Friday, March 31, 2006

Quote of the Day

"Yes, I know we have made tactical errors,thousands of them"

Sec. State Condoleeza Rice, belaboring the obvious.

The voice of experience

John Dean was a witness at the Senate hearing today on Our Dear Embattled Leaders illegal wiretapping. Probably the last person who can say of this problem, "been there done that". The AP writes this about his testimony.
John W. Dean, Richard Nixon's White House lawyer, told senators Friday that President Bush's domestic spying exceeds the wrongdoing that toppled his former boss.

Bush, Dean told the Senate Judiciary Committee, should be censured and possibly impeached.

"Had the Senate or House, or both, censured or somehow warned Richard Nixon, the tragedy of Watergate might have been prevented," Dean said. "Hopefully the Senate will not sit by while even more serious abuses unfold before it."
I hope Mr. Dean is not holding his breath as the Republicans responded with their usual clear, incisive arguments.
"Quit trying to score political points," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, shot across the aisle at committee Democrats.
Orrin Hatch, God's own Dumb and Dumber.

And things are so much better in Iraq

Rivers latest post should help you get up to speed on all the most recent benefits for Iraqis from Li'l Georgies Glorious War.
I looked over at the commotion near the morgue.

There were dozens of people- mostly men- standing around in a bleak group. Some of them smoked cigarettes, others leaned on cars or pick-up trucks... Their expressions varied- grief, horror, resignation. On some faces, there was an anxious look of combined dread and anticipation. It’s a very specific look, one you will find only outside the Baghdad morgue. The eyes are wide and bloodshot, as if searching for something, the brow is furrowed, the jaw is set and the mouth is a thin frown. It’s a look that tells you they are walking into the morgue, where the bodies lay in rows, and that they pray they do not find what they are looking for.

The cousin sighed heavily and told us to open a couple of windows and lock the doors- he was going to check the morgue. A month before, his wife’s uncle had been taken away from a mosque during prayer- they’ve yet to find him. Every two days, someone from the family goes to the morgue to see if his body was brought in. “Pray I don’t find him… or rather... I just- we hate the uncertainty.” My cousin sighed heavily and got out of the car. I said a silent prayer as he crossed the street and disappeared into the crowd.

E. and I waited patiently for H., who was still inside the college and for L. who was in the morgue. The minutes stretched and E. and I sat silently- smalltalk seeming almost blasphemous under the circumstances. L. came out first. I watched him tensely and found myself chewing away at my lower lip, “Did he find him? Inshalla he didn’t find him…” I said to no one in particular. As he got closer to the car, he shook his head. His face was immobile and grim, but behind the grim expression, we could see relief, “He’s not there. Hamdulilah [Thank God].”

“Hamdulilah” E. and I repeated the words in unison.

WE all looked back at the morgue. Most of the cars had simple, narrow wooden coffins on top of them, in anticipation of the son or daughter or brother. One frenzied woman in a black abaya was struggling to make her way inside, two relatives holding her back. A third man was reaching up to untie the coffin tied to the top of their car.

“See that woman- they found her son. I saw them identifying him. A bullet to the head.” The woman continued to struggle, her legs suddenly buckling under her, her wails filling the afternoon, and although it was surprisingly warm that day, I pulled at my sleeves, trying to cover my suddenly cold fingers.

We continued to watch the various scenes of grief, anger, frustration and every once in a while, an almost tangible relief as someone left the morgue having not found what they dreaded most to find- eyes watery from the smell, the step slightly lighter than when they went in, having been given a temporary reprieve from the worry of claiming a loved one from the morgue…
See, not every one has a dead relative in Baghdad, today.

Scratch another name from Tom Delays Christmas list.

Though poor little Tony Rudy may need all the cigaretts Tom can send him to keep his new "husband" happy in the joint.
A onetime top aide to Representative Tom DeLay, the former House Republican majority leader, pleaded guilty to conspiracy today and agreed to cooperate in a widening investigation into lobbying fraud and influence-peddling.

Tony C. Rudy, Mr. DeLay's former deputy chief of staff, entered the plea in United States District Court here. The felony charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Prosecutors asked that sentencing be deferred until Mr. Rudy is finished telling them what he knows.

"Guilty, your honor," Mr. Rudy, 39, replied when Judge Ellen S. Huvelle asked him how he pleaded. Mr. Rudy appeared calm and replied to questions with simple "yes" and "no" answers.

Mr. Rudy was the third major figure in the affair to plead guilty, and the first since Jack Abramoff, the powerful and wealthy Republican lobbyist, pleaded guilty to three felonies in January in exchange for a reduced sentence of about 10 years, a promise to pay tax penalties and make restitution to former clients he defrauded and cooperate with the investigation.

Michael Scanlon, a former aide to Mr. DeLay and a former partner of Mr. Abramoff, has also pleaded guilty and is cooperating.
And how long can Tom stay free? If it is any indication, just look at how many years all this criminality went on around him and poor ol' Tom just didn't know a thing. They never told him anything! And as we all know, the moon is made of green cheese.

Krugman continues on immigration.

Another thoughtful piece about the need for intelligent action on immigration reform in the NY Times today.
For now, at least, the immigration issue is mainly hurting the Republican Party, which is divided between those who want to expel immigrants and those who want to exploit them. The only thing the two factions seem to have in common is mean-spiritedness.

But immigration remains a difficult issue for liberals. Let me say a bit more about the subject of my last column, the uncomfortable economics of immigration, then turn to what really worries me: the political implications of a large nonvoting work force.
Something to read if you want to go beyond slogans and Faux News.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

GOP faces big trouble over House immigration bill

Probably what made Dick Cheneys shooting incident so newsworthy was that a Republican had shot high enough to hit someone in the face. As the present uproar over immigration shows, the Republicans are most commonly seen shooting themselves in the foot. The NY Times today illuminates some of the details.
The immigration and security debate, which has sparked huge demonstrations in recent days by Hispanic residents of cities around the country, comes at a crucial moment for both parties.

Over the last three national elections, persistent appeals by Mr. Bush and other Republican leaders have helped double their party's share of the Hispanic vote, to more than 40 percent in 2004 from about 20 percent in 1996. As a result, Democrats can no longer rely on the country's 42 million Hispanic residents as a natural part of their base.

In a lunch meeting of Senate Republicans this week, Senator Mel Martinez of Florida, the only Hispanic Republican in the Senate, gave his colleagues a stern warning. "This is the first issue that, in my mind, has absolutely galvanized the Latino community in America like no other," Mr. Martinez said he told them.

The anger among Hispanics has continued even as the Senate Judiciary Committee proposed a bill this week that would allow illegal immigrants a way to become citizens. The backlash was aggravated, Mr. Martinez said in an interview, by a Republican plan to crack down on illegal immigrants that the House approved last year.
Even when they try to be not so bad they find themselves marked by the evil of their fellow party members.
A mostly Hispanic crowd of about 20,000 gathered outside Mr. Kyl's office last weekend to protest criminal penalties against illegal immigrants that were in the House Republican bill, even though Mr. Kyl's proposal does not include the measure.
Just remember in November," A bad Republican is a good congressman to lose"

Tony Peanuts pix unnixed by lensman

Here is the pic of Tony Peanuts and his "friendly" Sicilian gesture courtesy of the Boston Herald and the photographer who was very annoyed at Tonys bullshit about the event.

“The judge paused for a second, then looked directly into my lens and said, ‘To my critics, I say, ‘Vaffanculo,’ ” punctuating the comment by flicking his right hand out from under his chin, Smith said.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Tom Toles and Ben Sargent

Quote of the Day

"I have a question for President Bush. If you really believe that the war that you started in Iraq is a fight to defeat terrorism and to defend our freedoms, why haven't your girls enlisted?"

Rep. William Lacy Clay Jr. of Missouri

Casino Jack gets the minimum

And, according to the NY Times, at least 6 months to sing his complete songbook.
The disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff was sentenced to nearly six years in federal prison today for his role in a fraud scheme involving the purchase of a cruise ship line.

Mr. Abramoff, 47, and his partner, Adam Kidan, 41, were each sentenced to 70 months, the lowest punishment under federal guidelines, by Judge Paul Huck of Federal District Court here. They were also placed on three years' probation and ordered to pay a total of $21.7 million in restitution.....

.....Judge Huck at first ordered the defendants to report to prison in 90 days. But prosecutors said they preferred that Mr. Abramoff remain free for six months, so that he can continue to aid in the investigations that swirl around him and his former lobbying practice, and the judge said he would be receptive to that request. Prosecutors praised Mr. Abramoff today for his cooperation.
They are already the most talked about songs in DC.

Tony Peanuts says reporter doesn't know Italian.

In a letter to the Boston Herald, famed Italo-American jurist Antonin "Tony Peanuts" Scalia defended his gestures in church as something less than most people took it.
In a letter to the editor, an almost unheard-of step for a Supreme Court justice, Scalia said a reporter misinterpreted the gesture he made when she asked whether his participation in Sunday’s special Mass for lawyers might cause some people to question his impartiality in matters of church and state.
“Your reporter, an up-and-coming ‘gotcha’ star named Laurel J. Sweet, asked me (o-so-sweetly) what I said to those people. . .,” Scalia wrote to Executive Editor Kenneth A. Chandler. “I responded, jocularly, with a gesture that consisted of fanning the fingers of my right hand under my chin. Seeing that she did not understand, I said, ‘That’s Sicilian,’ and explained its meaning.”
Translation is such an inexact science.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

John McCain turns his back on Christ

And embraces the king of the temple moneychangers. From the Liberty University press release:
American military hero and Arizona Sen. John McCain will deliver the Commencement message at Liberty University on May 13, at 9:30 a.m., in the Liberty University Vines Center.

While Sen. McCain and Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell have had their share of political differences through the years, the two men share a common respect for each other and have become good friends in their efforts to preserve what they see as common values. This will mark his first ever appearance at Liberty University.
Personally I think McCain puts too much faith in pucker power. Most often it only leaves a dark stain on your nose.

The Supreme Court hears a "Wha-Wha-What!"

And the Washington Post article has no mention of Tony Peanuts recusing himself.
A long-awaited test of the judiciary's power during wartime came to the Supreme Court today, and, contrary to the urgings of the Bush administration, the justices do not seem inclined to duck it.

During a 90-minute oral argument on the legality of the military commissions President Bush has set up to try suspected terrorists, most members of the court resisted -- sometimes sharply -- the administration's request to dismiss the case because of a new federal law circumscribing appeals by suspected terrorists.

A key comment came from Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the closely divided court's moderate-conservative swing voter. He told Solicitor General Paul D. Clement that he has "trouble with the argument," that, because of the new law, court challenges to the commissions must wait until the trials are over.

"I had thought that the historic function of habeas corpus is to . . . test the jurisdiction and legitimacy of a court," Kennedy said. Habeas corpus is the legal vehicle through which prisoners challenge the lawfulness of their detention by the executive.

The court's defense of its turf does not bode well for the Bush administration's broader arguments in defense of the military commissions, but it was still unclear how the justices might ultimately rule on the merits of the case.

Kennedy pitched one approach, under which the court might uphold the military commissions, as the administration wants, but require that they proceed in accordance with the Geneva Convention, an international treaty that protects war detainees, as its opponents urge. Then, he suggested, the court could "just remand it for [a lower court] to go into all these arguments."

Other members of the court seemed attracted to invoking the Geneva Convention, saying that the administration's position creates a double standard because it accuses alleged terrorists of violating the laws of war while denying them the protections of international law.

"I don't see how you can have it both ways," Justice David H. Souter told Clement.
It can be hard to predict a court decision, but they don't sound like they are making favorable noises. Like lesser mortals, the justices can be expected to to protect their turf.

Ink stained fingers are a symbol of democracy

And according to the NY Times, Our Dear Embattled Leader has reminded the Iraqis that they are not to be confused with the real thing.
Senior Shiite politicians said today that the American ambassador has told Shiite officials to inform the Iraqi prime minister that President Bush does not want him to remain the country's leader in the next government.

It is the first time the Americans have directly intervened in the furious debate over the country's top job, the politicians said, and it is inflaming tensions between the Americans and some Shiite leaders.

The ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, told the head of the main Shiite political bloc at a meeting last Saturday to pass a "personal message from President Bush" on to the prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who the Shiites insist should stay in his post for four more years, said Redha Jowad Taki, a Shiite politician and member of Parliament who was at the meeting.

Ambassador Khalilzad said that President Bush "doesn't want, doesn't support, doesn't accept" Mr. Jaafari to be the next prime minister, according to Mr. Taki, a senior aide to Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Shiite bloc. It was the first "clear and direct message" from the Americans on the issue of the candidate for prime minister, Mr. Taki said.
After the uproar on Sunday following the attack on the Shiite mosque, the is a case of bad timing for a horrible idea. This should put paid to the last reason for Li'l Georgies Glorious War, bringing democracy to the Iraq and the region. But ODEL never did have any use for democracy. Still, it makes no sense to piss off the last and largest group in Iraq that was not yet attacking our soldiers dirctly.

That's our Bush!

Monday, March 27, 2006

The NY Times has the full Downing St memo.

And they are reporting on the front page what every body was stalking about 3 months ago.
Stamped "extremely sensitive," the five-page memorandum, which was circulated among a handful of Mr. Blair's most senior aides, had not been made public. Several highlights were first published in January in the book "Lawless World," which was written by a British lawyer and international law professor, Philippe Sands. In early February, Channel 4 in London first broadcast several excerpts from the memo.

Since then, The New York Times has reviewed the five-page memo in its entirety. While the president's sentiments about invading Iraq were known at the time, the previously unreported material offers an unfiltered view of two leaders on the brink of war, yet supremely confident.

The memo indicates the two leaders envisioned a quick victory and a transition to a new Iraqi government that would be complicated, but manageable. Mr. Bush predicted that it was "unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups." Mr. Blair agreed with that assessment.
Like two kids playing with matches.

Tony Peanuts flips off the press in church.

From the Boston Herald comes this little piece about reverence that Justice Antonin "Tony Peanuts" Scalia has for the Church of Rome.
Minutes after receiving the Eucharist at a special Mass for lawyers and politicians at Cathedral of the Holy Cross, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had a special blessing of his own for those who question his impartiality when it comes to matters of church and state.
“You know what I say to those people?” Scalia, 70, replied, making an obscene gesture under his chin when asked by a Herald reporter if he fends off a lot of flak for publicly celebrating his conservative Roman Catholic beliefs.
“That’s Sicilian,” the Italian jurist said, interpreting for the “Sopranos” challenged.
Even John Gotti would wait until got to his car.

The immigration problem needs more than slogans

And providing some much needed facts about immigration problems is the task of Paul Krugman today.
First, the net benefits to the U.S. economy from immigration, aside from the large gains to the immigrants themselves, are small. Realistic estimates suggest that immigration since 1980 has raised the total income of native-born Americans by no more than a fraction of 1 percent.

Second, while immigration may have raised overall income slightly, many of the worst-off native-born Americans are hurt by immigration — especially immigration from Mexico. Because Mexican immigrants have much less education than the average U.S. worker, they increase the supply of less-skilled labor, driving down the wages of the worst-paid Americans. The most authoritative recent study of this effect, by George Borjas and Lawrence Katz of Harvard, estimates that U.S. high school dropouts would earn as much as 8 percent more if it weren't for Mexican immigration.

That's why it's intellectually dishonest to say, as President Bush does, that immigrants do "jobs that Americans will not do." The willingness of Americans to do a job depends on how much that job pays — and the reason some jobs pay too little to attract native-born Americans is competition from poorly paid immigrants.
This is a problem that does not need folks yelling from opposite sides. It needs people who want to work together to find the best solution. Remember that in November when you vote.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Shoddy vests AND insider trading

I guess this is how Republicans kill two birds with one stone. At least it is how insider trader and noted defense contractor Davis Brooks does. Newsday reports this goody:
Congressional investigators have launched a review of the Defense Department's body armor program, including the "Interceptor" vests produced by Brooks' company. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Government Accountability Office, Laura Kopelson, said government investigators -- spurred by congressional concerns that the vests may be inadequate to protect troops -- are expected to launch a full review of the body armor program by July.

In addition, lawsuits by angry investors filed recently in U.S. District Court in Central Islip allege Brooks and other top company officials broke federal securities laws with a "pump and dump" scheme designed to earn the officials large sums from stock sales while they issued "false and misleading" statements about problems surrounding the company's body armor. During one high-water mark for the stock in late 2004, Brooks, the company's chairman, sold off $185 million worth of his holdings; other executives also made millions.
I guess this is a good example of how the Republicans love both our troops and we, the people.

Lara Logan speaks from Iraq

And she puts a Howie "The Putz" Kurtz in his place. She also show true professionalism in not calling Laura Ingraham an ignorant bitch, like everyone else does. Watch the video at Crooks and Liars.

Stolen from Digby

Because that is the kind of person I am. You should really go see all that precedes this.
Joe Liebermann's little eight year old grandkid asked him at the dinner table the other night if he thought the president broke the law, like grandpa said he did.

"Is he gonna get in trouble?" he asked.

"No, son," Liebermann replied, "we're just going to change the law so what he did isn't illegal anymore. We don't want his friends to get upset."

"Neat," the kid replied, "I took four candy bars from 7-11 after school and the man said he was gonna call the police. Can you change the law for me so I won't get into trouble either?"

Lieberman looked indulgently at the naive little pup and said, "I'm sorry son. You're the grandson of a Democrat. You shall have to pay the price for your misdeeds. Breaking the law and having a private personal life is only OKIYAR. It's time you learned that."
And this is a lesson in why you should support Ned Lamont. Connecticut needs a real Democrat as senator.

Eric Haney does not like Our Dear Embattled Leader.

And who is Eic Haney? "Eric Haney, a retired command sergeant major of the U.S. Army, was a founding member of Delta Force" says the LA Daily News. And in an interview he states his mind without hesitation or equivocation.
Q: What's your assessment of the war in Iraq?

A: Utter debacle. But it had to be from the very first. The reasons were wrong. The reasons of this administration for taking this nation to war were not what they stated. (Army Gen.) Tommy Franks was brow-beaten and ... pursued warfare that he knew strategically was wrong in the long term. That's why he retired immediately afterward. His own staff could tell him what was going to happen afterward.

We have fomented civil war in Iraq. We have probably fomented internecine war in the Muslim world between the Shias and the Sunnis, and I think Bush may well have started the third world war, all for their own personal policies.

Q: What is the cost to our country?

A: For the first thing, our credibility is utterly zero. So we destroyed whatever credibility we had. ... And I say "we," because the American public went along with this. They voted for a second Bush administration out of fear, so fear is what they're going to have from now on.

Our military is completely consumed, so were there a real threat - thankfully, there is no real threat to the U.S. in the world, but were there one, we couldn't confront it. Right now, that may not be a bad thing, because that keeps Bush from trying something with Iran or with Venezuela.

The harm that has been done is irreparable. There are more than 2,000 American kids that have been killed. Tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis have been killed ñ which no one in the U.S. really cares about those people, do they? I never hear anybody lament that fact. It has been a horror, and this administration has worked overtime to divert the American public's attention from it. Their lies are coming home to roost now, and it's gonna fall apart. But somebody's gonna have to clear up the aftermath and the harm that it's done just to what America stands for. It may be two or three generations in repairing.

Q: What do you make of the torture debate? Cheney ...

A: (Interrupting) That's Cheney's pursuit. The only reason anyone tortures is because they like to do it. It's about vengeance, it's about revenge, or it's about cover-up. You don't gain intelligence that way. Everyone in the world knows that. It's worse than small-minded, and look what it does....

.....Mistreatment of helpless people in your power is torture, period. And (I'm saying this as) a man who has been involved in the most pointed of our activities. I know it, and all of my mates know it. You don't do it. It's an act of cowardice. I hear apologists for torture say, "Well, they do it to us." Which is a ludicrous argument. ... The Saddam Husseins of the world are not our teachers. Christ almighty, we wrote a Constitution saying what's legal and what we believed in. Now we're going to throw it away.
Spoken like the true patriot that he is.

Brattleboro VT endorses impeachment of Our Dear Embattled Leader.

After the town business was disposed of, the annual Brattleboro Town Meeting was moved to debate this reolution.
WHEREAS, Jefferson's Manual section LIII, 602, states that impeachment may be set in motion by charges transmitted from the legislature of a state; and

WHEREAS, George W. Bush had intentionally misled the Congress and the public regarding the threat from Iraq in order to justify a war against Iraq, in violation of Title 18 United States Code, Section 1001 and intentionally conspired with others to defraud the United States in connection with the war against Iraq in violation of Title 18 United States Code, Section 1805; and

WHEREAS, George W. Bush has admitted to ordering the National Security Agency to conduct electronic surveillance of American civilians without seeking warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, duly constituted by Congress in 1978, in violation of Title 50 United States Code, Section 1805; and

WHEREAS, George W. Bush has conspired to commit the torture of prisoners in violation of the UN Torture Convention and the Geneva Conventions, which under Article VI of the Constitution are part of the "supreme law of the land"; and

WHEREAS, George W. Bush has acted to strip Americans of their constitutional rights by ordering indefinite detention of citizens, without access to legal counsel, without charge and without opportunity to appear before a civil judicial officer to challenge the detention, based solely on the discretionary designation by the President of a U.S. citizen as an enemy "combatant", all in subversion of the law; and

WHEREAS, in all of this George W. Bush has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, subversive of constitutional government to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice, and to the manifest injury of the people of the State of Vermont and of the United States.

Be it resolved that George W. Bush, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States;

WHEREAS, it is the uniform practice of the U.S. House of Representatives to receive petitions or resolutions from primary assemblies of the people;

Be it resolved that George W. Bush and Richard Cheney, by such conduct, warrant impeachment and trial, and removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States;

Be it resolved further by the Town of Brattleboro, that our Senators and Representative in the United States Congress be, and they are hereby, requested to cause to be instituted in the Congress of the United States proper proceedings for the investigation of the activities of the President, to the end that he may be impeached and removed from such office.

Be it resolved further, That the Clerk of the Town of Brattleboro be, and is hereby instructed to certify to the Clerk of House of Representatives, under the seal of the Town of Brattleboro, a copy of this resolution and its adoption by the Town of Brattleboro, and that this resolution be entered in the United States Congressional Journal. The copies shall be marked with the word "Petition" at the top of the document and contain the authorizing signature Town Clerk.
After much debate the resolution was changed to this:
Be it resolved further by the TOWN MEETING REPRESENTATIVES of Brattleboro, that our Senators and Representative in the United States Congress be, and they are hereby, requested to cause to be instituted in the Congress of the United States proper proceedings for the investigation of the activities of the President, TO SEE WHETHER that he may be impeached and removed from such office.
And it passed unanimously.

Bravo Brattleboro!

Tired of all those big legal fees?

Just get Supreme Court Justice Antonin "Tony Peanuts" Scalia to prejudge your case. For one relatively small fee you can save millions in lawyers billings. According to Newsweek, Tony Peanuts has already taken his first "case".
The Supreme Court this week will hear arguments in a big case: whether to allow the Bush administration to try Guantánamo detainees in special military tribunals with limited rights for the accused. But Justice Antonin Scalia has already spoken his mind about some of the issues in the matter. During an unpublicized March 8 talk at the University of Freiburg in Switzerland, Scalia dismissed the idea that the detainees have rights under the U.S. Constitution or international conventions, adding he was "astounded" at the "hypocritical" reaction in Europe to Gitmo.
Don't hold your breath waiting for a recusal. The Dread Chief Justice Roberts has already recused himself because he had ruled on the case at the appellate level. Without Tony Peanuts the government is surely going to lose this case. Can you see anyone signing onto a decision by Cabin Boy Thomas if they don't have to?

Is it a civil war yet?

Todays body count is another gruesome example of how well Li'l Georgies Glorious War is going. The NY Times reports on the latest discoveries.
The bodies of 30 beheaded men were found on a main highway near Baquba this evening, providing more evidence that the death squads in Iraq are becoming out of control.

Interior Ministry officials said a driver discovered the bodies heaped in a pile next to a highway that links Baghdad to Baquba, a volatile city northeast of the capital that has been wracked by sectarian and insurgent violence.

Iraqi army troops were waiting tonight for American support before venturing into the insurgent-infested area to retrieve them.

"It's too dangerous for us to go in there alone," an Iraqi Army commander, Tassin Tawfik, said.

Earlier in the day, the corpses of 10 other men, all bound, blindfolded and shot, were discovered in Baghdad, adding to the hundreds of bodies that have recently surfaced on Baghdad's streets.
Maybe if they dressed the Shia in blue and the Sunnis in butternut Our Dear Embattled Leader would recognize what is happening in Iraq. And maybe the moon is made of green cheese.

Pat Oliphant

The heartland is slipping away

And the LA Times has the story.
As Liz Larrison cooks up breakfast for customers at her family's diner in a farm town long friendly to the Republican Party, she listens as the regulars sling political opinions as easily as she slings ham steaks.

Increasingly, the talk these days revolves around Iraq, and it is the kind of talk that could spell trouble for the GOP.

"Nobody is against the people fighting the war. I think you'll hear that everywhere," she said. "We're just against it going on and on."

On top of other woes confronting Republicans, the continuing violence in Iraq and President Bush's message last week that the deployment would last several more years has heightened Republicans' concerns about how voters such as Larrison will view the party in the November elections.

In fact, Larrison — who, like many of her customers, considers herself independent but tends to vote for Republicans — says she will vote against her Republican congressman.

Even in the heartland, Democrats suddenly see advantage on an issue that is usually considered a GOP trump card: national security.
Unlike Our Dear Embattled Leader, Middle America does not want to wait until the next president comes along. It is still early in the cycle but the signs are hopeful.

As you give, so shall you receive

And the Toledo Blade has another article detailing how this applied in the Republican run state of Ohio.
Lawyers who contributed more than $1.8 million to an obscure Ohio Republican Party fund that backed the campaigns of Jim Petro and Betty Montgomery for attorney general have received more than $170 million in legal fees working for the attorney general's office since 1998, a Blade investigation shows.

An analysis of payment records from the attorney general's office to "special counsel" - private-sector lawyers hired to do legal work for the state - reveals that the firms that contributed the largest amounts of money to the Ohio Republican Party state candidate fund received among the most in fees from the state.

Lawyers, many of whom contributed the maximum amounts allowed under state law to Mr. Petro and Ms. Montgomery, also contributed tens of thousands of dollars to the Ohio GOP's candi-date fund, an account created in 1998. In turn, the party has directed contributions totaling $1.49 million to Attorney General Petro, a candidate for governor, and $1.27 million to State Auditor Montgomery, a former two-term attorney general who is running this year to become attorney general once again.
Is this any surprise in a state controlled by one party?

500,000 in LA alone

Marching to protest the proposed new immigration law. The LA Times has the details.
Joining what some are calling the nation's largest mobilization of immigrants ever, hundreds of thousands of people boisterously marched in downtown Los Angeles Saturday to protest federal legislation that would crack down on undocumented immigrants, penalize those who help them and build a security wall on the U.S. southern border. Spirited crowds representing labor, religious groups, civil-rights advocates and ordinary immigrants stretched over 26 blocks of downtown Los Angeles from Adams Blvd. along Spring Street and Broadway to City Hall, tooting kazoos, waving American flags and chanting "Si se puede!" (Yes we can!). The crowd, estimated by police at more than 500.000, represented one of the largest protest marches in Los Angeles history, surpassing Vietnam War demonstrations and the 70,000 who rallied downtown against Proposition 187, a 1994 state initiative that denied public benefits to undocumented migrants.
Do you think this could hurt Republican plan to court the hispanic vote?

Details of the Great Republican Money Laundry

The WaPo has a front page report on the lucrative nature of operating the Great Republican Money Laundry. I don't belive we have seen this much money sticking to the greedy paws of its handlers since the days of Boss Tweed.
A top adviser to former House Whip Tom DeLay received more than a third of all the money collected by the U.S. Family Network, a nonprofit organization the adviser created to promote a pro-family political agenda in Congress, according to the group's accounting records.

DeLay's former chief of staff, Edwin A. Buckham, who helped create the group while still in DeLay's employ, and his wife, Wendy, were the principal beneficiaries of the group's $3.02 million in revenue, collecting payments totaling $1,022,729 during a five-year period ending in 2001, public and private records show.

The group's revenue was drawn mostly from clients of Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to its records. From an FBI subpoena for the records, it can be inferred that the bureau is exploring whether there were links between the payments and favorable legislative treatment of Abramoff's clients by DeLay's office.

In recent months, Abramoff pleaded guilty to charges of tax fraud and conspiracy to defraud clients and bribe a public official; DeLay (R-Tex.) stepped down from his post as House majority leader; and Buckham folded his lobbying firm, the Alexander Strategy Group.

In the late 1990s, when DeLay's influence was growing, the lawmaker depicted the USFN in a promotional letter as a nationwide, grass-roots organization. In fact, it had a tiny staff that barely registered an impact on Capitol Hill. The group appears to have served mostly as a vehicle for funneling corporate funds to DeLay's advisers and financing ads that attacked Democrats.

The group's payments to the Buckhams -- in the form of a monthly retainer as well as commissions on donations by Abramoff's clients -- overlapped briefly with Edwin Buckham's service as chief of staff to DeLay and continued during his subsequent role as DeLay's chief political adviser.

During this latter period, Buckham and his wife, Wendy, acting through their consulting firm, made monthly payments averaging $3,200-$3,400 apiece to DeLay's wife, Christine, for three of the years in which he collected money from the USFN and some other clients.
Ah, the sweet smell of money in the morning!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Guess who's coming to dinner?

The Republican governor of South Carolina offered dinner with himself and his wife in a fund raising auction. The highest bidder must have been a surprise to the honorable gentleman.
It cost state Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, and Columbia lawyer-lobbyist Dwight Drake $6,600 between them to win the dinner and stack the table.

Hutto and Drake, who was Democratic Gov. Dick Riley's chief of staff, also have children at the school, where tuition ranges from $3,445 for the three-days-a-week nursery to $12,090 for grades nine through 12.

While the Sanfords get to pick the menu, Hutto and Drake got to choose the seven other couples who will join them.

They include state Sen. Tommy Moore, D-Clearwater, and Florence Mayor Frank Willis, Democratic candidates for governor and critics of Sanford's economic record; Oscar Lovelace, Sanford's primary opponent, whose appeals for a debate have been rejected by the governor; Senate Minority Leader John Land, D-Manning, one of the governor's sharpest critics; Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, R-Gaffney; and I.S. Leevy Johnson, one of the state's first black legislators of the 20th century.
It should be peaceable enough with their wives present, but what will happen when the men retire to the study for brandy and cigars?

NYT editorial on pension reform

The short version is if you have one now you will probably be screwed out of it before you can enjoy it. But after detailing some of the horrors about to be inflicted the Times says it in a nicer way.
Real pension reform would deliver 100 percent pension funding and the use of uniform market-sensitive calculations. Instead of focusing on those goals, the House and Senate have been stuffing the legislation with opportunistic attempts to please corporate campaign contributors. But in this case, less is definitely more.
After all these years of Republican rule, does anybody expect them to do anything else?

The Dixie Chicks make good music

And if you haven't heard their latest offering, you can check it out here. You're gonna like it.

The civil war that isn't

At least in the small protected mind of Our Dear Embattled Leader. The Independent provides us with the local view of events in Baghdad.
The battle between Sunni and Shia Muslims for control of Baghdad has already started, say Iraqi political leaders who predict fierce street fighting will break out as each community takes over districts in which it is strongest.

"The fighting will only stop when a new balance of power has emerged," Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff of Massoud Barzani, the Kurdish leader, said. "Sunni and Shia will each take control of their own area." He said sectarian cleansing had already begun.

Many Iraqi leaders now believe that civil war is inevitable but it will be confined, at least at first, to the capital and surrounding provinces where the population is mixed. "The real battle will be the battle for Baghdad where the Shia have increasing control," said one senior official who did not want his name published. "The army will disintegrate in the first moments of the war because the soldiers are loyal to the Shia, Sunni or Kurdish communities and not to the government." He expected the Americans to stay largely on the sidelines.
This is the news that is. You can't stop it just because you don't like it. Yes, it is depressing and upsetting, and probobaly most depressing is this final paragraph.
Already Baghdad resembles Beirut at the start of the Lebanese civil war in 1975, when Christians and Muslims fought each other for control of the city.
And we all remember how that turned out.

New England - Birthplace of American values

It was so 250 years ago and it still holds true. Those "Damned Yankees" and Red Sox fans still hold true to the values that formed this country. And it is where the number of people calling for impeachment grows daily.
To drive through the mill towns and curling country roads here is to journey into New England's impeachment belt. Three of this state's 10 House members have called for the investigation and possible impeachment of President Bush.

Thirty miles north, residents in four Vermont villages voted earlier this month at annual town meetings to buy more rock salt, approve school budgets, and impeach the president for lying about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction and for sanctioning torture.

Window cleaner Ira Clemons put down his squeegee in the lobby of a city mall and stroked his goatee as he considered the question: Would you support your congressman's call to impeach Bush? His smile grew until it looked like a three-quarters moon.

"Why not? The man's been lying from Jump Street on the war in Iraq," Clemons said. "Bush says there were weapons of mass destruction, but there wasn't. Says we had enough soldiers, but we didn't. Says it's not a civil war -- but it is." He added: "I was really upset about 9/11 -- so don't lie to me."
And just as they did 250 yrs. ago, they will begin the New American Revolution that will sweep out that evil lying Texican chickenshit and all those with him who seek to destroy America.

ADDENDUM: New Mexico Democrats join in.
The New Mexico Democratic Party is calling for President Bush's removal from office....

....The one-sentence amendment, added from the floor to the platform's section on political and election reform, reads: "Resolved, that the Democratic Party of New Mexico supports the impeachment of President George Bush and his lawful removal from office."
Another voice of reason.

Take some lime and mix in water with some salt

And you have whitewash. Or you could do as the WaPo is reporting the Pentagon will do.
Undersecretary of Defense Stephen A. Cambone has ordered an internal study of how funding earmarked in a bill by then-Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) led to contracts for MZM Inc. to do work for the Pentagon's newest intelligence agency, the Counterintelligence Field Activity, a Defense Department spokesman said.
Yessiree Bob! With Cambrone overseeing this, they should get to the bottom of this right about the time they pay off the national debt.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Red Cross should follow the Bushovik method

In a major shake-up of its relief operations in New Orleans, the American Red Cross dismissed two key supervisors yesterday as part of a wide-ranging inquiry into the improper diversion of relief supplies after Hurricane Katrina, a Red Cross official said.
Our Dear Embattled Leader would have praised and promoted these people and maybe given them a medal for preventing poor people from abusing the system.

All your phone calls are belong to us.

According to the AP that is the latest pronouncement from the Department of Imperial Justice.
The National Security Agency could have legally monitored ordinarily confidential communications between doctors and patients or attorneys and their clients, the Justice Department said Friday of its controversial warrantless surveillance program.

Responding to questions from Congress, the department also said that it sees no prohibition to using information collected under the NSA's program in court.

"Because collecting foreign intelligence information without a warrant does not violate the Fourth Amendment and because the Terrorist Surveillance Program is lawful,[another warrantless assertion in favor of warrantless spying on Americans - Ed.] there appears to be no legal barrier against introducing this evidence in a criminal prosecution," the department said in responses to questions from lawmakers released Friday evening.
So there is now nothing to stop their spying on you except the integrity of Our Dear Embattled Leader. And we know how deep that runs.

Our Dear Embattled Leader bites himself in the ass.

We all know ODEL wouldn't know the truth if it jumped up and bit him in the ass. In his column in the WaPo today, the redoubtable EJ Dionne clearly links the title and the first sentence of this post together.
Nearly three months after Ross first complained about the homes sitting in the field -- and nearly six weeks after Fox News reported the story and CNN broadcast an extensive account -- Bush seemed perplexed. He insisted that he was asking Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to get to the bottom of the deal.

"So I've asked Chertoff to find out," Bush said. "What are you going to do with them? I mean, the taxpayers aren't interested in 11,000 trailers just sitting there. Do something with them. And so I share that sense of frustration when a big government is unable to, you know -- sends wrong signals to taxpayers. But our people are good, hardworking people."

Hold on: The president of the United States runs the "big government" he's attacking. This is mysterious. If Bush's "good, hardworking people" aren't responsible for the problem, the villains of the piece must be alien creatures created by some strange beast called Big Government.
M-m-m-m, tasty.

Our Dear Embattled Leader, still above the law.

As this article from the Boston Globe makes clear, FISA and the Constitution are not the only laws that ODEL chooses not to obey. Even the Patriot Act is beneath him.
The bill contained several oversight provisions intended to make sure the FBI did not abuse the special terrorism-related powers to search homes and secretly seize papers. The provisions require Justice Department officials to keep closer track of how often the FBI uses the new powers and in what type of situations. Under the law, the administration would have to provide the information to Congress by certain dates.

Bush signed the bill with fanfare at a White House ceremony March 9, calling it ''a piece of legislation that's vital to win the war on terror and to protect the American people." But after the reporters and guests had left, the White House quietly issued a ''signing statement," an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law.

In the statement, Bush said that he did not consider himself bound to tell Congress how the Patriot Act powers were being used and that, despite the law's requirements, he could withhold the information if he decided that disclosure would ''impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative process of the executive, or the performance of the executive's constitutional duties."

Bush wrote: ''The executive branch shall construe the provisions . . . that call for furnishing information to entities outside the executive branch . . . in a manner consistent with the president's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to withhold information . . . "
So much for his oath sworn on the Bible.

Krugman writes a letter

To the Secretary of the Treasury John Snow no less. And the subject of this letter is the increasing inequality of incomes in this country. And he carefully explains the basis of this little homily.
I find it helpful to illustrate what's going on with a hypothetical
example: say 10 middle-class guys are sitting in a bar. Then the
richest guy leaves, and Bill Gates walks in.

Because the richest guy in the bar is now much richer than before,
the average income in the bar soars. But the income of the nine men
who aren't Bill Gates hasn't increased, and no amount of repeating
''But average income is up!'' will convince them that they're better
This is a good read if you do not yet know how badly you have been screwed by the tax cuts.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Tom Toles today

See no evil, if the evildoer is important enough.

From the New York Times editorial page comes this under the title "The Joy of Being Blameless":
The contrast could not have been more stark, nor the message more clear. On the day that a court-martial imposed justice on a 24-year-old Army sergeant for tormenting detainees at Abu Ghraib with his dog, President Bush said once again that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, whose benighted policies and managerial incompetence led to the prisoner abuse scandal, was doing a "fine job" and should stay at his post.

We've seen this sorry pattern for nearly two years now, since the Abu Ghraib horrors first shocked the world: President Bush has clung to the fiction that the abuse of prisoners was just the work of a few rotten apples, despite report after report after report demonstrating that it was organized and systematic, and flowed from policies written by top officials in his administration....

.....The names and dates change, but the basic pattern is the same, including the fact that this bestiality produced little or no useful intelligence. The Bush administration decided to go outside the law to deal with prisoners, and soldiers carried out that policy. Those who committed these atrocities deserve the punishment they are getting, but virtually all high-ranking soldiers have escaped unscathed. And not a single policy maker has been called to account.
Why should they be blamed? They were only doing what the boss ordered.

Remember when the cost was only $50 million?

Bob Herbert does. Today he writes about a recent study of the true cost of the war. One not developed by habitual liars and frauds.
Now comes a study by Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at Columbia University, and a colleague, Linda Bilmes of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, that estimates the "true costs" of the war at more than $1 trillion, and possibly more than $2 trillion.

"Even taking a conservative approach and assuming all U.S. troops return by 2010, we believe the true costs exceed a trillion dollars," the authors say.

The study was released earlier this year but has not gotten much publicity. The analysis by Professors Stiglitz and Bilmes goes beyond the immediate costs of combat operations to include other direct and indirect costs of the war that, in some cases, the government will have to shoulder for many years.

These costs, the study says, "include disability payments to veterans over the course of their lifetimes, the cost of replacing military equipment and munitions, which are being consumed at a faster-than-normal rate, the cost of medical treatment for returning Iraqi war veterans, particularly the more than 7,000 [service members] with brain, spinal, amputation and other serious injuries, and the cost of transporting returning troops back to their home bases."

The study also notes that Defense Department expenditures that were not directly appropriated for Iraq have grown by more than 5 percent since the war began. But a portion of that increase has been spent "on support for the war in Iraq, including significantly higher recruitment costs, such as nearly doubling the number of recruiters, paying recruitment bonuses of up to $40,000 for new enlistees and paying special bonuses and other benefits, up to $150,000 for current Special Forces troops that re-enlist."

"Another cost to the government," the study says, "is the interest on the money that it has borrowed to finance the war."
Let us not forget the interest. That cost will surely rise well before we can make any serious reduction to Our Dear Embattled Leaders profligate administration. The thing that struck me was this paragraph.
In an interview, Mr. Stiglitz said that about $560 billion, which is a little more than half of the study's conservative estimate of the cost of the war, would have been enough to "fix" Social Security for the next 75 years. If one were thinking in terms of promoting democracy in the Middle East, he said, the money being spent on the war would have been enough to finance a "mega-mega-mega-Marshall Plan," which would have been "so much more" effective than the invasion of Iraq.
The true price of incompetence.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Tom Toles

The Supremes protect your home from unreasonable search

And look who is writing in dissent. In case you didn't guess, it was the Dread Chief Justice Roberts and his scurvy mate Scalia and the Cabin Boy Thomas. Scurvy other mate Alito was too late to join the party.
In a 5-to-3 decision, the justices sided with Scott F. Randolph of Americus, Ga., who was charged with cocaine possession in 2001 after his wife, Janet, called the police during a domestic dispute, complained that her husband was using cocaine and then led the officers to a bedroom, where there was evidence of cocaine abuse.

The issue before the justices was one that has long caused confusion in state courts: whether the police can search a home without a warrant if one occupant gives consent but another occupant, who is physically present, says "no." The majority held today that at least under some circumstances, such a search is invalid.

"Scott Randolph's refusal is clear, and nothing in the record justifies the search on grounds independent of Janet Randolph's consent," Justice David H. Souter wrote for the majority. He was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

The result for Mr. Randolph, a lawyer, is that the cocaine-related evidence seized by the police and used to prosecute him must be thrown out, a conclusion that the Georgia Supreme Court reached earlier when it declared that since both marriage partners "had common control and authority" over the premises, the consent of both was needed to conduct a search without a warrant.
Even those folks in GA disagree with the Dread Chief Justice Roberts. I guess the Constitution takes a back seat if you have an agenda

MoDo says mean things about Our Dear Embattled Leader

As one would expect her to do. Still, how hard can it be with this crew?
Even though Condi Rice told the 9/11 commission that "no one could have imagined" terrorists' slamming a plane into the World Trade Center, an F.B.I. officer did. Officer Samit testified that a colleague, Greg Jones, tried to light a fire under Mr. Maltbie by urging him to "prevent Zacarias Moussaoui from flying a plane into the World Trade Center."

Later, Mr. Jones told Mr. Samit that it had just been "a lucky guess."

Kenneth Williams, a Phoenix agent, also sent a warning memo to the phlegmatic Mr. Frasca in July 2001, after sniffing out a scheme by Osama to dispatch Middle East extremists to America to get flight training.

Neil Lewis wrote in The Times yesterday that "William Carter, an F.B.I. spokesman, said that neither the bureau nor Mr. Maltbie nor Mr. Frasca, who are still employed there, would have any comment."

Still employed there? How can Mr. Maltbie and Mr. Frasca still be employed at the F.B.I.? How can Michael Chertoff still be employed at Homeland Security? How can Donald Rumsfeld still be employed at the Pentagon?

Missing 9/11, missing Katrina, mangling Iraq, racking up a $9 trillion debt — those things don't cause officials to lose their jobs. Only saying something honest — as prescient Gen. Eric Shinseki did — can get you a one-way ticket to Palookaville.
It has been said before but repetition is good for the soul.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Republicans recruiting pastors to poison the minds of their flocks

The NY Times today reports on the efforts of Pennsylvania and national Republicans to enlist church men as Republican campaign volunteers.
Weeks after the Internal Revenue Service announced a crackdown on political activities by churches and other tax-exempt organizations, a coalition of nonprofit conservative groups is holding training sessions to enlist Pennsylvania pastors in turning out voters for the November elections.

Experts in tax law said the sessions, organized by four groups as the Pennsylvania Pastors Network, could test the promises by the tax agency to step up enforcement of the law that prohibits such activity by exempt organizations.

Such a test could define the boundaries for churches and other groups.

Although the tax agency has often overlooked political activity by churches, it has repeatedly warned the clergy and religious groups that it intends to enforce its rules with new vigor this year, in part to correct what it considers to have been too much political intervention by churches and charities in 2004.
It remains to be seen if that "new vigor" can survive in an agency whose senoir management is riddled with Bushovik appointees. Perhaps their famed incompetence will prove useful here.

Our Dear Embattled Leader vows to stay until '08

No matter how many troops have to die before then. In his press conference today, Barbara Bush's idiot bastard child promised to continue every mistake so far made, including keeping Rummy and keeping the troops in the middle of the Iraqi civil war.
But defying critics and plunging polls, he declared, "I'm optimistic we'll succeed. If not, I'd pull our troops out."
Keeping in mind the fact that Glorious Georgie has never admitted a mistake, that sounds like a call for war without end

Monday, March 20, 2006

Tom Toles today

How the Bushoviks pay for tax cuts.

Bob Herbert shines a light on the cold, cold heart of this Republican administration.
The federal government has a national breast and cervical cancer early detection program, run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It provides screening and other important services to low-income women who do not have health insurance, or are underinsured.

There is agreement across the board that the program is a success. It saves lives and it saves money. Its biggest problem is that it doesn't reach enough women. At the moment there is only enough funding to screen one in five eligible women.

A sensible policy position for the Bush administration would be to expand funding for the program so that it reached everyone who was eligible. It terms of overall federal spending, the result would be a net decrease. Preventing cancer, or treating it early, is a lot less expensive than treating advanced cancer.

So what did this president do? He proposed a cut in the program of $1.4 million (a minuscule amount when you're talking about the national budget), which would mean that 4,000 fewer women would have access to early detection.

This makes no sense. In human terms, it is cruel.
In Republican terms, it is the consummate good idea. And just one of many like it in the current budget.

Krugman explains newest Republican talking point.

And it's a sly one. To save their skins in the upcoming election, Republicans have to put some daylight between themselves and Our Dear Embattled Leader. Paul Krugman shows us the way they are doing it, without breaking from Dear Leader.
Mr. Bush's new conservative critics don't say much about the issue that most disturbs the public, the quagmire in Iraq. That's not surprising. Commentators who acted as cheerleaders in the run-up to war, and in many cases questioned the patriotism of those of us who were skeptical, can't criticize the decision to start this war without facing up to their own complicity in that decision....

.....Meanwhile, the continuing allegiance of conservatives to tax cuts as the universal policy elixir prevents them from saying anything about the real sources of the federal budget deficit, in particular Mr. Bush's unprecedented decision to cut taxes in the middle of a war. (My colleague Bob Herbert points out that the Iraq hawks chose to fight a war with other people's children. They chose to fight it with other people's money, too.)
So what is left for a Republican to do? Send in the straw men.
So what's left? Well, it's safe for conservatives to criticize Mr. Bush for presiding over runaway growth in domestic spending, because that implies that he betrayed his conservative supporters. There's only one problem with this criticism: it's not true.....

......So where does the notion of Bush the big spender come from? In a direct sense it comes largely from Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation, who issued a report last fall alleging that government spending was out of control. Mr. Riedl is very good at his job; his report shifts artfully back and forth among various measures of spending (nominal, real, total, domestic, discretionary, domestic discretionary), managing to convey the false impression that soaring spending on domestic social programs is a major cause of the federal budget deficit without literally lying.

But the reason conservatives fall for the Heritage spin is that it suits their purposes. They need to repudiate George W. Bush, but they can't admit that when Mr. Bush made his key mistakes — starting an unnecessary war, and using dishonest numbers to justify tax cuts — they were cheering him on.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Molly Ivins made a couple of good points last week.

And if you didn't read them, here are a couple.
As of Sept. 11, 2001, there were a few hundred people identified with al-Qaida's ideology. Even then, it was unclear the American military was the right tool for the job. Now, Rumsfeld is apparently prepared to put the full might of the U.S. military into this fight indefinitely, backed by the full panoply of ever-more expensive weapons and the whole hoorah. I don't think the people who got us into Iraq should be allowed to do this because, based on the evidence of Iraq, I don't think they have the sense God gave a duck.
I came across this quote in a recent obituary for George Gerbner, who headed the Annenberg School for Communication for 25 years: "Fearful people are more dependent, more easily manipulated and controlled, more susceptible to deceptively simple, strong, tough measures and hard-line postures. ... They may accept and even welcome repression if it promises to relieve their insecurities."
You can read the rest here.

Where there is smoke, there is fire.

And this story in the San Diego Union-Tribune could be the gentle breeze that fans this smoky patch into a blaze. It seems that Rep. John Doolittles wife was the beneficiary of a curious campaign fund raising scheme.
None of the lawmakers Cunningham mentioned by name – Reps. Katherine Harris of Florida, Virgil Goode of Virginia and John Doolittle from the Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay – has been accused of criminal wrongdoing. But each has admitted assisting either Mitchell Wade or Brent Wilkes, co-conspirators in the Cunningham case, at a time when the two businessmen were giving them tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions.

And at least one of the lawmakers, Doolittle, received a direct monetary benefit from those contributions through commissions paid to his wife, Julie.

Acting as her husband's campaign consultant, Julie Doolittle charged his campaign and his Superior California Political Action Committee a 15 percent commission on any contribution she helped bring in.

As a member of two key committees in the House – Appropriations and Administration – Doolittle is well-positioned to help contractors gain funding through congressional earmarks. Between 2002 and 2005, Wilkes and his associates and lobbyists gave Doolittle's campaign and political action committee $118,000, more than they gave any other politician, including Cunningham.

Calculations based on federal and state campaign records suggest that Doolittle's wife received at least $14,400 of that money in commissions. Meanwhile, Doolittle helped Wilkes get at least $37 million in government contracts.
That sure is nice work if you can get it. And a good investment for Mr. Wilkes.

But who, you ask, is this "wunderfrau" fundraiser?
Julie Doolittle launched Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions in March 2001, two months after her husband was named to the Appropriations Committee.

The business, which is based at the couple's home in Oakton, Va., has no phone listing or Web site. The firm has no known employees other than Julie Doolittle. The congressman's office would not specify what previous fundraising experience she had.

Within months of its opening, the firm was receiving commissions from her husband's campaign. Within the next two years, it was planning fundraising events for Abramoff and handling bookkeeping for the Korean lobbying group in Buckham's office suite, where DeLay's wife, Christine, also was working.

Federal and state campaign records show that Julie Doolittle has received nearly $180,000 in commissions from her husband's political fundraising since late 2001.
Yes, very nice work. And there is a good deal more in the story about the contributions from Wilkes and Doolittles work for him.

Sure seems smoky in here.

Rumsfeld must be on Ambien

Sleep writing is about the only way you can explain this piece of grandiloquent Rumsfeldian logic.
Leaving Iraq now would be like handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis, U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in a column published on Sunday, the third anniversary of the start of the Iraq war.

"Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis," he wrote in an essay in The Washington Post.
Reading the rest of his essay doesn't make a whole lot more sense. In fact it makes the case that the SecDef is under the influence of Ambien for most, if not all, of his working day. You can find the full column at the WaPo.

Chan Lowe explains Republican economics

Our Dear Embattled Leader is losing the Heartland.

The Boston Globe has a feature story today on the hearts and minds of Indiana, a stalwart Republican state. From the quotes and numbers reported, it seems that ODEL has worn out his welcome with most of the Indiana voters.
'It's chaos," said Roger Madaras, who voted twice for Bush. ''How many more people are going to be killed? We were going in to free the people of Iraq, but as far as I'm concerned, a lot of them are worse off today than they were under the dictatorship."

Madaras, the owner of a plumbing company, said he believed Bush when the president declared major combat to be over in May 2003, and is ''disgusted" that Bush's rhetoric was hollow. And he is far from alone.

Support for Bush and his handling of Iraq is sharply eroding across the American heartland, where the overcast skies and the muddy fields of late winter matched a sense of gloom about Bush and the war.

This month, the Indianapolis Star released poll findings that Bush's approval rating among Indiana voters stood at 37 percent -- a drop of 18 points over the past year. The numbers echoed national polls, but were particularly shocking in a state that has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964, and where Democratic presidential contenders often do not bother to campaign.

''A 37 percent approval rating in Indiana for a Republican president is unheard of," said Brian Howey, who runs a newsletter for Indiana state political insiders. ''Those are Bill Clinton or John Kerry numbers in Indiana. So there is something seriously awry going on right now."
Whether it is the war, Katrina, the Dubai ports deal, it is clear thatODEL has managed to piss off a lot of his supporters. People who just might decide to stay home in November.

"You mean they have a domestic policy?"

That quote from a prominent conservative, Michael Tanner, sums up the growing realization among conservatives that Our Dear Embattled Leader really has no ideas for domestic policy and he and his current minions are not likely to develop any. Looking back at this administration it is eminently clear that once they had succeeded in diverting the national treasury into their favorite corporate treasuries they had no further ideas.
Tanner, an author of the failed Social Security plan that was Bush's No. 1 domestic priority last year, lamented the lack of a "policy czar" setting clear goals. He described the administration as "exhausted" and "rudderless" on the domestic front.

"There doesn't seem to be an endpoint for what they're doing," he said. "They need to decide what they're going to do for the next three years…. Staff changes are necessary but not sufficient. If they're just rearranging chairs and office plaques, that's not going to do anything."
When you have few ideas beyond getting elected, you find that being preznit really is hard work.

Ethics! We don't need no stinking ethics!

As Congress prepares to sweep any lobbying reform under the rug, the WaPo details how the lobbyists are preparing to show a lower profile, without diminishing their efforts or monies spent.
Some of Washington's top lobbyists say that they expect to find ways around congressional efforts to impose new restrictions on lobbyists' dealings with lawmakers in the wake of the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal, and that any limits will barely put a dent in the billions of dollars spent to influence legislation.

Though Congress may ultimately vote to eliminate a few of the more visible trappings of special pleading, such as gifts, free meals and luxurious trips, lobbyists say they have already found scores of new ways to buy the attention of lawmakers through fundraising, charitable activities and industry-sponsored seminars. An estimated $10 billion is spent annually to influence legislation and regulations, and that spending is not likely to be diminished by the proposed lobbying changes, these lobbyists contend.
The money must get through. These people have an important mission and as Our Dear Embattled Leader has shown, laws are not for important people.

Pension reform that ignores the pensioner.

When Congress set out to reform pension law last year there was all manner of wonderful rhetoric about how the system needed improvement to protect the retirement ofthose who had worked diligently all their lives. And then Congress sprung into action. Now it looks like those corporate buttboys have actually managed to make things worse all around.
Then the political horse-trading began, with lawmakers, companies and lobbyists, representing everything from big Wall Street firms to tiny rural electric cooperatives, weighing in on the particulars of the Bush administration's blueprint.

In the end, lawmakers modified many of the proposed rules, allowing companies more time to cover pension shortfalls, to make more forgiving estimates about how much they will owe workers in the future, and even sometimes to assume that their workers will die younger than the rest of the population.

On top of those changes, companies also persuaded lawmakers to add dozens of specific measures, including a multibillion-dollar escape clause for the nation's airlines and a special exemption for the makers of Smithfield Farms hams.

As a result, the bill now being completed in a House-Senate conference committee, rather than strengthening the pension system, would actually weaken it, according to a little-noticed analysis by the government's pension agency. The agency's report projects that the House and Senate bills would lower corporate contributions to the already underfinanced pension system by $140 billion to $160 billion in the next three years.

That shortfall raises the specter of more pension plans failing, pushing their liabilities on to the government, according to the agency and critics of the bills. And some companies with fully financed pensions feel unfairly penalized by having to pay higher pension premiums to make up for others' shortfalls.
We elect these people time and again and then never pay any attention to what they do and this is what we get. But we can rest assured that their pensions are still sound and complete.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Three years and counting

The NY Times lead editorial reviews the three years of Our Dear Embattled Leaders Glorious Little War and finds much wanting in the Bushovik approach to reality.
The generals on the ground understood what a disaster they were creating in the pell-mell race to Baghdad, which left in its wake an entire country full of places where Saddam Hussein's loyalists could regroup and prepare to carry on a permanent war against the Americans and their fellow Iraqis. As the new book "Cobra II" by Michael Gordon of The Times and Bernard Trainor underscores, the generals in the field were overruled by directives from Washington, where military decisions were being made by men who were guided not by reality, but by their own beloved myths about what Iraq was like and how the war was going to be won.

Chances are that at the time George W. Bush did not have an inkling of how badly he was being served by the decision makers at the Pentagon. But the fact that Mr. Rumsfeld continues to hold his job tells us that Mr. Bush doesn't care, that he prefers living in the same dream world that his secretary of defense inhabits.....

.....While we are distracted by picking up the pieces, there is no time to imagine what the world might be like if George Bush had chosen to see things as they were instead of how he wanted them to be three years ago. History will have more time to consider the question.

George W. Bush hates the United States

And our Constitution, the foundation of this great country of ours. How else can you explain the concepts put forward in this latest report from US News & World Report.
In December, the New York Times disclosed the NSA's warrantless electronic surveillance program, resulting in an angry reaction from President Bush. It has not previously been disclosed, however, that administration lawyers had cited the same legal authority to justify warrantless physical searches. But in a little-noticed white paper submitted by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to Congress on January 19 justifying the legality of the NSA eavesdropping, Justice Department lawyers made a tacit case that President Bush also has the inherent authority to order such physical searches. In order to fulfill his duties as commander in chief, the 42-page white paper says, "a consistent understanding has developed that the president has inherent constitutional authority to conduct warrantless searches and surveillance within the United States for foreign intelligence purposes." The memo cites congressional testimony of Jamie Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, in 1994 stating that the Justice Department "believes, and the case law supports, that the president has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes."

"Black-bag jobs." Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse says the white paper cited the Gorelick testimony simply to bolster its legal defense of the NSA's electronic surveillance program. Roehrkasse points out that Justice Department lawyers have told Congress that the NSA program "described by the president does not involve physical searches." But John Martin, a former Justice Department attorney who prosecuted the two most important cases involving warrantless searches and surveillance, says the department is sending an unambiguous message to Congress. "They couldn't make it clearer," says Martin, "that they are also making the case for inherent presidential power to conduct warrantless physical searches."
The role models of governance for these people would appear to be the likes of Joe Stalin and Saddam Hussein. The Constitution and Rule of Law are indeed mere technicalities, to be dispensed with when they get in the way. And this from a man who claims to be a religious, God fearing man. A man who swore an oath upon the Bible to uphold the Constitution and has spent every day since trying to violate that oath and destroy the Constitution.

Russ Feingold is a good man, but censure is not enough for this S.O.B.

Corporation don't pay fines, only little people do.

Ever wonder who collects all those big fines imposed on corporate malefactors? As the AP reports, nobody does.
When a gasoline spill and fiery explosion killed three young people in Washington state, officials announced a record penalty against a gas pipeline company: $3 million to send the message that such tragedies "must never happen again."

When nuclear labs around the country were found exposing workers to radiation and breaking other safety rules, assessments totaling $2.5 million were quickly ordered.

When coal firms' violations were blamed for deaths, injuries and risks to miners from Alabama to West Virginia, they were slapped with more than $1.3 million in penalties.

What happened next with these no-nonsense enforcement efforts? Not much. The pipeline tab was eventually reduced by 92 percent, the labs' assessments were waived as soon as they were issued, and the mine penalties largely went unpaid.

The amount of unpaid federal fines has risen sharply in the last decade. Individuals and corporations regularly avoid large, highly publicized penalties for wrongdoing - sometimes through negotiations, sometimes because companies go bankrupt, sometimes due to officials' failure to keep close track of who owes what under a decentralized collection system.
Boy O boy, it's a good thing the government doesn't need the money.

No-fly list catches a terrist!

Well sort of. The 'terrist' in question has long since switched from the military solution to the political solution. In fact, he had just come from a St Pat's Day celebration at the White House.
Only hours after attending a St. Patrick's Day function at the White House, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams was detained by federal authorities Friday as he attempted to catch a flight to Buffalo where he was scheduled to make several public appearances.

Adams, a key player in the Irish peace process credited with leading the Irish Republican Army away from violence, was stopped when his name appeared on a terror watch list, said Rep. Brian Higgins.
You have got to love the way the Bushoviks treat their guests.

Democracy in action

In the United States no less! From the Boston Globe comes this story of Vermont town meeting democracy and the shameful response of the Kool-Aid drinkers.
The protest unfolded in a white meeting house on one of the prettiest town commons in Vermont. The debate at the Town Meeting was by all accounts unfailingly polite. And when the secret ballots were counted, residents of this tiny resort town had voted 121 to 29 to impeach President Bush....

.....Dan DeWalt, the Newfane selectman who proposed the vote on impeachment, said he had not anticipated the scale of the backlash when he decided to bring the debate to Town Meeting. To DeWalt, a ponytailed musician, woodworker, and teacher who displays a running tally of Iraq war deaths outside his home on a muddy hillside near the Rock River, the vote seemed like one more way to push back against a government he sees as dangerous.

''I'm constantly trying to think of what I can do because I just feel powerless," he said. ''Town meeting is this democratic thing, and it seemed like a real opportunity -- instead of me writing a letter, this would be the town speaking."....

.....He had no trouble placing the impeachment article on the Town Meeting agenda; of the first 82 people he asked to sign his petition, 78 agreed, he said. Distracted by another time-consuming project -- starting a free local newspaper -- DeWalt said he did little to get out the vote or campaign for his cause.

He did alert three other Vermont towns -- Marlboro, Putney, and Dummerston -- which adopted his idea and called for votes on impeachment at their town meetings. Voters in all three towns approved the measures. A fifth town, Brookfield, also voted for impeachment.

Heartened by the votes in neighboring towns, and even by the backlash, DeWalt said he is encouraging more Vermont towns to take impeachment votes.

In nearby Brattleboro, Town Meeting member Dora Bouboulis said she plans to call for a vote on impeachment at her town meeting next Saturday.

''If a month from now Rockingham votes, and then another town does, it will stay in the news and keep the pressure on," said DeWalt, who got irate phone calls from as far as Alabama and Los Angeles after the vote in Newfane.
And what was the reaction to this small piece of public spirit?
Angry calls and e-mails flooded Newfane, population 1,680, the next day. One critic sent a mock thank-you note, signed ''Usama Bin Ladin," that applauded the town for its help in ''bringing down" America. Some regular guests of the picturesque, 175-year-old Four Columns Inn notified its owners that they would never visit again.

''Shame on you," one caller said on the town clerk's voicemail. ''A little Socialist town like yourself is a disgrace to America."
No dear, Democracy in action is most surely not socialism. It is the foundation that this country was built upon.

Judge sets a date for Noe trial

In the Ohio CoinGate trial, the judge has set a date of Aug 29 for the beginning of the trial and has pencilled in 10 weeks for the trial. This should keep the story of Republican corruption in the public eye through most of the campaign season for this years elections.
Mr. Noe is accused of stealing and laundering more than $3 million and has been charged with 53 counts of theft, forgery, money laundering, tampering with records, and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a racketeering charge. He has pleaded not guilty and is free on $500,000 bond.

If convicted on all charges and he received the maximum penalty, Mr. Noe could face 172 years in prison.

But it is unlikely he would be sentenced to that lengthy of a term.

The racketeering charge, however, carries a mandatory 10-year prison term.

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation gave Mr. Noe $50 million to invest in rare coins. Auditors and the Ohio attorney general’s office have alleged that Mr. Noe began stealing it as soon as he gained control of the money in March, 1998.
This follows by about a month the federal trial for Tom Noe's campaign money laundering. So if all goes well, the good people of Ohio will spend the time from July to November hearing about illegal Republican campaign contributions and the thefts that allowed this Bush Pioneer to make them. Stay tuned for more details.

Our Dear Embattled Leader has a dream

And it has no basis in reality. ODEL has us committed to spending $3Billion, which we don't have thanks to corporate tax cuts, to stopping IEDs when the simplest and best solution is right before his eyes. Robert Scheer details Li'l Georgies illusions and makes this point.
The IEDs, mentioned a whopping 26 times in the president’s speech, have obviously come to replace that nonexistent WMD threat as the centerpiece of Bush’s Iraq policy. We will stop them, he says, by bumping anti-IED-related spending by a factor of 22, from $150 million in 2004 to $3.3 billion. “We’re putting the best minds in America to work on this effort,” Bush said.

Why not put a few of them to work on figuring how to extract the U.S. military from Iraq instead? After all, that is where all the IEDs happen to be exploding.

But, of course, this alternative, to stop making U.S. troops targets in the midst of a raging civil war in a Muslim country that the United States has no business occupying, was summarily dismissed by our president.

“[M]y decisions on troop levels will be made based upon the conditions on the ground and on the recommendations of our military commanders, not artificial timetables set by politicians here in Washington, D.C.,” he said.

Has the president never read our Constitution, which mandates civilian control over the military? Does he not grasp that he is himself a Washington politician? How can you effectively sell democracy to the world when you mock it so contemptuously at home?

You can’t. Not until the public and its representatives force this administration to change its disastrous course can we begin to restore international respect for the American political system that Bush has so masterfully subverted.
I do not want to see US troops killed and maimed by IEDs and the best way to stop it is to get them out of the middle of someone elses civil war.

Republican Homeland Security - add your own punchline

It has been said in many places already but it bears repeating. In the latest round of budget voting the Republican controlled Congress defeated the amendment of Rep Sabo D-MN. It included:
– $300 million to enable U.S. customs agents to inspect high-risk containers at all 140 overseas ports that ship directly to the United States. Current funding only allows U.S. customs agents to operate at 43 of these ports.

– $400 million to place radiation monitors at all U.S. ports of entry. Currently, less than half of U.S. ports have radiation monitors.

– $300 million to provide backup emergency communications equipment for the Gulf Coast.
After weatheing a storm of voter protest over the Dubai port deal and talking tough about port security, the Republicans show their true colors.

All talk and no walk.

MoDo has been snorting Ambien again

And the result is an exercise in Ambien induced sleep-writing. Out of it all, there is only one good line.
John Tierney is on vacation.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Jack is singing a pretty tune

And the prosecutors want to hear more. According to CNN, Federal prosecutors have requested and a federal judge has granted a delay in sentencing until June.
In January, Abramoff plead guilty to conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion charges, charges in Washington.

Federal investigators, citing Abramoff's cooperation, wanted to defer until at least June a status conference, initially set for next week, that could have led to Abramoff's sentencing.

The delay is "in order to allow Mr. Abramoff's cooperation to continue uninterrupted," according to a joint motion for a new status conference filed late Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle signed the order proposed by prosecutors in the Public Integrity and Fraud sections, along with Abramoff's defense counsel, Abbe Lowell.
Is this really sweet music? Or is it just a delay to slot the promotions of the more capable prosecutors away from this case?

Have these damned Bushoviks really made me that cynical?

Tom Toles today

The cost of the Glorious Georgie's Little War

From Newsweek online comes this look at the economic cost of the war in Iraq.
One thing is certain about the Iraq war: It has cost a lot more than advertised. In fact, the tab grows by at least $200 million each and every day.
$200 million, that's a lot of school funding, a lot of healthcare, in fact its a lot of pretty much anything in our lives. And that is only for one day.
Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and self-described opponent of the war, puts the final figure at a staggering $1 trillion to $2 trillion, including $500 billion for the war and occupation and up to $300 billion in future health care costs for wounded troops. Additional costs include a negative impact from the rising cost of oil and added interest on the national debt.
And it is all going on our tab. Halliburton isn't paying for it. Exxon isn't paying for it. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet aren't paying for it. You and I will because we didn't get all those tax cuts the Republicans passed. And when we die the next generation and the generation after that will still be paying for Glorious Georgies Little War. That is just one more cost of this war.

Judges rule against the EPA

In its attempts to emasculate the Clean Air Act, the EPA had been trying to allow major polluters avoid required and necessary upgrades in pollution control equipment. The ruling to day was infavor of the plaintiffs, including more than a dozen states and environmental groups.
Ruling in favor of a coalition of states and environmental advocacy groups, the court declared that the plain language of the act required a much stricter approach, as the Clinton administration had devised, and that only "a Humpty Dumpty" interpretation, as the court called the E.P.A.'s position, could construe the law otherwise.

"We decline such a world view," said the unanimous decision of a three-judge panel that included Judge Janice Rogers Brown, a conservative appointed last summer by President Bush.
Has anyone counted the dollars spent by the utilities and other polluters fighting this law? I wonder how that cost stacks up to the cost of compliance? Anyway, this is just one battle won in a long war.

Quote of the Day

"I really do believe this man will go down as the worst president this country has ever had."

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada speaking of Our Dear Embattled Leaders record.

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