Thursday, March 30, 2006

I Still Don't Understand Why This Isn't A Bigger Story

Craig Crawford said on Imus this morning that he doesn't understand why the allegations that Russian spys stole the war plans from Central Command days before the Iraq war and passed them on to Saddam Hussein isn't a bigger story.

I want to know why the Russian spying allegations isn't a bigger story too.

Just yesterday on Hardball, Tweety Bird and Washington Post blogger Chris Cilliza were laughing about the Democrats attempts to declare a National Security strategy for the upcoming November midterm elections. Dems held a press conference yesterday, led by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid along with special guests like Albright and General Clark, in order to publicize their nationalsecurity strategy.

The meme for Tweety and Cilliza on Hardball yesterday was that Democrats are notoriously weak and unreliable on national security issues, so their attempts to publicize a national strategy on security were silly and laughable.

To prove his point, Cilliza noted that Nancy Pelosi ended the presser by holding a placard upside down and saying Democrats offered a real plan for security. Cilliza, giggling like my thirteen year old freshmen, thought Pelosi's faux pas summed up the entire Democratic national security plan.

And yet, we have heard NOTHING from Tweety Bird or Cilliza or the Beard or O.J. Scarborough or any of the other talking heads about the Russian spying story.

Again, let me repeat, a Republican administration that claims its sole legitimacy on national security issues allowed the Russians to steal the Iraq war plans from Central Command and pass them on to Saddam before the war.

If Tweety Bird and Cilliza want to giggle like teenage schoolboys and schoolgirls over something, they should try it after Dick Cheney gives his "Only we can keep the country safe" speeches.

Because that's truly funny, given the fact that port security, border security, infrastructure security, nuclear power plant security, and Iraq war plans have all been bungled, ignored or just screwed up by the people running this administration.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Uh, Oh

Do you ever get the feeling that the Bush administration never quite finished pacifying Afghanistan?

Afghanistan is nowhere near as deadly as Iraq, but goddamn, stories like this one from the Associated Press scare me:

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) -- Militants attacked a coalition forces base in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, sparking a battle that killed two soldiers -- an American and a Canadian -- and at least 12 rebels, officials said.

The battle in Helmand province's Sangin district also wounded three Canadian soldiers, Canadian Brig. Gen. David Fraser told reporters at a base in southern Kandahar city. A U.S. military statement said an American soldier was also hurt.

Helmand is a hotbed of insurgency and center of the booming trade in illegal drugs and has been the scene of some of the deadliest fighting in recent months.

The attack followed separate roadside bombings in the region Tuesday that killed six Afghan soldiers and four private security workers, respectively. Officials blamed both bombings on Taliban rebels. Suspected Taliban rebels also attacked a police checkpoint in Kandahar city late Tuesday, killing two officers and wounding four, police said.

In Wednesday's incident, coalition troops called in aircraft to attack the militants and together with the forces inside the base ''are believed to have killed at least a dozen enemy insurgents,'' the U.S. military statement said. But it added the military was still conducting a full assessment of the battle.

Brig. Gen. Anthony J. Tata said the troops ''defeated a significant enemy element.''


It was not immediately clear if the violence was linked to the drug trade. Helmand is Afghanistan's main opium poppy growing region and there have been fears of widespread violence since an aggressive poppy eradication campaign started in recent weeks.

Helmand's rugged mountains are also popular hiding places for Taliban rebels, many of whom are believed to slip back and forth across the province's largely unguarded border with Pakistan.

Great - Afgahnistan has two sets of insurgents, Taliban rebels and heroin traders.

I guess the "democratization process" hasn't completely taken hold in Afghanistan.

Too bad the Bush administration didn't finish that process before it took on the "democratization of Iraq."

I bet they'd like to have a few more American troops to chase down the Taliban rebels and the heroin traders.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

But Where's The Mad Hatter?

CNN's Jon King quoting an anonymous Republican discussing the Andy Card resignation and the Josh Bolten promotion to be Preznit Bush's new chief of staff:

"It's like replacing Tweedledum with Tweedledee."

A major staff shake-up this is not.

Can't Bushie appoint naybody to a position of relative power that he doesn't already know?

Oops - More Failed Iraq Policy

The Bush administration wanted to create a Fox News channel in Iraq that would sell their propaganda to the Iraqi people. The LA Times, in an article entitled "Unfair, Unbalanced Channels," says it didn't quite work out that way:

BAGHDAD — The Bush administration has poured millions of dollars into creating Western-style news media in Iraq, backing at least two television channels as well as training programs for Iraqi journalists on balance and ethics.

The effort has helped launch more than a dozen Iraqi channels. But the result is hardly what the administration set out to accomplish. Most of the channels are increasingly sectarian and often appear to be inflaming the country's tensions, critics say.


Homebound because of violence and curfews, Iraqis watch their world through the kaleidoscope of satellite TV. But channel surfing Iraqi-style often offers views of the country through a sectarian lens.

Click the remote, and on one channel, the anchor refers to the Sunni-led insurgency as the "honorable resistance" as images of wounded Iraqis and aggressive U.S. soldiers flash on screen.

Click the remote again, and the insurgents are described as terrorists and the speakers praise crackdowns by the Shiite-led government.

Click again, and the insurgency might well not exist.

I dunno, but Iraq news channels sound very much like Fox News to me.

Fox News sells the GOP point of view, skewers liberals, makes believe news that's bad for the preznit and his ruling party doesn't exist, plays up and/or makes up news that is detrimental to the opposition party, and riles up the Republican base with inflammatory rhetoric (e.g., "Are liberals to blame for the insurgency in Iraq?")

That sounds very much the way the Sunni channel riles up Sunnis, the Shia Channel riles up Shia and the "official government channel" plays up "good news" and makes believe the insurgency doesn't exist.

The Bush administration has essentially reaped what it has sowed. When you make a living demagoguing your enemies, sometimes they demagogue back.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Raw Story Says Rove's A Rat In The CIA Leak Case

A lot of people thought Karl Rove had made a deal with Fitzgerald in order to avoid indictment back in October when the Special Prosecutor in the CIA leak case was bringing the hammer down on Scooter Libby on obstruction, perjury and false statement charges.

If you believe this report from Raw Story today, it sure sounds like Rove made a plea deal:

Karl Rove, Deputy White House Chief of Staff and special adviser to President George W. Bush, has recently been providing information to special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in the ongoing CIA leak investigation, sources close to the investigation say.

According to several Pentagon sources close to Rove and others familiar with the inquiry, Bush's senior adviser tipped off Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to information that led to the recent "discovery" of 250 pages of missing email from the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.


While these sources did not provide any details regarding what type of arrangements Rove's attorney Robert Luskin may have made with the special prosecutor's office, if any, they were able to provide some information regarding what Rove imparted to Fitzgerald's team. The individuals declined to go on the record out of concern for their jobs.

According to one source close to the case, Rove is providing information on deleted emails, erased hard drives and other types of obstruction by staff and other officials in the Vice President's office. Pentagon sources close to Rove confirmed this account.

None would name the staffers and/or officials whom Rove is providing information about. They did, however, explain that the White House computer system has "real time backup" servers and that while emails were deleted from computers, they were still retrievable from the backup system. By providing the dates and recipient information of the deleted emails, sources say, Rove was able to chart a path for Fitzgerald directly into the office of the Vice President.

Steve Clemons at the Washington Note says he has confirmed the "essential points" in the story through a source close to Rove that Dear Karl did indeed tip Fitzgerald off to the 250 pages of "missing" White House emails.

So will Rove get away with ratting out somebody in the White House for the email deletions?

Jeralyn at Talk Left says somebody's going to get charged with obstruction for deleting the White House emails and as defendants, they're going to get reports of Rove's involvement, These reports, she notes, will eventually be leaked to the press and expose Rove's plea deal.

Jeralyn also thinks Karl's still singing on others in either the White House or the V.P.'s office in order to avoid jail time:

My instincts tell me Rove will still have to plead to making a false statement to federal officials -- but he's now worked himself down to probation and no jail in exchange for his cooperation. Fitz may allow him to remain uncharged until at least Libby's trial is over, and then let him plead to an Information charging a single false statement count.

So when will Rove's side push back against this story? According to Raw Story, Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, denied that Rove made a special plea deal or is cooperating with prosecutors as part of a deal.

But I bet Karl won't be too happy if the story begins to circulate that he's a rat who turning state's evidence agianst some former and/or current comrades in the administration.

Why Doesn't the Russian Spying Story Get More Play?

I can't figure out why people aren't up in arms over the allegations that Russian spys within Central Command passed the American war plans for the Iraq war over to Saddam before the attack started:

The Bush administration will ask Russia about a report that Moscow turned over information on American troop movements and other military plans to Saddam Hussein during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday.

"Any implication that the, that there were those from a foreign government who may have been passing information to the Iraqis prior to the invasion would be, of course, very worrying," Rice said on CNN's "Late Edition."

Rice declined to speculate on whether Russia's actions, as detailed in a Pentagon report based on captured Iraqi documents, resulted in casualties among U.S. troops or what Russian President Vladimir Putin knew about any possible Russian involvement.

"We want to take a real hard look at the documents and then raise it with the Russian government," Rice said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Now I'm sure if the Bush administration is going to investigate the matter, they'll surely get to the bottom and find out just who stole the American war plans and passed them on to the Russians and figure out if Putin himself was behind the leak.


The Congress needs to open an investigation into this matter IMMEDIATELY!!!!

There can be no more serious charge than two spys within the top levels of the Army passed intelligence and/or war plans over to a foreign government right before the nation went to war.


These allegations need to be thoroughly investigated by an independent panel without ties to the White House or its cronies in the Congress (i.e., Pat Roberts, George Sensenbrenner, etc.) so that the American people can get an honest account of what, if anything, happened instead of some whitewashed account that tries to minimize damage to the administration.

But instead of an honest, independent investigation into the matter, Condi Rice, the woman who said "Nobody could have ever imagined terrorists would fly planes into buildings" after 9/11 when we know the government, the FBI and the DIA were all aware that terrorists in the past had wanted to do just that, will head an investigation into the allegations.

Which means a whitewash.

So here's hoping Lou Dobbs picks this story up tonight and runs with it like he did the Dubai ports deal. Because if the story that Russian spys stole the Iraq war plans and gave them to Saddam BEFORE the war is true, somebody in the administration will have to explain exactly how it is they are keeping the nation safe from terrorists when they couldn't even keep the Iraq war plans safe from spys.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Democrats Should Hire Gingrich As A Consultant

Here's an example of political genius at work via Tumulty and Allen in TIME Magazine:

In recent weeks, a startling realization has begun to take hold: if the elections were held today, top strategists of both parties say privately, the Republicans would probably lose the 15 seats they need to keep control of the House of Representatives and could come within a seat or two of losing the Senate as well. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who masterminded the 1994 elections that brought Republicans to power on promises of revolutionizing the way Washington is run, told Time that his party has so bungled the job of governing that the best campaign slogan for Democrats today could be boiled down to just two words: "Had enough?"

Gingrich's campaign slogan suggestion ought to be picked up by Democrats:

America, have you had enough of one party rule?

Had enough of an administration/ruling party that misled you into a war that has cost 2322 American lives, thousands of Iraqi lives, and hundreds of billions of dollars?

Had enough of an administration/ruling party that bungles natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and makes already tragic circumstances even worse through mishandling and/or apathy?

Had enough of an administration/ruling party that refuses to make our borders and ports safe and sees no problem outsourcing port security to countries with ties to terrorism?

Had enough of an administration/ruling party that has taken a $178 billion budget surplus and squandered it into a $354 billion deficit through financial mismanagement, shortsightedness and good old giveaways to their cronies?

Had enough of an administration/ruling party that has run up the National Debt to $8.3 trillion dollars as of March 26, 2006 and spends $352 billion of your tax dollars every year on interest payments to the holders of the National Debt?

Had enough of an administration/ruling party that sees the outsourcing of American jobs to foreign countries as a positive development for the American economy and worker?

Had enough of an administration/ruling party that cares more for the multinational corporations which benefit from the outsourcing of American jobs overseas and welcomes the effects of globalization upon the American worker like lower wages and lower health care/retirement benefits?

Had enough of an administration/ruling party that is preparing a "pension relief" bill for passage which the Financial Times says will allow employers to slash payments to already underfunded pension plans by tens of billions of dollars, ultimately undermining and/or bankrupting many pension systems to the benefit of multinationals and the detriment of American workers?

Had enough of an administration/ruling party that attempted to destroy the Social Security program by adding "private accounts" for younger workers that would have bankrupted the program by siphoning off future payments from the current workforce that makes the whole program possible?

Had enough of an administration/ruling party that creates a Medicare prescription drug law that amounts to a huge welfare program for drug manufacturers and is so confusing and full of red tape that most eligible senior citizens don't bother taking advantage of it?

Had enough of an administration/ruling party that rewrites the bankruptcy laws for individuals to make it harder for Americans who have legitimately fallen onto hard times through job loss or illness and need to start over while ensuring that corporations can repeatedly declare bankruptcy and renege on pension/health care/wage obligations to their employees?

Had enough of an administration/ruling party that plans to use wedge issues like flag-burning and gay marriage to rile up its right-wing base for the November midterms while ignoring the real problems that the nation faces, like the Iraq war, the economy, the budget deficit, the trade deficit, the housing bubble, energy prices, global warming, job outsourcing, etc.?

Had enough of an administration/ruling party that doesn't believe in the existence of global warming despite massive evidence to the contrary that we are approaching the point of no return in our destruction of the world environment?

America, have you had enough?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Cheney Says Democrats Are Incompetent On The Same Day A Russian Spying Story Breaks

Do Republicans really want to run on the campaign theme of "competence" in the November midterms?

Judging from a speech Dick Cheney gave at a GOP fundraiser yesterday, it sure sounds like at least DeadEye Dick wants that to be the 2006 theme:

Cheney, speaking at a GOP fund-raiser in Orlando, Fla., took on Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and party chairman Howard Dean. He said leading Democrats have demanded a "sudden withdrawal from the battle against terrorists in Iraq - the very kind of retreat that Osama bin Laden has been predicting."

"With that sorry record, the leaders of the Democratic Party have decided to run on the theme of competence. If they're competent to fight this war, then I ought to be singing on "American Idol,' " Cheney said.

So Cheney thinks Democrats are too incompetent to take on the major challenges of the day like fighting the war on terror and balancing the budget.

Considering that the Associated Press reported yesterday that two captured Iraqi documents show the Russians collected information on the Iraq invasions from sources "inside the American Central Command" and provided that battlefield intelligence to Saddam in Iraq, Cheney has a lotta nerve calling the Democrats incompetent on national security issues, dont'cha think?

ABC News has more on the alleged Russian spying (because that's what it was):

According to those documents obtained by the U.S. government, Vladimir Teterenko, the Russian ambassador in Baghdad, gave specific details of the planned action to Iraqi officials before the United States went to war with Iraq in 2003.

The documents' account of Teterenko's revelations included the specific number of troops, tanks, fighter planes and cruise missiles, along with other highly sensitive information.

"That they would actually pass such specific information to the Iraqis that could possibly compromise our troops and put them at risk, that is frustrating and it is disturbing," said former U.S. Army Gen. Jack Keane, now an ABC News consultant.

Two Iraqi documents say the Russians collected information from sources "inside the American central command" and that Teterenko provided battlefield intelligence to Saddam Hussein.

The second document details a meeting with Teterenko four days after the start of the war. It gives alarming information about the top-secret U.S.-coalition war plan. It cites information Russia obtained through its sources at the U.S. Central Command in Doha, Qatar. "The Americans," it says, will "depend on deployment along the Euphrates River … while avoiding entering the cities."
The Washington Post says both the State Department and Central Command, which overseas military operations in the Middle East and is located in Jeb's homestate of Florida, refused to comment on the story.

The Russians are denying the story.

No word if anybody called Scottie for a comment.

Can you imagine if the Russians had gotten inside info during the Clinton administration and had leaked it to our enemies right before the start of a war?

There should would be some intense outrage pouring from the wingnuttery about how Clinton was a traitor, can't keep us safe, is weak and incompetent, etc.

But so far all we have gotten on the Russian spying story is the sounds of silence.

Let's see how long that lasts because if this story is true than we are truly fucked as long as George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Karl Rove, Karen Hughes, et al. are running this government.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Even More Good News From Iraq

Just to show you that good news is coming out of Iraq all the time, the Associated Press is reporting that at least 20 people have been killed in sectarian violence (drive-by shootings, roadside bombings, revenge killings) over the last 24 hours while the LA Times is reporting that the Bush administration is requesting hundreds of millions of dollars to construct large military bases that some people worry are going to be permanent.

Ron Paul, A Republican Congressman from Texas, worries that these permanent military bases in Iraq will create more problems than they'll solve:

"It's the kind of thing that incites terrorism," Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) said of long-term or permanent U.S. bases in countries such as Iraq.

Paul, a critic of the war, is co-sponsoring a bipartisan bill that would make it official policy not to maintain such bases in Iraq. He noted that Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden cited U.S. military bases in Saudi Arabia as grounds for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The LA Times article goes on to note that:

Long-term U.S. bases in Iraq would also be problematic in the Middle East, where they could lend credence to charges that the U.S. motive for the invasion was to seize land and oil. And they could also feed debate about the appropriate U.S. relationship with Iraq after Baghdad's new government fully assumes control.

State Department and Pentagon officials have insisted that the bases being constructed in Iraq will eventually be handed over to the Iraqi government.


But the seemingly definitive administration statements mask a semantic distinction: Although officials say they are not building permanent U.S. bases, they decline to say whether they will seek a deal with the new Iraqi government to allow long-term troop deployments.

Asked at a congressional hearing last week whether he could "make an unequivocal commitment" that the U.S. officials would not seek to establish permanent bases in Iraq, Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, the commander in charge of all U.S. forces in the Middle East and Central Asia, replied, "The policy on long-term presence in Iraq hasn't been formulated." Venable, the Pentagon spokesman, said it was "premature and speculative" to discuss long-term base agreements before the permanent Iraqi government had been put in place.

So there you go Rush and Laura Ingraham and all you other media critics who are claiming the press doesn't cover enough of the "good news" coming out of Iraq - while we did get the story about the sectarian killings and drive-by's this morning from the AP, we also got the article from the LA Times talking about all the construction the U.S. is doing in Iraq.

It just happens to be that the construction that we're doing is on permanent military bases, but that's almost like a story about constructing hospitals and schools, right?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

More Good News From Iraq

Let's all remember before we look at today's Iraq news that everything is going swimmingly in Iraq.

Let us also remember that the news media only shows the bad news from iraq and never the good stuff, like how American soldiers give out candy to Iraqi kids or help rebuild schools and hospitals around the country.

So here's the news wrap-up:

Gunmen Kill Shiite Pilgrims in Baghdad

Peace Activists Freed in Iraq
Military raid frees two Britons and a Canadian -- colleagues of Tom Fox of Virginia, who was shot to death two weeks ago.

At Least 15 Killed in Baghdad Car Bomb Blast
(AP) -- Two separate car bomb explosions killed at least 21 people and wounded more than 50 in the capital on Thursday, police said.

Insurgents Shower Iraq Police Center With Mortar Shells

Doesn't seem like a lot of good news out of Iraq this morning. Even the story that's supposed to make it seem like good things are happening in Iraq, which is the rescue of the peace activists, only reminds you that they were kidnapped in the first place and their colleague was murdered earlier in the month.

So is all this bad news the media's fault? Should they ignore these stories of violence and bloodshed for stories about American soldiers handing out candy to Iraqi kids or rebuilding schools or hospitals?

Well, let's think of it this way. If these stories were coming out of New York rather than Iraq, which ones do you think the media would cover - the stories about hospitals and handing out candy or the stories about the car bombings, the kidnappings and rescue, the pilgrim murders, and the attack on the police station?

They'd probably cover the car bombings, murders, and police station attacks, right?

And one more thing about these supposed good things coming out of Iraq. There has been plenty of evidence that the reconstruction of Iraq has NOT happened as well as it should have. The levels of electricity, clean water, and employment are below where they were before the war started.

So how many hospitals and schools could the American military really be rebuilding in the first place?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Bloomberg For President?

I saw a Bloomberg for President sign on top of a taxi cab on 45th Street today.

I nearly walked into a tree staring at the sign on top of the cab as it sped by me.

Is it real? Is it a joke? Has it been around awhile?

I dunno, but I do know one thing:

If Mayor Moneybags gets elected President of the United States, every student in every state across this nation will be learning the exact same thing at the exact time in the exact same way every day.

This policy is known as Bloomberg's "education reforms."

If Americans want to put even more emphasis on standardized testing in primary and secondary education than we currently have under the No Child Left Behind law, they should draft Bloomberg to run for the White House.

Of course he'll have to run as a Democrat. There's no way Republicans are nominating a pro-choice, pro-gun control New York Jew to be preznit.

You think Dems would be stupid enough to take him into the party?

I bet they would. Look how many worked for him in 2005.

The reality about Bloomberg, though, is that he is a Bush Republican through and through - whenever there is a battle between working class and middle class citizens and rich, powerful corporations, Bloomberg always comes down on the side of the rich, powerful corporations. Bloomberg is anti-union, anti-working class, loves cutting taxes for businesses and raising them on working class and middle class Americans, and has thought nothing of cutting the starting salary of cops and firemen by $10,000 dollars while trying to railroad a $1 billion stadium giveaway through for the rich, powerful corporation known as the New York Jets.

Doesn't that sound like a Bush Republican to you?

Wash Post Editorial Page Should Enlist

The Washington Post editorial page loves its preznit:

PRESIDENT BUSH should hold more news conferences. In his hour-long exchange with reporters at the White House yesterday, he was considerably more effective in explaining and defending his commitment to the war in Iraq than in the three carefully worded speeches he has delivered in the past week. In his sometimes blunt, sometimes joking and sometimes unpolished way, he sounded authentic -- no more so than when he was asked what had become of the "political capital" he claimed after the 2004 election. "I'd say I'm spending that capital on the war," Mr. Bush replied.


The president clearly has not lost sight of the enormous importance of the Iraqi mission, to U.S. security as well as to his presidency. Pressed repeatedly to say when American forces would leave the country entirely, he finally answered: "That will be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq." Not the most politic response, perhaps, but one that shows Mr. Bush remains committed in the theater where U.S. commitment, and leadership, are still desperately needed.

I love when the wankers at the Post editorial page get all excited by the stirring rhetoric of their big, strong, war-time preznit. I love, too, when the Posties renew their support for the Iraq war every so often after the preznit gives some speech or press conference telling people how we must succeed in Iraq.

But let me remind the wankers at the Washington Post that the reason why we must succeed in Iraq is because Preznit Bush has made such a fucking mess of a war that didn't have to be started in the first place, a war that the world, the Middle East, and certainly the United States would have been better without.

Let me also remind the Posties that they enabled this war by cheerleading the fucking thing every chance they got beforehand and by hammering critics of the war after it started (and continuing to this day.)

Rather than catching Preznit Bush's lies and calling him on them, the Posties helped spread them, just the way the New York Times and the rest of the American media did.

And so now here were are - stuck in an Iraq war that has devolved into sectarian conflict and cost thousands of Iraqi lives, more than 2300 American lives and billions and billions of dollars. The outcome is uncertain, but it surely will be bad. And the fuckers at the Washington Post are still providing cover for the dumb motherfucker who started all of this chaos in the first place.

Finally, if the Posties think the war in Iraq is so vital and "enormously important," then they should get off their fat asses and out of their carpeted, air-conditioned offices and enlist. The army needs them and certainly would be willing to waive age requirements for the Posties, particularly since the military is always in need of propaganda writers for the Iraqi media who can promulagate how great things are going in Iraq.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

It's The Media's Fault!!!

Those nattering nabobs of negativity just won't cover positive stories out of Iraq.

All they do is focus on the bad - like the car bombs, the mass executions, the kidnappings, the beheadings, the torture, the IED's, the lack of water, electricity, and employment, etc.

But they never talk about the good things in Iraq - like, well I dunno, like how McDonald's and Pizza Hut have opened franchises in our permanent American military bases or how Halliburton has made a shit load of money over the last three years.

At least so say Preznit Bush, Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham et al.

The problem, at least as conservatives see it, is that the media has turned the American people against the war by only showing the bloodshed and horrors.

Laura Ingraham
, for instance, said this to David Gregory this morning on The Today Show:

“David, to do a show from Iraq means to talk to the Iraqi military, to go out with the Iraqi military, to actually have a conversation with the people,” Ingraham said, “Instead of reporting from hotel balconies about the latest IEDs going off."

Ingraham is of course insinuating that American reporters are too lazy to do some real reporting so they simply cover the horror stories instead - like the car bombs and the mass killings - and then go off and enjoy Happy Hour drinks at 2 PM.

Which is of course a load of shit. Iraq is so dangerous that any American or Western reporter traveling around the country risks death, kidnapping, beheading etc. every minute of every hour of every day they are there.

As Richard Engel noted in the Andrea Mitchell MSNBC report:

“There have been about 70 reporters killed over here while trying to go out and find the stories,” Engel says. “Another 40 of them have been taken hostage, three are still being detained by kidnappers.”

Including Christian Science Monitor reporter Jill Carroll.

So for Ingraham, Limbaugh et al. to insinuate that reporters are cowards for sending out Iraqi counterparts to do the reporting and mostly sticking to the Green Zone to file their stories is a bullshit argument. If the reporters treated the Iraq story the way they treated the Katrina story, they would be all over the place filming and reporting and also being kidnapped and killed.

That is the reality in Iraq.

And you'll notice all the conservatives complaining about the cowardice of the American media in the coverage of the Iraq war are doing so from the comfort of climate controlled studios in America.

So I've got an idea. How about Rush and Laura Ingraham do The Today Show for a week from a different city in Iraq. Start in Samarra, head to Mosul, then Fallujah, then Tikrit, and finish up in the Sadr City slum in Baghdad. No bodyguards, no weapons, no safety net - just the way kidnapped reporter Jill Carroll operated before she was captured by insurgents. Then, after Laura Ingraham's head is returned in a bowling bag and Rush's fat drug-addicted ass washes up on the banks of the Tigris, I think some of the whiny conservatives will realize how inane their criticism of the media's Iraq war coverage is.

McCain Continues His Downward Descent

So much for the Straight Talk Express or the "honest Republican maverick" mantle. John McCain hired Terry Nelson, who served as national political director for for Preznit Bush's reelection campaign in 2004, to be a "senior adviser" to McCain's Straight Talk America political action committee.

The only problem is, as Paul Kiel at TPM noted yesterday, Terry Nelson is named in the Tom Delay indictment to launder money between Washington and Texas and use the funds for Republican campaigns. As deputy chief of staff of the Republican National Committee at the time, Nelson helped carry out the Washington part of Delay's money laundering/campaign finance scheme.

In addition, Kiel finds that Nelson was also the superior to James Tobin, the New England director of the RNC who was convicted last year in a Republican scheme to jam Democratic get out the vote phone lines in 2002. Nelson was placed on the government's witness list to testify at the trial, though he was never called as a witness, which makes Kiel think the government thought he knew something specific about the case. Either way, though, his role in the scheme is still sleazy.

Which brings us back to McCain. Is hiring a political operative named in the Tom Delay indictment McCain's idea of bringing more "straight talk" into Washington politics? Is hiring a potential witness on the government's trial list in a Republican phone jamming scandal case McCain's idea of helping to return honest governance to Washington?

Because if it is, John McCain better get a clue. You can only run as the honest guy and drape the reform mantle all over your shoulders if you are the honest guy who wants to bring reform to Washington.

But if you're hiring sleazy political operatives with ties to Tom Delay and James Tobin, you might just have to abdicate your "honest reformer" title and run as a good old "Bush/Cheney/Rove/Halliburton" Republican.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Wash Post Says GOP Is In Disarray

I had to blink twice while reading this story in the Post saying the GOP is struggling to define a cohesive election message for the 2006 midterms and make sure it wasn't about Democrats.

But it wasn't:

Republican efforts to craft a policy and political agenda to carry the party into the midterm elections have stumbled repeatedly as GOP leaders face widespread disaffection and disagreement within the ranks.

Anxiety over President Bush's Iraq policy, internal clashes over such divisive issues as immigration, and rising complaints that the party has abandoned conservative principles on spending restraint have all hobbled the effort to devise an election-year message, said several lawmakers involved in the effort.

While it is a Republican refrain that Democrats criticize Bush but have no positive vision, for now the governing party also has no national platform around which lawmakers are prepared to rally.

Every effort so far to produce such a platform has stumbled.

Seriously, doesn't that sound like an Adam Nagourney article from the Times, only with the word "Republicans" substituting for the phrase "stupid, stupid Democrats"?

But of course Republicans really are struggling for a message this midterm election year.

What can they run on exactly?

The economy? It's a good economy by the numbers for a few people, but the vast majority of Americans have deep concerns over their jobs, stagnant wages, disappearing pensions, inflation, housing prices, college costs, energy costs, etc.

And given that Preznit Bush has 28%-32% approval ratings on his handling of the economy and GOP members of both the House and Senate have supported his policies 90% of the time, the economy doesn't sound like a winning issue come November for Republicans.

How about the Iraq war?

Ron Brownstein notes in today's LA Times that fully 60% of Americans in the latest Gallup poll believe the Iraq war has not been worth the cost and 55% believed that chaos and civil war were the most likely outcomes in Iraq.

Chick Hagel (R-Nebraska) agreed with former Iraqi prime minister Iyad Allawi's assertion to the BBC that Iraq is already in a civil war, telling George Stephanopolous on ABC's This Week

I think we've had a low grade civil war going on in Iraq for the last six months maybe the last year-our own generals have told me that privately George, so that's a fact.
Hagel went on to say that the Iraq war is bankrupting our country and making the region in the Middle East "more unstable" now than three years ago before the war.

Even George Will told Stephanopolous that the Iraq war "is not working."

Of course Will's right that the Bush Iraq war policy is not working. Obviously hawking the Iraq war as a reelection strategy isn't going to work either and Republicans know it. They also know it is going to become harder to demagogue critics of the war since that accounts for about 60%-65% of the country.

So that strategy's out.

The GOP can always run on national security, I suppose, though the Dubai ports deal George Bush tried to ram through the Congress makes it harder for the GOP to run as the sole protectors of the homeland. I know that Tweety Bird, Dana Milbank and Pat Buchanan all said last week that a terrorist attack in the United States or an attack against Iran could possibly help the GOP in the short run shore up its poll numbers and hold control of the House and Senate.

Leaving aside the sick notion that wagging the dog against Iran or hoping for a terorrist attack here in the U.S. is a good reelection strategy for the GOP, let's ask ourselves if the 60%-65% of the people who think the Bush administration is incompetent in its handling of the Iraq war are going to be any more sanguine about Bush starting a new war in Iran? Or the 60%-65% of the people who think Bush mishandled the Katrina disaster aren't going to blame George Bush if terrorists strike against the United States again and the outcome is as chaotic as the Katrina aftermath?

Sorry, I don't see a war with Iran or a sudden terrorist attack in the U.S. as a winner for the GOP. Not anymore. Not after Iraq, Katrina, Dubai ports deal, etc.

There's always the good old GOP wedge issue to run on, like gay marriage or flag burning, but with the concerns over the war and the economy so strong these days, I don't think wedge issues will have the same resonance they've had in the past.

I guess Republicans can always pull out the "Democrats are tax and spend liberals who will steal your money and give it to welfare mothers" meme for the campaign, as RNC chair and confirmed bachelor Ken Mehlman suggests may happen in the Washington Post article:

"If you are someone who favors small government," Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman said, "you're going to have a clear choice between someone who has cut taxes every year in office, who believes you ought to own your own health care . . . and who plans to cut the deficit over five years versus people who have consistently supported more spending, have opposed tax cuts and who oppose patients owning their own health care. The question is, who's on your side for reducing the size of government?"

Of course, the one problem with this strategy is that the majority party in power for the last six years - the GOP - has taken a budget surplus of $178 billion and turned it into a deficit of $354 billion and grown the government more than any other time since LBJ. Plus recent polls show Americans trusting Democrats to better handle the deficit and government spending.

No, I think the "we're small-government conservatives" campaign theme isn't going to work so well.

Perhaps the best GOP midterm strategy is one Karl Rove and company have pursued for the last eight years. Let's call it the "Diebold strategy." I think you know what I mean. In this strategy, the GOP sweeps all races across the nation even though poll numbers show Democrats being favored by 16 points in a generic ballot and exit polls show Democrats winning on election day. Then you call anybody who questions the election results "a crazy person" or a "conspiracy nut" and ride off into the sunset with your Republican majority.

Let's not kid ourselves. That's probably the strategy they're going to pursue this November.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Rahm Emanuel's Strategy To Retake The House

This sounds like a winner in the November midterms to me (via Jonathan Alter at Newsweek):

The strategy for getting swing-district voters to fire their incumbents is already taking shape. Just as Harry Truman ran against the "Do-Nothing Congress," Democrats will run against the "Rubber-Stamp Congress," which pimped for K Street, took a dive on its critical oversight duties (particularly on Iraq) and helped the president bankrupt the country by shoveling money toward the rich. Emanuel won't say yet which votes supporting Bush he plans to wrap around the necks of incumbents. But look for gut-punch ads that highlight the incumbents' 90-plus percent backing for Bush on issues like cuts in college loans and veterans benefits, privatizing Social Security, selling out to Big Pharma on prescription drugs and halting stem-cell research. Republicans are now scurrying away from Bush, but it may be too late. They can't take those roll-call votes back.

Emanuel knows that if Democrats turn the election into a referendum on how to punish Bush (censure, impeachment) instead of on the Bush record, they'll get clobbered. But election experts are reassessing their earlier predictions, as districts in upstate New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania once thought out of reach for Democrats move into play. Controlling at least one chamber of Congress will give the Democrats the subpoena power necessary to offer some basic accountability. If Rahm Emanuel can pick the lock, he'll help open the door to a long-overdue housecleaning.

I agree that turning the election into a referendum on how to punish Bush would be a mistake.

Most Americans don't want to obliterate Bush off the face of the earth the way some of us on the left do (and believe me, I'm one of them - I've never hated a politician the way I hate this motherfucker. Just the sight of his arrogant, unreconstructed alcoholic face makes me angry and I would like to see him go down in history as the worst American president EVER, which undoubtedly he will unless the wingnuts at FOX and Murdoch Inc. get to write the history!)

Most Americans, rather, want to fix the mess the nation's mired in. Bring down the budget deficit, clean up Iraq, make the borders and ports more secure, ensure that Social Security, Medicare and people's pensions will be around 20 years from now, make the multinationals stop outsourcing good paying American jobs, etc.

I think Emanuel's on to something with this midterm strategy. Hang this Congress and Senate with all their rubber stamp votes of Bush's disasterous policies.

Tell people:

If you want to fix Iraq, the deficit, border/port security, Social Security/Medicare/pensions, outsourcing, etc., then you have to vote against this Rubber Stamp Bush Congress.

On the other hand, if you want more fuck-ups in Iraq, more fuck-ups during national disasters, bigger deficits and more financial mismanagement, insecure borders/ports, insolvent Social Security/Medicare/pension programs, and more outsourced jobs, then reelect your Republican Member of Congress or Senator.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Is Bush Authorizing Warrantless Domestic Searches?

This US News and World Report article suggests the preznit has authorized the FBI to conduct "black bag searches" of the homes and offices of Americans involved in terrorism cases. The clandestine warrentless search detailed in the article is pretty funny in a black humor sort of way:

At least one defense attorney representing a subject of a terrorism investigation believes he was the target of warrantless clandestine searches. On Sept. 23, 2005--nearly three months before the Times broke the NSA story--Thomas Nelson wrote to U.S. Attorney Karin Immergut in Oregon that in the previous nine months, "I and others have seen strong indications that my office and my home have been the target of clandestine searches." In an interview, Nelson said he believes that the searches resulted from the fact that FBI agents accidentally gave his client classified documents and were trying to retrieve them. Nelson's client is Soliman al-Buthe, codirector of a now defunct charity named al-Haramain, who was indicted in 2004 for illegally taking charitable donations out of the country. The feds also froze the charity's assets, alleging ties to Osama bin Laden. The documents that were given to him, Nelson says, may prove that al-Buthe was the target of the NSA surveillance program.

The searches, if they occurred, were anything but deft. Late at night on two occasions, Nelson's colleague Jonathan Norling noticed a heavyset, middle-aged, non-Hispanic white man claiming to be a member of an otherwise all-Hispanic cleaning crew, wearing an apron and a badge and toting a vacuum. But, says Norling, "it was clear the vacuum was not moving." Three months later, the same man, waving a brillo pad, spent some time trying to open Nelson's locked office door, Norling says. Nelson's wife and son, meanwhile, repeatedly called their home security company asking why their alarm system seemed to keep malfunctioning. The company could find no fault with the system.

In October, Immergut wrote to Nelson reassuring him that the FBI would not target terrorism suspects' lawyers without warrants and, even then, only "under the most exceptional circumstances," because the government takes attorney-client relationships "extremely seriously." Nelson nevertheless filed requests, under the Freedom of Information Act, with the NSA. The agency's director of policy, Louis Giles, wrote back, saying, "The fact of the existence or nonexistence of responsive records is a currently and properly classified matter."

Middle aged white guy shows up as part of the Hispanic cleaning crew with a brillo pad and some lockpicking tools and searches a lawyer's office- Jesus, is Gordon Liddy back on the fucking government payroll? Where were the Cubans?

On a serious note, will the Republican Congress hold hearings and conduct an honest investigation into the allegations of warrantless domestic searches or is the destruction of the Fourth Amendment another casualty of Bush's War on Terra'?

Newsweek Has Bush at 36% Approval

Falling, falling falling in every category of approval:

March 18, 2006 - A bitterly divided electorate gives President George W. Bush an approval rating of only 36 percent in the latest NEWSWEEK poll, matching the low point in his presidency recorded last November. His image as an effective leader in the war on terror is tarnished, with less than half the public (44 percent) approving of the way he’s handling terrorism and homeland security. Despite a series of presidential speeches meant to bolster support for the war in Iraq, as well as the announcement of a major military offensive when the poll was getting under way, only 29 percent of the people questioned approved Bush’s handling of the situation in Iraq. Fully 65 percent disapprove.

The way the president has dealt with issues at home hasn't brought him much support either. His approval ratings for the handling of energy policy (28 percent) and health care (28 percent) were new lows, while approval on the economy (36 percent) mirrored his overall rating. The single area where President Bush accrued more approval than disapproval was in his appointments to the Supreme Court, which 47 percent approved.

So how are things shaping up for Democrats in the November midterms?

All of this bodes ill for the Republicans as midterm congressional elections approach this fall, although some Democratic strategists are concerned that the censure resolution and impeachment talk may actually make for an unwanted distraction. Registered voters continue to prefer Democratic candidates for Congress over GOP candidates by a margin of 50 percent to 39 percent.

This is the third of four NEWSWEEK polls taken since September 2005 showing the Democrats with a double-digit lead. The Democrats never had such an advantage in any NEWSWEEK poll conducted before the last two off-year Congressional elections, 2002 and 1998. The Democrats now lead in Congressional vote preferences of Independents by 47 percent to 31 percent. Key to the election outcome is whether the Democrats’ big advantage with independent voters will be maintained and how many of these voters will actually turn out in November.

Both houses of Congress are now controlled by the Republicans, but public opinion now favors a Democratic takeover this November by a margin of 50 percent to 34 percent. Among Independents, the Democrats are preferred by more than a two-to-one margin: 51 percent to 22 percent.

Wow - public opinion favors a Democratic takeover of the Congress by 16 points. Sometimes I read these numbers in the prefernece polls and blink a few times to make sure I'm reading them right.

But I am reading them right. The GOP has control of the House, the Senate and the White House and the nation is a mess. People want a change.

And when people want a change, they show up to vote - even in midterm elections.

In fact, if anybody's not showing up to vote this November, it's conservative voters sickened by a GOP House and Senate that have spent the nation into bankruptcy and a preznit who has never vetoed any spending bill even as he has lectured about "fiscal prudence."

NY Times Says Torture Took Place Both Before And After Abu Ghraib

Preznit Bush says we don't torture prisoners. So how would you characterize this treatment of Iraqi prisoners by a Special Operations force that ran a detention center in Iraq complete with an interrogation facility (i.e., torture chamber) known as the "black room"?

In the windowless, jet-black garage-size room, some soldiers beat prisoners with rifle butts, yelled and spit in their faces and, in a nearby area, used detainees for target practice in a game of jailer paintball. Their intention was to extract information to help hunt down Iraq's most-wanted terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, according to Defense Department personnel who served with the unit or were briefed on its operations.

The Black Room was part of a temporary detention site at Camp Nama, the secret headquarters of a shadowy military unit known as Task Force 6-26. Located at Baghdad International Airport, the camp was the first stop for many insurgents on their way to the Abu Ghraib prison a few miles away.

Placards posted by soldiers at the detention area advised, "NO BLOOD, NO FOUL." The slogan, as one Defense Department official explained, reflected an adage adopted by Task Force 6-26: "If you don't make them bleed, they can't prosecute for it." According to Pentagon specialists who worked with the unit, prisoners at Camp Nama often disappeared into a detention black hole, barred from access to lawyers or relatives, and confined for weeks without charges. "The reality is, there were no rules there," another Pentagon official said.

This Task Force 6-26 detention center was off limits to everyone, even the Red Cross. The Times says nobody knows really how bad the torture in the center was or how many prisoners were mistreated. The Times does note that the declassified documents about Task Force 6-26 belie the Pentagon's and Bush administration's assertions that prisoner abuse in Iraq was limited to a few malcontents on the nightshift at Abu Ghraib.

Unfortunately we'll probably never learn the full extent of the torture and murders perpetrated by American military and intelligence personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay because this Republican Congress, led by water carriers like Senator Pat Roberts and Senator John Warner, have done everything in their power to keep these abuses under wraps and this administration has taken great pains to scapegoat only low level personnel for the abuses.

The administration of course defends itself by saying 9/11 changed everything and the United States has to do everything in its power to hunt down insurgents in Iraq and terrorists everywhere even if it means ratcheting up interrogation techniques and walking a dangerous line between legal treatment and torture.

But the Times article says that the harsh interrogations at Camp Nama by Task Force 6-26 yielded little information to capture insurgents or save American lives.

Just like the NSA spying program and the allegations made in US News and World report that Bush authorized warrantless searches of terrorist suspects on domestic soil, this administration has repeatedly broken the law in order to save us from "terrorists" and in the process torn the Constitution to shreds.

And the Republicans in Congress and their GOP allies on the cable and sunday shows demagogue anybody who criticizes the administration's law-breaking gestapo tactics as "aiding an abetting the terrorists."

What do you think the grandfather of the conservative movement, Barry Goldwater, would say about all this?

New House Majority Leader Needs To Go The Way Of The Old Majority Leader

John Boehner was elected House Majority Leader because he was a "reformer" who famously opposed "earmarks" or sweeteners being added to House bills late in the legislation process in order to ensure passage.

GOP members wanted their new Leader to be without the "taint of corruption" that brought down former House Majority Leader Tom Delay and ended Delay's handpicked successor, Roy Blunt's, campaign to replace him.

But while Boehner's stance on earmarks is an improvement upon both Tom Delay and Roy Blunt, in other ways Boehner is just as corrupt as the old Hammer ever was. At the time of his election, many critics noted Boehner was very, very close with lobbyists in industries his House committees oversaw, like the student loan and for-profit online college industries. Others felt Boehner seemed pretty lukewarm to the lobbying reform legislation that was awaiting (and still is) passage in the House.

But even though I suspected Boehner was pretty dirty, I never thought he was this dirty (per Jeffrey Birnbaum in the Washington Post):

House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio), who rose to power in the wake of a congressional lobbying scandal, spent the equivalent of nearly six months on privately funded trips over the past six years, according to a new study by a nonpartisan research group.

The Center for Public Integrity said that Boehner accepted 42 privately sponsored trips from January 2000 to December 2005. That put him on the road to other countries and "golfing hotspots," often with his wife, Debbie, for about half a year, "only nine days of which he listed as being 'at personal expense,' " the center said.

Boehner also flew at least 45 times on corporate jets owned by companies "with a financial stake in congressional affairs" from June 2001 through September 2005, the center reported. The corporations on whose planes Boehner flew included tobacco companies such as R.J. Reynolds Tobacco (15 times), UST Inc. (seven times) and Swisher International Inc. (seven times).

"Boehner is one of Congress' most frequent corporate fliers," Roberta Baskin, executive director of the center, said, based on a review of other lawmakers' disclosure forms.

Boehner rejected that characterization and offered himself as an agent of change, especially on the issue of congressional ethics. The center concluded, however, that Boehner built "a network of political and business relationships" with corporations and other interests "not unlike" his predecessor, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), whose tenure in the job was controversial in large part because of his close ties to lobbyists and lobbying groups. DeLay stepped down last year after he was indicted in Texas on charges of political money laundering.

So where has Boehner traveled on the dimes of his favorite corporate lobbyists and what kinds of gifts have he and his staff received?

Among the places Boehner traveled on privately financed trips were Edinburgh, Scotland; Venice; Brussels; and Barcelona, the center said. Two of his domestic destinations, which the center pointed out are famous for their golf courses, were Boca Raton, Fla., and Scottsdale, Ariz.

The report said Boehner received more than $160,000 in food, lodging, transportation and other expenditures on his privately paid journeys. His benefactors included the Chicago Board of Trade, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, CSX Corp. and the Sallie Mae Foundation.

The congressman also "hosted many high-end fundraisers to wine and dine potential donors and Republican colleagues," the center said. Boehner's Freedom Project political action committee, which he used to help fellow Republicans get elected to Congress, paid more than $119,000 for golf-outing fundraisers from March 2003 through the end of 2005, the center said. It also paid $25,000 to Duck Soup, the "unofficial band of the PGA Tour."

The same leadership PAC spent more than $87,000 on food, beverages and fund-raising costs at Sam & Harry's, a D.C. steakhouse popular with lobbyists, from 2001 through August 2005. It also paid more than $40,000 over two nights at Washington's Hard Rock Cafe, the center reported.

Boehner's spokesman said that those kinds of expenditures were commonplace for fundraising events.

Boehner's staff has benefited from corporate-paid travel. The congressman approved trips taken by dozens of his aides from his personal office and the staff of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which he chaired starting in 2001. Over the past five years, the center said, his staff aides took more than 150 privately paid trips worth more than $200,000 to locations as far-flung as Japan and Europe.
As chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Boehner has helped pass new regulations on student loans that have fixed interest rates for college students at 6.9% and parents of college students at 8.5% starting July 1st despite the fact that the prime rate remains much lower. College students and parents of college students will also no longer be able to consolidate their loans at lower interest rates even if interest rates fall in the future.

You'll note that one of Boehner's favorite corporate donors is Sallie Mae, the student loan provider. According to the Village Voice, Sallie Mae contributed over $100,000 in the 2003-2004 election cycle to Boehner through PAC's and individual donors. That's 40% of all contributions made to lawmakers by the entire student loan industry!!! Think Progress reported that PoliticalMoneyLine found that of the $572,719 in contributions received by Boehner's Freedom Project PAC, the private student loan industry gave $220,000 including $52,670 from Sallie Mae's officers and that Sallie Mae is Freedom Project's biggest donor.

You'll also note that according to Stephen Burd at the Chronicle of Higher Education, Boehner's daughter, Tricia, works for the General Revenue Corporation, a loan-collection company owned by Sallie Mae.

Finally you'll note that Congress and Preznit Bush have cut the Pell Grant program and replaced much of that student aid money into government subsidies for companies that provide Stafford loans to college students.

John Boehner helped lead that fight and Sallie Mae is the biggest beneficiary of the government's largesse.

Boehner is one dirty motherfucker and it sure would help college students and their families if we could bring Boehner down, or better yet, see him frog-marched into prison on corruption charges.

As a high school teacher of three senior classes this year, I have to tell you that next year's college students are getting hammered with their financial aid packages.

Students who come from families of three or more with overall income of less than $30,000 in New York City are no longer receiving full Pell grants and are instead being loaded up with Stafford and Perkins loans for themselves and PLUS loans for their parents.

One kid, mother making $43,000 with overtime, received no grants at all, though she is eligible for a PLUS loan (8.5% fixed interest.) And before you say that $43,000 a year is a lot of money, remember that this is $43,000 in New York City. That's like $30,000 everywhere else. And this woman is working ten hours or more overtime every week to make that kind of money!

But no Pell grant or TAP for her kid. Just a PLUS loan at 8.5% fixed interest paid to Sallie Mae - first by the federal government, then by the parent who works her ass off to pull in $43,000 in the first place.

Again, I say that Boehner is a dirty motherfucker who must go down the way Tom Delay went down.

When Boehner first took on his chairmanship of the House Education and Workforce Committee, he pledged to "make positive reforms for Americans from grade school to the golden years."

Between the obscene amounts of money fed to him by the college loan and for-profit college and trade school industries, his daughter's position on the payroll of a Sallie Mae subsidiary, and his privately funded junkets to play golf, eat steak with lobbyists, and visit the Hard Rock Cafe for political fundraisers, it is quite obvious that the only "positive reforms" Boehner is making is for himself and his corporate overlords.

Friday, March 17, 2006

So Where'd The Money Go?

From the Associated Press:

NEW YORK (AP) -- The city has not brought the average size of its early grade classes below 20 students despite $491 million in state funds it has accepted for that purpose since 1999, a new report says.

The audit by State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, released Thursday, found that 59 percent of kindergarten through third-grade classes had more than 20 students. The city did reduce the average class size from 24.9 students in 1998-99 to 21.3 students in 2004-05, according to the audit.

The city has received $491 million under a 1997 state program that requires school systems to add the additional money to existing funding for those grades.

The Department of Education provided 1,566 too few classes for those grades than it should have under the law, Hevesi's report found.

"At a time when lower enrollment in the lower grades should have made it easier to cut class size, it's very disappointing that the city did not achieve the goal of an average 20 students in class," the comptroller said in a statement.

The audit covered the period between July 1, 2002, and June 30, 2005.

So what'd Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein do with the money given them for smaller class sizes for the early grades?

I'd bet the money went to bullshit professional development programs developed by Bloomberg and/or Klein cronies, room rugs, rulers to measure bulletin board margins, and photo copies of the core curriculum for all schools,

Important stuff like that.

But hey, at least we get to enjoy Snapple in all Department of Education facilities. It's made from the best stuff on earth - namely a Bloomberg money deal!!!

Time: Operation Swarm "Fizzles" In Iraq

I know I'm coming late to this story, as Atrios and John at Americablog have already blogged about how Time reporter Chris Albritton has exposed Operation Swarmer in Iraq as a Potemkin assault that has netted a few weapons and even fewer insurgents and Mike at Bornatthecrestoftheempire was calling this bullshit assault Operation P.R. yesterday, but nonetheless I'm shocked by just how big a bust this is.

Here's Albritton in Time on Operation Swarmer:

The press, flown in from Baghdad to this agricultural gridiron northeast of Samarra, huddled around the Iraqi officials and U.S. Army commanders who explained that the "largest air assault since 2003" in Iraq using over 50 helicopters to put 1500 Iraqi and U.S. troops on the ground had netted 48 suspected insurgents, 17 of which had already been cleared and released. The area, explained the officials, has long been suspected of being used as a base for insurgents operating in and around Samarra, the city north of Baghdad where the bombing of a sacred shrine recently sparked a wave of sectarian violence.

But contrary to what many many television networks erroneously reported, the operation was by no means the largest use of airpower since the start of the war. ("Air Assault" is a military term that refers specifically to transporting troops into an area.) In fact, there were no airstrikes and no leading insurgents were nabbed in an operation that some skeptical military analysts described as little more than a photo op. What’s more, there were no shots fired at all and the units had met no resistance, said the U.S. and Iraqi commanders.


With the Interior Ministry's Samarra commando battalion, the soldiers had found some 300 individual pieces of weaponry like mortars, rockets and plastic explosives in six different locations inside the sparsely populated farming community of over 50 square miles and about 1,500 residents. The raids also uncovered high-powered cordless telephones used as detonators in homemade bombs, medical supplies and insurgent training manuals.

Before loading up into the helicopters for a return trip to Baghdad, Iraqi and American soldiers and some reporters helped themselves to the woman’s freshly baked bread, tearing bits off and chewing it as they wandered among the cows. For most of them, it was the only thing worthwhile they’d found all day.

48 suspected insurgents captured, 17 already released. 300 weapons. No shots fired.

Amazing payoff to the assault considering the Bush administration sold us Operation Swarmer yesterday as the "largest air assault" since the beginning of the war.

48 suspected insurgents captured, 17 already released. 300 weapons. No shots fired.

Jesus, these guys can't even run a P.R. operation well anymore!

And P.R. used to be their strong suit!

Operation Swarmer was launched after Iraqi intelligence indicated the Samarra area was loaded with insurgents and weapons.

The Iraqi intelligence was obviously wrong.

The Bushies will blame it on the Iraqis, but the reality is, Operation Swarmer is a fine metaphor for the Iraq war right from the beginning when Preznit Bush told us we had to take out Saddam before he used his WMD's on us.

Those nonexistent WMD's Bush had so many thousands of troops looking for in the summer of 2003 that we didn't have enough troops to quell the burgeoning Iraqi insurgency.

The same insurgency the American and Iraqi army can't find.

Romney's A Sleazebag

I'm watching Imus on MSNBC right now and I have to say that Mitt Romney makes me sick.

He managed to blame the media for recent poll numbers showing 70% of Americans believe Iraq is devolving into civil war (cuz' it's Reuters fault that 100 people a week are being garroted in revenge killings, you know) and say anybody who wants to withdraw troops from Iraq just isn't tough enough in the face of a "tough job."

OK, cowboy - how about putting your money where your mouth is and sending some of your family members over to Iraq to help "establish democracy." And while you're at it, send another 250,000 troops over too, because that's what it's going to take to actually establish at least a modicum of security in that country, let alone fucking democracy.

But of course Romney would rather demagogue the issue by characterizing war critics as cowards and weak instead of postulating a real plan to end the violence in Iraq and head off the possibility of a partitioned nation.

What a slick, phony scumbag. Romney's beyond contempt.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Promotion or Medal of Freedom?

From the Associated Press:

The lawyer accused by a judge of coaching witnesses in the death penalty case of Zacarias Moussaoui was placed on paid administrative leave from her job Thursday as the trial remained in recess.


The TSA lawyer, Carla Martin, violated federal witness rules when she sent trial transcripts to seven aviation witnesses, coached them on how to deflect defense attacks and lied to defense lawyers to prevent them from interviewing witnesses they wanted to call, a federal judge said Tuesday.


U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said that Martin's actions and other government missteps had left the aviation evidence ''irremediably contaminated,'' and the judge has excluded virtually half of the prosecution's case against the confessed al-Qaida conspirator.

I'm betting Ms. Martin gets a promotion - like deputy attorney general or a judicial appointment.

That's usually what her level of fuck-up gets from Bushie.

Major New American Military Offensive In Iraq

50 Black Hawk, Chinook, and Apache helicopters and 1,500 American and Iraqi troops are hitting alleged insurgent targets in an area outside of Samarra.

This is the biggest military air assault in Iraq since the original American invasion back in 2003.

This major assault comes nearly three years after Preznit Bush declared major combat operations in Iraq to be over.

CNN is reporting that the military is not allowing any press members to accompany either American or Iraqi troops.

We will be forced to rely upon the Pentagon for reports on the assault, including how well Iraqi troops perform in combat.

I imagine the Pentagon and/or the administration deliberately didn't embed any journalists with troops during this assault so that they can lie to us about how well the Iraqi troops performed during combat operations.

So when do you think the administration will release a report saying Iraqi troops performed extremely well during the Assault on Samarra: 2006 version?

I bet the report is released within the week, probably before the next "The Iraq War Is Going Swimmingly" speech Bush is set to give on Monday.

Salon Puts Up All 279 Of The Abu Ghraib Photos On Its Website

Truly sickening stuff. Salon has all 279 photos and 19 videos from the Army's internal investigation into the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal.

It seems the media has moved on from this scandal, however. The Bush administration spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to fight the release of these photos for nearly two years, figuring the photos would be old news and greeted by media yawns by the time they saw the light of day.

The Bush administration figured right.

There will be no coverage of these photos and videos. There will be little coverage of this story in today's Washington Post that says the top U.S. military intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib, Thomas Pappas, has admitted to a military court martial that he authorized the use of dogs on one high level prisoner who was not responding to standard interrogation techniques.

I would bet all of my Google stock that we will learn soon enough that other high level officers at Abu Ghraib signed off on some of the abusive interrogation techniques and/or torture that we can see depicted in the Abu Ghraib photos and videos.

But again, the media has moved on from this story and is too busy covering the political fallout from Russ Feingold's censure call against the preznit (conventional wisdom: bad for Dems...those stupid, stupid Dems...) or the frontrunners for the 2008 Democratic and Republican nominations (conventional wisdom: McCain and Hillary - smart call: who the fuck knows? We're two and a half years away and one November midterm away from the goddamned election!!!)

So we'll get little on the newly released Abu Ghraib photos and videos. But we'll get lots of conventional 2008 wisdom form Tweety Bird Matthews and Jeff Greenfield.

Dick Morris Says McCain/Guiliani Can't Win GOP Nod

Via Teagan Goddard's Political Wire, here is Dick Morris in The Hill handicapping the 2008 GOP primary race:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is destined to find that his love of the Republican Party will be unrequited.


You can’t be a front-runner for your party’s nomination and win 5 percent of the vote in a regional straw poll, finishing fourth, behind Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (Tenn.), Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Virginia Sen. George Allen. While McCain still leads in the national polls (not counting former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani), he is no genuine front-runner. He lacks the requisite enthusiasm he would need among core Republicans to cop that title.

He is, in fact, more of a stalking horse, a place to store voter preferences while the other candidates for the nomination break through their low thresholds of name recognition.

It’s a shame because McCain and Giuliani are the only two frequently mentioned candidates who could actually get elected and defy the likely disaster the GOP faces in ’08.

Giuliani, for his part, is even less likely than McCain to win the nomination. His pro-choice, pro-gun-control, pro-affirmative-action, pro-gay-rights, pro-immigration positioning is enough to give the party ulcers. The support he now shows in polls he gets just because the party faithful only see him in terms of his splendid 9/11 record.

None of the remaining candidates has a prayer to win the general election, although they are likely party-line enough to win the nomination. But their long histories of party loyalty and fealty to the right-wing agenda will do little to attract the swing voters of the next election: Hispanics and women.

The first phase of the GOP campaign will feature the fall from the top of McCain and, if he runs, Giuliani. The next phase will be characterized by doubts as to whether any of the remaining candidates are up to the task. And then, if the GOP voters are smart, they will draft the only winning candidate they could nominate, the secretary of state.

Or they won’t, and Hillary will be the next president. Nobody said Republican primary voters were very sensible.

I do get the sense that if McCain wins the primary, he wins the presidency in 2008.

I also get the sense that McCain is going to have one helluva time winning the primary given the amount of animosity he has engendered among the conservative base.

I don't think Rudy's even going to run. I think he knows in his heart he can't win the GOP nod and I think he also knows that if he officially announces a run for the White House, some intrepid reporters are going to look into his business dealings and discover he's as dirty as his former consigliere Bernie Kerik is.

Which makes Rudy an even less viable GOP option than McCain.

Read the Morris analysis of the rest of the GOP field. The short version is, Frist is ethically challenged, Romney's from Mass. (hard to run against eastern elites when you're one yourself) and Allen's just dumb.

Of course, Morris is just talking out his ass when he mentions Condi as the best alternative to McCain and Rudy.

I mean, Americans haven't elected either a woman or an African American to the White House yet. Does anyone really think the white males who happily voted for Bushie are going to pull the lever for an unmarried black woman who is rumored to be a lesbian?

We'll see, I guess. I'd rather focus on 2006 first, but it just goes to show how far the country has moved beyond George W. Bush that we are already talking about the 2008 presidential horserace in earnest already.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Poll Numbers Continue To Plummet For Bush/GOP

Here's a rundown of the last five polls measuring Preznit Bush's job approval rating. The first four come courtesy of, the last one courtesy of MSNBC:

AP-Ipsos: 37% approve; 60% disapprove
Pew: 33% approve; 57% disapprove
CBS: 34% approve 57% disapprove
Gallup: 36% approve; 60% disapprove
WSJ/NBC: 37% approve; 58% disapprove

Here's one very interesting number from the WSJ/NBC poll:

50% of American prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress after the November midterms while only 37% prefer a Republican-controlled Congress.

According to Keith Olbermann tonight on Countdown, the 50% preference number for the Democrats is the highest preference for either party ever in the WSJ/NBC poll.

Tom Defrank of the NY Daily News told Olbermann that the 13 point gap between the parties is essentially a vote of no confidence for both the preznit and the GOP-controlled Congress rather than a vote of confidence for Democrats.

Nonetheless, Defrank noted that if that 13 point gap between Democrats and Republicans continues all the way to November, the GOP is looking at a trouncing in the midterms.

I know Republicans think their control of the House is basically safe because of all the gerrymandered districts around the country.

But Tom DeFrank's a pretty smart political cookie (not to mention an old GOP operative for George Herbert Walker Bush.)

If Defrank thinks Republicans are in trouble, Republicans are in trouble.

Iraq Really Is Turning To Iran For Help...

...for electricity!!!!

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Electricity output has dipped to its lowest point in three years in Iraq, where the desert sun is rising toward another broiling summer and U.S. engineers are winding down their rebuilding of the crippled power grid.

The Iraqis, in fact, may have to turn to neighboring Iran to help bail them out of their energy crisis — if not this summer, then in years to come.

The overstressed network is producing less than half the electricity needed to meet Iraq’s exploding demand. American experts are working hard to shore up the system’s weaknesses as 100-degree-plus temperatures approach beginning as early as May, driving up usage of air conditioning, electric fans and refrigeration.

Just another reason to bomb the hell out of Iran.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Find An Enemy And Go Kick Some Ass!!

As usual, Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post says something I've been thinking a lot about recently more succinctly and more eloquently than I ever could:

President Bush always does better against an enemy. His strongest public support has come when demonizing Osama bin Laden (not hard), Saddam Hussein (a bit harder) -- and then John Kerry (his finest achievement).

But as the morass in Iraq seems to worsen day by day, identifying the enemy there has become increasingly difficult. Is it Sunnis? Shiites? Foreign terrorists? The insurgency? Saddamists? Independent militias? Is it us?

Yesterday brought two strong signs that even as Bush is trying -- and failing -- to placate the public about Iraq, he's increasingly keen to focus attention on a new villain: Iran.


A Bush who appears embattled, defensive and quite possibly overwhelmed inevitably leads to lower and lower public approval ratings.

But White House aides are abundantly aware that there's something about the image of a fearless American president boldly kicking butt that seems to fill the public with an enthusiasm that transcends even the issue of whose butt it may be.

And while the shift to war language may not consciously register with a lot of Americans, the right wing propaganda machine sure has gotten the message:


The New York Post today ran a full page and a half spread on the preznit's speech at GWU yesterday, focusing on Iran's alleged role in providing IED parts for Iraqi insurgents. I won't link to Murdoch on principle, but trust me, the story sounded like somebody at the White House wrote it.

The Washington Times ran an article today claiming Iran may be trying to buy uranium from Venezuela. Gee, this story reminds me of someth- oh, yeah!!! Saddam was trying to buy uranium from Niger!!! I remember now, that was the story the Bush administration told us and the media dutifully reported. Only it wasn't true.

But who cares about truth - this is about creating a p.r. campaign to stoke fears in America and ring the drum for war with Iran.


And as you can see from the wingnut headlines this morning, the p.r. campaign is well funded and well under way.

69 Bodies Found In Baghdad In Last 24 Hours

Preznit Bush used part of his "The Iraq War is going swimmingly" speech yesterday at George Washington University to say Iraq has not fallen into civil war though the country has experienced some extreme violence:

"The Iraqi people made their choice," he said. "They looked into the abyss and did not like what they saw."

Meanwhile the Associated Press reports that police have found at least 69 bodies over the last 24 hours in Baghdad - all executed in apparent retaliation for Sunday's coordinated car bombings in the Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City which killed 58 people and wounded more than 200. These retaliatory killings mark the second mass wave of killings in Iraq since the Golden Mosque was destroyed in Samarra on February 22.

Here are some of the details:

An abandoned minibus containing 15 bodies was found Tuesday on the main road between two mostly Sunni neighborhoods in west Baghdad, not far from where another minibus containing 18 bodies was discovered last week, said Interior Ministry official Maj. Falah al-Mohammedawi.

Fourteen bodies - handcuffed and shot and dressed only in underwear - were discovered in southeast Baghdad, police Lt. Bilal Ali said.

At least 40 more bodies were discarded in various parts of Baghdad, including both Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods, said al-Mohammedawi, while three bodies with gunshot wounds were found in Mosul, said Dr. Baha-Aldin al-Bakri at Mosul's Jumhouri Hospital.

But don't worry, cuz' there's no civil war here. As the preznit said, the Iraqi people have looked into the abyss and didn't like what they saw there.

Good God, how does anybody take anything the preznit says about Iraq and not just hear meaningless rhetoric and spin?

POSTSCRIPT: BTW, the preznit also used his "The Iraq War Is Going Swimmingly" speech to point a finger at Iran:

"Some of the most powerful IEDs we're seeing in Iraq today include components that come from Iran," Bush said. Such actions, along with Iran's nuclear program, he said, "are increasingly isolating Iran, and America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats."

That's the neocon Bush speechwriters for you - never losing an opportunity to raise the rhetoric and get Americans pumped up for another ass-kicking, mission accomplished Middle Eastern war.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Conservatives Already Start Whisper Campaign Against McCain

John McCain has spent the last two years sucking up to George W. Bush and the conservative base, hoping to avoid another Rovian ratfucking like he got in 2000 when Karl Rove started a whisper campaign during the South Carolina primary that McCain was a "Manchurian candidate" brainwashed by the Red Chinese during his Vietnam imprisonment, had a "black baby" (actually an adopted Korean child) and a drug addict wife (McCain's wife had sought treatment for a pill problem.)

McCain has since helped raise funds for lots of conservative candidates, has been a staunch supporter of the president on all the Sunday talk fests and cable news shows, and even asked for his supporters to vote for Bush during a 2008 presidential straw poll among delegates at the Southern Republican Conference this past weekend. Anything to raise his stature among conservative voters and evangelicals.

But it may not be enough, because the whisper campaign against McCain has already started. And it's coming from his right.

This morning Lloyd Grove, gossip columnist extraordinaire at the NY Daily News, published this piece of news (hat tip to Atrios):

Is John McCain a lesbian? Maybe we'll learn the answer from Edward Klein, who insinuated as much about Hillary Clinton in his 2005 biography — largely a clip-job of hit pieces, reviewers said — and is apparently hard at work on a poison-pen book about the Arizona senator. According to Crain's New York Business, Klein claims he'll chronicle the Republican presidential front-runner's "sexual infidelity, chronic gambling and anger management." I can hardly wait.

Over the weekend Matt Drudge snarked McCain over his call to supporters to put Bush's name on their straw poll ballots, saying basically that McCain knew he couldn't win the straw poll and therefore was just trying to save face.

And then Lou Dobbs tonight ran a Bill Schneider spot on McCain entitled "The Real McCain?" that was not quite a hit piece, but came awful close. Schneider noted that some people in the GOP think McCain is two-faced hypocrite, trying to be both "GOP Maverick" by pushing lobbying reform and his anti-torture bill while still being a "GOP loyalist" who sucks up to Bush in order to get the GOP money machine to raise funds for his 2008 campaign. The Schneider piece left no doubt that McCain has some real enemies in his party who will do anything to stop his march to the White House.

It sounds like the anti-McCainites in the GOP are looking to bring him down a notch or two long before the primary campaign starts and will be trying to find an Anybody But McCain candidate to settle on by 2007. From the straw poll results at the Southern Republican Conference, George Allen and Mitt Romney seem to be the frontrunners for the ABM candidate.

That's fine by me. I would love to see either Allen or Romney take the GOP nomination in 2008. First off, Tweety Bird and Imus and all the other media suck-ups would lose their McCain hard-ons, which would be a good thing for all of us, and secondly, I think Allen or romney could very easily be beat in 2008.

So go get McCain, boys. And let the Rovian ratfucking festivities continue all the way through 2007.

I, for one, would love to hear more about McCain's sexual infidelities, chronic gambling problem, and anger management issues.

CNN/GALLUP Poll: 51% of Americans See Bush As A Weak Preznit

Just announced on the Beard' s show at CNN:

Bush's approval rating: 36%
Bush's disapproval rating: 60%
Number of Americans who see Bush as a weak preznit: 51%
Number of Americans who think Bush's legacy will be Iraq: 64%
Number of Americans who think things are going badly in Iraq: 60%

GOP strategist Ed Rollins told Lou Dobbs on March 3rd that Bush's performance as president is so bad that he's starting to make even Republicans think fondly upon Jimmy Carter's presidency.

Hell, Bush's performance is so bad, he' starting to make even Republicans look fondly back upon James Buchanan's presidency.

POSTSCRIPT: CNN/GALLUP Poll also gives Democrats a 16 point lead for the upcoming midterm election.

Shiite Vigilantes Kill Men in Baghdad Streets

So when will this officially become a civil war? Because this sure sounds like a civil war to me:

Shiite vigilantes seized four men suspected of terrorist attacks, interrogated them, beat them, executed them and left their bodies hanging from lampposts in a Shiite slum today, according to witnesses and government officials.

The graphic display of street justice was the first response to a coordinated attack on Sunday evening that killed more than 50 civilians in a Shiite market, and it seemed to only add to the seeping sense of lawlessness.

In Sadr City, the Shiite slum that is essentially a city within a city, government forces have vanished. The streets are ruled by aggressive teenagers with shiny soccer jerseys and machine guns. They poke their heads into cars and detain whom they want. Mosques blare for American troops to stay out. Increasingly, the Americans have been doing just that.


Across town in a busy shopping area in western Baghdad, a 15-minute gunfight broke out between security contractors, more evidence of the authority vacuum. According to an Iraqi interior ministry spokesman who declined to give his name, armed guards for a cellphone company killed two guards for an Iraqi politician after a roadside "misunderstanding."

Meanwhile, the violence continued, with remote-controlled bombs exploding in Baghdad, Tikrit and a Kurdish neighborhood in Kirkuk, which had been thought to be among the safest in the city. Also, a stray mortar slammed into a Baghdad house, killing a young girl.

It is becoming more and more apparent that the Iraqi government cannot keep the peace in Iraq. U.S. troops have pulled back, a move which has decreased U.S. casualties for the month of March, but has also created this "authority vaccuum" which allows Shiite vigilante justice to occur on Baghdad streets in the middle of the day or Shiite death squads to be working out of the Interior Ministry or Sunni insurgents to garrot entire Shiite families and dump their bodies in the streets.

And the preznit and his team in the White House are turning to Iran?

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