Monthly Archives: May 2006

Caption This

From Scout:

Laura Bush in New Olreans today.

laura nola

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Book Rec: HELEN!

Helen Thomas’s book Watchdogs of Democracy? is the kind of thing I used to keep on my shelf and read when I got disillusioned with journalism, right up there with Live from Baghdad, Hacks, and the opening passage of Manhattan Nocturne.

Because for all that it is a criticism of the present press, it’s also a love letter to the craft. Her anger at the lay-down, speak-softly, don’t-disturb-the-glorious-preznit press corps of today is informed by her passion for communicating the value of journalism in a democratic society and her admiration for the people she once worked with, who had the courage to ask questions that would give today’s reporters the vapors. Today’s hacks not only betray the public, they betray their own history.

She singles out for special scorn Howard Kurtz, who thought only liberals were unhappy with the Washington Post’s pre-war coverage, and Len Downie, who claimed the press played no role in the run-up to the attacks on Iraq. This kind of criticism matters coming from Thomas because her idealism shines through it. This isn’t ignorant media-bashing from someone who doesn’t give a damn about the future of the trade and is just pissed that the pictures aren’t prettier. That someone could do this kind of work for as long as she has and still love it this much is both wonderfully hopeful and profoundly sad.

The book is a disappointed letter from a mother to a child, from a learned professor to a cherished student. Watchdogs of Democracy says, I gave you everything I had, I told you wonderful stories. I’ve fought my whole life for this vocation and believed in what is good in it. And this, this is what you see when you stand on the giant’s shoulders?

You can do better.

She ends the book with stories of famous war correspondents and broadcasters past, and even a few contemporary examples of decent journalism being done against the current of infotainment nonsense. Those of us who’ve been paying attention know the names already, but even so: It’s a good reminder.


Let Us All Praise Tim Ryan

Latest column’s up:

When you and your friends state over and over how much you all think [government] sucks, it’s not that much of a shock when you don’t do it well.

I’m going to run every Wednesday from now on. Feel free to wander on over there mid-week.


Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

Today the gagglers are still trying to find out how deeply involved Chimpy is in the Haditha cover-up.

Q Do you happen to know when or whether Donald Rumsfeld first spoke with the President about Haditha?

MR. SNOW: Hang on a second. I’ve got a timetable and I will try to get you a date here. Let me — if you’ll permit. Or do I?

Q And also, when the Secretary of Defense first knew.

MR. SNOW: I think, again — I will get back to you because I do have a tick-tock on Haditha. And the characterization I’ve received — obviously, there was a report, I believe on November 19th — was that the date? There was a follow-on sort of account on the 20th or the 21st. So in that sense, people knew about Haditha. But I think the concern about subsequent reports of people being massacred or people being killed, that really was stimulated by reporters’ inquiries, which came, I believe in January.

Q There have already been serious allegations of, at best, foot dragging, and at worst, a coverup. Why not get out ahead of the curve, go on the offense, and just appoint an independent inquiry?

MR. SNOW: Because the Marines are actually conducting an inquiry and it’s a very vigorous one. I would ask you to suspend any judgment about what happens….

Obsession continues, click Read More…

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New Orleans: Fragile ….Handle with Care

From Scout:

George Bush has stressed the role of volunteers in rebuilding New Orleans. He visited volunteers at various rebuilding sites in New Orleans on April 27 as part of promoting National Volunteer Week. At the time he stated, “If you are interested in helping the victims of Katrina, interested in helping them get back on their feet, come on down here.”

Don’t pack your bags though. FEMA has announced that on June 1 it will be closing the last 4 camps that house and feed volunteers coming to Louisiana to aid in recovery. The move will likely shut down the volunteer work Bush was promoting.

(Click Read More)

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Abu Ghraib Rewind

From Holden:

Although the circumstances are remarkably different Chimpy’s reaction to the Haditha masacre is sickeningly familiar.

Q Mr. President, what have you been told about the killings at Haditha? And are you worried about the impact it could have on the situation in Iraq?

PRESIDENT BUSH: I am troubled by the initial news stories. I am mindful that there is a thorough investigation going on. If, in fact, the laws were broken, there will be punishment. I know this: I’ve talked to General Pete Pace about the subject, who is a proud Marine, and nobody is more concerned about these allegations than the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps is full of men and women who are honorable people who understand rules of war. And if, in fact, these allegations are true, the Marine Corps will work hard to make sure that that culture, that proud culture will be reinforced, and that those who violated the law, if they did, will be punished.

Eye on Hurricanes

From Scout:

WWLTV aired a special called Eye on Hurricanes. You can watch it online at this link. It is slpit in 4 parts. To better understand how the levees failed go to the 5 minute mark in Part I. In just a few minutes they provide video and illustrations that help you envision why the levees failed. I recommend giving it a watch. Also good is Part II in which they interview officials from LA parishes on what their evacuations plans are for a hurricane striking this summer. Suffice to say they aren’t counting on outside help.

Buh-Bye Bob

From Holden:

We may be seeing the final days of the worst hairpiece in Congress.

A Congressional aide-turned-lobbyist testified on Tuesday that he had prepared a travel disclosure statement for a Republican House member that intentionally understated the cost of the lawmaker’s lavish 2002 golfing trip to Scotland with the now-disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The lobbyist, Neil G. Volz, said in testimony before a federal jury in Washington that he had talked with the lawmaker, Representative Bob Ney of Ohio, before providing Mr. Ney’s office with a copy of the statement, which he said falsely listed the cost of Mr. Ney’s trip that summer as $3,200. Before joining Mr. Abramoff’s lobbying firm, Mr. Volz had been Mr. Ney’s chief of staff.

Appearing as a government witness at the trial of David H. Safavian, a former White House aide accused of lying about his ties to Mr. Abramoff, Mr. Volz said he knew the $3,200 figure was too low, especially given the use of a chartered Gulfstream jet and $500-a-night hotel rooms.

But he said he provided the number to Mr. Ney because it was modest enough not to attract the attention of reporters and others who might see the disclosure form.

“I thought that number passed the smell test,” Mr. Volz said.

Mr. Ney later filed a disclosure form with the House clerk’s office that cited the $3,200 figure and misidentified the trip’s sponsor, a violation of House ethics rules if he provided the false information knowingly.


Mr. Volz’s testimony also suggested that Mr. Ney, his former boss on Capitol Hill, was eager to help Mr. Abramoff’s lobbying clients in exchange for gifts, including the five-day golfing trip to Scotland. Mr. Volz said that in one instance Mr. Ney offered to help rewrite legislation to help Mr. Abramoff win control of government-owned land in Maryland, which the lobbyist wanted to use for a Jewish day school he had founded.


During Mr. Volz’s testimony on Tuesday, the Justice Department placed in evidence a photograph taken at the start of the golfing trip, showing a smiling Mr. Ney in white shorts and untucked shirt standing on the tarmac of Baltimore-Washington International Airport in front of the chartered Gulfstream jet that would take him to Scotland.

Standing alongside him were Mr. Abramoff and Mr. Volz, as well as Mr. Safavian and Ralph Reed, the former leader of the Christian Coalition and a close friend of Mr. Abramoff. While Mr. Reed has denied any wrongdoing in his multimillion-dollar consulting work with Mr. Abramoff, their ties are a central issue in his campaign this year to become lieutenant governor of Georgia, his home state.

UPDATE: Here is the phot, via ABC News.

Tanned, Rested and Talibani

From Holden:

The Taliban assumes control of a Pakistani province.

When the Pakistan army’s front line in its war on terrorism moved elsewhere, and the Taliban took control of his hometown, Baidar decided it was time to leave.

“The government is helpless. The Taliban is in full control there, not religious students, but militant Taliban,” said the 30-year-old Wazir tribesman.


The Pakistan army, in the words of President Pervez Musharraf, chased al Qaeda out of South Waziristan “valley by valley” in an offensive that lasted from late 2003 to early 2005.

Thereafter the focus switched to North Waziristan, where more than 300 militants have been killed since mid-2005.

The story continues, Read More…

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The Bush Stank

From Holden:

Careful not to get any on you.

When President Bush arrives in the Baltimore area this evening to raise campaign money for Maryland Republicans, one potential beneficiary won’t be there to greet him.

Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, whose Senate bid stands to gain from the $1 million-plus that Bush’s appearance is expected to draw, will be at a Las Vegas, Nev., fundraiser, instead.

Steele joins a growing list of Republican candidates who are declining a chance to be seen with the president in this election year, even as they rely on the hefty amounts of campaign cash that Bush attracts as his party’s biggest draw.

This month, two Republican House members stood Bush up at fundraisers in their backyards. Virginia Rep. Thelma Drake’s office said she had to cast a vote in Congress during the president’s stop at a fundraiser in Hampton Roads, Va., while Pennsylvania Rep. Curt Weldon skipped Bush’s Philadelphia fundraiser last week, telling The Wall Street Journal that Bush was doing so poorly in his state that he wouldn’t rely on his help.


Steele’s no-show at the Bush event comes as he has been working to distance himself from the president. This month, when Bush refused to extend the May 15 deadline for seniors to enroll in the Medicare prescription drug program, Steele broke with the president to call for a reprieve, saying that refusing to give seniors more time suggests the kind of “inside-the-Beltway mentality” he would change if elected.

Ambassadorial Complaint

From Holden:

On the very day Chimpy welcomes the new Iraqi ambassador to the US, Samir Sumaidaie, the ambassador accuses US Marines of murdering a family member.

BLITZER: But even months before the incident in November, you lost a cousin at Haditha in a separate battle involving United States Marines.

SUMAIDAIE: Well, that was not a battle at all. Marines were doing house-to-house searches, and they went into the house of my cousin. He opened the door for them.

His mother, his siblings were there. He led them into the bedroom of his father. And there he was shot.

BLITZER: Who shot him?

SUMAIDAIE: A member of the Marines.

BLITZER: Why did they shoot him?

SUMAIDAIE: Well, they said that they shot him in self-defense. I find that hard to believe because, A, he is not at all a violent — I mean, I know the boy. He was [in] a second-year engineering course in the university. Nothing to do with violence. All his life has been studies and intellectual work.

Totally unbelievable. And, in fact, they had no weapon in the house. They had one weapon which belonged to the school where his father was a headmaster. And it had no ammunition in it. And he led them into the room to show it to them.

BLITZER: So what you’re suggesting, your cousin was killed in cold blood, is that what you’re saying, by United States Marines?

SUMAIDAIE: I believe he was killed intentionally. I believe that he was killed unnecessarily. And unfortunately, the investigations that took place after that sort of took a different course and concluded that there was no unlawful killing.

I would like further investigation. I have, in fact, asked for the report of the last investigation, which was a criminal investigation, by the way.

[Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq] is aware of all the details, because he’s kept on top of it. And it was he who rejected the conclusions of the first investigation. I have since asked formally for the report, but it’s been nearly two months, and I have not received it.

BLITZER: Did you raise these concerns you had with the president today when you were at the White House presenting your credentials?

SUMAIDAIE: No, I did not, because I did not want to bring a personal note into a much wider brief that I have here.

BLITZER: But what I hear you saying — and I don’t want to put words in your mouth — is there maybe, in Haditha, at least, a pattern to what happened to your nephew, what happened apparently in November when these other Marines went in?

Are there any other examples of cold-blooded murder that you are familiar with in Haditha?

SUMAIDAIE: I am familiar with at least one other killing of three youths, which happened very soon after the killing of my cousin. They were in a car. They were unarmed, I believe. And they were shot.

Now, in that case, there could be possibly [an] excuse or explanation that the Marines were afraid. They were approaching them too fast, or whatever. But the details as they were related to me were such that there was no possibility of misunderstanding.

But in all these situations, you know, you have the word of the community, people around, civilians around — and you have the word of the individuals in the Marines. …

When it comes to comparing these two sources, I mean, if my uncle, whom I have known all my life since childhood, and I know he would not make up stories, and I know he would not lie, and I know what is at stake is the life of his grandson, then, you know, I know which word to take.

Record High Attacks/Casualties in Iraq

From Scout:

It’s been one year since Cheney said the insurgency was in its last throes.

Stars and Stripes reports that “insurgent attacks and resulting coalition and Iraqi deaths” are now at record highs according to a Pentagon Iraq progress report released today.

Average weekly attacks on coalition forces, Iraqi security forces (ISF) and Iraqi civilians climbed to 620 in the period between Feb. 11 and May 12, 2006, according to the latest security and stability report the Defense Department is required to send congressional lawmakers every quarter.

Only two other periods in Iraq’s post-Saddam history approach the recent numbers for violence, according to the report: the sovereignty period between June 29 to Nov. 26, 2004, which included the battle for Fallujah and major clashes with Shiite insurgents belonging to Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army; and the referendum/vote period between Aug. 29, 2005 to Feb. 10, 2006.

Each of those periods averaged about 550 weekly attacks, the report said.

Average daily casualties for coalition, ISF and Iraqi civilians also soared during the “government transition” period covered by the new report, reaching about 78 per day.

Until now, the highest number of daily casualties reported had been 59 per day, during Iraq’s pre-constitution period between Feb. 12 and Aug. 28, 2005, the report said.

Last Throes:

620 Attacks Per Week

78 Casualties per day

Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

I noted earlier today that Chimpy is a big fat liar, and in today’s gaggle Pony Blow confirms.

Q Do you have any tick-tock on the policy pick? When did the President reach out to him?

MR. SNOW: Yes, the tick-tock is the two of them met on the 20th of May and there was a conversation, and Hank Paulson accepted the job a day later. That was subject to clearance. It does take time, especially for a Senate-confirmable position, to complete those, so it did take time to get some of those clearances wrapped up.

Q So that’s why there’s been no announcement between May 21st and —

MR. SNOW: Correct.


Q I’m a little bit confused on the tick-tock. You said that the job was offered to Mr. Paulson on May 20th, and they accepted the process on the 21st.

MR. SNOW: That is correct.

Q So we’re talking more than a week ago. The President last week, when he was asked if he was — how he was going to deal with Mr. Snow, said, well, I guess — he said, he’s going to offer his resignation to me, and then went on to say he’s a — good job. This was something that was in play obviously before that, so in terms of its filling a vacancy, which is how you characterized it a minute ago, it wasn’t a vacancy, it was switching a person, wasn’t it?

MR. SNOW: No, he said, he’s not talked to me about resignation. That does not mean that there were not other discussions. I mean, it was artfully worded. But on the other hand, the one thing you do not want to do in a situation like this is to start speculating about changes before the changes are ready to be made. Those do have impacts on markets, and you have to be responsible and cautious in the way you deal with them. Again, at that point, Hank Paulson — you’ve got to make sure that you’ve got all the clearances taken care of.


Q Just one other follow-up on Carl about Secretary Snow. When the President was asked, when he was standing next to Prime Minister Blair, and millions of people watching, he was telling the American people that “I’ve got no indication the Secretary is going to resign” —

MR. SNOW: No, no. Here’s — “No, he has not talked to me about resignation.” I mean, it was very carefully worded, but, again, what you didn’t want to have, I think, is it appearing at a time when you don’t have — when you haven’t finished doing your clearances for the Treasury — the person you want to fill that position. You don’t want to have chaos in the markets. It was —

Q He’s already offered it to somebody, he’s got to have had — I mean, you offer these positions all the time and wait for FBI background searches that sometimes take a long time. I mean, the Supreme Court nominees take six weeks, but you still announce to the public when you pick somebody.

MR. SNOW: But, you know, again, Hank Paulson, at that time, you don’t announce somebody that hasn’t been pre-cleared; you haven’t finished the clearance process, you don’t announce it, period. I mean, it’s just not —

Q If not even announcing him, you could have at least — you could have been direct and said, we’re expecting —

MR. SNOW: With all due respect, I think there was some concern, again, about how something like that affects the markets. If you have uncertainty for an extended period of time, which would have been at that point four or five days, I think that is something that you’ve got to worry about and you’ve got to be responsible in dealing with it.

The lies continue, Read More…

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From Scout:

WaPo’s Eugene Robinson Gets It.

(h/t to lb0313)

Silencing the Truth

From Scout:

The NYT has a good article on the pressures that have been placed on hurricane expert Ivor van Heerden to Shut Up…

To many in Louisiana this outspokenness has made Dr. van Heerden a hero. But at his university it has gotten him called on the carpet for threatening the institution’s relationship with the federal government and the research money that comes with that. Last November two vice chancellors at Lousiana State — Michael Ruffner, in charge of communications for the university, and Harold Silverman, who leads the office of research — brought him in for a meeting. As Dr. van Heerden recalled in an interview in Baton Rouge, La., the two administrators — one of whom controlled his position, which is nontenured — said that “they would prefer that I not talk to the press because it could hurt L.S.U.’s chances of getting federal funding in the future.”

The administrators told him to work through the university’s media relations department instead.

Dr. van Heerden regarded the meeting as a threat to his career. “I actually spoke to my wife about it that night,” he remembered, “and said: ‘Look, we need to recognize that I could lose my job. Are we prepared for that? Because I’m not going to stop.’ “

The vice chancellors’ directive lasted less than a week: after Dr. van Heerden channeled dozens of interview requests through the media office, the administrators dropped the new requirement.

To show van Heerden some support…buy his book: “The Storm: What Went Wrong During Hurricane Katrina — The Inside Story From One Louisiana Scientist,”

(h/t to virgotex)

More Bush Lies

From Holden:

Bush lies to the nation, Thursday, May 25, 2006:


Q Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT BUSH: I call him Stretch.

Q And I’ve been called worse. (Laughter.) Has Treasury Secretary Snow given you any indication that he intends to leave his job any time soon?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Secretary of Treasury Snow?

Q Has he given you any indication he intends to leave his job any time soon? And related to that, Americans — macroeconomic numbers are indeed good, but many Americans are concerned, increasingly concerned about rising health care costs, costs of gasoline. And does that make it hard for your administration, Treasury Secretary Snow, and everyone else to continue to talk up the economy?

PRESIDENT BUSH: No, he has not talked to me about resignation. I think he’s doing a fine job…

And today, according to TalkRadio NewsService’s Ellen Ratner:

[White House Spokesperson] Dana [Perino] said that Secretary Snow said he would like to leave earlier in the year and that Chief of Staff Josh Bolton ran point on finding a new nominee.

Oh, What A Glorious Summer It Will Be

From Holden:

Neil Volz is singing like a bird.

A former congressional aide and lobbyist described Tuesday how he obtained advice, insider information and help from Bush administration procurement chief David Safavian to advance two projects being promoted by Republican influence peddler Jack Abramoff.

The aide, Neil Volz, who was a partner of Abramoff’s at the time, also outlined how they received assistance from several Republican congressmen including, Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, and Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio.


Volz added flesh and blood details to a series of e-mails the government had introduced earlier showing contact between Abramoff’s team and Safavian in the summer of 2002, before several of those involved, including Safavian and Ney, took an expensive weeklong golfing trip to Scotland that Abramoff organized.

Volz testified that the Abramoff team referred to Safavian as a “champion” because he could get inside information on policy developments that was not otherwise available to lobbyists.

He described how Safavian advised Abramoff and his partners to get information on the best way to secretly attach a rider to a bill nearing passage in Congress that would order the GSA to sell the so-called White Oak property in Silver Spring, Md., to a school that Abramoff had established.

Volz also described how Safavian gave advice on how to obtain the letters from key congressmen to the GSA to alter a proposal to redevelop the Old Post Office here in a way that would give one of Abramoff’s clients, the Chitimancha Indian tribe, an advantage over other bidders. Abramoff and the tribe wanted to develop the property as a luxury hotel, which would be near restaurants that Abramoff owned on Pennsylvania Ave.

Describing help they requested from Capito’s office on the White Oak project, Volz said they wanted to keep her role secret.

“She was up for re-election and this potentially could have put her in harm’s way on the campaign trail … because this project doesn’t have anything to do with her district,” Volz explained.

Loss of Confidence in My Bush Boom

From Holden:

Of course this is John Snow’s fault.

Consumer confidence soured in May, as Americans fretted about jobs and the overall economy, a private research group said Tuesday.

The Conference Board said its consumer confidence index fell to 103.2, down from the revised 109.8 in April.


“Consumer confidence, which reached a four-year high in April, lost ground in May,” said Lynn Franco, director of the New York-based Conference Board Consumer Research Center. “Apprehension about the short-term outlook for the economy, the labor market and consumers’ earning potential has driven the Expectations Index down to levels not seen since the aftermath of the hurricanes last summer.”

The Expectations Index, which measures consumers’ outlook over the next six months, fell to 83.7 in May, from 92.3 in April. The Present Situation Index, which measures how shoppers feel now about the economic conditions, slipped to 132.5 from 136.2.

Tuesday’s report is disappointing for retailers, which have seen sales slow in May amid cooler temperatures. Economists closely monitor consumer confidence because consumer spending accounts for two thirds of all U.S. economic activity.

Bi-Polar Day at The Corner

From Holden:

Poor K-Lo. She goes from wondering if Henry Paulson likes pia coladas…

I Hear Paulson [Kathryn Jean Lopez]

and I think “for president .” Posted at 8:48 AM

To crossing his name off of the cover of her trapper-keeper.

Paulson & EMILY’s LIST [Kathryn Jean Lopez]

What’s this about? Posted at 10:14 AM

Just don’t tell her about Paulson’s views on the Kyoto protocals.

Cross-Dressing Lesbian

From Holden:

Wait a minute, that’s the wrong cross-dressing lesbian. Republican Congressman Bob Ney of Ohio is all hot and bothered about Air America’s Rachel Maddow.

Bob Ney’s campaign is running an “auto call” in Ohio right now, which criticizes his Democratic opponent, Zack Space, for being interviewed on The Rachel Maddow Show this month.

*Click HERE for audio of the Bob Ney autocall.

“Hello, my name is Juanita (?) [Maureen] and I am very concerned about what I’ve heard recently about Congressional Candidate Zack Space. Zack claims to care about Ohio Values. He has been spending a lot of time lately with national liberal and gay rights leaders to raise money for his campaign. Just last week Zack was on an ultra-liberal radio show from New York City hosted by a cross dressing lesbian when he told me that social values are no longer that important. Zack Space claims the 18th District wants a progressive leader. But we all know that progressive is nothing more than a code word for higher taxes, more gun control, more abortions, and more gay marriages. Tell Zack Space that social values do matter to those of us in Ohio. Even if they don’t matter to his ultra-liberal friends in the rest of the country. Paid for by Bob Ney for Congress”

And if that’s not enough misdirected hate for you BuckEyeBlog has Ney’s anti-Maddow attack email.

Bob Ney sends out an email attacking Zack Space in what can only be described as one of the most homophobic gay baiting emails I have ever seen

The ultra-liberal colors of Ohio’s 18th District Democrat Congressional candidate Zack Space keep shining through. At the same time as he was campaigning with failed Presidential candidate and avowed Second Amendment opponent John Kerry in Ohio last week, Zack continued his outreach efforts to the national liberal and gay rights establishment by giving a lengthy radio interview on the liberal Air America network with one of the country’s leading gay rights advocates, Rachel Maddow. Interestingly, a major financial sponsor of Air America is , the same liberal organization based in Washington D.C., which Space purports to have no connection with, but which has been funding negative soft-money attacks against Congressman Bob Ney.

Maddow, who lives in New York City with her “partner,” questioned Space about a variety of issues popular with the national liberal establishment while acknowledging at one point that she uses a different name when dressed “in drag.” But perhaps the most interesting aspect of her interview with Space came at the end with a stunning admission by Space that he doesn’t sense “social issues” are still “hot button” issues.

Here’s hoping that Bob Ney can continue to protect us from cross-dressing lesbians and theior “partners” from the inside of a prison cell.

Pay a visit to Ney’s opponent, Democrat Zack Space.