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"It's nuts over here. Soldiers are being asked to do work we're not trained to do. I'm doing work
that the State Department people are far more prepared to do in fostering democracy, but they're
not allowed to come off the bases because it's too dangerous here. It doesn't make any sense."
-- Army Capt. Brian Freeman, who died Saturday in Karbala from a mortar attack,

What else is new? ,” said White House Press Secretary Tony Snow today when asked about President Bush’s reaction to the weekend’s march on Washington. Approximately converged on the National Mall on Saturday to protest Bush’s escalation in Iraq. of the American public opposes President Bush’s plan to send more U.S. troops to Iraq.

Knocking Dubya down Left jab:

We can't even get a straight story on how our troops die.

Last week, the Pentagon first reported that four Americans were killed in Iraq while repelling an enemy attack. Then on Friday [after reporters debunked the Pentagon story] we were told they had actually during a shootout and executed, two of them handcuffed and shot in the head. [...]

The government that public criticism hurts the war effort, but it is being damaged much more by its own loss of credibility brought on by such incidents. [See also and --BiPM]

Truth is the foundation of democracy and Americans can handle the truth---they demand it. History shows that when they fail to get it, they no longer follow their leaders, no matter the cause. They are more likely to just change leaders.
---Bob Schieffer on

Right hook:

[M]ore than half the country (58 percent) say they wish the Bush presidency were simply over, a sentiment that is almost unanimous among Democrats (86 percent), and is shared by a clear majority (59 percent) of independents and even one in five (21 percent) Republicans. Half (49 percent) of all registered voters would rather see a Democrat elected president in 2008, compared to just 28 percent who’d prefer the GOP to remain in the White House.

How's that canvas taste, Goopers?

Are we too stupid to be a superpower? even though their country is the world’s top source of greenhouse gases, a showed on Monday. Some 57 percent of people around the world considered global warming a “very serious problem” and a further 34 percent rated it a “serious problem.” People in Latin America “were most worried with just 42 percent rating global warming ‘very serious.’”

"There are more people waiting for me to pull this trigger than there are waiting on
my return to the states. I'm done hurting. All my life I've been hurting... end this pain,"
-- Michael Crutchfield, in his 2-page suicide note, found dead north of Baghdad

For the record Percent of FDR's sons who served during World War II: 100%
(Source: Maine Sunday Telegram)
Percent of GWB's daughters who are serving in the Iraq War: 0%

Happy birthday Teddy, 125 years old today. Says William Ridings and Stuart McIver in their book Rating the Presidents (where FDR sits at , just below Lincoln):

Roosevelt is praised most often for his role in preserving the American capitalist system at a time when many countries were opting for fascism. Given the dire crises he was forced to confront, perhaps the highest praise from the poll is "the right man in the right place at the right time." [...] Others praise him for stopping Hitler---and shudder to think what might have been if a less-effective president had been at the helm in those dangerous days.

Unfortunately we can imagine it all too easily. Now go .

What liberal media? There is something exceedingly perverse about zeal for "bipartisanship" in the wake of the November 2006

Hannity drops "Enemy of the State" and opts for "Enemy of the Week" instead. Perhaps the phrase Roman dictators used to use before the Centurions would go and stab their enemies in the throat was a little harsh — even for Hannity. Last time it was . This week's recipient was Jane Fonda for having the audacity to protest the Iraq War with the rest of those "hate-America" types. Thanks for being a great and loyal American, Sean! That liberal, terrorist loving, blame-America-firster could learn a thing or two from you:

[The President] should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole.

Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.

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.

In a move sure to piss off Michael Chertoff and rally other states, Maine said "Forget it!" to an unfunded mandate to switch over to costly, non-secure :

The Real ID Act says that, starting around May 2008, Americans will need a federally approved ID card---a U.S. passport will also qualify---to travel on an airplane, open a bank account, collect Social Security payments or take advantage of nearly any government service. States will have to conduct checks of their citizens' identification papers, and driver's licenses likely will be reissued to comply with Homeland Security requirements.... Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Project, said he thinks Maine's vote will "break the logjam, and other states are going to follow." (The American Civil Liberties Union has set up an anti-Real ID Web site called ).

And tomorrow they'll bring peace and order to the galaxy. No biggie.

First: Cheney's paranoid secrecy Laura Rozen has a in the current Washington Monthly titled "Cheney's Dead-Enders" that is worth a read. But I wanted to home in on this parenthetical:

(When I inquired about a staffer’s rumored move to the Veep’s office, a Cheney press officer answered sweetly, “If we have a personnel announcement we’d like you to know about, we’ll tell you.”)

This is not the first time I've seen a reporter denied information about who even works in the Office of the Vice President (I can't find where I've seen this refusal reported before, although I think it was about the time Cheney shot that Texas lawyer in the face; if anyone recalls, please forward me the link).

Think about that. The Vice President of the United States refuses to divulge who works in his office. Rozen's article provides an estimate of 88 persons on the VP's staff, which I take to mean that the OVP won't even say how many people are on staff. These are people on the public payroll. Wouldn't you say the public is entitled to know?

Most of the debate over the nexus between national security and official secrecy is about where to draw the line. That is, how to balance the necessity of openness and transparency in a democratic society with the need to protect important operational details of the nation's defense. I lean heavily toward transparency, but I will acknowledge that there is a legitimate question of where to draw that line.

But Cheney's policy of refusing to reveal who works for him--for us, actually--isn't about balance. It's about a perverse sense of entitlement and a deep aversion to scrutiny and accountability. It is anti-democratic.

Perhaps a committee chair should consider requesting a roster of employees in the OVP. Just on principle.

Update: TPM reader PG comes through in a pinch with a to the story alluded to above but couldn't put my finger on. It was in The American Prospect last May. Here's the key passage:

His press people seem shocked that a reporter would even ask for an interview with the staff. The blanket answer is no -- nobody is available. Amazingly, the vice president’s office flatly refuses to even disclose who works there, or what their titles are. “We just don’t give out that kind of information,” says Jennifer Mayfield, another of Cheney’s “angels.” She won’t say who is on staff, or what they do? No, she insists. “It’s just not something we talk about.” The notoriously silent OVP staff rebuffs not just pesky reporters but even innocuous database researchers from companies like Carroll Publishing, which puts out the quarterly Federal Directory. “They’re tight-lipped about the kind of information they put out,” says Albert Ruffin, senior editor at Carroll, who fumes that Cheney’s office doesn’t bother returning his calls when he’s updating the limited information he manages to collect.

Time to shine some light on the OVP.

Second: That muckraking light shines on. , the Office of the Vice President's phone directory. Carpetbagger has .

Bill O'Reilly to blow gasket? Al Franken is leaving Air America to a run against Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman.

"We saw the real Dick Cheney, a really remarkable combination of arrogance, incompetence
and dishonesty...If he had any decency, he would simply resign...He would would say:
'I ruined the country in my first term. I'm ruining the world in my second term.' "
-- Paul Begala, to Cheney's baby, Wolf Blitzer,

More GOP spin How Dinesh D’Souza in order to blame liberals.

A sickening health care plan President Bush’s “proposal to create a tax deduction for health insurance, if enacted into law, could reduce Social Security benefits for many Americans because the deduction would apply not only to income taxes, but also to .”

Jack Cafferty goes after .

"I've learned a lot of lessons being involved in politics. I also believe that when you are attacked, you have to deck your opponents." -- Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), quoted by .

GOP dirty tricks Wonderful little line at the end of on the man behind the Obama-Madrassa smear:

After Insight posted the article on Jan. 17, Mr. Kuhner said, he was disappointed to see that the Drudge Report did not link to it on its Web site as it has done with other Insight articles. So, as usual, he e-mailed the article to producers at Fox News and MSNBC.

Negged by Drudge, so forced to peddle it to Fox and MSNBC.

Pull your head out of your... On , Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) had this to say: "I don't believe that it's helpful right now to show there's disarray around the world as well as in our body at home. We really need, at this point, to get on the same page." I guess he hasn't figured out yet that most of us are on the same page: we are done in Iraq, and the disaster there was brought to us by the failed policies of the administration.

See, that wasn't so hard to say. (D-DE): "It's not the American people or the U.S. Congress who are emboldening the enemy. It's the failed policy of this president going to war without a strategy, going to war prematurely."

Revisiting the surge Remember how President Bush's supporters bitterly complained last month when critics claimed that the "surge" in Iraq was just a desperate ploy cooked up because both withdrawal and doing nothing were politically unacceptable? Remember how they claimed that in reality it was inspired not by political cynicism but by the sober military recommendations of Frederick Kagan and Gen. Jack Keane? That was then.

This is not our plan. The White House is not briefing our plan.

Back to political cynicism then? If neither the joint chiefs of staff nor the commanders on the ground in Iraq backed the plan, and if Kagan says Bush's plan isn't the one he and Keane proposed, then whose forehead did it spring from? Dick Cheney's?

Good for a laugh: .

Loving your country Bob Herbert marched , and came to this conclusion:

You can say what you want about the people opposed to this wretched war in Iraq, try to stereotype them any way you can. But you couldn’t walk among them for more than a few minutes on Saturday without realizing that they love their country as much as anyone ever has. They love it enough to try to save it.

It's unfortunate that it still has to be said that protest doesn't mean treason. That there are still echoes of "love it or leave it" in public discourse. And that, as Digby , Bob Herbert's own newspaper would be taken in by a professional political "victim" to prove that "some" protesters hate the troops. You can argue about whether protest marches are effective in saving the country, but not about the motivations of those protesting. They love their country, and their soldiers, enough to try anything to save them.

Things that will [apparently] get you banned at a right-wing blog site, :

For insisting that it is indecent to call 9/11 widows whores and whiners

For disagreeing that despite our best intentions, we liberated no one -- corollary for daring to say that we actually made Iraq worse than it was before we overthrew saddam

For protesting calling John Murtha a coward.

For insisting that your republicans shouldn't call for a war that they will not serve in

For arguing that there were no WMDs found.

For making the point that Iraq and 9/11 were not conflated events

For pointing out that global [warming] is an absolute, provable fact, and that the only supporters of the opposition have been paid for their non scientific opinions

For saying that US healthcare sucks or that US healthcare is worse than French healthcare

For pointing out that dinosaurs were mostly gone by the time man showed up and that to teach creationism to our children is superstition.

For insisting that helping Katrina victims should come before painting school houses in Iraq

For arguing that the use of force is not "the only thing they understand" -- or that torture " is OK with Arabs and its OK with us frankly" ( meaning the site administrator).

For pointing out that Arabs, Hamas, Persians, Hezbollah, Al-Quaeda and muslims are not the same people. Also that insurgents are not terrorists

For quoting passages out of the Bible and insisting that if you are to take it literally, then an adulterer like Henry Hyde should be stoned to death.

For making the point that comparing Bush to Truman and Clinton to Stalin is probably the other way around.

Broder, retire already ("Clinton's Presidential Posturing") refers to Hillary Clinton's "partisan" talk at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Number of times in the past two years Broder has spoken of "partisanship" in connection with Republican candidates for president in 2008: 0.

This is a mortal sin here in Wisconsin, but: Go Bears! In case you were looking

Not a good omen for Hillary She :

A man, who identified himself as a Gulf War vet, asked the New York senator at a town meeting in a high school gym here Saturday if the surge of new troops to Iraq "was going to be enough?"

Instead of answering, Hillary (as she is officially called by her campaign) said, "Thanks so much for your service" and then talked about how she visits military hospitals and believes America needs to provide good medical care for its veterans.

In the one-hour town meeting, Hillary did not mention Iraq a single time. She mentioned ethanol twice.

I'm worried about them. Really. See, after all the that attended Keith Ellison's swearing in as the first Muslim congressman, after all the foaming at the mouth, all the arm-waiving, all the apocalyptic proclamations, I'm afraid of what might happen when word leaks that .

The Israeli government overwhelmingly approved the appointment of the country's first Muslim Cabinet minister Sunday, billing it as an important step for a long-suffering minority. ... Majadele told AP Television News that his goals as a Cabinet minister would be "promoting coexistence between the two peoples inside the state, and promoting dialogue between the Palestinians and the Israelis toward negotiations and political agreement."

Look at that. A Muslim cabinet minister, right in the heart of Israel, and he's calling for "coexistance." Doesn't Israel know that Muslims , and the Koran calls for chopping off the heads of all the infidels? Don't they know that all Muslims are terrorists? Don't they know they need to adopt the to protect themselves from the bearded menace?

Has anybody seen Glenn Beck? Has anyone made sure Congressman Goode is up and squawking? Has anyone fallen under the vast shadow of Limbaugh since the word leaked out? I'm thinking that these guys need one of those medical alert buttons right now. If you live near one of them, you might want to check and make sure the yellow globs of bile are still oozing through their hate-powered systems.

On the other hand, perhaps you shouldn't get too close to any wingnut for a week or two. Exploding heads can be a hazard -- especially when those heads are bone all the way through.

More on the Obama smear The New York Times today the smear merchants behind the "Obama went to a radical school -- as told to us by Hillary Clinton" story. Granted, the Times motivation here occasionally seems as much oriented toward running down the skills and honesty of anonymous bloggers as it does in going after those who put forward these lies, but their focus on the right-wing's eagerness to deal in slime is dead on. They trace the story from its skuzzy origins to its echoes across conservative owned and operated media.

...Mr. Kuhner’s Web site, Insight, the last remnant of a defunct conservative print magazine owned by the Unification Church led by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, was able to set off a wave of television commentary, talk-radio chatter, official denials, investigations by journalists around the globe and news media self-analysis that has lasted 11 days and counting.

This isn't the first time Insight has offered up clearly contrived nonsense. The site's reputation has become so tattered, that even their poor paper cousins are embarrassed to name them as relatives.

"Some of the editors here get annoyed when Insight is identified as a publication of The Washington Times," said Wesley Pruden, editor in chief of The Washington Times.

Naturally, following the right wing tradition of never admitting a mistake, Insight's editor still stands by the story that has been picked apart by every organization that took ten minutes to look into it.

In an interview Sunday, Mr. Kuhner, 37, said he still considered the article, which he said was meant to focus on the thinking of the Clinton campaign, to be "solid as solid can be."

Solid -- as in, it matches exactly the chain emails that are being passed from one Republican mailbox to the next. So it must be so!

And if you think that it's only Fox and Limbaugh treating Insight as a serious source, think again. Despite being wrong about as often as Don Rumsfeld, news organizations continue to treat them seriously.

... the Fox News rival MSNBC has picked up several of Insight’s other recent anonymous "scoops."

What next? This just in from Free Republic?

If he weren't already dead, Jefferson would kill himself The truth apparently has a liberal bias in the Virginia State Legislature these days, according to :

Anger over Republicans killing bills without recording the vote, Democratic operatives began videotaping early morning and late-night statehouse proceedings and posting them on their assembly's blog and the Internet-based video site YouTube.

"We're providing openness and access to Virginia government," said Mark Bergman, spokesman for the Virginia Democratic Party.

Bergman argues that the videos are the only way for Virginians to see these committee proceedings because the Republican majority changed the rules in 2006 to allow off-hour committee and subcommittee votes to go unrecorded.

Last week, House Republicans in Virginia defeated a Democratic measure without recording the vote that would have raised the state's minimum wage.

Interesting as it is to find out what your representatives were doing in your name while you were sleeping, the Virginia GOP is calling it "gotcha politics," objecting to having the proceedings recorded.

"It's an effort to demonize Republicans," said Shaun Kenney, communications director for the Virginia Republican Party. "It's about targeting and embarrassing Republican delegates," he said.

Kenney said the presence of video cameras inside the committee hearing is hampering political discourse and debate.

Yes, having votes and committee meetings on public matters accessible to state residents is "demonizing," "targeting" and "embarrassing" Republicans. Kinda makes you wonder what they’re up to, doesn’t it?

The need for a Constitutional revival Critics of President Bush talk a lot about his abuses of power, the increasing opacity and corruption of the federal government under his management and his theory of presidential power which owes much more to foreign philosophers and political scientists than the text and history of the United States constitution. But is this more than a sound-bite and political cudgel? As long as President Bush is in office and even more so before this year when he still possessed unified control of the federal government, it was enough simply to oppose his war on the constitution. But the virus of anti-constitutionalism President Bush has injected into the body politic is now so deepseated that a renewed constitutionalism should now be a central element informing our political priorities and political identification.

Garry Wills gets us into some of this with his on the militarization of our politics as expressed through the increasingly ubiquitous references to the president of "commander-in-chief", as though this were the principle basis of his authority as president. A quarter of a century ago Ronald Reagan got this underway (or perhaps further advanced it along) with his penchant for saluting Marines after he got off Marine One -- the Marine helicopter the president uses to fly to Andrews Air Force Base -- a habit every subsequent president has adopted, but something no previous president did. That was symbolic and campy. But under President Bush it has led to the president assuming to himself what amount to discretionary dictatorial powers

To approach this subject candidly and forthrightly we need to recognize, as Wills does, that some of the militarization of our politics and constitutional disfiguration traces back to the beginnings of the Cold War. But I think Wills understates the qualitative expansion of anti-constitutionalism in the last 6 years, if sometimes only at the level of pretension rather than in execution (signing statements being a good example of this).

But if we're interested in evaluating candidates for high office on the basis of their constitutionalism, what are some of the key points, planks and issues?

In no particular order but to start a conversation ...

1. Abuse of presidential signing statements.

2. Use of the president's 'commander-in-chief' powers to invade the realm of civilian politics.

3. Attacks on habeas corpus, general evasion of oversight by the federal judiciary.

What are the other key points? To me, most of the issue stems from item , the over-great pretensions of the president based on the idea that his 'commander-in-chief' powers extend beyond control of the military into the civilian realm as well. On a softer level, we might include the tendency to politicize the military and the federal administration of justice and the increasing reliance on government secrecy. Historically, the presidency has been a great bulwark of progressive change in this country. So key to my mind is to preserve a powerful executive while instituting a renewed respect for the limits to presidential power. The heart of the matter is that the current president and his court poet lawyers see the constitution principally as a problem to be worked around to release the president's untrammelled power. Fundamentally, they're against the US constitution and outside the traditions of American history.

What do you think the key points are? And what would be the planks of a revived constitutionalism?

Update: devotion to the constitution is written into the fabric of American culture. So it should be possible to frame a vocabulary and political agenda in its favor that resonates across the political spectrum. Two key points are that Bush anti-constitutionalism is way outside the American tradition. Its intellectual roots are with foreigners. They are alien ideas. Touchy phrases, I grant you, but accurate too. Second, small-'r' republican government is courageous government. Secrecy, despotism and prerogative power are rooted in cowardice.

The death of glaciers For some reason, global warming skeptics are fond of claiming that glaciers aren't really shrinking. Usually they do this by cherry picking a single glacier somewhere that's been gaining mass, or by suggesting that the shrinkage is due to purely local problems. But it's not so. A broad look at glaciers throughout the world shows that not only are glaciers shrinking,

The World Glacier Monitoring Service, which continuously studies a sample of 30 glaciers around the world, says the acceleration is down to climate change.

.... The latest survey, just released, shows accelerating decline. During 2005, this sample of 30 glaciers became, on average, 60-70cm thinner.

This figure is 1.6 times more than the average annual loss during the 1990s, and three times faster than in the 1980s.

on MoJo's new environment and health blog, Blue Marble.

Global warming caused by fossil fuel emissions is rapidly melting the Arctic. Sea ice coverage this past March “was the in the early 1970s,” and NASA-funded U.S. scientists believe in 30-50 years, “summer sea ice will have vanished from almost the entire Arctic region,” conditions not seen in the area in a million years.

For energy companies, this catastrophe means a “,” Greenwire reports:

The Arctic region contains a quarter of the world’s remaining oil reserves, experts estimate. It also contains massive natural gas fields in the Barents Sea, including Russia’s huge Shtokman field. “By 2040 or 2050, the Arctic Ocean will be navigable and that will mean significant developments very soon,” said ArcticNet research group head Martin Fortier.

European Environment Agency head Jacqueline McGlade warned that “the region’s opening could lead to another rush like the Klondike gold rush, which ‘could potentially destabilize’ the area and its 10 million indigenous inhabitants.”

Bush on the couch puts President Bush "on the couch" and asks a variety of pundits and writers to psychoanalyze him. Selected comments:

Deepak Chopra: "One of the most unnerving things about George Bush is his smile... It’s been pointed out that until he became president, Bush didn’t smirk. It’s grown into a disturbing tic, expressing a mixture of contradictory traits: smugness, disdain, self-consciousness, doubt... Have we seen a more inappropriate smile from any politician since Nixon? I doubt it."

Ted Sorensen: "I have enough sympathy for anybody in that position that I wouldn’t say that he’s mentally deranged: I feel sorry for him. I think he must know that he’s going to go down in history as the most incompetent president since Buchanan. He came to the White House knowing nothing about national and international policy and consequently relied on Washington veterans -- who proved to be incompetent ideologues who got him, and the country, into very deep trouble."

Gary Hart: "He clings to a thought that in 20 or 25 years, history will maybe prove him right, and people will say he really knew what he was doing. But throughout all of this, he has seemed so blithe and casual about death and destruction. It would have kept me awake at night. I don’t know how he does it. He must just turn it off."

Franklin Foer: "Even as his entire presidency has tanked, he shows no signs of acquiring psychological complexities. He remains the 'simple,' 'resolute' man that his hagiographers once venerated. If you put Bush on the couch, I’m afraid he'd still take a nap."


January 31, 2007 - 10:52am