Sunday, February 24, 2008

John McCain's other scandal, it's actually quite serious, and criminal

John Aravosis (DC), A friend wrote up a nice white paper explaining the other John McCain FEC scandal (this one has nothing to do with the blond lobbyist). I asked him to write up something that was 3 paragraphs long and explained in simple English what this scandal is about. He did an excellent job, please read this, it's bad:

Here's what it means and why it's important.

When John McCain's campaign was strapped for cash John McCain opted into the campaign financing system by requesting certification that he was eligible to collect federal money. As the New Hampshire primary approached and John McCain was broke he took material advantage of the system by using the promise of matching funds to borrow money to keep his campaign afloat. And he took advantage of a rule that gives candidates who take public financing automatic ballot access on ballots in several states. (Governor Dean estimated that he spent 3 million dollars in 2004 getting on ballots in states because he had opted out of the public financing system.

Once John McCain had taken advantage of the system by gaining ballot access and securing a campaign saving loan, he won the New Hampshire primary and became the apparent nominee of the Republican Party. He then sent a letter saying that he was opting out of the primary process and claiming that the FEC is now impotent to stop him.

If John McCain is forced to stay in the matching system he will only be allowed to spend $56 million dollars before the Republican convention in September. As of the end of January John McCain had already spent $49 million dollars meaning that today he's either close to the cap or over the amount of money he can spend during the primary.

What does it mean for John McCain? It's yet another issue where John McCain tries to legislate one way and do something completely different. In this case it has to do with campaign finance issues. As Brad Smith, the former Republican FEC
commissioner noted, if McCain drops out of the system the FEC will subpoena McCain, and his staff during and their records to determine whether they violated the law. If they're found to be in violation of the law they can be fined up to $25,000 and they can be jailed for up to five years.

What happened today?

Governor Dean announced that the DNC will be filing an FEC complaint against John McCain tomorrow. The complaint will ask the FEC to investigate whether John McCain has broken campaign finance law by taking advantage of federal matching funds to secure a loan, get on the ballot automatically in states and break that commitment by trying to get around spending limits.

Obama was right. Where was McCain when our soldiers in Iraq needed him?

John Aravosis (DC), From tomorrow's paper:
[American troops in Afghanistan] felt eclipsed by Iraq. As Sgt. Erick Gallardo put it: “We don’t get supplies, assets. We scrounge for everything and live a lot more rugged. But we know the war is here. We got unfinished business.”
How many more stories do we need about our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq being ignored by George Bush and his buddy on the Armed Services Committee, John McCain?
Heroes don't leave our soldiers "scrounging for everything." Heroes don't let hundreds of Marines be killed and injured because no one in the government wanted to the give them the armor they begged for. Heroes don't let the VA abuse our injured troops under his watch. John McCain may have been a hero 40 years ago in Vietnam. But over the past 6 years he oversaw the wholesale abandonment of our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq simply because he didn't want to embarrass George Bush by doing anything to shed light on the problem in his oversight role. When our troops needed him most, John McCain played politics. The man is no hero.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

McCain's Alleged Affair

HBO Agrees To Air ‘Taxi To The Dark Side’ After Discovery Drops It For Being Too ‘Controversial’ Taxi to the Dark Side, a documentary about an innocent Afghan taxi driver tortured to death by U.S. officials at Bagram Air Base, has received wide critical acclaim since its debut in April at the Tribeca Film Festival. The New York Times’s A.O. Scott said, “If recent American history is ever going to be discussed with the necessary clarity and ethical rigor, this film will be essential.”

Earlier this month, ThinkProgress reported that the Discovery Channel broke its contract to broadcast Taxi prior to the 2008 elections. With plans to take the company public, executives were afraid the “film’s controversial content might damage Discovery’s public offering.”

In a press release on Thursday, HBO announced that it has bought the rights to Taxi and will show the film in September 2008. TP reader Tim received a similar response from “Viewer Relations” at Discovery Communications, who said that they may also show the film on cable in 2009:

In its first, pay tv window, HBO will debut the film in September, 2008. We are proud that Taxi to the Dark Side will make its basic cable debut in 2009 on Investigation Discovery, the network dedicated to providing in-depth programs
that challenge viewers’ perceptions on important issues shaping our culture and
defining our world.

ThinkProgress spoke with an HBO spokeswoman who explained why the network picked up Taxi: “It’s a great film and HBO always goes after high quality docs.”

A source told ThinkProgress that Discovery agreed to the deal with HBO after intense public criticism — including from the netroots. Discovery executives were also reportedly anxious that if Gibney received the Oscar for best documentary feature, he would make a speech denouncing the network.

How convenient for Discovery that it is now willing to show the film on its own channel in 2009…after President Bush is out of office.

LSB: But if Hillary becomes the Democratic candidate, watch for Disney executives to replay that mockumentary about the 9/11 attacks - and somehow edit the movie to say that the attack on the twin towers was Hillary's fault, not Bill's (and certainly not Bush's fault for ignoring his daily briefings).

John McCain’s lobbyist friends. John McCain’s lobbyist friends. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) likes to make the misleading claim that he is “the only candidate that the special interests don’t give money to.” But as the Washington Post demonstrated today, McCain actually surrounds himself with lobbyists and special interests. Brave New Films has put together a video demonstrating McCain’s bevy of friends in the lobbying world.

McCain’s Placement on Indiana Ballot Challenged

Nicole Belle, Crooks and Liars: I received this from an emailer:

This afternoon, Thomas Cook, a voter in Bloomington, Indiana, filed a complaint with the Indiana Election Commission challenging John McCain’s place on the ballot for the May 6 primary. If this complaint is successful, McCain WILL NOT be on the ballot in Indiana on May 6.

According to Indiana law, a presidential candidate can only get on the ballot if he or she collects 500 signatures in each Congressional District. Even though the incumbent Governor (who is up for reelection) is McCain’s Indiana state chair, McCain fell 9 signatures short in the 4th Congressional district — the most Republican district in one of the most Republican-leaning states in the country.

As astonishing as the McCain campaign’s incompetence may be, the audacity of its response is even worse. In order to avoid a major embarrassment, the McCain campaign did what Republicans typically do when confronted with their incompetence: they called in their cronies.

Despite the fact that the McCain campaign clearly failed to qualify for the ballot, Republican Attorney General Steve Carter and Republican Secretary of State Todd Rokita (who recently endorsed McCain) rubberstamped it anyway, trying to sneak McCain onto the ballot. Clearly, the Republican Culture of Corruption is alive and well within the McCain campaign.

UPDATE: Complaint available at link above. Thomas Cook blogged his story here.

LSB: Election corruption already? The GOP has all of their crooks in place early, it seems, in order to steal the election.

Bush scores lowest presidential approval rating EVER!

Nicole Belle, Crooks and Liars: Oh look, he’s finally succeeded at something outright.

LSB: ...and finally placed higher than his father in something!
February 20, 2008 - American Research Group, Inc.: George W. Bush's overall job approval rating has dropped to a new low in American Research Group polling as 78% of Americans say that the national economy is getting worse according to the latest survey from the American Research Group.

Among all Americans, 19% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 77% disapprove. When it comes to Bush's handling of the economy, 14% approve and 79% disapprove.

Among Americans registered to vote, 18% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 78% disapprove. When it comes to the way Bush is handling the economy, 15% of registered voters approve of the way Bush is handling the economy and 79% disapprove.

A total of 78% of Americans say the national economy is getting worse and 47% say the national economy is in a recession. A total of 42% of Americans, however, say they believe the national economy will be better a year from now, which is the highest level for this question in the past year. This optimism does not spread to improvements in household financial situations as 17% of Americans say they expect their household financial situations to be better a year from now, which is the lowest for this question in the past year.

The results presented here are based on 1,100 completed telephone interviews conducted among a nationwide random sample of adults 18 years and older. The interviews were completed February 16 through 19, 2008. The theoretical margin of error for the total sample is plus or minus 2.6 percentage points, 95% of the time, on questions where opinion is evenly split.

Overall, 19% of Americans say that they approve of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president, 77% disapprove, and 4% are undecided.

Bay Buchanan on GOP: ‘We assume our candidates have been loyal to their family.’

John Amato, Crooks and Liars: Bay Buchanan said this after calling the NY Times/McCain love fest story a smear/hit job on CNN to Anderson Cooper:

Bay: This is not the Democratic Party, this is a party of values. We assume our candidates have been loyal to their family.

&^&*%#@!___Sorry, I—just fell off my chair from laughter. Let’s ask her about David Vitter and Larry Craig and Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani and... Bay, who was supporting the Mitt Romney campaign— feels it would have had an impact on the primary… David Gergen says it’s a red herring that the Times held onto the story for political reasons and then he hit her on the family value meme by reminding her of the Mark Foley story. She just shrugged it off… haha

LSB: Anyone else hear the strains of Paul Simon ("...still crazy after all these years...") whenever this bitch speaks? Must be in the genes.

Cafferty File: McCain’s Been Here Before - Will it Hurt Him This Time?

Bill W., Crooks and Liars: (Click the pic for the vid.) As usual, Jack Cafferty sure didn’t mince words when he succinctly summed up where we stand so far with the NYT’s revelation of McCain’s unusually close ties to telecom lobbyist Vicki Iseman, and asked his viewers to weigh in on whether it will hurt his chances come November:

Cafferty: Someone is lying. The New York Times dropped a bombshell on John McCain this morning with a front page story that could cost him the White House.
It’s great reading: an improper relationship with a lobbyist, a woman named Vicki Iseman, his inner-circle convinced they were having an affair, all happening while he was Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee and she was representing telecom companies who had business before McCain’s committee. The two of them together at fundraisers, in his office, aboard private corporate jets … It got so bad that his closest friends and advisers finally stepped in to save McCain from himself.

This is all according to the New York Times. The problem with the story is it’s a little on the skinny side. Most of it’s based on unnamed sources and that detracts from its credibility. On the other hand the Times byline contains the names of four reporters who were not likely to go their editor and say ‘look what we’ve got’ if they didn’t have it, and reportedly as far back as December McCain was pleading with the editors at the Times not to run this story.

McCain’s explanation for all of this comes up short. “It’s not true” aint going to cut it. For one thing McCain has been here before. Remember the Keating 5 and the Savings and Loan scandal? And it’s highly unlikely that the Times information from McCain’s inner circle of advisers is all false. You don’t publish a story of this magnitude unless you are on pretty solid ground. So stay tuned, because there is a lot more to come. …

That sounds about right. So what do you think? Is this a mess that’s just going to snowball and bury the McCain campaign or could the scandal actually wind up helping him? So far, McCain seems to think so, as his campaign has now begun exploiting the controversy for a quick buck. How do you see this all playing out?

When conservatives decide adultery no longer matters

Steve Benen, Crooks and Liars: The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson, Bush’s former chief speechwriter and someone who seems to take the issue of politics and morality seriously, devoted his latest column to John McCain’s Vicki Iseman controversy. Not surprisingly, the conservative columnists defends the conservative senator against the charges first raised by the NYT.

Most of the argument is about what one would expect, but I was a little surprised to see Gerson give McCain a pass on the adultery charge, even assuming the allegations are accurate.
Even if the accusation of infidelity were true, this kind of past relationship is hardly disqualifying for high office anymore, given a series of more prurient precedents. An affair between adults is a far cry from President Bill Clinton’s exploitation of an intern, which involved not merely a failure of character but also an abuse of power.
This strikes me as wrong on a few levels. Not only is the Lewinsky-Iseman comparison flawed, but Gerson’s argument turns conservative standards on morality on their ear.

Dems’ FISA Thriller: 3, .. 2, .. 1 .. The Constitution Is Saved!

John Amato, Crooks and Liars: Who wins this hand may depend on you. Contacted your Representative yet? Here’s a new C&L video that parodies the latest fearmongering efforts by the House Republicans because the Democratic Party refused to grant immunity to the Telecoms. If the GOP truly cared about the safety of America then they would have passed the bill and sent it on to the president. Instead, they threw a hissy fit—staged a photo-op—and whined to the press. They looked like insignificant little children playing with our national security. The clock is ticking away at the GOP’s foolishness.

Comic Relief

Bush asks Pakistan to keep Musharraf despite election rout

Chris in Paris, And to think many find Bush's democratic ideas to be rubbish. Why bother to even hold elections if you are not prepared to live with the results? Musharraf was routed but in the Bush world, that doesn't matter.

Bush's policy of hanging on to Musharraf has caused friction between the White House and the State Department, with some career diplomats and other specialists arguing that the administration is trying to buck the political tides in Pakistan, U.S. officials said.

Officials in the White House and the intelligence community fear that the longer Pakistan remains without a new government, the deeper the gridlock, threatening the progress made in the elections toward greater stability and helping the country's Islamic extremists.

One Western diplomat said, however, that the strategy could backfire if Pakistanis feel betrayed after voting to kick Musharraf from office.

"This is dangerous," said the diplomat.

LSB: Indeed, why vote if your vote doesn't count. Sound familiar, Florida Dems?

A reporter reports that Obama was right about not enough soldiers in Afghanistan -- the right wing noise machine was wrong

Joe Sudbay (DC), This is an important story because we'll be seeing a lot of this over the next nine months. The right wing noise machine will falsely and baselessly attack our candidates. We'll, of course, fight back. The question is whether the traditional media falls for it this time around -- or does its job.

The right wingers were in a frenzy over an answer Barack Obama gave at the debate last night, which once again exposed the failure of the Bush/Cheney/McCain rush to war in Iraq:

You know, I've heard from an Army captain who was the head of a rifle platoon -- supposed to have 39 men in a rifle platoon. Ended up being sent to Afghanistan with 24 because 15 of those soldiers had been sent to Iraq.

And as a consequence, they didn't have enough ammunition, they didn't have enough humvees. They were actually capturing Taliban weapons, because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief. Now, that's a consequence of bad judgment.

Bad judgment is actually an understatement. So, no surprise the Bush/Cheney/McCain lovers would want to discredit that story. It's a devastating indictment of the national security abilities of the GOP. After all, Afghanistan enabled Al Qaeda -- and Al Qaeda launched the attack that killed 3,000 Americans. This incident is emblematic of the approach to national security undertaken by Bush and enabled by Congressional Republicans -- including McCain. They are failures.

So while the right wingers were in a lather over Obama's answer, Jake Tapper found out the story is true.

I called the Obama campaign this morning to chat about this story, and was put in touch with the Army captain in question.

He told me his story, which I found quite credible, though for obvious reasons he asked that I not mention his name or certain identifying information.

Short answer: He backs up Obama's story.

The longer answer is worth telling, though.

The Army captain, a West Point graduate, did a tour in a hot area of eastern Afghanistan from the Summer of 2003 through Spring 2004.

Prior to deployment the Captain -- then a Lieutenant -- took command of a rifle platoon at Fort Drum. When he took command, the platoon had 39 members, but -- in ones and twos -- 15 members of the platoon were re-assigned to other units. He knows of 10 of those 15 for sure who went to Iraq, and he suspects the other five did as well.

The platoon was sent to Afghanistan with 24 men.

"We should have deployed with 39," he told me, "we should have gotten replacements. But we didn't. And that was pretty consistent across the battalion."

He adds that maybe a half-dozen of the 15 were replaced by the Fall of 2003, months after they arrived in Afghanistan, but never all 15.

Despicable way to treat our soldiers. Despicable. And, actually, Tapper (who linked to ten sites that criticized Obama on this issue) puts it best:

I might suggest those on the blogosphere upset about this story would be better suited directing their ire at those responsible for this problem, which is certainly not new. That is, if they actually care about the men and women bravely serving our country at home and abroad.

UPDATE 02/24/08: Today's Washington Post reports that Senator John Warner dashed off a "stern letter" to Obama challenging his assertions:

Warner -- a World War II veteran and former Navy Secretary -- has been a staunch
advocate for U.S. troops. Warner's letter to Obama asks the senator to provide "essential facts" about the Army captain's story, including his personal information, so members of the committee can interview him and others to establish accountability, "depending of course, on the accuracy of the facts."
It's almost amazing how quickly the Republican machine will respond to a perceived attack on their strengths. This was clearly a concerted effort to beat back a very damaging story. What Obama said on Thursday night shines another spotlight on the failures of the Bush/Cheney/McCain record. The Republicans respond very quickly when politics are involved. It's disturbing they don't respond as quickly when soldiers' lives are on the line.

Now, we have two networks that have verified Obama's account. The right wing machine was wrong again. Not just the blogs, but the Pentagon and the "esteemed" John Warner. That should tell the media something. Don't just regurgitate the right wing spin -- and that includes the Pentagon. Verify first because none of them can be believed.

C limits Fox TV penalty after five year review

Chris in Paris, Fair and balanced.

The Federal Communications Commission erased nearly all of a proposed $1.2 million indecency fine against a number of Fox television stations yesterday, saying the Rupert Murdoch-owned network should be fined for airing an offensive television show only in markets where viewers complained about it.

Instead of ordering all 169 stations that aired it to pay the larger fine, the FCC ordered 13 Fox-owned and -affiliated stations to pay a total of $91,000 in indecency fines for broadcasting an episode of the long-canceled reality show "Married by America" nearly five years ago.

In yesterday's order, the FCC turned down a Fox claim that said the April 7, 2003, show -- which featured digitally obscured nudity and whipped-cream-covered strippers -- was not indecent.

LSB: No question Fox, the GOP network, would not have to pay the fine. Someone in EVERY city ought to complain so all of the stations have to pay.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

In Radio Address, Bush Hypes Consequences of Wiretapping Law Expiration In his weekly radio address, President Bush not only blames Congress for tonight’s expiration of the Protect America Act, he says that his government will have a harder time keeping you safe:

Because Congress failed to act, it will be harder for our government to keep you safe from terrorist attack. At midnight, the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence will be stripped of their power to authorize new
surveillance against terrorist threats abroad. This means that as terrorists change their tactics to avoid our surveillance, we may not have the tools we need to continue tracking them — and we may lose a vital lead that could prevent an attack on America.
Nothing about the measure’s expiration prevents either law enforcement or intelligence officials from carrying out new surveillance against suspected terrorists. They will simply need to get a warrant. Nor is exigency a factor, as warrants can even be obtained after the surveillance has begun.

Furthermore, Bush’s hype over tonight’s midnight expiration is undermined by the words of his own top aides. Just 24 hours ago, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell told NPR:

Some of the [surveillance] authorities would carry over to the period they were established for one year. That would put us into the August, September time-frame. However, that’s not the real issue. The issue is liability protection for the private sector.
McConnell let slip that the real goal in the debate over the Protect America Act is not to protect America, but to protect the telecommunication companies being sued for assisting in Bush’s illegal wiretapping. The president claims he wants to protect these companies to ensure their future cooperation. However, legal warrants compel cooperation.

The only reason to insist on telecom immunity is that the telecom lawsuits are the only remaining avenue for bringing to light the administration’s illegal activities. And that is what Bush and his conservative allies will not permit, regardless of how real the cost is to America’s intelligence-gathering apparatus.

– Tom

Experts: FISA will suffice as PAA expires. On its front page today, the conservative Washington Times reports that “intelligence scholars and analysts outside the government say that today’s expiration of certain temporary domestic wiretapping laws will have little effect on national security, despite warnings to the contrary by the White House and Capitol Hill Republican leaders.” One scholar said “there’s no reason to think” America is “in any more danger” than it’s already been in since 9/11:

Timothy Lee, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, said the last time Congress overhauled FISA — after the September 11 terrorist attacks — President Bush praised the action, saying the new law “recognizes the realities and dangers posed by the modern terrorist.”

“Those are the rules we’ll be living under after the Protect America Act expires this weekend,” Mr. Lee added. “There’s no reason to think our nation will be in any more danger in 2008 than it was in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, or 2006.”

Gay Superdelegate Breaks the Mold

The nation's youngest superdelegate is Jason Rae. He's also openly gay and a former Victory Fund intern. The Victory Fund works to elect openly LGBT candidates in all levels of government. The video is from Dan Abram's show on MSNBC.

Kerry Eleveld, The Advocate: Jason Rae, an out 21-year-old junior in college, isn’t exactly what people envision when they hear the word "superdelegate." But his vote is worth as much as President Clinton’s. Find out what he plans to do with it.

Maryland AG Endorses Gay Marriage

Joe.My.God.: Saying acceptance of gay marriage was "inevitable," Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler has become the first statewide-elected official there to endorse marriage equality legislation. Gansler accuses lawmakers of lacking the "political courage" to approve the legislation this year, saying "It’s wrong to discriminate against people, particularly because they think differently or because of their sexuality or because of their gender. And that’s what we’re doing here."

The Republican-lead dissenters on the issue spewed the usual crapola, with the suitably-named Kathleen Crank saying, "This lifestyle is devastating to those in it and devastating to those around them. In every other area, we work to prevent unhealthy behavior, not sanction it with the force of law." Republicans on the committee considering the legislation say that to approve marriage equality they'd also have to legalize polygamy, incest, and statutory rape. Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley (D) supports civil unions only.

HRC head Joe Solmonese on The Colbert Report

Help Me, Obi Wan Pelosi

Lieberman endorses waterboarding: Former Democrat approves of torture technique because it poses no "real danger"

Steve Benen, Carpetbagger Report: Occasionally, we’ll hear that Joe Lieberman is generally in line with Democrats, but makes an exception on the war in Iraq and a neocon worldview of foreign policy. When it comes to values and domestic policy, the argument usually goes, Lieberman is generally reliable. Let’s just erase that thought from our minds now, shall we? "Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman reluctantly acknowledged Thursday that he does not believe waterboarding is torture, but believes the interrogation technique should be available only under the most extreme circumstances." ... It’s a genuine shame to see Joe Lieberman hit the bottom of the barrel -- and then drill a hole large enough to fall a little more.

DOD Study: 100s of Marines dead and wounded because Bush admin dropped the ball on armor

John Aravosis, Gee, our president is once again calling Democrats soft on national security and at the same time an internal Defense Department study says that the Bush administration's malfeasance killed and injured 100s of Marines unnecessarily. Will the Democrats finally turn this issue around on Bush?

Hundreds of U.S. Marines have been killed or injured by roadside bombs in Iraq because Marine Corps bureaucrats refused an urgent request in 2005 from battlefield commanders for blast-resistant vehicles, an internal military study concludes.

The study, written by a civilian Marine Corps official and obtained by The Associated Press, accuses the service of "gross mismanagement" that delayed deliveries of the mine-resistant, ambush-protected trucks for more than two years.

Cost was a driving factor in the decision to turn down the request for the so-called MRAPs, according to the study. Stateside authorities saw the hulking vehicles, which can cost as much as a $1 million each, as a financial threat to programs aimed at developing lighter vehicles that were years from being fielded.

LSB: My nephew was one of those killed by a road-side blast because his vehicle had not yet been outfitted with the protective armor. I still have trouble believing a real President would not have greater concern for our troops - and not just hot wind in that direction. And why would the Speaker of the House take impeachment off the table for his failures - so many failures! - in protecting our citizens? (Is it because we'd be left with President Cheney? Madam Speaker: it is simple - two stones, two birds.)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Countdown Special Comment on FISA: President Bush Is A Liar And A Fascist

Logan Murphy, Crooks and Liars: Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment on today’s Countdown was a scathing rebuke of President Bush for continuing to play the fear card, trying to scare the hell out of the American people and vowing to veto any FISA legislation that does not contain telecom amnesty.
You are a liar, Mr. Bush, and after showing some skill at it, you have ceased to even be a very good liar. (Click on the pic for the video.)


Democrats in the House of Representatives are closing the shop down tonight, until a week from Monday, leaving President Bush twisting slowly in a wind of his own creation.

Our third story on the Countdown: the FISA bill — and the retroactive immunity for the telecom giants that helped Mr. Bush illegally eavesdrop on Americans — will thus just sit there, unacted upon, not even a temporary extension which the Republicans and Mr. Bush refused, despite the President’s threats that if the bill isn’t passed by Saturday, there’d be a breakdown in counter-terrorism surveillance and plagues of locusts and stuff.

A Special Comment, in a moment. First the details.

House Democrats, in essence, calling the Republicans’ bluff. They staged a walkout at mid-day, led by John Boehner, who in one act managed the cheesy political theater, and managed to get out just as Representatives were to vote on Contempt of Congress citations against Harriet Miers and Joshua Bolten. That the Republicans just happened to walk to a stand-full of microphones… pure coincidence.

The President had started all this, with his now-daily message of fear, with what he apparently sees as a threat, to postpone his scheduled trip to Africa.

The House should not leave Washington without passing the Senate bill. I am
scheduled to leave tomorrow for a long-planned trip to five African nations.
Moments ago, my staff informed the House leadership that I’m prepared to delay
my departure, and stay in Washington with them, if it will help them complete
their work on this critical bill. The lives of countless Americans depend on our
ability to monitor terrorist communications.
Having lost, he now says he’s going to Africa — another threat, or promise, unfulfilled.

Now, as promised, a Special Comment. A part of what I will say, was said here on January 31st. Unfortunately it is both sadder and truer now, than it was, then.

“Who’s to blame?” Mr. Bush also said this afternoon, “Look, these folks in Congress passed a good bill late last summer. The problem is, they let the bill expire. My attitude is: if the bill was good enough then, why not pass the bill again?” (You know, like The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Or Executive Order 90-66. Or The Alien and Sedition Acts. Or Slavery.)

Mr. Bush, you say that our ability to track terrorist threats will be weakened and our citizens will be in greater danger. Yet you have weakened that ability! You have subjected us, your citizens, to that greater danger! This, Mr. Bush, is simple enough even for you to understand.

For the moment, at least, thanks to some true patriots in the House, and your own stubbornness, you have tabled telecom immunity and the FISA act. You! By your own terms and your definitions — you have just sided with the terrorists. You got to have this law or we’re all going to die, but practically speaking, you vetoed this law.

It is bad enough, sir, that you were demanding an Ex Post Facto law, which could still clear the AT&Ts and the Verizons from responsibility for their systematic, aggressive, and blatant collaboration with your illegal and unjustified spying on Americans under this flimsy guise of looking for any terrorists who are stupid enough to make a collect call or send a mass e-mail.
But when you demanded it again during the State of the Union address, you wouldn’t even confirm that they actually done anything for which they deserved to be cleared.

“The Congress must pass liability protection for companies believed to have assisted in the efforts to defend America.” Believed? Don’t you know? Don’t you even have the guts Dick Cheney showed in admitting they did collaborate with you? Does this endless presidency of loopholes and fine print extend even here, too? If you believe in the seamless mutuality of government and big business — come out and say it!

There is a dictionary definition, one word that describes that toxic blend. You’re a fascist — get them to print you a t-shirt with “fascist” on it! What else is this but fascism?

Did you see Mark Klein on this newscast last November? Mark Klein was the AT&T Whistleblower, the one who explained in the placid and dull terms of your local neighborhood I-T desk, how he personally attached all AT&T circuits — everything — carrying every one of your phone calls, every one of your e-mails, every bit of your web browsing into a secure room, room number 641-A at the Folsom Street facility in San Francisco, where it was all copied so the government could look at it. Not some of it, not just the international part of it, certainly not just the stuff some spy — a spy both patriotic and telepathic — might able to divine had been sent or spoken by — or to — a terrorist. Everything! Every time you looked at a naked picture. Every time you bid on eBay. Every time you phoned in a donation to a Democrat.

“My thought was,” Mr. Klein told us last November, “George Orwell’s 1984. And here I am, forced to connect the big brother machine.” And if there’s one thing we know about Big Brother, Mr. Bush, is that he is — you are — a liar.

“This Saturday at midnight,” you said today, “legislation authorizing intelligence professionals to quickly and effectively monitor terrorist communications will expire. If Congress does not act by that time, our ability to find out who the terrorists are talking to, what they are saying, and what they are planning, will be compromised." You said that “the lives of countless Americans depend” on you getting your way.

This is crap. And you sling it, with an audacity and a speed unrivaled even by the greatest political felons of our history.

Richard Clarke — you might remember him, sir, he was one of the counter-terror pro’s you inherited from President Clinton, before you ran the professionals out of government in favor of your unreality-based reality — Richard Clarke wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“Let me be clear: Our ability to track and monitor terrorists overseas would not cease should the Protect America Act expire. If this were true, the president would not threaten to terminate any temporary extension with his veto pen. All surveillance currently occurring would continue even after legislative provisions lapsed because authorizations issued under the act are in effect up to a full year.”
You are a liar, Mr. Bush, and after showing some skill at it, you have ceased to even be a very good liar.

And your minions like John Boehner — your Republican congressional crash dummies who just happen to decide to walk out of Congress when a podium-full of microphones await them — they should just keep walking, out of Congress and if possible, out of the country. For they, sir — and you, sir — have no place in a government of the people, by the people, for the people. The lot of you, are the symbolic descendants of the despotic middle managers of some banana republic, to whom “Freedom” is an ironic brand name, a word you reach for, when you want to get away with its opposite.

Thus, Mr. Bush, your panoramic invasion of privacy is dressed up as “protecting America.”

Thus, Mr. Bush, your indiscriminate domestic spying becomes the focused monitoring, only of “terrorist communications.”

Thus, Mr. Bush, what you and the telecom giants have done, isn’t unlawful, it’s just the kind of perfectly legal, passionately patriotic thing for which you happen to need immunity!

Richard Clarke is on the money, as usual. That the President was willing to veto this eavesdropping, means there is no threat to the legitimate counter-terror efforts underway. As Senator Kennedy reminded us in December:

“The President has said that American lives will be sacrificed if Congress does not change FISA. But he has also said that he will veto any FISA bill that does not grant retroactive immunity. No immunity, no FISA bill. So if we take the President at his word, he’s willing to let Americans die to protect the phone companies.”
And that literally cannot be. Even Mr. Bush could not overtly take a step that actually aids the terrorists.

I am not talking about ethics here. I am talking about blame. If the President seems to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater, it means we can safely conclude there is no baby.

Because if there were, sir, now that you have vetoed an extension of this eavesdropping, if some terrorist attack were to follow…
  • You would not merely be guilty of siding with the terrorists…
  • You would not merely be guilty of prioritizing the telecoms over the people…
  • You would not merely be guilty of stupidity…
  • You would not merely be guilty of treason, sir…
  • You would be personally, and eternally, responsible!

And if there is one thing we know about you, Mr. Bush, one thing that you have proved time and time again… it is that you are never responsible.

As recently ago as 2006, we spoke words like these with trepidation. The idea that even the most cynical and untrustworthy of politicians in our history — George W. Bush — would use the literal form of terrorism against his own people — was dangerous territory. It seemed to tempt fate, to heighten fear.

We will not fear any longer.
  • We will not fear the international terrorists — we will thwart them.
  • We will not fear the recognition of the manipulation of our yearning for safety — we will call it what it is: terrorism.
  • We will not fear identifying the vulgar hypocrites in our government — we will name them.
  • And we will not fear George W. Bush.

Nor will we fear because George W. Bush wants us to fear.

Senate Votes For Retroactive Immunity for Telecoms

Paul Kiel, TPM Muckraker: Let there be no doubt: a majority of senators, and a large number of Democrats, think the telecoms should not suffer the hazard of accountability for cooperating with the administration's warrantless wiretapping program. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) took to the floor last night to give a speech asking, "This is our defining question, the question that confronts every generation: The rule of law, or the rule of men?" The resounding answer: the rule of men.

The Senate voted on the Dodd/Feingold amendment, which would have stripped retroactive immunity from the surveillance bill just now. The final tally was 31-67; crossing over to vote nay were Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Evan Bayh (D-IA), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ken Salazar (D-CO), Tom Carper (D-DE), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Jim Webb (D-VA), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Kent Conrad (D-ND), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). Update: Here's the official tally.

Presidential candidates Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Barack Obama (D-IL) were present for the vote – voting nay and yea, respectively.

McCain Is Against Torture -- But Votes Against the Bill That Would Prevent It

Marty Lederman: If McCain believes that there are particular "enhanced" techniques that are not in the Field Manual, but that are also not torture or cruel treatment, and wishes to allow the CIA to use them, he should identify what they are, and offer legislation that would authorize those, and those only, techniques, in addition to those listed in the Field Manual. Otherwise, despite all his worthy efforts in this area, McCain is now facilitating the CIA's use of techniques that are unlawful, including some that are torture even by McCain's own lights.

Meet Mr. Vague Generalities

Steve Benen: If this is the direction in which John McCain wants the campaign to go, Democrats might be lucky after all: "As he did Tuesday night, McCain focused much of his criticism on Obama, Tuesday’s winner on the Democratic side. 'I respect him and the campaign that he has run, but there’s going to come a time when we have to get into specifics,' McCain told reporters." Now, the claim that Obama lacks specifics is, on its face, false. But the more important point is that McCain is going after Obama on one of his own biggest weaknesses. We’re talking about a candidate who’s running on a powerful personal story, but whose understanding of policy details is almost Bush-like.

Republicans disrupt Lantos memorial service

John Aravosis, Even the dead are political pawns to the Republicans (then again, we already knew that post-September 11). House Republicans, at the bidding of the Bush White House, are upset that House Democrats are voting on contempt citations for Harriet Miers and Josh Bolton today. So the House GOP members are disrupting proceedings in the House today, calling for "protest votes" and the like that eat up 15 minutes of the day at a time. Well, they just called one such protest vote in the middle of recently-deceased Democratic Congressman Tom Lantos' memorial service, which they certainly knew was taking place. This is akin to forcing people to leave a wake on purpose. The House Republicans and the White House couldn't wait for Lantos' service to be finished before forcing everyone back to the House floor to vote for something silly. They intentionally disrupted a dead man's memorial service for political gain. But as was already noted, the Republicans have been abusing the memory of 3,000 dead for seven years now, so why expect anything new and better from them now.

Saudi Prince (Bush's Friend) Blackmails UK

David Leigh and Rob Evans, The Guardian: Saudi Arabia's rulers threatened to make it easier for terrorists to attack London unless corruption investigations into their arms deals were halted, according to court documents revealed yesterday.

Previously secret files describe how investigators were told they faced "another 7/7" and the loss of "British lives on British streets" if they pressed on with their inquiries and the Saudis carried out their threat to cut off intelligence.

Prince Bandar, the head of the Saudi national security council, and son of the crown prince, was alleged in court to be the man behind the threats to hold back information about suicide bombers and terrorists. He faces accusations that he himself took more than £1bn in secret payments from the arms company BAE.

He was accused in yesterday's high court hearings of flying to London in December 2006 and uttering threats which made the prime minister, Tony Blair, force an end to the Serious Fraud Office investigation into bribery allegations involving Bandar and his family. (More)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

NPR: Army Blocked Help To Vets

Nicole Belle, Crooks and Liars: There’s a special place in hell for bureaucrats that are responsible for things like this.

NPR’s Morning Edition:

A document from the Department of Veterans Affairs contradicts an assertion made by the Army surgeon general that his office did not tell VA officials to stop
helping injured soldiers with their military disability paperwork at a New York Army post.

The paperwork can help determine health care and disability benefits for wounded soldiers.

Audio available here. It makes me so angry to hear the wingnuts say that progressives don’t support the troops because we don’t want them in harm’s way, yet this kind of treatment by the administration that the wingnuts blindly support doesn’t even register.

Of course, they get it from the top:

President Bush drew great applause during his State of the Union address last month when he called on Congress to allow U.S. troops to transfer their unused education benefits to family members. “Our military families serve our nation, they inspire our nation, and tonight our nation honors them,” he said.

A week later, however, when Bush submitted his $3.1 trillion federal budget to Congress, he included no funding for such an initiative, which government analysts calculate could cost $1 billion to $2 billion annually.

FBI’s Billion Dollar Big Brother

billw, Crooks and Liars: Does this sound like a good thing or a bad thing, Winston? (Click the pic for the video.)

Next month, the FBI intends to award a 10-year contract that would significantly expand the amount and kinds of biometric information it receives. And in the coming years, law enforcement authorities around the world will be able to rely on iris patterns, face-shape data, scars and perhaps even the unique ways people walk and talk, to solve crimes and identify criminals and terrorists. The FBI will also retain, upon request by employers, the fingerprints of employees who have undergone criminal background checks so the employers can be notified if employees have brushes with the law. … (read on)

LSB: Given the way government generally works, this will cost tens of billions of dollars and accomplish nothing. Still, if this ever were a working program, it would seem as if the terrorists had won - and they are us!

Cheney Joins Congress In Opposing D.C. Gun Ban

Robert Barnes, Washington Post Staff Writer: Vice President Cheney signed on to a brief filed by a majority of Congress yesterday that urged the Supreme Court to uphold a ruling that the District of Columbia's handgun ban is unconstitutional, breaking with his own administration's official position.

Cheney joined 55 senators and 250 House members in asking the court to find that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess firearms and to uphold a lower court's ruling that the D.C. ban violates that right. That position is at odds with the one put forward by the administration, which angered gun rights advocates when it suggested that the justices return the case to lower courts for further review.

In order to make his dramatic break with the administration, Cheney invoked his rarely used status as part of Congress, joining the brief as "President of the United States Senate, Richard B. Cheney." It is a position he has used at times to make the point that he is sometimes part of the legislative branch and sometimes part of the executive.

"That is one of his titles," Cheney press secretary Megan Mitchell said when asked whether it was significant that he had joined the brief in that capacity rather than as vice president.

The position puts Cheney at odds with a brief filed by U.S. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement, who represents the government and the Bush administration before the Supreme Court. Clement said that the court should recognize the individual right but that the lower court's ruling was so broad it could endanger federal gun-control measures, such as a ban on possession of new machine guns.

Clement urged the court to send the D.C. law, the strictest in the nation, back to lower courts for further review.

The government's position, which technically supported neither the District nor those challenging the law, nonetheless infuriated supporters of gun rights. They saw it as an abandonment of their cause just as the court was ready to interpret the Second Amendment for the first time in 70 years. (More)

LSB: In the picture above we're just missing Charleston Heston. Wonder if Harry Whittington, Cheney's hunting partner/victim, might now want to pry that gun from Cheney's 'cold dead hands?'

We Tortured and We'd Do It Again

Dan Froomkin,

After years of dodging and dissembling, the Bush administration today boldly embraced an interrogation tactic that's been an iconic and almost universally condemned form of torture since the Spanish Inquisition.

President Bush would authorize waterboarding future terrorism suspects if certain criteria are met, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said this morning, one day after the director of the CIA for the first time publicly acknowledged his agency's use of the tactic, which generally involves strapping a prisoner to a board, covering his face or mouth with a cloth, and pouring water over his face to create the sensation of drowning.

Olivier Knox writes for AFP: "The United States may use waterboarding to question terrorism suspects in the future, the White House said Wednesday, rejecting the widely held belief that the practice amounts to torture. (More)

LSB: So we do torture. How safe does that make any citizen abroad, let alone our soldiers who are in harm's way? Bush ought to be charged!

House Committee: “Immunity? Really?”

Nicole Belle, Crooks and Liars: Finally, some common sense. How uncommon.


In a 12th-hour plea today, key members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee urged their fellow members to reject telecom immunity when legislation “updating” the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) heads back their way after the Senate passes its bill. The letter, sent by Chairman John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) and Congressmen Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), really expresses the frustration felt by the committee and is a definitely worth a look.
The letter says, in part: By tying the question of lawsuit immunity to questions of national security and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) reform legislation, the President has created a false choice for Congress. The issue of immunity for phone companies that chose to cooperate with the President’s warrantless wiretapping program deserves a separate and more deliberate examination by Congress. No special urgency attaches to the question of immunity other than the present Administration’s general eagerness to limit tort liability and its desire to avoid scrutiny of its own actions, by either the courts or the Congress.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

If you’re interested in the latest wheelings and dealings regarding FISA (there were several votes taken this last week), emptywheel is the blog to go. Marcy has been covering it extensively and exhaustively.

CNN: The Deadly Plight of Women in Post-Saddam Iraq

billw, Crooks and Liars: CNN’s Arwa Damon Reports. (Click on the pic for the video.) Viewer discretion is advised.

MoxieGrrrl: So what exactly have we done for these people?

The images in the Basra police file are nauseating: Page after page of women killed in brutal fashion — some strangled to death, their faces disfigured; others beheaded. All bear signs of torture.

The women are killed, police say, because they failed to wear a headscarf or because they ignored other “rules” that secretive fundamentalist groups want to enforce. […]

“We thought there would be freedom and democracy and women would have their rights. But all the things we were promised have not come true. There is only fear and horror.”

Is this what John McCain means when he says ‘By golly’ we’re ‘winning’ in Iraq?

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Boehner Places Political Loyalty Over Principles, Donates To Doolittle’s Legal Defense Fund House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has consistently touted reform, claiming he wants to impose a “tougher ethical standard” on the 110th Congress. In June, he forcefully called for the expulsion of Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA). More recently, he called for a moratorium on earmarks.

But Boehner is ethical only when it’s politically convenient. Boehner has donated money to pay the legal bills of Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), who recently announced his resignation because of continuing troubles related to the Jack Abramoff corruption investigation. CQ reports:

Rep. John T. Doolittle , R-Calif., reported in a filing made available Thursday that his legal expense fund had received $5,000 from Boehner’s leadership PAC. The money was part of $36,500 kicked in by GOP colleagues to Doolittle’s legal defense between June 27, when he opened the fund, and year’s end.

Boehner made the donation because Doolittle “was a friend dating to the early 1990s, when they worked together as part of the Gang of Seven,” Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said, referring to then-minority party back-benchers who took on majority Democrats during the House banking scandal.

At least nine other lawmakers who have given money to Doolittle, including Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). The money was donated before Doolittle announced his retirement on Jan. 10.

Boehner has repeatedly promoted corrupt colleagues to leadership positions, and in October, ruled that Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) could continue as the ranking GOP member of the Appropriations Committee while under federal investigation on ethics charges.

LSB: Boehner has always been a two-faced liar. Nothing new here - more of the same from him.

Does John ‘100 Years’ McCain Agree With Bush’s Signing Statement On Iraq? Earlier this week, when President Bush signed the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, he issued a little-noticed signing statement, claiming that provisions in the law — including the barring of funds for permanent bases in Iraq — could be disregarded.

Democrats in Congress were quick to condemn Bush’s stealth measure. On the Senate floor, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) called it “the clearest signal yet that the Administration wants to hold” the “option” of permanent bases “in reserve.” Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) said Congress expects Bush to “faithfully implement all of the provisions of the [act], not just the ones he happens to agree with.”

In a statement, Sen. Joe Biden, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called Bush’s signing statement “outrageous” and constitutionally questionable:
It is outrageous for the President to suggest that Congress cannot bar the use of funds — something clearly within the power of Congress under our Constitution — for the construction of permanent bases in Iraq.
Conspicuously absent from the debate over Bush’s signing statement is Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). In the past, McCain has spoken out aggressively against signing statements, saying they are “wrong” and that they “should not be done“:
“I would never issue a signing statement,” the Arizona senator said at a Rotary Club meeting in Nashua, adding that he “would only sign it or veto” any legislation that reached his desk as president.
Perhaps McCain is keeping silent because he shares Bush’s goal of an indefinite, long-term presence of American troops in Iraq. Last month, McCain said it would be “fine with” him “if we maintain a presence in” Iraq for “a hundred” years.

The question arises as to what’s more important to McCain: his anti-signing statement pledge or an indefinite presence in Iraq?

McCain Claims Iraq ‘Casualties Are Coming Down,’ But Casualties Actually Increased In January On Fox News Sunday today, when Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was asked about his claim that 100 years in Iraq “would be fine” with him, he said “it’s not a matter of how long Americans stay, it’s a matter of American casualties.” “And those casualties are coming down,” added McCain. ...

Unfortunately, McCain’s claim that U.S. troop “casualties are coming down” is misleading happy talk. In reality, casualties actually increased this past month:

Not only did casualties increase in January, but the number of U.S. troops who “died from hostile action” was higher in January than the total number of casualties in December 2007.

In declaring “significant success” in Iraq, McCain appears to be using the Bush administration calculus that says increasing levels of violence are equal to “signs of success.

Fox conservatives sound off on ‘white women.’ On Fox News Sunday today, the Fox “all stars” discussed the possibility of Hillary Clinton being chosen as a vice president. Bill Kristol argued that Clinton would not be a valuable vice presidential pick because she lacks support beyond the “Democratic establishment and white women.” The “establishment” can be ignored, Kristol argued, but “white women are a problem.” He added, “But we all live with them.” “Not me,” said Juan Williams. Brit Hume chimed in, “For the record, I like white women.” “I know, I shouldn’t have said that,” Kristol concluded. Watch it:

LSB: What assholes! The worst thing we can become is over-confident, but it is hard not to be over-confident about the Dems chances in the face of this lunacy. Surely even FAUX News viewers are having a hard time stomaching these idiots... right?