Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
Pork saves the day!
How do you pass an economic rescue plan that gets Republican votes? Pork! Apparently, conservatives love it as much as Dems do. The Murdoch Post points out some of the gimmies:
Stuffed into the 451- page bill are more than $1.7 billion worth of targeted tax breaks to be doled out for a sty full of eyebrow-raising purposes over the next decade.

The special provisions include tax breaks for:

* Manufacturers of kids' wooden arrows - $6 million.

* Puerto Rican and Virgin Is- lands rum producers - $192 million.

* Wool research.

* Auto-racing tracks - $128 million.

* Corporations operating in American Samoa - $33 million.

* Small- to medium-budget film and television productions - $10 million.

Another measure inserted into the bill appears to be a bald-faced bid aimed at winning the support of Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who voted against the original version when it went down in flames in the House on Monday.

That provision - a $223 million package of tax benefits for fishermen and others whose livelihoods suffered as a result of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill - has been the subject of fervent lobbying by Alaska's congressional delegation.

Lots of the breaks and set-asides are designed for "rural communities." Here's just a few from the Library of Congress summary of the bill:
Farm Service Agency
Rural Housing Service
Rural Business--Cooperative Service
Rural Utilities Service
... again, aimed squarely at red staters, who by the way, are the biggest consumers of federal pork -- by a long shot.

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posted by JReid @ 7:28 AM  
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Yes we can (make Bushies respond to subpoenas)
A federal judge puts the ixnay on otnay owingshay upyay in ongresscay... if you know what I mean...
WASHINGTON - President Bush’s top advisers are not immune from congressional subpoenas, a federal judge ruled Thursday in an unprecedented dispute between the two political branches.

House Democrats called the ruling a ringing endorsement of the principle that nobody is above the law.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge John Bates said there’s no legal basis for Bush’s argument and that his former legal counsel, Harriet Miers, must appear before Congress. If she wants to refuse to testify, he said, she must do so in person. The committee also has sought to force testimony from White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten.

Oh boy... Judge Bates: meet "terrorist watch list..."
“Harriet Miers is not immune from compelled congressional process; she is legally required to testify pursuant to a duly issued congressional subpoena,” Bates wrote. He said that both Bolten and Miers must give Congress all non-privileged documents related to the firings.

The ruling is a blow to the Bush administration’s efforts to bolster the power of the executive branch at the expense of the legislative branch. The Bush administration argued it was immune from such subpoenas, arguing that Congress can't force them to testify or turn over documents.

The report goes on to quote Nancy Pelosi as saying Dems plan to "act quickly and call Miers and Bolton to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, where they can claim executive privilege in person.
“We look forward to the White House complying with this ruling and to scheduling future hearings with Ms. Miers and other witnesses who have relied on such claims,” Conyers said in a statement. “We hope that the defendants will accept this decision and expect that we will receive relevant documents and call Ms. Miers to testify in September.”

Bates, who was appointed to the bench by Bush, issued a 93-page opinion that strongly rejected the administration’s legal arguments. He noted that the executive branch could not point to a single case in which courts held that White House aides were immune from congressional subpoenas.

“That simple yet critical fact bears repeating: the asserted absolute immunity claim here is entirely unsupported by existing case law,” Bates wrote.

Unless of course it gets to the Supreme Court, where Tony Scalia will find a way, and if Justice Kennedy is having a bad day? Zappo!

So of course now the question everyone is asking is, what does this mean for our good friend Karl Rove? Some thoughts on that here.


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posted by JReid @ 4:30 PM  
Saturday, July 26, 2008
The cuckold Congress

If the 109th Congress will go down in history as boot-licking hand maidens to a criminal White House, the 110th will go down as the most cowardly, utterly useless opposition body in U.S. history -- the polar opposite of the body that faced down Richard Nixon, and the wimp-ridden antidote to the scheming, partisan body that tried to undo the election of William Clinton.

How useless is the current Congress? Let me count the ways...

They can't compel Karl Rove or Josh Bolten to testify before them, and their constant threats of "contempt!" fall by the wayside...

They can't out-maneuver Republicans, who stop bills cold on the House and Senate floor.

They capitulated in cowardly fashion on FISA, giving Bush everything he wanted on domestic surveillance and telecom immunity, junking the Fourth Amendment in the process (and they've got more coming, from the still-enforced PATRIOT Act to complete surveillance of the Internet.) ***NOTE: read this post on the Bushies' database of some 8 million Americans whom they could surveil and detain at will in the event of "an emergency" if you really want to feel sick to your stomach.***

They continue to give Bush everything his heart desires on Iraq, backing down time and again on the issue of a timetable for orderly withdrawal, and forking over all the cash Dubya's Pentagon can stuff into a sideways appropriation.

They cannot reign in a recalcitrant attorney general who is thumbing his nose at them as surely as his predecessor did.

They cannot pass meaningful legislation outside of a housing bill that even Bush wasn't dumb enough to veto in an election year.

And their only concern, from Pelosi on down, appears to be getting re-elected.

Worst of all, they refuse to hold accountable, through the only means the Constitution allows: impeachment; a president that many of them -- or really any of them who have an iota of understanding of the Constitution -- know committed clearly impeachable offenses (many of these guys are lawyers.) Instead, the Democratic-controlled 110th Congress, like their GOP-led predecessors, are spending their time "saving the president's chestnuts" and scheming among themselves to hold sham "impeachment-like" hearings that are unworthy of press coverage (which is why they aren't getting any,) while promising the White House that nothing will come of them. Even Dennis Kucinich, the author of the "hearings," capitulated, allowing the House leadership to let him make a fool of himself and his colleagues, while wasting the valuable time of dozens of earnest witnesses (not to mention bloggers, who thankfully have lots of time on their hands...)

What then, is the purpose of our current Congress? A useless bunch, almost all of them, particularly in the House, where most of the rotten, Bush-petting legislation and cowardice orginates, but also in the Senate, where Harry Reid and company continue to quizzle and cower under the outright treachery of one Joseph Lieberman.

With all of the lack of spine, one wonders whether the administration's domestic wiretapping extended into the Congressional office building. That might at least explain why they continue to do the bidding of a lame duck president and his criminal gang. Next, I expect them to approve offshore oil drilling and pass a law declaring torture to be the law of the land. What more damage can they do to the constitution and the Republic at this point, having declared, in essence, that there are no impeachable offenses -- that a president can break the law with impunity, and that he and his cabinet; hell, his FORMER cabinet members -- can feel free to ignore Congress altogether, with Congress's blessing. They have squandered their constitutional prerogatives, made a mockery of their own authority, and allowed that man, that idiot in the White House, to humiliate them and blacken our country's honor, not to mention killing more than 4,000 of our bravest citizens in furtherance of a fundamentally un-American neoconservative cause.

Now the Debbie Wasserman Schultz's of the world might explain that I simply don't understand how politics works -- the Congress has to "get the people's business done," and the people want lower gas bills, not impeachment. Well when members of Congress take the oath of office, they, like the president, swear to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. The pork for their districts comes later. And because the Constitution is so fundamental to our freedoms, to our ability to live free in a country that still belongs to us, and not the president, impeachment of a criminal administration IS the people's business. Getting re-elected, well, that's YOUR business, Debbie. Besides, what exactly has Congress gotten done "for us" in the last two years? Hm? Not much.

As People for the American Way wrote after the House began pushing to give Bush more surveillance powers:
Checks and balances are endangered when Congress refuses to perform its oversight role and hold members of the executive branch accountable for their actions. The Intelligence Committee decision is just the latest in a series of caves to the White House by this Republican-led Congress. Congress caved when it reauthorized the PATRIOT Act, which includes provisions that deprive Americans of civil liberties. Congress has failed to fulfill its oversight responsibility for a wide variety of executive agencies, including the Mine Safety and Health Administration, which has reportedly reduced some fines for safety violations and failed to collect others at all.2 Congress has refused to investigate the Bush administration’s attempt to hide the true estimated cost of its Medicare prescription drug benefit, the White House’s disclosure of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity, and corporate special interests’ and oil lobbyists’ involvement in Vice President Cheney’s energy policy task force.

It’s no wonder that, according to the Washington Post, “Government scholars and watchdog groups say the decline of congressional oversight in recent years has thrown off kilter the system of checks and balances the Founding Fathers created to keep no one branch of government from becoming too powerful.”iii
At this stage, I'm not even sure why they're there. We should throw off this false patina of multi-cameral government and simply install our president as king. He already has his puppet parliament.

If I had my way, our pathetic Congress would be turned out on their asses this fall, starting with Nancy, Harry and the hugely disappointing John Conyers, and with the exception of a small handful, including Jim Webb (because of his advocacy for our veterans), Russ Feingold, Dick Durbin, Henry Waxman and Robert Wexler. The rest of them can go to blazes. (Chuck Hagel is retiring, Barack Obama is running for president.)

Unfortunately, most of these clods' seats are perfectly safe.

And that might be the biggest shame of all.

I'll close with part of the testimony from Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, one of the other "good guys," at the faux-impeachment hearings yesterday:
"What this Congress does, or chooses not to do in furthering the investigation of the serious allegations against this administration - and if just cause is found, to hold them accountable - will impact the conduct of future presidents, perhaps for generations."

"Mr. Chairman," Baldwin continued, "there are those who would say that holding this hearing - examining whether or not the president and vice president broke the law - is frivolous. I not only reject this, I believe there is no task more important for this Congress than to seriously consider whether our nation's leaders have violated their oath of office. The American public expects no less. It is, after all, their Constitution. No president or congress has the authority to override that document, whereby 'We the People' conferred upon the branches of government limited and defined power, and provided for meaningful checks and balances."

There can be no question at this late date in the Bush presidency that the issue of whether the American system will be characterized by "meaningful checks and balances" is at stake - and that goes to the heart of the matter of why Friday's hearing ought not be the end of a process but a beginning.

Even after George Bush and Dick Cheney have left the White House, the definition of the presidency that they have crafted will remain.

"On January 20, 2009, the next president and vice president of the United States will stand before the American people and take an oath of office, swearing to 'preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.' This commitment and obligation is so fundamental to our democracy that our nation's founders prescribed that oath in our Constitution. They also provided for the removal of the president and vice president for, among other things, 'high crimes and misdemeanors,'" Baldwin explained to the committee. "Presidents and vice presidents do not take that oath in a vacuum. They are informed by the actions or inactions of past presidents and congresses, who establish precedents for the future."

It is in the power of the Congress to begin setting the precedent to which Baldwin addressed herself. That power was defined by the framers of the Constitution, as were the practices and procedures to be used in executing it.

... (The) American people have been forced to sit by while credible allegations of abuse of power mount:

And we continue to sit by, waiting for a Congress with the courage to act.

UPDATE: Check out Congress' latest capitulation, to big oil.

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posted by JReid @ 11:50 AM  
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Operation Ignore Mukasey
Michael Mukasey has proved to be only slightly less detrimental to the Constitution than his idiotic predecessor, Alberto Gonzales. Mukasey's refusal to do his job, when that job would have anything to do with enforcing laws broken by the Bush administration, has so frustrated Congress, that even the Bushwhacked, spineless, impeachment-wary Democrats are ignoring him. I guess they figure that insulating the telcoms and the president from prosecution and impeachment are enough dirty work to keep the anonymous Bush staffers from mailing the contents of the wiretaps on their homes and offices to pre-jail Robert Novak and Matt Drudge...

So what is Mukasey asking for that he ain't getting? Try a declaration of war ... perpetual war ... against al-Qaida ... forever:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congress should explicitly declare a state of armed conflict with al Qaeda to make clear the United States can detain suspected members as long as the war on terrorism lasts, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey said on Monday.

Mukasey urged Congress to make the declaration in a package of legislative proposals to establish a legal process for terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo, in response to a Supreme Court ruling last month that detainees had a constitutional right to challenge their detention.

"Any legislation should acknowledge again and explicitly that this nation remains engaged in an armed conflict with al Qaeda, the Taliban and associated organizations, who have already proclaimed themselves at war with us," Mukasey said in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute.

"Congress should reaffirm that for the duration of the conflict the United States may detain as enemy combatants those who have engaged in hostilities or purposefully supported al Qaeda, the Taliban and associated organizations," he said.

Mukasey was not asking for a formal declaration of war, which would trigger certain emergency powers under the Constitution and international law, a Justice Department spokesman said. U.S. President George W. Bush has on numerous occasions said the United States was "at war" against terrorists and cited that as a basis for his powers.

New legislation should also prohibit courts from ordering a detainee to be released within the United States. It should protect secrets in court hearings, ensure that soldiers are not taken from the battlefield to testify and prevent challenges from delaying detainee trials, he said.
In other words, anyone the president decided was a terrorist could be held by the U.S. in secret detention forever. With no legal recourse. Forever. To Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and Mark "The Mustache" Hosenball:
Mukasey's plea for quick passage of a significant new counterterrorism measure essentially fell on deaf ears—at least from the Democrats who control Congress. "Zero," snapped one key lawmaker, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, when asked the likelihood that Congress will rush to pass the kind of law Mukasey and the Bush administration are seeking. "We don't have to pass anything," said Nadler, who chairs the House subcommittee that has primary jurisdiction over the issue, in a brief hallway interview with NEWSWEEK. "Let the courts deal with it."

The derisive comments from the feisty New York liberal—just moments after Mukasey issued his strong appeal in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee—underscores the huge and poisonous gulf that now exists between the White House and Congress on virtually every issue related to the War on Terror. No Democrats on the judiciary panel endorsed Mukasey's call Wednesday for new counterterrorism legislation. None of them even bothered to ask him any questions about it. Instead, they essentially ignored what the attorney general portrayed as the Justice Department's top priority for his final six months in office.
Not that the Democrats really intend to stand up to Bush ... that's simply not done in the House that Nancy built. In fact, fellow House Diva Jane Harman proposed a law, H.R. 1955, the "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007," which would open up all of our Internet communications to administration scrutiny, and it sailed through the House, bringing Traitor Joe Lieberman closer to his dream of excising all Muslim traffic from Youtube. It's just that the Dems have finally figured out that it's summer: they don't have to do the White House's bidding until AFTER the Democratic convention, when the RNC ads about them being "soft on terror" start running.


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posted by JReid @ 12:18 AM  
Friday, July 18, 2008
Greenwald and co say: send Karl Rove to jail
Watch the video, sign the petition.

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posted by JReid @ 1:08 PM  
Thursday, July 17, 2008
In contempt
President Bush's latest executive privilege claim, this time over FBI interviews of Dick Cheney and his staff regarding the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, drew contempt threats directed at the derelict Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, from Henry Waxman yesterday. Not only should Waxman follow through, Congress should junk the absurd handshake deal that's keeping them from exercising their right as a co-equal branch of government, to have their subpoenas honored (not only by Cheney and Bush, but also by Karl Rove,) or to file inherent contempt of congress charges against the intransigent. Mukasey should go first, as he has refused to carry out his duty as A.G., no less than did his predecessor, the squirlish Alberto Gonzales.

Last night, GOP hack Brad Blakeman asserted on Dan Abrams' show "Verdict" that Mukasey was, by refusing to enforce congressional subpoenas, simply serving his client, the president of the United States. Read the Constitution, Brad. The attorney general's client is the American people. It's the White House counsel who serves the POTUS. I'm surprised Abrams, a lawyer, failed to call Blakeman on that one.

(The Politico) Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) has introduced legislation calling for the appointment of a special prosecutor to handle criminal contempt of Congress charges when Justice will not cooperate.

The Miller bill grows out of the dispute between House Democrats and the White House over subpoenas issued to White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers.

The committee issued the subpoenas as part of its probe ino the 2006 firing of nine U.S. attorneys. Bolten and Miers, relying on an assertion of executive privilege by President Bush, refused to comply with the subpoenas. The House passed both criminal and civil contempt resolutions against Bolten and Miers, but the Justice Department, citing earlier legal opinions, declined to allow a federal prosecutor to bring the case before a grand jury. The Judiciary Committee has filed a civil lawsuit against the Justice Dept. seeking to enforce the subpoenas.

According to Miller's office, his new bill would allow a federal judge to "appoint an independent ;Special Advocate' to investigate and prosecute alleged Contempt of Congress charges passed by the House of Representatives against current and former executive branch employees, when the Justice Department fails to do so." The special prosecutor would technically work for attorney general, but in reality, would be "largely independent from both the executive and legislative branches and not subject to undue political influences."

“The law explicitly requires the Justice Department to present Contempt of Congress charges to the grand jury, but the Bush Administration claims Congress can not compel a U.S. attorney to prosecute contempt cases where the White House claims executive privilege,” Miller said in a statement. “Other presidents have made bodacious claims about their powers, but always compromised in the end. No president, not even Nixon, has gone this far before.”
Good idea, Congressman. And while you're at it, how about proposing legislation requiring Nancy Pelosi and the other Bush cuckolds running the House of Representatives to use their constitutional authority, rather than ducking and running from the president, including -- no especially -- on the subject of impeachment, about which Miss Nancy is allowing only Potemkin hearings. As Johnathan Turley (who yesterday called such hearings little more than a "fancy dress ball") has said repeatedly (echoed by John Dean) there is more than enough reason to believe that crimes have been committed by this White House, such that impeachment is the only constitutional option. If the House won't even consider it, than divided government is dead, and the 110th Congress risks going down in ignominy, just like the 109th.

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posted by JReid @ 2:58 PM  
Thursday, July 10, 2008
ACLU will sue over FISA, plus: Feingold goes off
From the American Civil Liberties Union yesterday:
Once again, Congress blinked and succumbed to the president’s fear-mongering. With today’s vote, the government has been given a green light to expand its power to spy on Americans and run roughshod over the Constitution,” said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “This legislation will give the government unfettered and unchecked access to innocent Americans’ international communications without a warrant. This is not only unconstitutional, but absolutely un-American.”

The FISA Amendments Act nearly eviscerates oversight of government surveillance by allowing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to review only general procedures for spying rather than individual warrants. The FISC will not be told any specifics about who will actually be wiretapped, thereby undercutting any meaningful role for the court and violating the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

The bill further trivializes court review by authorizing the government to continue a surveillance program even after the government’s general spying procedures are found insufficient or unconstitutional by the FISC. The government has the authority to wiretap through the entire appeals process, and then keep and use whatever information was gathered in the meantime. A provision touted as a major “concession” by proponents of the bill calls for investigations by the inspectors general of four agencies overseeing spying activities. But members of Congress who do not sit on the Judiciary or Intelligence committees will not be guaranteed access to the agencies’ reports.

The bill essentially grants absolute retroactive immunity to telecommunication companies that facilitated the president’s warrantless wiretapping program over the last seven years by ensuring the dismissal of court cases pending against those companies. The test for the companies’ right to immunity is not whether the government certifications they acted on were actually legal – only whether they were issued. Because it is public knowledge that certifications were issued, all of the pending cases will be summarily dismissed. This means Americans may never learn the truth about what the companies and the government did with our private communications.

“With one vote, Congress has strengthened the executive branch, weakened the judiciary and rendered itself irrelevant,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “This bill – soon to be law – is a constitutional nightmare. Americans should know that if this legislation is enacted and upheld, what they say on international phone calls or emails is no longer private. The government can listen in without having a specific reason to do so. Our rights as Americans have been curtailed and our privacy can no longer be assumed.”
And the ACLU says it plans to do something about it:
“This fight is not over. We intend to challenge this bill as soon as President Bush signs it into law,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. “
The bill signing is scheduled for today.

If you're still not concerned about this bill, you'll want to read the statement from Senator Russ Feingold yesterday. Feingold tried in vain, with Chris Dodd, to stop the bill, and in his statement on the floor he hits the Congress and White House square in the face on the illegality of the program in which the White House claimed for itself, the right to wiretap Americans without a warrant:
Here is the part of the story that some seem to have forgotten. In January 2005, eleven months before the New York Times broke the story of the illegal wiretapping program, I asked then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales at his confirmation hearing to be Attorney General whether the President had the power to authorize warrantless wiretaps in violation of the criminal law. Neither I nor the vast majority of my colleagues knew it then, but the President had authorized the NSA program three years before, and Mr. Gonzales was directly involved in that issue as White House Counsel. At his confirmation hearing, he first tried to dismiss my question as “hypothetical.” He then testified that “it’s not the policy or the agenda of this President to authorize actions that would be in contravention of our criminal statutes.”

Well, Mr. President, the President’s wiretapping program was in direct contravention of our criminal statutes. Mr. Gonzales knew that, but he wanted the Senate and the American people to think that the President had not acted on the extreme legal theory that the President has the power as Commander in Chief to disobey the criminal laws of this country.

The President, too, misled Congress and the American public. In 2004 and 2005, when Congress was considering the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act, the President went out of his way to assure us that his administration was getting court orders for wiretaps, all the while knowing full well that his warrantless wiretapping program was ongoing.

Here’s what the President said on April 20, 2004: “Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires – a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we’re talking about chasing down terrorists, we’re talking about getting a court order before we do so.”

And again, on July 14, 2004: “The government can’t move on wiretaps or roving wiretaps without getting a court order.”

And listen to what the President said on June 9, 2005: “Law enforcement officers need a federal judge’s permission to wiretap a foreign terrorist’s phone, a federal judge’s permission to track his calls, or a federal judge’s permission to search his property. Officers must meet strict standards to use any of these tools. And these standards are fully consistent with the Constitution of the U.S.”

So please, let’s not pretend that the highly classified notification to the Gang of Eight, delivered while the President himself was repeatedly presenting a completely different picture to the public, suggests that Congress somehow acquiesced to this program. As the members of this body well know, several members of the Gang of Eight at the time raised concerns when they were told about this, and several have since said they were not told the full story. And of course all of them were instructed not to share what they had learned with a single other person.
Feingold points out that no court, even the most right wing courts in the country, have ever affirmed a presidential right to violate the Fourth Amendment by wiretapping Americans, under color of "commander in chief" authority or any other provision. He then outlines a number of problems with the bill that's about to become law:
First, the FISA Amendments Act would authorize the government to collect all communications between the U.S. and the rest of the world. That could mean millions upon millions of communications between innocent Americans and their friends, families, or business associates overseas could legally be collected. Parents calling their kids studying abroad, emails to friends serving in Iraq – all of these communications could be collected, with absolutely no suspicion of any wrongdoing, under this legislation.

Second, like the earlier Senate version, this bill fails to effectively prohibit the practice of reverse targeting – namely, wiretapping a person overseas when what the government is really interested in is listening to an American here at home with whom the foreigner is communicating. The bill does have a provision that purports to address this issue. It prohibits intentionally targeting a person outside the U.S. without an individualized court order if, quote, “the purpose” is to target someone reasonably believed to be in the U.S. At best, this prevents the government from targeting a person overseas as a complete pretext for getting information on someone in the U.S. But this language would permit intentional and possibly unconstitutional warrantless surveillance of an American so long as the government has any interest, no matter how small, in the person overseas with whom the American is communicating. The bill does not include language that had the support of the House and the vast majority of the Senate’s Democratic caucus, to require the government to obtain a court order whenever a significant purpose of the surveillance is to acquire the communications of an American in the U.S. The administration’s refusal to accept that reasonable restriction on its power is telling.

Third, the bill before us imposes no meaningful consequences if the government initiates surveillance using procedures that have not been approved by the FISA Court, and the FISA Court later finds that those procedures were unlawful. Say, for example, the FISA Court determines that the procedures were not even reasonably designed to wiretap foreigners outside the U.S., rather than Americans here at home. Under the bill, all that illegally obtained information on Americans can be retained and used. Once again, there are no consequences for illegal behavior.

... Fourth, this bill doesn’t protect the privacy of Americans whose communications will be collected in vast new quantities. The Administration’s mantra has been: “don’t worry, we have minimization procedures.” But, Mr. President, minimization procedures are nothing more than unchecked executive branch decisions about what information on Americans constitutes “foreign intelligence.” That is why on the Senate floor, I joined with Senator Webb and Senator Tester earlier this year to offer an amendment to provide real protections for the privacy of Americans, while also giving the government the flexibility it needs to wiretap terrorists overseas. This bill relies solely on inadequate minimization procedures to protect innocent Americans. They are simply not enough.


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posted by JReid @ 1:36 PM  
Arrest this man

The 110th Congress has already disgraced itself in any number of ways, by bowing and scraping to a lame duck president who nobody but them takes seriously anymore (the latest instance being the FISA bill.) If the Judiciary Committee, led by the incredibly underwhelming John Conyers (who talked tough on impeachment until he got the gavel,) fails to respond to the naked affront to its authority by Karl Rove, who blew off the committee today by refusing to respond to a lawful subpoena regarding his role in the politicization of the Justice Department and the political prosecution of the former governor of Alabama, then they aren't worthy of holding their offices. Either the Judiciary Committee enforces that subpoena, or they admit that, just like Dick Cheney planned it, the Congress is no longer a co-equal branch of the U.S. government, confirming that we are indeed living in a post-Constitutional age.

The outrageous behavior of the arrogant Bushies, including Rove, is made worse by the new attorney general, Michael Mukasey, who replaced the boob from Texas, Alberto Gonzales. Back in May, Joseph Palermo wrote the following about the timid Mr. Mukasey:
Not since the time of Richard Nixon's Attorney General, John Mitchell, who was the only Attorney General in American history to go to prison, has the head of the Justice Department behaved so abominably. Attorney General Michael Mukasey has chosen to obstruct Congress's subpoenas of executive branch employees despite evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Senators Charles Schumer and Diane Feinstein were the deciding votes that confirmed Mukasey. What were they thinking? Now Mukasey bucks normal procedure and refuses to begin grand jury investigations of Karl Rove's role in transforming the Justice Department into a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Republican National Committee.

Karl Rove is free to "analyze" American politics for us on Fox News, and in the pages of The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek; he appears on discussion panels and charges $40,000 a pop for speaking gigs; he signed a book deal estimated to be worth $8 to $12 million; and now he thumbs his nose at the Congress, defying its subpoenas. It's as if he thinks he's above the law and above his fellow citizens. And to top it off Rove's enabler and co-conspirator is the Attorney General himself.

Mukasey's refusal to do his job shows he is a willing accomplice in undermining the Constitutional powers of the House of Representatives as a co-equal branch of government. Can anyone think of an action more "un-American" than dismantling the "checks and balances" that James Madison and other founders so carefully put in place in 1787?
Palermo added that:
It is fitting that our current Constitutional crisis finds Karl Rove as its centerpiece. No human being has done more damage to our republic in the last hundred years than Karl Rove. He masterminded three of the slimiest, rottenest, most dishonest and divisive elections in American history; elections that brought to power a craven gang of white collar criminals who proceeded to destroy the ability of the government to function (except as a conveyor belt of cash for cronies), lied us into an illegal war in Iraq, collapsed the economy, and made torture and the suspension of habeas corpus synonymous with American "ideals." Karl Rove thinks he can tell Congress to go fuck itself. He must not be allowed to walk away Scot free from his crimes and misdeeds.
... he then went on to suggest Congress hire Dog the Bounty Hunter. Um ... yeah...

Dog aside, the committee can do a number of things, and should probably do them all, sooner rather than later.
  • They can file a lawsuit against Rove, as was done with Harriet Myers
  • They can find him in contempt of Congress
  • And having found him in contempt, they can have the Sergeant at Amrs arrest his roly-poly behind. 
As an editorial in the Concord Monitor put it:
If lawmakers fail to do so promptly, the law itself will lose its meaning and Congress will lose what little respect the public has for it. ...

...Rove is now a private citizen. In his role as a political wag, he has said that he never discussed the Siegelman matter with the White House. That makes his assertion of executive privilege all the more ludicrous. Rove has offered to testify by e-mail, or if he can do so not under oath and with no recorded transcript. But it is Congress that makes the rules, not Rove, his lawyer or the president.

Many Americans choose which laws to obey and which to flout. When caught, they can claim all they want that the law doesn't apply to them or plead that their boss told them not to talk. Those people generally wind up behind bars. If he continues to thumb his nose at Congress and the rule of law, that's what should happen to Rove.


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posted by JReid @ 1:00 PM  
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Death of the Fourth Amendment: 6304
After failing to pass amendments that at least would have taken immunity for the telecoms off the table, or suspended the pending lawsuits against them for a year, rather than dismissing them, the 110th Congress, controlled by the Democratic Party, sold the Constitution down the river, voting to give the lame duck president, who illegally turned the instruments of foreign surveillance on the American people -- just like Richard Nixon did -- but who unlike Nixon was balanced by a belly-crawling, puerile, flaccid Congress that chose to drive the getaway car, rather than stand up for the Constitution they all took a sworn oath to uphold. To be fair, the Act does add some oversight provisions to the spying activities of the federal government, bringing certain aspects of surveillance under review.  And there is this paragraph:
(2) PROBABLE CAUSE- In determining whether or not probable cause exists for purposes of paragraph (1)(B), a judge having jurisdiction under subsection (a)(1) may consider past activities of the target and facts and circumstances relating to current or future activities of the target. No United States person may be considered a foreign power, agent of a foreign power, or officer or employee of a foreign power solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
And yet, civil libertarians are very worried about our democracy tonight, myself included. 

Barack Obama voted for the amendments, to his credit, but for a lot of reasons, most of them political, he ultimately supported the bill. I've always said that anyone seeking the presidency will never vote to weaken the authority of the office while they have a chance at getting it. Obama lived up to that today (or down to it.) I disagree with him, though I respect his reasons for doing what he did, and more than that, his willingness to take the criticism from his supporters (myself included), and from the left wing of his base, rather than ejecting them from the building a-la Bush and McCain. I think at the end of the day, most Americans, sadly, won't care about this vote. Americans are breathtakingly cavalier about their constitutional rights (except the right to carry guns. That one they care about...) and most assume the government is spying anyway, so they don't quite care. That saddens me, because I don't think most people in this country realize just how fragile our rights are, and how easily a president, with the help of a weak-willed Congress, can take on dictatorial, autocratic powers.

ThinkProgress has the details on the amendments:
Just under a third of the Senate, including presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, supported an amendment proposed by Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., that would have stripped immunity from the bill. It was defeated on a 32-66 vote. Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain did not vote.

Specter proposed an amendment to require a district court judge to assess the legality of warrantless wiretapping before granting immunity. It failed on a 37-61 vote.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., proposed that immunity be delayed until after a yearlong government investigation into warrantless wiretapping is completed. His amendment failed on a vote of 42-56.

The final roll call on the bill, which retroactively legalizes the warrantless surveillance of perhaps millions of Americans, was 69-28. So where are we now?
Forty-six lawsuits now stand to be dismissed because of the new law, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. All are pending before a single U.S. District Court in California. But the fight has not ended. Civil rights groups are already preparing lawsuits challenging the bill's constitutionality, and four suits, filed against government officials, will not be dismissed.

Numerous lawmakers had spoken out strongly against the no-warrants eavesdropping on Americans, but the Senate voted its approval after rejecting amendments that would have watered down, delayed or stripped away the immunity provision.

The lawsuits center on allegations that the White House circumvented U.S. law by going around the FISA court, which was created 30 years ago to prevent the government from abusing its surveillance powers for political purposes, as was done in the Vietnam War and Watergate eras. The court is meant to approve all wiretaps placed inside the U.S. for intelligence-gathering purposes. The law has been interpreted to include international e-mail records stored on servers inside the U.S.

"This president broke the law," declared Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis.

The Bush administration brought the wiretapping back under the FISA court's authority only after The New York Times revealed the existence of the secret program. A handful of members of Congress knew about the program from top secret briefings. Most members are still forbidden to know the details of the classified effort, and some objected that they were being asked to grant immunity to the telecoms without first knowing what they did.
The bill is H.R. 6304. The full roll call is here. I think the "no" votes deserve applause by name. Russ Feingold and Chris Dodd heroically tried to filibuster the bill, but their colleagues let them down. Here are the "Nays":

Akaka (D-HI)
Biden (D-DE)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Byrd (D-WV)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Clinton (D-NY)
Dodd (D-CT)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Harkin (D-IA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Murray (D-WA)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schumer (D-NY)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Tester (D-MT)
Wyden (D-OR)

Note that Hillary Clinton got herself right with the base on this vote, a shrewd move on her part. 

As for John McCain? He played the real hero today. He didn't even show up to vote.

Perhaps the worst thing Obama did today was to vote against cloture (in other words, he did not support the fillibuster.) As Glenn Greenwald points out, THAT is a contradiction of his stance during the primaries. Greenwald goes on to say what many of us are scratching our heads and thinking tonight:
What is most striking is that when the Congress was controlled by the GOP -- when the Senate was run by Bill Frist and the House by Denny Hastert -- the Bush administration attempted to have a bill passed very similar to the one that just passed today. But they were unable to do so. The administration had to wait until Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats took over Congress before being able to put a corrupt end to the scandal that began when, in December of 2005, the New York Times revealed that the President had been breaking the law for years by spying on Americans without the warrants required by law.

Yet again, the Democratic Congress ignored the views of their own supporters in order to comply with the orders and wishes of the Bush administration. It is therefore hardly a surprise that, yesterday, Rasmussen Reports revealed this rather humiliating finding:
Congressional Approval Falls to Single Digits for First Time Ever

For the record, the single digit is 9 percent.


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posted by JReid @ 8:45 PM  
Thursday, June 19, 2008
What Fourth Amendment?
Why did the Democrats capitulate on FISA? Was it cowardice? Election year politics? Or as Keith Olberman puts it, not FISA but CYSA?

Back in 2001, with 9/11 fresh in the minds of Americans, many Congressional Democrats decided it was better to switch than to fight the administration of George W. Bush. Karl Rove did his job, frightening both the country and the Congress into handing over to Mr. Bush extraordinary powers the likes of which this country hasn't seen since it divorced George III. 

Now, seven years later, Democrats control the Congress, even if barely in the Senate. Bush is a lame duck and by almost everyone's calculation, a failure as president. One of his many illegal acts and outrages upon the Constitution -- the warrantless wiretapping of Americans -- comes before the Congress, mainly because they choose to bring it t the floor, and rather than allow the Constitution to prevail, House Democrats cave to a president they no longer have to fear, by retroactively legalizing the wiretapping, and granting immunity to the telecom companies who participated, illegally, in it.
The U.S. House of Representatives has approved legislation that would continue a controversial surveillance program at the U.S. National Security Agency with limited court oversight, while likely ending lawsuits against telecommunications carriers that participated in the program.

The House on Friday voted 293 to 129 to approve a bill that was a compromise between congressional Democrats and U.S. President George Bush.

The bill would extend the NSA surveillance of phone calls and e-mail messages going in and out of the U.S., while giving the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) an opportunity to review Bush administration requests for wide-ranging surveillance powers. The bill, called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act, allows the NSA to receive blanket surveillance orders covering multiple suspects of terrorism and other crimes.

The compromise also sends the dozens of outstanding lawsuits against telecom carriers for their alleged participation in the NSA program to a district court, which will review whether they should be dismissed. The lawsuits would be thrown out if telecom companies can show that the U.S. government issued them orders for the surveillance that were presented as lawful.

U.S. President George Bush has pushed for the legislation, saying it's needed to protect U.S. residents from terrorism. For nearly a year, the Bush administration has called on Congress to pass long-term changes to the nation's surveillance laws. Congress passed temporary surveillance legislation, called the Protect America Act, in August 2007, but its provisions expired in February.

February ... and what was the urgency of passing hurry-up protection for the administration today? Nancy Pelosi pushed for this bill -- the same Nancy Pelosi who was "read into" the spying program, along with other intelligence chairs and ranking members, including Senator Diane Feinstein. (Pelosi's number two, Steny Hoyer, crafted the compromise bill, and is now being derided as "the new Joe Lieberman.") Could it be that Pelosi and other Dems are exercising the art of self protection?

Senator Russ Feingold called today's vote what it is:
“The proposed FISA deal is not a compromise; it is a capitulation. The House and Senate should not be taking up this bill, which effectively guarantees immunity for telecom companies alleged to have participated in the President’s illegal program, and which fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans at home. Allowing courts to review the question of immunity is meaningless when the same legislation essentially requires the court to grant immunity. And under this bill, the government can still sweep up and keep the international communications of innocent Americans in the U.S. with no connection to suspected terrorists, with very few safeguards to protect against abuse of this power. Instead of cutting bad deals on both FISA and funding for the war in Iraq, Democrats should be standing up to the flawed and dangerous policies of this administration.”

Let's hope he's ready with a Senate fillibuster.

The big loser today was the Fourth Amendment, which is essentially gone now. The winners: the telcos:
"Congress seems to be on the verge of negotiating away our basic constitutional protections," Caroline Fredrickson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington, D.C., legislative office, said during a press conference on Wednesday.

The compromise will give Bush "pretty much unfettered authority to engage in surveillance of Americans," Fredrickson added. "The bill still allows mass, untargeted surveillance of Americans by permitting the government to gather all calls and e-mails coming into and out of the country."

The compromise provides little additional oversight of the surveillance program, Fredrickson said. If there's any delay in the FISA court's approval of a government surveillance request, the NSA can move ahead of surveillance without court oversight, she said.

There are 47 outstanding lawsuits related to the surveillance program and 35 lawsuits with telecoms including AT&T, Verizon Communications and Sprint Nextel as defendants, Kevin Bankston, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said at the same press conference.

"Congress appears poised to needlessly toss the rule of law out the window and deprive millions of ordinary Americans their day in court," said Bankston, one of the lead attorneys in a class-action lawsuit against AT&T for its alleged participation in the NSA program.

You can find out how your member of Congress voted by clicking here.
On "Elevating the Dialogue" this morning, Congressman Alcee Hastings (FL) told us that he was leaning toward voting yes because Barack Obama was for the bill, and House Democrats "needed to give him some political cover." I'm not sure that's true. Politico reported today that Harry Reid is looking to strip the telecom immunity out of the bill to give cover to Senators who, like Obama, could support the FISA updates, but "loathe the telecom immunity." That's a bit vague, and its not at all clear that Republicans wouldn't stand squarely in the way of separating the bill in two.

While we were on the air, Hastings voted for the bill, which is unfortunate in my opinion. To their credit, Kendrick Meek, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Robert Wexler voted no. Maybe Wexler can convince Obama to reject it when it reaches the Senate.

Democrats including Hoyer sought to put the best spin on the vote today, with Hoyer calling it the best bill they could get. What an endorsement. No wonder Americans' confidence in Congress is at an all-time low... Best quote of the day, courtesy of Politico:
“Let me remind you, that July 4, 1776 was pre 9/11,” said Rep Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) who indicated he would not support the bill because it infringed on Americans civil liberties.

“Heaven help us if those values were shucked aside in fear.”



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posted by JReid @ 3:13 PM  
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Congress watch: the G.I. Bill
Congress faces a crucial vote on a new G.I. Bill tomorrow. From an IAVA press release today:
On Thursday, May 8, the House of Representatives will vote on a World War II-style GI Bill for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the nation's first and largest nonpartisan organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, strongly endorses this critical legislation. It was originally introduced in Congress by some of the Senate's own combat veterans, including Senators Jim Webb (D-VA) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE). The bill has the extraordinary bipartisan support of more than 330 Senators and Representatives and the endorsement of every major Veterans Service Organization from IAVA to the American Legion to Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). The GI Bill is being voted on as an amendment to the war supplemental spending plan.

"Congress has a historic choice to make tomorrow. Lawmakers will go on record regarding whether they support our nation's newest generation of veterans," said Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "The momentum for a 21st Century GI Bill has been incredible. The widespread support among lawmakers on both sides of the aisle proves that caring for our nation's veterans is not a partisan issue. Tomorrow, we urge every member of Congress to vote ‘yes' on GI Bill funding and show unanimous support for our troops."

The GI Bill being voted on tomorrow would substantially increase the educational benefits available to servicemembers who have served since September 11th, 2001. The bill would cover the cost of tuition up to the most expensive in-state public school and provide a living and book stipend, so that new veterans can focus on their educations and their readjustment to civilian life. It would also offer a more equitable benefit to National Guardsmen and Reservists than what is currently available. Furthermore, because the legislation is linked to the cost of higher education, it would keep its value over time.

"In addition to providing veterans with a brighter future, a 21st Century GI Bill would stimulate our nation's economy and serve as a tremendous boon to military recruitment," said Rieckhoff. "Passing a new GI Bill is simply the right thing to do."

The Senate version is the one NOT being supported by U.S. Navy veteran John McCain.

Let's see what the House does.


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posted by JReid @ 10:36 PM  
Thursday, October 25, 2007
The short march to war
The Bush administration imposed new sanctions on Iran today -- the harshest sanctions since the 1979 hostage crisis -- and there are other signs that the neocons may be willing the battle for what's left of Dubya's addled little mind. From the AP yesterday:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Some Democratic lawmakers questioned on Wednesday whether a new Bush administration request for $88 million to fit "bunker-busting" bombs to B-2 stealth bombers was part of preparations for an attack on Iran.

The proposal was included as part of a nearly $200 billion request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that the Bush administration sent to Capitol Hill on Monday.

The request included $87.8 million for further development of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, or MOP, a conventional bomb designed to destroy hardened or deeply buried targets.

Many of Iran's nuclear development facilities are believed to be underground. The United States accuses Iran of trying to develop a nuclear bomb while Tehran insists its nuclear program is only for power generation.

A Bush administration summary said the request was needed for "development of a Massive Ordnance Penetrator for the B-2 aircraft in response to an urgent operational need from theater commanders," but gave no details.

"My assumption is that it is Iran, because you wouldn't use them in Iraq, and I don't know where you would use them in Afghanistan, it doesn't have any weapons facilities underground that we know of," said Rep. Jim Moran, a Virginia Democrat who is on the House defense spending committee and intends to argue against the request.

"I suppose you could try to bomb out a cave (in Afghanistan), but that seems like taking a sledgehammer to a tack. A little excessive," Moran said in a phone interview.

Another Democrat, Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington, said the bunker-buster request worried him because of the rising tide of criticism of Iran coming from the Bush administration. Last week, Bush warned that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to World War Three.

"The drumbeats of war are beating again, this time against Iran and we have to step in while there is still time," McDermott said through a spokesman.
But will the Dems step in before Bush uses their prior votes -- Hillary's included -- as an excuse to pull the trigger? Signs point to no. The Dems clearly lack the political will to confront the administration, even in its weakened state, and they have proved to be woefully inadequate at countering the political gamesmanship (and Stepford-like loyalty to the president) of their Republican counterparts. The neocons and their robotic operatives on Capitol Hill are still carrying the day, and beating the Dems at every punch. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid should be ashamed of the way they have conducted themselves thus far.

The optimist in me (which at this stage is a very junior operative) still holds out hopd for some show of sanity -- perhaps from within the military itself, or maybe even from Bob Gates -- to stop this train before it leaves the station, and a president with nothing left to lose decides to lose one more for his dwindling, war-crazed, paronoid delusional base.

And then there's this: the noises out of Russia are nearly as bellicose as those coming out of Dick Cheney's pharyngeal motor cortex. From the Asia Times:

... The barely reported highlight of Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Tehran for the Caspian Sea summit last week was a key face-to-face meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

A high-level diplomatic source in Tehran tells Asia Times Online that essentially Putin and the Supreme Leader have agreed on a plan to nullify the George W Bush administration's relentless drive towards launching a preemptive attack, perhaps a tactical nuclear strike, against Iran. An American attack on Iran will be viewed by Moscow as an attack on Russia. ...
There's also news in that same report that Putin may be working on a plan to temporarily have Tehran halt its nuclear program in exchange for a Russian push to kill U.N. sanctions, eventually allowing Iran's program to resume. That would be good news. But my sinking feeling is that Washington is hurtling toward war, because Cheney and his neocons fear that the next president cannot be trusted to do it (unless they can guarantee a Giuliani win, in which case the same neocons will continue to be in charge.) If that happens, Russia is in something of a "heads we win, tails you lose" position. An attack would drive up oil prices, as Uri Kasparov explained on "60 Minutes," enriching oil-soaked Russia. And an attack would dirve Iran deeper into the embrace of the KGB-led Russian government, strengthening Putin's hand in the now Iran-centric Middle East.

If on the other hand, Russia is able to forestall an attack, Iran's debt to Moscow grows deep, and Putin's influence grows anyway. Either way, it's unlikely that the Bushies have much of a clue as to what they will unleash with even an air attack on Iran.

After all, foreward planning isn't their strong suit. Their strong suit is bombing Muslims.

Back to the planning. TIME reports that the real target of the new U.S. sanctions against Iran might be the European businesses and governments that continue to have deep economic ties with Tehran, and that:
the new measures may actually signal a splintering of the international consensus pressuring Tehran to curb its nuclear program.
The teeth in the new measures derives from the fact that they target anyone who is doing business with those Iranian institutions and individuals. And that means doing business with Iran at all, because as Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson put it, the IRGC "is so deeply entrenched in Iran's economy and commercial enterprises, it is increasingly likely that if you are doing business with Iran, you are doing business with [the Guard]." Administration officials told the New York Times that a key purpose of the new measures was "to persuade foreign governments and financial institutions to cut ties with Iranian businesses and individuals."

The move comes amid U.S. frustration at its failure to elicit sufficient support for new U.N. Security Council sanctions aimed at forcing Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, and at the slow progress of efforts to persuade European countries and institutions that do business with Iran to voluntarily desist. Some of Iran's biggest European trading partners, such as Italy and Germany, oppose unilateral sanctions, warning that if their companies were to withdraw from Iran, they would simply be replaced by competitors from Russia and China. But to the extent that the latest U.S. moves are used to pressure third-country governments, banks and corporations doing business with Iran, they will be perceived as Washington using its muscle in the international financial system to impose its own Iran policy on others. And resentment may not be the only consequence. China, for example, would be unlikely to accept any U.S. effort to stop any of its corporations from doing important business with Iran, and could threaten economic countermeasures to deter such action. ...
Again, failure to foresee the consequences.
While the U.S. call to ratchet up economic pressure on Iran is strongly backed by Britain and France, Russia and China have both warned against taking unilateral measures outside of the U.N. Italy and Germany, Iran's largest European trading partners, have also opposed moves to pressure Iran outside of the U.N. Security Council. The move suggests the U.S. may be reverting to a "coalition of the willing" model for dealing with Iran. Yet the case Washington makes for escalating sanctions — the claim that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, and that shutting down its uranium-enrichment program is a matter of urgency to prevent it attaining the know-how to build a bomb — is not the international consensus. Russia's President Vladimir Putin last week visited Tehran, and made clear that Russia sees no evidence that Iran is actually pursuing nuclear weapons — contradicting the U.S. charge that the civilian nuclear technologies Iran seeks will give it the means eventually to build such weapons.
Meanwhile, Bush is pressing forward knowing that Congress doesn't have the cojones to stand in his way, should he and his neocons choose war to grab the resources ... I mean "alter the behavior" of Iran.

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posted by JReid @ 9:55 PM  
Thursday, September 27, 2007
I won't hold my breath waiting for the frighty Congress, let alone the right wing nut-0-shere, to condemn draft dodger and theoretical troop supporter Rush Limbaugh for branding soldiers who question the rationale of the Iraq war "phony soldiers," any more than I'd expect them to attack the first person to come up with the term "General Betray-us" -- no, not, and not Keith Olbermann -- rather, a commenter called Brad R. Torgerson, who coined the phrase in a posting on the blog belonging to conservative milblogger Blackfive (who apparently doesn't see the irony in filing an FEC complaint over an ad for which one of his posters essentially wrote the headline.)

Here's Blackfive's post, dated November 19, 2005 and titled "Generals of yesterday and today" (hat tip to Democratic Underground, though the poster there copied the wrong commenter's handle):
Posted by: Brad R. Torgersen November 17, 2005 at 07:23 PM

I don't know GEN Petraeus personally...but when I was in the "Devil Brigade" folks called him "Colonel Betrayus". He came up with things like the "Devil button" (button your BDU collar up to the top when on jumps) and the "Devil grip" (special name for keeping your trigger finger out of the trigger well) which sounded hokey to most of the troops at the time.Can any other All American paratroopers out there expand on my comment?Posted by: TBone November 19, 2005 at 10:52 AM
Torgersen was participating in a thread comparing the relative greatness of past era generals like Patton to the modern ilk. The exchange started when another poster, "IRR Soldier", posted a positie review of then Lt. Gen. Petraeus:

Posted by: IRR Soldier... November 17, 2005 at 06:09 PM

LTG Petraeus. When I arrived to my battalion in the 82nd Airborne as a private, he was leaving the battalion as it's commander. The troops loved him, and would have followed him without question.
To which Torgersen responded:

Posted by: Brad R. Torgersen November 18, 2005 at 08:07 AM

Petraeus may have been loved by his troops but his officers hated him. He was a pompous, "mine is bigger than yours" kind of guy. However, he is one of the most brilliant men I have ever met or worked for.

My vote goes to BG Bill Mayville. He was my BC in the 82nd before leading the 173d into Iraq. Hard as woodpecker lips, tough, but fair.
Then further down the thread, Torgersen posts the "Betray-us" line.

So doesn't that mean that when Congress condemned the Move-on ad, they were really condemning the Devil Brigade???

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posted by JReid @ 8:39 PM  
Friday, September 21, 2007
While you were indulging in O.J. mania...
The Republican minority continued to carry water for the Bush administration...

... on habeas corpus...

... on giving American troops sufficient time to rest and recover between long deployments...

... and on cuting off war funding, on which apparently, they're damned near giving up.

Meanwhile, al-Qaida reportedly is declaring war on Pakistan's dicator, Purvez Musharraf (how convenient for the Bushies) ...

... and Blackwater is back in Iraq.

By the way, is Blackwater the new "Prison Break"?

More on the shooting that started all the controversy here.

Meanwhile, check this out.

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posted by JReid @ 9:34 AM  
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
The verbal hit list, take one
Dan Rather to CBS: "Take a $70 million lawsuit in your backside!"

Jesse Jackson to Barack Obama, regarding Barack's failure to get on the bus to Jena: "turn in your Black card!"

U.S. officials say "hell now, you won't go" ... to Ground Zero, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad...

Americans to Congress: "we hate you" (and your little president, too...)

The Pope to Condi Rice: "I'll get back to you on that meeting..." not... sorry but I've got to give this bit to you:
Pope Benedict XVI refused to meet US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in August, saying he was on holiday, an Italian newspaper reported Wednesday.
Rice "made it known to the Vatican that she absolutely had to meet the pope" to boost her diplomatic "credit" ahead of a trip to the Middle East, the Corriere della Sera daily reported without citing its sources.

She was hoping to meet the pontiff at his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo at the beginning of August, it said.

"'The pope is on holiday' was the official response," the paper said.

It said the reply "illustrated the divergence of view" between the Vatican and the White House about the "initiatives of the Bush administration in the Middle East."
Oh, Condi, you pathetic little dear ... at least you can pick up some fabulous shoes while in Italy...

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posted by JReid @ 8:18 PM  
Monday, August 20, 2007
The view of the surge
Michigan Senator Carl Levin sees failure...

Two thirds of foreign policy experts favor redeployment...

Seven active duty soldiers serving in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne say the administration's protestations of progress are without merit.

The U.S. military is looking for an exit...

And how's this for dramatics: Gen. Petreus will testify about the progress of the surge (and surely, our political general will report progress...) on September 11. These clowns just don't quit...

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posted by JReid @ 5:39 PM  
Friday, June 15, 2007
Gonzales on the rocks

The Incompetent Mr. Gonzales is now under investigation by his own Justice Department in yet another offshoot of the U.S. attorney firing scandals -- this one involving Alberto's apparent attempts to coordinate his testimony with Monica Goodling's. A meeting with Gonzales to "discuss their recollections" which was described by Goodling during her May 31 testimony was regarded, even by the bottom tier law student, as "inappropriate"... what's worse, Gonzales testified under oath, before Ms. Goodling did (under a guarantee of immunity from prosecution, no less) that he did not discuss his testimony with any other witness prior to his appearance before Congress. Oops. Sayeth the WaPo:

The announcement that Gonzales's conduct would be examined came from Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine and H. Marshall Jarrett, counsel of the Office of Professional Responsibility. "This is to confirm that the scope of our investigation does include this matter," Fine and Jarrett said in a letter to Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the chairman and ranking minority member, respectively, of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Fine has the authority to refer cases for possible criminal prosecution if warranted, and both he and Jarrett can recommend disciplinary action for violations of internal ethics guidelines or other rules of professional conduct.

The revelation further expands the publicly known contours of the Justice Department's internal investigation, which is examining the removal of the prosecutors and whether any laws or policies were violated in the hiring of career prosecutors, immigration judges and others.
Meanwhile, TPMMuckraker reports there has been another resignation from the department now euphemistically referred to as "Justice" -- Mike Elston, who had been chief of staff to former deputy A.G. and in-house scapegoat Paul McNulty. He slunk out of town quietly today. The Muckrakers report:

Some highlights from Elston's tenure at DoJ:

-- He allegedly called three of the fired U.S. attorneys and made an implicit threat that the Justice Department would detail the reasons for their firings if they didn't stay quiet.

-- He allegedly rejected a large number of applicants to Justice Department positions because they were Democrats.

-- When Carol Lam, the former U.S. attorney for San Diego, asked to stay on the job longer in order to deal with some outstanding prosecutions (the expanding Duke Cunningham case among them), Elston told her not to think about her cases, that she should be gone in "weeks, not months" and said "these instructions were 'coming from the very highest levels of the government.'"

-- He called around to the U.S. attorneys whom he had placed on one of the draft firing lists to apologize when he discovered that his list would be turned over to Congress.
And the Muckrakers also have more information on another Gonzales flunky:

During a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, Bradley Schlozman, the controversial former senior political appointee in the Civil Rights Division, was battered with questions about his efforts to politicize the division.

A number of those questions from senators centered on Schlozman's efforts to purge the appellate section of the Civil Rights Division -- the small, but important section that handles civil rights cases in the court of appeals. What were they getting at? An anonymous complaint against Schlozman sent to the Justice Department's inspector general in December of 2005 spelled out the allegations. The complaint, obtained by TPMmuckraker, was filed by a former Department lawyer. You can read it here.

"Bradley J. Schlozman is systematically attempting to purge all Civil Rights appellate attorneys hired under Democratic administrations," the lawyer wrote, saying that he appeared to be "targeting minority women lawyers" in the section and was replacing them with "white, invariably Christian men." The lawyer also alleged that "Schlozman told one recently hired attorney that it was his intention to drive these attorneys out of the Appellate Section so that he could replace them with 'good Americans.'"

The anonymous complaint named three female, minority lawyers whom Schlozman had transferred out of the appellate section (of African-American, Jewish, and Chinese ethnicity, respectively) for no apparent reason. And in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this week in response to questions from senators, the Justice Department confirmed that all three had been transferred out by Schlozman -- and then transferred back in after Schlozman had left the Division. ...

So much for justice...

With his support among Democrats at its nadir and support dwindling, even among Republicans, what Alberto has left are two things: the loyalty of his friend, George W. Bush, and the protection of Bush's remaining lackeys in Congress, who are willing to serve as human shields for the administration, possibly until the end of his term, or their careers, whichever comes first. But for that, Gonzo would be gonzo.

As it is, he remains a potent symbol of the utter worthlessness of the Bush administration. And as such, he's a rather useful idiot.

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posted by JReid @ 7:10 PM  
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Bush's body count, Congress' weakness
President Bush gave a feisty press conference this morning, making it clear that he has no respect for the American people, less for Congress. He's going to have his war as long as he wants it. Unfortunately, there isn't an opposition with the stones to stop him.

The House voted overwhelmingly today to write Bush another blank check on Iraq. This time, the taxpayers are in for another $100 billion, ripped out of our paychecks against our will. Thanks, Democrats. As Keith said yesterday, the entire government has failed the American people regarding this war.

Meanwhile, the family of one of the missing soldiers in Iraq has the worst kind of closure. And Pfc. Joseph Anzack Jr.'s friends recall a man among boys.

Update: Here's the roll call in the House. 86 Democrats voted for the bill. 140, led by Maxine Waters and other members of the Out of Iraq Caucus, voted no. I'm disappointed that Miami Congressman Kendrick Meek voted for the bill. Just read his press release on it ... sorry, not convinced. Meek's release reads in part:

...“My position on the Iraq War is clear: I am against the continuation of this war. It does not make us safer; the American people do not support it; even our closest allies in the world have withdrawn their troops from it, leaving us to fight it virtually alone; and a majority of the Congress wants to put an end to it. ...

...we will keep up the pressure, and we will continue to work for the votes we need. In July, Congress will vote on the Defense Appropriations Bill and in September, Congress will vote on the Iraq Supplement for FY08. It is my hope that those votes will accomplish what the American people want, and what the Democratic Congress will force the White House to do – to bring an end to this failed war.

“It is important to keep in mind the big difference between opposing the misguided policy of the war, and supporting the brave men and women who are doing their duty in fighting it. This legislation continues to fund our troops through September 30, 2007. It is not a blank check; it is a lifeline to our troops in the field who cannot be left without the proper equipment and ammunition while serving in a theater of war.

“This legislation also includes other needed provisions. It raises the minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $7.25 per hour, the first increase in nearly ten long years. It provides $2 billion in additional funding for health care programs for our veterans. It provides $1.1 billion for family housing allowances not requested by the President. It provides $1.6 billion for a strategic reserve readiness fund, including $1billion to purchase Army Guard equipment. It also provides $3 billion for Mine Resistance Ambush Protected vehicles to provide our troops better protection from Improvised Explosive Devices that will ultimately save lives.”
K. Still not convinced. The best way to force Bush to change course is to give him nothing, re-send timelines again and again, and push him to June 30th, and then force him to take what he can get. That's hardball. ... Anyway, Rep. Alcee Hastings voted no, as did most of the CBC, and the House leader, Nancy Pelosi.

Update 2 8:55 p.m.: The Senate has now passed the bil too. 14 Democrats voted no, apparently including Senators Clinton, Obama and Dodd. Biden voted yes. Here's all you need to know about the Dems:

Faced with continued White House opposition after the veto, the Democratic leadership agreed to drop the withdrawal language so the spending bill could be moved by Memorial Day.
Smile and wave that flag, boys ... smile and wave...

Update 3: May 25 6:57 a.m.: Confirmed -- Hillary and Barack voted no on the war funding. For Hillary to do so means she's more worried about the Democratic base than about the Republican ads. ThinkProgress has the full roll call of Senators voting no. It's a short list:

  • Boxer (D-CA)
  • Burr (R-NC)
  • Clinton (D-NY)
  • Coburn (R-OK)
  • Dodd (D-CT)
  • Enzi (R-WY)
  • Feingold (D-WI)
  • Kennedy (D-MA)
  • Kerry (D-MA)
  • Leahy (D-VT)
  • Obama (D-IL)
  • Sanders (I-VT)
  • Whitehouse (D-RI)
  • Wyden (D-OR)

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posted by JReid @ 7:13 PM  
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
The steel trap
The Bush administration is digging in. With the president's approval ratings and credibility in the toilet, and his legacy hanging by a thread because of the incompetence of Iraq, compounded by the incompetence of Katrina, the incompetence of running the economy, immigration policy, etc., etc., etc., the administration has chosen to barricade itself in, and swing wildly at all comers like a bear with one leg caught in a steel trap, whether it's on Alberto Gonzales, on Iraq war funding, on timetables, or on Congressional oversight in any form (they don't want it, duh...)

So which fights can the White House win, if the Democrats dig in, too, and as the mechanisms of oversight inevitably kick in? I see the walls slowly closing in on this administration, but I am becoming increasingly convinced that they plan to hunker down, Nixon style, and cling to one another as the ship goes down. First, the walls falling. Let me count the ways:

1. Iraq propaganda. The lies of Iraq are now glaringly obvious, and perhaps the most egregious is the lies about heroism, by Jessica Lynch, by Pat Tillman -- both legitimate heroes due to their service, but each of whom were used cynically by a Pentagon desperate to sell the war to an increasingly skeptical public. Tillman's brother testified before Congress today, along with the a fellow Ranger who was with the former NFL star when he was cut down by friendly fire, and who was ordered not to tell Tillman's brother, Kevin (who was in a nearby convoy in the same Army convoy) what he knew, and of course, Ms. Lynch, who to her credit, refused to play along with the administration's glorification of her back in the early days of the war, in 2003. Their words about the administration were damning.

2. Investigation of Karl Rove. Finally, Rove becomes the direct target of an investigation, this time by the Office of Special Counsel, which, incidentally, has the power to subpoena White House officials, with the exception of the President and Vice President, according to former New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, who filed the complaint which got the ball rolling. Rove is being probed for possibly violating the Hatch Act, by firing Iglesias while the latter was performing his service in the Reserves. Rove is also being looked at for the alleged distribution of RNC email accounts to White House staffers to do political work they shouldn't have been doing on taxpayer time.

3. Albertogate. The Bushies are circling the wagons around the attorney general, but increasingly, the wagons are few and far between. Sources inside and outside the White House -- Republican sources -- are apparently privately pushing for him to go. One reason Bush may be hanging on tight: if Alberto resigns, the White House may fear that the Dems will next set their sights on Mr. "Don't Touch Me, Sheryl Crow!"

4. War funding. President Bush threw down the gauntlet on war funding and timetables today, in his own, Bushly sombar way, announcing unsurprisingly that he will veto the bill passed by the Congress to fund the war. The Bushies have clearly made the decision to try and throw Iraq over to the Dems, by making them the scapegoats for cutting off the funds. It seems to me that the Democrats have no choice but to come back fighting, too. If they fold, they give the Bushies ammunition to keep being recalcitrant, and to continue defying the will of the American people. Seemingly odd strategic choice: deployiing Five Deferrments Dick to take shots at Congress over matters of war. But for the White House to put forward the supremely unpopular veep, clearly indicates that they are no longer playing for the support of the American people (they probably understand that such support is lost to the ages) -- they are desperately kow-towing to the most extreme elements of their base, who love Cheney, and who want to see George W. Bush fight like a man.

By the way, here's what the president is vetoing, and Democrats should never let him forget it, not for a single day:
The bill approved $123.2 billion, with the vast majority — $96 billion — going to the Defense Department, mostly to continue military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also included a $1 billion increase for the National Guard and Reserve and $1.1 billion for improvements to military housing. The bill also has $5.75 billion for programs overseen by the State Department, with $3.2 billion of that for Iraq.
More on the bill here.

Update: Further proof that the White House has abandoned the vast majority of the American public, and is now playing strictly to the crazies: the rhetoric of the forward men for the Iraq project is getting more and more desperate. Beyond the despicable and cowardly Cheney, there's also the criminal Tom Delay, who went straight for the "treason" card, and the idiotic Bush sycophant Glenn Beck, who bet the farm this week, saying per the ThinkP headline: "Iraq Withdrawal Would Be ‘America’s Most Shameful Act Of Immorality Since Slavery’... right...

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posted by JReid @ 7:49 PM  
Sunday, March 11, 2007
The real story behind Plamegate
Scooter Libby's conviction on perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI provided some satisfaction to those of us who have long believed that the current administration has been, since its inception, engaged in a criminal conspiracy to mislead Congress and the American people into supporting an invasion of Iraq, for the purpose of taking over that country's natural resources and controlling it currency. But the core question, which remains under debate, is whether there was an underlying crime, beyond Libby's lying lips. Bush supporters and conservatives (there is a distinction these days) argue that no such underlyng crime occurred, because, they insist, Valerie Plame was not a covert agent, having been out of the field for more than five years. They argue that this was a case about perfectly legitimate "push back" by the administration against critics of its pre-war claims, which got elevated when put into the hands of an overzealous prosecutor (exactly the flip side of their Clinton-era argument, which stated that lying and obstruction WERE the underlying crimes...)

But those of us on the other side have argued that first, Valerie Plame WAS a covert agent, otherwise the CIA would not have gone to the Justice Department to demand an investigation of her outing. Further, the stamp of "secret" that accompanied the memo to then Secretary of State Colin Powell regarding Plame's status speaks to how crucial her work was considered to the national security operations of the United States. Thirdly, critics of the administration have concluded that Libby only would have put himself in such legal jeopardy if he deemed it important to protect someone higher up -- in this case, the vice president -- from public disclosures that could damage him, either politically or legally. In fact, the Libby jury seems to have concluded that Libby did, in fact, become the willing fall guy, either for Karl Rove, or for Dick Cheney, or for someone else.

So we're back to the quetsion at hand: Scooter Libby and Dick Cheney went to great lengths to see that Valerie Plame's identity wound up in the newspapers. Why?

I have come to the conclusion that Cheney and Libby became so desperate to refute Joe Wilson, not so much because they thought he was a threat, but bcasue they saw his disclosures -- his very presence in Niger -- as the latest challenge from a recalcitrant CIA, which had been fighting the administration the whole way on Iraq intelligence. Outing Valerie Plame wasn't about punishing Joe Wilson, or about hurting Valerie Plame -- it was about slapping down the CIA, impeding its work on finding the truth about WMD (something Plame had dedicated her work to) and stopping any additional CIA officials from daring to challenge Bush, Cheney or their operatives inside the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans on the subject of Iraq's WMD or supposed nuclear programs.

Last week, we had 27 year CIA veteran Ray McGovern on the program for the second time. He made much the same point on the air, and does so in his latest piece for Common Dreams. McGovern writes:

CIA analysts were still insisting, correctly, that there were no meaningful ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq, despite Tenet's acquiescence to Powell's request that Tenet sit behind him on camera as Powell wove his web of half- and un-truths at the UN. (Watching Tenet sit impassively as Powell spoke of a "sinister nexus" between al-Qaeda and Iraq was a tremendous blow to the morale of the courageous analysts who had resisted that particular recipe for cooking intelligence. As for their colleagues working on WMD, most of them had long since been pressured to cave in to Cheney's pressure during the dozen visits he made to CIA headquarters and were not as incensed.)

No trace had been found of weapons of mass destruction. In some quarters (even in the corporate press) the casus belli had morphed into a casus bellylaughi. Reports in Fox News that Saddam had somehow transported his WMD to Syria undetected (or maybe buried them in the desert) elicited widespread ridicule. Constant reminders of how difficult it is to find something in such a large country as Iraq - "the size of California" - were wearing thin. The attempt to associate uranium enrichment with the (in)famous aluminum tubes had, well, gone down the tubes. And the "mobile biological weapons laboratories," initially applauded by the president himself as proof the administration had found the WMD, turned out to be balloon-making machines for artillery practice, as the Iraqis had said. It was getting very embarrassing.

So this new challenge from Joe Wilson and his obnoxiously expert wife made for a very bad hair day. Cheney readily saw it as payback by honest CIA professionals for all the crass arm-twisting they had experienced at the hands of Cheney and kemosabe Libby. It is not hard to put oneself in Cheney's frame of mind as he witnessed the gathering storm.

Worst of all, the Iraq-Niger caper was particularly damaging, since it was tied directly to the office of the vice president. There was that unanswered question regarding who commissioned the forgery in the first place. And not even Judy Miller could help this time, since most thinking folks knew her to be a shill for the Bush administration.

And yet this insubordination, this deliberate sabotage, had to be answered. Something had to be done, and quickly, so that others privy to sensitive information about the litany of lies leading up to the war would not think they could follow Wilson's example and go to the press. ...
But wait, there's more. Because ultimately, Plamegate was about protecting the administration from an even more damaging truth -- that they probably knew Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction long before they made the decision to invade, and the decision to invade was itself made long before 9/11 provided the excuse. A second piece from Common Dreams, by investigative reporter Dave Lindorf, breaks it down:
way back in early 2001 there was a pair of burglaries at the Niger Embassy in Rome and at the home of the Niger ambassador. Police investigating the crimes found that the only things stolen were official stationary and some official stamps, used to make documents official. A cleaning lady and a former member of Italy's intelligence service were arrested for the crimes. They were odd burglaries to be sure, since there is precious little one could use, or sell, such documents for, given the country involved. I mean, it might make sense to steal official stationary from the French Embassy in Rome, which a thief might use to finagle a pass to the Cannes Festival. But Niger?

Jump to October 2001. A few weeks after the 9-11 attacks, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, accompanied by his ministers of defense and intelligence, made a visit to the White House. There he reportedly handed over the forged Niger documents (they were on Niger government stationary, and had Niger government stamps!), which appeared to be receipts for uranium ore, made out to Saddam Hussein. Now forget the matter of why either Hussein or Niger's government would want paper receipts for such an illegal transaction, and forget the matter of how Hussein would have transported 400 tons of yellow dust across the Sahara to his country without somebody noticing. The simple fact is that Bush's own intelligence experts at the CIA and State Department promptly spotted the forgeries, and they were dumped.

We know this because we know, from the likes of onetime National Security Council counterterrorism head Richard Clarke and former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, that Bush was pushing for war with Iraq almost as soon as he finished reading My Pet Goat following the attack on the Twin Towers. Surely if the White House had even thought those Niger documents might be legit, they would have leaked or broadcast them all over creation.

They didn't. The documents were deep-sixed, and mentioned to no one.

But according to some dedicated investigative reporters at the respected Italian newspaper La Repubblica, they resurfaced before long at a very suspicious meeting. This meeting occurred in December 2001 in Rome, and included Michael Ledeen, an associate of Defense Department Undersecretary for Policy Douglas Feith and a key figure in the White House's war-propaganda program, Larry Franklin, a top Defense Intelligence Agency Middle East analyst who later pleaded guilty to passing classified information to two employees of the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), convicted Iraqi bank swindler Ahmed Chalabi, then head of the CIA-created Iraqi National Congress, and Harold Rhode of the sinister Defense Department Office of Special Plans, that office set up by the White House and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld under Feith's direction to manufacture "evidence" to justify a war on Iraq. Also at this peculiar meeting were the heads of the Italian Defense Department and of SISMI, the Italian intelligence agency.

According to La Repubblica, it was at that meeting that a plan was hatched to resurrect the forged Niger documents, and to give them credibility by recycling them through British intelligence.

And that is what Bush was referring to when, in his 2003 State of the Union address, he famously frightened a nation by declaring, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

Bush lyingly implied that this was new information, when in fact he knew--had to know--that the "evidence" in British hands was the same set of documents he had been offered by Berlusconi almost a year and a half earlier, which had been declared to be bogus. ...
That, my friends, is the real story behind Plamegate, and as Lindorf points out further down in the piece, it's right there, waiting for some enterprising mainstream media organization to uncover.

The question is, will anyone do so.

On Friday, Valerie Plame will testify before Henry Waxman's House committee on government reform. Let's hope that's the first step in getting the truth out. If it does emerge, it could mean there is incontrovertible proof that the president, the vice president, and key members of the administration committed high crimes -- lying to Congress, misleading the country into war, and, as we have seen the bribes and dollar unfold, engaging in war profiteering.

Kind of makes Monicagate look like a walk in the park.

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posted by JReid @ 1:09 PM  
Monday, February 19, 2007
The shameful treatment of our veterans
... the Congress, the Pentagon and the Bush administration should be ashamed. Unfortunately, most of the aforementioned appear to be incapable of shame.

Update: But wait ... there's more. Courtesy of ThinkProgress and Americablog (who has apparently moved on from the Snickers episode to more pressing matters):
“‘Are you telling me that I can’t go to the ceremony ’cause I’m an amputee?‘” asked David Thomas, an Iraq war veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart. Thomas was told he could not wear shorts to attend a ceremony with President Bush because the media would be there, and shorts were not advisable because the amputees would be seated in the front row. David responded, “I’m not ashamed of what I did, and y’all shouldn’t be neither.” When the guest list came out for the ceremony, his name was not on it. John Aravosis tracks other cases of disgraceful treatment toward veterans.
Well you know, an amputee Iraq war veteran wouldn't exactly be good p.r. for the president or the war... nasty reminder of the downside, you know...

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posted by JReid @ 9:08 PM  
Thursday, February 08, 2007
Is our surgers working?
Apparently, no.

Meanwhile, the plot on which Iraqi leaders are "with us" and which are "with the terrorists" thickens:
US and Iraqi forces in Baghdad have arrested the deputy health minister during a raid at his offices.
The minister, Hakim al-Zamili, is a key member of the political group led by radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr.

He is accused of aiding Shia militiamen and using ambulances to move weapons, a ministry source told the BBC.
Back in Washington, Chuck Hagel, John Warner and five other GOP Senators who earlier this week voted with their party leadership to stop debate over a non-binding resolution, only to see debate on all resolutions stop entirely, have now jumped ship.
And Iran is issuing threats.
In a letter distributed yesterday evening to Senate leaders, John W. Warner (Va.), Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and five other GOP supporters of the resolution threatened to attach their measure to any bill sent to the floor in the coming weeks. Noting that the war is the "most pressing issue of our time," the senators declared: "We will explore all of our options under the Senate procedures and practices to ensure a full and open debate."

The letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was not more specific about the Republican senators' strategy for reviving the war debate. But under the chamber's rules, senators have wide latitude in slowing the progress of legislation and in offering amendments, regardless of whether they have anything to do with the bill.

The letter began circulating yesterday evening after it became apparent the Senate was deadlocked over the war resolution and Reid was prepared to move on to other matters. McConnell and many in his party have aggressively defended their decision to block the bipartisan resolution as an issue of fairness because Democrats would not agree to GOP procedural demands.

But some Republicans were uneasy about appearing to have stymied the debate. The letter appeared so suddenly that, although it was addressed to Reid, the Democratic leader had not seen his copy before Warner read the text on the Senate floor.

"Monday's procedural vote should not be interpreted as any lessening of our resolve to go forward advocating the concepts" of the resolution, the letter said. "The current stalemate is unacceptable to us and to the people of this country."
And as for the argument that such a resolution, if passed, would harm troop morale, let's hear from General Peter Pace:
"There's no doubt in my mind that the dialogue here in Washington strengthens our democracy. Period," Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the House Armed Services Committee. He added that potential enemies may take some comfort from the rancor but said they "don't have a clue how democracy works."
And neither, apparently, do Mitch McConnell and the other Republicans who are continuing to provide a human shield for the president on Iraq.

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posted by JReid @ 9:58 AM  
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Keeping score
This morning on the radio show, James T (our host) came up with a modest, but great, proposal. If the Republicans (and Joe Lieberman...) insist on backing Bush to the hilt on his war escalation, Democrats should call their bluff, step aside, and let them have it: the votes, the escalation, the whole kit and kaboodle. But then, we should begin keeping track, both of who stands where on Iraq, and on how many lives are lost, how much money is spent, and how many American troops are maimed, as this policy grinds on. And then we should hold the GOPer lackeys (Lieberman included), personally accountable for every single limb, life and dollar.

Let's start counting from January 10, when Bush began shipping his escalation troops into Baghdad.

Between January 10 and today (February 6), here's the count:

  • U.S. troop deaths (since January 10) -- 88
  • U.S. troops injured -- 294
  • U.S. $ spent (based on CBO estimates of approximately $195 million per day, times 28 days) -- $5.46 billion.
And here are the Republicans to watch, based on their cloture vote:

Lamar Alexander, Wayne Allard, Robert Bennett, Kit Bond, Sam Brownback, Jim Bunning, Richard Burr, Saxby Chambliss, Tom Coburn, Thad Cochran, Bob Corker, John Cornyn, Larry Craig, Michael Crapo, Jim DeMint, Elizabeth Dole, Pete Domenici, John Ensign, Michael Enzi, Lindsey Graham, Charles Grassley, Judd Gregg, Chuck Hagel, Orrin Hatch, Kay Bailey Hutchison, James Inhofe, Johnny Isakson, Jon Kyl, Trent Lott, Richard Lugar, Mitch McConnell, Lisa Murkowski, Pat Roberts, Jeff Sessions, Richard Shelby, Gordon Smith, Olympia Snowe, Arlen Specter, Ted Stevens, John Sununu, Craig Thomas, John Thune, David Vitter, George Voinovich, John Warner
oh, and Joe Lieberman (henceforth to be known, as the Lorax...) I'm personally giving Chuck Hagel and John Warner a pass on the cloture vote, because Hagel and Warner have put themselves on the line to sponsor resolutions opposing the surge. Gordon Smith is also OK by me, because he's already put himself on record. (BTW, did you notice that Harry Reid voted no, too???? What's up with that???) ...

Courtesy of TPM I've bolded the GOP Senators who are up for reelection in 2008 and a handy guide to where they stand on the escalation. I've bolded the names in the list above. Feel free to email your Senator daily if you'd like to give them an update. Norm Coleman and Susan Collins are inoculating themselves, Collins I think because she lives in a blue, anti-war state (Maine) and she wouldn't want to become the latest former Blue state Republican (to be fair, she has voiced deep skepticism on the escalation) ... and Coleman, I think, because he's facing a reelection challenge in 2008 (from Al Franken.) Sorry to be so cynical ... Unfortunately, there's nothing that Connecticut voters can do about Lieberman until 2012. They made their bed, now they've got to let Joe lie in it with George W. Bush.

Meanwhile, Mel Martinez, from my state, didn't vote at all. Neither did Mary Landrieu, who is always teetering on the brink of extinction in the red state of Louisiana, or Senator Johnson of South Dakota, who's ill, and ... interestingly enough, neither did that brave maverick, John McCain... Hm...

Wake up and smell the politics. Are these GOPers really down for the escalation, or are they worried about getting reelected in red states where Bush love still exists, even if in smaller -- though still less vociferous -- numbers? Witness Judd Gregg, who is the author of the most toxic of the GOP alternative resolutions, which supports Bush's policy. He is on record in his home state of voicing "deep frustration" over the Iraq war, and yet he's pushing for a vote pinning Democrats down on continuing to fund it. Political courage, anyone? Anyone???

Meanwhile, the total price tag for Bush's war could eventually top $2 trillion, when you factor in healthcare costs for veterans.

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posted by JReid @ 9:48 AM  
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Derail Caesar
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Presdident Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- despite his occasional tendency toward overreaching -- didn't order the U.S. military to dispatch soldiers and sailors to attack Tokyo. He went to Congress, and asked for a declaration of war. Those were the good old days, when Congress mattered and the president knew it.
Somebody has to tell George W. Bush that he is not a monarch. He does not have the unilateral power to spy on Americans, database our private info, or declare war. Specifically, he does not now, nor has he ever asked Congress for, the authority to wage war on Iran.

To that end, Senators Pat Leahy of Vermont and Arlen Specter of PA are demanding that Bush's justice department explain to Congress just what authority he thinks Congress has when it comes to waging war on Iran.

Let's see how that works out. Meanwhile, Barack Obama releases his version of a plan to extricate the U.S. from Iraq.

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posted by JReid @ 9:38 AM  
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Quick take headlines: Tuesday
New Bush, same as the old Bush -- the prez seeks more power, this time over domestic affairs.

What's the latest on the domestic spying front? Why it's the FBI, conducting widespread surveillance that's akin to the NSA warrentless wiretaps. Groovy! No wonder 58 percent of Americans just want the Bush term to be over, already.

Ari Fleischer testifies at the Scooter Libby trial -- contradicting Dick's right hand man on the subject of just when Scooter found out about Valerie Plame's identity (he testified that Scooter told him three days before Scooter's fabled convo with Tim Russert -- you know, the one where he heard about Plame for the "first time" -- during the one and only lunch Libby ever invited Ari to...) BTW, the Ari-Libby convo was "hush hush, on the QT..." On the stand today: Judy Miller.

South Dakota lawmakers try it again on abortion.

Shiite pilgrims attacked on the high holiday of Ashura in Iraq. And how about this sunny outlook on Iraq:
The US must draw up plans to deal with an all-out Iraqi civil war that would kill hundreds of thousands, create millions of refugees, and could spill over into a regional catastrophe, disrupting oil supplies and setting up a direct confrontation between Washington and Iran.

This is the central recommendation of a study by the Brookings Institution here, based on the assumption that President Bush's last-ditch troop increase fails to stabilise the country - but also on the reality that Washington cannot simply walk away from the growing disaster unleashed by the 2003 invasion.

Even the US staying to try to contain the fighting, said Kenneth Pollack, one of the report's authors, "would consign Iraqis to a terrible fate. Even if it works, we will have failed to provide the Iraqis with the better future we promised." But it was the "least bad option" open to the US to protect its national interests in the event of full-scale civil war.

US troops, says the study, should withdraw from Iraqi cities. This was "the only rational course of action, horrific though it will be", as America refocused its efforts from preventing civil war to containing its effects.

The unremittingly bleak document, drawing on the experience of civil wars in Lebanon, the former Yugoslavia, Congo and Afghanistan, also offers a remarkably stark assessment of Iraq's "spill-over" potential across the Persian Gulf region.

It warns of radicalisation and possible secession movements in adjacent countries, an upsurge in terrorism, and of intervention by Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Ending an all-out civil war, the report says, would require a force of 450,000 - three times the present US deployment even after the 21,500 "surge" ordered by President Bush this month. ...
Meanwhile, who's to blame for Iran's dramatic rise in power and influence in the Mideast? George W. Bush, start talking to the man in the mirror... And Europe, which blames the U.S. for Iran's rise, is balking at Bush administration attempts to force Western countries to cut ties to Tehran.

And let's not forget Afghanistan, where civilian deaths are on the rise, too.

Over on Capitol Hill, experts will testify today before a Russ Feingold-led Senate committee today that Congress does indeed have the authority to end the Iraq war. Who knew?

And last but not least, guess whose picture Russian special forces like to use for target practice?

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posted by JReid @ 10:20 AM  
Thursday, January 04, 2007
From the kitchen to the Congress

Nancy Pelosi gave one hell of a speech to become the third most powerful individual, and the single most powerful woman in America -- one drinks bender/cocaine overdose and one heart attack away from the presidency. She followed John Boehner's rather moody introduction, including his tribute to Gerald Ford and his ironic imputation to "be nice" in the next Congress. Pelosi laid out clearly that she will provide firm leadership on the issues that matter to Americans (one can hope, and today, at least, I'm willing to hope,) including Iraq, but that when it comes to the House of Representatives, it's mama's world. She showed a light touch (which I'm sure conceals a hell of a knife collection) by gushing about how the support of her family allowed her to go "from the kitchen to the Congress." I loved the touch at the end of bringing all the Congressional kids to the stage (it's all about the children.) And she vowed to force the Congress to do something it hasn't done in recent memory: pay for its programs as you go. Clearly, a traumatized and exhausted country needs some good mothering, and if you ask me, Nancy's just the grandma to git 'er done. Here's the text of her speech. Cliff notes: "embrace girl power..."

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posted by JReid @ 5:52 PM  
Before the subpoenas arrive, better get a real lawyer in there
Harriet Miers is resigning from her job as White House counsel. I guess Bush loyalty only goes so far -- now that the hearings are about to begin, he recognize he'd better have a qualified lawyer around...

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posted by JReid @ 5:48 PM  
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
A letter from George
George W. Bush (or rather, some aide who will only be revealed in the memoirs) sits right down and writes himself a letter to the Democrats, and ships it off to the Wall Street Journal. In it, he calls for ... wait for it ... bipartisanship. Ahem.
Tomorrow, members of the 110th Congress will take their oaths of office here in Washington. I will have the privilege of working with them for the next two years--one quarter of my presidency, plenty of time to accomplish important things for the American people.

Together, we have a chance to serve the American people by solving the complex problems that many don't expect us to tackle, let alone solve, in the partisan environment of today's Washington. To do that, however, we can't play politics as usual. Democrats will control the House and Senate, and therefore we share the responsibility for what we achieve.

Well isn't that nice. Of course, he then goes on to say, pass my tax cuts, do what I want in Iraq, and give me a line item veto.

... oh, and God bless America.

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posted by JReid @ 5:12 PM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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"I am for enhanced interrogation. I don't believe waterboarding is torture... I'll do it. I'll do it for charity." -- Sean Hannity
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