Directly from the Political Wire

Thank you Taegan Goddard for this wonderful quote, which I will now steal:

“The president's skull is solid granite.”

-- Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT), quoted by the Havre Daily News, in reference to President Bush’s stubbornness.

Bush: "Bin Laden Helped Me"

CNN has it.

Bush's comments in the Washington newspaper were excerpts from the new book "Strategery" by Bill Sammon, a longtime White House correspondent.

"What does it mean? Is it going to help? Is it going to hurt?" Bush told Sammon of the bin Laden tapes.

"Anything that drops in at the end of a campaign that is not already decided creates all kinds of anxieties, because you're not sure of the effect.

"I thought it was going to help," Bush said.

"I thought it would help remind people that if bin Laden doesn't want Bush to be the president, something must be right with Bush."
And one in three Americans believe it. As long as Americans are still afraid of the boogeyman, "something must be right with Bush."

Bush was more concerned with winning the election than national security.

No thought of the families of the thousands killed on September 11th.

Notice to America: George W. Bush wouldn't piss on you if you were on fire. He just wants to make sure that he and his Repuplicons keep getting elected and his big business buddies keep getting rich.

...Of course Bush did just as much to help Bin Laden by invading Iraq, but that's another post.

Right Wing Christianist Insanity

I've expanded from just Pat Robertson Lunacy.

"The separation of church and state is a fiction. The nation is the kingdom of God, period." --Bishop Harold Calvin Ray of West Palm Beach, FL

The Good Bishop said this just months before he attended the House and Senate Republican Conferences "Faith-Based Summit" held April 25, 2001. At this 'summit' there were 32 committee members, only 2 were women, only 2 were Jewish, and no other minority faith was represented.

"In your re-election, God has graciously granted America - though she doesn't deserve it - a reprieve from the agenda of paganism. Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ."
--Bob Jones III, president of Bob Jones University in a letter to George W. Bush after Nov. 2nd

"When I, or people like me, are running the country, you'd better flee, because we will find you, we will try you, and we'll execute you. I mean every word of it. I will make it part of my mission to see to it that they are tried and executed."
--Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, speaking of doctors who perform abortions, in an address to the U.S. Taxpayers Alliance, 8/08/95

"If this bill goes through, Congressman...it is going to guarantee one day pro-life judges on the Supreme Court, pro-family members of Congress. It's going to make it very difficult for someone like Bill and Hillary Clinton to ever get in the White House again."
--Jerry Falwell, September 13, 2002 - Discussing the "Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act" (H.R. 2357)

"Two things made this country great: White men & Christianity. The degree these two have diminished is in direct proportion to the corruption and fall of the nation. Every problem that has arisen (sic) can be directly traced back to our departure from God's Law and the disenfranchisement of White men."
--State Rep. Don Davis (R-NC), emailed to every member of the North Carolina House and Senate, reported by the Fayetteville Observer, 08-22-01
Ok, just one more. We'll, it's two for the price of one.
"I think Mohammed was a terrorist. He - I read enough of the history of his life written by both Muslims and – and - non-Muslims, that he was a - a violent man, a man of war. And I do believe that - Jesus set the example for love, as did Moses. And I think that Mohammed set an opposite example."
--Jerry Falwell, 60 Minutes, October 6, 2002

"I have never said in a sermon or a speech that Muhammad is a terrorist."
--Jerry Falwell, interview with Religion News Service

"Thou shalt not bear false witness..." Right Jerry?

More Details Emerge

The more I learn about Dubai Ports World, the less I seem to think letting them administer our ports is a good thing. The parent company (obviously also state owned) has no dealings with Israel, reports the Jerusalem Post. The Parent Company, owned by the Government of Dubai via a holding company called the Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation (PCZC), maintains an "Israel Boycott Office" and will turn away any product made in Israel being shipped into the UAE.

On at least three separate occasions last year, the Post has learned, companies were fined by the US government's Office of Anti-boycott Compliance, an arm of the Commerce Department, on charges connected to boycott-related requests they had received from the Government of Dubai.

US law bars firms from complying with such requests or cooperating with attempts by Arab governments to boycott Israel.
It seems that DP World probably shouldn't be administering our ports but not because it is an Arab country. All questions of port security are questions rooted in xenophobia. The Coast Guard and other government agencies will run security operations at American Ports regardless of the nation of origin of the company running the administration operations.

DP World shouldn't be permitted to take up the contracts it bought from the British firm that previously administered the ports because DP World fails to follow US trade law.

EPA Shutting Off Access to Info

Muckraked reports on more secrecy and withholding of information by our anti-democratic minded President and his goons.

Tucked away in the Bush administrationÂ’s recent budget is a proposal that has alarmed scientists and environmentalists. Under the plan, the Environmental Protection Agency will shut down its network of libraries that serve the public and its own staff scientists.

In addition, the agency will discontinue its electronic catalog, “which tracks tens of thousands of unique documents and research studies that are available nowhere else,” reports Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
When will people wake up and realize that the reason he won't tell the public anything is because he doesn't want them to know what he's actually doing?

Go Check Out this Editorial at RawStory

Katie McKy, Raw Story Columnist, has a good one up.

Bush ain't Hitler... he's a Hirohito.

Support the Troops!

Because, Mr. Bush, they don't support you.

A Zogby poll has 72% of American Troops supporting a withdrawl from Iraq. 42% say that the U.S. role in Iraq "is hazy."

Different branches had quite different sentiments on the question, the poll shows. While 89% of reserves and 82% of those in the National Guard said the U.S. should leave Iraq within a year, 58% of Marines think so. Seven in ten of those in the regular Army thought the U.S. should leave Iraq in the next year. Moreover, about three-quarters of those in National Guard and Reserve units favor withdrawal within six months, just 15% of Marines felt that way. About half of those in the regular Army favored withdrawal from Iraq in the next six months.
One in three said that the Department of Defense had failed to supply needed equipment, such as body armor.

Ninety-three percent said that removing weapons of mass destruction is not a reason for U.S. troops being there.

Mission Accomplished

41 Killed in Five Explosions in Baghdad

Toll in Iraq's Deadly Surge: 1,300

U.S. Soldiers Killed: 2296 Wounded: 16653

I was never for the Operation Iraqi Liberation but I've believed that since invading, we have a responsibility to provide some measure of stability before leaving. That conviction, that we should stay until a viable 'One State' solution in Iraq is in sight, is becoming one that's harder and harder to maintain

UPDATE: 2.28.06 3:35 pm
The number of dead in Iraq today has been increased to 66.

The Trend Continues...

George W. Bush's approval rating, as measured by a CBS poll, has fallen to an all time low of 34%.

Mr. Bush’s overall job rating has fallen to 34 percent, down from 42 percent last month. Fifty-nine percent disapprove of the job the president is doing. For the first time in this poll, most Americans say the president does not care much about people like themselves. Fifty-one percent now think he doesn’t care, compared to 47 percent last fall.

Just 30 percent approve of how Mr. Bush is handling the Iraq war, another all-time low.

By two to one, the poll finds Americans think U.S. efforts to bring stability to Iraq are going badly – the worst assessment yet of progress in Iraq. Even on fighting terrorism, which has long been a strong suit for Mr. Bush, his ratings dropped lower than ever. Half of Americans say they disapprove of how he’s handling the war on terror, while 43 percent approve.
Cheney's approval is at 18%.


Stealing from Peter to Pay Paul...

It seems that our good buddy Tommy DeLay can't cover his legal costs without dipping into the campaign funds. Oh, and his Democratic Rival is out fundraising and has more cash on hand.


Bonus Quote:

"Nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes."
- House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, NY Times, 4/3/03

Billy Buckley Says "Oops"

From the National Review (I feel dirty for posting that link. I need to go wash my keyboard.) we learn that Billy Buckley, arch-conservative with credentials even Karl Rove won't be able to spin into liberal-ness drops the ball.

"One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed."
Welcome to the reality-based community, Bill.
And the administration has, now, to cope with failure.
Twist the knife, Bill! It's not like this administration will try to discredit you or smear your reputation in retribution for criticizing their policy.

Bush 1's Library brought to you by the UAE

Wondering why the Bush Administration has been so gung-ho on the state owned Dubai Ports World get the contracts for six U.S. Ports? We'll here's a possible answer.

reports that, "A sheik from the United Arab Emirates contributed at least $1 million to the Bush Library Foundation, which established the George Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University in College Station."

This wouldn't be a big deal except that the Sheik, as the leader of the UAE, is in control of state owned DPW.

Can't Walk and Chew Gum...

Any story that leads with the headline, "US leader crashed by trying to 'pedal, wave and speak at same time" is going to get noticed here.

The story, in The Scotsman, is actually an old one, regarding Dear Leader's bicycle accident in Scotland last July. It has the text of the police report:

The official police incident report states: "[The unit] was requested to cover the road junction on the Auchterarder to Braco Road as the President of the USA, George Bush, was cycling through." The report goes on: "[At] about 1800 hours the President approached the junction at speed on the bicycle. The road was damp at the time. As the President passed the junction at speed he raised his left arm from the handlebars to wave to the police officers present while shouting 'thanks, you guys, for coming'.

"As he did this he lost control of the cycle, falling to the ground, causing both himself and his bicycle to strike [the officer] on the lower legs. [The officer] fell to the ground, striking his head. The President continued along the ground for approximately five metres, causing himself a number of abrasions. The officers... then assisted both injured parties."
If he's the leader of the Free World, we're screwed.


Bug-Off, Bug Man!

Taegan Goddard's Political Wire has a poll up showing Tom DeLay's 'favorable' rating at 18 percent. That's 10% among independents and 31% among Republicans. Apparently not worth asking Democrats what they think...

Shameless Theft.

I will now shamelessly echo Shakespeare's Sister.

The enemy we face is brutal and determined. [They] have an ideology. They share a hateful vision that rejects tolerance and crushes all dissent. They seek a world where women are oppressed, where children are indoctrinated, and those who reject their ideology of violence and extremism are threatened and often murdered.

[They] have aims. They seek to impose their heartless ideology of totalitarian control… To achieve their aims, [they] have turned to the weapon of fear. [They] do not understand America. They're not going to shake our will. We will stay in the hunt, we will never give in, and we will prevail.
Bush speaking about terrorists sounds an awful lot like us talking about Wingnuts.

Militant Christian Fundamentalists

Think 'our' fundamentalists are really any different than 'their' fundamentalists?


The Kampala Monitor reportes:

police in Kampala are holding an American national who was allegedly found with four illegal guns and 184 rounds of live ammunition. Police Spokesman Assuman Mugenyi told journalists at a press conference at Kibuli Police headquarters yesterday that Dr Peter E Waldron was arrested at about 8pm on Monday.

Waldron, 59, works as an Information Technology consultant for the Ministry of Health and has been living in Uganda since 2002. He was arrested at his home in Kisugu near International Hospital after a tip off.

Documents found on him indicate that Waldron is also an advisor to the President of Rocky Mountain Technology Group, Contact America Group Inc and Founder of City of Faith Ministries in Kampala.
Reuters has the more telling quote:
An American evangelical and IT consultant, arrested in Uganda with assault rifles this week, planned to set up a political party, police said on Wednesday.

"Major-General Kale Kayihura, Inspector General of Police, told a news conference Waldron was suspected of links to a group in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and "planned to set up a political party here based on Christian principles."
Strangely, this doesn't make the network news...

THIS I could get behind...

Knight Ridder's article Lawmaker's proposal: Bar Republicans from adopting made me laugh out loud. To bad State Sen. Robert Hagan isn't really being serious... It does make a good point. The wingers will miss it entirely, though.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

The New York Daily News reports that:

Rep. Joe Barton, the powerful Texas Republican who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, launched a bizarre investigation last week into possible antitrust violations by a major oil company.
This is a good thing, right? Actually, no.
In a Feb. 15 letter to Citgo, the Houston-based company owned by the Venezuelan government, Barton demanded that company officials produce by tomorrow all records, minutes, logs, e-mails and even desk calendars related to Citgo's novel program of supplying discounted heating oil to low-income communities in the United States.

The Citgo program, which kicked off late last year in Massachusetts and the South Bronx, provides oil at discounts as high as 60% off market price.
Barton, "one of the top recipients in Congress of campaign donations from the energy industry," is absolutely outraged. Why? Because Citgo is a state owned company. The state happens to be Venezuela and the President of Venequela happens to be Hugo Chavez. Hugo Chavez happens to be one of the most vocal critics of the policies of George W. Bush. Ahhh... now I understand. Not only does this 'Oil for the Poor' program make Barton's corporate handlers look bad, but it makes an opponent of Dear Leader look like a humanitarian! This must be stopped even if it means that poor Americans won't be able to heat their homes.

Wouldn't it just be easier for American Oil companies to come up with their own 'Oil for the Poor' programs? They're certainly flush with cash.
"ExxonMobil, for example, reported $36 billion in earnings last year. That's the largest profit ever recorded by any company in the history of modern commerce. It works out to an average of $98 million in profit for every day of last year."
I guess it'd just be too expensive...

South Dakota Passes Compulsive Pregnancy Law

Every uterus in the state of South Dakota is now under direct control of the state.

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports:

PIERRE - A contentious abortion bill passed the South Dakota Senate late this afternoon. The vote was 23 to 12.


Republican Sen. Stan Adelstein of Rapid City had tried to amend the bill to include an exception for abortions for victims of rape. The amendment lost 14-21


The Senate also defeated a proposed amendment to insert an exception to allow an abortion to protect the health of a pregnant woman. That was offered by Republican Sen. David Knudson. It failed on a 13-22 vote.


Republican Sen. Tom Dempster of Sioux Falls said, "This bill ends up being cold, indifferent and as hostile as any great prairie blizzard that this state has ever seen.''

One more person voted to allow women the right to chose what happens to their own body in case of rape than chose to allow them their right if their health is in danger.

If you're a woman who has ever voted for a Republican, you're voting to have old white men in suits making decisions about your body.

UPDATE: South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds syas that he's "inclined to sign bill." This will pass and start to make its way up the Court System. Expect the Right-Wing Nutjobs to take their new Supreme Court Justices out for a spin in the next 6 to 18 months.


Nine Professors At Columbia Are Deemed 'Dangerous'

Conservative ideologue David Horowitz list (in book form) the "101 Most Dangerous Academics in America." The book, in all ways identical to the red-baiting that went on 50 years ago, has a collection of short essays illustrating the evils of the modern university professor. Upon learning that a Wingnut had compiled such a list, I immediately began looking for the entire list so that I could find out if I had received a 'dangerous' education.

According to Interactivist Info Exchange TWO professors from my alma mater, Pennsylvania State University, have made it onto Horowitz's list. Congratulations to Michael Berube and Sam Richards.

Professor Berube is a Professor of English whose book Public Access: Literary Theory and American Cultural Politics is surely the offense that earned him his spot on the list. UPDATE: Professor Berube has a blog. Check it out.

Professor Richards is a sociologist focusing on race and ethnicity. Penn State's Race Relation Project is probably the 'offense' that got him labeled 'dangerous.'

Interestingly, PSU has two professors on the list, more than supposed 'liberal bastions' like Princeton University, Cornell University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology which only qualified Noam Chompsky. Penn State also beat out all the other Big Ten Schools.

Professor Cole, who's site, Informed Comment, I link to regularly also made the list. Congratulations, Professor.

This is all ignoring the chilling idea that the ideas you hold (politically, socially, etc.) make you 'dangerous.' I probably shouldn't trivialize the fact that lists of people in academia that don't agree with 'the movement' are being compiled and published.

Paging Mr. Orwell...

100th Post

Rediff.com, an Indian News Website, has a story about George W. Bush's plans to avoid the monument for Mahatma Gandhi on his upcomming trip to India.

George W Bush's protocol handlers have notified South Block that the American President's deep belief in his born again faith precludes his visiting Mahatma Gandhi's Samadhi at New Delhi's Raj Ghat -- during his forthcoming visit to India.

When asked -- by reporters on a recent trip aboard Air Force One -- if he will be breaking a decades long tradition of foreign dignitaries visiting India paying respect to the Father of India, Mr Bush, as is his wont, was caught off guard and mumbled something about how the Gospel of Jesus Christ views cremation as a pagan practice.

This is how we show repect for the world's largest democracy? India is the future, we should be doing everything we can to help and support them. In the future, they will be the ones aiding us.

How far we've come...

On this day in 1455 the first printing of the Gutenberg Bible began. Johann Gutenberg, by printing his bible with movable type, revolutionized information distribution. The emergence of the internet, though much harder to put on an exact date, can probably be said to have started in the early 1990s. How much had Gutenberg's movable type changed the world in 1460? How much had it changed the world by 1500? 1600? 1800?

We have yet to see where the internet revolution will lead us but one thing is for sure. Just like the printing press breaking the hold that Catholic Monks had on disseminating information, the internet will allow more people get their voices into the discussion. That can only be a good thing.

Early Morning Link Dump

Because the coffee hasn't kicked in yet.

Go HERE to read Shakespeare's Sister's account of newly revealed information on a secret deal between the Bush Administration and Dubai Port World.

Go HERE and check out Pandagon's take on the latest attempt by the American Family Association's remove all that is pleasurable in this world, in this case Desperate Housewives.

And go visit Professor Cole at Informed Comment for the latest on the Mosque bombing and reprisals in Iraq.


Persecuted Christian Complex

The USA Today has a story that would be hilarious if it wasn't chilling.

Cory Burnell of Lodi, California is the founder of Christian Exodus an organization whose stated goal is to move thousands of religious conservatives from all across the USA to South Carolina. Why? To be free of the influence of liberals and cowardly Republicans, of course!

The state was a logical choice. It already is conservative, having played a major role in the rise of the Republican Party since Ronald Reagan. And it's home to 750,000 Southern Baptists and Bob Jones University, a fundamentalist Christian institution.

Burnell's plan is to recruit conservative Christians to move here and tip the scales further right.

With a decisive majority, Burnell says, his group would be able to pass laws that line up with their biblical principles and their interpretation of the U.S. Constitution - laws that include outlawing abortion and homosexual relations, allowing governmental displays of Christian symbols and ending state-funded education.
Yeah, yeah, same old shit. But it's the quote the writer uses to finish the piece that's the most telling.
"We're not an extremist group," he [Brunell] said. "What we are doing is reacting to the extreme marginalization of Christianity in America."
Perfect example of Persecuted Christian Complex (PCP).

Christians make up 86% of American Citizens (from the Census Bureau) and every president in history has been a Christian. The current president is a Christian. The Congress is nearly entirely Christian. The Supreme Court is entirely made up of people who are Christians, two openly so. "In God We Trust" is on our money. We are "One Nation, Under God." Both Houses of Congress open with a prayer. So do all the state assemblies. I grew up in a state where you couldn't buy booze on Sunday. Churches are tax exempt. Christian ideology is finding its way into science classes. Women are losing their right to choose what happens to their own bodies. Gays are forbidden to have even the benefits of marriage in many states based on 'Christian' teachings. Pharmacists can refuse to fill valid and legal prescriptions because of their 'Christian' beliefs.

You're not persecuted, you're FUCKING WINNING! Eighty six percent isn't good enough for you?

I wish I understood the root of this 'persecution mentality.' Actually, I don't. I just wish it would go away.

L'etat c'est moi - Bush

Bush, on Air Force One, had this to say about the Dubai Port World dust-up:

"I can understand why some in Congress have raised questions about whether or not our country will be less secure as a result of this transaction," the president said. "But they need to know that our government has looked at this issue and looked at it carefully."
Let's look at the logic (yes, logic) that produced this sentence.

Bush's statement identifies two entities. First the Congress and second "our government." I would say that both of these entities actually exist and that identifying them is unexceptional. The relationship that Bush establishes between the two, however, is pretty indicative of what Bush actually thinks about government.

Substitute a few words and you could easily have a parent trying to mollify an unruly child or a school principal attempting to assuage angry students. The tone establishes a master / servant relationship between Congress and "our government."

The point here is simple. Bush considers Congress and "our government" separate and unequal.

If he had said, ""I can understand why some in Congress have raised questions about whether or not our country will be less secure as a result of this transaction. But they need to know that this administration has looked at this issue and looked at it carefully." Or "the DOT has looked at this issue" or "the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has looked at this issue" it would be a whole different concept.

Bush considers Congress, the elected representatives of every American Citizen (controlled by his own party) and the "government" to be separate. If the legislative branch isn't "our government," who is? Certainly not the judiciary. To many 'activist judges.' That only leaves the executive...

L'etat c'est moi - George W. Bush

Bush Didn't Know Until After it was Approved...?

"Now the White House is claiming that Bush didn’t know about the port deal until after it had been approved."

Go read Shakespeare's Sister's post on our Commander in Name Only.

In the meantime, enjoy a few Pat Robertson quotes...

Robertson on the methods of a Culture Warrior:
"It's like guerrilla warfare....It's better to move quietly, with stealth, under cover of night. You've got two choices: You can wear cammies and shimmy along on your belly or you can put on a red coat and stand up for everyone to see. It comes down to whether you want to be the British army in the Revolutionary War or the Viet Cong. History tells us which tactic is more effective". -The Religious Right: The Assault of Tolerance & Pluralism in America, produced by the Anti-Defamation League

"The potential savings in the national budgets from the elimination of police, criminal courts, standing armies, pollution control agencies, drug enforcement, and many poverty programs is almost beyond calculation." -Pat's book, "The New World Order" (1991), p. 231

"The courts are merely a ruse, if you will, for humanist, atheistic educators to beat up on Christians." -The 700 Club, Oct. 2, 1990

"I am bound by the laws of the United States and all 50 states...I am not bound by any case or any court to which I myself am not a party...I don't think the Congress of the United States is subservient to the courts...They can ignore a Supreme Court ruling if they so choose." -The Washington Post editorial board, June 27, 1986

1 in 9 Americans live in Poverty

Things that often don't make it into the American Press are often caught by foreign publications like The Observer.

A shocking 37 million Americans live in poverty. That is 12.7 per cent of the population - the highest percentage in the developed world. They are found from the hills of Kentucky to Detroit's streets, from the Deep South of Louisiana to the heartland of Oklahoma. Each year since 2001 their number has grown.

Under President George W Bush an extra 5.4 million have slipped below the poverty line. Yet they are not a story of the unemployed or the destitute. Most have jobs. Many have two. Amos Lumpkins has work and his children go to school. But the economy, stripped of worker benefits like healthcare, is having trouble providing good wages.

Even families with two working parents are often one slice of bad luck - a medical bill or factory closure - away from disaster. The minimum wage of $5.15 (£2.95) an hour has not risen since 1997 and, adjusted for inflation, is at its lowest since 1956. The gap between the haves and the have-nots looms wider than ever. Faced with rising poverty rates, Bush's trillion-dollar federal budget recently raised massive amounts of defence spending for the war in Iraq and slashed billions from welfare programmes.

That's 1 in 9 Americans. And 15 percent of those have slipped below the poverty line under Bush's watch. Real numbers: More than one in 100 Americans has fallen below the poverty line during Bush's first 5 years.
They are people like Freda Lee, 33, who has two jobs, as a marketer and a cashier. She has come to the nondescript Loaves and Fishes building - flanked ironically by a Burger King and a McDonald's - to collect food for herself and three sons. 'America is meant to be free. What's free?' she laughs. 'All we can do is pay off the basics.'

Or they are people like Tammy Reinbold, 37. She works part-time and her husband works full-time. They have two children yet rely on the food handouts. 'The church is all we have to fall back on,' she says. She is right. When government help is being cut and wages are insufficient, churches often fill the gap. The needy gather to receive food boxes. They listen to a preacher for half an hour on the literal truth of the Bible. Then he asks them if they want to be born again. Three women put up their hands.

This is the new American economy. Wal-Mart jobs instead of manufacturing jobs that the Unions have grown into living wage providers. A high school education won't get you very far anymore but without government help, the $50,000 buy in for a college education is out of most people's reach. Even public education is failing. If you can't get far without a high school diploma, how far do you think you can get without one? In Texas more than a third of students entering public high schools now drop out. Funding for social programs and public education is dwindling.

Where will 8 (or more) years of Repubican rule leave us?

Iraq's Fort Sumter

The BBC (which also gets credit for the picture) is reporting on an attack on the al-Askari shrine in Samarra, holy site for Shia all over the world and Iraq in particular. The shrine, resting place of the 10th and 11th Imam and the place where the 12th 'Hidden' Imam disappeared. The golden dome of the shrine along with it contents, were severely damaged when armed men forced their way into the shrine in the early morning and detonated explosives. Shia outrage is huge.

Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan, maintains a site, Informed Comment, that I trust for all matters involving matters in the middle east. Please read his post on yesterday's violence. An excerpt:

Tuesday was an apocalyptic day in Iraq. I am not normally exactly sanguine about the situation there. But the atmospherics are very, very bad, in a way that most Western observers will miss.

The day started out with a protest by ten thousand people in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, against the Danish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. These days, Shiites are weeping, mourning and flagellating in commemoration of the martyrdom of the Prophet's grandson, Imam Husayn. So it is an emotional time in the ritual calendar. When feelings can easily be whipped up about issues like insults to the Prophet. An anti-Danish demonstration in Karbala is a surrogate for anti-American and anti-occupation sentiment. The US won't be able to stay in Iraq without increasing trouble of this sort.

Then guerrillas set off a huge bomb in a Shiite corner of the mostly Sunni Arab Dura quarter of Baghdad, killing 22 and wounding 28. Another 9 were killed in other violence around Iraq. These attacks are manifestations of an unconventional civil war.

Then real disaster struck. The guerriillas blew up the domed Askariyah shrine in Samarra. The shrine, sacred to Shiiites, honors 3 Imams or holy descendants of the Prophet. They are Ali al-Hadi, Hasan al-Askari, and his disappeared son Muhammad al-Mahdi. Thousands of Shiiites demonstrated in Samarra and in East Baghdad, against this desecration.

The Twelfh Imam or Mahdi is believed by Shiites to have disappeared into a supernatural realm (just as Christians believe in the ascension of Christ) from which he will someday return.

Some Shiites think his second coming is imminent. Muqtada all-Sadr and his followers are among them. They are livid about this attack on the shrine of the Mahdi's father.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is also a firm believer in the imminent coming of the Mahdi. I worry that Iranian anger will boil over as a result of this bombing of a Shiite millenarian symbol.

Both Sunnis and Americans will be blamed. Very bad

Actually, that's the whole post. Sorry, Professor.

I can't help thinking that things in Iraq are getting worse, not better. I see no way this situation can end in anything but civil war.

Bush Appointed Dubai Exec to DOT

RawStory is reporting that one of the senior executives of Dubai Port World, Dave Sanborn, was appointed to a "key transportation appointment reporting directly to Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta." The fine folks at RawStory have posted a link to the original DP World Press Release.

Dubai, 24 January 2006: - Global ports operator DP World today welcomed news that one of its senior executives, Dave Sanborn, has been nominated by US President George W. Bush to serve as Maritime Administrator a key transportation appointment reporting directly to Norman Mineta the Secretary of Transportation and Cabinet Member.


Mr Sanborn currently holds the position of Director of Operations for Europe and Latin America for the Dubai-based company

Mohammed Sharaf, CEO, DP World said: "While we are sorry to lose such an experienced and capable executive, it is exactly those qualities that will make Dave an effective administrator for MarAd. We are proud of Dave'’s selection and pleased that the Bush Administration found such a capable executive. We wish him all the best in his new role."

Ted Bilkey, Chief Operating Officer, DP World said: "Dave'’s decades of experience in markets around the world, together with his passion for the industry and commitment to its development, will allow him to make a positive contribution to the work of the Maritime Administration. We wish him well for the future."”

Before anybody starts in with conspiracy theories, DP World didn't get these ports through any government deal, they bought out the British company that already had the administrative duties for the ports.

And while we're here, a word about the outrage this change in authority has generated. The whole thing is racially tinged and rooted in xenophobia. The company won't own the ports, it will just act as administrator. All the rules and laws will stay the same. DP World administers ports on three continents. None of their ports have ever suffered a terrorist attack. The outrage is racial and I'm ashamed that the Democrats have jumped on the bandwagon.

UPDATE: 11:20 am
Think Progress has a post up outlining that the Bush Administration didn't conduct the preliminary investigations required by law. This changes things a bit, but the outrage is still based on xenophobia.


Confused About What You're Looking At?

Check out this link at the Financial Times, of all places, for answers.

But as with any revolution, we must ask whether we are being sold a naked emperor. Is blogging really an information revolution? Is it about to drive the mainstream news media into oblivion? Or is it just another crock of virtual gold - a meretricious equivalent of all those noisy internet start-ups that were going to build a brave “new economy” a few years ago?

He's not to keen on the whole blogging thing, me thinks. That's ok, he works at a newspaper. Why should he like the competition?

Honestly, though, blogs really aren't in competition with the MSM. Most blogs are really just aopportunityty for an individual to shape how others consume Main Stream Media. This blog is no exception.

I'm responding to or pointing out the portions of the MSM that I think are most important, relevant, or most often, damning. I don't have the time or the resources to actually report on one story, let alone all the goings on around the world. My goal is to act as a filter and offering commentary on what I'm reading.

This is not to say that blogs have no effect on 'conventional' media. They can bring certain stories more attention and prominence. They can act as independent observers, calling other news sources on their errors and forcing better reporting all around.

Even if a person doesn't read blogs, they're benefiting from the advocacy and opinioshapingng that blogs provide.

The Rules Have Changed

Digby has a great post on the new partisan attitude that is the way it will be for the forseeable future. Excerpt:

The grassroots of the Democratic Party see something that all the establishment politicians have not yet realized: bipartisanship is dead for the moment and there is no margin in making deals. The rules have changed. When you capitulate to the Republicans for promises of something down the road you are being a fool. When you make a deal with them for personal reasons, you are selling out your party. When you use Republican talking points to make your argument you are helping the other side. When you kiss the president on the lips at the state of the union you are telling the Democratic base that we are of no interest or concern to you. This hyper-partisanship is ugly and it's brutal, but it is the way it is.


The grassroots believe that after all that, after moving to the right, after offering to compromise, after allowing our "red state Democrats" to run with the other side who then treated them with nothing but bad faith, now is the time for politicans to make a choice. Submit to them or stand with the resistence.

Go read the whole thing and steel yourself for the next 20 years.

39% Approval and Falling

A 39% approval rating means that at least one party absolutely hates you. When Clinton had a 65% approval rating, it meant that there were some self identifying Republicans that approved of the way Clinton was leading the country. There had to be. It's simple math. Granted those were middle ground Republicans, but still. At a 50%-50% split, you can figure that you have the support of one party, but not the other. When you start talking about a 40%-60% split, you're losing support from your own party. As such, any continued fall in the polls indicates that your base is defecting.

Zogby International has conducted it's survey and released the results yesterday.

What is remarkable in this latest poll, conducted Feb. 15-18, 2006, is that President Bush shows weakness among the demographic groups that have comprised the heart of his political base over the past five years, according to Pollster John Zogby, President and CEO of Zogby International.

Pollster John Zogby: On Bush, his overall approval/disapproval rating is 40%-60%, but he has his lowest support yet from those groups who make up his political base. Among both conservatives and those who consider themselves very conservative, 61% approve of the job he is doing. He gets only 32% of independents, and only 73% among Republicans – his lowest rating yet. Even rural voters give him just 50% approval, and 59% among those who say they are born again spiritually – marking the lowest ratings from both of these demographic groups. And Bush remains low among men, married voters and investors.

As for Iraq, his approval/ disapproval rating stands at 37%-63%; just 12% of Democrats approve of his handling of the war, compared to 88% who disapprove, which are percentages similar to our last poll. Among independents, 26% approve of his war leadership, while 74% do not, which is down slightly from our last survey. Only 68% of Republicans support his handling of the war.

On his management of the war on terror, Bush wins 43% approval, down from 67%at the time of his re-election almost 16 months ago.

See the rest of the article for more.

Drive By Link Dump

A bit of a hurry this morning. Check out these articles:

When the New Sedition Law comes, it will shut down this site.

The Bush Administration is reclassifying documents that have been publicly available for years. Of course the reclassification program is classified, so we don't know anything about how much is being reclassified or why.

According to Reuters, "The Energy Department said it has come up with $5 million to immediately restore jobs cut at a renewable energy laboratory President George W. Bush will visit on Tuesday, avoiding a potentially embarrassing moment as the president promotes his energy plan."


Protecting Your Freedom

The LA Times had a story yesterday about the White House Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. Most notable thing about the Board, created shortly after 9/11? It has yet to meet.

Writer Richard B. Schmitt's drops this wonderful line:

Foot-dragging, debate over its budget and powers, and concern over the qualifications of some of its members — one was treasurer of Bush's first campaign for Texas governor has kept the board from doing a single day of work.

I bet Bush wishes he could find his way onto that board. I mean really, he could go back to mountain biking and brush clearing...
The inaction is especially noteworthy in light of recent events. Some Republicans joined Democrats to delay renewal of the anti-terrorism Patriot Act because of civil liberties concerns. And the disclosure in December that Bush approved surveillance of certain U.S. residents' international communications without a court order has caused bipartisan dismay in Congress.

"Obviously, civil liberties issues are critically important, and they have been to this president, especially after 9/11," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, adding that the White House had moved expeditiously to establish the board. "We do not formally nominate until we are through the background investigation and the full vetting. It takes time to present those nominations to the Senate. But now that they have been confirmed, that is a good thing."

Four and a half years to vet candidates? Harriet Miers seemed to pass her vetting pretty quickly. Lets see how they did selecting members for this board. Surely they'd find independent voices and people with experience defending civil liberties.
The board chairwoman is Carol E. Dinkins, a Houston lawyer who was a Justice Department official in the Reagan administration. A longtime friend of the Bush family, she was the treasurer of George W. Bush's first campaign for governor of Texas, in 1994, and co-chair of Lawyers for Bush-Cheney, which recruited Republican lawyers to handle legal battles after the November 2004 election.

Dinkins, a longtime partner in the Houston law firm of Vinson & Elkins, where Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales once was a partner, has specialized in defending oil and gas companies in environmental lawsuits.


The board vice chairman is Alan Charles Raul, a Washington lawyer who first suggested the concept of a civil liberties panel in an opinion article in the Los Angeles Times in December 2001. Raul, a former Agriculture Department general counsel currently in private practice, has published a book on privacy and the digital age and is the only panel member with apparent expertise in civil liberties issues.

The panel's lone Democrat, Lanny J. Davis, has known Bush since the two were undergraduates at Yale. Civil liberties groups regard the Washington lawyer, who worked in the Clinton White House, as likely to be a progressive voice on the panel.

The board also includes a conservative Republican legal icon, Washington lawyer and former Bush Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson, whose wife, Barbara, died in the Sept. 11 attacks. The fifth member is Francis X. Taylor, a retired Air Force general and former State Department counter-terrorism coordinator, who is chief security officer at General Electric Co.

Ok, so it's not perfect but at least it's there, right? I mean nearly 5 years later, its getting set up. Even if it can't actually do anything, at least it can bring civil liberties issues into the public eye.

Actually, no.
The law gives the panel access to classified information under certain circumstances, but not the power to subpoena documents. The board, which is within the Executive Office of the president, operates at the behest of the administration.

This administration's contempt for dissent and absolute disregard for the laws of the United States and the civil liberties and freedoms of its citizens is astounding.

The Bush administration waited nine months to send the nominations of Dinkins and Raul to the Senate for approval. The three other members of the board did not require Senate confirmation, but they could not function without a chairman.

Doubts about funding also developed. The administration proposed an initial budget of $750,000, which lawmakers doubled. But critics consider that far from adequate. A similar board in the Homeland Security Department was initially proposed to have a $13-million budget.

Some members of Congress are concerned that the administration may still be trying to shortchange the board.

Concerned thatt the administration may be trying to shortchange the board? No shit! The deductive power of our Congress members boggles the mind.

I started reading Orwell's 1984 last night. (I know I still haven't finished Collapse yet, sue me.) The first 20 pages really make you stop and think about our administration. This story doesn't do anything to raise my opinon.

Short Monday Post (Again)

The Library of Congress' website has the text of a recently introduced bill viewable here. "Mr. Hoyer, for himself, Mr. Berman, Mr. Sensenbrenner, Mr. Sabo, and Mr. Pallone," have introduced a bill with only one line:

`The twenty-second article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is repealed.'

Which amendment? Yeah, that one.

Bush Approval Below 50% in 40 States

The SurveyUSA poll out on the 16th (sorry, weekends are busy) has Bush with negative net approval ratings in all states except:


Bush has absolutely terrible numbers in 'Blue States' and nearly as bad in 'Swing States.' Now, if the Democratic Party had half a brain, they'd campaign tirelessly on the theme of "The Problem is Republicanism." They won't, of course, and they'll lose more seats and wont get the presidency either... Shit.

My Unhealthy Obsession with Pat Robertson

I can't explain my obsession with documenting the insanity of Pat Robertson. Maybe it's that the AP makes it just SO easy...

Fellow conservative religious leaders have expressed concern and even open criticism over Pat Robertson's habit of shooting from the hip on his daily religious news-and-talk television program, "The 700 Club."


Some observers say Robertson, who'll turn 76 next month, courts controversy as a strategy to stay recognizable and keep his followers mobilized. Others say he remains important to the evangelical movement that he helped create when he established the Virginia Beach-based Christian Broadcasting Network in 1960 but he needs to stop damaging it with his words.

He canceled a speech planned for this coming Tuesday at the closing banquet of the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Dallas after NRB leaders said they were concerned that his appearance could detract from the event.

Emphasis mine. Anyway, it's good to see that there are still people out there who can discern real Christianity from the ramblings falling out of this mouth of Pat Robertson. Just one more quote...
"Whenever [Hindus] feel any sort of inspiration, whether it's by a river or under a tree, on top of a hill, they figure that some God or spirit is responsible for that. And so they'll worship that tree, they'll worship that hill or they'll worship anything. Wherever you find this type of idolatry, you'll find a grinding poverty. The land has been cursed. ... Siva [is] the God of Destruction, and his consort, the Goddess of death [Kali] -- that black, ugly statue there with all those fierce eyes. I mean these people are out to kill other human beings in the name of their God." - Pat Robertson, "The 700 Club" March 23, 1995


Race and the GOP

From the Chicago Defender:

WASHINGTON (NNPA) - Although the head of the Republican National Committee and President George W. Bush have pledged to make a more concentrated effort to win over Black voters, 98 percent of Republicans in the House and Senate earned an F on the latest NAACP Civil Rights Report Card, compared to only 2 percent of Democrats receiving failing grades.

"[Republican Party Chairman Ken] Mehlman has been out beating the bushes and saying that the Republican Party was appealing for the Black vote, but this is the most powerful evidence and continuing evidence that the Republicans have not realigned their public policy approaches to attract the Black vote," says University of Maryland Political Scientist Ronald Walters.

According to the NAACP'S mid-term report for the 109th Congress, all but one of the 231 Republicans in the U. S. House of Representatives got an F. The exception was Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticut, who earned a D. No House Republicans got Bs or Cs.

Eventually Nixon's 'Southern Strategy' becomes pretty obvious, doesn't it?

Some Things just don't add up...

It seems that, as usual, Cheney's Story just doesn't add up. Now that the shooting victim is out of the hospital, expect the media to let this one drop.

It's Saturday. Short Post.

Bonus Quote:

"If he'd been in the military, he would have learned gun safety."

-- Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), quoted by the Omaha World Herald, on Vice President Dick Cheney's hunting accident.


Why Cheney Should Stay VP

Go visit the Blue Meme for a great entry on why Cheney should remain VP. Seriously. Go now.

The Last Honest Republican Isn't.

The New York Times is running a story explaining how my former Senator, Arlen Specter, is busy doing the Republican Rumba. "Didn't know him, nine-eleven - cha, cha, cha!"

Senator Arlen Specter defended himself and a member of his staff on Thursday after the disclosure that clients of a lobbyist married to the staff member had received money through the senator's actions.

Vicki Siegel Herson, who until recently was Mr. Specter's legislative assistant on the Appropriations Committee, is married to Michael Herson, a top executive of the lobbying firm American Defense International.

Mr. Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, and his staff confirmed that six of Mr. Herson's clients received a total of about $50 million over the last four years through items Mr. Specter inserted into military appropriations bills in a process known as "earmarking."

Â…Mr. Specter said he would conduct a further inquiry into the possibility that Ms. Siegel might have knowingly played a role in allocating federal money to one of her husband's clients.

"That would be a blatant conflict of interest," Mr. Specter said. "I don't think that happened, but I am going to go back and take a look at the specifics of it."

By the end of the day, a spokesman for Mr. Specter said he had decided "voluntarily" to refer the case to the Senate Ethics Committee as well.

Oh, and here comes the trade mark, Karl Rove issued fix-it-all!
"The allocations in issue went to Pennsylvania companies for items which were important to national defense," Mr. Specter said in a statement.

And there you have it. The final proof that one of the last Republicans in government that I thought was still honest is just like the rest of the scum on his side of the aisle. When he was promoted to head of the Judiciary Committeee, he warned President Bush that any radical appointments would be irresponsible. Oops, Pro-Choice Specter voted to confirm both Roberts (ok, he said Roe was settled law) and Alito. Specter caved on the warrantless wiretapping hearings. This was the guy I used to point to and say "Pennsylvania Republicans are different. They're old-school Rockefeller Republicans." ("Santorum is an aboration and will be replaced " was part of that speech, too.) Turns out he's as slimy as they come. Damn.

And the talking heads keep saying "lobbying is a bipartisan scandal." Bullshit.

More Lunacy from Our Friend Pat

I've been bad about providing daily idiocy from Pat Robertson. Here's a few jems:

Supreme Court decisions are binding in the court systems ... but in terms of general law, which binds every citizen, why should you and I be bound because of the ineptitude, if you will, or the skill of one or more defense lawyers, or the plaintiffs in any particular lawsuit?
-- Pat Robertson, The 700 Club television program, October 23, 1987.

Ladies and gentlemen, I want to say this very clearly. If the people of the United States -- all across America, in their churches and in their civic groups and in their legislatures -- decide that they're not going to allow the Supreme Court to dominate their lives in the fashion that it has been in this nation, the Supreme Court does not have the power to change that. They are not going to be able to overturn the will of a hundred million American people. And I think the time has come that we throw off the shackles of this dictatorship that's been imposed upon us.
We had a war in 1776 that set us free from the shackles of the arbitrary rule of the British crown, and I think what's going on in Corbin, Kentucky, boy, those people like to live free. And I think the time has come that we do that...
-- Pat Robertson, The 700 Club television program

We have imagined ourselves invulnerable and have been consumed by the pursuit of ... health, wealth, material pleasures and sexuality... It [terrorism] is happening because God Almighty is lifting his protection from us.
-- Pat Robertson, in a three-page statement released Thursday, September 13, 2001,

I think George Bush is going to win in a walk. I really believe that I'm hearing from the Lord it's going to be like a blowout election of 2004. It's shaping up that way. The Lord has just blessed him.... I mean, he could make terrible mistakes and comes out of it. It doesn't make any difference what he does, good or bad. God picks him up because he's a man of prayer and God's blessing him.
-- Pat Robertson, The 700 Club television program, , January 2, 2004

And the very best:
Individual Christians are the only ones really -- and Jewish people, those who trust God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob -- are the only ones that are qualified to have the reign, because hopefully, they will be governed by God and submit to Him.
-- Pat Robertson, The 700 Club television program, January 11, 1985.

I never said that in my life ... I never said only Christians and Jews. I never said that.
-- Pat Robertson, Time magazine, after having been confronted regarding his statement on The 700 Club of January 11, 1985

When I said during my presidential bid that I would only bring Christians and Jews into the government, I hit a firestorm. "What do you mean?" the media challenged me. "You're not going to bring atheists into the government? How dare you maintain that those who believe in the Judeo-Christian values are better qualified to govern America than Hindus and Muslims?" My simple answer is, "Yes, they are."
-- Pat Robertson, The New World Order, p. 218

I'll save some more for later... Ok, one more, but it's only about Pat.

"Here is another example of the way Robertson would mix church and state, rather than keep them separate. Let's say that a Christian thinks God is directing him or her to blow up an abortion clinic or kill a doctor who performs abortions, and this Christian does in fact commit such a crime. In a September of 1984 edition of The 700 Club, Robertson suggested that special church tribunals could be called upon to discern if a believer had in fact received an authentic word from God which compelled him to break a civil law. According to Robertson, if this church tribunal did determine the believer had in fact received an authentic message from God -- how they could reach this conclusion without issuing God a suboena wasn't made clear -- then, Robertson said, the church tribunal would have the civil authority to provide the believer with immunity from prosecution." --Gerard Thomas Straub, Writer and TV Executive, former The 700 Club producer.

As Reported in the Foreign Press

The Guardian, as usual, does a better job reporting on America than most American newspapers.

Apparently Jim Wallis, author of God's Politics: Why the American Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It, is in England promoting his book. He gives the interviewer from the Guardian a couple of great quotes:

"Where would we be if Martin Luther King or Desmond Tutu had kept their faith to themselves? Clearly, there are examples of bad religion - American television evangelists and Muslim suicide bombers - but the answer is not no religion, but better religion."


"Clearly, God is not a Republican or a Democrat ... the privatising of faith has weakened its impact on critical public issues and opened the door for a rightwing Christian politics which both narrows and distorts a biblical agenda."

And the best...

"I don't doubt the president's sincerity, but his theology is alarming," he said. "It is a theology of empire ... In his heart, he cares about poor people - but it does not matter to him because that's an issue to be left to charity. His constituency base is the wealthy, and tax cuts are at the heart of his policy. Only in America could you have the prosperity gospel - that the rich are rich because they have God's favour."

I haven't read Mr. Wallis' book. If anybody out there has, let me know if it's worth going out and buying. From what I understand of his premise, I agree with him. The Religous Right isn't really emulating what Jesus would do, no matter how many bumper stickers and bracelets say otherwise. The bible contains literally thousands of refrences to helping the poor, downtrodden, and disadvantaged. Only two or three (at most) about homosexuality. Then, of course, there's the "thou shalt not kill" and "Surely I tell you, it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter heaven." Squaring those with the War in Iraq and tax cuts for corporations and millionairs requires some theological slight of hand...

Plugging Leaks

Washington Post Editorialist Gary Wasserman's piece in the yesterday is worth reading. A few choice lines:

"Persons who have unauthorized possession, who come into unauthorized possession of classified information, must abide by the law. That applies to academics, lawyers, journalists, professors, whatever."

-- Judge T.S. Ellis III

The judge was speaking last month after sentencing a former Pentagon desk officer for Iran to prison for sharing classified information too widely. It didn't seem to matter that Lawrence Franklin was a conservative former Air Force colonel who was using contacts outside of government to lobby for a harder line on Iran. In a week when an American soldier was given no more than a reprimand for smothering an Iraqi general to death, Franklin's 12 1/2 -year sentence was a reminder that this is an administration more horrified by leaks than torture.

Wasserman doesn't stop there, he calls the Administration out on intimidating civilians and squashing political debate, too.
Information is the lifeblood of policymaking. Expanding restrictions on information adds greatly to the power of the executive; criminalizing citizens' contact with that information adds even greater uncertainty. Any Washington power lunch touching on national security issues -- between Reporter A or Lobbyist B and Official C -- inevitably contains something that someone has classified. Who's to know what's legal? Are "classified" White House discussions about Hurricane Katrina to be treated the same as troop movements? Even if the information is classified, is the official authorized to disclose it? In a long conversation, where is the "clear line"? For some leaks Bob Woodward gets a bestseller; Steve Rosen may get jail.


For better or worse, the rules of this game have traditionally been enforced by the players. Reporters receiving national security leaks have shown them to officials for confirmation and comment. Advocates and experts who spread information meant only for their ears were cut off from further briefings. This rough-and-ready marketplace lasted throughout the Cold War. Now a more fearful leadership finds such practices intolerable.

One argument for why autocratic regimes such as pre-World War II Germany and Japan have engaged in risky foreign adventures is that these narrow elites are not subject to the kind of outside review by knowledgeable people that exists in democracies. The run-up to the Iraq war has raised questions about whether America's marketplace of ideas in foreign policy is still viable. Did the Bush administration's success in gaining public approval for its invasion of Iraq have something to do with its ability to control secret information in a way that muted doubts about inflated claims of Iraqi threats?

I'm not going to re-phrase the whole thing. Go read it here.


Ten Most Endangered House Incumbents

Taegan Goddard's Political Wire has a link to a Roll Call article by Stuart Rothenberg listing the ten most vulnerable incumbents in the House.

-Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH)
-Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX)
-Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN)
-Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA)
-Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT)
-Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM)
-Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT)
-Rep. Mike Sodrel (R-IN)
-Rep. Clay Shaw (R-FL)
-Rep. Melissa Bean (D-IL)

Rothenberg does provide himself caveat, stating, "Many of the incumbents on this list have proven their political mettle before, and in normal circumstances, they wouldn't be in all that much trouble. Others find themselves in the sort of hot water that should automatically sink them, but because of unique circumstances, they might somehow survive."

That said, it's encouraging that there's only one Democrat on the list. Bodes well for the nation. Oh, and absolutely delicious that Tom Delay is on the list...

All the Abu Ghraib Photos

Salon.com has published a 'all' the previously unreleased Abu Ghraib photos obtained, along with video and documents, on a CD from the Army's Criminal Investigation Command (CID).

Find them Here.

Bush Approval at 40%

The Wall Street Journal has this to say about George Bush's falling approval numbers:

Any benefit President Bush may have gained from his State of the Union speech didn't last long enough to be measured in the latest poll, as Mr. Bush's ratings are now 40% positive, down from a positive rating of 43% in January, and 58% negative, up from 56% negative.

That's pretty harsh coming from the reliably right-wing Journal. The Harris Interactive poll has Congress' approval number remaining essentially unchanged - 25% of U.S. adults giving Congress a positive rating and 71% giving it a negative rating. 32% say "things in the country are going in the right direction," and the top concern of Americans is "the war," now at 27%, closely followed by health care (20%), the economy (15%), Iraq (5%), taxes (6%) and education (8%).

Iraqi Death Squads

Liz Sly, foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, did frightening piece on Death Squads currently operating within the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior.

BAGHDAD -- The U.S. military has stumbled across the first evidence of a death squad within Iraq's Interior Ministry after the detention last month of 22 men wearing police commando uniforms who were about to shoot a Sunni man, according to the American general overseeing the training of Iraqi police.

The men turned out not to be police commandos but were employed by the Ministry of Interior as highway patrolmen, according to Maj. Gen. Joseph Peterson, who commands the civilian police training teams in Iraq.

"We have found one of the death squads," he said. "They are a part of the police force of Iraq."

Allegations that death squads targeting Sunnis are operating within the Shiite-dominated police forces have been circulating since last May, when the bodies of Sunnis detained by men wearing police uniforms began turning up in garbage dumps and waste ground around Baghdad. Most of the victims had been tortured, and many were shot execution-style.

The killings started after the current Shiite-led government took office and appointed a new interior minister, Bayan Jabr, a leading official in the Iran-backed Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, fueling suspicions that the ministry's forces were waging a sectarian campaign against Sunnis.

Thousands of Sunnis have since been rounded up by Interior Ministry forces as part of a crackdown against the Sunni-dominated insurgency, according to ministry figures. Sunni political organizations say 1,600 of those detained by men wearing police uniforms have subsequently turned up dead.

The more you learn about what actually going on in Iraq, the less faith you have that Iarq can remain viable as one united nation or becoming a satellite to Iran. Both of those outcomes, Iranian satellite or a Balkanized three nation conglomerate divide along ethnic lines, is bad for Iraq, bad for the Mid-East, and bad for the United States.

Neither option will be Bush's 'shining example of democracy' in the region. The three nation solution would probably result in (or be the result of) a civil war. That type of conflict in the center of an unstable region is bound to draw support and opposition of warring groups by outside nations, increasing instability for the region as a whole. If Iraq becomes a sub-state of Iran, the balance of power in the region is wildly shifted toward Tehran at exactly the time the world as a whole is trying to stop Iran's drive towards nuclear weapons.

Those are all long term problems.

The short term problems with Death Squad activity are just as bad. Not knowing if you or your employees are going to be alive enough to come to work tomorrow doesn't encourage entrepreneurs to invest. It certainly doesn't encourage outside investors to put money into Iraq. Being killed for your politics and/or ethnicity doesn't encourage democracy. Death Squads certainly don't make improvements in infastructure, provide useful goods or services, or decrease lawlessness.
The discovery of the death squad came about almost by chance, when an Iraqi army checkpoint in northern Baghdad stopped the men in late January and asked what they were doing. They responded truthfully, telling the soldiers that they were taking the Sunni man away to be shot dead.

"The amazing thing is ... they tell you exactly what they're going to do," Peterson said.


Militia infiltration has become a top concern of the U.S. military as it seeks to speed up the transfer of authority to Iraqi security forces so American troops can start to withdraw. In some parts of the country, members of the Badr Organization, the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to rebel cleric Muqtada Sadr, openly operate alongside or within the police forces.

Though militia members have been encouraged to join the police and the army, as part of a plan to dismantle militias initiated by the former U.S. administration in Iraq, their presence raises questions about the future loyalties of the security forces.

"It's an issue of loyalties, of allegiance," Peterson said. "If you're still wearing your Badr T-shirt under your uniform, that's a problem."

So we're committed to fighting the insurgency but the insurgents are now members of the Iraqi government and their militias are now parts of the police force. This is nothing like Vietnam. This is worse.

Senator Byrd's Speech Calling for NSA Probe

Via Rawstory, the text of the speech Senator Byrd, D-West Virginia, delivered
critcizing the Presidents Warrantless Domestic Spying Program.

Mr. President, in June of 2004, 10 peace activists outside of Haliburton, Inc., in Houston gathered to protest the company's war profiteering. They wore paper hats and were handing out peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches, calling attention to Haliburton's reported overcharging on a food contract for American troops in Iraq.

Unbeknownst to them, they were being watched. U.S. Army personnel at the top-secret Counterintelligence Field Activity or CIFA, saw the protest as a potential threat to national security.

CIFA was created 3 years ago by the Defense Department. Its official role is "force-protection", that is, tracking threats and terrorist plots against military installations and personnel inside the United States. In 2003, then Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz authorized a fact-gathering operation code-named TALON, which stands for Threat and Local Observation Notice, that would collect "raw information" about "suspicious incidents" and feed it to CIFA.

In the case of the peanut butter demonstration, the Army wrote a report on the activity and stored it in its files. Newsweek magazine has reported that some TALON reports may have contained information on U.S. citizens that has been retained in Pentagon files. A senior Pentagon official has admitted that the names of these U.S. citizens could number in the thousands.

Is this where we are heading in the land of the free? Are secret government programs that spy on American citizens proliferating? The question is not, "Is Big Brother watching?" It is "How many Big Brothers have we?"

Ever since the New York Times revealed that President George W. Bush has personally authorized surveillance of American citizens without obtaining a warrant, I have become increasingly concerned about dangers to the people's liberty. I believe that both current law and the Constitution may have been violated -- not once, but many times -- and in ways that the Congress and the people may never know because of this White House and its penchant for control and secrecy.

We cannot continue to claim that we are a nation of laws and not of men if our laws and, indeed, even the Constitution of the United States itself, may by summarily breached because of some determination of expediency or because the President says "trust me."

The Fourth Amendment reads clearly, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

The Congress has already granted the Executive Branch rather extraordinary authority with changes in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that allow the government 72 hours after surveillance has begun to apply for a warrant. If this surveillance program is what the President says it is, a program to eavesdrop upon known terrorists in other countries who are conversing with Americans, then there should be no difficulty in obtaining a warrant within 72 hours. One might be tempted to suspect that the real reason that the President authorized warrantless surveillance is because there is no need to have to bother with the inconveniences of probable cause. Without probable cause as a condition of spying on American citizens, the National Security Agency could and can, under this President's direction, spy on anyone and for any reason. We have only the President's word, his "trust me", to protect the privacy of the law-abiding citizens of this country. And one must be especially wary of an Administration that seems to feel that what it judges to be a good end, always justifies any means. It is, in fact, not only illegal under our system, but morally reprehensible to spy on citizens without probable cause of wrongdoing. When such practices are sanctioned by our own President, what is the message we are sending to other countries which the United States is trying to convince to adopt our system? It must be painfully obvious to them that a President, who can spy at will on any citizen, is very unlike the model of democracy that the Administration is trying to sell abroad.

In the name of "fighting terror" are we to sacrifice every freedom to a President's demand? How far are we to go? Can a President order warrantless house-by-house searches of a neighborhood, where he suspects a terrorist may be hiding? Can he impose new restrictions on what can be printed, broadcast, or even uttered privately, because of some perceived threat to national security? Laughable thoughts? I think not. For this Administration has so traumatized the people of this nation -- and many in the Congress -- that some will swallow whole whatever rubbish that is spewed from this White House, as long as it is in some tenuous way connected to the so-called war on terror.

And the phrase, "war on terror," while catchy, certainly is a misnomer. Terror is a tactic used by all manner of violent organizations to achieve their goals. It has been around since time began, and will likely be with us on the last day of planet earth. We were attacked by Bin Laden and by his organization Al Qaeda. If anything, what we are engaged in should, more properly, be called, a war on the Al Qaeda network. But, that is too limiting for an Administration that loves power as much as this one. A war on the Al Qaeda network might conceivably be over some day. A war on the Al Qaeda network might have achievable, measurable objectives, and it would be less able to be used as a rationale for almost any government action. It would be harder to periodically traumatize and terrorize the U.S. public, thereby justifying a reason for stamping secret on far too many government programs and activities. Why hasn't Congress been thoroughly briefed on the President's secret eavesdropping program, or on other secret domestic monitoring programs run by the Pentagon or other government entities? Is it because keeping official secrets prevents annoying Congressional oversight? Revealing this program in its entirety to too many members of Congress could certainly have unmasked its probable illegality at a much earlier date, and may have allowed members of Congress to pry information out of the White House that the Judiciary Committee could not pry out of Attorney General Gonzales, who seems genuinely confused about whom he works for -- the public or his old boss, the President.

Attorney General Gonzales refused to divulge whether or not purely domestic communications have also been caught up in this warrantless surveillance, and he refused to assure the Senate Judiciary Committee and the American public that the Administration has not deliberately tapped Americans' telephone calls and computers or searched their homes without warrants. Nor would he reveal whether even a single arrest has resulted from the program.

And what about the First Amendment? What about the chilling effect that warrantless eavesdropping is already having on those law-abiding American citizens who may not support the war in Iraq, or who may simply communicate with friends or relatives overseas? Eventually, the feeling that no conversation is private will cause perfectly innocent people to think carefully before they candidly express opinions or even say something in jest.

Already we have heard suggestions from the Attorney General and others that Freedom of the Press should be subject to new restrictions. And who among us can feel comfortable knowing that the National Security Agency has been operating with an expansive view of its role since 2001, forwarding wholesale information from foreign intelligence communication intercepts involving American citizens, including the names of individuals to the FBI, in a departure from past practices, and tapping some of the country's main telecommunications arteries in order to trace and analyze information.

The Administration could have come to Congress to address any too cumbersome aspects of the FISA law in the revised Patriot Act which the Administration proposed, but they did not, probably because they wished the completely unfettered power to do whatever they pleased, the laws and the Constitution be damned.

I plead with the American public to tune-in to what is happening in this country. Please forget the political party with which you may usually be associated, and, instead, think about the right of due process, the presumption of innocence, and the right to a private life. Forget the now tired political spin that, if one does not support warrant-less spying, then one may be a bosom buddy of Osama Bin Laden.

Focus on what's happening to truth in this country and then read President Bush's statement to a Buffalo, New York audience on April 24, 2004:

"Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so." That statement is false and the President knew it was false when he made it because he had authorized the government to wiretap without a court order shortly after the 2001 attacks.

This President, in my judgement, may have broken the law, and most certainly has violated the spirit of the Constitution and the public trust.

Yet, I hear strange comments coming from some members of Congress to the effect that well, if the President has broken the law, let's just change the law. That is tantamount to saying that whatever the President does is legal, and the last time we heard that claim was from the White House of Richard M. Nixon. Congress must rise to the occasion here and demand answers to the serious questions surrounding warrantless spying. And Congress must stop being spooked by false charges that unless it goes along in blind obedience with every outrageous violation of the separation of powers, it is soft on terrorism. Perhaps we can take courage from The American Bar Association which on Monday, February 13, denounced President Bush's warrantless surveillance, and expressed the view that he had exceeded his Constitutional powers.

There is a need for a thorough investigation of all of our domestic spying programs. We have to know what is being done, by whom, and to whom. We need to know if the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act has been breached, and if the Constitutional rights of thousands of Americans have been violated without cause. The question is, can the Congress, under control of the President's political party conduct the type of thorough, far-ranging investigation which is necessary? It is absolutely essential that Congress try, because it is vital to at least attempt the proper restoration of the checks and balances. Unfortunately, in a congressional election year, the effort will most likely be seriously hampered by politics.

I want to know how many Americans have been spied upon. I want to know how it is determined which individuals are monitored and who makes such determinations. I want to know if the telecommunications industry is involved in a massive screening of the domestic telephone calls of ordinary Americans. I want to know if the United States Post Office is involved. I want to know if the law has been broken and the Constitution has been breached.

Lord Acton once observed that, "Everything secret degenerates, even the Administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity."

The culture of secrecy which has deepened since the attacks on September 11 has presented this nation with an awful dilemma. In order to protect this open society are we to believe that measures must be taken that in insidious and unconstitutional ways close it down? I believe that the answer must be an emphatic "no."

I was going to just give excerpts, but I couldn't really find anything in the speech that didn't deserve to be here. Sorry, it's long and we're Americans, so reading can be a chore. Deal, the man's been in government long enough to know what he's talking about.