Saturday, March 11, 2006

Bush Goes On The Offensive In Iraq... The PR Offensive.

From the Washington Post-
President Bush plans to begin a series of speeches next week again explaining the administration's strategy for winning the war in Iraq, as the White House returns to a familiar tactic to allay growing public pessimism about the war that has helped keep the president's approval rating near its historic low.

After previewing the upcoming speech in his radio address today, the president is scheduled to make remarks on the war at George Washington University on Monday. The appearance, which will be followed weekly by as many as four other speeches, marks the start of the White House's latest effort to convince skeptical Americans that it has a coherent plan for victory as the war nears its third anniversary later this month...

As if the cause of public opposition to the war is that Bush hasn't explained it well enough. [*rolls eyes*]

And didn't we already do this in November? The 'National Strategy For Victory In Iraq'? This a new strategy, I hope.

You failed George, admit it. Yes, it's upsetting to think about (who wants to lose?), but that's the reality and has been for some time. Things will never improve unless you can acknowledge the failure of your war effort. You bluffed on the pre-war intelligence, you beamed sunshine up our asses and through the media, and you didn't have a plan for the post-war and never bothered to correct that minor detail along the way.

The best we can hope for at this point is to get out without causing the giant Jenga pile that is Iraq to collapse. So suck it up and figure out a way to end this mess once and for all. Doing that, not giving more pointless speeches, is what we call "leadership".

March Terror Madness

Wow, the White House must be worried about their approval ratings, because it's time for...

TERROR ALERT HAPPY FUN TIME! WOOOOOOO! FBI: College basketball terror threat possible
The FBI warned law enforcement officers and stadium managers Friday of the possibility of suicide bombings at college basketball tournaments, based on an Internet posting advocating attacks at sporting events...

Surely a coincidence, never happened before, buy some duct tape, vote Republican.

[PS- The college basketball aspect is a nice twist. Very relatable. But Karl, just between you and me, this seems a little sloppy. While it resonates more than the Liberty Library Tower, you're going to have a hard time convincing anyone that Al Qaeda would bother with this. Just a heads up.]

Links of the Day

No news of new crime from the White House today? They must be napping.

Here's some links while we wait for the next shoe to drop...

-Don't you just hate it when war criminals die before you finish trying them?:
Milosevic death robs victims of justice, foes say

-The focus on port security continues- the news isn't encouraging:
Study Warns of Lapses by Port Operators

-The infamous hooded Abu Ghraib victim aims to combat prison abuse:
Symbol of Abu Ghraib Seeks to Spare Others His Nightmare

Top White House Official Had Been Arrested

On the same day that the Secretary of the Interior resigned amidst concerns over the ties her office had to Jack Abramoff, new information came to light about Claude Allen, the former Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, who resigned a few weeks ago "to spend more time with his family".

As always when that cliched excuse is given, it was a lie.

The real reason? Well let's look at the police report... Yes, the police report:
...On January 2, 2006, a Target store Loss Prevention Manger observed an unknown man enter the store located at 25 Grand Corner Avenue in Gaithersburg. He was observed in the store with an empty Target bag in a shopping cart. The man was then seen selecting merchandise throughout the store and placing items in the Target bag. He put additional items in his cart. The man then went to guest services where he produced a receipt and received a refund for the items he had just selected from the store shelves. After receiving the refund he left the store without paying for the additional merchandise in the shopping cart. He was apprehended by the store employee.

The Target Loss Prevention Manger contacted Montgomery County Police and through the police investigation it was learned that Allen had been receiving refunds in an amount exceeding $5,000 during last year. Some of the fraudulent returns were made at Target stores and some at Hecht’s stores. He would buy items, take them out to his car, and return to the store with the receipt. He would select the same items he had just purchased, and then return them for a refund. Allen is known to have conducted approximately 25 of these types of refunds, having the money credited to his credit cards...

Petty thief. How appropriate, no?

White House chum (and neocon extraordinare) John Podhoretz pretends not to know him.

John, you are too precious!

So who was he? Digby has a short summary-
Allen is not just some nobody. He was one of Bush's closest advisors and was paid at the very highest salary level along with Rove and Bartlet and a very few others [Jeremy's note: He made $161,000 a year]. He is an extreme social conservative who the Democrats were able to keep off the federal bench when Bush nominated him for a lifetime appointment [Jeremy's note: Bush unsuccessfully nominated him for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2004]. (Let's give the Democrats some credit for doing something right on that one.)

He also had previously been a top aide at the Department of Health and Human Services. He was reportedly placed there on Karl Rove's orders in an attempt to appease the religious right because of Allen's reputation for opposing homosexuality, abortion, and safe-sex education.

He also ran the White House's Katrina Task Force. Heck of a job.

This really makes you wonder what other criminals are lurking inside Bush's White House, no? Besides, of course, George W. Bush (spying), Donald Rumsfeld (torture), Karl Rove (treason), Dick Cheney (secret energy meetings)... etc etc... Honor and integrity has truly been restored to the White House at last.

[PS- Here's the AP report- Ex-White House Adviser Charged With Theft]

Going Down

The AP has more bad new poll information for the President...
More and more people, particularly Republicans, disapprove of President Bush's performance, question his character and no longer consider him a strong leader against terrorism, according to an AP-Ipsos poll documenting one of the bleakest points of his presidency.

Nearly four out of five Americans, including 70 percent of Republicans, believe civil war will break out in Iraq — the bloody hot spot upon which Bush has staked his presidency. Nearly 70 percent of people say the U.S. is on the wrong track, a 6-point jump since February...

My question is... Why are Democrats still so scared of him?

Because the article also states this-
By a 47-36 margin, people favor Democrats over Republicans when they are asked who should control Congress.

See? They're ahead by doing nothing! Perhaps they should play it close to the vest then, but at some point, they need to come out and swing those political fists. Democrats, you should need to understand this... You should not be afraid of this lame-duck constitutional criminal. To the contrary, it has been obvious for a while now that he is afraid of you. That is why he smears you and is in 24-7 campaign mode. Because his greatest fear is the day that you, and the American people, realize what he's done to this country and come to boot his ass back to Texas.

So Democrats- You need- these. Find 'em. Use 'em. Thanks.

Wanted: Democratic Ass-Kickers

Molly Ivins has some strong words for spineless Democrats-
Every Democrat I talk to is appalled at the sheer gutlessness and spinelessness of the Democratic performance. The party is still cringing at the thought of being called, ooh-ooh, “unpatriotic” by a bunch of rightwingers.

Take “unpatriotic” and shove it. How dare they do this to our country? “Unpatriotic”? These people have ruined the American military! Not to mention the economy, the middle class, and our reputation in the world. Everything they touch turns to dirt, including Medicare prescription drugs and hurricane relief.

This is not a time for a candidate who will offend no one; it is time for a candidate who takes clear stands and kicks ass.

Daaaaamnnn! Me likes! We do need some Democratic ass-kickers. Russ Feingold can be counted on. DC Democrat darlings like Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman cannot be counted for ass kicking, but rather ass kissing. The Democrats are doing very well in polls about the midterm elections (in the lead in many)... imagine how much better they'd be doing if they actually got out there and pulled the curtain on what most Americans are already figuring out themselves... the Republicans have been taking a collective dump on this country for years now.

Fuck the Carville focus-group-tested bullshit... Give us something genuine and this elections is yours.

Harry Shearer has a similar blog post-
What's Wrong with the Dems?

Finally, Slate has two articles on this issue- one positive, one not so much:
-The Three Stooges (Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Howard Dean)

-Democratic Daydream-
Can the party match the 1994 GOP takeover?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Quote of the Week

I rewatched last week's "Real Time w/ Bill Maher". Vanity Fair's Graydon Carter said this-

"If you took an American in the year 2000 and brought them back to this America today, they wouldn't recognize this country. A country that condones torture, it spies on its citizens, an administration that allowed a city to disappear basically... the number of stumbles, it's just not the America that it was in 2000.

And two buildings come down, and those deaths, the fact is that was the most horrible thing that has happened on American soil in 50 years. But the devastation after that, I think has been just as great."

I think that sums up how I feel perfectly.

[PS- Don't forget- new episode tonight!]

Sandra Day O'Connor: U.S. Must Avoid Dictatorship

"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."
-George W. Bush (December 18, 2000 )

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor apparently gave one helluva speech yesterday at Georgetown University. Her speech mainly focused on how the judiciary as a whole has been politically maligned (see the GOP campaign ad I posted earlier) lately, but she also brushed on larger issues like how this type of political behavior is how good nations start on the road to dictatorship. She stated that the behavior of today's leaders 'pose a direct threat to our constitutional freedoms'.

A quick description from the blog of the National Jewish Democratic Council :
...In a speech Thursday at Georgetown University, O'Connor clearly and concisely asserted that top GOP leaders have posed a direct threat to our constitutional freedoms when they attack judges and the judiciary.

Without mentioning his name, O'Connor quoted then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's attacks on the courts during "Justice Sunday". O'Connor then said, "This was after the federal courts had applied Congress' one-time-only statute about Schiavo as it was written -- not as the Congressman might have wished it were written. The response to this flagrant display of judicial restraint was that the Congressman blasted the courts," O'Connor added sarcastically...

NPR has audio.

Raw Story has a rush transcript of the NPR piece. From it-
Pointing to the experiences of developing countries and former communist countries where interference with an independent judiciary has allowed dictatorship to flourish, O’Connor said we must be ever-vigilant against those who would strongarm the judiciary into adopting their preferred policies. It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship, she said, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings.

Sounds right to me.

Many have read O'Connor's statements and reacted with resentment. After all, if not for her critical vote in Bush v. Gore, we would've been spared all of this. And I can't disagree. That ruling was a sad day for democracy. Still, to pretend that anyone (even O'Connor) could have foreseen just how bad things would turn out is dishonest. Even the most cynical liberals in 2000 never thought we'd have come this far (we feared uber-conservative one-term idiot, not two-term Monarch shredding the Constitution every step of the way).

So say what will you will about that, but it is good that someone is speaking out on these important Constitutional issues, especially when it comes from someone of O'Connor's credibility. Right now she's showing more balls than many of the leaders in the Democratic party (although many Democrats have spoken on this, but the media ignores it... as I'm sure they will O'Connor's speech).

Americans don't think any of this affects them, but as O'Connor said, it's ultimately up to us to protect these principles, since politicians often don't. How do we do that? Well, that's the complicated part, isn't it? Speaking out helps. Voting helps. Writing letters helps. And, at this point, just paying attention helps.

Secretary of the Interior Resigns

A member of the President's Cabinet has resigned... bring on the new crony!

AP: Interior Secretary Gale Norton Resigns
Interior Secretary Gale Norton resigned Friday after five years in President Bush's Cabinet and at a time when her agency is part of a lobbying scandal over Indian gaming licenses.

In a letter to Bush, Norton said the resignation would be effective at the end of March...

And off to the private sector she goes, to cash in on her years after serving in the King's Court.

The AP article linked above goes into surprising detail about her office's relationship with Jack Abramoff. Looks like the Abramoff scandal is making huge ripples, despite the Republicans trying to distance themselves from it. The Republicans hoped they could cast him onto the Democrats somehow (just as they convinced themselves that Fitzgerald would end up indicting wily ol' Joe Wilson himself instead of actual administration officials), but the facts are what they are. Jack Abramoff was the GOP's power player and there are few top Republicans who didn't have some contact with him. Ms. Norton's leaving likely was for a few reasons, but no doubt the Abramoff issues hastened her departure. And if Abramoff follows through on his promise to "name names" of those in Congress he worked with, she may just be the first of many to pack it up.

ThinkProgress has info on this and a copy of the resignation letter:
Another Abramoff Casualty? Gale Norton Announces Resignation

Traditional American Values

You have got to see the following campaign ad- Video here.

It speaks volumes about the 'values' of the Republican party.

It's a campaign commercial for Vernon Robinson, who is running for Congress in North Carolina. The ads begin with the Twilight Zone theme music and the voiceover describes, naturally, the Twilight Zone that America has become. The voiceover speaks of the evils we face, like Islamic terrorists and .... oh let's see .... homosexuals, lesbians, feminists, judges, the oppression of Christianity (!!), black people, and Mexicans from outer space.

Robinson promises to send all "that" back to the Twilight Zone.

The ad ends with a promise of return to traditional American values and this point is nailed home with a 'Leave It To Beaver' clip, implying Robinson will bring us back to this black-and-white fantasy land.

Yes, wouldn't it be great if we could back to those simpler times of the 1950s? Ahhh, yes, the good ol' days where blacks sat in the back of the bus and couldn't vote, women were kept in their place, homosexuals dare not step out of the closet, overweight Senators were on witch hunts for Communists in our midsts, and kids hid under their desks as the whole country was scared shitless of the Soviet Union and their nuclear arsenal.

Thanks to W and his pals in Congress, this world doesn't seem that long ago.

(For those of us living in the 21st century, we will be voting for the candidates without "R"s next to their names.)

Links of the Day

It's so warm outside today. What the hell am I doing here?

Ohh yes- You need your links! Here ya go!

-Tennessee joins South Dakota in embracing the good ol' days of coat hanger abortions:
Tenn. Senate Backs Anti-Abortion Step-
Tennessee Senate Makes First Step Toward Amending Constitution to Eliminate Right to Abortion

-A woman was fired for an Air America bumper sticker because her boss feared she "could be a member of al-Qaida":
Woman sues for alleged firing over talk show bumper sticker

-Elizabeth Dole... ethical vacuum. She disguised a fundraiser to look like a tax form:
Elizabeth Dole's Fundraiser Disguised as Tax Form

There's Your Answer, Fish-Bulb

One of my fellow travelers at the Simpsons Collector Sector (David, aka "MeesterSparkle") got a letter to the editor published yesterday in the San Francisco Chronicle. It's a very good letter and relates to many of the issues I've been writing about this week. So here it is-
U.S. fights for freedom as we lose it at home

Editor -- We are constantly reminded that "our boys'' are fighting in Iraq and other places to preserve our freedom. Here at home, we seem all too willing to give it away. Another so-called Patriot Act has passed, with barely a whimper, and Thomas Jefferson is rolling over in his grave.

Wouldn't we be honoring our fighting soldiers more if we were all willing to fight for our liberty at home, instead of expecting them to do it by themselves, and only in far away places?

How can we expect democracy to be embraced in foreign lands, when it is crumbling at home?


And here's information on the President's 'victory' on the Patriot Act (win for him, loss for democracy):
Bush Signs Renewal of Patriot Act

This is a picture I found on the AP wire-

There's something genuinely disturbing about the joy on their faces here.

(Not to mention the Orwellian "Protecting The Homeland" sign)

And a guest blogger at Glenn Greenwald's site discusses the Act's relationship to the President's spying-
On Thursday the President once again signed into law a statute--the Patriot Act renewal--which amends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The Patriot Act made many significant changes to FISA--changes which were made permanent by this bill--but there is one crucial provision that has not changed; FISA still clearly states that its procedures "shall be the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance . . . may be conducted." In other words, the President has once again reaffirmed the validity of a law which expressly criminalizes the type of warrantless surveillance which his administration has been conducting for four and a half years.

Kind of makes the smiles of those cowardly Republicans even more unnerving, no?

Standing Up

Byron Williams congratulates Congress on standing up to Bush on the ports.

And he wonders when they'll also stand up on the bigger issues-
Too bad some of that courage wasn't on display when you needlessly acquiesced to the president's desires to send our troops into Iraq. You have allowed the "few bad apples" alibi to remain as this country's definitive word on torture, when there is a paper trail that suggests otherwise. You have remained silent as the president defines NSA eavesdropping as a false choice between safety and civil liberties.

Do you really believe that standing up for six ports can erase the damage that six years of providing the president with a free "reign" has caused on the domestic and international fronts?

What he said.

Of course, the elephant in the room (no pun intended) is that the main reason they stood up to the President on this issue is because the voters demanded it- in large and loud numbers. It's an election year and they mostly just played to the polls. If the people cared as much about Iraq and domestic spying as they were made to do on the ports, we'd see more action in Congress. Not that that excuses the constitutional betrayal of the Republicans on those issues. It doesn't. But the apathetic public is a major factor here. The Constitution to most Americans is some obscure document they learned about long ago in history class; they find it as revelant to their lives today as the Magna Carta. And hey, who has time to worry about this stuff? Work to do, bills to pay, American Idols to watch.

Bottom line- as long as Busholini makes the trains run on time, they don't bother to think about the other stuff.

Fair and Balanced

Fox News grills Attorney General Gonzales-
E.D. HILL: Ok. And finally, we were talking about this state pies. I don’t believe Texas has one. Florida is changing from key lime to pecan pie –

STEVE DOOCY: Yeah, maybe, it’s a big debate.

HILL: Now shouldn’t Texas lay claim to the pecan pie?

GONZALES: Oh, I’ll tell you, I’ve eaten some great — both key lime pie and pecan pie in Texas.

DOOCY: Are you a – if I can ask you a personal question – are you, sir, a pie a la mode man, do you prefer ice cream on the top or do you prefer whipped cream?

GONZALES: I’m not a whipped cream fan. I like good old blue bell vanilla ice cream from Texas.

HILL: The best. Ok, well, there’s an answer — thank you.

DOOCY: Alberto Gonzales, the attorney general of the United States and a confessed pie lover.

And that's the hardhitting questions the liberal media is too afraid to ask.


Robert Scheer has an amazing report on the Tillman investigation- here.

No comments, just read.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Homophobia: A Christian Value

Two stories about the insanity of homophobia...

First- a factual children's book about two male penguins that raise a baby scared parents:
Parents Complain About Book's Undertones

Money quote-
However, moving the book to the nonfiction section would decrease the chance that it would "blindside" readers, she said.

Better put Toni Morrison away too- Don't wanna "blindside" kids with black people too soon.

Second- Religious programs to 'cure' homosexuals (surprise) actually hurt them:
Report: Gay Prevention Programs Harm Teens

Easiest way to deal with homosexuality? Bury it inside, become a priest, rape kids. Works wonders.

Shooting The Messenger

Iraq continues to spiral out of control. Andrew Sullivan has a good summary of the failures of their government, stating that "On the brink of civil war, they still cannot concede the slightest thing to the other side.... The news - especially about the infiltration of the police forces by Shiite militias - continues to be dreadful." There is also a commentary making the rounds by Gen. William Odom about seeing Iraq through the prism of Vietnam.

Still the far-right, Bush's ever-loyal base, refuses to acknowledge any problems.

The right-wing has huddled together and come up with a new talking point... It's all the media's fault. You see, everything in Iraq is actually going fantastically!! Hey, if Peter Pace and Ralph Peters say so, it must be true! But the media lies and says that the country is devolving into civil war. Because they're evil and hate America. Soon the public will see the Awesomeness that is Iraq and the media will be ashamed of themselves. Everything that's gone "wrong" was the fault of reporters who, apparently, run the Pentagon.

Molly Ivins smacks down this nonsense with great passion-
Despite Rumsfeld’s rationalizing, we are in a deep pile of poop here, and we’re best likely to come out of it OK by pulling together. So could we stop this cheap old McCarthyite trick of pretending that correspondents who are in fact risking their lives and doing their best to bring the rest of us accurate information are somehow disloyal or connected to al-Qaida?

Wrong, yes, of course they could be wrong. But there is now a three-year record of who has been right about what is happening in Iraq, Rumsfeld or the media. And the score is: Press—1,095, Rumsfeld—zero.

What she said.

Dubai Giving Up Ports Bid?

(Via ThinkProgress)

CBS has breaking news that Sen. John Warner (R-VA) "says a Dubai-owned company has decided to give up its management stake in some U.S. ports".

CNN further reports that "Dubai Ports World has agreed to turn over all of its operations at U.S. ports to a United States entity" and that "the reason is 'to preserve' the strong relationship between the United Arab Emirates and the United States." Hmmmm. The U.S. entity isn't Halliburton, is it? We'll have to wait and see.

Well, kudos to you, Congress. You stood up to the President and won.

Now... about that domestic spying....

[Update: There is some concern over the meaning of the Dubai statement.]

Isolation and Warmongering

How come the right won't call the Bush administration what they are?


As I posted yesterday, the White House (specifically Cheney) are using the exact same pro-war rhetoric toward Iran they used about Iraq in 2002. Iran, not surprisingly, countered with rhetoric of their own, swearing that they would cause us 'harm and pain'. Scott McClellan reacted to this by stating, supposedly with a straight face, "I think that provocative statements and actions only further isolate [them] from the rest of the world."

If the White House wants to discuss isolation, perhaps it should look in the mirror and see what it has done to our standing in the world. When the President traveled to Pakistan, it was no coincidence that Air Force One landed at night under cover of darkness. Nobody in this world, save for Tony Blair, sees the United States as a force for peace any longer. We are bullies, making demands of our enemies, but refusing to cooperate with them, and then acting angered and confused when they react in a hostile manner. Has there ever been an administration with this great a predilection toward military action over diplomacy?

Had we ignored the non-threat that was Iraq, we could've kept our military resources focused on Al Qeada and simultaneously begun diplomatic relations with Iran in 2002... which was, of course, before the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Done right, we could've made great progress by 2006. But the White House never made any real diplomatic efforts. With Iraq, they at least bothered with the pretense of diplomacy. And after the historical bungling of Iraq by this administration, the fact that anyone in this country would let them even discuss the possibility of another preemptive war is, almost literally, insane. Our military is broke and depleted and this administration has proved it cannot competently do much of anything, let alone engage in war.

And when was the last time we had serious talks with North Korea? That's a whole other mess.

Finally, Lew Rockwell had this interesting summary of reformed (?) neocon Christopher Hitchens being interviewed on yesterday's 'Hardball'-
Last night, on Iran, [Matthews] was using the Republican talking points, including the weasel phrase "nuclear program" intended to blur the difference between atomic bombs and atomic power. Then Christopher Hitchens, of all people, argued for detente.

He called on Bush to fly to Teheran to make peace, in a reprise of Nixon in China. The fun part was watching Matthews' mug: horrified, incredulous, outraged. How dare anyone suggest our genghis-in-chief be anything but a killer? Let all others crawl to the hegemon and beg for his mercy.

But... but.... then we wouldn't get our war! Waaaahhhhh!

It's an odd day in America when Christopher Hitchens is the sensible one.

Your Tax Dollars At Work

From the Wall Street Journal-
Monthly expenditures are running at $5.9 billion; the U.S. commitment in Afghanistan adds roughly another $1 billion. Taken together, annual spending for the two wars will reach $117.6 billion for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 -- 18% above funding for the prior 12 months.

Let's recap...

Money for endless war? Check. Money for New Orleans? NO! Continuing to give tax cuts to America's wealthiest citizens in times of fiscal concern? Check. Paying off ever-growing national deficit? NO!

Always good to recap. And now back to your regulary scheduled program.

Links of the Day

Have you said your Homeland Security-mandated prayers yet today?

If you have, here's some links...

-Your Congress... again looking out for the food industry, your health be damned:
House Moves to Strip Food Warning Labels

-And what about Guantanamo?:
US says to close Abu Ghraib prison

-Republican Rep. Marilyn Musgrave's unethical use of soldiers at photo-ops continues to be debated:
Uniformed soldiers at GOP event raise hackles

The Woes Of Trent Lott

In January, I did a post on Sen. Trent Lott (the rebuilding of whose porch W continues to await) and his anger toward lobbying reform plans. Regarding a cap on meal costs that lobbyists could pay for, Lott replied with great humility, "Now we're going to say you can't have a meal for more than 20 bucks. Where are you going, to McDonald's?".

Well Sen. Lott is still angry. This week he said on a ban of lobbyist-funded meals:
"So, so be it. I'll be eating with my wife, and so will a lot more senators after we pass this one."

Ohh, the humanity!

Sen. Obama didn't share Lott's grief. He said:
"In cities and towns all across America, people pay for their own lunches and their own dinners," Obama said.

"People who make far less than we do. People who can't afford their medical bills or their mortgages or their kids' tuition. You ask them if they think that the people they send to Congress should be able to rack up a $50 meal on a lobbyist's dime."

Stupid newbie, you better learn how Washington works. That unselfish attitude won't help.

Domestic Spying... The Constitution Gets Shot In The Face

Dan Froomkin at the Washington Post has the goods on Dick Cheney's role in squashing the Intelligence Committee's plans for an investigation...
Faced with the frightening prospect of public hearings and active Congressional oversight into President Bush's contested domestic spying program, the White House sent out its big dog -- Vice President Cheney -- to bring straying moderate Republicans to heel.

Indeed, no matter what you have may have heard lately, the fact is that Cheney is still the Bush Administration's most ferocious warrior. Never mind the rumpus about his initial refusal to tell anyone -- even Bush -- that he shot someone while hunting in Texas. Disregard those reports of tensions between the vice president's office and, well, pretty much everyone else at the White House.

Cheney took point in the White House effort to quash a full-blown investigation into the program. And the guy still gets the job done.

Nice to know the Republican Senators on Pat Roberts' Cover-Up Committee are scared of a man with an 18% approval rating and an admitted loathing for checks and balances. I guess unless it's Harriet Miers or Dubai Ports World, Republicans don't see any reason why they should ever stand up to the White House. Hey, all the President did was violate the law and disrespect the principles of our Constitution. NO BIG DEAL.

And Glenn Greenwald poses a good question on the "deal" the Committee made with the White House to require the White House to get warrants "wherever possible" (although this can be waved if Gonzales says so) and vaguely allow a new subcommittee to rubberstamp the program every 45 days-
But there is a far bigger and more important problem. Congress already enacted legislation regulating the Government's eavesdropping activities. They called that law FISA. The Administration has been violating that law because they believe they have the power to do so, because they think that Congress has no power to regulate or limit the President's eavesdropping activities. Since the White House still believes it has this power, isn't passing another law facially moronic, given that the Administration has already said that they are free to violate whatever Congressional laws they want which purport to regulate eavesdropping?

[*points to nose*] Bingo. And that's the larger issue, isn't it? The administration ignores the law and states (explicitly) it has the right to do without oversight. So Congress reacts to this pronouncement by... making more (half-assed) laws for them to ignore.

Democracy rules!!!

And here's my question- Why the hell is the media taking a collective pass on this story?!!

Greenwald also states that, in regards to the Judiciary Committee's ongoing hearings, "Placing one's hopes for Congressional oversight and integrity in Sen. Specter, of all people, is just an invitation to further disappointment." I hope he's wrong. Because, well, there's any so much that my poor little brain can take. I have found the work of that Committee to be encouraging so far.

Ultimately, though, the real power for change and accountability lies this November with the voters. And that may be the scariest thought of all.

PS- I posted this cartoon last month, but I think it deserves a second run...

American Theocracy, Pt. II

File this one under "what the hell?"- Executive Order: Responsibilities of the Department of Homeland Security with Respect to Faith-Based and Community Initiatives
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to help the Federal Government coordinate a national effort to expand opportunities for faith-based and other community organizations and to strengthen their capacity to better meet America's social and community needs, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Part (a) of Section 1 states:
The Secretary of Homeland Security (Secretary) shall establish within the Department of Homeland Security (Department) a Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (Center).

Section 2 states:
Purpose of Center. The purpose of the Center shall be to coordinate agency efforts to eliminate regulatory, contracting, and other programmatic obstacles to the participation of faith-based and other community organizations in the provision of social and community services.

Read the link above for full details. And, no, I am not making this up.

Why is the Dept. of Homeland Security involved in this sort of thing at all? Do they hope God will prevent their further incompetence with hurricane season approaching? First duct tape, now this. Is the President promoting a faith-based approach to the war on terror? That would explain a lot. Because with him in charge, we haven't got a prayer.

Am I the only one who think this Order reads like an Onion article?

American Theocracy, Pt. I

Since we're supposedly battling religious fanaticism, I guess the strategy is "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em".

Here in America- Science BAD! Religion GOOD!

So says the results of a new Gallup poll-
A Gallup report released today reveals that more than half of all Americans, rejecting evolution theory and scientific evidence, agree with the statement, "God created man exactly how Bible describes it."

Another 31% says that man did evolve, but "God guided." Only 12% back evolution and say "God had no part."...

Excuse me for a second... [runs outside] AAAARRGGGGHHHHHHH! [runs back in]..... Okay, I'm back.

And the kicker-
Newport wraps it up: "Several characteristics correlate with belief in the biblical explanation for the origin of humans. Those with lower levels of education, those who attend church regularly, those who are 65 and older, and those who identify with the Republican Party are more likely to believe that God created humans 'as is,' than are those who do not share these characteristics."

'Nuff said.

House To Bush On Ports: No

The House Appropriations Committee has voted against the Dubai deal:
House panel votes to block ports deal

Full House and Senate votes are expected next week.

However, in the Senate, Bush-lover Bill Frist is attempting to block a vote on the issue.

Washington's Invisible Man

Jack Abramoff tells all to Vanity Fair.

ThinkProgress has the details-
Abramoff Interview: Lobbyist Details Relationship With Bush, DeLay, Burns

Key Abramoff quote-
"Any important Republican who comes out and says they didn't know me is almost certainly lying... For a guy who did all these evil things that have been so widely reported, it's pretty amazing, considering I didn't know anyone. You're really no one in this town unless you haven't met me."

The GOP can run, but they can't hide, from Casino Jack.

The AP also has a story: Vanity Fair: Bush Had Ties to Abramoff

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

One-Party Rule

Something to think about in regards to the Senate Intelligence Committee's betrayal...

November can't come quick enough.

[PS- ThinkProgress has a comprehensive report on how the Intelligence Committee has covered for the White House.]

Too Little, Too Late

Conservatives at a Cato Institute panel ripped into President Bush...

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank has details-
[T]he first speaker [was] former Reagan aide Bruce Bartlett. Author of the new book "Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy," Bartlett called the administration "unconscionable," "irresponsible," "vindictive" and "inept."

It might also have had something to do with speaker No. 2, conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan. Author of the forthcoming "The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It; How to Get It Back," Sullivan called Bush "reckless" and "a socialist," and accused him of betraying "almost every principle conservatism has ever stood for."...

...True, the small-government libertarians represented by Cato have always been the odd men out of the Bush coalition. But the standing-room-only forum yesterday, where just a single questioner offered even a tepid defense of the president, underscored some deep disillusionment among conservatives over Bush's big-spending answer to Medicare and Hurricane Katrina, his vast claims of executive power, and his handling of postwar Iraq.

So nice of you to join us... where have you been?

This new trend of Bush-bashing (and it is new) by many on the right (all except for the Bush cultists who populate the Pajama sites) is nice to see... but fuck them. Seriously. I wouldn't read Bartlett's book if you gave it to me for free. The things he's saying are all true (and he's being too kind), but to pretend that these revelations are new is insulting to my intelligence. As if suddenly President Bush just became a horrible leader and a reckless conservative. He's been one since DAY ONE. The left has been saying these exact same things about Bush since day one and were we listened to? No. We were called fifth columnists and traitors and terrorist sympathizers. So welcome to the club Bartlett, but where the hell have you been?

Where were these people in 2004? Oh that's right- they were too busy swift-boating John Kerry, accusing liberals of undermining our country, and praising Bush's heroic god-like qualities to give a shit that all of this was true then. They are not doing this because of principle. It is purely selfish- President Bush is going down in flames and they don't want to go down with him. I make exceptions here for the few like Andrew Sullivan who abandoned Bush on principle before the election and threw their support toward Sen. Kerry. The rest are just opportunists who want to pretend that they themselves aren't complicit in the corruption of conservative values over the last 30 years. George W. Bush didnt start it- he just finished the work of the others who came before him.

And as for pretending that President Reagan was any better (instead of just smarter in branding his policies in a more marketable, cynical '80s fashion) than Bush... No thank you. That's one myth that the facts just don't support. President Bush is Reagan, by way of Richard Nixon.

My question is... How do these conservatives think should Bush should be held accountable for all this? Would they support impeachment now as they did in the '90s? Or are they simply hoping to save face long enough until 2008 when they try to push George's pal John McCain into the White House? I'll assume the latter.

How About Stoning?

Here's a question pro-lifers don't seem able to answer-

If abortion is illegal, what is the legal punishment for the woman? What sentence is she given?

Digby wrote a lengthy post on this issue. He linked to a video (down now for bandwith reasons) in which anti-abortion protestors are asked that very question. They responded that they didn't know and that, in fact, they had never even thought about it before.

That really says it all about how insane and backwards an abortion ban is.

Digby has thoughts on this craziness-
It's time we make them think about it. Most anti-abortion legislation makes no sense morally and these people need to be led through the various steps that will show them this. The cognitive dissonence was apparent on these people's faces. It's a question that everyone from the family pro-choice supporter to professional interviewers should always ask. ... The looks on these womens' faces in that video were amazing: confusion, frustration, pain. Their position is untenable and they know it.

Some professional interviewers have asked, of course. Here's a snippet from an old interview between Chris Matthews and Pat Toomey:
MATTHEWS: If you go back to state‘s rights on abortion, would you support banning abortion in Pennsylvania?

TOOMEY: Yes, I would, yes.


MATTHEWS: In other words, if a woman had an abortion in Pennsylvania, what would you do to her? ... You said you want to ban it. You want to use the law to outlaw abortion.

TOOMEY: That‘s right.

MATTHEWS: What would you do to a woman who had an abortion? What would you do to her?

TOOMEY: Oh, I think we would first look at the doctor who is performing the abortion and have some penalties

MATTHEWS: Why? Why don‘t you go after the woman? ... This is what the whole issue of abortion is and where all the B.S. comes into this argument. Are you willing to say that you would put a woman in prison for having an abortion?

TOOMEY: Chris, I‘m not sure what the penalty would be. I‘m saying...

MATTHEWS: Well, say what you want it to be. ..... You said it should be banned. Would you please stand up for what you believe?

TOOMEY: That‘s right.

MATTHEWS: If abortion is wrong and it‘s a crime and it‘s murder, tell me what the punishment should be.

TOOMEY: And I‘m telling you that there should be legal action taken against the doctor who performs it.


TOOMEY: And we‘ve got to think through what we would do with regard to the woman.

MATTHEWS: What would you like to do? .... You are running for the United States Senate. .... And you‘ve said we ought to get rid of Roe v. Wade and you said that abortion should be banned in Pennsylvania, but you won‘t tell me what the penalty should be.

.... You want to make up a law without a penalty. It‘s a crime without a penalty. I‘ve never heard of such a thing. ... I‘m serious. This is the problem and the confusion over abortion rights in this country. .... People on the far right side won‘t say what they‘ll do.

They simply say they don‘t like the way things are now. What would you do?

TOOMEY: Well, if we overturn Roe vs. Wade, one of the things we could do is leave it to states to make some decisions about this.


MATTHEWS: And what would you support Pennsylvania doing? You are running for senator from Pennsylvania. What should Pennsylvania do to women who decide to have an abortion? What would you do to them?

TOOMEY: Chris, I‘ve told you, I haven‘t figured out what I think we should be doing with it.

MATTHEWS: Well, shouldn‘t you figure out a few of these things before you run for office? ....Shouldn‘t you make those basic decisions?

That about sums it up. They hate abortion (on instinct, out of habit, etc), but beyond that they haven't put much thought into the actual human element of this issue- who it would affect, the logistics of punishing a woman for making this difficult decision, and even how society will be able to provide for the countless number of unplanned, unwanted babies that will be brought into the world as the result of their crusade.

How many of these right-wingers will be lining up to adopt these unwanted babies if Roe is overturned? How many will volunteer to become foster parents? Very few, I imagine. Because this isn't about the children or morality or any of that. This is a battle and they simply want to win it. As Digby's find about that video shows, when it comes to the consequences of their actions, they haven't bothered to put any thought into it.

The Long War

(Via the Colbert Report)

The new name for the war on terror is.... "The Long War".

I guess "The Global War On Terror" and "The Struggle Against Global Extremism" didn't test well.

If you can't win a war- rebrand it! Way to go, Pentagon!

[Related- Pentagon promotes 'long war' strategy as violence threatens withdrawal]


It appears that Bill Frist's threat did the trick... The Senate Intelligence Committee (including members like Hagel and Snowe who vowed to "immediately and expeditiously review the use of this practice") voted today NOT to investigate the President's secret warrantless wiretapping program. Cowards. Traitors. All of them.

The Founders fought the world's mightiest empire to obtain our independence... these people couldn't even stand up to the 34% approval rating President and the Senator who (mis)diagnosed a woman from an old VHS tape. If they could only see us now. Somewhere, Thomas Jefferson is rolling over in his slave.

In lieu of, ya know, fulfilling their constitutional obligations, the Committee has instead decided on a 'compromise'... one which, of course, mostly benefits the White House and subjugates Congress to a mere rubberstamp role. In a deal worked out in advance with Vice President Cheney, proposed legislation would create a seven-member "terrorist surveillance subcommittee". Sound Orwellian enough? Here is a description of what this new subcommittee would do, from the NY Times-
The agreement would reinforce the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which was created in 1978 to issue special warrants for spying but was sidestepped by the administration. The measure would require the administration to seek a warrant from the court whenever possible.

If the administration elects not to do so after 45 days, the attorney general must certify that the surveillance is necessary to protect the country and explain to the subcommittee why the administration has not sought a warrant. The attorney general would be required to give an update to the subcommittee every 45 days.

(Bolded added by me)

So in nutshell, the Administration broke the law and then lied about it and now Congress is gonna work with them on the Administration's terms. The Committee is giving the Administration carte blanche to spy as it pleases, as long as they promise to (occassionally) let someone know what's going on (somewhat). They are, in effect, legalizing illegality.

The White House is therefore allowed to continue ordering surveillance without warrants. But for 45 days only. And only getting warrants wherever possible- hey don't go out of your way now. Except the White House doesn't have to even obey that, as long as Alberto Gonzales (a trustworthy man through and through) assures them it's all good.

"We are reasserting Congressional responsibility and oversight", Sen. Snowe said with a straight face.

"The committee is, to put it bluntly, basically under the control of the White House," said Senator Rockefeller, getting more to the point.

Glenn Greenwald once again sums up the situation succinctly-
Nobody who has lived outside of a cave for the last five years could possibly be surprised by any of this. One of the reason we are at the point we're at in our country -- where we have a President who not only breaks the law but claims he has the right to do so, while the media barely finds any of it worthy of much attention -- is because the Congress has completely abdicated its responsibilities at the altar of cult-like obedience to White House decrees. That's just one of the many rotted roots in our government.

What he said.

You know, I guess I was being too optimistic, because I really did believe the Committee would vote in favor of investigation in the end. Specter's Judiciary Committee seems fairly committed to looking into this, so why wouldn't the Intelligence Committee want to fully investigate a secret spying program that violates the law? I also foolishly believed that the White House's threats would only further the resolve of some on the Committee (ie. Hagel and others) to stand up for checks and balances and the rule of law.

I was wrong.

Let this be a reminder to those who thought we still lived in a nation of laws... we do not. We live in a land ruled by an all-powerful Executive who wages war as he sees fit, tortures those in his imprisonment, spies on his citizens, bankrupts the treasury with reckless abandon, vacations while entire cities are ruined, bullies the press and other branches of government, and uses fear to control the populace. Think this is hyperbole? Think again. This is really the situation we find ourselves in and every day I wish we were just imagining it.

In encouraging news, Gonzales' 'clarifications' may have earned him a return trip to the Judiciary Committee.

"Help us, Senate Judiciary Committee. You're our only hope."

[PS- In related news, the House has renewed the Patriot Act. Go democracy.]

They Lie

Anonymous Liberal at Glenn Greenwald's blog explores the lies and deceptions of the Bush administration in regards to FISA/domestic spying, through the words of former Justice Department official John Yoo.

Just following the President's example, I suppose.


The Wall Street Journal has an article about Democrats being scared of the impeachment issue:
Impeachment Proves Risky Political Issue-
Some Democratic Activists Push Removing Bush From Office, But Mainstream Steers Clear

Why, they even used charts!

Of course, this little chart fails to point out the obvious. Yes indeed, there was a backlash against Republicans for frivilously impeaching Bill Clinton. But why is that surprising? The poll clearly showed 64% opposed it (with only 27% actually supporting)! Contrast this with their chart showing that the majority - 51% - supports beginning impeaching hearings against President Bush simply on the issue of the war. Add this to other polls showing a majority support (52%) for impeachment on the issue of warrantless wiretapping and there is a clear public support to begin the impeachment process.

Congress' hesitation is understandable (after the abuse of the power last time), but to claim the two cases are similar is a lie. This time, there is clear public support for action. And the issues at hand this time are matters of grave constitutional concern.

What are they afraid of? Impeachment isn't an immediate action, it's a process. It simply gives Congress greater powers to hold hearings and investigate the issues at hand and delve deeper than they are allowed now. Most Americans agree that these issues (the war, wiretapping, etc.) are worthy of such a serious investigation. If congressional Republicans and Bush supporters are so certain of the President's innocence, then they have nothing to fear from hearings. After everything this President has put the country through, we deserve the chance to get to the truth.

I expect the Republicans to be scared of this, but the Democrats too? Shameful.

[PS- For the scared Democrats, see Ward Sutton's cartoon on 'The Case Against Impeachment'.]

All Options On The Table

The Strangelove crew once again skips diplomacy and goes right to the warmongering...

President George W. Bush (March 13, 2002):
"And so one of the -- what the Vice President is doing is he's reminding people about this danger, and that we need to work in concert to confront this danger. Again, all options are on the table, and -- but one thing I will not allow is a nation such as Iraq to threaten our very future by developing weapons of mass destruction."

Vice President Dick Cheney (Yesterday):
"For our part, the United States is keeping all options on the table in addressing the irresponsible conduct of the regime. And we join other nations in sending that regime a clear message: We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon."

Aren't election years fun?

Related- Rep. John Murtha responds to the Vice President's rhetoric.

[Hat tip- AmericaBlog]

Port Insecurity

Why port security is an important issue...

ABC News: Criminal Records, Bogus Licenses Among Truckers at Key U.S. Port-
Thousands of Port Truckers Go Unscreened, Yet Many Have Criminal Records

In Washington today, House Republicans vowed to defy President Bush's effort to have a Dubai company take over six major U.S. ports. But ABC News has learned about a port threat from within — a major security breach at the ports of New York and New Jersey.

The two ports handle millions of tons of cargo, with scores of cruise ships passing through each year. Truckers who transport much of the cargo are issued ID cards, which give them access to all areas of the port.

ABC News has learned that the cards, given to thousands of truckers by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, were issued with virtually no background checks. The Department of Homeland Security recently investigated the New York and New Jersey ports, and found stunning gaps in security...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Links of the Day

Topic for debate... which state legislature is more backward? South Dakota or Kansas? Discuss.

While we ponder that question, here's some links...

-More and more soldiers are running away from their Commander-In-Chief and his pointless war:
8,000 desert during Iraq war

-Walmart pulls a Bush and hires people to do propaganda for them:
Wal-Mart Enlists Bloggers in P.R. Campaign

-Chris Matthews just can't stop gushing on the new House majority leader:
Matthews on Boehner: ‘You Can See This Man’s Greatness’

Port Business

The White House is considering pairing Dubai Ports World with a U.S. company to salvage the deal.

Guess which one? (Hint: do you really need a hint?)

The Daily News has the scoop: Dubai & Dubya in dash for lifeboat

[PS- Good article on the politics of this all:
Election - Year Politics Shadow Ports Issue]

Quote of the Day

"We will name names. We will provide the public with evidence of what is going on out there."
--Abramoff's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, yesterday.

Lookin' forward to it.

[PS- Tom Delay, embattled due to ongoing ethical/legal troubles, is spending primary day in Texas in Washington DC at a fundraiser... hosted by two lobbyists. The President, however, is flying down to Texas to vote in person in the primaries. Democracy in action.]


The South Dakota abortion ban was signed into law yesterday.

AP: S.D. Governor Signs Abortion Ban Into Law

The money quote-
The law, designed to raise a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, is scheduled to take effect July 1.

Amazing. They don't care who this ban impacts, they just want to win their ideological crusade.

To give you an idea of just far conservatives want to take this, Digby takes a look at a recent PBS NewsHour segment featuring SD State Senator Bill Napoli (Republican, natch). Here's the key section of the segment-
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Napoli says most abortions are performed for what he calls "convenience." ... I asked him for a scenario in which an exception may be invoked.

BILL NAPOLI: A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.

Let that sink in for just a minute.

Digby then unleashes his thoughts on this insanity-
I wonder if it would be ok if the woman wasn't religious but she was a virgin who had been brutally, savagely raped and "sodomized as bad as you can make it?" Or if she were a virgin and religious but the brutal savage sodomy wasn't "as bad" as it could have been?

Certainly, we know that if she wasn't a virgin, she was asking for it, so she should be punished with forced childbirth. No lazy "convenient" abortion for her, the little whore. It goes without saying that the victim who was saving it for her marriage is a good girl who didn't ask to be brutally raped and sodomized like the sluts who didn't hold out. But even that wouldn't be quite enough by itself. The woman must be sufficiently destroyed psychologically by the savage brutality that the forced childbirth would drive her to suicide (the presumed scenario in which this pregnancy could conceivably "threaten her life.")

Personally, I say if a non-religious girl is raped, but not brutally, she must keep that child!

Republicans are the party of life, ya know.

Alberto Gonzales: Liar

America's favorite sanctioner of war crimes goes to London to defend our honor...

He said-
The U.S. attorney general defended his country's treatment of terror suspects against criticism from Europe and elsewhere, saying Tuesday that the United States abhors torture and respects the rights of detainees.

Total lie.

Alberto Gonzales also said the U.S. did not transport terrorism suspects to nations where it was likely they could be tortured.


Key Gonzales quote:
"I regret that there has been concern or confusion about our commitment to the rule of law."

Me too.

Working Hard Or Hardly Working?

As if that Homeland Security story wasn't scary enough, here's some news about how hard U.S. intelligence boss John Negroponte is working to make sure no more mistakes are made (pre-9/11 failures, pre-Iraq failures, domestic spying, etc). has details-
On many a workday lunchtime, the nominal boss of U.S. intelligence, John D. Negroponte, can be found at a private club in downtown Washington, getting a massage, taking a swim, and having lunch, followed by a good cigar and a perusal of the daily papers in the club’s library.

“He spends three hours there [every] Monday through Friday,” gripes a senior counterterrorism official, noting that the former ambassador has a security detail sitting outside all that time in chase cars. Others say they’ve seen the Director of National Intelligence at the University Club, a 100-year-old mansion-like redoubt of dark oak panels and high ceilings a few blocks from the White House, only “several” times a week.

The article frames it in a soft 'everybody needs to unwind' way, but c'mon! We pay this man's salary. And given this administration's historically awful record on matters of intelligence, Mr. Negroponte should be spending as much time at the office as possible. I don't care how much of a "comfort zone" he needs after playing hot potato over the White House's crimes and failures, this idiot should not be getting happy endings at a massage parlor while people are getting limbs blown off in Iraq because of weapons of mass destruction that weren't there. There are weekends and vacation days for that frivilous nonsense. Don't take the damn job if you can't handle the stress. You're the head of intelligence for the U.S. government, not district Walmart manager (and they'd be happy to get health insurance, let alone leisure time).

These people need to grow the hell up and act like they care about governing.

Freedom Is On The March

Soldiers overseas get computer time- send emails to family, maybe surf the web if they have time. On these military computers, some websites do get blocked (this is an understandable practice, common in many workplaces). One such site is popular political blog Wonkette. They've been looking into it and, so far, have this sampling of various websites, some blocked and some not. Notice a pattern?
Wonkette – “Forbidden, this page ( is categorized as: Forum/Bulletin Boards, Politics/Opinion.”

Bill O’Reilly ( – OK

Air America ( – “Forbidden, this page ( is categorized as: Internet Radio/TV, Politics/Opinion.”

Rush Limbaugh ( – OK

ABC News “The Note” – OK

Website of the Al Franken Show ( – “Forbidden, this page ( is categorized as: Internet Radio/TV, Politics/Opinion.”

G. Gordon Liddy Show ( – OK

Don & Mike Show ( – “Forbidden, this page ( is categorized as: Profanity, Entertainment/Recreation/Hobbies.”

Hmmm. Must be a coincidence. [*cough*]

Monday, March 06, 2006

Big Brother To Police Itself?

A couple of years ago, the White House established a civil liberties protection board.

It's never met.

Says it all, no? Well now it may actually meet, but what (if anything) will actually be done is questionable...

Newsweek: Watchdog: What Ever Happened to the Civil Liberties Board?
For more than a year, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has been the most invisible office in the White House. Created by Congress in December 2004 as a result of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, the board has never hired a staff or even held a meeting. Next week, NEWSWEEK has learned, that is due to finally change when the board's five members are slated to be sworn in at the White House and convene their first session. Board members tell NEWSWEEK the panel intends to immediately tackle contentious issues like the president's domestic wiretapping program, the Patriot Act and Pentagon data mining. But critics are furious the process has taken this long—and question whether the White House intends to treat the panel as anything more than window dressing...

And for an Orwellian look into the future, see this brilliant ACLU ad.

And tomorrow is a day of reckoning for this scandal. Details:
-Wiretapping Vote Expected on Tuesday-
Senate Intelligence Committee to Consider Whether It Will Investigate Domestic Spying Program
(ABC News)

-One day left for the White House to squash an investigation (Glenn Greenwald)

The Katrina Smoking Gun: The NY Post Gets Letters

The NY Post, the Murdoch-owned conservative rag, never ceases to amuse me.

Last week, Bush administration pal John Podhoretz wrote a column blowing off the AP video. Readers sent in letters and, not having a personal relationship with the neocons in the White House, don't share his breezy attitude to the horror that was the federal response. In the actual paper, the Post's intro to these letters states the subject is the new video "suggesting" that the President was warned of the dangers to New Orleans. Suggesting?!! It was all there in the video! That's like saying that 'Brokeback Mountain' "suggested" a sexual relationship between Jack and Ennis. Luckily, some of the Post's readers are smarter than their editorial staff...

The letters-
John Podhoretz asks about the leaked Katrina video, "Cui bono? To whose benefit does the leak accrue?" ("Brownie's Revenge," PostOpinion, March 3).

The answer is not Michael Brown, the former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

It benefits the American people, those who still harbor false hope that President Bush can, or will, ever help anyone.

The sooner they dis- abuse themselves of this notion, the sooner they can prepare to fend for themselves during the next disaster.

We still have three years left of this presidency.

Emery Lapinski
Louisville, Ky.

Subsequent to Hurricane Katrina's strike, Bush sought to take the American people for fools, stating that no one could have predicted the magnitude of the disaster.

Experts had warned that the city could not withstand a Category 5 hurricane, that massive loss of life would occur.

We now learn through taped evidence that a prediction was made as to what would occur after Katrina made landfall. The details were communicated directly to the president, who responded that the nation was ready.

No government entity was ready, least of all the federal government.

I have not often longed for the days of President Clinton, but I believe that he and his FEMA team would have provided the dying and suffering souls of New Orleans an effective and timely response in their hours of unspeakable anguish and terror.

Oren Spiegler
Upper Saint Clair, Pa.

Bush knew beforehand the probability that the levees were going to break after the hurricane.

He also knew that troops, buses, ships, airplanes, water, food and medicine had to be prepositioned to help save our fellow citizens.

It was arrogant and incompetent for Bush to stay on vacation while Americans were literally up to their necks in water.

Thousands of people perished or were displaced or injured.

All that was needed was fast action and common sense.

Neil Harry Lori
Montclair, N.J.

Sounds right to me.

And the Washington Post has a great article on the aftermath of the tape's revelations:
Katrina Video Refuels Debate Over Response-
White House Issues Defense Of Bush's Handling of Storm

And many people still continue to wonder when Bush will be held accountable for all of this.

[PS- Semi-off-topic... The Post thinks the White House needs to be more open- about how great the war is!!]

What's So Civil About War Anyway?

Conservative pundits are getting very defensive about the news that Iraq is bogged down in a civil war. Because accepting this would mean accepting that a) the war effort has largely failed, and b) the President may not have accomplished the mission as awesomely as he said... it simply cannot be allowed to pass.

They offer many reasons why Iraq couldn't possibly be embroiled in a civil war- its government is still functioning, the citizens are still going to work and living their lives, businesses remain open, and so on.

These conservatives seem to have an insanely strict definition of what civil war is.

The things mentioned above are all very good things (I salute the Iraqis' strength), but they don't have anything to do with civil war. Civil war does not mean the all-out crumbling of a society and absolute anarchy. It simply means, well, a war inside a nation between two feuding factions. You know- a civil war. When we had our civil war here in America, our society hadn't crumbled. We still had a functioning government (two in fact!), citizens went to work everyday (some in the South didn't get paid for it, though), businesses remained open, and people went to the theatre (unfortunately for Mr. Lincoln). But the country was bitterly divided and engaged in war. We have seen this as the case in other historic civil wars (ie. those in South America, etc). Such is also now the case with Iraq.

Even the leaders in Iraq are remaining very apprehensive on what's to come-
After crisis, a lull - but Iraq leaders gloomy (AP)

I heard someone joke this weekend (Bill Maher... or Arianna Huffington) that conservatives won't admit civil war in Iraq until Iraqis show up on TV in old American civil war battle outfits. Because that will obviously never happen, these loyal Bush apologists will continue to keep their head in the sand and avoid the reality of Iraq that even William Buckley and George Will have conceded.

The problem is that the longer those in power in deny the truth, the worse it will get.

[PS- See previous entry for more thoughts on civil war:
I Don't Need Your Civil War ]

Family Matters

Another chapter in the Bill and Hillary saga-

Bill Clinton has advised United Arab Emirates officials on handling the port controversy...

...While his wife vocally opposes the deal in the Senate.

Just a preview of the wacky drama we'll get if the Democrats try to put Hillary in the White House.

Okay... One Final Oscar Post (For Real This Time)

Howdy to anyone who heard me plugged on Q104.3 here in NY this morning (thanks, Joe!).

Please make yourself at home. Take your shoes off. Have a drink.

The general consensus on Jon Stewart seems to be that he did a fantastic job, but was given the cold shoulder by an audience that took itself way too seriously (not surprising, anyone remember last year when Sean Penn defended Jude Law's honor after a joke by Chris Rock?). Stewart may not be asked back next year, but we'll always have 2006.

Two good articles with praise for Jon:
-Those big stars just don’t get Jon Stewart (MSNBC)

PS- Again, if anyone missed it, here is video of the opening monologue:
Academy Awards / Jon Stewart

Mr. President, I Wish I Could Veto You

The President wants (to quote Tim 'The Tool Man' Taylor) "more power!!".

AP: Bush to Propose Line-Item Veto Legislation

I find it insane that, at a time when his political standing is at an all-time low (due in no small part to abuses of power, large and small), that the President is requesting of Congress more power for himself. This would be a power, by the way, that was given to President Clinton in the '90s but removed when the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional. Perhaps President Bush will argue that, as per his Article II powers, he has the inherent authority to demand this power, regardless of what the "judiciary branch" said about its "constitutionality".

Or perhaps he will simply cash in some of that political capital of his!

Let me also say that, in theory, a line-item veto could be a very good tool to cut down on many legislative excesses. In the hands of this President, however, I'd expect he'd use it to cut out science funding and social programs rather than porkbarrel pet projects or unnecessary military spending. At this point, I doubt most Americans would trust the President to walk their dogs, let alone grant him such sweeping power.

The President needs to understand something... he asks much of the American people: trust, power, and support. But these things cannot be taken, they must be earned. What has the President done to earn those things? I said when Bush was reelected, I was willing to give him a second chance if he could earn it... he did not. If possible, he has exceeded my worst fears on a Bush second term in every way. The President will be lucky to escape this term without impeachment. So, even discussing line-item veto power? I don't think so, Tim.

Hopefully the ongoing port saga still has Congress on offense against the desires of the White House.

An Army Of One (Party)

One of the more disgraceful ways that President Bush has abused our military (besides sending them off to fight an unnecessary war and failing to provide adequate armor and depleting their resources) is using them as props for his photo-ops. Nothing like surrounding yourself with better people than you to hide your numerous shortcomings. Recently, it'd been reported that the White House was going further- sending soldiers to speak at Republican party events, a big no-no.

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo has been investigating this issue-
A few weeks ago we discussed the fact that the RNC was apparently working with the White House to send active duty members of the military in uniform to speak on behalf of the president's policies at Republican political events. That's against the law and military regulations. And for good reason since that's a quick ride to making the military -- or factions or individuals in the military -- tools of one or the other political party.

Now we seem to have an example in practice...

He focuses on a recent event with Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) as the first instance of this tactic.

Read his entries on this event- here, here, and here.

White House Wages War On The Media

The White House is very serious about stopping leaks.

Just ask Karl.

Washington Post: White House Trains Efforts on Media Leaks
The Bush administration, seeking to limit leaks of classified information, has launched initiatives targeting journalists and their possible government sources. The efforts include several FBI probes, a polygraph investigation inside the CIA and a warning from the Justice Department that reporters could be prosecuted under espionage laws...

As the First Amendment states- "No entity may question, or expose, the wrongdoings or criminality of the Executive, unless they doth wish to be sent to the gallows. A press will be established, with limits, and provided with talking points to dissiminate to the populace. The right to Christianity is protected. Citizens may express support and praise for the Executive, but should otherwise question how their speech will impact the Executive and the ongoing War Effort. Gatherings must be limited to events authorized by the Executive. Please don't attempt to redress any grievances."

Glenn Greenwald analyzes the situation:
Bush's attacks on press freedoms escalate

Chertoff, You're Doing A Heck Of A Job

Now here's the type of story you hate to read before you've had your breakfast...

AP: Guards Say Homeland Security HQ Insecure
The agency entrusted with protecting the U.S. homeland is having difficulty safeguarding its own headquarters, say private security guards at the complex...

...For instance, when an envelope with suspicious powder was opened last fall at Homeland Security Department headquarters, guards said they watched in amazement as superiors carried it by the office of Secretary Michael Chertoff, took it outside and then shook it outside Chertoff's window without evacuating people nearby.

Sounds like a Three Stooges bit. Feel safer, folks?

Sea Span

Bill Maher was on fire in his latest 'New Rules' segment-

"President Bush has to stop saying that, before 9/11, we thought oceans could protect us. No. We didn't. Maybe in your world the oceans were like America's moat and you were King and Condi was a Nubian princess. But, in our world, we knew that our enemies, evil though they may be, had figured out boats and flying machines."

Video- here.

Final Oscar Post

Two reasons why Jon Stewart kicked some ass-

“‘Capote’ and ‘Good Night, and Good Luck’ [are] both films about determined journalists defying obstacles in a relentless pursuit of truth. Needless to say, both are period pieces.”
--Properly schooling today's real journalists.

"Do you think that if we all got together and pulled this down that democracy would flourish in Hollywood?"
--Upon noticing the huge Oscar statue to his side

And the "Dames For Truth" attack ad on Judi Dench ("Judi Dench took my eye out in a bar fight!") and the other campaign-style ads with the Stephen Colbert voice-over... genius.

[PS- OneGoodMove has video of Stewart's opening monologue.]

Out Of Touch

While I wasn't impressed by the show overall, I did enjoy this-

"And finally, I would say that, you know, we are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while. I think it's probably a good thing. We're the ones who talk about AIDS when it was just being whispered, and we talked about civil rights when it wasn't really popular. And we, you know, we bring up subjects. This Academy, this group of people gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939 when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters. I'm proud to be a part of this Academy. Proud to be part of this community, and proud to be out of touch."
--George Clooney, accepting his award (after Stewart's joke about Hollywood)

What he said.

Obligatory Oscar Post

First things first... "Brokeback" was robbed. 10 years from now, everyone will still be talking about it and loving it. Meanwhile, barely anyone will remember/watch "Crash", just like "Shakespeare in Love" and other films the Academy worshipped but should've just been happy to be nominated. Jack and Ennis, I still love you.

Second... I hate to sound like a conservative pundit, but.... FUCK HOLLYWOOD. Take a joke, people! Everyone knows the Oscars are just a big masturbatory farce, and instead of just having fun with it, this crowd manages to drain all the excitement out of it once again. Jon Stewart was (by far) the best host they've had in years- funny, down-to-earth, witty, original, and playful. And they all just stared at him like he came from another planet. Ohh sure, they were fine when he was making jokes about Dick Cheney shooting Bjork in the face, but once he started mocking their little circle jerk, they acted all scandalized and offended. "MY GOODNESS THAT MAN JUST CURSED IN CHURCH! GOOD LORD!". Again... they're called jokes, folks! Stewart is a liberal, but he has a sense of humor about it and about the Oscars. Too bad he was (seemingly) the only in the building who does.

This is best summed by Stewart exclaiming after the 'Pimp' song won- "How come they're the most excited people here tonight?"

Overall, it was a very fun show to watch (as much as it usually is, anyway), but I can't get into a show/party where everyone's too uptight to laugh at themselves. Still, it was nice to see unique people (Hoffman, Witherspoon, Ang Lee, etc) get Oscars this year. They all deserved it. If there is one good thing that can be said about this year's Oscars, is that they made some very unique nominations.

My advice for next year.... keep nominating underappreciated and talented people like the ones nominated this year. And bring Jon Stewart back. And this time, smile you uptight fuckers. It's a party.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Quote of the Day II

Rep. John Murtha on 'Face The Nation'-
MURTHA: The public is way ahead of what’s going on in Washington. They no longer believe it. The troops themselves, 70 percent of the troops said we want to come home within a year. The only solution to this is to redeploy. Let me tell you, the only people who want us in Iraq is Iran and al-Qaeda. I’ve talked to a top-level commander the other day, it was about two weeks ago, and he said China wants us there also. Why? Because we’re depleting our resources, our troop resources and our fiscal resources.

SCHIEFFER: Now, Congressman, when you say al-Qaeda wants us there, why would al-Qaeda want us there?

MURTHA: Because we’re depleting our resources. A very small proportion of what’s going on in Iraq — they’ve diverted their attention away from the war on terrorism. The war on terrorism is worldwide. In Iraq, it’s a civil war. We have diverted ourselves away from that war on terrorism.

Once again, Rep. Murtha speaks the truth that other Democrats are too scared to utter.

Good for you, sir. The rest will catch up to you soon enough.

[Via- Crooks and Liars]

Quote of the Day

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Peter Pace on 'Meet The Press'-
RUSSERT: If you were to be asked whether things in Iraq are going well or badly, what would you say? How would you answer?

PACE: I’d say they’re going well. I wouldn’t put a great big smiley face on it, but I would say they’re going very, very well from everything you look at.

Mission accomplished.

[Via- Think Progress]


After all the lies and spin, the Tillman family may finally get answers...

AP: Joint Chiefs Chair Promises Tillman Review
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Sunday promised the family of former professional football player Pat Tillman that investigators will examine all the facts surrounding his death in Afghanistan.

Gen. Peter Pace said the Army was launching a criminal investigation into the April 2004 death of Tillman — an Army Ranger shot by fellow soldiers in what previous military reviews had concluded was an accident — because the Defense Department's inspector general determined it was an additional step that needed to be taken.

[Related blog post- Pat Tillman's Death : A Look Back in Time]

The Falafel Police Squad

The right-wing's favorite thin-skinned baby is scared of MSNBC's Keith Olbermann.

So much so, in fact, he is sicking Fox security goons on anyone who mentions Olbermann's name to him...

Transcript from the March 2 broadcast of Bill'Os "The Radio Factor", via Media Matters:
O'REILLY: Orlando, Florida, Mike, go.

CALLER: Hey Bill, I appreciate you taking my call.


CALLER: I like to listen to you during the day, I think Keith Olbermann's show --

O'REILLY: There ya go, Mike is -- he's a gone guy. You know, we have his -- we have your phone numbers, by the way. So, if you're listening, Mike, we have your phone number, and we're going to turn it over to Fox security, and you'll be getting a little visit.

HILL: Maybe Mike is from the mothership.

O'REILLY: No, Maybe Mike is going to get into big trouble, because we're not going to play around. When you call us, ladies and gentleman, just so you know, we do have your phone number, and if you say anything untoward, obscene, or anything like that, Fox security then will contact your local authorities, and you will be held accountable. Fair?

HILL: That's fair.

O'REILLY: So, just -- all you guys who do this kind of a thing, you know, I know some shock jocks. Whatever. You will be held accountable. Believe it.

The worst part? He wasn't bluffing. He really did sick his goons on the caller.

Fox News: Fairly Imbalanced

[PS- A Lancaster newspaper reporter takes O'Reilly to task for his Iraq war statements:
Chin music irks beanball pitcher]