Friday, December 30, 2005

Predictions for 2006 by Alan Chartock

Predictions for 2006 by Alan Chartock of WAMC

Here it is…a New Year and time for my fearless predictions. Remember the rules under which they're offered: I either want them to happen, or I don't want them to happen and am jinxing them, or I really, really think they MAY happen. It's up to the discerning reader to figure it out. Therefore, I predict that:

George Bush's popularity will fall to the lowest in the history of the American presidency.

A senior White House person will be indicted for lying to a grand jury. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld will resign, suggesting that his work has been accomplished. Members of the press corps will ask him whether he streamlined the Armed Forces the way he said he would. He will suggest that the adventure in Iraq has been resolved.

A major elected official will be implicated by someone for his part in the Valerie Plame affair and will plead nolo contendere in court.

David Galletly will shave his beard.

WAMC will provide yet another service for all those folks who want to hear NPR programs that are not available on our air. This will be part of our conversion to digital radio.

The people who read the station identifications will first identify themselves.

WAMC will announce a series of new grants from individuals who will just say, "All I want to do is to help MY radio station."

Three WAMC senior engineers will get will get married.

James Taylor will get really involved in politics.

A new radio show, "Me and Eliot," will debut on WAMC.

Jeanine Pirro will drop out.

Central Avenue in Albany will experience a renaissance making the Linda Norris Auditorium the "Go-to Place in the Capital Region." There will be lots of new parking.

WAMC will purchase a new station in the Pioneer Valley. Ditto Northwest Connecticut.

WAMC news will receive an unprecedented number of awards.

WAMC will collaborate with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, leading to record- breaking Friday night crowds at Tanglewood.

The National Press Club, ignominiously yanked off the air by National Public Radio, will find new life on public radio due to the efforts of WAMC.

Selma Kaplan will reunite with her band mates in a sold out concert of the "Rude Girls."

Ray and Nicole Graf will have a fourth child making their family health plan even more cost-effective. Ray will give something up for the New Year.

A WAMC board member's restaurant will receive a major culinary award.

A progressive Republican will announce for New York State Attorney General and immediately become the front runner.

WAMC's Jane Palmer, director of individual giving, will set the philanthropic community on its ear. She will be joined by grants director Marian Wise in collecting our thanks.

The WAMC newsroom will get a parrot of its own.

The WAMC Annex will get a cat to take on the you-know-who's.

News producer Katie Britton will get a dog of her own. It will like parrots.

Susan Arbetter and Joe Donahue will be courted by a national show and asked to leave WAMC. They will, of course, refuse, saying "Who would want a five million dollar salary when we can work here among the rodentia?"

The Media Project's Rex Smith and Lydia Kulbida will receive humongous raises in their day jobs. The program will not go to an hour.

A government hack will come after WAMC.

All WAMC listeners will have a happy and healthy new year.

What kind of man is Bush?

What kind of man is Bush?
Posted on Friday, December 30 @ 09:48:32 EST

Tim Abbott, The Roanoke Times

I grew up during the Cold War, in the aftermath of World War II, and I am a Vietnam-era veteran, so through my life I have heard a lot about freedom.

I was raised at a time when the portraits of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln hung in schools and evoked patriotism. We were taught that we should emulate their ideals in thought and deed. They were the examples of principles such as individual conscience, political liberty and social justice.

Washington was the father of his country. He led the Revolutionary army, telling his officers to treat prisoners of war "with humanity," and, like Cincinnatus, voluntarily stepped down from the presidency.

Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, stating that all men have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

And Lincoln was admired for his thought, humor and compassion. He wrote with malice toward none and charity for all.

Against these men and their successors were the fascist and communist dictators. In the photographs, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Josef Stalin and Francisco Franco strutted in military uniforms. Their concerns were not liberty, but national security and the national interests. All who opposed them were traitors and cowards.

Today we have other wars -- the war against terrorism and the Iraq war. Once again we are told these wars are about protecting our freedom.

Al-Qaida, we are told, wants to destroy us. Perhaps that is true, though it is hard to see how it is capable of such a feat. President Bush has called al-Qaida and Islamic fundamentalists "Islamo-fascists."

Bush talks a lot about freedom, courage, transparent government and the rule of law. He talks.

His speeches are carefully choreographed before audiences of his faithful -- often Christian fundamentalists or, to paraphrase Bush, Christian-fascists -- and they must sign loyalty oaths to Bush. He speaks before audience after audience of soldiers and sailors who cannot speak except as directed by the White House.

Others before whom he speaks may ask no questions. He runs from journalists, as we have seen in China, even on those rare occasions that he speaks before them.

Even worse, he has paid journalists to say good things about him and his policies. He also produces propaganda from government offices that he offers as news reports. And any protests against his policies are diverted well away from his sight and hearing.

In his Mission Accomplished foray, he wore a military uniform, something no president has done since Washington, and Washington only wore the uniform to quell a rebellion.

Around the world he has replaced the Soviet Gulag with the Bush Gulag, where men may be tortured.

He refuses to divulge the energy industries' influence upon his policies and the records of his Supreme Court nominees.

He refuses the United Nations access to question prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and refuses the Red Cross access to prisoners at CIA black sites. Furthermore, he threatened to veto legislation against the torture of prisoners even as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice conveyed a "don't ask, don't tell" torture policy to the world.

In Iraq, he took us into an unnecessary war.

He uses fear, intimidation, distortion and lies. I cannot tell whether the man cannot tell the truth or he doesn't know the truth.

From these few examples of many, what kind of man is Bush? Is he like Washington or Lincoln? Or is he a man of another kind? Not a Cincinnatus, but a Tarquin.

When I think of Bush, I do not think of liberty and courage, compassion and justice. No, I think of arrogance, greed and lies. He is a thug, a buffoon and a coward. Not only is he incompetent, he is corrupt.

He is of a kind with the dictators; a strutting, sanctimonious buffoon who talks democracy but acts like Saddam Hussein. Bush might differ in degree from Hussein, not having been in power as long, but in behavior, with torture and the corruption of government, they are of a kind.

While al-Qaida is an enemy of the values and principles of the United States and Western civilization and must be confronted, it can do no more than kill people and destroy property.

Bush can subvert our principles and institutions. He is the greater enemy.

Abbott, of Hillsville, served in the U.S. Army from 1970 to 1974 and is a tutor at New River Community College.

© Copyright 2005

The Most Valuable Progressives of 2005


The Most Valuable Progressives of 2005
The Nation

It is hard to complain about a year that began with George Bush bragging about spending the "political capital" he felt he had earned with his dubious reelection and ended with the president drowning in the Nixonian depths of public disapproval.

But the circumstance didn't just get better.

A handful of elected officials, activist groups and courageous citizens bent the arc of history toward justice.

Here are this one columnist's picks for the Most Valuable Progressives of 2005:

* MVP -- U.S. Senate:

This is an easy category. While California Democrat Barbara Boxer deserves credit for refusing to go along with the certification of the dubious presidential election results from Ohio, and Arizona Republican John McCain merits praise for forcing the administration to back down from its pro-torture stance, there's no question that Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold was the essential senator of 2005. He was the first member of the chamber to call for a timetable to withdraw troops from Iraq -- a stance that initially was ridiculed but ultimately drew support from many of Feingold's fellow Democrats and even a few Republicans. And he ended the year by forging a bipartisan coalition that beat back the Bush administration's demand for the long-term extension of the Patriot Act, scoring one of the most significant wins for civil liberties that Congress has seen in years.

* MVP -- U.S. House:

There are plenty of members of the House who deserve credit for standing up to the administration on critical issues -- from Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown, who led the fight against Central American Free Trade Agreement, to Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders, who was the point man in the battle to fix the Patriot Act, to North Carolina Republican Walter Jones, who courageously broke with the administration to oppose the war. And, of course, there was Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha, the decorated Vietnam veteran who forced the House to get serious about the war he called for a speedy withdrawal. But the essential member of the House in 2005 was Michigan Democrat John Conyers, the ranking member of his party on the Judiciary Committee. No one used their bully pulpit better in 2005 than Conyers, who gathered damning information about electoral irregularities in the 2004 Ohio presidential voting and then led the challenge to the certification of the results, held hearings on the Downing Street Memo's revelations regarding the Bush administration's doctoring of pre-war intelligence, and ended the year by moving resolutions to censure President Bush and Vice President Cheney for lying to Congress and the American people -- and to set up a committee to examine the issue of impeachment.

* MVP -- Executive Branch:

Yes, there was one. It's Lawrence B. Wilkerson, the retired U.S. Army colonel who served as chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin L. Powell until Powell exited the State Department in January, 2005. After leaving his position, Wilkerson began revealing the dark secrets of the Bush-Cheney interregnum, telling a New America Foundation gathering in October that during his years in the administration: "What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made." Wilkerson warned that, with "a president who is not versed in international relations and not too much interested in them either," the country is headed in an exceptionally dangerous direction. "I would say that we have courted disaster, in Iraq, in North Korea, in Iran, generally with regard to domestic crises like Katrina, Rita and I could go on back, we haven't done very well on anything like that in a long time," Wilkerson explained. "And if something comes along that is truly serious, truly serious, something like a nuclear weapon going off in a major American city, or something like a major pandemic, you are going to see the ineptitude of this government in a way that will take you back to the Declaration of Independence." That is truth telling of a quality and a scope all too rarely witnessed in the Washington of Bush and Cheney.

* MVP -- Law Enforcement Branch:

While Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald deserved all the headlines and the credit he got for indicting I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the now former chief-of-staff for Vice President Dick Cheney and a key player in faking up the "case" for war with Iraq, Fitzgerald's work is just beginning. His most important indictments are yet to come. The prosecutor who took the greatest risks and who secured the most consequential indictment of 2005 was Travis County, Texas, District Attorney Ronnie Earle, who brought down House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. The man who ran Congress for most of the Bush years has not been convicted -- yet -- but DeLay was forced to step down as majority leader and no one who watches Washington thinks he will ever regain that position. Earle got his man, and began the long process of cleansing a Congress that, after all these years of being run by a pest-control specialist, is in serious need of fumigation.

* MVP -- Citizen Branch:

In August, when Democrats leaders in Washington were still talking about working with the Bush administration on Iraq -- effectively leaving Americans who were growing increasingly ill-at-ease about the war without a voice in the chambers of power -- the mother of a slain soldier followed Bush to his Crawford, Texas, ranchette and asked him to take a few minutes away from his month-long vacation to talk about the quagmire. Cindy Sheehan put the issue of the war back at the forefront of the national agenda, forcing even the dysfunctional White House press corps to start covering dissenters and getting D.C. Democrats to wake up to the reality that the American people had lost faith in the president and his military misadventure.

* MVP -- Watchdog Branch:

The media did a slightly better job of monitoring political wrongdoing in 2005 than it did during the first four years of the Bush-Cheney presidency -- when it actually would have mattered. But the real work of exposing the misdeeds of the administration is still being done by activist groups. And the most inspired of these in 2005 was After Downing Street, the coalition of groups that describes itself as "working to expose the lies that launched the war and to hold accountable its architects, including through censure and impeachment." In conjunction with Progressive Democrats of America, the able activist group that seeks to create an actual opposition party in America, After Downing Street is pushing the political envelope in exactly the direction it needs to go. Check out their website at website and keep ahead of the action in 2006.

A vet speaks out about Bush

A vet speaks out about Bush
Dec 30, 2005, 06:34
Capitol Hill Blue

Tim Abbott is a Vietnam veteran who lives in the Southwestern Virginia town of Hillsville, a conservative, blue-collar community that tends to vote Republican and bleed red, white and blue.

But, like an increasing number of veterans, Abbott is fed up with President George W. Bush.

“Bush talks a lot about freedom, courage, transparent government and the rule of law. He talks,” Abbott says. “His speeches are carefully choreographed before audiences of his faithful -- often Christian fundamentalists or, to paraphrase Bush, Christian-fascists -- and they must sign loyalty oaths to Bush. He speaks before audience after audience of soldiers and sailors who cannot speak except as directed by the White House.”

Normally, such comments would be risky in a mountain town where Patriotism rules supreme but Abbott expressed his views this week in an op ed article for The Roanoke Times and found many people agreeing with him.

“When I think of Bush, I do not think of liberty and courage, compassion and justice. No, I think of arrogance, greed and lies,” Abbott wrote. “He is a thug, a buffoon and a coward. Not only is he incompetent, he is corrupt.”

In normal times, these would be fighting words and Abbott would do well to avoid lunch at the Hillsville Diner, the Main Street eatery where the locals gather to discuss politics. But George W. Bush’s times are not normal times and Abbott is greeted warmly on the streets of Hillsville....

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Republican Crack-Up

The Republican Crack-Up
By David Moberg
In These Times

Wednesday 28 December 2005
Bush's bad year has created a political vacuum. Who will fill it?

Shortly after his reelection, George Bush bragged that he had bags full of political capital for his second term. But Bush both miscounted the political coins in his pocket and blew his wad on some bad gambles, such as the war in Iraq and Social Security privatization. Then he lost more with the bad luck, largely of his own making, of a botched response ot Hurricane Katrina

By late November [FC], he was less popular than Clinton, Reagan or Eisenhower was at any point in their second terms, with his approval ratings down in the mid-30 percents. On the two leading issues for voters - the war in Iraq and the economy - his ratings were even worse.

And despite hard-core loyalty from the Republican base, there are signs of disaffection from both moderates and the party's far right, including anti-government budget-cutters and anti-immigrant militants. Cracks have even emerged in the previously impregnable Republican Congressional political machine over both scandals and strategy. "The hopeful sign is that on all kinds of fronts where Republicans hoped to be united and victorious, they're now defensive and disunited," says Roger Hickey, co-director of the progressive advocacy group Campaign for America's Future (CAF).

Crucial Missteps

Bush's annus horribilus was partly the result of fundamentally flawed policies playing themselves out. It also reflected the breakdown of a duplicitous strategy to push through policies that a majority of Americans never supported and often misunderstood, as political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson argue in their recent book, Off Center. But it also resulted from the grassroots pressure of progressives and - when they finally sensed Bush's weakness - some better-late-than-never political discipline from Democrats.

There were two turning points. First, his disastrous handling of Hurricane Katrina reinforced a view of Bush as out of touch with ordinary people and undermined his claim to elementary competence. With American poverty and governmental inadequacy so flagrantly on display, Republicans had to indefinitely postpone the vote on one of their favorite causes - permanent repeal of the estate tax.

Then, the 2,000th death of American soldiers in Iraq crystallized Americans' frustration with a war that a growing majority thinks should not have been fought - and that Bush misled them into supporting. Bush is losing support on the war not only from the left and center - most notably, in the resounding call for withdrawal from traditionally hawkish Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) - but also from his right. Two-thirds of self-described conservative Republicans told Washington Post pollsters they had doubts about the war.....

When the Cutting Is Corrupted

When the Cutting Is Corrupted
By E. J. Dionne Jr.
The Washington Post

Tuesday 27 December 2005

With indicted superlobbyist Jack Abramoff reportedly ready to cooperate with prosecutors and his partner, Michael Scanlon, already singing, 2006 is expected to be the year of congressional scandals.

Lord knows, a housecleaning in the Capitol is definitely in order. But the Abramoff scandal is just part of the corruption of our political system. There is another level of special-interest influence that cannot be handled by prosecutors: Only the voters can render a judgment on a politics of favoritism that has created a new Gilded Age. It's clear that the national government has placed itself squarely on the side of the wealthy, the privileged and the connected.

Rarely does a single action by Congress serve as so powerful an example of how the system is working. The recent budget bill, which squeaked through the House and Senate just before Christmas, is a road map of insider dealing. It shows that when choices have to be made, the interests of the poor and the middle class fall before the wishes of interest groups with powerful lobbies and awesome piles of campaign money to distribute.

Republican majorities in the Senate and House insisted that they wanted to cut the federal budget. But the Senate and House offered competing plans for achieving savings. When it came time to meld the two proposals, almost every choice congressional leaders made favored the interest groups.

Consider federal health programs. The House bill proposed substantial cuts for Medicaid beneficiaries, but the Senate bill - partly because of pressure from moderate Republicans - did not include those cuts. Instead, the Senate proposed to save taxpayer money by eliminating a $10 billion fund to encourage regional preferred-provider organizations, known as PPOs, to participate in the Medicare program. It also sought more rebates to the federal government from drug manufacturers participating in Medicaid.....

Sunday, December 25, 2005

For Christmas, let's give ourselves a present: A new government

For Christmas, let's give ourselves a present: A new government
Dec 23, 2005, 06:24
Capitol Hill Blue

Congress gave the nation a Christmas present Thursday, adjourning for the year and getting the hell out of Dodge with most of its business unfinished.

President George W. Bush did the same, hightailing it to Crawford for yet another vacation.

Yes, the nation and world are much safer places when these clowns leave town. For a few weeks, we can breathe easier, content in knowing that members of Congress are off junketing at some lobbyist’s expense and our phony cowboy President is in Texas pretending, once again, to be something that he is not.

Which leaves the rest of us to wonder just how in the hell we got into this mess?

How, for example, did the world’s oldest surviving Republic end up with a government so scandal-ridden, so ineffective and so reviled by both its own citizens and the rest of mankind?

How did this nation re-elect a President who lies to justify an illegal invasion of another country, ignores the Constitution that is supposed to provide the foundation for our freedoms, orders spying on Americans by our own government and sends thousands of American soldiers as well as countless numbers of innocent civilians of other countries to their deaths?...

Friday, December 23, 2005

Cheney flies in comfort

Cheney flies in comfort
By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer
Wed Dec 21, 8:45 AM ET

ABOARD AIR FORCE II - Vice President Dick Cheney didn't suffer for comfort on the cavernous cargo plane that he rode into Iraq and Afghanistan this week.

The Air Force loaded the plane with the "silver bullet," a mobile home in the sky strapped down in the middle of the belly. The accommodations included sleeping and working quarters that protected him from the noise and cold of the cargo hold during a more than five-hour flight into Baghdad.

The rest of his traveling party was not so lucky. Cheney's senior staff and junior aides were assigned to a cramped three rows of seats in front of the bullet, while reporters and Secret Service agents had to sit in jump seats along the side with a view of Cheney's stainless steel exterior walls.

Cheney used the C-17 cargo plane for security purposes when flying to and from Iraq and Afghanistan. The C-17 is an inconspicuous gray aircraft less likely to draw attention than the normal Air Force II — a blue and white 757 emblazoned "United States of America" in the same style as the president's larger Air Force One.

The 757 — with reclining leather seats for all and a private cabin for Cheney — was used to ferry the vice president back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean and on his trip to Pakistan, his other stop on the four-day tour aimed at building support for the war on terror.

Despite the noise and seating conditions on the C-17, Cheney's staff eventually was able to nod off after days of exhaustive travel. Cheney emerged from his more spacious quarters at one point to pose for a picture standing in front of several rows of his dozing aides.


The hundreds of troops gathered at Al Asad Air Base Sunday had no idea who was going to appear before them when they were called to an airplane hangar.

Vice President Dick Cheney was to be their mystery guest, but his visit to the war-torn country was kept secret for security reasons.

Cheney was introduced and took the podium to applause, albeit not overwhelming, from the crowd. Perhaps they were wishing for someone prettier.

"Well, I'm not Jessica Simpson," the vice president deadpanned when he took the podium. The bombshell singer has been a performer on USO tours.


The vice president is an iPod fan, and keeping it charged is a priority for his staff.

Normally that isn't an issue, even when he's flying around the world. Air Force II is equipped with outlets in each row of seats.

But when Dick Cheney was traveling home overnight Wednesday from his diplomatic mission, most of the outlets went on the fritz.

Working passengers began lining up their laptops to share the power from a couple of working outlets — particularly the reporters who urgently needed to prepare their articles to transmit during a quick refueling stop in England.

But when Cheney said his iPod needed to be recharged, it took precedent above all else and dominated one precious outlet for several hours. The vice president's press staff intervened so a reporter could use the outlet for 15 minutes to charge a dead laptop, but then the digital music device was plugged back in.

That way, Cheney got his press coverage and his music, too.

The miscreant dynasty: The Bush generations have enriched themselves while impoverishing the presidency

The miscreant dynasty: The Bush generations have enriched themselves while impoverishing the presidency
Posted on Thursday, December 22 @ 10:29:25 EST
Howell Raines, The Age

AT THIS point, the policy legacy of George Bush seems pretty well defined by three disparate disasters: Iraq in foreign affairs, Katrina in social welfare, corporate influence over tax, budget and regulatory decisions. As a short-term political consequence, we may avoid another dim-witted Bush in the White House. But what the Bush dynasty has done to presidential campaign science — the protocols by which Americans elect presidents in the modern era — amounts to a political legacy that can haunt the Republic for years to come.

We are now enduring the third generation of Bushes who have taken the playbook of the "ruthless" Kennedys and amplified it into a consistent code of amorality in both campaign tactics and governance. In their campaigns, the Kennedys used money, image-manipulation, old-boy networks and, when necessary, personal attacks on worthy adversaries such as Adlai Stevenson and Hubert Humphrey. But there was also a solid foundation of knowledge and purpose undergirding John Kennedy's sophisticated internationalism, his Medicare initiative, his late-blooming devotion to racial justice, and Robert Kennedy's opposition to corporate and union gangsterism. Like Truman, Roosevelt and, yes, even Lincoln, two generations of Kennedys believed that a certain amount of political chicanery was tolerable in the service of altruism.

Behind George W, there are four generations of Bushes and Walkers devoted first to using political networks to pile up and protect personal fortunes and, latterly, to using absolutely any means to gain office, not because they want to do good, but because they are what passes in American for hereditary aristocrats. In sum, George Bush stands at the apex of a pyramid of privilege whose history and social significance that, given his animosity to scholarly thought, he almost certainly does not understand.

Here's the big picture, as drawn most effectively by the Republican political analyst Kevin Phillips in American Dynasty. Starting in 1850, the Bushes through alliance with the smarter Walker clan, built up a fortune based on classic robber-baron foundations: railways, steel, oil, investment banking, armaments and materiel in the world wars. They had ties to the richest families of the industrial age: Rockefeller, Harriman, Brookings. Yet they never adopted the charitable, public-service ethic that developed in those families....

Bush bashed by his many missteps

Bush bashed by his many missteps
Dec 23, 2005, 04:46
Capitol Hill Blue

It must have been with great relief that President Bush left Washington to spend Christmas at Camp David and then on to his ranch in Texas.

The past week might have marked a turning point in the Bush presidency and not in a good way. The once-docile Republican-run Congress suddenly has a mind of its own, and the courts, which once gave him the benefit of the doubt on the war on terror, issued a severe rebuff to his expansive view of presidential powers.

The Senate finally passed a Bush-backed budget measure, more than three months late and then only with the aid Vice President Cheney, brought hastily back from overseas to cast a tie-breaking vote. Several small changes the Senate inserted in the bill mean the House will have to vote on it again. The bill achieves only token deficit reduction _ $40 billion a year _ largely at the expense of student loans and Medicaid. Even that modest progress will be wiped out if Congress goes through with $100 billion in tax cuts.

For the fifth year, the president failed to get Congress to open up Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, a cornerstone of administration energy policy.....

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Women of al Qaeda

Women of al Qaeda
By Christopher Dickey

12 December 2005 Issue
Jihad used to have a gender: male. The men who dominated the movement exploited traditional attitudes about sex and the sexes to build their ranks. They still do that, but with a difference: even al Qaeda is using female killers now, and goading the men.

Very little is known about the first woman to become a suicide bomber for al Qaeda in Iraq, except that she dressed as a man. Two weeks after a US-backed operation to clean out the town of Tall Afar near the Syrian border in September, she put on the long white robe and checkered scarf that Arab men commonly wear in Iraqi desert towns. The clothes disguised her gender long enough for her to walk into a gathering of military recruits with no one taking much notice. The clothes also concealed the explosives strapped around her womb. "May God accept our sister among the martyrs," said a Web site linked to the organization of Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi. She had defended "her faith and her honor." No name was given. But the bomb that blew apart that anonymous woman killed five men, maimed or wounded 30 more, and opened a new chapter not only in the war for Iraq but in the global struggle against terror.

Never before had any branch of al Qaeda sent a woman on a suicide mission. Since female bombers first appeared in Lebanon two decades ago, their ranks have come mainly from secular Arab nationalist groups, from Kurdish rebels in Turkey and the non-Muslim Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam fighting the government of Sri Lanka. Only in the past few years did the Palestinian "army of roses" carry out terrorist attacks against Israelis, and the "black widows" strike at the enemies of Chechnya's rebels. Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, al Qaeda in Iraq, al Qaeda and its offshoots around the world held back. But as he has before, Zarqawi broke the taboos. His strategy is to create images of horror, "to look like he has more capability than he truly has," says Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the Coalition forces spokesman in Baghdad. Zarqawi recruits where he can, he exploits whom he can and he attacks the softest of targets to get the peculiar kind of publicity he craves. Women are his new weapon of choice.

In October, al Qaeda in Iraq claimed that a second female bomber, this time accompanied by her husband, killed herself attacking an American patrol in Mosul. And last week the world learned of the third: Muriel Degauque, 38, a fair-skinned Belgian from the grim rust-belt city of Charleroi near the French border. As a girl, she often ran away from home. As a woman, she had a succession of failed relationships with Muslim men: a Turk, an Algerian and finally a Belgian of Moroccan descent who followed the teachings of radical Salafists, similar to those of al Qaeda. They went to live for at least three years in Morocco, and when she returned home she was fully veiled: alienated, lonely, in the thrall of a husband who consumed her entire world. Muriel - now calling herself Myriam - "couldn't have children," a spokesman for the Belgian prosecutor's office said last week. Even when she was near her parents, she rarely spoke to them. The last they heard from her was during the summer. On Nov. 9, she blew herself up attacking Iraqi police near the town of Baqubah. American troops gunned down her husband shortly after Myriam was killed.

That same night, Nov. 9, bombers hit three hotels in the Jordanian capital, Amman. As scores of dead and wounded were still being counted, al Qaeda in Iraq announced that a woman had been among the suicide attackers there, too. Zarqawi, once again, was publicizing his new approach. But what Zarqawi did not know was that the woman had failed to detonate her bomb.... Campaign Launched in Response to New House Legislation Campaign Launched in Response to New House Legislation
Submitted by davidswanson on Tue, 2005-12-20 12:41. Censure Campaign Launched in Response to New House Legislation

Ask your Congress Member to support these efforts!

The coalition, an alliance of over 100 grassroots organizations, has launched a new campaign called in order to support new legislation introduced by Congressman John Conyers that would censure President Bush and Vice President Cheney and create a select committee to investigate the Administration's possible crimes and make recommendations regarding grounds for impeachment.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Prince Dubya's many transgressions

Prince Dubya's many transgressions
Dec 20, 2005, 02:42
Capitol Hill Blue

Of all the egregious transgressions of basic civil rights committed by this administration, not only against the American public, but also against the world, I'm going to make conservatives smile and liberals cringe and say the following: illegally wiretapping U.S. citizens doesn't even come close to "most egregious."

Has Prince Dubya run roughshod over the civil and constitutional rights of American citizens? You bet. Is authorizing the National Security Agency to listen in on Americans' calls to overseas locations or to monitor e-mails sent abroad without warrants a violation of constitutional rights and most probably American law? Likely, yes. But is it the worst Prince Dubya's done? Not close.

Consider why: Right after 9/11, American intelligence was desperate for information on U.S. links to Osama bin Laden. We invaded Afghanistan shortly thereafter. Unlike the U.S. invasion of Iraq, now widely suspect in the minds of most Americans and seen as unthinkable by much of the world, few if anyone disputed the president's dismemberment of the Taliban.

There is some evidence NSA wiretaps may have helped in that effort, or thwarted later terrorist plots. Sources told major newspapers this past weekend that one potential terrorist act undone by the NSA's wiretaps was a plan by Iyman Faris, an Ohio truck driver, who pleaded guilty in 2003 to planning to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge.

I give the government an extremely wide berth when it comes to tracking down foreign enemies. But that wide berth narrows down to a sliver when it comes to my privacy, health and constitutional rights....

Monday, December 19, 2005

Bush's obsession with being a 'wartime president'

Bush's obsession with being a 'wartime president'
Dec 19, 2005, 08:45
Capitol Hill Blue

As the Presidential caravan sped away from the Florida school where President George W. Bush was speaking to children when he was first told about the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Bush turned to White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and said, “OK, we’re at war.”

It was a phrase Bush would repeat many times in the days following the attacks. Being considered a wartime President is important to him. It allows him to justify, at least in his own mind, the actions he has taken over the last five years.

Play close attention to Bush’s speeches and words and you see this obsession with being a wartime President. Whenever he wants to justify an action that pushes the envelope he refers to himself as the “commander in chief,” not the President. In Bush’s world, being commander in chief gives him greater latitude in pursuing actions that may or may not be legal.

“I’m the commander in chief,” he told Congressional leaders at a recent White House meeting. “Do it may way.”

During his interview last week with Jim Lehrer last week, Bush referred to himself often as the “commander in chief” while discussing the decision to invade Iraq. In his Saturday radio address where he admitted authorizing spying, he again invoked the war president theme.

“This authorization is a vital tool in our war against the terrorists. It is critical to saving American lives,” Bush said in his Saturday radio address address. “The American people expect me to do everything in my power…to protect them…and that is exactly what I will continue to do as long as I am president of the United States,”

“To fight the war on terror, I am using authority vested in me by Congress, including the Joint Authorization for Use of Military Force, which passed overwhelmingly in the first week after September the 11th. I'm also using constitutional authority vested in me as Commander-in-Chief,” Bush said.

In his speech to the nation Sunday night, Bush used the word “war” sixteen times and the phrase “weapons of mass destruction” five times. But he did not, in this case, refer to himself as the “commander in chief.”

“We saw the same thing in Richard Nixon,” says retired political scientist George Harleigh, who served in the Nixon administration. “When he wanted to appear strong, he would call himself the ‘commander in chief.’ When he wanted to appear to be one of the people, he was ‘your president.’”

In Bush’s mind, his role as President is limited by the constitution, the same constitution that he feels gives him greater authority as commander-in-chief so he can “do everything in my power.”

The question that must be resolved in coming weeks, in probes demanded by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress, is whether or not President Bush exceeded “everything in my power” when he authorized both the Pentagon and the National Security Agency to spy on American citizens.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

A Ten-Step Program

Jane Smiley
A Ten-Step Program
Huffington Post

Is Bush in a bubble? Is Bush a dry drunk? Is Bush a drunk drunk? Is Bush a narcissist? Is Bush an idiot? Is Bush a madman? Does Bush have an “Authority Problem”? Theories abound about why Bush does the things he does, but most of them assume that he is making mistakes that he could or would correct if he understood how misguided he was.
On Monday, there was an editorial in the New York Times lamenting the apparent indifference of the Bush administration to the rebuilding of New Orleans, the levees in particular. On Tuesday, there was another editorial, excoriating the shameful behavior of the Bush negotiators at the Montreal conference on global warming. The gist of both editorials was that without national leadership, two chances are about to be lost--the chance to rebuild the city of New Orleans and the chance to mitigate the effects of global warming. Then at the end of the week, we learned that Bush has been wiretapping the phones of his own citizens--an impeachable offense. The Times writes as if it is possible still to alter the direction of Bush administration policy, but obviously it is not. The Bushies have a pattern and they stick to it in spite of every apparent reason to change course. It’s not as if we don’t know what pattern it is, and it’s not as if they haven’t advertised what the pattern will be--it is to break down the government so completely that it can’t be put back together again. Let’s take a look at the “mistakes” the Bush administration is said to have made, and, instead, ask ourselves if they are actually realized intentions:

1. Hobbling the government with debt by combining an expensive, prolonged war with perennial rounds of tax cuts.

2. Destroying the bureaucracy by making it impossible for neutral, expert, or objective bureaucrats to keep their jobs, replacing them with incompetents.

3. Destroying the integrity of the election system, state by state, beginning with Florida and Ohio.

4: Defanging the media by paying fake reporters, co-opting members of the MSM (why did the New York Times refrain from publishing stories unfavorable to the Bush administration before the 2004 election?) and allowing (or encouraging) huge mergers and the buying up of independent media operations by known conservative media conglomerates.

5. Destroying the middle class by changing the bankruptcy laws and the tax laws.

6. Destroying the National Guard and the Army by deploying them over and over in a futile war, while at the same time failing to provide them with armor and equipment.

7. Precipitating Iraq into a civil war by invading it.

8. Accelerating the effects of global warming by putting roadblocks in the way of mitigating its effects.

9. Denying healthcare and prescription medication to an increasing number of Americans, most specifically by ramming the prescription drug legislation through Congress, but also by manipulating Medicare and Medicaid so that fewer and fewer citizens are covered.

10. Encouraging the people in the rest of the world to associate the US with torture, military incursion, and fear, by a preemptive attack on a sovereign nation, by vociferously maintaining the right of the US to do whatever it wants whenever it wants, and by refusing to accept international laws.

Or, to put it another way, the Bush administration apparently wishes for and is working toward a chaotic Iraq, a corrupt American election structure with openly corrupt influence-peddlers like Delay and Abramoff in charge of policy, a world in which people suffer and die from weather-related catastrophes, a two-tiered economic structure in the US (with most people in the lower tier), and the isolation of the US as a rogue state from the other nations of the world....

Media help Rove and Bush distort reality

Media help Rove and Bush distort reality
Posted on Sunday, December 18 @ 09:45:20 EST
David Rossie
Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin

Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkin was an 18th century Russian soldier and statesman, and one of Catherine the Great's many lovers. He served with distinction in Russia's war with Turkey, 1768-74, and later became governor general of what is now Ukraine. But he is best remembered for his villages.

In what would be called urban development today, Potemkin set about colonizing "New Russia," as it was called.

Work did not proceed as rapidly or as well as he'd hoped, so when he took Catherine on a tour of the new colony he arranged for the construction of some fake villages, little more than facades, that the empress could admire as they rode by. That's how Potemkin villages became part of the language, synonymous with fakery and deception.

Granted, mass communications more than two centuries ago weren't what they are today, but given the fact that he's managed to hoodwink an entire country, including most of its news media, not just some oversexed empress, shouldn't Karl Rove replace Potemkin as the ultimate deceiver?

With his political genius and a considerable amount of help from Dick Cheney, Rove has managed to persuade a goodly number of Americans that they are being ably led by a man who in fact lacks the acumen to run a sidewalk hot dog stand. But he could not have done it without the cooperation of an acquiescent press corps....

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Big Stall: How Bush gamed the media to get re-elected in 2004

The Big Stall: How Bush gamed the media to get re-elected in 2004

"Nothing gave us more trouble during my years on [the paper] than the conflict with the government over what should and should not be published during periods of war or threats of war."
-- James Reston, New York Times columnist, in his autobiography, "Deadline."

Forty-four years later, the New York Times is still trying to get it right. In 1961, the Kennedy Administration talked the Times into spiking an article that would have prevented the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion, the trigger for a series of unfortunate events that stretched to Watergate and, according to H.R. Haldeman, JFK's assassination.

Now, the Times -- again, at the request of the White House -- has held onto a national security bombshell: President Bush's unlawful authorization of domestic spying on international phone calls and emails of hundreds and possibly thousands of people inside the U.S.

The story in and of itself is a shocker, even as it comes right after the NBC report that an obscure Pentagon agency has monitored the activities of peaceful anti-war protestors. It's too early to gauge reaction, but we expect that it will be highly negative, not just from the usual suspects on the left but also from the vast political middle -- the heartland types who just barely propelled Bush to re-election in 2004.

And there lies the real story behind the story. Because it appears it may have been possible for the Times to publish at least some of the details of the Bush-ordered domestic spying before Nov. 2, 2004, the day that the president nailed down four more years. Although Bush won by 2 percent nationally, a switch of just 59,302 Ohio voters from Bush to John Kerry would would have put the Democrats back in the White House.

Would Bush won the election if the extent of his seemingly unconstitutional domestic spying had been known? We'll never know. For roughly a year, the White House successfully leaned on the Times to keep the story under wraps. It's not known when the Bush lobbying of the Times began. But it is clear that the warning signs about the program -- the alarm bells that likely triggered the Times investigation in the first place -- were going off by mid-2004, months before the vote....

Friday, December 16, 2005

If Bush thought eavesdropping laws

Friday, December 16, 2005

If Bush thought eavesdropping laws were too onerous post 9/11, he was required to ask Congress to CHANGE THE LAW, not just violate it for 3 years
by John in DC - 12/16/2005 02:14:00 PM
This new domestic eavesdropping scandal has nothing to do with September 11. Rather, it has everything to do with George Bush thinking he's living an episode of the hit spy show "24," where a fictional US anti-terror agent regularly breaks the law in order to catch the bad guy.

Unfortunately, George Bush isn't Kiefer Sutherland, and 24 is only a TV show.

We now know that for the past 3 years the Bush administration broke American law in order to spy on American citizens. Why? Bush says it's because the current law was so onerous that our spy agencies couldn't find the terrorists in a moment's notice.

Maybe that's true, maybe it's not.

But, if the president of the United States thinks US civil rights and privacy laws are too onerous and are hampering the war on terror, maybe - MAYBE - he breaks the law the first time the issue comes up - let's face it, he's afraid Osama is running out the door and Bush doesn't have time to call a judge. Okay, it's possible.

But Bush didn't do this once. He did it for the past 3 years....

Another blow to freedom

Another blow to freedom
Capitol Hill
Dec 16, 2005, 06:15

As his second term winds down, President Bush naturally begins to contemplate how history will judge him and now perhaps realizes that history will give him low marks for his administration's almost obsessive culture of secrecy.

This week he issued an executive order instructing federal agencies to streamline their procedures for releasing records under the Freedom of Information Act and to appoint chief FOIA officers to see that the changes are carried out.

The order is fated to be ineffective. It would have served the public and the cause of open government better if he had instructed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to rescind a memorandum to the agencies from his predecessor, John Ashcroft.

That memo still defines the Bush administration's approach to FOIA. When in doubt, the agencies were told, they should err on the side of secrecy, the opposite of the law's intent. And records were to be released to the public "only after full and deliberate consideration of the institutional, commercial, and personal privacy interest that could be implicated by disclosure of the information." In other words, the agencies were to aggressively seek out reasons not to disclose information....

Thursday, December 15, 2005

John Bolton Actively Sabotaging Condoleezza Rice: Finally Shows Real Stripes

December 14, 2005
John Bolton Actively Sabotaging Condoleezza Rice: Finally Shows Real Stripes
Steve Clemons

Several people in high places, both in the State Department and in the United Nations, have commented to me that John Bolton really surprised them when he embarked on his new duties after moving into the Ambassador's apartment at the Waldorf-Astoria.

They said that it was like Bolton had gone to charm school and went out of his way to "meet and greet" everyone, from high-ranking to the lowest of low-ranking staff at the U.N. One senior NGO official and former diplomat told me that the facilitators of the Millennium Summit document process -- about 30 people -- were shocked that Bolton had sought each of them out to say hello and offer a genuine human connection, sort of a "Bill Clinton type thing" to do.

The storm about the Millennium Summit document, and Bolton's 750 suggested line changes, came later, but at least they thought he was a far nicer guy than his critics had described.

Now, it seems that the real John Bolton has boldly stepped beyond the veneer. And true to form, just as he woke up each morning for the first four years of the Bush administration asking what he could do to make Colin Powell's life miserable and, at the same time, doing Vice President Cheney's bidding, John Bolton has now target Condoleezza Rice's efforts to get America back on a more balanced foreign policy track with the rest of the world.

The American Prospect's Mark Leon Goldberg writes the first serious assessment of John Bolton's tenure thus far as the recess-appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations....

The White House's bitter debate over admitting a mistake

The White House's bitter debate over admitting a mistake
Dec 15, 2005, 06:59
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The debate that erupted in the Oval Office after Presidential Chief of Staff suggested President George W. Bush publicly admit that he led the country to war on the basis of false intelligence information rocked senior White House aides.

The anger that spilled from political guru Karl Rove’s lips was, according to those present at the meeting, the most vocal disagreement anyone had ever seen from the trusted advisor in front of the President. Discussions with those privy to the many meetings on determining the President's strategy show most senior aides lining up against Rove.

“This is a stupid fucking idea,” Rove said, his voice shaking. “This President doesn’t admit mistakes. A leader doesn’t acknowledge error.”....

Rice with Indefensible Brief; Cheney in Last Throes

Rice with Indefensible Brief; Cheney in Last Throes
By Ray McGovern
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Friday 09 December 2005

European reaction to visiting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's statements on torture can be summed up in lead commentary Wednesday in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, among the most widely respected German newspapers. Under the title "Justice à la Rice," the editor "translated" her message into these words: "The end justifies the means and terrorism can be fought with borderline methods on the outer edges of legality." He added: "Rice came to Germany to begin a new era. She has resoundingly failed to do so. Injustice remains injustice, and a wrong policy remains a wrong policy. On this basis you cannot re-launch the trans-Atlantic relationship."

There was no mushroom cloud, but Rice is radioactive nonetheless. No matter how much she and the embedded reporters traveling with her tried to spin her words, they are falling on deaf ears in Europe. Even here at home, the administration is encountering unusual skepticism in the heretofore-domesticated media. The normally sleepy editorial side of the Washington Post, for example, found it possible to lead its first editorial yesterday by reminding readers that Rice broke no new ground in claiming Wednesday that US personnel - "wherever they are" - are prohibited from using cruel or inhuman interrogation techniques. This is hardly a profile in courage for the Post: The president's spokesman, Scott McClellan, had already told reporters that Rice was merely expressing existing policy.

Trouble on the Home Front

With attention riveted on the cause célèbre occasioned by revelations concerning CIA-run prisons abroad, kidnapping, and "extraordinary renditions" of captives to torture-prone foreign countries - and the predictably neuralgic reaction among our allies - it is easy to miss the likely political fallout here at home.

Vice President Dick Cheney, whose unbridled chutzpah has led him to take public and well as private credit for being the intellectual author of US policy on torture, has become such a glaring liability that his tenure may be short-lived. There is a growing possibility that the vice president will resign at the turn of the year "for reasons of health," and that his partner-in-crime - in what Colin Powell's former chief of staff at the State Department, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, has labeled the "Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal" - will choose to retire to his home in Taos early next year...

The Torture Administration

The Torture Administration
By Anthony Lewis
The Nation

26 December 2005 Issue

When the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933 and proceeded to carry out their savagery, many in the outside world asked how this could have happened in the land of Goethe and Beethoven. Would the people of other societies as readily accept tyranny? Sinclair Lewis, in 1935, imagined Americans turning to dictatorship under the pressures of economic distress in the Depression. He called his novel, ironically, It Can't Happen Here.

Hannah Arendt and many others have stripped us, since then, of confidence that people will resist evil in times of fear. When Serbs and Rwandan Hutus were told that they were threatened, they slaughtered their neighbors. Lately Philip Roth was plausible enough when he imagined anti-Semitism surging after an isolationist America elected Charles Lindbergh as President in 1940.

But it still comes as a shock to discover that American leaders will open the way for the torture of prisoners, that lawyers will invent justifications for it, that the President of the United States will strenuously resist legislation prohibiting cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners-and that much of the American public will be indifferent to what is being done in its name.

The pictures from Abu Ghraib, first shown to the public on April 28, 2004, evoked a powerful reaction. Americans were outraged when they saw grinning US soldiers tormenting Iraqi prisoners. But it was seeing the mistreatment that produced the outrage, or so we must now conclude. Since then the Bush Administration and its lawyers have prevented the release of any more photographs or videotapes. And the public has not reacted similarly to the disclosure, without pictures, of worse actions, including murder....

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Here's to You, America: Bush's Most Public Secret

Justin Frank

Here's to You, America: Bush's Most Public Secret
Huffington Post

After this drink I'm going to stop. I promise, so help me God. These two sentences are familiar to anyone who is an alcoholic, has been an alcoholic, or has known an alcoholic. Four generations ago Eugene O'Neill portrayed a group of alcoholics promising to themselves and each other simply that they would go for a walk around the block – tomorrow.

Fast forward to December 2005 and the recently described Bush Syndrome, and look at one of its fundamental characteristics -- alcoholism. George Bush, by all counts, is an untreated alcoholic who supposedly has not been drinking for close to twenty years. Now he has traded in promises never to drink for newer, more appealing ones -- such as promising to protect America. While not so simple as taking a walk around the block, the "ism" in alcoholism is unchanged.

He promises and doesn't deliver. Partly this is because Bush's brain is compromised either by past long-term alcohol abuse or by having started drinking again. In either case Bush remains untreated. Paul Krugman wrote (December 9) that Bush "seems to have forgotten his promise" to reconstruct both Iraq and the Gulf Coast. That is true -- alcoholics do not remember promises they make. They do not even remember what the problems were in the first place -- hence no new staff members for FEMA.

If an alcoholic has the slightest disinclination, he won't follow through. Thus Bush only follows up when he is running for office or on a treadmill. But that's it. Former administration officials describe Bush as detached. Of course he is -- nobody is more detached than someone immersed in a post-alcohol haze. This is why Bush doesn't make public appearances unless his audience is heavily vetted. What strikes me is that none of the critics who have remarked on his behavior link it to alcoholism. They behave like enablers, frightened that the person in charge might be drinking.

Untreated alcoholics confabulate; they make things up as they go along. For them, reality has little influence. Bush has a fixed idea about how well things are going in Iraq and contradictory information has no effect. Writers like Dowd and Suskind elegantly describe Bush's disconnection from reality. But again, neither observer questions whether the major factor driving his capacity to dismiss the world is his alcoholism.

These two central processes -- empty promises and confabulation -- ultimately converge. The promise itself becomes a confabulation; something made up to suit the moment and then believed as if it had already happened. It's not that wishing makes it so. For Bush, as for all alcoholically challenged people, promising makes it so.

It remains essential that Bush be psychologically tested -- now. It is already late in the game for a successful war on terror, for protecting the environment, health care and education, for protecting our civil liberties. And government corruption is rampant at all levels. Thus it is my ever increasing medical judgment that unless his mental functions are evaluated, President Bush must be contained by Congress. For example all appointments, such as Judge Alito, should be blocked until he is deemed mentally competent -- radical political leanings notwithstanding -- to govern.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Constitution, Shmonstitution!

Karen Kwiatkowski

Constitution, Shmonstitution!

Our beloved commander in chief recently blasted the Constitution as "just a goddamned piece of paper." This may be the first true thing -- perhaps the only true thing -- that George W. Bush has ever said.

Mr. Bush probably doesn't understand the meaning of the words "strategy" or "victory," and he sure doesn't appreciate concepts like honesty or integrity or self-determination.
People pursuing truth, integrity or self-determination at home are called traitors; abroad, they are terrorists. Freedom of the press means something truly unusual and odd to our dear president. The Bush war on terror and the Bush occupation of Iraq both qualify as confusing and disturbing activities for our ostensible Republic. Counterproductive and often illegal, they are yet vigorously and even passionately pursued by our republican and democratic leadership, heads bowed, in reverence and hopefulness, towards the Oval Office.

But George gets it right on the Constitution. The guy who penned the constitution had little direct participation in its construction. That guy believed "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants" and that "Our liberty depends upon the freedom of the press."

Bush's contempt for the constitution as a restraint on rapacious state power was typical of many of the founding fathers. When Bush denounces the "piece of paper," particularly those troublesome first ten amendments, he is reflecting the views held by Madison and Hamilton and others who felt it more correct and useful to establish a strong and powerful central state and an even stronger executive. Jefferson, from his position overseas as the United States minister to France, pushed hard for the Bill of Rights and the idea of securing private property, and persons, from a hungry central state....

Friday, December 09, 2005

Rep. Henry Waxman on Bush's Speech on Iraq Reconstruction

The President's Speech on Iraq Reconstruction
By Rep. Henry A. Waxman
t r u t h o u t | Statement

Wednesday 07 December 2005

The President's claims today are mindboggling. Either he doesn't understand the facts or simply doesn't want to face them. The reconstruction of Iraq has been an enormous boondoggle - not an example of "quiet, steady progress." Halliburton has repeatedly overcharged American taxpayers through fraud, waste, and abuse. The U.S. officials in charge of the reconstruction have been incompetent and, in some cases, corrupt. And billions of dollars have been squandered without increasing oil or electricity production.

Key Facts about the Reconstruction

Lack of Progress.

Massive spending on reconstruction has produced little or no progress in key sectors like electricity and oil. Despite a $2.2 billion investment in Iraq's oil infrastructure, production and export levels have actually dropped below pre-war levels. And despite the $4.4 billion the Bush Administration spent to boost Iraq's electricity production, it has fallen far short of its goal of 6000 megawatts of peak output capacity. In fact, the Administration has conceded, "We'll never meet demand." Iraqis living in Baghdad typically have just two hours of power followed by four hours without power throughout the day.

Rampant Overcharges and Lax Oversight.

Large government contractors like Halliburton have repeatedly overcharged the taxpayer. Auditors at the Defense Contract Audit Agency have identified over $1.4 billion in unreasonable and unsupported charges by Halliburton in Iraq. Whistleblowers have testified about $100 bags of laundry, $45 cases of soda, and brand new $85,000 trucks being abandoned because of a flat tire. Yet the Administration refuses to take action. Last month, the Defense Department paid Halliburton $130 million in reimbursements, profits, and bonuses for billings that the department's own auditors recommended against paying.

Incompetent Management.

The Bush Administration's management of the reconstruction of Iraq has been fundamentally incompetent. Billion-dollar contracts were awarded with little or no competition to favored contractors. Competition for discrete reconstruction projects was suppressed by dividing Iraq into a handful of fiefdoms and awarding lucrative monopoly contracts to companies that never had to compete against each other for specific reconstruction tasks.

Burgeoning Corruption.

Between May 2003 and June 2004, U.S. officials shipped nearly $12 billion in cash to Iraq. As government audits later found, the cash was spent and disbursed by U.S. officials with virtually no financial controls or reliable accounting. The Administration cannot account for over $8 billion that was transferred to Iraqi ministries. This unsupervised flood of cash into Iraq became an open invitation to corruption. A senior U.S. official already has been charged with accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks from a U.S. contractor in exchange for steering up to $3.5 million in fraudulent contracts his way. Government investigators have said that there are dozens of other criminal corruption cases being processed.

Bush on the Constitution: 'It's just a goddamned piece of paper'

Bush on the Constitution: 'It's just a goddamned piece of paper'
By Doug Thompson
Capitol Hill Blue
Dec 9, 2005, 07:53

Last month, Republican Congressional leaders filed into the Oval Office to meet with President George W. Bush and talk about renewing the controversial USA Patriot Act.

Several provisions of the act, passed in the shell shocked period immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, caused enough anger that liberal groups like the American Civil Liberties Union had joined forces with prominent conservatives like Phyllis Schlafly and Bob Barr to oppose renewal.

GOP leaders told Bush that his hardcore push to renew the more onerous provisions of the act could further alienate conservatives still mad at the President from his botched attempt to nominate White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

“I don’t give a goddamn,” Bush retorted. “I’m the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way.”

“Mr. President,” one aide in the meeting said. “There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution.”

“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,” Bush screamed back. “It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”

I’ve talked to three people present for the meeting that day and they all confirm that the President of the United States called the Constitution “a goddamned piece of paper.”.....

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Condi's Trail of Lies

Condi's Trail of Lies
By Sidney Blumenthal

Thursday 08 December 2005
Condoleezza Rice's contradictory, misleading and outright false statements about the US and torture have taken America's moral standing - and her own - to new depths.

The metamorphosis of Condoleezza Rice from the chrysalis of the protégé into the butterfly of the State Department has not been a natural evolution but has demanded self-discipline. She has burnished an image of the ultimate loyalist, yet betrayed her mentor, George H.W. Bush's national security advisor Brent Scowcroft. She is the team player, yet carefully inserted knives in the back of her predecessor, Colin Powell, climbing up them like a ladder of success. She is the person most trusted on foreign policy by the president, yet was an enabler for Vice President Cheney and the neoconservatives. Now her public relations team at the State Department depicts her as a restorer of realism, builder of alliances and maker of peace.

On her first trip to Europe early this year she left the sensation of being fresh by listening rather than lecturing. The flirtation of power appeared to have a more seductive effect than arrogance. So the old face became a new face. But on this week's trip the iron butterfly emerged.

Rice arrived as the enforcer of the Bush administration's torture policy. She reminded the queasy Europeans that their intelligence services, one way or another, are involved in the rendition of hundreds of suspected terrorists transported through their airports for harsh interrogation in countries like Jordan and Egypt or secret CIA prisons known as "black sites." With her warnings, Rice recast the Western alliance as a partnership in complicity. In her attempt to impose silence, she spread guilt. Everybody is unclean in the dirty war and nobody has any right to complain. "What I would hope that our allies would acknowledge," she said, "is that we are all in this together."

For the European leaders, facing publics hostile to U.S. policy in Iraq and torture, Rice's visit was disquieting. In Italy, prosecutors have issued indictments of 22 current and former CIA operatives for their "extraordinary rendition" of an Egyptian suspect; among those indicted is the former Rome CIA station chief, whom an Italian judge has ruled has no immunity from prosecution. Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini, asked about renditions, said, "We know absolutely nothing. We have not one single piece of knowledge." If the Italian government knew the facts, it would investigate, he added....

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Running Out The Clock On The Ticking Time Bomb

Running Out The Clock On The Ticking Time Bomb

....Cenk Uygur wrote Tuesday at The Huffington Post that there is “a ticking time bomb inside the White House” and the forced resignation of Douglas Feith in January may be the fuse. Feith resigned because “he wanted to spend more time with his family”, but he left his office just after it was revealed that the FBI was investigating his subordinate, Lawrence Franklin, for espionage. Feith had already been caught setting up meetings for Lawrence Franklin with Italian intelligence director Nicolo Pollari and Manucher Ghorbanifar (the upstanding global citizen who helped set up the arms for hostages deal that sparked the Iran-Contra scandal). Only the principals and the flies on the wall know what was cooked up during those meetings but the forged Niger documents suddenly solved all of the problems most likely discussed amongst this motley crew.

There seems to be a nexus between Special Council Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into the CIA leak and Lawrence Franklin who is currently being prosecuted on an espionage charge, resulting from his passing of classified documents to the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC). Franklin left the White House a mere day before he was arrested in hopes of limiting the bad press for Bush and Company. Only in the bizzarro world in which we now live would this actually work, but there has been little attention paid to the Franklin case outside the lefty blogisphere.

These two investigations come together in Italy, with the emergence of the forged Niger documents. Patrick Fitzgerald has shown interest in the forged documents and how they relate to the retaliatory outing of covert operative Valerie Plame, and Franklin is known to have met with intelligence agents in Italy where the documents first surfaced. Curious indeed!..

Bush's war on children

Ed Naha: 'Bush's war on children'
Posted on Wednesday, December 07 @ 10:05:23 EST

Ed Naha

The day before Thanksgiving, the U.S. government continued its war on American children when Chief U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman threw out a lawsuit filed by the National Education Association and school districts in three states, geared towards blocking Bush's Draconian "No Child Left Behind" debacle.

The NEA, a union with 2.7 million members, filed the suit along with districts in Michigan, Vermont and Texas (oops) as well as 10 NEA chapters in Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Utah, seeking to define NCLB as a classic Bush bait-and-switch "unfunded mandate." The suit stated that, since the federal government wasn't paying for implementation of the plan, schools weren't required to have to comply with it.

The judge kicked them in the teeth, opining that "Congress has appropriated significant funding" and has the clout to require states to do what they say in exchange for the moolah. (Sort of the educational version of "The Abramoff Principle.")

The fact is: the law is anti-middle class and anti-poor. It also knocks public education on its ass, with Bush seeing education as a way for teaching kids discipline through punishment and fear of failure as opposed to allowing kids to blossom scholastically, artistically and culturally. In short, it reduces children to droning robots parroting facts without understanding them and encourages teachers to just "teach the test."...

December 7, 1945 vs. September 11, 2005: Infamous comparisons

December 7, 1945 vs. September 11, 2005: Infamous comparisons
Posted on Wednesday, December 07 @ 10:07:34 EST

Ed Rampell

December 7th marks the 60th anniversary of Imperial Japan's 1941 sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, which has often been likened to the 9/11 terrorist strikes. This past Sept. 11th was the fourth anniversary of Al-Qaeda's airborne assaults on the Twin Towers and Pentagon, which some have dubbed "the New Pearl Harbor." It's thought provoking to compare this four-year milepost to where America stood on Dec. 7, 1945, four years after what President Roosevelt called the "date which will live in infamy."

Following Japan's Pearl Harbor strike, the U.S. declared war on Tokyo on Dec. 8, 1941. Rome and Berlin declared war on Washington Dec. 11, 1941, which then declared war on Mussolini's Italy and Hitler's Germany that same day.

Although Congress never declared war on Afghanistan or Iraq, on Oct. 11, 2002 Congress authorized President Bush to use force in Iraq. The U.S. invaded Iraq March 19, 2003, although Baghdad hadn't attacked America. U.N. Weapons Inspectors were unable to find the WMDs that Bush claimed threatened the U.S. but subsequent inquiries proved didn't exist. The 2005 documentary Beyond Treason claimed the U.S. used depleted uranium, which spreads radiation, in Iraq. An Italian documentary broadcast Nov. 8, 2005 contended U.S. forces used white phosphorous - considered by some to be a napalm-like chemical weapon - against civilians in Falluja in 2004.

A week after the Pearl Harbor air raid, a salvage organization was established. By February 1942, three battleships, two cruisers, two destroyers and other vessels were repaired. Three additional damaged battleships went on to serve in WWII, thanks to history's greatest salvage operation.

Groundbreaking on the Pentagon began Sept. 11, 1941; it was dedicated Jan. 15, 1943, costing $83 million. The Pentagon's partial reconstruction after it was attacked cost $700 million; its outer ring was officially reopened Sept. 11, 2002. As of Sept. 11, 2005, no major buildings have been rebuilt at Ground Zero....

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Joyless Economy

The Joyless Economy
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times
Monday 05 December 2005

Falling gasoline prices have led to some improvement in consumer confidence over the past few weeks. But the public remains deeply unhappy about the state of the economy. According to the latest Gallup poll, 63 percent of Americans rate the economy as only fair or poor, and by 58 to 36 percent people say economic conditions are getting worse, not better.

Yet by some measures, the economy is doing reasonably well. In particular, gross domestic product is rising at a pretty fast clip. So why aren't people pleased with the economy's performance?

Like everything these days, this is a political as well as factual question. The Bush administration seems genuinely puzzled that it isn't getting more credit for what it thinks is a booming economy. So let me be helpful here and explain what's going on.

I could point out that the economic numbers, especially the job numbers, aren't as good as the Bush people imagine. President Bush made an appearance in the Rose Garden to hail the latest jobs report, yet a gain of 215,000 jobs would have been considered nothing special - in fact, a bit subpar - during the Clinton years. And because the average workweek shrank a bit, the total number of hours worked actually fell last month.

But the main explanation for economic discontent is that it's hard to convince people that the economy is booming when they themselves have yet to see any benefits from the supposed boom. Over the last few years G.D.P. growth has been reasonably good, and corporate profits have soared. But that growth has failed to trickle down to most Americans.....

Monday, December 05, 2005

The “Invitation Only” Presidency of George W. Bush

The “Invitation Only” Presidency of George W. Bush

By Michael A. Genovese and Lori Cox Han

Michael A. Genovese is Professor of Political Science and holds the Loyola Chair of Leadership Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Lori Cox Han is Professor and Chair of Political Science at Chapman University in Orange.

In order to govern effectively, presidents devise complex strategies for wooing the public. They do this because it is widely believed that if a president has high popularity ratings, moving the baroque system of government becomes a bit easier. In short, popularity greases the wheels of government.

A great deal of time is spent devising and implementing strategies for what presidential scholar Tom Cronin has called the “theatrical presidency,” and presidents use the bully pulpit, trips (both foreign and domestic), speeches, and symbolic gestures to draw attention to themselves. With that attention, they hope to gain popularity that can be converted into power. A popular president, it is believed, gets a better deal out of Congress than an unpopular one; a popular president gets better press than an unpopular one, and so it goes.

President Bush, whose popularity ratings were rather anemic in the early stages of his presidency, benefited from the reaction to the 9/11 tragedy, and a “rally ‘round the flag” effect catapulted his popularity into the stratosphere. At one point, Bush’s popularity was at 91 percent, an unheard of rating that only George H.W. Bush had ever achieved (during the first Gulf War). Of course, over time those inflated numbers have come back down to earth (as they did for his father as well leading into the 1992 election season—a rather unfortunate time for the elder Bush’s political fortunes). And now, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the federal government’s “unacceptable” response (Bush’s own words), the ongoing troubles in Iraq, a failed Social Security reform effort, the CIA leak scandal that has led at this point to the indictment of the vice president’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, and a host of other problems, the president’s numbers have hit an all-time low (36 percent, by one measure)....

Dems On Track to Win Majority of Governorships

December 5, 2005

Dems On Track to Win Majority of Governorships

by EDM Staff

There's no denying Dems face an uphill struggle in winning back majorities in the U.S. House and Senate. But it now appears quite likely that Dems will win a majority of governorships in November. Even Republicans are admitting as much, according to Dan Balz's and Chris Cillizza's WaPo article "Republican Crystal Ball: Rain on Governors' Parade":
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney assumed the chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association last week, and immediately confronted a troublesome landscape for 2006. As Romney put it during a break at the RGA gathering at La Costa resort, "The math is not in our favor this time."

There will be 36 gubernatorial races next year, 22 in states held by Republicans and 14 by Democrats. Seven of the eight states where the incumbent isn't seeking reelection are held by the GOP -- and that could grow to eight if Romney decides to forgo a second-term bid in favor of running for president in 2008.

Romney and other GOP analysts see their party, which currently holds 28 of 50 governorships, losing from 3 to 6 governors next November. They may be optimistic, considering Dem landslides in Virginia and New Jersey last month. Even better, Dem Gov candidates are running strong in populous states, including NY, FL, CA and OH.

Republicans at the La Costa meeting expressed optimism about winning the governorships of Michigan and Illinois from Dems. But Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm holds a "solid, double-digit lead" lead over GOP opponents in the latest Epic/MRI poll, according to Political State Report. Dem Governor Rod Blagojevich leads all GOP challengers in Illinois by at least 9 percent, according to Taegan Goddard's Political Wire....

Business as Usual: Corrupt

Business as Usual: Corrupt
By Michael Kinsley
The Washington Post

Friday 02 December 2005

It used to be said that the moral arc of a Washington career could be divided into four parts: idealism, pragmatism, ambition and corruption. You arrive with a passion for a cause, determined to challenge the system. Then you learn to work for your cause within the system. Then rising in the system becomes your cause. Then, finally, you exploit the system - your connections in it, and your understanding of it - for personal profit.

And it remains true, sort of, but faster. Even the appalling Jack Abramoff had ideals at one point. But he took a shortcut straight to corruption. On the other hand, you can now trace the traditional moral arc in the life of conservative-dominated Washington itself, which began with Ronald Reagan's inauguration and marks its 25th anniversary in January. Reagan and Co. arrived to tear down the government and make Washington irrelevant. Now the airport and a giant warehouse of bureaucrats are named after him.

By the 20th anniversary of their arrival, when an intellectually corrupt Supreme Court ruling gave them complete control of the government at last, the conservatives had lost any stomach for tearing it down. George W. Bush's "compassionate conservatism" was more like an apology than an ideology. Meanwhile, Tom DeLay - the real boss in Congress - openly warned K Street that unless all the choice lobbying jobs went to Republicans, lobbyists could not expect to have any influence with the Republican Congress. This warning would be meaningless, of course, unless the opposite was also true: If you hire Republican lobbyists, you and they will have influence over Congress. And darned if DeLay didn't turn out to be exactly right about this.

No prominent Republican upbraided DeLay for his open invitation to bribery. And bribery is what it is: not just campaign contributions but the promise of personal enrichment for politicians and political aides who play ball for a few years before cashing in.

When Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham pleaded guilty this week to accepting a comic cornucopia of baubles, plus some cash, from defense contractors, the vast right-wing conspiracy acted with impressive speed and forcefulness to expel one of its most doggedly loyal loudmouths and pack him off to a long jail term. Even Bush, whose affable capacity for understanding and forgiveness on the personal level is one of his admirable qualities, seized an unnecessary opportunity to wish the blackguard ill. There was no talk of "sadness" - the usual formula for expressing sympathy without excusing guilt.....

Sunday, December 04, 2005

W.'s Head in the Sand

W.'s Head in the Sand
By Maureen Dowd
The New York Times

Saturday 03 December 2005

In the Christmas spirit, the time has come for the reality-based community to reach out to the White House.

The Bush warriors are so deluded, they're even faking their fakery.

This week, the president presented a plan-like plan for "victory" in Iraq, which Scott McClellan rather pompously called the unclassified version of their super secret master plan. But there's no way to achieve victory from the plan even if there were a real plan. If this is what they're telling themselves in the Sit Room, we're in bigger trouble than we thought.

Talk about your unknown unknowns, as Rummy would say.

The National Strategy for Victory must have come from the same P.R. genius who gave President Top Gun the "Mission Accomplished" banner about 48 hours before the first counterinsurgency war of the 21st century broke out in Iraq.

It's not a military strategy - classified or unclassified. It's political talking points - and not even good ones. Are we really supposed to believe that anybody, even the most deeply delusional Bush sycophant, believes the phrase "Our strategy is working"?....

All the President's Flacks

All the President's Flacks
By Frank Rich
The New York Times

Sunday 04 December 2005

When "all of the facts come out in this case," Bob Woodward told Terry Gross on NPR in July, "it's going to be laughable because the consequences are not that great."

Who's laughing now?

Why Mr. Woodward took more than two years to tell his editor that he had his own personal Deep Throat in the Wilson affair is a mystery best tackled by combatants in the Washington Post newsroom. (Been there, done that here at The Times.) Mr. Woodward says he wanted to avoid a subpoena, but he first learned that Joseph Wilson's wife was in the C.I.A. in mid-June 2003, more than six months before Patrick Fitzgerald or subpoenas entered the picture. Never mind. Far more disturbing is Mr. Woodward's utter failure to recognize the import of the story that fell into his lap so long ago.

The reporter who with Carl Bernstein turned a "third-rate burglary" into a key for unlocking the true character of the Nixon White House still can't quite believe that a Washington leak story unworthy of his attention has somehow become the drip-drip-drip exposing the debacle of Iraq. "I don't know how this is about the buildup to the war, the Valerie Plame Wilson issue," he said on "Larry King Live" on the eve of the Scooter Libby indictment. Everyone else does. Largely because of the revelations prompted by the marathon Fitzgerald investigation, a majority of Americans now believe that the Bush administration deliberately misled the country into war. The case's consequences for journalism have been nearly as traumatic, and not just because of the subpoenas. The Wilson story has ruthlessly exposed the credulousness with which most (though not all) of the press bought and disseminated the White House line that any delay in invading Iraq would bring nuclear Armageddon.

"W.M.D. - I got it totally wrong," Judy Miller said, with no exaggeration, before leaving The Times. The Woodward affair, for all its superficial similarities to the Miller drama, offers an even wider window onto the White House flimflams and the press's role in enabling them. Mr. Woodward knows more about the internal workings of this presidency than any other reporter. He has been granted access to all its top officials, including lengthy interviews with the president himself, to produce two Bush best sellers since 9/11. But he was gamed anyway by the White House, which exploited his special stature to the fullest for its own propagandistic ends....

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Is George Bush the worst president — ever?

Richard Reeves: 'Is George Bush the worst president — ever?'
Posted on Saturday, December 03 @ 09:44:02 EST
Richard Reeves, Yahoo

PARIS -- President John F. Kennedy was considered a historian because of his book "Profiles in Courage," so he received periodic requests to rate the presidents, those lists that usually begin "1. Lincoln, 2. Washington ..."

But after he actually became president himself, he stopped filling them out.

"No one knows what it's like in this office," he said after being in the job. "Even with poor James Buchanan, you can't understand what he did and why without sitting in his place, looking at the papers that passed on his desk, knowing the people he talked with."

Poor James Buchanan, the 15th president, is generally considered the worst president in history. Ironically, the Pennsylvania Democrat, elected in 1856, was one of the most qualified of the 43 men who have served in the highest office. A lawyer, a self-made man, Buchanan served with some distinction in the House, served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and secretary of state under President James K. Polk. He had a great deal to do with the United States becoming a continental nation -- "Manifest Destiny," war with Mexico, and all that. He was also ambassador to Great Britain and was offered a seat on the Supreme Court three separate times.

But he was a confused, indecisive president, who may have made the Civil War inevitable by trying to appease or negotiate with the South. His most recent biographer, Jean Clark, writing for the prestigious American Presidents Series, concluded this year that his actions probably constituted treason. It also did not help that his administration was as corrupt as any in history, and he was widely believed to be homosexual.

Whatever his sexual preferences, his real failures were in refusing to move after South Carolina announced secession from the Union and attacked Fort Sumter, and in supporting both the legality of the pro-slavery constitution of Kansas and the Supreme Court ruling in the Dred Scott class declaring that escaped slaves were not people but property.

He was the guy who in 1861 passed on the mess to the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln. Buchanan set the standard, a tough record to beat. But there are serious people who believe that George W. Bush will prove to do that, be worse than Buchanan. I have talked with three significant historians in the past few months who would not say it in public, but who are saying privately that Bush will be remembered as the worst of the presidents.

There are some numbers. The History News Network at George Mason University has just polled historians informally on the Bush record. Four hundred and fifteen, about a third of those contacted, answered -- maybe they were all crazed liberals -- making the project as unofficial as it was interesting. These were the results: 338 said they believed Bush was failing, while 77 said he was succeeding. Fifty said they thought he was the worst president ever. Worse than Buchanan.

This is what those historians said -- and it should be noted that some of the criticism about deficit spending and misuse of the military came from self-identified conservatives -- about the Bush record:

# He has taken the country into an unwinnable war and alienated friend and foe alike in the process;

# He is bankrupting the country with a combination of aggressive military spending and reduced taxation of the rich;

# He has deliberately and dangerously attacked separation of church and state;

# He has repeatedly "misled," to use a kind word, the American people on affairs domestic and foreign;

# He has proved to be incompetent in affairs domestic (New Orleans) and foreign ( Iraq and the battle against al-Qaida);

# He has sacrificed American employment (including the toleration of pension and benefit elimination) to increase overall productivity;

# He is ignorantly hostile to science and technological progress;

# He has tolerated or ignored one of the republic's oldest problems, corporate cheating in supplying the military in wartime.

Quite an indictment. It is, of course, too early to evaluate a president. That, historically, takes decades, and views change over times as results and impact become more obvious. Besides, many of the historians note that however bad Bush seems, they have indeed since worse men around the White House. Some say Buchanan. Many say Vice President Dick Cheney.

Source: Yahoo

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Autumn of the Patriarchy

The Autumn of the Patriarchy
By Maureen Dowd
The New York Times

Wednesday 30 November 2005

In the vice president's new, more fortified bunker, inside his old undisclosed secure location within the larger bunker that used to be called the West Wing of the White House, Dick Cheney was muttering and sputtering.

He wasn't talking to the pictures on the wall, as Nixon did when he finally cracked. Vice doesn't trust those portraits anyway. The walls have ears. He was talking to the only reliable man in a city of dimwits, cowards, traitors and fools: himself.

He hurled a sheaf of news reports with such force it knocked over the picture of Ahmad Chalabi that he keeps next to the picture of Churchill. Winston Chalabi, he likes to call him.

Vice is fed up with all the whining and carping - and that's just inside the White House. The only negativity in Washington is supposed to be his own. He's the only one allowed to scowl and grumble and conspire....

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Talking for God, taking for personal gain

Molly Ivins

Talking for God, taking for personal gain
December 1, 2005

AUSTIN, Texas -- The Lord Impersonator is back again. This fella reappears every couple of years and causes no end of trouble. The jokester goes around persuading feeble-minded persons he is the Lord Almighty and that they are to do or say some perfectly idiotic thing under his instructions.

One of the worst cases we've had in Texas was the time the Lord Impersonator convinced 20 people in Floydada to git nekked, get into a GTO and drive to Vinton, La., where they ran into a tree. Seein' 20 nekkid people, including five children, come out of a GTO startled the Vinton cops. The nekkid citizens all said God told them to do it.

Quite a few people have been mishearing the Lord lately. The Rev. Pat Robertson thinks the Lord told the people of Dover, Pa., they shouldn't ask for His help anymore because they elected a school board Robertson doesn't like. And Rep. Richard Baker of Louisiana said right after Hurricane Katrina that "we finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did it."

I kind of doubt Katrina was designed by the Lord as a form of urban renewal. I think it's a big mistake for us to go around putting our own puny interpretations on stuff that happens and then claiming the Lord meant thus-and-such by it. It is my humble opinion that some folks should do a lot more listening to God and a lot less talking for Him....

Paging Frank Rich! GAO confirms - 2004 Election Was Stolen

Lyn Davis LearBio
Huffington Post
Paging Frank Rich! GAO confirms - 2004 Election Was Stolen

I had a chance to talk to my hero, Frank Rich, a few months ago about election fraud and he claimed he didn't know much about it. Perhaps he has his plate full unraveling the administration's lies about Iraq, but with the midterm elections coming up someone has to take this issue on.
I was listening to NPR yesterday and they had some young computer hackers on bragging about how easy, embarrassingly easy, it is to switch votes on the Deibold machines. Bill Clinton once mentioned that India has flawless electronic voting while ours is mired in unaccountability. I hope Frank and other journalists and bloggers of his caliber read this article by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman about the GAO report on the 2004 election. Paul Krugman and the NYTimes editorial board have been good on this issue in the past, but it has been a while since anyone has raised the subject.

The Government Accountability Office is the only government office we have left that is ethical, non-partisan and incorruptible. They investigate and tell it like it is. Thank God for them. This report is very serious and must get more attention. It has taken years for the mainstream press and Congress to finally understand what we in the blogisphere have known since 2000. This administration will distort and cheat about anything and everything to get its way. If this report got the attention it deserves and broke through the static of our 500-channel universe, it could be the coup de grace of the Bush White House.

Powerful Government Accountability Office report confirms key 2004 stolen election findings by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman October 26, 2005

As a legal noose appears to be tightening around the Bush/Cheney/Rove inner circle, a shocking government report shows the floor under the legitimacy of their alleged election to the White House is crumbling.

The latest critical confirmation of key indicators that the election of 2004 was stolen comes in an extremely powerful, penetrating report from the Government Accountability Office that has gotten virtually no mainstream media coverage.

The government's lead investigative agency is known for its general incorruptibility and its thorough, in-depth analyses. Its concurrence with assertions widely dismissed as "conspiracy theories" adds crucial new weight to the case that Team Bush has no legitimate business being in the White House.

Nearly a year ago, senior Judiciary Committee Democrat John Conyers (D-MI) asked the GAO to investigate electronic voting machines as they were used during the November 2, 2004 presidential election. The request came amidst widespread complaints in Ohio and elsewhere that often shocking irregularities defined their performance.

According to CNN, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee received "more than 57,000 complaints" following Bush's alleged re-election. Many such concerns were memorialized under oath in a series of sworn statements and affidavits in public hearings and investigations conducted in Ohio by the Free Press and other election protection organizations.

The non-partisan GAO report has now found that, "some of [the] concerns about electronic voting machines have been realized and have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes."

The United States is the only major democracy that allows private partisan corporations to secretly count and tabulate the votes with proprietary non-transparent software. Rev. Jesse Jackson, among others, has asserted that "public elections must not be conducted on privately-owned machines." The CEO of one of the most crucial suppliers of electronic voting machines, Warren O'Dell of Diebold, pledged before the 2004 campaign to deliver Ohio and thus the presidency to George W. Bush.

Bush's official margin of victory in Ohio was just 118,775 votes out of more than 5.6 million cast. Election protection advocates argue that O'Dell's statement still stands as a clear sign of an effort, apparently successful, to steal the White House.

Among other things, the GAO confirms that:

1. Some electronic voting machines "did not encrypt cast ballots or system audit logs, and it was possible to alter both without being detected." In other words, the GAO now confirms that electronic voting machines provided an open door to flip an entire vote count. More than 800,000 votes were cast in Ohio on electronic voting machines, some seven times Bush's official margin of victory.

2. "It was possible to alter the files that define how a ballot looks and works so that the votes for one candidate could be recorded for a different candidate." Numerous sworn statements and affidavits assert that this did happen in Ohio 2004.

3. "Vendors installed uncertified versions of voting system software at the local level." 3. Falsifying election results without leaving any evidence of such an action by using altered memory cards can easily be done, according to the GAO.

4. The GAO also confirms that access to the voting network was easily compromised because not all digital recording electronic voting systems (DREs) had supervisory functions password-protected, so access to one machine provided access to the whole network. This critical finding confirms that rigging the 2004 vote did not require a "widespread conspiracy" but rather the cooperation of a very small number of operatives with the power to tap into the networked machines and thus change large numbers of votes at will. With 800,000 votes cast on electronic machines in Ohio, flipping the number needed to give Bush 118,775 could be easily done by just one programmer.

5. Access to the voting network was also compromised by repeated use of the same user IDs combined with easily guessed passwords. So even relatively amateur hackers could have gained access to and altered the Ohio vote tallies.

6. The locks protecting access to the system were easily picked and keys were simple to copy, meaning, again, getting into the system was an easy matter.

7. One DRE model was shown to have been networked in such a rudimentary fashion that a power failure on one machine would cause the entire network to fail, re-emphasizing the fragility of the system on which the Presidency of the United States was decided.

8. GAO identified further problems with the security protocols and background screening practices for vendor personnel, confirming still more easy access to the system.

In essence, the GAO study makes it clear that no bank, grocery store or mom & pop chop shop would dare operate its business on a computer system as flimsy, fragile and easily manipulated as the one on which the 2004 election turned.

The GAO findings are particularly damning when set in the context of an election run in Ohio by a Secretary of State simultaneously working as co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign. Far from what election theft skeptics have long asserted, the GAO findings confirm that the electronic network on which 800,000 Ohio votes were cast was vulnerable enough to allow a a tiny handful of operatives -- or less -- to turn the whole vote count using personal computers operating on relatively simple software.

The GAO documentation flows alongside other crucial realities surrounding the 2004 vote count. For example:

The exit polls showed Kerry winning in Ohio, until an unexplained last minute shift gave the election to Bush. Similar definitive shifts also occurred in Iowa, Nevada and New Mexico, a virtual statistical impossibility.

A few weeks prior to the election, an unauthorized former ES&S voting machine company employee, was caught on the ballot-making machine in Auglaize County

Election officials in Mahoning County now concede that at least 18 machines visibly transferred votes for Kerry to Bush. Voters who pushed Kerry's name saw Bush's name light up, again and again, all day long. Officials claim the problems were quickly solved, but sworn statements and affidavits say otherwise. They confirm similar problems inFranklin County (Columbus). Kerry's margins in both counties were suspiciously low.

A voting machine in Mahoning County recorded a negative 25 million votes for Kerry. The problem was allegedly fixed.

In Gahanna Ward 1B, at a fundamentalist church, a so-called "electronic transfer glitch" gave Bush nearly 4000 extra votes when only 638 people voted at that polling place. The tally was allegedly corrected, but remains infamous as the "loaves and fishes" vote count.

In Franklin County, dozens of voters swore under oath that their vote for Kerry faded away on the DRE without a paper trail.

In Miami County, at 1:43am after Election Day, with the county's central tabulator reporting 100% of the vote - 19,000 more votes mysteriously arrived; 13,000 were for Bush at the same percentage as prior to the additional votes, a virtual statistical impossibility.

In Cleveland, large, entirely implausible vote totals turned up for obscure third party candidates in traditional Democratic African-American wards. Vote counts in neighboring wards showed virtually no votes for those candidates, with 90% going instead for Kerry.

Prior to one of Blackwell's illegitimate "show recounts," technicians from Triad voting machine company showed up unannounced at the Hocking County Board of Elections and removed the computer hard drive.

In response to official information requests, Shelby and other counties admit to having discarded key records and equipment before any recount could take place.

In a conference call with Rev. Jackson, Attorney Cliff Arnebeck, Attorney Bob Fitrakis and others, John Kerry confirmed that he lost every precinct in New Mexico that had a touchscreen voting machine. The losses had no correlation with ethnicity, social class or traditional party affiliation---only with the fact that touchscreen machines were used.

In a public letter, Rep. Conyers has stated that "by and large, when it comes to a voting machine, the average voter is getting a lemon - the Ford Pinto of voting technology. We must demand better."

But the GAO report now confirms that electronic voting machines as deployed in 2004 were in fact perfectly engineered to allow a very small number of partisans with minimal computer skills and equipment to shift enough votes to put George W. Bush back in the White House.

Given the growing body of evidence, it appears increasingly clear
that's exactly what happened.

GAO Report

Revised 10/27/05

Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, available via and Their What Happened in Ohio?, with Steve Rosenfeld, will be published in Spring, 2006, by New Press.