I'm baa-aack! Here are some news items of interest, harvested from the Net. --RKing


Saying what needs to be said. Memo from the chairman of the Joint Frickin' Chiefs of Staff to all the right-wing idiots who claim that debating the Iraq war hurts troop morale and/or emboldens our enemies: "There's no doubt in my mind that the dialogue here in Washington strengthens our democracy. Period." Ya hear that? "Period." Game, set, match. (The quote was by Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the House Armed Services Committee. He added that potential enemies may take some comfort from the rancor but said they "don't have a clue how democracy works.") America, this is your health care system: “A paraplegic man wearing a soiled hospital gown and a broken colostomy bag was found crawling in a gutter in skid row in Los Angeles on Thursday after allegedly being dumped in the street by a Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center van, police said. The incident, witnessed by more than two dozen people, was described by police as a particularly outrageous case of ‘homeless dumping’ that has plagued the downtown area.”

"Rush consistently targets dead people, little girls, and the homeless - none of whom are in a good
position to answer back. Satire is a weapon, and it can be quite cruel. It has historically been the
weapon of powerless people aimed at the powerful. When you use satire against powerless people,
as Limbaugh does, it is not only cruel, it's profoundly vulgar. It is like kicking a cripple.
-- Molly Ivins, from 1995 Link. The 2003 Iranian ‘grand bargain’ offer. Since Condoleezza Rice and Elliot Abrams have such awful memories of it, here’s a reminder: the original fax of the offer. White House ‘red-faced’ over Rove remark. Karl Rove was quoted telling a group of conservatives he supports President Bush’s immigration policies because “I don’t want my 17-year-old son to have to pick tomatoes or make beds in Las Vegas.” ABC reports: “The White House does not deny that Rove made the remark but claims it has been taken out of context. … Rove was not insulting those people in those jobs, the White House explained, he was, according to Perino, saying that every parent wants their child to have a high-skilled, high-wage job.”

OK, class. Today's homework assignment is reading Gen. William Odom's op-ed in the Washington Post. He remains possibly the most cogent observer of the Iraq disaster.It really sums up everything: "Why are so many members of Congress swallowing the claim that prolonging the war is now supposed to prevent precisely what starting the war inexorably and predictably caused?" Here Odom is talking about the influence of Iran in Iraq. To me, even more critical is this short paragraph ...

1) We must continue the war to prevent the terrible aftermath that will occur if our forces are withdrawn soon. Reflect on the double-think of this formulation. We are now fighting to prevent what our invasion made inevitable! Undoubtedly we will leave a mess -- the mess we created, which has become worse each year we have remained. Lawmakers gravely proclaim their opposition to the war, but in the next breath express fear that quitting it will leave a blood bath, a civil war, a terrorist haven, a "failed state," or some other horror. But this "aftermath" is already upon us; a prolonged U.S. occupation cannot prevent what already exists.

To me this sums up everything.

Obama's announcement If you're having trouble watching Obama's speech on his Web site, we have video of his full announcement right here. Some takes on the speech here, here, here, and here. Par for the course Rudy Giuliani's aides come up with a novel way to explain his flip-flop on "partial birth" abortion: Lie about it. Eason Jordan rips anonymous Iran intel presentation. “Why are US officials hiding behind the cloak of anonymity when presenting the most detailed evidence yet that Iran is supplying weaponry to anti-US forces in Iraq?” IraqSlogger.com’s Eason Jordan asks. “After weeks, if not months, of US official planning to present a damning ‘dossier’ of incriminating evidence against Iran, and after this same US administration presented us with lopsided, erroneous information about the capability and evil intentions of the Saddam Hussein regime, the best the US government can give us today is incendiary evidence presented at a Baghdad news conference by three US officials who refuse to be quoted by name? That’s disgraceful and unacceptable.” Straight Talk update. The Washington Post breaks down the differences between “McCain the reformer” and “McCain the candidate.” The Post notes: “Just about a year and a half ago, Sen. John McCain went to court to try to curtail the influence of a group to which A. Jerrold Perenchio gave $9 million. … As McCain launches his own presidential campaign, however, he is counting on Perenchio, the founder of the Univision Spanish-language media empire, to raise millions of dollars [for his exploratory committee].” Evidence grows that White House planned to release cooked intel on Iran The New York Times today published a front-page story by Michael Gordon which recites administration claims about Iran’s involvement in Iraq “without the slightest questioning, investigation, or presentation of ample counter-evidence.” Greg Mitchell notes, via Glenn Greenwald, that it was Gordon “who, on his own, or with Judith Miller, wrote some of the key, and badly misleading or downright inaccurate, articles about Iraqi WMDs in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.”

The Times story comes even as evidence grows that the administration planned to release contained cooked intelligence in a “briefing” on Iranian involvement in Iraq .

In little noted comments on Feb. 2, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley acknowledged that the Iran briefing washeld back because it was “overstated” and not “focused on the facts.”

HADLEY: The reason we put the intelligence briefing on hold was really two reasons. One, we thought we’d better get the NIE out so people could see the full context, which you now can. And secondly, quite frankly, we want to make sure that if we put out intelligence, the intelligence community and MNFI can stand behind it, because we are sensitive to try and put out the facts as accurately as we can. …

Q And now [the briefing has] been pushed back. Can we conclude anything from that other than people looked at the intelligence that was set to offered and said, this is not good enough?

MR. HADLEY: No, I wouldn’t –

Q Does that mean there was a willingness to overstate it?

MR. HADLEY: The truth is, quite frankly, we thought the briefing overstated. And we sent it back to get it narrowed and focused on the facts.

But a new report in the National Journal states that it was the intelligence community, not the White House, that demanded the briefing be “scrubbed” of overstated claims:

At least twice in the past month, the White House has delayed a PowerPoint presentation initially prepared by the military to detail evidence of suspected Iranian materiel and financial support for militants in Iraq. The presentation was to have been made at a press conference in Baghdad in the first week of February. Officials have set no new date, but they say it could be any day.

Even as U.S. officials in Baghdad were ready to make the case, administration principals in Washington who were charged with vetting the PowerPoint dossier bowed to pressure from the intelligence community and ordered that it be scrubbed again.

Despite the intelligence community’s intervention, there is still no guarantee that the intel on Iran that is eventually made public will be factual or comprehensive. As yesterday’s report on Douglas Feith reinforced, senior administration officials are perfectly willing to work around intelligence professionals to obtain the “facts” that justify their ideology.

U.S. sending third carrier strike group to Gulf. Newsweek on “The Hidden War With Iran.

At least one former White House official contends that some Bush advisers secretly want an excuse to attack Iran. “They intend to be as provocative as possible and make the Iranians do something [America] would be forced to retaliate for,” says Hillary Mann, the administration’s former National Security Council director for Iran and Persian Gulf Affairs. …

A second Navy carrier group is steaming toward the Persian Gulf, and NEWSWEEK has learned that a third carrier will likely follow. Iran shot off a few missiles in those same tense waters last week, in a highly publicized test. With Americans and Iranians jousting on the chaotic battleground of Iraq, the chances of a small incident’s spiraling into a crisis are higher than they’ve been in years.

Aussie PM knocks Obama; Obama knocks him out Good to see that we're not the only ones stuck with an insane war monger as a "leader".

Senator Obama, who is aiming to become the first black US president, has introduced a bill to remove US combat forces from Iraq by March 31 next year.

But the legislation has virtually no chance of becoming law while George W. Bush is president, and the presidential election is not until November 2008.

Australia's Prime Minister John Howard blasted Senator Obama's policy on the Iraq war and said al-Qaeda would "be praying as many times as possible for a victory for not only Obama but also for the Democrats".

Aussies will have their chance to get rid of Bush's other poodle later this year.

And the Obama camp slams Howard back, hard:

"If Prime Minister Howard truly believes what he says, perhaps his country should find its way to contribute more than just 1,400 troops so some American troops can come home," [Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs] said. "It's easy to talk tough when it's not your country or your troops making the sacrifices."

Howard should put up or shut up.

What Dubya finds amusing This account is a couple of days old now, but deserves at least passing mention:

At a farewell reception at Blair House for the retiring chief of protocol, Don Ensenat, who was President Bush's Yale roommate, the president shook hands with Washington Life Magazine's Soroush Shehabi. "I'm the grandson of one of the late Shah's ministers," said Soroush, "and I simply want to say one U.S. bomb on Iran and the regime we all despise will remain in power for another 20 or 30 years and 70 million Iranians will become radicalized."

"I know," President Bush answered.

"But does Vice President Cheney know?" asked Soroush.

President Bush chuckled and walked away.

How long can they hide? The Administration tries to run out the clock on congressional oversight:

The Justice Department, which serves as legal counsel in court proceedings for other departments, has repeatedly gone beyond merely protecting its own actions from scrutiny. Even when Congress was in Republican hands, Justice Department officials advised other government departments on how to stonewall congressional review. These efforts now appear to be ramping up.

The Justice Department Legal Counsel's office recently held meetings with lawyers of other departments to discuss strategy for responding to congressional requests for documents and hearing appearances. In January, Senator Grassley charged at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that the DOJ has started running training "events" for other offices of the executive branch, teaching them how to handle congressional inquiries and hearings. Grassley's office says they were tipped off to this by someone in the Justice Department worried about this new program.

23 1/2 months to go . . .

I regret failing to report the winners of the 2006 Bulwer Lytton fiction contest until now:

Winner: Historical Fiction

While Hector and the heroes of Troy trembled behind the ramparts as cowboys below the walls raced up and down the beach, six-guns blazing and cries of "yee-hah!" filling the air, other cowboys across the sea were laboring gamely but in vain to throw a palisade around Wichita, Kansas, thereby adding veracity to the old homily of history that it is easier to cow a fortified city than to fortify a cow city.
---Christopher Backeberg, South Africa

Winner: Romance

Despite the vast differences in their ages, ethnicity, and religious upbringing, the sexual chemistry between Roberto and Heather was the most amazing he had ever experienced; and for the entirety of the Labor Day weekend they had sex like monkeys on espresso, not those monkeys in the zoo that fling their feces at you, but more like the monkeys in the wild that have those giant red butts, and access to an espresso machine.
---Dennis Barry, Dothan, AL

And the Grand Prize winner:

Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office studying the light from his one small window falling on his super burrito when the door swung open to reveal a woman whose body said you've had your last burrito for a while, whose face said angels did exist, and whose eyes said she could make you dig your own grave and lick the shovel clean.
---Jim Guigli, CA

The rest are here.

We've come a long way What did adulthood hold in store for the little girls of 1966? A board game called What Shall I Be? had answers: teacher, actress, nurse, model, ballet dancer, or airline hostess. Cheers to Laura Bush. Now hold on a second before you throw tomatoes at me. She and the White House curator have just restored the Lincoln Bedroom to the way it looked when Honest Abe used it as his office. I figure she needed a place to get away from her husband---he keeps deciding in his sleep. Cheers to strapping one on. Twenty years ago tomorrow---during Reagan's reign---Surgeon General C. Everett Koop endorsed television advertising for condoms to help curb the spread of AIDS. Today's Surgeon General---y'know, whatsizzname---is locked in a White House closet. "The Iraqi people cannot flourish under a dictator that oppresses them--threatens them."
"Our struggle is not with the Iranian people. As a matter of fact, we want them to flourish."
"Iraq is land rich in culture and resources and talent.
"Iranian people are proud people, and they've got a great history and tradition."
-- Bush, talking about Iran using the same phrases he used for Iraq, via Olbermann Link Still No Habeas Rights for You by Robert Parry consortiumnews.com Excerpt:
Despite assurances from the major U.S. news media that American citizens retain their habeas corpus rights
to a fair trial - even if non-citizens don't - Justice Department lawyers have reasserted their claim that Bush
has the power to lock up anyone he chooses as an "enemy combatant" and effectively throw away the key.

"A citizen, no less than an alien, can be an enemy combatant," administration lawyer David B. Salmons told
a federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, on Feb. 1, adding that on such issues, the courts cannot
interfere with the President's wartime judgments.

Salmons did pledge that the Executive Branch will use care in deciding who is designated an "enemy combatant."
In response to one judge's question about the President applying the tag to an activist from PETA, Salmons joked,
"the representative of PETA can sleep well at night."

Nevertheless, Salmons argued that the judgment on who is deemed an "enemy combatant"
is solely the discretion of President Bush.

The more things change . . . Adam Liptak has a nice piece today based on Dick Cheney's handwritten notes from the Ford Administration:

RETURNING to the White House after the Memorial Day weekend in 1975, the young aide Dick Cheney found himself handling a First Amendment showdown. The New York Times had published an article by Seymour M. Hersh about an espionage program, and the White House chief of staff, Donald H. Rumsfeld, was demanding action.

Out came the yellow legal pad, and in his distinctively neat, deliberate hand, Mr. Cheney laid out the “problem,” “goals” while addressing it, and “options.” These last included “Start FBI investigation — with or w/o public announcement. As targets include NYT, Sy Hersh, potential gov’t sources.”

Another option was immediate grand jury indictments of the New York Times and Hersh. Between Ford and Dubya, Cheney didn't change a thing. How sweet.

"Took us a long time to get in the situation we're in, and to somehow assume that
in a few months, that things are going to get all better I think is not realistic."
-- McCain (R-Torture Happy) snuggling ever closer to Bush Link

"In the case of the Iraqi government cooperating and doing what's necessary,
we can know fairly well in a few months."
-- McCain (R-Torture Happy) flip-flopping 47 seconds later, Link

Cheney has declared himself the Fourth Branch of goverment That the Bush "administration," and in particular the Office of the Vice President, have been extraordinarily secretive is, ironically, no secret. But in a story first reported by Mark Silva of the Chicago Tribune back in April 2006, details of the extent of the secrecy practices -- if they can be called that -- emerged to reveal something even darker and more disturbing than previously imagined:

As the Bush administration has dramatically accelerated the classification of information as "top secret" or "confidential," one office is refusing to report on its annual activity in classifying documents: the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.

A standing executive order, strengthened by President Bush in 2003, requires all agencies and "any other entity within the executive branch" to provide an annual accounting of their classification of documents. More than 80 agencies have collectively reported to the National Archives that they made 15.6 million decisions in 2004 to classify information, nearly double the number in 2001, but Cheney insists he is exempt.

Explaining why the vice president has withheld even a tally of his office's secrecy when offices such as the National Security Council routinely report theirs, a spokeswoman said Cheney is "not under any duty" to provide it.

That Executive Order is #13292, which:

prescribes a uniform system for classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying national security information, including information relating to defense against transnational terrorism.

And how is the order to be implemented? Section 5.1(a):

The Director of the Information Security Oversight Office, under the direction of the Archivist and in consultation with the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, shall issue such directives as are necessary to implement this order. These directives shall be binding upon the agencies.

And who are "the agencies?" Section 6.1(b):

"Agency" means any "Executive agency," as defined in 5 U.S.C. 105; any "Military department" as defined in 5 U.S.C. 102; and any other entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information.

So what's the problem? Well, perhaps you recall the story reported by TPM Muckracker a few weeks ago, in which Justin Rood revealed that Cheney purports to have exempted his office from the requirement of disclosing the number of political appointees in the OVP, for a directory of all executive branch positions known as the "Plum Book."

Instead, what appears in place of that required disclosure is a three paragraph statement, beginning thus (PDF):

The Vice Presidency is a unique office that is neither a part of the executive branch nor a part of the legislative branch, but is attached by the Constitution to the latter. The Vice Presidency performs functions in both the legislative branch (see Article I, section 3 of the Constitution) and in the executive branch (see Article II, and amendments XII and XXV, of the Constitution, and section 106 of title 3 of the United States Code).

You read that right. The Vice Presidency is now "a unique office," a fourth branch, if you will.

If you will. But you shouldn't.

And in fact, ISOO won't:

In an extraordinary internal challenge to the unruly Office of the Vice President (OVP), the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) has formally petitioned the Attorney General to direct the OVP to comply with a requirement that executive branch organizations disclose statistics on their classification and declassification activity to ISOO.

But what, specifically, moved ISOO to call for this ruling? The OVP's bizarre conception of itself as somehow exempt? Well, yeah. That, and this:

For the last three years, Vice President Cheney's office has refused to divulge its classification statistics to ISOO, despite a seemingly explicit requirement that it do so. Prior to 2002, such information had routinely been transmitted and reported in ISOO's annual reports to the President.

Wacky, eh? I wonder what's been going on in the OVP that would give them reason to stop complying with the presidential Executive Order?

Oh! Here's something weird:

Libby Live: David Addington Four
By: emptywheel


F returns to the Libby sonnet/Cheney meat grinder document. Asking A how it would look when he found it.

There's a stamp at the top, that says, "treated as Top Secret/SCI, then crossed out, with declassified."

F walks him through how it looked when Addington got it. Has Addington talk though what Top Secret and SCI mean. Can documents be properly classified as "treated as Top Secret SCI" Is that a proper classification?

A President's EO doesn't use that phrase.

F Do you recall seeing any other document that were "treated as Top Secret/SCI"

F Did you put that marking there.

A No

F Do you know how it got there?

A On this particular page, no, but in the course of production, there were situations in which I received handwritten notes saying "treated as" some particular classification, when the govt came back later and asked for originals, from that I take it that when they made copies, they stamped that on there, but this one it seems like they stamped that on the original.

Well, well, well. The OVP has been out of compliance with executive orders on the classification of sensitive national security information for several years. During that time, they've been inventing their own classification system (and spending taxpayer money for official-looking stamps bearing this fake classification). And now the Vice President's former top aide is on trial in federal court, offering as a defense for his role in the burning of a critical nuclear nonproliferation asset the excuse that the Vice President personally authorized the declassification of sensitive information.

All the while, not reporting it, or complying with any of the presidential mandate covering the secure handling of sensitive national security information.

They still arrest people for that, don't they?

Digby has more on Dick Cheney's Quiet Coup.

When I asked if Cheney had "found" a fourth branch of government in position that until a decade or so ago was considered a seat warmer for a presidential run and the designated state funeral stand-in for the president, I didn't realize they were actually setting this forth as a legal argument. Dear God.

This means that he considers himself even more "unitary" than he considers the president, beyond all reach of either branch, answerable to no one.

Orwell's -- I mean Bush's Dept. of Justice The Mission Statement of the Department of Justice is:

To enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law; to ensure public safety against threats foreign and domestic; to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.

Who knew? And having spent the past six years protecting us from not being tortured, the Fourth Amendment, access to information, and breasts, the Justice Department under George Bush is now protecting us from Congressional oversight:

The newly elected Democratic leaders in Congress are gearing up for a broad array of oversight hearings and investigations of the Bush administration. However, they are likely to butt heads with a Justice Department intent on thwarting their efforts...

The Justice Department, which serves as legal counsel in court proceedings for other departments, has repeatedly gone beyond merely protecting its own actions from scrutiny. Even when Congress was in Republican hands, Justice Department officials advised other government departments on how to stonewall congressional review. These efforts now appear to be ramping up.

The Justice Department Legal Counsel's office recently held meetings with lawyers of other departments to discuss strategy for responding to congressional requests for documents and hearing appearances.

Whatever happened to "fighting them there, so we don't have to fight them here"?

Science Vs. Republicans The new Human Evolution Exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History fights it out with Young Earth Creationist make-believe. Oh, look. The Carpetbagger Report shows how Bill Donohue of the Catholic League is a total hypocrite when it comes to what should cause campaign staffers to lose their jobs. I'm shocked.

The lemon of the sea. In a first-of-its-kind experiment, the military and General Dynamics worked in the same building to create a spiffy new amphibious vehicle. Let's check in on their taxpayer-funded progress, shall we?

After 10 years and $1.7 billion, this is what the Marines Corps got for its investment in a new amphibious vehicle: A craft that breaks down about an average of once every 4 1/2 hours, leaks and sometimes veers off course. ...The amphibious vehicle, which can be launched from a ship and then driven on land, is so unreliable that the Pentagon is ditching plans to begin building the first of more than 1,000 and wants to start over with seven new prototypes, which will take nearly two years to deliver, at a cost of $22 million each.

The price tag: nearly two billion dollars. But at least General Dynamics only got an $80 million bonus for their work. That'll teach 'em.

Truth up in smoke Kudos to MSNBC's Tucker Carlson for challenging GOP gasbag Mark Souder when the idiot claimed that marijuana was 'just like cocaine and crack' and implied it caused 'thousands of overdose deaths.' The sources I checked indicate that it is virtually impossible to OD on pot. Truth gone to Hell Damnation to MSNBC's Tucker Carlson for suggesting that, apparently, only white churches are truly "Christian".

[TUCKER] CARLSON: [...] So Barack Obama is a member of a church called Trinity United Church of Christ. It's a predominantly black church in Chicago, that espouses something called the "Black Value System," which includes calls for congregants to be "soldiers for black freedom" and a, quote, "disavowal of the pursuit of middleclassness." Now, it would seem to me, Tom, not to make a broad sweeping statement here, but a racially exclusive theology, a theology that ministers to one group of people, based on race, kind of contradicts the basic tenets of Christianity, and is worth talking about. Wouldn't you say?

[Former Democratic congressman Tom] ANDREWS: Well, let's look at what those values actually are. We're talking about hard work, self-reliance, belief in God, and if you have made it to the middle class, you have an obligation to those who have not. Now, those sound like pretty good values to me, black, white, or whatever, and I think that Barack Obama should not be ashamed of having those values and being part of a church.

CARLSON: Again, those are great values, that I, you know, that I hope I embody.


CARLSON: However, it's the word before them, black. It's making them racially specific. Again, Christianity -- this is something that I am actually qualified to discuss -- is, it seems to me, almost explicitly anti-racial. The idea is that we are all equal in the eyes of God. And when you espouse a theology that is racially exclusive, as this appears to be, it's hard to call that Christianity. I think it's pretty easy to call it wrong.

Media Matters debunks:

In fact, Trinity encourages parishioners to be "soldiers for Black freedom and the dignity of all humankind [emphasis added]." The Tribune said that the church's "value system" was adopted in 1981 to hold "black Christians accountable for taking care of their own and for continuing to fight oppression." Further, the Tribune reported that according to Melissa Harris-Lacewell, a professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University, "the 'disavowal of the pursuit of middleclassness' is simply an argument against materialism and the pursuit of the American standard of wealth. Many white Christian churches also preach against materialism."

Not that it matters to Tucker. The rest of the Right Wing smear machine will soon join Tucker in talking about how "black" Obama really is and how he's the "wrong" kind of Christian.

Ironically, every time the Right attacks Obama along these lines, it likely bolsters his support amongst those who wonder the opposite -- whether he's "black enough".

This isn't the first time Obama has had to deal with questions about his political-racial purity. During his first run for Congress in 2000, his opponent, incumbent Representative Bobby Rush, employed a well-worn tactic among entrenched Black incumbents: He suggested that his opponent wasn't "Black enough" to represent the voters of the district. Rush won and Obama continued to serve in the state senate.

Other Black candidates have used this unseemly tactic against fellow African Americans. Washington, D.C. mayor Marion Barry used it against Patricia Roberts Harris in his successful 1982 reelection campaign. Congressman Earl Hilliard tried it also, albeit unsuccessfully, in his 2002 race against Artur Davis. This "Blacker-than-thou" politics plays on social class, is fraught with danger, and is the unfortunate by-product of the quest to keep power and influence by any means. While unfortunate, it is no surprise that questions are now being asked about Obama.

Attacks like Tucker's bolster Obama's, er, "political-racial purity" bona fides without requiring him to open up his mouth about it. And as much as Tucker and the rest of his allies try, it'll be exceedingly difficult to turn Obama into a Black Panther to the wider public.

Snakes about a plane If you want to know why the "Pelosi wants a luxury plane" fake scandal is total bullshit, read here. The Pelosi smear that just won't die--look, my friends in the traditional media--California is much further from Washington than Illinois. It takes a larger plane, with more fuel capacity, to get there. And how much clearer can the Speaker make it?

Pelosi’s office has stated repeatedly, from the beginning, that "it is up to the Air Force to decide what type and size of plane will be required," and that she "will not use the plane for political travel...." Pelosi said today she will fly commercial rather than use the aircraft offered by the Pentagon, which cannot reach her home district in California without stopping to refuel.

Oh, and btw, Hastert used military aircraft to fly former page board chair Rep. Shimkus back to DC when the scandal broke. Was that a political purpose? Sheesh.

Truth is gonna hurt Playing offense ...

Meanwhile, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, said on Thursday that he's planning hearings this spring on executive and congressional travel on military aircraft. Murtha said he's requested from the Defense Department records on travel and logistics from the past two years. He asked the Defense Department to hand those over within a month.

He's always the last to know. Tony Snow plays dumb about what that second naval carrier group is doing in the Persian Gulf.

And that's that Columbia law professor Bruce Ackerman's discussion in Foreign Policy on potential strikes against Iran. Bottom line:

The president has to get another authorization for a war against Iran. It isn’t up to Nancy Pelosi or the House to prevent him; he doesn’t have the constitutional authority to just expand the war. He does not have the authority to unilaterally invade Iran.

Authorization that the Democratic Congress willl not give him.

A worthy idea Why isn't public service in America held to the same standards as military and civil service? Texas Blue lends support to an institution along the lines of our superior military academies in Because America Deserves our Best: The Initiative to Create a U.S. Public Service Academy. Hillary's vote on Iraq It's not as if this was the first opportunity, but today in New Hampshire, Senator Clinton got another chance to disavow her vote in favor of the Iraq War.

Roger Tilton, 46, a financial adviser from Nashua, N.H., told Clinton that unless she recanted her vote, he was not in the mood to listen to her other policy ideas.

"I want to know if right here, right now, once and for all and without nuance, you can say that war authorization was a mistake," Tilton said. "I, and I think a lot of other primary voters — until we hear you say it, we're not going to hear all the other great things you are saying."

However, just as on previous occasions, the reply was somewhat different than the question.

In response, Clinton repeated her assertion that "knowing what we know now, I would never have voted for it," and said voters would have to decide for themselves whether her position was acceptable.

"The mistakes were made by this president, who misled this country and this Congress," Clinton said to loud applause.

It's clear that this question about her vote -- and its frequent repetition -- is irritating not only to Senator Clinton, but to many of her supporters. However, there's a reason it keeps coming up: she hasn't given a good answer.

By that I don't mean "she hasn't given the answer I want to hear," I mean that the implications of her answer go beyond her unwillingness to voice the word "mistake" in reference to her vote. Worst of all, her answers show that she either can't manage to, or refuses to, grasp the real nature of the question.

In asking for a repudiation of that 2002 vote, the issue is not if she would vote the same way today knowing that all the claims of WMDs and ties to al Qaeda were false. Few politicians – and no Democrat I'm aware of -- would be foolish enough to make that statement. Neither is the issue the president's mismanagement of the war, which is so little in doubt that the administration itself is now grudgingly confessing some sins.

No. This question, this irritating question that some people just won't let go, isn't a check for 20-20 hindsight. Neither is it a request for judgment on the administration's effectiveness in matters strategic or tactical. The question, Senator Clinton, is have you learned anything? Have you learned that to authorize war is always a last resort, not a first, or seventh, or seven times seventh. Have you learned that it's not okay to allow fear – including fear for your career in politics – to herd you along with the crowd. Have you learned that good judgment isn't just avoiding error. it's acknowledging that an error has been made and working promptly to correct it.

We're not worried about your refusal to say you were wrong. We're worried that you still might think you were right. And that, Senator, is a problem.

We've gone so wrong The US Government is My Supervisor relates an unnerving experience of being challenged by a security guard in a desert camo military uniform - in the parking violations division in Los Angeles - and reflects on the militarization of civil society since 9/11.

For an educated perspective on Catholic teachings and reproductive choice that you are unlikely to see in the MSM, there is Frances Kissling's article "Can You be a Good Catholic and be Pro-Choice?" published this week on the website PublicSquare.net.

Just how out of step is the hierarchy with American Catholics? The authors of the book "American Catholics Today: New Realities of Their Faith and Their Church" made some interesting comments this week, as reported by the Catholic News Service in an article titled "Sociologists see strong identity, less commitment in young Catholics."

For the purposes of their book, the sociologists divided the entire adult Catholic population into four groups -- pre-Second Vatican Council, those over 65, who make up about 17 percent of U.S. Catholics; the Vatican II generation, ages 45-64, 35 percent; the post-Vatican II generation, ages 27-44, 40 percent; and the millennials, ages 18-26, 9 percent.

On abortion, 58 percent of the pre-Vatican II generation said abortion was a core Catholic teaching, but only 7 percent of the millennials did. Sixty-nine percent of the oldest group said homosexual behavior is always wrong, while only 37 percent of the young adult Catholics agreed.

On the question of premarital sex, there was a sharp drop in those who believe it is "always wrong" from the pre-Vatican II generation (62 percent) to the Vatican II generation (26 percent). The figure was only slightly lower for the post-Vatican II generation (22 percent) and the millennial generation (21 percent).

Family prison Immigration and Customs Enforcement has a problem. When they charge people with immigration violations, or when people have asked for asylum but not yet been given a hearing, these people have to be housed somewhere. Not in actual houses, of course. But in a facility. One with bars, and walls, and a few miles of razor wire. However, a fair number of those in immigration trouble came with kids in tow -- almost as if they were looking for a better life for their family and not intending on being a terrorist threat. On occasion, these immigrants who had small kids were allowed to stay out of lock-up to take care of their children. And sometimes, those who had been given this permission failed to show up for the court date.

So what's the appropriate response? Wait, before you answer that, what's the Republican response. That's right, they decided to put the children in jail, too.

This facility is a new tool in America’s arsenal to fight the war on terror. It is designed to keep entire families together until their immigration case can be resolved.

This "new tool in the war on terror" consists of a former state prison in Taylor, Texas. There hasn't been a huge remodel of this place. There are still cell blocks. Still concrete rooms with bars in the front. Still an exposed toilet in the middle of the floor. Only now there are children sharing the cells.

Media got their first chance to tour the facility today, but as with other federal facilities that have sprung up over the last six years, this wasn't exactly a self-guided tour.

The media was invited to tour the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, at 1001 Welch St. in Taylor. The center is being investigated by the American Civil Liberties Union for alleged human rights violations.

What the media saw was exactly what the government wanted them to see, and nothing else. The tour was very controlled and lasted just over an hour.

Media personnel were not allowed to talk to any of the nearly 400 detainees accused of immigration violations, who represent more than two dozen different countries.

The people the reporters didn't get to talk to currently include 200 children.

But the facility, a converted high-security prison, is coming under increased criticism. Attorneys for the detainees, many of whom are seeking political asylum, say it is abhorrent that small children, including babies, are being incarcerated.

Naturally, officials are quick to point out that the children are given toys, and access to a library and computer lab -- if only during the day and in view of guards. And hey, a family was released after their five year old was threatened and yelled at for not standing still during head count.

They had to do this, right? What other choice is there?



Submitted by RKing on