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Updated: 1 hour 44 min ago

Record-breaking extreme weather.

Tue, 2007-08-07 08:42

The World Meteorological Organization reports that temperature measurements from early 2007 indicate the warmest period ever recorded:

In January and April 2007 it is likely that global land surface temperatures ranked warmest since records began in 1880, 1.89°C warmer than average for January and 1.37°C warmer than average for April. Several regions have experienced extremely heavy precipitation, leading to severe floods. The Fourth Assessment Report of the WMO /UNEP Intergovernmental Group on Climate Change (IPCC) notes an increasing trend in extreme events observed during the last 50 years. IPCC further projects it to be very likely that hot extremes, heat waves and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent.

Editorials On FISA: ‘Unnecessary And Dangerous Expansion of President Bush’s Powers’

Tue, 2007-08-07 07:35

Last week, under heavy political pressure from the White House, Congress approved the White House-backed version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which provided expansive spying authority to the Bush administration. The White House had earlier rejected a compromise bill that provided powers sought by the Director of National Intelligence, opting instead to play politics with the issue.

In the past two days, at least nine major newspapers have editorialized against the FISA legislation, with the New York Times today calling it an “unnecessary and dangerous expansion of President Bush’s powers.” Some examples:

USA Today:

A skittish Congress allowed itself to be stampeded last week into granting the president unfettered surveillance power. When it returns to Washington, it should do what it can to make sure that the sun goes down on this flawed measure. [Link]

Washington Post:

To call this legislation ill-considered is to give it too much credit: It was scarcely considered at all. Instead, it was strong-armed through both chambers by an administration that seized the opportunity to write its warrantless wiretapping program into law — or, more precisely, to write it out from under any real legal restrictions. [Link]

The New York Times:

While serving little purpose, the new law has real dangers. It would allow the government to intercept, without a warrant, every communication into or out of any country, including the United States. Instead of explaining all this to American voters — the minimal benefits and the enormous risks — the Democrats have allowed Mr. Bush and his fear-mongering to dominate all discussions on terrorism and national security. [Link]

The Los Angeles Times: (more…)

Keith Olbermann’s ‘Countdown’ grows.

Tue, 2007-08-07 06:49

The LA Times reports that Olbermann has found a way to deliver the news in an interesting format:

More than any other news show on cable, MSNBC’s “Countdown With Keith Olbermann” is us.

This has less to do with the host than the format, which is all about ranking things and listing things, prioritizing information in the way we’ve become acclimated to consume it: as somebody’s — anybody’s — best-of. [..]

But it’s the structure of “Countdown,” which averaged 721,000 viewers in July, a bump for the show, that seems so savant-like.

Tonight, Olbermann will moderate an AFL-CIO sponsored presidential forum, beginning at 7 pm on MSNBC. See more details here.

More from the Chicago Sun-Times.

ThinkFast: August 7, 2007

Tue, 2007-08-07 06:03

“Britain called Tuesday for the Bush administration to release five British residents held at Guantanamo Bay — a policy reversal that suggests new Prime Minister Gordon Brown is pursuing a tougher line with the U.S. than his predecessor.” During his time as Prime Minister, Tony Blair rarely intervened in Guantanamo cases.

“A federal judge yesterday rejected New York City’s efforts to prevent the release of nearly 2,000 pages of raw intelligence reports and other documents detailing the Police Department’s covert surveillance of protest groups and individual activists before the Republican National Convention in 2004.”

Four Republican presidential candidates have now agreed to participate in the CNN/YouTube debate. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has “questioned the debate format, has made a number of public statements indicating he is open to participating.” Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney “appears less convinced.”

26: Number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq in the last week, beginning a “wave” of violence after a “relatively low death toll in July.”

The new law expanding the Bush administration’s spying powers “gives Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales responsibility for creating the broad procedures determining whose telephone calls and e-mails are collected. It also gives McConnell and Gonzales the role of assessing compliance with those procedures.” (more…)

Bill Clinton: WSJ editorial page is ‘more right wing’ than Fox.

Mon, 2007-08-06 20:48

At a fundraiser in the Hamptons this weekend, former President Bill Clinton unleashed harsh criticism on the ideologues on the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. “The editorial page of the Wall Street Journal is even more right wing and irrational than most of the commentators on Fox News,” said Clinton. “And completely predictable…it’s like Pavlov’s dogs.”

One-fourth of Americans ‘underinsured.’

Mon, 2007-08-06 20:15

“A new Consumer Reports study identifies the ‘underinsured’ — accounting for 24% of the U.S. population — living with skeletal health insurance that barely covers their medical needs and leaves them unprepared to pay for major medical expenses.” Sixteen percent of Americans have “no health plan at all,” according to the study.

Glenn Beck sees a heroic Bush.

Mon, 2007-08-06 19:34

Last week, we noted right-wing pundit Glenn Beck’s meeting with President Bush in the White House. After the visit, Beck lauded Bush’s “incredible passion and resolve.” In a weekend trip to Idaho, Beck heaped even more praise on the president:

He’s not the guy you see on TV. He is the guy on the truck with the bull horn, and for years I have been wondering were is that guy. He is alive and well.

Tancredo’s Plan To Bomb Mecca Lambasted By Conservatives

Mon, 2007-08-06 18:50

Last week, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) reiterated his call for bombing Muslim holy sites as a “deterrent” against terrorist strikes on the U.S. homeland. “If it is up to me, we are going to explain that an attack on this homeland of that nature would be followed by an attack on the holy sites in Mecca and Medina,” he said in Iowa.

“This shows that we mean business,” said Bay Buchanan, a senior Tancredo adviser. “There’s no more effective deterrent than that.”

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg responded, “That’s nuts, of course, not only contrary to every cherished American ideal, but counterproductive, as the prospect of the United States bombing Islamic holy cities would inspire, rather than deter, terrorists.” Fortunately, many leading conservatives have distanced themselves from Tancredo’s dangerous logic:

Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson: “I sincerely believe that bombing religious artifacts and religious holy sites would do nothing but unify one billion Muslims against us. It makes no sense.”

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee: “Historically, we’ve tried to avoid doing what the Nazis did, and that’s bombing every kind of possible target. We’ve had this attitude (that) we don’t do these things. There are some things that are off limits.”

Rep. Duncan Hunter:I wouldn’t follow that.”

State Department Spokesman Tom Casey: Tancredo’s comments are “reprehensible” and “absolutely crazy.”

State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack: “The remarks are simply outrageous. … [I]t’s important for people abroad, who may not necessarily pay attention to the details and just hear a headline with that in it, that the official position of the United States Government is that those remarks are just outrageous.”

Tancredo’s comments have created international concern. Pakistani National Assembly Speaker Chaudhary Amir Hussain said the assembly will “unanimously adopt a resolution against this mischievous statement.”

For his part, Tancredo is refusing to back down. At last weekend’s debate, he responded, “Boy, when [the State Department] starts complaining about things I say, ‘I feel a lot better about the things I say,’ I’ll tell you right now.”

You can email Tancredo’s official blogger by clicking here. Let him know you want to see Tancredo retract his remarks.

UPDATE: The New York Times blog labels Tancredo’s ludicrous bombing plan a “tough stance.”

Will Bush repeat Katrina failures in Minneapolis?

Mon, 2007-08-06 15:44

In a visit to the collapsed bridge in Minneapolis yesterday, President Bush vowed to aid in reconstruction efforts. But the AP reports that “[n]early two years ago, with parts of New Orleans still under water after Hurricane Katrina, Bush made similar declarations in the French Quarter, promising that the government would ’stay as long as it takes to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives.’” New Orleans City Councilwoman Shelley Midura remarked: “I’m sorry, it takes more than a simple sentence.”

Bush and Boehner meet once a week to ‘plot strategy.’

Mon, 2007-08-06 14:50

As the Bush administration’s “point man in Congress,” House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), has a “meeting every week with the president to plot strategy.”

Novak: ‘I Don’t Support This Administration,’ Bush Has ‘Cut Me Off’

Mon, 2007-08-06 14:04

In a radio interview with Diane Rehm this morning, right-wing columnist Robert Novak tried to assert his conservative credentials by distancing himself from the Bush White House. “I don’t support this administration,” he said.

“The president’s cut me off the list of conservative columnists that are invited there.” He added, “They consider me a lot of trouble.”


It would be unsurprising if the White House considered Novak “trouble,” given his unscrupulous journalistic ethics. But nothing in Novak’s previous comments has suggested anything but a close relationship with the White House. Just recently, he said he “never enjoyed such a good source inside the White House” as Karl Rove.

It appears Novak is simply sour over the fact he wasn’t given a 110-minute sit-down interview with President Bush like his counterpart at the New York Times, David Brooks.

Novak explained that his relationships with White Houses are like bad marriages. “It starts nice after the honeymoon and it just gets worse.”

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Transcript: (more…)

MSNBC asks the tough questions.

Mon, 2007-08-06 13:22

Fresh off the “cleavage controversy” surrounding Sen. Hillary Clinton, MSNBC found a new angle this afternoon to discuss sexuality in the presidential campaign. The network ran a segment asking “How hot is too hot for a candidates spouse?” while discussing a recent pictorial of Rudy Giuliani and his wife, Judith, that appeared in Harper’s Bazaar:

As Media Matters has noted, MSNBC was one of the central culprits in the media’s rush to make an issue out of the non-issue regarding cleavage.

CREW calls for leak investigation into Boehner.

Mon, 2007-08-06 13:03

Last week, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) appeared on Fox News and disclosed a secret court ruling about the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. Today, “Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Department of Justice asking that the Counterespionage Section of the National Security Division initiate an investigation” into whether Boehner “violated the law by leaking classified information.”

Bush Administration Backpedals From Its Public ‘Confidence’ In Maliki

Mon, 2007-08-06 12:24

Iraq’s political crisis is worsening as Sunni ministers have completely abandoned the government. Allegations have long persisted about Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s connections to Shiite militias, and regime is quickly crumbling from a lack of political effectiveness.

But Maliki continues to remain in power, largely propped up with the “confidence” and support of President Bush:

Bush reaffirmed confidence in al-Maliki and said there were some signs of progress toward a unified government. “Yeah, I’ve got confidence in him, but I also understand how difficult it is.” [Bloomberg, 7/12/07]

Tony Snow: “What we’ll say on the record is, the President has confidence in Prime Minister Maliki.” [White House briefing, 11/29/06]

Megan O’Sullivan: “Both leaders talked about the Maliki government, with the President saying that he really has a lot of confidence in Maliki and he’s very pleased with how Maliki has performed over the last hundred days.” [White House briefing, 9/19/06]

Now it appears the Bush administration is allowing its confidence in Maliki to slip. At the State Department briefing this afternoon, spokesman Sean McCormack repeatedly refused to assert that the administration now has “confidence” in Maliki:

QUESTION: Do you still think that al-Maliki is the right guy to lead this…

MCCORMACK: He is the person that was elected by the Iraqi people. And it was decided upon among the leadership of the various political factions he would be the prime minister. […]

QUESTION: But do you think — you’re not as vested in most places like you are in Iraq. So are you still confident in al- Maliki’s leadership?

MCCORMACK: Look, there’s a lot at stake, absolutely, for the Iraqi people, for the future of the Middle East. And Prime Minister Maliki is the person that was elected by the Iraqi people to lead Iraq. And we’re working closely with him. […]

QUESTION: It’s kind of conspicuous that you’re not willing to say that you’re confident in him, even if you’re standing by his side.

MCCORMACK: You know, again, it’s not a matter of getting the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval from the United States government or any other government. Ultimately, this government has to act on behalf of the Iraqi people.

The fact that the administration is backing away from Maliki is a concession that the premise of its “surge” strategy is failing. Back in January, when he first announced the escalation, Bush explained that purpose of increasing U.S. forces was to help advance Iraqi political transition and national reconciliation.

Censure resolutions in the House.

Mon, 2007-08-06 11:42

Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) has introduced two censure resolutions in the House, mirroring those offered by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) in the Senate. The resolutions condemn the “president, vice president and the attorney general for misconduct regarding our military involvement in Iraq and for their repeated assaults on the rule of law at home.” The House resolutions have 19 original cosponsors. See the list here.

Bush mum on Bonds.

Mon, 2007-08-06 11:32

Last week, ThinkProgress reported that “Barry Bonds’ homerun race puts President Bush’s steroids record in the spotlight.” As managing general partner of the Texas Rangers in the early 90s, Bush presided over a club rife with steroid allegations. We noted, “Should Bonds break the home run record sometime this week, Bush will face the question of whether or not he should call to congratulate the new all-time home run king and give legitimacy to a tainted record.” Radar Online followed up on the story and reports:

When contacted by Radar last week, various White House spokesmen declined to go on record about whether America’s most powerful baseball fan was going to publicly congratulate or condemn Bonds after he tied or broke Hank Aaron’s home-run record (Bonds tied the record Saturday night in San Diego).

Perino: FISA Bill Simply ‘Returns Law To Its Original Intent’

Mon, 2007-08-06 10:48

Yesterday, President Bush signed into law an expansion of his domestic spying powers, legislation that the Washington Post called “as reckless as it was unnecessary.” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino appeared on Fox and Friends this morning to defend the new law, saying it was the “bare minimum of what Mike McConnell, the DNI, said he needed.”

She added, “And I see today that some people are saying that this is a wild expansion of powers for the president. That could not be further from the truth. Only in a Democratic spin room could they come up with expansion of powers when you have to — when what we actually did was return the law to its original intent.” Watch it:

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Perino is the one who has been spending too much time in the spin room. The White House-backed legislation goes far beyond the original intent of FISA. It gives Gonzales “sole authority” to spy on people “reasonably believed to be outside the United States.” Instead of the FISA court overseeing the program and ensuring the protection of Americans’ civil liberties, Gonzales and McConnell have full responsibility. The role of of the court is nothing more than a “rubber stamp.”

Additionally, the White House rejected a narrower bill agreed to by both McConnell and the congressional leadership, which contained “three points” McConnell said the Bush administration “needed.” “We had an agreement with DNI McConnell,” said Stacey Bernards, spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), “and then the White House quashed the agreement.”

Read more about FISA in today’s Progress Report, and sign up to receive it in your inbox each day HERE.

Transcript: (more…)

Flashback: Aug. 6, 2001.

Mon, 2007-08-06 10:20

Six years ago today, President Bush received a classified intelligence briefing that warned bin Laden was determined to strike inside the U.S. Bush was described as being “carefree” on the day he received the briefing at his Crawford ranch in Aug. 2001. Condoleezza Rice later dismissed the urgency of the briefing, claiming it was “not a warning” but rather an “historical memo.”

Carpetbagger has more.

O’Hanlon And Pollack Call For Another ‘Six Months Or So’ In Iraq

Mon, 2007-08-06 09:40

Last week, in their now infamous New York Times op-ed, Brookings Institution analysts Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack declared “there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.”

On Fox News Sunday yesterday, O’Hanlon and Pollack put a timeframe on their call for stay the course: six months. “It’s basically saying nothing more dramatic than give it six more months or so, maybe nine more months,” said O’Hanlon. “I agree with Mike entirely that we can’t give this much more time,” added Pollack. Watch it:

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The media watchdogs at FAIR noted in 2006 that New York Times columnist Tom Friedman had been repeatedly claiming the “decisive” six months in Iraq were right around the corner. FAIR report that Friedman’s “‘decisive’ six months have lasted two and a half years.”

Many in the blogosphere warned that O’Hanlon and Pollack were engaging in the same tactic. As Atrios has frequently noted, many proponents of the war have offered “Friedman Units (F.U.)” — i.e. a continual “six-month period that would be required in order to determine the outcome of the Iraq War” — as a way to seek public acquiescence for the occupation.

This is not the first time O’Hanlon and Pollack have called for six months to bring stability to Iraq. On March 1, 2007, O’Hanlon penned an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal arguing for the same extension he called for yesterday:

There are good reasons to give the war effort, now almost four years old, another six to nine months before concluding that the current strategy should be discarded and a much different one…

One year earlier — on March 2, 2006 — Pollack told students at Georgetown that there was “a critical six month window of opportunity to bring some form of stability to Iraq.”

As Gregory Djerejian wrote on Friday, O’Hanlon and Pollack appear to be perpetually “guilty of rose colored glasses” when it comes to Iraq.

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Washington Post Hires ‘Party Of Death’ Author To Lead ‘Discussion Group’ On Morality

Mon, 2007-08-06 08:46

In 2006, National Review columnist Ramesh Ponnuru appeared on Fox News and claimed that the “journalistic elite was a functional ally of the party of death.”

This week, Ponnuru officially joins the “party of death” himself, signing on with the “journalistic elites” at the Washington Post.

At the Post, he will lead a new Discussion Group on “the future of conservatism” entitled Right Matters. One of the issues Ponnuru will focus on is “the state’s role in enforcing morality.” Ponnuru’s focus on “morality” in his new job is not surprising, as he has developed a name for himself by espousing radical, incendiary views on social issues, particularly abortion.

Here are the types of arguments that the Washington Post now chooses to endorse on its website:

- “A coalition of special interests ranging from Planned Parenthood to Hollywood” now owns the Democratic party and “liberals use animal rights to displace human rights.” [LINK]

- Having an abortion is worse than killing a kitten. [LINK]

- “[H]uman beings in the embryonic, fetal, and infant stages of development” can “perform mental functions.” [LINK]

With the addition of Ponnuru, the Washington Post is bolstering its deep bench of conservative pundits. In addition to its often hawkish editorial board, right-wing columnists Charles Krauthammer, George Will, and Robert Novak fill the op-ed pages of the Post.

UPDATE: Michael Gerson, President Bush’s former chief speechwriter and the so-called “conscience of the White House,” is also a columnist for the Post.