Friday, November 30, 2007

A New Push to Roll Back ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

Thom Shanker and Patrick Healy, The New York Times: Marking the 14th anniversary of legislation that allowed gay men and lesbians to serve in the military but only if they kept their orientation secret, 28 retired generals and admirals plan to release a letter on Friday urging Congress to repeal the law.

“We respectfully urge Congress to repeal the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy,” the letter says. “Those of us signing this letter have dedicated our lives to defending the rights of our citizens to believe whatever they wish.”

The retired officers offer data showing that 65,000 gay men and lesbians now serve in the American armed forces and that there are more than one million gay veterans.

“They have served our nation honorably,” the letter states.

The letter’s release comes as rallies are scheduled on the Mall by groups calling for a change in the law, which is known as “don’t ask, don’t tell” because it bars the military from investigating soldiers’ sexual orientation if they keep it to themselves.

Although the signers of the letter are high-ranking, none are of the stature of Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when the policy was adopted and who now argues for its repeal. General Shalikashvili refocused attention on the issue earlier this year when he wrote that conversations with military personnel had prompted him to change his position.

The current generation of Americans entering the armed services have proved to him “that gays and lesbians can be accepted by their peers,” the general wrote in an Op-Ed article published in The New York Times on Jan. 2.

“I now believe that if gay men and lesbians served openly in the United States military, they would not undermine the efficacy of the armed forces,” General Shalikashvili wrote. “Our military has been stretched thin by our deployments in the Middle East, and we must welcome the service of any American who is willing and able to do the job.”

From the time the policy became law through 2006, just over 10,000 members of the armed forces have been forced from the military under the policy, according to government statistics. ...

According to the Pentagon, the number of service members discharged under the policy has declined noticeably since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, dropping to 612 in the 2006 fiscal year from 1,227 in the 2001 fiscal year.

Pelosi: Bush and His Republican Allies Are Preventing Extra Funds from Reaching Our Troops

Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued the following statement today in response to President Bush’s remarks this afternoon at the Pentagon:

“Earlier this month, Congress approved nearly a half trillion dollars for the Department of Defense. Just two weeks ago, House Democrats passed $50 billion in additional funding for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have provided every penny that is currently necessary to fund Defense Department operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world. It is President Bush and his Republican allies in the Senate who are preventing extra funds from reaching our troops.

“The President opposes the House bill because it requires our troops to be fully trained and fully equipped before they are deployed, establishes a goal of December 2008 for the completion of the redeployment of our forces from Iraq, and prohibits torture as an interrogation technique for the U.S. government.

“Rather than explain to the American people why he objects to those provisions, the President and Republican Senators have prevented the Senate from even considering the bill. Today at the Pentagon, the President spoke of the need for Congress to work together to ensure that our troops and their families have the support they need. In that spirit, I call upon the President to instruct Senate Republicans to stop blocking consideration of the House funding bill. It is their obstruction that is producing the uncertainty for our troops and their families that the President voiced concern about today.

“The President also spoke of the need to modernize our military. The single biggest obstacle to improving our military capabilities is the war in Iraq, which has plunged military readiness to levels not seen since the Vietnam War. Reducing the number of American troops in Iraq as called for in the House funding bill is essential if the military readiness crisis is to be resolved.

“Our brave men and women in uniform have done everything that has been asked of them in Iraq and Afghanistan. Democrats are committed to providing them everything they need to do their jobs and to care for their families.”

LSB: Why do the Repuglicans hate our troops?

Card Rejects Rove’s Claim That Congress Pushed Bush To War: ‘His Mouth Gets Ahead Of His Brain’

Karl Rove asserted on the Charlie Rose show recently that it was Congress that pushed the Bush administration into war with Iraq. “The administration was opposed” to voting for a war resolution in the fall of 2002, Rove claimed. “It seemed it make things move too fast,” he argued.

As ThinkProgress documented, key leaders in both the House and the Senate — including then-Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) — were asking Bush in 2002 to delay the Iraq war vote. But as Daschle recalled, when he asked Bush to delay the vote, Bush “looked at Cheney and he looked at me, and there was a half-smile on his face. And he said: ‘We just have to do this now.’”
This morning, former White House chief of staff at the time, Andrew Card, appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe and completely discredited Rove’s argument:
SCARBOROUGH: We have to start with something that we all are talking about a couple of days ago where Karl Rove went on Charlie Rose and he blamed the Democrats for pushing him and the president into war. Is that how it worked?
CARD: No, that’s not the way it worked.
Card went on to explain that sometimes Rove’s “mouth gets ahead of his brain”:
SCARBOROUGH: Is that just Karl spinning beyond the White House? …
CARD: Well, Karl is very smart. He’s — sometimes his brain gets ahead of his mouth. And sometimes his mouth gets ahead of his brain.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Media: Pelosi’s Syria Diplomacy = ‘Foolish’; Bush’s Syria Diplomacy = ‘Victory’ When Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi traveled to Syria to visit President Bashar al-Assad last spring, the right wing immediately excoriated her diplomatic efforts.
President Bush said the trip “sends mixed signals” to the Assad government, and Dana Perino called the trip “a really bad idea.” Vice President Dick Cheney said Assad’s “bad behavior’s being rewarded.” Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) viciously accused Democrats of being “so drunk with grandiose visions of deposing Bush that they break bread with terrorists and enemies of the United States.”

The media picked up the conservative talking points and ran with them:
  • CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux: “Why should the Americans, or even the international community, see this any more as a political stunt here, a publicity stunt, a big wet kiss to President Al-Assad?”
  • Washington Post Editorial Board: “Ms. Pelosi’s attempt to establish a shadow presidency is not only counterproductive, it is foolish.”
  • Thomas Sowell of the Baltimore Sun: “All that Ms. Pelosi’s trip can accomplish is to advertise American disunity to a terrorist-sponsoring nation in the Middle East while we are in a war there.”
  • NBC’s Matt Lauer: “But if the Democrats and Speaker Pelosi appear to be acting irresponsibly or incompetently — and let’s face it, a lot of people think she messed up on this one — what’s the impact for Democrats overall?”
Now that the Bush administration has come to its senses and invited Syria to become part of the solution in the Middle East, the media has missed the administration’s reversal, instead praising Bush’s “victory” in securing Syria’s attendance:
  • New York Times: “Syria announced Sunday that it would attend the Middle East peace meeting beginning here Monday night, joining Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab League participants in a turnabout that represented a victory for the Bush administration.”
  • The Denver Post: “Victory for U.S.: Syria to attend summit.”
  • The AP’s Amy Teibel: “The Bush administration was able to declare a clean sweep when Syria, the last Arab world holdout, said Sunday it would attend this week’s high-stakes Mideast peace conference.”
  • The Wall Street Journal: “The Bush administration is even courting a long-time pariah, Syria. … Talks with Syria could go some way in weakening Tehran’s strongest alliance in the region.”
  • The AP’s Sam Ghattas: “The Syrian participation is already seen in Washington as a success for the Bush administration.”
With the exception of a right-wing editorial in the Wall Street Journal attacking the Bush administration, not a single media outlet appears to have noticed that only six months ago, they — and the White House — were imprudently ripping the Speaker for reaching out to Syria.

LSB: We don't have an independent media any more - they've all become stenographers for the RNC. And for the record, Suzanne, talk about a big wet kiss - "W" travels to Annapolis (it's practically in the back yard of the White House, so not to come would have been a huge diplomatic snub), mangles the names of both leaders (was he drunk, or just being "W"?), gets the photo for the press pool and leaves after just a few hours. (I guess he was delegating this important summit to underlings.) Given his "leadership" style, we should all be grateful he didn't stick around. What a tool! How many more days until he goes into retirement (on government welfare)?

Rove: "Congress Pushed Bush to War in Iraq Prematurely"

Paul Abrams, You are not going to believe this, well, actually you will... According to Karl Rove (on Charlie Rose), the Bush Administration did not want Congress to vote on the Iraq War resolution in the fall of 2002, because they thought it should not be done within the context of an election. Rove, you see, did not think the war vote should be "political".

Moreover, according to Rove, that "premature vote" led to many of the problems that cropped up in the Iraq War. Had Congress not pushed, he says, Bush could have spent more time assembling a coalition, and provided more time to the inspectors.

If you are like me, you have stopped reading/listening, and are rushing to get your anti-emetic.

It is worth remembering that the Senate in the fall of 2002 was controlled, barely, by Democrats. Get it? George Bush, we are being told, wanted to delay, wanted to hold back, wanted to take the time to build a coalition and let the inspectors finish their job, but that damn Congress just pushed him into it. George Bush, you see, is a careful, prudent, leader, deeply concerned about the consequences of premature.

Get it? If Biden, Clinton, Dodd or Edwards is part of the Democratic ticket, the Republicans will run a campaign charging the Senate Democrats with rushing to judgment, of pushing the poor President to premature...(well, you fill in the blank)...

Not that Iraq is that big of an issue. Rove claims that, if Iraq had been a big issue, that Joe Lieberman, who was pro-war, could not have won in Connecticut, defeating receiving more Democratic, Independent and Republican votes than any of his opponents.

I have purposefully NOT provided the (obvious) answers to his claims because to answer is to give him control of the argument. That's Rove's tactic, and I have written about that many times in these pages.

Instead, this should be used as a trigger to talk about Rove's history of dissembling, how that is reflected in the Bush Administration's entire approach to public policy and public information. Bush, through Rove, should be attacked for trying to escape responsibility and accountability. And, it will help to make some historical references to rulers whose tenure was so dismal that they could not allow historians to provide objective analyses, and thus try to write the history themselves.

As might have been predicted, Rove raises "historical revisionism" to new depths, what may become known as "hysterical Rovisionism."

LSB: You have to admire the balls on this guy (Rove) - he's putting out this shit like it doesn't stink. This was the MOST political of calculations to force a showdown with the Dems over who was the most patriotic. "W" practically dared anyone to vote against the war authorization. Let the coutdown begin as to how many times Repuglicans will begin to repeat this lie - and how many times this lie will be repeated on FAUX News - until all the wingnuts begin to spout it as fact. So sad that the party of Lincoln has come to this!

Repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

John Edwards (D-NC): “It is long past time to end the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy and to allow openly gay men and women to serve in the military. It is critical to our national security that we have the best people in our military. Gay men and women have continually served our country with honor and bravery, and we should honor their commitment and never turn away anyone who is willing to serve their country because of their sexual orientation.

“This is an issue of fundamental fairness – and our military ought to treat everyone fairly. ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ did not become wrong. It was always wrong. Instead of fumbling when people question the morality of the 12,000 gays and lesbians who have unjustly lost military careers, we must repeal ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”

Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT): Tolerance, fairness and opportunity are fundamental American values. From my strong support for civil unions and work to fight to extend equal benefits and rights to same-sex couples, I believe we should all approach issues facing the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community as if they affected their own children and grandchildren – because it might.

That includes Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Right now we need to be encouraging, not discouraging as many good people as possible to serve in the military. And I believe excluding people from service based on their sexual orientation is counterproductive and does a great disservice to our men and women in uniform and our country. Heroes like Marine Staff Sergeant Eric Alva, the first American wounded in the war in Iraq, should be treated like any other brave soldier who risks his or her life defending our nation.

That is why I believe the time to put an end to the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has come – a change I called for some time ago. As President, I would call for a meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to draw up plans that put an end to this policy within 6 months.

I know some remain opposed to this idea – it was only a few months ago that General Peter Pace, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made comments regarding gays and lesbians serving in our military that I believed were completely out of line.

But Presidential leadership isn’t about taking the easy path – it’s about bringing people together to get results. For a quarter century, I have been turning Democratic principles into national policies. And ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell will be one policy I insist upon. At a time of war, when we are having a hard enough time recruiting people—good people who could go on to serve our country honorably—that is the kind of leadership we need in the White House. With so much at stake, we simply cannot afford to spend another second or dime discriminating against anyone who wants to serve in our nation’s military.

Honor, integrity and the willingness to sacrifice ought to be the determining factors as to whether or not men and women can wear the uniform of the United States military – not sexual orientation. As Marine Staff Sgt. Alva knows, repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is an idea whose time has come. And with the right leadership in this election, it will.

Mitt Romney = Hypocrisy

Mansoor Ijaz, The Christian Science Monitor: I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters, given his position that "jihadism" is the principal foreign policy threat facing America today. He answered, "…based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration."

Romney, whose Mormon faith has become the subject of heated debate in Republican caucuses, wants America to be blind to his religious beliefs and judge him on merit instead. Yet he seems to accept excluding Muslims because of their religion, claiming they're too much of a minority for a post in high-level policymaking. More ironic, that Islamic heritage is what qualifies them to best engage America's Arab and Muslim communities and to help deter Islamist threats.

LSB: If he claimed to be a cowboy, we'd say 'he's all hat and no cattle;' in this case, I'd say Romney is 'all hair, and nothing beneath the surface.'

Monday, November 26, 2007

FLASHBACK: As Halliburton CEO, Cheney Evaded U.S. Law To Do Business With Iran In an interview with Fortune Magazine’s Nina Easton, Dick Cheney conceded that as Halliburton CEO he opposed unilateral sanctions on Iran, even though he now strongly supports them. Cheney explained that as a private sector official, he didn’t have any responsibility to be concerned about the impact of his company’s dealings with Iran:

Q: You opposed unilateral sanctions on Iran when you were CEO of Halliburton.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I did. […] That’s a whole set of considerations that a CEO doesn’t have to worry about, that a private company doesn’t have to worry about. But the President of the United States does.

What Cheney conveniently neglects to mention is that Halliburton evaded U.S. law in order to deal with Iran. The International Emergency Economic Powers Act authorizes the president to block transactions and freeze assets to deal with rogue nations. In 1995, President Clinton signed an executive order barring U.S. investment in Iran’s energy sector. To evade U.S. law, Halliburton set up an offshore subsidiary that engaged in dealings with Iran.

In 1996, Cheney blasted the Clinton administration for being “sanction-happy as a government.” “The problem is that the good Lord didn’t see fit to always put oil and gas resources where there are democratic governments,” Cheney explained of his desire to do business with Iran.

ABC’s Sam Donaldson confronted Cheney about this in 2000, only to hear Cheney obfuscate about his dealings with Iran:

DONALDSON: I’m told, and correct me if I’m wrong, that Halliburton through subsidiary companies was actually trying to do business with Iraq.

CHENEY: No. No, I had a firm policy that we wouldn’t do anything in Iraq, even
arrangements that were supposedly legal. What we do with respect to Iran and Libya is done through foreign subsidiaries totally in compliance with U.S. law.

DONALDSON: Make a way around U.S. law?

CHENEY: No, no, it’s provided for us specifically with respect to Iran and Libya. Iraq’s different, but we’ve not done any business in Iraq since the sanctions were imposed, and I had a standing policy that I wouldn’t do that.

Cheney’s evasion of U.S. law to deal with Iran has been well-documented. As the Bush administration now presses for tougher sanctions against Iran, Cheney should concede that Halliburton violated the spirit of the law and encourage other U.S. companies not to follow his lead.

LSB: I hate to wish anyone ill-will, but it would be a wonderful thing if his doctor's advised him to step down... not that he'd give up the mantel of power and the strings to his puppet-President.

Barbour’s Proposed Special Election To Replace Lott May Violate Election Law Earlier today, Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-MS) announced that he “will be retiring from the Senate by the end of the year.” Soon after the announcement, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) put out a statement declaring that “pursuant to Mississippi law,” he would “call a Special Election for United States Senator to be held on November 4, 2008″:

Pursuant to Mississippi law, specifically § 23-15-855 (1), of the Mississippi Code, once the resignation takes effect, I will call a Special Election for United States Senator to be held on November 4, 2008, being the regular general election day for the 2008 congressional elections.

If Lott does indeed retire by the end of 2007, as he says he wishes to do, Barbour’s proposed timing for the election might run afoul of state election law. According to the Mississippi secretary of state’s office, Barbour would have to hold the election before Nov. 2008:

While Lott sneaks in under the wire for the extended ban on lobbying Congress by retiring this year, the secretary of state’s office said Monday that state law appears to require a special election within 90 days if he does so.

Conversely, if Lott were to wait and retire in 2008, the law allows for the special election to be held the same day as the general. Of course, he would then be subject to the new two-year ban on lobbying his former colleagues, instead of the current one-year ban.

Because 2007 was a statewide election year, it “could affect how the language of the law is interpreted.” The secretary of state’s office is “checking that law to make sure the 90-day window still applies,” according to spokesman Kell Smith.

Barbour’s office, however, appears to not be concerned about the potential legal brouhaha, saying simply that the governor’s statement “speaks for itself.”

It is speculated that Lott is retiring now so that he can avoid tougher restrictions on former members of Congress’ lobbying activities, but if Lott leaves before 2007 and forces an earlier special election, he may threaten his party’s continued control of his seat:

An earlier special election would likely produce smaller turnout, which would probably benefit Democrats in an overwhelmingly GOP state with a concurrent presidential election.

Lott faces a tough decision: Sacrifice a year of cashing in on his Senate seat or potentially sacrifice his seat to his political opponents.

LSB: Sorry, Haley, Trent ain't gonna wait around for two years to begin his lobbying career - even if it means losing control of that Senate seat. He's got to look out for himself, and the Repugnant Party is just gonna have to eat it. This is Trent's revenge on his Party for not supporting him during Thurmondgate.

Lott To Leave Quickly To Beat Lobbying Ban

Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) will resign his seat by the end of the year, he announced in his home town of Pascagoula on Monday. The announcement took Capitol Hill by surprise because Lott, the former majority leader, seemed to be relishing his job as minority whip, the second-ranking GOP leadership job.

He had regained a post in leadership after he resigned following racially insensitive remarks at a birthday party for the late Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.).

A Lott friend said part of the reason, and a factor in the timing, is a new lobbying regulation, signed by President Bush in September, extending the existing lobbying ban for former members of Congress from one to two years. The lobbying ban takes effect at the end of this year. ...

Lott denied that the strict new rules prohibiting senators from lobbying for two years — which take effect on Dec. 31 — are causing him to jump ship now, as opposed to next year or at the end of his current term in 2012. ...

He admitted to being frustrated in the minority on Capitol Hill, saying that the divisive climate has made it “awfully tough” to craft bipartisan compromises on legislation .

LSB: There's no hope for the GOP to take control of the Senate in 2008 (and perhaps not for many more years, God willing), so Lott is jumping ship before those pesky lobbying bans ensnare him. Who does he think he's fooling by denying that? Is there any politico in Washington that thinks the American public has a brain? Why do they treat us like we can't see right through this ruse? Lott is just another politico looking for the gravy train after years of screwing the American people. If he doesn't get out now, there might be too many others that have decided "to retire" ahead of him that might cut into his take of the lobbying money. This last line, about the divisive climate making it difficult to craft bipartison compromises on legislation, is laughable. This turd wouldn't know bipartisan from his left nut! He and his ilk have contributed to the divisive climate, so this is just another attempt at rewriting his personal history of failure in the Senate. Good riddance to bad trash!

FL College Approves Medical Plan For Employee’s Pets, Denies Benefits For Domestic Partners

Via The Palm Beach Post:

The pets of Palm Beach Community College employees will qualify for discounted group medical insurance beginning in January, but domestic partners are still barred from receiving similar benefits.

School officials sent a memo last week explaining the new voluntary pet benefit available via payroll deduction through the private company Veterinary Pet Insurance.

Rand Hoch, president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, said it is wrong for the college to put the medical needs of pets above those of the human loved ones of employees.

“The fact of the matter is puppies are covered, partners are not,” said Hoch, who sent a letter to PBCC President Dennis Gallon requesting the domestic partner plan be put before trustees again in January. “It’s the same benefit; neither costs the college a penny.” Read on…

If we had universal health care in America, this sort of discrimination would be a thing of the past — it would also destroy one of the right’s favorite talking points against gay marriage.

Impeachment: If not now, when?

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors. -- Article II, Section 4

On Nov. 6, Rep. Dennis Kucinich introduced articles of impeachment against Vice President Dick Cheney on the floor of the House of Representatives. For one shining moment the will of the majority of Americans and the promise of this nation's founders were truly represented.

The detailed charges were solemnly read from the House podium and televised on C-Span. House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer made a motion to table the bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lobbied hard for votes to table.

In a stunning turnaround, House Republicans changed strategy and voted decisively to prevent tabling the impeachment resolution.

Pelosi was defied by 85 Democratic members who voted against tabling the impeachment resolution. This includes John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and six committee members. The resolution was quickly voted back to the Judiciary Committee, where it is not resting quietly.

Judiciary Committee member Bob Wexler wrote, "The American people are served well with a legitimate and thorough impeachment inquiry. I will urge the Judiciary Committee to schedule impeachment hearings immediately and not let this issue languish as it has over the last six months. Only through hearings can we begin to correct the abuses of Dick Cheney and the Bush administration."

Impeachment is squarely on the table, and momentum is building. A year ago, almost no elected official breathed the word impeachment. Now impeachment has hit the House floor, and our electeds have gone on record. Millions of Americans are demanding an end to executive abuse of power.

After six years of state of emergency, the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, continual war and occupations, our Constitution is deeply in crisis. Americans are in danger of losing our system of government and civil rights if they do not roll back the Bush administration's assault on the rule of law.

Allowing Cheney and George W. Bush to finish their terms without being impeached means future presidents are free to copy their lawless behavior. Of course many important issues deserve the attention of Congress. But the Constitution is the foundation of our democracy, not just an issue. Without the Constitution, we have nothing.

Polls show that 74 percent of Democrats and the majority of American adults support impeaching Cheney. "Never in our history have the high crimes and misdemeanors been so flagrant, and the people of our country know it," writes local author Richard Behan.
Kucinich has targeted Cheney first, but investigations will implicate the president as well. For the first time in the history of the Gallup Poll, 50 percent of respondents say they "strongly disapprove" of the president. Richard Nixon had reached the previous high, 48 percent, just before an impeachment inquiry was launched in 1974. With these numbers, why aren't Bush and Cheney gone already?

The vice president is accused of:
  • purposely manipulating intelligence to fabricate a threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction in order to justify an attack on Iraq;
  • deceiving Congress about an alleged relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida;
  • threatening aggression against the Republic of Iran, absent any real threat to the United States.

These violations of the Constitution and international treaty are just the tip of the iceberg. More articles of impeachment can be added at any time, and ample evidence to convict is on the public record. Representatives need to introduce articles regarding:

  • illegal war, in violation of both international treaty and the Constitution;
  • widespread domestic wiretapping in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a felony. Bush already has admitted to this;
  • condoning torture in violation of federal laws and international treaties;
  • rescinding habeas corpus, the cornerstone of Western law since the Magna Carta;
  • obstruction of justice regarding U.S. attorney firings;
  • subversion of the Constitution, abuse of signing statements and rescinding habeas corpus.

It's astounding that our representatives to Congress carry on with business as usual knowing that Americans lack habeas corpus and a working code of law. I want my representative, Dave Reichert, to block the doors of the House until habeas is restored as a basic human right in this nation!

In light of Bush's steady drumbeat for war with Iran, Kucinich said he will consider an impeachment resolution against him.

"Impeachment may well be the only remedy which remains to stop a war of aggression against Iran," he says.

"The most conservative principle of the Founding Fathers was distrust of unchecked power. Centuries of experience substantiated that absolute power corrupts absolutely. The Constitution embraced a separation of powers to keep the legislative, executive and judicial branches in equilibrium," Bruce Fein, a constitutional lawyer and associate deputy attorney general in the Reagan administration, said in the October 2006 edition of Washington Monthly.

If Congress were serious about oversight, there already would be dozens of bills and resolutions calling for impeachment of Bush and Cheney. The "Unitary Executive Theory" violates the principle of balance of power in the Constitution. The president cites this "unitary" power in hundreds of signing statements that say he can ignore laws passed by Congress.

The First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments are all now subject to the caprice of government officials. The Military Commissions Act allows U.S. citizens to be detained without due process if they are declared enemy combatants. Without our permission, this country has become an exporter of torture.

Congress has failed to provide oversight and exercise its authority to rein in a criminal administration. Only swift action on impeachment can redeem it now. The people have done the heavy work of bringing impeachment forward. Representatives need only ask if the allegations are serious enough to warrant investigations.

George Bush and Dick Cheney promote an imperial presidency. They assert that the executive is the most powerful branch of government, undermining the judiciary and Congress in violation of the Constitution's bedrock principle of shared power among three co-equal branches. This subverts the very nature of our system of government.

"This is an attempt by the president to have the final word on his own constitutional powers, which eliminates the checks and balances that keep the country a democracy. ... That's a big problem because that's essentially a dictatorship," Fein said.

Washington For Impeachment and Citizens to Impeach Bush and Cheney are working to inform the public, collect signatures to petitions, provide forums, and lobby representatives.

ashington was the second state to sponsor a bill for impeachment in the state Legislature.
Washington State Democratic organizations have passed resolutions in 11 Democratic legislative districts, five counties and the Washington State Democratic Central Committee. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, has received impeachment resolutions from almost every legislative district within his congressional district. When will he represent the will of his constituents and honor his oath to protect the Constitution?

The national movement to impeach is a non-partisan effort to restore the Constitution and the rule of law. People across the political spectrum can unite to preserve the Constitution and civil liberties given to us by the founders. Impeachment is the peaceful, orderly, constitutionally prescribed way to rid ourselves of a lawless administration.

The issue is not about removing Bush and Cheney as much as it is about preserving the Constitution and redeeming the office of the executive. The Constitution is the contract of governance between the people and the government. What happens when major portions of the contract are violated?

Congress has failed to call the president and vice president to account, so citizens must turn up the heat. Members of Congress who fail to demand investigations are covering for criminals. Every elected official has sworn an oath to "support and protect the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic." Anything less than impeachment and a full repudiation of the Bush administration's crimes and violations of the law is a dereliction of duty and a betrayal of the public trust.

If we want our democracy back, we need to roll up our sleeves and get to work to clean out the House.

Linda Boyd is director of Washington For Impeachment, Citizens to Impeach Bush and Cheney, in Olympia:

Responding to Conservative Name-Calling

George Lakoff, The Rockridge Institute: We were recently asked how to respond when confronted with the attack, "Aw you liberals just hate America."
This is name-calling with a destructive (and false) frame. There are times when it is necessary to have a retort, not for its own sake, but to allow you to shift the frame and say a lot more on any one of many topics. The replacement frame should express progressive views while revealing key truths hidden by the original frame. Here is one strategy:
"Aw you liberals just hate America."
  • No. We love democracy and we want to return it to America. You want a presidential dictator.
  • We love liberty and we want to return it to America. You want to tap our phones.
  • We love equality and we want to return it to America. You think some people are better than others.
  • We love honesty and we want to return it to America. You love lobbyists and corruption.
  • We love fairness and we want to return it to America. You want to oppress the powerless.
  • We love openness and we want to return it to America. You love secrecy and hiding the facts.
  • We love nature's glory and we want to return it to America. You love the profit that comes from destroying nature.
  • We love community and we want to return it to America. You want everyone to fend for himself.
  • We love public education and we want to return it to America. You want to destroy public education.
  • We love civilian control of the military and we want to return it to America. You want to militarize America.

LSB: Be ready to respond, because Repuglicans are like mad dogs with a bone - they never give up without a fight!

Another ex Prime Minister of Pakistan returns, demands democracy

John Aravosis (DC), Not good news for America's favorite dictator (I meant Musharraf, but it applies to Bush too). We have yet another full-blown foreign policy crisis developing in Pakistan. And a "nightmare scenario" crisis at that - as Pakistan has nukes. So does neighboring India, that might not take kindly to (or might try to take advantage of) instability on its border. What's sad is that we have an incompetent man, and administration, leading our government. That may not matter as much during the best of times, but it really matters when crises develop.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Senator Kerry Responds to Pickens' Moving the Goalposts

Last Friday, Senator Kerry responded to an offer made by T. Boone Pickens to give one million dollars to anyone who could disprove any of the charges made by the SBVT group against him by taking him up on his bet. Mr. Pickens responded by trying to retroactively change the terms of his original offer to limit its scope and impose additional conditions.

Below is the text of a letter Senator Kerry sent to Mr. Pickens this afternoon in reply.

Dear Mr. Pickens,

Thank you for your response to my acceptance of your challenge.

I’m grateful that you are prepared to make good on your word and fulfill the offer you made publicly at the American Spectator Dinner in Washington, D.C. on November 6th.

I must remind you, however, that this was and is your “challenge,” not mine. You are, after all, the one who said explicitly at the dinner — in a way that was calculated to challenge any naysayer — that you would give one million dollars “to anyone who could show that anything the SBVT said was false.” (RedState.Com) These were your words — and nowhere did you ever suggest, as you are now trying to, that your challenge referred specifically and exclusively to any advertising by the SBVT.

As you know, the lies of the SBVT were not confined just to their ads; they were a constant barrage of television, radio, Internet, speeches, and forums in which — significantly bankrolled by you — they launched and repeated lie after lie. Your challenge expressly stood behind all of their allegations.

It is disturbing that in reaffirming the challenge you issued, your parsing and backtracking seems eerily reminiscent of the entire approach of the SBVT — say one thing, put out an allegation, then duck and weave, hedge and bob when your words catch up with you. I want to believe that this was not your intent because I am told that you are a man of your word, not “all hat and no cattle.”

Honor and duty, which you purport to defend, demand that you not selectively back away from your original challenge. Your offer clearly said — boldly, unequivocally — to an audience of your friends and supporters — that you would give “a million dollars to anyone who could prove wrong anything the Swiftboat Veterans charged about Kerry.” ( In my letter, that is the offer which I accepted.

I was interested to read in your response that you don’t want to see the SBVT “maligned,” and that you aim “to prevent this important part of American history from being unfairly portrayed.” I accepted your offer precisely because I want to prevent the honorable records of the courageous men who served with me from being maligned by the repeated lies of this organization. I want to see the word “Swiftboat” restored to its original meaning — synonymous with honorable service to country, not political lies aimed to distort and divide. I would hope that your interests should also be in protecting the record of all those who served our country.

As I’ve said to you before, I am prepared to prove the lie and marshal all the evidence, the question is whether you are prepared to fulfill your obligation — no variations, no back pedaling, no retreat, no new bets, no changing the subject.

The only thing remaining now is to set the date for our meeting in an appropriate forum, after which I look forward to you keeping your word and writing a check for one million dollars payable to the Paralyzed Veterans of America so that we can put your money to good work for veterans who have returned home from Iraq and Afghanistan.


John F. Kerry
United States Senator

Garble Garble

Mike Luckovich

LSB: Belated Thanksgiving cartoon. Enjoy!

U.S. lowers bar for political success in Iraq.

The New York Times reports:

With American military successes outpacing political gains in Iraq, the Bush administration has lowered its expectation of quickly achieving major steps toward unifying the country, including passage of a long-stymied plan to share oil revenues and holding regional elections. […]

There have been signs that American influence over Iraqi politics is dwindling after the recent improvements in security — which remain incomplete, as shown by a deadly bombing Friday in Baghdad. While Bush officials once said they aimed to secure “reconciliation” among Iraq’s deeply divided religious, ethnic and sectarian groups, some officials now refer to their goal as “accommodation.”

Senior HUD Official Resigns Amidst Investigation

Paul Kiel, Federal investigators are bearing down on Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson for setting up his buddies with contracts and then telling Congress that he didn't "touch contracts."

One contract in particular that prosecutors are scrutinizing involves Jackson's friend, Atlanta lawyer Michael Hollis, who was paid approximately $1 million for managing the Virgin Islands Housing Authority, the National Journal reported last week, adding: "Before landing at the authority, some sources said, Hollis had no experience in running a public housing agency." When asked about the contract, Hollis told National Journal that "he had negotiated his contract with Orlando Cabrera, a senior HUD official, and 'people on his procurement staff.'" A grand jury has issued a subpoena for documents relating to Hollis' contract.

Well, perhaps it's a coincidence, but Cabrera, the Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing, announced that he would resign about a week before that National Journal piece came out. The resignation would be effective January 4th.

Why is he resigning? Cabrera told The Miami Herald, "I've had a wonderful experience these last few years, and I just want to take a few months to spend time with my wife and kids.... I know it sounds like the standard Potomac line, but it's not." He has "no firm career plans," the paper reports. The paper didn't ask him about the investigation, but you gotta wonder.

LSB: With all of these resignations and Republican scandals, who's left in Washington to run the government? I guess it's just those that haven't been caught yet!

Bush Admin: What You Don't Know Can't Hurt Us, 2007 Version

Paul Kiel, Another year has almost passed under the Bush Administration, and so it's time to review how much less we know.

Last year, we launched the insanely ambitious project of recording every significant instance of this administration stifling government information. As we said then, "they've discontinued annual reports, classified normally public data, de-funded studies, quieted underlings, and generally done whatever was necessary to keep bad information under wraps." To be sure, the list will continue to grow through January, 2008.

TPMm research hounds Adrianne Jeffries and Peter Sheehy set to updating our already extensive tally, and those items have been added below (don't miss our new section on global warming!). But TPMm readers made the list what it is, so if you see something else that should be on there, let us know, and we'll update it accordingly.

So, without further ado, the list! Some notable additions:
  • Does the intelligence community disagree with the administration's take on Iraq, Iran, or al Qaeda? Don't expect to hear about it. In October 2007, National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell reversed the practice of declassifying and releasing summaries of national intelligence estimates.
  • In July 2007, Richard Carmona, President Bush’s first Surgeon General from 2002-2006, testified to Congress that when he attempted to speak publicly about stem cell research, he was “blocked at every turn, told a decision had already been made, stand down, don’t talk about it.” He also testified that political appointees vetted his speeches “in such a way that would be preferable to a political or ideologically pre-conceived notion that had nothing to do with science.” Carmona was precluded from speaking openly with reporters.
  • On June 2007, the New York Times reported that Dick Cheney's resistance to "routine oversight of his office’s handling of classified information" is so intense that he has "suggested abolishing" the National Archives unit that monitors classification in the executive branch. Because Cheney has repeatedly refused "to comply with a routine annual request from the archives for data on his staff’s classification," "the Information Security Oversight Office, a unit of the National Archives, [has] appealed the issue to the Justice Department, which has not yet ruled on the matter." In a related effort to prevent the release of information about his office, Cheney has also instructed the Secret Service to destroy copies of visitor logs.

Global warming:

  • The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has to date failed to produce a congressionally-mandated report on climate change that was due in 2004. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has called the failure an "obfuscation."
  • A rule change at the U.S. Geological Survey restricts agency scientists from publishing or discussing research without that information first being screened by higher-ups at the agency. Special screening will be given to "findings or data that may be especially newsworthy, have an impact on government policy, or contradict previous public understanding to ensure that proper officials are notified and that communication strategies are developed." The scientists at the USGS cover such controversial topics as global warming. Before, studies were released after an anonymous peer review of the research.
  • In 2003, the EPA bowed to White House pressure and deleted the global warming section in its annual "Report on the Environment." The move drew condemnations from Democrats and Republicans alike.
  • In October 2007, the administration deleted the Congressional testimony of the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The director’s report on the negative health implications of climate change was, according to a CDC source, “eviscerated.”
  • A January 2007 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, UCS, and the Government Accountability Project, GAP, "found that nearly half the 279 climate scientists who responded to a survey reported being pressured to delete references to ‘global warming’ or ‘climate change’ from scientific papers or reports and many said they were prevented from talking to the media or had their work edited.”
  • On February 7, 2007, Rick Piltz (who resigned his position with the Climate Change Science Program, CCSP in 2005 in protest of White House interference with climate science and now directs the Government Accountability Project (GAP's) Climate Science Watch) testified before the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation that “the Administration suppressed official use of the National Assessment of Climate Change Impacts and has failed to continue the National Assessment process” and “the Administration has acted in a variety of ways to impede and manipulate communication about climate change by federal scientists and career science program leaders to wider audiences, including Congress and the media.”
  • In 2003, the administration had Phillip Cooney, a petroleum lobbyist who at the time was the chief of staff for the Council on Environmental Quality, edit an Environmental Protection Agency report “to eliminate a reference that human activities were causing global temperatures to rise and weakened language on the consequences of climate change - the edits prompted EPA officials to delete the entire climate change section from report.” In March 20, 2007 Phillip Cooney testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about his extensive edits to environmental reports over the past several years. The committee report showed "hundreds of instances" of edits that tempered information of the destructive impact of global warming.

It was actually a short list of disappeared items that TPM contributor Steven Benen put together over at his Carpetbagger Report that got us going on this project. Here are those entries:

And much, much more:

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans to close several libraries which were used by researchers and scientists. The agency called its decision a cost-cutting measure, but a 2004 report showed that the facilities actually brought the EPA a $7.5 million surplus annually.
  • On November 1st, 2001, President Bush issued an executive order limiting the public's access to presidential records. The order undermined the 1978 Presidential Records Act, which required the release of those records after 12 years. Bush's order prevented the release of "68,000 pages of confidential communications between President Ronald Reagan and his advisers," some of whom had positions in the Bush Administration. More here. Bush did the same thing with his papers from the Texas governorship.
  • A new policy at the The U.S. Forest Service means the agency no longer will generate environmental impact statements for "its long-term plans for America's national forests and grasslands." It also "no longer will allow the public to appeal on long-term plans for those forests, but instead will invite participation in planning from the outset."
  • In March 2006, the Department of Health and Human Services took down a six-year-old Web site devoted to substance abuse and treatment information for gays and lesbians, after members of the conservative Family Research Council complained.
  • In 2002, HHS removed information from its Web site pertaining to risky sexual behavior among adolescents, condom use and HIV.
  • Also in 2002, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission removed from its Web site a document showing that officials found large gaps in a portion of an aging Montana dam. A FERC official said the deletion was for "national security."
  • In 2004, the FBI attempted to retroactively classify public information regarding the case of bureau whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, including a series of letters between the Justice Department and several senators.
  • In October 2003, the Bush administration banned photographs depicting servicemembers' coffins returning from overseas.
  • In December 2002, the administration curtailed funding to the Mass-Layoffs Statistics program, which released monthly data on the number and size of layoffs by U.S. companies. His father attempted to kill the same program in 1992, but Clinton revived it when he assumed the presidency.
  • In 2004, the Internal Revenue Service stopped providing data demonstrating the level of its job performance. In 2006, a judge forced the IRS to provide the information.
  • Also in 2004, the Federal Communications Commission blocked access to a once-public database of network outages affecting telecommunications service providers. The FCC removed public copies and exempted the information from Freedom of Information Act requests, saying it would "jeopardize national security efforts." Experts ridiculed that notion.
  • In 2002, Bush officials intervened to derail the publication of an EPA report on mercury and children's health, which contradicted the administration's position on lowering regulations on certain power plants. The report was eventually leaked by a "frustrated EPA official."
  • Also in 2003, the EPA withheld for months key findings from an air pollution report that undercut the White House's "Clear Skies" initiative. Leaked copies were reported in the Washington Post.
  • For more than a year, the Interior Department refused to release a 2005 study showing a government subsidy for oil companies was not effective.
  • The White House Office of National Drug Policy paid for a 5-year, $43 million study which concluded their anti-drug ad campaigns did not work -- but it refused to release those findings to Congress.
  • In 2006, the Federal Communications Commission ordered destroyed all copies of an unreleased 2004 draft report concluding that media consolidation hurt local TV news coverage, which runs counter to the administration's pro-consolidation stance.
  • After Bush assumed power in 2001, the Department of Labor removed from its Web site "Don't Work in the Dark -- Know Your Rights," a publication informing women of their workplace rights. (via the National Council for Research on Women)
  • The Department of Labor also removed from its Web site roughly two dozen fact sheets on women's workplace issues such as women in management, earning differences between men and women, child care concerns, and minority women in the workplace. (via the National Council for Research on Women)
  • In February 2004, the appointed head of the Office of Special Counsel -- created to protect government employees' rights -- ordered removed from a government Web site information on the rights of gay men, lesbians and bisexuals in the public workplace. (via the National Council for Research on Women)
  • In early 2001, the Treasury Department stopped producing reports showing how the benefits of tax cuts were distributed by income class. (via the Tax Policy Center, from Paul Krugman)
  • In 2006, as a number of groups sought records of visits by disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates to the White House, the administration quietly made an agreement with the Secret Service, making sure that White House visitor records would no longer be subject to Freedom of Information Act requests.
  • On October 19, 2007, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a "final rule" that thwarts "public access to early warning information about motor vehicle safety hazards." According to Public Citizen, "today's final rule restricts public access to much of the 'early warning data' submitted by the auto and tire industry under the 2000 Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation Act (TREAD Act) to assist in the early identification of motor vehicle safety defects."
  • On November 2007, a U.S. District Court judge issued a temporary restraining order to prevent the White House from destroying back-up copies of millions of e-mails deleted (the White House says accidentally) between March 2003 and October 2005.
  • On May 23, 2007, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) "sued the Department of Education for violating the Federal Records Act (FRA) by failing to preserve copies of emails of official Education business sent by agency employees through the use of non-governmental email accounts."

Kasparov Jailed After Anti-Putin Protest

MANSUR MIROVALEV: Russian authorities arrested former world chess champion Garry Kasparov on Saturday and sentenced him to five days in prison after he helped lead a protest against President Vladimir Putin that ended in clashes with police.

Kasparov, one of President Vladimir Putin's harshest critics, was charged with organizing an unsanctioned procession of at least 1,500 people against Putin, chanting anti-government slogans and resisting arrest, court documents said. His assistant said he was beaten during the demonstration.

At the hastily organized trial, two police testified that they had been ordered before the rally to arrest Kasparov.

"What you read is the fruit of a fantasy dictated on orders from above," Kasparov told the court.

The violence came amid an election campaign in which some opposition political groups have been sidelined by new election rules or have complained of being hobbled by official harassment.

The Kremlin has mounted a major campaign to orchestrate a crushing victory for Putin's United Russia party in Dec. 2 parliamentary elections - perhaps to ensure that Putin can continue to rule Russia even after he steps down as president in May. The constitution prevents him from serving three consecutive terms.

The fracas also comes at a time of growing concern in the West over the state of democracy in Russia, with western critics saying freedoms have been curtailed during Putin's eight years in office. Putin accuses the West of meddling in Russian politics. (More)

Madison Now

Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish: A reader writes:

While doing some quick research for a job I’m applying for at James Madison’s Montpelier I ran across some unbelievable quotes attributed to the father of the Constitution given our current political and historical situations:

“If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”

“It is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad.”

“No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

“The executive has no right, in any case, to decide the question, whether there is or is not cause for declaring war.”

“War should only be declared by the authority of the people, whose toils and treasures are to support its burdens, instead of the government which is to reap its fruits.”

“Each generation should be made to bear the burden of its own wars, instead of carrying them on, at the expense of other generations.”

Now read this. And this. And people wonder why Ron Paul and Barack Obama have traction out there.

U.S. Democratic Party leaders, please pay close attention!

Richard Blair, The Liberal Party of Australian Prime Minister John Howard received a true lashing at the polls yesterday. Not only did Howard lose his prime ministership, but he won’t even have a seat in the newly elected Aussie parliament. He’s done. Cooked. Fini.

Howard has long been a lapdog of George W. Bush, much in the mold of Tony Blair, and that hasn’t been sitting well with his constituency. Many pundits will be pointing to his unfettered support for Bush policies in the middle east, and the continued deployment of a few hundred Aussie combat troops in Iraq as the primary reason for his defeat. But it’s more than that - it’s the Howard administration’s total intransigence on almost all social and economic issues affecting the working class in Australia.

Also, consider this: while Australia suffers through its worst drought in a millennium, Howard continued to give mere lip service to the global warming debate, and the sense is that his refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol (thus acknowledging the issue) was part of the reason for his party’s trouncing at the ballot box. The newly elected Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has a nice majority to work with in Parliament, and has promised that his first act as Prime Minister will be to sign the Kyoto Protocol.

Guess which country that leaves as the only major industrialized nation in the world that is holding out signing the treaty? The U.S. of A.

The depth of Howard’s defeat can’t be explained in mere references to populist-driven regime change. No, this was truly a “throw the bums out” movement. Even as recently as a couple of days ago, the world press was characterizing the election as too close to call. In the end, it wasn’t even close. A tidal wave of political change swept ashore down under, and rolled through the outback.

One of the most frustrating political dynamics for progressives in the U.S. is the sense that the Democratic Party leadership just. doesn’t. get. it. Poll after poll tells them the same thing that the Labor Party in Australia listened to: Get us out of Iraq, become a full global partner in dealing with climate change, pay attention to the working class back home, and return to the constitutional values that once defined our nation.

Lastly, let’s put one more reason on the table for John Howard’s crushing defeat: David Hicks’ detention at Guantanamo Bay.

The Hicks case brought home to Australians the topic of torture and unlawful detention in a way that America hasn’t had the opportunity to consider. For the better part of Hicks’ five year detention, the Howard administration was AWOL, and did nothing to press for his release. The absolutely kangaroo court nature of his legal proceedings played out nightly on Australian news, and Howard took much of the blame for lack of action on behalf of one of his citizens.

You won’t hear much about the Hicks case today as the U.S. press does a post election analysis. But it was a big - very big- piece of Howard’s defeat.

So, what about it, U.S. Democratic Party leaders? What about Guantanamo? What about torture and illegal wiretapping and cell phone triangulation? Yeah, those pesky little “civil liberty” issues. Ms. Clinton? Mr. Obama? Mr. Edwards? [[crickets]]

Damn. Maybe Ron Paul is actually onto something.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Can You Track Me Now?

John Amato, Crooks and Liars: And you wonder why we’ve taken such a principled stand on the NSA/FISA debate:

Federal officials are routinely asking courts to order cellphone companies to furnish real-time tracking data so they can pinpoint the whereabouts of drug traffickers, fugitives and other criminal suspects, according to judges and industry lawyers.

In some cases, judges have granted the requests without requiring the government to demonstrate that there is probable cause to believe that a crime is taking place or that the inquiry will yield evidence of a crime. Privacy advocates fear such a practice may expose average Americans to a new level of government scrutiny of their daily lives.

Such requests run counter to the Justice Department’s internal recommendation that federal prosecutors seek warrants based on probable cause to obtain precise location data in private areas. The requests and orders are sealed at the government’s request, so it is difficult to know how often the orders are issued or denied.

We are a nation of laws and this is a subversion of that tenet, but how often have we seen this already during the Bush years. Do you still want to give the big Telecoms retroactive immunity for their willing participation in the NSA program? Captain Ed, please, it’s all related… And where will it stop? From tracking drug dealers to protesters that wear “Impeach Cheney,” t-shirts is not out of the question, I kid you not.

Howard Goes Down In Flames; Australia Wins!

Rohan Sullivan, Associated Press: Conservative Prime Minister John Howard suffered a humiliating defeat Saturday at the hands of the left-leaning opposition, whose leader has promised to immediately sign the Kyoto Protocol on global warming and withdraw Australia's combat troops from Iraq.

Labor Party head Kevin Rudd's pledges on global warming and Iraq move Australia sharply away from policies that had made Howard one of President Bush's staunchest allies.

Rudd has named global warming as his top priority, and his signing of the Kyoto Protocol will leave the U.S. as the only industrialized country not to have joined it.

Rudd said he would withdraw Australia's 550 combat troops from Iraq, leaving twice that number in mostly security roles. Howard had said all the troops will stay as long as needed. ...
"Today Australia has looked to the future," Rudd said in a nationally televised victory speech, to wild cheers from supporters. "Today the Australian people have decided that we as a nation will move forward ... to embrace the future, together to write a new page in our nation's history." ... (Full story here.)
LSB: Another poodle bites the dust - John Howard (Australia) joins Jose Maria Aznar (Spain), Silvio Berlusconi (Italy), and Tony Blair (UK) in the dog pound. Just the big dog (Bush) is yet to go, and his time is coming!
UPDATE: Poland to End Iraq Mission in 2008. Poland's new prime minister outlined ambitious plans for the next four years in his inaugural address Friday, saying he plans to withdraw troops from Iraq next year but also push for stronger relations with NATO.
In a three-hour speech to parliament, Donald Tusk laid out a vision for the country that includes more capitalism - privatization, tax cuts and simplifying business laws - to bolster the economy of this ex-communist country.
While Tusk and his Civic Platform party want to continue the strong friendship with the U.S., he gave a taste of plans that, taken together, would suggest that the country plans to assert more independence in its relations with Washington.
Tusk said that, by the end of next year, Poland would withdraw its 900 troops from Iraq, where it leads an international contingent of about 2,000 soldiers from 10 nations in the south-central part of the country. ...
Tusk's call for a pullout came as no surprise. He campaigned on promises to end the unpopular mission, clashing on the issue with his opponent, then-incumbent Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who argued that withdrawing would amount to desertion.

All Is Not Well for the GOP in McCook, Nebraska

Richard Blair , McCook, Nebraska is about as close to the middle of nowhere as any town in the United States. It’s definitely located in a redder than red political zone - in 2004, the county of Red Willow went Bush/Cheney by a whopping total of 79% to 20%. So, when dissatisfaction with the direction of the country seeps into the editorial pages of the daily paper in this town, one which is located deep, deep in the heartland of America, it provides a very interesting data point.

I’m not quite sure how I stumbled upon an op-ed from an assistant editor of the McCook Daily Gazette, but it’s worth a read. If Dawn Cribbs is feeling this way, it should be clear to the Republican Party leadership in Washington that her column serves as a “canary in the mine” for the GOP. It should also serve as a wakeup call for the Democratic Party leadership:

…I sometimes fear we’ve seen the best days of the United States and are now watching the slow decline of democracy and representative government. Few of the candidates bear any resemblance to me, and wouldn’t know how to live as I live if my life was suddenly thrust upon them. How long do you suppose it’s been since any of the front runners had to pump their own gas or carefully watch the total lest they spend more than they have budgeted? I can’t help but be suspicious of those who earn high positions of leadership by spending other people’s money better than the next guy spends other people’s money. Whatever they try to win and to woo my vote, its probably going to be too little, too late.

All of these are hot button items, and the list of things that separate us seems to go on and on and on. Can there be any unity among us?…

Ms. Cribbs expresses a very serious concern, and at the same time, almost answers her own question by just the fact that she asked the question. Yes, there can be unity of purpose among us in the next 12 months. The purpose is righting the ship of state, and that’s not an exclusively conservative or liberal goal. Her column represents a shout out to both the Democratic and Republican parties - fix this mess - the mess that nearly eight years of partisan mismanagement (mostly GOP) has brought to the country.

When a local opinion maker who is far removed from Washington is looking for answers that just don’t exist in the current national political environment, it’s clear that the GOP is in some serious trouble in 2008.

Te only question remaining: can the Democratic Party leadership actually, you know, lead, and give the people of McCook, Ne. a reason to change sides in the culture wars that have engulfed the country over the past 20 years?

File the McCook, Ne. data point along with that of Camdenton, Missouri. Interesting factoid: Senator Ben Nelson, the bluedog Democrat from Nebraska, grew up in McCook. (From a comment to my crossposting at DKos…)

The Pentagon Has Lost Over 20,000 Injured Soldiers

Steven Reynolds , Perhaps we can file this under incompetence. But maybe I should be a little less alarmist, first. It isn’t really that these soldiers are lost. It’s that a full 20,000 soldiers who the Pentagon didn’t think were injured have now been diagnosed with brain injuries. Of course, it is possible this is mere incompetence and not some sort of intentional miscounting. You be the judge. From USAToday:

The data, provided by the Army, Navy and Department of Veterans Affairs, show that about five times as many troops sustained brain trauma as the 4,471 officially listed by the Pentagon through Sept. 30. These cases also are not reflected in the Pentagon’s official tally of wounded, which stands at 30,327.

The number of brain-injury cases were tabulated from records kept by the VA and four military bases that house units that have served multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One base released its count of brain injuries at a medical conference. The others provided their records at the request of USA TODAY, in some cases only after a Freedom of Information Act filing was submitted.

The data came from:

  • Landstuhl Army Regional Medical Center in Germany, where troops evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan for injury, illness or wounds are brought before going home. Since May 2006, more than 2,300 soldiers screened positive for brain injury, hospital spokeswoman Marie Shaw says.
  • Fort Hood, Texas, home of the 4th Infantry Division, which returned from a second Iraq combat tour late last year. At least 2,700 soldiers suffered a combat brain injury, Lt. Col. Steve Stover says.
  • Fort Carson, Colo., where more than 2,100 soldiers screened were found to have suffered a brain injury, according to remarks by Army Col. Heidi Terrio before a brain injury association seminar.
  • Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, where 1,737 Marines were found to have suffered a brain injury, according to Navy Cmdr. Martin Holland, a neurosurgeon with the Naval Medical Center San Diego.
  • VA hospitals, where Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been screened for combat brain injuries since April. The VA found about 20% of 61,285 surveyed — or 11,804 veterans — with signs of brain injury, spokeswoman Alison Aikele says. VA doctors say more evaluation is necessary before a true diagnosis of brain injury can be confirmed in all these cases, Aikele says.

Soldiers and Marines whose wounds were discovered after they left Iraq are not added to the official casualty list, says Army Col. Robert Labutta, a neurologist and brain injury consultant for the Pentagon.

“We are working to do a better job of reflecting accurate data in the official casualty table,” Labutta says.

They’ve found five times the soldiers with brain injuries? Gee, that’s a whopping amount of incompetence. Of course, we’ve seen some whopping incompetence by the Bush Administration before, but this sort of stretches the limits of credulity. One wonders what the really price we’ve paid in Bush’s Failed Iraq Adventure is.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Bush Administration Refuses To Condemn Saudi Court’s Punishment Of Gang Rape Victim In his second inaugural address, President Bush stridently declared that his administration would not compromise on its demand for basic human rights:

We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. America will not pretend…that women welcome humiliation and servitude.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice referred to these goals as the “non-negotiable demands of human dignity.” But a recent Saudi court decision has shown the administration very willing to fold when this rhetoric is tested.

A week ago, a Saudi appeals court increased the punishment for the female victim of a gang rape. The woman, who had been appealing her original sentence of 90 lashes, was sentenced to six months in prison and 200 lashes after her appeal.

The Saudi judges more than doubled the punishment for the victim because of “her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media.” The Saudi Justice Ministry confirmed that the stiffer sentence handed out on appeal stemmed from the fact that the victim had gone to the media with her story. “Media may have adverse effects on the other parties involved in the case,” a statement said.

Asked to offer the administration’s position on the court ruling, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on Monday that the administration was “astonished,” but had "nothing else to offer."

Yesterday, McCormack was asked if the administration’s silence was “driven by a desire not to offend Saudi Arabia as a close ally.” “No, it’s — no, that’s not it at all,” he claimed, but then acknowledged the administration has yet to convey its “astonishment” directly to the Saudis. “I am not aware of any direct contact with the Saudis on this issue,” he said.

Apparently, there is some negotiability in Bush’s demands for human freedom.

LSB: At the OPEC Summit last week Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister (and Bush friend), warned that even the mere mention to journalists of the fact that leaders were discussing the weak dollar would cause the US currency to plummet. This week this administration turns its back on the human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia. Quid pro quo. Is this what makes America great? When did we lose our values?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Is Marriage Under Attack? That’s what Brian Wlliams of NBC Nightly News claimed on his show on November 19th:

He doesn’t say exactly what marriage is under attack from, but as Jeremy at Good As You points out, his comment fits nicely into the anti-gay conservative frame that evangelical activists are are promoting about gays wanting to destroy the “sanctity of marriage.

Marriage is being harmed by a lot of things, like serial adulterers like Rudy Guiliani and Newt Gingrich, economic pressures that make it difficult for couples to stay together, and the drive-through marriage culture of Las Vegas. Same-sex couples wishing to marry have nothing to do with those things.

Gay Americans should be applauded for fighting so hard for the right to marry, as some heterosexuals, like Britney Spears, change who they are married as often as the change their hair extensions.

Say it with me Brian, “Same-sex couples are not a threat to marriage.”

PART II: In response to questions raised by bloggers about his statement that “marriage is under attack,” NBC’s Brian Williams posted this statement to his blog:

I was the recipient today of several emails from well-intentioned people, telling me I was being attacked in parts of the blogosphere for something I wrote and said on the air in last night’s broadcast. It was a closing piece about Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip celebrating their 60th anniversary. I noted this accomplishment, especially in this era when, as I put it, marriage seems “under attack” as an institution. My meaning? Our national divorce rate, which is currently somewhere between 40 and 50 percent. Others took it upon themselves to decide that I was somehow attacking gay marriage. The simple fact is that nothing could have been further from my mind, as many others easily understood. In fact, one comment shared with me today came from a respected member of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, who said, “It seemed to me he was talking about the sky-high heterosexual divorce rates. Marriage IS under attack — by straight people. It had nothing to do with the gay marriage movement.”

Note the dismissive tone of his post ("well-intentioned people") and him saying that he was under attack from bloggers because of the questions that we raised. He also makes it seem as though we pull the questions that we raised out of our butts:
Others took it upon themselves to decide that I was somehow attacking gay marriage. The simple fact is that nothing could have been further from my mind, as many others easily understood.

Its great that Williams has stated in his blog post that he was not referring to gay people, but he is an experienced news professional who uses words for a living. He should know the importance of being as clear as possible when making statements such as “marriage is under attack.”

As GLAAD president Neil Guiliano pointed out in a letter to Williams:

Your blog entry today confirms that your use of the phrase on last night’s broadcast was not in any way intended to disparage gay couples, and that expression is appreciated. However, the primary issue is whether a phrase that has been used predominantly in an ugly anti-gay context can be used in another, tangentially related context (here, marriage in a general sense) without invoking the stereotypes that imbrue its common usage.

The phrase ”marriage under attack” — like “defense of marriage,” which you use elsewhere in your blog entry — is a meme designed and used by far-right anti-gay activists to scare people into opposing legal protections for gaycouples. Media professionals who talk about marriage-related issues in their reporting should simply and factually discuss them, rather than uncritically repeating rhetoric calculated to make people feel threatened by and afraid of loving, committed couples.