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Updated: 2 hours 34 min ago

Global warming may be like ‘nuclear war.’

Wed, 2007-09-12 10:34

A new study from the International Institute for Strategic Studies said climate change “could have global security implications on a par with nuclear war unless urgent action is taken.” The report said “global warming would hit crop yields and water availability everywhere, causing great human suffering and leading to regional strife,” adding that “65 countries were likely to lose over 15 percent of their agricultural output by 2100.”

Convicted Ney staffer avoids jail time.

Wed, 2007-09-12 10:01

Neil Volz, former chief of staff to Rep. Bob Ney, was spared jail time today and instead sentenced to two years probation, a fine of $2000, and 100 hours of community service for his role in the Jack Abramoff scandal. Volz had earlier argued that he should be spared prison time because he had “endured harsh criticism, including abusive phone calls” from Ney when his ex-boss suspected he was helping investigators.

UPDATE: TPMmuckraker has more.

CBS Defends Katie Couric’s Iraq ‘Puff Pieces’: Bloggers Are ‘Not Intelligent’

Wed, 2007-09-12 09:13

Last week, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric reported from Iraq, but her stories largely repeated the Bush administration’s talking points. On Sept. 2, Couric even admitted on CBS’s Face the Nation that her rosy reports were based on “what the U.S. military want[ed]” her to see:

And so, you do see signs of life that seem to be normal. Of course, that’s what the U.S. military wants me to see, so you have to keep that in mind as well. But I think there are definitely areas where the situation is improving.

Watch it:

A member recently wrote to CBS, expressing the opinion that Couric’s reports appeared to be “puff pieces scripted by the institutions it purports to be investigating.” CBS’s response questioned the “intelligence” of the person, adding that he or she probably found the “information from a blog somewhere”:

CBS’s viewers evidently agreed with the MoveOn member. Last week, Couric’s ratings “averaged 5.4 million viewers, the lowest ratings on record since the current ratings system took effect in 1987, according to Nielsen Media Research.”

UPDATE: A C&L commenter received this response from CBS: “Sorry you didn’t get a chance to see much of the reporting from Iraq….if you had, you wouldn’t have written such a note…imagine all your info came from a blog…too bad.”

UPDATE II: Christy Hardin Smith at FDL is writing to the CBS Evening News senior producers and “asking whether (a) this is the usual response of CBS to legitimate viewer criticism and (b) whether they would officially like to disavow this sort of customer non-service.”

Digg It!

McCain ‘unapologetic’ about politicized 9/11 rally.

Wed, 2007-09-12 08:32

Yesterday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) broke “with recent campaign tradition” and held “a partisan political rally” on the sixth anniversary of 9/11. Instead of staying off the campaign trail like most other candidates, McCain “launched a seven-day ‘No Surrender’ tour at an aircraft hangar in Sioux City, Iowa, hoping to build support for the war in Iraq.” He was “unapologetic” about breaking with the tradition of de-politicizing 9/11:

But McCain, whose morning included a moment of silence in the U.S. Senate and prayers at a church, said a rally supporting the war effort was the best way to honor the victims of the terrorist attacks.

“The important thing about Sept. 11 is that it not be repeated,” McCain told reporters after the event. “And if we leave Iraq, then it will be repeated.”

“I can’t think of a better way to remember and revere their memories and prevent further tragedies and attacks on the United States than to rally support for what Gen. Petraeus in his testimony today (said) was now the central battlefield in the war against terror, Iraq,” McCain said.

A McCain supporter named Al Tobin said it was the candidates that didn’t campaign who made the anniversary political. “It’s a political gimmick,” he said. “It makes headlines, really.”

Two Of Seven Soldiers Who Wrote New York Times Op-Ed Die In Iraq

Wed, 2007-09-12 07:02

On Aug. 19, seven active duty soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division wrote an op-ed in The New York Times called “The War As We Saw It.” The piece expressed skepticism about “recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable”:

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. […]

In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal. […]

We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.

On Monday, two of these soldiers — Sgt. Omar Mora and Sgt. Yance Gray — died in a vehicle accident in Western Baghdad. The news of their deaths came as Gen. David Petraeus wrapped up his testimony to Congress about the Bush administration’s progress in Iraq.

The soldiers’ courage to speak out has helped change the debate. In yesterday’s Senate hearing, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) read from the soldiers’ op-ed. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) also referenced the op-ed, challenging Petraeus’s rosy assessments:

HAGEL: By the way, I assume you read the New York Times piece two weeks ago — seven NCOs in Iraq, today, finishing up 15 month commitments. Are we going to dismiss those seven NCOs? Are they ignorant? They laid out a pretty different scenario, General, Ambassador, from what you’re laying out today.

Mora’s stepfather said that Mora believed the “situation in Iraq was desperate” and was sad that children in Iraq were “having to live” with the war going on. His mother said that Mora, who was on his second tour of duty, was supposed to be coming home in November.

Mora is survived by his wife, Christa, and 5-year-old daughter, Jordan. Gray is survived by his wife, Jessica, and infant daughter, Ava.

One of the other five authors, Staff Sgt. Jeremy Murphy, was shot in the head while the article was being written. He is expected to recover.

UPDATE: Houston’s KHOU aired this report on Mora. Watch it:

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ThinkFast: September 12, 2007

Wed, 2007-09-12 06:06

“Six years after the 9/11 terror attacks on the U.S., it seems the media still have some educational work to do. A new CBS/New York Times poll reveals that even today, 1 in 3 Americans believe that ‘Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.’”

The Bush administration’s top intelligence officials have notified a federal appeals court that “a July ruling requiring the government to disclose virtually all its information on Guantánamo detainees could cause ‘exceptionally grave damage to the national security.” The ruling was a victory for detainee lawyers, piercing the government’s shield of secrecy.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) today “vetoed legislation that would have allowed Californians to vote on an advisory measure calling for President Bush to immediately withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.”

57: Percentage New Orleans’s black population dropped after Hurricane Katrina, while the city’s white population declined by 36 percent, according to a new analysis of U.S. census data.

An economic forecast by UCLA predicts “the nation’s economy will be so sluggish well into next year that any major hiccup could tip it into recession. … The forecast presents a gloomier outlook for jobs and the housing market.” (more…)

Waxman agrees to investigate Clinton White House.

Tue, 2007-09-11 20:00

As part of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s investigation into the Bush White House’s potentially illegal partisan briefings at various government agencies, Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) has agreed to a request by Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) to determine whether Clinton did it too. The Clinton White House was thoroughly investigated both during and after its term. Waxman said he believes most of the documents Davis is seeking are already in the committee’s archives:

“You have asked that the committee make a number of document requests of the National Archives for records of the Clinton administration,” Waxman wrote. “The Clinton administration was subject to vastly more scrutiny by this committee than the Bush administration has been, and many of the records you seek may already be in the committee archives.

“However,” Waxman continued, “I do agree that the committee would benefit from requesting copies of any political briefings that the Office of Political Affairs in the Clinton administration may have given to federal agencies.” […]

Waxman added that the committee’s “own archives of Clinton-era documents are so broad and voluminous that they should already contain” other documents Davis wanted, if they exist.

McCain: I was right all along.

Tue, 2007-09-11 18:56

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) “said Tuesday that he was right from the start about the war strategy in Iraq. ‘For almost four years we pursued a failed policy in Iraq. … I condemned it, I was criticized by Republicans and others for doing so, and I saw it was doomed to failure and I argued for the strategy that is now succeeding,’ McCain said.” McCain has repeatedly proclaimed himself as “the greatest critic” of Bush’s Iraq strategy, even while endorsing “stay the course” from the very beginning.

The six months that never end.

Tue, 2007-09-11 17:45

The Democratic Caucus has a nice summary of the Petraeus and Crocker testimonies.

UPDATE: Speaker Pelosi: “President’s Policy is a Path to 10 More Years of War in Iraq”

The ‘conservative advantage in syndicated op-ed columns.’

Tue, 2007-09-11 16:55

New Media Matters study finds that in newspapers around the country, conservative syndicated columnists receive more space than their progressive counterparts:

– “Sixty percent of the nation’s daily newspapers print more conservative syndicated columnists every week than progressive syndicated columnists. Only 20 percent run more progressives than conservatives, while the remaining 20 percent are evenly balanced.”

– “In a given week, nationally syndicated progressive columnists are published in newspapers with a combined total circulation of 125 million. Conservative columnists, on the other hand, are published in newspapers with a combined total circulation of more than 153 million.”

– In 38 states, “conservative columns reach more readers in total than progressive columns.”

Flynt pursues Vitter scandal.

Tue, 2007-09-11 16:30

“Hustler publisher Larry Flynt took a fresh jab on Tuesday at scandal-plagued Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), administering a lie detector test to a New Orleans prostitute who contends that she and Vitter had a relationship in 1999. Vitter has denied extramarital relations with Wendy Cortez, who appeared with Flynt in Los Angeles to address reporters. Flynt said the lie detector offers 99.9 percent proof that Cortez, whose ties to Vitter have long set tongues wagging in Louisiana, is telling the truth.”

Human Rights And Advocacy Groups Blast Bush’s Torture-Approving CIA Nominee

Tue, 2007-09-11 15:44

In a letter to the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee today, a coalition of human rights and advocacy groups urged the Senate to reject President Bush’s nominee for General Counsel of the CIA, John Rizzo. The coalition, which includes the Center for American Progress Action Fund, objects to Rizzo’s record of sanctioning the use of torture in American interrogation of detainees.

In 2002, Rizzo approved a memo written by then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee that stretched the definition of torture, arguing that physical pain must be “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death” in order to be considered torture.

During Rizzo’s confirmation hearing in June, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) asked him if he “should have objected at the time” to the Bybee definition of torture. “I honestly — I can’t say I should have objected at the time,” replied Rizzo. Watch it:

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Unsatisfied by Rizzo’s answers at the hearing, Wyden has put a hold on his nomination, saying that he is going to keep it “until the detention and interrogation program is on firm footing, both in terms of effectiveness and legality.”

Given Rizzo’s intimate knowledge of the administration’s use of interrogation techniques that are “tantamount to torture,” and his utter refusal to stop them, confirming Rizzo would “send an extraordinarily negative message” to the world about America’s attitude toward the use of torture.

National Review: Don’t. Ever. Leave.

Tue, 2007-09-11 15:01

In its May 9, 2005 issue, the National Review featured a cover proclaiming, “We’re Winning,” accompanied by a breathless cover story by National Review editor Rich Lowry:

It is time to say it unequivocally: We are winning in Iraq.

If current trends continue, our counter-insurgent campaign in Iraq will be fit to be mentioned in the same breath as the British victory over a Communist insurgency in Malaysia in the 1950s, a textbook example of this form of war.

After two years of “winning,” the National Review believes the war can still be won. From its new Sept. 24 issue:

This war can still be won, but only if we have the nerve and the patience to see it through. Recent events on the ground, strategic interest, and morality all point to only one imperative: Stay.

Is Petraeus’ Drawdown Part Of The White House’s 2008 Political Strategy?

Tue, 2007-09-11 14:30

In yesterday’s congressional hearings, Gen. David Petraeus suggested that he will withdraw 30,000 troops from Iraq next summer:

Based on all this and on the further progress we believe we can achieve over the next few months, I believe that we will be able to reduce our forces to the pre-surge level of brigade combat teams by next summer without jeopardizing the security gains that we have fought so hard to achieve.

Petraeus claimed that “progress” in Iraq allows the United States to begin withdrawing troops. But in reality, security and political progress in Iraq is nonexistent. Petraeus, who has said he wants to stay in Iraq for 9-10 years, is in fact reducing troop levels next summer because the escalation has overstretched and overburdened the military to its breaking point.

Under Petraeus’s plan, troops will be finishing this “token” withdrawal right before the Nov. 2008 elections, and the administration appears to be planning to take political advantage of this fact.

In July, Rove spoke at the Aspen Ideas Festival and reportedly stated, “Iraq may not be a big issue in the next election because…troops will be coming home by then.”

But while the Bush administration is going to withdraw a nominal amount of troops before the elections, it then plans to continue staying the course. The Aspen Daily News reported in July on more of the White House’s strategy:

Overall, Rove said the goal was to make the “U.S. combat footprint smaller,” but he also surmised later in the interview that when the next president is sworn in on Jan. 21, 2009, plenty of American troops would still be in Iraq.

Recall that Bush’s strategy on Iraq is to “get us in a position where the presidential candidates will be comfortable about sustaining a presence,” and to ultimately “stay longer.”

On Thursday, President Bush will address the nation on Iraq and announce that he will be, not surprisingly, accepting Petraeus’s drawdown recommendations.

UPDATE: Today when Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) asked Petraeus whether it was “highly likely that “a year from now we’re going to have at least 100,000 troops in Iraq?,” Petraeus replied unequivocally: “That is probably the case. Yes, sir.”

Petraeus: ‘I don’t know’ if Iraq war makes America safer.

Tue, 2007-09-11 14:00

At the Senate Armed Services hearing on progress in Iraq today, Sen. John Warner (R-VA) asked Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, “if we continue what you have laid before the Congress, this strategy, that if you continue, you are making America safer?” “Sir, I don’t know actually,” replied Petraeus, adding that he is solely focused on the mission in Iraq. Watch it:

Transcript: (more…)

McConnell Baselessly Claims New Expansive FISA Law Responsible For Preventing Terror Attack

Tue, 2007-09-11 13:19

Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell yesterday tried to claim that the new expansive FISA law adopted by Congress prior to the August recess was responsible for the foiling of a recent alleged terror attack. The New York Times reports that McConnell tried to tie the capture of three Islamic militants accused of planning bomb attacks in Germany to the FISA bill:

Mr. McConnell made his remarks to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. When asked by the chairman, Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, whether the new law that Congress adopted last month facilitated the German arrests, Mr. McConnell said, “Yes, sir, it did.”

Fox News quickly used the comments to drum up support for the administration’s demand for broad spying authority. “Just last week three Germans allegedly planning attacks against US interests were arrested and it was partly due to a strengthened Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in danger now of being scaled back by Democrats in Congress,” Fox reported. Watch it:

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McConnell’s statements have no basis in reality, but rather, appear to be an effort to build public support for the new FISA law that expires in five months. The Times reported today that a government official said “McConnell might have misspoken.” In fact, the information gathered ahead of the alleged German attacks was done under the prior FISA law — the law that required warrants:

[T]he official, who has been briefed on the eavesdropping laws and the information given to the Germans, said that those intercepts were recovered last year under the old law.

Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) sent a letter to McConnell demanding that he back up his claims. The letter states:

Please state whether a specific decision was made to de-classify the information you provided to the Senate Committee and, if so, when, by whom, under what authority, and what was the specific background and explanation. In addition, please clarify whether the intercepts in question were foreign-to-foreign, as your statement implied, and whether they were in fact obtained under the old FISA law or the new FISA law.

UPDATE: Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), a member of the House intelligence committee, issued this statement:

“Contrary to DNI McConnell’s remarks before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Reform Committee yesterday, the so-called ‘Protect America Act’ played no role in uncovering the recent German terrorist plot. Those arrests were made with the assistance of intelligence gathered under U.S. laws in effect earlier this year. The DNI knew that going into the hearing. The questions remain why he asserted otherwise during the hearing, and why he has yet to correct the record.

“The German terror case in question is another example of why I voted against the ‘Protect America Act’ when it came to the House floor in August. Our existing collection activities are working well overall, uncovering potential terrorist plots in Europe and elsewhere. While some technical adjustments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) might be in order, the bill the Congress passed last month went far beyond what was necessary by effectively suspending the Fourth Amendment. I’ll be exploring these issues with DNI McConnell in future oversight hearings.”

Out Of Touch Elites Promulgate Partition For Iraq That 98 Percent Of Iraqis Oppose

Tue, 2007-09-11 12:21

This morning, New York Times columnist David Brooks joined a small chorus including Washington Post columnists Charles Krauthammer and Jackson Diehl, and Michael O’Hanlon in giving up on listening to what Iraqis think. Instead, Brooks wrote that the U.S. mission in Iraq is to partition Iraq:

What we’re really trying to build, in other words, is a road to partition. We’re trying to build a pathway to separation that involves the sort of low-intensity civil war that Iraq is enduring right now. We’re trying to prevent a pathway that is even worse — a high-intensity genocide.

This week’s ABC News/BBC/NHK survey of 2,000 Iraqis found the following:

Nearly every Iraqi — a whopping 98 percent — said the separation of people on sectarian lines is a bad thing for Iraq;

A majority of Iraqis — 62 percent — support one unified Iraq with a central government in Baghdad. Even though this figure has declined 8 points since 2005, overall support for a unified Iraq remains strong.

The surge of U.S. troops has seen the number of Iraqis pushed out of their homes double. As widespread sectarian cleansing in Baghdad occurs in the presence of tens of thousands of U.S. troops, extremist gangs and militias may push the silent majority of Iraqis closer to some partition scenario. But that doesn’t mean Americans should support the agendas shared by those Iraqi extremists who are murdering others in Iraq’s civil war.

This raises another tough question more Americans should ask: Is publicly advocating partition actually encouraging Iraqis who are conducting sectarian cleansing to accelerate their vicious campaigns?

- Brian Katulis, co-author of Strategic Reset

Hannity for President?

Tue, 2007-09-11 12:03

At Sean Hannity’s Freedom Concert in New Jersey tonight, which Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) will be attending, the headliners are country duo Montgomery Gentry. Eddie Montgomery, one half of the band, is a big Hannity fan. So big, that he thinks the Fox News talker should seek higher office:

“Sean makes sense to me.” […]

But Montgomery, for one, wouldn’t mind seeing Hannity try a different career path.

“I could see him running for president,” says Montgomery. “I think he’s that smart.”

Hannity has not made any presidential aspirations known, but he is supporting Rudy Giuliani.

Pentagon seeks ‘very rapid reduction’ of troops.

Tue, 2007-09-11 11:28

Newsweek “has learned that a separate internal report being prepared by a Pentagon working group will ‘differ substantially‘ from Petraeus’s recommendations.” An early version will “recommend a very rapid reduction in American forces: as much as two-thirds of the existing force very quickly, while keeping the remainder there.” “There is interest at senior levels [of the Pentagon] in getting alternative views” to Petraeus, an official said.

Lieberman Decries ‘Terrible, Partisan, Political Sniping,’ Then Rocks Out With Hannity, Coulter

Tue, 2007-09-11 10:24

On Fox News this morning, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) used a moment of silence commemorating 9/11 to decry the “terrible, partisan political sniping” that he says ruined the “unity that we felt after September 11″:

Let me just say in response to the moment of silence we just were part of, that that unity that we felt after September 11, we have to find a way to get it back because we’ve descended into terrible, partisan political sniping.

Watch it:

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Lieberman’s exhaltation that “we have to find a way to get” America’s post-9/11 unity “back” is undermined by his plans for later this evening, when he mingles with some of the most divisive personalities in America today at Sean Hannity’s “Freedom Concert.”

Attending the concert along with the Connecticut Senator are some of the guiltiest culprits of the “terrible, partisan political sniping” that Lieberman professes to decry: Ann Coulter, Oliver North, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, and Hannity himself.

Here are just a few examples of their “terrible…sniping”:

Coulter: The media is “treasoness” and “the Democrats, they want us to lose.” [9/10/07]

North: “If we elect” a Democratic “Congress…it will be nuclear weapons in the hands of fanatics.” [8/31/06]

Giuliani: Democrats are “the party of losers” [7/26/07]

Gingrich: “Yes,” Bush administration critics are similar “to those who enabled Hitler” [9/1/06]

Hannity: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is “a propaganda minister for our enemies.” [4/24/07]

Hannity’s “Freedom Concerts” support a good cause by helping to fund education for the children of dead or disabled soldiers. But the political message underlying the shows, which are embodied by one of the most aggressively partisan personalities on TV and radio, is far from the unifying message Lieberman says he desires.

UPDATE: Last week, Lieberman told Hannity that he “can’t wait” for the concert.

UPDATE II: At TPM Election Central, Greg Sargent notes that Ann Coulter has “repeatedly bashed the 9/11 widows, calling them ’self-obsessed’ and accusing them of ‘enjoying their husband’s deaths.’

Transcript: (more…)