Monday, April 30, 2007

Who says things will necessarily get worse if we leave Iraq? Could this be more of a political statement than anything else? Barry Posen lays out many of the what-ifs in staying vs. leaving and as usual much of what GW is telling us is by no means a sure thing.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Referring to Michael Bloomberg, I've stated in the past, "the GOP could do far worse than have this guy run for prez in '08." I continue to feel that way, esp. after his pseudo endorsement of Gore.
For those of you (gulp) who rely on the New York Post for real news. Shame on you.
So Mitt Romney believes spending any time or money trying to track down the man responsible for 9/11 is just a waste and "not worth" it.

Imagine if Hillary or Obama uttered such words. The right-wing scream machine would still be throwing down harsh condemnations. But when one of their own says it -- nothing, zilch, silence.

Also, no buzz from any Dems, perhaps suggesting they don't fan flames like Republicans. But even worse for Romney, perhaps simply no one cares what he has to say about anything.
But things are getting better, right?

World terror attacks up nearly 30%, report says

I guess Bush would say it could've been worse, attacks could've increased by more than 50%....
As you all know, George Tenet has a new book coming out where apparently he does the kiss-kiss with GW (don't want to cross those Bushies!) but mainly is out to protect his own ass. Now that Iraq is obviously a bust and the pre-war intel was baked like a deep-dish pizza, anyone associated with the machinations leading up to the war want to do their best to distance themselves from the fiasco. In this case, Mr. Presidential Medal of Freedom winner (hah!) wants to make clear his "slam dunk" statement was taken completely out of context (how dare those dastardly devils!) and gosh darn it, he's appalled!

Oh brother. How many years later do we have to hear this guy cry foul, perhaps prompted by as mentioned the Iraq fiasco fast unfolding, but also likely due to his need to offer up something, anything to justify the $4 million advance on the book.

Does anyone really care what any of these folks have to say at this point? It seems as if all of them lie and the fact is they were all involved in the hoodwinking and cookery of the intel from the start and I don't recall any of them crying foul then (of course not counting the likes of Richard Clarke).

But Tenet states, "There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat." Recall John DiIulio complained of a lack of any serious policy discussion within the White House. The question becomes: is anything ever seriously discussed within the most powerful house in the world? Oh, right, political strategy and tactics. Almost forgot.

Friday, April 27, 2007

In response to attack-dog Cheney's recent harsh criticism of Harry Reid, Joe Klein laid out the VP's words and then translated:
Yesterday, Senator Reid said the troop surge was against the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. That is plainly false. The Iraq Study Group report was explicitly favorable toward a troop surge to secure Baghdad. Senator Reid said there should be a regional conference on Iraq. Apparently, he doesn't know that there is going to be one next week. Senator Reid said he doesn't have real substantive meetings with the President. Yet immediately following last week's meeting at the White House, he said, "It was a good exchange; everyone voiced their considered opinion about the war in Iraq."

Translation: Picky, picky. The Iraq Study Group was not opposed to a temporary surge, in order to ease the way for American withdrawal by, uh-oh, darn it, March 2008...which, [expletive deleted] idiots, is exactly what the [expletive] Democrats are proposing. The Iraq Study Group was also in favor of direction negotiations with Iraq and Syria, which we have, uh, ignored. Which is why there are real fears that next week's Cairo conference will be a bust. If only those damn Arabs would listen to reason.
Maybe it's a political calculation. Some Democratic leaders seem to believe that blind opposition to the new strategy in Iraq is good politics. Senator Reid himself has said that the war in Iraq will bring his party more seats in the next election. It is cynical to declare that the war is lost because you believe it gives you political advantage. Leaders should make decisions based on the security interests of our country, not on the interests of their political party.

Translation: We have never played politics with Iraq. We didn't schedule the initial authorization vote for just before the 2002 elections. We didn't cook the intel. We had nothing to do with the Mission Accomplished banner. The Navy told Bush to put on the flight suit. We didn't ignore the insurgency and spend vast resources on the Iraq Survey Group to look for non-existent WMD. Karl Rove never told Republicans they could use the war for their benefit. We never questioned the patriotism of people who opposed the war. I'm not questioning Harry Reid's patriotism now. And if you can't get that through your thick heads, you stupid, stupid stupid Americans impatient with our master plan for VICTORY in the middle well then, as I once explained to Pat Leahy [expletive deleted].
But Klein neglected to list many more examples, such as the precise manipulation of the terror alerts just prior to November elections, or the constant blurring of 9/11 with Iraq, or frequently inferring the Dems = a less safe USA, or the Dems don't support the war and therefore our troops, just to name a few.

Cheney took a page right out of the Karl Rove playbook: try to tar the other side with your own sins.
From David Ignatius a few days ago:
Something's got to give. That's the sense around Washington this week as the news from Baghdad worsens and the president defiantly continues an Iraq policy that many military leaders question. Unfortunately, what's giving way right now is the national interest. Bush is hunkered down with his troop surge strategy, and the military is expected to pay the price. A grim example of that human cost was Monday's deaths of nine U.S. soldiers from car bombs that hit one of the vulnerable forward operating bases that are a key part of the surge strategy.

Retired Marine Gen. John Sheehan summed up the military's skepticism in explaining why he turned down White House feelers to become "war czar" for Iraq and Afghanistan: "The very fundamental issue is, they don't know where the hell they're going."

If you want to hear despair in Washington these days, talk to Republicans. The Democrats are exulting in their newfound political power and are eager to profit from Bush's difficulties. But Republicans voice the bitterness and frustration of people chained to the hull of a sinking ship.

I spoke with a half-dozen prominent GOP operatives this past week, most of them high-level officials in the Reagan and Bush I and Bush II administrations, and I heard the same devastating critique: This White House is isolated and ineffective; the country has stopped listening to President Bush, just as it once tuned out the hapless Jimmy Carter; the president's misplaced sense of personal loyalty is hurting his party and the nation.

"This is the most incompetent White House I've seen since I came to Washington," said one GOP senator. "The White House legislative liaison team is incompetent, pitiful, embarrassing. My colleagues can't even tell you who the White House Senate liaison is. There is rank incompetence throughout the government. It's the weakest Cabinet I've seen." And remember, this is a Republican talking.
And once again we hear that word "incompetence".... Rather than returning honor and dignity to the White House (hah!), Bush has instead introduced buffoonery and disgrace.

But as I've said, he has much time left in office and 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. Brace yourself and strap in.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Must-read of the day: George McGovern's LA Times op-ed, where he fires back at Cheney.

Bravo. It's great to see an increasing number of Americans stand up to this crass, chickenhawk of a bully. Everyday Cheney sweats that his legacy will rightfully reflect him as the most ruinous, detrimental, and out-to-lunch #2 in history. His recent scatter-shot bouts of attack rhetoric just drive home this point. Unfortunately for him, very few listen anymore as he's simply a pathetic figure who casts venom to an ever-shrinking base. Quite sad.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The chart below shows that just 35% of the 18-to-25-year-old age group leans Republican, a whopping 20% decline from the peak (55%) in 1991 and at a 20-year low.

Source: Pew Research Center

More than a few political studies show that party identification occurs at a fairly early age and stays true to form through adult life. For those in the GOP who truly care about the fate of the party, odds favor them trying their hardest to wrestle control away from the lunatic right and steer things back to a more moderate sensibility. If not, Republicans will become a dying breed.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I strongly urge everyone to read this psychiatrist's diagnosis of George Bush's mental health. It not only gets to the core of what's wrong with GW, but also helps to explain and put in perspective the last six years, how we've suffered through so much thanks to this psychologically damaged decider.

What's truly frightening is given the depth of the Dr. Strangelove disorders, it's amazing that Bush hasn't managed to plunge us into even worse situations. With that in mind he still has several more months in office and by all accounts his remaining time -- no matter how lame -- could prove to be scarier and more detrimental than his previous six years. Attempts to salvage an already-wrecked legacy could go severely awry. May the Dems be successful in minimizing the potential damage.
Global Warming Myths and Lies

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Are things getting better in Iraq?
It’s a big success — if by “success” you mean U.S. troops are now dying at the fastest rate since the invasion four years ago!

October 2006-March 2007 were the deadliest six months of the war so far, while March also “marked the first time that the U.S. military suffered four straight months of 80 or more fatalities.” April is on its way to being the single deadliest month of the entire invasion and occupation.

Also, more people are shot, beheaded and blown up every single day in Iraq than were shot at Virginia Tech yesterday in the “deadliest shooting rampage in American history.”
The Supreme Court ruling on abortion crystallized one truth: the Court is definitely intertwined in the partisan struggle that has fractured the country since Bush entered office. Political ideology and influence has found its way into nearly every governmental institution: the EPA, the CIA, the FBI, the military, the FDA, FEMA, and the Justice Department, to name a few. But now we clearly see the end result of politics as it plays out in the Supreme Court.

Typically, Americans do not relate their election choices with anything having to do with the high court, but this recent ruling with a razor-thin 5-4 margin should go a long way towards waking them up to this reality. And that includes the I'd-love-to-change-the-world-overnight Nader crowd.

At age 87, John Paul Stevens is likely next to go. Given the GOP minority status in Congress, he'll not retire any time soon, but his age dictates the time is coming. Obviously, a huge decision comes with the next president and voters should be extremely aware of the stakes.
Is this the start of carving up Iraq into sectarian divisions?
Uh, I thought GW was supposed to return honor and dignity?
As the preeminent poster child for Bush administration incompetence, attorney general Alberto “Fredo” Gonzales has actually performed an important public service. In his long-awaited Senate testimony yesterday, the president’s crony repeatedly demonstrated – via lapses of memory, and sporadic bursts of damaging candor – all the myriad ways that this lame-duck regime has laid waste to yet another once-proud federal institution, in this case the U.S. Department of Justice.
On his radio show yesterday, conservative hack Bill "One Armed Bandit" Bennett said the only mistake with McCain making a joke out of bombing another country (Iran) was that McCain cited the wrong band (The Regents recorded Barbara Ann before The Beach Boys). As for McCain's attempt at humor, Bennett then said, "there's nothing wrong with it, it's trivial" and moved on.

Oh, the hypocrisy. Imagine if Kerry, Clinton, Obama, or any Democrat pulled this stunt, they would've been crucified for days on the right-wing shout-fest circuit. But with Republican McCain, already carrying questionable temperament baggage, apparently it's just "trivial" and not worth spending any time on, next topic.

I actually expect nothing less from these clowns -- and the same holds true for their shrunken hardcore base, the only people listening to them these days (crickets).

Friday, April 20, 2007

If there remained any doubt that McCain should just drop out of the race at this point, this sad episode cinches it. Imagine the person in the White House with his/her finger on that proverbial nuke button, during these very scary times, believing it's A-OK to make light of bombing another country. McCain's temperament has been questioned in the past, with some wondering if he had the personality make-up for the most powerful job in the world. This incident doesn't help him in that regard, at all.
From yesterday's LA Times editorial, why Gonzales must go:
Today's hearing could be illuminating about what Gonzales knew and when he forgot it. But it can't "make or break" the attorney general because his credibility is already broken, and his fate is a question of politics, not law.

....Gonzales will couple unambiguous denials of any personal wrongdoing with hedged defenses of what was done in his name. For example, he says in his prepared opening statement that "based upon the record as I know it, it is unfair and unfounded for anyone to conclude that any U.S. attorney was removed for an improper reason." That's just the sort of careful language one would expect from an attorney general who subcontracted his decision-making to a meddlesome White House at one end of the process and a hatchet-man chief of staff at the other.

Congress should continue to untangle the sequence of events that led to these firings, and Gonzales' testimony might prove helpful. But nothing will rehabilitate his reputation as the under-qualified attorney general who was AWOL when a harebrained White House scheme to sack all 93 U.S. attorneys morphed into a narrower hit on targets that included two prosecutors whose decisions had embarrassed the Republican Party.
Hmm, Gonzales' "credibility is already broken" -- likewise applies to his boss GW. As Joan Vennochi asked yesterday, "Can the public ever get a straight answer from anyone in the Bush administration? The answer appears to be no." It's what they do.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Excellent point by an excellent blogger.
As a follow up to the 60 Minutes story concerning the heinous no-compete Medicare bill:
The Senate blocked legislation on Wednesday that would let the government negotiate Medicare drug prices. Democrats couldn't muster the 60 votes needed to bring the bill up for a vote.

Under the Medicare drug benefit, private insurance plans negotiate with drug makers over the price of medicine for their customers. About 22 million seniors and the disabled are enrolled in such plans. Some lawmakers, mostly Democrats, contend the government could use its leverage to drive a better bargain than individual insurers, which would lower the cost of the program for taxpayers and seniors.
Thanks to Republicans, taxpayers will now miss out on $190 billion in savings over the next ten years. Screw the citizen, embrace the corporation.
Oh yeah, they're definitely looking to hide more serious transgressions:
The White House yesterday hinted that it may try to assert executive privilege in denying Congressional investigators access to e-mails sent and received by White House aides on their Republican National Committee e-mail accounts.

It would be an unconventional exercise of a privilege that is controversial even in its traditional application: to protect the White House itself from subpoenas. And it would be another twist in an already peculiarly convoluted story.

In what Democrats suspect was an attempt to avoid public scrutiny, some key White House aides violated internal policy and potentially federal law by using their RNC e-mail accounts (instead of their official White House e-mail accounts) to conduct official business. Once the use of those accounts was exposed, the RNC announced that many if not most of those e-mails had been deleted. Now, the White House is saying that should any of those e-mails somehow turn up, they should not be turned over to Congress without the White House's approval.

[from Dan Froomkin]
And make no mistake, they have the emails but are stalling for time. It takes some doing to peruse through millions of emails, choosing which ones to hold back and then redact the others like crazy.

Oh, and can we please stop calling them "document dumps," implying indiscriminate mass unloading of info? They're anything but that.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

In his most recent column, Krugman mentions something that I wrote about last June:
Normally, politicians face a difficult tradeoff between taking positions that satisfy their party’s base and appealing to the broader public. You can see that happening right now to the Republicans: to have a chance of winning the party’s nomination, Republican presidential hopefuls have to take far-right positions on Iraq and social issues that will cost them a lot of votes in the general election.
And I wrote in June:
Given this modern-day version of the Republican Party, McCain (and Giuliani) likely deduced that one must first shift hard to the right to lock-up the strident, zombie sect of the party. Once accomplishing that feat, and after securing the party nomination, one must then abruptly shift back hard to the middle. For McCain, he must then reestablish his reputation as a maverick, the daring outside-the-box pragmatist who desires change. (Whether any of that's true or not is not the point; it's this crafted image that made him popular on a national level). However, he'll then have to contend with the moderates who have come to seriously question his positions given the courting of Falwell et al, and as he lurches back to the middle, he'll then alienate many of the religious folks he tried to win over from the start.

Good luck with all of that! You can see why it's a near-impossible assignment for anyone. This is the GOP created by Rove and it will be one of many BushCo legacy items that those in the party will have to undo and fix.
One can still make the case that McCain is going for broke in trying to win over the extreme right-wingers that comprise primary voters. For example, in South Carolina, 70% of likely Republican primary voters approve of the job Bush is doing as president and nearly 60% consider themselves pro-life.

However, any GOP presidential candidate must then swing back to the center if they have any chance of landing in the White House.

As I've written before, the near impossible task a Republican faces is the chasm that exists today between the extreme right and the center. The distance one needs to zig then zag from one side to the other is immense, and by having to do so all credibility goes out the window, swiftly alienating all involved. Appeasing no longer works.

When Nixon once spoke of first running to the right and then moving to the center, the gap separating the right and center was much smaller, so navigating the proverbial swing was easier, less noticeable and off-putting. But with the current version of the GOP, the right-wing faction is a Grand Canyon distance away from moderates.

In effect, no Republican politician is good enough to successfully pull off that leap-frog in allegiance and positions. Understandably, McCain and other GOP contenders have no choice but to give it a try. But the fact remains, given what they must do to curry the hard right vote in primaries, they'll have said and promised too much to undo and be credible to moderates. Since 9/11, the country has certainly trended away from the fear-driven rightward drift and back towards a more typical centrist stance. That said the GOP candidate will have no shot in the general election.

The fix? To reverse all of what Karl Rove has done. Good luck with all of that!
An increasing number of right-wingers are calling for Gonzales to resign. It started with New Hampshire Senator John Sununu (American Conservative Union rating: 93.2), then we had Newt Gingrich, and more recently Richard Viguerie, just to name a few. They don't come more right-wing than Viguerie.

Yet, I continue to wonder why this administration chooses to go to the mat for this guy. Very suspicious.
Add the following onto the growing pile of someone-is-telling-a-lie statements:
The former Justice Department official who carried out the firings of eight U.S. attorneys last year told Congress that several of the prosecutors had no performance problems and that a memo on the firings was distributed at a Nov. 27 meeting attended by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, a Democratic senator said yesterday.

The statements to House and Senate investigators by Michael A. Battle, former director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, represent another potential challenge to the credibility of Gonzales, who has said that he never saw any documents about the firings and that he had "lost confidence" in the prosecutors because of performance problems.
Get ready for some truly embarrassing testimony today. I still can't believe Gonzales is actually going through with it (thought he'd finally just resign instead).

It makes you wonder why Bush/Rove are so adamant and determined to have him stay, as compared to the many other losers let go (Rumsfeld, Brownie, Miers, Wolfowitz, etc.). Is Gonzales keeping a lid on far worse transgressions that would likely come to light with a clearing-of-the-deck change of guard?
The verdict is in: is just an online version of Fox News Light.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Bill Maher ended his latest show with a blistering critique of those who lash out at the supposed elite and instead celebrate the dim bulbs and just-mediocre folks (embracing the George Costanza rule).
Say it loud: I'm elite and proud! The right-wing crusade to demonize elites has paid off. Now the country's run by incompetents who make mediocrity a job requirement and recruit from Pat Robertson's law school. New rule: Now that liberals have taken back the word liberal, they also have to take back the word "elite." By now you've heard the constant right-wing attacks on the "elite," or as it's otherwise known, "hating." They've had it up to their red necks with the "elite media." The "liberal elite." Who may or may not be part of the "Washington elite." A subset of the "East Coast elite." Which is influenced by "the Hollywood elite." So basically, unless you're a shitkicker from Kansas, you're with the terrorists. If you played a drinking game in which you did a shot every time Rush Limbaugh attacked someone for being "elite" you'd almost be as wasted as Rush Limbaugh.

I don't get it: In other fields -- outside of government -- elite is a good thing, like an elite fighting force. Tiger Woods is an elite golfer. If I need brain surgery, I'd like an elite doctor. But in politics, elite is bad -- the elite aren't down-to-earth and accessible like you and me and President Shit-for-Brains. But when the anti-elite crowd demonizes the elite, what they're actually doing is embracing incompetence. Now, I know what you're thinking: That doesn't sound like our president -- ignoring intelligence.

You know how whenever there's a major Bush administration scandal it always traces back to some incompetent political hack appointment and you think to yourself, "Where are they getting these screw-ups from?" Well, now we know: from Pat Robertson. I wish I were kidding, but I'm not. Take Monica Goodling, who before she resigned last week because of the U.S. attorneys scandal, was the third most powerful official in the Justice Department of the United States. Thirty-three, and though she had never even worked as a prosecutor, she was tasked with overseeing the job performance of all 95 U.S. attorneys. How do you get to be such a top dog at 33? By acing Harvard, or winning scholarship prizes? No, Goodling did her undergraduate work at Messiah College -- home of the "Fighting Christies," who wait-listed me, the bastards -- and then went on to attend Pat Robertson's law school.

I'm not kidding, Pat Robertson, the man who said gay people at DisneyWorld would cause "earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a meteor," has a law school. It's called Regent. Regent University School of Law, and it shares a campus with Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network studios. It's the first time ever that a TV network spun off a law school. And that's all America needs -- more Christians and more lawyers. You see, years ago Pat became concerned that our legal system was coddling criminals, forgiving them instead of meting out that Old Testament "eye for an eye" justice Jesus Christ never shuts up about. So Pat did what any red-blooded, Hindu-hating, gay-baiting, glue-sniffing Christian would do: He started his own law school. And what kid wouldn't want to attend? It's three years and you only have to read one book. The school says its mission is to create an army of evangelical lawyers, integrating the Bible and public policy, and producing graduates that provide "Christian leadership to change the world." Presumably from round back to flat.

U.S. News and World Report, which does the definitive ranking of colleges, lists Regent as a tier-four school, which is the lowest score it gives. It's not a hard school to get into. You have to renounce Satan and draw a pirate on a matchbook. This is for the people who couldn't get into the University of Phoenix.

But there's more! As there inevitably is with the Bush administration. Turns out she's not the only one. Since 2001, 150 graduates of Regent University have been hired by the Bush administration. And people wonder why things are so screwed up. Hell, we probably invaded Iraq because one of these clowns read the map wrong. Forget religion for a second, we're talking about a top Justice Department official who went to a college founded by a TV host. Would you send your daughter to Maury Povich University? And if you did, would you expect her to get a job at the White House? I'd be surprised if she got a job on the "Maury" show. And then it hit me: This is why Bush scandals never catch on with the public -- they're all evangelicals of course, and nobody is having sex.

So there you have it: It turns out that the Justice Department is entirely staffed with Jesus freaks from a televangelist diploma mill in Virginia Beach. Most of them young women with very little knowledge of the law, but a very strong sense of doing what they're told. Like the Manson family, but with cleaner hair. In 200 years we've gone from "We the people" to "Up with people." From the best and brightest to dumb and dumber. And, come on, America is a big, well-known, first-rate country, and when we're looking for people to help run it, we should aim higher than the girl who answers the phone at the fake abortion clinic. It's not just that this president has surrounded himself with a Texas echo chamber of war criminals and religious fanatics. It's that they're sooooo mediocre. This is America. We should be getting robbed and fucked over by the best.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., asked at a hearing, "Should we be concerned with the experience level of the people who are making these highly significant decisions?" But in the Bush administration experience doesn't matter. All that matters is loyalty to Bush and Jesus, in that order. And where better to find people dumb enough to believe in George W. Bush than Pat Robertson's law school. The problem here in America isn't that the country is being run by elites. It's that it's being run by a bunch of hayseeds. And by the way, the lawyer Monica Goodling just hired to keep her ass out of jail went to a real law school.
Yeah, why didn't Goodling hire an attorney who graduated from Regent? I thought they were supposed to stick together, Christian cause and all? I guess with her ass on the line, she's not taking any chances with some flunky know-nothing (like herself).
He's on a roll. Krugman's column from a few days ago is terrific. Some segments:
The infiltration of the federal government by large numbers of people seeking to impose a religious agenda - which is very different from simply being people of faith - is one of the most important stories of the last six years. It's also a story that tends to go underreported, perhaps because journalists are afraid of sounding like conspiracy theorists.
The Bush administration's implosion clearly represents a setback for the Christian right's strategy of infiltration. But it would be wildly premature to declare the danger over. This is a movement that has shown great resilience over the years. It will surely find new champions.

Next week Rudy Giuliani will be speaking at Regent's Executive Leadership Series.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Iraq is stretching our military to the breaking point, but what most Americans do not realize is the extent to which our FBI is being stretched to the limit, and criminals are benefiting:
Thousands of white-collar criminals across the country are no longer being prosecuted in federal court -- and, in many cases, not at all -- leaving a trail of frustrated victims and potentially billions of dollars in fraud and theft losses.

It is the untold story of the Bush administration's massive restructuring of the FBI after the terrorism attacks of 9/11.

Five-and-a-half years later, the White House and the Justice Department have failed to replace at least 2,400 agents transferred to counterterrorism squads, leaving far fewer agents on the trail of identity thieves, con artists, hatemongers and other criminals.

Two successive attorneys general have rejected the FBI's pleas for reinforcements behind closed doors.

While there hasn't been a terrorism strike on American soil since the realignment, few are aware of the hidden cost: a dramatic plunge in FBI investigations and case referrals in many of the crimes that the bureau has traditionally fought, including sophisticated fraud, embezzlement schemes and civil rights violations.

"Politically, this trade-off has been accepted," said Charles Mandigo, a former FBI congressional liaison who retired four years ago as special agent in charge in Seattle. "But do the American people know this trade-off has been made?"

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Regarding the thousands of missing White House emails, the excuse used to explain away the violation is that it was an honest mistake. The written internal White House policy was supposedly not clear enough -- as if the following is too vague: "Federal law requires the preservation of electronic communications sent or received by White House staff. As a result, personnel working on behalf of the EOP [Executive Office of the President] are expected to only use government-provided e-mail services for all official communication." Yeah, that's just so confusing.

Look, the truly reprehensible aspect of this latest turn for the ugly is -- surprise! -- Karl Rove's role. The fact that all of Rove's emails are missing is quite a different matter than all emails missing for a 24-year old staffer. Unlike a bright-eyed, young newbie, Rove is a seasoned, senior adviser to the President who definitely should know the rules and thus should know better.

Will anything serve as cause for this guy to resign?
On March 30th, I cited an op-ed in the Washington Post entitled "The Myth Of Voter Fraud" in which the authors wrote, "The notion of widespread voter fraud, as these prosecutors found out, is itself a fraud. Firing a prosecutor for failing to find wide voter fraud is like firing a park ranger for failing to find Sasquatch."

The New York Times has proven them correct. The paper shows that after a five year period nary any voter fraud had been found. Kevin Drum sums it up:
In 2002, DOJ changed their guidelines to make it easier to prosecute voter fraud. They made it a priority to find voter fraud cases. They appointed a clean slate of U.S. Attorneys loyal to the Republican Party. They set up training classes to help prosecutors charge and win voter fraud cases. But after all that, they managed to demonstrate fraud in a grand total of only 86 cases over four years. And even then, many of the cases of confirmed fraud were simply mistakes, while virtually none of them were actually designed to affect the outcome of an election.

So in four years of concerted effort, the Bush Justice Department managed to come up with maybe half a dozen cases of actual voter fraud. In other words, two or three per election cycle. Mostly in rural districts for low-level offices. And because of this, we're supposed to believe that it's a high priority to spend millions of dollars on voter ID laws that plainly do nothing except make it harder for poor people to vote.
Meanwhile, Karl Rove would have us believe voter fraud was an exploding epidemic, recently stating:
We have, as you know, an enormous and growing problem with elections in certain parts of America today. We are, in some parts of the country, I'm afraid to say, beginning to look like we have elections like those run in countries where they guys in charge are, you know, colonels in mirrored sunglasses. I mean, it's a real problem.
The fear-mongering never stops. Lies told to influence behavior, and those on the right readily comply.

This is America? It's Rove who is one of those guys in "mirrored sunglasses."
Going forward, the norm will be for troops to serve 15-month tours of duty in Iraq, not the more typical 12-month duration. Is it any wonder that last year the Army needed to pay $1 billion in bonuses to recruit and retain soldiers? (Almost 8x the figure paid four years prior).

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Go Josh Go!

Regarding the prosecutor purge scandal, Josh Marshall writes:
Outside of the media's view another chapter of the story is unfolding.

We know about the US Attorneys who were purged, i.e., the ones who didn't get the message and resign and got the call on December 7th telling them to pack their bags.

But there were others.

These are cases in which sitting US Attorneys resigned under quetionable circumstances in late 2005 or early 2006 and then were replaced by young DOJ staffers who Attorney General Gonzales appointed using the Patriot Act provision. The names of at least some of these resigned USA were showing up on a list of potential firees at Main Justice. And there's also at least some overlap with the states from which GOP officials were sending complaints about 'voter fraud' to Karl Rove.

Rove, of course, wanted results. And it's no accident that almost all of the states in question were key swing states.

The details are murky. And we're still looking in to several of these cases. But it looks more and more like the 8 Attorney Purge was just a new chapter in a longer running story.
How telling is it that the White House cannot seem to recruit a war czar? GW's inability to interest anyone in the job is likely due to no one wanting to duke it out with Cheney, still the uber-czar when it comes to everything involved with this war. That combined with the obvious realization that Iraq is a fast collapsing sinkhole, so why bother accepting such a thankless position?
With Bernard Kerik back in the news, we further get to see the inept workings of this administration and more so the failings of Gonzales.

Regarding the vetting process of Kerik's selection:
Alarmed about the raft of allegations, several White House aides tried to raise red flags. But the normal investigation process was short-circuited, the sources said. Bush's top lawyer, Alberto R. Gonzales, took charge of the vetting, repeatedly grilling Kerik about the issues that had been raised. In the end, despite the concerns, the White House moved forward with his nomination -- only to have it collapse a week later.

The selection of Kerik in December 2004 for one of the most sensitive posts in government became an acute but brief embarrassment for Bush at the start of his second term. More than two years later, it has reemerged as part of a federal criminal investigation of Kerik that raises questions about the decisions made by the president, the Republican front-runner to replace him and the embattled attorney general.

A reconstruction of the failed nomination, assembled through interviews with key players, provides new details and a fuller account of the episode -- how Giuliani put forward a flawed candidate for high office, how Bush rushed the usual process in his eagerness to install a political ally and how Gonzales, as White House counsel, failed to stop the nomination despite the many warning signs. "The vetting process clearly broke down," said a senior White House official. "This should not happen."
Oh boy, the below (in Newsweek) says it all. How is telling the truth this difficult? I would imagine if he keeps screwing up his practice runs, that they’ll finally throw in the towel, not risk embarrassment and force him to resign BEFORE his hearing is held. Right?
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has virtually wiped his public schedule clean to bone up for his long-awaited April 17 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee—a session widely seen as a crucial test as to whether he will survive the U.S. attorney mess. But even his own closest advisers are nervous about whether he is up to the task. At a recent "prep" for a prospective Sunday talk-show interview, Gonzales's performance was so poor that top aides scrapped any live appearances. During the March 23 session in the A.G.'s conference room, Gonzales was grilled by a team of top aides and advisers—including former Republican National Committee chair Ed Gillespie and former White House lawyer Tim Flanigan—about what he knew about the plan to fire seven U.S. attorneys last fall. But Gonzales kept contradicting himself and "getting his timeline confused," said one participant who asked not to be identified talking about a private meeting. His advisers finally got "exasperated" with him, the source added. "He's not ready," Tasia Scolinos, Gonzales's public-affairs chief, told the A.G.'s top aides after the session was over, said the source.
We're now learning much more about Pat Robertson's Regent law school. It is ranked fourth-tier in the recent US News & World Report rankings, or near the very bottom, tied for 136th place. We also know that Bush's Justice Department has been hiring grads from this school like crazy, more than 150 over the last few years.

It reminds me of the Seinfeld episode ("The Van Buren Boys") when George is assigned to help select candidates for the first scholarship of Susan's foundation. Instead of favoring those with the best academic credentials, George favors someone with less-than-stellar grades (he has a 2.0 GPA, "in the meaty part of the curve" says George). Except here with the George in the White House, the added litmus test is religion.

By the way, if you haven't been keeping track, faculty at Southern Methodist University are divided over hosting GW's presidential library. Why doesn't Bush just alleviate SMU from this internal debate and agree to locate his library at Regent? Isn't this lowest-tier, Bible-based school more of a fitting spot for him anyway?
Paul Krugman's latest column is a must-read. It's about one of Karl Rove's favorite slime tactics: the seemingly subtle whisper-circuit of "little" lies. Thanks to a far-flung, partisan communication network in place (Fox News, Limbaugh, Hannity, several governmental agencies, etc.), it works.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Wow, Joe Klein has spit up the Kool-Aid to write the following:
The three big Bush stories of 2007--the decision to "surge" in Iraq, the scandalous treatment of wounded veterans at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys for tawdry political reasons--precisely illuminate the three qualities that make this Administration one of the worst in American history: arrogance (the surge), incompetence (Walter Reed) and cynicism (the U.S. Attorneys).
On April 3, the President again accused Democrats of being "more interested in fighting political battles in Washington than providing our troops what they need." Such demagoguery is particularly outrageous given the Administration's inability to provide our troops "what they need" at the nation's premier hospital for veterans. The mold and decrepitude at Walter Reed are likely to be only the beginning of the tragedy, the latest example of incompetence in this Administration.
When Bush came to office--installed by the Supreme Court after receiving fewer votes than Al Gore--I speculated that the new President would have to govern in a bipartisan manner to be successful. He chose the opposite path, and his hyper-partisanship has proved to be a travesty of governance and a comprehensive failure. I've tried to be respectful of the man and the office, but the three defining sins of the Bush Administration--arrogance, incompetence, cynicism--are congenital: they're part of his personality. They're not likely to change. And it is increasingly difficult to imagine yet another two years of slow bleed with a leader so clearly unfit to lead.
With regards to his misspeaks concerning Iraq, McCain stated on 60 Minutes, "I regret that when I divert attention to something I said from my message, but, you know, that’s just life, and I’m happy frankly with the way I operate. Otherwise, it’d be a lot less fun.”

In response, Dick Polman wrote:
That response demonstrates just how far McCain has traveled from the halcyon days of Straight Talk. He is now suggesting that it’s fine to make false assertions in the service of promoting “over and over and over again” the theme of “progress” in Iraq – and that misspeaking in support of Bush’s war policy is “just life.” Even at a time when soldiers are dying every day (actually, at an increased pace since the onset of the Surge), and at a time when most Americans are hungry for honesty on the war, McCain is saying that speaking more carefully, and backing up his assertions with fact, would be “less fun.”
The Straight Talk Express is indeed long gone, a distant memory. McCain has for some time now been spinning and waffling with the best of them.

Monday, April 09, 2007

I don't spend much time commenting on the right wing sideshow acts such as Hannity, O'Reilly, Limbaugh, Coulter, and the like. Why bother. Depending on the clown, they're either crazy and/or shrewdly looking to garner ratings via manufactured half-truths, distortions, and outright bullsh*t. Smart people tune them out and the rest who consider themselves die-hard fans, well, the less said about them the better.

That said it's a bit amusing to witness O'Reilly losing his cool more and more these days. If he's not shouting down his guest and then cutting their mic, then he's simply blowing a gasket in red-faced, finger-waving fashion. Some recent examples here, here, and here (the last one with Geraldo is a doozy).

Me thinks much of his discontent may have to do with shrinking ratings. In key age groups, Keith Olbermann has passed him. O'Reilly's apparent solution: behave even more insanely than usual on air.

Whereas he's always been hilarious (a fact not lost on Stephen Colbert), these days Bill has become just downright sad.

CORRECTION: In the the 25-54 key age group, Olbermann has beaten O'Reilly regularly but only in the last 15 minutes of his show. For the entire hour, O'Reilly still has higher ratings in this group -- albeit his numbers have trended down for months whereas Olbermann is seeing huge increases.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Newt Gingrich says Gonzales should resign, adding "I think the country, in fact, would be much better served to have a new team at the Justice Department, across the board."

Hmm, Newt calling for an entire new crew at the JD and coming out with a book on global warming where unlike Bush he believes it's real and calls for action -- see a pattern? With his presidential run more like when not if, look for Newt to continue to distance himself from lameduck GW, something that would effectively separate him from the existing trio of GOP contenders (McCain, Giuliani, Romney).
The debate concerning campaign finance reform aside, the chart below is quite startling.

Since 1994, the percentage of households earning more than $100K has risen 12% (from 4% to 16%), which is not all that surprising given the trend in income over the last several years. What is fairly surprising is the dramatic decline in those high-earners who identify themselves as Republicans, plummeting 12% since Bush's post-9/11 high of 45%. Meanwhile, those calling themselves Democrats has risen slightly in that time, implying that while some have gravitated over from the GOP, the majority have simply left the GOP to remain party-less or independent.

Fortunately, as I wrote last week, the majority of these Republican defections are seeing the world through a more moderate to liberal lens. Hopefully they've permanently seen the light.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Tomorrow on 60 Minutes, McCain will flip-flop (again), claiming he was wrong about his recent highly-protected stroll through Iraq, and he will announce that he plans to stake his presidential run on convincing Americans that the Iraq war is winnable.

Wow. Yes, McCain's campaign has been in dire straits for some time now, but with this Hail Mary pass, apparently it's really bad.

More than a few insiders have suggested McCain may have to drop out of the race completely, but before doing so he obviously feels as if this longshot stance regarding the war is his only salvation at this point. His many shameful moves to court the far right have more or less backfired, leaving him with this final desperate chess move.

It's really amazing to think that not too long ago McCain was assumed to be the front-runner for the GOP in 2008. To say that he screwed it up is quite an understatement, but then again, how does anyone navigate the ridiculous maze to the White House as established by the hypocrisy-riddled, schizophrenic Republican Party?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Bush has become the "F* You" president. With his apparent "f* you" to the American public regarding the wide split between his views on Iraq and their's, and his "f* you" to the Democrats with his indignant and slimy recess appointments including "Swift Boat" Fox, Bush has decided to spend the rest of his term doing whatever he damn well pleases and to hell with everyone else. We all know he hasn't remotely been the uniter he once promised, but it's obvious he's now kicked this divisive mode of governing into another gear. Is it any wonder Bush is more isolated and alone in the White House than Nixon at the peak of Watergate?

And don't think Fox was the heavyweight appointee. Susan Dudley was installed at OMB to oversee federal regulatory policy. She was an anti-regulatory zealot as an academic at George Mason University and she has written it's more cost-effective for people to stay indoors on smoggy days than for the government to force polluters to clean up emissions. Oh boy.

The other appointee is Andrew Biggs, installed as deputy commissioner at the Social Security Administration. Biggs was employed at the libertarian Cato Institute and strongly supported privatizing Social Security.

The Fox appointment will get all the media attention, and to a point it's deserved, but the fact is Dudley and Biggs will be wielding much more power than Fox. Here's hoping all three appointees get close scrutiny and attention.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Bush has never been a stickler about the truth, but with his poll numbers beneath the toilet, I guess he's decided to just go all-out with the espousing of fiction and lies.

Dick Polman analyzes GW's latest press conference in the Rose Garden:
It’s time yet again to fact-check President Bush. This has become one of life’s more onerous but necessary chores - the journalistic equivalent of chopping ice or cleaning the cat box – and I’d frankly prefer to focus on something else. But no. I’d be remiss if I failed to address Bush’s fact-defying remarks yesterday in the Rose Garden.

So much of what he said about Iraq and the Democrats was so far removed from empirical reality that I am tempted to recall what the writer Mary McCarthy once said about her contemporary Lillian Hellman: “Every word she writes is a lie, including and and the.” With respect to the president, that’s probably too harsh. He did, after all, start by saying “good morning,” and it was indeed a nice morning. He also vowed again to veto any congressional bill that includes a U.S. troop withdrawal timeline, and we can probably believe that, too.
Click here to read the rest of Polman's piece.
Did anyone notice that third-place running John Edwards, with $14 mil. raised, came in just shy of GOP front-runner Giuliani's $15 million? And Edwards quietly surpassed headline-grabbing McCain (just $12.5 million). Just pointing it out.
The following is from an exchange with Andrew Sullivan last Thursday on Keith Olbermann's Countdown:
OLBERMANN: We might get Democrats to be in a kind of forced shared ownership of this war. Why won‘t this president attempt to get something like that done?

SULLIVAN: Well, of course, they could have done that after 9/11. Someone like Churchill brought opposition members into his cabinet. Other war leaders have brought everybody in, in order to have a secure base, but from the beginning Karl Rove made a decision to use the war as a partisan weapon. And now they are left. I mean, they are left alone, because the war has failed.

If it had succeeded, we might have been on the verge of having a one-party state in this country. They were clearly aiming to purge the entire government of opposition to them. But it hasn‘t worked and the war is clearly in a terrible mess. And they don‘t really have anywhere else to go. And Bush, I think psychologically, he just believes he is right. He thinks that, in his fundamentalist psyche, that his motives are pure, that the war is the right thing.

I don‘t think he is a cynic. I think he is a true believer. The trouble with true believers is that how can you tell them when they have made an error, and when true believers created a culture within the White House in which everybody must agree with the leader, who goes in there to talk to him and say this? I mean, Bob Novak said he didn‘t even think that Nixon, in the days before he resigned, was as isolated as George W. Bush is today....

I think it‘s more that my motives are so pure that I cannot do wrong. I think that‘s the mindset there. It‘s like when you are born-again, you give everything up to god, who controls everything, and I think the president had a born-again moment on 9/11, politically. And he thinks, as long as he is fighting evil, anybody who criticizes him is on the side of evil.

And that is a terribly dangerous mindset. And he doesn‘t have—I think this is the critical thing, unlike other presidents—a vice president seeking reelection. There is nobody in the White House itself that has an interest in winning in 2008. So, they could carry on forever.

Meanwhile, the Congress is beginning to panic. People around the country in the Republican party are in close to near panic about what this is going to do in 2008.
OLBERMANN: What do we do about this? I mean, is any of this still being seen by anyone as strength on his part? Or is it seen merely as abstinence.

SULLIVAN: I think it‘s not strength, it‘s brittleness. The thing with things that are brittle is that they suddenly snap. And my concern is that this will suddenly snap at some point. My own view is that the Democrats should not claim ownership of this. They should fund the troops. They have made their statement. People know where they stand. Then they should let the president and the Republican party own this war from now on, and just say to the electorate, look, you have a chance in 2008 to end this.

And I think many Republicans realize that if the Democrats take that tactic and that strategy, which of course is morally difficult, with the expense of these young men and women in Iraq, but politically, then the Republicans could be headed for a wipe out of historic proportions in 2008.
It's scary. Bush is like the king who swears he sees pink elephants in the room and his minions and peasants must agree or be tagged dissenters and banished to the dungeon.

It also reminds me of the movie "The Rapture", which is about a born-again mother who so much believes in Christ's imminent return that she allows her own daughter to die while holding on to this belief. The movie is both powerful in its underlying message and extremely disturbing.

The larger question being: at what point does staying devoted to a seeming moral belief become immoral?

Also, I agree with Sullivan that the Dems should fund the troops (which this current bill does, GW's BS aside) and yet clearly let the GOP continue to own this war. It's their albatross and they know it. They'll wake up and do the right thing once they realize their political skins are in grave jeopardy (and some are already indicating that the awakening has begun).
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, now a longshot GOP prez contender, recently said, "If Republicans in this election vote in such a way as to say a candidate’s personal life and personal conduct in office doesn’t matter, then a lot of Christian evangelical leaders owe Bill Clinton a public apology.”

Just hilarious. The reason Huckabee made this statement is because most of the front-running contenders (McCain, Giuliani, Gingrich) have past marital issues, so perhaps he can gain voters simply by not having divorce and the like on his resume.

Of course, his statement is right. These same people who so harshly judged Bill Clinton for his actions should now stay consistent and judge this current batch of Republican presidential candidates just as harshly.

But alas, such matters of family values has always really been about partisan politics. To evangelicals and the like, adultery by a Democrat is a heinous sin to be condemned; the same for a Republican hardly gets a mention. Are they all about the sin and "family values," or political party affiliation? Hmmm, I wonder.
It was very disturbing to learn of Saudi King Abdullah recently speaking out against the U.S. occupation in Iraq, calling it "illegitimate." Wasn't Cheney over there not too long ago to have a heart to heart with them? It appears as if much has changed since that visit. The Saudis appear to have concluded that America is losing Iraq to Shia and thus they must begin to take regional matters into their own hands. Not a vote of confidence for U.S. policies in that area of the world.

Bush continues to be isolated, not just in the U.S. but globally. Given the state of the world, is this kind of president best for the country?

Monday, April 02, 2007

60 Minutes had a truly stomach-turning segment on the Medicare drug bill morass. A more revolting portrait of our government at work you're not likely to find.

The oodles of scum in this endeavor seems endless. You have Richard Foster, Medicare's Chief Actuary, burying the true cost of the bill. Why? To save his job, threatened to be fired by the Bush administration. (The arm of the bully has reached everyone: CIA, EPA, Justice Dept., etc.). You have Medicare's boss, Tom Scully, who spearheaded the effort for the administration only to take a job as a lobbyist for the pharma industry just ten days after the bill's passage. You have Republican Tauzin, who fought the hardest to get the bill passed and then not too long thereafter accepted a $2 million a year job within the pharma industry.

What struck me is throughout the entire piece, the rats in the crowd are never identified specifically and bluntly. The on-camera politicians all talk of how atrocious the entire thing was, as if it was all the other guy's doing. Never does that "liberal" CBS explicitly name the key players involved and single them out for much-deserved scorn. Oh sure, they show Tauzin and subtly try to make him look bad, but Kroft chooses instead to stay dignified and only hint at the outright shame.

The fact is this bill was the handiwork of the Bush administration and the GOP-controlled Congress. Only they had the power to keep the voting open for almost three hours -- or two hours and 45 minutes beyond the limit. CBS should've stated it was a GOP-orchestrated fiasco in no uncertain terms.

When Republicans grouse about pork (despite the fact earmarks were just fine when they were in control), I say ask them about this $500+ billion pig roast they served up to the pharma industry. The GOP has long been the party of neck-deep hypocrisy, but this current version is beyond belief.