Saturday, January 28


Amazing, courageous essay from Ronnie Dugger, founding editor and former publisher of the venerable Texas Observer.

If impeachment does not become possible, let me broach with you the idea that a grand jury, federal or state, should indict Bush and Cheney for their manifold official crimes. Are we, as we are so often piously assured, “a nation of laws and not of men,” or is the President above the law if his party controls the House and can block impeaching him?

The Constitution is silent on whether a seated President and Vice President can be indicted, while in office, for crimes committed while they have held those offices. Constitutional lawyers are congenitally prone to announcing that this cannot be done because it would disrupt the ongoing business of the government. But it is time to do it, if necessary absent impeachment, for exactly that reason—to disrupt the continuation of THIS government.

I have not yet found one constitutional lawyer who can cite a Supreme Court case or any other judicial precedent prohibiting their indictment—if you know of one please let me hear from you. In 1973 Nixon’s attorney general said the President can’t be indicted, but why should Nixon’s attorney general bind us?

Committed to nonviolence, determined, in this post-Gandhi era, against violence, nevertheless we are once again in the position of the Framers of the Constitution. In the post-revolutionary emergency, the Founding Fathers took things in their own hands, violating their clear instructions from the states by proposing to create the United States, which the states then created. In the crisis we are in now we must not be misled by expostulating lawyers or posturing politicians. We the citizens can make up our own minds whether we can indict Bush and Cheney and, if they are convicted, throw them out.

May we close here, then, as we began two centuries and more ago, with the words of Tom Paine. “We have it in our power to begin the world over again,” he said. “The birth day of a new world is at hand… We are a people upon experiments. It is an age of revolutions, in which everything may be looked for.”

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Bush hypocrisy strikes again. He's promising a "full inquiry" into the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, but he's stonewalling domestic inquiries into the Hurricane Katrina debacle and opposed the 9/11 Commission.

His Republican Congress refuses to investigate the Bush Administration's use and abuse of pre-war intelligence relating to Iraq, the Bush Administration's withholding of key information about its Medicare drug benefit proposal, the disclosure of an undercover CIA officer's identity by senior Administration officials, the inclusion of political contributors and corporate special interests in Vice President Cheney's National Energy Policy Development Group, the Administration's policies and practices related to the use of torture on detainees in Abu Ghraib and other detention centers, abuses by contractors in Iraq that cost taxpayers billions of dollars, etc. The White House refuses to disclose the nature of contacts between Jack Abramoff and White House staff (including the executive). Bush and his minions will never cooperate with investigations into the president's unlawful authorization of domestic NSA wiretaps, his policy of rendition of prisoners to countries that torture, or the secret prisons abroad used by the CIA to imprison and interrogate (and probably torture) suspected insurgents and terrorists, and depriving American citizens of their Constitutional rights to legal representation and the opportunity to face their accusers in an open court.

But the Chimpster pledges to get to the bottom of a foreign national's murder. He has lots of indignant sympathy for the Lebanese's son's grief, but none for ordinary Americans who have been scorched by his ill-conceived-and-executed policies and none for innocent American troops and Iraqis who have died because of them.

Why does George Bush hate America?

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Months after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, it's still all talk and little substantive action from the all-hat-and-no-cattle Bush administration.

And let's give FEMA credit where credit is due: The agency has promised -- in writing, no less -- that it's going to help rehabilitate sections of neglected working-class neighborhoods in Baton Rouge to accommodate the newly and about-to-be homeless. The only problem is, so far at least, the contract is worth just about as much as the paper it's written on. On the other hand, FEMA continues to award storm-cleaning contracts to some out-of-state companies that sprang up just a few days after Hurricane Katrina lunged ashore. So at least someone's being helped.

It's another case of lofty Bush promises and little or no follow-through. The man's real good under klieg lights and before a set (think Jackson Square speech), but lousy at governance. Some CEO president! He figures it's his job to staff positions (with unqualified cronies) and then offer no supervision and no penalties for poor performance. No wonder he couldn't make it in the business world. He wouldn't even make a decent HR director.

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Economic news bodes ill for Republicans during the 2006 Congressional elections.

Charles Dumas, the chief international economist at forecasting firm Lombard Street Research in London, said in a note to investors: "It will take a miracle as fine as Mozart, 250 years old today and as fresh as new, to prevent a sharp U.S. slowdown in the second half of 2006, probably to nil growth" by the fourth quarter.

The wingnuts will probably respond with something like, "Democrats will be gleeful" about an economic downturn just in time for the 2006 midterms. They think (or at least they say) that we all hate America and want to see her fail. I find no joy in stagnant wages, major hurt for American businesses, higher oil prices and a slumping housing market. But yes, these are the result of Bush policies and yes, I hope Dems will be reminding Americans of that fact as they go to the polls. If we can't elect a Democratic Congress, we can't fix, or at least stop, more Bush recklessness and bass-ackwards priorities.

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Via Xpatriated Texan, I discovered that No More Apples is among those nominated for the Koufax Award for "Blog Most Deserving of Wider Recognition." I'm going to guess that this blog doesn't receive sufficient traffic to generate enough votes to actually win, but I'm honored to be in such elevated company.

Drop by and sample some of the fine blogs you aren't yet acquainted with.

Friday, January 27


Bush adopts Kerry plan for Iran nuclear energy ambitions, but attributes it to "the Russians."

One cause for the chagrin is that the proposal, which is backed by Russia, essentially adopts a strategy advocated by Mr. Bush's Democratic opponent in the 2004 election, Senator Kerry of Massachusetts.
Just out of curiosity, any chance we'll see National Review blasting Bush's new approach to Iran as "ignorant" and "dangerously wrong"? Or maybe Condi Rice will explain why the idea rewarded Iran for bad behavior when Kerry recommended it, but it's brilliant leadership when Bush recommends it?

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My lovely, precious sister sent me an e-mail a couple of weeks ago encouraging me to tell everyone I knew to go see the Christian movie "The End of the Spear." It's the tale of Nate Saint and four other American missionaries who were slain by Ecuador's Waodoni tribe in January, 1956, and the remarkable subsequent conversion of many of that tribe to Christianity.

My sister is a very conservative Republican whose husband is a deacon in their local (very large) Southern Baptist church. I wonder what she would say about the fact that 150 Christian minister across the country have vowed not to support the film because avowed homosexual actor Chad Allen stars in the dual role of slain missionary Nate Saint and his adult son, Steve.

Mr. Allen said he respected Steve Saint, the 55-year-old real-life son of Nate Saint, so much that he offered to walk away from the movie "unconditionally" if Mr. Saint asked him not to do it.

"I could tell he was deeply concerned and scared about what was the right thing to do," Mr. Allen said.

Mr. Saint told The Blade this week that he "agonized" over whether to make that request.

"It was an excruciating process for me," he said. "It forced me to go to the Scriptures."

He cited a number of verses about Jesus and his disciples reaching out to nonbelievers and the verses in John, Chapter 8, about a woman caught in the act of adultery. Jesus didn't tell the mob to obey the law and stone the woman, Mr. Saint said.
"He said, 'Yeah, you're right, she was caught in adultery, an offense against God, go ahead and stone her. But why don't we start with those of you who don't have sin in their own lives?'" he said, paraphrasing the verses.

Mr. Saint said he had an early morning dream that convinced him it was God's will for Mr. Allen to be in the movie.
"In this dream, I saw a mob of Christians chasing me. They had these signs, 'Why did you do this to our story?' And I turned around to them and I was trying to yell, 'I didn't want to do this, I'll ask him to step down,' and - boom! - I was standing in front of God. He said, 'You, of all people, should know that I love all my children. I went to great lengths to orchestrate an opportunity for Chad Allen to see what it was like to be a true God follower. Why did you mess up my plan?'"

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The ever-wise Jimmy Carter opines on what the Hamas victory might mean to peace hopes for Israel and Palestine.

As for the death of peace hopes, Carter offered a steely gaze, and unleashed a laundry list of reasons why the question is ridiculous.

"Remember, we're not interrupting a major, successful, promising peace process. There haven't been any peace talks for the last 3 1/2 years. For almost three years, the elected leader of the Palestinian people (Arafat) was imprisoned in two or three rooms in Ramallah and was not permitted to leave his office," said Carter.

"And then once Mahmoud Abbas was elected a year ago, we thought this would open a fairly immediate opportunity for peace talks. But there haven't been any peace talks. There hasn't been any real effort to strengthen Abbas's international stature, or his economic ability to manage his government's needs or meet his people's needs. There hasn't been any willingness on the part of outside forces to equip his security people with the ability to control violence.

"He's been put into a holding pattern. So we're not interrupting a peace process by this election. And it may be that what I consider to be a stalemate could possibly be invigorated. I won't say reinvigorated because there's no vigour there now."

But if a victorious Hamas is to take the Palestinians forward, a discernable voice must arise. Hamas can no longer be a multi-headed hydra, saying both yes and no to negotiations from its many mouths. A cohesive leadership is essential, and it must say what it really wants. That will require some breathing space as the dust over Ramallah settles, and the newly elected work toward forming a new government. But time is of the essence, insofar as the Palestinian Authority is destitute.

By Carter's reckoning, the Authority will run out of funds to pay its workers — everyone from policemen to schoolteachers, at the end of February.

He's urging Western donors to find a way to work around their objections to Hamas and continue giving, at least until Hamas makes its intentions known. And he's calling on the cash-rich Arab world, now "inundated with oil revenues," to step up with financing to get Palestinians through this crisis.

Former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt, one of Carter's colleagues in the mission to Jerusalem, yesterday framed the situation thus: "The motives for a two-state solution can be said to be even strong in a situation where, after all, what we have asked for — the establishment of democracy in these territories — has occurred.

"The fact that we got democracy functioning should not really be used as an argument for withdrawing our engagement."
Carter professes no insight into whether Hamas is capable of the challenge of leadership. But he's old enough to have seen many in this region make the transition from terror to power with aplomb."Despite the concerns expressed about the character of Hamas, we have to hope for the best. My prayer is the Hamas leaders, now serving in positions of unprecedented authority, will lead the Palestinian people on a peaceful, non-violent path toward a two-state solution."

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"Will Abramoff’s Deep Throat Swallow God’s Mouthpiece?"

More trouble for Ralph Reed. Whee doggie! This Texas Observer investigation is chock-full of bad news for the former head of the Christian Coalition.

Evidence is mounting that former Christian Coalition leader Ralp Reed Jr., along with a former leader of the Texas Christia Coalition, may have illegally lobbied Texas state officials on behalf of crooked federal lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his clients

Three Austin-based reform groups—Common Cause Texas, Public Citizen Texas, and Texans For Public Justice, the latter of which employs the author of this article—urged Travis County prosecutors last December to investigate whether Reed violated Texas’ lobby-registration laws four years ago. Correspondence between Abramoff and Reed—the ex-Christian Coalition leader now running for lieutenant governor of Georgia—suggests that Reed lobbied Texas officials on behalf of Abramoff’s Indian gambling clients without registering as a Texas lobbyist. The $5 million in gambling money that Abramoff reportedly paid Reed for his services would make it one of the largest lobby contracts ever made public in Texas.
An Observer investigation reveals that Reed may not have been the only Christian Coalition leader working secretly for Abramoff’s gambling clients. Reed-Abramoff correspondence indicates that Chuck Anderson, then-head of the Texas Christian Coalition, also helped lobby Texas officials on behalf of Abramoff’s Indian gaming clients. Anderson, who now works for Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, also appears to have worked on Texas gambling issues without registering.

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The AP is reporting that the U.S. Army used wives as leverage to force their suspected-insurgent husbands to turn themselves in.

In one case, a secretive task force locked up the young mother of a nursing baby, a U.S. intelligence officer reported. In the case of a second detainee, one American colonel suggested to another that they catch her husband by tacking a note to the family's door telling him "to come get his wife."

The issue of female detentions in Iraq has taken on a higher profile since kidnappers seized American journalist Jill Carroll on Jan. 7 and threatened to kill her unless all Iraqi women detainees are freed.

These kinds of behavior sure make it hard to take the moral high road when Americans are kidnapped by terrorists or insurgents. I'll say it again, this war (as well as this administration) is bad for so many reasons, and one of them is that it is corrupting the moral values of our military and our nation and ruining the good name of the U.S.A.

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The National Journal's cover story this issue is a big "What If?" What if, that is, the Democrats gain control of either the Senate or House in the 2006 elections. Since it's subscription-only, I'm posting a long excerpt, but if you can get to it, the whole article is worth reading.

Ah well, we can hope, can't we?

Suddenly, oversight would be back in vogue, as Bush administration officials would face what one senior White House aide conceded would be "two years of investigations" by majority Democrats on Capitol Hill.

On December 18, Conyers introduced his resolutions calling for the censure of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for "misleading" the American people about the Iraq war. "The abuse of power continues to go on and on, and continues to gain steam," Conyers said in an interview last week. "All we're trying to do is signal our displeasure to the president and the vice president."

Expanding on the Conyers gambit, Paul Weyrich, a veteran conservative leader and the chairman of the Free Congress Foundation, went even further. "If you have a [Democratic] takeover in the House, Bush will be impeached," Weyrich bluntly predicted in an interview.

In what could become the White House's worst nightmare, Democratic committee chairmen undoubtedly would launch investigations into everything from prewar intelligence, Plamegate, Hurricane Katrina, Halliburton, the "Plan B" emergency contraceptive, and homeland-security failings.
If Democrats take control of even one chamber of Congress, Bush should forget such top domestic priorities as tax cuts and oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, according to observers on and off the Hill. Even in the one area in which the administration has been most successful in recent months -- winning confirmation of judges -- the president would have to change his tune if the Senate flips. He would be forced to consult far more with Democrats.

"The immediate impact would be the end of George W. Bush's domestic presidency," said Larry Sabato, a politics professor at the University of Virginia.
If congressional Democrats return to power in 2007, they would face difficult decisions over how aggressive, partisan, and obstructionist to be without risking their chances in the 2008 election. "There would be debate within our party on whether to put forth a maximum position," Price said. For starters, he suggested that Democrats could send Bush a proposal like, say, the first minimum-wage increase in a decade, and see how he responds. "If he vetoes," Price boldly added, "we could let the voters decide."
Asked what they would do if they were in charge, Democrats cite a laundry list of domestic legislation, including a minimum-wage hike, overhaul of the newly launched Medicare prescription drug program, increased spending on education, pension reform, and action on energy and environmental issues.

Barely pausing for a breath, Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, listed the following likely initiatives at his panel: reform of the Medicare drug benefit to slash subsidies to managed care firms; relaxation of the rules barring price negotiation and the importation of prescription drugs; action to "relieve some pressures on manufacturing firms" through federal takeover of some health and retirement benefits; more tax incentives to encourage the development of low-fuel vehicles; "a rekindling of bipartisanship on international trade" with new approaches to labor standards; and dramatic tax policy changes to benefit the middle class, including a redesign of the alternative minimum tax. "Give Democrats control of Congress, and we will address the AMT meaningfully," Levin vowed. Phew.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said that Congress must address global warming. Failing to act, she asserted, "means disaster for the planet." Feinstein's home-state colleague, hard-charging liberal Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., would suddenly head the Environment and Public Works Committee in a Democratic-controlled Senate and would surely focus on global warming.
Other observers caution that divided government in 2007-08 would likely lead to gridlock. "I can't imagine Bush being terribly cooperative with a Democratic Senate," said Roger Hickey, co-chairman of the liberal Campaign for America's Future. "If one of the houses goes Democratic, you'd see a lot of positioning for the upcoming presidential election. If the Senate were in Democratic hands, you'd see them try to pass things even knowing that they couldn't get through -- just to show what their agenda was."

Nonetheless, said political science professor David Rohde of Duke University, Democrats cannot just say no. "Democrats would need to take public positions, provide solutions to major problems, and pass bills," he said. "They might get vetoed, but [Democrats] have to be seen to act, or else the public will say, 'What's the point of having them in the majority?' "
For many Democrats, probing the Bush administration's Iraq policy is paramount. "My priority would try to be a constructive voice to force the administration to have to articulate some kind of cohesive policy," said Biden, who would take the reins of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, while noting that his concerns go beyond the Iraq war. "What is their policy on Iran? What is their policy on Korea? What are they going to do relative to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, who is getting a free ride?"
Stupak warned that things would change dramatically with Democrats in the driver's seat. "The majority is protecting the administration," he said. "It would be a lot different if the Democrats were in charge." Likewise, DeGette predicted, "It's been shocking that our oversight capacity has dwindled.... The change would be a huge problem for Bush."

Those words should be music to the ears of Democrats -- and should scare the life out of Republicans -- as they prepare for the high-stakes elections this November.

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"All The President's Dodges" is a true must-read. Here's a teaser.

Here are three of the president's favorite dodges, as executed at the press conference:

Hamas: Put on a Happy Face

President Bush believes in a simple formula. Democracy is good. Terrorism is evil. When democracy is introduced in hostile countries it acts like enchanted water: Apply a drop and liberty flowers. That theory, never plausible, obviously has now been undone: The victory of the radical Islamic organization Hamas in the Palestinian elections demonstrates that democracy and terrorism are not mutually exclusive.

Instead of dealing with the topsy-turvy result, the president focused on the sunny side. He said the elections "remind me of the power of democracy" and added, "I like the competition of ideas." Groovy. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, one of Bush's strongest allies in the war on terror, was blunter. He said the result was "very, very, very bad."

The president did restate the U.S. position that he will not deal with Hamas, which advocates, among other things, the eradication of Israel. But he never tried to reconcile this position with his glowing remarks about liberty spreading across the Middle East. Nor did he explain how he reacts to the fact that his black-and-white world has suddenly gone gray.

The other dodges are (1) NSA Spying: Just Trust Us; and (2) Abramoff: Look at the Shiny Ornament!

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Thursday, January 26


I was disgusted this morning watching CNN when, after a reasonably good story on Al Gore's new documentary, An Inconvenient Truth (also the name of his new book), anchor Miles O'Brien started giggling about global warming and Al Gore. The mockery in his words and tone were palpable. (Co-anchor Soledad O'Brien and the business correspondent seemed a little embarrassed at Miles' behavior.)

That's the way the media portrays Democrats these days, as kooks or terrorist-lovers. That perspective is passed on to viewers, who assimilate the attitudes of the anchors, and an important, CRITICAL global issue is relegated to the ho-hum category.

The next time some pundit or reporter questions why the Democrats don't get their message out, I swear I'm going to throw my shoe at the TV. How can we get our message out when they obstruct every serious proposal, reject the opinions of scientists and progressive policy makers in favor of gushing about the latest macho Rethuglican talking point, ridicule our leaders and derogate the concerns of a majority of the electorate?

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AP says Alito confirmation assured.

I haven't commented much on the Alito hearings because I've been so frustrated, I begin to boil every time I think of them.

But dadgum it, where's our promised filibuster? If the Democratic Senators are so spineless because they fear some kind of backlash from the electorate they should remember the results of Newt Gingrich's gambit to shut down government in 1995. Most of the media and pundits expected that, in the flush of the successful 1994 Republican takeover of Congress, Bill Clinton would either back down over his budget disagreements with Gingrich or, if he let the government shut down, he'd take a powerful hit in the polls. Well, Clinton didn't back down, he shut down the government, and the exact opposite of what was expected happened. The electorate demonstrated their support -- haven't we got it yet that the American people LIKE a guy who stands tough, when the stakes are important and the cause is just?

If the Dems would band together and send a clear message to the American public that we are fighting the last battle to preserve our Constitution and the institutions it established (separation of powers, checks and balances, NO "unitary executive") to protect us from a despotic government, the people would support us.

And if they don't, it's still a battle worth fighting. What good will it do to re-elect 44 weak-kneed Democrats back to a Senate that has no power to oppose the king?

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Wednesday, January 25

My e-mail to Chris is here.

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Miss Molly:

Happily, the perfect news peg, as we say in the biz, for Media Accountability Day already exists—it’s Project Censored’s annual release of the 10 biggest stories ignored or under-covered by mainstream media. Project Censored is based at Sonoma State University, with both faculty and students involved in its preparation.

Of course, the stories are not actually “censored” by any authority, but they do not receive enough attention to enter the public’s consciousness, usually because corporate media tend to underreport stories about corporate misdeeds and government abuses.

1. Bush Administration Moves to Eliminate Open Government. "Gene Roberts, a great news editor, says we tend to miss the stories that seep and creep, the ones whose effects are cumulative, not abrupt. This administration has drastically changed the rules on Freedom of Information Act requests; has changed laws that restrict public access to federal records, mostly by expanding the national security classification; operates in secret under the Patriot Act; and consistently refuses to provide information to Congress and the Government Accountability Office. The cumulative total effect is horrifying."

2. Iraq Coverage. "...the two battles for Fallujah and the civilian death toll."

3. Distorted Election Coverage. "...the discrepancy between exit polls and the vote tally, and the still-contentious question of whether the vote in Ohio needed closer examination."

4. Surveillance Society Quietly Moves In. "...another seep ’n’ creep story..."

5. United States Uses Tsunami to Military Advantage in Southeast Asia.

6. The Real Oil for Food Scam. "The part that got little attention here was the extent to which we, the United States, were part of the scam."

7. Journalists Face Unprecedented Dangers to Life and Livelihood. "...stories about military policies that could improve the situation of those journalists who risk their lives."

8. Iraqi Farmers Threatened by Bremer’s Mandates. "It’s part of the untold story of the disastrous effort to make Iraq into a neo-con’s free-market dream."

9. Iran’s New Oil Trade System Challenges U.S. Currency. "The effects of Iran’s switching from dollars to Euros in oil trading."

10. Mountaintop Removal Threatens Ecosystem and Economy. "...a practice so environmentally irresponsible it makes your hair hurt to think about it."

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Your taxpayer dollars (and Iraq oil revenue dollars and money seized from Saddam's government) being wasted by the "grownup" "CEO president" and his "executive class" administration. It's a sad story of still more Bush/Republican incompetence.

One contractor received more than $100,000 to completely refurbish an Olympic pool but only polished the pumps; even so, local American officials certified the work as completed. More than 2,000 contracts ranging in value from a few thousand dollars to more than half a million, some $88 million in all, were examined by agents from the inspector general's office. The report says that in some cases the agents found clear indications of potential fraud and that investigations into those cases are continuing.
But much of the material in the latest audit is new, and the portrait it paints of abandoned rebuilding projects, nonexistent paperwork and cash routinely taken from the main vault in Hilla without even a log to keep track of the transactions is likely to raise major new questions about how the provisional authority did its business and accounted for huge expenditures of Iraqi and American money.

"What's sad about it is that, considering the destruction in the country, with looting and so on, we needed every dollar for reconstruction," said Wayne White, a former State Department official whose responsibilities included Iraq from 2003 to 2005, and who is now at the Middle East Institute, a research organization.

Instead, Mr. White said, large amounts of that money may have been wasted or stolen, with strong indications that the chaos in Hilla might have been repeated at other provisional authority outposts.

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Great speech by Harry Reid. Why isn't HE delivering the Democratic response to the State Of The Union address?


The 101st Fighting Keyboarders are strangely silent on the issue:

Why the great silence, one wonders? As a classic welfare/entitlement program with its cultural roots in the New Deal, Medicare has hardly been the apple of the right’s eye. Indeed, the epic and humiliating arm-twisting that was needed to get the drug program passed by the GOP-controlled House in 2003 amply demonstrates that conservatives were uneasy about this program from the start. Nor was the right blogosphere so shy about commenting on the Katrina disaster.

But there, I think, lies the key. As incompetent as FEMA was on that occasion, a handful of Democratic office-holders were skulking conveniently nearby to absorb some of the blame—or, if you believe the right, ALL the blame.

But no Mayor Nagin or Gov. Blanco is available as a target for finger-pointing here. Bush demanded the program, a Republican Congress passed it over Democratic objections, and a Medicare bureaucracy eviscerated by the Bush White House put it into action. Like the Abramoff thing, this is a Republican scandal down to its bones. Moreover, it’s one that will pack megatons more wallop than any old lobbyist-bribery scandal. This one hurts people by the hundreds of thousands, and possibly by the millions. The bureaucratic nightmare is something everyone will understand. Millions of voters will be falling into the dreaded "doughnut hole" right around Labor Day, just at the moment when expensive campaign ads paid for by cash from the pharmaceutical and health care industries start hitting the airwaves. No wonder the right is doing what it can to sweep this disaster under the rug.


Xpatriated Texan has a terrific post up, quoting the "State of the State" speeches of Democratic governors. It's a must-read.

State after state after state, a pattern emerges. Democrats are honoring the public trust granted them by the people. They are governing more effectively and presiding over a period of rising quality of life while meeting expectations for improvement in all areas of services. These are not Governors who believe in nothing and stand for nothing - they are Govenors that make hard and wise decisions in a responsible manner. They stand firm on principle and are clear about their values.

Tuesday, January 24


Bush is again sinking in the polls. And the reason is the economy.

George W. Bush's overall job approval rating has returned to its lowest point in Bush's presidency as Americans again turn less optimistic about the national economy according to the latest survey from the American Research Group. Among all Americans, 36% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 58% disapprove. When it comes to Bush's handling of the economy, 34% approve and 60% disapprove.
Overall, 34% of Americans say that they approve of the way George W. Bush is handling the economy, 60% disapprove, and 6% are undecided. Among registered voters, 35% approve and 60% disapprove of the way Bush is handling the economy.
A total of 14% of Americans say that the national economy is getting better, 31% say it is staying the same, and 52% say the national economy is getting worse.

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Here's how Chris Matthews just framed the debate over the president's illegal spy program:

It's a matter of whether you want to have a Big Brother -- who's good at protecting you! -- or whether you don't want a Big Brother. In other words, if you don't want a BB, you won't get any protection.

Oops, he just expanded the analogy. It's whether you want a country where the security is very good -- perfect -- or whether you want a country that isn't so safe but you have a few more freedoms.

ARRGGHH!!! It's that kind of fuzzy thinking from a person with a big loud platform that is dragging this country to ruin.

First of all, the Big Brother to which he refers -- Dubya and his incompetent administration -- hasn't proven to be very good at protecting us. See here.

Second, we have arguably faced worse threats to our nation and have survived them without the executive violating our Constitutional rights.

Though the War of 1812 was a dire crisis (New York was invaded, New Orleans was attacked, Detroit fell, the White House itself was burned), Madison undertook no extra-legal maneuvers. Toward the end of his long life, he reflected that the American Framers were distinguished not by their understanding of rights but by their appreciation of institutions. "The rights of man as the foundations of just government had been long understood," he said, "but the superstructures projected had been sadly defective." Structure, Madison understood, was the key to sustainability.

Bush keeps a bust of Winston Churchill in his office. But after four years, World War II was ending and Churchill was soon to be thrown out of office. The war on terrorism is still just beginning, and Bush has three years left. If only someone would give him a bust of Madison.

It's not an either/or proposition. The United States of America has stood among the world community of nations as a beacon for institutionally prescribed and protected basic rights for its citizens. At a time when our global prestige has sadly deteriorated, largely as a result of Bush administration policies, and terrorist "tough guys" and unfriendly nations challenge global security, we dare not allow ourselves to be seen as so faint-hearted that we would surrender the basic tenets that founded, and have for more than two centuries served as the framework undergirding the success of the American democracy experiment. If we do, frankly, the experiment will fail.

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The amazing, true story of John Walker Lindh, the young man called the "American Taliban."

Initially facing 11 criminal counts -- most relating to terrorism -- the only charge that John Lindh was found guilty of was violating economic sanctions by supporting the Taliban government, for which the 20-year-old was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Why, you ask, such a weak charge when we were all expecting life imprisonment for this "traitor" who "took up arms against his own country"?

The answers will shock you. We haven't heard even a tiny portion of the facts from the mainstream media.

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The BEAST has done it again. Read all 50, they're terrific.

5. Tom Delay

Charges: A politician so horrible, his prior career as an exterminator constitutes fratricide. Smiled for his mug shot like it was a campaign poster. Asked three young Katrina evacuees, “Now tell me the truth, boys, is this kind of fun?” One of an elite handful of white Americans still engaged in the time-honored tradition of screwing over Indians. Responding to a request he extinguish his cigar in a restaurant in accordance with federal regulations, Delay replied, “I AM the federal government.” Claimed that there was “no fat left to cut” from the federal budget to offset New Orleans reconstruction costs. So arrogant in abuse of power that he doesn’t even take time to construct plausible lies.

Exhibit A: Explaining his failure to enlist during Vietnam: “So many minority youths had volunteered…that there was literally no room for patriotic folks like myself.”

Sentence: Bashed to death with hammer.

4. You

Charges: Silently enabling and contributing to the irreversible destruction of your planet. Absolving yourself of your responsibility to do anything about it that your immediate neighbors don’t. Assuming that it’s normal behavior to spend several hours each day totally inert and staring into a cathode ray tube. Substituting antidepressants for physical motion. Caring more about the personal relationships of people you will never meet than your own. Shrugging your shoulders at the knowledge that your government is populated by criminal liars intent on fooling you into impoverished, helpless submission. Cheering this process on.

Exhibit A: You don’t even know who your congressman is.

Sentence: Deathbed realization that your entire life was an unending series of stupid mistakes and wasted opportunities, a priceless gift of potential extravagantly squandered, for which you deserve nothing but scorn or, at best, indifference, and a cold, meaningless demise.

3. George W. Bush

Charges: Simply put, the stupidest man ever to lead this country. Bush’s lobotomized Will Rogers routine is a satirist’s dream, a European intellectual’s caricature of the dipshit cowboy American, all balls and no brains. Often responds to questions by attempting to define the word he finds the most challenging in them. Thinks press reports of his various crimes are responsible for his waning popularity, rather than the deeds themselves. Interprets the constitution like a Unitarian interprets the bible; for maximum convenience and with no regard to the actual text. Foreign policy vision is less serious and more simplistic than an issue of Captain America.

Exhibit A: “I want to thank the President and the CEO of Constellation Energy, Mayo Shattuck. That’s a pretty cool first name, isn’t it? Mayo. Pass the Mayo.”

Sentence: Trapped for eternity under shoddily manufactured Diebold voting machine, unable to reach nearby refrigerator full of hot dogs and bourbon.

2. Dick Cheney

Charges: At the forefront of nearly every administration effort to anihillate the constitution. A true psychopath with only one motivating force; insatiable greed. Insists that we can only remain "free" through torture, spying and secrecy. Bears the crooked ugliness of a man whose entire life has been devoted to a senseless pursuit of power, and whose most effective weapon is a total lack of ethics, or even decorum. So cartoonishly evil he defies parody.

Exhibit A: “I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.”

Sentence: Strapped to chair; eyes removed with melon baller. Nursed back to health. Lips sewn to a rubber hose connecting him to a 500 gallon nutrition shake. Nursed back to health. Fingers, hands, toes, feet, nose and genitals devoured by hungry pigs. Nursed back to health. Legs and arms ground to stubs with belt sander. Nursed back to health. Fitted with earphones that play only Christina Aguilera songs, and left alone to think about what he has done.

1. Pat Robertson

Charges: If Pat Robertson’s local Starbucks caught fire, he would claim that God was punishing them for giving him a caramel latte when he ordered vanilla. Robertson has always been a demonic charlatan with the credibility of Miss Cleo and a lust for Armageddon in his vile, rat-toad heart, but this was really his year to shine. In 2005, Robertson called on God to vacate seats in the Supreme Court (the almighty obliged, killing Rehnquist), advocated assassinating Hugo Chavez, said ‘judicial activists’ were a more serious threat to America than terrorists, called criticism of the war treason, said John Roberts should be thankful for Hurricane Katrina, which he implied was “connected” to Roe v. Wade, attributed Ariel Sharon’s stroke to divine retribution for the Gaza pullout, said “the Antichrist is probably a Jew alive in Israel today,” and implied that God would wipe the residents of Dover, PA off the map for rejecting Creationism. Not to mention raising huge sums of cash from his zombie army, much of which is diverted from his charity operations to his business interests, including African diamond mines. Has long advocated that America simply ignore the Supreme Court. Robertson’s God is an insecure, misogynistic, homicidal fanatic—just like Pat.

Exhibit A: Vehemently opposed to voluntary abortion in America, but okay with forced abortion in China, where his cable investments depend on the good graces of the government.

Sentence: Repeatedly struck by lightning.

Hat tip to TBogg.


Tom Oliphant was on Don Imus this morning talking about a book he is writing. He said his publisher, St. Martin's, suggested the topic: conservative incompetence. Tom talked about how effective the Republican Party has been during the most recent generation at winning elections, but then, he said, the trouble starts the day after. They're incompetent at governance. Take, for example, the administration's disastrous performance after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast and since, he said.

Then there's the Medicare drug benefit fiasco, a deficit-exploding budget, and an economy characterized by stagnant or declining real wages.

And, as an afterthought, that little wasteful, wasting disease called the Iraq war.

The NY Times gets its hand on a preliminary report of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

The first official history of the $25 billion American reconstruction effort in Iraq depicts a program hobbled from the outset by gross understaffing, a lack of technical expertise, bureaucratic infighting, secrecy and constantly increasing security costs, according to a preliminary draft.

The document, which begins with the secret prewar planning for reconstruction and touches on nearly every phase of the program through 2005, was assembled by the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction and debated last month in a closed forum by roughly two dozen experts from outside the office.

A person at the forum provided a copy of the document, dated December 2005, to The New York Times.

It ain't pretty.

Bob Geiger has his own list of Bush/Republican blunders that he thinks should form a framework for a national security debate during the 2006 elections:

1. Our nation was attacked by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda on September 11. Osama bin Laden is still free and al Qaeda is still out there and gaining strength.
2. In Bush’s own words “We have no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11 attacks.” And yet Bush attacked Iraq for no reason, costing the lives of over 2,200 of our finest in the military and costing our country hundreds of billions in cash that could have gone to fight al Qaeda (see above).
3. The president’s right-hand man (Rove) is known to have divulged the identity of a covert CIA agent who was working in the Agency’s program designed to find… Weapons of Mass Destruction. The vice president’s chief of staff has resigned after being indicted in connection with this crime.
4. The Republicans in Congress have used their majority-party power to shoot down every attempt by Democrats to strengthen security at home.
5. FEMA has been reduced to a shell of what it was during the Clinton administration and is not remotely capable of protecting Americans at home from a natural disaster, much less a major terror strike.

Works for me.

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Wayne Madsen reports more details surrounding the death of Col. Ted Westhusing.

Considering the reports on contractors' (non) performance in Iraq (Halliburton supplies contaminated water to American troops and Iraqi civilians, the recklessly inadequate job the military has done in policing and auditing the contracts and the contractors, and the Pentagon's zeal to spy on those who protest such companies, and the lack of a public investigation into the mysterious death of a gallant and high-ranking officer such as Col. Westhusing, who had voiced troubled thoughts about the military contractors he was dealing with, I'd say Madsen's informants have more credibility than the administration or the military.

More details emerge on Col. Ted Westhusing's "suiciding" in Iraq. Days before his supposed suicide by a "self-inflicted" gunshot wound in a Camp Dublin, Iraq trailer, West Point Honor Board member and Iraqi police and security forces trainer Col. Ted Westhusing reported in e-mail to the United States that "terrible things were going on Iraq." He also said he hoped he would make it back to the United States alive. Westhusing had three weeks left on his tour of duty in Iraq when he allegedly shot himself in June 2005.

It is noteworthy that after Westhusing's death, two top Army generals, both responsible for training Iraqi forces, General Dave Petraeus, the Commander of the Multi National Security Transition Command Iraq (MNSTCI), and Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil, the Commander of the 1st Cavalry Division, were quickly transferred without much fanfare to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and Fort Hood, Texas, respectively.

Informed sources report that Westhusing was prepared to blow the whistle on fraud involving US Investigations Services (USIS), a Carlyle Group company, when he died. [See Jan. 14 story below]. He had also discovered links between USIS principals and clandestine events involving the Iran-Contra scandal of the Reagan-Bush I administrations. Westhusing has also linked USIS to the illegal killing and torture of Iraqis. USIS personnel whom Westhusing was investigating had the keys to his trailer. In addition, Westhusing's personal bodyguard was given a leave of absence shortly before the colonel's death.

The U.S. Army's official report on Westhusing's death contained a number of falsehoods, according to those close to the case. Most importantly, the Army report stated that Westhusing had electronically communicated an interest in obtaining hollow point bullets. The bullet which killed Westhusing was a hollow point. However, the Army's statement was false, according to an informed source. In addition, the Army combed Westhusing's service record and interviewed a number of colleagues in order to concoct a story that would make suicide appear plausible.

California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer is reportedly trying to get the Senate to investigate Westhusing's death. However, with the Republicans in firm control, it appears that murder of senior U.S. military officers is also something the GOP is more than willing to cover up.

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Monday, January 23


This is only the tip of the iceberg.

But there are now questions about whether CIFA exceeded its authority and conducted unauthorized spying on innocent people and organizations. A Pentagon memo obtained by NEWSWEEK shows that the deputy Defense secretary now acknowledges that some TALON reports may have contained information on U.S. citizens and groups that never should have been retained. The number of reports with names of U.S. persons could be in the thousands, says a senior Pentagon official who asked not be named because of the sensitivity of the subject.

CIFA's activities are the latest in a series of disclosures about secret government programs that spy on Americans in the name of national security. In December, the ACLU obtained documents showing the FBI had investigated several activist groups, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Greenpeace, supposedly in an effort to discover possible ecoterror connections. At the same time, the White House has spent weeks in damage-control mode, defending the controversial program that allowed the National Security Agency to monitor the telephone conversations of U.S. persons suspected of terror links, without obtaining warrants.

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I'm so tired of reading stories about non-Republican-Party-connected Americans, even journalists, being ejected from Bush events.

It's as if they want the whole country to be "by invitation only."

Sunday, January 22


Republicans like to talk about the "grave threat" posed to the U.S. by Al Qaeda and other terrorists. I don't discount the notion, but in my view the gravest threat to the nation is posed by Bush-Cheney.

Maureen Dowd:

None of the Bushies’ actions in defiance of law and convention, none of the money or blood spilled in Iraq, have helped these so-called tough guys get the one guy they really need to get. That is truly galling.

W. and Vice don’t even act upset about Osama’s still being on the loose. Having played down his significance after they missed their chance to get him in Tora Bora, they continue to act as if it’s no big deal when he hurls more threats.

Torquemada Cheney was torturing logic again in a speech to a conservative think tank in New York. “Some have suggested that by liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein, we simply stirred up a hornets’ nest,” he said. “They overlook a fundamental fact: we were not in Iraq on Sept. 11, 2001, and the terrorists hit us anyway.”

Yeah, Dick, because they weren’t in Iraq, either.
The White House has always seemed less compelled to capture Osama than to use him as a pretext for invading Iraq and as a political selling point. Karl Rove, coming out of his “please don’t indict me” crouch, tried to chase away the taint of the Abramoff scandal with a new round of terror-mongering for 2006: “We need a commander in chief and a Congress who understand the nature of the threat and the gravity of this moment. President Bush and the Republican Party do. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for many Democrats.”

So why did the White House set aside the gravest threat of all?

UPDATE: The NYTimes is reporting that Two years after the Pakistani Army began operations in border tribal areas to root out members of Al Qaeda and other foreign militants, Pakistani officials who know the area say the military campaign is bogged down, the local political administration is powerless and the militants are stronger than ever."

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Our elections are still not secure from manipulation.

Does anyone seriously doubt that questionable election results are a threat to civil society? Making our voting process secure should be one of the highest Congressional priorities.

The response frustrated Sancho. "More troubling than the test itself was the manner in which Diebold simply failed to respond to my concerns or the concerns of citizens who believe in American elections," he said. "I really think they're not engaged in this discussion of how to make elections safer."

He is also critical of state officials who he believes should have caught the vulnerabilities earlier. He said that vendors such as Diebold have too much influence in the administration of elections, a view that resonated with Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, the founder of the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition. Sancho is "truly an advocate for voters," she said. "What he is doing in Leon County goes completely against the grain of county election commissioners elsewhere, who are allowing vendors to dictate how to run their own elections."

Johns Hopkins University computer sciences professor Avi Rubin, who is leading a group that has received a $7.5 million grant from the National Academy of Sciences to research election technology, said the vulnerabilities of electronic systems -- including new touch-screen voting machines -- point to the need for a paper trail in any election. "The more I see, I say we need voting to rely on paper," he said. About 26 states require paper ballots, according to Verified Voting, an advocacy group.

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TODAY IN 1973...

Roe v. Wade was decided by the Supreme Court.


"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government...But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security." -- Declaration of Independence

As Atrios would say, Indeed.

There is no room for interpretation here: the Revolutionary War was fought and the Constitution was written to free the colonists from the abuse of "absolute Despotism." The manner of securing such freedom was the system of separation of powers embodied in the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of government and the checks and balances attendant on each of their roles.

Given this history, it is startling, even brazen, that some try to claim a "unitary executive" that cannot be challenged by Congress, at least in times of war. Challenging the executive in time of war is precisely the way that America was born. Madison himself could not have been more lucid on this point.

In 1795, he wrote, "Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. In war, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds are added to those of subduing the force of the people." A more prescient description of the allure of war - at least for the executive - could hardly be written.

The supreme irony - if not hypocrisy - of the theory of the "unitary executive" is that it is espoused by the very same people who purport that the Judiciary should be bound by an equally phantasmical theory of "original intent." Under this theory the Supreme Court should interpret the Constitution according to the intent of its authors, an intent only these latter-day "originalists" claim to be able to accurately divine.

But the Executive, on the other hand, should be freed entirely from such original intent, liberated to pursue a starkly post-modern vision of a virulently anti-democratic authoritarianism that would have been wholly repugnant to the very same founders. Either Madison and the founders were schizophrenic or the current "theorists" are duplicitous. They can't have it both ways.

The most dangerous of George Bush's formulations surrounding the issue of unwarranted wiretapping is that his own usurpations must continue so long as the country is at "war." Bush's "war on terror" is effectively endless because it is inherently self-catalyzing, spawning more terror than it is capable of eradicating.
Before Bush's invasion, Iraq was not a source of terrorism. Today, it is the world's pre-eminent trainer and exporter of terror. Major incidents of international terrorism have tripled since the invasion in 2003. Perhaps it is this auto-inflammatory dynamic that Dick Cheney referred to when he claimed we were facing a war, "that will not end in our lifetimes." Tellingly, Madison wrote, "No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."

The confluence of these two startling facts, the claim for unlimited power based on war, and the endless nature of the war itself, poses grave threats to the American Constitutional order. And the threat is made all the more dire in the realization that the war had been planned since the first days of the Bush administration and that it was sold to the American people through a vigorous, sustained campaign of Executive deceit.

Shorn of all distractions, the "unitary executive" and Bush's claim to legitimacy in spying amount to this: that one man can lie the country into war and then, on the basis of that war, declare himself above the law - essentially suspending the Constitution. It is a legal prescription for the self-destruction of democratic government.

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