Friday, May 16, 2003

FIGHTERS -- There are two kinds of Democrats these days: fighters and those who might as well be Republicans. Texas, it seems still has some fighting Democrats left.
"Welcome home, Texas heroes," one sign read as the lawmakers stepped up to the Capitol to cheers and applause from like-minded citizens. The Democrats stood momentarily, smiling and waving at the exuberant crowd, some wearing yellow ribbons.

When faced with typical Tom DeLay-style GOP bullying, these Democrats didn't cave or buckle, they fought back and they won. There is a lesson here for all Dems who care to learn it: Fight and win. Fight and win. Fight and win.
WAS JESSICA LYNCH RESCUE STAGED? -- According to the BBC, it is beginning to look that way.
COUNTERPUNCH: HALLIBURTON MADE SECRET DEAL FOR IRAQI OIL -- This seems like the sort of thing the mainstream press would want to look into...
Months before the United States military showered Iraq with bombs and missiles, the Department of Defense was secretly working with Vice President Dick Cheney's old company, Halliburton Corp., on a deal that would give the world's second largest oil services company total control over Iraq's oil fields, according to interviews with Halliburton's most senior executives.

Moreover, classified Halliburton documents obtained by CounterPunch over the past month prove that the war in Iraq was as much about controlling the world's second largest oil reserves as it did about overthrowing the regime of Iraq's President Saddam Hussein.

...but probably won't.
FRANCE SAYS U.S. IS SETTING THEM UP -- Yep, the French are alleging a disinformation campaign by the U.S. government to smear France in the press has been going on for some time now. The White House is denying it.

That's good. Not like Mr Bush to lie, is it?
BAGHDAD IS NOT IN ANARCHY, I TELL YOU! -- Move along now. Nothing to see here.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

LIEBERMAN LETTER TO RIDGE -- Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) has read the reports of the Department of Homeland Security being used for partisan purposes to round up Texas Democratic state legislators who have fled to frustrate the GOP's sinister redistricting plan--and he doesn't like it. So what? So Senator Lieberman wrote a letter to Tom Ridge demanding an explanation and an investigation.
“If this report is accurate, I am outraged that Homeland Security resources are being used to help settle partisan political scores,” Lieberman said. “It is inconceivable that anyone would waste scarce department resources for such an indefensible purpose at a time when police and firefighters around the country are being laid off because of tight state budgets and insufficient federal aid.

White House Spokesman Scott McClellan was questioned pretty sharply and consistently today by the press about this issue and he kept dodging it, naturally, not wanting to put Mr Bush on the hook for his cooperation with Rep Tom DeLay (R-TX) for this misuse of federal agents, money, and time.
LOCALS TELL FEDS TO STUFF THEIR "PATRIOT" ACT -- Liberal and conservative civil libertarians are joining together to resist enforcement of the Patriot Act, passed in 2001 the wake of the September 11 terror, which gives the government expanded power to snoop on Americans.
NOW IT'S A PAPER TRAIL -- Still waiting to find the vast caches of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons the Bush regime promised us again and again...and again? Well, you might be waiting a long time. So long, in fact, that even the Bush regime doesn't think you should waste your time anymore, as the farcical hunt for weapons of mass destruction in the new American protectorate of Iraq has come to a virtual halt.
The Bush administration has changed its tune on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the reason it went to war there. Instead of looking for vast stocks of banned materials, it is now pinning its hopes on finding documentary evidence.

The change in rhetoric, apparently designed in part to dampen public expectations, has unfolded gradually in the past month as special U.S. military teams have found little to justify the administration's claim that Iraq was concealing vast stocks of chemical and biological agents and was actively working on a covert nuclear weapons program.

"The administration seems to be hoping that inconvenient facts will disappear from the public discourse. It's happening to a large degree," said Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Police Studies, a liberal think-tank which opposed the war.

In a New York Times/CBS poll released on Tuesday, 49 percent said the administration overestimated the amount of banned weapons in Iraq, while 29 percent said its estimates were accurate and 12 percent said they were low.


I'm sorry--29% believe the Bush regime's estimates were accurate and 12% believe they were too low?

Too low?

What world have these people been living on? What are they reading, watching, hearing, smoking? You know what this has taught me (yet again)? Never underestimate the power of pigheaded ignorance. It's a powerful thing.
HOW TO BE AN E-SLACKER -- Technology doesn't always have to serve the interests of Big Brother governments and corporations. You can use it slack off at work, too--pretending to work while you're actually bodysurfing in the bay.

And don't worry about the ethics of it. George W Bush never put in an honest day's work in his life and look where it got him!
ANTI-TERROR AGENTS USED IN POLITICAL BATTLE -- From the Ft. Worth Star Telegram: "One federal agency that became involved early on was the Air and Marine Interdiction and Coordination Center, based in Riverside, Calif. -- which now falls under the auspices of the Homeland Security Department. The agency received a call to locate a specific Piper turboprop aircraft. It was determined that the plane belonged to former House Speaker Pete Laney, D-Hale Center."

Unbelievable. Our nation is at war, George Bush tells us our security is threatened, yet the Department of Homeland Security is spending precious time and resources on partisan political activities? We are supposed to be hunting down terrorists, not hunting down the GOP's political enemies.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

SULLY ON SID -- No, not literally. I don't want to think about that--and neither do you. No, Andrew Sullivan has reviewed Sid Blumenthal's new page-turner, "The Clinton Wars", for the New York Observer.
The real value of this book is in its portrait of Mr. Clinton’s foes. I’ll leave the endless sifting of claim and counterclaim to the people who still care who said what to Brock via Ingraham about Willey or Goldberg. A few years later, it seems beyond petty and vicious. From the viewpoint of history, it’s going to seem deranged. But the account Mr. Blumenthal gives of the haplessness and priggishness of Kenneth Starr is riveting stuff. The testimony of Sam Dash, Mr. Starr’s ethics advisor, is particularly damning. The insane attempt to actually bring down a President over perjury in a civil suit has not yet been more vividly evoked. The character assassination of Hickman Ewing, "the avenging rider of the Gothic South," is a cult classic of Blumenthal hyperventilation. Then there are, alas, the smears. The portrait of Christopher Hitchens as an unreliable right-wing drunk is particularly vicious and dumb. So is the evisceration of the late Mike Kelly, and vituperation directed at Mike Isikoff of Newsweek, Susan Schmidt of The Washington Post and other actual journalists. This is ugly stuff, and Mr. Blumenthal revels in it.

Teeheehee. I can't wait!
THIS IS GOING TO BE TROUBLE -- Talented, but semi-loopy auteur/provocateur/filmmaker Michael Moore will make a movie about post-September 11 America entitled, appropriately enough, Fahrenheit 911. The subject is one well worth covering, as I think in ten years (or maybe 20), a lot of people--and not just liberals--will look back on the right-wing political correctness of our time with shame and disgust. Since the topic is so important, though, it deserves a careful and nuanced artist to produce the work and "careful" and "nuanced" are not epithets normally attached to Mr Moore. He'll probably produce a film worth seeing that makes a number of good points--and then goes overboard several times, outraging a number of reasonable and not-so-reasonable viewers.

At the very least, though, he'll cause a few burst blood vessels on the right wing and that's never a bad thing.
RUSSKI REDS: MOPTOP OUT OF RED SQUARE! -- Russian Communists are irate that ex-Beatle Paul McCartney will play a special concert in Red Square, resting-place for such blood-soaked luminaries of the Far Left as V.I. Lenin, J. Stalin, and L. Brezhnev. (Less menacingly, courageous Cosmonaut Y. Gagarin was also buried in Red Square.)

In an open letter to the Moscow mayor, Russian communists called the concert "blasphemous" and claimed "[a] rock concert on Red Square has a covert political meaning and would require the deployment of a significant number of police and security forces."

Uh, fellas--this is what happens when you lose a war, even a cold one. You're forced to endure indignities such as this one. All things considered, it could be worse.
POLITICAL ROUNDUP -- American are not optimistic about the economy right now.
Most Americans don't expect unemployment numbers to improve in the near future, a Gallup poll suggests.

Forty-three percent of people surveyed in April predicted that unemployment would go up during the next six months. Twenty-two percent said it would remain the same, and 33 percent thought unemployment would decrease.

Seventy-five percent said now was a "bad time to find a quality job." That's a slight increase from a March Gallup poll, where 81 percent said it was a bad time to find a job. The majority -- 63 percent -- said they knew someone who had been laid off or lost their job within the last six months.

Meanwhile, an ABC News/Money survey found that just over half of Americans had a positive opinion about the state of their personal finances, down two points from last week's survey.

Thirty-six percent of respondents said it was a good time to be buying things, while just 29 percent called the nation's economy "excellent" or "good." (NationalJournal.com's Poll Track, May 7)
LOOK MA, I'M PRESIDENT! -- The latest Bushism is always worth a chuckle.
CARTOON OF THE DAY -- Another classic from Chris Weyant.
NASTY...BUT BANNED? -- I think this falls under the category of disgusting things that probably should not draw the attention of moralizing legislators.
STATE DEPT. GIVES SAUDIS A FREE PASS AGAIN -- An independent advisory board has criticized the State Department for leaving Saudi Arabia off its list of the worst human rights offenders in the world.
Hours after synchronized terror strikes in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, that killed at least 30 people, including eight Americans, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom released its annual report yesterday urging an investigation of the Saudis' propagation of radical Islam around the world, including in the United States. It also called on the State Department to press the country's rulers to overhaul school curricula that explicitly promote hatred of Jews, Christians and members of non-Wahhabi strands of Islam.

The report cites such examples as an eighth-grade textbook, published by the Saudi Ministry of Education, that labels Christians and Jews as "apes" and "pigs," and another that refers to Jews as a "wicked nation," characterized by bribery, deception and betrayal.

When is the United States government going to realize that the Saudis are not our friends. At the most, they have never been more than allies of convenience and it is now clear they are not very convenient for us any more. It is time to demand Saudi Arabia's medieval government change its ways or lose American support. Of course, with the oil industry running the White House (and U.S. foreign policy) there isn't much chance of that happening soon.
SWAGGERING BUSH REGIME WRONG ON TERROR AGAIN -- Only days ago the Bush regime spoke cockily about its war on terror. Bush said we were winning. John Ashcroft said we were winning. Dick Cheney said we were winning. Al Qaeda was broken and on the run. The invasion of Iraq was further proof of it. Not so fast, you braying jackasses.
A week ago the US intelligence community was talking with a swagger bordering on arrogance that had not existed since the attacks of 11 September. Al-Qa'ida was on the run, said officials in Washington. It may not have been entirely destroyed but the back of the organisation had been broken, its leadership and operational capabilities severely disrupted.

"It's no coincidence [that al-Qa'ida did not launch an attack during the war against Iraq]," boasted Cofer Black, a CIA veteran who heads the State Department's counter-terrorism office. "This was the big game for them: you put up or shut up and they have failed. It proves that the global war on terrorism has been effective, focused and has these guys on the run."

Yesterday, Mr Black was unavailable for further comment, while rescue workers in Riyadh were searching the rubble left by attacks Mr Black's boss, the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, said had "all the fingerprints" of the supposedly defeated terror network.

I think that about says it all, but read the rest of the story.
ECONOMY TOPS PUBLIC CONCERNS -- More than half of Americans believe the economy is worse now than when Mr Bush was installed in the White House and 77% think it isn't getting any better, according to a new CBS News poll.

This has led to the public questioning Mr Bush's economic policies, with 49% being uneasy about his decisions in this area, compared with 47% who are comfortable. Although Mr Bush enjoys a 67% favorability rating, only 43% approve of his economic policies.

The electorate is mostly undecided about who they want leading the country in the future. Thirty-four percent of registered voters say they would vote for President Bush over an unnamed Democratic challenger, 21 percent say they would vote for a Democratic challenger and 42 percent of voters don't yet know for whom they would vote
BUSH ECONOMY STUMBLES ON -- Retail sales fell in April, underscoring concerns about the weak U.S. economy.
The Commerce Department said total retail purchases slid 0.1 percent in April in contrast to the predictions of economists in a Reuters poll who expected a rise of 0.4 percent.

"This report is a major disappointment related to the prospects for economic growth this year. The consumer has downshifted to a much more cautious mood," said Bob Gay, a fixed-income strategist at Commerzbank Securities in New York.

Remember: It's all Osama's fault. And if not him...uh...Max Cleland, probably.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

SENATOR GRAHAM NAILS BUSH FOR TERROR FAILURES -- Below is an edited transcript of a press stakeout Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) gave today in the Ohio Clock Corridor of the Capitol Building following a Senate Policy Luncheon.

SEN GRAHAM: We essentially ended the war on terror about a year ago, and since that time, al Qaeda has been allowed to regenerate. To carry out the series of attacks that they did last fall, from Yemen to Bali, and now today in Saudi Arabia, possibly with a linkage to the tragedy in Chechnya as well, indicates that they have significant capability to carry out complicated operations in a simultaneous manner.
...
SEN GRAHAM: I would say that al Qaeda had been substantially weakened and was on the ropes about 12 to 14 months ago. And the fact that we have backed away from a war and reduced it down to a manhunt, that we moved military and intelligence resources out of Afghanistan and Pakistan to get ready for the war in Iraq, has allowed them to regenerate. They probably are not back to the level that they were before September the 11th, but they're a lot closer to that level of capability than they were a year ago.
...
Q So what does this say about the administration's war on terror?

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, as I said last fall, I thought the priority for the United States should be to win the war on terror before we took on other evils in the Middle East and Central Asia. If we had done that, al Qaeda would not have had the opportunity to regenerate; Hezbollah would not have been given the continued sanctuary for it to strengthen.

Q Are we winning the war?

SEN. GRAHAM: No, I -- if the question is -- Are we more or less secure from terrorists today than we were a year ago? -- the answer is we are less secure.

Q So, Senator, you're saying that the negligence --

Q You're saying the war weakened the war -- the war against Iraq weakened the war on al Qaeda?

SEN. GRAHAM: I'm saying that the war on Iraq was a distraction. It took us off the war on terror, which we were on a path to win, but we've now let it slip away from us.

Q Specifically, what do you mean by "took us off the war"? What military or other action would you have taken?

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, the first thing I would -- what I would not have done is I would not have relocated military and intelligence capabilities from Afghanistan and Pakistan to begin the war on Iraq.

Second, I would have pursued aggressively a war, not a manhunt, to break the backbone of al Qaeda, not just pick off its toes and fingers.

And third, I would have moved out of Afghanistan and Pakistan to other areas where there is a substantial al Qaeda presence.
...
Q Senator, do you believe that had those steps been taken, that what happened in Saudi Arabia might not have happened?

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, it could have been avoided, if you had actually crushed the basic infrastructure of al Qaeda, that they would not have had the capability to launch such a sophisticated attack.
...
Q Senator, can you clarify -- there has been some speculation that you have some knowledge of Bush administration weakness or failure to act in the days up to 9/11. Is that the case?

SEN. GRAHAM: Yes.

Q Face the cameras --

SEN. GRAHAM: Do I have knowledge to that effect?

Q Yes.

SEN. GRAHAM: Yes.

Q (Off mike) -- cameras.

Q Can you tell us what that is?

SEN. GRAHAM: No, that's -- that is one of the many pieces of information which the American people should have access to, which is currently classified and does not appear that it's going to be declassified.

Q So you --

Q Do you have information on -- for the cameras, do you have information that the administration -- that the Bush administration failed to act on certain information?

SEN. GRAHAM: There was information which was known to the administration and its agencies before September the 11th, which did not -- I'll start over. There was information known to the administration or its agencies which was not acted upon.

That same information has not been acted upon today. I want to underscore we're not talking solely about history, we're talking about the threats to the American people today because signals, information that could have been used was not used before September the 11th and continues to go unused.
...
Q So you have information that basically -- that there was information out there that the Bush administration did not act on?

SEN. GRAHAM: There was information which the administration and its agencies knew before September 11th that was not acted upon. That same information is available today. It's not being acted upon today. That failure to act contributed to September the 11th, and the failure to act today continues Americans in a vulnerable circumstance.

Q So this -- is this a charge of negligence on the administration, do you think?

SEN. GRAHAM: Others can characterize it. I can just state the facts.

Q Senator, how could they have differently -- you said there's -- we missed the opportunity to cripple the basic infrastructure of al Qaeda, that we were somehow close. What --

SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah, I think from the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, which was in early October of 2001, until about February or March of 2002, we were making good progress in dismantling the basic structure of al Qaeda.

Then we started to redirect our attention to Iraq, and al Qaeda has regenerated. They not only apparently conducted a terrorist raid in Saudi Arabia yesterday, their fingerprints appear to be on the attack in Chechnya, as well as the whole string of terrorist attacks from Bali to Yemen that took place last fall. All that indicates that they are an institution that has got considerable capabilities.
...
Q And you had mentioned before about a link with the -- you tied this in with the bombing in Chechnya. Why do you feel that they're associated?

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, first, al Qaeda's had a long presence in Chechnya. Second, some of the ways in which this was conducted: A well-planned, orchestrated car bombing, and the fact that it occurred on the same day as the attacks in Saudi Arabia. All of those are the kind of characteristics that has identified al Qaeda.
...
Q (Off mike) -- the White House, and beyond, who would say that this particular criticism now is politically motivated somehow.

SEN. GRAHAM: It's the same criticism that I made last fall when I voted against the resolution to go to war against Iraq. I said our number one enemy is not Saddam Hussein, it's international terrorism; that if we get diverted into Iraq, we're going to allow the international terrorist to strengthen others like Hezbollah to go on unaffected by our actions.

Q You've said the administration is engaging in a cover-up by refusing to declassify the report. Why do you think it's a cover-up?

SEN. GRAHAM: Because I don't -- I do not believe this information is of a national security nature. I think that it is not being released because it is, frankly, embarrassing, both embarrassing as to what happened before September the 11th, but maybe even more so the fact that the lessons of September the 11th are not being applied today to reduce the vulnerability to the American people.

Q An embarrassment to any one particular, you know, agency, the president, the vice president, anyone in particular?

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, I would say the administration, and specifically the CIA and the FBI.

Q Can you -- can you just tell us where you are on the report, the joint inquiry?

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, next week will be five months since this report has been submitted for declassification. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. It's hard to believe that intelligence agencies can't read a report of approximately 600 to 800 pages in a five-month period.

Q And, Senator -- (off mike) -- there might not be anyone held responsible for the lack of attention -- connecting the dots, as --

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, the administration could certainly hold people responsible, because they know everything and more that I know.

Q Do you think jobs could be lost?

SEN. GRAHAM: Yes. I think that there should be accountability: accountability from the highest level, accountability to the leadership of the agencies that were involved, and to the individuals who had specific responsibility.

Q So when do you think the report will come out?

SEN. GRAHAM: I have no idea.
DEFICIT LIKELY TO SURPASS $300 BILLION THIS YEAR -- After seven months of the 2003 fiscal year, the Congressional Budget Office has increased its deficit projection for the year by more than $100 billion. In a monthly budget review filed May 9, CBO reported that the deficit through April totaled $202 billion, or $138 billion more than the red ink for the same period a year earlier. For the entire fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, CBO projected a deficit of more than $300 billion. In January, CBO projected a $199 billion deficit for the current fiscal year; in March, its baseline estimate called for a $246 billion deficit. The administration, in submitting President Bush's fiscal 2004 budget in February, estimated that fiscal 2003 would see a $304 billion deficit -- a projection that now appears closer to the mark. The new CBO deficit projections come as the Senate is preparing to vote on legislation (HJ Res 51) that would increase the limit on the national debt.
BUSH SLIPS IN LATEST POLL -- Ipsos-Public Affairs/Cook Political Report Poll

Presidential Reelection And Generic Congressional Ballots Show Slight Declines As Republicans Begin To Lose Support Among Independents

Presidential Approval Dips Slightly For First Time Since War In Iraq Began; All Aspects Of Presidential Approval Are Apparently Down Except Foreign Affairs

Between April 15-17, 2003, and May 6-8, 2003, Ipsos-Public Affairs interviewed for the Cook Political Report a representative sample of 2,001 adult Americans nationwide, including 1,532 registered voters. The margin of error for the combined surveys is +/-2.2% for all adults, +/-2.5% for registered voters.

Washington, D.C., May 12, 2003 - In interviews with 1,532 registered voters conducted April 15-17, 2003 and May 6-8, 2003, the Ipsos-Public Affairs/Cook Political Report Poll finds Presidential reelection and generic Congressional ballots declining slightly as Republicans lose some support among Independents.

* The current Ipsos-Public Affairs/Cook Political Report Poll finds an apparent decline in attitudes toward reelecting George W. Bush. However, the 2-point shift is within the statistical margin of error. While the overall change in opinion is marginal, some interesting partisan differences do exist.

* Attitudes toward reelection have stayed the same among Republicans and Democrats. Among swing-voting Independents, however, attitudes change significantly after the conclusion of the shooting war in Iraq. The net change for those who would definitely vote to reelect George W. Bush is -6, and those who would consider someone else is +8.

Presidential Reelection
(To view table please go to online version at link above.)

* Current survey results are comparable to early March, when 23% of Independents stated they would definitely vote to reelect George W. Bush and 25% reported they would definitely vote for someone else.

* A similar pattern exists with regard to generic Congressional vote. A marginally significant decrease in the support for a Republican Congress is apparent from mid-April to early May; the apparent gains for the Democrats are within the margin of error. However, Independents show significant change, both away from Republican control and toward Democratic control of Congress.

Generic Congressional Vote
(To view table please go to online version at link above.)

* Among Independents, the net change among those who would want to see the Republicans win control of Congress is -6 and among those who would want to see the Democrats win control of Congress, the gap is +4.

* The percentage of Independents who currently would like to see the Republicans win control of Congress is roughly comparable with early March (18% versus 21% in early March). However, the proportion of Independents who would like to see the Democrats win control of Congress has increased 10 points since early March, when 21% of Independents favored the Democrats winning control of Congress.

* Overall presidential approval marginally declined by two points since mid-April (the first drop since early March). This dip in approval is within the statistical margin of error, however, and overall approval still rests ten points higher than in early March.

Overall Presidential Approval
(To view table please go to online version at link above.)

* A slim majority of Americans still approve of the way President Bush is handling domestic issues.

(To view table please go to online version at link above.)

* When it comes to the economy, approval has slightly declined (3 points) since mid-April, but rests 5 points higher than in early March.

* On domestic issues like health care, education, the environment and energy, approval has declined somewhat (3 points) since mid-April, and rests only 3 points higher than in early March.

* On foreign policy issues, Bush continues to exhibit strong approval numbers and shows a nominal increase of 1 point since mid-April.

To view the full release online, with accompanying tables, go to: http://www.ipsospa.com/goto.cfm?id=1808

Monday, May 12, 2003

WHERE THE HELL HAVE I BEEN? -- I've been sick, that's where. Mostly bed-ridden and in terrible shape with a flu or something very much like it. High temps, vicious cough, awful ache. You know the drill. Nothing else would have kept me away. I'm not back to 100% yet, but I am back.
DOES GRAHAM HAVE THE GOOD ON BUSH? -- I read this in Newsmax, so take it for what it is worth, but the story quotes a Congressional Quarterly reporter (which is a much more reliable source) saying Senator Bob Graham (D-FL), who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee and is running for president, has classified intelligence proving Mr Bush badly blundered counter-terrorism before 9/11 and is looking for a way to release the information legally. Because the information is currently classified, releasing it would be illegal. Of course, leaking such information would be the norm, but according to the story, Senator Graham does not want to do that. (It would probably also be obvious who had done the leaking.) This bears watching.
QUOTE OF THE DAY -- "We just need two votes. You go around and find who are the least expensive two."
--Americans for Tax Reform President and GOP operative Grover Norquist on convincing Senators to vote for the Bush tax package [Philadelphia Inquirer,
5/9/03]