Thursday, June 29, 2006

Tom Toles today

Our Dear Embattled Leader dissed by the Supremes

At least by the actual legal scholars on the court. The outcome was 5-3 with the Dread Chief Justice Roberts sitting out as a result of his earlier decision. So he had to watch his scurvy crew of Scalia, Alito and the Cabin Boy Thomas, go down in defeat.
The Supreme Court today delivered a sweeping rebuke to the Bush administration, ruling that it exceeded its authority by creating tribunals for terror suspects that fell short of the legal protections that Congress has traditionally required in military courts.

As a result, the court said in a 5-to-3 ruling, the tribunals violated both American military law and the military's obligations under the Geneva Conventions.

The court ruled two years ago that Congress had not given the executive branch a "blank check" in the war on terror. But today's ruling, written by Justice John Paul Stevens, was the first to address the standards that should apply to suspects held in what has become a prolonged struggle.

It was also the most significant rebuff to date to President Bush's effort to expand presidential power in the course of waging that struggle. And the reasoning adopted by the majority called into question the justification Mr. Bush has used for other programs that have come under Congressional scrutiny, like the warrantless wiretapping conducted by the National Security Agency. In a concurring opinion, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said the administration had failed to prove a "practical need" that would justify trying the detainees in courts that provided a lesser standard of justice without seeking authorization from Congress.
So Congress can still sell the Constitution down the river if it chooses. That is why you have to Remember in November.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Todays forecast

And where will this lead?

As reported by the AP.
Eleven Sunni insurgent groups have offered an immediate halt to all attacks — including those on American troops — if the United States agrees to withdraw foreign forces from Iraq in two years, insurgent and government officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Withdrawal is the centerpiece of a set of demands from the groups, which operate north of Baghdad in the heavily Sunni Arab provinces of Salahuddin and Diyala. Although much of the fighting has been to the west, those provinces are increasingly violent and attacks there have crippled oil and commerce routes.

The groups who’ve made contact have largely shunned attacks on Iraqi civilians, focusing instead on the U.S.-led coalition forces. Their offer coincides with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s decision to reach out to the Sunni insurgency with a reconciliation plan that includes an amnesty for fighters.
This is only a starting point for the Iraqis. For us, we will have to see what 20% Dick has to say about it.

Yet more Republican family values

Where have we seen this before? Maybe here?
The 44-year-old Cramer was convicted of one count of aggravated sexual assault of a child, two of indecency with a child by contact and one of indecency with a child by exposure.

Cramer, who now lives in Tucson, Ariz., gained national attention during the 2000 presidential election.

His McAllen company created a TV ad accusing the Clinton-Gore administration of giving away nuclear technology to China in exchange for campaign contributions.

The spot was modeled after the infamous 1964 "Daisy" nuclear scare commercial and was pulled after a barrage of Democratic criticism.

Cramer faces a maximum of 149 years in prison for the four felony charges.
Plenty of time to come up with new ads in between keeping his man Spike happy.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Senate hearings on signing statements

On the face of it, this would appear to be a serious problem. The ludicrous "reasons" given by administration minions would not convince a drug addled radio host. But one has to remember that the chairman of the hearings is Arlen Spector, one of the leading Republican running dogs in the Senate. Arlen who can yap and howl like a pack of wolves at moonrise, always returns to the feet of His Dear Embattled Leader when it counts. And that is when weak and whiny aguements like this will triumph.
Defending Bush, a Justice Department lawyer said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks had made it prudent for the president to protect his powers with signing statements more than did his predecessors.

''Even if there is modest increase, let me just suggest that it be viewed in light of current events and Congress' response to those events,'' said lawyer Michelle Boardman. ''The significance of legislation affecting national security has increased markedly since Sept. 11.''
9/11!, 9/11!, 9/11!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Our Dear Embattled Leader is still learning how to Cut-N-Paste

And his military minions have already developed a plan to Cut-N-Run from his Glorious Little War. Well, maybe they just copied it from the Democrats, but they can't afford to say so. Not after unleashing two weeks of savagely delivered malarkey and unmitigated codswallop on them for offering it in the first place. Bob Herbert today gives the Republicans all the respect they so richly deserve for their antics.
If hell didn't exist, we'd have to invent it. We'd need a place to send the public officials who are playing politics with the lives of the men and women sent off to fight George W. Bush's calamitous war in Iraq.

The administration and its allies have been mercilessly bashing Democrats who argued that the U.S. should begin developing a timetable for the withdrawal of American forces. Republicans stood up on the Senate floor last week, one after another, to chant like cultists from the Karl Rove playbook: We're tough. You're not. Cut-and-run. Nyah-nyah-nyah!

"Withdrawal is not an option," declared the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, who sounded like an actor trying on personas that ranged from Barry Goldwater to General Patton. "Surrender," said the bellicose Mr. Frist, "is not a solution."

Any talk about bringing home the troops, in the Senate majority leader's view, was "dangerous, reckless and shameless."

But then on Sunday we learned that the president's own point man in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, had fashioned the very thing that ol' blood-and-guts Frist and his C-Span brigade had ranted against: a withdrawal plan.

Are Karl Rove and his liege lord, the bait-and-switch king, trying to have it both ways? You bet. And that ought to be a crime, because there are real lives at stake.
Had enough? Remember in November.

Ever seen a National Security Letter?

Raw Story has a copy of one here(warning PDF). It is part of their report on the victory of a group of Connecticut libraries in their fight against Soviet style "law enforcement".
The NSL is a little known statute in the Patriot Act that permits law enforcement to obtain records of people not necessarily suspected of any wrongdoing, without a court order. As part of the NSL, those served with the document are gagged and prohibited from disclosing that they have even been served.

"When I and my colleagues received FBI National Security Letters demanding access to our patron's records, I knew that this power had had already been declared unconstitutional by a district court in New York," said Library Connection Vice President Peter Chase. "The government was telling Congress that it didn't use the Patriot Act against libraries and that no one's rights had been violated."

The group sought the help of the American Civil Liberties Union in arguing their case.

RAW STORY reported last month that the FBI had dropped its defense of the National Security Letter (NSL) gag provision after a federal judge lifted the gag order and rejected the government's argument that identifying the plaintiff would pose a threat to national security on September 9 of last year.

The libraries were never forced to comply with the demand and the records were never turned over to the authorities. According to the ACLU, the librarians might have been willing to comply with a similar demand if it had been approved by a judge.

The FBI has now abandoned the demand the request for information altogether.
One small step for mankind....

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Funday Sunnies

Not my job

That was the response of the Dept of Homeland Security to requests by a commuter groups request to evaluate safety planning for a new commuter rail hub 15 stories underground.
A federal Transportation Security Administration bigwig - writing "on behalf" of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff - told the Straphangers Campaign that the feds had no jurisdiction in the matter.

The response from the TSA, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security, came after the feds cut the city's homeland security funding by 40%.

"If they don't provide money for safety measures, and if they don't review safety measures, then what the hell do they do?"
Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the Straphangers Campaign, asked yesterday.
Good question.

Shooting flies with an elephant gun

IED's are deadly flies indeed, but the solution to the problem has become another feeding trough at the Pentagon with the needs of the troops taking second place. The Boston Globe reports on the growth of the Joint IED Defeat Organization from a rapid reaction task force to a large, cumbersome Pentagon bureaucracy.
A special military task force on improvised explosive devices -- launched in 2003 as a 12-person office to develop quick strategies for combating homemade bombs in Iraq -- has quietly expanded into a $3 billion-per-year arm of the Pentagon, with more than 300 employees and thousands of contract workers, according to Pentagon data analyzed by the Globe.

The growth comes amid complaints within the military that the group's emphasis on high-tech solutions -- mainly through big contracts to traditional defense companies -- has not succeeded in stemming the number of attacks.

The expansion of the task force from a small, quick-moving unit intended to bring creative thinking to the IED threat into a larger Pentagon department recently caught the eye of Congress. The House passed a bill earlier this month seeking to know the precise number of employees, where they work, and how much money is being spent on administrative overhead. The bill is pending in the Senate.

But concerns about the task force go beyond the size of its bureaucracy and its funding, which has mostly come out of the Pentagon's emergency war budget.

General John Abizaid , the head of US military forces in the Middle East, recently complained to members of the IED group that its emphasis on multimillion-dollar contracts to develop high-tech sensing equipment has been ineffective at curbing attacks by homemade bombs, according to a person who was present.
Do they give medals for heroic bureacratic warriors and empire builders?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Republican family values - one more time

Reported in the Palm Beach Post.
According to Mike Edmondson, State Attorney Barry Krischer's spokesman, cops secretly installed video cameras that taped from June 13-16 the sex-for-money at La Place, officially a lotion establishment at 7300 N. Federal Highway.

This is how it worked: Cops observed men driving into the parking lot, then walking into the joint. From license tags, the officers called up on computer screens the driver licenses of the cars' owners, then matched instantly the license photos with the faces of the men allegedly having sex.

So far, 25 of 42 men have been identified, and Edmondson said they should expect to receive misdemeanor prostitution summonses at home within two weeks.....

.....Also expected to be summoned to court: jeweler Scott King, who owns King Jewelers in Miami and is a recipient of the National Republican Congressional Committee's leadership award.

"It's a case of mistaken identity," King said.
No doubt someone who looks very much like him borrowed his car that day. Quality leadership from a quality party.

Republican bidness as usual

As Frank Rich points out, it is occuring on a scale never before seen in DC. On a scale more in keeping with a banana republic.
Privates Tucker and Menchaca made the ultimate sacrifice. Their bodies were so mutilated that they could be identified only by DNA. Mr. Safavian, by contrast, can be readily identified by smell. His idea of wartime sacrifice overseas was to chew over government business with the Jack Abramoff gang while on a golfing junket in Scotland. But what's most indicative of Mr. Safavian's public service is not his felonies in the Abramoff-Tom DeLay axis of scandal, but his legal activities before his arrest. In his DNA you get a snapshot of the governmental philosophy that has guided the war effort both in Iraq and at home (that would be the Department of Homeland Security) and doomed it to failure.

Mr. Safavian, a former lobbyist, had a hand in federal spending, first as chief of staff of the General Services Administration and then as the White House's chief procurement officer, overseeing a kitty of some $300 billion (plus $62 billion designated for Katrina relief). He arrived to help enforce a Bush management initiative called "competitive sourcing." Simply put, this was a plan to outsource as much of government as possible by forcing federal agencies to compete with private contractors and their K Street lobbyists for huge and lucrative assignments. The initiative's objective, as the C.E.O. administration officially put it, was to deliver "high-quality services to our citizens at the lowest cost."

The result was low-quality services at high cost: the creation of a shadow government of private companies rife with both incompetence and corruption. Last week Representative Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who commissioned the first comprehensive study of Bush administration contracting, revealed that the federal procurement spending supervised for a time by Mr. Safavian had increased by $175 billion between 2000 and 2005. (Halliburton contracts alone, unsurprisingly, went up more than 600 percent.) Nearly 40 cents of every dollar in federal discretionary spending now goes to private companies.
Yup, Our Dear Embattled Leader sure did return integrity to the White House. But I guess it decided not to stay.

100 large for facetime with Our Dear Embattled Leader.

According to the AP, that was the going price with the Abramoff-Norquisling crew for a sitdown with the Golden Boy.
Wanted: Face time with
President Bush or top adviser Karl Rove. Suggested donation: $100,000. The middleman: lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Blunt e-mails that connect money and access in Washington show that prominent Republican activist Grover Norquist facilitated some administration contacts for Abramoff's clients while the lobbyist simultaneously solicited those clients for large donations to Norquist's tax-exempt group....

...."Can the tribes contribute $100,000 for the effort to bring state legislatures and those tribal leaders who have passed Bush resolutions to Washington?" Norquist wrote Abramoff in one such e-mail in July 2002.

"When I have funding, I will ask Karl Rove for a date with the president. Karl has already said 'yes' in principle and knows you organized this last time and hope to this year," Norquist wrote in the e-mail.
The White House is, naturally, denying any knowledge of the price, which has to make us wonder how much was laundered to the Party and how much stuck to Abramoff & Norquisling.

Hot Damn! Kinky is on the ballot

Running for governor of Texas is former country music star and mystery writer Kinky Friedman. This report from the Austin American-Statesman confirms that he will be on the ballot on November.
Texas voters trolling for change have placed independent gubernatorial candidates Kinky Friedman and Carole Keeton Strayhorn on the November ballot, making the humorist-singer and state comptroller the first independent hopefuls on the statewide ballot since Sam Houston in 1859.

They will vie against GOP Gov. Rick Perry, Democratic nominee Chris Bell and Libertarian Party choice James Werner, constituting the longest list of governor hopefuls since 1974.
Kinky, who gave us country & western standards like "They Ain't Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore", "Get Your Biscuits In The Oven And Your Buns In The Bed" and "The Ballad of Charles Whitman", would bring a much needed dose of reality to Texas politics. Starting with simple hard hitting questions like "Why the Hell not? and "How hard can it be?"Kinky has developed a platform of issues important to the people of Texas. Go visit his website and give him some love, and get yourself some cool stuff.

Why the Hell not?

Anderson, Auth, Carlson & Lukovitch

Robert Kuttner speaks true

In his column in the Boston Globe he highlights the continuing right wing assault on tne middle class and poor of America. Using the minimum wage defeat and the Paris Hilton tax repeal, he reviews the speech of John Edwards this week and the important issues he raised.
Today, with only 12 percent of Americans officially poor, the challenge of leadership is more complex. Yet four Americans in five have had basically stagnant living standards since the mid-1970s. That's because three decades of economic growth have gone almost entirely to the top, not merely the top 20 percent but mainly the top 1 percent.

Estate tax repeal is just part of the story. Executive pay, relative to typical worker pay, has risen tenfold in two decades.

The right has managed to savage the institutions that produced increasing opportunity and a broader middle class in the decades after World War II -- minimum wages, trade unionism, job-security, decent health and retirement plans, affordable college and housing, Social Security that rose with inflation, and economic regulation to keep Wall Street from grabbing most of the winnings.

The middle class hasn't been so insecure since the depression. But today, unlike 1937, this epic reversal is off the political radar screen. The insecurity is experienced privately rather than as a national issue.
It is time to make it a public issue.

NYT editorial highlight problems with latest Bushovik illegal spying

In the heightened state of emergency after 9/11, the government began examining the Swift records with the help of general administrative subpoenas, which are basically permission from one part of the executive branch to another. Now it is nearly five years later, and nothing has changed. Investigators have examined the international money transfers of thousands of Americans, apparently without ever trying to get a court order or warrant to do the searches. And Congress, as usual, has never exercised any oversight....

.....One danger of a never-ending government investigation into people's financial transactions is mission creep. A Treasury Department spokesman told The Times that the information mined from Swift — which includes millions of records — cannot be used for anything except terrorism searches. But there is little to guarantee that will continue to be the case.
How difficult is it to imagine information helpful to Halliburton being diverted from the VP's office to the boardroom? Most of the information and the people handling it would not get into this kind of scenario, but it only takes one or two bad apples to cause serious damage. And with the foxes guarding the henhouse, how long will it be before this happens? Only time will tell.

Gen Casey to begin Operation Cut and Run in September

The NY Times is reporting a plan presented by Gen Casey, the commander in Iraq, to begin troop withdrawals in September.
The top American commander in Iraq has drafted a plan that projects sharp reductions in the United States military presence there by the end of 2007, with the first cuts coming this September, American officials say.

According to a classified briefing at the Pentagon this week by the commander, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the number of American combat brigades in Iraq is projected to decrease to 5 or 6 from 14 by December 2007.

Under the plan, the first reductions would be carried out this September, when two combat brigades will rotate out of Iraq without being replaced. Currently, there are 127,000 American troops in Iraq. Military officials do not characterize troop reductions by total troop numbers, but rather by brigades. A typical combat brigade has about 3,500 troops, and many of the other American forces in Iraq are made up of logistical and support units.....

....In line with this vision, some cuts would begin soon. The United States has 14 combat brigades in Iraq, plus many other support troops. Under the plan, the Unites States would shrink this force to 12 combat brigades by September. This would be done by not replacing two brigades that are scheduled to be withdrawn: the First Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division and the Third Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division.

A combat brigade would be kept on alert in Kuwait or elsewhere in case American commanders needed to augment their forces to deal with a crisis. Yet another brigade would be kept on a lesser state of alert elsewhere in the world, but still prepared to deploy quickly if needed. As a result of these arrangements, the plan to bring the combat force down to 12 active brigades in Iraq is being called "12-1-1."
Coming so soon after Our Dear Embattled Leader pledged to let the next president clean up the mess in Iraq and congressional Republicans resolved to "stay the course", it sounds like another Bushovik flip-flop. It differs from Rep Murtha's ideas only in the details, many of which allow the plan to be reversed after the elections.

Don't mistake my words, I do want the troops to come home. I am simply repulsed by the weaselyness of the Bushoviks and expect the plan to be discontinued if the Republicans retain control in November. This plan, far from supporting Republican election efforts, requires Americans to throw the Republicans out of office this fall if it is to succeed.

Friday, June 23, 2006

What to make of this?

Swift has said that its role in the program was never voluntary, but that it was obligated to comply with a valid subpoena, and had worked to narrow the range of data it provided to American officials.

But the Treasury secretary, Mr. Snow, said Friday that after the Sept. 11 attacks, Treasury Department officials initially presented the cooperative with what he described as "really narrowly crafted subpoenas all tied to terrorism." Officials at Swift responded that that they did not have the ability to "extract the particular information from their broad database."

"So they said, 'We'll give you all the data,' " Secretary Snow said.
And Big Dick came out solidly in support of this program, so you know it is a vile and odius operation.

As long as it looks good, who cares if it's real

MoDo shows us the essence of Our Dear Embattled Leader's Homeland Security. It's all in the show.
Instead, the cadaverous Chertoff was gallivanting on stage yesterday morning with some fictional counterterrorism experts from "24." The producers, writer and three actors from the Fox show appeared at an event sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

Drawing on his old scripts, Mr. Reagan was a master at mixing fiction and fact, but he was a piker compared with the Bush crowd.

The audience included Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginny, who held a dinner at the Supreme Court Thursday for the Tinseltown terror brigade. Rush Limbaugh, who said that Dick Cheney and Rummy were huge fans of "24," was master of ceremonies for the panel, titled, " '24' and America's Image in Fighting Terrorism: Fact, Fiction or Does It Matter?"

It doesn't in this administration.
I'm feeling safer already, are you?

McCain does something good

If only to get rid of a few people who wouldn't support him anyway. Most of what is detailed has been brought forth earlier but this puts it together in a nice, organized and official Senate report.
While not accusing Mr. Reed of having knowledge of their crimes, the new report offers a rich — and for Mr. Reed potentially damaging — chronology of his close friendship with Mr. Abramoff and of the millions of dollars that Mr. Abramoff directed to Mr. Reed from Indian tribe clients who were seeking to protect their casinos from competition.

The report also raised new questions about the actions of Mr. Ney, who has acknowledged that he has been subpoenaed for information by the grand jury in Washington.

The Senate committee suggested that there was extensive evidence to dispute statements made by Mr. Ney to its investigators that he had done no special favors for a small tribe in El Paso that paid millions of dollars to Mr. Abramoff in a fruitless effort to reopen a shuttered casino. The tribe, the Tiguas, was asked by Mr. Abramoff to underwrite Mr. Ney's trip to Scotland.
Another spotlighted villain in the piece is Grover Norquisling, noted anarchist and head of [Rich] Americans for [Our Own] Tax Relief.
according to evidence gathered by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, was that Norquist's Americans for Tax Relief became a conduit for more than a million dollars from the Mississippi Choctaw to Reed's operation, while Norquist, a close White House ally, took a cut....

....Relying on an e-mail by Abramoff, the Senate report said "Norquist kept" $25,000 from each of two transfers from the Choctaw to Reed. The report provided evidence about four transfers for about $1.2 million in all.

Norquist is part of a large cast of characters in the scandal.
Sadly the only appearent penalty to Norquisling would be civil penalties from the IRS.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Tom Toles today

House passes Paris Hilton tax cut

Because, you know, just because we are still not borrowing 100% of Federal expenditures. And being great humanitarians, the Republicans want Paris and her friends to be comforted when their parents die. And nothing is more comforting than these "poor" children keeping the $300 Billion or so that this bill insures for them. Just feel the compassion in Rep Boners remarks.
"Americans are being taxed almost every moment of their lives. My goodness, when they are dead, do we have to tax them again?" said House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Oh! The humanity! That compassion is probably what drove them to vote against the minimum wage hike.

Quote of the Day

When Schwartz observed that [former Christian Coalition Executive Director Ralph] Reed was an ideologue, Schwartz recalled that Abramoff laughingly replied “as far as the cash goes.”
p. 148 of the McCain report on the Abramoff scandal.

This is a strange idea

And that is saying something when you know it is coming from Our Dear Embattled Leader himself.
Fifty years after Hungary's revolt against communism, President Bush said Thursday that war-weary Iraqis can learn from this country's long and bloody struggle against tyranny. "Liberty can be delayed but it cannot be denied," the president said.
Someone please tell Preznit Pinchwit that the Hungarians were struggling against people who invaded Hungary because they didn't like the then leadership of Hungary. Hey, ODEL! Can you say regime change? Because that is what the Soviet army did in 1956. And then they set up their own puppet government.

What sort of leader encourages continued resistence to his own troops? Because the US Army is in the same position that the Soviet Army was in back then. Except that the Soviets did not try to do it on the cheap, sending enough troops to secure the country and as many as 1000 tanks to Budapest alone. Which may be why they succeeded in their mission and Our Dear Embattled Leader failed in his.

Bob Herbert previews John Edward's speech

And it looks like it will be a good one when John Edwards speaks at the National Press Club in Washington.
"What kind of America do we want — not just today, but 20 years from now? And how do we think we can get there from here?"

It's a speech that's different from the poll-tested, freeze-dried political pap we've come to expect from politicians. For one thing, Mr. Edwards, who's part of the growing pack of Democratic marathoners seeking the party's 2008 nomination, wrote it himself. For another, he unfashionably (and unabashedly) appeals to the better angels of the electorate.

"It's wrong," he says, "to have 37 million Americans living in poverty, separated from the opportunities of this country by their income, their housing, their access to education and jobs and health care — just as it was wrong that we once lived in a country legally separated by race."

In an echo of the can-do spirit that was characteristic of the post-World War II period, Mr. Edwards asserts that with the proper leadership, the United States can "restore the moral core and legitimacy that has been the foundation of our influence" abroad, while at the same time tackling tough issues here at home: poverty, the need for greater energy independence and a fairer shake for all Americans who have to work for a living, including "the forgotten middle class."
It sounds like he is asking people to support their best interests. It will be a tough sell.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Josh Marshall shows Tony Snow is a liar AND a fool

Thanks to one of his diligent readers, we learn that there was polling during WWII and during the Battle of the Bulge. And more to the point, the numbers show that Americans then had no trouble supporting a capable leader.
As you can see, there was no downtick in public support for the war around the time of the Battle of the Bulge. Approval for President Roosevelt's conduct of the war continued at around 70% where it had been for years. The number of people who said they had a clear idea of what the war was about was at about the same level and appears to have been rising. Support for a negotiated peace with Hitler remained around the anemic levels it had been for years -- at around 15%.
Thanks to his long experience with Fox we know that the lying part won't affect him, but you would think Tony would have a little self respect. Guess not.

MoDo on big ideas

And she thinks that big ideas too often end up along side good intentions paving the road to Hell.
Big ideas are not enough, because personalities and circumstances intervene. What matters is the bearer of an idea.

Bill Clinton had big ideas but short-circuited his presidency when he elevated his chaotic, self-regarding and gluttonous personality to a management style. Al Gore had big ideas but was too neutered by political mercenaries and focus groups to make those ideas compelling. Maybe because she had one idea that was way too big, Hillary has been running away from big ideas as though they're poison.

After 9/11, Dick Cheney transposed his desire to expand executive power and his personal paranoia into a national policy. Ron Suskind reports in his new book, "The One Percent Doctrine," that Vice dictated that the war on terror allowed the administration to summarily reject the need for evidence and analysis before action.

Mr. Suskind describes the Cheney doctrine: "Even if there's just a 1 percent chance of the unimaginable coming due, act as if it is a certainty. It's not about 'our analysis,' as Cheney said. It's about 'our response.' ... Justified or not, fact-based or not, 'our response' is what matters. As to 'evidence,' the bar was set so low that the word itself almost didn't apply."

In the hands of the wrong person, big ideas can be terrifying.
She may be right.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Illegal spying on Americans is not always high tech

Sometimes it is simply illegal, in the classic sense. The AP reports how your tax dollars are being spent to spy on yo and your family, your neighbors and co-workers. From the AP.
Federal and local police across the country - as well as some of the nation's best-known companies - have been gathering Americans' phone records from private data brokers without subpoenas or warrants.

These brokers, many of whom market aggressively on the Internet, have broken into customer accounts online, tricked phone companies into revealing information and sometimes acknowledged that their practices violate laws, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

Legal experts and privacy advocates said police reliance on private vendors who commit such acts raises civil liberties questions.

Those using data brokers include agencies of the Homeland Security and Justice departments - including the FBI and U.S. Marshal's Service - and municipal police departments in California, Florida, Georgia and Utah. Experts believe hundreds of other departments frequently use such services.
And here are a few examples of what can be bought, by the government or anyone else with the money and the curiosity.
-A U.S. Labor Department employee who used her government e-mail address and phone number to buy two months of personal cellular phone records of a woman in New Jersey.

-A buyer who received credit card information about the father of murder victim Jon Benet Ramsey.

-A buyer who obtained 20 printed pages of phone calls by pro basketball player Damon Jones of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
And the worst part of this debacle is that the law provides no clear protection or relief from these activities.

John at AmericaBlog has been covering this for some time now. Give him a visit for the straight skinny.

And another one bites the dust

And this time it was a jury that got him. Guilty pleas are good because there is usually a commitmant to provide further information to the prosecutors, but it is very satisfying to see a case validated by a jury. And David Savafavian has provided that satisfaction.
A jury found former Bush administration official David Safavian guilty Tuesday of covering up his dealings with Republican influence-peddler Jack Abramoff.

Safavian was convicted on four of five felony counts of lying and obstruction. He had resigned from his White House post last year as the federal government's chief procurement officer.

The verdict gave a boost to the wide-ranging influence peddling probe that focuses on Abramoff's dealings with Congress.

In the Safavian case, prosecutors highlighted the name of Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio. They introduced a photograph of the congressman and Abramoff standing in front of a private jet that whisked them and other members of a golfing party for a five-day trip to the storied St Andrews Old Course in Scotland, and a second leg of the journey to London.
If this case goes as far as it should, the Republicans, paragons all of their peculiar kind if virtue, should lose as many seats as they would in an honest election.

Remember in November.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Protrcting America one company at a time.

In bunches actually. As this report in the Washington Post shows, thanks to Our Dear Embattled Leader, it can pay to hire illegal immigrants.
The Bush administration, which is vowing to crack down on U.S. companies that hire illegal workers, virtually abandoned such employer sanctions before it began pushing to overhaul U.S. immigration laws last year, government statistics show.

Between 1999 and 2003, work-site enforcement operations were scaled back 95 percent by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which subsequently was merged into the Homeland Security Department. The number of employers prosecuted for unlawfully employing immigrants dropped from 182 in 1999 to four in 2003, and fines collected declined from $3.6 million to $212,000, according to federal statistics.

In 1999, the United States initiated fines against 417 companies. In 2004, it issued fine notices to three.
Every other time the Bushoviks were so good hearted to the business community, there was a 'quid pro quo'. I wonder how much it was this time.

Tony Snow, Dumb as a stump and proud of it

How else can you put this quote from the mouth that couldn't shoot straight.
If somebody had taken a poll in the Battle of the Bulge, I dare say people would have said, 'Wow, my goodness, what are we doing here?'
Tony, how dare you make such a puerile and pathetic comparison. Remember, in WWII we had real leaders and they had a real plan, but what would you and your kind know about that.

Professor Juan Cole says it so much better than I ever could right here.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Funday Sunnies

Tristero has some ideas for the Democrats

Remember: Bush really is incompetent. And the American public sees it now.

Remember: Bush really has governed above the law. And the the American public understands that now.

Remember: Bush has bogged this nation down in an insane war. And the American public understands that now.

Remember: Bush does not have a genuine plan to deal with Iraq, nor is he capable of creating and implementing one. People are dying because he doesn't know what he's doing. And the American public understands that now.

Remember: Bush's supreme callousness and negligence led to the hiring of the incompetents in charge of FEMA during Katrina. And the American public knows it.

Remember: This is one helluva unpopular president. The American public has very good reasons for disliking him and his policies so intensely. They are all but begging you to stand up and refuse to go along with his incompetent, extremist, and unlawful behavior.

Focus on Bush. Everything else is detail.
My only quibble is #2. Bush is not above the law , he is OUTSIDE the law. People may want outlaw country music and outlaw stock car racing but they want their leaders inside the Pale.

A man of passion

Crooks and Liars has a clip from Meet The Press with John Murtha responding to TurdBlossoms load of crap from New Hampshire. I think he was angry.

One CT Newspaper gets it

In its editorial The Journal-Inquirer discovers what makes Judas Joe Lieberman run.
So Lamont is near the center of the Democratic heart. And Lieberman is far from it. He flunks almost every litmus test.

Of course Lamont is a strong primary candidate. Of course Lieberman can win the primary only by smearing Lamont, in the great GOP tradition of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove.

The shocking thing is that Lieberman is revealing what he really believes. And what he really believes is not that there are too many nasty lyrics on rap records, or that the U.S. can sustain a Pax Americana in the Middle East. Lieberman's deepest conviction is that he should hold office; he and his friends should retain power.

Mahablog has much more detail here.

For want of a nail a shoe was lost..

April Witt in the Washington Post magazine has a long and detailed report on the Pentagons failure to provide adequate equipment and ammunition to the troops in Iraq and one father's loss and how it spurred his efforts to find out how it happened and change this abysmal failure. The details are tragic but it can be summed up in two quotes from the report.
"We have as much body armor as we have, because that's what we invested in. We have the amount of Humvees because that's what we invested in.".....

"Pedestrian items are not sexy inside the Pentagon, and certainly not on Capitol Hill. They only become sexy when you go to war and they are missing."
Any congressmoop who say he made sure our troops "only got the best" is a liar.

Rep Louise Slaughter NY-28 dissects the Republican sham resoultion

You know, the one this past week that was supposed to be about Iraq and ended up as Republican posturing for the campaign ads. Rep. Slaughter, a Democrat with stones, has an op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune of all places giving more details than you got from your daily newspaper.
Thursday, Congress was supposed to have a serious debate on the war in Iraq. A debate that was certainly warranted, given that on that same day we reached a new, tragic milestone: 2,500 of our soldiers killed in Iraq. But instead of honoring those soldiers with an honest, exhaustive discussion on the mission they gave their lives for, the Republican leadership chose to hold a sham debate, a charade put on for political purposes with no real opportunity for openness or progress....

.....Clearly, however, Thursday wasn't about policy, or progress. It was about politics. It was about giving the majority a chance to make cheap political attacks against Democrats in anticipation of the coming midterm elections. And, to make that perfectly clear, an internal Republican memo about the coming debate discussed how to best smear Democrats during the debate more than it discussed our policies in Iraq.
Even during a supposed debate on a war, the Republican leadership's main concern is painting Democrats in a negative light. Because that, truly, was the purpose of Thursday's session. And to waste time on political posturing when we could have been working toward a better policy in Iraq is not only disrespectful to the 2,500 American soldiers who have given their lives to this cause, it's unconscionable.
But you know the Republicans need to smear honest, hard working Democrats because it is all they know how to do and they do so love the troops.

When will Our Dear Embattled Leader pardon Scooter?

Will he pre-emptively strike or wait until no one is looking? These are questions being asked in a report in Newsday today. One grain of salt, the person quoted most often is noted Republican stooge, Joe DiGenova, wife of well known Republican apologist Victoria Toecheese.
Bush has powerful incentives to pardon Libby, however. They range from rewarding past loyalty to ending the awkward revelations emerging from pretrial motions, a flow that could worsen in his trial next year.

Libby was indicted for lying in Fitzgerald's probe into who in the administration leaked the identity of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame to reporters in 2003, apparently to undercut her husband's attack on Bush's war-justifying claim that Iraq sought uranium in Niger.

By demanding sensitive, sometimes embarrassing materials, some say, Libby appears to be goading the White House into issuing a pardon. Libby's spokeswoman did not respond to questions about a pardon.

One attorney familiar with the Plame case said Bush might find that it is in his interest to pardon Libby sooner rather than later.

A pardon before the trial could could cut off the disclosures and spare Vice President Dick Cheney from testifying as Fitzgerald's witness about Libby, his former chief of staff.

But the timing of a pardon, the attorney suggested, likely would depend on the outcome of the midterm elections.

If Republicans retain control of Congress, Bush could act swiftly. But if Democrats win control of the House or Senate, Bush might wait, and use Libby's trial as an excuse not to cooperate with any congressional investigations into the leak.
This is probably a "trial balloon" to see how much resistence there is to the idea. That means that this is the time to make noise about Republican coddling of criminals. Throw their words back at them, it's good for them.

Iraq government tries to craft Amnesty plan

The announcement, made and withdrawn with amazing speed earlier this week, sent frissons of ecstasy through various Republicans. While the announcement was premature, the idea lives on and is being developed by the government. The LA Times has the details.
The reconciliation plan, which is expected to be formally announced soon, would be among the Iraqi government's most comprehensive attempts to engage with insurgent groups.

"The main thing," said Haidar Abadi, a leader of Maliki's Islamic Dawa Party, is that the plan doesn't rule out participation of "the bloody-handed people in the political process."....

.....The new proposal, said an official close to Maliki, merely recognizes the difficulty of verifying insurgents' past actions.

"Theoretically, we can say we cannot give any amnesty to those in the [former] security agencies and those in Saddam's regime and those who have killed and bombed Iraqis after the invasion," said Salah Abdul Razzaq, a spokesman for several prominent Shiite religious organizations.

"In practice, anyone who comes to negotiations and says, 'I have no problem with Iraqis or Iraqi government, just with U.S. forces,' how can we check that?"
Such a plan would have two effects, one good and one bad. It would separate the foreigners from the local resistance and it would coalesce the opposition to the US presence. Our Dear Embattled Leader might have to pull out sooner than he would like. Time will tell.

Iraq is not better the second time around

The Boston Globe has a long piece about the return of the 101st Airborne to Iraq. It provides a look at how the troops survive another round of Our Dear Embattled Leader's Glorious Little War.
Captain John McLaughlin's company of combat veterans has returned to Iraq. They have brought far fewer illusions this time around, exchanging unalloyed enthusiasm for Operation Iraqi Freedom in the spring of 2003 for a mix of professionalism, resignation, and cynicism.

The enlisted men from the 101st Airborne Division now know much more about the country, confidently factoring in competing ethnic agendas as they navigate the claims of Kurds, Arab Sunnis and Shi'ites, and Turkomen.

Most dismiss the American debate over the merits of the war as irrelevant, many of them saying they fight out of loyalty to the Army even if they think its mission in Iraq is unrealistic. Most profess no love for Iraq and its people.
This is worth the read to give you a look at what they have to deal with as best they can doing what they never should have been asked to do.

It's probably just gas.

The Washington Post has a puff piece on the Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki. In keeping with the papers slavish adoration of all things Bush, it leads with a description of the patented Bush method of taking the measure of a man.
President Bush flew to Baghdad last week to size up Iraq's new leader. "I have come not only to thank you," he told American troops gathered in the Green Zone on Tuesday, "but to look Prime Minister Maliki in the eyes -- to determine whether or not he is as dedicated to a free Iraq as you are."

The presidential determination? "I believe he is," Bush said.

The snap assessment recalled Bush's famous assertion that he had sensed Vladimir Putin's soul and showed how Bush often appears more comfortable with his gut-level assessment of foreign leaders than the one he gets from briefing papers prepared by his intelligence agencies.
Given his successful assessments folks like Pooty-Poot and Chalabi and Karl Rove, this does not bode well for Iraq or tyhe US troops over there.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Frank Rich is worried

About the Democrats and their apparent inability to tell a coherent narrative for election. In his column today he longs for someone to put some theater into the Democrats.
What's most impressive about Mr. Rove, however, is not his ruthlessness, it's his unshakable faith in the power of a story. The story he's stuck with, Iraq, is a loser, but he knows it won't lose at the polls if there's no story to counter it. And so he tells it over and over, confident that the Democrats won't tell their own. And they don't — whether about Iraq or much else. The question for the Democrats is less whether they tilt left, right or center, than whether they can find a stirring narrative that defines their views, not just the Republicans'.

What's needed, wrote Michael Tomasky in an influential American Prospect essay last fall, is a "big-picture case based on core principles." As he argued, Washington's continued and inhumane failure to ameliorate the devastation of Katrina could not be a more pregnant opportunity for the Democrats to set forth a comprehensive alternative to the party in power. Another opportunity, of course, is the oil dependence that holds America hostage to the worst governments in the Middle East.
Even with Republican best friends like Judas Joe Lieberman it is possible to put together a simple, hard hitting plan. Because if we don't, the result will be familiar and devastating to the United Staes as a nation.
Those who are most enraged about the administration's reckless misadventures are incredulous that it repeatedly gets away with the same stunts. Last week the president was still invoking 9/11 to justify the war in Iraq, which he again conflated with the war on Islamic jihadism — the war we are now losing, by the way, in Afghanistan and Somalia. But as long as the Democrats keep repeating their own mistakes, they will lose to the party whose mistakes are, if nothing else, packaged as one heckuva show. It's better to have the courage of bad convictions than no courage or convictions at all.
Had enough?

Bushovik Homeland Security people privitize themselves.

According to this report in the NY Times, who needs a pension when you are a Republican.
Dozens of members of the Bush administration's domestic security team, assembled after the 2001 terrorist attacks, are now collecting bigger paychecks in different roles: working on behalf of companies that sell domestic security products, many directly to the federal agencies the officials once helped run.

At least 90 officials at the Department of Homeland Security or the White House Office of Homeland Security — including the department's former secretary, Tom Ridge; the former deputy secretary, Adm. James M. Loy; and the former under secretary, Asa Hutchinson — are executives, consultants or lobbyists for companies that collectively do billions of dollars' worth of domestic security business.

More than two-thirds of the department's most senior executives in its first years have moved through the revolving door. That pattern raises questions for some former officials.

"People have a right to make a living," said Clark Kent Ervin, the former inspector general of the department, who now works at the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan public policy research center. "But working virtually immediately for a company that is bidding for work in an area where you were just setting the policy — that is too close. It is almost incestuous."
Incestuous? Must be another Republican family value.

Defining the game

Robert Kuttner of the American Prospect writes a good piece on how the Democrats need to play the National Security game for the upcoming election. And it is not by playing a Republican on TV.
After a US missile attack killed the Al Qaeda chief in Iraq, White House political adviser Karl Rove lost no time in declaring to a Republican meeting in Manchester, N.H., that if Democrats had had their way, Zarqawi would never have been killed.

In fact, if Democrats had been in charge, we never would have invaded Iraq, and Zarqawi and his fellow international terrorists would never have gone there. As Senator Russ Feingold reminded the Take Back America meeting, two months after 9/11, the Bush State Department's own website displayed a list of 45 countries where Al Qaeda was active. Iraq was not among them....

.....Speaking at the same convention, former senator Gary Hart, who cochaired a national commission in the late 1990s on homeland defense and counterterrorism, spoke of the many threats to American national security that far outrank Iraq. These include nuclear proliferation, a genuine menace wrongly displaced by the White House obsession with Iraq; negotiated solutions to nuclear saber-rattling by North Korea and Iran; domestic security bungled by an administration that staffs key offices with cronies and strips National Guard units of first responders to provide troops for Iraq; and other regional threats from Islamist militants, as in Somalia where the administration clumsily backed local tribal warlords -- who were just routed by pro-Al Qaeda militants.
This is the message we have to share, even with the Kool-Aid drinkers, because the lies and smears will be coming soon enough.

9/11! 9/11! 9/11!

Time magazine has an excerpt from a new book by Ron Suskind describing a terrible plot to attack NYC subwys with cyanide gas.
Al-Qaeda terrorists came within 45 days of attacking the New York subway system with a lethal gas similar to that used in Nazi death camps. They were stopped not by any intelligence breakthrough, but by an order from Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman Zawahiri. And the U.S. learned of the plot from a CIA mole inside al-Qaeda. These are some of the more startling revelations by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Suskind, whose new book The One Percent Doctrine is excerpted in the forthcoming issue of TIME. It will appear on early Sunday morning.

U.S. intelligence got its first inkling of the plot from the contents of a laptop computer belonging to a Bahraini jihadist captured in Saudi Arabia early in 2003. It contained plans for a gas-dispersal system dubbed "the mubtakkar" (Arabic for inventive). Fearing that al-Qaeda's engineers had achieved the holy grail of terror R&D — a device to effectively distribute hydrogen-cyanide gas, which is deadly when inhaled — the CIA immediately set about building a prototype based on the captured design, which comprised two separate chambers for sodium cyanide and a stable source of hydrogen, such as hydrochloric acid. A seal between the two could be broken by a remote trigger, producing the gas for dispersal. The prototype confirmed their worst fears: "In the world of terrorist weaponry," writes Suskind, "this was the equivalent of splitting the atom. Obtain a few widely available chemicals, and you could construct it with a trip to Home Depot – and then kill everyone in the store."

The device was shown to President Bush and Vice President Cheney the following morning, prompting the President to order that alerts be sent through all levels of the U.S. government.
Coming so soon after Big Dick asserted that he and the boys had done a bang up job protecting America, it is interesting to note that it was the friendly folks at AQ HQ themselves who stopped it. But be of good cheer, Our Dear Embattled Leader bravely raised the threat level when he was informed of the plot.

Read it all, it's a ripping good yarn!

The true cost of Republican corruption

Or as it is known in party circles, "business as usual". And what better place to see it in action than that hotbed of Republican ethical values, Ohio. As reported by the Toledo Blade.
As it works to slash hundreds of millions of dollars in costs, the panel overseeing the troubled Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation yesterday approved a plan to reduce what it pays hospitals for treatment of injured workers.

The move, subject to review by a legislative committee, is expected to save the bureau at least $60 million a year.

"The quicker we get this implemented, the greater the savings," said Bill Mabe, the bureau's administrator and chief executive officer. "Time is money here. This is just in-hospital.… The next step will be to look at outpatient services."
This seems like normal cost cutting, necessitated by the loss of millions of dollars to fraud and corruption. But look closer at the possible, or in a Republican state, inevitable result.
While hospitals are obligated to treat injured workers in need of emergency care, she said some hospitals may decide later to no longer provide follow-up outpatient care if the bureau goes after that next....

....In the wake of continuing investigations looking into pay-to-play allegations involving bureau investments, the bureau did not pay investment dividends to employers who pay into the system last year for the first time in nine years.

Between a general premium increase approved in March and an administrative fee increase approved yesterday, employers funding the insurance fund for injured workers will pay an average of 4 percent more as of July 1.
And despite his guilty plea to campaign finance crimes, Our Dear Embattled Leader has still not returned most of Tom Noe's illegal contributions. But we can be comforted knowing that ODEL has brought a higher ethical standard to the White House. _ _ _ ! (You fill in the blank)

Quote of the Day

"If you interpret the constitution's saying that the president is commander in chief to mean that the president can do anything he wants and can ignore the laws, you don't have a constitution: you have a king."
Grover Norquisling, speaking about Our Dear Embattled Leader's signing statements.

Our Dear Embattled Leader is a failure

That is the opinion of 86% of the leading foreign policy experts. Mind you, these are people who have "been there and done that".
Washington is failing to make progress in the global war on terror and the next 9/11-style attack is not a question of if, but when. That is the scathing conclusion of a survey of 100 leading American foreign-policy analysts.

In its first "Terrorism Index," released yesterday, the influential journal Foreign Policy found surprising consensus among the bipartisan experts.

Some 86 per cent of them said the world has grown more, not less, dangerous, despite President George W. Bush's claims that the U.S. is winning the war on terror.

The main reasons for the decline in security, they said, were the war in Iraq, the detention of terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay, U.S. policy towards Iran and U.S. energy policy.

The survey's participants included an ex-secretary of state and former heads of the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency, along with prominent members of the U.S. foreign-policy establishment.

The majority served in previous administrations or in senior military ranks.
And how do they score ODEL and his hare-brained policy efforts?
Across the board, they rated Washington's diplomatic efforts as abysmal, with a median score of 1.8 out of 10.
And even a moderately intelligent person can understand why they think this is so.
"The reason is that it's clear to nearly all that Bush and his team have had a totally unrealistic view of what they can accomplish with military force and threats of force."
But these poor, deluded experts seem to think that Bushovik foreign policy is something more than fodder for the voters at home. What happens over there is unimportant to ODEL and his minions so long as it keeps "the base" fired up. Even if it means another 9/11 before the election.

Republican Family Values as seen by the NY Times

From the editorial page comes a blast at a bit of Republican corruption we have seen before and which needs more exposure.
The nation is fortunate that a sudden attempt to kill one of the hallowed anticorruption reforms from the Watergate scandal — the option of public financing in presidential elections — was smoked out in the House this week. The sponsor, Representative John Doolittle, a powerful California Republican, may try another day with his plan to block the flow of taxpayers' voluntary contributions from the government treasury. Mr. Doolittle has such faith in private money-raising that he boosted his family income by setting up his wife, Julie, as a consultant being paid a 15 percent commission on every dollar his campaign raises.

Call it family values. Call it brazen. But the missus has received $180,000 since late 2001, operating this private business out of the couple's suburban Virginia home, including among her clients the corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The pathetic state of Congressional ethics is that such nepotic profiteering is deemed legal so long as the compensation is "consistent with the market rate." Questions have gone unanswered about whether Julie Doolittle has any real experience in the field. Professional fund-raising associations have condemned payment by commission as unethical, but Mr. Doolittle's office defends it as legal and based on "tireless and effective work."
And just who in DC would be dumb enough to say No?

Let's all hope his record stays unblemished

From the AP, we get news of Big Dick making more predictions, this time about the mid-term elections.
Vice President Dick Cheney said Thursday that the Republicans will prevail in the midterm elections because of a strong economy and the ability of the Bush administration to prevent another terrorist attack.
So far he has predicted that
We would find Saddams WMD.
We would be greeted with flowers in Baghdad.
The insurgency is in its last throes.
He would bag the biggest quail ever seen in Texas.
He came close with the last one, but that was just a fluke.

Friday, June 16, 2006

How do you make a lawyer cry?

Read this report on the Washington Post to see how it can be done.
Los Angeles-based O'Melveny & Myers LLP, which has represented Skilling on both civil and criminal charges since 2001, collected what in a typical case would be a fat payday: $23 million from its client and $17 million more from his insurance policies.

But, true to form, Enron is still destroying financial expectations. Even before the trial began in January, Skilling's team of more than 20 lawyers, paralegals and support staff burned through those funds, leaving the law firm holding the bag for "multiple tens of millions" of dollars in unpaid fees and expenses racked up during the four-month trial, Skilling's lead defense lawyer said. While Daniel M. Petrocelli declined to provide an exact tally, one source put the price tag at more than $25 million on top of the $40 million O'Melveny already collected.
Read it all to get the full tragedy.

Makes you proud to be an American

If your favorite drink is Kool-Aid. The Tower of Rumsfeld, formerly known as the Pentagon, has released another report on prisoner abuse in Iraq. The details would bring a smile to Stalin himself.
United States Special Operations troops employed a set of harsh, unauthorized interrogation techniques against detainees in Iraq during a four-month period in early 2004, long after approval for their use was rescinded, according to a Pentagon inquiry released Friday.

The investigation is the last of 12 major inquiries to be made public that focus on allegations of detainee abuse by American personnel in Cuba, Afghanistan and Iraq, and the first to focus on Special Operations troops, who operate with more latitude than other military units. It detailed harsh treatment that continued at isolated bases even after the abuses first surfaced at the Abu Ghraib prison.

Special Operations interrogators gave some detainees only bread or crackers and water if they did not cooperate, according to the investigation, by Brig. Gen. Richard P. Formica of the Army. One prisoner was fed only bread and water for 17 days. Other detainees were locked for as many as seven days in cells so small that they could neither stand nor lie down, while interrogators played loud music that disrupted their sleep.

The inquiry also determined that some detainees were stripped naked, drenched with water and then interrogated in air-conditioned rooms or in cold weather. General Formica said it appeared that Navy Seals had used that technique in the case of one detainee who later died during questioning in Mosul in 2004, but he reported that he had no specific allegations that the use of the technique was related to that death.
He also suggested that the moon's green cheese might be of military value.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Republicans strut their Real Stuff

The Raw Story has the straight skinny on how transparently thin Republican love for the troops and this country really is.
Five Republican Senators today took to the chamber floor invoking Nelson Mandela, the Confederacy, and even the Japenese to defend an Iraqi government plan to grant amnesty for insurgents who have attacked United States troops, or civilians, RAW STORY has learned.

Iraqi leadership has proposed amnesty for insurgents as part of the foundation of a new government.
The most shameless remarks came from old Ted "Bridge to Nowhere" Stevens,
“If they bore arms against our people," said Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, "What's the difference between those people that bore arms against the Union in the War between the States? What’s the difference between the Germans and Japanese and all the people we’ve forgiven?”
Why do Republicans hate America?


American deaths since the invasion of Iraq have reached 2,500, marking a grim milestone in the wake of recent events that President Bush hopes will reverse the war's unpopularity at home....

...."It's a number," White House press secretary Tony Snow told reporters at the White House.

US sues New Jersey to protect the guilty

But it really is OK because it is all in the name Nationable Security, and we all know how well Our Dear Embattled Leader has been in that arena. A veritable Ferdinand the Bull on our behalf. The NY Times has the story.
Last month, the New Jersey attorney general quietly issued subpoenas to five telephone companies to determine whether they violated state consumer protection laws by providing records to the National Security Agency.

But on Thursday, the attorney general, Zulima V. Farber, learned that the Justice Department had filed a lawsuit to block those subpoenas, asserting that the state was straying into a federal matter, and that compliance with the subpoenas would damage national security....

.....A few states, including Vermont, Maine and Washington, have indeed promised to investigate.

Still, several lawyers who have followed the controversy, including Barry Steinhardt, director of the A.C.L.U.'s Technology and Liberty Project, said they believed that New Jersey was the first to do something as dramatic, and as legally binding, as issuing subpoenas. At the very least, these lawyers said, it was the first time that the federal government had moved against a state — and rather swiftly and forcefully, at that.
Mustn't let folks know how badly mishandled ODEL's quest for Nationable Security has been. And God forbid they thinks states have rights that ODEL does not personally approve.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Our Dear Embattled Leader soon to be speechless

Which is not a bad idea but soon He will be speaking with a new voice and the Washington Post has the story.
Michael J. Gerson, one of President Bush's most trusted advisers and author of nearly all of his most famous public words during the past seven years, plans to step down in the next couple weeks in a decision that colleagues believe will leave a huge hole in the White House at a critical period.

Gerson said in an interview that he has been talking with Bush for many months about leaving for writing and other opportunities but waited until the White House political situation had stabilized somewhat. "It seemed like a good time," he said. "Things are back on track a little. Some of the things I care about are on a good trajectory."

Since first joining the presidential campaign in 1999, Gerson has evolved into one of the most central players in Bush's inner circle, often considered among the three or four aides closest to the president. He has been called one of the best speechwriters of his age, the conscience of the White House and the embodiment of Bush's vision of "compassionate conservatism."
So, that's where all the compassion was hiding. But Gerson was also the Secretary of Spin, so there will probably be major "policy" shifts in the months ahead, as no two people speak in the same voice.

Toles and Oliphant - Perfect together

Quote of the Day

When you're getting smootched like some Brokeback cowboy by a Republican, it barely works to criticize your opponent for voting like a Republican in some town school board matter when, the lipstick still damp, you've been knee-jerking along voting for Iraq and supporting the Bush war on Social Security and a million other things.
Dennis Horgan in his column in the Hartford Courant today

Judas Joe Lieberman prepares to show the white feather

And others who should know better are encouraging him to leave the Democratic party and run as an independent to keep "his" seat.
A prominent ally of U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman urged Monday that Lieberman run for re-election as an independent and not trust his career to left-leaning Democratic primary voters in August.

John F. Droney Jr., a former Democratic state chairman who helped Lieberman unseat Republican Sen. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. in 1988, said Lieberman should make his case for re-election to all voters in November.

"I think to be terrorized through the summer by an extremely small group of the Democratic Party, much less the voting population, is total insanity for a person who is a three-term senator," Droney said.
This does raise the question of why anyone, Democrat or Evildoer, would want to vote for a Senator who can be "terrorized" by registered voters? Still, leaving the party would be in keeping with JJ's character, such as it is. Perhaps someone should make him a gift of a Redbud tree to help him prepare.

Because they are doing a heck of a job

The Republican controlled Congress voted to allow the COLA increase in their salaries to go through. This year the amount of their Republican approved raise is $3,300.

How much was your raise? Or should I ask, did you get one this year?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Ben Sergent and Tom Toles

Karen Hughes PR campaign scores "own goal"

People who would read this blog know that Karen Hughes, Our Dear Embattled Leaders second string mom, was given the task of making the United States look better in the rest of the world, with emphasis on the Middle East. So it was shocking to hear her second in command Colleen Graffy, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for public diplomacy, say the deaths were "a good PR move". Needless to say, any good effect that Karen may have had immediately and irrevocably went down the toilet.
In an editorial headlined "Bad Language", the right-leaning Times, normally a defender of Britain's alliance with the United States, said such rhetoric "plays once again into the hands of America's enemies."

The left-leaning Guardian described Admiral Harris's remarks as "cold and odious". "The demented logic of Dr Strangelove hung like a ghost" over the U.S. response to the suicides, it said.
And these were just the comments from our friends the Limeys. The Arab world was even less impressed by Colleens compassion. She must be a Cheney appointee.

Our Dear Embattled Leader has found a new strategery for Iraq

Drop in for a visit! We all know how well that worked on the Gulf Coast following Katrina. With everything going so well in Louisiana & Mississippi a trip to Badgag would be just the ticket.
Arriving here under extraordinary security, President Bush signaled that he had come to Baghdad to shore up Mr. Maliki's new government and to signal that that the Americans were preparing to reduce their responsibilities, with the war now well into its fourth year.

President Bush and Mr. Maliki shook hands in front of a large crowd in the rotunda of the Republican Presidential Palace, then walked together into a meeting of the 39-member Iraqi cabinet. The President's visit lasted a mere six hours, with Mr. Bush flying out of the country at about 9:50 p.m. Baghdad time (1:50 Eastern time).

Seated at a polished oval table in front of the Iraqi and American flags, Mr. Bush congratulated Mr. Maliki on the formation of his cabinet, saying he was "impressed" with the lineup.

"I have expressed our country's desire to work with you but I appreciate you recognize the fact that the future of your country is in your hands," said Mr. Bush, speaking in what used to be the office of L. Paul Bremer, the chief American administrator in the first year following the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime.
And while ODEL gave the new strategery a good workout, the planning for the old strategery continued.
The President's visit came as more than 75,000 Iraqi and American police and troops prepared to fan out across Baghdad in what promises to be a stepped-up effort to bring order to the capital. Baghdad has slipped close to anarchy in recent months, with violent crime, kidnapping and revenge killings combining with militia and insurgent attacks to render virtually lawless every neighborhood in the capital.

Iraqi officials said the operation, which would be launched at dawn Wednesday, would be the biggest of its kind since the United States government restored Iraqi sovereignty in June 2004. Dozens of raids, roadblocks and neighborhood sweeps and even air strikes were in the works, officials said. Still, it's not clear how the plan would differ from previous ones; there are already about 75,000 Iraq and Americans troops and police patrolling the city.
Second verse same as the first, con gusto.

UPDATE: From Best of Both Worlds comes this snippet in the Wall St Journal.
"Mr. Bartlett said the extraordinarily tight protective measures were necessary because of Iraq's tenuous security situation, which also meant that the option of having Mr. Bush stay overnight in Iraq was "never seriously considered."
But staying overnight is good enough for the troops that Our Dear Embattled Leader so dearly loves.

FEMA, you're doing a heck of a job, even without Brownie.

But they still have Chertoff. The GAO released a report finding potentially billions of dollars of fraud, and this is just from the assistance to victims.
The GAO concluded that as much as 16 percent of the billions of dollars in FEMA help to individuals after the two hurricanes was unwarranted....

.....FEMA said it has identified more than 1,500 cases of potential fraud after Katrina and Rita and has referred those cases to the Homeland Security inspector general. The agency said it has identified $16.8 million in improperly awarded disaster relief money and has started efforts to collect the money.

The GAO said it was 95 percent confident that improper and potentially fraudulent payments were much higher - between $600 million and $1.4 billion.
Some of the examples are pretty blatant and easily avoidable with good management. The thing to remember is that this is just the individual fraud and waste. The GAO has not yet catalogued the corporate fraud yet. But our experience with the Bushoviks should tell us that we are unlikely to find the extent of corporate fraud while the Republicans control Congress.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Shut your mouth if you have gold teeth

The Republicans will steal anything they can get their hands on. Bob Herbert expands upon the excellent Rolling Stone article by Robert Kennedy Jr.
The point man for these efforts was the Ohio secretary of state, J. Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican who was both the chief election official in the state and co-chairman of the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio — just as Katherine Harris was the chief election official and co-chairwoman of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Florida in 2000.

No one has been able to prove that the election in Ohio was hijacked. But whenever it is closely scrutinized, the range of problems and dirty tricks that come to light is shocking. What's not shocking, of course, is that every glitch and every foul-up in Ohio, every arbitrary new rule and regulation, somehow favored Mr. Bush.

For example, the shortages of voting machines and the long lines with waits of seven hours or more occurred mostly in urban areas and discouraged untold numbers of mostly Kerry voters.
How could he believe such stuff? Our Dear Embattled Leader is a child blessed by God. When everything breaks his way, it is merely his due. And the moon is made of green cheese.

Our Dear Embattled Leader does so love Iraq

That he tells us that he will always have US troops in his heart and in Iraq. From the NY Times comes this heart warming revelation.
Mr. Bush on Friday made clear that the American commitment to the country will be long-term. Officials say the administration has begun to look at the costs of maintaining a force of roughly 50,000 troops there for years to come, roughly the size of the American presence maintained in the Philippines and Korea for decades after those conflicts.
To have such a small force there would require some reasonable pacification of Iraq. Any reasonable view of Iraq today would put that state a long ways away. And any condition less than pacification would probably result in very large problems for a small force.

I just heard Michael Isikoff on Hardball speaking about the photo op for the participants of Our Dear Embattled Leaders Strategerizing Summit. In summary he noted that all the people present were the same ones who had made all the bad decisions that got us to this point in the first place. Sad but true.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Arlen Specter, still talking the good talk

And this morning on CNN he promised to have hearings and subpoenas if he doesn't get cooperation from Our Dear Embattled Leader and Big Dick.
The Republican chairman of a Senate committee said Sunday he is prepared to call telephone company officials to testify about a domestic wiretapping program if he doesn't get cooperation in talks with the Bush administration.

"If we don't get some results, I'm prepared to go back to demand hearings and issue subpoenas if necessary," Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter told CNN's "Late Edition."
If Arlen Specter, R-Spineless, doesn't fold like a cheap card table I will probably have a coronary.

Tom Toles and Bill Schorr

Pretty much sums up our Republican controlled government

Judas Joe Lieberman still has his finger on the ejector button.

JJ has some standard campaign quotes in this article in the Hartford Courant but he still has not made the one statement that real Democrats want to hear.
Reacting for the first time to a new poll showing he could win election as an independent, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman said Friday he remains focused on winning a Democratic primary, yet refused to rule out an independent run.

"I am not going to close out any options," Lieberman said.
He must be still counting on his Republican base. Anybody else wonder if Queen Mehlman will run an RNC phonebank for JJ on Primary Day? But everybodys favorite would-be SecDef had a few more choice remarks.
"Look, my opponent is running against Iraq and George Bush in a Democratic primary. That's not too hard to do."
But it would have been much harder if JJ had been a Democrat and done so himself.
"I'm privileged to be the senior Democrat on the committee that oversees FEMA, so I hope I can have some positive influence on their behalf,"
Another opportunity for the Republicans to help out Our Dear Embattled Leader's favorite Democrat and "kissing cousin". Let's count how much good JJ can do.

Good news

And let us all work to make it better. The Washington Post displays the the fundraising prowess of the two parties and it is good to our eyes. The Republicans may have an edge in some areas but the good news lies in the shifts among those giving.
At the same time, Republican campaign committees are stumbling. The Republican National Committee is lagging behind its totals from two years ago, though it continues to have a financial lead over the Democratic National Committee. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, headed by Sen. Elizabeth Dole (N.C.), has raised more than $50 million this election cycle -- $6 million less than its Democratic counterpart.

On the House side, the National Republican Congressional Committee remains ahead of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. But the gap is smaller than in the past, and the trends are in the Democrats' favor. The DCCC had raised 45 percent more through the end of April than it had at the same point in 2004. The NRCC, meanwhile, saw a 13 percent drop over the same period.

A similar story is unfolding in many competitive congressional races. In six of the 10 open House races -- in which incumbents are not running -- that the two leading nonpartisan political handicappers regard as up for grabs this fall, Democratic candidates are out-raising their GOP opponents, according to data analyzed by the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute.

Meanwhile, in contrast to the past few elections, Democratic incumbents in tough races are keeping pace with at-risk Republican incumbents
And they are doing this without a Toxic Tommy Delay and his "K St Project", a Casino Jack Abramoff, a Tom Noe or others of that ilk.

If you want to save your country from the evildoers, give to the Democrat of your choice now and vote in November.

Republicans put profit ahead of science

Because money talks, even if it is talking bullshit. The LA Times reports on one piece of science that set off a fireworks display among the politically well paid.
Daniel Donato never imagined his work would put him in the crosshairs of Congress. He was just studying how forests grow back after a fire.

But after his research appeared in the online version of the journal Science in January, the Oregon State University graduate student began to feel like a lightning rod. A federal agency briefly yanked funding for his project, irate politicians and timber interests e-mailed Donato's dean to complain, congressmen grilled him, and professors at his own university tried unsuccessfully to keep the paper from being published in the print edition of Science.

His principal finding — that post-fire logging hindered forest regrowth — was hardly revolutionary. But the study, with Donato as lead author, was published just as Congress was considering legislation to make it easier for timber companies to undertake salvage logging of dead trees after fires on federal land. That bill, backed by the Bush administration and recently passed by the House, is based on an underlying assumption that burned forests recover more quickly if they are logged and then replanted.

Donato's results provided ammunition to the bill's opponents — and more broadly to environmentalists fighting salvage logging, which makes up roughly a third of the timber sales from national forests across the country. They argue that dead trees provide not only wildlife habitat, but the nourishment for a new forest that will ultimately provide a richer, more diverse ecosystem. That is anathema to timber advocates, who see dead wood left to rot unharvested as not only counterproductive but a waste of resources.
The few who profit from salvage logging will probably win. Our Dear Embattled Leader and his Republican minions have always put corporations ahead of people. They pay better.

Iraqi civilians caught between a rock and a hard place.

The good citizens in Ramadi know that their innocence is no shield to modern weaponry or tactics. Unfortunately not everyone is able to get out of town before the shit hits the fan. The LA Times today reports on the situation for these people caught in this vise.
Fears of an imminent offensive by the U.S. troops massed around the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi intensified Saturday, with residents pouring out of the city to escape what they describe as a mounting humanitarian crisis.

The image pieced together from interviews with tribal leaders and fleeing families in recent weeks is one of a desperate population of 400,000 people trapped in the crossfire between insurgents and U.S. forces. Food and medical supplies are running low, prices for gas have soared because of shortages and municipal services have ground to a stop.

U.S. and Iraqi forces had cordoned off the city by Saturday, residents and Iraqi officials said. Airstrikes on several residential areas picked up, and troops took to the streets with loudspeakers to warn civilians of a fierce impending attack, Ramadi police Capt. Tahseen Dulaimi said.

U.S. military officials refused to confirm or deny reports that a Ramadi offensive was underway.

Thousands of families remain trapped in the city, those who have fled say. Many can't afford to leave or lack transportation, whereas other families have decided to wait for their children to finish final examinations at school before escaping.

"The situation is catastrophic. No services, no electricity, no water," said Sheik Fassal Gaood, the former governor of Al Anbar province, whose capital is Ramadi.

"People in Ramadi are caught between two plagues: the vicious, armed insurgents and the American and Iraqi troops."
But things are getting better in Iraq because we got Zarqawi this week, don't you know.

Republican drug plan recipe for confusion and chaos.

As the months pass the munificent Medicare drug benefit granted by Our Dear Embattled Leader has not become anymore comprehensible than it was before people signed up.
In Washington, Bush administration officials say Medicare's new prescription drug program is humming along smoothly, filling more than three million prescriptions a day and cutting costs by an average of 50 percent for each beneficiary. But here in the Rio Grande Valley, the picture is different.

Many patients say they have difficulty getting the drugs they need. Pharmacists, swamped with questions and complaints from beneficiaries, have run into many practical problems as they try to navigate a complex program administered by dozens of prescription drug plans, each with its own policies and procedures. Doctors and pharmacists are struggling to figure out which drugs are covered by which plans.

"Intellectually, the program is a good idea," said Dr. E. Linda Villarreal, a former president of the Hidalgo-Starr County Medical Society. "But there's been total chaos and confusion among most of my patients, who do not understand the system and how to work it."
If anything it is becoming more difficult as many seniors are now falling into the George W Bush Memorial Donut Hole where they have to pay full price until they get to the other side, if they survive.
Jose M. Flores, a Medicare beneficiary who lives outside McAllen, used the new drug benefit four times from January to April to purchase Byetta, an injectable medicine for diabetes. Each time he paid $40.

So when he went to the pharmacy on May 25, he was dismayed to be told that he owed $167.56 for the next month's supply. Mr. Flores had reached the notorious gap in Medicare's drug coverage. He had to pay the full price of Byetta. His Medicare drug plan paid nothing.

"It's almost useless," said Mr. Flores, a 66-year-old school bus mechanic who was interviewed at his home in La Joya, Tex. "I'm paying the premium, but not getting protection."

In coming months, millions of beneficiaries will have similar experiences, as the cost of their drugs reaches the initial coverage limit of $2,250. Like Mr. Flores, they will have to pay the full cost of each medicine until their out-of-pocket costs reach $3,600. At that point, Medicare coverage resumes, paying 95 percent of the cost of each prescription.

On May 2, Mr. Flores paid $20 for Plavix, a blood thinner used to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, and Medicare paid $109.62. But when he refilled the prescription at the end of May, he was in the coverage gap, so he had to pay the full amount, $129.62.
This is Texas where they have 47 plans to choose from. If things are working out better in your state, congratulations.

Remember in November.

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