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Bush less trusted than Putin by U.S. allies.

Wed, 2007-06-27 13:05

“In one measure of Bush’s unpopularity,” a new Pew poll shows “he is less trusted on foreign policy than Russian President Vladimir Putin by allies Britain, Germany and Canada, even as faith in Putin has plummeted.”

The poll also found that majorities in 26 countries now have a less favorable view of the United States than they did in 2002. Also, “opinions of the American people have declined over the past five years in 23 of 33 countries where trends are available.”

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Third Second Doolittle aide talking to feds.

Wed, 2007-06-27 12:45

Pete Evich, the former legislative director for scandal-plagued Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), “said Wednesday he was recently contacted by federal investigators in their probe of Doolittle’s ties to jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff.” Evich is the second Doolittle aide to acknowledge their contacts with the feds, suggesting “prosecutors are widening their investigation in the wake of an FBI raid on Doolittle’s home in April that led him to give up his seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.”

Senate Conservatives Aggressively Obstructing Critical Legislation

Wed, 2007-06-27 12:12

Senate conservatives in the 110th Congress are obstructing and blocking legislation at a rate more than double that of the past two Congresses combined.

During the first six months of the current Congress, there have been 13 cloture votes on motions to proceed — “each one wasting days of Senate time.” In comparison, there were just four cloture votes on motions to proceed during the the first sessions of the 108th and 109th Congresses combined.

The result: The House of Representatives has passed 239 pieces of legislation during the 110th Congress yet few have made it through the Senate, with conservatives “objecting to just about every major piece of legislation” that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has tried to bring up.

Watch a video highlighting their obstruction:

The legislation being blocked by right-wing senators has broad public support:

– Conservatives blocked debate on raising the minimum wage (54-43, Roll Call Vote #23)
– Conservatives blocked debate ethics reforms (Rejected 51-46, Roll Call Vote #16)
– Conservatives blocked debate on funding for renewable energy (Rejected 57-36, Roll Call Vote #223)
– Conservatives blocked a vote on funding for the intelligence community (Rejected 41-40, Roll Call Vote #130)
– Conservatives delayed legislation fulfilling the 9/11 Commission recommendations (Passed 97-0, Roll Call Vote #53)

In April, Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-MS) acknowledged, “The strategy of being obstructionist can work or fail… so far it’s working for us.” It just isn’t working for the American people.

Durbin: Judge Misled Senate About Role In Forming Detainee Policy As WH Lawyer

Wed, 2007-06-27 11:52

Last year, when Brett Kavanaugh, a former White House lawyer, was sworn-in as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, President Bush said he chose him because of “the strength of his character.” That character has now come into serious question.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote a letter to Kavanaugh yesterday, accusing him of misleading the Senate about his role in formulating detainee policies as a lawyer in the Bush Administration.

Durbin says a recent Washington Post article contradicts Kavanaugh’s sworn testimony:

In [the Washington Post] article, you are reported to have participated in a “heated” White House meeting in 2002 about whether U.S. citizens who had been declared enemy combatants should be given access to lawyers. The information in this article was confirmed today by a report on National Public Radio.

These reports appear to contradict sworn testimony you gave to the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 9, 2006 at your nomination hearing. […]

I asked: “What did you know about Mr. Haynes’s role in crafting the Adminstration’s detention and interrogation policies?”

You testified: “Senator, I did not — I was not involved and am not involved in the questions about the rules governing detention of combatants — and so I do not have the involvement with that.”

In the Post article, which is part of a series on Vice President Dick Cheney, Kavanaugh is said to have argued that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, for whom he had clerked, “would never accept absolute presidential discretion to declare a U.S. citizen an enemy and lock him up without giving him an opportunity to be represented and heard.”

A spokesman for Kavanaugh claimed his testimony was “accurate.”

Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation testimony was accurate, and Judge Kavanaugh will continue to carefully address recusal issues based on the law and the facts of each case.

Durbin requested that Kavanaugh “provide the Senate Judiciary Committee with an explanation for this apparent contradiction” as well as recuse himself from “all pending and subsequent cases involving detainees and enemy combatants.”

UPDATE: Jonathan Adler at National Review’s Bench Memos blog posts on the letter too, which is noteworthy for his lack of attempt to either defend Kavanaugh or dispel Durbin’s accusation.

Senate kills efforts to make legalization more difficult.

Wed, 2007-06-27 11:51

“The Senate today killed a Republican proposal to require all adult illegal immigrants to return home temporarily in order to qualify for permanent lawful status in this country. Also defeated was a Democratic bid to restrict legal status to those who have been in the United States for four years.” Bill Hing from ImmigrationProf Blog has more.

Texas court backs DeLay, but two charges remain.

Wed, 2007-06-27 11:44

An appeals court in Texas refused today to reinstate a dropped conspiracy charge against former House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R), though the former congressman is still facing two charges of money laundering and conspiring to launder money. The court agreed with a previous judge who threw out the one conspiracy charge because the alleged crime occurred before the law took effect in 2003.

CAUGHT ON TAPE: Cheney Claims Vice President Is ‘An Important Part’ Of Executive Branch

Wed, 2007-06-27 10:57

New evidence bolsters the case that Vice President Cheney himself considers his office to be part of the executive branch (except when he is attempting to avoid accountability and oversight).

Yesterday, ThinkProgress noted Cheney’s claim in 2001 that a congressional probe into his energy task force “would unconstitutionally interfere with the functioning of the executive branch.” Today, a White House video emerged showing Cheney acknowledging:

It’s really a function of the last 50 years or so that the vice president’s become an important part of the executive branch.

Watch it:

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UPDATE: It’s worth noting that Politico’s Mike Allen published an article today claiming that Cheney’s office has “thrown in the towel” and will no longer argue that the VP’s office is not part of the executive branch. As emptywheel and Kagro X explain, this is simply not true.

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Breaking: Domestic Surveillance Docs Subpoenaed

Wed, 2007-06-27 10:18

The Senate Judiciary Committee has subpoenaed the White House, Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, the Justice Department, and the National Security Council for documents related to President Bush’s warrantless domestic surveillance program. AP reports:

Also named in subpoenas signed by committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., were the Justice Department and the National Security Council.

The committee wants documents that might shed light on internal squabbles within the administration over the legality of the program, said a congressional official speaking on condition of anonymity because the subpoenas had not been made public.

Leahy’s committee authorized the subpoenas previously as part of its sweeping investigation into how much influence the White House exerts over the Justice Department and its chief, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

The probe, in its sixth month, began with an investigation into whether administration officials ordered the firings of eight federal prosecutors, for political reasons.

UPDATE: Statement from the Senate Judiciary Committee:

Chairman Leahy issued subpoenas to the Department of Justice, the Office of the White House, the Office of the Vice President and the National Security Council for documents relating to the Committee’s inquiry into the warrantless electronic surveillance program. […]

“Over the past 18 months, this Committee has made no fewer than nine formal requests to the Department of Justice and to the White House, seeking information and documents about the authorization of and legal justification for this program,” Chairman Leahy wrote in letters accompanying the subpoenas to Bush Administration officials. “All requests have been rebuffed. Our attempts to obtain information through testimony of Administration witnesses have been met with a consistent pattern of evasion and misdirection.”

UPDATE II: The committee vote was 13-3, with all Democrats and Sens. Arlen Specter (R-PA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Charles Grassley (R-IA) voting for subpoenas.

Report: ‘Shadow Goverment’ Of Private Contractors Explodes Under Bush

Wed, 2007-06-27 09:45

A new report by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform concludes that, under the Bush administration, the “shadow government of private companies working under federal contract has exploded in size. Between 2000 and 2005, procurement spending increased by over $175 billion dollars, making federal contracts the fastest growing component of federal discretionary spending.”

But while private contractors — such as Halliburton and AshBritt — have been reaping huge profits, “billions of dollars of taxpayer money have been squandered.” Some highlights from the report:

– Halliburton has been the “fastest growing contractor.” Under the Bush administration, federal spending to Halliburton “increased over 600% between 2000 and 2005.” The Government Accountability Office recently found that the government has wasted at least $2.7 billion to Halliburton on “overpriced contracts or undocumented costs.” At the end of 2005, Cheney’s stock options were valued at more than $8 million, a 3,281 percent gain from 2004.

– Growth in federal contracting exceeds inflation rate. In 2000, the value of federal contracts totaled $203 billion. By 2005, the value was $377.5 billion, an 86 percent increase. The new report notes that this “growth in contracting was over five times faster than the overall inflation rate and almost twice as fast as the growth in other discretionary federal spending over this period.” A record level of “nearly 40 cents of every discretionary federal dollar now goes to private contractors.”

– Noncompetitive contracts skyrocket. Sole-source and noncompetitive contracts grew by “an even faster rate than overall procurement spending, rising by 115% from $67.5 billion in 2000 to $145 billion in 2005.” Many of these no-bid contracts during the Iraq war and Katrina reconstruction went to Bush administration cronies who wasted money and performed shoddy work.

In the report’s review of 500 contracts, 118 contracts worth $745.5 billion “experienced significant overcharges, wasteful spending, or mismanagement over the last five years.” A recent report by American Progress Senior Fellow Scott Lilly has more details about the Bush administration’s procurement process problem and what Congress can do to clean up the mess.

UPDATE: The Gavel has video of House oversight chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) discussing the new report.

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Cheney Fan Club Member Jonah Goldberg: ‘It’s A Sign Of Integrity That Cheney Doesn’t Care’

Wed, 2007-06-27 09:01

In yesterday’s Los Angeles Times, National Review editor Jonah Goldberg wrote, “I’m a longtime member of a pretty select group: the Dick Cheney Fan Club.” Goldberg appeared on MSNBC with Tucker Carlson to discuss his membership in this exclusive club and to explain the traits in Cheney that he found worthy of admiration.

“[Dick Cheney] just does not care. I think it’s a sign of character and integrity on his part that he just doesn’t care,” Goldberg said, adding, “He’s a serious guy.”

Asked by host Tucker Carlson why some critics have such a strong distaste for Cheney, Goldberg offered this penetrating analysis:

I have no idea. I truly have no idea. I like Dick Cheney — love to have a beer with the guy. I think he is a smart, serious man in American life. I think one of the things that bothers them is he doesn’t care. … He looks like he should be eating a sandwich while he’s [giving a speech]. That’s just the sort of matter-of-fact, eating lunch over the sink, oh yeah and by the way, here’s my view of the world. I love that!

Watch it:

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A March 2004 report by Rep. Henry Waxman’s office documented 51 misleading pre-war statements made by Dick Cheney about the threat posed by Iraq. Cheney has expressed no regret or remorse for having committed the nation to a war on false grounds. Instead, he has continued to propagate one falsehood after another to maintain the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

As the Washington Post has recently detailed at length, Cheney’s harmful impact has been felt far beyond Iraq and extends to everything from denial of due process to torture to deficit spending and environmental degradation.

Cheney’s “matter of fact, eating lunch over the sink” manner of speaking doesn’t alleviate the damaging impact that his ill-conceived, hard-right agenda is having on the nation. It appears Goldberg just “doesn’t care.”

UPDATE: Atrios notes the title and cover of Jonah’s new book. Crooks and Liars has more.

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Transcript: (more…)

End of the Blair era.

Wed, 2007-06-27 08:59

“It’s official. Tony Blair tendered his resignation as prime minister of Great Britain in a private meeting with Queen Elizabeth II this afternoon at Buckingham Palace. Blair’s former chancellor, Gordon Brown, took the helm shortly thereafter, declaring outside 10 Downing Street, ‘Let the work of change begin.‘”

Rumsfeld Shopping Memoir On Iraq Failures For ‘Large Cash Advance’

Wed, 2007-06-27 08:01

The ever-shrinking group of Americans who believe invading Iraq was a good idea may soon receive some support, in the form of a memoir by one of its key architects, Donald Rumsfeld.

The former defense secretary has the publishing world “abuzz” over the possibility that he may write a book “justifying the military strategy for the war in Iraq.”

While a deal has not yet been struck, Mr. Rumsfeld has toured New York publishing houses with an outline of his book in an effort to gauge how much information he would have to disclose in the memoir in order to justify a large cash advance. […]

[T]he Web site Galleycat reported a sighting last month of Mr. Rumsfeld visiting Penguin books, whose Sentinel imprint specializes in conservative subjects, and he is believed to have spoken with five or six other New York-based publishers to test the waters and learn more about the process.

Rumsfeld’s memoir is unlikely to be deeply revelatory or candid about the administration’s failures. When Bush’s former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill authored a highly critical account of the White House, Rumsfeld called him to complain. “‘What is this business? Someone tells me you’re going to write a, you know, one of those’ — what do you call them? Sour grapes or — you know, one of those insider things,” Rumsfeld said he told O’Neill.

Moreover, Rumsfeld — who once authored “Rumsfeld’s Rules,” a manual that encouraged presidential aides to quickly address mistakes — has suggested he won’t concede any mistakes in the Iraq war strategy. Rumsfeld said last year, “Of course the implication that there was something wrong with the war plan is amusing.” Indeed, “amusing” appears to be the best description for Rumsfeld’s forthcoming memoir.

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Dead bodies and blood contaminate Tigris River.

Wed, 2007-06-27 07:23

Iraqis used to love fried river fish, but are afraid to eat anything caught in the Tigris nowadays, since there are so many dead bodies floating in the river.” They were dumped there “during the sectarian blood-letting that has divided the capital.”

Senate committee approves war czar.

Wed, 2007-06-27 06:54

In a 22-2 vote, the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday approved the nomination of Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute to become the Bush administration’s new war czar. A vote in the full Senate “could come this week.” (See more on Lute HERE and HERE.)

ThinkFast: June 27, 2007

Wed, 2007-06-27 06:09

A new poll finds that “liberal ideas” are gaining with young Americans, who are “more likely than the general public to favor a government-run universal health care insurance system, an open-door policy on immigration and the legalization of gay marriage.”

In its forth and final installment on the influence and power of Dick Cheney, the Washington Post details the Vice President’s quiet control over energy and environmental laws. Paul Hoffman, a Cheney appointee at the Interior Department, explained, “His genius is that he builds networks and puts the right people in the right places, and then trusts them to make well-informed decisions that comport with his overall vision.”

The number of adults without health insurance jumped by 2 million from 2005 to 2006, according to a new report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I would wish him well, and ask him to please bring the troops (in Iraq) home,” said SiCKO filmmaker Michael Moore when asked what “one thing” he would like to say to President Bush.

“The United States has invested $19 billion to train and equip nearly 350,000 Iraqi soldiers and police since toppling Saddam Hussein, but the ability of those forces to provide security remains in doubt, according to the findings of a bipartisan congressional investigation to be released today.” (more…)

Justice Department Lies, Whitewashes Administration’s Failure To Comply With FOIA

Tue, 2007-06-26 19:06

In Dec. 2005, President Bush issued an executive order mandating that federal agencies better administrate the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The order stipulated that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would submit reports documenting agencies’ progress in meeting FOIA “milestones.”

In its June 2007 report, the DoJ proclaimed “diligent and measurable progress” in FOIA compliance across the federal government. FOIA activists, however, claim the DoJ has wildly overstated its success, as the new DoJ report distorts and misleads on key benchmarks:

Claim #1: Agencies are making “significant progress” with FOIA. The DOJ reported that more than half of the agencies successfully met their milestones, “and that 90 percent made meaningful progress.” But the report’s graphics show that only 11 of 25 agencies met all their milestones, and three agencies did not meet a single target.

Claim #2: Agencies have decreased the number of unprocessed FOIA requests. “The report cites no data to support the claim. … The number of unprocessed requests among the 25 agencies highlighted actually increased 13 percent.” In fact, several agencies, such as Housing and Urban Development, State Department, and Homeland Security, piled on FOIA backlogs at faster rate than they received requests. “Three agencies — NASA, the CIA and Treasury — reported fewer requests but their backlogs still rose.”

Bush’s DoJ has opposed FOIA reform and open-government efforts for years. In the 109th Congress, the Department “squelched efforts to pass the OPEN Government Act.” Last month, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) blocked a bipartisan attempt to update FOIA because of the Justice Department’s concern that “it could force them to reveal sensitive information.

According to Meredith Fuchs of the National Security Archives, the report “is essentially smoke and mirrors designed to discourage Congress from enacting a law that would mandate improvement in FOIA processing.”

President Bush on Tony Blair:

Tue, 2007-06-26 18:35

I’ve heard he’s been called Bush’s poodle. He’s bigger than that. This is just background noise, a distraction from big things.” Bush added, “Tony’s great skill, and I wish I had it, is that he’s very articulate. I wish I was a better speaker. … He’s much more kind of lofty and eloquent than I am.”

Cheney’s office dismisses critics.

Tue, 2007-06-26 18:20

“Vice President Cheney’s office Tuesday dismissed Democratic claims that Cheney is putting himself above the law because his office refused to grant access to an oversight agency that is tasked with reviewing how classified information is handled. ‘Constitutional issues in government are generally best left for discussion when unavoidable disputes arise in a specific context instead of in theoretical discussions,’ Cheney’s chief of staff, David Addington, said in a letter to Sen. John Kerry (D-MA).” Kerry called Addington’s response “legalistic” and unacceptable. RawStory has more.

Pentagon Revises Position On Gays In The Military

Tue, 2007-06-26 16:48

Today, the Service Members Legal Defense Network released a Pentagon statement that “includes the first language from Pentagon leaders suggesting that lesbian and gay service personnel should continue to use their skills in support of national security efforts, even after facing dismissal under the law.” The statement reads:

These separated members have the opportunity to continue to serve their nation and national security by putting their abilities to use by way of civilian employment with other Federal agencies, the Department of Defense, or in the private sector, such as with a government contractor.

The Pentagon’s statement recognizing gays marks a positive step forward. In the 1990s, the military’s policy was that “homosexuality is incompatible with military service,” claiming the prohibition was necessary for “group cohesion.” In March, backed by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Gen. Peter Pace controversially claimed that the “military should not condone immoral acts,” referring to homosexuality.

But the Pentagon still will not call for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Since the policy was instituted in 1993, at least 11,000 servicemembers, hundreds of whom had key speciality skills such as training in Arabic, have been forced out of service. With our currently overstretched armed forces, the military could lure as many as 41,000 recruits if gays could serve openly.

With the State Department facing a dearth of Arabic translators, yesterday, Reps. Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Gary Ackerman (D-NY) urged the Department to hire bilingual gays expelled from the military as a result of DADT:

We are writing to urge the Department of State to take a specific step — the hiring of our unfairly dismissed, language-qualified soldiers — so our nation might salvage something positive from the lamentable results of this benighted policy. … under-investment in critical foreign languages presents an urgent and immediate threat to our national security, a threat that cannot be ignored while we train new foreign-language experts.

Read the Pentagon’s statement HERE.

Support for war reaches new low.

Tue, 2007-06-26 15:58

“A new low of 30 percent of Americans say they support the U.S. war in Iraq and, for the first time, most Americans say they don’t believe it is morally justified,” a new CNN poll finds.

Nearly two-thirds of those polled want withdrawal of U.S. troops to begin — either in part or in total. … Asked whether the U.S. action in Iraq is morally justified, 54 percent said no, versus 42 percent who said yes and 4 percent with no opinion. […]

Support for President Bush matched his lowest rank ever in a CNN poll, with 32 percent saying they approve the way he is handling his job, and 66 percent saying they disapprove, according to the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll.