Saturday, September 30


Another revealing statement by a GOP leader, this time Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), chairman of the bipartisan House Page Board:

“Congressman Foley told the Clerk and me that he was simply acting as a mentor to this former House Page and that nothing inappropriate had occurred. Nevertheless, we ordered Congressman Foley to cease all contact with this former House Page to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. We also advised him to be especially mindful of his conduct with respect to current and former House Pages, and he assured us he would do so.

Note that last sentence: "We also advised him to be especially mindful of his conduct with respect to current and former House Pages ..." Sounds to me as if Shimkus could smell exactly what was going on, but was willing, for the sake of a Republican majority, to accept the assurances of the accused instead of investigating further.

The Page Board consists of two Members from the Majority party selected by the Speaker, one Member from the Minority party selected by the Minority Leader, the Clerk of the House and the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House. The one-and-only Democratic member of the Board was never informed of any allegations against Foley:

The Democrat on the board, Representative Dale E. Kildee of Michigan, said he had not learned of the episode until Friday, the day Mr. Foley resigned.

“I was never informed of the allegations about Mr. Foley’s inappropriate communications with a House page,” Mr. Kildee said in a statement released Saturday evening. “And I was never involved in any inquiry into this matter.”

Why keep the lone Democrat in the dark about so serious an accusation? The whole episode stinks of "mendacity," as Big Daddy would say.

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So much for the much-vaunted "family values" of the GOP. They knew one of their Congressional leaders was sexually harassing underage House pages and did exactly zip about it.

BUT they DID defend the "privacy of the family" of one of the victims. Guess according to GOP values, a pedophile plying his business doesn't rate an investigation and exposure so he can't continue to frighten and threaten underage boys.

This whole story just makes me sick.

The national Republican Party, moreover, must especially be held accountable for concealing the presence of a pedophilic predator in the House, and for allowing him to prey for months on other children who were employees of the House. Speaker Dennis Hastert owes the American people a full explanation of why he allowed the Foley scandal to simmer for almost a year after reports reached Republican leaders of Foley’s follies. Foley’s antics were no secret; but they were covered up by Republican leaders for crass political motives. For shame.

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Bobo finally puts himself into the narrative, revealing that the Bush administration is a farce worthy of a SNL skit.

In Bob Woodward’s highly anticipated new book, “State of Denial,” President Bush emerges as a passive, impatient, sophomoric and intellectually incurious leader, presiding over a grossly dysfunctional war cabinet and given to an almost religious certainty that makes him disinclined to rethink or re-evaluate decisions he has made about the war.
As depicted by Mr. Woodward, this is an administration in which virtually no one will speak truth to power, an administration in which the traditional policy-making process involving methodical analysis and debate is routinely subverted. He notes that experts — who recommended higher troop levels in Iraq, warned about the consequences of disbanding the Iraqi Army or worried about the lack of postwar planning— were continually ignored by the White House and Pentagon leadership, or themselves failed, out of cowardice or blind loyalty, to press insistently their case for an altered course in the war.
Were the war in Iraq not a real war that has resulted in more than 2,700 American military casualties and more than 56,000 Iraqi civilian deaths, the picture of the Bush administration that emerges from this book might resemble a farce. It’s like something out of “The Daily Show” or a “Saturday Night Live” sketch, with Freudian Bush family dramas and high-school-like rivalries between cabinet members who refuse to look at one another at meetings being played out on the world stage.

There’s the president, who once said, “I don’t have the foggiest idea about what I think about international, foreign policy,” deciding that he’s going to remake the Middle East and alter the course of American foreign policy. There’s his father, former President George Herbert Walker Bush (who went to war against the same country a decade ago), worrying about the wisdom of another war but reluctant to offer his opinions to his son because he believes in the principle of “let him be himself.” There’s the president’s national security adviser whining to him that the defense secretary won’t return her phone calls. And there’s the president and Karl Rove, his chief political adviser, trading fart jokes.
And he quotes Mr. Armitage as telling former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell that he’s baffled by President Bush’s reluctance to make adjustments in his conduct of the war.

“Has he thought this through?” Mr. Armitage asks. “What the president says in effect is, We’ve got to press on in honor of the memory of those who have fallen. Another way to say that is we’ve got to have more men fall to honor the memories of those who have already fallen.”

Duh. We've had enough insider accounts now to know that BushCo has failed to think ANYTHING through. That's too comprehensive, challenging and "nuanced" for these shoot-from-the-hip cowboys.

I'm not eager to read the book. It's discouraging, even disgusting, to hear that responsible parties in the administration talked among themselves about their doubts and frustrations with their top leaders but forbore to speak the truth to either those same top leaders or the American people. Their silence indicts them -- they, too, share responsibility for the cavalier actions and policies of this administration. And that includes the deaths of more than 3,000 military troops and U.S. contractors, from 50,000 to 100,000 Iraqi civilians, the bankrupting of the American treasury, and the destruction of U.S. influence and prestige internationally.

What shook Woodward loose from his pro-administration stance I don't know -- perhaps he had a Walter Cronkite moment. It's possible that he just couldn't lie to himself any more.

UPDATE: More revelations about the inept Bush administration in this excerpt from the new book on Colin Powell.

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The Rethuglican Congress now shares complete responsibility with Bush and Cheney for every act of torture, rendition, and flouting of the U.S. Constitution. When Bush famously declared that his job would be a lot easier if he was dictator, little could we know how eager Congress would be to grant him such powers.

The bill, which cleared a final procedural hurdle in the House on Friday and is likely to be signed into law next week by Mr. Bush, does not just allow the president to determine the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions; it also strips the courts of jurisdiction to hear challenges to his interpretation.

And it broadens the definition of “unlawful enemy combatant” to include not only those who fight the United States but also those who have “purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States.”
Bruce Ackerman, a critic of the administration and a professor of law and political science at Yale University, sharply criticized the bill but agreed that it strengthened the White House position. “The president walked away with a lot more than most people thought,” Mr. Ackerman said. He said the bill “further entrenches presidential power” and allows the administration to declare even an American citizen an unlawful combatant subject to indefinite detention.

“And it’s not only about these prisoners,” Mr. Ackerman said. “If Congress can strip courts of jurisdiction over cases because it fears their outcome, judicial independence is threatened.”

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Friday, September 29


On the defense budget.



Where's the "outrage" from the religious right?

These are people who claim to be "pro-life" and who profess to hear a "fetal scream." Yet they turn a deaf ear to the very real screams of fully formed human beings who are tortured in our name.

The religious right's indifference toward the ethical issues surrounding war and torture is hardly befitting those who designate themselves the moral arbiters of our society. If my fellow evangelicals aspire to be the conscience of America, they had better liberate themselves from their captivity to the Republican Party and to the morally bankrupt policies of the Bush administration.

I simply don't understand the "christianists" --I've decided I won't capitalize that word any more, as it indicates that they are followers of Christ, which they are demonstrably not. It seems to me that most of those who might be included under that label are being horribly misled by their leadership. And that leadership is filled with presumably mature Christians, people educated and well-versed in Christian literature, foremost among which is, of course, the Bible itself. There is no way that I can see that people such as James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Tony Perkins could not recognize that their positions are in direct opposition to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Where, then, is the disconnect? (I will not include the abortion issue in this discourse -- I recognize that Scripture can be interpreted several ways on that issue.) But when it comes to war and the treatment of fellow human beings, I just don't see how there's any way to apply the New Testament teachings to current events and still justify the invasion of a non-threatening nation, endorse (enthusiastically!) torture (of which the president will be the sole arbiter), effectively promote the endless incarceration of accused (not proven) combatants and their "supporters" (any bloggers feeling vulnerable?) and still call yourself a disciple of Christ OR an American patriot. And that's not even getting into the issues of economic disparity!

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BarbinMD at ePluribus Media has an excellent call to action for Democrats. She contrasts the dramatic, tele-friendly attacks of Bush and Boehner on Democrats to the tepid, written-statement responses of our Democratic leaders, and urges the same to call their own press conferences and fire back with passionate indictments of the Bushies instead of issuing reasoned, nuanced arguments that are quickly tuned out by Joe and Jane Sixpack.

One could argue that Joe and Jane Sixpack aren't going to listen to Democrats, anyway -- they're watching Fox News, and the Fox folks aren't going to give a platform to Democrats, ESPECIALLY if they're tough. But I still hold that Howard Dean was onto something when during his run for the Dem presidential nomination he "talked about broadening the party’s base and talking to voters with Confederate decals on their pickup trucks." (As Eleanor Clift notes, he probably should have said "gun racks" instead of Confederate decals.) The point is, Joe and Jane Sixpack should be a natural Democratic constituency -- their economic interests are totally ignored by the Rethuglicans but promoted by the Dems. The problem, of course, is cultural -- the Sixpacks like tough talk, they're inheritors of the old "dis some other group to make yourself feel superior" nonsense, and have been further infected by the right-wing media machine. Nevertheless, to write them off is a huge mistake. Let's take a marketing view and CONSIDER THE AUDIENCE. If they like tough talk, let's give it to them!

Know what? Liberals and progressives long to hear some tough talk (from Democratic leaders) ourselves. It's why we've applauded Bill Clinton's smackdown of Chris Wallace.

Best line: "The only thing the Democratic Party wants to cut-and-run from is George Bush's failed policies."


Thursday, September 28


Keith Olbermann featured tonight a segment on the militaristic "Jesus Camp," which I commented on more than a week ago. It's a disturbing development, and as a Christian myself, I encourage you to inform yourselves about what these "evangelical Christians" are doing to children.



It's the most important thing in the world, but not important enough for Bush and his Republican Congressional leaders to discuss.

President Bush barely mentioned the war in Iraq when he met with Republican senators behind closed doors in the Capitol Thursday morning and was not asked about the course of the war, Sen. Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, said.

"No, none of that," Lott told reporters after the session when asked if the Iraq war was discussed. "You're the only ones who obsess on that. We don't and the real people out in the real world don't for the most part."

The real people out in the real world? Does he mean these people?

Then Lott demonstrates the wisdom and sensitivity that lost him his job as Senate Majority Leader:

Lott went on to say he has difficulty understanding the motivations behind the violence in Iraq.

"It's hard for Americans, all of us, including me, to understand what's wrong with these people," he said. "Why do they kill people of other religions because of religion? Why do they hate the Israeli's and despise their right to exist? Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me."

I'm such a cynic that I suspect Lott was trying, with those stupid remarks, to deflect attention from the embattled George Allen. You know, good Republican racists stick together.

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The end of America as we've known it.

Last week, the White House and three Republican senators announced a terrible deal on this legislation that gave Mr. Bush most of what he wanted, including a blanket waiver for crimes Americans may have committed in the service of his antiterrorism policies. Then Vice President Dick Cheney and his willing lawmakers rewrote the rest of the measure so that it would give Mr. Bush the power to jail pretty much anyone he wants for as long as he wants without charging them, to unilaterally reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, to authorize what normal people consider torture, and to deny justice to hundreds of men captured in error.
If there was ever a moment for a filibuster, this was it.

We don’t blame the Democrats for being frightened. The Republicans have made it clear that they’ll use any opportunity to brand anyone who votes against this bill as a terrorist enabler. But Americans of the future won’t remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration.

They’ll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

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Wednesday, September 27


On The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer is guest Jerry Falwell. Wolf replays the video of Hugo Chavez addressing the U.N. and referring to president Bush as the devil and asks for Jerry's reaction.

Falwell: Chavez should have been deported, but instead he made his rounds of African-American churches, where he got standing ovations.

Excuse me? What is Jerry trying to say here, that African-American churchgoers celebrate and approve of a man that he (Jerry) thinks should be deported? Why did he mention AA churches? To discredit them?

This is more evidence of Jerry Falwell's racist center.

On his Hillary comment comparing her run for the presidency akin to one by "Lucifer" -- Falwell says [my blogging notes] he, "did not demonize her -- I would never do that to her or anyone else. I simply made a joke, she'd make our best opponent in '08. I wouldn't change anything. I think she knows in her heart of hearts, that part was a joke. I'd never call anyone a devil, there's only one devil and he's somewhere else. I have nothing to change."

We report, you decide.

This will tell you what you need to know about Jerry Falwell.


The AP reports that the "severed deer head" story starring Virginia Senator George Allen may be a "myth," according to some local law enforcement officers.

Also in interviews with the AP and late Sunday, Shelton claimed that on a hunting trip to Louisa County in 1973 or 1974, Allen stuffed the severed head of a female deer into the oversized mailbox of a black household near Bumpass, Va., 40 miles east of the university.

But in interviews Tuesday, two Louisa County sheriff's deputies who were on the force in the early '70s said that they recall no complaints about severed animal heads.

Retired Lt. Robert Rigsby said he was in charge of investigations in the early '70s, and any such report would have gone through him.

"I think that's a myth," Rigsby said.

Well golly gee, if nobody reported it, it didn't happen, right?

Anyone who grew up in the deep South and lived there during the early seventies (I've lived in the South all my life, born and bred, except for blips abroad with my military dad) should know how seldom, at that time, an anonymous black would file a police report alleging harassment. For one thing, a person of color would have had good reason to believe that any such report would be ignored by law enforcement, and that filing one would merely bring him/her to the attention of the authorities as a "troublemaker."

Remember, Allen is quoted as saying he came to Virginia because it was a place where blacks "knew their place." He clearly had no fear that he'd be found out for frightening an unknown black family, so he could indulge his sadistic tendencies without fear of consequences. These quoted specimens of rural Virginia law enforcement sound just like Allen's kind of people.

If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody hears it, did it make any noise? The conservative (and Allen's) response: OF COURSE NOT!

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Tuesday, September 26


Al Franken, Mike Barnicle, and Tony Blankley as a panel on Hardball. On the implications of the recently released National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iraq and the war on terrorism:

Oh my gosh. I have never in my life heard Al so impassioned, so perfectly articulate, so totally in control of the discourse as he just was with Tony Blankley. Al dominated the entire segment. Barnicle was almost totally silent, Tony had his characteristic smirk completely replaced with an ashen I'm-going-to-be-sick grimace plastered across his face. Bravo, Al. You were magnificent. You made your points succinctly and persuasively and the effect of your appearance was an image of you as the righteous truth-teller with the facts to support him battling the forces of pasty-faced evasive, self-aggrandizing aphorisms while the media sits stunned (I include Chris Matthews, who completely uncharacteristically hardly uttered a word) at this rout.

I can't wait to post the transcript.

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George Allen is running for his political life from accusations that he is ashamed of his Jewish heritage and a closet racist, including declarations by some of his former football teammates at the University of Virginia that he "used the n-word." So he issues a press release in which four more teammates dispute those charges. Let's see who those teammates are:

Before the latest two revelations on Monday, the Allen campaign put out a press release with the accounts of four former college football teammates of Allen's and a former football team trainer. The trainer and two other teammates claimed that Shelton had received the nickname "Wizard" only because of his athletic abilities. All four of the teammates said they had never known Allen to use racial slurs or demonstrate racial intolerance.

One of the teammates in the press release, Doug Jones, is listed on the Virginia Republican Party Web site as the "Unit Operations Co-Chair for the Allen campaign in Fairfax County." When Allen was the governor of Virginia, he appointed a second teammate cited in the press release, Charles M. Hale Jr., to the Virginia Board of Mining Examiners, according to state records. As governor, Allen also gave an appointment to the wife of George Korte, a third teammate in the press release. According to state records, Allen appointed Holly Korte to the Virginia Board of Social Services. And he appointed Joe Gieck, the former trainer, to the Governor's Commission on Physical Fitness and Sports.

Fine, disinterested parties these guys are, huh?

Marc Fisher in WaPo asks, "Where have all these George Allen critics been for the last two decades?" He acknowledges that all this is a distraction from the "real issues" in the Virginia Senatorial race, then adds, "But picking a senator is about both policy and personality; we decide on people based not only on what they believe in, but on who they are, because we need to know how they are likely to decide on issues that haven't even come along yet.

"Where, I want to know, is that unflappable, likable, confident George Allen I had come to enjoy over the years? Why has he permitted these potentially tangential issues to take over his campaign? Here's my bottom line question: If that affable, amiable guy is the real George Allen, then why, in this testing time, have we instead seen a guy who is flitting from story to story, a man who is snappish, smart-alecky, and utterly insensitive? Have we somehow stumbled to the core and found a man with no center?"


Monday, September 25


A surprising and candid interview with Richard Ben-Veniste, 9/11 Commissioner, who went public with Wolf Blitzer about the Commission's questioning of Bush and Cheney in the Oval Office. My real-time blogging:

WB: Why didn't Bush respond to the Cole attack?

RBV: He said he didn't want to launch a cruise missile attack for fear of missing him.

WB: What about the Taliban?

RBV: The U.S. had threatened the Taliban on at least three occasions during the Clinton administration that if Bin Laden, who they gave refuge in Afghanistan, were to strike against U.S. interests, we'd attack the Taliban. Bush's people and George Tenet, head of the CIA, informed Bush that Al Qaeda was responsible for the Cole.

WB: What did Bush say about why he didn't he go after the Taliban then?

RBV: He said that no one had told him that we had made that threat. I found that very surprising and discouraging.

WB: Why weren't these conversations included in the 9/11 Report?

RBV: I had hoped that we would have made both the Clinton and Bush interviews a part of the report. I was outvoted. I think the question was that there was a degree of confidentiality that was associated with that and that we would would go no further until some five years after our work, we would keep that confidential.

WB: Why are you going public now?

RBV: I think the issue of the Cole is an important subject, and there has been a lot of politicization about it. Clinton didn't attack because the CIA hadn't given him the conclusion that Al Qaeda was responsible. That was decided in December, Bush was informed in January. Why didn't Clinton respond then? That was a question of whether a president who would soon be leaving office would initiate an attack against a foreign nation, Afghanistan, but strangely during the transition there seemed to be no interest by the Bush administration in plans that had been drawn up to respond to the Cole.

WB: Did the VP say anything to you? Did he know this warning had been given to the Taliban?

RBV: The VP did not volunteer any information.

WB: What did the president say when you pressed him about it?

RBV: The president made a humorous remark about, had I ever lost any argument? I reminded him I had two daughters. I was surprised given the number of people who said he had been informed, including Richard Clarke. I thought the non-response to the Cole was a surprising lapse, it would have sent a message to the Taliban and could conceivably have disrupted, maybe, the attacks on 9/11. The threats that were conveyed to the Taliban are reflected in our report.

Wolf ended the exchange with a response from Deputy White House spokesperson Dana Perrino: "The bombing [of the Cole] was on October 12, 2000. The president wasn't even in office."

UPDATE: The full transcript is here.

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On The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, Jamie McIntyre just did a fact-check on Clinton's assertions during his Chris Wallace interview on Fox News that he tried to kill Bin Laden during his presidency.

The result of Jamie's researches? The Big Dog was telling the truth. And the 9/11 Commission said so.

Well done.

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I don't get the lifting of the TSA ban against liquids and gels.

* Most liquids and gels, including toiletries such as toothpaste, gel deodorants and lip gloss, will be allowed in carry-on luggage -- if the individual containers are 3 ounces or less and if all of the items will fit into a single, quart-size clear plastic bag.

* Liquids purchased in the so-called "sterile area" -- the area of the airport inside the security checkpoint -- can be brought onto aircraft.

I mean, either liquids can be mixed to produce explosives or not, right? So what sense does it make to say they're okay if they're bought inside the security checkpoint but not outside it?

Sounds to me as if maybe airport vendors complained a little too much about sales being down. And as always in Bush World, the interests of commerce trump security. Or could it be even simpler, that the ban on liquids and gels was just another scare tactic to get voters' attention and now that it's turned out to be more effective at annoying people than motivating them to vote Republican, the decision was made to scrap it.



Former New York Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman knows just who Bush is trying to protect with his stealth campaign to provide retroactive legislative cover for crimes committed under the War Crimes Act of 1996.

Gonzales has already expressed his concern that special prosecutors and/or independent counsels might bring charges under the Act. The cover story is that Bush is trying to shield "CIA interrogators" so that their program of torture may continue -- but as Holtzman points out, special prosecutors or independent counsels aren't set up for low-level civil servants, but for the president and his cabinet. Bush has demonstrated very little concern for his foot soldiers, whether in the military or the intelligence services, so I think it's unrealistic to think that's what we're seeing now. He's used the additional argument that CIA interrogators will simply refuse to torture people if they don't have legal cover, and that's more believable. But I think there's more reason to believe he's just worried about his own skin.

To ''reduce the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act,'' Gonzales recommended that Bush not apply the Geneva Conventions to al-Qaida and the Taliban. Since the War Crimes Act carried out the Geneva Conventions, Gonzales reasoned that if the Conventions didn't apply, neither did the War Crimes Act. Bush implemented the recommendation on Feb. 7, 2002.

When the Supreme Court recently decided that the Conventions did apply to al-Qaida and Taliban detainees, the possibility of criminal liability for high-level administration officials reared its ugly head again.

What to do? The administration has apparently decided to secure immunity from prosecution through legislation. Under cover of the controversy involving the military tribunals and whether they could use hearsay or coerced evidence, the administration is trying to pardon itself, hoping that no one will notice. The urgent timetable has to do more than anything with the possibility that the next Congress may be controlled by Democrats, who will not permit such a provision to be adopted.

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Rights groups challenge Bush's deal with McCain et al.

"It only takes 30 seconds or so to see that the Senators have capitulated entirely, that the U.S. will hereafter violate the Geneva Conventions... and that there will be very little pretense about it," according to Marty Lederman, an international law professor at Georgetown University School of Law, who suggested that the White House had gotten the better of the rebels.

His interpretation of the deal's likely impact on the CIA's legal authority to use cruel or inhuman interrogation methods in defiance of the Conventions' Common Article 3 was similar to that of Human Rights Watch, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and most other groups.
The ACLU's legislative director, Caroline Fredrickson, assailed the deal as a "compromise of America's commitment to the rule of law."

Like other groups, she cited provisions in the bill, which will be taken up by the Republican-led House of Representatives next week, that would permit testimony that was coerced through cruel or inhumane treatment to be used as evidence in military trials, preclude the judicial branch from reviewing the government's compliance with the Geneva Conventions, and deny detainees the right to challenge their status in court.

"It is essential that the bill be amended to ensure that all detainees have access to the courts to challenge the legality of their detention and their treatment," said Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth.

"This 'deal' still wipes out habeas corpus," noted Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. "(Its) abolishment is the equivalent of the authorization of executive detention -- one of the hallmarks of a police state."

Ratner and other activists also noted that the compromise, if approved, would retroactively immunize military and CIA staff from prosecution under the 1995 War Crimes Act for violations of the Geneva Conventions committed during the "war on terror".

"This 'deal' amnesties those in the administration who may be guilty of war crimes as Argentina and Chile tried to do during their 'dirty wars'," Ratner said. "That is illegal under international law."

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Jonathan Alter on George Allen, whom he compares to the more "authentic" Jim Webb.

I don't know what it was about the South that so fascinated George Allen and won his allegiance before he even moved here, but there are plenty of indications that it was the political and social supremacy of white males.

No matter if he wins re-election to the U.S. Senate, his presidential aspirations are cooked. Stick a fork in them, they're done.



Iraq war vet Paul Rieckhoff tries to tell the Bush administration and the Republican Congress why reinterpreting the Geneva Conventions is a bad idea, based on his own infantry training and experience.

It's a valiant effort, but he can hold his breath. The chickenhawks haven't demonstrated any desire or tendency to listen to military experts on any subject relating to war, counterinsurgency or the military in general. Torture is their own pet project -- they're certainly not going to consider the opinions or arguments of anyone who opposes it.

And as for the three "rebel" senators, John McCain, Lindsey Graham and John Warner, considering how quickly and how completely they caved to the administration's position, I think it's at least fair to consider that they never intended to buck Bush going into the midterms. They made a token effort to shore up their own "moderate" credentials, and that's the best that can be said for them. Now if the Dems don't stand up and make short work of this legislation, using the filibuster if necessary to delay it until at least after the next Congress is installed, they'll lose any claim to a spine as well.

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