Simply stated, the reason why rich folks continue to get tax cuts is that they are able to make huge political contributions to powerful Republicans. They can afford to retain influential GOP lobbyists. America’s wealthy can grease the palms of Washington insiders in order to take a bigger share of the “pie.” The gap between the rich and poor grew again last year, as it has for every year of the Bush Administration. Republicans made this happen.
Poor folks get the shaft because they can’t play the game. They aren’t able to make political contributions to powerful Republicans. They don’t grease the palms of Washington insiders for one simple reason: They are poor. They are struggling to make ends meet while they watch the American dream sail away.
There used to be a lot of talk in American politics about a level playing field. Not any more. Republicans have abandoned this concept. They replaced it with a boatload of neo-Christian blarney about the rich and powerful being where they are because God has recognized their initiative. Now, when regular folks complain that the power elite is getting preferential treatment, Republicans snap that this is “success envy.” They claim that talk about justice and equality is liberal camouflage for their desire to get ahead without working. (And without making payoffs to Republicans.)
Fundamentalist have taken over the Republican Party and, in the process, consummated the Devil’s bargain. They get to implement a conservative Christian theocracy. And Republican politicians get to keep the money.Meanwhile, the rest of us ask what happened to the American dream of “liberty and justice for all.”
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Cenk Uygur, one of my faves at HuffPo, has a column on a recent interview with US Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad.
First, the ambassador points out that we might have started an enormous problem we can't keep a lid on if we leave Iraq soon:
"A Pandora's box has been opened. The future of the world is at stake here because this region, Iraq, is the defining challenge of our time ... We need to close this in a way that does not produce huge problems down the road, that ultimately produces isolationism at home and a world with far more security problems than at present."
Remember, there was no Pandora's Box in Iraq before we invaded. The US ambassador says it has been opened. Who opened it? Obviously, we did.
He is also the first administration official to acknowledge the Iraq war might lead to a bigger and more dangerous regional war in the Middle East.And finally, the ambassador seems to concede that the US had no plan in Iraq until four months ago.
This kind of honesty makes you wonder how the ambassador got a job at the administration. But there is a reason behind this frank talk. The ambassador recognizes that if the government doesn't own up to some of the mistakes they've made, they'll have no credibility left -- this is a realization his bosses in the administration still have not come around to. So, he stands a fair chance of being punished for this transgression. No truth slips out of this White House without a price to pay....
"People need to be clear what the stakes are here. If we were to do a premature withdrawal, there could be a Shia-Sunni war here that could spread beyond Iraq. And you could have Iran backing the Shias and Sunni Arab states backing the Sunnis. You could have a regional war that could go on for a very long time, and affect the security of oil supplies. Terrorists could take over part of this country and expand from here. And given the resources of Iraq, given the technical expertise of its people, it will make Afghanistan look like child's play."
Why did we not consider this possibility before we invaded? It makes you despair of democracy. We couldn't muster up 51 senators -- or just one president -- who were smart enough to realize this might happen. Ambassador Khalilzad paints this as a possible out come if we leave Iraq prematurely. But the reality is that it is an outcome that is very likely no matter when we leave Iraq.
If we stay longer, are we really going to be able to resolve the Sunni-Shiite conflict? How does training the Shiite army -- because that is what we are doing right now when we train the "Iraqi" army -- help to resolve this conflict? It doesn't. It makes a Sunni bloodbath more likely. Are we under the delusion that when we strengthen the Shiite majority and then leave the country, that the Shiites will be munificent with their new found power?
...I think we should find a way to split Iraq as amicably as possible. You can call it the former Yugoslavia model. The Serbs, Croatians and the Bosnians were not going to be able stay together. So we mitigated the damage by separating them as best as we could. There were a lot of pitfalls along the way and left to their own devices, they would have had more ethnic cleansings and more civil wars. But the world worked together to find a solution that was not ideal, but the best we could do.
If we could do the same in Iraq, we would be a thousand times better off than we are now. If we don't change course, the ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia is going to look like a picnic compared to what happens in Iraq.
It's perfectly legitimate to think this solution is not the best one available. But what is not legitimate is to think our current strategy is working. We need to have a national debate on this issue and we need to do it right now.More stay the course speeches like the one President Bush gave this morning will lead us further down the rabbit hole. We need to get out of the hole and figure out what direction we're going. Then we could move on to what should be the second part of the discussion -- in what time frame will we carry out our plan for Iraq?
Matt Yglesias has a good take on it.
Meanwhile, it's plain that there's no actual strategy here. The document calls for "building democratic institutions" and eventually "providing an inspiring example to reformers in the region." But the administration has no idea how to do that stuff. The government is corrupt, the security services, when not totally ineffective, are highly politicized and rather brutal, and there's simply no consensus in Iraq about the basic legitimacy of the state. I don't blame the White House for not devising a ten point plan to resolve those problems -- they simply can't be resolved -- but I do blame them, a lot, for their determination to waste more blood and treasure in a situation where they're hopelessly adrift. The "longer term" goals, meanwhile, are just idiotic:An Iraq that is peaceful, united, stable, democratic, and secure, where Iraqis have the institutions and resources they need to govern themselves justly and provide security for their country.That would be nice, I guess, but Iraq can't both be a sovereign country and have its long-term policies determined in Washington. What if Iraq doesn't want to be a partner in the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction? How is Iraq supposed to be united if Iraq's Kurdish population doesn't want it to be united? How are we supposed to force Iraq's rulers to govern the country "justly?" And most of all, what about having 100,000+ soldiers and Marines running around the country hunting down bands of insurgent fighters is supposed to achieve any of this? There's a glaring disconnect between the goals of this enterprise, which all have to do with the nature of Iraqi politics and society, and the means at our disposal, which all have to do with killing people and blowing stuff up.
An Iraq that is a partner in the global war on terror and the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, integrated into the international community, an engine for regional economic growth, and proving the fruits of democratic governance to the region.
There are provisions in the new PATRIOT Act bill that further weaken habeas in federal law. Slate has a good column delineating the problems and flaws of the law. (Emphasis mine)
What's driving the effort to close off federal courts from prisoners? Have prisoners been exploiting legal loopholes to cut short their sentences? Hardly. The number of federal appeals brought by prisoners—and the success rate of those appeals—has steadily dropped for the last five years. Federal judges themselves decided as a body to oppose the current efforts in Congress to cut back further on prisoners' appeals.
Still, some lawmakers are determined to bend the courts to their will. If they really get their way, they'll eviscerate the centuries-old right of habeas corpus review as we know it—leaving all of us increasingly subject to the unilateral power of executive detention. Why stop with Jose Padilla or Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri if Congress is ready to let prosecutors lock up anyone and keep them there?... In 1969, the Warren Court called the writ "the fundamental instrument for safeguarding individual freedom against arbitrary and lawless state action." But by the 1980s, the Rehnquist Court was grumbling about "abuse of the writ." Former Chief Justice William Rehnquist objected that death-row inmates were bringing appeal after appeal to drag out their cases and argued that habeas review encouraged federal judges needlessly to second-guess state courts. He didn't have much evidence. But he convinced a majority of his colleagues to limit the writ. In 1989 in Teague v. Lane, for example, the court excluded habeas claims based on new constitutional rules of civil procedure; in other cases the justices whittled away at prisoners' rights to file successive habeas petitions. ... As for the habeas rights of run-of-the-mill criminal defendants, the proposed revision to the Patriot Act would take from the federal courts, and give to the attorney general, the authority to decide that a state has a system for providing "competent counsel" for death-row prisoners. A state that is so designated may then speed up and limit federal habeas review of its death-row cases. If Congress lets the country's chief prosecutor decide which states qualify, then legislators would be shoving the courts out of the way precisely because they are a neutral arbiter with an institutional concern about procedural fairness. ... For right-wing lawmakers and prosecutors, the federal courts are sometimes an irritant. Though the ranks of the judiciary are increasingly conservative, the courts can't always be relied on to do the bidding of the president or of prosecutors. That, of course, is what the courts are for. The Constitution insulates judges from partisan politics to ensure that they will be free to safeguard the rights of the powerless. At his confirmation hearings in September, Chief Justice John Roberts said, "If the Constitution says that the little guy should win, the little guy's going to win in court before me." But if Congress has its way, the little guy will never get into the courtroom.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Tell me, what is the relevance of the U.S. Constitution to such a process? And if the Constitution has no relevance for Mr. Padilla, who is after all, a U.S. citizen, how can you be sure it will be there for you? First they came for the gypsies...
Update: Third thought strikes! How LOVELY to have a an election started, waged, and settled in 90 days. Another lesson for us?
In matters of race — from his first presidential campaign to the moment you read this — Bush always chooses politics over principle. During the 2000 primaries, when Bush faced an unexpectedly strong challenge from John McCain, his response was the race card. Bush appeared at Bob Jones University, a South Carolina Bible college that, at the time, prohibited interracial dating among its students. This sent an unmistakable signal of solidarity with a certain segment of the white South: those who still resent the changes wrought by the civil rights movement.
There is nothing in his record that suggests Bush is racist. But he doesn't mind cozying up to racists if they offer political advantage. That's the president's greatest failing: He always chooses dividing the nation if he can plot a path to victory through the wreckage.
The Progress Report urges us to look at it this way: At least Judy Miller won't be reporting on WMD programs in Iran for The New York Times ... and we don't have Scott McClellan's job.
Monday, November 28, 2005
A top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday that wrongheaded ideas for the handling of foreign detainees arose from White House and Pentagon officials who argued that "the president of the United States is all-powerful" and the Geneva Conventions irrelevant.
Underlings exploited Bush's detachment and made poor decisions, Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson blamed Vice President Dick Cheney Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and like-minded aides. He said Cheney must have sincerely believed that Iraq could be a spawning ground for new terror assaults, because "otherwise I have to declare him a moron, an idiot or a nefarious bastard."
Cheney's office, Rumsfeld aides and others argued "that the president of the United States is all-powerful, that as commander in chief the president of the United States can do anything he damn well pleases," Wilkerson said.
Powell raised frequent and loud objections, his former aide said, once yelling into a telephone at Rumsfeld: "Donald, don't you understand what you are doing to our image?"
Wilkerson said Bush tried to work out a compromise in 2001 and 2002 that recognized that the war on terrorism was different from past wars and required greater flexibility in handling prisoners who don't belong to an enemy state or follow the rules themselves.
Bush's stated policy, which was heatedly criticized by civil liberties and legal groups at the time, was defensible, Wilkerson said. But it was undermined almost immediately in practice, he said.
In the field, the United States followed the policies of hard-liners who wanted essentially unchecked ability to detain and harshly interrogate prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, Wilkerson said.
"What he [Powell] seems to be saying to me now is the president failed to discipline the process the way he should have and that the president is ultimately responsible for this whole mess," Wilkerson said.
Even as his poll numbers tank, however, Bush is described by aides as still determined to stay the course. He resists advice from Republicans who fear disaster in next year's congressional elections, and rejects criticism from a media establishment he disdains.
"The President has always been willing to make changes," the senior aide said, "but not because someone in this town tells him to - NEVER!"
"He thinks that would be an admission he's screwed up, and he can't bring himself to do that," a former senior staffer lamented.
So aides have circled the wagons as Bush's woes mount, partly hoping they can sell the President on a December blitz of media interviews to help turn the tide.
"The staff basically still has an unyielding belief in the wisdom of what they're doing," a close Bush confidant said. "They're talking to people who could help them, but they're not listening."
Two sources said Bush has not only lost some confidence in his top aides, as the Daily News has previously reported, but is furious with a stream of leaks about the mood within the West Wing.
"He's asking [friends] for opinions on who he can trust and who he can't," one knowledgeable source said.
A card-carrying member of the Washington GOP establishment with close ties to the White House recently encountered several senior presidential aides at a dinner and came away shaking his head at their "no problems here" mentality.
"There is just no introspection there at all," he said in exasperation. "It is everybody else's fault - the press, gutless Republicans on the Hill. They're still in denial."
Wasn't it just a week or so ago that any withdrawal would be a victory for the insurgents? Wasn't it just days ago that any withdrawal would be a recipe for disaster? Is Bush throwing in his lot with the terrorists, or has he finally seen reality for what it is?
It always struck me as ironic, during the '04 campaign, that the derisive cry the Repugs used on Kerry was 'flip-flop'. Come on, no REAL man ever changes his mind.... he carries regardless of the situation or the odds to his pre-determined end.... did The Duke ever change HIS mind?
My take was that the Repugs considered their positions as God-given and immutable, and therefore, were incapable of change. Recent events have pretty much borne that out. And NOW, Bush is starting to show signs of maturity and the ability to learn from experience?
Five years late, but hey, it's a start.
A basketball-sized piece of marble molding fell from the facade over the entrance to the Supreme Court Monday, landing on the steps near visitors waiting to enter the building.
The 70-year-old Supreme Court building is undergoing a $122 million, five-year renovation project, although it is unclear whether the accident was related to that work. The project includes an underground two-story police station.
The sudden stop was to allow replacement of the two attorneys recently assassinated and one who has fled the country. The trial resumes next month.
What happened to the debate idea between you two?
I asked him repeatedly. He refused. He didn't even respond. But when all this started to unfold early last year, I asked three times to meet with the CPB board and try to find out what was going on.
I thought we could reason together and maybe agree on how to cooperate to protect Public Broadcasting's independence. I mean, I not only read the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, I helped to create it. CPB's job was to be a firewall between guys like them and the producers, journalists, and content of public broadcasting.
I thought at the time that I was dealing with people who cared about this institution. I didn't realize they had gone over to the dark side.
Well, Tomlinson is gone from PBS, but so is Moyers. I think the loss is heavier on our side.
conspiring to take bribes in exchange for using his influence to help a defense contractor get business.
He also pleaded guilty to one count of income tax evasion.
U.S. District Larry A. Burns scheduled Cunninghman's sentencing for Feb. 27.
Cunningham, an eight-term Republican congressman, had been under scrutiny for months for his ties to defense contractors and their officials.
Federal officials launched investigations after The San Diego Union-Tribune and Copley News Service reported in June that a defense contractor who won tens of millions of dollars in Pentagon contracts had taken a $700,000 loss after purchasing Cunningham's Del Mar house.
Cunningham sold the house for $1.675 million in November 2003, but the buyer, defense contractor Mitchell Wade, never moved in and almost immediately put it back on the market. Wade sold it 261 days later for $975,000.
Prosecutors contend the overpayment was a bribe.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
A key element of the drawdown plans, not mentioned in the President's public statements, is that the departing American troops will be replaced by American airpower. Quick, deadly strikes by U.S. warplanes are seen as a way to improve dramatically the combat capability of even the weakest Iraqi combat units.
Anyway, Hersh then goes on to explain the reason why the US will substitute ground troops with air strikes (basically b/c the Iraqi troops are so weak that they won't be able to defend the Iraqi political regime):
HERSH: Absolutely. Not very competent. Very weak. And if we must -- many of them Shiite, many of them controlled by militias. I mean, they're not necessarily loyal to any particular regime. And if we pull away the American ground support and the American air support, they're in trouble.
But if we -- we can take out troops if we increase air. In other words, the temple of air bombing, bombing's sort of the unknown story right now. We don't know how many bombs are dropped, where. Nobody reports publicly as they did, Wolf, in Vietnam.
During the Vietnam war, we got a daily total of how many missions, sorties per day, how much tonnage. We have no idea here how many bombs are actually dropping every day and where. But the idea is, you increase the pace of the bombing. And that will make an inadequate Iraqi unit be able to stand up a little bit, certainly against the insurgency. That's the thinking.
Sy Hersh then continues that there are several Air Force generals who have expressed concerns to him about the safety of our Air Force, using this new approach:
BLITZER: And then you go on to write this: "The prospect of using air power as a substitute for American troops on the ground has caused great unease. For one thing, Air Force commanders, in particular, have deep-seated objections to the possibility that Iraqis eventually will be responsible for target selection. 'Will the Iraqis call in air strikes in order to snuff rivals, or other warlords, or to snuff members of your own sect and blame someone else?' another senior military planner now on assignment in the Pentagon asked."
Your concern, specifically, is that American air power, which can be decisive, clearly, is going to be used for untoward, for bad purposes.
HERSH: It's not my concern. It's the concern of many senior generals in the air business, you know, in the Air Force. And planners, because they say, this is, you know, the power of American air is enormous. And the idea, it's, and it's, this is a skill.
People talk in terms, to me, the Air Force planners, of the exquisite nature of air bombing. The idea that you're going to turn over this control, this kind of force, to Iraqi units who can be penetrated by the insurgency, that have a lot of internal battles, as I say, many are militias. And they have problems that other people and other militias -- who knows what will motivate them?
BLITZER: So your concern is the spotters on the ground, the people who are going to be targeting, finding targets are going to be Iraqis as owe opposed to Americans. HERSH: It's the concern of a lot of people in the Pentagon. They'll tell you no, that they're going to be joint units. The Pentagon will officially say there's going to be joint units, Iraqi and Americans together. But eventually we know it will evolve into Iraqis calling in targets.
And it's not just spotting. We use a lot of sophisticated laser guided weapons and you have to have somebody on the ground to actually do a strike or illuminate a target with a laser beam for the plane to come in. And as I've had people in the Air Force say to me, what are we going to be bombing? Barracks? Hospitals? You know, who knows who's going to be telling us what to do?
BLITZER: So what you're hearing is that the U.S. air power, the U.S. Air Force, they're getting jittery even thinking about the fact that they may be called in to launch air strikes based on what they're getting from Iraqis on the ground.
HERSH: Suffice to say this, that this president in private, at Camp David with his friends, the people that I'm sure call him George, is very serene about the war. He's upbeat. He thinks that he's going to be judged, maybe not in five years or ten years, maybe in 20 years. He's committed to the course. He believes in democracy.
HERSH: He believes that he's doing the right thing, and he's not going to stop until he gets -- either until he's out of office, or he falls apart, or he wins.
BLITZER: But this has become, your suggesting, a religious thing for him? HERSH: Some people think it is. Other people think he's absolutely committed, as I say, to the idea of democracy. He's been sold on this notion.
He's a utopian, you could say, in a world where maybe he doesn't have all the facts and all the information he needs and isn't able to change.
I'll tell you, the people that talk to me now are essentially frightened because they're not sure how you get to this guy.
We have generals that do not like -- anymore -- they're worried about speaking truth to power. You know that. I mean that's -- Murtha in fact, John Murtha, the congressman from Pennsylvania, which most people don't know, has tremendous contacts with the senior generals of the armies. He's a ranking old war horse in Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. The generals know him and like him. His message to the White House was much more worrisome than maybe to the average person in the public. They know that generals are privately telling him things that they're not saying to them.
And if you're a general and you have a disagreement with this war, you cannot get that message into the White House. And that gets people unnerved.
I don't want to sound like I'm off the wall here. But the issue is, is this president going to be capable of responding to reality? Is he going to be able -- is he going to be capable if he going to get a bad assessment, is he going to accept it as a bad assessment or is he simply going to see it as something else that is just a little bit in the way as he marches on in his crusade that may not be judged for 10 or 20 years.
This is a definite issue to keep an eye on.
Saturday, November 26, 2005
The only real question is what will Bush have to do to lose the remaining 33-35% that still support him. I think short of strangling a puppy on live TV, this is the baseline.
Friday, November 25, 2005
It's all a little convuluted, but an Abramoff partner/associate is (at least peripherally) attached to the murder (apparently for hire) of a man with whom they had a business problem. Who paid to have the guy whacked is still up in the air, but the timing and the connections are suspicious, at best. It will probably go nowhere, but IF it does, this may be the most interesting part of the whole Abramoff storyline.
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Everyone enjoy the holiday. For those readers outside the U.S., enjoy your Thursday (and Friday for those across the IDL).
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
“There’s a dearth of seriousness in the coverage of news,” said veteran war correspondent Christiane Amanpour, “at a time when, in my view, it couldn’t be more serious.”• Dead troops are invisible. The Bush administration’s ban on capturing flag-draped coffins is echoed in the press’ overall treatment of American war dead. A May 2005 survey by the Los Angeles Times found that over a six-month span, a set of leading United States newspapers and magazines ran “almost no pictures” of Americans killed in action, and they ran only 44 photos of wounded Westerners.• Average monthly war coverage on the ABC, NBC and CBS evening newscasts, combined, has been cut in half—from 388 minutes in 2003, to 274 in 2004, to 166 in 2005.
“The problem is that people aren’t publishing the work,” said Stefan Zaklin of the European Pressphoto agency. Mr. Zaklin recalled taking a picture of a fallen U.S. Army captain during the November 2004 assault on Falluja. The soldiers, he said, “were O.K. with me taking that picture,” and it ran in Paris Match, the Bangkok Post, and on page 1 of Germany’s Bild-Zeitung, Europe’s highest-circulation newspaper. Its only exposure in the U.S., he said, was a two-hour spin on MSNBC.
“Corporations don’t want and don’t feel particularly a responsibility to aggressively rock the boat,” said Michael Kirk, a documentary producer working for PBS’s Frontline. “I think that’s certainly true. Why would Viacom want to rock the boat?”At the networks, Mr. Kirk said, “the imperative is not to let somebody spend the time and the energy and the resources to really know it.
In 2003, after the invasion, media companies were warned not to feed the American news consumer too much material on the downside of war. The media-consulting firm Frank Magid Associates advised broadcast outlets that its survey results suggested that viewers had very little appetite for stories about casualties, prisoners of war and anti-war protests.“There’s this kind of general, industry-wide view that Americans don’t like anything tough, don’t like anything complicated, don’t give a shit, don’t know how to spell the country much less care what’s going on there,” Ms. Amanpour said. “I find that a very patronizing attitude.”
It’s not only combat that’s lost its share of TV time as the post-invasion era drags on. When Iraq’s interim government was formed in June 2004, the top three broadcast networks devoted 139 minutes that week to coverage, according to Mr. Tyndall. During the week of the January 2005 Constitutional Assembly elections, the networks spent 146 minutes, as Iraqis happily gathered around cameras waving their purple-tipped fingers.But last month’s constitutional referendum got only 36 minutes of air time in the week it happened, Mr. Tyndall reported.
In Vietnam, only 66 reporters were killed in 20 years of warfare. Both sides tended to respect the neutrality of the press, and the Viet Cong would go so far as to court reporters, said veteran correspondent Peter Arnett, who won a Pulitzer for his Vietnam coverage and is now writing a book about Saddam’s last years before the invasion. (Mr. Arnett was fired from NBC in 2003 after saying on Iraqi television that the American war plan had “failed.”)Back then, “you had the impression that the Western media was not specifically targeted,” Mr. Arnett recalled.Now, Mr. Arnett said, when he goes out, he often hides under a blanket in the back seat of a car.For some reporters, leaving their security-patrolled, double-barricaded hotels requires permission from their employers. Last year, CNN instituted a rule limiting its Baghdad staff to correspondents and producers who have already reported from the area. When they want to leave CNN’s compound, they must get permission from the bureau chief.Reporting teams from the three broadcast networks must also get clearance and must be accompanied by a security detail. “There is not a movement that we take outside of our hotel that is not carefully planned,” said NBC’s Mr. Verdi.
The insurgents aren’t the only ones behind the demise of the roving Vietnam-style reporter. The military, which at first reacted to the Vietnam experience by stonewalling the press, eventually discovered how to incorporate roving into the official agenda, through the embedding process.Much was written at the outset of the invasion about the perils of embedding: how it could breed over-reliance on the official message, how it could lull reporters into uncritical camaraderie with the troops, how it could force reporters to trade accuracy for access.A number of reporters now downplay some of those theoretical concerns. But some conceded that embedding does impede reporting.“There’s commanders out there who, if you do an embed and they see your coverage or a particular story is too critical, they won’t invite you back for an embed,” said Ellen Knickmeyer, The Washington Post’s Baghdad bureau chief. “There’s parts of the country you won’t be able to go to. There’s a lot of good commanders out in the field, but sometimes their view of how you should be reporting doesn’t always get with how we’re used to covering things.”“The military hasn’t stopped us,” said Alan Chin, a freelance photojournalist who covered the invasion in 2003, then returned for three months this past spring. “But they have made it hard at times.”
“The press is going through a very difficult time,” said Vietnam correspondent David Halberstam, “because the technology is changing under our feet …. You go from three or four channels to cable and the fragmentation of the audience. So that has tended to change the dynamic. First print is in decline, then the networks are in decline. The networks are utterly corporatized, not interested in news in the way the networks in the 60’s still cared …. Now you have these giant corporations that don’t really care that much about news. It is a tiny tail on a very large dog.”If the public mood about the war is turning, it is turning less on the work of the press and more on the outrage of Mr. Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat and combat veteran who called for the troops to be withdrawn as soon as practicable. The Bush administration, which never hesitates to lash back at critical stories in the media, was left praising Mr. Murtha’s credentials while trying to counter his complaint.“I think this is a very important increment,” said Mr. Halberstam. “Murtha is a guy who is really speaking for the military. So if you lose someone like Murtha, that may be the equivalent, in this new kind of war, of 500,000 people outside the Pentagon.”While Mr. Murtha is bidding to write history, what has the press been doing?
But Mr. Burns acknowledged that he worries how posterity will judge his and his colleagues’ work.“I spend some time, as one who has some responsibility for shaping our coverage here, asking myself what are they going to be saying in the journalism classes of 2025, 2030, about the New York Times coverage here, against whatever the outcome is? … Were we too Pollyanna-ish and too optimistic? Or were we too pessimistic?” Mr. Burns said. “I think one thing we would all have to plead guilty to is having perhaps underestimated the degree of difficulty accomplishing what the United States set out to do here.”
Asked, "Do you think that the Bush administration generally provides accurate information regarding current issues or do you think they generally mislead the public on current issues to achieve its own end?", respondents to the latest Harris poll for the WSJ gave "generally accurate" only 32 percent, compared to 64 percent who thing Bush is a misleader.
It was 68/28 among Republicans, 7/91 among Democrats, and 25/73 among independents. (Link, which is subscription only.)
Apparently, only 28% of Repugs are rational (actually, a higher percentage than I expected)
Ironically, after one of the early-morning Aljazeera news broadcasts EST on Wednesday that discussed the Bush plot against the channel, the next show was about recently released American movies, including "Jarhead" (about a Marine during the Gulf War), which showcased the films enthusiastically and may as well have been an infomercial. It was jarring, the effusiveness about American soft power after the admission of the dark side of US military power.
Plotting to assassinate civilian journalists in a friendly country is certainly against the law, and if Bush is ever impeached, this charge will certainly figure in the trial. Who knows, maybe the murder of Tarek Ayoub will be added to the charges.
But this isn't about whether we like Jose Padilla or not. I don't know a thing about Padilla (mostly because the government has never even tried to prove anything about Padilla). We're supposed to figure out if we should condemn him through an open and public trial. That's what the court system is for. If we abandon that idea now and castigate people based on rumors and innuendo, then we have lost the country.
Don't you get it? If they can take away Padilla's rights, they can take away our rights. Jose Padilla is a United States citizen. That used to mean something.
This administration has contempt for our constitution and the American justice system. We used to say our justice system was the best in the world. This government thinks it is inefficient and ineffective. Constitutional rights -- what a hassle!
The fact that the government can hold a US CITIZEN FOR THREE YEARS, INCOMMUNICADO, AND WITHOUT CHARGES should have everyone of us (left, right, center, liberal, conservative or wingnut) screaming for the heads of everyone in the Bush Admin. Hopefully, this case will continue on to the Supreme Court (there is a small possibility apparently.) This is not something that can be let slide just because they finally got around to charging him.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
It may just be that the peace train just pulled out of the station and we missed it.
There have been rumblings all afternoon that this memo might be fake or inconsequential or written by Hillary (okay, I made that one up). The squashing of it so forcefully tends to add credence to its authenticity and importance.
At least, Faux News won't have to worry about being bombed. Altho it's not an altogether bad idea.
Update: Apparently (just to add to the probably authenticity argument), the poor shnook who leaked the memo is being prosecuted under the OSA. More to come, no doubt.
``Though resistance is a legitimate right for all people, terrorism does not represent resistance. Therefore, we condemn terrorism and acts of violence, killing and kidnapping targeting Iraqi citizens and humanitarian, civil, government institutions, national resources and houses of worships,'' the document said.
I've long believed that we need to legalize drugs to remove the criminal element from them. The War on Drugs has failed as miserably as Prohibition did. Prohibition supercharged the 'Mafia' much as the WoD has supercharged the gangs that were developing in the urban miasma of America.
Given the recent actions of the government and big pharma, my contention that legalization might bring the price down could be proven wrong. But the Repugs wont be in power forever (November 'o6, anyone?) Given a rational government (wouldnt that be a refreshing change?) and a rational policy, we mihgt get this under control. Maybe even before hell freezes over.
Gee, wasn't it the Bushistas who appealed? Hmmmmmm?
The inimitable Jane Hamsher at HufPo has a good deconstruction of the interview, and while, she's more scathing about it than I would be, she's pretty much on target. Maybe Bob should just recuse himself from covering DC for a bit.
"President Bush is planning on spending Thanksgiving out at his ranch in Crawford. And you know how he always pardons the White House turkey? Bad news for the turkey: There are three cabinet members ahead of him."
(Stolen from dailyKos)
The whole wait them out argument is fallacious. The insurgents aren't going anywhere (they, like, live there, like ya know?) so we can't actually wait them out. The rest of the Muslim world is pissed off we're there. If the plans to parcel out the oil reserves to Brit and US companies comes off, the rest of the world will be pissed off (not that they aren't already.) We're losing 2-10 soldiers a day, the Iraqis are losing 50-100 civilians a day, with no end in sight.
Leaders of Iraq's sharply divided Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis called Monday for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces in the country and said Iraq's opposition had a ``legitimate right'' of resistance.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Oh well, at least Schmidt should be gone come next Novemeber. Unless Col. Bubp (can one ever say that name enough?) has some more spicy quotes to help her campaign.
A colonel in the Marine reserves has taken issue with how his views were represented in a Republican attack last week on Representative Murtha.
But a spokeswoman for the colonel, Danny R. Bubp, said Ms. Schmidt had misconstrued their conversation.
While Mr. Bubp, a Republican member of the Ohio House of Representatives, opposes a quick withdrawal for forces, "he did not mention Congressman Murtha by name nor did he mean to disparage Congressman Murtha," said Karen Tabor, his spokeswoman. "He feels as though the words that Congresswoman Schmidt chose did not represent their conversation."
We know that Schmidt, who has denied knowing that Murtha was a Marine (is she stupid or lying or both?), and Bubp are both lying about this, but it's fun to see them stab each other in the back in the process.
If he is dead, this is good news for our guys in Iraq. One of the foci of the insurgency will be removed, which will make the acts of terrorism less frequent and less focused. The bad news is who will the Administration have to blame now for the continuing terrorism?
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Legal experts said Fitzgerald's decision to call upon a new grand jury is all but certainly because he is considering additional criminal charges in the case.
Two sources close to Karl Rove, the top Bush aide still under investigation in the case, said they have reason to believe Fitzgerald does not anticipate presenting additional evidence against the White House deputy chief of staff. Instead, lawyers involved in the case expect the prosecutor to focus on Woodward's admission that an official other than Libby told him about Plame one month before her identity was publicly disclosed in a July 14, 2003, column by Robert D. Novak.
Fitzgerald's decision to present information to a new grand jury, contained in a court filing and announced publicly at a court hearing on the Libby case yesterday, is the latest twist in an investigation that has rattled the White House and threatens top administration officials. "The investigation will involve proceedings before a different grand jury" from the one that indicted Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, on perjury and obstruction-of-justice charges, Fitzgerald said. "The investigation is continuing."
... most lawyers interviewed for this article said Fitzgerald would not go through the trouble of calling upon a new grand jury -- after gathering so much testimony from and about Rove -- unless he is exploring new territory uncovered since the Oct. 28 Libby indictment.
"Whoever's Woodward's source probably feels terribly uncomfortable right now," said E. Lawrence Barcella Jr., a Washington defense lawyer and former prosecutor.
Randall D. Eliason, a law professor who formerly ran the public corruption section of the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, said Fitzgerald is clearly "looking at new defendants or new charges." That is not good news for anybody concerned about their role in Plame's identity being leaked, Eliason added.
Experts said that Fitzgerald is not trying to shore up his case on Libby. Under court rules, Fitzgerald cannot use a new grand jury to gather additional evidence for an indictment he has already brought, or to wrap up unanswered questions in preparation for Libby's trial. He can only call on a grand jury to hear evidence if he is considering new charges against another person or additional charges against Libby.
One mystery for the public -- but not for Fitzgerald -- is the identity of Woodward's source. Woodward said he contacted the source late last month for an article on the CIA leak case and discussed notes showing that the source had mentioned Plame in mid-June 2003. The source then went to Fitzgerald.
The source's situation appears not unlike Rove's. In his initial testimony, Rove did not reveal his conversation about Plame with Time magazine's Matthew Cooper. Only after an e-mail surfaced showing that Rove had discussed the issue with Cooper did the top Bush aide tell the grand jury about it. Sources close to Rove said he is under investigation for possibly providing misleading statements about the Cooper conversation.
Lawyers in the case say Woodward's source must not have initially mentioned the 2003 contact with him and told Fitzgerald about it only after talking to Woodward last month.
"None of this would be a news flash if this person had previously been interviewed or testified and had previously disclosed this information to investigators," Barcella said. "You have to assume they didn't disclose this interview with Woodward. Now the prosecutor has to investigate why they didn't."
In a contentious debate, marred by Rep Schmitt's attack on Murtha, the House clawed itself into shreds, expended countless calories in pointless exposition, and then did the inevitable. Makes one wish for the quiet diplomacy of the Taiwanese legislature.
Gen. George Casey submitted the plan to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. It includes numerous options and recommends that brigades -- usually made up of about 2,000 soldiers each -- begin pulling out of Iraq early next year.
The proposal comes as tension grows in both Washington and Baghdad following a call by a senior House Democrat to bring U.S. troops home and the deaths of scores of people by suicide bombers in two Iraqi cities.
Rumsfeld has yet to sign Casey's withdrawal plan but, the senior defense official said, implementation of the plan, if approved, would start after the December 15 Iraqi elections so as not to discourage voters from going to the polls.
The plan, which would withdraw a limited amount of troops during 2006, requires that a host of milestones be reached before troops are withdrawn.
Top Pentagon officials have repeatedly discussed some of those milestones: Iraqi troops must demonstrate that they can handle security without U.S. help; the country's political process must be strong; and reconstruction and economic conditions must show signs of stability.
Maybe he's a friend of Murtha. Better start an ethics investigation... QUICK!
From the Reuters Article:
After days of intensive talks between the House and Senate, negotiators dropped a plan for $8 billion in funds that Democrats pushed through the Senate last month.
Conservative Republicans in the House insisted that an emergency U.S. effort to stockpile vaccines and anti-viral drugs that could be effective against the deadly flu would have to be paid for by cutting other government programs.
Friday, November 18, 2005
This is, of course, from a Repug, outright fraud. The Murtha resolution did not call for immediate withdrawal, it suggested a sane redeployment. The Hunter resolution is just 'Out, Now'.
It is expected that any Dems that vote will vote 'present', which will lead to a pointless defeat of the resolution by a vote of 2oo-something to 0 (Hunter will, of course, vote against his own resolution.) The purpose of the resolution has been to put the Dems on record against the war; it will fail even in this attempt. The poor Repugs can't even fuck up right.
At least the Repug posturing on CSPAN is amusing in extremis.
If you'd like to make this honor roll, Arianna has started a list that she will give to him, of names to be added to the list. Click the link and you, too, can be a commie pinko radiclib maniac!!!
Appeals pending. Statements from everyone to come, no doubt.
I used to like Blake, but his bizarre personality finally wore me out. I don't know if he is complicit in her death or not, I hope he isn't, but the chain of events is (unlike the OJ case), at the least, troubling. More to come.
Michael Scanlon, partner of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, was charged Friday with conspiring to defraud Indian tribes the two were representing of millions of dollars.
In a one-count criminal information filed by the government, Scanlon was charged with conspiring with another lobbyist, who was not identified.
The filing of a criminal information, rather than an indictment, often means prosecutors have reached a plea agreement with a defendant.
With Abramoff & Scanlon's connections to DeLay, Bush, Rove, and virtually every other Repug (and
Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said in court filings that the ongoing CIA leak investigation will involve proceedings before a new grand jury, a possible sign he could seek new charges in the case.
More fun to come, apparently. That sound you hear is the puckering of culos all over the West Wing.
First, Congress passed the tax cut bill, gutting Social Security, Food Stamps, and education in the process. Outrageous.
Second, there was a lot of musing in the blogosphere yesterday as to how long it would take to compare war hero/Congressman Jack Murtha to Michael Moore! The winner is, no surprise, super-sleaze and manic moron Scott McClellan, who despite being 7000+ miles from DC, and hip deep in kimchi in S. Korea, managed to work the comparison into the WH response.
More after a nap!
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Republicans said they may have lost votes because this year's bill, down $1.5 billion from last year, included no special projects or earmarks for lawmakers. "You take those out and you lose the incentive," said Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., who voted for the bill.
I think it's more than that. This bill was an evil, misguided attempt to screw kids, the poor, and students. I think even some Repugs could vote against that.
Democrats, unanimous in opposing the legislation, said it included the first cut in education funding in a decade and slashed spending for several health care programs. "It betrays our nation's values and its future," said House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland. "It is neither compassionate, conservative nor wise."
Twenty-two Republicans voted against the measure, many of them moderates who also are swing votes on the budget-cutting legislation.
But Democrats provided a long list of programs that will be cut or face little or no increase, including President Bush's landmark No Child Left Behind education program, rural health care, Pell grants for higher education and heating assistance for low-income families. They insisted the attempted budget cuts were the result of GOP-driven tax cuts.
The defeat underscores the problems facing the Repugs as they deal with an increasingly dissatisfied public and the enormous problems facing the Bush admin and their own Congressional leadership.
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said one factor in the bill's defeat was the drop in the president's popularity and his inability to maintain unity among the GOP ranks. He also noted that the Republican Party misses the vote-gathering powers of Texas Rep. Tom DeLay _ nicknamed "The Hammer" _ who has stepped aside as majority leader because of legal problems, replaced by Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. "Not every blunt instrument is a hammer," Frank said.
The vote was "a tremendous defeat" for the Republicans, said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "It had the wrong priorities."
Josh has some delicious comments on how to use this against the Repugs in '06.
Maybe Marty Kaplan is right. During the Clinton admin, I just assumed the media was rabidly chasing the story of the day. But watching them during the Bush reign, I am just appalled at their lack of insight, honesty, and objectivity. From the lack of in-depth coverage of the 2000 election (and the total lack of coverage of the electronic voting machine debacle), to the lapdog repetition of the Admin's lines (should that be lies) on Saddam/Iraq/Terrorism, pre-war, to the current (read: TODAY!!!) misrepresentation of Woodward's disclosure and what it means for Libby, they have abdicated their responsibilities to REPORT, not just take dictation.
Yes, I know, the talking head he said/she said debates on ALL the news outlets are more 'entertaining' than one dogged reporter telling us what we don't want to hear, but it's all light, no heat (how do Victoria Toensing and Armstrong Williams qualify to be heard by anyone?) Stop giving us dueling morons and instant polls and viewer emails, and tell us what's happening.
When we've reached the point that the information on (often rabidly) partisan websites/blogs is more info-centric than the news in the media, the media may be very, very sick, if not, as Kaplan argues, dead.
It still seems to me that this will backfire on them, perhaps spectacularly (say what you will about the Bushistas, win or lose, they go for the spectacular.) Every poll seems to indicate that Republican women are done with these guys, and these efforts seem doomed to push them even farther away (Republican men are, apparently, trapped in the McKinley era and must be deemed unsalvageable by the mainstream)
The only thing that redeems the entire effort is the (assumedly unintentional) humor factor. As when Bush was reeling off Saddam's bad qualities, pre-war, the only person I see described in Cheney's irate descriptions of his critics is Cheney.
Nearly three dozen members of Congress, including leaders from both parties, pressed the government to block a Louisiana Indian tribe from opening a casino while the lawmakers collected large donations from rival tribes and their lobbyist, Jack Abramoff.
Congressional ethics rules require lawmakers to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest in performing their official duties and accepting political money.
That requirement was made famous a decade ago during the Keating Five scandal when five lawmakers were criticized for intervening with federal regulators on behalf of Charles Keating while receiving money from the failed savings and loan operator.
The Abramoff donations dwarf those made by Keating. At least 33 lawmakers wrote letters to Norton and got more than $830,000 in Abramoff-related donations as the lobbying unfolded between 2001 and 2004, AP found.
Melanie Sloan, a former federal prosecutor, said lawmakers' denials of a connection rang hollow.
"Special interests do get more and they do get what they pay for despite the constant denial that lawmakers can't be bought," said Sloan, who now runs Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a group that monitors public officials' conduct.
Campaign Finance Reform, anyone?
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
"It seems that despite our efforts the rescission will stand, very sadly, and that is something of a promise broken," said Rep. Vito Fossella (news, bio, voting record), R-N.Y. "We will try hard in the coming weeks, but ultimately Congress will have something of a black eye over this."
This is so typical of the Bushistas (well, of elected dishrags in general). In the hot light of the event, promise anything. When the lights have faded and the heat is off, renege left and right.
There are two things that strike me here. One is that this is our first responders we are screwing over. The ones Bush lionized and preened at Ground Zero dressed up as. So long and thanks for all the fish...... the other thing is that these guys regularly support the Repugs at election time, and when push comes to shove, they get screwed. It shows the economics of Washington; an endorsement is one thing, but cold hard cash rules the day. Maybe if cops and firepeople and EMTs started giving $20-50-100,000 a pop to the Repugs, they'd get more love?
If Bush does, as I believe, end up burning in Hell, I know who he shouldn't call for help.
Under Bush's watch, we not only suffered the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks while he snoozed, but he has failed to capture the perpetrator of those attacks and has given al Qaeda a powerful base in Iraq from which to terrorize. And this is the guy who dares tell his critics they are weakening our country.
The magazine has designated him as "the most powerful agent of change in the world" despite his lack of electoral standing and the fact he was laid low by a heart attack ahead of last year's presidential election.
Since leaving office, Clinton has been so active that his post-presidency amounts to "a third term" for the Democrat who held the White House from 1992 to 2000, the magazine said. He has tackled global issues from AIDS, poverty and global warming to the recovery from last December's Indian Ocean tsunami.
Esquire editor David Granger argued that Clinton was poised to become "something like a president of the world or at least a president of the world's non-governmental organizations."
Woodward, an assistant managing editor and best-selling author, said he told Leonard Downie Jr. that he held back the information because he was worried about being subpoenaed by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel in the case.
"I apologized because I should have told him about this much sooner," Woodward said in an interview. "I explained in detail that I was trying to protect my sources. That's Job No. 1 in a case like this. . . .
"I hunkered down. I'm in the habit of keeping secrets. I didn't want anything out there that was going to get me subpoenaed."
The disclosure has already prompted critics to compare Woodward to Judith Miller, the former New York Times reporter...
The abrupt revelation that Woodward has been sitting on information about the Plame controversy has reignited questions about his unique relationship with The Post while writing books with unparalleled access to high-level officials, and about why Woodward minimized the importance of the Fitzgerald probe in television and radio interviews while hiding his own involvement in the matter.
In past interviews, Woodward has repeatedly minimized the Fitzgerald probe, telling National Public Radio, for example, that when "all of the facts come out in this case, it's going to be laughable because the consequences are not that great." Downie said Woodward had violated the paper's guidelines in some instances by expressing his "personal views."
Woodward said today that he "had a lot of pent-up frustration" about watching Fitzgerald threatening reporters with jail for refusing to testify, while "I was trying to get the information out and couldn't" because of his agreement with his administration source.
Woodward, who has had lengthy interviews with President Bush for his last two books, dismissed criticism that he has grown too close to White House officials. He said he prods them into providing a fuller picture of the administration's workings because of the time he devotes to the books.
His involvement seems minimal. But the duplicity of his approach to it all is stunning. It's one of those things I wish I could get a handle on, because it feels like there's something here, but it's just out reach, just out of sight.
Update: Dan Froomkin at WaPo devotes his column today to the breaking story.
Update II: Josh has a good overview of the situation.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
(dKos on the Wash Times story about Bush aides worrying)
In a new round of he said-she said and NEW unnamed government officials, the article generates more heat than light; it's not very illuminating. But apparently BW knew of Valerie Plame's identity before any other journalist; and possibly before Libby's supposed revelation.
In an attack of journalistic fervor, BW apparently didn't inform anyone at the Post of either his knowledge of the facts or, as things developed, of his involvement in the affair. It looks like he didn't say anything until his 'source' talked to Fitzgerald, regardless of the he said/he said argument with his editor (and possibly with Pincus.) This is sure to develop further and get messier, and BW's position isn't likely to look any better before this is over.
dKos and Kevin have good takes on this
and Josh.... and with his teaser, we'll give him the first to hint to print award.....
We're fighting them there so we can fight them everywhere?
This is mostly Congress's fault for not implementing more stringent rules on how pensions are funded. Funding is more or less voluntary on the companies part and, lately, they've been piling huge profits into executive pay and stock buybacks and expansion, rather than actually funding the people who made those profits for them. This is just wrong.
Congress should force companies to bring unfunded pensions up to date, it should penalize companies with profits that do not fund, it should make it more difficult to default or bankrupt out of the them (put them first in the line of secured creditors?), it should do a any number of things to fix the system and repair the already done damage.
I would, frankly, rather work for a company with a good 401k plan (the number is diminishing) than one with a pension. But for those who do work for companies with pensiosn, those pensions should be a priority for management, not just an afterthought.
Hmmmm. So he's willing to LIE to those who are offering him employment? Like maybe the Senate Judiciary Committee. We already know he lied about recusing himself in regards to the Vanguard situation, so why should we believe him now.
Urge your Senators to vote NO!
This is out in the far reaches of Conspiracyville. While I don't, for a moment, doubt that W and his crew are CAPABLE of this, I don't believe they did. It's a bit of a reach, even for them. But if they DID, with W's approval ratings just in the doldrums, what might they do with them in the toilet?
Promote a Cambodia style attack on Syria or Iran, perhaps?
Good Summary Page
Slightly more out there
CREA, the Repug 'environmental protection' committee (think 'Clean Skies Act' and you've got their gist), is apparently tied to Abramoff and moving money from his victims... er clients, to various Repug activities. Itall eventually just becomes mind-boggling. The Dems had both Houses for what 60 years? With all that time, they never reached the all-encompassing level of venality, if not criminality, that the Repugs reached in less than 5. What can they do with the year they have left?