Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Cafferty Blasts Detainee Bill

The House of Representatives voted 253-168 today to enact a bill governing military tribunals for suspected terrorists and treatment of detainees. The Senate is expected to vote tomorrow, following debate on five amendments to be offered to the bill. Among many other problems, the bill would retroactively amend the War Crimes Act so that some acts of torture committed since 1997 that are illegal under the old law would be effectively pardoned. Jack Cafferty comments.

YouTube video (1:53)

Anti-Wilson Ad

Heather Wilson (R) represents New Mexico's 1st congressional district in Congress. She famously cried after seeing Janet Jackson's nipple on TV and said, "It was nasty." She is opposed by Democratic challenger Patrica A. Madrid, currently New Mexico's attorney general. The last poll showed the two candidates locked in a dead heat.

Almost forgot! Heather Wilson is using phone sex money in her campaign, from both Roy Blunt's "Rely on Your Beliefs" PAC and Chuck Hagel's "Sandhills" PAC.

YouTube video (0:37)

Anti-O'Donnell Ad

Rick O'Donnell is the Republican candidate for Congress in Colorado's 7th district. (The seat was vacated by Rep. Bob Beauprez (R), who is running for governor and who currently lags Democratic opponent Bill Ritter by 16 points.) O'Donnell faces Democrat Ed Perlmutter, a well-respected Colorado attorney with a strong record of public and private achievements.

Oh, and O'Donnell is the recipient of phone sex money via Roy Blunt's "Rely on Your Beliefs" PAC and Chuck Hagel's "Sandhills" PAC.

YouTube video (0:30)

Jon Stewart and John Oliver on Geneva Conventions

The Daily Show examines the grey areas Bush has discovered in the 1949 Geneva Conventions, particularly the prohibition on "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." John Oliver uses a graph to illustrate how the most minor mistreatment might outrage the dignity of an Archbishop Desmond Tutu, while even eating a horse rectum for a dollar would be acceptable for "the bottomless void of shame that is Paris Hilton."

YouTube video (8:27)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Musharraf Visits The Daily Show

Jon Stewart serves the Pakistani dictator a Twinkie and green tea, than abruptly asks, "Where's Osama bin Laden?"

YouTube video (10:37)

The NIE: Where's the Disclaimer?

A friend once commented, "Every book that's written about the human brain should carry the following disclaimer: 'Caution. This is a book about an organ that was written by the organ itself.'" The same sentiment might apply to the recently released key judgements of the National Intelligence Estimate: They were written by our sundry intelligence agencies about themselves.

We should not be surprised to find this sentence, in which the agencies congratulate themselves, opening the document with fanfare:

United States-led counterterrorism efforts have seriously damaged the leadership of al-Qa'ida and disrupted its operations.

Lovely. You all get medals of honor (and thanks for the precious glottal stop.)

For all the past discussion about the precise wording of these intelligence documents, about subjecting every word to miniscule review so that it means no more and no less than what it says, the document doesn't parse well and one occasionally senses that the authors are laboring to find a word, any word, to round off a sentence or thought. Take this example:

Concomitant vulnerabilities in the jihadist movement have emerged that, if fully exposed and exploited, could begin to slow the spread of the movement. They include dependence on the continuation of Muslim-related conflicts, the limited appeal of the jihadists' radical ideology, the emergence of respected voices of moderation, and criticism of the violent tactics employed against mostly Muslim citizens.

"Mostly Muslim citizens"? Why not say, "violent tactics employed mostly against Muslims"? Or perhaps there are citizens who are, say, 70% Muslim and 30% something else. Many of us labor under the assumption that one is either a Muslim or one isn't a Muslim. Even if we're wrong, and degrees of Muslim-ness do exist, why is it worse to kill a mostly Muslim citizen than a partly Muslim citizen who might be, for example, only 30% Muslim? Presumably the answers to those and other bewildering questions are found in the parts of the NIE that we mostly American citizens are not permitted to read.

Keep Spending That Money, Rick!


Cost of Rick Santorum's reelection campaign?
$12 million.

Seeing old "man-on-dog" down 14 points in the polls?

What Maya Empire?

Mel Gibson's an easy target these days, and this MSNBC anchor let him have it, looking foolish in the process:

WHAT is Mel Gibson thinking? Clearly not shy about making his opinions known, the actor's back in the news, this time slamming the U.S. and the Iraq War, comparing the United States to the ancient Mayan empire just before it collapsed.

YouTube video (2:35)

Hello? There was never a "Mayan empire." Ancient Maya civilization consisted of a number of city-states, sharing a common language and culture, with shifting alliances and trade relationships. Gibson spoke of Maya civilization, not a Maya empire, in promoting his movie Apocalypto, to be released this December. (Just so everyone knows, the convention among archaeologists is to use the adjective Mayan only when referring to the language group. For everything else, including the people themselves, the word is Maya, not Mayan. While both are correct, we'll use the archaeological convention.)

Here's what Gibson said:

The precursors to a civilization that's going under are the same, time and time again. What's human sacrifice if not sending guys off to Iraq for no reason?

And, yes, it's a stupid historical parallel to draw, especially considering that human sacrifice was practiced by the Maya long before their civilization began to wane. The movie looks fascinating, especially for the costumes and weapons, which appear to have been closely researched. Here's a trailer. YouTube video (2:29)

Jon Stewart & Samantha Bee on Clinton

Ridiculing press coverage of the Clinton interview, Samantha Bee takes the imagery to a level where even Fox News is unprepared to follow:

The president, his neck bulging and forehead veins atwitter, flailed his arms in frenzied swatting like some crazed silverback gorilla, the one-time commander-in-chief now reduced to a spastic ball of rage, his grunts decipherable only to Jane Goodall.


YouTube video (4:21)

Monday, September 25, 2006

Musings on the Bin Laden Rumors

So, is Osama bin Laden dead? What are we to make of the French intelligence report that "information gathered by the Saudis indicates that the head of al-Qaeda was a victim while he was in Pakistan on August 23, 2006, of a very serious case of typhoid, which led to a partial paralysis of his internal organs?" The report claims bin Laden was in a remote area, precluding access to medical treatment, and that the Saudis were awaiting confirmation of his gravesite before making a public announcement.

1. Typhoid. It's common in Central Asia, with periodic outbreaks in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan. Soviet troops were afflicted with typhoid infections during their occupation of Afghanistan. It is passed from human to human, via fecal contamination of water, so the area where bin Laden was hiding would not have been so remote that it did not have a fairly sizeable village upstream. Typhoid is treated with common antibiotics, but it's possible bin Laden's other medical problems could have complicated his treatment.

2. Saudi intelligence. While analysts have dismissed the ability of Saudi intelligence to obtain information about bin Laden, it should be remembered that many Al Qaeda members are Saudis and that bin Laden has family in Saudi Arabia. It seems perfectly feasible that the family would have been notified of his death.

3. The French leak. Passing information obtained by another nation's intelligence agency is, apparently, taboo in the spy world. But the French seem to have received their intel from a source connected in some way to Saudi intelligence, not from the agency itself. To speculate about the French motive for leaking that information to the press is to enter a hall of mirrors at this point.

4. Bush administration "chatter." In a September 5 speech, the president mentioned bin Laden no fewer than ten times. That might be considered odd, given his reluctance to discuss bin Laden in recent years. He also mentioned bin Laden, but only once, on August 31 in Utah, during the first of his five speeches on Iraq.

News of bin Laden's death would certainly be welcome and we find no reason to dismiss the Saudi-French report. It may even turn out that the Bush administration learned of the Saudi intel in the last days of August or first few days of September, and deemed it sufficiently credible to risk speaking Osama bin Laden's name again in public. Cynics might expect the administration to time the release of any good news about bin Laden's death for maximum effect on the elections, which would mean waiting as long as possible while pressing its allies, like Fox News, to talk up bin Laden as much as possible, maybe even stir up a little controversy. Time will tell. It is our sincere hope that the Bush administration would not play politics with such important news. Americans of all political stripes should be able to rejoice, as a nation, that one of our foremost enemies is dead, if the reports turn out to be true.

Musharraf the Bounty Hunter

Somehow, the revelation by Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf that his country has received millions of dollars in bounties from the CIA for capturing "Al Qaeda" operatives comes as no surprise. The assertion is contained in his new memoir, "In the Line of Fire."

"We've captured 689 and handed over 369 to the United States. We've earned bounties totaling millions of dollars," wrote Musharraf, who elsewhere in his book titled "In the Line of Fire" described how the U.S. administration persuaded him with threats to join a global 'war on terrorism'.

"Those who habitually accuse us of "not doing enough" in the war on terror should simply ask the CIA how much prize money it has paid to the government of Pakistan," Musharraf added, while ruing a failure to catch Osama bin Laden, who carries a $25 million reward.

Maybe someone outbid us for Osama. One wonders how much Pakistan might charge for inventing terror plots out of thin air. Its case against the "mastermind" of the alleged liquid explosives plot has already evaporated into nothing.

Military Unrest Worse Than Feared?

Update: To watch each of the prepared statements, click on the photos below.

The Democratic Policy Committee's Senate hearing today on the state of the U.S. military in Iraq was disturbing, to say the least. All three military officers who testified spoke in stark terms of widespread discontent in the U.S. armed forces, and a generalized lack of confidence in Donald Rumsfeld's leadership. All three men have served in Iraq - commanding an infantry division, training Iraqi forces and establishing bases for the Iraqi forces.

"The detailed deliberate planning to finish the job in Iraq was not considered as Secretary Rumsfeld forbade military planners from developing plans for securing a post-war Iraq. At one point, he threatened to fire the next person who talked about the need for a post-war plan. Our country and incredible military were not set up for success."
- Major General John R.S. Batiste, U.S. Army (ret.)

"The leadership that has led us to this point fails today to understand the strategic planning requirements to solve the Iraqi dilemma, stating essentially that their strategy is to stand up Iraqi Security Forces and to withdraw U.S. forces. Stay the course is not a strategy."

- Major General Paul D. Eaton, U.S. Army (ret.)

"Our procurement has not only been slow, we have failed to buy the best available. Further, the administration has categorically failed to maintain or replace the equipment necessary for the units in the U.S. to be ready for other potential operations."

- Colonel Thomas X. Hammes, USMC (ret.)

One interesting military rule of thumb emerged from the hearing: Civil wars condemn 10% of the population to death. In the case of Iraq, the carnage would amount to 2 million people. If CSPAN reruns this hearing, try to watch. It's one small step toward a return to congressional oversight, and the kind of hearing one might get if Republicans lose the Congress and the Pentagon is forbidden to send civilian neocon handlers, like defense intelligence czar Stephen Cambone, when uniformed personnel are called to testify.

Crying Commas?

We haven't seen writing this awful at the Washington Post since their article about Frist slathering himself with gorilla juice.

They sat on two frayed chairs in a teacher's lounge, the president and the widow, just the two of them so close that their knees were almost touching.

She was talking about her husband, the soldier who died in a far-off war zone. Tears rolled down her face as she mentioned two children left fatherless. His eyes welled up, too. He hugged her, held her face, kissed her cheek. "I am so sorry for your loss," he kept repeating.

Clouds welled in the sky. The very heavens prepared to weep. Yes, the president in question is Bush. He cares. Really.

Omens and Portents

Watch what happens to the NBC sign in this video. A foreboding of Chris Wallace's descent into journalistic hackery?

YouTube video (0:47)

Political Oddities

Would You Prefer a Racist or a Sexist Senator?

The Virginia brawl continues, as Salon digs up more stories of racism from George Allen's glory days on the football field and the neoconservative Weekly Standard disavows him for failing to embrace his own ethnic heritage. Meanwhile, "progressive" blogs have been mute about Jim Webb's history of sexism as partisan politics trumps "progressive" values yet again. Without actually living in Virginia, it's impossible to know how this is playing out with the voters, but we're guessing the next poll will show Allen up slightly and Webb down a good 3 or 4 points. The reason is simple: Studies show Republicans are racists at heart, but Democrats aren't, or aren't supposed to be, sexists. Allen emerged unscathed from his "macaca moment." What we don't know yet is how Webb's decidedly unchivalrous remark about "horny women" is playing among Virginians.

No, Wallace Hadn't Asked

Bill Clinton asked Chris Wallace whether he'd ever posed these questions to any Bushies:

WALLACE: I want to ask a question. You don’t think that’s a legitimate question?
CLINTON: It was a perfectly legitimate question, but I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked this question of.
I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked, Why didn’t you do anything about the Cole?
I want to know how many you asked, Why did you fire Dick Clarke?
I want to know how many people you asked…
WALLACE: We asked — we asked…
CLINTON: I don’t…
WALLACE: Do you ever watch Fox News Sunday, sir?
CLINTON: I don’t believe you asked them that.
WALLACE: We ask plenty of questions of…
CLINTON: You didn’t ask that, did you? Tell the truth, Chris.
WALLACE: About the USS Cole?
CLINTON: Tell the truth, Chris.
WALLACE: With Iraq and Afghanistan, there’s plenty of stuff to ask.

Think Progress found the answers: Wallace never asked about Clarke, and never asked about the Cole. So, Wallace lied to keep up Fox's absurd pretense of impartiality. Go figure.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Clinton Interview on Fox

The Bush administration took a political hit during the investigation into the events of 9-11, when we discovered it had cut terrorism funding, ignored its terrorism expert, Richard Clarke, and failed to understand the warnings coming from intelligence experts in the summer of 2001. Its only response was to stonewall the 9-11 Commission and blame former President Bill Clinton for its own failures.

Fox is proud of Chris Wallace's interview of the former president, aired this morning on Fox News Sunday. He had agreed to spend the first 7 minutes of the interview talking about the Clinton Global Initiative, but had not asked even one question about it before sucker-punching Clinton with the following question, 4 minutes into the interview:

WALLACE: When we announced that you were going to be on Fox News Sunday, I got a lot of e-mail from viewers. And I’ve got to say, I was surprised. Most of them wanted me to ask you this question: Why didn’t you do more to put bin Laden and Al Qaida out of business when you were president?

And there we went, reliving the blame game begun by the Bush administration and relentlessly carried forward by its minions at Fox. Clinton was, quite rightly, annoyed. Wallace's question, his pretence at shielding himself by referring to e-mail that "surprised" him and his disregard for the ground rules of the interview were all highly unprofessional. He won't be winning any journalism awards for this one.

Clinton defended himself ably, alluding not just to Fox's right-wing hit tactics, but to the ABC dramatization which ignored the 9-11 Commission report. Bob Kerrey, a member of the 9-11 Commission, characterized Clinton's remarks as a "very spirited and accurate defense."

Still, it's early and the spin continues at Fox, which is looking for the clips that put Clinton in the worst light. The right-wing propaganda machine will not let this one go, because "Clinton" is one of its key words, intended to provoke a pre-determined response among 30% of the populace, like "ACLU" and "New York Times." It is a word intended to make Republican sheep salivate. (At this moment a Fox anchor who can only be described as a blond bimbo is rolling her eyes about Clinton's comment that no one knew Al Qaeda existed in 1993, although every one of her guests has corrected her and told her Clinton is correct.)

Video and transcript are available at Think Progress.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Clinton: "They Had Made Their Mind Up In Advance"

Bill Clinton boils the Iraq occupation down to few clear words on Larry King. "He [Cheney] and the other proponents of the Iraq war did not care whether he [Saddam] had weapons of mass destruction, did not care whether he was involved with 9-11, did not care whether the evidence showed any of this or not. They had made their mind up in advance that this was the thing to do."

Remember (and we're going back several years now, before the popularity of blogs, when alternative news was available only on sites like Information Clearing House and Democracy Now!, still sources of choice for independent-minded people who don't necessarily want the Democratic platform shoved down their throats) when one was considered a conspiracy theorist for daring to oppose the Iraq bombings for the reasons Clinton cites. Remember reading the PNAC white paper for yourself and underlining these sentences: "Indeed, the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein." We all knew this long before Democrats dared to talk about it (and they will still hardly dare to discuss the permanent military bases.)

You Tube video (3:15)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Anti-Bass Ad

Democrat Paul Hodes, hoping to oust Rep. Charlie Bass in New Hampshire's 2nd congressional district, is running this ad.

YouTube video (0:30)

P.S. Oh yeah, Charlie Bass is using phone sex money in his campaign, via Roy Blunt's "Rely on Your Beliefs" PAC.

Anti-Reichert Ad

The GOP considers Rep. David Reichert, of Washington's 8th congressional district, one of top ten most threatened Republicans in 2006. He is opposed by Democrat Darcy Burner, a former Microsoft product manager.

YouTube video (0:31)

P.S. Dave Reichert is a beneficiary of phone sex money, through Roy Blunt's "Rely on Your Beliefs" PAC.

Jon Stewart about O'Reilly Claim

Bill O'Reilly of FoxNews recently claimed the FBI came a'callin' him to tell him Al Qaeda was targeting him personally (for what, the obscene use of falafel?) None of his co-workers recall such a visit. Jon Stewart responds.

YouTube video (1:16)

Anti-Burns Ads

A couple of recent ads about Montana's Republican senator, Conrad Burns.

YouTube video (0:36)

YouTube video (0:31)

P.S. Conrad Burns is a beneficiary of phone sex money, through Chuck Hagel's "Sandhills" PAC and Roy Blunt's "Rely on Your Beliefs" PAC.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Nuclear Posturing and Bad Decisions

It's hard to take recent "leaked" information about an imminent strike against Iran seriously. The most likely scenario is that the administration is simply posturing, as Israel did when leaking stories to Der Spiegel every other week about upcoming strikes. There is, however, a serious defect in Bush's posturing. The administration, in its game of brinkmanship, has continually threatened to use nuclear weapons against Iran. (For an example, take a look at today's Raw Story article on the nuclear option.) Are we, as Americans, happy to have our government talk about using nuclear weapons against another country? We are a democracy and the government speaks in our name. Does anyone honestly believe that threatening a nuclear first strike makes us, or the world we live in, safer? Does anyone doubt that Americans would become the world's pariahs if we used nuclear weapons in Iran? The nuclear bomb is the only true "weapon of mass destruction." The United States is the only nation ever to have employed it. To threaten its use again is abhorrent, not just to most Americans, but to the entire civilized world.

The Bush administration has been a bit too cavalier about nuclear weapons. It has advocated building nuclear "bunker buster" bombs for use on the battlefield. It has equated nukes with nonconventional biological and chemical weapons that kill very small numbers of people in restricted spaces. A nuclear weapon is not equivalent to an envelope of anthrax, or a thirty-year-old artillery shell with decomposed sarin. Worst of all, President George W. Bush permitted a nuclear proliferation network, the A.Q. Khan network in Pakistan, to distribute nuclear technology for three years before shutting it down. Bush and a few key advisors were informed of Khan's activities early in 2001. They decided to monitor the network and try to discover who Khan's clients were. September 11, amazingly, did not prompt them to reconsider that decision. While Bush, Cheney, Rice, and countless other administration shills were talking rubbish about "mushroom clouds" and "aluminum tubes" and "yellow-cake uranium" in Iraq, they knew, with certainty, that A.Q. Khan was sending centrifuges and other nuclear technology to Iran and Libya. They took no steps to suspend that activity until late 2003, when Musharraf's government was finally notified.

Will Bush get a free pass from the Congress and the press this time to sucker Americans into another war? Perhaps. Our press corps is one of the worst in the world outside Cuba and North Korea, and has not improved since the Iraq debacle. The Congress has already published misleading findings about Iran's nuclear enrichment program, which the UN has already called "outrageous." Will someone at least stand up and ask Bush why he let the Khan network, which proliferated technology for the only true weapon of mass destruction, operate for three years? We can think of one explanation and it's not pretty. Did Bush allow the Khan network to operate so long in hopes of finally discovering evidence that Iraq was trying to acquire nuclear weapons?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Joan Didion on Dick Cheney

The latest issue of The New York Review of Books features an article by Joan Didion about Vice President Cheney. Like most of the Bush administration, Cheney was a perennial loser. A poor student, he was sponsored for Yale by Thomas Stroock, at that time the part-time employer of Cheney's girl friend and future wife. (Stroock would later be appointed ambassador to Guatemala by Bush I, where he famously blocked an investigation into the abduction, rape and torture of an American nun.)

Cheney flunked out of Yale in his fourth semester, returned to Wyoming, took an undergraduate degree and, as was common in the Vietnam years, "did all the work for my doctorate except the dissertation." He moved to Washington, worked for a junior Wyoming congressman and, by a lucky chance, was taken under Donald Rumsfeld's wing in 1974, when Rumsfeld became Gerald Ford's chief of staff. Didion traces the origins of Cheney's "unitary executive" theory from Watergate through Iran-Contra to the present day, when he has made himself the first vice president in U.S. history to enjoy certain executive privileges. Didion fans will miss the stylistic flourishes and ironic wit that are the hallmark of her finest essays, but the article provides an excellent summation of Cheney's career.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Raw Story Casts New Doubt on Airline "Terror Plot"

Citing a retired British Army expert, Raw Story has published an independent investigation that casts new doubts on the supposed plot to down airliners with liquid explosives.

"The idea that these people could sit in the plane toilet and simply mix together these normal household fluids to create a high explosive capable of blowing up the entire aircraft is untenable," said Lt. Col. [Nigel] Wylde, who was trained as an ammunition technical officer responsible for terrorist bomb disposal at the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in Sandhurst.

After working as a bomb defuser in Northern Ireland, Lt. Col. Wylde became a senior officer in British Army Intelligence in 1977. During the Cold War, he collected intelligence as part of an undercover East German "liaison unit," then went on to work in the Ministry of Defense to review its communications systems.

Wylde said the process of creating the explosives would require 12 to 36 hours, and distillation of the liquids to obtain the required purity. If there was a conspiracy, he said, "it did not involve manufacturing the explosives in the loo," adding that "the planned attack would be detected long before the queues outside the loo had grown to enormous lengths."

The article was written for Raw Story by Nafeez Ahmed, who teaches International Relations at the University of Sussex, Brighton, and who testified before the U.S. Congress about his research on international terrorism last year.

Wylde's suspicions about the "terror plot" follow in the wake of a Daily Mail article, published on August 19, which alleged the Pakistan government had found no evidence at all against the "mastermind" of the plot and that it "may not have been as serious, or as far advanced, as the authorities initially claimed."

Senate Outlook Continues to Improve: R-49, D-48 & 3 Toss-Ups

Rasmussen Reports updated its balance of power projections for the U.S. Senate, moving three states (Montana, Ohio and Rhode Island) out of the toss-up category and into the "leans Democrat" category. As things stand at the moment, the balance of power is projected to be 49 Republicans and 48 Democrats, according to Rasmussen's polls. Three states are too close to call: Missouri, New Jersey and Tennessee. Democrats will have to win all three of those toss-up races (plus the races in which they are currently favored), to take control of the Senate. Rasmussen's state by state breakdown can be found here.

The only other seat at risk for Republicans belongs to George Allen in Virginia, who is currently favored to win reelection. Given Democratic challenger Jim Webb's disasterous performance on Sunday's Meet the Press, it now seems unlikely that Democrats can win this race. Allen dipped briefly in the polls following the "macaca" incident, but appears to have recovered. The Virginia seat would have been a nice hedge against a potential loss in New Jersey, where Menendez seems headed for stormy waters.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

No Excuse for Jim Webb's MTP Performance

One almost cringes to think what the next Meet the Press debate among senatorial candidates is likely to uncover. Hot on the heels of Bob Casey's mediocre performance against Rick Santorum, an easy target, Jim Webb was left stuttering about sexist comments he published in 1979 and 1997. Worse, his defense today left one wondering if he may still be a sexist (read the transcript, it's not pretty).

Russert's questions hardly came out of left field, since conservative bloggers have been gossiping about the "horny woman's dream" comment for at least two weeks. Webb should have been prepared for the issue, and he should have issued a simple apology, as Allen did for his macaca comment. Democratic blogs could have pressed him on it weeks ago and forced him to tackle it head on. But they didn't and their readers were, quite rightly, stunned as they watched him squirm on national television. The effect was downright eery: What else about this man don't we know?

The implications now are almost funny. Allen is holding ethnic rallies. Will Jim Webb stage a rally with female cadets? Are we to have photo-ops of uniformed women and Webb watching E-Ring together?

The damage is done, Webb can not possibly win and the Democrats will have to move on. Fortunately, Virginia wasn't a toss-up state. But, here's a suggestion for Howard Dean. Call up the candidates in New Jersey, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Rhode Island and Tennessee today and tell them their campaign funds will be cut if they don't submit to an intensive preparation for Russert before their own nationally televised debates. And, for God's sake, do the homework next time.

Jim Webb: "Naval Academy Is a Horny Woman's Dream"

Jim Webb got caught with his pants down on this morning's Meet the Press. Asked about an offensive article he wrote for The Washingtonian in 1979, about women in the military, Webb repeatedly refused to acknowledge he'd made a mistake in publishing it. Well, he did admit this bit was wrong:

Russert: You said the Naval Academy is “a horny woman’s dream,” you regret that.

Webb: Well, I do regret that. You know I’ve said, there’s many pieces in this article that if I were a more mature individual I wouldn’t have written. And I’ve tried to say that, and I’ve tried to show by my conduct when I had positions in government, that I am open to assisting women to succeed in all the areas where that’s possible.

You try and you try to help the Democrats because there's no other option out there, but boy this is hard work. Where do we go from here in Virginia?

Update: MSNBC has the transcript. Here's the page with the "horny woman" quote and a rather patronizing comment about a female pilot who flew him around Afghanistan. There's another, more recent, quote from an article Webb wrote for The Weekly Standard, a neoconservative magazine (go figure), in 1997. Here's the ugly bottom line: Allen's racism will cost him very few votes among his likely voters. Webb's sexism will cost him dearly among his likely voters. We'd expect upcoming polls to reflect that.

Colbert Lampoons George Macaca Allen's "Ethnic Rally"

Senator George Allen hosted an "ethnic rally" for people who don't belong to his own non-ethnic caste, and posted photos of himself with black, brown and even yellow people on his web site. Stephen Colbert had a field day.

P.S. We still don't know why Allen's phone-sex buddy gave him an $8,400 campaign contribution. Maybe CREW can give us a hand.

YouTube video (2:16)

How Bush Picked the Dumbest People for Iraq

Did you vote for Bush in 2004? Do you support Bush's war on terror? Do you favor overturning Roe v. Wade?

If you answered yes to all those questions, you're probably not very bright, but you would have made the A list for a Green Zone appointment to rebuild Iraq. Here are some candidates who answered successfully:

A 24-year-old who had never worked in finance -- but had applied for a White House job -- was sent to reopen Baghdad's stock exchange. The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator and a recent graduate from an evangelical university for home-schooled children were tapped to manage Iraq's $13 billion budget, even though they didn't have a background in accounting.

Check the Washington Post for an analysis of how the Bushies blew the Iraq reconstruction, turned the country into a terrorist training camp and lost $9 billion in the process.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

"That Enigmatic Girl in the Painting" Department

And in These Corners . . . Jack Danforth

Jack Danforth, having written a book, has discovered some problems with the Republican party's embrace of religious lunatics. Those problems were not apparent to him two years ago, when he worked as a Bush Pioneer to raise $100,000 for Bush's reelection. Nor were they apparent when he single-handedly carried Clarence Thomas's Supreme Court nomination through the Senate. Thomas, as we now know, finds no right to privacy in the U.S. Constitution or its amendments. To say that Danforth is of a divided mind understates the case. His behavior has passed the line into the schizophrenic. Clearly, Jack Danforth's left hand has no idea what the right hand is doing.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Sen. Rick Santorum Received Phone Sex Contribution

Senator Rick Santorum, who recently questioned his opponent's campaign donations, has received money from Jeffrey Prosser, described by the Columbia Journalism Review as a "world-class phone-sex operator" due to his involvement in offshore porn-talk traffic to Guyana. For this campaign cycle, Prosser and his wife have contributed, directly or indirectly, to several dozen Republican candidates, including $8,400 to Sen. George Allen and $4,200 to Sen. Jim Talent. Santorum's share of the phone sex take was received from Sen. Chuck Hagel's (R-Neb) Sandhills PAC, which has given Santorum $10,000. Prosser contributed $5,000 to the PAC on May 27, 2005.

For more on the Republican phone sex scandal, including personal favors performed for Prosser by Reps. Jerry Weller and Dan Burton, please consult these Political Videos articles:

Investigation: Republican Phone Sex Sugar Daddy Goes Belly Up
Sen. Allen Urged to "Hang Up Phone" on Prosser
Investigation: Rep. Jerry Weller Pressured Belize on Prosser's Behalf
Chicago Trib Reports on Phone Sex Donations
Rep. Dan Burton Pushed State Department to Help Prosser

Here We Go Again: Iran Report "Outrageous and Dishonest"

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has responded to a House Select Committee on Intelligence report about Iran's nuclear activities, calling it "outrageous and dishonest." The report was released on August 23. The IAEA blasted Republican claims that Iran had enriched uranium to weapons-grade purity. A Western diplomat told Reuters, "This (committee report) is deja vu of the pre-Iraq war period where the facts are being maligned and attempts are being made to ruin the integrity of IAEA inspectors."

While we're on the subject, why did George W. Bush wait nearly three years to shut down the A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network in Pakistan? Bush learned of Khan's activities early in 2001, but took no action to shut down the network until late 2003. Meanwhile, with U.S. and British knowledge, Khan was selling centrifuges and other nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and, perhaps, other nations.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

How Republicans Win Elections

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! interviewed Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten this morning about their new book, "One Party Country: The Republican Plan for Dominance in the 21st Century." Hamburger and Wallsten, both reporters for the Los Angeles Times, dicussed several factors that give Republicans an advantage, including Wednesday strategy meetings headed by Grover Norquist every week where the party's disparate groups hammer out compromises to meet long-term and short-term goals, a highly sophisticated voter database that includes information on everything from church attendance to buying preferences (yes, you're probably on it) of voters, and, of course, the Democratic redistricting plan that backfired. The level of organization and hard work that Republicans dedicate to winning elections is certainly admirable, and, no, you can't blame everything on Diebold. This 24-minute interview is highly recommended.

Democracy Now! video (24:00)

Monday, September 11, 2006

"Liars" vs. "Conspiracy Theorists"

Debate on Democracy Now! degenerates into name-calling

Amy Goodman hosted a 9-11 debate about "Loose Change," the controversial documentary downloaded by 10 million viewers that Vanity Fair called the "first Internet blockbuster." Present were Dylan Avery, the movie's director, and Jason Bermas, a researcher for the film. On hand to question the film's veracity were James Meigs and David Dunbar, editors at Popular Mechanics who worked with a team to produce a book called "Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can't Stand Up to the Facts."

The debate left little doubt that, five years on, Americans don't have the emotional closure to the terrifying events of September 11 that one might have expected. A large percentage of Americans doubt the government's version of events, according to polls. It doesn't help that the Bush administration stone-walled and fought an independent investigation into the events of September 11, or that the Republican administration has tried to keep the wound fresh in the public's mind, to justify costly, unnecessary wars and a sordid political agenda that Americans would otherwise oppose. The administration has, in fact, behaved like a deranged priesthood, shrouding the events of 9-11 in secrecy to create the central mystery of its neoconservative religion. They have used 9-11 to lead America so far from the roots planted by our founding fathers that it seems unlikely we can ever fully return.

In the Democracy Now! debate, Meigs and Dunbar of Popular Mechanics called Avery and Bermas "conspiracy theorists" at least a dozen times. Bermas, for his part, called Meigs and Dunbar "liars" at least twice. So this is where we are five years later: polarized into opposing camps of true believers, incapable of civilized discussion, bereft of sane leadership and wondering what really did happen five years ago.

Watch the debate at Democracy Now! here.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Battle for the Senate: New Poll Shows 6 Toss-Ups

Rasmussen Reports has moved Tennessee onto its list of toss-up states for the November Senate elections. For the first time in this poll, Democrats are given a chance of wresting control of the Senate from Republicans. In total, 45 Democrats are favored to win or retain control of their seats nationwide. The six toss-up states are Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee and New Jersey, according to Rasmussen. If Democrats win all six of these close races, they would control 51 seats in the Senate.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

John Pavich, a Smart Democratic Candidate

Democrats have fielded some very strong candidates for Congress this year, but John Pavich, who is running against Jerry Weller in Illinois's 11th District, is clearly a cut above the rest. Formerly a counter-terrorism officer in the CIA and an attorney who helped prosecute war criminals in Bosnia, Pavich speaks eloquently and pragmatically about the problems faced by America in this interview. It is a fine example of reasoned, clear discourse, an example to which every candidate should aspire.

We will have a great deal more to say about his opponent, Jerry Weller, as the Republican phone sex scandal unfolds. For the moment, it is enough to simply note that Illinois voters have an excellent opportunity to rid themselves of a sleazy politician this November and elect someone who will do them proud in Washington.

Source: Quality News Network (mp3 audio)

Monday, September 04, 2006

Republicans Field Extremist Candidate in Minnesota

The Republican party has fielded an extremist candidate, Michele Bachmann, in Minnesota's 6th congressional district to replace outgoing Republican congressman Mark Kennedy. Bachmann sides with radical religious organizations on many issues and advocates teaching creationism in public schools. As a Minnesota legislator, she co-authored legislation that would force schools to include alternative explanations for the origin of life in their curriculums. She is opposed to any minimum wage whatsoever. Track her at the Dump Michele Bachmann blog and see if she doesn't sort of remind you of, well, Katherine Harris. For some funny videos, including Bachmann gushing about having ice cream with George Bush, visit the Michele Bachmann Video Blog.

YouTube video (9:54)

Investigation: Rep. Dan Burton Pushed State Department to Help Prosser

In our ongoing investigation of Jeffrey Prosser's campaign donations and apparent favors received from Republican congressmen, Political Videos can now report that Rep. Dan Burton (R-Indiana) wrote a letter to the U.S. State Department on Prosser's behalf in October 2005. Burton received a campaign donation of $2,100 from Dawn Prosser, Jeffrey Prosser's wife and president of the Prosser ICC Foundation, on July 14, 2005.

The letter appears in the appendix to a hearing (pdf doc.) report of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Western Affairs held on October 19, 2005. Burton is chairman of the subcommittee. The letter, written in the first-person, is unsigned in the hearing report, but the State Department response, sent on March 15, 2006, is addressed to the chairman (Burton) and written "in response to Questions for the Record (copy attached) that you recently submitted."

Burton's letter refers to a protracted legal dispute between Prosser's International Communication Company (ICC) and the government of Belize concerning his stake in the national telephone company, BTL. Prosser agreed to purchase BTL for $57 million in 2004, and made one payment of $28 million. That payment was financed by the sale of preferred stock in the Virgin Islands telephone company, Vitelco - another Prosser holding, which Prosser loaned to ICC. The Virgin Islands public service commission blocked further loans and Prosser was unable to meet his subsequent commitments to Belize. The preferred shareholders sued Prosser, claiming they were not informed about the loan and did not authorize it, forcing him and at least two of his companies to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August 2006. In the meantime, Belize media reported in January this year that Prosser lost his shares in BTL to the Royal Bank of Trinidad and Tobago, after pledging them as security for a $30 million loan on which he defaulted.

In his 2005 letter to the State Department, Burton wrote:

As you know, the country of Belize considers itself both a Central American and a Caribbean country, and given the fact that the purpose of the Committee’s hearing is to assess, in part, the economic climate and investment culture of the Caribbean region, I wanted to discuss with you Belize’s year-long dispute with the United States-based company ICC over the ownership of Belize’s major telecommunications company, BTL.

Burton then provided a list of 13 questions, including:

If the Government of Belize continues to defy the Court judgments against it, what action is the State Department prepared to take to protect the rights of U.S. investors?

Does the State Department believe it has a responsibility to protect the rights of U.S. investors in Belize?

The State Department reply, written by the Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs, noted that some of Burton's information was inaccurate, including his assertion that Belize had "expropriated" ICC's holdings:

The State Department has not reached any determination regarding whether property has been expropriated in this case. In light of the known facts at this point, it would be premature to do so.

Jeffrey Prosser was dubbed a "world-class phone-sex operator" by the Columbia Journalism Review in 1998, a reference to his ownership of the telephone company (GT&T) of Guyana. A large percentage of GT&T's profits derived from phone sex traffic and Guyana was labeled one of the world's worst offenders of "dial-a-porn" services by the FCC.

Dawn Prosser, who contributed $2,100 to Rep. Burton's reelection campaign, is Jeffrey Prosser's wife and heads the Prosser ICC Foundation, an ICC "philanthropic organization." The Foundation is housed in an historic building with "sweeping views" in the Virgin Islands.

The Prossers have made large campaign donations to a number of Republican candidates for the 2006 election cycle, including $8,400 to Sen. George Allen, $4,200 to Sen. Jim Talent, $10,000 to Roy Blunt's "Rely on Your Beliefs" PAC, and $4,200 to Rep. Jerry Weller, who delivered a letter to the prime minister of Belize on Prosser's behalf in 2005.

No stranger to controversy, Dan Burton publicly admitted in 1998 to fathering a child out of wedlock, and famously said of former President Clinton, "This guy's a scumbag. That's why I'm after him."

For more information, please consult the following Political Videos articles:

Investigation: Republican Phone Sex Sugar Daddy Goes Belly Up
Sen. Allen Urged to "Hang Up Phone" on Prosser
Investigation: Rep. Jerry Weller Pressured Belize on Prosser's Behalf
Chicago Trib Reports on Phone Sex Donations

Casey-Santorum Highlights from "Meet the Press"

Rick Santorum struggled to defend himself on "Meet the Press" Sunday. Although the Wall Street Journal reported that he is publicly distancing himself from President Bush, he has voted with Bush 98% of the time. Although every expert and even the president agree that no "weapons of mass destruction" were found in Iraq, Santorum maintains that useless weapons left over from the Iran-Iraq war should be counted as WMD. He thinks it is correct for the citizens of Pennsylvania to pay more than $50,000 to cyber-school his children, even though he doesn't live in Pennsylvania any more.

Santorum has introduced legislation that would privatize the National Weather Service and force Americans to pay for their weather forecasts, all because he got a campaign donation from AccuWeather. For the first time in history, National Weather Service employees are taking sides in an election . . . to oppose Rick Santorum. No wonder he's going to lose this November, big-time.

YouTube video (5:24)

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Chicago Trib Reports on Phone Sex Donations

On September 2, the Chicago Tribune reported that Jerry Weller faced questions about his acceptance of campaign donations from Jeffrey and Dawn Prosser, after writing a letter on Prosser's behalf to the government of Belize.

Among the political contributions brimming from his campaign treasury, Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Ill.) accepted a campaign donation from a telecommunications executive he has tried to help in an international business dispute.

Weller hand-delivered a letter last year to government officials in Belize, suggesting that their decision to seize business assets of Jeffrey Prosser might hurt future investment in their economy. Weller received contributions totaling about $4,000 from Prosser and his wife last year.

The Trib also reported that Weller's Democratic challenger, John Pavich, had raised the issue of Prosser's ties to the phone sex industry.

Prosser was a former owner of GT&T, the telephone company of the country of Guyana. Under Prosser's stewardship, 70% of GT&T's profits were linked to phone sex traffic and Guyana was named one of the worst "dial-a-porn" offenders in the world by the FCC.

According to the Tribune,

In the latest charge, campaign manager Matt Pavich, the candidate's brother, called it hypocritical for Weller to "hold himself out as a defender of marriage and family values while accepting money from a man who ran a phone-sex service." He also suggested Weller did a favor for Prosser. Weller's campaign said he was not aware of that phone-sex component of Prosser's business.

Steve Shearer, Weller's campaign manager, responded to the charges in Chicago's Herald News:

"Congressman Weller has thousands of contributors. With that kind of support, it's impossible to do financial background checks on all contributors," Shearer said. "He had no idea one of them was involved with a phone-sex operation."

Prosser filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month, following a shareholder suit charging that conduct of his International Communication Company, ICC, "was outrageous, demonstrated fraudulent and evil motive and was in such conscious disregard of the rights of [the shareholders] to be deemed willful and wanton."

On May 25, 2005, Weller misrepresented his interest in Prosser's dispute with Belize, claiming during a congressional committee hearing that Prosser or his company was a constituent.

And I have constituents here that come to me, and I have always been a strong advocate that we work with our friends in the hemisphere, and that the rule of law means that when there is an investor dispute, that will be resolved in a timely, fair, and transparent manner.

And I was recently in Belize, and had the opportunity to talk with Prime Minister Musa about a case which I am very concerned about. You know, the United States Embassy that we are building there right now, which I think is about a $50 million project, the largest construction project in the history of Belize. And we had a United States company that invested and made a commitment to invest $60 million in the Belize telecommunications company, which was privatized to bring the private sector in to upgrade that.

Weller then read a letter from Prosser's ICC company into the congressional record. Neither Prosser, his wife, nor ICC are constituents of Weller's congressional district.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Ohio: "This State Was Made for Hypocrisy"

A Flash animation about Ohio politics by Christina Savino and Jessica Entis, set to the music of "This Land is Your Land." Bob Taft, Ken Blackwell, Jim Petro and Betty Montgomery sing and dance their way through the long list of Ohio's political corruption scandals.

YouTube video (3:48)