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Updated: 2 hours 27 min ago

Giuliani’s weak response to why he blew off the ISG.

Wed, 2007-06-20 08:17

Yesterday, Newsday reported that Rudy Giuliani had to resign from the Iraq Study Group because he was too busy attending fundraising events. His campaign responds, “The facts are these — as someone considered a potential presidential candidate, the Mayor didn’t want the group’s work to become a political football. That, coupled with time constraints, led to his decision.” TPM’s Greg Sargent debunks Giuliani’s weak excuse.

Decision day for Webb, Mikulski.

Wed, 2007-06-20 07:43

The Senate will vote today on whether to weaken proposals to make our cars run farther on less gas. The current energy bill includes a provision that requires all cars and light trucks to get 35 miles/gallon by 2020 — the first fuel economy increase in decades. Sen Carl Levin (D-MI) has proposed an amendment favored by automakers that would severely weaken these standards. The two key swing votes in the Senate are Jim Webb (D-VA) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MA). Call their offices toll-free through the Capitol switchboard at (800) 828-0498, and tell them to take the climate crisis seriously and oppose the Levin energy amendment.

Ben Shapiro: Palestinians are ‘rotten to the core.’

Wed, 2007-06-20 07:26

Right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro, who recently wrote a book riddled with “numerous factual errors, misquotations and misrepresentations of people’s views,” today writes a article that concludes there is a “radical evil” within every member of the Palestinian population:

The problem runs deeper than a few figureheads. The Palestinian Arab population is rotten to the core. There are many to be blamed: Yasser Arafat, who lined his pockets with cash and subsidized murder while playing the victim of oppression. […]

But in the end, the blame must lie with the Palestinian Arabs themselves. They have accepted their role with relish. They are as responsible for their government’s longstanding evil as the Germans were for the Nazis’.

Congress to investigate Bush’s signing statements.

Wed, 2007-06-20 06:46

After a recent GAO report found that federal agencies ignored 30 percent of the laws President Bush objected to in signing statements last year, lawmakers now “say they plan to dig deeper into the Bush administration’s use of bill-signing statements as ways to circumvent Congressional intent.” Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) said that “their next step would be to explore the signing statements to determine the broad extent of their impact.”

ThinkFast: June 20, 2007

Wed, 2007-06-20 06:01

President Bush will issue the third veto of his presidency today, killing a bill “that would have eased restraints on federally funded embryonic stem cell research — work that supporters say holds promise for fighting disease.”

Senate leaders “moved Tuesday to force a vote on organized labor’s top legislative priority” — the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation that would make it far easier to organize workers. “But Republican leaders vowed to kill the measure, voicing confidence that they could defeat a motion cutting off debate and bringing it to a vote this week.”

New York’s state Assembly, backed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D-NY), approved legislation yesterday to “legalize same-sex marriage after an emotional three-hour debate, but the bill is not expected to be acted on any time soon in the Republican-led state Senate.”

“The Justice Department has opted out of at least 10 whistle-blower lawsuits alleging fraud and corruption in government reconstruction and security contracts in Iraq, and has spent years investigating additional fraud cases but has yet to try to recover any money.”

“At least 40 percent of State Department diplomats who have served in danger zones suffer some symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder,” an American Foreign Service Association official told Congress yesterday. “The State Department has provided limited help for diplomats under duress,” including dispatching just two psychiatrists to Iraq. (more…)

Gingrich ‘rewrites 9/11 history.’

Tue, 2007-06-19 21:34

A new advertisement by Newt Gingrich linking the threat of terrorism to the immigration debate “rewrites 9/11 history.”

“Mohamed Atta, and several other 9/11 hijackers were in the United States illegally,” Gingrich begins the ad. Photos of Atta and other 9/11 hijackers appear and the word “Illegally” — printed in bold, red letters — flashes over the screen.

“Today, more than five years since that tragic day, our borders remain open to gangs, drug dealers and terrorists,” says Gingrich in the ad.

However, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, Gingrich’s statement is incorrect.

Atta was in the country legally on 9/11,” said Janice Kephart, a former counsel to the 9/11 Commission and co-author of the commission’s report on 9/11 and Terrorist Travel.

All of the 19 men who hijacked planes on September 11th, including Atta, entered the United States on a tourist or student visa, issued by the former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, according to the 9/11 Commission.

Watch the ad:


Tue, 2007-06-19 19:58

Number of U.S. Foreign Service Officers at the Baghdad Embassy, out of 200, who are proficient in Arabic.

Althouse’s Clinton obsession.

Tue, 2007-06-19 19:13

Conservative law professor and blogger Ann Althouse last year raised a storm with a post titled, “Let’s take a look at those breasts,” attacking Feministing’s Jessica Valenti for “wear[ing] a tight knit top that draws attention to her breasts” in a photograph with President Clinton. Now, Althouse has turned her analytical powers to a video featuring Bill and Hillary Clinton doing a spoof of the final episode of the Sopranos:

Bill says “No onion rings?” and Hillary responds “I’m looking out for ya.” Now, the script says onion rings, because that’s what the Sopranos were eating in that final scene, but I doubt if any blogger will disagree with my assertion that, coming from Bill Clinton, the “O” of an onion ring is a vagina symbol.

Althouse’s students at the University of Wisconsin must feel so proud.

Brookings Analyst O’Hanlon: No One Can ‘Question The Forthrightness’ Of Petraeus

Tue, 2007-06-19 16:51

In today’s Washington Times, Brookings’ military analyst Michael O’Hanlon pens an op-ed attacking Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-NV) recent remarks about Gen. David Petraeus, calling them “unseemly and unfair.”

Reid last week argued that Petraeus’ early reports from Iraq indicate he is not “in touch with what’s going on in Baghdad.” Petraeus last week claimed life in Iraq is showing “astonishing signs of normalcy,” seemingly ignoring a Pentagon report which found violence in Iraq has remained “relatively unchanged” since the escalation took effect. O’Hanlon’s op-ed appears to posit that “questioning the forthrightness” of Petraeus is unacceptable.

In a statement for ThinkProgress, Center for American Progress senior fellow and former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb responds, noting that O’Hanlon failed to comment on instances where Petraeus has inserted himself into politics:

I was pleased to note that Brookings fellow Michael O’Hanlon agrees that we need an outside group to check on his friend and former Princeton classmate General David Petraeus, a point I argued last month in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

However this glosses over the fact that not only was General Petraeus too optimistic about the training program of Iraq’s forces but that he put this over-optimistic spin in a Washington Post op-ed right before the last presidential election. If Doctor General Petraeus is as smart as O’Hanlon, he had to know that such an op-ed was bound to have an impact on the 2004 elections.

O’Hanlon claims that Sen. Reid “has also shown little interest as majority leader in helping devise a ‘Plan B’ that might replace the admittedly flailing strategy of the president, short of nearly complete and nearly immediate withdrawal.” Reid has led a coalition that passed a timetable for withdrawal in the Senate, and he is the co-sponosor of legislation that would withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Iraq by April 1, 2008. O’Hanlon may not like it, but Reid is certainly involved in “devising a Plan B.”

Atrios notes O’Hanlon’s contribution to a “Plan B” has been to simply inform us that “2007 will be make or break time in Iraq,” all the while attacking anyone who wants to act on that statement.

Snow clears up what Bush hasn’t done in the Middle East.

Tue, 2007-06-19 15:51

In today’s White House press briefing, a reporter asked Tony Snow whether the President “feels any responsibility” for the Palestinian split. Snow’s unilluminating response:

I think what you really need to be thinking about is the President of the United States did not bind people’s hands behind their back and throw them from rooftops. The President of the United States did not mascarade around with masks pulled over the face and slay people who disagreed with Hamas.

Former Stevens aides questioned in FBI probe.

Tue, 2007-06-19 15:21

“Former Capitol Hill aides to Sen. Ted Stevens are being questioned by the FBI as part of an investigation into the senator’s relationship with a wealthy contractor. It is the latest indication the Justice Department is scrutinizing the seven-term Alaska Republican in a public corruption investigation that has led to charges against state lawmakers and contractors.”

[T]he FBI…recently questioned former Stevens aides about Bill Allen, a contractor who has pleaded guilty to bribing Alaska legislators.

Allen is the founder of VECO Corp., an Alaska-based oil field services and engineering company that has had tens of millions of dollars worth of federal contracts. Allen also oversaw renovations on Stevens’ home in 2000, according to carpenters who worked on the house.

The FBI is looking closely at that project, which more than doubled the size of Stevens’ home in the ski resort community of Girdwood, about 40 miles south of Anchorage. As recently as two weeks ago, FBI agent Randy Wolverton requested planning records pertaining to the renovation, according to city documents.

CNN’s Alina Cho on Mitt Romney:

Tue, 2007-06-19 15:09

“He looks great, sounds great, smells great.” But is it the smell of “English leather…Aqua Velva, the sort of mature man’s shaving cream”?

UPDATE: Michael Stickings has commentary.

70 percent:

Tue, 2007-06-19 14:19

Number of Americans who believe that the economy is getting worse, according to a new Gallup poll, “the most negative reading in nearly six years.”

CIA General Counsel Nominee Stands By Torture

Tue, 2007-06-19 13:23

Today, the Senate Intelligence Committee held a confirmation hearing for John Rizzo, President Bush’s nominee to become the C.I.A.’s general counsel.

Rizzo has served as an acting general counsel “off and on for the past six years, serving without Senate confirmation.” During his tenure, the CIA has engaged in a wide variety of highly questionable and potentially illegal interrogation practices.

In 2002, Rizzo approved of a memo drafted by then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee that stretched the definition of torture in order to make torture permissible in the course of an interrogation. To be torture, the Bybee memo concluded, 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.”

Sen. Ron Wyden asked Rizzo at the hearing, “Do you think you should have objected at the time?” to the Bybee definition of torture. Rizzo answered, “I honestly — I can’t say I should have objected at the time.” To which Wyden replied, “I think that’s unfortunate because it seems to me that language on a very straightforward reading is over the line. And that’s what I think all of us wanted to hear — is that you wish you had objected.” Watch it:

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Also during the hearing, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) asked Rizzo “whether we’ve ever rendered detainees to countries which use torture.” Rizzo said “it’s difficult to give a yes or no answer” in a public hearing and asked that he provide an answer in closed session. Levin noted that in Dec. 2005, Bush said “we do not render to countries that use torture.”

The Constitution according to Jack Bauer.

Tue, 2007-06-19 12:57

During a recent legal conference, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia defended television character Jack Bauer, the “maverick federal agent” who “routinely tortures terrorists.”

The conservative jurist stuck up for Agent Bauer, arguing that fictional or not, federal agents require latitude in times of great crisis. “Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. … He saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” Judge Scalia said. Then, recalling Season 2, where the agent’s rough interrogation tactics saved California from a terrorist nuke, the Supreme Court judge etched a line in the sand.

“Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?” Judge Scalia challenged his fellow judges. “Say that criminal law is against him? ‘You have the right to a jury trial?’ Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer? I don’t think so.

“So the question is really whether we believe in these absolutes. And ought we believe in these absolutes.”

Steve Benen picks apart Scalia’s comments.

“Pregnant Iraqi women

Tue, 2007-06-19 12:17

who have been forced from their homes by worsening violence are obtaining illegal abortions because they are unable to get medical care for themselves and their unborn, according to a new report by a national humanitarian group. … Rape, theft and drug addiction have also become ‘commonplace’ among the displaced.”

Snow Responds To Potentially Illegal Use Of RNC Accounts: Clinton Did It Too

Tue, 2007-06-19 10:44

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee yesterday released a report documenting how White House officials have regularly used RNC and Bush-Cheney ‘04 e-mail accounts for official government business, in apparent violation of the Hatch Act. The report also found that the RNC has overseen “extensive destruction” of these e-mails, which would likely violate the Presidential Records Act.

During yesterday’s press briefing, White House spokesman Tony Snow brushed aside this direct evidence of potential illegality. His response: Clinton did it too. “Those email accounts were set up on a model based on the prior administration, which had done it the same way, in order to try to avoid Hatch Act violations.” Watch it:

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Snow’s statement is false. In 1993, President Clinton’s then-Assistant to the President John Podesta issued a staff memo clearly stating that all administration e-mails dealing with official business had to be “incorporated into an official recordkeeping system,” stressing that no “e-mail document that is a Presidential record should be deleted.”

The Clinton administration’s policy also made clear that personal and political e-mail accounts — which are generally exempt from the Presidential Records Act — could not be used for official business. Indeed, the Bush administration has seemingly implemented a policy opposite of the Clinton administration’s.

Read the full memo HERE.

Transcript: (more…)

Mortars hit close to Maliki’s office in Green Zone.

Tue, 2007-06-19 10:38

Militants fired mortar rounds at the U.S.-guarded Green Zone this morning, “with five of them striking near the office of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and one crashing adjacent to the American post exchange store.” No casualties were reported. In a report released on June 5, the U.N. said that “insurgents had bombarded the Green Zone with rockets and mortar fire more than 80 times since March, reportedly killing at least 26 people.”

Thompson Links Reid To 9/11 Conspiracy Theorists, Claims He Is ‘Encouraging Our Enemies’

Tue, 2007-06-19 09:54

In his latest ABC News podcast, former senator Fred Thompson suggests that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) criticized outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Peter Pace last week to appeal to “fringe” anti-American elements “who think the 9/11 attacks were an inside job.”

Reid “made his statement about General Pace on a conference call with fringe elements of the blogosphere who think we’re the bad guys,” Thompson says. “Whether he means to or not, he’s encouraging our enemies to believe that they are winning the critical war of will.”

Thompson also compares 9/11 conspiracy theories to claims that the war in Iraq was a “sinister Republican plot.” He says, “Reid has led the attack on the administration, with Nancy Pelosi, charging it lied and tricked America into supporting the war.” Thompson claims that “multiple hearings and investigations into pre-war intelligence findings” have “debunked this paranoid myth.”


Thompson’s attempt to link Reid to conspiracy theorists is completely baseless. Thompson also gets his facts wrong. In fact, multiple hearings and investigations have conclusively shown that intelligence was manipulated to send this country into war. Among many examples:

– The Pentagon’s inspector general found that former Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith developed, produced, and disseminated “alternative intelligence assessments” to falsely claim that a relationship existed between Iraq and al Qaeda.

– The White House set up intelligence stovepipes to “get information they wanted directly to the top leadership.” Vice President Cheney and company relied on information provided by the Iraqi National Congress, an exile group headed by Ahmad Chalabi. “Chalabi’s defector reports were…flowing from the Pentagon directly to the Vice-President’s office, and then on to the President, with little prior evaluation by intelligence professionals.” State Dept. intelligence expert Greg Thielmann said that prior to the Iraq war that “garbage was being shoved straight to the President.”

UPDATE: Bob Geiger, one of the bloggers on Reid’s conference call, responds to Thompson HERE.

Digg It!

Transcript: (more…)

Santorum making film with ‘Passion of the Christ’ producer.

Tue, 2007-06-19 09:20

Fmr Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) “is in early talks” with Stephen McEveety, the producer of “The Passion of the Christ,” to develop “a movie project” on “three Iranian brothers who take disparate paths in their lives, including one who becomes a terrorist.” The project doesn’t have a title yet, but Santorum has previously said that he wants to work in movies, so he can “tell the other side of the story.”