Better days: Princess Diana with young William and Harry, circa 1993
Prince Harry's eulogy for his mom on the ten tear anniversary of her death of Princess Diana, who at the end of the day was first and foremost, William and Harry's mom, and only secondarily the world's royal icon. As someone who also lost their mother at a young age, I can only hope that the years have eased these two young men's pain, even just a little bit ... although time never really does. Here's the text:
William and I can separate life into two parts. There were those years when we were blessed with the physical presence beside us of both our mother and father.
And then there are the 10 years since our mother's death. When she was alive, we completely took for granted her unrivaled love of life, laughter, fun and folly. She was our guardian, friend and protector.
She never once allowed her unfaltering love for us to go unspoken or undemonstrated.
She will always be remembered for her amazing public work. But behind the media glare, to us, just two loving children, she was quite simply the best mother in the world.
We would say that, wouldn't we.
But we miss her. She kissed us last thing at night. Her beaming smile greeted us from school. She laughed hysterically and uncontrollably when sharing something silly she might have said or done that day. She encouraged us when we were nervous or unsure.
She—like our father—was determined to provide us with a stable and secure childhood.
To lose a parent so suddenly at such a young age, as others have experienced, is indescribably shocking and sad. It was an event which changed our lives forever, as it must have done for everyone who lost someone that night.
But what is far more important to us now, and into the future, is that we remember our mother as she would have wished to be remembered as she was: fun-loving, generous, down-to-earth, entirely genuine.
We both think of her every day.
We speak about her and laugh together at all the memories.
Put simply, she made us, and so many other people, happy. May this be the way that she is remembered.
Probably fittingly, the lads' wicked stepmother, Camilla, did not attend the memorial service for the late Princess.
The Justice Department's inspector general indicated yesterday that he is investigating whether departing Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales gave false or misleading testimony to Congress, including whether he lied under oath about warrantless surveillance and the firings of nine U.S. attorneys.
The disclosure by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine in a letter to Congress signals an expansion of the department's internal investigations into Gonzales's troubled tenure, probes that were not previously known to be focused so sharply on the attorney general and his testimony.
Fine's office has also separately expanded a probe into whether senior Gonzales aides improperly considered partisan affiliations when reviewing applicants for nonpolitical career positions. As part of that inquiry, Fine sent hundreds of questionnaires in the past week to former Justice Department job applicants.
In the questionnaires, Fine asks applicants whether they were quizzed by political appointees about their party affiliation, favorite politicians and judges, voting history, campaign contributions, and views on the death penalty and terrorism, according to a copy of the Aug. 24 questionnaire obtained by The Washington Post. Recipients are also asked to say whether White House aides participated in the interviews and to confirm if they were asked "what kind of conservative you were (law and order; social; fiscal)."
Gonzales announced his resignation Monday after seven months of sustained conflict with Congress over the prosecutor dismissals and other issues, telling aides that his credibility with lawmakers had been too damaged for him to continue. Democrats and some Republicans had urged him to resign amid allegations that he and his aides repeatedly let political considerations taint the law enforcement mission at Justice.
The scope and pace of the investigations suggest that public attention on Gonzales will probably continue long after he leaves his job on Sept. 17. But officials declined yesterday to say whether Fine's expanding investigations played a role in the attorney general's resignation. ...
This is fascinating stuff, particularly since the FBI claimed to the KHOU reporters that the agency has changed.
Well a funny thing happened on the way to the anti-war rally ... the FBI showed up! And according to information unearthed by the ACLU, they're keeping a mighty big database of not just anti-war protesters, but anyone seen as opposing any policy of President George W. Bush. And then there's the matter of Dubya's executive orders regarding the government's ability to seize the property of anyone Bush believes is interfering with his war.
A group of Black bloggers calls on the major media to give serious coverage to one of the most disturbing, race-related cases in my lifetime: the case of the Jena 6. According to the Afrosphere Jena 6 Coalition:
There is growing concern surrounding the Jena Six case in Jena Louisiana. Yet, inexplicably, the national media, most particularly on television, has been abysmally silent on an occurrence of grave social, political and legal importance.
The 'common folk' media of the blogosphere, has stepped up to the plate in the absence of adequate traditional media coverage. Bloggers have taken to hanging banners to blog side-bars and placing them in blog entries at an increasing rate; displaying the words 'Free the Jena 6' accompanied by the evocative symbolism of a noose hanging from a tree. On these blogs strategies that can assist in bringing awareness to these young targets of racist psychological abuse are finding willing participants in discussion, and action; but they need the media’s help.
This issue, like Katrina, highlights how some people receive deference in treatment over others. “The Jim Crow style racism and government negligence, reflected in the Jena 6 case, are both quite worrisome. Unfortunately, the case is another incident that points to the entrenched racial and socio-economic disparities in the South, which this country has yet to fully confront,” says political scientist Dr. Sekou Franklin of Middle Tennessee State University. As the Congressional Black Caucus has noted “…we must speak out against injustice and inequality. This tale of two standards depicts a pattern of gross violations.”
The Afrosphere Jena 6 Coalition “ask that the mainstream traditional media step forward and discharge their duty to provide coverage of this vitally important event to their viewers and readers and act as “the fourth institution" of governmental "checks and balance” that constitutional framers intended the press to be.”
I missed their blogaction yesterday, but want to express my full support for their efforts. This case sounds like it could have taken place in 1957, let alone 2007, and it speaks to the lingering stench of racism in American society.
When I ran across a tale on the Internet about six African-American teens from Jena, La., who are facing decades of prison time for allegedly beating up a white classmate, I couldn't believe their ordeal started with a tree. A tree holds powerful symbolism for black people. While traveling in the South, legendary singer Billie Holiday saw a tree that inspired her to write "Strange Fruit," a song which contains references to lynching.
Still, it is difficult to comprehend that in 2007, black students at any high school in America felt compelled to go to a school official and ask if it would be OK to sit in the shade of a tree usually enjoyed by white students.
There's no dispute that is what happened on Aug. 31, 2006 in Jena, a town with a population that is about 85 percent white and 12 percent black.
A vice principal apparently told the students they could sit "wherever they pleased." And the next day, Sept. 1, 2006, three nooses were found hanging from said tree.
Just three years ago the nation celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruling that declared racial separation was inherently unequal. Yet, Jena High School seems stuck in the pre-civil rights era.
Read the entire column. Well worth it. The piece ends with this couplet:
I asked the Rev. Jesse Jackson why he thinks the "Jena 6" case had not received a drum-beat of exposure from national media.
"We've adjusted to this kind of tyranny," Jackson said. "This is small-town tyranny."
And the sad thing is, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the white students aren't still sitting under the tree.
P.S.: There's a petition up, asking for the charges against these young men to be dropped.
George W. Bush has been making increasingly threatening noises in the general direction of Tehran, leading many people to believe that he plans an attack on Iran before he finally, and mercifully, leaves office in January of 2009.
In fact, Bush's recent speech to war veterans in Nevada, in which he prognosticated a "nuclear holocaust" in the Middle East if Iran is allowed to develop a nuclear program (Iran denies it's for weapons), sent shockwaves through much of the world, as did his call for U.S. troops to seize any Iranian that Bush claims is causing havoc inside Iraq. This comes on the heels of the Bush administration's decision this month to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guards -- its highest level military establishment -- as a terrorist group. Put it all together, and up goes the temperature.
The subsequent arrest of a group of Iranians inside Iraq has only made things worse. Reports the Asia Times:
With Congress gearing up for a fight with the White House on the "surge" policy in Iraq, Bush has arguably many reasons to talk up tensions with Iran. Focusing on Iran may help deflect attention away from the "surge" strategy's failure to turn the tide in Iraq. It can also help convince Congress that Iran is responsible for US misfortunes in Iraq and that cutting the funds for the war would embolden the clergy in Tehran.
Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad is certainly not making the work of the administration more difficult. Shortly before Bush's address to the Nevada war veterans, Ahmadinejad did his part in ratcheting up tensions.
"Soon, we will see a huge power vacuum in the region," he predicted at a press conference. "Of course, we are prepared to fill the gap, with the help of neighbors and regional friends like Saudi Arabia, and with the help of the Iraqi nation," he continued in a clear reference to the US's declining position in the Middle East and Iran's bid to reclaim a regional leadership role.
Still, the nature and implications of the Bush administration's recent moves do not have the characteristics of a customary rhetorical deflection exercise. Accusing Iran of seeking to put an already unstable Middle East under "the shadow of a nuclear holocaust" and promising to confront Tehran - whose actions "threaten the security of nations everywhere" - before it is too late echo statements made by the Bush White House about Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein prior to the invasion of Iraq.
In fact, Bush's speech to the veterans in Nevada has several similarities to his address to the nation on January 10. That was also slated as a major speech on Iraq, though it spelled out little new about Washington's strategy except to call for staying the course. Instead, it revealed key elements of the US's new aggressive posture on Iran.
For the first time, the president accused Iran of "providing material support for attacks on American troops" while promising to "disrupt the attacks on our forces" and "seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq".
Moments after the president's speech in January, US Special Forces stormed an Iranian consulate in Irbil in northern Iraq, arresting five Iranians who Tehran said were diplomats. Washington described the detained Iranians as agents and members of the IRGC. Later that day, US forces almost clashed with Kurdish Peshmerga militia forces when seeking to arrest more Iranians at Irbil's airport.
The US move drew stark criticism from the Iraqi government. "What happened ... was very annoying because there has been an Iranian liaison office there for years and it provides services to the citizens," Iraq's Minister of Foreign Affairs Hoshiyar Zebari told Al-Arabiya television.
The administration has since declared the seizure of the Iranians to have been an unfortunate misunderstanding, as the BBC reported on Wednesday:
BBC World News reported Wednesday that "an embarrassed American military has said it regrets that eight Iranians ... were arrested, handcuffed, and blindfolded by US soldiers in Baghdad." The US now acknowledges that the Iranians are engineers who were in Iraq to help rebuild the local electrical system.
According to BBC, "the eight Iranians were taken away from the Sheraton Hotel in the dead of night to be interrogated. American troops also seized their bags, a laptop computer, and phones. All this just a couple of hours after President Bush began a speech to American veterans which included a bitter attack on Iran, accusing it of arming and training Shiite militants inside Iraq."
"I have authorized our military commanders inside Iraq to confront Tehran's murderous activities," promised Bush in that speech. ...
... but that hasn't stopped many nervous Bush watchers from predicting that the provocative actions are a prelude to yet another war, particularly as it might be the only thing a lame duck, woefully unpopular president could do to help his party, heading into the presidential election... And its not just Bush critics on the left. Smart journalists like Sy Hersh and analysts like The Washington Note's Steve Clemons are saying the same thing. In fact, Clemons sees some of these neocons fishing around to make a buck off the next war.
Besides that, Bush is still being advised by a coterie of neocon advisers who dearly want to attack, not just Iran, but also Syria, and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Check Joe Lieberman for that.
On the right, Pat Buchanan, a former Republican and unrestructed paleoconservative, has been sounding the alarm, too.
Let's hope that all of these voices are wrong. But don't count on it.
Two years to the day after the devastation of hurricane Katrina displaced some 600,000 people, more than 160,000 remain displaced, with some 60,000 still living in FEMA trailers, awaiting the chance to go home. Two years have brought little relief to the people of New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward, while Mississippi has received outsized benefits for its connected former GOP lobbyist governor, Haley Barbour, he of the floating casinos...
The storm that unmade George W. Bush's presidency (you know the saying: "9/11 changed everything... Katrina changed it back...") continues to haunt him, even as he returned to the scene of the crime today to try and sound compassionate. "New Orleans is comin' back!" Bushie declared, then he explained why he and Laura have a better perspective on the situation than the residents of that devastated city, because he and the missus don't get down there much. No, seriously, he said that... and then he went to another charter school.
Man, for a guy who can't read...
Anyway, the Institute for Southern Studies has the grim facts on the failures of reconstructin, despite a $116 billion outlay for rebuilding. Of that total, only 30% has been attached to real projects, and of that, only have has been spent, including $7 bilion on "administrative costs." Pathetic.
Keeping in mind that Senator Larry Craig of Ida-ho is so totally, seriously not gay ...
It's interesting the back story that's surfacing about him. Not just the stories of his bathroom stall mackadociousness, or his allegedly propositioning various men for sex over the years, but also his rather Mark Foley-esque implication in a 1982 congressional paige sexual solicitation scandal. Step into the wayback machine with me, will you? Let's go back to the Reagan era, and check out this ABC News report:
Well good thing Larry Craig isn't gay, because otherwise that denial might not sound so credible... And just to refresh your memory a bit more, here's TIME Magazine's reportage of that 80s sexual scandal:
These are serious charges," declared Ohio Congressman Louis Stokes, chairman of the House Ethics Committee. "I am deeply disturbed," said House Speaker Tip O'Neill. "This is the last thing Congress needs," agreed Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker, who added, "I'm flabbergasted."
The source of their consternation was an FBI investigation into charges that perhaps three Congressmen may have had homosexual relations with teen-age boys who serve as pages on Capitol Hill. An unspecified number of the pages, who run errands for members of Congress, supposedly felt they would lose their jobs if they did not agree to have sex with the Congressmen involved. Claims that female pages were solicited were also being probed. There were vague allegations in a separate investigation by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration that some Congressmen used cocaine supplied by pages.
So far, the sex scandal rests on shaky ground. One 16-year-old page told CBS News that he had once been propositioned by a Congressman and that pages had told him that they had been invited to parties at which Congressmen asked for sex in return for continued employment. CBS put the frightened page on its Evening News program, using silhouetted settings to obscure his features. An 18-year-old former page, who has been accused of car theft and writing bad checks, told CBS he had had sex with three Congressmen.
There are, of course, even more selacious allegations of past sexual scandal
Meanwhile, Republicans are just praying that Mr. Craig will just quietly go away... his seat, however, is up in 2008.
Update: Senators McCain and Coleman call for Craig to resign. I predict he will do so sooner rather than later, the better to spare the GOP further humiliation. Then, Idaho's Republican governor, C.L. "Butch" Otter could appoint a suitable, read "not gay" ... replacement.
Semi-relevant question: Why would gay rights groups get pissed that someone, even Tucker Carlson, would physically fight off the unwanted advances of another man in a restroom. Are straight people supposed to welcome such advances? Greet them politely? Or what? If a woman fought off the unwanted physical advances of a man, she would be applauded by my friends on the left. But a man? He's supposed to do what, thank the aggressor kindly or give him a high five? Give me a break.
Update: Check out the police report on The Smoking Gun. Keith Olbermann gave it an hilarious read on "Countdown" last night... Roger, Friday.
...life can be pure hell, and not just because deep down in your inner man you know that your party has f----d the country... Sayeth the Grey Lady:
WASHINGTON, Aug. 28 — Scott Reed, a Republican strategist, was at a dinner in Philadelphia on Monday night when his cellphone and Internet pager began beeping like crazy. Only later did he learn why. His party was buzzing with news of a sex scandal involving a Republican United States senator — again.
Just when Republicans thought things could not get any worse, Senator Larry E. Craig of Idaho confirmed that he had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct after an undercover police officer accused him of soliciting sex in June in a Minneapolis airport restroom. On Tuesday, Mr. Craig, 62, held a news conference to defend himself, calling the guilty plea “a mistake” and declaring, “I am not gay” — even as the Senate Republican leadership asked for an Ethics Committee review.
It was a bizarre spectacle, and only the latest in a string of accusations of sexual foibles and financial misdeeds that have landed Republicans in the political equivalent of purgatory, the realm of late-night comic television.
Forget Mark Foley of Florida, who quit the House last year after exchanging sexually explicit e-mail messages with under-age male pages, or Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist whose dealings with the old Republican Congress landed him in prison. They are old news, replaced by a fresh crop of scandal-plagued Republicans, men like Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, whose phone number turned up on the list of the so-called D.C. Madam, or Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska and Representative Rick Renzi of Arizona, both caught up in F.B.I. corruption investigations.
It is enough to make a self-respecting Republican want to tear his hair out in frustration, especially as the party is trying to defend an unpopular war, contain the power of the new Democratic majority on Capitol Hill and generate some enthusiasm among voters heading toward the presidential election in 2008.
“The real question for Republicans in Washington is how low can you go, because we are approaching a level of ridiculousness,” said Mr. Reed, sounding exasperated in an interview on Tuesday morning. “You can’t make this stuff up. And the impact this is having on the grass-roots around the country is devastating. Republicans think the governing class in Washington are a bunch of buffoons who have total disregard for the principles of the party, the law of the land and the future of the country.”
Then again, Washington does not have a monopoly on the latest trend among Republicans. Just ask Thomas Ravenel, the state treasurer of South Carolina, who had to step down as state chairman of Rudolph W. Giuliani’s presidential campaign after he was indicted on cocaine charges in June.
Or Bob Allen, a state representative in Florida who was jettisoned from the John McCain campaign last month after he was arrested on charges of soliciting sex in a public restroom.
Mr. Craig, for his part, has severed ties with the Mitt Romney campaign, despite his public declaration on Tuesday that “I did nothing wrong.”
In an interview Tuesday on “Kudlow and Company” on CNBC, Mr. Romney could not distance himself fast enough. “Once again, we’ve found people in Washington have not lived up to the level of respect and dignity that we would expect for somebody that gets elected to a position of high influence,” Mr. Romney said. “Very disappointing. He’s no longer associated with my campaign, as you can imagine.” ...
Yeesh. Good thing Craig isn't gay ... er ... that guilty plea to soliciting sex in the loo notwithstanding ... and those persistent rumors and claims by men that he had sexual encounters with them also notwithstanding ... Um, CUE THE ETHICS PROBE! And perhaps some nice, relaxing rehab!
Meanwhile, the Craig situation is playing havoc with the GOP's plans to dike it's Senate seat slippage. Okay, maybe "dike" was a poor choice of words...
Update: Mitt to Larry: "Under the bus you go!" ... Romney called his former campaign co-chair "disgusting," which should go over really well with the Log Cabin Republicans ... and he cancelled a trip to Idaho by one of his war campaign veteran sons ...
Looks like the Republican National Committee will follow the DNC's lead, by punishing states that choose to push up their primaries in defiance of the Iowa-New Hampshire hegemony, and that could put a crimp into the plans of one Rudolph "I married my cousin" Giuliani.
The Giuliani campaign has reportedly set up a "firewall" in the state of Florida, according to campaign materials obtained by Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post and discussed on his blog, The Fix. Says said Fix:
Florida is the "firewall" in former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's presidential bid, according to a Powerpoint presentation made to volunteers of his campaign in the Sunshine State and obtained by The Fix.
"Florida is the firewall" proclaims the second slide of the presentation which, by in large, is aimed at outlining the goals of Giuliani's effort in the state -- which is slated to hold a primary on Jan. 29. The slide goes on to highlight two press reports: the first, from the Associated Press, notes that Giuliani has "adopted an unorthodox campaign itinerary....lavishing attention on Florida."; the second, from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, points out that "Giuliani's strategy is to win delegate rich Florida to catapult him." The next slide notes that Giuliani's average lead in national polling is seven points but his average lead in Florida is 14 points.
Tony Carbonetti, a senior adviser to the campaign, dismissed the idea that Giuliani viewed Florida as a make or break moment for his bid. "Florida's the firewall, New Jersey's the firewall, Connecticut's the firewall, New York's the firewall," said Carbonetti. He added that the document was put together by state staff, not national staff, in order to "motivate our volunteers."
Although Giuliani's campaign has made clear that the states set to vote on Feb. 5, 2008, which include New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California and Illinois, are likely to strongly favor their candidate, they insist that the former Mayor is also running hard in traditional early voting states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Nonetheless, the slide show does suggest that the Giuliani campaign believes Florida will play a central role in determining the identity of the Republican nominee.
And, while most of the rest of the document is rah-rah sort of stuff, there are some glimpses into Giuliani's broader Florida strategy in the document.
In a slide entitled "Opportunities to get involved", a list of "key coalitions" is provided that includes: "former Yankees" (we assume that means ex-northerners, not the actual Pinstripers), first responders, volunteer firefighters and, The Fix's personal favorite, Italian Americans.
On a slide titled "Our Plan for Victory" there are handwritten notes that read "go after congressional districts" and "Miami -- key city". As we noted in a story for washingtonpost.com's "Fast Track Campaign" series, Florida is one of several large states that splits its delegate apportionment between the winners of each congressional district and the winner of the statewide vote. Win the entire state of Florida and you get 39 total delegates. But, 75 delegates are up for grabs in the congressional districts -- three for each of the 25 seats. ...
The Republican National Committee plans to penalize at least four states holding early primaries, including New Hampshire and Florida, by refusing to seat at least half their delegates at the party’s national convention in 2008, a party official said Tuesday.
Much of the focus in the primary scheduling fight up to now has been on the Democratic National Committee’s moves to penalize Florida by not seating its convention delegates because of the state’s decision to move up its primary. But the Republican rules are even more stringent, and the national party said today that it would not hesitate enforcing them.
The actions by Republicans and Democrats to move against states holding early contests is a rare instance of the two parties moving in concert, in this case to regain control over a rapidly evolving primary calendar that has thrust the nominating system into deep uncertainty just months before it is to begin.
“The rules are clear,” said Tracey Schmitt, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee. “Any state that holds their primary outside of the window shall be penalized delegates.”
In addition to Florida and New Hampshire, Michigan and South Carolina also face sanctions for moving their contests before Feb. 5. Two other early nominating states, Iowa and Nevada, will escape Republican sanctions because they hold nonbinding caucuses, not primaries.
Republican Party officials in both Florida and Michigan said yesterday they still believed it unlikely that they will face penalties — despite being told exactly the opposite by national party officials — and are crafting a plan to make their voice heard during the convention.
“I am confident that all 114 delegates from Florida will be seated,” said Jim Greer, the chairman of the Florida Republican Party.
Mr. Greer argued that Florida technically does not select its delegates on the date of the primary, but rather, the leaders in each of its 25 Congressional districts choose delegates starting Feb. 6, so it is not breaking the rules.
“I am confident that the Republican National Committee or any eventual nominee will not allow the voices of Florida voters not to be heard,” he said. “Florida is too important a state as it relates electing to the next president.”
Banning half a state’s delegation would be an extraordinary move. While state party officials have played down the impact, noting that presidential candidates are often selected before the convention, there is the chance that the parties could have brokered conventions in which each delegate’s vote would be prized. ...
That the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave this famed speech in the National Mall in Washington D.C. as 250,000 people marched for freedom and justice.
But what a lot of people omit, was another speech delivered that day -- a much more provocative one, by one John Lewis, then president of SNCC. The money quotes:
The revolution is at hand, and we must free ourselves of the chains of political and economic slavery. The nonviolent revolution is saying, "We will not wait for the courts to act, for we have been waiting hundreds of years. We will not wait for the President, nor the Justice Department, nor Congress, but we will take matters into our own hands, and create a great source of power, outside of any national structure that could and would assure us victory." For those who have said, "Be patient and wait!" we must say, "Patience is a dirty and nasty word." We cannot be patient, we do not want to be free gradually, we want our freedom, and we want it now. We cannot depend on any political party, for the Democrats and the Republicans have betrayed the basic principles of the Declaration of Independence.
Lewis was challenging the federal government, as was Dr. King, only in a much more confrontational way. I think it's important to remember that you needed both sides in order for the civil rights movement to work -- the spiritual and the provocative.
This guy wasn't attorney general of the United States. He was a toadie, whose only function was to serve George W. Bush's immediate interests. He is an embarassment. not only to the Justice Department, but to the entire legal profession.
Just four months later than my prediction, ding-dong, Alberto is finally getting gone.
WACO, Tex., Aug. 27 — Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, whose tenure has been marred by controversy and accusations of perjury before Congress, has resigned. A senior administration official said he would announce the decision later this morning in Washington.
Mr. Gonzales, who had rebuffed calls for his resignation, submitted his to President Bush by telephone on Friday, the official said. His decision was not immediately announced, the official added, until after the president invited him and his wife to lunch at his ranch near here.
Mr. Bush has not yet chosen a replacement but will not leave the position open long, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the Attorney General's resignation had not yet been made public. ...
... The official said that the decision was Mr. Gonzales's and that the president accepted it grudgingly. At the same time, the official acknowledged that the turmoil over his tenure as Attorney General had made continuing difficult.
"The unfair treatment that he's been on the receiving end of has been a distraction for the department," the official said.
I'm thinking Gonzo's next move will be to lawyer up, and lawyer up good. There's perjury charges afoot... or at least there should be.
Alberto's resignation comes just a few days after the head of the Justice Department's civil rights division called it quits too, in the wake of the attorneygate scandals that had their roots in attempts at the federal level to punish people who were registering people to vote.
While you were fulminating about Michael Vick abusing those pit bull pups ... this guy was stomping the living shit out of his evangelist wife, and then returning to the pulpit to thunderous applause. Man, the devil is busy...
The DNC has dropped the hammer on Florida, threatening to deny the state its 210 delegates to the party's convention if the Sunshine State goes ahead with its plans to hold a primary election on January 29. Here's how Nedra Pickler at the AP reports it:
Florida Democrats would forfeit their votes in selecting a presidential nominee unless they delay their state election by at least a week, the national party said in a stern action Saturday meant to discourage others from leapfrogging ahead to earlier dates.
The Florida party has 30 days to submit an alternative to its planned Jan. 29 primary or lose its 210 delegates to the nominating convention in Denver next summer.
The state party chairwoman, Karen Thurman, said she would confer with state officials about the ultimatum. "It's going to be a difficult discussion," she said, because Floridians are wary of having their votes taken away.
Elected officials in Florida have said they would consider legal action and a protest at the convention if the national party barred the state's delegates.
Florida's vote change was pushed by the GOP in order to enhance the state's stature by making it one of the early primary states, along with South Carolina, Nevada, and the whitest states in the union, Iowa and New Hampshire. The logic is that with Florida's diversity, it is more representative of the country writ large, and should have a louder voice (I suspect that the GOP also sees Florida as a state more amenable to a more moderate, non-evangelical candidate like Rudy Giuliani, who leads the state in the polls and in terms of elected leadership support, as opopsed to a North Carolina, or a Nevada, where anti-immigration forces could hurt Rudy pretty badly...)
Either way, the Democrats are now committed to the primary date, and the Republican-led legislature has no real incentive to help the Dems out, unless of course the RNC decides to go the same route. More from the AP:
There is general agreement that the eventual nominee will seat Florida's delegates rather than allow a fight at a convention intended to show party unity. But the decision by the Democratic National Committee's rules panel could reduce Florida's influence because candidates may want to campaign in states where the votes are counted.
In other words, the DNC's action could cost this state -- and particularly our media outlets, like the one I work for, a shitload of cash. More on what we know, and check out hard-ass Donna Brazille!
The calendar was designed to preserve the traditional role that Iowa and New Hampshire have played in selecting the nominee, while adding two states with more racial and geographic diversity to influential early slots.
Several DNC officials said before the vote that they wanted to take the strong action against Florida to discourage Michigan, New Hampshire and other states that were considering advancing their contests in violation of party rules.
Garry Shay, a rules committee member from California, said allowing Florida to move forward "would open the door to chaos."
DNC committee member Donna Brazile also argued for a strong penalty, saying, "I hesitate to see what happens if we show somehow some wiggle room in our process."
The party argues that Florida's early primary could cause a headlong rush by other states, including Michigan, to move their primaries up, too. Now, to Ms. Brazille, as reported by The Politico:
During the debate, Donna Brazile, a DNC member from D.C. who was campaign manager for Gore-Lieberman in 2000, said: “I understand how states crave to be first. I understand that they’re envious of the role that Iowa and New Hampshire have traditionally played. And I understand that they would like to see if they can get the candidates to come down and … spend all of their time and the resources and fill their bars — oh, sorry, not the bars! — fill their farms and their barns up with people. But the truth is is that we had a process. … That vote will stand … and send a signal to the people of Florida – which includes my sister, who had to show not one, not two, but three forms of ID in 2000.”
And as regards "funny hats", the Politico's Ben Smith continues;
As the meeting broke up and all the cameras and reporters (and there are a bunch of both) lunged for the Florida folks, I walked up to the dais and asked Mr. Roosevelt and his co-chair, Alexis M. Herman, the practical consequences for Florida if the sanctions remain in place.
Roosevelt: “The event on Jan. 29 would be purely a beauty contest — equivalent, as somebody said, to the Iowa straw poll.”
Herman: “But voters WOULD get to register their preference. I think that’s important to point out.”
Roosevelt: “There would be a state-run poll or beauty contest, as has happened before. But there would NOT be a selection of delegates for the national convention in that process.”
What will happen at the national convention, in Denver a year from now (Aug. 25 to 28, 2008)? Will Florida have a section with a "Sunshine State" sign and the funny hats?
Herman: “This would then come under the purview of the credentials committee of the convention. And the convention credentials committee would then have to make a determination as to how they would interpret whatever activities would have occurred in Florida — be it the 29th process, or any subsequent activities, if it were not party approved.”
So is it disenfranchisement, as the state party is claiming, or just strict adherance to the rules? Hm...
As for the Republicans, they stand to lose up to half of their delegates when the powers that be over there decide September 5th. But the state GOP chair is vowing to fight the power. We shall see...
Why is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in such a hell-fire hurrry to take over the Miami-Dade Housing Agency? The County's court fight to stop the pending federal takeover of the embattled agency sheds light on some possible reasons why. A district court judge has ordered mediation between HUD and the county over the takeover, delaying the receivership until at least September 20. (Read the judge's order here.) But the really interesting document is the detailed memo filed by the county (with the mayor and commissioners in rare agreement, along with local housing activists, who didn't file a friend of the court brief, but who probably for the first time are in line with the county...) to support their case for relief. In that memo (read it here), the county argues that HUD broke its own rules by now giving the county sufficient time to correct any violations, rather than seizing the housing agency and all of its properties. Speaking of properties, the county argues that the takeover would do irreparable harm to the county. How? Let me count the ways:
The loss of control over a significant County department, by itself, constitutes irreparable harm that cannot possibly be repaired by money damages. This is particularly true where the County has recently spent tremendous time, money, and other resources in creating an expert management team to run and revitalize its Housing Department.
Moreover, approximately 545 employees work in the Housing Department. If HUD is allowed to implement its final decisions, HUD will be able to abrogate the collective bargaining agreement that these employees have with the County. 19 42 U.S.C. § 1437d(j)(3)(D)(i)(V). HUD has given the County no assurances as to how these employees would be treated. In fact, Assistant Secretary Cabrera stated publicly that if HUD did fire these employees, this would be the County’s problem, not HUD’s.20 See Orlando Cabrera Interview, The Jim DeFede Show, AM 940, Aug. 9, 2006. Putting 545 County employees at risk of being fired or losing their health and retirement benefits and disregarding their collective bargaining agreements constitutes irreparable harm to the County and its employees.
And now for the big finish:
Furthermore, if HUD does take possession of any of the County’s assets, HUD could sell these assets, including valuable riverfront property where public housing projects sit. 42 U.S.C. § 1437d(j)(3)(D)(i)(II). HUD could build market-rate housing, and could privatize the public housing stock and/or programs. Thus, HUD would seize County assets, control them, privatize them, and the County would never regain possession or control. Clearly, this represents irreparable harm to the County and the public.
Again, when HUD Secretary Orlando Cabrera -- formerly the chief counsel to the powerful Latin Builders Association -- appeared on our morning show (with Andre -- I was out on vacation -- ) He refused to rule out privatizing the Liberty City properties that would come under HUD's control under a receivership. He refused to do that, because he very likely plans to flip some of those valuable public properties to private control. This is a guy who in March, gave a speech about what a burden Section 8 is on the federal government. He he doesn't believe in public housing, that I can tell. But he does have his relationships, and the LBA is likely to be the chief beneficiary of this quickie takeover, if it is allowed to happen.
How do you get up on Sunday and preach the word of God, and then turn around and stomp your wife out in a hotel parking lot? Bishop Thomas Weeks has some reconstructing to do...
Juanita Bynum, the fiery national evangelist whose sermons empower women to walk away from dead-end relationships, is suffering some man trouble of her own.
Her estranged husband, Thomas W. Weeks has been charged with felony aggravated assault and making terrorist threats after he allegedly struck her in a hotel parking lot.
wife, is expected to turn himself in to Atlanta police Friday, his lawyer said.
Police said Bynum, 48, has been whisked away by family as they decide what to do next.
Bynum and Weeks are co-founders of Global Destiny Church in Duluth. They were married in 2002 in a lavish televised wedding that featured a 7.76-carat diamond ring. They separated three months ago, said Bynum's sister, Tina Culpepper.
According to an Atlanta police incident report, Bynum said her husband "choked her, pushed her down, kicked and stomped her."
She told police Weeks "continued stomping" her into the ground until a hotel bell man pulled him away. Police also said Weeks threatened Bynum's life.
Culpepper said the couple was meeting for dinner at Concorde Grill in the Renaissance Concourse Hotel near Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport Tuesday night.
Police said the couple had met to work out their differences. Things soured, and Weeks walked out to the parking lot about 10:30 p.m., police said. He then turned back around and attacked her, said Officer Ron Campbell.
Weeks also threatened Bynum's life during the attack, police said. "Anytime you tell a person, 'I'm going to kill you,' that moves it up to a felony," Campbell said.
The bruises found on Bynum also were serious enough to bring felony aggravated assault charges against Weeks.
In a comment posted on her MySpace page, the Pentecostal evangelist said, "I am currently recovering from all of my injuries and resting well ... this too shall pass."
Her publicist, Amy Malone, said Bynum wants to keep the matter private.
"People are interpreting it to mean the two of them were fighting," Malone said. "They were not fighting. She was assaulted."
And now for the really good part:
Bynum's husband has retained two lawyers: famed defense attorney Ed Garland to represent him in the criminal case; and Louis Tesser, to take care of the domestic matter.
Garland has in the past represented NFL star Ray Lewis in his murder trial and millionaire James Sullivan, who ordered the murder of his socialite wife.
"He very much regrets what happened and said he's sorry for what it's worth," Tesser said Thursday night.
Weeks loves his wife, Tesser said, and "he hopes he doesn't wind up getting a divorce."
What??? Wow. Dude, divorce is the least of your worries...
California Republicans have hatched a devious plan worthy of Jeb Bush, and if they make it happen, it could change the landscape for 2008:
California voters are inclined to support a proposed ballot initiative that would change how the Golden State allocates its electoral votes in presidential campaigns, but they're not yet sold on the idea, a Field Poll released today showed.
Currently, California employs a winner-take-all system that awards the state's entire 55 electoral votes to the winner of the state's popular vote.
Under the proposed measure, which could be on the June 2008 ballot, the presidential election would become, in essence, a congressional district-by-congressional district contest. The winner of the statewide popular vote would receive two electoral votes, but the remaining votes would go to the winner in each of the 53 congressional districts.
The proponents of the California ballot measure, largely Republicans, say such a change would make presidential elections more fair by more accurately reflecting the results of the popular vote. However, Democrats have railed against the proposal by charging that the measure is a Republican-driven effort to keep Democrats from capturing the White House.
If the proposal is adopted, analysts suggest that a Republican presidential candidate would get a boost because Democrats can no longer count on all 55 electoral votes from California, which has voted for Democratic candidates since 1988.
All but two states, Nebraska and Maine, give their electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis to the presidential candidate who wins the statewide popular vote.
Iraq remains "unable to govern" itself effectively and hobbled by the absence of strong leadership, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's inability to broker political accord continues to make him vulnerable, according to a new U.S. intelligence report released today.
Seven months after President Bush ordered more U.S. troops to the country, "there have been measurable but uneven improvements in Iraq's security situation," the report concludes. . If U.S. forces continue their current strategy, security "will continue to improve modestly" over the next six to 12 months but violence will remain high and political reconciliation will remain elusive.
The report , determined that while some Iraqi security forces "have performed adequately," overall they "have not improved enough to conduct major operations independent" of U.S. forces in multiple locations on a sustained basis.
If U.S. troops were to downscale their mission to supporting Iraqi security forces and hunting terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda, the report contends that move "would erode security gains achieved thus far."
The British have a new "super weapon" to use to fight the "war on terror" in Afghanistan: an "enhance blast weapon" that kills the enemy by sucking the air out of his lungs and rupturing internal organs.
On the domestic "war on terror" front -- National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell admits what we already knew: that AT&T and other phone companies helped the government to spy on us. Why the admission? Because McConnell would like Congress to exempt the telcos from their customers' lawsuits. Nice.
It looks all bad. Bud don't worry, Dubya! Maybe some silly neocon can get Bushie to launch us another war?
Ari Fleischer has a new job! He's the spokesman for a group launching a $15 million ad campaign in support of Bush's Iraq surge. Ari appeared on "Hardball" yesterday with Mike Barnacle sitting in for Chris Matthews, and Barnacle scored two major slapshots: first, asking Ari to name the soldier featuerd in the ad (Ari couldn't recall) ... and second, after what sounded like a slathering set-up, asking "so Ari, how many Iraqis were on those planes that flew into the World Trade Center?" Watch:
As for who's funding the campaign, NBC's First Read has the rundown:
The donors who are financing the new multi-million-dollar TV ad campaign arguing against a withdrawal from Iraq include a Who's Who of former Bush Administration ambassadors (to plum assignments like France, Italy, and Malta); a least one of Bush's original Pioneers; the man ranked by Forbes (in 2006) as the third-richest American; and, of course, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.
Brad Blakeman, the president of Freedom's Watch, which is running these ads, released the following names as donors to his group. Blakeman told NBC that the rest of the donors are choosing to be anonymous. Freedom's Watch is a 501(c)4 organization, which can collect unlimited contributions and doesn't have to disclose its donors.
When you're a chickenhawk... never bring up Vietnam
George W. Bush, America's second most powerful chickenhawk (Dick Cheney being the first,) made a serious mistake this week, during a speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars. In pleading for more time and more support for his Mesopotamian disaster, he stumbled upon an unfortunate analogy. Said the Texas, Alabama and Massachusetts Air National Guard no-show:
"One unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like boat people, re-education camps and killing fields..."
"Historical parallels of that kind are not very helpful, and I don't think they happen to be right," she said. "This is a different set of circumstances, with different stakes for the United States."
Yeah, a set of circumstances a lot like Vietnam...
Meanwhile, in his speech, Bush also walked back from any criticism of the administration of Iraqi P.M. Nouri al-Maliki. Said Bushie about his equally incompetent, Shiite militia-coddling pal:
"Prime Minister Maliki's a good guy, good man with a difficult job and I support him," Mr Bush told military veterans in Kansas city.
The president also vowed to stay the course in Iraq and for the first time compared the situation to the Vietnam War, arguing that America's withdrawal had been catastrophic for millions of people.
"As long as I am commander in chief we will fight to win," Mr Bush said to resounding applause from a conference of US military veterans in Kansas City, "I'm confident that we will prevail."
And why so nicie?
The Iraqi prime minister had earlier reacted angrily to what he called the "discourteous" remarks from his US allies.
AdvertisementHe suggested that if the was not treated well by the Americans, he would find another patron much less to their liking, such as Iran or Syria.
"Those who make such statements are bothered by our visit to Syria," said Mr Al-Maliki.
"We will pay no attention. We care for our people and our Constitution and can find friends elsewhere.
"No one has the right to place timetables on the Iraq government. It was elected by its people."
The message was driven home to president Bush overnight.
So Iraq is, or isn't, Vietnam, we're never leaving, and Maliki's doing a heckuva job. Well alrighty then.
Back to Bush's Vietnamization strategy, David Gergen weighs in:
"He may well have stirred up a hornet's nest among historians," Gergen stated. "By invoking Vietnam, he raised the automatic question, 'Well, if you've learned so much from history, Mr. President, how did you ever get us involved in another quagmire?' ... It's surprising to me that he would go back to that, and I think he's going to get a lot of criticism."
"This is not a man who's talking about compromise," Gergen emphasized "This is not a man who's talking about a Plan B. ... This a man saying, 'I'm hanging tough.'"
"The reason we lost Vietnam, in part, was because we had no strategy," said Gergen. "And the problem we've got now in Iraq, what is the strategy for victory? ... It's not clear we have a winning strategy in Iraq. That's what cost us Vietnam. That's why we eventually withdrew under humiliating circumstances."
"[Bush] talks black and white," Gergen concluded. "Victory or withdrawal, those are the two options. And Democrats and Republicans are saying, 'Mr. President, there is a third option here, and that is a partial pullback. Stay there, try to prevent a civil war.' ... Today, there was no indication he was willing to do that."
Update: Watch Dubya for yourself:
Update: Veterans react to Bush's chicken hawkery...
Every time I think I've gotten past the abject rage and disgust over the Dunbar Village rape case, more information comes out and I'm sick and disgusted all over again. From today's Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel:
<blockquote>Hoping to steal money and jewelry, Avion Lawson, 14, said he and someone else wore masks when they entered the 35-year-old woman's apartment that night, according to the documents. Once inside, Lawson said, he and his accomplice, whose name is blacked out on the report, encountered the woman in bed with three other masked males around her. Lawson told police he sexually assaulted her and stole two video games and a truck.
Police later found the video games inside the Dunbar Village apartment of Lawson's grandmother, Jonnie Mae Wilkerson, with whom Lawson often stayed.
The victim returned home from her job delivering phone books about 9 p.m. the night of the attack, according to her statement to police. While fixing her son something to eat, a young male with braids knocked on her door to tell her the tires on her truck were flat. Once outside, she said, she saw a male with a large gun and two others armed with guns. They wore black clothing over their faces, she said, and ordered her back into the apartment, where they demanded money.
After being told there was no money, the attackers tore off the woman's clothes and raped her until five others arrived, according to the documents. The new arrivals took turns having sex with her and then sodomized her. The mother was then ordered into a tub filled with vinegar and water where they used hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, nail polish remover and ammonia on her. At gunpoint, the assailants forced the mother and son to have sex.
Throughout the attack, the victims suffered beatings, including having a bowl and lightbulbs smashed over their heads. The encounter was recorded on a cell phone camera, according to the mother.
Before leaving, the males looked for a lighter to set the two on fire but couldn't find one, she told police. They ordered the pair to stay in the tub and took off. About 30 minutes later one of the males returned to sexually assault the mother one last time. Before leaving, he scribbled a man's name and 6-CO, a gang, on a piece of paper and told the woman he hangs out on Sixth Street and that's where he could be found. He grabbed a Sony PlayStation 2 before fleeing. ...</blockquote>And this: <blockquote>During a six-hour interview with police, Lawson, the first to be charged in the case, confessed his involvement after being told his DNA was inside a condom found in the victim's home. En route to the Juvenile Assessment Center, Lawson called some friends and did not sound remorseful, according to police. His lawyer, Bert Winkler, declined to comment on the evidence. The next to be charged was Nathan Walker, a 16-year-old who dropped out of the seventh grade after three attempts to pass. Walker's latent fingerprint was found at the scene along with his DNA on the outside of the same condom linked to Lawson, according to the documents.
Walker became so agitated at the police station that he had to be placed in handcuffs and leg restraints after he began throwing chairs at the walls and door, according to documents. His lawyer, Robert Gershman, has asked for a mental health evaluation of his client. Jakaris Taylor, 15, was arrested July 12. A resident of Dunbar Village, he said his brother played with the 12-year-old victim, though Taylor denied ever being in the apartment. His mother, Jacqueline Minor, encouraged Taylor to give police a DNA sample. Lab results showed Taylor's latent print inside the home, near Lawson's and Walker's.
"She goes to counseling with the little boy," the 36-year-old said. "The boy, he's still grieving. He cannot accept that he had sex with his mama. Nobody can talk to him. He feels like nobody loves him. I don't think there's no way that little boy is ever going to forget that." The South Florida Sun-Sentinel does not identify sexual assault victims and is not naming the boyfriend to protect the woman's identity. The man said he and his 35-year-old girlfriend still live in fear that the 10 armed and masked assailants who, according to police reports, forced their way into the woman's tiny apartment June 18 in the Dunbar Village public housing complex will find them. Once inside, the attackers beat, raped and sodomized the woman and then forced her and her son to have sex. The child was physically assaulted and both had household chemicals poured over their bodies, the reports said.
"Of course I'm scared," the boyfriend said. "In a case like that, if those guys knew it would end like that, I'm sure they would kill them. I told her to be happy because you're alive today."
The man doesn't believe, as some have suggested, that the attack was a hate crime, perpetrated because the mother and son are Haitian.
"I think those guys were coming there just searching for money," he said. "Those guys are young and because they don't find money they tried to make her suffer."
The single mother is incredibly grateful for the monetary donations from strangers, said the boyfriend, who has been dating her for two years.
She continues to heal physically and emotionally and is thankful to be alive, he said.
He and the child's mother have been trying to prepare the 12-year-old for the seventh grade, which starts today/
Michael Vick cops a plea to dogfighting ... so much for clearing his good name ... after his homeboys bring him down, two ways over (part one: "say man, you know what we should do ... we should fight dogs, yo..." ... part two: "yo man, I gotta take this plea. You on your own, money...")
And while I disagree with the sentencing guidelines that say you get up to five years for fighting dogs, when you can get less than that for killing, raping or robbing a human being, it's hard to argue that Vick -- the Atlanta Falcons' $130 million man -- is anything other than stone stupid.
The NFL is full of thugs who beat their wives, drunk drivers and miscreants, yeah? So after he does his Martha Steward thizzle, Vick should probably go right back onto the field.
...and why, oh why did this guy have to wear orange jersy #7??? (Go Broncos...)
Barack Obama has an op-ed piece appearing in today's Miami Herald, in which he calls for unrestricted travel and remittances to Cuba for Cuban-Americans and Cuban nationals living in the United States. Reports the Herald's Beth Reinhard:
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is calling for ''unrestricted rights'' for Cuban Americans to visit and send money to family in Cuba, just days before his first pilgrimage to Little Havana as a presidential candidate. President Bush clamped down on family travel and remittances to Cuba in an effort to squeeze Fidel Castro. The policy has become a flash point in the Cuban-American community, which traditionally leans toward the GOP.
''Cuban-American connections to family in Cuba are not only a basic right in humanitarian terms, but also our best tool for helping to foster the beginnings of grass-roots democracy on the island,'' Obama wrote in an opinion column published in today's Miami Herald. ``Accordingly, I will grant Cuban Americans unrestricted rights to visit family and send remittances to the island.''
Obama is expected to repeat his message Saturday at Miami-Dade County Auditorium, a site laden with nostalgia for Cuban exiles. It was there that President Ronald Reagan declared ``Cuba sí, Castro no'' during a landmark, anti-communist speech in 1983 that emboldened a Cuban-American community then on the political fringes.
About 1,100 tickets have been sold so far to Obama's speech, with the proceeds going to the Miami-Dade Democratic Party. The $30 entry fee is a fraction of the $2,300 donation typical of presidential fundraisers.
''This speech has so much symbolism and value, coming in the heart of the Cuban-American community,'' said the local party's chairman, Joe Garcia. ``Sen. Obama has come to the conclusion that the majority of Cuban Americans have come to, which is that more travel is good for freedom and good for democracy.''
A Florida International University poll in March of 1,000 Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade found that 55 percent support free travel to Cuba. But some exile groups argue that easing the restrictions would be a mistake.
''We regret that Sen. Obama has been so ill-advised as to assume that lifting sanctions against Cuba's dictatorial regime will bring about change,'' read a statement issued by the non-partisan Cuban Liberty Council. ``It is sad that he does not apply the same principles used to bring about change in South Africa where blacks were victims of the same apartheid as Cubans on the island.''
Obama's stance puts him at odds with Republican presidential field and could open the door for his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, to continue a foreign policy spat that began during a televised debate last month. ...
Or could Barack be looking to peel off Cuban-American voters who were outraged by the increased restrictions imposed by President Bush in an election-year ploy in 2004? That clamp-down caused some Cuban-Americans to revolt, and even to quit the GOP. Yet, at the end of the day, Bush still carried Florida's Hispanic vote.
Obama could have in mind the 30 percent of the Cuban-American vote won by Bill Clinton, along with the state, in 1996. But Clinton accomplished that, not by liberalizing toward Cuba, but by cracking down.
Time will tell if Barack's strategy will help or hurt him in the Sunshine State.
FBI Director Robert Mueller's notes following the now infamous March 2004 visit to the bedside of then-ailing Attorney General John Ashcroft provide fresh contradictions between Mueller's and then-acting A.G. James Comey's accounts of the "Godfather"-esque attempt to strong arm a sick man into Okaying an illegal domestic wiretapping program, and the "recollection" of Alberto Gonzales. The Washington Post reports:
Then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft was "feeble," "barely articulate" and "stressed" moments after a hospital room confrontation in March 2004 with Alberto R. Gonzales, who wanted Ashcroft to approve a warrantless wiretapping program over Justice Department objections, according to notes from FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III that were released yesterday.
One of Mueller's entries in five pages of a daily log pertaining to the dispute also indicated that Ashcroft's deputy was so concerned about undue pressure by Gonzales and other White House aides for the attorney general to back the wiretapping program that the deputy asked Mueller to bar anyone other than relatives from later entering Ashcroft's hospital room.
Mueller's description of Ashcroft's physical condition that night contrasts with testimony last month from Gonzales, who told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Ashcroft was "lucid" and "did most of the talking" during the brief visit. It also confirms an account of the episode by former deputy attorney general James B. Comey, who said Ashcroft told the two men he was not well enough to make decisions in the hospital.
"Saw AG," Mueller writes in his notes for 8:10 p.m. on March 10, 2004, only minutes after Gonzales and White House chief of staff Andrew H. Card Jr. had visited Ashcroft. "Janet Ashcroft in the room. AG in chair; is feeble, barely articulate, clearly stressed."
The typewritten notes, heavily censored before being turned over to the House Judiciary Committee, provide further insight into a tumultuous but secret legal battle that gripped the Justice Department and the White House in March 2004, after Justice lawyers determined that parts of the warrantless wiretapping program run by the National Security Agency were illegal.
Although Mueller did not directly witness the exchange between Ashcroft, Gonzales and Card, his notes recounted Comey's personal statement that Ashcroft at the outset said that "he was in no condition to decide issues." Ashcroft also told the two men he supported his deputy's position on the secret program, Mueller said Comey told him.
Comey had precipitated the confrontation by informing the White House days earlier that the Justice Department would not approve the wiretapping program's continuation in its present form. Gonzales and Card then decided to see if they could get Ashcroft to sign a certification that it was legal.
After the meeting concluded without success, the Bush administration decided to proceed with the program anyway. But Comey, Mueller and half a dozen or so other Justice Department officials threatened to resign if it was not changed. The standoff was averted after President Bush agreed to make changes, Mueller and others have testified, but the changes have never been described.
In his notes, Mueller recounts Comey's statement that Ashcroft complained to Gonzales and Card at the hospital about being "barred" from obtaining "the advice he needed" about the NSA program because of "strict compartmentalization rules" set by the White House. Although Ashcroft, as attorney general, had been fully briefed about the program, many of his senior legal advisers were not allowed to know about it, officials said.
Gonzales was White House counsel at the time of the hospital visit and replaced Ashcroft as attorney general in 2005. "We never had any intent to ask anything of him if we did not feel that he was competent," Gonzales testified, adding later: "Mr. Ashcroft talked about the legal issues in a lucid form, as I've heard him talk about legal issues in the White House."...
Drip ... drip ... drip ... can anyone argue with any credibility that we have a functioning office of attorney general at the moment, while it's being helmed by a perjurer?
Jose Padilla, an American from Brooklyn, by way of Chicago, who was designated as an enemy combatant by President Bush, and who once was accused, by John Ashcroft (pre-hospital heroism) of plotting to set off dirty bomb attacks in South Florida ... an accusation later retracted because the Bush administration had no actual evidence of such a plot ... was convicted yesterday, along with two other men of providing "material support to terrorists," apparently, mostly on the basis of his having filled out -- or at least handling -- an al-Qaida job application (who knew they had paperwork? And can you imagine what the interview is like? "What would you say was your worst failure ... your greatest success ...?)
I must admit that I remain dubious about the whole Padilla situation. As in the Hamdan case, it's built on vagueries and supposition, without much substance. And as with that case, it stands on the shaky legs of the Bush administration's outsized claims to executive power, including the power to detain American citizens (Padilla) without charging them with any crime, indefinitely if the president wishes. That's frightening, and un-American.
Worse, it seems the jury, which deliberated for less than 48 hours, was rather unconcerned with the lack of evidence in the Padilla case. Apparently, the fear haze that the American public was placed under by the Bushies after 9/11 hasn't entirely worn off, at least on everyone.
Padilla and his co-defendants will likely be put away for the better part of the rest of their lives. Padilla might actually be dangerous -- he is a former member of a notorious Chicago gang, and he has shown a propensity for violence (his first stint in prison was for kicking a rival gang banger in the head -- the victim later died.) But the government has not shown to my satisfaction that he is a terrorist.
And yet, he's going to prison as one. Go figure.
Worse, I suspect that the real reason the Bush administration has gone so hard after Padilla and other so-called homegrown terrorists -- the paintball guys in New York, the Liberty City Seven (who aren't even Muslims, but are supposedly al-Qaida ... go figure...) is because they need to demonstrate -- in contravention of the contrary evidence inherent in their own prosecutorial failures -- that there really is a war on terror going on , the better to justify the various outrages against the Constitution committed by this president -- from torture to domestic spying -- and to do so, they need to convince you that there is a continuous and ubiquitous domestic terror threat. It's important that it's domestic, because they want to spread the tentacles of their data mining and spying regime into this country, utilizing the tactics that by law, are supposed to be confined to overseas operations -- and even then, the connection to international law is often tenuous at best. The Bushies originally detained Jose Padilla as an enemy combatant under the guise of the Congressional authorization to use force in Afghanistan following the September 11 terror attacks. That justification was rejected by the Supreme Court, and should be rejected by the American people.
To paraphrase a Baptist preacher, I wish I had a Constitution loving church up in here.
I hadn't been following the Jena 6 case, but after reading this, I will be. The case involves six Black high school students on trial for their lives, charged with attempted murder for a fight that broke out after white students hung nooses from a tree at the 85% white high school where the students attended, this after the Black students decided to sit under the normally "white students only" tree. After the nooses were hung, a handful of white students were mildly disciplined. But the incident touched off several racial skirmishes in the town of Jena, including a Black student beaten up when he showed up to a white only party, and a white young man pulling a shotgun on some black students at a convenience store. The final incident, in which the six black students allegedly jumped a white teen alleged to have been friends with with the noose hangers, is what has resulted in the charges. Essentially, the six Black defendants are facing decades in prison for a schoolyard brawl.
The case is like a blast from the 1950s, and presents an ugly face of the South that persists to this day. Some of the charges have been reduced in the case, but it drags on still. The NAACP is also on the case.
So, if launching blistering attacks on Hillary Clinton isn't working for John Edwards, why would Barack Obama try the strategy on for size? And is the Obama camp preparing to go all netroots nuclear on Hillary? From the WaPo this morning:
"I think it is fair to say that I believe I can bring the country together more effectively than she can," Obama said. "I will add, by the way, that is not entirely a problem of her making. Some of those battles in the '90s that she went through were the result of some pretty unfair attacks on the Clintons. But that history exists, and so, yes, I believe I can bring the country together in a way she cannot do. If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't be running." ...
... "Her argument is going to be that 'I'm the experienced Washington hand,' and my argument is going to be that we need to change the ways of Washington," he said. "That's going to be a good choice for the American people."
Saying that Bill Clinton's presidency was good for America, he added: "The question is, moving forward, looking towards the future, is it sufficient just to change political parties, or do we need a more fundamental change in how business is done in Washington . . .? Do we need to break out of some of the ideological battles that we fought during the '90s that were really extensions of battles we fought since the '60s?"
Obama never used the term "polarizing" to describe Clinton but made it clear he has studied polls that show that many people have an unfavorable opinion of her. "I don't think there is anybody in this race who's able to bring new people into the process and break out of some of the ideological gridlock that we have as effectively as I can," he said.
Okay, but the problem for Barack is that Bill Clinton won the ideological war he fought with bloodthirsty Republicans in the 1990s - he won it on the economy, on competency and on "peace and prosperity." And he won it on impeachment. Democrats aren't shrinking from an ideological war with the new iteration of the GOP -- the neocon war party, bathed in corruption and incompetence -- most are relishing it.
I also think Barack risks becoming shrill, at at time when Democrats need to be united to win. Not a good look for the candidate of hope.
... What often distinguished Rove from other strategists was his sweeping vision. He is encyclopedic in his knowledge of the smallest details of electoral politics — of precincts and turnout models, county activists and regional issues — but he always had a broader idea about where he, and Bush, were going, and where they would take the party. As long ago as 1998, his stated project with Bush was to remake the G.O.P. into a permanent governing majority of the kind the Democratic Party enjoyed from 1932 through 1968. He would do it by winning over Latino voters and breaking the Democrats' grip on seniors and — of course — pounding voters at every turn with the argument that only Republicans could be trusted with America's national security in such perilous times.
His plan was for nothing less than a broad realignment of American politics. But the plan failed terribly after Bush's reelection. Not only has Iraq gone disastrously, dragging down the President's popularity and making even staunch Republicans skittish, but some of the policies Rove was more directly responsible for — the vast expansion of Medicare, the mutation of the G.O.P. into a party of big government, the spectacular failure of Bush's effort to "reform" Social Security through partial privatization — have all weighed heavily on the G.O.P., turning it for the first time since Ronald Reagan took office in 1981 into a party in retreat. In the 2006 mid-terms, Rove assured nervous Republicans that they could win again if they maligned their Democratic opponents as soft-headed and weak on terror. And they heeded his advice. But the old strategy didn't work; Democrats swept to power in both houses of Congress. Rove insists — as he does in today's Wall Street Journal to Paul Gigot — that Republicans lost because of corruption and overspending, not because of Bush and the war. But even most Republicans don't seem to believe that. ...
Well. That's about all there is to say about that.
Karl Rove, who cut his political eye teeth trashing the military service of World War II hero George McGovern, under the tutelage of Watergate indictee Donald Segretti, will step down from his post as George W. Bush's brain at the end of the month. While Democrats may be sad/glad to see Turd Blossom go (particularly since he's not going out in handcuffs) you've got to assume that he's leaving in order to return to his first love: scorched earth presidential campaigning. No telling what nefarious schemes he'll hatch to try and derail the Dems' best shot at the White House since the 1992 Boomer coup. Oh, and he's expected to write a book. That should be interesting... wonder what he'll write about his gay father, who dumped his mother in order to hang at the Rainbow Cactus?
Iraqification: Cheney's words come back to haunt us
With Iraqi Sunnis now begging their Arab brethren for help to stop what that country's most senior politician is calling a genocide by ruling Shia, backed by Iran, which lawmaker Adnan al-Dulaimi says could spread to other Arab regimes, there are new wrinkles in George W. Bush's Iraq miracle:
A plot to ship 150,000 rifles from Italy to the Iraqi interior ministry -- the same ministry feared by many Sunnis inside Iraq as something of an Office of Ethnic Cleansing, was uncovered, with the Italian Mafia apparently behind the deal. The Guardian reports:
An Iraqi interior ministry official insisted the weapons were mostly for Iraqi police in Anbar province. But, given the close relationship between the Shia-led government and Shia militias and the irregular nature of the arms order, the disclosure prompted suspicion that the eventual destination could have been the militias, or police units close to them.
The aborted shipment comes only a week after a congressional investigation team found that the Pentagon could not account for 190,000 US-supplied weapons that had gone missing in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. It would have been another spectacular lapse to add to a growing list that began immediately after the invasion when the US failed to protect Iraqi army weapons dumps from looting and disbanded the Iraqi army complete with weapons.
The anti-Mafia investigators stumbled on the deal, which had not been authorised by the Italian government, while shadowing a group of suspected Italian drug traffickers. Expecting to find drugs during a covert search of the luggage of a suspect boarding a flight to Libya early last year, police instead found helmets, bullet-proof vests and a weapons catalogue. ...
Meanwhile, we step into the wayback machine to listen to a former U.S. Secretary of Defense explain to us why invading and occupying Iraq as the climax of the 1991 Gulf War would be such a bone-headed idea. Let's head back to 1994. Our epxert: one Richard Bruce Cheney. Bruce ... take it away...
Q: Do you think the U.S., or U.N. forces, should have moved into Baghdad?
Q: Why not?
A: Because if we'd gone to Baghdad we would have been all alone. There wouldn't have been anybody else with us. There would have been a U.S. occupation of Iraq. None of the Arab forces that were willing to fight with us in Kuwait were willing to invade Iraq.
Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein's government, then what are you going to put in its place? That's a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government of Iraq, you could very easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off: part of it, the Syrians would like to have to the west, part of it -- eastern Iraq -- the Iranians would like to claim, they fought over it for eight years. In the north you've got the Kurds, and if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey.
It's a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq.
The other thing was casualties. Everyone was impressed with the fact we were able to do our job with as few casualties as we had. But for the 146 Americans killed in action, and for their families -- it wasn't a cheap war. And the question for the president, in terms of whether or not we went on to Baghdad, took additional casualties in an effort to get Saddam Hussein, was how many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth?
Our judgment was, not very many, and I think we got it right.
Righto. Meanwhile, on this side of the ledger, the U.S. lost five more troops today.
Sleep well, Dick. And your little pal George, too...
Mitt Romney buys himself an Iowa straw poll! The Mittster took a resounding 32% of the vote, at a bargain price of around $3,000,000 (divided by the 4,505 or so folks who voted for him works out to ... ah! About $666 per voter! ...COINCIDENCE...!!!??? ) Ahem... Mike Huckabee finished second with 18%, followed by Sam Brownback of Kansas. Rudy didn't bother to compete, and I think "Baghdad John" got, like, some old lady from Deluth to show up for him... Interestingly enough, Ron Paul finished fifth, which for him, is pretty freaking fabulous. Of course, Romney's win in a contest in which only around 14,000 people voted, does give rise to certain, less than exuberant headlines. Here's one from the AP:
The Times explores how the Bushies' naivete and arrogance turned what should have been a decisive win against the people who launched the 9/11 terror attacks -- that's the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan, not some errant Iraqis or Saddam Hussein for you unreconstructed neocons out there -- into yet another Bush quagmire.
Two years after the Taliban fell to an American-led coalition, a group of NATO ambassadors landed in Kabul, Afghanistan, to survey what appeared to be a triumph — a fresh start for a country ripped apart by years of war with the Soviets and brutal repression by religious extremists.
With a senior American diplomat, R. Nicholas Burns, leading the way, they thundered around the country in Black Hawk helicopters, with little fear for their safety. They strolled quiet streets in Kandahar and sipped tea with tribal leaders. At a briefing from the United States Central Command, they were told that the Taliban were now a “spent force.”
“Some of us were saying, ‘Not so fast,’ ” Mr. Burns, now the under secretary of state for political affairs, recalled. “While not a strategic threat, a number of us assumed that the Taliban was too enmeshed in Afghan society to just disappear.”
But that skepticism had never taken hold in Washington. Since the 2001 war, American intelligence agencies had reported that the Taliban were so decimated they no longer posed a threat, according to two senior intelligence officials who reviewed the reports.
The American sense of victory had been so robust that the top C.I.A. specialists and elite Special Forces units who had helped liberate Afghanistan had long since moved on to the next war, in Iraq.
Those sweeping miscalculations were part of a pattern of assessments and decisions that helped send what many in the American military call “the good war” off course.
Like Osama bin Laden and his deputies, the Taliban had found refuge in Pakistan and regrouped as the American focus wavered. Taliban fighters seeped back over the border, driving up the suicide attacks and roadside bombings by as much as 25 percent this spring, and forcing NATO and American troops into battles to retake previously liberated villages in southern Afghanistan. ...
The New York Times uncovers the simple plan the Bush administration used to trick the hapless Democrats on the Hill into giving Alberto Gonzales approval power over NSA domestic spying. How did they do it? They got DNI Mike McConnell to issue a warning: the NSA is picking up 75% fewer intercepts of al-Qaida communications, because of the FISA court's dreaded 72 hour rule for granting warrants (72 hours AFTER the surveillance begins, that is...) Then, throw in a few handy dandy terror scares ("bombs in the cheese! Bombs in the cheese! Run for you liiiiiives...!!!) and presto! Democrats fold like cheap suit. Russ Feingold and Jane Harman explain their party's inherent weakness:
The White House, Mr. Feingold said Friday in an interview, “has identified the one major remaining weakness in the Democratic Party, and that’s its unwillingness to stand up to the administration when it’s making a power grab regarding terrorism and national security.”
“They have figured out that all they have to do is start talking about an imminent terrorist threat, back it up against a Congressional recess, and they know the Democrats will cave,” he added.
Representative Jane Harman, Democrat of California, said the White House “very skillfully played the fear card.”
I don't know about skillfully. Clearly you don't have to be too bright to put one over on these idiots.
Despite the swarthy shenanigans of the rainbow and sunshine state and pesky South Carolina, the whitest state in the Union (sorry, New Hampshire) will maintain its first in the nation polling status, without moving its caucuses into the Christmachaunakwanzika season. Hooray!
General Lute, the only guy willing to take that god-awful war czar job (read "latest Bush fall guy for pending Iraq failure") says it might be worth looking into a military draft. Got to feed the beast, you know. The money uote from White House deputy national security adviser Lieut. General Douglas Lute:
"I think it makes sense to certainly consider it and I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table."
"But ultimately, this is a policy matter between meeting the demands for the nation's security by one means or another."
A refreshing bit of honesty. And you know what? I'm for it. Open the draft rolls. Suck in every child of every chickenhawk neocon, starting with anyone related to George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Bill Kristol, then work your way down from there. Every keyboard thumping "war blogger" who has never even considered going to war personally, and then we can get to the rest of us. Short war, then...
How is it that the media completely missed the story of Rudy Giuliani's exaggerated, arrogant, inflated vision of himself as the hero of 9/11, and his constant pimping of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks for personal gain? Well ... looks like they've finally gotten wind of it! This just in: Rudy's a jerk...
AP) Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani said Friday that he misspoke when he said he spent as much time, if not more, at ground zero exposed to the same health risks as workers combing the site after the Sept. 11 attacks.
"I think I could have said it better," he told nationally syndicated radio host Mike Gallagher. "You know, what I was saying was, 'I'm there with you."'
The former New York mayor upset some firefighters and police officers when he said Thursday in Cincinnati that he was at ground zero "as often, if not more, than most of the workers."
"I was there working with them. I was exposed to exactly the same things they were exposed to. So in that sense, I'm one of them," he told reporters at a Los Angeles Dodgers-Cincinnati Reds baseball game.
Really, Rudy? You were digging through that rubble your own heroic self????
Fire and police officials responded angrily, saying Giuliani did not do the same work as those involved in the rescue, recovery and cleanup from the 2001 terrorist attacks, which left many workers sick and injured.
On Friday, Giuliani said he was trying to show his concern for the workers' health.
"What I was trying to say yesterday is that I empathize with them, because I feel like I have that same risk," he said.
"There were people there less than me, people on my staff, who already have had serious health consequences, and they weren't there as often as I was," Giuliani said, "but I wasn't trying to suggest a competition of any kind, which is the way it come across."
Giuliani's explanation further angered his ground zero critics, prompting several to issue a statement demanding an apology.
"He is such a liar, because the only time he was down there was for photo ops with celebrities, with politicians, with diplomats," said deputy fire chief Jimmy Riches, who spent months digging for his firefighter son.
"On 9/11 all he did was run. He got that soot on him, and I don't think he's taken a shower since."
GREAT line. Mr. fire union chief, take us home, please...
Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, a union that fiercely opposes Giuliani, said he doubted Giuliani misspoke.
"I think he was simply showing what his true character is — a self-absorbed, self-deluded promoter who got caught and is now just simply trying to backtrack," Schaitberger said.
And now, just for the sheer fun of it, here's Rudy in his own demonic voice:
(CNN) – At a campaign stop in Bettendorf, Iowa Wednesday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was asked whether any of his sons were enlisted in the military and what they were doing to “support the war on terror.”
“The good news is, we have a volunteer army, and we’re going to keep it that way,” the former Massachusetts governor responded. “My sons are all adults…. They’ve made their decisions about their careers and chosen not to serve in the military and I respect that decision.”
The question came from a reputed war protestor while Romney was discussing Iraq. The presidential hopeful continued his answer by calling for a “surge of support” for those enlisted and their families.
Can't you jusr hear the patriotic marching band? I think it's playing the old timey tune, "Summer of the Blue Blood Chickenhawks." Watch Romney take it to the streets here.
No one really expects The Drudge Report, or any of its winger accolytes, to deliver the actual news. But this kind of blatant inaccuracy is bad, even for Matt and friends. Today, Drudge linked to his favorite "news" source, champion headline linker and right wing pundit Andrew Breitbart's self-titled link portal. The headline: US public sees news media as biased, inaccurate, uncaring: poll
More than half of Americans say US news organizations are politically biased, inaccurate, and don't care about the people they report on, a poll published Thursday showed.
And poll respondents who use the Internet as their main source of news -- roughly one quarter of all Americans -- were even harsher with their criticism, the poll conducted by the Pew Research Center said.
More than two-thirds of the Internet users said they felt that news organizations don't care about the people they report on; 59 percent said their reporting was inaccurate; and 64 percent they were politically biased.
More than half -- 53 percent -- of Internet users also faulted the news organizations for "failing to stand up for America".
Sounds like straight reporting, yeah? Well, maybe not.
Heading over to the actual Pew Poll, we find something slightly different.
It turns out that the public as a whole has an overwhelmingly positive view of the news media, with 78% viewing local TV news favorably, 75% feeling the same way about cable TV news, 71% for network news, 78% for daily newspapers and 60% for national newspapers.
As for perceptions of bias, the percentage of Americans saying that the news media as a whole is moral has dropped from 54% to 46% between 1985 and 2007, the percentage saying the media "protects democracy" has dropped from 54% to 44% in that time, with a minority of 36% saying they "hurt democracy" and 20% saying they don't know ... and 66% now saying the media is "highly professional", down from 72% in 1985 and versus just 22% who now say the media are "not professional." Where the Breitbart headline almost sounds coherent is in the areas of factuality and bias: 30% of respondents to the Pew poll said the media "gets the facts straight" versus 53% who say stories are often inaccuate. Back in '85, the numbers were 55% for factuality and 34% for frequent error. That is a problem for the media, which has been subject to various "gotchas" in recent years, from everything from blogswarms to in-house liars like Jayson Blair.
And on the subject of bias, just 31% of respondentss said the media are "careful to avoid bias," versus 55% who called the media politically biased. In 1985, however, those numbers weren't much different: then, 36% said the media were careful to avoid bias, versus 45% who detected bias. In other words, the percentage of doubters, down from 19% to 14%, has declined, and the percentage of those who are certain that the media is out to trick them, has climbed, though the impact on those who consider the media honest is almost within the margin of error.
And what accounts for the increased certainty of bias? According to the poll, two things: the Internet, and Fox News.
Respondents who get most of their news from the 'net scored the highest in the poll in terms of perceiving bias in the news. Both on the left and the right, people who see the media as hopelessly tilted to one political side or another, have in many cases turned to getting most of their news online, sussing out information for themselves rather than relying on the talking heads. These folks tend to be younger, not nursed on the three major networks' nightly news, and highly skeptical of the official story presented by the often lap-dog press (have I revealed too much...?)
According to the Pew analysts:
People who rely on the internet as their main news source express relatively unfavorable opinions of mainstream news sources and are among the most critical of press performance. As many as 38% of those who rely mostly on the internet for news say they have an unfavorable opinion of cable news networks such as CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC, compared with 25% of the public overall, and just 17% of television news viewers.
The internet news audience is particularly likely to criticize news organizations for their lack of empathy, their failure to "stand up for America," and political bias. Roughly two-thirds (68%) of those who get most of their news from the internet say that news organizations do not care about the people they report on, and 53% believe that news organizations are too critical of America. By comparison, smaller percentages of the general public fault the press for not caring about people they report on (53%), and being too critical of America (43%).
Indeed. But the even bigger drag on the poll in terms of perceptions of the media is Fox News. It has fed an almost hysterical revulsion for the "mainstream media," from the New York Times to CNN, and has led many Republicans to conclude that they -- and thus, America -- are under seminal attack by the left wing hordes of the press. Say the Pew researchers:
Across every major news source, Democrats offer more favorable assessments than do independents or Republicans. The partisan divide is smallest when it comes to local TV news, which 83% of Democrats rate favorably along with 76% of Republicans. The differences are greatest for major national newspapers, such as the New York Times and Washington Post. Fully 79% of Democrats rate these newspapers favorably compared with just 41% of Republicans, based on those able to rate them.
While Republicans have long been more skeptical than Democrats about major media sources, the magnitude of the difference is a relatively recent phenomenon. In Pew's first measure of media favorability in 1985, there were modest differences of opinion across party lines.
And as for the "Foxified viewers" as described in the poll:
those who cite the Fox News Channel as their primary source of news stand out among the TV news audience for their negative evaluations of news organizations' practices. Fully 63% of Americans who count Fox as their main news source say news stories are often inaccurate – a view held by fewer than half of those who cite CNN (46%) or network news (41%) as their main source.
Similarly, Fox viewers are far more likely to say the press is too critical of America (52% vs. 36% of CNN viewers and 29% of network news viewers). And the Fox News Channel audience gives starkly lower ratings to network news programs and national newspapers such as the New York Times and Washington Post.
And why do Fox viewers feel so put upon?
Politics plays a large part in these assessments – Republicans outnumber Democrats by two-to-one (43% to 21%) among the core Fox News Channel audience, while there are far more Democrats than Republicans among CNN's viewers (43% Democrat, 22% Republican) and network news viewers (41% Democrat, 24% Republican).
It's no wonder Roger Ailes can double as the network head and Rudy Giuliani's principal advisor. More from the poll:
Not surprisingly, the Fox News Channel audience is far more likely to say that news organizations have been unfair in their coverage of George W. Bush (49%) than those who cite CNN (19%) or network news (22%) as their main news source.
Further analysis of the data shows that being a Republican and a Fox viewer are related to negative opinions of the mainstream media. The overlapping impact of these two factors can most clearly be seen in the favorability ratings of network TV news, major national newspapers, and the daily newspapers that respondents are most familiar with. For all three, Republicans who count Fox as their main news source are considerably more critical than Republicans who rely on other sources. For example, fully 71% of Fox News Republicans hold an unfavorable opinion of major national newspapers, compared with 52% of Republicans who use other sources, and 33% of those who are not Republicans.
Of course, none of that makes it into Breitbart's news churner, let alone Drudge's.
They want Americans to be in lock step behind George W. Bush so desperately, they're actually wishing for another 9/11-style attack on the United States. Unbefreakinglievable. These wackos need to get into a time machine and go back to the Soviet Union, from whence their sick, leader-worshipping, fear-obsessed ideology came.
Quinnipiac is out with three new swing state polls that offer still more good news for "your girl," Hillary Clinton. She's leading the front-runner among the GOP Geriatric Drill Team, Rudolph "The Inbreeder" Giuliani in three key states:
New York Sen. Hillary Clinton has inched ahead of her top Republican foe, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in Florida and Pennsylvania, and ties Giuliani in Ohio, her best showing so far in the three states as many voters re-evaluate their previous negative impression of her, according to Quinnipiac University's Swing State Poll, three simultaneous surveys of voters in states that have been pivotal in presidential elections since 1964.
Sen. Clinton has increased her substantial Democratic primary lead over Illinois Sen. Barack Obama to 25 points in Ohio, 16 points in Pennsylvania and 30 points in Florida, the first big state to hold a primary, scheduled for January 29, 2008, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds. Giuliani is treading water in the Republican primary, holding leads over Arizona Sen. John McCain or former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson of seven points in Florida, 18 points in Ohio and 13 points in Pennsylvania.
Head to head matchups show:
Florida - Clinton tops Giuliani 46 - 44 percent, flipping a 46 - 44 percent Giuliani lead July 23; Ohio - Clinton ties Giuliani 43 - 43 percent, compared to a 44 - 42 percent Clinton lead July 12; Pennsylvania - Clinton edges Giuliani 45 - 44 percent, compared to a 45 - 45 percent tie June 27.
Another important factor for Hillary is that her negatives are declining, particularly among independent voters, as many are apparently taking a second look at her, proving again that as I've said frequently on this blog, Hil has won every single one of the debates, and come out of the snipe fights with Barack as the heavyweight, because she's proved her toughness and foreign policy credentials, even when taking positions unpopular with the viewing or attending audience on debate night. It sounds middling, But Hil raising her favorables to 50 percent in this poll is significant for her.
On the GOP side, Q-pac finds that:
"Mayor Giuliani's lead remains solid among Republicans. Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson's surge in the polls has stalled, perhaps because he has yet to announce. Meanwhile, Arizona Sen. John McCain, whose numbers have been going down in most recent polls, is showing new signs of life in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney remains largely unknown."
And that despite all the cash Romney is spending on ads in key states, including here in Florida.
The poll isn't all good news for the front running Dem:
On the eve of the first debate for the Democratic candidates before homosexual rights activists, the poll shows backing from gay rights groups has no effect on most voters. But among the roughly 40 percent who say it might have an impact on their decision, support of a gay rights group, depending on the state, turns off from two to almost four times as many voters as it attracts. On a net basis it makes more independents less likely to vote for such a candidate.
Endorsements from business groups and abortion rights groups also make voters less likely than more likely to back a candidate. The backing of labor groups is a big plus for candidates.
In other words, Thompson, at least pre-announcement, is a bit of a slow barge. Giuliani I think has peaked. Let's see if he can restart his cousin-marrying, wife dumping, fascistic, illegal immigrant haven, switch-hitting, flip flopish, sadistic engine. Ahem...
So Barry Bonds has passed Hank Aaron's home run record, after batting in his 756th homer. Forgive me while I contain my glee. Yep, I'm one of those journos who can't stand the man, not only because of his less than glowing personality, but also because I believe that he got his record by using steroids. I would love to be wrong. I doubt that I am. And while I have no love for Barry, I must admit it did my heart good to watch Bud Selig twisting in the wind as Barry tied the record this week, that forced admiration on his face and that pathetic half-wave.
See, Bud Selig and Major League Baseball deserve Barry Bonds. Baseball has cultivated the steroids era by pushing for bigger, stronger power hitters, more home runs, and more excitement in a game that is supposed to be long and a bit dull, punctuated by moments of joy. Baseball did this to itself. Now they've got to live with Barry, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire and the whole juice crew as their standard bearers.
You get what you push for, guys. Barry's all yours.
Want more? Great take on Barry (not just because he agrees with me) here. And another here. And a take on the inevitable race angle here. And if you want to know how much that 22-year-old kid who caught the ball is looking at? Here ya go.
Meanwhile: Dubya telephones, late, but he telephones...
It's rare -- very rare -- when Miami-Dade's "strong mayor," Carlos Alvarez, its board of county commissioners, and local activists (for low income housing and the poor) agree, on anything. When they do, one should take notice.
In this case, all of the above agree, as do I, and many observers in South Florida, that the Bush Department of Housing and Urban Development's move to take over the Miami-Dade Housing Agency is both precipitous and unnecessary.
How is it that, two years after the scandals detailed in the Miami Herald's "House of Lies" series occurred, the agency charged with overseeing the spending of federal housing funds by the county-supervised agency, only now decides its time to take over? Where was HUD when these scandals -- many of which involved federal, meaning HUD, funds, were taking place? Where was their oversight? It's clear that the county agency was a playground for scandal, fraud and abuse. It's true that the agency squandered tens of millions of dollars giving sweetheart deals to insider contractors and developers who never intended to build a single unit of low income housing -- and who in many cases simply flipped the properties for personal gain, while never repaying the loans. It's true that the agency was a disgrace, which should become the target of multiple prosecutions. And its true that the county commission did little, or nothing, to stop or catch the abuses. You might even say they deserve a healthy share of the blame, and shame.
However, the House of Lies scandals are the agency's recent past. It's currently under new management, and from all that I hear from housing advocates who are on the ground, working with the very people bilked by MDHA, making progress. And for HUD to now move in, citing of all things, the possibility that poor people were getting too much Section 8 money, is outrageous.
Further, the man pushing the takeover, Orlando Cabrera, a crony of both Jeb and George Bush, and the Latin Builders Association, cannot, and will not, promise that he will not pursue the tried and true Bushian policy of privatization. Look for him to do exactly that, with some of the last arable, unoccupied land in South Florida. And who stands to benefit? The aforementioned LBA and Jebbie's development firm, the Codina Group.
It should. Especially since the man who runs the agency that is purporting to save Miami-Dade from itself, HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson, has been caught red-handed, using a partisan litmus test for the awarding of federal contracts. He plays by the Bush rules, and there's no reason to assume he'll stop doing so now. And among those rules is the following: thou shalt pursue public policy with as little basic competence as possible, for as long as you can get away with it. Ring up some friends in New Orleans, Philly or Detroit, and ask how their HUD-run public housing agencies are doing. For that matter, ring up Riviera Beach.
You'll forgive me if I take a dim view of the Bush administration's latest land and power grab in the 27 electoral vote state of Florida. I've had seven years to become this cynical.
Meanwhile, Mayor Alvarez is vowing to fight the HUD takeover in court, as he stated in a defiant press conference yesterday. His argument: the agency cannot prove that Miami-Dade is still in a state of default -- it's allegations are true, but they're past history. And as for the boogeyman of Section 8 certifications? Alvarez expects them to be completed, in their entirety, next month. In fact, the newfangled MDHA is already working closely with the community most affected by the House of Lies scandals: Liberty City, a mostly black enclave where poverty and want outrun hope and possibility far too often. Bringing HUD in as the big stick will likely sideline those community workers, placing the Bushies and their cronies firmly in charge. And as for the financial scandals -- with a strong mayor now in place, and the direct accountability that he has mandated to all department heads, including the new head of MDHA, Kris Warren, the buck actually stops somewhere today, something that wasn't true when the Herald was earning that Pulitzer.
By the way, the Miami Herald -- the agency who informed a credulous HUD that its $275 million was being flushed down the toilet (and without whom apparently Mr. Cabrera would have been none the wiser...?) Their editorial board agrees with me.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development moved today to take over Miami-Dade County's troubled housing agency, following months of scandal uncovered in a Pulitzer Prize winning Miami Herald series:
The federal government seized control of the Miami-Dade Housing Authority Tuesday morning, fulfilling a months-old threat and ending months of attempts to negotiate an amicable settlement.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development notified county leaders about 9 a.m.
Top agency leaders have been determined to take over since at least February, citing the vast mismanagement of housing programs exposed last year in The Miami Herald's House of Lies series.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez pledged earlier this year to fight HUD in court, and the county's lawyers went before a judge in May when the department took its first steps toward a takeover.
HUD's press release on the takeover can be found here. It reads in part:
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today that it will take possession of the Miami-Dade Housing Agency (MDHA) in 10 business days, saying the agency had demonstrated a pattern of financial irresponsibility and mismanagement of its Section 8 rental housing voucher and public housing programs.
“For several months, we at the federal level have reached out to local leaders to work in partnership to get the agency back on track,” said HUD Assistant Secretary of Public and Indian Housing Orlando Cabrera. “HUD tried without success to get Miami officials to enter into what is known as a cooperative endeavor agreement that would have allowed us to work together as partners to restore the Miami community’s faith in its housing agency. Local official have rebuffed us, claiming they are making progress. Notwithstanding these claims of progress, HUD has verified that the problems identified by HUD are getting worse, not better,”
“A takeover has always been our last resort,” he added. “We, like the people of Miami, continue to hear about MDHA’s plans to improve, but plans on paper are meaningless to families and communities waiting for decent housing and action. It would be irresponsible to wait any longer.”
In implementing the takeover, HUD faults Miami-Dade County for the following major failures:
Failure to annually re-certify Section 8 tenants. Failing to do annual re-certifications can cause truly needy families not get the assistance they need because some tenants may be receiving more housing subsidy than they are eligible to receive, or there may be tenants who may no longer qualify for the program.
• Numerous and gross accounting errors in annual financial statements from 2002-2006 -- in the tens of millions of dollars.
Back up a taste: the county agency's principle failure was that it might have allowed tenants to get too much Section 8 money? Come again? The problem, as we've found out through the painstaking work of the Miami Herald though its House of Lies series, is that the agency failed to build housing for needy families, including those who were moved out of housing that was then demolished, and nothing built in its place. Not to mention the developers who were given county land for the purposes of building low income housing, but who instead flipped the land for the development of high priced condos ... The problem in Miami-Dade is not "welfare queens," it's an abject failure on the part of the housing agency to give them adequate assistance. Meanwhile, the county gifted friendly, connected developers with millions of dollars in no-look loans for which they built absolutely nothing. But typical of the GOP, they start by asserting that too much was being done for the poor. All of that scandal -- which filled more than a dozen isses of the Herald -- is boiled down to "gross accounting errors." Not a good start.
HUD is already in control of seven of the nation's 4,100 public housing authorities. The list won't give you much hope: Riviera Beach and Sarasota, Florida, Detroit, MI, East St. Louis, Ill., New Orleans, La., and Wellston, Mo., as well as the Virgin Islands Housing Authority. Quick: close your eyes and picture the public housing projects in Detroit, St. Louis and New Orleans! Feeling better yet?
And then there are the men who will now be in charge...
As at least one commenter on the Herald points out, the takeover places the Bush administration -- of Hurricane Katrina fame -- in charge of the scandal-ridden Miami-Dade housing authority, where no-bid contracts, sweetheart deals to contractors who built no housing (except for themselves) and failed to repay millions of dollars in loans. Anyone who has perused HUD's history in New Orleans, even before Katrina devastated Louisiana, won't have much confidence in the Bushies' ability to turn things around. Another commenter, calling themselves "Bigfoot," smells a nasty portent of things to come:
The same guy (Asst Sec. of HUD, Orlando Cabrera) who was the General Counsel for the Latin Builders Assn. is the orchestrator of this entire takeover.
The South Florida developers (LBA) will be rewarded for there efforts again....They will undoubtedly get federal contracts from the same agency that is screwing up so bad in New Orleans. These contracts will displace current public housing residents and of course build brand new facilities with the federal contracts.
Displaced residents and developers getting paid....sounds so familiar! Anybody that cheers for this Federal Administration, whether it?s for the war, the environment, the US Attorney firings or Katrina, has got it head stuck up in the clouds of disillusionment.
In fact, Mr. Cabrera, a crony of former governor and big-time developer Jeb Bush, and who served as Jebbie's housing administrator during the good old days of politicized FEMA payments to help ensure big brother George's re-election, and who also is a friend of the LBA, will now have discretion to steer millions of dollars in contracts to build affordable housing in the county to whomever he wishes, and one would have to assume that he will wish to bless the Latin Builders Association, which maintains close ties to Jeb -- Jeb of the long track record of cozy ties to Big Real Estate, and who is now himself a full-time, big-time real estate developer in Miami, in a position to grab some of that booty as well ... We all know how business is done in Bushworld...
As for the man who will now administer the agency, his name is Donald J. LaVoy: a Marine Corps veteran and former head of HUD's E-government organization, called the REAC, or "Real Estate Assessment Center," which does affordable housing assessments, among other things. Nothing negative stands out in his background, but he's not really the main concern. That honor goes to Cabrera.
At the end of the day, the county deserves a mugging, given its governance of the housing agency. But this is no step up. We've had seven years of experience with the Bush way of doing business, and that doesn't bode well for Miami-Dade. Some people are about to get very rich -- or richer -- from this deal. And the poor, already accused by HUD of getting too much, can look forward to getting little if anything at all.
Two interesting takes on the state of Black talk radio: one ... two ... BTW, Don Cheadle should get an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Petey Greene in "Talk To Me." I was going to say more, but I'll leave it at that.
Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution has gotten a lot of mileage out of playing indignant over charges that he has been a booster of the Iraq war, and the current surge strategy of George W. Bush. This following his and fellow think tanker Ken Pollack's rosy-ish op-ed in the New York Times on how we just might be winning the war (a view that has won them praise from the neocon faithful.) Now, the third man on that recent Brookings trip to Iraq has what you might call a difference of opinion with O'Hanlon and Pollack on how things are going:
It is scarcely surprising that my perceptions of a recent trip to Iraq are different from that of two of my traveling companions and those of several other recent think tank travelers to the country.
From my perspective, the US now has only uncertain, high risk options in Iraq. It cannot dictate Iraq’s future, only influence it, and this presents serious problems at a time when the Iraqi political process has failed to move forward in reaching either a new consensus or some form of peaceful coexistence. It is Iraqis that will shape Iraq’s ability or inability to rise above its current sectarian and ethnic conflicts, to redefine Iraq’s politics and methods of governance, establish some level of stability and security, and move towards a path of economic recovery and development.
The full report is here. And Cordesman's analysis of why anything at all might be going better in Iraq? Luck.
The Democratic debate tonight on MSNBC, sponsored by the AFL-CIO, is a wrap. It was by far the most contentious, combative debate so far, and the leading candidates ripped into each other in a way that was almost uncomfortable to watch. Barack took incoming fire from Chris Dodd, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden on his comments about invading Pakistan. Hillary took flak from Edwards about being on the cover of Forbes Magazine as the candidate that corporate America is betting on, but she gave it right back, declaring herself the candidate who can win, and who has a history of taking on the wingers. In a nutshell, here's my quick assessment, in order of how well I think they did:
Hillary Clinton - I think she won it again, even though she lost the battle for the crowd with Barack, who had home field advantage. Hillary came off as strong, and as the one on the receiving end, rather than the battering end, of Dem on Dem attacks. Hil needs to watch her upper register when she gets loud to shout over the crowd, but overall, this tiny lady again distinguished herself as the most succinct, the most savvy, the most competent, and the most prepared to be president on the day she enters office.
Joe Biden - Another strong performance. This guy has knowledge to spare, particularly on matters of foreign policy. He did well tonight, even infusing some humor into the debate, i.e., his one word answer to the question of whether he would end no-bid contracts ("Yes.") ... and when he showed a softer side by sympathizing with a woman who lost her husband in the Sago mine, by referring to his own loss of a spouse. This guy would make a hell of a secretary of state.
Barack Obama - I thought he came off as strident, almost to the point of nasty tonight, and far too prone to Democratic fratricide in his quest to topple Hillary Clinton. His constant slaps at Hillary, Dodd and other "Washington insiders" who voted for the war is what he has to do (though they might remind him that since taking office, he has repeatedly voted for the funding of the war,) and he had the hometown crowd in the palm of his hand. But at the end of the day, Chris Dodd was right when he said that Barack was in the wrong for telegraphing his Pakistan policy to the world. Hillary is right on substance, but Barack won the crowd. At the end of the day, when the glow wears off, Hillary will be seen as the more presidential on foreign policy.
Chris Dodd - He's a bit dull, but was good on substance tonight. He still has an image problem, and no shot at being president, but he did well. One caveat: he was one of the worst at not directly answering the questions.
Bill Richardson - Richardson is as dull as dishwater, and he failed to distinguish himself in any way tonight. This guy's timer should have long since run out, but he's still in play, frankly, because Democrats still believe they may have to play the Latino card to win out West.
John Edwards - Edwards probably had the worst performance of the night. He is coming off as increasingly desperate in these contests, flailing out at Hillary's corporate ties (despite being a rich trial lawyer himself), trying to sting his opponents on the war, as if he never voted for it, and pushing his one liner about not taking lobbyist money even when the question was about healthcare. Not a good show, John.
Dennis Kucinich - This guy is a Socialist, pure and simple. He wants to put us all on Medicare, which is insane, he wants to turn the White House into the "workers White House," which sounds suspiciously like "Socialist paradise," and he claims he'd cancel NAFTA and the WTO agreement immediately upon entering office. He sure is animated, though, and I'd have rated him higher than Edwards had he not sounded so insane.
At the end of the day, Barack will probably win the Internet polls, but Hillary will be ahead by another 2 points by week's end.
Much to the chagrin of people like John Edwards (and Newt Gingrich, from the sound of his increasingly histrionic tone) there really are only three people in the race for president: Hillary Clinton, who now holds a commanding 22 point lead over her nearest Democratic contender for the nomination, according the the latest USAT/Gallup poll; the aforementioned nearest competitor, Barack Obama, and Rudy Giuliani, the nightmare candidate from the left-right, who would have us mow down every Arab and Muslim from here to Timbuktu were he to ever darken the door of the White House.
The latest news on the triad:
Hillary and Barack enter a Cold War phase -- I'd guess Hillary was pissed when he screwed around with her inevitability by running.
Still, many are predicting that eventually, they'll have to unite under one banner, given his hugh fundraising and continued popularity -- oddly formed plans to bomb the bejeezus out of Pakistan, notwithstanding...
Rudy predicts as much, too, even as the smart observers predict that he would make an absolutely awful president, and a dangerous one too, given that he fuels his neoconservatism with ignorant bluster and constant threats of terrorism and war. Not what the thinking American voter is looking for, but unfortunately, there still are some cowardly Americans out there who cleave to Rudy's brand of scare 'em from the rafters phony conservatism.
Meanwhile, out there in the hinterlands, John Edwards has gone from sniping at his betters for fighting each other, to sniping at Bill Clinton -- not so smart, J.E., I mean you do want to win the Democratic nomination, right...?
Dennis Kucinich has gone straight up Socialist -- still whinging for "not-for-profit" healthcare -- read Medicare for all, and a "Department of Peace." What is this guy smoking, anyway? Survey says: his camp thinks he's winning this thing...
I'd go on, but as I said at the start, there really are only three people in this thing. Four if you count the current iteration of Mitt Romney (or more to the point, Mitt Romney's money...) or the ghost of Fred Thompson...
I have been a Democrat all my life -- even before I was old enough to vote, I was bathed in the well of the party of JFK, whom my immigrant mother idolized. She believed in Lyndon Johnson's war on poverty -- despite Vietnam. She believed in Jimmy Carter, even as the Iran hostage crisis broke the spirit of the American people. We sneered at Ronald Reagan.
But I have, in my adult life, come close to quitting the party at times, most recently, following the disastrous candidacy of John Kerry, the wrong man for the nomination, and clearly, the wrong man for the kind of dirty, no-holds-barred fight that must be waged with the likes of George W. Bush's Republicans. I got there again, after the Democrats voted earlier this summer to give George W. Bush an extension on his war, ensurng the deaths of more American troops as the Democrats bowed down to a president who should by now be neutered and irrelevant, but who still has the power to cow this party that is too full of political cowards and fools.
I have gotten there again. In fact, never have I been so ready to walk away from the sham that is the opposition party to this extraordinarily Stalinesque president.
The Democrats have shamed themselves, by once again capitulating to a demand from the waning boy king of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, who had demanded that, even amid the myriad scandals that include the firing of U.S. attorneys by a thoroughly politicized and disgraced attorney general, the abuse of security letters by the FBI, which falls under Alberto Gonzales' authority, the codification of torture, again by Gonzales, in his former capacity as White House Counsel, not to mention the abuses by the NSA of its eavesdrop authority by ignoring, or outright flouting of the FISA law.
The latest capitulation: giving in to the presudent's demand for expansion of his constitutionally fictitious authority to spy on the electronic communications of American citizens and residents. The Dems could easily have ignored Bush's lame duck request, given the climate of distrust sown by Alberto's midnight ride to John Ashcroft's hospital bedside to try and intimidate the then-sidelined A.G. into approving the combination data mining / eavesdropping scheme cooked up either before or after 9/11, depending on how much of the official story you believe. But they didn't. Instead, they relented, giving this president -- worse -- his incompetent, corrupt attorney general and Director of National Intelligence Mitch McConnell , sole authority to wiretap, read the emails of and inspect all other electronic communications by, American citizens and residents, at their sole discretion, without review by a court, and therefore without probable cause. All Gonzales has to do is say, "hey, this American is talking to a foreigner!" and it is done. The Center for American Progress reports it this way:
CONGRESS 'PLAYING WITH HALF A DECK': Since March, the Bush administration has been building a case for its FISA legislation. But it wasn't clear until last week why it was pushing so urgently. On Tuesday, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) revealed on Fox News that earlier this year, a judge issued a secret ruling concluding "that the government had overstepped its authority in attempting to broadly surveil communications between two locations overseas that are passed through routing stations in the United States." Boehner noted that this court order made "a key element of the Bush administration's wiretapping efforts illegal," a fact the White House has attempted to conceal from the public and many in Congress. "It clearly shows that Congress has been playing with half a deck," said Jim Dempsey, policy director for the Center for Democracy and Technology. "The administration is asking lawmakers to vote on a very important piece of legislation based upon selective declassification of intelligence."
WHITE HOUSE OVERRULED INTEL DIRECTOR: The House congressional leadership quickly worked with McConnell to hammer out legislation fixing the holes created by the secret ruling, which included "three points" that McConnell "said the Bush administration needed." Yet instead of accepting the legislation, the White House took advantage of the opening "to write its warrantless wiretapping program into law -- or, more precisely, to write it out from under any real legal restrictions." "We had an agreement with DNI McConnell," said Stacey Bernards, spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), "and then the White House quashed the agreement." Nevertheless, lawmakers "more concerned with protecting its political backside than with safeguarding the privacy of American citizens" caved in to the administration's demands for increased spying powers. "The only purpose of [the White House-backed] bill is to protect this administration from its own political problems and cynicism, and its own illegal actions it has taken outside the law without any authorization," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who opposed the legislation, on the House floor on Saturday.
GONZALES HANDED EXPANDED SPYING POWERS: Provisions of the compromise bill attempted to address the "anachronism" of the 1978 FISA legislation, while imposing oversight on the White House. For example, it would have required audits by the Department of Justice's Inspector General to check the Attorney General. It would also make the Attorney General "create guidelines to ensure that the government applies for a regular FISA warrant application when the government seeks to spy on a U.S. person." Yet under the legislation Bush signed into law, Gonzales has "sole authority" to "intercept any communications believed to be from outside the United States (including from Americans overseas) that involve 'foreign intelligence' -- not just terrorism. ... Instead of having the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court ensure that surveillance is being done properly, with monitoring of Americans minimized, that job would be up to the attorney general and the director of national intelligence. The court's role is reduced to that of rubber stamp." Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) called Gonzales's expanded power "simply unacceptable," in light of the fact that he has misled Congress on disputes over the administration's spying program. On Saturday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who opposed the bill, sent a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) requesting legislation "as soon as possible after Congress reconvenes" to address the administration's overreaching on spying.
Keep in mind that Democrats hold the majority in both houses of Congress, and yet, they failed to utilize that majority to protect the American people from the almost obsessive zeal of this administration for secret spying powers. We are walking headlong into a Soviet system, all on the basis of nebulous, nameless fear of a completely theoretical attack.
As Jonathan Turley, Constitutional law professor and frequent guest on "Countdown" has said, the fact that we're fighting to preserve the FISA law, is itself a secret court accountable to no one, shows how far down the rabbit hole we've gone. The fact that Democrats would continue to back down, and capitulate to a president who has been so thoroughly and publicly discredited, is astounding.
The statute will be reviewed in six months, in the middle of a presidential campaign. Let's hope none of the Senators running for president has the temerity, or the stupidity, to support it then.
As for me, I have come to realize that I am what you might call a civil liberties absolutist. I care more about habeas corpus than I do about the Democratic Party. I'm about a milimeter away from tearing up my voter registration card.
THE DEMOCRATIC-led Congress, more concerned with protecting its political backside than with safeguarding the privacy of American citizens, left town early yesterday after caving in to administration demands that it allow warrantless surveillance of the phone calls and e-mails of American citizens, with scant judicial supervision and no reporting to Congress about how many communications are being intercepted. To call this legislation ill-considered is to give it too much credit: It was scarcely considered at all. Instead, it was strong-armed through both chambers by an administration that seized the opportunity to write its warrantless wiretapping program into law -- or, more precisely, to write it out from under any real legal restrictions.
Administration officials, backed up by their Republican enablers in Congress, argued that they were being dangerously hamstrung in their ability to collect foreign-to-foreign communications by suspected terrorists that happen to transit through the United States. The problem is that while no serious person objects to intercepting foreign-to-foreign communications, what the administration sought -- and what it managed to obtain -- allows much more than foreign-to-foreign contacts. The government will now be free to intercept any communications believed to be from outside the United States (including from Americans overseas) that involve "foreign intelligence" -- not just terrorism. It will be able to monitor phone calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens or residents without warrants -- unless the subject is the "primary target" of the surveillance. Instead of having the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court ensure that surveillance is being done properly, with monitoring of Americans minimized, that job would be up to the attorney general and the director of national intelligence. The court's role is reduced to that of rubber stamp.
This is as reckless as it was unnecessary. Democrats had presented a compromise plan that would have permitted surveillance to proceed, but with court review and an audit by the Justice Department's inspector general, to be provided to Congress, about how many Americans had been surveilled. Democrats could have stuck to their guns and insisted on their version. Instead, nervous about being blamed for any terrorist attack and eager to get out of town, they accepted the unacceptable. Most Democrats opposed the measure, but enough (16 in the Senate, 41 in the House) went with Republicans to allow it to pass, and the leadership enabled that result.
Without that audit, how will the Democrats even know if this new law has been abused six months from now? I'm tempted to ask, do they even care?
These clods fell for the oldest trick in Karl Rove's book threats of another terror attack, which would of course be blamed on them. How so, DemiDummies? It is Bush who has styled himself the protector of the nation (and its children.) If that protection falters, sux years after 9/11 and scads of phony terror alerts scaring up everythng from liquid perfume to cheese... even a moron would have placed the blame at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Jesus, guys, can't you do anything right???
BTW, any reporters who work on international stories, particularly regarding Bush's unpopular war, or his various, overreaching national security schemes, had better be on notice. Don't think for a moment that you are not a key target of this administration's plans to control and destroy information and dissent. Presidential candidates -- if you plan on talking to foreign leaders in anticipation of one day running this country's foreign policy, you just voted for your own bugging. Great job.
And then there are people like myself, who have family overseas, including both my husband's family and my father's side of the aisle, who all live in the Congo. I'm just going to assume from here on in that Dubya is mining everything, and everyone, and that he's not just looking for al-Qaida, he's looking for any speech that interferes with his "war on terror," including dissent. If you doubt it, remember that executive order which allows the Treasury Department to seize the property of anyone who interferes, by war or deed, with Bush's war in Iraq? Goodbye First , Fourth and Fifth amendments.
This is sickening, and it didn't have to happen. Have a nice vacation, Democrats. Today, I'm ashamed to be one of you.
As for the roll calls for the Orwellian-themed "Protect America Act", here's the House and here's the Senate. Read it and weep. I'm happy to report that from Florida, Congressmen Meek and Hastings voted nay. On the Senate side, I'm saddened that Chuch Hagel voted for this monstrosity, as did every other GOPer. 16 Dems capitulated, too, but thankfully, neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama fell for the okey doke. Among the civil liberties sell-outs: Bill Nelson of Florida, Jim Webb of Virginia, Diane Feinstein (CA) and Ken Salazar of Colorado. Previous:
Albertcito's got a really good explanation for his perjurious testimony before the Congressional judiciary committees. ... Really...
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With potential perjury accusations hanging over him, embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales sent a letter to Senate leaders Wednesday acknowledging he "may have created confusion" in his previous testimony.
But he said he did not mean to mislead senators and was "determined to address any such impression."
In a two-page letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales defended his testimony while conceding he was not clear when he described highly classified National Security Agency surveillance activities.
"I am deeply concerned with suggestions that my testimony was misleading, and am determined to address any such impression," Gonzales told Leahy.
"I recognize that the use of the term 'Terrorist Surveillance Program' and my shorthand reference to the 'program' publicly 'described by the President' may have created confusion, particularly for those who are knowledgeable about the NSA activities authorized in the presidential order described by the DNI [director of national intelligence], and who may be accustomed to thinking of them or referring to them together as a single NSA 'program,' " Gonzales wrote.
The distinction of whether there was only one program or whether "other intelligence activities" constituted a separate program from the confirmed Terrorist Surveillance Program is critical.
Gonzales had insisted under oath that there was no dissent within the administration over the president's program.
Later, Gonzales' former deputy, James Comey, and FBI Director Robert Mueller testified there was intense debate within the administration.
Gonzales testified there was no dissent over the no-warrant eavesdropping program acknowledged by President Bush in December 2005. Gonzales said that dissent erupted over "other intelligence activities."
He would not discuss what he meant by "other."...
Oh really? Hm... maybe by "other," he meant the ones he's willing to go to jail for.
An interesting take on the new colonialism, and the possible benefits -- to the Russians -- of global warming:
Russia will fire the starting gun on the world’s last colonial scramble today when a submarine plants a flag under the North Pole to symbolize the Kremlin’s claim to the Arctic and its vast energy resources.
In an unprecedented and potentially perilous mission, veteran Arctic explorer Artur Chilingarov will descend 14,000 feet in a deep sea submersible and drop a Russian tricolor cast in titanium onto the seabed.
With Russia’s northern rivals, all eager to extend their own Arctic ambitions, looking on uneasily, two Russian ships reached the North Pole after ploughing their way through deep ice for over a week.
In a nation that, in Soviet times, pioneered Arctic exploration, Mr Chilingarov’s expedition has fired the Russian public’s imagination.
But Mr Chilingarov also caused international concern after declaring that the Arctic and the North Pole were Russian.
Global warming has given renewed impetus to the race for control of the Arctic.
Melting ice sheets could open up the fabled North East passage, the quest for which claimed countless sailors’ lives, for the first time.
The route, which could dramatically cut the length of a journey from Europe to Asia, could become navigable to commercial traffic within eight years.
The more clement conditions make for an equally tantalizing prospect.
According to some estimates, the Arctic is home to a quarter of the world’s untapped energy reserves - now more accessible than they ever have been.
For all Mr Chilingarov’s posturing, his expedition is little more than a public relations stunt designed by the Kremlin to attract public support for Russia’s long held claim to a 463,000 mile chunk of the Arctic - about half the size of Western Europe.
The Kremlin has long believed the territory belonged to Russia - it was marked as such on Soviet maps from the 1920s. ...
"What Giuliani is, is George Bush on steroids.” Edwards said. “Giuliani, Romney and the rest of the Republicans running for the nomination are going to give the country four more years of crony capitalism, which is exactly what we have now. We have insurance companies and drug companies and oil companies running this government. They need to be stopped. And Giuliani just wants to empower them.”
DERRY, N.H. (AP) - John McCain's slide in the presidential race shows up everywhere on the campaign trail.
His staff drastically reduced and his organization nearly broke, McCain flies commercial instead of on private jets, carries his own luggage and relies on supporters to drive him to events, including one that pulled away from a Rotary meeting last week with a flat rear tire.
It's a far cry from the "Straight Talk Express" tour bus that once was packed with reporters, staff and hope.
When the Republican presidential hopeful made his first trip to New Hampshire earlier this year, the plush bus had Dunkin' Donuts boxes in the cabin and gallons of coffee for hangers-on and key supporters. His aides - and spare baked goods - traveled in a van behind.
At town halls, his U.S. flag backdrops were steamed clean of their wrinkles and a bevy of volunteers clamored to hand out stickers.
Now, the Arizona senator and Vietnam War hero travels without staff or with a single aide and rarely with national media crews. Last week, he arrived in Manchester, N.H., on a commercial flight. He carried his own bags through the airport and his top two aides in the state drove him to his hotel. The entire event was captured for local television. ...
Wow. That's really sad. Pathetic, actually.
Why doesn't this guy just let it go, drop out of the race and recover something akin to his dignity?
...The Wall Street Journal... so much for the journalistic integrity of that paper. It will all be like the editorial page, now. Telling bite from the NYT article on Murdoch's bodysnatching of Dow Jones:
At its most ambitious, Mr. Murdoch’s vision for Dow Jones would establish The Journal as the rival to The Times in setting the daily news agenda of the country.
The vision has a business corollary: by broadening The Journal’s influence beyond pure business readers, Mr. Murdoch wants to reposition it as not just the world’s leading financial newspaper, but the world’s leading business journalism source for consumers.
The paper has already tried this with softer service features and its Saturday edition. Reorienting the newspaper further for consumers would fit with two other aspirations Mr. Murdoch has. One is to build his nascent Fox Business Network, which begins in 30 million United States homes this October, into a viable contender with Bloomberg Television and CNBC, which have much larger subscriber bases both at home and abroad.
Mr. Murdoch has shown in the past that he is willing to experiment, even knock over some sacred cows. In an interview with The Times earlier this year, Mr. Murdoch mused aloud about The Journal, saying, for instance, that he did not have time to read longer articles during the week and might like to swap out the paper’s Pursuits section on Saturdays with a glossy magazine. More recently, he told Time magazine that he was not sure about the offbeat front-page stories known internally as “A-Heds” that are a plum for reporters to write.
Ah, the softer side of news. Just what the business minded WSJ reader was looking for. Ahem. ...
And one wonders how long it will take before the Journal is wallowing in the same tabloid propaganda that guides Murdoch's other ventures, including the Times of London, the New York Post and of course, his GOP baby, Fox "News" Channel.
What a shame. Greed obviously got the better of the Bancrofts, the family that controlled Dow Jones. The prospect of making a killing on their shares of a company headlined by a business -- newspapers -- that is now officially a dinosaur, must have been hellified tempting. Still, one would have wished that the family cared more about the integrity of the brands they helped to build. Apparently not. As David Carr of the Times writes:
The reputation of The Journal is now in the hands of Mr. Murdoch, who did not end up as the owner of one of the world’s best newspapers because he is a paragon of journalistic principle. In the end, the News Corporation’s capture of Dow Jones can be boiled down to one simple fact: Mr. Murdoch wanted it more.
He wanted it more than other potential bidders, like General Electric, Pearson and Ronald W. Burkle, who never came close to challenging his audacious bid. He wanted it more in the end than many of the Bancrofts did — or at least he offered more than they were able to pass up. He wanted it enough to make a deal for editorial independence that seems to run against his entire history as a owner.
We tend to overanalyze media moguls, in part because of their primacy in the current age. Yes, owning a pivot point in financial news will create some tidy synergies — content for a new Fox business channel to compete with CNBC on cable television, a global foothold for financial data, coverage of all of his competitors in The Journal.
(Note to other media moguls keeping track at home: Mr. Murdoch just bought the scorecard.)
But his purchase is a reminder that the unthinkable is often doable, given the loot and the will. Mr. Murdoch is buying an American newspaper because he’s a sentimentalist, not because he has shown any particular skill at making money with them. His Midas touch in foreign tabloids, television, movies, and more recently, digital properties, turns a little rusty when American publications are involved.
His ownership of The New York Post (twice) is an artistic success, but suggests that his love of American print is just that — irrational, driven by an attraction for the kind of power print conveys, and only made possible through his success on other platforms.
The Bancrofts have a sentimental side as well, but the resolution should not have surprised anyone. If the family members did not want to sell, they would have had to slam the door and get the nail gun out on May 2, the day the offer was made public.
The Bancrofts’ wan demurral set in motion market dynamics that blew the door open. Once a stock that had been mired at $36 goes to $60, a huge new constituency for change buys into the stock, one that will sue like crazy if change is not forthcoming.
Greed is not always good. Not for journalism, anyway.