Saturday, October 07, 2006

Weekend Funnies: The Foley-Mania Edition

They're still trying to blame this on the Democrats. Accounta-what-ity?

The stubborness and stupidity of Speaker Hastert and all his Republican apologists is a Democratic strategist's dream come true. Keep digging that hole, folks. It's a self-defeating strategy that's worked so well in the Iraq war and will no doubt be equally successful here.

Money quote from Glenn Greenwald sums up why this story is having an impact:
This scandal is like the Cliffs' Notes version of a more complicated treatise on how the Bush movement operates. Every one of their corrupt attributes is vividly on display here:

The absolute refusal ever to admit error. The desperate clinging to power above all else. The efforts to cloud what are clear matters of wrongdoing with irrelevant sideshows. And the parade of dishonest and just plainly inane demonization efforts to hide and distract from their wrongdoing: hence, the pages are manipulative sex vixens; a shadowy gay cabal is to blame; the real criminals are those who exposed the conduct, not those who engaged in it; liberals created the whole scandal; George Soros funded the whole thing; a Democratic Congressman did something wrong 23 years ago; one of the pages IM'd with Foley as a "hoax", and on and on.

There has been a virtual carousel -- as there always is -- of one pathetic, desperate attempt after the next to deflect blame and demonize those who are pointing out the wrongdoing. This is what they always do, on every issue. The difference here is that everyone can see it, and so nothing is working.

What he said.

UPDATE: New revelations in the L.A. Times about Foley's behavior, including a sexual encounter with a former page, and that he had been keeping tabs on gay pages for possible later relations.

[Related/recommended reading:
-Salon: Open the closets on Capitol Hill
-Glenn Greenwald: Increasing Desperation
-Andrew Sullivan: One Foley Point]

Spitzer: 'New York Will Legalize Gay Marriage'

Since most of the news we hear is depressing, here's some encouraging news... New York's next governor, Eliot Spitzer, has officially come out to support legalizing gay marriage. This is a still a controversial position to some, so kudos to Mr. Spitzer for being at the forefront of this important issue.

NY Times: Spitzer Vows to Push for Gay Marriage
By saying on Thursday night that he will push to legalize gay marriage, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer put himself at the vanguard of the effort to recognize such unions, staking out a position that most prominent Democrats, including Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, have shied away from.

Mr. Spitzer, who is running for governor and holds a commanding lead in the polls, made his strongest declaration yet in support of gay marriage in his remarks to the Empire State Pride Agenda, the state’s leading gay lobbying group. He told the audience, “We will make it law in New York.”

If elected, Mr. Spitzer, a Democrat, would be the most prominent state official in the nation to call for the legalization of gay marriage, though Democratic candidates for governor in California and Massachusetts have also expressed support. Many prominent Democrats, including Senator Clinton, have supported gays on other issues but not on this one, which has led to friction in their relations with gay leaders. Among the few prominent politicians who support it are Senators Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, both Democrats; and Lincoln Chafee, a Rhode Island Republican.

The nationwide effort to legalize gay marriage has sputtered since a Massachusetts court legalized such unions in that state in 2004...

It's rare to read a news article that makes me smile; this one did the trick.

I am very excited about these elections.

"I know Iraq grabs a lot of headlines. But there's still a war going on over here."

Another inconvenient headline.

Must be George Soros' fault.

AP: Taliban back, using Iraq-style violence

Friday, October 06, 2006

'My Job Is To Do My Job'

Well it's Friday evening, so time to start another weekend off on a somewhat cheery note. That means more YouTube fun! Hey, did you hear that Google is in talks to buy YouTube? Ca-razy!

Anyway... here's the fun. Jon Stewart explains the President's job, in his own words-

Making Great Progress

Condoleeza Rice's 'surprise' visit to Iraq yesterday did not get a lot of media coverage amidst all the other news, and that is probably for the best for an embattled White House. Here are the highlights of her trip-
Iraq is making so much progress that the “C-17A cargo plane equipped with antimissile technology” carrying Condi Rice had to circle for 40 minutes, because the Baghdad airport was being bombed again.

Once on the tarmac, she was put in body armor and surrounded by a gang of heavily armed anti-assassins from some special ops group or another, and then quickly shuffled from the C-17 to an Army chopper for a quick and dangerous flight to the walled, fortified Green Zone in the middle of Battlefield Baghdad. No way was Condi Rice going to risk the deadly airport highway.

She had a brief meeting with whatever hapless Iraqi is “president” this year, but the power went out, so they sat there in the dark. This week, 21 U.S. troops have been killed along with the usual bloody pile of Iraqi corpses. But Rice says the prime minister is really making progress now, because he finally fired 800 cops that were actually part of the Death Squads that actually run the streets. Progress!

And via Andrew Sullivan, this picture of Condi on the airport runway says it all...

The security delays from Condi's travel also disrupted an important London meeting on Iran's nuclear program.

I'm so glad that we're staying the course there. See you at the victory party!

You Iz Da Man, Karl Rove!!

Another Friday afternoon resignation, one that won't get any mainstream news coverage...

Reuters: Rove aide resigns in fallout over Abramoff report
An aide to top White House political adviser Karl Rove resigned on Friday in the fallout over a congressional report showing many White House contacts with ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the aide, Susan Ralston, submitted her resignation after recognizing that "a protracted discussion of these matters would be a distraction to the White House."

Ralston chose to step down and "we support her decision and consider the matter closed," Perino said.

Yessir, with Susan Ralton gone, the massive Abramoff corruption scandal is now over.

Hey media! This scandal involves naughty emails too! Are you interested yet?

UPDATE: More details on why Ralton resigned- here.


This headline says it all-

AP: AP learns Gitmo guards brag of beatings

Remember that this sort of behavior cannot be legally challenged under the newly passed detainee bill.

"Upon what Constitution doth this our Caesar feed?"

AKA- 'Does This Sound Like Democracy To You?, Pt. 362'

Signing statements are a (constitutionally questionable) 'PS' a Presidents adds to a law, giving his thoughts on it. President Bush has taken them to new levels, using them to circumvent the very law he is signing. His most famous signing statement was late last year on the McCain torture ban, in which "he quietly reserved the right to bypass the law under his powers as commander in chief". Got that? 'I'll sign this law, but I won't obey it'. Another disturbing example was this past March when the President added a statement onto the Patriot Act renewal (when the reporters had left after the big photo-op) "saying that he did not feel obliged to obey requirements that he inform Congress about how the FBI was using the act's expanded police powers." These requirements were meant to prevent abuse, but the President would have none of that nonsense.

Now news of a new signing statement- less harmful than those two, but still showing a clear pattern of abuse- tacked onto the recently signed Homeland Security bill...

AP: Bush says he can edit security reports
President Bush, again defying Congress, says he has the power to edit the Homeland Security Department's reports about whether it obeys privacy rules while handling background checks, ID cards and watchlists.

In the law Bush signed Wednesday, Congress stated no one but the privacy officer could alter, delay or prohibit the mandatory annual report on Homeland Security department activities that affect privacy, including complaints.

But Bush, in a signing statement attached to the agency's 2007 spending bill, said he will interpret that section "in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch."...

...The American Bar Association and members of Congress have said Bush uses signing statements excessively as a way to expand his power...

And there is no questioning of this or oversight because the President's rubberstamp Republican Congress is quite happy to allow a President of their party to expand his power at the expense of checks and balances. Looking the other way seems to be a pattern with this Congress.

But wait, there's more!!-
Bush's signing statement Wednesday challenges several other provisions in the Homeland Security spending bill.

Bush, for example, said he'd disregard a requirement that the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency must have at least five years experience and "demonstrated ability in and knowledge of emergency management and homeland security."

His rationale was that it "rules out a large portion of those persons best qualified by experience and knowledge to fill the office."

Translation: 'I'm a big fucking idiot who didn't learn his lesson with Michael Brown.'

As Josh Marshall said in March, "Our permanent constitutional crisis under the lawless presidency of George W. Bush [continues]... There's really no overstating the importance of the president's disrespect for and serial violations of the law he has sworn twice to uphold."

Had enough?

Quote of the Day

"It's not as funny as Foley-gate, but the ongoing war in Iraq is, obviously, more significant. The president is running around the country slandering Democrats and lying about their stand on his administration's illegal surveillance initiative, while telling people the violence in Iraq will be 'just a comma' in the history books. Not, obviously, to the 2,700 and growing dead American soldiers. Not to their wives, husbands, and children. Nor to the thousands more maimed or wounded or their families. Nor to the tens of thousands of dead Iraqis and their families and friends. Or, indeed, to those inspired by the war to join radical terrorist groups, or to those who will be the victims of their future crimes.

According to Woodward's book, Bush says he'll continue the war in Iraq even if the only ones left supporting him are Laura and their dog. And, presumably, he means it. Loose talk of winning or losing the war is, at this point, irrelevant. The president has defined our war aims in Iraq purely in terms of continuing the war indefinitely. For him, keeping all of these troops over there and handing the whole shitpile off to his successor is success. Nobody else should find that very comforting."
--Blogger Matthew Yglesias, on President Bush's endless 'comma' of a war.

And while Bush stays the course, the military looks to a new approach:
Military Hones a New Strategy on Insurgency (NY Times)

While members of his own party slowly acknowledge the mess they have enabled:
Senator Says U.S. Should Rethink Iraq Strategy (NY Times)

Nancy Pelosi Is Coming, Run For Your Lives!!

With his attempts to spin away the Foley scandal a) turning out to be all lies, and b) proving him a soulless douchebag, Matt Drudge is moving on to tackle another right-wing tactic... the attempt to paint Rep. Nancy Pelosi as some sort of boogeyman. Here is Matt's latest, a mix of a fear of Pelosi and that Bush's tax cuts might have to- gosh- be reconsidered in a period of war and economic uncertainity. Take it away, Matt-

OMG, sounds horrifying!! Save me, GOP!!

Here's what the article he links to says, with my notes-
Franklin Roosevelt had his first hundred days.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi is thinking 100 hours, time enough, she says, to begin to "drain the swamp" after more than a decade of Republican rule.

As in the first 100 hours the House meets after Democrats — in her fondest wish — win control in the Nov. 7 midterm elections and Pelosi takes the gavel as the first Madam Speaker in history.

Day One: Put new rules in place to "break the link between lobbyists and legislation."

[Blueduck's note: OMG, no! You liberal bitch! Don't take our lobbyists away!! ]

Day Two: Enact all the recommendations made by the commission that investigated the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

[Blueduck's note: How dare you try to enact the 9/11 Commission recommendations; the war on terror is the President's job only. Period. Just nod your head and acquiesce to his every move and utterance and you can be as effective as the current Congress has been at using the war to divide Americans for political gain saving us from evildoers and folks.]

Time remaining until 100 hours: Raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, maybe in one step. Cut the interest rate on student loans in half. Allow the government to negotiate directly with the pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices for Medicare patients.

[Blueduck's note: Raise the minimum wage??! That's communism! That will destroy the American economy. Why if companies have to pay workers a fair and liveable salary, their only obvious response will be to fire lots of employees and move their businesses overseas!!!!! That is the obvious logical response, Nancy! And don't give me this 'we should force the pharmaceutical companies to give us better prices on necessary medicine' commie crap either. If people want the good stuff, they better cough up the big money. That's called capitalism, comrade.]

Broaden the types of stem cell research allowed with federal funds — "I hope with a veto-proof majority," she added in an Associated Press interview Thursday.

[Blueduck's note: Fine, try and save lives with your fancy 'science', but I hope you won't mind burning in fires of Hell later.]

All the days after that: "Pay as you go," meaning no increasing the deficit, whether the issue is middle class tax relief, health care or some other priority.

[Blueduck's note: Hey, now don't attacking the deficit. President Bush and the Republicans have worked very, very hard to get it up as high as they have. They already beat Reagan's record, now they want to make sure their record will be untouchable for future generations too. Don't rob them of that opportunity.]

To do that, she said, Bush-era tax cuts would have to be rolled back for those above "a certain level." She mentioned annual incomes of $250,000 or $300,000 a year and higher, and said tax rates for those individuals might revert to those of the Clinton era. Details will have to be worked out, she emphasized.

[Blueduck's note: Rolled back? Clinton-era levels? Yea, Nancy, good luck convincing Americans to go back to the levels of the Clinton era, an age of economic doom and shanty towns. Next thing you know, you'll be saying that we should aim for a surplus too. Does your hate and disgust for American know no limits?]

This woman sounds like a fucking monster.

Finally, James Love at HuffPost looks at the disaster of return to Clinton form-

And who would want that?

Thank you, Matt, for saving me from making a big mistake next month.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

What He Said

Andrew Sullivan earlier today:

"Now can we all calm down, wait for the [Foley] investigation to proceed and actually deal in this campaign with things like, er, war, torture, habeas corpus, crippling fiscal recklessness, climate change, and terrorism?"

Probably not, no.

Pervertgate III: Republicans Pass The Buck

Okay, I had not intended to post about the Foley scandal at all today, because the media overload is frankly somewhat disturbing. However, there is a developing, under-the-radar aspect of this story that deserves spotlight. When this story first broke on Friday, I was frankly impressed with the way conservatives were handling it... they did not try to downplay the seriousness of Foley's behavior, they didn't blame others for it, and they demanded accountability from the House GOP leadership for their part in all of this. Why, even Michelle Malkin's blog postings were calm and rational! If only such common-sense, non-partisan reaction was the same from the right for the other top issues of the day. This, apparently, could only last a few days before they went back into standard 'blame this on Democrats/liberal boogeymen/the media' survival mode, in which Mr. Foley was the real victim. Sad, but predictable.

Leading the pack, as always, is Matt Drudge (no stranger to the frustrating life of the Republican closet). Drudge lead, almost from the beginning, with 'flashbacks' of old Democratic sex scandals, cueing conservatives everywhere to run with their talking points on what long-retired Rep. Gerry Studds did 23 years ago and what President Clinton did with a consenting adult (Hannity, for his part, lied and said Ms. Lewinsky was only 19 when she had relations with Bubba- she was in fact 22 when they first met, before the affair). On his radio show, Drudge referred to the involved pages as "beasts" who played poor Mr. Foley. His website has also had no shortage of passing-the-buck links, such as those seen in the right column of this screengrab I did this morning:

(Hastert blames Clinton, George Soros, the media, and the usual liberal boogeymen)

(UPDATE: Now Drudge is leading with an 'exclusive' claiming- aka wild accusations that will be forgotten before they are disproved- that Foley was just a poor sucker trapped by a page 'prank' gone awry and then manipulated by Democrats. Tomorrow's scoop: Michael Moore forced Foley at gunpoint to have online spank sessions with teenage boys. Poor innocent Republicans... Finally, commenters at Wonkette rip this latest spin a new one, as does new revelations by ABC News.

UPDATE #2: Surprise! Drudge's report turns out to be a total lie.)

This is but one part of the just-beginning spin campaign from the Republican loyalists (loyal to their party, not to any of the things they claim to stand for). Media Matters has a great compilation of the greatest hits of this campaign: In Foley scandal, conservatives find plenty of excuses and plenty of people to blame (other than the GOP).

I highly recommend watching the lengthy video compilation on that page. Highlights include Sean Hannity saying that this is a media conspiracy*, Michael Savage expressing doubt that these teen(s) even exist, and Rush Limbaugh claiming that the kids were Democrats who used Foley, and then Rush demanding Pelosi's resignation cause she "knows" the phantom liberal who set this conspiracy up, and he says he has no proof of this, but he knows a liberal did this, and all liberals know each other, and Pelosi is a liberal, so therefore she knows who did it. I'd say they all have reached a new low, but that's almost cliche at this point.

[*Note to Sean- the source was a Republican. Please try again.]

An effort to portray Foley as a Democrat is also underway, by Fox News and others.

There is also a subtle, and disturbing, effort on the part of many (particularly the religious right) to use this to condemn gays, as if Rep. Foley's sexual orientation explains or justifies his unethical behavior. The gay = pedophile card is being played here. Such conservative staples as the Wall Street Journal and the National Review website echoed these sentiments. Instead of causing great concern about congressional ethics and accountability, this scandal may end up hardening the homophobia of many on the right, based on this kind of rhetoric.

Reports of a 'gay conspiracy' are also popping up.

Finally, the most disturbing new part of this campaign has been the outing of one of the young pages by a small, but influential, group of conservative bloggers (you can see the unflappable Mr. Drudge hyping this outing at the top of the screengrab posted above). Now this is that new low I was looking for. When even Michelle Malkin- no stranger to hysteria and smear campaigns- is disapproving, you know you crossed a line.

Blogger 'tristero' sums up the strategy behind this move: "The rightwing really senses imminent defeat and they will do literally anything they think they can get away with to prevent it. Hence, the release of the name of the page under the pretext that he was actually not a minor when the emails/ims were sent. In fact, that's a deliberate lie, spread to sow confusion of the he-said-she-said variety. Not only do lies of this sort dislocate the truth to the liar's advantage, they slow down legitimate investigations as the lies have to be researched and debunked. We've seen this strategy many times before from the right."

As Tom Tomorrow notes, scratching his head as to the usefulness of this spin campaign, "Purely from a strategic standpoint, if ever there was a time to just toss in the towel and admit your guys fucked up, this is certainly it."

And Andrew Sullivan notes that, "Three other pages [now] describe Foley's online predation. The GOP is going to have to find another angle to deflect this. They've tried blaming the MSM; they've tried blaming Clinton; they've tried to turn all the victims into pranksters. It's been a worthy display. But in the end they may have to take ... responsibility. Remember that? It used to be a conservative value." I don't remember that at all.

Finally, amid revelations that Speaker Hastert may have been notified of Foley's behavior as early as three years ago, Hastert held a news conference just this afternoon to announce that he will stay on as Speaker, as the Republican leadership continues to point the fingers in every direction but their own. Recent polling indicates that this could very well backfire on them. And so Pervertgate marches on, at least until the next October surprise.

Meanwhile, In The Middle East...

With the media obsessing over the Foley sex scandal (admittedly important, but it's getting the level of coverage given to almost no other Republican scandal of the past year), it would seem the GOP has gained one small victory... the war is knocked off the front page (tee hee, 'page'). And yet, halfway across the world, more and more human beings are dying to defend a policy that is increasingly harder to comprehend. Let's start with first, forgotten war-

NBC News: U.S. is at critical crossroads in Afghanistan
Nearly five years after the U.S. military drove the Taliban out of Afghanistan, total victory appears as distant and remote as the long-embattled nation itself.

In fact, after several years of relative calm, the Taliban and al-Qaida have staged a dramatic comeback, adopting the insurgent tactics that have been perfected with deadly efficiency in Iraq. More than 70 suicide bombings have killed scores of Afghan civilians this year, a 400 percent jump over 2005. Roadside bombs have more than doubled...

...The Afghan government continues to struggle to establish its credibility and spread its authority beyond Kabul. At the same time the U.S. recently cut developmental aid to Afghanistan by 30 percent and less than half of the $15 billion promised in international aid has been delivered...

Bold added for emphasis. Our current leadership really threw this mission under the bus, as evidenced by Sen. Frist's comments that maybe we should give in to the Taliban. As Bill Clinton said in Fox interview, "You know, we do have a government that thinks Afghanistan is only 1/7th as important as Iraq."

Or, as Sen. Feingold said, defending his Iraq redeployment plans, "Mr. President, how did we lose the focus on those who attacked us on 9/11? And does it make sense to continue to pour virtually all our resources into an Iraq war that is not working?... It is time to tell the Iraqis that we have done what we can do militarily, that we'll continue to help them in many ways... But the notion of continuing to put all of these resources just into Iraq on the absurd notion that that is the key to the fight against al Qaeda is one of the worst mistakes in American foreign policy history."

Speaking of that mistake, the Republicans are already preparing for victory there-
Even as the Bush administration urges Americans to stay the course in Iraq, Republicans in Congress have put down a quiet marker in the apparent hope that V-I Day might be only months away.

Tucked away in fine print in the military spending bill for this past year was a lump sum of $20 million to pay for a celebration in the nation’s capital “for commemoration of success” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Not surprisingly, the money was not spent.

Now Congressional Republicans are saying, in effect, maybe next year. A paragraph written into spending legislation and approved by the Senate and House allows the $20 million to be rolled over into 2007...

Their level of delusion grows deeper every week.

This admist news that an Iraqi police brigade was linked to a mass kidnapping by death squads this week. We have a lot more stories like this to look forward to if we stay.

U.S. military deaths, meanwhile, are on the rise.

(UPDATE: Condi makes another 'surprise' visit to Iraq. Why does the media fall for this?)

Money quote from Andrew Sullivan: "The status quo is unacceptable. We must either ratchet up our effort or cut our losses. If I had confidence in the leadership, I'd back the former. Under Rumsfeld, I have zero confidence in any effort to stabilize Iraq. But we know this president is simply immune to pressure unless forced. So vote Democrat. Give them partial responsibility for the war effort - before a presidential election. And force Bush finally to take some responsibility for the chaos he has helped create."

Colin Powell agrees.

[PS- 58% in a new poll believe that President Bush lied about the case for war. Only 58%??]

Does This Sound Like Democracy To You?

As the latest part of my fascism watch, I present this latest incident...

Rocky Mountain News: Arrest over Cheney barb triggers lawsuit
A Denver-area man filed a lawsuit today against a member of the Secret Service for causing him to be arrested after he approached Vice President Dick Cheney in Beaver Creek this summer and criticized him for his policies concerning Iraq.

Attorney David Lane said that on June 16, Steve Howards was walking his 7-year-old son to a piano practice, when he saw Cheney surrounded by a group of people in an outdoor mall area, shaking hands and posing for pictures with several people.

According to the lawsuit filed at U.S. District Court in Denver, Howards and his son walked to about two-to-three feet from where Cheney was standing, and said to the vice president, "I think your policies in Iraq are reprehensible," or words to that effect, then walked on.

Ten minutes later, according to Howards' lawsuit, he and his son were walking back through the same area, when they were approached by Secret Service agent Virgil D. "Gus" Reichle Jr., who asked Howards if he had "assaulted" the vice president. Howards denied doing so, but was nonetheless placed in handcuffs and taken to the Eagle County Jail...

To recap: A local man saw the Vice President doing an appearance in a public place, approached him to express criticism of his policies, and was subsequently arrested for 'assault'. All at the same that the administration is using the spreading of democracy to justify its bungled military adventures.

Perhaps the Vice President was speaking outside the area's free speech zones.

This is not an isolated incident. Last year, a man named Ben Marble in Mississippi famously told Vice President Cheney to go fuck himself during a post-Katrina photo-op. Marble was also detained (and cuffed) following the incident by military police.

Keep in mind that, under the new detainee bill, this is a man who, with the President, has the sole determination of who is a 'terrorist' or 'enemy combatant' anywhere in the world, can detain them without legal recourse, torture and brutalize them, imprison them forever, or dispose of them as he wishes. All in the name of defending 'freedom' and 'liberty'.

Do you trust their judgement and restraint? Do you feel safer? Neither do I.

[Related: A Question of 'Compromise'-
McCain's deal on prisoners means White House lawlessness rolls on
(Village Voice- Liberty Beat)]

Big Brother Gets A Reprieve

After an August federal court smackdown, the President's warrantless spying program gets an official (but in no way unexpected) appeals reprieve-
The Bush administration can continue its warrantless surveillance program while it appeals a judge's ruling that the program is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The president has said the program is needed in the war on terrorism; opponents argue it oversteps constitutional boundaries on free speech, privacy and executive powers.

The unanimous ruling from a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave little explanation for the decision...

...U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit ruled Aug. 17 that the program was unconstitutional because it violates the rights to free speech and privacy and the separation of powers in the Constitution...

The government defends the program on the 'OMG we need this to stop terrorism!!' front.

Meanwhile, I wait fruitlessly for someone, anyone, in the government or media to actually address the issue of how warrantless, illegal wiretapping makes any operational difference versus going through the legally required oversight channels.

George? Dick? Alberto? Karl? Gen. Hayden? Anyone care to tackle that pesky lil' fact?

Questions that should be asked: Why did the President need to break the law, as opposed to simply wanting to? How did the incredibly accomodating provisions of FISA (which, among other things, provides options for retroactive warrants) hamper the President's ability to move quickly in ordering surveillance? Did the President and the Justice Department just think up the AUMF and/or Article II legal justification after the program was outed or is that what they believed all along? Why did the President make several statements in 2004 making it clear (falsely) that all wiretapping involved court orders? How does this program relate to recent reports of the Pentagon (etc) spying on peaceful political activists? How many secret, illegal spying programs are going on? Will Congress or the courts ever be briefed on them? Since no court orders or records are kept of this warrantless wiretapping, how can they offer assurances that innocent Americans aren't being spied on (factoring in FBI reports noting that this has been happening)?

The answer, of course- it's about increasing executive power, and not about terrorism.

And don't expect our ol' liberal media to potentially strain a brain cell or offend the corporate bookkeepers attempting to ask these basic questions, nor should you expect the Democrats to risk appearing 'weak' (or so they believe) on national security by asking them either. And so Americans continue to remain ill-informed and complacent on a major issue of constitutional concern.

That is also in no way unexpected.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I Can't Believe It's Not Vietnam

Stephen Colbert on Woodward, Kissinger, Iraq, and the President-

Ballsalicious as always.

Quote of the Day

"'Where's the leader?' Bush, according to Woodward, has exclaimed in dismay about the Iraqi government's dithering. 'Where's George Washington? Where's Thomas Jefferson? Where's John Adams, for crying out loud?' For a president to ask that question about Iraq, that tribal stew, is enough to cause one to ask it about the United States."
--Conservative columnist George Will, pondering the leaders we have.

These have been our leaders-

I think we need new leaders.

Odds and Ends

Some miscellaneous news falling through the cracks...

Another reason to vote for Democrats- They are "renewing their vow to impede the annual congressional pay raise until the minimum wage is increased". Obviously, their success will depend on how the elections turn out. Said Sen. Durbin (D-IL), "It’s not a threat, it's a promise. Until minimum-wage workers get an increase in pay, Congress is not going to get an increase in pay".

The Dow closed today at a record high for the second straight day.

Prepare for poverty?

President Bush signed a homeland security bill, which primarily allots "$1.2 billion for fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border". Ports, etc, to be secured... ummm, later.

Finally, Pervertgate continues to swallow up the Republican party.


Not sure anything will come of this, but it is an important development.

What did Condoleeza Rice know about Al Qaeda and when did she know it?-
A review of White House records has determined that George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, did brief Condoleezza Rice and other top officials on July 10, 2001, about the looming threat from Al Qaeda, a State Department spokesman said Monday.

The account by the spokesman, Sean McCormack, came hours after Ms. Rice, the secretary of state, told reporters aboard her airplane that she did not recall the specific meeting on July 10, noting that she had met repeatedly with Mr. Tenet that summer about terrorist threats. Ms. Rice, the national security adviser at the time, said it was “incomprehensible” to suggest she had ignored dire terrorist threats two months before the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mr. McCormack also said records showed that the Sept. 11 commission had been informed about the meeting, a fact that former intelligence officials and members of the commission confirmed on Monday....

So Condi was lying when she denied the meeting had taken place. Okay.

Officials now agree that on July 10, 2001, Mr. Tenet and his counterterrorism deputy, J. Cofer Black, were so alarmed about intelligence pointing to an impending attack by Al Qaeda that they demanded an emergency meeting at the White House with Ms. Rice and her National Security Council staff.

According to two former intelligence officials, Mr. Tenet told those assembled at the White House about the growing body of intelligence the C.I.A. had collected suggesting an attack was in the works. But both current and former officials, including allies of Mr. Tenet, took issue with Mr. Woodward’s account that he and his aides had left the meeting feeling that Ms. Rice had ignored them...

...Mr. McCormack said the records showed that far from ignoring Mr. Tenet’s warnings, Ms. Rice acted on the intelligence and requested that Mr. Tenet make the same presentation to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft, then the attorney general.

But Mr. Ashcroft said by telephone on Monday evening that he never received a briefing that summer from Mr. Tenet.

So Tenet screwed up too. Which we already know.

Most of this we sort of already know, but it's interesting to have a broader picture of it.

And now there are also revelations that the Republican members of the 9/11 Commission may have voted to keep 'confidential' some information on what the Bush administration did(n't) do prior to the attacks. Yeeps.

Firedoglake asks more questions.

I wonder how long it will be before we have the whole story.

[Related: Robert Scheer: Rice More Sordid Than Foley (Robert Scheer- TruthDig)]

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Quote of the Day

"But, you know, this is a political issue in itself, too, and what we’ve tried to do as the Republican Party is make a better economy, protect this country against terrorism — and we’ve worked at it ever since 9/11, worked with the president on it — and there are some people that try to tear us down. We are the insulation to protect this country, and if they get to me it looks like they could affect our election as well."
--Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, on why holding him accountable is bad for America.

Translation: 'The Republicans and I are the only things keeping America from being destroyed by Al Qaeda, so if you consider voting against us in *our* elections, or try to take me to task for coddling sexual predators, then the death of America will be on your head.'

I guess they are so used to reflexively using 9/11 as a rhetorical bludgen to justify everything and demonize those who dare question them, that Mr. Hastert didn't even realize how vile he sounds. How low can they go? And why after all the scandals this week am I still not convinced they will lose?

Fox News, meanwhile, labels Rep. Foley a Democrat. AP did the same. Darn that liberal media!

Oh, and then there is this disgusting incident... The head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY), held a press conference yesterday to address concerns about the Foley issue, in which he literally surrounded himself with young children. When reporters asked if the children could be escorted out so they could discuss the adult content involved in this scandal, Reynolds said "I’m not going to ask any of my supporters to leave".

I wonder if these people can even remember what having a soul was like.

[Related: Hastert may have just days to save his job (U.S. News & World Report)]

A Thought

On the subway ride to work this morning, something occurred to me... The President still has not signed the torture/habeas corpus-gutting detainee bill (you know the one that was the focus of so much congressional fury late last month). The bill passed the Senate and House before their sessions ended. The President could've signed it days ago; it was ready. Has he already? If not, why?

The President's excuse for rushing this bill right before the election was that it was needed immediately (to deal with the terrorist suspects he's kept hidden away in secret prison for years anyway), otherwise clueless interrogators and military personnel might remain under the impression that war crimes were illegal, and he said that we needed clarity right away orelsealqaedawouldkillusallomg, and we couldn't bring terrorism to justice and all that. And yet with his electoral wedge issue bill passed with everything he wanted and more, the President has yet to get around to putting his john hancock on this important bill to further destroy American credibility for years to come save the world.

Could it be that the President is postponing the signing of this bill he insisted was all-important for a politically opportune time in the next week or two (say when the mindblowing number of scandals out there reach their boiling point?). Were I were a cynical man, I would make that assumption.

I guess the only remaining question is whether the media spectacle for the signing will be in the Oval Office, Rose Garden, or maybe an aircraft carrier. Or, maybe he realized what an odious bill this is and has decided not to sign it, in favor of working to restore America to the rule of law and international approval. Hahahaha! {*sigh*} See you at the photo-op.

Atty Gen. Gonzales To Courts: 'Stay Out of King George's Business!'

In my post last Thursday on the passage of Bush's detainee treatment bill- 'Remember This Moment'- I included a poster which implied the actions of the administration were taking America down a fascist path. Did I mean that America had, as a whole, become a fascist country? No, of course not. Did I mean that the Bush administration and their party were embracing the historical attributes of fascism in their policies and actions? Yes indeed.

If the dismissal of habeas corpus, legalization of human rights abuses, Big Brother run amok, permanent state of war, secret prisons, undermining of the press, increased governmental religiosity, etc, are not enough to convince you, here's another piece of evidence for you...

Washington Post: Gonzales Cautions Judges on Interfering
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who is defending President Bush's anti-terrorism tactics in multiple court battles, said Friday that federal judges should not substitute their personal views for the president's judgments in wartime.

He said the Constitution makes the president commander in chief and the Supreme Court has long recognized the president's pre-eminent role in foreign affairs. "The Constitution, by contrast, provides the courts with relatively few tools to superintend military and foreign policy decisions, especially during wartime," the attorney general told a conference on the judiciary at Georgetown University Law Center...

To recap: The Attorney General of the United States (an office which is supposed to be a neutral arbitrator of the law, and not a partisan arm of the Oval Office) is stating that in a time of war (you know, the permanent, loosely-defined 'war on terror'), the Supreme Court should not attempt to check or balance any of The Decider's decisions, like they did with that nasty Hamdan decision in June, which started this whole debacle. Their 230-year-old role as the constitutional referee does not apply to King George's decrees. Harry Truman would be surprised to hear this.

This all goes back to the President's (okay, actually Dick Cheney's) belief in the 'unitary executive' theory of presidential power, which states that the power and authority of the executive great exceeds the lesser two branches. Vice President Cheney in particular internalized this theory, believing that after the resignation of his old boss, Richard Nixon, the powers of the executive were limited too much (ie. by that pesky 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which the President has decreed unto himself the power to violate). What best way to compenstate for those post-Watergate limitations? Attempt to make President Nixon look like Thomas Jefferson in comparison, apparently.

But this attitude doesn't end with the Attorney General and Executive Branch... as the near-party-line vote on the detainee bill last week (and likely votes on upcoming wiretapping legislation) showed, the President's rubberstamp allies in the Congress also support this. Their disdain for the courts is also evident. Here is what former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said just last week-
Supreme Court decisions that are "so clearly at variance with the national will" should be overridden by the other branches of government, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says.

"What I reject, out of hand, is the idea that by five to four, judges can rewrite the Constitution, but it takes two-thirds of the House, two-thirds of the Senate and three-fourths of the states to equal five judges," Gingrich said during a Georgetown University Law Center conference on the judiciary...

Other GOP leaders, like the now-resigned Tom Delay, have long made hostile remarks toward the judiciary as a whole, most notably during the Schiavo affair. This lead former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to warn in a speech this past March that these leaders and their actions "posed a direct threat to our constitutional freedoms" and warned against leaning toward dictatorship. It "takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship... but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings," her speech reminded us.

We have been seeing those beginnings for about 5 years now. The detainee bill's passage last week was a sign that accountability for this is going to continue to be non-existent under our current leadership. The media certainly does not care; any story too complicated to boiled down to soundbites is not worth reporting to them. But this is still a democracy and we need to stop just getting angry while doing nothing. We can do something- we can vote. Accountability (hopefully) begins on November 7th.

UPDATE: The first court challenge to the legislation has arrived.

Meanwhile, In Iraq...

With more evidence of lies revealed, how is the actual war going now?

Let's check in-
Parliament extended Iraq's state of emergency Monday as gunmen snatched 14 employees from computer stores in downtown Baghdad in the second mass kidnapping in as many days...

...Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government has struggled to rein in sectarian violence, which U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said Sunday has become deadlier than the Sunni-led insurgency that broke out after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Parliament approved another month's extension of the state of emergency, in place since November 2004. The measure allows for a nighttime curfew and gives the government extra powers to make arrests without warrants and launch police and military operations when it deems them necessary. It applies everywhere except the northern Kurdish autonomous zone...

Sadly, business as usual.

Now, however, there is news that the Iraqi Prime Minister has unveiled a 'peace plan'-
Iraq's prime minister announced a new four-point plan aimed at uniting the sharply divided Shiite and Sunni parties in his government behind stopping rampant sectarian violence.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki emerged with the plan after talks with the top Sunni and Shiite leaders in his government, trying to stanch a potential crisis over the sectarian divisions.

Under the plan, local commissions will be formed in each district of Baghdad, made up of representatives of each party, to oversee security forces' efforts against violence, al-Maliki said. A central committee comprising all the parties will coordinate with the armed forces, he said.

A media committee also will be formed, and the progress of the plan will be reviewed monthly, al-Maliki said...

I'd like to be optimistic, but all common sense tells me not bother.

Could the announcement of this plan today have anything to do with this?-
According to one Iraqi official, the curfew was imposed because of a plan for a coup d’etat against the government of Prime Minister Maliki, who was elected to lead the U.S.-installed regime. There’ve been periodic reports of a planned coup all year. Many U.S. officials, too, are publicly warning Maliki that he has only a short time to fix things. Everyone from top U.S. military officials to Ambassador Khalilzad to Lee Hamilton, who heads the Iraq Study Group, are saying the same thing: that Maliki has only a couple of months to act. “There’s going to come a time when I would argue that we are going to have to force the issue,” a U.S. military official told the Washington Post last Thursday. It seems that both U.S. occupation authorities and various Iraqi factions are ready to give up on Maliki.

Sounds like Maliki's peace plan is a last-ditch effort to save his own ass politically.

Finally, Congress throws more billions at the war, but not without some reservations-
The U.S. Congress on Friday moved to block the Bush administration from building permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq or controlling the country's oil sector, as it approved $70 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The restrictions included in a record $447 billion military funding bill were a slap at the administration, and Republicans have stripped them out of legislation in the past.

Democrats and many Republicans say the Iraqi insurgency has been fueled by perceptions the United States has ambitions for a permanent presence in the country.

The administration has downplayed prospects for permanent military bases in Iraq, but lawmakers have called on President George W. Bush to make a definitive statement that the United States has no such plans.

U.S. officials have predicted a lengthy U.S. military presence in Iraq...

Lengthy presence? Golly, that's not what Rumsfeld said in February 2003.

He gets to keep his job, you know. And so the shitstorm adventure continues...

Abramoff Knew War Was Coming In March 2002; Rest of America Played Dumb

As if we needed more evidence that the administration was lying throughout 2002 when it denied that they were planning for war with Iraq and only wanted the congressional resolution as a diplomatic tool (Downing Street What?), here's another odd piece to add to the puzzle. In March of 2002 (a year before the war began), Jack Abramoff sent the following email in regards to a discussion he had with close confidante Karl Rove:
From: Jack Abramoff
To: 'octagon1'
Monday, March 18, 2002 8:31 AM
Subject: RE: Sunday

I was sitting yesterday with Karl Rove, Bush's top advisor, at the NCAA basketball game, discussing Israel when this email came in. I showed it to him. It seems that the President was very sad to have to come out negatively regarding Israel, but that they needed to mollify the Arabs for the upcoming war on Iraq. That did not seem to work anyway. Bush seems to love Sharon and Israel, and thinks Arabfat [sic], is nothing but a liar. I thought I'd pass that on.

So even Jack Abramoff knew from the White House in March of 2002 that we were going to war. And yet our own 'liberal media' continued to stumble across cluelessly, failing to see the 100-ton elephant stomping around the room, or to ask the tough questions of an administration working so hard to slowly market an upcoming product.

Bush cultists (like neocon 'journalist' John Podhoretz) now try the revisionist spin that we all knew the White House was preparing for war. But that's not the White House said.

President Bush told reporters on September 19th of 2002, as he rushed the force resolution to the Congress, that said resolution wasn't about war, but about diplomacy. He said: "That will be part of the resolution, the authorization to use force. If you want to keep the peace, you've got to have the authorization to use force. This is a chance for Congress to indicate support. It's a chance for Congress to say 'We support the administration's ability to keep the peace.' That's what this is all about." Comments by Senators voting 'yes' indicated that they believed that was the bill's intent.

And as late as December 31, 2002, President Bush told reporters, indignant at one's suggestion that war was coming soon, that "You said we're headed to war in Iraq -- I don't know why you say that. I hope we're not headed to war in Iraq. I'm the person who gets to decide, not you. I hope this can be done peacefully."

President Bush would later tell reporters on March 21st of this year that "I didn't want war. To assume I wanted war is just flat wrong ... with all due respect."

In my world, we call these 'lies'.

Pervertgate II: It Hits The Fan

According to the Drudge Report, today's editorial in the conservative Washington Times paper will call for the immediate resignation of Dennis Hastert, the Speaker of the House, over his role in covering up the actions of Rep. Foley. The editorial will state that Hastert "has forfeited the confidence of the public and his party, and he cannot preside over the necessary coming investigation, an investigation that must examine his own inept performance". I checked the conservative blogs I read daily, and this seems to a shared sentiment on the right. This scandal apparently crossed a line I didn't believe still existed in the GOP. I believe in Washington this is called a 'Miers Moment'.

ABC News has more: Warnings About Foley's Behavior Failed to Move Congress to Action

What a mess.

A number of related links and updates at the following:
Foley Scandal Could Cost GOP Control of Congress (TruthDig)

UPDATE: WOW. New IMs reveal cyber sex, while awaiting a House vote!

Meanwhile, In Afghanistan...

Holy crap on a stick. I knew Bill Frist was a moron, but...

AP: U.S. Senate majority leader calls for efforts to bring Taliban into Afghan government
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Monday that the Afghan guerrilla war can never be won militarily and called for efforts to bring the Taliban and their supporters into the Afghan government...

So, according to the GOP, withdrawing from Iraq = bad? Turning Afghanistan back over to Taliban = good?

I think my brain just sneezed. I have nothing more I can add to this.

[Related: NATO to take command of whole of Afghanistan in a 'few days' (AFP)]

Monday, October 02, 2006

Weekend Funnies: The Better-Late-Than-Never Edition

Slate magazine's Dahlia Lithwick has a great article about how, in the span of two and a half years, the torture at Abu Ghraib went from a scandal that almost cost President Bush his reelection to a forgotten act now retroactively forgiven by congressional law. The money quote section-
In April 2004, Americans awoke to the reality that the U.S. military was brutalizing prisoners at Abu Ghraib. The New Yorker and 60 Minutes II horrified us with the now-iconic images of Satar Jabar standing hooded on a box with wires attached to his hands and his penis, and threatened with electrocution if he fell off. They offered graphic photos of Pfc. Lynndie England dragging a collapsed prisoner on the floor with a leash, soldiers terrorizing prisoners with dogs, and a delighted Charles Graner giving a thumbs-up over the corpse of a man alleged to have been tortured to death at the prison.

At the time, we referred to Abu Ghraib as a "scandal." The images were a searing reproach to virtually any American with a soul and a conscience. With a handful of sick exceptions, people who could agree on nothing else could agree that this was an unacceptable way to treat prisoners—regardless of who they were, what they were accused of, or where they were being held.

But in hindsight, Abu Ghraib wasn't a scandal for the Bush administration. It was a coup. Because when the Senate passes the president's detainee bill today, we will, as a country, have yet more evidence that yesterday's disgrace is today's ordinary, and that—with a little time and a little help from the media—we can normalize almost anything in the span of a few short years...

What a sad state of affairs.

Did Condoleeza Rice Hide Key Info From The 9/11 Commission?

The media's favorite administration member has been a bad, bad girl...

NY Times: Sept. 11 Panel Wasn’t Told of Meeting, Members Say
Members of the Sept. 11 commission said Sunday they were alarmed that they were told nothing about a July 2001 White House meeting at which George J. Tenet, then director of central intelligence, is reported to have warned Condoleezza Rice, then national security adviser, about an imminent attack by Al Qaeda and failed to persuade her to take action.

Details of the meeting on July 10, 2001, two months before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, were first reported last week in a new book by Bob Woodward. The White House disputes his account.

The final report from the Sept. 11 commission made no mention of the meeting, nor did it suggest that there had been such an encounter between Mr. Tenet and Ms. Rice, now secretary of state....

Sec. Rice states that she has no recollection of this meeting taking place.

More from Did the White House hide a 9/11 warning from the 9/11 Commission?

UPDATE: Sorry, Condi- the meeting with Tenet has now been confirmed.

UPDATE #2: Condi's defense = Don't blame me, President Bush wouldn't let me resign!

(YouTube video of Woodward's '60 Minutes' interview- Part 1 / Part 2)

Who Needs An Ozone Layer Anyway?

More reasons for us to apologize to this poor lil' planet of ours-

Reuters: Record ozone loss over Antarctic this year: agency

Bob Woodward Emerges From His 'State of Denial'

I will have some more detailed posting later on today... It will probably be a somewhat slow news week, with Congress not in session anymore, and all the congressmen heading back home to prepare for a month of mud-slinging and fearmongering. In the meantime, below is a link to video of Bob Woodward's interview yesterday on '60 Minutes'- sorry, it was too long to upload to YouTube.

Woodward’s 60 Minutes Interview on ‘State of Denial’

Recommending viewing.

[Related reading:
-Newsweek: The Woodward War-

Another book, another political blow. How the Bush team is handling the rain of bad news on Iraq, and what it means for Secretary Rumsfeld's future.


After everything that has happened in the last few years... After Iraq, the economy, Katrina, the deficit, all the lies and manipulation, torture, wiretapping, numerous ethical scandals, fearmongering, power consolidation, etc etc... After all that, is what could ultimately turn control of the House over to Democrats next month.... the resulting scandal from the resignation of Rep. Mark Foley, the Republican Party's own catholic priest???

National Review reporter John Miller thinks so, calling the Foley fallout "dynamite".

Recap for those out of the loop here: Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla) resigned on Friday after emails surfaced from a former young male page in which the congressman made suggestive comments and asked for 'pics'. Newly revealed (and much, much more graphic) IM conversations (see PDF) sealed his fate. House leadership knew of the problem for quite some time and covered it up.

TPMCafe has a detailed timeline of this coverup.

Digby, meanwhile, posts a list of actually larger scandals that are being ignored by the media as a whole (Woodward's new revelations about the Iraq war, the Abramoff/Rove connection, the Powell revelation, the NIE revelations, and the new bill okaying torture and sending habeas corpus on vacation) in favor of this. Sex sells, I guess.

UPDATE: The GOP blame-this-on-Democrats/shoot-the-messenger spin campaign is underway.

Ben Stein takes the cake, however.

UPDATE #2: Wow. Rep. Foley did attempt to spend a night with one of the teens.

President Bush Fired Colin Powell?...

...Newly emerged details suggest that's the gist of it.

TruthDig: Bush Fired Colin Powell

What a tragic shame what happened to Gen. Powell. He was a great American (often discussed as a potential first black President) who probably had no idea what he was getting into when he joined the Bush crew in 2001. The prominence of the neocons always meant his days were numbered. And, believing he was doing what was right for his boss, he officially destroyed his legacy in that infamous 2003 speech to U.N., which they all knew was full of lies.

Many of things he's said (ie. his recent letter in opposition to Bush's torture bill) since he left office, as well as the many statements by his chief of staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, are signs that there is likely much he regrets from his time in the administration. I don't know whether history will absolve him of blame in all of this, but I do think they will note his story for what I called it before- a tragedy.

(PS- Rumsfeld still gets to keep his job. Naturally.)