Saturday, January 21


To find out, click here.

From the Christian Alliance for Progress:

"Martha was blind until four years ago, when Medicaid paid for her to have a corneal transplant. For the first time in her life she could see. Now she has a job. But with recent cuts in funding, Martha has lost her Medicaid. She can no longer afford the anti-rejection medicine she must take daily because of her transplant. And without the medicine she will slowly go blind."

In her column on "The Real State of the Union," Melynda Wilcox points out that "Planned Medicaid cuts at the state level will take away coverage for more than half a million people."

For Martha, it is too late. Reductions affecting her have already come down. But on behalf of millions of others, we have one more chance to protest the cuts still pending before Congress.
The Budget Reconciliation bill is scheduled for a vote on February 1, 2006. Call your U.S. Representative toll-free at 800-426-8073 starting January 23. This number will connect you to the Capitol switchboard. The person at the switchboard can connect you to your Representative's office, and if you're not sure who your Representative is, they can figure it out for you.

Please take this last chance to tell your representative:

Don't Choose Special Interests Over Families!
Vote Against The Budget Cut Bill!

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Sidney Blumenthal has a great recount of the Congressional lobbying scandal. It's a must-read. It's especially enlightening on former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who despite his own former disgrace is making a comeback in Republican circles -- he's even being mentioned as a possible Republican nominee for president in 2008.

Abramoff has been an integral part of the Republican political machine that has flourished since the 1994 takeover. He has created vast slush funds at the disposal of DeLay (for example, the US Family Network, financed by Russian oil tycoons), worked hand in glove with DeLay's political operatives, and supported the Republican congressional leadership with funds and favours.

Abramoff's lobbying and politics are inextricable, one and the same, allowing him to simultaneously serve as a valuable member of the Republican machine and be out for himself. He was not the most significant player; nor was his tens of millions more money than bigger figures made. (Haley Barbour, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and former senior partner of a major Washington law firm, and currently governor of Mississippi, comes to mind). But Abramoff, more than those with more influence or wealth, has the distinction of being the culmination of the recent history of the Republican Congress.
The Boston Globe, in a 2004 series on the influence of lobbyists, reported that "on the Medicare and energy bills, businesses and other groups who reported lobbying on the two measures spent a staggering $799,091,391 in efforts to influence lawmakers, frequently employing former members of Congress, former staff members, and relatives of lawmakers to lobby on the bills."
In the battle of succession to DeLay, DeLayism will triumph. The leading candidate for majority leader, Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, is so close to lobbyists that he left his wife to marry the lobbyist for Altria, the company that owns Philip Morris. In 2002, he inserted a provision into a homeland security bill to increase the penalties for selling stolen cigarettes. Blunt's son happens to be a lobbyist; his other son is the Republican governor of Missouri. He stands for nothing but business as usual. His challenger, Representative John Boehner of Ohio, runs a group called the K Street Cabinet. In 1995, on the floor of the House, Boehner handed out checks from tobacco lobbyists to Republican members, something he says he regrets.
Historians in the future will examine the implications and nuances of the Abramoff affair, the K Street Project and the trajectory of the Republican Congress from the dawn of its "revolution" to its Thermidorian dusk. For now, however, the matter is in the hands of the prosecutors.

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When Dubya delivers his State of the Union address and insists that making his tax cuts permanent will benefit the economy and all Americans, remember this.

Nor will the budget cuts do anything to reduce the deficit, which is projected to hit $365 billion. Thanks to tax cuts expected to be finalized early this year, most of the money will go directly into the pockets of the country's wealthiest citizens. Three-fourths of all Americans will not see a dime from the president's move to make permanent his cuts on dividend and capital-gains taxes -- while the nation's richest 1 percent will reap more than $25 billion. By 2010, thanks to Bush, America's millionaires will enjoy annual tax cuts of $130,000.

"I don't know of any religion practicing in America today that preaches from the pulpit that what one should do is take from the least among us to give to those who have the most," says Sen. Conrad. "But that's what this budget is about. It's so profoundly wrong."

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A reasonable reaction to Bin Laden's latest taped message.


"The most trusted name in news" has hired a most despicable, ignorant right-wing talk show jock. We're talking about a guy who until 2000 was an acknowledged alcoholic and drug addict who trumpets his show as a "fusion of talk and entertainment." We're not talking about news here. We're talking about a Rush Limbaugh clone getting a platform on the (formerly) most respected news outlet in the world.

I don't get it. Polls show that more than half the nation say the nation is on the wrong track. Bush's approval numbers continuously float around 40%. So why is nearly every communications outlet adding more and more wingnuts to their roster?

Do demographics show them that right-wingers view television, read newspapers and listen to radio in numbers exponentially greater than moderates or progressives?

I find that hard to believe. So, is the answer that there is, indeed, a VRWC? How do we get a VLWC started?

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The heartbreaking reality of this war.

The most fortunate of these survivors find one another. Doug had recently joined IVAW, where our veterans not only establish mutual support networks of plain love and care with one another, but where they can engage in the most "therapeutic" activity of all -- fighting back against the criminality that sent them there in the first place. We arrived too late for Doug. We were going to met him in Birmingham later this month to involve him in the planning for a veteran-led march from Mobile, Alabama to New Orleans, and serve as the conscience of a nation that will spend trillions to drop bombs on Iraqis, and use a hurricane in the Black Belt as a pretext to accelerate gentification.

So when we launch out of Mobile in March on this 135-mile trek, we will carry Douglas Barber with us.

As an aside, I like that last phrase, "use a hurricane in the Black Belt as a pretext to accelerate gentification."

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My e-mail message to

I've been a faithful watcher of Hardball for several years. I don't really know why, but it fascinates me, something akin to watching a train wreck.

However, I will no longer participate in the carnage. Hearing Chris Matthews suggest, first that Osama Bin Laden is like an over-the-top Michael Moore and then on a later night, that any American who opposes the Iraq War and the Bush prosecution of the "war on terror" ALSO bears a similarity to a murderous terrorist religious fundamentalist who plans the deaths of thousands, has outraged me to a point where I will in the future boycott not only Hardball but also any MSNBC programming until the cable network either removes Chris Matthews from the air or airs an abject apology from him.

I'm perplexed. Are you really not aware that according to the January 2006 Pew Research poll, Americans are evenly divided as to whether or not using force in Iraq was the right decision and on whether or not the Iraq war helped or hurt the war on terrorism? Can you possibly be unaware that the MAJORITY of our citizens no longer support the president's policies and a LARGE majority of us think that the country is "on the wrong track"?

Are you really prepared to call fully half of our citizens "like Bin Laden"? Do you really think it is smart to characterize the largest portion of your audience as terrorists?

I suppose you do. After all, Chris invited two right-wing television talk show hosts and a tabloid reporter to discuss the matter. If I want that kind of imbalance, I'll tune in to Fox hereafter.

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This is an argument that Dems need to make forcefully, and repeatedly, during the 2006 Congressional election cycle:

Even more fundamentally, there is the question of whether we needed to spend the money at all. Thinking back to the months before the war, there were few reasons to invade quickly, and many to go slow. The Bush policy of threatened force had pressured Iraq into allowing the U.N. inspectors back into the country. The inspectors said they required a few months to complete their work. Several of our closest allies, including France and Germany, were urging the U.S. to await the outcome of the inspections. There were, as we now know, conflicting intelligence reports.

Had we waited, the value of the information we would have learned from the inspectors would arguably have saved the nation at least $1 trillion — enough money to fix Social Security for the next 75 years twice over.

Americans, even Republicans, don't like to see their hard-earned tax dollars as recklessly wasted as they have been under the Bush administration.

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This is hysterically funny. Karl Rove, in attacking Democrats, paints the very picture of a Bush Republican politico:

Rove referred only indirectly to the corruption issue, warning Republicans against becoming complacent in power. "The GOP's progress during the last four decades is a stunning political achievement," he said. "But it is also a cautionary tale of what happens to a dominant party -- in this case the Democrat Party -- when its thinking becomes ossified, when its energy begins to drain, when an entitlement mentality takes over, and when political power becomes an end in itself rather than a means to achieve the common good."

I particularly like that last phrase -- "to achieve the common good" -- as if the Republican Party of Bush, Cheney, Hastert and DeLay has ever tried to advance the good of anyone other than their corporate cronies and the politically connected wealthy.

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Democrats hold unofficial hearing.

Several lawmakers and witnesses compared the administration to a British monarchy, casting Mr. Bush as George III. Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, even compared the president's powers to those the Nazis used early to cement their power.

Mr. Nadler said that as he read the broad presidential power claimed by Mr. Bush, "if he were in Germany in 1933, he would not have required the Enabling Act to pass the Reichstag to claim the power," a reference to the law that gave Hitler broad power to run the country.

When asked about the remark, Mr. Nadler's spokesman, Reid Cherlin, said: "He's not comparing Bush to Hitler. He's saying that Nazi Germany is our most extreme example of the rapid expansion of executive power and even there, there was legislative approval of an emergency package."

In a later statement, Mr. Cherlin said Mr. Nadler had "picked an example that he shouldn't have" in illustrating his point.

What's wrong with the comparison? Cherlin's first explanation was perfect, to my mind. It's absolutely legitimate to warn the nation of the possible consequences of this action by evoking historical examples.

While several witnesses brought reputations as liberal critics of the administration, one witness, Bruce Fein, had been a senior Justice Department official under President Ronald Reagan and was critical of the program's legal underpinnings.

Mr. Fein suggested that he would have resigned rather than acquiesce in such a program.

Where are our Richardsons and Ruckelshauses today?

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Friday, January 20


Since the Republicans, led by the Bush administration, are claiming extraordinary powers due to the "crisis" of the war on terror, it's fair to ask:

When will the war on terror end? When will the "grave threats" to the United States cease? Have we ever truly been free of external threats? Will we ever?

The answers, to any fearful U.S. citizen under the thrall of the Bush administration, are never, never, never, and never.

So, according to the Bushies, his claim of extraordinary wartime powers will not expire during his administration.

But what if a Democrat wins the presidency in 2008? You can bet that suddenly the Rethugs will become the champions of civil rights, diplomacy as opposed to military action, and limited executive power.

It's elaborate theater, designed to work for the Rethugs when they're in power, and challengeable if they're not.

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What the heck does THIS mean?

The congressional authorization on the use of force, it added, "places the president at the zenith of his powers in authorizing the NSA activities."

Is the Department of Justice trying to enhance the president's image to the level of superhero?

This elevation -- of a spoiled, privileged scion of an ethically questionable but wealthy and influential family, a poor student, bad sport, waste of a terribly expensive Air National Guard flight training program (since, at the very least, he failed to complete his obligation to the TANG by losing his flight status due to his failure to report for a routine flight physical), abysmal businessman who never made a dollar from his own efforts, cokehead and drunk until his alleged conversion to Christianity, late-blooming but successful (thanks to his exalted family connections) politician -- to a position of near-godliness is as inexplicable to me as it is frustrating. (I'm sorry, I'm too tired from an incredible intense 80-hour work week to source the links that would back all this up.)

The "zenith of his powers"????

The only powers George W. Bush possesses are those conferred upon him by the U.S. Constitution. There is no "zenith" under the law -- that presupposes that his authority waxes and wanes according to the circumstances. The Constitution is explicit in defining and limiting such authority.

No amount of spin can change that. Indeed, even if the Congress were to pass legislation enabling the president to become a dictator, to violate the Constitution, it would be the responsibility of the Supreme Court to judge that legislation invalid.

Of course, that also presupposes a SCOTUS that would uphold the Constitution and not exercise "judicial activism."

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Today the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette takes on the presidential "signing statement."

This is an an egregious example of this administration's imperial attitude toward the law and our most sacred U.S. institutions. He is in effect, unconstitutionally nullifying the Congress' ability to pass legislation, a power which is given exclusively to the Congress by the U.S. Constitution. Yet his loyal hordes in that very body refuse to declaim his usurpation of their responsibilities simply because they are of the same party.

Yet Mr. Bush has taken the presidential signing statement as another means of asserting his will over and above the country's laws, whatever they may say. In effect, he is trying to establish that whatever he says when he signs the bill overrides whatever the legislation itself may stipulate. Historians and presidential scholars, among others, find it alarming.

This is nothing new for Mr. Bush. He began disregarding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 in 2002 when he authorized wiretapping of foreigners and Americans' telephone calls and e-mails by the National Security Agency without first obtaining a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The practice continues today.

His new use of the presidential signing statement turned up egregiously when after signing the bill sponsored by Sen. John McCain to ban the torture of prisoners in American custody, Mr. Bush issued a statement Dec. 30 that in effect said he would enforce the new law only as he saw fit.
Mr. Bush's subversion of the process is particularly ironic since the laws passed by Congress that he chooses not to carry out are the product of a legislature controlled by his own political party. Unfortunately, that is also a prime reason that Congress is not in open revolt over the president's disregard for its work.

Everyone loses when a president chooses to carry out only the laws that he wants to, as he wants to. Fundamental governance of the United States through the rule of law is sabotaged by this practice. We'll see what happens when Mr. Bush's ability to do so is challenged by a court -- assuming there will still be independent courts after he succeeds in stocking them with acquiescent appointees.

Hat tip to Dr. Bruce.

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Wednesday, January 18


Wow. Just heard Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), ranking member of the House Rules Committee, speaking on C-SPAN on the "culture of corruption" in the Republican Congress. She blew away the gathering of Democratic Congressional leaders, who were together for a signing of the Democratic plan for lobbying reform.

BTW, what a contrast between the Democratic signing ceremony and the usual picture of white Republican males doing so! The Democratic group was an illustration of diversity, with an even mixture of men, women, whites and minorities.

"But what we are up against isn’t just the shameful work of individuals like these. It’s a much broader problem, a problem rooted in the Republican establishment which has held power in our nation’s capital for more than a decade. Sadly, the legacy of Republican rule has been the fundamental degradation of our democratic institutions and the abandonment of our core principles.

"Since 1995, Republicans have turned our democratic government into an engine of patronage, not one of responsible policy. They have linked their Party, and the business of the country, to powerful lobbyists in an unprecedented attempt to eliminate the will of the American people from the legislative process.

"Over the last five years, the number of special-interest lobbyists in Washington has doubled, from 9,500 to more than 34,000 today. There are 63 lobbyists for each Member of Congress. Along with the corporations they represent and the numerous Republican legislators they court, lobbyists are now writing the bills that are passed by our Congress. They have infiltrated every aspect now of our government. Their money and donations shape the opinions of corrupt lawmakers in a way that public opinion no longer does.

"Under Republican guidance, America has truly been put up for sale to the highest bidder.

She cited examples of lobbyists writing legislature, and added that she firmly believes the Medicare prescription bill was introduced for the sole reason of destroying Medicare. She accused the Rethugs of blocking any substantive investigation into what black hole money appropriated for Iraq reconstruction disappeared.

The lady pulled no punches.

Congresswoman Slaughter delivered this week's Democratic radio address. The transcript of her remarks can be found here.

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E.J. Dionne takes on Cybercast News Service's attack on Congressman John Murtha's military service. CNS, you'll note, is the brainchild of Brent Bozell, who's an old hand at this sort of thing.

I underestimated the viciousness of the right wing.
Authentic war heroes (including McCain) often downplay their own heroism. In any event, what we know about Murtha, McCain, Kerry and, yes, Bailey, is that they served in combat in Vietnam. What we know about Bush and Vice President Dick ("I had other priorities in the '60s than military service") Cheney is that they didn't.

What's maddening here is the unblushing hypocrisy of the right wing and the way it circulates -- usually through Web sites or talk radio -- personal vilification to abort honest political debate. Murtha's views on withdrawing troops from Iraq are certainly the object of legitimate contention. Many in Murtha's party disagree with him. But Murtha's right-wing critics can't content themselves with going after his ideas. They have to try to discredit his service.

Moreover, the right has demonstrated that its attitude toward military service is entirely opportunistic. In the 1992 presidential campaign, when the first President Bush confronted Bill Clinton -- who, like Cheney, avoided military service entirely -- conservatives could hardly speak or write a paragraph about Clinton that didn't accuse him of being a draft-dodger. In October 1992, Bush assailed Clinton. "A lot of being president is about respect for that office and about telling the truth and serving your country," Bush told a crowd in New Jersey. "And you are all familiar with Gov. Clinton's various stories and what he did to evade the draft."

But from 2000 forward, the Republicans had a problem: they confronted Democrats, first then-Vice President Al Gore and then Kerry, who actually did go to Vietnam, while it was their own standard-bearers who had skipped the war. Suddenly, Vietnam service wasn't the thing at all. When a Democrat goes to war, there must be something wrong with the way he has done it. Gore's service was dismissed because he worked "only" as a military journalist. You can even find Bush's defenders back in 2000 daring to argue that flying planes over Texas was more dangerous than joining the Army and serving in Vietnam the way Gore did.

The Republicans had an even bigger problem with Kerry, who did unquestionably dangerous duty patrolling rivers. Not to worry. The Swift Boat Veterans simply smeared him.

"War's a nasty business," Murtha said on CBS' "60 Minutes" Sunday. "It sears the soul. The shadow of friends killed, the shadow of killing people lives with you the rest of your life. So there's no experience like being in combat."

Unfortunately, politics is a nasty business, too. There is no honor given to those who serve if they choose later to take on the powers that be.

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Tuesday, January 17


Wayne Madsen is reporting inside information that Col. Ted Westhusing was murdered. Commenters on my previous posts on his death have suggested the same. See also here and here.

How is it possible that not a single mainstream media outlet has aggressively pursued this story and demanded answers from the Pentagon? Oh, right. They're too busy transcribing and printing the latest Rethug talking points. And more than a year later, we still have no reliable governmental investigation results, making a mockery of this incredibly fine man and officer's death.

January 14, 2006 -- Serious questions remain concerning Col. Westhusing's "suicide" in Iraq. Army's chief ethics expert was murdered, according to Carlyle Group insider.

According an informed source within The Carlyle Group business consortium, Col. Ted Westhusing, the Army's top military ethicist and professor at West Point, did not commit suicide in a Baghdad trailer in June 2005 as was widely reported in the mainstream media five months later. At the time of his death, Westhusing was investigating contract violations and human rights abuses by US Investigations Services (USIS), formerly a federal agency, the Office of Federal Investigations (OFI), which operated under the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

In 1996, OFI, which conducted background investigations for civil service personnel, was privatized. The 700 government employees of OFI became employee-owners as part of USIS. In January 2003, the New York investment firm Welsh, Carson, Anderson, and Stowe, described by a Carlyle insider as a virtual shadow operation for The Carlyle Group, bought USIS for $545 million. With 5000 current and former employees of USIS sharing $500 million, the deal made them wealthy with the stroke of a pen. However, upper management within USIS became much wealthier than the rank-and-file. Insiders report that the twelve top managers at USIS became multimillionaires as a result of their cashing in of their Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs). Many of these instant millionaires already had a close relationship with The Carlyle Group.

Carlyle had been a shareholder in USIS since 1999 and with the buy-out deal via the Welsh, Carson, Anderson, and Stowe deal, Carlyle became the major shareholder.

USIS continues to have a virtual exclusivity deal to perform background security investigations for OPM. The company bills itself as "one of the largest Intelligence and Security Services companies in North America.”

With the Iraq invasion, USIS obtained lucrative Pentagon private security contracts in Iraq. At a 2004 job fair in Falls Church, Virginia, USIS was advertising for "interrogators" and "protection specialists" for "overseas assignments." While he was in Iraq training Iraqi police and overseeing the USIS contract to train police as part of the Pentagon's Civilian Police Assistance Training Team, Westhusing received an anonymous letter that reported USIS's Private Services Division (PSD) was engaged in fraudulent activities in Iraq, including over-billing the government. In addition, the letter reported that USIS security personnel had murdered innocent Iraqis. After demanding answers from USIS, Westhusing reported the problems up the chain of command. After an "investigation," the Army found no evidence of wrongdoing by USIS.

That decision signed Col. Westhusing's death sentence. USIS and Carlyle have powerful allies in the administration, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the Princeton roommate of Carlyle Chairman Emeritus and former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci. Former President George H. W. Bush, former Secretary of State James Baker, and former British Prime Minister John Major are Carlyle international advisers. George W. Bush was formerly employed by a Carlyle subsidiary and the Bin Laden business cartel was a one-time investor in the firm.

Westhusing, who, according to friends and colleagues, showed no signs of depression, left a suicide note the Army concluded was in his handwriting. However, Westhusing's family and friends have thrown cold water on the Army's investigation.

WMR can report that based on information obtained from Carlyle insiders, Col. Westhusing's death was not caused by suicide. The fact that Westhusing was investigating one of the most politically and financially powerful firms in the world resulted in higher-ups wanting him out of the way. According to the Los Angeles Times, all of the witnesses who claimed Westhusing shot himself were USIS employees. In addition, a USIS manager interfered with the crime scene, including handling Westhusing's service revolver. The USIS manager was not tested for gunpowder residue on his hands.

Westhusing's investigation threatened to unearth a network of fraudsters looting the US Treasury that included the Bush family and some of their closest financial partners. After Westhusing's murder, USIS management sent a vaguely-worded memo to employees about how to respond to derogatory information in the media or rumors about USIS. Management's attention, described as "psychotic" in nature, was on USIS's upcoming IPO (initial public offering), according to a well-placed source.

USIS also owns Total Information Services of Tulsa, Oklahoma, a commercial personal data mining operation.

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Molly Ivins is such a treasure because she's always relevant and witty (I don't mean funny, I mean full of wisdom), but this time she's both terse and exactly correct.

I can almost hear the condescending cynics: "You don't really think you can get the money out of politics, do you?" I guarantee you can do it for several cycles -- and do you know what happens when it starts to creep back in again? You reform again! Perpetual reform, a truly great concept. No human institution is ever going to remain perfect, they have to be watched and adjusted like any other mechanism. Why use that as a defeatist excuse for doing nothing at all?



Breaking news:

"The Administration's response to my speech illustrates perfectly the need for a special counsel to review the legality of the NSA wiretapping program. The Attorney General is making a political defense of the President without even addressing the substantive legal questions that have so troubled millions of Americans in both political parties.

"There are two problems with the Attorney General's effort to focus attention on the past instead of the present Administration's behavior. First, as others have thoroughly documented, his charges are factually wrong. Both before and after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was amended in 1995, the Clinton/Gore Administration complied fully and completely with the terms of the law.

"Second, the Attorney General's attempt to cite a previous administration's activity as precedent for theirs -- even though factually wrong -- ironically demonstrates another reason why we must be so vigilant about their brazen disregard for the law. If unchecked, their behavior would serve as a precedent to encourage future presidents to claim these same powers, which many legal experts in both parties believe are clearly illegal.

"The issue, simply put, is that for more than four years, the executive branch has been wiretapping many thousands of American citizens without warrants in direct contradiction of American law. It is clearly wrong and disrespectful to the American people to allow a close political associate of the president to be in charge of reviewing serious charges against him.

"The country needs a full and independent investigation into the facts and legality of the present Administration's program."

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Just saw a brief Wolf Blitzer interview with John Kerry. On Al Gore's speech, particularly "The president has been breaking the law repeatedly and insistently." Here's the short version:

Wolf: Do you agree with him?

Kerry: Yes. Certainly. Definitively. Congress' intent in the FISA legislation couldn't be clearer. Yes, I think the president is breaking the law.

Wolf: What's the remedy?

Kerry: I hope the administration will of its own steps reverse course, admit the mistake and try to guarantee that the protections put in place will be adhered to. I hope the [Specter] hearings will be bipartisan, that subpoenas will be issued to the appropriate people without the Chairman vetoing them.

Wolf played a clip of Hillary Clinton in which she stated, "I predict that this administration will go down in history as one of the worst administrations ever to govern." Does Kerry agree with her?

Kerry: Sure, I don't disagree. On almost every issue, with an apolitical perspective, they're disengaged. We're going backwards. The bottom line is, we're not as safe in the world as we ought to be, and domestically we're neglecting our responsibility.

It's about time party leaders started to stand up and speak the truth about this administration and quit running scared.

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I was just thinking about the national anthem and how inappropriate it has become since Bush read "My Pet Goat" on 9/11.

Dubya and Dick have succeeded in terrorizing the populace and restraining our civil liberties to the point that "land of the free, home of the brave" is no longer our signature; try "land of the free unless the president decides otherwise" and "home of the absolutely terrified."

Good work, you pseudo-macho chickenhawks. You've reduced a proud nation to a mass of quivering protoplasm. Yeah, that's leadership.

So, Glenn Beck, Darrell Ankarlo, Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and you other right-wing fascist talk show hosts who love to decry American "pussies" because some of us don't believe that military force is the first or best choice in dealing with global problems, explain to us how trembling at the feet of terrorists and Middle Eastern countries to the point of restricting American liberties and discarding our most precious institutions (such as the Constitution) makes us "strong."

In my book, letting an external threat compromise our national character is what makes us look like pussies. We didn't let the Nazis or Soviets do it, and they were far more formidable.


This is why I've had the Al Gore for President link on the left of this web site for so many months.

The current crop of Democratic leaders (with a few notable exceptions -- Howard Dean, Russ Feingold, Barbara Boxer, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi) and presidential nomination "front-runners" are close to political hacks, hedging their words and their actions against any perceived political "fallout" or pandering to the same moneyed and corporate interests as Republicans. They spend more time and effort trying not to alienate the media and Republican voters than in wooing independents, solidifying the Democratic base, or just plain standing up for America and what's right.

Al Gore is a leader, not a follower. We desperately need him to lead. Now. If party leaders would turn to him and throw their support to him, I believe he'd reconsider and run in 2008. The DNC needs to hear from us now.

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Monday, January 16


An interesting perspective on the prosecution of the Iraq war from, of all people, Andrew Sullivan: Read it in its entirety. It's just another picture of Bush's total failure to understand the issues involved in his grand scheme for the Middle East.

In Barnes's book, Bush said during the Iraq occupation, "If Bremer's happy, I'm happy. If Bremer's nervous, I'm nervous". But if Bremer is to be believed, he was deeply unhappy and Bush either dismissed his concerns or had no idea that they existed.

In an earlier statement, Bush had spoken of his faith. It is ludicrous to think, as some Europeans do, that this President invaded Iraq on instructions from the Almighty. But Bush's kind of faith may help to explain the shambles of the occupation. He once wrote: "(My faith) frees me to enjoy life and not worry what comes next."

His mindset is focused on grand decisions followed by results. There is no toleration for mess, whining, criticism or second-guessing. The nitty gritty -- which can mean the difference between success and failure in wartime -- was not his concern. He delegated the whole thing to commanders completely intimidated by Rumsfeld and institutionally trained not to challenge their bosses. You want to know why we are where we are in Iraq? We're beginning to piece it together.

Now, I undertand from brief exposure to right-wing talk radio and other outlets that Bremer is contradicting his own written statements, but the record (and his own written record) speaks for itself.

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I wish I'd had the opportunity yesterday to live-blog Peter Bergen's appearance on This Week. The bottom line is, the veteran terrorism analyst for CNN asserted that much of what the Bush administration has done during the "war on terror" (he specifically referenced torture and rendition) has been counter-productive.

The statement I thought most speaking, though, was something to the effect that during the U.S.A.'s more-than-200-year history we've faced much greater dangers and crises and have not found it necessary, or efficacious, to resort to policies such as illegal domestic spying, torture or rendition to defend our nation. Bergen noted that 9/11, while a terrible event, pales in comparison to the threats of the Axis powers in WWII and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. In both cases, we were countering nations with the resources to actually destroy the United States. Al Qaeda, he asserted, doesn't. So why should "9/11 change everything"?


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Chris Matthews just conducted an enlightening interview with Kenneth Bass, former FISA Court counsel, who told Tweety it's very hard for him to understand why the president didn't go to the court for his NSA wiretaps. Bass was instrumental in the FISA act legislation.

Chris posed the question, was it reasonable just after 9/11 for Bush to bypass the FISA court because of the urgent nature of the situation? No, Bass responded, because of the clause that permitted the Chimpster to order taps for 72 hours before going to the court for authorization. Problem is, he said, it's gone on for four years, and without Congress knowing about it.

My son interrupted me, so I missed some. I caught Bass saying something about American journalists speaking to overseas contacts being netted.

But but but, Chris said, what about the fact that the administration says they're only targeting known Al Qaeda figures? Bass replied, Only targeting known Al Qaeda? What's that? Look at the last segment of your show (a story suggesting that only 35 or so of the inmates at Gitmo are actually terrorists and the rest were just people in the wrong place at the wrong time).

Chris raised the question of data mining for certain suggestive phrases. "It's not a new technology," said Bass. He explained that the same thing was happening when the FISA statute was set up. The act was intentionally set up to allow NSA to DO data mining. This looks like that instead of looking for phrases, they're targeting people, and with so little evidence they can't go to a court, he suggested.

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I have had occasion today to be driving from meeting to meeting and thus had the dubious opportunity to tune in to several wingnut radio talk shows. In what almost seems to be a concerted effort, they have found it necessary, on this day set aside to honor Dr. Martin Luther King's great contributions to American civil society, to spend more time discussing his martial infidelities (which they imply trump any claims to "greatness" applied to him) and his surviving family's current squabbles than in reminding listeners of just how far we've come as a people due to his leadership.

It also strikes me as curious that the best-known philanderers, to conservatives, all seem to be Democrats or progressives: Kennedy, Clinton, King, Gary Hart, Wilbur Mills. What about Bob Packwood, Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, William Randolph Hearst, Bill Cosby, Henry Hyde, Dick Morris, Newt Gingrich? And those are just the ones who come immediately to mind.

The conservative obsession with sex, and their hypocrisy in condemning in one person what they cover up or brush off in another (IOKIYAR) is one of the most distasteful characteristics of the extreme right.

Here's the way I see it. If a man's (or woman's) work is inextricably linked with a certain code of behavior, their behavior is relevant in the way their work is to be judged. So Swaggart and Bakker deserve to have their contributions nullified because while they were preaching and teaching marital fidelity, they were practicing just the opposite. That's not the case with Kennedy, Clinton or King. While right wingers may insist that they were in a position of leadership that necessarily included modeling a certain type of behavior "for the children," that's a specious argument. I'm certainly not justifying cheating on one's spouse, but these men called upon Americans and government to adhere to and advance the principles embodied in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, not the Bible. Their work should be evaluated by the extent that they were able to accomplish those goals, not by some measure of personal sexual morality.

No idiot can tell me that Dr. King didn't bring an entire nation into the light by his crusade for civil rights. He rightfully stands as one of the most important, influential and inspiring figures in our nation's history, and is one of my personal heroes. I remember when The Sage and I were vacationing in England and visiting Westminster Abbey. We were stunned to see that there was a statue of Dr. King above the Great West Door, one of ten 20th-century Christian martyrs. We were moved to tears as we considered that this great man, who preached nonviolence and would not be moved from his adherence to Christ's "hard teachings" about turning the other cheek even as he was beaten, jailed, his life constantly under threat, but preached love for the very enemy that was denying his people their basic rights as human beings and American citizens, was so movingly recognized by a nation not his own.

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Sunday, January 15


Mark Helprin blows the lid off Bush's contention that "democracies are peaceful countries."

Other than Israel, the major countries of the region that are the most democratic are Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon and Kuwait. If democracy in Turkey and Pakistan could be drawn as a horse, it would have to have a soldier in the saddle. In Lebanon, it would have a Syrian in the saddle.

And the more Turkey and Pakistan approach the genuine democracy to which American policy would direct them, the more Islamist they will become and the more they will want to do exactly the opposite of what we desire. The more Kuwait democratizes too, the more Islamist it becomes. In the 2003 elections, only 20% of contested seats went to neither traditionalists nor Islamists, and of late the democratically nascent governments of Iraq and Kuwait have had to erect a fence along their border to prevent Kuwaiti youth from crossing to join the insurgency.

Not only does the U.S. expend a great deal of effort to usher politically impure states into a form of popular sovereignty that will not stop them from acting inimically to our interests, but in distancing itself from authoritarian states that are willing to work with us, it forgoes potentially critical advantages. For the pleasure of displaying our virtue, we may someday suffer innumerable casualties in a terrorist attack that a compromised state might have helped us to prevent.

In foreign policy, carelessness and confusion often lead to tragedy. Thus, a maxim chosen to guide the course of a nation should be weighed in light of history and common sense.

Or is that too much to ask?

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This is Don Rumsfeld's Army. A senior British military officer who fought in Iraq critiques the U.S. performance:

The Army's "Warrior Ethos" is also illuminating in this respect. It was introduced in 2001. At its core is the Soldier's Creed. Note that it enjoins the soldier to have just the one type of interaction with his enemy -- "to engage and destroy him": not defeat, which could permit a number of other politically attuned options, but destroy. It is very decidedly a war-fighting creed, which has no doubt served well to promote the much sought conventional warfighting ethos, but cannot be helping soldiers to understand that on many occasions in unconventional situations they have to be soldiers, not warriors.

As important, the Army needs to learn to see itself as others do, particularly its actual or potential opponents and their supporters. They are the ones who need to be persuaded to succumb, because the alternative approach is to kill or capture them all, and that hardly seems practicable, even for the most powerful Army in the world.

Read the whole essay. Whether meant to be or not, it's an allegory for the entire Bush administration style.

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