Monthly Archives: February 2007

Opposition to Unions More Important Than Security

Chimpy would rather deny workers their rightsthan protect this country.

President George W. Bush may veto legislation to adopt many of the remaining recommendations of the Sept. 11 Commission unless Senate Democrats drop a plan to allow airport screeners to join unions, a Bush administration official said.

A provision in the security legislation now before the Senate would give government-employed airport security screeners the right to bargain collectively for union contracts and whistle-blower protections.

[snip]

Bush’s senior advisers would recommend a veto of the legislation, which authorizes more than $9.3 billion over three years in security grants to states, if it contains union organizing rights for airport screeners, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said.

“We vigorously disagree with those provisions in the bill,” Stanzel said.

The Senate security legislation would implement the recommendations the Sept. 11 commission made two years ago that hadn’t already been enacted. The measure includes a provision that requires $9.3 billion in grants be distributed with preference to cities that terrorists are most likely to target.

The Bush administration and Republicans defeated efforts by Democrats in 2002 to include organizing rights for TSA personnel when Congress passed initial legislation creating the Homeland Security Department.

[snip]

The Bush administration opposes a requirement in the bill that would require the U.S. to reveal annually the total government spending on intelligence programs, a Sept. 11 commission recommendation.

Read My Lips

Chimpy proposes a massive tax increase.

President George W. Bush’s plan to revamp the health-care system would increase taxes on Americans by $526.2 billion over the next decade, according to a congressional estimate that calls into question administration claims of cost and tax savings.

A “very preliminary” unreleased report by the staff of the non-partisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that Bush’s proposal would begin imposing higher taxes by 2011.

The estimate, which covers the next 10 years, suggests health care costs may not fall under the White House plan. The Bush administration said the change would reduce health-care costs by making Americans smarter consumers and encouraging insurers to compete for individuals’ business.

“It sounds like they’re assuming health-care costs are going to go up quite rapidly, and therefore the effective deduction is buying less and less health insurance over time,” William Gale, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said of report’s findings, after they were described to him.

[snip]

Former Republican Representative Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, president of the Washington-based Club for Growth, which has supported the president’s proposal, said in an interview that it would be “problematic” if the joint committee’s estimate is accurate.

Toomey said if that’s the case, Congress should consider indexing the deduction for inflation associated with health care rather than the consumer price index. “That might solve the problem,” he said.

[snip]

The Treasury Department said last month that the health tax- overhaul proposal would reduce taxes by a net $32.7 billion over the next decade because of the tax deductions it would create.

Bush profanity

Thiscomes from Bush on a day when we learn that the DoD has cracked down on troops at Walter Reed for talking to the media. The hypocrisy is downright profane…

THE PRESIDENT: One of the most enjoyable things I do as the President
is to hear stories of my fellow citizens — stories of compassion,
stories of care. I just talked to social entrepreneurs who have decided
to help improve the lives of our servicemen and women and their
families. There are some remarkable acts of kindness by people who have
taken it upon themselves to serve their country by helping a neighbor in
need. Whether it be helping the chaplains help kids, or whether it be
helping a family of the injured, whether it be working at Walter Reed or
supporting troops getting ready to go into combat, these good men and
women really represent the very best of America.

I ask my fellow citizens to support our troops and their families.
There are all kinds of ways you can find out how to do so.
AmericaSupportsYou.mil, for example, is a website that if you really do
want to participate like these citizens have, that you can find a way to
contribute your time or your money, your talents, to really send a
message that America supports these brave volunteers who are out
defending their country in the war on terror.

So I thank you all for joining us. It’s been my great pleasure to hear
from you. I’m proud to be the President of a country with so many
decent citizens.

Today On Holden’s Obsession With The Gaggle

Intoday’s gaggle Pony Blow claims that Osama bin Laden is no longer leading al Qaeda.

Q Tony, yesterday the President’s new Director of National Intelligence testified on Capitol Hill for the first time, and said, U.S. intelligence believes that Osama bin Laden and his number two are alive in Pakistan and reestablishing training camps. If you really have bin Laden on the run, how is he reestablishing training camps?

MR. SNOW: Well, that’s a question — that’s an intelligence matter that I’m not going to be able to go into.

Q But how can you continually say the leadership is on the run and —

MR. SNOW: Well, you take a look also at statements that have been made by generals in recent days — General Schoomaker the other day had a comment that I was asked about, which is he thought bin Laden had been marginalized. The question is whether al Qaeda — I think the bin Laden question may be separable from the al Qaeda question. It’s clear that al Qaeda is trying to gain strength —

Q But isn’t he the leader of al Qaeda?

MR. SNOW: Well, I don’t know. It’s a real question about who assumes operational command.

No Training? No Problem!

Q There was also a report this morning that two Army combat brigades are being sent to Iraq without desert training — the Associated Press has a story out today — and that it’s because they’re being rushed to Iraq to help get the surge in place.

MR. SNOW: Again, let me stress, what happens is, a lot of times you will also do training in theaters, as well as equipping in theater. The generals have made it very clear, and military commanders have made it clear, nobody is going to go into combat activity without proper equipment and training. Period. So if things —

Q But the story flatly says that two brigades are going in without desert training in California. So that doesn’t sound like —

MR. SNOW: All right, I understand.

Q — they’re getting the training.

MR. SNOW: Well, but they can get desert training elsewhere, like in Iraq.

Continue reading

Trailers of the have mores and have nots

Dick’s Trailer

Cheneys_trailer

This is the Airstream that was parked in the bay of
the C-17 which carried Cheney into war zones. Inside, its gray-leather
seating and paneled walls provided a comfortable shelter within the
loud bay of the transport jet.
[via Correntewire]

Little people’s trailer

Fema_trailer_fire

(photo from today’s Times Picayune)

From today’s Times Picayune

A 21-year-old woman was badly burned Tuesday morning when
her FEMA trailer caught fire, Kenner authorities said.

[…] 

The investigator is looking at the gas-powered stove as a
possible cause, Michel said. Witnesses on the scene said the
woman had told them that she lit a cigarette and the stove
caught fire, Michel said.

For his travels, Dick could have snapped up one of the 12,000 FEMA trailers which sat languishing in Hope Arkansas and are now being auctioned off “as-is.”

What am I thinking. That’d be just plain stupid. Travel is risky enough for Target Dick than to also place him for a few days in one of those “toxic tin cans” that tend to explode and catch fire with uncanny frequency.

Irony Thrives On Blood in Baghdad

Oy.

A car bomb killed at least 10 people in a crowded Baghdad market Wednesday, police said, while an Iraqi government spokesman praised a decrease in attacks during a new security plan in the capital.

[snip]

Later Wednesday, police said guards outside the Bab al-Sheik police station in central Baghdad fired on a suicide truck bomber as he approached them. The bomber changed course and crashed into a cement barrier, detonating his explosives. Two civilians were killed and two policemen and another civilian were wounded in the blast and exchange of gunfire, police said.

The attacks came two weeks into a joint U.S.-Iraqi plan to halt burgeoning violence in Baghdad. Iraq’s spokesman for the plan, Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Mousawi, praised a “remarkable decrease” in the level of violence in recent weeks.

“The level of terrorist attacks have sharply dropped,” al-Mousawi said.

OK, So Now It’s A Civil War

Via Dan Froomkin, it’s now officially a civil war.

The nation’s spy chief said Tuesday that the violence in Iraq resembles a civil war and the Iraqi government has the “close to impossible” job of trying to end the violence.

The “term ‘civil war’ accurately describes key elements of the Iraqi conflict,” Mike McConnell, the new director of national intelligence, said in a statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Wounded…paper…tigers

From the influential former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani reported today in the Kuwait Times

“The Americans brought their troops with high spending to Iraq and
Afghanistan.The only thing they did was to remove Iran’s enemies,
Saddam Hussein and the Taliban,”
said Rafsanjani, president from 1989
to 1997. “They explicitly admit that their attempts ended up by serving
Iran’s interests,” the Iranian press quoted him as saying.

“Therefore they are angry. So we must be more alert. They are like a wounded tiger and we must not ignore this.”

(my emphasis)

The smarty pants neo-conservatives haven’t been right yet. It’s painfully obvious that their grand strategy of attacking Iraq to marginalize or better yet bring down the Iranian regime didn’t work. What is left for these wounded paper tigers but a direct attack on Iran? No one should listen to them ever again yet they still hold sway.

(Kuwait Times does not provide permalinks. For quote go to article “Iran readies to hit US ‘anywhere’ if attacked” in the side bar of Kuwait Times)

Secret Decision By A Secret Court

The Electronic Frontier Foundationis doing its best to find out more about Chimpy’s unconstitutional eavesdropping.

A privacy rights group sued the Justice Department on Tuesday to try to pry loose a ruling by a secret court that the Bush administration says approved its clandestine wiretapping program.

The suit, if it succeeds, should answer an important question about the future of the program: whether the court will require individual warrants, with specific evidence, before allowing the government to intercept phone calls and e-mails between Americans and alleged terrorists in foreign countries.

[snip]

A federal judge in Detroit declared the program unconstitutional in August, a ruling the administration has appealed. In San Francisco, another judge is considering more than 40 lawsuits accusing telecommunications companies of illegally collaborating with the program by allowing the National Security Agency to intercept messages and examine customer records.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco organization that represents AT&T customers in one of the lawsuits, sued Tuesday in Washington, D.C., seeking disclosure of a pivotal Jan. 10 ruling by a judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The ruling’s existence was disclosed Jan. 17 by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the judge had approved the surveillance, after lengthy negotiations, and that the program was now operating under authority of the foreign intelligence court.

Gonzales did not say, however, whether the judge was requiring a warrant in each case or instead had given overall approval to the program. The attorney general has refused to make the order public, although the Justice Department sent copies to the federal judge in San Francisco and the appeals court reviewing the Detroit ruling.

[snip]

By random draw, the case was assigned to U.S. District Judge James Robertson, who resigned from the foreign intelligence court after the December 2005 disclosure that the administration had been conducting surveillance without court review.

Scratch That

George W. Bush, January 31, 2007:

Just today, we learned that America’s economy grew at an annual rate of 3.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2006. That means our economy grew at 3.4 percent last year, which is up from 3.1 percent in 2005. Ladies and gentlemen: The state of our economy is strong.

Not.

The U.S. economy was cooler than thought as last year drew to a close.

The Commerce Department says fourth-quarter growth has been revised to an annual gain of 2.2 percent. That’s a downward revision from the previous estimate of Gross Domestic Product put at 3.5 percent.

[snip]

The downgrading of fourth-quarter growth means the economy for all of 2006 grew just 3.3 percent.

Continue reading

Today On Holden’s Obsession With The Gaggle

Let’s starttoday’s gaggle with Pony Blow’s standard dodge.

Q How was the suicide bomber able to get within range of the base where Vice President Cheney was?

MR. SNOW: I don’t know. I refer it to DOD. I think at this point people are still investigating what happened, so we don’t have a firm answer for you.

I Assume Cheney’s Death Would Be Just Another Comma

Q What does this attack say about the strength of the Taliban in Afghanistan?

MR. SNOW: I’m not sure it says anything.

Q Why?

MR. SNOW: Because you’ve got an isolated attack. As we’ve often said about acts of terror, an individual who wants to commit an act of violence or kill him or herself, very difficult to stop. But I’m not sure that you can draw larger conclusions about any organization based on an incident such as this. And in this case, we have a claim of responsibility, but I’m not sure, as I said in answer to Terry’s question, that we have a full picture of precisely what took place. I think it will take a while before we get that picture.

[snip]

Q Tony, no matter who was responsible for this, to what extent does it underscore the very reason that the Vice President was sent there to begin with?

MR. SNOW: I’m not sure — again, it’s — I don’t think — Peter, I don’t know. It’s an interesting — again, the Vice President was there to consult with allies in the war on terror. Now, to the extent that there are elements within the war on terror that depend on isolated acts of violence that are designed to kill indiscriminately and attract worldwide media attention, I suppose it is reflective of that. But on the other hand, you also do have organized elements of Taliban and al Qaeda that one needs to deal with. So I don’t know exactly how you — I don’t even know a good metric for figuring out precisely how that fits into the equation.

Q Well, wasn’t one of the main reasons he was sent there because of the concern about the spring offensive, about the already ongoing upsurge in violence, and this is emblematic of it?

MR. SNOW: Well, perhaps, again, everybody is leaping to conclusions — and I can see how you would do it. I’m just being more cautious, because at this point we don’t have a whole lot of detail on the whys and wherefores of what took place today.

Continue reading

The Disappeared

Human Righs Watch calls for an accounting.

Several dozen terrorism suspects believed to have been held at secret     CIA prisons are still missing without trace, and the United States should reveal what has happened to them, a leading rights group said on Tuesday.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged     President George W. Bush in an open letter to disclose the identity, fate and whereabouts of all prisoners held at secret CIA facilities since 2001.

“As you may know, the CIA’s detention program has inflicted great harm on the reputation, moral standing and integrity of the United States,” HRW wrote to Bush.

“By revealing information about the fate and whereabouts of people formerly held in CIA custody, you could begin to repair the damage this abusive program has caused.”

Secret abduction and detention of suspects has been one of the most controversial and fiercely criticized aspects of Bush’s war on terrorism, with rights groups arguing such methods are illegal and frequently lead to abuse and torture.

[snip]

HRW said it was possible some of the missing people had been moved to foreign prisons but remained for practical purposes under CIA control.

Or they might have been transferred out of CIA custody to countries where “the torture of terrorism suspects is common,” it said, citing Algeria, Egypt, Libya and     Syria.

“If they are being held in proxy detention in a third country, the U.S. government should either transfer them to the United States for prosecution in U.S. courts, or order their release,” HRW said.

“To leave these men in hidden limbo violates fundamental human rights norms.”

She Learned from the Master

“Goddamn, Condi!”

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

“What did you have for dinner last night, a roadkill burrito?”

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Breaking: Stock Selloff

CNN reporting a sudden stock sell off. DOW down 500.46 points right now.

More here

Boxer to speed levee bill

Senator Boxer in New Orleans for a field hearing announced plans to fast track a bill containing levee and wetlands projects. She also questioned why Bush refuses to ask for the $1.3 billion needed to continue levee construction on NOLA’s east bank (background post here)…

In a field hearing in New Orleans on Monday, Senate
Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara
Boxer announced plans to complete by the end of March the
writing of the 2007 Water Resources Development Act, which
contains hundreds of levee, wetlands and navigation
projects, including many in Louisiana.

The water projects authorization bill, normally approved
every two years, hasn’t been passed since 2000.

SNIP

“We all still believe there is an emergency
here,” Boxer said as she questioned the civilian chief
of the corps about the agency’s plan to transfer $1.3
billion set aside for east bank levee projects to pay for
West Bank levee projects that will be ready for construction
more quickly.

Boxer wanted to know why the Bush administration will not
support asking immediately for the additional $1.3 billion
as part of a supplemental appropriations bill now being
considered by Congress.

Give credit to Boxer for going to NOLA and asking the right question. The White House has asked and received billions in war supplementals but there is no request for New Orlean’s levees when he promised “to make the flood protection system stronger than it has ever been”? 

The fear is that the diverted funds will never be restored and given the track record that fear is legitimate.

Support Our Troops!

Just don’t train them.

Rushed by President Bush’s decision to reinforce Baghdad with thousands more U.S. troops, two Army combat brigades are skipping their usual session at the Army’s premier training range in California and instead are making final preparations at their home bases.

Some in Congress and others outside the Army are beginning to question the switch, which is not widely known. They wonder whether it means the Army is cutting corners in preparing soldiers for combat, since they are forgoing training in a desert setting that was designed specially to prepare them for the challenges of Iraq.

Cheney Shits A Brick

In Afghanistan…

Q What do you think the symbolism is there for the — for whoever carried this out? They said publicly that this was aimed at you. What does that —

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Who said that?

Q The Taliban —

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I hadn’t heard that.

Q It was a Taliban spokesman quoted, saying that the attack was trying to get you.

Q What we’re quoting them as saying is that they took responsibility for it, and they said they were aware that you were there.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I hadn’t heard that.

Governors have issues

The National Governors Association has been meeting and find they are on the losing end with the Bush administration on children’s health care

In the session at the White House, when President Bush reported on
progress of the war, governors pressed him to provide more money so
they could guarantee health insurance for children. In response,
administration officials said states should make better use of the
money they already had.

SNIP

Governors said the Clinton and Bush administrations had encouraged
them to expand children’s coverage and had granted waivers allowing
them to cover parents and even some childless adults.

Having
successfully expanded the health insurance programs in their states,
some governors now suggest that the Bush administration is pulling the
safety net out from under many children.

The governors are also concerned with the readiness of the National Guard to respond to emergencies here at home given the Iraq War…

WASHINGTON — Governors concerned about the demands the war in Iraq is
placing on their National Guard forces met with a top Guard official
Sunday and said they were closely monitoring deployment of their
troops, worn-out equipment and how ready they would be for domestic
emergencies.

And they are hoping to reverse a move made last year regarding the President’s power to federalize the National Guard in emergencies…

Last year, governors unsuccessfully fought the change in federal law
that gave President Bush the power to federalize the Guard without
governors’ consent. Historically, governors have maintained control in
domestic emergencies, while the president’s control over the Guard was
reserved for overseas demands.

Now, state leaders hope to persuade congressional leaders to reverse the change.

In the Katrina Blame Game the wingnuts (example here)
often pointed to Gov. Blanco not allowing Bush to federalize the
National Guard during Katrina to deflect from Bush’s abysmal federal
response.  What is often overlooked is that every other American
Governor would likely have acted in the same manner as Blanco
had.

All…yes ALL governors opposed the measure that now allows the Prez to federalize the Guard without their consent. From a letter sent last year to Congressional leaders from the Governors…

Fifty-one governors recently sent a letter to Congress opposing Section
511 of the House-passed bill because it would usurp the authority of
governors to command the National Guard in response to a “serious
natural or manmade disaster.” Since then, governors also have become
concerned with the Senate’s proposal to expand the President’s
authority to intervene in a state under the Insurrection Act (Section
1042) and proposals to federalize disaster response through the use of
reserve forces. Each of these proposals represents a dramatic expansion
of federal authority during natural disasters that could cause
confusion in the command-and-control of the National Guard and
interfere with states’ ability to respond to natural disasters within
their borders.