Saturday, April 29, 2006

Stephen Colbert Schools William Kristol

Thursday night, William Kristol (neocon ringleader and Weekly Standard editor) was the guest on "The Colbert Report". It was a fantastic interview, the kind that suits Stephen's style perfectly. I've been waiting for video of this to be show up online today and it has... and apparently it's creating a lot of blogosphere buzz too!

Video: William Kristol On The Colbert Report (Alternate- C&L)

Transcript: Colbert Report Transcript, 4/28/06

Key section-
COLBERT: Speaking of thinking alike, you were a member, or are a member of the Project for a New American Century, correct?

COLBERT: Were or am?

KRISTOL: Were and am.

COLBERT: How’s that Project coming?

KRISTOL: Well it’s…

COLBERT: How’s the New American Century? Looks good to me, right?

KRISTOL: I think it, I…I’m speechless.

This was by far, one of the best interviews Stephen has done yet. I actually did a double-take when he brought up the Project For A New American Century. Even though that group and their writings is clearly the key to understanding the entire Bush administration foreign policy and power structure (I did a writeup on the group last June), the media does not touch it. It's never brought up. Ever. So for Stephen to so casually ask Kristol how the "Project" is going was a shock- a pleasant one. Kristol was clearly taken aback and visibly flummoxed, struggling to figure out a way to defend himself. Seeing him pretend it's been going well and that Rumsfeld wasn't a key part of the group was fun. It's clearly not a subject he's comfortable with.

As for watching Stephen digging at his chickenhawk nature by bringing up the Vietnam draft, exposing the hypocrisy of going after some dictators while ignoring others, and getting him to accidently endorse spousal abuse? Icing on the cake.

On a related note, Bill Maher also schooled loyal neocon player Victor Davis Hanson (who argues that war is the natural state of man) on last night's 'Real Time'. After Hanson restated the neocon worldview, Maher replied, "But if we had to go around the world and attack all the countries that were evil, we'd never really stop... If Iraq was really so intolerable, why don't we attack Darfur?... If there's evil in the world and we have to fight, I don't understand why we stop at one country." And then when Hanson responded by noting how we're using diplomatic solutions in other countries, Maher quickly turned it around to expose the foreign policy hypocrisy of these fools.

Mostly, I admit it is a pleasure for me (after years of reading stuff from their section of the right calling opposition to their worldview treasonous and unamerican) to see people like Kristol and Hanson humbled. Maybe that's not the most mature attitude, but I'm basking in it nonetheless.

For years, Kristol and his ilk had waited for the chance to get into power and start pushing their military agenda. That chance came in 2000 with George W. Bush. His staff was packed with the neocon elite- Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, etc- and the planning was underway, even before 9/11 gave them the selling point. Of course, their grand experiment has blown up in our faces and proved to be one of the greatest foreign policy disasters in American history.

So what's a disgraced neocon to do? Admit failure? Apologize? Agree that preemptive wars and a "might makes right" approach to spreading democracy is wrong and choose now to work with the other side to repair the damage? Nope. They're just as dedicated to their "project" as ever... although, as we see in this interview, they're a bit less confident about it publicly.

The post-Iraq neocon strategy has been that of the pseudo-apology. Many neocons figures, like Kristol and Francis Fukuyama, have publicly conceded that much of the war has been a failure, but they then maintain that the idea itself was fantastic, there just a few unexpected bumps along the way. Like, ya know, the Iraqi people actually defending their country and the fact that no one in the Bush administration apparently knows how to manage a war. On that last point, the neocons are quite happy to throw their old puppet George W. under the bus. They know Bush is a liability to their cause, so they're cutting him loose, calling him "incompetent", all so they can turn around and represent their freshly-polished turd of an agenda as a great idea all over again. After all, they insist Iraq would've worked out great... if only it didn't fail.

This sacrificing of Bush for the greater conservative/neoconservative good is a common theme these days on the right. Digby recently explored this theme, looking at how many arch-conservatives like Rush Limbaugh are now blowing Bush off, stating he's not a real conservative, and ignoring that he is the guy they have been worshipping almost cult-like for the last 5 years. The purpose of this is to protect the conservative agenda. They know that Bush is going down in flames and they don't want him to take them down with him. So all of the sudden, he's not their guy anymore. At 32%, it's not safe to pretend that George W. Bush is the new Ronald Reagan anymore.

It's the 'President Bush may have made a few mistakes (probably the fault of the Democrats anyway), but the agenda was solid and strong and we were still right the whole time' defense. They'll get it right the next time, they swear.

What is truly disturbing to me about these pseudo-mea-culpas is the arrogance surrounding them. All of the conservative war critics- even those genuinely principled ones like Andrew Sullivan who abandoned Bush before the '04 election- maintain that they were both right to support the Iraq war in 2003 and right to have turned against it now. Liberals and moderate conservatives who opposed the war in 2002/2003 on principle or based on beliefs that there were no WMDs/Al Qaeda ties were, apparently, still misguided even in retrospect. It was right to support the war (suck on it, Dixie Chicks), but now that it's gone to crap, it's right to speak out against it. Liberals now are apparently still wrong in our opposition, because we don't have principles; we just hate Bush and don't support the war on terror and yada yada yada... Even in their newfound humility, they have to act superior and smug.

Steve Anderson at the Huffington Post recently looked at at Francis Fukuyama's 'redemption' from neoconservativism and wasn't impressed with what he saw. Anderson states-
The reason many of us on the left still don't feel inclined to accept your non-apology is that it's really not so much an apology as a snotty declaration that you really knew what was right all along, when you clearly didn't. As far back as your PNAC letter it seemed clear to many that the idea of Democratiztion of the Middle East was a really fanciful disaster waiting to happen.

That you have partially distanced yourself from the goals is a great thing. But to still maintain that many of the rationales for the Iraq war were good and noble ideas indicates that you're still not getting it.


This isn't to say, of course, that they all have given up. Many neocons, particularly pundits like Charles Krauthammer and John Podhoretz (still somehow respected, after being proved wrong on pretty much everything they've ever written about), and even Kristol too for the most part, have never given up the faith. They're too far in to jump out now.

History, I believe, will not judge them kindly.

[PS- Don't forget to watch C-SPAN tonight as Colbert hosts the annual White House Correspondents Dinner.]

Why The Elections Are So Important For Bush

A good overview on why the White House is so worried about the midterm elections-

AP: Bush's Fortune May Rest With GOP Congress
President Bush is not on the ballot in November, but he might as well be. Republican losses could make an already difficult situation in Congress almost untenable for him.

If his party loses control of one, or both chambers of Congress, the next two years could be a political nightmare for Bush and his GOP allies on Capitol Hill...

Josh Marshall looks at what awaits the President on the other end of a GOP congressional defeat-
The president is unpopular for a lot of reasons. The biggest reason is probably Iraq -- in all its many manifestations. But a very big reason -- and one that suffuses many of the other reasons -- is a growing sense that the president and his chief advisors are dishonest, incompetent, cynical and possibly corrupt.

That's not great. But when you think about this coming election, and the stakes for the White House, you need to figure that that's all come about without any independent, let alone antagonistic or hostile, investigations into the key issues that have led to this souring view of the president.

Would the president look better after a new look at the Iraq intel bamboozlement that wasn't controlled by Sen. Roberts? How about an investigation into the executive branch side of the Abramoff scandal? What about a look into the Plame affair? What about the folks in Rumsfeld's office who knew about Duke's corruption but looked the other way?

Aggrieved opposition parties can go overboard when they come back into power and damage themselves -- the Republicans in 1946 and 1994 are good examples. But the Bush administration has built up a very big backlog of bad acts.

Get ready for a rough summer and fall. The White House can't afford to lose either house of Congress.


Accountability may be coming. If the Democrats can survive the summer.

Saturday Morning Funnies: Week In Review

Another Saturday morning means the week in review... as seen by political cartoonists.





Friday, April 28, 2006

Why The Patriot Act Is Dangerous

Here's something I randomly came across this evening-

AP: U.S.: FBI Sought Info Without Court OK
The FBI secretly sought information last year on 3,501 U.S. citizens and legal residents from their banks and credit card, telephone and Internet companies without a court's approval, the Justice Department said Friday.

It was the first time the Bush administration has publicly disclosed how often it uses the administrative subpoena known as a National Security Letter, which allows the executive branch of government to obtain records about people in terrorism and espionage investigations without a judge's approval or a grand jury subpoena.

Friday's disclosure was mandated as part of the renewal of the Patriot Act, the administration's sweeping anti-terror law...

Notice that the Justice Department made this announcement on a Friday evening, when they knew few people would be paying attention? That's a standard trick. "Ohhh you're leaving for the weekend? Okay have fun, ohhh by the way, we've been gathering information on thousands of American citizens without court approval or oversight, okay then see you on Monday, bye!"

I'm always amazed at how little our basic constitutional freedoms are valued in the super-patriotic post-9/11 world. If the terrorists supposedly hated us for our freedoms, then why were those the very first things we were willing to sacrifice in the name of battling terror? Remember- it's those small freedoms, the ones you take for granted, that are always the first to disappear.

I always thought that the United States was a strong country- a country that won two World Wars, a country that won the Cold War without firing a shot- and could combat terrorism without having to disregard many of our freedoms as relics of a forgotten, simpler age. I was wrong. I apologize.

I can only hope that the next President will have the courage to rip up the Patriot Act.

[PS- The Bush administration fights to keep its secrets in the face of concerned Americans-
Feds Try to Dismiss Domestic Spying Suit]

The Costs Of War

Matthew Yglesias looks at the funding issues of the Iraq war-
This article on revised Congressional Research Service estimates of spending on the Iraq War is pretty dull until the end, but then it starts to get interesting. The report apparently contains such phrases as "These factors, however, are not enough to explain a 50-percent increase of over $20 billion in operating costs" and "These reasons are not sufficient, however, to explain the level of increases." Relatedly, the Post reports that "Of the total war spending, the CRS analysis found $4 billion that could not be tracked. It did identify $2.5 billion diverted from other spending authorizations in 2001 and 2002 to prepare for the invasion." I'm fairly sure you're not allowed to "divert" money from other spending authorizations, and you're certainly not supposed to lose $4 billion in untrackable spending. Nor does it sound entirely appropriate for the Pentagon to be running its operation in such a way that the CRS can't discern the causes of 50 percent spending increases. All the sort of thing a real congress would hold some hearings on, and, once again, I won't be holding my breath.

Congress... Hold hearings? Defend their own authority? Unheard of!

On a related note, Jonathan Schwartz explores a possibly impeachable offense committed by President Bush in the way he has been appropriating and controlling the spending in Iraq. Not that it matters; Congress won't investigate or ask questions. Bush is the War President, xenith of his powers, no statute can hold him down, yada yada. We know the drill.

Meanwhile, April has been the deadliest month in Iraq so far this year.

Such is the cost when you're living with war.

[PS- The Iraq war... keeping terrorism growing strong since 2003!]

[PPS- This weekend is the third anniversary of 'Mission Accomplished'. How's that working out, George?]

Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood

Last month, I wrote about a campaign commercial for Vernon Robinson, who is running for Congress in North Carolina as a Republican. The ad painted America as some liberal Twilight Zone (wait and which party runs this country exactly?) filled with gays, Mexicans, feminists, etc, who are destroying our "traditional American values". Robinson pledged to return American to our black and white 'Leave It To Beaver' traditional past, which never really existed anyway, except in Normal Rockwell paintings.

Well now Mr. Robinson has a new ad out (you can hear audio at Crooks and Liars). The ad paints his opponent, Brad Miller, as an out-of-control liberal who wants to steal your tax money and use it to throw a non-stop party for homosexuals and Mexicans. And no, I am not exaggerating. That's what the ad says.

Daily Kos reports that Robinson is being groomed by the GOP as a major player. Scary.

You have listen to the ad. Seriously. It represents everything wrong with the Republican party as it stands today. When you listen, keep in mind that this is the mindset that has been running our country. This is the mindset that we have to cut through if we want to convince voters to dump all these morons in November. God help us, because it's likely going to be harder than it should be.

Listen Up, My Friends...

You know a good weekend awaits you when it begins with Rush Limbaugh's mug shot-

A face only three ex-wives a mother could love.

AP: Rush Limbaugh charged with drug fraud
Conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh turned himself into police in Florida on Friday and was charged with prescription drug fraud as part of a probe that began more than two years ago, authorities said...

...Under a deal disclosed by Limbaugh's attorney, Roy Black, the single count of "doctor shopping" against the radio talk-show host will be dismissed in 18 months....

Darn those liberals making Rush abuse those drugs! Does their treachery know no end?

At this time, Mr. Limbaugh is said to be recovering well from the slap on his wrist.

[PS- In regards to his recent rant on the Clinton shadow government, I think his doctor should check if he's really clean.]

Big Mistake

I have written how the xenophobic demagougery that the GOP Congress is trying to pass off as an 'immigration debate' is only going to come back to bite them in the ass on Election Day. Hispanic voters, other immigrant groups, and families who understand the lengths people will go to make a better life for their loved ones have not taken kindly to watching the far-right scapegoat hispanics for political gain.

Andrew Sullivan has a good example of the deadly costs this xenophobic fervor is creating.

But, to be fair, that doesn't mean I'm at all enthused about this-
May 1 protest aims to "close" cities (AP)
Pro-immigration activists say a national boycott and marches planned for May 1 will flood U.S. streets with millions of Latinos to demand amnesty for illegal immigrants and shake the ground under Congress as it debates reform.

Such a massive turnout could make for the largest protests since the civil rights era of the 1960s, though not all Latinos -- nor their leaders -- were comfortable with such militancy, fearing a backlash in Middle America...

Yup. That backlash could erase a lot of the sympathy they have garnered too. The protests on Monday will be labeled as angry and will paint the protestors as ungrateful for the hospitality this country has generally showed them. In particular, the demand for a blanket amnesty is a bad move; sorry, that's never going to happen. There was planned legislation that, while including punishments/fines for illegals, would create a path to citizenship. That should be the compromise they should be embracing and fighting for, not an all-or-nothing demand.

It's bad enough the far-right is refusing compromise; it will be worse for immigrants if they do too.

My advice? They're better off going to work that day. That would reinforce the value they provide to our economy and be a better olive branch anyway. There's no reason to give Congress further reason to heat up this debate. There are commonsense solutions to be had that can both protect/secure the border, enforce the existing laws, and also recognize that there is a human issue to this debate that cannot be brushed aside.

I'm a big fan of taking it to the streets, but this time it's a big mistake.

[PS- All this 'outrage' at the whole National Anthem thing? People really need to calm down already.]

Congressmen Arrested At Protest Against Darfur Genocide

Five Democratic members of Congress were among protestors arrested today in front of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington DC. They were there to protest the continued genocide in Darfur that the Sudanese government is responsible for.

AP: Congress Members Arrested at Sudan Protest

They put their money where their mouth is and took a stand. Good for them.

This is part of a larger series of rallies that will be occuring all over the country this weekend to point a spotlight on this issue. The spotlight already attracted President Bush's attention, who said "The genocide in Sudan is unacceptable. There will be rallies across our country to send a message to the Sudanese government that the genocide must stop... I want the Sudanese government to understand the United States of America is serious about solving this problem."

Time will tell if action follows this rhetoric or if those were empty promises from President George "Hollow" Bush.

Finally, a U.N. decision on food rations is not encouraging news.

Selectively Going After Leakers... Silencing Dissent?

A new intelligence bill passed in the House seems on the surface just a standard funding bill for intel activities, but there are a lot of nasty nuggets buried in it. First are provisions giving the government greater ability to punish those who leak. This might also seem standard under different circumstances, but it's almost certainly part of the Bush administration's crackdown on whistleblowers who reveal damaging information about the administration's activities (as best seen in the firing of CIA agent Mary McCarthy, based on allegations of connections to a Washington Post story on secret torture prisons). Considering how much leaking the White House gets away with, the hypocrisy is astounding. Leaks are apparently now defined as any release of information which exposes potentially criminal behavior on the part of our government.

A second aspect of this story was a defeat of Democratic efforts to add a provision for greater oversight and debate on the President's warrantless wiretapping program, which he hid even from Congress for over four years. In regards to concerns that the President's program has been abused (a fact verified in many accounts by FBI agents and others, as well as the recent stories on AT&T), House Intelligence Chairman Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., said those concerns are "absolutely outrageous." I wonder how Hoekstra is so certain of that, when his fellow Republicans in Congress have managed to stop any substantive investigations or hearings into the program, its reach, or its legality.

And farther down the rabbit hole we go...

AP: House Weighs Boost in Spy Chief's Budget
The House passed an intelligence bill Wednesday that would dramatically boost the money available to the new spy chief and require the Bush administration to consider blocking the pensions of government leakers...

...Democrats expressed outrage that Republicans would not allow any of their five proposed amendments to be considered by the full House, including measures to expand congressional oversight of the NSA program and the intelligence on Iran.

California Rep. Jane Harman, the intelligence committee's top Democrat, supported the bill during the panel's deliberations. Yet she ultimately voted against it, saying intelligence officers aren't served by a bill "that does not protect the Constitution they are fighting to defend."...

Amen, Jane.

John at AmericaBlog looks at at unusual new rules governing what former CIA officials can publish that seemingly seek to supress criticism of the Bush administration and the way the CIA is currently run. John sums up how all of these new protections in the name of the war on terror are sucking the soul out of our democracy-
America wasn't created in order to throw away everything it stands for in order to survive. That was not the intent of our founding fathers, that we protect and defend our God-given - remember, God-given they told us - rights only when it was convenient. If they're God-given rights, then how can man suspend them, even for a war on terror?

The Republican party no longer represents freedom or democracy or America. They have become the worst historical caricature of what liberals were always supposed to be (but actually weren't). Un-American, loose-spending, wimps who are ultimately terribly dangerous to our freedom in troubled times.

Careful John, that kind of talk will you labeled an America-hater by the 32%-ers.

Shane Harris also takes a look at these issues in the National Journal:
Silencing The Squeaky Wheels

New Orleans Welcomes Visitors Once More

Not long after Mardi Gras, New Orleans gets another much-needed opportunity for tourist dollars...

AP: New Orleans hopes Jazz Fest can cure Katrina blues
Raucous jazz, rhythm and blues and zydeco are synonymous with New Orleans and now the struggling city is looking to its famed annual celebration of all things musical to kick-start post-Katrina healing...

Harry Shearer was back in New Orleans to tell his tales:
-A Jazzfest Diary, pt. One
-A Jazzfest Diary, Part 2

Another visitor to the Big Easy this week was President Bush who toured the city, reaffirming his still empty promises to see the city rebuilt. Said the President, "There’s still a lot to be done." Captain Obvious to the rescue. He also had a friendly chat with Mayor Nagin about pounding some nails (and hopefully just the nails, boys).

Finally, Bay Buchanan says on CNN, "I think Katrina has worn its welcome... I think the American people are getting a little tired of it myself." Yea, don't you just hate it when people keeping harping on and on about the near-destruction of a major American city? Stupid destroyed Gulf Coast, why do you keep bothering us?

Now 9/11, there's a tragedy worth remembering...

[PS- A new Senate report rips the White House a new one once again:
Katrina Report Rips the Bush Admin. Again]

Links of the Day

Ahhh, Friday, how we missed you... Here's some links-

-To indict or not to indict? That is Fitzgerald's question:
Prosecutor Weighs Charges Against Rove in Leak Case

-Man, President Bush must REALLY like those Dubai guys:
Bush Set to Approve Takeover of 9 Military Plants by Dubai

-House manages to get lobbying reform done and I'm sure it's a very serious bill:
House Lobbying Bill, in Peril, Gains Last-Minute Rescue

"Loose Change? More Like Loose Screws."

Michelle Malkin explains to us all why 'United 93' is the bestest movie ever!!! :-D

Vent- With Michelle Malkin

Man, this woman is not comfortable in front of a camera, is she? Stick to complaining about 'moonbats' and Mexicans on your blog, Michelle, you big-time journalist, you. Good luck with the bricks!

"Never ever, ever forget." As if the President doesn't invoke it daily to justify his actions.

[PS- A saner take on the film for anyone interested, from Arianna Huffington:
On Fearlessness, Courage, and United 93 ]

Thursday, April 27, 2006

GOP: 'If We Give You All $100, Will You Forgive Us On Election Day?'

$100. That's what Republicans think it will take to calm down disgruntled voters.

Most voters will certainly appreciate that $100 check, but you'd have to have been huffing the exhaust pipe fumes if you believe this move is being discussed out of any concern for the American taxpayer. The oil issue has become deadly for the Republicans and they're looking to be rid of it. Both sides of the aisle want to win the gas debate (it's one of the few issues that actually seems to get Americans angry... wiretapping what? prewar intelligence who?) and the Republicans are pulling out all the stops to win it before the Democrats can.

The Republicans know that when it comes to election year politicing, money talks. The want to send taxpayers a $100 check and so they can send Bill Frist and other GOP leaders on several TV appearances to say "And don't forget who gave you that money- We did! The Republicans! Suck on it, Democrats!". Ignore that $100 won't go very far for most families at this point, is not a generosity a government in record debt can afford, passes over the problem of oil companies making obscene profits, and will not solve the energy crisis that is actually causing of all of these problems and killing the environment.

What may be overlooked at first in this is that the Republicans also added into the bill a renewed proposal to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling. Man, they're not giving up that plan without a fight, are they? They know that the Democrats (and some Republicans too, of course) will oppose this on principle and vote down the proposal. Then the Republicans can turn around and say "The Democrats didn't want to give you $100!! They don't care that you're paying $3.50 a gallon! They're with the oil companies and terrorists!" And the Democrats will try to explain what a farce the proposal was from the beginning and that the GOP continues to cave to Big Oil (who can't wait to get their hands on that prime Alaskan real estate), but their assurances will be drowned out by the right-wing spin machine as usual.

It's election year politics at its most transparent and opportunistic. Will Americans fall for it? Will a quick, easy refund obscure reality? Will voters' anger over oil trump all the more important issues at stake here (accountability on the war, congressional corruption, reckless spending, etc)? I'm sure of it!

Ohhh, this is going to be a very long summer. Senators to push for $100 gas rebate checks
Most American taxpayers would get $100 rebate checks to offset the pain of higher pump prices for gasoline, under an amendment Senate Republicans hope to bring to a vote Thursday.

However, the GOP energy package may face tough sledding because it also includes a controversial proposal to open part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil exploration, which most Democrats and some moderate Republicans oppose...

...On the other side of the aisle, Democrats on Wednesday called for a new energy bill and federal legislation to punish price gougers.

"There's no reason why we can't put forth a real energy policy that addresses the needs of this nation," said Rep. Bart Stupak, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, "from gouging to market manipulation to biofuels. We can do it."...

Thank god I live in a city where a car is not necessary.

[PS- Is this the crap that Jimmy Carter went through in '79? Poor bastard never even had a chance.]

Polls Show Americans Fair-Minded On Immigration Concerns...

...Of course, you wouldn't know if you listened to the crap coming out of Washington DC.

Here's some interesting findings from a Wall Street Journal poll-
With immigration reform a hot-button issue in Washington, a strong majority of Americans say nationality shouldn't be a factor in U.S. immigration policy, according to a new Harris Interactive poll.

Many Americans support favorable treatment of immigrants under certain conditions. For example, nearly three-quarters of those polled said children of U.S. citizens should receive favorable treatment in order to immigrate into the U.S. and 67% said spouses should receive favorable treatment.

Likewise, half of the 2,377 U.S. adults surveyed said they support favorable treatment of immigrants who "might be punished, imprisoned or tortured if they are sent home."...

Meanwhile, the vigilante Minuteman are gaining a voice on this debate. They're like Batman, but racist and crazy.

[PS- Michelle Malkin really, really hates Mexicans. I mean damn, girl, you need to get laid.]

Links of the Day

Enjoy the internet as we know it while you still can. Thanks, Congress! No wonder you're so popular.

Here's some links...

-The Senate's too lazy to fix FEMA; they'd rather throw the baby out with the bathwater:
Senate Panel Says FEMA Is Beyond Repair

-Sen. Specter continues to talk the talk on warrantless wiretapping, but he has yet to walk the walk:
Specter threatens to block money for NSA domestic wiretapping

-The Ground Zero construction begins,completion expected by 2011 or 2012:
Construction begins on NY's Freedom Tower

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Surprise! Iraq Is A Security Nightmare!

Bush administration officials make another 'surprise' visit to Iraq...

AP: Rumsfeld, Rice Make Surprise Trip to Iraq
In their first visit together to Baghdad, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld met with leaders of Iraq's emerging government as the top U.S. military commander said some American troops may be able to leave in the next few months.

Thesurprise visit by President Bush's top national security officials was a dramatic show of support for Jawad al-Maliki, the Shiite selected to be prime minister, in a development the United States hailed as evidence of substantial progress...

(bold added by moi)

Why the hell does the media keep reporting these visits as a 'surprise'? Every time a Bush administration official makes an unannounced, secret trip to Iraq, the media hails it as a 'surprise', as if the officials simply wanted to add a little fun to their trip by making a 'surprise' treat for the Iraqi government and people. I did a Google search and found numerous stories from the past few years all heralding these 'surprise' visits.

The elephant in the room (pardon the pun) that the media ignores every time is that these trips are only a 'surprise' because they have to be. If the trip was announced in advance, it would require extra security preparations to combat the extra violence and planned attacks that would surely await them upon arrival. The security situation in Iraq is a nightmare, the country is awash in violence, and the White House likely isn't sure which members of the Iraqi government can be trusted with advance knowledge of Bush administration travel plans. And so our country's leaders must travel in and out of Iraq in secret to speak with Iraqi leaders inside the heavily fortified Green Zone.

Of course, the White House doesn't want their visits to the country seen in that light because that reality would underscore their insistence that everything is going really well there and that any reports of civil war and chaos are simply media lies. So they spin their visits as a 'surprise' and the same media that they accuse of undermining the war effort happily plays along. Three years in, they really need to stop falling for that line. Call a spade a spade... The situation in Iraq is disastrous and it is not a place that American officials can safely journey to in its current state.

The real surprise will be a day when Iraq is safe enough to visit openly and without military protection.

[PS- Arianna Huffington debunks the conventional wisdom surrounding the Iraq debate:
Iraq: A Handy Rebuttal to the "We Have to Finish the Job" Conventional Wisdom ]

[PPS- Perhaps if the President likes surprises, he can shock New Orleans by actually fulfilling the many Roosevelt-esque promises on reconstruction he made back in September. Now that would be a very pleasant surprise for all.]

Rove Volunteers New Grand Jury Testimony; Worried About Indictment?

When Karl Rove gave up the policy beat last week in the much-hyped White House 'shake up', I wondered whether this was just about putting him on the midterm elections beat or if there were Fitzgerald-related reasons to give some Rove duties to others. It would appear that those suspicions were true... the special prosecutor is heating up his investigation into Rove's role in the conspiracy surrounding the leak of Valerie Plame's identity. Karl Rove was back in front of the grand jury today to provide new testimony...

AP: Rove to Testify Again in CIA Leak Case
Top White House aide Karl Rove arrived at the federal courthouse Wednesday for his fifth grand jury appearance in the Valerie Plame affair.

Escorted by his lawyer Robert D. Luskin, Rove went into the building for a closed-door session with the panel and Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, who is heading up the inquiry into who leaked Plame's status as a CIA officer to the news media in 2003...

The most interesting aspect of this is that Rove was not subpoenaed, but instead volunteered this new testimony. An report states that, "According to NBC News’ David Shuster, legal sources say Rove volunteered to testify and was no subpoenaed. Rove’s decision followed a recent conversation with Fitzgerald." Something tells me that conversation with Fitzgerald was not one that put Rove at ease. And this morning in a blog post, Lawrence O'Donnell (who was the first to reveal last summer that Rove was the Time magazine source on Plame) stated-
Karl Rove's return to the grand jury today could mean the end of the Rove investigation or the beginning of the Rove prosecution. It depends on who asked Rove to return. If Fitzgerald asked Rove to return to the grand jury, that means Fitzgerald thinks he doesn't have enough for an indictment.

If Rove asked to return to the grand jury, that means Rove's lawyer, Bob Luskin, believes an indictment is imminent and is sending his client back to make a final desperate attempt to avoid indictment...

Since it appears to have been voluntary, does that mean that his lawyer fears indictment?

That remains to be seen, but it's clear that Fitzgerald has found something that has them worried. We'll find out either way soon enough. Wonkette jokes that Fitzgerald should shit or get off the pot. I disagree. He's building a case and he's taking his time. The man is methodical and professional. It took two years just to get the involved reporters just to verify who their White House sources were. Scandals do not unfold in one day. I want accountability on this as much as the next person, but I understand that in the world of high-profile investigations, patience is the key.

Recent revelations that have placed the President and Vice President directly in the chain of events surrounding this case make it clear that Fitzgerald is onto something big. It's only a matter of time before the full story comes to light.

War Spending Cut, Border Spending Up, Pork Abundant And Delicious

Looks like the President won't get to to (not) act on that veto threat after all...
[T]he Senate voted by a veto-proof 72-26 margin to kill an attempt by conservatives to cut the overall bill back to Bush's request — just a day after the White House issued a toughly worded promise to veto the $106.5 billion bill unless it is cut back to below $95 billion.

I'm not a huge fan of unlimited government spending, but I think it's worth noting what things the failed cut attempt would've removed from the bill- "$4 billion in farm aid, $1.1 billion for Gulf Coast fisheries and money for a much-criticized $700 million relocation of a Mississippi freight rail line". None of that necessarily seems like a waste of money to me. I can think of far more unnecessary things this Congress has pissed our tax money away on than this. For instance, is anyone asking for accountability for the billions of dollars that Halliburton and other private defense contractors have 'lost' or misspent in Iraq and Afghanistan? Just asking.

The more reported aspect of this story, however, was this-
The Senate voted Wednesday to divert some of the money President Bush requested for the war in Iraq to instead increase patrols against illegal immigrants on the nation's borders and provide the Coast Guard with new boats and helicopters.

An amendment was adopted, 59-39, to cut Bush's Iraq request by $1.9 billion to pay for new aircraft, patrol boats and other vehicles, as well as border checkpoints and a fence along the Mexico border crossing near San Diego.

I guess the Republican Senate decided the immigration concerns were more important to their voters this year than the war. The war? Man, that is sooo 2004. It should be noted that the miscellaneous pork inserted into the bill accounts for about $10 billion of its total.

Democrats are expressing public anger over the war spending cuts. I'm sure it's genuine.

Ahhhh, election years. Aren't they so much fun?

Links of the Day

Only 3 more days 'til Stephen Colbert hosts the White House Correspondents Dinner.

While we wait, here's some links...

-Ken Lay blames all of Enron's problems on the media. I see he and his friend George have the same taste in scapegoats:
Lay says "witch hunt" triggered Enron demise

-The Ground Zero debacle shows signs of improvement; here's hoping for construction to begin before the 10th anniversary:
Developer Takes a Financial Deal for Ground Zero

-The facts on the Bush/Rummy/Gonzales policies continue to come to light:
U.S.: More Than 600 Implicated in Detainee Abuse

Status Quo

An eighth general has come forward to ask for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld. I'm not naive or optimistic enough to expect them to get their wish, though. The Decider stands by his man.

Josh Marshall looks at Bush's refusal to make any substantive changes in his inner sanctum-
The president is stuck on telling us that Don Rumsfeld has done a bang up job as defense secretary.

And even with the rising chorus of retired generals calling for Rumsfeld's ouster, isn't this just displacement? Don Rumsfeld works for the president. This is the president's administration in more than just the obvious, literal sense. These are his policies. It's his denial, his indifference to the failure of his policies and the incompetence of his subordinates. As David Remnick put it recently in The New Yorker, the man in the Oval Office "does not much believe in science or, for that matter, in any information that disturbs his prejudices, his fantasies, or his sleep."

The president is accountable, not just in the sense that the president is by definition accountable, but because these failures are his failures. They stem from his weaknesses -- his inability to summon the courage to make tough decisions, his addiction to sycophants, his penchant for denial.

We'd be fools to expect any change when the president lacks the guts to recognize his failures let alone try to fix them.

What he said.

[PS- I have been engaging in a mini-debate with a commenter who disagreed my assessment that Republicans are actually the ones controlling this country right now George W. Bush is the worst President our nation has ever had. It's an interesting back-and-forth if you have the time to read it. Needless to say, I stand by my assessment.]

[PPS- Former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski states that an attack on Iran could be an impeachable offense.]

President Bush Finds A Way To Ease High Gas Prices...

......By easing environmental regulations on the oil companies so they can be more productive.

Umm, that's one way to do it, I suppose. I prefer the Democratic (sane) plan, of course.

AP: Bush Eases Environmental Rules on Gasoline
Under election-year pressure to reduce surging gasoline prices, President Bush on Tuesday halted filling of the nation's emergency oil reserve, urged the waiver of clean air rules to ease local gas shortages and called for the repeal of $2 billion in tax breaks for profit-heavy oil companies.

Still, experts said Bush's actions wouldn't have much impact on prices at the pump. The president warned that motorists would have to dig deep into their pockets all summer long...

Bush's poll numbers only had to hit 32% to get him to take notice too.

He also ordered probes into price cheating. Expect them to be a GOP partisan farce again.

"If I didn't care about the environment, I wouldn't be standing in front of this photo of a farm."

Also, Rep. Pelosi apparently ate her Wheaties yesterday as she came out swinging on this-
"Remember one thing. If you want to be energy independent, and Democrats intend to achieve that within ten years, and if you want to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and therefore improve our national security situation, you can't do it if you're a Republican because you are too wedded to the oil companies. We have two oilmen in the White House. The logical follow-up from that is $3 a gallon gasoline. There is no accident. It is a cause and effect. A cause and effect. How dare the President of the United States make a speech today in April, many, many, many months after the American people have had to undergo the cost of home heating oil? A woman told me she almost fainted when she received her home heating bill over this winter. And when so many people making the minimum wage, which hasn't been raised in eight years, which has a very low purchasing power have to go out and buy gasoline at these prices. Where have you been, Mr. President? The middle class squeeze is on, competition in our country is affected by the price of energy and of oil and all of a sudden you take a trip outside of Washington, see the fact that the public is outraged about this, come home and make a speech, let's see that matched in your budget, let's see that matched in your policy, let's see that matched in and you're separating yourselves yourself from your patron- big oil- cut yourself off from that anvil holding your party down and this country down, instead of coming to Washington and throwing your Republican colleagues under the wheels of the train, which they mightily deserve for being a rubber stamp for your obscene, corrupt policy of ripping off the American people."

You go, girl.

A number of bloggers have also weighed in on this. I'll defer to them from here...
-Bush Punishes Gas Companies By Punishing The Environment (Bob Cesca)
-George Bush: Foreign Policy from God, Energy Policy from Big Oil (Arianna Huffington)
-I'm Going to Help Out the President (Cenk Uygur)

[See also previous entry- Might As Well Face It, You're Addicted To Oil]

White House Press Secretary: Bush Is 'Embarrassment'

Fox News confirms their own Tony Snow is the new White House Press Secretary.

It would seem that the White House doesn't watch Fox News much (perhaps it's too meta for them?) because they might have noticed that Mr. Snow is not as as loyal to the party line as Masters Hannity or Hume. Think Progress has compiled a collection of highly critical quotes Snow has made about his new boss. My three favorites-
“George Bush has become something of an embarrassment.” [11/11/05]

“No president has looked this impotent this long when it comes to defending presidential powers and prerogatives.” [9/30/05]

“He recently tried to dazzle reporters by discussing the vagaries of Congressional Budget Office economic forecasts, but his recitation of numbers proved so bewildering that not even his aides could produce a comprehensible translation. The English Language has become a minefield for the man, whose malaprops make him the political heir not of Ronald Reagan, but Norm Crosby.” [8/25/00]


Ohhh, how fun these first few press briefings will be. I wonder if anyone will ask him to clarify any of these statements or if they will be too busy digging right into the numerous scandals and crises engulfing the Oval Office. As long as Tony can say "ongoing investigation", he should be fine.

President Threatens Veto... Again.

And gee willickers, this time he means it!!! [*fastens cowboy hat*]

AP: Bush threatens to veto Iraq funding bill
President George W. Bush threatened on Tuesday to veto a bill to fund the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina rebuilding if its cost exceeds $92.2 billion, as he weighed in on a heated Senate debate over the bill's rising price tag...

...Bush has not vetoed a bill in his more than five years in office...

He is always threatening the veto. And he is always emasculated in the end by his Congress.

Wake me up if he actually follows through...

[PS- Vetoing spending for the war? Why does President Bush hate America?]

Links of the Day: Late-Night Buffet Edition

Here's a bunch of miscellanous links of interest I've come across in the past few days...

Maybe one or two are of interest to you.

-National Journal: Is There A Double Standard On Leak Probes?

-Glenn Greenwald: The need for a political soul

-Christian Science Monitor: Why a strong economy is no GOP asset

-Bloomberg News: Democrats Beat Republicans in 2005 Fund-Raising on Wall Street

-TPM: Josh Marshall on the 'Save The Internet' campaign

Jimmy v. Georgie

Ward Sutton compares the two politically troubled Presidents...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

White House Press Secretary: I Spin, You Decide

Tony Snow is set to go from being a paid shill for the White House party line at Fox to...

Being a paid shill for the party line at the White House itself. Hannity = jealous. Sources: Tony Snow likely to take White House post

It's Official. Rush Limbaugh Has Lost His Mind.

Rush Limbaugh is now officially the conservative version of the left-wing 9/11 conspiracy theorists.

I thought the rant Mr. Limbaugh did last August about Cindy Sheehan and the evil of liberals was bad... but, my god. As I mentioned earlier, the right-wing is in full battle mode over the CIA agent for allegedly revealing Bush's secret (super-awesome) torture prisons. Nothing says "America" like a secret system of torture prisons, right guys? USA! USA! Anyway, they have been screaming for blood all day; they want her locked up and the key melted down. As Digby notes, "They are agitating to criminalize dissent".

Part of this was the discovery by some that the CIA agent (who now categorically denies being the source on this story) has donated money to Democrats. Therefore, they conclude, she must be attempting to undermine the Bush administration for partisan reasons. And it is on that note, that a friend sent me a message board discussion stating that Rush discussed, according to the poster, on his show that "the reason the war has gone the way it has, the reason we can't get Osama, the reason we're overrun by illegal immigrants -- eveything bad in this administration -- is determined by what he calls a Shadow Government. His theorizes that this government is run by Clinton appointees retained by Bush because he wanted a new tone of bipartisan government. But he didn't realize they would undercut his policies from within."

When I read that, I am was certain it was a joke. Turns out it's actually what Rush believes-
Investigate Clinton Shadow Government Now

(The above link is from Rush's official site where he has a transcript and an audio clip)

From the official transcripts-
"My first reaction to this was -- in fact, I was instant messaging with some people, and I'll just tell you what I wrote when I first saw this. I said, "[Blank] check your e-mail. I think this is just the tip of the iceberg and what's been going on with all these government leaks. They're all over the place. They're at State. They're at Pentagon, the CIA. Bush didn't replace them because of this 'new tone.' They've been out to destroy him and his policies from day one. The drive-by media will make this woman Daniel Ellsberg. They are Stalinists. "

Instant messaging? Ohhh, I can see it now...
MEGADITTOS69: hey its rush, did you see that shit about the cia traitor lib?
LOVEITORLEAVEIT55: WTF? yea i can't believe it, now the libs know about the torture prisonz, this war is lost! what could posess her to hurt americka like this?
MEGADITTOS69: jesus christ, dont u know? all these libs are working with clinton, who is actually just working on orders from bin laden. clintons got a whole shadow government going on in washington to undermine bush... and america too! theyve got people everywhere. the cia, the state dept, the fbi, nsa, white house, homeland security, everywhere. they even let some libs into congress!1
MEGADITTOS69: YES. and thats just the tip of the iceberg. come into the chat room with me and sean and ann, its not safe to talk one on one like this, they could be listening in... i mean i read that the nsa is tapping phones now!

I'm sure it would be funny if it weren't so close to the truth.

He then interrupts his conspiracy theory to share an actual joke with us-
"Have you, by the way, have you heard the joke going around? Two Iraqi spies met in a busy restaurant after they had successfully slipped into the country in the United States. The first Iraqi spy starts speaking in Arabic and the second spy shushes him up, "Hey, shh! Shh! Don't blow our cover! You're in America now, speak Spanish." Have you heard that joke going around? A little levity here to interject."

A little racist humor to lighten the mood. Thanks, Rush! Excellence in broadcasting!

He then insists there's nothing wrong with a little torture-
"But the fact of the matter is, Sam [Donaldson], check your polls; the American people were not upset about what went on at Abu Ghraib! George Bush won the election. They were not upset about what went on at Club Gitmo. They know we're in a war. 9/11 happened. When the movie United 93 comes out, Sam, go check out how many people go to see it."

Box office success for 'United 93' = proof Americans love 9/11-justified torture? Welcome to Limbaugh world, folks. I doubt that polls showed that Americans were okay with Abu Ghraib, but I'm Rush could find one if asked for proof. And because 9/11 happened, we throw our laws out the window? Rush should remember that Congress passed a new law banning torture last year. Did they not know we're at war?

By the way, Rush should check his polls. The President he adores so much is at 32%.

He moves back to the conspiracy, trying to connect the prison leaker to Wilson/Plame and the Clinton illuminati-
"I think we have a shadow government in operation. I see a relationship between all of this. Valerie Plame gets her husband, Joe Wilson, that Niger trip at the CIA. McCarthy is leaking from the CIA. I'm not saying they work together, but look at this effort! Look at how Plame at the CIA gets her husband a critical trip to Niger and then they turn it around to get a scandal against the White House when this White House did nothing but try to find out what the hell happened. Wilson continues to lie through his teeth; McCarthy at the CIA is leaking about the prisons. Somebody leaked the National Security Agency project. Somebody leaked that to James Risen at the New York Times."

Wilson lied? So there was a Niger deal? Even Colin Powell has verified Wilson's story now. Are they really still on this? The right really does believe that Wilson and Plame are the scandal. No, the scandal is the White House that manipulated the case for war and outed a CIA operative as an act of political revenge. And if Rush Limbaugh doesn't think there were leaks during the Clinton years, he must popping pills again. Leaks are a part of every administration and none has more dirty laundry to be exposed than this one.

He then continues with this, by my far my favorite part so far-
"Look at these Clinton generals. I mean, these guys were more than happy when they didn't have to actually go to war."

Yes, Rush, believe it or not, people prefer it when their country does not have to go to war.


He concludes-
"This is really thick, folks, and I'm just convinced that we're just at the very beginning of understanding the full scope and nature of this shadow government that's out there... We need to get to the bottom of this before the election."

You heard him, folks. Call your Senators and demand to know the truth about Clinton's shadow government.

So much has gone wrong the past few years and us liberals and the "drive-by media" have been unfairly blaming it on President Bush. President Bush is actually a saint and I can't believe I ever believed he had done wrong. I have done some digging and have discovered that secret agents working for Clinton did the following: Forced the President to abandon his hunt for bin Laden, wrote mispronunciations of words into the text of Bush's speeches, forced the President to go to war with Iraq by providing him with faulty intelligence, paid Jack Abramoff to infiltrate the GOP, hired Sunnis to form an insurgency in Iraq, put up that 'Mission Accomplished' banner to embarrass the President, piled up them naked dudes at Abu Ghraib, gave Dan Rather those memos, rigged Diebold voting machines in 2004 with votes for Bush to help Bush win reelection so they could continue to undermine him, sent their secret agent Cindy Sheehan to Crawford, forced the President to nominate Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, blew up the floodwalls in New Orleans, paid Mexicans to invade America, and tried to get Dubai to buy our ports. They are truly evil and will stop at nothing to embarrass our brave Commander-In-Chief.

Thank God Rush Limbaugh is here to expose the truth to America.

Seriously, though, all this ranting and the need to even have a conspiracy theory goes back to my theory of the Commander-In-Chief Cultists. These people need to support Bush... believing in him equals believing in America. Their entire worldview revolves around him being right. So they cannot accept that he is a bad President. They see his approval rating at 32% and their mind cannot fathom it. It can't be the President's fault; it just can't. It's the media's fault, it's Clinton's fault, it's umm, the media's fault. Partisan devotion is bad enough- and at least I can understand that- but this level of cultism is unreal.

The second aspect of this insanity is the continued right-wing obsession with Bill Clinton. It's time to move on, guys. You badmouthed his every move for 8 years, you impeached him, and his term expired. He hasn't been in office for almost 5 and a half years. It's time to find a new scapegoat for everything that goes wrong. George W. Bush is President now. Shit, I liked Bill Clinton and I barely ever talk about him anymore.

Finally, there is the simple fact that these people have embraced torture and rendition as American values. Therefore any who leaks about that isn't doing so for justified reasons, because what's wrong with a few secret prisons here and there? Even as Congress prohibits it and the President pretends to abhor it (while authorizing it behind his back), these people defend torture as just a part of the reality of our neverending War on Terror. The problem is just that... the War On Terror is here to stay. And so all these little things they use that war to excuse- torture, wiretapping, preemptive invasions, civil liberty violations, prison without trial, endless secrecy and lies- become a permanent part of American life.

And at that point, winning becomes hollow. When we become our enemies, we've already lost.

But what do I know? I'm just a part of the vast left-wing conspiracy.

Mary McCarthy 'Categorically Denies' Having Leaked On Prisons

I added an update to my last entry on this story, but here's the official AP story-
Friend: CIA Officer Not Source on Prisons

It would seem this saga just got more complicated. Some blogs look at this development-

AmericaBlog: Bush administration lied about reason for firing CIA agent last Friday, wasn't because she leaked about CIA prisons

Glenn Greenwald: Administration accusations are not the same as guilt

Saber Rattling On Iran Being Done For Bush's Political Gain?

That would appear to be partially the case.

From a Time magazine article on the White House Chief of Staff's new strategy-
RECLAIM SECURITY CREDIBILITY. This is the riskiest, and potentially most consequential, element of the plan, keyed to the vow by Iran to continue its nuclear program despite the opposition of several major world powers. Presidential advisers believe that by putting pressure on Iran, Bush may be able to rehabilitate himself on national security, a core strength that has been compromised by a discouraging outlook in Iraq. “In the face of the Iranian menace, the Democrats will lose,” said a Republican frequently consulted by the White House. However, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll this April 8-11, found that 54% of respondents did not trust Bush to “make the right decision about whether we should go to war with Iran.”

This all goes back to this one point- Bush's PR takes precendent over actual national security.

And that is why I believe the President will not recover credibility on the issue.

As Think Progress notes-
Aggressive Bush administration posturing risks impairing efforts to form a united international front against Iran’s nuclear ambitions while rallying the Iranian people to the defense of their radical government. But aren’t those costs worth it, if President Bush’s approval rating can come soaring back to 40 percent?

This overly agressive rhetoric only seeks to undermine the potentially successful efforts we can undertake to keep Iran from becoming a threat. We've already seen where diplomatic solutions with Iran were abandoned because it offended the egos of the neocons controlling our foreign policy. The pushing of the 'our way or the highway' and 'shock and awe' foreign policy has proven a complete failure with Iraq, why does any sane person support revisiting it now?

Digby hits on this as well-
Suppose your local police department suddenly threw out all the rules and started acting "crazy" on the theory that the criminals would get scared and stay home. Would that actually make your town safer or more dangerous?

This is such a deeply immature view that I honestly don't know these influential middle aged men are even allowed to drive much less be taken seriously on foreign policy. The United States is a superpower. We do not need to "act crazy." Indeed, acting crazy is the last thing a superpower should ever do. It makes others miscalculate because they think we are unpredictable and dumb.

What he said.

I guess my question is this- What does the White House have against cooperation and compromise (not with Iran, per se, but with others who would work with us on a solution) as a way of avoiding war? Today, we see that Condoleeza Rice is going to the UN to push for diplomatic action. In theory, that's good. But is it all for show again? I resent the fact that we even have to ask that question.

After all, we're assuming here for the sake of argument that this is all rhetoric. That may prove wrong when our nukes/bombs drop. Keep in mind that we're dealing with a deluded ideologue who bases his foreign policy decisions on his faith. The President said yesterday that "I base a lot of my foreign policy decisions on some things that I think are true. One, I believe there's an Almighty. And, secondly, I believe one of the great gifts of the Almighty is the desire in everybody's soul, regardless of what you look like or where you live, to be free." Imagine if a Middle Eastern leader made such a proclamation on the impact of his religion on the policies of his government... would that leader be someone we trusted to make the rational decisions on the most volatile issues of war and peace?

Meanwhile, Iran plays tough as well and our intelligence on them is- surprise- inadequate.

Stay tuned. As the elections draw closer, this nightmare is sure to heat up...

Big Brother Is Watching (Brought To You By AT&T)- A Continuing Saga

I've been following the developing AT&T/NSA story which sheds light on how widespread the domestic spying has been since 9/11. It's amazing to me that this hasn't gotten more press. Perhaps if their phones were being tapped by Mexicans, people might be more upset.

AmericaBlog has an update on this story... it's worth reading-
AT&T refusing to deny that it let the NSA spy on its customers' emails and phone calls, now implies it got a court order

Monday, April 24, 2006

How Low Can He Go?

32%... and falling.

President Bush says- Save me, Jeebus!

(I doubt Jesus is listening, but all Democrats would do well to keep an eye on Karl Rove.)

Don't Blame The Whistleblowers

On Saturday, I wrote about the firing of a CIA agent who leaked information about the secret torture prisons to the Washington Post. This firing, while within the right of the CIA, does appear to be part of a partisan campaign by the White House to stop a series of leaks that have been damaging to them politically (as opposed to the White's House politically-motivated leaks, which are supposedly 'good for America'). As usual, the White House's top priorities seem to be secrecy and their public image rather than a genuine concern for the letter of the law. CBS' Bob Schieffer weighed in on this issue on 'Face The Nation'-
At my age, nothing much surprises me, but my jaw dropped when I read the FBI has been trying to go through the files of dead columnist Jack Anderson to see if he had any classified documents.

Mind you, Anderson was 83 when he died and did virtually no work for 15 years because of Parkinson's, but the FBI has been pressing his family to get at those files. The family said no.

Dare I state the obvious: that with Osama Bin Laden still on the loose, maybe there are more important things for the FBI to do.

And it happened the same week the CIA fired an agent for hanging out with Washington Post reporter Dana Priest, who just won a Pulitzer Prize for revealing the CIA is operating a secret prison system. The Justice Department will decide whether to bring charges.

Almost every day now brings news of another leak investigation, but it's not the leakers, it's what they're leaking that scares me.

After all, why should a democracy be operating secret prisons anyway? If the government hadn't told us they exist, can we ever be sure who might wind up inside them?

Isn't finding out stuff like that what reporters are supposed to do?

Yes. Yes, it is.

Luckily, the Democrats haven't stayed silent on this issue, pointing out the partisan double-standard being employed here. Rep. Jane Harman (ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence) said, "while leaks are wrong, I think it is totally wrong for our president in secret to selectively declassify certain information and empower people in his White House to leak it to favored reporters so that they can discredit political enemies". And Sen. Kerry stated that, "A CIA agent has an obligation to uphold the law, and clearly leaking is against the law. And nobody should leak... [However] you have somebody being fired from the CIA for allegedly telling the truth, and you have no one fired from the White House for revealing a CIA agent in order to support a lie. That underscores what's really wrong in Washington, D.C." Bolded added by me for emphasis. This really is the issue here. The White House leaked to hurt a political enemy and support the false information that lead to war; others like this agent have leaked to expose potential wrongdoing by the government. As I noted in my entry on Saturday, the President's actions here (or inaction in the case of the leaks from the White House) are a little too reminiscent of the Nixon White House for my tastes.

The right-wingers meanwhile are beside themselves with glee over the firing, demanding prosecution and jail-time for this agent and other leakers (ie. those who exposed the warrantless wiretapping programs). The use of torture and secret prisons is of no concern to any of the ones I read today. In fact, many state the prisons don't even exist and it was all a lie (ignore that the White House has yet to deny the existence of the prisons). Yet, whether they want to accept the reality of these prisons or not, all rely on the same talking point that exposing information like this hurts the 'war effort'. I wonder if they believe that Congress attempted to 'hurt the war effort' when they passed a law last Fall (by a veto-proof majority margin) banning torture completely. Keep in mind these are the same people who believe the war is going well, Abu Ghraib was just fraternity pranks, and Sec. Rumsfeld is doing a remarkable job.

Also, Andrew McCarthy at National Review (where conservative conventional wisdom is born) states-
Mary McCarthy's position — the post from which she is likely to have learned the most sensitive information at the heart of the leak controversy — was inside the CIA's inspector general's office. This is the unit that investigates internal misconduct. This is the unit to which government employees are encouraged to report government abuse or illegality so it can be investigated, potentially reported to Congress, and prosecuted if appropriate.

That is, it is the legal alternative to leaking national secrets to the media.

Ahhh yes, the old 'if she believed there had been wrongdoing, she should have gone through the proper channels' line. How naive and ridiculous. Concerned government and military personnel regularly file concerns of abuse and their superiors promptly write up the report on the ol' invisible typewriter.

I am immediately reminded again of President Nixon and Mark Felt (Deep Throat). When Felt revealed himself last year, Nixon administration criminals like G. Gordon Liddy and Chuck Colson were furious and spoke out against the leaks that exposed to America the seedy underbelly of that administration. Colson said "Mark Felt could have stopped Watergate. He was in a position of that kind of influence." Liddy said "If he possessed evidence of wrongdoing, he was honor-bound to take that to a grand jury and secure an indictment, not to selectively leak it to a single news source." Of course, as I noted at the time, Felt likely had tried to go through the proper channels, but the White House (including people like Liddy and Colson) were engaging in a massive coverup that made that impossible. Going around them by leaking to the press was the only way to get any movement on the issue. Does Mr. McCarthy and his National Review friends believe that Felt was a traitor and deserves prosecution? He's still at large, you know... I'll call the FBI, should they move in?

And Mark Kleiman believes that the CIA agent here won't be prosecuted, because the White House doesn't want this issue spotlighted in the press or take the chance that a major legal battle would ensue that they would likely lose.

There is a big difference between leaking and blowing the whistle on a crime. This woman did the latter.

Ultimately, Bob Schieffer is right- the American people do deserve to know if their government is operating secret prisons. A democracy has no business engaging in the actions that we decry in our enemies. And the media has an obligation to help bring that information to light. The agent who exposed it may be out of a job now, but she deserves our gratitude for letting us know what is being done in our name.

[UPDATE: The agent has denied she was the source of the leaks. The saga continues.]

Former CIA Chief Speaks Out On Pre-War Intelligence

In my entry on the CIA whistleblower firing, I mentioned that a former top CIA official was set to discuss on '60 Minutes' more on how the administration cherry-picked intelligence to force their case for war. Well that interview has aired now and here's the highlights. Tyler Drumheller, the former chief of the CIA’s Europe division, revealed that in the Fall of 2002 George Tenet informed the President, Vice President, and Condoleeza Rice that a key informant had told them Iraq had no WMD program. Think the White House cared? If you said 'yes', then you haven't paid any attention to this saga.

From a transcript-
BRADLEY: According to Drumheller, CIA Director George Tenet delivered the news about the Iraqi foreign minister at a high level meeting at the White House.

DRUMHELLER: The President, the Vice President, Dr. Rice…

BRADLEY: And at that meeting…?

DRUMHELLER: They were enthusiastic because they said they were excited that we had a high-level penetration of Iraqis.

BRADLEY: And what did this high level source tell you?

DRUMHELLER: He told us that they had no active weapons of mass destruction program.

BRADLEY: So, in the fall of 2002, before going to war, we had it on good authority from a source within Saddam’s inner circle that he didn’t have an active program for weapons of mass destruction?


BRADLEY: There’s no doubt in your mind about that?

DRUMHELLER: No doubt in my mind at all.

BRADLEY: It directly contradicts, though, what the President and his staff were telling us.

DRUMHELLER: The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming, and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy, to justify the policy.

Video- here.

Josh Marshall also also spoke to Drumheller and shares his thoughts on the story-
Drumheller's account is pretty probative evidence on the question of whether the White House politicized and cherry-picked the Iraq intelligence.

So why didn't we hear about any of this in the reports of those Iraq intel commissions that have given the White House a clean bill of health on distorting the intel and misleading the country about what we knew about Iraq's alleged WMD programs?...

...I asked Drumheller just those questions when I spoke to him early this evening. He was quite clear. He was interviewed by the Robb-Silbermann Commission. Three times apparently.

Did he tell them everything he revealed on tonight's 60 Minutes segment. Absolutely...

...What Drumheller has to say adds quite a lot to our knowledge of what happened in the lead up to war. But what it shows even more clearly is that none of this stuff has yet been investigated by anyone whose principal goal is not covering for the White House.

As Atrios notes, "The real point isn't the actual revelation, it's that he's revealed it before to people tasked with investigating this stuff, who promptly filed it in the circular filing cabinet."

Meanwhile, In Iraq, the violence continues while we prepare to stay for the long haul.

We need accountability for this. And, again, it appears the November elections may be the last chance to get it.

[PS- Former Colin Powell chief of staff asks- Is U.S. being transformed into a radical republic?. Seems like it, sure.]

Gore In '08? (Pt. II)

Is Al Gore coming out (pardon the pun) in favor of gay marriage?

It would appear that's the direction that he is heading in...

Al Gore’s evolution on same-sex marriage?

I say good for him. This is the right thing to do and it's great for a former Vice President to speak out in support of it. I believe he would be the only former member of the Executive branch to issue support publicly (Jimmy Carter has only expressed support for civil unions of equal legal treatment). It's been very refreshing to see that Gore has abandoned the politically cautious strategy he adopted in 2000 and is siding with those like Sen. Feingold who fight on principle rather than the foxhole Democrats who are too scared to do so.

This change occurs as the right-wing increases efforts to make gay marriage bans an election-year issue.

Al Gore's main focus, of course, remains his campaign to make combating global warming a national priority (and yes, here's another plug by for the documentary trailer). What makes his fight so powerful is that, in addition to being out of politics for 5 years (this issue should be apolitical/bipartisan, but sadly isn't), this was also his issue long before it was anyone else's. This was his issue when people Ace of Base had a #1 hit single.

If Al Gore does decide to run in '08 (and claim what should've been his), this issue should be the centerpiece of his campaign. The country seems to finally be turning around on the reality and danger of climate change. And with members of the Republican Party even jumping on this bandwagon (much to the President's chagrin), it's clear that Gore has been ahead of the curve on many issues and that the Democratic party- and America- would do well to take him seriously.

To quote Bill Maher, "if the Democrats can't figure out how to demagogue armageddon", then they really need help.

Links of the Day

Another week, more mindnumbingly depressing news. Here's some quick links...

-The President tries to play referee on the immigration debate, ignoring the fact that the far-right is too tied to the "Deytookerrjawbs!" xenophobic base and want no compromise of any kind. It's fun to watch the GOP alienate Hispanic voters, though, ain't it?:
Bush Tries to Refocus Immigration Debate

-Kenny Boy insists 'I am not a crook'. Until 2.5 more years 'til his pardon!:
Enron Founder Lay Denies Breaking the Law

-Finally, the New Hampshire phone-jamming scandal inches closer to the White House:
Senate Vote Inquiry Widens as Democrats Probe White House Link

Blueducks Warns Of 'Tough November' For Republicans Up For Reelection

That's my translated headline.

AP: Bush warns of 'tough summer' with higher petrol prices
US President George W. Bush has warned rising oil prices will mean a "tough summer" for US consumers as the high cost of gasoline (petrol) showed signs of becoming a big political issue...

Looks like the President is as big a failure dealing with the oil crisis as he was with running oil companies. I'm sure he would insist that this issue is apolitical, but this was the same issue that ended up working against Jimmy Carter in the late '70s. Turnabout is fair play.

And didn't the President promise to end our oil addiction? Or did he not mean that literally?

He also said-
The federal government has a responsibility, by the way, to make sure ... there is no price gouging," he added.

Price gouging? Why, we'd never even assume such a thing. Right, Ray?

"NO WAY! We live only to serve the American people! That's the American CEO pledge!"

Phew, I feel much better now.

Separation Of Church And What?

A healthy separation of church and state getting too boring for you? Well good news then!

Newsweek: See You in Bible Class-
Georgia plans to teach the Good Book in schools.

Fresh from a bruising federal court fight over the teaching of evolution, Georgia marched back into the culture wars last week when Gov. Sonny Perdue signed a bill allowing Bible classes in public high schools. An estimated 8 percent of the nation's schools offer some form of Bible study. But the Georgia law is the first to set statewide guidelines and earmark public dollars for a Bible course. Five other states are considering similar measures. Georgia's school board has until February 2007 to decide how the courses should be taught, and forces on both sides of the issue are bracing for a messy battle...

The right, of course, wants to make this a 'culture war' issue, when it's really a constitutional one.

And is it a coincidence that this pro-theocratic movement by the religious right to force its way into all aspects of public life (anti-evolution movements in schools, 10 commandments in courthouses, gay marriage bans, prayer and Bible courses in schools, deciding what's morality for everyone, etc) has become so powerful in the last 5 years? Nope. The Bush White House and the Delay/Frist Congress opened the door for all of this. Ohh sure, they'll publicly pretend to distance themselves from the more radical members of the movement, but the religious right and the Republican party are increasingly one and the same. Just ask John McCain.

Just another reason to pray for a change in Congress this Fall.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Lazy Sunday

Should be back to regular blogging later. In the meantime, a look at where we stand...

Republicans are supposedly urging the President to dump VP Cheney as a sign he really takes the White House shakeup seriously. Sure, and Cheney can take George and Donny with him.

I don't think that fits in Joshua Bolten's five-point plan for presidential rehabilitation.

The name thrown around for a Cheney replacement is Condoleeza Rice. Condi? The Secretary of Leaks?

And as the midterm elections approach, the Democrats seek to put together their strategy.

Issue #1 = Gas prices? How about competence, credibility, and adult leadership? That's the key.

Meanwhile, Osama releases some fresh new beats. Is he still wanted dead or alive, George? Just checking.

And in that country we attacked instead of finishing the above job, the violence continues.

That seems to be the big news for now. Enjoy your Sunday. Save some waffles for me.

Save The Clock Tower Internet

I've heard rumblings for months of a move by the internet service industry to create two levels of internet- a premium one with higher speeds and bandwith and a second with lower speeds. Some sites would run better than others. The premium internet would, of course, cost more money. Website owners would have to pay for a better 'slot' for their site. Those sites who cannot get premium status will see slower speeds and diminished prominence. This would effectively end the near-perfect democracy that is the internet, making some ideas or stores or forms of media available more easily available than others. With the mass media in a state of slothful decline and the government ushering in age of "free speech zones", the internet is the last true bastion where freedom of speech is virtually unlimited (don't tell China, though, shhhh). As proof that lobbying is alive and well, these companies are pressuring Congress to make this happen via legislation. Considering what a greedy, clueless bunch is running Congress these days, this effort may be successful.

An incredibly diverse group of people are banding together to fight this-

Save The Internet

Congress is pushing a law that would abandon Network Neutrality, the Internet’s First Amendment. Network neutrality prevents companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast from deciding which Web sites work best for you — based on what site pays them the most. Your local library shouldn’t have to outbid Barnes & Noble for the right to have its Web site open quickly on your computer.

Net Neutrality allows everyone to compete on a level playing field and is the reason that the Internet is a force for economic innovation, civic participation and free speech. If the public doesn’t speak up now, Congress will cave to a multi-million dollar lobbying campaign by telephone and cable companies that want to decide what you do, where you go, and what you watch online.

This seems to be a pretty big deal. Best keep your eye on this one.

[PS- Art Brodsky at TPM Cafe takes a critical look at this situation:
Congress Is Giving Away the Internet, and You Won't Like Who Gets It]