From the New York Review of books comes a chilling account of U.S. torture of terror suspects, gleaned from interviews with the arbiter of whether or not war crimes have taken place in a given conflict: the International Committee of the Red Cross. A clip from their interviews with "high value detainee" Abu Zubaydah:
Two black wooden boxes were brought into the room outside my cell. One was tall, slightly higher than me and narrow. Measuring perhaps in area [3 1/2 by 2 1/2 feet by 6 1/2 feet high]. The other was shorter, perhaps only [3 1/2 feet] in height. I was taken out of my cell and one of the interrogators wrapped a towel around my neck, they then used it to swing me around and smash me repeatedly against the hard walls of the room. I was also repeatedly slapped in the face....
I was then put into the tall black box for what I think was about one and a half to two hours. The box was totally black on the inside as well as the outside.... They put a cloth or cover over the outside of the box to cut out the light and restrict my air supply. It was difficult to breathe. When I was let out of the box I saw that one of the walls of the room had been covered with plywood sheeting. From now on it was against this wall that I was then smashed with the towel around my neck. I think that the plywood was put there to provide some absorption of the impact of my body. The interrogators realized that smashing me against the hard wall would probably quickly result in physical injury.
Read the whole thing here. The major scoop of this leaked report was done not by a journalist, but by a journalism professor at Berkley:
Mark Danner has scooped the NY Times, the Washington Post and other papers by publishing in the current New York Review of Books an essay quoting long excerpts of a leaked International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) report on "high-value" prisoners held in CIA black site prisons. The interviews took prior to their release in late 2006, and the report itself is dated February 2007, and likely was sent originally to then CIA Acting General Counsel, John Rizzo.
The prisoners interviewed by ICRC personnel included Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Walid Bin Attash, and eleven others, all of whom, the ICRC concluded, were submitted to torture.
As the poster at Axis of Logic points out, this is no bedtime reading.
Related: a British author says Zubaydah might not be the terror mastermind the Bush administration made him out to be. Meanwhile, it turns out that Zubaydah's rendition (initially to Thailand) was timed tantalizingly close to the Justice Department torture memos written by Jay Bybee and John Yoo.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney disagreed publicly with his boss just four times in the eight years they served together. Yesterday, however, on the first day after the official end of the Bush administration, Cheney disagreed with George W. Bush once more.
Cheney told THE WEEKLY STANDARD that his former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, whom he described as a "victim of a serious miscarriage of justice," deserved a presidential pardon.
Asked for his reaction to Bush's decision Cheney said: "Scooter Libby is one of the most capable and honorable men I've ever known. He's been an outstanding public servant throughout his career. He was the victim of a serious miscarriage of justice, and I strongly believe that he deserved a presidential pardon. Obviously, I disagree with President Bush's decision."
Bush's decision not to pardon Libby has angered many of the president's strongest defenders. One Libby sympathizer, a longtime defender of Bush, told friends she was "disgusted" by the president. Another described Bush as "dishonorable" and a third suggested that refusing to pardon Libby was akin to leaving a soldier on the battlefield. ...
George W. Bush gave his farewell address to the nation tonight. It was a sad, strange ending to a failed presidency, full of denial, self justification, self-soothing, and an apparent total lack of comprehension of just how bad the last eight years have been, and by extension, what an utter failure his presidency has been.
Bush during the speech was so delusional, he actually claimed that the air and water in the country are cleaner for his having been there. And he congratulates himself for siding with his conscience in his utter determination to keep the country safe from evil, as if his presidency did not begin until September 12, 2001. The evil terror attack that happened before that revised start date to the Bush presidency is apparently, not his problem.
I have long believed George Bush to be an ignorant, shallow man -- a man who came into office, as Chris Matthews brilliantly put it tonight during an appearance on "Countdown," as a "tabula rasa," devoid of his own ideology, disdainful of "intellectuals" and their book learnin'. But somehow, after 9/11, he adopted a very strong ideology, which happened to belong to the coterie of neoconservatives Dick Cheney brought in with him when he muscled his way into the vice presidency, clearly sensing the possibilities for himself with such an intellectually inferior "boss." Now that Dubya has absorbed the ideology, the poor thing actually believes it. Among the delusions:
Over the past seven years, a new Department of Homeland Security has been created. The military, the intelligence community, and the FBI have been transformed. Our nation is equipped with new tools to monitor the terrorists' movements, freeze their finances, and break up their plots. And with strong allies at our side, we have taken the fight to the terrorists and those who support them. Afghanistan has gone from a nation where the Taliban harbored al Qaeda and stoned women in the streets to a young democracy that is fighting terror and encouraging girls to go to school. Iraq has gone from a brutal dictatorship and a sworn enemy of America to an Arab democracy at the heart of the Middle East and a friend of the United States.
Really? Last time I checked, we stopped "taking the fight to the terrorists" so that we could kill 4,000 of our troops and help Iran out by invading Iraq. And pardon me, Dubya, but the Taliban are still stoning women in the streets of Afghanistan, and girls remain terrified to go to school. From RAWA, the main organization fighting for the women of that country (since 1977):
Disappointingly, there has been little progress for women under the Western-backed Government of Hamid Karzai. RAWA's struggle for women's rights is as vital - and dangerous - as ever. These brave Afghans put their lives at risk every day, but the alternative - submitting to degrading and brutal treatment - is not an option for them.
Forced marriage for girls, sometimes as young as 11, abuse, wife beating and other forms of maltreatment are commonplace in Afghanistan and often lead to women committing suicide. In one such case, during November 2006, in the north of Afghanistan, an 11-year-old girl, Sanubar, was kidnapped by warlords and exchanged for a dog.
Extreme poverty, high mortality rates related to malnutrition and childbirth; and a culture of misogamy are still bleak features of everyday life in Afghanistan.
Security for girls is extremely poor, kidnap, rape and murder are frequent. Thirty years of war have left two million widows in Afghanistan, 50,000 of them in Kabul. These women and their children often live in horrific conditions.
When people live in freedom, they do not willingly choose leaders who pursue campaigns of terror. When people have hope in the future, they will not cede their lives to violence and extremism. So around the world, America is promoting human liberty, human rights, and human dignity. We're standing with dissidents and young democracies, providing AIDS medicine to dying patients -- to bring dying patients back to life, and sparing mothers and babies from malaria. And this great republic born alone in liberty is leading the world toward a new age when freedom belongs to all nations.
Peace, hope and freedom? All from "elections?" Tell it to the Palestinians. And as for "promoting human liberty, human rights and human dignity," you might want to refer to this Washington Post article in which a member of your own administration admits that we're in the business of committing Saddam Hussein-style torture. And the piece de resistance:
For eight years, we've also strived to expand opportunity and hope here at home. Across our country, students are rising to meet higher standards in public schools. A new Medicare prescription drug benefit is bringing peace of mind to seniors and the disabled. Every taxpayer pays lower income taxes. The addicted and suffering are finding new hope through faith-based programs. Vulnerable human life is better protected. Funding for our veterans has nearly doubled. America's air and water and lands are measurably cleaner. And the federal bench includes wise new members like Justice Sam Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts.
The U.S. ranks #24 among the 30 most affluent countries in life expectancy – yet spends more on health care than any other nation.
The U.S. infant mortality rate is on par with that of Croatia, Cuba, Estonia, and Poland; if the U.S. infant mortality rate were the same as that of top-ranked Sweden, 21,000 more American babies would live to celebrate their first birthdays every year.
A baby born in Washington, D.C. is almost two-and-a-half times more likely to die before age one than a baby born in Vermont. African American babies are more than twice as likely to die before age one than either white or Latino babies.
... and on education:
Fourteen percent of the population – some 30 million Americans – lacks the literacy skills to perform simple, everyday tasks like understanding newspaper articles and instruction manuals.
Twelve percent of Americans lack the literacy skills to fill in a job application or payroll form, read a map or bus schedule, or understand labels on food and drugs.
More than one in five Americans – 22 percent of the population – have “below basic” quantitative skills, making it impossible to balance a checkbook, calculate a tip, or figure out from an advertisement the amount of interest on a loan.
In 2006, 4.5 million young people ages eighteen to twenty-four were not in school, not working, and had not graduated high school.
Heck of a job, Bushie. ...
Meanwhile, the faith based initiatives were declared a failure by the very man Bush put in charge of them. And veteran's funding has been given such short shrift, the Bush presidency manage to heap utter disgrace on such a vaunted place as Walter Reade Hospital, redefined under Bush's policies as a Dickensian hell hole.
And we haven't even gotten to Katrina, the corruption of the Justice Department, war crimes, war profiteering, Guantanamo prison and the decimated economy. ...
Bush's address tonight solved nothing for his place in history, which will be terribly low. It did nothing to advance his "legacy project," except to seal his place as one of the worst, if not the worst, presidents we've ever been cursed with.
The Economist puts it most succinctly with their headline: "The frat boy ships out." And their subhead makes the point crystal clear:
Few people will mourn the departure of the 43rd president
Here's Chris Matthews' take on Bush's speech. The best line, a quote from Shakespeare -- "where did we find this sudden scholar?"
The New York Times digs into the housing mess, and finds a Bush in there. A clip:
The president’s first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission promised a “kinder, gentler” agency. The second was pushed out amid industry complaints that he was too aggressive. Under its current leader, the agency failed to police the catastrophic decisions that toppled the investment bank Bear Stearns and contributed to the current crisis, according to a recent inspector general’s report.
As for Mr. Bush’s banking regulators, they once brandished a chain saw over a 9,000-page pile of regulations as they promised to ease burdens on the industry. When states tried to use consumer protection laws to crack down on predatory lending, the comptroller of the currency blocked the effort, asserting that states had no authority over national banks.
The administration won that fight at the Supreme Court. But Roy Cooper, North Carolina’s attorney general, said, “They took 50 sheriffs off the beat at a time when lending was becoming the Wild West.”
The president did push rules aimed at forcing lenders to more clearly explain loan terms. But the White House shelved them in 2004, after industry-friendly members of Congress threatened to block confirmation of his new housing secretary.
In the 2004 election cycle, mortgage bankers and brokers poured nearly $847,000 into Mr. Bush’s re-election campaign, more than triple their contributions in 2000, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. The administration did not finalize the new rules until last month.
Among the Republican Party’s top 10 donors in 2004 was Roland Arnall. He founded Ameriquest, then the nation’s largest lender in the subprime market, which focuses on less creditworthy borrowers. In July 2005, the company agreed to set aside $325 million to settle allegations in 30 states that it had preyed on borrowers with hidden fees and ballooning payments. It was an early signal that deceptive lending practices, which would later set off a wave of foreclosures, were widespread.
Andrew H. Card Jr., Mr. Bush’s former chief of staff, said White House aides discussed Ameriquest’s troubles, though not what they might portend for the economy. Mr. Bush had just nominated Mr. Arnall as his ambassador to the Netherlands, and the White House was primarily concerned with making sure he would be confirmed.
“Maybe I was asleep at the switch,” Mr. Card said in an interview.
Ya think??? Sheesh ... It's a long article. Read it from the top, here. I do think the Times puts too much focus on lower income borrowers in this piece, rather than also focusing on all of the middle class buyers who "traded up" to homes they couldn't afford, and those who saw the easy money loans as an opportunity to "flip and grow rich." But the article does lay out the main culprit: a shredding of federal regulations; something the GOP continues to see as the Holy Grail of "governing."
Dana Milbank turns off the snark for a change, and paints a rather sad portrait of our out-going president:
Slowly, painfully, self-awareness has come to George W. Bush.
"Turns out this isn't one of these presidencies where you ride off into the sunset, you know, waving goodbye," the president told the conservative American Enterprise Institute yesterday. He gave a little wave to illustrate his point; the sympathetic audience obliged him with a laugh.
It was the latest stop on what amounts to a legacy-salvaging tour for Bush. At the same time, a Bush Legacy Project, under the auspices of Karl Rove, is said to be at work on reinventing the president's image. But whatever they come up with, it will be difficult to displace in the public imagination the more obvious symbols of Bush's reign: The "Mission Accomplished" banner. The flight suit. Yellowcake. Curveball. Katrina. Brownie. The Pretzel. The Segway. The Shoe. An incipient depression. My Pet Goat.
A poll released yesterday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that just 11 percent of people think Bush will be remembered as an outstanding or above-average president.
It gets sadder:
Yesterday he took his regrets to a gathering at the Mayflower Hotel of AEI, a think tank that has provided Bush with both ideas and manpower. It was bound to be a supportive audience, and in the first row sat Paul Wolfowitz and Michael Barone. The press was kept at a safe distance of 35 feet -- the outer limit of shoe-throwing range -- and behind two barriers. Five Secret Service agents stood around the stage. The White House even tried to confine retired Washington Post editor Len Downie to the press section rather than the audience; possibly he was considered to be a shoe-flight risk.
AEI President Christopher DeMuth did his best to polish the presidential résumé during his introduction. "It'll be many years before it is possible to take a full account of the Bush presidency," he cautioned. "His contemporaries -- he, himself -- will not have the last word on the matter." Still, DeMuth praised Bush's "major reforms" of taxes, his "firm" free-trade position, his "superlative" judicial appointments and even his "most important disappointment," Social Security.
Bush, slouched in a chair, his legs crossed and his jacket open wide, was considerably harder on himself. He spoke so softly that some in the rear stood, leaned in and cupped their ears to hear. "We lost 533,000 jobs last month," he volunteered. And: "Wall Street got drunk, and we got a hangover." And: "I came with the idea of changing the tone in Washington and frankly didn't do a very good job of it."
The 62-year-old president looked tired, and his rapidly graying hair showed the aging effects of the job. He presented a glass-half-full view of his polices. "Obviously, we weren't successful about getting comprehensive immigration reform; nevertheless, I feel good about having tried," he offered. On Social Security, likewise, "it didn't succeed, but nevertheless I used the presidency, the executive branch, the concept of the presidency, to lay out in -- a way forward."
The White House plan to use $17 billion in TARP funds to provide short-term loans to automakers was greeting with cheers on Capitol Hill, and in the boardrooms of General Motors and Chrysler, the two companies who will split the cash. But the UAW isn't cheering, and neither should American workers, including in the South, because at the end of the Republican rainbow is plan to not just bust the United Auto Worker union, and paralyze it politically, but also, and more important to conservatives, a plan to break the middle class wage itself, for workers north ... and south. You see, the Bush plan calls on the union to accept wages comparable to those paid by foreign automakers, located down South. But what is it that those automakers really want? They want to pay workers what's called a "prevailing wage," and they want the UAW to be forced to do the same. Why? I'll explain in a moment. First, let's look at the specific terms of the White House rescue plan, which I'll add, needed to be passed, only I wish it hadn't been passed in this form. The details, courtesy of the White House website:
Terms And Conditions
The binding terms and conditions established by the Treasury will mirror those that were supported by a majority of both houses of Congress, including:
Firms must provide warrants for non-voting stock.
Firms must accept limits on executive compensation and eliminate perks such as corporate jets.
Debt owed to the government would be senior to other debts, to the extent permitted by law.
Firms must allow the government to examine their books and records.
Firms must report and the government has the power to block any large transactions (more than $100 million).
Firms must comply with applicable Federal fuel efficiency and emissions requirements.
Firms must not issue new dividends while they owe government debt.
The terms and conditions established by Treasury will include additional targets that were the subject of Congressional negotiations but did not come to a vote, including:
Reduce unsecured debt by two-thirds via a debt for equity exchange.
Make one-half of Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA) payments in the form of stock.
Eliminate the jobs bank.
Work rules that are competitive with transplant auto manufacturers by December 31, 2009.
Wages that are competitive with those of transplant auto manufacturers by December 31, 2009.
Sounds good, right? Limits on executive pay, scaling back on the corporate jets, and the federal government gets stock. Great. But look at the last two provisions again:
Work rules that are competitive with transplant auto manufacturers by December 31, 2009.
Wages that are competitive with those of transplant auto manufacturers by December 31, 2009. [Emphasis added]
What does that mean? Let's go to the Los Angeles Times, and an op-ed by Unite Here food service union president Bruce Raynor, which takes us back to last week's failed Senate vote on an auto bailout that looks suspiciously similar to what Bush announced today:
The foreign nonunion auto companies located in the South have a plan to reduce wages and benefits at their factories in the United States. And to do it, they need to destroy the United Auto Workers.
Last week, Senate Republicans from some Southern states went to work trying to do just that, on the foreign car companies' behalf. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Bob Corker ( R-Tenn.) and Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) -- representatives from states that subsidize companies such as Honda, Volkswagen, Toyota and Nissan -- first tried to force the UAW to take reductions in wages and benefits as a condition for supporting the auto industry bailout bill. When the UAW refused, those senators torpedoed the bill.
Again, these are American Senators, colluding with foreign auto companies, many of whom are so heavily subsidized by their home governments, they practically are part of those governments, to LOWER THE WAGES OF WORKERS IN THEIR OWN STATES, not just the workers in Detroit. The L.A. Times piece continues:
When one compares how the auto industry and the financial sector are being treated by Congress, the double standard is staggering. In the financial sector, employee compensation makes up a huge percentage of costs. According to the New York state comptroller, it accounted for more than 60% of 2007 revenues for the seven largest financial firms in New York.
At Goldman Sachs, for example, employee compensation made up 71% of total operating expenses in 2007. In the auto industry, by contrast, autoworker compensation makes up less than 10% of the cost of manufacturing a car. Hundreds of billions were given to the financial-services industry with barely a question about compensation; the auto bailout, however, was sunk on this issue alone.
UAW President Ron Gettelfinger realized that the existence of the union was under attack, which is why he refused to give in to the Senate Republicans' demands that the UAW make further concessions. I say "further" because the union has already conceded a lot. Its 2007 contract introduced a two-tier contract to pay new hires $15 an hour (instead of $28) with no defined pension plan and dramatic cuts to their health insurance. In addition, the UAW agreed that healthcare benefits for existing retirees would be transferred from the auto companies to an independent trust. With the transferring of the healthcare costs, the labor cost gap between the Big Three and the foreign transplants will be almost eliminated by the end of the current contracts.
These concessions go some distance toward leveling the playing field (retiree costs are still a factor for the Big Three). But what the foreign car companies want is to level -- which is to say, wipe out -- the union. They currently discourage their workforce from organizing by paying wages comparable to the Big Three's UAW contracts. In fact, Toyota's per-hour wages are actually above UAW wages.
However, an internal Toyota report, leaked to the Detroit Free Press last year, reveals that the company wants to slash $300 million out of its rising labor costs by 2011. The report indicated that Toyota no longer wants to "tie [itself] so closely to the U.S. auto industry." Instead, the company intends to benchmark the prevailing manufacturing wage in the state in which a plant is located. The Free Press reported that in Kentucky, where the company is headquartered, this wage is $12.64 an hour, according to federal labor statistics, less than half Toyota's $30-an-hour wage.
If the companies, with the support of their senators, can wipe out or greatly weaken the UAW, they will be free to implement their plan.
So you see, southerners, you've been had ... again. Your Senators want to crack your wages IN HALF, and make you take the pay cuts with a smile (you beat those dirty old unions, hooray! The South shall rise again...!)
But of course, a provision in the Bush plan makes that plan unlikely to succeed, at least not unless Hank Paulsen has a Jeb Bush style "devious plan" to crush the UAW by January 20th. The provision is married, paragraphically speaking, to an afterthought of the deal: making the other major stakeholders, besides labor, share the load:
These terms and conditions would be non-binding in the sense that negotiations can deviate from the quantitative targets above, providing that the firm reports the reasons for these deviations and makes the business case that it will achieve long-term viability in spite of the deviations. In addition, the firm will be required to conclude new agreements with its other major stakeholders, including dealers and suppliers, by March 31, 2009. [Emphasis added by the White House, not me]
The union can, and will, appeal the work rules and pay "targets" in an appeal to the Obama administration. And Barack Obama has done us the considerable favor of nominating a true friend of the labor movement, California Rep. Hilda Solis, to be his next labor secretary (witness the frothy-mouthed reaction of anti-unionites here), not to mention Bill Richardson, who will be heading the Commerce Department, and his in-coming financial team. Un-American mission (by the Dixie Axis of Corker, McConnell and Shelby, et.al.) not accomplished.
Throw a shoe at Dubya, get a parade. Well maybe not exactly a parade, but lots of support for sure, even from our supposed friends in the Middle East...
Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets to demand the release of a reporter who threw his shoes at President George Bush during a press conference.
Protesters hailed the journalist as a hero and praised his insult as a proper send-off to the US president.
Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who was kidnapped by Shiite militants last year, was being held by Iraqi security and interrogated about whether anybody paid him to throw his shoes at Bush during Sunday's press conference in Baghdad, said an Iraqi official. He was also being tested for alcohol and drugs, and his shoes were being held as evidence, said the official.
Showing the sole of your shoe to someone in the Arab world is a sign of extreme disrespect, and throwing your shoes is even worse.
Newspapers across the Arab world printed front-page photos of Bush ducking the flying shoes, and satellite TV stations repeatedly aired the incident, which provided fodder for jokes and was hailed by the president's many critics in the region.
"Iraq considers Sunday as the international day for shoes," said a joking text message circulating around the Saudi capital Riyadh.
Palestinian journalists in the West Bank town of Ramallah joked about who would be brave enough to toss their shoes at Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, another US official widely disliked in the region.
Many users of the popular internet networking site Facebook posted the video of the incident to their profile pages, showing al-Zeidi leap from his chair as Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki were about to shake hands and hurl his shoes at the president, who was about 20 feet away. Bush ducked the airborne footwear and was not injured in the incident.
"This is a farewell kiss, you dog," al-Zeidi yelled in Arabic as he threw his shoes. "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."
Sorry, but that "airborne footwear" bit is priceless. And I thought the Saudis were our pals! (eyes rolling...)
... from the New York Daily News. Not to be outdone by their bonus online headline: "Shoe-icide attack." How droll.
And now, seven of the top ten reasons the shoe in the face incident was "totally awesome"
1. Because before the shoe was even thrown by Iraqi reporter Muntadar al-Zaidi, George Bush went in for a straight-on fraternity-style handshake with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. 2. Because shoe-throwing (along with calling someone a dog, which al-Zaidi also did) is one of the most offensive insults an Iraqi Arab can hurl. After the fall of Baghdad, the United States government made much ado about those seemingly trumped-up videos of children throwing shoes at the fallen statue of Saddam Hussein. It's not awesome to see our president attacked, but it does neatly complete the circle, doesn't it? 3. Because al-Maliki totally tried to deflect the second shoe. 4. But he didn't try that hard. 5. Because George Bush was kind of laughing throughout the whole thing. 6. Because the other Iraqi reporters immediately jumped in to stop the shoe attacks. 7. But the Secret Service took their sweet, sweet time to take the guy down.
Read the other three reasons for yourself, right here on the New Yorker website.
Meanwhile, if Mr. Al-Zeidi, who is now a bonafide celebrity in the Muslim world, is harshly punished ... say, tortured... by Iraqi security forces, does that mean we really didn't change much in Iraq?
How much does it suck being George W. Bush right now?
You make a surprise trip to Baghdad to burnish your "legacy" and some Iraqi guy throws a shoe (or two) at you:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A man identified as an Iraqi journalist threw shoes at -- but missed -- President Bush during a news conference Sunday evening in Baghdad, where Bush was making a farewell visit.
Bush ducked, and the shoes, flung one at a time, sailed past his head during the news conference with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in his palace in the heavily fortified Green Zone.
The shoe-thrower -- identified as Muntadhar al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist with Egypt-based al-Baghdadia television network -- could be heard yelling in Arabic: "This is a farewell ... you dog!"
While pinned on the ground by security personnel, he screamed: "You killed the Iraqis!"
Al-Zaidi was dragged away. While al-Zaidi was still screaming in another room,Bush said: "That was a size 10 shoe he threw at me, you may want to know."
Hurling shoes at someone, or sitting so that the bottom of a shoe faces another person, is considered an insult among Muslims.
Yeah, I think it's pretty much an insult in any religious tradition... Now of course, it wouldn't be a proper CNN scoop without 4 minutes of commentary by our favorite Aussie, Michael Ware (he broke the story on CNN). And catch George W. Bush's explanation of the incident (spoiler alert! He says "so what if somebody threw a shoe at me???" Hilarious!) Watch:
You really can't make this stuff up!
Oh, and I wonder why an Arab journalist would have a problem with Dubya ... hm... could it be ... Abu Ghraib? up to 1 million Iraqis killed in the war? The illegality of the war itself? The suffering the Iraqi people continue to endure in the advent of war? 2 million Iraqi refugees? Torture at Guantanamo? Need I go on?
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) said it was "un-American" for senators to have voted against approving a bailout of troubled automakers last night, saying their vote may cause a recession to become a depression.
"It is unacceptable for this un-American, frankly, behavior of these U.S. senators to cause this country to go from a recession into a depression," Granholm said during a radio interview Friday morning.
Negotiations over an agreement to assist Michigan's Big Three stalled last night in a 52-35 vote on a procedural motion to bring up the package for a vote. Republicans largely opposed the bill after it failed to win concessions from the United Automotive Workers union on wages and benefits.
“It is such an unbelievable stab at workers across the country,” Granholm added. “You give this big bailout to these financial institutions–don’t ask a single question, they can do what they want–and then you lay the blame for the auto industry, which is a victim of this financial meltdown, on the backs of the people who are working on the line.”
Bottom line: there is a party of working men, and a party of capitalists, and the latter's mantra is "low prices, low wages, maximum profits."
UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said today that U.S. automobile companies are being put at a disadvantage by government in competing against Volkswagen’s new auto assembly plant in Chattanooga.
The union leader questioned why government leaders in Tennessee are willing to provide assistance to the German-based Volkswagen while the state’s U.S. senators declined to back a federal loan to help the Big Three U.S. car makers.
Mr. Gettelfinger said that trying to equalize UAW pay with what foreign car makers pay in the United States, as urged by U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., is like comparing apples to oranges. In its home country, Germany provides government-paid health care for Volkswagen workers, and VW is receiving $577.4 million in tax breaks and direct assistance from Tennessee governments to build an automobile plant in Chattanooga.
“They use taxpayer dollars to subsidize our competition,” Mr. Gettelfinger said during a news conference. “It doesn’t help our industry.”
The GOP has, officially I think, lost the Great Lakes region for at least a generation. Ohio included. Good luck being the party of the former Confederacy, boys.
ThinkProgress has the list of Senators who said "oh yeah!" to bailing out Wall Street bankers to the tune of $700 billion, but who couldn't find it in their little coal colored hearts to help the American auto industry. Here they are:
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) Sen. Kay Hutchison (R-TX) Sen. John Isakson (R-GA) Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) Sen. John Thune (R-SD)
There were another 10 Senators who voted for the TARP but were absent for last night's vote on the automakers:
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) Sen.Ted Stevens (R-AK) Sen. John Sununu (R-NH)
Some had better excuses than others for not being around:
iden was tending to transition duties, while Kerry was in Poznan, Poland, participating in U.N. climate change talks. Alexander was home recovering from surgery. Why did these other Senators feel auto workers weren’t as deserving as Wall Street? We’d like to know.
The White House appears ready to step in to prevent General Motors and Chrysler from collapsing on George W. Bush's watch. From the WaPo:
The Bush administration said today it is willing to consider using funds from other sources to provide emergency aid to the nation's Big Three car companies following the Senate's rejection Thursday night of a congressional bailout plan.
The statement from White House spokeswoman Dana Perino marks a shift in tone for the administration, which has so far rejected the idea of using money from the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program or other sources under its control to help the auto industry survive. After the collapse of negotiations in Congress, however, the White House said all options are on the table to help keep the automakers in business. GM and Chrysler have said they are in critical need of help, while Ford's position is less dire.
"Under normal economic conditions we would prefer that markets determine the ultimate fate of private firms," the White House statement said. "However, given the current weakened state of the U.S. economy, we will consider other options if necessary -- including use of the TARP program -- to prevent a collapse of
"A precipitous collapse of this industry would have a severe impact on our economy, and it would be irresponsible to further weaken and destabilize our economy at this time," the statement said.
An official at the Treasury Department, which administers the TARP, said separately that the agency was "ready to prevent an imminent failure" of the auto companies, the Reuters wire service reported.
The reason for the urgency: suppliers to GM can't extend credit to the company so it can keep producing cars, so GM will have to ... stop producing cars. And the reason for that? The banks who received hundreds of billions of your tax dollars, refuses to lend the money out, including to the suppliers.
DETROIT -- Cash-starved General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC within weeks will be hit by $9 billion in bills for already-delivered auto parts, a tab they likely can't afford to pay without emergency government assistance.
Parts suppliers, hammered in recent months by a severe downturn in U.S. auto sales, face shortfalls of their own if the auto makers fail to pay.
The impending payments to suppliers, which in GM's case account for nearly half the cash the company had available at the end of the third quarter, present the most immediate threat to the auto makers as they plead for a lifeline from the Bush administration following the defeat of a $14 billion auto loan package late Thursday by the Senate.
Concerns are rising that parts manufacturers now could take steps to tighten payment terms, which would accelerate the cash burn that threatens the viability of the auto makers.
"We need to satisfy suppliers that there is going to be a tomorrow," United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger said Friday at a news conference.
"If suppliers believe they can't operate, what are they going to do? They aren't going to deliver the goods. If they don't deliver the goods, the plants go down," the UAW chief added.
The reality is that many of the suppliers are just as challenged as GM and Chrysler, which have said they need more than $10 billion in government assistance by year's end to avoid collapse. Just as the auto makers rely on their suppliers and the trade credit they provide, parts manufacturers have suppliers of their own.
Meanwhile, in one of those patented "strange bedfellows situations," the UAW is now putting its faith in President Bush, having been failed by a weak Senate majority leader, and a wicked bunch of Dixiecans whose goal, after all, was to crush the UAW.
UPDATE: Dubya has apparently been warned by George Voinovich that if he doesn't act, he'll be known as "George Herbert Hoover Bush," and apparently, the Dark Lord sent the same message to his party ...
In case you missed it: George W. Bush checks out on reality
Summary: George W. Bush wasn't even here when all that "economic collapse" stuff happened, don't look at him if you want to blame somebody for Iraq, he's never sad (sorry poor people, families of dead people and the rest of you suckers,) and boy, Air Force One is cool! Here's part one:
From the NYT this morning, a leak the president did not approve of:
The struggling auto industry was thrust into the middle of a political standoff between the White House and Democrats on Monday as President-elect Barack Obama urged President Bush in a meeting at the White House to support immediate emergency aid.
Mr. Bush indicated at the meeting that he might support some aid and a broader economic stimulus package if Mr. Obama and Congressional Democrats dropped their opposition to a free-trade agreement with Colombia, a measure for which Mr. Bush has long fought, people familiar with the discussion said.
The Bush administration, which has presided over a major intervention in the financial industry, has balked at allowing the automakers to tap into the $700 billion bailout fund, despite warnings last week that General Motors might not survive the year.
... Mr. Obama went into his post-election meeting with Mr. Bush on Monday primed to urge him to support emergency aid to the auto industry, advisers to Mr. Obama said. But Democrats also indicate that neither Mr. Obama nor Congressional leaders are inclined to concede the Colombia pact to Mr. Bush, and may decide to wait until Mr. Obama assumes power on Jan. 20.Separate from his differences with Mr. Bush, Mr. Obama has signaled to the automakers and the unions that his support for short-term aid now, and long-term assistance once he takes office, is contingent on their willingness to agree to transform their industry to make cleaner, more energy-efficient vehicles.
The question remains whether Detroit, which made its own bed, let's not forget, but which employs nearly 3 million Americans, can wait that long. General Motors stock price is wading into Radio One territory (well, it's not quite that bad, but shares did fall below $3...) and there's a good chance the shares might actually become worthless. And the ripple effect from auto industry layoffs is kicking retailers in the gut.
Meanwhile, back to that presidential pique: Drudge reports that Dubya ain't happy with the leaks about his meeting with the Big O (no word yet on how Laura did with his "good bride...")
Bush advisers view the leaks as an effort to undermine the president's remaining days in office.
"Senator Obama may not be familiar with a long-standing tradition of presidents holding their private conversations, private," a senior adviser explained to the DRUDGE REPORT.
Developing indeed. But it's not as if the White House didn't release its own information about the meeting, even if it was entirely benign and fluffy. And Bush's continued hawking of the Colombia free trade deal seems entirely out of step, while the nation's homeowners, employers and employees are facing an immediate crisis, which importing more coffee and bananas at low, low prices can't possibly solve. Kind of lets you know how we got here.
Sorry, wingers. Obama's approval rating is damned good going in. Your guy? Not so much...
PRINCETON, NJ -- Monday's White House meeting between President George W. Bush and President-elect Barack Obama presents a remarkable contrast between one of the least popular two-term presidents in modern times at the close of his administration, and one of the most popular candidates to win the presidency.
According to Gallup Poll Daily tracking from Nov. 6-8, only 27% of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing as president. This contrasts with the 70% of Americans holding a favorable view of Obama.
Meanwhile, consumer confidence is also up slightly following Obama's election.
WASHINGTON, Aug 17: The United States made it known on Sunday that it was not considering any proposal to grant political asylum to President Pervez Musharraf.
The announcement came from a person no less than the secretary of state who has the final say in such matters.
“That’s not an issue on the table,” said Condoleezza Rice when asked if the Bush administration was considering any proposal to grant political asylum to the embattled Pakistani leader.
“And I just want to keep our focus on what we must do with the democratic government of Pakistan,” she told Fox News on Sunday.
Asked if it would be in the best interest of Pakistan to have Gen (retd) Musharraf resign, Ms Rice said: “This is a matter for the Pakistanis to resolve.”
Her statement makes it obvious that the United States is no longer interested in a person who only recently was called an “indispensable ally” in the war on terror. The question of seeking a ‘safe haven’ for Mr Musharraf was raised by the US media after they concluded, almost unanimously, that his days were numbered and that his departure was only a matter of days, not weeks.
While discussing Mr Musharraf’s future, a leading American scholar of South Asian affairs noted that the Pakistani leader had “one redeeming feature.”
Unlike previous US-backed strongmen, such as Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines or the Shah of Iran, he was not a rich man, said Michael Krepon, a founding president of Washington’s Stimson Institute.
“Musharraf doesn’t have an estate in Hawaii or a mansion in Los Angeles. This complicates any potential exile,” he added. But even this “redeeming feature” does not endear Mr Musharraf to Washington where he is no longer seen as an “indispensable ally”, as Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte called him on Nov 7.
He is now seen as a “serious liability,” as a Western think-tank --- International Crisis Group --- pointed out recently.
In other words, thanks a lot, and good-bye. Message: stay out of the Bushes. When they're done with you, they're done with you.
Meanwhile, the Guardian runs down the key players in Musharraf's downfall.
And inquiring minds want to know: if Pakistani's sometime democracy can manage to reassert constitutional norms by impeaching its overreaching president, why can't WE?
How long has John McCain wanted, promoted and supported the invasion of Iraq? For ever, and ever, and ever, as the Jed Report helpfully reminds, in a video that's sure to become the basis of a Democratic campaign commercial or two (at least I hope so.) The video includes McCain statements on Iraq dating back to 2002, that the Iraqis would be grateful, that the war would be quick and easy, and that he was pleased with the Bush administration's execution of it. Watch:
My only criticism of the Jed video, which is excellent and comprehensive, by the by, is that it starts at 2002, rather than 1998, when McCain, along with Joe Lieberman, first began publicly spoiling for war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq, beginning a long, slow decline into almost Nixonian intransigence on the issue of ever, ever, leaving the battlefield. As the book, "The Man Who Pushed America to War," which chronicles the history and machinations of Iraqi con man Ahmad Chalabi points out:
- One of his key backers has been John McCain, who was one of the first patrons of Chalabi’s grand-sounding International Committee for a Free Iraq when it was founded in 1991. McCain was Chalabi’s favored candidate in the 2000 election since Chalabi knew that he would be able to free up the $97 million in military aid plus millions pushed through in Congress and earmarked for Chalabi’s exile group, the Iraqi National Congress, but held up by the Clinton State Department.
And hopefully, before election time, more Americans will get to know John McCain's "war cabinet," which consists of all the Iraq-Iran obsessed neocons formerly tossed onto the scrap heap of history, but scraped from the pavement by Team McCain.
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. |
Despite all of the kudos from the TV punditocracy, George W. Bush's massive capitulation on North Korea -- which included walking back from demands that Pyongyang detail just what nuclear weapons it has, and to whom it has sold its weapons technology, in exchange for a generalized accounting of NK's uranium, and additional details to be provided later (whenever that is,) was a pretty shocking turn-back from the cowboy diplomacy that brought us the Iraq War. (That the Bush administration's soft shoe was a punk move actually brings parts of the left, myself included, into agreement with, of all people, John Bolton...)
But it may not be as out of character as it seemed. Bush has shown a surprising willingness to bend to the wishes of China, and to accommodate the Communist government, on trade, on Taiwan, on China's mad scramble for often blood-soaked African oil, including in the Sudan, on the North Korea deal (which is really China's deal, which Russia co-piloted and the other four parties simply gave in to,) and on Tibet, which China continues to oppress, a fact that has given rise to several world leaders' principled decision to skip the opening ceremonies of the poorly placed 2008 Summer Olympic Games. Bush's give-and-go on China has shined an unpleasant spotlight on his dogged determination to show up at the opening ceremonies, something he was forced to defend at a G8 summit press conference today in Tokyo (standing alongside Japan's Prime Minister, Yasuo Fukuda (who also capitulated on NK, without getting something his country dearly wanted -- answers on abducted Japanese soldiers thought to have been taken by the North Koreans during the 1970s and '80s. Fukuda plans to go to the opening ceremonies, too.) (Photo at left by Reuters)
At a news conference with Fukuda, Bush defended his decision to attend the Olympics opening ceremonies Aug. 8. Among the leaders who plan to skip that event are British Minister Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is considering not attending.
China's role as host has focused attention on its human rights record and the security crackdown in Tibet; some U.S. conservatives have criticized Bush for planning to go to the opening ceremonies.
"The Chinese people are watching very carefully about the decisions by world leaders and I happen to believe that not going to the opening ceremony for the games would be an affront to the Chinese people, which may make it more difficult to be able to speak frankly with the Chinese leadership," the president said.
It's tempting, since Dubya is such a sports buff, to figure he's just going because it's a chance to get out of the White House, where schedulers mostly are booking him at children's parties these days, and go see some sports! But I suspect there's more to it than that, and that sucking up to China, for reasons perhaps to be explained later, is at least part of the calculation.
Bush's tendency to back down where China is concerned has been in evidence from the day he took office. Remember in the days before 9/11 spun the wheels of the constitutional spokes? What was Bush's first presidential crisis? It happened in April 2001:
A U.S. reconnaissance plane made an emergency landing in China on Sunday after colliding with a Chinese fighter sent to intercept it.
U.S. officials said the EP-3 Aries II, a U.S. Navy electronic surveillance aircraft, was on a routine mission over international waters off China when the collision occurred about 9:15 a.m. (8:15 p.m. Saturday EST). The damaged spy plane landed on the Chinese island of Hainan, about 400 miles (640 kilometers) southwest of Hong Kong, and none of its crew of 24 was injured.
Chinese state television said the F-8 fighter jet involved in the collision crashed into the South China Sea off Hainan, and its pilot was missing. The collision appeared accidental, said Air Force Lt. Col. Dewey Ford, a spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii.
... The incident comes at a time when relations between Washington and Beijing are strained over issues such as human rights and U.S. support for Taiwan.
The EP-3 is a sensitive surveillance aircraft that aviation experts say is capable of monitoring electronic communications and aircraft movements inside the Chinese mainland from points offshore.
Bush wound up kowtowing to Beijing, which had demanded an apology, by instead issuing a face-saving, but still contrite, statement of regret, which was greeted by Beijing with a "thanks, but not enough," as they continued to refuse to release the American crew. Meanwhile, Chinese editorials (in papers that are official organs of the government) blasted away at the U.S. human rights record, and at America in general, while Americans waited for resolution. One piece, in the Hong Kong Economic Times, dated April 5, 2001, stands out:
"Beijing Waits At Ease For An Exhausted Enemy"
"This incident gives China a great opportunity, turning the nation from a passive position to an active one. China's leaders can take this opportunity to test how strong the new Bush administration is.... China can clearly see whether its rival is strong and powerful, or externally strong but internally weak. Then China can lay down its strategy of how to deal with the Bush administration in the next four years. In conclusion, it can be seen from how China is handling this incident that it does not intend to let tensions escalate, nor does it want to damage Sino-U.S. relations. Since it has the bargaining chip, China can test the ability of the Bush administration to resolve this crisis. China is therefore not anxious to settle the incident."
Indeed, the Bush administration was tested, and China has pretty much known how to deal with Dubya ever since. The American pilots were released after an 11-day stand-off.
Fast-forward to September 2006, when Bush was again faced with a China problem:
China has fired high-power lasers at U.S. spy satellites flying over its territory in what experts see as a test of Chinese ability to blind the spacecraft, according to sources.
It remains unclear how many times the ground-based laser was tested against U.S. spacecraft or whether it was successful. But the combination of China's efforts and advances in Russian satellite jamming capabilities illustrate vulnerabilities to the U.S. space network are at the core of U.S. Air Force plans to develop new space architectures and highly classified systems, according to sources.
The blogger who "snipped" that clip, Afarensis, adds a bit more from Defense News:
Pentagon officials, however, have kept quiet regarding China's efforts as part of a Bush administration policy to keep from angering Beijing, which is a leading U.S. trading partnerand seen as key to dealing with onerous states like North Korea and Iran. Even the Pentagon's recent China report failed to mention Beijing's efforts to blind U.S. reconnaissance satellites. Rather, after a contentious debate, the White House directed the Pentagon to limit its concern to one line. In that one line, the report merely acknowledges China has the ability to blind U.S. satellites, thanks to a powerful ground-based laser capable of firing a beam of light at an optical reconnaissance satellite to keep it from taking pictures as it passes overhead. According to top officials, however, China not only has the capability, but has exercised it. It is not clear when China first used lasers to attack American satellites. Sources would only say that there have been several tests over the past several years.
... Wynne stressed that what's at stake isn't merely U.S. military superiority, but the fate of global commerce because signals from Air Force GPS satellites are critical to everything from airline and maritime commerce to car navigation systems.
It does beg the question, what is it with Bush and China?
As ThinkProgress points out, the call is a flip-flop for Dubya, too -- he opposed offshore drilling when he ran for president on a "humble" America platform back in 2000. Now, Bush II is calling for drilling in so-called "deep water" wells, and he calls such drilling environmentally friendly, to boot! Bush and his friends on the right see an opening with ordinary Americans, whereby skyrocketing gas prices -- which were produced by the oil companies themselves, and by Bush's other close friends: Wall Street speculators -- could break down Americans' resistance to handing over our coastlines and Alaskan wilderness to Big Oil; something they have sought for decades. The hostage-taking aspect of this scenario (we're going to raise your gas prices to the point of recession unless you hand over the leases) is lost on many cable TV pundits, but not on those of us who have been in the business of reporting crime...
Meanwhile, the new right wing talking point: gas prices are high because the Democrats won't let the oil companies drill here at home, has taken hold across the wingerweb, (though even Michelle Malkin has noted Johnny Mac's flip-floppery) and within the McFlip campaign itself, so much so that he has converted former opponents among Florida's elected Republicans, at least one of whom apparently hopes to be paid for his apostasy in vice presidential chits...
So if the righties are right, how do they explain the fact that not since the Teapot Dome scandals of the early 20th century has the federal government opened so much American land to an oil industry that accepts billions of dollars in federal subsidies, but refuses to drill on that land? Check this out: According to a study by the Environmental Working Group a couple of years ago...
The federal government has offered 229 million acres of public and private land in 12 western states for oil and gas drilling, an area greater than the combined size of Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, according to an EWG analysis of land use records maintained by the federal government from 1982 to the present. This acreage represents the sum of total land actively leased in 1982 and land newly offered from 1982 through 2004.
Despite access to more than 200 million acres of public land over the past 15 years (1989-2003), the oil and gas industry has produced enough energy from this land to satisfy only 53 days of U.S. oil consumption and 221 days of natural gas consumption, according to EWG's analysis of well-by-well oil and gas production records obtained August 16 2004 via a Freedom of Information Act Request. This rate of production amounts to an average of 3.6 days per year of oil and 14.8 days per year of natural gas (MMS 2004, EIA Petroleum Review 2004, EIA Natural Gas Review 2004).
As these small production figures suggest, drilling on federal lands in the West has done nothing to reduce our dependence on foreign energy. In fact, since 1982, our dependence on foreign oil has doubled and our dependence on foreign natural gas has tripled (EIA Petroleum Review 2004, EIA Natural Gas Review 2004). A recent government estimate found that the five most oil- and gas-rich basins in the western U.S. contain about a 280-day supply of oil and an 8-year supply of natural gas at current rates of consumption -- an analysis that likely overstates the amount of energy that is economically available (Energy Inventory 2003).
Despite the relatively small amounts of energy in the West, the Bush administration has removed barriers to drilling on a net 45 million acres in 12 western states and has lifted environmental protections and emphasized drilling on lands already open to oil and gas development.
Again, we're talking about 229 MILLION acres leased to the oil companies since the Reagan administration. And how much of that land has the present Bush administration made available? 65 million acres, including more than 5 million acres located in national parks:
Bush Administration Removes Protections From 45 Million Acres in 12 Western States
Note: Numbers in green represent acres protected. Numbers in (red) inside parentheses represent land where protections against oil and gas drilling were removed.
This table lists major federal designations through which land potentially open to oil and gas was protected from drilling and land previously closed to oil and gas was opened to potential drilling during the past two administrations. A small portion of the land listed as protected in 1993-2000 was previously protected under other administrations.
And yet, the oil companies are producing almost nothing on that land. And when they do drill, they create more methane-rich, undrinkable, contaminated water than either oil or natural gas.
So what are the oil companies doing, if not drilling for oil? Well one thing they're not doing is building refineries. While the Saudis and the Dutch are putting up new refineries in Texas, our domestic companies all but refuse to do so, even as they go to their friends in Washington and blame insufficient refinery capacity for their giant profits ... I mean ... our high gas prices. The oil industry's lackeys on the Hill even push for legislation that allows Big Oil to build refineries only if they have a guarantee of never being sued for any environmental damage they might cause. Even with the help of their Republican friends, U.S. oil companies have broken ground on exactly one oil refinery in 30 years. Not that they need them. American oil companies today exist to reap record profits from speculation-driven, overpriced oil from foreign countries, and they have zero incentive to pump more oil at home.
Why? Just to be fair and balanced, let's go to the right for the answer, specifically, the CATO Institute:
The case for oil subsidies is laughably thin. Proponents argue that the more you subsidize oil production, the more oil you'll get, and that, after all, is a good thing for consumers when gasoline prices are around $2.25 a gallon. Unfortunately, there's simply not enough unexploited oil in the United States that might be exploited as a consequence of those subsidies to greatly affect world crude oil prices. Tufts economist Gilbert Metcalf, for instance, demonstrates that even if domestic production subsidies were worth 10 percent of the current price of oil (and they are worth no more than about 3 percent today), the increased production that might result would only reduce oil prices by 0.4 percent. Even if reducing foreign oil dependence is the main objective, Metcalf shows that domestic production would only increase by a trivial 0.2 percent were domestic subsidies to increase threefold-above current levels.
Some on the Right, of course, would argue that any taxation of corporate activity is counterproductive in that it unfairly taxes earnings twice (once when booked by corporate accountants and then again when those earnings are disbursed to stockholders). From this perspective, tax breaks simply allow companies to keep what is best left to them in the first place and should not be thought of as a subsidy. A variation of this argument holds that the less government takes in the better, so all tax breaks (and tax cuts, for that matter) are worth embracing.
While there is something to be said for both arguments, they ignore the fact that targeted tax breaks and preferences distort the economy by making some investments artificially more attractive than others. The end result is that some sectors are starved of funds while other sectors are awash with more money than they can efficiently use...
But apparently, not more than they can possibly covet.
As Ed said, Dennis Kucinich read his 35 Articles of Impeachment into the Congressional record yesterday evening, and now awaits a brave majority of House members to come forward so that hearings on the Bush administration's possible high crimes and misdemeanors can begin. Bob Wexler wants hearings, but few other members, including Democrats, seem eager to rehash the administration's crimes, none of which could have been committed without the obsequious obeisance of Congress...
Impeachment is the sole remedy provided by the Constitution to check the presidency when it gets out of control. For Democrats, including Mother Nancy, to take it off the table without digging into the facts is unpardonable.
ARTICLE I.--CREATING A SECRET PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN TO MANUFACTURE A FALSE CASE... Page: H5089 ARTICLE II.--FALSELY, SYSTEMATICALLY, AND WITH CRIMINAL INTENT CONFLATING THE... Page: H5090 ARTICLE III.--MISLEADING THE AMERICAN PEOPLE AND MEMBERS OF CONGRESS TO BELIEVE... Page: H5091 ARTICLE IV.--MISLEADING THE AMERICAN PEOPLE AND MEMBERS OF CONGRESS TO BELIEVE... Page: H5092 ARTICLE V.--ILLEGALLY MISSPENDING FUNDS TO SECRETLY BEGIN A WAR OF AGGRESSION ARTICLE VI.--INVADING IRAQ IN VIOLATION OF THE REQUIREMENTS OF H.J. RES. 114. Page: H5093 (A) Information provided with Article I, II, III, IV and V. ARTICLE VII.--INVADING IRAQ ABSENT A DECLARATION OF WAR ARTICLE VIII.--INVADING IRAQ, A SOVEREIGN NATION, IN VIOLATION OF THE UN... ARTICLE IX.--FAILING TO PROVIDE TROOPS WITH BODY ARMOR AND VEHICLE ARMOR ARTICLE X.--FALSIFYING ACCOUNTS OF U.S. TROOP DEATHS AND INJURIES FOR POLITICAL... ARTICLE XI.--ESTABLISHMENT OF PERMANENT U.S. MILITARY BASES IN IRAQ ARTICLE XII.--INITIATING A WAR AGAINST IRAQ FOR CONTROL OF THAT NATION'S... Page: H5095 ARTICLE XIII.--CREATING A SECRET TASK FORCE TO DEVELOP ENERGY AND MILITARY... ARTICLE XIV.--MISPRISION OF A FELONY, MISUSE AND EXPOSURE OF CLASSIFIED... ARTICLE XV.--PROVIDING IMMUNITY FROM PROSECUTION FOR CRIMINAL CONTRACTORS IN... Page: H5096 ARTICLE XVI.--RECKLESS MISSPENDING AND WASTE OF US TAX DOLLARS IN CONNECTION... Page: H5097 ARTICLE XVII.--ILLEGAL DETENTION: DETAINING INDEFINITELY AND WITHOUT CHARGE... ARTICLE XVIII.--TORTURE: SECRETLY AUTHORIZING, AND ENCOURAGING THE USE OF... Page: H5098 ARTICLE XIX.--RENDITION: KIDNAPPING PEOPLE AND TAKING THEM AGAINST THEIR WILL... ARTICLE XX.--IMPRISONING CHILDREN Page: H5099 ARTICLE XXI.--MISLEADING CONGRESS AND THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ABOUT THREATS FROM... ARTICLE XXII--CREATING SECRET LAWS Page: H5100 ARTICLE XXIII--VIOLATION OF THE POSSE COMITATUS ACT ARTICLE XXIV.--SPYING ON AMERICAN CITIZENS, WITHOUT A COURT-ORDERED WARRANT, IN... Page: H5101 ARTICLE XXV.--DIRECTING TELECOMMUNICATIONS COMPANIES TO CREATE AN ILLEGAL AND... Page: H5102 ARTICLE XXVI.--ANNOUNCING THE INTENT TO VIOLATE LAWS WITH SIGNING STATEMENTS,... ARTICLE XXVII.--FAILING TO COMPLY WITH CONGRESSIONAL SUBPOENAS AND INSTRUCTING... ARTICLE XXVIII.--TAMPERING WITH FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS, CORRUPTION OF THE... Page: H5103 ARTICLE XXIX.--CONSPIRACY TO VIOLATE THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT OF 1965 Page: H5104 ARTICLE XXX.--MISLEADING CONGRESS AND THE AMERICAN PEOPLE IN AN ATTEMPT TO... ARTICLE XXXI.--KATRINA: FAILURE TO PLAN FOR THE PREDICTED DISASTER OF HURRICANE... Page: H5105 ARTICLE XXXII.--MISLEADING CONGRESS AND THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, SYSTEMATICALLY... Page: H5106 ARTICLE XXXIII.--REPEATEDLY IGNORED AND FAILED TO RESPOND TO HIGH LEVEL... ARTICLE XXXIV.--OBSTRUCTION OF INVESTIGATION INTO THE ATTACKS OF SEPTEMBER 11,... Page: H5107 ARTICLE XXXV.--ENDANGERING THE HEALTH OF 9/11 FIRST RESPONDERS
George W. Bush will leave office next January, having somehow survived being impeached for his administration's pre-war lies, doctored intelligence, Iraq war bungling, war profiteering, propaganda campaigns, domestic spying regimes and politicization of the federal judiciary, not to mention escaping electoral retribution for his crowd's denuding of the treasury, post-disaster bungling, regulation stripping, profligate spending and general mismanagement of the federal government.
So, Dubya's headed to Europe, to try and find some love.
The leading German news source, Der Spiegel, reports that “senior politicians from Merkel’s ruling grand coalition as well as from opposition parties have done away with diplomatic niceties, seizing on Bush’s farewell visit to express their aversion to the president who remains vilified in Germany for launching the Iraq war”:
– Hans-Ulrich Klose, foreign policy expert for the center-left Social Democrats and deputy chairman of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said: “One really can’t say George W. Bush made the world a better place. On the contrary: His actions played a big part in damaging America’s image around the world.”
– Guido Westerwelle, the head of the business-friendly Free Democratic Party, said: “The Bush era was not a good one — neither for America nor for those who see themselves as friends of America.” … The Iraq war weakened the UN, he said, adding that the Guantanamo Bay detention camp was a “disgrace to all the values that America, of all countries, stands for.”
– Jürgen Trittin, a senior member of the opposition Green Party, said Bush “definitely made the world worse.”
Hell, maybe he should skip Europe altogether. After all, they consider America a "force for evil" under his management.
When he's ready to come home, George might want to skip reading newspapers, magazines, or anything where his presidency might come up... He won't like what he reads:
As the door begins to close on his tenure, Bush is increasingly drawing on selected events of the past to argue that history will vindicate him on Iraq, terrorism, trade and other controversial issues.
Historical analogies have become a staple of Bush speeches and interviews this year, whether he is addressing regional leaders in Egypt or talking to workers at an office park in suburban St. Louis. Bush will continue this historical focus in a visit to Europe this week, where he will commemorate the Berlin Airlift in Germany and deliver a speech in Paris marking the 60th anniversary of the Marshall Plan.
White House aides say Bush, who majored in history at Yale, likes to emphasize historical comparisons because they are easy for the public to understand and illustrate in dramatic fashion how differently future generations may come to view him.
Unfortunately for the president, many historians have already reached a conclusion. In an informal survey of scholars this spring, just two out of 109 historians said Bush would be judged a success; a majority deemed him the "worst president ever."
"It's all he has left," said Millsaps College history professor Robert S. McElvaine, who conducted the survey for the History News Network of George Mason University. "When your approval ratings are down around 20 to 28 percent and the candidate of your own party is trying to hide from being seen with you, history is your only hope." ...
Bush MAJORED IN SOMETHING at Yale? Geez, I thought he just did bong hits and cheerleaded...
Anyhoo, countdown to the Bush-McCain reference, in three... two... one...
Many historians accuse Bush of cherry-picking history to bolster his arguments, in what the late author David Halberstam last year called a "history rummage sale."
One controversial example emerged during a speech at the Israeli parliament on May 15, when Bush compared talking with "terrorists and radicals," including Iran, to the appeasement of Nazis before World War II.
The reference was widely seen as an attack on Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) -- who has said that if elected president, he would talk with Iran's leaders -- although the White House said that was not Bush's intent. Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the presumptive GOP nominee, seized on Bush's words to attack Obama.
Oh, Johnny Mac didn't need that. Let's go to something sunnier ... say, Bush as Harry Truman:
Some historians are particularly critical of Bush's frequent references to Truman, who had an even lower approval rating than Bush amid opposition to the Korean War. They say Truman's place in history is elevated by his roles in leading the victory in World War II, creating institutions such as the United Nations and implementing the Marshall Plan, which helped rebuild Europe.
"The only connection between Harry Truman and George Bush is that they left office with low opinion numbers," said historian Douglas Brinkley of Rice University. "That's a very thin reed."
http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifThe New York Times, which it should be said, supported, promoted, and through its former reporter, Judith Miller, laid the groundwork for the war in Iraq, delivers a stinging rebuke of President Bush and his opposition to a new G.I. Bill:
President Bush opposes a new G.I. Bill of Rights. He worries that if the traditional path to college for service members since World War II is improved and expanded for the post-9/11 generation, too many people will take it.
He is wrong, but at least he is consistent. Having saddled the military with a botched, unwinnable war, having squandered soldiers’ lives and failed them in so many ways, the commander in chief now resists giving the troops a chance at better futures out of uniform. He does this on the ground that the bill is too generous and may discourage re-enlistment, further weakening the military he has done so much to break.
So lavish with other people’s sacrifices, so reckless in pouring the national treasure into the sandy pit of Iraq, Mr. Bush remains as cheap as ever when it comes to helping people at home.
Thankfully, the new G.I. Bill has strong bipartisan support in Congress. The House passed it by a veto-proof margin this month, and last week the Senate followed suit, approving it as part of a military financing bill for Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Senate version was drafted by two Vietnam veterans, Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia, and Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska. They argue that benefits paid under the existing G.I. Bill have fallen far behind the rising costs of college.
Their bill would pay full tuition and other expenses at a four-year public university for veterans who served in the military for at least three years since 9/11.
At that level, the new G.I. Bill would be as generous as the one enacted for the veterans of World War II, which soon became known as one of the most successful benefits programs — one of the soundest investments in human potential — in the nation’s history.
Mr. Bush — and, to his great discredit, Senator John McCain — have argued against a better G.I. Bill, for the worst reasons. They would prefer that college benefits for service members remain just mediocre enough that people in uniform are more likely to stay put.
They have seized on a prediction by the Congressional Budget Office that new, better benefits would decrease re-enlistments by 16 percent, which sounds ominous if you are trying — as Mr. Bush and Mr. McCain are — to defend a never-ending war at a time when extended tours of duty have sapped morale and strained recruiting to the breaking point.
Their reasoning is flawed since the C.B.O. has also predicted that the bill would offset the re-enlistment decline by increasing new recruits — by 16 percent. The chance of a real shot at a college education turns out to be as strong a lure as ever. This is good news for our punishingly overburdened volunteer army, which needs all the smart, ambitious strivers it can get.
This page strongly supports a larger, sturdier military. It opposes throwing ever more money at the Pentagon for defense programs that are wasteful and poorly conceived. But as a long-term investment in human capital, in education and job training, there is no good argument against an expanded, generous G.I. Bill.
By threatening to veto it, Mr. Bush is showing great consistency of misjudgment. Congress should forcefully show how wrong he is by overriding his opposition and spending the money — an estimated $52 billion over 10 years, a tiniest fraction of the ongoing cost of Mr. Bush’s Iraq misadventure.
In today's editorial, "Mr. Bush and the GI Bill", the New York Times irresponsibly distorts President Bush's strong commitment to strengthening and expanding support for America's service members and their families.
This editorial could not be farther from the truth about the President's record of leadership on this issue. In his January 2008 State of the Union Address, while proposing a series of initiatives to support our military families, President Bush specifically called upon Congress to answer service members' request that they be able to transfer their GI Bill benefits to their spouses and children. In April, he sent a legislative package to the Hill that would expand access to childcare, create new authorities to appoint qualified spouses into civil service jobs, provide education opportunities and job training for military spouses, and allow our troops to transfer their unused education benefits to their spouses or children.
As Congress debates the best way to expand the existing GI Bill, Secretary Gates has laid out important guidelines to ensure that legislation meets our service members' needs and rewards military service. First, since our servicemen and women have regularly requested the ability to transfer their GI bill benefits to their family members, legislation should include transferability. Second, legislation should provide greater rewards for continued military service in the all volunteer force.
There are several GI bill proposals under consideration in both the House and Senate. The Department of Defense has specific concerns about legislation sponsored by Senator Webb because it lacks transferability and could negatively impact military retention.
The President specifically supports the GI Bill legislation expansion proposed by Senators Graham, Burr, and McCain because it allows for the transferability of education benefits and calibrates an increase in education benefits to time in the service. ...
To which Jim Webb, Chuck Hagel and the members of the U.S. armed forces should rightly say, "whatever."
Congrats again to Webb, Hagel, the IAVA and others on pushing the G.I. Bill through. And Happy Memorial Day.
Barack Obama took on an unpopular president, and won, and thanks to John McCain and George W. Bush's combined stupidity, he was able to lash the two men together in history, and elevate himself to the presidential pillar.
Confronting a major challenge to his world view, Mr. Obama tried to turn the tables on his critics, saying they were guilty of “bluster” and “dishonest, divisive” tactics. He cited a litany of what he called foreign policy blunders by the Bush administration and accused Mr. McCain, the presumed Republican nominee, of “doubling down” on them.
“George Bush and John McCain have a lot to answer for,” Mr. Obama said at a midday forum here, listing the Iraq war, the strengthening of Iran and groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, Osama bin Laden’s being still at large and stalled diplomacy in other parts of the Middle East among their chief failings.
“If George Bush and John McCain want to have a debate about protecting the United States of America,” Mr. Obama said, “that is a debate I am happy to have any time, any place.”
His defiance and disdain for Mr. Bush’s record appeared to be a signal that he will push back against efforts to define him or his record as weak on terror or accommodating to foreign foes, a strategy Republicans used successfully against Senator John Kerry in 2004.
The appearance also signaled that the campaigns are pivoting swiftly toward the general election, with the two sides already in full attack mode.
Consistently throughout his comments about foreign policy, Mr. Obama yoked Mr. Bush and Mr. McCain as one entity, mentioning their names in the same sentence 10 times in barely 10 minutes. He portrayed them as being not only inflexible, but also “naïve and irresponsible,” the characteristics they ascribe to him.
The remarks were made a day after Mr. Bush, addressing the Israeli Parliament, spoke of what he called a tendency toward “appeasement” in some quarters of the West, similar to that shown to the Nazis before the invasion of Poland.
Mr. Bush also said he rejected negotiations with “terrorists and radicals,” implying that Democrats favored such a position. Mr. Obama said he found the remarks offensive.
“After almost eight years, I did not think I could be surprised by anything that George Bush says,” Mr. Obama said, criticizing Mr. Bush for raising an internal issue on foreign soil. “But I was wrong.”
Mr. McCain endorsed Mr. Bush’s remarks, saying, “The president is exactly right,” and adding that Mr. Obama “needs to explain why he is willing to sit down and talk” with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran.
Mr. Obama at first joked that he wanted to respond to “a little foreign policy dustup yesterday.” But he quickly made it clear that he regarded the exchange as anything but funny, criticizing Mr. Bush and saying Mr. McCain “still hasn’t spelled out one substantial way in which he’d be different from George Bush’s foreign policy.”
“In the Bush-McCain world view, everyone who disagrees with their failed Iran policy is an appeaser,” Mr. Obama said.
Mr. McCain’s campaign answered quickly and sharply on Friday. A spokesman, Tucker Bounds, called the remarks a “hysterical diatribe in response to a speech in which his name wasn’t even mentioned.” ...
So the best they've got is "hey, he wasn't even talking about you!"
Talk about appeasement. George W. Bush gave Osama bin Laden what he was demanding when he pulled U.S. troops out of Saudi Arabia after 9/11. Now, he goes with hat in hand to the Saudis, who supposedly adore him, to plead for higher oil production in order to deflate gas prices before the summertime drive pushes his approval ratings into the teens. So what do the Saudis say?
(CBS/AP) President Bush's second stab this year at getting oil-rich Saudi Arabia to increase production and drive down the soaring gasoline prices hurting U.S. consumers appears to have again failed.
Saudi Arabian leaders made clear Friday they see no reason to increase oil production until their customers demand it, apparently rebuffing Mr. Bush, the White House said.
During Mr. Bush's second personal appeal this year to King Abdullah, Saudi officials stuck to their position that they are already meeting demand, the president's national security adviser told reporters.
"What they're saying to us is ... Saudi Arabia does not have customers that are making requests for oil that they are not able to satisfy," Stephen Hadley said on a day when oil prices topped $127 a barrel, a record high.
Maybe he could give them part of Czechoslovakia...?
So who originally said the now infamous quote, "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided," used by George W. Bush to, in unprecedented fashion, to attack a political opponent and fellow American on foreign soil?
It was Senator William E. Borah, Conservative/isolationist Republican out of Ohio, and an opponent of U.S. entry into World War II, and he said it in 1939.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that Bush's remarks were "beneath the dignity of the office of the president and unworthy of our representation" at the celebration of Israel's 60th anniversary.
Referring to Sen. John McCain, Pelosi said: "I would hope that any serious person that aspires to lead the country, would disassociate themselves from those comments.”
As Pelosi was speaking, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel issued a statement in which he said: "The tradition has always been that when a U.S. president is overseas, partisan politics stops at the water's edge. President Bush has now taken that principle and turned it on its head: for this White House, partisan politics now begins at the water’s edge, no matter the seriousness and gravity of the occasion. Does the president have no shame?”
Speaking of the "promise of God" for a "homeland for the chosen people" in Israel, Bush told the Israeli parliament after a visit to the Roman-era Jewish fortress at Masada: "Masada shall never fall again, and America will always stand with you."
He predicted the defeat of Islamist enemies Hamas, Hezbollah and al Qaeda in a "battle of good and evil". ...
... Of the Palestinians, half of whom were pushed into exile to make way for the Jewish state, Bush said that, looking ahead another 60 years in the future, "the Palestinian people will have the homeland they have long dreamed of and deserved".
"SLAP IN THE FACE"
The president's language in Israel has dismayed Palestinians looking for the U.S. superpower to mediate in their negotiations with Israel. Islamist Hamas, which spurns such talks, said Bush sounded "like a priest or a rabbi" and had delivered a "slap in the face" to those Palestinians who placed their hopes in him.
... In a speech marking what Palestinians call the "Nakba", or catastrophe, when some 700,000 Arabs fled or were forced from their homes during Israel's foundation, President Mahmoud Abbas said: "Isn't it time for Israel to respond to the call of a just and comprehensive peace and achieve historic reconciliation between the two peoples on this sacred and tortured land?"
But Palestinian political analyst Ali Jarbawi said Bush's rhetoric showed Washington was not being an honest broker: "He is not talking about a two-state solution. He is talking about a state of leftovers for the Palestinians," Jarbawi said.
George W. Bush and the politicization of absolutely everything
Never in American history have we seen a sitting U.S. president go onto foreign soil and knee-cap a fellow American ... a sitting U.S. Senator, who could follow him into the presidency, at that. Then again, we've never had a president quite like George W. Bush. Speaking before Israel's Knesset today, Bush, having arrived in Israel this week to the tune of rocket fire, took a nakedly political swipe at Senator Barack Obama, essentially comparing his fellow American to an appeaser of Hitler:
JERUSALEM (CNN) – In a particularly sharp blast from halfway around the world, President Bush suggested Thursday that Sen. Barack Obama and other Democrats are in favor of "appeasement" of terrorists in the same way U.S. leaders appeased Nazis in the run-up to World War II.
"Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along," said Bush, in what White House aides privately acknowledged was a reference to calls by Obama and other Democrats for the U.S. president to sit down for talks with leaders like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"We have heard this foolish delusion before," Bush said in remarks to the Israeli Knesset. "As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American Senator declared: 'Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."
Full transcript here. Obama's communication team wasted no time firing back:
“Obviously this is an unprecedented political attack on foreign soil,” Obama Communications Director Robert Gibbs told CNN’s John Roberts on American Morning Thursday, adding that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had been quoted Wednesday making remarks about dialogue with Iran that were similar to the Illinois senator's.
“Let's not confuse precondition with preparation,” said Gibbs of any talks with Iran. “Obviously these meetings would be full of preparation. But we're not going to sit down and engage Iran, unless or until they give up their nuclear weapons program.
“It is unfortunate that an American president would fly halfway across the world and make a political attack instead of honoring the tremendous accomplishment and achievement of the 60th anniversary of the birth of Israel,” he added.
Obama's camp also released a statement, amplifying the point:
It is "sad" that Bush would use Israel's 60th anniversary "to launch a false political attack. George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists."
Meanwhile, the White House issues a rather flimsy denial that Bush's comments were directed at Obama:
"It is not," press secretary Dana Perino told reporters in Israel. "I would think that all of you who cover these issues and have for a long time have known that there are many who have suggested these types of negotiations with people that the president, President Bush, thinks that we should not talk to. I understand when you're running for office you sometimes think the world revolves around you. That is not always true. And it is not true in this case."
No thank you note yet from the McCain campaign for his buddy George's "help" with the Jewish vote. No reaction, either, from Reagan's ongoing dialogue with the Soviets or Nixon's visit to China.
Bush admits to knowledge of lawbreaking, Washington yawns
So George W. Bush has no problem admitting to ABC news' Martha Raddatz that not only did his top cabinet officials meet inside the White House to game out torture techniques, but also that he knew about the meetings, and approved. Two questions: why isn't Dubya ever allowed in the room when the big kids are talking, and did the president of the United States just admit to war crimes on a national television network?
Pope Benedict will make his first visit to the U.S. next week, and while he will meet with Bush at the outset, he apparently has declined an invitation to dinner:
The pontiff will be greeted by the president and first lady upon his arrival to the US Tuesday and participate in a Rose Garden appearance and Oval Office meeting with President Bush the next day. A dinner scheduled for later Wednesday night didn't make it onto the Benedict's schedule, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said Friday.
Q Just to clarify, for the pope's visit to the White House, you said that now there's a dinner in the East Room in honor of the pope? MR. STANZEL: Yes. Q Will the pope actually be attending that dinner? MR. STANZEL: I don't believe so, no. Q Okay. Thank you. [...] Q I'm sorry. The pope doesn't attend a dinner in his honor? MR. STANZEL: No. Q (Off mike.) MR. STANZEL: He doesn't come into the building. Q Well, then it's not a dinner for the pope, is it? MR. STANZEL: It's in honor of his visit. There will be leaders from the Catholic community from all over the country who are in town for that visit. Q Is there a reason the pope doesn't attend the dinner? MR. STANZEL: I don't know. I don't have the full extent of his schedule.
Benedict's schedule does not indicate any events that would conflict with his ability to attend the 7:30 p.m. dinner that Wednesday. He is just scheduled to return to the Vatican embassy in Washington at the same time after a meeting with US bishops at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.
Well ... I mean what would they talk about? I don't think the pope likes baseball...
It's unclear why the Pope won't be attending the dinner in his honor, but he is expected to touch on issues upon which he and President Bush disagree during the visit, especially the Iraq war.
During his visit to the United Nations a few days later, the Pope will address "the false notion that might makes right," according to a Vatican representative.
You mean, like torturing people to "protect the homeland...?" (such a Germany, circa 1939 term, homeland...) Oh, that wouldn't go over well...
Some experts also predict the Pope would criticize the "culture of fear" in the United States. The Rev. David Hollenbach, director of Boston College's Center for Human Rights, said recently that this culture is seen as integral to the US involvement in Iraq.
Forgive me if I don't get all exercised about President Bush giving his umpteenth speech on Iraq today. The fact of the matter is that mosts Americans, myself included, have long since tuned him out. Nothing he says could move me, or most of you. That said, there are two ways in which Bush's ongoing prattle about Iraq are in fact important:
1. George W. Bush intends to drag the Iraq war into the next president's term, and to achieve that goal, he is willing to destroy the United States military, and the men and women in it, without remorse. For the families of the men and women who will now be assured of yearlong deployments instead of 15 month deployments, implying that this war will drag on, for years, and for the troops themselves, that is disastrous, and more than important. It's everything.
2. Bush used his speech today to imply that before his term ends, he will give in to the ongoing neocon demand that he extend the war into Iran. Cheney clearly wants it, and his would-be successor, John McCain wants it so badly he can probably taste it. The danger is that Bush will make good on that threat, leaving us a nation waging three wars as we head into the November elections. What that will do to the election is anybody's guess. Maybe the American people really are dumb enough to fall for the same trick twice (three times if you count Vietnam.) Or maybe they will pull a Laos on Bush and reject his attempts to use his endless wars for politics, or to twist politics in order to ensure more financially lucrative war.
We need to watch those developments. Trust me when I tell you, the major media will not.
Keith Olbermann explained the speech, and exposed its many lies, much better than I could tonight, since I didn't watch it. When the Youtube is up, I'll post the link.
I haven't been a big fan of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Something about him just seems a bit ... well ... never mind (he does have a Jackie O wife (when she's dressed, of course...) a jilted ex a-la Ronald Reagan. (Seulement en France...) But has taken a strong, and I believe, correct stand on Chinese-hosted Summer Olympic Games, which may be well in need of an international boycott, even if just of the opening ceremonies.
Without a boycott by leaders of "A list" countries like France, the U.K., and, if we had a real leader with the slightest international stature, the United States, the world must just admit it fears Beijing, and cannot influence its horrific mistreatment of Tibet. Sarkozy can send such signals, because France, having sat out the Iraq fiasco, retains its stature in the international community. (Belgium's leaders have indicated they might boycott the opening ceremonies, too.)
Unfortunately, I'm not surprised that President Bush has already ceded the boycott trump card in his supposed "pressuring" of the Chinese government over Tibet, given the corporate nature of his presidency, and the utter dependence of the U.S. on our Chinese bankers. Oh, and Bush says he's a sports fan, so he's goin'! Well yee-haw. Our bumpkin president strikes again.
I was sitting in the newsroom at the local NBC affiliate on March 19, 2003, the day that "shock and awe" began in the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Like many newsrooms, the cynicism was such that the affiliates of the online news operation ran a pool to see who could come closest to guessing when the bombing would begin. I nearly won -- I guessed the night of March 18, because there was to be a full moon that night, and that presented the U.S. military with the best strategic chance to visualize the targets. I was the second closest guesser.
I found the atmosphere in the newsroom on the day the bombing actually began to be ... well ... disturbing. Some people actually cheered. I had a couple of reporter friends who were (and still are) hardline, pro-Bush Republicans. We had a lot of debates about the war over the next several days. I nearly got fired for an op-ed I wrote for the Miami Herald which the editors titled: "Against a Senseless War" (I had a less controversial title in mind...) I'll never forget Ike Seamans, the elder statesman in the newsroom and a veteran reporter who also wrote a column for the Herald, telling me not to back down; that I had every right to utilize my First Amendment privilege, news job or not. I didn't get fired.
Five years later, I still don't see how the war in Iraq was worth it. Saddam Hussein posed no military threat to the United States. He was contained. Iran was less bold. Al-Qaida was nowhere near Iraq. And Iraq was stable, and producing enough oil to keep price spikes at bay. Now, we have lost 3,990 U.S. troops, and the coalition has lost 4,298 in total. The war hasn't made us any safer. Iran is bolder. Terrorism has seeped into Iraq. The region is more unstable than it has been in my lifetime. And oil is at $108 a barrel (and nearly $5 at the pump.)
There have been winners. The Big Oil companies have reaped record profits, as have crony firms of the vice president, who have gorged themselves on our tax dollars, even as they short change and even poison our troops.
President Bush will give a speech today to argue that the war was not only worth it, it should go on, and on, and on.
I will mark the anniversary by not bothering to listen.
The U.S. commander in charge of the Middle East, Admiral William Fallon, "retired" today, following the publication of an important piece in Esquire magazine that cast him as the lone voice of reason, and the man standing between the U.S. (and its Nero-like president) and war with Iran. One of the fatal clips:
while Admiral Fallon's boss, President George W. Bush, regularly trash-talks his way to World War III and his administration casually casts Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as this century's Hitler (a crown it has awarded once before, to deadly effect), it's left to Fallon--and apparently Fallon alone--to argue that, as he told Al Jazeera last fall: "This constant drumbeat of conflict . . . is not helpful and not useful. I expect that there will be no war, and that is what we ought to be working for. We ought to try to do our utmost to create different conditions."
What America needs, Fallon says, is a "combination of strength and willingness to engage."
Those are fighting words to your average neocon--not to mention your average supporter of Israel, a good many of whom in Washington seem never to have served a minute in uniform. But utter those words for print and you can easily find yourself defending your indifference to "nuclear holocaust."
How does Fallon get away with so brazenly challenging his commander in chief?
The answer is that he might not get away with it for much longer. President Bush is not accustomed to a subordinate who speaks his mind as freely as Fallon does, and the president may have had enough.
Prophetic work. And farewell to a good soldier, and a good man. Here's the story as told by CNN, complete with the appropriate spin (no, Admiral Fallon is NOT at odds with the president. Nah...)
George W. Bush may want to pass on being Keith Olbermann's valentine. The MSNBC host (who today admitted a "deep and abiding affection for the Clintons" -- the right wing will have a field day with that one ...) called George W. Bush a liar, a fascist and a terrorist, all in one Special Comment -- and he called the Republicans in Congress crash test dummies. In short: I heart Olbermann. Enjoy.
Okay, now I've got a few, and none of them are in the Senate.
President Bush says he will veto any FISA reform bill that doesn't give immunity from lawsuits to the telecom companies who helped his administration illegally spy on Americans. (Placing the government's national security aparatus in the service of big business: priceless... using fearmongering to do it? Bush.) Well, go ahead, Dubya, delay that trip to Africa, veto the bill, see if anybody who matters cares.
On Thursday, February 14th, Valentine's Day 2008, finally someone had the balls to stand up to this maniac. From Wired News:
House Democrats Stand Up To Bush, Refuse to Rubber Stamp Domestic Spying
The Protect America Act, a temporary but expansive warrantless spying bill passed by Congress last summer, will likely expire Saturday at midnight, a casualty of a battle between President Bush and House Democrats over amnesty for phone companies that aided his secret, warrantless spying program and how much of that program should be legalized. The House leadership announced there will be no more votes before the long President's Day legislative break.
The bill's expiration is largely symbolic, but demonstrates that House Democrats are willing to fight Bush on anti-terrorism policies, where fear-mongering rhetoric had previously cowed their opposition.
Though Republicans charge that the expiration will endanger national security, no wiretaps or dragnets will be forced to stop and the government will retain longstanding surveillance powers.
Additionally, any broad domestic surveillance of emails and phone calls started under the expiring act can continue for another year, and new targets can be added such programs without getting a court order.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) laid the blame for expiration at the White House's door and said the House wanted extra time to protect Americans' rights.
"We are committed to protecting the American people and protecting the constitution," Pelosi said. "We will continue to work with the Senate to produce a [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] bill that does both."
The Protect America Act, passed in August last year, was a temporary measure enacted after a secret spying court ruled that the president's spying was illegal. That secret ruling came just months after Bush bowed to political pressure and submitted the program to the court more than a year after the New York Times exposed its existence.
On Wednesday, House Democrats attempted to pass a three-week extension to give it time to work out a compromise bill with the Senate. The Senate bill, passed by a wide, bi-partisan margin on Tuesday, is far more Administration- and telecom-friendly than the House's bill.
But Bush threatened to veto any extension to the temporary measure, a move clearly intended to push the House to adopt the Senate version verbatim. House Republicans, joined by conservative Democrats and a handful of anti-warrantless wiretapping liberal, voted down that extension Wednesday. ...
This comes after the Senate capitulated to the president, voting down Chris Dodd's attempt to strip telco immunity from its bill, and then approving a monstrosity of a FISA reform act that essentially gives this weakest of presidents -- this total lame duck -- everything he wants. How this guy can continue to run over Senate Democrats at this stage of his undress is beyond me. I'm starting to wonder if his domestic spying started, and perhaps ended, with Senate Democrats...
But the biggest theatrics of the day came from House Republicans, who threw a tantrum after their colleagues refused to kiss the backside of the president one more 'gain and walked out of the chamber (to waiting microphones, of course...) Someone get John Boehner a tissue...
That was essentially George W. Bush's answer to reporter's queries during a press conference today, regarding his foreknowledge of the destruction of those CIA torture tapes. This will sound familiar to Valerie Plame and her husband:
The president, fencing good-naturedly with reporters at a White House news conference, parried a question that suggested there was ambiguity in his earlier statements that he had no recollection about the existence or destruction of the tapes.
“It sounds pretty clear to me,” Mr. Bush said. “The first recollection is when Mike Hayden briefed me. That’s pretty clear.” Gen. Michael V. Hayden is the director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Nor would the president respond directly when asked whether he thought the C.I.A.’s 2005 destruction of the videotapes showing harsh questioning of two suspected terrorists was “the responsible thing to do.”
The president said he was confident that inquiries being started by Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, by the C.I.A.’s own inspector general’s office and in Congress “will end up enabling us all to find out what exactly happened.”
“And, therefore, over the course of these inquiries and oversight hearings, I’m going to reserve judgment until I find out the full facts,” Mr. Bush said. “I know I’m going to be asked about this question a lot as time goes by. I’m just going to prepare you. Until these inquiries are complete, until the oversight’s finished, then I will be rendering no opinion from podium.”
"There's a serious investigation," the president said. "I'm not going to prejudge the outcome of the investigation." He commented in response to reporters' questions during a meeting with Bulgaria's president, Georgi Parvanov. ...
Oh, it was Scooter??? Well I'll be damned! Okay, here's where Bush just gets downright embarrassing:
Only a few minutes went by at Thursday morning’s news conference before the subject of the tapes was raised again, this time by a questioner who asked the president whether he was concerned that the episode would raise “questions from people around the world” about how the United States treats terrorism suspects.
“You know, you’re trying to get me to prejudge the outcome of this inquiry,” Mr. Bush said. “Let’s wait and see what the facts are.”
As for America’s image in the world, Mr. Bush said, “I’m not surprised we get criticized on a variety of fronts. And you know, on the other hand, most people like to come to our country, and most people love what America stands for.
“And so, it’s like I said about the presidency,” Mr. Bush went on. “People in America, you know, like the presidency, and sometimes they like the president. Get it?”
Yeah, get it? What a shmuck. I wonder what that press conference would have sounded like in pre-war Iraq...?
So, Saddam, do you think that the disclosure that your government tortures people harms Iraq's image around the world?
"Well, infidel, people like to come to Iraq. This is where the Garden of Eden was, you know. ... and the Tower of Babel. People like that sort of thing. Get it?"
in·cred·i·ble /adjective 1. so extraordinary as to seem impossible: incredible speed. 2. not credible; hard to believe; unbelievable: The plot of the book is incredible.
Today, George W. Bush managed to hit both definitions out of the park.
In a morning news conference, he attempted to convince people who are not high or completely insane, that he only found out about a three-month old intelligence estimate telling HIM, and his administration, that Iran has no nukes, and hasn't even tried to develop nukes for four years ... last week. Here's Dubya sparring with NBC reporter David Gregory:
DAVID GREGORY: Mr. President, thank you. I'd like to follow on that. When you talked about Iraq, you and others in the administration talked about a mushroom cloud; then there were no WMD in Iraq. When it came to Iran, you said in October, on October 17th, you warned about the prospect of World War III, when months before you made that statement, this intelligence about them suspending their weapons program back in '03 had already come to light to this administration. So can't you be accused of hyping this threat? And don't you worry that that undermines U.S. credibility?
THE PRESIDENT: David, I don't want to contradict an august reporter such as yourself, but I was made aware of the NIE last week. In August, I think it was Mike McConnell came in and said, we have some new information. He didn't tell me what the information was; he did tell me it was going to take a while to analyze. Why would you take time to analyze new information? One, you want to make sure it's not disinformation. You want to make sure the piece of intelligence you have is real. And secondly, they want to make sure they understand the intelligence they gathered: If they think it's real, then what does it mean? And it wasn't until last week that I was briefed on the NIE that is now public.
NSA advisor Stephen Hadley backed Bush up on that ludicrous notion. in his own news conference, but no serious person can believe that the Director of National Intelligence went into the West Wing, warned the president that there was a major intelligence briefing coming down the pike, and the president didn't bother to ask ... "so what does it say?"
The neocons have been dusting off their plans for a brand new war, this time on Iran, for more than a year. And between Bush and Cheney, it's hard to tell which one wants to bomb Iran more desperately. Well I think it's growing increasingly clear that when he made that statement, either he, or his advisors, knew that there was no "if" -- because Iran wasn't seeking said weapons.
So is Bush chastened? Uh ... no. More from the presser:
Look, Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous, and Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. The NIE says that Iran had a hidden -- a covert nuclear weapons program. That's what it said. What's to say they couldn't start another covert nuclear weapons program? And the best way to ensure that the world is peaceful in the future is for the international community to continue to work together to say to the Iranians, we're going to isolate you. However, there is a better way forward for the Iranians.
Are you kidding me??? Iran is dangerous because "what's to say they won't start a weapons program sometime, who knows when?" What are they gonna do, kill us with bad intentions? ... Give us the evil eye?? ... Talk to us sternly???
Earth to Dubya: Iran is not a threat to us because of nuclear weapons! Just like Iraq wasn't! And Bush added that we tried diplomacy and Iran responsded by electing Ahmadinejad. Well, dubya, remember that long, rambling letter Ahmadinejad sent you, seeking negotiations? Hell, remember calling Iran a member of the "axis of evil" in January 2002??? Are you still on cocaine?????
I think they call this the "credibility gap."
An speaking of "incredible" ... you're not gonna believe the National Review's take on the Iran has no nukes revelation: in a nutshell, the Crazies are declaring Iraq a smashing success because apparently, the war in 2003 single-handedly stopped the Iran bomb. But aren't the guys at NRO the one's who've been braying about Iran's nuclear ambitions for the the last four years? Are they now prepared to admit that they've been dead wrong all the time? Hm?
The Bush administration cannot take military action against Iran during its remaining time in office, or credibly threaten to do so, unless it is in response to an extremely provocative Iranian action. A military strike against suspected Iranian nuclear facilities was always fraught with risk. For the Bush administration, that option is now gone.
Neither, however, will the administration make further progress in winning international support for tighter sanctions on Iran. Fear of American military action was always the primary reason Europeans pressured Tehran. Fear of an imminent Iranian bomb was secondary. Bringing Europeans together in support of serious sanctions was difficult before the NIE. Now it is impossible.
Leading the way is Michael Ledeen, a conservative scholar at the American Enterprise Institute with a long track record in the Iran policy area, from the Iran-contra affair in the Reagan administration to meetings with Iranian dissidents living abroad that surprised George Tenet, who was then the director of central intelligence, in 2002.
Mr. Ledeen’s first critique — published on his blog under the title “The Great Intelligence Scam” — dismissed the new intelligence estimate as “policy advocacy masquerading as serious intelligence.” The document is riddled with “blatant unprofessionalism,” he says...
The Democrats uniformly criticized Bush's rhetoric toward Iran, but former North Carolina senator John Edwards said Clinton's September vote for a resolution urging the administration to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization amounted to agreement with Bush's worldview on terrorism.
Clinton said her vote was aimed at encouraging diplomacy and deterring the administration from using military force against the Iranians. She sharply objected to Edwards's characterization of the vote.
"I understand politics, and I understand making outlandish political charges, but this really goes way too far," Clinton responded. "Having designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, we've actually seen some changes in their behavior."
Two days later, Chris Matthews is still spitting up about Hillary's supposed candidacy-killing mistake on driver's licenses for illegal immigrants in New York. Well ... tonight, Elliot Spitzer dismantled the Mattster on "Hardball," backing his defense of HIS -- not Hillary's, as Matthews said last night -- plan with endorsements from former terrorism czar Richard Clarke, members of the Bush cabinet, and the 9/11 Commission. Matthews was left all a-stutter.
Meanwhile, Matthews continued to try and press forward with his Clinton jihad, actually penning one of his new-fangled "advice columns" for Democratic candidates -- this one for Hillary herself! Matthew's suggestion: tell voters to ignore the fact that she's a woman, and that the attacks on her by other candidates are a good thing -- proves she's winning! In other words, Chris looks to justify his own call for more attacks on Hillary by suggesting that she wants it ... she really wants it ...
That could be the headline for the Democrats' election narrative this year and next, after the GOP president and his pesky little minions in Congress swatted down health coverage for millions of U.S. children last week. Bush's veto of the SCHIP expansion means that smokers won't have to worry about paying $0.61 more per pack for their carcinogens, but some 3.8 million kids between now and 2012 will have to go without health insurance. Funny that. Jon Stewart explains:
Here in Florida, the hunt for 15 Republican votes in the House to override Bush's veto is on and popping.
Healthcare veto could haunt GOP BY LESLEY CLARK President Bush's veto of a bill to expand a popular children's health program already is a focus for Democrats in Florida looking to score gains in the 2008 congressional election. Bush vetoed the measure this week, saying it wouldn't help the poorest kids and that it was a step toward nationalized healthcare.
But with Democrats, children's groups, unions and liberal advocates vowing to push for a veto override -- and vowing to run ads against Republicans who resist it -- the battle is likely to echo at the polls next November.
Already, activists have held rallies outside the Miami congressional offices of Republican Reps. Lincoln Díaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, criticizing the two for supporting Bush. Former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez, a Democrat who has been considering a run against Díaz-Balart, assailed the administration Friday on Spanish-language radio in Miami.
And a coalition of advocacy groups Friday announced plans for an advertising campaign they said will rival a 2005 effort that helped derail Bush's efforts to revamp Social Security. The coalition wants to persuade moderate House Republicans to support an override of Bush's veto.
''The theme is don't hitch your wagon to George Bush, hitch your wagon to the kids of America,'' said Alan Charney, program director of USAction, whose group is planning vigils and protests at congressional offices that will include children and little red wagons. ``We're going to create such a firestorm of passion and anger that these Republicans will have no choice but to switch.''
The efforts have done little, however, to persuade Díaz-Balart or Ros-Lehtinen, who said they support extending the popular program -- but not the current legislation.
''There's an overwhelming consensus in support of the children's health program in Congress, but we don't need these massive tax increases,'' Díaz-Balart said.
The override vote is scheduled for October 18. More on the Florida showdown to come:
The bill would have boosted funding by $35 billion over five years, to $60 billion, through steep tax increases on cigarettes and other tobacco products, including cigars.
It cleared the Senate with a veto-proof majority, but Democrats need 15 or 20 more votes in the House to override the veto. Eight House Democrats, including Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa, voted against the measure, and advocates say they're working behind the scenes to persuade them to switch sides.
Castor, who represents an area with cigar manufacturers, said she thinks the legislation relies too heavily on tobacco taxes.
Díaz-Balart said the bill also does not provide insurance for the children of legal immigrants. Advocates on a conference call Friday said House leaders have suggested the issue will be revisited.
Said Raul Martinez: ``That's not an excuse when you have in Dade County more than 50,000 kids who would benefit. The president has made a mistake, and now the House members can correct the mistake.''
Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, a Republican who has been criticized by editorial boards at some Florida newspapers for voting against the legislation, is championing his own proposal that would extend coverage by providing a tax credit to some families. Martinez is scheduled to host a healthcare forum Wednesday at Broward General Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale.
Should be a nice little get-together...
Oh, and here's the new ad produced by Families USA.
Could the Iraq disaster, with its cost careening toward $700 billion, and estimated to ultimately cost U.S. taxpayers $2 trillion ... have been avoided for a measly $1 billion? A newspaper story out of Spain has some revealing allegations:
Saddam Hussein offered to step down and go into exile one month before the invasion of Iraq, it was claimed last night.
Fearing defeat, Saddam was prepared to go peacefully in return for £500million ($1billion).
The extraordinary offer was revealed yesterday in a transcript of talks in February 2003 between George Bush and the then Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar at the President's Texas ranch.
The White House refused to comment on the report last night.
But, if verified, it is certain to raise questions in Washington and London over whether the costly four-year war could have been averted.
Only yesterday, the Bush administration asked Congress for another £100billion to finance the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The total war bill for British taxpayers is expected to reach £7billion by next year.
The newspaper account of the conversation between Mr. Bush and Mr. Asnar, which reportedly took place on February 22, 2003 at Bush's Crawford ranch -- at a time when Bush was publicly telling the American people (and the world) that he was still hoping diplomacy would work to bring Iraq to heel, paints a now familiar portrait of a president who was outright lying -- he had every intention of invading Iraq, no matter what.
Asked by the Spanish premier whether Saddam - who was executed in December last year - could really leave, the President replied: "Yes, that possibility exists. Or he might even be assassinated."
But he added that whatever happened: "We'll be in Baghdad by the end of March."
We invaded Iraq on March 19th. The conversation with Jose Maria Asnar was said to have been recorded by a diplomat who attended the meeting. Other revelations:
Mr Bush was dismissive of the then French President Jacques Chirac, saying he "thinks he's Mr Arab".
Referring to his relationship with Downing Street, he said: "I don't mind being the bad cop if Blair is the good cop."
The President added: "Saddam won't change and he'll keep on playing games.
"The time has come to get rid of him. That's the way it is."
Days before the invasion began on March 22, 2003, the United Arab Emirates proposed to a summit of Arab leaders that Saddam and his henchmen should go into exile.
It was the first time the plan had been officially voiced but it was drowned out in the drumbeat of war.
A spokesman for Mr Aznar's foundation had no comment on its authenticity.
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...
President Bush gave his address to the nation tonight on the subject of his "way forward" in Iraq. My headline:
Bush: Americans can now unite as 3% of troops may come home
Bush's speech tonight was almost surreal. Right off the top, having George W. Bush warn ominously of shadowy people who want to topple the government of Iraq must have elicited a chuckle or two from the shadowy neocons around him. He then went on to argue that a successful Iraq will make America safter because the terrorists we drew therein the first place by toppling the government of Iraq and invading the country will be stopped from toppling the government. But he also admits that the Iraqi government -- which is essentially a front for one of the numerous Shiite militias wrecking the country and which may be a client of Iran -- hasn't even met its own benchmarks, and that the "terrorist" enemy is a grave threat -- one that again, we created by invading Iraq.
He argues that Americans should "come together" to support his strategy on the basis of the apparently wholly owned by David Petraeus plan of reducing U.S. forces in Iraq by some 5,700 troops, when the surge alone added more than 30,000 troops to Baghdad and Anbar Province. So this 3 percent reduction is a reason to unite? Toward the end of his speech, Dubya threw out this gem: "it's not too late to support our troops in a fight they can win." Wow. That's rich. Dear, Americans DO support the troops. It's their mission, which comes from the politician in charge of them, namely YOU, Mr. President, that the majority of Americans do not support.
As Chris Matthews -- who has been a booster of this president in the past -- said tonight, the fact of the troops being in Iraq is not a reason to support the mission in Iraq. The mission comes from the president. It's his policy, not General Petraeus' and not the troops'. They carry out HIS policy, and it's that policy that Bush must defend.
And as for calling for Americans to "come together," Bushie, you're about six years too late.
Bush also mentioned that there are 36 countries fighting with us in Iraq. To quote Chris Matthews again, who are these people? They sure are quiet! Where are their troops? Their patrols?
Bush is clearly living in a world of his own.
But perhaps the most eerie thing about Bush's speech was his explication of the evolving, and apparently eternal -- if George W. Bush has his way -- role of U.S. troops in Iraq. He talked about a mission that would go from fighting, to training, to "overwatching" Iraqi troops, to essentially remaining in Iraq for generations to come -- sort of an overseer of a client nation we will never quite leave alone. But what a client! Iraq isn't even clearly a country capable or interested in being an ally of the United States. The Sunnis, whom we ran out of the Army, only want us there to keep the Shia, whom we put in place, from slaughtering them. But for that, they'd probably just as soon be down with al-Qaida. The Shiites hate us, but they find us occasionally useful for killing Sunni Baathists they don't like. The Kurds just want out of the country.
In George Bush's conception, the troops, not the president, own the war. The reason to remain in Iraq is because the troops are in Iraq. And the American people
I think it's clear that George W. Bush is no longer dealing with reality. He has entered an hermetically sealed bubble from which he will never emerge.
Two years to the day after the devastation of hurricane Katrina displaced some 600,000 people, more than 160,000 remain displaced, with some 60,000 still living in FEMA trailers, awaiting the chance to go home. Two years have brought little relief to the people of New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward, while Mississippi has received outsized benefits for its connected former GOP lobbyist governor, Haley Barbour, he of the floating casinos...
The storm that unmade George W. Bush's presidency (you know the saying: "9/11 changed everything... Katrina changed it back...") continues to haunt him, even as he returned to the scene of the crime today to try and sound compassionate. "New Orleans is comin' back!" Bushie declared, then he explained why he and Laura have a better perspective on the situation than the residents of that devastated city, because he and the missus don't get down there much. No, seriously, he said that... and then he went to another charter school.
Man, for a guy who can't read...
Anyway, the Institute for Southern Studies has the grim facts on the failures of reconstructin, despite a $116 billion outlay for rebuilding. Of that total, only 30% has been attached to real projects, and of that, only have has been spent, including $7 bilion on "administrative costs." Pathetic.
31: The percentage of Americans according to a new ABC/WaPo poll who say the Supreme Court is leaning too far to the right (BTW Bush's approval rating in that poll: 33 percent, with 65 disapproving -- 52 percent strongly so... the highest strong disapproval Bush has faced since he took office.)
Other tidbits from the poll:
58 percent strongly disapprove of the situation in Iraq (68 disapprove period), and a record 56 percent disapprove of the U.S. "campaign against terrorism." Interesting... both all-time highs for those questions.
64 percent disapprove of the job Republicans are doing in Congress, with 34 percent approving; and 51 percent disapprove of the job Democrats are doing, with a much more respectable 46 percent approving. i'd wager that most of the Dems' disapproval stems from their failure to really take on (if not take down) this president. Evidence of that: 63 percent disapprove of the Dems' handling of the situation in Iraq, though the public prefers the Dems to handle Iraq over President Bush by a margin of 55 to 32 percent, and 59 percent of respondents favor withdrawing U.S. troops from the conflict.
The Blotter has learned that plans for a controversial new U.S. Embassy in Beirut have been put on hold indefinitely, and effectively killed according to a U.S. State Department spokesperson.
The news came just hours after we reported that the State Department had been pushing ahead with plans to build the new embassy in a part of Beirut controlled by the militant anti-American group Hezbollah, despite strong protests from the U.S. ambassador in Lebanon.
A U.S. official tells the Blotter on ABCNews.com that Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman, in a May 31, 2007 classified cable to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, registered his strong objections, saying his staff "unanimously opposes construction" of the embassy on the proposed site.
Feltman also said in the cable that his local staff would be "an easy target" for Hezbollah and that U.S. diplomats would "be under siege" during any conflict.
The FBI is taking cues from the CIA to recruit thousands of covert informants in the United States as part of a sprawling effort to boost its intelligence capabilities.
According to a recent unclassified report to Congress, the FBI expects its informants to provide secrets about possible terrorists and foreign spies, although some may also be expected to aid with criminal investigations, in the tradition of law enforcement confidential informants. The FBI did not respond to requests for comment on this story.
The FBI said the push was driven by a 2004 directive from President Bush ordering the bureau to improve its counterterrorism efforts by boosting its human intelligence capabilities.
The aggressive push for more secret informants appears to be part of a new effort to grow its intelligence and counterterrorism efforts. Other recent proposals include expanding its collection and analysis of data on U.S. persons, retaining years' worth of Americans' phone records and even increasing so-called "black bag" secret entry operations.
To handle the increase in so-called human sources, the FBI also plans to overhaul its database system, so it can manage records and verify the accuracy of information from "more than 15,000" informants, according to the document. While many of the recruited informants will apparently be U.S. residents, some informants may be overseas, recruited by FBI agents in foreign offices, the report indicates.
Cost to the U.S. taxpayer: $22 million (that we know of)...
Meanwhile, President Bush's latest outrage against the constitution is a move to criminalize dissent against the Iraq war. The executive order, entitled "Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq" gives Bush the authority to seize the assets of any person -- including any American citizen -- who is:
...determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense,
(i) to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of:
(A) threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq; or
(B) undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people;
(ii) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, logistical, or technical support for, or goods or services in support of, such an act or acts of violence or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; or
(iii) to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.
The order, quietly issued on July 17, is even drawing outrage from conservative Republicans, who warn that the order essentially criminalizes dissent ... read "interference" ... with Bush's Iraq policies, and according to folks like former Reagan assistant treasury secretary Paul Craig Roberts, is about a step away from the creation of a police state, with a popuulation riven by fear:
Too much is going wrong for the Bush administration: the failure of its Middle East wars, Republican senators jumping ship, Turkish troops massed on northern Iraq's border poised for an invasion to deal with Kurds, and a majority of Americans favoring the impeachment of Cheney and a near-majority favoring Bush's impeachment. The Bush administration desperately needs dramatic events to scare the American people and the Congress back in line with the militarist-police state that Bush and Cheney have fostered.
William Norman Grigg recently wrote that the GOP is "praying for a terrorist strike" to save the party from electoral wipeout in 2008. Chertoff, Cheney, the neocon nazis, and Mossad would have no qualms about saving the bacon for the Republicans, who have enabled Bush to start two unjustified wars, with Iran waiting in the wings to be attacked in a third war.
The Bush administration has tried unsuccessfully to resurrect the terrorist fear factor by infiltrating some blowhard groups and encouraging them to talk about staging "terrorist" events. The talk, encouraged by federal agents, resulted in "terrorist" arrests hyped by the media, but even the captive media was unable to scare people with such transparent sting operations.
Russ Feingold appeared on MTP this weekend, offering a coherent case for censuring the president, the vice president, and the attorney general of the United States. His case would be even stronger, in my opinion, if he were calling for the impeachment of all three -- since, as I've said before, I think that step is necessary in order to restore the Constitutional balance of power in this country, and in order to restore the proper meaning of impeachment, after the idiotic impeachment of President Clinton for failing to call oral sex "intercourse." That said, at least Feingold is trying. Here's the audio:
So what does the Senate leader have to say about that? Not much, unfortunately:
REID: I’m sure Russ Feingold will try to find a way to offer that amendment. The Republicans won’t let us vote on it. They’ll block it.
SCHIEFFER: So would you go along with it if they let you vote on it?
REID: Bob, frankly, we have so many other things to do. The president already has the mark of the American people that he’s the worst president we’ve ever had, and I don’t think we need a censure resolution in the Senate to prove that. We have to do…
SCHIEFFER: So you’re not going along with it?
REID: Well, at this stage, Russ is going to have to make his case as to why we should do that rather than do our appropriation bills, finish the defense authorization bill, Homeland Security appropriation bill.
REID: We have a lot of work to do.
What's that, Harry? Bush has been punished enough by the polls? The polls??? Is that how you measure the balance of the power of the Senate versus the power of the president? A president is diminished by the polls, whether or not he is held accountable by the only body capable of doing so ... the Congress? Impeachment, censure, etc. are tools in the arsenal of Congress in order to rebalance power. Taking them off the table, as Reid and Pelosi have done, has the effect of emasculating Congress, and handing the president the ultimate victory: allowing his interpretation of his power under the Constitution, not to mention his affronts against that Constitution and against a co-equal branch of government, to stand, unchallenged. Mr. Reid's comments are not intellectually serious. The American people are demanding, not that their opinions be heard by Congress, but that they be acted upon. By outright refusing to do so, the Senate majority leader is flouting the will of the American people, subordinating himself to the president, and defying his employers, namely, us. Maybe it's time to censure him, and Mother Pelosi, too...
At 7:16 a.m. EDT Bush invoked Section 3 of the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to voluntarily transfer his powers of the presidency to Cheney while he was unable to discharge his duties during the colonoscopy procedure.
He reclaimed his powers at 9:21 a.m. EDT, Stanzel said. Bush is expected to return to the White House on Sunday.
This frightening scenario has happened before, back in July of 2002, during his previous colonoscopy. Back then, one writer out West had this to say:
Thankfully, Mr. Cheney didn't order a robot duplicate of himself made, since his own robotic parts are rusting and aren't compatible with Mr. Gore's parts. After a two-hour procedure, President Bush's presidential powers were returned scandal-free.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush had five polyps removed during a routine colon cancer test on Saturday, but his doctors described them as small and apparently not worrisome, the White House said.
The polyps, all less than one centimeter (0.4 inch), will be tested to determine whether there are any signs of cancer and the results are expected to be available within 48 hours to 72 hours, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel told reporters.
"None appeared worrisome," he said, citing the president's doctors. The president "was in very good spirits and in good humor and looks forward to returning to his activities."
OK now here's the funny part:
Bush was planning to take a bicycle ride later on Saturday afternoon after participating in briefings with National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and eating lunch with them, Stanzel said.
Ouch ... that's gonna smart...
So what did Mr. Cheney, who has fought for more than 30 years to build an imperial presidency, do with his vast powers as the Unitary Executive? According to White House spokesman Scott Stanzel:
Stanzel said Cheney spent the morning reading at his home on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and "nothing occurred that required him to take official action as acting president."
Whew. Looks like we dodged the bullet. But just in case, somebody please double check that Iran is still there...?
WASHINGTON -- President Bush was presented with a letter Monday signed by 50 high school seniors in the Presidential Scholars program urging a halt to "violations of the human rights" of terror suspects held by the United States.
The White House said Bush had not expected the letter but took a moment to read it and talk with a young woman who handed it to him.
"The president enjoyed a visit with the students, accepted the letter and upon reading it let the student know that the United States does not torture and that we value human rights," deputy press secretary Dana Perino said.
The students had been invited to the East Room to hear the president speak about his effort to win congressional reauthorization of his education law known as No Child Left Behind.
The handwritten letter said the students "believe we have a responsibility to voice our convictions."
"We do not want America to represent torture. We urge you to do all in your power to stop violations of the human rights of detainees, to cease illegal renditions, and to apply the Geneva Convention to all detainees, including those designated enemy combatants," the letter said. ...
The holiday Juneteenth, which is only observed as an official state holiday in Texas, but which is recognized as a "holiday observance" in 24 others, plus the District of Columbia, is the subject of yet another a dust-up between African-Americans and President Bush. According to the National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign. President Bush has, since taking office, totally ignored Juneteenth proclamations and celebrations, and this year is no different. The NJCH continues to reach out to the president, and despite their having bi-partisan support for making Juneteenth a nationally observed holiday. But before we get to that, let's go back. What is Juneteenth? The organization describes it this way:
"Juneteenth" or "19th of June", is considered the date when slavery ended in America. Although rumors of freedom were widespread prior to this, the announcement of emancipation did not come until Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to read General Order No. 3, on the "19th of June", 1865. This was more than two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
As to the proclamations, on September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the emancipation proclamation, freeing all slaves held by states that were in rebellion against the Union, effective the following January. It read:
By the President of the United States of America:
Whereas on the 22nd day of September, A.D. 1862, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:
"That on the 1st day of January, A.D. 1863, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom."
"That the executive will on the 1st day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State or the people thereof shall on that day be in good faith represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such States shall have participated shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State and the people thereof are not then in rebellion against the United States."
Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-In-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for supressing said rebellion, do, on this 1st day of January, A.D. 1863, and in accordance with my purpose so to do, publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days from the first day above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof, respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States the following, to wit:
Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana (except the parishes of St. Bernard, Palquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James, Ascension, Assumption, Terrebone, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the city of New Orleans), Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkeley, Accomac, Morthhampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Anne, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth), and which excepted parts are for the present left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.
And by virtue of the power and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States and parts of States are, and henceforward shall be, free; and that the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.
And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all case when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.
And I further declare and make known that such persons of suitable condition will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.
And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty God.
Two years later, those enslaved in the American Southwest still had not gotten the message, either by happenstance, or by the deliberate omission of that information by the whites who were enslaving them. Thus, white Southwesterners extracted two extra years of free labor from their unknowingly emancipated slaves, until 19 June, 1865, when General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, TX flanked with 2,000 Union troops, and armed with General Order #3:
"The people are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them, become that between employer and hired labor. The freed are advised to remain at their present homes, and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere."
Granger's orders were to take posession of the still Confederate-controlled state of Texas, and enforce President Lincoln's order.
That day is considered by many to be America's second Independence Day. And yet, Juneteenth is only celebrated sporadically around the country, and, much like MLK Day, almost exclusively by African-Americans.
In my opinion, that makes no sense. Slavery wasn't a Black institution, it was an American institution, operated with the full foce of the government and, until the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified on December 18, 1865, the Constitution. It's end marked the beginning of attempts to make real the promise of this country, to be a bastien of liberty and equality, and its military end, via the Emancipation Proclamation and General Order 3, cemented the union, by permanently dismantling the Confederate state's rebellion.
That strikes me as a holiday worth celebrating together, as a nation.
While it's not a surprise to learn that the president of the United States was warned three months before he launched the invasion of Iraq that the consequences would include precisely the chaos, civil war and disintegration we are seeing now, and that he ignored those warnings absolutely, it sure does make you mad. According to a report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Friday (via the HuffPo):
WASHINGTON — Intelligence analysts predicted, in secret papers circulated within the government before the Iraq invasion, that al-Qaida would see U.S. military action as an opportunity to increase its operations and that Iran would try to shape a post-Saddam Iraq.
The top analysts in government also said that establishing a stable democracy in Iraq would be a "long, difficult and probably turbulent process."
... The investigation reviewed assessments from a number of agencies but focused on two January 2003 papers from the National Intelligence Council: "Regional Consequences of Regime Change in Iraq" and "Principal Challenges in Post-Saddam Iraq."
Those papers drew from expertise within a number spy agencies and were distributed to scores of White House, national security, diplomatic and congressional officials _ most of whom were listed in 81 pages of the Senate report.
Among other conclusions, the analysts found:
_ Establishing a stable democracy in Iraq would be a long, steep and probably turbulent challenge. They said that contributions could be made by 4 million Iraqi exiles and Iraq's impoverished, underemployed middle class. But they noted that opposition parties would need sustained economic, political and military support.
_ Al-Qaida would see the invasion as a chance to accelerate its attacks, and the lines between al-Qaida and other terrorist groups "could become blurred." In a weak spot in the analysis, one paper said that the risk of terror attacks would spike after the invasion and slow over the next three to five years. However, the State Department recently found that attacks last year alone rose sharply.
_ Groups in Iraq's deeply divided society would become violent, unless stopped by the occupying force. "Score settling would occur throughout Iraq between those associated with Saddam's regime and those who have suffered most under it," one report stated.
_ Iraq's neighbors would jockey for influence and Iranian leaders would try to shape the post-Saddam era to demonstrate Tehran's importance in the region. The less Tehran felt threatened by U.S. actions, the analysts said, "the better the chance that they could cooperate in the postwar period."
_ Postwar Iraq would face significant economic challenges, having few resources beyond oil. Analysts predicted that Iraq's large petroleum resources would make economic reconstruction easier, but they didn't anticipate that continued fighting and sabotage would drag down oil production.
_ Military action to eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction would not cause other governments in the region to give up such programs.
(Wapo version here) I guess the intelligence community was more prescient than the Bushies would have us believe, because it seems that all of these predictions have come true. But don't tell that to the Bush boot-licking Republicans:
Some Republicans rejected the committee's work as flawed. The panel's top Republican, Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri, said the report's conclusions selectively highlight the intelligence agencies' findings that seem to be important now, distorting the picture of what was presented to policy-makers.
He said the committee's work on the Iraq intelligence "has become too embroiled in politics and partisanship to produce an accurate and meaningful report."
Really, Kit? Inaccurate? What part of civil war, increasing threats to the region and continual, useless bloodletting do you not understand?
"The most chilling and prescient warning from the intelligence community prior to the war was that the American invasion would bring about instability in Iraq that would be exploited by Iran and al-Qaida," wrote four Democratic senators _ Rockefeller, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Evan Bayh of Indiana and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.
Meanwhile, four Republican senators _ Bond, John Warner of Virginia, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Richard Burr of North Carolina _ wrote that the report exaggerates the importance of the pre-invasion assessments. They said the reports weren't based on intelligence information, but instead were speculation from experts in and out of government.
"They were no more authoritative than the many other educated opinions that were available in the same time frame," the Republicans wrote.
Do you have to shed all of your integrity to be a Republican? Are you allowed to keep even anounce of dignity?
Those who still have a pulse and who have turned off the monotone of the Bushbot drone instructions in their government issued earpieces can read the intel report for yourselves here.
Meanwhile, flush with a fresh $100 million to continue wasting Americana and Iraqi lives for his neocon project in Mesopotamia, President Bush appears simultaneously to be looking for a way to the exits. The idea is that the pragmatists now encircling him, Bob Gates, Condi "the chameleon" Rice, and probably his political guru Karl Rove, are double talking the basies, who fiend for war, while Bush is thinking about the 2008 elections. According to a new report by McClatchy Newspapers:
The Democrat-led Congress has pushed Bush, unsuccessfully thus far, to begin winding down the war, which has claimed more than 3,430 U.S. lives since it began in 2003. Bush has refused. He has said an early exit would be disastrous for U.S. interests and that no timetable should be set for reducing U.S. ground forces.
On Thursday, however, the president and some of his chief military advisers spoke more directly of a possible change in course.
Pace and Gates responded to a reporter who noted that earlier Thursday, Bush said at the White House he liked a proposal from the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.
The group in December recommended many changes in Iraq policy, including a shift from fighting the insurgency to a training and counterterrorism role. At the time, Bush rejected that advice. Instead, he chose to boost American troop levels in Baghdad, believing the war would be lost unless the Iraqi capital could be secured.
Gates, who was a member of the study group before he was nominated to replace Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon, did not say whether he thought it likely that a shift from a combat role would be adopted in September.
"That kind of a role clearly would involve fewer forces than we have now and forces with a different mission," Gates said.
Pace said he agreed. "That's part of the dialogue right now and exactly what we'll be looking at between now and September," when Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, is expected to tell the administration and Congress whether the Iraq strategy is working and whether course corrections are due.
Barry McCaffrey, a retired Army general who spent a week in Iraq in March assessing the situation, said in a telephone interview Thursday that it appears to him that the administration is looking for a way out of Iraq.
"I think they're headed toward the door," McCaffrey said. For now they hold out hope that by the end of this year the troop buildup in Baghdad will change the momentum of the war, he added. "But failing that, they're going to start withdrawing."
Hm ... so, righties, would that make Bushie a "Defeatopublican?" More from the New York Times:
WASHINGTON, May 25 — The Bush administration is developing what are described as concepts for reducing American combat forces in Iraq by as much as half next year, according to senior administration officials in the midst of the internal debate.
It is the first indication that growing political pressure is forcing the White House to turn its attention to what happens after the current troop increase runs its course.
The concepts call for a reduction in forces that could lower troop levels by the midst of the 2008 presidential election to roughly 100,000, from about 146,000, the latest available figure, which the military reported on May 1. They would also greatly scale back the mission that President Bush set for the American military when he ordered it in January to win back control of Baghdad and Anbar Province.
The mission would instead focus on the training of Iraqi troops and fighting Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, while removing Americans from many of the counterinsurgency efforts inside Baghdad.
Still, there is no indication that Mr. Bush is preparing to call an early end to the current troop increase, and one reason officials are talking about their long-range strategy may be to blunt pressure from members of Congress, including some Republicans, who are pushing for a more rapid troop reduction.
The officials declined to be quoted for attribution because they were discussing internal deliberations that they expected to evolve over several months.
Officials say proponents of reducing the troops and scaling back their mission next year appear to include Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. They have been joined by generals at the Pentagon and elsewhere who have long been skeptical that the Iraqi government would use the opportunity created by the troop increase to reach genuine political accommodations.
So far, the concepts are entirely a creation of Washington and have been developed without the involvement of the top commanders in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus and Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, both of whom have been enthusiastic supporters of the troop increase.
Those generals and other commanders have made it clear that they are operating on a significantly slower clock than officials in Washington, who are eager for significant withdrawals before the president leaves office in January 2009.
Ah yes. Timetables. So bad for keeping our plans secret from the enemy ... so good for presidential politics.
President Bush gave a feisty press conference this morning, making it clear that he has no respect for the American people, less for Congress. He's going to have his war as long as he wants it. Unfortunately, there isn't an opposition with the stones to stop him.
Update:Here's the roll call in the House. 86 Democrats voted for the bill. 140, led by Maxine Waters and other members of the Out of Iraq Caucus, voted no. I'm disappointed that Miami Congressman Kendrick Meek voted for the bill. Just read his press release on it ... sorry, not convinced. Meek's release reads in part:
...“My position on the Iraq War is clear: I am against the continuation of this war. It does not make us safer; the American people do not support it; even our closest allies in the world have withdrawn their troops from it, leaving us to fight it virtually alone; and a majority of the Congress wants to put an end to it. ...
...we will keep up the pressure, and we will continue to work for the votes we need. In July, Congress will vote on the Defense Appropriations Bill and in September, Congress will vote on the Iraq Supplement for FY08. It is my hope that those votes will accomplish what the American people want, and what the Democratic Congress will force the White House to do – to bring an end to this failed war.
“It is important to keep in mind the big difference between opposing the misguided policy of the war, and supporting the brave men and women who are doing their duty in fighting it. This legislation continues to fund our troops through September 30, 2007. It is not a blank check; it is a lifeline to our troops in the field who cannot be left without the proper equipment and ammunition while serving in a theater of war.
“This legislation also includes other needed provisions. It raises the minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $7.25 per hour, the first increase in nearly ten long years. It provides $2 billion in additional funding for health care programs for our veterans. It provides $1.1 billion for family housing allowances not requested by the President. It provides $1.6 billion for a strategic reserve readiness fund, including $1billion to purchase Army Guard equipment. It also provides $3 billion for Mine Resistance Ambush Protected vehicles to provide our troops better protection from Improvised Explosive Devices that will ultimately save lives.”
K. Still not convinced. The best way to force Bush to change course is to give him nothing, re-send timelines again and again, and push him to June 30th, and then force him to take what he can get. That's hardball. ... Anyway, Rep. Alcee Hastings voted no, as did most of the CBC, and the House leader, Nancy Pelosi.
Update 2 8:55 p.m.: The Senate has now passed the bil too. 14 Democrats voted no, apparently including Senators Clinton, Obama and Dodd. Biden voted yes. Here's all you need to know about the Dems:
Faced with continued White House opposition after the veto, the Democratic leadership agreed to drop the withdrawal language so the spending bill could be moved by Memorial Day.
Smile and wave that flag, boys ... smile and wave...
Update 3: May 25 6:57 a.m.: Confirmed -- Hillary and Barack voted no on the war funding. For Hillary to do so means she's more worried about the Democratic base than about the Republican ads. ThinkProgress has the full roll call of Senators voting no. It's a short list:
Apparently, being Paul Wolfowitz means hooking up your girlfriend with a plum job. Now, Germany becomes the first to say, he's got to leave the World Bank. There will be others.
Meanwhile, Frank Rich lights up the Bush administration for the twin scandals of Wolfie and Gonzo. From Wolfowitz to Gonzales, Rich weaves a tale of rank incompetence and probable malfeasance in an administration known almost exclusively for both ... Here's the opener:
President Bush has skipped the funerals of the troops he sent to Iraq. He took his sweet time to get to Katrina-devastated New Orleans. But last week he raced to Virginia Tech with an alacrity not seen since he hustled from Crawford to Washington to sign a bill interfering in Terri Schiavo's end-of-life medical care. Mr. Bush assumes the role of mourner in chief on a selective basis, and, as usual with the decider, the decisive factor is politics. Let Walter Reed erupt in scandal, and he'll take six weeks to show his face - and on a Friday at that, to hide the story in the Saturday papers. The heinous slaughter in Blacksburg, Va., by contrast, was a rare opportunity for him to ostentatiously feel the pain of families whose suffering cannot be blamed on the administration.
Brilliant start. A bit more:
At home, the president is also hobbled by the Iraq cancer's metastasis - the twin implosions of Alberto Gonzales and Paul Wolfowitz. Technically, both men have been pilloried for sins unrelated to the war. The attorney general has repeatedly been caught changing his story about the extent of his involvement in purging eight federal prosecutors. The Financial Times caught the former deputy secretary of defense turned World Bank president privately dictating the extravagant terms of a State Department sinecure for a crony (a k a romantic partner) that showers her with more take-home pay than Condoleezza Rice.
Yet each man's latest infractions, however serious, are mere misdemeanors next to their roles in the Iraq war. What's being lost in the Beltway uproar is the extent to which the lying, cronyism and arrogance showcased by the current scandals are of a piece with the lying, cronyism and arrogance that led to all the military funerals that Mr. Bush dares not attend. Having slept through the fraudulent selling of the war, Washington is still having trouble confronting the big picture of the Bush White House. Its dense web of deceit is the deliberate product of its amoral culture, not a haphazard potpourri of individual blunders.
Today, speaking to strangely and very obviously NOT applauding troops at Fort Irwin, California, President Bush said something about Iraq and the war on terror that I guess I should consider important, since he's the president, but, hey, there you go ... it's George W. Bush talking ... c'mon...
Meanwhile, over at the House of Representatives, the Armed Services Committee declares that there really is no "global war on terror" ... duh... oh, and the "long war...?" That's history, too.
And while Dubya is boring the props troops, Mother heads over to Syria with a small Congressional delegation, and extracts something out of Bashar al Assad that Condi Rice can only dream of: DIPLOMACY!
And as if to shine a humongous spotlight on the primacy of talk over warmongering, Britain talks its way out of the nascent Royal Naval "detainee" crisis, producing this happy, and rather stylish, in a strictly Iranian sense ... photo:
Mr. Ahmadinejad even got in a dramatic flourish, pinning a medal on the Revolutionary Guard general who orchestrated the capture, and then announcing that he was releasing the 15 "as a little Easter-time gift to the British people." Then, the Brits were marched out in their new, comfy Iran suits and even got a personal greeting from His Persian Shortness, as they appeared, thanking their former captors, on Iranian TV. Huzaa!! Oh, and check out this Ahmadinejad gem:
"I'm asking Mr Blair to not put these 15 personnel on trial because they admitted they came to Iranian territorial water," he added, referring to taped "confessions" made by the British sailors and marines.
Riiight... Oh, and the U.S. released this guy...
Release Seen Tied To Iran Crisis
An Iranian "diplomat" detained by U.S. forces in Iraq was freed in an apparent effort to help secure the release of 15 British sailors captured by Iran. While Britain has repeatedly asserted it won't negotiate with Tehran, diplomatic sources said the crisis appears likely to be resolved soon. "The next 48 hours will be fairly critical," U.K. PM Tony Blair said, offering no details. [Source: Investor's Business Daily, April 3, 2007]
Now that's what I call coincidental!
So Iran managed to turn around a sure loser of an issue into a relative win -- giving Britain back its sailors and Marines, and snatching away the neocon's cassis belli.
And last but not least, remember that charming little Baghdad market where our friend Baghdad John took a lil' stroll the other day, along with 100 of his closest military friends, their Blackhawk helicopters and helicopter gunships? Well ... it was bombed yesterday, killing 14 school children and adults. Guess they didn't have THEIR flack jackets and security phalanx. So having put U.S. military personnel in danger, not to mention himself, by insisting on his ridiculous stunt, it appears McCain also endangered Iraqis. Yep, that's presidential material...
The Democrat turned Republican strategist goes public with his falling out of love with President Bush, and the doubts about his leadership, and about the war, that have been bubbling up since even before the 2004 election. So now he tells us.
To be fair, Dowd has shown a propensity for favoring "unifying" solutions to the nation's major problems, such as his push last year for Republicans to embrace "comprehensive immigration reform," and his warning to the president's people that they would need to increase their support among minorities. Still, it's interesting that those who have fallen away from the president couldn't manage to do so when it counted: before the 2004 election.
Still, I'll take Dowd at his word that his view has changed, and wish him the best trodding through the African plain...
“I want to share with you how two Iraqi bloggers — they have bloggers in Baghdad, just like we’ve got here,” Mr. Bush told an audience of ranchers and cattlemen, after remarking that Iraqis were beginning to see “positive changes.”
He went on to quote the bloggers directly: “Displaced families are returning home, marketplaces are seeing more activity, stores that were long shuttered are now reopening. We feel safer about moving in the city now. Our people want to see this effort succeed. We hope the governments in Baghdad and America do not lose their resolve.”
But just who were these anonymous bloggers? The deputy White House press secretary, Dana Perino, spent a good chunk of her regular briefing on Wednesday deflecting that question, and defending the propriety of the president’s use of anonymous quotes.
Ms. Perino called the bloggers “one input from many different inputs that are coming in regarding progress on the ground,” and said she herself had often responded to anonymous quotations. “Blogs are new for all of us,” she said, “and I know that you all look at them, because you call me and ask me what we think about the blogs.”
As for the writers’ identity, it remained a mystery — until the White House distributed a transcript of the briefing. In a footnote at the end, the administration disclosed that the bloggers were Omar and Mohammed Fadhil, two brothers who are both dentists and who write an English-language blog, IraqTheModel.com, from Baghdad. The White House said their writings had been cited in mainstream news outlets; on March 5, the Fadhil brothers wrote an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal titled “Notes from Baghdad.”
Oh, yes, and on Dec. 9, 2004, they met in the Oval Office with Mr. Bush.
Now that the subject is old and tired, the Times has stumbled on the “news” that the blogosphere is more aptly termed the propaganda-sphere.
Boxer takes on the case of Iraq the Model, a website that captures in its very name the neocon vision of a democratized and properly domesticated Middle East. The pro-war bloggers have been touting the brothers Fadhil, as exemplars of the “good news” from Iraq. Their capstone of their triumphant American tour, sponsored by a “charitable” organization known as the “Spirit of America,” occurred when two of the brothers were received at the White House for face time with the Prezt. But there’s a fly in this ointment, as I pointed out at the time, and I?m glad to see that the MSM, in the person of Ms. Boxer, has fished it out: the disenchantment of the third brother, Ali, whose last post on Iraq the Model read as follows:
“This is the last time I write in this blog and I just want to say, goodbye. It’s not an easy thing to do for me, but I know I should do it. I haven’t told my brothers with my decision, as they are not here yet, but it won’t change anything and I just can’t keep doing this anymore.
“My stand regarding America has never changed. I still love America and feel grateful to all those who helped us get our freedom and are still helping us establishing democracy in our country. But it’s the act of some Americans that made me feel I’m on the wrong side here. I will expose these people in public very soon and I won’t lack the mean to do this, but I won’t do it here as this is not my blog.
“At any rate, it’s been a great experience and a pleasure to know all the regular readers of this blog, as I do feel I know you, and I owe you a lot.
“Best wishes to all of you, those who supported us and those who criticized us as well.”
Boxer got in touch with Ali, and her depiction of his ambiguity about the American occupation, and the tenuousness of his position in relation to the realities of Iraq, ruined the Potemkin Village rah-rah propaganda regularly emitted ? in English ? on ?Iraq the Model? and a slew of other pro-occupation Iraqi blogs:
?Why did he quit Iraq the Model? When was he going to expose the Americans who made him feel he was on the wrong side? He was surprisingly frank. The blog had changed him. When the blog began, he said, ?People surprised me with their warmth and how much they cared about us.? But as time passed, he said, ?I felt that this is not just goodwill, giving so much credit to Iraq the Model. We haven’t accomplished anything, really.?
“His views took a sharp turn when his two brothers met with the president. There wasn’t supposed to be any press coverage about their trip to the United States, he said. But the Washington Post wrote about the meeting, and the Arabic press ended up translating the story, which, Ali felt, put his family in real danger. Anyway, he said, he didn’t see any sense in his brothers’ meeting with President Bush. ?My brothers say it happened accidentally, that it was not planned.? But why, he asked, take such an ?unnecessary risk?? He explained his worries: ?Here some people would kill you for just writing to an American.??
Ali, in short, was tired of being used by the War Party to make propaganda in America. The pro-war bloggers are now getting up on their high horses, screeching that Boxer has put the Fadhil brothers in danger. But Ali is right: it is the propagandists in America, including the laptop bombardiers? brigade, who put them in danger the minute they started holding them up as model New Iraqis, the offspring of the “liberation.” But since Glenn Reynolds-Powerline-Little Green Footballs crowd is definitely not part of the reality-based community, the hard reality of Ali?s comment that ?Here some people would kill you for just writing to an American? is inadmissible, becasue “some people” means an awful lot of people.
Boxer takes up the suspicions first raised by Martini Republic that ?Iraq the Model? might have informal connections to the U.S. government, a suggestion that was greeted with outrage by pro-war bloggers, but Ali?s account doesn?t dispel the murky aura of intrigue that hangs over the whole affair:
“Ali never did expose the people who made him feel that he was on the wrong side, and in fact conceded that he couldn’t. As he confided on the phone, ‘I didn’t know who the people were.’”
But Ali isn’t disenchanted with the idea of human freedom: it’s just that now he doesn?t identify this idea with the U.S. government:
“‘Me and my brothers,’ he said, “we generally agree on Iraq and the future.’ (He is helping his brother Mohammed, who is running on the Iraqi Pro-Democracy Party ticket in the Jan. 30 election.) But there is one important difference: ‘My brothers have confidence in the American administration. I have my questions.’”
So it's not that simple, Mr. Bush. Much of what you read in blogs is pure political propaganda (think Pajamas Media, LGF, Wizbang (sadly, because there are some good guys over there, but they're becoming subsumed by the Kim Priestaps of the world), Redstate, and on and on). But there are also some independent-minded writers, too, like Rick Moran, Mark in Mexico, Alex Nunez (who I wish had more time to blog) and others, and even some bloggers, even of the Iraq the Model variety, for whom the Kool-Aid eventually wears off.
Hagel throws out the I-word again, this time, in an interview with Stephanopoulos (and he joins the growing number of GOP and Dem members of Congress saying that Gonzales is a lost cause. Said Hagel:
"Any president who says, I don't care, or I will not respond to what the people of this country are saying about Iraq or anything else, or I don't care what the Congress does, I am going to proceed — if a president really believes that, then there are — what I was pointing out, there are ways to deal with that," said Hagel, who is considering a 2008 presidential run. ...
...On Sunday, Hagel said he was bothered by Bush's apparent disregard of congressional sentiment on Iraq, such as his decision to send additional troops. He said lawmakers now stood ready to stand up to the president when necessary.
In the April edition of Esquire magazine, Hagel described Bush as someone who doesn't believe he's accountable to anyone. "He's not accountable anymore, which isn't totally true. You can impeach him, and before this is over, you might see calls for his impeachment. I don't know. It depends on how this goes," Hagel told the magazine.
Well it's about damned time the Hill started standing up to this out of control president...
President Bush tours an ethanol plant with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
President Bush hasn't had much fun on his Latin America jaunt so far, between the angry protesters wearing Hitler=Bush T-shirts and burning effigies of him, and the tepid reponse of Latin leaders to his initiatives. But damn, now his very presence is being counted as toxic. According to a news report:
With Bush scheduled to visit Guatemala City next week, Bush antagonism has reached new levels as Mayan priests decide to purify a sacred archaeological site to eliminate 'bad spirits' after his visit.
Juan Tiney, the director of a Mayan non-governmental organization with close ties to Mayan political and religious political leaders said: “That a person like (Bush), with the persecution of our migrant brothers in the United States, with the wars he has provoked, is going to walk on our sacred lands, is considered an offense for the Mayan people and their culture.”
Bush's controversial seven-day tour of South America includes a stopover in Guatemala late Sunday. He is scheduled to visit the consecrated archaeological site 'Iximche' on the high Western plateau in a region of the Central American country populated mostly by Mayans.
Tiney said the “spirit guides of the Maya community” decided it would be necessary to cleanse the sacred site of “bad spirits” after Bush's visit so that their ancestors could rest in peace.
Bush's trip has already sparked protests in other Latin American countries, showing the immense depths of his unpopularity in the continent. There were protests and clashes with police in Brazil hours before his arrival. In Bogota, Columbia, which Bush will visit on Sunday, 200 masked students battled 300 riot police with rocks and homemade explosives.
The tour is seen to be a desperate attempt at challenging rising support for the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who is steadily gaining strong influence in the region. Chavez has publicly called Bush “history's greatest killer” and “the devil”.
Silly Maya, everybody knows the Devil is Dick Cheney...
Republicans continue to cover for the Bush administration on Iraq, providing a human shield against even a non-binding "sense of the Senate" bill opposing the escalation of the war. If the Dems don't make these Bush courtiers pay, I'm done with them, and anybody with an ounce of good sense should be, too. Here's the WaPo on the vote blocking scheme:
A day of posturing, finger pointing and backroom wrangling came to nothing when Democratic and Republican leaders failed to reach agreement on which resolutions would come to a vote and which would be subject to a filibuster. Republicans insisted that the impasse soon would be broken, but after Democrats came up 11 votes short of the 60 needed to break the filibuster, a solution was nowhere in evidence.
"It is clear their actions are not driven by getting votes on Republican proposals. They are driven by a desire to provide political cover for President Bush," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said. "They can't rubber-stamp the president's policies in Iraq any more, so they've decided to stamp out debate and let the president's escalation plan proceed unchecked."
At issue are four separate resolutions. The main resolution, worked out by Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), would put the Senate on record opposing the additional troop deployment and calling for a diplomatic initiative to settle the conflict, but it would also oppose a cut-off of funds for troops in the field of battle. The Republican leadership's alternative, drafted by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), would establish tough new benchmarks for the Iraqi government to achieve but would not oppose the planned deployment.
Against those competing resolutions are two others replete with political mischief-making. The first, drafted by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), recognizes the power of the president to deploy troops and the "responsibility" of Congress to fund them before stating, "Congress should not take any action that will endanger United States military forces in the field, including the elimination or reduction of fund." A second, hastily written by Democrats, would simply oppose the president's plan and insist all troops are properly protected with body armor and other materiel.
By the way, good going, Connecticut, on putting that horse's ass Joe Lieberman back in the Senate... ... anyway, here's the roll call.
Laura has named President Bush's new executive pastry chef, and he has an impressive resume. William 'Bill' Yosses...
... is trained in classical French cooking, was the White House Holiday Pastry Chef for the 2006 holiday season, helped open Paul Newman's Dressing Room in Westport, Conn., and ran the pastry department at the Tavern on the Green Restaurant in New York City.
He's also active in Spoons Across America, "a not-for-profit organization dedicated to educating children, teachers, and families about the benefits of healthy eating.
Yosses is an author too, though the White House didn't list that among his credits. He co-wrote Desserts for Dummies.
... Well, at least he's found exactly the right person to bake for... other door, Bushie ... other door ... out you go...
What ever happened to Bush's SOTU promise to get us to the Red Planet? It's been two long years, and I'm seriously disturbed that Mars seems to have dropped completely from his rhetoric...!
Anyway, without Mars, and lo, without "switchgrass," this year's State of the Union speech left me rather bored. (Martians shouldn't feel too badly. New Orleans didn't make the speech, either...)
Bush was conciliatory -- a new Bush, as it were. He gave a nice tribute to Mother, who sat behind him looking lovely -- but blinking at such a phenomenal rate that the contrast between her blinking, and Dick "The Robot" Cheney's tendency to whet his eyeballs only once every 15 minutes -- was actually disturbing. The prez also sent well wishes to the two incapacitated members of Congress -- something the vice president has probably consulted his voodoo dolls about nightly...
Bush offered a laundry list of Democratic sounding proposals -- 20 percent reduction in our dependence on foreign oil, a balanced federal budget, earmark reform, "comprehensive immigration reform" ... and without amnesty! (how to do, how to do???) ... and a massive federal tax subsidy to insurance companies paid for by taxpayers so that a handful of the 47 million uninsured can use a tax credit to buy crap insurance from Bush's donors ... oops, that was a Republican sounding proposal ...
Oh, and Bush said we're all in it together in Iraq. Goodie. Oh, and about that stuff about Iran plotting to arm our enemies in Iraq (which did make the speech,) Bushie may want to back order a copy of the L.A. Times.
He did introduce Dikembe Mutombo, who is no longer a citizen of the DRC, since he's now an American citizen. And he pointed out Wesley Autry, the guy who saved that other guy from getting run over by a train in New York City. Heart warming stuff, though tough to get in its entirety since I was literally falling asleep by then.
Sorry to sound so unserious, but a less than serious speech doesn't seem to merit much real blogthought. Not when I have to get up at 3 a.m. to troll through this stem winder on the morning show. So I'll leave you to the tender mercies of the Associated Press... surely they'll make sense of it. Oh, and one more thing: if this was the speech intended to get most Americans to tune back in to Mr. Bush and give him a fresh look, I wouldn't count on it moving the meter.
Jim Webb is doing his thing now. Gotta go. Here's the AP on Bush's Iraq challenge ... apparently even Norm Coleman isn't buying... (BTW as I predicted this morning, Webb got full TV coverage -- 8 broadcast and cable nets carried his response to Bush's speech. In case you didn't stay up for it, here's the speech. It's good stuff.
So Bush will try to help himself out tonight during the State of the Union. As long as he doesn't try to preempt American Idol, at least he won't go to 15 percent... at least he hopes not... Look for the Democrats to hold back -- way back -- on the applause, and maybe the Republicans, too.
Meanwhile, Bush prepares to deplete our European theater of 8,500 troops.
Yet another conservative confronts the hard truth about Iraq, about his principles, and about President Bush, courtesy of Glen Greehwald:
Rod Dreher is as conservative as it gets -- a contributor to National Review and the Corner, a current columnist for The Dallas Morning News, a self-described "practicing Christian and political conservative."
Today, Dreher has an extraordinary (oral) essay at NPR in which he recounts how the conduct of President Bush (for whom he voted twice) in the Iraq War (which he supported) is causing him to question, really to abandon, the core political beliefs he has held since childhood. ...
As President Bush marched the country to war with Iraq, even some voices on the Right warned that this was a fool's errand. I dismissed them angrily. I thought them unpatriotic.
But almost four years later, I see that I was the fool.
In Iraq, this Republican President for whom I voted twice has shamed our country with weakness and incompetence, and the consequences of his failure will be far, far worse than anything Carter did.
The fraud, the mendacity, the utter haplessness of our government's conduct of the Iraq war have been shattering to me.
It wasn't supposed to turn out like this. Not under a Republican President.
I turn 40 next month -- middle aged at last -- a time of discovering limits, finitude. I expected that. But what I did not expect was to see the limits of finitude of American power revealed so painfully.
I did not expect Vietnam.
As I sat in my office last night watching President Bush deliver his big speech, I seethed over the waste, the folly, the stupidity of this war.
I had a heretical thought for a conservative - that I have got to teach my kids that they must never, ever take Presidents and Generals at their word - that their government will send them to kill and die for noble-sounding rot - that they have to question authority.
On the walk to the parking garage, it hit me. Hadn't the hippies tried to tell my generation that? Why had we scorned them so blithely?
Will my children, too small now to understand Iraq, take me seriously when I tell them one day what powerful men, whom their father once believed in, did to this country? Heavy thoughts for someone who is still a conservative despite it all. It was a long drive home.
Welcome to the world the neocons have made.
Meanwhile, on 60 Minutes tomorrow, Bush is expected to say that no matter what Congress says or does, no matter how many Americans, including conservatives like Dreher, abandon him, his surge will go forward. Damn the torpedoes, and the loss of life that's to come. Meanwhile, those who will truly pay the price for Mr. Bush's stupidity and obstinance, prepare for Dubya's last stand in Baghdad.
And when it comes to choosing a top general to run his end of the war, Mr. Maliki goes his own way ...
Far beneath the surface of the tragic drama of Somalia, four major U.S. oil companies are quietly sitting on a prospective fortune in exclusive concessions to explore and exploit tens of millions of acres of the Somali countryside.
That land, in the opinion of geologists and industry sources, could yield significant amounts of oil and natural gas if the U.S.-led military mission can restore peace to the impoverished East African nation.
According to documents obtained by The Times, nearly two-thirds of Somalia was allocated to the American oil giants Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips in the final years before Somalia's pro-U.S. President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown and the nation plunged into chaos in January, 1991. Industry sources said the companies holding the rights to the most promising concessions are hoping that the Bush Administration's decision to send U.S. troops to safeguard aid shipments to Somalia will also help protect their multimillion-dollar investments there.
Officially, the Administration and the State Department insist that the U.S. military mission in Somalia is strictly humanitarian. Oil industry spokesmen dismissed as "absurd" and "nonsense" allegations by aid experts, veteran East Africa analysts and several prominent Somalis that President Bush, a former Texas oilman, was moved to act in Somalia, at least in part, by the U.S. corporate oil stake.
But corporate and scientific documents disclosed that the American companies are well positioned to pursue Somalia's most promising potential oil reserves the moment the nation is pacified. And the State Department and U.S. military officials acknowledge that one of those oil companies has done more than simply sit back and hope for peace. ...
The stability that emerged in southern Somalia after 16 years of utter lawlessness is gone, the defeat of the ruling Islamic Courts Union now ushering in looting, martial law and the prospect of another major anti-Western insurgency. Clan warlords, who terrorized Somalia until they were driven out by the Islamists, and who were put back in power by the U.S.-backed and -trained Ethiopian army, have begun carving up the country once again.
With these developments, the Bush administration, undeterred by the horrors and setbacks in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon, has opened another battlefront in this volatile quarter of the Muslim world. As with Iraq, it casts this illegal war as a way to curtail terrorism, but its real goal appears to be to obtain a direct foothold in a highly strategic area of the world through a client regime. The results could destabilize the whole region.
The Horn of Africa, at whose core Somalia lies, is newly oil-rich. It is also just miles across the Red Sea from Saudi Arabia and Yemen, overlooking the daily passage of large numbers of oil tankers and warships through that waterway. The United States has a huge military base in neighboring Djibouti that is being enlarged substantially and will become the headquarters of a new U.S. military command being created specifically for Africa. As evidence of the area's importance, Gen. John Abizaid, the military commander of the region, visited Ethiopia recently to discuss Somalia, while Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Horn countries a few months ago in search of oil and trade agreements.
The current series of events began with the rise of the Islamic Courts more than a year ago. The Islamists avoided large-scale violence in defeating the warlords, who had held sway in Somalia ever since they drove out U.N. peacekeepers by killing eighteen American soldiers in 1993, by rallying people to their side through establishing law and order. Washington was wary, fearing their possible support for terrorists. While they have denied any such intentions, some Islamists do have terrorist ties, but these have been vastly overstated in the West.
Washington, however, chose to view the situation only through the prism of its "war on terror." The Bush administration supported the warlords -- in violation of a U.N. arms embargo it helped impose on Somalia many years ago -- indirectly funneling them arms and suitcases filled with dollars.
Many of these warlords were part of the Western-supported transitional "government" that had been organized in Kenya in 2004. But the "government" was so devoid of internal support that even after two years it was unable to move beyond the small western town of Baidoa, where it had settled. In the end, it was forced to turn to Somalia's archenemy Ethiopia for assistance in holding on even to Baidoa. Again in violation of the U.N. arms embargo, Ethiopia sent 15,000 troops to Somalia. Their arrival eroded whatever domestic credibility the government might have had.
The United States, whose troops have been sighted by Kenyan journalists in the region bordering Somalia, next turned to the U.N. Security Council. In another craven act resembling its post-facto legalization of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the Council bowed to U.S. pressure and authorized a regional peacekeeping force to enter Somalia to protect the government and "restore peace and stability." This despite the fact that the U.N. has no right under its charter to intervene on behalf of one of the parties struggling for political supremacy, and that peace and stability had already been restored by the Islamists.
The war came soon after the U.N. resolution, its outcome a foregone conclusion thanks to the highly trained and war-seasoned Ethiopian army. The African Union called for the Ethiopians to end the invasion, but the U.N. Security Council made no such call. Ban Ki-moon, the incoming secretary-general, is being urged to treat the enormously complex situation in Darfur as his political challenge, but Somalia, while less complex, is more immediate. He has an opportunity to establish his credentials as an unbiased upholder of the U.N. Charter by seeking Ethiopia's withdrawal. ...
If Maliki’s new security plan is not bad enough, backed by 20,000 more US troops to be dispatched to Baghdad, a bill is about to be passed in the so-called Iraq parliament that received little notice as planned that will give America total control over Iraq oil for the next three decades.
The third-largest oil reserves in the world are about to be thrown open for large-scale exploitation by Western oil companies under this controversial law which is expected to come before the Iraqi parliament within days.
The US government has been involved in drawing up the law, a draft of which has been seen by The Independent last on Sunday. It would give big oil companies such as BP, Shell and Exxon 30-year contracts to extract Iraqi crude and allow the first large-scale operation of foreign oil interests in the country since the industry was nationalized in 1972.
Let’s put this into perspective. Invade the country, create civil war so that the population can only think about security, jobs and getting through the day, break up the country into manageable parts, murder the leader of the country, eliminate those who don’t go along, and steal the oil. This was the US plan was from the beginning and this is exactly what is transpiring.
While the huge potential prizes for Western firms will give ammunition to those who say the Iraq war was fought for oil, it really doesn’t matter much now. These critics are powerless over a US president back by the Zionist lobbies that do not respect international law of territorial sovereignty.
Oil industry executives and analysts say the law, which would permit Western companies to pocket up to three-quarters of profits in the early years and will operate through "production-sharing agreements" (PSAs) which are highly unusual in the Middle East, where the oil industry in Saudi Arabia and Iran, the world's two largest producers, is state controlled.
While the provision allowing oil companies to take up to 75 per cent of the profits will last until they have recouped initial drilling costs, we must look past the window dressing. . Iraq is one of the cheapest and easiest places in the world to drill for and produce oil and there are there are hundred of fields already discovered and are waiting to be developed. Big oil will be using ongoing development to keep 75%percent of the profits for ions to come.
Plunder in other words.
Furthermore, under the chapter entitled "Fiscal Regime" in this new bill, the draft spells out that foreign companies have no restrictions on taking their profits out of the country, and are not subject to any tax when doing so. After that, they would collect about 20 per cent of all profits, according to industry sources in Iraq but that is twice the industry average for such deals. Iraq's sovereign right to manage its own natural resources could also be threatened by the provision in the draft that any disputes with a foreign company must ultimately be settled by international, rather than Iraqi, arbitration.
Amid the furor of “cavil war” and the hanging of Saddam Hussein, the new oil law has quietly been going through several drafts, and is now on the point of being presented to the cabinet and then the parliament in Baghdad, without the consent of the Iraqi population.
James Paul, executive director at the Global Policy Forum, the international government watchdog, said: "It is not an exaggeration to say that the overwhelming majority of the population would be opposed to this. To do it anyway, with minimal discussion within the [Iraqi] parliament is really just pouring more oil on the fire." ...
It's Dubya's time to shine, as he polishes up his new "don't listen to the generals" Iraq strategy ... in prime time, no less! Says the WaPo:
Bush talks frequently of his disdain for micromanaging the war effort and for second-guessing his commanders. "It's important to trust the judgment of the military when they're making military plans," he told The Washington Post in an interview last month. "I'm a strict adherer to the command structure."
But over the past two months, as the security situation in Iraq has deteriorated and U.S. public support for the war has dropped, Bush has pushed back against his top military advisers and the commanders in Iraq: He has fashioned a plan to add up to 20,000 troops to the 132,000 U.S. service members already on the ground. As Bush plans it, the military will soon be "surging" in Iraq two months after an election that many Democrats interpreted as a mandate to begin withdrawing troops.
Pentagon insiders say members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have long opposed the increase in troops and are only grudgingly going along with the plan because they have been promised that the military escalation will be matched by renewed political and economic efforts in Iraq. Gen. John P. Abizaid, the outgoing head of Central Command, said less than two months ago that adding U.S. troops was not the answer for Iraq.
Bush's decision appears to mark the first major disagreement between the White House and key elements of the Pentagon over the Iraq war since Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, then the Army chief of staff, split with the administration in the spring of 2003 over the planned size of the occupation force, which he regarded as too small.
It may also be a sign of increasing assertiveness from a commander in chief described by former aides as relatively passive about questioning the advice of his military advisers. In going for more troops, Bush is picking an option that seems to have little favor beyond the White House and a handful of hawks on Capitol Hill and in think tanks who have been promoting the idea almost since the time of the invasion. ...
In other words, welcome back, neocons...!
And not only is Bush not listening to the generals, the Congress (including Democrats AND Republicans) or the American people, all of whom oppose an escalation in Iraq, he's also not listening to the Iraqis:
Indeed, when Bush met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Amman, Jordan, on Nov. 30, Maliki did not ask for more American troops as part of a new Baghdad security plan he presented to Bush, U.S. officials said.
Maliki's idea was to lower the U.S. profile, not raise it. "The message in Amman was that he wanted to take the lead and put an Iraqi face on it. He wanted to control his own forces," said a U.S. official familiar with the visit. ...
By Glenn Kessler Washington Post Staff Writer Friday, January 5, 2007; A06
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said yesterday that he believes top officials in the Bush administration have privately concluded they have lost Iraq and are simply trying to postpone disaster so the next president will "be the guy landing helicopters inside the Green Zone, taking people off the roof," in a chaotic withdrawal reminiscent of Vietnam.
"I have reached the tentative conclusion that a significant portion of this administration, maybe even including the vice president, believes Iraq is lost," Biden said. "They have no answer to deal with how badly they have screwed it up. I am not being facetious now. Therefore, the best thing to do is keep it from totally collapsing on your watch and hand it off to the next guy -- literally, not figuratively."
Biden gave the comments in an interview as he outlined an ambitious agenda for the committee, including holding four weeks of hearings focused on every aspect of U.S. policy in Iraq. The hearings will call top political, economic and intelligence experts; foreign diplomats; and former and current senior U.S. officials to examine the situation in Iraq and possible plans for dealing with it. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will probably testify next Thursday to defend the president's new plan, but at least eight other plans will be examined over several sessions of the committee.
Other witnesses invited for at least 10 days of hearings include former national security advisers and secretaries of state, including Brent Scowcroft, Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Henry A. Kissinger, Madeleine K. Albright and George P. Shultz.
Biden expressed opposition to the president's plan for a "surge" of additional U.S. troops and said he has grave doubts about whether the Iraqi government has the will or the capacity to help implement a new approach. He said he hopes to use the hearings to "illuminate the alternatives available to this president" and to provide a platform for influencing Americans, especially Republican lawmakers.
"There is nothing a United States Senate can do to stop a president from conducting his war," Biden said. "The only thing that is going to change the president's mind, if he continues on a course that is counterproductive, is having his party walk away from his position."
Biden said that Vice President Cheney and former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld "are really smart guys who made a very, very, very, very bad bet, and it blew up in their faces. Now, what do they do with it? I think they have concluded they can't fix it, so how do you keep it stitched together without it completely unraveling?"
Meanwhile in a tangential story on Iraq, an American teenager hanged himself while imitating the Saddam execution.