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


Sunday, April 30, 2006

Schism looms in American Baptist Church

One of the strengths of the GOP (and weaknesses of the Democratic party) is the right's willingness to stick together and vote a straight ticket (and I do mean straight). Some Dems have a very unfortunate tendency to abandon the party over whatever boutique issue they happen to champion. As with Nader's disastrous run in 2000, this doesn't lead to getting attention for their issues-- it just means that everyone loses. You know, because your party needs to actually have some power before they start shaping policy and you are able to push your own agenda.

So it's always nice to see some dissension in the Republican ranks. It's just a shame that the source is something as ugly as the desire to discriminate against a group of fellow citizens.

Delegates from the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest voted overwhelmingly Saturday to recommend severing ties with the national denomination in a dispute over homosexuality.

Members from the region's 300 churches are upset American Baptist Churches, USA, has not disciplined congregations with liberal gay policies even though the denomination has a strict definition that says "homosexuality is incompatible with biblical teaching."

The matter now goes to the region's board of directors, which meets May 11 and already recommended withdrawal from the denomination citing "deep differences of theological convictions and values."

The fundamentalists are still going full-bore with their plans for theocracy, and the more so-called values voters they can alienate the better. It'd be nice to see activist Christians pay that much attention to issues like poverty and homelessness.

Bush claims authority to break 700+ laws

Well, Stephen Colbert's incredible and cutting send-up of the DC press corps and Bush was great fun, but back to reality. Bush's chummy schtick with the press and their committment to pretty much ignoring the actual impact of his draconian policies.

President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ''whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.

Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty ''to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to ''execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional.

This brings back all the horror of the right-wing's deafening cries that no citizen is above the law. But Clinton was president then. Different party, different rules. The piece is a long look at the history of Bush and Gonzales pushing their 'unitary executive' theory-- long championed by the Heritage Foundation, but ostensibly only applying to a Republican president. Seriously, if Clinton had tried to assert the right to ignore a single law, the GOP would have been reaching for the torches and pitchforks. It's the ultimate example of the "Bush v Gore test." Namely, if the party affiliation of the official in question were reversed, would you still support the policy.

One other thing-- consider the time and effort that must go into outlining 750 laws that you feel shouldn't apply to you. No lawyer is going to just 'read the title,' as it were and say "Checkarooney." As is always the case with legal issues, there was undoubtedly plenty of reading of the fine print. Which means that there's a battalion of attorneys and clerks devoting their time specifically to expanding the power of the executive branch-- at the behest of the White House. Scary? Ooooooh, yeah.

Stephen Colbert makes your weekend

(UPDATE: Crooks and Liars has a lengthy Quicktime clip. 26 megs and worth it. There are definitely many members of the audience who were less than pleased, and I'm still pretty shocked that he took on so many power players.)

Just to set the stage for this late-night update, allow me to post one of the closing paragraphs from the article in question:

The president had talked to the [2,700-person White House Correspondent Dinner] crowd with a Bush impersonator alongside, with the faux-Bush speaking precisely and the real Bush deliberately mispronouncing words. At the close, Bush called the imposter "a fine talent. In fact, he did all my debates with Senator Kerry."

Just the sort of calculated, phony self-deprecation you'd expect from Fearless Leader. "Hahaha, he acknowledges his malapropisms. What a down-to-earth guy!" Painfully reminiscent of the notorious "those WMDs must be here somewhere" video produced for the same event, but without the same potential for making Bush look like a clueless dumbass-- whose quest for non-existent WMDs has killed tens of thousands.

Not so fast, right-wing "comedians." All the good-natured chuckles that undoubtedly greeted Bush's pandering, focus group-tested schtick may well have died in the throats of attendees when Stephen Colbert delivered his speech. He apparently defined scathing satire in his comments on the administration and the press.

Colbert, who spoke in the guise of his talk show character, who ostensibly supports the president strongly, urged the [sic] Bush to ignore his low approval ratings, saying they were based on reality, “and reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

Noting those low ratings, Colbert advised, "The glass isn't half empty - it's 68% empty. There's still some fluid in there, but I wouldn't drink it."

He attacked those in the press who claim that the shake-up at the White House was merely re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. “This administration is soaring, not sinking,” he said. “They are re-arranging the deck chairs--on the Hindenburg.”

Colbert told Bush he could end the problem of protests by retired generals by refusing to let them retire. He compared Bush to Rocky Balboa in the “Rocky” movies, always getting punched in the face—“and Apollo Creed is everything else in the world.”

Turning to the war, he declared, "I believe that the government that governs best is a government that governs least, and by these standards we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq."

He noted former Ambassador Joseph Wilson in the crowd, as well as " Valerie Plame." Then, pretending to be worried that he had named her, he corrected himself, as Bush aides might do, "Uh, I mean... Joseph Wilson's wife." He asserted that it might be okay, as prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was probably not there.

Colbert also made biting cracks [?] about missing WMDs, “photo ops” on aircraft carriers and at hurriance disasters, and Vice President Cheney shooting people in the face.
Observing that Bush sticks to his principles, he said, "When the president decides something on Monday, he still believes it on Wednesday - no matter what happened Tuesday."

Also lampooning the press, Colbert complained that he was “surrounded by the liberal media who are destroying this country, except for Fox News. Fox believes in presenting both sides—the president’s side and the vice president’s side." He also reflected on the good old days, when the media was still swallowing the WMD story.

Addressing the reporters, he said, "You should spend more time with your families, write that novel you've always wanted to write. You know, the one about the fearless reporter who stands up to the administration. You know-- fiction."

He closed his routine with a video fantasy where he gets to be White House Press Secretary, complete with a special “Gannon” button on his podium. By the end, he runs fleeing from Helen Thomas and her questions about why the U.S. really invaded Iraq and killed all those people.

I'll be on the lookout for a complete transcript or video, and I'm sure they'll be out there.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Anti-science Saturday

This is a lengthy article that attempts to catalogue the Bush administration's aggressive efforts to squelch hard science while limiting the discourse to corporate-funded "experts," or as Al Franken refers to them, biostitutes.

Global warming and reproductive health are the most obvious targets of their wrath, with a strong third front aimed at biologists/hydrologists/geologists who criticize the results of stripmining and mountaintop removal. It's just one more area in which the GOP is committed to shaping policy on corporate interests rather than the welfare of the nation. As the following excerpt demonstrates, the corporatist ideology of the administration extends right down the line to child lead poisoning. Great bunch o' guys.

A report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, titled Scientific Integrity in Policymaking, identifies policy issues being unfairly influenced by the administration: including climate change, mercury emissions, reproductive health, lead poisoning in children, workplace safety, and nuclear weapons.

“We found a serious pattern of undermining science by the Bush administration, and it crosses disciplines, whether it’s global climate change or reproductive health or mercury in the food chain or forestry – the list goes on and on,” said Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Knobloch says that the panel that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on lead poisoning planned to strengthen the lead poisoning regulations in early 2004, in response to science showing that smaller amounts than previously understood could cause brain damage in children. Before the panel could act, former secretary of health and human services Tommy Thompson rejected the recommendation and replaced two members of the panel with individuals tied to the lead industry.

The Bush administration also influences policy debates by editing scientific reports to censor information that disagrees with its ideology, as was the case with two major reports from the Environmental Protection Agency in 2002 and 2003.

MS governor Barbour latest GOP politico under investigation

One of the most recent developments in the New Hampshire phone jamming case was that the effort was paid for by Republican officials and mounted by a company itself funded by Republican officials, complete with ties to Tom DeLay and then White House staffer Ken Mehlman, current head of the RNC.

It doesn't stop there, though. Mississippi's governor Haley Barbour (former chief of the RNC and Bush campaign strategist) was involved as well, and might have turned a profit from the company's illegal activities.

The Associated Press is reporting that Barbour, a former Republican Party chairman, arranged the start-up financing for GOP Marketplace. Virginia corporation records show Barbour's investment company arranged a $250,000 loan to GOP Marketplace in 2000.

A spokesman for the governor says Barbour had no idea the company would engage in criminal activity two years later.

The lawyer for the now-defunct company's convicted president said Barbour wasn't consulted about its operations.

Barbour, who became governor of Mississippi in 2003, gushed over the prospects of GOP Marketplace in a company press release in 2000. The loan made Barbour and his Washington business partners part owners of the company, according to incorporation papers.

Coingate, phone jamming, Abramoff's shenanigans, voter fraud, and even the recent expansion of the Cunningham bribes into a DC prostitution ring-- the sheer depth and complexity of these scandals really demonstrates just how much organization is behind these criminal acts, from coast to coast.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Russia selling military hardware to Iran... and Israel

It's no secret that Vladimir Putin has been slowly but surely steering Russia on a course to the far right. And Russia and China have been trying to strengthen economic ties to the Middle East for at least the last decade-- they want those oil deals just as much as our government.

This op-ed from the LA Times seems to be suggesting that Russia is taking things a step further by selling arms in the region. And the author is clearly implying that it's with an eye toward further destabilizing the region.

When the war begins, it will be between Iran and Israel. Before it ends, though, it may set the whole of the Middle East on fire, pulling in the United States, leaving a legacy of instability that will last for generations and permanently ending a century of American supremacy.

Despite the high stakes, the Bush administration seems barely to have noticed the danger posed by the Russian missile sale. But the signs are there, for those inclined to read them.(. . .)

Russian leaders continue to mouth the usual diplomatic platitudes about democracy and global cooperation, but Russia is actually playing a complex double game. On Tuesday, Russia launched a spy satellite for Israel, which the Israelis can use to monitor Iran's nuclear facilities. On the same day, Russian leaders confirmed their opposition to any U.N. Security Council effort to impose sanctions against Iran, and their intention to go through with the lucrative sale of 29 Tor M1 air defense missile systems to Iran.

"There are no circumstances which would get in the way of us carrying out our commitments in the field of military cooperation with Iran," declared Nikolai Spassky, deputy head of Russia's National Security Council.

The upcoming deployment of Tor missiles around Iranian nuclear sites dramatically changes the calculus in the Middle East, and it significantly increases the risk of a regional war. Once the missile systems are deployed, Iran's air defenses will become far more sophisticated, and Israel will likely lose whatever ability it now has to unilaterally destroy Iran's nuclear facilities.

The implications are enormous. With the US already committed to military action (and not just support) in the region and hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign debt we've already accrued to "pay" for it, further instability means hundreds of billions more-- all in debt owed to foreign countries. In short, a destabilized Middle East that swings toward Russia and China could mean that BushCo set us on the course of transforming the United States from a superpower to an economic and diplomatic basket case.

Costs of Iraq operations to soar in 2006

For at least a year and a half we've been seeing the occasional article about billions of taxpayer dollars going missing in Iraq-- even though the tens of billions spent on reconstruction have led to lackluster results, at best. Electricity, water, and oil production all remain well below pre-war levels more than three years after the infamous 'Mission Accomplished' photo-op.

The report details how operations, maintenance and procurement costs have surged from $50 billion in 2004 to $88 billion this year, citing rising expenditures for body armor, oil and gasoline; equipment maintenance; and training and equipping Afghan and Iraqi security forces.

"These factors, however, are not enough to explain a 50-percent increase of over $20 billion in operating costs," the report states.

War-related investment costs have more than tripled since 2003, from $7 billion to $24 billion, as money has been spent on armored vehicles, radios, sensors and night-vision goggles, as well as on equipment for reorganized Army and Marine Corps units.

"These reasons are not sufficient, however, to explain the level of increases," the report states again.

It's understandable that the increasingly hostile and unstable situation in Iraq make things more risky and more expensive-- but not, apparently, to a degree that warrants the extra $28 billion.

A few things have become pretty obvious, though: A) Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's "streamlined" military is both smaller and much less efficient. B) Vice President Cheney's friends at Halliburton have raked in billions of dollars by overcharging US taxpayers and ignoring their contractual obligations. And C) spending on Iraq, at some $250 billion and counting, still has a long, long way to go. One estimate, which I'm too lazy to look up right now, sets the final cost at $2 trillion. And just today, Bush was loudly reaffirming his opposition to raising taxes in any way, shape or form.

It's official: Dubai firm to own Pentagon defense supplier

Super-patriot George Bush has approved the sale of Doncasters, and the British-owned Company that supplied the Pentagon will now be the UAE-owned company that supplies the Pentagon.

When the ports deal was scuttled, the GOP was once again caught between their racist base and their corporatist overlords-- much as they are when it comes to immigration. But, even though the right-wing pundits tried to accuse the left of racism over the matter, it's something much less pernicious than that. The simple question is this: what is the nation supposed to think when the American government's official stance is "Screw buying American-- let's outsource!"

President George W. Bush approved Dubai's $1.24 billion takeover of Doncasters, a British engineering company with U.S. plants that supply the Pentagon, the White House said on Friday.

The decision, announced by White House spokesman Scott McClellan, followed a congressional uproar over security fears that scuttled another Dubai state-owned company's plan to acquire operations at major U.S. ports.

The interagency Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States sent its confidential recommendation on the Dubai takeover of Doncasters to Bush on April 13.

"The president this morning accepted the committee's recommendation," McClellan said. "The committee recommended approval of the transaction after closely scrutinizing it and concluding that it would not compromise our national security."

The emerging GOP sex scandal

Now that it's pretty firmly out of the rumor category, it's time to start looking in on the newly-complex story of two defense contractors hiring prostitutes and booking luxury suites for Congressmen.

The contractors are Brent Wilkes and Mitchell Wade have already made the news in the Randy Cunningham bribery scandal, and for making illegal contributions to the campaign of Florida's Katherine Harris. This new case is said to involve up to half a dozen more legislators, and even some top-level CIA officials-- up to and including Porter Goss, the man Bush hired to purge the agency of non-ideologues.

The basic premise is simple enough: the two paid for hospitality suites in DC hotels, including the Watergate, where these fine folks could go for 'poker night,' or alternatively 'poke-her night.'

But in a sign of just how involved this whole thing was, Harper's reports that Wilkes even hired a limousine service to ferry the officials and prostitutes back and forth from the suites. A limousine service owned by a man with a long criminal record who also happened to be awarded a $21 million homeland security contract.

Brace yourselves for yet another endless barrage of 'Chappaquiddick' and 'Monicagate' from the pieholes of right-wing shills as this story heats up.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Dennis Hastert rides in hybrid-- until photo-op is over.

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert has long been one of the most loathsome of Bush loyalists and a driving force for completely locking the minority party out of Congressional proceedings. Lately he's been actively trying to set up some sort of "investigation" into reports of price-gouging by big oil. Which means no Democrats, no sworn testimony, and no consequences.

But it's all about appearances with the neo-fascists, and as long as they can use propaganda to stay in power, they're completely satisfied. Exhibit 2,287:


House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Ill., center, gets out of a Hydrogen Alternative Fueled automobile, left, as he prepares to board his SUV, which uses gasoline, after holding a new [sic] conference at a local gas station in Washington, Thursday, April 27, 2006 to discuss the recent rise in gas prices. Hastert and other members of Congress drove off in the Hydrogen-Fueled cars only to switch to their official cars to drive back the few block back to the U.S. Capitol.

To be fair, this could actually be a photo of the sasquatch.

Estate Tax repeal effort bankrolled by just 18 families

It's been a pretty successful campaign so far. Terming it the 'Death Tax,' convincing working-class families that it will affect them, too, and playing to the fanciful imaginations of those who just know that someday they'll be American aristocracy (in spite of the fact that real wages have been dropping annually). That doesn't change the facts of what some progressives like to refer to as the 'Paris Hilton Tax'-- it's never bankrupted a family farm, the campaign's chosen object of sympathy.

The multimillion-dollar lobbying effort to repeal the federal estate tax has been aggressively led by 18 super-wealthy families, according toa report released today by Public Citizens and United for a Fair Economy at a press conference in Washington, D.C. The report details for the first time the vast money, influence and deceptive marketing techniques behind the rhetoric in the campaign to repeal the tax.

It reveals how 18 families worth a total of $185.5 billion have financed and coordinated a 10-year effort to repeal the estate tax, a move that would collectively net them a windfall of $71.6 billion.

The report profiles the families and their businesses, which include the families behind Wal-Mart, Gallo wine, Campbell’s soup, and Mars Inc., maker of M&Ms. Collectively, the list includes the first- and third-largest privately held companies in the United States, the richest family in Alabama and the world’s largest retailer.

These families have sought to keep their activities anonymous by using associations to represent them and by forming a massive coalition of business and trade associations dedicated to pushing for estate tax repeal. The report details the groups they have hidden behind – the trade associations they have used, the lobbyists they have hired, and the anti-estate tax political action committees, 527s and organizations to which they have donated heavily.

In a massive public relations campaign, the families have also misled the country by giving the mistaken impression that the estate tax affects most Americans. In particular, they have used small businesses and family farms as poster children for repeal, saying that the estate tax destroys both of these groups. But just more than one-fourth of one percent of all estates will owe any estate taxes in 2006. And the American Farm Bureau, a member of the anti-estate tax coalition, was unable when asked by The New York Times to cite a single example of a family being forced to sell its farm because of estate tax liability.

The Smoking Gun featured a story that demonstrates the real beneficiaries of Estate Tax repeal:

Alice Walton, the Wal-Mart heir worth $6 billion, might want to shell out some of that dough for a chauffeur. The 48-year-old Arkansas woman was arrested in late-January on drunken driving charges after her Toyota ran off a road and hit a gas meter. Walton suffered a broken nose when her face greeted the steering wheel. An unruly Walton, the daughter of late Wal-Mart boss Sam Walton, refused to take a blood-alcohol test and, according to these police reports, asked officers, “You know who I am, don’t you? You know my last name?”

GOP blocks vote to end federal subsidies to big oil

Amazing. Senator Ron Wyden tried to get the measure on the floor for a vote-- you know, one of those "up or down votes" the GOP loves so much. But the Republicans aren't about to go on record as opposing any substantive measures dealing with energy prices. The goal is to avoid committing to anything until they cobble together some illusory piece of legislation that lets them crow about their strength and populism without doing a thing to address the issue. A case in point is Frist's mind-boggling suggestion that the government send out $100 checks to Americans. Ostensibly that would all be paid for in foreign debt-- and thus by taxpayers-- while keeping in place corporate welfare for big oil and their billions in tax breaks.

Under the Energy Bill signed into law last summer, oil companies were given new subsidies in the form of reduced royalty fees for the oil and gas they extract from Federal lands, including off-shore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. What the Wyden amendment would do would be to force energy companies to pay royalties to the government on all oil and gas they produce on federal leases in the Gulf of Mexico, if the price of crude oil is above $55 a barrel.

That's federal leases, the public resource, and billions and billions of dollars of taxpayer money going to oil and energy companies. The Department of Interior provides royalty relief to oil companies as incentive to prevent disruptions because of hurricanes or other natural disasters. But that "incentive" price is $55 a barrel, and oil is now selling for more than $70 a barrel--seems like incentive enough.

The subsides for oil and gas companies add up to as much as $35 billion.

Sharp reporter torpedoes GOP's "ANWR defense"

As nice as it is to hear that a journalist is doing his job in asking substantive questions, it's always a sad reminder of how rare it's become the Bush Age. But here's a reporter who cut through the spin with a scalpel and caught the White House spinning the popular-- but totally disingenuous-- line that environmentalists are to blame for high gas prices.

Reporter: The president made the point that had ANWR been approved ten years ago, you'd get about a million barrels a day. Had the Iraq production resumed to the level that had been projected before the war, how much would that contribute today?

Hubbard: I actually don't know the precise answer to that. What's really most important, though, is that we've become less reliable on overseas sources of crude oil and other sources of energy, and more reliant on energy from within our 50 states ...

Reporter: You have no estimate, though, about what Iraqi production could be?

Hubbard: I do not have it.

Hennessey: We can get back to you.

Hubbard: Yes, we can get back to you with that.

Reporter: That would be useful. I mean, just -- obviously, since the president has chosen one interesting example in ANWR, the Iraq one would be an interesting one to compare it to, whether that would be more or less than a billion -- a million a day.

Hubbard: Yes, we will have to get back to you on that.

Perhaps we can help here. Iraq's prewar oil production has been estimated at somewhere between 2.6 million and 3 million barrels per day. In July 2003 -- which is to say, two months after Bush declared the end of major combat operations in Iraq -- the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Iraqi Oil Ministry together set goals of getting production back up to 2.5 million barrels per day by the end of March 2004 and up to 3 million barrels per day by December 2004. But Iraq's oil production averaged just 2 million barrels a day in 2004, USA Today says, and by August 2005, it had dropped to 1.86 million barrels per day. By this February, the Times of London says, production had dropped further, to just 1.5 million barrels a day.

So to answer the question: If you assume that Iraq was producing 2.6 million barrels of oil per day before the war started, then it appears that production has dropped by 1.1 million barrels per day since then. If you assume that Iraq was producing 3 million barrels per day before the war, then it appears production has dropped by 1.5 million barrels per day. In either case, the daily oil production lost to the war exceeds that which the president says would have been gained from drilling in the ANWR.

George Allen: the presidential hopeful with plenty of baggage

TNR has an interesting article about another Bush-Republican who would be president, Senator George Allen of Virginia. According to the article, Allen "has emerged as the principal conservative alternative to John McCain in the early jockeying among 2008 Republican presidential candidates." Which makes sense, with Santorum and Frist's ambitions on seriously thin ice.

But as the article notes, Allen is all too typical of today's GOP-- hiding draconian ideology behind whatever public persona is in vogue among his constituents, and possessing a lengthy personal history of extremism, racism, and violence.

In the early '90s, Allen exuded the revolutionary spirit of the Republican insurgency. His 1994 inaugural address as governor promised to "fight the beast of tyranny and oppression that our federal government has become." That year, he also endorsed Oliver North for the Senate even as Virginia Senator John Warner and others in the party establishment shunned the convicted felon. At North's nominating convention, Allen proposed a somewhat overwrought approach for beating Democrats: "My friends--and I say this figuratively--let's enjoy knocking their soft teeth down their whining throats."

But, while Allen may have genuflected in the direction of Gingrich, he also showed a touch of Strom Thurmond. Campaigning for governor in 1993, he admitted to prominently displaying a Confederate flag in his living room. He said it was part of a flag collection--and had been removed at the start of his gubernatorial bid. When it was learned that he kept a noose hanging on a ficus tree in his law office, he said it was part of a Western memorabilia collection. These explanations may be sincere. But, as a chief executive, he also compiled a controversial record on race. In 1994, he said he would accept an honorary membership at a Richmond social club with a well-known history of discrimination--an invitation that the three previous governors had refused. After an outcry, Allen rejected the offer. He replaced the only black member of the University of Virginia (UVA) Board of Visitors with a white one. He issued a proclamation drafted by the Sons of Confederate Veterans declaring April Confederate History and Heritage Month. The text celebrated Dixie's "four-year struggle for independence and sovereign rights." There was no mention of slavery. After some of the early flaps, a headline in The Washington Post read, "governor seen leading va. back in time."

Spending bill retains pork, cuts troop funding

The Washington Post points out on this issue that, it being an election year and all, we can pretty much expect a massive spike in pork barrel spending from Congress. And with the GOP in control, that means more GOP pork during a time of a two-front war and the highest deficits in history. Since the money can't come from wealthy Americans or big business, it's coming from "troop pay [and] body armor," as even Bush acknowledges.

These funds support U.S. Armed Forces and Coalition partners as we advance democracy, fight the terrorists and insurgents, and train and equip Iraqi security forces so that they can defend their sovereignty and freedom.

Where is the money in the bill going? According to the WaPo, agribusiness and "developers and casino interests," among others.

$30 million pushback from oil lobby

Committed to fighting the indignities of being denied $400 million retirement packages for executives and pressured to relinquish some of its unprecedented profits, big oil has decided to do the honorable thing-- lobby!

The oil industry is preparing a new, multimillion-dollar lobbying and educational campaign in response to growing political pressures brought on by rising gas prices, oil lobbyists said.

The American Petroleum Institute (API), the industry’s main trade group, plans a yearlong grassroots lobbying push that could cost in excess of $30 million to explain how the industry works and what has caused pump prices to jump.

The campaign would follow a national advertising effort that has cost around $25 million so far. The API launched it in October as companies began to report record revenues and members of both parties urged punitive measures, such as new taxes on what they saw as “windfall” profits.

Jim Craig, API vice president for communications, said the group is considering new ways to communicate with the public and politicians as it continues its advertising campaign.

He said no decisions have been made about the parameters of the new effort. He described it as a continued attempt at “educational outreach.”

I hear Scott McClellan is looking for work. He has years of experience explaining regrettably misunderstood but highly moralistic policies to the public.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

G-Dub... to the max.

Sidney Blumenthal has written a piece for Salon that I think nicely pulls together the conventional wisdom on Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rove-- the puppet masters of the Bush presidency, driven by their decades-long ideological struggle to amass personal power and extend it to a right-wing juggernaut. All completely unfettered by regard for the consequences of their actions or the slightest regard for the well-being of the nation.

Then there's George the Second, the perfect pawn. Arrogant beyond belief but without any sane explanation, he made for the perfect candidate. A wind-up toy with delusions of autonomy, authoritatively pushing political concepts he understands only insofar as they are explained to him by his agenda-driven backers-- a disease that seems to afflict many children of privilege. And, faced with the antipathy of his own nation and the hostility of the world, he has eagerly switched his preferred personal myth. During the 2000 campaign, he was enamored of comparisons with John Quincy Adams, the only son of a president to hold the same office. These days, he's obsessed with Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman-- and the obvious theme of being exonerated by history. The only conviction Bush seems to have is that of his own greatness. But Bush isn't fighting on behalf of a strong moral conviction guided by deep personal knowledge. He just wants to convince everyone that he's a great man.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, the disastrous results of their policies leave them all the more convinced that they need to spend the next few years pushing all the harder for more of the same.

For Rumsfeld and Cheney the final days of the Bush administration are the endgame. They cannot expect positions in any future White House. Since the Nixon White House, when counselor Rumsfeld and his deputy Cheney watched the self-destruction of the president, they have plotted to reach the point where they would impose the imperial presidency that Nixon was thwarted from doing. Both men held ambitions to become president themselves. The Bush years have been their opportunity, their last one, to run a presidency. Through the agency of the son of one of their colleagues from the Ford White House, George H.W. Bush (whom President Ford considered but passed over for his vice president and chief of staff, giving the latter job to Cheney), they have enabled their notion of executive power. But the fulfillment of their idea of presidential power is steadily draining the president of strength. Their 30-year-long project on behalf of autocracy has merely produced monumental incompetence.

The only problem with Blumenthal's article is that it's far too short.

The Blood-Spattered Brie: A look at American healthcare

Adam Felber writes about a recent emergency room adventure that sounds pretty familiar to me. I had a nasty run-in with a knife last year that required similar attention. Which meant hanging out in an ER waiting room for well over an hour (I was 'fast-tracked,' too) before hanging out in a viewing room for another forty-five minutes or so. Luckily, I had insurance at the time and it didn't cost me $500. But it does demonstrate how broken our system is. I'm really pleased to hear politicians start talking about national health care for the reason Felber cites:

As overworked as the phrase may sound, we really need to fix this country’s health care system. Shiftless plutocrats and their lobbyist lackeys will tell you that a plan that covers everyone will cost more, but a trip down to your local ER on a Saturday afternoon will show you that you are, in fact, already paying top dollar for a very poor form of universal healthcare. AND paying for your own on top of that. They will tell you that a socialized program will be inefficient or insubstantial, but as a guy who once blew out his knee on a Canadian stage, I can tell you that this is not the case.

Oh, and the story is pretty funny, too. 3 bonus points to anyone who gets my too-clever movie reference.

Running the CIA Bush-style

People are coming up with all sorts of clever analogies to describe the non-shakeup of White House personnel. If your team is failing, you fire the coach-- not the team. If your car is driving off a cliff, switching chauffers doesn't help. That sort of thing.

But the characteristic neo-fascist committment to ideology over reality continues to pervade every level of the government, and it's undermining the nation's security and well-being.

Which bring us to Mr. Goss. He has taken no disciplinary action against CIA personnel identified by his inspector general as having played a part in the failure to prevent the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He has taken no action against CIA interrogators known to have participated in the torture and killing of foreign detainees, or against those who knowingly violated the Geneva Conventions in Iraq. He has driven a host of senior managers from the agency. Now he would have the country believe that one of the CIA's biggest problems -- worthy of an unprecedented internal investigation he personally oversaw -- is unauthorized leaks to the press. His setting of priorities seems unlikely to improve the CIA's success rate in judging foreign programs of weapons of mass destruction or preventing the next terrorist attack.

Appearance is everything with the right-wing. Port security, homeland security, FEMA, No Child Left Behind, and the war in Iraq-- as many a commentator has noted, the GOP is capable of one thing only: campaigning. They are utterly incapable of governance.

All the news that isn't

Let's see here. Fox personality Tony Snow is the new White House spokesmonkey, eliminating the pesky need for the administration to phone in the official talking points. Although Think Progress (among others) has pointed out his occasional harsh words for the president, Snow's right-wing kook credibility is still high. A report on the radio this morning claimed that he's a long-standing contributor to The Free Republic-- though his writings have now been wiped from the site. (You might recall that one of the Swiftboating masterminds was also a 'freeper,' and had a long record of writing their usual type of 'pinko Commie gay traitor liberal' fare.) Snow was also a speechwriter for Bush I.

Rumsfeld and Rice took a trip to Iraq, apparently in hopes that a new backdrop is the key to convincing people that things are going well there. It also allowed Rice to take a powder from Greece, where she was greeted with a massive anti-war protest.

The FDA's drug evaluation experts have come to the scientific and highly technical conclusion that the contraceptive known as Plan B "would lead adolescents to form sex-based cults."

Karl Rove is slated to meet with Patrick Fitzgerald today in the Plame leak case, lawyers in tow.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Anti-Clinton book publisher uses fabricated quotes to defend book's quality

There's obviously plenty of money to be made in right-wing attack books. I've even seen one or two in the homes of conservative friends who really should know better. While Clinton hatred may still be a big seller, they don't seem to be getting any more accurate than they were in the days of Jerry Falwell accusing the Clintons of being murderous cocaine smugglers.

From the author's defense of his book:

"I compiled quotes from 63 books and over 100 different articles, so Hillary's apologists have their work cut out for them," adds Thomas Kuiper, the book's editor. "Was Chris Matthews's statement that he saw Hillary make Secret Service agents carry her bags a lie? How about Hillary's widely quoted claim to be named after Sir Edmund Hillary, who climbed Mt. Everest years after she was born? Or her statement on Dateline that Chelsea was jogging near the World Trade Center on September 11th, a story which Chelsea herself later contradicted?"

Incredibly--no, strike that-- predictably, Media Matters has found that each of these ironclad examples involves selective quoting, misrepresentation, and plain ol' lying. I'm sure the author will be, to paraphrase Liberace, crying all the way to the bank.

Bush goes Clintonian

For the president who spends more on polling and focus groups than any in history-- and denies using polling and focus groups more than any in history-- this sort of revelation is never a surprise. But it's still funny in a pathetic sort of way.

In September 2000, then-Gov. George W. Bush criticized President Clinton for proposing to use the strategic oil reserve in response to high prices: "The Strategic Reserve is an insurance policy meant for a sudden disruption of our energy supply or for war. Strategic Reserve should not be used as an attempt to drive down oil prices right before an election. It should not be used for short-term political gain at the cost of long-term national security."


President Bush will direct the U.S. Energy Department on Tuesday to temporarily halt deliveries of oil to a strategic reserve in order to get more fuel on the market and help reduce rising gasoline prices, a senior administration official said.

The official said Bush in a morning energy speech, will tell the Energy Department to suspend deliveries this summer while supplies are tight "and defer the deposits until the fall, and then you have more oil on the market."

GOP: Environmentalists to blame for gas prices

Though this article is about Missouri's corporatist Congressman Roy Blunt, this talking point is making the rounds in the right-wing spin machine. Fortuntately, the public isn't stupid enough to by this nonsense.

Blunt, a member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, said, "We did not arrive at this energy crisis overnight; it is a direct result of years of unreasonable, burdensome regulations and obstruction on the part of radical environmentalists.

"The same Democrats who voted against increasing our energy supply, expanding our refining capacity, and exploring alternative sources now have the audacity to point fingers and place blame. Opposing responsible plans to increase our energy supply is reckless, and Americans will pay the price at the pump this summer."

In case you hadn't noticed, the magic word is 'supply.' One of the main accusations, of course, is that drilling in ANWR would solve the problem. Strange, considering that it would take some five years to produce anything and the oil companies have already announced that they would sell the oil in Asia. Oh, and it wouldn't produce enough oil to provide the US with a year's supply.

I suppose there wouldn't be much point in reminding the GOP that oil is a finite resource anyway. As long as those checks from big oil keep coming in-- and they're in office-- they'll fight tooth and nail against a realistic energy policy.

Big Pharma buying off generics

Just in time for seniors across the nation to be locked into the GOP's notoriously labyrinthine and highly inequitable Medicare Drug Plan, we have word that the drug companies are finding a new way to increase their already-sizable profits.

Under federal law, drugmakers are allowed to seek U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for generic versions of brand-name drugs before a drug's patent expires. They must certify that the patent is invalid or will not be infringed by the new generic version.

However, in one key decision last year, an appeals court in Atlanta overturned an FTC ruling that said Schering-Plough Corp. had illegally kept cheaper versions of its blood pressure drug K-Dur off the market through patent settlements with generic competitors.

Months later, another federal appeals court upheld a lower court decision throwing out a similar case involving AstraZeneca Plc's cancer drug Tamoxifen.

The FTC has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Schering-Plough decision. The court has not yet decided if it will review the case.

The FTC has monitored drug patent settlements closely since 2004, when Congress passed a law requiring drug companies to notify the FTC about them in advance.

In the report issued on Monday, the FTC found that in fiscal 2005, three of 16 drug patent settlements included payments to the generic drug and restrictions on when it would become available, according to the FTC report.

It was the first time since 1999 that drug companies entered in such agreements, the FTC said.

During the past six months, Leibowitz said, at least seven of the 10 settlements reported to the agency included those kinds of provisions.

Monday, April 24, 2006

CNN has Bush approval at 32%

Although most polls have had Bush floating around the mid-30s for quite a while now, the recent Fox poll and this CNN poll indicate that the preznit continues to lose ground.

Considering that this number is about as close as you can get to losing everyone who isn't a dyed-in-the-wool ideologue, it's more frightening than ever to note that, as Salon pointed out today (summing up an article in Time) the White House game plan is more of the same crap that's made them as despised as Nixon ever was.

Josh Bolten's plans for the White House don't have much to do with reaching across the aisle or reaching out to the American people. They're all about holding tight to Bush's base in the hopes of holding on to Congress come November. As Time explains, Bolten's five-point plan for refreshing the Bush White House mostly involves persuading conservatives that the president is still on their side -- and that they ought to be on his.

The plan: Seek more money for immigration enforcement, then pose for lots of pictures with new agents in uniforms. Put smiles on the faces of Wall Street pundits by pushing through extensions of tax cuts for stock dividends and capital gains. Talk more about the Medicare prescription drug benefit, the stock market and the economy generally. Talk more with the press. Talk tough with Iran.

Josh Bolten: Spinmeister of the People.

Salon catches Newsweek still playing stenographer to the White House spin machine, and if Time's account is accurate it demonstrates a complete load of crap on the order of 'Bush is a regular guy.'

Newsweek got the talking points: "No matter how powerful he grew inside the Bush White House," the magazine says as it begins its report on Bolten's White House plans, "Josh Bolten always came off as just one of the guys, a smart, hardworking wonk who ducked publicity and rewarded his staff with a night at the bowling alley."

But it seems that somebody forgot to tell Time: "At the George W. Bush campaign headquarters in Austin, Texas, in 1999, policy director Josh Bolten was a low-key Washingtonian in a building full of brash Texans," the magazine says as it begins its report on Bolten's White House plans. "He assembled a best-and-brightest team with resumes bristling with brand names like his own -- Princeton, Stanford, Goldman Sachs. 'He used to brag that he had all these Supreme Court clerks from Harvard working for him,' recalled a campaign veteran."

Ahhhh, yes-- the era of the insufferable prick as regular Joe. I'll bet Karl Rove collects Precious Moments figurines, too.

Drumheller on 60 Minutes

The site's been acting a little goofy today, so I'm overdue in getting this post up. Last night Ed Bradley interviewed the CIA's former top dog in Europe, and he pretty much confirmed every report of an administration determined to start a war and willing to lie to do it.

BRADLEY: According to Drumheller, CIA Director George Tenet delivered the news about the Iraqi foreign minister at a high level meeting at the White House.

DRUMHELLER: The President, the Vice President, Dr. Rice…

BRADLEY: And at that meeting…?

DRUMHELLER: They were enthusiastic because they said they were excited that we had a high-level penetration of Iraqis.

BRADLEY: And what did this high level source tell you?

DRUMHELLER: He told us that they had no active weapons of mass destruction program.

BRADLEY: So, in the fall of 2002, before going to war, we had it on good authority from a source within Saddam’s inner circle that he didn’t have an active program for weapons of mass destruction?


BRADLEY: There’s no doubt in your mind about that?

DRUMHELLER: No doubt in my mind at all.

BRADLEY: It directly contradicts, though, what the President and his staff were telling us.

DRUMHELLER: The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming, and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy, to justify the policy.

Think Progress also has a link to the full transcript.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Dean in New Orleans

Adam Nagourney's piece on Howard Dean's visit to New Orleans is a strange one, and disturbing in a couple of ways.

First, the title (and yes, I know that editors are usually responsible for them): "Democrats Try to Use Katrina as GOP Used 9/11." You could write an entire essay on that line alone. First, it pretty much undercuts everything in the story by immediately supporting the GOP's predictable accusation of 'political stunts.' Yet it also suggests that Republicans 'used' 9/11 for political gain, which no rightie would ever admit to publically. We all know by now that they shamelessly pimped the attacks and continue to do so, but that doesn't do anyone any good now, does it? At least it shows that the accusations of being 'anti-American' for not wholeheartedly supporting the Bush agenda are no longer effective.

The article isn't quite as blatant in its findings, although the snarky tagline makes it pretty clear that Nagourney accepts the notion that politicians could never do anything out of genuine concern.

In the Lower Ninth Ward, Mr. Dean put on a white hazardous-materials suit and, more than a little winded, helped gut a house. He needed barely a nudge from reporters to declare the federal effort here a disgrace that would cost Republicans control of the government.

"This is a searing, burning issue," Mr. Dean said, "and I think it's going to cost George Bush his legacy, and it's going to cost the Republicans the House and the Senate and, maybe very well, the presidency in the next election. People will never forget this."

Pointing to two abandoned hulks of cars, he added, "I hate to be partisan at a time like this, but this is why the Republicans are going to be out of business."

I was really glad to see Dean in New Orleans. A Democrat couldn't have gotten within 500 miles of New Orleans without being accused of pulling a political stunt, so why not march right in and demand that the press show America what a mess the place still is, more than six months after the storm?

As I mentioned in my last post, political discourse has been so cheapened by the righties that this national disgrace has become nothing more than another chance for the media to smugly assert that they're way too sophisticated to but into it-- as though the abandoned autos and rotting houses of a city in ruins are somehow props placed there by campaign workers.

What's gotten lost in the shuffle is the fact that this security-obsessed administration, when faced with a massive crisis, found their own restructured Homeland Security Department totally unfit to deal with it then, and totally unwilling to deal with it now.

The phone jamming case explained

This piece by Eleanor Clift claims that the New Hampshire phone jamming case "has legs." As much as I'd like to agree, I can't. At least not in the sense that the public will pay much attention. And that's pretty disgraceful. Unfortunately, it's a byproduct of the way the right-wing has been running the show for the last decade. Starting with New Gingrich's absurd 'Contract With America,' we have been so mercilessly flogged with cries of wolf from every corner, from the corporatists to the fundamentalists and every right-wing shill in between, that nothing seems to anger people anymore. Except for the right-wing base-- everything seems to fill them with bile. The thing is, righties have cornered the market on outrage. They regularly scream themselves hoarse, while ironically claiming that any dissenting view is nothing more than the insane ravings of America-hating radicals. (Even worse, they seem to have found an ally in the DLC.)

So even though the New Hampshire case pretty clearly involves a concerted effort, White House included, to illegally throw a state election to the Republicans, things are so bad that we can't expect the press to pay any attention.

At any rate, Clift provides a concise picture of how the case is shaping up.

Initially dismissed as a petty political trick, it led to the trial and conviction for telephone harassment last December of the New England political director for the Republican National Committee, James Tobin. That in itself would barely register on anybody’s radar except Tobin was represented by one of Washington’s white shoe law firms, Williams & Connolly, and his legal fees were $2.5 million. The Republican National Committee picked up the tab, which suggests this may not have been a rogue operation. Was Tobin’s high-priced defense an effort to keep him from ratting out his contacts in the Bush White House? The RNC has said it paid Tobin’s legal fees because he is a long-time supporter and because he has maintained his innocence. Tobin is appealing his conviction.

Meeting with reporters over breakfast Wednesday morning, Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean said an examination of Tobin’s phone records revealed “hundreds of calls” between the White House and New Hampshire party operatives at the time of the phone-jamming on Election Day 2002. “I don’t think they were discussing the weather,” Dean said. The stakes were high in ’02. Democrats controlled the Senate by one vote and the White House was determined to regain the majority. In New Hampshire, Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and Republican John Sununu were in a tight race for the Senate. Get out the vote operations were critical to both sides, so when Democratic workers arrived at five key centers to find their phone lines jammed, they suspected dirty tricks.

They were right. The jamming was traced to an Idaho telemarketing firm. The fee for the jamming service, reportedly $15,600, was paid by the New Hampshire Republican Party through a Virginia consulting firm. Public records filed by the state GOP show three checks, each for $5,000, conveniently arriving to cover the charge just before the election. One was from Tom DeLay’s Americans for a Republican Majority; the others from Indian tribes that were clients of the now indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Shaheen lost to Sununu by just under 20,000 votes.

Thanks to PS for the link.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Horton Humiliates a Hu

Thanks to OD1 for the story link. I caught some of this yesterday on the radio, but missed the citation.

The Washington Post's Dan Froomkin has a massive round-up of the coverage of Hu's visit that I'd highly recommend. The long and short of it is BushCo made for inconsiderate-- if not downright rude-- hosts, and came away from the meeting having accomplised pretty much nothing. A low point from Dana Milbank:

"It took so long to silence [the heckler] -- a full three minutes -- that Bush aides began to wonder if the Secret Service's strategy was to let her scream herself hoarse. The rattled Chinese president haltingly attempted to continue his speech and television coverage went to split screen.

" 'You're okay,' Bush gently reassured Hu.

"But he wasn't okay, not really. The protocol-obsessed Chinese leader suffered a day full of indignities -- some intentional, others just careless. The visit began with a slight when the official announcer said the band would play the 'national anthem of the Republic of China' -- the official name of Taiwan. It continued when Vice President Cheney donned sunglasses for the ceremony, and again when Hu, attempting to leave the stage via the wrong staircase, was yanked back by his jacket. Hu looked down at his sleeve to see the president of the United States tugging at it as if redirecting an errant child."

To think that there are people out there who aren't charmed by Bush's "aw,shucks" schtick.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Dick Cheney in 'The Bad Sleep Well'

As a meeting between administration officials (including Bush and Rummy) and Chinese president Hu Jintao concluded, Dick Cheney took an extra moment or two to "read his notes," according to the White House.

Hu Whitehouse Visit

Oh, and the White House also assures us that Cheney's shoe was the source of that farting sound.

Hang on to your Ferragamos-- Rice faces criminal investigation

Just when you thought the GOP couldn't look any more like Romper Room (with felonies), the earth went and spun on its axis again.

Earlier today, MSNBC reported that a CIA agent had been fired for leaking information to the press, and that the case had been referred to the Justice Department. Man, when the administration says they hate leaks, they mean it!

Unless the leaker is Bush, Cheney, Rove, Libby, or.... Condi Rice.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice leaked national defense information to a pro-Israel lobbyist in the same manner that landed a lower-level Pentagon official a 12-year prison sentence, the lobbyist's lawyer said Friday.

Prosecutors disputed the claim.

The allegations against Rice came as a federal judge granted a defense request to issue subpoenas sought by the defense for Rice and three other government officials in the trial of Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman. The two are former lobbyists with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who are charged with receiving and disclosing national defense information.

Defense lawyers are asking a judge to dismiss the charges because, among other things, they believe it seeks to criminalize the type of backchannel exchanges between government officials, lobbyists and the press that are part and parcel of how Washington works.

During Friday's hearing, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III said he is considering dismissing the government's entire case because the law used to prosecute Rosen and Weissman may be unconstitutionally vague and broad and infringe on freedom of speech.

Rosen's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said the testimony of Rice and others is needed to show that some of the top officials in U.S. government approved of disclosing sensitive information to the defendants and that the leaks may have been authorized.

Prosecutors opposed the effort to depose Rice and the other officials. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin DiGregory also disputed Lowell's claim, saying, "She never gave national defense information to Mr. Rosen."

The issuance of subpoenas does not automatically require Rice or anybody else to testify or give a deposition. A recipient can seek to quash the subpoena.

Whew. Well, at least we still live in a country where government officials can... uhhh, 'quash subpoenas.'

Howard Dean: The Other Great Satan

Take pity upon Fox News viewers. This is what they're served up as 'news,' and the poor dopes swallow it like a fried baloney sandwich.

A) "Did Howard Dean Threaten the Entire Religious Community?" This is a reference to Dean pointing out that churches aggressively involved in partisan politics are at risk of losing their tax-exempt status, in accordance with the law. Somebody stop that madman!

B) "Me am smart." Man, check out that Cavuto egghead. He's a-sittin' down in fronta books 'n stuff. Mus' be smart. Dean ain't got no books. He mus' be dumb.

C) "Dean is the Devil." Ol' Nick always has red skin in them cartoons, right? Dean has red skin, too. Get thee behind me, Satan!

Nobel laureates speak out against Bush's nuclear ambitions

It's happened before, as the article points out, and this won't make any difference to the administration either. But it's good to see even more people with clout take a stand against their disastrous policies.

Thirteen of the nation's most prominent physicists have written a letter to President Bush, calling U.S. plans to reportedly use nuclear weapons against Iran "gravely irresponsible" and warning that such action would have "disastrous consequences for the security of the United States and the world."

The physicists include five Nobel laureates, a recipient of the National Medal of Science and three past presidents of the American Physical Society, the nation's preeminent professional society for physicists.

Their letter was prompted by recent articles in the Washington Post, New Yorker and other publications that one of the options being considered by Pentagon planners and the White House in a military confrontation with Iran includes the use of nuclear bunker busters against underground facilities. These reports were neither confirmed nor denied by White House and Pentagon officials.

The letter was initiated by Jorge Hirsch, a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego, who last fall put together a petition signed by more than 1,800 physicists that repudiated new U.S. nuclear weapons policies that include preemptive use of nuclearweapons against non-nuclear adversaries. Hirsch has also published 15 articles in recent months documenting the dangers associated with a potential U.S. nuclear strike on Iran.

Wouldn't it just be super-neato to have a president who thought that military leaders and top scientists might be worth listening to? At least he still has that charming sense of humor.

Top CIA official: Iraq intel was fixed

Having so many highly-credentialed witnesses has got to be a prosecutor's wet dream. For the rest of us, seeing anything come of the White House's dishonest war is still just a pipe dream. On 60 Minutes this weekend, Tyler Drumheller, "former highest ranking CIA officer in Europe," will add his voice to the case against the White House.

Drumheller, who retired last year, says the White House ignored crucial information from a high and credible source. The source was Iraq's foreign minister, Naji Sabri, with whom U.S. spies had made a deal.

When CIA Director George Tenet delivered this news to the president, the vice president and other high ranking officials, they were excited — but not for long.

"[The source] told us that there were no active weapons of mass destruction programs," says Drumheller. "The [White House] group that was dealing with preparation for the Iraq war came back and said they were no longer interested. And we said 'Well, what about the intel?' And they said 'Well, this isn't about intel anymore. This is about regime change.' "

They didn't want any additional data from Sabri because, says Drumheller: "The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy."

The White House declined to respond to this charge, but Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has stated that Sabri was just one source and therefore not reliable.

Drumheller says the administration routinely relied on single sources — when those single sources confirmed what the White House wanted to hear.

"They certainly took information that came from single sources on the yellowcake story and on several other stories with no corroboration at all," he says. The "yellowcake story" refers to a report the CIA received in late 2001 alleging that Iraq had purchased 500 tons of uranium from Africa, presumably to build a nuclear bomb.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Rove 'demotion': Is indictment looming?

This story is just starting to make the rounds, and although I'd caught a passing reference to it, OD1 was kind enough to provide a link.

Just as the news broke Wednesday about Scott McClellan resigning as White House press secretary and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove shedding some of his policy duties, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald met with the grand jury hearing evidence in the CIA leak case and introduced additional evidence against Rove, attorneys and other US officials close to the investigation said.

The grand jury session in federal court in Washington, DC, sources close to the case said, was the first time this year that Fitzgerald told the jurors that he would soon present them with a list of criminal charges he intends to file against Rove in hopes of having the grand jury return a multi-count indictment against Rove.

In an interview Wednesday, Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, confirmed that Rove remains a "subject" of Fitzgerald's two-year-old probe.

"Mr. Rove is still a subject of the investigation," Luskin said. In a previous interview, Luskin asserted that Rove would not be indicted by Fitzgerald, but he was unwilling to make that prediction again Wednesday.

"Mr. Fitzgerald hasn't made any decision on the charges and I can't speculate what the outcome will be," Luskin said. "Mr. Rove has cooperated completely with the investigation."

I'm not drawing any conclusions yet. Plenty of red herrings have come out of Fitzgerald's tightly-run investigation. But it sure would be nice to see Rove take a fall. Libby won't even have a court date until next year, so it probably wouldn't keep Rove from warming up his slime machine for the elections. But we can always hope.

Dip, dip, dip, Bush's sinking ship

Whie Fearless Leader's approval ratings have been hovering in the mid-30s for quite a while now, the most recent wave of polls is showing a slight drop. While it's often just been a one or two point slip, which I would disregard if it were just in one or two polls, it seems to be constant across the board: the president's numbers are still dropping.

President Bush’s job approval rating slipped this week and stands at a new low of 33 percent approve, down from 36 percent two weeks ago and 39 percent in mid-March. A year ago this time, 47 percent approved and two years ago 50 percent approved (April 2004).

Approval among Republicans is below 70 percent for the first time of Bush’s presidency. Two-thirds (66 percent) approve of Bush’s job performance today, down almost 20 percentage points from this time last year when 84 percent of Republicans approved. Among Democrats, 11 percent approve today, while 14 percent approved last April.

As I've mentioned before, the conventional wisdom seems to be that a president is unlikely to drop below 29%, that number representing what you could call the right-wing blog crowd-- those who will blindly support him no matter what he does. So the significance of sliding slowly down through the thirties means that he's gradually losing every moderate member of his own party.

TNR and Lieberman, BFF.

As much as this year's elections are shaping up to be an ugly, nasty affair, the DLC fans at The New Republic seem to be doing their part to drive a wedge between Democrats. A pair of recent articles on McCain presented, in pretty wishful terms, the case for John McCain ("He used to say he's pro-choice. Now he says he's anti-choice. I choose to believe the former, and support him.") Now they're setting their sites on Lieberman's Democratic challenger for the senate seat this fall.

What do they have to say? Lamont seems nice. But those supporters of his? Mean, nutty, radical. And actually, Lamont seems like a wishy-washy, spoiled elitist. And his supporters are rabid leftists. Oh, and his supporters are insane. And (gasp!) they blog, which TNR still considers to be a litmus test for mental health. (Hey TNR, circulation still down 60% this decade?)

What they don't point out is that one of Lieberman's potential Republican challengers intended to run to the left of Lieberman. They don't have any explanation to offer as to why Lieberman is still such a staunch defender of Bush's Iraq policy-- not even William F. Buckley goes that far anymore.

Apparently some at TNR feel just as Lieberman himself seems to these days-- Joe shouldn't be subjected to the democratic process. He just deserves the seat. I get it, already. You really, really like Lieberman. I figured that out when the magazine endorsed him for president in 2004. But smarmy innuendo pieces like this aren't going to help your case. And something like a million people a day check in with Daily Kos, whereas you have about 40,000 subscribers. If the 'lefty fringe' outnumbers you by 25 to 1, are they actually the fringe? This article is pure, unadulterated smarm. And although I still subscribe, every new issue causes me to think wistfully of the day when I looked to TNR for intelligent discourse and insightful commentary. Now they just keep telling me that, as a progressive blogger, I also qualify as a lunatic.

Thank you for your continued support. You dumb son of a bitch.

Funny stuff. Some as-of-yet unidentified party decided to do a little editorializing on a letter from the office of Missouri Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, concluding the letter with the heartfelt message "i think you're an asshole." Which Emerson then signed, even adding a hand-written 'PS.'

And here I always thought that members of Congress carefully scrutinized each and every letter sent out to constituents. I'm so disillusioned.

UPDATE: OD1 rightly reminds me that although I admitted the culprit hasn't been identified, I suggested that the signature and end-note came after the rude comment had been added. Which isn't necessarily the case. A very valid point, even if it does spoil the fun I was having with the prank.

The profound dishonesty of the attacks on Rummy's critics: revealed!

Hearing the administration describe their military critics as doddering retirees who don't know the first thing about Iraq has been very, very aggravating-- if predictable. Especially in light of the fact that several of the generals were ground commanders in Iraq.

This lenghty post points out just how disingenuous the administration's (and the right-wing blogs') attacks have been.

It was the 82nd Airborne, after all, under the command of Charles Swannack, that took the lead on some of the most critical missions of the Iraq War, like establishing a training post for both Iraqi police and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps under very difficult conditions in Ramadi around September of 2003. In addition, the 82nd was involved in some of the most difficult battles of the Iraq war, like that of Fallujah, in case anyone is keeping score, as we scandalously go about accusing people of being cowards. (. . .)

Indeeed, Swannack personally escaped injury, when the convoy he was traveling in was attacked in Fallujah. Remember, all of you now, Judith Klinghoffer has described the man who led these men into battle, on the ground in Iraq under perilous circumstances, as being "gutless."

Everything you need to know about the men that the neo-fascists are working overtime to discredit, in one information-dense article.

Hardball lives up to its name. Finally.

Chris Matthews has something of a history as a 'Bush-enabler,' offering unsolicited testimony such as he's a nice guy that only wackos dislike. Apparently the trick is not to accuse him of having his facts wrong-- that's when he turns on you. As with White House Counselor Dan Bartlett on Hardball yesterday.

BARTLETT: That’s not correct, Chris. The president or no one else ever said that this war was going to result in cheaper gas prices…

MATTHEWS: Ok, so just to make it official, Dan, no one in the administration has ever said that we would have cheaper gas because of war in Iraq, just to make it official?

BARTLETT: I don’t recall anybody ever saying that, Chris.

Later in the show, Matthews felt compelled to set the record straight by pointing out that then-senior economic advisor Laurence Lindsay said just that:

As for the impact of a war with Iraq, “It depends how the war goes.” But he quickly adds that that “Under every plausible scenario, the negative effect will be quite small relative to the economic benefits that would come from a successful prosecution of the war.”

“The key issue is oil, and a regime change in Iraq would facilitate an increase in world oil,” which would drive down oil prices, giving the U.S. economy an added boost.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Rolling Stone: Worst President in History?

I was really hoping they would post the article online, and they have. Hooray!

In almost every survey of historians dating back to the 1940s, three presidents have emerged as supreme successes: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt. These were the men who guided the nation through what historians consider its greatest crises: the founding era after the ratification of the Constitution, the Civil War, and the Great Depression and Second World War. Presented with arduous, at times seemingly impossible circumstances, they rallied the nation, governed brilliantly and left the republic more secure than when they entered office.

Calamitous presidents, faced with enormous difficulties -- Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Hoover and now Bush -- have divided the nation, governed erratically and left the nation worse off. In each case, different factors contributed to the failure: disastrous domestic policies, foreign-policy blunders and military setbacks, executive misconduct, crises of credibility and public trust. Bush, however, is one of the rarities in presidential history: He has not only stumbled badly in every one of these key areas, he has also displayed a weakness common among the greatest presidential failures -- an unswerving adherence to a simplistic ideology that abjures deviation from dogma as heresy, thus preventing any pragmatic adjustment to changing realities. Repeatedly, Bush has undone himself, a failing revealed in each major area of presidential performance.

Highly recommended, although it's tough to see Fearless Leader's name even appear in print next to the names of actual leaders.

A very good question

Salon came up with this obvious, but very troubling, observation. Just think of it as the 1,543rd way the White House has found to screw the nation.

Here's another, more obvious, question to ponder: If Rove is really going to spend the next seven months concentrating on partisan politics, why, exactly, should American taxpayers be footing the bill?

Good point. Just this morning it was anounced that he was being "demoted." That's a joke, of course, but the reason was-- and they fully admitted it-- so that he could work on winning elections this year. Which, as Salon notes, means that the public is paying for Direty Trickster Number One to put Christ-fascists in power.

The un-overhaul

I wish news outlets would stop talking about "shakeups" and "makeovers" at the White House like something's actually happening. Just a day after Bush made it very clear that Rumsfeld-- an actual policy-maker-- had his full support in spite of a no-confidence vote from the public and military, Scott McClellan steps down. Whoop-dee-doo. That's as significant as being told that from now on your going to be flipped off by someone's right hand instead of the left.

And Karl Rove is going to start focusing on the mid-term elections? Give me a break-- the guy's career was built on dirty electioneering.

I'm not even going to print an excerpt from the story. That'll learn 'em.

One more thing-- recall how difficult it's been for the White House to find a new FEMA chief, and how long they've been trying to replace John Snow as Treasury Secretary. Nobody wants these jobs, ostensibly because things are so screwed up-- and the administration has no interest in seeing them fixed. They want yes-men. People who will find inventive ways to deny that anything's wrong in the first place. Nope, there's not going to be any substantive change at the White House until things are so incredibly bad that Bush, Cheney and Rummy all have their necks on the line with no other option for saving their own hides.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Another classic Lieberman moment

This is another item I kept forgetting to write about-- it's a very busy week for me.

For the second time in about a month, Joe Lieberman has hinted that in the event of a Democratic primary loss, he'll run as an Independent. His language is breathtaking:

First of all, I'm very confident about the primary. Ultimately, I want to give all the voters in the state a chance to say whether they want me to continue to serve Connecticut. I feel very strongly that I have a lot I could give this state--I've built up my seniority, my independence--over the next six years.

This strikes me as the equivalent of "Look here, Democratic establishment-- you guarantee me a victory or I'm going to ruin this for everyone." Then there's the pathetic whining about seniority. Lieberman is literally suggesting that the democratic process is for lesser people.

I'm embarrassed for the guy.

Republican Congress makes another play to expand debt limit

Maybe all is not lost at the Washington Post. This editorial seems eminently sensible.

To make their budget-busting tax policy appear less costly than it is, the lawmakers are resorting to a gimmick that is even more egregious than their usual tactics.

This one would, as usual, hide the cost of tax cuts that primarily benefit upper-income Americans. But it would accomplish that budgetary smoke and mirrors with a new tax provision, involving retirement savings accounts, that also benefits the well-to-do. And, to top things off, this new tax provision, while masking the cost of the tax cuts by bringing in more revenue in the short term, would in the long run worsen the fiscal situation by piling on more debt. (. . .)

Bottom line: A Senate rule designed to make it harder to increase the deficit would be circumvented with a maneuver that would end up increasing the deficit. And a tax cut for wealthier Americans that would cost $50 billion over 10 years would be "paid for" in part by another tax cut for the well-off, which would end up costing billions more. That's amazing -- even from this Congress.

It's pretty difficult to sum up this double whammy, so I'd recommend reading the full article.

Dick Cheney: tax cheat

Well, not really. Let's just say 'tax dodger.' Like his five Vietnam deferments make him a 'draft dodger.' You know, sleazy but not illegal.

I'm sure you recall the recent story about Barbara Bush funneling money into her son's business vis a vis a tax-deductible contribution for "hurricane relief." Apparently Big Dick is getting in on the act, too, thanks to the Katrina tax relief act--

Despite the importance of the Katrina legislation to his tax return, it looks like none of the charitable contributions actually went to Katrina-related charities (the press release lists the 3 charitable recipients, all of which were designated in the original 2001 gift agreement). While there's nothing inappropriate about that from a legal perspective, it does demonstrate how the legislation, which was sold to the public as providing relief to Katrina victims, provided significant tax benefits to the VP (and potentially other wealthy individuals) in situations that have nothing to do with Hurricane Katrina.

I'm not a religious guy, but at times like this I sure hope there's a hell for every 'compassionate conservative' who's cashed in on the human suffering of the wars and disasters we've had to face .

I am the decider. Koo-koo-ka-choo.

Bush predictably went of the offensive with Rumsfeld today, making it clear that the opinion of military leaders was as irrelevant to him as that of anyone else.

"I listen to all voices, but mine is the final decision," he said. "And Don Rumsfeld is doing a fine job. He's not only transforming the military, he's fighting a war on terror. He's helping us fight a war on terror. I have strong confidence in Don Rumsfeld.

"I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation. But I'm the decider, and I decide what is best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense."

This is sure to please Bush's hardcore supporters, but what do they have to celebrate? "Hooray, more violence in Iraq!"

For the rest of the country-- and the globe-- it means more negative feeling about the administration. And increased determination to keep the US from starting a war with Iran. Not that the administration gives a damn. Just keep your mind on getting out the vote in November. It's closer every day.

The White House's war on science marches on

We've been hearing accounts for months from the lone scientist here and there claiming that the administration is enforcing gag rules, limiting access to the media, and occasionally even rewriting their work (remember the young Bush ally and college dropout who was caught asking that creationist language be inserted into NASA reports?).

The scientists are making another push, and hopefully they can present a united front against the White House's science policy. It would be a nice combo with our generals uniting against their military policy, conservationists arguing against their energy policy, and so on.

Scientists doing climate research for the federal government say the Bush administration has made it hard for them to speak forthrightly to the public about global warming. The result, the researchers say, is a danger that Americans are not getting the full story on how the climate is changing.

Employees and contractors working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, along with a U.S. Geological Survey scientist working at an NOAA lab, said in interviews that over the past year administration officials have chastised them for speaking on policy questions; removed references to global warming from their reports, news releases and conference Web sites; investigated news leaks; and sometimes urged them to stop speaking to the media altogether. Their accounts indicate that the ideological battle over climate-change research, which first came to light at NASA, is being fought in other federal science agencies as well.

These scientists -- working nationwide in research centers in such places as Princeton, N.J., and Boulder, Colo. -- say they are required to clear all media requests with administration officials, something they did not have to do until the summer of 2004. Before then, climate researchers -- unlike staff members in the Justice or State departments, which have long-standing policies restricting access to reporters -- were relatively free to discuss their findings without strict agency oversight.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Right-wing fires back at generals

From the White House to the littlest of right-wing bloggers, the attempt to discredit military critics of Rumsfeld is well underway. Trying to do that to seven generals isn't easy, and the arguments reflect it. From what I've seen there are three approaches:

1. They're trying to sell books. What books? No one can say. Next.

2. This is a small number of retirees. Old and out of the loop. What do they know? Well, anyone watching the news can see that these are not doddering old men. They're pretty young, actually, and in several cases newly-retired. Weak.

3. It's Clinton's fault. You knew that classic had to be part of it, and the magic words are "Clinton general." But the public isn't going to just accept the argument that top military officials are partisan operatives. In fact, Bush has been spending the last three years drawing that very distinction ("I don't listen to politicians, I listen to the commanders in the field"). Besides, as Think Progress points out, while the Secretary of Defense has "the prerogative to nominate four-star generals and admirals," the only one of the seven that ranks that high is Zinni.

General Peter Pace, on the other hand, is one of those four-star types promoted by an administration-- the Bush administration. Does that make him a "Bush general"? Not in right-wing world.

Former Illinois Governor faces sentencing

I was only familiar with Republican governor George Ryan for his decision to postpone all executions pending a review of the state's application of the death penalty. Now he's been sentenced for all manner of wrongdoing, largely involving (what else?) corruption.

Former Illinois Governor George Ryan has, for the past six months, been on trial for racketeering conspiracy, mail fraud, obstructing the IRS, tax fraud and lying to FBI agents. Today, the jury in his corruption trial has reached a verdict. Ryan has been found guilty of all counts.

On trial with Ryan was lobbyist Larry Warner. Warner was also found guilty of all counts.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald took over the investigation into corruption in the Governor's office in 2002,indicting him in December of 2003 (Fitzgerald indicted some 73 Ryan administration officials before he made his way to the top). "I submit that the citizens of this state expect honest government from the secretary of state or the governor," Fitzgerald said at the time. "They deserve nothing less." (Fitzgerald was in the courtroom while the verdict was read).

For those not familiar with Illinois state politics, George Ryan was a Republican who was governor from 1999 to 2003. Before that, he was Secretary of State, from 1990 to 1998. A Republican powerhouse, his actions mirror those of Republicans on the national scene: cronyism, rewarding campaign donors, free trips to Jamaica, accepting gifts from lobbyists, and more.

NH phone jamming case heats up

With the conviction of New England GOP heavy Jim Tobin late last year, I assumed the story was over. I couldn't have been more wrong.

Tobin is now being linked to RNC chairman Ken Mehlman (then in the White House), Jack Abramoff, and Tom DeLay by communications and finances.

The latest twist us a real 'follow the money' moment, too. Although I hadn't given it any thought, jamming a phone bank requires a lot of coordination. And cash.

New Hampshire Democrats pored over the filings of the New Hampshire Republican Party and found three contributions for $5,000 each, all shortly before the election. One was from Americans for a Republican Majority, Tom DeLay's political action committee. The other two were from the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, tribes that were clients of Jack Abramoff. Those checks add up almost exactly to the cost of the phone jamming.

Malkin hits a new low

Some students at UC Santa Cruz decided to protest the presence of military recruiters on campus. The group Students Against War was, by all accounts, non-violent. They had also sent their contact information to the press, in case anyone wanted quotes for a story, naturally.

Then along came Michelle Malkin. She decided to take the press info and post individual protestors' names and phone numbers on her site. Those of you who've spent any time at all on right-wing blogs know what comes next.

You will pay for your seditious activities. It is only a matter of time...We are retired military snipers & we are watching you...

a fine young American very, very soon puts his shiny gun barrel up to your left temple and pulls the trigger. Now THAT will make America a much, much better place to live for the rest of us, you utterly disgusting piece of shit

You intolerant left wing socialist fucking cock-suckers. We're coming to get you and when we do we'll hurt you.

And that doesn't even get into the "non-stop" phone calls. When the students contacted Malking asking her to remove the information from her page--and certainly apprising her of the death threats they were getting-- she decided to post it again. Doesn't that amount to knowing encouragement of a potentially violent situation?

UPDATE (4/18): Keith Olbermann awards Michelle Malkin (also known by the less GOP-friendly surname Maglalang) the title of "World's Worst" for her antics yesterday. Nicely done. Crooks & Liars has the video. And here's some timely bonus fun with Olbermann.