Filtered news 3/9

The Color of Fear Turns Five Circle next Monday on your calendar, preferably with a yellow highlighter. As of , we've spent five years cowering under the federal government's . The number of days the system has been in place (1,817 as of today) changes, but the color never does. It's always yellow ("Elevated" risk). And what's a patriotic citizen to do when the Fatherland is at Code Yellow? . Just continue to be alert for suspicious activity and report it to authorities. ("Hello, police? I think the neighbors are making brownies with enriched uranium again...") Yellow is a cozy terror alert level. After five years it fits like grandpa's favorite old sweater. When I see the little reminder crawling along the bottom of the screen on Fox News in the morning, I know it's gonna be an elevated-risk, don-your-kevlar-knickers kind of day. It's the Fabulous Fifties all over again (minus the "Duck and Cover" drills, of course---that would be silly). There are, of course, two higher threat levels, each with its own action steps. Level Orange---"High" risk---usually precedes an election and requires citizens to vote Republican or die. Level Red---"Severe" risk---is issued when the sky is alabaster and skin is dripping off your bones. It's the perfect time to dig into all those yummy emergency rations you've socked away. ("More powdered pork chops, dear?") And what of lowly level Blue ("Guarded" risk) and Green ("Low" risk)? They're scrapin' by, moonlighting as paintball targets at kids' birthday parties.

Polar Express to Nowhere Yesterday, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) released the “,” its annual compilation of all the pork-barrel projects in the federal budget. This year’s edition contained some welcome news: “thanks to voter outrage and a one-year moratorium imposed by Democrats after taking over Congress,” the “” after years of record pork-barrel spending. But the news was not all good. CAGW found that in last year’s defense spending bill, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) included . The level of spending represented “an increase of 127 percent over the $92,425,000 for Alaska in the fiscal 2006 defense bill.” Stevens is no stranger to pork — he championed the infamous “,” and is one the . One from Stevens could be called the “Polar Express to Nowhere”:

$4,000,000 for the Northern Line Extension … The Northern Line Extension will provide a direct route from North Pole (pop. 1,778 in 2005) to Delta Junction (pop. 840 in 2000), which is a whopping 82.1 mile drive on one highway between the two villages … The Alaska Railroad Corporation said, “The proposed rail line would provide freight and potentially passenger rail services serving commercial interests and communities in or near the project corridor.”

For a sense of the metropolises that are the “communities in or near the project corridor,” here is a map of the area via Google:

 

Stevens is no fan of CAGW or their reports. “All they are is a ,” he said in 1999. “They are idiots.”

Attorneygate in perspective Constitutional law expert discusses the brought on recently fired US attorneys and it's potential implications on the US justice system. | | In my opinion, the most important (and alarming) part of the story is where the authority to do this derives from: The USA Patriot Act. How exactly does giving Bush the power to replace inconvenient prosecutors protect us from terror? Oh, wait, it doesn't. It just protects him and his cronies from prosecution. Talk about politicizing terror. : The Bush administration's controversial firing of eight US attorneys sets up a major clash between the White House and the new Congress, as Democrats step up efforts to rein in new presidential powers. -15052">
(Read the rest of this story…)

: a new inspector general report finds that the FBI is breaking the law. “The story here is not merely that the FBI is breaking the law and abusing these powers,” Glenn Greenwald writes. “That has long been predicted and, to some degree, even documented. The story is that the FBI is , but mere suggestions to be accepted only if he willed it. It is yet another vivid example proving that the President’s exists not merely in theory, but as the governing doctrine under which the executive branch has acted, time and again and as deliberately as possible, in violation of whatever laws it deems inconvenient.”

“Violent crime rose by double-digit percentages in cities across the country over the last two years, reversing the declines of the mid-to-late 1990s,” according to a report by the Police Executive Research Forum. “There are pockets of crime in this country that ,” said Chuck Wexler, the groups executive director.

Who supports the troops? “More than a quarter of military veterans with disability cases before the Department of Veterans Affairs for the agency’s decision, creating financial hardships for them and their families. … As of March 3, the VA had almost 401,000 pending cases for disability compensation with almost 115,000 languishing for six months or more.”

Has Israel destroyed itself from within? A really depressing article, .

Obama smearing picks up steam You knew was coming. is 500 "brains" at work, and the result is the intelligence of a flea. Brendan Nyhan has a on yesterday's bogus Times story about some of Barack Obama's investments that "raise questions" about this and that. In fact, once you read through the whole article then go back and read it again to try to make sense of it, you'll see that no questions are, in fact, raised. Instead, Barack Obama made some financial transactions that the Times has no evidence were improper and for which there does not appear to be any realistic motive for improper action (nobody, for example, profited financially from the transaction) and for which there are perfectly plausible explanations. The Times reporter, in short, saw something that did arguably raise questions. He looked into it. He found nothing. Then rather than printing nothing -- since, after all, that's what he found -- he instead went to press with a story that "raises questions" -- a formulation that simply amounts to a presumption of guilt. It raises the question of when America's newspapers just threw in the towel and decided they had no real obligations to inform their readers rather than mislead them.

"A political satirist who felches the current elephant or donkey in power,
without regard to ability or honesty of those in power, has neither the testicular
fortitude nor the minimum intellect to understand either politics or satire.”
-- an unknown wise man talking about Dennis Miller

Fifty three years ago today, Edward R. Murrow---the inspiration for Keith Olbermann's "Special Comments"---took Ann Coulter's pin-up idol, Joseph McCarthy, to the cleaners over his Communist witch hunt (). His words from that broadcast have been a lifeline for people like you and me who have been routinely accused of treason by Darth Cheney and his stormtroopers:

"We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men---not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular."

Shrewd move. See, by , Barack Obama has just endeared himself to everyone from millionaire widows to rednecks with confederate flags on their trucks. Not to be outdone, Hillary promptly started ripping the tags off of mattresses. (In case you missed it, that $375 worth of parking tickets he picked up while in law school back in the 80s. What's next? "Needs to work on his penmanship" from his fourth grade teacher?)

Today in the Washington Times, Wade Sanders — former deputy assistant secretary of the Navy, decorated former swift boat skipper, and combat veteran — has an op-ed attacking President Bush’s nomination of to be ambassador to Belgium: “And as a military man, it — John McCain, Max Cleland, John Kerry, or Jack Murtha — I just don’t believe that assaults on the military records of veterans belong in our politics.”

We are the rogue nation GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, in a way. But, you know, history doesn’t repeat itself exactly twice. What I did warn about when I testified in front of Congress in 2002, I said if you want to worry about a state, it shouldn’t be Iraq, it should be Iran. But this government, our administration, wanted to worry about Iraq, not Iran.

I knew why, because I had been through the Pentagon right after 9/11. About ten days after 9/11, I went through the Pentagon and I saw Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz. I went downstairs just to say hello to some of the people on the Joint Staff who used to work for me, and one of the generals called me in. He said, “Sir, you’ve got to come in and talk to me a second.” I said, “Well, you’re too busy.” He said, “No, no.” He says, “We’ve made the decision we’re going to war with Iraq.” This was on or about the 20th of September. I said, “We’re going to war with Iraq? Why?” He said, “I don’t know.” He said, “I guess they don’t know what else to do.” So I said, “Well, did they find some information connecting Saddam to al-Qaeda?” He said, “No, no.” He says, “There’s nothing new that way. They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq.” He said, “I guess it’s like we don’t know what to do about terrorists, but we’ve got a good military and we can take down governments.” And he said, “I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail.”

So I came back to see him a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, “Are we still going to war with Iraq?” And he said, “Oh, it’s worse than that.” He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, “I just got this down from upstairs” -- meaning the Secretary of Defense’s office -- “today.” And he said, “This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.” I said, “Is it classified?” He said, “Yes, sir.” I said, “Well, don’t show it to me.” And I saw him a year or so ago, and I said, “You remember that?” He said, “Sir, I didn’t show you that memo! I didn’t show it to you!”

Really cool political maps, from , , , , and .

Sad ending Bill Chinnock -- gracious, versatile and amazingly talented -- has for some reason (most likely a combination of the constant pain of his Lyme disease and the death of his mother ten days ago). He was the founding member of what became Springsteen’s E Street Band.

Little people with little brains. Largo, Florida city manager Steve Stanton---consistently praised as competent and respected---was officially after word got out that he had started the transition to become a woman. Wait a minute---isn’t that gender discrimination? And isn't gender discriminiation illegal? Me smell a lawsuit.

Who supports our troops? This piece by Stacy Bannerman from , is worth sharing. Her writing paints a detailed and heartbreaking portrait of how her marriage to a soldier fell apart after he returned home from Iraq and began waging a second battle — with . : It is the soldiers, their families, and the people of Iraq that pay the human costs. The tab so far: more than 3,000 dead U.S. troops, tens of thousands of wounded, over half a million Iraqi casualties, roughly 250,000 American servicemen and women struggling with PTSD, and almost 60,000 military marriages that have been broken by this war. It's my strong belief that we, as informed, compassionate and active citizens must continue to give a human face to the suffering and sacrifices being made by our brave soldiers and their families. Yellow ribbons won't cut it, we need to do more. Besides contacting your representatives and demanding an end to the bloodshed, you can go to a if there's one nearby and volunteer your time. If you want to do something now, you can donate to and help provide a helmet upgrade kit for a soldier in the Iraq. Here are a few and resources. If you guys know any more, please share them in comments.

Attorneygate spin At a speech in Little Rock today, the Bush administration’s purge of federal prosecutors as “,” claiming that Clinton did the same thing. “Clinton, when he came in, replaced all 93 U.S. attorneys,” Rove said. “When we came in, we ultimately replace most all 93 U.S. attorneys — there are some still left from the Clinton era in place.” As always, he's lying. Clinton’s former chief of staff John Podesta told ThinkProgress that Rove’s claim is “pure fiction.” The Clinton administration never fired federal prosecutors as political retribution:

Mr. Rove’s claims today that the Bush administration’s purge of qualified and capable U.S. attorneys is “normal and ordinary” is pure fiction. Replacing most U.S. attorneys when a new administration comes in — as we did in 1993 and the Bush administration did in 2001 — is not unusual. But the Clinton administration never fired federal prosecutors as pure political retribution. These U.S. attorneys received positive performance reviews from the Justice Department and were then given no reason for their firings. We’re used to this White House distorting the facts to blame the Clinton administration for its failures. Apparently, it’s also willing to distort the facts and invoke the Clinton administration to try to justify its bad behavior.

Earlier this week, Mary Jo White, who was U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York from 1993-2002, also stated that the Bush administration’s prosecutor purge is unprecedented in “modern history”:

You serve at the president’s pleasure, no question about that. … However, throughout modern history, my understanding is, you did not change the U.S. attorney during an administration, unless there was some evidence of misconduct or other really quite significant cause to do so. And the expectation was, so long as that was absent, that you would serve out your full four years or eight years as U.S. attorney.

As White noted, attorneys need to serve “without fear or favor and in an absolutely apolitical way.” By and , the Bush administration has politicized the judicial system.

What Attorneygate tells us Without congressional oversight, .

Ouch! The legitimately bipartisan firefighter's union :

 

Mayor Giuliani's actions meant that fire fighters and citizens who perished would either remain buried at Ground Zero forever, with no closure for families, or be removed like garbage and deposited at the Fresh Kills Landfill.

How proud we all are... (ahem) : A Soviet-era detention compound in Poland was the site of interrogation and

"As he continued to accuse City Council leaders of fiscal waywardness, Mayor Giuliani yesterday
defended his decision to forgive $594,000 in back rent...owed by one of his top campaign contributors,
Zachary Fisher, a real estate magnate who is the museum's chairman and chief benefactor.
Fisher donated generously to Giuliani's past two bids for mayor."
- Newsday 10/8/98: "Mayor Defends Deal on Intrepid."

Dimwitted media update Kevin Drum wrote a post that collected all the dimwit stories about Democratic politicians that had somehow made the jump to mainstream media stardom in the previous few weeks. I figure I should keep it up to date. Here's the list again, with new entries in italics:

  • Nancy Pelosi: the military jet flap

  • John Edwards: the Georgetown house flap, the foul-mouthed blogger flap

  • Barack Obama: the madrassa flap, the stock purchase flap

  • Hillary Clinton: the "evil and bad men" flap, the family foundation flap, the "Southern drawl" flap

The Obama parking ticket story has gotten a fair amount of play, but since everyone (so far) seems to be treating it as lighthearted puffery it doesn't count. Anything I've left off the list?

Action alert: Ethics probe needed We've been keeping on the fired prosecutors story here at DailyKos, with a special focus on our two good friends who tried to strong-arm the long arm of the law, Sen. "Pajama Pete" Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson. As you may know, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (aka ) has filed ethics complaints against both alleged law-breaker lawmakers ( | ).

What you may not know is that the complaint against Wilson may wind up going nowhere. Paul Kiel at the indispensable TPM Muckraker :

[T]here's a funny thing about the ethics committee in the House. Unlike in the Senate, a complaint does not automatically trigger a preliminary investigation. For that to happen, a member of the House has to file a referral. And, because of an ongoing ethics truce between the parties, that is exceedingly rare.[...] But now The Los Angeles Times , "Congressional sources say that fellow lawmakers may file a complaint with the House Ethics Committee."

As Paul notes, though, CREW's deputy director isn't optimistic that this representative-to-be-named later will actually follow through. So why don't we give our elected officials a little bit of friendly encouragement? It only takes one member of Congress to file a complaint, after all.

So if you have a moment today, please give your representative a call, whether Dem or Republican, and politely ask him or her to request an ethics investigation into Rep. Wilson's conduct. Specifically, you want the ethics committee to look into whether Wilson "violated House rules by improperly contacting sitting U.S. Attorney David Iglesias of New Mexico, regarding pending litigation." Of course, you don't have to use that exact phrasing, but I think the part in quotes gets straight to the nut of the story. (For more background info, consult (PDF)).

Congress.org is probably the easiest way to get your member's contact information - just plug your ZIP code into . And if you get any feeback - whether positive, negative, or in pure politician-ese - please let us know in comments. Let's light a fire under the House, and remind our elected officials that we've never stopped caring about ethics - and we never will.

Bush's war has increased terrorism

The time has long past for us to fight back against the administration's about Iraq and its effect on worldwide terrorism. Mother Jones help us do that with their :

Has the war in Iraq increased jihadist terrorism? The Bush administration has offered two responses: First, the moths-to-aflame argument, which says that Iraq draws terrorists who would otherwise “be plotting and killing Americans across the world and within our own borders,” as President Bush put it in 2005. Second, the hard-to-say position: “Are more terrorists being created in the world?” then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asked at a press conference in September 2006. “We don’t know. The world doesn’t know. There are not good metrics to determine how many people are being trained in a radical madrasa school in some country.”

We have undertaken such a study, drawing on data in the mipt-rand Terrorism database (terrorismknowledgebase.org), widely considered the best unclassified database on terrorism incidents.

Our study yields one resounding finding: The rate of fatal terrorist attacks around the world by jihadist groups, and the number of people killed in those attacks, increased dramatically after the invasion of Iraq. Globally there was a 607 percent rise in the average yearly incidence of attacks (28.3 attacks per year before and 199.8 after) and a 237 percent rise in the fatality rate (from 501 to 1,689 deaths per year).

The politics of authority Matt Welch has a great article in Reason about John McCain's . But of course McCain isn't alone. Giuliani, to his credit, used to be pro-choice (now he's personally pro-life, but politically pro-choice, but legally committed to making it easier to ban abortions -- got that?) but just because someone's pro-choice and sort of in favor of tax cuts does not a friend of liberty make. Jim Sleeper and worries that "a man who fought the inherent limits of his mayoral office as fanatically as Giuliani would construe presidential prerogatives so broadly he'd make George Bush’s notions of 'unitary' executive power seem soft." What's more:

At least, as U.S. Attorney, Giuliani served at the pleasure of the President and had to defer to federal judges. Were he the President, U.S. Attorneys would serve at his pleasure -- a dangerous arrangement in the wrong hands, we've learned -- and he'd pick the judges to whom prosecutors defer.

Andrew Sullivan :

There are many reasons to like Giuliani, but his personal intolerance of any hint of disloyalty, his contempt for dissent, his corner-cutting executive excesses and long history of cronyism must and surely will be weighed in the equation. Jim Sleeper is no lefty. His concerns are serious ones in a period when the constitution has already been strained to near-breaking point.

Sleeper also observes that Fred Siegel, author of the embarrassingly worshipful Prince of the City, "wondered why, after Giuliani’s 1997 mayoral reelection, with the city buoyed by its new safety and economic success, he wasn’t 'able to turn his Churchillian political personality down a few notches.'" The answer, obvious to anyone less blinkered than Siegel, is that Giuliani couldn't tone his "Churchillian" personally down because he's a jerk which served him well in some respects but most certainly wasn't an administrative gambit, that's the only way he knows how to govern.

Published

March 9, 2007 - 1:30pm

Author

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