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WaPo editorial pushes ‘Petreaus report’ myth.

Thu, 2007-08-16 09:39

Yesterday, the LA Times reported that the September progress report on Iraq “would actually be written by the White House,” instead of Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. The Washington Post echoed the admission in an article today, describing the report as “the Bush administration’s progress report.” But the WaPo’s editorial page is still pushing the myth that “the September report will represent the sole word of Petraeus,” writing that “The general is expected to elaborate on that progress in a report to Congress.”

Judge: Bush Admin’s Case On Spying Tantamount To ‘The King Can Do No Wrong’

Thu, 2007-08-16 08:45

Yesterday, a federal appeals court “appeared skeptical of and sometimes hostile” towards the Bush administration’s argument that legal challenges to the NSA’s surveillance programs should be dismissed on “state secrets” and national security grounds, with one judge saying the government’s argument was tantamount to “the king can do no wrong.”

“The bottom line” of the administration’s argument “is the government declares something is a state secret, that’s the end of it. No cases,” said Judge Judge Harry Pregerson. “The king can do no wrong.”

The two cases argued yesterday — the first to reach the court out of fifty lawsuits consolidated before the 9th Circuit court — concern two separate, but related secret programs:

1) A program where AT&T allegedly provides “the NSA its customers’ phone and Internet communications for a vast data-mining operation,” in a program that “the government has not acknowledged,” but plaintiff’s lawyers call a “content dragnet.”

2) A program disclosed by The New York Times in December 2005, which the administration calls the Terrorist Surveillance Program,” where the NSA bypasses “court warrants in monitoring international communications involving people in the United States.”

Federal lawyers argued that “almost nothing about the substance of the government’s conduct could be talked about in court,” but that the judges must give executive branch claims of state secrets the “utmost deference.”

The three judges on the court were unsatisfied with the argument, offering various stinging comments and rebuttals:

- “Is it the government’s position that when our country is engaged in a war that the power of the executive when it comes to wiretapping is unchecked?asked Pregerson.

- “This seems to put us in the ‘trust us’ category. ‘We don’t do it. Trust us. And don’t ask us about it,’said Judge M. Margaret McKeown.

- “Every ampersand, every comma is top-secret?” queried Judge Michael Daly Hawkins about a withheld document.

- “”Are you saying the courts are to rubber-stamp the determination of the executive of what’s a state secret? What’s our job?” asked Pregerson.

- “I feel like I’m in Alice and Wonderland,” observed McKeown.

When Deputy Solicitor General Greg Garre argued that “other avenues” than the court system were the proper forum for complaints about government surveillance, Pregerson shot back: “What is that? Impeachment?

Wired liveblogged the hearing here.

Juan Cole: Violence in Iraq ‘has not subsided.’

Thu, 2007-08-16 08:00

Appearing on the PBS News Hour last night, University of Michigan professor Juan Cole — who runs the blog Informed Comment — discussed the recent bombings in northern Iraq. Cole explained that such violence “is unstoppable by military means,” and “the only way” to quell it is for there to be political reconciliation between Sunni and Shiite groups. Cole debunked the myth that there has been progress on the security front:

You know, the number of Iraqis killed went up 25 percent in July over June. The number of troops killed in July was twice what it ordinarily has been in July. It depends on how you look at these numbers. There have been fewer big bombings; although, there still are big bombings, but there have been more people killed by sniper fire.

So the violence has not subsided, and the guerrilla resistance in the Sunni Arab regions is still very powerful. And there’s no sign of a political solution to this thing, which is the only real solution to this kind of guerrilla war. So I’m afraid I don’t think, if the report is honest, we’re going to see a lot of progress here.

Watch it:

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Transcript: (more…)

Rep. Sali refuses to back down over bigoted comments.

Thu, 2007-08-16 07:18

Ignoring the text of the Constitution, Rep. Bill Sali (R-ID) recently claimed that religious diversity was not envisioned by the Founding Fathers. The Idaho Statesman followed up on the story and reports today that Sali will call Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) — the first Muslim member of Congress — to apologize. But Sali refused to back down over his claim that multiculturalism in Congress is dangerous:

“I think that Keith deserves a call from me — not necessarily because of what’s in my heart or in my mind, but because of how it’s been portrayed,” Sali said.

But Sali said he does think the country’s Founding Fathers created a government based on Christian principles and that the best course into the future is to follow those ideas.

The country’s creators fought for the “principles found in Scripture,” he said. “The dangerous part is straying from these principles.

“The idea that somehow we can move to multiculturalism and still remain the same — I think that’s a little dangerous, too,” he said. “From my standpoint, I believe the Founding Fathers were overwhelmingly Christian, and the God they were talking about is the God of the Bible.”

ThinkFast: August 16, 2007

Thu, 2007-08-16 06:31

The ongoing mortgage crisis has caused global markets to continue in a downward spiral. Yesterday, the Dow Jones industrial average closed below the 13,000 mark for the first time since April. “And markets in the United States were expected to open lower again today.”

The White House has proposed limiting the much-anticipated appearance of Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker to a private congressional briefing, “suggesting instead that the Bush administration’s progress report on the Iraq war should be delivered to Congress by the secretaries of state and defense.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said he would “indefinitely block” the nomination of John Rizzo to become the CIA’s top lawyer because Rizzo “did not object” to a 2002 memo authorizing torture techniques “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure.”

Rudy Giuliani expressed his opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state at this time. Giuliani said “too much emphasis” has been placed on brokering negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. “It is not in the interest of the United States…to assist the creation of another state that will support terrorism,” he said.

Many of Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour’s associates have profited from Hurricane Katrina. $15 billion or more in federal aid has flowed into the state. “Among the beneficiaries are Barbour’s own family and friends, who have earned hundreds of thousands of dollars from hurricane-related business.” (more…)

Army suicide rate highest in 26 years.

Wed, 2007-08-15 20:07

“Army soldiers committed suicide last year at the highest rate in 26 years, and more than a quarter did so while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a new military report” obtained by the Associated Press. “There were 99 confirmed suicides among active duty soldiers during 2006, up from 88 the previous year and the highest number since the 102 suicides in 1991 at the time of the Persian Gulf War.” Those 99 suicides “amounted to a rate of 17.3 per 100,000 — the highest in the past 26 years,” where the average was 12.3 per 100,000.

Soltz: Cheney ‘out to lunch’ on protecting America.

Wed, 2007-08-15 15:25

This afternoon on MSNBC Hardball, Iraq war veteran Jon Soltz of VoteVets debated Sal Russo of the right-wing Move America Forward about the merits of Dick Cheney’s national security views. Soltz argued Cheney was “out to lunch when it comes to protecting America, supporting the military, destroying al Qaeda.” Russo responded, “Dick Cheney is one of the finest men that I’ve ever met.” Soltz shot back, “The difference between you and I is real simple: You’re a Republican communications strategist; I’m an Iraq war veteran.” Watch it:

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Gibson declares ‘the war on Gibson is real.’

Wed, 2007-08-15 14:03

Yesterday, Media Matters noted that Fox News host John Gibson had rudely mocked Daily Show host Jon Stewart’s emotional post-9/11 comments on his radio show. Later in the day, Gibson addressed Media Matters’ criticism, saying “the war on Gibson is real. It is pursued every day.” While Gibson did admit it was “mean” to mock Stewart, he and his producer “Angry Rich” proceeded to personally attack Media Matters CEO David Brock.

Rove: Bush’s critics are ’snobs’ who hate his ‘common sense.’

Wed, 2007-08-15 13:00

In his interview with Rush Limbaugh this afternoon, Karl Rove claimed that the people criticizing Bush are “sort of elite, effete snobs who can’t hold a candle to this guy. What they don’t like about him is that he is common sense, that he is Middle America.” Limbaugh suggest that Bush critics are frustrated the the President “outsmarts ‘em.” Rove argued Bush is far more intelligent than people give him credit for, and is “one of the best-read people I’ve ever met” whose “passion is history.” Listen to a portion of the interview:

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Stevens: Newspaper trying ‘to assassinate me.’

Wed, 2007-08-15 12:46

Last week, during an interview with the Anchorage Daily News editorial board, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) was asked how, in light of ongoing federal investigations into him, he could “be effective in Congress.” Instead of addressing the question, Stevens attacked the paper, claiming it was “destroying” his reputation:

You’re destroying it. More people are repeating what you’re writing in your paper than anything else in the country. This paper has caused me more difficulty, and I’ve told you that before, than anything else. You’ve created me as the senator-for-life. You’ve been hanging me weekly. […]

I’ve spent hours here with you here in the past, and I’ve never seen any result of it at all. … This paper has done nothing but try to assassinate me.

(HT: TPMmuckraker.)

Lost weapons now in hands of Middle East extremists.

Wed, 2007-08-15 12:20

“At least three U.S. government agencies are now investigating the massive ‘disappearance’ and diversion of weapons Washington intended for Iraqi government forces that instead have spread to militants and organized gangs across the region.” Newsweek notes that thousands of arms have flowed into Turkey through the black market. A report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office last month showed that since 2004, some 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols, bought with U.S. money for Iraqi security forces, have gone missing.

Gingrich’s war.

Wed, 2007-08-15 11:50

The “war here at home” against illegal immigrants is “even more deadly than the war in Iraq and Afghanistan,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said yesterday. Orcinus notes “that the crime rate among Latino immigrants is lower than that of the general population, and most other ethnic groups as well, including whites.”

Right-Wing Pundits Confess Bush ‘Has No Agenda’

Wed, 2007-08-15 11:09

With the departure of Karl Rove, the media is speculating as to how that will affect Bush’s domestic agenda. White House deputy chief of staff Joel Kaplan argued that Bush will pursue an “ambitious agenda” despite Rove’s departure:

The tank is full. The president’s priorities haven’t changed, nor has his ambitious agenda. When we come back in the Fall, the Congress is going to have a full plate in front of it. [Fox News, 8/14/07]

Similarly, spokeswoman Dana Perino claimed, “We have a lot of things that we can get done.” In reality, Bush’s domestic agenda “has largely shrunk to veto threats of bills passed by the Democratic-led Congress.”

Even the White House’s faithful conservative allies aren’t buying the spin. Last night on Fox, right-wing pundits Charles Krauthammer and Fred Barnes disputed the White House’s contention that it has an agenda:

KRAUTHAMMER: When Kaplan talks about an ambitious agenda, he is really taking one for the team. That is absurd, there is no agenda.

BARNES: Charles is right, Bush has no agenda.

Watch it:

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In an interview with the Politico, Rove said, “If there’s a decision to shut down the government, it’s going to be coming from Capitol Hill, not from us.” The White House is attempting to set up the upcoming budget battles with Congress as a campaign issue heading into ‘08. Even the right-wing now acknowledges that the what the administration is asking the public to do is rally behind a President who has nothing to offer.

Transcript: (more…)

Rumsfeld resigned before midterm election.

Wed, 2007-08-15 09:58

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld “resigned as defense secretary before last year’s November election but his decision was not announced until after the voting, according to his resignation letter. … The letter was dated Nov. 6, the day before voters, angered by Iraq, went to the polls and swept Republicans from power in Congress. According to a stamp on the letter, President George W. Bush saw it on election day.” Bush, however, waited until the day after the election to announce Rumsfeld’s resignation.

UPDATE: The word “Iraq” doesn’t appear in former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation letter. Neither does the word “war.”

Colts’ Dungy appointed by Bush.

Wed, 2007-08-15 09:45

Continuing the administration’s outreach to sports stars, President Bush appointed Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy to be a Member of the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation. “The appointment has a term of two years with a time commitment of two in-person meetings per year and quarterly phone conversations with assigned committees.” Dungy has endeared himself to conservatives by helping fundraise for anti-gay, right-wing groups.

UPDATE: More from Towleroad.

Woolsey Claims Iran Could Have Nuclear Bomb In ‘A Few Months’

Wed, 2007-08-15 08:36

During an appearance on CNN’s Lou Dobbs last night, former CIA director James Woolsey, one of the earliest advocates of invading Iraq, claimed that Iran “could have” a nuclear bomb in “a few months.”

“The Iranians continue to work on getting enriched uranium,” said Woolsey. “I’m afraid within, well, at worst, a few months; at best, a few years; they could have a bomb.” Watch it:

Woolsey is doing nothing more than fear-mongering when he says Iran could have a nuclear bomb in “a few months.” In fact, his assertion of an impending nuclear weapon in Iran is contradicted by experts on nuclear weapons, including the CIA.

“Iran is still probably five to 10 years away from gaining the ability to make nuclear fuel or nuclear bombs,” according to Joseph Cirincione, the director for nuclear policy at the Center for American Progress. In May, Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the UN’s the International Atomic Energy Agency, said “even if Iran wanted to go for a nuclear weapon, it would not be before the end of this decade or sometime in the middle of the next decade,” an estimate that echoed the view of the CIA.

Additionally, Woolsey is a suspect source for claims of urgency when it comes to nuclear weapons, having repeatedly hyped Saddam Hussein’s nuclear capability during the build up to war with Iraq:

It is urgent that we begin this process of bringing democracy to the Middle East before the region’s most dangerous dictator — Saddam Hussein — gets nuclear weapons.” [5/21/02]

“I think it would be a lot easier to stop Saddam now than it would be two or three years from now when he would be almost certain to have nuclear weapons.” [1/10/03]

Unsatisfied with just invading Iraq, Woolsey is again pushing specious claims of imminent nuclear bombs, hoping the U.S. will move on to Iran next.

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Transcript: (more…)

Psychologists to pass resolution condemning torture.

Wed, 2007-08-15 08:20

The American Psychological Association “is poised to issue a formal condemnation of a raft of notorious interrogation tactics employed by U.S. authorities against detainees…from simulated drowning to sensory deprivation.” The administration has previously employed psychologists to develop its coercive torture tactics, and psychologists are “likely” to help implement President Bush’s July 20 executive order restarting a coercive CIA interrogation program.

Were there other attorneys targeted for dismissal?

Wed, 2007-08-15 08:00

The Justice Department refuses to answer a simple question: Were more top federal prosecutors targeted for dismissal beyond the nine that have been publicly identified? The Blotter reports a new letter from the DoJ dances around the issue, saying only that the answer was contained in information shared earlier. At a July hearing, Gonzales admitted, “There may have been others” besides the nine already identified, adding, “I certainly find out.” Recall, all the U.S. attorneys were ranked based on their loyalty to Bush and Gonzales.

Petraeus’ September Report Will Be Written By The White House

Wed, 2007-08-15 07:10

The Los Angeles Times reports that Gen. David Petraeus’ upcoming Sept. 15 report on Iraq will be authored by the White House:

Despite Bush’s repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government.

And though Petraeus and Crocker will present their recommendations on Capitol Hill, legislation passed by Congress leaves it to the president to decide how to interpret the report’s data.

In other words, the Sept. 15 report promises to be much like the July mid-term report which purported to show “satisfactory performance on 8 of the 18 benchmarks.” A closer look into those claims revealed that the progress was purely White House spin. Yet, the report accomplished its primary objective of producing media reports which suggested that the overall picture in Iraq was “mixed.”

The White House has repeatedly employed Petraeus as a PR flack, using him to promote failing Iraq policies and the war czar nomination.

President Bush had previously said he would “respect the command structure” and not intercede in the Petraeus report:

I will repeat, as the Commander-in-Chief of a great military who has supported this military and will continue to support this military, not only with my — with insisting that we get resources to them, but with — by respecting the command structure, I’m going to wait for David to come back — David Petraeus to come back and give us the report on what he sees.

Apparently, Bush doesn’t plan to wait for a report; instead, he’ll have it drafted prior to Petraeus’ return. Markos writes: “Let me predict the future: The report: ‘Success!’ The interpretation: ‘Smashing success!’”

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Rep. David Obey on Alberto Gonzales:

Wed, 2007-08-15 07:00

“He’s one sneaky, lying S.O.B., to put it bluntly. He’s the most authoritarian attorney general in the history of the republic. He’s the most dangerous. I never thought I’d long for the days of John Ashcroft.” (Via CongressDaily, sub. req’d)

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