Thursday, January 31, 2008


This blog started its web presence during the revelations about Abu Ghraib. A special circle of hell will be set aside for the people who gradually, cynically, acted to shift public perceptions about torture and abuse as necessary parts of the “global war on terror.” It is a legacy that will tar Bush and his minions for generations to come, I hope.

Finally a Bush officer starts to talk openly about the decision to rationalize torture, and little by little reveals the kind of thinking that led us to this point
[David Kurtz] In the view of the Justice Department, there is no categorical prohibition against the torture of detainees, even under the Detainee Treatment Act.
[Paul Kiel] Michael Mukasey finally got into the nitty gritty of how he thinks about torture, and he seemed to finally show his hand.

Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) said that he'd been getting the impression that Mukasey really thought about torture in relative terms, and wanted to know if that was so. Is it OK to waterboard someone if a nuclear weapon was hidden -- the Jack Bauer scenario -- but not OK to waterboard someone for more pedestrian information?

Mukasey responded that it was "not simply a relative issue," but there "is a statute where it is a relative issue," he added, citing the Detainee Treatment Act. That law engages the "shocks the conscience" standard, he explained, and you have to "balance the value of doing something against the cost of doing it." . . .

Biden responded, "You're the first I've ever heard to say what you just said.... It shocks my conscience a little bit."
[Kagro X] In his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, "Attorney General" cardboard cutout Michael Mukasey had an exchange with Sen. Joe Biden in which he redefined the (admittedly and purposefully vague) line that has in many ways separated "torture" from "not-torture," or more specifically, conduct that violates substantive due process. That is, it is violative of due process guarantees enshrined in the Constitution to engage in behavior that "shocks the conscience."

To normal people, that means you judge the behavior. Does recovering evidence swallowed by a perpetrator apprehended by police by shoving a feeding tube down his throat, force feeding him an emetic, and causing him to vomit the evidence into a bucket "shock the conscience?" The decision of the Supreme Court in the 1953 case Rochin v. California was that it did.

But Michael Mukasey is no normal person. . . . And today, he told Senator Biden that what "shocks the conscience" depends not on what the actual behavior is, but rather on the value of the information being extracted with that behavior.
[Marty Lederman] How Can the Legality of Waterboarding Depend on the Circumstances? . . . [read on]

[Digby] It's really hard for me to believe that someone who used to be a federal judge can blow that sophistry in a congressional hearing with a straight face. . . . [read on]
[Paul Kiel] Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) had a long wind up before delivering his punch. . . . "Would waterboarding be torture if done to you?"

"I would feel that it was," Mukasey replied.
[David Kurtz] Mukasey basically put Congress on notice that they have to outlaw waterboarding or quit asking questions about it.
[Paul Kiel] Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) pressed the point that the Senate had, on a broad bipartisan basis, prohibited "such practices with the McCain amendment" (the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act).

But the Senate had also "voted down a bill that would prohibit waterboarding," Mukasey replied.

"You still think that the jury is out on whether the Senate believes that waterboarding is torture?" Durbin wanted to know.

"The question... is whether the Senate has spoken clearly enough in the legislation that it has passed...."

"Where is the lack of clarity in the McCain legislation?"

The "words of the legislation... are words that are general and upon which people on both sides of the debate have already disagreed. To point to this language or that language, it seems to me, is to pick nits at this point. People have disagreed about the generality of the language and said that it can be read two ways." . . .

[Paul Kiel] Sen. Chuck Schumer's (D-NY) . . . question was simple. You've said that waterboarding is "repugnant." So, if it is repugnant, don't you think that a ban of waterboarding is a good thing? Wouldn't you support that? . . . [read on]
Dick Durbin, D-Ill., gets off the best line of the day when—citing Mukasey's statement that "reasonable people can disagree" about the legality of water-boarding—he asks the attorney general to name some on the pro side.

Here’s their position, if you can believe it: we used to waterboard, but we stopped doing it, so there’s no point in discussing its legality. We’re not doing it now, so stop asking. And we reserve the right to do it again in the future, but there’s no point in asking about the legality of that either, because we haven’t done it yet. Shorter version: STFU
"[I] have concluded that the interrogation techniques currently authorized in the CIA program comply with the law.... I have been authorized to disclose publicly that waterboarding is not among those methods.”
[Dahlia Lithwick] As you'll recall, last October, nominee Mukasey promised the Senate that while he couldn't yet offer an opinion on the legality of the alternative interrogation technique called water-boarding, he'd be able to do so once he was "read into the program." As you may also recall, that nonanswer came close to scuttling his nomination. Last night, Gen. Mukasey let the Senate know in a sort of constitutional Dear John letter that he wouldn't opine on water-boarding today either, both because we stopped doing it and because it's "not an easy question."

In other words, having set about diligently to scrutinize the legality of the interrogation program, its legal justifications, and its applications, the nation's top lawyer has come up with this lawyerly answer: It depends. . . [read on]
[Glenn Greenwald] Yesterday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, featuring day-long testimony from Attorney General Michael Mukasey, was extraordinary for only one reason: for our country, what happened in the hearing is now completely ordinary . . . [read on]


Will the investigation of the destruction of CIA torture tapes also deal with the illegal acts they disclosed? I seriously doubt it

[NB: It's an interesting conundrum, because the people who destroyed the torture tapes clearly did so to avoid prosecution, so THEY believed that what was being done was illegal, or at least could be found so.]

The Nuremberg Defense

Torture wasn’t all they talked about
[Paul Kiel] Michael Mukasey is not a man to live in the past. It's a much more difficult place.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) started his questions by asking about the President's Article II powers under the Constitution. Do you think that the President can break any law he pleases because he's the President -- including, say, statutes banning torture?

"I can't contemplate any situation in which this president would assert Article II authority to do something that the law forbids," Mukasey shot back.

"Well, he did just that when he violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act" Specter responded. "Didn't he?"

Well, "both of those issues have been brought within statutes," Mukasey responded, apparently hoping that he wouldn't have to discuss the stickier past.

"That's not the point," Specter pressed. "The point is that he acted in violation of statutes, didn't he?"

"I don't know," Mukasey conceded. Awkward.

"There's no dispute about that," isn't there? The law says you have to go to court to get a warrant for wiretapping and the administration didn't do that. . . .

The FISA fight – it’s not just about telecom amnesty

Is there a deal in the works?

Wow. Just wow
[Jefferson Morley] Philip Zelikow, the executive director of the 9/11 Commission, communicated secretly with White House political strategist Karl Rove and other Bush administration officials, reports independent scholar Max Holland, citing an audio version of a forthcoming book by a New York Times reporter.

On his Web site, Washington Decoded, Holland reports that Philip Shenon, who led the Times coverage of the Commission, has written a “blistering account” of Zelikow’s role overseeing the 20-month investigation . . .


Bush demolishes the principle of balance of powers

People hate the war in Iraq more than ever

The dogs of war
[Spencer Ackerman] Julian Barnes at the Los Angeles Times picks up on the story we noted Monday about soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division apparently killing Iraqi detainees. . . .

A white elephant in Baghdad

I will miss John (and Elizabeth) Edwards – and look forward to their political future


Who does Edwards’s departure help? (Short answer: no one really knows)

The Republican war against John McCain

If anyone wants to see more “bipartisanship” in D.C., start with the source of the problem

As far as I know, there is no obligation for one house of Congress to automatically ratify what the other comes up with. The Senate can take a different tack on a stimulus package, then work it out in a conference committee. But the Republicans, of course, only want the version Bush worked out with Pelosi and Boehner on the House side – so will they now filibuster a bipartisan bill designed to give rebates to needy people?

Poor Alice
Perino asked: ‘Is the country better off now than seven years ago?’ . . . [read on]

It’s simple, isn’t it? Fox News’s ratings reflect people’s willingness to be deluged with Republican talking points
[Steve Benen] I’ll admit it; I have a special fondness for news about Fox News’ declining ratings. There’s just something about the drop in numbers that helps restore my faith in the American political system. . .

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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.***

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


The State of George Bush
The USA Today headline for last night's speech? "Bush Tries to Show That He's Still on The Job." Ouch. . . .
[Dan Froomkin] There it was last night, for all the world to see: A presidency running on empty. . .

It makes your head spin. Congress passes a Defense Authorization Bill with a provision The Decider doesn’t like – so he vetoes it (except he really didn’t). The Congress then rewrites the bill with a waiver exception so generous that even Bush should be satisfied (except he isn’t): he still issues a signing statement saying he doesn’t have to follow it

Here’s what REALLY bothered him:
[CQ] One such provision sets up a commission to probe contracting fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another expands protections for whistleblowers who work for government contractors. A third requires that U.S. intelligence agencies promptly respond to congressional requests for documents. And a fourth bars funding for permanent bases in Iraq and for any action that exercises U.S. control over Iraq’s oil money. . . .

Another broken promise
Four months after announcing troop reductions in Iraq, President Bush is now sending signals that the cuts may not continue past this summer, a development likely to infuriate Democrats and renew concerns among military planners about strains on the force. . . [A] year from now, the military presence in Iraq will be just as large as it was a year ago, or even slightly larger. . .

It’s official: the U.S. believes that waterboarding – widely defined as torture – is a legal and acceptable interrogation method. Expect more questions on this at Mukasey’s appearance before the Senate today
“There are some circumstances where current law would appear clearly to prohibit the use of waterboarding. Other circumstances would present a far closer question.”

With the Democrats writing the bills, Bush suddenly gets religion on earmarks

[NB: It’s too bad. The Dems had a chance to take over this issue by banning them once they got control of Congress. Now Bush looks like the fiscally responsible one.]

In need of a good lawyer – a tale of two trials
Last week in Currituck County, N.C., Superior Court Judge Russell Duke presided over the final step in securing the first criminal conviction stemming from the deadly actions of Blackwater Worldwide, the Bush administration's favorite mercenary company. Lest you think you missed some earth-shifting, breaking news, hold on a moment. The "criminals" in question were not the armed thugs who gunned down 17 Iraqi civilians and wounded more than 20 others in Baghdad's Nisour Square last September. They were seven nonviolent activists who had the audacity to stage a demonstration at the gates of Blackwater's 7,000-acre private military base in North Carolina to protest the actions of mercenaries acting with impunity -- and apparent immunity -- in their names and those of every American.

The arrest of the activists and the subsequent five days they spent locked up in jail is more punishment than any Blackwater mercenaries have received for their deadly actions against Iraqi civilians. . . .
For years, the families of the four Blackwater guards killed in the infamous Fallujah incident have carried on a wrongful death lawsuit against the company. . . .

House passes 15 day extension of FISA bill – without immunity. What next?


One part of the Bush govt is investigating another part – and vice versa! You know how effective they are at investigations, so multiply all their incompetence and duplicity by two, and you get a story like this

John McCain, given up for dead just a few weeks ago, wins Florida and leads the GOP field. Now what?
[DHinMI] If John McCain doesn't win Florida, he almost certainly won't be the Republican nominee. And if he does win Florida, his only chance of avoiding a crushing defeat in November will be to embrace the same moneyed interests he's declared are among the biggest problems facing America. . . .
[Kevin Drum] [T]he Florida exit polls confirm that John McCain has a big problem. As expected, he does well among independents and moderates, but also as expected, he does less well among Republicans and conservatives. Sure, they'll mostly come around in November, but mostly isn't enough. . . .


Rudy, oh Rudy. You’re lucky Fred Thompson ran his half-in, half-out, half-assed campaign this year – otherwise you’d get the prize for the most inept presidential campaign ever
Perhaps he was living an illusion all along. . .

Just three months ago, Anthony V. Carbonetti, Mr. Giuliani’s affable senior policy adviser, surveyed that field and told The New York Observer: “I don’t believe this can be taken from us. Now that I have that locked up, I can go do battle elsewhere.”

In fact, Mr. Giuliani’s campaign was about to begin a free-fall so precipitous as to be breathtaking. . . .

As Mr. Giuliani ponders his political mortality, many advisers and political observers point to the hubris and strategic miscalculations that plagued his campaign. . .


Fox News grieves:

Giuliani to drop out, then endorse McCain

Clinton vs McCain looks like a pretty good bet right now – and that has a lot of people worried
[IBD] John McCain claims his temper is not an issue. “I don’t think I would have the support of so many of my colleagues if that were the case.” Who are these supportive colleagues?

They certainly do not include Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss . . . “The thought of him being president sends a cold chill down my spine,” Cochran said. “He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me.” . .

The Bloomberg factor:

Local NY chapter of NOW accuses Ted Kennedy of “betrayal”
In a sharply critical statement, the New York state chapter of NOW took aim at Kennedy Monday for what it called an "ultimate betrayal," and suggested the Massachusetts Democrat "can't or won't" handle the idea of Clinton becoming President of the United States. . . .
[SusanG] When women who consider themselves feminists read a load of crap like this from the New York chapter of NOW, we feel betrayed . . .
[Steve Benen] When I saw an email yesterday with a statement purporting to be from the New York State chapter of the National Organization of Women, I dismissed it as a poor attempt at humor. The statement, claiming to be in response to Ted Kennedy’s endorsement of Barack Obama, was so over the top, and so hyperbolic in its claims, I assumed there was no way that any NOW affiliate would issue it to the media. . . .

This is idiotic and irresponsible
[Mark Finkelstein] I'm measuring my words carefully. Harry Smith has raised the possibility that Barack Obama's life could be in danger. The Early Show anchor interviewed Ted Kennedy this morning in the wake of his endorsement of Obama yesterday. . . .

HARRY SMITH: When you see that enthusiasm [for Obama] though, and when you see the generational change that seems to be taking place before our eyes, does it make you at all fearful? . . .

I just, I think what I was trying to say is, sometimes agents of change end of being targets, as you well know, and that was why I was asking if you were at all fearful of that. . . .

Larry Craig (he resigned, remember, then “un” resigned) – under Ethics investigation by his Senate colleagues, but it’s clear they have no stomach for a fight

This is a huge local story: there was a competition between Texas and Illinois for the big-budget “FutureGen” experimental energy plant. After a thorough comparison of the sites, based on scientific analyses and other data, Illinois was announced as the better site. Now Bush’s Energy Dept says, “well, maybe we won’t fund it after all.” Does anyone believe they would have said this if TEXAS had won the competition?

Bonus item: Steve Benen reads the right-wing blogs (so we don’t have to)

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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.***

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Bush’s pathetic, listless State of the Union speech. Cajoling Congress to pass things they’ve refused to pass for years (yeah right), blustering that he will now get serious about vetoing earmarks that he routinely accepted when the Republicans were passing them, bullying the Democrats to let him continue to execute a war that will not end before he leaves office – on front after front it was a speech that actually conceded his powerlessness and failure to achieve ANYTHING he had set out in previous SOTU’s (oh, except for that Mars mission he promised – and never mentioned again)
[Fred Kaplan] The sad thing about President George W. Bush's eighth and final State of the Union address is that he seems to have learned so little about the crises in which he's immersed his nation so deeply. . . .
[John Dickerson] Part of the president's goal was to remind Congress and the American people that he's still relevant, but other than the executive orders he promised and the Middle East peace initiative he committed himself to, he didn't do anything in his speech to prove that relevance. . . .

Things Bush is going to wish he hadn’t said
"Our foreign policy is based on a clear premise: We trust that people, when given the chance, will choose a future of freedom and peace. In the last 7 years, we have witnessed stirring moments in the history of liberty. We have seen citizens in Georgia and Ukraine stand up for their right to free and fair elections. We have seen people in Lebanon take to the streets to demand their independence. We have seen Afghans emerge from the tyranny of the Taliban to choose a new president and a new parliament. We have seen jubilant Iraqis holding up ink-stained fingers and celebrating their freedom. And these images of liberty have inspired us." -- President Bush, in his State of the Union speech tonight.

[Alex Koppelman] Far be it for us to suggest changes at this late date to the president's speechwriters, but since the Taliban are back from their initial defeat and Lebanon is going through what Reuters calls the country's "worst political crisis since the 1975-90 civil war," (don't get us started on Iraq) you'd think they would have looked for some more inspiring examples.
“By trusting the people, our Founders wagered that a great and noble Nation could be built on the liberty that resides in the hearts of all men and women. By trusting the people, succeeding generations transformed our fragile young democracy into the most powerful Nation on earth and a beacon of hope for millions. And so long as we continue to trust the people, our Nation will prosper, our liberty will be secure, and the State of our Union will remain strong.”

[Georgia10] * Over 60% of Americans want all troops out of Iraq withdrawn within one year.
* 68% of Americans think the nation is on the wrong track.
* 41% of Americans think that President Bush is "definitely worst than most" past presidents.
* 69% of Americans think waterboarding is torture and at least 58% think it should not be allowed.
* 57% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
* At least 54% of Americans support civil unions for gay couples.
* A majority of Americans want the government to fund stem cell research.
* 57% of Americans oppose telecom immunity.
President Bush’s call for a $300 million program called Pell Grants for Kids is the latest effort by his administration to channel tax dollars to low-income parents to help them send their children to private or religious schools.

His proposal, in his State of the Union address Monday night, was denounced by some top Democratic lawmakers and teachers’ union officials as a national “voucher” program that would only drain resources from urban public schools that in many cases are in need of money.

And some critics said that the president’s call for yet another education initiative only underscored the failure of the No Child Left Behind Act, the federal law that Mr. Bush considers a landmark achievement of his first term. . . .


Bush wants $70 billion MORE in war funding – might I suggest that Congress make it conditional on requiring a vote over any treaty that commits to a long-term troop presence in Iraq?

[Daniel Politi] [F]ive U.S. soldiers were killed in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. So far, 36 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq this month, which is an increase from the 23 that were killed in December. And yet, some insist that the "war has largely ended." . . .

The FISA vote: Dems won’t pass a bill with telecom immunity, and the GOP will filibuster any bill without it. So for now, they’ll vote a temporary extension of the current bill (MAYBE) and kick the can down the road – unless Bush follows through with his threat to veto an extension, letting the law lapse on Friday

Harry Reid:
Mr. President, in my twenty years in Congress, I have not seen anything quite as cynical and counterproductive as the Republican approach to FISA. . .


I’ve been harping on this, but the Dems (and the press) have dropped the ball in not stressing that the reason the Bush gang is fighting so hard for this bill is because it provides immunity for THEM as well as the telecoms – and they’re afraid they’ll need it

Noteworthy: for the first time, a Bush admin member confirms that they ARE using waterboarding

By the way, if waterboarding gets such great results, why didn’t they use it on Saddam Hussein?
[FBI agent George Piro] says no coercive interrogation techniques, like sleep deprivation, heat, cold, loud noises, or water boarding were ever used. "It's against FBI policy, first. And wouldn't have really benefited us with someone like Saddam," Piro says. . .


Why was responsibility for coercive interrogation given to the CIA, who had no background or expertise in the area? And what was the consequence? A major expose from Spencer Ackerman . . . .
Interestingly, one place that the CIA didn’t look for help was the place where interrogations have been performed, lawfully, for decades: the Federal Bureau of Investigation. "In terms of actual interrogations, when you have a suspect in custody, the FBI does that hundreds of times a day, 365 days a year, for 90 years," said Mike Rolince, who spent over three years as Special Agent in Charge of counterterrorism at the FBI’s Washington field office before retiring in October 2005. "The FBI brought serious credibility and a track record to the table. That said, the U.S. government decided to go about [interrogations] in a different way. The results speak for themselves. I don’t think we need to be where we are." . . .

The agency’s turn to interrogation was internally controversial. The CIA sought and obtained approval from administration lawyers in the White House and the Justice Dept. in early 2002 for every interrogation technique it used—legal guidance that the White House has since refused to release to Congress. Several CIA officials expected the agency would take the fall if the program ever became public. "We knew that five, 10 years down the road, our people were going to get screwed, like they always do," the former senior official said. The administration "wanted information, and they don’t give a damn how they get it. They just don’t want dirt on their plate." . . . [read on]


The Bush gang’s war on science
[T]he government’s top global warming researcher, James Hansen, revealed the government’s efforts to muzzle him from speaking out about climate change. NASA political appointees reviewed all his lectures, papers, and requests for interviews from journalists.

In a new e-mail, Hansen reveals that the censoring is not only happening to him, but to all government scientists. He writes that the White House Office of Management and Budget reviews all scientific testimony to make sure that it’s “consistent with the President’s budget” . . .

We are told by the Wise Men that bipartisanship is the way things should go. But what happened when the Republicans were in charge? And what did they say about it then?

Here’s what happens when a Republican actually does try to be bipartisan: they get savaged for it

[Kos] Huge news if true: Not Larry Sabato claims Rep. Tom Davis [R-VA] will announce his retirement this week. . . .

It wold be the 26th House Republicans to flee their sinking ship, or 13% of the GOP's caucus. And we're not done yet with the parade of retirements. We could see close to a fifth of their caucus quit before this year is out.


What a weird, defeatist campaign Giuliani has run: now he says the winner in Florida’s primary will be the party’s nominee – and it won’t be him!

Theocracy watch: the massive fundraising by televangelists has never been properly investigated. Here’s what happens when someone tries

Bonus item: The silly season
[CNN] Mitt Romney's failure to eat fried chicken with the skin on is nothing short of blasphemy here in the South, according to GOP rival Mike Huckabee. . . .

Fried squirrel too?

***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.***

Monday, January 28, 2008


I didn’t start this primary season with strong opinions about Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. John Edwards was putting out the policies closest to my own views. But the pattern of attacks from Hillary and Bill C. against Obama worries me, because if she gets the nomination, as she might, it could be a pyrrhic victory, gained by creating bitter racial divides within the party and demoralizing the expanded and inspired pool of voters Obama has been successful in getting involved in the campaign. Plus, I am convinced that if Clinton and McCain are the nominees, there will definitely be a third-party run, and even conceivably a fourth, because both of them face sizeable parts of their party regulars who will not want to support them
[Frank Rich] In the wake of George W. Bush, even a miracle might not be enough for the Republicans to hold on to the White House in 2008. But what about two miracles? . . .

Up until this moment, Hillary has successfully deflected rough questions about Bill by saying, “I’m running on my own” or, as she snapped at Barack Obama in the last debate, “Well, I’m here; he’s not.” This sleight of hand became officially inoperative once her husband became a co-candidate, even to the point of taking over entirely when she vacated South Carolina last week. With “two for the price of one” back as the unabashed modus operandi, both Clintons are in play.

For the Republicans, that means not just a double dose of the one steroid, Clinton hatred, that might yet restore their party’s unity but also two fat targets. . . .
[Bob Herbert] Bill Clinton, in his over-the-top advocacy of his wife’s candidacy, has at times sounded like a man who’s gone off his medication. And some of the Clinton surrogates have been flat-out reprehensible.

Andrew Young, for instance.

This week, while making the remarkable accusation that the Obama camp was responsible for raising the race issue, Mr. Clinton mentioned Andrew Young as someone who would bear that out. It was an extremely unfortunate reference.

Here’s what Mr. Young, who is black and a former ambassador to the United Nations, had to say last month in an interview posted online: “Bill is every bit as black as Barack. He’s probably gone with more black women than Barack.” . . .

The Clinton camp knows what it’s doing, and its slimy maneuvers have been working. . . . [I]t’s legitimate to ask, given the destructive developments of the last few weeks, whether the Clintons are capable of being anything but divisive. The electorate seems more polarized now than it was just a few weeks ago, and the Clintons have seemed positively gleeful in that atmosphere.

It makes one wonder whether they have any understanding or regard for the corrosive long-term effects — on their party and the nation — of pitting people bitterly and unnecessarily against one another.

What kind of people are the Clintons? . . .
[Kevin Drum] [E]nough's enough. I don't like dog whistle racial appeals when Republicans do it, and I don't like it when Bill Clinton does it. (And unlike Hillary's MLK/LBJ remark, which was idiotically mischaracterized, don't even try to pretend that this was an innocent remark. We're not children here.) Yes, Obama has to be able to handle this kind of sewage, and yes, this will almost certainly be forgiven and forgotten among Democrats by November. But it's not November yet, is it? My primary is a week from Tuesday, and I'm not feeling very disposed to reward this kind of behavior . . .
Democrats inside and outside the Clinton campaign on Sunday debated and in some cases bemoaned the degree to which former President Bill Clinton’s criticism of Senator Barack Obama last week had inflicted lasting damage on his wife’s presidential candidacy. . . .


A contrary view:

Obama’s amazing achievement


“The Edwards Scenario”

Telecom immunity: big vote today
[McJoan] Jane breaks the great news that Senator Clinton will be on the floor tomorrow to vote against McConnell's cloture vote on the Intelligence Committee's pro-telco amnesty FISA bill. . .

Jane is now reporting that Obama will be there to vote no, too. . . .

This is good news for keeping this fight going, and good news for us. Citizen action, our pressure, is making a difference. The massive push back from the left has actually succeeded in throwing a monkey wrench into the works. . .
[Christy Hardin Smith] Retroactive immunity on FISA is designed to immunize the Bush/Cheney Administration. Once immunity is given, it cannot be taken back. . . [read on]


Bush’s New World Order: how it has failed

More failures
Will George W. Bush be remembered as the president who lost the economy while trying to win a war? . . .

Big trouble ahead in Pakistan
Taliban factions unite to battle Pakistan . . .
Pakistan military retreats from Musharraf's influence . . .


“The stages of conservative grief”
[Hunter] I thought it might be appropriate, at this point, to go over the five conservative stages of grief. They are taken directly from Kubler-Ross, and so are solidly backed by the best psychological modeling. In their moments of understandable despair over actually having finally been given the unfair and dastardly opportunity to put their signing pens where their mouths have been, as opposed the previous years of merely erupting, geyserlike, on Fox News every evening about what they could do if they were in charge, it is expected that most conservatives will at this point go through at least some of these stages of grief. Since we are not ogres, here, we will simply wish them well and pray for their speedy recovery. . .

Theocracy watch: church groups feel used by Bush

Mitt Romney: the new Bush?

Rudy currently in FOURTH PLACE in his “must win” state

Bill Kristol, rewarded with priceless column space in the NYT, and for what?
[BarbinMD] [H]e has been so consistently, so overwhelmingly wrong on so many occasions, I soon realized that it could not be covered in just one sitting, and so today I will focus on his writings between the terrorist attacks on September 11th and the United States invasion of Iraq. . . .
[BarbinMD] Inspired by a New York Times editorial page editor's claim that William Kristol was "a serious, respected conservative intellectual," last week I began the Herculean task of chronicling his incredible history of being wrong. This week I will be looking at Kristol's pre-war fearmongering about WMD in Iraq and then his rationalizations and revisionism when those weapons failed to materialize. . . .

Fox says no political ads during the Super Bowl – presumably this means for BOTH parties

Bonus item: Has Bush set the new precedent, that wearing an earpiece and getting real-time coaching from your advisors is just another step in the evolution of the cyborg politician?

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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.***

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Bush has been blustering that we need warrantless wiretapping authorized, NOW. Another day without it puts the entire nation at risk. . . blah, blah, blah. But then he says he’ll veto any bill without telecom immunity in it

The fight against telecom immunity: what’s at stake

Pakistan says, “We’re not Iraq, buddy – we really ARE a sovereign nation” rejecting Bush’s plan to increase CIA operations on their soil

Unions, for the first time in years, have grown under Bush

The end of FOIA? Yes, if the Bush gang had its way

Any government today has to be worried about cyber-security. But wouldn’t you know that Bush would use it as an excuse for advancing his wider secrecy and surveillance agenda?

Bush invokes Lincoln in discussing his legacy. Aside from being Presidents during wartime and suspending habeas corpus, I can’t think of a SINGLE thing they have in common
[Garret Epps] On the personal level, Lincoln had none of Bush’s obstinacy and egotism. He scorned yes men, and surrounded himself with Cabinet officials better known than he was, refusing to purge even those actively working against his own political interests. . .

George W. Bush is Lincoln the way Dan Quayle is Jack Kennedy. . . .

Hmmm. . . . why does A.G. Mukasey have a portrait of George Orwell in his office? Is that good news or bad?

Obama’s impressive South Carolina primary win: counting the numbers

His stirring victory speech:

Hillary tries to pretend it doesn’t mean anything


The behind-the-scenes fight for superdelegates: will they decide the nomination?

McCain once flirted with switching parties – you know it was only a matter of time before that got used against him. Because while there is constant pressure on Democrats to be more “bipartisan,” for Republicans it’s a disadvantage

Lazy journalism: still using unrepresentative snippets from blogger Comments sections to tar the entire class

Sunday talk show line-ups
ABC's This Week: Sen. Barack Obama (D).

CBS' Face The Nation: Sen. Hillary Clinton (D); Rudy Giuliani (R).

CNN's Late Edition: Gen. David Petraeus, Commander Multi-National Forces-Iraq; Henry Paulson, Treasury Secretary; Mike Huckabee (R); Mitt Romney (R).

Fox News Sunday: Henry Paulson, Treasury Secretary; Mike Huckabee (R).

NBC's Meet The Press: Sen. John McCain (R).

Bonus item: “The Whisper” – mystery solved?

***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.***

Saturday, January 26, 2008


What Constitution?
President Bush's plan to forge a long-term agreement with the Iraqi government that could commit the US military to defending Iraq's security would be the first time such a sweeping mutual defense compact has been enacted without congressional approval, according to legal specialists. . . .


Answers, please
[AP] A federal judge said Thursday that CIA interrogation videotapes may have been relevant to his court case, and he gave the Bush administration three weeks to explain why they were destroyed in 2005 and say whether other evidence was destroyed. . . .

Democracy: such a damn nuisance when you’re trying to run a country
President Bush prodded the Senate on Friday to move quickly on the stimulus package laid out on Thursday. . . “Congress should move it quickly,” the president said of the $150 billion package. “I understand the desire to add provisions from both the right and the left. I strongly believe it would be a mistake to delay or derail this bill.” . . .
Shrugging off a personal plea from President Bush, senators from both parties said yesterday that they will push for significant additions to the $150 billion stimulus package hammered out Thursday by House leaders and the administration. . .

Move along, nothing to worry about here . . .
President Bush signed a directive this month that expands the intelligence community's role in monitoring Internet traffic to protect against a rising number of attacks on federal agencies' computer systems. . . .

“The party of ideas”;_ylt=Ava7j0EU4.E._cEVZ_zazOKs0NUE
Bush speech to have few new ideas
In a bow to political reality, President Bush's final State of the Union speech will skip bold proposals in favor of ones the country has heard before . . .

[Peggy Noonan] George W. Bush destroyed the Republican Party, by which I mean he sundered it, broke its constituent pieces apart and set them against each other. He did this on spending, the size of government, war, the ability to prosecute war, immigration and other issues. . . .

Afghanistan: not a success story

What next on FISA and telecom immunity?
[Paul Kiel] The squeeze is on.

You remember how it went last time: with time running out before the end of the congressional summer recess, the administration, with the help of some key Democrats, managed to push through a far-reaching surveillance bill.

And once again, five months later, some of the same conditions have been created. The administration's bill, the Protect America Act, is set to expire February 1st. Republicans and the administration have consistently opposed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's attempts to push that deadline back. . .

The table is set for Monday, when the Senate will vote on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) attempt to end debate on the intel committee's bill. That motion to invoke cloture will need 60 votes to pass. If it does pass, then the Senate would immediately vote on the bill . . .
[Harry Reid] The president has to make a decision. He's either going to extend the law, or he will...which is temporary in nature, or there will be no wiretapping. . .

[McJoan] Time is ultimately on Reid's side on this one. The House, as of now, is not prepared to accept the Senate bill as is even if the Republicans manage to get cloture on it. The House passed their version of the bill last year, and it does not include telco amnesty. Opposition to amnesty is much stronger in the House. So it is highly unlikely that we would see a repeat of last August, when a bad Senate FISA bill was shoved down the throats of the House. With the PAA set to expire next Friday, and the House in recess starting Wednesday for a Democratic retreat, Bush and the Republicans are going to have to agree to an extension, or take responsibility for the "threat to America." . . .
[McJoan] It's also possibly dawning on Senate Democrats, as Tim points out, that all of this could have just been yet another political ploy by the Republicans so that they drag the fight into Monday, the day of Bush's state of the union address, and that quite possibly, this will be a major feature in his last opportunity to try to scare the shit out of the nation in hopes that they can eke out a few extra votes in November. What? This administration playing politics with national security? Trying to paint the Democrats as weak on terra? . .
[Christy Hardin Smith] [W]hat the GOP wants on FISA is failure . . . [read on]

Go Chris Dodd!

Corruption in the Dept of Education
The Education Department has brushed aside a finding by its own inspector general that a student lender improperly received $34 million in federal subsidies, and is instructing the lender to decide for itself how much money it should pay back. . . .

I don’t like this. I don’t like it when the Republicans try to pull this stuff, and I don’t like it when Democrats do
[Josh Marshall] The Clinton camp really needs to be shut down on this new gambit of theirs to muscle the party and the other candidates into seating the Michigan and Florida delegate slates.

And let me be very clear about what I mean. It was very debatable decision whether the DNC should have punished Florida and Michigan with the loss of their delegates slates because they broke the rules the party had set down for scheduling their primaries. By 'debatable' I don't mean it was right or wrong, only that it was a pretty draconian move and I know there was a lot of discussion about whether or not it was the right thing to do.

But that was the decision -- one that each of the candidates at least implicitly agreed to. Indeed, each agreed not to campaign in either of these states, again implicitly agreeing to the decision not to seat the delegates.

The Clinton camp is just pushing to seat these delegates now because the contingencies of the moment mean that the decision would favor Hillary. She was the only one whose name was on the ballot in Michigan, thus insuring her win. She has a wide lead in every Florida poll taken this month.

Even Michigan was a matter of her basically pulling a fast one on the other candidates by not taking her name off the ballot. Each of the major candidates signed a pledge not to "campaign or participate" in any primary or caucus prior to Feb. 5th except for Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. The other major candidates adopted what seems like the only reasonable interpretation of the pledge (see text here) and pulled their names from the ballot.

But then Hillary didn't, thus in essence guaranteeing her win in Michigan. . . .


A contrary view:

Apparently, there is smoke but no fire with the Obama/Rezko connection – but I guarantee you that this will not stop the media from breathlessly obsessing over it if Obama becomes the candidate

From those who know him best
The real Mr. Giuliani, whom many New Yorkers came to know and mistrust, is a narrow, obsessively secretive, vindictive man who saw no need to limit police power. Racial polarization was as much a legacy of his tenure as the rebirth of Times Square.

Mr. Giuliani’s arrogance and bad judgment are breathtaking. When he claims fiscal prudence, we remember how he ran through surpluses without a thought to the inevitable downturn and bequeathed huge deficits to his successor. He fired Police Commissioner William Bratton, the architect of the drop in crime, because he couldn’t share the limelight. He later gave the job to Bernard Kerik, who has now been indicted on fraud and corruption charges.

The Rudolph Giuliani of 2008 first shamelessly turned the horror of 9/11 into a lucrative business, with a secret client list, then exploited his city’s and the country’s nightmare to promote his presidential campaign. . . .
While it's too early to write Giuliani's campaign obituary, it's not hard to see his weaknesses as a candidate. He seems constitutionally resistant to lengthy sessions of flesh-pressing and to uncontrolled campaign dialogue. He favors long, discursive speeches and generally limits questions to a handful, when he takes questions at all. Contact is across a rope line, generally -- except when he must walk across a room to an exit, where bodyguards keep the curious at bay with deftly placed forearms, if necessary. . . .

The groundswell of support for Michael Bloomberg . . . isn’t
Mike Bloomberg's Numbers Are Worse Than Ron Paul's . . . [read on]

Will the last Republican quitting from Congress please turn out the lights?

Theocracy watch: stewards of God’s planet?

The Boxer:
Rather than wait for litigation to reach its preordained conclusion, Senate environmental committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has introduced a bill that would overrule EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson and instruct him to grant California's waiver.

Right out of the gate, it's got bipartisan support. . . .

Bonus item: The Whisper

***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.***

Friday, January 25, 2008


Don’t listen to another word from the Bush gang about Iraqi “sovereignty”
With its international mandate in Iraq set to expire in 11 months, the Bush administration will insist that the government in Baghdad give the United States broad authority to conduct combat operations and guarantee civilian contractors immunity from Iraqi law . . .

This emerging American negotiating position faces a potential buzz saw of opposition from Iraq, with its fragmented Parliament, weak central government and deep sensitivities about being seen as a dependent state . . .


Good luck
Lawmakers Demand Input in Any U.S.-Iraq Deal . . .


Wrecking the U.S. military
[Fred Kaplan] The Army is lowering recruitment standards to levels not seen in at least two decades, and the implications are severe—not only for the future of the Army, but also for the direction of U.S. foreign policy. . .
[Andrew Tilghman] The Army's Other Crisis
Why the best and brightest young officers are leaving . . .

The recession: two explanations
FLASHBACK: Economists Predicted That A Prolonged U.S. Presence In Iraq Could Lead To A Recession . . . [read on]
Jon Stewart tonight played clips of various "experts" on Fox declaring that the main culprit behind our sinking financial picture and the selloffs on Wall Street is fear of a Democratic victory in November. . .

Krugman on the “stimulus” bill

[Kevin Drum] I guess it could have been worse. . . .

The Dems concede ‘way too much to Bush in the stimulus package. All I can guess is that they calculated that an extended argument over the issues will hurt people who need some relief, quickly; and that partisan bickering (well, what will be represented AS partisan bickering) will simply encourage Bloomberg’s third party candidacy, which would hurt them in the fall
[Atrios] Nancy and Boehner are on my teevee patting each other on the back for their bipartisan awesomeness. It's sort of mysterious why there needs to be bipartisan awesomeness in the House . . .

Well, if it was meant to temper Bloomberg’s aspirations, it doesn’t seem to have done so

Nor has it bought the Dems any good will with Bush in a wider sense
[Dan Froomkin] [T]he stimulus agreement looks like just a brief respite from what's shaping up to be another session of bloody battles in which an increasingly lame-duck president still somehow manages to consistently beat a feeble Democratic majority into submission. . .

Parliamentary jockeying over the FISA bill and telecom immunity: Reid puts off a final vote

Fight on . . .
[Hunter] There is established law for how, when necessary, to conduct surveillance on Americans. There are provisions for conducting critical, emergency surveillance without a prior warrant. None of this is complicated; the only complication is when the Bush administration decided, long before 9/11, that they did not want to make even a token effort at either following those laws or seeking modifications to those law. Instead, they went to the telecom companies to seek cooperation for simply violating the law outright, in order to accomplish the broad domestic surveillance programs that they had been longing for before they ever gained office. And except for one company -- Qwest -- all the other companies went along with the illegal activity. . . [read on]


Jay Rockefeller (D-WV): “We” will win on FISA (huh?)

Explain to me why retroactive immunity, whatever its pros and cons, is necessary for the FUTURE safety and security of the country?
“If Congress does not act quickly, our national security professionals will not be able to count on critical tools they need to protect our nation, and our ability to respond quickly to new threats and circumstances will be weakened,” Bush said in a statement.

White House to ‘play very tough’ on surveillance, telecom immunity . . .

The Bush gang, no doubt trying to influence votes on Capitol Hill, releases long-requested documents on warrantless spying

EPA administrator Stephen Johnson tried yesterday to explain why he overruled California’s emissions law, against all advice from his own staff, in an unprecedented intrusion into local policy. Here goes . . .
[Paul Kiel] Finally, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson gets to show what stuff he's made of. Is he your garden variety Bush appointee who shoots off arbitrary and lawless decrees from behind his desk? Or is he the type who'll go before Congress, lead with his chin, and declare his loyalty from the rooftops?

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Senate environmental committee, rolled out the red carpet for Johnson yesterday, when she released notes that her staff had taken on internal EPA briefing documents (you can see them below). They showed, as has been reported, that Johnson's staff recommended granting California's petition to limit greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. But Johnson ignored that and denied it anyway.

It was a battle for Boxer's committee just to see these documents. The EPA sent over heavily redacted versions, arguing that they were protected by executive privilege -- specifically that cherished privilege against "needless public confusion" over the staff advising one thing and the political appointees declaring another.

Since the EPA leadership refused to release the offending documents, Boxer's staffers had to go over and copy them themselves. Reports the AP, "EPA officials asked that the information be kept private, but Boxer's staff told EPA they wouldn't agree to that condition, and they released the excerpts to reporters Wednesday." . . .
[Paul Kiel] The EPA's catch-us-if-you-can game with Congress is not the norm, Senate environmental committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said in kicking off this morning's hearing (airing on C-Span), declaring, "In all my years in the House and the Senate, I've never seen such disregard and disrespect.... I've never seen anything like it." . . .
[Paul Kiel] Oddly enough, Johnson's first explanation for the timing indicated a coup to curb a staff revolt. EPA internal documents had been leaked to the press, he said, and they were misrepresenting "what actually was true." So he made the judgment call to announce the decision rather than "having inaccurate information" out there.

Two observations on this. . . .
Every time [Bernie] Sanders [D-VT] asked a question and Johnson made his monotone parry, Sanders struck back to the heart of the issue.

Is global warming a major crisis facing the planet? he wanted to know.

"I don't know what you mean by major crisis," Johnson responded. . . .
WARNING: Readers with an impatience for administration evasiveness should not watch this video. . . .

Oversight oversights

Putting a leash on A.G. Mukasey?

He’s b-a-a-a-c-k!
“The Department of State is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Paul Wolfowitz as the Chairman of the Secretary of State’s International Security Advisory Board. . . .”

ANOTHER senior Republican quits

Playing the victim on the Democratic side of the Presidential campaign

All you need to know about the GOP debate last night

Fred Thomspon’s very strange, dispirited campaign

A typical non-apology apology from John Gibson
“I have received comments regarding remarks I made on my radio show the other night after the shocking death of Heath Ledger. I'm sorry that some took my comments as anti-gay and insensitive. . . .”

Gee, why would they think THAT?
Fox News host John Gibson callously mocked the death of actor Heath Ledger, calling him a “weirdo” with a “serious drug problem.”

Playing an audio clip of the iconic quote, “I wish I knew how to quit you” from Ledger’s gay romance movie Brokeback Mountain, Gibson disdainfully quipped, “Well, he found out how to quit you.” Laughing, Gibson then played another clip from Brokeback Mountain in which Ledger said, “We’re dead,” followed by his own, mocking “We’re dead” before playing the clip again.

Bonus item: Interesting issue -- is it worth $8.5 million to run ads throughout 2008 reminding people of Bush’s lies, failures, and incompetence?

***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.***