Saturday, January 7


What universe does this guy and his minions live in? The pResident's New Year visit to a VA hospital:

I sincerely wish he was as effective at policy as he is at clearing the brush on his taxpayer-enhanced ranch.

As you can possibly see, I have an injury myself -- not here at the hospital, but in combat with a Cedar. I eventually won. The Cedar gave me a little scratch. As a matter of fact, the Colonel asked if I needed first aid when she first saw me. I was able to avoid any major surgical operations here, but thanks for your compassion, Colonel.
Q Mr. President, in August you said that Katrina could -- the effects of it could test the strongest faith. I'm sure of some of the things that you saw today, that's the case, as well. What do you tell a young soldier or his young wife about how a loving God could permit or cause some of the things you saw today?

THE PRESIDENT: First of all, Mike, I'm conscious not to be trying to substitute myself for God. I am, on the other hand, inspired by the mom who told me upstairs that she prays every day and believes in the miracle of healing; that I think we see God's work here every day. I think when you find nurses and doctors who work around the clock, who come in at a moment's notice to save a life, I happen to believe there's a lot of divine inspiration to that kind of dedication and work. The parents I saw or the wives I saw, many of them were in prayer on a regular basis for their loved one.

And, you know, war is terrible. There's horrible consequences to war -- that's what you see in this building. On the other hand, we also see people who say, I'd like to go back in, Mr. President, what we're doing is the right thing, because many of these troops understand that by defeating the enemy there, we don't have to face them here. And they understand that by helping the country and the Middle East become a democracy, we are, in fact, laying the foundation for future peace. And, I, as the Commander-in-Chief, I am resolved to make sure that those who have died in combats' sacrifice are not in vain. And I am resolved to make sure that these kids who are recovering here, that have suffered terrible injury, that their injuries are not in vain by completing the mission and laying that foundation for peace for generations to come. And I'm optimistic we'll achieve that objective


The non-partisan Congressional Research Service concludes that Bush is breaking the law.

The 44-page report said that Bush probably cannot claim the broad presidential powers he has relied upon as authority to order the secret monitoring of calls made by U.S. citizens since the fall of 2001. Congress expressly intended for the government to seek warrants from a special Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before engaging in such surveillance when it passed legislation creating the court in 1978, the CRS report said.

The report also concluded that Bush's assertion that Congress authorized such eavesdropping to detect and fight terrorists does not appear to be supported by the special resolution that Congress approved after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which focused on authorizing the president to use military force.

"It appears unlikely that a court would hold that Congress has expressly or impliedly authorized the NSA electronic surveillance operations here," the authors of the CRS report wrote. The administration's legal justification "does not seem to be . . . well-grounded," they said.
"This evidence alone should demonstrate the inappropriateness of relying solely on executive branch discretion to safeguard civil liberties," they wrote. The lawmakers noted that Congress's intelligence committees could provide some checks and balances to protect privacy rights but that their power was limited in the face of an administration arguing that intelligence decisions must remain top secret.

No big deal, the pResident is above all that. We're engaged in a War on Terror, world without end, amen. That is, until a Democrat sits in the White House. Then all rules change.

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Support our troops. Yeah.

A secret Pentagon study has found that as many as 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to the upper body could have survived if they had had extra body armor. Such armor has been available since 2003, but until recently the Pentagon has largely declined to supply it to troops despite calls from the field for additional protection, according to military officials.

"Our preliminary research suggests that as many as 42 percent of the Marine casualties who died from isolated torso injuries could have been prevented with improved protection in the areas surrounding the plated areas of the vest," the study concludes. An additional 23 percent might have been saved with side plates that extend below the arms, while 15 percent more could have benefited from shoulder plates, the report says.

In all, 526 marines have been killed in combat in Iraq. A total of 1,706 American troops have died in combat there. The findings and other research by military pathologists suggests that an analysis of all combat deaths in Iraq, including those of Army troops, would show that 300 or more lives might have been saved with improved body armor.

Military officials and contractors said the Pentagon's procurement troubles had stemmed in part from miscalculations that underestimated the strength of the insurgency, and from years of cost-cutting that left some armoring companies on the brink of collapse as they waited for new orders.

Every time I hear a news report about a military death in Iraq I fear for our daughter Daisy's boyfriend Chris. News reports like this make me crazy, angry...I don't know how to express it. I have two sons who have minor disabilities that keep them out of the army, but also three daughters, one of whom tried to enlist at the beginning of the war in Iraq. I thank God that her zeal to "protect America" was thrwarted by a minor medical condition that also disqualified her, but what of other American mothers who were not so lucky? We are a traditional American family with a strong history of military service: my dad was a career Air Force officer, my brother Bruce is a former career (Vietnam included) fighter pilot. Who could imagine that there would be a simple way to save the lives of our fighting men and women that was not provided in this enshrined holy war on Iraq? How is this defensible?

The short answer is, it's not. There is no way that the president can make a case for "honoring our fallen troops" when he and his administration have clearly not honored those still alive, and fighting for, our nation's foreign policy. Their rhetoric is hollow when it is demonstrated that they clearly consider American troops as cannon fodder for their ideological battles, lives not as valuable as tax cuts for the already-super-wealthy.

Chris is due home (in the U.S.) for leave on January 17. I'm holding my breath every time I hear news reports of another U.S. fatality in Iraq.

Friday, January 6


Farmers Branch, Texas (a Dallas suburb) Police Chief Jimmy Fawcett has been suspended for ten days and required to undergo ten days of counseling, because of remarks he made to the City Council about an applicant to the police department. The man, who had just graduated from the police academy, was Vietnamese. Fawcett reportedly said, "As long as I'm chief, we won't have any gooks working in the Farmers Branch police department."

Fawcett is a Vietnam vet.

Conservative KLIF radio show talk host Greg Knapp has called for the resignation or firing of the chief, and he's right. The Farmers Branch police department has never hired an Asian officer, and other officers have been fired in the past for racially insensitive remarks. So why not the chief? The implications of his remarks are many, including offering substance for future lawsuits against the city and a loss of confidence in the police department by the substantial Asian-American community. In addition, Dallas and its suburbs are having a hard time staffing their police departments. It is absurd, aside from the repulsive nature of the chief's racist attitude, to exclude an entire section of the community from filling those posts, and as one of Knapp's listeners pointed out, it endangers the community and the other officers.

Defenders of the chief point out that his wife of three decades is Japanese, and his children are Japanese/American, thus proving that he is not prejudiced against Asians. On the contrary, I would think that his remarks would deeply shame them.

The chief, who is Vice President of the International Chiefs of Police, expects to accede to the presidency in the next few years.

The Farmer Branch city manager and council have no other reasonable choice: the chief must go.


I guess they had to go; who turns down in invitation from the president of the United States to lend him advice about an American war? But in the end, all it was was a photo op. Look at the forest of microphones.

From all accounts, almost no-one except Madeline Albright spoke up in criticism.

The president said the meeting, which had been scheduled for 45 minutes but lasted about an hour, had given him "a chance to listen to their concerns, their suggestions about the way forward."

"Not everybody around this table agrees with my decision to go into Iraq. I fully understand that," Bush told reporters during a photo session at the end of the meeting. "But these are good, solid Americans who understand that we've got to succeed now that we're there.

"We take to heart the advice," he said.

Proof that the meeting was never meant to be a serious attempt for the president to receive advice from the hundreds of years of experience in the room is that it was only allotted 45 minutes.

It was just another scheme in the president's campaign to remake his image, this time as a listener of all viewpoints (he's trying to get away from the "man in the bubble" perception). The suggestion that he heard anything of substance or real insight from the 13 former Secretaries of State and Defense that attended when they were only given an aggregate 5-10 minutes in which to contribute (the private intelligence/military briefing lasted for most of the 45-minute meeting) is absurd.

I also understood from one of Albright's appearances on talk shows last night the the prez got a little testy when he heard HER comments. He was probably irked that she spoiled his little performance. The videotape won't be a pristine all-favorable-to-Shrub feed to the networks and cable shows!

It also sounds as if the "briefing" the former Secretaries received was a pretty grim outlook. Bush reiterated his stock lines about "staying the course" and our leaving Iraq all depends on how fast we train the Iraqis to take over.

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Thursday, January 5


Incompetence and Inexperience R Us

So Bush appoints a young government lawyer who has a single year's management experience (170 employees and a $25 million budget) to run a vital U.S. agency with 20,000 employees and a $4 billion budget.

Among other questionable recess appointments, the pResident named Hans von Spakovsky for one of three openings on the Federal Elections Commission. This guy was one of the keys to the Justice Department approving the Texas redistricting plan despite the objections of career DOJ lawyers who believed the plan violated minority rights. Yeah, he'll be a great defender of free and democratic elections in the U.S.

Just more Bush administration political cronyism. Nothing to see here, move on.

On the contrary, it's more than that. It's more evidence that this president is determined to usurp the power of the other branches of government, in particular Congress, which the Constitution anoints with the power to advise and consent on his appointments. Yes, the Constitution allows the president to "fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session." Clearly the framers intended the clause for the purpose of keeping the government running efficiently in the absence of a sitting Congress. But Bush has used this authority not for reasons of government urgency but to bypass the "advise and consent" restriction upon his power. All these offices have been vacant for quite some time. BUT his suggestions for filling them were challenged, and for good reason: their unsuitability. So Bush just does an end run around the Congress and gets his way. It's a political ploy, nothing less, and distastefully symptomatic of his entire governing style.

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Bush's carefully constructed wall of secrecy and unauthorized power has been breached. Now it may be in danger of crumbling altogether. But that will require the courage and action of whistleblowers throughout the government, a free, responsible and aggressive press, and a change in Republican domination of the Congress, which in turn depends upon American voters being determined to restore Constitutional checks and balances and separation of powers to our system of government.

Sidney Blumenthal:

In short, the president, in the name of national security, claiming to protect the country from terrorism, under war powers granted to him by himself, would follow the law to the extent that he decided he would.
Bush's war on professionals has been fought in nearly every department and agency of the government, from intelligence to Interior, from the Justice Department to the Drug Enforcement Administration, in order to suppress contrary analysis on issues from weapons of mass destruction to global warming, from voting rights to the morning-after pill. Without whistle-blowers on the inside, there are no press reports on the outside. The story of Watergate, after all, is not of journalists operating in a vacuum, but is utterly dependent on sources internal to the Nixon administration. "Deep Throat," Mark Felt, the deputy FBI director, whatever his motives, was a quintessential whistle-blower.
Risen reports that in April 2002, in a secret meeting in Rome, CIA case officers in Europe were told by the CIA's newly fortified Iraq Operations Group they had to get on the bandwagon for an Iraq war. "They said this was on Bush's agenda when he got elected, and that 9/11 only delayed it," one CIA officer who attended the conference is quoted as saying. "They implied that 9/11 was a distraction from Iraq."
By counterattacking against whistle-blowers and the press, Bush is rushing to protect the edifice he has created. He acts as if the exposure of one part threatens the whole. His frantic defense suggests that very little of it can bear scrutiny.

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Wednesday, January 4


This had escaped me. I hadn't understood before now (or read or heard) that the National Security Act requires the president to keep all members of the both the House and Senate intelligence oversight committees fully informed of intelligence activities with the exception of those conducted covertly overseas. That being the case, Bush has broken, and is continuing to violate, still another federal law.

Just how many is he going to be allowed to get away with? And how much longer can the Democrats in Congress continue to equivocate regarding the fact that the president of this country is its Law-Breaker-in-Chief?

The members of a secret federal court that oversees government surveillance in espionage and terrorism cases are scheduled to receive a classified briefing Monday from top Justice Department and intelligence officials about a controversial warrantless-eavesdropping program, according to sources familiar with the arrangements.

Several judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court said they want to hear directly from administration officials why President Bush believed he had the authority to order, without the court's permission, wiretapping of some phone calls and e-mails after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Of serious concern to several judges is whether any information gleaned from intercepts by the National Security Agency was later used to gain their permission for wiretaps without the source being disclosed.
Yesterday, Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, sent a letter to Bush charging that the limited nature of congressional briefings on the monitoring program violated the National Security Act. The White House informed the chairmen of the House and Senate intelligence oversight committees and the two ranking Democrats about the program.

The National Security Act requires the president to keep all members of the two committees fully informed of intelligence activities with the exception of those conducted covertly overseas. "In my view, failure to provide briefings to the full congressional intelligence committees is a continuing violation of the National Security Act," Harman wrote.

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I don't know if these stories from NYTimes reporter James Risen's new book, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, are accurate, but they sure sound like the kinds of schemes the idiots devoted to the Bush administration would dream up.

And Bush gave George Tenet the Presidential Medal of Freedom WHY? Oh yes, for the same reason Tommy Franks and Paul Bremer got it. Because he did such a great job directing the analysis of CIA pre-Iraq War intelligence. And Franks led the capture of Bin Laden. And Bremer was such an effective governor of Iraq post-invasion.

U.S. officials have long maintained that Iran's rulers want to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran has insisted that it seeks to develop only a civilian nuclear energy program. Whatever the case, the CIA was desperate to counter what it believed was a clandestine nuclear program, and turned to a Russian defector who had once been a nuclear scientist in the former Soviet republics, according to the book.

The book says the CIA worked with the U.S.-based defector to concoct a story about how he was destitute, but in possession of valuable nuclear weapons blueprints that had been secreted out of Russia.

CIA officials had concerns about the man's temperament, Risen says, but sent the defector and the blueprints to Vienna anyway, with orders to hand-deliver them to someone at Tehran's diplomatic mission to the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

His CIA handlers never imagined that the Russian defector would tip off the Iranians to the fatal flaw that they had hidden deep within the blueprints. But that, the book adds, is exactly what the Russian did, in part because the CIA failed to send anybody to accompany him out of fear that it might make the Iranians suspicious.

The book does not say whether Iran used the plans, but reports that a senior Iranian official visiting Vienna appears to have taken them immediately to Tehran after the defector dropped them off.

"He [the Russian] was the front man for what may have been one of the most reckless operations in the modern history of the CIA, one that may have helped put nuclear weapons in the hands of a charter member of what President George W. Bush has called the axis of evil," the book contends.

Two nuclear weapons experts who say that they have no knowledge about whether the covert effort described in the book occurred added that a deliberate flaw in the plans could have been easily found by the Iranians.
According to the book, the CIA effort to sabotage Iran's nuclear effort came on the heels of another massive intelligence failure, in which a CIA officer mistakenly sent an Iranian agent a trove of information that could help identify nearly every one of the spy agency's undercover operatives in Iran.

The Iranian was a double agent who turned over the data to Iranian authorities. They used it to dismantle the CIA's spy network inside the country and arrest or possibly kill an unknown number of U.S. agents, the book says.

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Longhorns win! Quarterback and MVP Vince Young and head coach Mack Brown will be kings of Texas for the next year. (Better them than some lame Republicans like Rick Perry or Tom DeLay!) (BTW, don't forget, Mack got his start as a student coach of wide receivers at Florida State!)

Now I can post those drafts I wrote earlier.


I'm one of those ladies who just can't get enough of college football -- especially when a Florida or Texas team is involved. There's tons of news to comment on today, but it'll have to wait until the Rose Bowl ends. Like Florida State (our family school) last night in the Orange Bowl, our Longhorns are hanging in with the favored team, in this case USC. Until the game is over, politics will have to give way.

Some people of my political persuasion find football a puerile interest. I find it a refreshing relief from all the melodrama of, admittedly, more important, dire public events. In any case, go 'Horns!

Tuesday, January 3


A great op-ed column from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

But which of the two branches elected by the people is properly more dominant? The U.S. Constitution specifies this: "All legislative Powers" are vested in the bicameral Congress. The article outlining Congress' powers is some two and a half times longer than the one describing the executive branch.

Moreover, the president's powers, unlike those of the legislative branch, are few and sharply constrained. He is to "take care that the Laws be faithfully executed." Which laws? Those enacted by Congress.

He can make treaties -- but only if the Senate goes along. He can appoint public officials (including national judges) -- but only if the Senate consents. He can ask Congress to pass laws that he considers "necessary and expedient" -- but Congress can ignore his wishes, pass laws that he finds repugnant or substantially alter his proposals.

Article II ends with a strong reminder of the very limited role that the president should play in our republic: "The President ... shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."

But what about the president's power as "Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy"?

Who creates and maintains those forces? Congress. Which branch of government alone has the power to declare war? Congress.

Yet nearly every president, at least since Abraham Lincoln, has considered his inherent power as leader of the military to authorize his taking actions of which Congress might disapprove.
In the 1866 Milligan case, the Supreme Court rejected Lincoln's authorization of military tribunals to try civilians suspected of treason: It "is the birthright of every American citizen when charged with crime, to be tried and punished according to law. ... The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace."

Four score and six years later, the Supreme Court rejected President Truman's claim that his power as commander in chief allowed him to seize steel mills in order to maintain strike-threatened Korean War steel production.

Justice Robert Jackson wrote a concurring opinion in the Youngstown case that we should carefully consider as we evaluate Bush's violation of the FISA law. When, Jackson wrote, the president "acts pursuant to an express or implied authorization of Congress, his authority is at its maximum." When the president acts in a "zone of twilight" in which Congress has failed to act, such legislative inertia invites "independent presidential responsibility."

But when, Jackson continued, "the president takes measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress, his power is at its lowest ebb."

This is precisely Bush's current position. As former Sen. Tom Daschle recently observed, Congress specifically refused Bush's request to include expanded presidential power against purported domestic threats in its Sept. 14, 2001, authorization of force.

Bush's judicially nonsupervised surveillance can be justified only as a temporary emergency measure against terrorism. We should consider its continued use an unconstitutional violation of our laws.

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I've been told several times today some version of, "I'm sorry, I don't want to be mean, but #22-ranked Florida State just has no business being in the Orange Bowl with #3 Penn State."

Hey look, polls don't drive the big bowl games anymore. It's all about conference championships. And we won the Atlantic Coast Conference (a very STRONG conference) fair and square. Three teams ended up with two losses, Miami, Virginia Tech, and Florida State. And FSU beat both of the other two.

Yes, we're a young, inexperienced team with a true freshman quarterback. None of our family expects a stellar performance against the Nittany Lions tonight; they're big, strong and VERY experienced. Our team has made multiple mistakes all year, lost games we should have won, won games no-one expected us to win. But after our humiliation at the hands of our arch-rivals (tied with Miami) the U. of Florida Gators, we never could have projected we'd end up here.

But nobody voted us in. We won by the rules of the BCS. We beat then-#3 Virginia Tech to secure the conference championship. And it would be real nice if the whiners who used to complain so much about the AP and Coaches' polls determining the invitees to the major bowl games would acknowledge that fact.

I'll only be posting tonight if the game gets embarrassing.

UPDATE: I should mention that my family counts nearly 70 Florida State alums (including me, The Sage, our son, a sister and brother), so I'm entitled to a little wishful thinking. At our mom's 80th birthday celebration a couple of years ago, a cousin of mine stood up and played the FSU fight song on the trumpet, and we counted more than 80 members of the family on their feet (a few didn't actually go to FSU, they're just supporters). Bobby Bowden was a pallbearer at my favorite uncle's funeral in Tallahassee. So be kind -- wish us some luck.


In case you missed it, this is an important story in Rolling Stone about Bush's mishandling of the Department of Homeland Security. Well, perhaps mishandling is the wrong word, since the whole disastrous saga seems to be deliberate in origin and intent.

So, too, is the fact -- now plain for all to see -- that the Department of Homeland Security, the arm of the federal government responsible for ensuring our safety in times of national emergency, has become little more than an arm of big business, a radical experiment in President Bush's brand of market-based government.
"DHS is emulating the worst contracting patterns developed at the Department of Defense," says Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, an independent group that monitors federal contracts. "They use the same politically connected contractors, even if they have a record of misconduct on government jobs without performing the work they're getting paid to do."
Such shameless cronyism underscores not just the inadequacy of Bush's disaster preparedness but the hollowness of his entire philosophy of government. Katrina revealed the underlying reality of the GOP agenda: that the federal government, after decades of reinventing and outsourcing and marketizing, is structured primarily to serve the needs of big business.

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Monday, January 2


In honor of the new year, I'm reposting the following essay of mine from November. With all the new revelations about Bush's illegal NSA spy program, it's time to consider seriously the fact that this GWOT is a politically motivated fraud:

I'm ready to be honest with a thought I've had for some time now.

The Global War On Terror is a fraud designed, or at least being used by the current administration, to change the face of America and the world.

There have been terrorist activities for as long as l have been alive. The periodic acts of various violent political groups have provided fodder for many films, from Black Sunday to True Lies. There was Baider-MeinhofOne by one, the groups faded from the national, and world, consciousness. Not until 9/11 did we let terrorism, and the threat of terrorism, change the way we live, think, and conduct our government. It's ironic that the Soviet threat, which was much greater, failed to change the way America thinks and acts, but that single act of Bin Laden's small, rootless group so frightened us that we have become a different nation, one heading for that which would be unrecognizable and unfathomable by the founding fathers.

Why the difference? I believe that, like so many things, it's a result of the leadership we had in place at the time of 9/11. Another president, another administration, would have led the nation in grieving but would have insisted that the country, and the world, vow that the acts of madmen and bad men will never dictate the course of our future. Instead, our faux cowboy president set out to remake our country in the very mold that is most likely to nurture more unrest, insecurity and ultimately terrorism. The fact that our costly misadventures are necessarily reducing our opportunities to enact needed reforms in healthcare, education, and environmental safety, and destabilizing our economy, is just an added benefit to an administration determined to secure an oligarchy of the wealthy and connected.

Never before in the entire history of the United States has a single presidential administration affected such abrupt alterations in our laws, attitudes, and discourse. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and their enablers are a poison that may take decades to eradicate from our brain food supply.

9/11 was a terrible, terrible day. The unthinkable happened. And I am not suggesting that it could not happen again. I AM suggesting that our course since then has not been designed to prevent another occurrence since, four years later, our borders are still unsecured; our intelligence and national law enforcement agencies are in disarray and prosecuting on the basis of public relations, not national security; the monies allotted to our states for anti-terrorism protection are distributed not by likelihood of attack but by the rules of pork; and our military is being destroyed by inept civilian leadership and an unrelated and disastrous ideological misadventure in the Middle East. Our government has used the excuse of 9/11 to curtail our civil liberties, divide our people, and advance economic policies that are further burdening the middle class and adding millions to the ranks of the poor while further enriching the uber-wealthy. Our people have experienced a series of bogus "terror alerts" that have raised national anxiety to a fever pitch.

At the very least, it's time for Democrats to declare the truth, that the War On Terror is a failure because it was bogus from the beginning. It's time for us to get truly macho again and say that America will continue to be America, that "We will not be moved."

I'll only add, "Give me liberty or give me death."

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Who benefits from the new Congressional budget bill? Well, certainly not the neediest among us. However, Republican Congressmen hope to placate their wavering supporters by showing that they've been doing something about spending. How will they do it? By cutting pennies from programs designed to aid students and their families, the elderly and the sickly poor. Of course, they'll balance that cut in spending with more tax cuts for the rich.

As it turned out, a full one-third of the $39.7 billion lopped off the federal budget in the lawmakers' pre-Christmas rush will be realized in reduced college aid and higher interest rates on student loans.

As painful as the cuts in educational assistance may be to middle-class students and parents, two-thirds of the cuts target the least fortunate among us - the elderly and poor who have medical problems.

For example, Medicaid recipients who now pay a $3 co-payment for a range of health-care services will find themselves charged $20 to $100. Medicare recipients - everyone over 65 - will see cuts in home health services, the aid that helps many elderly stay out of nursing homes.

Cash-strapped states like Ohio and Michigan will be required to institute strict new work requirements for welfare recipients, or face the loss of badly needed federal aid.

These are the priorities of Congress' Republican majority. They call it reform. We call it a gratuitous attack on people least likely to be able to protect themselves.

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Some experts say civil war is already being waged in Iraq.

"When people talk about 'Will there be a civil war?' they are really talking about a different type of civil war," he said.

The kind of war emerging in Iraq, characterized by guerrilla attacks, kidnappings, assassinations and "ethnic cleansing," is typical of modern civil conflicts, Fearon said.

"Since 1945, almost all civil wars, a big plurality, have been guerrilla wars where it is kind of insurgency versus counterinsurgency," he said. "Most civil wars look more like what we are seeing in Iraq now."

The presence of U.S. troops in the conflict would not be unusual, he said. "A great number [of civil wars] have involved foreign intervention. But I would still call it a civil war on grounds that the insurgents are attacking and killing far more Iraqis than U.S. troops."

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Interesting column by Ron Brownstein comparing Bush to former president James K. Polk.

The war also profoundly divided the country. The opposition Whigs, who would mostly dissolve into the Republican Party in the 1850s, accused the president of "deliberately provoking a war and then lying about Mexico's responsibility for starting the conflict," wrote historian Joel H. Silbey in his recent book "Storm Over Texas."

Among the Whigs most outraged by Polk's conduct was a freshman U.S. House member from Illinois named Abraham Lincoln. Doris Kearns Goodwin picks up the story in her panoramic new book "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln." Shortly after taking office, Goodwin writes, Lincoln voted for a Whig resolution that charged the president with "unnecessarily and unconstitutionally" initiating the war.

Here're the money quotes:

To accept Polk's justifications, Lincoln later complained, would be to "allow the president to invade a neighboring nation … whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary."
Polk failed to understand the cost to his presidency, and to the nation, of governing in a manner that was increasingly seen as championing the priorities of one interest...

A student of history, he's not. Bush is an aged spoiled brat whose only familiarity with history is his own personal one. No matter how he's fouled up things in his past, there's always been someone to blame and someone else to bail him out. Why should he think things will turn out any differently now?

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He just doesn't get it.

I was elected to protect the American people from harm.

As I noted before, the president takes the following oath: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

The president's duties are defined in Article II of the Constitution. In Section 3 it says, "He shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed." This, following a litany of duties including serving as commander In chief of the armed forces, appointing ambassadors and executive officers of the U.S., making treaties, recommending legislation, etc., and just prior to the provision for impeachment.

It is obvious that the framers envisioned the greatest harm to the American people as arising from subversion or destruction of the Constitution. For Bush to justify his illegal activity by a charge to "protect the American people from harm" is to demonstrate more up-is-down-ism. The president is not the nation's chief security officer, he is to be the guardian of our laws and Constitution. In that, he has not only fared miserably, he has deliberately, and with full knowledge, violated his Constitutional duty. He has lied to the Congress and the American people (his own party clearly believed Bill Clinton's lie about sex was an impeachable offense) to get us into a war of questionable necessity and benefit to the nation; he has broken federal law, not faithfully executed it; and he has declared his intention of continuing to do so.

And if those aren't grounds for impeachment, I don't know what is.

The Times has reported that despite a prohibition on eavesdropping on phone calls or e-mail messages that are regarded as purely domestic, the N.S.A. has accidentally intercepted what are thought to be a small number of communications in which each end was on American soil, due to technical confusion over what constitutes an "international" call.

Officials also say that the N.S.A., beyond eavesdropping on up to 500 phone numbers and e-mail addresses at any one time, has conducted much larger data-mining operations on vast volumes of communication within the United States to identify possible terror suspects. To accomplish this, the agency has reached agreements with major American telecommunications companies to gain access to some of the country's biggest "switches" carrying phone and e-mail traffic into and out of the country.

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