That Cheney's Leaking

Disclosures that Cheney and others authorized Libby to leak info have caused concern in Congress...

AP: Senators: Cheney Should Be Probed in Leak
Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald should investigate Vice President Dick Cheney and others in the CIA leak probe if they authorized an aide to give secret information to reporters, Democratic and Republican senators said Sunday.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., called the leak of intelligence information "inappropriate" if it is true that unnamed "superiors" instructed Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, to divulge the material on Iraq.

Sen. George Allen, R-Va., said a full investigation is necessary...

ThinkProgress has transcripts-
George Allen: Investigate Cheney Over CIA Leak

Careful guys, or Cheney will bust a cap in your face.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Cheney Is A Monster

Someone stop this man before he kills us all!

AP: Cheney Accidentally Shoots Fellow Hunter

Now, *That* Is Playing Hardball

Proof that even a broken clock is right twice a day...

Earlier this week, Chris Matthews had former Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke on 'Hardball' to promote her new book. After discussing the cartoon controversy, the conversation turned to the war in the Iraq and the "sales job" used to start it. Matthews really ripped into her and refused to let her spew her revisionist history of how we went to war. Chris Matthews may be a clueless douchebag most of the time, but on this particular evening, he was on fire. The transcript-

MATTHEWS: Here‘s something closer to home, this is the question of America‘s support for the war America‘s fighting, largely, with the coalition of the willing. Right now the latest poll we have is a week old, I don‘t think things have changed.

Removing Saddam Hussein, in other words, going into Iraq to change the regime there, by force, was it worth it? Forty-two percent. This is the NBC poll. Forty-eight percent not worth it. So the plurality of people right now after all things are considered right now, looking at everything, don‘t think the war is worth it.

CLARKE: I‘m not surprised. I don‘t necessarily agree with them, but I‘m not surprised. Look, this war has been difficult from the very, very beginning. If you go back to the months leading to the start of the war, end of 2002, beginning of 2003, there was not a lot of public support for going to war with Iraq, even with most people thought they had weapons of mass destruction. For some very good reasons.

We had lived in this wonderful world for a long time, blessed by unique geography and good neighbors where we would say we‘re not going to whack you, we‘re not going to cause any trouble unless you whack us first and then we‘ll really go after you. Afghanistan, people got it.

Iraq will be the first truly preemptive action in a long, long time. That‘s a tough hurdle. People who wanted to do harm to our friends and allies and to ourselves.

MATTHEWS: What‘s that mean?

CLARKE: It means people who want to kill us.

MATTHEWS: Do you think Iraq was a threat to the United States?

CLARKE: I do. Because we live if a world in which individuals, not massive armies, navies, air forces, individual can do great catastrophic harm and there are different players in that world and Iraq was one of the centerpieces of destabilization, of mixing and mingling with terrorists of all sizes and shapes.

They had demonstrated their ability and desire to use weapons of mass destruction in the past, they had demonstrated their intent. It was the right decision at the time. But back to your question.

MATTHEWS: I have heard this argument so long and I think that argument, at the time, could have been used against Pakistan, it could be used against Saudi Arabia.

There are so many governments in that part of the world who do us harm by the way they let their children be educated, by the kind of culture they instill in people, the hatred that they allow, not just against Israel but against the west.

There‘s so many forces out there. Former Soviet engineers with a tremendous capability to sell, out of economic desperation, weaponry that can be used by terrorists. I think Iraq would have been the least likely source of nuclear technology for someone who wanted to get their hands on it. Least likely source, and I don‘t hear the argument to the contrary.

All the arguments about W.M.D. have been shot down. No evidence of an African deal, no evidence involving aluminum tubes. All the arguments that your side put up to get us into this war have been shot down, especially the argument that we were going to be received by people who are going to be happy to see us. They are fighting us. They are not happy to see us. That the oil in America was going to be cheaper. That the oil was going to pay for the war itself.

You‘re crowd made every argument in the world to get us in that war, and then they all quit. What I can‘t understand is how an administration packed with hawks, they are all gone. Scooter is facing jail. Wolfowitz is gone. I don‘t know what else is gone, but all the hawks seem to be gone now.

You‘re not there now backing the war.

CLARKE: Eighteen things in that two minute rant. So let‘s address a few pieces of it. Let‘s address a few important pieces of this and let‘s go back to the original point about public support. But let‘s go back to what happened.

Colossal, humongous, terrible Intel failure. Now, you can change your opinion now. You can say those arguments don‘t hold up now, but back then the debate was not about whether or not they had weapons of mass destruction. It was what to do about it.

MATTHEWS: The casualties are real. The hatred against us around the world for going to war are real. All the arguments to get us in the war have been shot down Torie.


MATTHEWS: It was a great sales job. And it worked and we got into the war. And people now know that the arguments used to get us in the war, the carrot and the stick, were not true.

CLARKE: No, I disagree completely.

MATTHEWS: Where was I wrong in my rant?

CLARKE: I disagree completely. Because the evidence at the time all pointed to it, them having weapons of mass destruction and having the desire and intent to use. The French, the Russians, the Germans, who felt as strongly against the war as you did...

MATTHEWS: They didn‘t go to war. They didn‘t go to war.

CLARKE: ...never disagreed that they had weapons of mass destruction.

It was all about what we do about it. But let‘s go back to public support.

MATTHEWS: The American tradition is to use the Department of Defense and the American fighting men and women to defend this country against dangers to this country not to fight wars of elections, wars of choice, as you call it a preemptive war. Every country in the world could fight a preemptive war and argue the case you made.

Thank you, Torie, for coming on this show.

Ms. Clarke was shocked to hear such reality in the midst in her publicity tour. Poor girl.

[Crooks and Liars has video.]

Intimidating The Press

Glenn Greenwald discusses how the White House is trying to intimidate its critics and whistleblowers...

Silencing Bush Critics with Prison