Friday, October 20, 2006


Fire the Editors

by Cenk Uygur

For a long time now, I have been attacking the mainstream press for not covering this administration properly, for being intimidated and cowered into a submissive neutrality. They are so wrong they have forgotten who they are. The job of the press is not to be neutral, it is to be objective. There is an enormous difference.

Here's neutral: The Jedi rebels say the Death Star is a peril to the universe, but Darth Vader assures the universe that the empire is trying to protect us from the insurgent terrorists that seek to do us harm.

Here's objective: It's called the Death Star. Its objective is complete control. Darth Vader's tactics are brutal and dictatorial.

But, of course, it's even worse. The headline today would read: Vader Says He Will Keep Us Safe.

That's no joke. Watch me flipping out over a USA Today headline that says almost exactly that here.

People who disagree with me, including my co-host Ben Mankiewicz, say that I get all my information from the mainstream press. That almost all of my quotes are from articles from the major papers, magazines and news organizations. They are right.

I'm an open minded guy. Unlike the current environment where everyone must always be right and never change their opinion or their party loyalty, I can change. I was a Republican until five short years ago (no, five very long years ago). Clearly I am open to new facts and ideas. So, they are right. It's not the reporters. It's the editors. They're the ones who must be fired.

Perfect case in point: The Military Commissions Act. I have now read dozens of articles and even editorials clearly stating how outrageous this Act is. How it fundamentally changes our country. It is a bill that changes the very idea of America. They killed freedom in the middle of the night - and no one noticed.

Why? Not because it wasn't reported. Not because there weren't voices of dissent. But because MOST of the people never heard about it. The editors chose not to highlight it. No headlines. No leading stories. No prominent explanation of the rights that were taken away. No sense of the magnitude of the crime.

I can guarantee you that an overwhelming majority of Americans have no idea what their Congress just did to them. Would they really agree to give up their right to a fair trial? Or any trial for that matter? Would they really be in favor of stripping away core constitutional protections against arbitrary and indefinite detention and an all powerful executive? Would they really want to take down one of the founding principles of Western civilization - the writ of habeas corpus established in the Magna Carta in 1215? We'll never know because they don't even know.

All the public knows is what the headlines read - Bush Says He Will Keep Us Safe!

Oh, that explains it. The cowardice of so-called moderate Republicans, the appeasement Democrats (12 in the Senate, 32 in the House), and the timid, pathetic, putrid editors in the major so-called news organizations in the country will not be forgotten. These are the people who had no faith in the American public. They thought so little of them that they were afraid if it was explained to them, they were sure the people would vote against democracy. So, in their pathetic fear, they decided not to explain it at all.

I can smell the cowardice of the editors from here. If they bother to read this, they will be trembling with anger now. The kind of sweaty anger a coward has when he knows he's been caught. The indignant gasp before submission.

Fight me. Prove me wrong. Tell me the bill wasn't important. Show me how it doesn't undermine our principles. Tell me how Americans wouldn't have stood up for democracy even if you told them the truth. Tell me sweet little lies about how you accurately represented the gravity of the story. Tell me how you stood up for America when it counted.

It hurts, doesn't it? You know you can't tell me those things because they aren't true. Here's the reality. The right wing played you for the fools that you are. They complained and whined and bitched for thirty years about how you were liberal to the point where you were scared of your own shadow. You set out to prove them wrong. You were going to show them you weren't liberal - you were neutral. Neutral, right or wrong. And while you were trying to prove them wrong, you proved them right. If challenged, you would submit. You would report things that aren't true and hide things that were to show them you were neutral.

The facts aren't always neutral, and it's not your job to make them so. Your job is to report the facts, no matter what side they come out on.

The difference between critics of the press on the right and the left is that the right wants the press to report their side of the issues; we, on the other hand, don't demand that our side be covered, we demand that the facts be covered. We believe that the job of the press is invaluable. We don't want to destroy the press; we want to help them get back the courage they need to do their jobs.

Now, you can hate me. You can kill the messenger. I don't care. As long as you get your head out of your ass and start PROMINENTLY reporting what is true. They killed America in the middle of the night. It is now day time, will you run the right fucking headline already?!

UPDATE: After I wrote this post this morning I saw Keith Olbermann put on a heroic performance on MSNBC on this very issue. He covers the Military Commissions Act in exactly the way that it deserves. This is true journalism! Brave journalism! You must watch him take on the Bush administration in a way that no one else on TV has done (not even Jack Cafferty).

We fight this lawless, out of control Bush administration every day on our show -- but not this eloquently. So, God bless Keith Olbermann!

And obviously praise must go to the new management at MSNBC for putting this on-air. I know they just made cuts, but Olbermann survived the cuts and Dan Abrams and others clearly understand this is the one thing that is working on MSNBC. Credit where credit is due. Where I bash the other news directors, we must also give credit to the people who have the courage to do it right. Congratulations, MSNBC.

Now, finally, where is CNN? What have they done to cover the Military Commissions Act? What experts, lawyers or professors have they had on? What have their anchors said about this heinous Act? Let me guess -- neutered neutrality. Something like this: Some people say the bill strips away American freedoms (I doubt they even said this) and others say it is vital to protect us from the boogeyman (you know the one Bush never caught, though we never mention that on-air either).

CNN's cowardice is made all the more stark by MSNBC's new found bravery. Get a backbone, start covering reality or stop pretending you are giving us the real news.



Posted on Oct 19, 2006

By Kevin Tillman

Editor’s note: Kevin Tillman joined the Army with his brother Pat in 2002, and they served together in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pat was killed in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004. Kevin, who was discharged in 2005, has written a powerful, must-read document.

It is Pat’s birthday on November 6, and elections are the day after. It gets me thinking about a conversation I had with Pat before we joined the military. He spoke about the risks with signing the papers. How once we committed, we were at the mercy of the American leadership and the American people. How we could be thrown in a direction not of our volition. How fighting as a soldier would leave us without a voice… until we get out.

Much has happened since we handed over our voice:

Somehow we were sent to invade a nation because it was a direct threat to the American people, or to the world, or harbored terrorists, or was involved in the September 11 attacks, or received weapons-grade uranium from Niger, or had mobile weapons labs, or WMD, or had a need to be liberated, or we needed to establish a democracy, or stop an insurgency, or stop a civil war we created that can’t be called a civil war even though it is. Something like that.

Somehow our elected leaders were subverting international law and humanity by setting up secret prisons around the world, secretly kidnapping people, secretly holding them indefinitely, secretly not charging them with anything, secretly torturing them. Somehow that overt policy of torture became the fault of a few “bad apples” in the military.

Somehow back at home, support for the soldiers meant having a five-year-old kindergartener scribble a picture with crayons and send it overseas, or slapping stickers on cars, or lobbying Congress for an extra pad in a helmet. It’s interesting that a soldier on his third or fourth tour should care about a drawing from a five-year-old; or a faded sticker on a car as his friends die around him; or an extra pad in a helmet, as if it will protect him when an IED throws his vehicle 50 feet into the air as his body comes apart and his skin melts to the seat.

Somehow the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes.

Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground.

Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started.

Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated.

Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.

Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated.

Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated.

Somehow suspension of Habeas Corpus is supposed to keep this country safe.

Somehow torture is tolerated.

Somehow lying is tolerated.

Somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense.

Somehow American leadership managed to create a more dangerous world.

Somehow a narrative is more important than reality.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow the most reasonable, trusted and respected country in the world has become one of the most irrational, belligerent, feared, and distrusted countries in the world.

Somehow being politically informed, diligent, and skeptical has been replaced by apathy through active ignorance.

Somehow the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country.

Somehow this is tolerated.

Somehow nobody is accountable for this.

In a democracy, the policy of the leaders is the policy of the people. So don’t be shocked when our grandkids bury much of this generation as traitors to the nation, to the world and to humanity. Most likely, they will come to know that “somehow” was nurtured by fear, insecurity and indifference, leaving the country vulnerable to unchecked, unchallenged parasites.

Luckily this country is still a democracy. People still have a voice. People still can take action. It can start after Pat’s birthday.

Brother and Friend of Pat Tillman,

Kevin Tillman

Thursday, October 19, 2006


CNN's "Liberal Bias"

Why has CNN devoted 50 times as much coverage to Harry Reid's land deal as Dennis Hastert's?


From October 12-17, CNN aired 3,361 words about allegations that Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (NV) improperly reported a land deal in which he made $700,000.

Seventeen different CNN transcripts in the Nexis database include mention of the Reid land deal -- and that doesn't even count October 18, when CNN has aired at least one more lengthy segment on the deal.

By comparison, CNN has aired only 65 words about a land deal in which House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) made nearly $2 million, a story which was first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times on June 15. By contrast, the Reid land deal first broke a week ago, when the Associated Press reported on October 11 that Reid had made $700,000 "on a Las Vegas land sale even though he hadn't personally owned the property for three years."

Hastert's property appreciated in value after he earmarked taxpayer funding for a highway near the property -- but only two CNN transcripts contain any mention of Hastert's land deal, for a total word count that is one-fiftieth the number of words CNN has devoted to the Reid story. And 65 words is an extremely generous count -- it includes a vague reference made in passing by Democratic strategist and pundit James Carville.

CNN has never -- not once -- told viewers the central allegation of the Hastert controversy: that Hastert profited after winning federal funding for a highway that increased the value of his property. As Media Matters for America has noted, that is a crucial difference between the Reid and Hastert controversies: Unlike Hastert, Reid is not alleged to have taken official government action that led to his profit. Yet CNN has devoted extensive coverage to the Reid deal, while virtually ignoring the far more serious allegations against Hastert.


Ayatolla Bush Combats Global Warming In Bagdad. Electricity Levels Lowest Since U.S. Invasion.

In Sept. 2003, President Bush promised that he would help Iraqis “restore basic services, such as electricity and water, and to build new schools, roads, and medical clinics. This effort is essential to the stability of those nations, and therefore, to our own security.”

But three years later, electricity levels in Baghdad are at an all-time low. Residents of Baghdad are receiving just 2.4 hours of electricity this month, compared to an average of 16-24 hours of electricity before the U.S. invasion. The lowest level prior to this month was 3.9 hours/day.

According to our chart — using data compiled by The Brookings Institution — electricity levels have been steadily going down in the past two years (data for parts of 2003-2004 were unavailable) and are now at their lowest point since the U.S. invasion:


Doesn’t look like “so many lights [are] shining brightly” right now.


Republicans Aren't Racists. They're Down Wit Tha Homies and Hombres.

Republican Group Chides Democrats With Abortion Ads
Aim Is To Win Minority Voters, But Democrats Cry Foul

BY JOSH GERSTEIN - Staff Reporter of the Sun
October 17, 2006

A little-known Republican group that claims to have swayed the 2004 presidential election with provocative radio advertising aimed at black and Hispanic audiences is spending nearly $1 million this year to boost the GOP's chances of holding on to a majority in Congress.

The group, America's Pac, began running ads last month in more than two dozen congressional districts.The campaign discusses issues ranging from warrantless wiretapping to school choice, but the most inflammatory spots pertain to abortion.

"Black babies are terminated at triple the rate of white babies," a female announcer in one of the ads says, as rain, thunder, and a crying infant are heard in the background. "The Democratic Party supports these abortion laws that are decimating our people, but the individual's right to life is protected in the Republican platform. Democrats say they want our vote.Why don't they want our lives?"

Another ad features a dialogue between two men.

"If you make a little mistake with one of your ‘hos,' you'll want to dispose of that problem tout suite, no questions asked," one of the men says.

"That's too cold. I don't snuff my own seed," the other replies.

"Maybe you do have a reason to vote Republican," the first man says.

Another spot attempts to link Democrats to a white supremacist who served as a Republican in the Louisiana Legislature, David Duke.The ad makes reference to Duke's trip to Syria last year, where he spoke at an anti-war rally.

"I can understand why a Ku Klux Klan cracker like David Duke makes nice with the terrorists,"a male voice in the ad says. "What I want to know is why so many of the Democrat politicians I helped elect are on the same side of the Iraq war as David Duke."

In one of the communities where the ads are running, South Bend, Ind.,some blacks were outraged.

"They're awful.They're repulsive," a Democratic activist and community leader in South Bend, Gladys Muhammad, said. "When they say Democrats don't like black babies, that's damn fools.They're very insensitive."

"This is so dirty, but it works," a sociology professor at Indiana University, Johnnie Griffin, said. "These are race ads. It's incredible."

While Ms. Griffin said she felt insulted by the ads, she also said a student in her class reported that a relative was thinking of switching to the Republican Party because of them. "Black people are more conservative than anybody thinks. We do have strong family values that people don't seem to stress as much," the professor said.

Ms. Griffin said a community meeting is planned for Friday to discuss the ad campaign. The key financial backer of America's Pac is J. Patrick Rooney, 78, of Indianapolis. Mr. Rooney, a strong proponent of school choice scholarship programs, retired in 1996 as chairman of Golden Rule Insurance. The company was sold to larger insurer, United-Health Group, in 2003 for a reported $893 million.

According to a report filed with the Internal Revenue Service, a company reportedly tied to Mr. Rooney, Woodland Group LLC, gave $900,000 to America's PAC earlier this year. Other donors chipped in about $32,000.

Mr. Rooney declined to be interviewed yesterday. The group referred calls from The New York Sun to a conservative, African-American talk show host who voiced some of the ads, Herman Cain.

"The main thing that America's Pac is up to is it basically is challenging the thesis or the belief on the part of the Republican Party that they cannot attract the black vote," Mr. Cain said. He said similar advertisements run in 2004 helped boost President Bush's share of the black vote in Ohio to 16%, from 9% in 2000.

"We don't believe that was an accident," Mr. Cain said. The IRS filing indicates that the ads are running this year in 10 battleground states, including Ohio, New Mexico, and Nevada.

Mr. Cain, who once managed the Godfather's Pizza chain and ran unsuccessfully for the Senate from Georgia in 2004, said he was not troubled that Mr. Rooney, who is white, is funding ads using black voices who claim to speak on behalf of the black community."You don't have a lot of black billionaires who would want to fund something like this," he said.

America's Pac is the brainchild of a Kansas-based Republican consultant, Richard Nadler.He said Sunday that he is no longer affiliated with the group.

"Mr. Nadler is the genius.We basically follow his game plan," the group's new chief, Thomas Donelson of Marion, Iowa, said. In 2000, Mr. Nadler came under fire for a school choice-related ad in which parents said their son's violenceridden public school "was a bit more diversity than he could handle." Mr. Bush's campaign denounced the ad as "inappropriate," and the Republican National Committee called it "racist or race-baiting in intent."

A Republican Party spokeswoman, Tara Wall, disputed Mr. Cain's claim that the party has not tried to enlist African-Americans. "Our outreach efforts have been and are a long-term effort,"she said."We've spent millions on black outreach alone this cycle."

A New York investment banker who gave $10,000 to America's Pac last month, Peter Flanigan, told the Sun that he found the language in some of the abortion-related ads "a little strong."

"If it were me, I wouldn't have put the abortion one in those words," Mr. Flanigan said, before adding, "It's not as if it's totally apart from fact."

Asked why he supports the group, Mr. Flanigan said, "I think it's unfortunate that some 90% of African Americans vote Democratic … Rooney has had some success in moving African-American votes."

Another ad in this year's campaign notes that Democratic presidents oversaw wiretapping and that the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the targets. "Unlike the Al Qaeda butchers Bush is wiretapping, Martin was fighting to promote voting rights. He wasn't plotting mass murder," the ad says.

"Republicans respect the Latino soldier," one of the Spanish-language spots declares. "After all, it was our own General Ricardo Sanchez who commanded the American troops in Iraq. Enough with these Democrats."

Many of the ads with conservative social themes are sandwiched between hip-hop songs that convey blunt sexual messages. A spokesman for America's Pac, John Altevogt, said no stations have refused the ads, but a few asked for minor edits, such as the removal of the word "cracker" from the David Duke spot.


Countdown Special Comment: Death of Habeas Corpus: “Your words are lies, Sir.”


And lastly, as promised, a Special Comment tonight on the signing of the Military Commissions Act and the loss of Habeas Corpus.

We have lived as if in a trance.

We have lived… as people in fear.

And now — our rights and our freedoms in peril — we slowly awake to learn that we have been afraid… of the wrong thing.

Therefore, tonight, have we truly become, the inheritors of our American legacy.

For, on this first full day that the Military Commissions Act is in force, we now face what our ancestors faced, at other times of exaggerated crisis and melodramatic fear-mongering:

A government more dangerous to our liberty, than is the enemy it claims to protect us from.

We have been here before — and we have been here before led here — by men better and wiser and nobler than George W. Bush.

We have been here when President John Adams insisted that the Alien and Sedition Acts were necessary to save American lives — only to watch him use those Acts to jail newspaper editors.

American newspaper editors, in American jails, for things they wrote, about America.

We have been here, when President Woodrow Wilson insisted that the Espionage Act was necessary to save American lives — only to watch him use that Act to prosecute 2,000 Americans, especially those he disparaged as "Hyphenated Americans," most of whom were guilty only of advocating peace in a time of war.

American public speakers, in American jails, for things they said, about America.

And we have been here when President Franklin D. Roosevelt insisted that Executive Order 9-0-6-6 was necessary to save American lives — only to watch him use that Order to imprison and pauperize 110-thousand Americans…

While his man-in-charge…

General DeWitt, told Congress: "It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen — he is still a Japanese."

American citizens, in American camps, for something they neither wrote nor said nor did — but for the choices they or their ancestors had made, about coming to America.

Each of these actions was undertaken for the most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.

And each, was a betrayal of that for which the President who advocated them, claimed to be fighting.

Adams and his party were swept from office, and the Alien and Sedition Acts erased.

Many of the very people Wilson silenced, survived him, and…

…one of them even ran to succeed him, and got 900-thousand votes… though his Presidential campaign was conducted entirely… from his jail cell.

And Roosevelt's internment of the Japanese was not merely the worst blight on his record, but it would necessitate a formal apology from the government of the United States, to the citizens of the United States, whose lives it ruined.

The most vital… the most urgent… the most inescapable of reasons.

In times of fright, we have been, only human.

We have let Roosevelt's "fear of fear itself" overtake us.

We have listened to the little voice inside that has said "the wolf is at the door; this will be temporary; this will be precise; this too shall pass."

We have accepted, that the only way to stop the terrorists, is to let the government become just a little bit like the terrorists.

Just the way we once accepted that the only way to stop the Soviets, was to let the government become just a little bit like the Soviets.

Or substitute… the Japanese.

Or the Germans.

Or the Socialists.

Or the Anarchists.

Or the Immigrants.

Or the British.

Or the Aliens.

The most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.

And, always, always… wrong.

"With the distance of history, the questions will be narrowed and few: Did this generation of Americans take the threat seriously, and did we do what it takes to defeat that threat?"

Wise words.

And ironic ones, Mr. Bush.

Your own, of course, yesterday, in signing the Military Commissions Act.

You spoke so much more than you know, Sir.

Sadly — of course — the distance of history will recognize that the threat this generation of Americans needed to take seriously… was you.

We have a long and painful history of ignoring the prophecy attributed to Benjamin Franklin that "those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

But even within this history, we have not before codified, the poisoning of Habeas Corpus, that wellspring of protection from which all essential liberties flow.

You, sir, have now befouled that spring.

You, sir, have now given us chaos and called it order.

You, sir, have now imposed subjugation and called it freedom.

For the most vital… the most urgent… the most inescapable of reasons.

And — again, Mr. Bush — all of them, wrong.

We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who has said it is unacceptable to compare anything this country has ever done, to anything the terrorists have ever done.

We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who has insisted again that "the United States does not torture. It's against our laws and it's against our values" and who has said it with a straight face while the pictures from Abu Ghraib Prison and the stories of Waterboarding figuratively fade in and out, around him.

We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who may now, if he so decides, declare not merely any non-American citizens "Unlawful Enemy Combatants" and ship them somewhere — anywhere — but may now, if he so decides, declare you an "Unlawful Enemy Combatant" and ship you somewhere - anywhere.

And if you think this, hyperbole or hysteria… ask the newspaper editors when John Adams was President, or the pacifists when Woodrow Wilson was President, or the Japanese at Manzanar when Franklin Roosevelt was President.

And if you somehow think Habeas Corpus has not been suspended for American citizens but only for everybody else, ask yourself this: If you are pulled off the street tomorrow, and they call you an alien or an undocumented immigrant or an "unlawful enemy combatant" — exactly how are you going to convince them to give you a court hearing to prove you are not? Do you think this Attorney General is going to help you?

This President now has his blank check.

He lied to get it.

He lied as he received it.

Is there any reason to even hope, he has not lied about how he intends to use it, nor who he intends to use it against?

"These military commissions will provide a fair trial," you told us yesterday, Mr. Bush. "In which the accused are presumed innocent, have access to an attorney, and can hear all the evidence against them."

'Presumed innocent,' Mr. Bush?

The very piece of paper you signed as you said that, allows for the detainees to be abused up to the point just before they sustain "serious mental and physical trauma" in the hope of getting them to incriminate themselves, and may no longer even invoke The Geneva Conventions in their own defense.

'Access to an attorney,' Mr. Bush?

Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift said on this program, Sir, and to the Supreme Court, that he was only granted access to his detainee defendant, on the promise that the detainee would plead guilty.

'Hearing all the evidence,' Mr. Bush?

The Military Commissions act specifically permits the introduction of classified evidence not made available to the defense.

Your words are lies, Sir.

They are lies, that imperil us all.

"One of the terrorists believed to have planned the 9/11 attacks," …you told us yesterday… "said he hoped the attacks would be the beginning of the end of America."

That terrorist, sir, could only hope.

Not his actions, nor the actions of a ceaseless line of terrorists (real or imagined), could measure up to what you have wrought.

Habeas Corpus? Gone.

The Geneva Conventions? Optional.

The Moral Force we shined outwards to the world as an eternal beacon, and inwards at ourselves as an eternal protection? Snuffed out.

These things you have done, Mr. Bush… they would be "the beginning of the end of America."

And did it even occur to you once sir — somewhere in amidst those eight separate, gruesome, intentional, terroristic invocations of the horrors of 9/11 — that with only a little further shift in this world we now know — just a touch more repudiation of all of that for which our patriots died —

Did it ever occur to you once, that in just 27 months and two days from now when you leave office, some irresponsible future President and a "competent tribunal" of lackeys would be entitled, by the actions of your own hand, to declare the status of "Unlawful Enemy Combatant" for… and convene a Military Commission to try… not John Walker Lindh, but George Walker Bush?

For the most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.

And doubtless, sir, all of them — as always — wrong.

Joe Scarborough is next.

Good night, and good luck.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


The President Gets His Wish: He's The Dictator

by Bob Cesca

"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator." President Bush, December 18, 2000

On Tuesday October 17, 2006, President Bush signed the Military Commissions Act and now you and I live under the rule of an official dictator who, in his latest press conference, pronounced the word "intransigence" as "in-TRANJ-a-jence." In other words, now that habeas corpus has been suspended and the chief executive can personally greenlight torture, you and I are now ruled by the direct whim -- whim!

-- of the most knee-jerk, incompetent and unqualified president in American history.

Under this law, simply writing the above words might qualify me as an enemy combatant. Should the administration decide unilaterally that my (or Eskow's or Uyger's or Arianna's or Rieckhoff's, etc...) vocal opposition to their regime on the most popular political blog on the internet is offering comfort to the "enemy," I could be arrested and detained indefinitely without ever being told what charges have been brought against me. I could be tortured according to George W. Bush's own personal definition of torture in which waterboarding and stress positions are considered "not" torture. If I perchance managed to secure legal representation, my lawyers might not even have the legal means to challenge the law itself, much less the unknown charges. And it's all perfectly legal now under this despotic regime of Republican cowards.

And that's exactly what they are. Cowards. If you support this bill, you, too, are a coward. The Republicans (and handful of Democrats) who passed this law are so frightened by this politically-driven trumped up threat of terrorism (but more importantly the threat of losing an election) that they're willing to subvert the Constitution in order to attain the illusion of safety.

The Constitution of the United States, Article 1, Section 9:

"The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it."

There is no rebellion. There is no invasion and thus habeas corpus can not be suspended. The president and every politician who voted to support this law has thus knowingly and without remorse violated their oath of office, but worse: they've violated the confidence with which we've entrusted them. That trust encompasses the very basic American notion that they work for us to help ensure our liberties and way of life. But that trust has been tossed aside for absolute power and a reasonably large percentage of Americans either don't care or they're not shy about voicing their support for this crap on a stick.

During conversations with Republicans about this and other administration tactics such as illegal wiretaps, apologists suggest that they're not doing anything wrong so what do they have to be afraid of. Of course this line of thinking is dangerously flawed mainly because under the Military Commissions Act, you don't HAVE to do anything wrong to be arrested and detained without your right to due process.

Say, for example, your old granny receives a phone call from a charitable organization and is duped into giving money to them. She doesn't know what that organization is up to behind closed doors. Then it turns out that money is being funneled and laundered through a back door to a terrorist cell. Your granny -- blue hair and Life Alert Button flapping in the breeze -- could be arrested and whisked off to Guantanamo or any number of secret CIA prisons abroad. Her right to know (and your right to know) why she's been arrested has been stripped away by President Bush, allowing the government to detain her for as long as they want.

Now you're saying, Republican troll, that they'd never arrest granny. Really? If the TSA is willing to pull your granny aside at the airport in order to scan her for shoe bombs, then it stands to reason that the government probably wouldn't blink before arresting her for giving money to a terrorist group. Even if she's released a day or two later, do you honestly believe that this should be the American rule of law for the foreseeable future -- that any American can be detained for just about anything possessing even the faintest aroma of subversion?

This isn't America. Like our founding fathers and every American who has served in wartime, you and I should be willing to die at the hands of our enemies for the right to remain free; for the rights of the Constitution; and for the rights of future Americans to live without a band of despotic overlords studying their every move. Yet those of us who have conceded those freedoms are exhibiting the worst brand of cowardice imaginable: if it is, in fact, the terrorist's goal to strip us of our freedom and liberty (including Article 1, Section 9), hasn't our endorsement-of or apathy towards this law allowed them to do just that? You, Republican apologist, have allowed the terrorists to win the war.

The textbook definition of a dictatorship is as follows: "A government in which a single leader or party exercises absolute control over all citizens and every aspect of their lives." The ability to arrest, detain and torture American citizens without due process or the writ of habeas corpus allows our government absolute control over you and I. Sure, you can still drive to Applebees and watch American Idol, but can you buy a book about Islam for research or general knowledge; can you protest against the government; can you vote against the government; can your granny accidentally give money to charity without fearing that she'll be detained indefinitely? Not anymore. That's absolute control. It breeds a feeling of someone lurking over our shoulders. It's about fearing our darker skinned neighbors. It's a general paranoia making us second guess our actions at every turn. It's entirely the conspiracy of a single party regime who at every turn appeals to the dark side of our nature by spooking and dividing us to a level where torture and suspending habeas corpus are legitimate points of debate.

Therefor, George W. Bush has become the first true American dictator. And we're all equally guilty for allowing it to happen right under our fat, apathetic noses.

Lastly, it's my wish that somehow the courts will strike down this law, or that the Democrats, should they overcome the cheating machines, will repeal the law. Either scenario puts those citizens in the position of being heroes in the eyes of history. Let's hope they rise to challenge -- even if they have to take a bullet for the Constitution and the better angels of our nature.


Bill O'Reilley Lies Again. Sweet Jesus I Hate Bill O'Reilley. Yes I spelled his name wrong on purpose.

O'Reilly falsely claimed that a pregnant woman's life could "never" be "in danger" from pregnancy complication

Summary: On his radio show, Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that it "is never the case" that a "mother's life is in danger" during pregnancy because "you can always have a C-section and do those kinds of things." In fact, several potential pregnancy complications, such as an ectopic pregnancy, which is "the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths in the first trimester" or preeclampsia, which "affect[s] up to one in seven pregnant women" can threaten the life of a pregnant woman.

On the October 11 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that it "is never the case" that a "mother's life is in danger" during the course of a pregnancy. In fact, there are several potential pregnancy complications that can threaten the life of a pregnant woman. For instance, an ectopic pregnancy, which the Mayo Clinic estimates occurs in "[a]bout one in every 40 to 100 pregnancies," is a condition in which the zygote, a fertilized egg, attaches itself outside of the uterus and "may destroy important maternal structures" with the potential to cause "life-threatening blood loss." According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ectopic pregnancies "are the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths in the first trimester." Additionally, other potential pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia, which can cause HELLP syndrome and eclampsia, can also threaten the life of a pregnant woman.

O'Reilly was speculating that "legal abortions" "may not be the law of the land, unfettered, much longer" because the courts are considering several cases challenging the constitutionality of laws restricting abortion rights. O'Reilly mentioned that "South Dakota, as you know, has voted to outlaw abortions unless the mother's life is in danger, which is never the case, because you can always have a C-section and do those kinds of things." Later, O'Reilly claimed that "a new CNN poll" found that "45 percent" of respondents "say all abortions should be outlawed unless the mother's going to die -- or catastrophic health consequences, which, again, is never the case -- never."

But, as the CDC noted, "Ectopic pregnancy, also known as a tubal pregnancy, is a potentially life-threatening form of pregnancy in which implantation of the fertilized egg occurs outside the uterus." The Mayo Clinic further noted that, despite O'Reilly's claim that "you can always have a C-section" if a complication occurs:

An ectopic pregnancy can't proceed normally. The developing embryo can't survive, and the growing placental tissue may destroy important maternal structures. Without treatment, life-threatening blood loss is possible.

Ectopic pregnancies are extremely risky and, according to the Mayo Clinic, even treatment can "lead to loss of reproductive organs or infertility." "Without treatment," the Mayo Clinic warns, "the stakes are even higher. A ruptured fallopian tube may lead to life-threatening bleeding." According to the CDC, "Ectopic pregnancies are the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths in the first trimester and account for 9% of all pregnancy-related deaths in this country."

Treatment for ectopic pregnancies mandates a termination of the pregnancy, most often by a form of therapeutic abortion. Therapeutic abortions are performed when a woman's life is directly threatened by the pregnancy and saving the fetus is not an option. According to the Mayo Clinic:

If the ectopic pregnancy is detected early -- when the zygote is small and hasn't caused bleeding or rupture -- an injection of methotrexate may be used to stop cell growth and dissolve existing cells. If the pregnancy continues after treatment with methotrexate, more medication or surgery may be needed.

Methotrexate was previously commonly used for most non-surgical abortions before the legalization of Mifeprex, also known as RU-486. According to a research study conducted by Dr. Josie L. Tenore and published in the February 15, 2000, American Family Physician medical journal, "single-dose regimens" of methotrexate "have had a success rate of 71 percent" in treating ectopic pregnancies, and "[t]he success rate increases to 84 to 94 percent with the addition of a second single dose."

Also, other pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia, can be life-threatening to the pregnant woman. According to the Mayo Clinic, "Preeclampsia is a common problem during pregnancy, affecting up to one in seven pregnant women around the world," and "is defined by high blood pressure and excess protein in the urine after 20 weeks of pregnancy." The Mayo Clinic adds that although conditions of preeclampsia in the United States are "usually mild," if "left untreated, it can lead to serious, even deadly complications for you and your unborn baby." The clinic also reports that preeclampsia "and other high blood pressure disorders during pregnancy are a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death" in the world. Severe preeclampsia occurring early in the pregnancy is especially risky for a pregnant woman and her fetus.

Preeclampsia can cause HELLP syndrome and eclampsia, both of which are potentially life-threatening to a pregnant woman. According to the Mayo Clinic, HELLP syndrome -- which involves "the destruction of red blood cells," "elevated liver enzymes," and "low platelet count" -- "occurs in up to 12 percent of women with preeclampsia, and it can rapidly become life-threatening":

It can cause liver failure and problems with blood clotting (coagulation), which may pose a high risk of death to you or your baby. This syndrome is particularly dangerous because it can occur before you exhibit signs or symptoms of preeclampsia.

Eclampsia, as defined by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, "is the occurrence of seizures in a pregnant woman. The seizures are unrelated to brain conditions and usually happen after the 20th week of pregnancy." According to the Mayo Clinic:

"This life-threatening condition can develop when signs and symptoms of preeclampsia aren't controlled. Eclampsia can permanently damage your vital organs, including your brain, liver and kidneys. If left untreated, the condition can cause coma, brain damage and death to you or your baby."

According to the Mayo Clinic, "many cases of preeclampsia can be treated by inducing labor right away." While in most instances doctors attempt to control the pregnant woman's preeclampsia until she is 36 weeks into her pregnancy, according to the Mayo Clinic, "In more severe cases, it may not be possible to wait." Though rare, therapeutic abortion has been used to treat preeclampsia conditions.

Also, on the October 11 edition of the Radio Factor, O'Reilly hosted anti-abortion rights activist Mark Crutcher, president and founder of Life Dynamics, who likened pro-choice activists like Feminist Majority Foundation president and Ms. Magazine publisher Eleanor Smeal and the Supreme Court justices who decided the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade to "Adolf Hitler." O'Reilly asked Crutcher: "Do you ever put yourself in the position of Ms. Smeal and the judges who voted for Roe v. Wade?" Because, O'Reilly added, "they don't see themselves as murderers." Crutcher responded: "Well, I'm sure Adolf Hitler didn't see himself as a murderer, either. What they see themselves as is irrelevant to the argument. It's what they are, not what they see themselves as that's important." O'Reilly responded: "Now, if somebody doesn't have your belief system, how will you ever convince them -- how will you ever convince them when you're outright accusing the Supreme Court justices of being murderers? How will you ever convince them?"


Dangerously Delusional: Dick Cheney Goes On Rush Limbaugh Yesterday to Claim That Things In Iraq are going "Remarkably Well."

“I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.” [Larry King Live, 6/20/05] - Dick Cheney

We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators. - Dick Cheney

October 18th, 2006 5:59 am
U.S. military says 9 troops killed in Iraq

4 soldiers killed in single incident; more than 60 GIs killed so far this month

Associated Press

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The U.S. military reported Wednesday that nine American troops had been killed in bombings and combat, raising to 67 the number of U.S. troops killed in October.

A roadside bomb killed a provincial police intelligence chief in southern Iraq early Wednesday, police said.

The eight U.S. soldiers and one Marine were killed by roadside bombs and enemy fire in and around Baghdad on Tuesday, the military reported.

Four soldiers died when a roadside bomb struck their vehicle at about 6:50 a.m. Tuesday morning west of Baghdad, the military said in a brief statement.

Three soldiers attached to Task Force Lightning, assigned to the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, were killed and one wounded during combat in Diyala province east of Baghdad. Another soldier died around 9:30 a.m. when suspected insurgents attacked his patrol in northern Baghdad.

A Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7 also died from injuries sustained during fighting in Al Anbar Province, it said.

Top police official killed

Early Wednesday, a bomb planted on the main highway between the cities of Amarah and Basra killed Ali Qassim al-Tamimi, head of intelligence for the Maysan provincial police force, along with four bodyguards, Maysan police Capt. Hussein Karim said.

Elsewhere, local Sunni and Shiite leaders were meeting in an attempt to resolve the fate of more than 40 people missing since their 13-car convoy was waylaid at a checkpoint on Sunday outside Balad, where almost 100 people were killed in five days of sectarian fighting.

Police said the hijacked cars had been diverted to the nearby Shiite militant stronghold of al-Nebaiyi on Balad’s outskirts.

Bloody October for U.S.

For the U.S. military, October’s death toll is on a pace that, if continued, would make the month the deadliest for coalition forces since January 2005, when 107 U.S. troops died.

The fighting in Balad forced U.S. forces to return to patrolling the streets of the predominantly Shiite city after Iraq’s best-trained soldiers proved unable to stem a series of revenge killings sparked by the murder on Friday of 17 Shiite construction workers. The U.S. military had turned over control of the surrounding province north of Baghdad to Iraq’s 4th Army a month ago, and American forces apparently did not redeploy there until Monday, when the worst of the bloodletting had ended.

Minority Sunnis, who absorbed most of the brutality in the city of 80,000 people, have been fleeing across the Tigris River in small boats.

On the outskirts of the city, two fuel trucks were attacked and burned and Shiite militiamen clashed with residents of Duluiyah, a predominantly Sunni city on the east bank of the Tigris. Militants were blocking food and fuel trucks from entering Duluiyah.

The conflict between Shiites and Sunnis in the Balad area illustrates the threat to the region should Iraq move toward dividing into three federal states — controlled by Shiites in the south, Sunnis in the center and Kurds in the north.

A pair of car bombs exploded in Baghdad Wednesday morning, injuring at least eight people, police reported.

National reconciliation conference coming up

A government statement said Wednesday that a much-anticipated Iraqi national reconciliation conference aimed at building political consensus and stemming spiraling sectarian violence in the country will be held Nov. 4.

The conference was originally scheduled to start Oct. 20, but had been indefinitely postponed for unspecified “emergency reasons.”

The postponement reflected the upheaval that worsening violence has wrought on efforts to stabilize the government and curb bloodshed. That threatened to damage the administration of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which took office just over four months ago vowing to implement a 24-point National Reconciliation plan to heal the nation’s severe political wounds.

Wednesday’s statement said the conference was postponed because of organizational snags, denying what it said were Western and Arab media reports suggesting the delay was caused by disputes over the gathering. It did not elaborate.

Al-Maliki, at the helm of what is formally termed a national unity government, presented national reconciliation plan within days of taking office in May but has been unable to effectively implement any of its stipulations.

In the months since he came to power, Iraq has witnessed the surge in killings between Sunni and Shiite Muslim groups alongside increasingly bitter disputes among his coalition’s partners over plans to adopt a federal system for the country’s 18 provinces.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Scandalous Ignorance

by tristero

Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, when the sound of the military airplanes patrolling the skies of Manhattan were still traumatizing everyone, I picked up some books on bin Laden, the Middle East, and Islam. I also peppered with questions the few people I knew back then who had some expertise on the subjects. In fact, lots of people I knew were doing the same thing; we were passing around books, articles, and clippings, emailing links to each other.

This strikes me as totally unremarkable behavior. We were scared stiff, and the first thing we wanted to know - other than that the attacks had stopped for now - was what the hell was going on.

But even today, people involved in counterterrorism policy in the United States still don't know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite.

This is scandalous, as in worse-than-covering-up-for-Mark-Foley scandalous. Why? Well let one of the ignorant buffoons explain it to you:
Take Representative Terry Everett, a seven-term Alabama Republican who is vice chairman of the House intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence.

“Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?” I asked him a few weeks ago.

Mr. Everett responded with a low chuckle. He thought for a moment: “One’s in one location, another’s in another location. No, to be honest with you, I don’t know. I thought it was differences in their religion, different families or something.”

To his credit, he asked me to explain the differences. I told him briefly about the schism that developed after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, and how Iraq and Iran are majority Shiite nations while the rest of the Muslim world is mostly Sunni. “Now that you’ve explained it to me,” he replied, “what occurs to me is that it makes what we’re doing over there extremely difficult, not only in Iraq but that whole area.”
Oh, dear God. I'm living in a Mel Brooks movie:
Roger De Bris: Did you know, I never knew that the Third Reich meant Germany. I mean it's just drenched with historical goodies like that...


A Day Which Will Live In Infamy

by Digby

Today President Bush took the constitution and tore it into little pieces.

President Bush signed legislation Tuesday authorizing tough interrogation of terror suspects and smoothing the way for trials before military commissions, calling it a "vital tool" in the war against terrorism.

Bush's plan for treatment of the terror suspects became law just six weeks after he acknowledged that the CIA had been secretly interrogating suspected terrorists overseas and pressed Congress to quickly give authority to try them in military commissions.


The American Civil Liberties Union said the new law is "one of the worst civil liberties measures ever enacted in American history."

"The president can now, with the approval of Congress, indefinitely hold people without charge, take away protections against horrific abuse, put people on trial based on hearsay evidence, authorize trials that can sentence people to death based on testimony literally beaten out of witnesses, and slam shut the courthouse door for habeas petitions," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero.

"Nothing could be further from the American values we all hold in our hearts than the Military Commissions Act," he said.

Yet, here is the very next sentence in that AP report:

The swift implementation of the law is a rare bit of good news for Bush as casualties mount in Iraq in daily violence.

I assume that was written without irony.

I don't ever want to hear anyone on the right talk about moral values again. They are concepts which they clearly do not understand. And if they dare to bring up the Bible or Jesus Christ after this I will laugh in their faces, knowing that by their own standards they are going straight to hell for what they've done.

Remember these faces:

Where's St. John McCain? How odd that he isn't there to enjoy the poisonous fruits of his labor.


Note Warns Calif. Hispanics on Voting

The Associated Press

SANTA ANA, Calif. - The state attorney general's office is investigating a letter received by some Southern California Hispanics that says it is a crime for immigrants to vote and tells them they could be jailed or deported if they go to the polls next month.

"It's a very malicious and degrading letter. It's to pull Latinos down and make them afraid," said Benny Diaz, who is running for City Council in Garden Grove. He said his wife and five other people he knows had received the letter.

The letter, written in Spanish, tells recipients: "You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time."

The truth is that immigrants who become naturalized citizens can legally register to vote.

Nathan Barankin, a spokesman for state Attorney General Bill Lockyer, said the letter was "something we are investigating aggressively right now." He said the sender could be charged with a felony and receive up to three years in state prison.

Several of the people who received the letters appeared to be naturalized citizens, said John Trasvina, interim president and general counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.


Remember Remember the 5th of November! Protestors Destroying Government Property and Getting Away With It.

October 17th, 2006 2:07 pm
The courts are starting to accept that the war against Iraq is a crime

In Britain and Ireland, protesters who have deliberately damaged military equipment are walking from the dock

By George Monbiot / The Guardian

In the early hours, two days before the attack on Iraq began, two men in their 30s, Phil Pritchard and Toby Olditch, cut through the fence surrounding the air base at Fairford in Gloucestershire and made their way towards the B52 bombers which were stationed there. The planes belonged to the US air force. The trespassers were caught by guards and found to be carrying tools and paint. They confessed that they were seeking to disable the planes, in order to prevent war crimes from being committed. This year they were tried on charges of conspiracy to commit criminal damage, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years. Last week, after long deliberations, the jury failed to reach a verdict.

The same thing happened a month ago. Two other activists, Margaret Jones and Paul Milling, had entered the same RAF base and smashed up more than 20 of the vehicles used to load bombs on to the B52s. The charges were the same, and again the jury failed to agree. In both cases the defendants claimed to be putting the state on trial. If I were in government, I would be starting to feel uneasy.

The defendants had tried to argue in court that the entire war against Iraq was a crime of aggression. But in March this year the law lords ruled that they could not use this defence: while aggression by the state is a crime under international law, it is not a crime under domestic law. But they were allowed to show that they were seeking to prevent specific war crimes from being committed - principally, the release by the B52s of cluster bombs and munitions tipped with depleted uranium.

They cited section 5 of the 1971 Criminal Damage Act, which provides lawful excuse for damaging property if that action prevents property belonging to other people from being damaged, and section 3 of the 1967 Criminal Law Act, which states that "a person may use such force as is reasonable in the prevention of a crime". In summing up, the judge told the jurors that using weapons "with an adverse effect on civilian populations which is disproportionate to the need to achieve the military objective" is a war crime. The defendants are likely to be tried again next year.

While these non-verdicts are as far as the defence of lawful excuse for impeding the Iraq war has progressed in the UK, in Ireland and Germany the courts have made decisions - scarcely reported over here - whose implications are momentous. Last year, five peace campaigners were acquitted after using an axe and hammers to cause $2.5m worth of damage to a plane belonging to the US navy. When they attacked it, in February 2003, it had been refuelling at Shannon airport on its way to Kuwait, where it would deliver supplies to be used in the impending war. The jury decided that the five saboteurs were acting lawfully.

This summer, the German federal administrative court threw out the charge of insubordination against a major in the German army. He had refused to obey an order which, he believed, would implicate him in the invasion of Iraq. The judges determined that the UN charter permits a state to go to war in only two circumstances: in self-defence, and when it has been authorised to do so by the UN security council. The states attacking Iraq, they ruled, had no such licence. Resolution 1441, which was used by the British and US governments to justify the invasion, contained no authorisation. The war could be considered an act of aggression.

There is no prospect that the British prime minister could be put on trial for war crimes in this country (although, as the international lawyer Philippe Sands points out, there is a chance that he could be arrested and tried elsewhere). Even so, the government appears to find these legal processes profoundly threatening.

When the Fairford protesters took their request to challenge the legality of the war to the court of appeal, Sir Michael Jay, permanent under-secretary at the Foreign Office, submitted a witness statement which seems to contain a note of official panic.

"It would be prejudicial to the national interest and to the conduct of the government's foreign policy if the English courts were to express opinions on questions of international law concerning the use of force ... which might differ from those expressed by the government," he wrote. Such an opinion "would inevitably weaken the government's hand in its negotiations with other states. Allied states, which have agreed with and supported the United Kingdom's views on the legality of the use of force, could regard such a step as tending to undermine their own position."

It doesn't seem to matter how many journalists, protesters or even lawyers point out that the British government had no legal case for attacking Iraq, that the attorney general's official justification was risible and that Blair's arguments were mendacious. As long as the government has a majority in parliament, the support of much of the press and an army of spin doctors constantly weaving and reweaving its story, it can shrug off these attacks. It can insist, with some success, that we "move on" from Iraq. But an official verdict, handed down by a court, is another matter. If a ruling like that of the German federal administrative court were made over here, it could be devastating for Blair and his ministers.

The prosecutors have lost before. In 1999, a sheriff (a junior Scottish judge) at the court in Greenock instructed the jury to acquit three women who had boarded a Trident submarine testing station on Loch Goil and thrown its computers into the sea. They had argued that the deployment of the nuclear weapons carried by the submarines contravened international law. The sheriff said she could not "conclude definitively" whether or not this was true, but that she had "heard nothing which would make it seem to me that the accused acted with criminal intent". The court of session in Edinburgh later overturned her ruling. Now campaigners against nuclear weapons will be mounting further legal challenges, as they try to sustain a continuous peaceful blockade of the Trident base at Faslane for a year (see

In 1996, four women were acquitted of conspiracy and criminal damage after disabling a Hawk jet which was due to be sold by BAE to the Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia. They argued that they were using reasonable force to prevent crimes of genocide that the Indonesian government was committing in East Timor. Their acquittal might have helped persuade Robin Cook to seek to introduce an "ethical dimension" to foreign policy in 1997 (he was, as we now know, thwarted by Blair).

It is true that such verdicts (or non-verdicts) impose no legal obligations on the government. They do not in themselves demonstrate that its ministers are guilty of war crimes. But every time the prosecution fails to secure a conviction, the state's authority to take decisions which contravene international law is weakened.

These cases cannot reverse the hideous consequences of the crime of aggression (the "supreme international crime", according to the Nuremberg tribunals) that Blair and Bush committed in Iraq. But they do make it harder to repeat.

· George Monbiot's book Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning is published by Penguin.


Why Does James Baker Hate America? His New Report On Iraq Suggests We're Gonna Lose It. I'm Shocked.

Fun, fun, fun till Daddy took the Iraq war away
Bush's Iraq disaster is taking the GOP down, and his father's old pal James Baker is about to tell him what to do.

By Gary Kamiya

Oct. 17, 2006 | In perhaps the strangest vindication of that old '60s chestnut "The personal is the political," the fate of America's Iraq adventure may hinge on whether George W. Bush can handle being taken to the woodshed by an emissary of his old man.

For Bush, the day of reckoning is at hand. After years of talking tough, smearing war opponents as appeasers and demanding "total victory," he must confront the fact that his Iraq war has been a catastrophic failure. Terror attacks are up, American casualties are soaring near record levels, and a credible study claims that at least several hundred thousand Iraqis have died as a result of the war, demolishing whatever moral rationale it had. Of more immediate concern to Bush, Americans have turned against the Iraq war so strongly that the issue now threatens to take down Bush's party, not just in the midterms but in 2008 as well. After a brief uptick in the polls driven by a major GOP "war on terror" P.R. campaign in September, Bush's ratings have again dropped into the low 30s, and with the Republicans reeling from the Mark Foley scandal and no hope on Iraq's bloody horizon, they will probably continue to fall. The Democrats look increasingly likely to take back the House, and perhaps the Senate too.

The country is at a tipping point, which could be described as the moment when even those Americans who get all their information from Fox News abandon Bush's sinking ship. GOP leaders know that if the U.S. is still bogged down in Iraq in 2008, their chances of capturing the presidency will be severely lessened. Senior GOP leaders like John Warner are firing warning shots across Bush's bow. He is under increasing pressure to do something -- anything -- to stop the bleeding.

But Bush, declaring that nothing less than the freedom of the world is at stake, has continued to insist that only a total victory in Iraq is acceptable. In a speech on Sept. 4, he said, "we'll accept nothing less than complete victory ... We're on the offensive, and we will not rest, we will not retreat, and we will not withdraw from the fight, until this threat to civilization has been removed." On Monday, he assured Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki that he will not pull U.S. troops out of the country.

The Republican Party brain trust, such as it is, desperately needs to find a way to talk Bush off the ledge, pry him away from his neocon delusions and Darth Cheney, and persuade him to cut his losses. But how?

Enter James Baker, GOP wise man and old Bush family counselor. Baker, who served as the elder Bush's secretary of state and secretary of treasury, is a consummate fix-it man, a kind of cross between Tom Hagen, Michael Corleone's consigliere in "The Godfather," and Mr. Wolf, the hipster cleanup dude in "Pulp Fiction." It was Baker who pulled Bush's chestnuts out of the fire after the 2000 elections, when he appeared on television to declaim, with the icy authority of a junta colonel, that "the votes have been counted again and again."

Now Baker has put on his bipartisan hat to co-head the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan commission of foreign-policy experts that was created by Congress in March, with Bush's approval, to look for new solutions to the Iraq mess. The commission is not releasing its report until after the November elections, implausibly claiming that it doesn't want to politicize them. But a leak campaign to the media has made it pretty clear what the report is going to say -- and it is not going to be music to Bush's ears.

Baker's report, according to reports in the New York Sun and the Sunday Times, will rule out the possibility of "victory" in Iraq. Instead, it will recommend that the U.S. either simply withdraw or try to cut some kind of deal with the insurgents that could provide a modicum of security and stability in the country. The United States should abandon dreams of democracy. Instead, it should search for anything that will minimize the damage -- whether installing a strongman or a junta, or splitting the country into three parts. It should negotiate with Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria. Left unspoken is the obvious larger point: The U.S. mission has failed, and once we do everything we can to prevent Iraq from descending into a hellish civil war, we should get out.

For Bush, the Baker report will be about as welcome as an invitation to attend a two-week Earth First teach-in in Berkeley. Following these recommendations would mean changing his policy in radical and humiliating ways. No matter how he tries to spin it, pulling U.S. troops out when Iraq is still in meltdown will make his policy indistinguishable from the one proposed by Democrats -- and which he, Cheney and Rumsfeld have been virulently denouncing as appeasement and surrender to evildoers. Having just claimed that the war in Iraq is "the calling of our generation" and the equivalent of World War II, it's going to be hard for Bush to suddenly say, "Never mind!"

Even worse, there is no guarantee that any of these new tactics would work -- in fact, they could easily make things even worse.

In short, Baker's report will be a heaping plate of crow. The big question is: Will Bush be able to bring himself to eat it -- especially since it's being served up by an emissary of his father?

Baker may have saved Bush after the Florida debacle, but in every other way he represents the clammy and unwelcome hand of Bush's dad, also known as 41 (a reference to his being the 41st president). Baker is not just close to Bush senior, he shares his approach to foreign policy -- one that the younger Bush, aka 43, has completely rejected. Baker, like his old boss, is a so-called realist, who regards 43's neoconservative messianism about "transforming the Middle East" as dangerously delusional. Baker strongly opposed George W. Bush's war on Iraq, and clearly believes that 43's neoconservative Mideast policy, with its overwhelmingly pro-Israeli tilt and its hard line toward Iran and Syria, is misguided. In 1992, Baker delivered one of the most stinging rebukes ever given to Israel by any U.S. administration, telling Yitzhak Shamir that the United States would not honor $10 billion in loan guarantees unless Israel stopped building settlements in the occupied territories.

Although 41 has quite properly refused to criticize his son, it is clear that he shares Baker's views of the Iraq war and 43's Mideast policies. In his new book, "State of Denial," Bob Woodward quotes Barbara Bush as saying of the impending war, "Well, his father is certainly worried and is losing sleep over it." But according to Woodward, the father did not want to butt in. When Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, asked Bush why he didn't talk to his son about his concerns, he replied, "I had my turn. It is his turn now. I just have to stay off the stage."

For his part, the younger Bush has kept his father at arm's length. In his 2004 book "Plan of Attack," Woodward asked Bush whether he had ever asked his father, whose decades of foreign policy expertise dwarfed his own blank résumé, for advice about the war. Bush replied he hadn't, saying -- frighteningly -- that the Iraq war was not like Gulf War I, but "is part of a larger obligation that came to be on Sept. the 11th, 2001." He then added the now-famous quote, "You know, he is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength. There is a higher father that I appeal to." (In the same conversation, Bush said of the war, "I haven't suffered doubts.") In "State of Denial," Woodward quotes Sen. John McCain as saying of Bush, "One time he said, 'I don't want to be like my father. I want to be like Ronald Reagan.'"

One could speculate endlessly about the relationship between the two Bushes. Woodward presents it as loving but oddly constrained. It is reasonable to believe that 43, whose nepotistic, crony-assisted career until he became president was far from illustrious, felt that he needed to strike out on a new path to be his own man and prove his worth. (The legendary investigative reporter Seymour Hersh mockingly calls 43 a "rebel with a bedtime.") Bush's well-documented lack of intellectual curiosity also probably played a role in his lack of interest in communicating with his father: If you already know the answer, are in touch with the higher father, don't have any doubts, and don't want to think about alternatives, why bother? Whatever the reasons, Bush has rejected his father's moderation in order to strike out on a radical new course.

This is true of many areas, but perhaps most strikingly so of Bush's Middle East policies. As Ron Suskind reports in "The Price of Loyalty," his book about Paul O'Neill's ill-fated tenure as Bush's treasury secretary, at the very first meeting of his National Security Council, on Jan. 30, 2001, just 10 days after his inauguration, Bush announced, "We're going to correct the imbalances of the previous administration on the Mideast conflict. We're going to tilt it back toward Israel." When Secretary of State Colin Powell warned that abandoning attempts to be evenhanded and simply unleashing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon could have dire consequences, especially for the Palestinians, Bush replied, "Sometimes a show of strength by one side can really clarify things."

Bush has followed that philosophy not just in the Israeli-Palestinian crisis but also in Iraq. The Iraq war was driven by the neoconservative belief that 9/11 proved that the status quo was no longer acceptable, and the way to change the region was to pound Arab evildoers until they saw the error of their ways. It didn't matter which Arab evildoer was being pounded -- any one would do, and Saddam was convenient. This credo was summed up by Bush's close advisor Henry Kissinger, who according to Woodward told Bush's speechwriter, "We need to humiliate them."

The verdict on a war based on that bizarre ideology is now in -- and Baker is about to deliver it. It cannot be pleasant for George W. Bush to be told that his "lower" father really did know best.

Will Bush listen to Baker, take his political punishment and begin the agonizing process of winding down the Iraq war? At his press conference last week, Bush was told that Baker had said a change in strategy might be needed, and was asked if he would be willing to change. Bush said, "We're constantly changing tactics to achieve a strategic goal. Our strategic goal is a country which can defend itself, sustain itself and govern itself."

The problem is, what Baker is likely to recommend goes far beyond mere tactics. And even the strategic goal of a stable Iraq may simply not be attainable -- Iraq may no longer be salvageable. If there was any obvious way to sugarcoat Baker's proposals so as to make them seem less like a surrender and more like a tactical adjustment, Bush would be more likely to embrace them. After all, Bush has made substantial policy shifts before and gotten away with it. No one was outraged, for example, when he reached out to the Sunni insurgents whom he had denounced just months before as terrorists. But this change would be an order of magnitude bigger, and there's no way to spin it. It would amount to an admission that the entire war had been a mistake. There is nothing in Bush's history to suggest he is capable of making such an admission.

On the other hand, Bush has a powerful incentive to embrace Baker's plan: politics. As Robert Dreyfuss points out in The Washington Monthly, "If -- and it's a very big if -- Baker can forge a consensus plan on what to do about Iraq among the bigwigs on his commission, many of them leading foreign-policy figures in the Democratic Party, then the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee -- whoever he (or she) is -- will have a hard time dismissing the plan. And if the GOP nominee also embraces the plan, then the Iraq war would largely be off the table as a defining issue of the 2008 race -- a potentially huge advantage for Republicans."

It's hard to believe that Bush, who is nothing if not a shrewd and cutthroat politician, doesn't want to take Iraq off the table. Of course he would take a big short-term hit for cutting and running, but declaring victory and getting out is a time-honored political move, and Bush might get away with it.

But this may be bigger than politics. Beyond the Oedipal dimension, Bush has staked his entire presidency on this war, and he really seems to be utterly convinced of the righteousness of his cause. According to Woodward, he and his neocon brain trust see the battle against Islamic extremism lasting two generations, and he believes it is his sacred duty to stand and fight.

Baker's report will be an irresistible force, colliding with the immovable object that is George W. Bush. Something will have to give. But what?


Iraqi Civil War Grows. Bush still has no Exit Strategy.

October 17th, 2006 12:45 am
Families Flee Iraqi River Towns On 4th Day of Sectarian Warfare

By Ellen Knickmeyer and Muhanned Saif Aldin / Washington Post

BAGHDAD, Oct. 16 -- Families fled in search of safety Monday as open warfare raged for a fourth day between Shiite militias and armed Sunni men in Tigris River towns north of Baghdad. Militias allied with Iraq's Shiite-led government held sway in Balad city, forcing out Sunni families and leaving the bodies of slain Sunni men to rot in the streets, according to police, residents and hospital officials.

The Iraqi government deployed still more reinforcements to try to calm the embattled towns and hold open the main roads, Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul Kareem al-Kinani said in the capital. But local police officers accused Shiite-dominated government police forces of working alongside Shiite militias in executing Sunnis and appealed for more help.

The escalating violence in the Tigris River towns in many ways serves as a microcosm of the daily violence roiling Iraq. Sectarian attacks have increased more than tenfold since the start of the year and now claim more than 100 victims a day, according to the Iraqi government.

The violence in Balad was unusual because of the sustained deployment of the militias on the streets, and the killing seemed particularly vicious. Balad was "under siege from all sides," police 1st Lt. Bassim Hamdi said by telephone from the city. "We demand that leaders from both sides intervene to stop the bloodshed. Because if this goes on, it will explode sectarian violence all over Iraq."

As the carnage mounted, President Bush called Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to reassure the Iraqi leader of his support and assure him he was under no time pressure from the United States to curb sectarian violence.

Bush told Maliki he had no plans to pull out U.S. troops and advised him to ignore rumors that Washington intended to impose a two-month deadline for Iraq to rein in the violence, White House spokesman Tony Snow said in Washington.

Bush assured the Iraqi leader, " 'Don't worry, you still have our full support,' " Snow said.

American officials and Iraqis have expressed increasing frustration with inaction by Maliki, who this week indefinitely postponed measures both to disband militias and convene a reconciliation conference meant to close the widening rift between Iraq's Shiite majority and Sunni minority.

Maliki has bridled at growing U.S. pressure to act against the illegal private armies, which include armed wings of the two biggest parties in his governing alliance of Shiite religious parties. The prime minister issued a statement late Monday stressing that government forces have already confronted militias in some provinces. His administration "is determined to confront the armed groups with all political and military means," he said.

Although Baghdad has been the nexus of the Shiite-Sunni struggle for months, sectarian killing exploded in river towns about 50 miles to the north of the capital Friday after suspected Sunni insurgents kidnapped and beheaded 17 Shiite laborers from date palm groves in the predominantly Sunni hamlet of Duluiyah, across the river from Balad.

Shiite elders of Balad said they called in the Baghdad militias of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr -- whose bloc is the largest in Iraq's Shiite-led government -- to take revenge.

Most of the victims since then have been Sunni men in Duluiyah and neighboring Sunni towns. Hasanein al-Badawi, a physician at Balad's hospital, said almost all had been shot and some had been tortured with electric drills.

The total number of victims received by Balad's hospital morgue held steady at 80 on Monday, Badawi said. Members of Sadr's Mahdi Army militia were blocking Sunni families from picking up more of their dead from the streets, he said.

The American military had recorded 57 killings in Balad, Lt. Col. Christopher C. Garver, a military spokesman, said in Baghdad.

On Monday, Sunni families fleeing Balad described Shiite militias going door-to-door, giving people two hours to clear out.

A police officer in Duluiyah, Capt. Qaid al-Azawi, accused American forces of standing by in Balad while militiamen in police cars and police uniforms slaughtered Sunnis. Americans did act, however, in Duluiyah, arresting three local police officers whom they suspected of fighting with insurgents against the militias, Azawi said.

Garver, the spokesman in Baghdad, said he had no information on these specific reports. "We're providing assistance where we see criminal behavior, such as violence and killing," he said.

Police officials said Balad had calmed by nightfall with the deployment of large numbers of Iraqi army troops, who are seen as more neutral than forces of the Shiite-dominated police.

Meanwhile, clashes between Iraqi and foreign members of al-Qaeda in Iraq signaled a possible split in the foreign-led Sunni insurgent group over its leaders' declaration Sunday of a separate, Sunni-led Islamic emirate in nine provinces of Iraq.

The hospital in Ramadi, a western city badly battered by years of fighting between American forces and Sunni insurgents, by late Monday had received the bodies of 13 insurgents killed in the internal clashes, including a top local leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, according to Saad Naji, a physician.

A mid-ranking Iraqi official of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Ma'an al-Ani, said scores of Iraqi members of Iraq's most feared Sunni insurgent group had broken away, spurred by unhappiness at Sunday's declaration. Creation of a separate Sunni state would only "tear the country apart . . . and divert from the main goal, which is getting Americans out," Ani said.

In other violence Monday, 11 people were killed when assailants used car bombs to attack the funeral of a Shiite policeman in Baghdad, the Interior Ministry said.

Two American soldiers were killed in fighting north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said, bringing to 12 the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq since Friday, an unusually high toll. Attacks have killed more than 50 American troops in October, putting the month on track to be one of the bloodiest of the war for U.S. forces.

Execution-style shootings claim the great majority of victims in Baghdad, where scores of bodies are dumped each day. Monday's victims included the brother of the chief prosecutor in Saddam Hussein's genocide trial, who was shot to death in front of his wife at his home.

Aldin reported from Tikrit. Special correspondents Saad al-Izzi and Naseer Nouri in Baghdad, Saad Sarhan in Najaf and other Washington Post staff in Iraq contributed to this report.


And the Winner Is ... Me

October 17, 2006
Editorial New York Times

Voters in Ohio can be forgiven if they feel they have been beamed out of the Midwest and dropped into a third-world autocracy. The latest news from the state’s governor’s race is that the Republican nominee, Kenneth Blackwell, who is also the Ohio secretary of state, could rule that his opponent is ineligible to run because of a technicality. We’d like to think that his office would not ultimately do that, or that if it did, such a ruling would not be allowed to stand. But the mere fact that an elected official and political candidate has the authority to toss his opponent out of a race is further evidence of a serious flaw in our democracy.

Ted Strickland, the Democratic nominee, is leading Mr. Blackwell by as much as 28 points, according to one recent poll. In their panic, some Blackwell supporters have hit on the idea of trying to prevent the election from occurring. One of them filed a complaint alleging that Mr. Strickland, who is a member of Congress, does not live in the apartment where he is registered to vote. Mr. Strickland owns a condominium in another part of Ohio, and the complaint alleges that he actually lives there. If Mr. Strickland was not a qualified voter, he would be prohibited from running for governor.

The complaint itself is without merit. No one disputes that Mr. Strickland lives in Ohio, or that he is registered. The only issue is which of his two homes he chose to register from, and the law gives voters with multiple homes broad discretion in choosing among them.

What is more interesting, and troubling, is the way the complaint is proceeding. The county board that heard it broke down 2 to 2, on party lines, about whether to hold a hearing. In the case of a tie vote at the county level, complaints like these get forwarded to the secretary of state’s office to be resolved. Mr. Blackwell says he has designated his assistant secretary to handle duties that could conflict with his candidacy. But passing these matters on to a subordinate who is a political ally and owes his job to the candidate hardly removes the conflict.

Election administration should be removed from partisan politics, in Ohio and everywhere else. Decisions like these should be made by nonpartisan bodies or, failing that, by people who do their utmost to insulate themselves from partisan politics. In 2004, Mr. Blackwell chose to become co-chairman of President Bush’s Ohio campaign, and then issued rulings that helped the campaign. Now we have the even more bizarre prospect of Mr. Blackwell, or his deputy, potentially participating in the baseless disqualification of his opponent.

We are confident it will not come to that. But however this particular case is resolved, it underscores the need for Ohio, and other states, to find a way to administer elections that is insulated from partisan politics.

Monday, October 16, 2006


Corruption: Chairman of Republican National Committee Ken Mehman in bed with Jack Abramoff. Republicans ignore Corruption.

Displease a Lobbyist, Get Fired
By Peter Wallsten
The Los Angeles Times

October 15, 2006

E-mails show Jack Abramoff's ability to influence White House staffing decisions through his highly placed friends.

Washington - For five years, Allen Stayman wondered who ordered his removal from a State Department job negotiating agreements with tiny Pacific island nations - even when his own bosses wanted him to stay.

Now he knows.

Newly disclosed e-mails suggest that the ax fell after intervention by one of the highest officials at the White House: Ken Mehlman, on behalf of one of the most influential lobbyists in town, Jack Abramoff.

The e-mails show that Abramoff, whose client list included the Northern Mariana Islands, had long opposed Stayman's work advocating labor changes in that U.S. commonwealth, and considered what his lobbying team called the "Stayman project" a high priority.

"Mehlman said he would get him fired," an Abramoff associate wrote after meeting with Mehlman, who was then White House political director.

The exchange illustrates how, more than two years after the corruption scandal surrounding the now-disgraced Abramoff came to light, people are still learning the extent of the lobbyist's ability to pull the levers of power in Washington. The latest revelations provide more detail than the Bush administration has acknowledged about how Abramoff and his team reached into high levels of the White House, not just Capitol Hill, which has been the main focus of the influence-peddling investigation.

The e-mails, disclosed as part of a report by the House Government Reform Committee, show how Abramoff manipulated the system through officials such as Mehlman, now the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Doing so, Abramoff directed government appointments, influenced policy decisions and won White House endorsements for political candidates - all in the service of his clients.

The report found more than 400 lobbying contacts between Abramoff's team and the White House.

Besides the Stayman matter, the e-mails reveal Mehlman's role in helping an Abramoff client, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, secure $16.3 million for a new jail that government analysts concluded was not necessary. Mehlman also helped Abramoff obtain a White House endorsement in 2002 of the Republican gubernatorial ticket in the U.S. territory of Guam.

Abramoff pleaded guilty in January to federal charges in a congressional bribery investigation that continues to loom over Capitol Hill and the GOP. A Senate subcommittee concluded that Abramoff fleeced Indian tribes out of millions of dollars in fees that he split with one of his associates.

The scandal has touched just one West Wing staffer, Susan Ralston, a onetime Abramoff aide who resigned this month as executive assistant to strategist Karl Rove after congressional investigators documented frequent contact with the lobbyist's team.

Mehlman said he did not recall the details of his contacts with the Abramoff team, including discussions about Stayman, the former State Department official. But he said such interactions were part of his job as White House political director.

"I was a gateway," Mehlman said in an interview. "It was my job to talk to political supporters, to hear their requests, and hand them on to policymakers."

Mehlman said he had known Abramoff since the mid-1990s and would listen to his requests along with those of other influential Republicans.

"I know Jack," Mehlman said. "I certainly recall that if he and others wanted to meet I would have met with them, as I would have met with lots of people."

Mehlman, a Baltimore native and graduate of Harvard Law School, has remained a GOP power player since stepping down as political director in 2003. He built the party's grass-roots get-out-the-vote strategy, managing President Bush's 2004 reelection campaign before taking over the RNC last year.

Democrats charge that Mehlman may have acted unethically during his time at the White House, lobbying for government actions at Abramoff's behest, even when policy experts disagreed with the decision.

The senior Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, Rep. Henry A. Waxman of Los Angeles, points to e-mails suggesting that in June 2001, amid negotiations over whether to fire Stayman, Mehlman requested and might have been given two U2 concert tickets in Abramoff's suite at what was then the MCI Center (now the Verizon Center).

Ethics rules prohibit officials from accepting gifts worth more than $20 from a person doing business with the government, although there are exceptions. Ethics officials typically consider such suite tickets to be worth the same as the event's most expensive tickets, which in this case was $133 apiece, according to Waxman's office.

"Please tell me we can fit two more in for Friday," lobbyist and Kevin Ring wrote to Abramoff, his partner. "Ken Mehlman of the White House apparently wants to go." On the day before the concert, Ring wrote to Abramoff that a resume for a Stayman replacement had been "sent to our conduit."

Referring in the same e-mail to an unrelated Labor Department appointment, Ring said he "will talk to Mehlman at the concert tomorrow night."

A former Abramoff associate remembers Mehlman attending the concert. Mehlman said he did not recall it. "I've been to several U2 concerts, but I don't know whether I went to that one," he said. "But I can tell you that as political director I was always very careful to make sure everything I did was above board and consistent with the rules."

Waxman said the e-mails suggested Mehlman may have "violated fundamental ethics regulations and the law."

"There are serious questions that Mr. Mehlman needs to address with candor and that Congress should investigate thoroughly," Waxman said.

The e-mails disclosed in the House report showed that Mehlman was involved in a variety of matters of interest to Abramoff, one of which bore fruit for the lobbyist after he discussed delivering campaign contributions to GOP causes.

Tony Rudy, a onetime aide to former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), referred to Mehlman on Nov. 9, 2001, as a "rock star" after Mehlman agreed to "take care of" the Choctaws' jail, despite a Justice Department finding that the tribe's existing jail was adequate.

Several days after that meeting, on Nov. 13, Rudy recommended a $15,000 contribution to the Republican National Committee. "Let's give the check to Ken Mehlman at the White House," wrote Rudy, who later pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in the broader investigation.

On Nov. 15, campaign finance records show, the tribe gave $10,000 to the RNC. Overall, the tribe gave $120,000 in the 2002 election cycle to Republican committees and $95,000 to Democratic committees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Two weeks after the RNC received its check, Susan Butler, chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Charles W. "Chip" Pickering, a Mississippi Republican whose district includes the Choctaws, e-mailed Rudy to say that she had discussed the issue with Mehlman and others and that "they were very positive and promised to work with us on it."

When Justice Department officials relented and released the money for the jail, giddy Abramoff associates planned to host agency officials in a suite at a Dave Matthews concert.

"I have the suite filling up with DOJ staffers who just got our client $16 million," one wrote. Another replied that the agency officials deserve any reward they want, "opening day tickets, Skins v. Giants, oriental massages, hookers, whatever."

Mehlman, meanwhile, also helped Abramoff with another client, Guam, the e-mails show.

On Oct. 9, 2002, Abramoff asked Mehlman to secure a White House endorsement for the island's GOP gubernatorial ticket.

Three weeks later, Abramoff received a note from Ralston, then Rove's assistant, saying that Mehlman had gotten a quote from the White House for "your Guam candidates." She also asked Abramoff to send his requests in the future to "Ken only."

For Stayman, learning more about how Abramoff used White House connections helped him understand why, five years ago, he found himself looking at a career change.

His job was up for renewal, but his State Department supervisors wanted to keep him on to finish a project that was expected to take more time.

"With only about a year left on my appointment, I didn't think it would trigger any interest from the White House," Stayman said. "I assumed that Abramoff was behind it, but I didn't know the details, who called whom and how much effort it took."

Unbeknownst to Stayman, though, within weeks of Bush taking office, the "Stayman project" was in full swing.

State Department officials resisted the dismissal, and negotiations dragged on for months. In May 2001, one of Mehlman's deputies assured Abramoff's team that, "Obviously, this guy cannot stay."

That July 9, Ralston e-mailed Abramoff with news of a deal on Stayman: "He'll be out in four months."

And he was.

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