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February 21, 2006

Larry Sabato in his February update to his House outlook:

The bottom line? It's clear that Democrats have gotten a few lucky breaks and are poised to add to their numbers in the House in November. Scandal, including the indictment of Tom DeLay and the implication of Bob Ney in illegal association with lobbyists, stands front and center. But Democrats are also aided these days by a string of candidate recruitment coups and continually sagging approval ratings of President Bush and the GOP Congress. At this writing, the Crystal Ball believes the GOP could face very serious repercussions this year, even in a handful of districts that have not experienced recent competition. For members of the congressional minority, a gain of between 5-10 seats is currently the most likely scenario, and for now, they have good reason to believe they could soon taste success that has eluded them for several consecutive cycles.

He lists his list of 30 most competitive races, as well as his "sleeper races" ranked 31-50.

Things are so bad for the GOP, that Democrats in RED-assed seats SD-AL (Herseth), KS-03 (Moore), and UT-02 (Matheson) are off his list of endangered seats altogether.  

Categories: Blogs
Iraq vet David Ashe, who challenged GOP incumbant Thelma Drake in 2004, is out.

Democrat David Ashe, a Marine veteran who lost the 2nd Congressional District race to Republican Thelma Drake in 2004, has ended his bid to challenge her again in November.

His withdrawal clears the way for Phil Kellam, Virginia Beach's commissioner of the revenue and a member of the city's most prominent political family, to carry the Democratic banner in the race this fall.

Ashe, a lawyer who served with the Marines in Iraq, said yesterday that he gave up his candidacy for two reasons: the support of local Democrats was tilting away from him and toward Kellam; and Ashe has been offered a "director-level job" in the administration of Gov. Timothy M. Kaine.

I always liked Ashe. A director-level job in the Kaine administration will be good experience in what I hope is a fruitful future political career.

Categories: Blogs
Orrin Hatch this past Saturday:

Nobody denies that [Saddam Hussein] was supporting al-Qaeda...Well, I shouldn't say nobody. Nobody with brains.

Bipartisan 9/11 Commission:

The Sept. 11 commission reported yesterday that it has found no "collaborative relationship" between Iraq and al Qaeda, challenging one of the Bush administration's main justifications for the war in Iraq.

Repeating something over and over again does not make a lie magically transform into truth.

(Stolen from Think Progress.)

Categories: Blogs

And now, a brief history of George W. Bush and his Republican Congress's record of "bipartisanship" over the past 5 years:

Democrats: We should fix the environment.
Republicans: Shut up!

We should make the Medicare prescription drug program better...
Sit down!

Can we at least let the federal government negotiate with drug companies to get lower prices?
Sit on my face and wriggle, assmunch!

Can we discuss the ramifications of the Patriot Act?
Eat our boogers!

Perhaps the deficit is getting a bit high and we should consider...
Considering is for losers!

But certainly we can agree that war-profiteering in Iraq must be stopped...
You know what needs to be stopped?  Your mouth!

Ethics violations?
Sock puppets!

You know global warming is real.  Can we at least discuss the Kyoto...

Perhaps an exit strategy for Iraq?
Perhaps a sandpaper wedgie!?

[Snort!]  Poor people make lousy campaign contributors.  Deeee-nied.

Would you like to see our ideas on job-creation?
Would you like to see our ideas on sticking your head in a toilet?

Real Social Security reform?
Knee to the groin?

Basic equality for gays?
Fairy lovers.

Adequate funding for our VA hospitals?
Tch...they can deal with combat, they can deal with a little prostate cancer.

Making abortion safe, legal and, most important, rare?
Women...can't live with `em, can't imagine a threesome without `em!!  Par-tay!!!!!!!

Safeguards against price-gouging by oil companies?
Let me think about that for a moment...um...No.

But polls show that Americans want...
Here's a pole.  You know where to stick it.

And so it goes.  As palpable as my frustration is with the Democratic leadership, I save my deepest contempt for the Republican leadership and the way they've destroyed any sense of equality, fairness and compassion for Americans.  They lie, they cheat, they steal.  They bamboozle, they spin, they obfuscate.  They deceive, they stonewall, they bully.  They're uncivil, unethical and unresponsive.  It's in their DNA.  All in the name of "drowning the federal government in the bathtub."

I'm no think-tank intellectual, nor am I a political scientist.  But I know how to call bullshit.  So, since I haven't done it in awhile: Frist, Hastert, Boehner, Scalia, Thomas, Santorum, Hannity, Bush, Coburn, Bolton, Roberts, Coleman, DeLay, Lott, Card, Stevens, Hughes, McCain, Matalin, Hutchison, Cheney, Hatch, Brownback, Limbaugh, Thune, Rove, DeWine, McClellan, Burns and whoever else you think oughtta be on the list: I say with all the due respect you've shown us: SCREW YOU!

Cheers and Jeers starts in There's Moreville... [Swoosh!!]  RIGHTNOW!  [Gong!!]

Categories: Blogs
We've got a disgraced lobbyist, a key institution of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, a foreign head of state, the most powerful presidential aide in generations, the president of the United States, and a $1.2 million bribe bringing them all together. Quite the plot.

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Monday that disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff was paid $1.2 million to organize his 2002 meeting with President Bush, but denied the money came from the Malaysian government.

Mahathir told reporters he was aware a payment was made to Abramoff, but he didn't know who made it. He said he had been persuaded by the U.S. think tank Heritage Foundation to meet with Bush at the time.

"It is true that somebody paid but it was not the (Malaysian) government," Mahathir said. "I understood some people paid a sum of money to lobbyists in America but I do not know who these people were and it was not the Malaysian government."

Mahathir said the Heritage Foundation believed he could help "influence (Bush) in some way regarding U.S. policies."

The Malaysian Star has this hilarious quote from Dr Mahathir:

Dr Mahathir said in the United States, the practice to see a leader was to go through a lobbyist, who had to be paid.

"I did not touch the money. But, I think somebody paid. That is their practice," he said. "That is their system. It is not corruption at all. It is very open."

It is corruption. It's not very open. And it's not the normal "practice" for arranging a visit with a president.

At least it wasn't until Bush took office.

Now how did Abramoff, $1.2 million richer, arrange the meeting with Bush? Through his good friend Rove.

A few years earlier, the prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, had been chastised by the Clinton administration for making anti-Semitic statements and jailing political opponents. But it was important to the Malaysians to get a meeting with Bush, according to an Abramoff associate who attended meetings with the Malaysian ambassador and Abramoff.

Abramoff contacted presidential adviser Karl Rove on at least four occasions to help arrange a meeting, according to an eyewitness to the activities.

Finally, this former associate said, Rove's office called to tell Abramoff personally that the Malaysian leader would get an official White House invitation. In May 2002, Mahathir met with Bush in the Oval Office.

I was going to ask how much Tony Blair had to pay to arrange a meeting with Bush, but then I remembered his cost.

Update: llbear in the comments makes a good point: Remember when Republicans and the press moaned that Clinton was "selling the Lincoln bedroom" to campaign contributors? Well, Bush has sold the Oval Office.

Categories: Blogs

February 20, 2006

Simon Rosenberg:

Their strong and resolute leader gets no bounce from his State of the Union, and has now dropped below levels no one thought possible. News in recent days show that the many parallel criminal investigations into GOP leaders are gaining additional momentum, and will likely become a very big problem later this year. Their domestic policy advisor, the quarterback for any major new domestic initiative, resigns suddenly a few days after the State of the Union indicating deeper troubles inside the White House than is commonly understood. Bush's budget is declared dead on arrival by even Republican analysts.

The Medicare prescription drug rollout has been a disaster, with millions of seniors not getting their medicines. Millions who do have the benefit will be hitting the infamous "doughnut hole" for the first time in the months right before the election. Energy costs are more likely to rise than fall this year. Health care costs will continue to rise, further squeezing workers and corporations. The Republicans are deeply divided on the volatile immigration issue, and so far have allowed loony demagogues to define their position. Corporate pension troubles will mount. Economic forecasts predict that national economy will slow later this year.

Bad you say, but what about their ability to exploit their advantages on security issues to help turn the table on Democrats? But what can they point to here? The 9/11 Commission giving their efforts on homeland security Ds and Fs? The rise of terrorism across the world? The incredible failures of the Department of Homeland Security on Katrina? The rise of anti-Americanism throughout Latin America?

Iraq? Just in recent days the Administration lost another one in Iraq, with our candidate for Prime Minister losing to a more religious candidate. The CIA analyst in charge of the intelligence leading up to the War says the Administration went too far, essentially manufacturing their case for war. More photos from Abu Grahib surface and get worldwide coverage. In the Plame affair, Libby fingers Cheney as having ordered the leaks, raising the possibility that both Rove and Cheney could be indicted. Even if Bush pulls out troops this year it is hard to see how Iraq possibly becomes an asset for them this year.

A safer Middle East? Religious zealots dedicated to the destruction of Israel have now gained power in Iran and Palestine. Al Qaeda operatives convicted for the bombing an American warship in Yemen "escape" from prison, and now on the loose. Things seem to be getting much worse there, not better.

Domestic warrantless spying? The President has spent perhaps more days this year on this issue than any other. And for what? Is something they really believe will be a big winner this fall? Their Congressional leaders have it made it clear that this program cannot continue without judicial oversight. The White House belief that this is a winner just shows how little they have to work with.

And finally, Cheney. Always a public opinion anchor, he has become an ever bigger liability for the President.

Categories: Blogs
  • Daou challenged. Crickets chirped.

  • Atrios is right. If people are tearing each other up over an Ohio senate primary in which two great candidates were running, the 2008 presidential primary online battle is going to get real ugly.

  • They want the NSA scandal to die, but as Glenn Greenwald notes, the opposite is happening.

  • TPM's Daily Much zeroes in on Rep. Doolittle (which is an apt name for one of the most corrupt reps in the House).

  • The NY Times Connecticut edition had a profile on Ned Lamont. It's not online, but you can read the article here.

  • To reiterate, the Netroots ActBlue fundraising page isn't a "Daily Kos" page. It is maintained by MyDD's Matt Stoller and will only include candidates with broad netroots support and buzz. Local blogger support will be essential to get added to this page. This is also the only fundraising page I will regularly link to. There won't be a Daily Kos-specific page this year.

  • Arianna on the Matalin horror show on Meet the Press this past Sunday.

  • No wonder homeland security can't do shit -- they're too busy policing porn at local libraries. [Correction/clarification: The offending officers were from the state-level homeland security, not their federal counterpart.]

  • Hear Francine Busby's stump speech. After TX-28, this will be the next important election (in April) and a legitimate pickup opportunity from the Republicans.

  • I just heard that Ned Lamont has contributed $1,000 to Ciro Rodriguez.

Categories: Blogs
Community member On the Bus was at the Crashing the Gate ad shoot and blogged it. I can't believe I forgot my camera, so I'm glad someone was around to take at least a few pictures.

In the ad I wear a set of headphones, and the music will bleed out. We need to figure out what that music is. Any suggestions? It should be angry stuff, political. If it's recognizable, so much the better, but it's not necessary. We'll have to secure licensing rights to any such music so we'll need multiple options. It would be great to have Rage Against the Machine or Green Day, but we don't know how difficult licensing that sort of stuff might be.

The Special Edition of the book should ship this week (FINALLY!), so expect them toward the end of this week or very early next. Note, these are the presales purchased via Working Assets. If you ordered the book via one of the online retailers, you're going to have to wait until late March to get your copy. There were real advantages to preordering the special edition.

I can't wait to hear what you guys think about the book.

Categories: Blogs
One thing I hope to encourage everyone to do is to get involved in your local races. Just about everyone has a race of major import going on in their backyard. And while it's great that we can nationalize and focus on races in places like southern Texas, it's also important to realize that local involvement is the best thing you can do to help build a 50-state Democratic Party.

So think nationally, and even act nationally when the opportunity strikes. But don't forget to act locally as well. Everyone, no matter how blue the area they live in, have a tough race somewhere nearby. Even here in ocean Blue Bay Area we have two corrupt Republican congressmen nearby (Pombo and Doolittle) as well as Ahnold to focus our local efforts. Rhode Island? Chafee. Massachussets? The governor's race. Minnesota? The senate and governor's races. Illinois? Several House races as well as a competitive governor's race.

Same goes for those living in blood Red areas. In fact, you've got an even greater challenge -- start rebuilding your local Democratic Party. Support local Dems and help them start waving the Blue flag in places that may not have seen it in years.

It's too easy to get caught up in sexy races in faraway places. The local stuff may be more mundane. But building a nationwide movement requires nationwide action. Let's try not to forget that. (And yes, that includes me as well.)

Update: A thought -- "acting locally" includes blogging your local races. I will be depending on local bloggers (like Say No To Pombo) to keep me informed of some of the hottest races. I'm not interested in doing candidate interviews, but I'll link to such interviews in local blogs. Every congressional candidate, in their press page, should include a healthy dose of blogger articles on their races. Not only does it help us national bloggers when researching a candidate, but it also demonstrates to the local press that the candidate is generating a lot of local buzz. And while us bloggers are (relatively) poor at generating money, we are great at generating buzz.

I know this will take a few cycles to change, but campaigns are still too reliant on the local newspaper article to get their word out when there should be many local activists, on their blogs, willing and able to spread the word and help bypass the media filters that shut out many challengers. Is it a guaranteed path to true legitimate contender status? Nope. That still takes a lot of other things (like money). But it's going to be an increasingly integral part of any campaign's arsenal.

I realize that most districts probably don't have aggressive bloggers writing about their local political scene. But that's something campaigns can help jump start. They should encourage local activists to head over to Blogspot and set up their free site and start writing about the race. I'm not saying create astroturf sites, I'm saying let people know what this blogging thing is and encourage them to start their own sites.

Categories: Blogs
This was released last week but I didn't get a chance to review until this morning.

We're at the point now that only seven states give Bush 50 percent or more -- Utah (which is for the first time under 60 percent), Idaho, Alabama, Wyoming, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Montana. That's down from 11 states in January.

In January, Hawaii gave Bush the highest numbers amongst blue states, with a -9 net approval rating (43/52). That lent weight to theories that Hawaii was trending red. However, Hawaii is -17 in February (38-55). It doesn't mean that we shouldn't be concerned over Hawaii's long-term trends, just that for now, their brief flirtation with Bush is over. Minnesota is now the friendliest Blue state for Bush at -16 (40-56).

Of the red states, Ohio still brings up the rear at -23 (37-60). Missouri, Colorado and Iowa still have bush at under 40 percent approval.

Bush's numbers in Rhode Island in January were abysmal enough -- 29/68 (-39). But Rhode Islanders mulled it over, kicked around a few ideas, and decided they could do even better.  And they did. Bush is -47 in RI this month, or 25-72.

The numbers in the key senate states:


Approve 45 (45)
Disapprove 53 (52)


Approve 42 (42)
Disapprove 55 (55)


Approve 35 (37)
Disapprove 62 (60)


Approve 34 (37)
Disapprove 62 (60)


Approve 40 (39)
Disapprove 56 (56)


Approve 39 (41)
Disapprove 57 (57)


Approve 50 (49)
Disapprove 47 (48)


Approve 41 (39)
Disapprove 57 (59)

New Jersey

Approve 37 (38)
Disapprove 60 (59)


Approve 37 (38)
Disapprove 60 (60)


Approve 36 (39)
Disapprove 60 (58)

Rhode Island

Approve 25 (29)
Disapprove 72 (68)


Approve 46 (45)
Disapprove 52 (51)


Approve 45 (43)
Disapprove 52 (55)

West Virginia

Approve 45 (46)
Disapprove 52 (51)

Categories: Blogs
Tom Ridge:

The Bush administration needs to show Congress why national security won't be hurt by a deal that gives a company based in the United Arab Emirates management of six major U.S. ports, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said Monday.

Ridge, appearing on CNN's "American Morning," said, "I think the anxiety and the concern [over the deal] that has been expressed by congressmen and senators and elsewhere is legitimate."

Ridge said that during his tenure as secretary of homeland security from October 2001 to February 2005, he sat in on deals with similar national security concerns and officials would not jeopardize national security.

"The bottom line is I think we need a little more transparency here," he said. "There are legitimate concerns about who would be in charge of hiring and firing and security measures -- added technology in these ports that we need to upgrade our security."

Ridge thinks the administration can justify the contract. So let them try.

Categories: Blogs
Former Hackett staffers are now releasing oppo research against Brown for Republicans to use against him and other Ohio Democrats.

To be very, very clear -- this isn't Hackett's doing. This is the work of bitter former staffers who saw Hackett as a job through November and even perhaps their ticket to DC.

That was always one of Hackett's biggest liabilities -- his inexperienced team. (Even outsiders need people who know how to put together a field plan and run a political communications office.) Now we find out that they are far worse than simply inexperienced.

Categories: Blogs

February 19, 2006

I'd sure like to see more traditional media reporting on this story. Via The Washington Monthly more concerns about Permanent Bases in Iraq:

[TomDispatch: A Permanent Basis for Withdrawal?] Since guerrilla attacks have actually been on the rise and the delivery of the basic amenities of modern civilization (electrical power, potable water, gas for cars, functional sewage systems, working traffic lights, and so on) on the decline, since the very establishment of a government inside the heavily fortified Green Zone has proved immensely difficult, and since U.S. reconstruction funds (those that haven't already disappeared down one clogged drain or another) are drying up, such partial withdrawals may prove more complicated to pull off than imagined. It's clear, nonetheless, that "withdrawal" is on the propaganda agenda of an administration heading into mid-term elections with an increasingly skittish Republican Party in tow and congressional candidates worried about defending the President's mission-unaccomplished war of choice.

With the WH and the DoD losing support for the Iraq Debacle, and as the November elections draw near, we can expect more staged drama along the lines of "Mission Accomplished".

How can anybody tell if the Bush administration is actually withdrawing from Iraq or not? Sometimes, when trying to cut through a veritable fog of misinformation and disinformation, it helps to focus on something concrete. In the case of Iraq, nothing could be more concrete -- though less generally discussed in our media -- than the set of enormous bases the Pentagon has long been building in that country.

Yeap, that's one way. Follow the money and the resources. Despite all the talk, despite a cowed media terrified to even string the words "permanent", "bases", and "Iraq" together in the same sentence, if this is true, then it's clear sign that these Neo-con clowns have no intention of getting out of Iraq or getting bloated military corporations weaned from the taxpayer teat. Maybe they're in love with their ideology and they're not going to let pesky details like factual performance interfere with that romance. And to be fair, all that sweet, sweet cash flowing freely from the Fed for so long has to have them conditioned better than Pavlov's Dog. It's looking more and more like the only way we're getting out of this mess is to vote the current party out of power. And even then it's going to take years to so much as halfway straighten out all the headaches they'll leave behind.

Categories: Blogs
I guess the GOP doesn't like to play with a winning formula. Gay-marriage amendment? Check. Using churches as your main GOTV operation? Check.  Midterms, here we come!

The North Carolina Republican Party asked its members this week to send their church directories to the party, drawing furious protests from local and national religious leaders.[...]

The Rev. Richard Byrd Jr. of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Greensboro said anyone who sent in a directory "would be betraying the trust of the membership," and the Rev. Ken Massey of the city's First Baptist Church said the request was "encroaching on sacred territory."

Chris Mears, the state party's political director, made the request in a Feb. 15 memo titled "The pew and the ballot box" that was sent by e-mail to "Registered Republicans in North Carolina."

Mears said the "Republican National Committee has completed a study on grass-roots activity that reveals that people who regularly attend church usually vote Republican when they vote."

"In light of this study's findings, it is imperative that we register, educate and get these potential voters from the pew to the ballot box. To do this we must know who these people are," the memo continued.

"I am requesting that you collect as many church directories as you can and send them to me in an effort to fully register, educate and energize North Carolina's congregations to vote in the 2006 elections," it said.

This isn't the first time North Carolina's mix of church & politics has made the news. Recall that last year, it was a church in North Carolina that purged all its liberal members who voted for John Kerry.  But as the Reverends quoted in the article prove, the churches realize that the actions are improper. Maybe they're also starting to feel a bit used, you think?

Meanwhile, in what's sure to piss off the GOP's Director of Church Infiltration And Propaganda Strategies (not a real position, but it could be!), the American delegation of the World Council of Churches came out strongly against Bush administration policies this week. The WCC has 347 member churches covering 500 million believers.  The U.S. Conference issued a stinging rebuke of administration policies:

"We lament with special anguish the war in Iraq, launched in deception and violating global norms of justice and human rights," the Conference said in an emotional letter released during the World Council of Churches Assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil. [...]

The statement from the U.S. group accused the Bush administration of "raining down terror on the truly vulnerable among our global neighbors," saying the United States "has done much in these years to endanger the human family."

It said the U.S. government turned a deaf ear to the voice of the church in the country and in the world, using God's name instead "in national agendas that are nothing short of idolatrous."

"We confess that we have failed to raise a prophetic voice loud enough and persistent enough to deter our leaders from this path of pre-emptive war. Lord, have mercy," the letter said.

Hmmm.  Is the GOP sure it wants to get churches involved in politics this time around? They sound pissed. Really pissed.

Categories: Blogs

Get your open thead on.

Categories: Blogs
The debate over the administration's decision to bless a $6.8 billion dollar port security bill intensified this morning, with Homeland Security Chief Chertoff defending the deal.  I'd like first to provide some background on the deal which is receiving little attention from critics of the takeover.  Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation, a U.K. company, currently controls the U.S. ports in question. Those ports are located in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.  It's the fourth largest port company in the world. The shareholders of that company agreed to the deal, in which Dubai Ports World (DP World) would pay $6.8 billion to take over that company. (DP world has since announced it will take out a loan to finance the cash deal). The Bush administration gave the green light to the deal.  This deal makes DP World the third largest port operator in the world. Before the deal, it was the seventh largest.

Port security is the neglected middle child of our national security debate.  Only some 5% of containers coming into the U.S. are inspected. According to 2004 figures, in the three years after 9/11, we spent about $500 million on port security.  That's what we spend every 3 days in Iraq. The Coast Gaurd has estimated it needs about $5.6 billion to make our ports "minimally secure"--meaning having locks on gates, security cameras, basic access control, etc.  The Bush administration has barely even begun to fund that. So when we finally get the chance to have a public debate on port security, we should make sure it's an informed one and one aimed at best securing the safety of the American people.

More below...

Categories: Blogs
You may recall that last November, details started to emerge regarding certain EU countries, and their suspected role in the US War on Terror™, in which they are allowing the CIA flights to land at their airports.  You may also recall the unfolding story about secret CIA torture interrogation centers in Eastern Europe, in which the "terror suspects" are being held.  The EU Justice Commissioner issued strong warnings to any participating countries, and the investigation continues, at least on the European side of the ocean.

In today's Sunday Times (London), we read about their analysis of flight plans and radio logs of US military (and other) aircraft crossing Europe.  Here's what they found:

THE American military have been operating flights across Europe using a call sign assigned to a civilian airline that they have no legal right to use.

Not only is the call sign bogus -- according to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) -- so, it appears, are some of the aircraft details the Americans have filed with the air traffic control authorities.

In at least one case, a plane identified with the CIA practice of "extraordinary rendition" -- transporting terrorist suspects -- left a US air base just after the arrival of an aircraft using the bogus call sign.

The call sign Juliet Golf Oscar (JGO) followed by a flight number belongs, says the ICAO, to a now bankrupt Canadian low-cost airline called Jetsgo of Montreal.

But for several years and as recently as last December it has been used selectively by both the American air force and army to cover the flights of aircraft to and from the Balkans.

(Map link and bold emphasis added.)

The article gives some specific examples of flight plans to give a better picture of the scope of the story, including one DoD flight whose status was listed as "humanitarian".

As for the CIA, here's probably the most important part of the story:

[In February 2004] a Learjet 35 using the call sign SPAR 92 left Aviano [joint US-Italian air base] for an unknown destination.

SPAR is short for Special Air Resources, an American military airlift service that transports senior military officers and civilian VIPs.

However, SPAR 92 has been identified as the aircraft which was used by the CIA secretly to transport a Muslim preacher who was kidnapped by CIA agents in Milan in 2003.

All of this ties in nicely with the CIA flights/prisons stories broken last year.  Of course, at the time, Condi pressured, and various (EU country) ministers folded:

The US secretary of state's European tour has been dogged by reports the US secretly transported and held terror suspects using European locations.

She says US interrogators are banned from using torture at home and abroad.


They [NATO and EU foreign ministers] said Ms Rice had assured them that the US did not interpret international humanitarian law differently from its allies.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the meeting was "very satisfactory for all of us".

Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot, one of those most concerned by the issue, also said he was "very satisfied".

But the story keeps coming back to haunt all of them.  I wonder if Condi, Gonzales, and all the rest can sleep at night?

Categories: Blogs
I am like ... so on board with the president's new (or newly revealed) tactic of getting policy advice from New York Times best-selling novelists. I mean, who wants to listen to boring old poopy heads with Ph.D.'s from MIT and other namby-pamby Ivory Tower kind of places when you can tap the way underused resource of people who just make shit up in their heads for a living?

In his new book about Mr. Bush, "Rebel in Chief: Inside the Bold and Controversial Presidency of Fred Barnes recalls a visit to the White House last year by Michael Crichton, whose 2004 best-selling novel, "State of Fear," suggests that global warming is an unproven theory and an overstated threat.

Mr. Barnes, who describes Mr. Bush as "a dissenter on the theory of global warming," writes that the president "avidly read" the novel and met the author after Karl Rove, his chief political adviser, arranged it. He says Mr. Bush and his guest "talked for an hour and were in near-total agreement."

In fact, I think this is such a way cool idea we ought to skip the giving advice part and just let these writer-type people head federal agencies and departments and depressing old cabinet positions, you know. Here are my nominees:

Tom Clancy should take over the Department of Homeland Security, natch. I mean, he seems to be the only person in the whole wide world who thought of planes slamming into buildings before 9/11. Plus, he's so, you know, macho and beefy and stuff.

Stephen King should obviously be in charge of whatever governmental thingy is in charge of the bird flu response, based on his way scary prediction in The Stand of how the world would just fall apart if hit by a plague.

Francine Pascal should definitely be heading up the Department of Education based on her humongously bestselling Sweet Valley High series. I mean, she really gets what's it's like to be the only cheerleader left behind. She gets the heartbreak, you know?

Any other really neato writers you can think of that need to run things in the good old US of A? Submit your nominations below!!!

XOXOXOXO Stay as cool as you are!!!

Categories: Blogs
It's hard work, being completely wrong on two unrelated issues in one Sunday morning appearance, but DHS Director Michael Chertoff managed to pull off this amazing double-header on "Meet the Press" today.

First, he declared it A-OK that Dubai Ports World, a state-owned business from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), be put in charge of operations of six major U.S. ports.

That's the same UAE that, according to MSNBC, has a few public relations problems.

Critics have cited the UAE's history as an operational and financial base for the hijackers who carried out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In addition, they contend the UAE was an important transfer point for shipments of smuggled nuclear components sent to Iran, North Korea and Libya by a Pakistani scientist.

The kindest thing said about Chertoff's approval of outsourcing our port security was that it was "unbelievably tone deaf" - and this from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. Democrats Barbara Boxer, Evan Bayh and Robert Menendez were not quite so kind, with Boxer calling for legislation to limit the nation's infrastructure protection to American companies, Bayh calling for an in-depth look at the company and Menendez proclaiming this administration "just does not get it." Amen.

Chertoff, showing the executive branch charm we've come to expect from the Bush administration, conceded that "Congress is welcome to look at this and can get classified briefings." (Not that any input or objections will be taken into account, but ... hey ... our representatives can look at the issue before the president does what he wants to anyway!)

And then there was the second issue: the total ineptness of FEMA, which to anyone sentient obviously needs revamping. According to the Associated Press, Joe Lieberman, the GOP's favorite Democratic senator, laid it out:

"FEMA has become, to many people in America, and particularly the Gulf Coast, a joke, a four-letter word," said Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., and a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
"It's time for FEMA to go and to build something better, stronger within DHS to take its place," Lieberman said.

Chertoff's response? ""Nature doesn't wait for us to do yet another reorganization." Yes, by all means, let's rely on the same protocol in the same department that responded to Katrina so handily. Stay the course or that terrorist, Nature, will be emboldened by our lack of resolve. That's so stupid even Republicans aren't buying it.

Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he favored making FEMA a Cabinet department.

Davis said FEMA should not be competing for dollars within a department concerned with prevention as well as response, said Davis, who appeared with Lieberman on ABC's "This Week."

Now if Democrats and the few reality-based Republicans can challenge this administration on its myopic blunders and idiot statements, perhaps our national security and disaster preparedness can move from the realm of "feel good" talking points into a real-world stance of ensuring the safety of Americans. Outsourcing port security and restructuring FEMA - despite the howls we can expect from the administration - seem two solid places to start.

Oh, and Mr. Chertoff? You might want to consider taking next Sunday off. You're not doing your boss any good.

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Ken Ham is the President of a Young Earth Creationist organization called Answers in Genesis (AiG) who holds the equivalent of a Masters in Education from the University of Queensland, Australia. AiG is self described as "a Christian apologetics ministry that equips the church to uphold the authority of the Bible from the very first verse". In other words, AiG promotes a strict interpretation of the Old Testament from a seven day creation time line to the Noachian Global Flood (and of course they reject common descent). Mr. Ham was born and raised in Australia but--sadly for us in America--now makes his home and base of operations for AiG in Cincinnati, Ohio. Because AiG focuses so much of their antievolution efforts on school children,  one science education professional recently remarked:
[Link] 2300 children. 2300 young minds poisoned. Nothing new, I know, and I should just get used to it. [...] Is calling them "slimy ass-pimple, child-abusing freaks" pithy enough?  

Categories: Blogs