The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Kerry's response to the Bush speech

I was really impressed with Kerry's rejoinder to speech Bush gave this morning, and I'm glad to see that this is the part getting most attention from the press:

"This debate is not about an artificial date for withdrawal," Kerry said. He said a Nov. 15 Senate resolution, which called on the administration to hasten an eventual U.S. pullout by turning over more control to Iraqis, did not advocate "an artificial date for withdrawal" but sought to "set an estimated timetable for success which will permit the withdrawal of our troops." The resolution, which passed 79 to 19, said 2006 should be "a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty," creating conditions for "the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq."

"No one has ever suggested or believes that we should run in the face of car bombers or assassins," Kerry said, referring to a passage in Bush's speech. "No one is talking about running in the face of a challenge. We're talking about how to win, how to succeed, how do you best achieve our goals? That's the choice here. And what the president did not do today again is acknowledge the fundamental reality of the insurgency."

Perfect. Rather than being weak-kneed or conciliatory, Kerry turns the tables and points out that Bush's argument is a total red herring. Instead of making an actual proposal, Bush was sloganeering. Bush didn't have a plan, he just chose to fabricate a bogus argument and manufacture talking points.

Kerry seems to have learned-- probably too late-- the lesson that Gore took away from 2000 and Kerry himself had to face over the Swift Boat attacks. Namely, that although the press is eager to give Dems a pasting for any perceived insincerity, the public responds to a man willing to stick up for his principles and be a fighter.

He wants the nomination in a big way, but he's got a long way to go to be a contender with his image already cast as a waffler and opportunist. Fair? Not really. But that's the way it is. And as much as he wants the nomination, there are a lot of other Dems who are eager to get it as well.

Muhammad Ali: Terrorist

It's rare that I link to a right-wing article, but this is a real jaw-dropper. With all that's gone on during this administration-- a war on two fronts, the nightmarish hurricane season, poverty on the rise, GOP corruption from top to bottom, and the biggest national deficit in history-- what is this rightie worried about? A symbolic gesture.

What strikes me as the hilarious irony in this whole absurd screed is the author's insistence that Ali is un-American, un-patriotic, racist, and "opposed to the nation's principles."

One thing Ali has always been is a man of principle. I might not agree with some of his positions, but his convictions should make him a poster boy for the Republican party. With such luminaries as DeLay, Frist, Taft, Ney, Cunningham, Santorum, et al., they could certainly use some remedial ethics courses.

Leave it to the right to get all lathered up over an aging athlete in failing health while turning a blind eye to the theft of billions from American taxpayers. But no, apparently "the nadir of Bush's presidency" is his willingness to give a legendary athlete a medal.

Bush hearts Lieberman. Does anyone else?

One unsurprising moment in Bush's speech was his mention of Lieberman being "right" in his assessment that the war is going very well and we should all support Bush's policy. It's just another repeat of Lieberman's tactics of the last five years. Stop by a right-wing venue, say something at odds with your own party, sit back and listen as rightie pundits use your name as a club to bash Democrats. This time he just aimed a little higher than usual.

Who else thinks Lieberman is right? Not the journalists in Baghdad who met with him recently. And definitely not eccentric radio guy Don Imus. Crooks and Liars has a long video in which Imus interviews Lieberman and gives him a serious beatdown. Like at the top.

The Imus quotes they sample? How about these doozies:

"You're the only person I talked to who thinks things are going well there..."

"Somebody's got something on you, this is crazy."

Bush's strategy for victory: win.

That's pretty much it. With his bold new initiative to sell the war that began a couple of years ago, Bush has rolled out the latest plan for getting things under control. Only it sounded like every speech on the war we've been forced to endure since things got out of control (also a couple of years ago).

It was peppered with all the old favorites-- 9/11, fighting over there so we aren't fighting here, our soldiers deserve better (if by better you mean continuing to be targets of an increasingly angry populace). And 'turning a corner.' Haven't heard that one in a while.

There was some new stuff, as well. Not in the way of policy, but we got to add a few buzzwords to the political discourse. 'Rejectionists,' that was a good one. The dirty-sounding 'Saddamists.'

Also present was plenty of talk about the Iraqi forces taking matters in their own hands. Which they're able to do thanks to the administration helpfully lowering expectations. Sure, there's only one fully-trained battalion of Iraqis, but they don't all need to be fully trained! That's just silly!

There were even a few lies, naturally. Bush seems to have given a couple of instances where Iraqis are in control of their own country which directly contradict reports from the ground there. One town mentioned by name is apparently in the Kurdish region, which is the one spot where things didn't go to hell to begin with.

So if you were actually hoping to hear some details of the "Strategy for Victory," you were probably disappointed to simply hear the words strategy, for, and victory repeated over and over.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Why Murtha matters. On the inside, anyway.

Although it was a big deal on the blogosphere when a hawkish, Democratic member of the House of Representatives decided that it was time for the US to begin planning a withdrawal from Iraq, it wasn't such a big deal with the mainstream press. But something I've learned since the initial dust-up was an account of just how connected Rep. Murtha is with the US military.

Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh was interviewed on Majority Report this evening, and to hear him describe it, the White House most likely took his dissent as a serious affront. To paraphrase Hersh, there isn't a general Murtha isn't friends with. His inference is that the military's top brass no longer supports the mission, and the White House is none too pleased.

My guess is that we're about to see a whole lot of stage-managed Bush cheerleading sessions about staying the course and victory. Which isn't a policy, obviously, and won't do a thing to sway the public.

UK/US mercenaries kill Iraqi civilians. US press looks at ceiling, whistles.

I wrote yesterday about a video that shows mercenaries (hired by the US, the UK, or both) murdering Iraqi civilians as a recreational activity.

I thought I'd repost the story after hearing that the only news show to mention the video last night was Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

Astounding. There's video of taxpayer-funded killings of civilians, and the press doesn't give a damn. They haven't done anything with the stories of more than ten billion dollars in reconstruction money that simply vanished, yet this story bleeds, but doesn't lead.

See the video yourself at the link above. And keep watching Olbermann's show. It's the only cable news show (aside from the Daily Show) that's worth the time and isn't afraid to call a spade a spade. Sad, but that's the state of the press today.

Instant Spin.... it's going to get you.

Less than a day after GOP Rep. Randy Cunningham pleads guilty to taking more than $2 million in bribes (Fox News hasn't been giving Cunningham's party affiliation in their stories), allegations have surfaced that (gasp!) a Democratic Senator received $5,000 from a Native American tribe associated with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff-- possibly in exchange for political favors!

As the Kos contributor notes, the AP story on Dorgan doesn't really tell us where the 'evidence' comes from, aside from getting the source's name wrong. In fact, the source is a Republican lobbyist (living in Louisiana, no less-- Dorgan is in North Dakota), and the contribution was above-board and made after Dorgan had made a move that benefitted the grateful contributors.

In a word: bogus. But it provides all the righties with an instant talking point. Being pressed with questions about GOP misdeeds? Squirming at the mention of Cunningham, Abramoff, DeLay and Ney? No sweat! Just shout the name "Dorgan" and you won't have to deal with it any more. Way to go, mainstream media. You've done it again.

Joe Lieberman's Bizarroworld dispatch

It's been a while since I've heard any reports of Lieberman undermining his own party in a right-wing venue, but now he's gone and hit one out of the park.

Dopey Joe has not only penned an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal's page-- the most openly partisan and factually challenged in the nation-- but it's all about how Americans need to be supporting the war?!? I'm starting to wonder if it really is just an obsession with civility and bipartisanship, or if he's taken a nasty bump on the noggin.

From the post: [Lieberman] doesn't even bother with any token criticisms of the Bush administration or policy suggestions beyond blind support for the incumbent. And at the end of the piece he not-so-subtly suggests that to disagree with the Bush-Lieberman Iraq policy -- or at a minimum to express one's disagreement with it -- is unpatriotic and wrong because it hurts the Marines' feelings.

An interview with Time's Baghdad bureau chief on Morning Sedition today doesn't do much to inspire confidence in Joe's hawkishness.

I and some other journalists had lunch with Senator Joe Lieberman the other day and we listened to him talking about Iraq. Either Senator Lieberman is so divorced from reality that he's completely lost the plot or he knows he's spinning a line. Because one of my colleagues turned to me in the middle of this lunch and said he's not talking about any country I've ever been to and yet he was talking about Iraq, the very country where we were sitting.

Iraq surreality check

Think Progress has a list of what sort of things are happening in Iraq on a daily basis. Some of the low points:

Attacks on American forces are increasing-- and at an all-time high of about 100 per day.
Water/power levels are still below pre-war levels.
There are more US troops in Iraq now than in May, 2003, when Bush announced "Mission Accomplished."

A military historian on the US Army's required reading list for officers has said the invasion of Iraq is "the most foolish war since Emperor Augustes in 9 BC sent his legions into Germany and lost them." Civil war? "Inevitable," says Martin van Creveld.

But never fear! White House Spokesmonkey Scott McClellan has revealed that--thirty months after 'Mission Accomplished'-- Bush intends to reveal his victory strategy! Masterful timing, as always.

MR. McCLELLAN: Iraq, yes. In terms of tomorrow, it's an important speech. It's the first in a series of speeches that the President will be making between now and the December 15th elections about our plan for victory in Iraq. We are pursuing a comprehensive strategy to defeat the terrorists and those trying to prevent democracy from advancing in Iraq. And the President believes that the American people should have a clear understanding of our strategy. And that means how we see the enemy and how we define and achieve victory. So as part of the speech tomorrow, we are going to be releasing a document called the "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq." It's an unclassified version of the plan that we've been pursuing in Iraq, and it will be made available to the American people. I think we'll also be posting it on our website, as well.

There you have it. It all depends on what the definition of 'victory' is.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The significance of Cunningham's guilty plea

As I noted earlier, between Cunningham, Ohio Governor Taft, Jack Abramoff, and Tom DeLay, literally dozens of Republican officials could be involved in corruption scandals. Enter the White House, with obvious ties to the Oval Office.

Today, Duke Cunningham pled guilty to receiving over $2 million in bribes from Mitchell Wade and his company, MZM Inc., in exchange for legislative favors. It’s worth noting that MZM also did some unusual business with the White House:

[O]ver the past three years it [MZM Inc.] was also awarded several contracts, worth more than $600,000, by the Executive Office of the President. They include a $140,000 deal for office furniture in 2002 and several for unspecified “intelligence services.”

Why did the White House hire MZM, a “defense and intelligence firm,” to buy office furniture for the White House?

UPDATE: Some of the filthy lucre that Cunningham accepted during his days in office comes from the plea agreement he just filed.

• $200,000 toward the purchase of his Arlington, Va., condominium.

• $140,000 to a third party for the "Duke-Stir" yacht, which was moved to his boat slip for his use.

• $16,867.13 to a marine services company for repairs to his own yacht, the "Kelly C."

• $12,000 paid to an antique store for three night stands, a leaded glass cabinet, a washstand, a buffet and four armoires.

• $6,632 paid to a furniture store for a leather sofa and a sleigh-style bed.

• $7,200 paid to an antique store for a circa 1850 Louis Phillipe period commode and a circa 1830 Restoration period commode.

• $13,500 toward the purchase of a Rolls-Royce.

• $17,889.96 for repairs to the Rolls-Royce.

• $11,393.56 paid to a moving company to ship his belongings from his Arlington condominium to his San Diego-area home.

• $2,081.30 paid to a Washington, D.C., hotel for his daughter's graduation party.

• $9,200 paid to a manufacturer for two Laser Shot shooting simulators.

• $10,000 paid to various hotels, resorts and restaurants for his meals and entertainment expenses.

• Hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash to him and a company he controlled.

Cheney: Moron, Idiot, or Nefarious Bastard?

That's a quote. And it's from Colin Powell's former chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson. He's become a very vocal critic of the administration's conduct of the war, portraying it as the pet project of a few men close to Bush (especially Cheney and Rumsfeld) and becoming increasingly pointed in his attacks.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday that wrongheaded ideas for the handling of foreign detainees arose from White House and Pentagon officials who argued that "the president of the United States is all-powerful" and the Geneva Conventions irrelevant.

In an Associated Press interview, former Powell chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson also said President Bush was "too aloof, too distant from the details" of postwar planning. Underlings exploited Bush's detachment and made poor decisions, Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson blamed Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and like-minded aides. He said Cheney must have sincerely believed that Iraq could be a spawning ground for new terror assaults, because "otherwise I have to declare him a moron, an idiot or a nefarious bastard." (. . .)

Cheney's office, Rumsfeld aides and others argued "that the president of the United States is all-powerful, that as commander in chief the president of the United States can do anything he damn well pleases," Wilkerson said.

On the other side were Powell, others at the State Department and top military brass, and occasionally Condoleezza Rice, who was then national security adviser, Wilkerson said.

Powell raised frequent and loud objections, his former aide said, once yelling into a telephone at Rumsfeld: "Donald, don't you understand what you are doing to our image?"

Recommended reading, especially on a day when blogs were reporting Bush's continued isolation from most of the administration and insistence that history will think of him as a savior.

It's just a shame that the White House crack-up is coming at such a high cost to the nation.

Video shows contractors murdering Iraqi civilians.

Just keep telling yourself, it isn't the murder and torture that hurt our cause-- it's the fact that the accursed 'liberal media' keeps pointing it out. If they'd just let the killers go about their business of shooting innocents, there wouldn't be any insurgency!

A "trophy" video appearing to show security guards in Baghdad randomly shooting Iraqi civilians has sparked two investigations after it was posted on the internet, the Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

The video has sparked concern that private security companies, which are not subject to any form of regulation either in Britain or in Iraq, could be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent Iraqis.

The video, which first appeared on a website that has been linked unofficially to Aegis Defence Services, contained four separate clips, in which security guards open fire with automatic rifles at civilian cars. All of the shooting incidents apparently took place on "route Irish", a road that links the airport to Baghdad.

The road has acquired the dubious distinction of being the most dangerous in the world because of the number of suicide attacks and ambushes carried out by insurgents against coalition troops. In one four-month period earlier this year it was the scene of 150 attacks.

In one of the videoed attacks, a Mercedes is fired on at a distance of several hundred yards before it crashes in to a civilian taxi. In the last clip, a white civilian car is raked with machine gun fire as it approaches an unidentified security company vehicle. Bullets can be seen hitting the vehicle before it comes to a slow stop.

Keep in mind that the administration fought for these protections for mercenaries. They pretty much have immunity from prosecution. Who would've guessed they'd abuse their power?

To sum up, taxpayer dollars are going to pay the wages of mercenaries who spend their free time murdering civilians. That probably makes Iraqis angry. And when they become angry, they support the insurgency. And insurgents spend their time killing our overworked and underpaid troops. So the cost of the war rises, and we keep paying for it all. Just thinking about the stupefying conduct of the war by this administration makes my head hurt.

White House to try Plan F

Plans A through E haven't worked so well, what with Bush being the least popular president in modern history. The war is a bust, Social Security was a dud, energy costs are on the rise, hurricane relief efforts were bungled, the family values thing isn't really selling these days. Whad'ya do!?! Change the topic to shore up the base and find a new way to scare the public into supporting you again.

The secret word is: Immigration.

A senior administration official said that the president, in a speech on immigration, will focus on three areas: border security, enforcement and a temporary worker program.

The official said the president will talk about "additional resources and the use of technology to secure the border," and will discuss it in terms of national security and the economy.

Bush also is expected to raise the issue of interior enforcement. The administration official said that includes "interior repatriation," or returning illegal immigrants from Mexico to the interior of the country instead of on the other side of the border.

There's nothing wrong with rounding up illegal workers, but border security? Weren't they supposed to be working on that already? As in for the last four years?

The wide, wide web of Jack Abramoff

On Al Franken's show today, Norm Ornstein suggested that some thirty GOP lawmakers stand to be investigated because of their financial ties to Abramoff. You can hear the show commercial free by downloading it at the above site.

Just thought I'd share.

California Rep. Cunningham pleads guilty-- loves Jesus.

Randall "Duke" Cunningham has decided to cop a plea for his various pay-to-play schemes between businessmen in his district and Washington. Plamegate heats up, the Abramoff/Scanlon lobbying scandal is coming to a head, and it's increasingly obvious to the public at large that the runup to war was a hoax perpetrated by the White House. Watch out for falling poll numbers.

SAN DIEGO - Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy and tax charges and tearfully resigned from office, admitting he took $2.4 million in bribes to steer defense contracts to co-conspirators.

Cunningham, 63, entered pleas in U.S. District Court to charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud and wire fraud, and tax evasion for underreporting his income in 2004.

Cunningham answered "yes, Your Honor" when asked by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns if he had accepted bribes from someone in exchange for his performance of official duties.

Later, at a news conference, he wiped away tears as he announced his resignation.

"I can't undo what I have done but I can atone," he said.

Cunningham, an eight-term Republican congressman, had already announced in July that he would not seek re-election next year.

Tears are always good. They helped Jimmy Swaggart out of his sex scandal. All you have to do is picture yachts, limos, sacks of cash and Cuban cigars all flying out your window on little wings. He also manages to point out that he's a veteran and deeply religious. But why would he bother? He's finished.

Paranoia, megalomania-- just another day with G-Dub

Stories of Bush losing his cool these days continue to circulate, and while they're largely rumors at this point, the Nixonian feel they have is a little difficult to dismiss out of hand.

In the New Yorker, Seymour Hersh tells the tale of a former senior administration official who visited Iraq after the 2004 presidential election and returned to inform Bush that the war wasn't going well. "I said to the president, 'We're not winning the war,'" the official told Hersh. "And he asked, 'Are we losing?' I said, 'Not yet.'" Bush was "displeased" with the answer, the official told Hersh. "I tried to tell him. And he couldn't hear it."

Hersh paints the picture of a president who believes that he was chosen by God to lead the United States after 9/11, a man whose faith blots out any concern over setbacks in Iraq. "The president is more determined than ever to stay the course," a former defense official tells Hersh. "Bush is a believer in the adage 'People may suffer and die, but the Church advances.'" The former official tells Hersh that Karl Rove and Dick Cheney reinforce the president's delusions by having him appear only in front of friendly audiences and keeping him "in the gray world of religious idealism, where he wants to be anyway." Bush, the former official says, has no idea that he's living in a bubble.

In the Daily News, Thomas DeFrank and Kenneth Bazinet say the state of denial extends well beyond Bush. They quote a "card-carrying member of the Washington GOP establishment with close ties to the White House" who dined recently with several senior presidential aides and left shaking his head. "There is just no introspection there at all," he said. "It is everybody else's fault -- the press, gutless Republicans on the Hill. They're still in denial." Another "close Bush confidant" says: "The staff basically still has an unyielding belief in the wisdom of what they're doing. They're talking to people who could help them, but they're not listening."

Meanwhile, the Daily News says, the president is growing paranoid about the people around him, furious over leaks about the mood inside the White House but unsure which of his aides is spreading the stories. One "knowledgeable source" says: "He's asking [friends] for opinions on who he can trust and who he can't."

Disturbing stuff. Let's hope it isn't true, because Bush, unlike Nixon, doesn't strike me as the type to resign for the sake of the nation.

Rove still key figure in Plame investigation.

Not only is Rove still under investigation for outing CIA agent Valerie Plame, but it looks like Fitzgerald has found more evidence that Rove had a hand in it all.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will present evidence to a second grand jury this week in his two year-old investigation into the outing of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson that could lead to a criminal indictment being handed up against Karl Rove, President Bush’s deputy chief of staff, attorneys close to the investigation say.

Rove has remained under intense scrutiny because of inconsistencies in his testimony to investigators and the grand jury. According to sources, Rove withheld crucial facts on three separate occasions and allegedly misled investigators about conversations he had with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper.

The attorneys say that Rove’s former personal assistant, Susan B. Ralston -- who was also a special assistant to President Bush -- testified in August about why Cooper’s call to Rove was not logged. Ralston said it occurred because Cooper had phoned in through the White House switchboard and was then transferred to Rove’s office as opposed to calling Rove’s office directly. As Rove’s assistant, Ralston screened Rove’s calls.

Friday, November 25, 2005

McCain: Sellout 2008 Tour

The man who was lauded for his integrity in 2000, 'swiftboated' by Karl Rove during the GOP primaries, and subsequent persona non grata in his own party is stepping up his campaign for the White House in 2008. His strategy is clear-- he's already a media darling, so all he has to do is capitalize on his distance from the GOP's corruption problem while trying to convince the fundamentalists and hillfolk that he's one of them. They haven't been buying it so far, but he's also managed to piss off otherwise-friendly Dems by flushing his own reputation for being 'Mr. Straight Talk.'

Sadly, McCain hasn't learned a thing from the last two presidential elections. Gore and Kerry took a pounding for coming across as fake and insincere, while Bush managed to seem like Mr. Nice Guy. Since then, of course, he's become the least popular president in modern American history. Bush's handlers convinced him to act like who he is, an affable dipshit, and he won. Gore and Kerry's people convinced them to not act like the conscientious, policy-oriented thinkers they are, and they lost.

So here's how McCain is proving his credentials as a serious-minded man of the people:

1. Coming out in support of teaching creationism as science. This is the one issue that fundamentalists go nuts about that will never go anywhere. Because it's not only unconstitutional, but utterly moronic. Earth to McCain: it's the twenty-first century.

2. Trolling for the white supremacist vote. Kinda like black Maryland GOP Senate hopeful Michael Steele has to fabricate stories about his unpopularity among blacks to win the successful cracker vote, McCain has decided that he'd better kiss the collective asses of those least likely to support him-- unsuccessful crackers. Earth to McCain: it's the twenty-first century.

3. Pandering to the anti-choice crowd. In a second nod to the fundamentalists, McCain is brushing up his anti-abortion bona fides. Now, it's patently absurd to suggest that anyone out there is pro-abortion. No one wants more abortions. Democrats just want there to be less of a need for it by fighting poverty and supporting education. Pretty sensible, eh? More than 60% of Americans agree.

So in spite of the GOP's tanking numbers, McCain has decided that he needs to follow the lead of G-Dub, the man who thrashed him in 2000 by falsely accusing him of fathering a black child out of wedlock. But, in Bush fashion, be sure to watch him start talking like a progressive the closer election day gets. As for me, I've had it with the guy.

I suppose it's worth noting that Jimmy Carter misled, then betrayed, racist Georgians in his bid for the governorship. But that's when he was an unknown quantity. McCain is clearly doing a 180 on some serious issues.

Jeb Bush's faith-based career initiative

I remember hearing Rush Limbaugh ranting against 'government handouts' by citing the old saw about 'give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.' He falsely attributed it to the Bible when it's actually a Chinese proverb, but never mind that. But it came to mind when I read this article.

Bush Republicans might grudgingly hand out a fish here and there, but they'd rather die than provide job training. Think of it as 'give a man a fish when your political future is at stake, but teach a man to pray and hopefully he won't be as bitter the next time you screw him.'

Bush, a devout Catholic who has defiantly rejected civil libertarians' criticism of the state's faith-based programs, told the inmates how daily prayer has improved his life. He said he shares their belief in the power of faith.

"My expectation is that you'll be better behaved here, but also better prepared when you get out of here to live a productive life," Bush said.

Most of the volunteers who minister to and teach the inmates come from nearby Christian and evangelical churches, but efforts are made to bring in spiritual leaders of many faiths.

"It's just so difficult to get volunteers of faiths other than Christianity to come here," said Marilyn Nase, a volunteer from a nearby Baptist church in Tallahassee.

Hopefully none of the inmates will realize that being born with millions of dollars probably improved Jebbie's life a bit, too.

Brownie: The Movie!

Ex-FEMA chief Michael Brown learned one lesson from the administration-- how to turn shit into gold.

Ousted FEMA director Michael Brown, who was vilified over his handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, plans to make a fresh start in Colorado, selling his expertise about how emergency planning can go right or so very wrong.

"You have to do it with candor. To do it otherwise gives you no credibility," Brown said Wednesday. "I think people are curious: 'My gosh, what was it like? The media just really beat you up. You made mistakes. I don't want to be in that situation. How do I avoid that?' "

In an interview with the Rocky Mountain News, Brown acknowledged key mistakes he made while overseeing the federal response to the hurricane that ravaged Louisiana and Mississippi. He also lashed out at the media and discussed plans to base his fledgling consulting business in the Boulder-Longmont area of Colorado, where he lived before joining the Bush Administration in 2001.

"Look, Hurricane Katrina showed how bad disasters can be, and there's an incredible need for individuals and businesses to understand how important preparedness is," he said. "So if I can help people focus on preparedness, how to be better prepared in their homes and better prepared in their businesses _ because that goes straight to the bottom line _ then I hope I can help the country in some way."

This is the guy who sent e-mails from Baton Rouge declaring that he needed sufficient time to have a nice sit-down meal before dealing with all those folks in the Superdome. Just the man you want telling you how to deal with the media during a disaster.

"Honey, I'm home!" (laughtrack)

Yes, it's time for another episode of earth's least favorite sitcom, "Life With Dubya."

Boy oh boy, was I hoping to come across some video of this presidential moment. Bush's entire Asian excursion was a profound embarrassment for the country, as he apparently went to Japan and China with one thing on his mind: kissing fundamentalist ass.

But the most cringe-inducing moment of the whole cringe-inducing fiasco was this snit-fit at a press conference in China. Showing once again that he can't function without a stacked deck, G-Dub snapped at a reporter like a surly adolescent, then managed to fumble with a (locked) door as he peevishly decided to take his ball and go home.

Must-see video that really brings home the terrifying comedy of this entire administration. You'll laugh-- oh, yes, you'll laugh. But try not to spend too much time thinking about it, because then the tears will come.

(I sure wish I could read the accompanying text, but I don't do Dutch. Het Flegma, are you out there?)

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Turkey Sandwich Day Eve!

Some fun for the holidays, with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog (a long-time favorite of mine) interviewing four GOP Congressmen! David Letterman on preparing a turkey Cheney-style! Bill Maher on Global Warming!

And I didn't even have to any work! Ha! Just scroll around this week's posts and enjoy.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Bush to Blair: Let's bomb al-Jazeera

Or "Smoking Gun #47." This story appeared yesterday, but I put off writing about it until some more information became available. And boy, did it become available. I'm normally the last one to buy into stories that sound far-fetched, or hint at conspiracy. But I've pretty much gotten to the point where, when this administration is concerned, I'm more inclined to believe the story. These people are so power-mad and amoral I wouldn't put anything past them anymore.

Claims that George Bush planned to bomb the Arabic TV news station al-Jazeera have fuelled concerns that an attack on the broadcaster's Baghdad offices during the war on Iraq was deliberate.

An international journalists group today demanded "complete disclosure" from the British and American governments over reports that the US considered attacking the al-Jazeera HQ in the Qatar capital, Doha.

The International Federation of Journalists claimed that 16 journalists and other media staff have died at the hands of US forces in Iraq, adding that the deaths had not been properly investigated.

Al-Jazeera cameraman Tarek Ayoub was killed when the station's Baghdad office was bombed during a US air raid on April 8 2003. On the same day a US tank shelled the Palestine hotel in the Iraqi capital, killing two other journalists.

It's important to note that papers are being threatened by the British government under the Official Secrets Act for printing parts of a leaked document that contains notes on the discussion between Bush and Blair. Not the sort of thing they'd pursue were the document a hoax.

GOP Rep. set to fall in Abramoff scandal

Another week, another Republican official under investigation for corruption. Once again it's in Ohio, which has become a sort of Ground Zero for GOP misdeeds. Voting machines, Coingate, Jean Schmidt's antics last week on the House floor, and now Representative Bob Ney, whose ties to Jack Abramoff's scheme to bilk Native American tribes out of millions of dollars look to end his political career.

House Administration Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) has been linked to a second American Indian tribe in Texas, a potentially significant development as that tribe, the Alabama Coushattas, donated $50,000 to a charity controlled by former GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The charity then funded a lavish golfing trip for Ney, Abramoff and several other individuals to Scotland in August 2002.

According to a plea agreement between Abramoff’s ex-business partner Michael Scanlon and the Justice Department, Ney agreed in June 2002 to help Abramoff pass legislation to re-open the Alabama Coushatta’s casino outside Houston, which had been shuttered earlier that year by Texas authorities.

Abramoff had already convinced Ney in March 2002 to support the effort of the Tigua Tribe of El Paso, Texas, to re-open their casino, which had also been closed down by the state. Following a meeting with Abramoff that spring, Ney agreed to attach a provision to an election-reform bill he was overseeing that would revise the Tiguas’ federal charter to allow them to legally operate a casino, and that provision was later revised to include the Alabama Coushattas, according to sources familiar with the issue.

Ney is quite a player in D.C., as it happens, and has earned himself the nickname "Mayor of Capitol Hill."

The 'Big Lie' keeps getting bigger

The administration and a few people in Congress have been getting very, very vocal about the lead-up to the war. "Democrats had the same intelligence." "The president was misled." While this might keep their hardline supporters toeing the line, and give the right-wing talking heads some talking points for the week, the administration's story just keeps getting less true.

Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda, according to government records and current and former officials with firsthand knowledge of the matter.

The information was provided to Bush on September 21, 2001 during the "President's Daily Brief," a 30- to 45-minute early-morning national security briefing. Information for PDBs has routinely been derived from electronic intercepts, human agents, and reports from foreign intelligence services, as well as more mundane sources such as news reports and public statements by foreign leaders.

One of the more intriguing things that Bush was told during the briefing was that the few credible reports of contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda involved attempts by Saddam Hussein to monitor the terrorist group. Saddam viewed Al Qaeda as well as other theocratic radical Islamist organizations as a potential threat to his secular regime. At one point, analysts believed, Saddam considered infiltrating the ranks of Al Qaeda with Iraqi nationals or even Iraqi intelligence operatives to learn more about its inner workings, according to records and sources.

Subsequently, Cheney repeatedly spoke of evidence that linked Hussein and Al Qaeda. How many smoking guns does the mainstream press need before they start calling a spade a spade?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Iraq's leaders give insurgents a thumbs-up

The administration's twin policies of 'stay the course' and 'no timetables' are about to start looking more idiotic than ever. The elected leaders of Iraq have decided to make the statement that insurgents' attacks on US forces are justified.

Leaders of Iraq's sharply divided Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis called Monday for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces in the country and said Iraq's opposition had a ``legitimate right'' of resistance.

The final communique, hammered out at the end of three days of negotiations at a preparatory reconciliation conference under the auspices of the Arab League, condemned terrorism, but was a clear acknowledgment of the Sunni position that insurgents should not be labeled as terrorists if their operations do not target innocent civilians or institutions designed to provide for the welfare of Iraqi citizens.

The participants in Cairo agreed on ``calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops according to a timetable, through putting in place an immediate national program to rebuild the armed forces ... control the borders and the security situation'' and end terror attacks.

Scalia's day in Bizarroworld

King of reactionary judicial activists Antonin Scalia seems to be in dire need of some gingko-biloba, ASAP.

Al Franken today recounted a run-in he had with Scalia last night, in which the judge claimed that abortion has been outlawed in this country for more than two centuries. Thus a strict constructionist has to be against it. Unfortunately, he's completely wrong. Laws on abortion didn't emerge on any level until after the Civil War, and didn't really pick up steam until the twentieth century.

Now the New York Post quotes Scalia as saying this last night:

"The election was dragged into the courts by the Gore people. We did not go looking for trouble."

Now, anyone who recalls the case knows that, in fact, it was taken to court by "Bush's people."

There's nothing quite as frightening as a marriage between power and supreme self-righteousness.

Jean Schmidt's days of shame

Salon has a whole mess o' articles from Ohio on what Jean Schmidt's been up to in the days after accusing (by proxy) Representative Murtha of cowardice. Sounds like she's come to the conclusion that her embarrassing display was a Yankee Doodle Dud.

The Cincinnati Post is reporting that the Republican representative from Ohio won't talk to reporters about her decision to smear Pennsylvania Rep. Jack Murtha on the House floor last week, and the Cincinnati Enquirer says she skipped two previously scheduled public appearances yesterday.

Who can blame her, really? Four days after she strapped on her nicest red, white and blue sweater and suggested that a 37-year veteran of the Marine Corps is a "coward" who wants to "cut and run" from Iraq, Schmidt is under attack from editorial writers and comedians alike.

And it gets worse. As the Cleveland Plain Dealer recycles the promise Schmidt made as she took office earlier this year -- "I pledge to ... refrain from name-calling or the questioning of character" -- other Ohio papers are saying that Schmidt's smear of Murtha was factually incorrect in addition to being morally reprehensible. When Schmidt said, "Cowards cut and run, Marines never do," she claimed to be repeating a message that Ohio state legislator Danny Bubp has asked her to deliver to Murtha. But Bubp's office tells the Cincinnati Post that, while Bubp spoke with Schmidt last week, he didn't mention Murtha by name or ask Schmidt to convey any message to him. "The unfortunate thing about all of that is that her choice of words on the floor of the House -- I don't know, she's a freshman, she had one minute," Bubp himself told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Unfortunately, they came out wrong."

So the person who's name she cited in her attack on Murtha claims that he said nothing of the sort. One of them must be lying, and I'd put my money on Schmidt.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Federalist Society, the fundamentalist right, and the fight for our courts

The cryptic Shallow Larynx has forced me to put up another post today. It's a piece on the reactionary attempt to control the courts that's been proceeding on course for the last two decades. This is just the sort of post that cause conservative readers to dismiss me as some sort of leftie-paranoiac and extremist. But I know whereof I speak in this instance. I grew up with several conservatives who grew up to become lawyers and join the Federalist Society. And they love nothing more than the phrase "strict constructionist." Any objective constitutional scholar can attest to the fact that it is recent Republican appointees to federal courts who are, in fact, the dreaded "activist judges," who legislate from the bench by striking down an enormous number of acts of Congress, rather than adjudicating them through meticulous attention to the intent of the framers.

My favorite example, and one of the most blatant, is conservative judges' eagerness to promote religion through judicial means. The simple fact is, as I'm sure most of my readers know, that the nation's founders were of a religious mindset that would disqualify them as Christians according to many Protestant sects today, and they undeniably recognized the dangers of theocratic rule.

Are you a Minimalist? A Strict Constructionist? Or an Evolutionist then, a partisan of a "living Constitution?" If you find yourself scratching your head with perplexity, welcome to the club of 99.9% of Americans who understand none of these questions. If not, perhaps you were present at the annual Federalist Society dinner last Thursday in Washington. In which case, you will surely have heard Karl Rove's speech. After weeks of silence, all devoted to avoiding an indictment in "Plamegate," the White House guru chose this association to make a much-noted reappearance. The Federalist Society? A select and powerful club of jurists among whom a few leftists are numbered for appearances' sake, but which, in fact, finds itself at the heart of the most important conservative crusade of the Bush presidency: a complete takeover of the judicial system.

The choice of Karl Rove was no accident. He came to dinner with Leonard Leo, the association's vice president, who has just taken a seven month leave to help confirm conservatives to the Supreme Court. Leo is part of a group nicknamed "the four horsemen" that organizes a telephone conference every Monday with the White House. Karl Rove often participates in it. There, the latest news about the campaign to stuff the federal bench with reactionaries is exchanged. It's a longterm campaign, begun in the 1980s by Edwin Meese, Ronald Reagan's Attorney General and one of the "four horsemen."

Now, today, these men are close to achieving their objective: Republican appointees control ten of the thirteen federal courts, a number that should increase to 12 in 2008. As of today, according to the "National Law Journal," close to 85% of Appeals Court judges will have been chosen by Republicans. The jackpot is obviously the Supreme Court, where, after John Roberts's confirmation as Chief Justice, hard-line Republicans are about to obtain a solid majority with the nomination of Samuel Alito, an eminent member ... of the Federalist Society.

Why this obsession on the right? After all, the Republicans already control the Presidency, the Senate, and the House of Representatives and they've named six of the nine judges on the Supreme Court. To justify their relentlessness, the conservatives advance a convenient explanation which they've polished to a fine luster over the years. America is victim to "judicial imperialism" on the part of judges transformed into "robed legislators," as Rove repeated last Thursday. Bush, for his part, does not miss any opportunity to denounce those magistrates who "legislate from the bench" instead of "strictly" applying the Constitution, all the Constitution, nothing but the Constitution.

Recommended reading. Especially if, like me, you know a number of conservative attorneys who pay lip service to the Federalist Society as some attempt to show their support for conservative causes. The simple fact of the matter is that, like these friends of mine, they know nothing of the group's history or agenda, and just feel that it's 'something they should do' as conservatives, without having any idea of what their contributions of time and money really represent. Their rationale is, across the board, nothing more than a vague sense that the courts should contain any potential expansion of federal power. The actions of right-wing judges-- many of them FedSoc members in good standing-- have frequently betrayed even this value. The rub is that their judgments always advance the right-wing political aims of corporatism and theocracy.

Falwell's war on the imaginary war on Christmas

I realize it's a word that upsets many people, but it's the only word that springs to mind when looking at the story: retarded.

Evangelical Christian pastor Jerry Falwell has a message for Americans when it comes to celebrating Christmas this year: You're either with us, or you're against us.

Falwell has put the power of his 24,000-member congregation behind the "Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign," an effort led by the conservative legal organization Liberty Counsel. The group promises to file suit against anyone who spreads what it sees as misinformation about how Christmas can be celebrated in schools and public spaces.

The 8,000 members of the Christian Educators Association International will be the campaign's "eyes and ears" in the nation's public schools. They'll be reporting to 750 Liberty Counsel lawyers who are ready to pounce if, for example, a teacher is muzzled from leading the third-graders in "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing."

An additional 800 attorneys from another conservative legal group, the Alliance Defense Fund, are standing by as part of a similar effort, the Christmas Project. Its slogan: "Merry Christmas. It's OK to say it."

Fanning the Yule log of discontent against what the Liberty Counsel calls "grinches" like the American Civil Liberties Union are evangelical-led organizations including the 150,000-member American Family Association. It has called for a boycott of Target stores next weekend. The chain's crime, according to the group, is a ban on the use of "Merry Christmas" in stores, an accusation the chain denies.

I should note that the right-wing bogeyman that's the focus of so much "war on Christmas" wrath, the ACLU, sided with Jerry Falwell on a case regarding free expression of religion. They've also represented Rush Limbaugh in part of his ongoing drug-abuse case.

Also of note is the fundamentalist drive to remove any sort of Halloween celebration from America's schools. Because it's a satanic event that glorifies sorcery, naturally. These kooks might be bearish on Bush these days, but they still think that the time is ripe to turn America into a theocracy.

MSM makes things easy for GOP on Rep. Murtha

Media Matters makes an interesting point on the coverage of last week's statements by Pennsylvanian Democrat Jim Murtha's statement that the troops in Iraq should be brought home. House Republicans tried to spin it as proof that Democrats are soft, cowardly, and 'defeatist.' In other words, un-American.

Democrats did a good job of calling the GOP on their bullshit and defusing the situation. However, as the story is reported this week, the mainstream press has managed to create a right-wing talking point without any prompting from the reactionary pundits or the White House.

In a word, "pro-military." It might stink of the dreaded liberal 'nuance' that we're so often decried for, but Media Matters hits the nail on the head by pointing out that the implication is, in fact, that other Democrats are "anti-military." It drips with irony, considering that the Dems have been fighting tooth and nail for legislation that will ensure veterans' benefits even as Republicans have tried to cut their pay and health care.

It's one thing for the press to mindlessly parrot right-wing spin, but this is a glaring example of the press doing the Republicans' work for them.

Since the November 17 call by Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA) to end the U.S. military deployment in Iraq, several news outlets -- including The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and New York Daily News -- have continued to identify him as "pro-military." By labeling him in this way, the media are suggesting a contrast with other Democrats, many of whom voted against the Iraq war resolution but have cast votes in favor of such legislation as that to close funding gaps in veterans' benefits and to increase death benefits for military families. The label also suggests that it's Republicans who are typically "pro-military." But as Media Matters for America noted, those measures were opposed by many Republicans who also voted for the Iraq war. Under the Post, the Times, and the Daily News' formulation, are those Democrats or are those Republicans in fact "anti" military?

I suppose it's just the latest example of what happens when a nation's press corps is rewarded not for integrity and dedication to honest reportage, but for playing by the rules and kissing the right asses. I really should've invested in Chap-Stick back in 2000. Business must be booming.

Ghost Town Monday

Sorry about the lack of posts today. There was business to attend to in Boston, and it really ate up a lot of time.

But I'll return tomorrow-- same Matt time, same Matt channel!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Senator Biden drops the F-word.

Filibuster, that is. Still referring to the document in which Alito voiced his opposition to several judicial decisions that conservatives can't stand.

But Biden, D-Del., said he was most troubled by Alito's comment about reapportionment under the Supreme Court when it was led by Chief Justice Earl Warren.

The Warren Court, as it became known, ended public school segregation and established the election principle of one-man one-vote.

"The part that jeopardizes it (Alito's nomination) more is his quotes in there saying that he had strong disagreement with the Warren Court particularly on reapportionment — one man, one vote," Biden told "Fox News Sunday."

"The fact that he questioned abortion and the idea of quotas is one thing. The fact that he questioned the idea of the legitimacy of the reapportionment decisions of the Warren Court is even something well beyond that," Biden said.

In the document, Alito wrote, "In college, I developed a deep interest in constitutional law, motivated in large part by disagreement with Warren Court decisions, particularly in the areas of criminal procedure, the Establishment Clause and reapportionment," he said.

Biden said the chances of a filibuster against Alito had increased because of Alito's assertions in the document.

"If he really believes that reapportionment is a questionable decision — that is, the idea of Baker v. Carr, one man, one vote — then clearly, clearly, you'll find a lot of people, including me, willing to do whatever they can to keep him off the court. ... That would include a filibuster, if need be," Biden said.

The Supreme Court, in a 6-2 decision in 1962 in Baker v. Carr, ruled that arbitrarily drawn legislative districts can be challenged in federal court.

Presumably, the defense of Alito will revolve around "that was 20 years ago, and he was sucking up for a job." What do they think he's doing now?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Bush: "We do not torture." Oh yes, we do.

"Staying the course" in a war that's been out of control for more than two years isn't a policy. Unfortunately, using torture and chemical weapons on civilians who already hate you is a policy. And the US is doing both.

Harsh interrogation techniques authorized by top officials of the CIA have led to questionable confessions and the death of a detainee since the techniques were first authorized in mid-March 2002, ABC News has been told by former and current intelligence officers and supervisors.

They say they are revealing specific details of the techniques, and their impact on confessions, because the public needs to know the direction their agency has chosen. All gave their accounts on the condition that their names and identities not be revealed. Portions of their accounts are corrobrated by public statements of former CIA officers and by reports recently published that cite a classified CIA Inspector General's report.

Other portions of their accounts echo the accounts of escaped prisoners from one CIA prison in Afghanistan.

"They would not let you rest, day or night. Stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down. Don't sleep. Don't lie on the floor," one prisoner said through a translator. The detainees were also forced to listen to rap artist Eminem's "Slim Shady" album. The music was so foreign to them it made them frantic, sources said.

It reminds me of Rumsfeld's memo that he stands for eight hours a day at work, so what's the big deal. He might think differently if he stood for eight hours naked and cold, while being doused with ice water, slapped around and listening to DRI at full blast for eight hours.

GOP: Fund disease control by cutting... health care?

It just keeps getting stranger. In the latest Republican attempt to demonstrate some surreal semblance of fiscal responsibility, they've rejected Bush's call for more than 7 billion dollars for bird flu readiness measures.

After days of intensive talks between the House and Senate, negotiators dropped a plan for $8 billion in funds that Democrats pushed through the Senate last month.

Conservative Republicans in the House insisted that an emergency U.S. effort to stockpile vaccines and anti-viral drugs that could be effective against the deadly flu would have to be paid for by cutting other government programs.

Republican leaders in the House said that instead of attaching the bird flu money to a health and labor spending bill moving through Congress, they would try separate legislation later this year or early next year.

Translation: They're still committed to forcing the $71 billion in tax cuts through.

Dems make Murtha Bill a referendum on GOP

Smart move by the Dems. The Murtha Bill was defeated 403-3, with Democrats uniting against it on the grounds that it was nothing more than a political trick.

Democrats said it was a sham and quickly decided to vote against the resolution in an attempt to drain it of significance.

"A disgrace," declared House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "The rankest of politics and the absence of any sense of shame," added Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat.

As Salon points out, what most Dems neglected to do was state how they actually felt about the future conduct of the war. That's only going to get more difficult as time passes, and they'd better start hammering out an intra-party concensus.

Abramoff crony Scanlon indicted, ready to squeal.

The investigation into disgraced uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff's dealings has been the stealth investigation of the last few years. While Plamegate and Tom DeLay's indictment have grabbed the headlines, Abramoff's own massive circle of corrupt pals has pretty much been limited to news junkies. That could be about to change, with the indictment of his business partner Michael Scanlon.

But Abramoff and Scanlon aren't likely to be the only ones who take a fall. The Justice Department filing charges that Scanlon did "knowingly conspire, confederate and agree with Lobbyist A [Abramoff]" to "corruptly offer and provide things of value, including money, meals, trips and entertainment to federal public officials in return for agreements to perform official acts benefitting Scanlon, Lobbyist A, and their clients."

Note the plural with respect to "federal public officials." One member of the House of Representatives, widely believed to be Robert Ney, an Ohio Republican, is specifically singled out in the filing, though only under the pseudonym "Representative #1." Ney is known to have attended the infamous golf trip to Scotland in 2002 that was paid for by Abramoff. But Abramoff's net spread very, very wide. As legislators prepare to split town for Thanksgiving, one wonders how many of them are going to have a happy holiday.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Murtha Bill, and fireworks in the House.

It was quite a day on the House floor, to say the least. I wouldn't mind seeing a bit more booing and hissing, a la British-style parliamentary meetings, but this was more... disturbing. If you're not up to date on what happened, read the article first. My post is pure armchair punditry.

The GOP switcheroo on 'The Murtha Bill" is one of those gambits that makes you wonder exactly what result they're looking for from Dems. But I'm willing to go on record at this point and say that they've decided to make it a referendum on patriotism. Why? Because they've finally brought Republican veterans to the front lines.

Jean Schmidt, the Ohio right-winger who eked out a victory over Paul Hackett earlier this year, cited a Republican Ohio veteran referring to those who believe as Murtha does as 'cowards.' (The good news is that she was openly booed for her ersatz support of the troops-- remember that she never appeared in public during her vulgar campaign without a button featuring a photo of a dead Ohio soldier.) Extremely strong stuff. Later, Texas Republican and Air Force veteran Sam Johnson called Murtha's stance "unconscionable and irresponsible."

We have been hearing a lot of criticism of GOP 'chickenhawks' who support the war but never served-- or got numerous deferments. But we've heard very little from actual Republican veterans until now. The GOP is serious about shoring up public support for the war.

At the same time, the House is the House, and not the Senate-- the GOP can afford to float the idea and see how the public reacts to their ploy. The idea, of course, is to paint all Democrats as wishy-washy opportunists by bringing the vote to the floor, knowing it wouldn't pass.

They're putting all their money on flag-waving, but I think it could hurt them. If it gets much coverage, that is. The strategy relies on the stupidity of the public, as did the Terry Schiavo debacle, and people are too smart for it. The issue is one man's opinion, and the GOP is trying to use that to slam an entire party. I figure it won't get much airtime, since it's a story that doesn't lend itself to sound bites and easy summation.

How it would play with the public is to demonstrate that Republican politicians aren't in Washington to represent their constituents, but to take marching orders from the White House-- no matter how unpopular the agenda is. And that won't help a party increasingly viewed as obstinate and arrogant.

I'm pleased that Kerry actually referred to the GOP treatment of Murtha as "swift-boating." What I regret is that there don't seem to be any Republicans willing to stand up for the "have you no sense of decency" moment. Being a GOP Congressman is just too lucrative these days.

One final note. When Jean Schmidt was accusing Murtha of cowardice by proxy (now that takes guts), she had the gall to say that "the world" wants the US to continue fighting. She obviously just arrived from Bizarroworld, where the president was greeted with 'sweets and flowers' in South America and our support abroad is at an all-time high.

She almost immediately pursued a chicken-shit tactic of withdrawing her comments from the record, saying:

"Mr. Speaker, my remarks were not directed at any member of the House and I did not intend to suggest that they applied to any member. Most especially the distinguished gentleman from Pennsylvania. I therefore ask for unanimous consent that my words be withdrawn."

I think my loathing for Republican willingness to hold on to power by any means available has reached a new high. Schmidt's remarks would have earned her a censure for being against House rules. Now they're just a Republican talking point that everyone can deny responsibility for having been uttered. Convenient, isn't it? Pass the ipecac.

Fitzgerald seeks new grand jury in Plame case

After Bob Woodward's revelation that Valerie Plame's status as a CIA operative was leaked to him well before Libby leaked the name, it stands to reason that Fitzgerald has a new line of investigation.

The questions making the rounds on the blogs is who gave Woodward the name. The concensus is National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, although the White House is playing its cards close to the vest.

Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said in court filings that the ongoing CIA leak investigation will involve proceedings before a new grand jury, a possible sign he could seek new charges in the case.

In filings obtained by Reuters on Friday, Fitzgerald said "the investigation is continuing" and that "the investigation will involve proceedings before a different grand jury than the grand jury which returned the indictment" against Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Fitzgerald did not elaborate in the document. For two years he has been investigating the leak of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity. The grand jury that indicted Libby expired after the charges were filed late last month.

President George W. Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, was not indicted along with Libby. But lawyers involved in the case said Rove remained under investigation and may still be charged.

New charges levelled at Frist

Frist has flatly denied that he had anything to do with a felicitous sale of stock in his own family's company that prevented him from losing big bucks just before the stock's value dropped.

Now it looks like he used the same tactic-- with stocks connected to the Frist family-- on several other occasions to benefit his sons' portfolios.

A consumer advocacy group called Wednesday for the Securities and Exchange Commission to expand its inquiry into the stock trades of Senator Bill Frist, the Republican leader, saying it had uncovered "questionable transactions lucrative to Frist family members."

The commission is already investigating the senator's decision to sell all of his stock in HCA Inc., the healthcare giant founded by his father and brother, shortly before the price hit a peak and then plummeted. Mr. Frist, whose records, along with company's, have been subpoenaed, has repeatedly said that he has done nothing wrong.

Now the advocacy group, Public Citizen, says financial disclosure documents filed by Mr. Frist reveal several additional "exceedingly well-timed transactions" made by trusts that manage investments for his three sons. All involve healthcare companies that at one point had ties to the Frist family.

Rocking you back to the Stone Age!

Or bombing you back to the Rock Age. Something like that. OD1 passes on the week's second story of right-wing attempts to sneak some Vitamin GOP into the nation's youth culture. And spending several hundred thousand taxpayer dollars to do it.

In the group’s numerous school assembly appearances, frontman Bradlee Dean has covered most of the right-wing topics du jour. At one stop, for instance, Dean strongly defended the Second Amendment and said that “blaming Columbine on guns is like blaming spoons for Rosie O’Donnell being fat.”

Invoking another favorite target of conservatives – the “liberal” media and entertainment industry – Dean has repeatedly criticized them for supporting and promoting adultery, homosexuality, and abortion.

On religion, Dean has praised Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” and members of his entourage distributed religious literature at several stops. He has also told students that “there is nothing in our Constitution or founding documents about separation of church and state” and criticized the theory of evolution.

Speaking of science, in another appearance, Dean attacked Alcoholics Anonymous, stating that alcoholism is not a disease. He also comes armed with statistics: apparently pornography increased by a staggering 97 percent when Bill Clinton was President, according to Dean.

And perhaps most bizarrely, in at least one assembly, the boys and girls were divided into two groups for part of the performance. In the girls’ session a female staffer from the band told the girls that they “would get black spots” on their wedding dresses if they held hands with a boy and would be serving “leftovers" to their husbands if they lost their virginity before marrying a “God-fearing man.”

The good news is that young conservatives are woefully uncool, and even scornful of 'coolness.' And kids who can recognize cool from crappy aren't going to be taking cues in hipness from any rock band that tours high schools for a living. It doesn't get any more lame than that. Believe me, I saw my share of these retarded message-based dog and pony shows. Teens just aren't as gullible as the right would like to think.

Wal-Mart victimized by unscrupulous contractors-- again!

Just two years after being fined for hiring several hundred illegal immigrants to work for the company-- unwittingly, of course-- and being fined $11 million dollars, which amounts to something like seven minutes worth of retail sales for the benevolent company, Wal-Mart has been betrayed again.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Federal immigration agents detained more than 100 workers at a construction site for a new Wal-Mart distribution center, authorities said.

The workers, who Wal-Mart said were employed by a subcontractor and not by the retailing giant, were detained Thursday on suspected immigration violations, said Department of Homeland Security spokesman Marc Raimondi. They were being taken to Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers for processing, he said.

More than 50 federal immigration agents, joined by the U.S. Labor Department, Social Security Administration and state police, raided the construction site near Pottsville, about 80 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

What I don't understand is why Wal-Mart wants to deprive the Minutemen of their favorite pastime... Thanks to Mil Apodos for the story.

Conrad Black: conservative activist, criminal

When I first heard the story about newspaper magnate Conrad Black being investigated for stealing tens of millions of dollars from his own business, the name sorta rang a bell, but I didn't think much of it. Then I heard a newscaster refer to him as Lord Conrad Black, and it all came back to me.

Black has been a big funder of the modern conservative movement, and given vast amounts of cash to some of the most prominent and vocal supporters of the Bush administration.

From the book Banana Republicans:

Prior to his fall from grace, Black had built a reputation for himself as a deep thinker in his own right, publishing a thick biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt, its dust jacket decorated with laudatory blurbs including Henry Kissinger, columnist George F. Will, and National Review founder William F. Buckley, Jr. "What the blurbs did not mention was that each man was praising the work of a sometime boss," the Times reported. "During the 1990's, Lord Black had appointed all three to an informal international board of advisers of Hollinger International, the newspaper company he controlled. For showing up once a year with Lord Black to debate the world's problems, each was typically paid about $25,000 annually." In addition to Buckley, Kissinger and Will, Black's advisory board included luminaries such as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Richard Perle, the former assistant secretary of defense to Ronald Reagan.

Most of these illuminati had received payments of more than $100,000 over the years but hadn't felt compelled to disclose the payments when they publicly praised or disseminated Black's political views. During thebuildup to the war with Iraq, for example, George Will had written a cloumn praising a hawkish speech that Black gave in London. Ater the New York Times called to ask if he should have disclosed his financial relationship with Black at tthe time, Will snapped, "My business is my business. Got it?"

Buckley was a bit more polite but equally evasive. When Black's financial scandal began making the news in November 2003, Buckley had written a defense of the embattled mogul. . ."

Buckley also claimed that Black had "never donated a nickel" to Buckley or any of his "enterprises." As the authors point out, that's a true statement-- the hundreds of thousands Black transferred to Buckley were payment for services rendered. Not a donation.

One reporter spoke of Black's huge ego and sense of entitlement-- saying that the expression "He was born on third base and thought he'd hit a triple" described him perfectly.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Kaplan: Journalism is dead

I really like Marty Kaplan, and I loved his Air America show, which is apparently no more. His piece on the Huffington Post today is crisply written, and points out the failing of the mainstream press in spite of the dire consequences of the war, the Plame investigation, and foreign relations. Highly recommended.

We also know now that the MSM is largely useless for adjudicating between conflicting claims and establishing what the facts are. The Bush/Cheney onslaught against its critics is being covered lavishly – but only as theater. Look at the Democrats cry “manipulation”! Look at the Republicans cry “treason”! A war is at stake. The nation’s reputation around the world is at stake. Lives hang in the balance. And all the media can do is cover tactics, politics, the melodrama of thrust-and-parry. The rare reporters who have attempted to create a useful scorecard are battling their weasel-minded editors’ insistence on a bizarre postmodern notion of balance. You know the CYA drill: if you say a good word about Darwin, ya gotta juxtapose it with some intelligent design whackball’s counterquote; if you say Cheney lied about the Saddam connection to 9/11, you’ve still got to dredge up every nutjob’s assertion that the Atta meeting in Prague can’t be disproved.

The worst – and this is what pushed me over the edge – is the disgraceful mischaracterization of the impact of the Woodward revelation on Fitzgerald’s case against Libby. With the exception of Keith Olberman, everyone is parroting Libby’s lawyer’s lie that this disproves Fitzgerald’s assertion that Libby was the first person in the Administration to leak Valerie Plame’s name. Fitzgerald, of course, didn’t say that. He said that Libby was “the first government official known to have told a reporter.” This is not a small distinction; it is not quibbling about words. If Woodward hadn’t decided that the World-According-to-Bob rules meant that he could keep his mouth shut while the Grand Jury was still empaneled, then Fitzgerald would have been able to add the leak to Woodward to his timetable. (And if Libby hadn’t thrown sand in Fitzgerald’s eyes, the investigation could have gone deeper.)

And yet now the Washington Post, ABC News, CNN, NBC and the AP have spread the lie, and soon every lazy stenographer on the planet posing as a journalist will gladly cut and paste this Republican propaganda into their narrative of the most troubling chapter in modern American history. What does it say about the news profession when most of the voices determined to ensure accuracy are onliners working without benefit of staffs below them, editors above them, or brand-name seals of approval from the priesthood?

The good guys? MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, whose show Countdown is always worth a watch, and Knight-Ridder-- the news agency now up for sale and thus in danger of becoming just another corporate source of infotainment.

The Self-Righteous Brothers

It's side-splittingly hilarious, yet it makes me want to cry. Must be reactionary propaganda!

Conservative activist groups have big plans for the subtly-titled song 'Bush Was Right.' They're going to get a small group of people to demand over and over that MTV play the video for the tune. And if MTV doesn't play ball? They're going to call MTV mean names! Take that, liberal media!

At the same time, part of me trembles at the diamond-hard logic of the ditty. Just take a look at these lyrics and quail in the face of reason:

Ted Kennedy - wrong!
Cindy Sheehan - wrong!
France - WRONG!
Zell Miller - right! (. . .)

Bush was right!
Bush was right!
Bush was right!

Cheney was right, Condi was right,
Rummy was right, Blair was right
You were right, We were right, “The Right” was right
and Bush was right…
Bush was right!
Bush was right!

Zell Miller's a part... of my rock 'n roll faaan-tasyyyyy!

Cheney and faulty memory

Or, "On the Necessity of Blogs." After all, this is what we should be seeing on the news every evening. What with Internets and all, the research takes just minutes. Then again, it's much simpler to just repeat the words. In this case, the Dems put in the minutes, and Salon has made it bite-sized.

Dick Cheney, Nov. 16, 2005: "The President and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory, or their backbone -- but we're not going to sit by and let them rewrite history. We're going to continue throwing their own words back at them."

Dick Cheney, Aug. 26, 2002: "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction."

Dick Cheney, Sept. 2002: "[Saddam Hussein] has indeed stepped up his capacity to produce and deliver biological weapons ... he has reconstituted his nuclear program to develop a nuclear weapon."

Dick Cheney, March 16, 2003: "We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."

Dick Cheney, Oct. 10, 2003: Saddam Hussein "had an established relationship with al Qaeda, providing training to al Qaeda members in the areas of poisons, gases, making conventional bombs."

Dick Cheney, Jan. 21, 2004: "I think there's overwhelming evidence that there was a connection between al-Qaida and the Iraqi government. I'm very confident that there was an established relationship there."

Did I mention that Cheney had five deferments from Vietnam?

(Weeping) I just voted for Jesse Jackson!

This is just baffling to me. Mainly because I don't give a shit about the harsh realities of being a millionaire athlete.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson called the Philadelphia Eagles' punishment of Terrell Owens "much too severe." Jackson said in a statement released Friday that Owens could have been more professional when he publicly complained about his contract, his team and the Eagles' organization.

But Jackson said Owens' suspension without pay for four games and deactivation for the rest of the season is "much too severe for the charge" and hurts the athlete's NFL career at its height.

The article annoys me for another reason. Mainstream news sites are increasingly including useless hyperlinks in their stories that link to other pages on their own sites. More pageviews, more ad revenue, less information. On the other hand, it allowed me to make a twenty year-old Eddie Murphy reference, and for that I'm grateful.

One other thing-- Owens' other most vocal supporter is Ralph Nader. Shouldn't he be talking drug prices or something?

Michelle Malkin insanity watch

I like to check in with reactionary blogs to see how they're framing stories and how Fearless Leader's "thirty-five percent" is presenting, uhhh.... reality.

Some interesting tidbits from Michelle Malkin (a reliable clearing house of right-wing blog tidbits) include a new 'series of posts' insisting that in fact, Saddam Hussein possessed WMDs. He apparently just managed to hide them really, really well. From UN inspectors, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the US military. In a country that we've occupied for more than two years.

But continued attempts to justify the Iraq war are nothing new. To the best of my knowledge, Sean Hannity is still claiming that the phantom WMDs were all smuggled into Syria.

What really struck me about her site is a post from yesterday that cites Canada among countries with "rogue, corrupt and repressive regimes." Undoubtedly they deserve to be labeled "evil" because of their inexpensive pharmaceuticals and history of genocide.

GOP adopts, passes Democratic initiative-- after defanging it.

I haven't seen anything on the blogs about this, but it's an excellent and revealing story that I heard mentioned yesterday on, I think, the Ed Schultz show.

The GOP-controlled chamber will vote Tuesday on a pair of proposals -- one Republican and one Democratic -- that tell President Bush what the Senate believes the U.S. diplomatic and military policy on Iraq should be.

Whichever proposal prevails will be added to a defense bill the Senate is hoping to complete work on as early as Tuesday. (. . .)

Nearly identical, the two Iraq policy proposals call for -- but do not require -- the Bush administration to "explain to Congress and the American people its strategy for the successful completion of the mission in Iraq" and to provide reports on U.S. foreign policy and military operations in Iraq every three months until all U.S. combat brigades have been withdrawn.

The major difference between the two versions is that the Democratic proposal calls for the president to outline a "campaign plan with estimated dates for the phased redeployment" of U.S. troops.

Republicans largely adopted the Democratic proposal as their own, but omitted that one paragraph calling for the president to offer a plan for a phased withdrawal of the roughly 160,000 U.S. troops now in Iraq. The administration has refused to set a timetable for withdrawal, saying insurgents simply would wait to strike until after U.S. forces departed.

In short, the GOP is breaking ranks with the White House on Iraq. But not to the point where they'll risk besmirching the party name. Talk about moral bankruptcy. They'd rather let more troops die than do the right thing.

DeLay still raking in the corporate cash

Here's an easy question for you: why do corporations give politicans money? Because they think it will further their intereests. And a lot of companies still think that giving indicted Texas Congressman Tom DeLay oodles of dough will get them what they want. It doesn't speak well of the culture of corporate lobbyists.

An A-list of Washington lobbyists will throw a fundraiser Thursday for Rep. Tom DeLay, a sure sign the Sugar Land Republican still has friends despite an indictment that forced him to step down as House majority leader.

"Most of the groups and people in D.C. realize the contribution that Mr. DeLay has made to the party and the influence that he still has," said Carl Forti, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Seven weeks ago, a grand jury in Austin charged Mr. DeLay with violating state campaign law, triggering a House GOP rule requiring him to leave the leadership. He calls the charges politically motivated and denies wrongdoing. But they have energized Democrats hoping to unseat him next November.

Mr. DeLay holds a wide financial lead over his likely opponent, former Rep. Nick Lampson. The Democrat, ousted a year ago after redistricting that Mr. DeLay helped engineer, has raised $826,000 so far to Mr. DeLay's $2.2 million. Mr. DeLay has also been busy raising money for his legal defense, bringing in $318,000 in the last three months.

Contributions to DeLay have actually increased since his indictment, and it's coming fromsources like drug companies and big tobacco.

Cheney: Iraq critics "dishonest and reprehensible"

Where is the White House getting its advice these days? If it were up to me, I'd say "Gee, Mr. Vice President with an approval rating of 20%, why not spend a few days in your favorite undisclosed location?" He just isn't an effective spokesman for integrity right now.

From his statement of yesterday, complete with the same old talking points:

What we’re hearing now is some politicians contradicting their own statements and making a play for political advantage in the middle of a war. The saddest part is that our people in uniform have been subjected to these cynical and pernicious falsehoods day in and day out. American soldiers and Marines are out there every day in dangerous conditions and desert temperatures – conducting raids, training Iraqi forces, countering attacks, seizing weapons, and capturing killers – and back home a few opportunists are suggesting they were sent into battle for a lie.

The President and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory, or their backbone – but we’re not going to sit by and let them rewrite history.

Man, that's cheap. Critics of the war are trying to get our soldiers out of those conditions, you turd.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

All for oil, and oil for a few-- it's the Free Marketeers!

Surprising? Nope. But it shows what a hard fight we progressives are going to have next year if we want some accountability in government and.... brace yourselves for this one. A free market that's actually free! Now, you might not expect to hear that from a pinko Marxist like myself, but I actually think that if oil cartels were competing with one another instead of colluding as a group with the White House, we might be seeing a more consumer-friendly energy market.

Oh, and I'm swiping the entire post from Salon, since they've got good links and all.

In what should be the least surprising news of the day, recently obtained documents show that back in 2001 top oil executives indeed met with Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force -- something environmental groups and just about anyone with a brain long suspected.

Just last week the chief executives from oil companies testified before a Senate panel on whether or not the industry had been gouging customers -- an understandable concern considering that the five major oil companies saw a record $30 billion profit in the third quarter this year. During those hearings, executives from companies including Exxon Mobil, Chevron and BP America all denied having met with Cheney’s task force.

They lied.

So what happens to people when they lie to United States senators? Well seeing as how the chairman of the hearings, the Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, chose not to swear in the executives, they conveniently won’t be subject to charges of perjury. But it turns out that they could get fined or face up to five years in jail for their false statements. Unfortunately, the people who can least afford all of this corporate malfeasance are the U.S. citizens currently enduring high gas prices. Is Dick Cheney going to chair a task force to address that problem?

Woodward: White House told me about Plame, too.

After Libby's indictment, the Plame leak case was discussed with a little less fervor. But this sort of story should rekindle some interest, particularly among journalists. Woodward's name recognition might help. But any way you slice it, Fitzgerald is still out there forging ahead with his investigation. And he doesn't look to go out with a whimper.

Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward testified under oath Monday in the CIA leak case that a senior administration official told him about CIA operative Valerie Plame and her position at the agency nearly a month before her identity was disclosed.

In a more than two-hour deposition, Woodward told Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald that the official casually told him in mid-June 2003 that Plame worked as a CIA analyst on weapons of mass destruction, and that he did not believe the information to be classified or sensitive, according to a statement Woodward released yesterday.

Fitzgerald interviewed Woodward about the previously undisclosed conversation after the official alerted the prosecutor to it on Nov. 3 -- one week after Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was indicted in the investigation.

Citing a confidentiality agreement in which the source freed Woodward to testify but would not allow him to discuss their conversations publicly, Woodward and Post editors refused to disclose the official's name or provide crucial details about the testimony. Woodward did not share the information with Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. until last month, and the only Post reporter whom Woodward said he remembers telling in the summer of 2003 does not recall the conversation taking place.