Tuesday, November 30, 2004


“If you were to name a single political blog . . . that you think progressives should be reading frequently, which would it be?. . .Take the poll.”

Bush’s new Cabinet appointment (first of several new members of his economic team) and a trend is emerging

US President George W. Bush nominated 51-year-old Carlos Gutierrez, the Cuban-born head of cereals giant Kellogg Co., as his new commerce secretary. . . "He knows exactly what it takes to make American businesses grow and create jobs," Bush said.

He knows exactly what it takes to create jobs?

In a move to cuts costs, Kellogg Company said it is considering the closure of the South Operations portion of its Battle Creek, Mich., cereal plant. The closure would eliminate up to 64 percent of the jobs at the facility. . . "Streamlining our operations and avoiding future costs would help keep our North American cereal business cost-competitive going into the 21st century," said Kellogg chief exec Carlos Gutierrez.

According to the Post, "Bush aides" see his "background in sales as a crucial credential, since Bush has used his economic team primarily to promote the White House agenda rather than to make policy." The paper also notes that some people appear to be turning down offers to be part of the new economic team. "Why would you want to take a job where you have no influence?" asked one conservative economist. "What's the point?" Meanwhile, Gutierrez immediately began reflecting on deep policy issues, noting at yesterday's unveiling that his experience indicates the president's "ownership society" is "real, and I know it's tangible."

Aides said changing four of the five top economic officials -- including the Treasury and Commerce secretaries, with only budget director Joshua B. Bolten likely to remain -- is part of Bush's preparation for sending Congress an ambitious second-term domestic agenda. . . Republican officials said Bush's economic team has been weaker than his national security advisers, and that the president believes he needs aides who can relate better to Congress and the markets. A more skilled team is essential, the aides said, because of the complex and politically challenging agenda of overhauling Social Security to add private investment accounts and simplifying the tax code. . . Bush aides, who have been debating what parts of his legislative package to send to Capitol Hill first, will start with measures to restrict medical malpractice claims and other lawsuits. Bush will then try to advance his initiative on Social Security, after which will come proposed changes in the tax laws. In the next month or two, Bush plans to name a commission to make recommendations on the tax code that could eliminate some loopholes and even replace the income tax with a sales tax or value-added tax. . . "They need people who have not been drinking the Kool-Aid and are going to come up here and say breathlessly, 'This is what the president wants to do, and isn't it great?' " the aide said. "They need someone like a former senator or former member or former governor who can come up here and say, 'This is going to be hard. There's going to be blood on the floor, but it's going to be worth it.' "

Rove is revving up to push a series of audacious plans to fundamentally reconfigure the way the government gets and spends money, in a way intended to strengthen the Republican Party's grip on power for decades to come. . .

"On domestic policy, Rove has a theme at the ready: 'the ownership society' he says the president wants to build. It's a bland phrase, but the ideas behind it are hardly status quo. One is to consider abolishing the income-tax system, replacing 'progressive' (meaning graduated) rates with a flat tax or even a national sales tax or value-added tax. Another is to rechannel massive flows of tax money from Social Security to private savings accounts and into expanded medical savings accounts. Yet another is a crusade Bush and Rove have been pursuing since Texas: a national cap on damage awards in lawsuits."

Analysis: http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/movable_type/2004-2_archives/000602.html

A clear deconstruction of the impending Social Security swindle


Iraqi elections: a complete mess

[Spencer Ackerman] Iraq's deputy prime minister, Barham Saleh of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, is one of the most sincere and tough-minded advocates of a democratic and federal Iraq. . .Yesterday Saleh made an illuminating argument for why the interim government needed to reject the call by 17 Sunni and (now-ambivalent) Kurdish political parties for a six-month delay of the elections:

[D]elaying elections will be much more difficult because it will have serious ramifications to the political process, to the issue of legitimacy, and surely all of us do not want to give the terrorists the slightest of technical wins in that situation.

But the insurgency has already won a gigantic victory with the call for an electoral postponement--a plea which never had a chance of acceptance, given the overwhelming opposition of the Shia. . . If the insurgency is to achieve its broadest common-denominator goals (ending the occupation through force) and pursue its more ambitious ones (reestablishing Sunni supremacy through force), it needs to cleave the broader Sunni population from the U.S.-backed political process in order to replenish its ranks, its armories, and its political legitimacy for a prolonged campaign. The cry over the weekend for a postponement was effectively the death rattle of moderate Sunni politicians in the new Iraq. For Saleh to argue that delaying the elections would raise "the issue of legitimacy" is effectively to announce that whether the Sunnis consider the elections illegitimate is an irrelevant concern. If the insurgents drank, they would be popping champagne corks.

But it's not as if Saleh has much choice in the matter. What could he--or the United States--really have done? A delayed election runs the tremendously heightened risk of a total Shia divorce from the political process--and considering that the Shia are the numerical majority of the population and (with the Kurds a strong second) the most politically potent force in the country, that would have meant the final collapse of the wheezing U.S.-backed political order. In my first post on this blog back in February I argued that the U.S. badly needed to ensure a buy-in from all three of Iraq's main component groups. If that was ever possible--and I would contend that it was--it no longer is. The January election is now itself on track to deliver what used to be considered the worst-case scenario (but which is now acceptable to some advocates of the war): civil war. . .

"Those of the black turbans"--Iraq's Shia clergy--"are but traitors and agents of America. It is they who have provoked the Americans to attack the Sunni, whom they call extremists and terrorists," Sheikh Ahmed al-Kubaisi told his congregation last Friday.

Mr Kubaisi's sermon is typical of many Sunni mosques across the country, where preachers are delivering fiery attacks on the Shia clergy who, they say, have "sold out" Islam.

For US troops, November is the second bloodiest month since the invasion: five more killed Monday


Military assessment of the “success” in Fallujah, and what it reveals

The US military seems strangely unaware of the realities of insurgencies. It seems to think there are a limited number of "bad guys," who can all be killed or captured. The possibility that virtually all able-bodied men in Fallujah supported the insurgency, and that many are weekend warriors, does not seem to occur to them. In fact, as Mao noted, guerrillas swim in a sea of supportive civilians. The US military slides suggest that now that the bad guys have been taken care of, the civilians can be won over. That this outcome is highly unlikely does not seem to occur to them. . . Whatever the military rights or wrongs, the political judgment on the Fallujah campaign is easy. It was supposed to make holding elections possible in the Sunni Arab heartland. Instead, it has certainly further alienated the Sunni Arabs and made it more likely that they will boycott the elections en masse. If the Sunni Arabs remain angry and sullen in this way, Fallujah will have been a political failure.

And the press assessment?

"At the moment, there's real sensitivity about the perceived political nature of every story coming out of Iraq," a Baghdad correspondent for a large US paper told me in mid-October. "Every story from Iraq is by definition an assessment as to whether things are going well or badly." In reality, he said, the situation in Iraq was a catastrophe, a view "almost unanimously" shared by his colleagues. But, he added, "Editors are hypersensitive about not wanting to appear to be coming down on one side or the other."

This is unsurprising, but nonetheless utterly appalling. The Bush administration has succeeded in making facts themselves a matter of partisan contestation. So if the facts reflect poorly on the administration, reporters feel obligated to ignore them completely, or perhaps inject some fantasy into their stories to balance things out.

Our Iraqi allies: “they’ve just about given up”


Iraqi police and national guard forces, whose performance is crucial to securing January elections, are foundering in the face of coordinated efforts to kill and intimidate them and their families, say American officials in the provinces facing the most violent insurgency.

The neo-cons incoherent back-and-forth on Iran, Shiites

[Bob Dreyfuss] Here’s a challenge to an enterprising investigative reporter: Why is it that the neoconservatives, who are most loudly demanding a showdown with Iran, are the same ones supporting pro-Iranian radical Shiite fundamentalists in Iraq?. . .

[T]he neocons are increasingly isolated in their overt support for Ayatollah Sistani and the Iran-leaning fundamentalist Shiite parties in Iraq, namely, Al Dawa and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Sistani, backed (it seems) by Dawa and SCIRI, are insisting that the impossible elections be held on Jan. 30. Although virtually the rest of Iraq, and the rest of the world, favors postponing the date, the neocon-dominated United States continues to support Sistani. Why, exactly? The man is a fanatic, and if the Shiites succeed in this election drive, they could spark a civil war, alienate the Kurds and create an Iraq allied to Iran.

In the most stunning action, the two big Kurdish parties broke with Sistani and joined the coalition of Sunnis demanding that the election be postponed. It is truly an amazing piece of news, since the Kurds had previously given little indication that they intended to break with the majority Shiites. But the Shiite insistence on constitutional provisions that would have marginalized the Kurds seems to have scared them.

Now calling for a postponement are the CIA-linked Iraqis, such as Prime Minister Allawi’s Iraqi National Accord and former foreign minister (from the 1960s) Adnan Pachachi, along with virtually all of the Sunni leadership. It’s clear that this Sunni bloc has the support of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, all of whom fear Iranian (and Shiite power). But for two years the U.S. neoconservatives have been demanding that the United States purge the Sunnis and back the Shiites. And of course, the neocons’ favorite Iraqi, Ahmed Chalabi, is one of those leading the Shiite resurgence—in league with the infamous Muqtada Sadr, another Iranian-linked operative and loose cannon.

The CIA, of course, is being purged of those who supported Pachachi, Allawi et al. The pro-Chalabi, pro-Shiite neocons are taking over the Agency, under Porter Goss. The State Department is soon to follow.

But reality may intrude. The resistance can’t stop the elections entirely, but they can render it illegitimate. How long will Washington tie itself to Jan. 30, and to Sistani?

The case for war, and why it’s wrong

“A nuclear Iran, however, cannot be tolerated. Iran is well known for its sponsorship of terrorist organizations and has conducted a foreign policy of violence by proxy. The risk that Iran will transfer its nuclear technology to groups such as Hezbollah, whom Iran supports with an estimated yearly stipend of more than $100 million, is great.”

NEW reports of torture at Guantanamo (in a confidential report to the US govt which it has held under wraps since July)


A simple question for Bush the next time he deigns to go before the press (really, it should have been asked long ago): Does the US, while proclaiming its opposition to torture, export prisoners to other countries to do our torturing for us?


More background on the House GOP refusal to work with Democrats on any bill

[Jan Reid and Lou Dubose] DeLay prefers a polarized House in which the adversarial relationship between Republicans and Democrats is institutionalized. “A number of times the Republican majority could pass a bill by 300 votes,” said a veteran House staffer who has worked for the Democratic leadership. “A bill that has that type of potential. Then they yank it to the conservative side so it passes 220-210. . . There’s a mentality in the Republican leadership that if a significant number of Democrats support a bill somehow it’s tainted. . . “Part of it goes back to the K Street thing, where they want to be able to say to their funders that the only people who can deliver anything for you are Republicans.” If House Republicans can make their Democratic counterparts irrelevant to the process of passing the nation’s laws, they can make them irrelevant to big political contributors.

Yet more evidence of vote fraud in Ohio: why should one low-level Democratic state candidate have drawn a quarter of a million more votes than the guy at the head of the ticket?


Good question: with all the subpoenaing of reporters, why hasn’t Bob Novak (the original source of the Plame leak and the one who KNOWS who told him) been hauled before the grand jury?


Harnessing the power of the Internet: Josh Marshall proposes making the language of all bills publicly available three days before voting, then using collective intelligence to review their massive content (although I think a better solution is to constrain opportunities for wedging in hidden last-second provisions that no one ever voted for in the first place)


Henry Giroux on Bush’s theocratic vision


Bonus item: a holiday gift for those hard-to-shop-for friends and family members (thanks to Digby for the ink)

Support our Marine who Shot the Wounded Insurgent
The US Military can not accept donations from the public to pay for the Marine's defense. So, in lieu of money for that purpose we are assisting local military wives and families while their men are away taking care of the Nation's business.

In addition to helping a worthy cause, it's important to make sure the public does not forget about this brave Marine, who acted swiftly, in defense of his brothers.

Wear this shirt as often as possible. You can even wear it under your work shirt or under your business suit.

The Marine who killed the wounded insurgent in Fallujah deserves our praise and admiration. In a split second decision, he acted valiantly.

CAPTION READS: "The Gods of War Hate those who Hesitate"

Printed on high quality superheavyweight, preshrunk cotton

***If you enjoy PBD and believe in what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (http://pbd.blogspot.com).

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Monday, November 29, 2004


Iran: “military option” still in play?

Over the past month or so the "military option" for Iran has been the hottest topic of debate in Washington. Senior officials say military intervention is not being considered. However, it is an open secret that influential neo-conservatives at least hope Iraq will be sufficiently stable within a year to free up the US military for its next campaign.

Delaying the Iraq vote – will they or won’t they? The fact that the Kurds have joined the Sunnis in these calls is significant

Influential Sunni Muslim groups and Iraq's two main Kurdish movements requested a delay Friday in nationwide elections set for Jan. 30, fearing that a vote amid persistent violence and a boycott by Sunnis would deprive the results of legitimacy.

Some of Iraq's most powerful political groups, including the party led by the interim prime minister, called Friday for a six-month delay in elections scheduled for Jan. 30, citing concerns over security…The list of groups includes some that have been among the strongest backers of American policy in Iraq, and their call gives sudden momentum to those arguing for a postponement. The two main Kurdish parties supported the delay request, marking the first time the Kurds, closely allied with the Americans, have taken a clear stand on the issue.

Iraq's most powerful Shiite cleric [Sistani] is opposing a drive by prominent Sunni Arab and Kurdish political factions to delay elections scheduled for Jan. 30, an aide to the cleric and Shiite leaders said Saturday…The American ambassador to Iraq, John D. Negroponte, also lent his forceful support to keeping the present election date. "National elections will be taking place on the 30th of January of next year," he said on Saturday, while touring the devastated Sunni city of Falluja…

Other figures are setting out their positions. The interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, is not officially supporting a delay, a spokesman for him said, although his party did back the calls for a postponement.

Administration officials have a strategy for co-opting the Sunnis as well: Ayad Allawi. The Iraqi interim prime minister, though a Shiite himself, is a former member of the Baath Party and maintains contact with some of its Sunni former leaders. In Baghdad months ago, Allawi explained to me his efforts to reach out to what he called the "fringes" of the insurgency in Fallujah and Samarra and separate these secular ex-Baathists from the fundamentalists who increasingly dominate the resistance. ... [T]he hope is to finesse the problem with an Allawi-led slate that is 20 percent Sunni so that they will be represented even if they boycott the balloting.

You should start drinking heavily when you hear that Allawi is the linchpin of any plan to finesse the Sunnis away from the insurgency. Simply put, Allawi is a toxic figure corrupted by his delusions of power and fatally crippled by his reliance on the U.S. occupation to wield it. Ask yourself: Has he succeeded in his "efforts to reach out to what he called the 'fringes' of the insurgency"? No, but he has presided over a strategy that has given the insurgency the Sunni divorce from the political process that it needs to replenish its ranks with popular support. Graffiti in the streets of Mahmoudiya reads, "Death to Allawi and His Puppet Government." Does anyone think that the Sunnis willing to run on a slate with Allawi will command popular support--or even baseline legitimacy?

Analysis: http://www.juancole.com/2004/11/elections-in-iraq-will-be-held-on.html

Fallujah: the long term

"The city has been seized. We have liberated the city of Falluja,” General John Abizaid declared on November 14th, six days after the Marines began their assault on Iraq’s notorious insurgent stronghold. The Sunni warlords who had run Falluja as their own jihadi fiefdom—terrorizing its inhabitants and using it as a launchpad for a relentless campaign of suicide bombings, ambushes, kidnappings, and assassinations—have been routed. But Abizaid was right to emphasize that it was the battlefield, and not the battle, that was won. In this regard, Falluja appears emblematic of the larger American venture in Iraq, where military superiority has yet to purchase political order. Much of the city was reduced to rubble, and the fighting was not finished when the General claimed victory: even as Iraqi corpse collectors and American reconstruction assessors went to work, marines kept killing and getting killed while trying to mop up neighborhoods that they thought they’d mopped up the day before. I am here,” a defiant insurgent leader told the Washington Post. “You can see me.” Indeed, his comrades were suddenly to be seen all over Iraq. As Falluja fell, the insurgents struck in Baghdad and Baiji and Balad and Baquba and Buhritz and Hawija and Hit and Iskandariyah and Mosul and Qaim and Ramadi and Samarra and Tall Afar and Tikrit…

On the other hand, Fallujans are afraid that the mere presence of US troops in the city virtually guarantees a long-term guerrilla war that will disrupt their lives into the distant future. Explosions still wrack the city, and many Fallujans vow to fight the US presence.

Iraq: worse off


One of the consequences of the offensive: number of US “detainees” doubles

The large influx of prisoners is putting stress on U.S. detention operations, providing the biggest test yet of new facilities and procedures adopted in the wake of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal this past spring…

General Geoffrey Miller, key architect of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib policies, promoted (not punished)


And in the rest of Iraq, civil war without the name

[Spencer Ackerman] Mosul is now in essence independent from the central government and at war with itself. Thanassis Cambanis of The Boston Globe recently observed that the real power in the city derives from "a constellation of groups--insurgents and Arab nationalists on the west bank of the Tigris River, Kurdish political parties and militia on the east bank, and Turkomen in pockets throughout the city." (Thanks to Eric Umansky.) The stars do not happily exist in that constellation: Just today, a leading figure in the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars was assassinated in the city. The multiethnic Mosul, once considered a model city, is fast becoming Sarajevo.

That won't be anything compared to Kirkuk. As George Packer recently wrote, given the fervent and competing claims on Kirkuk, that city could truly be where the first shots of the Iraqi civil war are fired. (Though it could be contended that Iraq is in the midst of a civil war now, I'd argue that what's been happening over the last several months has put Iraq more into the category of failed state--where the government exists largely on paper and various factions have consolidated control over competing centers of power--while the Hobbesian civil war is just over the horizon.)

US troops: undertrained, under-supplied, over-age, and overwhelmed

Members of a California Army National Guard battalion preparing for deployment to Iraq said this week that they were under strict lockdown and being treated like prisoners rather than soldiers by Army commanders at the remote desert camp where they are training…More troubling, a number of the soldiers said, is that the training they have received is so poor and equipment shortages so prevalent that they fear their casualty rate will be needlessly high when they arrive in Iraq early next year. "We are going to pay for this in blood," one soldier said.

I have no idea why the United States Army would make us deploy with this old crap," says one officer…The film shows one truck breaking down in route to the base…In another scene, the soldiers go to secure a Iraqi ammo dump--that has been left unguarded for a year. "I don't why somebody hasn't been on top of this," says one officer. "By not securing this we're killing ourselves."

A 53-year-old Vietnam veteran from western Pennsylvania has been called up for active service with the U.S. military in the Iraq war…

Another Marine in the unit I followed—a Democrat's dream, he returned home from fighting in Falluja in time to vote for Kerry—added, "Americans celebrate war in their movies. We like to see visions of evil being defeated by good. When the people at home glimpse the reality of war, that it's a bloodbath, they freak out. We are a subculture they created and programmed to fight their wars. You have to become a psycho to kill like we do. To most Marines that guy in the mosque was just someone who didn't get hit in the right place the first time we shot him. I probably would have put a bullet in his brain if I'd been there. If the American public doesn't like the violence of war, maybe before they start the next war they shouldn't rush so much."

The Intelligence Bill defeat, why it happened, and what it portends

In scuttling major intelligence legislation that he, the president and most lawmakers supported, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert last week enunciated a policy in which Congress will pass bills only if most House Republicans back them, regardless of how many Democrats favor them…Hastert's position, which is drawing fire from Democrats and some outside groups, is the latest step in a decade-long process of limiting Democrats' influence and running the House virtually as a one-party institution. Republicans earlier barred House Democrats from helping to draft major bills such as the 2003 Medicare revision and this year's intelligence package. Hastert (R-Ill.) now says such bills will reach the House floor, after negotiations with the Senate, only if "the majority of the majority" supports them.

[S]ome Democrats charged that Hastert and other Republican leaders didn't want the minority party to get credit for passing the bill, which is supported by many families of 9/11 victims.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld denied last week that he was opposing the legislation behind the scenes. "I'm a part of this administration," he said. "I support the president's position."…But even some Republicans have said that Mr. Rumsfeld's opposition to the bill seems clear to them.

Bush AWOL (again)


The same question applies even more pointedly to Bush. No president relishes legislative fights within his own party. But for any president, one of the clearest tests of leadership is the willingness to stare down his own supporters to protect the national interest…

One senior House GOP aide, intriguingly, says the picture is so murky that even Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have sent conflicting signals on whether they want Congress to vote on the existing compromise. "I'm sure the president would," the aide said. "I'm not sure the vice president would."

After all the mixed messages from his administration, the best way for Bush to prove he wants reform is to demand that Congress vote it up or down…If Bush doesn't challenge the Hastert Rule now, the White House will reinforce a precedent that could haunt it later…Will Bush give them a veto by allowing the House GOP leadership to shelve any bill that most of their members oppose?

The larger issue in this dispute is whether Bush wants to reach out to all Americans, or just court those at the core of his political coalition. In his first term, Bush chose the second option on most major decisions. If he allows House conservatives to derail the work of the Sept. 11 commission — one of the most successful bipartisan collaborations in years — that will send an early signal that cooperation across party lines may be just as rare over his second term.

The coming Social Security charade

The White House and Republicans in Congress are all but certain to embrace large-scale government borrowing to help finance President Bush's plan to create personal investment accounts in Social Security, according to administration officials, members of Congress and independent analysts…The White House says it has made no decisions about how to pay for establishing the accounts, and among Republicans on Capitol Hill there are divergent opinions about how much borrowing would be prudent at a time when the government is running large budget deficits. Many Democrats say that the costs associated with setting up personal accounts just make Social Security's financial problems worse, and that the United States can scarcely afford to add to its rapidly growing national debt…But proponents of Mr. Bush's effort to make investment accounts the centerpiece of an overhaul of the retirement system said there were no realistic alternatives to some increases in borrowing, a requirement the White House is beginning to acknowledge.

Looks like I underestimated the Bush administration's cynicism in my recent piece about Social Security reform. In the piece, I predicted that the Bushies would take advantage of a quirk in the way the Social Security actuaries certify that the trust fund is balanced to help pass what will be a hugely irresponsible privatization bill. The quirk is that the actuaries only look at whether the trust fund's finances add up, not where the money to make them add up comes from. The Bushies can just issue a few trillion dollars in new debt and stick it in the trust fund, and the actuaries will have to consider the trust fund balanced. Despite my firm belief that the Bushies would do this, I still figured they'd have to acknowledge that they were increasing the size of the government's debt, even if they didn't exactly advertise that fact…But that turned out to be a wildly optimistic assumption. While I was on vacation last week, The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman reported that the Bushies are not, in fact, planning on calling the debt they issue to privatize Social Security "debt." Weisman takes you through the various ways the White House and the congressional GOP might try pulling off this trick. But the bottom line is that any increase in borrowing used to finance personal Social Security accounts is unlikely to show up in the Bushies' accounting of the federal deficit. How did I not anticipate this?

So, it's okay to borrow a bunch of money and raise taxes to "save" social security by demolishing it but not okay to borrow not so much money or raise taxes a wee bit to save it for real…I think we're seeing how this is going to unfold - a combination of putting it off budget and raising taxes on people earning not too much money. The tax increase will be offset by what will be called a "tax cut" - your shiny new personal social security account. So, they'll add a few percentage points onto your income taxes and "cut" your payroll tax, but force you to save the money.

If President Bush wants to push an overhaul of Social Security through Congress during his second term, he will probably have to do something he rarely did during his first term — get his hands dirty…To revamp the popular retirement program, many allies say, Bush will have to offer detailed proposals to Congress and engage in a broad public campaign to justify the changes and its cost. And he will have to ride herd on legislators to ensure they do not veer from his main goal of shoring up Social Security by allowing younger workers to invest some of their payroll taxes in private accounts.

"It's going to take a lot of personal involvement and a lot of political capital," said Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a proponent of private retirement accounts…That would be a big change in the way Bush deals with Congress. Typically, even on issues as important as last year's Medicare overhaul, Bush has conveyed only broad goals and principles, leaving it to congressional Republican leaders to work out the details. He has become engaged only at the end of negotiations to get wayward Republicans behind him.

The risks of that approach were amply illustrated this month when rebellious House Republicans blocked an overhaul of intelligence operations that the White House backed — despite last-minute lobbying by Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney…Social Security will be different, Republicans say, because Bush has made clear that it is his top domestic priority. Senior White House aides are already consulting members of Congress and conservative activists, weighing options and preparing for early action.

House Republicans may be the toughest to sell on tackling Social Security. Many fear the issue could be used against them in the midterm elections…Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), another advocate of Social Security overhaul, conceded that the political anxiety was so high that, even with a giant push from the White House, the idea might not fly. "This is going to be really, really heavy lifting," said Kolbe.

How the Senate Repubs might try to change the filibuster rule (and why they shouldn’t)

According to Senate rules, changing the filibuster rule should require a two-thirds vote. But in the "nuclear option," Vice President Dick Cheney, as Senate president, would rule that filibusters of judicial nominees could be ended by a simple majority…That would no doubt put the whole matter in the courts, an odd place for the Republicans - who are fighting this battle in the name of ending activist courts - to want it resolved. The Republicans would have a weak case. The Constitution expressly authorizes the Senate to "determine the rules of its proceedings." That is precisely what it has done…If it came to a vote, it is not at all clear that the Republicans would be able to command even a majority for ending the filibuster. Senators appreciate their chamber's special role, and much of its uniqueness is based on traditions like the filibuster. Senator Charles Schumer, the New York Democrat who has led the opposition to extremist judicial nominees, says as many as 10 Republican senators could vote against changing the rule.

What Goss is doing to the CIA

Tension rose with a rumor that Goss had a hit list of 80 employees and the retirement of an unusually large number of people when he took over. Following Tenet out the door were officials in charge of security clearances, personnel and recruiting, global logistical support, internal management, legislative affairs, and public affairs…Then, two weeks ago, the director of operations quit, as did his deputy, after a blowup with Goss's chief of staff, Patrick Murray, who is perceived by some longtime CIA officials as disrespectful of many people who have spent their lives there. This week the chiefs of the European and South Asia divisions "submitted their papers," according to former and current CIA officials…"The place is boiling," one longtime CIA officer said. "People think it's slash and burn."

Under Mr. Goss, it is a cadre of former House Republican aides, not Navy officers, who dominate the new management team. This month, they have toppled Mr. Kappes and his deputy, Michael Sulick, in a way that former intelligence officials say has shown little regard for the tradition-bound clandestine service which has always prized rank, experience and lines of authority…"The C.I.A. is a line organization like the military," said Christopher Mellon, a former intelligence official at the Defense Department and the Senate Intelligence Committee. "When staff guys insert themselves, that causes confusion and discontent."

Under Mr. Goss, the extent of the rebellion in the ranks is not clear. Much of the anger has been focused on a former Congressional aide, Patrick Murray, the chief of staff, who is said to have raised the hackles of some station chiefs around the world. The atmosphere has so deteriorated in the agency that some career officers have begun using derogatory nicknames for Mr. Murray and his colleagues, former intelligence officials said.

Analysis: http://fugop.blogspot.com/2004/11/ap-on-goss-purges.html

Oops! Halliburton misplaces up to a third of the government property entrusted to it (thanks to Best of the Blogs for the link)


The Plame investigation: not dead yet



The assault on reporter confidentiality


“Superfund" toxic site cleanup program: unfunded, ineffective


Sweet home Alabama

You probably missed this in the rest of the Election Day disasters, but Alabama, as it was voting overhwhelmingly for George W. Bush, also rejected an attempt to remove two frankly racist provisions of the state constitution. One would have repealed the constitutional guarantee of racial segregation in the schools, and the other would have repealed a provision (passed in reaction to Brown v. Board of Ed.) explicitly denying that Alabamians have a right to public education.

Counts, recounts, and election challenges…in Texas (thanks to Atrios for the link)

[Steve Bates] This is so disgusting I can scarcely contain myself. Former State Representative Talmadge Heflin, having lost the count, having lost the recount in his run against Hubert Vo, has decided to contest the election in the Texas House. The House is of course Republican-dominated. Its Speaker, Tom Craddick, can appoint a committee, invested with subpoena power, to investigate the matter, and he has already stated that Vo will never be seated in "his" House. In fairness, Craddick, pro forma, replaced Heflin in his committee chairmanship. But we all know where this one is going: a legitimate, demonstrable electoral victory by a Democrat is on its way to being summarily overturned by fiat. Some democracy we have here!…Vo won the election, by 32 votes... certified by our oh-so-Republican county clerk. If Vo is not seated in the House, then we have a totalitarian one-party government in Texas...a Republican "right to rule" that supersedes any popular vote to the contrary.

More statistical analyses of e-vote fraud (thanks to Megan Boler for some of these links)




Old link but I can’t resist including it here: US condemns “vote fraud and abuse”…in Ukraine


Anthony Wade on why the media have failed us on this story (thanks to Blog Left for the link)


And Todd Gitlin on why the media have failed us more generally


Karl Rove’s plan for permanent realignment


Is he succeeding?


Ugh…what an image

Aides said many other such moves will be announced, because Bush and senior adviser Karl Rove are determined to "implant their DNA throughout the government," as one official put it.

More on Bush at the Clinton library dedication: charming and gracious, as always


Education news: charter school students less likely to meet state standards


In case you heard about that Declaration of Independence controversy over the holiday


Bonus item: on Bush’s “mandate”

BLITZER: Does President Bush have a mandate to advance the Republican agenda? Twenty-nine percent of the respondents in this CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll said yes. Sixty-three percent said no.

***If you enjoy PBD and believe in what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (http://pbd.blogspot.com).

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

PBD will be on hiatus until Sunday, November 28.

Meanwhile, give thanks for the sacrifices and risks being endured by our troops overseas. I wish they had a government as brave and loyal to them as they are to it.

The Dems should start working on their version of the Contract with America, and make the GOP style of governing (secrecy, deception, cronyism, and arrogance) the issue of the campaign in 2006.

Ahhh the trials of rising in the House ranks and securing a prized chairmanship: toeing the party line, schmoozing the right lobbyists, raising money for the party, campaigning for other members, raising money for the Majority Leader's Legal Defense Fund…

Payback for those who failed to support the DeLay Rule: no dessert or committee chairmanships for you

Shays, elected in 1987, said he realizes his opposition could cost him a committee chairmanship in the next Congress…"They don't have to tell you these things,'' he said. "The people you're passing judgment on are the people who are making the decisions.''

Ronnie Earle on Tom DeLay

“[N]o member of Congress has been indicted in the investigation, and none is a target unless he or she has committed a crime. The grand jury will continue its work, abiding by the rule of law. That law requires a grand jury of citizens, not the prosecutor, to determine whether probable cause exists to hold an accused person to answer for the accusation against him or her.

Politicians in Congress are responsible for the leaders they choose. Their choices reflect their moral values…The open contempt for moral values by our elected officials has a corrosive effect. It is a sad day for law enforcement when Congress offers such poor leadership on moral values and ethical behavior. We are a moral people, and the first lesson of democracy is not to hold the public in contempt.”

Here’s a start for the Democrats’ “Contract”: #1. The Honesty in Government Act: “No provisions can be added to bills in conference committee that weren't part of one of the two original bills.”

The $388 billion spending bill approved by Congress in the last few days is a cornucopia full of money designated for specific highway projects, locks and dams, parks, libraries, airports, museums, zoos, hospitals, schools and universities in every corner of the country, from the northernmost reaches of Maine to the southern tip of Texas and the most remote islands of Hawaii…The projects are so numerous, so diverse and so scattered through the legislation that no one - not even Congressional aides responsible for the programs - knows all that has been stuffed into the bill.

The Istook amendment: watch Senator Stevens’ carefully chosen words

Sen. Ted Stevens on Monday showed reporters a handwritten legislative proposal from an IRS employee that slipped into and nearly stopped the massive appropriations bill passed by Congress this weekend…Stevens said the note proves that neither he nor any other Republican had crafted the potentially privacy-invading language…Given the speed of the work, few people, if any, had read the whole bill by the time it came to the Senate floor Saturday evening. But it was too late for amendments because the House had already passed the bill…He acknowledged that the language had entered the bill because of a "breakdown of our procedure." No senator actually looked at the language before it was inserted, he said.

[So, what’s significant here is what he DOESN’T say]

Frist apologizes for the whole mess…apologizes to ISTOOK

"I have spoken with Congressman Istook and he assures me that his office is not responsible for inclusion of the IRS provision into the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2005, the so-called omnibus bill. I regret any confusion my earlier remarks may have created."

Okay, you big phony: so if you think Istook isn’t responsible, tell us who is

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Sunday that "accountability will be carried out" against whoever slipped a provision into an omnibus spending bill…

Doubts remained yesterday over exactly how the controversial tax-return provision -- which allows Appropriations Committee chairmen or their "agents" access to Internal Revenue Service facilities or "any tax returns or return information contained therein" -- got into the omnibus spending bill late last week. House Republicans blamed committee staff aides and the IRS…Rep. Ernest J. Istook Jr. (R-Okla.), chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the IRS, denied any role…

Are we allowed to comment on how ridiculous this is?…Four days later and they can't figure out who put the thing in the bill? Just some aides, but it's not clear which ones or who they worked for, and someone at the IRS and maybe they handwrote a note and dropped it off at Rayburn and somehow it got into the bill…Really, give me a break. Give all of us a break…Which aides? At whose direction were they working? And which IRS employee and what were they asked to write? Presumably it shouldn't hard to find out the identity of the IRS employee. Just ask the mystery staffer since that he or she asked them to write it.

And look at the procedural somersaults they need to go through now to get this provision OUT of the bill before Bush signs it (but it’s “no big deal,” right?)


[NB: And by the way, check out CNN’s title: “House leaders make deal to keep tax returns private” – as if this is some great accomplishment, and not a matter of undoing their own stupid mistake]

You know, they aren’t just corrupt, dishonest, and self-serving. They’re also a mean-spirited bunch of snots

Mr. Daschle is the first Senate party leader in more than half a century to lose a re-election campaign. His emotional talk, in which he also urged his colleagues to find "common ground," was attended by nearly all of the Senate's Democrats, who gathered him in their arms and hugged him afterward.

But only a few Republicans showed up, and Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, who broke with Senate tradition to campaign against Mr. Daschle in his home state, South Dakota, did not appear until after Mr. Daschle finished speaking.

The scant Republican showing provoked Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, to speak out. "I don't know why, why in the closing days, some element of comity, some element of grace, some element of respect for a human being, could not have gotten some of our friends out of their offices," Mr. Lautenberg said.

Maureen Farrell summarizes the evidence documenting election fraud, and the stunning irresponsibility of the media in failing to cover the story. Read this and tell me it’s all just loony paranoia


The GAO intends to investigate voting irregularities (good news) the bad news is, WHEN?

The GAO said it will not investigate every charge listed by the Democrats, but will examine "the security and accuracy of voting technologies, distribution and allocation of voting machines and counting of provisional ballots."…

"We are hopeful that GAO's nonpartisan and expert analysis will get to the bottom of the flaws uncovered in the 2004 election," said a statement released by Conyers and five other members of Congress…

As part of the inquiry, the group said it will provide copies of specific incident reports received in their offices regarding the election, including more than 57,000 complaints provided to the House Judiciary Committee…Those reports include allegations of computer and voting machine problems that added votes to totals, as well as malfunctions that resulted in votes being thrown out.

"We are literally receiving additional reports every minute," said a November 5 letter from lawmakers to the GAO. "The essence of democracy is the confidence of the electorate in the accuracy of voting methods and the fairness of voting procedures.”

Republican officials challenge voting results because they don’t match exit poll data – unfortunately, this is in Ukraine, not in Ohio or Florida


Yanukovich led Yushchenko by 49.42 percent of the vote to 46.69 percent, with 99.14 percent of ballots tallied, although an exit poll released immediately after polls closed on Sunday put Yushchenko in the lead by 54 to 43 percent…"The United States is deeply concerned over the elections in Ukraine," State Department spokesman Adam Ereli told reporters. "We call on the Ukrainian authorities to curb additional abuse and fraud, to uphold its international commitments to democracy and human rights and to act to ensure an outcome that reflects the will of the Ukrainian people.

A recount the GOP likes


But that’s not all. Sit down, take a calming breath, and then read this

At the same time, the Texas Republicans' hotshot election lawyer Andy Taylor -- the guy who handled the redistricting business for Craddick and DeLay -- is representing Heflin and tossing around charges of voter fraud…Taylor's presence makes Democrats understandably suspicious about whether Craddick and Co. have really given up on the thought of trying to seat Heflin by any means necessary…And here's how they'd do it.

Under Texas law, in addition to asking for a recount, Heflin can challenge the validity of the election by filing an official challenge with the secretary of state. Based on that challenge Speaker Craddick would appoint a member of the House as a "special master" to investigate the election. If that 'investigation' finds irregularities and fraud, as Andy Taylor is already alleging, they order that a new election be held -- effectively invalidating the results of the election…Needless to say, the Texas state House is now in Republican hands. So what all of that means is that Tom DeLay's local sub-boss, Speaker Craddick, gets to decide whether Hubert Vo's election gets tossed out on the basis of spurious charges of 'irregularities' and 'voter fraud.'

Of course, these are just the things Craddick could do if he chose. For Craddick and DeLay and the rest of them to actually try pulling this off would be amazingly bold and brazen…But, then, look who we're talking about ...

Typical gobbledygook: Rumsfeld denies undermining Intelligence Bill, says he supports Bush’s position, but also says that position is “evolving”

"I support the president's position," he said…Rumsfeld said the president's position was evolving as the details of the bill are being worked out…"It looks like the House and Senate are having a typical conference where you have a lot of differences, and they've been sorting through those and kind of working their way along," he said.

[T]he nation's top military officer stood by his opposition to a key provision that would shift budget authority over defense intelligence agencies from the defense secretary to a new national intelligence director.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday that the White House knew of a Pentagon letter that criticized key aspects of a now-stalled bill to revamp the nation's intelligence community. House Republicans who blocked the legislation said the comments bolster their claim that the administration's support of the measure has been tepid at best, and that prospects for a breakthrough are not strong.

Asked by reporters if he was aware last month that Gen. Richard B. Myers was planning to send lawmakers a letter endorsing House GOP opposition to major points in the Senate version of the bill, Rumsfeld replied: "Not only was I, but the White House was. I mean, we had discussed this matter internally."…

Rumsfeld said he stands with Bush in calling for the bill's passage. But his comments about Myers's letter -- which the White House has never disavowed -- appeared to undermine administration claims that Bush and Vice President Cheney have fought for passage of the measure, which would create a director of national intelligence.

“Evolving” but “unchanged”: what a bunch of nonsense

In Crawford, Tex., a White House spokeswoman said that Mr. Bush's stance remained unchanged...

One example of Bush’s “evolving” position: now, in the middle of all this debate, he calls for an EXPANSION of Pentagon covert activities

"I have heard it said that there is a conspiracy within the Department of Defense to go and rip off the agency's capabilities, and I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth," Mr. O'Connell said.

The idea of transferring paramilitary authority from the intelligence agency to the Pentagon was among several fundamental changes that the Sept. 11 panel proposed in the summer. In public testimony in August, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and John E. McLaughlin, who was the acting intelligence chief, expressed reservations about the idea, and the recommendation was not included in the measures that Congress set aside over the weekend…

Some officials said they believed that civilians in the Pentagon, including the under secretary of defense for intelligence, Stephen A. Cambone, had pressed for the interagency review as part of a quest for a wider role for the Pentagon and the military services in intelligence and counterterrorism.

Bush also, vaguely, calls for expansion of the CIA but offers no money or timetable: this is all just more smoke and steam to cover up their abject failure to support the Intelligence Bill


Rumsfeld 101: how a Master Liar operates. Rummy tries to pooh-pooh the Air Force procurement scandal – it’s all just an unfortunate mistake caused by staffing problems. Watch his lips move – and check out that quintessential photo


Remember “A.Q. Khan,” the example Bush raised repeatedly during the debates as proof of the success of his anti-terror policies?

A new report from the Central Intelligence Agency says the arms trafficking network led by the Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan provided Iran's nuclear program with "significant assistance," including the designs for "advanced and efficient" weapons components…American intelligence agencies now believe that the bomb-making designs provided by the network to Iran in the 1990's were more significant than the United States government has previously disclosed.

In a recent closed-door speech to a private group, George J. Tenet, the former director of central intelligence, described Mr. Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, as being "at least as dangerous as Osama bin Laden" because of his role in providing nuclear technology to other countries…

Mr. Khan remains in Pakistan, where he was pardoned last year by President Pervez Musharraf.

Some good questions for Bush on the future of Iraq


And here’s another one: why are you and Rumsfeld too busy to at least handwrite your own signatures on letters to the families of those killed? (Or are there just too many of them for you to keep up with?)


US now talking about keeping troops in Iraq until 2010 (yet another post-election surprise)


Growing pressure on US to set a withdrawal date (NOT 2010)


New CSIS study: things in Iraq are…NOT…getting…better


You can have “elections” on January 30, or you can have legitimate and fair elections; you can’t have both


Iraq's interim defense minister was quoted by an Arabic-language newspaper Tuesday as saying he cannot guarantee the safety of voters or candidates in the country's elections scheduled for January 30…"You ask me as defense minister, will I be able to provide safety for candidates and voters? I say no, I have no plan until now…The Iraqi citizen doesn't know what elections are and doesn't know who the candidates are or who the voter is."

What the rest of the world thinks of the US right now, and how they will let us know it

In my view, we are about to be taught a lesson by a world that wants America to be tethered down. And the world is going to hit America where it has a serious blindspot at the moment -- on the economic front. We are on our way to becoming a much poorer, on relative terms, superpower with the Chinese, Japanese and Europeans using currency management and debt dependency to constrain our options.

And on the proposed shell game to cover Social Security costs, a little Economics 101


Paul Krugman, who actually is an economist, has an even scarier warning: We're turning into Argentina. In an interview, Krugman told Reuters he's most concerned Bush will ignore the advice of economists and push through more tax cuts while also trying to privatize Social Security. 'If you go back and you look at the sources of the blow-up of Argentine debt during the 1990s, one little-appreciated thing is that social security privatization was a important source of that expansion of debt,' said Krugman. 'So if you ask the question do we look like Argentina, the answer is a whole lot more than anyone is quite willing to admit at this point. We've become a banana republic.'"

David Noreen, one of our readers, offers a nice seminar on what “off budget” means

What your remarks made me realize is that there are many
different meanings for the term "off-budget".

(1) I immediately thought of G.W.'s father getting rid of the
whole Savings & Loan trillions in losses by making them
disappear "off-budget", without their ever appearing in the
figures for the National Debt.

(2) The example that you mentioned, funding for the Iraq War,
however, is also "off-budget", because it was done in terms of
Supplemental Appropriations. However, since the money is still
appropriated (albeit Supplementally), it still is recorded and
counts against the national debt. It seems like Congress uses
this scheme a lot, because it gets around budgeting rules and
makes it look like it represents "emergency expenditures" that
simply couldn't be foreseen, etc. (Yeah, right! -- Who could
have ever guessed the Iraq War would actually have to be paid
for! ;-) )…

(3) There is yet another category of expenditures that never
seems to appear anywhere. A show on the History Channel last
night estimated that some $30 to $40 billion is spent annually
on "black projects" that include funding for what goes on in
research and security at Area 51, for example, yet there
obviously is no line item for this, at least that anyone seems
to know about…

Anyway, back when Bush 41 was in office, I remember
reading that he was going to take care of the Savings & Loan
losses by issuing bonds, but that he was going to do it
"off-budget" so that it wouldn't count against his
already-record-breaking deficits…

According to several of Al Martin's columns, what Bush
actually did was raid the 44 different U.S. Government trust
funds. (The Social Security trust fund is probably the most
well-known of these 44 funds; the others include such things
as oil and gas revenue held in trust for Native American
reservations, etc.) As Martin explains it, Bush 41 took the
U.S. Government negotiable securities (like U.S. treasury
bonds, for example) that were held in those trust funds and
replaced them with non-negotiable securities…Bush 41 then used the
negotiable securities that he raided to pay off the Savings &
Loan losses and other expenditures that represented money he
had chosen to spend that exceeded what had been appropriated
by Congress.

[NB: Like father, like son]

And what does all this phony budgeting mean for the future?

Stephen Roach, the chief economist at investment banking giant Morgan Stanley, has a public reputation for being bearish…But you should hear what he's saying in private.

Roach met select groups of fund managers downtown last week, including a group at Fidelity…His prediction: America has no better than a 10 percent chance of avoiding economic "armageddon."…

Roach sees a 30 percent chance of a slump soon and a 60 percent chance that ``we'll muddle through for a while and delay the eventual armageddon.''…The chance we'll get through OK: one in 10. Maybe.

In a nutshell, Roach's argument is that America's record trade deficit means the dollar will keep falling. To keep foreigners buying T-bills and prevent a resulting rise in inflation, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan will be forced to raise interest rates further and faster than he wants.

Wow. Roach sounds as if he’s channeling Paul Krugman, who today called the U.S. a “banana republic”…OK. So Roach is a notorious bear. And I’m sure Harry Dent will take him to the woodshed. But even Dent says that after 2008 or maybe 2010 we’re in for a 15-year-long crash.

New 15-year study on criminal sentencing: evidence of racial, ethnic (and gender) bias



Jessica Wilson on the shameful caving by the “liberal” media to the Bush Co. party line


And Michael Massing on their pathetic Iraq reporting


And Stephen Pizzo on their superficial economics reporting


Bonus item: David Meyer on the bad news for Bush buried in the recent NYT poll: proof that people had no idea what they were voting for, and certainly no “mandate”

"Nearly two-thirds of all respondents - including 51 percent of Republicans - said it was more important to reduce deficits than to cut taxes," "a majority continue to say they want [abortion] to remain either legal as it is now... or to be legal but under stricter limits," "a majority continue to support allowing either same-sex marriages or legally recognized domestic partnerships for gay people," "nearly a fifth said [Bush's tax cuts] had done more harm [than good], and just under half said the tax cuts had made little difference," "45 percent said a proposal to permit people to invest their Social Security withholding money in private accounts was a bad idea," and "51 percent said that Mr. Bush was unlikely to 'make sure Social Security benefits are there for people like me.'"

***If you enjoy PBD and believe in what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (http://pbd.blogspot.com).

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


Still pushing the Istook scandal, and still marveling that the serious media is mostly ignoring the story, except for CNN’s “something happened, but we don’t know what it really was, and here’s a string of quotes from people saying what they think about it” style of coverage. If not for Josh Marshall, this outrageous story would already be fading away



Istook denies he had anything to do with it, blames the IRS

The IRS says, “no way”

At the very least, this story reveals what happens under one-party government, where a few hand-picked people can hide in a room, make decisions, and share them with no one else until the time comes for the majority to ratify them in a vote where no one has actually read or debated the provisions. WHERE ARE THE DEMOCRATS ON THIS ISSUE?

For the moment, set aside the civil liberties and privacy issues raised by the Istook Amendment. What does it say about the majority's management of the legislative process in Congress at present that it's been two and half days since this line item was discovered and no one has been able to determine who wrote it or who put it in the bill?

More: http://www.salon.com/politics/war_room/archive.html?blog=/politics/war_room/2004/11/22/congress/index.html

Lies, lies, lies

[Tom DeLay] "Frankly, the media is making a lot out of nothing. I did not know it was in the bill. My staff usually catches these kinds of things, but it was one sentence and we missed it."

The Times has a brief piece on the Istook Amendment. But they hit on the key point early, if a tad obliquely: Rep. Istook changed his story from Sunday to Monday…On Sunday Istook explained that the tax-snooping language was basically innocuous. But, as the Times notes, he made no attempt to deny his responsibility for the language in the bill, even though the claim that he was behind the provision had been included in numerous press accounts…Only on Monday did he make any claim that he wasn't involved at all.

Oh, and by the way, a reminder about the anti-abortion provision also slipped in

"Also included in [i.e., slipped in furtively into] the final [omnibus spending] bill was a major provision barring states from enforcing laws that require health care providers, hospitals, HMOs or insurers to pay for, provide or give referrals for abortion."…California, Massachusetts, Illinois, New York -- none of them can make their own reproductive rights policy.

And something GOOD buried in the bill, a cut-off of funding for “mini-nukes” (but this is still no way to run a government)


Still more on the DeLay Rule: how it was “voted on” in secret session, and why here again no one is being very specific about how the decision was made and who is accountable for it

One of the fringe benefits of the DeLay Rule brouhaha is that it has exposed the sheer level of disorganization, absenteeism and management deficiency that seems to prevail in the 230+ offices that make up the House Republican caucus. Again and again, TPM-reader-constituents would tell us that for days on end staffers were unable to make contact with their given representative. In other cases, messages to contact him or her to find out their vote on the DeLay Rule would again and again go missing. Equally troubling, in many offices the staffer authorized to comment on the DeLay Rule would be 'away from his/her desk' or 'at lunch' for days on end.

Some reports that DeLay won’t be indicted after all



That Ronnie Earle, he’s no shrinking violet

"The thinly veiled personal attacks on me by Mr. DeLay's supporters in this case are no different from those in the cases of any of the 15 elected officials this office has prosecuted in my 27-year tenure."…And a line that might serve well as a choice quote just below the title on the first page of some future biography of Tom DeLay: "There is no limit to what you can do if you have the power to change the rules."

More on the failed Intelligence Bill. It is becoming more and more clear that Bush didn’t really try very hard to get it passed. And for all the hand-wringing, there are still enough votes to pass it, with Democratic support – so why isn’t it coming up for a vote? Read the Hastert aide’s quote, a real jaw-dropper

When assessing blame for House Republicans’ scuttling of the intelligence bill, it’s important not to get suckered into thinking that this all comes down to the intransigence of two powerful committee chairmen, Duncan Hunter and James Sensenbrenner. The president’s expressed "disappointment" needs to be considered in the context of his original foot-dragging on the matter of intelligence reform legislation (not to say his initial opposition to the 9/11 commission that inspired the reform bill) and of the lackadaisical quality of his recent intervention into the conference negotiation process…One phone call to a congressman does not exactly amount to a robust demonstration of the power of the presidency. And it pales in comparison to the lobbying that Bush and co. routinely engage in when they’re really determined to pass something…

As Sheryl Gay Stolberg puts it in the Times today, “[m]embers of both parties, and independent analysts, said Sunday that they had no doubt Congress would have passed the measure had President Bush flexed his muscle.” But with at least one of his top administration officials -- Donald Rumsfeld -- openly opposing the legislation and likely more officials quietly advising Bush on the matter, the president wasn’t about to flex his muscle. All he needed to do was let the bill die, then furrow his brow in concern…Stolberg’s piece seems to indicate that the House GOP leadership's hearts weren't in this legislation, either. Even if Dennis Hastert and Tom DeLay had been strong personal supporters of the bill, however, their aversion to reaching out for Democratic support would apparently have trumped all other considerations. After all, the official reason offered by Hastert's spokesman for the Speaker's decision not to bring the bill to a vote is rather bracing in its open admission that the Democrats simply don't count to the GOP leadership, even when their votes would ensure the passage of a bill the leadership insists it supports:

In the House, the leadership probably could have cobbled together a coalition of Democrats and Republicans to muster the 218 votes necessary for passage…."I am convinced that had the speaker brought the bill to the floor, it would have passed," Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and chief author of the measure, said in an interview on Sunday. "That's what's so frustrating. Here we have a bill that's been endorsed by the White House, by the 9/11 commission, by the 9/11 family groups, by the speaker of the House, and we can't get a vote."

But Mr. Hastert did not want to split his caucus and did not want the bill to pass with less than ''a majority of the majority," said his spokesman, John Feehery. "What good is it to pass something," Mr. Feehery said, "where most of our members don't like it?"

Key legislators on opposite sides of the deadlocked effort to reorganize the nation's intelligence community said yesterday that they will not compromise their positions to give Congress a chance to pass the measure at a special two-day session early next month.

A number of Congressional Republicans and members of the Sept. 11 commission called on President Bush on Monday to force Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and his military commanders to offer public support for a bill, blocked by House Republicans, that would overhaul the way government spy agencies gather and share intelligence…They said that Mr. Bush, who has vowed to revive the bill, also needed to put pressure on a handful of House members aligned with the Pentagon who defied the president over the weekend and blocked a final vote on the legislation.

No, Jane

Um, who can see what's wrong with the stated reaction of Democrat (and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee) Jane Harman to the Republicans' scuttling of the intelligence reform bill? This one's easy:

"If there is another major terrorist attack on our soil -- and sadly, there will likely be one -- we will have only ourselves to blame. Congress had a chance to protect America, and Congress failed."

No, "we" are not to blame. "Congress" -- in the sense of the Democrats and Republicans that comprise the U.S. House of Representatives -- isn't to blame, either. House Republicans are to blame for this…

Nancy Pelosi gets it…

When the 9/11 Commission issued its recommendations, it did so with urgency. But that urgency was never matched by House Republicans, who did not want the 9/11 Commission in the first place, and who never truly wanted to pass a meaningful reform bill…Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the White House, and the blame for this failure is theirs alone.

Okay, David Noreen told me this would happen, and I didn’t believe it. I STILL don’t believe it. Bush now wants to take the massive Social Security transition costs off the budget, to hide his own ballooning deficit. This cannot stand

President Bush isn't likely to include costs for overhauling Social Security in the 2006 budget he presents to Congress in February, which some supporters say could hurt the White House drive to pass bipartisan legislation next year…

Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), the incoming chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said concerns about the deficit should not be allowed to stand in the way of an overhaul that would put the ailing Social Security system on the path to solvency...Gregg's thinking mirrors sentiments within the White House, according to administration officials and White House advisers. "The budget should reflect that this is an investment, a down payment that will have very positive implications," said White House spokesman Trent Duffy…

"We're entering the theater of the absurd, where you spend money, but it doesn't count, you borrow money, but you deny it," said Kent Conrad (N.D.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee. "Republicans are becoming further and further detached from reality."

To cope with the cost, while still helping the White House at least appear to be moving toward its goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2009, White House and congressional budget experts are looking at a variety of accounting mechanisms…They include treating the cost of Social Security reform not as a present-day expenses, but more as a prepaid benefit for future retirees that should not be counted against current deficits. Or they may take the costs "off-budget," meaning Social Security spending would not be included in the calculation of the annual budget deficit…"How they label it is going to be somewhat of an exercise in creative budgeting," Tanner said.

Some “mandate.” Americans still don’t support Bush agenda

Americans are at best ambivalent about Mr. Bush's plans to reshape Social Security, rewrite the tax code, cut taxes and appoint conservative judges to the bench. There is continuing disapproval of Mr. Bush's handling of the war in Iraq, with a plurality now saying it was a mistake to invade Baghdad the first place.

More Americans still think the country is going in the wrong direction and Bush is too cozy with business and the economy is not good and the war in Iraq was a mistake than have favorable opinions on these issues. Bush was about as beatable as it gets. Forget all the soul searching and navel gazing and moral values analysis; we lost because we nominated a man that the majority of voters didn't trust and didn't like and they were not entirely wrong.

Goss is damaging the CIA. It’s as simple as that


The failure of Fallujah: who has the courage to say so?


In Iraq: this upcoming “vote” is going to be a travesty

Iraqi officials and American commanders plan to rely on Iraqi security forces to protect 9,000 polling places during the coming elections, but there are far fewer trained security officers than Iraqi officials estimate are needed. Moreover, many have performed poorly in the Sunni Arab areas where the worst violence is expected…

Security is crucial to ensuring the legitimacy of the elections in Iraq, particularly in Baghdad and the so-called Sunni triangle north and west of the capital, which includes the cities of Falluja and Ramadi. If violence depresses turnout, it will be easier for Sunni voters or other Iraqis to challenge the results…In recent weeks, about 90 of more than 540 registration centers around the country have been closed because of potential violence.

More troops, or fewer? Looks like Bush will have to make a decision on this one, with perils either way



November the worst month for US deaths in a year and a half – and have you read this figure anywhere before today?


[Michael Kinsley] Has there ever before been a war that so many people disapproved of but so few wanted to stop? Have the reasons for starting a war ever been so thoroughly discredited without turning into reasons for ending it?

The Vietnam-era antiwar movement had an agenda: Bring the troops home. Or, in two words — suitable for a picket sign or a T-shirt — "Out now."

What seems to be today's antiwar position — it was a terrible mistake and it's a terrible mess, but we can't just walk away from it — was actually the pro-war position during Vietnam. In fact, it was close to official government policy for more than half the length of that war.

Today's antiwar cause doesn't even have a movement, to speak of, let alone an agenda. It consists of perhaps 47% of the citizenry — the ones who voted for John Kerry — who are in some kind of existential opposition to the war but don't know what they want to do about it.

Meanwhile, U.S. soldiers die by the hundreds and Iraqis — military and civilian — by the thousands in a cause these people (and I'm one of them) believe to be a horrible mistake...

Kevin Sites writes about the Marine video he shot, and responses to it


In Iran, US has a new worry: what if European intervention actually works?

But instead of claiming success for pressuring the Iranians to agree to the suspension, Bush almost seemed disappointed at the news


Sources close to the Bush administration have warned that British Prime Minister Tony Blair will have to choose between the E.U.'s pursuit of the diplomatic track and a more hard-line approach from the White House. While President Bush clearly favors more stick and less carrot, it is not yet clear what the stick might be: U.S. administration sources say targeted airstrikes -- by either the U.S. or Israel -- aimed at wiping out Iran's fledgling nuclear program would be difficult because of a lack of clear intelligence about where key components are located.

Does it really matter who’s in Bush’s Cabinet?


The consequences of rampant privatization

Except, the current trend in government is precisely the opposite -- to take things out of the public sector and move them to the private. For decades, privatization enthusiasts, such as the Reason Public Policy Institute and the Mackinac Center, have been engaged in a full-bore campaign to persuade us that private is better than public. In the Bush administration, such enthusiasts have some of the strongest support they've ever had…But privatization has a dark underbelly that the public is only now becoming aware of. We see glimpses of this in the ongoing investigations into fraud, profiteering, misfeasance…

For example, what happens when government agencies aren’t independent enough from corporate influences to provide adequate review and oversight? Create new agencies to oversee the ones that aren’t doing their job


Speaking of ineffective government agencies: the wrong Powell quit


Steve Freeman revises his definitive study of exit-poll discrepancies


Bad demographic news

In this month's election, President Bush carried 97 of the nation's 100 fastest-growing counties, most of them "exurban" communities that are rapidly transforming farmland into subdivisions and shopping malls on the periphery of major metropolitan areas…Together, these fast-growing communities provided Bush a punishing 1.72 million vote advantage over Democrat John F. Kerry, according to a Times analysis of election results. That was almost half the president's total margin of victory.

Bonus item: US-style democracy reigns in the Ukraine

The Los Angeles Times and New York Times lead with the democracy showdown in the Ukraine, where the official results say Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych won—but there's widespread evidence the count was cooked. Republican Senator Richard Lugar, who led a U.S. delegation to check out the vote, described a "concerted and forceful program of election-day fraud and abuse." A range of independent (and apparently trustworthy) exit polls suggest the real winner is the reformer and pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko. Tens of thousands of protestors have taken to the streets of Kiev demanding a recount…In response to the protestors in the capital, the Ukrainian government channeled Orwell: "We want to assure everyone that in the event of any threat to constitutional order and the security of our citizens, we are prepared to put an end quickly and firmly to any lawlessness." Prime Minister Yanukovych said he has been asked to crack down "by many Ukrainian mothers to prevent street disorders where their children may get hurt." Russian President Putin is buddies with Yanukovych and called to congratulate him on his faux-success—before the vote count had finished, notes a Post editorial. "The battle had been hard-fought," Putin cooed, "but open and honest, and his victory was convincing."

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