Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Pentagon, intel pros tell Bush war cannot be won

Pentagon, intel pros tell Bush war cannot be won
Capitol Hill Blue
Nov 30, 2005, 06:42

While President George W. Bush tells the American people that U.S. troops must stay in Iraq until they have “achieved victory,” Pentagon planners and intelligence professionals tell the White House the war cannot be won.

“The President’s speech tonight will be a con-job,” says a senior Pentagon analyst who asked not to be identified. “He will be attempting to sell a strategy that is not achievable and one that is not backed by the professionals who tell him otherwise.”

In fact, experts say Bush can no longer rally Americans to support his failed far in Iraq.

“The American people have turned against the war, and they're not turning back,” said political analyst Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia. “The public is no longer with the President on this issue.”

But opposition to the President’s policies also grows in the private corridors of the Pentagon and in the intelligence community where professionals in the art of waging war say the battle for Iraq is lost....

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Doom and gloom sweeps over the GOP but Dems aren't home free

Doom and gloom sweeps over the GOP but Dems aren't home free
Nov 29, 2005, 08:53

Doom and gloom washes over the Republican Party these days like a storm surge from Hurricane Katrina, drowning partisan political operatives in a rising sea of scandal.

California Republican Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham’s admission that he took $2.4 million in bribes and his immediate resignation from Congress is just another layer of scandal that sweeps over the GOP like a toxic cloud.

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is headed for trial on campaign finance violations and remains a central figure in the widening scandal surrounding corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Besides DeLay, at least a half-dozen Republicans face charges in the Abramoff conspiracy and briary probe, including Oho Rep. Bob Ney, Montana Sen. Conrad Burns and California Rep. John T. Doolittle. However, the expanding Abramoff scandal may also snare some Democrats too. North Dakota Democratic Senator Bryon Dorgan also received some of Abramoff's tainted campaign money.

“Duke Cunningham may be the latest senior Republican member of Congress to lose his way, but sadly he won't be the last one to fall from grace, and his behavior is a symptom of a greater problem: the culture of corruption that the GOP has made its trademark in Washington and throughout the country,” says Democratic National Committee Communications Director Karen Finney. “Cunningham is just one more example of a Party that has lost its moral compass and replaced it with a treasure map of personal and special interest gain.”

And while Republicans try to paint as positive picture as possible in these hard times, they have trouble sounding optimistic....

Monday, November 28, 2005

Ex-Powell Aide Criticizes Detainee Effort

Ex-Powell Aide Criticizes Detainee Effort
By ANNE GEARAN, AP Diplomatic Writer Mon Nov 28, 6:13 PM ET

WASHINGTON - A top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday that wrongheaded ideas for the handling of foreign detainees arose from White House and Pentagon officials who argued that "the president of the United States is all-powerful" and the Geneva Conventions irrelevant.

In an Associated Press interview, former Powell chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson also said President Bush was "too aloof, too distant from the details" of postwar planning. Underlings exploited Bush's detachment and made poor decisions, Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson blamed Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and like-minded aides....

Idaho & Utah Stand Strong in Support for Weakened Bush Presidency

November 25, 2005
Idaho & Utah Stand Strong in Support for Weakened Bush Presidency
The Washington Note


Public Broadcasting's Enemy Within

Public Broadcasting's Enemy Within
New York Times

Published: November 28, 2005

As chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Kenneth Tomlinson proved to be a disastrous zealot. Internal investigators found he repeatedly broke federal law and ethics rules in overreaching his authority and packing the payroll with Republican ideologues.

His actual job - to maintain a "heat shield" between public broadcasting and politics - was turned on its head. The scathing investigation concluded that Mr. Tomlinson was a beacon of partisanship, hiring G.O.P. consultants as ludicrous bias-control monitors and recruiting Patricia Harrison, a former co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, to be the corporation's new president.

Mr. Tomlinson, who has now left the corporation, insisted he had "absolutely no contact" with White House partisans. But the inspector general's report found he did indeed consult with administration powers like Karl Rove, President Bush's political guru. He even hired someone still on the White House payroll for advice on creating a balance "ombudsman" for public broadcasting. And he was found to violate the law by promoting a $4 million deal for conservative writers from The Wall Street Journal to be featured as a "balancing program."

Mr. Tomlinson, a Reader's Digest editor appointed to the board by President Bill Clinton, threatened the independence at the heart of public broadcasting's popularity. His departure is no cure-all, however, for the board remains a haven for such political appointees as Cheryl Halpern, a Republican fund-raiser chosen by Mr. Tomlinson as the new corporation chairwoman.

The inspector general's report is a case study of how dangerous ideological cronyism is as a substitute for nonpartisan expertise. Defenders of public broadcasting now must guard against still another conservative putsch - a Congressional move to cut financing for the corporation's $400 million budget of vital aid for local stations. This time, the "balance" zealots may resort to irony by citing the very chaos wrought by Mr. Tomlinson.

A News Revolution Has Begun

A News Revolution Has Begun
By John Pilger
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Friday 25 November 2005

The Indian writer Vandana Shiva has called for an "insurrection of subjugated knowledge." The insurrection is well under way. In trying to make sense of a dangerous world, millions of people are turning away from the traditional sources of news and information and toward the world wide web, convinced that mainstream journalism is the voice of rampant power. The great scandal of Iraq has accelerated this. In the United States, several senior broadcasters have confessed that had they challenged and exposed the lies told about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, instead of amplifying and justifying them, the invasion might not have happened.

Such honesty has yet to cross the Atlantic. Since it was founded in 1922, the BBC has served to protect every British establishment during war and civil unrest. "We" never traduce and never commit great crimes. So the omission of shocking events in Iraq - the destruction of cities, the slaughter of innocent people and the farce of a puppet government - is routinely applied. A study by the Cardiff School of Journalism found that 90 per cent of the BBC's references to Saddam Hussein's WMDs suggested he possessed them and that "spin from the British and US governments was successful in framing the coverage." The same "spin" has ensured, until now, that the use of banned weapons by the Americans and British in Iraq has been suppressed as news.

An admission by the US State Department on 10 November that its forces had used white phosphorus in Fallujah followed "rumours on the internet," according to the BBC's Newsnight. There were no rumours. There was first-class investigative work that ought to shame well-paid journalists. Mark Kraft of found the evidence in the March-April 2005 issue of Field Artillery magazine and other sources. He was supported by the work of film-maker Gabriele Zamparini, founder of the excellent site,

Last May, David Edwards and David Cromwell of posted a revealing correspondence with Helen Boaden, the BBC's director of news. They had asked her why the BBC had remained silent on known atrocities committed by the Americans in Fallujah. She replied, "Our correspondent in Fallujah at the time [of the US attack], Paul Wood, did not report any of these things because he did not see any of these things." It is a statement to savour. Wood was "embedded" with the Americans. He interviewed none of the victims of American atrocities nor un-embedded journalists. He not only missed the Americans' use of white phosphorus, which they now admit, he reported nothing of the use of another banned weapon, napalm. Thus, BBC viewers were unaware of the fine words of Colonel James Alles, commander of the US Marine Air Group II. "We napalmed both those bridge approaches," he said. "Unfortunately, there were people there ... you could see them in the cockpit video ... It's no great way to die. The generals love napalm. It has a big psychological effect."

Once the unacknowledged work of Mark Kraft and Gabriele Zamparini had appeared in the Guardian and Independent and forced the Americans to come clean about white phosphorous, Wood was on Newsnight describing their admission as "a public relations disaster for the US." This echoed Menzies Campbell of the Liberal-Democrats, perhaps the most quoted politician since Gladstone, who said, "The use of this weapon may technically have been legal, but its effects are such that it will hand a propaganda victory to the insurgency."

The BBC and most of the British political and media establishment invariably cast such a horror as a public relations problem while minimizing the crushing of a city the size of Leeds, the killing and maiming of countless men, women and children, the expulsion of thousands and the denial of medical supplies, food and water - a major war crime.

The evidence is voluminous, provided by refugees, doctors, human rights groups and a few courageous foreigners whose work appears only on the internet. In April last year, Jo Wilding, a young British law student, filed a series of extraordinary eye-witness reports from inside the city. So fine are they that I have included one of her pieces in an anthology of the best investigative journalism.* Her film, "A Letter to the Prime Minister," made inside Fallujah with Julia Guest, has not been shown on British television. In addition, Dahr Jamail, an independent Lebanese-American journalist who has produced some of the best frontline reporting I have read, described all the "things" the BBC failed to "see." His interviews with doctors, local officials and families are on the internet, together with the work of those who have exposed the widespread use of uranium-tipped shells, another banned weapon, and cluster bombs, which Campbell would say are "technically legal." Try these web sites:,,,,,,, There are many more.

"Each word," wrote Jean-Paul Sartre, "has an echo. So does each silence."

Tell Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism and Its Triumphs, edited by John Pilger, is published by Vintage.

This article originally appeared in the Daily Standard.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Long March of Dick Cheney

The Long March of Dick Cheney
By Sidney Blumenthal

Thursday 24 November 2005
For his entire career, he sought untrammeled power. The Bush presidency and 9/11 finally gave it to him - and he's not about to give it up.

The hallmark of the Dick Cheney administration is its illegitimacy. Its essential method is bypassing established lines of authority; its goal is the concentration of unaccountable presidential power. When it matters, the regular operations of the CIA, Defense Department and State Department have been sidelined.

Richard Nixon is the model, but with modifications. In the Nixon administration, the president was the prime mover, present at the creation of his own options, attentive to detail, and conscious of their consequences. In the Cheney administration, the president is volatile but passive, firm but malleable, presiding but absent. Once his complicity has been arranged, a closely held "cabal" - as Lawrence Wilkerson, once chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, calls it - wields control.

Within the White House, the office of the vice president is the strategic center. The National Security Council has been demoted to enabler and implementer. Systems of off-line operations have been laid to evade professional analysis and a responsible chain of command. Those who attempt to fulfill their duties in the old ways have been humiliated when necessary, fired, retired early or shunted aside. In their place, acolytes and careerists indistinguishable from true believers in their eagerness have been elevated.

The collapse of sections of the façade shielding Cheney from public view has not inhibited him. His former chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, indicted on five counts of perjury and obstruction of justice, appears to be withholding information about the vice president's actions in the Plame affair from the special prosecutor. While Bush has declaimed, "We do not torture," Cheney lobbied the Senate to stop it from prohibiting torture....

Tom DeLay and the GOP: Milking the system to live high on the hog

Tom DeLay and the GOP: Milking the system to live high on the hog
Publisher, Capitol Hill Blue
Nov 27, 2005, 10:18

Tom DeLay saw a seat in Congress as a way to live large at someone else’s expense. From the time he arrived in Washington after the 1984 elections, DeLay started working the system to line his own pockets.

“I met Delay at the reception for freshmen members of Congress,” recalls retired lobbyist Jackson Russ. “He walked up, looked at my name tag, introduced himself and asked how he could get some honorariums.

In 1984, honorariums were a quick way for members of Congress to line their own pockets. Special interest groups would invite the Congressman to a get together with executives of their company or top members of the organization and then pay that Congressman directly for the appearance.

Congress banned honorariums in 1989 but that gave DeLay five years to become one of the top earner of fees for appearances on the Hill, adding an average of $27,000 a year to his Congressional salary.

“DeLay bugged everyone for honorariums,” says Roy Abrahams, who lobbied Capitol Hill for oil interests from 1975 through 1990. “Others were subtle. He wasn’t.”

When the ban went into effect, DeLay switched his tactics to soliciting free trips from special interests and contributions to any of several political funds he controlled back in Texas where the rules are lax.....

Friday, November 18, 2005

A Private Obsession

A Private Obsession
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times

Friday 18 November 2005

"Lots of things in life are complicated." So declared Michael Leavitt, the secretary of health and human services, in response to the mass confusion as registration for the new Medicare drug benefit began. But the complexity of the program - which has reduced some retirees to tears as they try to make what may be life-or-death decisions - is far greater than necessary.

One reason the drug benefit is so confusing is that older Americans can't simply sign up with Medicare, as they can for other benefits. They must, instead, choose from a baffling array of plans offered by private middlemen. Why?

Here's a parallel. Earlier this year Senator Rick Santorum introduced a bill that would have forced the National Weather Service to limit the weather information directly available to the public. Although he didn't say so explicitly, he wanted the service to funnel that information through private forecasters instead.

Mr. Santorum's bill didn't go anywhere. But it was a classic attempt to force gratuitous privatization: involving private corporations in the delivery of public services even when those corporations have no useful role to play.

The Medicare drug benefit is an example of gratuitous privatization on a grand scale....

Bush's Betrayal of History

Bush's Betrayal of History
By Sidney Blumenthal

Thursday 17 November 2005
Defiant of rising political blowback on Iraq, Bush blasts his truth-telling critics as traitors to the cause.

One year ago, after his reelection, President Bush brashly asserted, "I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style." Twelve months later, Republicans were thrashed in elections for the governorships of Virginia and New Jersey. In St. Paul, Minn., the Democratic mayor who endorsed Bush for reelection a year ago was defeated by another Democrat by a margin of 70 to 30 percent. Then Republicans in Congress split into rancorous factions and failed to pass Bush's budget. That was followed by the Senate's rejection of Bush's torture and detainee policy and by overwhelming passage of a resolution stipulating that the president must submit a strategy on withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.

The turn in public opinion against Bush has been slowly considered and is therefore also firm. Now a majority believes his administration manipulated prewar intelligence to lead the country into the Iraq war, and nearly two-thirds disapprove of how he has handled the war. His political capital appears spent with more than three years left in his term. He has retreated from the ruins of his grandiose agenda into a defense of his past.

In the immediate aftermath of the fall of Baghdad, Bush was the man of action who never looked back, openly dismissive of history. When asked shortly afterward by Bob Woodward how he would be judged on Iraq, Bush replied, "History. We don't know. We'll all be dead." But his obsessive interest in the subject is not posthumous. The Senate's decision last week to launch an investigation into the administration's role in prewar disinformation, after the Democrats forced the issue in a rare secret session, has provoked a furious presidential reaction.

On Veterans' Day, Nov. 11, Bush addressed troops at an Army base: "It is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began." He charged that "some Democrats and antiwar critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people," even though they knew "a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs." In fact, the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction was not authorized to look into that question, but only whether the intelligence community was correct in its analysis. Moreover, the Senate Intelligence Committee under Republican leadership connived with the White House to prevent a promised investigation into the administration's involvement in prewar intelligence. Its revival by Democrats is precisely the proximate cause that has triggered Bush's paroxysm of revenge.

Several days later, Bush spoke before troops at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, where he stated that "some Democrats who voted to authorize the use of force are now rewriting the past," and are "sending mixed signals to our troops and the enemy." U.S. soldiers "deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them into war continue to stand behind them," Bush admonished. His essential thrust was that as "a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life" besieges us from without, the most insidious undermining comes from within. Thus an American president updated the "stab in the back" theory first articulated in February 1919 by Gen. Erich Ludendorff, who stated that "the political leadership disarmed the unconquered army and delivered over Germany to the destructive will of the enemy."

The former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, a member of the Defense Policy Board, always notable for his visions, has compared George W. Bush in his travails to Abraham Lincoln before Gettysburg. Gingrich, who has recently written a series of counterfactual novels depicting a Southern triumph in the Civil War, communicated his latest flight of fancy to a longtime former diplomat who has served under Republican and Democratic administrations alike. The diplomat, who asked to remain anonymous, recounted their conversation to me. "We are at war," insisted Gingrich. "With whom?" the diplomat asked. "The Democrats," Gingrich replied without hesitation. For Gingrich, ever the Republican guru, history is a plaything of the partisan present.

In Rome last week, a leading Italian political figure of the center-left told me he was opposed to the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq - contrary to the public stance of the left coalition. According to his reasoning, Iraq has become a magnet and training center for terrorists, and if the U.S. withdraws the terrorists might come to Europe. I later learned that this was a common analysis of European intelligence agencies as well.

Bush's adoption of the Ludendorff strategy of blaming weak politicians for military failure and exalting "will" sets him at odds with liberal democracy. His understanding of history also clashes with the conservative tradition that acknowledges human fallibility and respects the past. Bush's presidency is an effort to defy history, not only in America, writing on the world as a blank slate. The New Deal can be abolished without consequences, Arab states can be transformed into democracies if only they will it. Now he wants to erase memory of his actual record on the war, substituting a counterfactual history. "Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history," said Lincoln. Never mind.

An Open Letter To Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald From Former White House Counsel John W. Dean

An Open Letter To Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald From Former White House Counsel John W. Dean
Friday, Nov. 18, 2005

November 18, 2005
The Honorable Patrick J. Fitzgerald
Special Counsel
Bond Federal Building
1400 New York Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530

Dear Special Counsel Fitzgerald:

Excuse my being so presumptuous as to send you this open letter, but the latest revelation of the testimony, before the grand jury, by Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward has raised some fundamental questions for me.

In your post as Special Counsel, you now have nothing less than authority of the Attorney General of the United States, for purposes of the investigation and prosecution of "the alleged unauthorized disclosure of a CIA employee's identity." (The employee, of course, is Valerie Plame Wilson, a CIA employee with classified status, and the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.) On December 30, 2003, you received a letter from the Deputy Attorney General regarding your powers. On February 6, 2004 you received a letter of further clarification, stating without reservation, that in this matter your powers are "plenary." In effect, then, you act with the power of the Attorney General of the United States.

In light of your broad powers, the limits and narrow focus of your investigation are surprising. On October 28 of this year, your office released a press statement in which you stated that "A major focus of the grand jury investigation was to determine which government officials had disclosed to the media prior to July 14, 2003, information concerning Valerie Wilson's CIA affiliation, and the nature, timing, extent, and purpose of such disclosures, as well as whether any official made such a disclosure knowing that Valerie Wilson's employment by the CIA was classified information."

If, indeed, that is the major focus of your investigation, then your investigation is strikingly limited, given your plenary powers. To be a bit more blunt, in historical context, it is certainly less vigorous an investigation than those of your predecessors who have served as special counsel -- men appointed to undertake sensitive high-level investigations when the Attorney General of the United States had a conflict of interest. (Here, it was, of course, the conflict of Attorney General John Ashcroft that led to the chain of events that resulted in your appointment.)

The Teapot Dome Precedent

As I am sure you are aware, President Calvin Coolidge appointed Owen J. Roberts, a Philadelphia attorney at the time, and former U.S. Senator Atlee Pomerene, then practicing law in Ohio, as special counsels to investigate and prosecute on behalf of the government any wrongdoing related to the so-called Teapot Dome inquiry. That investigation related to the improper dissipation of government assets -- dubious oil leases to Edward L. Doheny and Harry F. Sinclair.

Several years ago, I had an opportunity to spend several weeks at the National Archives going through the files of Special Counsels Roberts and Pomerene. I urge you to send a member of your staff to do the same, for they are highly revealing as to the aggressive -- yet appropriate -- nature of their investigation and actions.

What you will find is that Roberts and Pomerene, before figuring out exactly who was to blame and going after them, first sought to protect the interest of the United States by ending the further dissipation of the nation's oil reserves to Doheny and Sinclair, and seek restitution.

In brief, they started by taking protective civil measures. Only with that accomplished did they move on to criminal prosecutions. Why have you not done the same?

Your investigation also relates to the dissipation -- if not the irreparable destruction -- of a government asset: Valerie Plame Wilson. As you no doubt know, the U.S. Government invested a great deal of money in her special education and training, as well as other aspects of her covert status. Then, either intentionally, or with gross negligence, senior Bush administration officials blew Valerie Wilson's cover. (Prior to the disclosure, her status was not, as some have claimed, an "open secret": Rather, as you yourself have said, the fact that she was a CIA asset was not previously well-known outside the intelligence community.)

Yet there is no evidence that you have made any effort whatsoever to undertake any civil remedies dealing with this either intentional or grossly careless destruction of a government asset. As acting Attorney General for this matter, you have even more authority than did Special Counsels Roberts and Pomerene.

Those who leaked the information about Valerie Wilson breached signed contracts they had made with the government. These contracts, moreover, were not to be taken lightly: They enforced profoundly important obligations to national security, on the part of the very people who were supposed to be serving that end.

Why are you not enforcing those contracts? Why have you not urged the president to sanction those who have released national security information? The president has said he would fire those who committed crimes -- but breach of such profoundly important contracts, even if it does not rise to the level of a crime, is surely cause for dismissal, as well.

You should so urge the President. And if he is not willing to take appropriate action with those who have dishonored their offices, and broken their contracts, you ought to go to court and get an injunction to remove their security clearances.

Again, their agreement with the government was the very understanding upon which they were (and continue to be) given classified information. Now that they have breached it, the vital predicate for those clearances is gone.

The Watergate Precedent

Even more troubling, from an historical point of view, is the fact that the narrowness of your investigation, which apparently is focusing on the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (making it a crime to uncover the covert status of a CIA agent), plays right into the hands of perpetrators in the Administration.

Indeed, this is exactly the plan that was employed during Watergate by those who sought to conceal the Nixon Administration's crimes, and keep criminals in office.

The plan was to keep the investigation focused on the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters -- and away from the atmosphere in which such an action was undertaken. Toward this end, I was directed by superiors to get the Department of Justice to keep its focus on the break-in, and nothing else.

That was done. And had Congress not undertaken its own investigation (since it was a Democratically-controlled Congress with a Republican President) it is very likely that Watergate would have ended with the conviction of those caught in the bungled burglary and wiretapping attempt at the Democratic headquarters.

Now, with a Republican-controlled Congress and a Republican President, you (a Republican appointee) are the last bulwark of protection for the American people. We must hope you will keep faith with them.

It was well understood at the Nixon White House, and it surely is at the Bush White House, that government attorneys do not look to prosecute those for whom they work. We knew that career government lawyers simply were not going to be looking for crimes at the White House -- not because they acted with corrupt intent, but simply because it is no one's instinct to bite the hand that feeds them.

When Archibald Cox was appointed special counsel -- under pressure from the U.S. Senate as a condition to confirm Attorney General Elliot Richardson -- he immediately recognized what had occurred. While no Department of Justice lawyer was found to have engaged in the cover up, their timidity had facilitated it. Cox was fired because he refused to be intimidated. His firing became a badge of honor for all those who do the right thing, regardless of the consequences.

While I have no reason to believe you are easily intimidated, all I can say is that your investigation, thus far, is falling precisely within the narrow confines -- the formula procedure -- that was relied upon in the first phase of the Watergate cover-up by the Nixon administration.

So narrow was your investigation that it appears that you failed to learn that Bob Woodward had been told of Valerie Wilson's CIA post until after you had indicted Scooter Libby. While I have no doubt you know your way around the Southern District of New York, and the Northern District of Illinois, Washington DC is a very different place.

With all due respect, Mr. Fitzgerald, I believe you are being had. I believe that you were selected with the expectation that you would conduct the narrowest of investigations, and it seems you have done just that.

The leak of Valerie Wilson's status did not occur in a vacuum. Republicans in Congress do not want to know what truly happened. You are the last, best hope of the American people in this regard.

I can tell you, as someone who travels about the country, that Americans -- regardless of their political disposition -- are deeply troubled by this case. And, increasingly so, by the limits you have apparently placed on your investigation.

To right-minded Americans, the idea that Administration officials have betrayed their national security obligations, yet remain in their jobs, is nothing short of appalling. Beyond politics is patriotism: Patriotic Americans want to see you not only prosecute those who compromised and endangered Valerie Plame Wilson, but also force the Administration to clean house with respect to those who did this, which you can accomplish through appropriate civil action.

As one who does know something about the way Washington works, I hope you will actually use the plenary powers you have been granted to implement what I understood to be the announced policy of the Department of Justice for which you work -- a zero tolerance policy for leaks.

Bush's betrayal

Bush's betrayal
Nov 18, 2005, 08:03

Many words, none of them complimentary, describe the failed presidency of George W. Bush: Incompetent, immoral, illegal, deceptive, duplicitous, dumb, stupid, or corrupt. The list is endless.

But the word that best describes Bush and his five years in office is betrayal, because above all he and the party he represents have betrayed just about everyone in sight.

Bush and the Republicans have betrayed the American people who may or may not have voted him into office in 2000 and who may or may not have returned him there in 2004. They have betrayed the principles of a political party that – at one time – stood for leaner government, controls on spending and the right of states to make decisions on the issues that most directly affect their citizens.

Bush and his minions betrayed our allies, lying to them about the manufactured “justifications” for invading Iraq. They lied to Congress and the American people and continue to spread those lies today even though their claims were discredited long ago.

The Bush administration betrayed the Constitution of the United States, creating a police state mentality that openly violates the rights that hallowed document are supposed to protect, trampling our freedoms with an over hyped “war on terrorism” that – to date – has only created more enemies of this country....

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Gulf Coast Slaves

Gulf Coast Slaves
By Roberto Lovato

Tuesday 15 November 2005
Halliburton and its subcontractors hired hundreds of undocumented Latino workers to clean up after Katrina - only to mistreat them and throw them out without pay.

Arnulfo Martinez recalls seeing lots of hombres del ejercito standing at attention. Though he was living on the Belle Chasse Naval Base near New Orleans when President Bush spoke there on Oct. 11, he didn't understand anything the ruddy man in the rolled-up sleeves was saying to the troops.

Martinez, 16, speaks no English; his mother tongue is Zapotec. He had left the cornfields of Oaxaca, Mexico, four weeks earlier for the promise that he would make $8 an hour, plus room and board, while working for a subcontractor of KBR, a wholly owned subsidiary of Halliburton that was awarded a major contract by the Bush administration for disaster relief work. The job was helping to clean up a Gulf Coast naval base in the region devastated by Hurricane Katrina. "I was cleaning up the base, picking up branches and doing other work," Martinez said, speaking to me in broken Spanish.

Even if the Oaxacan teenager had understood Bush when he urged Americans that day to "help somebody find shelter or help somebody find food," he couldn't have known that he'd soon need similar help himself. But three weeks after arriving at the naval base from Texas, Martinez's boss, Karen Tovar, a job broker from North Carolina who hired workers for a KBR subcontractor called United Disaster Relief, booted him from the base and left him homeless, hungry and without money...

It won't work this time

E.J. Dionne, Jr.
Washington Post Writers Group

It won't work this time
Bush's latest speech won't garner support

WASHINGTON — Mr. President, it won't work this time.

With a Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll finding 57 percent of Americans agreeing that George W. Bush “deliberately misled people to make the case for war with Iraq,” the president clearly needs to tend to his credibility problems. But his partisan attacks on the administration's critics in a Veterans Day speech last week will only add to his troubles.

Bush was not subtle. He said that anyone accusing his administration of having “manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people” was giving aid and comfort to the enemy. “These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will,” Bush declared. “As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them.”

You wonder: Did Patrick Fitzgerald, the special counsel in the Valerie Plame leak investigation, send the wrong signal to our troops and our enemy by daring to indict Scooter Libby for perjury and obstruction of justice?

Must Americans who support our troops desist from any criticism of the use of intelligence by the administration?

There is a great missing element in the argument over whether the administration manipulated the facts. Neither side wants to talk about the context in which Bush won a blank check from Congress to invade Iraq. He doesn't want us to remember that he injected the war debate into the 2002 midterm election campaign for partisan purposes, and he doesn't want to acknowledge that he used the post-9/11 mood to do all he could to intimidate Democrats from raising questions more of them should have raised...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Bush's con job

Bush's con job
Nov 16, 2005, 06:21
Capitol Hill Blue

The conning of America goes on.

It may not rise to the level of high crime, nor even misdemeanor. But make no mistake: America has endured a low-level governance-by-deception that has droned too long just below our radar of impeachable offenses. It has left behind a vapor trail that shows a clear pattern of official deceptions, foreign and domestic.

We are talking here about deceits, distortions and disingenuous look-the-other-ways perpetrated by the administration of President Bush that are contemptible if not impeachable.

But we are talking also (albeit to a lesser degree) of the revisionist responses and sound-bright sound bites of a leader-lite Democratic opposition that has failed to galvanize, let alone offer, any semblance or even sense of alternative plans to lead America and the world out of the mess that has been made at home and abroad, on issues global and local.

We will get to the long and growing list that of course begins with the international cons _ distortions about Saddam Hussein's purported ties to al Qaeda in the rush to invade Iraq and the disastrous bungling of the never-planned postwar that has given al Qaeda a harbor in Iraq that it never had before.

But first, consider the latest deception (on a domestic issue that is only important to those who are females or who have ever had females in their families). Namely, the secret shunning of science in a rejection of access to the least offensive abortion method of all by the newly-politicized Federal Drug Administration.

Without waiting for the government's scientists to complete their review and make recommends, FDA officials summarily rejected an application to allow over-the-counter sales of the morning-after contraception pill called "Plan B."

According to investigators at the nonpartisan Government Accounting Office, top FDA officials inserted themselves into the process in a way that was characterized as "very, very rare."

Now, a few lowlights from the Conning of America list: The Rush to Invade Iraq. Bush officials spotlighted the most inflammatory intelligence (about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction) and deep-sixed contradicting assessments. Bush officials repeatedly claimed al Qaeda was linked to Saddam _ claims based chiefly on a purported meeting in Prague that others disputed. All that was pretense for diverting U.S. forces from the right war in Afghanistan, whose purpose was to crush al Qaeda and capture Osama bin Laden.

The Bungling of the Peace. (See also: The unwitting creation of a new safe harbor for al Qaeda _ in Iraq!) By failing to properly plan for Iraq after Saddam, the U.S. invasion created chaos, civil war and a security vacuum that allowed al Qaeda to move in and set up a new base of terrorism. Also, new recruits are reportedly joining al Qaeda in protest of the invasion. Bottom line: Bush's invasion of Iraq may have made us less safe at home.

Failure to Support Our Troops. Unbelievably, the Bush administration failed to provide proper armor to U.S. troops before sending them into harm's way. They also broke their commitments of a limited combat tour to brave men and women who enlisted and found their combat duty extended.

Pre-Election Falsehood, Post-Election Indictment. During campaign 2004, the Bush White House assured voters Karl Rove and Scooter Libby were not involved in leaking CIA secret agent Valerie Plame's identity to discredit her husband, who'd found no proof to back Bush's claim about Iraq seeking uranium from Niger. Now, after the election, we learned Rove and Libby were involved _ and Libby was indicted for deceiving the FBI and grand jury.

Administration Winks at Big Oil Gouging of Motorists. Oil company profits soared as much as 89 percent in one year, while gas prices for motorists skyrocketed to record heights. Bush officials sat in benign silence. Congress held velvet glove hearings. Some threatened a windfall profits tax _ but plowing money back into the U.S. treasury won't help motorist who'd already over-paid.

Now this: Americans seem to have finally caught on. The latest Gallup Poll shows that a record 60 percent now disapprove of the job Bush is doing as president and just 37 percent approve. Bush responded as presidents have before him when their polls plummet. He used his Air Force One jet engines to power himself upward _ on a trip to Asia that his aides hope will boost his image as a world leader and thus boost his approval rating at home.

It's a bit presidents always try. It never works.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


BRINGING THE COUNTRY BACK TO THE CITY: The Growth of Farmers' Markets in Boston
by Mariana Mogilevich
The Next American City

Where to shop for food has always been a question of taste. Supermarkets offer convenience and consistency; they also stock mealy tomatoes and processed cheese. Meanwhile, a gourmet revolution has transformed America’s epicurean culture, making sun-dried tomatoes and balsamic vinegar household items, and Indian, Japanese, and other cuisines part of the national diet. Local produce is the final frontier for urban foodies, who scour farmers’ markets for zucchini blossoms, and for whom connoisseurship of heirloom tomatoes may supplant the prestige of an encyclopedic knowledge of wines.

Such discernment smacks of food snobbery. Author Deborah Madison’s 2002 cookbook, Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets, was greeted with accusations of elitism when it offered recipes for such “common” items as black kale, burdock, and pummelos. But she wasn’t telling a New York or L.A. story; Madison visited farmers’ markets in cities from Cleveland to Sacramento, Birmingham, Alabama, Trenton, and Anchorage. Once an integral part of urban life, farmers’ markets have resurfaced, benefiting city residents of all classes.

Before the endless parade of suburban commuters, farmers were the ones who clogged the roads into a city and around the markets where they sold their wares. The basic principle of exchange made city and country interdependent. Refrigeration and transport developments in the late-19th and early-20th century, however, reduced the need both to buy daily produce and to keep town and country in close proximity. By the mid-20th century, most municipal markets had moved to the city fringes before our modern supermarket distribution system rendered them obsolete. Orchards were cleared for residential cul-de-sacs as suburban sprawl enveloped the space between cities and farmland. The “country” has continued to move further away over the past half-century–often it’s now in another country....

Creatives must bring everyone along

June 27, 2005
Creatives must bring everyone along, says Florida

Posted by Renee Hopkins Callahan

I was wrong about Richard Florida's Rise of the Creative Class....I, and apparently a lot of people, thought that the book was elitist, that it was about the need for cities to bring in the amenities that would appeal to the creative-class workers that Florida says are the backbone of the new economy.

But that's not what he said yesterday when he gave the keynote "Engaging Creative Communities: The New Global Competition for Talent" here at CPSI. His main point, made yesterday in his speech and in his newest book Flight of the Creative Class, seems to be that all people are creative and that the way a community can attract jobs and economic prosperity is to engage the creativity of everyone in that community, not just the 30% of people who are actually in creative-class jobs.

Here are some highlights of his talk. Some of them are linked to appropriate short video clips:

"What powers economic growth? It's not technology -- technology is a raw material. What makes human being unique is one thing -- creativity. All else are subsets. Creativity powers economic growth."

"Political polarization is the recoil from the rise of the creative economy. And the blame [for stoking the fears] goes on both sides of the aisle." Paraphrase of what followed: Part of this political polarization is because of the widening gap between the creative haves and the have-nots, expressed in such statistics as the cost of housing, which is increasingly out of reach for lower- and middle-income people in high-creative areas.

"It's *not* about the creative elite, but about the creativity of *everyone*. It's the collective intelligence of [all the workers] that gives companies....For real economic impact, we must tap into the creativity of the 70% of the people who are not in the creative class."

"In order to attract creative-class jobs, a community needs technology (high-tech businesses), talent (the ability to educate the local talent as well as to keep talent and attract talent), and tolerant (must be proactively inclusive of all kinds of people, not just grudgingly accepting)."

"The real competition is for global creative talent...If you ask people in their 20s where they would like to move, the list [of places] is international. The world is an open system and friendship networks are international among 20-somethings."

Reacting to Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat, Florida said, "the world is not flat, but simultaneously incredibly concentrated and spiky...there are two dozen spiky places in the world that account for 98% of innovation.

Solutions: According to Florida, the political class at the national level is clueless, which he says not a U.S.-specific problem but "the same all over the world." He urged everyone in the audience that the work must be done at the local level, by councilpeople and mayors.

"The models that we have to build on are those that build a more inclusive, creative society, such as Helsinki, Stockholm, Melbourne, Sydney....and Minneapolis-St. Paul is a good model."

Following Florida's talk, Minneapolis councilman Don Samuels spoke about the challenges of building the creative talent in inner-city neighborhoods, where often "the brightest and most creative often end up on the wrong side of the law -- the frustration of creativity attacks the brightest first." There was a very interesting discussion that followed, about how the kids that "get out" of challenging childhood circumstances are usually those who are smart, but not "street-smart" and entrepreneurial..."the really bright, tough, smart kids are the ones who don't get out" which Samuels attributed to the attitude that "there has always been a group of people in this country that it's not OK to educate....[and] every day I have to re-educate myself as to the value of the kids in my community." Florida's comment: "The society that solves its crime or gang problem will be an economic engine."

The starting points for solutions: 1) See every individual as creative; 2) Be open; 3) Leave no one behind.

Bush runs, but can't hide, from failures

Bush runs, but can't hide, from failures
Capitol Hill Blue
Nov 15, 2005

As President George W. Bush jets off to Asia, he flees a country bitterly divided by his policies and a Republican party in open revolt over his many failures.

“The mood in both the White House and the nation harkens back to the days of Lyndon Johnson and Richard M. Nixon,” says retired political science professor George Harleigh, who served in the Nixon administration. “Nixon was able to fly to China and, for a while, bury his problems with diplomatic triumphs. Nixon, like Bush, was a flawed President. Unlike Bush, Nixon had diplomatic skills.”

Bush leaves behind a nation in turmoil, ripped apart by an unpopular war in Iraq and increasingly distrustful of the leader who sent Americans to die there. His use of Veterans Day to attack opponents of his war has angered and further alienated veterans’ groups – another political misstep by an administration marred by frequent and escalating screw ups.

“The president resorted to his old playbook of discredited rhetoric about the war on terror and political attacks, as his own political fortunes and credibility diminish,” says Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

With polls showing 57 percent of the American people believe Bush lied to lead this country into war in Iraq, Republican political strategists now tell their candidates to avoid any association with the President and to moderate their views away from the extreme right wing positions of the GOP....

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Howard Dean on MTP

Howard Dean on MTP

by Armando
Daily Kos
Sun Nov 13, 2005 at 10:02:09 AM PDT

Howard Dean was interviewed by Tim Russert this morning on Meet the Press and, to my way of thinking, said all the right things.

Tell the Truth. When asked what Democrats will do on Iraq, Dean answered, in essence, tell the truth. He contrasted this with the dishonesty and deception that has marked the Bush Admnistration and Republicans on Iraq and almost every other issue. When asked what Democratic politicians should say about their prior votes on Iraq, he said - tell the truth. He markedly contrasted them with Bush and the Republicans, whom Dean called "corrupt" and "dishonest." This is a winning issue that most Americans agree with and behind which Democrats of all ideologies can rally behind.

Extremist Religiosity Does Not Equal Moral Values. Russert put up a poll finding in the most recent NBC poll that found that 35% of Americans thought the Republicans were the "more moral" party, while only 18% thought the Democrats the moral party. Dean did not bite into the premise. He understood two things about that poll finding - (1) That only 35% of Americans thought Republicans the more "moral" party is a huge problem for the GOP. If 65% of Americans have not been spun on this issue, then the GOP attempt to brand the Democratic Party as the party of the perverse is failing. (2) That Democrats comfortable talking about their faith of course should and will. This signalled to me that on "values" questions, Dean embraces the Big Tent concept, where different approaches for different Dems in different parts of the country is an essential strategy for Democratic success. Dean stressed that it is our underlying values, not the source of them, that bring us together as Democrats.

Dean also took an opportunity to tweak Russert's assumption that faith = Christianity. Russert spotlighted a Tim Kaine statement about his Christianity and asked Dean if Dems willbe talking more about their faith. Dean reminded Russert that faith does not equal Christianity. I thought it was an embarrassing moment for Russert.

The Alito Nomination. Russert tried to put Dean on the defensive on the question of the Alito nomination, suggesting that Dem opposition would amount to obstructionism. Russert referenced a NYTimes editorial today as a negative example of this. Dean turned this entirely around, embracing the Alito nomination process as a chance for Dems to define themselves as the Party of Mainstream Values. In particular, Dean endorsed this portion of the editorial:

The Alito nomination comes at a critical moment for the Democratic Party. With President Bush's poll numbers plummeting, Democrats are finding a new optimism about their chances in 2006 and 2008. But to capitalize on the Republicans' weakness, the party needs to show that it has an alternative vision for the country. As the Democrats refine their message for next year's elections, the first thing they need to be able to say to the American people is that they did not sit by idly while the far right took over the Supreme Court and began dismantling fundamental rights and freedoms.

Keep Us Safe. While acknowledging the Democrat weakness on national security and the need to address it, Dean resisted Russert's call for Democratic alternatives on Iraq and other national security issues. Dean rightly pointed out that Republicans are in complete control of the government and that they do not take advice from the Democrats.

Which leads to my final point - When Do Democrats Define Themselves? Dean gave the right answer - when the voters have a chance to make a choice for real change, in 2006. The Elections. The Democrats are doing what they are supposed to do right now - opposing a Republican agenda harmful to the country. And agreeing on those few occasions when the Republicans do the right thing. That is called being an opposition party. The time for offering alternatives is when the voters can choose that alternative for real change. And that is 2006.

Kudos to Dr. Dean for a stellar performance.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Avoiding detection at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Avoiding detection at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Nov 11, 2005, 02:28
Capitol Hill Blue

Wary White House aides, under constant scrutiny from a paranoid Bush administration hell bent on stopping leaks, have turned to a technique used by drug dealers and criminals to avoid detection – prepaid, disposable cell phones.

The phones, which can be purchased for as little as $30 each from discount stores, offer prepaid minutes and can be discarded when the time is used up. They require no contract or sign-up and are difficult to trace.

“It’s about the only way we can ensure any privacy,” one bitter White House staffer told me this week. “Our office and home calls are monitored along with our normal cell phones.”

Enterprising White House staffers have pooled their resources and use third parties to purchase the phones in bulk from retailers like WalMart in small towns outside the National Capital Region. When one phone’s minutes are used up, they toss the handset and activate a new one.

Drug dealers and organized gangs use such phones to avoid wiretaps and call monitoring by law enforcement agencies. That White House aides have turned to the same techniques indicates just how tense life in the West Wing has become.

“Every time a new story emerges in the press, everyone here comes under suspicion,” says one aide. “We spend most of our time covering our asses instead of tending to the nation’s business.”

White House sources tell us that even senior aides like embattled Presidential advisor Karl Rove uses the prepaid phones to avoid having certain calls show up on call logs or other records that might be subpoenaed.

“You do what you can to avoid leaving a paper trail,” says one aide.

Other techniques employed by administration officials to avoid detection include:

--Free email accounts through services like Hotmail, Lycos, Yahoo and Gmail. Staff members create multiple accounts and create new ones often.

--Increased use of cash instead of credit or debit cards. “Gas receipts can show where you’ve been. When you pay cash there’s less of a trail to follow,” says one staff member.

--Use of cars belonging to friends or increased use of public transportation like the Washington metro system because “it’s easier to get lost in a crowd.”

“I know this all sounds like a dime store novel but that’s the depth we’ve all sunk to around here,” says an aide who has worked in previous administrations as well as on the current White House staff.

One female staffer says working at the White House has gone from “the most exciting time of my life to a daily hell. You’re always being watched, always under suspicion, always second-guessed. I hate it now. I just want it to be over.”

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Be careful what you ask for

Be careful what you ask for
Nov 10, 2005, 05:36
Capitol Hill Blue

With political debris from the Valerie Plame probe and indictment of top White House aide "Scooter" Libby still sifting down on the national capital, you would think Washington would be more careful about calling for more leak investigations. But no.

On Nov. 2, The Washington Post ran a story on a CIA-run covert network of secret prisons overseas, rumors of whose existence have circulated for several years. The "black sites" were in eight countries, including _ and this disclosure caused great controversy _ several democracies in Eastern Europe. Most of the story focused on the CIA's dilemma in how to hold and interrogate a growing number of terrorist suspects, including genuine evildoers, free from outside interference from the courts, Congress, press, human-rights groups and foreign governments.

It was indeed a closely held secret, initially confined to a handful of top executive-branch officials and kept from most members of Congress. But the CIA certainly knew the secret wouldn't last. The foreign governments knew, the people living around the prisons could probably guess and the host countries appear to have been mostly open societies. The prisons were the subject of growing debate within the CIA and the executive branch. And Vice President Cheney's effort to have the CIA exempted from torture regulations raised questions about what exactly the CIA was doing with prisoners and where. It was only a matter of time.

Leaks happen and the Post reporter, Dana Priest, a recognized expert on national security issues, probably didn't need anything handed to her. This is not Libby II.

Even so, Senate Republican leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, citing "long-term and far-reaching and damaging consequences" to protecting the homeland, wrote to the chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees demanding an immediate joint investigation into the leak. Joint probes are serious business; the last was into 9/11 and before that, Iran-Contra.

There may have been an element of grandstanding in this because the two chairmen only found out about the letters when reporters came around asking about them.

And the two Republican leaders may want to rethink their request. Leak investigations rarely succeed and, once launched, tend to stray off in unexpected directions. Two Republicans immediately proposed that any joint investigation be broadened to include the secret prisons themselves. And Democrats quickly proposed that the investigation include whether the Bush administration deliberately leaked bogus intelligence about WMDs to build a case for invading Iraq.

This is surely not what Frist and Hastert wanted. But at least no one's asking for a special prosecutor. Yet.

GOP memo touts new terror attack as way to reverse party's decline

GOP memo touts new terror attack as way to reverse party's decline
Publisher, Capitol Hill Blue
Nov 10, 2005, 06:19

A confidential memo circulating among senior Republican leaders suggests that a new attack by terrorists on U.S. soil could reverse the sagging fortunes of President George W. Bush as well as the GOP and "restore his image as a leader of the American people."

The closely-guarded memo lays out a list of scenarios to bring the Republican party back from the political brink, including a devastating attack by terrorists that could “validate” the President’s war on terror and allow Bush to “unite the country” in a “time of national shock and sorrow.”

The memo says such a reversal in the President's fortunes could keep the party from losing control of Congress in the 2006 midterm elections.

GOP insiders who have seen the memo admit it’s a risky strategy and point out that such scenarios are “blue sky thinking” that often occurs in political planning sessions.

“The President’s popularity was at an all-time high following the 9/11 attacks,” admits one aide. “Americans band together at a time of crisis.”...

Monday, November 07, 2005

Bush Administration's Moral Compass Is Lost

Bush Administration's Moral Compass Is Lost
By Cathleen Falsani
The Chicago Sun-Times

Friday 04 November 2005

The morning after George W. Bush won his second term in office and many of his Republican colleagues also claimed victory last year, I received an e-mail from one of my dearest friends, Amanda.

It's a note that has haunted me since, a niggling at the back of my mind like an overdue library book or an insult hurled in anger that can't ever be taken back properly.

Amanda is one of the most moral, ethical, intelligent and kind people I know. She also happens to be a Jewish atheist, more or less.

We've known each other since we were teenagers, and the subject of faith - the peculiarity of my born-again-ness and the absence of her faith in any religious way - had been a perennial topic of discussion. I respect her deeply and care about what she thinks, particularly about spiritual matters.

"Help!" was the title of Amanda's e-mail. "I'm sad and angry today," she began. "Given your profession and your personal belief system, I am genuinely hoping you have something to say on this: How can people who claim to be voting on religious and moral values vote for a man who ... "

Friday, November 04, 2005

GOP Leaders to Bush: 'Your Presidency is Effectively Over'
Nov 4, 2005, 08:13
Capitol Hill Blue

A growing number of Republican leaders, party strategists and political professional now privately tell President George W. Bush that his presidency "is effectively over" unless he fires embattled White House advisor Karl Rove, apologizes to the American people for misleading the country into war and revamps his administration from top to bottom.

"The only show of unity we have now in the Republican Party is the belief that the President has failed the party, the American people and the presidency," says a longtime, and angry, GOP strategist.

With the public face of support for Bush eroding daily from even diehard Republicans, the President faces mounting anger from within his party over the path that may well lead to loss of control of Congress in the 2006 midterm elections and the White House in 2008.

"This presidency is in trouble," says a senior White House aide. "Even worse, I don't know if there is a way out of the trouble."

Congressional leaders journeyed to the White House before Bush left on his South American tour this week to tell the President that his legislative agenda on the Hill is dead, his latest Supreme Court nominee faces a tough confirmation fight in the Senate and he is facing open revolt within party ranks...

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Escape from the pickle factory

Molly Ivins
Creators Syndicate

Escape from the pickle factory
We're going to need to put our heads together to get out of this mess

AUSTIN, Texas -- Leap I lightly, with the grace of a gazelle, over such mundane news items as indictments at the White House and Supreme Court nominations. All the better to continue my crusade to focus attention not on what's wrong, but on how to fix it.

Forget, for a carefree and frivolous moment, the manifold failings of the only president we've got. Instead, let's see if we can figure out how to get out of this pickle. More than one pickle, I grant you -- this administration is a pickle factory. Thinking helmets on, team.

Before we even begin with some useful lists of "Let's stop doing this and try doing that, instead," we should salute the Values Crowd with the sincerest form of flattery. I suppose we could have a giant Values Debate, with Bill Bennett on one side and Bill Moyers on the other, but even values have fallen into the partisan pit these days. We need to go at our problems in some way that doesn't immediately set hackles up so that the only point of the exercise becomes to beat the other side.

How about, instead of a Contract With America, we see if we can get some agreement on what kind of country we would like to see America become.

Here's a starter: I would like America to be a country where we spend more money on educating people than we do on the military.

On a panel in New Haven, Conn., the other night, Ray Suarez of PBS answered the "How do we fix it?" question with the proposal that we make K-12 our top priority. He suggests this would have so many unexpected side effects -- ranging from science to race relations -- it would effectively be a revolution.

I'm not asking you to endorse that idea, but do consider the astonishing magnitude of such a shift. It's difficult to get a compete grasp on how much we spend on the military, since not all of it is under the Department of Defense. The Department of Homeland Security, for example, pays for much of the "war on terror." But basically, the Pentagon is now getting about $500 billion a year, or 52 percent of the discretionary federal budget -- according to the Center for Budget Priorities.

("Discretionary" basically means what Congress and the president have any say over. The rest of the budget goes to stuff we have already committed to and can't get out of, like paying interest on the national debt.)

Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities, whose purpose is to educate the public on how the federal government spends our money and what priorities are, suggests cutting 15 percent from the military budget and redirecting it. The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation says we now spend more on our military than the rest of the world combined spends on theirs. There is no country that could conceivably defeat us militarily, though we certainly do manage to get ourselves stuck in some unpleasant places. Anyone who has watched the poor National Guard getting called back to Iraq again and again can figure out quite a bit of this money is not being well spent.

Just for starters, is there anyone -- anyone -- who thinks we need more than 1,000 nuclear warheads in order to have a credible nuclear deterrent at this time? By cutting back to 1,000, we can save $13 billion right there.

Another $26 billion would be saved by scaling back or stopping the research, development and construction of weapons that are useless to deal with modern threats. Many of the weapons involved, like the F/A-22 fighter jet and the Virginia Class submarine, were designed to fight the defunct Soviet Union. All of this is according to Lawrence Korb, whose credentials are endless -- senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, senior adviser to the Center for Defense Information, former vice president of Raytheon, etc. The $26 billion does not include the old Star Wars program, now called missile defense, which could be cut back to basic research for a savings of $7 billion.

I'm trying to give you some sense of scale here. According to Korb's research, we could take $60 billion out of the defense budget, 15 percent of the total, without remotely affecting military readiness. Any think tank, left or right, can come up with a similar scenario for cutting military spending without harm to security -- the details may differ, but you will find a surprising degree of overlap, as well.

OK, so we could shift $60 billion into education without even breathing hard. Then, how would we continue toward of a goal of putting more into education than on stuff to kill people? For starters, we could try having fewer enemies in the world. Then we wouldn't need so many ways to kill them, eh? And how do we get there?

Nothing simple about this effort -- anyone who thinks international relations and diplomacy are simple, straightforward subjects has not been paying attention. This how-do-we-fix-it series is a conversation, not a lecture, and all suggestions are welcome. You can e-mail your suggestions to me at

Chain, Chain, Chain of Cheney Fools

Chain, Chain, Chain of Cheney Fools
By Maureen Dowd
The New York Times | Editorial

Wednesday 02 November 2005

Scooter used to be Cheney's Cheney.

Now we've got Cheney's Cheney's Cheney.

This is not an improvement.

Once Scooter left, many people, including a lot of alarmed conservatives and moderate Republicans, were hoping that W. and Vice would throw open some White House windows to let the air and sun in, and climb out of that incestuous, secretive, vindictive, hallucinatory dark hole they've been bunkered in for five years.

But they like it in their paranoid paradise. One of the most confounding aspects of W.'s exceedingly confounding presidency is his apparent unwillingness to consider that anyone who ever worked for him - and was in any way responsible for any of the disasters now afflicting his administration - should be jettisoned.

This is not loyalty. This is myopia. Where is a meddling, power-intoxicated first lady when we need one? Maybe the clever Nancy Reagan should have a little talk with Laura Bush tonight at the dinner for Prince Charles and Camilla, and explain to her how to step in and fire overweening officials who are hurting your man.

Vice thumbed his nose yesterday at the notion that he should clean up his creepy laboratory when he promoted two Renfields who are part of the gang that got us into this mess.

Dick Cheney has appointed David Addington as his new chief of staff, an ideologue who is so fanatically secretive, so in love with the shadows, so belligerent and unyielding that he's known around town as the Keyser Soze of the usual suspects. At 48, Mr. Addington is a legend: he's worked his way up the G.O.P. scandal ladder from Iran-contra to Abu Ghraib....

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The World Can't Wait

The World Can't Wait
By Russ Baker

Tuesday 01 November 2005

Patrick Fitzgerald's indictment of Scooter Libby for lying about how he learned of the Valerie Plame affair is an interesting and important development. But the narrowness of that focus, absent further developments, shows again the limitations of "the system" in confronting the sheer magnitude of an entire government subverted, and with it a proud people, from all that we once revered.

For those disturbed by the deceit and the intrigues, the reckless warmongering, the wholesale looting of the common trust to benefit the privileged, the clampdown on rights and liberties, the unconscionable enthusiasm for torture, the embracing of a Know-Nothing attitude toward science, the hastening of environmental collapse, the buying of the legislative process and the neutering of the judicial one, waiting for indictments is no longer sufficient.

One difficulty with opposing the current malefactors of power is that they are so venal, so mean-spirited, so incompetent on so many fronts that it's hard to focus the public's attention on the true magnitude of the threat, which dwarfs any single instance of wrong-doing, as egregious as this or that outrage may be. Essential to any successful anti-Bush campaign is the constant reminder that the president and his cronies are dangerous across the board, from the selection of a science textbook in a small town in Kansas to the mobilization of the "shock and awe" war machine for political purposes.

What to do? Tomorrow, on the one-year anniversary of George W. Bush's contested re-election victory, many Americans will go the direct action route, taking off from work and from school to make their voices heard and their faces seen.

At locations throughout the country, gatherings and marches will sound a wake-up call. Some of those endorsing "The World Can't Wait: Drive out the Bush Regime" are Gore Vidal, Cindy Sheehan, Cornel West, Studs Terkel, Alice Walker and Harold Pinter. But in such times, of course, you don't need celebrity endorsements.

It's possible that the turnout will be underwhelming. It is possible that these events will make no difference at all. Many former activists find themselves discouraged by the prospects of direct expression, or are just too busy—or too comfortable.

But then again, the world has copious examples, from Argentina to Ukraine, where crowds gathered, and chanted or banged pots, and began to change history. Perhaps this will be the beginning of a return to the honored tradition of democracy speaking directly.

Increasingly, we're seeing signs that the American public is fed up. Polls show Bush's approval ratings at near-record lows. And a combined and weighted set of fifty statewide surveys from SurveyUSA shows that that just 29 percent of American adults think the country is going in the right direction. A remarkable 66 percent think it is going in the wrong direction. And given all the red state/blue state rhetoric, it's particularly striking that in not a single state do 50 percent of adults believe the country is on the right path. And in 25 states, fewer than 30 percent of adults think so.

We've seen growth of a variety of protests from mainstreamers, including the families of those who have died or been injured in Iraq. Even the iconic soccer moms and NASCAR Joes are leavening the mix with the more eccentric birds of plumage who usually come out. And to be sure, the vanguard of popular movements often includes some more strident and conspiracy-minded elements whose viewpoints don't necessarily reflect the broader sentiments.

As for tomorrow: One day will not in and of itself a difference make. But it could be the invitation to the dance, the tantalizing seeds for a gradual mass awakening, a slumbering beast beginning to rouse itself.

In New York City, participants will gather at noon in Union Square, and then march up 8th Ave. But essentially, the organizers are asking people, wherever they live, to skip work, skip classes and converge on public spaces, from town squares to major downtowns. For those interested, more information can be found at

Recent examples of civic participation at its best include nationwide vigils held last week in recognition of the 2,000-troop death milestone. And we're seeing, thanks to the Internet, a rapid growth in petition campaigns on a host of issues. With the spectacle of Rosa Parks, a woman who wouldn't get up from a bus seat, lying in honor this weekend in the Capitol Rotunda, we're reminded that there's scarcely a more honorable pursuit than putting one's principles into action.

Investigative reporter and essayist Russ Baker is a longtime contributor to He is the founder of the Real News Project, a new organization dedicated to producing groundbreaking investigative journalism. He can be reached at

A Rare Moment of Clarity

A Rare Moment of Clarity
Nov 2, 2005, 04:42

There's some rare good news today: Some of Washington's ex-greats -- or at least its ex-influentials -- are back in the spotlight, providing great patriotic service again. They are issuing the capital's most clear-eyed insights into the crises that our president and his high command have caused, and then compounded, around the world.

Most importantly, these ex-officials, Republicans and Democrats, are doing something you just don't hear from our elected officials in the administration or Congress; they are proposing a few solutions that can make us all safer. If only those in power will listen and heed.

Seeking an assessment of what has gone wrong and how to fix it, I began by reaching back three decades and calling Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter and has become one of the capital's few clarion voices in warning of the consequences of President Bush's global policies. Brzezinski had just written such an assessment. He began by quoting Arnold Toynbee's spot-on phrase (in his epic "A Study of History") for what it is that causes the collapse of imperial powers: "suicidal statecraft."

Brzezinski wrote (in his own op-ed article for Tribune Media Services International), "that adroit phrase might be applicable to the policies pursued by the United States since the cataclysm of 9/11."

For more than two years we have been eyewitnesses to a painful sight we thought we'd never see: The leader of the free world, flailing and failing _ dumbfounded by consequences he never dreamed of, misled by experts he trusted. Bush ordered an invasion of Iraq that diverted resources from the vital U.S. effort to crush al Qaeda in Afghanistan _ and the invasion quickly became an occupation that we now know was more faith-based than planned. Each day, Americans die in Iraq for mistakes made in Washington.

Another painful sight we thought we'd never see: The self-afflicted diminishment of the worldwide influence by the planet's lone superpower. Worse yet, we've seen policies that have driven new recruits into the camps of the militant Islamic terrorists who attacked us before and will again. We have actually given new life to the terrorists our president once vowed to get, dead or alive.

Other clarion _ and in this case courageous _ early warnings were sounded by Gen. Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush. His on-target warnings were courageous because he is the elder Bush's close friend, and yet he publicly cautioned his friend's son not to invade Iraq (after his private attempts to make the case didn't get through). In a stunning piece by Jeffrey Goldberg in The New Yorker, Scowcroft attacked the neoconservatives who fed Bush's zeal to invade: "This was said to be part of the war on terror, but Iraq feeds terrorism."

Arab TV recyclings of images of hideous abuses at Abu Ghraib have enraged Muslims who otherwise might have sat on the sidelines; now they are joining al Qaeda.

"Compounding U.S. political dilemmas is the degradation of America's moral standing in the world,'' Brzezinski wrote. "The country that has for decades stood tall in opposition to political repression, torture and other violations of human rights has been exposed as sanctioning practices that hardly qualify as respect for human dignity." It is, he said, "an international debacle."

Brzezinski favors a prompt withdrawal of U.S. troops. He urged Bush to forge a "common sense" plan with input from congressional Democrats.

Meanwhile, a former Reagan Pentagon official who now thinks in a progressive (see also: liberal) Washington think tank has produced a creative solution called "Strategic Redeployment." The proposal would withdraw the 140,000 U.S. forces in Iraq in two phases, by the end of 2007. Co-authored by Reagan assistant defense secretary Lawrence Korb, and national security expert Brian Katulis, for the Center for American Progress, their plan would redeploy some troops to other Islamic terrorist hot spots and keep 14,000 troops in Kuwait and offshore in the Persian Gulf, in case escalating violence threatens the region.

" 'Strategic Redeployment' differs from other plans for what to do in Iraq," Korb and Katulis wrote, "by recognizing that Iraq is now connected to a broader battle against global terrorist networks _ even though it was not before the Bush administration's invasion."

Brzezinski likes the spirit but favors a faster withdrawal. The mere presence of U.S. troops is an al Qaeda recruiting tool, he said, adding: "Our presence in Iraq is not making things better _ it is making things worse."

(Martin Schram writes political analysis for Scripps Howard News Service. E-mail him at martin.schram(at)

Bush's Increasing Mental Lapses and Temper Tantrums Worry White House Aide

Bush's Increasing Mental Lapses and Temper Tantrums Worry White House Aides
Nov 2, 2005
Capital Hill Blue

An uncivil war rages inside the walls of the West Wing of the White House, a bitter, acrimonious war driven by a failed agenda, destroyed credibility, dwindling public support and a President who lapses into Alzheimer-like periods of incoherent babbling.

On one side are the dwindling numbers of die-hard loyalists to President George W. Bush, those who support his actions and decisions without question and remain committed to both Bush and scandal-scarred political advisor Karl Rove.

On the other side are the increasing numbers of those who say Rove must go and who worry about the President's declining mental state and his ability to restore credibility with Congress, our foreign allies and the American people.

The war erupted into full-blown shout fests at Camp David this past weekend where decorum broke down in staff meetings and longtime aides threatened to quit unless Rove goes. Insiders say Chief of Staff Andrew Card now leads the anti-Rove legions and has told Bush that he wants out of the high-pressure job.

White House staff members say the White House is “like a wartime bunker” where shell-shocked aides hide from those who disagree with their actions and office pools speculate on how long certain senior aides will last.

Bush, whose obscenity-laced temper tantrums increase with each new setback and scandal, abruptly ended one Camp David meeting by telling everyone in the room to “go fuck yourselves” before he stalked out of the room.

Senior aides describe Bush as increasingly “edgy” or “nervous” or “unfocused....”

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The unraveling of the Cheney cabal

Ehsan Ahrari: 'The unraveling of the Cheney cabal'
Posted on Tuesday, November 01 @ 10:19:24 EST
This article has been read 375 times.
Ehsan Ahrari, Asia Times

The "Cheney cabal" that Lawrence Wilkerson, aide to (former secretary of state) Colin Powell, has recently accused of "highjacking" US foreign policy, might eventually be brought to light, now that one of its chief architects, I Lewis "Scooter" Libby, is facing a public trial and the prospect of a stiff sentence. He has been indicted on three counts of perjury and lying under oath about the disclosure of the name of an undercover Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agent to the media.

Those who read James Mann's highly underpublicized, but excellent book, The Rise and Fall of the Vulcans, have known about the power that the neo-conservatives (aka Vulcans) wielded in President George W Bush's White House. The indictment of Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, only confirms the essence of that cabal. What is still to come out are its details.

The real plan to invade Iraq was originally hatched in 1991, when then-president, George H W Bush, was at the helm. Libby was only one of its planners. The "big enchiladas" were Cheney, who then served as secretary of defense, and Paul Wolfowitz, who served as under secretary of defense. Current Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld became an active participant as someone who was then outside the government. Their plan to oust Saddam Hussein's forces from Kuwait was reportedly far riskier than the one promoted by then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell. Bush Senior apparently vetoed the Cheney et al's plan and gave a nod to Powell's.

The neo-conservative architects of the invasion of Iraq were "deeply disappointed" when Bush Senior decided against the hot pursuit of the retreating Iraqi forces from Kuwait. They knew they had lost only one battle. They shelved their original plan, but only to use it in the future.

With the election of George W Bush and Cheney, the neo-cons were provided a golden opportunity to resurrect the plan to oust Saddam. The terrorist attack of September 11 turned out to be the icing on the cake, from their viewpoint.....