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Random arrests, beatings, murder and now starvation



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While it may sound like Pol Pot and his destructive regime thirty years ago, this is Zimbabwe today. The latest bad news for the suffering population is a massive shortage of corn/maize. Most people in Zimbabwe live on mealy-meal, which we would call cornmeal in the US. This is what people eat for the 2 or if they are fortunate 3 meals a day. Of the required 1.8 tons needed to feed the population, only one third of that amount is expected from this years harvest. Making matters worse is the governments insistence that they have enough food and will not ask for or accept outside assistance.

Mugabe received a free pass this week from his neighbors, at least in public, but the calls for change are growing and the rest of the region has to be fed up with his disregard for human rights as well as the continuing problem of feeding the people of Zimbabwe. How much more abuse can the good people of Zimbabwe endure and how much more of this treatment will they tolerate? Read the rest of this post...

Disco Saturday Night



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Off for drinks and dinner, or dinner and drinks. Read the rest of this post...

Top Bush campaign strategist blasts Bush in Sunday NYT



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From the NYT:
In speaking out, Mr. Dowd became the first member of Mr. Bush’s inner circle to break so publicly with him.

He said his decision to step forward had not come easily. But, he said, his disappointment in Mr. Bush’s presidency is so great that he feels a sense of duty to go public given his role in helping Mr. Bush gain and keep power.

Mr. Dowd, a crucial part of a team that cast Senator John Kerry as a flip-flopper who could not be trusted with national security during wartime, said he had even written but never submitted an op-ed article titled “Kerry Was Right,” arguing that Mr. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and 2004 presidential candidate, was correct in calling last year for a withdrawal from Iraq.

“I’m a big believer that in part what we’re called to do — to me, by God; other people call it karma — is to restore balance when things didn’t turn out the way they should have,” Mr. Dowd said. “Just being quiet is not an option when I was so publicly advocating an election.”
Read the rest of this post...

Open thread



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Another gorgeous day, it's finally spring. Read the rest of this post...

Those crafty Jews



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No, seriously, it's a compliment. Read the rest of this post...

Despite GOP spin, Pentagon not running out of money to run the war



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So another case where the GOP is lying to make a political point about the war:
The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service has estimated that the Army has enough budget flexibility to pay for its military operations through July in the event that a standoff between the White House and Congress over Iraq holds up the money the administration says it needs for the war effort.

The service’s report, made public Friday by Senate Democrats, said the Pentagon may have to shift money between accounts and curtail some nonessential activities, but said Congress has provided the military with new ability to do so, lessening the potential for disruptions until additional money is approved.
Everyone knows and trusts the Congressional Research Service. The media is now on notice that the Bush administration is lying when they say the military is going to run out of money next month. Anyone at the Pentagon who pushes that line is also not telling the truth.

There have been enough lies about Iraq. Bush and his cronies have never been held accountable for the Iraq quagmire. Those days are over and the Democrats are starting to change the course. Read the rest of this post...

Saturday Morning Open Thread



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Good Morning.

I'm in Disney World with my little cousin, Molly, who just finished 2 1/2 years of treatment for leukemia. She's here on Make-A-Wish trip and things are looking good for her. Molly turned seven this week. I've never been to the Magic Kingdom before....it's quite a place.

Bob Geiger has the Saturday cartoons. There sure wasn't a lack of material this week.

Also, check out the poem of the week. Usually, the poem provides a respite from the week. This one is from Donald Rumsfeld. Yep, Rumsfeld.

Have at it. Read the rest of this post...

It's Final Four weekend!



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My standard Saturday morning always involves coffee, possibly a croissant if it's a really good day, but not this morning. I spent 3 1/2 hours with my friendly dentist who finally pinned me down for that visist I've been avoiding forever. The only thing that kept me distracted was thinking about the match up tonight between my two favorite college basketball teams, Ohio State and Georgetown. I had season tickets for both long ago and have loved following both teams move through the tournament this year so tonight, the big game is here.

Ohio State versus Georgetown is up first followed by Florida versus UCLA, who also have fantastic teams but admittedly I know much less about those two. Who's everyone picking to move to the final? Read the rest of this post...

General tried to warn Bush about Pat Tillman's death



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Surprise. I'm sure no one remembers this either. Read the rest of this post...

Our new favorite man-whore is in even more trouble



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Oh my. Read the rest of this post...

Open thread



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Gorgeous night here. 65 degrees, and no birds.

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Jesse Jackson denounces Congressional Black Caucus Institute for wooing anti-Black FOX News



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From ColorOfChange.org:
Rev. Jesse Jackson today denounced the Congressional Black Caucus Institute’s planned presidential debate partnership with FOX. He called for yesterday’s decision to be reversed and for presidential candidates not to attend a FOX debate.

Jackson said, “I am disappointed by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute's partnership with FOX, and strongly encourage them to reverse that decision. Why would presidential candidates, or an organization that is supposed to advocate for Black Americans, ever give a stamp of legitimacy to a network that continually marginalizes Black leaders and the Black community? FOX moderating a presidential debate on issues of importance to Black Americans is literally letting the Fox guard the henhouse – FOX should be rejected.”
Read the rest of this post...

Growing concern about student loan providers



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Imagine that...the big names on Wall Street and US banking connected to questionable student loan practices. Shocking, really.
Amid growing government scrutiny of the student loan business, the chairman of a House committee said Thursday he has asked five major lenders to provide information about their relationships with college financial aid offices.

California Democrat George Miller requested the information from industry leader Sallie Mae as well as rivals Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup's Student Loan Corp.

In a letter to Thomas Fitzpatrick, chief executive of SLM Corp., the formal name for Sallie Mae, Miller cited news reports raising "concerns about student loan providers offering gifts or other questionable incentives to colleges that agree to encourage students to take out their student loans with specific lenders."

Miller, who chairs the House Education and Labor Committee, asked for the information to be provided within 10 days.

He is seeking a wide range of data on loan recipients and benefits extended to them and their colleges, as well as documents on marketing practices and compensation policies, all extending back as far as 2001.

The lawmaker has already introduced legislation that would require lenders and institutions to disclose more fully the terms of their relationships.
Shocking that the Republican Congress saw nothing wrong with this, sort of like there was nothing wrong with the subprime lending programs. What else did the GOP ignore and when will we find out? It's going to be a never-ending story of corruption and greed and I'm sure we have just barely begun to scratch the surface. Read the rest of this post...

CNN host launches sexist attack on Senator Clinton



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Of course, this is the same CNN host who called Mrs. Clinton a "bitch" two weeks ago, so why stop there? This is the same CNN host who suggested that all Muslim-Americans are working with the terrorists, that the word "faggot" isn't really much of a slur, that women should be referred to by their weight, that he "hates" the families of the victims of September 11, that Hurricane Katrina victims are "scumbags," and that Senator Obama is so "colorless... he might as well be white."

But hey, CNN wants ratings. And they've apparently learned that racism, sexism and homophobia work for FOX, so why not CNN? Very sad.

More from ThinkProgress, and hat tip to My Two Sense for finding this and dogging this pitiful excuse for a CNN host. Read the rest of this post...

The creator of the (in)famous Hillary/Apple/1984 ad speaks out



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I actually met Phil last month, before this story happened. The spoof he did of the 1984 Mac ad is just brilliant (he took the old ad and updated it with Hillary content, it's seamless). I know Phil got some shit for it, lost his job actually. But the quality of the ad, the genius behind it, is simply amazing. The guy is worth a million bucks.

Here's his interview:



Here's the ad he made:



And finally, here is the original Mac ad from 1984 that he's spoofing.

Read the rest of this post...

Newspaper editor sends son to a war he opposes



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Great column by an editor whose son has decided to go to Iraq. From E&P. Read the rest of this post...

FYI There's a story in the Advocate about Hillary and Obama, quotes me a good deal, most of the quotes are wrong



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I had a back and forth all week with the Advocate over their new article about Hillary and Obama and the gay community. They interviewed me, gave me a good few paragraphs in the piece, then to my dismay I realized that 80% of the quotes attributed to me were really quotes that someone else said. Apparently the editors cut some paragraphs and someone else's quotes became mine. It wouldn't be that big a deal, most of the quotes are pretty benign (though who knew that Hillary was a "street fighter"?), but I do object to one quote in particular - claiming that Hillary is now ambivalent on DOMA. That's not true, as far as I know, and I don't want to be quoted in the future as saying so (which is what happens if lazy reporters rely on old quotes they find via google). The editors tell me that they're issuing a correction or a retraction or something. So, just giving you guys a heads up. If you read the Advocate this week, most of those quotes attributed to me are not mine. Read the rest of this post...

Open thread



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Day 7 of "waking up at dawn with the birds" I've retired the new bird feeder. It was a nice idea, but seriously, chirping 10 feet away from my bed at 5:30 in the morning every single bloody day? I don't think so. So, I got a few neat pictures this week of the birds, and now am trying to convince them to go away. The sirens in this town are bad enough (it's been insufferable since September 11), but bird fights all day long? I don't think so. Here are a few pictures I snapped (that's the Capitol dome in the background.) - as always, click on each picture to see a larger version.





Read the rest of this post...

Just whose side is the Congressional Black Caucus on?



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We already know - their non-profit institute is on the side of racist TV networks. Corrupt, corrupt, corrupt.

Visit the Color of Change for more info on this issue. Read the rest of this post...

Top Republicans just can't remember key facts. They are either lying or evading. Or both.



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Howie Kurtz asked today: "Does everyone in the Bush administration have amnesia?" He then provides some striking examples of allegedly very smart people, who, by the way, are running the government of the United States, with some very faulty memories:
Alberto Gonzales kept saying he wasn't involved in any discussions about the firing of U.S. attorneys, but according to his former chief of staff yesterday, he was -- several times over.

Gonzales couldn't even recall a conversation with the president involving GOP complaints about some U.S. attorneys, although Bush remembered it.

In his Senate appearance yesterday, Kyle Sampson flatly contradicted his ex-boss's denials. As for himself, Sampson said that, whaddya know, he had forgotten some of the e-mails he sent and received when briefing the deputy attorney general about his appearance before Congress. At one point, Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) said: "We're trying to find out what in heaven's name he does remember."

GSA chief Lurita Doan, who testified Wednesday about a January videoconference in which a White House official briefed the agency about targeting congressional Democrats, said: "I'm a little bit embarrassed to admit this, but I can say that I honestly don't have recollection of the presentation at all."

She kept repeating the "do not recollect" defense until a Democratic congressman likened her to Sergeant Shultz, the see-nothing dufus Nazi guard on "Hogan's Heroes."

Scooter Libby is facing the prospect of jail because he told a grand jury he couldn't remember leaking Valerie Plame's identity to some reporters.
But the GOP amnesia isn't limited just to "loyal Bushies." Today's NY Times profiles Rudy Giuliani's forgetfulness about Bernard Kerik's alleged ties to the mob. Now, let's not forget that before Rudy was mayor, he was a hard-charging U.S. Attorney who famously went after the mob. Yet, asked whether he'd been told that his choice to run the NY Police Dept. might have some mob-related issues, Rudy couldn't remember:
At one point, a senior Bronx prosecutor, Stephen R. Bookin, asked Mr. Giuliani, “As you sit here today, your testimony is, and correct me if I am wrong, that you don’t recall ever being told that a close friend of your correction commissioner had been indicted in a federal case?”

Mr. Giuliani responded: “I don’t recall that until 2004. I can’t tell you that it wasn’t, but I don’t — I don’t — I don’t remember.”
Is it a lie to say you can't remember to avoid lying? Funny thing how most of these moments of forgetfulness happen under oath.

Telling the truth is not a GOP value. Read the rest of this post...

The largest data breach to date at TJ Maxx-Marshalls



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Thanks for nothing, TJ Maxx. Doing nothing, that is. You would expect that a highly profitable business run by very well paid executives would have shown an interest in data security for their customers, but not TJX, parent company of TJ Maxx and Marshalls. Unauthorized software was working inside the company together with hackers who managed to access 45.7 million credit and debit card numbers. The data was then used across Florida, with reports of international purchases as far away as Hong Kong.

It is almost shocking that nobody has been sacked to date for this mismanaged fiasco but the Bush administration has certainly set new standards in America for holding firm in the face of incompetence and failure. Can you imagine that the largest data breach in history has had such minimal impact? Perhaps someone from TJX can provide some detail as to how they intend to compensate their previously loyal customers who have been exposed to this problem that could easily haunt them for years?

TJX owes some answers to its customers, at a minimum. As consumers, don't we deserve it? Read the rest of this post...

Friday Morning Open Thread



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Big day for George Bush. He gets to do a photo op at Walter Reed. Bush thinks taking pictures constitutes support for the troops.

And, is Alberto Gonzales still our nation's top law enforcement official? In Bush world, lying doesn't mean one can't be the Attorney General. Says so much.

So, it's Friday. Start threading the news. Read the rest of this post...

Children massacred by Uganda army according to report



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The Bush-friendly government often struggles with the truth, so groups such as Save the Children might be more reliable sources than government and military leaders.
Ugandan army raids in the country's troubled northeast killed up to 66 children who were shot or crushed by armored vehicles and stampeding animals, aid workers said Friday, citing witnesses.

Children's rights charity Save the Children said it has met with 256 people who reported the deaths during raids by the Ugandan People's Defense Force on a cattle ranch in Karamoja on February 12.

"Reports of children being killed in indiscriminate, illegal and inhumane way is absolutely devastating. Such allegations must be fully investigated and those involved brought to account," said Valter Tinderholt, country director of Save the Children in Uganda.
Read the rest of this post...

Democrats warn Interior Department over Endangered Species



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Common sense is coming back into style. I love balance of power.
Rep. Norm Dicks and senior Democrats warned the Interior Department on Wednesday against making major changes in the Endangered Species Act without involving Congress.

The quick and unambiguous response came one day after reports that the Interior Department has been working for months to reinterpret the 1973 law in a way that environmentalists said would gut the primary tool for protecting plants and animals on the verge of extinction.

The Bush administration and some Republicans have been working for years to change the act, which they say is onerous and overly expensive for landowners. At each step, however, Congress has blocked the changes.

The new approach would change the law unilaterally by changing the way it is interpreted. Those changes surfaced in a 117-page document and in departmental memos that discuss ways to restrict the law without needing congressional approval.

Dicks, who spoke Wednesday with Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, said he was especially concerned by a proposal that would require extra protection only in areas where endangered species are found.

That would significantly narrow protections because current practice includes habitat that historically supported a species, even if that species no longer lives there.
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Open thread



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News? Read the rest of this post...

Affordable Suites hotel has policy of not renting to gay couples, employee says



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Big storm at Affordable Suites. And it's been confirmed by a local reporter posing as a gay couple. They turned away an inter-racial gay couple, and told them it's because they're gay.

From the local CBS affiliate:
A gay couple looking to rent a hotel room say they were turned away because of their sexuality.

"She wasn't discreet about it," said Jason Pickel, referring to a hotel employee. "She was not apologetic. She just said, 'We do not rent to gay people.'"....

News19 contacted the hotel, posing as a potential renter, and inquired about two men staying in the same room. The receptionist who answered the phone told us the following: “Our policy is we don’t rent to two people of the same sex if we only have one bed.” “Is that your policy,” we asked. “That’s corporate policy because they only have one sleeping area.” We then asked, “Okay, but they can't share the bed?” "I suppose they could, but most men don’t want to," she said.
The owner now says that there is no such policy to discriminate, but his employee was quite emphatic that there is. This is why we need civil rights laws. It is legal at the federal level, and in most states, to turn away gay couples from hotels simply because they are gay. That's wrong. That's why we have civil rights laws. Read the rest of this post...

Today was "one of Iraq's deadliest days in years"



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John had a post earlier about the rampant violence in Iraq today. It was bad. It got worse. Much worse:
Five suicide bombers struck Shiite marketplaces in northeast Baghdad and a town north of the capital at nightfall Thursday, killing at least 122 people and wounding more than 150 in one of Iraq's deadliest days in years.

The savage attacks came as a new American ambassador began his first day on the job, and Senate Democrats ignored a veto threat and approved a bill to require President Bush to start withdrawing troops.

At least 178 people were killed or found dead Thursday, which marked the end of the seventh week of the latest U.S.-Iraqi military drive to curtail violence in Baghdad and surrounding regions.
The horrors continue unabated. Read the rest of this post...

Why nobody knows anything



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The contempt with which media outlets sometimes treat the American public is simply astonishing. Time Magazine, to its credit, put together an extremely readable article on the Talibanization of western Pakistan, a nation of critical importance in the region. Pakistan also happens to be floundering, with widespread dissatisfaction towards leadership and increasing extremism in the population. I don't expect people to always be interested in the machinations of central Asian political development, but hey, Time decided to run with an important and fascinating issue. They even put the article on the cover . . .

. . . for every edition except the U.S. version! The cover story here? "Why we should teach the Bible in public schools." I kid you not. It's just like when Newsweek's cover article was "Losing Afghanistan" for every edition except the U.S. Ours? Annie Leibovitz.

Registan really has the best treatment (and the actual covers) of this:
In other words, while it might be nice to learn about how American policy is failing in the country that actually attacked us on September 11, the mainstream glossies seem to think we’re more interested in lesbians who photograph celebrities and the Kansas Board of Education . . . Why do these publications hate America? I can’t really say. But seeing how they treat us with such contempt is deeply illuminating, and probably good insight into why our leaders seem to make such puzzlingly bad decisions in "the broader Middle East."
This kind of stuff makes me insane. Read the rest of this post...

Family Research Council: Liars or just clueless?



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I got an email today from the religious right lobbying group, Family Research Council. They're all upset that civil rights groups want to add gays, women, and people with disabilities to the already-existing federal hate crimes law. They claim that hate crimes laws are bad, even though the current federal hate crimes law already covers the religious right. You don't hear them ever mention that fact. They claim that the hate crimes laws will punish speech, even though the current law has been on the books for nearly 40 years and nobody has ever been punished for speech. But hey, nobody ever accused the Family Research Council of playing fair when it comes to homophobia.

You'll recall that the existing hate crimes law is a federal law that permits the Justice Department and the FBI to provide federal resources to local police forces when local crimes are motivated by the race, religion or national origin of the victim. The proposed amendment would add sexual orientation, gender and disability to the law as well - so that when crimes are motivated based on any of those categories, the feds could provide resources as well.

Note that currently the feds cannot get involved if there's a local hate crime. Under this law, they can. And that's a good thing. When Matthew Shepard was murdered in rural Wyoming, the local police force practically went broke over his cast. Federal resources can and do help.

In any case, I just find it interesting that the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, vocal opponents of hate crimes laws, haven't told their followers that the current hate crimes law, the law on the books, already covers them. Funny that FRC and AFA aren't publicly calling for themselves to be removed from the existing hate crimes law. Equally funny that in 40 years that the FRC and AFA have had their own hate crime special right, none of us have ever been prosecuted for our anti-religious-right speech (when FRC and AFA claim that this is what the law does, criminalizes speech critical of the protected classes - and
God knows I'm critical of their bigoted fat class).

I'd just like to see some enterprising journalist ask the FRC and the AFA why they're against civil rights for gays, but for special rights for themselves? And if hate crimes laws criminalize speech, then why is it no speech charges have been filed in the 40 years that the law has been on the books? Read the rest of this post...

Open thread



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Anybody perjure themselves today? Read the rest of this post...

Sampson: Gonzales gave false testimony to Senate



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From E&P:
Specter asked about Attorney General Gonzales' "candor" in saying earlier this month that he was not a part of any discussions on the firings. He asked about the November 27, 2006 meeting "where there were discussions" and Gonzales allegedly attended. Was Gonzales' statement about taking part in no discussions accurate?

"I don't think it's accurate," Sampson said. "He recently clarified it. But he was present at the November 27 meeting."

"So he was involved in discussions in contrast to his statement" this month? Specter asked.

"Yes." Sampson replied.

Sen. Charles Schumer then asked about Gonzales also claiming that he saw no documents on this matter.

Sampson replied: "I don't think it's entirely accurate."

Schumer: "There was repeated discussions?"

Sampson : "Yes."

Schumer: "As many as, say, five."

Sampson: "Yes."

Schumer then asked if Gonzales was truthful in saying Sampson's information on the firings was not shared within the department.

Sampson: "I shared information with whoever asked....I was very open and collaborative in the process."

Schumer: "So the Attorney General's statement is false?"

Sampson: "I don't think it is accurate."
Read the rest of this post...

Baghdad neighborhoods John McCain might not want to visit during his upcoming trip to Iraq



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Today in Baghdad.
BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb in Bayaa district in southern Baghdad killed three people and wounded 20 others, police said.

BAGHDAD - Two policemen were killed and six wounded when they approached a car bomb in Amil district in southwestern Baghdad, police said. There was a body in the car.

BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol wounded three soldiers in the western Ghazaliya district of Baghdad, a Reuters witness said.

BAGHDAD - Gunmen attacked the motorcade of the head of traffic police, Jaafar al-Khafaji, in northern Baghdad, killing two traffic policemen and wounding two others, police said.

BAGHDAD - Thirteen bodies were found shot in different districts of Baghdad on Wednesday, police said.

BAGHDAD - A car bomb targeting an Iraqi army checkpoint killed a soldier and wounded three others on Wednesday near al-Shurta tunnel in western Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - Gunmen kidnapped Hassan Abdul-Latif, an official of the Iraqi Customs Office in central Baghdad, on Wednesday, police said.
Read the rest of this post...

Senate passes "surge" spending bill with Iraq withdrawal timetable. Bush holds political "pep rally."



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The Iraq war is just a political game for George Bush. Always has been. That's why there hasn't been a real policy. The GOPers in Congress just play along with him. But the times they are a changin':
The Democratic-controlled Senate ignored a veto threat and voted Thursday for a bill requiring President Bush to start withdrawing combat troops from Iraq within four months, dealing a sharp rebuke to a wartime commander in chief.

In a mostly party line 51-47 vote, the Senate signed off on a bill providing $122 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also orders Bush to begin withdrawing troops within 120 days of passage while setting a nonbinding goal of ending combat operations by March 31, 2008.

The vote came shortly after Bush, in a move that his aides said was unprecedented, invited all House Republicans to the White House to appear with him in a sort of pep rally to bolster his position in the continuing war policy fight.
A pep rally. Says it all. Read the rest of this post...

Sampson testifying now



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You can watch is on C-Span 3, or via the Web here.

Read the rest of this post...

The Green Zone isn't even one of those safe neighborhoods John McCain described



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George Bush and John McCain keep telling us how well things are going in Iraq. Just yesterday, McCain was telling us all about Baghdad's safe neighborhoods (before he denied he was talking about them despite saying just that to four media outlets). But, these days, even the safest Baghdad neighborhood, the Green Zone, is under attack:
Iraqi insurgents are increasingly hitting Baghdad's fortresslike Green Zone with rockets and mortar shells, officials said Wednesday.

Insurgents have struck inside the Green Zone, which includes the U.S. Embassy, on six of the past seven days, once with deadly consequences. A U.S. soldier and a U.S. government contractor were killed Tuesday night by a rocket attack that also seriously wounded a civilian, military and embassy officials said. One soldier and at least three other civilians received minor injuries, U.S. Embassy spokesman Lou Fintor said.

The attack stunned a workforce normally blase about Baghdad's habitual wartime booms and blasts.

A State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said, "There are increasing attacks on the embassy."
And as for strolling around the Green Zone without any security, that's not happening either. So, the Green Zone doesn't make the cut for safe neighborhoods:
Wednesday morning, embassy personnel received a bulletin citing the "recent increase of indirect fire attacks on the embassy compound." It included strict instructions: Body armor and helmets would now be required for all "outdoor activities" within the sprawling embassy complex, even short walks to the cafeteria. There would be no group gatherings outside, including at the famed Palace Pool. No "nonessential" visitors would be allowed in the compound.

A U.S. official in Baghdad characterized embassy personnel as "anxious and alert."
We're still waiting for McCain to identify just what Baghdad neighborhoods he was talking about. Has anyone in the media actually asked him yet? Or are they worried that if they ask McCain real questions, they won't get invited on the bus? Read the rest of this post...

Bush Administration fines Bush Administration



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What a dysfunctional team. Do they ever get anything right?
The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday fined the federal Energy Department $1.1 million over violations of an agreement to clean up the Hanford nuclear reservation, the nation's most polluted nuclear site.

The fine involved operations at a landfill that is the primary repository for contaminated soils, debris and other hazardous and radioactive waste from cleanup operations across the site.
Read the rest of this post...

Connecting Truth Tellers from Vietnam and Iraq



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At least one legacy of Vietnam lives on.

This year, The Ridenhour Truth-Telling Prize links the Vietman whistle blower for whom the award is named to an Iraq whistleblower. Ron Ridenhour exposed the My Lai massacre in 1969. Donald Vance told the truth about how U.S. detention practices in Iraq because he learned them first-hand:
Donald Vance, a 29-year-old Navy veteran, had been a long-time supporter of the war in Iraq. But that changed last April when, serving as a security contractor in Baghdad, he was detained by U.S. forces and held without charges for more than three months at Camp Cropper, one of Iraq’s most notorious military prison camps. There, Vance and a colleague, Nathan Ertel, were denied counsel and communication with the outside world. They were held in isolation in extremely cold cells without adequate clothing or blankets. Vance was also subjected to sleep deprivation, interrogation for hours and often denied food and water for long periods. The U.S. military eventually released both Vance and Ertel without explanation, admitting that they had done nothing wrong.

Vance secretly kept notes on his time at Camp Cropper and smuggled them out in a Bible. He took his story public in December, offering a detailed and verifiable account of his experiences to the New York Times. His report has provided a rare and credible inside account of the Pentagon’s detention operations — and is one of only a few stories to emerge since the abuse scandals at Abu Ghraib.
I remember reading that article about Vance in the NY Times. We wrote about it here. It was brutal. Vance receives his award on April 4th at the National Press Club. (While Vance is in DC, he should tell his story on Capitol Hill.) Read the rest of this post...

Thursday Morning Open Thread



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Alberto Gonzales is still the Attorney General. We'll see how that goes after Kyle Sampson testifies today.

We're still at war in Iraq and George Bush is still lying about the war. And, John McCain is still delusional.

What else? Read the rest of this post...

Mugabe clings to power, rumors of coup circulating



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Mugabe has been actively sending goon squads out at night to beat up opposition members, who have been already been beaten and arrested countless times. Before leaving for a meeting in Tanzania with fellow southern African leaders, Mugabe's police systematically rounded up and arrested leading opposition members. At this point, Mugabe has nothing left to offer Zimbabwe besides excessive violence so it is no wonder that there are rumors circulating about a coup. People want to get back to eating, working and living a normal life, none of which are on Mugabe's agenda. Read the rest of this post...

Bernanke: what's a few hundred billion or even a trillion between friends?



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What's not to love about a tanking war that is soaking up hundreds of billions of dollars all during a time of massive tax cuts? Add to that increasing oil costs (again) plus the crashing real estate market that has over $600 billion in subprime loans not to mention a growing list of existing homes sitting on the market? Don't worry about it...just join together and sing kumbaya. I'm sure it will all work out somehow. Read the rest of this post...

Riot in Paris train station



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Since the major riots back in 2005, in real terms, nothing has changed in France. Sure I see more police on the streets of Paris, but I never felt threatened in Paris which is a very safe city. The problem for a long time has been disaffected youth who live in the poor suburbs and who are not part of the ultra-conservative French society who detest change and don't seem interested in opening the doors to anyone but the existing elite.

The candidates for president have done their darnedest to leverage these youths for their own self benefit, with Sarkozy talking about a quota system from one side of his mouth while talking about cleaning ("Karchering" to be specific) the troubled suburbs on the other. Segolene from the left, not one to miss a PR spin moment, responded by talking about "fires still smoldering" in these communities but her hero, Francois Mitterand, never made any effort to bring this community into the political fold or improve the daily living options, leaving the issue to future generations. Even today, the Socialists ignore the problem and change the conversation to a constitutional-dreamland discussion instead of realities on the street.

Regardless of what actually transpired in the station Tuesday night and who was to blame for triggering the ugly and criminal events, France still needs a plan for integration. The problem is not going to disappear just because police are on the streets of posh Parisian streets. Real action needs to happen...not just talk. This of course raises the issue that a good friend who is French but spends a lot of time in the US always tells me: the French only want to talk and never take action while the Americans never want to talk and only take action. Not exactly a recipe for success. Read the rest of this post...

Naitonal Review calls for Alberto Gonzales to resign



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Ouch. This would be one of the standard-bearer magazines of the entire conservative movement. Read the rest of this post...

Those two "Iraqi bloggers" Bush quoted today to prove how much better Iraq is after the surge, he actually (mis)quoted a WSJ op ed from 3 weeks ago



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Idiot. Read the rest of this post...

Saudi king calls US presence in Iraq "illegal foreign occupation"



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Bush gets blasted by his very dear friend, the King of Saudi Arabia:
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia told Arab leaders on Wednesday that the American occupation of Iraq is “illegal,” and he warned that unless Arab governments settle their differences, foreign powers like the United States would continue to dictate the region’s politics.

The king’s speech, at the opening of the Arab League summit meeting here, underscored growing differences between Saudi Arabia and the Bush administration as the Saudis take on a greater regional leadership role, partly at American urging. The Saudis seem to be emphasizing that they will not be beholden to the policies of their longtime ally.
He's not your bitch any more, Bushie.
Read the rest of this post...

Open thread



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Had John McCain come up with any more lies in the last few hours? Read the rest of this post...

Every decade has its Monica. And Alberto Gonzales' "Fifth-Amendment Monica" has ties to Pat Robertson.



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It hit me last night that Monica "I plead the Fifth" Goodling, Alberto Gonzales' top lawyer who is refusing to testify before Congress, went to Pat Robertson's university for law school. (I subsequently, of course, found the link found that ThinkProgress had already had the same epiphany a few hours before me - doh.)

I have to say that I take a special pleasure in seeing some Pat Robertson-educated religious right drone practically running the Department of Justice and then taking the Fifth Amendment so that she doesn't have to admit to any possible involvement in a crime. Putting aside the fact that we're talking about people who have shown outright disdain for the Bill of Rights for everybody else, but now suddenly they [heart] the Constitution - there's something else important to note here. The silent invasion of religious right henchmen that's taken place in Washington since George Bush and the Republicans took power over 6 years ago. These are the kind of people who will stay in our government should John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, or any other Republican win the White House in 2008. The only way to really clean house, is to clean out the entire (white) house. Read the rest of this post...

Religious right leader James Dobson says former GOP Senator Fred Thompson is "not a Christian"



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Dobson is the most powerful religious right leader in the Republican party. He is THE leader of the entire movement. He is THE man that Republicans turn to when they want to talk to the religious right. He is the only religious right leader who actually has any significant pull in the Republican party (the others, my conservative GOP friends tell me, are considered kind of kooky and irrelevant). And today he threw a Republican presidential candidate out of Christianity. Absolutely astounding. Who does Dobson think he is, Jesus Christ himself?

At least one religious right Republican, former Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele, criticized Dobson today on CNN, calling Dobson "the extremes" of the Republican party that needs to be avoided. Read the rest of this post...

McCain has no credibility left



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Senator John McCain (R-Delusion) simply has no credibility left on defense or foreign policy issues. I understand that he was, at one point, a reasonable person and a man of reported integrity, someone who could work with groups and individuals on both sides of the aisle.

That time has passed.

The Senator said yesterday, regarding Iraq, "The consequences of failure are catastrophic because if we come home, bin Laden and Zarqawi, they are going to follow us." Um, Senator . . . Zarqawi is dead. Not only is he dead, but the Senator used his death, which occurred nearly ten months ago, to smear those who advocated redeployment: "[Zarqawi's death] has got to be viewed as a success," he said. "It's got to be viewed as perhaps a bit of a rebuke against those who are advocating that we cut and run out of Iraq."

Almost a year later, with no improvement and tens of thousands more dead and wounded, McCain is saying the same things. Yesterday he claimed that General Petraeus, the commander of all U.S. troops in Iraq, "goes out there almost every day in an unarmed humvee." This is, of course, absolutely ridiculous. As CNN's Michael Ware reports, "certainly the general travels in [an up-armored] humvee. There’s multiple humvees around it, heavily armed. There’s attack helicopters, predator drones, sniper teams, all sorts of layers of protection. So, no, Sen. McCain is way off base on this one."

The only hope for McCain and his war is to confuse and mislead the American public to the extent that they no longer understand the reality of the situation. It would be sad if it wasn't so pernicious.

Between the ghost of Zarqawi following us home and our super General traveling with no defenses in the peaceful neighborhoods of Baghdad, it's increasingly clear that McCain is unfit for any public office, let alone the presidency. Read the rest of this post...

General McCaffrey contradicts McCain, says nowhere is safe in Baghdad



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Following up on Joe's post, earlier, here's General Barry McCaffrey (ret.) in today's Washington Post:
"[N]o Iraqi government official, coalition soldier, diplomat, reporter, foreign NGO [nongovernmental organization], nor contractor can walk the streets of Baghdad, nor Mosul, nor Kirkuk, nor Basra, nor Tikrit, nor Najaf, nor Ramadi, without heavily armed protection."

....McCaffrey is widely respected in the military, having fought in the Vietnam War, commanded a division in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and later served as the commander for U.S. military operations in Central America and South America.
Then why did John McCain repeatedly say over the past 24 hours that there were several "safe neighborhoods" in Baghdad where US forces could walk around safely? McCain based his Iraq war vote yesterday on this bogus fact. Will he now change his vote? Read the rest of this post...

DNC rips McCain over his claim that there are numerous "safe neighborhoods" in Baghdad. McCain repeated false claims to NBC, ABC, CNN & talk radio.



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The furor is growing over John McCain's repeated statements to four media outlets (i.e., it wasn't just a slip of the tongue, McCain actually believes this stuff) over the past 24 hours that there are numerous "safe neighborhoods" in Baghdad where Americans can walk around in total safety. McCain even went one step further, in an effort to explain his support for the "surge," McCain lied about our commanding general in Iraq, General Petraeus - and Petraeus has now called him on it.

More from the DNC:
John McCain is in Florida today after igniting a flurry of controversy by claiming on Bill Bennet's talk show that, "there are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods today." [Bill Bennett's Morning in America, 3/26/07] Asked about McCain's blatant attempt to spin the facts on the ground, CNN's Baghdad correspondent, Michael Ware, responded with a quick "No" and said, "no way on earth can a westerner, particularly an American, stroll any street of this capital of more than five million people...You barely would last 20 minutes out there. I don't know what part of Neverland Senator McCain is talking about when he says we can go strolling in Baghdad."

McCain refused to back down from his comments, however, telling NBC's Today Show from Orlando this morning that there are "many signs of success...neighborhoods in Baghdad that are largely certainly much more secure," and telling ABC's Good Morning America that "you look at facts on the ground...there are neighborhoods that are calm." McCain's sprinkling of pixie dust in response to ABC came on a question about whether he has "to be looking at Iraq through rose-colored glasses to see progress" when one hundred people have been killed in "just the last day, [in] the same town the president used last year as an example of freedom taking hold." [NBC Today, 3/28/07; ABC's Good Morning America, 3/28/07]

"John McCain seems to think that walking through Baghdad is as easy as his march away from campaign finance reform and his image as a so-called 'maverick,'" said Democratic National Committee spokesman Luis Miranda. "With his rhetoric coming under fire, McCain had better hope the Double Talk Express got the armor that our troops have been forced to do without. Misrepresenting the facts on the ground in Iraq might be the latest tactic for McCain's do-anything-to-win campaign, but after hearing the same thing from the Bush Administration for four years, the American people would no doubt prefer a new direction."
Let me just add that these are the reasons McCain gave for supporting the surge. And his reasons are wrong. Is this the kind of quality, or lack thereof, that Americans want to see in a future war president? A guy who makes critical war decisions based on things that simply aren't true? Read the rest of this post...

Bush withdraws SwiftBoater's nomination to be ambassador



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Buh bye. Read the rest of this post...

Pelosi: Bush needs to "calm down"



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Pelosi, just shown on CNN:
"On this very important matter I would extend a hand of friendship to the president, just to say to him: 'Calm down with the threats, there's a new Congress in town. We respect your constitutional role, we want you to respect ours. This war must end, the American people have lost faith in the president's conduct of the war, let's see how we can work together.'"
Read the rest of this post...

Demand that John McCain name that "safe" neighborhood in Baghdad



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UPDATE: Now McCain is denying he ever said any of this, even though he said it on camera only yesterday AND in his denial today he repeats the claim that there are several "safe neighborhoods" in Baghdad, though he qualifies his statement by saying that they are very dangerous safe neighborhoods (I'm not kidding). So name those very dangerous safe neighborhoods. Not to mention, it's not very straight-talking to deny something you said on camera 24 hours earlier, and something you repeated on Bill Bennett's radio show. This is a man who wants to be president, and he is basing his justification for the Iraq war on a lie. Sound familiar?

(NOTE TO MEDIA: When presidential candidate John Kerry made a similar unsubstantiated claim - that several world leaders opposed Bush's re-election - you dogged Kerry relentlessly to name those leaders. Well fair is fair. If you're not all a bunch of conservative suck-ups, then do your job and demand the same answer from John McCain. Name those neighborhoods.)

GOP Senator John McCain, who is running for president, said yesterday that it's an absolute lie to suggest that Baghdad is unsafe. In fact, McCain says that there are several neighborhoods - more than one - in Baghdad (outside of the Green Zone, of course), that are totally safe for an American to travel alone with no security. Here's what McCain said:
“There are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods, today."
CNN's Baghdad correspondent, Michael Ware, who is actually IN BAGHDAD, says that McCain is flat-out wrong:
"Honestly, Wolf, you'll barely last twenty minutes out there. I dont know what part of 'Neverland' Senator McCain is talking about when he says we can go strolling in Baghdad."
But John McCain was quite emphatic about it. There are "some neighborhoods" in Baghdad that you can travel around by yourself with no security and be perfectly safe. The only reason you don't know this, McCain told CNN yesterday, is because the media is lying to you.

Wow. Hell of a charge. McCain must know something that we don't. If McCain is right, if the media is lying to me, I want to know what the media is hiding. Won't you join me in asking Senator McCain to reveal to us the names of these non-Green-Zone Baghdad neighborhoods that are so darn safe that an American can travel alone with no security whatsoever.

Call John McCain now, and ask him to name that neighborhood.

(202) 224-2235

Then let us know what he said in the comments. Read the rest of this post...

McCain insists Baghdad is safe. From Baghdad, CNN's Michael Ware is not sure what part of Neverland McCain is talking about.



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John McCain insists that things are getting better in Iraq. As his presidential campaign continues its tailspin, McCain is sounding more desperate -- and more delusional. Like his pal George Bush, McCain is blaming the media again, too. So, rather than just accepting the GOP criticism of the media (which NBC's Norah O'Donnell always does) CNN actually asked its reporter on the ground in Baghdad to dissect McCain's claims. The transcript doesn't do Ware's commentary justice.

From CNN earlier today:

Senator John McCain (from very safe confines of the U.S. Capitol):
General Petraeus goes out there almost every day in an unarmed Humvee. I think you oughta catch up. You see, you are giving the old line of three months ago. I understand it. We certainly don't get it through the filter of some of the media.
CNN's Michael Ware (from not-so-safe Baghdad):
It's unclear what part of Neverland that Senator McCain is talking about where Americans can stroll the streets of the capitol Baghdad. If Al Qaeda doesn't get an American, if a Shia militia isn't...tipped off, if the Sunni insurgents don't grab them, then a criminal gang will see dollar signs and take them immediately.
Read the rest of this post...

Who will get stuck with the subprime bill?



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As this self-made Wall Street mess continues to unravel, stories about individuals losing their houses are popping up on a daily basis. I am sure that there has been no shortage of predatory practices in the industry but with vast majority - 89% according to the Center for Responsible Lending - of the subprime loans made to existing home owners, it is a fair question to ask, "what were they thinking?" Congress is now talking about putting in place regulations, years too late to have any impact on the economic crisis that this is triggering, but having regulations in place for this sector is basic common sense.

So now that this flimsy system is crashing under its own weight, everyone is looking around and wondering what to do. Should buyers who heard what they wanted to hear and lived well beyond their means get relief? Should the subprime lending companies get bailed out since they represent well over $300 billion in the economy? Should the Wall Street names such as Morgan Stanley, who loaned the money for a quick buck and just reported 70% profit increase, be held accountable? Should tax payers and those who didn't fall for these schemes pay?

Ultimately these lending "get rich quick" problems are the problems of those who participated, both buyers and sellers. It sickens me that those who should have known and could have done something - Republican Congress, SEC, Wall Street, Greenspan and the Fed - did nothing while this was building up. All Americans (and well beyond in our global economy) are going to pay a price for this as the hard landing hits. Housing prices will stagnate, jobs in construction, banking, etc will all suffer which will be another problem on an economy already burdened with an expensive war.

Bush and the GOP loved selling America on the home ownership boom which was based on pie-in-the-sky economics and get rich quick ideas from top to bottom but like Iraq, they failed the American public by ignoring obvious problems. Too many buyers bought into excitement of riches and failed to think about the hard realities and what-if scenarios. If anyone is going to foot the bill for this, let the buyers, the lenders and those who financed the lenders work it out but there is no reason at all to involve everyone else who either did the right thing and borrowed what they could or who stayed on the sidelines. I hear Morgan Stanley did pretty well with their investments which included subprime money, so go ask them. Maybe Greenspan can help out since he has so many ideas and seems to be cashing in these days. Read the rest of this post...

US facing "Strategic Peril" in Iraq says General McCaffrey



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Before the President gives yet another political speech about Iraq, read what Thomas Ricks wrote in the Washington Post about General McCaffrey's newest report:
An influential retired Army general released a dire assessment of the situation in Iraq, based on a recent round of meetings there with Gen. David H. Petraeus and 16 other senior U.S. commanders.

"The population is in despair," retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey wrote in an eight-page document compiled in his capacity as a professor at West Point. "Life in many of the urban areas is now desperate."
And, this:
Nevertheless, [McCaffrey's] bottom line is that the U.S. military is in "strategic peril" -- a sharp contrast to his previous views.
And despite John McCain's happy talk about how safe Iraq is, McCaffrey offers another assessment:
The government lacks dominance in every province, he added. One result is that "no Iraqi government official, coalition soldier, diplomat, reporter, foreign NGO [nongovernmental organization], nor contractor can walk the streets of Baghdad, nor Mosul, nor Kirkuk, nor Basra, nor Tikrit, nor Najaf, nor Ramadi, without heavily armed protection."

Militias and armed bands are "in some ways more capable of independent operations" than the Iraqi army, he added.
Bush and McCain make a great team spinning Iraq. They share ownership of the war. Read the rest of this post...

Wednesday Morning Open Thread



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So, John McCain. He acknowledges that the Iraq war has been badly managed for four years. But, in McCain world, we should trust the people who badly managed the war for four years to get it right. Those days are over. Apparently, your President, who has badly managed the war for four years, is giving a big speech to trash the Democrats this morning. Because that's what Bush does. He makes everything political. Instead of coming up with a policy for Iraq, Bush treated it like a political issue. True to form, he's giving a political speech today. It's really sick.

Thread away. Read the rest of this post...

Bush and SEC think corporate failures are all the fault of investors



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Class action lawsuits are all the fault of investors and have nothing to do at all with getting ripped off by greedy executives who propped up bogus data to make their companies look hot. Uh huh. Damned investors! How dare they ask for real data that is accurate. How dare they ask for accountability when a company crashes. Having participated in a class action lawsuit against a book-cooking bunch of swindlers and over-paid incompetent execs, I only received pennies on my investment but I still believe this sends the right message to companies that manipulate the books for the greed of a few individuals.

If I was investing in a private company, I would understand that the rules are different. If I was investing in developing country, I would understand that it's not Wall Street and the risks are high. However, if companies want to compete in the public market and accept the riches that comes with being listed in New York and not Buenos Aires, accept the conditions or de-list. The Bush/SEC whining about regulations making American companies uncompetitive is bull. Having a strong system that is regulated and monitored helps everyone. We don't need to look further than the subprime situation to see what happens when hundreds of billions are thrown into an unregulated environment. Some competition, huh?

Quit the crying and get serious about business for goodness sakes. Read the rest of this post...

Iraqi police go on killing spree - 45 executed in two hours



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Is this what Republicans and Bush want America to support?
Off-duty Shiite policemen enraged by massive bombings in the northern town of Tal Afar went on a revenge spree against Sunni residents there on Wednesday, killing at least 45 men execution-style, police and hospital officials said.

The policemen began roaming the town's Sunni neighborhoods on foot early in the morning, shooting at Sunni residents and homes.

A senior hospital official in Tal Afar said at least 45 men between the ages of 15 and 60 were killed with a shot to the back of the head and four others were wounded. He spoke on condition of anonymity due to security concerns.

Police said dozens of Sunnis were killed or wounded, but they had no precise figures. The shooting continued for more than two hours, the officials said.
Read the rest of this post...

Blair to show maps & photos to prove UK troops were in Iraq



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If Blair hadn't participated in one of the greatest hoaxes of modern time, the world might be more willing to believe him. The problem here for Blair is that he is a known manipulator and a liar who dragged the UK into a war with Bush, all based on a pile of lies. Who could forget Colin Powell showing maps and photos to the UN? Blair went down that slippery slope long ago so his credibility is shot. It is unfortunate for the British sailors, who are ultimately paying the price for the failures of their leader and Parliament ought to hold him legally accountable for his actions. Read the rest of this post...

US Attorney fired for not following through on voter-fraud cases. But FBI Director says there were no not-followed-through cases to his knowledge



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Gee, another lie. From Reuters:
Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, noted that among the shifting reasons given for firing prosecutors was failure to energetically pursue voter-fraud investigations.

Schumer asked Mueller if he was aware of any FBI voter-fraud probe that should have resulted in an indictment but did not.

"Not to my knowledge," the FBI director replied.
Read the rest of this post...

Open thread



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Warm as hell in DC. Read the rest of this post...

Dick Cheney and the mysterious $140,000 contract



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TPM has more information on Dick Cheney's odd ties to the corrupt GOP lobbyist who bought off Randy "Duke" Cunningham. How did this guy, out of nowhere, get the contract to screen the president's mail, presumably for Anthrax? The guy was a nobody. Had never had a federal contract before. His company showed no revenue, ever. Yet somehow the guy is hired by Dick Cheney's office to oversee the Anthrax mail threat at the White House, and then the guy gets hundreds of millions of dollars of DOD contracts, and bribes a sitting GOP congressman. All because Dick Cheney for some reason let this incredibly corrupt stranger in the very secure White House door shortly after September 11.

As Josh Marshall notes:
It all comes back to the same question. Why did a company like Wade's, which had no track record whatsoever and had only been approved to receive federal government contracts two months earlier, get a contract from the White House to screen the mail of the President of the United States? Was Wade actually working in concert with or as the cut out for accused fellow Cunningham briber Brent Wilkes? And what role might Doolittle and Ney have played? And what about Wade's claims of having pull with the Vice President? Is that what got him the deal?
Read Josh's update - there's more to this story that the White House isn't telling us. Read the rest of this post...

Fulfilling the wish of the electorate, Democrats send a message to Bush about Iraq



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These paragraphs say so much:
Three months after Democrats took power in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the moment was at hand to "send a message to President Bush that the time has come to find a new way forward in this intractable war."

But Republicans _ and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an independent Democrat _ argued otherwise.

John McCain, R-Ariz., a presidential hopeful, said that "we are starting to turn things around" in the Iraq war" and that a timeline for withdrawal would embolden the terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere.
All through the Iraq debate, Republicans keep warning us about emboldening the terrorists in Iraq. Not sure how much more emboldened those terrorists in Iraq can get. Four years after George Bush told us the mission was accomplished, those terrorists in Iraq continue to engage the most powerful military in the world. That seems to have really emboldened them.

McCain and Lieberman keep trying to prop up Bush and his failed war policy by claiming progress where there is none.

And, one more time, Maine's Susan Collins proved she is no moderate. She plays one in Maine, then votes with her right-wing Republican leaders, Mitch McConnell and Trent Lott, in DC. Read the rest of this post...

BREAKING: Senate Votes to keep Iraq timetable



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Historic vote just occurred in the U.S. Senate. By a vote of 50 - 48, the Senate rejected the Cochran amendment to strip out the Iraq troop withdrawal timetable language from the Supplemental appropriation. Bottom line: The Senate just approved withdrawal timetable language for the first time.

It's not perfect. It's still non-binding, but it is a critical vote to change the course of the war. The Senate bill will go to a conference with the House bill that passed last week.

Lieberman and Mark Pryor from Arkansas voted with the Republicans, of course. Oregon's Gordon Smith and Nebraska's Chuck Hagel voted with the Democrats. Read the rest of this post...

Impending critical Senate vote on Iraq



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The Senate is approaching a vote on an amendment by Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) to remove the language about the timetable for bringing the troops home. The vote will be very close. And, it is a critical vote that start the process of ending this war. Just watched Lieberman give his usual pro-war speech rife with Bush talking points. The Republicans (and Lieberman) have never had a plan for their war -- and their war is a disaster.

Chris Bowers wrote a very good synopsis of the situation in the Senate:
The vote this afternoon is on an amendment to the supplemental that seeks to strip all language regarding timetables and withdrawal from the supplemental. In order to defeat this amendment, and assuming that Gordon Smith and Ben Nelson are on board (which are not terrible assumptions, but are assumptions none the less), right now Democrats need one more vote. The primary targets to acquire this vote are Chuck Hagel, Mark Pryor, and John Warner. It is not much of an exaggeration to say that in the next few hours, those three people will decide whether or not Bush receives a blank check to continue his war indefinitely, or not. All three are up for re-election in 2008.

If this amendment passes, there will still be other amendments in the coming days, and there will also be a conference bill where Pelosi can try and strengthen what the senate eventually passes. Also, even if the already compromised House version of the bill ends up becoming still weaker, progressives will have the opportunity to defeat the conference report on the supplemental down the road. However, make no mistake: if we lose this vote, either a total blank check, or something very close to it, will pass the Senate, which puts us in real danger of a total blank check, or something very close it, arriving on Bush's desk even without a veto showdown.
Read the rest of this post...

Bush is the symptom, conservativism the disease



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From Markos. Read the rest of this post...

Meanwhile, other parts of the world teeter



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For many people, Iraq is (understandably) the "meanwhile." That is, there's all sorts of new stuff always coming up in politics, let alone regular life, and Iraq is a constant, always vaguely in the news and occasionally getting "better" or "worse" for a while during the overall downward trend. For me, though, because I work on and write about Iraq and the Middle East all the time, the rest of the international system often becomes the meanwhile.

Pakistan is one of those nations that would get much more attention if this administration had not embroiled us in a massive strategic and human disaster in Iraq. My conception of Pakistan generally put it in a category similar to Saudi Arabia: a kind of fuzzy dictatorship that we liked because the leadership is more favorable to U.S. interests (security, primarily) than would be the governmental amalgam of democratic processes. Pakistan has a restive Islamist population, but also lacks many of the problems inherent with the rentier states of the Middle East. Perhaps, many observers hoped, Musharraf would be the Pakistani Ataturk, and he talked about economic development, promised to fight corruption, and, in a landmark speech in 2002, denounced Islamic extremism.

But Ilan at DemocracyArsenal makes a different comparison, saying Musharraf's current position is not unlike that of the Shah in 1970s Iran. If Musharraf is indeed losing his grip on his nation, it's something to not only watch closely, but to think about in terms of a potential post-Musharraf situation. We have a huge strategic interest in the future of Pakistan (whose location, demographics, and nuclear arsenal give it much potential for either good or disaster) and the internal rumblings, concurrent with Musharraf's recent Putin-esque power moves, are significant warning signs. Read the rest of this post...

Report charges broad White House efforts to stifle Climate Change research



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The Republican war on science continues. From ABC News:
Bush administration officials throughout the government have engaged in White House-directed efforts to stifle, delay or dampen the release of climate change research that casts the White House or its policies in a bad light, says a new report that purports to be the most comprehensive assessment to date of the subject.
Read the rest of this post...

Tillman's family wants further investigation



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The Tillman family is not satisfied:
Pat Tillman's family firmly rejected the Defense Department's findings into the former NFL star's friendly-fire death in Afghanistan, calling for congressional investigations into what they see as broad malfeasance and a coverup.

"Perhaps subpoenas are necessary to elicit candor and accuracy from the military," his family said in a statement Monday night, after hearing the results of the latest probes.
There is something more to this story. When Pat Tillman died, the Bush Administration, which refuses to comment on the deaths of individual U.S. soldiers, leapt out with a statement:
“Pat Tillman was an inspiration on and off the football field, as with all who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror. His family is in the thoughts and prayers of President and Mrs. Bush,” Taylor Gross, a spokesman for the White House, said in a statement.
Just yesterday, at the White House press briefing, Dana Perino reiterated the White House line:
The President feels that Pat Tillman was an inspiration to all of us. And I looked back, and in 2004, one of the things that the President said was that "Pat Tillman set aside a career in athletics and many things the world counts important -- wealth and security and acclaim of crowds. He chose instead the rigors of Ranger training and the fellowship of soldiers, and the hard duty in Afghanistan and Iraq."

And, of course, we hold Pat Tillman's family in our thoughts and prayers. And as there's more information to release from the White House, we'll let you know. But as you said, the Department of Defense is having a briefing at 4:00 p.m.
I don't think the Bush White House has issued a statement about any other individual who has died in the war. They won't even allow photos of the flag-draped caskets. One has to wonder how far up the chain of command the cover up extends. Given the way the Bush team plays politics with war, it's probably pretty far. Read the rest of this post...

Leave Elizabeth Edwards alone



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Go home and die.

That's the prescription of some in the media to Elizabeth Edwards' announcement that her breast cancer has returned. You see, Mrs. Edwards and her husband John, the former Senator and current Democratic presidential candidate, had the temerity to announce last week that in spite of Mrs. Edwards' diagnosis, they were staying in the race for president, and they plan to win.

Well, the gatekeepers in the mainstream media would have none of that. First up, Katie Couric on "60 Minutes." Here's a sampling of her interview questions for the Edwards.



Yes, you see, John Edwards simply can't in good faith continue his day job while his spouse has cancer, while his poor children are suffering at home over mommy's diagnosis, since that would be exactly what Katie Couric, mother of two, did while her husband was dying of cancer. Couric stayed on the job, and her husband ultimately died.

ABC did a similar broadcast last night explaining the "controversy" over the Edwards' decision to stick it out.

Here's what ABC's correspondent had to say:
There have been questions about the Edwards' decision to continue their run for the White House... Analysts say in the long run voters might think twice about supporting a candidate whose attention may not be fully focused on the presidency.
Well, they weren't thinking twice until you put the idea in their head, ABC - thank you very much. And who did ABC get to back up this incendiary charge? A pundit from a leading conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, who might just have a reason for harming a Democratic presidential candidate (oh, and ABC didn't bother mentioning that AEI was politically conservative - read: Republican). Here's what the right-wing pundit had to say:
Americans are gonna look past the emotion and think in a pretty hard-nosed way about what all this means for somebody making decisions that affect all of our lives, not just those of his family.
Now, in all fairness to ABC, their broadcast was certainly more balanced than CBS's - they showed a woman with cancer who supported the Edwards' decision, and a man who was initially critical but then was won over by Mrs. Edwards' herself.

But why even go there?

Why do a segment about whether the Edwards' are right to have chosen to live? ABC could have just as easily interviewed a liberal pundit or - here's a thought - an expert on dying who could have told them that living life to its fullest is the best way to honor and care for yourself and your loved ones. But ABC didn't do that. Hell, ABC didn't even interview the "dying" expert as a counter-balance to the pundit. ABC chose instead to raise the question of whether John Edwards was a bad spouse, and Elizabeth Edwards a bad mom. For some in the audience, who had never contemplated the question at all, the issue is now in play. And thanks to ABC and CBS, there is no way for John Edwards to fully deny that he has stopped beating his dying wife. Read the rest of this post...

Removing troops from Iraq is "offending language" to the GOP



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Republicans have no plan for Iraq. Never had one. Never questioned the war. Never challenged Bush. Now, they're offended by legislation that would start the process to get our troops out of the civil war:
"The final bill is likely to have the offending language in it," the Senate minority leader said as the Senate prepared to begin debating the war-funding bill, which sets March 31, 2008, as a goal for removing combat troops from Iraq.

At that point, he said, Bush would have to veto the legislation and lawmakers would have to get to work again.
Veto the bill because there's a plan to end the war. That's what will offend the American people. Read the rest of this post...

Tuesday Morning Open Thread



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Never, ever thought I would say anything remotely nice about Laura Ingraham, but on the Today Show this morning she launched in to an very strong defense of Elizabeth Edwards. Laura has also had breast cancer -- and she went to work every day during her treatment. That's how she made it through. This was the first time I've ever heard Laura Ingraham use that anger of hers for something positive. And, what's more, on this one, I agree with Laura.

Anyway, have some coffee. Start the comments. Read the rest of this post...

Wal-Mart continues its PR spin



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It's great that Wal-Mart handed out $270+ million in charitable donations last year and of course, it's nice to see that their "associates" received bonuses last year. Heck, Wal-Mart even points the AP to a specific individual who made "substantially more than $1,000" which may be common or it may be the exception that proves the rule. Putting aside the warm and fuzzy PR spin, why can't Wal-Mart finally get serious about the bigger issue of health care?

Let's say a full time worker picks up a bonus of $1,000 or even $1,500 and then pays taxes on that amount. How many months insurance for a family will that cover? One? Two? I think it might be too generous to say three months. This kind of PR spin reminds me of the tax cuts that the GOP loves to roll out. Sure a few extra bucks in your pocket is fine, but what about the 800 pound gorilla in the room called health care? Health care for families is still an after-tax tax since so many families have to at least contribute to the health care fees, it is high time we quit this silly distraction and get serious.

Perhaps Wal-Mart can shed some light on it's seriousness about how it really cares about its "associates". The CEO is making north of $16 million in total compensation (no doubt including health care for that particular "associate") and the corporate profit for 2006 was $12.6 billion. Quit the side show and get serious. Read the rest of this post...

"Students for Mitt" to make commission from campaign contributions



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Interesting. College students as campaign money gatherers. Just when you think you've seen it all, something like this happens. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Participants in "Students for Mitt" will get 10 percent of the money they raise for the campaign beyond the first $1,000. While candidates often offer professional fundraisers commissions up to 8 percent, campaign experts believe the Massachusetts Republican is the first to do so with the legion of college students who have historically served as campaign volunteers.
Read the rest of this post...

Open thread



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Off to bed. Read the rest of this post...

Rudy is channeling Bush. It's all about 9/11



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Bootstrapping Andrew Sullivan has the evidence and does the analysis:
On Larry Kudlow's show tonight, Giuliani remarked that:
It's not a day that goes by that I do not think about the events of 9/11.
Do we really want four more years of "We must not forget the lessons of 9/11"? I'm hazarding that both Giuliani and Bush share the same tidbit of remorse or guilt about 9/11 and whether they could have done more to prevent, mitigate or deal with it.
Read the rest of this post...

Mitt Romney, life-long member of the NRA... for the past year



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Great snippet of an interview GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney did with ABC's George Stephanopoulos in February.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about guns. You were supportive of the Brady bill, the handgun waiting period, in the past. You signed an assault weapon ban into law and you said, in the past, "I don't line up with the NRA."

Now, you...

MITT ROMNEY: Well, on that issue.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Now you're a member of the NRA.

MITT ROMNEY: Yes, and I know the NRA does not support an assault weapon ban. So I don't line up on that particular issue with the NRA, either does President Bush. He likewise says he supported an assault weapon ban.

Today we don't have the Brady bill because we have instantaneous background checks. That's no longer a operative or needed measure.

But I'm a strong proponent of Second Amendment rights. I believe people, under our Constitution, have the right to bear arms.

We have a gun in one of our homes. It's not owned by me, it's owned by my son, but I've always considered it sort of mine&

STEPHANOPOULOS: When did you join the NRA?

MITT ROMNEY: Within the last year and I signed up for a lifelong membership.
Read the rest of this post...

Why should I feel bad that you gambled on a mortgage and lost?



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I can deal with someone who was cheated by their mortgage broker, banker, or whomever. Someone who was literally lied to about how much their mortgage was going to cost them now, in two years, in five years, in ten years. But what I can't deal with are all of these heart-tugging news broadcast and Joe and Suzie who simply wanted the American dream for their children, so they risked their entire family's livelihood on a gamble that they could sell a house they couldn't afford before the "real" mortgage rate kicked in. Sorry, Charlie, but those people knew what they were doing. They gambled. They lost. I had the same choice they did, and I said "no," things were simply too expensive. So now they get a bail out and I get nothing because they wanted money for nothing? I don't think so. Again, if they were affirmatively lied to, then they deserve redress. But if they were idiots willing to risk it all for some easy money, then we do them no favors by bailing them out. Read the rest of this post...

BREAKING: Gonzales' chief counsel refuses to testify before Congress, invokes Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination



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That means someone is afraid she may have committed a crime. This issue is no longer about politics, it's now a criminal investigation of the Attorney General of the United States. More from the Washington Post.

More on The Fifth, from FindLaw:
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives individuals the right to refuse to answer any questions or make any statements, when to do so would help establish that the person committed a crime or is connected to any criminal activity.
I do find it ironic that suddenly the Bush Administration has discovered the Bill of Rights. Read the rest of this post...

Progressive Caucus flexes its muscles



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The greatest winner in Friday's vote to pass the supplemental spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan is undoubtedly America's security and foreign policy. The bill, which deserved to pass despite its imperfections, does right by our troops in requiring that military officials certify units for full mission capability before deployment. It directs the President to transmit to Congress benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet by specified dates, and requires redeployment in the event that these deadlines are not met. It provides funding for, among other things, food aid to Africa and Afghanistan, veterans' health programs, and peacekeeping operations. It is a step in the right direction, and you can see a summary here or the entire text here.

The second biggest winner is the Progressive Caucus. It is no exaggeration to say that the Progressive Caucus was decisive in the debate, and the decision of its leadership to release its members to support the party by voting for the bill was absolutely the right move. Make no mistake: the Progressive Caucus could have torpedoed the bill, but to exercise its power in such a manner would have been grossly counterproductive for the party and for the nation. The Caucus was able to extract important concessions from leadership and ultimately did the right thing by releasing -- though not pressuring or forcing -- enough members for the bill to pass.

For those legislators who have opposed the Iraq war from the beginning -- and done so by refusing to vote to allocate funding for it -- this bill was an impossible choice: having to choose between voting for funding for the war or beginning to establish timelines to end it. As I wrote last week, I think the bill deserved a yes vote, but I understand the reasons of some progressives who see it as enabling. In the end, progressives were heard loud and clear, and they helped their party at the same time.

Honestly, the fact that the Progressive Caucus was organized and disciplined enough to whip this vote is impressive in itself. Progressives, long disorganized (and, accordingly, marginalized) are becoming a force to be reckoned with in Congress, and I hope they will continue to act this judiciously in the ongoing efforts to secure our defense and our foreign policy by changing the course in Iraq. Read the rest of this post...

Iran "interrogates" captive British Marines



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Too bad Tony Blair's bestest buddy George Bush threw out the Geneva Conventions. They might have come in handy right about now. Read the rest of this post...

Even more Romney flip-flops on gays, stem cells, abortion, environment - this is bad



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This is bad for Romney. We can now add the environment to the litany of issues that Mitt Romney suddenly flip-flopped on in the past few years, once he decided he wanted to run for president. But it's worse than that. Remember how Romney now claims that his views on stem cell research have changed (he's now opposed) because of a shocking personal experience? Well, he claimed the same thing a few years ago as justification for why he supported stem cell research - yes, another shocking personal experience.
And in many cases, he said his commitment had been cemented by watching the suffering of someone dear to him: a grandchild whose asthma left him worried about air pollution; his wife's multiple sclerosis, which had him placing hope in embryonic stem cell research; the death of a distant relative in an illegal abortion, convincing him that the procedure needed to remain legal.
All of Romney's liberal views were based on shocking personal experiences, then he decided to run for president and came up with new shocking personal experiences that could justify him wooing the far-right of the Republican party. This guy is a snake.

Oh yeah, more on the snake being uber pro-gay just four years ago.
He met gay-rights activists on their turf, in a restaurant attached to a popular gay bar, and told skeptics he would be a "good voice" and a moderating force within his party.
Then there's this:
"There's a benefit to simplicity. I'm a strong believer in stating your position and not wavering," he said at the 2002 meeting with the group, according to notes taken by then-NARAL officer Nicole Roos that were private until being shared with the Los Angeles Times.
Sure is. Read the rest of this post...

"Liberals have finally joined the ranks of scoundrels like Hitler."



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"By charging this big lie, liberals have finally joined the ranks of scoundrels like Hitler."

I know you are, but what am I?

That would be former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), in his new book No Retreat, No Surrender, on being charged with violating Texas campaign-finance laws. Good to see he's learned from his mistakes. (Hat tip Bloggernista and Political Wire). Read the rest of this post...

Specter has questions about Gonzales. How come no one is asking questions about Specter?



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No one does sanctimonious better than Arlen Specter. He's truly one of the most pompous and arrogant Senators -- and he has a lot of competition. He was on "Meet the Press" talking about the US Attorneys scandal yesterday:
A leading GOP senator is questioning whether Attorney General Alberto Gonzales "has been candid" about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, while another said the issue has left a "cloud" over the Justice Department chief.

Sen. Arlen Specter, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that Gonzales would have a chance to "present his case" but had some explaining to do. The attorney general is scheduled to appear before the committee April 17.
Tim Russert asked a lot of questions about the scandal -- but not one question about Specter's key role in the whole mess. As TPM Muckraker reported, Specter got the law changed to that allowed the Bush administration to by-pass the Senate when it replaced the fired U.S. Attorneys. Specter and his staff played a key role in changing that law.

Russert never asked Specter about that. Figures. After all, Russert was at the center of the Valerie Plame outing and never gave a full accounting as a reporter. He only did that as a witness in the trial. Read the rest of this post...

VA probe finds routine mice, insect invasions, asbestos



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But not to worry, it's all just normal stuff so the American vets shouldn't be concerned.
The nationwide review, ordered by Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson, reported mice at the VA Medical Center in Providence, recurring reports of flies at an outpatient clinic in Hyannis, and mismatched, stained, and broken furniture in Manchester, N.H.

VA officials yesterday described the problems as normal concerns for aging buildings, some of which are more than 75 years old. But Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, said the results of the review were a sign of bureaucratic neglect of the nation's veterans.
And of course, we have good reason to trust the VA team.
The review contained "no surprises for us," said James W. Burrows, spokesman for the VA Medical Center in Providence. Most of the problems, he continued, "were routine maintenance kinds of things from a building that's approaching 60 years old."

The mice, he said, were spotted in administrative offices and have not been seen recently.

"That's not anything new," Burrows said of the mice. "It's not uncommon to have field mice come in, especially in the winter months. We immediately brought in a pest control service."

The bugs, he said, were flies that had become a problem at the Hyannis outpatient clinic, which the Providence VA center operates.

"We continue to work with the landlord on that," said Burrows, who added that the VA is seeking a larger space for its Cape Cod clinic.
All routine conditions and clearly nothing to be alarmed over. Read the rest of this post...

GOP Senators struggle with the politics of Iraq. Meanwhile, five more soldiers die.



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Today's NY Times has an article about the political impact of Iraq on Republican Senate candidates. Focusing on New Hampshire's John Sununu, the piece also mentions Oregon's Gordon Smith and Minnesota's Norm Coleman. For some reason, Maine's Susan Collins missed the scrutiny of the Times although she faces the same problem:
On Monday, the Senate resumes its protracted struggle to forge an Iraq strategy. Mr. Sununu and a handful of Republicans — including those facing re-election next year and those who have expressed unhappiness with President Bush’s conduct of the war but are uncomfortable with the idea of setting a date for withdrawal — find themselves searching for balance as they juggle three tasks: responding to the frustrations of their constituents, resisting the demands of antiwar Democrats and not entirely abandoning the White House.

“The issue is difficult for everybody,” Mr. Sununu said in an interview. “My goal is to do what I can to help get the policy right.”
What Sununu means is he's trying to get the politics right. For the Republicans and their President who are responsible for the Iraq war, it's always been a political issue first. They've never had a real policy, but they've had a lot of campaign slogans. And, no matter how poorly Bush has managed the war, the GOP has made loyalty to their President the top priority.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, far from the political handwringing among the GOPers in D.C., the soldiers that George Bush sent to Iraq continue to die:
Five U.S. soldiers were killed on Sunday by roadside bomb attacks in Iraq, the U.S. military said in a statement.

Four soldiers were killed north of Baghdad in Diyala, a restive province where U.S. commanders recently asked for more troops to fight al Qaeda and other militants.

Two more soldiers were wounded in the attack.

A fifth soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in northwest Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

The deaths bring to at least 75 the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq this month.
Read the rest of this post...

Monday Morning Open Thread



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What does this week hold? Does Alberto Gonzales last the week? Of course George Bush supports him. Bush doesn't think there's anything wrong with lying to the American people or Congress. He does it all the time.

Start threading. Read the rest of this post...

West trying to build alliances with existing Zimbabwe politicians



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Sensing the end of the line for Mugabe and his disastrous policies, ZANU-PF (ruling party) politicians are building bridges with western countries who are keen to move into the post-Mugabe period. Both sides find advantages, as Mugabe has become unpredictable and vindictive with anyone who he thinks might challenge his authority and the western nations are able to plug into the ruling party without pushing for complete revolution. There are continuing doubts by the western nations that the main opposition party MDC can be effective in organizing or capitalizing on the momentum against Mugabe's rule.

Whether this campaign works is another question as the issue of who can best represent the people of Zimbabwe, but if nothing else this should help move Zimbabwe to free(er) elections in the near term without large the more typical rampant voter fraud in opposition areas. It just might also help avoid bloodshed in a country that is fed up and angry. Read the rest of this post...

Detroit and Bush, still clueless with environment



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Today's meeting between Bush and the Big Auto makers from Detroit gives us a clue as to just how clueless the whole lot of them are. Bush is eager to show that he's not a complete idiot when it comes to global warming, though the results are predictable, with Bush promoting the option that is at best years away, stinks of massive government welfare to corporate farmers and raises too many environmental and social disruption issues to even count.

On the other hand, we have Detroit, eager to show that they're not run by a bunch of complete fools who have been passed by Japan and Europe with new fuel efficient cars and hybrids. Detroit wants to show the world that they can build bio-fuel cars, but of course, why even tell everyone that you can produce X amount when the available fuel for X doesn't exist and won't likely exist for at least ten years in any meaningful amount, possibly never beyond small numbers? Ugh.

Meanwhile, the rest of the competition continues to move ahead, years ahead of the dinosaurs, delivering cars that consumers want and tapping in to the strong interest in our global environment. Read the rest of this post...