Sunday, July 30, 2006


Still no Bloglines access. I hope to be back in operation Monday.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


PBD has been delayed due to travel. Now Bloglines is down. I hope to resume on Sunday the 30th.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


What doesn’t get said,0,1103972.story
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki promised Congress today that the war on terrorism would be won, but he ducked the issue that nearly caused some lawmakers to boycott his speech — his previous support for the militant group Hezbollah in its battle with Israel in Lebanon. . . Maliki did not say a word about the two week-old conflict in Lebanon between Israel and Hezbollah. Instead, he stuck with guaranteed applause lines about his determination that American sacrifices in Iraq would not be in vain, and that a democratic regime would replace the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. . . "The fate of our country and yours is tied," the Iraqi leader asserted to a cheering Congress.
Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and his Dawa party have deeper ties to the Hezbollah leadership than has surfaced in recent reporting on his visit to the White House . . .

Did the White House write Maliki's speech to Congress?

Mission creep
[Dan Froomkin] President Bush and national security adviser Stephen Hadley yesterday for the first time publicly acknowledged the momentous shift in the role for U.S. troops in Iraq, from fighting terrorists to trying to suppress religious violence. . . [I]t's a historic admission: That job one for many American troops in Iraq is no longer fighting al-Qaeda terrorists, or even insurgents. Rather, it is trying to quell an incipient -- if not already raging -- sectarian civil war, with Baghdad as ground zero. . .

As things stand now, an overwhelming majority of the American public no longer supports Bush's handling of the war, which they think was a mistake in the first place. A majority wants American troops to start coming home soon. What unqualified support there is for the war seems to come from people who believe it is central front in the war on terror.

But how will people feel about our troops being sent into the crossfire between rival Muslim sects? That is not the war anyone signed up to fight. . .
[Steve Benen] Remember six weeks ago, when Iraqi and Bush administration officials announced a new plan to bring some stability to Baghdad? It failed. But don't worry; there's a new plan. . . Stephen Hadley, Bush's national security advisor, said the new plan is really just "phase two" of the original plan. The New York Times noted, however, that "there was no Phase II in the previous plan."

"This is more like Plan B," one of Hadley's associated conceded. "Six weeks ago, we were talking about pulling American troops back from the city streets, not putting more of them out there." . . . [read on]
[Matt Yglesias] Bush & Maliki announce new Baghdad security plan. Henley and Crowley note a suspicious similarity to the "new" Baghdad security plan launched five or six weeks ago. That plan, in turn, was seemingly the same as April's "second liberation of Baghdad" and so on and so forth. . .
[Greg Djerejian] Will ink-blotting Baghdad make the difference? I doubt it, frankly. What we see here is a perfect encapsulation of the entire flawed war strategy. Reactive, not proactive, temporarily pulling forces from already volatile regions to ones that have become even more volatile, and therefore failing to conclusively prevail in either--basically too little, too late. Or the Rumsfeld Doctrine, if you will: "just enough troops to lose". . .


It’s fruitless but it‘s the right thing to do: the Democrats demand that the CIA produce a new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. These are the questions the Bush gang doesn’t want to have to answer:
[Andrew Sullivan] [Rumsfeld's] detachment from his own responsibility is breathtaking. The glibness with which he describes the mass slaughter of innocents in a country whose security he is responsible for is astonishing. . .

Q: Is the country closer to a civil war?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, I don't know. You know, I thought about that last night, and just musing over the words, the phrase, and what constitutes it. If you think of our Civil War, this is really very different. If you think of civil wars in other countries, this is really quite different. There is - there is a good deal of violence in Baghdad and two or three other provinces, and yet in 14 other provinces there's very little violence or numbers of incidents. So it's a - it's a highly concentrated thing. It clearly is being stimulated by people who would like to have what could be characterized as a civil war and win it, but I'm not going to be the one to decide if, when or at all.


“America is totally alone” (thanks to Laura Rozen for the link)
[Eric Umansky] As expected, little happened at the yesterday's brief diplomatic confab in Rome, where Secretary of State Rice put the kibosh on the "entreaties of nearly all of her European and Arab counterparts" to push for an immediate ceasefire. The Post notes that U.N. chief Kofi Annan proposed an alternative platform calling for a "pause" in the fighting, but the measure was "blocked by intense U.S. pressure."
[Marc Lynch] I don't know anyone who will be surprised that the Rome conference failed - it seems to have been designed to fail, to give the US the chance to appear to be "doing something" while giving Israel the time it wants to continue its offensive. But this policy is so transparent, such an obvious stalling mechanism, that it is probably making things even worse for the United States and for Israel: when you are faking it, you're supposed to at least try to maintain the pretence so that others can at least pretend to believe you. The call for an immediate ceasefire has become more or less universal now, other than from the United States and Israel: even the pro-American Arab states like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, which initially blamed Hezbollah for the crisis, are now loudly demanding an immediate ceasefire.

America is totally alone on this. And more than most Americans might realize, America is being blamed for Israel's actions. The shift in Arab public discourse over the last week has been palpable . . . the main trend has been unmistakable: an increasing focus on the United States as the villain of the piece. (That the Israeli bombing of Beirut stopped just long enough for Condoleezza Rice's photo op certainly didn't help.)

While there's disagreement as to whether Israel acted on behalf of an American project, there is near-consensus about American responsibility for not stopping what al-Jazeera is now calling "the sixth [Arab-Israeli] war". . . .

No. This wasn't inevitable. Real American leadership, such as quickly restraining the Israeli offensive and taking the lead in ceasefire negotiations, could have created a Suez moment and dramatically increased American influence and prestige (especially if the Saudis had delivered Iran in a ceasefire agreement, as I've heard that Saudi officials believed that they could). But by disappearing for the first days of the war and then resurfacing only to provide a megaphone for Israeli arguments and to prevent international efforts at achieving a ceasefire, the Bush administration put America at the center of the storm of blame. I think that the Lebanon war will go down in history as one of the greatest missed opportunities in recent American diplomatic history - not because we failed to go after Iran, or whatever the bobbleheads are ranting about these days, but because we failed to rise to the occasion and exercise real global leadership in the national interest.

One other thing. I've always been an advocate of public diplomacy, but let's be real: no public diplomacy in the world could overcome the fiasco which is America's policy. But even now I think that an actual attempt to explain America's position to the Arab media might have both made some slight difference in shaping Arab arguments and given American officials a stronger sense of how their rhetoric was playing in the Arab world. That feedback might have helped Rice avoid her steady string of disasters in the region, including her expressed surprise at the extent of destruction in Beirut and her spectacularly ill-considered formulation of the violence giving birth to a new Middle East (no single American remark thus far has earned more enraged scorn). But the Bush administration has completely punted on public diplomacy, demonstrating absolute contempt for Arab attitudes - it didn't even send officials on to relatively friendly environments like al-Arabiya - and now it's far too late. "Winning Arab and Muslim hearts and minds" has gone on the trash heap alongside "American promotion of Arab democracy" for the foreseeable future. If the Bush administration has any alternative grand strategy in mind, it's carefully concealing its hand.
[Digby] I have said it before many times and I'll say it again: the neocons have always been wrong about everything. This is just the latest in a decades long series of delusional miscalculations in which it is fantasized that if only the US would just get tough everything would fall into place. This is the simple essence of everything they believe in. And when they found themselves an empty brand name in a suit named George W. Bush they found the man whose infantile personality and outsized vanity could be manipulated perfectly to advance that belief.

The situation in Lebanon requires American leadership and we have failed miserably to provide it. The various players are engaged in a struggle in which minimizing loss of life and face saving kabuki may be the best we can hope for at any given time. The megalomaniacal belief that if only the Israelis are allowed to "get tough" or the Americans "take it to the Iranians" or whatever other simplistic schoolyard impulses they have been operating under have led us to the point at which the US is taking on the character of a rogue superpower, not a global leader.

I maintain that the players in the mid-east expected the US to exercise its power wisely and the American failure to fulfill its obligation has led to confusion, overreach and miscalculation. This is not surprising. The bumbling, hallucinatory nature of this administration's foreign policy has been manifest for some time now, but it's still hard to wrap your mind around the fact that the most powerful country in the world is being led so incompetently that it simply cannot rise to the occasion when the stakes are so high. I confess that I'm still shocked by that myself, although less so each time we are confronted with a challenge and these neocon magical thinkers automatically default to bellicose trash talk they are unable to back up.

This is a very dangerous moment for the world. The US is showing over and over again that it is immoral and incompetent. That is the kind of thing that leads ambitious, crazy or stupid people to miscalculate and set disastrous events in motion. The neocons have destroyed America's carefully nurtured mystique by seeking to flex its muscles for the sake of flexing them. What a mistake. This country is much, much weaker today because of it and the world is paying the price. At some point I have to imagine that we are going to be paying it too. Big Time.
[Reuters] Distaste for America runs so deep that, for example, at the recent World Cup in Germany the American team was the only one asked not to display its national flag on the team bus. In South Korea, traditionally a U.S. ally, two-thirds of people under 30 said in a recent poll that if there were war between North Korea and the United States, they would side with North Korea.

"Anti-Americanism runs deeper and is qualitatively different than in the past, when it was largely attributable to unpopular U.S. policies," Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, says in a new book on the subject, "America Against the World." . . .


And we are nowhere near seeing the end of Bush’s military adventures . . .
A majority of Americans believe the battles now being fought across the Israel–Lebanon border are the beginnings of a wider conflict – one that could result in a war that spans the globe . . .


Iran? I think they would have open revolt in the country (and in the military) if they tried – but there’s no doubt that many in the Bush gang want to do it (thanks to Susan Madrak for the link)

The politics of all this: Rovism at its most cynical – the country is mired in terrible and bloody entanglements, with only more of the same ahead, but it's OKAY because the Democrats aren’t likely to make headway against it
At home, political strategists said, Bush faces the perception that he is presiding over one brushfire after another, hindered in his efforts to advance a positive agenda at a time when Republican control of Congress appears at risk. . . The escalation of killing in Iraq may have unraveled any chance of major U.S. troop withdrawals before the elections. And the conversation is now dominated by rockets flying in and out of southern Lebanon. . .

The White House sees the risk but is banking, in part, on the Democrats' history of not capitalizing on such moments.

How can a party survive in power after this?
[MSNBC] According to the poll, 65 percent say they feel less confident that life for their children's generation will be better than it was for them. In December 2001, the last time this question was asked, respondents — by a 49-42 percent margin — said they were confident life would be better for their children.

In addition, only 27 percent think the country is headed in the right direction . . And among those who believe that the nation is headed on the wrong track, a whopping 81 percent believe it's part of a longer-term decline and that things won't get better for some time.

The Bush gang’s proposed revisions to their military tribunals for Guantanamo prisoners – stop me if this is a shock to you – changes NOTHING of much substance in what they have been doing all along (they just want Congress to endorse it)

Some day they will tabulate all the corruption and insider dealing around Homeland Security, War on Terror, and Iraq war and reconstruction boondoggles, and find it the greatest rip-off of govt funds in history

Destabilizing another part of the world: India to build even more nukes, with US approval

More Condi-bashing
[Digby] I think Condi Rice is a bad Secretary of State, but not for those reasons. She's a bad Secretary of State because she is loyal to a delusional moron and can't contain the crazies like those who are speaking in that article. If she really is some sort of dovish appeaser, she certainly has been ineffectual. She has been, after all, the National Security Advisor and Secretary of State for the last five years of non-stop warfare.


Arlen Specter’s bill on presidential signing statements? Actually, it looks pretty good – but fellow Republicans are determined to strangle it in the crib
[Congressional Quarterly] [O]pposition from other Republicans means that Arlen Specter will have a difficult time making legislative headway in his latest move to counter executive powers assumed by the Bush White House.

But conservatives on Specter's own panel quickly lined up behind Bush on the issue. "I don't see what the problem is,'' said John Cornyn, R-Texas.

Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., a member of the panel who also chairs the Republican Study Committee, said signing statements are a valuable tool for the White House to use to clarify legislation. . .

[Steve Benen] If there's any good news here, it's that Republicans might go Specter's bill — as long as Bush is exempted.

[F]ormer Rep. Mickey Edwards, R-Okla. (1977-93), who was a member of the ABA task force, said Republican leaders are unlikely to move Specter's bill unless its effective date is delayed until at least 2009. . . "Otherwise," Edwards said, "people will say this is a way to embarrass the president."

[S.B.] Yes, we'll have to stop this nefarious practice … just as soon as Bush is finished trashing the place.

Full text:

John McCain, maverick no more
[Paul Kiel] In response to questions from Congressional Quarterly about whether he would support Sen. Arlen Specter's (R-PA) bill to counter the President's use of "signing statements," McCain said this: “I think the president will enforce the law." . . .

The point of the signing statement, of which Bush has made unprecedented use, is for the President to declare that he will not enforce part or all of a law. . . McCain knows this -- Bush used the gambit to gut the Vietnam War veteran's own torture ban legislation. . .

Lots more:

John Bolton’s UN confirmation hearings begin: here’s your background briefing


No surprise here: the GOP Congress is impeding investigation into Duke Cunningham’s network of corruption

Michael Steele, Republican candidate for the Senate in Maryland, gives a brutally honest interview (anonymously) about the difficulties Republican candidates are facing this fall. When his identity gets revealed, what does he say? “Just kidding”
[Paul Kiel] But it gets even better. . . Backpedaling furiously, Steele also said this morning that the interview with Milbank and other reporters was supposed to be off the record. That would mean that Milbank wasn't supposed to quote his remarks, anonymously or otherwise.

But it turns out that's just not true. Steele appears to be lying through his teeth. As Milbank clearly stated in his piece, Steele spoke to reporters "under the condition that he be identified only as a GOP Senate candidate."

This afternoon I contacted Milbank to find out what happened and he confirmed that the meeting, done over lunch, was not off the record. . . .

Maybe “R” is the new Scarlet Letter after all
Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.), who is in charge of keeping Congress in GOP hands this fall, surprised the political establishment yesterday by airing an early television advertisement that made no mention of his party affiliation. . .


The new subliminal style of political reporting – and how it is profoundly corrupting to a truly independent and critical press
[Matt Yglesias] [Time’s Mike Allen]... said that news writers are trying to present both sides' points-of-view, hence the 'he said, she said' quality to it, but that they're trying to present these points-of-view in such a way so that a discerning reader can tell who's right based on reading the story. . . [read on]

Theocracy watch: the kindest thing you can say is that this is a shameless, cynical move by CNN to pander to the religious yahoo audience. Anything else you might say goes downhill from there. . .

Bonus item: the fundamental dishonesty, and incoherence, of the GOP's “the fetus (or embryo) is a person” discourse

***If you enjoy PBD and support 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 (

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, July 26, 2006


The mess in Iraq
[NYT] The growing differences between Iraqi and American policies reflect an increasing disenchantment with American power among politicians and ordinary Iraqis, according to several politicians, academics and clerics. Sectarian violence has soared despite the presence of the Americans, and recent cases where American troops have been accused of killing civilians or raping Iraqi women have infuriated the public.

Mr. Maliki and other top Shiite leaders also want to maintain strong ties to Iran, whose influence is rising across the Middle East, officials say. . .

The mess in Lebanon
[Bush] I told him I support a sustainable cease-fire that will bring about an end to violence, and I talked about the importance of strengthening the Lebanese government and supporting the Lebanese people.

[Maliki] I also discussed with the President the issue of Lebanon . . And I also emphasized the importance of immediate cease-fire, and call on the international community to support the Lebanese government and support the Lebanese people to overcome the damage and destruction that happened.

[Bush] . . . we care about the people; we will help to get aid to the people; and that we want a sustainable cease-fire. We don't want something that's short-term in duration.

[Maliki] Here, actually we're talking about the suffering of a people in a country. . . The important thing here is what we are trying to do is to stop the killing and the destruction, and then we leave the room and the way for the international and diplomatic efforts and international organization to play the role to be there.

And finally, a good question. . .

(For President Bush) -- humanitarian aid to Lebanon. Yet there's also reports that your administration are speeding up delivery of laser-guided missiles to Israel and bunker-buster bombs. And do you see this -- if this is true, do you see it as contradictory? On one hand, you allow Israel to kill people, and civilian, in particular, and on the other hand, you're trying to aid the very people that have been suffering and killed as a result?

PRESIDENT BUSH: No, I don't see a contradiction in us honoring commitments we made prior to Hezbollah attacks into Israeli territory. And I -- like the Prime Minister, I'm concerned about loss of innocent life, and we will do everything we can to help move equipment -- I mean, food and medicines to help the people who have been displaced and the people who suffer.

The mess in Pakistan
[Atrios] Like every other sentient being on the planet I'm rather confused by our policies towards Pakistan. We're generally led to believe that Bin Laden is hanging out there along with some of his pals. It's a dictatorship with an unclear line of succession if that dictator ever accidentally gets in the way of an assassin's bullet. They have an active nuclear program. Their top nuclear scientist was handing out nuclear technology like candy on Halloween. The country promptly pardoned him for this and we didn't say a thing. . . And, just for fun, they have a new plutonium plant. And the Bush administration hid this fact from Congress. . .

The mess in Afghanistan
[Scout Prime] I like to go read the articles at the Department of Defense website where a weird combination of fairy dust, acid and Orwell prevail. This is the opening of an article from yesterday titled "Afghan Security Forces Gaining Capability, Spokesman Says"

While the enemy will continue to resist the will of the government and more violence is expected, the Afghan National Army and National Police are gaining capability by the day, a Combined Forces Command Afghanistan spokesman said today.

Then I also go to Stars and Stripes often because you can learn some very interesting things there. In a July 24th article on the best and worst sides of the Afghan National Army (ANA) there was this....

“The first thing they told us when we got here was to send the ANA troops first, because if we went in front they would probably shoot us in the back,” said one U.S. soldier, who wished to remain anonymous.

The mess in Saudi Arabia (one of our “allies” in the region)
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah warned on Tuesday of war in the Middle East if Israel continues attacking Lebanon and the Palestinians, in an apparent appeal to key ally the United States to end the fighting. . . [read on!]


The mess in Turkey (another ally)
[Josh Marshall] Over the last week, Turkey has lost 15 soldiers in cross border attacks from Kurdish separatists operating from inside Iraq. Pressure for retaliation is growing inside Turkey. . .

The media just won’t talk about the elephant in the room: at every turn they seem determined to find glimmers of hope and opportunity in Bush’s patent failures
[Greg Sargent] It's been kind of interesting to watch the big news orgs struggle and strain to portray President Bush as an active, hands-on participant in resolving the mideast crisis . . .

[CNN] The Middle East crisis is giving President Bush a second chance to be a peacemaker and, however counterintuitive, an unexpected new chance to make headway on his grand goal of leaving the Middle East more democratic than he found it.

[G.S.] That one belongs in the time capsule, doesn't it? Anyone by chance recall Bush's first effort to be a "peacemaker"? Me either. I do, however, vaguely recall him initiating a war of choice on false pretenses that has left over 2,500 Americans dead and many tens of thousands severely wounded. Maybe in the world of CNN war is peace, as the Orwellian phrase has it. It's also worth pointing out that the Bush administration has actually rebuffed calls for the U.S. to push for a cease-fire.

The CNN paragraph links to this article in Time magazine which, while not as favorable as CNN's billing of it, doesn't even mention that the United States is speeding precision bombs to Israel, an act which is kind of at odds with Bush's alleged bid to be a "peacemaker." Meanwhile, the Time article takes readers through the usual things which are supposed to portray an active crisis manager at work, saying that Bush "initiated a series of phone calls from Air Force One and the Oval Office to leaders around the region." Yes, that's right, the President made some calls. And the article concludes on the following note:

[Time] Aides say he is content for now to take steps toward transforming the region in less obvious but, they believe, more fundamental and lasting ways. . .

[G.S.] It's impossible to know what this actually means, or whether any aides actually said this, but accepting it for the moment at face value, it's reassuring to know that Bush is "content" with the impact his administration is having on the Middle East. For a moment there one might have thought things weren't going all that well over in that part of the world. . .

Glimmers of hope and opportunity? I don’t think so. This is today’s must read
[Billmon] If all this sounds familiar -- the half-baked war plan, the unexpected setbacks, the frantic search for foreign legions, the lack of an exit strategy, the rising tide of blood -- it certainly should. We've already seen this movie, in fact we're still sitting through the last reel. It's a hell of a time to release the sequel. . .

More bad news:

At least one group is cheering on the catastrophes in the Middle East – those who see them as an indicator of the coming Rapture

Arlen Specter (R-PA), making threatening noises again – this time about presidential signing statements. Yeah, I’ll believe it when I see it
A powerful Republican committee chairman who has led the fight against President Bush's signing statements said Monday he would have a bill ready by the end of the week allowing Congress to sue him in federal court.

"We will submit legislation to the United States Senate which will...authorize the Congress to undertake judicial review of those signing statements with the view to having the president's acts declared unconstitutional," Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, said on the Senate floor. . .

The American Bar Association shows how it’s done:
Among those unanimous recommendations, the Task Force voted to:

- oppose, as contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers, a President's issuance of signing statements to claim the authority or state the intention to disregard or decline to enforce all or part of a law he has signed, or to interpret such a law in a manner inconsistent with the clear intent of Congress;

- urge the President, if he believes that any provision of a bill pending before Congress would be unconstitutional if enacted, to communicate such concerns to Congress prior to passage;

- urge the President to confine any signing statements to his views regarding the meaning, purpose, and significance of bills, and to use his veto power if he believes that all or part of a bill is unconstitutional;

- urge Congress to enact legislation requiring the President promptly to submit to Congress an official copy of all signing statements, and to report to Congress the reasons and legal basis for any instance in which he claims the authority, or states the intention, to disregard or decline to enforce all or part of a law he has signed, or to interpret such a law in a manner inconsistent with the clear intent of Congress, and to make all such submissions be available in a publicly accessible database.


Bush’s approval numbers drop again – I prefer to view these not as the ups and downs of fickle public opinion, but as temporary blips upward, then reversion back to the realization that he’s been a disastrous leader for this country
[Holden] Chimpy's job approval rating tumbles to 37%, down from 40% earlier this month, in the latest Gallup poll.
[Holden] Chimpy's job approval rating fell five points overnight in the latest Rasmussen poll, from 42% yesterday to 37% today. . .

Big win for the bad guys – they find a judge willing to swallow their national security excuse for blocking any investigation into their phone record database

The unaddressed problem of personal debt

The unaddressed problem of government debt

No surprise that nobody in the WH has had his security clearance pulled over leaking Valerie Plame’s name – but I find the second part of this story more interesting (thanks to Buzzflash for the link)
No one in the Bush administration has been stripped of security clearances over the leak of former CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity to reporters three years ago. . .

The CIA also revealed it has not yet completed a formal assessment of the damage to national security that may have been caused by Plame's outing in 2003.

The assessment won't be completed until a criminal investigation of the leak has been concluded, Christopher J. Walker, the CIA's director of congressional affairs, said in the July 19 letter to Lautenberg.

[NB: Since the question is one of damage caused by the FACT of Plame’s outing, there is no reason I can see for delaying a report until the criminal investigation is over. What’s clear is that the CIA would HAVE to issue a report protecting one of their own, because the precedent for outing an agent would have to be condemned – and they don’t want to do this while Bush’s team is still in office.]

This is hilarious. Michael Steele, Republican candidate for a Maryland Senate seat, gives an “anonymous” interview with Dana Milbank, complaining that it’s impossible to run as a Republican with Bush and the party making such a hash of things. Did he really think his identity would stay secret, or is he playing some other game? Anyway, he’s anonymous no more
[Steve Benen] You know it's a tough political environment for the GOP when a Republican Senate candidate sits down with reporters and says:

On the Iraq war: "It didn't work. . . . We didn't prepare for the peace."

On the response to Hurricane Katrina: "A monumental failure of government."

On the national mood: "There's a palpable frustration right now in the country."

The same Republican said he "probably" wouldn't want Bush campaigning with him in his home state, said his party has "lost our way," and offered stinging indictments of the White House on the war, immigration, the response to Hurricane Katrina, and the Dubai ports deal. . .

[Ezra Klein] I wonder how the rest of the GOP feels about him publicly blasting the party to reporters -- feeding the Bush-is-unpopular and GOP-is-doomed narratives -- while hiding behind assured anonymity. . .

And what’s HIS game? Joe Lieberman (D?-CT) sorta-kinda endorses John McCain for president

And this: taking a page from George Bush’s book, Lieberman’s people block someone from attending a campaign event because “He’s a known protester.” So now we can’t even call Joe a small-d democrat anymore
[Digby] Man, they really don't get it, do they? . . .


Theocracy watch: religious organizations are now openly (and illegally) threatening politicians if they accept support from groups who disagree with them

Good advice for the Dems: stop talking ABOUT the message, and get ON message

E-voting: they just can’t get it right

Bonus item: The Washington (Moonie) Times takes on Condi
Conservative national security allies of President Bush are in revolt against Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, saying that she is incompetent and has reversed the administration’s national security and foreign policy agenda.

The conservatives, who include Newt Gingrich, Richard Perle and leading current and former members of the Pentagon and National Security Council, have urged the president to transfer Miss Rice out of the State Department and to an advisory role. They said Miss Rice, stemming from her lack of understanding of the Middle East, has misled the president on Iran and the Arab-Israeli conflict. . . . “Condi is loyal to the president. She is just incompetent on most foreign policy issues."

The criticism of Miss Rice has been intense and comes from a range of Republican loyalists, including current and former aides in the Defense Department and the office of Vice President Dick Cheney. They have warned that Iran has been exploiting Miss Rice's inexperience and incompetence to accelerate its nuclear weapons program. They expect a collapse of her policy over the next few months. . .

[NB: I’ve been waiting for this. Rice was a lousy National Security Adviser, and she lacks the independence and experience to be an effective Sect’y of State. If anything, she is TOO loyal to Bush. But will this criticism break into the open, or stay in fringe publications like Insight?]

***If you enjoy PBD and support 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 (

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, July 25, 2006


The Bush gang (once again) demonstrates its utter contempt for Congress and due consultation. They knew that Pakistan was expanding their nuclear capabilities, but failed to pass that information along to Congress (who only learned about it from third-party sources)
The Bush administration acknowledged yesterday that it had long known about Pakistan's plans to build a large plutonium-production reactor . . . The acknowledgment came as arms-control experts and some in Congress expressed alarm about a possible escalation of South Asia's arms race. Some also sharply criticized the administration for failing to disclose the existence of a facility that could influence an upcoming congressional debate over U.S. nuclear policy toward India and Pakistan. . .

Henry D. Sokolski, the Defense Department's top nonproliferation official during the George H.W. Bush administration, said he was most surprised by the way news of the reactor in Pakistan became known.

"What is baffling is that this information -- which was surely information that our own intelligence agencies had -- was kept from Congress," said Sokolski, now director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center. "We lack imagination if we think that this is no big deal."
[Kevin Drum] We now have a president whose standard operating procedure is to keep Congress in the dark about anything that might cause him even the mildest inconvenience. Even if it's something that Congress really ought to know about in order to do its job.

But that's the whole point, isn't it? If Congress ever started to do its job, George Bush would be in serious trouble.
[Eric Umansky] As it happens, the Senate is about to consider whether to approve the nuclear deal Bush has inked with India, and Pakistan's plant might just give senators pause.


Surprise, surprise. There may be some good security reason why the Bush gang likes to spring these “surprise” visits to hotspots around the world. But it’s also a transparent stunt for news coverage as well
[Libby Copeland] It has gotten to the point where it would be a surprise if the Bush administration didn't make a surprise visit every few months. . .

Surprises yet to come
[Matt Yglesias] Say what you want about the Bush administration, but they sure know how to pull off a good media stunt . . Fortunately for Rice, she managed not to be hit by any stray bombs during her trip into town. Compare that to eight-year-old Mahmoud Srour whose family decided to abide by the IDF's orders to vacate the city of Tyre and had their car blown up for their trouble. His mom seems to be more-or-less okay, but his dad and his uncle are dead. Mahmoun's "face was burned beyond recognition" and all three of his siblings are likewise hospitalized and suffering from serious burns. . . In case one is inclined to wonder where the next generation of Hezbollah members and supporters is going to come from, I think you've got your candidate right here. For every dead father, mother, uncle, sister, or whatever, you're leaving behind a lot of angry people. . .

Hey, how’s the visit going, Condi?
[Eric Umansky] The Washington Post leads, oddly, with Secretary of State Rice stopping by Beirut for a hours and "outlining" a plan that didn't amount to much of one: The administration wants a likely NATO-led peacekeeping force (sans U.S. soldiers) and is happy to support a ceasefire…once Hezbollah gives up, returns the kidnapped soldiers and moves back from the border. . .

The administration, of course, still doesn't want a ceasefire. "Any peace is going to have to be based on enduring principles and not on temporary solutions," Rice explained. "We're seeing here is, in a sense, the growing—the birth pangs of a new Middle East."

Slate's Fred Kaplan counters that Rice's proclamation was the equivalent of a mayor in the middle of a crime wave announcing that "he's not going to put more police on the streets; he's going to convene a summit to address the wave's root causes."
[Ha’aretz] Nabih Beri, Lebanon's parliament speaker and Hezbollah's de facto negotiator, rejected proposals brought by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday, insisting a cease-fire must preceed any talks about resolving Hezbollah's presence in the south. . . Rice's talks with Prime Minister Fouad Siniora also appeared to have been tense. Siniora told Rice that Israel's bombardment was taking his country "backwards 50 years" and also called for a "swift cease-fire," the prime minister's office said. . .

Hezbollah has a plan – do we?
[Chris Nelson] The war in Lebanon is already a public relations disaster for Israel, and a very real human disaster, with no end in sight, for thousands of Lebanese. Clearly Israel, under military attack, is not officially concerned with the PR, but you could already see in the very competitive Israeli press, late last week, warnings that the IDF was not being careful, that military plans had already gotten out of hand, and that a diplomatic debacle might be in the making.

Over the weekend, it became clear that Lebanon is also at risk of becoming another serious policy failure for the US. . . [read on]
[Chas Freeman, former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and former Asst. Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs] The irony now is that the most likely candidate to back Hezbollah in the long term is no longer Iran but the Arab Shiite tyranny of the majority we have installed in Baghdad. . .

A multinational peacekeeping force? From where?
Support is building quickly for an international military force to be placed in southern Lebanon, but there remains a small problem: where will the troops come from? . . .
[Eric Umansky] Nobody seems up to sending troops. "All the politicians are saying, 'Great, great' to the idea of a force, but no one is saying whose soldiers will be on the ground," said one European official. "Everyone will volunteer to be in charge of the logistics in Cyprus."

Some questions about the Middle East Bush will never answer (heck, he’ll never even be asked)

[Reuters] Iraq's morgues are overflowing . . .

How many ways can they avoid using the term “civil war”?
MR. SNOW: . . . I think there's an attempt, and it's very alluring to politicians here to try to make the situation sound like civil war everywhere. No, there are parts of Iraq where life is proceeding with a fair degree of normalcy, where people are enjoying greater economic opportunity and they're enjoying the fruits of democracy. You've got a problem in Baghdad, and that is -- it's absolutely critical to address that.

Q: Yes, but it's not the politicians here who are calling it a civil war, it's politicians in Iraq. Iraqi politicians are saying --

MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not going to get into the labeling game. I think the most important -- because I don't know where you go with that, except you get a headline: "Administration says civil war." And it deflects from the real purpose here, which is to figure out how to create civil peace, and that is really the prime objective of everybody in the United State, every American who is working in and on the issue of Iraq. . .

[WP] The leader of Iraq's most powerful political party said Monday that Iraqis should band together and take up arms to protect their homes and neighborhoods against widespread lawlessness. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, whose Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq is the leading member of the coalition of Shiite Muslim parties governing Iraq, said the formation of so-called people's committees was one of four essential steps the country must take to curb rampant violence. . . Hakim's contention that neighborhoods should form their own defense committees . . . is shared by many Iraqis who feel they cannot rely on their country's security forces or foreign troops to protect them. Others, however, have expressed fears that the people's committees would amount to nothing more than de facto militias in a country where militia attacks have caused much of the bloodshed. . .

Formation of people's committees should benefit all Iraqis, he said, because they would be created to defend neighborhoods, not beliefs. "In Shiite neighborhoods, they would be protected by young Shiites, because they live there. And the same thing for Sunni neighborhoods: They will be protected by young Sunnis. . .

[NB: So, what does that sound like to you?]

Salih al-Mutlaq, Iraqi parliamentarian and leading Sunni politician: "Sectarian war has already begun in Iraq. What is happening now is a preparation for a civil war."

William F. Buckley, eminence grise of the conservative movement, lashes out at Bush
[CBS] Buckley finds himself parting ways with President Bush, whom he praises as a decisive leader but admonishes for having strayed from true conservative principles in his foreign policy.

In particular, Buckley views the three-and-a-half-year Iraq War as a failure. "If you had a European prime minister who experienced what we've experienced it would be expected that he would retire or resign," Buckley says.

Because wealthy people never cheat on their taxes. . .
The federal government is moving to eliminate the jobs of nearly half of the lawyers at the Internal Revenue Service who audit tax returns of some of the wealthiest Americans, specifically those who are subject to gift and estate taxes when they transfer parts of their fortunes to their children and others. . .
[Steve Benen] Congress has been debating for months the idea of eliminating, or at least seriously curtailing, the estate tax. So far, fiscal sanity has held its ground and GOP efforts to cut taxes for the hyper-wealthy (again) have failed. . . But the Bush administration, true to form, has come up with a way around this pesky legislative process: it's going to dramatically cut back on enforcing tax law in this area. . .

There are a couple of angles to consider here.

First, it's almost impressive that Bush can, in a practical sense, cut taxes for the rich simply through enforcement mechanisms. The administration has effectively issued a memo to the nation's wealthiest families: don't worry about paying your tax bills; we're no longer worrying about it. . .

Second, as Noam Scheiber noted, this is another helpful reminder about how the Bush administration perceives the policy-making process.

“I guess the argument for ignoring Congress on things like NSA eavesdropping and treatment of detainees is that the president has the authority as commander-in-chief to prosecute the war on terror however he sees fit. Well, what's the argument for ignoring Congress when it comes to tax policy? It's looking more and more like the administration thinks it can do whatever it wants, on whatever issue it wants. Not that this should surprise anyone.”

No, of course not. Debate among lawmakers about a contentious and expensive policy is, as far as the president is concerned, for losers.

Do you trust Arlen Specter to negotiate a “compromise” on domestic spying with the Bush gang? It’s ridiculous, really – these people DON’T BELIEVE IN COMPROMISE. All they care about is finding some cover for doing what they’re going to do anyway


What we can do to help block the Specter bill

Looks like Bush treats Josh Bolten (his new Chief of Staff) the same way he treats everyone else
Via Bob Cesca we learn that Chimpy has "several" profane nicknames for Chief of Staff Josh Bolten. . .

Poor Josh, he’s trying so hard, too
[Steve Benen] If you missed it, be sure to check out White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten's performance on Meet the Press yesterday. Tim Russert must have eaten his Wheaties because when it came to the president's veto on stem-cell research funding, he asked all the right questions. Unfortunately for Bolten, he didn't have the right answers.

Russert, noting Tony Snow's choice of words, asked Bolten, "Does the president believe the use of an embryo for stem cell research is murder?" Bolten wouldn't say directly, but he implicitly agreed, explaining the administration's belief that a "human embryo is a human life that deserves protection."

Russert followed with the logical next step: "If the president believes it is human life, how can he allow private stem cell research to go forward, go forward, if, in fact, that is murder?" Bolten couldn't explain, saying only that it's a "very difficult balance." Russert followed-up again, noting that we're using federal funds for existing embryo lines, which suggests we're funding experimentation on embryos "obtained by homicidal means." Again, Bolten hedged. Russert tried to explain the problem to his guest.

"The logic, Mr. Bolten, as people are listening to this, the president is saying no, we can't use embryos that are going to be discarded by in vitro clinics because, according to a spokesman, that's murder. But we can use embryos that were existing before I became president, that's OK. And if you have a private company and you want to use those embryos, that's OK. Back to the central question: does the president agree with his spokesman, Tony Snow, that the research on the embryo in, in fact, to use that embryo is murder? […]

"Would you then move to close down in vitro clinics — if, in fact, those embryos are being created and used by private companies for research and the president's spokesman says that's murder, and the president said it's a human life, why not then close down the in vitro fertility clinics? Because they're creating embryos that, in the president's view, will be murdered.”

If it was boxing, a referee would have stopped the fight. . . It got particularly interesting when Russert asked Bolten to explain Karl Rove's take on the issue.

Russert: Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser, said that adult stem cells show far more promise than embryonic stem cells, and the White House could not identify any scientist who could confirm that. Is—does the president agree with Mr. Rove?

Bolten: I'm, I'm no scientist, not, not quantified to speak on it, but I think the point that Karl was getting at is that there are alternative means to achieve some of the promise of the — of the embryonic stem cells that, that scientists…

Russert: No, he said "far more promise."

Bolten: Well. . . I — like I said I'm not — I'm not a scientist and I don't. . .

Russert: Well, I don't think Karl Rove is, either.

Bolten: Well, he knows a lot of stuff…

Actually, Rove doesn't. His claim was demonstrably false; Bolten just didn't want to say so. . . It was a train wreck.


Hmmm. . . now the WH reverses itself, says using embryos isn’t really “murder” after all. Well, you might think murder isn’t the sort of thing you can just change your mind about – it either is or it isn’t, right?
Snow described Bush's position last Tuesday, the day before the veto. "The president believes strongly that for the purpose of research it's inappropriate for the federal government to finance something that many people consider murder. He's one of them," Snow said from the White House. "The simple answer is he thinks murder's wrong."

The president did not use that term the next day at the veto ceremony, but he did say he objected to the legislation because it "would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others." . . .

At yesterday's briefing, Snow retracted his statement and apologized. "I overstepped my brief there, and so I created a little trouble for Josh Bolten in the interview," Snow said. "And I feel bad about it."

"So the president does not regard this as murder?" a reporter asked.

"He would not use that term," Snow said. . .

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a group that opposes embryonic stem cell research, said he does not see much significance in the White House revision. . .

[NB: OK, now explain to me how “the taking of innocent human life” isn’t murder]


Bush sends out a fundraising email: “I hope you’re managing your finances better than I’m managing the finances of the country, because the GOP needs some of your money so we can pass more tax cuts. Think of it as an investment!”
[Steve Benen] But what I found interesting is that Bush's message to rank-and-file Republicans, urging them to contribute financially to the GOP cause, didn't mention the war on terror. . .

Over the course of a 550-word email, the president's message didn't mention the war, 9/11, Saddam Hussein, or Osama bin Laden. The text, which was supposed to help inspire Republicans to open their wallet, didn't even include the words "national security." . .

The conventional wisdom tells us that the GOP will emphasize national security above all else this election season. Indeed, Karl Rove has said as much publicly. But isn't this email a subtle admission that the party can't exactly count on the issue as an automatic winner? That when it comes to making the die-hards proud to be a Republican, they rely on tax cuts, not national security?

Boy, you never have to scratch very deep to find the anti-Semitism beneath the surface of these people

Theocracy watch
[Boston Globe] The Bush administration is quietly remaking the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, filling the permanent ranks with lawyers who have strong conservative credentials but little experience in civil rights. . . Now, hiring is closely overseen by Bush administration political appointees to Justice, effectively turning hundreds of career jobs into politically appointed positions. . .

At the same time, the kinds of cases the Civil Rights Division is bringing have undergone a shift. The division is bringing fewer voting rights and employment cases involving systematic discrimination against African-Americans, and more alleging reverse discrimination against whites and religious discrimination against Christians. . .
[Tim Grieve] It's great that the president is acknowledging that "many African-Americans distrust" the Republican Party. It would be even better if he understood why. . .


Finally, a bit of honest candor from Fox News
On Fox News Sunday, Brit Hume. . . said: "We've passed" a measure that would eliminate the tax "for nearly everybody” . . .


Former GOP Ethics committee chair criticizes his party colleagues on their culture of corruption, introduces a no-chance bill to do something about it

Intriguing: if the Repubs hold the Senate, will John McCain (R-AZ) bring his investigative mojo and love of the limelight to cracking open the Dept of Defense budget?

Was Joe Lieberman (D?-CT) looking for a double endorsement for Senate? And then a future campaign as a “national unity” President?

Katherine Harris (R-FL), Mensa candidate (not!), explains the Middle East
[Palm Beach Post] Harris, flanked by two large American flags, spoke mostly about immigration, from which she drew parallels to the current fighting between Israeli troops and the Hezbollah militia.

"Israel is fighting a global war, a global enemy, its terrorists, on all of our behalf," Harris said, adding that the United States must take aggressive steps to tighten its own borders to block terrorists. . . "We hear of Middle Easterners — they could be fundamental extremists — taking Hispanic names and coming into our country. We do not know where they are. This is a matter of great national security," she said.

Solid Democratic prospects at the state level: the governors

Bonus item: Oh, they wouldn’t do THIS, would they?
[ABC] You could be on a secret government database or watch list for simply taking a picture on an airplane. Some federal air marshals say they're reporting your actions to meet a quota, even though some top officials deny it.

The air marshals, whose identities are being concealed, told 7NEWS that they're required to submit at least one report a month. If they don't, there's no raise, no bonus, no awards and no special assignments.

"Innocent passengers are being entered into an international intelligence database as suspicious persons, acting in a suspicious manner on an aircraft ... and they did nothing wrong," said one federal air marshal.

[AP] When school was canceled to accommodate a campaign visit by President Bush, the two 55-year-old teachers reckoned the time was ripe to voice their simmering discontent with the administration's policies.

Christine Nelson showed up at the Cedar Rapids rally with a Kerry-Edwards button pinned on her T-shirt; Alice McCabe clutched a small, paper sign stating "No More War." What could be more American, they thought, than mixing a little dissent with the bunting and buzz of a get-out-the-vote rally headlined by the president?

Their reward: a pair of handcuffs and a strip search at the county jail.

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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, July 24, 2006


Sorry, today’s edition is one of the most upsetting I’ve compiled in quite some time. . . but read to the end!

What exactly IS the bold Bush plan for “reshaping” the Middle East? (Aside, that is, from reshaping it into a heap of smoking rubble?)
[Daily Telegraph] White House aides have said they consider the Lebanon crisis to be a "leadership moment" for Mr Bush and an opportunity to proceed with his post-September 11 plan to reshape the Middle East by building Sunni Arab opposition to Shi’a terrorism. . . [read on]
[NYT] "U.S. Plan Seeks to Wedge Syria From Iran" . . [read on]

WHAT “post-September 11 plan”? I read everything, and this is the first I’ve heard of it. Their make-it-up-as-you-go policymaking has had just the results one would expect. At first, toppling Hussein was supposed to usher in a new era of democracy in the region. When it became clear that by removing that bulwark a wider conflict had been unleashed, they decided that the real enemy was the Shi’as, especially Iran. They seem to think that they can turn Sunni-dominated Syria against Iran, but are endorsing Israeli actions in Lebanon that make it impossible for Syria to cooperate with them – and they are refusing to meet with Syrian representatives anyway. I can’t remotely fathom what their stance toward Syria is – can you?,0,444141.story
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday the United States' poor relationship with Syria is overstated, pointing out that there are existing channels for talking with Syrian leaders about resolving the Mideast crisis when they're ready to talk.

En route to the region, Rice noted that the United States still has a diplomatic mission and State Department officials working in the Syrian capital. That presence, she said, is a "channel for dealing with Syria."

"The problem isn't that people haven't talked to the Syrians. It's that the Syrians haven't acted," she said. "I think this is simply just a kind of false hobby horse that somehow it's because we don't talk to the Syrians.

"It's not as if we don't have diplomatic relations," she said. "We do."

The State Department considers Syria one of the world's state sponsors of terror. In recent weeks, the Bush administration has blamed it, along with Iran, for stoking the recent violence in the Middle East by encouraging the Lebanese Hezbollah militia to attack northern Israel.

The U.S. ambassador to Damascus was recalled last year after the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. Syrian officials have been blamed for the murder, which Damascus denies. . .

[NB: They started off with Al Qaeda as a target, but have let Al Qaeda GROW as a threat while tilting more and more against Hamas and Hezbollah. Yet Israel’s recent actions, tacitly endorsed by the US, have unified Sunni Hamas and Shiite Hezbollah ( At no point do Bush’s people seem to have grasped the sources of Muslim hatred of the US – most of which they have nourished by their actions over the past five years.]

Condi and the rest have finally abandoned any moral pretense in foreign policy: she says, Oh yes, we want a cease fire, but the conditions aren’t right for one (right for whom?)
[Wayne White, Deputy Director of the State Department's Office of Middle East and South Asia Analysis until March 2005] I believe [Condi's] activities have been tailored to give the impression of action while not designed to make any real progress toward the urgent ceasefire that should be everyone's highest priority. . .

[N]ot learning from the American experience in Iraq that trying to crush a guerrilla movement with conventional military force involving significant—and in this case, even deliberate—collateral casualties and damage might only generate thousands of other potential fighters bearing various grievances, the IDF could find itself mired in the same sort of seemingly open-ended confrontation. . .

With respect to another extremely serious consequence of not working to bring this carnage to an early end, Lebanon already has absorbed billions of dollars of damage. By the end of the crisis, the cost of rebuilding Lebanon will be incredibly high and the rebuilding effort quite prolonged, leaving most Lebanese, aside perhaps from the hard-core Christian right, considerably more hostile to Israel—and the United States—than ever before. In this respect, I find scenes of devastated Lebanese urban areas not only appalling, but frightening.

[DK] Feeling depressed yet? What if I reminded you that as of last Thursday, we're still 2 1/2 years away from a new Administration?

Those neo-cons: they’re never wrong (never – even when they reverse course and contradict themselves)

Let’s see: Bush’s own intelligence people think it’s a civil war, independent experts call it a civil war, and folks in Iraq call it a civil war. I think it’s time for the press over here to cross that bridge too

The Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament (not the Prime Minister) calls US occupation “butchery”
[John Aravosis] This war is an absolute disaster. . .

“We know there was a corrupt regime in Saddam, but a regime should be removed by surgery, not by butchering. The U.S. occupation is butcher’s work under the slogan of democracy and human rights and justice.”

George Bush has failed. The war in Iraq is over. Bush lost. Prolonging our presence there will only lead to more death, and more hatred, on all sides. Yes, an American withdrawal will be a disaster. But an American commitment to stay in Iraq will also be a disaster.

The patient is terminal. You can either give him massive doses of chemo and radiation that will do nothing to help, and actually will hurt him even more, or you can stop the treatment and call a failure a failure. If you think America is on the right course in Iraq, then please do vote Republican this fall.
[LAT] "The enemy is the same," said a statement issued by the Hawza, the network of seminaries in Najaf. "Their aim is to enslave and humiliate us. What's happening today in Lebanon is part of a bigger scheme to crush the blessed [Islamic] nation."

Israel’s invasion of Lebanon had been planned for more than a year


It seems apparent that the essence of foreign policy is being able to watch dozens of spinning dishes all at the same time, and not to become obsessed with just one – because even if you manage to control that one, many others go bad while you’re not watching. The Bush gang of True Believers have proven this thesis in spades: while fiddling in the Middle East (and making a complete mess of it), they have taken their eye off North Korea, where they have lost all leverage, Pakistan (which is expanding its nuclear weapons program: and many other hotspots around the world. The latest narrative of neglect: Africa. And wait til you read why
[NYT] The Bush administration and Congress have slashed millions of dollars of military aid to African nations in recent years, moves that Pentagon officials and senior military commanders say have undermined American efforts to combat terrorist threats in Africa and to counter expanding Chinese influence there. . . [read on!]

Human Rights Watch: US torture was systematic (even bureaucratized) – and directly approved from above

Excellent point: why should Arlen Specter, or anyone else in Congress, negotiate a “compromise” bill with Bush over domestic spying – when he’ll just ignore the law when it suits him anyway (as he has FISA and every other applicable law)?
[Kirt S] “A Process for Prisoners" speculated on how the Bush administration might work with Congress in response to the Supreme Court's decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.

Unfortunately, the democratic process envisioned, wherein the executive branch works with the legislative branch to produce mutually agreeable legislation, has been repeatedly undermined through President Bush's use of "signing statements." With these, President Bush signs the law, then demonstrates his contempt for American democracy by asserting that he will not implement the legislation as written, but rather as he sees fit. My speculation is that President Bush will sign a Hamdan-related law giving him huge media coverage and a political victory; then he'll quietly issue a signing statement contradicting the law's intent, and that will receive scant coverage.

With that, he'll demonstrate that his contempt isn't limited to Congress but also includes the Supreme Court (and the media, which will miss the real story).

Bah! Just a bunch of friggin’ lawyers – what do THEY know about the law?
American Bar Association said Sunday that President Bush was flouting the Constitution and undermining the rule of law by claiming the power to disregard selected provisions of bills that he signed. . . In a comprehensive report, a bipartisan 11-member panel of the bar association said Mr. Bush had used such “signing statements” far more than his predecessors, raising constitutional objections to more than 800 provisions in more than 100 laws on the ground that they infringed on his prerogatives.

These broad assertions of presidential power amount to a “line-item veto” and improperly deprive Congress of the opportunity to override the veto, the panel said. . . The bar association panel said the use of signing statements in this way was “contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers.” From the dawn of the Republic, it said, presidents have generally understood that, in the words of George Washington, a president “must approve all the parts of a bill, or reject it in toto.”. . .

"We will be close to a constitutional crisis if this issue, the president's use of signing statements, is left unchecked."

Duke Cunningham’s corruption on the House Intelligence committee, not only the Appropriations committee, is coming under scrutiny
[Examiner] An independent investigation has found that imprisoned former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham took advantage of secrecy and badgered congressional aides to help slip items into classified bills that would benefit him and his associates. . .

And now it looks like even more Cunningham-related indictments are coming. . .
[Fox] Hoekstra said [investigator] Stern, as a final step, wants to interview Cunningham in prison to find out more about how he influenced the system. The Justice Department is resisting because it has other potential prosecutions pending in the case, so Hoekstra is considering subpoenaing the former lawmaker.

[DK] Let's see. Major federal investigation into public corruption. GOP lawmakers and lobbyists top the list of targets. Feds want the Intel Committee to leave one of their important witnesses alone. GOP chairman considers issuing subpoena to the imprisoned Cunningham anyway.

I'm not saying Hoekstra is using his committee to impede a federal investigation, but I'm reminded of the John Poindexter conviction in Iran-Contra, which was thrown out on appeal due to the concurrent congressional investigation.

Glenn Greenwald reviews John Dean’s new book on conservatism’s rampant authoritarianism . . . today’s must-read
With 2 1/2 years still left for this administration, the true radicalism of the administration and its followers has becoming unavoidably, depressingly clear, and it is equally clear that this movement has not reached anywhere near the peak of its extremism. Dean's central thesis explains why that is so.

Dean contends, and amply documents, that the "conservative" movement has become, at its core, an authoritarian movement composed of those with a psychological and emotional need to follow a strong authority figure which provides them a sense of moral clarity and a feeling of individual power, the absence of which creates fear and insecurity in the individuals who crave it. By definition, its followers' devotion to authority and the movement's own power is supreme, thereby overriding the consciences of its individual members and removing any intellectual and moral limits on what will be justified in defense of their movement. . .

As Iraq collapses into all-out civil war and new, tragic levels of violence, Bush supporters continue to insist that things are going well there and our invasion was a success. As the Middle East spirals into all-out regional war, Bush supporters insist that this repulsive violence is actually good for the region -- wars are encouraging "birth pangs" on the road to progress, as the Secretary of State put it yesterday -- and they are now actively involving the U.S. in this escalated conflict, even while Iraq rapidly falls apart.

And there is seemingly no limit -- literally -- on the willingness, even eagerness, of Bush supporters to defend and justify even the most morally repugnant abuses -- from constantly expanding spying on American citizens, to a President who claims and aggressively exercises the "right" to break the law, to torturing suspects, imprisoning journalists, and turning the United States into the most feared and hated country on the planet.

And as radical as the administration has become, it is clear that the administration has not even come close to reaching the level of extremism which would be necessary for its supporters to object -- if such a limit exists at all. If anything, on those exceedingly few occasions over six years when his followers have dissented from the President's decisions -- illegal immigration, Harriet Miers, Dubai ports -- it has been not because the administration was too radical, extremist, militaristic and uncompromising -- but insufficiently so.

Bush supporters want more spying, much more aggressive actions against investigative journalists and even domestic political opposition, more death and violence brought to the Middle East, more wars, and still fewer restraints on the President's powers, to the extent there are any real limits left. To them, the Bush administration has not been nearly as extremist and aggressive as it ought to be in dealing with the Enemies. And that is to say nothing of the measures that would be urged, and almost certainly imposed, in the event of another terrorist attack on U.S. soil or in the increasingly likely event that our limited war in Iraq expands into the Epic War of Civilizations which so many of them crave.

Ultimately, as Dean convincingly demonstrates, the characteristic which defines the Bush movement, the glue which binds it together and enables and fuels all of the abuses, is the vicious, limitless methods used to attack and demonize the "Enemy," which encompasses anyone -- foreign or domestic -- threatening to their movement. What defines and motivates this movement are not any political ideas or strategic objectives, but instead, it is the bloodthirsty, ritualistic attacks on the Enemy de jour -- the Terrorist, the Communist, the Illegal Immigrant, the Secularist, and most of all, the "Liberal."

What excites, enlivens, and drives Bush followers is the identification of the Enemy followed by swarming, rabid attacks on it. It is a movement that defines itself not by identifiable ideas but by that which it is not. Its foreign policy objectives are identifiable by one overriding goal -- destroy and kill the Enemy, potential or suspected enemies, and everyone nearby. And it increasingly views its domestic goals through the same lens. It is a movement in a permanent state of war, which views all matters, foreign and domestic, only in terms of this permanent war.

Supreme Court justices who rule against the President on national security matters are tyrants, traitors and pro-terrorist. Journalists who uncover legally dubious government conduct carried out in secret are criminals who should be imprisoned for life or hanged. Virtually every political opponent of the administration's of any significance -- Howard Dean, Al Gore, John Kerry, the Clintons -- is relentlessly branded as a liar, mentally unstable, corrupt, seditious, and sympathetic to the Enemy.

And even those who devoted much of their adult lives to military service to their country (often in ways far more courageous and impressive than most Bush supporters), or even those who have been longtime Republicans and conservatives, have their characters relentlessly smeared and motives and integrity impugned as soon as they criticize the administration in any way that could embarrass the President -- Richard Clarke, Paul O'Neill, the war critic Generals, Joe Wilson, Scott Ritter, Wesley Clark, John Murtha, John Paul Stevens, and on and on and on.

It is a movement devoted to the destruction of its enemies wherever they might be found. And it finds new ones, in every corner and seemingly on a daily basis, because it must. That is the food which sustains it. . . [read on]

Billmon on Tom Ricks, whose new book, “Fiasco,” sounds like quite an indictment of Bush’s failed war – but it is also an indictment of the credulous war coverage of journalists like Ricks

More excerpts from “Fiasco”:

Bonus item: So, what’s the good news? Is there any way that a party can remain in the Congressional majority when it has fostered an unpopular and festering war, buried the federal government under a mountain of debt, endorsed the rampant and illegal power-grabs of an unpopular President, mired itself in multiple corruption scandals – with more to break in coming weeks – and spent months now doing nothing but advancing the legislative agenda of a radical religious minority who do not reflect the values of mainstream America? I know, I know, they very well might. But this is a winnable fight, and if even one branch of Congress switches party control, Bush might be thrown on the defensive for the first time
No modern political party has weathered a midterm election with a president as low in the polls as George W. Bush. . .
Less than four months before the mid-term elections, there is one question that is preoccupying candidates around the country: How big will the Republican losses be in November?

I hope John is right:
[John Aravosis] I really think Iraq may shock the hell out of everyone come this November, in terms of just how massive an impact it could have on the election. As in, massive Democratic victory in both houses. I could be wrong, but something is brewing with the public, they're finally fed up, and Iraq is going to be a disaster from now until election day. And with Bush and Cheney trying to force Congress to run on Iraq, the daily carnage is going to force Republicans to run from the issue, and run from Bush, which is going to cause even more of a mess.

Again, anything can happen. But I think things are going to get very messy for the GOP in the next 3 months. . .

The Bush gang starts to plan for a possible Democratic takeover of Congress – and they know what that means: investigations, hearings, and subpoenas. (Here’s my prediction: they will stonewall all requests on national security grounds and force the issue into the courts . . . buying time and hoping that a friendly Supreme Court eventually bails them out),8816,1218016,00.html
As for Bush himself, he is curtailing his traditional August working vacation at the ranch so that he can barnstorm before the midterm elections. Their outlook thus far seems so ominous for the G.O.P. that one presidential adviser wants Bush to beef up his counsel's office for the tangle of investigations that a Democrat-controlled House might pursue. . .
[Jonathan Singer] With President Bush's approval rating clearly stuck in the gutter and the Democrats maintaining a robust generic congressional ballot lead, it's no wonder that the White House has serious concerns about the potential for the Dems to win back the House or the Senate -- or both. And given the President's consistent use of extrajuridical techniques to achieve his radical agenda -- techniques that even establishment institutions like the American Bar Association are voicing opposition to -- it should come as no surprise that the first reaction of the White House to the possibility that Republicans will lose one or both chambers of Congress is to ramp up their legal defense team.

(The Senate too? Probably not)

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