Filtered news 2/20

I've decided to back Obama in the primary. Go here to help if you're of a like mind:


: although he avoided having to testify, the Plame investigation isn't over yet for Vice President Cheney.

Supporting our troops Bush loyalists have about the strangest definition of supporting the troops ever coined. For this White House, Support the Troops apparently means "don't criticize our breathtaking stupidity and extraordinary arrogance in hastily sending off these men and women to get killed and maimed looking for nonexistent weapons in a nation that had nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks" ... In that metric, "The Troops" are being used as human political shields. Meanwhile, there's this: “‘Are you telling me that I can’t go to the ceremony ‘” asked David Thomas, an Iraq war veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart. Thomas was told he could not wear shorts to attend a ceremony with President Bush because the media would be there, and shorts were not advisable because the amputees would be seated in the front row. David responded, “, and y’all shouldn’t be neither.” When the guest list came out for the ceremony, his name was not on it. John Aravosis tracks toward veterans.

Oops! Rice speaks the truth! (Won't happen again. Promise.) Over the weekend, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice addressed military personnel stationed in Baghdad. She told the troops that everyone — including critics of the administration’s Iraq policy — believes that “the sacrifice and the labor of our men and women here has been honorable.” She called the debate over escalation a sign of a “great democracy.” An :

And the final thing I want to say is I know that a lot’s going on in Washington and that you’re hearing it. A lot’s going on because we are a great democracy. And people have their views and they’re going to express them. And some do not think that this was the right war to fight, and others think that we in the Administration haven’t fought this war quite right. By the way, all of them know that the sacrifice and the labor of our men and women here has been honorable.

And so when you hear the criticism of the war or the criticism of the President or of me or of anybody else, I do want you to know that to a person at home, your honor and your sacrifice and your labor is appreciated. People know what you’re doing and it’s appreciated across the board. I don’t care what people think of the policies; it’s appreciated across the board.

Rice’s comments contradict earlier claims from the administration that a debate on Iraq policy would be “.” Her words echoed those of Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace, who said the troops understand the “debate’s being carried on by and who care about their mission.”

Thanks Dubya “Senior leaders of Al Qaeda operating from Pakistan have and over the past year have set up a band of training camps in the tribal regions near the Afghan border,” the New York Times reports. “American officials said there was mounting evidence that Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, had been steadily building an operations hub in the mountainous Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan. Until recently, the Bush administration had described Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Zawahri as detached from their followers and cut off from operational control of Al Qaeda.”

George on George Yesterday, George W. Bush attended ceremonies at Mount Vernon to honor the 275th birthday of George Washington, a.k.a., the Father of our Country. Said :

You know, George Washington was born about 80 miles down the river from Mount Vernon in the year 1732. As a young man, he went West, and explored the frontier, and it changed his life. As he grew older, he became convinced that America had a great westward destiny as a nation of free people, independent of the empires of Europe. George Washington became the central figure in our nation's struggle for independence. At age 43, he took command of the Continental Army. At age 51, he was a triumphant hero of the war. And at age 57, he was the obvious and only choice to be the first President of the United States.

Now let's imagine George Washington's response.

You know, George Bush was born about 300 miles north of here in the year 1946. As a young man, he was an average student, became a cheerleader and developed a taste for alcohol. As he grew older, he became convinced that he didn't want to go to Vietnam, avoided serving both there and in the Texas Air National Guard and discovered cocaine. At age 32, he ran for Congress and lost. At age 40, he failed in the oil business. At age 43, he bought a baseball team and traded away Sammy Sosa. At age 48, he became the Governor of Texas. At age, 54 the Supreme Court named him President of the United States. And now 60 years old, having waged two losing war efforts that has cost America its moral standing in the world, hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars, he is the obvious and only choice to be the worst President of the United States.

My nod to President's Day.

Sending a message Over at ThinkProgress, The Bush administration may claim that last week's votes against the surge were bad for the war effort, but during Condoleezza Rice's recent trip to Baghdad she used those votes as a way of pressing Iraqi leaders to make the compromises necessary for political stability. Turns out it's a pretty useful way of convincing them that American patience is not inexhaustible.

As Sen. Carl Levin put it, "It's interesting that finally [the administration] understands the power of what we are doing in the Congress." Indeed it is.

Jeez, I almost forgot. And maybe it would be better if I had. But I have to ask: Did anyone else catch Fox's new comedy news show last night? I realize that liberals and conservatives generally find each other's humor puerile and leaden, but even taking that into account the show was bad. Really bad. Like the very worst of SNL's Weekend Update during the very worst of SNL's long run. And what was with Jenn Robertson? Did they cast her in the co-anchor role because she looks and sounds like Jane Curtin? How lame is that? And were they using a laugh track? In front of a studio audience? Anyway, not to get overly serious about this, but there's a lesson here: it's a mistake to mindlessly copy the other side's successes. We haven't been able to copy Rush Limbaugh, and they haven't been able to copy Kos or Jon Stewart. Sometimes it's best to understand that and move on.

Can we get real? Please... The debasement of our national security discourse has reached staggering proportions. Just consider the half-witted nonsense we're deluged with these days: Can you support the troops if you don't support the war? (Yes. Don't be a moron.) Should Hillary apologize for her war vote? (Seriously, who cares?) Will the surge work? (No.) Is Iran "meddling" in Iraq? (Of course they are. What did you expect?) Where is Carmen Muqtada al-Sadr?

I guess it's always been this way. Still, we could use a break from the trivia, and my greatest wish for this campaign season is for Democrats to back off from the trifles now and again and instead spend some time getting back to basics and outlining a broad perspective on both American and global security that competes with the puerile bluster that currently passes for intelligent discussion among Republicans. I already know that every Democratic candidate thinks we should withdraw from Iraq, but what I don't know is what they want to do next. What do they think are the biggest threats facing us? Are they willing to repudiate preventive war? (More to the point: Are they going to continue to insist that if all else fails, they'll wage preventive war against Iran?) Do they agree that democracy promotion ought to be our primary foreign policy goal? If not, what is? What's the role of the military in the war on terror? In fact, do they even think we're at war? If so, is it a war on "terror" or something else? What's the best way to prosecute it? Etc.

I've pretty much given up hope that there are any Republicans left who understand anything serious about the exercise of American power, but there's at least a chance that one or more of the Democrats do. So let's hear it. Let's argue about something real for a change.

Dems vs Repugs on the economy Democratic administrations Among other things, they deliver lower inflation, lower unemployment, higher economic growth, better stock market growth, and higher median wage growth. This performance is remarkably robust and consistent, and holds up even if you lag the analysis by a few years to allow time for economic policies to have an effect.

It's also a bit odd, since as I'll readily concede, presidents have only a modest effect on the economy. But it's not a statistical fluke. There have now been enough years, enough administrations, and enough separate measurements since WWII to make these results something that can't just be shrugged off.

I have my own idea about what causes this difference (nickel version: broad policy preferences that favor the working and middle classes vs. policy preferences that favor economic elites), but that's just a guess. Cactus posits a different explanation: "Democrats tend to pursue policies that are less likely to run up the debt."

Maybe so. In any case, Cactus decided to see if he could give Republicans a break by comparing economic growth to monetary policy. After all, maybe Democrats were just the lucky recipients of expansionary Fed policy. Long story short, it turns out to be just the opposite: Democrats do well even in the face of generally unfavorable Fed policies. Conversely, Republicans generally get a lot of help on the monetary side but their performance sucks anyway.

And of all Republicans, which one sucks the most? Do you have to ask? It's the one "who has a penchant for under performing at everything."

Scaife converts? Bill Clinton's attack dog during the 1990s was reclusive wingnut zillionaire Richard Mellon Scaife. But according to one of his close associates,

Christopher Ruddy, who once worked full-time for Mr. Scaife investigating the Clintons and now runs a conservative online publication he co-owns with Mr. Scaife, said, "Both of us have had a rethinking."

"Clinton wasn't such a bad president," Mr. Ruddy said. "In fact, he was a pretty good president in a lot of ways, and Dick feels that way today."

Maybe so, but you have to be a pretty bad president to make Richard Mellon Scaife start pining away for the good old days of Bill Clinton. If there was any lingering doubt about whether George Bush is the worst president ever, instead of just the second or third worst, we should probably take this as a cosmic confirmation that the votes are in.

As it turns out, though, the story is actually about Hillary Clinton and the fact that the old-time hate brigade just isn't what it used to be. It pretty much takes the flip side of yesterday's LA Times story about how the Hillary Swift-boaters are gearing up for action later this year. They're still out there, says David Kirkpatrick, but they don't have the mojo they used to.

A dangerous world In the LA Times today, Paul Kennedy has an op-ed on

Last week, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates responded to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin's polemical attack on the United States by remembering the 50-year Cold War as a "less complex time" and saying he was "almost nostalgic" for its return.

....Nor is he alone. There is a palpable sense of nostalgia these days for the familiar contours of that bygone conflict, which has been replaced by a much more murky, elusive and confusing age.

If you happen to be someone who agrees with Gates, read the whole thing. I've always figured that anyone who thinks that the world today is more dangerous and more frightening than, say, the decade after WWII, is either too young to remember, too incurious to have read any history, or else just plain nuts. Kennedy explains why.

Corruption watch I guess he's not so special after all. Alishtari member of the NRCC's Business Advisory Council to have been indicted for raising funds for terrorists. More on Alishtari, the Republican donor recently indicted for financing terrorists. Turns out those awards he was boasting of were part of by the National Republican Congressional Committee. It tuns out Mr. Alishtari, the GOP campaign contributor indicted for sending funds for terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, had a fairly lively life online. TPM Reader TDP points to what purports to be . And in a rather rambling post there's a reference to an alleged meeting with VP Dick Cheney. "When I went to DC in the Fall of 2003 and met with VP Cheney, I was first in a room full of advisors where I asked how to resolve this and they advised me to talk to counsels which led to this solution." Now, we can't be certain that this is actually Alishtari's blog, though I think the weight of evidence suggests that it is. And it's certainly possible that was just a self-promoter blowing smoke. But the fall of 2003 was when he was an aspiring government contractor sending big checks to the Republican party. So would not be that strange if he'd been invited down for a meet-and-greet with the co-president. The whole thing is a bit surreal and bizarre. As TDP quite accurately put it, "The thing reads like a Nigerian lottery scam. So Mr. Alishtari may be certifiable, or just setting up an insanity defense." But given what happens the claims probably bear some looking into.

Thou shalt not kill Popular wingnut blogger who's been feted by the mainstream media appears to of foreign leaders. Our wingnut , profoundly disappointing his readers.

The joke is on us You've probably seen the in the Times about the al Qaida resurgence along Pakistan's lawless frontier with Afghanistan. This should hardly be a surprise not only because of the Taliban's comeback in Afghanistan but much more importantly because of the de facto ceasefire with al Qaida militants and their backers that the Pakistani government recently agreed to.

But it gives the current debate over Iraq a renewed clarity. The whole endeavor in Iraq is no more and no less than a grand national joke we are playing on ourselves. We're having a clownish debate over Iraq as the center of a war on terror while the actual people -- in many cases, it would seem, literally the same people -- who plotted the 9/11 attack are on the rebound. How can anyone credibly deny that if most of our ground forces and budget weren't tied down in Iraq we would be far better able to react to this genuine threat?

And we are unwilling to shift course because we can't come to grips with what has already happened.

Our neglect costs us bigtime Annual cost to the U.S. economy of children growing up poor, a result of eventual lower productivity and earnings and higher crime rates and health costs: $500 Billion
Portion of children in the U.S. living in or near poverty: 17%
(Source: TIME)

What real journalism looks like Reading the Washington Post stories about the grim conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital underscores the hypocrisy of the Republican "support the troops" fervor ( and ):

"We've done our duty. We fought the war. We came home wounded. Fine. But whoever the people are back here who are supposed to give us the easy transition should be doing it," said Marine Sgt. Ryan Groves, 26, an amputee who lived at Walter Reed for 16 months. "We don't know what to do. The people who are supposed to know don't have the answers. It's a nonstop process of stalling." [...]

The conflict in Iraq has hatched a virtual town of desperation and dysfunction, clinging to the pilings of Walter Reed. The wounded are socked away for months and years in random buildings and barracks in and around this military post.

Memo to Dana Priest and Anne Hull: make room in your office for a Pulitzer. May many heads roll because of this.

"Guilty Party Tapdance." Priest and Hull report today that the brass at Walter Reed---caught with their consciences down around their ankles---have been "" and are fixing things at lightning speed. Had the articles never been published, of course, it would be squalor as usual. Even the black mold is rolling its eyes.

Amnesia Express. John McCain recently said in Iowa that the Iraq war has been "a long, tough struggle that we should have told the American people about," even though he himself told the American people it was . Then he said that, if the escalation fails, it could turn :

"I don't know what the other options are because if we fail here I think it's going to be very difficult to maintain the support of the American people," he said. "And when the American people don't support a war ... then we aren't able to maintain a foreign endeavor.

And then he promised that, if elected, he'd take a "serious look at this Y2K bug thing."

Progress. Yesterday American students spent an average of .001 percent of their time contemplating the meaning of President's Day, exceeding expert predictions of .0001 percent. In fairness, it was largely due to publicity surrounding yesterday's Xbox release, Mortal Kombat: Pierce vs. Fillmore. P.S. For a 30-second snapshot of the state of the modern American presidency, .

Religious right's worst nightmare. Gay couples came out of their sodomite dens in New Jersey yesterday to . As was the case when similar laws went into effect in Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts, absolutely nothing Satanic happened. Yeah, but just wait 'til the year 2486...then you'll see where all this is headed.

OK, old people, leave the room. This morning I want to talk to the kids. If you're between the ages of 3 and 12, gather 'round Uncle Bill's monitor for an important life lesson. The rest of you...scram.

OK, kids, let's start with a question. In your opinion, do you think it's OK to lie? Raise your hand if you think it's OK to lie.

Wow...nobody put their hand up? So you all think lying is a bad thing? I'm sure that's what your mom and dad and your teacher have told you, right? Well, here's a little secret, kids: if you're a Republican, lying is faaabulous!! Better yet, if you're a Republican, you can even work with other Republicans to use lies to create a new reality.

Now I'm a Democrat and I don’t lie. But today we have a Republican guest speaker who does. Please give a warm welcome to from the great state of Alaska! Congressman, go ahead and show us how to lie like a pro:

During yesterday’s House debate on Iraq, Rep. Don Young (R-AK) made the case for escalation by citing a fabricated quote to Abraham Lincoln: "Congressmen who willfully take action during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs, and should be arrested, exiled or hanged."

This morning, Young’s spokeswoman Meredith Kenny told ThinkProgress repeatedly that Young does not plan to take any action to correct the record or clarify his House statement.

Wow...he's good! See how much fun lying can be, children? And now you can do it, too! It might seem a little uncomfortable at first, but once you do it a few times it'll become as natural as breathing. Congressman Young has mimeographed some practice lines you can start with:

"George Washington once said, 'Teachers who willfully make their students do homework are traitors and should be gutted with an ice pick.'"

"Florence Nightingale once said, 'Parents who willfully make their children do chores are enemies of democracy and deserve to be boiled in goose liver oil.'"

You get the idea! And don't worry if your classmates write about you on their blogs, calling you a shameless, opportunistic, unscrupulous, water-carrying lying sack of you-know-what weasel bastard. Simply hide behind your spokeswoman. She'll make all those frumpy fact-checkers disappear!

To summarize for all the children of America: Lying is good! Your nose won’t grow, your face won’t turn red and no one's gonna hook you up to a polygraph. Lie like a rug any chance you get! Just let loose with a whopper and watch its brilliant rainbow colors make the world shine again (if you can misquote a Nobel Prize winner, so much the better). Read books on lying. Watch films. Attend seminars. And don't forget to join the Republican party.

And one day---if you lie real hard and practice, practice, practice---you might grow up to get your own lies recorded in the Congressional Record, too!!

A bad moon a-risin' Despite the that it is not considering military action against Iran, the BBC reports, “US contingency plans for extend beyond nuclear sites and include most of the country’s military infrastructure.”

Well, duh -- that was the whole idea New study shows that strict voter ID rules “can reduce turnout, particularly among minorities.” Turnout in the 2004 elections “was about 4% lower in states that required voters to sign their name or produce documentation. ; the difference was about 6% for blacks and Asian-Americans.”

Be afriad. Be very afraid. Justice Antonin Scalia is “” on the Supreme Court. “Between now and late June, the court is set to hand down decisions in four areas of law — race, religion, abortion regulation and campaign finance — where Scalia’s views may now represent the majority.”

But of course. Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, the former high-ranking CIA official who was in an offshoot of the case of Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, once oversaw ethics at the CIA. He “served two years as a ‘deputy ethics official’ and ,” but at times suggested that ethics reporting requirements were burdensome.

"The first time I met Bush, two things became clear. One, he didn’t know very much.
The other was that he had the confidence to ask questions that revealed he didn’t know very much.”
-- Richard Perle, on the lack of brains Dubya commands

FOX redefines "business friendly" News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch has announced that he will launch the new Fox Business Channel (FBC) in the fall. The channel is marketing itself as being “” than its rivals.

Nevermind that FBC’s main rival — CNBC — is dealing with allegations that its star network host had an with a Citigroup executive. Fox wants to push the limits even further. Fox News chief Roger Ailes explained, “Many times I’ve seen things on CNBC where and profits as they should be.”

Neil Cavuto will reportedly at the new service. Here’s a glimpse of what we can look forward to from the new Fox Business Channel:

Cavuto to Paul Krugman on his argument about growing wealth inequality in America: “You are lying to people.

“Most Americans, when they’re polled on the likability of this president, in that regard.”

: Out to sabotage the economy?”

“All this hype over global warming could be just that — .”

Are “economic terrorism?”

“Did Americans who took today commit treason?”

“will crush the economy” if they win.

Cavuto explained, “We’re going to be a channel for America — .” No, instead, FBC will be “,” Cavuto pledged. Given his record, we assume that only means more , , and .

"The country needs to be honest.
Change needs to be large.
Let’s put a woman in charge."
-- Lyrics from Merle Haggard's new song "Hillary"


February 20, 2007 - 12:10pm