December 2005 Archives

December 31, 2005

DeLay-Abramoff Money Trail Shows How Things Get Done in Washington

The Washington Post's Jeffrey Smith reported December 31, 2005 that, "The U.S. Family Network, a public-advocacy group that operated in the 1990s with close ties to Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, was funded almost entirely by corporations linked to embattled lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to tax records and former associates of the group."

"During its five-year existence," The Post said, " the U.S. Family Network raised $2.5 million but kept its donor list secret. The list, obtained by The Washington Post, shows that $1 million came in a single 1998 check from a now-defunct London law firm whose former partners will not identify the money's origins."

I think the DeLay-Abramoff affair is giving anybody whose interested a look at how things really get done in government and politics.

For more, please see "The DeLay-Abramoff Money Trail." See "A High-Powered Lobbyist's Swift Fall From Grace" for background on Abramoff.

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A New U.S. Navy Secretary Scheduled to be Sworn In January 3

Donald Winter will be "sworn in as the Secretary of the Navy on January 3, 2006, according to the Associated Press. I' bet most Americans have never heard of him. But so what? Americans generally don't know who their leaders are, with the exception of the president and the more visible cabinet secretaries. See "New Navy secretary to be sworn in next week."

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Is Donald Trump Politic Enough to be Governor of New York?

I see where the Associated Press (AP) has reported that Donald Trump is considering running for governor. The source for this speculation, according to the AP, is New York State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno. I don't think Trump has the patience to be a politician. He's a deal maker so at least he has that in his favor. Here's the story.

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New Posts Up at The Blogging Journalist

If you are interested in blogging, new posts are up over at The Blogging Journalist. I'm off to see Syriana and will post more here later today.

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December 30, 2005

White House Wants Supreme Court to Overturn Decision on Padilla

The Bush White House just won't quit. "Hoping to overturn a federal appeals court ruling last week, the Bush administration Wednesday [December 28, 2005] asked the Supreme Court to allow the immediate transfer of accused terrorist Jose Padilla from a military prison to civilian custody," according to the December 29, 2005 edition of csmonitor.com.

The Monitor noted that, "The New York Times reports that in its brief to the high court, the Justice Department called the appeals court ruling that blocked the transfer an "unwarranted attack" on presidential discretion."

For more, see "Padilla's lawyers, Justice Dept. ask Supreme Court to hear appeal."

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President Bush Faces a War Within the War

While so much of public debate has focused on whether the United States is winning the war against the predominantly Sunni insurgency, only a few commentators have noticed that another war in Iraq is in the early stages: the war between the United States and the an emerging Shiite-dominated Iraqi government.

Whether this conflict will soon lead to direct military clashes in 2006 is an open issue, but is not out of the question. Here a few signs of this war within a war:

(1) The Shiite-and-Kurd-dominated government organized after the January 2005 elections to write a constitution, not only conducted discussions with Iran about economic cooperation, it also discussed Iran's training of Iraqi military forces. While this received some media coverage, only a few have seen this as a omen about what is to come and have visualized the implications for American interests and for political stability in the Middle East. For obvious reasons, the Bush administration did not publicize this development.

(2) While the results of the December 15th Iraqi election are not final, it appears that the Shiite political parties who want some version of a theocratic state and closer relations with Iran will have a dominant role in the new government. It is unlikely that this new government will make enough compromises with Sunni interests over the constitution and over the composition of important ministries-- especially the police and military--to allow a stable government to emerge. This will develop in spite of what will be the Bush administration’s vigorous arm-twisting to force such compromises.

(3) The Bush administration publicized the existence of Iraqi torture of Sunnis carried out by Shiite-dominated security forces. This clearly was intended to force the current Shiite-dominated government to avoid alienating Sunnis even farther.

(4) The administration has just announced that the number of American military personnel assigned to Iraqi police commando units will be significantly increased to curb abuses that these units have inflicted on Sunnis. This action speaks for itself

The Bush administration is now caught on the horns of a dilemma. After the invasion, it expected to install a government dominated by someone who would be subservient to what it perceives as American interest. But the irony is that the democratic process the administration boasts about is creating a government will not kowtow to the administration's desires in the long run-although for the short term it needs the American military to fight its civil war against the Sunnis.

The odds are that any new Iraqi government will use American military power to keep Sunni influence at bay. Then once it has consolidated its power, it will push for an American withdrawal leaving a Shiite-dominated state allied with Iran and a disenfranchised but weakened Sunni community. While the Bush administration has not publicly acknowledged this dilemma, it is clearly pushing the Shiites to offer enough compromises to quell major elements of the Sunni resistance.

But how hard can the administration push before the Shiites push back? Whether push will come to shove with the Iraqi government using the Shiite-dominated military force President Bush is creating to resist American pressure is the sixty-four dollar question.

The irony here is that the immediate "victory" that President George W. Bush so mightily craves really means a strategic defeat and increased instability in the Middle East. And for this, so many people have died!

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Is Farris Hassan Brave or a Fool?

As Jamie Malernee and Kevin Smith note in their December 28, 2005 South Florida Sun-Sentinel report on 16-year-old, American-born Farris Hassan's venture to Iraq alone, "The (U.S.) State Department bluntly warns Americans not to travel to Iraq." You can imagine why.

So is Hassan brave or a fool? See "Florida teen secretly heads to Baghdad."

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Will Traditional Pensions Soon Disappear?

American "Companies are discarding traditional pensions -- or making government foot the bill" according to the Los Angeles Times in a report headlined "How Bedrock Promises Of Security Have Fractured Across America."

What about the promises that were made to American workers?

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Justice Department Wants to Know Who Embarassed Mr. Bush

I see the Justice Department has opened an investigation into who leaked classified information to The New York Times about President Gorge W. Bush's secret domestic spying program, which Times reporters Eric Lichtblau and James Risen exposed. As the Associated Press noted December 30, 2005:

The Times revealed the existence of the program two weeks ago in a front-page story that acknowledged the news had been withheld from publication for a year, partly at the request of the administration and partly because the newspaper wanted more time to confirm various aspects of the program.Catherine Mathis, a spokeswoman for The Times, said the paper will not comment on the investigation.
As expected, Mr. Bush has strongly defended domestic spying, something the U.S. often criticized in the former Soviet Union. It also criticizes such spying in China, the Middle East and so-called Third World nations. Here's a December 17, 2005 White House transcript of a radio address in which Mr. Bush defends it.

See my "Taking Risks to Preserve Civil Liberties."

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The Blogging Journalist

EXPLANATION: Lately, I haven't spent much time here at The Opinion Gazette or The Diplomatic Times Review. Why?

I've been over at The Blogging Journalist, which debuted December 23, 2005. It's primarily about blogging journalists, so-called "citizen journalists" (most journalists in the U.S. are citizens) and pundits . Now that it's up, I'll be more diligent here and at The Times Review.

Please take a look at The Blogging Journalist and feel free to leave a comment.

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December 28, 2005

BlogPulse: Politics Took a Back Seat on Blogs in 2005

Intelliseek's BlogPulse Newswire reported December 23, 2005 that, "Without a presidential campaign to fuel blog discussion in 2004, the blogosphere in 2005 took on a decidedly different feel and tone. The political wrangling didn't abate, but it was forced to share the stage with entertainment news, hurricane fallout and other natural disasters, technology discussion and blogs' own evolution as emerging media sources." See "2005: The Year That Blogging Evolved."

United Press International (UPI) business editor T.K. Maloy, in a December 27, 2005, report on BlogPulse.com's finding, quotes Sundar Kadayam, chief technology officer for Intelliseek, "which hosts the BlogPulse.com search engine and analysis tool, as saying:

Blogs have emerged as a worldwide phenomenon that touches nearly every aspect of everyday life, commerce, technology, media, entertainment, politics -- even the coverage of natural disasters and news events, such as Hurricane Katrina and the London bombings.
Expect even more impact from bloggers in 2006, especially during the 2006 midterm elections in the United States. For more of Maloy's article, please see "Politics took a back seat on blogs in 2005."

Note This article is cross posted at The Blogging Journalist.

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December 27, 2005

Schanberg: Times Should Get Credit for Domestic Spying Story

In a December 27, 2005 article in the Village Voice headlined "Checks and No Balance: The Story is Bush's spying, not the story's messenger," former New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg wrote, among other things:

While previous presidents have at various times claimed the legal right to authorize searches and electronic surveillance without court warrants so as to gather foreign intelligence, those decisions have undergone scrutiny by either courts or congressional hearings.

It's fair to say that Bush had no intention of allowing public scrutiny of his act [of using the National Security Agency for Domestic spying], since he personally summoned the top executives of The New York Times to a private meeting on December 6 and pressured them not to run the story about the domestic spying. The paper had held the story for a year at the administration's pleading but decided, after second thoughts and more reporting, that its importance required publication. It appeared on the Times' front page on Friday, December 16.

"Some Bush supporters have attacked the Times for running the piece," Schanberg noted. "On the other hand, some journalists have attacked the Times for holding it for a year. From where I stand (I'm a Times alumnus), the paper should get credit for digging it out and publishing it. But whatever one's journalistic point of view, the Times' decision-making is not the central story here. The president's secret directive is."

I think it's both.

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December 25, 2005

Howard Kurtz: 'Bush Presses Editors on Security'

WASHINGTON POST Media Notes columnist Howard Kurtz reveals in his December 26, 2005 column that, "President Bush has been summoning newspaper editors lately in an effort to prevent publication of stories he considers damaging to national security."

"The efforts have failed, but the rare White House sessions with the executive editors of The Washington Post and New York Times are an indication of how seriously the president takes the recent reporting that has raised questions about the administration's anti-terror tactics," Kurtz wrote. He added:

Leonard Downie Jr., The Post's executive editor, would not confirm the meeting with Bush before publishing reporter Dana Priest's Nov. 2 article disclosing the existence of secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe used to interrogate terror suspects. Bill Keller, executive editor of the Times, would not confirm that he, publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Washington bureau chief Philip Taubman had an Oval Office sit-down with the president on Dec. 5, 11 days before reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau revealed that Bush had authorized eavesdropping on Americans and others within the United States without court orders.
Kurtz said, "But the meetings were confirmed by sources who have been briefed on them but are not authorized to comment because both sides had agreed to keep the sessions off the record. The White House had no comment."

I hope the nation's two most important editors aren't so establishment that they will help President Bush cover up wrongdoing and threats to civil liberties in the name of national security, the canard presidents cart out when they want to cover up embarrassing and sometimes criminal activity. It's bad enough that The Times sat on its domestic spying story for a year at the request of the administration. Hopefully, Keller and other Times editors won't compound the problem by doing it again.

Downie, whose career I've followed since the 1970s and heard recently on television, doesn't strike me as a die-hard establishment type the way Keller does. He seems more deliberative and a journalists at heart instead of an establishment editor. But a president of the United States, by virtue of his office, can be mighty persuasive. I hope Downie can be towards President Bush what former Post editor Ben Bradlee was to President Richard Nixon during the Watergate era. A watchdog instead of a social intimate.

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December 24, 2005

Taking Risks to Preserve Civil Liberties

Apparently there are persons in the U.S. intelligence community willing to take career-ending risks to expose the Bush Administration's domestic spying operations by revealing even more of its un-American activities in the name of national security. As Opinion Gazette readers probably know by now, New York Times reporters Eric Lichtblau and James Risen reported December 24, 2005, that:

The National Security Agency has traced and analyzed large volumes of telephone and Internet communications flowing into and out of the U.S. as part of the eavesdropping program that President Bush approved after the Sept. 11 attacks to hunt for evidence of terrorist activity, according to current and former government officials.
I found the following especially interesting:
As part of the program approved by Bush for domestic surveillance without warrants, the NSA has gained the cooperation of U.S. telecommunications companies to obtain back-door access to streams of domestic and international communications, the officials said.
It reminds of me of how easily back-doors can be inserted into our personal and institutional computers.

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Mayor Williams, Update Your Blog

Periodically I go to Washington, D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams' blog to see if he has updated it since his last post on September 29, 2005. He hasn't. His last topic? Hurricane Katrina. I guess he's too busy to keep posting.

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Washington Monthly Article on Kos Rattles His Opposition

Washington Monthly editor Benjamin Wallace-Wells' January/February 2006 profile on Markos Moulitsas Zuniga headlined "Kos Call." is quite informative and offers insights into a man who is increasingly garnering influence in democratic politics. I actually read the whole thing because I wanted to know what made Markos tick. I think I know.

For those hearing of him for the first time, Markos is the controversial proprietor of Daily Kos, the widely read liberal blog that gives establishment Democrats and Republicans fits. This was no puff piece although some of Kos' conservative critics seem to think so. See Decision 08 for interesting commentary and good links to conservative blogs commenting on the article. Also see Panhandle Pundit's commentary. But instead of relying on bloggers' interpretation, why not read the article yourself?

Oh, and thanks to Pandhandle Pundit for the link.

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December 23, 2005

'Bitch-slapping' President Bush on National Security Issues

In commenting on Joseph Sullum's December 22, 2005 Reason Online article headlined "No Fury Like a Court Scorned, " University of Chicago Assistant Political Science Professor Daniel W. Drezner said "...just about every branch or bureaucracy of government is bitch-slapping George W. Bush this month on national security issues." It was in response the following from Sullum:

Coming from what is generally considered the most government-friendly federal appeals court, yesterday's decision by the 4th Circuit denying the Bush administration's request to transfer accused would-be terrorist Jose Padilla from military to civilian custody is the judicial equivalent of a bitch slap.
It good to see Federal Judge J. Michael Luttig show judicial balls by rejecting Mr. Bush's attempt stay out of the U.S. Supreme Court on the Padilla case. Here's his 14-page opinion.

Luttig was appointed to the Fourth Circuit bench by George Herbert Walker Bush, the current U.S. president's father.

Note: This item is cross posted at The Diplomatic Times Review.

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December 22, 2005

When the Big Boys Speak

"Finally bowing to the wishes of powerful figures in the [New York state] Republican party, Westchester [New York] District Attorney Jeanine Pirro brought an end to her beleaguered U.S. Senate campaign yesterday [December 21, 2005], saying she would instead run for attorney general," reports Errol A. Cockfield, Jr., the Albany, New York bureau chief for Newsday. Her goal was to take the senate seat currently held by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

When you are a small fry like Pirro, you listen when the big boys in the party speak. They told her to set her sights on something smaller. She did knowing they could severely hinder her ability to raise campaign funds and attract statewide volunteers. See "Pirro drops Senate bid to run for Attorney General."

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LA Times: New Life for Patriot Act Is No Bush Win

RICHARD B. SCHMITT and Mary Curtius of the Los Angeles Times' Washington bureau reported December 22, 2005 that, "In a major setback for the White House on a top domestic priority, the Senate on Wednesday [December 21, 2005] passed a six-month extension of the Patriot Act, due to expire December 31, [2005] even though President Bush had demanded that most of the law become permanent."

With campaigns for the 2005 midterm elections about to get underway, the politicians in Washington are not about to hook their futures on a lame duck president whose popularity has taken a nosedive over his handling of the Iraq war and domestic spying. They have to look somewhat independent, even if they are not.

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The Growing Debate Over Mr. Bush's Domestic Spying

LINDA FELDMAN, STAFF WRITER for Boston, USA based Christian Science Monitor, reported in a December 22, 2005 article that, "The revelation that President Bush secretly authorized a domestic spying program after 9/11 is fueling the already heated debate over presidential power."

"From the administration's treatment of suspected terrorists to its drive for secrecy in deliberations over energy policy, Mr. Bush's five years in office have been marked by efforts to expand the executive branch's unfettered reach, " Ms. Feldman wrote, adding:

The tug of war among the three branches of government is as old as the Republic. But the convergence of three factors makes this struggle arguably unparalleled in the modern era: an administration that came to office determined to reclaim what it saw as the executive branch's diminished place; Republican control of the White House and Congress, raising questions about checks and balances; and the 9/11 attacks, which put America on the kind of war footing that historically opens the path to extraordinary action by the president.
The U.S. Congress bears some responsibility for the course Mr. Bush is taking. For example, they gave him extraordinary power to wage war and subvert some civil liberties in the USA Patriot Act, that was passed shortly after al-Qaeda's September 11, 2005 attacks in the United States. Many congressmen and senators did not even read the legislation. Senator Robert Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, USA, warned his colleagues in a February 12, 2003 Senate floor speech that they would come to regret the day they arrogated their war-making power to the Executive Branch, with virtually no debate. The speech is titled "We Stand Passively Mute."

Now a bipartisan group of senators are trying to curb the excesses they granted Mr. Bush by agreeing to renew for only six months 14 of 16 provisions of the Patriot Act. The provisions expire December 31, 2005. The House of Representatives, which approved the measure, must agree to the compromised version. On December 21, 2005, Mr. Bush has called on the Senate to back the house version. He later thanked the Senate for agreeing to extend the act by six months.

Meanwhile, as expected, Mr. Bush is vociferously defending his domestic spying, something the U.S. often criticized in the former Soviet Union. It also criticizes such spying in China, the Middle East and so-called Third World nations. For more, please see "Tug of war over presidential powers."

Note: This article is cross posted at The Diplomatic Times Review.

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December 21, 2005

Bush's Ok of Domestic Spying is Having a Ripple Effect

Joe Gandleman at The Moderate Voice says "The ripples over President George W. Bush's secret go-ahead for domestic spying, and his subsequent defense of it, have morphed into a bigger wave with the announcement that a federal spy court judge has quit in protest."

Here's more of Joe's analysis. He has a good roundup of blog opinion on the issue.

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December 20, 2005

Michigan Court Orders Anti-Affirmative Action Proposal Placed on Ballot

"The Michigan Court of Appeals on Tuesday [December 20, 2005] ordered the ]Michigan] secretary of state to place a proposal that would ban some affirmative action programs on the November 2006 ballot," reports The Detroit Free Press and other publications.
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December 18, 2005

Iraqi Election Winners Will Still Depend on U.S.

Washington Post Reporter Robin Wright has concluded that. "Whoever the winners turn out to be in last week's election [in Iraq], they will still rely heavily on the United States as a broker next year-- in helping to form a government, rewrite the constitution, build up the army and police, jump-start the floundering economy and prevent a civil war, Bush administration officials acknowledge. Iraqis are too divided to do many of these tasks alone, experts add."

In other words, the winners will be puppets who will have to rely on an occupying power to rule or lead. Here's more.

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Mr. Bush and His Friends in Congress

In a news analysis in the December 18, 2005 edition of the Boston Globe, reporter Peter Canellos said:

President Bush's radio address yesterday [December 17, 2005] was an eight-minute bullet of a speech aimed at his growing number of congressional critics, who have turned on the president in a dramatic set of rebukes over torture policy, the Patriot Act, and his authorization of spying on Americans. The speech stands as one of Bush's most forceful statements, a manifesto calling for enhanced executive power to protect the United States from terrorist plots.
"But its unsparing language also reflects an urgency bordering on desperation over the extent to which a Congress dominated by his own party has deserted him on his strongest issue -- fighting the war on terrorism," Canellos concluded.

For more, please see "Arguing for enhanced powers of presidency."

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Is Bush Eavesdropping on Supporters Who Now Oppose Iraq War?

The New York Times' David Sanger, in an article reprinted in the December 18, 2005 edition of The International Herald Tribune, which is owned by the New York Times company, wrote:

President George W. Bush has acknowledged that he ordered the National Security Agency to conduct an electronic eavesdropping program in the United States without first obtaining warrants, and he said he would continue the highly classified program because it was "a vital tool in our war against the terrorists."
I wonder how Mr. Bush's core supporters feel about this? Suppose one of them becomes a victim of warrantless eavesdropping. We may see ourselves as patriotic but that doesn't mean that everyone in government does despite our proclamation of patriotism. Here's more of Sanger's article

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Congress Gave Bush Extended Powers and He Used Them

PETER YOST of The Associated Press wrote today that, "President Bush is seizing on Iraq's elections to claim significant progress as he faces an uproar in Congress over whether he exceeded his powers in conducting the war on terror."

If he did, and I think he did, it is Congress' fault. Members' fear of being labelled unpatriotic prevented them from offering the oversight they should have. Here's Yost's article.

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'A Government Won't be Respected Unless it is Perceived as Sovereign'

Riverbend at Baghdad Burning, in an OpEd piece for the December 18, 2005 edition of The New York Times about the December 15, 2005 parliamentary elections in Iraq, wrote, in part:

Many Iraqis went to vote because the current situation is intolerable. It's not so much with high hopes for drastic change that people went to the polls as it is in the national aspiration of putting an end to the occupation, and to the tyranny of the last year in particular.
Candidates on the political lists have been making endless promises in the hopes of attracting supporters, and the metaphorical carrot many political parties have been dangling in front of potential supporters is the promise of an end to the American-led occupation.

Will the new government be stronger or more reliable than the several interim governments we've had? Not likely.

River, a former computer programmer in Iraq, added: "A government won't be respected unless it is perceived as sovereign by the people, and occupation in itself goes against every suggestion of sovereignty and democracy. How does one put faith in a government that needs the use of foreign armies to keep it in power?"

Riverbend was one of "several young Iraqi bloggers" the Op-Ed page asked to write about their experiences during the parliamentary voting on Thursday December 15, 2005]- and to share their thoughts about what the election will mean for their country's future." For more see, "Blogging the Vote in Iraq." Registration may be required.

Note: This item is also posted at The Diplomatic Times Review.

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December 17, 2005

Mr. Bush Wants His Patriot Act Renewed

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH is pissed that a few senators, both Democrats and Republicans, have finally gotten some balls and are not rubber stamping the "House of Representatives' reauthorization of the Patriot Act." Our president said in his December 17, 2005 radio address that "a minority of senators filibustered to block the renewal of the Patriot Act when it came up for a vote yesterday {December 16, 2005.

"That decision is irresponsible, and it endangers the lives of our citizens," he declared. "The senators who are filibustering must stop their delaying tactics, and the Senate must vote to reauthorize the Patriot Act. In the war on terror, we cannot afford to be without this law for a single moment."

Yes, we can. I think it is dangerous act because it gives the president and the FBI too much power to interfere in the lives of U.S. citizens . Here's a White House transcript of Mr. Bushes radio address.

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December 16, 2005

Majority in the House Commit to 'achieving victory' in Iraq

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a resolution today committing the body to President George W. Bush's goal of "achieving victory" in Iraq, according to The Associated Press (AP) and other news outlets. The roll call vote was 279-109 "A "yes" vote is a vote to pass the measure," the AP said.

Surely this is no surprise. I think during the 2006 campaign season some of the representatives will wish they hadn't voted for it. Here's more.

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House Version of Renewed USA Patriot Act Rejected in the Senate

Senate majority leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and other supporters of renewing certain provisions of the USA Patriot Act suffered what The New York Times called "a stinging defeat in the Senate today, falling well short of the 60 votes needed to bring the act to a final vote and leaving it in limbo for the moment."

Richard B. Schmitt of the Los Angeles Times noted in a December 16, 2005 article that:

A deeply divided chamber engaged in an often-emotional debate Thursday [December 15, 2005], weighing issues of security and liberty on a day that one member noted was the anniversary of the ratification in 1791 of what would become known as the Bill of Rights, including the 4th Amendment's right against unreasonable searches.
He quoted Senator Ken Salazar (Democrat of Colorado), who was "part of a bipartisan group of nine senators building support for the filibuster" threatened by Senator Dianne Feinstein (Democrat of California), as saying: "It is ironic ... that we are considering legislation that would greatly undermine that principle." At least some Senators have regained their sense of Independence following their capitulation to the Bush Administration on Patriot Act in the days after Al Qaeda's September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

Note: This article is also posted at The Diplomatic Times Review, one of my other blogs.

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A Transcript of Bush's Meeting With Warner and McCain on Torture

Here is a White House transcript of U.S. President George W. Bush's December 15, 2005 welcome of Senator John Warner, Republican of Virginia, and Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, to the Oval Office to discuss torture and interrogation.

Mr. McCain vehemently opposes torture. He was a victim of it while a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

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'Make Levees, Not War'

ANYA KAMENETZ of The Village Voice noted in a December 16th, 2005 dispatch from New Orleans that, "Make Levees, Not War" was "the most popular slogan among several Katrina T-shirts seen around New Orleans."

"Without stronger, reinforced levees, everyone in New Orleans agrees, the recovery is doomed," she wrote, adding: "So many breathed a sigh of relief on December 15 [2005] when President Bush met with Mayor Ray Nagin [of New Orleans] to pledge $1.5 billion to the $1.6 billion already in the Army Corps' budget, doubling the current allocation for flood protection in Louisiana."

"It is time to come home," Nagin said in celebration noted Ms. Kamenetz.

In what is potentially a politically disastrous decision, the Bush Administration continues to spend more money on war in Iraq than on rebuilding New Orleans. For more on this, please see "Make Levees, Not War: Serious hurricane protection could take 30 years to build."

Here is a December 15, 2005 transcript in which White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, Mayor Nagin, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff; Don Powell, the federal coordinator for the hurricane reconstruction and rebuilding; and General Carl A. Strock of the Army Corps of Engineers discuss rebuilding the levees.

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Rice Tries to Protect Bush From Allegations of Spying on Americans

LISA MYERS, NBC's investigative correspondent disclosed on December 14, 2005 that the Pentagon kept a database on anti-war activists around nation. It's getting worse. The New York Times reported December 15, 2005 on its website and December 16, 2005 in its print edition that:

Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.
The Times said, "Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible "dirty numbers" linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications."

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was trotted out on December 16, 2005 to defend Mr. Bush, who can't seem to avoid bad news these days. She responded to a question about The Times article in an interview with Katie Couric on NBC's ``Today'' show, and in an interview with Charlie Gibson on ABC's Good Morning America.

She also appeared on the CBS Early Show With Harry Smith. I didn't see a question about The Times article in the State Department transcript of her interview with Mr. Smith.

The gist of Ms. Rice's statement on the matter, as she told Ms. Couric and Mr. Gibson, was that she was "not going to comment on intelligence matters and certainly not on a newspaper story about intelligence matters."

She specifically told Couric:

"Well, Katie, I'm not going to comment on intelligence matters and certainly not on a newspaper story about intelligence matters. I can tell you that the President has always lived within the law. He has always said that he will do everything that he can to protect the American people from the kind of attack that we experienced on September 11th, but within the law and with due regard for the civil liberties of Americans. Because he takes absolutely seriously his constitutional responsibility both to defend Americans and to do it within the law.
I think events will prove Ms. Rice wrong. Just as the administration's lies about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction blew up in the president's face, expect more revelations about spying on Americans.

Note: This article is also posted at The Diplomatic Times Review.

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Los Angeles Times: 'McCain Held All the Cards, So Bush Folded

Peter Wallsten of the Los Angeles Times' Washington Bureau contends that, "by refusing to agree to an all-out ban on the torture of terrorist suspects held in U.S. custody, President Bush in recent months was triggering political problems for his administration at home and around the world.

"It took the assistance of an unlikely ally Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a rival in the 2000 Republican primaries to give the White House the chance to repair the damage on both fronts," he wrote in a December 16, 2005 news analysis.

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John McCain Knows the Pain of Torture, Mr. Bush Doesn't

U.S. President George W. Bush's capitulation to Arizona Senator John McCain on the question of banning the use of torture by CIA agents and U.S. military personnel trying to extract information from Muslim prisoners of war is highly significant. The ban would apply at home and abroad.

As Washington Post staff writer Peter Baker noted in a December 16, 2005 article:

Nearly five months ago, President Bush issued a formal threat to veto legislation barring torture, and for the past five months he has been trying to find a way to avoid doing just that. The price: giving Senator. John McCain (R-Ariz.) the upper hand.
"Once again the awkward, freighted Bush-McCain relationship with all its history of rivalry and resentment took center stage in American politics yesterday [December 15, 2005], Baker added, "as the second-place finisher in the 2000 Republican presidential primaries forced the first-place finisher to swallow something he once opposed."

Mr. Bush really had no choice but to capitulate. How could he veto a torture bill by a man who spent five and a half years as a prisoner in Hanoi and was frequently tortured by the North Vietnamese? John McCain knows the pain of torture, Mr. Bush doesn't. He fought in a war, Mr. Bush didn't. McCain narrowly escaped death aboard the USS Forrestall when a bomb accidental launched and hit his A-4 Skyhawk. It "exploded underneath the plane, starting a major fire which killed 134 sailors and nearly threatened to destroy the ship," according to Wikipedia. Mr. Bush has had no such experience. McCain has earned the right to deferential treatment on this issue.

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Mr. Bush Accepts John McCain's Anti-Torture Proposal

In a December 15, 2005 article headlined "McCain's Torture Ban Finally Sways Bush," Los Angeles Times staff writers Maura Reynolds and Greg Miller noted that,"After resisting for months, President Bush caved in to Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., Thursday [December 15, 2005] and said he would accept a formal ban on the cruel or inhumane treatment of detainees in U.S. custody anywhere in the world."

"The agreement represented a rare policy reversal for Bush on his signature issue: his leadership in the battle against terrorism," they wrote, adding: "It followed an unusual rebuke of the president from lawmakers in his own Republican Party, who largely fell in line behind McCain, a former Vietnam prisoner of war and torture survivor with unassailable authority on the subject."

It's good to see our president doing the right thing.

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Congress May Pass Anti-Torture Legislation

"If Congress passes new legislative restrictions on cruel and degrading treatment of foreign terrorism suspects - as now appears likely - it's not clear what the practical effects on US interrogation practices might be," writes Peter Grier in a December 16, 2005 Christian Science Monitor article headlined "Congress moves toward clear policy against torture." I think it's worth reading..

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December 15, 2005

From Vaughn Ververs' 'The Perception-Is-Reality Files'

In a December 14, 2005 post headlined "From The Perception-Is-Reality Files," Vaughn Ververs at CBS News' Public Eye blog opined:

We're reminded by The Washington Post today that the investigations into the government response to Hurricane Katrina are not going to end anytime soon. And with millions of e-mails, documents and records to sift through, you can be pretty sure its going to be awhile before a clear picture emerges of which officials knew what when and where many of the breakdowns occurred if it ever does.
"But you can be sure of one thing," Ververs added, "we'll get plenty of isolated examples of embarrassing, bad or seemingly negligent behavior."

I agree, but that may not be a bad thing. I want to know how the salami is made.

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Arianna Wants to Know If Pentagon Spying is a 60s Flashback

Arianna Huffington, proprietor of The Huffington Post, December 15, 2005: "Reading the new reports about the Pentagon conducting surveillance of peaceful anti-war groups and protests, I feel like I'm having a bad 60s flashback."

No, Arianna, this is not a flasback. This is a current affair, and something that may have been going on all along. Protests against the Iraq war just made someone dumb enough to create a database that ended up in the hands of the press.

For more of Huffington's perspective, please see "60s Flashback: Is the Government Spying on Us Again?"

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Why President Bush Supports Representative Tom DeLay

Question: Why is U.S. President George W. Bush expressing opinions about the money laundering charges and indictment of former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas)?

Mr. Bush leaves no doubt that he wants Mr. DeLay exonerated. According to the December 15, 2005 issue of The Washington Post, Mr. Bush told Fox News' Brit Hume:

I hope that he will, 'cause I like him, and plus, when he's over there, we get our votes through the House.
The Post said "it is highly unusual for a president to express an opinion on a pending legal case. Richard M. Nixon, for instance, was widely criticized for declaring Charles Manson "guilty, directly or indirectly" of murder while Manson's trial was ongoing, the paper said, noting that, Mr. Bush also "offered strong support for several top Republicans who have been battered by investigations or by rumors of fading clout inside the White House."

Here's the transcript of Mr. Bush's December 14, 2005 interview with Brit Hume.

Note: This article is also posted at The Diplomatic Times Review.

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Bush Gives Another Reason for Iraq Invasion

A Knight Ridder Newspapers and the Chicago Tribune article published in the Seattle Times under the headline "Bush winds up campaign to counter Iraq criticism" notes that "In the latest example of a broader White House campaign to rescue his second term," USA President George W. Bush "on Wednesday [December 14, 2005] wrapped up a series of speeches about Iraq by defending the 2003 invasion despite erroneous prewar intelligence about weapons of mass destruction."

"It's true that much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong," [Mr.] Bush said omitting that he and top aides had ignored warnings from midlevel intelligence agents that some of the evidence was suspect then quickly added that he has no regrets about his decision to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein," the report says. "We are in Iraq today because our goal has always been more than the removal of a brutal dictator. It is to leave a free and democratic Iraq in its place."

So he admits again that he lied. We were initially told it was because Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. It is obvious that Mr. Bush's sees nothing wrong with a predominantly Christian nations invading a Muslim nation to impose that Christian nations way of life on the Muslim nation and nations in the region. What if another nation or a combination of nations announce that it would invade the U.S. for a similar reason? Just asking.

By the way, Mr. Bush ended his campaign to shore up his Iraq policy on the same day Iraqi politicians ended their parliamentary campaigns. Is that a coincidence? I doubt it.

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December 14, 2005

Some Senators Leery of Renewing USA Patriot Act

CNN International.Com , in a post headlined "Patriot Act's fate remains uncertain," told its worldwide audience December 15, 2005 that "despite strong support" in the U.S. House of Representatives for the Patriot Act, opposition to renewing some of its provisions is "brewing in the Senate." The Act should have never been passed in the first place. It's a legal blueprint for civil liberties violations.

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Mitt Romney May Be Preparing for GOP Presidential Run

Mitt Romney, governor of the U.S. state of Massachusetts, announced December 14, 2005 that he would not seek re-election in 2006. Does this mean that he is giving himself three years to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2008? He did not say he would or wouldn't.

It would be good to see a Republican presidential candidate without any times to the current characters in the White House.

For more, please see "Romney to skip re-election in 2006, stays mum on White House bid."

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Mr. Bush Admits Making Mistakes on Iraq

"On the eve of Thursday's [December 15, 2005] parliamentary elections in Iraq, President George W. Bush did something he rarely likes to do: He admitted a mistake. Sort of," according to a Newsweek column by Richard Wolffe and Holly Bailey headlined "It's Going to Take a While."

Mr. Bush also used the same old justification for going to war, none of which holds up to strict scrutiny.

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It's the Same Old Song on Iraq and It's Out of Tune

During a December 14, 2005 speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. U.S. President George W. Bush stuck to his long-held position that he invaded Iraq because former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was threat to U.S. national security, among other things. Saddam was no threat. It's all in Mr. Bush's mind. Here's a White House transcript of the speech.

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December 13, 2005

New York Republican Bosses Don't Want Pirro to Challenge Hillary

"Republican prosecutor Jeanine Pirro's once-promising campaign for the U.S. Senate seat held by Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) is lingering somewhere between the critical list and terminal," according to an article in the December 13, 2005 edition of the Washington Post. Read why.

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Would You Say You are Guilty of Murder to Save Your Life?

IN THEIR ACCOUNT of the December 13, 2005 execution of Los Angeles Crips street gang co-founder Stanley "Tookie Williams" headlined "Tookie Williams Is Executed," Los Angeles Times staff writers Jenifer Warren and Maura Dolan wrote:

After the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request for a last-minute stay Monday evening, the co-founder of the infamous Crips street gang who insisted he was innocent of the murders became the 12th man executed by the state of California since voters reinstated capital punishment in 1978.

With its racial overtones and compelling theme--society's dueling goals of redemption and retribution--the case provoked more controversy than any California execution in a generation, and became a magnet for attention and media worldwide.

A long list of prominent supporters--as disparate as South African Bishop Desmond Tutu and rapper Snoop Dogg--rallied to Williams cause.

But in a strongly worded rejection of Williams request for clemency, [California Governor Arnold] Schwarzenegger said he saw no need to rehash or second-guess the many court decisions already rendered in the case, and he questioned the death row inmates claims of atonement. Williams, the governor said in a statement, never admitted guilt, plotted to kill law enforcement officers after his capture, and made little mention in his writings of the scourge of gang killings, which the statement called "a tragedy of our modern culture.

Could it be that Williams never admitted guilt because he was actually innocent of the murders? Leaving aside the fact that I don't know whether he is guilty or innocent, should we have expected him to say he was guilty just to save his life? Would you do it? Just asking.

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Brian Rooney's 'Eyewitness' to an Execution

ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT Brian Rooney's "eyewitness account" of Los Angeles Crips street gang co-founder Stanley "Tookie" William's controversial, December 13, 2005 execution is quite vivid. He not only describe the execution, but also how he felt when ABC volunteered him for the assignment. I couldn't tell if he is pro-execution or not.

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December 12, 2005

Alito Reportedly Ignores Congressional Black Caucus

BlackAmericaWeb.com reported December 12, 2005 that, "As Democrats and Republicans spar over a potential filibuster by Democrats to block Samuel Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court, members of the Congressional Black Caucus say Alito snubbed their recent request for a meeting." Here's the report.

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Tookie Williams Will Likely Die Tomorrow

Chicago Tribune Columnist Eric Zorn, who writes a blog, Change of Subject, for the paper, is one of many commentators who've offered opinions about California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's December 12, 2005 decision not to grant clemency to Stanley Tookie Williams, who is scheduled to be executed tomorrow morning. Zorn wrote:

I'm an opponent of the death penalty, but I believe that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was right not to grant clemency today to condemned inmate Stanley Tookie Williams, 51, on the grounds that he is a dramatically changed person from the man who murdered three people in 1979.

Even still, Schwarzenegger was right for the wrong reason.

I've been asked if I thought Williams, co-founder of the Crips, a Los Angeles gang, murdered three people in 1979. I honestly don't have a sense of the case. However, I am leery of the death penalty except in those cases where it is absolutely certain that a person committed a heinous crime. The fact that Illinois has had to release so many inmates from deathrow who were falsely convicted makes me leery.

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ABC and Time Magazine's New Poll on Iraq

ABC's Gary Langer and Jon Cohen, in a December 12, 2005 analysis of "An ABC News poll in Iraq, conducted with Time magazine and other media partners, said:

Surprising levels of optimism prevail in Iraq with living conditions improved, security more a national worry than a local one, and expectations for the future high. But views of the country's situation overall are far less positive, and there are vast differences in views among Iraqi groups a study in contrasts between increasingly disaffected Sunni areas and vastly more positive Shiite and Kurdish provinces
Look for all sides of the political spectrum to spin the poll to support their positions on the war. To read Langer and Cohen's analysis, see " Poll: Broad Optimism in Iraq, But Also Deep Divisions Among Groups. "

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U.S. Supreme Court Will Review Constitutionality of Texas Redistricting

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram said in a December 12, 2005 editorial that, "The re-redrawing of Texas' congressional districts in 2003 was a power play, ramrodded through the Legislature -- with great consternation and excessive expense -- at the behest of U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay.' Today, December 12, 2005, the U.S. Supreme said it would consider the constitutionality of the controversial power grab, reports The Associated Press and other news outlets. Bloomberg.Com, in an article headlined "Texas Voting Map Draws U.S. Supreme Court Scrutiny (Update2)," said "The cases the court will review are League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry, 05-204; Travis County v. Perry, 05- 254; Jackson v. Perry, 05-276; and GI Forum of Texas v. Perry, 05-439. For more of the cases, see Scotus Blog's December 12, 2005 report headlined "Court to hear Texas redistricting cases." Burnt Orange Report has an informative post headlined "Supreme Court to Review TX Redistricting." All the posts are worth reading. The outcome of these cases will determine how future redistricting plans are to be implemented.
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Will 2006 Elections Hinge on National or Local Issues or Both?

Washington Post Staff Writer Chris Cillizza, in a December 11, 2005 article headlined " 2006 Looms as a Test Of National vs. Local Issues," wrote:

As both major parties gear up for the 2006 midterm elections, a crucial strategic divide is emerging in the battle for the House. Democrats -- led by Rep(resentative) Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- are insisting that national issues such as the war in Iraq, corruption in Congress and President Bush's approval ratings will be dominant in voters' minds next year. Republicans insist recent history shows that local issues, not national waves, determine who wins.
"Who's right?" Cillizza asked. Answering the question, Cillizza said, "That won't be known until next November, but both sides are busy marshaling their arguments for a campaign likely to be watched closely as political scientists and operatives study the effectiveness of "nationalizing" midterm elections.

I think national and local issues are related, especially as they relate to the economy and the Iraq war. Every soldier that has died or been wounded in Iraq has a home town and family members who vote, and may or may not oppose the war. And while there is movement in the economy, the war, which was launched under false pretenses, has created a huge debt for the current and future generations. That debt will continue unless politicians stop spending billions daily on foreign adventures that make a few favored contractors rich.

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Democrats 'Eyeing Races for Control of the U.S. House'

As the 2006 midterm election year campaigns are about to get underway, columnist are paying attention to Representative Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., who is chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee."

Yesterday, December 11, 2005, syndicated columnist Robert Novak wrote about him in a piece the Chicago Sun-Times headlined "No Sophmore Jinx for Emanuel." Today, Seattle Post-Intelligencer political columnist Joel Connelly discussed Emanuel in an article headlined "Eyeing races for control of U.S. House." He wrote:

As his party's chief strategist for winning back the House of Representatives, Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., must evaluate whether there will be a groundswell of support for Democrats in 2006, or just a frost heave.
He quoted Emanuel as saying in an interview:
We're trying to spread the field and put 40 to 50 seats in play.
Connelly said, "Even that number in the 435-member House is an ambitious goal, given how many districts are drawn to protect incumbents -- Republicans in the big states of Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan."

He's right, but it should be a damn good fight trying to win those seats. Look for some bare knuckle, Chicago-style political campaigning. If you don't know what that's like, just Google "Chicago politics."

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Novak Sees 'No Sophomore Jinx' for Chicago's Rahm Emanuel

In his December 11, 2005 column, controversial political columnist Robert Novak said "Rep(resentative) Rahm Emanuel, in only his second term as a congressman from Chicago, gets high praise from Democratic activists outside Congress for his performance as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee."

Rolling Stone calls him "The Enforcer." No wonder he and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, also from Illinois, don't get along.

For more or Novak's opinion, see "No sophomore jinx for Emanuel."

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December 11, 2005

The Moderate Voice Raises Questions About 'The Ever Elusive Bin Laden'

JOE GANDELMAN at The Moderate Voice, one of my favorite blogs, has a thought-provoking post today on Osama bin Laden headlined "The Ever Elusive Bin Laden." I recommend it.

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The Nation Analyzes "The Torture Conspiracy'

THE NATION, in an article in its December 26, 2005 issue, confronts what it calls "the sweeping moral seriousness of the torture conspiracy and what it has done to America and its democratic institutions. The facts are known: Now is the time to hold the conspirators accountable," the publication asserts in the article, which was posted to the web on December 8, 2005.

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Is Small Arms Fire Causing More U.S. Casualties in Iraq?

PROFESSOR Juan Cole at Informed Comment observed in a December 11, 2005 post: "I have been noticing reports of deaths by small arms fire more frequently of late, and am wondering if they indicate increased capacity among the guerrillas. After all, it cannot be easy to get close enough to a US patrol or checkpoint with machine guns to open fire effectively."

If I recall correctly, most reported U.S. casualties have been the result of bombs.

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Decter: Bush Should Do More to Involve Americans in the War

MIDGE DECTER, an old-school conservative from way back, contends in the December 19, 2005 edition of the National Review that:

Anyone with a minimally dispassionate sense of history would have to judge that George W. Bush conducted the Iraq war brilliantly.
She said "The president should do more to involve Americans in the war."

If the polls are correct, Americans don't want to be involved in anymore war in Iraq. Here's Decter's argument.

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'Fighting to Win' What?

"IS RETREAT FROM--or withdrawal from--or defeat in--Iraq inevitable?" asks Frederick W. Kagan in the December 19, 2005 edition of The Weekly Standard. See "Fighting to Win" for his answer.

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Rumsfeld's Final Act?

GREGORY DJEREJIAN at The Belgravia Dispatch, a must read on international affairs and U.S. foreign policy even if you don't agree with most of the proprietor's conclusions--I don't most of the time--is "hearing from just about all over the place that Rummy's days are numbered."

For the uninitiated, "Rummy" is U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

By the way, I also think the old boy's days are numbered. If he leaves tomorrow, it won't be too soon. Like his boss, Rumsfeld has blinders on, which prevents him from seeing that the U.S. will not, and cannot, win the war in Iraq without totally obliterating the country.

See "Rummy's Final Act?" for Djerejian's post on the Rumsfeld.

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Transcript of Bill Frist on Fox News Sunday

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER Bill Frist (Republican of Tennessee) appeared on Fox News Sunday December 11, 2005. Here's a Fox News transcript of host Chris Wallace's interview with Frist.

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Democrats and Republicans Like Front-loaded Caucus Calendars

THE EDITORIAL BOARD at the Los Angeles Times thinks "There is a better way to broaden participation in the [presidential] nomination process, which would force candidates to campaign in more regions and in more diverse states."

The paper added: The party should consider an ambitious overhaul of the process to create a system of regional primaries that rotate over time and are scheduled to ensure that primary campaigns once again last throughout the spring of an election year. That was the recommendation issued this fall by the nonpartisan Commission on Election Reform chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III.

Unfortunately, leaders of both political parties are loath to address the front-loading of the calendar because they feel the sooner they have a nominee, the better chance he stands in the general election.

The Times said, "This is flawed conventional wisdom, as the experience of John Kerry attests."

"The other reason not to expect ambitious reform to the process," The Times said, "is that everyone has an interest in pandering to Iowa and New Hampshire at least anyone who harbors presidential aspirations does. And in politics, that's just about everyone.

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New Hampshire Democrats React to Caucus Recommendations

UNION-LEADER.COM of New Hampshire has reactions from Democratic leaders in that state to "the Democratic National Committee's Primary Commission" recommendations which, according to the AP, calls for adding "one or two caucuses after Iowa's but before New Hampshire's primary." New Hampshire holds the "first-in-the-nation Presidential primary" every four years.

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December 10, 2005

Union Leader.Com on Proposed Caucus Changes

On December 9, 2005, Union-Leader.com, the Manchester New Hampshire Union-Leader's web site, told its readers in an editorial:

Tomorrow we find out what Democrats consider more important: populism or racial politics. It is the day a party commission recommends whether to effectively strip New Hampshire of its first-in-the-nation Presidential primary because the state is too white.
To read the editorial, please see "Primary matters: Guilt before reason for Dems."

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Adding Caucus Dates Won't Help Democrats Much

The Democratic Party in the United States has a Commission on Presidential Nomination Timing and Scheduling. Today, according to The Associated Press and other news sources, it recommended that "one or two caucuses" be added "after the State of Iowa's but before the New Hampshire primary. Those two states traditionally initiate the drive for the nomination, with New Hampshire holding what the Manchester, New Hampshire Union-Leader calls the "first-in-the-nation Presidential primary."

Party leaders will have to do more than change their approach to holding caucuses if they want to pick up seats in the 2006 elections. Changing the process in states with sizable non-white populations in the interest of diversity won't cut it as a winning formula for victory.

To break the Republican Party's hold on the White House and Congress, Democrats will have to engage in old-fashioned, shoe leather politics. In other words, go door-to-door in major urban areas and small town America and talk to people. The party's foot soldiers will have to look them in the eye and and sell the party's vision for the nation. They have to engaged voters in conversation. Leaders have not talk at voters or avoid them by trying to reach them solely through advertising or whistle stop campaigning at a downtown hotel or supporters suburban home..

By the way, in May 2005, the Democratic National Committee issued a preliminary fact sheet called The Window and State Primary Dates.

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How Reporter Marcus Stern Exposed Duke Cunningham

Bringing Down Duke: Meet the man who ended Cunningham's career" is an interesting account in SanDiego City Beat of how Marcus Stern, "Washington, D.C.-based editor with the Copley News Service," ended up publishing an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune that "revealed that Mitchell Wade, a defense contractor, had paid an inflated price for a Del Mar [California] home belonging to Congressman Randy Duke Cunningham."

"The story noted a corresponding surge in multimillion-dollar government contracts won by Wades company, MZM Inc., thanks in part to the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee of which Cunningham was a member," City Beat reporter Daniel Strumpf wrote in his story on Stern.

Thanks to Kevin Drum at Political Animal for publishing a link to the City Beat story. The story is a good example of what an alert reporter can accomplish.

Note: This item is cross posted at The Online Free Press.

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RNC: 'Democrats Have a Plan for Iraq...'

The World Peace Herald (WPH) reported December 10, 2005 that, "The Republican National Committee yesterday [December 10, 2005] released a hard-hitting Web ad that shows the white flag of surrender waving in front of Democrats as they complain about the Iraq war."

"'Democrats have a plan for Iraq," a line of text reads at the beginning of the 60-second spot'," WPH said. "'Retreat and defeat.'" Here's more.

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Is Consensus Emerging for Bringing Home Exhausted Troops?

"Surprisingly, a bipartisan consensus is emerging for bringing home our exhausted troops, yet President Bush clings to his chimera of total victory," Salon.Com contends in an article headlined "Should we stay or should we go?"

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Iraq War Creating Dilemma for Republicans and Democrats

Bloomberg.Com says, "Iraq, which is dragging down [U.S.] President George W. Bush's public standing, is also creating a dilemma for Democrats torn between riding the wave of opposition to the war and fear of looking soft on national security." Read why and how.

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Compounding the Problem

"In a series of speeches that continue next week," U.S. President George W. Bush "for the first time is acknowledging that key parts of his early postwar plan didn't work," according to Craig Gordon of Newsday's Washington bureau.

Just think how many headaches he could have saved himself and the nation if he had just acknowledged his mistakes four years ago. The major mistake was invading and occupying Iraq in the first place. The mistake is compounded by an unwillingness to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq immediately. Here's Gordon's analysis.

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Bush Wants 16 Provisions of the USA Patriot Act Renewed

Today U.S. President George W. Bush applauded "for its good work" a "House and Senate conference committee" that "reached an agreement on reauthorization of the Patriot Act."

"Now Congress needs to finish the job," he said during his weekly radio address. Both the Senate and the House need to hold a prompt vote, and send me a bill renewing the Patriot Act so I can sign it into law." Mr. Bush added:

This week's agreement would renew all 16 provisions of the Patriot Act that are scheduled to expire at the end of this month -- and it would make 14 of these provisions permanent.
Frankly, I find the prospect of the act being renewed frightening. With this act, legislation for a congressionally mandated dictatorship is in place.

Here's a White House transcript of Mr. Bush's December 10, 2005 radio address.

Note: This item is cross posted at The Diplomatic Times Review.

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The Connecticut Post: 'Defense a No-go for Joe'

"Senator Joe Lieberman, the president's go-to Democrat on Iraq, is denying rumors that he is on his way to the Pentagon," The Connecticut Post's Peter Urban reported December 9, 2005. Urban quoted Casey Aden-Wansbury, Lieberman's press secretary, as saying:
The United States Senate is where Senator Lieberman wants to be, which is why he is actively campaigning for re-election to his fourth term representing Connecticut next year.
I can't picture Lieberman as an effective Secretary of Defense. His personality doesn't seem strong enough.
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Rumsfeld Should Resign

Thomas DeFrank and Kenneth R. Bazinet of The New York Daily News' Washington Bureau's December 8, 2005 report that "White House officials are telling associates they expect Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to quit early next year, once a new government is formed in Iraq," has Rumsfeld issuing a denial.

The News said, "Rumsfeld's deputy, Gordon England, is the inside contender to replace him, but there's also speculation that Senator Joe Lieberman - a Democrat who ran against Bush-Cheney in the 2000 election - might become top guy at the Pentagon."

"That's not as farfetched as it might first appear," DeFrank and Bazinet wrote.

"Those reports have been flying around since about four months after I assumed my post," Baltimore Sun reporter Tom Bowman quoted Rumsfeld as saying. I have no plans to retire."

I think Mr. Head-in-the-Sand should retire and be replaced by someone who would push for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. There has been enough dying among both Americans and Iraqis. Of course, no Defense Secretary is going to push for a withdrawal on President Bush's watch, when the goal is to permanent military bases in Iraq. It would defeat the purpose for which Iraq was invaded and occupied.

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As Expected, GOP Legislators Agree on Patriot Act Extensions

On December 9, 2005 Tom Regan at cs monitor.com had an informative roundup of news and opinion on Republican legislators' agreement on the extension of the USA Patriot Act. Read it here.

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December 8, 2005

U.S. May Try to Deport Professor Sami al-Arian

The New York Times reported today that Federal "Prosecutors said Wednesday [December 7, 2005] that they may still decide to re-try... former professor Sami Al-Arian on some or all of the nine criminal counts on which a jury in Tampa, Florida, deadlocked over on Tuesday," December 6, 2005.

"But if the government opts not to retry him," The Times reported, "officials said they would probably bring separate immigration charges that could result in his deportation - and which would require the government to meet a lower burden of proof against him."

I think Prosecutor Paul Perez's effort will be rejected if he attempts to deport the professor.

Here's The Times article. Here's a Justice Department press release on Al-Arian's February 20, 2002 arrest.

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Judge Refuses to Grant DeLay Separate Trial

In a letter to attorneys in U.S. Representative Tom DeLay's money laundering and conspiracy case, Texas state district Judge Pat Priest said: "

It is unlikely that I will grant a severance of counts or even of defendants in the absence of a compelling reason to do so.
DeLay, who had asked the judge to try the counts separately, thinks he would be acquitted in time to reclaim his position as House majority leader when Congress returns from recess. For more, please see "Judge loath to grant DeLay separate trial."

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Should Schwarzenegger Seek Re-election as an independent?

In an article for the Los Angeles Times, Dan Schnur, described by The Oakland Tribune as a "Republican political consultant" who "teaches at the Institute of Government Studies at the University of California, Berkeley," asked:

Should Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger run for re-election in California as an independent?
Read Schnur's answer here. The Tribune reprinted Schnur's Times article.

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Is Arnold Arnold Schwarzenegger a Closet Democrat?

LA Weekly Reporter Bill Bradley has "A portrait of a troubled term" in the weekly's December 16-22, 2005 edition. It's about California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. As Bradley notes, the governor "shocked the political world and enraged much of his own Republican Party by naming former [California Governor] Gray Davis official Susan Kennedy his chief of staff." Bradley said more than a week after Schwarzenegger committed this political sin, "his scene remains decidedly unsettled."

"Its disequilibrium was symbolically evident yesterday," he wrote, "when the governor, fresh from a several-hour hospital stint for an irregular heartbeat, shared the spotlight with his former bitter rival, the recalled governor. The event was a packed gathering in the ornate state Capitol rotunda to unveil Davis' portrait."

The way Bradley describes it, one gets the impression there were more Democrats at the ceremony than Republicans, which leads to the question: Is Arnold a closet Democrat? Just asking.

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December 7, 2005

Washington State Democrats Offers Snapshot of the Divisiveness Over Iraq

Seattle Post-Intelligencer Washington Correspondent Charles Pope said the "six House Democrats from Washington state offer a telling snapshot of the crosscurrents pulling Democrats nationwide" on the politically sensitive issue of withdrawal from Iraq. "Four of them -- Jim McDermott, Jay Inslee, Rick Larsen and Brian Baird -- voted in September 2002 against going to war while Norm Dicks and Adam Smith voted to give the president permission to invade," Pope noted.

He said while "Iraq has taken a toll on President Bush and his Republican allies, as spotty success on the ground and concerns about the length of America's involvement have fueled public doubts and declining poll numbers," the "Democrats are finding the issue hard as well, and the party has been unable to reconcile competing internal visions over Iraq's future or the best plan for bringing U.S. troops home." Here's Pope's analysis.

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Should Democrats Have a Cohesive Voice on Iraq?

"With a wary eye on the 2006 elections, a divided Democratic Party has struggled to find a cohesive stance in the intensifying debate over the future of Iraq -- and some Democrats say that is just fine," John Whitesides, Political Correspondent for Reuters reported today, December 7, 2005.

The question is: Is it realistic to expect one voice? I don't think so. Even the Republicans are not speaking with one voice. In fact, the American people are not speaking with one voice on Iraq.

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DeLay Asks Judge to Move Forway on Just One Charge Against Him

On December 7, 2005, Representative Tom DeLay, Republican of Texas, asked Texas Judge Pat Priest "to move forward on just one of the two remaining criminal charges against him, an effort to go to trial quickly and bypass a possibly long appeals process expected from prosecutors," according to The Associated Press. Here's more.

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NRO Sees Justice Delayed in Tom DeLay Case

The National Review Online (NRO) thinks justice is being delayed in the Tom DeLay case. In a December 7, 2005 editorial, the conservative publication said:

Texas Judge Pat Priest threw out one of the three indictments against Tom DeLay Monday, but he let the two other charges stand. The two remaining charges are just as weak and politically motivated as the charge that Priest dismissed, and DeLay is likely to prevail eventually.
"Still," NRO said, "Monday's ruling is widely seen as a political setback for the House Majority Leader, which it will be if DeLay's Republican colleagues hand the partisan Texas prosecutor Ronnie Earle a victory he can't win in court."

If the Republicans are smart they'll distance themselves from DeLay. He is politically toxic. Besides, is Roy Blunt willing to give up the position of House Majority Whip now that he has tasted the power that comes with it. I doubt it. For more, please see "Justice Delayed."

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Is the Iraq War Debate About Winning or Losing?

In "Dean v. Bush: "Winning" in Iraq Or Winning Smart?" Professor Juan Cole at Informed Comment analyzes U.S. Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean's pronouncement that the "idea that we're going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong."

Mr. Dean made the statement in San Antonio, Texas, December 5, 2005 during an interview with WOAI Radio. I found Mr. Cole's analysis informative.

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Ex-Professor Acquitted of Operating Palestinian Islamic Jihad Cell

Michael Fechter, Elaine Silvestrini and Lenny Savino, in a December 7, 2005 article in The Tampa Tribune headlined "No Guilty Verdicts In Al-Arian Trial," summed up the not guilty verdict for Sami Al-Arian on "eight of 17 counts against him, including one pivotal charge that he conspired to maim and murder people overseas," this way:

Once billed as a major strike in the war on terrorism, the case against Sami Al-Arian crumbled Tuesday when jurors rejected federal charges that Al-Arian and three co-defendants operated a North American cell for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
The Associated Press characterized it as "a stinging defeat for prosecutors.

Melanie Ave, staff writer for the St. Petersburgh (Florida) Times provides background in an "Al-Arian trial: Q&A." Also see "Sami Al-Arian Trial Coverage."

According to The Tribune, co-defendants Sameeh Hammoudeh and Ghassan Zayed Ballut, were acquitted of all charges. A fourth, Hatem Naji Fariz, was found not guilty of 25 counts and jurors deadlocked on eight other charges."

Presumably, Lawyers handling similar cases stemming from the Bush Administration's so-called war on terrorism will closely study this case

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'Wesley Clark on Iraq'

McQ at The QandO Blog opined December 6, 2005 that, "Wesley Clark has a pretty good op/ed on Iraq in today's NY Times (and as regular readers know, I'm not a Clark fan). I think he points to a valid area of weakness in the current plan (at least as I've seen it articulated by the administration and the military," he added.

See Wesley Clark on Iraq to read why McQ thinks Clark's perspective is "good." For a more critical perspective on Clark's op/ed piece, see Opinion Gazette contributor Nelson Brown's article below .

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December 6, 2005

Plan For Victory, Prepare For Defeat

Be careful what you wish for because you might just get it. President George W. Bush, all war-party Democrats and right-wing talking heads should keep this in mind when they speak about continuing the war in Iraq until the United States obtains "victory." But what does victory mean? In fact, President Bush's quest for the holy grail of tactical "victory" in Iraq will likely end in strategic defeat. This paradox is simple: the most likely scenario for "victory" or is it defeat? is a somewhat stable Shiite-dominated federated government that will closely ally itself with Iran and its foreign-policy goals. This realization has hit some American policy makers, but the proposals to avoid this outcome seem more suited to an X-Box video game than to reality.

The most recent player in virtual-reality policy making is Wesley Clark, former NATO commander and Democratic presidential candidate. In a December 6th op-ed piece in The New York Times reminiscent of similar equally enlightening pieces telling us how to avoid defeat in Vietnam, General Clark offers his military and political fantasy about how to avoid this outcome. To his credit, General Clark recognizes that "staying the course" as President Bush advocates means a government closely aligned with Iran. He then opines, however, that a rapid departure will limit America's ability to prevent this outcome, but his proposed plan to avoid this is patently unrealistic.

General Clark envisions a new military and political strategy. Militarily, he wants U.S. forces to back up Iraqi forces to close off not just the border with Syria but also the border with Iran, in addition to training Iraqi forces and to pacifying insurgent Sunni areas. Fat chance this, especially in preventing Iranian influence in the southeast. He then wants the Iraqi government to get rid of the armed Shiite militias. How he expects to do this without provoking a war-within-a-war between the U.S. and Shiite forces is not explained.

Politically, General Clark calls for the Iraqi government emerging from the December 15th elections to change the Constitution to make oil revenues the property of the central government and not the provinces. In addition, the Constitution should be amended to prevent the emergence of an autonomous Shiite region in the south. General Clark wants to stop Iran's "meddling" in Iraqi affairs “ but not America's"meddling of course.

While General Clark has clearly seen where events in Iraq are leading, his plan to prevent this is so obviously flawed that it seems likely President Bush cannot prevent the emergence of an Iraqi government closely allied with Iran. Moreover, this Iraqi government will use American lives to pacify their Sunni enemy, and then give us the boot. We will know more about how General Clark's strategy will work after the December 15th elections in Iraq. Stay tuned.

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December 5, 2005

Efforts Underway to Regain Public's Confidence in Elections

In a December 5, 2005 editorial, the Ashville (North Carolina) Citizen-Times opined that, "Efforts to shore up waning public confidence in elections, confidence eroded by the fiasco in Florida in 2000 and countless other incidents around the country, are being made in a number of states, including North Carolina."

"Unfortunately," the publication said, "the progress in this state is on shaky ground." Read why.

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Texas Republicans Thinking Big, Democrats Thinking Small

On December 2, 2005, Houston Chronicle reporter R.G. Ratcliffe reported that, "As the 2006 political season officially opens with the start of candidate filing today, Texas Republicans are targeting another sweep of statewide offices and gains at the local level, while the grand plan for the Texas Democratic Party is to think small."

Is that a surprise? Here's the story.

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Is Bush's Political Capital Just About Spent?

"After the 2004 election, even though he took only 51 percent of the popular vote, George W. Bush declared that he had earned plenty of "political capital, and now I intend to spend it," writes Dan Ehl in the Daily Iowegian (and Ad Express) of Centerville, Iowa.

"It now appears he's written just a few too many checks on that account," Ehl added. "That boast now seems as hollow as his mission accomplished bragging in regard to Iraq."

I think you're right Dan. In fact, the checks are bouncing.

Here's Ehl's column, which was published in the Cushing Daily Citizen of Cushing, Oklahoma.

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Obama Doesn't Feel Comfortable Saying Bring Troops Home Now

Senator Barack Obama (Democrat of Illinois] told the Chicago Tribune's editorial board on December 5, 2005:

It is arguable that the best politics going into '06 would be a clear succinct message: `Let's bring our troops home [from Iraq]. It's certainly easier to communicate and I think would probably have some pretty strong resonance with the American people right now, but whether that's the best policy right now, I don't feel comfortable saying it is.
At least he's honest about it. As for me, I want my niece and all U.S. soldiers in Iraq to come home immediately.

See "Obama: Iraq war splits Democrats" for the Tribune's report on their interview with the junior senator from Illinois.

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Ohio Will Likely Provide Good Political Theater in 2006

Toledo Blade.com reported in a December 5, 2005 article that the "political pressure cooker" is " heating up early for Ohio's 2006 races." Read about it here.

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Democrats Must Embrace Small Town America to Win in 2006

On December 3, 2005, "Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean offered a preview of the 2006 elections...with a critique of President Bush's policies on Iraq and immigration and the Republicans' ethics scandals," according to Washington Post reporter Dan Balz. "But he warned Democrats they cannot expect to win next year without offering an agenda of their own," Balz added.

Dean is right. The Democrats must have an appealing agenda and backbone to pick up house seats in 2006. They can't be afraid, or too elitist, to go to small town America and talk to people about religion, abortion, homosexuality and other hot button issues that Republicans take stands on.

The Democrats often refrain from taking positions on such issues, in an attempt to be all things to all people. In other words, the Democrats must stand for something to defeat the Republicans.

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DeLay is too Toxic to be Majority Whip

Even if Dick DeGuerin, Texas Representative Tom DeLay' highly skilled attorney, had persuaded Judge Pat Priest to dismiss both the conspiracy to violate the Texas election code and the money laundering charge filed against Delay on September 28, 2005, Republicans would be fools to give him back the post of majority whip. The man is political poison.

If DeLay is acquitted of the only state charge left--money laundering--, and he does get his old position back, he'll have to give it up later because of serious Federal troubles that may get worse. As the Associated Press' April Castro wrote in a December 5, 2005 dispatch:

DeLay is linked to the ongoing federal investigation of lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The House ethics committee is investigating trips taken by DeLay and other lawmakers that were paid for by Abramoff. And, Michael Scanlon, a former DeLay aide and Abramoff's former business partner, pleaded guilty last month to conspiring to bribe public officials.
As the AP's noted, "The charges stemmed from allegations that Scanlon and Abramoff defrauded Indian tribes of tens of millions of dollars."

For more, please see "Judge upholds some of the charges against Rep. Tom Delay."

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December 4, 2005

Iraq Intelligence Manipulation Has a Precedent

Kevin Whitelaw at US News.com examines "how erroneous intelligence reports led to a previous war." That's the Vietnam War. Some intelligence was deliberately skewered as a pretext for war. See "The attack that wasn't" for Whitelaw's analysis.

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Nagin Trying to Lure Sceptical New Orleanians Home to Nothing

"With New Orleans's 500,000 residents scattered across 44 states," New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin "has embarked on an unprecedented multi-state campaign to find -- and bring home -- the people who cleaned the hotels, sang in the clubs, prayed in the churches and attended the schools decimated three months ago by Hurricane Katrina," according to The Washington Post.

On December 3, 2005, Nagin held a session with displaced New Orleanians at Morehouse College in Atlanta. Previous "town hall-style meetings" have been held "in Memphis and Houston," The Post said. Here's more.

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New Orleans Mayor Opposes Election Postponement

New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin issued a statement on December 2, 2005 expressing his disappointment in Louisiana Secretary of State Al Ater's recommendation to Governor. Kathleen Blanco that New Orleans' February 2006 mayoral and city council elections be postponed because of the devastation in the city Hurricane Katrina.

Ater wants the election "held no later than Sept. 30, 2006," Kathy Finn at BizNewOrleans.Com reported in a December 2, 2005 report. She quoted from a Nagin statement that said:

The most important right we have in America is the right to vote. I was hopeful that the elections would take place in February, as voting during our regular cycle would further bring a sense of normalcy and empowerment to our citizens. However, I respect the Secretary of States decision as I am sure it is based upon his concern for holding a fair election that guarantees all citizens their constitutional voting rights.
Nagin, who became internationally during desperate pleas to the Bush Administration to quickly send aid to New Orleans to help citizens trapped in the city by flood waters in September 2005, "is expected to run for re-election on the February [2006] ballot."

Finn said "Blanco, who will make the final decision on the election date, could not be reached for comment" on the afternoon of December 2, 2005. "According to earlier reports, Finn wrote, "Ater said he expects that Blanco will follow his advice."

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December 3, 2005

Documents Chronicle Political Fight Over Aid to Lousiana During Katrina

"As Hurricane Katrina roared ashore and began its assault on homes and lives across Louisiana [in late August and September 2005, a political storm was brewing in the Louisiana governor's office and the White House, newly released documents show," according to The Associated Press. Read about it here.

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Alito and the Fleeing Felon

"Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s views on abortion caused a stir this week, but another memo that surfaced from his years as a Reagan administration lawyer was notable for its strong support of the police," writes David G. Savage in today's edition of the Los Angeles Times.

Savage said, "Alito wrote that he saw no constitutional problem with a police officer shooting and killing an unarmed teenager who was fleeing after a $10 home burglary."

You can bet he will be grilled about that. By the way, in 1985, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the same case Alito analyzed for Justice Department officials. In a 6-3 majority decision in Tennessee v. Garner, Justice Byron White wrote:

It is not better that all felony suspects die than that they escape. Where the suspect poses no immediate threat to the officer and no threat to others, the harm resulting from failing to apprehend him does not justify the use of deadly force to do so.
I wonder if Alito agrees with that reasoning. We should know soon. His confirmation hearing begins in January 2006. Here's Savage's article

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Energy and Commerce Committee to Hold Hearings on College Football

Nathan at Dump MIke: Getting the Facts about Congressman Mike Ferguson, NJ-7, notes today that, "The Committee on Energy and Commerce -- on which Rep. Mike Ferguson [of New Jersey] sits -- is responsible for some important issues including gas and heating prices, Medicaid reimbursement rates, consumer rights and more."

"So what is it doing next Wednesday [December 7, 2005] at 10 a.m.?" he asks. "Holding hearings on how the national collegiate football champion is selected. Really."

Maybe the committee wants to see if there is a connection between collegiate football championships and gas and heating prices?

For more, please see "Choosing Between Football and Pharmaceuticals." Congressman Ferguson's web site

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December 2, 2005

Bulgaria, Ukraine Reportedly Will Leave Iraq This Month

Associated Press correspondents in Vienna, Austria, Moscow and Warsaw, Poland, report that "Bulgaria and Ukraine will begin withdrawing their combined 1,250 troops by mid-December."

There is also speculation that other small nations in the so-called "Coalition of the Willing" will withdraw sometime next year, leaving President Bush and his Australian and British allies to continue their futile effort to turn Iraq into a western satellite in the Middle East. Instead of that happening, the country will likely endure a civil war and remain a magnet for Muslim fighters from all over the world.

Here's the report on Bulgaria and Ukraine's wise decision to leave Iraq.

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