"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." Theodore Roosevelt
The Justice Department's wide-ranging investigation of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff has entered a highly active phase as prosecutors are beginning to move on evidence pointing to possible corruption in Congress and executive branch agencies, lawyers involved in the case said.
Prosecutors have already told one lawmaker, Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio), and his former chief of staff that they are preparing a possible bribery case against them, according to two sources knowledgeable about the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
On this latest trip to Baghdad, the bubble shrank even more. No roaming the Green Zone. Not even a stop at the convention center. The press corps, including veteran war correspondents, was sequestered in Hussein's old palace for most of the seven-hour stay. We were discouraged from wandering the palace and were provided escorts to go to the bathroom.
Our one venture out was a short hop to the nearby prime minister's office, also in the Green Zone. All we saw were new barricades trimmed with razor wire, concrete blast walls, roadblocks and time-consuming identity checks. No Iraqis. No vendors. In October 2004, the bazaar had been attacked, one of two almost simultaneous suicide bombings inside the Green Zone that together killed 10, including four Americans.
Christian Coalition will support Social Security reform which President Bush advocates with personal accounts and possibly the legislation to be introduced by Senator John Sununu and by Congressman Paul Ryan in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Christian Coalition will work to insure that the Congress makes permanent President Bush's 2001 tax cuts, including all income tax cuts, the marriage penalty tax cut, child tax credit, etc. now set to expire in 2010.
The baby Jesus needs those private accounts and tax cuts!
When you wake up tomorrow, having had a wonderful Turkey Day, remember the people who didn't have such a nice day. Now go get your leftovers and take them to someone who needs them. Seriously. Go do it.
Ousted FEMA director Michael Brown, who was vilified over his handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, plans to make a fresh start in Colorado, selling his expertise about how emergency planning can go right or so very wrong. '
"You have to do it with candor. To do it otherwise gives you no credibility," Brown said Wednesday. "I think people are curious: 'My gosh, what was it like? The media just really beat you up. You made mistakes. I don't want to be in that situation. How do I avoid that?'"
In an interview with the Rocky Mountain News, Brown acknowledged key mistakes he made while overseeing the federal response to the hurricane that ravaged Louisiana and Mississippi. He also lashed out at the media and discussed plans to base his fledgling consulting business in the Boulder-Longmont area of Colorado, where he lived before joining the Bush Administration in 2001.
Apparently, Brownie's catastrophic incompetence, is outshined by his utter lack of shame. Impressive. I'm sure he'll do a heckuva job.
The Pentagon’s records reveal that [FOIA] is broadly used—more than 10,000 requests have been made since 2000. But they also illuminate a seeming dearth of curiosity by news organizations about the internal files of the U.S. military establishment.
This lack of curiosity appears particularly evident among the nation’s three largest newspapers.
In total, the three papers with daily circulations greater than one million--USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times -- made just 36 requests of the Pentagon between 2000 and February 2005. USA Today made nine; the Journal, six; and the Times, 21.
A top US military spokesman called for parts of Iraq's raging insurgency to be brought into the political process, while insisting that Al-Qaeda was being hit hard by ongoing offensives.
"We understand the capabilities, the vulnerabilities and the intentions of each group of the insurgency -- the foreign fighters, the Iraqi rejectionists and the Saddamists," Major General Rick Lynch told reporters.
"The group in the middle, the Iraqi rejectionists -- which includes the Shia rejectionists and the Sunni rejectionists -- we believe that deliberate outreach will allow them to participate in the political process and allow them to become part of the solution and not part of the problem," he said.
I suppose with a more competent group in White House, this would come as quite a shock. But sadly, neither is the case.
Time may reveal otherwise, but in my humble opinion, Tony Blair's reaction more than confirms that they indeed have something to hide:
The attorney general last night threatened newspapers with the Official Secrets Act if they revealed the contents of a document allegedly relating to a dispute between Tony Blair and George Bush over the conduct of military operations in Iraq.
It is believed to be the first time the Blair government has threatened newspapers in this way. Though it has obtained court injunctions against newspapers, the government has never prosecuted editors for publishing the contents of leaked documents, including highly sensitive ones about the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.
Threatening journalists to keep them from releasing a document that potentially contains plans to bomb other journalists... Ah, the price of spreading freedom and Democracy.
Dubya pouts, Cheney scowls, no one brings pie -- and why is Rove looking at Barb that way?
Ah yes, it is that time again. The smell of roasting turkey and cigar smoke and Polo cologne, perfume like florid gasoline. Copious forced laughter that sounds like geese mating in a broom closet. It is Thanksgiving dinner at the Bush White House, where the guests mingle as though their genitals were being squeezed by manic elves, as if they were all coated in vanilla pudding being licked off by Pat Robertson. Which, truth be told, some of them seem to enjoy. A lot.
They await the appearance of the bird in the cozy, heavily paneled White House drawing room with the grand chandelier sparkling there since the Truman administration, the rest of the space engorged with stuffy furniture Laura chose herself and which she thinks is manly and presidential but which actually looks like it was bought at a Jersey consignment store run by Ethan Allen's stoned brother.
Barbara rules. Owns the house, despite how she hasn't lived here in over 13 years. Laura can only look at her in numb awe, her own stiff skirt pleats appearing humble and small in comparison to Barb's massive teal dress ensemble, so epic and balloon-like it would seem to envelope all it comes near, like a giant ocean algae bloom, a massive amoeba, a cloud of righteous know-it-allness that makes easy mockery of Laura's little beige blouse of meek sexless humility. Barb is a force of nature, commanding the staff and chatting up the various heads of state and smiling at everyone with that glassy omnivorous stare. They all hate her.
Venezuela will soon begin selling heating oil to the poor at discount prices to communities in Boston and New York City, following up on a promise by President Hugo Chavez to help poor Americans cut energy costs, Venezuela's state oil company announced.
Citgo, a subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company, will offer fuel at discounted rates in Boston as early as this week, said a statement posted Friday on the company's website.
"The first phase of the program, in Boston, will offer up to 4.5 million litres of heating oil at accessible rates, representing $10 million US in savings for those sectors," the statement read.
Bob Graham, former Florida Senator and member of the Select Committee for Intelligence during the run-up to the war, admonishes the Bush Administration for intentionally misleading Congress and the American public with their use of selective intelligence to divert support for war with Afghanistan to Iraq (video).
Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda, according to government records and current and former officials with firsthand knowledge of the matter.
But what about the claims of Al Qaeda being in contact with Saddam?
One of the more intriguing things that Bush was told during the briefing was that the few credible reports of contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda involved attempts by Saddam Hussein to monitor the terrorist group. Saddam viewed Al Qaeda as well as other theocratic radical Islamist organizations as a potential threat to his secular regime. At one point, analysts believed, Saddam considered infiltrating the ranks of Al Qaeda with Iraqi nationals or even Iraqi intelligence operatives to learn more about its inner workings, according to records and sources.
Maybe the president wasn't aware of the report?
The September 21, 2001, briefing was prepared at the request of the president, who was eager in the days following the terrorist attacks to learn all that he could about any possible connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
Who else saw the report?
Indeed, the existence of the September 21 PDB was not disclosed to the Intelligence Committee until the summer of 2004, according to congressional sources. Both Republicans and Democrats requested then that it be turned over. The administration has refused to provide it, even on a classified basis, and won't say anything more about it other than to acknowledge that it exists.
I guess the president forgot about this one. Oops.
"Let's win the damn thing," he said in his Creators Syndicate feature. "But there must be a time limit. Mr. Bush and his crew have to understand that American blood and treasure are not unlimited. It is not undermining the war to suggest giving the Iraqis a realistic private timetable to defend themselves. Basic training for a U.S. soldier is six weeks. We've been training the Iraqi army for almost two years now. Even Gomer Pyle would be up to speed."
Leaders of Iraq's sharply divided Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis called Monday for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces in the country and said Iraq's opposition had a "legitimate right" of resistance.
The final communique, hammered out at the end of three days of negotiations at a preparatory reconciliation conference under the auspices of the Arab League, condemned terrorism, but was a clear acknowledgment of the Sunni position that insurgents should not be labeled as terrorists if their operations do not target innocent civilians or institutions designed to provide for the welfare of Iraqi citizens.
Secretary of State Colin Powell emphatically said yesterday that if the incoming Iraqi interim government ordered the departure of foreign troops after June 30, they would pack up without protest, but emphasized he doubted such a request would be made.
Powell said the United States believes a U.N. resolution passed last year and Iraqi administrative law provide necessary authority for coalition forces — currently numbering about 170,000 — to remain even beyond the scheduled June 30 handover of limited sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government.
"We're there to support the Iraqi people and protect them and the new government," Powell said at a news conference with other foreign ministers from the Group of Eight nations. "I have no doubt the new government will welcome our presence and am losing no sleep over whether they will ask us to stay."
But were the new government to say it could handle security, "then we would leave," Powell said.
As a veteran of the Vietnam conflict, I know all too well the discontent I felt on my homecoming: A terrible sense of abandonment from citizens of a country that, at the time, I believed had forsaken me for my sense of patriotic duty.
Over time, I realized that it was not me who was forsaken, or the lives given of so many of our brave military personnel. It was rather our leadership's justification and continuance of a "no win" conflict that had forsaken us.
Our country's leaders were wrong. It took American citizens to challenge this country's decisions in the justification of that cause. The right and obligation of Americans to challenge this country's direction was and is, indeed, patriotic.
Our flag flew at many of the anti-war demonstrations, helping define our America: to defend our beliefs, to speak out, to ask questions when rhetoric appeared to rule the day. Our soldiers did not die in vain. They did what was asked of them, and many more went beyond. They did so because our country asked them.
Politics is not a defining factor of a soldier's honor or vindication in any conflict when called upon by his or her country to take arms.
Nor should any politician, regardless of elected position, imply that citizens exercising their rights and obligations to question our leader's decisions, in pursuing armed conflict, equates to dishonoring our military. That is a distortion of patriotism, and that is the last refuge of a scoundrel.
Should we feel we have been misled by our country's leaders, then speak out and demand answers. It's our right. That's the honor due our military troops.
If we don't get answers, then it's our obligation to demand them again. That's neither liberal nor conservative.
Take it with big grains of salt, but the Daily Mirror reports:
President Bush planned to bomb Arab TV station al-Jazeera in friendly Qatar, a "Top Secret" No 10 memo reveals. But he was talked out of it at a White House summit by Tony Blair, who said it would provoke a worldwide backlash.
A source said last night: "The memo is explosive and hugely damaging to Bush. He made clear he wanted to bomb al-Jazeera in Qatar and elsewhere. Blair replied that would cause a big problem. There's no doubt what Bush wanted to do - and no doubt Blair didn't want him to do it."
A Government official suggested that the Bush threat had been "humorous, not serious". But another source declared: "Bush was deadly serious, as was Blair. That much is absolutely clear from the language used by both men."
CNN was airing Vice President Dick Cheney's speech live from the American Enterprise Institute in Washington -- when a large black 'X' repeatedly flashed over the vice president's face! The 'X' over Cheney's face appeared each time less than a second, creating an odd subliminal effect.
Rumsfeld stands by his claims regarding the existence of WMDs, as well as an Iraq-al-Qaida connection. He also refused to denounce Cheney's claim of "last throes", despite the increase in attacks (video).
Michael Scanlon, a former aide to Rep. Tom DeLay and a lawyer who worked with high-powered Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge Monday. As part of the deal with the Justice Department, Scanlon is expected to testify against Abramoff, two government sources told CNN last week.
Iraqi leaders, meeting at a reconciliation conference in Cairo, urged an end to violence in the country and demanded a timetable for the withdrawal of coalition troops from Iraq.
In a final statement, read by Arab League chief Amre Moussa, host of the three-day summit, they called for "the withdrawal of foreign troops according to a timetable, through putting in place an immediate national program to rebuild the armed forces." No date was specified.
"The Iraqi people look forward to the day when the foreign forces leave Iraq, when it's armed and security forces will be rebuilt and when they can enjoy peace and stability and get rid of terrorism," the leaders said in the statement. The session was broadcast live from the Egyptian capital by al-Jazeera.
On a cynical note, it will interesting to see how the demand plays out on the political stage. But more importantly, this could be a sign of hope for the future of Iraq and its people.
For more than a year, Michael Scanlon has been a shadowy presence behind former partner Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist at the center of a corruption probe. Now, Scanlon may help prosecutors raise the investigation to a higher level.
Scanlon, a former aide to Representative Tom DeLay, is scheduled to appear today in U.S. District Court to present a plea bargain with the Justice Department likely to lead to his cooperation with investigators. His testimony would ratchet up the pressure on Abramoff and aid prosecutors in widening the investigation to members of Congress, such as Republicans DeLay and Representative Robert Ney of Ohio.
As investigators get closer to Abramoff, they may also get closer to DeLay, said Craig McDonald, director of Texans for Public Justice, an Austin-based group that has called for a special prosecutor to investigate DeLay.
"It's likely that Abramoff has lots of dirt on Tom DeLay," McDonald said. "The further Abramoff sinks into trouble, the more likely he is to start pitching that dirt."
DeLay, 58, who once called the lobbyist "one of my closest friends" and went on an Abramoff-sponsored trip to Scotland in 2000, stepped down as House majority leader after being indicted in September in an unrelated campaign-finance case in Texas.
General Motors Corp. will eliminate 30,000 manufacturing jobs and close nine North American assembly, stamping and powertrain plants by 2008 as part of an effort to get production in line with demand. The announcement Monday by Rick Wagoner, chairman and CEO of the world's largest automaker, represents 5,000 more job cuts than the 25,000 that the automaker had previously indicated it planned to cut.
The White House downplays reports of his death, and his family publicly denounces him. It's too early to draw any conclusions, but it's certainly fascinating to watch how the various parties react as the drama of it all unfolds.
So the question isn't whether things will be ugly after American forces leave Iraq. They probably will. The question, instead, is whether it makes sense to keep the war going for another year or two, which is all the time we realistically have.
Pessimists think that Iraq will fall into chaos whenever we leave. If so, we're better off leaving sooner rather than later. As a Marine officer quoted by James Fallows in the current Atlantic Monthly puts it, "We can lose in Iraq and destroy our Army, or we can just lose."
And there's a good case to be made that our departure will actually improve matters. As Mr. Murtha pointed out in his speech, the insurgency derives much of its support from the perception that it's resisting a foreign occupier. Once we're gone, the odds are that Iraqis, who don't have a tradition of religious extremism, will turn on fanatical foreigners like Zarqawi.
The only way to justify staying in Iraq is to make the case that stretching the U.S. army to its breaking point will buy time for something good to happen. I don't think you can make that case convincingly. So Mr. Murtha is right: it's time to leave.
The Marine Corps said today that 15 Iraqi civilians and a United States marine were killed on Saturday when a roadside bomb exploded in the town of Haditha, 140 miles northwest of Baghdad. At least 11 other Iraqis were killed or discovered dead today in various incidents, and military officials reported the deaths of two more Americans and a British soldier.
The deaths capped one of the deadliest three-day periods since the American invasion. In all, at least 155 Iraqis and 7 foreign soldiers have been killed in a spate of bombings and assaults that began Friday morning, when jihadists tried using two trucks packed with explosives to demolish a Baghdad hotel full of Western journalists.
That attack was followed by a pair of suicide bombings in two mosques in the northern Kurdish town of Khanaqin that left at least 80 dead and more than 100 wounded.
Retired General William Odom, a former National Security Agency director argues that Iraq is a disaster, and the only way to ensure that the region will ever achieve any semblance of stability is for us to leave. The general also believes that the primary beneficiaries of the war have been Iran and al-Qaida. The McLaughlin Group debates the the general's reasoning and repercussions of such a withdrawal (video).
On This Week, Stephanopoulos asked Rumsfeld, had he known the intelligence concerning WMDs was inaccurate, if he would have still advocated going to war with Iraq. Rumsfeld responded by stating that he was never asked. Imagine that, Bush never consulted the Secretary of Defense regarding the case for war (video).
On Meet the Press, Russert attempted to lower the discourse by engaging Congressman Murtha into a conversation regarding his critics' "war of words." Murtha stuck to the plain simple truths: we were misled into war with Iraq; there is no progress; people are dying; we need to pull the troops out (video).
Speaking of sober judgment, Frank Rich delivers the goods:
We must prepare accordingly for what's to come. To do so we need leaders, whatever the political party, who can look beyond our nonorderly withdrawal from Iraq next year to the mess that will remain once we're on our way out.
Whether it's countering the havoc inflicted on American interests internationally by Abu Ghraib and Guant¡namo or overhauling and redeploying our military, intelligence and homeland security operations to confront the enemy we actually face, there's an enormous job to be done.
The arguments about how we got into Mr. Bush's war and exactly how we'll get out are also important. But the damage from this fiasco will be even greater if those debates obscure the urgency of the other war we are losing, one that will be with us long after we've left the quagmire in Iraq.
Italia Federici allegedly received 500-thousand dollars from indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff in return for using her influence as the president of CREA. On Thursday she testified before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee concerning numerous e-mails indicating a close working relationship between her and Abramoff (video).
It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the media -- if at all; seeing how they've had such an undying curiosity for scandals with this sort of intrigue in the past.