Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Is Gonzo about to be gone-zo? Jonathan Alter was on Olbermann's Countdown tonight and he believes it's just a matter of days before Gonzales is forced to leave. One reason for this belief is both he and Keith noticed that Fox News on Sunday could not find one Republican to go on air and defend the AG, not one -- a sure sign to them that he's toast. I believe the implication is not so much that nary a politician wishes to be seen on TV defending Gonzo (after all, it is Fox so the viewers would likely cheer such bellying-up), but rather word is probably out in certain circles in Washington that he's a goner so why waste time looking like a fool.

We can only hope this belief is true, yet congressional Democrats should not back off pressure. Our highest-ranking law officer in the land appears to be a serial liar/perjurer. No Republican will dare defend him -- but that doesn't deter The Decider. Gosh darn it, Bush still believes in his buddy from Texas. But then he must to avoid a sh*t-storm of investigations.

Dems should not give up on their pursuit until Gonzo is finally gone. Bush may bet they'll grow weary and frustrated, agreeing to move onto other matters. DON'T! KEEP UP THE STEADY RESISTANCE. With every appearance before Congress, Gonzo comes off worse and gets further into hot water.

In fact, congressional Dems should do to Gonzo what he and Bush approved for Gitmo: torture, here in the form of continuous hearings and moves to investigate. Even if GW continues to defy, all of this is being recorded for the history books, another entry in a truly horrific legacy.
Paul Krugman believes he's figured out why Bush opposes helping to insure millions of children.
Now, why should Mr. Bush fear that insuring uninsured children would lead to a further “federalization” of health care, even though nothing like that is actually in either the Senate plan or the House plan? It’s not because he thinks the plans wouldn’t work. It’s because he’s afraid that they would. That is, he fears that voters, having seen how the government can help children, would ask why it can’t do the same for adults.

And there you have the core of Mr. Bush’s philosophy. He wants the public to believe that government is always the problem, never the solution. But it’s hard to convince people that government is always bad when they see it doing good things. So his philosophy says that the government must be prevented from solving problems, even if it can. In fact, the more good a proposed government program would do, the more fiercely it must be opposed.
Makes sense, esp. given what we know about these guys.

However, I think the chance remains that Bush is uncaring enough to simply not give a rat's ass about these kids and thus he figures why bother doing something "liberal" or "progressive" in their name?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Guess how many hours of electricity a Baghdad resident could depend on per day? Eight hours? Five? Try one or two! And the surge is supposed to be improving matters over there?

Look at the chart, it's getting worse not better.

The Iraq war has so far cost nearly $500 billion (again, billion with a "B"). Meanwhile, the presidential commission appointed to look into ways to improve veterans care released a report recommending, among other things, improvements that would initially cost $500 million (again, million with an "M").

Despite this cost for needed changes being 1/10 of 1% of the cost of the war, "Tony Snow initially told reporters yesterday morning that Bush would not take immediate action. But late yesterday afternoon, after Dole and Shalala's comments and criticism from a veteran's group, Bush announced he would move quickly."

Sounds about right. What a worm -- oh, and remember, Bush loves the troops!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Rowan Scarborough reports that the right-wing think tank, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), was behind the "surge" plan, but much more alarming was "the AEI approach won out over plans from the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command. The two Army generals then in charge of Iraq had opposed a troop increase."

Yes, a conservative think tank "won out" over the government's Pentagon and U.S. Central Command. Need more proof partisan ideology and politics drives everything with this administration?
Paul Krugman reminds that right-wing sources continue to nail-it (not) regarding economic predictions:
Each new peak in oil prices was met with declarations that it was all speculation — like the 2005 prediction by Steve Forbes that oil was in a “huge bubble” and that its price would be down to $35 or $40 a barrel within a year. And on the other side, as recently as this January, National Review’s Buzzcharts column declared that we were having a “pop-free” housing slowdown.
Another piece of evidence illustrating Bush's historic, unprecedented dislike:
With more than a year to go before the 2008 elections, Democratic candidates have raised $100 million more in campaign contributions than Republicans, putting them on track to win the money race for the White House and Congress for the first time since the government began detailed accounting of campaign fund raising three decades ago. (bold added)
For as long as I can remember it was always the case that the GOP would raise more in $$ than the Dems and it was up to the Dems to outnumber Republicans at the polls. And again, if my memory serves, registered Dems outnumber Republicans, which is why the GOP is always so gung-ho on suppressing the Dem vote.

But now the Dems are out-doing the Republicans at their own game, raising oodles more in cash -- wow! Even more amazing, with this astounding change of affairs, congressional Republicans continue to support this guy who has wrought such ruin on their status quo. Quite perplexing.

Speaking of voter suppression, NOW has a devastating report that "examines documents and evidence that points to a Republican Party plan designed to keep Democrats from voting, allegedly by targeting people based on their race and ethnicity." To watch the video, go to the web site. The revelations would be jaw-dropping if it weren't for the fact we by now know full well what this version of the Republican Party is capable of.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

On Wednesday, Dan Froomkin wrote:
There was a long period, starting around 2003, during which Bush avoided even mentioning Osama bin Laden's name, presumably embarrassed by his failure to capture the man "dead or alive" as promised -- and loath to enhance bin Laden's stature with a presidential mention.

Asked directly about bin Laden at a March 2003 press conference, Bush responded: "He's a person who's now been margimalized.... I truly am not that concerned about him."

But by the summer of 2005, Bush had changed course. Ever since a speech in June of that year-- in which he thunderously exclaimed "Hear the words of Osama bin Laden: 'This Third World War is raging' in Iraq" -- Bush has repeatedly invoked Bin Laden in an effort to terrify Americans into supporting his unpopular policies.
By not capturing bin Laden all along, could it be this administration had long-term plans to use Osama as a convenient scare-tactic symbol and puppet, mentioning his name in volume whenever needing to deliver a good scare to the electorate only to then go silent with his name when objective achieved...? After all, Psych 101 explains you can't maintain a sustained heightened sense of fear as its effect will eventually diminish as people adapt, so best to turn it up and down like a thermostat. But the point being Bush & Co. couldn't capture or kill bin Laden because he's been a key pawn in this insidious, political strategy in managing the collective American psyche.

Similarly they can't get rid of Gonzales because he's desperately needed in his role; to replace him is to open up the administration to in-depth, widespread investigations, very likely turning up very, very bad (illegal) discoveries. Gonzo must stay put to serve his invaluable purpose: to lie, fabricate, and stonewall.
Can we please get beyond the "it's just the Dems who want Gonzo out" lie?
Bush spokesman Tony Snow said yesterday that Mueller “didn’t contradict the attorney general,” and that the Democrats in Congress are simply out to get Gonzales: “they’re going to smear him up as good as they can” – somehow omitting the fact that virtually no congressional Republicans are lifting a finger to defend the attorney general. Republican Sen. Arlen Specter even went out of his way to trash Gonzales yesterday while traveling with Bush on Air Force One (“Our hearing two days ago was devastating. But so was the hearing before that, and so was the hearing before that”).
It’s also a bit rich that another White House spokesman attempted yesterday to describe Alberto Gonzales as a victim of “an out of control Congress.” Any administration that launches a secret warrantless wiretapping program, in defiance of rules set down by a 1978 act of Congress, and then finds itself overruled by a conservative attorney general (Ashcroft) who essentially deems the program to be illegal, and then tries to pressure the attorney general while he’s under sedation in a hospital…well, I think that’s a fair description of “out of control.”
If indeed the Congress is "out of control" then hallelujah, it's about time. For 6+ years they were too controlled, allowing tons of malfeasance and wrongs to occur, letting it happen if not actively involved in the machinations without uttering a peep. It's about time for them to get Howard Beale crazy mad!
With all the focus directed at global warming (GW) / climate change (CC) over the last several years, what increasingly seems to get less emphasis in the process is the specific problem of pollution. While yes, global warming is related to pollution, they are different. I wrote a bit about this trend not too long ago, but the point being the two should not be lumped together.

The GW/CC debate typically involves dialogue that revolves around CO2 production (To what extent is man responsible? What can we do to slow or even reverse its build-up? To what extent, if any, will it impact our economy? etc.), but what ends up getting little mention is harmful pollution. Whereas global warming still has what some would consider items for disagreement, it's difficult to find critical backlash concerning the damage that say mercury, sulfur or nitrogen dioxide inflicts on us.

I for one call for renewed attention on pollution, to not displace or overshadow GW/CC discourse but rather to attain equal footing. The fact is many solutions to climate change are difficult and will require global cooperation and enforcement. Yet, we've observed that cures to pollution problems are much more dramatic, immediate, and available -- but they frequently necessitate media spotlight and public pressure to force action.

Over decades, pollution has been reduced in many areas thanks to eventual-legislated compliance, but it's worsened in other areas , under the radar due to this lack of public awareness. Again, with the demise of Bush, let's work to expand the environmental discussion to include topics of importance other than strictly global warming.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The total number of dead U.S. soldiers in Iraq is fast approaching 4,000. Also, the duration of the war is longer than World War II by over 200 days and counting.

Note: WWII time refers to US participation, 12/8/1941 - 8/15/1945.
Once again, imagine the right-wing scream machine if Bill Clinton resided over this complete and disgraceful mishandling of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. The Coulters, Limbaughs, and O'Reillys would've blown vocal chords by now.
The Bush administration's strategy for pursuing al-Qaida in Pakistan's tribal region could stoke support for the Islamic militants who are protecting the terrorist network's leaders....The White House is also threatening U.S. strikes in the region, where bin Laden and his closest followers are believed to have fled after the administration decided against sending U.S. forces to block their escape from Afghanistan in December 2001.
Some U.S. military and diplomatic officials and many independent experts, however, warn that military intervention could fuel greater instability, anti-U.S. hatred and opposition to the Pakistani regime of Gen. Pervez Musharraf....Thomas Fingar, the chairman of the National Intelligence Council, which includes the top U.S. intelligence analysts, told a House of Representatives panel on July 11 that there is "some risk" that U.S. military intervention in the tribal areas could spread anti-Musharraf unrest to other parts of Pakistan.
Not only have they f*cked up the entire planning and executing of a lied-into war, but they also managed to f*ck up the pursuit of the main figure behind 9/11, allowing him to slip out of Afghanistan and into the warm embrace of Pakistan, thus dodging the best chance they had of getting him. Now Osama is protected by militants who have deep ties with many of the Pakistani forces, so any U.S. moves against bin Laden could significantly weaken and jeopardize Musharraf's hold of the country. If unrest were to hit Pakistan, it will be come the next Iraq in terms of a new breeding ground and haven for al-Qaeda recruiting efforts.

All because of bone-headed incompetence from the start, thanks to the gang of neocon morons in charge at the time.
Surprise! More misleading statements from Bush.
"I think what the president is saying is in some sense fundamentally misleading," said Robert Grenier, former head of the counter-terrorism center at the CIA as well as the agency's mission manager for the war in Iraq. "If he means to suggest the invasion of Iraq has not created more jihadists bent on killing Americans, and that if Iraq hadn't been there as a magnet they would have been attracted somewhere else, that's completely disingenuous."

The war "has convinced many Muslims that the United States is the enemy of Islam and is attacking Muslims, and they have become jihadists as a result of their experience in Iraq," Grenier said.
As with Gonzales and his job at Justice, apparently Bush will say anything to try and salvage the course of this occupation. Anything.
As if he didn't already have a growing mountain of evidence proving his nose is growing longer every time he opens his mouth, Gonzales now must contend with the top dog at the FBI.
The director of the F.B.I. offered testimony Thursday that sharply conflicted with Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales’s sworn statements about a 2004 confrontation in which top Justice Department officials threatened to resign over a secret intelligence operation.

The director, Robert S. Mueller III, told the House Judiciary Committee that the confrontation was about the National Security Agency’s counterterrorist eavesdropping program, describing it as “an N.S.A. program that has been much discussed.” His testimony was a serious blow to Mr. Gonzales, who insisted at a Senate hearing on Tuesday that there were no disagreements inside the Bush administration about the program at the time of those discussions or at any other time.

The director’s remarks were especially significant because Mr. Mueller is the Justice Department’s chief law enforcement official.
In addition to this revelation, Senate Democrats called for an independent special counsel to investigate whether Gonzales lied under oath.

It's great to see the Dems find and flex their spines. This is starting to get good.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Josh Marshall is just about fed up, moving ever closer to urging for presidential impeachment.
Without going into all the specifics, I think we are now moving into a situation where the White House, on various fronts, is openly ignoring the constitution, acting as though not just the law but the constitution itself, which is the fundamental law from which all the statutes gain their force and legitimacy, doesn't apply to them.

If that is allowed to continue, the defiance will congeal into precedent. And the whole structure of our system of government will be permanently changed.

Whether because of prudence and pragmatism or mere intellectual inertia, I still have the same opinion on the big question: impeachment. But I think we're moving on to dangerous ground right now, more so than some of us realize. And I'm less sure now under these circumstances that operating by rules of 'normal politics' is justifiable or acquits us of our duty to our country.
Although Josh appears to stop just short of recommending impeachment, another ex-Reagan official, former Deputy Attorney General Bruce Fein, has come out against Bush, with Fein flat-out stating on Olbermann's Countdown show tonight that Bush should be impeached. In due time we'll have GW's father recommending his son must resign....
Whereas up till this week we're fairly certain Gonzales has been fudging the truth, parsing words, "not recalling" what he actually remembered, etc., but with his latest appearance before Congress, it's now perfectly clear that he's descended to a new low and is just making things up willy-nilly. It's as if he doesn't even care to spend the energy to at least try to come off as credible. Watch the video, you'll see that he smiles while telling his tales, as one would do when telling a joke and can't wait to get to the punch line.

It's been widely reported today that he clearly lied about the supposed real reason for his trip to the hospital to visit Ashcroft, with documents as well as other congressional members proving he lied. It very well appears as if the highest-ranking legal officer in the land committed perjury, and perhaps has done so on several occasions, and yet our president stands by him, allowing our legal system to sink lower and lower into a morass that will take years to repair. And many Republicans are letting this happen.
"Maybe the people who think there's a conspiracy out there are right"

Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), member of the U.S. House on the Homeland Security Committee, is permitted to see classified documents, yet this administration oddly denied DeFazio access. He has no idea on what grounds this was decided stating, "I just can't believe they're going to deny a member of Congress the right of reviewing how they plan to conduct the government of the United States after a significant terrorist attack....Maybe the people who think there's a conspiracy out there are right."

In fact, Norm Ornstein, a legal scholar at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, said he "cannot think of one good reason" to deny access to DeFazio and continued, "I find it inexplicable and probably reflective of the usual, knee-jerk overextension of executive power that we see from this White House." This from a conservative.

DeFazio's story deserves much more attention from media outlets. It's just one more instance of this administration spitting in the faces of our founding fathers.
It's been several days but I didn't want to let David Brooks' last column fade into infamy without my commenting.

Many already have, labeling it one of his worst (which is saying something). Steven Benen wrote, "This isn’t an argument. It’s barely even an opinion piece. It’s more a love letter than anything else." No, it's simply embarrassing, another shameful entry from a non-thinker who frankly in no way should be afforded real estate on the most influential opinion pages in the country.

As it is, Brooks stole his topic (Bush's "confidence" or odd super-optimistic mood) from a Peggy Noonan column appearing in the WSJ just days before, but Brooks paints it differently than the typically-fawning Noonan. Whereas Noonan was at least somewhat critical of Bush (rare moment), Brooks in his infinite wisdom just sees this wide-eyed mood of GW's as one backed by steadfast confidence and faith.

Here are some samples:
He’s convinced leaders have the power to change societies. Even in a place as chaotic as Iraq, good leadership makes all the difference....When Bush is asked about military strategy, he talks about the leadership qualities of his top generals. Before, it was Generals Abizaid and Casey. Now, it’s Generals Petraeus and Odierno....Many will doubt this, but Bush is a smart and compelling presence in person....
Had enough? But to truly appreciate the depths of Brooks' idiocy, you must try to read through the whole thing yourself. BTW, I just love the way Brooks presents Bush praising his military generals, with "generals" being plural because no matter the "leadership qualities" if they disagreed with Bush they were gone.

It's not very often you have one columnist at a paper writing a column in response to another columnist, but I must say that Paul Krugman comes pretty close in this regard, responding to the dimwitted Brooks column described above. (Even Krugman couldn't not respond).

Some of what Krugman wrote:
What I don’t understand is why we’re supposed to consider Mr. Bush’s continuing confidence a good thing.

Remember, Mr. Bush was confident six years ago when he promised to bring in Osama, dead or alive. He was confident four years ago, when he told the insurgents to bring it on. He was confident two years ago, when he told Brownie that he was doing a heckuva job.

Now Iraq is a bloody quagmire, Afghanistan is deteriorating and the Bush administration’s own National Intelligence Estimate admits, in effect, that thanks to Mr. Bush’s poor leadership America is losing the struggle with Al Qaeda. Yet Mr. Bush remains confident.

Sorry, but that’s not reassuring; it’s terrifying. It doesn’t demonstrate Mr. Bush’s strength of character; it shows that he has lost touch with reality.

Actually, it’s not clear that he ever was in touch with reality. I wrote about the Bush administration’s “infallibility complex,” its inability to admit mistakes or face up to real problems it didn’t want to deal with, in June 2002. Around the same time Ron Suskind, the investigative journalist, had a conversation with a senior Bush adviser who mocked the “reality-based community,” asserting that “when we act, we create our own reality.”

People who worried that the administration was living in a fantasy world used to be dismissed as victims of “Bush derangement syndrome,” liberals driven mad by Mr. Bush’s success. Now, however, it’s a syndrome that has spread even to former loyal Bushies.
Yes, most liberals "got it" all along, they/we were right. It's often difficult being ahead of the herd.

But what Krugman is pointing out concerning Bush's disturbing confidence is similar to dumb being characterized as brave. Bush is not so much confident as he is delusional, removed from reality. Anyone can appear confident in a bubble. To some extent, we can't blame him as his entire life has been charmed, his many mistakes taken care of by his father, his worries few and far between thanks to his powerful namesake. And all of this is not a problem per say -- EXCEPT IF YOU ARE THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.

Krugman closes with:
You know, at this point I think we need to stop blaming Mr. Bush for the mess we’re in. He is what he always was, and everyone except a hard core of equally delusional loyalists knows it.

Yet Mr. Bush keeps doing damage because many people who understand how his folly is endangering the nation’s security still refuse, out of political caution and careerism, to do anything about it.
It's just like a king gone mad, when he's running naked through the palace, ordering the deaths of innocent peasants just for kicks, and yet his court minions do nothing to stop him. They stand idly by, allowing the insanity to continue, enabling the carnage and ruin. In many ways, they're worse than the king who long ago lost touch with the real world.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Yesterday, Adam Cohen penned a must-read "editorial observer" piece in the NY Times. He discusses this administration's goal of expanding its powers to the point where the country's founders would be rolling in their graves.
The war is hardly the only area where the Bush administration is trying to expand its powers beyond all legal justification. But the danger of an imperial presidency is particularly great when a president takes the nation to war, something the founders understood well. In the looming showdown, the founders and the Constitution are firmly on Congress’s side.

Given how intent the president is on expanding his authority, it is startling to recall how the Constitution’s framers viewed presidential power. They were revolutionaries who detested kings, and their great concern when they established the United States was that they not accidentally create a kingdom. To guard against it, they sharply limited presidential authority....The founders were particularly wary of giving the president power over war....When they drafted the Constitution, Madison and his colleagues wrote their skepticism into the text. In Britain, the king had the authority to declare war, and raise and support armies, among other war powers. The framers expressly rejected this model and gave these powers not to the president, but to Congress.
The founders would have been astonished by President Bush’s assertion that Congress should simply write him blank checks for war. They gave Congress the power of the purse so it would have leverage to force the president to execute their laws properly. Madison described Congress’s control over spending as “the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.”

The framers expected Congress to keep the president on an especially short leash on military matters. The Constitution authorizes Congress to appropriate money for an army, but prohibits appropriations for longer than two years. Hamilton explained that the limitation prevented Congress from vesting “in the executive department permanent funds for the support of an army, if they were even incautious enough to be willing to repose in it so improper a confidence.”
The Constitution cannot enforce itself. It is, as the constitutional scholar Edwin Corwin famously observed, an “invitation to struggle” among the branches, but the founders wisely bequeathed to Congress some powerful tools for engaging in the struggle. It is no surprise that the current debate over a deeply unpopular war is arising in the context of a Congressional spending bill. That is precisely what the founders intended.

Members of Congress should not be intimidated into thinking that they are overstepping their constitutional bounds. If the founders were looking on now, it is not Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi who would strike them as out of line, but George W. Bush, who would seem less like a president than a king.
Hopefully many in Congress read this piece and will heed its advice. The likes of Hamilton, Madison, and Jefferson are hoping we do what's right as they wrote for it to happen. In short, this administration has become those things we detested and wanted to rid ourselves of in 1700s England.
Many on the right complain about environmental regulations as being a primary reason for supply constraints in the oil refinery industry. To some extent it's true that many companies would rather not build at all than do so and comply with environmental code. But also by taking a pass on expansion, companies knowingly realize they're constraining supply and thus boosting price (and thus profits).

On Sunday, the NY Times had a front page article on this topic.
The disruptions are helping to drive gasoline prices to highs not seen since last summer’s records....American refiners are running roughly 5 percent below their normal levels at this time of the year.
After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita disrupted the nation’s energy lifeline two years ago, oil companies delayed maintenance on many of their plants to make up for lost supplies and take advantage of the high prices. But, analysts say, they are now paying a price for deferring repairs....As a whole, refining disruptions have been considerably higher than in previous years: they averaged 1.5 million barrels a day in the first quarter, compared with 700,000 to 900,000 barrels a day from 2001 to 2005.
So the rate of disruptions has doubled from the average rate in 2001-2005. And whereas in the story it is said that "refiners have been scrambling to meet a raft of environmental regulations," the key question is to what extent is routine maintenance being delayed versus that of needed improvements to meet new regulations? It sounds as if not just the latter is getting put off but both the former and the latter.

Yet the right doesn't mention this frequent choice of postponing routine maintenance repairs to in part keep supply tight, thus inflating price. It's called greed, and now everyone is paying for it.
Just think about this, looking back to Clinton's Monica scandal, we had Newt Gingrich leading the charge of the impeachment, then Robert Livingston. Gingrich has since admitted to committing adultery while hunting down the adulterous Bill Clinton, and Livingston was outed at the time for likewise having committed adultery. Who replaced Livingston? Well, none other than holier-than-though David Vitter, who recently admitted to being an adulterer.

Oh, but that evil, evil Bill Clinton!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

On Friday, Dick Polman wrote:
The quote of the week goes to White House spinmeister Tony Snow.

In a USA Today guest column, he wrote this astounding sentence about Saddam Hussein: “We never argued that he played a role in 9/11; political opponents manufactured the claim to question the president's integrity.”

On the one hand, I wonder at this point whether it’s worth rebutting fact-defying and blame-shifting assertions from the Orwellian Ministry of Truth; on the other hand, it’s worth sticking up for empirical reality.
Polman continues on to thoroughly rebut Snow's absurd assertion.

But it's true, they tell so many lies it only becomes note-worthy to mention when they actually utter something factual. For instance, when Bush said regarding the hunt for bin Laden, "I just don't spend that much time on him." One of those rare truths that slipped from his lips, and of course now we're reading about the end result of this fact.

Polman concludes, "with reference to Snow’s aforementioned claim of innocence, suffice it to say that not only has the Bush team repeatedly uttered falsehoods, but now it is telling falsehoods about its falsehoods." As we often see in many crime movies or shows, lies built upon lies eventually reaches a point where it all starts to crumble. We've already witnessed some significant cracking but expect to see an avalanche occur over the next 18 months.
At times Bill Maher can go too far (as with his Cheney/dead comment, albeit even that was taken out of context), but much more often than not Maher is dead-on, nailing the crux of many issues that deserve to be highlighted and criticized.

For example, the following:
[W]as anyone as outraged as I was reading Robert Novak's little interview in the NY Times magazine on Sunday? Asked if in hindsight he would leave out the part of his 2003 column that identified Valerie Plame as a CIA operative, he said "I don't know. I thought journalistically it was justifiable. Nobody had told me -- and I still don't believe -- that it put anybody's life in danger. I don't think she was an important person in the CIA."

That really is quite an astounding quote, isn't it? How the hell would he know if it put anybody's life in danger? YOU'RE NOT IN THE CIA, BOB! They don't tell you any of their business! Considering the consequences of being wrong about such a hunch, is it really the patriotic thing to do? To sit in your office and just conjecture that this agent wasn't very important to the CIA? First, I think everyone who works at the CIA is important; and second, WHO THE HELL IS THIS MAN TO OUT PEOPLE IN THE DEADLY WORLD OF ESPIONAGE BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT HE "THINKS"?!

With patriots like that, I'm sure glad there are traitors like me and Michael Moore still living here in America.
Bill, I suppose that would categorize most Americans as traitors. Need anymore proof on how much damage this cabal of idiots has inflicted on the country, not to mention the world?
George Will believes John McCain's downfall is really due to his campaign finance law. I kid you not.

If you thought it was because McCain decided to align himself with one of the most unpopular presidents in history, and fully support one of the worst foreign policy decisions in decades, and trash his reputation as a straight-shooter by flip-flopping more than a caught fish let loose in a boat, then you'd be wrong.

It's amazing how these right-wing pundits can continue to write this stuff with the assumed expectation that it will be taken seriously. Giggles.
The right-wing crowd is already moving the bar on which to judge Bush's legacy.
George W. Bush's presidential legacy will ultimately depend on a decision he has yet to make: Iran....If President Bush doesn't stop the mullahs, or if he leaves the problem to his successor, his presidency will be judged a failure.
So never mind Iraq, it will be Iran that will decide whether or not GW's reign was a failure.

Reasonable people think not. But when the Iran problem, in addition to Iraq, inevitably gets dumped on to the next president, please don't forget these words from Mr. Forbes. It was George's fault.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Regarding the recently released White House intelligence report declaring the effort to fight al-Qaeda has failed and the Iraq war has actually helped Osama bin Laden, just imagine if this were Bill Clinton. The right-wing screaming media outlets would have been merciless, around the clock.

But let me understand: 9/11 occurs, al-Qaeda is responsible, this administration attacks a country not responsible for 9/11 and that has no al-Qaeda, the war is a disaster, eventually al-Qaeda moves into Iraq and starts to heavily recruit, and now the administration points to al-Qaeda's presence in Iraq as the reason we should stay. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda has thrived elsewhere. Incredible.

Again, if all of this happened under Bill Clinton, he would've been skewered 24/7, and deservedly so! However instead, because the person is a challenged moron and a Republican, we witness nowhere near the vitriol or stinging criticism that Clinton endured for much less.

The bottom line is this is a trumped-up war to power-grab oil vs. actually fighting terrorists to protect America. And as Fred Kaplan writes, "Many times, President Bush has said that we're fighting the terrorists in Iraq so we don't have to fight them here. It is an absurd argument in many ways. But the NIE reveals that the opposite is the case—that because we're fighting them in Iraq, we are more likely to face them here."
Last week, the LA Times wrote:
When they began publicizing the benchmarks a year ago, administration officials saw them as realistic goals that would prod the Iraqi government toward reconciliation....Yet now, with the major goals still out of reach, the administration is playing down their importance. With an interim report on the U.S. effort due out today, administration officials instead are emphasizing other goals....
Bill Maher has said repeatedly that these guys have yet to get something right about this war, so why continue to believe anything they have to say? This is just one more example of them getting it wrong: they go with benchmarks -- oops, wrong, bad idea, so they scramble again, now looking to play down their importance. Same old, same old.
E. J. Dionne Jr. recently wrote that despite Vitter's transgressions, his personal life should remain private.

Dionne appears to be simply extending that which should've likewise applied to Bill Clinton, but unfortunately Vitter himself at the time was very vocal about Clinton's transgression, stating that public officials who commit adultery should resign from office. (Funny how Vitter commits adultery and doesn't resign but rather a week later he returns to office).

Dionne's urging would be fine for those politicians who would likewise respect the privacy of Americans, letting us live our lives as we see fit without their parental judging or preachings about what is moral. Whether it be sexual preferences or abortion or some other social issue, if they agree to butt out, so then will we.

But they don't, as with Vitter who repeatedly crusaded about "family values". Complete hypocrisy but more so he didn't shut up then, why should we now?
The Iraqi government vacation story has been widely reported and yet the Dems seem to be dropping the ball on this one. They should be reminding the American public of this sad fact repeatedly, every chance they get. Not only would this resonate with the public because of most developed nations in the world, the U.S. gets the least number of vacation days, but it would doubly resonate because it's galling and wrong. Our soldiers are over there sacrificing their lives and yet the local government officials feel the need to take a long vacation -- especially in light of Bush's September progress report fast coming due.

Recall that Cheney went to Iraq in May to try to convince them to nix this idea. It's obvious by snubbing the wishes of Cheney, and therefore Bush too, that the Iraqi government has no interest in doing even the bare minimum to achieve the established benchmarks. Bush/Cheney have to know this and yet they say not a word, choosing instead to have our soldiers fight for a cause the Iraqis themselves could care less about. You can take a horse to water....

Enough with our soldiers fighting for what has degenerated into a political shell game.
In May, I wrote about how an increasing number of former Reagan officials have felt the need to come out against Bush/Cheney. An interesting development given that Republicans today, many of whom remain loyal to Bush, long for the good old days of the Gipper.

The most recent being Reagan's former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Paul Craig Roberts, calling for the immediate impeachment of both Bush and Cheney. Wow.
Let's see, they blocked Sen. Jim Webb's amendment that would have set restrictions on U.S. troop rotations to give troops more time at home, they have been negligent in supporting veterans (whether it be cutting their benefits or the Walter Reed nightmare, to the point where the VA head must resign), they did not properly equip our soldiers from the start, costing hundreds of lives, and now we have this, they're against a lousy 3.5% pay raise for the troops.

Uh, this is called "supporting our troops"??

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

How bad are prospects for the GOP in 2008? Their leading presidential candidate is known as None Of The Above.

With the change in primary schedule, parties must have things in order earlier than in prior election years and yet it appears as if the GOP is not only relatively poor, it simply can't seem to find a candidate that will please enough people. I've written before about the "pretzel dilemma" created by the extreme right-wing drift of this party and this poll appears to be further illustrating the point. Republicans won't tolerate anyone that is too far removed from GW, and yet the country has little appetite for another four years of this crap (much less another 18 months). Their strident, out-of-touch views will cost them dearly.
From Politico:
The Republican establishment is rallying to the defense of President Bush and his controversial war strategy, with some GOP members of Congress cherry-picking intelligence about a resurgent Al Qaeda to buy at least two more months for Bush's Iraq strategy.

Republican leaders on Tuesday pounced on a newly released National Intelligence Estimate to argue that the increasingly powerful and ominous Al Qaeda presence justifies current troop levels in Iraq at least until September.
What the f*ck will change in two months, other than more dead and injured U.S. soldiers?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

In response to Harriet Miers not showing up at all for her hearing, the Dems wrote:
We are aware of absolutely no court decision that supports the notion that a former White House official has the option of refusing to even appear in response to a Congressional subpoena. To the contrary, the courts have made clear that no present or former government official – even the President – is above the law and may completely disregard a legal directive such as the Committee’s subpoena.
Government official? Isn't it obvious by now that Miers and others are at the behest of a king, a ruling emperor? This is unprecedented because we as a country have never before been ruled over by a king -- until now.
Based on USA Today's excellent report about the lack of armored vehicles in Iraq, the reason for the delay in supplying these life-saving necessities: excessive, foolhardy optimism about when the war would end. The top military brass always just assumed the occupation would end any day now and as a result, they kept putting off ordering these vehicles. It's estimated that if MRAPs (armored vehicles) had properly made their way to Iraq, it could've saved the lives of about 700 U.S. soldiers.
With Bush asserting executive privilege concerning Pat Tillman's death, does anyone have a final tally as to how many times this administration has copped executive privilege? Will Bush assert it next if a reporter asks him what day it is?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Did anyone else notice that late last week it was reported that the head of the CIA, Michael Hayden, had said "the inability of the [Iraq] government to govern seems irreversible," and that he could not "point to any milestone or checkpoint where we can turn this thing around"...?

Given these words from the top guy at the CIA, can someone remind me again what hope Bush is clinging to at this point? How many of our soldiers must die chasing an illusory objective that Hayden appears to regard as forever unattainable? Madness.
It's no shocker that the White House is looking to block the reconvening of the Iraq Study Group. The problem? The ISG is independent, whereas as we've seen with the Iraq progress report released last week, the administration can freely edit and characterize progress any way they see fit. The bottom line: the ISG is more credible and likely more accurate -- thus, it must be banished.
Iraq's Prime Minister al-Maliki said on Saturday, "We say in full confidence that we are able, God willing, to take the responsibility completely in running the security file if the international forces withdraw at any time they want." Needless to say, by yesterday the administration was all over these comments, trying to downplay them, saying the PM was misunderstood or misconstrued.

I guess the leader of Iraq knows not a wit about what he speaks and Mother USA knows better. At what point will their leaders be able to speak for themselves without us jumping in to correct them or state what they really meant to say? How does this need to edify their comments rate on the administration's benchmark progress-o-meter?

Well, which will it be, Bush/Cheney's complete and utter chaos resulting if we leave, or as al-Maliki forecasts? It's likely something in between, but this administration has been wrong so many times that a smart bettor would simply go against them at this point.
The Wall Street Journal editorial page has been so ludicrously dishonest for so long one has to wonder if Rupert Murdoch takes over the paper would this page actually have a chance of improving, given it can't get any worse.

Recent example: the think-trust displays a picture that they hope passes for what they consider to be a Laffer curve. Anyone at all familiar with rudimentary statistics will know that 1) you should discount or even toss outliers, and 2) a technique for doing so is regression analysis. By running a regression, a best-fit line is calculated, most often a straight line (linear). The Economist's View makes an attempt at this analysis (vs. the Journal's absurd Laffer curve, which depends on one outlier data point -- again, as if a six-year old drew it) and lo/behold they come up with a line that slopes steadily upward to the right, exhibiting more revenue results from higher tax rates.

But to a larger point, Kevin Drum correctly comments, "A junior high school geometry student would be embarrassed to produce work like this. But not the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Or the American Enterprise Institute, which created it in the first place. They apparently think their readers are too dumb to see what they're doing. Why their readership puts up with this obvious contempt for their intelligence is a question for another day."

It's not just the gents at the WSJ editorial page but also Fox News, Rush, Hannity, and the rest of the right-wing non-factual distortion machine. They all use their readers to achieve certain agendas, as opposed to actually enlightening them via truth, facts, and intellectual honesty. But since when did the consumers of this tripe ever not mind it, assuming of course they know about it? (big assumption)

Friday, July 13, 2007

On the Iraq progress report, the NY Times writes:
The administration’s decision to qualify many of the political benchmarks will enable it to present a more optimistic assessment than if it had provided the pass-fail judgment sought by Congress when it approved funding for the war this spring.

The administration officials who provided details of the draft report to The New York Times, insisting on anonymity, did so partly to rebut claims by members of Congress in recent days that almost no progress had been made in Iraq since President Bush altered course by ordering the deployment of about 30,000 additional troops earlier this year.
It's been widely reported that this report was to show that Iraq has failed to meet every benchmark, meaning the report was to show an 0-18 count of failure. However, as this administration has done with CIA and EPA reports, just to name a few, they decided to do some heavy editing before finally releasing the document. Instead of assigning pass/fail grades, the report judges the rate of progress.

When you take a pass/fail course in school, you either pass or fail. That's called a benchmark. Your final grade is not a description of your rate of progress in the class, such as "while student X made great strides during the course, alas he/she unfortunately failed." Bottom line: you failed.

Of course, the Times has this line, "The administration's assessment comes the day after U.S. intelligence experts offered an overwhelmingly negative view of military and political conditions in Iraq, saying that Iraqi forces will remain incapable of taking charge of security for years to come and that deepening sectarian political divides remain the largest impediment to progress."

Which are you going to believe, the intelligence experts or this administration's editors?
The religious right may have to continue to search for that Republican presidential candidate who satisfies all of their many demands, anti-abortion credentials being at the top of the list, because it looks like another one, Fred Thompson, fails.

Not only did he do lobbying work for an abortion-rights organization, his former law partner at the time says, "the only person who worked on it was Fred," implying Thompson's current bout with amnesia is all the more laughable. In addition, in 1994 when Thompson was faced with the question of whether or not laws should permit abortion on demand, he said "I do not believe that he federal government ought to be involved in that process."

Look, this matter is just like the one I highlight at the top of my blog, when Bush decided to endorse pro-choice Arlen Specter over pro-life Pat Toomey. These guys could really give a rat's ass about abortion. They simply use it to garner the needed votes from an important faction of their base. But again, the operative word being "use".

Thompson is shoveling much crap about how all lawyers must represent clients who stand for things or have done things the lawyer does not always agree with. Perhaps this applies to less-established lawyers who need to make a buck wherever they can but it likely applies much less to an established, well-connected lawyer -- like Thompson. He or his firm could've very easily have turned away this client at the time, but he/they didn't.

Also, according to the religious right folks, this issue of abortion is above compromise, it's completely black and white. It's murder and therefore it's absolutely wrong, period. Therefore, Thompson is saying that as a lawyer he was willing to take on and represent an organization that was involved in advocating murder. Tough to wiggle your way out of that one -- unless the religious right is indeed willing to look the other way and compromise on this issue....

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

McCain's run at the White House is all but finished and it's amazing he hasn't yet officially quit. Jay Carney offers up a reason for why McCain failed so badly: Iraq.

It's very simple: hitch your campaign wagon to a massively unpopular and emotional issue and you will suffer the consequences. End of story and end of campaign. McCain made a hugely stupid bet and predictably lost.

Yet, his demise was not solely due to embracing Bush's stance on Iraq. Another big factor was his willingness to trash that which made him very popular, his willingness to go against the grain, speak frankly, and be the so-called maverick. All of that was expeditiously locked away in the cellar in favor of stooping down to lick the feet of the religious right and one of the most inept and corrupt administrations in memory. The hypocrisy and the flip-flopping was unbearably stomach churning.

Yeah, I think that also had something to do with his abrupt tank job.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Senators Hillary Clinton and Robert Byrd plan to lead the effort to deauthorize this war. They write in an op-ed:
Today, more than 150,000 members of our armed forces are caught in a civil war. According to the Pentagon, overall levels of violence in Iraq have not decreased since the surge began. The last three months have been the deadliest period for American troops since the start of the war. It is time for the waiting to end and for our troops to start to come home.

That is why we propose to end the authorization for the war in Iraq. The civil war we have on our hands in Iraq is not our fight and it is not the fight Congress authorized. Iraq is at war with itself and American troops are caught in the middle.

At a recent Senate hearing, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was asked if the 2002 authorization still applies to Iraq. His response was surprisingly candid: "I don't know." Four years into the conflict in Iraq, longer than American involvement in World War II, after years of White House misjudgment and miscalculation, as our troops fight and die in the midst of an Iraqi civil war, the answer could not be clearer.

The 2008 defense authorization bill is now before the U.S. Senate. This legislation presents a vital opportunity for Congress to step up and force the President to change course in Iraq. Amending the bill to deauthorize the war would do exactly that. We intend to lead that effort.
Excellent points. Clearly, the surge is not working. Basra is increasingly becoming a lost cause. Turkey has amassed 140,000 troops on Iraq's northern border and threatens to invade. The car bomb this past Saturday, one of the deadliest yet (over 150 killed). A no-confidence vote looms over Iraq's PM. Iraqi civilians are called upon to take up arms. Defense Secretary Gates is proposing a deal to withdraw troops. Republican support is fast dropping off. Oh, and it will soon be reported that Iraq has met none of its benchmarks.

Yet, the likes of Sen. Lieberman will say otherwise, with a straight face. Don't we have more than enough denial emanating from the White House?
A Senate panel successfully voted to strip Cheney's office of its funding. Sweet justice. However, knowing this VP, he'd continue to work hard at ruining this country even with his desk parked out on the curb.
It's summertime and that can only mean one thing: time for Republican fear-mongering to escalate.

Here's a partial list of recent warnings without an ounce of proof:
  • Rick Santorum
  • Homeland Security chief Chertoff (based on "gut feel")
  • U.S. ambassador Crocker
  • Bush
  • What our soldiers are fighting for:
    ANDERSON COOPER (CNN): Some of the benchmarks the Iraqi government was supposed to meet -- we're talking about revising the constitution to encourage more Sunni political participation, guaranteeing all groups a share of oil revenue, lessening restrictions on Baath Party members, local elections -- none of these have been met, according to this new Pentagon report, according to the A.P. Why not?

    MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Because, to be honest, it's not really in the interests of the main power players here in Iraq to meet them.

    These are American agendas, American benchmarks. These aren't the benchmarks that the factions within the Iraqi government really care about. What they care about is getting their hands on their own security forces and setting them loose as they see fit.

    And, don't forget, a lot of these benchmarks strike at the deepest, most heartfelt divisions politically and in terms of the sectarian divide that exist in this country. None of them are easy fixes. And in none of them is it really in the interests of those who hold power to meet them. They just want to keep their power -- Anderson.

    COOPER: So, essentially, you're saying they don't see themselves as part of a larger Iraq. They don't see themselves as a ruling of -- all the people of Iraq, as we think about a democracy. They still see themselves as factions, and they are trying to hold on to turf and power.

    WARE: Yes, absolutely. I mean, the concept of a national unity government, as the Bush administration calls this thing that they describe as the Iraqi government, is laughed at, even by some of the senior members of this government itself. (bold added)
    A Bush/Cheney fantasy, that being a unified, democratic Iraq, a concept that Iraqis themselves laugh at. Enough already.
    After years of presiding over a steadily worsening situation in Iraq, instead of proactively devising an alternative Plan B, we come to learn this administration has got nothing, as if they've been twiddling their thumbs this entire time. Worse yet, we also learn they're running around in "panic mode" -- how comforting.

    This is supporting our troops?
    With regards to next year's presidential race, I wish to reiterate what I refer to as "the pretzel dilemma" (GOP candidates forced to twist and turn only to do so once again before November 2008 = too much twisting = break). The extreme views of the GOP has put in place near-certain failure for the party's presidential contenders. By forcing them to adopt and parrot positions so far to the right of mainstream America, when it comes time to appeal to the middle in order to win the White House, the Republican candidate will have said so much to appease the far right he will not be able to credibly erase or alter those extreme statements, thus alienating a good portion of the electorate.

    If Republicans believe George McGovern and Walter Mondale represented extremes to the left for the Democratic Party, then they better realize their party has drifted even further to the right in extreme and they should not be surprised come next November when they experience the equivalent in anemic vote totals.
    Colin Powell continues attempts to reestablish his reputation (something Tony Blair will soon have to start doing).

    Powell now says that he spent 2½ hours vainly trying to persuade President George W Bush not to invade Iraq: “I tried to avoid this war. I took him through the consequences of going into an Arab country and becoming the occupiers.”

    Insofar as one can bemoan this confession as seemingly CYA in light of a monstrous policy failure, to be fair to Powell it's easily believable to think that he could've spent five hours trying to dissuade Bush from invading only for it to be in vain. It's been plainly evident that Bush will do what he wants, facts and reason be damned.
    A disturbing item in the NY Times:
    They described Mr. Hadley as deeply concerned that the loss of Republicans could accelerate this week, a fear shared by Mr. Rove. But they also said that Mr. Rove had warned that if Mr. Bush went too far in announcing a redeployment, the result could include a further cascade of defections — and the passage of legislation that would force a withdrawal by a specific date, a step Mr. Bush has always said he would oppose.
    Question: should non-military-expert Karl Rove be influencing if not establishing military policy? In this case, he advises minimizing redeployment so as to avoid the possibility of legislation the president has opposed. Once again, politics dictates policy. Meanwhile our soldiers fight on, sacrificing their limbs and lives.

    It's especially disturbing since Rove recently stated in Aspen, Colorado that al-Qaida was responsible for "80 to 90 percent of the bombs that are killing U.S. soldiers" in Iraq. However, a much more astute expert on the military, Colin Powell, responded the figure was closer to 10%. The point being, Rove knows not what he's talking about and yet he apparently has much to say about our policy in Iraq. Likely explains more of the failure.

    Sunday, July 08, 2007

    In March, I wrote about how independents were increasingly correlating with positions favored by Dems, something that obviously spelled doom for the GOP in 2008. In most elections, the key is to win over the swing voters and independents comprise a good portion of these prized votes.

    The American Research Group recently surveyed adults about Bush's decision to commute Libby's sentence. Of those who approved of the decision: 13% of Democrats, 50% of Republicans, and 19% of Independents. Concerning the question of favoring or opposing an eventual pardon of Libby, in favor of a pardon were 7% of Democrats, 23% of Republicans, and 2% of Independents.

    Notice how Independents continue to align much more so with Democrats than Republicans. The GOP presidential contenders have much to worry about, especially since they are stumbling over each other to please the far right faction of their party. Granted, they must suck up to the fringe to nail down the nomination, but good luck in making up all that ground to get back to the middle in time for November 2008 -- and to do so with at least some credibility.
    Where Is The Common American's Outrage?

    To get elected in 2000, Bush adeptly hid his Ivy League/affluent roots and instead played up a good-old-boy/Texan image to win over the average American. It was all a farce but it worked (thanks also to Florida and the Supreme Court).

    But where are these same "average" citizens to protest this Libby commutation? Surely with this decision (never mind the hundreds of others he's made since 2000), Bush has made starkly evident his true colors, that he's all about serving the rich and protecting the well-connected. He cares not a bit about the typical American. Some proof? When governor of Texas, Bush rarely if ever granted clemency or leniency. Many such average Americans were allowed to die via the death penalty or face long sentences as decreed by the law, all because those particular guilty individuals were nobodies to Bush. The only concern he's ever had with regard to average Americans is to win their votes, anyway, anyhow, whether it be by hoodwinking or outright lying.

    If after six years these same fools have not awoken to the fact that they've been manipulated this entire time, then this Libby commutation should finally do the sobering deed. Otherwise we're left with only one conclusion: the average American is utterly butt-stupid and this country is doomed.
    It didn't take long for the wingnuts and the administration to resort to bashing Bill Clinton as a means to deflect from the Libby decision. Bush has offered no details as to why he chose to free a guilty man who was obstructing justice in a national security case that led back to the White House. The very weak the-sentence-was-"too harsh" excuse just doesn't cut it and has been explained away not just by Fitzgerald but by anyone who cares to dig a little to discover that the 30 month ruling was completely fair.

    Dan Froomkin wrote:
    Rather than address the most weighty criticism of President Bush's decision to commute former vice presidential chief of staff Scooter Libby's prison sentence -- that it was part and parcel of a longtime cover-up of White House misdeeds -- press secretary Tony Snow lashed out at former President Bill Clinton and his would-be president wife for actions that date back more than six years.

    Sen. Hillary Clinton has been among the foremost critics accusing Bush of commuting Libby's sentence in order to avoid further inquiry into his own behavior. The commutation "was clearly an effort to protect the White House," she told the Associated Press earlier this week. "There isn't any doubt now, what we know is that Libby was carrying out the implicit or explicit wishes of the vice president, or maybe the president as well, in the further effort to stifle dissent."
    It's certainly hard to argue that President Clinton didn't abuse the pardon process. But Bush's pledge back in 2000 was to restore ethics to the White House -- not engage in he-did-it-too defense of his own misconduct.

    And furthermore, there is an ethical chasm between Clinton's pardons -- unseemly as they were -- and Bush's decision to grant clemency to someone involved in an investigation of his own White House.

    As it happens, the previous granting of clemency that is most analogous to what Bush did dates back neither to the Clinton or even the Nixon era, but to Bush's father's presidency.

    In 1992, on the eve of his last Christmas in the White House, George H.W. Bush pardoned former defense secretary Caspar Weinberger and five others for their conduct related to the Iran-Contra affair, in which he himself was also loosely implicated.

    As David Johnston reported in the New York Times at the time, independent prosecutor Lawrence E. Walsh was livid. "Mr. Walsh bitterly condemned the President's action, charging that 'the Iran-contra cover-up, which has continued for more than six years, has now been completed.'"

    Added Walsh: "In light of President Bush's own misconduct, we are gravely concerned about his decision to pardon others who lied to Congress and obstructed official investigations."
    Like father, like son. Oh, and it's worth repeating that Bush spent much of his 2000 campaign making the case that Bill Clinton was scum and Bush would return glistening ethics and respect for the law to Washington, and now the best the right-wingers can do is compare their man Bush to the guy he was supposed to tower above ethically -- truly pathetic. It went from Bush will put the ethical lapses of Clinton behind us to now whining about how Clinton did it too. Only in his two terms Bush has managed to make Clinton (and Nixon for that matter) look saintly.

    Also, Keith Olbermann rattled off at least four reasons why Clinton's pardons differ from Bush's decision to free Libby:
  • Unlike Bush, Clinton was "consistently generous with clemency rather than reserving it exclusively for friends."
  • Clinton typically waited until after sentences were served.
  • Clinton did not use it to obtain cover in ongoing investigations.
  • Regarding Marc Rich, some prominent Republicans argued Rich was innocent and deserved the pardon, including one Scooter Libby, Rich's lawyer at the time.
  • Finally, Paul Krugman wrote:
    Back when the investigation into the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity began, Mr. Bush insisted that if anyone in his administration had violated the law, “that person will be taken care of.” Now we know what he meant. Mr. Bush hasn’t challenged the verdict in the Libby case, and other people convicted of similar offenses have spent substantial periods of time in prison. But Mr. Libby goes free.
    Mr. Bush says that Mr. Libby’s punishment remains “harsh” because his reputation is “forever damaged.” Meanwhile, Mr. Bush employs, as a deputy national security adviser, none other than Elliott Abrams, who pleaded guilty to unlawfully withholding information from Congress in the Iran-contra affair. Mr. Abrams was one of six Iran-contra defendants pardoned by Mr. Bush’s father, who was himself a subject of the special prosecutor’s investigation of the scandal.

    In other words, obstruction of justice when it gets too close to home is a family tradition.
    It's what they do, and GW has learned quite well from daddy Bush. Thanks to this craven cabal, Washington has never been more of a sewer.
    One could easily make the case that the past six years have been some trying times, given 9/11, terrorism, Iraq, etc. One would then also think that during such a time we'd have a president who was engaged and diligently hard at work.

    Think again. Between Camp David and his Texas ranch, Bush has spent all or part of 805 days at either one. Considering Bush has resided in the White House for 2360 days, we are talking about a president who has vacationed for more than 1/3 of his time in office! Do you get 17 weeks of vacation time per year?

    Then again, imagine how much worse of we'd be if this mental giant were in fact burning the midnight oil, attempting to come up with new ways to sink us into a deeper hole.

    Saturday, July 07, 2007

    In the past, I've commented on the columns of David Brooks, in nearly each case concluding that Brooks is a moron. As with Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and the rest of the gang, they are so ridiculously idiotic that to spend time writing about them is all too often a simple waste of time, thus reason why I nary write about Brooks. His columns are typically nonsensical and sophomoric.

    That said his latest entry concerning the Libby commutation is, as Andrew Sullivan tagged it, an embarrassment. David Corn goes one step further and offers an almost line-by-line refutation of Brooks' column.

    What's truly embarrassing is the NY Times continues to employ this guy. Can't they find anyone better to portray the right-wingers?

    Thursday, July 05, 2007

    And even more about the Libby-eventual-pardon travesty.

    From the Raleigh News & Observer: "Well, now we know what 'compassionate conservatism' means. It means that if you're Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, and you're convicted of lying to FBI agents and a federal grand jury, you don't have to go to prison -- even when many others have for similar offenses."

    From the LA Times:
    [R]ecords show that the Justice Department under the Bush administration frequently has sought sentences that are as long, or longer, in cases similar to Libby's. Three-fourths of the 198 defendants sentenced in federal court last year for obstruction of justice — one of four crimes Libby was found guilty of in March — got some prison time. According to federal data, the average sentence defendants received for that charge alone was 70 months.

    Just last week, the Supreme Court upheld a 33-month prison sentence for a decorated Army veteran who was convicted of lying to a federal agent about buying a machine gun. The veteran had a record of public service — fighting in Vietnam and the Gulf War — and no criminal record. But Justice Department lawyers argued his prison term should stand because it fit within the federal sentencing guidelines.

    That Bush chose to make an exception for a political ally is galling to many career Justice Department prosecutors and other legal experts. Federal prosecutors said Tuesday the action would make it harder for them to persuade judges to deliver appropriate sentences.
    Sentencing experts said Bush's action appeared to be without recent precedent. They could not recall another case in which someone sentenced to prison had received a presidential commutation without having served any part of that sentence. Presidents have customarily commuted sentences only when someone has served substantial time.
    With his commutation, Bush has further weakened our legal system. Expect future "Libby exceptions" and pleas in courts across the country. And as for the last paragraph referring to "without recent precedent," what we have is a singularly horrible president making singularly unprecedented decisions. What don't people get? Bush's actions are always wrong, but at this point far from surprising.

    The St.Louis Post-Dispatch wrote:
    Anyone who is surprised that President George W. Bush commuted I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's prison sentence hasn't been paying enough attention to the way this administration does business:

    It wages a pre-emptive war in search of non-existent weapons of mass destruction. It ignores the judges of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and wiretaps citizens without warrants. It holds prisoners for years without charges or trial, and uses secret prisons overseas where prisoners are tortured in everything but name. It nominates its own unqualified lawyer to the Supreme Court and fires career prosecutors to make room for its own stooges. It ravages the environment and calls it the Healthy Forests Act and Clear Skies Initiative. It walks away from international arms treaties and even claims the vice president isn't part of the executive branch.

    Surely giving Libby a get-of-jail-free card is no big deal.
    Finally, and this is the kicker, in his book, "A Charge To Keep," Bush stated, "I don't believe my role is to replace the verdict of a jury with my own," he said referring to why he signed death warrants for 152 inmates as governor of Texas.

    Do *%^$#* hypocritical a-holes come any bigger?

    Wednesday, July 04, 2007

    On this Fourth of July, my head is still spinning from reading all of the commentary on Bush's commutation of Libby's sentence.

    The always-astute Dick Polman summed things up nicely:
    A show of hands: How many of you are surprised that President Bush has put his thumb on the scales of justice and decreed that a convicted perjurer in a national security case, a felon who was enmeshed in a White House campaign of deception to discredit a critic of the Iraq war, is somehow less deserving of jail time than Paris Hilton?

    No, it’s hardly a surprise that the same guy who once promised to “restore honesty and integrity to the White House,” the same president who had previously denied more than 4000 commutation requests, has now opted to grant Scooter Libby his very own Independence Day.
    [J]ust 12 days ago, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that makes it tougher for convicted felons to reduce their jail time (the high court upheld the 33-month sentence of Victor Rita, who had been convicted of making false statements in a weapons investigation; Rita, like Libby, had been punished in accordance with federal sentencing guidelines).

    None of those little details matter a whit to those Republicans who are cheering Bush this morning (the same Republicans who, during the Bill Clinton era, routinely invoked the primacy of “the rule of law”).
    That recent Supreme Court ruling cracking down on convicted felons and the Republicans cheering this decision vs. their jeers for Bill Clinton years ago -- these guys are always good for irony and outrageous hypocrisy.

    Dan Froomkin poses several good questions:
    Bush's decision yesterday to commute Libby's prison sentence isn't just a matter of unequal justice. It is also a potentially self-serving and corrupt act.

    Was there a quid pro quo at work? Was Libby being repaid for falling on his sword and protecting his bosses from further scrutiny? Alternately, was he being repaid for his defense team's abrupt decision in mid-trial not to drag Cheney into court, where he would have faced cross-examination by Fitzgerald?
    It's true that the Constitution grants the president unlimited clemency and pardon power. But presidents have generally used that power to show mercy or, in rare cases, make political amends -- not to protect themselves from exposure.
    Argue with Bill Clinton's pardons all you want, none were granted to someone within his administration who had the potential to implicate him in a crime if only he/she told the truth. In this respect, Marc Rich is a far cry from Libby.

    More questions from Froomkin:
    * Does the president approve of Libby's conduct?

    * On whose behalf did Libby act?

    * Did the White House make any sort of a deal with Libby or his defense team?

    * What did Bush know and when did he know it?

    * When did he find out that Karl Rove and Libby had both leaked Plame's identity? Before or after he vowed that any leakers would be fired? Did anyone lie to him about their role? Why didn't he fire them?

    * How does the conduct of his aides comport with Bush's vow to restore ethics to the White House? How does the commutation?

    * What factors did the president take into account in deciding to commute the sentence?

    * What does the president consider an appropriate punishment for perjury and obstruction of justice?

    * What was Cheney's role in the commutation?
    Want to further compare the Clinton/Rich pardon with this eventual-pardon? Where appropriate, replace Libby's name above with Rich. See, no comparison.

    Froomkin makes another good point concerning Bush's decision to commute instead of pardon: "For Bush to state he believed Libby to be innocent would at least have been defensible. Instead, what Bush is saying is that acknowledges the guilty verdict -- but, when it comes to his friends and colleagues, he just doesn't care what the justice system concluded was a fitting punishment."

    So instead of having the guts to proclaim Libby innocent with a pardon, GW attempts a sleazy middle-ground move by agreeing with the jury's verdict (i.e. Libby is a 100% guilty man), but then decides to free him anyway because he's a close friend who saved his and Cheney's ass.

    But if Bush felt the sentence was unreasonable, why didn't he just lessen it? Instead of 30 months in jail, why not 20 or even 10? (This from a guy who never, ever displayed anything close to such compassion while governor of Texas). Nope, Bush decided this guilty person deserved zero days in jail. As many have been saying, Paris Hilton served more prison time than Libby (and unlike Libby she also expressed remorse, a necessary condition for commutations/pardons).

    Prosecutor Fitzgerald offered this statement in response to Bush's questioning the 30 months:
    We comment only on the statement in which the President termed the sentence imposed by the judge as 'excessive.' The sentence in this case was imposed pursuant to the laws governing sentencings which occur every day throughout this country. In this case, an experienced federal judge considered extensive argument from the parties and then imposed a sentence consistent with the applicable laws.

    It is fundamental to the rule of law that all citizens stand before the bar of justice as equals. That principle guided the judge during both the trial and the sentencing.
    In other words, Bush's stated reason for the commutation -- that the sentence was too harsh -- is complete bullshit.

    It was also well-reported that Bush did not consult with lawyers at the Justice Department nor did he consult with the lead prosecutor (Fitzgerald) in the case, both routine procedures for commutations or pardons (yet Snow claims the steps taken were "routine"). But then again, when commuting a guilty friend out of sheer loyalty, Bush likely felt consulting with lawyers would be a waste of time. Why bother? For Bush, this matter has very little to do with laws or anything legal and everything to do with dodging accountability and covering up unlawful involvement.

    Josh Marshall wrote:
    The deeper offense is that the president has used his pardon power to shortcircuit the investigation of a crime to which he himself was quite likely a party, and to which, his vice president, who controls him, certainly was.

    The president's power to pardon is full and unchecked, one of the few such powers given the president in the constitution. Yet here the president has used it to further obstruct justice. In a sense, perhaps we should thank the president for bringing the matter full circle. Began with criminality, ends with it.
    Again, compare vs. Clinton's pardons. Bush's commutation prevents Libby from having to tell the truth about Bush/Cheney's involvement in the Plame leak. It's what the mafia does: commit wrongs in an effort to cover-up their prior committed wrongs, forming an endless domino-line of criminal offenses. Libby did it by lying, and then Bush did it by commuting him.

    Interestingly, both John Dean and Jonathan Turley stated last night on Olbermann's Countdown that either Fitzgerald or congress could immunize Libby and force him to testify (again) about Bush and Cheney's involvement. Pressure should mount for this to happen. Perhaps justice still has a fighting chance of being achieved.

    This commutation is the penultimate betrayal capping Bush's now-infamous 2000 campaign promise to return ethics to Washington. The presidency has not sunk this low in the craven, scum swamp in decades. Nixon is looking a bit saintly in comparison.

    Wingnut blogger Glenn Reynolds wrote, "My prediction: Bush will rise in the polls as estranged conservatives warm to him in light of lefty indignation."

    Oh, so free a thoroughly guilty man, one found guilty by "overwhelming" evidence by a Republican-appointed judge, and then unanimously confirmed by three other justices (two appointed by Republicans), and in the end conservatives will applaud the decision for no other reason than it's a win for their side. Partisan score-keeping trumps the rule of law. Perhaps the only saving grace? Never again will these hypocritical creeps be able to pull a Bill-Clinton-impeachment-like charade.

    Finally, Sheryl Stolberg wrote in the NY Times, "President Bush’s decision to commute the sentence of I. Lewis Libby Jr. was the act of a liberated man — a leader who knows that, with 18 months left in the Oval Office and only a dwindling band of conservatives still behind him, he might as well do what he wants."

    I've written before about this frightening fact with detached Bush who "has much time left in office, a woefully awful president who listens to no one, realizes his legacy is shit, and yet still must confront many serious problems facing this country -- well, he's very capable of doing some go-for-broke things that could really be huge whoppers, even by his standards." Yes, a president as off his rocker as this one and who feels "liberated" enough to "do what he wants" is a hair-raising combination. Scary to think what he'll feel like doing next, just for the hell of it.

    Tuesday, July 03, 2007

    More proof Republicans will be increasing pressure on Bush regarding Iraq well before this September:
    After the Fourth of July recess, “you'll be hearing a number of statements from other (Republican) colleagues,” predicted Sen. John Warner, R-Va., a longtime skeptic of the war strategy.
    Perhaps that's why Gates is preemptively looking to cut a deal, withdrawal of most troops in exchange for a long-term presence there ala South Korea. But the fact remains the Republicans are helping to do some of the heavy lifting for the Democrats -- not out of goodwill but rather fear that they'll be voted out of office next year.
    While it may seem that the whole idea of impeaching Bush or Cheney is still a bit far-fetched, Ray McGovern, a 27-year veteran analyst for the CIA, makes a serious, convincing case.
    Apparently mouthpiece for the GOP, Sean Hannity, has left the party and become an independent.

    As I've written countless times before, it's difficult to recall when the Republican Party was as far to the right as it has been during the Bush/Cheney era. Yet I guess for many zealots in the party, the dramatic rightward shift still comes up short.

    Hannity is not the only extreme believer with harsh words for his once beloved party and with any luck this trend will continue, splintering a lame-duck party that has long grown diseased, corrupt and bereft of any competence. With it, power will dissipate and many politicians will do anything but be associated with such a shameful organization. Quite a far cry from Karl Rove's dream for a permanent Republican majority in DC.
    "Rule Of Law" My Ass!

    With Bush commuting Libby's sentence, shouldn't we expect an outcry from the same crowd who was looking to lynch Bill Clinton for lying about blowjobs....? Recall the constant refrain "rule of law" as well as "what will the children think"? Well, what does Bush's action towards Libby say about this administration's respect for the law, and what does it say to our children? Kids, crime pays if you have very influential friends to cover for you.

    This news is not shocking in the least, and in fact I wrote on June 10th that Bush would not pardon Libby but rather commute the sentence. What does this dead-duck president have to lose, with his polls numbers so low that at this point they reflect only the most extreme far right kooks in the nation -- exactly the minority Bush is playing to these days. Not that he was ever trying to appeal to the more moderate citizens of this country, but these days his partisan leanings are just so nakedly obvious.

    Stories in the press remind us Libby is the highest-ranking White House official ordered to prison since the Iran-Contra scandal -- another debacle occurring under a Republican president. Oh, and if memory serves, there were loads of pardons and commutations to follow that affair.

    Also as a reminder, Judge Walton, who ruled that evidence of guilt against Libby was "overwhelming," was a Bush appointee, and the two of the three judges on the appeals court that ruled Libby should go straight to jail were Republican appointees. Yet, Bush and the far right still felt these judges were wrong, with Bush concerned that they damaged Libby's reputation forever. Poor, poor Libby, the world is against him, he had nothing to do with his actions, our system of laws only seems to work when not against Republicans.

    I'll remind what Dick Polman wrote a few weeks ago:
    So here’s the Republican bible on selective morality: If a high official of a Republican administration lies under oath and obstructs justice in order to impede a national security investigation, and to prevent a prosecutor from even determining whether an “underlying crime” had been committed,” that’s perfectly fine. But if a Democratic president lies under oath to impede a sex investigation (even when there was no underlying crime, since the sex with Monica Lewinsky was consensual, no illegal), those are sufficient grounds for throwing the president out of office – because, after all, perjury for any reason is not only wrong, it is also a violation of “the rule of law.”
    Lastly, Tim Dickinson writes:
    [L]ook at the actual order Bush signed and it calls the presidential quasi-pardon by its real name: Clemency.

    Clemency is an emotive word. It appeals to our sense of mercy. Clemency is something we should give to the Georgia teenager whose girlfriend gave him head at a party and now is in prison for aggravated child molestation. It’s reserved for those instances where following the letter of the law creates a greater injustice than the crime.

    Scooter covered up illicit actions at the highest levels of our government. Libby lied. Intentionally. To the F-B-fucking-I.

    If you or I did that we’d be flirting with Gitmo.
    This cabal is and has always been above the law. They answer to no one and serve only themselves.
    Interesting comments by George Washington University constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley last Wednesday on Olbermann's Countdown.

    Regarding Bush's stonewalling and refusal to cooperate with Congress, Turley states:
    I mean, they could do a sort of Tai Chi of litigation and just move incredibly slowly. This president doesn‘t have long to go.

    But there is one thing that might concern them about the court, and that is, you know, for many years, since we first found out about this program, some of us have said that this was clearly criminal act that the president called for, that under federal law, it‘s a federal crime to do what the president ordered hundreds of people to do.

    Now, if we‘re right, not only did he order that crime, but it would be, in fact, an impeachable offense. Now, both sides, both Democrats, Republicans, have avoided this sort of pig in the parlor. They don‘t want to recognize that this president may have ordered criminal offenses. But they may now be on the road to do that, because the way Congress can get around the executive privilege in court is to say, We‘re investigating a potential crime. And if they do it here, that crime was ordered by no one other than George Bush.
    Yes, conceivably Bush has ordered hundreds of federal crimes, yet not a peep from the "rule of law" crowd.

    Concerning Cheney's ludicrous attempt to define his office as neither part of the executive or legislative branch, Turley said:
    The position adopted by Mr. Addington and Mr. Cheney, to put it bluntly, was absurd. I mean, it was—I had—it was completely frivolous.

    And what really is striking about this is the lack of coherence and control within the administration. The vice president‘s office is a true center of gravity unto itself. I mean, in past administrations, if someone like Mr. Addington made such a moronic argument as this one, they would be out of a job the next week. I mean, he started this huge controversy. Everyone that of any credibility said that it was a ridiculous argument.

    And now they‘re trying to backpedal and say, Well, we‘re going to go with a different argument.

    I think that what it really shows is the lack of sort of adult supervision within the administration of somebody to come up with a coherent and single position for the president.
    In part, the absence of "adult supervision" over Bush is what Peter Baker wrote about yesterday in the Washington Post, with one senior House Republican quoted as saying, "There's nobody there who can stand up to him and tell him, 'Mr. President, you've got to do this. You're wrong on this.' There's no adult supervision. It's like he's oblivious."

    Often times, the road to reason with a man as detached and nonsensical as this one is through his spouse. Has anyone appealed to Laura to speak frankly with him? I'm not saying she would or could work miracles but at this point, when most friends would be exasperated and willing to try any intervention option, all means to effect change are on the table.

    However, with this guy in office, there's little chance for beneficial change. As Dan Froomkin wrote yesterday:
    [T]o me, it sounds like Bush is looking not for answers -- but for rationalizations for his behavior. There is no sign of genuine introspection, no sign of acknowledgment of mistakes, no sign of any significant change of course. In a pattern familiar to anyone who has ever had a drinking problem, Bush appears to be engaged in a furious effort to persuade onlookers that he's fine -- even if he isn't.
    At best, one could hope that many years from now GW will lament about his abysmal reign, finally realizing how wrong he was about everything and asking aloud "what was I thinking?" But alas, that's not likely to happen given Bush's massive ego and self-delusion, and worse yet it wouldn't matter since the U.S. will have already suffered terribly under his rule.

    This country has enjoyed many highs (too numerous to mention) and some lows (Great Depression, slavery, McCarthy, Watergate, to name a few). In the latter group, we can now add GW's two terms in office. As with the other dark holes in our past, may we eventually recover from this one.