He is NOT the judge from "My Cousin Vinny" -- that's Fred Gwynne.
He earned his law degree from Vanderbilt University. His character on Law and Order, Arthur Branch, went to Yale.
His father, Fletcher Thompson, was a used car dealer.
He has a brother named Kenny.
He's originally from Alabama.
He was elected Senator from Tennessee in 1994 to complete the two years remaining of Al Gore's Senate term. He was easily re-elected in 1996 and served through 2003, making part of his Senate term simultaneous with his stint on Law and Order.
He played himself in the 1985 movie Marie, which led to his playing a CIA director in the 1987 movie No Way Out.
While in the Senate, he voted for McCain Feingold, though he may not favor it anymore.
He voted "guilty" on article 2 of the Clinton impeachment (obstruction of justice) but against convicting the president.
In 2000, Thompson endorsed John McCain for president.
He was a lobbyist before and after being a Senator. He has worked for clients including GE and the savings and loan industry, for whom he successfully lobbied for deregulation in the early 1980s (making him the savior of George W. Bush's brother Neil, who bankrupted Silverado Savings and Loan in Colorado).
During the 1970s, he was co-chief counsel to the Senate's Watergate committee, and in that capacity placed the famous question, "what did the president know, and when did the president know it?" into the mouth of his close friend and associate, Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker of Tennessee (he had been Baker's campaign manager).
His voice can be heard on the Watergate tapes asking Deputy Assistant to President Nixon Alexander Butterfield " "Mr. Butterfield, are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the President?"
He has appeared in some pretty good movies, including "The Hunt for Red October", "Die Hard 2: Die Harder", "Cape Fear", "Barbarians at the Gate" and currently, "Bury my heart at Wounded Knee."
In March, 2003, he appeared in a Citizens United ad supporting the war in Iraq, in which he was quoted as saying: "When people ask what has Saddam done to us, I ask, what had the 9/11 hijackers done to us -- before 9/11."
He is divorced and remarried, and has a four-year-old child with his current wife, along with several grown children and grandchildren. His new wife is considerably younger than he's (she's 40, he's 64).
He helped guide John Roberts' nomination through Congress at the request of GWB.
His voice was used during the video presentations at the 2004 Republican convention.
He served on the legal defense advisory board for Scooter Libby.
He has non Hodgkins Lymphoma (cancer) that's in remission.
He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, was a member of the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission and a Visiting Fellow with the American Enterprise Institute, researching national security and intelligence. He is signed to the Washington Speakers Bureau and is a special program host and senior analyst for ABC News Radio, where he fills in for Paul Harvey. He blogs and podcasts daily on the ABC Radio Network website.
Thompson's announcement should be on or around July 4th, timed for maximum impact.
In a kind of re-run of Sen. John McCain's visit to Baghdad last month, Sen. Joe Lieberman, another well-known hawk on the war, made a surprise visit to Iraq today, complete with market stroll dressed in helmet and flak jacket and surrounded by troops.
When it was over, like McCain, he declared the escalation off to a promising start.
But Leila Fadel, a longtime McClatchy reporter there, found many soldiers with a somewhat more pessimistic view. Here is the opening of her report today.
Spc. David Williams, 22, of Boston, Mass., had two note cards in his pocket Wednesday afternoon as he waited for Sen. Joseph Lieberman. Williams serves in the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C., the first of the five "surge" brigades to arrive in Iraq, and he was chosen to join the Independent from Connecticut for lunch at a U.S. field base in Baghdad.
The night before, 30 other soldiers crowded around him with questions for the senator.
He wrote them all down. At the top of his note card was the question he got from nearly every one of his fellow soldiers:
"When are we going to get out of here?"
All in all, though, Joe really dug the nifty sunglasses he bought from a not-yet blown up Iraqi vendor...
I'm just floored by this statement in the Jeb Bush/Ken Mehlman op-ed: "The bill provides real border security for the first time, protecting us against the entry of terrorists and stemming the flow of illegal drugs." For the first time? It's been how long since 9/11? How long since Bush's first inauguration? How long did he have working majorities in both houses? ...
While I'm at it, how about: "Hispanics are also the fastest growing segment of our population. Salsa outsells ketchup and tacos outsell hot dogs. One out of eight people under 35 in Nebraska is Hispanic." I thought Jeb was supposed to be the smart Bush.
Jebbie and Ken make a number of arguments for the bill -- it will be good for the economy, will attract high skilled immigrants to the U.S. to make us more competitive (they don't explain why it wouldn't be better to train up more American engineers and scientists, but there you go...) and it would make us more secure by identifying the currently shadowy illegal migrants in our midst (their incentive to come forward and fork over $5 grand again, not explained...) But then they get to the real point:
Both of us have spent much of our professional lives working to help build the Republican Party. We believe this legislation will be good for the GOP. Hispanic Americans are natural Republicans. Many tend to be pro-life, pro-military and pro-small business. Last year, Republican pollster David Winston conducted a national poll in which he asked registered voters to rate themselves along a 1 to 9 scale from very liberal to very conservative. He found that, overall, the country was center right and Hispanic Americans viewed themselves as slightly to the right of the country as a whole.
Hispanics are also the fastest growing segment of our population. Salsa outsells ketchup and tacos outsell hot dogs. One out of eight people under 35 in Nebraska is Hispanic.
Republicans have shown we can win Hispanic voters when we reach out. We've also seen what happens when Republicans adopt a different approach. California used to be Reagan Country, a reliably red state that, along with Texas and Florida, provided the GOP with a huge Electoral College advantage. In 1994, California Republicans embraced Proposition 187, which denied illegal immigrants public services. The proposition passed and the GOP won the governor's mansion in the short term, but alienated the fastest growing constituency in the state. California has leaned Democratic ever since. No Republican presidential nominee has won the state since 1988. Republican Senate candidates have repeatedly gone down to defeat. And our only successful candidate for governor has been the uniquely popular Arnold Schwarzenegger
Not that the Democrats don't want those potential voters, too...
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal's Daniel Henninger says, let illegal migrants stay, if not for the president, ...for the markets:
No wonder it's hard to pass a bill. It's hard because Congress is trying to elevate one American value, respect for the law, by demoting an American value that up to now has been an unambiguous, uncontested ideal--respect for work, for labor. The tension here is especially difficult for conservatives. Conservatives and liberals will fight unto eternity over whose notions of the law, society and justice are right. But the one idea owned by conservatives is the market.
For many Democrats in politics, the market--the daily machinery of the private economy--is a semi-abstraction. It's a barely understood thing that mainly sends revenue to the government, without which the nation is incapable of achieving social good. Liberals happily concede the idea of salutary "market forces" to their opposition. For them, markets are for taming.
Why, then, would Republican politicians and conservative writers want to run the risk of undermining, perhaps for a long time, their core belief in the broad benefits of free-market economic forces in return for a law that hammers these illegal Mexicans?
the key word, dear, being "illegal." Funny how a certain brand of rightie believes in the power of markets, even when they run on illegal, cheap labor.
Meanwhile, here's a novel argument! President Bush says conservative opponents of his illegal immigration amnesty -- I mean not amnesty -- ideas just don't want what's best for America. And they're fearmongers! I wonder if he ran that one by Dick "Bomb the Iranians and ask questions later!" Cheney...
President Bush has appeared delusional before, with stories that he told Britain's Tony Blair in 2003 that God told him to invade Iraq and thus, solve the Palestinian-Israeli crisis. But now, Bush apparently has gone completely around the bend. In short, he means to keep the U.S. in Iraq, not for one more year, or five, or even ten, but more like 50 ... or forever. A disturbing portrait from the Dallas Morning News:
Friends of his from Texas were shocked recently to find him nearly wild-eyed, thumping himself on the chest three times while he repeated "I am the president!" He also made it clear he was setting Iraq up so his successor could not get out of "our country's destiny."
(Read the entire piece here, it's got great insights into how our intervention has shattered the traditional societal structures of the Middle East, resulting in metastasizing terrorism...)
And Bush himself has made it plain that no matter what reality presents itself, he never intends to allow our troops to leave Iraq. In fact, Bushie says we should stop thinking of Iraq as a quagmire, like Vietnam, and start thinking of it like an armed stalemate, like Korea:
Presidential spokesman Tony Snow said Bush has cited the long-term Korea analogy in looking at the U.S. role in Iraq, where American forces are in the fifth year of an unpopular war. Bush's goal is for Iraqi forces to take over the chief security responsibilities, relieving U.S. forces of frontline combat duty, Snow said.
"I think the point he's trying to make is that the situation in Iraq, and indeed, the larger war on terror, are things that are going to take a long time," Snow said. "But it is not always going to require an up-front combat presence."
Instead, he said, U.S. troops would provide "the so-called over-the-horizon support that is necessary from time to time to come to the assistance of the Iraqis. But you do not want the United States forever in the front."
In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq, overthrew its regime (which posed a hypothetical threat), and, in the four years since, has kept about 150,000 troops in the country to kill terrorists (who weren't in Iraq before the war), to train the Iraqi army (which the Bush administration, for still-mysterious reasons, dismantled at the occupation's outset), and to keep a "low-grade" sectarian civil war (which erupted amid a vacuum of authority) from boiling over.
In the half-century-plus since the Korean armistice of 1953, just 90 U.S. soldiers have been killed in isolated border clashes in Korea. In the mere four years since the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003, more than 3,000 American servicemen and women have been killed, and the number rises every day.
To sum up, we intervened in South Korea as a response to an invasion and as part of a broad strategy to contain Communist aggression. We intervened in Iraq as the instigator of an invasion and as part of a broad strategy to expand unilateral American power. We remained in South Korea to protect a solid (if, for many years, authoritarian) government from another border incursion. We are remaining in Iraq to bolster a flimsy government and stave off a violent social implosion.
In other words, in no meaningful way are these two wars, or these two countries, remotely similar. In no way does one experience, or set of lessons, shed light on the other. In Iraq, no border divides friend from foe; no clear concept defines who is friend and foe. To say that Iraq might follow "a Korean model"—if the word model means anything—is absurd.
Related: Tony Snow tries to clean it up, and fails.
Washington, DC – At a Memorial Day event in an American Legion hall in Alton, N.H., yesterday, Mitt Romney lashed out at an Iraq War veteran who “complained that he hasn't been able to get adequate medical care since returning from Iraq in January 2005.” [AP, 5/29/07] When asked by the man’s wife and friend about his problem getting treatment for a broken foot, Romney “questioned the man's status, wondering why the military wouldn't help him if he is active duty.” According to news accounts, when the man’s friend began to explain by saying, "He's in the window," Romney “cut him off” and snapped "Don't give me, ‘he's in the window’…He's either active duty or not." [AP, 5/29/07] Romney’s only response: the man should call his senator. [Concord Monitor, 5/29/07]
The “window” Romney’s questioner was referring to is the gap resulting from the persistent failure to form a seamless transition between Department of Defense and Veterans Administration health care programs. Too many injured active duty personnel lose their health coverage for a time when they are transferred from military health care to the VA system. While Democrats have been working to close that gap, Romney’s insensitive response shows both a lack of understanding of the issue and a lack of sensitivity to the hardships it causes.
“Mitt Romney’s heartless tirade shows how little he understands the challenges facing our veterans and military families,” said Democratic National Committee spokesman Damien LaVera. “Republicans in Washington have consistently shortchanged those who have served this country. They have failed to fully fund veteran’s health care programs or plan for the needs of our wounded troops, shortcomings Democrats in Congress are working to correct. Unfortunately, Mitt Romney apparently doesn’t understand that supporting our troops and veterans means more than offering empty platitudes about their service while clinging to President Bush’s failed leadership and failed strategy in Iraq.”
Read the Concord Monitor story here. And more on Romney's New Hampshire visit here.
Adam Gadahn, the first American in generations to be charged with treason, is back on the TV. I don't know, but somehow I just don't believe this guy. He strikes me as a put up job. But then again, maybe I'm just getting way too cynical for my own good...
The media operates off of broad narratives, which are usually only belatedly shaken, and then, only by major explosions of fact. For example, even as his poll numbers continued to decline throughout 2004, President Bush was still routinely tagged as "a very popular president," with that line almost obligatory in any story about him. Other narratives that became common, even when common sense dictated otherwise included:
"John McCain is a maverick!" -- even as he became more slavishly devoted to the president and more cagey with the media ...
"The Bush administration is the most disciplined in recent history!" -- even as leaks continued to pour out of the White House and disarray was clearly evident in their policies, especially Iraq ...
"The Clinton administration was corrupt!" -- that used to be the narrative back in the 1990s, when fulminations over the Whitewater scandalette, in which no White House officials were indicted was whipped up into a serial story, while the more recent CIA leak scandal, in which the top aide to the vice president of the United States was both indicted and convicted, received only scant coverage. To add to the outrage, to this day, one major "liberal media" outlet -- CBS News -- has still declined to cover the firings of eight U.S. attorneys in unprecedented fashion by the Justice Department, and only MSNBC has bothered to delve into the larger implications regarding minority communities' right to vote.
"The Clintons are involved in a marriage of political convenience!" -- even though they have chosen to remain together, and are each other's only spouse, and despite the fact that their closest friends and associates insist that they truly are in love.
The Bush narrative was totally exploded with Hurricane Katrina, and since then, a new narrative has emerged: The Bush administration is in disarray, leaning toward incompetent. The media, therefore, has finally given itself permission to critique them. After 9/11, that permission was voluntarily withdrawn, and the "Bush is popular" narrative took over.
Let's try another, which still hasn't broken its stranglehold on the mainstream media elite:
"Rudy Giuliani is the hero of 9/11!" -- this one is the most irksome to me, because I lived in New York City under Giuliani's administration, and know him to have been less a heroic than a tyrannical and hated figure, loathed by most New Yorkers on September 10, 2001, yet given credit on that terrible day for being the only public official talking -- George W. Bush having scurried out of that Florida classroom to go into hiding. Beside the fact that any other mayor would have, and should have, done the same thing, and the fact that the mayors of Washington D.C. and Shanksville, PA did, Giuliani was tagged, not only "America's mayor," but someone considered instantly qualified to be president of the United States -- with "credibility on the war on terror" to boot -- despite never having served in the military, led a single aspect of the actual war on terror, and despite having not an ounce of foreign policy experience. What's the disconnect, here? Add to that that the likes of Chris Matthews on MSNBC has continued to obsess over the Clinton marriage, but will not discuss the relationship "issues" inherent in the multiple Giuliani marriages, even dismissing Gloria Borger this weekend on his "Chris Matthews show" on NBC with a "nobody's perfect" side swipe when she tried to counter his Clinton marriage obsession by asking who on the Republican side would serve as the family values candidate, thrice married Rudy...???
But I digress.
Back to the MSM's narrative building. Witness a recent story about Giuliani -- who is loathed by NYC firefighters for his calousness after 9/11 in not allowing sufficient time for the bodies of their brothers to be retrieved from the wreckage of the Twin Towers -- being heckled by families of those same firefighters. The story appeared in an obscure New York newspaper, and notedly, not in Giuliani's home paper, the New York Times, which on the same day chose to run the feel-good Rudy headline: To Temper Image, Giuliani Trades Growl for Smile. How nice. Here's the story from the Long Island Press:
Rudy Giuliani’s campaign fundraising was marred by critical questions on Tuesday, as reporters and protesters demanded answers about his role in the Sept. 11, 2001 proceedings.
During Giuliani’s visit to City Island in the Bronx Tuesday morning, one stop in his visit to four of the five New York City boroughs, he was accused by a radical group of being one of the “criminals of 9/11.”
After conversing with a reporter outside the Sea Shore restaurant, Giuliani was approached by a woman claiming to be a relative of a firefighter who perished when the World Trade Center towers fell in the Sept. 11 attacks. The woman wanted to know why Giuliani did not try to stop police and firefighters from attempting rescue. She added that he allegedly told Peter Jennings the towers would not collapse but knew they would, thus sending rescue workers to their deaths. A young man from the same group voiced similar accusations, cutting Giuliani off when he tried to correct the woman. ...
Okay, let's break that down. Later in the story, they point out who the "radical group" was: the Skyscraper Safety Campaign. Here's what the group says on its website:
The Skyscraper Safety Campaign, (SSC), is a project of parents and relatives who lost loved ones in the September 11th attack at the World Trade Center. While condemning the terrorists' attack, the campaign is dedicated to finding out why and how the WTC collapsed, to ensuring that quality, safety and security are priorities in rebuilding lower Manhattan and to reforming New York City building codes. SSC represents several hundred family members of firefighters and other victims who since October 2001 have pressed for an independent federal investigation to examine the interrelated events that lead to the WTC disaster, identify failures that were preventable, and make specific recommendations for improved building codes, regulations and procedures.
On September 11, Christian Regenhard, a 28-year old firefighter, was killed in the rescue effort at the WTC. His mother, Sally Regenhard, began asking questions convinced that tower construction and fire safety had been inadequate. Unable to get answers from the agencies involved, she began uniting widows and parents to form the Skyscraper Safety Campaign and reached out to fire engineering experts. At a press conference at City Hall, she presented a petition signed by relatives of WTC victims and firefighters calling for "an independent federal panel to study the building construction, the integrity of the materials used and all the conditions that combined to cause the tragedy." SSC also organized delegations to congressional hearings in Washington, D.C. In June 2002, a federal investigation was launched to examine weaknesses in the WTC, evaluate fire-prevention systems and fire department response.
Joining Sally in the SSC is Co-chair Monica Gabrielle, who lost her husband Richard, an employee of AON Corp., WTC2/103floor. He was last seen alive, waiting to be rescued, on the 78th Floor of Tower 2. Both Christian and Richard have not been recovered.
So the group isn't all that radical, and they're not "claiming" to be related to New York City firefighters, they ARE related to New York City firefighters. But of course, if they are questioning the heroism and purity of America's mayor, they must be either radical, liars, or insane. Oh, and check out their PhD filled board of directors. Muy radical...
WNBC were kind enough to call the "radicals" "activists" instead. Thanks, guys.
BAGHDAD - Eight American soldiers were killed in roadside bombings and a helicopter crash in a restive province north of Baghdad, the military reported Tuesday, making May the deadliest month of the year for U.S. troops in Iraq.
In other violence, three German computer consultants were kidnapped Tuesday from an Iraqi Finance Ministry office in Baghdad, an Iraqi government official said, and two car bombings killed 40 people in the capital, police said.
The Americans — all from Task Force Lightning — were killed Monday in Diyala as the U.S. commemorated Memorial Day, bringing the number of U.S. forces killed this month to at least 110.
"When you take a look at the life of a nation and all that's required to keep us free, we had more than 3,000 Americans murdered on 11 September, 2001. The number who have died, sacrificed themselves since that time is approaching that number," General Pace told CBS Early Show's Harry Smith. "And we should pay great respect and thanks to them for allowing us to live free."
Huh? Approaching??? How many ways can this guy be off base? Let RawStory count them:
First, the website Iraq Coalition Casualty Count puts the number of US service-members killed since the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003 at 3,455. The Pentagon only lists it as 3,441, with 14 deaths not yet being confirmed by the Pentagon. With either number, the total number of fatalities long passed the count of victims who died on 9/11.
Second, the General overestimated the number of deaths on 9/11. The website September 11, 2001 Victims states that 2,996 died in the attacks, rather than "more than 3,000 murdered" that Pace cites.
Finally, many of the victims who died on 9/11 were not American citizens. The aforementioned website lists 209 of the victims as foreign nationals.
Is this guy on mind-altering drugs? I liked Pace better when he was telling Americans the truth about the Bushies' bogus stories of Iranian arms smuggling to Iran.
I have endured a lot of smear and hatred since Casey was killed and especially since I became the so-called "Face" of the American anti-war movement. Especially since I renounced any tie I have remaining with the Democratic Party, I have been further trashed on such "liberal blogs" as the Democratic Underground. Being called an "attention whore" and being told "good riddance" are some of the more milder rebukes.
I have come to some heartbreaking conclusions this Memorial Day Morning. These are not spur of the moment reflections, but things I have been meditating on for about a year now. The conclusions that I have slowly and very reluctantly come to are very heartbreaking to me.
The first conclusion is that I was the darling of the so-called left as long as I limited my protests to George Bush and the Republican Party. Of course, I was slandered and libeled by the right as a "tool" of the Democratic Party. This label was to marginalize me and my message. How could a woman have an original thought, or be working outside of our "two-party" system?
However, when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the "left" started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used. I guess no one paid attention to me when I said that the issue of peace and people dying for no reason is not a matter of "right or left", but "right and wrong."
I am deemed a radical because I believe that partisan politics should be left to the wayside when hundreds of thousands of people are dying for a war based on lies that is supported by Democrats and Republican alike. It amazes me that people who are sharp on the issues and can zero in like a laser beam on lies, misrepresentations, and political expediency when it comes to one party refuse to recognize it in their own party. Blind party loyalty is dangerous whatever side it occurs on. People of the world look on us Americans as jokes because we allow our political leaders so much murderous latitude and if we don’t find alternatives to this corrupt "two" party system our Representative Republic will die and be replaced with what we are rapidly descending into with nary a check or balance: a fascist corporate wasteland. I am demonized because I don’t see party affiliation or nationality when I look at a person, I see that person’s heart. If someone looks, dresses, acts, talks and votes like a Republican, then why do they deserve support just because he/she calls him/herself a Democrat?
I have also reached the conclusion that if I am doing what I am doing because I am an "attention whore" then I really need to be committed. I have invested everything I have into trying to bring peace with justice to a country that wants neither. If an individual wants both, then normally he/she is not willing to do more than walk in a protest march or sit behind his/her computer criticizing others. I have spent every available cent I got from the money a "grateful" country gave me when they killed my son and every penny that I have received in speaking or book fees since then. I have sacrificed a 29 year marriage and have traveled for extended periods of time away from Casey’s brother and sisters and my health has suffered and my hospital bills from last summer (when I almost died) are in collection because I have used all my energy trying to stop this country from slaughtering innocent human beings. I have been called every despicable name that small minds can think of and have had my life threatened many times.
The most devastating conclusion that I reached this morning, however, was that Casey did indeed die for nothing. His precious lifeblood drained out in a country far away from his family who loves him, killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think. I have tried every since he died to make his sacrifice meaningful. Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives. It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years and Casey paid the price for that allegiance. I failed my boy and that hurts the most.
I have also tried to work within a peace movement that often puts personal egos above peace and human life. This group won’t work with that group; he won’t attend an event if she is going to be there; and why does Cindy Sheehan get all the attention anyway? It is hard to work for peace when the very movement that is named after it has so many divisions.
Our brave young men and women in Iraq have been abandoned there indefinitely by their cowardly leaders who move them around like pawns on a chessboard of destruction and the people of Iraq have been doomed to death and fates worse than death by people worried more about elections than people. However, in five, ten, or fifteen years, our troops will come limping home in another abject defeat and ten or twenty years from then, our children’s children will be seeing their loved ones die for no reason, because their grandparents also bought into this corrupt system. George Bush will never be impeached because if the Democrats dig too deeply, they may unearth a few skeletons in their own graves and the system will perpetuate itself in perpetuity.
I am going to take whatever I have left and go home. I am going to go home and be a mother to my surviving children and try to regain some of what I have lost. I will try to maintain and nurture some very positive relationships that I have found in the journey that I was forced into when Casey died and try to repair some of the ones that have fallen apart since I began this single-minded crusade to try and change a paradigm that is now, I am afraid, carved in immovable, unbendable and rigidly mendacious marble.
Camp Casey has served its purpose. It’s for sale. Anyone want to buy five beautiful acres in Crawford , Texas ? I will consider any reasonable offer. I hear George Bush will be moving out soon, too...which makes the property even more valuable. ...
(Read Cindy Sheehan's DailyKos diary here.) Sheehan concludes by saying "good-bye" to America, saying she is through trying to make it the country that she loves. It's a sad letter, and an angry one, and it speaks to the frustrations that many in the country have at finally realizing that they can't compell George W. Bush to end his war in Iraq. (Don't feel too badly, Cindy, the Democrats in Washington have come to that realization, too.) They can only wait for it to come to its own, tragic conclusion, either when we run out of resources, or the Republicans on Capitol Hill finally decide to no longer act as human shields for a failed president.
On April 4th, 2004, al'Sadr's Mahdi forces blocked roadways and bridges with burning tires, vehicles and trash. Visibility was less than 300 meters anywhere in the city. They began to attack American vehicles on patrol throughout Sadr City - some were protecting Shia worshipers (Holy Arbayeen) while others were escorting city government vehicles.
A battle raged across Sadr City. Insurgents assaulted American troops while looters and mobs formed and stormed through the streets. Word spread quickly across the American FOBs that there was trouble.
Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment were ambushed with RPGs and pinned down and dying. While fighting off an attack himself, the Commander of the 2/5th, LTC Volesky, called for help. A Quick Reaction Force (QRF) was formed of volunteers - their mission was to go out and rescue the American troops.
Casey Sheehan's Sergeant asked for volunteers. Sheehan had just returned from Mass. After Sheehan volunteered once, the Sergeant asked Sheehan again if he wanted to go on the mission. According to many reports (and according to his own mother), Casey responded, "Where my Chief goes, I go."
The QRF was launched. Not long after entering the Mahdi area, the QRF was channeled onto a dead-end street where the roofs were lined with snipers, RPGs, and even some militia throwing burning tires onto the vehicles. The Mahdi blocked the exit and let loose with everything they had.
Sheehan's vehicle was hit with multiple RPGs and automatic-weapons fire.
Specialist Casey Sheehan and Corporal Forest J. Jostes were killed. ...
Meanwhile, Global Research Canada reprints what is either a much harsher missive from Ms. Sheehan to the Democratic Party, or one hell of a biting satire:
Dear Democratic Congress,
Hello, my name is Cindy Sheehan and my son Casey Sheehan was killed on April 04, 2004 in Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq. He was killed when the Republicans still were in control of Congress. Naively, I set off on my tireless campaign calling on Congress to rescind George's authority towage his war of terror while asking him "for what noble cause" did Casey and thousands of other have to die. Now, with Democrats in control of Congress, I have lost my optimistic naiveté and have become cynically pessimistic as I see you all caving into as one Daily Kos poster called: "Mr. 28%"
There is absolutely no sane or defensible reason for you to hand Bloody King George more money to condemn more of our brave, tired, and damaged soldiers and the people of Iraq to more death and carnage. You think giving him more money is politically expedient, but it is a moral abomination and every second the occupation of Iraq endures, you all have more blood on your hands. ...
Desperate Iraqi Refugees Turn to Sex Trade in Syria
By KATHERINE ZOEPF
MARABA, Syria — Back home in Iraq, Umm Hiba’s daughter was a devout schoolgirl, modest in her dress and serious about her studies. Hiba, who is now 16, wore the hijab, or Islamic head scarf, and rose early each day to say the dawn prayer before classes.
But that was before militias began threatening their Baghdad neighborhood and Umm Hiba and her daughter fled to Syria last spring. There were no jobs, and Umm Hiba’s elderly father developed complications related to his diabetes.
Desperate, Umm Hiba followed the advice of an Iraqi acquaintance and took her daughter to work at a nightclub along a highway known for prostitution. “We Iraqis used to be a proud people,” she said over the frantic blare of the club’s speakers. She pointed out her daughter, dancing among about two dozen other girls on the stage, wearing a pink silk dress with spaghetti straps, her frail shoulders bathed in colored light.
As Umm Hiba watched, a middle-aged man climbed onto the platform and began to dance jerkily, arms flailing, among the girls.
“During the war we lost everything,” she said. “We even lost our honor.” She insisted on being identified by only part of her name — Umm Hiba means mother of Hiba.
For anyone living in Damascus these days, the fact that some Iraqi refugees are selling sex or working in sex clubs is difficult to ignore.
Even in central Damascus, men freely talk of being approached by pimps trawling for customers outside juice shops and shawarma sandwich stalls, and of women walking up to passing men, an act unthinkable in Arab culture, and asking in Iraqi-accented Arabic if the men would like to “have a cup of tea.”
By day the road that leads from Damascus to the historic convent at Saidnaya is often choked with Christian and Muslim pilgrims hoping for one of the miracles attributed to a portrait of the Virgin Mary at the convent. But as any Damascene taxi driver can tell you, the Maraba section of this fabled pilgrim road is fast becoming better known for its brisk trade in Iraqi prostitutes.
Many of these women and girls, including some barely in their teens, are recent refugees. Some are tricked or forced into prostitution, but most say they have no other means of supporting their families. As a group they represent one of the most visible symptoms of an Iraqi refugee crisis that has exploded in Syria in recent months.
According to the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, about 1.2 million Iraqi refugees now live in Syria; the Syrian government puts the figure even higher.
Given the deteriorating economic situation of those refugees, a United Nations report found last year, many girls and women in “severe need” turn to prostitution, in secret or even with the knowledge or involvement of family members. In many cases, the report added, “the head of the family brings clients to the house.”
Aid workers say thousands of Iraqi women work as prostitutes in Syria, and point out that as violence in Iraq has increased, the refugee population has come to include more female-headed households and unaccompanied women.
“So many of the Iraqi women arriving now are living on their own with their children because the men in their families were killed or kidnapped,” said Sister Marie-Claude Naddaf, a Syrian nun at the Good Shepherd convent in Damascus, which helps Iraqi refugees.
She said the convent had surveyed Iraqi refugees living in Masaken Barzeh, on the outskirts of Damascus, and found 119 female-headed households in one small neighborhood. Some of the women, seeking work outside the home for the first time and living in a country with high unemployment, find that their only marketable asset is their bodies.
“I met three sisters-in-law recently who were living together and all prostituting themselves,” Sister Marie-Claude said. “They would go out on alternate nights — each woman took her turn — and then divide the money to feed all the children.”
For more than three years after the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iraqi prostitution in Syria, like any prostitution, was a forbidden topic for Syria’s government. Like drug abuse, the sex trade tends to be referred to in the local news media as acts against public decency. But Dietrun Günther, an official at the United Nations refugee agency’s Damascus office, said the government was finally breaking its silence.
“We’re especially concerned that there are young girls involved, and that they’re being forced, even smuggled into Syria in some cases,” Ms. Günther said. “We’ve had special talks with the Syrian government about prostitution.” She called the officials’ new openness “a great step.”
Mouna Asaad, a Syrian women’s rights lawyer, said the government had been blindsided by the scale of the arriving Iraqi refugee population. Syria does not require visas for citizens of Arab countries, and its government had pledged to assist needy Iraqis. But this country of 19 million was ill equipped to cope with the sudden arrival of hundreds of thousands of them, Ms. Asaad said.
“Sometimes you see whole families living this way, the girls pimped by the mother or aunt,” she said. “But prostitution isn’t the only problem. Our schools are overcrowded, and the prices of services, food and transportation have all risen. We don’t have the proper infrastructure to deal with this. We don’t have shelters or health centers that these women can go to. And because of the situation in Iraq, Syria is careful not to deport these women.” ...
Oh, and one more thing about the Iraqi prostitution story:
Inexpensive Iraqi prostitutes have helped to make Syria a popular destination for sex tourists from wealthier countries in the Middle East. In the club’s parking lot, nearly half of the cars had Saudi license plates.
From Damascus it is only about six hours by car, passing through Jordan, to the Saudi border. Syria, where it is relatively easy to buy alcohol and dance with women, is popular as a low-cost weekend destination for groups of Saudi men.
Is it fitting to critize the war in Iraq, or President Bush, on Memorial Day? Or is this a time to, in a non-partisan way, simply honor the fallen and respect the mission they have been sent on by our political leaders?
Columnist Paul A. Morin says today should be a day to honor the fallen without critiquing their mission or their commander in chief:
The families of those killed in war should not be led to believe that their loved ones died for a less-than-worthy cause. They died because they took an oath to defend this nation and its Constitution.
The sacrifice is the same whether it’s for a “popular war” or an unpopular one. Memorial Day should be an occasion to bring Americans together to honor these heroes.
Morin's point was to criticize presidential candidate John Edwards, who has advocated using this day to speak out against the war.
Well, Mr. Morin, allow me to say that that's patently ridiculous. What you're essentially saying is that the families of U.S. troops should be coddled, spun and lied to, because somehow that will make them feel better. Well, tell it to the family of Pat Tillman. The families of U.S. military personnel know more about war and about sacrifice than anyone else in this country, and they know it uniquely, because they alone are bearing the sacrifices of war. They deserve to be treated as adults, and when facts come to light which shed doubt upon the circumstances surrounding their loved ones' deaths, they deserve to know them.
Of course, there are military families who choose to support the president and the war wholeheartedly, because in fact that does give them comfort. That, too, is their right. But there are also families who question the deaths of their loved ones, and they deserve respect, too. Instead, the armchair warriors of the right choose to ridicule them, and even the troops themselves, when they espress dissent or doubt, as "whiners" and "publicity hounds." (See the way they've treated Cindy Sheehan.)
It would also be nice if our armchair warrior friends would speak out as vociferously against the red tape and neglect faced by our young troops when they come home as they do against anti-war protesters. But then again, what do they care. The troops are only useful to them as battering rams. Back home, they're just more welfare charity cases and liabilities.
Today is a day to remember the fallen from all of America's wars. It's also a day to reflect, and I mean really reflect, on why American sends its young, and its best, to war. For good, or for ill.
There's always something interesting going on at Wayne Madsen's blogspot. In a May 23rd posting, Madsen details ABC News' decision to spike the D.C. madam story aired on the 4th of the month, by stripping it of the names of high profile johns, including some within the Bush administration. Madsen charges that ABC not only scuttled the report by Brian Ross, former TPM Muckraker Justin Rood and others, but that they also put out "false flag" stories to deflect the story, under heavy pressure from the Bushies. Madsen also connects the following dots:
The Washington Madam case also involves criminal conspiracy and malfeasance within the Justice Department, Internal Revenue Service, and Postal Inspection Service. Palfrey's case file was not opened until June 2004 after she had been in business for over a decade without any pressure from the government. After Baltimore Police Commissioner and later Maryland State Police Superintendent Ed Norris was charged in May 2004 with three criminal counts by US Attorney Thomas DiBiagio, the IRS opened a file on Palfrey the following month. It is clear that with Norris, a 20 year veteran of the New York Police Department, facing up to 30 years in prison, he entered into a plea bargain with DiBiagio. In return for his cooperation, which included Norris naming Pamela Martin as one of the recipients of Baltimore Police supplemental accounts money, he got six months in prison and six months home detention. Norris now hosts a radio show in Baltimore.
DiBiagio's assistant US Attorney Jonathan Luna, who once worked at the Brooklyn District Attorneys' office when a probe was being conducted of both Norris and his friend, former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, was on to Norris' corruption in Baltimore. Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley appointed Norris as police commissioner but soon became disenchanted with his performance. After his re-election as Governor in 2002, Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich appointed Norris as Maryland State Police Superintendent. Luna was brutally murdered near the Pennsylvania Turnpike in December 2003.
Norris' cooperation with DiBiagio resulted in Palfrey's criminal case being opened in Baltimore subsequent to Norris' plea bargain. However, Palfrey, who merely ran an escort agency, was never a target of DiBiagio we have been informed. During his probe of Norris and Palfrey, DiBiagio had uncovered much wider criminal conduct by Maryland Republican Governor Ehrlich, convicted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and gambling interests hoping to open casinos in Maryland. In fact, the DiBiagio probe collected evidence that Ehrlich and Abramoff were Pamela Martin clients. DiBiagio's probe was gaining steam until December 2004. That is when DiBiagio became the first U.S. Attorney fired by the Justice Department in the wake of George W. Bush's re-election. However, with the corporate media in the pocket of the Bush administration, DiBiagio's name is not counted among the fired U.S. Attorneys, yet, his firing was the most egregious of the firings. DiBiagio was actively pursuing a Republican Governor, a GOP lobbyist linked to several Republican members of Congress, most notably convicted Ohio congressman Bob Ney; Representatives, Tom DeLay, Tom Feeney, and John Doolittle; as well as top staffers to Senators Conrad Burns, Kit Bond, and Representatives Roy Blunt and Don Young. The trail also leads to Shirlington Limousine, CIA Director Porter Goss -- Dick Cheney's handpicked man to purge the agency -- , CIA Executive Director Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, and convicted Representative Duke Cunningham.
After DiBiagio's ouster, the Palfrey investigation was out on ice. However, that all began to change when Palfrey put her Vallejo, California house up for sale in August 2006. She planned to move to Germany. In early September, there was some interest in the house, however, the phone number left with World Star Realty turned out to be bogus. It was clear that while Palfrey was on a trip to Germany, unknown persons were interested in seeing her home, not with the intention of buying it but with other motivations. However, Palfrey did not leave a key with her real estate agent while she was out of the country. On September 27, after Palfrey wired $70,000 to Germany in order to purchase an apartment, the government reacted rapidly.
On September 29, Washington DC Postal Inspection Service agents Maria Cuvio and Joe Clark showed up at World Star Realty and claimed they were married and were being transferred from Washington to San Francisco and wanted to buy Palfrey's house quickly. It was clear they were conducting a ruse while a search warrant was being obtained from a willing Federal judge. Oddly, when the warrant was obtained and a Civil Asset Forfeiture order was obtained, IRS agent Burrus was not interested in Palfrey's phone records located in her house.
Considering the fact that a top Washington DC law firm that represents Saudi Arabia was a subject of the phone lists, it is odd that the Federal government would not have wanted to cull the records for information relating to prominent and not-so-prominent Arab clients and the 9/11 attacks. The significance of Jack Abramoff's role in DiBiagio's investigation should not be understated with regard to Arab clients of Pamela Martin. The FBI received evidence that two or three of the 9/11 hijackers, including Mohammed Atta, were spotted on Abramoff's Sun Cruz casino boat with American women in Madeira Beach, Florida shortly before the 9/11 attacks. Also, several of the hijackers were known to frequent erotic dancing bars in New Jersey and Florida while planning for the 9/11 attacks. There is also a possibility that, through Abramoff, some so-called "Al Qaeda" cells, as well as Saudi embassy diplomats in the Washington and Baltimore areas, may have engaged the services of prostitutes.
The timing of the Federal government's quick seizure of Palfrey's assets and forcing her back from Germany is suspect considering that the Maryland gubernatorial election between Ehrlich and O'Malley was a month away. At the end of September, the race was considered close. The Bush administration was obviously worried that Palfrey took her "black book" to Germany and the contents might have ended up in the pages of Der Spiegel or Stern. In fact, there was no Heidi Fleiss-type "black book," but the government did not know that. The Bush administration's asset seizure was merely a ploy to get Palfrey to return to the United States. The failure of the government's young and inexperienced agents to seize Palfrey's 46 pounds of phone records was a monumental blunder on the part of the IRS and Postal Inspectors. That is why Assistant U.S. Attorney William Cowden has been so adamant in his requests to Judge Kessler to keep the records from further release.
Palfrey and her attorney has called for the appointment of a Special Counsel in the Palfrey case. That certainly seems warranted after one of the Pamela Martin clients retained the law firm of Bracewell & Giuliani. Rudolph Giuliani was New York Mayor during the time Norris and Kerik were under a criminal probe by the Brooklyn District Attorney. Pamela Martin clients also lived in New York. We now have a murdered Assistant U.S. Attorney, a fired U.S. Attorney, several high-profile and blackmailable "johns," and the involvement of the law firm of a presidential candidate involved in defending one of the escort agency's high profile clients. This unfolding story has merely shown the tip of a huge iceberg.
That's a lot of dots, but sadly, I find it harder to believe that there's nothing there, than to believe that there is.
One thing, though, I sure wish Madsen would update his blog to make it possible to link directly to individual stories...
During the Paul Wolfowitz/World Bank scandal, relating to his gifting his then-girlfriend Shaha Reza with a plum job in contravention to the rules, the media left out one little detail: namely, that Mr. Wolfowitz was and is still married, and not to Ms. Reza. What's more, as Wayne Madsen reports:
There is more disturbing news that WMR has received about Wolfowitz after he was named Deputy Defense Secretary in early 2001. Our sources have told us that after Wolfowitz became Deputy Defense Secretary under Donald Rumsfeld, his wife, Clare Selgin, wrote a letter to President George W. Bush to inform him that her husband had been carrying on an affair with Shaha Riza while he was Dean of the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and that it was continuing while Wolfowitz was serving as the Pentagon's number two man. However, our sources claim that Bush never saw the letter. It was allegedly intercepted by Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff and close Wolfowitz friend, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
While some might consider Mrs. Selgin's letter to have been the product of a bitter wife, she was acting responsibly in informing the President that as the number two man at the Pentagon with the highest level security clearances, her husband was subject to potential blackmail. However, Libby, who saw fit to compromise the identity of a covert CIA agent and her non-official cover firm, did not worry about national security implications while he served as Cheney's National Security Adviser.
The cavalier Wolfowitz continued his relationship with Shaha Riza after taking over the reins at the World Bank, a major factor in his ouster. However, our World Bank sources have revealed that the team of neo-con advisers and staff that Wolfowitz brought with him into the bank engaged in improper activities while on official overseas business for the World Bank. One senior adviser to Wolfowitz was caught in repeated compromising positions with young women in Latin America and Southeast Asia and it is said that his trips to both regions were merely "sex tours" designed as official business. Wolfowitz personally signed off on these types of trips for his coterie of cronies and advisers.
And just to put the coda on the ick factor of all of this, allow me once again to post a picture of the Wolf in question:
The CBC has some dubious friends -- a handful of nefarious African dictators ... Michael Jackson ... but their latest association takes the cake. In short, why would the Congressional Black Caucus want to get in bed with Fox News?
You've probably noted the fact that the much touted CBC-Fox Democratic presidential candidate debate has been seriously undermined by the withdrawal of the major candidates, starting with John Edwards, and then followed by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Second tier candidates are also either jumping ship or looking shaky -- with the exception of Joe Biden, who wouldn't turn down an invitation to talk in the center stage of Hell. The effort to separate the candidates from the debate, and the CBC from the right wing mouthpiece network, has been spearheaded by the group Color of Change, and for good reason: not only does Fox News carry water for the Republican Party, which itself is an anathema to anything resembling African-Aemrican interests, Fox itself traffics in some of the worst rhetoric about Black people, including employing so-called analysts who liken Barack Obama to a terrorist, and ridicule his church as a cult, and giving credence to the Karl Rovian fairy tales about rampant voter fraud among Black and Brown voters, which of course can only be remedied by putting Bible thumping Bushies in place as U.S. attorneys in swing states...
And yet, the CBC isn't backing down, distributing "talking points" to members and staffers on how to "cast the debate in a positive light" and even sending a letter to the major candidates urging them to reconsider. As Afro-Netizen reveals, by posting both the letter and the signatures, the CBC is clearly not united on the issue. Among those NOT signing the missive are Florida's three Black Congressmen, as well as Maxine Waters, a key leader of the Out of Iraq Coalition. And as the New York Times points out in an article today (same link as above), some of Fox's moves to court Black members of Congress carry the distinct stench of purchase:
By design or not, News Corporation also gained currency among black and Hispanic leaders by helping orchestrate a campaign to increase the participation of minority viewers in the television ratings system, a task it entrusted to a consulting firm with strong ties to Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Mrs. Clinton, in turn, has established a relationship with Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of News Corporation, who, for example, held a fund-raiser for her last year during her Senate re-election campaign. ...
... Despite a fierce debate within the 43-member caucus over whether to sever ties with Fox News, those representing the caucus in its dealings with Fox have thus far held firm. The network itself has apparently urged the caucus to do just that. There was, for example, a meeting for caucus press secretaries attended by representatives of News Corporation and Fox News, where talk turned to how to publicly present the merits of the debate. (Also working in Fox’s favor is that the debate is to be held in Detroit, the home city of Representative Carolyn Cheeks Kirkpatrick, the caucus chairwoman.) ...
...The partnership between Fox News and the caucus began in earnest in 2003, when the news channel responded to the caucus’s request for a broadcast partner for its debates for the 2004 presidential election. (Technically, the caucus was sponsoring the debate through an affiliate group, the Congressional Black Caucus Political Education and Leadership Institute; the use of the institute gives the caucus itself some distance, even though several prominent caucus members are on the institute board.)
Fox’s proposal included broadcasting the debates in prime time, giving the caucus a say in selecting moderators and covering much of the production cost, said one former caucus staff member close to the negotiations.
Months after joining forces with the caucus, Fox News created internships for students at Morgan State University, a black college in Baltimore, in the Congressional district of Representative Elijah E. Cummings, who was then chairman of the caucus.
In June 2003, its political action committee, known as News America-Fox, made a $1,000 contribution to Mr. Cummings’s political committee.
The Fox group later made contributions of at least $1,000 each to other caucus members, including Representatives Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas, and Gregory W. Meeks and Edolphus Towns of New York. The political arm of the caucus itself received a $5,000 contribution from the Fox group, in May 2006. And on the Web site of its foundation, the caucus lists News Corporation among several dozen corporate sponsors.
Nice. At least Ms. Clinton demonstrated the independence to pull out of the debate, even if she probably did so mostly out of fear of being attacked from the left by Edwards' and Obama's campaigns. Those CBC members still on board with Fox are starting to appear to be purchased, no returns, no exchanges. And as the liberal Koskids point out, some members, like Bennie Thompson, are even lashing out at critics in a manner that's strangely reminiscent of ... well ... Fox News. As James Rucker, president of Color of Change wrote in an op-ed in The Hill this past week:
In his letter to The Hill on May 17, “No CBC member has urged institute to forgo Fox debate,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) proclaims that there is a “clear consensus” within the Congressional Black Caucus that the CBC Political Education and Leadership Institute should proceed with its plans to co-host presidential debates with Fox. This claim simply doesn’t match up with reality and it’s hard to imagine how Thompson could believe otherwise.
At least 10 CBC members have stated their opposition to the Fox debate deal, either in The Hill or in conversations with our organization. Most, despite our urging, do not want to comment publicly, saying that they prefer to express their concerns in private.
Thompson’s letter appears to be an attempt to undermine the voices of other CBC members. By belittling dissenting opinions as “misperceptions” and “misleading statements,” Thompson communicates to The Hill readers and CBC members that he has the power to speak on behalf of the entire caucus, without challenge, regardless of what has already been said.
It’s unsurprising that some members are reticent to express their disagreement with Thompson and Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-Mich.), the two members most eager for a Fox partnership. Thompson dug his heels in long ago, and Kilpatrick’s vehement support for the debate is hard to separate from the fact that it would be held in her home district (Detroit), where her son is mayor. It’s clear that challenging the Fox partnership means challenging two powerful leaders in the CBC. With last week’s letter, Thompson made it clearer. …
Thompson describes resistance as coming from “liberal activist groups” concerned primarily about Fox’s “conservative bias.” What he doesn’t mention is that across the country, black community newspapers, columnists, radio hosts and bloggers have expressed outrage that the CBC appears to be — as one CBC member put it — “getting in bed with a racist network.” …
or worse, getting in bed with a right wing cable network for money.
While it's not a surprise to learn that the president of the United States was warned three months before he launched the invasion of Iraq that the consequences would include precisely the chaos, civil war and disintegration we are seeing now, and that he ignored those warnings absolutely, it sure does make you mad. According to a report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Friday (via the HuffPo):
WASHINGTON — Intelligence analysts predicted, in secret papers circulated within the government before the Iraq invasion, that al-Qaida would see U.S. military action as an opportunity to increase its operations and that Iran would try to shape a post-Saddam Iraq.
The top analysts in government also said that establishing a stable democracy in Iraq would be a "long, difficult and probably turbulent process."
... The investigation reviewed assessments from a number of agencies but focused on two January 2003 papers from the National Intelligence Council: "Regional Consequences of Regime Change in Iraq" and "Principal Challenges in Post-Saddam Iraq."
Those papers drew from expertise within a number spy agencies and were distributed to scores of White House, national security, diplomatic and congressional officials _ most of whom were listed in 81 pages of the Senate report.
Among other conclusions, the analysts found:
_ Establishing a stable democracy in Iraq would be a long, steep and probably turbulent challenge. They said that contributions could be made by 4 million Iraqi exiles and Iraq's impoverished, underemployed middle class. But they noted that opposition parties would need sustained economic, political and military support.
_ Al-Qaida would see the invasion as a chance to accelerate its attacks, and the lines between al-Qaida and other terrorist groups "could become blurred." In a weak spot in the analysis, one paper said that the risk of terror attacks would spike after the invasion and slow over the next three to five years. However, the State Department recently found that attacks last year alone rose sharply.
_ Groups in Iraq's deeply divided society would become violent, unless stopped by the occupying force. "Score settling would occur throughout Iraq between those associated with Saddam's regime and those who have suffered most under it," one report stated.
_ Iraq's neighbors would jockey for influence and Iranian leaders would try to shape the post-Saddam era to demonstrate Tehran's importance in the region. The less Tehran felt threatened by U.S. actions, the analysts said, "the better the chance that they could cooperate in the postwar period."
_ Postwar Iraq would face significant economic challenges, having few resources beyond oil. Analysts predicted that Iraq's large petroleum resources would make economic reconstruction easier, but they didn't anticipate that continued fighting and sabotage would drag down oil production.
_ Military action to eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction would not cause other governments in the region to give up such programs.
(Wapo version here) I guess the intelligence community was more prescient than the Bushies would have us believe, because it seems that all of these predictions have come true. But don't tell that to the Bush boot-licking Republicans:
Some Republicans rejected the committee's work as flawed. The panel's top Republican, Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri, said the report's conclusions selectively highlight the intelligence agencies' findings that seem to be important now, distorting the picture of what was presented to policy-makers.
He said the committee's work on the Iraq intelligence "has become too embroiled in politics and partisanship to produce an accurate and meaningful report."
Really, Kit? Inaccurate? What part of civil war, increasing threats to the region and continual, useless bloodletting do you not understand?
"The most chilling and prescient warning from the intelligence community prior to the war was that the American invasion would bring about instability in Iraq that would be exploited by Iran and al-Qaida," wrote four Democratic senators _ Rockefeller, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Evan Bayh of Indiana and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.
Meanwhile, four Republican senators _ Bond, John Warner of Virginia, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Richard Burr of North Carolina _ wrote that the report exaggerates the importance of the pre-invasion assessments. They said the reports weren't based on intelligence information, but instead were speculation from experts in and out of government.
"They were no more authoritative than the many other educated opinions that were available in the same time frame," the Republicans wrote.
Do you have to shed all of your integrity to be a Republican? Are you allowed to keep even anounce of dignity?
Those who still have a pulse and who have turned off the monotone of the Bushbot drone instructions in their government issued earpieces can read the intel report for yourselves here.
Meanwhile, flush with a fresh $100 million to continue wasting Americana and Iraqi lives for his neocon project in Mesopotamia, President Bush appears simultaneously to be looking for a way to the exits. The idea is that the pragmatists now encircling him, Bob Gates, Condi "the chameleon" Rice, and probably his political guru Karl Rove, are double talking the basies, who fiend for war, while Bush is thinking about the 2008 elections. According to a new report by McClatchy Newspapers:
The Democrat-led Congress has pushed Bush, unsuccessfully thus far, to begin winding down the war, which has claimed more than 3,430 U.S. lives since it began in 2003. Bush has refused. He has said an early exit would be disastrous for U.S. interests and that no timetable should be set for reducing U.S. ground forces.
On Thursday, however, the president and some of his chief military advisers spoke more directly of a possible change in course.
Pace and Gates responded to a reporter who noted that earlier Thursday, Bush said at the White House he liked a proposal from the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.
The group in December recommended many changes in Iraq policy, including a shift from fighting the insurgency to a training and counterterrorism role. At the time, Bush rejected that advice. Instead, he chose to boost American troop levels in Baghdad, believing the war would be lost unless the Iraqi capital could be secured.
Gates, who was a member of the study group before he was nominated to replace Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon, did not say whether he thought it likely that a shift from a combat role would be adopted in September.
"That kind of a role clearly would involve fewer forces than we have now and forces with a different mission," Gates said.
Pace said he agreed. "That's part of the dialogue right now and exactly what we'll be looking at between now and September," when Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, is expected to tell the administration and Congress whether the Iraq strategy is working and whether course corrections are due.
Barry McCaffrey, a retired Army general who spent a week in Iraq in March assessing the situation, said in a telephone interview Thursday that it appears to him that the administration is looking for a way out of Iraq.
"I think they're headed toward the door," McCaffrey said. For now they hold out hope that by the end of this year the troop buildup in Baghdad will change the momentum of the war, he added. "But failing that, they're going to start withdrawing."
Hm ... so, righties, would that make Bushie a "Defeatopublican?" More from the New York Times:
WASHINGTON, May 25 — The Bush administration is developing what are described as concepts for reducing American combat forces in Iraq by as much as half next year, according to senior administration officials in the midst of the internal debate.
It is the first indication that growing political pressure is forcing the White House to turn its attention to what happens after the current troop increase runs its course.
The concepts call for a reduction in forces that could lower troop levels by the midst of the 2008 presidential election to roughly 100,000, from about 146,000, the latest available figure, which the military reported on May 1. They would also greatly scale back the mission that President Bush set for the American military when he ordered it in January to win back control of Baghdad and Anbar Province.
The mission would instead focus on the training of Iraqi troops and fighting Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, while removing Americans from many of the counterinsurgency efforts inside Baghdad.
Still, there is no indication that Mr. Bush is preparing to call an early end to the current troop increase, and one reason officials are talking about their long-range strategy may be to blunt pressure from members of Congress, including some Republicans, who are pushing for a more rapid troop reduction.
The officials declined to be quoted for attribution because they were discussing internal deliberations that they expected to evolve over several months.
Officials say proponents of reducing the troops and scaling back their mission next year appear to include Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. They have been joined by generals at the Pentagon and elsewhere who have long been skeptical that the Iraqi government would use the opportunity created by the troop increase to reach genuine political accommodations.
So far, the concepts are entirely a creation of Washington and have been developed without the involvement of the top commanders in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus and Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, both of whom have been enthusiastic supporters of the troop increase.
Those generals and other commanders have made it clear that they are operating on a significantly slower clock than officials in Washington, who are eager for significant withdrawals before the president leaves office in January 2009.
Ah yes. Timetables. So bad for keeping our plans secret from the enemy ... so good for presidential politics.
Dick Cheney continues his campaign of using the American military to oust his former business partners. First it was Iraq, where Halliburton continues to make a ton of profits, even without his and Don Rumsfeld's buddy Saddam. Next, there's increasing talk that Cheney is looking for ways to get around Condi Rice, and even George W. Bush, so that he can attack Iran, another frequent Halliburton business partner.
... The person in the Bush administration who most wants a hot conflict with Iran is Vice President Cheney. The person in Iran who most wants a conflict is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iran's Revolutionary Guard Quds Force would be big winners in a conflict as well -- as the political support that both have inside Iran has been flagging.
Multiple sources have reported that a senior aide on Vice President Cheney's national security team has been meeting with policy hands of the American Enterprise Institute, one other think tank, and more than one national security consulting house and explicitly stating that Vice President Cheney does not support President Bush's tack towards Condoleezza Rice's diplomatic efforts and fears that the President is taking diplomacy with Iran too seriously.
This White House official has stated to several Washington insiders that Cheney is planning to deploy an "end run strategy" around the President if he and his team lose the policy argument.
The thinking on Cheney's team is to collude with Israel, nudging Israel at some key moment in the ongoing standoff between Iran's nuclear activities and international frustration over this to mount a small-scale conventional strike against Natanz using cruise missiles (i.e., not ballistic missiles).
This strategy would sidestep controversies over bomber aircraft and overflight rights over other Middle East nations and could be expected to trigger a sufficient Iranian counter-strike against US forces in the Gulf -- which just became significantly larger -- as to compel Bush to forgo the diplomatic track that the administration realists are advocating and engage in another war. ...
Cheney is insane. Or maybe not.
His oil holdings stand to substantially benefit from another war, and he and his cronies have to fear that if Republican support seriously erodes in September, the major oil companies and oil exploitation firms like Halliburton stand to lose substantial income should the war draw down, Iraq's insurgency cools without the pressure of U.S. occupation, and gas prices begin to fall. So what to do? Start another war, take Iran's oil off market (or seriously reduce the output of the world's fourth largest oil exporter, and watch the profits from sky-high gas prices roll in. Cheney & Co. also have to realize that with Democrats in control of both houses of Congress, investigations into current gouging could force Big Oil to bring the prices down.
So what to do? Start another war.
War is the answer to the Oil Industrial Complexes dreams of unlimited profits. They saw what the defense industry was able to make of the wars from Korea onward, and what industrial America was able to reap from World War II. They want their piece of the pie, and they're not going to let anybody stop them. Not even George W. Bush.
Clemons' conclusion is chilling:
The zinger of this information is the admission by this Cheney aide that Cheney himself is frustrated with President Bush and believes, much like Richard Perle, that Bush is making a disastrous mistake by aligning himself with the policy course that Condoleezza Rice, Bob Gates, Michael Hayden and McConnell have sculpted.
According to this official, Cheney believes that Bush can not be counted on to make the "right decision" when it comes to dealing with Iran and thus Cheney believes that he must tie the President's hands.
On Tuesday evening, i spoke with a former top national intelligence official in this Bush administration who told me that what I was investigating and planned to report on regarding Cheney and the commentary of his aide was "potentially criminal insubordination" against the President. I don't believe that the White House would take official action against Cheney for this agenda-mongering around Washington -- but I do believe that the White House must either shut Cheney and his team down and give them all garden view offices so that they can spend their days staring out their windows with not much to do or expect some to begin to think that Bush has no control over his Vice President.
Update: Did you hear the one about the undersecretary of defense who made up a fake company in the Netherlands in order to justify going to war with Iraq?
President Bush gave a feisty press conference this morning, making it clear that he has no respect for the American people, less for Congress. He's going to have his war as long as he wants it. Unfortunately, there isn't an opposition with the stones to stop him.
Update:Here's the roll call in the House. 86 Democrats voted for the bill. 140, led by Maxine Waters and other members of the Out of Iraq Caucus, voted no. I'm disappointed that Miami Congressman Kendrick Meek voted for the bill. Just read his press release on it ... sorry, not convinced. Meek's release reads in part:
...“My position on the Iraq War is clear: I am against the continuation of this war. It does not make us safer; the American people do not support it; even our closest allies in the world have withdrawn their troops from it, leaving us to fight it virtually alone; and a majority of the Congress wants to put an end to it. ...
...we will keep up the pressure, and we will continue to work for the votes we need. In July, Congress will vote on the Defense Appropriations Bill and in September, Congress will vote on the Iraq Supplement for FY08. It is my hope that those votes will accomplish what the American people want, and what the Democratic Congress will force the White House to do – to bring an end to this failed war.
“It is important to keep in mind the big difference between opposing the misguided policy of the war, and supporting the brave men and women who are doing their duty in fighting it. This legislation continues to fund our troops through September 30, 2007. It is not a blank check; it is a lifeline to our troops in the field who cannot be left without the proper equipment and ammunition while serving in a theater of war.
“This legislation also includes other needed provisions. It raises the minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $7.25 per hour, the first increase in nearly ten long years. It provides $2 billion in additional funding for health care programs for our veterans. It provides $1.1 billion for family housing allowances not requested by the President. It provides $1.6 billion for a strategic reserve readiness fund, including $1billion to purchase Army Guard equipment. It also provides $3 billion for Mine Resistance Ambush Protected vehicles to provide our troops better protection from Improvised Explosive Devices that will ultimately save lives.”
K. Still not convinced. The best way to force Bush to change course is to give him nothing, re-send timelines again and again, and push him to June 30th, and then force him to take what he can get. That's hardball. ... Anyway, Rep. Alcee Hastings voted no, as did most of the CBC, and the House leader, Nancy Pelosi.
Update 2 8:55 p.m.: The Senate has now passed the bil too. 14 Democrats voted no, apparently including Senators Clinton, Obama and Dodd. Biden voted yes. Here's all you need to know about the Dems:
Faced with continued White House opposition after the veto, the Democratic leadership agreed to drop the withdrawal language so the spending bill could be moved by Memorial Day.
Smile and wave that flag, boys ... smile and wave...
Update 3: May 25 6:57 a.m.: Confirmed -- Hillary and Barack voted no on the war funding. For Hillary to do so means she's more worried about the Democratic base than about the Republican ads. ThinkProgress has the full roll call of Senators voting no. It's a short list:
Danny Glover catches it from a Florida congressman for taking $18 million to make a film about the 1804 slave revolt that freed Haiti and Haitians from the colonial French, and a biopic about Simon Bolivar, affliated with same, as well as with the spread of dictatorial Socialism throughout South America. Says Mr. Mack:
to accept Hugo Chavez's tainted movie deal and instead work with legitimate enterprises, investors and financiers who value freedom, treasure our nation and who won't climb into bed with renegade communist dictators," Mack said
Psst ... Connie...!Chavez is a Socialist, not a Communist ... just sayin' ...
Well, if Connie Mack has a problem with Glover's financing choices, he might want to check in with the U.S. government, Halliburton, Rudy Giuliani, and every driver in America who's ever pulled into a Citgo, because, dear Connie, we're all in bed with Venezuela.
I haven't had a chance to watch the Monica Goodling testimony yet, but I have figured out the bombshell. And it is this:
A former Justice Department official told House investigators Wednesday that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales tried to review his version of the prosecutor firings with her at a time when lawmakers were homing in on conflicting accounts.
"It made me a little uncomfortable," Monica Goodling, Gonzales' former White House liaison, said of her conversation with the attorney general just before she took a leave of absence in March. "I just did not know if it was appropriate for us to both be discussing our recollections of what had happened."
In a daylong appearance before the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee, Goodling, 33, also acknowledged crossing a legal line herself by considering the party affiliations of candidates for career prosecutor jobs - a violation of law.
No, not that... let's try again:
A former Justice Department official told House investigators Wednesday that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales tried to review his version of the prosecutor firings with her at a time when lawmakers were homing in on conflicting accounts.
"It made me a little uncomfortable," Monica Goodling, Gonzales' former White House liaison, said of her conversation with the attorney general just before she took a leave of absence in March. "I just did not know if it was appropriate for us to both be discussing our recollections of what had happened."
In a daylong appearance before the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee, Goodling, 33, also acknowledged crossing a legal line herself by considering the party affiliations of candidates for career prosecutor jobs - a violation of law.
Um, nope. Try it one more time:
Goodling's dramatic story about her final conversation with Gonzales brought questions from panel members about whether he had tried to align her story with his and whether he was truthful in his own congressional testimony.
Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee last month that he didn't know the answers to some questions about the firings because he was steering clear of aides - such as Goodling - who were likely to be questioned.
"I haven't talked to witnesses because of the fact that I haven't wanted to interfere with this investigation and department investigations," Gonzales told the panel.
Goodling said for the first time Wednesday that Gonzales did review the story of the firings with her at an impromptu meeting she requested in his office a few days before she took a leave of absence.
"I was somewhat paralyzed. I was distraught, and I felt like I wanted to make a transfer," Goodling recalled during a packed hearing of the House Judiciary Committee.
Gonzales, she said, indicated he would think about Goodling's request.
"He then proceeded to say, 'Let me tell you what I can remember,' and he laid out for me his general recollection ... of some of the process" of the firings, Goodling added. When Gonzales finished, "he asked me if I had any reaction to his iteration."
Goodling said the conversation made her uncomfortable because she was aware that she, Gonzales and others would be called by Congress to testify.
"Was the attorney general trying to shake your recollection?" asked Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala.
"I just did not know if it was a conversation we should be having and so I just didn't say anything," she replied. She added that she thought Gonzales was trying to be kind.
Read Ms. Goodling's opening statement to the House Judiciary Committee here.
What if they held an American Idol finale and nobody cared?
Well, okay, what if I didn't care?
Am I a bad person for being completely uninterested in Jordin Sparks, her career prospects, her very existence? No offense to the young woman, who has a definite talent, but I really didn't notice her even one time over the course of the season. I can't remember a single performance she gave, and I certainly never expected to see her in the finals. I guess I really am getting older, because I really just don't get it. I get that she's Nickelodeon friendly, has a future doing cartoon movie soundtracks, and that she's really, really, super duper happy. That I get. But thankfully, I'm also totally over "American Idol." Thank you God for my Tuesday nights back.
And I'm sure we'll be seeing much more of some of these characters. Phil has a great voice and a future in country music. Lakeisha is the bomb, and probably should head for Broadway. Blake is probably already signed. Chris -- Bad Boy or Jive, here he comes (one album, max). And it goes without saying that Melinda has Gladys Night potential.
Other than that, the first season I've watched all the way through since season one, will be my last addictive one.
There are two things you need to know about George W. Bush. One is that he has no sense of history. The other is that he has no sense of shame. Once you understand those two things about the 43rd president of the United States, you basically know what to expect from him.
It is because Bush has no sense of history that he was so easily convinced, flattered and goaded by his neoconservative handlers into invading Iraq, and why he still fails to understand the ramifications of that invasion, not only for his presidency, but for the country, the Middle East, and the world. It's because he lacks shame that he is so clearly willing to fight to the last American to see his policy continue for as long as he can get away with it, preferably, until he leaves office, leaving Iraq to complete its collapse on someone else's watch.
Which brings me to the Democrats.
They clearly don't understand who the president is, which is why they're unable to stop him from getting away with the things he does -- domestic spying and other outrages against the Constitution, torture, an unnecessary war in Iraq, a failed war in Afghanistan, and the pillaging of American blood and treasure for the benefit of his corporate friends, most notably Big Oil and the defense industry. The Democrats cannot, or will not, stop George W. Bush, because they constantly underestimate his failure to comprehend history, and his incapacity for shame. They think that if they meet with him, he'll compromise, and if they compromise with him, he'll bend, and if they give him a short term victory or two, he'll reward them by changing course.
George W. Bush is going to hang on to every single thing he holds dear, from his war to his Karl Rove to his pitiful attorney general, because his only fear is of a small, hardened core of fanatics who are demanding that American blood continue to be spilled until it is possible to call Iraq, the war on terror, and the triumph of Christ over the Infidels, a victory. His only loyalty is the oil and defense giants who have propped him up all his life. His fanatics guard his corporate paymasters, and together, they are his base -- his "Qaeda."
The only way to fight such a person is to bloody his nose over and over and over again until he has no choice but to relent. The Democrats blinked on Iraq funding, and now they will have little if any chance of bringing the war to an end, as 7 in 10 voters want them to do. Meanwhile, the president is rubbing their moist little puppy noses in his utter defeat of them, even as the vast majority of Americans groan.
The Democrats suffer from so many deficiencies and so many fears, it's almost too depressing to begin naming them. They fear Karl Rove and the 30 second ads accusing them of not funding the troops more than they fear their own voters. They fear that somehow, Iraq will turn itself around, blossom into a democracy, and make Bush appear to have been right, leaving them on the wrong side of history. They fear Bush will find a way to rebound in the polls. They fear that he must have some supernatural power to keep them out of the White House. Because they operate based on fear, they lack the ruthlessness it would take to fight a guileless president.
And because of that, the Democrats likely will continue to fail the American people.
The immigration debate is red hot, including on the morning show today. On the national front, the Senate has blinked on the comprehensive "reform" bill (300 pages and running). Will big business come to the rescue?
Pat Buchanan warns that white people are on the verge of E.X.T.I.N.C.T.I.O.N! ... between all the abortions since 1973 and all the little brown people having pickininneys...
According to the Census Bureau, from mid-2005 to mid-2006, the U.S. minority population rose 2.4 million, to exceed 100 million. Hispanics, 1 percent of the population in 1950, are now 14.4 percent. Their total number has soared 25 percent since 2000 alone. The Asian population has also grown by 25 percent since 2000.
The number of white kids of school age fell 4 percent, however. Half the children 5 and younger in the United States are now minorities.
What is happening to us? An immigrant invasion of the United States from the Third World, as America's white majority is no longer even reproducing itself. Since Roe v. Wade, America has aborted 45 million of her children. And Asia, Africa and Latin America have sent 45 million of their children to inherit the estate the aborted American children never saw. God is not mocked.
And white America is in flight.
In the 1990s, for the first time since the Spanish came, whites left California. Two million departed. From July 1, 2005, to July 1, 2006, 100,000 more packed up and headed back whence their fathers came. The "Anglo" population of the Golden State is down to 43 percent and falling fast. White folks are now a minority in Texas and New Mexico. In Arizona, Hispanics account for over half the population under 20.
The future is not in doubt. Why ought this be of concern?
First, while the black and Hispanic population combined is now 85 million – five times what it was in 1960 – half of all black and Hispanic kids drop out of high school. And the average math and reading scores of the half who graduate are at seventh-, eighth- or ninth-grade levels.
And the future is not so sanguine as it seemed 50 years ago. ...
Damnit, soon we'll be a nation of black and brown burglars...
"In 1960, 18 million black Americans, 10 percent of the nation, were not fully integrated into society, but they had been assimilated into our culture. They worshiped the same God, spoke the same language, had endured the same Depression and war, watched the same TV shows on the same four channels, laughed at the same comedians, went to the same movies, ate the same foods, read the same newspapers and went to schools where, even when segregated, we learned the same history and literature and shared the same holidays: Christmas, New Year's, Washington's Birthday, Easter, Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day, Columbus Day. Segregation existed, but black folks were as American as apple pie, having lived in this land longer than almost every other group save the Native Americans.
"That cultural unity, that sense that we were one people, is gone."
Aye, Dios mio!
Meanwhile, here in Florida, our Republican Senator, Mel Martinez, is all Lindsey Graham over the McCain-Kennedy bill, while the Democrat, Bill Nelson, is strangely non-committal (sounds like Hillary, Obama, Edwards et. al. are using the "company strategy...")
And get a load of the cat fight between Baghdad John and Switcharoo Mitt:
WASHINGTON (AP) - Republican John McCain accused presidential rival Mitt Romney of flip-flopping on immigration Monday and said with sarcasm: "Maybe his solution will be to get out his small varmint gun and drive those Guatemalans off his lawn."
McCain also said he was disappointed in potential candidate Fred Thompson for opposing immigration legislation the Arizona senator is co-sponsoring.
The immigration spat comes as the GOP race turns increasingly contentious and as Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, shows signs of gaining steam in Iowa and New Hampshire while Thompson lays the groundwork for what increasingly appears to be his own White House bid.
After months of behind-the-scenes aggression between the McCain and Romney campaigns, the two rivals openly sparred last week during a debate at the University of South Carolina.
In a conference call with bloggers Monday, McCain took Romney to task for being against the Senate's immigration measure. Romney's campaign dismissed McCain's remarks, saying they showed a candidate on the ropes over a politically volatile issue.
McCain, long a backer of a comprehensive immigration overhaul, is a co-sponsor of the measure that would meld stronger border security with a guest-worker program and an eventual path to citizenship for many of the 12 million immigrants in the country illegally. Neither the measure nor McCain's backing of it sits well with hard-line conservatives.
Romney, who has sought to position himself to the right of McCain on this and other issues, says he opposes the measure because it would allow virtually every illegal immigrant to remain indefinitely, and, thus, "is a form of amnesty."
And, in the "just sayin'" category ... African-Americans are becoming increasingly vocal in their opposition to illegal migrant amnesty, but also to the "competition" from legal immigrants, who some, including on our morning show, claim are taking away their jobs. On the first front, I hate the idea of African-Americans, who have been in this country for more than 400 years, scratching it out with slave wage migrants for bottom of the barrel jobs picking vegetables (do we really want to go back to sharecropping?) Second, it's hard to compete with the legal migrants, who studies show are, for the most part, educated, industrious and motivated, when nearly half of us are not completing high school. Black America has a competitiveness problem, not a competition problem. That's just my take.
That said, the amnesty bill is a bad idea -- bad for illegal migrants who will be slapped with a $5,000 debt and essentially turned into indentured servants ... bad for Mexico, which has no incentive to fix its plutocratic socioeconomic system rather than exporting its poverty via temporary workers and remittances up north ... bad for American workers who are seeing all wages, not just agricultural ones, declining, and bad for politicians stupid enough to go along with this Agribusiness and U.S. Chambers of Commerce boondoggle (I see you, John McCain...)
While the Iraqi government draws up plans for what to do if the U.S. withdraws, the Democrats in Washington prepare plans for what to do if the administration won't back down on Iraq timelines or benchmarks: in a word, they're going to cave.
The Siniora government unleashes its military on a Palestinian refugee camp near Tripoli. And of coure, the U.S. media immediately claims that the group they're fighting is al-Qaida.
Fatah al-Islam, a group accused of links to al-Qaeda and Syria, has threatened to widen its campaign if troops do not stop the shelling.
A spokesman for the group, Abu Salim, told French news agency AFP: "The army is not only opening fire on us, it is shelling blindly.
"If this continues, we will carry the battle outside the city of Tripoli."
So who is Fatah al-Islam? According to Reuters:
- The faction emerged in November when it split from Fatah al-Intifada (Fatah Uprising), a Syrian-backed Palestinian group. Fatah al-Islam had some 200 fighters at the time, based in Nahr al-Bared camp. Security sources have said militants from other Palestinian camps have joined the group since then and have been trained at the camp.
- The Lebanese government links Fatah al-Islam to Syrian intelligence. Syria and Fatah al-Islam deny any links to each other. The government says four Syrian members of Fatah al-Islam confessed to bombing two buses in February in a Christian area near Beirut. Three people were killed in the attacks.
- Fatah al-Islam's leader, Shaker al-Abssi, is a veteran Palestinian guerrilla. He was sentenced to death in Jordan for killing a U.S. diplomat in 2002. The slain leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab Zarqawi, received a similar sentence for the same crime.
- Abssi says his group has no organisational links to al Qaeda but agrees with its aim of fighting infidels. Fatah al-Islam statements have appeared on Islamist Web sites known to publish al Qaeda statements.
- Abssi told Reuters in March that his group's main mission was to reform the Palestinian refugee community in Lebanon according to Islamic sharia law before confronting Israel.
So they're linked to al-Qaida in goals, and they traffic in the same websites. Does that make them an "al-Qaida linked organization"? In a sense, it doesn't matter, except that it does. The Bush administration's tactic of labeling every militant group as al-Qaida (and every arrested potential domestic terrorist or person with brown skin and criminal intent in the U.S., including American citizens) as well as the media complicity in same, is a dangerous oversimplification of reality. How can you develop good intelligence in the so-called 'war on terror' when you really don't understand who, or how many groups, you're fighting?
Let's go for a pretty trustworthy source: Janes Defence Weekly:
Fatah al-Islam, Lebanon's new jihadists
A new radical Sunni group has emerged in Lebanon. Led by the Palestinian Shakir al-Absi, Fatah al-Islam is based in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp near Tripoli.
Shakir Absi has expressed a militant jihadist ideology with a focus on Israel. He has said his group's objective is to bring religion to the Palestinian cause and that hundreds of potential suicide bombers had prepared themselves to strike Israel.
In an interview with the New York Times on 16 March, Absi confirmed that he once worked as a pilot for Fatah leader Yasser Arafat, then staged attacks on Israel from his own base in Syria. He also admitted working with Zarqawi. He said that after his imprisonment in Syria he broadened his targets to include US citizens. He told the paper: "We have the right to do such acts, for is it not America that comes to our region and kills innocents and children?"
Fatah al-Islam's ambition to attack Israel will remain limited by the Shia group Hizbullah's pervasive control of southern Lebanon. A Sunni jihadist group would stand little chance of launching a cross-border attack into Israel without being spotted by Hizbullah's informers. They would also have little chance of staging a successful attack: after years of confrontation between Hizbullah and the Israeli military, the border zone is probably the toughest insurgent theatre in the world.
So now we see a group whose focus is not jihad against the United States, but rather, war against Israel. In other words, a much more traditional anti-Israeli militant group, comprised, surprise, surprise, of Palestinians.
For a more complex, textured, but very thorough reading of the relationship between Palestinian militants in Lebanon (and Syria) and al-Qaida, you'll want to read this. The start:
Al Jazeera ran on Sept 18 the second part of a documentary by Yusri Fouda on Al Qaeda in "Bilad al Sham". The thesis is that inherently Al-Qaeda has a forward looking plan that was to attack the US, draw America to the Middle East and then fight it (i.e. in Iraq) and then exploit that conflict to get to the Palestinian front using Damascus and Lebanon.
Hm ... part one of mission ... accomplished???
The seminal point the documentary makes is that "the youth are jaded with the corruption in the Arab world and an impotent leadership" so much so, that bright, educated people like Mohammad Atta (this is the documentary's assessment not mine) turn to religion as a means to an end.
In fact the founder of Junood Al Sham is on record saying the only way to fight Israel is to turn to religion and that when you do so as a fighter, you are fearless.
This zealous fervor invariably is the panacea to the "Zionist-American-Western" axis, several of the interviewees hold.
An interesting and worrying dimension to all this was the existing and growing Salafist movement in Lebanon, namely in mountainous areas and even places like Baalbak where one of the 19 hijackers that carried out the Sept.. 11 attacks was from.
The documentary goes on to narrate how Al Qaeda's man in Lebanon was arrested and then 'died' in detention. His supporters claim he was tortured and killed.
Only this time, of course, we have Sunni Muslim fighters in the camp, in many cases shooting at Sunni Muslim soldiers who are standing in a Sunni Muslim village. It was a Lebanese colleague who seemed to put his finger on it all. "Syria is showing that Lebanon doesn't have to be Christians versus Muslims or Shia versus Sunnis," he said. "It can be Sunnis versus Sunnis. And the Lebanese army can't storm into Nahr el-Bared. That would be a step far greater than this government can take."
And there is the rub. To get at the Sunni Fatah al-Islam, the army has to enter the camp. So the group remains, as potent as it was on Sunday when it staged its mini-revolution in Tripoli and ended up with its dead fighters burning in blazing apartment blocks and 23 dead soldiers and policemen on the streets.
And yes, it is difficult not to feel Syria's hands these days. Fouad Siniora's government, surrounded in its little "green zone" in central Beirut, is being drained of power. The army is more and more running Lebanon, ever more tested because it, too, of course, contains Lebanon's Sunnis and Shia and Maronites and Druze. What fractures, what greater strains can be put on this little country as Siniora still pleads for a UN tribunal to try those who murdered ex-prime minister Rafik Hariri in 2005?
Florida becomes even more significant with an early primary on the same day as South Carolina. Non-candidates Fred Thompson and Newt Gingrich pull out front in the Georgia state GOP straw poll. Thompson doesn't just win the poll, he dominates it, with a decidedly un-Giulianiesque 44 percent (Rudy tends to win his polls with numbers in the thirties, or more recently, the twenties...) Here's the breakdown:
The poll was jointly conducted by the Young Republicans and the Republican Liberty Caucus of Georgia.
The results were as follows:
Fred Thompson — 188 votes, or 44 percent Newt Gingrich — 77, or 18 percent Rudy Giuliani — 64, or 15 percent Mitt Romney — 40, or 9 percent Mike Huckabee — 18, or 4 percent Duncan Hunter — 10, or 2.3 percent John McCain — 10, or 2.3 percent Ron Paul — 8, or 1.9 percent Tommy Thompson — 6, or 1.4 percent Tom Tancredo — 4, or .9 percent Sam Brownback — 2, or .5 percent John Cox — 2, or .5 percent Jim Gilmore — 0, or 0 percent
The Des Moines Register poll shows Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, is the top choice of 30 percent of those who say they definitely or probably will attend the leadoff Iowa caucuses in January.
McCain, a U.S. senator from Arizona, nips former New York Mayor Giuliani for second place — 18 percent to 17 percent.
The breakdown here is as follows:
Mitt Romney - 30% John McCain - 18% Rudy Giuliani - 17% Tommy Thompson - 7% Sam Brownback - 5% Mike Huckabee - 4% Tom Tancredo - 4% John Cox - 1% Jim Gilmore - 1% Duncan Hunter - 1% Ron Paul - -- Not sure/uncommitted - 12%
Three big trends I'm seeing here: Romney's advertising push, his debate performances and his overall Guy Smileyness are starting to resonate outside of Utah. Second, McCain is showing surprising staying power (though these polls were taken pre-immigration "reform" debacle. Third: Giuliani -- balloon -- leaky.
Michael Moore's new documentary "Sicko" is a rave at Cannes, but that hasn't stopped the Bush administration from trying to intimidate the filmmaker and his backers at the Weinstein Co. According to a story in Saturday's Guardian:
The film has already caused Moore - who won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 2004 with Fahrenheit 911 - to clash with the American authorities. Now, according to movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, whose Weinstein Company is behind the film, the US government is attempting to impound the negative.
According to Weinstein, the US Treasury's moves meant "we had to fly the movie to another country"- he would not say to where. "Let the secret service find that out - though this is the same country that thought there were weapons of mass destruction, so they'll never find it." He added that he feared that if the film were impounded, there might be attempts to cut some footage, in particular the last 20 minutes, which related to a trip to Cuba. This, said Weinstein, "would not be good." In March, Moore travelled to the Caribbean island with a group of emergency workers from New York's Ground Zero to see whether they would receive better care under the Castro regime than they had under George Bush. He had applied for permission to travel in October 2006 and received no reply.
In a letter dated May 2, the treasury department notified Moore that it was investigating him for unlicensed travel to Cuba, or, as the missive put it, engaging in "travel-related transactions involving Cuba."
Now team Moore is hitting back. Weinstein has hired an attorney, David Boies, who has lodged a request under the US freedom of information act to find out what motivated the treasury to begin its investigation. "They have to tell us why they did it and what they did," said Weinstein. "And they are not too happy about it."
Maybe they could get Alberto Gonzales to go talk to Harvey Weinstein with Andy Card and a billy club...?
Jimmy Carter can be called many things, but shy isn't one of them. The former president has been pasting the Bush administration for its foreign policy blunders for years, and Mr. Carter remains firmly convinced that Bush's policies -- most notably Iraq -- have seriously damaged America's standing around the world, weakened our moral authority, and left us more, not less, vulnerable to terrorism. Worse, Carter believes that Bush squandered the oppourtunities created during his administration, and nurtured by subsequent presidents Bush I and Clinton, to bring closure to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. On all those points, Carter is dead on, in my opinion.
But who thought the man could be so gangsta???
Carter did two big interviews this past week. The first, with the Arkansas Post-Gazette, covered Bush's assorted foreign policy sins. Said Carter:
"I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history." ...
... "The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me."
Next, Carter did an interview with the BBC, in which he spread the lack of love to retiring Prime Minister Tony Blar. Asked to desribe Blair, Carter's answer was blunt and to the point, as reported by the BBC's Barney Porter:
JIMMY CARTER: The war was unjustified, unnecessary and has worked a tragedy on the Iraqi people, on the American people, on some of the British people and has caused deep schisms on a global basis.
BARNEY PORTER: But President Carter hasn't stopped there. He has also commented on British Prime Minister Tony Blair's unconditional support for President Bush.
JIMMY CARTER: Abominable. Loyal, blind, apparently subservient and I think that the almost undeviating support by Great Britain for the ill-advised policies of President Bush in Iraq have been a major tragedy for the world.
BARNEY PORTER: He also says Mr Blair could have exerted greater influence over President Bush, and made it tougher for Washington to shrug off critics. Instead, he says Britain's strong support has been crucial in bolstering the administration's position.
JIMMY CARTER: Okay, we must be more correct in our actions than the world thinks because Great Britain is backing us, and so I think the combination of Bush and Blair giving their support to this tragedy in Iraq has strengthened the effort and has made opposition less effective and has prolonged the war and increased the tragedy that has resulted.
Carter has gone after Blair before, including calling him "subservient" to Bush. And Carter has savaged the Iraq war itself, telling the anti-war UK Independent back in 2004 that it was both unnecessary, and based on lies. But the comments from a former president about a sitting president (and about a departing ally) are being called "unprecedented," and presidential historian Douglas Brinkley is calling them "fighting words." Maybe that's why Carter is walking back from his tough statements today, as criticism mounts, including from the White House, which had this to say about Carter:
In response, White House spokesman Tony Fratto on Sunday said: "I think he is proving to be increasingly irrelevant with these kinds of comments."
Well, the White House's ire may finally have gotten to Carter, who began the walk back from his comments today.
This all comes as the Bushies are worried that Blair's successor, Gordon Brown, will reverse Britain's all-in support for Bush's policies in Iraq, something that Brown's people presently deny.
It also comes at a time that some analysts are predicting that the Bushies may see the answer to their problems in Iraq in a familiar thing: regime change, once again in Iraq, whre Mr. Maliki's days may be numberd, and possibly even in Iran.
It's pretty hilarious watching the major presidential candidates scurry away from Ted Kennedy and John McCain's immigration compromise with the president. The vibe I'm getting online is that McCain is finished, as far as the right is concerned, and Tom Tancredo and Duncan Hunter are looking like aging rock stars -- beloved by the masses but with no shot at getting to number one. Mitt Romney has flopped himself onto the politically "right" side regarding the bill (surprise, surprise) and Giuliani is very quietly for it. As for the Dems?
Hil hasn't read it ...
Obama's carefully studying it ...
Edwards is somewhat troubled ...
Richardson hasn't said...
You get the picture. Nobody with any political ambition beyond their current job wants to touch this.
As for other elected Dems: so far, they're cool to the proposal. Maybe they're just wary of doing anything further with the president.
Meanwhile: Fred Thompson is running for president. How do I know? Because like Hillary in the first debate regarding how to respond to a terror attack, he nailed the answer on the immigration compromise, as far as the GOP base is concerned:
“We should scrap this bill and the whole debate until we can convince the American people that we have secured the borders or at least have made great headway.”
"Rudy's top priority and main objective is to ensure our borders are secure and to stop potential terrorists and criminals from coming in. The recent Fort Dix plot is a stark reminder that the threat of terrorism has made immigration an important matter of national security. We need to know who is coming in and who is going out of this country if we are going to deal with those who are here illegally.”
NBC did a report tonight of the U.S. Army's refusal to switch from Interceptor body armor, which has been in use for decades, to state-of-the art "dragon skin" armor, made by a company called Pinnacle, which in March of 2006 was banned by the Army for use by its soldiers, two months before it was tested, and even though top generals and other dignitaries were knowingly protected by troops who were issued dragon skin, and the CIA also issued the superior dragon skin to its operatives in Iraq. Even the inventor of the Interceptor armor told NBC that dragon skin is far superior to his design, because it's flexible and covers more of the body's vital parts, and that if he were deployed to combat, he'd choose dragon skin.
After listening to the report on Countdown, I decided to do a little bit of digging. What I found is nothing new, just as the reports of our troops being issued defective body armor isn't new (not least to the troops themselves). But new or not, here it is:
Interceptor body armor is manufactured by a company called Point Blank Body Armor, which is a division of DHB Industries out of right down here in Pompano Beach, Florida (they also have offices in Deerfield Beach, Oakland Park, Jacksboro, TN and Washington D.C).
DHB has a retired 4 star general as its president, a retired California State Senator (William Campbell) as its chairman of the board, and as of March of this year, and a retired Marine general (Lt. Gen. Martin Berndt) as one of its directors. The company announced that it had received some $248 million in contracts to supply the U.S. Army with body armor. According to a January press release:
January 16, 2007
DHB INDUSTRIES ANNOUNCES $82 MILLION IN CONTRACT ORDERS WITH THE U.S. ARMY AND UPDATES 2006 CASH RECEIPTS
Pompano Beach, Florida – DHB Industries Inc. (OTC Pink Sheets: DHBT.PK), a leader in the field of protective body armor, announced today that it had received orders for approximately $82 million to supply the U.S. Army with the Deltoid Axillary Protection System (DAPS) and the Enhanced Side Ballistic Insert (ESBI). These orders came under contracts awarded to Point Blank Body Armor, one of the Company’s wholly-owned subsidiaries.
The Company received an order of approximately $51 million to supply the United States Army with DAPS. The Company anticipates it will begin shipping product against this new order in May 2007 and complete shipments in October 2007. This order is part of the approximately $239 million contract awarded in June 2004, which was subsequently modified to approximately $248 million. Potential orders now remaining on the DAPS three-year contract are about $67 million.
Oh, and the DHB in DHB Industries? It stands for David H. Brooks. A bit about him: From an article by Katrina Vanden Heuvel published in The Nation on my birthday in 2005:
Bat Mitzvah Corruption: In terms of sheer outrage, millionaire defense contractor David H. Brooks is hard to top. The New York Daily News recently reported that Brooks spent an estimated $10 million on his daughter's bat mitzvah reception. Aerosmith performed at the reception (reportedly earning a cool two million dollars), and Kenny G, 50 Cent, Tom Petty and The Eagles' Don Henley and Joe Walsh also played. Here's the kicker: Brooks has reportedly made more than $250 million in wartime profits as the CEO of DHB Industries-- which has had thousands of defective bulletproof vests recalled by the government!
According to a government investigation into the faulty vests that was uncovered by the Marine Corps Times, DHB's equipment saw "multiple complete penetrations" when 9mm pistol rounds were fired into the vests. One government ballistics expert quoted in the government's findings said he had "little confidence" in DHB's equipment. Meanwhile, the SEC is looking into Brooks' 2004 sale of $186 million worth of company stock. Institute for Policy Studies' Sarah Anderson, who co-authored a report called "Executive Excess 2005," called Brooks a "world champion war profiteer," concluding, he has "no shame."
Sounds like just the Bushies' kind of guy.
Of course, Bushie kind of guys almost always come to a fretful end. Here's Brooks':
In November 2005, bulletproof vest maker David H. Brooks made national headlines when he blew a pile of his war windfalls on a celebrity-studded bash in New York City’s Rainbow Room. For Brooks, the highlight of the $10 million gala was a performance by rockers from Aerosmith. So pumped was the middle-aged Long Island businessman that he reportedly donned a hot pink, metal-studded suede pantsuit to cavort onstage with Steven Tyler.
While Brooks was enjoying his rock star fantasy, dark clouds were forming over him and his company, DHB Industries. The stock was in the toilet, the Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating him, and then there was the mood-killing matter of the military recalling his company’s bulletproof vests over concerns about their bulletproofness. In hindsight, the pink-suited Brooks showed all the symptoms of a man who feared his partying days were numbered.
And indeed, as of this week, his reign as America’s most ostentatious war profiteer does appear to be over. On July 10, the DHB Board of Directors issued a terse statement to the effect that Brooks had been put on indefinite “administrative leave” pending the outcome of unspecified investigations.
The Justice and Defense Departments are jointly investigating Brooks for possible criminal fraud and insider trading. The SEC had already been looking into the company in response to shareholder lawsuits charging that DHB execs carried out a “pump-and-dump” scheme to artificially inflate profits before selling off a boatload of their stock in 2004. Brooks personally sold about $186 million worth, shortly before the share price plummeted from about $22 to around $10. Today it’s selling over the counter for less than $1. The company was booted from the American Stock Exchange last month for blowing off reporting deadlines.
Getting shoved out of a company you named after yourself has gotta sting. But Mr. DHB’s forced vacation hardly makes up for the troubles he’s caused shareholders, taxpayers and soldiers as he capitalized on the “War on Terror.” ...
And yet, his company's substandard body armor lives on. Why?
James Dobson, head of the sprawling evangelical group Focus on the Family, has joined fellow evanglical leader Richard Land in saying there's no way he'd vote for Rudy Giuliani for president. Rather, he said if faced with the Hobsons/Dobson's choice of Rudy v. Hillary or Barack Obama, he would "vote for an also ran" or for no one at all, failing to cast a ballot for president for the first time in his adult life. Dobson's key complaints about Rudy?
How could Giuliani say with a straight face that he "hates" abortion," while also seeking public funding for it? How can he hate abortion and contribute to Planned Parenthood in 1993, 1994, 1998 and 1999? And how was he able for many years to defend the horrible procedure by which the brains are sucked from the heads of viable, late-term, un-anesthetized babies? Those beliefs are philosophically and morally incompatible. What kind of man would even try to reconcile them?
This self-styled defender of marriage says he is "proud" of having submitted, as New York's mayor, a bill creating "domestic partnerships" for homosexual couples. Admittedly, many liberal Americans will agree with the social positions espoused by Giuliani. However, I don't believe conservative voters whose support he seeks will be impressed. Presidential elections are won or lost by slim margins. Rudy has an uphill slog ahead of him, even though he is the darling of the media.
There are other moral concerns about Giuliani's candidacy that conservatives should find troubling. He has been married three times, and his second wife was forced to go to court to keep his mistress out of the mayoral mansion while the Giuliani family still lived there. Talk about tap dancing. Also during that time, the mayor used public funds to provide security services for his girlfriend. The second Mrs. Giuliani finally had enough of his philandering and, as the story goes, forced him to move out. He lived with friends for a while and then married his mistress. Unlike some other Republican presidential candidates, Giuliani appears not to have remorse for cheating on his wife.
Harry Truman asked, "How can I trust a man if his wife can't?" It is a very good question. Here's another one: Is Rudy Giuliani presidential timber? I think not. Can we really trust a chief executive who waffles and feigns support for policies that run contrary to his alleged beliefs? Of greater concern is how he would function in office. Will we learn after it is too late just what the former mayor really thinks? What we know about him already is troubling enough.
Cross-dressing (the real kind, not the political kind, like what he initially did on the subject of abortion):
One more question: Shouldn't the American people be able to expect a certain decorum and dignity from the man who occupies the White House? On this measure, as well, Giuliani fails miserably. Much has been written in the blogosphere about his three public appearances in drag. In each instance, he tried to be funny by dressing like a woman. Can you imagine Ronald Reagan, who loved a good joke, doing something so ignoble in pursuit of a cheap guffaw? Not on your life.
That about sums it up for Dobson. (Read Dobson's full column here.) According to John King of CNN, evangelical leaders like Dobson and Land are "working behind the scenes, not in an organized fashion ... yet ... but definitely working ... to derail Giuliani as a presidential nominee. King also reported that many of these leaders are quietly coalescing around a Fred Thompson candidacy. (I can't see them going for cheatin' Newt.) Pat Buchanan on MSNBC this afternoon said that if Giuliani were to be elected president, he would "move to that country Alec Baldwin said he would move to" if George W. Bush got elected in 2004.
With Jerry Falwell gone, and Pat Robertson certifiably insane, Dobson now moves to the front of the queue as the pied piper of evangelical voters seeking direction on what Jesus would do come election time. That is, unless his theological and economic rival, the relatively tolerant Rick Warren (whose philosphy is more about giving back than handing out chastity belts and damning people to hell) gets political first, on the side of "moderate" Republicanism. (I can't see that happening, though. Warren is an expert marketer. Like an NBA player, he'll probably keep his politics to himself so as not to turn off any potential fans.)
Oh, and that Ohio poll showing Rudy leading John McCain 23% to 17%, that's less than a quarter of the total vote take, and a far cry from the high thirties and low forties Giuliani was commanding just months ago. I'd guess that 20 points of Rudy's total is based on name recognition and 9/11 nostalgia among the Islamophobic right wing wackjob, "24" obsessed set.
The biggest problem for the evangelicals is, who else have they got? Thompson is pretty good for the GOPers, though apparently he's not much of a speech giver.
For Giulini's part, his camp isn't commenting on Dobson. But they're likely doing some quick math on whether, given Rudy's pro-amnesty stance on immigration, they might be able to gain in Hispanic votes what they could lose in evangelicals (angry white males aren't exactly at a premium, I think the GOP has maxed out on them.) So who's party is it, anyway?
It stays interesting...
Update: Witness what happens when this Red Stater attempts to stump for Rudy (scroll down to the comments section. Kapow!)
Update 2: You might want to add welfare reform and illegal immigration to Rudy's list of conservative wrongs. A couple of things I grabbed from the aforementined RedState comments section: On September 11, 1996 (ironic, no?) Giuliani delivered a speech giving rather tepid support to the vaunted welfare reform bill signed by then President Bill Clinton. Besides not really being strongly for it, despite his current claims to welfare cutting fame, Giuliani also delivered this interesting aside:
... there is one aspect of the bill that has immediate application, and one that I believe raises serious constitutional and legal questions. And it is part of the Bill people pay very little attention to, and I'm not certain many knew it was in the bill when they passed it. It's a provision that attempts to reverse an executive order that New York City has had in existence since 1988 which basically says that New York City will create a zone of protection for illegal and undocumented immigrants who are seeking the protection of the police or seeking medical services because they are sick or attempting to or actually putting their children in public schools so they can be educated.
New York City's Executive Order 124, signed by Mayor Koch in 1988 protected people in that endeavor by instructing employees of New York City that they are not to turn in those names into the Immigration and Naturalization Service. That has been the source of great debate from the time Mayor Koch signed it until now. There has been at least three or four attempts by Congress to reverse that executive order.
I'm sure many of you may not remember this, but because I was intimately involved with it I remember it very well. In one of the late versions of the crime bill there was an amendment and the purpose of this amendment was to say that if any city wanted to benefit from the proceeds of the crime bill or money coming from the crime bill, they could not have an executive order like Executive Order 124; they would have to reverse it.
In fact, that same year, as part of an education bill in which education funds were being distributed to the various states throughout the country there was a provision included in it that said if you did anything like Executive Order 124 and give this kind of protection you would be deprived of funds for education and, due to very strong lobbying efforts, I'm delighted to say these provisions were defeated in the past. ...
Hm... so the crime bill that Bill Clinton signed prohibited giving special 'zones of protection' to illegal immigrants, but Giuliani opposed it? And he was advocating such zones of protection, giving illegal migrants access to police, medical and educational services, five years to the day, before 9/11, yet now, he says the Fort Dix Three are a reason to secure the borders... are you GOPers sure this guy is a conservative?
By the way, Giuliani's camp has issued a statement on today's "path to citizenship" compromise that's as ambiguous as Rudy's MSNBC debate answers about abortion.
If President Bush and the GOP are the ones who support the troops, why do they oppose paying them a wage equivalent to what civilians earn? The Army Times reports:
Troops don’t need bigger pay raises, White House budget officials said Wednesday in a statement of administration policy laying out objections to the House version of the 2008 defense authorization bill.
The Bush administration had asked for a 3 percent military raise for Jan. 1, 2008, enough to match last year’s average pay increase in the private sector. The House Armed Services Committee recommends a 3.5 percent pay increase for 2008, and increases in 2009 through 2012 that also are 0.5 percentage point greater than private-sector pay raises.
The slightly bigger military raises are intended to reduce the gap between military and civilian pay that stands at about 3.9 percent today. Under the bill, HR 1585, the pay gap would be reduced to 1.4 percent after the Jan. 1, 2012, pay increase.
Bush budget officials said the administration “strongly opposes” both the 3.5 percent raise for 2008 and the follow-on increases, calling extra pay increases “unnecessary.”
Bush has even threatened a veto if Congress sends him a bill with the higher pay hike, plus a minuscule $40 per month increase in benefits for military widows and price controls for presciption drugs bought through the military healthcare program. I guess the widows of our fallen and troops who need prescription medications really don't need the extra money, either.
Senate Democrats are considering a no confidence vote on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, after additional Senators -- Chuck Hagel, Norm Coleman and even the Bush boot licking former Senate Intelligence Committee chair Pat Roberts of Kansas, either call for Gonzales' ouster, or, in the case of Roberts, suggest he might want to consider heading for the exits. Arlen Specter is now all-but predicting that sooner or later, Gonzales will have to go.
This after the astounding, movie scene-like revelations about that late night visit to John Ashcroft's sick bed to strong arm the very ill man into approving warrantless wiretapping. James Comey, the acting A.G., literally had to race to Ashcroft's bedside to beat Gonzales there, calling the FBI director to make sure he wouldn't be barred from the room, leaving poor Ashcroft alone with Torquemada and Andy Card. If George W. Bush sent Gonzo and Card there, like a couple of freaking goons, or if Dick Cheney and his legal zombie David Addington, did it, we've got trouble.
And there's more. The WaPo today revealed that the original U.S. attorney hit list included one in four of the 93 serving U.S. attorneys -- 26 in all. Here's the list.
The groundswell against Gonzo is growing to a Wolfowitz pitch. The only question is how stubborn George W. Bush is prepared to be in hanging onto his old pal and principal bag-man.
Questions are being raised over Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani's policy on terrorism, after a report revealed he has strong ties to two foreign investment consortia working to own or lease U.S. toll roads, including the Trans-Texas Corridor 35, which is identified as part of the I-35 "NAFTA Superhighway."
Although he opposed NAFTA in 1993, Giuliani recently declined to call for building a fence on the United States border with Mexico, and he has supported a guest-worker program.
Now comes a new report about Giuliani's involvement with public-private-partnership projects that include NAFTA Superhighway funding and his open borders record on immigration questions, all of which could undermine his otherwise tough policy on terrorism that has resulted from the 9/11 role Giuliani played in managing New York City's response to the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Giuliani's Houston-based law firm, Bracewell & Giuliani, is identified by the Texas Department of Transportation as the sole law firm representing Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A., the Spanish investment consortium that has joined with Zachry Construction Company in San Antonio on the TTC project. WND previously reported that TTC-35 is the new four-football-fields-wide car-truck-train-pipeline corridor to be built parallel to the existing I-35 as the Texas segment of the emerging Mexico-to-Canada I-35 NAFTA Superhighway.
And is Rudy lying to try and evade responsibility for the single dumbest decision made in the wake of the first World Trade Center bombings in 1993, shortly after he was elected mayor?
Joseph J. Lhota, who was a deputy mayor and top aide during Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani’s two terms, said this afternoon that it was preposterous for Jerome M. Hauer to deny responsibility for the recommendation to place the city’s emergency operations center in 7 World Trade Center, which was destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001.
The controversy has exposed the bitter rift between Mr. Hauer and Mr. Giuliani, who hired Mr. Hauer to be the first director of the city’s Office of Emergency Management, from 1996 to 2000. The two men eventually had a public falling-out, and in 2001, Mr. Hauer endorsed Mark Green, a Democrat, in Mr. Green’s unsuccessful bid to succeed Mr. Giuliani, a Republican.
On Sunday, Mr. Giuliani told Fox News Channel that the decision to house the Office of Emergency Management’s command center at 7 World Trade Center was based largely on the recommendation of Mr. Hauer.
Today, Lloyd Grove of Daily Intelligencer reported that Mr. Hauer had written a memo in February 1996 to Peter J. Powers, then the first deputy mayor, recommending the MetroTech Center in Downtown Brooklyn as the best site for the command center. Mr. Hauer said that he had been told by Dennison Young Jr., a top aide to Mr. Giuliani, that the mayor would not accept a Brooklyn location.
A copy of the Feb. 14, 1996, memo [pdf] obtained by The Times lists 8 “pros” and 6 “cons” for the MetroTech Center. No. 3 on the list of pros is: “The building is secure and not as visible a target as buildings in Lower Manhattan.”
You'll want to read that there memo. It shows that Hauer clearly favored the Metrotech site, which I know well, having lived not too far from it. It's within eyeshot of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, near downtown Brooklyn. But again, Rudy didn't have much fondness for going to Brooklyn. And Rudy's current attempt to blame Hauer for his own poor decisions is as gutless as it is slimey -- classic Rudy. As Hauer told Lloyd Grove:
"Rudy's getting a lot of heat for the decision," Hauer said. "He's trying to run on his homeland-security and national-security background, and if you start peeling back the skin on the errors he made when he was mayor, you take away a lot of the basis for his candidacy." Hauer added: "I feel sad that he would betray somebody that had served him loyally in the past, and I'm angry, too. But when you get to know Rudy, you know that this is the kind of thing he does. That's just his personality."
Amen. Think Hauer will cut a commercial for one of Rudy's opponents? Count on it.
The Senate and the White House hammer out a deal on illegal immigrant amnesty reform:
The plan would create a temporary worker program to bring new arrivals to the U.S and a separate program to cover agricultural workers. Skills and education level would for the first time be weighted more heavily than family connections in deciding whether immigrants should get permanent legal status. New high-tech employment verification measures would make sure that workers are here legally. ...
... The breakthrough came when negotiators struck a bargain on a so-called "point system" that prioritizes immigrants' education and skill level over family connections in deciding how to award green cards.
The proposed agreement would allow illegal immigrants to come forward and obtain a "Z visa" and — after paying fees and a $5,000 fine — ultimately get on track for permanent residency, which could take between eight and 13 years. Heads of household would have to return to their home countries first.
They could come forward right away to claim a probationary card that would let them live and work legally in the U.S., but could not begin the path to permanent residency or citizenship until border security improvements and the high-tech worker identification program were completed.
A new temporary guest worker program would also have to wait until those so-called "triggers" had been activated.
Those workers would have to return home after work stints of two years, with little opportunity to gain permanent legal status or ever become U.S. citizens. They could renew their guest worker visas twice, but would be required to leave for a year in between each time.
Democrats had pressed instead for guest workers to be permitted to stay and work indefinitely in the U.S.
In perhaps the most hotly debated change, the proposed plan would shift from an immigration system primarily weighted toward family ties toward one with preferences for people with advanced degrees and sophisticated skills. Republicans have long sought such revisions, which they say are needed to end "chain migration" that harms the economy, while some Democrats and liberal groups say it's an unfair system that rips families apart.
Family connections alone would no longer be enough to qualify for a green card — except for spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens.
New limits would apply to U.S. citizens seeking to bring foreign-born parents into the country.
The fur should begin flying shortly. This bill sounds to me like straightforward amnesty, and I'm not sure what in it keeps even more people from streaming across the border, hoping to get in on the deal.
Finally, a serviceable conservative argument linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11
This is about as good as it's gonna get, righties, and interestingly enough, it comes closest to the explanation proferred during this week's GOP debate in South Carolina, by one Ron Paul... From the Hutchinson News, courtesy of an enterprising FReeper:
Many Americans don't understand why the Saudis flew airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
During Desert Storm, the first President Bush decided to use a containment strategy against Saddam Hussein instead of attempting to remove him from office. This strategy required stationing American troops in Saudi Arabia.
Osama bin Laden and his supporters believed that our troops, which al-Qaida considered to be "infidels," were not only occupying their holy land but desecrating it. They hated us because of the occupation and decided to try to force our troops out.
First they attacked our troops. When that didn't work, they attacked our embassies and the U.S.S. Cole. Bin Laden then decided to declare war on the U.S. by attacking the U.S. directly in what became the 9/11 attack.
The 9/11 attack was the price we paid for allowing Hussein to stay in office instead of attempting to remove him during Desert Storm.
We are now at war with al-Qaida. They are fighting us in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The author is arguing, after this pretty decent start, that we have to stay in Iraq and "fight them over there" so we can protect ourselves from further attacks. That's where the argument begins to fall apart, but let's examine the above part of the argument:
In fact, during and after Desert Shield/Desert Storm under the first President Bush, American troops were in fact staged in Saudi Arabia, at various air bases, most of which were little more than open fields. In the final two years of the Bush I administration, construction began on a massive air base called Al Kharj. According to GlobalSecurity.org:
During Desert Shield, coalition forces found it necessary to build what was then called Al Kharj from scratch. From October 1990 to March 1991, a combined 435-person RED HORSE squadron was involved in more than 25 major projects, valued at more than $14.6 million. These included bedding down the largest air base in theater (in terms of number of aircraft -- capable of bedding down five fighter squadrons) at Al Kharj Air Base. Erecting 17 K-Span facilities and carving out roads, they created a theater munitions storage depot. RED HORSE, augmented by the 4th CES from Seymour Johnson AFB, NC, and contract personnel, hauled 200,000 cubic yards of clay to build a foot-thick clay foundation for tent city. Eventually, they erected a tent city, set up four kitchens, an air transportable hospital, six K-span structures, and support facilities. They built munitions storage areas and bladder berms, completed utility distribution systems, and installed mobile aircraft arresting systems. In less than two months in 1990, Al Kharj changed from a base without buildings and only a ramp and runways, to one with tents to support dining halls, hangars, a hospital, electric power generators, and services for an expanded population of Air Force personnel. Al Kharj was ready for aircraft early in January 1991, and by the beginning of the war was home to 4,900 Air Force personnel.
That massive building effort cannot have gone unnoticed by the recalcitrant Saudi named Osama Bin Laden, who was already smarting from the kingdom of his birth, that his family had devoted its working life to, had turned to the infidels to defend Saudi and Kuwaiti soil, rather than turning to the Jihadis who had expelled the mighty Soviet army from Afghanistan.
When the Clinton administration came into power, and with the tense cease fire remaining with Saddam Hussein's Iraq, the building inside the Saudi kingdom only expanded. by 1995, al-Qaida, or other militant groups being labeled al-Qaida by the U.S. government for housekeeping (and easy messaging) purposes, decided to attack. More from GlobalSecurity:
Attacks on the Office of the Program Manager/Saudi Arabia National Guard (OPM/SANG) in November 1995 and on the Khobar Towers living compound in June 1996 forever changed the way in which the Armed Forces will regard terrorism in the Persian Gulf. Both bombings also served to prove that regional security dynamics can have an impact on US forces deployed in the area. To deter and prevent hostile acts, air activities were moved from King Abd Al-Aziz air base in Dhahran and Riyadh air base to a compound inside a much larger tightly secured, 80-square-mile Royal Saudi Air Force Prince Sultan Air Base adjacent to the city of Al Kharj, south of Riyadh. The rationale for this shift was to move forces from populated areas, where perpetrators of terrorist acts could easily disappear, to locales where space and terrain could be used to advantage.
The expansion of the U.S. and British presence in Saudi Arabia accelerated after that, and the expansion of Prince Sultan Air Base ramped up, such that:
Living conditions for troops at Prince Sultan Air Base took a step forward in late 1998 with the acceptance of the new Friendly Forces Housing Complex, roughly two miles from Prince Sultan Air Base. The new 4,257-bed facility took nearly two years to build and became home in early 1999 to more than 4,000 US, British and French coalition forces involved with Operation Southern Watch. The new housing facility is similar to a college dormitory complex featuring permanent structures and some comforts of home such as shared television and living areas in each apartment. It also has three community dining halls, a gymnasium, recreation center, library, pool and probably the most important feature to the troops -- a lot more privacy. Built at a cost of approximately $112 million by the host government, the housing complex remains the property of the Saudi government but is primarily run and maintained by US forces. Security of the complex is also the responsibility of coalition security forces. The first forces to move in was the 363rd Air Expeditionary Wing already at Prince Sultan.
On 22 June 1999 Prince Sultan Ibn Abdul Aziz, Second Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector-General, laid the foundation stone for the Prince Sultan Health Center in Al-Kharj. Prince Sultan had donated a total of SR 22 million (U.S. $ 5.87 million) to this project. Prince Sultan also unveiled plaques commemorating the opening of the Prince Sultan Air Base, and marking the completion of the residential complexes and educational facilities, for which Prince Sultan laid the foundation stones a little under two years previously. The project of the Air Base was first conceived in the late 1980s, and had involved ten contractors and total funding of over SR 4 billion (U.S. $ 1.07 billion).
With all that contract money changing hands, and the thousands of U.S. and British troops now living quite well inside the Kingdom, where 30 percent unemployment among the non-royal is a day-to-day fact of life, Bin Laden is said to have made the decision to escalate the war against America. The countdown to 9/11 had begun.
Now all of that assumes that you believe the official timeline and story regarding Bin Laden's designs on the World Trade Center. If you do, then it follows that al-Qaida -- or a loosely defined groups of al-Qaida affiliated entities -- continually ratcheted up the war, attacking the World Trade Center in 1993, two U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the U.S.S. Cole in 2000, and the World Trade Center again in 2001. Also during that time, a group called Saudi Hizbollah attacked the Khobar Towers housing complex in Saudi Arabia, which at the time was housing military personnel near the headquarters of the Saudi state oil company Aramco (coincidentally, I'm sure). [that the commonality with the other Hizbollah isn't really meaningful, since the name Hizbollah or "Hezbollah" simply translates to "part of God."]
So are we at war in Iraq because of all this? Well, yes and no. Iraq's government had no ties to al-Qaida, which the writer of the Hutchinson essay inherently acknowledges: the al-Qaida beef had nothing to do with America's war against Saddam -- the Saudis, and al-Qaida, both hated Saddam. It had to do with American troops "defiling" Saudi soil to defend Saudi interests aganst Saddam. So it makes no sense to argue that we're fighting an al-Qaida that is on the same side as the Ba'athist apostate Saddam Hussein.
However, there are some al-Qaida elements in Iraq. They represent the smallest, but among the most lethal, components of the insurgency. And what are they fighting for? They're fighting to destabilize the Shiite government and majority, which we unleashed after deposing Saddam. But they appear to want to upend the Ba'athist insurgents, too, setting both sides against one another in a bloody civil war, the result of which, I suppose from al-Qaida's point of view, will be an ungovernable country that cannot be permanently occupied, wait for it, by the infidel Americans and British. So the al-Qaida portion of the war in Iraq is much more about us than it is about Saddam.
So what keeps al-Qaida fighting? Well, it could be that one thing is the fact that their bloody, decade-plus long struggle against the United States has yielded at least one success: On April 29, 2003, the Bush administration announced that it would yield to one of Osama Bin Laden's central demands, by pulling American forces out of the sprawling, hydra-like complex built in the aftermath of his father's aborted war against Saddam: Prince Sultan Air Base.
Mr. Comey's Tale A standoff at a hospital bedside speaks volumes about Attorney General Gonzales.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007; A14
JAMES B. COMEY, the straight-as-an-arrow former No. 2 official at the Justice Department, yesterday offered the Senate Judiciary Committee an account of Bush administration lawlessness so shocking it would have been unbelievable coming from a less reputable source. The episode involved a 2004 nighttime visit to the hospital room of then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft by Alberto Gonzales, then the White House counsel, and Andrew H. Card Jr., then the White House chief of staff. Only the broadest outlines of this visit were previously known: that Mr. Comey, who was acting as attorney general during Mr. Ashcroft's illness, had refused to recertify the legality of the administration's warrantless wiretapping program; that Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Card had tried to do an end-run around Mr. Comey; that Mr. Ashcroft had rebuffed them.
Mr. Comey's vivid depiction, worthy of a Hollywood script, showed the lengths to which the administration and the man who is now attorney general were willing to go to pursue the surveillance program. First, they tried to coerce a man in intensive care -- a man so sick he had transferred the reins of power to Mr. Comey -- to grant them legal approval. Having failed, they were willing to defy the conclusions of the nation's chief law enforcement officer and pursue the surveillance without Justice's authorization. Only in the face of the prospect of mass resignations -- Mr. Comey, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and most likely Mr. Ashcroft himself -- did the president back down.
As Mr. Comey testified, "I couldn't stay, if the administration was going to engage in conduct that the Department of Justice had said had no legal basis." The crisis was averted only when, the morning after the program was reauthorized without Justice's approval, President Bush agreed to fix whatever problem Justice had with it (the details remain classified). "We had the president's direction to do . . . what the Justice Department believed was necessary to put this matter on a footing where we could certify to its legality," Mr. Comey said.
The dramatic details should not obscure the bottom line: the administration's alarming willingness, championed by, among others, Vice President Cheney and his counsel, David Addington, to ignore its own lawyers. Remember, this was a Justice Department that had embraced an expansive view of the president's inherent constitutional powers, allowing the administration to dispense with following the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Justice's conclusions are supposed to be the final word in the executive branch about what is lawful or not, and the administration has emphasized since the warrantless wiretapping story broke that it was being done under the department's supervision.
Now, it emerges, they were willing to override Justice if need be. That Mr. Gonzales is now in charge of the department he tried to steamroll may be most disturbing of all.
Game, set, match, and proof that when it comes to Mr. Bush, the more disreputable you are, the more valuable you are. But as Chris Matthews asked last night on Hardball: "has anybody benefitted from knowing George W. Bush?" Look at the scattered corpses: Wolfowitz, Feith, Cambone, Collin Powell, Scooter Libby, George Tenet, Richard Clarke, Paul O'Neil, and so far, four senior members of the Department of Justice.
Melinda voted off Idol? She finishes third behind the talented -- but clearly less talented compared with Melinda -- Blake and (syrupy sweet) Jordin Sparks? Call it a triumph of youth voting (or youth idiocy). As in 2004, how can 60 million people be so dumb...
Update: I'll tell you how ... because young viewers voted based on "cuteness" ... the Nickelodeon factor. Result: I think Jordin will be the winner at the end of the day. Please (don't) pass the sugar.
Alberto Gonzales cannot remain in office as attorney general. He also cannot leave the office of attorney general. The scandals continually mounting, both from his current tenure, and his tenure as White House counsel, continue to mount. With James Comey's incredible testimony yesterday, including testimony that he as acting A.G., then Attorney General John Ashcroft, and at least two other officials threatened to resign over the illegal NSA warrantless wiretapping scheme -- new questions are being asked by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee about whether Gonzales told the truth when he testified that there had been no such serious concerns about warrantless wiretapping by top officials at Justice. Not to mention the fact that Gonzales killed a probe into that very subject. (In the wake of Comey's testimony, Chuck Hagel has now joined the congressional chorus calling for Gonzales' ouster.)
But George W. Bush -- curiously, and in contradiction to predictions I and others have made -- has not begun the process of pushing Gonzales out. Why?
Writing in The Weekly Standard, Tod Lindberg, a Fellow at the Hoover Institution, says Gonzales's departure would be a "catastrophic defeat" for the administration. How so?
Democrats with good memories, such as former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman, who served on the House Judiciary Committee when it voted to impeach Richard Nixon in 1974, recall with precision the sequence of events that led to the resignation of the 37th president of the United States.
In brief: Then-Attorney General Richard Kleindienst resigns, giving way to Eliot Richardson, confirmed by a steely-eyed, Democrat-controlled Judiciary Committee, under the condition that he appoint a special prosecutor to look into Nixon administration wrongdoings. Enter Archibald Cox, and the rest is ... well, you know.
[Holtzman] is hardly alone among Democrats in slavering over the prospect of a new "independent counsel"-style investigation of the Bush administration -- one that would succeed where Patrick Fitzgerald failed by finding and charging a conspiracy and coverup all the way to the top,, writes Lindberg.
Oh, and "breaking news": the DOJ has released a whopping TWO Karl Rove emails (to him, not from him) related to the firings of the Gonzales Eight.
More on Rovegate from TPMM, including a "stern letter from Pat Leahy."
The man considered by many to have been the intellectual architect of the Iraq war -- and the failed occupation (so few troops, such poor projections...) is reportedly negotiating a graceful exit from the World Bank, that would allow him to "save face" as he steps down for hooking up his girlfriend.
All you need to know about the Bush administration
...is contained in this story about an absolutely stunning story about the conduct of Alberto Gonzales when he was White House counsel (aside from signing the torture memo and otherwise behaving as a two-bit stooge. I'm reposting this because it's critical to understanding who these people are -- utterly guileless, almost theatrically sinister, and utterly without conscience. Here is the story, as told by one of the good guys -- former Deputy Attorney General James Comey:
WASHINGTON: On the night of March 10, 2004, a high-ranking Justice Department official rushed to a Washington hospital to prevent two White House aides from taking advantage of the critically ill Attorney General, John Ashcroft, the official testified on Tuesday.
One of those aides was Alberto Gonzales, who was then White House counsel and eventually succeeded Ashcroft as Attorney General.
"I was very upset," said James Comey, who was deputy Attorney General at the time, in his testimony Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. "I was angry. I thought I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man, who did not have the powers of the attorney general because they had been transferred to me."
The hospital visit by Gonzales and Andrew Card Jr., who was then White House chief of staff, has been disclosed before, but never in such dramatic, personal detail. Comey's account offered a rare and titillating glimpse of a Washington power struggle, complete with a late-night showdown in the White House after a dramatic encounter in a darkened hospital room.
Comey related his story to the committee, which is investigating various aspects of Gonzales's tenure as Attorney General, including the recent dismissals of eight United States attorneys and allegations that applicants for traditionally nonpartisan career prosecutor jobs were screened for political loyalties.
Although Comey declined to say specifically what the business was that sent Gonzales to the bedside of Ashcroft in George Washington Hospital, where he lay critically ill with pancreatitis, it was clear that the subject was the National Security Agency's secret domestic surveillance program. The signature of Ashcroft or his surrogate was needed by the next day, March 11, in order to renew the program, which was still secret at that time. ...
Howard Fineman said on Countdown tonight that whatever you think of Alberto, he's proving why George W. Bush loves him -- he is shameless and relentless when it comes to doing whatever it is the president wants. He is the ultimate shill -- a man with so little conscience it's almost hard to believe he's real. He is the Bush bag man extraordinaire, and he will do anything -- no matter how gut-bucket -- to please his boss.
And that's why Bush doesn't want him going anywhere. More on that fateful night:
On the night of March 10, as he was being driven home by his security detail, he got a telephone call from Ashcroft's chief of staff, who had just been contacted by Ashcroft's wife, Janet.
Although Janet Ashcroft had banned visitors and telephone calls to her husband's hospital room, she had just gotten a call from the White House telling her that Card and Gonzales were on their way to see her husband, Comey testified. "I have some recollection that the call was from the president himself, but I don't know that for sure," Comey said.
He said his security detail then sped him to the hospital with sirens blaring and emergency lights flashing, while he telephoned the director of the FBI, Robert S. Mueller 3d, from the car. Mueller shared his sense of urgency: "He said, 'I'll meet you at the hospital right now,' " Mr. Comey testified.
When he got to the hospital, Comey recalled, "I got out of the car and ran up - literally, ran up the stairs with my security detail."
"What was your concern?" asked Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, who was the chairman of the committee session on Tuesday.
"I was concerned that, given how ill I knew the attorney general was, that there might be an effort to ask him to overrule me when he was in no condition to do that," Comey replied.
Comey recalled arriving at the darkened hospital room, where Ashcroft seemed hardly aware of his surroundings. For a time, only Comey and the Ashcrofts were in the room. Meanwhile, Mueller, who had not yet arrived, told Comey's security detail by phone "not to allow me to be removed from the room under any circumstances," Comey testified.
Minutes later, he said, Gonzales and Card entered the room, with Gonzales carrying an envelope. "And then Gonzales began to discuss why they were there, to seek his approval for a matter," Comey related.
"And Attorney General Ashcroft then stunned me," Comey went on: He raised his head from the pillow, reiterated his objections to the program, then lay back down, pointing to Comey as the attorney general during his illness.
When Mueller arrived, "he had a brief, a memorable brief exchange with the attorney general, and then we went outside in the hallway," Comey said.
Gonzales and Card departed, but after a while, Card telephoned Comey and "demanded that I come to the White House immediately," Comey said.
"After what I just witnessed, I will not meet with you without a witness, and I intend that witness to be the solicitor general of the United States," Comey said he told Card.
Whereupon, Comey said, he contacted the solicitor general, Theodore Olson, who was at a dinner party, and arranged to go with him to the White House. At first, Card would not let Olson enter his office, Comey said; he then had a considerably calmer private chat with Card for a quarter-hour, after which Olson entered the room and took part in the conversation.
"Mr. Card was concerned that he had heard reports that there were to be a large number of resignations at the Department of Justice," Comey recalled.
Ashcroft had such serious reservations about the program that he considered resigning then, Comey testified. Instead, he stayed on until November 2004.
Mueller, too, considered resigning, Comey said.
"You had conversations with him about it?" Schumer asked.
"Yes," Comey replied. The surveillance program was reauthorized on March 11, 2004, without a signature from the Department of Justice "attesting to its legality," Comey testified.
Comey said Tuesday that he intended to resign the next day, March 12. But on that day, terrorists carried out deadly train bombings in Madrid, and he put his plans on hold and remained on the job until August 2005. ...
This morning we had a couple of guests on the morning show to talk about the issue of affirmative action, broadly defined as prohibition against discrimination against minorities and women, and more controversially characterized by target percentages of same within educational institutions, corporations and the like. We had on a guy named Dr. Claude Anderson, a friend of my co-host, and Professor Walter Williams, an economics professor at George Mason University, and a known opponent of affirmative action (both are African-American). I'm still not clear on what Anderson's point is, other than that the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and the subsequent executive orders by LBJ and Nixon did "nothing" for Blacks, who are, in his words, "permanent, institutional losers" in American society, and of course, always will be, because those amendments and executive orders were "whitewashed" to include other minorities, and women, who really don't deserve such protection because they weren't slaves. Oh, and we should live in separatist compounds away from white people.
The other guest, Professor Williams, argued that the free market, and not government mandates, will correct social stratification (something I'm not sure is true, and even if it is, we don't have a true free market system, because our government leans on the scales to aid corporations, sort of like the way China does...) He also argued that Blacks are set up for failure when they're simply given positions (in college, or on the job) based on race, and not on merit, and he cited the experience of Black students who under affirmative action had high admission rates and low graduation rates.
I'd argue that today, that's not necessarily the case. Black students are graduating at higher rates from elite "white" institutions than from historically Black colleges. And when I was at Harvard, this issue was tackled head on, and Black student scores coming out of high school were found to be higher than our white counterparts.
For the record, I support affirmative action. But I disagree with its use to hand opportunity to those who have not been prepared to make the most of it. Affirmative action was supposed to prevent discrimination of the qualified, not to hand out freebies to the underqualified. When the latter happens, what you create is villification, resentment, and a sense of unfairness in the minds of the excluded (whether that's other minorities or whites.) The problem with affirmative action has been in its application by some, whether well meaning or not, and in the failure of societal institutions, particularly K-12 education systems, to properly prepare young African-Americans for success (throw underperforming parents in there, too...)
The goal should be to have no question that we have both diversity and merit -- where everyone has a shot, but we all agree that everyone who got a shot deserves to be there.
I imagine that's the prayer George W. Bush says on his knees every night. Well, now, he's got himself just that somebody. World: meet the new "war czar" -- the guy who's going to be thrown under the bus, McNulty / Scooter Libby style, when the Iraq project goes the full way into the toilet.
Alberto Gonzales proves that he's not only the most incompetent attorney general in memorable U.S. history, he's also one of the sleaziest:
WASHINGTON -- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Tuesday he relied heavily on his deputy to oversee the firings of U.S. attorneys, appearing to distance himself from his departing second-in-command.
Gonzales' comments came the day after Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty said he would step down by the end of summer, a decision that people familiar with his plans said was hastened by the controversy over last year's firings of eight prosecutors.
"At the end of the day, the recommendations reflected the views of the deputy attorney general. He signed off on the names," Gonzales told reporters after a speech about Justice Department steps to curb rising violent crime.
"The one person I would care about would be the views of the deputy attorney general, because the deputy attorney general is the direct supervisor of the United States attorneys," Gonzales said.
McNulty, reached in San Antonio after Gonzales' remarks, declined to respond.
The uncomfortable moment capped weeks of strain between the two men and their staffs, a rift that grew as a result of the firings that Congress suspects were politically motivated. It also raises questions of whether McNulty's resignation also was ordered, despite his insistence that it was his own decision to step down. ...
Just days ago, Gonzales couldn't tell the House Judiciary Committee who on earth could have been responsible for the firings, but he was pretty sure it was Kyle Sampson's fault. Now, conveniently, the culprit is the latest departing deputy. And as for McNulty being to blame, he has already testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and said in one on one meetings with Senator Chuck Schumer, that he was given bogus reasons for the purge, which conveniently allowed him to go before congress and market the "performance related reasons" shillery, which he promptly took back in subsequent conversations with Chuch Schumer:
McNulty has acknowledged approving, last October, the list of prosecutors who were ordered to leave. But documents released by the Justice Department show he was not closely involved in picking all the U.S. attorneys who were put on the list -- a job mostly driven by two Gonzales staffers with little prosecutorial experience.Gonzales ultimately signed off on the list. He said he was reassured by McNulty as recently as March that the firings were justified.
Really? Well it seems McNulty tells a different story:
Despite his own misleading statements before Congress, McNulty is the wrong man to go in this scandal. On Feb. 6, 2007, McNulty told a Senate panel that most of the ousted prosecutors were fired for "performance-related" issues. But as the performance records of the fired attorneys became public, it was revealed that nearly all of them held positive job evaluations from the Department of Justice. One fired U.S. attorney -- Nevada's Daniel Bogden -- said that in a phone conversation with McNulty prior to his firing he was told performance "did not enter into the equation" as a reason for his dismissal. McNulty also told Congress that "the decision to fire the eight U.S. attorneys in December was made solely by the Justice Department. He was furious, aides said, after learning later that [Gonzales' chief of staff Kyle] Sampson had been talking to the White House about potential firings since at least January 2005." McNulty acknowledged providing inaccurate information to Congress about the dismissals, "but blamed the errors on inadequate preparation by others more deeply involved in the removals."
McNulty's testimony raises more questions about the account given to Congress by the attorney general. In his February testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, McNulty acknowledged during contentious testimony that fired U.S. attorney Bud Cummins had been let go simply because the administration wanted to name former Republican National Committee operative Timothy Griffin in his place. In that hearing, Schumer asked, "So, in other words, Bud Cummins was fired for no reason. There was no cause?" McNulty answered, "No cause provided in his case, as I am aware of it." That revelation sparked additional inquiries as Congress sought to determine whether the other firings were aimed at interfering with ongoing cases. One day after his testimony, a Justice Department spokesman sent an email to other aides saying Gonzales was "extremely upset" that McNulty acknowledged the true cause for the firing. While McNulty's testimony "infuriated" Gonzales, "eventually, McNulty's position proved to be correct."
Also, McNulty he says that before his initial congressional testimony, he was coached on what to say by none other than Karl Rove.
The orders from the White House to any number of embattled senior administration officials appear to be the same: Hunker down, admit nothing, offer no appearance of panic and whatever you do, don't resign.
The penalty for violating those orders came more clearly into focus this morning. Just hours after Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty announced his resignation, his boss publicly stabbed him in the back.
McNulty, widely considered to have played only a supporting role in the controversial firings of U.S. attorneys last year, did his bosses the kindness yesterday of citing "financial pressures" as his reason for abruptly ending his long career in public service in the midst of a scandal.
But Attorney General Alberto Gonzales wasted no time in planting the knife. Although Gonzales has previously been vague to the point of cluelessness about the genesis of the firings, suddenly this morning the ambiguity was gone.
The Washington Times says evangelicals are coalescing around Fred Thompson. Says one unnamed leader:
"It's the moment of truth for conservatives ... Either social conservatives rally to stop a Giuliani nomination and victory for him in November 2008 or our issues -- abortion, same-sex marriage, the preservation of the family -- are permanently off the Republican Party agenda."
That about sums it up. And besides, do you really want the guy who allowed firefighters and other workers to breathe the polluted air post-9/11 to run our country? Signs among New Yorkers point to "no."
Who's going to work at CBS radio if they fire everybody?
JV and Elvis get axed by CBS for making fun of Chinese people, Opie and Anthony are on deck (they're with XM, I think) for an expletive filled spoof on sexually attacking Condi Rice, Laura Bush and the Queen of England. I'm tempted to ask, is there anything even remotely worth listening to on the radio (besides my show and network, of course :)...) Or, are we becoming the SuperNanny state, where those who like crap radio have no rights at all...
Three U.S. troops are missing in Iraq. U.S. and Iraqi troops are now scouring Mahmoudiya, in the area known as the "triangle of death" searching for them. This just goes to show why we shouldn't be placing our troops in small units embedded with the Iraqi military. Anyway... the apparent kidnapping, which came during an ambush which also cost the lives of four other troops and their Iraqi translator, is a reminder of the danger, not just of death in Iraq, but also of disappearance. Remember Specialist Matt Maupin? It's been three years and he's still missing.
Meanwhile, there's breaking news that two American troops were shot, and at least one of them killed, by "militants" who opened fire at U.S. and Pakistani troops on the Pakistani-Afghan border.
First, 138 members of the Iraqi parliament -- a majority -- pass a resolution calling for a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops (sorry, I don't say "coalition" anymore. It just sounds disengenuous...) ...
Then, the parliament got the bright idea of taking a 2 month vacation while our troops are dying in increasing numbers, in smaller units, for Bush's ... oh, I'm sorry, David Petreus' ... "surge" ...
It would seem to be an obvious answer, given the nickname given the group of eight U.S. attorneys fired with the approval of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (that would be the GONZALES EIGHT...)
But as Gonzo's most recent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee demonstrates, he either had no idea why he was approving the firings, or he knew and now won't say. Mr. Gonzales claims that while he "takes full responsibility" for dumping the eight attorneys as part of what's being called the Pearl Harbor day massacre, he has no idea who recommended the eight to be let go. Like a children's game, Florida Rep. Robert Wexler walked Gonzo through a list of people who Gonzales says didn't do it:
It wasn't George W. Bush... It wasn't Dick Cheney... It wasn't Alberto Gonzales... It wasn't Kyle Sampson... It wasn't former Deputy Attorney General James Comey... It wasn't Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty... It might have been Kyle Sampson ... but of course Fredo doesn't know for sure because he hasn't talked to him about it, even though he signed off on the firing and Sampson was supposedly in charge of the ... never mind... let's just hear from the idiot:
Gonzales: Out of respect for the integrity of this investigation and the investigations occurring at the Department of Justice, I have not made that inquiry with respect to other fact witnesses.
Wexler: But you were OK with firing them, but you won't tell us who made the recommendation to fire them.
Gonzales: I think I was justified in relying upon the senior leadership in the department ... Let me just say this: I did not make the decision with respect to Mr. Iglesias ...
Wexler: I know. You haven't made any decision ... You have been very clear about that.
Gonzales: I accept full responsibility for this.
Wexler: But you won't tell us who put Mr. Iglesias on that list?
Gonzales: You would have a better opportunity to access ...
Wexler: I would?
Gonzales: The committee would, the Congress.
Wexler: Are you the attorney general? Do you run the Department of Justice?
Oh, and who recommended the firing of the Gonzales Eight? Clearly it was Karl Rove, and it was done because of Rove's and various GOP Congressmen's complaints that the attorneys wouldn't play ball in Rove's phony voter fraud scheme to influence the 2006 midterm elections. But the administration would rather leave Albertcito twisting in the wind until the very end in order to save Turd Blossom.
Rudy Giuliani and Bernard Kerik, crimeys to the end
What do you do with the good will of the world, after you've done your duty as mayor of New York City, comforting a shaken public after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001? If you're Rudy Giuliani, you use your newfound fame to make yourself rich:
In Private Sector, Giuliani Parlayed Fame Into Wealth Candidate's Firm Has Taken On Controversial Executives, Clients
By John Solomon and Matthew Mosk Washington Post Staff Writers Sunday, May 13, 2007; Page A01
On Dec. 7, 2001, nearly three months after the terrorist attack that had made him a national hero and a little over three weeks before he would leave office, New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani took the first official step toward making himself rich.
The letter he dispatched to the city Conflicts of Interest Board that day asked permission to begin forming a consulting firm with three members of his outgoing administration. The company, Giuliani said, would provide "management consulting service to governments and business" and would seek out partners for a "wide-range of possible business, management and financial services" projects.
Over the next five years, Giuliani Partners earned more than $100 million, according to a knowledgeable source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the firm's financial information is private. And that success helped transform the Republican considered the front-runner for his party's 2008 presidential nomination from a moderately well-off public servant into a globe-trotting consultant whose net worth is estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars. ...
Rudy soon hired his pal Bernie Kerik, who would later be convicted on corruption charges, along with two other friends: Pasquale J. D'Amuro, a former high ranking FBI executive and counterterrorism expert, who would later "retire" after it was disclosed that he looted "mementos" from Ground Zero, and then there's this guy:
... Alan Placa, an old friend who resigned as vice chancellor of the Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island a week after being confronted by Newsday with allegations that former parishioners had been abused. The newspaper published portions of a 2003 Suffolk County grand jury report in which accusers said he used his position to stifle complaints of abuse by clergy.
And who were some of Rudy's secret clients? Why, they included:
Giuliani Partners was hired in December 2002 by Florida-based Seisint, Inc. to help market its data-mining product called Matrix. The product got a high-level airing in the White House in January 2003 at a meeting attended by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Vice President Dick Cheney. At that meeting, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother, gave a presentation in favor of the product. But by late 2003, reports surfaced that Seisint chief Hank Asher, a Giuliani friend, had smuggled cocaine into the United States earlier in his life. The Matrix project eventually fizzled and questions were then raised inside Seisint about the size of the firm's compensation.
Connecticut drug manufacturer Purdue Pharma hired Giuliani Partners in May 2002 as the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Food and Drug Administration began investigating a wave of overdose deaths attributed to the firm's powerful and lucrative painkiller, OxyContin. The agencies had started looking into the pain product's illicit use as a recreational drug, and probing lax security at the company's manufacturing plants in New Jersey and North Carolina. A week before the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the former mayor joined then-DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft for the opening of new exhibit at the DEA's traveling museum and lent his star power to luncheon that day that raised about $20,000 for the DEA Foundation. In June 2004 U.S. prosecutors announced that the Purdue Pharma affiliate that ran the Totowa, New Jersey plant would pay $2 million to settle the investigation and the drugmaker would not have to admit wrongdoing or take its product off the shelf.
In January 2003, Giuliani Partners landed a $4.3 million contract to tackle Mexico City's vexing crime problems. His firm delivered a 146-point plan that the city's public security secretary, Marcelo Ebrard, trumpeted as an antidote to the city's longstanding crime scourge. Ebrard, now the city's mayor, said in a recent local television interview that many of the recommendations have in fact been implemented. Other Mexican leaders have described the contract with Giuliani as a "$4 million publicity stunt."
Sounds like a nice way to make a living, if you can get away with it.
Rudolph Giuliani and his consulting company, Giuliani Partners, have served as key advisors for the last five years to the pharmaceutical company that pled guilty today to charges it misled doctors and patients about the addiction risks of the powerful narcotic painkiller OxyContin.
Federal officials say the company, Purdue Frederick, helped to trigger a nationwide epidemic of addiction to the time-release painkiller by failing to give early warnings that it could be abused.
Prosecutors say "in the process scores died."
Drug Enforcement Administration officials tell the Blotter on ABCNews.com Giuliani personally met with the head of the DEA when the DEA's drug diversion office began a criminal investigation into the company.
According to the book "Painkiller," by New York Times reporter Barry Meier, both Giuliani and his then-partner Bernard Kerik "were in direct contact with Asa Hutchinson, the administrator of DEA."
And then, according to ABC News' "The Blotter", led by the exceptional Brian Ross, it gets worse:
Hutchinson told the Blotter on ABCNews.com today that Giuliani asked for a meeting, "and we gave him a meeting." Hutchinson says he was aware the company was under investigation at the time, and "any time a company is under investigation I like to give them a chance to make their case."
Kerik told New York Magazine at the time that Giuliani had raised $15,000 in donations for a "traveling museum operated by the DEA."
Some officials told ABC News there were questions inside the agency of whether the donations were an attempt to influence the DEA.
Meier wrote that "with Giuliani now in the mix, the pace of DEA's investigation into Purdue's OxyContin plant in New Jersey slowed as Hutchinson repeatedly summoned division officials to his office to explain themselves and their reasons for continuing the inquiry."
Giuliani publicly praised the company, Purdue Frederick, when it hired him in May 2002 for an undisclosed amount. "Purdue has demonstrated its commitment to fighting this problem," he said, referring to the issue of drug addiction.
According to Giuliani Partners, Kerik, a New York City police commissioner under Giuliani, was in charge of helping Purdue improve security at the New Jersey plant.
Nice. Just the kind of guy you want in the White House.
The British Prime Minister -- otherside known as one of George Bush's last remaining friends (John Howard and the El Sauds being the others) announces that the end is near. The Guardian reports it thusly:
In an emotional 17-minute speech, he said the judgment on his 10-year administration was "for you, the people, to make". Mr Blair paid special tribute to his wife and children "who never let me forget my failings".
But he concluded: "Hand on heart, I did what I thought was right. I may have been wrong - that's your call. But I did what I thought was right for our country. "This country is a blessed country. The British are special. The world knows it, we know it, this is the greatest country on earth."
He dealt directly with Iraq, many people's perception as his ultimate legacy, saying: "The blowback since ... has been fierce, unrelenting and costly."
The Independent's cartoonist Dave Brown says "don't let the door hit you on the way out":
won't be sad to see the back of Blair. I detest the man and what he's done. But he's great to draw. You put all that bile, hatred and angst into drawing. Blair's legacy is Iraq. It could have almost been Northern Ireland but Iraq just overshadows everything.
Tony Blair proudly claimed to have changed the face of modern Britain today as he returned to the place where his political career first began to make the formal announcement of his resignation as Labour leader.
In an emotional speech to supporters in his Sedgefield constituency, Mr Blair declared that in his ten years in power, Britain had been transformed from a "strangely old-fashioned country" into one which is "comfortable in the 21st century, at home in its own skin".
He added: "Britain not a follower today. It is a leader." He also defended his record over a decade at No 10, saying: "Hand on heart, I did what I thought was right."
I spoke with my mother-in-law, who lives in London, about a week ago about Blair, and she concluded that while most Britons remain angry with Blair over Iraq, he is also given great credit for his economic and other domestic programs. And he saved the Queen's legacy by urging her to emote at long last over the death of Princess Di (see the movie "The Queen" -- you'll love it.)
John McKay, one of the Gonzales Eight, says he expects to see charges against top DOJ officials over Gonzogate... he also describes the first mass meeting of U.S. attorneys under Mr. Gonzales. The memorable catch phrase: "I work for the White House ... YOU work for the White House..."
Tim Russert reported exclusively for NBC tonight that President Bush faced an extraordinary confrontation with 11 Republican lawmakers in the White House solarium. The delegation, yesterday at 2:30 in the afternoon, was led by Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois and Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. The private meeting was attended by the president, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Karl Rove, and Tony Snow, along with perhaps others.
At the meeting, Russert reports the 11 unusual suspects (no Ron Pauls there,) told the president in supremely blunt terms that he has lost credibility on the Iraq war. The Congressmen reportedly called the conversation "the most unvarnished convo they've ever had with the president," and one described it by saying that he has had private meetings with three presidents, with this one being the most blunt.
Just a few quotes related by Russert tonight on Countdown (courtesy of ThinkP, where you ca also see the video report):
[O]ne said “My district is prepared for defeat. We need candor, we need honesty, Mr. President.” The president responded, “I don’t want to pass this off to another president. I don’t want to pass this off, particularly, to a Democratic president,” underscoring he understood how serious the situation was.
Brian, the Republican congressman then went on to say, “The word about the war and its progress cannot come from the White House or even you, Mr. President. There is no longer any credibility. It has to come from Gen. Petraeus.” The meeting lasted an hour and 15 minutes and was, in the words of one, “remarkable for the bluntness and no-holds-barred honesty in the message delivered by all these Republican congressmen.”
Meanwhile, as if Dubya isn't having enough problems, VoteVets.org has released a series of unprecedented video ads in which generals -- including two who commanded U.S. forces in Iraq -- assail the president's handling of the war, his mismanagement of United States armed forces, and the detrimental effect his Iraq policy is having on our ability to fight real terrorism.
The VoteVets site was jammed as of this writing, but you can view retired Maj. General John Batiste's ad here.
The 2002 congressional resolution that granted President Bush the power to invade Iraq contains some very specific language: enforce all relevant United Nations sanctions regarding Iraq, and defend the nation against the “continuing threat posed by Iraq.”
That’s old news, says Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va. And he tried during a Senate hearing Wednesday to get Bush’s defense secretary to admit it.
“Since the government of Iraq that is referred to in the resolution no longer exists, having been replaced by a democratically elected one, do you agree that this authorization no longer applies to the ongoing conflict in Iraq?” Byrd asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who appeared before the Senate defense appropriations subcommittee to request funds for fiscal 2008.
Gates didn’t take the bait. “I think the honest answer, Senator Byrd, is that I don’t know the answer to that question.”
“That’s really honest,” replied Byrd, who along with Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., is leading a move to force a vote on rescinding the 2002 resolution. “Therefore, if you don’t know the answer, how does it apply if you don’t know the answer?”
Said Gates, “Well, sir, my impression is that it’s the view of the president that it still continues to authorize the actions that we are taking in Iraq.”
Yes, the candor is refreshing. But the fact remains that the 2002 authorization for the use of force in Iraq is plainly not valid. Read the authorization for yourself here. It specifically authorizes the president to:
(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and
(2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq.
Well, since Iraq now has a government purportedly friendly to the United States and no longer in violation of U.N. resolutions, neither of those appears to apply, unless you consider the Iraqi internescene civil war to be a mortal danger to U.S. security.
We need to remind ourselves daily that the war in Iraq is over. It ended 41 days after it began, with the successful decapitation of that country's then government. What we've been involved in for the past four years is a drawn out, equisitely unsuccessful, occupation. That occupation is draining United States troop strength and manpower, equipment and lives. It wasn't worth the cost of going in, it's not worth spending another American life to stay.
Please avoid the idea that Iraq is like Oz, and one day it's going to be black and white and the next day you're going to wake up and it's color. It's a war. And it is something where progress is something that our people are devoted and dedicated to achieving, but it is not something that appears with a snap of a finger.
On facts and their vicissitudes:
I don't expect the Iraq debate to go away. The Iraq debate is, I'm sure, going to continue to be vigorous and heated, especially as we move toward the presidential primaries. But again, a lot of times -- facts are funny things, and sometimes they can support your position and turn around, and either good news or bad news, depending on how you view it, can force you to adjust your view of things.
And on flower children:
All you have to do, again, is look at the statements of Zawahiri and others -- they want Iraq. They want Iraq for theirs. They want to do whatever they can to shake it up. And meanwhile, the Iraqi people are standing up against it. They are -- innocent civilians are being blasted to smithereens. So there is considerably going to be conflict. And I'm not going to get out the crystal ball, but it is certainly a war in which our walking away is not going to turn Osama bin Laden into a flower child.
An overturned, overcrowded boat loaded with Haitian migrants becomes an international incident. And the they said, they said over whether the boat was being towed, or being rammed, by the Turks and Caicos Navy and/or police, at the time it sunk sending 61 people to their deaths by sharks or drowning, has drawn in the U.S. Coast Guard. Will this incident impact the debate over Temporary Protected Status for Haitians in the U.S.? Probably not. But the conversation needs to be had.
Cult leader / civic angel Yahweh bin Yahweh has died of cancer at the age of 71. Probably my funniest co-worker, Edgar, just asked "how could God die of cancer?" Christopher Hitchens beware.
The Mitt Romney camp has launched a free media campaign aimed at getting the Mittster's poll number up where his fundraising and debate performance stats are. The vehicle: one Reverend Al Sharpton, who in a debate this week with noted drunkard atheist, author and friend to Kurds everywhere Christopher Hitchens, said the following:
"As for the one Mormon running for office, those who really believe in God will defeat him anyways, so don't worry about that; that's a temporary situation..."
Now that would be perfectly awful, if Sharpton were going after Mitt's Mormonism. But wait, there's more to the story...
Team Romney culled the comment (audio here) from a New York Times blog entry, and went whole hog with it yesterday (it wound up in the Miami Herald this morning.) Said the Romnettes:
"It is terribly disheartening and disappointing to hear Reverend Sharpton offer such appalling comments about a fellow American's faith," said Romney spokesman Kevin Madden. "America is a nation of many faiths and common values, and bigotry toward anyone because of their beliefs is unacceptable."
Well, thanks to our regional P.D., we got Rev. Sharpton on the line this morning on the big radio show, and he 'splained the context behind his comments on Mitt. According to Sharpton, he had just been pelted by the anti-religious Hitchens with a stream of invectives against religion in public life including a diatribe about the fact that in Hitchens' estimate, it's an outrage that we have a Mormon in the race for president whose religion advocates such things as the separation of the races. Sharpton says he responded that there's no need to worry about that, because "those of us who believe in God (as contrasted with Hitchens) would defeat that Mormon."
Exhibit A: The Duka brothers, who along with three of their closest friends planned to purchase rocket launchers, various assault weapons and such-like, and "light up" Fort Dix with unholy terror. Unfortunately for the Duka brothers and their friends, who in their "Clark Kent" lives, were disguised as a cabbie, three roofers, a 7-Eleven clerk and a supermarket checkout guy, it often doesn't pay to take your motivational tape to the local video store for a dubbing. And the video clerk gave them up to the feds, thwarting their goal of becoming super-terrorists.
McClatchy Newspapers uncovers the latest undercurrent of the Gonzogate scandal: the politicization of the Justice Department's Civil Rights division, which was created as part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and which traditionally prosecution voting rights violations, hate crimes, police brutality and the like. The goal: to use voter fraud investigations to depress Democratic voter turnout. Consequently, there was less time left in the day to do what the division was designed to do, and many veteran prosecutors left the DOJ altogether. All the better to replace them with mindless GOP hacks who'd serve the Rovian cause of perpetual Republican government. It's so Soviet it should be have a "kov" at the end.
Update: CNN reports on the erosion of the civil rights division. And the Senate Judiciary Committee probes Gonzo's bag man. And one more gem from TPM: Monica Goodling just might be the goodly statue cover up queen from the bad old days of John Ashcroft.
Both Mr Bush and the Queen addressed the crowd as the royal couple approached the end of a six-day US visit that included ceremonies marking the 400th anniversary of the British settlement in Jamestown, Virginia, and the Kentucky Derby.
Mr Bush noted the Queen's long history of dealing with successive American Governments, just barely stopping himself before dating her to 1776, the year the 13 British colonies declared their independence from Britain.
Elizabeth has occupied the British throne for 55 years and is 81.
"The American people are proud to welcome your majesty back to the United States, a nation you've come to know very well. After all you've dined with 10 U.S. presidents. You've helped our nation celebrate its bicentennial in 17 - in 1976," Bush said.
Hm ... terrible pity those etiquette lessons didn't take... There's a quite fancy dinner on tap for tonight:
It will also be closely watched by Washington's social elite for its clash of cultures: Texas swagger meets British prim. Dinner attire is white tie and tails - the first, and probably the only, white-tie affair of the Bush administration - and the president, not a white-tie kind of guy, was said to be none too keen on that, until Mrs. Bush put her foot down.
"I think Mrs. Bush is thrilled to have a white tie dinner, and we'll leave it at that," Amy Zantzinger, the new White House social secretary, said Friday as she arranged a seating chart for 134 on a huge computerized screen behind her desk in the East Wing.
... oh, and how about this for awkward:
Zantzinger said she was not swamped with requests; anybody who hadn't already received one of the elegant gold-rimmed invitations (hand-penned by a calligrapher, then engraved) apparently knew it would be gauche to ask. Still, the exclusivity has made for some awkward moments, as when the social secretary ran into the first President Bush in the hallway of the West Wing the other day.
Sarkozy wins on a pro-American, pro-reform mantle, but his ascendancy could spell trouble for the 35 hour work week, the power of labor unions, and the French tradition of working only when absolutely necessary. Sarkozy has promised a crackdown on illegal immigration, and an end to "thuggery" in the streets. I guess the French can no longer look down on the English and the Americans as Bush-backing fools, non? The right of center Times of London celebrates Sarkozy, reminding readers of the famous Charles de Gaulle saying that it's impossible to govern a country with so many different cheeses. So true.
Rudy Giuliani says George W. Bush will go down in history as a great president. Unfortunately, Rudy is very much alone in that belief. But for a few stalwarts, most Americans believe Mr. Bush to be an abject failure. In fact, only 28 percent of Americans int he latest Newsweek poll approve of the job Bush is doing as president. In the same poll, any of the top Democratic contenders would beat any of the Republicans, Rudy included, if the presidential election were held today. No surprise there. (One possible surprise, Barack Obama, who is becoming the darling not only of the media, but also of some prominent former Bush Republicans, does the best of the top tier Dems against the GOP's top guns.)
Not as much has been made as probably should have. In a debate between 10 Republican candidates for president, three ... 30 percent ... said that they do NOT believe in evolution (Huckabee, Brownback and Tancredo) ... is it really 2007?
The polling is brisk in France. We'll se if Mme. Royal can beat the odds, and the exit polls. What's interesting about the race is how apparently, older women appear to be the ones sinking Segoline Royal at the polls, preferring the tiny, but macho, Sarkozy. I suppose France is not the tres moderne pais one might have thought it to be.
I would venture that there are lessons for Hillary Clinton in the French campaign, although I believe that a preponderane of older American women won't want to miss the chance to put a woman in the White House, while French older women, many of them anyway, appear to be clinging to old fashioned ways. And Royal appears to have had other problems, many of them stylistic and ideological, that added to her woes as a woman candidate.
Interesting race, though, and what brilliantly high turnout (yep, I have turnout envy...)
George Tenet on MTP this morning demonstrated the fine art of utterly evading responsibility for one's own failures. Even moreso than his belligerent '60 Minutes' interview, Tenet used his full hour with Tim Russert to put forward the stunning case that he did everything humanly possible to make clear to the administration that the facts didn't support a case for Iraq being involved in 911, and that he was not an enabler of the Cheney wing's push to war. Tenet has this interesting quirk of using "we" when answering questions about failures by the CIA to "get the intelligence right" on Iraq, forgetting that the "we" in question -- career CIA analysts and professionals -- weren't responsible for conveying key judgments on intelligence to the White House, and for correcting the White House when it publicly misused intelligence: he was. He was the top political appointee at the CIA, and therefore, if intelligence judgments were twisted by the administration, "we" weren't responsible -- George Tenet was. Tenet only used "I" during his chat with Russert when trying to convince the listener that much was done right in the run-up to both the war and 9/11.
Tenet is so utterly unbelievable, that he is actually losing the swearing match with dark pre-war provocateur Richard Perle over what Perle actually said to him on September 12 or 15, depending on whether Perle was at his French chalet or stalking the halls of the West Wing whipsering Saddam Hussein's name into everyone's ears. My tendency is to call them both liars -- Tenet is wrong on the date, which comports with his apparent history of politically feuled, sycophantic incompetence. But Perle is lying when he claims he never tried to pin 9/11 on Saddam. Perle had been badgering politicians to overthrow Saddam since the Clinton administration, after all. And then there's the matter of that letter... written to President Bush on September 20, 2001, and signed by Perle and other neocons, which stated:
[E]ven if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.
So Perle, too, is a rat attempting to jump ship on the Iraq invasion, as he did this past week with his friend Wolf Blitzer on CNN.
What the U.S. is doing in Iraq is devastating for the Iraqi people, and could yet be equally so for the broader Middle East. But it's also hell on our troops, who are overstretched, overdeployed, and yet, determined to eke out some sort of success from this disaster George W. Bush allowed his handlers and sycophants to push the country into. If you need any further proof that Bush, Cheney and company have broken the United States military, you need only look at what this war has done to the ethics of American warriors:
In a significant new study of U.S. troops in Iraq, Pentagon medical officials found that “well over” one third of those surveyed believe torture should be permitted if it could save the life of a fellow Soldier or Marine.
The study found that only 40 percent of Marines and 55 percent of Soldiers would report a member of their unit for killing or wounding an innocent civilian and that about 10 percent of the more than 1,300 Soldiers and nearly 450 Marines in the survey admitted they had mistreated civilians or damaged property “when it was not necessary.”
In the first internal military study of battlefield ethics in Iraq, Pentagon officials said Friday they also found that only a third of Marines and roughly half of soldiers reported they believed that noncombatants should be treated with dignity.
The study also found major mental health problems among troops, who are facing long, repeated deployments with not nearly enough rest in between.
War is hell, but occupation without a clear plan or competent leadership is even worse.
ABC News has gotten hold of a copy of Don Imus' lawsuit against CBS. He is seeking three times his $40 million contract, and back-handing the organization that once considered him a golden boy. Imus' key points?
If CBS considered his "nappy headed ho" comments so offensive, why didn't they use the "dump button" (a device that takes advantage of the delay we have in talk radio, usually several seconds between what we say and what listeners hear) to delete them?
If CBS didn't want him to be irreverent and controversial, why did they put in his contract language that stipulated that his program would be irreverent and controversial?
If CBS was so outraged by his comments, why did they wait two weeks to fire him?
If what Imus said was so far beyond the pale (and worse than things he's said before), where is the FCC? ABC reports the following:
Meanwhile, four former FCC commissioners contacted by ABC News say they do not believe that the speech was actionable under current federal guidelines that prohibit profanity or indecency on public airwaves.
And of course, there's that clause that says he had to be warned before being terminated. He wasn't.
I've already gone over my feelings on the whole Imus affair, which I considered to have been overblown. And I'll predict now that CBS Radio is going to end up paying him big bucks in a major settlement. They don't want to see this go to trial, and have their scads of dirty laundry put out on show (i.e., by the Imus side expurgating every conceivably offensive piece of content produced for CBS television and radio, not to mention their associated record labels...)
In the end, what's important for CBS' bottom line is this:
The network is expected to rely on a clause in the radio talk show host's contract that says he can be terminated for 'just cause' if CBS determines that he used "distasteful or offensive words or phrases, the broadcast of which [CBS] believes would not be in the public interest or may jeopardize [the networks's] Federal license to operate..."
One former FCC commissioner who spoke to ABC News suggested that CBS had gotten exactly what it had bargained for.
"The issue is one more of extremely poor judgement than it is an FCC issue," said ex-commissioner Harold Furtchgott-Roth. "That's what Imus' schtick has been for years."
Prediction: CBS will wind up paying the craggy old bastard.
The closer the Gonzalesgate scandal moves to White House advisor Karl Rove, the more tenuous Albercito's job prospects have got to be. I missed the mark on Alberto Gonzales losing his job by last month's end, but I still believe the White House will cut him loose at a convenient time, all the better to protect Rove from a nasty subpoena.
WASHINGTON -- A senior Justice Department official who testified about performance shortcomings of several fired U.S. attorneys has told congressional investigators he was coached the day before at a White House meeting attended by political adviser Karl Rove.
The witness, Associate Deputy Attorney General William Moschella, said he was urged during the dinner hour meeting on March 5 to publicly specify reasons for the dismissals, according to a transcript of the investigators' April 24 interview with him. Until the March 6 hearing before a House Judiciary subcommittee, Justice Department officials had said publicly only that some of the firings were based on performance, offering no specifics. At the hearing, Moschella laid out detailed criticism of each of five fired prosecutors' specific performance.
Moschella's boss, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, told investigators in an April 27 interview that he also was at the March 5 White House meeting and that Rove was there. McNulty recalled Moschella being told to be sure to lay out the justifications for the firings, according to the transcript of his interview by investigators.
Deputy White House spokeslady Dana Perino was at the meeting, too, but of course, being a press secretary and all, she has no idea who else was there or what was said...
Meanwhile, there's news on the former number two at Justice, James Comey, the man made famous, at least in my book, for showing common sense hesitation on the Bushian NSA warantless wiretapping program while he stood in for an ailing John Ashcroft (who was famously accosted in his sick bed by none other than Al Gonzales, then the White House counsel, along with Andy Card. The two wanted the seriously ill Ashcroft to overrule Comey's objections and let the warrentless eavesdropping on Americans go forward. Apparently Comey was not let in on the plans to fire the U.S. attorneys who had refused to play ball with Bush and Gonzo's election rigging voter fraud scheme. Perhaps after all the NSA nastiness "back in the day," Albertcito just didn't trust Comey to play ball...
When one wants to cleanse one's conscience of having participated in the selling and prosecution of the Iraq war -- something which one will likely never live down, even unto the annals of time, there is really only one thing to which one can turn: charity. Preferably toward Africa.
The Daily Telegraph can disclose that the Prime Minister is to spurn the chance to earn up to £10 million a year on the international lecture circuit by concentrating on raising money for his new Blair Foundation, which will fund humanitarian work in Africa.
Mr Blair has also agreed to a request from President George W Bush that he will fly in to the Middle East when requested as a special envoy to try to revive the stalled peace process.
Whatever one must do to cleanse the spirit, and beat back the sting of history's judgment...
With the dawning of another day, the completeness of Rudy Giuliani's screw-up in last night's debate becomes more and more clear. Giuliani, asked a round robin question about whether the overturning of Roe v. Wade would be a good day for America, chose to elaborate on his flippant answer of "it would by okay..." and then did so to disastrous effect. Said Giuliani, who was ninth in line to answer the question, and preceded by a string of "yesses" (meaning it would be a great day), told his red meat craving Republican audience of Reaganites:
"It would be OK to repeal it. It would be OK also if a strict constructionist viewed it as precedent."
He then went on to publicly support public funding of abortions, but only in New York, and despite the fact that he "hates" them (abortions). Well, as a pro-life Democrat, I suppose that's just fine, if a bit all over the place. But, and here's the key part: I'M NOT RUNNING FOR THE REPUBLICAN NOMINATION FOR PRESIDENT WITH A BASE OF RIGHT WING CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVES.
Reactions from the wingersphere?
Redstate ponders the vicissitudes of Rudy's thoughts on abortion.
Wizbang has a decent roundup of winger reax, and Auntie Kim has not a word about Rudy therein. Here's something on which Kim and I actually agree
I was amazed at how inane the questions were. What's with "do you believe in evolution?" With all the turmoil going on in the world, that's a question Matthews chose to use? Or "would it be good for America for Bill Clinton to be back in the White House?" What kinds of question is that? Although I loved Romney's reaction: "You've got to be kidding."
As to the scoring, I think it was a clear win for Romney, with the only possible dent being his rather egregious flip floppery on abortion. I'm told righties really liked Mike Huckabee, too. However, it appears the punditocracy is congealing around my conventional wisdom.
According to our poll, Drudge’s poll, and many bloggers, Romney won the debate. I’ve got to say, I’m not a Romney guy, but he came off as the winner to me. However, he also won the “invoke Reagan as much as you can” award. It would be interesting to see Fred Thompson debate this “incomplete crowd.”
What's interesting is that Rudy's performance last night has actually earned him some stripes with Democrat and probably with Independent political watchers. Maybe that's his strategy -- catapult over the GOP primary and into the general election debate. Maybe he was running for California. The problem, though, is that in order to get to California you have to go through South Carolina first. Perhaps Rudy is figuring that he can afford to lose the early contests, with a look toward winning the more moderate Super Duper Tuesday States on February 5th, including Nevada and California. We'll see...
Meanwhile, Ms. Malkin has a good roundup of conservablog reax. Best line so far:
A HA commenter on Rudy's NYC talking points: "I love you Rudy and I want to vote for you, but if I hear you rewind that 'Rudy Crime Statistics' tape one more time I’m going to go hang myself."
As Chris "Clinton Obsessive" Mathews would say, Ha!
Rudy Giuliani dropped the ball on abortion on at least three occasions, but on one of his answers, he also raised a question. Giuliani said that regarding public funding of abortion, he supports the Hyde Amendment, and that the states should make the decision on public funding. He also said he supported public funding of abortion in New York (after a few "ums" and "uhs") but that other states "can come to a different conclusion." So what is the Hyde Amendment? Let's ask the ACLU:
Passed by Congress in 1976, the Hyde Amendment excludes abortion from the comprehensive health care services provided to low-income people by the federal government through Medicaid. Congress has made some exceptions to the funding ban, which have varied over the years. At present, the federal Medicaid program mandates abortion funding in cases of rape or incest, as well as when a pregnant woman's life is endangered by a physical disorder, illness, or injury.
Most states have followed the federal government's lead in restricting public funding for abortion. Currently only seventeen states fund abortions for low-income women on the same or similar terms as other pregnancy-related and general health services. (See map.) Four of these states provide funding voluntarily (HI, MD, NY,1 and WA); in thirteen, courts interpreting their state constitutions have declared broad and independent protection for reproductive choice and have ordered nondiscriminatory public funding of abortion (AK, AZ, CA, CT, IL, MA, MN, MT, NJ, NM, OR, VT, and WV).2 Thirty-two of the remaining states pay for abortions for low-income women in cases of life-endangering circumstances, rape, or incest, as mandated by federal Medicaid law.3 (A handful of these states pay as well in cases of fetal impairment or when the pregnancy threatens "severe" health problems, but none provides reimbursement for all medically necessary abortions for low-income women.) Finally, one state (SD) fails even to comply with the Hyde Amendment, instead providing coverage only for lifesaving abortions.
So Rudy supports the idea of restricting government funding of abortions for low income women through Medicaid, except in New York? Color me confused.
And here are Rudy's headlines for tomorrow, which I'm sure his campaign won't enjoy:
You get the picture. The trouble for Rudy is that by tomorrow, that soundbite -- that it would be "just ok for him" to use a Randy Jacksonism, if Roe v. Wade was overturned, will be a Youtube video, then an anti-Rudy campaign commercial in the Bible Belt (Romney has the cash to do it) and a soundbite heard round the religious right world. In other words: it was a major mistake on the part of the purported frontrunner. He's been Youtubed on this before, and to his credit, he has never run from his position (I suppose the campaign has decided its better to be principled than a Romneyesque flip flopper.) But I'd guess that in the case of abortion, Romney is the one who has made the right moves. His only test will be to convince the righties that his conversion is sincere. Giuliani must convince them to accept a man who will not convert at all. Much higher bar.
I think it's hard to come away from tonight's GOP debate with any other conclusion but that Mitt Romney emerged as the strongest, most articulate and confident candidate on the stage. Coupled with his impressive fundraising (with the caveat that most of it was from Utah, so he'll have to broaden that out), I think Romney should, all other things being equal, get the biggest bounce from the debate. (Gilmore did well, too, but he lacks the charisma that Romney has.)
I think it's also clear that Rudy Giuliani failed to live up to expectations. He was flat, emphasized at least three times his pro-choice stance on abortion, repeated his New York City record so many times it became annoying, and made a point of tagging himself as the guy who can work with Democrats -- not a good look in a primary fueled by people who loathe Democrats.
Going into tonight, Giuliani was already losing momentum in the polls. I wouldn't be suprised if he continues to drift downward. Going in, Quinnipiac had his lead down significantly:
27% said they support Giuliani, down from 40% who said than in early February.
14% said they support Thompson, who wasn't included in the February survey.
19% said they support Sen. John McCain, vs. 18% in February.
Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich were tied for third. Each had the support of 8%.
McCain came off a bit desperate for me, like an old man trying really, really hard to sound young and tough. I don't think he hurt himself, but I don't think he helped himself either.
Outside the top tier, I think the most interesting person on stage was clearly Ron Paul. He'll probably enjoy a brief love affair with Democrats who will then be let down terribly when they find out exactly what a Libertarian thinks. Next to Paul, who upheld good old fashioned Goldwater Republican values quite well, I think Governor Jim Gilmore came off as the most impressive, from a policy standpoint. He will probably get a serious look as a secretary of state, no matter who wins the White House. Gilmore is now in the spin room saying that to his mind, neither Giuliani nor McCain are true conservatives, and Rudy, says Gilmore, hasn't represented himself as such.
Chris is now justifying his Hillary and Bill question, saying he thinks it would be the unifying principle of the GOP in the presidential campaign. But the answer elevated Hillary on the Democratic side, which has to piss of her Democratic rivals. None of the respondents took Chris' bait and attacked Bill. They all went after Hillary. I'll repeat my statement that the question was a waste of time, and an indulgence of Chris' Clinton hating fetish at the expense of serious voters who wanted to hear about issues tonight.
No surprise, Chris began by pitching Rudy a softball, asking how we get this country back to Reagan's "morning in America." Rudy stuffed in as much conservative boilerplate as he could.
McCain came out of the blocks charging on Iraq, taking on Harry Reid on his statement that the war is lost.
Tommy Thompson says the Iraqis should be required to vote if they want us in their countries, and if they vote no, we get out. He also suggests dividing Iraq into the 50 states of Iraq, split the oil reserves between federal, state and individual Iraqis.
Hunter: Bush boilerplate: "the key to winning in Iraq is standing up the Iraqi military."
To Romney, Politico's reporter asks why Americans shouldn't have a president who'll listen to them on Iraq. Romney says if we want a president who governs by polls, "we can just plug in the TVs and have them govern the country." Romney says he wants to get the troops out, but in a way that's not precipitous, and doesn't cause larger chaos. Initial impression: Romney seems very prepared, very polished, very smooth. That he has going for him.
Brownback: Chris asks him about polls showing increasing hostility in the Arab world against the U.S. Brownback: "I think we win the war by standing up for our values." Then he goes into how many people are really with us. Okay, tuning him out now... This guy is Bush lite...
Update 1: Least presidential so far: Tom Tancredo. He just hummed and hawed his way through an answer about what he would do if Israel said it would be attacking Iran soon.
Giuliani, meanwhile, has used the words Ronald Reagan in each of his answers.
Ron Paul is making the most sense, having said that non-intervention is both an American and a traditional Republican principle. Note he didn't say "practice," because that isn't true.
Most coherent so far: Jim Gilmore. He has made the point twice now that America must re-exert leadership around the world, by working with our allies. He just said "we can't allow a situation where people from Morocco to the Phillippines don't believe America has their best interests at heart. ... We have to represent the aspirations of people of good faith."
Most blow-dried: Romney.
Least interesting so far: Giuliani.
That's the end of the first round.
Now, the interactive round. McCain is asked if he would be comfortable with Tom Tancredo as the head of the INS. McCain's answer: "in a word, no." Then he zigged back to tracking Bin Laden, saying "I'd follow him to the gates of hell..."
McCain now asks a patented pander question. Should we change the Constitution to allow foreign born citizens like Arnold Schwarzenegger the chance to run for president. So far, it's all no's. Tommy Thompson says yes, after he serves his eight years. McCain said he'd consider it if Ahnold endorses him. Giuliani gave an odd answer about being afraid to say no to him, so yes.
Giuliani is asked if he learned or regretted anything about his tenure in NYC regarding race. So far, Giuliani says he learned much and regretted much, but that he worked hard to reduce crime, move people out of welfare, etc. Says "moved 660,000 people off welfare and that's the reason crime is down."
Romney is asked what he dislikes most about America. Romney played it like a job candidate, turning it around to how great America is. And he got in a kiss up to Nancy Reagan. I'm telling you, this guy is a used car salesman.
Huckabee gets a question from Boca about global warming. I find myself looking at the way Huckabee's suit fits ... sorry, back to his answer. He says God says we must be good stewards of the earth. Didn't really answer the question though.
Tancredo is asked about selling organs for transplants. Huh?
Duncan Hunter just answered a question about whether he's a compassionate conservative like George W. Bush with a yes, and a call for the U.S. to take military action against Iran.
Ron Paul says if he was president, he would abolish the IRS,
Next up: values.
Update 2: Would repeal of Roe be a good day for America? Yesses all the way around, except for Rudy, who says "it would be okay." He adds that "if a court ruled that it was precedent, that would be okay too." Tancredo goes one further, saying it would be "the greatest day." Gilmore says that his convictions on abortion 'have never changed throughout his public life. He then adds his record in VA about passing parental notification and 24 hour waiting period."
Thompson says Roe should be up to the states. First impression: Thompson is very, very boring.
Romney is called on the carpet for being "always for life" and "always pro-choice." Romney says he ran on a platform of upholding the law as is, though he is "personally pro life" and that he changed his mind on the road to Damascus ... er, stem cell research. Politically convenient, Mitt? He says cloning convinced him that "we have gone too far."
Brownback: could you support a nominee who is not pro-life? Brownback says yes, because the GOP is a 'big coalition party.' That might not have been the right answer for his base.
Giuliani gets a second shot, courtesy of his friend kiss, I mean Chris. Why do you support the use of public funds for abortion? Giuliani says "I don't. I support the Hyde amendment." In other words, it's up to each state. Chris gets out of him that he supported public funding for abortions in New York. I think that's Giuliani's second mistake tonight. His drawn out answer on abortion was mistake 1.
McCain's line of the night: "I may not be the youngest candidate up here, but I'm the most prepared." The question was about every cab driver knowing what Reagan stood for. "I don't want to be president of a failed nation, or a sad nation or a nation that thinks our best years are behind us. I want to be president of a proud nation."
Hunter jumps in saying me too on having and armed services background. You know what Duncan Hunter reminds me of? A mean school principal.
Huckabee has given us our second "city on a hill" reference. "We are a great nation because we are a culture of life. We celebrate life." We go search for people lost on Mount Hood, etc.
How to reconcile this moral leadership role of conservatism with libertarian, Goldwater conservatism, Ron Paul? "if the goal of government is to be the policeman of the world, you lose liberty. If the goal of government is liberty you unite people." ... "the moral principle is that of protecting liberty."
Thompson is asked whther an employer should be allowed to fire a gay worker. Thompson says it should be up to the employer. In other words, yes.
Romney is asked what he'd say to Roman Catholic bishops who would deny communion to a politician who supports abortion rights. Romney: "I wouldn't say anything to a Catholic bishop. They can do anything they want." This was Romney's opening to say we don't choose leaders based on their faith, and he seized it. Again, very smooth.
Huckabee is called on whether he criticizes Romney's saying his faith wouldn't affect his decision making. Huckabee says his faith does inform his politics.
Update 3: Governor Gilmore is asked by Chris if he would employ Karl Rove, whom he knows. Gilmore's answer was a good one: "what's important is not Karl Rove. What's important is how this government is run." Gilmore gets in the line that he's a "consistent conservative." Tancredo says Karl Rove would certainly not be in his White House, mainly because of their differences on immigration.
Chris asks Rudy if the influx of Christian conservatives has been good for the GOP. He says yes, then parries to say that neither party has a lock on virtue or vice, and that we have to bring in Democrats and Independents. He's reading his record again. Is saying we need to reach out to Democrats a good move in a primary debate? I think not. If it is in a mistake, Thompson just made it too. And he added that Republicans went wrong by going to Wahington to change it, but being changed by it. And he just gave us another Reagan big-up.
Brownback is asked about corruption and goes right to the one Democrat involved. Now he's saying we need to build stronger families and a stronger culture. Oh, here comes the conservative nanny state. Brownback just played the Imus card and said we've got music being sold with the same words. Sound like he's running for vice cop.
Tancredo on the same questions says the corruption thing is about individuals, not the party. Now he's going off track. He says regarding whether a centrist is the only way to go in order to win, Tancredo reminds that Reagan was no centrist and won California twice.
McCain is asked about the shots he took at Giuliani regarding incompetence and first responders. McCain says he was talking about special interests, not New York City. He immediately left that topic to say the GOP went off track by spending too much. Interesting that he didn't want to take that bait.
Jim Vandehei asks McCain what specific programs he'd cut. McCain says yes to the line item veto, yes to reducing costs for military spending cost overruns. No programs yet, but he says each unnamed program should justify its existence every year.
Huckabee asked to give the Bush administration a grade on its handling of the war. He says it's too early to give a grade.
Giuliani is put back in the spotlight on abortion. He says he "hates" abortion, encouraged adoption as mayor of New York City, but says "since it's an issue of conscience," he would "support a woman's right to make a different choice."
Thompson is asked if racism is still a problem in our society and can a president do anything about it. Thompson says a president has to unite, Ronald Reagan was a uniter...
Tancredo is asked beside himself, who should be the nominee. Tancredo says if he thought there should be another one, he wouldn't be there. Tancredo is stumbling around verbally, but he's sticking to his talking points on illegal immigration, plugging them into all of his answers.
McCain is now defending he and the president's plan on immigration, saying we must secure our borders but we also need a guest worker program and a plan to sort out the 12 million illegal immigrants in the country.
Duncan Hunter says he hasn't seen "An Inconvenient Truth" but he sees the issue of global warming as an opportunity and challenge to remove energy dependence on the Middle East and create new technologies. Good answer.
Gilmore was asked about mothers behind bars. He says the law must be applied, but he got in a plug for himself as governor during the 9/11 attacks.
Down the line: Nancy Reagan wants the government to expand embryonic stem cell research. Are you for it? Romney says no, Browanback: only adult stem cells. Gilmore: no. Huckabee: no. Hunter: no. Thompson: can't answer yes or no, there's so much research that will allow adult stem cells to do. McCain thanks Nancy Reagan for her kindness to him and other POWs. He says we need to fund this research, because these embryos will be discarded or perpetual funding. That's a yes. Paul: programs like this are not authorized under the Constitution. Let the markets and states handle it. Giuliani: if no creation of embryos created for that purpose, then yes. Tancredo: no.
Romney called on not touting his version of Hillary care. His answer: "I love it! It's affordable and portable. We won it 198 to 2. It's bipartisan!" I'm telling you, this guy should sell cars.
To all: name a tax you'd like to cut Romney - zero tax on capital gains Brownbax - alternative flat tax Gilmore - I eliminated the car tax in VA. Current tax: the AMT Huckabee - pass the "Fair Tax", get rid of the IRS, all capital gains taxes, etc. Hunter - trade deals suck. we need to eliminate all taxes on manufacturing Thompson - Alternative Minimum Tax. let's have a flat tax choice McCain - give the president the line item veto, repeal the AMT. Give tax credit to purchase health insurance (sounds like Bush), flatter Fair Tax Paul - get rid of the IRS, dump these entitlement programs and foreign adventures. Get rid of the "inflation tax" with sound money Giuliani - get rid of the AMT, the "death tax", and make the Bush tax cuts permanent. "Regularize the rates" whatever that means Tancredo - Repeal the 16th Amendment. And you can veto all the spending you want and you won't touch the deficit until you deal with mandatory spending.
McCain is asked what Democrats he's appoint, besides Joe Lieberman. He can't name one that's elected. Okay, he just named a businessman named John Chambers. McCain is running in the general election already, not the primary.
Update 4 - lightning round: Hunter is asked what the government does
McCain: believes in evolution. Anyone who doesn't? Tancredo, Brownback and Huckabee raised their hands (though Tancredo seemed to be looking to see who else would first.)
Romney wouldn't carry any of Bush's cabinet over.
Giuliani is quizzed on Sunni vs. Shia Islam. He looked like he was trying to remember it from his debate prep.
Gilmore declines to uphold his previous statement about being the only conservative in the pack.
Ron Paul trusts the Internet more than the mainstream media.
Giuliani is asked what is his biggest weakness is. His quip that it's "the fact that they're not all endorsing me" fell absolutely flat. Instead of answering the question, he reracked his New York City record yet again, and threw in a gratuitous Reagan.
Sidebar: I'm struck at how much alike these guys look. Very different from the multiethnic, multi-sex Democrat debate...
Thompson is asked how many Americans have been killed and injured in Iraq. His answer was "over three thousand killed and several thousand injured." Not too specific.
Giuliani says he's for a "tamper proof national I.D. card" -- oh, lord, he's back to talking about crime in New York again. He wants every American in a database. Please, God, let Ron Paul answer that. Romney is for the national I.D. card, too. He just got in a USOC plug. Brownback is against a national I.D. card. He says secure the border with a fence, and make the Social Security number mean something. "We don't need a new system." McCain says he's for a national I.D. card. Dr. Paul finally gets his chance. "This a total contradiction of what a free society is all about. The purpose of government is to protect the secrecy and privacy of Americans." Tancredo agrees. Clarification: Romney and Giuliani say their card is only for immigrants.
To all: Pardon Scooter Libby? Romney: candidates shouldn't make that decision, but outrageous for prosecutor to go after Libby knowing he wasn't the leaker. Brownback: it's up to the president. Gilmore: president should go to the American people to make the case if he wants to do it. Anyone for pardoning Libby? Tancredo says yes, but pardon Ramos and Campeon, the two border patrolmen (he gets the Lou Dobbs vote.) Paul points out that Libby was part of the misinformation that got us into the war. Good going, Ron.
Now, to the Schiavo case. Should Congress have acted or let the family make the decision? Romney: Congress' intervention was a mistake. Leave it at the state level. Brownback: Congress was right. Stand for life. McCain: difficult issue, all of us were moved, but in retrospect, we were too hasty. Giuliani: that's what we have courts for. Not a good answer for a GOP primary, where they distrust the courts...
Would it be good for America to have Bill Clinton back in the White House.
Romney: "You've got to be kidding..." Brownback says "no" because Hillary's not pro-life. Gilmore: no. McCain got in a shot about activist judges. Matthews couldn't resist the opportunity to give these guys a chance to Clinton bash. What an asshole.
I have half a mind to turn this off at this point.
Anyway, the next question from the GOP lackey from MSNBC is how the candidates would differ from Dubya. Romney says he respects Bush but would change the way we operate at home and abroad. McCain would manage the war better and cut spending. Gilmore: we need to be vigorous on the GWOT, draw the world in, improve homeland security, and energy independence. Huckabee: more power to the states. Hunter: bring back our industrial base, enforce trade laws. Brownback: break up Iraq, push a political solution there. Tancredo: Bush has done many good things, but on No Child Left Behind and prescription drugs, he overreached, and on Iraq... he ran out of time. Thompson: change healthcare system, settle Iraq, better foreign relations. Giuliani: oh, lord, remind ourselves every day about 9/11. Paul: change foreign policy, protect privacy of Americans, caution on warrantless searches and never abuse habeas corpus.
Overall score: C. Not much excitement. No headlines. Romney looked good, and smooth. I can see why the establishment favors him. He'll either be received as a liberator, or written off as far too slick -- the candidate you build from a kit. If Gilmore was smoother, he'd probably have won the debate on substance. McCain came off very forced. Tommy Thompson looked like he should be working on his papers and research in a basement somewhere -rumpled fellow, that. Giuliani didn't come off well, in my opinion, and he didn't appear strong or presidential, and he fumbled the ball on the abortion question. Ron Paul impressed me, I have to say. Too bad he has no shot at getting further media coverage. Duncan Hunter wasn't as nutty as I expected, and Tancredo seemed nervous and a bit shaky. Huckabee made very little impression on me, and Brownback came off as a religious nutter.
Was it just me, or was it kind of weird the way Politico's John Harris kept rolling up on the candidaes when he asked them a question...? Sorry, total sidebar...
So who was the winner? I think it's clear: Ronald Reagan. He got the most props tonight, along with his wife, and he was the man everyone up there wanted to be (sorry, George.)
The big loser? Chris Matthews. His chopping off of the second tier candidates and largesse toward his favorites was embarassing. And the fact that he wasted the audience's time on questions about Bill Clinton -- as if anyone on the stage would dispute that his wife shouldn't be president -- was a disservice to the voters who care about this race. Next time, MSNBC should give the job to Brian Williams, or even Tim Russert. Chris really was a let down tonight.
TIME Magazine names its most influential, and leaves Dubya off the list.
On the entertainment front, Isaiah Washington finds that nothing says your sorry like a nice PSA.
Meanwhile, there's no PSA that's going to save George W. Bush from the wrath of gay rights groups over his threatened veto of a just passed hate crimes bill. I've said this before, but I think Bush's supposed opposition to basic gay rights protections is phonied up Christian right pandering. This guy's a Methodist. I used to be a Methodist. Methodists are the most "live and let live" religion I've ever seen. They don't even sing strenuously. I seriously doubt they could work up the passion to dislike gays or anyone else.
Florida takes a giant step away from the bad old days of the Bush election fix, scrapping Jeb's Old World Order along with those touch screen, no paper trail voting machines that have been in use in 15 of our 67 counties, including Miami-Dade and Broward, in favor of optical scan machines. And while they're at it, Florida lawmakers move the state's primary way up, from March to January 29, mugging the "super duper Tuesday" of February 5, where California and Nevada have moved up to, and putting the Sunshine State's primary election right behind the Iowa and New Hampshire pony shows, and on the same day as South Carolina. I'm loving it. This time, Florida counts for more than fundraising. I'm loving it!
What's interesting is how much Republican support there is for both these measures (the House approved the primary move 118 to 0), but the killing of the ATM style machines in particular. That has the strong support of our Republican governor, Charlie Crist, who at this point is looking like the Anti-Bush. Republican House Speaker Marco Rubio had championed the primary move in what he called his "100 innovative ideas for Florida's future" -- a book and website that I believe was published last fall.
Rubio is said to be training to succeed Crist as governor. I wouldn't doubt it. He has the profile that former Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas once had, before he torpedoed his political future by going Bull Connor on the Elian Gonzales saga, and leaving the country rather than support Al Gore during the 2000 recount.) Rubio is on the political flip side, but that profile -- young, good looking, charismatic, Hispanic ... is one the Republican and Democratic parties are very much enticed by. And since the current governor is earning chips across the aisle every day -- (hell, I was dead set against the guy and I like him -- and I'm what you call a "yellow dog Democrat") Rubio stands a more than decent chance of getting into the governor's mansion, provided he doesn't do anything really, really stupid over the next seven years.
This morning, we had on the morning show a guy called Anthony Hervey, who has written a book called "Why I Wave the Confederate Flag, Written by a Black Man: The End of Niggerism and the Welfare State." It was, to say the least, interesting. Hervey asserts that the flag of the Confederacy does not represent racial subjugation or slavery, and that the U.S. flag has also been waved by racists, so therefore he can proudly unfurl the former. We never could get him to explain how he squares the history of slavery, the treasonous secession of the Confederate states, who fought under that banner, or the Confederacy's stated goal of creating the first nation in which the inferiority of Blacks was enshrined in its very fabric, or why his decision to wave the flag wouldn't overwhelm whatever arguments he's making in the book (he says he wants to talk about poverty, lack of educational progress, and other social ills.) In fact, we had trouble getting him to answer any of our or our listeners' questions directly.
My impression was that Hervey is a congenial, intelligent, educated man (although he did describe being tried for some manner of student loan fraud, which he said was trumped up to silence his views). But his lack of understanding of (or unwillingness to admit to) the causes of the Civil War was pretty disturbing given that he took the time and trouble to sit down and write a book headlined "Why I wave the Confederate flag." Also, the book cover is so provocative, that I suggested it make it difficult to take his other arguments seriously (Hervey's head is superimposed over a wall to wall flag the cover.)
Every time we do a topic on the Confederacy or the South, I feel at pains to re-argue the point -- which should be self-evident to most Americans by now, that the Civil War was, at base, a war about slavery.
True, the war wasn't fought in order to end slavery -- mainly because that would have requried the Union to start the war. In fact, the Southern states began seceding from the Union almost immediately upon the election of Abraham Lincoln, whose Republican Party had been building a case to allow the ignoble institution to wither on the vine for years (and Lincoln himself had said as much during his famous "House divided" speach in 1858. By February of 1861, 3 months after his election, seven southern states had seceded, starting with South Carolina. The cause: the various Southern Parties (whigs, Democrats, etc.) who had opposed Lincoln, also opposed the idea of making the newly added western territories into "free soil" states. They wanted Kansas and other territories admitted to the Union as slave states, in order to preserve Southern domination of the Congress. And both North and South understood that if the new states admitted to the Union were free states, eventually, slavery was a goner.
In the presidential election of 1860 the Republican Party nominated Abraham Lincoln as its candidate. Party spirit soared as leaders declared that slavery could spread no farther. The party also promised a tariff for the protection of industry and pledged the enactment of a law granting free homesteads to settlers who would help in the opening of the West. The Democrats were not united. Southerners split from the party and nominated Vice President John C. Breckenridge of Kentucky for president. Stephen A. Douglas was the nominee of northern Democrats. Diehard Whigs from the border states, formed into the Constitutional Union Party, nominated John C. Bell of Tennessee.
Lincoln and Douglas competed in the North, and Breckenridge and Bell in the South. Lincoln won only 39 percent of the popular vote, but had a clear majority of 180 electoral votes, carrying all 18 free states. Bell won Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia; Breckenridge took the other slave states except for Missouri, which was won by Douglas. Despite his poor electoral showing, Douglas trailed only Lincoln in the popular vote.
Lincoln's election made South Carolina's secession from the Union a foregone conclusion. The state had long been waiting for an event that would unite the South against the antislavery forces. Once the election returns were certain, a special South Carolina convention declared "that the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other states under the name of the "United States of America' is hereby dissolved." By February 1, 1861, six more Southern states had seceded. On February 7, the seven states adopted a provisional constitution for the Confederate States of America. The remaining southern states as yet remained in the Union.
Less than a month later, on March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as president of the United States. In his inaugural address, he refused to recognize the secession, considering it "legally void." His speech closed with a plea for restoration of the bonds of union. But the South turned deaf ears, and on April 12, guns opened fire on the federal troops stationed at Fort Sumter in the Charleston, South Carolina, harbor. A war had begun in which more Americans would die than in any other conflict before or since.
And while Lincoln didn't wage the civil war to end slavery, two years into the war, he wound up using emancipation, of slaves in the rebelling states, as a lever to try and end the war, and keep the union together.
The Confederates themselves, meanwhile, made clear that slavery, racial discrimination and white supremacy were enshrined in the very fabric of their "new nation" (a point which also bellies another Hervey belief, shared by other African-Americans, I'm told, that Black soldiers fought on the side of the Confederacy in the war:
The very accurate point made then by opponents of this legislation was, as one Georgia leader stated, "If slaves will make good soldiers our whole theory of slavery is wrong." Southern newspaper editors blasted the idea as "the very doctrine which the war was commenced to put down," a "surrender of the essential and distinctive principle of Southern civilization."
And what was that "essential and distinctive principle of Southern civilization"? Let's listen to the people of the times. The vice president of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, said on March 21, 1861, that the Confederacy was "founded . . . its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based on this great physical, philosophical and moral truth."
What was the "very doctrine" which the South had entered into war to destroy? Let's go to the historical documents, the words of the people in those times. When Texas seceded from the Union in March 1861, its secession declaration was entirely about one subject: slavery. It said that Thomas Jefferson's words in the Declaration of Independence in 1776 - "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal" - were "the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color . . . a doctrine at war with nature . . . and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law." ...
And yet, you hear Southerners, mostly White, but occasionally Black, like Hervey, insisting that the Civil War was about something else -- "taxation without representation", "Northern aggression", etc.) -- but not slavery. You'll hear that, as Hervey said on the show today, most Southern Whites couldn't affort to own slaves, Lincoln failed to free all of the slaves in territories outside the rebellius South, etc. Again, that's just historical junk:
Finally, these modem non historians say that slavery couldn't have been a main cause of the Civil War (never mind the words of Alexander Stephens and the various declarations of secession), because most of the Confederate soldiers didn't own slaves.
As modern historians such as Pulitzer Prize-winner James M. McPherson point out, the truth was that most white people in the South knew that the great bulwark of the white-supremacy system they cherished was slavery, whether or not they personally owned slaves.
"Freedom is not possible without slavery," was a typical endorsement of this underlying truth about the slave South. Without slavery, white nonslaveholders would be no better than black men.
I'll reiterate, that I found Hervey to be a quite charming person. He made coherent arguments on issues of poverty, race and what he called the "decadence" of present day Black culture. But then, knowing that Hervey believes such erroneous things about American history makes his arguments that much harder to take in. I suggested he might want to write his next book without the Confederate flag on the cover. He wasn't very receptive.
The Reidblog handy dandy guide to the first GOP presidential debate
The GOPers debate tonight, (and in so doing, they attempt to find their souls...) so in case you're not in the know, let's handicap the ten declared candidates, shall we? Here we go:
1. Rudy Giuliani Best known for saying, after 9/11, that the first thing he did after the attacks leveled the buildings where he had moved the command centers for the police and fire departments right after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, was to turn to his crimie Bernard Kerik and say, "thank God George Bush and Dick Cheney are in the White House." Likes: gun control, wearing frilly dresses, gay civil unions (unless he's campaigning in the South) and public funding for abortion (see previous "like"). Dislikes: wives (once he finds a better one). Southern strategy: publicize the fact that he was once married to his cousin.
2. John McCain Also known as "Baghdad Johnnie". Best known for taking a stroll through an Iraqi market with 100 of his closest military friends, 2 Apache helicopters, 2 Blackhawk helicopters
3. Mitt Romney Best known for: Running the U.S. Olympic Committee, being a Mormon, and yet, having only one wife, and for looking exactly like Guy Smiley...
4. Sam Brownback Dubbed “God’s Senator” by Rolling Stone Magazine. Voted NO on $100M to reduce teen pregnancy by education & contraceptives. Voted NO on repealing tax subsidy for companies which move US jobs offshore. Voted NO on $1.15 billion per year to continue the COPS program to put more police officers on the street. And says Stare decisis would have upheld separate-but-equal! What would Jesus do, indeed.
5. Mike Huckabee Former governor of Arkansas. Most famous for: losing a busload of weight (over 110 pounds). Biggest problem for the GOP: as governor, he raised taxes, a big no-no.
6. Duncan Hunter Most famous for: promoting the Gitmo diet, and saying that the food at the Guantanamo detention facility is to die for! Perhaps no one briefed the California congressman about the suicides...
7. Tom Tancredo Most famous for: calling Miami a Third World country. Southern strategy: don't campaign in Miami.
8. Tommy Thompson Former governor of Wisconsin and Bush's onetime Health and Human Services secretary. As secretary, he helped create Bush's stem cell research compromise, which legalized federal funding for the use of ... well ... compromised, old and mainly useless stem cell lines for research. Researchers, were mostly not interested.
9. Jim Gilmore Former governor of Virginia during the Clinton era, and was governor during the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. Stole Howard Dean's line by saying he represents "the Republican wing of the Republican Party." Negatives: not many. Biggest problem: no one outside of Virginia knows who he is.
10. Ron Paul 10-term Congressman, medical doctor (M.D.) and two-time and current presidential candidate from the U.S. state of Texas. Wants to abolish both Social Security and the Federal Reserve. Chances of becoming president: 0. Look for him to be the Mike Gravel of tonight's debates.
I'm gearing up to watch Idol and Lost, so let's make this quick, shall we? (Hey, I know what's important, man!) I sure as hell hope Bush and his stepford wife aren't on again. I don't want to start hating the show, but there's still time...
Imus will not go gently into that good night ... at least, not without a lawyer. Hey, $40 million is $40 million.
The Dems fail to muster enough Republicans to overcome George's veto of the Save the GOP in 2008 bill, otherwise known as the Iraq Accountability Act. Has anyone sat Karl Rove down and explained to him that drawing down troops ahead of the 2008 election would actually help Republicans the most? Democrats will run with the wind at their backs if this useless war is still going full throttle a year from now. It seems that Dubya is absolutely resistant to helpful intervention. Meanwhile, because the crazed right still supports the war, their zeal is actually boosting the short term prospects of one Baghdad John McCain, who has now taken about every conceivable side on the conflict. Apparently, for the desperate McCain, the war is both a disaster and a blessing, poorly executed and brilliant.
What should the Democrats do next? Clearly, they're split like crazy. If it was up to me, the Dems would send Bush back an even more stringent bill, one he'll veto with even more gusto, and keep sending them until the money dries out on June 1st. Of course if they did that, and Bush was forced to draw down troops, it would be a huge boost to Republican prospects in 2008, because there'd be no nasty war to campaign on (see previous paragraph).
WASHINGTON - The Justice Department is investigating whether its former White House liaison used political affiliations in deciding whom to hire as entry-level prosecutors in some U.S. attorney offices around the country, The Associated Press has learned.
Such consideration would be a violation of federal law.
The inquiry involving Monica Goodling, a conservative Republican who recently quit as counsel and White House liaison for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, raises new concerns that politics have cast a shadow over the independence of trial prosecutors who enforce U.S. laws.
Justice spokesman Dean Boyd confirmed Wednesday that the department's inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility have been investigating for several weeks Goodling's role in hiring career attorneys — an unusual responsibility for her to have had.
Investigators are trying to determine whether Goodling "may have taken prohibited considerations into account during such review," Boyd told the AP. "Whether or not the allegation is true is currently the subject of the OIG/OPR investigation."
Three government officials with knowledge of the investigation said Goodling appears to have sought information about party affiliation while vetting applicants for assistant U.S. attorneys' jobs. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Hugo Chavez announced Monday he would formally pull Venezuela out of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, a largely symbolic move because the nation has already paid off its debts to the lending institutions. "We will no longer have to go to Washington nor to the IMF nor to the World Bank, not to anyone," said the leftist leader, who has long railed against the Washington-based lending institutions.
Chavez said he wanted to formalize Venezuela's exit from the two bodies "tonight and ask them to return what they owe us."
Venezuela recently repaid its debts to the World Bank five years ahead of schedule, saving $8 million. It paid off all its debts to the IMF shortly after Chavez first took office in 1999. The IMF closed its offices in Venezuela late last year.
Chavez made the announcement a day after telling a meeting of allied leaders that Latin America overall would be better off without the U.S.-backed World Bank or IMF. He has often blamed their lending policies for perpetuating poverty.
The leftist president also has repeatedly criticized past Venezuelan governments for signing structural adjustment agreements with the IMF that were blamed for contributing to racing inflation.
Under former Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez in 1989, violent protests broke out in Caracas in response to IMF austerity measures that brought a hike in subsidized gasoline prices and public transport fares.
This comes as Chavez also moved to yank foreign oil contracts and complete the nationalization of his country's oil sector, which he then plans to redirect away from the United States and toward his shiny new customer, China.
Newly bought Russian-made fighter jets streaked through the sky as Chavez shouted "Down with the U.S. empire!" to thousands of red-clad oil workers, calling the state takeover a historic victory for Venezuela after years of U.S.-backed corporate exploitation.
Chavez accused foreign oil companies of bad drilling practices due to their hunger for quick profits and said Venezuela could sue them for causing lasting damage to oil fields.
BP PLC, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., France's Total SA and Norway's Statoil ASA remain locked in a struggle with the Chavez government over the terms and conditions under which they will be allowed to stay on as minority partners.
All but ConocoPhillips signed agreements last week agreeing in principle to state control, and ConocoPhillips said Tuesday that it, too, was cooperating.
How lovely for them.
Is it clear yet that the Bush administration hasn't just failed in its hemispheric foreign policy, but that the administration actually has no hemispheric foreign policy?
Still, before you start building that bomb shelter in the basement waiting for the new cold war to begin, consider this:
... the truth — one that both Chavez and his archfoe, the Bush Administration, would prefer you not know — is that when it comes to oil nationalization, Hugo is hardly the most radical of his global peers. In fact, even after today's petro-theatrics, Chavez is just catching up with the rest of the pack.
From Mexico to China, more than 75% of the world's oil reserves are controlled by national oil companies today. Of the world's top 20 oil-producing firms, 14 are state-run. And even though Chavez has now stripped foreign oil companies like Exxon Mobil of any majority stakes they had in Venezuelan oil production projects — mandating that his state-run company, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), have at least 60% ownership from here on out — he's at least allowing those private multinationals to continue taking part in the drilling. Not so, for example, in Mexico or the world's largest oil producer, Saudi Arabia. Washington touts those two countries as model energy allies, despite the fact that for more than half a century their national oil companies have barred U.S. and other foreign oil businesses from production ventures.
Apart from his fiery rhetoric, what makes Chavez's move seem more jarring is the fact that, until he came to power in 1999, Venezuela had been a trend-bucking oasis for Big Oil. Venezuela did nationalize its oil industry in 1976, but in the 1990s it had steadily re-opened its fields to foreign investment — in some cases handing the multinationals deals that even conservative Venezuelans considered too sweet. Chavez has just as steadily, and stridently, reversed that policy, paring down the multinationals' ownership while ratcheting up their taxes and royalties. And because Venezuela is America's fourth-largest foreign crude supplier — providing the U.S. with almost 15% of its oil imports — each turn of his nationalization screw tends to provoke outsized alarm.
That, perhaps, is the real cause for concern — how deeply the nationalization trend affects the quantity of oil that not only Venezuela but other countries can export, and hence the price we pay for it.
Suddenly it all makes sense. Clearly, China is a much more effective partner for the Socialist Revolution than the old Soviet Union. Mainly because they have just enough capitalism to make it interesting.
Throw out the conventional wisdom (and Chris Matthews' amorous obsession with him) ... Giuliani has not won the Republican nomination for president. The race is still up in the air. Two pieces of evidence:
Word to Matthews (and my morning show co-host, whom I suspect is a closet Giuliani fan, or maybe not so closet...) nationwide polls, particularly a year before the primaries, are pretty meaningless. It's the state by state polls that matter, if any polls at this stage matter at all. And guess who's leading those, in three of the first, key primary states?
Contrary to Matthews' patently false statement on Hardball tonight, Giuliani does NOT continue to "go up in the polls." His numbers are trending steadily down. Especially when Fred Thompson is thrown into the mix.
Thompson, who's not yet in but whom I suspect will get in, has become the official candidate of Ronald Reagan's friends. That's not a good look for Rudy. As Thompson said of Rudy: "His popularity may be a mile wide and an inch deep. I'm sure that lead will shrink." Oh, and Thompson, unlike Giuliani, really could put California in play. Of course, Thompson has his issues, too, and a formidable hill to climb to get to the White House...
Rudy still has many nasty negatives for the media to uncover. Oh, here's one now!
Giuliani is way too close to Bush, whether the media chooses to tell you or not. Eventually, they'll have to tell, and then he'll continue to slide.
George W. Bush has succeeded in making a horse's ass out of himself four years running, maintaining a consistent record of failure in Iraq, of mendacity and stubbornness at home, of using American troops and pawns and props the world over, and of cementing in stone, his place as the most incompetent and worst president in U.S. history.
Today, on the four year anniversary of his infamous flight suit adventure aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln (an affair so staged and false it was actually prissy, and after which his administration very crisply blamed the troops for hanging that ridiculous banner, produced by the White House, oh, and media, before you get to haughty today, some of us remember how Glorious you thought the flight suit thing was at the time ... Chris Matthews...) Mr. Bush vetoed legislation that would have funded the troops, funded increased mental and physical health care for those wounded in his useless war in Iraq (and the forgotten war in Afghanistan), given those troops the body armor, and the rest, they should have been entitled to from the beginning, and given the American people the timeline that 7 in 10 of us -- the citizens of this country -- have made clear that we want.
When this war began, Bush told us that we were going in with some 30 allied countries: a "coalition of the willing," that actually meant more than 150,000 American troops, 11,000 brits, 1,200 or so Aussies, the scatterlings of the old Soviet empire and a smattering of technicians and mechanics from here and there, a scad waving at us from the ground as we flew over their tiny states, plus really strong "tally hos" from the rest... (yes, and not a single Arab country.) The war was swift, and successful, lasting just 41 days, as our troops marched relentlessly towards Baghdad, benching the Saddam Hussein government, and handing a free country to his formerly repressed people, who promptly began to trash, loot and blow it up, and that was before the civil war. In seven more months, Saddam would be captured. The following June, an interim government would be in place. Another year on, the first of three elections, followed by three prime ministers (shuffled at the whim of the Bush administration, rather than the Iraqi people...) endless newfangled surges, revamped strategies, tweaks and milestones: Zarqawi killed, Saddam hanged, and on and on and on. In the meantime, there were darker milestones: Fallujah, Abu Ghraib, the bombing of the Golden Mosque, and about that hanging...
Today, there have been 3,622 coalition casualties in the war, 3,351 from the U.S. There have been 117 in this month alone, 107 U.S. That's versus just 92 coalition including 65 U.S. combat deaths on this day four years ago, on the day the war supposedly ended.
How much damage can one man do to a military, to a country? And can he yet do more?
Sadly, the answer to the last question is yes. George W. Bush seems determined to keep on damaging this country, this military, and Iraq, until his last damned day in office, and probably beyond.
Happy fourth anniversary of Mission Accomplished, George W. Bush. I'd say I hope you can sleep tonight, but unfortunately, I know all too well that you're going to sleep like a baby. You're just that kind of guy.
Four years ago, I was right where I am today: against the Iraq war. From the Miami Herald, April 3, 2003:
Posted on Thu, Apr. 03, 2003
JOY-ANN L. REID
Against a senseless war
I am about the same age as Army Specialist Shoshana Johnson, who is at the upper end of the age range of Americans fighting in Iraq. Johnson was taken prisoner by Iraqis when she and her convoy took a wrong turn on the road to Baghdad.
I don't pretend to speak for everybody my age but do know that most of us are ambivalent about this war. Even the hard-core Republicans I know are more fiercely supportive of President Bush than they are coherent or persuasive in explaining why our soldiers and Marines have been sent to fight and die thousands of miles away.
Weapons of mass destruction? Haven't seen 'em. To stop Iraq from getting nukes? Two words: forged documents. Two more: North Korea. Preventing another Sept. 11? Go after Osama bin Laden. Avenging the Kurds? 20 years too late. Liberating the Iraqi people? They are not cooperating. Enforcing U.N. resolutions? Give me a break.
Many of us are still shaken from Sept. 11, but there is no proof that Saddam Hussein was involved in it. Despite Bush's mantra -- ''Saddam is an evil man who gassed his own people and who must be disarmed for the sake of peace'' -- many of us don't think that it's worth the lives of our soldiers to topple the Iraqi dictator.
Americans like me respect the military, because unlike those who advocated this war, we tend to know people who joined up -- public-school kids who did ROTC in high school and who enlisted for good jobs, pay for college or to get some direction and discipline in life. Conquering the world was definitely not a reason. Even the most anti-war people see our military as dedicated professionals who aren't at all culpable for the political policies that they are duty-bound to implement.
So what's the disconnect?
• Maybe it's the creepy, neoconservative crowd whose decade-long determination to go to war makes the whole exercise look suspect.
• Maybe it's time to bring back the draft. Unless we all have a friend or family member in the Gulf, Americans have surprisingly little at stake in this war. For many young people, it's just another TV reality show -- great graphics, banging soundtrack and ''embedded'' reporters becoming the next superstars. But this reality show is full of real tragedy, real dying and real suffering, on both sides. The question is: Without the prospect of being whisked off to the front lines, how deeply will the generation that grew up on Mortal Kombat feel it?
• Maybe it's the fact that while a war with potentially dire consequences for the world is raging in Iraq, the United States isn't on much of a war footing. We're told to go about our business. We don't even sweat the orange alerts anymore; they've become background noise.
When we get tired of watching the MOABs lighting up Baghdad, we can watch undeployed soldier Scott Grayson belt one out for a chance to get signed by Simon Cowell (the bad Brit to Tony Blair's good, dutiful one). For all its great coverage at the beginning of the war, MTV hasn't pre-empted The Real World, and BET is still booty-shaking and bling-blinging for all but 30 minutes a day.
There are no calls for sacrifice, no war bonds or rations (in fact, if we make enough dough, we're even getting a tax cut) and no exhortations from our leaders to get involved. The people most inclined to get involved -- on the anti-war side -- are being told to quiet down. Meanwhile, the two major parties are busy dolling out the post-Hussein spoils to their corporate friends -- and Specialist Johnson and other young soldiers are still waiting to be rescued.
America is about to produce a whole new generation of grizzled war veterans in their 20s and 30s. This Greatest Generation might turn into the Most Cynical Generation as well.
As proud I am to never have been fooled by the Bushies, I'm still damned sorry I wasn't wrong. The cost to this country and our military has been too great for it to all have been for nothing.