Afghanistan Still Really Enjoys Mr. Bush's Leadership There, Too

From the Christian Science Monitor (and by no means isolated in its description):

Nearly five years after the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan's security situation continues to be dragged down by endemic corruption, roving militias, and a growing nexus between narco-warlords and remnants of the Taliban, officials and analysts say.

The melting snows of spring often bring an uptick in violence, as rebels emerge from their mountain redoubts. Yet there are indications of a deepening instability beyond the seasonal surge.

More than 70 foreign troops, mostly Americans, have been killed this past year, making it the deadliest period since the conflict began. Violence, meanwhile, seems to be spreading beyond the volatile south, encroaching on areas formerly considered outside the zones of conflict.

"What is often labeled as Taliban violence is not," says Joanna Nathan, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group in Kabul. "It's a whole set of fluid alliances, cross- border attacks from Pakistan, drugs, tribal feuds, and of course the Taliban."

What these security issues have in common, she and others say, is the poor governance and official corruption among provincial governors, police chiefs, and others tasked with securing the country and bringing development. The implication: Stabilizing the country increasingly means providing better government.

"The state we're in now is because of the policy decision to co-opt those people who in the past committed human rights abuses. There's a culture of impunity. They continue in many cases to abuse the rights of people under them," says Ms. Nathan, adding that this not only causes violent flare-ups, but creates sympathy for the Taliban. These troubles, she says, are by no means limited to the south. "There are drug problems in the north, tribal problems, sheer criminality."

Force-Fed Fox in the Chicken White House

It just gets more perverse all the freaking time with these people.

From UPI:

WASHINGTON, April 28 (UPI) -- Washington Post reporter Jim VandeHei asked to have the television on Air Force One tuned to CNN instead of Fox News, but his request was initially denied.

"I was told, 'We don't watch CNN here, you can only watch Fox,'" VandeHei said.

"My question would be, is there a White House policy that all government TVs have to be tuned to Fox?" VandeHei asked White House spokesman Scott McClellan, who is soon to be replaced by former Fox anchor and self-described conservative Tony Snow.

McClellan denied there is an official policy, saying that the four televisions in his office are tuned onto all the major news channels, CNN reported.

"I've never known anyone that's raised a complaint about a request from back here to watch a different channel," McClellan said.

VandeHei replied, "I'm officially raising it, and officially complaining about it."

Gee, Mr. Bush is Right: Oil Companies Aren't Gouging Us: Chevron's Profit Is Only Up 50% So Far

You remember Chevron, right? The oil company where Secretary of Stooge Condi Rice sat on the Board of Directors for more than a decade?

With a profit so far this year of only $55 Billion, I don't know how they will ever survive. Oh wait, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney gave them a HUGE tax break. Maybe they'll be able to hang in there.

Even the Polish Judge Will Give This Olympian a 9 for Effort!

Any spouse can use the family car to try to mow down his or her cheating partner. Remember the wealthy nutjob lady dentist in Texas (ah, so many of them from Texas) who claimed it was all a silly accident when she went back to run over her cheating man three, four extra times?

But the record books like to reward earnest, "out of the box" thinking, such as in this case, where the wife tried to run down her husband while indoors. But hey, I'm sure it was an accident.

Who Needs an NSA, CIA, FBI, Secret Service, or Black Ops When We Have Dick Cheney?

Dick Cheney will decide what anyone can know, thank you very much!

From the San Jose Mercury News Saturday:

As the Bush administration has dramatically accelerated the classification of information as "top secret" or "confidential," one office is refusing to report on its annual activity in classifying documents: the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.

A standing executive order, strengthened by President Bush in 2003, requires all agencies and "any other entity within the executive branch" to provide an annual accounting of their classification of documents. More than 80 agencies have collectively reported to the National Archives that they made 15.6 million decisions in 2004 to classify information, nearly double the number in 2001, but Cheney continues to insist he is exempt.

Explaining why the vice president has withheld even a tally of his office's secrecy when such offices as the National Security Council routinely report theirs, a spokeswoman said Cheney is "not under any duty" to provide it.

That is only one way the Bush administration, from its opening weeks in 2001, has asserted control over information. By keeping secret so many directives and actions, the administration has precluded the public - and often members of Congress - from knowing about some of the most significant decisions and acts of the White House.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the administration has based much of its need for confidentiality on the imperative of protecting national security at a time of war. Yet experts say Bush and his closest advisers demonstrated their proclivity for privacy well before Sept. 11:

Starting in the early weeks of his administration with a move to protect the papers of former presidents, Bush has clamped down on the release of government documents. That includes tougher standards for what the public can obtain under the Freedom of Information Act and the creation of a broad new category of "sensitive but unclassified information."

Not only has the administration reported a dramatic increase in the number of documents deemed "top secret," "secret" or "confidential," the president has authorized the reclassification of information that was public for years. An audit by a National Archives office recently found that the CIA acted in a "clearly inappropriate" way regarding about one-third of the documents it reclassified last year.

The White House has resisted efforts by Congress to gain information, starting with a White House energy task force headed by Cheney and continuing with the president's secret authorization of warrantless surveillance of people inside the United States suspected of communicating with terrorists abroad. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., recently threatened to withhold funding for the surveillance program unless the White House starts providing information.
Cheney makes J. Edgar Hoover, Richard Nixon, and your mother-in-law seem like relaxed, mellow, "whatever happens, happens" types.

If You Think You're Sitting There Alone At Your Computer Right Now, Uh.... Maybe Not So Alone After All

But thankfully, it's just you AND John Negroponte, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, Dick Cheney, George Bush, and the entire rest of the NSA at your keyboard.

Sounds cozy, yes?

From Technology Review and it's a beaut, too!

Another Bush Hoot-and-a-Half Guaranteed to Make You Sob

According to John in DC at AmericaBlog, President Bush and DuD DoD Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claim the U.S. cannot release Guatanamo Bay prisoners from Gitmo because these prisoners would be oppressed if returned to their native lands.


Uh huh. Yeah, I'm sure George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld are really, REALLY concerned about the human rights of the detainees at Gitmo and THAT'S why they can't release them, because they're SO concerned about their human rights.

Somewhere a Soviet propagandist is smiling.


Wait.. either my kitchen drain is having problems or that sucking noise is my head imploding. Either way, it's gonna be messy, my friends!

Duck! It's Dick! (And What a Dick He Is, Too!)

Alicia at Last Left Turn Before Hooterville had this picture up from Mark Bryan that I think is superb!

Click here to see more of Mark's work.

Happy, Happy Birthday, David Anderson

David at In Search of Utopia has a birthday today. Many, many happy returns to the father of one gorgeous little daughter!

The Cato Institute: No One But No One Spends Other People's Money Like George W. Bush

Buzzflash points us to an article that first appeared in 2003, in which the libertarian think tank says it's a completely unprecedented record of deficit-ballooning spending by Dubya, the man who bankrupted every company he ever managed.

The Bush administration's newly released budget projections reveal an anticipated budget deficit of $450 billion for the current fiscal year, up another $151 billion since February. Supporters and critics of the administration are tripping over themselves to blame the deficit on tax cuts, the war, and a slow economy. But the fact is we have mounting deficits because George W. Bush is the most gratuitous big spender to occupy the White House since Jimmy Carter. One could say that he has become the "Mother of All Big Spenders."

The new estimates show that, under Bush, total outlays will have risen $408 billion in just three years to $2.272 trillion: an enormous increase in federal spending of 22 percent. Administration officials privately admit that spending is too high. Yet they argue that deficits are appropriate in times of war and recession. So, is it true that the war on terrorism has resulted in an increase in defense spending? Yes. And, is it also true that a slow economy has meant a decreased stream of tax revenues to pay for government? Yes again.

But the real truth is that national defense is far from being responsible for all of the spending increases. According to the new numbers, defense spending will have risen by about 34 percent since Bush came into office. But, at the same time, non-defense discretionary spending will have skyrocketed by almost 28 percent. Government agencies that Republicans were calling to be abolished less than 10 years ago, such as education and labor, have enjoyed jaw-dropping spending increases under Bush of 70 percent and 65 percent respectively.

Now, most rational people would cut back on their spending if they knew their income was going to be reduced in the near future. Any smart company would look to cut costs should the business climate take a turn for the worse. But the administration has been free spending into the face of a recessionary economy from day one without making any serious attempt to reduce costs.

The White House spinmeisters insist that we keep the size of the deficit "in perspective." Sure it's appropriate that the budget deficit should be measured against the relative size of the economy. Today, the projected budget deficit represents 4.2 percent of the nation's GDP. Thus the folks in the Bush administration pat themselves on the back while they remind us that in the 1980s the economy handled deficits of 6 percent. So what? Apparently this administration seems to think that achieving low standards instead of the lowest is supposed to be comforting.

That the nation's budgetary situation continues to deteriorate is because the administration's fiscal policy has been decidedly more about politics than policy. Even the tax cuts, which happened to be good policy, were still political in nature considering their appeal to the Republican's conservative base. At the same time, the politicos running the Bush reelection machine have consistently tried to placate or silence the liberals and special interests by throwing money at their every whim and desire. In mathematical terms, the administration calculates that satiated conservatives plus silenced liberals equals reelection.
I also notice Cato put "conservative" in italics when referring to the feeble one.

Commander-in-Cheat George W. Bush: Prosecute the Press Like Traitorous Spies

Posted by Joe in DC at AmericaBlog (and disgusting!):

This president is destroying American values in every way he can. Now he's absolutely intent on stifling and undermining the free press. Prosecuting reporters as spies is downright Soviet:
    But the Bush administration is exploring a more radical measure to protect information it says is vital to national security: the criminal prosecution of reporters under the espionage laws.
Stalin would be so proud..
Not to mention Joe McCarthy, Ann(thrax) Coulter, Attila the Hun, and Dick Nixon!

Thieves in the White House

I liked this opinion piece in the Milford Daily News on the above-referenced topic.

Get Informed, Get Active to Protect the Internet from American Corporate and Political Greed

Here's just a bit of a piece posted on Alternet on the subject:

Will the internet in the United States become, in the words of AT&T (SBC) CEO, their company's private "pipes"? Or will it remain, as the Supreme Court cited in 1997, "the most participatory form of mass speech yet developed"? These two very different perspectives reflect what's at stake in the growing fight now in Congress over the internet's future.

A growing movement of online users, public advocates, internet "visionaries," bloggers, and online corporations are fighting to have Congress enact what are called "network neutrality" safeguards. Such rules would preserve the internet's essential democratic structure: All content would be required to flow into our PCs and digital devices in a fair and nondiscriminatory manner. Network neutrality would help ensure that internet serves the interests of diversity of speech. As the new Savetheinternet coalition put it, network neutrality is the equivalent of the internet's First Amendment.

But an unfettered open road is directly at odds with the broadband business plans of AT&T (formerly SBC), Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon. The cable and telephone industry see enormous revenues as operators of a private internet toll-road. How has the internet -- so diverse and unwieldly -- fallen into their hands? The answer is (of course) the Bush administration. Heavily lobbied by the cable and phone giants, the Bush Federal Communications Commission has been eliminating the rules that required the internet to operate in a nondiscriminatory manner.

Under the "old" policy governing what's called the "dial-up" internet, the public was guaranteed that their internet service provider (ISP) had to treat all online content in an unbiased manner. ISPs couldn't, for example, speed up the email or websites they liked, or decide to slow down content it didn't like (such as from a peace group). The former rules also permitted the public to choose from literally thousands of ISPs to connect them to the internet. Such federal safeguards have, sadly, now bitten the digital dust.

Not Liking the President Can Get Your Lights Turned Out... Literally

Only children would display such ridiculous behavior.

Has Anyone Reading Here Seen "Loose Change"?

I've only recently started to hear about this film that presents an alternative theory about 9-11. But I've yet to talk with anyone who has viewed it.

Today, there is this from the wires at AOL:

..., a film that says, among other things, that the Pentagon was hit by a cruise missile fired by the military as an excuse to go to war.

...Made by Rowe and friend Dylan Avery, 22, from Oneonta, N.Y., on a laptop computer for less than $10,000, the film contrasts sharply with United 93, a film opening Friday that portrays the struggle for the jetliner that crashed in Shanksville, Pa.

Extremely Important: The Israeli Nuclear Program That is Never Discussed

Long-time blog readers as well as friends know that I have railed many times about one of the world's worst-kept and certainly almost never acknowledged secrets: that Israel which is not supposed to have a nuclear bomb indeed does have one and that the United States largely developed, bought, and paid for it.

You also know that I have a real ethical problem with the US constantly developing bigger, better, and more lethal nuclear weapons while telling every other country they can't have one and threatening to "attack" such countries if they try to get one. Part of my issue here is that we silently permit everyone to pretend that Israel does not have one when that is a lie.

In my perfect world, there would be no nuclear weapons. With that said, however, I almost fell out of my chair when I was reading through the Washington Post and discovered the article, "The Untold Story of Israel's Bomb".

Now, what I've read here conflicts with some of the other material I've read in the relatively few places I've ever found reference to Israel's nuclear program, but I'm still fucking amazed WaPo covered it at all. It's important and I recommend you read it and, as you do, consider what it means that we play such games by pretending Israel isn't fully capable of blowing Iran or Iraq or other players away while bringing on a nuclear winter in the process.

Israel, like the U.S. and many Islamic countries now, is in severe danger of becoming ONLY a theocracy governed by the most extreme people. The only thing worse than a country with a nuclear bomb is when that country is run by people who like to believe they are God's chosen and that God gives them the right to do whatever it takes to retain their advantage.

A snippet, if you will...

Israel's nuclear program began more than 10 years before Helms's envelope landed on Nixon's desk. In 1958, Israel secretly initiated work at what was to become the Dimona nuclear research site. Only about 15 years after the Holocaust, nuclear nonproliferation norms did not yet exist, and Israel's founders believed they had a compelling case for acquiring nuclear weapons. In 1961, the CIA estimated that Israel could produce nuclear weapons within the decade.

The discovery presented a difficult challenge for U.S. policymakers. From their perspective, Israel was a small, friendly state -- albeit one outside the boundaries of U.S. security guarantees -- surrounded by larger enemies vowing to destroy it. Yet government officials also saw the Israeli nuclear program as a potential threat to U.S. interests. President John F. Kennedy feared that without decisive international action to curb nuclear proliferation, a world of 20 to 30 nuclear-armed nations would be inevitable within a decade or two.

The Kennedy and Johnson administrations fashioned a complex scheme of annual visits to Dimona to ensure that Israel would not develop nuclear weapons. But the Israelis were adept at concealing their activities. By late 1966, Israel had reached the nuclear threshold, although it decided not to conduct an atomic test.

By the time Prime Minister Levi Eshkol visited President Lyndon B. Johnson in January 1968, the official State Department view was that despite Israel's growing nuclear weapons potential, it had "not embarked on a program to produce a nuclear weapon." That assessment, however, eroded in the months ahead. By the fall, Assistant Defense Secretary Paul C. Warnke concluded that Israel had already acquired the bomb when Israeli Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin explained to him how he interpreted Israel's pledge not to be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons into the region. According to Rabin, for nuclear weapons to be introduced, they needed to be tested and publicly declared. Implicitly, then, Israel could possess the bomb without "introducing" it.

The question of what to do about the Israeli bomb would fall to Nixon. Unlike his Democratic predecessors, he and his national security adviser, Henry A. Kissinger, were initially skeptical about the effectiveness of the NPT. And though they may have been inclined to accommodate Israel's nuclear ambitions, they would have to manage senior State Department and Pentagon officials whose perspectives differed. Documents prepared between February and April 1969 reveal a great sense of urgency and alarm among senior officials about Israel's nuclear progress.

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Scathing Times Editorial on the Bushies, FEMA, and the Victims of Katrina

The Bushies keep trying to find new ways to continue to inflict pain and distress on those still displaced from Hurricane Katrina. Want to bet most of those affected are people of color, just as we denied their loan applications in 9 out of 10 cases compared with 9 out of 10 acceptance for white applicants?

Funding Cuts Mean Far Less Food and Help Flows into Darfur

Is this the Bushies' punishment for "liberal" George Clooney calling attention to the grave violence in the Sudan?

The U.S. has cut its planned funding there in half - when it was a piss in an ocean anyway - and the U.N. now says it must scale back aid to Darfur.

While U.S. Denies It, Forbes Reports 100,000 Iraqis Now Displaced by Sectarian Violence

The last report about six weeks ago showed 36,000 Iraqis displaced, but with big questions about how many went uncounted. Now, with the U.S. still denying it's a "significant" number, we're already up to 100K displaced and an untold number D-E-A-D.

From Forbes Magazine:

Sectarian violence has forced about 100,000 families across Iraq to flee their homes, a top Iraqi official said, and 16 Iraqis were killed Saturday, six of them tortured in captivity.

Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi told reporters in the southern city of Najaf that 90 percent of the displaced were Shiites like himself and the rest Sunnis, the minority that held sway under former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Other estimates of the number of displaced families have been lower.

Dr. Salah Abdul-Razzaq, spokesman of the Shiite Endowment, a government body that runs Shiite religious institutions, put the number of displaced families at 13,750 nationwide, or about 90,000 people.

That includes 25,000 Iraqis who have fled their homes since an attack on a Shiite mosque in Samarra on Feb. 22 triggered a wave of sectarian attacks on Sunni mosques and clerics.

Earlier this week, U.S. spokesman Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch told reporters that U.S. forces had found no "widespread movement" of Shiites and Sunnis away from religiously mixed areas, despite reports to the contrary by Iraqi officials.

In Saturday's worst violence, the bodies of six handcuffed, blindfolded and tortured men were found in the Baghdad neighborhood of Dora, said police Capt. Jamil Hussein. The area has seen frequent sectarian violence.

Also, gunmen kidnapped a Sunni policeman and his brother from their home in the Sunni-dominated town of Jurf al-Sakhar early Saturday and shot them to death, said police Capt. Muthana Khalidin. The town, 43 miles south of Baghdad, is near the mostly Shiite city of Musayyib.

Eight other Iraqis were killed in scattered violence.

The Bushies Want to Protect Companies - and Not You - from Their Illegal Spying Efforts

Thank goodness the president, his cabinet, and toady Alberto Gonzales as head of the Justice Department have no shame or at some point, they would get mightily sorrowful at the shit they're pulling on normal, average Americans.

The Times tells us why the Bushies want to protect companies like AT&T, who happily hand over your private details while online without due cause and without a warrant, from any suits by you for violation of your civil liberties. All the Bushies want to do is spy on you - and add you to a list if you don't love Bush, Cheney, and all they do.

From the article:

The government asked a federal judge here Friday to dismiss a civil liberties lawsuit against the AT&T Corporation because of a possibility that military and state secrets would otherwise be disclosed.

The lawsuit, accusing the company of illegally collaborating with the National Security Agency in a vast surveillance program, was filed in February by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group.

The class-action suit, which seeks an end to the collaboration it alleges, is based in part on the testimony of Mark Klein, a retired technician for the company who says Internet data passing through an AT&T switching center in San Francisco is being diverted to a secret room. There, Mr. Klein says, the security agency has installed powerful computers to eavesdrop without warrants on the digital data and forward the information to an undisclosed place.

The foundation has filed documents obtained by Mr. Klein that ostensibly show detailed technical information on N.S.A. technology used to divert Internet data. He has also said in a deposition that employees of the agency went to the switching center to oversee special projects.

The company has declined to address the suit publicly, saying it will have no comment on matters of national security or customer privacy.

In its action Friday, the government filed a statement of interest asserting military and state secret privilege in asking the judge, Vaughn R. Walker, to dismiss the suit. Separately on Friday, AT&T also filed two motions to dismiss.

The government's filing said the authorities "cannot disclose any national security information that may be at issue in this case." The document went on to say that the filing should not be construed as either a confirmation or a denial of any of the claims made by the civil liberties group about government surveillance activities.

Elsewhere in the document, however, the government said President Bush had explained that after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he authorized the security agency to intercept communications into and out of the United States by people linked to Al Qaeda and related organizations. The agency is ordinarily prohibited from intercepting the telephone and digital communications of American citizens without a warrant from a special intelligence court.

Why John Kerry Should NOT Run for 08 Presidency

What Ellen Goodman said ... er... wrote... and then some.

I also feel very strongly that it would be bad for the country as a whole if Hillary Clinton goes for the job. These two egos need to see beyond their own interests (for a change).

A Reminder to Fellow Vermonters: Next Saturday, May 6th

For those in the Green Mountain state, next Saturday is Vermont Greenup day, the day we all take to the roads and off-roads to clean up litter and do other things to make the landscape look a little nicer for the green months ahead.

There are plenty of organized events, but everyone is just welcome to take to the roads near their homes to cleanup as well. Here, my dog even gets involved, sometimes carrying the trashbag in his hound jaws while we pick up refuse.

Yet Another Bushie Proves to Be Someone Who Should Never Serve Anything But Prison Time

Bush's hand-picked former head of the FDA, this time. Sheesh! This was a man many did not want in the job, but Bush pushed him through anyway and, like so many of Bush's appointees, he was a fraud, a partisan pissass, and had an agenda far different than the best interests of the American people.

From today's Times:

Dr. Lester M. Crawford, the former commissioner of food and drugs, is under criminal investigation by a federal grand jury over accusations of financial improprieties and false statements to Congress, his lawyer said Friday.

The lawyer, Barbara Van Gelder, would not discuss the accusations further. In a court hearing held by telephone on Thursday, she told a federal magistrate that she would instruct Dr. Crawford to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination if ordered to answer questions this week about his actions as head of the Food and Drug Administration, according to a transcript of the hearing.

Dr. Crawford did not reply to messages seeking comment, and Kathleen Quinn, an F.D.A. spokeswoman, declined to comment.

Dr. Crawford resigned in September, fewer than three months after the Senate confirmed him. He said then that it was time for someone else to lead the agency.

The next month, financial disclosure forms released by the Department of Health and Human Services showed that in 2004 either Dr. Crawford or his wife, Catherine, had sold shares in companies regulated by the agency when he was its deputy commissioner and acting commissioner. He has since joined a Washington lobbying firm, Policy Directions Inc.
The criminal investigation was disclosed at a court hearing in a lawsuit over the F.D.A.'s actions on the emergency contraceptive Plan B, a subject of bitter contention during Dr. Crawford's tenure as acting commissioner and commissioner. After the pill's maker, Barr Laboratories, applied three years ago to sell the pill over the counter, the agency repeatedly delayed making a decision on the application.

While many lawmakers, abortion rights advocates and former F.D.A. officials said the delays had resulted from politics, Dr. Crawford and other agency officials said their concerns were scientific and legal.

An advocacy group, the Center for Reproductive Rights, sued the agency in federal court in New York over the delays. Many such suits are quickly dismissed, but a federal judge allowed the case to proceed, giving the center the right to interview top F.D.A. officials, including Dr. Crawford.

Dr. Crawford was scheduled to be questioned under oath on Thursday, but on Wednesday Ms. Van Gelder, who is his personal lawyer, asked for a delay, saying she would instruct him to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights. Dr. Crawford previously declined to answer questions from the Government Accountability Office about Plan B.
This entire administration should be indicted, impeached, and imprisoned... to quote my colleagues at Blah3 with a t-shirt to that effect.

Al Qaeda's Number 2: al Zawahri Speaks

From the wires (AssPress):

CAIRO, Egypt - The U.S. military has only seen "loss, disaster and misfortune" in Iraq, al-Qaida's No. 2 said, in a video message that a U.S. official deemed part of a propaganda campaign to demonstrate the terror network's relevancy.

The video by Ayman al-Zawahri, posted on an Islamic militant Web forum Saturday, came within the same week as an audiotape by Osama bin Laden' name and a video by the head of al-Qaida's branch in Iraq — a volley of messages by the group's most prominent figures.

Al-Zawahri, an Egyptian militant believed to be hiding in
Afghanistan or Pakistan, also denounced the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq as "traitors" and called on Muslims to rise up to "confront them."

He said that U.S. and British forces in Iraq had bogged down in Iraq and "have achieved nothing but loss, disaster and misfortune."

The Beauty of Investigating Yourself: You Can Always Decide You're Not Guilty

That is exactly what the Justice Department ruled for itself this week when it investigated itself over whether it was hurting government protesters. This technique has worked well for Rumsfeld's Department of Defense and Arnold Schwarzenegger on groping charges toward women as well!

From Saturday's WaPo:

FBI interviews of protesters before and during the 2004 political conventions were carried out for "legitimate law enforcement purposes" and not to prevent people from demonstrating, the Justice Department's inspector general said yesterday.

In a 37-page report, Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said the FBI was checking out 17 protester-related threats of disruption at the Democratic and Republican conventions when it conducted interviews, carried out physical surveillance and searched for protesters' names in FBI databases. The FBI tracked down 60 people in nine states, and 41 consented to interviews, the report said.

"Our review did not substantiate the allegations that the FBI improperly targeted protesters for interviews in an effort to chill the exercise of their First Amendment rights," Fine wrote. "We concluded that the FBI's interviews of potential convention protesters and others that we reviewed were conducted for legitimate law enforcement purposes."

FBI spokesman John Miller said the agency knew its dealings with protesters would be a sensitive subject, and provided training and guidance to agents well in advance.

"The OIG report shows the FBI conducted its investigations properly," Miller said. "They went into this with their eyes open, saying this can be brittle territory and it's important to be mindful of the regulations and do it carefully."

The American Civil Liberties Union has accused the agency of using the threat of terrorism as a pretext to intimidate protesters and dissuade them from gathering at the national party conventions. The group, which has sued the FBI for records, says that through extensive Freedom of Information Act requests, it has turned up evidence of political intimidation on other occasions not related to the party gatherings.

"We think that the facts discussed in the report confirm what we've been saying all along, which is that one of the reasons that the FBI was interviewing protesters around the country was to discourage them -- inappropriately -- from attending the political conventions," said Ann Beeson, associate legal director of the ACLU. "We are still quite concerned with an overall pattern, with the targeting of peaceful groups, based primarily on their rights of association and free speech."

Beeson pointed to a section of Fine's report that examined the FBI's practice of conducting "pretext interviews" with potential protesters before the conventions in an effort to dig up threat information. The report quotes a memo from the FBI's St. Louis field office as saying, in part: "The purpose of the interviews will be to increase intelligence in this area and discourage the interviewees from traveling to any of the above [events] to criminally disrupt the event."

More Than A Thousand Iraqis At Risk of Nuclear Contamination

Despite the report here (UK Guardian), there are far more at risk thanks to the depleted uranium we've dumped all over the place there to the harm of residents and international soldiers (and the planet).

State Department Finally Admits What We Know: We've Made Iraq into a Haven/Training Center for Terrorists it Was NOT Before

From the UK Guardian and the word isn't good:

The US state department acknowledged yesterday that there is a risk of Iraq becoming a safe haven for terrorists three years after the invasion of the country.

The warning is contained in the state department's annual country reports on terrorism. The report, which suggests an increase in terrorist attacks worldwide, appears to undermine repeated claims by President George Bush that the US is winning the "war on terrorism".

The report says: "Iraq is not currently a terrorist safe haven, but terrorists including Sunni groups like al-Qaida in Iraq, Ansar al-Islam and Ansar al-Sunna, as well as Shia extremists and other groups, view Iraq as a potential safe haven and are attempting to make it a reality."
The department said some of Iraq's neighbours, including Syria, had not been helpful in the battle to try to prevent the creation of a terrorist safe haven.

The report said there had been more than 11,000 terrorist attacks worldwide, killing 14,600 people, and blamed al-Qaida or al-Qaida-linked groups.

The number of attacks represents a huge increase over the previous year, counter to Mr Bush's claim that the war was being won. But the state department said a revised methodology meant the numbers could not be compared with the 3,129 international terrorism attacks listed the previous year.
Contrary to the lies of the Bushies, Iraq was NOT a terrorist training camp or haven before we arrived to wage war. This development is entirely the work of the Bushies, funded by our tax dollars, and perpetrated against innocent civilians and Coalition soldiers.

Tens of Thousands March in New York Today to End War

Although the major media is giving it almost no attention, here's the story from the wire:

A day after the military announced that April was the deadliest month for U.S. forces in Iraq this year, thousands of anti-war demonstrators marched Saturday through lower Manhattan to demand an immediate withdrawal of troops.

Cindy Sheehan, a vociferous critic of the war whose soldier son also died in Iraq, joined in the march, as did actress Susan Sarandon and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

"End this war, bring the troops home," read one sign lifted by marchers on the sunny afternoon, three years after the war in Iraq began. The mother of a Marine killed two years ago in Iraq held a picture of her son, born in 1984 and killed 20 years later.

One group marched under the banner "Veterans for Peace."

Slate Asks the Question: How Dumb Does Big Oil - and the Bushies - Believe You Are?

Read it and weep.

Paul Krugman: Beware the Evil Crony Fairy

Reprinted in part from Rozius, the blog:

The U.S. government is being stalked by an invisible bandit, the Crony Fairy, who visits key agencies by dead of night, snatches away qualified people and replaces them with unqualified political appointees. There's no way to catch or stop the Crony Fairy, so our only hope is to change the agencies' names. That way she might get confused, and leave our government able to function.

That, at least, is how I interpret the report on responses to Hurricane Katrina that was just released by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

The report points out that the Federal Emergency Management Agency "had been operating at a more than 15 percent staff-vacancy rate for over a year before Katrina struck" — that means many of the people who knew what they were doing had left. And it adds that "FEMA's senior political appointees ... had little or no prior relevant emergency-management experience."

But the report says nothing about what caused the qualified people to leave and who appointed unqualified people to take their place. There's no hint that, say, President Bush might have had any role. So those political appointees must have been installed by the Crony Fairy.

Rather than trying to fix FEMA, the report calls for replacing it with a new organization, the National Preparedness and Response Agency. As far as I can tell, the new agency would have exactly the same responsibilities as FEMA. But "senior N.P.R.A. officials would be selected from the ranks of professionals with experience in crisis management." I guess it's impossible to select qualified people to run FEMA; if you try, the Crony Fairy will spirit them away and replace them with Michael Brown. But she might not know her way to N.P.R.A.

...And bear in mind that Mr. Bush's pattern of cronyism didn't change after Katrina. For example, he appointed Julie Myers, the inexperienced niece of Gen. Richard Myers, to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement — an agency that, like FEMA, is supposed to protect us against terrorism as well as other threats. Even at the C.I.A., the administration seems more interested in purging Democrats than in improving the quality of intelligence.

So let's skip the name change for FEMA, O.K.? The United States will regain effective government if and when it gets a president who cares more about serving the nation than about rewarding his friends and scoring political points. That's at least a thousand days away. Meanwhile, don't count on FEMA, or on any other government agency, to do its job.
Amen, Brother Paul!

Were You One of the 3,501 People Investigated Last Year Without a Warrant, Without Reason?

You will never know, will you? This is the power you are willing to cede to people who do not deserve your test OR access to the most private details of our lives.

Story here:

WASHINGTON (April 29) - The FBI secretly sought information last year on 3,501 U.S. citizens and legal residents from their banks and credit card, telephone and Internet companies without a court's approval, the Justice Department said Friday.

It was the first time the Bush administration has publicly disclosed how often it uses the administrative subpoena known as a National Security Letter, which allows the executive branch of government to obtain records about people in terrorism and espionage investigations without a judge's approval or a grand jury subpoena.

Friday's disclosure was mandated as part of the renewal of the Patriot Act, the administration's sweeping anti-terror law.

The FBI delivered a total of 9,254 NSLs relating to 3,501 people in 2005, according to a report submitted late Friday to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate. In some cases, the bureau demanded information about one person from several companies.

The numbers from previous years remain classified, officials said.

Tell the Reprehensible Republicans NO on Two-Tiered Internet

Story here.

Will a Grand Jury Decide Next Week Whether to Indict - Yes, Indict! - Karl Rove?

Posted by Jason Leopold at TruthOut:

Despite vehement denials by his attorney who said this week that Karl Rove is neither a "target" nor in danger of being indicted in the CIA leak case, the special counsel leading the investigation has already written up charges against Rove, and a grand jury is expected to vote on whether to indict the Deputy White House Chief of Staff sometime next week, sources knowledgeable about the probe said Friday afternoon.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was in Chicago Friday and did not meet with the grand jury.

Luskin was informed via a target letter that Fitzgerald is prepared to charge Rove for perjury and lying to investigators during Rove’s appearances before the grand jury in 2004 and in interviews with investigators in 2003 when he was asked how and when he discovered that Valerie Plame Wilson worked for the CIA, and whether he shared that information with the media.
Well, a girl can hope, I guess.


Two Down, How Many More to Go in Capitol Hill-Prostitution Scandal?

I do so enjoy the family values GOP types!

From Harper's, Thursday (4-27-06):

The Wall Street Journal reported today that indicted former California Congressman Randall "Duke" Cunningham may not have limited his good times to partying on a rented yacht. It turns out the FBI is currently investigating two defense contractors who allegedly provided Cunningham with free limousine service, free stays at hotel suites at the Watergate and the Westin Grand, and free prostitutes.

The two defense contractors who allegedly bribed Cunningham, said the Journal, were Brent Wilkes, the founder of ADCS Inc., and Mitchell Wade, the founder of MZM Inc.; both firms profited greatly from their connections with Cunningham. The Journal also suggested that other lawmakers might be implicated. I've learned from a well-connected source that those under intense scrutiny by the FBI are current and former lawmakers on Defense and Intelligence comittees—including one person who now holds a powerful intelligence post. I've also been able to learn the name of the limousine service that was used to ferry the guests and other attendees to the parties: Shirlington Limousine and Transportation of Arlington, Virginia. Wilkes, I've learned, even hired Shirlington as his personal limousine service.

It gets even more interesting: the man who has been identified as the CEO of Shirlington has a 62-page rap sheet (I recently obtained a copy) that runs from at least 1979 through 1989 and lists charges of petit larceny, robbery, receiving stolen goods, assault, and more. Curiously—or perhaps not so curiously given the company's connections—Shirlington Limousine is also a Department of Homeland Security contractor; according to the Washington Post, last fall it won a $21.2 million contract for shuttle services and transportation support. (I tried to contact Shirlington but was unable to get past their answering service.)

As to the festivities themselves, I hear that party nights began early with poker games (see Clarification, below) and degenerated into what the source described as a "frat party" scene—real bacchanals. Apparently photographs were taken, and investigators are anxiously procuring copies. My heart beats faster in fevered anticipation.

Expect further details to emerge . . .
Along with teeny-weeny peenies and those lovely red light districts, no doubt!

In The "Vertical Stripes CAN Be Very Slimming" Department

Bowing in thanks to Shakespeare's Sister for this!

Rush Limbaugh: Whose bitch do you have to be to get a Cuban in this joint?

Modern Day KKK's Bestest Friend, GOPer Haley Barbour Funded Dirty Tricks Firm

I'll just bet he did!

From TPM Muckraker:

This just in:
    Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a former Republican Party chairman, arranged the startup financing for a GOP telemarketing company implicated in two criminal cases involving election dirty tricks.

    . . . Barbour's investment company arranged a quarter-million dollar loan to GOP Marketplace in 2000 and also gave a promotional plug to the telemarketer several months later.
    . . . According to [an] operating agreement, the loan gave the investors a stake in the company.
Does that mean Barbour profited off the dirty tricks campaigns?

Also interesting: The company's founder, Allen Raymond, once worked for Barbour at the Republican National Committee, according to the AP article. Raymond's now serving a three-month prison term for jamming phones in New Hampshire on election day 2002. His company was implicated in an earlier scheme in New Jersey to make harrassing phone calls to voters.

Just as Senators Suggest Getting Rid of FEMA, FEMA Strongly Recommends Eliminating Another Big Disaster: The Bush Administration!


Elected Whores Vs. Those Paid by the Hour


From Think Progress:

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the FBI is “investigating whether two contractors implicated in the bribery of former Rep. Randall ‘Duke’ Cunningham supplied him with prostitutes and free use of a limousine and hotel suites.” The Journal also said the investigators are exploring “whether any other members of Congress” are involved.

Last night on MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, Dean Calbreath of the San Diego Union Tribune – which recently won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the Cunningham case – said that “as many as a half a dozen” members of Congress could ultimately be implicated in the prostitution scandal. Watch it:
Of course, no self-respecting prostitute would spend time with Joe Scarborough, even for all the money in the Bush family hope chest!

An Analysis You Should Read: Is Al Zarqawi Real? Alive? Or is He and It A Big Hoax

Joseph at Cannonfire brings up the whole issue of our bogeyman-izing al Zarqawi, calling him Osama's man in Iraq and why people like highly respected journalist Robert Fisk feel that all of this is a fake, that al-Zarqawi may have been dead for at least more than three years.

You don't have to agree with Joseph's points, but you damned well probably should read it and think about the points he raises. Thank you, Joseph!


People still snicker whenever anyone suggests that the American intelligence community has, in the past, manipulated the American press. Yet nobody laughed at Donald Rumsfeld when he claimed that
"The terrorists, Zarqawi and bin Laden and Zawahiri, those people have media committees.

They are actively out there trying to manipulate the press in the United States."Rumsfeld did not point to a single story in the U.S. media influenced by the putative Zarqawi "media committee."

How could he? His assertion is inane on its face; a couple of criminals despised by all Americans could never "spin" CBS or the New York Times.

Is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi himself a manipulation? As we discussed in a recent post, the Washington Post revealed that the "threat" posed by this alleged Al Qaeda leader was largely the creation of a military PSYOPS unit. The propaganda campaign targeted both the foreign press and the U.S. "home audience." Also targeted were our troops: When they unleashed "Whiskey Pete" on civilians in Fallujah, they did so in the belief that they were fighting Zarqawi.On the same day the Post story appeared, Bush -- in a speech -- cited as genuine a Zarqawi letter now known to be fake.

Journalist Robert Fisk feels that Zarqawi may have died years ago. The Jordanian has not been seen in years; he did not communicate with his family when his mother died; he has made no attempt to help his wife.Fisk is hardly the only skeptic to make such a claim -- see, for example, this page of links. (Note: A number of the links go to pages I consider less than credible.)There are numerous mysteries surrounding this alleged Al Qaeda mastermind: The many reported deaths...the leg that either was or was not amputated...his alleged presence in the questioned Nick Berg decapitaion video...and more.

I cannot discuss all of these matters here -- although I should note in passing that, if memory serves, we never did receive official confirmation that Zarqawi's voice was heard on the Berg video. One would think that the CIA possesses the ability to nail that sort of idenitifaction.Now we have a new video featuring Zarqawi -- a man who has died many a death, a man claimed by the august Washington Post to be largely a PSYOPS-driven myth. The timing of this video release, so soon after the Post story, seems rather convenient. A copy of the Zarqawi video can be found here. (I can't help noting that one of the jihadist fighting songs sounds an awful lot like an old WWI ditty: "Skitta-marink-a-dink-a-dink-a-parlez-vous...")

If you're well-read in the lore of intelligence operations, you may have come across accounts of faked videos involving look-a-like actors. I will discuss one notorious example in a future post. For now, let us note in passing that we do have one confirmed incident of a faked beheading video put together by a young hoaxer named Benjamin Vanderford, who seems to have operated out of bizarre personal motives. If a mere civilian can create such a thing, a military psychological operations unit could surely do a more professional job.

Denny Hastert: Perfect Example of a Pork-Ridden Fool Who Holds Himself to a Different Standard Than People He's Supposed to Serve

You've heard about this, no doubt: fat old fool Denny Hastert tells you to spend a bundle on a hybrid vehicle while he rides around in a huge 3 mpg Chevy Suburban that he probably got Wal-Mart or Jack Abramoff to buy for him.

From Crooks and Liars:

Hastert of the SUV clan:

"Hastert and other members of Congress drove off in the Hydrogen-Fueled cars only to switch to their official cars to drive back the few block back to the U.S. Capitol...read on
(h/t Catherine)

How Much Do You Matter to Congress? Not a Bit

Can you believe this? Congress has decided the answer to high gas prices isn't a real investigation into gouging, isn't understanding that we've wasted more than 30 years letting politicians pretend our lives are profoundly affected by our dependence on fossil fuels we should have weaned ourselves from in the 1970s because congress was afraid you wouldn't vote for them if they did mention it.

Instead, all they need to do, they've decided, is bribe you with $100 to destroy ANWR nature reserve and do whatever scummy other thing they need to do.

It's been a very long time since $100 meant anything. These days, if you have a big gas tank, you won't even have much change left over from a hundred dollar bill after you fill up.

So let's tell Congress that we will only pay each of them $100 a year in salary unless and until they begin doing their fucking jobs.

Alrighty Then!

Do you feel all better now that Mr. Bush has told you he sees NO indication of price gouging with the increasing by the second gas prices and that he sees zero reason to tax windfall profits?

I know that you do. ::wink wink::

Mexico: Big Changes in Drug Laws for Personal Use Only

From CNN:

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (AP) -- Mexico's Congress on Friday approved a bill decriminalizing possession of small quantities of marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine and even heroin for personal use, prompting U.S. criticism that the measure could harm anti-drug efforts.

The only step remaining was the signature of President Vicente Fox, whose office indicated he would sign the bill, which Mexican officials hope will allow police to focus on large-scale trafficking operations rather than minor drug busts.

"This law gives police and prosecutors better legal tools to combat drug crimes that do so much damage to our youth and children," said Fox's spokesman, Ruben Aguilar.
Obviously, this is going to make American lawmakers go nuts because they reacted very strongly to Canada's change which only involves limited amounts of marijuana.

Personally, I would prefer a world in which all of us felt self-actualized and content enough with ourselves that no one ever felt the need to indulge in anything as self-destructive as regular tobacco/nicotine or alcohol consumption. I've never met anyone who was a better person, a better lover, a better worker, or more rational because he or she just snorted cocaine. I've had relatively little experience with anyone - to my knowledge - routinely using heroin, only some experience with people (none myself) with Ecstasy and a bit more with marijuana.

But whether I ever indulged or not - and I suspect my light experimentation days are long behind me; these days, I resent needing to take ibuprofen - I think there has to be a saner approach to the issue of drugs than the U.S. displays.

We've done enormous damage to individuals and to whole countries because of our schizophrenic drug policies. All the War on Drugs has done is cost us incredible amounts of money, resulted in an untold number of deaths and destruction of lives and families, and turned countries like Colombia into living nightmares.

We have so many more thousands of bigger problems than whether someone has a joint on a Saturday night or a consenting adult decides to swallow a tab of Ecstasy while out at a club. Enough is enough. If PhRMA were not so in control of our politicians and health care system and laws, we would have ditched this unwinnable war long ago.

It's time to stop this war and figure out a better way.

Little Bit of Irony About Bush's "Talk" on Spanish Version Anthem

Anyone notice that, as Dubya told us today that immigrants should learn the English language, it was fairly clear that our president does not yet possess any command of our language? I counted at least 4-5 words either mispronounced or improperly used in just a 2-3 minute sound byte shown on the networks.

Rush Limbaugh: For What Would Land You in Prison for a Decade, He Gets a Wrist Slap

Rush was arrested for painkillers today, but it was just a technicality to let him escape prosecution for massively illegal actions that would have gotten anyone else huge amounts of prison time for the deceitful procurement of controlled substances.

Rush, of course, strongly endorses others getting severe punishment for what he whines and cries is fine for him to do.

The President's Priorities Need Some Overhaul

I happen to believe that the American national anthem should be sung pretty much in English, too.

But one would almost think that George W. Bush might have a few hundred million more critical priorities than worrying himself in a tight wedgie over the Hispanic lyrics used for "Star Spangled Banner", the difficult enough to sing in any language national anthem. Hell, that many Americans cannot even name the correct national anthem, let alone recite a majority of the lyrics is slightly more important but...

Really, it's pretty minor compared to lack of health care, the disappearing middle class, the doubling debt and worsening trade deficit, how his administration has fucked this country over for generations to come... and this is just a start off the top of my head.

So, hey George, ohhhh say can you see where I'm headed with this? Nah, you're a bit dim.

Looking for the Lyrics to Neil Young's Let's Impeach the President (for Lying)?

You can find them here, at Neil's site (he also has a My Spaces site, too).

Speaking of That Sex-Crazed Falafel Humper, Bill O'Reilly

From Media Matters (and it does!):

During the April 25 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly claimed that his Fox News colleague Tony Snow, the recently named White House spokesman, is "under attack by the far left and [Democratic National Committee chairman] Howard Dean." O'Reilly declared that "smear merchants on the Internet" "cherry pick stuff" that Snow "wrote in his column and said on the Fox News Channel and try to make him look like a buffoon and a hypocrite," which "they do ... to me every day." O'Reilly also said that these "despicable human beings" are able to "operate through some newspaper people and a couple of television people who just parrot what they give them," adding: "[T]he press is even worse. It just spits out their propaganda. I mean, these are Nazis. These are Joseph Goebbels people."

O'Reilly also attacked Dean, claiming that Dean has "made a deal with the far left," and that he is "not only incompetent" but "dishonest," as well.

From the April 25 edition of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:
    O'REILLY: OK. As predicted, as we told you yesterday, Tony Snow is the new White House press secretary, and he's immediately under attack by the far left and Howard Dean. Now, it's interesting to watch how Dean has now made a deal with the far left and how he has thrown in continually with that group, which is never going to win an election and hurts the Democratic Party.

    So, you got these smear merchants on the Internet and they operate through some newspaper people and a couple of television people who just parrot what they give them. They're despicable human beings, these smear merchants on the -- on the net. And the press is even worse. It just spits out their propaganda. I mean, these are Nazis. These are Joseph Goebbels people.

    So, Snow, what they do is they go back and they cherry pick stuff that he wrote in his column and said on the Fox News Channel and try to make him look like a buffoon and a hypocrite. They do that to me every day. It's not hard to make me look like a dafoon -- a buffoon. You can do that without distorting. I do three hours of analysis every day, but these are dishonest people. I'll say something and they'll go -- and they'll take it out of context or they'll lie about it. And then a guy like Howard Dean will run around and scream and yell.

    This shows me that the head of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean, is not only incompetent, but he is dishonest. And you really can't have somebody at that level that blatantly dishonest, because how can you support a political party where whose head is Howard Dean? You can't. I mean, it's ridiculous. No matter what the Democrats say or do, they've got this guy. And believe me, good Democrats know what a nut he is. They know. And they're embarrassed by it. But the far left has a stranglehold on the party.

George Clooney: Sudan and Darfur

You can just about imagine how Bill O'Reilly and the most heinous fruitcakes of the extreme right wing will go after actor George Clooney, a man with a conscience - and quite a brain, too! - because he and his father traveled to Darfur to get some attention for the horrors happening there.

The right wing is happy to let stars speak freely if they're some numbnut like Bo ("My first name is a bit tough for me to spell") Derek and Bruce Willis and even Steven Spielberg when he liked going after Afghanistan, but if the star happens to disagree, then Hollywood types are "all bad".

Wal-Mart Behind Estate Tax Repeal

If you haven't caught the news in the last year or two, the single biggest backer of the Bushies and GOP Congress weasels efforts to repeal the estate tax - something an overwhelming number of Americans disapprove of - has been largely bought and paid for by just one American family: the Waltons who own Wal-Mart.

Not only is this going to cost us big-time and drive us farther into debt and ensuring that, as has been happening, much more of the tax burden shifts to the middle class and poor, but this issue has also been couched in terrible lies that it hurts small businesses and family farms. A very small percentage of family farms have any potential whatsoever of being affected; the same is true with small businesses.

No, the Waltons are very good at taking YOUR money while trying to do everything within their power to avoid paying their fair share of taxes as well as making you, the taxpayer, foot the medical costs for its employees so the Waltons, already far wealthier than a few million of them could spend in a lifetime, can be richer still.

Think about this next time you visit the store of "falling prices": there's something far lower behind Wal-Mart than their price of toilet paper... their scruples and honor.

Karl Rove: Mission Impossible and Reprehensible

I missed this EJ Dionne column from the Washington Post a week ago today concerning Karl Rove's "change" of function at the White House (where we should NOT be paying him a nickel of taxpayer dollars).

Here's a snip:

Here's the real meaning of the White House shake-up and the redefinition of Karl Rove's role in the Bush presidency: The administration's one and only domestic priority in 2006 is hanging on to control of Congress.

That, in turn, means that all the spin about Rove's power being diminished is simply wrong. Yes, Rove is giving up some policy responsibilities to concentrate on politics, but guess what: The possibility of President Bush's winning enactment of any major new policy initiative this year is zero. Rove is simply moving to where all the action will, of necessity, be.

As one outside adviser to the administration said, the danger of a Democratic takeover of at least one house of Congress looms large and would carry huge penalties for Bush. The administration fears "investigations of everything" by congressional committees, this adviser said, and the "possibility of a forced withdrawal from Iraq" through legislative action.

"I don't think they see much chance of accomplishing anything this year," said this Republican strategist, who preferred not to be quoted by name. "The bulk of their agenda, let's say, has been put on hold."

Rove never stopped being political, even when he had formal responsibility for policy. What's intriguing about the shift in the direction of Rove's energies is that it marks a turn from the high politics of a partisan realignment driven by ideas and policies to the more mundane politics of eking out votes, seat by seat and state by state. Most of Rove's grander dreams have died as the president's poll numbers have come crashing down.

It's forgotten that the president's proposal to privatize part of Social Security was not primarily about creating solvency in the system, since the creation of private accounts would have aggravated deficits for a significant period. It was part of a larger effort to reorganize government and bring the New Deal era to a definitive close.

The president's "ownership society" was a political project designed to increase Americans' reliance on private markets for their retirements and, over the longer run, on their own resources for health coverage. The idea was that broadening the "investor class," a totemic phrase among tax-cutting conservatives, would change the economic basis of politics -- and create more Republicans.

The collapse of the Social Security initiative was thus more than a policy failure. It was a decisive political defeat that left Bush and Rove with no fallback ideas around which to organize domestic policy.
I'm still hoping Karl gets frog-marched!

Wow, Tony Snow is Really, Really Smart

New White House spokesweasel has proclaimed that racism is no longer a big deal.

Well, it's certainly not at Fox News. I mean, the few people of color who ever get on the channel seem amazingly lilly-livered white. Come to think of it, about the only person of color I regularly see on Faux is Bill O'Reilly with a fake tan.

Could Immigrant Marches on Monday, May 1st "Close" U.S. Cities

Could be.

Remember Wal-Mart's Offer to Help American Health Care System?

Which, btw, seems to amount to letting American taxpayers PAY for Wal-Mart employees to get ANY health care?

Well, unions are crying foul against Wal-Mart for their health care program (or lack thereof).

Slate Asks the Question: Are Republicans Screwed?

Well, with these Repugnicans in charge, we are ALL screwed. It just gets worse with each passing day.

What in Hell is Wrong with Senator Pat Roberts?

The man has dragged his feet, knuckles, chin, and rump on every attempt to investigate anything with this administration. It's like Roberts wants to make the "Senate Intelligence Committee" into even more of an oxymoron. Ass.

From The Hill:

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said he wants to divide his panel’s inquiry into the Bush administration’s handling of Iraq-related intelligence into two parts, a move that would push off its most politically controversial elements to a later time.

The inquiry has dragged on for more than two years, a slow pace that prompted Democrats to force the Senate into an extraordinary closed-door session in November. Republicans then promised to speed up the probe.

Roberts said in an interview shortly before the April recess that he could bring up the matter in a business meeting of the Intelligence Committee scheduled for tomorrow.

“We went over three reports that members are studying,” Roberts said, referring to three less controversial components of his committee’s inquiry. Roberts said his committee could approve the immediate publication of those components.

Blah Blah Blah... Blah 3, That Is!

One more reminder to stop by Blah3 to help them toward their million-click march.

Thank you!

Home Foreclosures Almost Double Rate of Last Year

Mr. Bush has spoken so often of the U.S. as an ownership society and perhaps it is.

However, the owner is usually the bank or other creditors and, as Mr. Bush has ruined the economy and sunk the U.S. dollar against skyrocketing trade deficits and debt and is rapidly killing off the American middle class, can it be any surprise that the U.S. has never, ever seen such high home foreclosure rates, up nearly 75% over last year which was ALSO a record year for foreclosures?

In fact, every year Mr. Bush has been in office, foreclosure rates have been at record numbers along with consumer and federal debt. Last year's disastrous changes to the bankruptcy bill have just made it that much worse for those struggling so hard to survive.

Ownership in Bush's American Economy: He and his pals own, you pay and have nothing. Nice status if you can get it, though you probably can't.


Conrad Burns: Another "Ethical" GOP-on-Everyone Who Sold Taxpayers to Lobbyists

From the AssPress and it's a beaut:

WASHINGTON — Montana Sen. Conrad Burns has retained a lawyer who specializes in white collar crime and congressional investigations, his campaign confirmed Tuesday.

Campaign spokesman Jason Klindt said that Burns has hired Ralph Caccia, a Washington partner with the law firm Powell Goldstein.

Montana Democrats have played up Burns links to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who pleaded guilty as part of a federal corruption investigation earlier this year. Abramoff is cooperating with prosecutors investigating influence-peddling on Capitol Hill.

Burns received about $150,000 in campaign donations from Abramoff and his associates, which he has since donated or returned. In March, Abramoff told Vanity Fair magazine that his lobbying firm got "every appropriation we wanted" from Burns' Senate committee, adding that his staff members were "as close as they could be" with the Montana Republican's staff.

Burns has maintained that he was not influenced by Abramoff and says he has not been contacted by the Justice Department.
Oh, of course, Senator Burns was not influenced. He just happened to want to give Abramoff everthing Abramoff wanted.

And, also of course, Sen. Burns has not been contacted by the Justice Department because Attorney General Al Gonzales is ALSO bought and paid for by lobbyists like Abramoff and is nothing more than a brown-nosing shill for Mr. Bush.

Katrina Report "Rips" White House

Here's the wire story, but let's look beneath it from senators calling for the abolition of FEMA to the implications of the post-Katrina report.

I don't think there is an argument from anyone that the Bush Administration handled Hurricane Katrina as badly as humanly possible, despite all the back-slapping and self-congratulations they handed themselves at the time - and with which they still laud themselves.

But I do NOT believe the White House response to Katrina was a mistake. We might see it as an extraordinary failure, but I happen to believe the devastating failure was purely intentional, that it was no coincidence it occurred in a city where 70% of the population was black or other minorities and in which the people served most poorly also happened to be very poor.

Consider that Mr. Bush fraudulently rode into power on the backs and wallets of people like Grover Norquist and Tom DeLay who specifically want to have government fail so it doesn't intrude in their lives, meaning they won't be taxed.

Now consider the fact that from the energy policy meets in the summer of 2001, to 9-11, to the federal response to the Enron debacle (Enron also bought Mr. Bush's entrance into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue) to Afghanistan and Iraq and right through til today, all this administration has done is prove that the government cannot be trusted to do the work it is supposed to do.

Katrina comes along, and the Bushies could handle it a number of ways. But New Orleans is poor and black. They put people in charge who couldn't manage their own belts. They did nothing to make certain that the poor could get out of New Orleans or that goods and services would reach these people to survive. Then, every moment since then, they've done everything they can to make it worse. Rich whites get immense help while the poorer and darker people are, the more likely their requests for trailers, housing, basic services, or loans to rebuild is rejected in 9 cases out of every 10.

The Bushies figured it would be more palatable to the American people to see this kind of failure occur in a largely black and poor city. But failure was the plan. And they achieved it beautifully.

Get rid of FEMA? No. Get rid of the Bushies. Increasingly, I am coming to believe we must get rid of everything in Washington, DC as it currently operates.

Where's My Violin for this Sad Sob Story?

Invictus at Blah3 shares this very sad tale from Exxon:

Only made $8 BILLION for the quarter on revenues of "only" $89 BILLION.
Invictus also brings us this:
Nice. Making money selling your Dad's company short:
    The son of former Enron chairman Ken Lay was selling the company's stock short at a time when Lay and the company's then-CEO, Jeff Skilling, were railing against short-sellers and complaining they were driving the company's stock price down, a federal prosecutor said in court here this morning.
Gee, I wonder what the son knew?

Rice: U.N. Credibility "On the Line" with Iran

Gee, Condi, before you tell the U.N. it has to go along with whatever Team Bushwhacked wants it to do on the issue of Iran because its credibility depends on brown-nosing your "husband" George, you might want to stop and think about the proverbial secretary of state pot calling the U.N. kettle black, so to speak.

You're handing us the same claptrap for Iran that you did for Iraq. You're not even bothering to change key phrases ("cakewalk", "simple", "liberate", "we'll be welcomed", and "pay for itself") even despite the debacle of a quagmire Iraq has turned into.

Bob Herbert: Stuck with Bush

Stuck indeed!

ToppleBush brings us this from Herbert's NY Times column:

If George W. Bush could have been removed from office for being a bad president, he would have been sent back to his ranch a long time ago.

If incompetence were a criminal offense, he'd be behind bars.

But that's just daydreaming. The reality is that there are more than two and a half years left in the long dark night of the Bush presidency ‹ nearly as long as the entire time John Kennedy was in office.

The nation seems, very belatedly, to be catching on to the tragic failures and monumental ineptitude of its president. Mr. Bush's poll numbers are abysmal. Republicans up for re-election are running from him as if he were the bogyman.

Callers to conservative talk radio programs who were once ecstatic about the president and his policies are now deeply disillusioned.

The libertarian Cato Institute is about to release a study titled "Power Surge: The Constitutional Record of George W. Bush." It says, "Unfortunately, far from defending the Constitution, President Bush has repeatedly sought to strip out the limits the document places on federal power." While I disagree with parts of the study, I certainly agree with that particular comment.

What's Behind the Massive Reclassification of Previously Public Records?

It's a really good question, and we're seeing this with the CIA's efforts to steal documents from late investigative journalist's Jack Anderson archives.

The UK Guardian brings us this (God forbid our own media tell us anything useful):

WASHINGTON (AP) - The government improperly sealed hundreds of previously public CIA, Pentagon and other records by reclassifying them as secret on questionable grounds, an internal review said Wednesday.
The National Archives' audit of thousands of records withdrawn from public view since 1995 contends that one of every three was resealed without justification.

The investigation covered historical records held by the National Archives. But it comes amid broader debate on classifying records on national security grounds, which critics say is often done based on political expediency.

The Associated Press reported earlier this month that the National Archives agreed to seal previously public records - many of them more than 50 years old - despite concerns about whether it was justified.

On the other hand, Democrats have decried the timing of President Bush's 2003 decision to declassify sensitive intelligence and authorize its disclosure to rebut Iraq war critics. In recent weeks, the CIA has fired an employee accused of sharing classified information with news media.

Rozius: Maureen Dowd: Bush's Concession - A Prius in Every Pot

Rozius: Maureen Dowd: Bush's Concession - A Prius in Every Pot

The Bush Twins: "Don't Make Fun of Our Daddy!"

Dedalus at Blah3 brings us the very, very sad and touching story of how maturely the Bush twins handle it when they hear any criticism of their precious pop.

Just makes you want to cry. ::wiping tear, blowing nose::

Good Night!

And sleep tight resting assured that the president is working "real hard" in a "hard job" to raise your gas prices even higher for tomorrow!


Maureen Dowd: How the President Will "Save" Us from Himself...er... the Price of Gas

Again through the generosity of Rozius (where you can read "Bush's Concession - A Prius in Every Pot" in its entirety) comes today's MoDo column from the New York Times:

But then he got ahold of himself. "You just got to recognize there are limits to how much corn can be used for ethanol," he said, standing in front of a bucolic mural. "

After all, we got to eat some."You could run a fleet of S.U.V.'s on the gas that W. was spewing about fuel. Bill Clinton would have been more likely to crack down on fast food than W. and Dick Cheney would be to crack down on Big Oil.

Even the usually supportive Wall Street Journal editorial page chastised Republicans for putting on "Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi fright wigs" to shout about corporate greed and market manipulation.

W.'s big move was to ever so slightly beef up a federal investigation into oil company price manipulation that's been under way since Katrina. "It's a great idea," said the Democratic leader, Senator Harry Reid. "So good that we passed a law last year calling for that."

Price manipulation could explain the marginal - why gas went from, say, $2.70 to $2.90 - but not why gas went from $1.40 to $2.70. That's more about fundamental forces: Chinese and Indian demand, markets spooked by Iran's threats, Nigeria's unrest, Venezuela's talk of nationalizing its oil industry, and the Pentagon's bungling of the restoration of Iraq's infrastructure.

Gasoline prices may be hurting average folks, but the oilers who helped put the Boy King and the Duke of Halliburton in office with lavish donations are enjoying record profits and breathtaking bonuses.T

he Oilmen in the Oval, incompetent in so many ways, have brilliantly achieved one of their main objectives: boosting the fortunes of the oil industry and the people who run it.

All those secret meetings the vice president had back in 2001, letting the energy and oil big shots help write our energy policy - one that urged more oil and gas drilling - worked like a charm. In all their years in government, Mr. Cheney and the Bushes have never done anything to hold the oil companies' feet to the fire, or get Americans' feet off the gas pedal.

As Representative James Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina, noted, "The Republicans are the party with the keys to the executive washrooms of Halliburton, Exxon and the big oil corporations."

...Even if W. shows up on TV in a gray cardigan, it's patently preposterous for the Republicans to make this argument, after selling us on the idea that it's our manifest destiny to get into giant cars and go to giant Wal-Marts and giant Targets and buy more giant bags of stuff. Now they're telling us to squeeze into tiny electric cars and compete for precious drips of oil with the Chinese and Indians who are swimming in enough of our dollars to afford cars.

The U.S. could have begun developing alternative fuels 30 years ago if Dick Cheney hadn't helped scuttle an ambitious plan in the Ford administration.

By the time these guys get gas from cooking grease, global warming will have us cooked.

Rove Volunteers to Testify Before Grand Jury

Right. Just as we volunteered to spend days doing our income taxes a few weeks back, and your dad volunteered for Vietnam.

From the wires:

WASHINGTON - Top White House aide Karl Rove made his fifth grand jury appearance in the Valerie Plame affair Wednesday, undergoing several hours of questioning about a new issue that has come to light since the last time he testified.

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald declined to comment at the conclusion of the grand jury session. Rove appeared at ease as he left the U.S. courthouse, joking to journalists to "move to the back" as the White House aide, his lawyers and several reporters entered an elevator to leave the building.

A week ago, Rove, the architect of Bush's election victories, gave up his policy duties at the White House. He is returning to a full-time focus on politics with Republicans facing major problems in the upcoming midterm elections.

Wednesday's session is believed to be only the second time Fitzgerald has met with a new grand jury examining questions left unanswered in the leaking of Plame's CIA identity. The only other time Fitzgerald was seen going before the new panel was Dec. 7.

Why You Need to Prepare for the Bird Flu Pandemic Because Mr. Bush and the People You Pay Have NOT Done So

Story here.

Snow Job

Is anyone else as massively pissed as I am that we have a spokesrat for Faux on the taxpayer-paid payroll for the White House now?

All day long, I've heard the question, "will a new spokesman, Mr. Snow from Fox News, buoy the credibility of Mr. Bush and his flagging poll numbers?"

Excuse me? Fox only has credibility with people who do not want to be bothered with independent thought because Faux will tell them what to think, how to respond, and when to cheer or boo. Snow can only help Mr. Bush with his base which is also shrinking.

I also heard what a nice thing it was that Mr. Snow was willing to take such a big pay cut to earn "only" $166K and change as WH spokesrat. Why the hell does the job pay so much, in the first place, and why should we pay him to lie to us? Everyone knows this job is a ticket to much more money and power.


One to Add to Your Reading List!

After hearing her on Democracy Now today with Amy Goodman, let me highly recommend you add this title to your reading list if not to your permanent library:

Antonia Juhasz

The link will take you to Powells - a Union bookshop, unlike Amazon, to order (hint hint).

Why oh Why (Heh) Is the IRS Ignoring Ohio Claims Two Churches Crossing Line in Electioneering for Religious Right's Favored Candidate

Kenneth Blackwell just happens to be the man who was Secretary of State in Ohio during the highly questionable 2004 presidential vote and just happens to hold improper stocks in a company he should not. In other words, he has the "grace" of the Bushies which is exactly why the IRS is not stepping in to stop this practice.

From WaPo:

In a challenge to the ethics of conservative Ohio religious leaders and the fairness of the Internal Revenue Service, a group of 56 clergy members contends that two churches have gone too far in supporting a Republican candidate for governor.

Two complaints filed with the tax agency say that the large Columbus area churches, active in President Bush's narrow Ohio win in 2004, violated their tax-exempt status by pushing the candidacy of J. Kenneth Blackwell, who is the secretary of state and the favored candidate of Ohio's religious right.

The clergy members said the churches improperly held political activities and allowed Republican organizations to use their facilities.

The goal of the challenge is "for these churches to stop acting like electioneering organizations," said the Rev. Eric Williams, pastor of North Congregational United Church of Christ. "I don't want to harm or demonize these churches. I want these churches to act legally."

When three months passed without public evidence that the IRS had acted on a January complaint, the clergy members filed a second document, expanding the allegations.

"You have flagrant intervention continuing and no indication of IRS activity," said Marcus Owens, a lawyer for the group and former director of the IRS office that regulates tax-exempt organizations. He considers the evidence of wrongdoing "pretty overwhelming" and suspects favoritism, which tax agency officials deny.

Mary O. McCarthy: Associates Back Her Up, Say She Would Not Have Leaked Secrets

Associates are backing up Mary O. McCarthy's claim she was NOT the source of WH leaks in her job as CIA operative for which she was fired just days before her retirement last week:

WASHINGTON - The CIA officer fired for unauthorized contacts with the media denies being a source for The Washington Post's award-winning story on secret CIA detention centers.

"She did not leak any classified information, and she did not have access to the information apparently attributed to her by some government officials," Washington lawyer Ty Cobb, who is representing veteran CIA analyst Mary McCarthy, said Monday.

A law enforcement source, speaking last week on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, linked her to the Post's story about the CIA's covert sites in Eastern Europe and elsewhere used to hold terror suspects. The story caused an international clamor last fall.

The CIA said McCarthy was fired on Thursday for knowingly disclosing classified information, but gave no details. Cobb said she hopes to find a way to clear up the allegations and move on.

In Bush's Iraq, the Torture and Abuse of Prisoners and the Illegal Detention Never Stops

The Washington Post brings us a very disturbing story that illuminates the fact that Bush, Rumsfeld and their ilk not only did not learn the lessons of Abu Ghraib and the horror of the world community of our inhumane practices there, they are using it as the blueprint to conduct even more horror:

Last Nov. 13, U.S. soldiers found 173 incarcerated men, some of them emaciated and showing signs of torture, in a secret bunker in an Interior Ministry compound in central Baghdad. The soldiers immediately transferred the men to a separate detention facility to protect them from further abuse, the U.S. military reported.

Since then, there have been at least six joint U.S.-Iraqi inspections of detention centers, most of them run by Iraq's Shiite Muslim-dominated Interior Ministry. Two sources involved with the inspections, one Iraqi official and one U.S. official, said abuse of prisoners was found at all the sites visited through February. U.S. military authorities confirmed that signs of severe abuse were observed at two of the detention centers.

But U.S. troops have not responded by removing all the detainees, as they did in November.

Instead, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials, only a handful of the most severely abused detainees at a single site were removed for medical treatment. Prisoners at two other sites were removed to alleviate overcrowding. U.S. and Iraqi authorities left the rest where they were.

This practice of leaving the detainees in place has raised concerns that detainees now face additional threats. It has also prompted fresh questions from the inspectors about whether the United States has honored a pledge by Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that U.S. troops would attempt to stop inhumane treatment if they saw it.

Pace said at a news conference Nov. 29 with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, "It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene to stop it." Turning to Pace, Rumsfeld responded: "I don't think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it's to report it."

"If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it," Pace answered.

The Iraqi official familiar with the joint inspections said detainees who are not moved to other facilities are left vulnerable. "They tell us, 'If you leave us here, they will kill us,' " said the Iraqi official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because, he said, he and other Iraqis involved with inspections had received death threats.

The U.S. official involved in the inspections, who would not be identified by name, described in an e-mail the abuse found during some of the visits since the Nov. 13 raid: "Numerous bruises on the arms, legs and feet. A lot of the Iraqis had separated shoulders and problems with their hands and fingers too. You could also see strap marks on some of their backs."