Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Daily Kos: Why the Dubai port deal is dangerous to America

Daily Kos: Why the Dubai port deal is dangerous to America: "I know the Bushbot and their GOP allies are now falling in line behind their president, eager to let the supremely undemocratic (and terrorist sympathizing) UAE have access to major gateways into our nation.

You see, while we're supposed to invade countries without cause, torture prisoners, surrender civil liberties, get spied on by our government -- all in the name of 'national security', pesky things such as 'national security' shouldn't get in the way of commerce. Especially with some of Bush's best Middle Eastern pals who are also big Osama Bin Laden pals. (Is that one or two degrees of separation?)

Yet a real counter-terrorism expert under this administration gives reasons why the deal is a bad, bad thing."

AP: How Bush supports our troops

He cuts their health care budget: "At least tens of thousands of veterans with non-critical medical issues could suffer delayed or even denied care in coming years to enable President Bush to meet his promise of cutting the deficit in half — if the White House is serious about its proposed budget.

After an increase for next year, the Bush budget would turn current trends on their head. Even though the cost of providing medical care to veterans has been growing by leaps and bounds, White House budget documents assume a cutback in 2008 and further cuts thereafter.

In fact, the proposed cuts are so draconian that it seems to some that the White House is simply making them up to make its long-term deficit figures look better. More realistic numbers, however, would raise doubts as to whether Bush can keep his promise to wrestle the deficit under control by the time he leaves office."

AMERICAblog: Dubai Ports wants Lou to shut up

AMERICAblog has the report: "The Dubai state-owned company that wants to get control of 6 key US ports is now trying to silence CNN's Lou Dobbs. Apparently Dobbs' coverage of the port deal struck too close to home, so now Dubai is trying to force CNN to shut him up.

Well, here's a little advice for Dubai: In developed democracies the government doesn't get to tell the media to shut up or else. Sure, your good buddy George Bush has tried to censor the US media for years, but he's a failed president and an idiot and as a result is now at 34% in the polls. You've picked the wrong role model.

Dubai just proved once and for all how undemocratic and not-ready-for-prime-time it is. Scratch just a little bit and you uncover just another two-bit despot. But in this case, the two-bit despot has a checkered past with terrorism and wants to control the port of New York City."

Prickly City: Change of Heart?

Maybe it's my imagination, but the notoriously conservative daily comic strip "Prickly City" by Scott Stantis has been taking a lot of potshots at the administration this week. Here is Sunday's panel on, I assume, the administration's homeland spying program. He did some ribbing of the Veep, both Monday and Tuesday. What's up?

Monday, February 27, 2006

Think Progress: Powerline Pushes WMD Conspiracy Theories

Think Progress -- Powerline Pushes WMD Conspiracy Theories: "Yesterday, Powerline blog published a post called “Saddam Had WMD.” John Hinderaker — a frequent guest on CNN — said there is “recently discovered evidence” which shows Saddam’s WMD were moved to Syria before the invasion.

Investigators laid the possibility to rest last year. Charles Duelfer, the White House’s hand-picked W.M.D. investigator, found in a 92-page report that “no information gleaned from questioning Iraqis supported the possibility” that Saddam moved WMD to Syria.

There is no “evidence” that shows the Duelfer report was wrong. Rather, a couple of people are pushing conspiracy theories without any supporting evidence."

Army to Pay Halliburton Unit Disputed Costs

Army to Pay Halliburton Unit Most Costs Disputed by Audit - New York Times: "The Army has decided to reimburse a Halliburton subsidiary for nearly all of its disputed costs on a $2.41 billion no-bid contract to deliver fuel and repair oil equipment in Iraq, even though the Pentagon's own auditors had identified more than $250 million in charges as potentially excessive or unjustified.

The Army said in response to questions on Friday that questionable business practices by the subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root, had in some cases driven up the company's costs. But in the haste and peril of war, it had largely done as well as could be expected, the Army said, and aside from a few penalties, the government was compelled to reimburse the company for its costs.

Under the type of contract awarded to the company, 'the contractor is not required to perform perfectly to be entitled to reimbursement,' said Rhonda James, a spokeswoman for the southwestern division of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, based in Dallas, where the contract is administered.

The contract has been the subject of intense scrutiny after disclosures in 2003 that it had been awarded without competitive bidding. That produced criticism from Congressional Democrats and others that the company had benefited from its connection with Dick Cheney, who was Halliburton's chief executive before becoming vice president.


Insight Says Cheney Could Retire after Midterm Elections

Conservative Mooney organ reports: "Vice President Dick Cheney is expected to retire within a year.

Senior GOP sources envision the retirement of Mr. Cheney in 2007, months after the congressional elections. The sources said Mr. Cheney would be persuaded to step down as he becomes an increasing political liability to President Bush.

The sources reported a growing rift between the president and vice president as well as their staffs. They cited Mr. Cheney's failure to immediately tell the president of the accidental shooting of the vice president's hunting colleague earlier this month. The White House didn't learn of the incident until 18 hours later.

Mr. Cheney's next crisis could take place by the end of the year, the sources said. They said the White House was expecting Mr. Cheney to defend himself against charges from his former chief of staff, Lewis Libby, that the vice president ordered him to relay classified information. Such a charge could lead to a congressional investigation and even impeachment proceedings."

Daily Kos: When Bill Moyers Speaks, People Should Listen

Daily Kos: TocqueDeville on Bill Moyers' latest: "I see Bill Moyers as a sort of canary in a coalmine. Though he's been attacked by the Right, any honest person must admit that he is a fair, rational, and objective reporter who seeks the truth, even if it leads to uncovering corruption in the Democratic party.

In this piece, he does an excellent job of putting all the pieces of the Republican money machine, from Abramoff and Delay to the K-Street Project and beyond into a rare and compelling narrative that spells out no less than the demise of American democracy."

CBS News Poll: Bush Ratings At All-Time Low

CBS News Poll: How low can Bush's numbers go?: "The latest CBS News poll finds President Bush's approval rating has fallen to an all-time low of 34 percent, while pessimism about the Iraq war has risen to a new high.

Americans are also overwhelmingly opposed to the Bush-backed deal giving a Dubai-owned company operational control over six major U.S. ports. Seven in 10 Americans, including 58 percent of Republicans, say they're opposed to the agreement. "

Michael Brown: I was ‘left on the battlefield’

Brian Williams had a very interesting interview with ex-FEMA director Michael Brown--here's just one excerpt. He's not a happy camper: "One of the mistakes that I've owned up to was this whole mentality that exists in Washington, D.C. — that you get your talking points. And, by God, you stick to your talking points. And what I should have done was gone to the American people — instead of putting my arm around Governor Blanco and talking about how wonderfully things are working — we should have told them: 'This is a disaster of the magnitude that this country has never seen. We are struggling. We're gonna do everything we can to help make this thing better. We're gonna call in all the resources. We need your patience and understanding' — and paint them a realistic picture. You see, I believe that people in D.C. don't believe that the American people can handle the truth."

Coast Guard Had Concerns About Port Deal - New York Times

Coast Guard Had Concerns About Port Deal - New York Times: "Citing broad gaps in U.S. intelligence, the Coast Guard cautioned the Bush administration that it was unable to determine whether a United Arab Emirates-owned company might support terrorist operations, a Senate panel said Monday.

The surprise disclosure came during a hearing on Dubai-owned DP World's plans to take over significant operations at six leading U.S. ports. The port operations are now handled by London-based Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company.

''There are many intelligence gaps, concerning the potential for DPW or P&O assets to support terrorist operations, that precludes an overall threat assessment of the potential'' merger,'' an undated Coast Guard intelligence assessment says.

''The breadth of the intelligence gaps also infer potential unknown threats against a large number of potential vulnerabilities,'' the document says."

AJC: Needy Americans left with crumbs

An editorial today on ajc.com: "Washington lawmakers are preparing to give the most fortunate segments of the U.S. population another $70 billion in tax breaks, while millions of other Americans don't know where they'll find their next meal.

The House and Senate have approved separate tax-break bills, both of which enlarge future budget deficits at a time when deficits are already at record levels. The bills in question would extend low tax rates on dividends and capital gains through 2010, and provide another year of relief from the alternative minimum tax.

Meanwhile, a report on hunger from America's Second Harvest, the umbrella organization for the bulk of the nation's food banks, puts those tax breaks for the wealthy in context.

'Hunger in America: 2006' shows that here in the land of plenty, more than 25 million men, women and children too poor and too powerless to interest Congress are forced to rely on donated food or go hungry sometime during the year.

That number is 8 percent more than in 2001, when the first of the Bush administration tax cuts were enacted. Obviously, the benefits of some $880 billion in tax savings to date have yet to trickle down to those most in need."

Wayne Jenkins in AJC: Proposed national forest land sale sacrifices future

The executive director of Georgia ForestWatch may be a voice crying in the wilderness: "President Bush's proposal to sell off more than 300,000 acres of national forest lands in 35 states, 4,500 in rapidly growing North and central Georgia, is flat wrong. Using funds generated by selling thousands of acres of Georgia's priceless publicly held forests for assisting rural education is neither what is best for our forests and the people who use them nor what is best for local communities and schools."

NYT: Governors aren't happy about losing National Guards

From the ajc.com: "Governors of both parties said Sunday that Bush administration policies were stripping the National Guard of equipment and personnel needed to respond to hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, forest fires and other emergencies.

Tens of thousands of National Guard members have been sent to Iraq, along with much of the equipment needed to deal with natural disasters and terrorist threats in the United States, the governors said here at the winter meeting of the National Governors Association.

The National Guard, which traces its roots to the Colonial militia, has a dual federal-state role. Governors normally command the Guard in their states, but Guard members deployed overseas in support of a federal mission are under the control of the president.

The governors said they would present their concerns today to President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. In a preview of their message, all 50 governors signed a letter to the president opposing any cuts in the size of the National Guard."

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Think Progress: Conservatives on Iraq: Civil War

Think Progress has two interesting stories from the Sunday interview shows. George Will says "this is a civil war" in Iraq, and William Kristol says "we have not had a serious three-year effort to fight a war in Iraq." Amazing.

Think Progress: Port compromise a dishonest proposal

Think Progress: "Make no mistake about it, the “face-saving” deal on the Dubai port imbroglio was concocted by the White House. It’s being spun to the press as a “offer” by Dubai Ports World. But the AP reports that “senior U.S. officials and DP World executives have closely coordinated their efforts in recent weeks.”"

Made me laugh

Cynthia Tucker in AJC: US reaps grief Bush has sown

ajc.com: "President Bush turns out to be a great professor of politics. His lessons --- he teaches through example --- have become essential political wisdom.

He taught Americans that all Arabs are alike by toppling Saddam Hussein, who had nothing to do with the terrorist atrocities of Sept. 11, 2001.

Bush taught us that in the pursuit of power, politics trumps principle. So you never risk alienating the part of your base that's loony and hateful --- the Ann Coulter chorus --- by publicly criticizing their xenophobia.

And the president taught us that a war on terror can cover a lot of ground. No programs, no policies, no answers? No problem. When you're waging a war on terror, you don't have to make sense, and you don't have to explain yourself.

Having led so well, Bush should not be at all surprised that Democrats and Republicans are trampling each other to get to the microphones to denounce the deal allowing an Arab-owned company to manage seaports in New York, Philadelphia, Miami and other cities. Isn't this Karl Rove's playbook?

While Bush doesn't have to face re-election, his GOP allies in the House and Senate do. They want to be able to claim they were keeping the nation safe from Middle Eastern terrorists who might easily use our ports to smuggle in the means of our doom. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, after all, needs some national security bona fides for his presidential campaign. So does Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), who was among the first to challenge the deal."

Hannity fund raises, you decide - Santorum Exposed: The Blog

Hannity fund raises, you decide - Santorum Exposed: "Sean Hannity, co-host of the Fox News Channel's Hannity & Colmes, is apparently no longer content just to ask Rick Santorum softball questions every time he shows up on Sean's show. Hannity will be in Western Pennsylvania tomorrow to attend a fund raiser for Rick."

Saturday, February 25, 2006

CNN.com - Actor Don Knotts dies at 81 - Feb 25, 2006

CNN.com - Actor Don Knotts dies at 81 - Feb 25, 2006: "Don Knotts, who kept generations of TV audiences laughing as bumbling Deputy Barney Fife on 'The Andy Griffith Show' and would-be swinger landlord Ralph Furley on 'Three's Company,' has died. He was 81.

Knotts died Friday night of pulmonary and respiratory complications at a Los Angeles hospital, said Paul Ward, a spokesman for the cable network TV Land, which airs his two signature shows.

Griffith, who remained close friends with Knotts, said he had a brilliant comedic mind and wrote some of the show's best scenes.

'Don was a small man ... but everything else about him was large: his mind, his expressions,' Griffith said Saturday. 'Don was special. There's nobody like him.

'I loved him very much,' Griffith added. 'We had a long and wonderful life together.'"

Santorum's "ethics" continue to stink

AllAroundPhilly: "Sen. Rick Santorum's charity donated about 40 percent of the $1.25 million it spent during a four-year period, well below Better Business Bureau standards - paying out the rest for overhead, including several hundred thousand dollars to campaign aides on the charity payroll.

The charity, Operation Good Neighbor, is described on its Web site as an organization promoting 'compassionate conservatism' by providing grants to small nonprofit groups, many of them religious.

The Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance says charitable organizations should spend at least 65 percent of their total expenses on program activities.

Operation Good Neighbor is based at the same address as Pennsylvania Sen. Santorum's campaign office in suburban Philadelphia, and some of the same people who have worked on his campaign are working for his charity and collecting money from it, records show."

BATCOTE: Plame Gossip - the discovered emails

Mikevotes has a great update on the latest Plame news: "So, if Jason's characterization is correct, Fitzgerald now has in his possession hard evidence that Cheney was 'spearheading' an effort to go after Wilson. If that included outing his wife, I thinkFitzgerald has found the top element of the conspiracy.

Also, there's that mention again of the use of the CIA to dig up dirt on a political opponent. Now, this is a matter of characterization as well. If Cheney said, 'find out everything you can about Wilson so we can assess his judgement on this matter,' that's ugly, but okay.

But if Cheney used the CIA to dig up dirt on a political opponent solely to discredit him, we're seeing something clearly Nixonian here, and the use of the CIA for this purpose is seriously illegal.

NYT: Ports political disaster: How Schumer started the snowball rolling

Scramble to Back Port Deal: Making of Political Disaster - New York Times: "The ordeal, tamped down somewhat by the announcement late Thursday that the company would not take control of the ports immediately, has offered a case study in crisis management.

'They couldn't have botched this any worse if they had tried,' said Rich Masters, a managing director at Qorvis, a business that has worked on crisis communications for Arab countries. 'They should have met with members of Congress three or four weeks ago and said: 'This is a good deal. We've vetted the security on this, and we absolutely should move forward,' and should have gotten them all on their side before it became this huge deal.'

Lawyers and lobbyists at Alston & Bird, the big law firm based in Atlanta, put together the commercial deal for Dubai Ports, quietly helping win approval from the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States of the $6.8 billion acquisition of the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company, the British company that has contracts to manage several United States ports.

No one, it appears, mapped a strategy to break the news to Congress that the country where two Sept. 11 attackers were born would be running ports here, an obvious thicket, even if it posed no real security risk."

C&L: Olbermann responds to O'Reilly's petition

Crooks and Liars has the video--funny stuff.

AP: S.D. Governor would sign abortion ban

AP: S.D. Gov. 'Inclined' to Sign Abortion Ban: "Gov. Mike Rounds said he is inclined to sign a bill that would ban nearly all abortions in South Dakota, making it a crime for doctors to perform an abortion unless it was necessary to save the woman's life.

The ban, including in cases of rape or incest, was approved Friday by South Dakota lawmakers, setting up a deliberate frontal assault on Roe v. Wade at a time when some activists see the U.S. Supreme Court as more willing than ever to overturn the 33-year-old decision."

If a raped woman becomes pregnant, the rapist could have visitation rights.

AMERICAblog: Pentagon report on Iraqi troop strength = 0

Didn't Bush say, "When the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down"? Seems they are not only still sitting, but running away: "Last September there was one Iraqi battalion capable of going it alone into battle. That alone was pretty sad news after all of the time, effort and money that had poured in to Iraq but now that number is zero. (Strangely enough, the Washington Post somehow gives this article the title of 'US Report on Iraqi Troops is Mixed' as if going backwards is somehow 'mixed.') This is even down from the previous number of three battalions. The booby prize is that the number of Iraqi battalions that can go into battle with US support has increased. So the US is nearly three years into this disaster and this is what they have to show for the effort?"

Friday, February 24, 2006

Daily Kos: William Buckley Admits Defeat In Iraq

Daily Kos: William Buckley Admits Defeat In Iraq: "What a difference a war makes. The Great White Voice of Conservatism, Bill Buckley, has a new editorial voice:

'One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed.'

...Funny how anybody with a realistic view of our invasion and failed democratic injection into Iraq was branded 'defeat and retreat' 'cut and run' and of course, 'undermining troops.' But here is Mr. God And Man proclaiming DEFEAT."

HuffPo - Murray Waas: Did the White House "Authorize" Leaks to Woodward?

The Blog | Murray Waas: Did the White House "Authorize" Leaks to Woodward? | The Huffington Post: "Did the Bush administration 'authorize' the leak of classified information to Bob Woodward? And did those leaks damage national security?

The vice-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) made exactly that charge tonight in a letter to John Negroponte, the Director of National Intelligence. What prompted Rockefeller to write Negroponte was a recent op-ed in the New York Times by CIA director Porter Goss complaining that leaks of classified information were the fault of 'misguided whistleblowers.'

Rockefeller charged in his letter that the most 'damaging revelations of intelligence sources and methods are generated primarily by Executive Branch officials pushing a particular policy, and not by the rank-and-file employees of intelligence agencies.'"

NYT: Ports are already a security nightmare

AMERICAblog: John in DC parses the NYTimes article: "In the political collision between the White House and Congress over the $6.8 billion deal that would give a Dubai company management of six American ports, most experts seem to agree on only one major point: The gaping holes in security at American ports have little to do with the nationality of who is running them...."

AMERICAblog: And how does civil war fit into Bush's Victory Plan?

AMERICAblog: Joe in DC provides a timely reminder: "It was less than three months ago, November 30, 2005, that team Bush gave us the 'National Strategy for Victory in Iraq.' That's when they told us their strategy was working."

Thursday, February 23, 2006

AMERICAblog: CREW files ethics complaint against Santorum

AMERICAblog reports the latest: "This is big. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has filed an ethics complaint against Santorum for violating Senate rules."

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Think Progress: Hatch ‘Clarifies’ False Remark By Pretending He Said Something True

Think Progress has Sen. Hatch's clarification to his widely quoted statement that anyone with brains knows Saddam supported al Qaeda. Did I say clarification? I meant deception.

AMERICAblog: Now 55% of Americans think war a mistake

AMERICAblog points to the details from E&P.

AP: Violence pushing Iraq toward civil war?

What the heck are we doing there again?: "With the gleaming dome of the 1,200-year-old Askariya shrine reduced to rubble, some Shiites lashed out at the United States as partly to blame.

The violence - many of the 90 attacks on Sunni mosques were carried out by Shiite militias - seemed to push Iraq closer to all-out civil war than at any point in the three years since the U.S.-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein."

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

C&L: Cheney: Just a big bowl of bad

Crooks and Liars has the Letterman spoof--hilarious.

Arianna Huffington: Hannity's bone

The Blog | Arianna Huffington: Is Sean Hannity Addicted to Coulter Crack? | The Huffington Post: "Venturing into enemy territory, I was on 'Hannity and Colmes' last night, along with Ann Coulter. We were ostensibly there to discuss the ongoing Muslim cartoon controversy and the media's reaction to the Cheney shooting story.

But Sean Hannity only wanted to talk about one thing: Alec Baldwin's blog. Especially Alec Baldwin's assertion that 'Cheney is a terrorist. He terrorizes our enemies abroad and innocent citizens here at home.'

Hannity was like a dog with a bone, chewing over that turn of phrase again and again and again, and repeatedly asking me if I was 'proud' to have had such a statement on the Huffington Post.

He apparently had a hard time grasping the concept that I can be proud of the wide range of opinion we offer our readers without having to agree with every single sentiment expressed by our bloggers. But, for the record, as I told him last night, I don't think that Dick Cheney is a terrorist. I think that Dick Cheney is an atrocious vice president who has inflamed terrorism, and whose policies have helped create far more terrorists than they have destroyed.

But Hannity just couldn't get over it. It was as if Baldwin's comment was the worst thing he'd ever heard. But here's what I love: the whole time Sean was obsessing about Baldwin's over-the-top rhetoric, he was sitting elbow to elbow with Ann Coulter, the reigning heavyweight champion of hyperbolic vitriol and over-the-top invective."

AMERICAblog: Bush vows first veto to make sure Arab company can guard ports

AMERICAblog: Unbelievable swagger: "Wow. He is stubborn on this one. Even the usual GOP lapdogs on the Hill are freaked out by Bush's decision to let the UAE owned company guard American ports. But, Bush is not backing down -- he's even talking veto:

President Bush said Tuesday that a deal allowing an Arab company to take over six major U.S. seaports should go forward and that he would veto any congressional effort to stop it.

The Senate's Republican leader had promised just such an effort a few hours earlier.

'After careful review by our government, I believe the transaction ought to go forward,' Bush told reporters who had traveled with him on Air Force One to Washington. 'I want those who are questioning it to step up and explain why all of a sudden a Middle Eastern company is held to a different standard than a Great British company. I am trying to conduct foreign policy now by saying to the people of the world, `We'll treat you fairly.''

It's a state-owned company. The state that owns it has ties to the 9/11 plotters. AP graciously included this paragraph in their article -- again:

Critics have noted that some of the 9/11 hijackers used the UAE as an operational and financial base. In addition, they contend the UAE was an important transfer point for shipments of smuggled nuclear components sent to Iran, North Korea and Libya by a Pakistani scientist.

How's that?

American Prospect: Santorum's questionable ethics revealed

American Prospect Online - With A Little Help From His Friends: "The Prospect decided to heed Santorum’s advice by taking “an honest look at the family budget” -- his family budget. What we found is that Santorum’s exurban lifestyle is financed in ways that aren’t available to the average voter back home in Pennsylvania -- namely a political action committee that lists payments for such unorthodox items as dozens of trips to the Starbucks in Leesburg, a number of stops at fast-food joints, and purchases at Target, Wal-Mart, and a Giant supermarket in northern Virginia. Although a Santorum aide defends those charges as legitimate political costs, good-government experts say the expenditures are at best unconventional, and at worst a possible violation of Senate rules, and the purchases appear to be unorthodox when compared with other senators’ filings. Santorum’s PAC -- a “leadership PAC,” whose purpose is to dispense money to other Republican candidates -- used just 18.1 percent of its money to that end over a recent five-year period, a lower number than other leadership PACs of top senators from both parties."

Monday, February 20, 2006

BATCOTE: Hagel did it.

Born at the Crest of the Empire has an interesting post on the latest doings of GOP Sen. Hagel: "Hagel is one pissed off Senator. Keep an on it, as he is the swing vote on the Intel committee, it could get really fun."

Arianna Huffington: The Mary Matalin Horror Show

Great new entry in her ongoing Russert Watch series.

Daily Kos: What Was Dick Really Hiding?

Daily Kos: Finally, somebody (emptywheel) looks under the rocks to check out the women with Dick on the hunting trip... and finds a lot of interesting stuff: "We've all been talking a lot about what Dick was trying to hide last weekend at the Armstrong Ranch. I don't think any of the current reasons can fully explain his secrecy. To figure out the real reasons for his secrecy, it pays to review the history of Anne and Katharine Armstrong. The former has been present, as a trusted insider, for every major Republican scandal of the last half-century. And the latter seems to hang around high-level meetings where Republicans plot war."

AP examines Cheny story discrepancies

Hat tip to AmericaBlog: "Vice President Dick Cheney said he didn't immediately disclose his hunting accident because he wanted the confusing details to come out right. Instead, authorized accounts came out slowly - and often still wrong.

The result: a week of shifting blame, belatedly acknowledged beer consumption (not 'zero' drinking after all) and evolving discrepancies in how the shooting happened, its aftermath and the way it was told to the nation.

'There's a reason they call this crisis management,' said corporate damage-control specialist Eric Dezenhall, 'and that's because it's a mess.'"

Jay Bookman: Eyewitnesses peel back lies on war debate

Columnist Jay Bookman at ajc.com: "A hundred years from now, historians will still be regaling readers with the all-too-true tales of ignorance, arrogance, dishonesty and outright incompetence that drove our nation to invade Iraq. As stories go, nothing in our country's previous 225 years of history quite matches it. And for our children's sake, we better hope that nothing in our future comes close to it, either.

A lot of the raw material for those historians is available already in the growing number of eyewitness, inside accounts of how we got into this mess. At almost every point, those accounts contradict the version of events peddled by the Bush administration and its dwindling core of supporters.

For example, take the claim that the administration decided to invade Iraq because 'Sept. 11 changed everything.'

Paul O'Neill, President Bush's first treasury secretary, long ago revealed that administration officials were intent on invading Iraq from the moment the president took office.

'It was all about finding a way to do it,' O'Neill says of Cabinet meetings he attended before Sept. 11. 'That was the tone of it. The president saying, 'Go find me a way to do this.' '

In his new book 'State of War,' James Risen confirms that account by reporting that in April 2002 --- long before most Americans had even heard war was a possibility --- CIA officers in Europe were summoned by agency leaders and told an invasion was coming.

'They said this was on Bush's agenda when he got elected, and that 9/11 only delayed it,' one CIA officer recalled to Risen. 'They implied that 9/11 was a distraction from Iraq.'"

Lawmakers Deride Assurances on Arab Port Firm

Washington Post: "Lawmakers from both parties are questioning the sale as a possible risk to national security.

'It's unbelievably tone deaf politically at this point in our history,' Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said on 'Fox News Sunday.'

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), on CBS's 'Face the Nation,' said, 'It is ridiculous to say you're taking secret steps to make sure that it's okay for a nation that had ties to 9/11, [to] take over part of our port operations in many of our largest ports. This has to stop.'

At least one Senate oversight hearing is planned for later this month.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who is working on legislation to prohibit companies owned or controlled by foreign governments from running port operations in the United States, said Chertoff's comments showed him that the administration 'just does not get it.'"

Sunday, February 19, 2006

U.S. church alliance condemns Iraq war

ajc.com: "A coalition of American churches sharply denounced the U.S.-led war in Iraq on Saturday, accusing Washington of 'raining down terror' and apologizing to other nations for 'the violence, degradation and poverty our nation has sown.'

The statement, issued at the largest gathering of Christian churches in nearly a decade, also warned the United States was pushing the world toward environmental catastrophe with a 'culture of consumption' and its refusal to back international accords seeking to battle global warming.

'We lament with special anguish the war in Iraq, launched in deception and violating global norms of justice and human rights,' said the statement from representatives of the 34 U.S. members of World Council of Churches. 'We mourn all who have died or been injured in this war. We acknowledge with shame abuses carried out in our name.'

The World Council of Churches includes more than 350 mainstream Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox churches; the Roman Catholic Church is not a member. The U.S. groups in the WCC include the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church, several Orthodox churches and Baptist denominations, among others.

The statement is part of widening religious pressure on the Bush administration, which still counts on the support of evangelical churches and other conservative denominations but is widely unpopular with liberal-minded Protestant congregations."

Friday, February 17, 2006

E. J. Dionne: No End to the Phony Populism

No End to the Phony Populism: "Many people turn away from politics because so many of the players evade difficult questions by attacking their critics and changing the subject. Phony populism is the technique of choice, and it is much favored by the current administration.

On the same day this week, Americans were offered two examples of the politics of aggression and evasion. In both instances, politicians sought to duck hard issues by inventing an elitist enemy. In both, they ascribed to their adversaries views their critics don't hold, and never did."

AJC: Sen. Roberts makes a backroom deal with the White House

ajc.com: "Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts said Thursday that the White House has agreed 'in principle' to changes in the warrantless surveillance program, but Democrats accused the chairman of working with the White House to stall an investigation of the controversial program.

Roberts (R-Kansas) announced the agreement to reporters on Capitol Hill following an hourlong meeting of the committee in which its members had been expected to vote on whether to investigate the eavesdropping program being conducted by the highly secretive National Security Agency on orders from President Bush.

Roberts postponed the vote, however, contending that an investigation is no longer necessary because 'we reached an agreement in principle with the administration' to address congressional complaints that the program violates federal laws and that the administration has not provided as much information to Congress about the program as it should.

'The administration is now committed to legislation and has agreed to brief more intelligence committee members on the nature of their surveillance program,' Roberts said. He declined to provide details of the agreement, saying it would 'take some time to work out.'

Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the committee, responded with accusations that committee members had employed 'another stalling tactic' at the urging of the White House.

'It is more than apparent to me that the White House has applied heavy pressure in recent days, in recent weeks to prevent the committee from doing its job,' Rockefeller told reporters after the meeting. 'The very independence of this committee is called into question as we are continually prevented from having a full accounting of pre-war intelligence on Iraq, the CIA's detention, interrogation and rendition program, and, now, the NSA's warrantless surveillance and eavesdropping program.'

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has gone to court seeking documents related to the NSA's activities, accused Roberts and the White House of a 'backroom deal' to cover up the details of the program."

Bush fiddling while the world sinks?

Glacier Melt Could Signal Faster Rise in Ocean Levels: "Greenland's glaciers are melting into the sea twice as fast as previously believed, the result of a warming trend that renders obsolete predictions of how quickly Earth's oceans will rise over the next century, scientists said yesterday.

The new data come from satellite imagery and give fresh urgency to worries about the role of human activity in global warming. The Greenland data are mirrored by findings from Bolivia to the Himalayas, scientists said, noting that rising sea levels threaten widespread flooding and severe storm damage in low-lying areas worldwide."

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Think Progress: McClellan on the UN Gitmo Report--Oops

Think Progress - McClellan’s Defense of Conditions At Gitmo Backfires: "Today, Scott McClellan responded to a United Nations report calling for the immediate closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison:

First of all, the U.N. team that was looking into this issue did not even visit Guantanamo Bay. They did not go down and see the facilities. … But the International Committee for the Red Cross has been provided full access to the detainees.

McClellan is right. The Red Cross has visited Guantanamo Bay several times. In fact, in June 2004, they found the detainees were subjected to conditions “tantamount to torture“:"

Raw Story: In heated speech, veteran senator seeks NSA probe

The Raw Story has Sen. Robert Byrd's fiery speech, which ends thusly: "There is a need for a thorough investigation of all of our domestic spying programs. We have to know what is being done, by whom, and to whom. We need to know if the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act has been breached, and if the Constitutional rights of thousands of Americans have been violated without cause. The question is, can the Congress, under control of the President's political party conduct the type of thorough, far-ranging investigation which is necessary? It is absolutely essential that Congress try, because it is vital to at least attempt the proper restoration of the checks and balances. Unfortunately, in a congressional election year, the effort will most likely be seriously hampered by politics.

I want to know how many Americans have been spied upon. I want to know how it is determined which individuals are monitored and who makes such determinations. I want to know if the telecommunications industry is involved in a massive screening of the domestic telephone calls of ordinary Americans. I want to know if the United States Post Office is involved. I want to know if the law has been broken and the Constitution has been breached.

Lord Acton once observed that, 'Everything secret degenerates, even the Administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity.'

The culture of secrecy which has deepened since the attacks on September 11 has presented this nation with an awful dilemma. In order to protect this open society are we to believe that measures must be taken that in insidious and unconstitutional ways close it down? I believe that the answer must be an emphatic 'no.'"

Cheney makes a power grab

Print Story: Cheney Says He Has Power to Declassify Info on Yahoo! News: "Vice President Dick Cheney says he has the power to declassify government secrets, raising the possibility that he authorized his former chief of staff to pass along sensitive prewar data on Iraq to reporters.

Cheney coupled his statement in a TV interview Wednesday with an endorsement of I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, his ex-aide. Libby is under indictment on charges of perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI about disclosing the identity of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame.

'Scooter is entitled to the presumption of innocence,' Cheney told Fox News Channel. 'He is a great guy. I worked with him for a long time. I have tremendous regard for him. I may well be called as a witness at some point in the case, and it is therefore inappropriate for me to comment on any facet of the case.'"

Dana Milbank: Accepting Responsibility, With an Asterisk

Accepting Responsibility, With an Asterisk: "President Bush in 2000 ushered in the Era of Personal Responsibility. Yesterday ushered in the Era of Qualified Personal Responsibility.

In hours-long testimony before a Senate committee, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said he took the blame for the department's failures responding to Hurricane Katrina. 'I am responsible for the Department of Homeland Security,' came the inevitable claim. 'I'm accountable and accept responsibility for the performance of the entire department.'

At the same time, Vice President Cheney, breaking four days of silence since accidentally shooting a man on Saturday, was scheduling a confessional on Fox News. 'You can't blame anybody else,' Cheney told Brit Hume. 'I'm the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend.'

But, try though they might, neither Chertoff nor Cheney could come up with much in the way of what he had done wrong.


Since Bush won the presidency in 2000 with a promise to usher in a 'new era of personal responsibility,' a public acceptance of culpability is de rigueur when something goes wrong.

But admitting mistakes is an entirely different matter. That could convey weakness and, as such, is to be avoided entirely. Hours after branding the federal response to Katrina 'unacceptable,' for example, Bush qualified that by saying, 'I am satisfied with the response. I'm not satisfied with all the results.'"

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

UPI: Whistleblower says NSA violations bigger

The Moonie UPI news service is reporting there may be even more serious charges coming--but of course Congress will likely keep its head buried: "A former NSA employee said Tuesday there is another ongoing top-secret surveillance program that might have violated millions of Americans' Constitutional rights.

Russell D. Tice told the House Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations he has concerns about a 'special access' electronic surveillance program that he characterized as far more wide-ranging than the warrentless wiretapping recently exposed by the New York Times but he is forbidden from discussing the program with Congress.

Tice said he believes it violates the Constitution's protection against unlawful search and seizures but has no way of sharing the information without breaking classification laws. He is not even allowed to tell the congressional intelligence committees - members or their staff - because they lack high enough clearance."

Congressional Probe of NSA Spying Is in Doubt

WaPo reports that Congress could give in to administration pressure to ignore illegal wiretapping: "Congress appeared ready to launch an investigation into the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program last week, but an all-out White House lobbying campaign has dramatically slowed the effort and may kill it, key Republican and Democratic sources said yesterday.

The Senate intelligence committee is scheduled to vote tomorrow on a Democratic-sponsored motion to start an inquiry into the recently revealed program in which the National Security Agency eavesdrops on an undisclosed number of phone calls and e-mails involving U.S. residents without obtaining warrants from a secret court. Two committee Democrats said the panel -- made up of eight Republicans and seven Democrats -- was clearly leaning in favor of the motion last week but now is closely divided and possibly inclined against it.

They attributed the shift to last week's closed briefings given by top administration officials to the full House and Senate intelligence committees, and to private appeals to wavering GOP senators by officials, including Vice President Cheney. 'It's been a full-court press,' said a top Senate Republican aide who asked to speak only on background -- as did several others for this story -- because of the classified nature of the intelligence committees' work."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

White House Deferred to Cheney on Shooting

Interesting nuggets in a WaPo article: "In a telephone interview, Armstrong said that she, her mother and her sister, Sara Storey Armstrong Hixon, decided on Sunday morning after breakfast to report the shooting accident to the media. 'It was my family's own volition, and the vice president agreed. We felt -- my family felt and we conferred as a family -- that the information needed to go public. It was our idea,' Armstrong said.

The White House typically releases information immediately on incidents involving the president's personal life, such as bike-riding accidents, to avoid the appearance of covering up embarrassments. It is highly unusual, if not unprecedented, for the White House to allow a private citizen serve as its de facto spokesman.

But current and former aides said the White House rarely imposes its practices, especially on press matters, on Cheney. The vice president's office often operates autonomously in a manner that many top White House officials are reluctant to challenge.

In this case, Cheney worked with family members and former aide Mary Matalin on how to handle the fallout of the shooting accident, said a person close to the vice president who demanded anonymity to talk about internal discussions."

So many things wrong with this. And if the poor victim gets any worse, we may have a VP charged with manslaughter--unless his own heart finally gives out first.

AP: Holy Cow! It just gets worse...

Hunter Shot by Cheney Has Heart Attack: "The 78-year-old lawyer who was shot by Vice President Dick Cheney in a hunting accident has some birdshot lodged in his heart and he had a 'minor heart attack,' a hospital official said Tuesday.

Peter Banko, the hospital administrator at Christus Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi-Memorial, said Harry Whittington had the heart attack early Tuesday while being evaluated.

He said there was an irregularity in the heartbeat caused by a birdshot pellet, and doctors performed a cardiac catheterization. Whittington expressed a desire to leave the hospital, but Banko said he would probably stay for another week."

Monday, February 13, 2006

AMERICAblog: Cheney's Chappaquiddick

John has been on this story all day, reporting now from E&P that Cheney broke the law--didn't have the proper hunting stamps for his license. Beyond this, Raw Story has reported a third person in the party, a female ambassador, and the property owner was a female... so... hmmm, two guys and two women, out hunting and shooting. What does Lynne say about all this?: "Things are getting fishier and fishier.

As you know, Vice President Dick Cheney shot a man this weekend, and according to the most recent reports, his victim was in critical condition for a good long while. That means Cheney likely nearly killed the man.

Putting aside the question of how and why he shot the man, the more we learn, the more troubling this becomes."

AP: Cheney surrounded by medical people

I found this kind of interesting in the AP report--not just the explanation of the delay, but especially the landowner's explanation that Cheney is surrounded by medical people and has an ambulance waiting for him apparently all the time: "McBride said the vice president's office did not tell reporters about the accident Saturday because they were deferring to Armstrong to handle the announcement of what happened on her property.

Armstrong, owner of the Armstrong Ranch, said Whittington was bleeding after he was shot and Cheney was very apologetic.

'It broke the skin,' she said of the shotgun blast. 'It knocked him silly. But he was fine. He was talking. His eyes were open. It didn't get in his eyes or anything like that.

'Fortunately, the vice president has got a lot of medical people around him, and so they were right there and probably more cautious than we would have been,' she said. 'The vice president has got an ambulance on call, so the ambulance came.'"

Sunday, February 12, 2006

BATCOTE: Sellout McCain

Born at the Crest of the Empire: Mike has the latest on Sellout McCain: "The WaPo has an article on McCain fundraising for his presidential run.

Note: I supported McCain in 2000 when he was hatcheted in the South Carolina primary by Rove through a whisper campaign that he had an illegitimate black baby. Dan Balz doesn't go beyond a vague mention of that in this article. When McCain allowed the 'swiftboating' of Kerry, a supposed McCain 'friend,' to go on unchallenged, (remember how all the press kept asking him to condemn it?) and even went to campaign with Bush at the height of the 'controversy,' I knew that I had been had in 2000. I knew that McCain was a sellout.

So, I don't find myself surprised that he is now going to the same people in South Carolina for money who tanked his 2000 run by the 'illegitimate black baby' campaign.

I'll say it again, amoral sellout."

Senators: Cheney Should Be Probed in Leak on Yahoo! News

AP reports both Dem and GOP senators are calling for a look-see at Cheney's actions: "Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald should investigate Vice President Dick Cheney and others in the CIA leak probe if they authorized an aide to give secret information to reporters, Democratic and Republican senators said Sunday.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., called the leak of intelligence information 'inappropriate' if it is true that unnamed 'superiors' instructed Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, to divulge the material on Iraq.

Sen. George Allen, R-Va., said a full investigation is necessary.

'I don't think anybody should be releasing classified information, period, whether in the Congress, executive branch or some underling in some bureaucracy,' said Allen, who appeared with Reed on 'Fox News Sunday.'"

NYT Editorial: The Truth Gap

Very strong editorial from today's NYT: "We can't think of a president who has gone to the American people more often than George W. Bush has to ask them to forget about things like democracy, judicial process and the balance of powers — and just trust him. We also can't think of a president who has deserved that trust less.

This has been a central flaw of Mr. Bush's presidency for a long time. But last week produced a flood of evidence that vividly drove home the point."

Go read the whole thing.

WaPo: Congressional report spreads plenty of blame for Katrina response

Katrina Report Spreads Blame: "Hurricane Katrina exposed the U.S. government's failure to learn the lessons of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as leaders from President Bush down disregarded ample warnings of the threat to New Orleans and did not execute emergency plans or share information that would have saved lives, according to a blistering report by House investigators.

A draft of the report, to be released publicly Wednesday, includes 90 findings of failures at all levels of government, according to a senior investigation staffer who requested anonymity because the document is not final. Titled 'A Failure of Initiative,' it is one of three separate reviews by the House, Senate and White House that will in coming weeks dissect the response to the nation's costliest natural disaster.

The 600-plus-page report lays primary fault with the passive reaction and misjudgments of top Bush aides, singling out Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security Operations Center and the White House Homeland Security Council, according to a 60-page summary of the document obtained by The Washington Post. Regarding Bush, the report found that 'earlier presidential involvement could have speeded the response' because he alone could have cut through all bureaucratic resistance."

TPM: Bush using active duty military personnel to speak at GOP events

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: "One of Karl Rove's deputies is arranging for active duty military personnel to make speeches at Republican party events? The president is commander-in-chief. He's also head of the Republican party. But he's supposed to make at least some effort to show that the two jobs aren't melded into one.

The military, for good reasons, actually has quite detailed regulations about how active duty military personnel can and cannot participate in political events. One of the most referenced is the restriction on military personnel appearing at political events in uniform."

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Daily Kos: The LA terrorist success has nothing to do with wiretapping

Lapin's diary: LA Terror Plotter TURNED HIMSELF IN: "We all know Bush is attempting to conflate what has been portrayed as a success in the war on terror with spying on Americans. The two don't really have anything to do with each other. But Bush has thrown this almost two year old story out there when the Houses of Congress are talking some pretty serious allegations against him. And of course, some media sources are carrying his water for him, working hard to portray the foiling of this plot as some kind of grand success, showing the strength of new alliances with countries we aspire to be like. "

NYTimes: Some GOP Congresspeople are challenging Bush on wiretaps

Republican Speaks Up, Leading Others to Challenge Wiretaps - New York Times: "When Representative Heather A. Wilson broke ranks with President Bush on Tuesday to declare her 'serious concerns' about domestic eavesdropping, she gave voice to what some fellow Republicans were thinking, if not saying.

Now they are speaking up — and growing louder.

In interviews over several days, Congressional Republicans have expressed growing doubts about the National Security Agency program to intercept international communications inside the United States without court warrants. A growing number of Republicans say the program appears to violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1978 law that created a court to oversee such surveillance, and are calling for revamping the FISA law.

Ms. Wilson and at least six other Republican lawmakers are openly skeptical about Mr. Bush's assertion that he has the inherent authority to order the wiretaps and that Congress gave him the power to do so when it authorized him to use military force after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The White House, in a turnabout, briefed the full House and Senate Intelligence Committee on the program this week, after Ms. Wilson, chairwoman of the subcommittee that oversees the N.S.A., had called for a full-scale Congressional investigation. But some Republicans say that is not enough."

Al Franken: Reflections on the Wellstone Memorial and the King Funeral

HuffPo has a good Al Franken column on the lies that continue to be told by the right regarding the Wellstone Funeral... which are being retold in light of the very minor jabs at the administration at the Coretta Scott King funeral.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Wild News Day

I was tied up pretty much all day with work, dinner with my son, etc. etc. And was surprised to see so many amazing stories online tonight...

Thanks to AmericaBlog for this pointer to Josh at TPM on the AP story trying to implicate Harry Reid in the Abramoff scandal... when it's clear he did nothing to favor ol' Jack's Indian clients. There's no there there.

The Prez says his illegal wiretapping helped stave off an attack on an LA skyscraper... but did he exaggerate? Or lie? John has some interesting links.

Murray Waas at National Journal reports that Libby testified that Cheney put him up to spreading the word on Valerie Plame Wilson to gin up war support... which should put the VP in prison, right? (I heard this story as the lede on the CBS Radio News at 5:00 this evening, quoting the NatJourn).

And according to a GOP Congressional source, Sen. Frist and Speaker Hastert rigged some legislation after a conference report to make sure Bill's pharma friends were taken care of... as John in DC put it: "Basically, Frist and Hastert secretly slipped language into the defense bill, AFTER IT HAD ALREADY BEEN VOTED ON, language that nobody knew about, that wasn't agreed to, so it became law. And why did they do it? Well, Frist has received over a quarter of a million dollars from big pharmaceutical lobbyists - so you paint the picture."

And, another hat tip to AmericaBlog, Insight magazine, the Moonie/WashTimes rag, reports on the illegal wiretapping operation... pointing out that American to American calls in the US are being spied on, that known Al Qaeda terrorists are here--but we can't find them, and that the wiretapping is virtually useless.

On it goes! God bless us..

WaPo: Secret Court's Judges Were Warned About NSA Spy Data

And they're not happy; they think the program is illegal, and as John points out at AmericaBlog, Gonzales lied about it before the Senate committee: "Twice in the past four years, a top Justice Department lawyer warned the presiding judge of a secret surveillance court that information overheard in President Bush's eavesdropping program may have been improperly used to obtain wiretap warrants in the court, according to two sources with knowledge of those events.

The revelations infuriated U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly -- who, like her predecessor, Royce C. Lamberth, had expressed serious doubts about whether the warrantless monitoring of phone calls and e-mails ordered by Bush was legal. Both judges had insisted that no information obtained this way be used to gain warrants from their court, according to government sources, and both had been assured by administration officials it would never happen."

AMERICAblog: Bush snuck SS privatization plan into his budget

AJohn points to the Newsweek story which reveals that W hasn't given up on destroying Social Security, even though he didn't tell Congress about it--and ends with this comment: "Maybe Bush thought the Iraq war authorization gave him the power to privatize Social Security without consulting Congress."

AJC Opines on rightwing weeping over Bush-smacks at funeral

From the AJC editorial page: "The funeral of Coretta Scott King was a wonderful thing, and not least among its wonders was the controversy stirred by comments from the Rev. Joseph Lowery, former President Jimmy Carter and others.

The remarks themselves weren't much, amounting to a couple of minutes of a six-hour ceremony. Without naming names or parties, Lowery and Carter criticized the war on Iraq, the federal response to Hurricane Katrina and continuing budget cuts for anti-poverty programs. But what made the comments so controversial in some eyes is that they were made in the presence of President Bush.

Bush, to his credit, handled the situation graciously, as did his father, former President George H.W. Bush. But to some, the comments seemed unfortunate and out of place. Others --- much more graceless about using the funeral for political purposes than either Lowery or Carter had been --- seized the chance to manufacture an artificial outrage that was all out of proportion to what was actually said. The conservative New York Post, for example, cited Carter's comments as cause to name him the most shameless president of all time.

But to those who followed the careers of Mrs. King and her late husband, there was something sweetly familiar in these complaints about poor timing and about unnecessarily injecting tension into a situation."

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Think Progress: Jack and George

Think Progress: EXCLUSIVE EMAILS: Jack Abramoff Describes Relationship With President Bush: "ThinkProgress has obtained emails written by Jack Abramoff in which the fallen lobbyist personally describes his relationship with President Bush. They depict a relationship far more extensive than has been previously reported.

The emails written by Abramoff were addressed to Kim Eisler, the national editor of Washingtonian magazine. The Washingtonian recently reported on the existence of several photographs showing Abramoff and Bush together. Eisler is also the author of Revenge of the Pequots, a book about tribal politics for which Abramoff was interviewed.

In the emails, Abramoff describes meeting Bush “in almost a dozen settings,” and details how he was personally invited to President Bush’s private ranch in Crawford, Texas, for a gathering of Bush fundraisers in 2003. Abramoff did not attend, citing a religious observance."

HuffPo Marty Kaplan: Bush at the Funeral

Marty Kaplan: From Paul Wellstone to Coretta King, from The Huffington Post: "Why are Republicans such weenies about funeral orations?

Wingnut crybabies are whining that W got dissed at Coretta King's funeral. What did they expect -- praise for his civil rights record? Honor for his warrantless wiretapping? Encomia for widening the gap between rich and poor? Heckofajob!s for his post-Katrina promise-keeping?

I can understand why he didn't plan on attending the funeral in the first place; W's kind of African-American event is more like the 2000 Republican convention that nominated him in Philadelphia, where the only black faces were the ones on stage."

AMERICAblog: Bush budget eliminates English-language VOA

AMERICAblog: John reports on Bush's budget eliminating one of the few means we have of trying to tell at least the English-speaking world that we're not such bad folks... then he adds this (and I think he's right, and not only on this program but on a lot of the proposed cuts): "Of course, it's totally possible that Bush is killing this part of the VOA budget because HE KNOWS it's ridiculous to kill it. Sound crazy? Not at all. It's an old trick used by presidents who have no desire to submit a serious budget to Congress. You see, the president makes his budget balance by killing all sorts of programs that he knows Congress will have to put back in - like this VOA program. That way, Bush gets credit for saving the money from the killed program and can then spend it on other budget priorities, while at the same time it becomes CONGRESS'S FAULT that the program is reinstated and it's CONGRESS'S FAULT that the program adds to the deficit. Cute, no? Talk about your fuzzy math"

A Young Bush Appointee Resigns His Post at NASA - New York Times

No wonder he's such an idiot: "George C. Deutsch, the young presidential appointee at NASA who told public affairs workers to limit reporters' access to a top climate scientist and told a Web designer to add the word 'theory' at every mention of the Big Bang, resigned yesterday, agency officials said.

Mr. Deutsch's resignation came on the same day that officials at Texas A&M University confirmed that he did not graduate from there, as his résumé on file at the agency asserted.

Officials at NASA headquarters declined to discuss the reason for the resignation."

NYT: Republican Who Oversees N.S.A. Calls for Wiretap Inquiry

AmericaBlog and others are pointing out that this Republican is in a very close reelection battle--and yet she jilts George. She must know something: "A House Republican whose subcommittee oversees the National Security Agency broke ranks with the White House on Tuesday and called for a full Congressional inquiry into the Bush administration's domestic eavesdropping program.

The lawmaker, Representative Heather A. Wilson of New Mexico, chairwoman of the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence, said in an interview that she had 'serious concerns' about the surveillance program. By withholding information about its operations from many lawmakers, she said, the administration has deepened her apprehension about whom the agency is monitoring and why.

Ms. Wilson, who was a National Security Council aide in the administration of President Bush's father, is the first Republican on either the House's Intelligence Committee or the Senate's to call for a full Congressional investigation into the program, in which the N.S.A. has been eavesdropping without warrants on the international communications of people inside the United States believed to have links with terrorists.

The congresswoman's discomfort with the operation appears to reflect deepening fissures among Republicans over the program's legal basis and political liabilities. Many Republicans have strongly backed President Bush's power to use every tool at his disposal to fight terrorism, but 4 of the 10 Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee voiced concerns about the program at a hearing where Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales testified on Monday."

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Rest in Peace, Coretta

I watched a bit of Coretta's funeral at lunch, then had it online for a while till it kept breaking up because so many people must have been watching, straining the internet. It was good to see so many wonderful folks. Fun to see W. squirm a bit when Jimmy talked about the injustice Katrina exposed. Fun to see Bill and Hillary together, and Maya, and Ted, and John and so many others, come together to celebrate a dear, courageous woman. May her message of peace and tolerance and justice win out in the end.

Independent : "Garden of Eden" found filled with new species

All I want to know is, can we drill for oil there?: "An astonishing mist-shrouded 'lost world' of previously unknown and rare animals and plants high in the mountain rainforests of New Guinea has been uncovered by an international team of scientists.

Among the new species of birds, frogs, butterflies and palms discovered in the expedition through this pristine environment, untouched by man, was the spectacular Berlepsch's six-wired bird of paradise. The scientists are the first outsiders to see it. They could only reach the remote mountainous area by helicopter, which they described it as akin to finding a 'Garden of Eden'."

C&L: Gonzales too busy lying to realize what he's saying

Crooks and Liars has the video.

Right-wing Mag: Rove threatening GOP blacklist

Insight magazine (hat tip to HuffPo): "The White House has been twisting arms to ensure that no Republican member votes against President Bush in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s investigation of the administration's unauthorized wiretapping.

Congressional sources said Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove has threatened to blacklist any Republican who votes against the president. The sources said the blacklist would mean a halt in any White House political or financial support of senators running for re-election in November.

'It's hardball all the way,' a senior GOP congressional aide said.

The sources said the administration has been alarmed over the damage that could result from the Senate hearings, which began on Monday, Feb. 6. They said the defection of even a handful of Republican committee members could result in a determination that the president violated the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Such a determination could lead to impeachment proceedings."

WaPo: Budget Plan Assumes Too Much, Demands Too Little

Not only that, but with all the program cuts and "reigning in of entitlement program growth," will members of Congress be able to approve it and run for reelection?: "President Bush's budget blueprint would bring the federal government's budget deficit under control by decade's end. But to do that without raising taxes, the White House would need a sweeping tax reform that it has avoided proposing and a swift end to the war in Iraq.

The budget plan for fiscal 2007 underscores what budget analysts of all political stripes have been saying for years: The goals of balancing the budget, waging a global fight against terrorism and making Bush's first-term tax cuts permanent may be fundamentally at odds."

Monday, February 06, 2006

Think Progress: On Today's Hearing

There are many great news and blog sites offering comment about today's Senate hearing with the Attorney General. Think Progress as usual has some very fine coverage, which you'll find here and I hope you'll check it out.

Raw Story: Powell's former chief of staff on Iraq intel: 'I participated in a hoax'

The Raw Story on Col. Wilkinson's PBS interview: 'I participated in a hoax': "In an interview that aired on PBS on Friday, Feb. 3, Colin Powell's former chief of staff claimed that the speech Powell made before the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, laying out a case for war with Iraq, included falsehoods of which Powell had never been made aware. He said, 'My participation in that presentation at the UN constitutes the lowest point in my professional life. I participated in a hoax on the American people, the international community and the United Nations Security Council.'

Colonel (ret.) Lawrence Wilkerson, a veteran of the Vietnam War, served for many years as Powell's consultant and advisor. He stated in the interview that he was 'intimately involved in the preparation of Secretary Powell for his five February 2003 presentation at the UN Security Council' and that neither CIA Director George Tenent nor the CIA analysts involved in furnishing Powell with the information on mobile biological laboratories that he would use in his speech gave any indication that there were disputes about the reliability of the informants who had supplied this information.

Wilkerson still sees this lapse as the result of a profound intelligence failure, saying, 'I have to believe that. Otherwise I have to believe some rather nefarious things about some fairly highly placed people in the intelligence community and perhaps elsewhere.'"

AMERICAblog: Get ready for Gonzales

AMERICAblog: John has a good overview of the issues and questions leading into Gonzales' continuing testimony to the Senate committee today (whose GOP chair said Sunday he still thinks Bush broke the law): "Gonzales had better have lots of evidence tomorrow that he's telling the truth, and not again perjuring himself, because this flatly contradicts slews of stories based on information from administration officials."

AJC: Reed, Abramoff, Enron connection revealed

AJC political reporters Baxter and Galloway did some digging through the Enron emails: "Enron, meet Jack Abramoff. Jack Abramoff, meet Enron.

One year before the energy firm went belly up, paid adviser Ralph Reed urged Enron officials to hire Abramoff, then a rising Washington lobbyist, as a 'kitchen cabinet' consultant.

The e-mailed endorsement resulted in clubby lunches in which Abramoff and Enron reps, future icons of scandal in Washington and on Wall Street, sat across the table from each other.

It's well-known that Reed worked for both Enron and Abramoff. That he helped them cross paths is not. The e-mail has never been published before.

Reed's plug for his old friend serves as further evidence his professional relationship with Abramoff was closer than Reed --- a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor --- cares to admit.

In a lower-cased e-mail dated Dec. 19, 2000, Reed tapped out: 'abramoff is arguably the most influential and effective gop lobbyist in congress. i share several clients with him and have yet to see him lose a battle. he also is very close to [then-House majority leader Tom] Delay and could help enormously.'

The message was addressed to Richard Shapiro, Enron's top lobbyist, who met with Abramoff several weeks later, without Reed --- according to Shapiro's electronic appointment calendar.

We came across the e-mail, and notations of several lunch dates, among tens of thousands of Enron documents available through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Web site."

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Tucker: Civil rights era needs a successor: Class equality

Is the civil rights movement finished with Coretta's death? Yes and no...: "Coretta Scott King can rest easy. She's earned it. The civil rights movement, which she embodied in the decades after her husband's assassination, transformed not just the South but the nation. In paying tribute to her, we should take just a little time to consider how far we've come.

Because of the sacrifices she and her husband and so many others made, we have banished the laws and traditions of Jim Crow. An irresistible tide of social justice swept away the peculiar social customs that limited where black citizens might stand, sit, eat and sleep. And the widespread presumption of white superiority began to recede. White supremacists these days are nut cases. They used to be governors and senators.

Some who mourn the matriarch's death wonder whether her passing signals the end of the civil rights movement, as well. Actually, the movement passed quietly away decades before she did; it won the war and retired from the field.

That doesn't mean that racism is dead, America is color-blind or injustice out of fashion. Any measure of social health still shows that black Americans lag well behind whites --- in health and life span, in income and wealth, in educational attainment. By some indications, black Americans are worse off than at the height of the civil rights struggle: In 1968, only 31 percent of black children were born outside marriage. Now, about 70 percent of black children are born to unmarried women. Research suggests those children --- especially if their mothers are poor --- are more likely to struggle in school, to wander into drugs and delinquency and to end up poor themselves.

But the growing disparities between the two black Americas --- those who are well off and those who are left behind --- don't invalidate the movement. Instead, those discrepancies remind us of the struggle cut short by the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. --- the Poor People's Campaign, the crusade to end inequalities not just of color but also of class."

NOTE: One of the things that has struck me on reading the moving accounts of Mrs. King's life and work is how far we've fallen from her ideal. We've made such great strides as a nation, but have so far to go... witness the response to poor Katrina victims, the prevailing views (even among some African American leaders, including Bernice King) that gays and lesbians are not entitled to equal rights... etc. etc. This is a sad time for many reasons, not the least of which is the loss of a woman who worked for righteousness and justice for all. Rest in peace, Coretta.

Surveillance Net Yields Few Suspects

Guess we're losing our rights for nothing after all: "Intelligence officers who eavesdropped on thousands of Americans in overseas calls under authority from President Bush have dismissed nearly all of them as potential suspects after hearing nothing pertinent to a terrorist threat, according to accounts from current and former government officials and private-sector sources with knowledge of the technologies in use.

Bush has recently described the warrantless operation as 'terrorist surveillance' and summed it up by declaring that 'if you're talking to a member of al Qaeda, we want to know why.' But officials conversant with the program said a far more common question for eavesdroppers is whether, not why, a terrorist plotter is on either end of the call. The answer, they said, is usually no."

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Gallup: More Than Half of Americans Feel Bush Deliberately Misled Country on Iraq WMD

Gallup: More Than Half of Americans Feel Bush Deliberately Misled Country on Iraq WMD: "A new Gallup Poll, conducted in late January, reveals that just 39% of Americans approve of the way President Bush is handling Iraq, with 58% disapproving.

Over half (53%) now say the administration 'deliberately misled the American public about whether Iraq has weapons of mass destruction,' with 46% disagreeing. Gallup notes that this finding is 'essentially reversed' from one year ago.

Further, some 51% say the U.S. 'made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq.' Yet, despite this, only 17% expect a significant reduction of U.S. troops in Iraq in the next year."

Friday, February 03, 2006

SojoMail: Bono's Best Sermon Yet

SojoMail: "If you're wondering what I'm doing here, at a prayer breakfast, well, so am I. I'm certainly not here as a man of the cloth, unless that cloth is leather. It's certainly not because I'm a rock star. Which leaves one possible explanation: I'm here because I've got a messianic complex.

Yes, it's true. And for anyone who knows me, it's hardly a revelation."

AMERICAblog: A bit of Krugman's latest

John has the last three grafs of Paul Krugman's latest tour de force: "There's a common theme underlying the botched reconstruction of Iraq, the botched response to Katrina (which Mr. Bush never mentioned), the botched drug program, and the nonexistent energy program.

John DiIulio, the former White House head of faith-based policy, explained it more than three years ago. He told the reporter Ron Suskind how this administration operates: 'There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus. ... I heard many, many staff discussions but not three meaningful, substantive policy discussions. There were no actual policy white papers on domestic issues.'

In other words, this administration is all politics and no policy. It knows how to attain power, but has no idea how to govern. That's why the administration was caught unaware when Katrina hit, and why it was totally unprepared for the predictable problems with its drug plan. It's why Mr. Bush announced an energy plan with no substance behind it. And it's why the state of the union — the thing itself, not the speech — is so grim."

WaPo: 'St. Jack' and the Bullies in the Pulpit

John Danforth sick and tired of radical right GOPers: "Jack Danforth wishes the Republican right would step down from its pulpit. Instead, he sees a constant flow of religion into national politics. And not just any religion, either, but the us-versus-them, my-God-is-bigger-than-your-God, velvet-fist variety of Christian evangelism.

As a mainline Episcopal priest, retired U.S. senator and diplomat, Danforth worships a humbler God and considers the right's certainty a sin. Legislating against gay marriage, for instance? 'It's just cussedness.' As he sees it, many Republican leaders have lost their bearings and, if they don't change, will lose their grip on power. Not to mention make the United States a meaner place.

Danforth is no squalling liberal. He is a lifelong Republican. And his own political history shows he is no milquetoast.

A man of God and the GOP, he is speaking out for moderation -- in religion, politics, science and government. The lanky figure once dubbed 'St. Jack,' not always warmly, for the perch he seemed to occupy on Washington's moral high ground, expects people will sour on the assertive brand of Christianity so closely branded Republican.

'I'm counting on nausea,' he says."

Guardian Unlimited: Bush told Blair we're going to war, memo reveals

Here's the story direct from the Guardian: "Tony Blair told President George Bush that he was 'solidly' behind US plans to invade Iraq before he sought advice about the invasion's legality and despite the absence of a second UN resolution, according to a new account of the build-up to the war published today.

A memo of a two-hour meeting between the two leaders at the White House on January 31 2003 - nearly two months before the invasion - reveals that Mr Bush made it clear the US intended to invade whether or not there was a second UN resolution and even if UN inspectors found no evidence of a banned Iraqi weapons programme.


Daily Kos: The New London Smoking Gun?

Daily Kos diarist BillH77 reports on yet another memo: "The Thursday, February 2 story by Richard Norton-Taylor in London's Guardian reveals information from a memo of a White House meeting on January 31, 2003 between George W. Bush and Tony Blair in which Bush revealed that the U.S. intended to invade Iraq whether or not there was a second UN resolution and even if UN inspectors found no evidence of a banned Iraqi weapons program.

Phillipe Sands, a professor of international law at University College in London, revealed the memo in a new edition of his book, Lawless World. Professor Sands last year exposed doubts shared by British Foreign Office lawyers about the legality of the invasion in disclosures which eventually forced Prime Minister Blair to publish the full legal advice given to him by Attorney General Lord Goldsmith.

The new smoking gun reveals a flagrant violation of international law. Waging war under such circumstances constitutes a breach of the Nuremberg and Geneva codes and the UN Charter, which legitimize such action only in clear and present danger situations involving self-defense."

AJC: Americans are spending like the U.S. Government

From an AJC editorial: "Americans had an excuse for not saving money during the Great Depression: They didn't have any money in the first place.

That's not the case today, yet last year U.S. consumers spent every penny they made and then some, keeping the economy afloat on a sea of red ink. It is neither wise nor sustainable.

The Commerce Department reported Monday that the savings rate for all of 2005 fell into negative territory for the first time since 1933. By December, spending by U.S. consumers was increasing more than twice as fast as after-tax income."

War Costs Rising

Chicago Tribune via ajc.com: "The White House said Thursday it will ask Congress to approve $70 billion in additional spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through 2006, bringing the overall costs of those conflicts to nearly $400 billion by the end of the budget year in September.

In addition, President Bush will request a place-holding $50 billion for the wars in the new 2007 spending plan that the White House will unveil Monday.

But, like the $50 billion that the White House initially included for war in this year's budget, the Office of Management and Budget maintains that the real cost for 2007, dictated by 'events on the ground,' is impossible to forecast.

...The cost of the war in Iraq is clearly surpassing anyone's early estimates, including those of the administration. Bush aide Lawrence Lindsey suggested in 2002 that a war in Iraq could cost as much as $200 billion, an estimate considered so high --- and so impolitic --- it helped lead to his ouster from the administration."

Thursday, February 02, 2006

NATIONAL JOURNAL: Iraq, Niger, And The CIA (01/02/2006)

Murray Waas's latest: "Vice President Cheney and his then-Chief of Staff I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby were personally informed in June 2003 that the CIA no longer considered credible the allegations that Saddam Hussein had attempted to procure uranium from the African nation of Niger, according to government records and interviews with current and former officials. The new CIA assessment came just as Libby and other senior administration officials were embarking on an effort to discredit an administration critic who had also been saying that the allegations were untrue."

Feingold on the SOTU: Surreal

Feingold writes another hot diary on DKos:

I've seen some strange things in my life, but I cannot describe the feeling I had, sitting on the House floor during Tuesday's State of the Union speech, listening to the President assert that his executive power is, basically, absolute, and watching several members of Congress stand up and cheer him on. It was surreal and disrespectful to our system of government and to the oath that as elected officials we have all sworn to uphold. Cheering? Clapping? Applause? All for violating the law?

The President and his administration continue their spin and media blitz in attempts to defend the fact that they broke, and continue to break, the law. Their weak and shifting justifications for doing so continue. The latest from the President seems to be that basically the FISA law, passed in 1978, is out of date. His decision that he can apparently disregard "old law" fits the pattern with the President and his administration. He's decided to disregard a statute (FISA) and the Constitution (the 4th Amendment) by continuing to wiretap Americans' phone calls and emails without the required warrant, while at the same time claiming powers of the presidency that do not exist. (Perhaps he feels the Constitution is too "old," as well.) This administration reacts to any questions about spying on American citizens by saying that those of us who stand up for our rights and freedoms are somehow living in a "pre-September 11th, 2001 world."

In fact, the President is living in a pre-1776 world.

Our Founders lived in dangerous times, and they risked everything for freedom. Patrick Henry said, "Give me liberty or give me death." The President's pre-1776 mentality is hurting America and fracturing the foundation on which our country has stood for 230 years. The President can't just bypass two branches of government, and obey only those laws he wants to obey. Deciding unilaterally which of our freedoms still apply in the fight against terrorism is unacceptable and needs to be stopped immediately.

Many of you saw this week's story in the Washington Post on the exchange Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and I had during his confirmation hearing in January of last year. Mr. Gonzales misled me and the Senate Judiciary Committee under oath about whether the President could spy on Americans without a warrant. (Many of you blogged about it when the story first broke and I thank you for getting the word out.) That exchange is extremely telling about the depths to which this administration will go to grab power. I look forward to a little more honesty from the Attorney General when he testifies about the spying program before the Judiciary Committee on Monday.

I don't have to tell you how important this issue is. It gets to the core of what we as a country are all about. We all agree that we must defeat the terrorists who threaten the safety and security of our families and loved ones. Why does this President feel we must sacrifice our freedoms to fight terrorism? This is a gut check moment for members of Congress. Do we sacrifice our liberty? Do we bow to those who try to use security issues for political gain? Do we stand and applaud when the President places himself above the law? Or, do we say enough?

Stop the power grab, stop the politics, stop breaking the law.

It's time to stand up - not to cheer, but to fight back.


TPM: Josh on Boehner

Talking Points Memo: Okay, so it's Rep. John Boehner of Ohio for the new Majority Leader in the House of Representatives.

Let's not forget that Boehner is the guy who got a black eye back in the mid-90s for handing out checks from Tobacco lobbyists on the floor of the House. And of the three guys running for the job he had the most former staffers working on K Street.

But Boehner ran as a candidate of reform who would clean up the House GOP Caucus. So why not take him at his word? Because, think about it, there's so much cleaning up to do.

...Put the man to his test. The truth is that the rot simply runs too deep in the Republican House to be easily or painlessly excised. Actually cleaning House would be brutal, bloody and debilitating since it would shake the bases of Republican power to their foundations. No absolution, shall we say, without blood on the floor.

Daily Kos: Georgia10 on Alberto's Very Bad Month

Daily Kos: Fitzgerald Reveals Someone's Been Tampering With Evidence? by Georgia10: "It's only February 1st, but Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is already having a bad month. First, he has Feingold breathing down his neck about his apparent perjury at his confirmation hearing. Then, Senator Leahy sends him a letter challenging him to explain why the Patriot Act should be reauthorized if the President claims he already has the authority to act unilaterally in the War on Terrorism. Then, Google still refuses to hand over Americans' porn data. And just when poor Alberto thought it couldn't get any worse, Patrick Fitzgerald resurfaces with a startling revelation: someone's been having fun with the delete button at the White House."

Daily Kos: MBW Posits More of the Abramoff Iceberg

Daily Kos: Diarist MBW is snooping deep in the Abramoff/Indian connection: "The story of Jack Abramoff's buying of influence goes well beyond a few Congressional players. While those relationships are key to the story, they're secondary to his cosy relationship with CREA director Italia Federici, her former boss, Sec. of the Interior, Gale Norton, and Deputy Sec. Steven Griles, and this seedy gang's take-over of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). This move, however, was not just to help a few gaming tribes expand their operations - remember, Abramoff dismissed his tribal clients as morons. He was using their money to screw not only tribes in direct competition for part of the gaming pie, but, probably unwittingly, to subvert justice for nearly half the Indians in the country."

Think Progress: Grover Norquist: Bush Broke The Law

Think Progress: Even Grover Norquist Says Bush Broke The Law: "Referring to what some see as a conflict between fighting vicious terrorists and upholding all civil liberties, Norquist said: 'It’s not either/or. If the president thinks he needs different tools, pass a law to get them. Don’t break the existing laws.'"

Bookman in AJC: Bush has lost America's confidence

Jay Bookman's AJC column today is worth reading:

President Bush has forfeited the faith of the American people, and judging from his language Tuesday night, he knows it.

In his 2006 State of the Union speech, the president felt it necessary to warn us against "economic retreat," against retreating "from our duties in the hope of easier life."

"There is no peace in retreat," the president said, "and there is no honor in retreat." He warned against "abandoning our commitments and retreating within our borders," promising that "the United States will not retreat from the world."

"Never give in to the belief that America is in decline," he begged his fellow citizens, "or that our culture is doomed to unravel."

Retreat. Decline. Retreat. . . . The White House had advertised the speech as optimistic, but its unconscious recurring theme, its underlying tone, proved to be anything but.

The president's language did, however, reflect the nation's mood. For months, almost two-thirds of Americans have been telling pollsters that the country was headed in the wrong direction. Almost two-thirds say the economy is fair or poor, despite the fact that by many standard measures it's doing pretty well. And while President Bush says we're winning in Iraq, 60 percent disapprove of how he has handled that critically important challenge.

Some might interpret those numbers to mean that the American people are losing faith in this country --- that's clearly the president's fear, for example. But I think that's wrong. We have lost faith in our leadership, which is a very different thing.

AJC: Bush offers false choices

Blogger keeps acting up--I tried to post this twice yesterday but couldn't. It's a great editorial in the AJC on the SOTU... here are some excerpts:

...The main thrust of his 2006 speech, like that of his presidency and re-election campaign, was terrorism, war and national security. As always, the president cast his policies as a success, warning that any deviation from his course would weaken the nation and leave us vulnerable.

"In this decisive year, you and I will make choices that determine both the future and the character of our country," he said. "We will choose to act confidently in pursuing the enemies of freedom or retreat from our duties in the hope of an easier life."

That choice is a false choice, implying that anything other than the Bush approach would be retreat. In fact, the president has already failed the test of character he would set for the nation, having retreated significantly from the goals he himself established in his State of the Union speech in 2002.

In that speech, delivered barely four months after the terror attacks on New York and Washington, Bush called out the members of "the axis of evil" one by one, warning them of dire consequences if they did not change their ways.

Iraq, he said, "continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade."

With those words the president set the stage for our later invasion of Iraq, which turned up not a trace of weapons of mass destruction and now looms as the most disastrous foreign policy mistake in our history. In fact, U.S. foreign policy in the next 25 years will be challenged just to manage the consequences of that mistake.

North Korea, the second member of the axis, "is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction," Bush warned us in 2002, a situation his administration said could not be tolerated. But in the four years since then, U.S. policy has not forced North Korea to waver one inch from that dangerous course.

"I will not wait on events while dangers gather," the president promised Congress in 2002. "I will not stand by as peril draws closer and closer...."

But the president who would not stand by is in reality standing by, largely because his administration's incompetence and misjudgment have left him no option.

In his speech last night, the president also defended his decision to allow electronic surveillance of U.S. citizens without getting judicial approval as required both by federal law and the U.S. Constitution. He and others have cast the choice in stark terms, falsely implying that his critics oppose surveillance needed to protect us from attack. ...

In truth, his critics merely argue that the surveillance be conducted in accordance with federal law, the same law the president has sworn to faithfully execute and that other presidents have followed in much tougher times.

In 1978, during the heart of the Cold War and under the threat of potential nuclear annihilation, Congress passed a law allowing robust surveillance of overseas targets, but with checks and balances built into the law to protect our liberties against government encroachment. In effect, Bush has taken it upon himself to repeal that law.

By doing so, he becomes the legislative branch, claiming for himself the sole power to set national policy no matter what federal law states. He becomes the judicial branch, claiming for himself the power to decide whether spying on U.S. citizens is reasonable and justified.

Our Founding Fathers understood from experience that unchecked power soon goes awry. In his five years as president, Bush has confirmed the wisdom of that insight time and time again, and nothing he said last night can erase that record.