Friday, November 03, 2006


"This stuff ought to be out. Put this stuff out."

by Georgia10

As Hunter detailed in his excellent post below, the right-wing blogos and their ideological counterparts in Congress led the charge to declassify tons of pre-war documents of the Iraqi government. As we know now, the posting of these documents has resulted in a grave security breach, as the administration publicly released information on how to build an atom bomb.

That the United States government was stupid enough to release this diarrhea of documents without the proper national security review is a scandal in and of itself. But the fact that these fools rushed in for political gain makes this security breach that much more outrageous.

For those that didn't follow the initial document dump, the chain of events goes something like this. After toppling Saddam Hussein's government, the U.S. government came into possession of an extraordinary amount of documents, but by the end of 2005, the bulk of these documents were not translated. Peter Hoekstra, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, blamed the backlog on the fact that the intelligence community didn't have enough Arabic translators (and of course, Hoekstra would never propose hiring back all of the translators who were fired because they were gay). His bright idea? To declassify the docs and place them online so that "academics, journalists, bloggers and other interested individuals could have access and help translate them."

It's not as if there was a rush to translate these documents. The urgency argued by Hoekstra and the right-wing blogs was borne not out of a national security need, but out of a political need. You see, as support for the war contineud its steady decline, and as the president's poll numbers followed suit, the wars most unapologetic supporters were in desperate need of something--anything--that could be spun into justifying the debacle Americans were seeing on the nightly news.

Thus, we had Hoekstra pushing for the release of this information so that right-wing bloggers--an "army of translators"--could scour the documents and find some scrap of paper that proved Osama bin Laden once operated out of some condo in Baghdad, and that yes, Iraq and 9/11 were thus connected and the biggest FUBAR in American history could thus be excused on those grounds. That was the idea, at least.

The push to throw these documents to the dogs was part of a larger effort to counter waning support for the war. Back in March, Stephen Hayes, senior writer at the Weekly Standard, was one of the most vocal cheerleaders for the documents' release. He recounted how the president was intent on releasing the documents, even over Negroponte's protests. He described a February 16th conference call between the president, the vice-president, Indiana Republican Mike Pence, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, and U.S. Ambassador to IRaq Zalmay Khalilzad (via telephone).

The conference call began with Pence commenting on all the favorable news coverage the release of certain pre-Saddam audio tapes had garnered ("Mr. President, the war had its best night on the network news since the war ended.") Hayes then described how the president wanted more pre-war information released:

[President Bush] turned to Hadley and asked for an update. Hadley explained that John Negroponte, Bush's Director of National Intelligence, "owns the documents" and that DNI lawyers were deciding how they might be handled.

Bush extended his arms in exasperation and worried aloud that people who see the documents in 10 years will wonder why they weren't released sooner. "If I knew then what I know now," Bush said in the voice of a war skeptic, "I would have been more supportive of the war."

Bush told Hadley to expedite the release of the Iraq documents. "This stuff ought to be out. Put this stuff out." The president would reiterate this point before the meeting adjourned. And as the briefing ended, he approached Pence, poked a finger in the congressman's chest, and thanked him for raising the issue. When Pence began to restate his view that the documents should be released, Bush put his hand up, as if to say, "I hear you. It will be taken care of."

The issue was indeed taken care of, and the president eventually released the documents, and the right-wing pounced, and they found nothing.

Whether terrorists and rogue nations also found nothing remains to be seen.

We may never know whether malicious minds accessed the atom bomb information before the site was pulled, or whether other documents posted in haste have also endangered our national security.

What we do know is this: the push to release these documents was political, aimed at bolstering the egos of those who championed this war. They wanted this stuff out, and they wanted out it out now. Through rushed and wrong action, they wanted to be proved right.

And the result? Why, it's the same result borne out of every poorly planned, mismanaged, half-assed action taken by our government for the benefit of the Republican Party: the American people got screwed, and are less safe as a result.

The Republican Party led the reckless charge to "put this stuff out." Now it's time to put them out of office on November 7th.


Dems call for investigation of Bush White House publishing on Internet plans for making a nuke

by John in DC - 11/03/2006 05:03:00 PM

You won't ever see this investigation, we'll never know what went wrong, if you vote Republican. From Congressman Langevin's office:
Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the House Homeland Security Committee, and Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Nuclear and Biological Attack, today called on the committee's Republican leaders to immediately start an investigation into allegations uncovered in today's New York Times describing a U.S. government website that posted sensitive details about Iraq's former nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs.

"We are keenly aware of the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction to our citizens, our interests and our allies, and we have a responsibility to prevent the dissemination of any sensitive documents and information that could be used in a future attack against our homeland," stated Thompson and Langevin. "The U.S. has made it a top priority to safeguard nuclear materials and to prevent terrorist organizations and state sponsors of terrorism from obtaining the materials, technology and information needed to develop their own WMD capabilities and this development seemingly flies in the face of those efforts."

According to experts quoted in the article, the "Operation Iraqi Freedom Document Portal" contained specific information and detailed instructions about how to develop nuclear and chemical weapons.

"It is ironic that the same Republicans who claim that National Security is their top priority continue to act in ways that make our nation less safe," said Thompson. "Our intelligence community has already told us that our invasion and continued presence in Iraq has resulted in an increase in the terrorist threat against us. Now President Bush, under pressure from Congressional Republicans, has posted sensitive documents that weapons experts have called a "cookbook" for nuclear and chemical weapons on the world wide web for all to see - including terrorists."

Because of the serious concerns raised in the article, Langevin and Thompson asked for an investigation into how such a significant breach occurred, what sensitive information was posted on the website, whether any foreign agents or terrorist organizations accessed the pages, and what potential harm can come from this breach. Additionally, they believe that, no later than the week of November 13, the Homeland Security Committee should hold hearings as well as schedule classified briefings for committee members to provide a candid assessment of the scope of this problem.

"Congress must demonstrate its serious commitment to preventing the proliferation of WMD," continued Langevin. "We need immediate action to examine what failures occurred that led to such a major breach of security."


GOP House Intelligence Committee Chariman Pete Hoekstra responsible for atomic bomb plans being published on Web

by AJ in DC - 11/03/2006 02:32:00 PM

(NOTE FROM JOHN: It's ironic that Hoekstra is investigating Democrats on the committee when he himself is now responsible for one of the greatest breaches of national security since the Rosenbergs.)

As you already know, last spring, the Bush administration posted untranslated documents collected from Saddam's regime online for all to see. These documents were supposedly screened, but after Iraq, Katrina, Mark Foley, contractor fraud, Valerie Plame, and the rest, it's pretty clear that oversight isn't the biggest deal in today's Republican party.

According to the Times,
[T]he site has posted some documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraq's secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb.
The nuclear program was eliminated by the Gulf War, but documents remained. Who demanded their release? None other than House Intelligence Committee Chariman Pete Hoekstra, who sang the praises of "leveraging the internet," i.e., throwing a political bone to right-wing bloggers who would invent connections between Saddam and al Qaeda, in this op-ed:
The proposed approach will be a transparent process rather than one mired in secrecy. It will allow us to leverage the Internet to enable a mass examination as opposed to limiting it to a few exclusive elites. What would have once taken years and decades may now be done in real time.
He was right, just in a way that cripples national security: What would have once taken years and decades -- terrorists getting a "basic guide to building an atom bomb" -- may now be done in real time, thanks to politically-motivated Congressional Republicans.


GOP, which won't do oversight in Iraq, fires the only person who is doing oversight in Iraq

by Joe in DC - 11/03/2006 08:54:00 AM

Congressional Republicans have failed to do any oversight of Bush's war in Iraq. They are firing the only guy who is doing any kind of oversight -- and they did it in that sneaky, deceptive way they have of sticking language in a major piece of legislation when they thought no one was paying attention. The GOP undermines America's security in so many ways, this is another glaring example:
Investigations led by a Republican lawyer named Stuart W. Bowen Jr. in Iraq have sent American occupation officials to jail on bribery and conspiracy charges, exposed disastrously poor construction work by well-connected companies like Halliburton and Parsons, and discovered that the military did not properly track hundreds of thousands of weapons it shipped to Iraqi security forces.

And tucked away in a huge military authorization bill that President Bush signed two weeks ago is what some of Mr. Bowen’s supporters believe is his reward for repeatedly embarrassing the administration: a pink slip.

The order comes in the form of an obscure provision that terminates his federal oversight agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, on Oct. 1, 2007. The clause was inserted by the Republican side of the House Armed Services Committee over the objections of Democratic counterparts during a closed-door conference, and it has generated surprise and some outrage among lawmakers who say they had no idea it was in the final legislation.
Who is responsible for this outrage? Ultimately, it's the Republican leadership on the Hill and George Bush.

The guy who was fired was only focused on one piece of the war in Iraq: how the reconstruction money was being spent. You'd think the GOP would be concerned about those billions and billions of U.S. taxpayers dollars, too. But you'd be wrong.

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), who claims she was closely monitoring the legislation, sounds like a completely clueless idiot:
“It’s truly a mystery to me,” Ms. Collins said. “I looked at what I thought was the final version of the conference report and that provision was not in at that time.”

“The one thing I can confirm is that this was a last-minute insertion,” she said.
Give me a break. This is how the GOP runs Congress. They want no Iraq oversight in any way. They undermine American security. They cheat American taxpayers.


British believe Bush is more dangerous than Kim Jong-il

· US allies think Washington threat to world peace
· Only Bin Laden feared more in United Kingdom

Julian Glover
Friday November 3, 2006
The Guardian

America is now seen as a threat to world peace by its closest neighbours and allies, according to an international survey of public opinion published today that reveals just how far the country's reputation has fallen among former supporters since the invasion of Iraq.

Carried out as US voters prepare to go to the polls next week in an election dominated by the war, the research also shows that British voters see George Bush as a greater danger to world peace than either the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, or the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Both countries were once cited by the US president as part of an "axis of evil", but it is Mr Bush who now alarms voters in countries with traditionally strong links to the US.

The survey has been carried out by the Guardian in Britain and leading newspapers in Israel (Haaretz), Canada (La Presse and Toronto Star) and Mexico (Reforma), using professional local opinion polling in each country.

It exposes high levels of distrust. In Britain, 69% of those questioned say they believe US policy has made the world less safe since 2001, with only 7% thinking action in Iraq and Afghanistan has increased global security.

The finding is mirrored in America's immediate northern and southern neighbours, Canada and Mexico, with 62% of Canadians and 57% of Mexicans saying the world has become more dangerous because of US policy.

Even in Israel, which has long looked to America to guarantee national security, support for the US has slipped.

Only one in four Israeli voters say that Mr Bush has made the world safer, outweighed by the number who think he has added to the risk of international conflict, 36% to 25%. A further 30% say that at best he has made no difference.

Voters in three of the four countries surveyed also overwhelmingly reject the decision to invade Iraq, with only Israeli voters in favour, 59% to 34% against. Opinion against the war has hardened strongly since a similar survey before the US presidential election in 2004.

In Britain 71% of voters now say the invasion was unjustified, a view shared by 89% of Mexicans and 73% of Canadians. Canada is a Nato member whose troops are in action in Afghanistan. Neither do voters think America has helped advance democracy in developing countries, one of the justifications for deposing Saddam Hussein. Only 11% of Britons and 28% of Israelis think that has happened.

As a result, Mr Bush is ranked with some of his bitterest enemies as a cause of global anxiety. He is outranked by Osama bin Laden in all four countries, but runs the al-Qaida leader close in the eyes of UK voters: 87% think the al-Qaida leader is a great or moderate danger to peace, compared with 75% who think this of Mr Bush.

The US leader and close ally of Tony Blair is seen in Britain as a more dangerous man than the president of Iran (62% think he is a danger), the North Korean leader (69%) and the leader of Hizbullah, Hassan Nasrallah (65%).

Only 10% of British voters think that Mr Bush poses no danger at all. Israeli voters remain much more trusting of him, with 23% thinking he represents a serious danger and 61% thinking he does not.

Contrary to the usual expectation, older voters in Britain are slightly more hostile to the Iraq war than younger ones. Voters under 35 are also more trusting of Mr Bush, with hostility strongest among people aged 35-65.

· ICM interviewed a random sample of 1,010 adults by telephone from October 27-30. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. Polling was by phone in Canada (sample 1,007), Israel (1,078) and Mexico (1,010)

Thursday, November 02, 2006


The president, the preacher and the prostitute

by Tim Grieve

When we heard earlier today that a gay prostitute claims to have had a three-year-long sexual relationship with the Rev. Ted Haggard, our first reaction was probably the same as yours: "Who's Ted Haggard?"

We asked for an explanation from Salon's Lauren Sandler, the author of "Righteous: Dispatches From the Evangelical Youth Movement." Here's what she tells us:

"Ted Haggard may not just be the most important evangelical you've never heard of, but the most important evangelical, period.

"Joel Osteen may have the largest church in the nation. His Lakewood congregation packs the 60,000-seat Astrodome to bask in his blinding smile and equally blinding promise of the great financial wealth that only faith in Jesus can deliver. But his minions are a paltry bunch compared with the 30 million members of Haggard’s National Association of Evangelicals.

"Rick Warren may be the bestselling evangelical scribe since the Bible's original autographs. His 'Purpose-Driven Life' has sold more copies than any other nonfiction book in history, that is, if you don’t consider the Bible nonfiction. But he’s hardly got the ear of the president, with whom he doesn't always see eye to eye (or tooth for tooth).

"And even James Dobson, long heralded as the most influential evangelical in the world, lacks the pull with the evangelical movement he once did. Dobson never takes off his suit jacket, even at his desk, while Haggard can't stand the feel of anything but denim against his skin. Dobson has been seen by many evangelicals as stepping too far into the 'corrupt' dark side of Washington since he launched his PAC, while Haggard manages his influence carefully without the tarnish of politics ever marring his flawless gleam. It's Haggard who is the bionic hero of the young cadets and airmen he ministers to in his own megachurch, just down the road from Dobson's Focus on the Family. In Colorado Springs -- known alternately as the Vatican and the Washington of the evangelical world -- it is Haggard who is king, the crony and the conscience of his youthful parishioners as well as his president.

"Which is why it matters so that Haggard seems to have fallen. The Mark Foley scandal inspired plenty of people to question their devotion to the Republican Party. But Foley is a politician; most evangelicals would already suspect him of thinly cloaking his identity in a three-piece, pinstriped superego. Haggard, on the other hand, has always represented the real deal. He's the one John Wayne would have tapped for his posse. He's the one who represents most how deeply political this evangelical population can be, while always disdaining the notion of politics, always cleaving toward the ranch rather than the Hill.

"If that makes it sound like Haggard and Bush are peas in a pod, well, they are. Haggard participates -- or at least he did -- in weekly White House conference calls, and he and the president like to joke that the only thing they disagree on is what truck to drive.

"Haggard has been preaching against homosexuality with his typical charismatic fire-and-brimstone fervor ever since he founded New Life Church in Colorado Springs. Probably even before then. And if he's right that there is a special place in hell for gay fornicators and drug abusers -- not to mention for liars and charlatans -- I guess he knows where he's headed."

Update: The Denver Post reports that Haggard has resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals. In a statement released by New Life Church, Haggard said he could "not continue to minister under the cloud created by accusations made on Denver talk radio this morning."


The crime of exposing the truth about Iraq

by Glenn Greenwald

Two weeks ago, Dick Cheney said (while visiting with Rush Limbaugh) that things in Iraq were going "remarkably well" -- the same thing we have been hearing for several years now from the administration and their most rabid and dishonest followers. Yesterday, The New York Times published a chart prepared by the United States Central Command which demonstrates precisely the opposite -- namely, that the situation in Iraq is steadily deteriorating, not improving, and is close to full-blown chaos (this report received little attention because the media was focused on the much more important matter of John Kerry's joke).

Put another way, this report demonstrates -- yet again -- that the top officials in our government are blatantly lying about the conditions in Iraq and that that country is inexorably descending into civil war and complete chaos. What is the response of the administration to this revelation? As always, they want to criminally investigate and prosecute those who revealed the truth, as someone in the Pentagon shared with Fox News, which then dutifully reported:

The Pentagon is looking into how classified information indicating Iraq is moving closer to chaos wound up on the front page of Wednesday's New York Times, and is not ruling out an investigation that could lead to criminal charges.
Fox News is fulfilling its journalistic function by pursuing the administration as to why Cheney and other top officials lied about conditions in Iraq pursuing the story of the evil of The New York Times in publishing this information:

The New York Times had not yet responded to a request for comment by FOX News about how it obtained the chart, but a spokeswoman for the newspaper said it will.
As always, the administration wants to threaten, intimidate and prosecute the disclosure not of any information which can be used to harm the troops or U.S. military actions, but instead, it wants to pursue those who reveal the truth and who thereby enable Americans to learn of the administration's deceit and corruption:

A spokesman for U.S. Central Command, which has responsibility for operations in
Iraq, confirmed to FOX News that a chart published in The Times is a real reflection of the thinking of military intelligence on the situation in Iraq as of Oct. 18, adding that an effort is underway to find out who leaked the chart and if the breach of operational security constitutes a crime. The published report includes a classified one-page slide show from an Oct. 18 military briefing. The slide show is titled: “Iraq: Indications and Warnings of Civil Conflict,” and shows spiraling violence in Iraq and a worsening position for American efforts.

To Bush followers, the gravest crime is to reveal information that is politically damaging to this administration. Whenever that occurs, they call for the criminal prosecution of the offenders, and this case is no different. As always, Michelle Malkin is leading the lynch mob, calling the Times the "paper of sedition" and saying that Osama bin Laden need not spy because he can just "read The New York Times for all [of his] jihad needs." She also calls for the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute. National Review's Mario Loyola appears to believe that those responsible for this disclosure should be executed:

I want to know whether there is any level of national secret the Times is not willing to betray for the political advantage of its pet causes. . . . And while we're at it, I would love to understand why the law doesn't prohibit the propagation of strategic national secrets in wartime — which has always been understood as treason.

Everyone knows what we do with traitors, and when someone accuses a newspaper of engaging in "treason," it is not exactly difficult to know what they are urging.

As is always the case, what the Bush administration and its followers are furious about is not that there have been any disclosures of national security secrets which can harm the U.S. It is not exactly a secret that Iraq is disintegrating and spiraling towards civil war, any more than it was a secret that the Bush administration eavesdrops on the conversations of suspected terrorists or monitors their banking transactions. What they are furious about -- and want to threaten and even imprison people for -- is not any harm to national security, but harm to the political interests of the Bush movement.

This is what the ideal world of the Bush follower looks like: If the Government is waging a war and things are going horribly, the Government has the right to lie to its citizens and claim that things are going remarkably well. If a newspaper is furnished with documents prepared by the military that shows that the Government is lying and that things are actually going very poorly, the newspaper should then be barred from informing their readers about that truth -- and ought to criminally prosecuted, perhaps even executed, if they do so.

It truly takes an authoritarian mind of the most irredeemable proportions to watch our political leaders have their lies exposed about a war and have as their first reaction the desire that those who exposed the lies be prosecuted and imprisoned. But it isn't just Bush followers here who are demanding that, but the Bush administration itself, through the military, that is threatening to do so.

This development ought to receive a lot more attention. Now that it is revealed that even our own military believes that Iraq has been steadily collapsing into civil war and chaos, the Bush administration is seeking to punish those who revealed these truths to the American people, because they want to preserve the right, particularly before an election, to have their blatant lies about the war remain unchallenged. Nobody outside of the dwindling circle of mindless Bush followers would find that to be anything other than repugnant.

UPDATE: Speaking of the President's most authoritarian and dishonest followers, Glenn Reynolds predictably promotes this post from Gateway Pundit, which also raises the accusation of "treason" against the Times and then says this:

How the Times gets away with continually leaking classified information to the public; information that consistently demeans our soldiers and assists our enemies is beyond belief. Will the government ever take action and hold leakers responsible?You have to wonder.

The disclosed document prepared by the military "demeans our soldiers" and "assists our enemies." And it should therefore be a serious criminal offense for Americans to know that the military's views of the war are the precise opposite of what our political leaders are claiming.

UPDATE II: War supporter Ralph Peters also spilled the beans today about Iraq on the Op-Ed page of USA Today: "Iraq is failing. No honest observer can conclude otherwise. . . Iraq could have turned out differently. It didn't. And we must be honest about it. We owe that much to our troops. They don't face the mere forfeiture of a few congressional seats but the loss of their lives. Our military is now being employed for political purposes. It's unworthy of our nation."

CNN reporter Michael Ware, in Baghdad, also lets out the big secret: "When you walk on an Iraqi street today. When you go down any avenue here in Baghdad, the most dominant feeling. The most gripping emotion amongst people is fear and that feeling is legitimate."

Another anti-American traitor is Newsweek's Baghdad Bureau Chief, Scott Jonhson, who explained in a radio interview with The Young Turks this morning that he has been travelling to Iraq over the course of the last several years and that the chaos, insecurity and instability in that country are at its worst point ever.

Of all the despicable and contempt-producing acts we've witnessed over the last five years, I think that the absolute lowest -- and it is hard to choose -- is the continuous insistence from the administration and its followers that things have been going oh-so-well in Iraq, all because they were afraid of the political consequences of telling the truth or acknowledging their errors. They were so personally invested in the success of the war that they preferred to perpetuate a disaster, a true atrocity, rather than face up to the fact that this war was a grave mistake and is failing.

As a result, we have stayed in Iraq, changed nothing, and have completely destroyed that country, plunging it into chaos and violence so severe that nobody can even theorize how it might end. The war has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, and we have no way out. The level of deceit and indifference from those who continued to claim that things were going well there long after there was any reasonable ground for believing that -- all to protect themselves politically -- is so criminal and soul-less that it is hard to put into words.


The Great Divider

NYT Editorial

As President Bush throws himself into the final days of a particularly nasty campaign season, he’s settled into a familiar pattern of ugly behavior. Since he can’t defend the real world created by his policies and his decisions, Mr. Bush is inventing a fantasy world in which to campaign on phony issues against fake enemies.

In Mr. Bush’s world, America is making real progress in Iraq. In the real world, as Michael Gordon reported in yesterday’s Times, the index that generals use to track developments shows an inexorable slide toward chaos. In Mr. Bush’s world, his administration is marching arm in arm with Iraqi officials committed to democracy and to staving off civil war. In the real world, the prime minister of Iraq orders the removal of American checkpoints in Baghdad and abets the sectarian militias that are slicing and dicing their country.

In Mr. Bush’s world, there are only two kinds of Americans: those who are against terrorism, and those who somehow are all right with it. Some Americans want to win in Iraq and some don’t. There are Americans who support the troops and Americans who don’t support the troops. And at the root of it all is the hideously damaging fantasy that there is a gulf between Americans who love their country and those who question his leadership.

Mr. Bush has been pushing these divisive themes all over the nation, offering up the ludicrous notion the other day that if Democrats manage to control even one house of Congress, America will lose and the terrorists will win. But he hit a particularly creepy low when he decided to distort a lame joke lamely delivered by Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. Mr. Kerry warned college students that the punishment for not learning your lessons was to “get stuck in Iraq.” In context, it was obviously an attempt to disparage Mr. Bush’s intelligence. That’s impolitic and impolite, but it’s not as bad as Mr. Bush’s response. Knowing full well what Mr. Kerry meant, the president and his team cried out that the senator was disparaging the troops. It was a depressing replay of the way the Bush campaign Swift-boated Americans in 2004 into believing that Mr. Kerry, who went to war, was a coward and Mr. Bush, who stayed home, was a hero.

It’s not the least bit surprising or objectionable that Mr. Bush would hit the trail hard at this point, trying to salvage his party’s control of Congress and, by extension, his last two years in office. And we’re not naïve enough to believe that either party has been running a positive campaign that focuses on the issues.

But when candidates for lower office make their opponents out to be friends of Osama bin Laden, or try to turn a minor gaffe into a near felony, that’s just depressing. When the president of the United States gleefully bathes in the muck to divide Americans into those who love their country and those who don’t, it is destructive to the fabric of the nation he is supposed to be leading.

This is hardly the first time that Mr. Bush has played the politics of fear, anger and division; if he’s ever missed a chance to wave the bloody flag of 9/11, we can’t think of when. But Mr. Bush’s latest outbursts go way beyond that. They leave us wondering whether this president will ever be willing or able to make room for bipartisanship, compromise and statesmanship in the two years he has left in office.


Scientists say White House muzzled them

By JOHN HEILPRIN, Associated Press Writer

Two federal agencies are investigating whether the Bush administration tried to block government scientists from speaking freely about global warming and censor their research, a senator said Wednesday.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (news, bio, voting record), D-N.J., said he was informed that the inspectors general for the Commerce Department and NASA had begun "coordinated, sweeping investigations of the Bush administration's censorship and suppression" of federal research into global warming.

"These investigations are critical because the Republicans in Congress have ignored this serious problem," Lautenberg said.

He said the investigations "will uncover internal documents and agency correspondence that may expose widespread misconduct." He added, "Taxpayers do not fund scientific research so the Bush White House can alter it."

Messages left Wednesday at the offices of the inspectors general, which serve as the agencies' internal watchdogs, were not immediately returned.

Kristen Hellmer, a spokeswoman for the White House Council for Environmental Quality, said Wednesday night that the administration has supported the scientific process in its approach to studying climate change.

"We have in place the most transparent system of science reporting, and claims that the administration interfered with scientists are false," Hellmer said. "Our focus is on taking action and making real progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The nearly $2 billion worth of climate science we publish annually leads the world and speaks for itself."

Carbon dioxide and other gases primarily from fossil fuel-burning that scientists say trap heat in the atmosphere have warmed the Earth's surface an average 1 degree over the past century. The White House has committed to reducing the "intensity" of U.S. carbon pollution, a measure of the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per unit of economic growth.

But the total U.S. emissions, now more than 7 billion tons a year, are projected to rise 14 percent from 2002 to 2012.

In February, House Science Chairman Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., and other congressional leaders asked NASA to guarantee scientific openness. They complained that a public affairs officer changed or filtered information on global warming and the Big Bang.

The officer, George Deutsch, a political appointee, had resigned after being accused of trying to limit reporters' access to James Hansen, a prominent NASA climate scientist, and insisting that a Web designer insert the word "theory" with any mention of the Big Bang.

A report last month in the scientific journal Nature claimed administrators at the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration blocked the release of a report that linked hurricane strength and frequency to global warming. Hansen had said in February that NOAA has tried to prevent researchers working on global climate change from speaking freely about their work.

NOAA has denied the allegations, saying its work is not politically motivated.


Another Great "Special Comment" From Keith Olbermann

And finally tonight, a Special Comment.

On the 22nd of May, 1856, as the deteriorating American political system veered towards the edge of the cliff, Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina, shuffled into the Senate of this nation, his leg stiff from an old dueling injury, supported by a cane. And he looked for the familiar figure of the prominent Senator from Massachusetts, Charles Sumner.

Brooks found Sumner at his desk, mailing out copies of a speech he had delivered three days earlier — a speech against slavery.

The Congressman matter-of-factly raised his walking stick in mid-air, and smashed its metal point, across the Senator's head.

Congressman Brooks hit his victim repeatedly. Senator Sumner somehow got to his feet and tried to flee. Brooks chased him, and delivered untold blows to Sumner's head. Even though Sumner lay unconscious and bleeding, on the Senate floor, Brooks finally stopped beating him, only because his cane finally broke.

Others will cite John Brown's attack on the arsenal at Harper's Ferry as the exact point after which the Civil War became inevitable.

In point of fact, it might have been the moment — not when Brooks broke his cane over the prostrate body of Senator Sumner - but when voters in Brooks's district started sending him new canes.

Tonight, we almost wonder to whom President Bush will send the next new cane.

There is tonight no political division in this country that he and his party will not exploit, nor have not exploited; no anxiety that he and his party will not inflame.

There is no line this President has not crossed — nor will not cross — to keep one political party, in power.

He has spread any and every fear among us, in a desperate effort to avoid that which he most fears — some check, some balance against what has become not an imperial, but a unilateral presidency.

And now it is evident that it no longer matters to him, whether that effort to avoid the judgment of the people, is subtle and nuanced — or laughably transparent.

Senator John Kerry called him out Monday.

He did it two years too late.

He had been too cordial — just as Vice President Gore had been too cordial in 2000 — just as millions of us, have been too cordial ever since.

Senator Kerry, as you well know, spoke at a college in Southern California. With bitter humor, he told the students that he had been in Texas the day before, that President Bush used to live in that state, but that now he lives in the state of denial.

He said the trip had reminded him about the value of education — that quote "if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you can get stuck in Iraq."

The Senator, in essence, called Mr. Bush stupid.

The context was unmistakable: Texas;the state of denial;stuck in Iraq. No interpretation required.

And Mr. Bush and his minions responded, by appearing to be too stupid to realize that they had been called stupid.

They demanded Kerry apologize — to the troops in Iraq.

And so he now has.

That phrase "appearing to be too stupid" is used deliberately, Mr. Bush.

Because there are only three possibilities here:

One, sir, is that you are far more stupid than the worst of your critics have suggested; that you could not follow the construction of a simple sentence; that you could not recognize your own life story when it was deftly summarized; that you could not perceive it was the sad ledger of your presidency that was being recounted.

This, of course, compliments you, Mr. Bush, because even those who do not "make the most of it," who do not "study hard," who do not "do their homework," and who do not "make an effort to be smart" might still just be stupid — but honest.

No; the first option, sir, is, at best, improbable. You are not honest.

The second option is that you and those who work for you deliberately twisted what Senator Kerry said to fit your political template. That you decided to take advantage of it, to once again pretend that the attacks, solely about your own incompetence, were in fact attacks on the troops — or even on the nation itself.

The third possibility is, obviously, the nightmare scenario; that the first two options are in some way conflated.

That it is both politically convenient for you, and personally satisfying to you, to confuse yourself with the country for which, sir, you work.

A brief reminder, Mr. Bush: You are not the United States of America.

You are merely a politician whose entire legacy will have been a willingness to make anything political — to have, in this case, refused to acknowledge that the insult wasn't about the troops, and that the insult was not even truly about you either — that the insult, in fact, is you.

So now John Kerry has apologized to the troops; apologized for the Republicans' deliberate distortions.

Thus the President will now begin the apologies he owes our troops, right?

This President must apologize to the troops — for having suggested, six weeks ago, that the chaos in Iraq, the death and the carnage, the slaughtered Iraqi civilians and the dead American service personnel, will, to history, quote "look like just a comma."

This President must apologize to the troops — because the intelligence he claims led us into Iraq proved to be undeniably and irredeemably wrong.

This President must apologize to the troops — for having laughed about the failure of that intelligence, at a banquet, while our troops were in harm's way.

This President must apologize to the troops — because the streets of Iraq were not strewn with flowers and its residents did not greet them as liberators.

This President must apologize to the troops — because his administration ran out of "plan" after barely two months.

This President must apologize to the troops — for getting 2,815 of them killed.

This President must apologize to the troops — for getting this country into a war without a clue.

And Mr. Bush owes us an apology… for this destructive and omnivorous presidency.

We will not receive them, of course.

This President never apologizes.

Not to the troops.

Not to the people.

Nor will those henchmen who have echoed him.

In calling him a "stuffed suit," Senator Kerry was wrong about the Press Secretary.

Mr. Snow's words and conduct — falsely earnest and earnestly false — suggest he is not "stuffed" - he is inflated.

And in leaving him out of the equation, Senator Kerry gave an unwarranted pass to his old friend Senator McCain, who should be ashamed of himself tonight.

He rolled over and pretended Kerry had said what he obviously had not.

Only, the symbolic stick he broke over Kerry's head came in a context, even more disturbing: Mr. McCain demanded the apology, while electioneering for a Republican congressional candidate in Illinois.

He was speaking of how often he had been to Walter Reed Hospital to see the wounded Iraq veterans, of how, quote "many of the have lost limbs." He said all this while demanding that the voters of Illinois reject a candidate who is not only a wounded Iraq veteran, but who lost two limbs there: Tammy Duckworth.

Support some of the wounded veterans. But bad-mouth the Democratic one.

And exploit all the veterans, and all the still-serving personnel, in a cheap and tawdry political trick, to try to bury the truth: that John Kerry said the President had been stupid.

And to continue this slander as late as this morning — as biased, or gullible, or lazy newscasters, nodded in sleep-walking assent.

Senator McCain became a front man in a collective lie to break sticks over the heads of Democrats — one of them his friend; another his fellow veteran, leg-less, for whom he should weep and applaud, or at minimum about whom, he should stay quiet.

That was beneath the Senator from Arizona.

And it was all because of an imaginary insult to the troops that his party cynically manufactured — out of a desperation, and a futility, as deep as that of Congressman Brooks, when he went hunting for Senator Sumner.

This, is our beloved country now, as you have re-defined it, Mr. Bush.

Get a tortured Vietnam veteran to attack a decorated Vietnam veteran, in defense of military personnel, whom that decorated veteran did not insult.

Or, get your henchmen to take advantage of the evil lingering dregs of the fear of miscegenation in Tennessee, in your party's advertisements against Harold Ford.

Or, get the satellites who orbit around you, like Rush Limbaugh, to exploit the illness — and the bi-partisanship — of Michael J. Fox — yes, get someone to make fun of the cripple.

Oh, and sir, don't forget to drag your own wife into it.

"It's always easy," she said of Mr. Fox's commercials — and she used this phrase twice — "to manipulate people's feelings."

Where on earth might the First Lady have gotten that idea, Mr. President?

From your endless manipulation of people's feelings about terrorism?

"How ever they put it," you said Monday of the Democrats, on the subject of Iraq , "their approach comes down to this: the terrorists win and America loses."

No manipulation of feelings there.

No manipulation of the charlatans of your administration into the only truth-tellers.

No shocked outrage at the Kerry insult that wasn't; no subtle smile as the First Lady silently sticks the knife in Michael J. Fox's back; no attempt on the campaign trail to bury the reality that you have already assured that the terrorists are winning.

Winning in Iraq, sir.

Winning in America, sir.

There, we have chaos: joint U.S./Iraqi checkpoints at Sadr City, the base of the radical Shiite militias — and the Americans have been ordered out by the Prime Minister of Iraq… and our Secretary of Defense doesn't even know about it!

And here — we have deliberate, systematic, institutionalized lying and smearing and terrorizing — a code of deceit, that somehow permits a President to say, quote, "If you listen carefully for a Democrat plan for success, they don't have one."

Permits him to say this while his plan in Iraq has amounted to a twisted version of the advice once offered to Lyndon Johnson about his Iraq, called Vietnam.

Instead of "declare victory — and get out"… we now have "declare victory — and stay, indefinitely."

And also here, we have institutionalized the terrorizing of the opposition. True domestic terror:

– Critics of your administration in the media receive letters filled with fake anthrax.

– Braying newspapers applaud, or laugh, or reveal details the FBI wished kept quiet, and thus impede or ruin the investigation.

– A series of reactionary columnists encourages treason charges against a newspaper that published "national security information" — that was openly available on the internet.

– One radio critic receives a letter, threatening the revelation of as much personal information about her as can be obtained — and expressing the hope that someone will then shoot her with an AK-47 machine gun.

– And finally, a critic of an incumbent Republican Senator, a critic armed with nothing but words, is attacked by the Senator's supporters, and thrown to the floor, in full view of television cameras, as if someone really did want to re-enact the intent and the rage of the day Preston Brooks found Senator Charles Sumner.

Of course, Mr. President, you did none of these things.

You instructed no one to mail the fake anthrax. Nor undermine the FBI's case. Nor call for the execution of the editors of the New York Times. Nor threaten to assassinate Stephanie Miller. Nor beat up a man yelling at Senator Allen. Nor have the first lady knife Michael J. Fox. Nor tell John McCain to lie about John Kerry.

No, you did not.

And the genius of the thing, is the same, as in King Henry's rhetorical question about Archbishop Thomas Becket: "Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?"

All you have to do, sir… is hand out enough new canes.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Bill O'Reilley is a Fucking Idiot, part 3082

O'Reilly: "[T]en years ago, nobody [had] even heard" of Iraq

Summary: Despite widespread reports of the Taliban's resurgence in Afghanistan, Bill O'Reilly baselessly claimed that it is a "myth" that "Afghanistan's going backwards" and declared that "the Bush administration has won a victory in Afghanistan." O'Reilly also asserted that "10 years ago, nobody [had] even heard of" Iraq; in fact, the United States led a coalition against Iraq in Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

On the October 23 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly presented viewers with a host of misinformation regarding Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition to baselessly claiming that "the Bush administration has won a victory in Afghanistan," O'Reilly also asserted that "10 years ago, nobody [had] even heard of" Iraq, despite the fact that the United States led a coalition against Iraq in Operation Desert Storm in 1991. O'Reilly further stated that while most of the problems in Iraq are "the Iraqis' fault" because they "are the ones that are killing each other," what is "America's fault, the Bush administration's fault" is that "[w]e thought ... [w]e were going to be greeted with flags, as conquerors." Vice President Dick Cheney famously predicted U.S. troops would be greeted in Iraq as "liberators," not "conquerors." Additionally, O'Reilly's guest, Fox News political analyst and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA), baselessly asserted that support for "unilateral withdrawal" of U.S. troops in Iraq, which Gingrich attributed to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) and Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, "would get about 25 percent of the vote." In fact, polling has consistently shown that a majority of Americans favor a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, the position Dean and Pelosi favor.

O'Reilly also claimed during the program that he was "not a partisan as far as telling anybody who to vote for. I think you're [his viewers] smart enough to know who to vote for." As Media Matters for America has noted, O'Reilly has suggested that both North Korea and Iran "want[] to influence the November election" and want Americans to "vote in the Democrats."

During a discussion with Sarah Sewall, director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, O'Reilly claimed that "we were successful in Afghanistan"; that it is "a myth" that "Afghanistan's going backwards," as Sewall claimed; that "[t]here's always going to be a Taliban insurrection" in Afghanistan; that "[e]very military analyst working for our team says most of that country is pacified"; and that "[o]ur information is that there's no danger at all of the Taliban reclaiming that country, none. They'll be annoying. There'll be guerrilla warfare." When Sewall tried to argue otherwise, O'Reilly declared her to be "just parroting the left-wing line that America doesn't know what its doing." Sewall replied: "I'm parroting conversations with commanders who are in uniform serving bravely in Afghanistan."

In fact, as the Associated Press reported October 2, "Afghanistan is suffering its heaviest insurgent attacks since a U.S.-led military force toppled the Taliban in late 2001 for harboring al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden." According to the AP casualty count, which is "based on reports from U.S., NATO and Afghan officials, at least 2,800 people have been killed nationwide so far this year," making this year, as ABC News reported "the bloodiest fighting" in Afghanistan "since the Taliban was toppled in 2001." Further, according to CBS News, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai warned in June that "[s]ecurity forces battling the biggest rise in Taliban violence in years will be bolstered by new recruits from local tribes." Additionally, as CBS reported, Afghanistan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak characterized the increase in violence, notably in southern Afghanistan, as an "all-out Taliban push." ABC News reported on October 23 that Taliban leader Mullah Omar promised to increase violence in the "coming months":

Marking Islam's holiest day with a message to his followers, Mullah Omar warned that the Taliban's campaign would become "more forceful and organized" in the coming months, and would eventually drive the NATO-led coalition from Afghanistan.

"Do not be deceived by the enemy's hollow and unworthy propaganda," he wrote in his Eid ul-Fitr message, explaining that American forces in Afghanistan had already "been faced with defeat."

Further, contrary to O'Reilly's claim that "there's no danger at all of the Taliban reclaiming that country, none," Gen. David Richards, NATO's commanding officer in Afghanistan, who claims the situation in southern Afghanistan is stabilized, warned that Afghanistan was at a "tipping point," and that "If we collectively ... do not exploit this winter to start achieving concrete and visible improvement, then some 70% of Afghans could switch sides" and support the Taliban.

While Gingrich baselessly suggested that only 25 percent of the public would support Pelosi and Dean's plan for Iraq, a Pew public opinion poll conducted September 21-October 4, the most recent poll available on the issue, found that 53 percent of respondents favored a timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq. Thirty-nine percent felt that the United States "should not" set a timetable.

From the October 23 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: See, I'm not a partisan as far as telling anybody who to vote for. I think you're smart enough to know who to vote for. But I'm looking at the unintended consequences. And this is all about Iraq.

Isn't it interesting that Iraq now -- this Muslim country that 10 years ago nobody even heard of, all right, is now impacting on how we live in America.


O'REILLY: Because again, if Iraq had been pacified the way Afghanistan is, if it had been a successful military campaign, Bush would -- 60 percent. There would be no dissatisfaction because the economy's pretty good --


O'REILLY: -- everything's rolling along. But Iraq is now influencing how we live here.

GINGRICH: You know, I watched this as somebody who used to plan elections. And if you had said to me the Dow's going to break 12,000, we're going to set records in the stock market, people are going to have more money in their savings, more money in their pension plan, we're going to see gasoline drop back down by about a dollar a gallon decline in price, I would have said that's a pretty good -- I'd like to have those last two or three weeks to campaign in.

But you're right. Wars are about performance. The American people will support fighting if necessary. They are very concerned. The majority do not want to withdraw.

I mean, the truth is, in a straight up-and-down vote, the Nancy Pelosi-Howard Dean unilateral withdrawal argument would get about 25 percent of the vote. But people don't want to just stay the course. They don't want to be told --

O'REILLY: Right.

GINGRICH: -- we're not going to change.


O'REILLY: OK. And I agree with that. But it is the Iraqis' fault. The Iraqis are the ones that are killing each other. The Iraqi militias in the south have allied themselves with Iran. The Iraqis are harboring Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda couldn't exist in the country without Iraqi complicity.

So it is the Iraqis' fault. And to give them a pass is ridiculous. Now --

SEWALL: Well, I haven't given them a pass. In January --

O'REILLY: -- our fault is we didn't anticipate the fact -- our fault is, America's fault, the Bush administration's fault is we didn't anticipate that the Iraqis wouldn't step up. We thought they would, remember? We were going to be greeted with flags, as conquerors.


O'REILLY: No, I think that's vital. But look, we were successful in Afghanistan. And nobody thought --

SEWALL: Well, the jury's still out on Afghanistan, though.

O'REILLY: -- we would overthrow the Taliban in that way. So we were successful.

SEWALL: Unfortunately, Afghanistan's going backwards --

O'REILLY: That's a myth.

SEWALL: -- which I think speaks --

O'REILLY: That's a myth.

SEWALL: -- to part of the problem with the focus of effort on Iraq. We risk losing the progress that had been made in Afghanistan.

O'REILLY: Now you're just -- that's not true. There's always going to be a Taliban insurrection. As long as they have mountain --

SEWALL: It is true.

O'REILLY: No, it's not. Every military analyst working for our team says most of that country is pacified.

SEWALL: Maybe you should be talking to the people on the ground, then.

O'REILLY: I talk to everybody, Professor.

SEWALL: Because they're concerned about the situation there.

O'REILLY: You're just parroting the left-wing line that America doesn't know what it's doing. It's bull.

SEWALL: I'm parroting conversations with commanders who are in uniform serving bravely in Afghanistan.

O'REILLY: All right, so have I. And our information is that there's no danger at all of the Taliban reclaiming that country, none. They'll be annoying. There'll be guerrilla warfare. It will not happen, and I believe that. Final question for you.

SEWALL: Well, I assume then that you're discounting the views of the British commander of the new NATO force who's quite concerned about the direction.

O'REILLY: Everybody's concerned --

SEWALL: And I think the point is that we need to --

O'REILLY: -- nobody thinks the Taliban's going to win.

SEWALL: -- have a different strategy in Afghanistan also.

O'REILLY: OK, last question.

SEWALL: There are very serious issues.

O'REILLY: The Bush administration has won a victory in Afghanistan, I believe. And they've also decimated Al Qaeda. So they've got two wins and a loss. A loss, not means that it can't not turn out. But it's certainly, as you put it, chaotic in Iraq.

So if we do change tactics, and if we don't do anything impulsive, which would lead to disaster, in my opinion, because Iran would move into that gulf, there is still a possibility we can come out of this in a good way. I'll give you the last word.


Institutional Lies, Bought And Paid For

by Hunter

Atrios on Thomas Sowell: (Atrios is referring to Sowell's recent assertion that Democrat Nancy Pelosi doesn't want phone calls "to and from terrorists" to be monitored. Been hearing that lickspittle talking point a lot, haven't we?)

Shameless dishonesty is all that the conservative movement has left. Expect them to employ it even more often than usual. Sowell isn't some asshole on the radio, he's a fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution. I hope Stanford's proud.

Ah, but spectacular lying, of course, is the entire problem with conservative "think tanks" and other attempts at partisan-based pseudo-intellectualism. The very mission of places like the Hoover Institution is to come up with the desired conservative premise or policy first, and manufacture some "facts" second. The mission is not science, or even policy -- it's publicity. Manufactured places to put out media messages with an aura of authority or intellectualism.

Tax cuts? Global warming? War? They can pretend to be experts at all of them. Figure out the policy you want to support, then have Sowell or someone else scribble down the Very Erudite Explanation of why black is actually white, the sky is actually magenta, or Saddam's secret still-really-really-existing WMDs have been spirited to the kitchen of an Applebee's in... oh, let's say "Syria", this time. The whole point of think tanks is rank dishonesty in areas where serious educators, intellectuals, government workers, and other experts in the field in question have unanimously come up with an answer that conservatives don't want to hear.

It's serial dishonesty as a game, as played by the most very enfranchised players in America -- conservative media figures, past conservative administration officials -- whoever can lend that sheen of public credibility and bring the money in for the hacks to keep hacking. They're the major league sports franchises of political lying. On any given day, you can have Richard Scaife provide funding to attack George Soros in yet another battle of the So Goddamn Fucking Enfranchised That You Couldn't Possibly Get More Enfranchised If You Ate George Washington's Shriveled Corpse For Breakfast.

What I find interesting (in a strictly car wreck, we're-all-going-to-die sort of way) is while the think tanks started out to provide thin but important-sounding justifications for whatever conservative graft or manipulation was being attempted during any particular period, the think tank model has now entirely transferred to the White House itself. Listening to Tony Snow (or any of the previous press secretaries) is like listening to an off-off-Broadway theatrical production exploring the pathology of compulsive lying. They don't care what the truth is: after spending every minute of every day reinforcing their fragile little bubbles of newspeak, in fact, it's not even clear they know what the actual truth is.

Which is why, in a nutshell, we're in Iraq to begin with, the perfect think-tank-produced war -- because the policy came first, and actual knowledge was ignored as new "facts" were fixed around that desired policy. And all of those facts -- nearly every single one of the "big" facts used to enter the war -- turned out to be either fabricated or a product of extraordinary incompetence.

There were, we were assured, gigantic stockpiles, tens of thousands strong, of weapons of mass destruction. Wasn't true. There were, we were assured, links between Iraq and al Qaeda. Wasn't true -- in fact, the only significant al Qaeda presence in Iraq was in American-controlled territory. We could do it with a minimum of troops, they said. Wasn't true. We'd be greeted as liberators, they said. Wasn't true. The Iraq oil infrastructure would pay for the invasion -- boy howdy, was that one not true. There wouldn't be an insurgency, they said. Not true. There wouldn't be significant sectarian violence. Not true.

Whether it was intentional lying, or whether or not they were simply so utterly incompetent as to believe every single one of these things to their core, hardly even matters, at this point. Either way, the conservative "thinkers" attaching "facts" and "strategies" and "predictions" to their grand, abstract ideas of American hegemony turned out to be spectacular failures in every single particular. It's not even that they turned in their political science project to the teacher and got an "F" -- they turned in their political science project to the teacher, and it killed several hundred thousand people. A mere friggin' "oops" or demerit mark won't cut it, for something like that.

I'm not entirely sure why even the most intrinsically gullible in media and even among the true believers would not see the pattern, here. When you have a policy apparatus created specifically to counter actual expertise with made-up hokum, the outcomes of Doing That Hokum turn out to be, what a surprise, a clusterfuck in every particular.

So yeah, they're professional liars. That's what they're paid for. Killed a hell of a lot of people, in these last few years, and lost us our only significant chance at killing bin Laden when they decided that dedicating U.S. troops towards The Policy was more important than dealing with the actual realities of the world around them -- but that's what they do, and they don't have the slightest remorse about it.


On Iraqi Orders, Bush Abandons American Soldier To Al-Sadr’s Militia

By: Christy Hardin Smith

I am shaking with rage at the moment. American soliders do not abandon their own. Unless, of course, someone orders them to do so. Which is exactly what happened when the Bush Administration — via it's envoy Zalmay Khalilzad — agreed to lift the eight day long blockade and search and rescue mission for the captured American soldier…on the demand and order of the Iraqi government.

You read me correctly, the US envoy in Iraq has decided that our US military personnel should take orders from the Iraqi government and abandon one of our soldiers to the Mahdi Army. That this decision occurred abruptly after Stephen Hadley's visit to Baghdad yesterday raises a whole host of questions in my mind — and the press had better damn well be asking for some answers from the Bush Administration today.

The move lifted a near siege that had stood at least since last Wednesday. U.S. military police imposed the blockade after the kidnapping of an American soldier of Iraqi descent. The soldier's Iraqi in-laws said they believed he had been abducted by the Mahdi Army as he visited his wife at her home in the Karrada area of Baghdad, where U.S. military checkpoints were also removed as a result of Maliki's action.

The crackdown on Sadr City had a second motive, U.S. officers said: the search for Abu Deraa, a man considered one of the most notorious death squad leaders. The soldier and Abu Deraa both were believed by the U.S. military to be in Sadr City.

The Bush Administration has been encouraging Iraqi-Americans to become more involved in the "liberation" of Iraq. The American military needs more soldiers with regional language fluency, and Iraqi Americans have an understandable interest and personal stake — with many relatives still living in the war torn nation — in working to make things better. The American soldier who was captured is of Iraqi-American descent, he was wearing the uniform of the United States…and we have abandoned him to Moqtada Al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and Sadr City's rage as of yesterday.

We do not abandon our own.

Unless, of course, you are the Bush Administration — which, apparently, has decided to let the Iraqi government start calling the shots for the US military. I hear George Bush will be on Limbaugh's show — wonder if he'll be asked about his decision to abandon a US soldier to Al-Sadr's militia, with their penchant for torture, on the orders of the Iraqi head of state?

The corporate media had better start asking questions about this, because the American military taking orders to abandon one of their own from a foreign government is something that every single person with friends and family in Iraq right now will want to know about…immediately. How many American soldiers are we now willing to leave to the mercies of Al-Sadr's Army and other torture-wielding militants with no love for the American military presence in the name of propping up Maliki's government? George Bush does not get a pass on this one. Period. The time for accountability is now.

(H/T to Andrew Sullivan on this story. Appalling does not begin to describe this. The NYTimes has more.)


About John Kerry's "Botched Joke"


    Comment by a soldier — November 1, 2006 @ 11:15 am

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Playing nice with Rush Limbaugh

by Eric Boehlert

Question: When is an apology not an apology?

Answer: When the press corps is covering for Rush Limbaugh.

Last week's spectacle of right-wing talker Limbaugh mocking actor Michael J. Fox for allegedly faking the symptoms of his crippling Parkinson's disease while appearing in a Democratic-sponsored campaign ad was equaled only by the media spectacle of news outlets erroneously, and methodically, reporting that the talker quickly apologized for his outlandish smear. Things got so bad that at one point news consumers were better off reading the Canadian press to find out the actual facts of the American-based controversy. (Fox is a native of Edmonton, which explained the Canadian interest in the story.)

And it's not like the facts were complicated. Fox made a heartfelt plea urging voters in Missouri to support Democratic Senate candidate Claire McCaskill, who he stated "shares [his] hope for cures" through stem cell research. Limbaugh promptly belittled the actor, telling listeners the herky-jerky motions Fox was making during the commercial were a con; "purely an act" to elicit an emotional response. Limbaugh even uncorked spastic, in-studio gesticulations to mimic Fox's awkward appearance.

Limbaugh said if he was proven wrong he'd apologized. But the press took that for an apology itself. Days later, as the controversy raged, Limbaugh was even clearer, insisting, "I stand by what I said [about Fox]. I take back none of what I said. I wouldn't rephrase it any differently. It is what I believe. It is what I think. It is what I have found to be true."

That quote was key to understanding the radical, remorseless position Limbaugh had staked out for himself. And here, according to a search of the Nexis database, is a list of major Canadian papers that published the direct, "I stand by what I said" quote from Limbaugh:

The Edmonton Journal, The Gazette (Montreal), the Regina Leader-Post (Saskatchewan), the National Post, the Ottawa Citizen, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix (Saskatchewan), The Province (Vancouver, British Columbia), the Vancouver Sun (British Columbia), and the Windsor Star (Ontario)

Meanwhile, here's a list of major American newspapers that published the same revealing quote from Limbaugh:


The sounds of silence were fitting for a press corps that treated Limbaugh's allegation as rational, manufactured a central element of the story (his 'apology'), mischaracterized Fox's commercial, suggested his actions had "spark[ed]" the controversy, and absolutely refused to put Limbaugh's attack in any sort of historical context regarding the talker's established record of hate speech.

But this is nothing new. Despite Limbaugh torrent of rhetoric about how the press vilifies him (it's called a schtick; every radio talk show host needs one), the truth is Beltway media players routinely play nice with Limbaugh and his fringe brand of conservatism. Anxious for his right-wing seal of approval (and spooked by his liberal bias charges), the mainstream press corps has for years treated Limbaugh with undeserved respect, worked to soften his radical edges, and presented him as simply a partisan pundit.

Why else would The Washington Post equate Limbaugh to Comedy Central's award-winning late-night satirist Jon Stewart? And why else would describe Limbaugh as a "mainstream conservative" who simply "pokes fun" at Democratic "policy" and not at individuals?

As if on cue last week, the press treated Limbaugh's odious, left-field attack as if it were a normal part of the public discourse -- naturally somebody would question whether Fox's body contortions were part of an act. "Rush has done his job well," blogger Jane Hamsher wrote at last week. "The goalposts are suddenly moved, this is considered a legitimate line of inquiry."

And it was key press players, such as NBC's Matt Lauer, who dutifully helped move those goalposts. In fact, Lauer may have uttered the Quote of the Year when he painted Limbaugh as some sort of Everyman, speaking the quiet truths of most Americans:

LAUER: Rush Limbaugh started a lot of controversy when he said perhaps Michael J. Fox is exaggerating or faking these effects of Parkinson's Disease in that ad promoting stem cell research. Didn't Rush Limbaugh just say what a lot of people are privately thinking? [Emphasis added]

Lauer assumed lots of people watched Fox, who suffers from an incurable brain disorder, and figured, yeah, he's fakin' it.

Shelter from the storm

Unfortunately, that's been the knee-jerk response to dealing with Limbaugh controversies, particularly in the world of network news, where the rule of thumb is to provide the powerful right-wing talker with all sorts of cover. Lauer's former colleague Katie Couric was so anxious to make sure she got Limbaugh's side of the Fox story last week that she personally contacted the host. Limbaugh told Couric the point he had tried to make on his program was that Fox "is stumping for Democrats in the political arena and is, therefore, open to analysis and criticism as we all are." Of course, that was not the point Limbaugh made when he mocked Fox's disease, but Couric pretended not to know the difference. (The only celebrity network TV host I saw who responded to Limbaugh's off-the-chart smear the way any rationale person would (i.e. "WTF?") was Good Morning America's Diane Sawyer.)

Keep in mind that last month, during her first week in the anchor chair at CBS, Couric personally contacted Limbaugh and asked him to contribute a "Free Speech" segment for her nightly newscast. "Free Speech" is where outsiders are invited to tape op-eds and is touted by CBS as a forum to restore "civil discourse." I'm guessing Couric was aware of the multiple layers of ironies involved with including Limbaugh in a forum designed to restore "civil discourse." I assume she and her staff understood that Limbaugh has, among an endless litany of insults, called Sen. John Kerry a "gigolo," mocked Democratic Party chief Howard Dean as "a very sick man," labeled liberal philanthropist George Soros a "self-hating Jew," and announced that Democrats "hate this country." It seems clear Couric was so anxious to have Limbaugh onboard that she didn't much care about the uncomfortable ironies.

Couric's not the only network anchor in recent years to genuflect before Limbaugh in search of a conservative seal of approval. Just weeks after he took over the NBC Nightly News anchor chair in late 2004, Brian Williams told a C-SPAN interviewer that he felt it was his duty to listen to Limbaugh every day and hoped that Limbaugh would get his "due" as a broadcaster.

Earlier that year, and just months after insisting, "What's good for Al Qaeda is good for the Democratic Party in this country today," Limbaugh broke with his traditional no-guest rule and welcomed NBC Meet the Press host Tim Russert on his radio show. An appreciative Russert, out peddling a new book, said it was "an honor" to be on the program. In fact, at one point Russert playfully suggested nominating Limbaugh as the next host of Meet the Press. Limbaugh signed off the boys club chat with, "Anyway, this has been fun. I always enjoy talking to you, and I appreciate our relationship over the years."

Make no mistake, careerism is a key element behind the media's kid glove handling of Limbaugh. Very few Beltway press insiders want to cross him or feel the wrath of his press-hating listeners -- the same listeners who helped drive Dan Rather from his job as CBS anchor following the 2004 controversy regarding CBS' report on Bush and the Texas Air National Guard.

Read this back-and-forth between ABC News' Ryan Owens and deputy political director David Chalian and note how nervous they were about offending the mighty Limbaugh. The program was Inside the Newsroom, which is part of ABC's digital and broadband news service. The two were discussing the Fox/Limbaugh controversy and had just aired the shock jock's quote about how Fox was "exaggerating the effects of the disease. He is moving all around and shaking. And it's purely an act":

OWENS: Guess what, I'm gonna stay out of this and toss it right over to you, David. What do you think?

CHALIAN: You know, as for Rush Limbaugh -- I'm not gonna pick a fight with Rush Limbaugh.

OWENS: At least you try to respond, which makes you a better man than me.

Perhaps the timidity isn't surprising considering that their boss at ABC News, Mark Halperin, the director of the networks' political unit, is a longtime Rush admirer. "Twelve o'clock for a normal person might be 'Let's think about having lunch,' but for me it's 'Rush Limbaugh is on,' " he once told a reporter. (Last week, Halperin labeled Limbaugh an "American iconic" figure.)

Keep in mind that Halperin recently agreed with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly that the mainstream media have a liberal bias and that his duty at ABC is to convince conservative partisans that his news organization can be trusted. In that context, ABC's continuously skewed coverage of Limbaugh's '"apology'" begins to make sense.

ABC shifts the focus onto Michael J. Fox

For instance, ABC erroneously described the Fox stem cell ad as "tough," insisted Fox had "blasted" Republicans, and that following Limbaugh's attack the actor had publicly "fired back." None of the characterizations was accurate. Tough? The facts-only text of the ad was downright timid compared to traditional campaign mudslinging. "Blasted"? Fox simply took issue with the Republican position on embryonic stem cell research. (They largely oppose it.) "Fired back"? Fox's initial public response to Limbaugh was almost comically reserved; a one-sentence joke about how his meds currently seemed to be working fine.

ABC News also worked overtime to shift the attention away from Limbaugh and place the onus on Fox, as the network falsely reported it was the actions of the sick actor that were "raising lots of eyebrows." ABC insisted there was "a big debate about Michael J. Fox." It pushed the false story that "the political backlash of the Fox ad lasted well into this week." And ABC reported, "The bitterest political battle in the closing days of this campaign has erupted in Missouri. And it centers on Michael J. Fox." [Emphasis added.]

Let's be clear, Fox's commercial in and of itself when it aired in Missouri on October 21 was a non-story nationally. The real-time reaction to the ad in the press as well as by big-time conservatives was virtually nil. (Go back and check the transcripts and the clips. I did.) Without Limbaugh and his baseless, tasteless allegation, the Fox ad would have quietly come and gone, generating only minor interest. But the press, led by ABC, seemed determined to tag Fox for creating the uproar.

And then there was the botched apology reporting. There, ABC had lots of company. Here's what Limbaugh said on October 23:

"So I will bigly, hugely admit that I was wrong and I will apologize to Michael J. Fox, if I am wrong in characterizing his behavior on this commercial as an act." [Emphasis added]

"That's not an apology," John Aravosis correctly noted on his Americablog last week. "It's not even one of those lame 'I apologize if you were offended' apologies." Not matter. The media had their script -- Rush apologized! -- and they were sticking with it. That included news outlets such as CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Time, the Associated Press, The Kansas City Star, The Washington Post, the New York Daily News, the Houston Chronicle, and The Wall Street Journal, just to name a few.

Then midway through last week, Limbaugh, as if irked by the inaccurate press accounts of his so-called apology, defiantly announced "I stand by what I said." Yet even after he erased any doubt, the press refused to adjust its preferred narrative:

Those press mentions of an apology all came within the 48 hours after Limbaugh pointedly refused to express any regret. Yet the media still clung to the quaint, naive notion that Limbaugh, seeing the error of his ways, said he was sorry for smearing a sick man suffering from a degenerative disease.

The press just can't bring itself to tell the truth about Rush Limbaugh.


The Fix is IN. Ever Notice How Voting "Errors" always favor Republicans?

October 30th, 2006 5:44 pm
Glitches cited in early voting

Early voters are urged to cast their ballots with care following scattered reports of problems with heavily used machines.

By Charles Rabin and Darran Simon / Miami Herald

After a week of early voting, a handful of glitches with electronic voting machines have drawn the ire of voters, reassurances from elections supervisors -- and a caution against the careless casting of ballots.

Several South Florida voters say the choices they touched on the electronic screens were not the ones that appeared on the review screen -- the final voting step.

Election officials say they aren't aware of any serious voting issues. But in Broward County, for example, they don't know how widespread the machine problems are because there's no process for poll workers to quickly report minor issues and no central database of machine problems.

In Miami-Dade, incidents are logged and reported daily and recorded in a central database. Problem machines are shut down.

''In the past, Miami-Dade County would send someone to correct the machine on site,'' said Lester Sola, county supervisor of elections. Now, he said, ``We close the machine down and put a seal on it.''

Debra A. Reed voted with her boss on Wednesday at African-American Research Library and Cultural Center near Fort Lauderdale. Her vote went smoothly, but boss Gary Rudolf called her over to look at what was happening on his machine. He touched the screen for gubernatorial candidate Jim Davis, a Democrat, but the review screen repeatedly registered the Republican, Charlie Crist.

That's exactly the kind of problem that sends conspiracy theorists into high gear -- especially in South Florida, where a history of problems at the polls have made voters particularly skittish.

A poll worker then helped Rudolf, but it took three tries to get it right, Reed said.

''I'm shocked because I really want . . . to trust that the issues with irregularities with voting machines have been resolved,'' said Reed, a paralegal. ``It worries me because the races are so close.''

Broward Supervisor of Elections spokeswoman Mary Cooney said it's not uncommon for screens on heavily used machines to slip out of sync, making votes register incorrectly. Poll workers are trained to recalibrate them on the spot -- essentially, to realign the video screen with the electronics inside. The 15-step process is outlined in the poll-workers manual.

''It is resolved right there at the early-voting site,'' Cooney said.

Broward poll workers keep a log of all maintenance done on machines at each site. But the Supervisor of Elections office doesn't see that log until the early voting period ends. And a machine isn't taken out of service unless the poll clerk decides it's a chronic poor performer that can't be fixed.

Cooney said no machines have been removed during early voting, and she is not aware of any serious problems.

In Miami-Dade, two machines have been taken out of service during early voting. No votes were lost, Sola said.

Joan Marek, 60, a Democrat from Hollywood, was also stunned to see Charlie Crist on her ballot review page after voting on Thursday. ''Am I on the voting screen again?'' she wondered. ``Well, this is too weird.''

Marek corrected her ballot and alerted poll workers at the Hollywood satellite courthouse, who she said told her they'd had previous problems with the same machine.

Poll workers did some work on her machine when she finished voting, Marek said. But no report was made to the Supervisor of Elections office and the machine was not removed, Cooney said.

Workers at the Hollywood poll said there had been no voting problems on Friday.

Mauricio Raponi wanted to vote for Democrats across the board at the Lemon City Library in Miami on Thursday. But each time he hit the button next to the candidate, the Republican choice showed up. Raponi, 53, persevered until the machine worked. Then he alerted a poll worker.

Miami Herald staff writer Linda Topping Streitfeld contributed to this report.


Senior Bush Appointee Rejected Scientists’ Recommendations In Favor Of Industry Positions

Julie MacDonald, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, has consistently “rejected staff scientists’ recommendations to protect imperiled animals and plants under the Endangered Species Act.” A civil engineer with no training in biology, she has overruled and disparaged the findings of her staff, instead relying on the recommendations of political and industry groups. Some highlights:

– MacDonald presented industry positions as equivalent to scientific studies. In 2004, a panel of Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) biologists recommended giving the greater sage grouse protection under the Endangered Species Act. But in her review of the panel’s report, she denigrated many scientific studies as mere “opinion,” and stated, “We should treat [them] as we would treat an industry publication,” she wrote.

– MacDonald pressed staff biologists to more seriously consider industry positions. During a dicussion of the great sage grouse population, MacDonald wrote, “This paragraph completely ignores the comments received by the Owyhee Cattlemen’s Association and the Idaho Cattle Association.” As the Washington Post notes, the organizations “opposed the listing on the grounds that it would limit their use of land where the birds live.”

– Under MacDonald, the Department of the Interior (DOI) reversed a staff ruling based on comments from the Air Force. In 2000, FWS published recognized Tabernaemontana rotensis as a species and proposed to list it as an endangered species. The T. rotensis tree has been reduced to approximately 30 plants found primarily on lands managed by the Air Force. In 2004, the decision to list was reversed, “prompted in part by a comment from the Air Force.”

Under the Bush administration, just 56 species have been listed under the Endangered Species Act, for a rate of about 10 a year. Under Clinton, officials listed 512 species, or 64 a year, and under George H.W. Bush, the department listed 234, or 59 a year.

The Center for Biological Diversity and the Union of Concerned Scientists have more.


Culture of Corruption: How Republican Judges Bought Their Way Onto The Bench.

Money trails lead to Bush judges

A four-month investigation reveals that dozens of federal judges gave contributions to President Bush and top Republicans who helped place them on the bench. A Salon/CIR exclusive.

By Will Evans

Oct. 31, 2006 | At least two dozen federal judges appointed by President Bush since 2001 made political contributions to key Republicans or to the president himself while under consideration for their judgeships, government records show. A four-month investigation of Bush-appointed judges by the Center for Investigative Reporting reveals that six appellate court judges and 18 district court judges contributed a total of more than $44,000 to politicians who were influential in their appointments. Some gave money directly to Bush after he officially nominated them. Other judges contributed to Republican campaign committees while they were under consideration for a judgeship.

Republicans who received money from judges en route to the bench include Sens. Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Sens. George Voinovich and Mike DeWine of Ohio, and Gov. George Pataki of New York.

There are no laws or regulations prohibiting political contributions by a candidate for a federal judgeship. But political giving by judicial candidates has been a rarely scrutinized activity amid the process that determines who will receive lifelong jobs on the federal bench. Some ethics experts and Bush-appointed judges say that political giving is inappropriate for those seeking judicial office -- it can appear unethical, they say, and could jeopardize the public's confidence in the impartiality of the nation's courts. Those concerns come as ethics and corruption scandals have roiled Washington, and on the eve of midterm elections whose outcome could influence the makeup of the federal judiciary -- including the Supreme Court -- for decades to come.

The CIR investigation analyzed the campaign contribution records of 249 judges appointed by Bush nationwide since 2001. The money trail leading from Bush judges to influential politicians runs particularly deep through the political battleground states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Since 1990, Judge Deborah Cook, who was confirmed to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in May 2003, gave more than $10,000 to three Ohio Republicans who were instrumental in getting her on the bench. One was Sen. George Voinovich, who is chairman of the Select Committee on Ethics. Another was Sen. Mike DeWine, a member of the Judiciary Committee, which is critical to the confirmation of federal judges. The other was Gov. Bob Taft, who gained national notoriety after he was convicted of ethics violations in 2005 for not reporting gifts he received.

Cook's contributions included $1,000 to Voinovich and $1,500 to Taft after President Bush had nominated Cook, with their backing, in May 2001. Once on the bench, Cook continued giving, contributing $800 to DeWine in December 2005. Political giving while serving on the federal bench is a violation of the official Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges. The code says that "A judge should not ... solicit funds for or pay an assessment or make a contribution to a political organization or candidate." DeWine's campaign committee returned the money three weeks after Cook made the contribution.

Another judge, Christopher Boyko, gave $2,000 to Voinovich in August 2004 -- his first federal contribution on record since 1996 -- less than a month after Bush nominated him for the bench upon the recommendation of Ohio's senators.

Another, Judge John Adams, cut a $1,000 check received by Voinovich's campaign committee just two days before Voinovich and DeWine publicly recommended him to Bush in November 2001. "I've been supportive of the Republican Party and President Bush," Adams said, after DeWine and Voinovich recommended him for the judgeship, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. "I'm sure that had some bearing on the selection." About two months later, in January 2002, Adams gave DeWine $1,500, which was returned to him in February. Then, less than a month after his subsequent nomination by Bush in October 2002, Adams gave $250 more to Voinovich.

Brian Seitchik, a spokesperson for Sen. DeWine's current reelection campaign, confirmed that the money from Cook and Adams was returned because, at the time it was given, Adams was a judicial candidate and Cook was a sitting judge. "The campaign has operated out of an abundance of caution," Seitchik said, "and we thought it was the prudent thing to do."

Adams declined to comment. Cook's chambers faxed an unattributed one-sentence note that appeared to suggest that some of the donations in her name, as identified by public records, were made by her husband. Two written requests to Cook seeking further clarification were not answered.

The president selects most federal judges with significant input from U.S. senators of the same party. In Ohio, that process is "totally controlled by party politics," says Tom Hagel, a professor at the University of Dayton School of Law and a part-time trial judge. "If you don't have the blessing of the county and state party chairs you can stop right there," said Hagel, whose brother is Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. "Believe me, they've got to get approval all the way up the line." Hagel says campaign contributions could play into that process, as a demonstration of "how loyal and appreciative" a judicial candidate is. "That certainly has an appearance of impropriety," he said. "It gives the impression that the senators' decision-making process could be influenced by money."

In some cases from around the country, judicial candidates gave money directly to the president's campaign. Judge Thomas Ludington of Michigan gave Bush $1,000, after being nominated in September 2002. Judge P. Kevin Castel of New York gave Bush $2,000 after Bush nominated him in March 2003. Judge Paul Crotty of New York gave $1,000 to Bush in June 2003, the same month he met with Bush officials about the judgeship. Judge Mark Filip of Illinois, who had volunteered as a Republican election monitor in Florida during the disputed 2000 election, gave the president $2,000 after Bush nominated him in April 2003.

In a statement to Salon and CIR, White House spokesman Blair C. Jones said that "potential nominees" recommended to Bush are not based on "any consideration" of an individual's political contributions. He added, "We are not aware of any law or regulation that prohibits a federal judicial candidate or nominee from making political contributions."

In Pennsylvania, Sen. Arlen Specter has recommended dozens of judicial candidates to the president during his career. As a longtime member of the Judiciary Committee, and its chairman since 2005, he has helped oversee Bush's hundreds of appointments. Speaking by phone last week, Specter said political contributions are "not a factor" in who gets recommended in his home state or elsewhere. Citing the thousands of contributors and tens of millions of dollars raised in his 2004 campaign, Specter said that "it's just not possible to know everybody" who gives money.

However, in order to avoid any impression that the contributions carry influence, he said, "I think once an individual becomes a [judicial] prospect that that would be a cutoff point." In Pennsylvania, Specter said, that point would come when candidates apply for the job with a bipartisan selection committee set up by him and Rick Santorum, the state's other Republican senator. "I don't know of anybody who has made a contribution beyond that," Specter said.

In fact, the investigation revealed at least three judges in Pennsylvania who gave money to Specter, Santorum or President Bush after they were formally under consideration for the jobs.

The First Amendment protects the right of Americans to make political contributions. But there must be a balance, some ethics scholars and judges say, between that right and the responsibility of those seeking a judicial post to appear impartial. With the judiciary drawing increasing scrutiny and criticism in recent times, the American Bar Association is overhauling its judicial code of conduct to set new recommended ethical guidelines. The draft of the new code, to be voted on this February, would forbid political contributions by judicial candidates.

Political patronage certainly didn't start with the Bush administration. (There is an adage in legal circles that a federal judge is "a lawyer who knows a senator.") The investigation of Bush-appointed judges also turned up a Clinton-appointed district judge in California, Dean D. Pregerson, who, like Judge Cook of Ohio, made a political contribution in apparent violation of the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges. While serving on the bench in 2002, Pregerson gave $1,000 to Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, according to federal records. (A spokesperson from Pregerson's chambers claimed that the contribution was made by his wife.)

After being alerted to the forthcoming Salon/CIR story, the Committee for Justice, a conservative advocacy group in Washington with ties to Karl Rove and Santorum, looked into a sampling of President Clinton's judicial picks, according to Sean Rushton, the group's executive director. CFJ found 10 judges confirmed to the bench under Clinton who had given political contributions of some kind after they were nominated, according to information provided by Rushton.

Indeed, money and personal connections have long played into the selection process in both parties, says political science professor Sheldon Goldman, author of "Picking Federal Judges." "Why pick someone who hasn't supported you over someone who has?" Goldman asks. "It's been tradition," he said. "You reward your friends."

The status quo, however, is disturbing to some observers. Ethics concerns have been thrown into sharp relief in Washington, with a string of corruption scandals staining the Republican Party in particular. And the future shape of the nation's courts may hinge on the midterm elections, depending on which party controls Congress afterward. There are currently 49 vacancies on the federal bench -- and with a justice potentially retiring from the highest court, there is the possibility President Bush will nominate another Supreme Court Justice before leaving office.

Campaign finance is an area of particular concern, says Jeffrey M. Shaman, a judicial ethics expert at DePaul University College of Law. "We just have so many problems with contributions to judicial campaigns, and so many problems with campaign contributions to members of the legislature," he said. "If someone wants to be a judge, then they should, in their sound discretion and wisdom, voluntarily decide not to make these contributions anymore."

More than 50 Bush-appointed judges who made campaign contributions around the time of their nominations were contacted with written requests for comment, as were some other judges who gave money prior to their appointments. While many did not respond, some responded by phone or in written statements.

Boyko, the Ohio district judge who gave money to Voinovich after Bush had nominated Boyko, said in a statement that he had given the money at a Republican fundraising event attended by Bush. "I have always expressed thanks for Senator Voinovich's trust in me and have always publicly supported him. If I could ethically donate today, I would. And, because of a long standing mutual respect with Senator Voinovich, I saw no ethical improprieties donating after the recommendation." Boyko added: "If you believe for a minute that $240, $2,000 or $25,000 'buys' a federal judgeship, as you clearly intimate ... your naivete astounds me. Any such insinuations are a blatant insult to both Senators, denigrating their integrity and character. No one 'buys' either Senator DeWine or Senator Voinovich -- period."

Sen. Voinovich's press secretary, Garrette Silverman, said that participation in the political process is not a consideration. "To think that contributions would even enter the equation is absurd when we're taking about evaluating candidates for federal judgeships," she said.

Judge Lavenski R. Smith -- who contributed money to Republican Sen. Tim Hutchinson of Arkansas after Hutchinson had recommended him to Bush for a judgeship, and after Smith had publicly acknowledged that he was undergoing an FBI background check for a potential nomination -- said in a written statement, "The proximity of the timing between my donations and my nomination was largely coincidental." The $1,000 donation to Hutchinson in 2001, apparently Smith's first federal contribution since at least 1990, came three weeks before Bush announced his nomination.

Smith, who was confirmed to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in July 2002, also said, "Until nominated, potential nominees should retain their full first amendment rights to participate politically as ordinary citizens."

A number of Bush-appointed judges from around the country, however, said they consider political contributions by judicial candidates to be inappropriate.

"My thoughts are that it would probably be inappropriate for a lawyer who is a candidate for a federal judgeship to make a significant campaign contribution to a person having influence over the selection process, especially if the candidate had no prior history of making such contributions," wrote Judge Timothy C. Batten Sr., of Georgia, who was confirmed to the bench in March 2006. Even those who have a history of giving campaign money, Batten continued, "should realize that public disclosure of the contributions might ... raise unpleasant questions as to the purpose of the contributions."

Judge Roger W. Titus of Maryland, confirmed in November 2003, wrote: "From a personal standpoint, I do not believe that political contributions should be made to an appointing authority while under active consideration."

Judge Patrick J. Schiltz of Minnesota, confirmed in April 2006, wrote: "I knew that federal judges were forbidden from making political contributions, and I thought that, as someone recommended or nominated for a federal judgeship, I should follow the same practice."

It's not always senators who make recommendations to the president for judgeships, and who receive political money that could look bad in the eyes of the public. In New York, because both senators are Democrats, Republican Gov. George Pataki has had an influential role under Bush in selecting nominees for the federal courts. Judge Richard J. Holwell, who was a law school classmate and former lawyer of Pataki's, met with the governor's judicial screening panel in March 2001 and was told he would be recommended for a judgeship. The next month, Holwell gave Pataki $10,000.

In Pennsylvania, as in Ohio, there are numerous examples of Bush appointees giving money to influential politicians as they were headed for the bench.

In March 2001, Judge Thomas M. Hardiman interviewed with a selection committee set up by Specter and Santorum for recommending judicial candidates to Bush. Between then and April 2003, when Bush nominated Hardiman for a district court seat, Hardiman contributed a total of $2,400 to Specter, $2,000 to Santorum and his political action committee, and gave thousands of dollars to other Republicans. Hardiman kept sending some of those donations even as he was interviewing with the White House, filling out forms for the Justice Department and undergoing his FBI background check. Hardiman was confirmed by the Senate in October 2003. This fall, he was nominated by Bush to be elevated to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals -- so he'll go before the Judiciary Committee, with Specter now in charge, again.

Specter dismissed the importance of the money he received from Hardiman. "He was a protégé of Santorum, not mine," Specter said. He added that if he had known Hardiman was donating while under consideration for the judgeship, "I would have told him not to do it."

As a Judiciary Committee member, Specter also helped oversee the confirmation of Judge Gene Pratter. Pratter gave Specter $1,500 between February and March 2003, and interviewed with the Pennsylvania selection committee in "spring" 2003, according to her Senate questionnaire. Pratter then interviewed with White House counsel Alberto Gonzalez in July and September 2003 -- and in September she contributed $2,000 to Bush.

The records of other federal judges appointed by Bush in Pennsylvania reveal a similar pattern. Judge John E. Jones of Pennsylvania gave $1,000 to Santorum after he was recommended by the senators' committee. Judge Michael Baylson, nominated and confirmed in 2002 after serving for decades as legal counsel and then treasurer for Specter's campaigns and committees, gave $2,000 to Specter after it was reported in the press that Baylson was a likely candidate for the judgeship.

"If I had known about it," said Specter, "I would have returned their contributions. I don't want anybody to think that it's relevant." He added, "You ought to look at all the others who were nominees who didn't make contributions. I don't think anybody would believe that those contributions would influence a decision on making anyone a judge."

But ensuring that the public won't see the money as tainting the selection of judges may not be so simple. "All campaign contributions are in some sense to buy influence," said William Hodes, a professor emeritus of law at Indiana University who helped draft the proposed ABA code. "Once you cross into the world of judging or being a candidate for judge you take on a new responsibility to begin living by the rules of your new job," said Hodes, who runs a legal ethics consulting practice. "Since sitting federal judges can't donate even a dime anyway, my guess is that it would be very comfortable for the federal system to say once you have had direct talks with the senator with an eye toward [a judgeship], or if the White House has contacted you, then you're a candidate and you have to back off."

Even some Bush judges who gave money as they were bound for the bench acknowledge the ethical concerns that it can raise.

"I was recommended [to the president] around August 2001," said Judge Jones of Pennsylvania. "Is that the point that I should have stopped making contributions? Maybe I should have." He added, "If you know you're being recommended by the screening panel, probably in retrospect it's better to say, 'That's it,' and not make any contributions after that. But that's the benefit of hindsight."

-- By Will Evans

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?