Monday, January 29, 2007

Annie Nelson on the ‘Fuel That Doesn’t Kill Us’

Annie Nelson, wife of Willie Nelson and co-chairperson of the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance, speaks to Truthdig about stomaching the State of the Union and the myth that alternative fuels are years away.

Truthdig: Did you see the State of the Union?

Nelson: Yeah, I stomached as much as I could.

Truthdig: Did you see what the president said about ethanol? ... He did say one sentence or one line about biodiesel. Did any of that resonate with you?

Nelson: Yeah, about as much as it did the last time he said it. I mean, it’s all a bit of—it’s just talk. You know, they give 13 gazillion dollars to the oil and gas industry as some welfare for these people who are making phenomenal historic record-breaking profits, and less than—I think it’s 7.7 [billion] for research into alternative fuels which are already here. It’s lip service. It’s all lip service.

Truthdig: And what’s your involvement in biodiesel?

Nelson: Pretty much we’re proponents. I don’t know how else to say it. We’re in production. We have partnerships with Pacific Biodiesel Texas and Pacific Biodiesel, and we are doing community production of biodiesel. And our intent is to keep them community [based] and then promote that idea where each community ... can and should create their own fuel, and let that be the market for the community.

Truthdig: What is biodiesel?

Nelson: It is the fuel that obviously powers—I’m going to go real elementary, right?

Truthdig: Yeah.

Nelson: The fuel that powers a diesel engine. Biodiesel needs to run in a diesel engine, and what it does—where it comes from are several sources. It can come from recycled cooking oil, which then keeps that junk out of landfills; several plant seed stocks from seeds and those types of things; the rendering of animals, just you name it. There are tons of ways to get it. There’s a process where they remove the glycerin—that’s biodiesel. You can put pure cooking oil into your car, but you have to have a converter inside of it. But just any regular diesel [vehicle] can run on biodiesel because it’s been refined, which means the glycerin has been taken out.

Truthdig: So ... you can actually drive on recycled cooking oil?

Nelson: Yes, the diesel engine was designed to run on peanut and hemp oil, not petroleum. But then again Rudolf Diesel disappeared over the Atlantic. It never was intended to run on petroleum, and in fact I think an interesting connection is if you go—if you check out the Prohibition era, when the government was going after stills that were on farms and such, a lot of those stills were producing ethanol and biodiesel for—mainly ethanol—for farm production, for their machinery. That’s what happened. There were so many people involved in it, in that whole deal, that Prohibition was probably a whole lot less about alcohol and a whole lot more about killing the renewable energy possibilities. Obviously the petroleum companies were behind it.

Truthdig: What’s the difference between biodiesel and ethanol?

Nelson: Well, ethanol is almost like—and I’m not an expert on ethanol at all, so let me just put that disclaimer in there immediately—it’s more like a grain alcohol, almost. It’s from sugar. It’s a plant that needs to have a particular cellulose to create a gasoline-type fuel. But it’s mainly turning the sugar into fuel.

Truthdig: With ethanol we know how much money has been given to Iowa and other states where ethanol is being produced. On, they say there’s no government program to support them. Do you have an opinion on that?

Nelson: is an actual biodiesel board and there are many others. They’re just one entity, and they’re fine. They tend to have a lot more large producers and a lot of soybean people. Our whole deal, and we just actually formed—Daryl Hannah and I are co-chairs and Kelly King and Laura Louie, who is Woody Harrelson’s wife, and a group of us just formed the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance, where our intent is to focus specifically on sustainable community biodiesel production. And if it ends up being ethanol as well at some future date, that’s fine, but the whole point is to keep it community—to eliminate the ADMs and the Cargills and those people ... large oil companies from just transferring their monopoly on Middle Eastern oil to home-produced, naturally produced fuel. Right now they can ... it’s really a matter of connecting the farm bill with our national security bills and those types of things without allowing one group or one industry to control our energy, whether it be from the Middle East or from our own country. If it’s domestically produced, that should be domestically distributed as well. We’re here to protect the family farmers and the community co-ops that want to produce their own fuel and sell it.

Truthdig: Are there stations where people can fill up? One of the problems with ethanol has been transporting it and getting it to the public.

Nelson: People actually produce it all over the country. We do our tours through this whole
country, and we do it on biodiesel. At least a blend. At minimum, it’s a blend of biodiesel. We try to do 100 percent whenever we can.... So, it’s out there. It’s already available. The funny thing about why $7.7 billion was given to renewable fuels—and that 7.7 is spread out between wind and geothermal and biomass and ethanol and biodiesel and others—that’s spread out amongst all of them. When 13 point something billion is given to the oil and gas industry and coal, and then another 12 to nuclear. So it’s kind of serious, but instead of doing that, let each community—that’s our deal—to connect communities and make sure that they can produce their own fuels so they’re not dependent on one of these corporations that have already proven that they could care less about these people’s interests, and do their own. Make their own fuel. Make their own security, which gives everybody in this country security because not one person or organization is controlling the market. What’s the difference between OPEC and a group of American oil companies who control our prices?

Truthdig: There’s a list of gas stations on and a few other of these sites....

Nelson: There are gas stations. What they have a list of is people who are members. There are other people besides them—many, many other people that are producing biodiesel. When we put the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance online, it will be to help people connect to where they can get fuel around the country and, at the same time, promote community-based fueling stations where people can pull off the highway and fill up with whatever blend they need or 100 percent. So that is something that just hasn’t been put together. That’s what we’re going for. It exists out there—a lot of people making fuel. We’re some of them. In fact, if there was even more help, this would go big guns, but it also takes the profit away from some people that are in control right now.

Truthdig: During the State of the Union, the president said he would try and reduce foreign fuel by [20] percent by 2017. You’re saying....

Nelson: We’re already doing it. There are so many people already doing it. In fact, taking people and putting them back on land. Even if we just put them back on their land and let them buy their farms back. Put them back on land that’s sitting fallow right now. Let them grow food for ourselves and fuel. Then each community would start thriving again. You’ve got people out of the city, so there would be less congestion in the city. People on land, where they’re not [driven] insane by the inner city, where that’s not where they belong anyway. Put them back on the land, let them grow our fuel, let them grow our food, have it be sustainably grown, and then we eliminate—well, first we would eliminate, by getting them out of the city, the congestion of carbon fibers in the air, plus if they’re going to be using renewable fuels—and specifically I can speak for biodiesel, if up to 100 percent, you can eliminate 99 percent of particulates in the air.
So why wouldn’t we do that? People don’t want to be in the city, people want to be on their land; they never wanted to leave it to begin with. They got thrown off their land because the market is manipulated. So we put them back on it and allow them to earn ownership—we did that in the ’30s—but allow them to earn their ownership back, and let them produce food and fuel for us—fuel that doesn’t kill us, and grow it sustainably so it doesn’t kill the water and everything around us either. It doesn’t make sense not to. Then you have thriving communities ... when you put people back on the land then you need a grocery store, you need businesses that sustain those people. They have to buy their farm products somewhere, they have to buy their feed somewhere, when you get them back out there, you get those communities thriving again, and the heartbeat of America gets a little defibrillation—and certainly the economy. How is that bad? It’s not. It’s good for everybody; it’s just not great for those few who want it to be just good for them.

Annie Nelson is the wife of Willie Nelson and the co-chairperson of the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance Inc. She is a supporter of sustainable, community-based biodiesel production as a method for restoring the dignity of small family farmers, the environment, the economy, energy independence and U.S. national security.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Luckovich: Give His Plan a Chance

Daffy Does Doom

Maureen Dowd:

Delusional is far too mild a word to describe Dick Cheney. Delusional doesn’t begin to capture the profound, transcendental one-flew-over daftness of the man.

Has anyone in the history of the United States ever been so singularly wrong and misguided about such phenomenally important events and continued to insist he’s right in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary?

It requires an exquisite kind of lunacy to spend hundreds of billions destroying America’s reputation in the world, exhausting the U.S. military, failing to catch Osama, enhancing Iran’s power in the Middle East and sending American kids to train and arm Iraqi forces so they can work against American interests.

Only someone with an inspired alienation from reality could, under the guise of exorcising the trauma of Vietnam, replicate the trauma of Vietnam.

You must have a real talent for derangement to stay wrong every step of the way, to remain in complete denial about Iraq’s civil war, to have a total misunderstanding of Arab culture, to be completely oblivious to the American mood and to be absolutely blind to how democracy works.

In a democracy, when you run a campaign that panders to homophobia by attacking gay marriage and then your lesbian daughter writes a book about politics and decides to have a baby with her partner, you cannot tell Wolf Blitzer he’s “out of line” when he gingerly raises the hypocrisy of your position.

State Constitutions that Discriminate Against Atheists

  • Arkansas State Constitution, Article 19 Section 1 ("Miscellaneous Provisions")No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any court.
  • Maryland's Declaration of Rights, Article 36"That as it is the duty of every man to worship God in such manner as he thinks most acceptable to Him, all persons are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty; wherefore, no person ought by any law to be molested in his person or estate, on account of his religious persuasion, or profession, or for his religious practice, unless, under the color of religion, he shall disturb the good order, peace or safety of the State, or shall infringe the laws of morality, or injure others in their natural, civil or religious rights; nor ought any person to be compelled to frequent, or maintain, or contribute, unless on contract, to maintain, any place of worship, or any ministry; nor shall any person, otherwise competent, be deemed incompetent as a witness, or juror, on account of his religious belief; provided, he believes in the existence of God, and that under His dispensation such person will be held morally accountable for his acts, and be rewarded or punished therefore either in this world or in the world to come."
  • Massachusetts' State Constitution, Article 3 "Any every denomination of Christians, demeaning themselves peaceably, and as good subjects of the commonwealth, shall be equally under the protection of the law: and no subordination of any one sect or denomination to another shall ever be established by law." (Comment: Apparently Non-Christians are not "equally under the protection of the law.”)
  • Mississippi State Constitution. Article 14 ("General Provisions"), Section 265No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office in this state.
  • North Carolina's State Constitution, Article 6 Section 8"Disqualifications of office. The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God."
  • Pennsylvania's State Constitution, Article 1 Section 4 "No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth."
  • South Carolina's State Constitution, Article 4 Section 2"No person shall be eligible to the office of Governor who denies the existence of the Supreme Being; ..."Note: If you continue reading you will find that (in Section 8) the Lieutenant Governor must also meet the same qualifications as the Governor.
  • Tennessee's State Constitution, Article 9 Section 2"No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this state."
  • Texas' State Constitution, Article 1 Section 4"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being."

LSB: Article VI, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution says: "... but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." So how do these laws still exist? Whether or not these laws are enforceable, as a Christian I find this intolerance intolerable. We recently witnessed the effrontery that one Muslim member of Congress had to endure when he requested to take his oath of office on the Quran. While he was not denied his seat in Congress, this type of religious bullying was disgusting to watch.

This is not Iran or Afghanistan or some other theocracy; we have a separation of Church and State in this country… freedom of religion and freedom from religion. It is always when we attempt to overlap the two that conflict arises. The Religious Right will always remind us that this country was founded by Christian men and women; what they seem to have is a fuzzier understanding that majority of these men and women were seeking religious freedom from the Church of England.

My faith is just that – MY FAITH, – and it is not found in any worldly institution symbolized by Fred Phelps, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson or those goofballs at Focus on the Family. This is just as much my country as theirs, and I get a little pissed that these and other wingnut neocons think there should be some sort of litmus test for who should get the rights and responsibilities of citizenship the Constitution guarantees all of us.

Top 10 Solutions for a More Perfect Union

Katrina vanden Heuvel: The "thumping" taken by the Republican Congress on election day was not just a rejection of K Street corruption and the catastrophe in Iraq. It was a call to action on issues that are more immediately relevant to people's lives. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will begin to answer that call by pushing a "100 Hours" agenda -- including common-sense legislation to increase the minimum wage, cut interest on student loans and open the way for Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices.

That's a good beginning, but it's only a down payment on a broader agenda. Progressives now have the opportunity to develop a new vision that returns power to the American people for the first time in generations. But to-do lists don't add up to a vision. But Democrats must show they are serious by passing bold measures that define a new "people's agenda." With that in mind, here are ten existing pieces of legislation that deserve to be passed by our new Congress. Some of these bills are eminently passable, a few are related to the "100 Hours" agenda and others can be seen as long-term goals. But all would help return our nation to the path to a more perfect union (note: Bill numbers may change in the new Congress).

1. Healthcare for All
More than 47 million Americans are now living without health coverage. Representative John Conyers's United States National Health Insurance Act (HR 676) would create a single-payer healthcare system by expanding Medicare to every resident. All necessary medical care would be covered -- from prescription drugs to hospital services to long-term care. There would be no deductibles or co-payments. Funding would come from sources including savings from negotiated bulk procurement of medications; a tax on the top 5 percent of income earners; and a phased-in payroll tax that is lower than what employers currently pay for less comprehensive employee health coverage. With 78 Congressional co-sponsors, and the endorsement of more than 200 labor organizations as well as healthcare groups, there is muscle and momentum behind this bill. To get involved, check out

2. Counting Every Vote
Representative Rush Holt has introduced the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act (HR 550) requiring all voting systems to provide a voter-verified paper trail to serve as the official ballot for recounts and audits. It would also insure accessibility for voters with disabilities. The bill, which was introduced in February 2005 and which currently has 222 bipartisan co-sponsors, was tied up in committee by the Republican Congress. Senators Hillary Clinton and Barbara Boxer and Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones introduced the Count Every Vote Act (S 450 and HR 939), which also calls for a voter-verified paper trail and would improve access for language minority voters, illiterate voters and voters with disabilities. Co-sponsors of that legislation include Senators John Kerry, Frank Lautenberg, Patrick Leahy and Barbara Mikulski, and seventy-nine House members.

3. Healthy Families Act
According to Washington Post columnist Amy Joyce, "nearly half of all private-sector workers in the United States do not have a single day of paid sick leave. And more do not have a paid day off that can be used to care for a sick child." Seventy-five percent of low-wage workers lack paid sick leave -- the very people who can least afford to take a day off and still be able to pay the bills. In 2005 Senator Edward Kennedy and Representative Rosa DeLauro introduced the Healthy Families Act (S 932 and HR 1902) -- a bill that would require employers with fifteen or more workers to provide one week of paid sick leave for those who work thirty or more hours a week. Employees who work less than that would receive prorated leave. The leave could be used to care for family as well. The new Democratic Congress is expected to hold hearings on the legislation, which has fifteen original co-sponsors in the Senate and seventy-one in the House, in early 2007.

4. The Right to Organize
The Employee Free Choice Act (S 842 and HR 1696) would strengthen workers' freedom to organize by requiring employers to recognize a union after a majority of workers sign cards authorizing representation. It also would create stronger penalties for management violations of the right to organize when workers seek to form a union. Currently there are 214 co-sponsors of Representative George Miller's House bill (including fourteen Republicans) and forty-four co-sponsors of Kennedy's legislation in the Senate (including Republican Senator Arlen Specter). This legislation would go a long way toward helping the 57 million nonunion workers in the United States who, according to polls, would form a union tomorrow if given the opportunity.

5. No Permanent Bases in Iraq
Representative Barbara Lee, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has proposed House Conference Resolution 197, which declares that it is "the policy of the United States not to enter into any base agreement with the Government of Iraq that would lead to a permanent United States military presence in Iraq." By passing this bill, Congress can send a clear and immediate signal to the Iraqi people and the international community that the United States has no intention of staying in Iraq indefinitely. There were eighty-six co-sponsors of Lee's legislation, including three Republicans.

6. Stop Outsourcing Torture
Representative Ed Markey's Torture Outsourcing Prevention Act (HR 952) directs the Secretary of State to submit to Congress an annual list of countries where there are substantial grounds for believing that torture or cruel and degrading treatment is commonly used in detention or interrogation. The bill prohibits the direct or indirect transfer or return of people by the United States for the purpose of detention, interrogation, trial or other purposes to a listed country. Given the recent history of black sites, torture flights, innocent victims and suspension of habeas corpus, this legislation should be an immediate priority. It is one modest step in the right direction. It currently has seventy-seven co-sponsors.

7. Access to Higher Education
Senator Richard Durbin and Representative George Miller's Reverse the Raid on Student Aid Act (S 2573 and HR 5150) would cut interest rates on college loans for student and parent borrowers. The legislation would save $5,600 for the typical student borrower, who currently graduates with $17,500 in student-loan debt. The Durbin-Miller legislation cuts interest rates in half, from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent, for students with subsidized loans, and from 8.5 percent to 4.25 percent for parents. Earlier this year, the GOP Congress cut $12 billion out of federal student aid programs to help finance tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. The average tuition and fees at four-year public colleges have risen 40 percent when adjusted for inflation, since 2001, according to the College Board's Annual Survey of Colleges. And the average student debt has increased by more than 50 percent over the past decade, according to the Project on Student Debt. With economic inequality and the concentration of wealth reaching unprecedented levels, improving access to higher education is essential. It also is critical if we are to reverse the trend of the US workforce lagging behind other nations in education.

8. Free and Independent Media
Representative Maurice Hinchey sponsored the Media Ownership Reform Act (MORA -- HR 3302), which seeks to restore a diverse media by significantly lowering the number of media outlets one company is permitted to own in a single market. Since 1996 the Federal Communications Commission has promoted massive media consolidation by increasing that number, allowing telecommunications corporations to buy up a larger share of television and radio stations, newspapers and other media outlets, and forcing independent and local media owners out of business. There are sixteen co-sponsors of MORA in the House.

9. Public Financing of Campaigns
Representative John Tierney introduced the Clean Money, Clean Elections Act (HR 3099) last year with thirty-nine Democrats and one Independent as co-sponsors. The bill establishes a voluntary system that offers candidates an option for public financing and reduced rates on broadcast advertising in exchange for self-imposed limits on campaign financing and spending. Participating candidates get a dollar-for-dollar match, up to a set limit, if a nonparticipating opponent spends more than the basic public-financing grant. This system would free candidates from the burden of continuous fundraising; allow those who obtain a prescribed number of contributions to run regardless of their economic status or access to large funders; and, perhaps most important, eliminate the skewed priorities caused by the financing of campaigns by special-interest contributors.

10. Clean Energy
Last May Senator Maria Cantwell introduced the Clean EDGE Act (S 2829) with twenty-four Democratic co-sponsors. The bill sets a goal of reducing US petroleum consumption by 6 million barrels a day by 2020 -- or 40 percent of America's projected imports. It mandates that 25 percent of new vehicles sold in the United States by 2010 be flex-fuel capable (able to run on higher blends of biofuels, which help to displace petroleum), rising to 50 percent by 2020. It also sets a national goal of installing alternative fuels at 10 percent of US gas stations by 2015. The bill also makes gas price-gouging a federal crime. It ends subsidies for major oil companies and extends incentives for renewable energy and efficiency technologies. To shrink US dependence on fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the bill requires that 10 percent of all US electricity come from renewable sources by 2020. A report by the Apollo Alliance and the Economic Policy Institute estimates that the Clean EDGE Act would create more than 500,000 jobs, including tens of thousands in states hit hardest by the loss of 3 million manufacturing jobs.

This list is by no means all-inclusive. But these are good and important initiatives that address longstanding and formidable challenges.

Experts See Peril in Bush Health Proposal

NY Times:
With his proposal to uproot a tax break that has been in place for more than 60 years, President Bush has touched off an impassioned debate over the future of the employer-based system that provides health insurance to more than half of all Americans.

“Changing the tax code is a vital and necessary step to making health care affordable for more Americans,” Mr. Bush said in his State of the Union address this week.

Mr. Bush said his proposal would eliminate a bias in the tax code that strongly favored insurance provided by employers over coverage bought by individuals and families outside the workplace.

Paul Fronstin, director of health research at the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a nonpartisan organization, said: “The president’s proposal would mean the end of employer-based benefits as we know them. It gives employers a way out of providing the benefits because their employees could get the same tax break on
their own.”

Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, denied that the president wanted to move people away from the employer-based system and toward the individual insurance market. “We are seriously agnostic on that,” he said.

It might take years for changes to occur. “Large corporate employers could not immediately terminate their health benefits because there is, at present, no reliable place where employees can get coverage they can afford outside the workplace,” said Frank B. McArdle, a health policy expert at Hewitt Associates, a benefits consulting firm.

The economic rationale for Mr. Bush’s proposal is that too many people have “gold-plated, deluxe” health insurance, which encourages them to use excessive amounts of health care, driving up costs for everyone.

Many economists agree. But they doubt that Mr. Bush’s proposal would do much to hold down costs or cover more people. “The president’s proposal addresses inequities in the tax code that provide an open-ended subsidy for premiums paid by employers,” said Robert D. Reischauer, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office. “If your employer does not provide health insurance and you have to buy it on your own, you get no tax benefit at all. The president’s plan would eliminate that distinction.”

But Mr. Reischauer said, “A glaring problem with the president’s plan is that he did not call for any stronger regulation of the individual insurance market.” In that market as it now exists in most states, insurers can deny coverage or charge higher rates to sick people.

Tester goes Transparent

With encouragement from the Sunlight Foundation, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) now posts his schedule online at the end of each day. “Whether it’s a visit to the gym, a meeting with the founder of the Montana Meth Project, or an interview with Wolf Blitzer, staff for Tester post his entire schedule online each workday — a Senate first.” Check it out HERE.

LSB: Leading by example. Let's hope the rest of the Democratic House and Senate takes up this practice as well. This may do more for lobbying reform than any bill could ever do — and it wouldn't require any votes. If every Dem (he dreams) did this and promoted that they were doing this, how could the Repugs not follow suit?

Molly Ivins hospitalized in cancer battle.

Three weeks ago, legendary Texan and progressive columnist Molly Ivins “wrote that she would dedicate every single one of her syndicated columns from now on to the issue of stopping the war in Iraq — until it ended. But she has managed to finish only one more column since. The gravely ill Texas columnist has been hospitalized again this week in her ongoing battle with breast cancer.”

LSB: Molly really is a treasure. She has informed without preaching and kept me laughing for years. Wishing you speedy good health, Molly!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

JFK Secret Society Speech

LSB: Eerily, this is even more true today!

Ted Kennedy on Republicans and Minimum Wage

What is it with Republicans and their refusal to help the working class?

"Do you have such disdain for hard-working Americans that you want to pile all your amendments on this? Why don’t you just hold your amendments until other pieces of legislation? Why this volume of amendments on just the issue to try and raise the minimum wage? What is it about it that drives you Republicans crazy? What is it? Something. Something! What is the price that the workers have to pay to get an increase? What is it about working men and women that you find so offensive?"
Bob Geiger has more… St. McCain voted against increasing the minimum wage also.

FLASHBACK: Pre-War Intelligence Report Coverup

Back in September, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released its definitive PHASE II report (.pdf) that debunked once and for all the flimsy and manipulated intelligence the Bush administration used to make it's case for war. Speaking on the floor of the Senate, Carl Levin claimed there were still "deeply disturbing" portions of the report being kept classified to politically protect the White House.

Click here for the video.

At the time, then-Chairman Pat "Memory Pills" Roberts, who, according to Senator Rockefeller, was pressured by Vice President Cheney to suppress the inquiry, showed no interest in declassifying the report in full. Now that Rockefeller chairs the committee, it's finally time we got the whole truth about the lies that brought us to war. (Read the full story.)

And this from ThinkProgress: Vice President Dick Cheney exerted “constant” pressure on the former chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), to stall an investigation into the Bush administration’s use of false intelligence on Iraq. The so-called Phase II report on the administration’s use of pre-war intelligence was delayed for over two years. Two of its five portions were finally released in Sept. 2006.

Rockefeller said that he knew Cheney attended regular policy meetings in which he conveyed White House directions to conservative Capitol Hill staffers. They “just had to go along with the administration,” he said. Here are examples of Roberts’ vacillations on the Phase II investigation per White House orders:

  • “We’ll proceed with Phase II. It is a priority. I made my commitment and it will get done.” [Press conference, 7/9/04]
  • “I don’t know if we can get it done before the election.” [Meet the Press, 7/11/04]
  • “That [the Phase II report] is basically on the back burner.” [UPI, 3/10/05]
  • “I don’t think there should be any doubt that we have now heard it all regarding prewar intelligence. I think that it would be a monumental waste of time to replow this ground any further.” [U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 3/31/05]
  • “To go though that exercise, it seems to me, in a post-election environment - we didn’t see how we could do that and achieve any possible progress. I think everybody pretty well gets it.” [U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 3/31/05]
  • “I’m perfectly willing to do it, and that’s what we agreed to do, and that door is still open.” [Meet the Press, 4/10/05]
  • “It isn’t like it’s been delayed. As a matter of fact, it’s been ongoing. As a matter of fact, we have been doing our work on Phase II.” [Senate Floor Speech, 11/1/05]
  • “I don’t know the relevancy of that.” [CNN, 11/1/05]
  • “We’ve been working on that. We will finish it. We had it scheduled for this week.” [Face the Nation, 11/6/05]

Begala on Cheney: “If he had any decency, he would simply resign”


Really, it's stunning. It's a great interview, and — because we saw the real Dick Cheney, you know, a really remarkable, probably historic, combination of arrogance, incompetence and dishonesty.

This is a man who, when he took office, Richard Clarke, the chief counterterrorism czar, told him that bin Laden was going to try to attack America. He ignored it. The president told him to chair a task force on terrorism. He refused to even convene it until after 9/11. He was too busy helping his friends at Enron and Exxon with his energy task force.

He told the country that Iraq was an imminent threat. He was wrong. He told us that they had a nuclear program — he was wrong — biological stockpiles, chemical stockpiles, that there were links to al Qaeda, that there were secret meetings between Mohamed Atta, the leader of the hijacking ring that attacked us on 9/11, and Saddam Hussein's government; they had a secret meeting in Prague. That was a fabrication as well — on and on.

It really is staggering, the — the level of this man's mendacity and arrogance, in the face — if he had any decency, he would simply resign, Wolf. He would give you an interview. He would say: You know, I give up. I have ruined — I have ruined the country in my first term. I'm ruining the world in my second term.

LSB: You go, boy! Rip the VP a new one!!

RUMOR: The Comedy Central Insider/InDecider has just heard more rumors from a SECOND reliable source that Dick Cheney will be stepping down as Vice President and will be replaced as Vice President by Condoleezza Rice. And now we're hearing that she would like to be on the ticket as the GOP VP candidate in '08. According to our rumor-meister, John Negroponte will be filling Condi's current position as Secretary of State. Negroponte was until recently the Director of National Intelligence (the first person ever to hold the few-years-old position) and the former US Ambassador to Iraq. [Comedy Central floated the rumor on its blog that Rumsfeld would resign the day after the election and nobody believed it. But then it actually came true and Comedy Central got a lot of attention because they "scooped" the real media. Well, this apparently is from a source exactly as reliable as that one was at the time. We’ll see.]

Plan to Escalate Aggression Towards Iran At Least Six Years In The Making

The Raw Story:

The escalation of US military planning on Iran is only the latest chess move in a six-year push within the Bush Administration to attack Iran, a RAW STORY investigation has found.

While Iran was named a part of President George W. Bush's "axis of evil" in 2002, efforts to ignite a confrontation with Iran date back long before the post-9/11 war on terror. Presently, the Administration is trumpeting claims that Iran is closer to a nuclear weapon than the CIA's own analysis shows and positing Iranian influence in Iraq's insurgency, but efforts to destabilize Iran have been conducted covertly for years, often using members of Congress or non-government actors in a way reminiscent of the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal.

The motivations for an Iran strike were laid out as far back as 1992. In classified defense planning guidance – written for then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney by then-Pentagon staffers I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, World Bank Chief Paul Wolfowitz, and ambassador-nominee to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad – Cheney’s aides called for the United States to assume the position of lone superpower and act preemptively to prevent the emergence of even regional competitors. The draft document was leaked to the New York Times and the Washington Post and caused an uproar among Democrats and many in George H. W. Bush’s Administration. (More)

Canadian PM to Apologize to Arar

TPM Muckraker:

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will give a formal apology to Maher Arar, the Canadian software engineer whom the United States detained and extradited to
Syria, where he was brutally tortured.

The announcement, which appears to be a public rebuke of the official U.S. position that Arar may be a terrorist, is set for 12:15, according to Harper's office. Arar will hold a separate news conference at 2 p.m.

Arar's case has caused a deepening rift between Canada and the United States, which has to date refused to apologize for their treatment of Arar and will not remove him from its terrorist watch list. Yesterday, the National Post reported that the U.S. ambassador to Canada "scolded" a top Canadian offical for insisting Arar's name be removed from the U.S. watch list.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) dressed down Attorney General Alberto Gonzales last week over the case of Maher Arar, the Canadian citizen whom the U.S. seized and sent to Syria where he was tortured.

Gonzales stumbled when trying to explain why he couldn't discuss the matter, finally promising Leahy a secret briefing on the matter. Leahy still hasn't gotten the briefing, although he says he expects to have one very soon.

"The question remains why, even if there were reasons to consider [Arar] suspicious, the U.S. Government shipped him to Syria where he was tortured, instead of to Canada for investigation or prosecution," Leahy said in a statement released today, echoing the sentiments he shared with Gonzales last Thursday. "I look forward to hearing the Justice Department's answer to that question next week."

Glenn Greenwald compares a tale of two governments.

UPDATE: A Canadian Commission on the extraordinary rendition case of Maher Arar has recommended that the RCMP withold information from countries with "questionable human rights records". That's right, folks, the former shining beacon of democracy is now considered by Canada to have a questionable human rights record. How proud our Founding Fathers must be.

Getting Karl on the Hot Seat!


White House anxiety is mounting over the prospect that top officials — including deputy chief of staff Karl Rove and counselor Dan Bartlett — may be forced to provide potentially awkward testimony in the perjury and obstruction trial of Lewis (Scooter) Libby.

Both Rove and Bartlett have already received trial subpoenas from Libby’s defense lawyers, according to lawyers close to the case who asked not to be identified talking about sensitive matters. While that is no guarantee they will be called, the odds increased this week after Libby’s lawyer, Ted Wells, laid out a defense resting on the idea that his client, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, had been made a “scapegoat” to protect Rove. Cheney is expected to provide the most crucial testimony to back up Wells’s assertion, one of the lawyers close to the case said. The vice president personally penned an October 2003 note in which he wrote, “Not going to protect one staffer and sacrifice the other.” The note, read aloud in court by Wells, implied that Libby was the one being sacrificed in an effort to clear Rove of any role in leaking the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, wife of Iraq war critic Joe Wilson. “Wow, for all the talk about this being a White House that prides itself on loyalty and discipline, you’re not seeing much of it,” the lawyer said.
LSB: Talk about “must see TV!” I hope Fitzgerald makes Turdblossom squirm.

Pelosi Iraq trip is symbolic

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Iraq is a clear sign the newly empowered Democratic Congress is not going to abide by the notion that foreign policy is the sole province of the White House.

While President Bush met with military leaders in the Oval Office Friday, she and anti-war Rep. Jack Murtha turned up in Baghdad.

The timing of the trip, from the Bush administration's point of view, couldn't have been worse. It came just days after the president asked Congress in his State of the Union address to give his revised Iraq strategy a chance to work.

It also provided for dueling photo ops: Bush at the White House with his commanders and Pelosi and her congressional delegation in the heavily fortified Green Zone with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The lawmakers also visited U.S. troops on what they billed as a fact-finding mission and one to "thank our troops."

While the administration did not take issue with the visit by Pelosi and Murtha, Bush on Friday had a message for congressional opponents who want to stop his plan to increase U.S. troop strength in Iraq. "I'm the decision-maker" on the war effort, he said.

An increasingly assertive Congress is signaling that it, too, wants a part in those decisions.

Why the lies?

(AP) – The U.S. military confirmed a report earlier Friday by The Associated Press that three of the soldiers were dead and one was mortally wounded with a gunshot to the head when they were found in a neighboring province, about 25 miles from the compound where they were captured. A fifth soldier was killed in the initial attack on the compound.

The new account contradicted a U.S. military statement on Jan. 20, the day of the raid on an Iraqi governor's office, that five soldiers were killed "repelling" the attack.

LSB: Did this admin learn nothing from the lies surround Pat Tillman’s death… and others? Why the continuing lies when there is no reason to lie? And they wonder why the American people don’t trust them!

Limbaugh demeans American servicewomen

On his radio show today, right-wing host Rush Limbaugh criticized the military for allowing women to fight for the United States, asking what “it says about a cultured civilized society that it will round up babes send them off to basic training and send them off to the foxholes.”

LSB: I can't decide if he for real, or is he like Stephen Colbert and mocking the right. Does he really believe what comes out of his mouth, or does it simply pay so well that he'll pimp himself to say stupid shit?

Here are some of the great comments left on ThinkProgress for this item:

  • How about just fat GOP fascist slobs like Limbaugh get sent to Iraq?!
  • This piece of crud dodged the draft during Nam and now he has the temerity to criticize anyone in uniform?
  • Some of those “babes” have seen more combat than Rush has seen in movies. They have also been killed in Bush’s illegal war of empire.
  • Limbaugh is a fat, drug-addled moron who doesn’t have half the balls of the women he is degrading.
  • Limbaugh, Bush, Cheney, and Rove: the Four Horses Asses of the Apocalypse. Draft dodging cowards all, all obsessed with proving their “real men.” They aren’t and never can be.
  • What does it say about a cultured, civilised society that it would allow a drug-addicted moron access to a microphone so he can call women “babes”?
  • In case people don’t get this yet, LimpJaw is doing to women what would in NO WAY be tolerated if it were being said about a black person, or a handicapped person.

Friday, January 26, 2007

White House press strategy: we control Russert, no one sees news from Friday afternoon

The Scooter Libby trial provided an illuminating look at the inside world of the Bush press machine yesterday. Verified some of the things we thought -- and helped further undermine the credibility of one of the witnesses at the trial, Tim Russert. Inside the White House, they think Russert is a pushover:

Memo to Tim Russert: Dick Cheney thinks he controls you.

This delicious morsel about the "Meet the Press" host and the vice president was part of the extensive dish Cathie Martin served up yesterday when the former Cheney communications director took the stand in the perjury trial of former Cheney chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Flashed on the courtroom computer screens were her notes from 2004 about how Cheney could respond to allegations that the Bush administration had played fast and loose with evidence of Iraq's nuclear ambitions. Option 1: "MTP-VP," she wrote, then listed the pros and cons of a vice presidential appearance on the Sunday show. Under "pro," she wrote: "control message."

"I suggested we put the vice president on 'Meet the Press,' which was a tactic we often used," Martin testified. "It's our best format."

Also, Ms. Martin verified that the White House uses the trick of putting out bad stories late on Friday afternoon:

And bad news is dumped before the weekend for the sole purpose of burying it.With a candor that is frowned upon at the White House, Martin explained the use of late-Friday statements. "Fewer people pay attention to it late on Friday," she said. "Fewer people pay attention when it's reported on Saturday."
Yes, it works over and over and over because the media never caught on.

The toxicity of Joe Lieberman’s treason accusations

Glenn Greenwald:

Joe Lieberman has probably become the single most poisonous Beltway voice when it comes to the war in Iraq. The Bush administration's principal rhetorical tactic for the last five years, of course, has been to equate opposition to its policies and criticism of the Leader with love of the Terrorists. But when it comes to the debate over Iraq, Lieberman — time and again — has managed to descend even further into the rhetorical sewer than the administration itself.

But yesterday, Lieberman reached what might be a new low. During the confirmation hearings of Gen. David Petraeus, Lieberman provoked this truly reprehensible exchange with Gen. Petraeus, as summarized by The Washington Post's Thomas Ricks:

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) asked Army Lt. Gen. David H . Petraeus during his confirmation hearing yesterday if Senate resolutions condemning White House Iraq policy "would give the enemy some comfort."

Petraeus agreed they would, saying, "That's correct, sir."

Using the terms to" give comfort" and the "enemy" in the same phrase has no conceivable objective other than to invoke accusations of treason. The Constitution's definition of "treason" is exactly that — giving "Aid and Comfort" to the enemy. For Lieberman to purposely track the Constitution's treason language when describing opponents of the "surge" plan — and to invite the new Iraq War Commander to agree with his accusation — reveals so inescapably what Lieberman is. That's just the basest and most despicable smear one can imagine.

Helping Lara Logan

Remember this post I did when Lara blasted the right wingers and Laura Ingraham in particular who were saying the media was biased against the war and afraid to leave their hotel balconies to report all the wonderful stories in Iraq?

Media Channel:

Logan asks for help in getting attention to what she calls “a story that is largely being ignored even though this is taking place every single [sic] day in Baghdad, two blocks from where our office is located.”

The segment in question–”Battle for Haifa Street”–is a piece of first-rate journalism but one that only appears on the CBS News website–and has never been broadcast. It is a gritty, realistic look at life on the very mean streets of Baghdad, and includes
interviews with civilians who complain that the US military presence is only making their lives worse and the situation more deadly. “They told us they would bring democracy, they promised life would be better than it was under Saddam,” one told Logan. “But they brought us nothing but death and killing. They brought mass destruction to Baghdad.”

Click here or on the pic for the video.

- John Amato, Crooks and Liars

Cheney was obsessed with Hardball’s coverage–Updated

This is pretty exposive testimony. Cathie Martin, (worked at the OVP under Mary Matalin) testified today that Cheney was totally obsessed with Chris Matthews and "Hardball," because they were taking Joe Wilson so seriously. Cheney's staff were cutting up clips and transcripts and passing them out to track what was being said on the show regarding Joe Wilson. Cheney also wrote up talking points for Ari Fliescher to answer questions from the press regarding Wilson's column in the NY Times.

From the right. OTB writes:

Her testimony makes it clear that by July 7, 2003–a week before the publication of Bob Novak’s article made “Valerie Plame” a household name–the Office of the Vice President was obsessed with press accounts of an ambassador’s trip to Niger and that the vice president and Libby were intimately and repeatedly involved in
trying to manage the spin on the story.
emptywheel has a blow by blow account.

Hannity “Explains” “New” Military Strategy to a Four Star General

There's perhaps nothing funnier than a propagandist college dropout trying to explain military strategy to a Rhodes Scholar retired four-star Army General. Well, maybe a quick Google search that proves the propagandist wrong is a little funnier. Although General Clarke misspoke and said "seize, clear and hold" — he meant to say "clear, hold and build" — he's dead on that this is not a new strategy. (Click the pic for the video.)

Hannity: Alright. You said there was no new strategy. Let me tell you what the new strategy is ‘cause clearly uh I guess you’re missing what the President’s saying here. The prior strategy, and the President admitted that there were some mistakes made, was that they go in and they’d clear out the insurgency and they didn’t stay long enough or hold those areas long enough. Now the new strategy with the troop surge will be go in, remove the insurgents, hold the areas as pa…and also accelerate the training of Iraqi troops and police. That is a new strategy.

General Wesley Clark: I don’t think that’s a new strategy. […] I’ve heard him for a year talking about "seize, clear and hold."

Hannity: No. That’s what it is now.

That's what the strategy is now? Hmm…

Condoleezza Rice, October 19, 2005: In short, with the Iraqi Government, our political-military strategy has to be to clear, hold, and build: to clear areas from insurgent control, to hold them securely, and to build durable, national Iraqi institutions.

George W. Bush, October 28, 2005: As Secretary Rice explained last week, our strategy is to clear, hold, and build.

Condoleezza Rice, November 20, 2005: When we talk about clear, hold, and build, what we really mean is that we and the Iraqis have been successful now in clearing areas. Iraqi forces are now attaining the numbers and capabilities that will allow them to hold those places and not allow bad guys to come back. And then they can build economic and political institutions.

Title of strategic "Fact Sheet," March 20, 2006: Strategy for Victory: Clear, Hold, and Build

NPR’s Rehm: Delayed Iraq NIE Will Undermine Case For Escalation

Six months ago, Harper’s Ken Silverstein reported that “in spite of pressure from CIA analysts, intelligence czar John Negroponte was blocking a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq.” National Intelligence Estimates present the consensus view of the U.S. intelligence apparatus. Despite pressure from Congress, the administration insisted it could not complete the NIE until January 2007.

Last week, however, an administration intelligence official told senators that the report is still not complete. According to Silverstein, Senate hearing attendees “believe that senior intelligence officials are stalling because an NIE will be bleak enough to present a significant political liability.”

Yesterday, NPR host Diane Rehm may have revealed why the NIE remains so politically sensitive. On her national radio show, Rehm said:

It’s my understanding that the National Intelligence Estimate… is going to suggest that adding troops is the wrong way to go, that it’s not going to improve the situation. CLICK HERE FOR AUDIO
Yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and the House and Senate intelligence committee chairmen wrote President Bush “urging prompt completion of a national intelligence estimate (NIE) on Iraq first requested by Congress six months ago.” (Read the full letter HERE.)

Rockefeller: Cheney applied 'constant' pressure to stall investigation on flawed Iraq intelligence

Vice President Dick Cheney exerted "constant" pressure on the Republican former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee to stall an investigation into the Bush administration's use of flawed intelligence on Iraq, the panel's Democratic chairman charged Thursday.

In an interview with McClatchy Newspapers, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia also accused President Bush of running an illegal program by ordering eavesdropping on Americans' international e-mails and telephone communications without court-issued warrants.

In the 45-minute interview, Rockefeller said that it was "not hearsay" that Cheney, a leading proponent of invading Iraq, pushed Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., to drag out the probe of the administration's use of prewar intelligence.

"It was just constant," Rockefeller said of Cheney's alleged interference. He added that he knew that the vice president attended regular policy meetings in which he conveyed White House directions to Republican staffers.

Republicans "just had to go along with the administration," he said.

Conservative Senators Attempt To Abolish Federal Minimum Wage And Pass Tax Breaks For Businesses

Yesterday, a minority group of conservative senators killed a clean minimum wage bill that would have raised the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour. Instead, the Senate will now be voting on a “compromise” bill that will pair a minimum wage increase with tax breaks for small businesses.

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) justified his opposition to the clean bill by stating, “We’re trying to make sure we don’t put mom-and-pop businesses and their employees out of work.” President Bush has also said that won’t support a wage increase without business tax breaks because he “punish the millions of small businesses that are creating most of the new jobs in our country.”

But their objections to a clean minimum wage increase are based on myths:

MYTH #1 — Raising the minimum wage will hurt businesses. A study by the Center for American Progress found that employment in small businesses, the number of small businesses, and inflation-adjusted small business payroll growth grew more in states with higher minimum wages than federal minimum wage states. Almost 300 large and small business owners across the country have signed on to Business for a
Fair Minimum Wage
, which is pushing Congress to raise the federal minimum wage. A recent Gallup poll found that “three out of four small businesses said that an increase in the minimum wage would have no effect on their company.”

MYTH #2 — Businesses can’t afford to give workers a wage increase. In the past 10 years, Congress has “showered corporations with $276 billion in tax breaks, plus another $36 billion aimed exclusively at small businesses.” Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post adds that even though the Bush administration has gifted declining tax rates to small businesses over the past several years, “according to the Internal Revenue Service, small-business owners, sole proprietors and the self-employed are, as a group, the biggest tax cheats in America, responsible for $153 billion of the estimated $345 billion tax gap in 2001.”

Today, some conservative senators tried to go even further by completely abolishing the federal minimum wage. Amendments no. 158 by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and no. 116 by Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) would have allowed the states to set their own minimum wage levels.

Bush’s SOTU Leaves Social Conservatives ‘Lifeless,’ ‘Disappointed,’ ‘Shaking Their Heads’

Social conservatives who have been longtime loyalists of President Bush are speaking out in anger about the president’s silence on divisive right-wing issues. Cultural conservatives who have become accustomed to hearing Bush cater rhetorically to their wishes found “little to cheer” in his speech Tuesday night. Some examples below:

In a video address entitled, “A Lifeless State of the Union,” President Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said, “I believe the president failed to challenge the new majority to advance core family and cultural issues. What will become of the culture of life, the defense of marriage and permanent family-friendly tax policies?” [FRC, 1/24/07]

“I think the president left a lot of conservatives shaking their heads” by avoiding the issues atop their agenda, said Bill Lauderback, executive vice president at the American Conservative Union. [WSJ, 1/25/07]

“We’re disappointed that he didn’t mention cultural issues at all,” said Rich Lowry,
editor of National Review magazine and a summit host. “Everyone realizes that this is a product of his diminished circumstances.” [AP, 1/24/07]

The Wall Street Journal reports the administration has now been forced to defend itself against criticism from the right. “Yesterday morning, the weekly meeting of conservatives that is convened by anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, a White House ally, was marked by ‘tense exchanges‘ with administration press secretary Tony Snow.”

LSB: Cultural conservatives will get no sympathy from me. I felt the absence of divisive right-wing issues a refreshing reprise after six years of relentless attacks.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Daily Show on SoTU 2007

As always, The Daily Show has a hysterical take on Bush's State of the Union and the Democratic response.

Click on the pick to watch the video.

Forgetting Something?

Yahoo! News:

New Orleans is still a mess and the pace of recovery across the Gulf Coast from Hurricane Katrina's strike remains achingly slow after 17 months. But none of this captured President Bush's attention on the year's biggest night for
showcasing policy priorities.

In the president's State of the Union speech last year, delivered just five months after the disaster, the devastation merited only 156 words out of more than 5,400.

On Tuesday night, the president spoke for almost exactly as long before a joint session of Congress. But Katrina received not a single mention.

By contrast, in the days ahead of the president's address, Democratic Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia compared the U.S. money being spent on Iraqi reconstruction with the fraction committed to the Gulf Coast rebuilding. And, chosen to give the Democratic response to Bush on Tuesday, Webb brought up the continuing struggle of Katrina victims right away, listing "restoring the vitality of New Orleans" just behind education and health care among his party's most pressing priorities, according to the text of his speech distributed in advance.

LSB: Come on, what could he say? New Orleans was not on his mind when it happened and it is not on his mind now. Saying anything at all would have been a stark reminder of all that his administration has NOT done for the people of New Orleans. Pathetic.

Boehner On CNN — 60-90 Days For Surge


This passed almost entirely unnoticed, but it's important. Late yesterday House GOP leader John Boehner was interviewed by CNN, and he appeared to set a deadline for President Bush to show that his "surge" strategy will succeed. He was asked the following question: "How long can you and your membership give the President and give the Iraqi military before you say, `You know what? You're not doing your job.'?" Boehner's answer: "I think it'll be rather clear in the next sixty to ninety days as to whether this plan's going to work."
So what will Boehner's stance be after those 60- 90 days are up? Will he invoke a Friedman call for another 60 - 90 days? (Click the pic for the video.)

A Tale of Two Pictures

Olbermann: A Look Back at Bush’s SoTU Credibility

Keith takes us on a stroll down memory lane to assess President Bush's credibilty when it comes to the State of the Union address. (Click the pic above to watch the video.)

Cheney Spars with Blitzer Over Criticism of Iraq, Mary’s Pregnancy

During an exclusive interview with Wolf Blitzer on The Situation Room, an especially brash Vice President Cheney called criticism of his administration's handling of Iraq "hogwash" and questions about his daughter Mary's pregnancy (and Focus on the Family's criticism of it) "out of line."

(Click on the pic to view the exchange.)

Andrew Sullivan: The vice-president really does believe that he can somehow champion a party that declares that his daughter must be barred from any legal protections for her child and marriage and never be confronted with the contradiction. Sorry, Mr vice-president, but one day you will have to address how you can front a party dedicated to smearing, marginalizing and disenfranchising a member of your own family. Wolf Blitzer's question is not out of line. Your hypocrisy is.

Indecision 08: Clusterf@#k to the WhiteHouse

Fulfilling his "solemn duty" as a fake newsman, Jon Stewart jumps on the hysterical mainstream media bandwagon of analyzing Presidential polls — 21 months before the election.

"So there it is…twenty-one months before Election Night '08. Wow. 24 hours news networks, that's a lot of airtime to fill."
(Click on the pic for the video.)

You tell 'em, Chuck!

Click on the pic for the video of Hagel's forceful plea to his colleagues on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding the escalation of troops in Iraq. Transcript follows:

We are not about — this resolution, those who I'm associated with, I don't think anybody in the Senate — if there is one senator in the United States Senate that
is all about defeating America, making America's position more dangerous, eroding our standing in the world, I don't know of that person. If you do, please let me know.

Every one of the 100 senators — Republican, Democrat, independent — that I know of has said, "How do we do this in a way that we look after, first, the national interests of America?" That still is rather significant.

I don't question the president's sincerity, his motivations in this. I never have. Nor anyone in his administration.

This president is sincere about what he said last night. He believes this is the right thing to do. I happen to disagree.

So, but we don't, somehow, project to the outside world that there's disagreement in our government, in our country, about the future of Iraq, I think that if that is what our role is going to be — and yes, Mr. Lugar, we can hold more hearings, oversight. I don't know what that's produced. We are going to have more oversight.

Part of the problem that we have, I think, is because we didn't — we didn't involve the Congress in this when we should have.

And I'm to blame. Every senator who's been here the last four years has to take some responsibility for that.

But I will not sit here in this Congress of the United States at this important time for our country and in the world and not have something to say about this. And maybe I'll be wrong. And maybe I have no political future. I don't care about that.

But I don't ever want to look back and have the regret that I didn't have the courage and I didn't do what I could to at least project something.

This resolution, by the way, does not tie the hands of the president of the United States. It does not tie the hands of the president of the United States in any way.

So I would go back to where I began, and pick up on a point that Chairman Lugar mentioned: coherence of strategy.

I don't know how many United States senators believe we have a coherent strategy in Iraq. I don't think we've ever had a coherent strategy.

In fact, I would even challenge the administration today to show us the plan that the president talked about the other night. There is no plan. I happen to know Pentagon planners were on their way to the Central Com over the weekend. They haven't even team B'ed this plan.

And my dear friend Dick Lugar talks about coherence of strategy. There is no
strategy. This is a ping-pong game with American lives.

These young men and women that we put in Anbar province, in Iraq, in Baghdad are not beans. They're real lives. And we better be damn sure we know what we're doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder. We better be as sure as you can be.

And I want every one of you, every one of us, 100 senators to look in that camera, and you tell your people back home what you think. Don't hide anymore; none of us.

That is the essence of our responsibility. And if we're not willing to do it, we're not worthy to be seated right here. We fail our country. If we don't debate this, if we don't debate this, we are not worthy of our country. We fail our country.

Why the Democrats can't stop the surge

... Last Thursday, Salon ran Walter Shapiro's article "Why the Democrats Can't Stop the Surge." I've come to a different conclusion about what Congress can or can't do. The questions are not just: Can Congress stop the surge? Can Congress stop a war-mongering president in his tracks? The better question is what are the things Congress can accomplish just by trying to stop the escalation, boldly, and without apology?
The answer to that is: an enormous amount — and that the only thing that can guarantee Democratic political weakness in 2008 is if they abandon a strong withdrawal (or, if you prefer, "redeployment") position.

Senate Rejects Minimum Wage Hike


U.S. Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked a Democratic bill to increase the federal minimum wage for the first time in a decade, demanding it first include small-business tax relief.

Democrats fell short of the 60 needed to end debate and go to passage of the House-passed measure, which would raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour from $5.15 per hour over two years.

As I understand it, the bill is NOT dead, but can be passed with some caveats for small-business tax relief.

Carl Bernstein: Bush Administraton Has Done 'Far Greater Damage' Than Nixon

In an online chat at on Wednesday afternoon, Carl Bernstein, the famed Watergate reporter at that paper and now writing articles for Vanity Fair, took several hard shots at the current Bush administration – almost every time he was asked about the Nixon era. It came just as news of the death of former Watergate ringleader E. Howard Hunt was circulating widely.

After a long explanation of how the American system "worked," eventually, with Watergate, Bernstein said:
"In the case George W. Bush, the American system has obviously failed – tragically – about which we can talk more in a minute. But imagine the difference in our worldview today, had the institutions – particularly of government – done their job to ensure that a mendacious and dangerous president (as has since been proven many times over, beyond mere assertion) be restrained in a war that has killed thousands of American soldiers, brought turmoil to the lives of millions, and constrained the goodwill towards the United States in much of the world." (more)

Hagel On Cheney Remarks: ‘He Has So Little Faith In This Country To Say Something Like That’

Yesterday on CNN, Vice President Cheney told Wolf Blitzer that “the biggest threat” in the Iraq war right now is that the American public may not have the “stomach for the fight.”

Responding to Cheney’s comments, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) told PBS Newshour host Gwen Ifill that it’s astounding the Vice President so “underestimates the people of this country” and “has so little faith in this country to say something like that.” Hagel also suggested that Cheney talk to the families of the soldiers and tell them “that they don’t have the stomach.” (Watch it.)

Fox’s Gibson: CNN Reporter Who Debunked Obama Smear Probably Went To The Same Madrassa

Last week, Fox News highlighted a right-wing report alleging that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) attended an Islamic “madrassa” school as a 6-year-old child. In a memo released today, Obama’s office specifically called out Fox News host John Gibson for discussing the story “without any attempt to independently confirm the charges.”

On his radio show this week, Gibson refused to back down. He claimed the CNN reporter who debunked the false report “probably went to the very madrassa” as Obama. Gibson implied that CNN’s report had covered up religious extremism at the school:

GIBSON: [W]hat did they see when they went to the madrassa where Barack Obama went to school?

HOST: Kids playing volleyball.

GIBSON: Playing volleyball, right. They didn’t see them in any terrorist training camps?


GIBSON: No. Um, but they probably didn’t show them in their little lessons where they’re bobbing their heads and memorizing the Koran.

HOST: I didn’t see any tape of that, no.

LSB: Who the fuck is this little asshole? Looks a little like a closet-case... or a Colorado Springs evangelical... or I guess that's the same thing. Anyone know if he is? Not a FAUX-TV viewer here, so I've never heard of him. FAUX-TV must be bringing in the lowest level of "personalities" to entertain the kunckle-draggers.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Today was a very significant day for CREW.

Last July, I received copies of e-mails that were purportedly sent by Rep. Mark Foley to a sixteen year old intern. As a former federal prosecutor who had handled sex crimes – including crimes involving minors – my immediate instinct was that something was wrong. Foley’s emails screamed sexual predator.

Like any trained prosecutor, my instinct was to turn the e-mails over to the proper authorities. That meant the FBI. I did it the very day I saw the e-mails – I felt that strongly. Expecting the FBI to handle the matter professionally, I didn’t give the matter much further thought until the scandal blew wide open two months later. Only then did I discover – much to my surprise – that the FBI had never looked into the emails at all.

Shortly after the story broke on ABC News, CREW immediately called for an ethics investigation of Foley and we posted the e-mails. We were repeatedly asked by the media where we got the e-mails and what we did with them. I gave the same answer every time. I told anyone who asked that I had provided the e-mails to the FBI back in July.

The FBI provided the media with a different version of events – a version intimating that CREW wasn't telling the truth. As someone who had worked in law enforcement, I was furious that the FBI would publicly lie about CREW’s actions, but lie it had.
So, CREW took the next step. We filed a complaint with the Inspector General's office at the Department of Justice asking for a full investigation into the facts and events surrounding both CREW’s and the FBI’s actions.

Today, CREW was vindicated. The IG found that the FBI should have taken some action when the agents received the e-mails. The IG also concluded that the FBI provided "inaccurate" information to the media about CREW. Not exactly news to us, but validation by the IG’s office is very important to those of us at CREW. After all, CREW is an ethics organization and a reputation for integrity is critical to our success.

It's not easy to get in to the ring with the FBI, but the Bureau challenged CREW’s (and my) honesty and credibility. That was worth the fight. And, in the end, the truth prevailed.

- Melanie Sloan, Executive Director, Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington (CREW)

Flight ban for anti-Bush T-shirt

A passenger barred from a Qantas airlines flight for wearing a T-shirt depicting US President George Bush as a terrorist has threatened legal action.

Allen Jasson said he was sticking up for the principle of free speech by challenging the decision by the Australian flag carrier.

Mr Jasson was stopped as he was about to board the flight from Melbourne to London last Friday.
Qantas said the T-shirt had potential to offend other passengers.

The T-shift features an image of President George W Bush, along with the slogan "World's Number One Terrorist".

The 55-year-old computer specialist, who lives in London, had encountered difficulties with the same T-shirt on an earlier Qantas flight in December.

After clearing the international security checks at Melbourne Airport, he reportedly approached the gate manager to congratulate him on the company's new-found open-mindedness.

At that point, Mr Jasson was ordered to remove the T-shirt after being told it was a security threat and an item which might cause offence to other passengers.

He was offered the chance to board the flight wearing different clothing, but refused.

"I am not prepared to go without the t-shirt. I might forfeit the fare, but I have made up my mind that I would rather stand up for the principle of free speech," he told Australian media.

A Qantas spokesman defended the airline's decision, saying: "Whether made verbally or on a T-shirt, comments with the potential to offend other customers or threaten the security of a Qantas group aircraft will not be tolerated".

- John in DC, AmericaBlog: Passengers flying Qantas are no longer permitted to say anything that might offend another passenger, including criticism of George Bush, or they are thrown off the airline. How about a religious extremist customer who is offended when I tell him I'm gay?

CNN host says "faggot" on the air - calls it simply a "naughty name." ABC asks same host to do commentary on GMA

"My Two Sense" blog reports that it's now apparently CNN policy that its hosts can use the word "faggot" on the air because it's simply "a naughty name." No bleep, nothing. And the CNN host, Glenn Beck, even went so far as to make fun of the New York Times for not using the word "faggot" in print.

From CNN's own transcript:

BECK: I'm down to this crappy show. But anyway, Dave, what is the - what is the controversy? One of the guys called another guy a naughty name.

GLOVER: Yes. Basically you have Isaiah Washington, who's one of the stars of the show, who referred to one of his co-stars during a heated argument a derogatory term for a gay man that starts with "F", rhymes with maggot. Did it a couple more times after that. And do you like how I did that?

BECK: Yes.

GLOVER: And...

BECK: Do you know that "The New York Times" wouldn't even print - I mean, we can say the word. We're having an adult conversation here. Wouldn't even print the word "faggot."

GLOVER: Right.

BECK: Wouldn't print it. I find that amazing.

A naughty name? Does CNN consider the n-word just a naughty name too? How about the k-word for Jews, or the s word for Hispanics? Just naughty names we can say on the air, and criticize others for not using them too? And what does ABC - the network of Isaiah "You're a Faggot" Washington - think about all of this? Why invoke ABC? Because they just asked this neanderthal Beck to do regular commentary on Good Morning America. Diane Sawyer said she thinks Beck's comments are based in "common sense." Really? Perhaps ABC could explain the common sense behind calling someone a "faggot"?

CNN and ABC are fooling themselves if they don't think there's going to be a massive advertiser boycott of both networks very soon. And as a veteran of such boycotts, I can't imagine any advertiser is going to want to stick with a show, or a network, that uses and tries to diminish the abhorrent nature of slurs like "faggot."
As an interesting aside, CNN deleted an entire segment of an interview with Bill Maher a few months back because Maher suggested that then-Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman might be gay. New Rule: Maher would have apparently been fine with CNN if he'd simply said that Ken Mehlman was a faggot.