Monday, July 31, 2006

Is anyone surprised?

CNN is reporting tha Sen. Billy "The Cat Killer" Frist was sloppy with his financial disclosures.
Majority Leader Bill Frist hasn't been following all the Senate's rules when it comes to disclosing details about his finances.

Frist and his wife are the sole trustees in charge of a family foundation bearing the senator's name, according to Internal Revenue Service forms. However, he has not been listing that position on his Senate disclosure forms, which are made public every year.

Annual forms detailing lawmakers' personal finances are supposed to list all positions members of Congress hold outside government. Those include unpaid posts such as serving as a director or trustee of a nonprofit.

When asked about the discrepancy by The Associated Press, Frist spokesman Bob Stevenson said the senator's office was unaware of the omission.
Bill just ain't cut out for politics. Maybe he should try medicine, veterinary medicine.

The man who would be Independent

If you go to Tom Reynolds campaign website, you will be hard pressed to identify which party the Grand Old Phart belongs to. And this is the man who is running the Republican Congressional campaign. Why would such an important man be ashamed of his own party?

Olmert to Condi (and Our Dear Embattled Leader), "Up yours!"

From the Washington Post.
"The fighting continues," he said. "There is no cease-fire, and there will not be any cease-fire in the coming days."

He spoke just hours after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reported general agreement on terms for a U.N. Security Council cease-fire resolution to end hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah. "I take with me an emerging consensus on what is necessary for both an urgent cease-fire and lasting settlement," Rice told reporters in Jerusalem before flying back to Washington. "I am convinced we can achieve both this week."
And as he walked away from the lectern, he was heard to mutter, "So many civilians, so little time".

Our Dear Embattled Leader is busy digging the hole deeper.

As he continues to believe that his steadfast resolutivity will lead to a brighter day in the Middle East. He and his evil minions are among the few people who buy this load of manure.
Although the United States has urged Israel to use restraint, it has also strongly defended the military assaults as a reasonable response to Hezbollah rocket attacks, a position increasingly at odds with allies that see a deadly overreaction. Analysts think that if the war drags on, as appears likely, it could leave the United States more isolated than at any time since the Iraq invasion three years ago and hindered in its foreign policy goals such as shutting down Iran's nuclear program and spreading democracy around the world.

"The arrows are all pointing in the wrong direction," said Richard N. Haass, who was President Bush's first-term State Department policy planning director. "The biggest danger in the short run is it just increases frustration and alienation from the United States in the Arab world. Not just the Arab world, but in Europe and around the world. People will get a daily drumbeat of suffering in Lebanon and this will just drive up anti-Americanism to new heights."
What is so sad is that ODEL is building his road to Hell without any good intentions whatsoever. And that poor, bumbling gasbag Tony Snow has this to say in their defense.
The White House is acutely aware of the dangers of stirring up anti-American sentiment in the region. "There may be times when people say that they're unhappy with whatever methods we pursue," the White House's Snow said last week. "We are confident that in the long run, people are going to be much happier living in freedom and democracy than, for instance, in nations that are occupied by terrorist organizations that try to hijack a democracy in its formative stages."
I think that most of those sacrificed up to now would rather just be living.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

River speaks out for Qana

And if you are not yet aware of how much that damned Israeli attack has cost us, you must read what she writes.
We saw the corpses of the children on television, lifeless and twisted grotesquely, what remained of their faces frozen in expressions of pain and shock. I just sat there and cried in front of the television. I didn’t know I could still feel that sort of sorrow towards what has become a daily reality for Iraqis. It’s not Iraq but it might as well be: It’s civilians under lethal attack; it’s a country fighting occupation.

I’m so frustrated I can’t think straight. I’m full of rage against Israel, the US, Britain, Iran and most of Europe. The world is going to go to hell for standing by and allowing the massacre of innocents. For God’s sake, 34 children??? The UN is beyond useless. They’ve gone from a union of nations working for the good of the world (if they ever were even that), to a bunch of gravediggers. They’re only good for digging mangled bodies out of the ruins of buildings and helping to identify and put them into mass graves. They won’t stop a massacre- they won’t even speak out against it- they’ll just come by and help clean up the mess. Are the lives of Arabs worth so little? If this had happened in the US or UK or France or China, somebody would already have dropped a nuclear bomb… How is this happening?
Have another pretzel George.

Israel suspends Operation Rolling Hebrew Thunder for 48 hours

The Israeli government has agreed to stop bombing the shit out of Lebanon for 48 hours. The Israelis say it is to "investigate" the bombing in Qana according to the NY Times. Or to arrange a 24 hr evacuation of civilians over bombed out roads and destroyed bridges according to the AP. Either way, the reaction from the civilized world was complete and total condemnation of the attack on Qana.
The Lebanese prime minister, Fouad Siniora, demanded an immediate cease-fire and made it clear that Ms. Rice would not be welcome in Beirut today. “There is no place on this sad day for any discussion other than an immediate and unconditional cease-fire, as well as in international investigation into the Israeli massacres in Lebanon now,” Mr. Siniora said.

In Lebanon, Qana is nearly synonymous with the killing of civilians. Ten years ago, in an eerily similar attack, Israel, responding to mortar fire, mistakenly shelled a United Nations post in Qana where refugees were sheltering, killing 100 people and wounding another 100. That attack, on April 18, 1996, shocked the world and helped bring an end to that conflict with Hezbollah after an eight-day diplomatic shuttle by the President Bill Clinton’s secretary of state, Warren Christopher.

In a speech to the diplomatic corps, Mr. Siniora accused Israel of war crimes and asked: “Why, we wonder, did they choose Qana yet again?” He asked the diplomats to work at the United Nations for a cease-fire, saying: “We cannot be expected to negotiate or discuss anything else while the ruthless, pitiless sword of the Israeli war machine continues to drip with the blood of innocent women and children.”
And if he said that in public, can you imagine what he told Condi in private on the phone? And she deserved every word of it.

Funday Sunnies

Seniors and the Donut Hole

Just as Congress recesses for some early electioneering, the much talked about but seldom understood Donut Hole is rearing its ugly head for people on Medicare drug plans. The NY Times report on its effects also has a fairly clear explanation of how the Donut Hole works.
Under the standard drug benefit defined by Congress in the 2003 Medicare law, the beneficiary pays a $250 deductible and then 25 percent of drug costs from $251 to $2,250. When total yearly drug costs, paid by the beneficiary and the plan, reach $2,250, the coverage stops, and the beneficiary pays 100 percent of the cost of each prescription, until the person’s out-of-pocket costs reach $3,600. At that point, insurance resumes, and the beneficiary pays about 5 percent of the cost of each drug. The tabulation of costs begins anew each year....

....In fact, the coverage gap is twice as large as those numbers would suggest. The $2,250 is a measure of total drug spending. The $3,600 is a measure of out-of-pocket costs; it corresponds to about $5,100 in total drug spending. Under the standard benefit, a consumer is personally responsible for $2,850 of drug spending in the coverage gap — the amount from $2,250 to $5,100.
Another stupid Republican trick from the people who brought us Iraq, Paris Hilton tax cuts and Guantanamo Bay.

3 headlines today

Rice Returns to a More Promising Scenario

34 Youths Among 56 Dead in Israeli Strike

Stymied in Mideast, Rice to Head Home

That was quick.

So sorry

Israel expressed regret for the result but you just know that "Son of Bloody Hands" Olmert was probably pondering the immortal words of Col. John Chivington, explaining his orders to the 3rd Colorado militia to kill the women and children, "Nits make lice".
Israeli missiles hit several buildings in a southern Lebanon village as people slept Sunday, killing at least 56, most of them children, in the deadliest attack in 19 days of fighting.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed "great sorrow" for the airstrikes but blamed Hezbollah guerrillas for using the area to launch rockets at Israel, and said he would not halt the army's operation.

The Lebanese Red Cross said the airstrike in Qana, in which at least 34 children were killed, pushed the overall Lebanese death toll to more than 500.
In the meantime Liberace Rice decided that, after meeting with the Iraelis, 10-14 more days of this would be OK with her.
Rice said she was "deeply saddened by the terrible loss of innocent life" in Israel's attack. But she did not call for an immediate cease-fire in the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah militias.
Hey Condi, how about the next time you hit the Steinway you play Pavane for a Dead Princess (1899) by Maurice Ravel?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Even the morgue is a dangerous place

The sectarian violence and just plain lawlessness in Baghdad has reached a point that even trying to find missing family and friends at the city's morgue is a potentially fatal undertaking.
In recent months, Shiite militias have been staking out Baghdad’s central morgue in particular, and the authorities have received dozens of reports of kidnappings and killings of Sunni Arabs there.

Many Sunnis now refuse to go there to look for missing family members and are forced to take extraordinary measures to recover a relative’s body, including sending Shiite friends in their stead.
And if they can not be identified, the bodies end up in an anonymous grave,uncared for and unmourned by their families, if anyone is left.
While the morgue tries to keep bodies for at least a month, officials often have to unload them much sooner because the building only has the refrigerator capacity to store about 100 bodies at a time, Mr. Khuzaie said. On occasion, the morgue has received several hundred bodies in a day.

Health officials say scores of bodies go unidentified every week, though there is no way to determine the victims’ sectarian affiliations.

At least twice a week, a member of Mr. Sadr’s organization, Sheik Jamal al-Sudani, gathers a crew of men to pile the bodies onto a large truck and drive them to the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala for an anonymous Shiite burial. Mr. Sudani said the lightest loads number about 70 bodies while the heaviest have topped 250.

Early on Friday morning, Mr. Sudani’s workers, wearing white boots and white plastic gloves, received bloodied and disfigured bodies through the morgue’s side door, zipped them into black body bags and hauled them into the back of the truck, chanting, “There is no other god but Allah.”

“We take care of them,” said Mr. Sudani, who stood to one side watching the ritual. “Sunni, Shiite, Christian — it doesn’t matter. They’re all victims.”
They are certainly all the same to Our Dear Embattled Leader.

The New York Times endorses Ned Lamaont

Earlier this year, Senator Joseph Lieberman’s seat seemed so secure that — legend has it — some people at the Republican nominating convention in Connecticut started making bleating noises when the party picked a presumed sacrificial lamb to run against the three-term senator, who has been a fixture in Connecticut politics for more than 35 years.

But Mr. Lieberman is now in a tough Democratic primary against a little-known challenger, Ned Lamont. The race has taken on a national character. Mr. Lieberman’s friends see it as an attempt by hysterical antiwar bloggers to oust a giant of the Senate for the crime of bipartisanship. Lamont backers — most of whom seem more passionate about being Lieberman opponents — say that as one of the staunchest supporters of the Iraq war, Mr. Lieberman has betrayed his party by cozying up to President Bush.

This primary would never have happened absent Iraq. It’s true that Mr. Lieberman has fallen in love with his image as the nation’s moral compass. But if pomposity were a disqualification, the Senate would never be able to call a quorum. He has voted with his party in opposing the destructive Bush tax cuts, and despite some unappealing rhetoric in the Terri Schiavo case, he has strongly supported a woman’s right to choose. He has been one of the Senate’s most creative thinkers about the environment and energy conservation.

But this race is not about résumés. The United States is at a critical point in its history, and Mr. Lieberman has chosen a controversial role to play. The voters in Connecticut will have to judge whether it is the right one.

As Mr. Lieberman sees it, this is a fight for the soul of the Democratic Party — his moderate fair-mindedness against a partisan radicalism that alienates most Americans. “What kind of Democratic Party are we going to have?” he asked in an interview with New York magazine. “You’ve got to agree 100 percent, or you’re not a good Democrat?”

That’s far from the issue. Mr. Lieberman is not just a senator who works well with members of the other party. And there is a reason that while other Democrats supported the war, he has become the only target. In his effort to appear above the partisan fray, he has become one of the Bush administration’s most useful allies as the president tries to turn the war on terror into an excuse for radical changes in how this country operates.

Citing national security, Mr. Bush continually tries to undermine restraints on the executive branch: the system of checks and balances, international accords on the treatment of prisoners, the nation’s longtime principles of justice. His administration has depicted any questions or criticism of his policies as giving aid and comfort to the terrorists. And Mr. Lieberman has helped that effort. He once denounced Democrats who were “more focused on how President Bush took America into the war in Iraq” than on supporting the war’s progress.

At this moment, with a Republican president intent on drastically expanding his powers with the support of the Republican House and Senate, it is critical that the minority party serve as a responsible, but vigorous, watchdog. That does not require shrillness or absolutism. But this is no time for a man with Mr. Lieberman’s ability to command Republicans’ attention to become their enabler, and embrace a role as the president’s defender.

On the Armed Services Committee, Mr. Lieberman has left it to Republicans like Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to investigate the administration’s actions. In 2004, Mr. Lieberman praised Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for expressing regret about Abu Ghraib, then added: “I cannot help but say, however, that those who were responsible for killing 3,000 Americans on September 11th, 2001, never apologized.” To suggest even rhetorically that the American military could be held to the same standard of behavior as terrorists is outrageous, and a good example of how avidly the senator has adopted the Bush spin and helped the administration avoid accounting for Abu Ghraib.

Mr. Lieberman prides himself on being a legal thinker and a champion of civil liberties. But he appointed himself defender of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the administration’s policy of holding hundreds of foreign citizens in prison without any due process. He seconded Mr. Gonzales’s sneering reference to the “quaint” provisions of the Geneva Conventions. He has shown no interest in prodding his Republican friends into investigating how the administration misled the nation about Iraq’s weapons. There is no use having a senator famous for getting along with Republicans if he never challenges them on issues of profound importance.

If Mr. Lieberman had once stood up and taken the lead in saying that there were some places a president had no right to take his country even during a time of war, neither he nor this page would be where we are today. But by suggesting that there is no principled space for that kind of opposition, he has forfeited his role as a conscience of his party, and has forfeited our support.

Mr. Lamont, a wealthy businessman from Greenwich, seems smart and moderate, and he showed spine in challenging the senator while other Democrats groused privately. He does not have his opponent’s grasp of policy yet. But this primary is not about Mr. Lieberman’s legislative record. Instead it has become a referendum on his warped version of bipartisanship, in which the never-ending war on terror becomes an excuse for silence and inaction. We endorse Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary for Senate in Connecticut.

If you die in a forgotten war, does anybody notice?

Frank Rich writes about the Strange Case of the Disappearing Glorious Little War.
CNN will surely remind us today that it is Day 19 of the Israel-Hezbollah war — now branded as Crisis in the Middle East — but you won’t catch anyone saying it’s Day 1,229 of the war in Iraq. On the Big Three networks’ evening newscasts, the time devoted to Iraq has fallen 60 percent between 2003 and this spring, as clocked by the television monitor, the Tyndall Report. On Thursday, Brian Williams of NBC read aloud a “shame on you” e-mail complaint from the parents of two military sons anguished that his broadcast had so little news about the war.

This is happening even as the casualties in Iraq, averaging more than 100 a day, easily surpass those in Israel and Lebanon combined. When Nouri al-Maliki, the latest Iraqi prime minister, visited Washington last week to address Congress, he too got short TV shrift — a mere five sentences about the speech on ABC’s “World News.” The networks know a rerun when they see it. Only 22 months earlier, one of Mr. Maliki’s short-lived predecessors, Ayad Allawi, had come to town during the 2004 campaign to give a similarly empty Congressional address laced with White House-scripted talking points about the war’s progress. Propaganda stunts, unlike “Law & Order” episodes, don’t hold up on a second viewing.

The steady falloff in Iraq coverage isn’t happenstance. It’s a barometer of the scope of the tragedy. For reporters, the already apocalyptic security situation in Baghdad keeps getting worse, simply making the war more difficult to cover than ever. The audience has its own phobia: Iraq is a bummer. “It is depressing to pay attention to this war on terror,” said Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly on July 18. “I mean, it’s summertime.” Americans don’t like to lose, whatever the season. They know defeat when they see it, no matter how many new plans for victory are trotted out to obscure that reality.
Too many reruns, too many bad scripts, too many dying.

Quote of the Day

These Republican incumbents have brought shame on the House, and have created a wide-spread view in the public at large that Republicans are more interested in obtaining campaign contributions from corporate lobbyists than they are in legislating in the public interest.
Former Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey on why he is supporting Democratic challengers in the upcoming election.

Audits will doom the Bushoviks

Just like they did to Al Capone. The NY Times has the report of another government agency mishandling large sums of money in Iraq.
The State Department agency in charge of $1.4 billion in reconstruction money in Iraq used an accounting shell game to hide ballooning cost overruns on its projects there and knowingly withheld information on schedule delays from Congress, a federal audit released late Friday has found.

The agency hid construction overruns by listing them as overhead or administrative costs, according to the audit, written by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an independent office that reports to Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department.

Called the United States Agency for International Development, or A.I.D., the agency administers foreign aid projects around the world. It has been working in Iraq on reconstruction since shortly after the 2003 invasion.

The report by the inspector general’s office does not give a full accounting of all projects financed by the agency’s $1.4 billion budget, but cites several examples.
And some of those examples.
In another case cited in the report, a power station project in Musayyib, the direct construction cost cited by the development agency was $6.6 million, while the overhead cost was $27.6 million.

The result is that the project’s overhead, a figure that normally runs to a maximum of 30 percent, was a stunning 418 percent.

The figures were even adjusted in the opposite direction when that helped the agency balance its books, the inspector general found. On an electricity project at the Baghdad South power station, direct construction costs were reported by the agency as $164.3 million and indirect or overhead costs as $1.4 million.

That is just 0.8 percent overhead in a country where security costs are often staggering. A contracting officer told the inspector general that the agency adjusted the figures “to stay within the authorization for each project.”
One has to wonder if The Glorious Little War was started just to increase the opportunities for fraud.

The Passion of the Gibson

According to reports here and here, Mighty Mel was cussin' up a blue streak liberally laced with religious slurs when he was stopped for speeding on the Pacific Coast Highway and arrested for DUI.
Once inside the car, a source directly connected with the case says Gibson began banging himself against the seat. The report says Gibson told the deputy, "You mother f****r. I'm going to f*** you." The report also says "Gibson almost continually [sic] threatened me saying he 'owns Malibu' and will spend all of his money to 'get even' with me."

The report says Gibson then launched into a barrage of anti-Semitic statements: "F*****g Jews... The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." Gibson then asked the deputy, "Are you a Jew?"
Too bad Mel forgot all his Aramaic when he was busted.

Closing Cheyenne Mt. for convenience

The rock solid symbol of American air defense, Cheyenne Mt. Operations Center is being closed.
the Pentagon said Friday that it plans to move out of the famous war room that was built beneath a mountain here in the 1960s with enough concrete to survive a Soviet missile strike.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) will transfer surveillance operations from Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center, an iconic Cold War venue depicted in such movies as "War Games" and "The Sum of All Fears," to an office building a dozen miles away at Peterson Air Force Base.

The Cheyenne Mountain war room, nesting more than 1,000 feet under the mountain and protected by iron blast doors weighing 30 tons apiece, is to be placed in a status the military calls "warm standby," which means it could be reopened in hours if a need arose.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Defense Department has spent about $700 million to upgrade early-warning systems at the Cheyenne Mountain center. A report this month by the Government Accountability Office said the upgrade has been "fraught with cost increases, schedule delays, and performance shortfalls."
But when North Korea and Hezbollah start raining missiles on the US, will we have "hours" to re-open this vital facility? Does Our Dear Embattled Leader or Rummy even care?

Paris Hilton gets her tax cut

The Republicans forced an unneeded cut in the estate tax through the House by tying it to a much needed hike in the minimum wage. So, even though the estate tax touches less than 1% of Americans, the Republicans have given away more in revenue than the meager wage hike will raise from increased income to 30% of American workers. And all this so that Republicans can pretend they are doing something in DC.
Republicans muscled the first minimum wage increase in a decade through the House early Saturday after pairing it with a cut in inheritance taxes on multimillion-dollar estates.

Combining the two issues provoked protests from Democrats and was sure to cause problems in the Senate, where the minimum wage initiative was likely to die at the hands of Democrats opposed to the costly estate tax cuts. The Senate is expected to take up the legislation next week.

Still, GOP leaders saw combining the wage and tax issues as their best chance for getting permanent cuts to the estate tax, a top GOP priority fueled by intense lobbying by farmers, small business owners and super-wealthy families such as the Waltons, heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune.

"This is the best shot we've got; we're going to take it," said House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. The unusual packaging also soothed conservatives angry about raising the minimum wage over opposition by GOP business allies.
So now Paris Hilton can keep the family farm and the Waltons can keep the family store. That makes me feel so much better.

Check here to see how your Congressmoop voted.

Conscience is a disturbing part of being human

And Father Andrew Greely wonders where ours has gone. He notes that the hundreds of Iraqis dying every day have little effect on Americans.
The hundred who die every day are not merely numbers, they are real human beings. Their deaths are personal disasters for the dead person and also for all those who love them: parents, children, wives, husbands. Most Americans are not outraged. Iraqis are a little less than human. If a hundred people were dying every day in our neighborhoods, we would scream in outrage and horror. Not many of us are lamenting these daily tragedies. Quite the contrary, we wish the newscast would go on to the weather for the next weekend.

Is blood on the hands of those Americans who support the war? Again, one must leave them to heaven. But in the objective order it is difficult to see why they are not responsible for the mass murders. They permitted their leaders to deceive them about the war, often enthusiastically. How can they watch the continuing murders in Iraq and not feel guilty?

How would you feel if the street were drenched with the blood of your son or daughter, if your father was in the hospital with his legs blown off?

We cannot permit ourselves to grieve for Iraqi pain because then we would weep bitter and guilty tears every day.

What drives the Bushoviks

I think Molly Ivins does a good job of describing one of the Republicans prime movers in this election year. And she touches on the newspoodles who are so good at enabling it.
If I may raise a nasty political possibility. One good reason for the Bush administration to leave Chapter 9,271 (Israels Lebanese pogrom-M) to burn out of control is that this administration thrives on fear. Fear has been the text and the subtext of every Republican campaign since 9/11. Endless replay of the footage from 9/11 has graced every Republican campaign since. Could it be that 9/11 is beginning to pall, to feel as overplayed as Natalee Holloway? Fear is actually more dangerous than war in the Middle East. For those who spin dizzily toward World War III, the Apocalypse, the Rapture -- always with that delicious frisson of terror -- the slow, patient negotiations needed to get it back under control are Not News.

All we have to fear, said FDR, is fear itself. And when we are afraid, we do damage to both ourselves and to the Constitution. Our history is rank with these fits of fear. We get so afraid of some dreadful menace, so afraid of anarchists, Reds, crime or drugs or communism or illegal aliens or terrorists that we think we can make ourselves safer by making ourselves less free. We damage the Constitution because we're so afraid. We engage in torture and worse because we're afraid. We damage our standing in the world, our own finest principles, out of fear. And television enjoys scaring us. One could say cynically, "It's good for their ratings," but in truth, I think television people enjoy scary movies, too. And besides, it makes it all a bigger story for them.
We report, you tremble, eh!

Strong on defense?

In a letter to President Bush, Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said that "nearly every non-deployed combat brigade in the active Army is reporting that they are not ready" for combat. The figures, he said, represent an unacceptable risk to the nation.

At a news conference, other leading Democrats said that those strategic reserve forces are critically short of personnel and equipment.

"They're the units that could be called upon or would be called upon to go to war in North Korea, Iran, or any other country or region," said Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a decorated Marine who has called for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.

In a statement released late Wednesday, the Army chief of staff, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, said much has been asked of the Army during the nearly five years the U.S. has been at war.

"I have testified to the facts about our readiness and I remain concerned about the serious demands we face," said Schoomaker, adding that the Army needs more than $17 billion in 2007 and up to $13 billion a year until two or three years after the war ends.
Only if you equate tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations and no-bid contracts to Halliburton and the like, can you call the Republicans strong on defense.

Every administration changes previous laws

But somehow, when the Bushoviks do it, it flies in the face of true American traditions and values. And the sudden realization that this law, pushed through a Republican Congress, might threaten various Bushovik big wigs stirs them to action.
An obscure law approved a decade ago by a Republican-controlled Congress has made the Bush administration nervous that officials and troops involved in handling detainee matters might be accused of committing war crimes and prosecuted at some point in U.S. courts.

Senior officials have responded by drafting legislation that would grant U.S. personnel involved in the terrorism fight new protections against prosecution for past violations of the War Crimes Act of 1996. That law criminalizes violations of the Geneva Conventions governing conduct in war and threatens the death penalty if U.S.-held detainees die in custody from abusive treatment.

In light of a recent Supreme Court ruling that the international Conventions apply to the treatment of such detainees, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has spoken privately with Republican lawmakers about the need for such "protections," according to someone who heard his remarks last week.

Gonzales told the lawmakers that a shield was needed for actions taken by U.S. personnel under a 2002 presidential order, which the Supreme Court declared illegal, and under Justice Department legal opinions that have been withdrawn under fire, the source said. A spokeswoman for Gonzales declined to comment.
And the Attorney General, and noted legal poodle, Alberto Gonzales swings into action, quietly, to protect Our Dear Embattled Leader and his minions.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Now they fire him

I guess ethical behavior takes some getting used to among Ohio Republicans. The Toledo Blade is reporting that the ORP finally got around to firing the social conservative coordinator, Gary Lankford, for trying to smear gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland as gay.
Ohio GOP officials condemned the message last week and said they disciplined Mr. Lankford but did not fire him. Yesterday, party chairman Bob Bennett wrote Mr. Strickland to offer “sincere apologies” for the e-mail’s “inappropriate suggestions about your private life.”

Mr. Bennett also said he fired Mr. Lankford, a decision he said was delayed by an illness of pneumonia.
It must have been a serious bout with pneumonia if he couldn't speak for a week. Now that he has been exposed, the party obviously has no more need of him.
Republican gubernatorial nominee Ken Blackwell paid him nearly $16,000 this spring as a “voter contact consultant.” The Ohio Restoration Project, a faith group that has hosted events featuring Mr. Blackwell, listed Mr. Lankford as its “state director” on its Web site until late last week, when The Blade began questioning GOP officials about him.
The Blade is a great paper, let's hope they do as well with the next smear artist. You know there will be one.

Republicans will be Republicans

And in a most characteristic move, the Grisly Old Party has moved to bring out a minimum wage increase and tied it to a Paris Hilton tax cut. From the AP,
Republican leaders are willing to allow the first minimum wage increase in a decade but only if it's coupled with a cut in inheritance taxes on multimillion-dollar estates, lawmakers said Friday....

....Republicans hoped to put Democrats in the uncomfortable position of voting against the minimum wage increase and the estate tax cut - and an accompanying bipartisan package of popular tax breaks, including a research and development credit for businesses and deductions for college tuition and state sales taxes.

But there was GOP discontent, too. Some conservative in the House were unhappy about the minimum wage vote while moderates in the party were restive about it being tied to cuts in the estate tax.
And why are so some Republicans moving away from party orthodoxy?
Lawmakers fear being pounded with 30-second campaign ads over the August recess that would tie Congress' upcoming $3,300 pay increase with Republicans' refusal to raise the minimum wage.
Let's pound them to a pulp!

Behold, the power of the Kool-Aid

From the very belly of the 'Grey Lady' herself, Paul Krugman describes the means and methods of the deceptions of the Bushoviks upon the American public.
Meanwhile, apparatchiks in the media spread disinformation. It’s hard to imagine what the world looks like to the large number of Americans who get their news by watching Fox and listening to Rush Limbaugh, but I get a pretty good sense from my mailbag.

Many of my correspondents are living in a world in which the economy is better than it ever was under Bill Clinton, newly released documents show that Saddam really was in cahoots with Osama, and the discovery of some decayed 1980’s-vintage chemical munitions vindicates everything the administration said about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. (Hyping of the munitions find may partly explain why public belief that Saddam had W.M.D. has made a comeback.)

Some of my correspondents have even picked up on claims, mostly disseminated on right-wing blogs, that the Bush administration actually did a heck of a job after Katrina.
Rev. Jim Jones was obviously not an exception to the rule.

Quote of the Morning

Overheard on "Imus in the Morning", a discussion of Ann Coulter being her usual word-that-rhymes-with-bunt self.
BERNIE: She needs to get laid.

IMUS: But who would do it? (pause) How about Norm Coleman's dad?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Tom Toles today

The Fatal Flaw

Aside from actually having Our Dear Embattled Leader posing as Preznit, Michael Hirsh recounts how the Bushoviks managed to repeat the losing tactics of the wrong side of every insurgency in the last century.
The Bush administration has fought the "war on terror" as a series of Jerry Springers, one lunatic leap of logic after another based on unreliable sources, linking up enemies that had little to do with each other. The White House's failure to understand counterinsurgency in Iraq is, writ large, its failure to understand the radical Muslim enemy as a whole. The president has used Al Qaeda to gin up the threat from Iraq, just as he is now conflating Hizbullah and Hamas with Al Qaeda as "terrorists" of the same ilk. Actually these groups had little connection to one another—or at least they didn't until America decided to make itself their common enemy. Al Qaeda was always, in truth, the only "terrorist group of global reach" in the world—which is how Bush accurately defined things back in that long-ago fall of 2001. Both Hizbullah and Hamas had publicly disavowed any interest in backing Osama bin Laden's goals. Al Qaeda was Sunni, Hizbullah is Shiite. Even within the Muslim world these groups had scant support, although Hamas and Hizbullah had a lot more than Al Qaeda did because they were providing social services in Lebanon and Gaza.

How does this affect current events in the Mideast? In strategic terms, the U.S. endorsement of Israel's retaliation against Hizbullah had some merit at the start, within limits: a Lebanon with an armed Hizbullah in its midst was never going to graduate to real democracy. The Israeli action is also, in a way, a proxy war against Iran and its nuclear program. Reducing Iran's influence in the region by degrading the power of its principal means of terror (and therefore of retaliation) is in America's interest, as well. This is the unspoken logic both of the fierce Israeli assault and Bush's fierce defense of it: "In the back of everyone's head is Iran looming as a threat over the region," says one Israeli official.

But with each errant bomb that kills more Lebanese children, the U.S. position becomes less defensible. By walking in lockstep with the Israelis, we Americans make it impossible for Muslims not to see us as an enemy. And every Muslim official knows, even if Bush does not, that Hizbullah is not identical with Iran but is a client of it, in a relationship not unlike that of the United States and Israel. By making Israel's war our own we ensure that the Lebanese group and the Tehran mullahs will be even closer allies in the future. We place the Muslims whom we desperately need as allies, like Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, in an impossible position. Maliki, a Shiite, can no longer stand with Bush, as he showed during his tense visit to Washington this week.
2600+ American lives wasted up to now, with more to come because the Big Fool says to push on.

Bob Herbert Reviews Our Dear Embattled Leader's accomplishments

And pretty much says it all in the first three sentences.
Imagine a surgeon who is completely clueless, who has no idea what he or she is doing.

Imagine a pilot who is equally incompetent.

Now imagine a president.
Read the rest if you don't remember the details.

Condi's mission accomplished, well done old girl!

"Hezbollah attacked Israel. I know Hezbollah is connected to Iran," Bush said tersely at the end of Oval Office meetings with Romanian President Traian Basescu. "Now is the time for the world to confront this danger," Bush said.

The president was responding to statements from top Israeli officials that fighting could continue for several weeks more. Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon said world leaders, in failing to call for an immediate cease-fire during a Rome summit, gave Israel a green light to push harder to wipe out Hezbollah.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

IAF thinks Red Cross is an aiming point

Once might be an accident, the "fog of war" might cause errors, but this report in the Guardian can only be describing a deliberate murderous attack on innocents.
The ambulance headlamps were on, the blue light overhead was flashing, and another light illuminated the Red Cross flag when the first Israeli missile hit, shearing off the right leg of the man on the stretcher inside. As he lay screaming beneath fire and smoke, patients and ambulance workers scrambled for safety, crawling over glass in the dark. Then another missile hit the second ambulance.

Even in a war which has turned the roads of south Lebanon into killing zones, Israel's rocket strike on two clearly marked Red Cross ambulances on Sunday night set a deadly new milestone.

Six ambulance workers were wounded and three generations of the Fawaz family, being transported to hospital from Tibnin with what were originally minor injuries, were left fighting for their lives. Two ambulances were entirely destroyed, their roofs pierced by missiles.

Does the Israeli military think that Lebanese is a synonym for Hezbollah? Consider this compilation of the bombing results.
The toll



Civilian deaths 8

Hizbullah deaths 0

Since outbreak

Military deaths 66

Civilian deaths 377

Wounded 1,550+



Civilian deaths 0

Military deaths 4

Since outbreak

Military deaths 24

Civilian deaths 17

Wounded 360+
That's some real sharp shooting. Who is their bombing instructor? Dick Cheney?

UPDATE: The IAF also struck a UN observers compound. There is absolutely no way that could be a mistake. They are telling the world that they will kill anyone they please, anywhere they chose at any time they want to.

ARG at 35%

That is the approval number from the latest ARG poll.
Among all Americans, 35% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 59% disapprove. When it comes to Bush's handling of the economy, 31% approve and 63% disapprove. Among Americans registered to vote, 36% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 58% disapprove. When it comes to the way Bush is handling the economy, 32% of registered voters approve of the way Bush is handling the economy and 63% disapprove.
Some people just won't let go of their Kool-Aid.

The apple almost never falls far from the tree

I think it is a wonderful thing, but for a politician, to have a parent acting human, must be a disaster. And when the politician is a Republican who embraces the party's anti sex plank, well you can imagine what was said in private.
Norm Coleman Sr., the father of Minnesota's junior senator, was cited for lewd and disorderly conduct Tuesday after police officers reported finding him engaged in a sex act in a car near a pizzeria on E. 7th St. in St. Paul.

A police report said officers were called to Savoy Inn about 6:30 p.m to investigate a report that two people were having sex in a car. The police report stated a woman, Patrizia Marie Schrag, 38, also was cited for lewd and disorderly conduct.

The elder Coleman, 81, raised his son in New York City. He has since moved to Minnesota, and public records indicate he lives in St. Paul.

Sen. Coleman issued a statement after learning of the citation against his father.

"I love my father dearly," the senator said. "I do not condone his actions or behavior, and I am deeply disturbed by what I have learned. He clearly has some issues that need to be dealt with, and I will encourage him to seek the necessary help."
Sweet hopping Jesus, the man is 81! He has no issues, he just doesn't have a lot of time.

You go, Sr.

And how do you plan to pay for it?

Finally someone in the Treasury Dept asks the question that any good salesman will ask sooner rather than later. The naturally mendacious Republicans always called the Democrats "tax and spend", but at least they had the money in hand when they spent. Our Dear Embattled Fratboy has always had someone bail him out and never understood the concept of paying for what he took. And in a report from the Treasury Dept it seems that no one else did either, until now.
The Congressional Budget Office and Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation provide dynamic analyses of how changes in tax policy are likely to affect the economy but do not use "scoring," which estimates the effects of tax changes on the governments tax receipts.

Earlier this year, Bush's budget proposed creating a Treasury Division on Dynamic Analysis to refine its approach, saying, "It is envisioned that dynamic analysis eventually would evolve into dynamic scoring."

The Treasury report released yesterday relieved "a lot of fears that dynamic scoring would lead to the view that cutting taxes raises revenue," said Jason Furman, a senior fellow at the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Rather, the report "pours a huge bucket of cold water on the exaggerated claims that tax cuts transform the economy and pay for themselves."

On the contrary, Furman said, the Treasury's estimates suggest that, under the best long-run scenario, the tax cuts' boost to tax payments would offset less than 10 percent of their initial cost.

The Treasury report highlights Bush's call for both permanent tax cuts and "spending restraint."

But government spending has increased sharply during the Bush administration, said Leonard E. Burman, director of the Urban Institute's and the Brookings Institution's joint Tax Policy Center. He faulted the White House for deferring discussion of the types of big spending cuts that would be required to finance the tax cuts.

"All of the hard questions are swept under the rug," said Burman, a Treasury official in the Clinton administration. "We've increased spending and cut taxes, which is politically a very effective strategy. But in the long run, the effect on the economy is a disaster."
In the good old days, we called folks who couldn't pay their debts, deadbeats. Now we call them Republicans.

Steadfast or dumb as a stump?

MoDo lays out the evidence and you decide.

Newsweek’s Richard Wolffe says he conducted four “freewheeling” interviews with the president last week, and concluded: “Bush thinks the new war vindicates his early vision of the region’s struggle: of good versus evil, civilization versus terrorism, freedom versus Islamic fascism. He still believes that when it comes to war and terror, leaders need to decide whose side they are on.”

The president sees Lebanon as a test of macho mettle rather than the latest chapter in a fratricidal free-for-all that’s been going on for centuries. “I view this as the forces of instability probing weakness,” he said. “I think they’re testing resolve.”

The more things get complicated, the more W. feels vindicated in his own simplified vision. The more people try to tell him that it’s not easy, that this is a region of shifting alliances and interests, the less he seems inclined to develop an adroit policy to win people over to our side instead of trying to annihilate them.

Bill Clinton, the Mutable Man par excellence, evolved four times a day; he had a tactical and even recreational attitude toward personal change. But W. prides himself on his changelessness and regards his immutability as the surest sign of his virtue. Facing a map on fire, he sees any inkling of change as the slippery slope to failure.

That’s what’s so frustrating about watching him deal — or not deal — with Iraq and Lebanon. There’s almost nothing to watch.

It’s not even like watching paint dry, since that, too, is a passage from one state to another. It’s like watching dry paint.
Heh, Paint Boy.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Tuesday cartoons

They agree to disagree

Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki and Our Dear Embattled Leader agreed that Baghdad needs more troops. They were poles apart regarding the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Some in Washington expressed hope that corrective measures would be applied prior to the Prime Ministers speech to Congress.

Monday, July 24, 2006

And you were expecting another view?

Let's face it, many lawyers spend their entire careers mingling with criminals. They can spot a crook easily, just watch who they give their to. The only time they won't publicly state that someone is crooked is when the crook is their client. Thus it is no surprise that a bipartisan 11-member panel of the American Bar Association determined that Our Dear Embattled Leader is breaking the law with his illegal use of signing statements.
In a comprehensive report, a bipartisan 11-member panel of the bar association said Mr. Bush had used such “signing statements” far more than his predecessors, raising constitutional objections to more than 800 provisions in more than 100 laws on the ground that they infringed on his prerogatives.

These broad assertions of presidential power amount to a “line-item veto” and improperly deprive Congress of the opportunity to override the veto, the panel said.

In signing a statutory ban on torture and other national security laws, Mr. Bush reserved the right to disregard them.

The bar association panel said the use of signing statements in this way was “contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers.” From the dawn of the Republic, it said, presidents have generally understood that, in the words of George Washington, a president “must approve all the parts of a bill, or reject it in toto.”

If the president deems a bill unconstitutional, he can veto it, the panel said, but “signing statements should not be a substitute for a presidential veto.”
About what you can expect from a Preznit who has violated every amendment in the Bill of Rights except "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors wife". I mean, why bother when you have Condi.

Surprise! Condi goes to Beirut.

Must have been a Going Out of Business Sale at the local branches of her favorite shoe stores.

On the accuracy of the Israeli Air Force.

The NY Times is reporting on the horrors of three families in Lebanon as they attempted to escape the deadly Israeli pogrom against their country.
It was the scene that members of the extended Shaito family said they had feared most, the real reason they had held out for days in their village of Tireh in southern Lebanon, terrified of the Israeli bombardment, but more terrified of what might happen if they risked leaving. On Sunday they gave up their stand, and all 18 members crammed into the family’s white Mazda minivan. They planned to head north toward the relative safety of Beirut.

Within minutes they became casualties of Israel’s 12-day-old bombardment of southern Lebanon, which the Israelis say they will continue indefinitely to destroy the military abilities of Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group. By the Lebanese official count, Israel’s attacks have killed more than 380 Lebanese.

An Israeli rocket, which Lebanese officials said was likely fired from a helicopter, slammed into the center of the Shaitos’ van as it sped round a bend a few miles west of their village, and the van crashed into a hillside. Three occupants were killed: an uncle, Mohammad; the grandmother, Nazira; and a Syrian man who had guarded their home. The missile also critically wounded Mrs. Shaito and her sister. Eleven others suffered less severe wounds.

“They said leave, and that’s what we did,” said Musbah Shaito, another uncle, as his niece, Heba, 16, cried hysterically behind him for her dead father, whose head was nearly blown off. This reporter watched as paramedics struggled to remove the dead from the van, but soon gave up, as an Israeli drone hovered overhead....

.....The Shaitos came from a farming village about five miles from the Israeli border in a region known for tobacco, citrus and olive crops. They had waved a white flag from the van, signifiying to Israeli aircraft that they were non-threatening, Mr. Shaito told reporters later.

The Israeli military said in a statement that its aircraft operations over southern Lebanon on Sunday had targeted “approximately 20 vehicles” suspected of “serving the terror organization in the launching of missiles at Israel, and were recognized fleeing from or staying at missile-launching areas.” The military did not comment on specific bombings, but cited the area south of Tyre, where the Shaitos were driving, as “an area used continuously by Hezbollah to fire missiles.”
So once again they tell people to flee their homes and blow them up when they do. Everyone has seen how well the IAF drops bombs, but they still need some work on their target intelligence.

One or many

What does it matter? When the dust settles they are all dead. From the AP:
The Baghdad bombing occurred Sunday when a suicide driver detonated a minivan in the Mahdi Army stronghold of Sadr City at the entrance to the Jameelah market, which was packed with shoppers and vendors on the first day of the Iraqi workweek.

An Iraqi army statement said 34 people were killed and 73 were wounded. Eight more people were killed and 20 wounded when a second bomb exploded two hours later at a municipal government building in Sadr City, the Iraqi army said.

In Kirkuk, a car bomb detonated at midday near a courthouse in the city market district, killing 20 and wounding more than 150, according to police Brig. Gen. Sarhat Qadir. It was the fourth car bombing this month in Kirkuk, where tensions are rising among Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen for control of the area's vast oil wealth.
Numbers getting to be too much? Try this instead.
"We could not sleep because of the raid, and today we woke up with the explosion of the car bomb," one man told Associated Press Television without giving his name. "How long is it going to be like this?"

Police searched through the wreckage of the car bomb for more victims and warned bystanders to leave or they would be arrested. An elderly man, his clothes soaked in blood, wept as he called out the name of a missing relative.
And in the other Middle East war it continues as before.
Israel hit the southern port of Sidon for the first time, destroying a religious complex linked to Hezbollah and wounding four people. More than 35,000 people streaming north from the heart of the war zone had swamped the city, which is teetering under the weight of refugees.

Israel also bombed a textile factory in the border town of al-Manara, killing one person and wounding two, Mayor Ali Rahal told The Associated Press.

The stricken minibus was carrying 16 people fleeing the village of Tairi, heading through the mountains for the southern port city of Tyre. A missile hit the bus near the village of Yaatar, killing three and wounding the rest, security officials said.

On Saturday, the Israeli military told residents of Taire and 12 other nearby villages to evacuate by 4 p.m.

In other violence, an 8-year-old boy was killed in a strike on a village in the mountains above Tyre, and another missile hit a vehicle right outside the Najem hospital, wounding eight, a hospital official said.....

....At least four other people were killed by strikes in the south, Lebanese television said, but the deaths were not confirmed by security officials.[Does that mean they are not really dead?-M] About 45 people were wounded in Israeli air raids that targeted villages and towns around Tyre, security and hospital officials said.
And somewhere there are people congratulating themselves for a job well done.

Elegy for Beirut

The title of Robert Fisk's latest report from Lebanon. A view from the other side that must be read.
Beirutis are tough people and are not easily moved. But at the end of last week, many of them were overcome by a photograph in their daily papers of a small girl, discarded like a broken flower in a field near Ter Harfa, her feet curled up, her hand resting on her torn blue pyjamas, her eyes - beneath long, soft hair - closed, turned away from the camera. She had been another "terrorist" target of Israel and several people, myself among them, saw a frightening similarity between this picture and the photograph of a Polish girl lying dead in a field beside her weeping sister in 1939.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Now the Saudis want a ceasefire in Lebanon

And they even sent Bandar Bush to join the Ambassador in presenting their case to Our Dear Embattled Leader. Will ODEL listen to his kissing cousin?

Tom Toles today

I can't figure out if these are US or Israeli generals.

What can you do to help?

' The American University of Beirut is once again at the forefront of efforts to care for those who are suffering in Lebanon. We will do everything we can to take care of those who need our help. We have done it before. Our commitment to do so is just as strong today.

We are seeking your support for the newly created AUB Medical Emergency Fund so that we can continue relief efforts in the following two areas: medical supplies and volunteer relief.

You can make a secure online donation,

You can issue a check payable to: American University of Beirut / Medical Emergency Fund American University of Beirut

You can issue a check payable to: American University of Beirut / Medical Emergency Fund American University of Beirut 3 Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10017-2303 USA

For other payment methods, please contact or + 212-583-7600 (New York Office) or + 961-3-996543 (Beirut Office) '

CNN's doctor on the spot

By Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Editor's note: In our Behind the Scenes series, CNN correspondents share their experiences covering the news.

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- As I stood in a bombed-out nursery at Salel hospital in southern Beirut, I realized that this is the hardest part of my job.

Certainly, it is difficult to travel to a war zone, go without sleep for days on end and worry about my own safety. And, of course, being away from my family is difficult, as well.

Standing in that nursery, though, looking at the devastation of crumpled walls and shards of glass everywhere -- staring into the seven tiny, now-empty bassinets adorned with little cut-out figures of rabbits and turtles, now carelessly tossed on the floor -- is the most heart-wrenching of all.

I came to Beirut to tell the stories of the victims of war and the heroes who save them. I found plenty of both.

At Mount Lebanon Hospital, there is 36-year-old Zaged Melham, who was thrown 30 feet through the air, with shrapnel ripping through his hands, feet and abdomen. He told me he barely heard a noise, until the missile was nearly on top of him.

Lahoud Lahoud, 27, is in more critical condition, lying in a coma after an early morning airstrike. What they have in common, though, is Dr. Nazih Gharios, one of the heroes of this war. A stately physician, Gharios kept Mount Lebanon Hospital open when every business around him shut down, worried about airstrikes in a neighborhood where Hezbollah dominates.

"It is my duty," he told me, acknowledging that every day was a game of "Russian roulette."

On the first day of attacks, he came up with a plan. With a bunker-like mentality, Gharios evacuated his patients to the subterranean floors of the hospital.

In places that are normally used to store equipment and perform radiology studies, Gharios created a maternity ward, an intensive care unit and even a neonatal ICU, which is caring for a 600-gram (1.3-pound) newborn girl and two 1.2 kilogram (2.6-pound) twin boys.

Patients here are blissfully ignorant of the whining of missiles above, some landing as close as 100 meters from the hospital.

It is not to say that Gharios' plan is foolproof. Several of his staff members, including a surgeon who helped save Zaloud's life, have decided to leave, concerned for their families' safety. And Gharios doesn't believe he can hold out for more than a couple more weeks, with dwindling supplies and an increasing number of patients.

As a doctor who works for CNN, I am often sent to the most troubled places on Earth. Whether it is the battlefields of Iraq, the shores of Sri Lanka or the mountains of Pakistan, I have seen extreme medicine practiced in almost impossible situations. Still, every circumstance is different.

In Lebanon -- with the nearly continuous onslaught of airstrikes -- it does feel desperate, and very scary. And the hardest thing to take is seeing the devastation caused by a bomb falling so close to a nursery -- that makes me miss my own little girl that much more.
Lucky Gupta, he can go home if he wants and see his daughter again. Thanks to Our Dear Embattled Leader's "brilliant" foreign policy that is not an option for many Lebanese.

A costly lesson to be learned again

And the troops pay for what the generals threw away. The Washington Post has the story of the mistakes that cost so many lives to be learned and then relearned.

Mike DeW(h)ines 9-11 ad was only the first salvo

And the Toledo Blade carries an article on the way the election campaigns are shaping up in places where the Republicans are poised to lose.
The Ohio Republican Party's newly hired "social conservative coordinator" e-mailed an undisclosed group of "pro-family friends" this week, offering a 10-point introduction to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland.

His message attacked the church attendance, work ethic, and voting record of Mr. Strickland, a southeast Ohio congressman and ordained Methodist minister. It alleged Mr. Strickland and his wife of nearly 20 years live in different states - and linked to an Internet posting that questions whether Mr. Strickland is gay.

The e-mail's author, a Christian home school headmaster named Gary Lankford, signed the note with his Ohio Republican Party title below his name. "Pass this information along," he concluded.

Mr. Strickland called the e-mail's charges "preposterous" and "not factual" when informed of them this week, after The Blade obtained a copy. Ohio GOP officials condemned the message and said they disciplined Mr. Lankford but did not fire him.

The e-mail surfaced shortly after the campaign of U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine (R., Cedarville) launched a television ad - produced by the agency behind the "Swift Boat" campaign against 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry - that flashed terrorist mug shots and a smoking World Trade Center to underscore criticism of Mr. DeWine's Democratic opponent's record on national security.
You can't fire someone for doing what you ask of them.

Expect lots of slime, deceit and deception from the Republicans this year, it's the only thing they do well.

Like termites, they destroy from within

Charlie Savage has another report in the Boston Globe detailing the Bushovik efforts to undermine our government. The Civil Rights division of the Justice Dept is the vistim in this report.
The documents show that only 42 percent of the lawyers hired since 2003, after the administration changed the rules to give political appointees more influence in the hiring process, have civil rights experience. In the two years before the change, 77 percent of those who were hired had civil rights backgrounds.

In an acknowledgment of the department's special need to be politically neutral, hiring for career jobs in the Civil Rights Division under all recent administrations, Democratic and Republican, had been handled by civil servants -- not political appointees.

But in the fall of 2002, then-attorney general John Ashcroft changed the procedures. The Civil Rights Division disbanded the hiring committees made up of veteran career lawyers.

For decades, such committees had screened thousands of resumes, interviewed candidates, and made recommendations that were only rarely rejected.

Now, hiring is closely overseen by Bush administration political appointees to Justice, effectively turning hundreds of career jobs into politically appointed positions.....

.....Hires with traditional civil rights backgrounds -- either civil rights litigators or members of civil rights groups -- have plunged. Only 19 of the 45 lawyers hired since 2003 in those three sections were experienced in civil rights law, and of those, nine gained their experience either by defending employers against discrimination lawsuits or by fighting against race-conscious policies.

Meanwhile, conservative credentials have risen sharply. Since 2003 the three sections have hired 11 lawyers who said they were members of the conservative Federalist Society. Seven hires in the three sections are listed as members of the Republican National Lawyers Association, including two who volunteered for Bush-Cheney campaigns.

Several new hires worked for prominent conservatives, including former Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr, former attorney general Edwin Meese, Mississippi Senator Trent Lott, and Judge Charles Pickering. And six listed Christian organizations that promote socially conservative views.....

.....At the same time, the kinds of cases the Civil Rights Division is bringing have undergone a shift. The division is bringing fewer voting rights and employment cases involving systematic discrimination against African-Americans, and more alleging reverse discrimination against whites and religious discrimination against Christians.
The good side is that, having been hired for their politics, they can be thrown out for their politics once we get a real President in office.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Wheel of Bush has completed another turn

And Frank Rich is there to report it.
HOW time flies when democracy is on the march in the Middle East! Five whole years have passed since ominous Qaeda chatter reached its pre-9/11 fever pitch, culminating in the President’s Daily Brief of Aug. 6, 2001: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”

History has since condemned President Bush for ignoring that intelligence. But to say that he did nothing that summer is a bum rap. Just three days later, on Aug. 9, he took a break from clearing brush in Crawford to reveal the real priority of his presidency, which had nothing to do with a nuisance like terrorism. His first prime-time address after more than six months in office was devoted to embryonic stem-cell research instead. Placing his profound religious convictions above the pagan narcissism of Americans hoping for cures to diseases like Parkinson’s and diabetes, he decreed restrictions to shackle the advance of medical science.

Whatever else is to be said about the Decider, he’s consistent. Having dallied again this summer while terrorism upends the world, he has once more roused himself to take action — on stem cells. His first presidential veto may be bad news for the critically ill, but it was a twofer for the White House. It not only flattered the president’s base. It also drowned out some awkward news: the prime minister he installed in Baghdad, Nuri al-Maliki, and the fractious Parliament of Iraq’s marvelous new democracy had called a brief timeout from their civil war to endorse the sole cause that unites them, the condemnation of Israel.
With events coming full circle and the Bushoviks in disarray, will Our Dear Embattled Leader give his soulmate Osama another chance? George is nothing if not loyal to those who have served him well.

Republican Congressional Values

Not much different from their Family Values.
An ex-employee at a defense contractor pleaded guilty Friday to making illegal donations to the campaign of Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va., marking the latest chapter in a congressional bribery probe.

Richard Berglund, who formerly supervised the Martinsville, Va., office of MZM Inc., faces up to a year in prison for engaging in a scheme with company owner Mitchell Wade to reimburse MZM employees for campaign donations. The scheme violates the Federal Election Campaign Act.

In February, Wade pleaded guilty to bribing former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, in exchange for help in getting $150 million in Defense Department contracts.

Wade and defense contractor Brent Wilkes were at the center of the Cunningham bribery case and the two business executives also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to curry favor with other lawmakers, including Goode and Rep. Katherine Harris, R-Fla.

Cunningham was sentenced in March to more than eight years in prison after pleading guilty to taking $2.4 million in bribes.
Who's next?

This man could piss off the Pope

In the NY Times today is a report of the incredible impression John "Fuzz Butt or is it Lip" Bolton has made on various members of the United Nations. As the Bushoviks contemplate another attempt to confirm his appointment, we find that nobody is able to work with him.
The Bush administration is not popular at the United Nations, where it is often perceived as disdainful of diplomacy, and its policies as heedless of the effects on others and single-minded in the willful assertion of American interests. By extension, then, many diplomats say they see Mr. Bolton as a stand-in for the arrogance of the administration itself.

But diplomats focus particularly on an area with less evidence of instructions from Washington and more of Mr. Bolton’s personal touch, the mission that he has described as his priority: overhauling the institution’s discredited management. Envoys say he has in fact endangered that effort by alienating traditional allies. They say he combatively asserts American leadership, contests procedures at the mannerly, rules-bound United Nations and then shrugs off the organization when it does not follow his lead....

....“My initial feeling was, let’s see if we can work with him, and I have done some things to push for consensus on issues that were not easy for my country,” said an ambassador with close ties to the Bush administration.

“But all he gives us in return is, ‘It doesn’t matter, whatever you do is insufficient,’ ” he said. “He’s lost me as an ally now, and that’s what many other ambassadors who consider themselves friends of the U.S. are saying.”

A European envoy said that Mr. Bolton was a difficult ally for his traditionally pro-American group because he often staked out unilateral hard-line positions in the media or Congress and then proved unwilling to compromise in the give and take of negotiations.

In the aftermath of a 170-to-4 vote last spring on creating a Human Rights Council, which the United States opposed, Peter Maurer, the ambassador of Switzerland, characterized the American approach as “intransigent and maximalist.”

“All too often,” he said, “high ambitions are cover-ups for less noble aims, and oriented not at improving the United Nations, but at belittling and weakening it.”
He and his kind have long wanted to destroy the UN. Now, thanks to Sen George Voinovich's timely change of heart, the evildoers may get their wish.

News from the Front

Yahoo has the daily report of killings and bombings in Irag and what the important people are saying about it. Tucked away inside was this little tidbit that should come as no surprise to anyone paying attention to that part of the world.
The U.S. command had drawn up plans to reduce the number of U.S. combat brigades in Iraq from 14 to 12 by September. But that plan has been shelved because of the security crisis in the capital. A senior U.S. defense official said the Pentagon was moving ahead with scheduled deployments to Iraq next month and was moving one battalion to Baghdad from Kuwait.
Too little, too late?

Is Our Dear Embattled Leader in love with death?

In his op-ed piece Anthony Wade seems to believe so. And he puts forth the evidence to support this, leading to this conclusion.
George Bush has always supported a culture of death. From his days in Texas presiding over the most executions of any Governor before him and mocking one condemned soul who pleaded for her life, to signing the law that allows Texas that allows hospitals to kill patients who can no longer pay the bills for life-sustaining services. From ignoring the bloodshed in Lebanon as children die to refusing to attend any soldier funerals in America. From the torture chambers in Gitmo to the sands of Iraq, George W. Bush has left a trail of blood and death wherever he has gone. While that is reprehensible enough, it is nothing but blatant hypocrisy he shows when pretending to then care about life by refusing to allow scientists to use embryos slated for destruction to possibly ease human suffering. We should not be surprised however, since George W. Bush is all about human suffering. In speaking this week about his veto and the children he used to justify it Bush said, "They remind us that in our zeal for new treatments and cures, America must never abandon our fundamental morals". Bush is technically correct. America should not abandon her fundamental morals, no matter how obvious it is that her leader has.
Our Preznit, a peach of a guy!

Are you feeling safer yet?

Because Yahoo has a report on how the wheels of commerce keep turning, regardless of the security consequences.
In June, two GAO investigators spent $1.1 million on such equipment at two excess property warehouses. Their purchases included several types of body armor inserts used by troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, an all-band antenna used to track aircraft, and a digital signal converter used in naval surveillance.

"The body armor could be used by terrorists or other criminal activity," noted the report, obtained Friday by The Associated Press. "Many of the other military items have weapons applications that would also be useful to terrorists."

Thousands of items that should have been destroyed were sold to the public, the report said. Much of the equipment was sold for pennies on the dollar.

The list included circuit cards used in computerized Navy systems, a cesium technology timing unit with global positioning capabilities, and 12 digital microcircuits used in F-14 Tomcat fighter aircraft.
Do you still think the Republicans are stronger on National Security?

He's Ba-a-ck!

Like that nightmare image you can't get out of you head, John "Fuzz Butt, or is it Lip" Bolton is coming back to the Senate for another shot at confirmation. And this time Voinovitch says he likes him. Jeez, think the Feds have found something in their Ohio corruption investigations?

Air guitar diplomacy

With the right inspiration, MoDo does have a way with words. And her words to day are directed right at Our Dear Embattled Leader's other wife Condi.
The more W. and his tough, by-any-means-necessary superbabe have tried to tame the Middle East, the more inflamed the Middle East has become. Now the secretary of state is leaving, reluctantly and belatedly, to do some shuttle diplomacy that entails little diplomacy and no shuttling. It’s more like air-guitar diplomacy.

Condi doesn’t want to talk to Hezbollah or its sponsors, Syria and Iran — “Syria knows what it needs to do,’’ she says with asperity — and she doesn’t want a cease-fire. She wants “a sustainable cease-fire,’’ which means she wants to give the Israelis more time to decimate Hezbollah bunkers with the precision-guided bombs that the Bush administration is racing to deliver.

“I could have gotten on a plane and rushed over and started shuttling, and it wouldn’t have been clear what I was shuttling to do,” she said.

Keep more civilians from being killed? Or at least keep America from being even more despised in the Middle East and around the globe?
And what good would that do?

Friday, July 21, 2006

This should make everything better

Yup, this is just what we need to do in the Middle East.
The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, American officials said Friday.

The decision to quickly ship the weapons to Israel was made with relatively little debate within the Bush administration, the officials said. Its disclosure threatens to anger Arab governments and others because of the appearance that the United States is actively aiding the Israeli bombing campaign in a way that could be compared to Iran’s efforts to arm and resupply Hezbollah.

The munitions that the United States is sending to Israel are part of a multimillion-dollar arms sale package approved last year that Israel is able to draw on as needed, the officials said. But Israel’s request for expedited delivery of the satellite and laser-guided bombs was described as unusual by some military officers, and as an indication that Israel had a long list of targets in Lebanon still to strike.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday that she would head to Israel on Sunday at the beginning of a round of Middle Eastern diplomacy. The original plan was to include a stop to Cairo in her travels, but she did not announce any stops in Arab capitals.
And on the other hand, there was this from Reuters today.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said U.S. ideas for ending the Middle East conflict are still evolving but Washington does intend to contribute humanitarian aid to Lebanese people displaced by fighting between Israel and the militant Islamic group Hizbollah.
Let them eat bombs, at least until Condi gets there.

Our Dear Embattled Leader Cries out for blood!

In his own endearing Texican way, by having his other wife Condi deflect calls for a ceasefire in Lebanon.
A simple cease-fire “would be a false promise” and would “guarantee future violence,” Ms. Rice said as she gave an outline of her trip, which will begin on Sunday and take her to Israel and then to Rome to meet with diplomats of other nations anxious to see an end to the bloodshed
In the meantime, Hezbollah is, like Osama before them, being elevated to superstar staus in the Arab world. The Christian Science Monitor has the details here.

UPDATE: I missed this earlier piece in the Washington Post that puts forth a chilling assessment of the simple minded tools guiding out Middle East policy. Lead by Our Dear Embattled Leader, they seriously believe that indiscriminate bombing will force changes in Lebanon and other countries in our favor. Just like in Iraq.
In the administration's view, the new conflict is not just a crisis to be managed. It is also an opportunity to seriously degrade a big threat in the region, just as Bush believes he is doing in Iraq. Israel's crippling of Hezbollah, officials also hope, would complete the work of building a functioning democracy in Lebanon and send a strong message to the Syrian and Iranian backers of Hezbollah.

"The president believes that unless you address the root causes of the violence that has afflicted the Middle East, you cannot forge a lasting peace," said White House counselor Dan Bartlett. "He mourns the loss of every life. Yet out of this tragic development, he believes a moment of clarity has arrived."
Sounds like ODEL is drinking again. And innocent people will continue to die.

Hope wins another round.

From the NYT:
A federal judge on Thursday rejected a motion by the Bush administration to dismiss a lawsuit against AT&T over its cooperation with a government surveillance program, ruling that state secrets would not be at risk if the suit proceeded.

The case was filed in February by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group, and alleged that AT&T was collaborating with the National Security Agency in a surveillance program tracking the domestic and foreign communications of millions of Americans.

In rejecting the motion brought by the Justice Department, Vaughn R. Walker, chief judge of the Federal District Court for the Northern District of California, ruled that the government had already disclosed in broad terms whose communications it monitored, and that it was generally interested in calls between the United States and other countries.

“The government has opened the door for judicial inquiry by publicly confirming and denying material information about its monitoring of communications content,” Judge Walker wrote.

“Because of the public disclosures by the government and AT&T,’’ he added, “the court cannot conclude that merely maintaining this action creates a ‘reasonable danger’ of harming national security.”

The Constitution still lives!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

To Ralph Reed

Tough luck kid. But look at the bright side, now you have the time to pray to that God you used so cavalierly in the past in between visits to the lawyers.

Auth (what more need be said)

Smug, sanctimonius sons of bitches

And I include Our Dear Embattled Leader in that collection, even if he didn't vote for it.
The House, citing the nation's religious origins, voted Wednesday to protect the Pledge of Allegiance from federal judges who might try to stop schoolchildren and others from reciting it because of the phrase "under God."
What sort of conservative votes against the traditional Pledge in favor of a creepy, revisionist version that say "I am better than you because I say GOD a lot"?

Our Dear Embattled Leader breaks his "maiden"

After 6 years of allowing the most abominable legislation pass without remark, including one that requires the State Dept. to charge Americans caught in a war zone for their rescue, ODEL has cast his first veto. And what heinous legislation prompted this from our normally somnolent preznit? Why stem cells, of course. A bill to expand and fund research that would keep the US in sight of the rest of the world in this field,was offensive to this miserable Texican prick. It did bring out a few choice quotes from this Master of Moronitude.
“This bill would support the taking of innocent human life,”
So I guess this means that all those Iraqis were guilty as hell, of something.
“Each of these human embryos is a unique human life with inherent dignity and matchless value,”
So much more so than all those worthless Lebanese, even the Canadian ones.

Well done, Li'l Georgie! You make us all so proud.

MoDo captures the inner Bush

And it is surprising that so few people have understood who the real Our Dear Embattled Leader is. Ms Dowd lays it out neatly in her column today. Here are a few clues.
Catching W. off-guard, the really weird thing is his sense of victimization. He’s strangely resentful about the actual core of his job. Even after the debacles of Iraq and Katrina, he continues to treat the presidency as a colossal interference with his desire to mountain bike and clear brush.

In snippets of overheard conversation, Mr. Bush says he has not bothered to prepare any closing remarks and grouses about having to listen to other world leaders talk too long. What did he think being president was about?

The world may be blowing up, and the president may have a rare opportunity to jaw-jaw about bang-bang with his peers, but that pales in comparison with his burning desire to return to his feather pillow and gym back at the White House.

“Gotta go home,’’ he tells the guy next to him. “Got something to do tonight. Go to the airport, get on the airplane and go home.” A White House spokesman said Mr. Bush had nothing on his schedule after he returned to Washington on Monday about 4 p.m.
ODEL always wanted to be the Commissioner of Baseball, but you have to wonder if even that job would have been over his head.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tom Toles today

Our Dear Embattled Leader decides

And the world trembles at his awesome majesty. Or something like that. Actually, he decisded that DOJ lawyers investigating his illegal wiretapping of US citizens couldn't have security clearence to do their job.
President Bush effectively blocked an internal investigation into the role played by Justice Department lawyers in approving a controversial warrantless eavesdropping program on calls between the United States and overseas, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified today.

During an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales was questioned by the panel's chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), on why staffers in the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility were not allowed security clearances necessary to conduct an investigation into the eavesdropping program.

"It was highly classified, very important and many other lawyers had access," Specter asked. "Why not OPR?"

"The president of the United States makes the decision," Gonzales answered....

...."The president decided that protecting the secrecy and security of the program requires that a strict limit be placed on the number of persons granted access to information about the program for non-operational reasons," Gonzales wrote. "Every additional security clearance that is granted for the TSP increases the risk that national security might be compromised."

But in a series of memos to Gonzales's deputy also released today, OPR chief H. Marshall Jarrett noted that "a large team of attorneys and agents" assigned to a criminal investigation of the disclosure of the NSA program were promptly granted the same clearances. He also noted that numerous other investigators and officials--including the members of a civil-liberties board--had been granted access to or briefed on the program.
If only Al Capone could have blocked the IRS lawyers from investigating his taxes, we might celebrate more than St Valentines Day.

Atrios eviscerates Judas Joe in the LA Times

You can read it here, if you haven't already seen it in a dozen other places.
Lieberman has a long history of providing cover for the worst of Republican actions while enthusiastically serving as his own party's scold. After the Senate acquitted President Clinton on all impeachment charges, Lieberman called for his censure. More recently, he rejected a call by Sen. Russell D. Feingold (D-Wis.) to censure Bush over the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program, calling the attempt "divisive."

Lieberman looks happiest when playing a "Fox News Democrat," as he did in a February appearance on Sean Hannity's radio program, during which the two exchanged compliments and expressions of friendship and Hannity offered to campaign for him. The senator seems to enjoy Sunday talk shows more than actually doing his job. New Orleans could have been spared the hacktastic performance of Michael Brown, the unqualified former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, had Lieberman not shooed him through the confirmation process in a breezy 42-minute hearing.

Lieberman's relationship with the Democratic Party has been one of convenience, not principle, as was proved definitively in late June when he declared his intention to run as an independent if he loses the Aug. 8 primary. Proclaiming that he had loyalties "greater than those to my party," he decided he would deserve a do-over if rejected by Connecticut Democrats.
Anybody who reads Eschaton knows that he doesn't like J.J., but who knew Duncan wanted to be the Grand Inquisitor? Quick! Somebody call BoBo!

Quote of the Day

We can pour 300 billion dollars into that sewer in Iraq but we charge Americans to be taken out of a war zone in Lebanon.
Jack Cafferty on The Cafferty File

It was bad in Lebanon but Iraq is still on top.

And Our Dear Embattled Leader's crown jewel leads the way in civilian deaths, not only daily but monthly.
An average of more than 100 civilians per day were killed in Iraq last month, the highest monthly tally of violent deaths since the fall of Baghdad, the United Nations reported today.

The death toll, drawn from Iraqi government agencies, was the most precise measurement of civilian deaths provided by any government organization since the invasion and represented a dramatic increase over daily media reports.

United Nations officials also said that the number of violent deaths had been steadily increasing since at least last summer. In the first six months of this year, the civilian death toll jumped more than 77 percent, from 1,778 in January to 3,149 in June, the organization said.

This sharp upward trend reflected the dire security situation in Iraq as sectarian violence has worsened and Iraqi and American government forces have been powerless to stop it.

Underscoring the report, a suicide bomber attacked a marketplace in the southern Shiite holy town of Kufa today, killing 53 people and wounding at least 105, according to local hospital officials.
Does Iraq get a gold medal for this?

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