Maureen Dowd: "Daffy Does Doom"

What can I say? I like this column. Read it all at Rozius, but here's a snip:

Dick Durbin went to the floor of the Senate on Thursday night to denounce the vice president as “delusional.”

It was shocking, and Senator Durbin should be ashamed of himself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Cheney acts more like a member of the James gang than the Jefferson gang. Asked by Wolf what would happen if the Senate passed a resolution critical of The Surge, Scary Cheney rumbled, “It won’t stop us.”

Such an exercise in democracy, he noted, would be “detrimental from the standpoint of the troops.”

Americans learned an important lesson from Vietnam about supporting the troops even when they did not support the war. From media organizations to Hollywood celebrities and lawmakers on both sides, everyone backs our troops.

It is W. and Vice who learned no lessons from Vietnam, probably because they worked so hard to avoid going. They rush into a war halfway around the world for no reason and with no foresight about the culture or the inevitable insurgency, and then assert that any criticism of their fumbling management of Iraq and Afghanistan is tantamount to criticizing the troops. Quel demagoguery.
Hogwash indeed!

Vermont Neighbor Among Those Dead in Blackwater Blackhawk Helicopter Crash

[Ed. note: Cross posted at our Vermont sister blog, Vermont: Now and Zen.]

I mentioned on Wednesday about the two downed Blackhawks in Iraq (there may have been three down, actually, because Blackwater alone may have lost two with one crew being summarily executed). Now I learn the story hits closer to home.

From the Times Argus (E Montpelier is my neck of the proverbial frozen woods):

A Vermonter who graduated from U-32 High School was one of the five Blackwater security employees that died Tuesday morning when their helicopter went down in Baghdad.

Casey Casavant, 36, played soccer, hockey and lacrosse and was a cowboy at heart, according to his sister, Kristen.

"He was just fun-loving, smart-alecky; one of the funniest people you'd ever meet," she said in a telephone interview from Montana, where her family moved when Casey was 6 years old.

The second-to-last child of four, Casavant moved back to East Montpelier with his brother to live with his father when he was in the seventh grade, Kristen said.

Casavant graduated from U-32 in 1989 and went on to Norwich University for approximately a year before joining the Air National Guard, then the Air Force, and the Army, eventually becoming an Army Ranger.

"That was his true passion," Kristen said. "He just believed in what he was doing; he believed in protecting his family and country."l
Now, I am NOT pleased with Blackwater; not its leaders, administration, or its sweetheart deal as privitized military black ops/security for the Pentagon. They're doing some terrible things in Iraq.

But this fellow was forced through three tours of duty in Iraq in the Army and only then decided to go to private contractor status under Blackwater (I'm told it's easier to quit the military if you agree to join up with one of the "Christian" mercenary praetorian guard types like Blackwater).

Thus, I view Casavant differently than I would the usual Soldier of Fortune wannabe who joins up for the big money to go play black ops in Iraq.

Right; If We Oppose The Escalation, We're As Bad As The Iraqi Insurgents

Yup, that is the intelligent nature of discourse being held up by the Evangelical Church of the Latter Day Neocon Bush-Is-Always-Rightists (say it with me: praise Jeeee-susss for the nukular bomb and our God-given right to burn those brown bastards out of the Middle East to help the Rapture come a mite sooner! Amen, baaa-beeee!). From Glenn Greenwald:

There is nothing like a feeling of besiegement and desperation to make a political movement -- one that knows it is in its "last throes" -- show its true colors. The Supreme General-Commander has now decreed that any opposition to the "surge" helps The Enemy. Therefore, according to Bush followers -- beginning with the Vice President and moving down -- it is now the solemn duty of every patriotic American, especially those in Congress, to refrain from voicing any objections to the decision made by the Leader and the General. We must merely ask ourselves only one question: how can we lend the greatest support possible to our Leader's glorious plans? Everything else should be cleared away quietly and peacefully from our minds.

As usual, Bill Kristol was ahead of the authoritarian curve, last week proclaiming that war critics are "so irresponsible that they can’t be quiet for six or nine months." Yesterday, Party loyalist Hugh Hewitt unveiled what he and his comrades are calling "The Pledge" -- a creepy, Soviet-sounding declaration of loyalty, all based on Gen. Petraeus' decree, that vows to repudiate any Republican who opposes the "surge," and even refuses to donate to the NRCC unless they agree "in writing" that none of the contributions will go to any "surge" opponents. As Hewitt instructed:
    Yesterday General Petraeus testified that the Biden/Warner resolutions and those like them encourage the enemy. . . . Don't believe me. Believe General Petraeus.

Imagine Spending 21 Years In Prison For a Crime You Didn't Commit

Just read this over at African American Political Pundit and it made me sick. And yes, these are exactly the stories that keep me awake at night, which make me worry about how many Willie Williams are out there, as well as how many people are put to death for crimes they did not commit.

AAPPunit says: Here is a post from Mirror on America that we all should think about if we support the death penalty. This and other stories like it make this an American disgrace. Instead of spending billions on a war on Iraq, we should be spending money fixing our schools, health care, criminal justice system, and so many other things in our own country. But that’s just my opinion.

Big hat tips to Mirror on America and The Innocence Project.

Willie O. Williams spent 21 years in prison for crime he did not commit

Please don't fall into the (perhaps understandable) trap of thinking, "Yeah, well, that's in Georgia, where blacks have traditionally had such a tough time; it couldn't happen here". Alas, it can. In fact, it probably does everyday and in nearly every state.

Hypothermia OR The Frigid Flip Side of Hypothermia

After nearly seven years in Vermont and a lifetime in New England, I know cold.

Last night, however, was the lowest recorded temperature here I have ever seen: -37 on one thermometer, -44 on another. I suspect it was colder actually; our remote weather probes are spread out but all have some buffering.

And, as always happens in extreme cold, everything breaks, like heating mechanisms. Main heating stopped working, and then the woodstove pipe began to back smoke up into the house, so we had to shut that down.

The result? Not nice. Everything that had water in the house was thick ice today.

We're now up to - wow! - all of 47 degrees inside and climbing. While this sounds bad (and it is), we hit a low inside around the freezing mark overnight.

Tis OK.... I look great blue, with icicles dripping from me. (I'd snort but my nose remains frozen.) Outside now, the temp is a toasty 0.6 (again, reality is probably quite a bit colder).

My only wish? That George Bush and Dick Cheney could have "enjoyed" this with me.


Hot Soup Hot Issue: Bring Israeli War Criminals to Trial

It does amaze me that even when we learn how extreme some of the measures are that Israel uses against Palestinians, often taking out many civilians, including a huge number of children, in the process, almost no one in Israel is ever brought to justice (compare this to Israel going and destroying the homes and businesses of the families of a suspected suicide bomber).

The quest to bring such war criminals to trial is being served up warm now at Hot Soup.

Brrr...... 24 below and dropping fast

They're predicting -35 or so here tonight, and that's without wind chill factored in. We never got out of the negative numbers, even with bright sunshine this noon-mid-afternoon.

Uh... er.... eek.

Eleanor Clift Asks, Is It "Payback Time for Trent Lott?"

As you may recall, the White House was very happy to jettison former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott - and now, returning as Minority leader - when the furor over his positive comments about Strom Thurmond's racism made them uncomfortable. So Clift wonders whether Trott, who has since written a book quite critical of the Bushies, is going to help make the Bush Administration very unhappy for its last two years.

One can hope.

Feds to Turd Blossom: You've Been Served; Karl Rove Subpoenaed to Appear at Scooter Libby Trial

Newsweek broke the story this evening that I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby's defense team (yeah, I know, I said Feds in the headline) has served Karl Rove, AKA Bush's "Turd Blossom" - along with another creep, Dan Bartlett, who has been a big deal in White House "communications" - to appear at the trial revolving around the Valerie Plame/PlameGate/CIA Spy Leak case where Vice President Dick Cheney is also expected to testify.

Considering Rove and Cheney - and Bartlett! - wouldn't know the truth if it jumped up and bit the American flag pins off their cheesy lapels, this could be borderline interesting. We already know that former White House spokesweasel Ari Fleisher took the fifth (exercised his Fifth Amendment right not to self-incriminate) even after getting immunity from prosecution.

If Bush had an ounce of sense or smarts, he'd be streaking his undies about now. Thankfully for him anyway, he appears to have neither (and while I suspect he already leaves brown tracks in his boxers now, I think it's just laziness on his part whenever Condi isn't there to wipe him properly).

From Newsweek:

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

Katrina, Forgetting, and The Congressional Black Caucus

African American Opinion discusses - as part of a multi-part series - how forgotten post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans feels both by the president (wasn't exactly one of his top 50 subjects in his State of the Union (SoTU) address Wednesday night) and the rest of the U.S.

I know what AAO writes is true, because I "see" this lack of care or interest elsewhere yet personally, I don't think a day goes by for me when I fail to think about New Orleans and how badly the system - and America in general - failed for these people. To have had something like the NOLA disaster occur in 2005 is not only unconscionable and tragic, but outright obscene. Natural disasters will always kill and injure too many, but so much of the true horror of Katrina could and should have been mitigated by a much better federal response when we saw anything BUT a good response.

But let's put aside another incredibly horrific response by the Bush Administration (from which we have such a repository to choose); why are we letting New Orleans be redeveloped only as a rich man's paradise when the heart and soul of New Orleans was and remains largely non-white and non-affluent? Name almost anything people love, love, love about New Orleans and it almost invariably comes back to a richly mixed culture of blacks and Native Americans and French and other immigrants, etcetera, etcetera. From music to cuisine, to the nature of the Mardi Gras and French Quarter, to the voodoo and hoodoo shops right through to some of the best, yet most modest-looking restaurants in America, we won't return the NOLA we knew if we replace all of its natives with designer yuppies.

African American Opinion also discusses the story I posted yesterday about how that Congressional fool (OK, there are hundreds of them) Tancredo wants to abolish the Congressional Black Caucus (while I'm sure he's very much eager to retain some of the other specialty caucuses for right-wing Christians, etc.).

Check AAO out. Since I found them, I've become a regular.

Another Cheney Privilege: Respect His Lesbian Daughter But Villify The Rest

My anger over the whole of Vice President Dick Cheney's interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN's Situation Room yesterday has made it very difficult for me to comment upon it, except in bits and pieces, as I have already done.

But there is a significant part of his televised temper tantrum I have not addressed, namely, his blow up that Blitzer would ask about his pregnant gay daughter, Mary. Let me do so now, and explain why this is important to us all.

Here's the text in question, from Cheney's words:

BLITZER: Here's what Jim Webb, senator from Virginia said in the Democratic response last night — he said, "The president took us into this war recklessly. We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable and predicted disarray that has followed."

And it's not just Jim Webb; it's some of your good Republican friends in the Senate and the House are now seriously questioning your credibility, because of the blunders and the failures. Gordon Smith…

CHENEY: Wolf, Wolf, I simply don't accept the premise of your question. I just think it's hogwash.


BLITZER: []your daughter, Mary. She's pregnant. All of us are happy she's going to have a baby. You're going to have another grandchild. Some of the — some critics are suggesting — for example, a statement from someone representing Focus on the Family, "Mary Cheney's pregnancy raises the question of what's best for children. Just because it's possible to conceive a child outside of the relationship of a married mother and father doesn't mean that it's best for the child." Do you want to respond to that?


BLITZER: She's, obviously, a good daughter –

CHENEY: I'm delighted I'm about to have a sixth grandchild, Wolf.

And obviously I think the world of both my daughters and all of my grandchildren. And I think, frankly, you're out of line with that question.

BLITZER: I think all of us appreciate –

CHENEY: I think you're out of line.

Cheney would be right, that Blitzer IS out of line, IF Cheney's own party, the one run behind the scenes by Bush and Cheney and Ken Mehlman - the gay whose closet door was shoved open - had not declared war on homosexuals.

Do any of us need to be gay or to love and/or respect a gay person to see something inherently and yes, even constitutionally wrong about one of the chief leaders of a group that has harnassed the voting bloc of people who most hate and fear gays (and anyone else they don't like) insisting that the treatment of him and his own daughter MUST be different than the same treatment he and his ilk would perpetrate against others?

Yet, let's make this less abstract. The Bushies hate anyone who questions, anyone not a far right Republican who also supports them, anyone who whistle blows against a corporation or federal agency for wrong-doing, women (especially those of reproductive age, scientists, educators, AND - quite apparently - the entire working and middle classes.

Happen to belong to at least one of these "groups"? The vast majority of us does.

So will the Bushies come for you, too, as they have for homosexuals? If you're not worried about that, you really should be... and you certainly should be consuming less Xanax and Valium and Ativan and antidepressants to conceal this fear from yourself.

I think it was wrong for groups to go after Mary Cheney, Dick's lesbian daughter, when she refused their invitation to be a spokesman and role model for gays. No one is obligated to represent their "group" be they women, blacks, gays, Hispanics, or anyone else.

But it's just as wrong for Dick and Mary Cheney - not to mention mother Lynne who, great Christian and role model to the right, wrote a novel of purple prosed lesbian lust - to benefit so wildly from anti-gay policies and rhetoric and then claim it's "not right" for anyone to raise the question of Ms. Cheney's sexual orientation or her decision to have a child sans man when they work hard to deny such rights to others.Bush and Cheney at different times have both told their hard right evangelical voting core that it is wrong for two women or two men to be married and/or have a child.

It's not wrong, actually. It's just different from the majority. And so frickin' what? America was built, in this post Native American stage, BY, FOR, and OF people who saw differently from Mother England and the tyranny of the crown.

If we allow the far right GOP and Cheney to get away with this widest of double standards, we invite them to come after each of us as well.

Remember, too, that statistics tell us 1 in every 10 Americans is a homosexual. In reality, considering how many feel it necessary to "hide", this number may be far larger. So really, you cannot be unaffected by this double standard since it's very, very likely, unless you're a hermit alone in a cave, that gays are among your best friends, your respected colleagues and neighbors, your family members, and heck, more than just a few heterosexually-married spouses. You just may not know it and the reason you don't is because we allow the Bushes and Cheneys and Mehlmans and others of this country to scare these men and women into secrecy.

It's time it stopped. It's time Dick get his nose - and a few other choice bits of anatomy - rubbed into his own hypocrisy.


Says Hagel, Bush Didn't Want Authorization Just For War With Iraq, But ALL Of The Middle East

This is shocking, even for an administration that oversteps its bounds and all propriety on a minute-by-minute basis; as reported at Think Progress:

The Bush administration has taken a series of steps in recent weeks that appear to be setting the stage for a military confrontation with Iran. Congressional leaders have been raising red flags. “I’d like to be clear,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said last week. “The president does not have the authority to launch military action in Iran without first seeking congressional authorization.” Recent comments made by Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) explain why Congress’s resistance is so vital.

In an interview in GQ Magazine, Hagel reveals that the Bush administration tried to get Congress to approve military action anywhere in the Middle East — not just in Iraq — in the fall of 2002. At the time, Hagel says, the Bush administration presented Congress with a resolution that would have authorized the use of force anywhere in the region:
    HAGEL: [F]inally, begrudgingly, [the White House] sent over a resolution for Congress to approve. Well, it was astounding. It said they could go anywhere in the region.

    GQ: It wasn’t specific to Iraq?

    HAGEL: Oh no. It said the whole region! They could go into Greece or anywhere. Is central Asia in the region? I suppose! Sure as hell it was clear they meant the whole Middle East. It was anything. It was literally anything. No boundaries. No restrictions.

    GQ: They expected Congress to let them start a war anywhere in the Middle East?

    HAGEL: Yes. Yes. Wide open. We had to rewrite it. Joe Biden, Dick Lugar, and I stripped the language that the White House had set up and put our language in it.

Rolling Stone Magazine: Why Al Gore Should Run, Why He Can Win

Tim Dickenson writes this about former Vice President Al Gore in the latest issue of Rolling Stone Magazine:

A stiff Vice President campaigns on his administration's legacy of unprecedented prosperity. Looks terrible on TV. Bows out, following a disputed vote count. Then, two terms later, with no incumbent in the race, he re-enters the fray. Promises to change the course of a disastrous war founded on lies. And charges to victory. I'm referring, of course, to the 1968 campaign of Richard Milhous Nixon. But four decades later, history has a chance to repeat itself for Albert Arnold Gore.

If the Democrats were going to sit down and construct the perfect candidate for 2008, they'd be hard-pressed to improve on Gore. Unlike Hillary Clinton, he has no controversial vote on Iraq to defend. Unlike Barack Obama and John Edwards, he has extensive experience in both the Senate and the White House. He has put aside his wooden, policy-wonk demeanor to emerge as the Bush administration's most eloquent critic. And thanks to An Inconvenient Truth, Gore is not only the most impassioned leader on the most urgent crisis facing the planet, he's also a Hollywood celebrity, the star of the third-highest-grossing documentary of all time.


Starting next week (February 1st is the current start date), I'll be dividing my blogging duties between this blog as well as its Granite lady sister, Vermont: Now & Zen with another blog, with a slightly more partisan title, and definitely a larger audience. I'll provide the name and link next week to give the blogmaster a chance to come to his senses and "fire" me before I start. ::cough::

However, this should in no way change my posting here since this remains home (you can tell, because there is dust everywhere and I can never find more than one shoe).

Happy Birthday, People

First, the delightful Maryscott O'Connor at My Left Wing reminds us that it is Virginia Wolfe's birthday today (uh, I think, however, that her birth year was not 1947 as stated).

Second, tomorrow (the 26th) is Frank Sugino's birthday. Wish Philandering, Philanthropic, Fastidious, and ever so Fussy Frank a happy.. uh... er... 29th birthday.

Then offer him some "health" food. ::cackle:: Frank just loves, loves, loves wheat germ and bean sprouts atop his cheese fries and triple coronary triple decker bacon cheeseburger which he prefers deep-fried, just like his women. ::triple cackle::

Ah, How Unusual: Another Fat Rich White Man Cries He's Not Getting Enough Advantages in Life

You know, I'm not a big believer in "separate but equal organizations" that only feature one group of people, be they blacks, whites, Latinos, women vs. men, gays vs. the less merry, etc. As such, yeah, it bothers me that we need a Congressional Black Caucus.

However, equality remains a huge myth and I respect enough members of the CBC that I figure, OK, they must have a reason for having their own group.

What offends me, however, is Tancredo - a real piece of.. uh... hefty lint, who doesn't mind the separate organizations for various Republicans on Capitol Hill, or those for Christians only, who can point his finger quite exclusively at the Congressional Black Caucus and say, "It's not fair that you exist."

And isn't it just like the squirrelly right most wing of the GOP these days that this "demand" from Tancredo and others is based on what appears - by this article - to be a lie that one Congressman was denied entrance into the CBC because he's white.

From CBS News:

White House hopeful Tom Tancredo said Thursday the existence of the Congressional Black Caucus and other race-based groups of lawmakers amount to segregation and should be abolished.

"It is utterly hypocritical for Congress to extol the virtues of a colorblind society while officially sanctioning caucuses that are based solely on race," said the Colorado Republican, who is most widely known as a vocal critic of illegal immigration.

"If we are serious about achieving the goal of a colorblind society, Congress should lead by example and end these divisive, race-based caucuses," said Tancredo, who is scheduled to pitch his long-shot presidential bid this weekend in New Hampshire.

Tancredo's request, relayed in a letter to Administration Committee Chairwoman Juanita Millender-McDonald, D-Calif., revived his effort to change House rules to abolish the groups. Besides the Congressional Black Caucus, Democrats also have a Hispanic caucus with 21 members, and Republicans have a comparable Hispanic conference with five full members and 11 "associate" members who are not Hispanic.

The request comes in the wake of reports that freshman Rep. Stephen Cohen, D-Tenn., was refused admission to the Congressional Black Caucus because he is white. All 43 members of the caucus are black.

Cohen said in a statement that he told a reporter that he would be honored to join the caucus but did not apply, "nor has the CBC denied membership to me."

Now In The Minority, Republicans Suddenly Find Religion on Wonders of Filibusters and Evils of Majority Rule

I also noticed Steve at The Carpetbagger Report had already posted something I intended to write about today as Republicans - who wanted to end the practice of filibusters when they were in the majority - threaten to filibuster any attempt to block Bush's "surge" (along with anything else they don't like) and whine that they can't still be the rulers of everything now that Dems have the majority. Here:

>For the last few years, congressional Republicans would cry “obstructionism!” at the drop of a hat. Any effort to stand in the way of the president’s agenda in Congress was outrageous, offensive, and possibly even unconstitutional. What mattered, more than anything, was preserving the notion of majority rule. To filibuster was to be un-American.

That was then. Have you noticed how the GOP has suddenly rediscovered its appreciation for standing in the way of the majority?
    Back when he was in the Senate majority, Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell thought it was pretty outrageous that Democrats were using the threat of filibusters to set up a 60-vote requirement for the confirmation of a handful of George W. Bush’s judicial nominees. McConnell called the Democrats’ tactics an “ugly denial” of “fundamental fairness” that was “unprecedented in the history of the country” and would cause “great damage” to the U.S. Senate.

    Now that the Republicans are in the minority, it turns out that using filibusters to force 60-vote cloture votes is nothing other than standard operating procedure. The Senate is set to debate competing anti-escalation resolutions next week, and McConnell tells MSNBC that all of them “are likely, as virtually everything in the Senate is likely, to be subject to a 60-vote threshold.”
Remind me, what was that the GOP was saying about “obstructionism”?

The Carpetbagger Report: Carl Bernstein, Noni Scalia, Bush Wasting Gas To Tell Us To Conserve It, McCain

Steve at The Carpetbagger Report gives us a lot in a tiny package (the thing about Bush wasting all that fuel while telling us to conserve is Quintessential Compassionate Conservative Bushie):

* Carl Bernstein, of Watergate fame, said yesterday that the American system “worked” with Nixon, because a corrupt president was driven from office, the same system has “failed tragically” when it comes to Bush. “Nixon and his men lied and abused the constitution to horrible effect, but they were stopped,” Bernstein explained. “The Bush Administration — especially its top officials named above and others familiar to most Americans — was not stopped, and has done far greater damage. As a (Republican) bumper-sticker of the day proclaimed, ‘Nobody died at Watergate.’ If only we could say that about the era of George W. Bush, and that our elected representatives in Congress and our judiciary had been courageous enough to do their duty and hold the President and his aides accountable.”

* Justice Scalia described the 2000 Bush v. Gore ruling yesterday as “water over the deck — get over it.” Moreover, Justice Kennedy added that Al Gore’s lawyers were responsible for bringing the case to the courts in the first place, while former Justice O’Connor said the outcome of the election would have been the same even if the court had not intervened. All three are entirely wrong.

* There is something deeply amusing about the idea of the president using a 747 to travel from DC to Wilmington, Delaware, and back, in order to make “a sales pitch for [his] plan to reduce projected gasoline consumption by 20 percent over the next 10 years.” As The Plank put it, “Maybe the next time Bush wants to talk about reducing energy consumption he should, you know, not gratuitously consume energy in the process.”

* McCain suggested, on the air, that initial polling about Bush announced his escalation policy showed that Americans approved of the idea. Greg Sargent sets the record straight.

Stop The Escalation!

From American Progress Action (courtesy of Think Progress).

And Yet We Still Pay Donald Rumsfeld To Get It Wrong, Each and Every Day

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has not gone; no, he's just moved into a higher tax bracket (like the multi-millionaire many times over needs more money) as a defense department consultant (oh good - he got sooooo much right when he headed the Pentagon!), as reported by Nico at Think Progress:

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld “has left the Pentagon, but not the Defense Department.” The Washington Times reports:
    On Jan. 4, Mr. Rumsfeld opened a government-provided transition office in Arlington and has seven Pentagon-paid staffers working for him, a Pentagon official said.

    The Pentagon lists Mr. Rumsfeld as a “nonpaid consultant,” a status he needs in order to review secret and top-secret documents, the official said.

The Times reports that Rumsfeld has brought with him close adviser Stephen Cambone, a fierce advocate of the Iraq war and the chief planner of questionable interrogation tactics at military and CIA detention sites around the world.

Rumsfeld’s new office is reportedly raising eyebrows at the Pentagon:
    The Pentagon official said former secretaries are entitled to a transition office to sort papers, some of which can be taken with them for a library, for archives or to write a book.

    The transition office has raised some eyebrows inside the Pentagon. Some question the size of the staff, which includes two military officers and two enlisted men. They also ask why the sorting could not have been done from the time Mr. Rumsfeld resigned Nov. 8 to when he left the building Dec. 18.
Rumsfeld’s predecessors, William Cohen and William Perry, both returned to private life immediately after leaving the Defense Department. Cohen had “two military personnel…sort through his papers for about six weeks,” while Perry had his papers mailed via compact disk to Stanford University.

Personal Privacy: While President Bush and VP Dick Cheney Demand It For Themselves, They Refuse To Consider Any Privacy For The Rest of Us

As journalist Thomas DeFrank just noted on Keith Olbermann's Countdown on MSNBC just a few minutes ago, part of what has been described as Dick Cheney's "ballistic meltdown" on Wolf Blitzer's program, Situation Room, on CNN yesterday (and which Olbermann effectively rebutted as more of a shutdown or an "ice up" where Cheney blasted ice at Blitzer and at least once, got silent and would not respond) was at least in part his fierce determination to have an extremely private personal life.

We've seen the same thing with George Bush. He and his family deserve the utmost privacy.

But isn't it more than just hypocrisy that these men, who chose to be the nation's highest placed elected (ok, sorry, but the votes in 2000 and 2004 remain highly questionable and no, I don't need to "get over it") public officials, are increasingly nasty about being sure they have privacy but they completely remove it from us?

From our phone calls to our snail and e-mail to our online orders and our choices of books at the local bookstore and from the public library, our anatomy as well as the contents of our wallets and purses at the airport, to our financial and school records, and so on, ad infinitum, this administration has beat ALL others in removing any illusion of privacy from us.

But it's more than that.

Sure, I feel that a president and a vice president, just like a movie star or a top cop, should be able to have a personal life removed from scrutiny. But Bush and Cheney refuse to let us know anything about what they do in the public arena as well; they will accept no oversight, no questions, and certainly no criticism.

And that, on the heels of denying all the rest of us any semblance of personal privacy, is beyond the pale.

Iraq Surge/Escalation

The New York Times offers today a story about Iraq and the planned war surge/escalation that every American must read before they allow their representatives to give Bush free reign yet again in Iraq.

A Measure of the Far Rights' Great Fear of A Strong African American Presidential Candidate, Barack Obama?

I think this is very much what is going on with the far right - ever so desperate to maintain the "status" of rich, fat, Anglo-Saxon white men - doing everything possible to denounce and "Swift Boat" Senator Barack Obama. What's the Point brings us this about the awful new site, The Truth About Obama:

I got word of a press release yesterday from a website calling itself ObamaTruth.org. So, of course, I checked it out. Didn’t take more than a second to realize that it was almost certainly a secretly funded, Swift Boat-style astroturfing project.

Is it from Club for Growth? McCain? A shadowy group of Democrats? Perhaps, we’ll never know. But, like with all of these sinister projects, there is very little "truth" to be found.

For example…

The first item — posted below a four part YouTube video, which attempts to reinforce the claims below and includes some suspiciously professional voice work — is from a September 26th piece at the Sun-Times entitled "Senator’s family rakes in nearly $1.7 mil. in 2005."

In it, we learn that Obama earned $1.2 million from his book deals. And that Obama now makes $154,047 as a Senator. Both extremely shocking.

We also learn that Michelle Obama earns $316,962 in 2005 in role as Vice President for Community and External Affairs for University of Chicago Hospitals. She also earned $45,000 serving on the board of a foods company called Treehouse, Inc. (More on Treehouse below.)
Hell, this shows they're far more afraid of a strong, smart, savvy black man than they are even of that "heathen bitch" woman (another group the far right truly abhors), Hillary Clinton.

CBS' Senior Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan Appeals For Help Getting The Truth of Iraq Out To People

Rory O'Connor and David Olson, posting at Media Channel, bring us what appears to be a tragically necessary appeal from CBS News' chief foreign correspondent, Lara Logan, to help get the truth of what's going on in Iraq out to the American people, where the corporate media rules everything:

Those critical of the war and the occupation say just the opposite; that the mainstream news media has ignored much of the ‘bad news’ coming out of Iraq, leaving Americans with an impression of the war based more on a desire to follow the official White House narrative than facts on the ground. MediaChannel has long been in the latter camp, sponsoring (for example) last year’s ‘Show Us the War’ project, which published video pieces showing an Iraq overrun with violence and chaos –and an administration that seemed more intent on faith and ’spin’ than reality. We at MediaChannel believe that an informed citizenry is necessary to keep our democracy viable, and we have been strong advocates of the call for all news outlets–mainstream or independent–to produce and distribute accurate stories on the situation in Iraq.

Which brings us to Lara Logan.

One would assume that Ms. Logan, as CBS chief foreign correspondent, has a fair amount of influence as to what stories she gets to cover, and that most of her important stories, once produced and delivered, will be broadcast. But when the story comes out of the mean streets of Baghdad, and doesn’t fit the officially-sanctioned narrative of Iraqis and US soldiers working arm in arm to help protect thankful Iraqi citizens, even chief foreign correspondents sometimes need to ask for help in getting it seen. Imagine our surprise recently when–over the digital transom–we received a copy of an email from a frustrated Lara Logan (see below)

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

The segment in question–”Battle for Haifa Street”–is a piece of first-rate journalism but one that only appears on the CBS News website–and has never been broadcast. It is a gritty, realistic look at life on the very mean streets of Baghdad, and includes interviews with civilians who complain that the US military presence is only making their lives worse and the situation more deadly.

“They told us they would bring democracy, they promised life would be better than it was under Saddam,” one told Logan.

“But they brought us nothing but death and killing. They brought mass destruction to Baghdad.”

Several bodies are shown in the two- minute segment–”some with obvious signs of torture,” as Logan points out. She also notes that her crew had to flee for their lives when they we were warned of an impending attack. While fleeing, another civilian was killed before their eyes.

Logan’s email, with the one-word subject line of ‘help’, was sent to friends and colleagues imploring them to lobby CBS to highlight that people are interested in seeing the piece. In it, Logan argues that the story is “not too gruesome to air, but rather too important to ignore… It should be seen. And people should know about this.”

We agree. And we’d like to help Ms. Logan and CBS get the piece seen, although that task would be made immeasurably easier if CBS News chief Sean McManus simply made the decision to broadcast it.

Ms. Logan, who is embedded with US forces in Iraq, was unavailable for comment. But CBS News spokeswoman Sandy Genelius told us that the segment in question was not broadcast but only run on the web because “the Executive Producer of the Evening News thought some of the images in it were a bit strong­ plus on that day the program was already packed with other Iraq news.”

Blogging The Scooter Libby/Valerie PlameGate/CIA Spy Leak Trial

At the Media Bloggers Association (MBA) Libby site, you can find a run-down of what MBA-member blogs, and others, are writing about this extremely high profile government corruption case that extends all the way to the Vice President's office and, beyond Cheney, to Turd Blossum (aka Karl Rove) at the president's Oval Office.

Have No Doubt: The Government Will Use Such A Device On Americans Here As Well

Wow! A new ray gun!

We've heard of the "goodbye" machine before (I posted on it less than two months ago), along with the military's belief that the weapon should be tested here, as with others, on even non-violent protestors who deign to follow their Constitutional right to rally and protest improper government actions. From AP:

The military calls its new weapon an "active denial system," but that's an understatement. It's a ray gun that shoots a beam that makes people feel as if they are about to catch fire.

Apart from causing that terrifying sensation, the technology is supposed to be harmless _ a non-lethal way to get enemies to drop their weapons.

Military officials say it could save the lives of innocent civilians and service members in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

The weapon is not expected to go into production until at least 2010, but all branches of the military have expressed interest in it, officials said.

During the first media demonstration of the weapon Wednesday, airmen fired beams from a large dish antenna mounted atop a Humvee at people pretending to be rioters and acting out other scenarios that U.S. troops might encounter in war zones.

The device's two-man crew located their targets through powerful lenses and fired beams from more than 500 yards away. That is nearly 17 times the range of existing non-lethal weapons, such as rubber bullets.

Anyone hit by the beam immediately jumped out of its path because of the sudden blast of heat throughout the body. While the 130-degree heat was not painful, it was intense enough to make the participants think their clothes were about to ignite.

"This is one of the key technologies for the future," said Marine Col. Kirk Hymes, director of the non-lethal weapons program at Quantico, Va., which helped develop the new weapon. "Non-lethal weapons are important for the escalation of force, especially in the environments our forces are operating in."

Cheney: Senate Resolution - Nor Will of The People - "Nothing Will Stop Us"

Cheney's complete and utter disgust with anyone who dares question him and the rest of the Bush Administration, as well as his complete disregard for anything resembling "the will of the people" and any "fanciful" concept of accountability, has always been right out there.

But now it's getting worse, folks. Much, much worse. From CBS News, responding to Dick Cheney's comments on CNN with Wolf Blitzer yesterday:

The White House reaction to the Senate resolution opposing President Bush's decision to send more troops to Iraq came from Vice President Dick Cheney. In a word, he was defiant, saying about the general idea of a resolution, "It won't stop us."

"We are moving forward. The Congress has control over the purse strings. They have the right, obviously, if they want, to cut off funding," Cheney said Wednesday in an occasionally testy CNN interview.

"But in terms of this effort, the president has made his decision. We've consulted extensively with them. We'll continue to consult with the Congress. But the fact of the matter is, we need to get the job done."

If the president was almost humbly pleading with Congress in Tuesday's State of the Union address to give his plan a chance, CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod says the vice president played what has come to be his typical role: the enforcer.

He dismissed suggestions that the Bush administration's credibility is on the line because of mistakes in Iraq as "hogwash."

And he railed at critics for not coming up with a plan of their own for Iraq.

"The critics have not suggested a policy — they haven't put anything in place," Cheney said. "All they've recommended is to redeploy or to withdraw our forces. The fact is, we can complete the task in Iraq. We're going to do it. We've got (Lt. Gen. David) Petraeus — Gen. Petraeus taking over. It is a good strategy. It will work. But we have to have the stomach to finish the task."

The Lethal Folly of Joe Lieberman Begging American People - and Iraqis - To Give Bush "Another Chance" With Iraq Surge

Amanda Marcotte posting at Pandagon pretty much sums up my incredulity, anger, and disgust over Connecticut's Democratic/Indy senator, Joe Lieberman's, latest plea for his hero, President George W. Bush, on his planned surge/escalation/acceleration (pick a term, any term - they all amount to fatally and expensively misguided):

Greg is right, this comment from Joe Lieberman is not only stupid in general, it’s really bad politics.

    The Senate should “step back for a moment and give you [Gen. Petraeus] a chance…. Perhaps a last chance, to succeeed in Iraq,” Lieberman said. “If God forbid, you are unable to succeed, then there will be plenty of time for the resolutions of disapproval or the other alternatives that have been contemplated.”
If you’re gung-ho for the war, giving Bush “a chance” to kills some more people and fail miserably to achieve objectives that were never laid out sounds like a great idea, due to the desperate clinging to straws issue. If you were against it from the get-go, as I was, then all you can think is give him another chance to do what exactly? Cindy Sheehan is still waiting for her answer from Bush on what nobel cause her son died for, which is to say that we still have no clue what we’re trying to do there. Maybe a surge will turn up those magical WMDs we heard so much about that no one seems to mention anymore.

But what’s particularly bad politics about this is the entitlement vibes radiating off Lieberman. Another chance? To blow billions of dollars and lives? Most of us don’t get another chance from the cable company when we pay our bill late on the late charges. It isn’t tough to figure out that we’re going to be impatient with the idea that someone deserves another chance when the stakes are much higher than those of the wardens of Time Warner when one person’s check comes in two days late. Language like Lieberman’s sets the price on American lives much lower than your average voter probably takes them, particularly those of us who happen to know people in the military or even have friends or relatives or god forbid children that could be sent off to war.

Can you imagine what a comment like that must sound to a parent or spouse of someone who died in the war? Another chance?

Am I Hallucinating? A Reporter At Washington Post Actually Questions Some of the Truthiness (aka Lies) in Bush's SoTU

iFor the last several years, especially since September 11th (9-11-01), the Washington Post has pretty much made it policy not just to support the president, including the lies he told to take us into Iraq in March 2003, but also to report - with almost giddy and slavish devotion - that anyone who opposed George Bush was, in Bush Administration/White House parlance, supporting the terrorists. There have been a few exceptions, including WaPo blogger Dan Froomkin, columnists Eugene Robinson and E.J. Dionne, and some of the best reporting done by stand-out journalists like Walter Pincus.

So color me pleasantly surprised when yesterday, the day after Bush's latest "big" speech, when WaPo staff writer, Glenn Kessler, dissected the president's State of the Union (SoTU) and found that, once again, Mr. Bush told tales even bigger than Texas itself. In a piece aptly entitled, "President's Portrait of 'The Enemy' Often Flawed", Kessler writes in his analysis:

In his State of the Union address last night, President Bush presented an arguably misleading and often flawed description of "the enemy" that the United States faces overseas, lumping together disparate groups with opposing ideologies to suggest that they have a single-minded focus in attacking the United States.

Under Bush's rubric, a country such as Iran -- which enjoys diplomatic representation and billions of dollars in trade with major European countries -- is lumped together with al-Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. "The Shia and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat," Bush said, referring to the different branches of the Muslim religion.
Similarly, Bush asserted that Shia Hezbollah, which has won seats in the Lebanese government, is a terrorist group "second only to al-Qaeda in the American lives it has taken." Bush is referring to attacks nearly a quarter-century ago on a U.S. embassy and a Marine barracks when the United States intervened in Lebanon's civil war by shelling Hezbollah strongholds.
Hezbollah has evolved into primarily an anti-Israeli militant organization -- it fought a war with Israel last summer -- but the European Union does not list it as a terrorist organization.

At one point, Bush catalogued what he described as advances in the quest for freedom in the Middle East during 2005 -- such as the departure of Syrian troops from Lebanon and elections in Iraq. Then, Bush asserted, "a thinking enemy watched all of these scenes, adjusted their tactics and in 2006 they struck back." But his description of the actions of "the enemy" tried to tie together a series of diplomatic and military setbacks that had virtually no connection to one another, from an attack on a Sunni mosque in Iraq to the assassination of Maronite Lebanese political figure.

In his speech, Bush argued that "free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologies -- and most will choose a better way when they are given a chance." He also said that terrorist groups "want to overthrow moderate governments."

In the two of the most liberal and diverse societies in the Middle East -- Lebanon and the Palestinian territories -- events have undercut Bush's argument in the past year. Hezbollah has gained power and strength in Lebanon, partly at the ballot box. Meanwhile, Palestinians ousted the Fatah party -- which wants to pursue peace with Israel -- from the legislature in favor of Hamas, which is committed to Israel's destruction and is considered a terrorist organization by the State Department.

In fact, many of the countries that Bush considers "moderate" -- such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia -- are autocratic dictatorships rated among the worst of the "not free" nations by the nonpartisan Freedom House. Their Freedom House ratings are virtually indistinguishable from Cuba, Belarus and Burma, which Bush last night listed as nations in desperate need of freedom.

Bush also claimed that "we have a diplomatic strategy that is rallying the world to join in the fight against extremism." But Monday, a poll of 26,000 people in 25 countries was released that showed that global opinion of U.S. foreign policy has sharply deteriorated in the past two years. Nearly three-quarters of those polled by GlobeScan, an international polling company, disapprove of U.S. policies toward Iraq, and nearly half said the United States is playing a mainly negative role in the world.
Read the rest here; it's well worth your time.

Then keep something in mind: anyone who thinks that having so much of the world loathe not just American foreign policy but Americans as a whole because they can't make their oft-proclaimed "greatest democracy and free society in the world will make us the target of far MORE, rather than less terrorism is consuming something far more blinding, deafening, and other incapacitating as well as lethal than mere GOP Kool-Aid.


Bob Herbert: Your MasterCard Or Your Life

Quite literally. I've been exactly where Herbert is writing about; and that's when things were good. You can read the entire column right here.

Americans are increasingly living in a house of cards — credit cards.

A disturbing new report shows that with health care costs continuing their sharp rise, low- and middle-income patients are reaching for their credit cards with alarming frequency to cover treatment that they otherwise would be unable to afford.

This medical debt, to be paid off in many cases at sky-high interest rates, is being loaded onto consumer debt that is already at dangerously high levels. Many families have been crushed by the load, driven from their homes, forced into bankruptcy, and worse.

The report, released last week, was jointly compiled by Demos, a public policy group in New York, and the Access Project, which is affiliated with a health policy institute at Brandeis University and is trying to broaden the availability of health care in the U.S.

Imagine for a moment the seriously ill patient who needs to be hospitalized. In the cold new world of health care, the primary message to such patients is often “Show me the money!”

In many instances, of course, the patient does not have the money. What the report found is that even people with health insurance are being drained by health care costs to the point where the credit card seems the only option.

“As deductibles and co-payments increase,” the report said, “hospitals are finding more patients unable to pay their medical bills. Some hospital management analysts are expecting an increase in self-pay patients and are bracing for higher levels of bad debt.

“In recognition of the evolving payment landscape and the risk of hospital bad debt, health care providers are more aggressively seeking upfront collection of co-pays and deductibles. A component of this strategy is to encourage patients to use third-party lenders such as credit cards to pay for medical expenses they cannot afford, which families frequently do to meet high medical bills.”

It’s one thing to reach for your Visa or MasterCard to pay for a Barbie doll or flat-screen TV. It’s way different to pull out the plastic because you’ve just learned you have cancer or heart disease, and you don’t have any other way to pay for treatment that would prevent a premature trip to the great beyond.

Rest here.

Maureen Dowd: A Case of Hearing Without Listening

Sums up some of my feelings on these subjects; read it all here:

Madame Speaker didn’t lean over and boink the president on the head with her gavel, or garrote him with her red pashmina.

No one was gelded or cuckolded or left to bleed on the floor of the Senate, as in HBO’s “Rome,” that other gory saga of a declining empire with people who can’t stop talking.

Still, the nation’s capital had the aroma of treachery, as former allies brutally turned on one another. Despite W.’s attempt to salvage his presidency last night by changing the subject and going all domestic-sensitive, Washington was more consumed with betrayal than substance.

The city was riveted by opening statements in the Scooter Libby trial, where the aspens were turning but not in clusters. Scooter’s lawyer claimed that the White House had made his client a scapegoat in the Valerie Plame case to protect Karl Rove because “Boy Genius,” as W. calls him, was critical to keeping the Republican Party in power.

In light of the 2006 debacle, the White House might have been better off saving Scooter and making Karl the fall guy.

Vice got an extra dose of unflattering limelight in the debut issue of The Politico, a Capitol Hill publication. In an interview with Roger Simon, John McCain stopped pandering to the White House long enough to lambaste Dick Cheney for stirring a “witch’s brew” of a “terribly mishandled” war. What took the brave senator so long?

“The president listened too much to the vice president,” he said, adding, “Of course, the president bears the ultimate responsibility, but he was very badly served by both the vice president and, most of all, the secretary of defense.”

At a critical hearing yesterday, senators happily blew a chance to grill Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, W.’s choice to try to rescue Iraq, on whether those 21,500 additional troops will be cavalry to the rescue or lambs to the slaughter.

Why dwell on the most consequential elements of American strategy when they can linger over something even more repercussive: their own political reputations?

Hillary Clinton, who dodged a recent important Iraq hearing by flying to Iraq, did not have any questions at all for the general. She simply lectured him crisply on her belated discovery that the administration has a “dead-end” and “blank check” policy, as she tried to seem like the kind of gal who could command the most powerful military on earth. This is odd from someone who is running infomercials on her Web site promising “a conversation.”

In their questioning, Senator Joe Lieberman and Mr. McCain seemed most interested in enlisting the general’s prestige for their own campaign to discredit colleagues in both parties who are tired of passively watching W.’s disaster unfold.

See the Wealthy Frenchman.

GOP Senators Kill Federal Minimum Wage Hike: Senators Who Vote Themselves Pay Raise Every Year

[Ed. note: Just five GOPers had the cojones enough for the American worker to defy their Republican kin and vote FOR the minimum wage raise; these include Norm Coleman (don't like but I applaud this move anyway), Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Arlen Specter, and John Warner. BTW, did you notice that Specter and Warner, seated together for the SoTU last night, often had their heads together conferring and were NOT engaging in anywhere near the level of thunderous applause/standing ovations as the other Republicans - and too many (even one would be too many) of the Dems)?]

For the same 10 years that the federal minimum wage has stayed at the same level, the U.S. Senate has voted themselves a very healthy wage hike every single year (of course, they don't get minimum wage with no benefits). As Bob Geiger points out, Republican senators were behind the killing today, and many of them come up for re-election soon (hint hint).

From Bob, here's a bastard list:

A total of 43 Republicans voted today to deny the first minimum wage increase in a decade -- and 18 of those are up for reelection in 2008:
  • Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
  • Wayne Allard (R-CO)
  • Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
  • Thad Cochran (R-MS)
  • John Cornyn (R-TX)
  • Larry Craig (R-ID)
  • Elizabeth Dole (R-NC)
  • Pete Domenici (R-NM)
  • Michael Enzi (R-WY)
  • Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
  • Chuck Hagel (R-NE)
  • James Inhofe (R-OK)
  • Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
  • Pat Roberts (R-KS)
  • Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
  • Gordon Smith (R-OR)
  • Ted Stevens (R-AK)
  • John Sununu (R-NH)
I expect this crap from the privileged, self-important (but you the voter are NOT) likes of Alexander (isn't he dead yet?), Allard, Chambliss, Cochran, Cornyn, Craig, Dole, Domenici, Inhofe, McConnell, Roberts, Sessions, Stevens and Sununu.

Lindsey Graham actually manages occasionally to slither out from behind his rock.

But I did expect slightly more from Hagel and recently, from Gordon Smith. ::sigh::

Our President Can Always Descend To New Lows

Also from Pensito Review - and this poll was done before the nasty disclosures from yesterday's opener of the Scooter Libby/Plamegate trial, the dismal SoTU, et al:

Now this is more like it:
    Mr. Bush’s overall approval rating has fallen to just 28 percent, a new low, while more than twice as many (64 percent) disapprove of the way he’s handling his job

Former White House SpokesWeasel Ari Fleischer Leaked, Then Testified With Immunity

More on the Scooter Libby/Cheney/Plamegate/CIA Spy Leak trial, this from Jon Ponder at Pensito Review on the first White House spokesman under Bush, Ari Fleisher:

I have long suspected that Ari Fleischer was up to this eyeballs in the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity to Bob Novak. Yesterday, during the lawyers’ opening statements in the perjury trial of Scooter Libby, Fleischer’s activities at the time were revealed — as was new information that Fleischer testified about his involvement under a grant of immunity from prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald:

Fleischer was a short-timer when Plame’s name was leaked to Novak. He was replaced by Scott McClellan on July 15, 2003, the day after Novak’s column was published.
    [As] the two legal teams began their courtroom battle, new information was disclosed about the leak affair, including the revelation that Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary at the time of the leak, had identified Valerie Wilson as a CIA officer to NBC News reporter David Gregory a week before the leak appeared in Robert Novak’s July 14, 2003 column, and that Fleischer, during the subsequent criminal investigation, took the Fifth Amendment and demanded (and received) immunity before testifying to Fitzgerald’s’ grand jury.

    Fleischer told the grand jury that he had learned about Valerie Wilson’s CIA affiliation first from Libby and then from Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director. (This directly implicated yet two more White House officials in the scandal.) Gregory, though, did not report the information, and he later declined to talk to Fitzgerald about his conversation with Fleischer. Fitzgerald never subpoenaed him. (In a response to an email from a colleague asking about today’s disclosure, Gregory emailed, “I can’t help you, sorry.”) The first day of the trial also brought the news that after the Justice Department opened an investigation of the CIA leak in fall 2003, Cheney pressured the White House press office to make a statement clearing Libby of any wrongdoing.

What prompted all this was former Amb. Joe Wilson’s column on July 7, 2003, in the New York Times, titled, “What I Didn’t Find in Africa,” in which he accused Pres. Bush of lying about Iraq’s nuclear weapons program in his State of the Union speech in January 2003. It appears that Fleischer gave reporter David Gregory Plame’s identity within a day or two after Wilson’s article appeared.

Is Scooter Libby's Defense Team Lobbying for Presidential Pardon For Cheney's Former Chief Aide?

From Justin Rood at TPM Muckraker:

I had a chance this morning to check in with Murray Waas, the National Journal scribe who's done a lot of the most illuminating reporting on the Plame leak investigation and the White House's machinations in response.

Waas sat in on the trial yesterday, and watched as lawyers for former Cheney aide Scooter Libby unfurled their argument that their client was set up as a fall guy for Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove. Readers will recall that we thought that was both the most interesting and most perplexing part of the defense's opening argument.

"Some observers think that they're trying to send a message to the White House" with the references to Rove, Waas told me, "saying that they hope their guy is pardoned."

The defense never spelled out Rove's alleged role, or how they believe aides to President Bush had tried to "sacrifice" Libby to protect the man known as "Bush's Brain." Will they be more explicit? Who knows. Perhaps it depends on what assurances they get from the Oval Office.

A pardon from pond scum.

Remember, however, from Cheney's interview a short while ago with Chris (Suck it up to Fox) Wallace in which he called Scooter one of the very most honest men he knows (but consider the company Cheney keeps, including himself). Even had ol' Scooter to his Christmas party, along with suck up Wallace.

Not That Nancy Grace(less) Will Apologize But: Melinda Duckette's Missing Son May Be in Korea

CNN is reporting that cops say the little boy whose disappearance this fall led to an interview by his mother, Melinda Duckette, on Nancy Grace's CNN Headline News program may be alive and well in Korea.

Grace, as you may recall, made a point both before, during, and after the interview with Duckette - a woman with some mental issues anyway - to make it clear she thought Duckette was responsible not only for the boy's disappearance but very likely for his death. Just hours after taping the Grace(less) interview and before it aired the next day, Duckette - wildly distraught - committed suicide and Grace insisted the taped program air regardless of her death. Afterwards, police lamented this whole thing, saying Duckette was probably their only link to finding the little boy, alive or dead - but hey, everything has to pale in comparison to ol Nancy's ratings.

I'd love to see ol' Nancy in an orange prison jumpsuit, trying to negotiate so some 300 lb prison bull doesn't steal her impossibly long and foolish looking false eyelashes.

Microsoft Draws Fire For Seeking Edits in Wikipedia Articles on Open Source

From AP by way of CNN:

o pay a blogger to change technical articles on the community-produced Web encyclopedia site.

While Wikipedia is known as the encyclopedia that anyone can tweak, founder Jimmy Wales and his cadre of volunteer editors, writers and moderators have blocked public-relations firms, campaign workers and anyone else perceived as having a conflict of interest from posting fluff or slanting entries. So paying for Wikipedia copy is considered a definite no-no.

"We were very disappointed to hear that Microsoft was taking that approach," Wales said Tuesday.

Microsoft acknowledged it had approached the writer and offered to pay him for the time it would take to correct what the company was sure were inaccuracies in Wikipedia articles on an open-source document standard and a rival format put forward by Microsoft.

Spokeswoman Catherine Brooker said she believed the articles were heavily written by people at IBM Corp., which is a big supporter of the open-source standard. IBM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Brooker said Microsoft had gotten nowhere in trying to flag the purported mistakes to Wikipedia's volunteer editors, so it sought an independent expert who could determine whether changes were necessary and enter them on Wikipedia.

Chuck Hagel: "If We Don't Debate This, We Are Not Worthy Of Our Country..."

Chuck Hagel - for all Norm Coleman and Richard Luger's meandering around questions about Iraq and Bush's surge - became the only Republican with balls today by being the only one of them on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to vote for a non-binding resolution he and Dem Joe Biden penned to insist on Senate and House Rep oversight of Bush's "new way forward" (which sounds a lot like the old way backwards) in Iraq.

For the full transcript of Hagel's comments, including the following, go here:

I don't think we've ever had a coherent strategy. In fact, I would even challenge the administration today to show us the plan that the president talked about the other night. There is no plan. I happen to know that Pentagon planners were on their way to Central Com over the weekend -- they haven't even Team B'ed this plan.... There is no strategy. This is a ping-pong game with American lives.... We'd better be damned sure what we're doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more lives into that grinder.... and I want every one of you, every one of us, 100 senators to look in that camera, and you tell your people back home what you think. Don't hide any more, none of us."

I Say, Let GOP Weirdo Michele Bachmann Go Ahead And Stalk The President

Bachmann, if you missed it, is the woman who so enthusiastically latched onto Bush last night, held him in a death grip (according to The New York Times' blog), got his autograph and, when he went to kiss some other Republican floozy, grabbed him to get her own kiss.

Bachmann, the nutcase, is a newly-minted GOP Rep from a Bible Belt state (of course). From Greg Sargent at Talking Points Memo:

As you may have heard, commentators and bloggers were abuzz today about GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann, who got a hug from the President last night at the State of the Union -- and refused to let go.

But we've got more: It looks like Bachmann's...feelings...for Bush go back farther than we all thought.

Perhaps if Bachmann - and boy, Condi must want her dead for man-handling her husband master - wants to stalk him, we should let her. Let him run and hide in fear for a change, rather than the rest of us.

If you question what kind of a brain trust she is for loving Condi's president so much, read this from TPM Election Central (about the woman they now call the new Katherine Harris):
As we were driving, President Bush was constantly waving to people along the streets. I was struck by the humility he has towards his role as President of the United States. He enjoys connecting with people, even ever so briefly, and having them feel they have made contact with the President of the United States. I turned around and looked out the back window. The expressions on people's faces were priceless. They were just ecstatic when they realized The President had just waved at them.

If they were ecstatic, I can not even put into words the honor and joy I felt from having the support of The President.



I also caught this at Brain and Eggs from the Sunday funnies and I simply couldn't resist (no, really, I couldn't; you callin' me a liar?).

BTW, did you notice the faces Condi Rice was making at the State of the Union speech last night? She was frowning up a storm while her hero was talking and talking and talking... also noticed that, while grimacing, she would look to her right to see if other people were getting up before she stood, again and again (I saw and heard nothing that was standing ovation-worthy myself) for the standing ovations those cretins were giving the Cretin-in-Chief.

A Roundup Of Some Powerful Blogging for Choice Posts

Perry at Brains and Eggs brings us a selection of some of the more powerful and moving posts from those who participated in Monday's (January 22nd) Blog for Choice blogstorm. Read them here.

On Libby Trial - Stacy Schiff: "A Trial To Remember"

JP at Welcome to Pottersville has Stacy Schiff guest blogging for/from the Scooter Libby/Plamegate/CIA Spy Leak trial. Her first entry is here, and starts with some observations about the people who sit on - and were kept from being placed upon - the Libby trial jury:

Who knew that 12 angry Americans could be so easy to come by — and a jury so difficult to assemble? “It took us all day to get six jurors qualified,” Judge Reggie M. Walton lamented last Thursday, after a contentious afternoon of voir dire in the Scooter Libby trial. Judge Walton had hoped to have seated his panel by then; selection took twice as long as expected. Opening arguments are scheduled for today, not the sort of trailer you would normally run before a State of the Union address.

To some minds, a jury has not been the only thing missing from United States of America v. I. Lewis Libby. “In the most important sense, this is a case without a crime,” The Wall Street Journal reminded us over the weekend. An artful leap followed: “Yes, Mr. Libby is charged with perjury and obstruction of justice, which are serious offenses.”

It is true that what began as a search for a leak ended — after much collateral damage — with an indictment for a lie. At this juncture it can be difficult to grasp what, precisely, is on trial. Some of us seem viscerally to wish something else were. While the original investigation stemmed from the charge that a public official had provided accurate information to the press, potential jurors appear more eager to charge a public official with having provided false information to a country. It was, after all, Mr. Libby who drafted the 2003 masterpiece that Colin Powell presented to the United Nations, the one about Iraq’s fabled chemical and biological weapons.

Juror 0420, an economist, couldn’t help but say she thought the Iraq war “a tremendous mistake, a horrendous mistake, and a betrayal.” She could not promise to be objective about Dick Cheney, who is slated to testify.

Juror 0244 reported “strong negative feelings about this current administration and its conduct of the war.” He was gone in seconds.

Juror 1140 admitted: “I believe the vice president would have had the defendant leak.” Had she any preconceived notions? “Guilty.”

A Good Decision: Senator John Kerry (D-MA) Bows Out Of 2008 Run For Presidency

I am very pleased to see John Kerry bow out.

His 2004 race was disappointing on so many levels, even accepting what appears to be true: that he won Ohio and should have had the Electoral College votes and with it the White House even though George Bush's people once again managed to cheat and take the seat away as they did in Florida in 2000 against Al Gore.

Kerry is not the man (or woman) we need. The Kerry who came back from Vietnam was, but this politician Kerry simply is not.

Another Politician, Israeli President, Says He'll Engage Even World War To Clear His Name

Israeli president Katsav makes me sick. And it's not even that this figurehead is accused with rape and abuse of power, since these are indeed just allegations (and indictments) right now and not proven. But to use his language, "even world war if necessary" to clear his name because he is so much more important than... you know... everyone else is another example - like the Bushies haven't given us enough here - of these oh, so self-important politicians who way overstep themselves and then insist everyone else is wrong, and that their "good name" is more important than the people or the country they - in theory - represent.

From The Guardian:

In a nationally televised address denouncing the "poisonous, horrible lies", an increasingly angry Mr Katsav blamed the media for his troubles and said he would "fight to my last breath, even if it means a world war, to clear my name".

"Don't believe the libel, the defamation, the lies. There is only one truth ... I am the target of one of the worst attacks in the history of the state of Israel," he said. "If the attorney general decides on an indictment ... I promise to resign immediately."

At one point, he screamed at a reporter, saying he should be ashamed of himself for his coverage of the scandal. "...

The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, tonight became the highest-ranking politican to call on him to resign.

"Under these circumstances," Mr Olmert said, "there is no doubt in my mind that the president cannot continue to fulfill his position, and he must leave the president's residence."

Mr Katsav has faced growing calls to resign since the attorney general, Meni Mazuz, announced yesterday that he planned to charge the president with a series of crimes stemming from accusations by former female members of his staff that he forced them to have sex with him. He is alleged to have raped one woman and assaulted another.

He should be forced to resign JUST for the comment about world war.

The good people of Israel, and I'm not inclined to count Katsav OR Olmert has one of them, deserve better than this.

We've seen this before, not just with our own crappy politicians, but with Israel's worst and most dangerous dreck like Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon.

John McCain: His Ego And His White House Aspirations So Much More Important Than American Troops or Iraqis

This Jeff Danziger cartoon (dated 1-22-07) seems timely with all of Senator John McCain's mood swings regarding Iraq, war escalation, and how many troops he can sacrifice for his Republican presidential bid in 2008.

Analysis of the Buzz Words Used In Bush's State of the Union Speech

[Update with Ed. note: The Times also provides a search function with this, so you can see how abd where a particular word or phrase appeared last night or in the previous years of the Bush hijacking of the country and world. For example, I searched on "hero" - which Bush pronounces "heeee-row" - and found it showed up twice in 2002 and twice in 2007. Also tried "fail" and discovered it appeared a record 7 times last night - usually is just used once per SoTU but was more than twice the average three (3) when it has been used more than once). Funny, Bush's every fourth word, I was thinking FAILURE!]

The New York Times examines ALL 34,000 words (funny, it seemed like both far more and a lot, lot less - in terms of value - all at the same time) of the president's SoTU speech and see what boils out, key word by key word.

Did you know, for example, that the word "oil" - which oil and energy men (failed and real) Bush & Cheney have steadfastly avoided many years - appeared a record 9 times last night (3x more than Bush has ever used it in a SoTU)?

Social Security was mentioned all of once, Afghanistan just four times (it's always forgotten), with Iraq a record 34 times (never so many before), and Iran 5 (2nd to a record for Bush).

What made me most sick was Bush citing "heroes" like Autry who saved the fellow from the transit train in New York, as if by using them, Bush would himself be seen as a hero. Fat chance. Bush is only a hero to the military industrial complex and third rate federal workers like Rumsfeld and Condi Rice who would probably not have worked again in the public sector otherwise.

Senator Jim Webb's Rebuttal to Bush's State of The Union Address: Said Much More in Fraction of the Time

I haven't always been a huge fan of Republican-turned-Democrat, intrigue writer-turned-politico James Webb of Virginia. But I respected what he has said about the Iraq war and his son's participation in it, I certainly respected his defeat of that quite terrible George "macaca" Allen in November, and when it came to his rebuttal of Bush last night: top drawer!

My favorite spots from Webb's speech, in order of appreciation (the (WaPo has the full text here.

Yes, Yes, yes!

    The president took us into this war recklessly.

    He disregarded warnings from the national security adviser during the first Gulf War; the chief of staff of the Army; two former commanding generals of Central Command, whose jurisdiction includes Iraq; the director of operations on the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and many, many others with great integrity and long experience in national security affairs.

    We are now as a nation held hostage to the predictable -- and predicted -- disarray that has followed.

    The war's costs to our nation have been staggering: financially; the damage to our reputation around the world; the lost opportunities to defeat the forces of international terrorism; and especially the precious blood of our citizens who have stepped forward to serve.

    The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought. Nor does the majority of our military. Nor does the majority of Congress.

    We need a new direction. Not one step back from the war against international terrorism, not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos. But an immediate shift toward strong, regionally based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq's cities and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.


    Tonight we're calling on this president to take similar action in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way.
    When one looks at the health of our economy, it's almost as if we are living in two different countries. Some say that things have never been better. The stock market is at an all-time high, and so are corporate profits.But these benefits are not being fairly shared.

    When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did. Today, it's nearly 400 times.

    In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day.

    Wages and salaries for our workers are at all-time lows as a percentage of national wealth even though the productivity of American workers is the highest in the world.

    Medical costs have skyrocketed. College tuition rates are off the charts. Our manufacturing base is being dismantled and sent overseas. Good American jobs are being sent along with them.

    In short, the middle class of this country, our historic backbone and our best hope for a strong society in the future, is losing its place at the table.

Thank You For The Zappa, WoodWarbler on WGDR

Wow. A bad day was at least temporarily transformed when I kept on WGDR (streaming here) in Plainfield and, after Unwelcome Guests (a weekly radio program promoting resistance to the corporatized New World Order) ended, the Wood Warbler - as promised a few weeks ago - went into a few hours of Frank Zappa (hard to find but not impossible - he managed to find some Zappa work that can be safely played during Safe Harbor hours).

Zappa always gets me dancing around my desk with the dog (Ben's not sure about Zappa, but once his butt gets moving, it has a life of its own).

Another programmer on WGDR (the power of community-run radio), Tortoise, can be depended on to play Zappa fairly regularly, but this unexpected treat in the middle of hump day is most appreciated.


The First Reference to Iraq In Bush's SoTU? More Than 3,200 Words Into The Fray


And no, not in a good way.

All The Wild Applause And Cheers For President Bush at The SoTU


Give me one good reason. Telling us he will balance the budget, when you know full well this will come through more cuts to basic services (public education, health care, services for our returning troops) yet with bigger tax cuts to the wealthiest citizens, is more smoke and mirrors.

When do we stop this deception? Stop even allowing this man (and again, with him, I use the term quite loosely) to pretend he has answers when his answer to everything is:

  1. more war
  2. more tax cuts to the wealthy
  3. privatize everything


I'm sure there is a good ::cough:: reason why Blogger has not seen fit to post a single (damned) message in more than an hour. After all, there is always an excuse, although they rarely bother to give one anymore.

What Is The State Of The Union?

I noticed that CNN and other outlets were suggesting people fire up their camcorders and record their own State of the Union (SoTU) address. I'll spare you the video and audio - my hair is having a bad year so far - but here's my take on the state of America:

    America is disheartened, disillusioned, depressed, and despairing.

    Under Mr. Bush's "watch" (and, except for all the spying he does on our mail (snail and electronic), our phone calls, our blogs and other Web sites, et al), we've watched our country driven to bankruptcy on existential-only threats while billionaire contractors made huge new profits in Iraq and Afghanistan and here at home with homeland (in)security no-bid contracts only to show no real performance.

    The president, while waging war on the working and middle class (sadly, much of the working class no longer can afford to deceive itself into believing they are middle class anymore), has talked non-stop about bigger and bigger tax cuts for billionaires and wildly-wealthy-already corporations like energy companies that have already secured the biggest taxpayer-to-corporation welfare checks in history.

    But Americans have some responsibility for our "state" as well. We have not usually participated in our so-called representative democracy with many of us not even bothering to show up to vote; of those who do, many don't bother to call or write their reps to voice their approval or disapproval over what they do.

    We need to take our country back and become far more vocal as well as knowledgeable about what is going on. If we don't want America to be an empire, then WE must step up to the plate and make our government realize we need to focus Washington's attention on education and health care and domestic policy and STOP the madness with trying to reshape the rest of the world in the image of corrupt Capitol Hill.

    We have seen our elected representatives all too often fall down on the job. So ultimate responsibility must fall to us. If we can't trust them to do their jobs, then we must not fail to do ours as citizens, as voters, and as global citizens as well.