Sunday, April 30, 2006

Steven Colbert at the White House Correspondents Dinner

Crooks and Liars has the video here

WARNING: Tie your ass on good and tight if you don't want to laugh it off!

Colin knocks Condi off her talking points.

He was Good Soldier Powell in the White House but now Colin is looking to clean up his reputation. As a result he gave an interview in London, critical of the war planning, that aired in time to be thrown at Condi during her Sunday appearences.
He said he advised Bush before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 to send more troops to Iraq, but that the administration did not follow his recommendation.

Rice, Bush's national security adviser during the run-up to the war, neither confirmed nor denied Powell's assertion. But she spent a good part of her appearances on three Sunday talk shows reaching into the past to defend the White House, which is trying to highlight the positive to a public increasingly skeptical in this election year of the president's conduct of the war and concerned about the large U.S. military presence.

"I don't remember specifically what Secretary Powell may be referring to, but I'm quite certain that there were lots of discussions about how best to fulfill the mission that we went into Iraq," Rice said.

"And I have no doubt that all of this was taken into consideration. But that when it came down to it, the president listens to his military advisers who were to execute the plan," she told CNN's "Late Edition."
And in grand Bushovik fashion, the Wicked Bitch of the West tries to put the blame on the military. You gotta love the way them Bushoviks love up the troops every chance they get.

Can you say "Grounds for Impeachment"?

The Boston Globe has a long and detailed story about Our Dear Embattled Leader and his "signing statements". You know, thoses little things he uses to state that he is NOT bound by laws that Congress has passed, and that he swore under oath to faithfully execute.
President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ''whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.

Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty ''to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to ''execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional.
750 of them. And each one is another section in ODEL's very own Enabling Act. But, at least he is not getting a blowjob on company time.

Talk about playing the coquette.

The NY Times has an article about 'moderate' GOP congressmoops and their method of choice for hustling the lobbyists. In essence they dress their pig in something less whorish.
For $5,000, a lobbyist can join lawmakers and staff members of the alliance, the Republican Main Street Partnership, for a lunchtime policy briefing by an outside expert. For $15,000, the lobbyist can attend four lunches, two of them with briefings by an outside expert and two with briefings from members of Congress.

And for $25,000, the lobbyist can have three lunch briefings with lawmakers, not to mention V.I.P. seating for eight at a black-tie dinner for the moderates' coalition....

.....Until last year, the partnership's corporate fund-raising appeal also included an "annual trip with members" and an "annual trip with staff" for donors who gave $25,000 or more. The group canceled those events in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal,
Business as usual you might say were it not for some of the members of this group.
Offering special access to lawmakers in exchange for financial contributions is hardly uncommon on Capitol Hill, and the Main Street Partnership is well within the law in seeking such donations. But under the reforms the group helped pass four years ago, soliciting corporate or unrestricted individual contributions is illegal for political candidates or the national political parties.

The partnership can seek unlimited and undisclosed corporate donations because it is organized as a nonprofit advocacy group. Other groups of that type, like People for the American Way or the National Rifle Association, can do the same thing, but the partnership is a rare example of one that is dominated by elected officials and operates outside campaign finance rules to promote its agenda.

Its fund-raising tactics are especially notable because the group includes Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and Representative Christopher Shays, Republican of Connecticut, two lawmakers who have led the calls to tighten lobbying and campaign finance rules.
Now that they have checked the pulse of the home district and found little flak from Casino Jack, it is back to the good old days with a little more discretion for now.

Did you ever wonder why?

Why does the hugely rich and relativly tax free base of support for Our Dear Embattled Leader want to eliminate the Estate Tax? The Cleveland Plain-Dealer has an explanation that is easy to understand.
Eighteen of America's wealthiest families, including the Timkens of Canton, are bankrolling efforts to permanently repeal estate taxes that would save their families a total of $71.6 billion, according to a report released Tuesday by public interest groups.

Groups funded by the super-rich have engaged in a deceptive campaign to convince the public that estate taxes cause widespread problems for small businesses and family farms when they actually affect about one in 370 estates, said the report released by Public Citizen and Boston-based United for a Fair Economy.

This year, all assets under $2 million for individuals and under $4 million for couples are exempt from estate taxes. Current tax law will boost those exemptions to $3.5 million and $7 million in 2009, eliminate the estate tax in 2010,
The loss of $71.6 Billion from the revenue stream would have to be made up by those folks who don't have quite so much money. That would be you and me. And just in case you might be suckered by the arguments of Grover Norquisling and others of his ilk, no, they would not be poor after they paid their fair share of taxes. The kids might end up broke after they spend all their windfall on fast cars, loose women and whiskey, but that is their problem, no ours.

Tom Toles today

Grasping at straws

The Washington Post reports on the almost comic sense of relief felt by Republicans in Congress at the "new faces" in the White House staff.
The recent White House staff shake-up has bought President Bush a measure of peace with his disgruntled Republican allies on Capitol Hill, who see the new lineup as belated evidence that the president is finally determined to gain political traction before the November elections. But they fear those ambitions may be frustrated by public unease over Iraq and party divisions over spending and immigration.

Republican lawmakers regard the arrivals of new White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten, budget director-designate Rob Portman and incoming press secretary Tony Snow as more than superficial job shuffling. They interpret the changes as a sign of Bush's desire to improve tattered relations with Congress and the media -- key steps that could aid in revitalizing his presidency.
To read the quoted statements of their pitiful hope that the leopard will change his spots is rather poingant and sad. Despite all the time off Congress has taken this year they still haven't heard what the rest of the country says of these "new faces". Same shit, different day.

Frank Rich is back

And he is in fine form, carefully slicing and diceing the Potemkin preznidency of Our Dear Embattled Leader.
LIKE the hand that suddenly pops out of the grave at the end of "Carrie," the past keeps coming back to haunt the Bush White House. Last week was no exception. No sooner did the Great Decider introduce the Fox News showman anointed to repackage the same old bad decisions than the spotlight shifted back to Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury room, where Karl Rove testified for a fifth time. Nightfall brought the release of an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll with its record-low numbers for a lame-duck president with a thousand days to go and no way out.

The demons that keep rising up from the past to grab Mr. Bush are the fictional W.M.D. he wielded to take us into Iraq. They stalk him as relentlessly as Banquo's ghost did Macbeth. From that original sin, all else flows. Mr. Rove wouldn't be in jeopardy if the White House hadn't hatched a clumsy plot to cover up its fictions. Mr. Bush's poll numbers wouldn't be in the toilet if American blood was not being spilled daily because of his fictions. By recruiting a practiced Fox News performer to better spin this history, the White House reveals that it has learned nothing. Made-for-TV propaganda propelled the Bush presidency into its quagmire in the first place. At this late date only the truth, the whole and nothing but, can set it free.

All too fittingly, Tony Snow's appointment was announced just before May Day, a red-letter day twice over in the history of the Iraq war. It was on May 1 three years ago that Mr. Bush did his victory jig on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln. It was May 1 last year that The Sunday Times of London published the so-called Downing Street memo. These events bracket all that has gone wrong and will keep going wrong for this president until he comes clean.
Go read the rest of his long awaited return.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

An AP news story with facts!

And they got them right, too! Someone on the AP staff allowed a story describing the differences between various Middle East groups so often described simply as "terrists" by the Bushoviks. AND in clear and straight forward terms, the reporter Alfred de Montesquiou, details how this inability to differentiate is one of the core failures of Our Dear Embattled Leader and his Middle East "policy".
Scholars of Islamic movements and some Western policy-makers, however, say distinctions now must be made between hard-line Islamist organizations and "holy warrior" groups such as Osama bin Laden's terror network.

"There is a fundamental difference between Islamic groups: Most are sociopolitical reformists, others are religious extremists," said Dia'a Rashwan, an Egyptian expert on radical groups.

Hamas and Hezbollah, for example, have national agendas, he said. They want to reorganize society according to Sharia, or Islamic law.

Extremist religious movements such as al-Qaida are international revolutionaries who excoriate not only non-Muslims but also Muslims who fail to follow their views. Theirs is a holy war to spread their views among Muslims and to repel any "infidel invasion" of Islamic lands.

"Branding these two branches of radicalism the same way, as terrorist organizations, reflects a complete misunderstanding of the issue," he said.

Rashwan said the confusion was a "fatal mistake" of the Bush administration in its war on terror.

He said that to fight an enemy, one had to define it correctly: "America doesn't, and this is why it is losing the war on terrorism."
Napoleon said it more simply, "Know your enemy". And that knowledge has been key to great leaders throughout history. And it also tells us all we need to know about why ODEL is a miserable failure in his Great War on Terra.

As always, if you want to know what is really going on over there, read Juan Cole.

From Mike Luckovich

And the moon is made of green cheese.

From the NY Times:
A long-running effort by the Bush administration to send home many of the terror suspects held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has been stymied in part because of concern among United States officials that the prisoners may not be treated humanely by their own governments, officials said.
Res ipsa loquitur

Were you one of the 3501 lucky ones?

The Friday afternoon news dump dropped this little goody on the unsuspecting public. The FBI on behalf of Our Dear Embattled Leader investigated 3,501 people without court approval.
The FBI delivered a total of 9,254 NSLs relating to 3,501 people in 2005, according to a report submitted late Friday to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate. In some cases, the bureau demanded information about one person from several companies.

The numbers from previous years remain classified, officials said.

The department also reported it received a secret court's approval for 155 warrants to examine business records last year under a Patriot Act provision that includes library records. However, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has said the department has never used the provision to ask for library records.

The number was a significant jump over past use of the warrant for business records. A year ago, Gonzales told Congress there had been 35 warrants approved between November 2003 and April 2005.

The spike is expected to be temporary, however, because the Patriot Act renewal that President Bush signed in March made it easier for authorities to obtain subscriber information on telephone numbers captured through certain wiretaps.
It is comforting to know that Attorney General Alberto "Our Protector" Gonzales won't have to wspend so much time with pesky warrants.

If you are not familiar with an NSL, here is a good definition.
National Security Letter, which allows the executive branch of government to obtain records about people in terrorism and espionage investigations without a judge's approval or a grand jury subpoena.
The only thing missing is who approves them and how easy they are to get. According to an earlier WaPo article, they are "Issued by FBI field supervisors, national security letters do not need the imprimatur of a prosecutor, grand jury or judge. They receive no review after the fact by the Justice Department or Congress."

Feeling safer yet?

And todays smoke and mirrors "issue" is....

The National Anthem. Having failed at Homeland Security, his Glorious Little War in Iraq and every other foreign policy issue, the Economy and gas prices, Our Dear Embattled Leader wants you to turn your attention to the burning issue of what language people use to sing the anthem. ODEL thinks it should only be sung in English, a language he is increasingly unfamiliar and uncomfortable using himself.

And so the "Great Uniter" will once again divide our country along the lines of who is still drinking the Kool-Aid and who has come to their senses.

Fat Denny Hastert has problems

Not the least of which is the obvious fact that he is the House equivalent of Sen. "Billy the Cat Killer" Frist. The Chicago Tribune details his problems, but does not note the true cause. Without Toxic Tommy Delay buying their allegience with Casino Jack's money, the House Republicans are a fractious lot.
He tried to pressure oil company executives into bringing down gas prices, looking them "eyeball to eyeball" as he made his pitch. And he tried to protect the GOP majority from criticism by pushing for strict lobbying and ethics reforms.

But gas prices spiked and Republicans balked, leaving House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) struggling to lead a diverse and increasingly restive majority. On one front after another, the speaker finds himself either flummoxed or at odds with members of his Republican conference....

.....In some ways, Hastert may be nostalgic for the days when Democrats accused his party of marching in lockstep.

"We've always been able to pull together and that's what we need to do," Hastert said. "That's what teamwork is all about and that's what we intend to do. We've always been able to work through our problems."
Teamwork? No Denny, that's what Casino Jack was all about. In the Republican caucus money talks or the weasels walk.

MoDo has a few choice words for Rummy

And the title of her column today, Say Uncle, Rummy, is a very good place to start.
Even some State Department officials thought it was like watching a cranky, eccentric uncle with an efficient, energetic niece.

Rummy was ordered to go to Iraq by the president, but he clearly has no stomach for nation-building, or letting Condi run the show. He seemed under the weather after a rough overnight ride on a C-17 transport plane from Washington into Baghdad. And Condi's aides were rolling their eyes at the less than respectful way the DefSec treated the SecState as she tried to be enthusiastic, in her cheerful automaton way, about what she considers the latest last chance for Iraq.

A reporter in Baghdad asked Rummy about the kerfuffle when Condi talked of "thousands" of tactical errors in Iraq. Rummy later noted that "I don't know what she was talking about, to be perfectly honest" and that anyone who said that had "a lack of understanding" about warfare. She's just a silly girl, after all.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Nothing says loving like a collection agency.

And the Republicans show their love for our troops in a most creative way.
His injuries forced him out of the military, and the Army demanded he repay an enlistment bonus of $2,700 because he'd only served two-thirds of his three-year tour.

When he couldn't pay, Johnson's account was turned over to bill collectors. He ended up living out of his car when the Army reported him to credit agencies as having bad debts, making it impossible for him to rent an apartment.

"Oh, man, I felt betrayed," Johnson said. "I felt like, oh, my heart dropped."

Payroll Errors, Says Military

And there are many more like Johnson. Staff Sgt. Ryan Kelly lost his leg in a roadside bomb attack in Iraq.

He didn't realize it, but the Army continued to mistakenly pay him combat bonus pay, about $2,000, while he was in the hospital rehabilitating, and then demanded that he pay it back.
And the Armys response?
"By law, he's not entitled to the money, so he must pay it back," said Col. Richard Shrank, the commander of the United States Army Finance Command.
God Bless you Col. Beancounter for protecting us from one legged deadbeats

Feeling safer yet?

In another burst of budget delight, the Defense Security Service has halted processing security clearances for the many contractors that it uses for much of its intelligence work. As many as 3000 positions will go unfilled because the Pentagon can't afford the investigations.
The demand for security clearances among private companies has grown dramatically since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as the government increasingly relies on contractors to do intelligence gathering and work on classified programs. There has been growing frustration with the wait time, which some companies have described as up to a year, to obtain clearances for new employees. Some firms have reverted to gimmicks and large bonuses to attract employees with pre-existing clearances, and industry officials worry that this week's action will increase competition and salary demands.

The move affects not only defense contractors, but also those who work on projects for more than 20 other agencies, including NASA and the Department of Homeland Security.....

....The Defense Security Service blames, in part, the sheer volume of requests. Between October and March, more than 100,000 security-clearance applications were submitted.

The service is also struggling with a budget shortfall, McGovern said, noting that its funding was cut by $20 million this year. McGovern said she did not know how much of a shortfall the agency faces.
But they still have money for the Osprey project.

So we have lots more contractors because of the Republican driven privatization of government but we can't afford to give them security clearences because of the Republican budget cutting. Feeling safer yet?

Prosecutors widen investigation into Bob Ney

According to the Washington Post, Bob Ney could be in for bigger trouble than a simple bribery charge.
Federal prosecutors signaled this week that they have decided to pursue a wide range of allegations about dealings between Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) and lobbyist Jack Abramoff, rather than bringing a narrowly focused bribery case against the congressman....

....Ney has been under investigation by federal authorities in Florida and the District for actions that helped Abramoff and two partners buy a Fort Lauderdale-based casino cruise line. The deal that Ney promoted in the Congressional Record hinged on the Abramoff group's creation of a counterfeit $23 million wire transfer....

....Ney was involved with Abramoff and his lobbying team on other issues under federal investigation. In 2002, Ney sponsored legislation at the team's request to reopen a casino for a Texas Indian tribe that Abramoff represented, and approved a 2002 license for an Abramoff client to wire the House of Representatives for mobile phone service.

At the same time, Ney accepted many favors from Abramoff, among them campaign contributions, dinners at the lobbyist's downtown restaurant, skybox fundraisers including one at his then-MCI Center box the month after Boulis's murder, and a lavish golf junket to Scotland in August 2002.

Ney was directly implicated by three of the four who have recently pleaded guilty to conspiracy and bribery charges: Abramoff, Scanlon and Rudy. Kidan's attorney said his client also would testify against Ney if asked.
All this leads up to the good news in the article. As this is the Washington Post, it is all the way to the end of the article.
Democrats acknowledge privately that the only way they can win in this Republican-leaning district, which President Bush carried with 57 percent in 2004, is for the election to be a referendum on Ney. He has vowed to remain in the race even if he is indicted.
Thanks Bob.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

From Mike Luckovich

GOP sheds crocodile tears for people at the pump.

On a day when Exxon-Mobil has reported Net Income of $8,400,000,000.00 over the first three months of this year, the Republican ontrolled Senate is offering lollipops to the American public to shut us up and get us to think nice about them.
Besides a $100-per-family rebate, the Republican senators' package calls for giving the administration new authority to raise fuel-efficiency standards; spending $1.1 billion on alternative-fuels research and $1.8 billion on hybrid-vehicle research; opening part of the wildlife refuge for drilling, and subjecting oil companies to tougher scrutiny.
If this joke passes, you will get $100, maybe enough to drive for one month. The two proposed research programs will never be fully funded and what funds are appropriated will be directed to stooge science and campaign contributors. They will push very, very hard for ANWR drilling and the "tougher scrutiny" won't fool a three year old.

You can also expect lots of confusing chatter tosucker you into supporting this farce and blame the Democrats for standing up for your interests. And if you don't believe me, consider this.
However, the Republican senate leader opposed suggestions from some Democrats for a windfall profits tax on oil.
Corporations, Frist, last and always.

Bob Herbert reminds us of a very unpleasant fact

In his column today, he makes very clear that in spite of all his dreadful failures, we are stuck with Our Dear Embattled Leader for a couple of years yet.
If George W. Bush could have been removed from office for being a bad president, he would have been sent back to his ranch a long time ago.

If incompetence were a criminal offense, he'd be behind bars.

But that's just daydreaming. The reality is that there are more than two and a half years left in the long dark night of the Bush presidency — nearly as long as the entire time John Kennedy was in office.
Very frightening indeed, to imagine that ODEL could drag our country into bigger and bigger disasters than the ones we are now living with.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Don't forget to watch your Olbermann

8:00 on MSNBC.

You just might get to see something good, like this.

TurdBlossom has another round of Fitz.

Everybodies favorite Mayberry Machiavelli paid another call on the grand jury at the invitation of Patrick Fitzgerald. With his keen photographic memory he was probably able to avoid the perils of perjury, but what if the Cheney people had left a few hidden mines in their contributions to the investigation? But this is all speculation. What the NY Times reports is this:
It was not immediately clear what questions Mr. Rove had to address. Over the last few months, the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, has sought to establish whether a Time magazine reporter, Viveca Novak, played a role in alerting Mr. Rove, through his lawyer, about his possible involvement in the investigation after it had already begun.

In his initial testimony to the grand jury, in Feb. 2004, Mr. Rove failed to disclose that he had ever discussed the issue of Valerie Wilson, a C.I.A. operative, with any reporters. Mr. Rove came forward months later to change his story, acknowledging that he had a phone conversation with Matt Cooper of Time Magazine in the summer of 2003 that eventually turned to the subject of Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, Ms. Wilson's husband.

Mr. Rove said he had forgotten the call, one of hundreds he participates in each day. Lawyers for Mr. Rove say he will be exonerated in the case, in part because he volunteered details of his conversation with Mr. Cooper.

Since then, however, another Time magazine reporter, Ms. Novak, has said that she told Mr. Rove's lawyer, in several conversations in early 2004, that she believed his client had been a source for Mr. Cooper.
As usual, you will have to stay tuned for the ending of this suspense thriller.

MoDo looks behind the Preznits words

And as with all his earlier "Potemkin" pronouncements, she finds nothing. As anyone who has followed the multi failured career of Our Dear Embattled Leader already knows, what he says is just smoke and mirrors to deceive the public.
The only oil baron who isn't cashing in these days is Saddam. We pulled up to the pump in Baghdad and plunked down $10 billion a month, and we're still not getting any gas out of it. Instead of easing our oil dependence and paying for Iraq's reconstruction, the bungled invasion and subsequent nuclear sparring with Iran have left even Republicans looking for Priuses.

The last time W. began wringing his hands about our addiction to oil — in the State of the Union address — the vice president was dismissive about the notion of sacrifice afterward. And the energy secretary clarified the president's words, saying they shouldn't be taken literally and that the idea of replacing Middle East oil imports with alternative fuels was "purely an example."

Even if W. shows up on TV in a gray cardigan, it's patently preposterous for the Republicans to make this argument, after selling us on the idea that it's our manifest destiny to get into giant cars and go to giant Wal-Marts and giant Targets and buy more giant bags of stuff. Now they're telling us to squeeze into tiny electric cars and compete for precious drips of oil with the Chinese and Indians who are swimming in enough of our dollars to afford cars.

The U.S. could have begun developing alternative fuels 30 years ago if Dick Cheney hadn't helped scuttle an ambitious plan in the Ford administration.
So Big Dick Cheney has been the Big Oil mole for 30 years. What a proud record.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Nancy Pelosi tells it like it is!

Thanks to Atrios for this link to Rep. Nancy Pelosi's remarks on the Golden Boy's pious remarks about the oil squeeze.

Listen and enjoy here.

Our Dear Embattled Leader is a CEO Preznit

As reported in the Washington Post.
Though McCarthy acknowledged having contact with reporters, a senior intelligence official confirmed yesterday that she is not believed to have played a central role in The Post's reporting on the secret prisons. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing personnel matters.

McCarthy, 61, who earlier held senior posts at the White House and the National Intelligence Council (NIC), has declined requests for comment. But Cobb said she was "devastated" that her government career of more than two decades will "forever be linked with misinformation about the reasons for her termination," and he said that her firing 10 days before she was to retire was "certainly not for the reasons attributed to the agency." His comments constituted the first statement from her camp since her firing became public last week.
However, just like any good corporate leader he fires the old folks just before they retire and saves on paying retirement benefits and, thanks to the smear, possibly the pension too.

Didn't you just know that MBA would come in handy.

Our Dear Embattled Leader has gas pains

Gas pains so serious that he is calling for the repeal of of one of his favorite tax breaks for the oil industry.
Bush, in his speech, urged Congress to revoke about $2 billion in tax breaks over 10 years that Congress approved and he signed into law to encourage exploration. "Taxpayers don't need to be paying for certain of these expenses on behalf of the energy companies," Bush said. [Not now, but perhaps later when they are not looking.-Ed.]

He also urged lawmakers to expand tax breaks for the purchase of fuel-efficient hybrid automobiles.
Geez Loiuse! He's sounding more like a Democrat every day. If you don't believe me, check this out.
During the last few days, Bush asked his Energy and Justice departments to open inquiries into whether the price of gasoline has been illegally manipulated....

.....The administration sent letters Tuesday to state attorneys general urging them to vigorously enforce state law "against any anticompetitive, anticonsumer conduct in the petroleum industry."
Still, this really is just another "Potemkin program" for ODEL and his minions. And to let the industry in on the game, he "ordered a temporary suspension of environmental rules for gasoline". Having been suspended, you can probably forget about the rules being reinstated until 2008.

Monday, April 24, 2006

CNN has 32%, Do I hear 31?

This latest poll by CNN shows the numbers just keep getting worse. Even the hard core Kool-Aid drinkers are starting to spit it out.
In the telephone poll of 1,012 adult Americans carried out Friday through Sunday by Opinion Research Corporation for CNN, 32 percent of respondents said they approve of Bush's performance, 60 percent said they disapprove and 8 percent said they do not know.

That's a significant drop from the way Americans perceived the president a year ago....

.....It was one of four conducted within the past 10 days that have yielded similar results: a Pew Center poll carried out April 7-16 gave Bush a 35 percent approval rating; a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll carried out last Tuesday and Wednesday gave him a 33 percent approval rating; and an American Research Group poll carried out Tuesday through Friday gave him a 34 percent approval rating.

Asked whether the term "strong and decisive leader" describes Bush, 46 percent said yes, down from 62 percent who said they felt that way in a CNN/USA Today/Gallup survey carried out July 22-24, 2005.

Asked whether "honest and trustworthy" describes the president, 40 percent said yes, down from 56 percent in a survey carried out April 1-2 last year.

Americans were evenly split on whether Bush is "competent," with 47 percent saying yes, 47 percent saying no and 6 percent expressing no opinion.
The deck of the Titanic just keeps tilting more and more.

Quote of the Day

''The most dangerous defeatists, the most dispiriting pessimists, are those who invoke September 11th to argue that our traditional values are a luxury we can no longer afford.''
John Kerry D-MA

The economic time bomb keeps on ticking, for now.

Paul Krugman has some thoughts on the state of the US economy and they aren't pretty.
Here's the puzzle: the trade deficit means that America is living beyond its means, spending far more than it earns. (In 2005, the United States exported only 53 cents' worth of goods for every dollar it spent on imports.) To pay for the excess of imports over exports, the United States has to sell stocks, bonds and businesses to foreigners. In fact, we've borrowed more than $3 trillion just since 1999.

By rights, then, the investment income — interest payments, stock dividends and so on — that Americans pay to foreigners should be a lot larger than the investment income foreigners pay to Americans. But according to official statistics, the United States still has a slightly positive balance on investment income.

How is this possible? The answer, almost certainly, is that there's something wrong with the numbers. (Laypeople tend to treat official statistics as gospel; professional economists know that putting these numbers together involves a lot of educated guesswork — and sometimes the guesses are wrong.) But depending on exactly what's wrong, the U.S. economy either has hidden strengths, or it's in even worse shape than it seems.
It's scary to think that what happened to the Nasdaq in the last recession could happen to the entire country someday soon.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Quote of the Day

"Republicans have cut and run when it comes to rebuilding the Gulf Coast, and we will not do that"
Howard Dean, Democratic Party Chairman

In praise of Mary McCarthy

Robert David Steele Vivas, CEO of OSS.Net and former spook speaks out in defense of Mary McCarthy. There is much more here than meets the eye.
"I know Mary McCarthy personally, and I have a deep understanding of the pathologies extant within the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the new layer of bureaucracy created by the DNI at a cost to the taxpayer of close to $1 billion a year.

"There is absolutely no question that Mary acted in the finest traditions of the Republic, helping reveal and reduce terrible violations of international law and human rights by the CIA. I have been through this once before. Director Negroponte and I are two of the unindicted participants in the high crimes and misdemeanors that characterized the Ollie North-Alan Fiers era of misadventures in direct violation of the law of the land, misadventures that included the mining of the Nicaraguan harbors.

"America has lost sight of the fundamentals. If the DNI and DCI were more astute and more willing to engage with those who actually know how to reform intelligence, we would be committing fewer crimes against humanity and catching more terrorists. We would also be educating the President, overcoming his largely deficient education, by presenting the real world in compelling terms demanding sensible strategy and sustained attention.

"Mary McCarthy should accept her firing with pride -- she served the Republic, and has been fired by individuals who will eventually be censured if not impeached. America owes her a vote of thanks. She certainly has my respect."

Double, double, who's got trouble

Washington DC is a place where no one has a single standard. Sometimes this can become very confusing. If you have trouble understanding which standard is being applied in some of todays more prominent situations, I suggest you check out this post from Juan Cole. It should help clear up your current confusion.
It IS all right for Bush campaign strategist Karl Rove to leak classified intelligence about the identity of Valerie Plame as an undercover CIA operative.

It is NOT all right for CIA employee Mary McCarthy to leak classified information and blow the whistle on secret torture prisons maintained by the US government in Eastern Europe. (There is disagreement on who the criminals are here, however.)

Want the straight skinny?

Do you need to know the next great 24-7 news story before Rita Cosby and Wolf Blitzer? You can find it here and see how they do it.

Zbigniew Brzezinski speaks to the reality based community

And he gives four most excellent reasons for the US to not attack Iran.
But there are four compelling reasons against a preventive air attack on Iranian nuclear facilities:

First, in the absence of an imminent threat (and the Iranians are at least several years away from having a nuclear arsenal), the attack would be a unilateral act of war. If undertaken without a formal congressional declaration of war, an attack would be unconstitutional and merit the impeachment of the president. Similarly, if undertaken without the sanction of the United Nations Security Council, either alone by the United States or in complicity with Israel, it would stamp the perpetrator(s) as an international outlaw(s).

Second, likely Iranian reactions would significantly compound ongoing U.S. difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan, perhaps precipitate new violence by Hezbollah in Lebanon and possibly elsewhere, and in all probability bog down the United States in regional violence for a decade or more. Iran is a country of about 70 million people, and a conflict with it would make the misadventure in Iraq look trivial.

Third, oil prices would climb steeply, especially if the Iranians were to cut their production or seek to disrupt the flow of oil from the nearby Saudi oil fields. The world economy would be severely affected, and the United States would be blamed for it. Note that oil prices have already shot above $70 per barrel, in part because of fears of a U.S.-Iran clash.

Finally, the United States, in the wake of the attack, would become an even more likely target of terrorism while reinforcing global suspicions that U.S. support for Israel is in itself a major cause of the rise of Islamic terrorism. The United States would become more isolated and thus more vulnerable while prospects for an eventual regional accommodation between Israel and its neighbors would be ever more remote.

In short, an attack on Iran would be an act of political folly, setting in motion a progressive upheaval in world affairs. With the U.S. increasingly the object of widespread hostility, the era of American preponderance could even come to a premature end. Although the United States is clearly dominant in the world at the moment, it has neither the power nor the domestic inclination to impose and then to sustain its will in the face of protracted and costly resistance. That certainly is the lesson taught by its experiences in Vietnam and Iraq.
For anyone who thinks that these realities would have any effect on Our Dear Embattled Leader or The Shooter or Rummy, I still have shares available for sale in my Lunar Cheese Mining Co.

Even Utah thinks this is a scandal

The Salt Lake Tibune has taken notice of the 'little' phone jamming scandal in New Hampshire. And they get the details right, down to Little Miss Mehlmans involvment.
Tom DeLay isn't involved in every Republican scandal, although it's easy to see how you could get that idea.
As Democrats prowl through evidence in a growing phone-jamming scandal in New Hampshire, what should pop up but DeLay's Americans for a Republican Majority political action committee.
Just as Republican operatives in 2002 were shelling out about $15,000 to attempt to tie up Election Day phone lines at some Democratic get-out-the-vote call centers in the Granite State, three groups - let's call them "Friends of Jack Abramoff" - were ponying up $5,000 each to the New Hampshire Republican State Committee.
In addition to DeLay's ARM, the generous givers were two casino-fueled tribes, California's Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. (The tribal contributions were first reported in The Union Leader, a New Hampshire newspaper, and the ARM contribution was added in a New York Times piece.)
Were the contributions happenstance? That's certainly possible.
This is another juicy GOP scandal. It has some major players in Jack, Tom and Miss Kenny. And it should blossom nicely over the next six months. Don't forget to tell your friends.

LA Times says Dick "The Shooter" Cheney must go

In its editorial today the LA Times calls for the 'retirement' of the Vice Dear Leader. The editorial seems to think there is some value to be had in the remaining months of Our Dear Embattled Leaders reign. Despite this, they are right on target when they call for the head of Dick Cheney.
IF PRESIDENT BUSH HOPES the "shake-up" of his administration initiated last week will re-energize his listless presidency, he's bound to be disappointed. A far more audacious makeover is needed — one that sends Vice President Dick Cheney into early retirement.
This should be the first of many retirements from this mob.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Whistleblower or convenient target?

The NY Times has a biographical piece of the fired CIA analyst who stands accused of leaking details of Americas shame to the Washington Post.
On Thursday, the C.I.A. fired Ms. McCarthy, 61, accusing her of leaking information to reporters about overseas prisons operated by the agency in the years since the Sept. 11 attacks. But despite Ms. McCarthy's independent streak, some colleagues who worked with her at the White House and other offices during her intelligence career say they cannot imagine Ms. McCarthy as a leaker of classified information.

As a senior National Security Council aide for intelligence from 1996 to 2001, she was responsible for guarding some of the nations most sensitive secrets.

"We're talking about a person with great integrity who played by the book and, as far as I know, never deviated from the rules," said Steven Simon, a National Security Council aide in the Clinton administration who worked closely with Ms. McCarthy.
The article goes on to describe many possibilities without reaching any conclusions. What is clear is that Mary McCarthy was in the service of her country whatever her actions were.

But you already knew this

Even if you were desperately wishing and hoping it was not true. The Sydney Morning Herald has the story.
Tyler Drumheller, who headed CIA covert operations in Europe during the run-up to the Iraq war, said intelligence opposing administration claims of a WMD threat came from a top Iraqi official who provided the US spy agency with other credible information.

The source "told us that there were no active weapons of mass destruction programs," Drumheller said in a CBS interview to be aired on Sunday on the US network's 60 Minutes.

"The (White House) group that was dealing with preparation for the Iraq war came back and said they were no longer interested," he was quoted as saying in interview excerpts released by CBS on Friday.

"We said: 'Well, what about the intel?' And they said: 'Well, this isn't about intel anymore. This is about regime change'," added Drumheller, whose CIA operation was assigned the task of debriefing the Iraqi official.....

.....CBS said the CIA's intelligence source was former Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri and that former CIA Director George Tenet delivered the information personally to US President George W Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other top White House officials in September 2002. They rebuffed the CIA three days later.

"The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy," the former CIA agent told CBS.
Reading things like this make it very difficult to belive that 33% of the people still think Our Dear Embattled Leader is doing a good job. But if these folks have any money, perhaps they would like to invest in my Lunar Cheese Mining Co.

Bushoviks throw stone at two birds

Expect to hit one but will most likely miss the other one. From the AP:
Republican congressional leaders made plans Friday to ask President Bush to order investigations into possible price gouging by oil companies as crude oil prices hit new highs on world markets and average gasoline prices in the nation's capital blew through the $3-a-gallon mark.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., are preparing to send a letter to the president Monday asking him to direct the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department to investigate price gouging and instruct the Environmental Protection Agency to issue waivers that might make it easier for oil refiners to produce adequate gasoline supplies, Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean said.

Hastert and Frist's letter comes amid charges by some consumer groups and Democrats that oil companies have manipulated refineries and oil inventories to drive up prices. Hastert also took aim at the rich pay package for Exxon Mobil Corp.'s retired chief executive, which he called "unconscionable."
Despite the requisite obfuscatory remarks about Exxon's hog jowled ex CEO, Lee Raymond, I hope that my dear readers can tell which aspect of this GOP call to action will succeed.

Quote of the Day

"By the same token, our assessment at the moment is that even though we believe that Iran is determined to acquire or obtain a nuclear weapon, that we believe that it is still a number of years off before they are likely to have enough fissile material to assemble into, or to put into a nuclear weapon; perhaps into the next decade"
US intelligence chief John Negroponte on the state of Irans nuclear development.

Dick Meyer decides about Our Dear Embattled Leader

Mr. Meyer of CBS News puts forth his thoughts about ODEL and whether he is really running the show. And after thinking it all through he comes to this conclusion:
I think he's The Decider. I don't think it matters what job, title or office Karl Rove has, because the president will always listen to him and have a relationship with him and then "decide what’s best." There’s no point in reading tea leaves about Rove and Rumsfeld, because this president is not going to alter his administration, his outlook or his policies in ways that will matter for the country.

But since I think President Bush is The Decider, I think he is responsible for what happens on his watch. A war and many, many horrible deaths. Ignoring Darfur. Ignoring deficits and finances that will put insane tax burdens on our children. Ignoring the environment. Intentionally increasing the gap between rich and poor in our country. Not catching Osama bin Laden.

I don’t think The Decider-in-Chief takes responsibility for tough things in a grown-up, manly way that sets a good example.

And that's not really fair either. You can’t be "The Decider" just for the good stuff.
We post, you decide.

A Who's Who of corruption

The Christian Science Monitor has an excellent summary of various investigations into corruption surrounding various Iraq reconstruction efforts. Sadly missing from this roundup is one of the most prominent players in Iraq, Our Dear Embattled Leaders good and loyal friends at Halliburton.

What is sauce for the goose...

As we all know is just as tasty on the gander. And the Washington Post reveals that this culinary fact could become a central part of the stinky AIPAC mess currently before the courts.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice leaked national defense information to a pro-Israel lobbyist in the same manner that landed a lower-level Pentagon official a 12-year prison sentence, the lobbyist's lawyer said Friday.

Prosecutors disputed the claim.

The allegations against Rice came as a federal judge granted a defense request to issue subpoenas sought by the defense for Rice and three other government officials in the trial of Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman. The two are former lobbyists with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who are charged with receiving and disclosing national defense information.

Defense lawyers are asking a judge to dismiss the charges because, among other things, they believe it seeks to criminalize the type of backchannel exchanges between government officials, lobbyists and the press that are part and parcel of how Washington works.
There is much more going on here than meets the eye. Suffice it to say that what is being alleged is no more nor less than what got a CIA official fired this week. The only arguable difference is who wanted it leaked and that makes no difference when dealing with classified information.

If only they had oil

Our Dear Embattled Leader would be hard at work (preznidenting is hard work, you know) protecting us from what is happening at our very doorstep, in Brazil. Thanks be, to the St Louis Post-Dispatch for uncovering this hidden menace.
As Iran faces international pressure over developing the raw material for nuclear weapons, Brazil is quietly preparing to open its own uranium enrichment center, capable of producing exactly the same fuel.

Brazil - like Iran - has signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and Brazil's constitution bans the military use of nuclear energy.

Also like Iran, Brazil has cloaked key aspects of its nuclear technology in secrecy while insisting the program is for peaceful purposes.

While Brazil is more cooperative than Iran on international inspections, some worry its new enrichment capability - which eventually will create more fuel than is needed for its two nuclear plants - suggests that South America's biggest nation may be rethinking its commitment to nonproliferation.
Maybe we should tell ODEL about all the ethanol they have, that might do the trick.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Illinois takes an important first step

From the Daily Kos, something comes news of a resolution introduced into the Illinois General Assembly.
Today, Thursday, April 20, 2006, Rep. Karen Yarbrough introduced into the Illinois General Assembly Joint Resolution 125, which calls for the impeachment of President George W. Bush.

WHEREAS, Section 603 of Jefferson's Manual of the Rules of the United States House of Representatives allows federal impeachment proceedings to be initiated by joint resolution of a state legislature; and

WHEREAS, President Bush has publicly admitted to ordering the National Security Agency to violate provisions of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a felony, specifically authorizing the Agency to spy on American citizens without warrant; and

WHEREAS, Evidence suggests that President Bush authorized violation of the Torture Convention of the Geneva Conventions, a treaty regarded a supreme law by the United States Constitution; and

WHEREAS, The Bush Administration has held American citizens and citizens of other nations as prisoners of war without charge or trial; and

WHEREAS, Evidence suggests that the Bush Administration has manipulated intelligence for the purpose of initiating a war against the sovereign nation of Iraq, resulting in the deaths of large numbers of Iraqi civilians and causing the United States to incur loss of life, diminished security and billions of dollars in unnecessary expenses; and

WHEREAS, The Bush Administration leaked classified national secrets to further a political agenda, exposing an unknown number of covert U. S. intelligence agents to potential harm and retribution while simultaneously refusing to investigate the matter; and

WHEREAS, the Republican-controlled Congress has decline to fully investigate these charges to date; therefore be it

RESOLVED, BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE NINETY-FOURTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, THE SENATE CONCURRING HEREIN, that the General Assembly of the State of Illinois has good cause to submit charges to the U. S. House of Representatives under Section 603 that the President of the United States has willfully violated his Oath of Office to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States; and be it further

RESOLVED, That George W. Bush, if found guilty of the charges contained herein, should be removed from office and disqualified to hold any other office in the United States.

Republican Congress spews more love on our troops

From the AP comes this bit of brilliant budget bamboozlement from the Grand Old Poltroons in the Senate.
A Senate measure to fund the war in Iraq would chop money for troops' night vision equipment and new battle vehicles but add $230 million for a tilt-rotor aircraft that has already cost $18 billion and is still facing safety questions.

President Bush's request for the emergency appropriations to cover costs of the continuing war and Hurricane Katrina recovery operations included no money for the troubled V-22 Osprey, which takes off and lands like a helicopter but flies like a plane....

....To pay for the Ospreys, the Senate Appropriations Committee - guided by the Corps - cut into funding for night vision goggles, equipment for destroying mines and explosives, fire suppression systems for light armored vehicles and new vehicles that can be transported into battle inside the V-22.

The panel insists the equipment cuts won't affect readiness.
Also unaffected is the production of magnetic SUV ribbons. And the moon is made of green cheese.

Krugman sees a new awakening in America.

In his column today, Paul Krugman describes how the American public seems to be coming to its senses.
"I have a vision — maybe just a hope — of a great revulsion: a moment in which the American people look at what is happening, realize how their good will and patriotism have been abused, and put a stop to this drive to destroy much of what is best in our country."

I wrote those words three years ago in the introduction to my column collection, "The Great Unraveling." It seemed a remote prospect at the time: Baghdad had just fallen to U.S. troops, and President Bush had a 70 percent approval rating.

Now the great revulsion has arrived. The latest Fox News poll puts Mr. Bush's approval at only 33 percent. According to the polling firm Survey USA, there are only four states in which significantly more people approve of Mr. Bush's performance than disapprove: Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Nebraska. If we define red states as states where the public supports Mr. Bush, Red America now has a smaller population than New York City.

The proximate causes of Mr. Bush's plunge in the polls are familiar: the heck of a job he did responding to Katrina, the prescription drug debacle and, above all, the quagmire in Iraq.

But focusing too much on these proximate causes makes Mr. Bush's political fall from grace seem like an accident, or the result of specific missteps. That gets things backward. In fact, Mr. Bush's temporarily sky-high approval ratings were the aberration; the public never supported his real policy agenda.
Even with Our Dear Embattled Leaders new Gloriuos Little War on the horizon, the resurrection of American values and ideals may now be possible.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

CoinGate fallout

The Toledo Blade informs us that an online petition is up calling for convicted Gov. Bob Taft to realease the documents related to the investment coin fund/campaign money laundering scandal known as CoinGate. Help the good people of Ohio learn the truth here.

The State of the Economy

Courtesy of Tom Toles

In just two paragraphs

The NY Times editorial board summarizes the leagacy of Our Dear Embattled Leader and his disastrous impact on the United States of Bushistan.
It's too soon to say how history will judge this administration, but it does look as if the first thing this president will be remembered for is the disastrous way the war in Iraq was conducted under Donald Rumsfeld, who, of course, isn't going anywhere. If there's a second thing we think history will shake its head over, it's the administration's cavalier disregard for the civil liberties of American citizens and the human rights of American prisoners. Needless to say, nobody's being replaced at the Justice Department.

The third great disaster of the Bush administration is a fiscal policy that has turned a federal surplus into a series of enormous budget gaps and an economy that depends on loans from China to pay its bills. The administration is changing the fiscal team, but doing everything possible to send the signal that there are no new brooms in this venture — just the same old faces with new labels. Rob Portman will morph from being the trade representative into being the director of the White House budget office. Mr. Portman, a longtime Bush loyalist, used his nomination acceptance speech to champion all the policies that wrecked things in the first place. More tax cuts will be forthcoming, he vowed, and budget cuts will make things balance out in the end.
God Damn that worthless Texican peckerwood! God Damn him to hell!!

Fox's Fabulous 33%

The latest Fox poll says it all.
President Bush’s approval hits a record low of 33 percent this week, clearly damaged by sinking support among Republicans.

Opinions are sharply divided on whether Rumsfeld should resign as secretary of defense. In addition, views on the economy are glum; most Americans rate the current economy negatively, and twice as many say it feels like the economy is getting worse rather than better. These are just some of the findings of the latest FOX News national poll.....

.....Two-thirds (66 percent) approve of Bush’s job performance today, down almost 20 percentage points from this time last year when 84 percent of Republicans approved.
This is sweet!

Bob Herbert talks about Our Dirty War

In his column today Bob Herbert takes on the Bushoviks evil practice of disappearing people.

I said, ''Some of these folks have never been heard from again, right?'' ''Yup,'' said Curt Goering. ''That's right.''

Mr. Goering is the senior deputy executive director for policy and programs at Amnesty International USA. We were discussing a subject -- government-sanctioned disappearances -- that ordinarily would repel most Americans.

In past years, stories about torture and ''the disappeared'' have been associated with sinister regimes in South and Central America. The attitude in the United States was that we were above such dirty business, that it was immoral and uncivilized, and we were better than that.

But times change, and we've lowered our moral standards several notches since then. Now people are disappearing at the hands of the U.S. government.
The details are known and they are ugly. And anybody who is not deeply, deeply ashamed of what our government is doing is not a true American.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

From the pen of Oliphant

Damn! 35%

And as reported in the Wall St Journal itself!
President Bush's job-approval rating slipped for the third consecutive month and remains near the lowest mark of his presidency, according to a new Harris Interactive poll.

Thirty-five percent of 1,008 U.S. adults surveyed in the telephone poll think Mr. Bush is doing an "excellent or pretty good" job as president, down from 36% in March and significantly lower than 43% in January. This compares with 63% of Americans who said Mr. Bush is doing an "only fair or poor" job, down from 64% in March.

Furthermore, pessimism about the direction of U.S. policies appears to be growing. Only 27% of Americans believe "things in this country are going in the right direction," a drop from 31% in March, according to the poll.

Bad news from Iraq appears to weigh on the general public, as 23% of Americans said they consider Iraq to be one of the top two most important issues the government should address. The ongoing immigration debate also prompted 19% of Americans to consider it a top issue, a sharp gain from just 4% a month ago, followed by health care (13%), the economy (12%) and education (10%).

Li'l Scotties out and TurdBlossom slips back into the shadows

The NY Times reports on the changing faces in the White House. They note that Karl Rove is taking not really kind of demotion with his replacement as manager of policy development at the White House.
Mr. Rove will retain his title as deputy of chief of staff, but Joel D. Kaplan, now the deputy White House budget director, will assume Mr. Rove's duties as the manager of policy development at the White House. Mr. Kaplan worked closely with Joshua B. Bolten, the new White House chief of staff, when Mr. Bolten was budget director.

"Joel Kaplan is a man of great talent, intellect and experience who possesses a deep knowledge of policy and budget processes," Mr. Bush said in a statement issued shortly after he left for a trip to Alabama.

White House officials cast the change in Mr. Rove's status in a highly positive light, much like the return of a star pitcher to the mound, and said that he was desperately needed to focus on the midterm elections that Republicans increasingly fear could result in major losses for their party. At the same time, administration officials said, Mr. Rove would continue as an overseer of White House policy as he was during Mr. Bush's first four years in office.

"We're returning to the structure we had at the beginning of the first term," said Nicolle Wallace, the White House communications director. "All that changes is that the management of the day-to-day policy process will be put under Joel. Karl will keep the high-yield strategic role that he's always had."
So Turd gets to keep his control and has a stooge to deal with the mechanics of the day to day leaking and lying from the White House.

Oh, and Scott McClellan is leaving Washington, trailing a reputation as grand as the Civil War general of the same name.

MoDo does Rummy

And with her usual sytle and flair, Ms. Dowd says what needs to be said.
He suggested invading Iraq the day after 9/11. He didn't want to invade Iraq because it was connected to 9/11. That was the part his neocon aides at the Pentagon, Wolfie and Doug Feith, had to concoct. Rummy wanted to invade Iraq because he thought it would be easy, compared with Iran or North Korea, or compared with finding Osama. He could do it cheap and show off his vaunted transformation of the military into a sleek, lean fighting force.

Cloistered in a macho monastery with "The Decider" (as W. calls himself), Dick Cheney and Condi Rice, Rummy didn't want to hear dissent, or worries about Iraq, the tribes, the sects, the likelihood of insurgency or civil war, the need for more troops and armor to quell postwar eruptions.

"He didn't worry about the culture in Iraq," said Bernard Trainor, the retired Marine general who is my former colleague and the co-author of "Cobra II." "He just wanted to show them the front end of an M-1 tank. He could have been in Antarctica fighting penguins. He didn't care, as long as he could send the message that you don't mess with Hopalong Cassidy. He wanted to do to Saddam in the Middle East what he did to Shinseki in the Pentagon, make him an example, say, 'I'm in charge, don't mess with me.' "
If only he had started a fight with penguins. Not that I have anything against penguins, in fact I look rather sharp myself in a tuxedo. But if we were fighting penguins, there would be a lot less dead human beings today.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Maybe someone will start investigating now

The NY Times has a piece on its Editorial page that gives a pretty good summation of what happened with the NH phone jamming case and its aftermath. Of interst is the way it joins the convicted head jammer James Tobin with Ken Mehlman, now Queen of the RNC but then just a princess in charge of political affairs, and Casino Jack himself.
1. The return of the "second-rate burglary." The New Hampshire phone-jamming scandal is being dismissed as small-time, state-level misconduct, but it occurred at a critical moment in a tough election.

In November 2002, Republicans were intent on winning a Senate majority so they would control the White House and both houses of Congress. They saw the Sununu-Shaheen race as pivotal. On Election Day morning, the phone lines were jammed at the Democratic offices and at a get-out-the-vote operation run by a firefighters' union. The police were called, and the lines were eventually freed up. The election wasn't as close as expected. Mr. Sununu won, and Republicans retook the Senate.

2. The return of the high-priced lawyer. Aficionados of the Watergate connection like to point out that one of the first clues that the Watergate burglars were not ordinary small-time crooks was the presence of a slick lawyer in an expensive suit at their first court appearance. In the New Hampshire case, Mr. Tobin was represented by Williams & Connolly, a pre-eminent white-collar criminal law firm. The legal bills, which published estimates have put at more than $2.5 million, were paid by the Republican National Committee. Democrats are asking why the committee footed the bill, if Mr. Tobin was a rogue actor who implicated the national party in a loathsome and embarrassing crime.

3. The return of "follow the money." (As if it ever left.) New Hampshire Democrats pored over the filings of the New Hampshire Republican Party and found three contributions for $5,000 each, all shortly before the election. One was from Americans for a Republican Majority, Tom DeLay's political action committee. The other two were from the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, tribes that were clients of Jack Abramoff. Those checks add up almost exactly to the cost of the phone jamming.

Republicans say that a lot of money flows into a campaign and that there is nothing to tie these checks to the phone jamming. But New Hampshire Democrats argue that it is highly unusual for Indian tribes to contribute to a state party in a state that does not have federally recognized Indian tribes or Indian gambling.

4. Does anybody get to ask: "What did they know, and when did they know it?" Democrats would, of course, like to connect the jamming to the White House, and this month they found a possible link. The Senate Majority Project, a pro-Democratic campaign group, examined the phone records that came out in Mr. Tobin's case and found that he made dozens of calls to the White House's office of political affairs right when he was executing the phone-jamming scheme. Ken Mehlman, the Republican National Committee chairman who was the White House political director at the time, insists that close contact of this kind between political operatives is the norm on Election Day, and that none of the calls mentioned the jamming.
I think his reference to Watergate is most apt.

Money isn't everything

Paul Krugman gives us another reason to hold Lee Raymond, the hog-jowelled, over compensated ex-CEO of Exxon, in contempt. His column illuminates how Raymond used Exxons money to confuse the sciennce of global warming in the minds of Americans.
So how have corporate interests responded? In the early years, when the science was still somewhat in doubt, many companies from the oil industry, the auto industry and other sectors were members of a group called the Global Climate Coalition, whose de facto purpose was to oppose curbs on greenhouse gases. But as the scientific evidence became clearer, many members — including oil companies like BP and Shell — left the organization and conceded the need to do something about global warming.

Exxon, headed by Mr. Raymond, chose a different course of action: it decided to fight the science.

A leaked memo from a 1998 meeting at the American Petroleum Institute, in which Exxon (which hadn't yet merged with Mobil) was a participant, describes a strategy of providing "logistical and moral support" to climate change dissenters, "thereby raising questions about and undercutting the 'prevailing scientific wisdom.' " And that's just what Exxon Mobil has done: lavish grants have supported a sort of alternative intellectual universe of global warming skeptics.

The people and institutions Exxon Mobil supports aren't actually engaged in climate research. They're the real-world equivalents of the Academy of Tobacco Studies in the movie "Thank You for Smoking," whose purpose is to fail to find evidence of harmful effects.

But the fake research works for its sponsors, partly because it gets picked up by right-wing pundits, but mainly because it plays perfectly into the he-said-she-said conventions of "balanced" journalism. A 2003 study, by Maxwell Boykoff and Jules Boykoff, of reporting on global warming in major newspapers found that a majority of reports gave the skeptics — a few dozen people, many if not most receiving direct or indirect financial support from Exxon Mobil — roughly the same amount of attention as the scientific consensus, supported by thousands of independent researchers.
All that time, the shareholders thought he was working to their benefit.

Bob Herbert is back

And in his first column back from his vacation he reexamines Our Dear Embattled Leaders nefarious use of fear to get Americans to support the unsupportable.
The man Mr. Bush really wanted was Saddam Hussein. And he pulled out all the stops to get him.

It is time for the American people to wise up. From the very beginning, the so-called war on terror was viewed by the Bush crowd as a magical smoke screen, a political gift from the gods that could be endlessly manipulated to justify all kinds of policies and behavior -- including the senseless war in Iraq -- that otherwise would never have been tolerated by the American people.

The tapes of people trapped in the World Trade Center, and the cockpit recording of the panic and final struggles from United Airlines Flight 93, which was also played at Moussaoui's sentencing trial last week, are chilling reminders that the fear of terror attacks inside the U.S. is based very much on reality.

That fear, and the patriotism felt by so many millions of Americans, have been systematically exploited by the administration. The invasion of Iraq was not about terror. It was about oil and schoolboy fantasies of empire and whatever weird oedipal dynamics were at work in the Bush family.

The war has been a disaster. At the same time, the administration's unscrupulous exploitation of fear and patriotism has opened the door to such gruesome and morally indefensible activities as torture, warrantless spying on Americans and the wholesale incarceration of foreigners -- perhaps for life -- who have no real chance to confront their accusers or answer the charges against them.

All of this should be kept in mind as we consider the fact that the administration that once had its hostile eye on Iraq now has it trained like a laser on Iran.
Not later, but now is the time to speak out to prevent the madness from growing.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

A lose-lose situation

Richard Clarke and Steven Simon, respectively, national coordinator for security and counterterrorism and senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council, have an Op-Ed piece in the NY Times today about the War in Iran being planned by Our Dear Embattled Leader and his minions. Beginning with a rundown of what is happening, they run through several likely scenarios. When all is said and done they come to the only conclusion that a sane person could reach.
So how would bombing Iran serve American interests? In over a decade of looking at the question, no one has ever been able to provide a persuasive answer. The president assures us he will seek a diplomatic solution to the Iranian crisis. And there is a role for threats of force to back up diplomacy and help concentrate the minds of our allies. But the current level of activity in the Pentagon suggests more than just standard contingency planning or tactical saber-rattling.

The parallels to the run-up to to war with Iraq are all too striking: remember that in May 2002 President Bush declared that there was "no war plan on my desk" despite having actually spent months working on detailed plans for the Iraq invasion. Congress did not ask the hard questions then. It must not permit the administration to launch another war whose outcome cannot be known, or worse, known all too well.
But that conclusion assumes you are dealing with people who let themselves be influenced by reality. With ODEL and his minions the Agenda is everything, it is their reality. And if the Agenda calls for an attack on Iran then America must have the will to carry it through and God will make all things right.

And the moon is made of green cheese.

Subsidizing fish to swim

Who says the Bushoviks aren't concerned about wildlife. Molly Ivins list a few of the more heartwarming efforts of Our Dear Embattled Leaders faithful Congress.
Here's another little gem, one of those "it was after midnight and everyone wanted to go home" deals. Just a no-cost sweetener to encourage oil and gas companies to drill in the Gulf of Mexico -- and who needs more encouragement these days than the oil companies? The poor things are making hardly any money at all. Just have the federal government waive the royalty rights for drilling in the publicly owned waters. Turns out this waiver will cost the government at least $7 billion over the next five years.

I roared with laughter upon reading that Texas Rep. Joe Barton had assured his colleagues the provision of energy bill was "so non-controversial" that senior House and Senate negotiators had not even discussed it. That's one of the oldest ploys in the Texas handbook of sneaky tricks and has been successfully used to pass many a sweet deal for the oil industry.

"The big lie about this whole program is that it doesn't cost anything," Massachusetts Rep. Edward Markey told The New York Times. "Taxpayers are being asked to provide huge subsidies to oil companies to produce oil -- it's like subsidizing a fish to swim."
Read the whole thing and laugh until you cry.

And now, a good word about taxes

Yes, somebody, in this case Diane Lim Rogers in the Boston Globe, has something good to say about taxes. And it may not be something that evokes a visceral response in your average voter, but it has the force of the truth.
WITH TAX-FILING upon us, many people, ordinary citizens and politicians alike, complain of how high Americans' tax burdens are. President Bush recently used his radio address to say that, as Americans are finishing up their tax returns, they should be reminded of the need to make the 2001-03 tax cuts permanent.

Left unsaid, though, is that even with our imperfect tax system, the revenues provided by taxes strengthen, not weaken, our nation's economy. They fund essential public goods and services, they contribute positively to national saving, and many of the things that they fund -- from highways and schools to biomedical research and national parks -- indirectly create private wealth as well. As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes put it in 1927, ''Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.".....

.....Rather than making fiscally unsustainable tax cuts permanent, let us remember that taxes are collected for a reason: to provide vital public services such as a strong defense, homeland security, healthcare, retirement and income security, education and training, and disaster relief.

And let us be wise when we hear politicians pitching more tax cuts, understanding that every dollar of additional tax cuts that we receive now only adds more than a dollar to the future tax bills of our children and grandchildren. Our current tax burden is historically low, not high: Federal taxes were less than 17 percent of gross domestic product in 2003-04, the lowest since the 1950s. A civilized society shouldn't go on a spending spree with an unwillingness to pay sufficiently for it, only to stick the bill to future generations with no political voice.
So the choice is simple for most folks of normal intelligence. Pay for what you want or screw your kids.


Wes Clark calls for Rummys resignation on Fox

And we have the transcript here.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well certainly. I mean, I ran to be president of the United States because I thought the commander in chief should be replaced. Ultimately he's the person responsible. The American people didn't understand how bad the situation was in the election of 2004. Now these generals are taking it upon themselves to speak out on behalf of people who are still in the army. They're relating their experiences and they feel like they haven't…that people in uniform were not listened to. That we didn't go in with enough troops; we didn't have the right approach for the inter-agency; we don't have a policy process to reinforce the military efforts with diplomatic efforts in the regions. All of these things ultimately come back to the president but his right hand man is Don

Jamie Colby: Would you, if you would General, listen to what Secretary Rumsfeld has to say? I have some sound that I want to play.


Pentagon plays Spin the Rummy

And the NY Times reports on their method of choice.
The Defense Department has issued a memorandum to a group of former military commanders and civilian analysts that offers a direct challenge to the criticisms made by retired generals about Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

The one-page memorandum was sent by e-mail on Friday to the group, which includes several retired generals who appear regularly on television, and came as the Bush administration stepped up its own defense of Mr. Rumsfeld. On the political front, Republican strategists voiced rising anxiety on Saturday that without a major change in the course of the Iraq war, Republican candidates would suffer dearly in the November elections.....

.....The message was released Friday by the Pentagon's office of the Directorate for Programs and Community Relations and Public Liaison, but it was unclear who wrote it.
Some more of Queen Mehlmans talking points, this time laundered through the Pentagon. Anybody else think our troops deserve better leadership?


Why is Tom Noe like a fish in the sun?

Because, not only does he stink but he is a health hazard to the Lucas County GOP. From the Toledo Blade we learn about the continuing troubles of the party organization in which Tom was a major player.
Months after the party decided to convert $63,000 in outstanding loans from Mr. Noe into contributions, prosecutors say they believe the party cannot waive the debt. Election officials and a special prosecutor are examining whether the party violated Ohio campaign finance laws.

Julia Bates, the county prosecutor, said yesterday she has referred the matter to Lynn Grimshaw, a special prosecutor working in southern Ohio. Ms. Bates said the party asked Mr. Noe to drop the loan but said documents show he was “not in a position to forgive the loan.”....

....The elections commission is set to consider a related issue April 27, when it will review other financial filings by the county GOP. At issue: incomplete records of contributions to the party.....

.....If the party is forced to come up with the money, it would worsen an already dismal financial situation. As of mid-December, the party had just $1,226 available.....

.....Dennis Lange, the interim chairman of the party, said fund-raising has plummeted since the Noe scandal began to unfold a year ago, and the party doesn’t have the money to repay him.

“People are just shying away completely,” Mr. Lange said. “This has been very damaging to our party.”
And to add insult to injury.
What irks the party further is how the loans originated. The party’s bylaws say the executive committee must approve all obligations exceeding $5,000. Neither in 2002 nor in 2004 did the committee vote on the loans. Instead, they were reportedly accepted by Mr. Noe’s wife, Bernadette, when she was chairman of the party.

“We never accepted it as a loan. We were not aware of it as a loan of any kind,”
Well whaddaya know, another Republican husband and wife team involved in fund raising shenanigans. I guess the GOP was counting heavily on the old "spouse can not be forced to testify" rule, ignoring the old "spouse can be indicted too" rule.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Festung Bagdad

The AP reported yesterday of the new American embassy being built in Baghdad. Embassy is the polite term. The details released so far make it clear that it will be a self contained fortress.
The fortress-like compound rising beside the Tigris River here will be the largest of its kind in the world, the size of Vatican City, with the population of a small town, its own defense force, self-contained power and water, and a precarious perch at the heart of Iraq's turbulent future.

The new U.S. Embassy also seems as cloaked in secrecy as the ministate in Rome.

"We can't talk about it. Security reasons," Roberta Rossi, a spokeswoman at the current embassy, said when asked for information about the project.

A British tabloid even told readers the location was being kept secret — news that would surprise Baghdadis who for months have watched the forest of construction cranes at work across the winding Tigris, at the very center of their city and within easy mortar range of anti-U.S. forces in the capital, though fewer explode there these days....

.....The designs aren't publicly available, but the Senate report makes clear it will be a self-sufficient and "hardened" domain, to function in the midst of Baghdad power outages, water shortages and continuing turmoil.

It will have its own water wells, electricity plant and wastewaster-treatment facility, "systems to allow 100 percent independence from city utilities," says the report, the most authoritative open source on the embassy plans.....

....Security, overseen by U.S. Marines, will be extraordinary: setbacks and perimeter no-go areas that will be especially deep, structures reinforced to 2.5-times the standard, and five high-security entrances, plus an emergency entrance-exit, the Senate report says.
And in the end it will probably be as safe and secure as Dien Bien Phu. Let's face it, they will still be in the middle of "Indian Country" with no way out unless Our Dear Embattled Leader plans to keep troops in Iraq for a long time. And that will be difficult if God calls on ODEL to attack Iran.

O, what a tangled web we weave.....

The DarkSyde of Christianity

If I were Christian, I'd have to guess that Christ doesn't care what the heck you call yourself, Republican, Democrat, Boy Scout, Muslim, Hindu or even atheist; it's your deeds that count, your actions that matter, and your character that defines you. Good people are identified as good by the good deeds they do, while evil people are identified by doing evil deeds. I'd point out clearly that arguing for the cult like worship of any human being, in any nation, as an inerrant God like leader, praising warfare or terrorism, the repression and bombing of innocent civilians, arguing that torture or murder or genocide is a good thing, and defending the wealthy and powerful, is completely at odds with what Christ clearly taught.
If you really believe in God and the divinity of Jesus, you will be very comfortable with the rest of Mr. Syde's post. If you mouth pieties to justify the rancor in your heart and in your soul, this would be a good time to read the rest of the post and reflect on who you are.

Best reason for firing Rumsfeld

From Juan Cole:
Rumsfeld was the one who pushed on Wallace a tiny military force that could not deal with, and never was able to deal with the guerrillas. US civil administrator Paul Bremer also admitted that we never had enough troops on the ground, and he told Rumsfeld so. He got no response. Rumsfeld keeps saying that no one told him things like that. But people did. He just wasn't listening.

Poll says you probably don't like tax system

Well DUH! After years of listening to well funded bullshit from Republicans and the likes of noted anarchist Grover Norquisling, that result should come as no surprise. However, this AP-Ipsos poll does show that folks have not been completely fooled.
Almost as certain as death and taxes is the public’s feeling that the U.S. income tax system is not fair. An Ipsos Poll released this week found almost six of 10 people, 58 percent, say the system is unjust, a number that is virtually unchanged from two decades ago.

People think the middle class, the self-employed and small businesses pay too much in taxes, the poll found. And they think those with high incomes and big businesses don’t pay enough.
Since the election of Ronald Reagan, the Republicans have diligently worked to shift the tax burden from rich folks and corporations to those of us who work for a living.
More than half, 58 percent, said middle-income families pay too much income tax and people were almost as likely, 54 percent, to say that about low-income families.

Six in 10 said high-income families were paying too little in taxes....

....Tax cuts for the wealthy have been at the heart of a bitter partisan tax debate during much of this Bush administration.
As a matter of self interest. Remember this in November.

The free marketplace drives illegal immigration

As this report from the AP illustrates.
When Pedro Lopez Vazquez crossed illegally into the United States last week, he was not heading north to look for a job. He already had one.

His future employer even paid $1,000 for a smuggler to help Vazquez make his way from the central Mexican city of Puebla to Aspen, Colo.

''We're going to Colorado to work in carpentry because we have a friend who was going to give us a job,'' Vazquez said.

Vazquez, 41, was interviewed along the Arizona border after being deported twice by the U.S. Border Patrol. He said he would keep trying until he got to Aspen.

His story is not unusual. A growing number of U.S. employers and migrants are tapping into an underground employment network that matches one with the other, often before the migrants leave home.

''It continues to become clear who controls immigration: It's not governments, but rather the market,'' said Jorge Santibanez, director of the Tijuana-based think-tank Colegio de la Frontera Norte.
And the employers have little to worry about thanks to the Bushoviks "effective" Homeland Security measures.
To make a real dent in this network, the U.S. government would need to go after employers or make them pay the costs of legalizing workers, migration activists say.

But an August 2005 report of the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, indicates the opposite is happening. After the Sept. 11 attacks, work-site inspections by U.S. immigration officials plummeted as they focused on national security cases.

From 1999 to 2004, the number of businesses that faced fines dropped from 417 to three, the GAO said. Data after 2004 could not be compared because the government changed the way it records data.
Kinda makes you wonder why the business friendly GOP'ers are making so much noise about immigration, doesn't it? Or is cognitive dissonence a congenital Republican flaw?

The GOP kills two birds with one stone.

And they did so by killing off one of their favorite strawmen, illegal immigrants defrauding Medicare. By requiring proof of citizenship, they will eliminate thousands of poor and elderly and "unacceptably dark" people from Medicare as well.
More than 50 million Medicaid recipients will soon have to produce birth certificates, passports or other documents to prove that they are United States citizens, and everyone who applies for coverage after June 30 will have to show similar documents under a new federal law.

The requirement is meant to stop the "theft of Medicaid benefits by illegal aliens," in the words of Representative Charlie Norwood, Republican of Georgia, a principal author of the provision, which was signed into law by President Bush on Feb. 8.

In enforcing the new requirement, federal and state officials must take account of passions stirred by weeks of national debate over immigration policy. State officials worry that many blacks, Americans Indians and other poor people will be unable to come up with the documents needed to prove citizenship. In addition, hospital executives said they were concerned that the law could increase their costs, by reducing the number of patients with insurance.

The new requirement takes effect on July 1. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that it will save the federal government $220 million over five years
And all to save the cost of one week of Li'l Georgies Glorious War. And the kicker is this.
"The report does not find particular problems regarding false allegations of citizenship, nor are we aware of any," Dr. McClellan said at the time.

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