Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Barack Obama decrys the neglect of New Orleans

Another candidate responds to the question of rebuilding New Orleans:

Thank you for contacting me about the egregious negligence of the federal government in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In New Orleans, neighborhoods are still deserted; thousands are still homeless or displaced; most public schools are still closed; and police are headquartered in FEMA trailers. There is still a lot of work to do. Going forward, we must not only rebuild New Orleans for all who wish to return, but also ensure that adequate preparations are made for future catastrophes.

After the massive failures of the Bush administration, I helped lead Congressional efforts to bring effective and prompt relief to the Gulf Coast. Together with the Congressional Black Caucus, I introduced the Hurricane Katrina Recovery Act of 2006, which provides comprehensive federal supports for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and the reconstruction of New Orleans. In addition, I worked to make all working families that were victims of the disaster eligible for an expanded and refundable Child Tax Credit.

No-bid construction contracts and administrative waste have compounded the governmental failure in New Orleans and further slowed the recovery. To address this problem, I have worked to strengthen government accountability by creating a Chief Financial Officer for federal spending on the Gulf Coast. The CFO would ensure that money is spent appropriately and that all contracts are accessible to local businesses - including small and minority firms - through fair and open competition.

Ultimately, we need to learn from the woeful response to Katrina and make sure that we are better prepared for the next disaster. Prior to Katrina, the federal government did not require localities to make specific plans for safeguarding Americans with special needs. I championed successful legislation that requires special needs planning for future disasters, whether man-made or natural.

After all, we might want to censure Hillary someday

In another example of the absurd logic of our Republican political leaders: James Sensenbrenner worries that, if we don't give George Bush a blank check today, we'll be forced to give every president a blank check in the future.

“I think the White House is going to win in court,” asserted Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), the former chairman of the panel. “If we do bring the case to court and lose, then that is going to be viewed as a blank check by the current president and the future presidents to snub the Congress” in its oversight responsibilities.”

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Guantanamo judge scolds detainee for dressing badly

Another excerpt from the kangaroo court.

Apparently, the judge was unimpressed that a man who had been held without charge and without access to the outside world for 5 years arrived at the hearing in his prison uniform:

GUANTANAMO Bay detainee David Hicks fronted a US military commission hearing earlier this year in a shapeless prison shirt and baggy trousers, his hair long and unkempt.

His style did not impress the presiding judge, US Marine Colonel Ralph Kohlmann.

Colonel Kohlmann indicated that Hicks, who stood accused of supporting terrorism and attempted murder, would be better off in a suit and tie, or casual smart attire. It matters what you wear to a terrorism trial, apparently.

Barack Obama supports the separation of church and state

OBAMA: I am proud of my Christian faith. And it informs what I do. And I don't think that people of any faith background should be prohibited from debating in the public square.

But I am a strong believer in the separation of church and state, and I think that we've got to translate...

By the way, I support it not just for the state but also for the church, because that maintains our religious independence and that's why we have such a thriving religious life.

But what I also think is that we are under obligation in public life to translate our religious values into moral terms that all people can share, including those who are not believers. And that is how our democracy's functioning, will continue to function. That's what the founding fathers intended.

Mitt Romney endorses the Stork Theory

The Republican War on Science is reaching new levels of absurdity:

"Senator Obama is wrong if he thinks science-based sex education has any place in kindergarten," Romney told some 150 people at a restaurant in the northern part of the state. "We should be working to clean up the filthy waters our kids are swimming in."

And what exactly is this cesspool of science based sex education Romney is scolding Obama over?

WASHINGTON, July 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Statement from Kathleen M. Burke, CEO, Robert Crown Center for Health Education on age-appropriate sex education for 5 year-olds:

"Age-appropriate classroom sex education for this age group is simply referring to teaching medically appropriate names for parts of the body instead of baby names. We keep it simple -- it isn't necessary to go into detail about the functions of those body parts, but having an accurate vocabulary goes a long way toward developing understanding and respect for themselves and their bodies. In the absence of this proper language, all that is left are unanswered questions, baby names and playground slang.

It also helps when they ask where their baby brother came from.

This is of course, yet another reversal of the former Governor's position.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The president assigns "Why Bush will be a winner" to his staff

Believed to be a candid picture of George Bush (center) discussing his brilliant Iraq war strategy with his cracker jack staff Karl Rove (left) and Stephen Hadley (right). Also shown, Condoleeza Rice and Karen Hughes with their backs to the camera.

Bill Kristol's the-war-is-being-won piece in The Washington Post brought him plenty of ridicule, but at least one person liked it.

President Bush read the July 15 Outlook article that morning and recommended it to his staff.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Russ Feingold renews call for censure of George Bush

In March of 2006, following the discovery that the President was covertly spying on Americans, Russ Feingold (D -Wisconsin) called for the Congress to censure the President for acting in violation of the FISA law.

At the time, the Republicans controlling Congress blocked all oversight of the president. Their idea of a solution was to retroactively legalize the program. The minority Democrats meanwhile, fearful of losing votes by challenging a president whose approval ratings were in the mid 30's, tried to pretend Russ Feingold didn't exist.

Today, Senator Feingold has renewed his call for censure, citing mismanagement of the Iraq war and the assault on the rule of law.

U.S. Senator Russ Feingold announced today that he will introduce two censure resolutions condemning the President, Vice President and other administration officials for misconduct relating to the war in Iraq and for their repeated assaults on the rule of law. Feingold called the resolutions appropriate and necessary steps for Congress to rebuke an administration that is responsible for some of the worst misconduct and the worst abuses of the law in American history.

The first resolution will condemn the President and others for misconduct relating to the war in Iraq

* Overstating the case that Saddam Hussein had WMD, particularly nuclear weapons, and falsely implying a relationship with al Qaeda and links to 9/11.

* Failing to plan for the civil conflict and humanitarian problems that the intelligence community predicted.

* Over-stretching the Army, Marine Corps and Guard with prolonged deployments.

* Justifying our military involvement in Iraq by repeatedly distorting the situation on the ground there.

The second resolution will focus on the administration’s attack on the rule of law
with respect to, among other things:

* The illegal NSA warrantless wiretapping program.

* Extreme policies on torture, the Geneva Conventions, and detainees at Guantanamo.

* The refusal to recognize legitimate congressional oversight into the improper firings of U.S. Attorneys.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Did I say September? I meant November.

Lt. General Odierno, live from Baghdad, says things are going great so far. But...

"Forty-five days from now, September 1 ... I'll be able to make a bit more accurate assessment if it's something we think is going to continue or something we think is just a blip," he said in a video link from Baghdad.

"In order to do a good assessment, I need at least till November to do that," Odierno added.

Oh and about those benchmarks....

In a separate session, [U.S. Ambassador Ryan] Crocker told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that political benchmarks set by President Bush for the Iraqi government were not necessarily the best way to measure progress.

You might remember those were the non-binding benchmarks the Republicans insisted should replace timelines, lest the terrorists win.

FEMA ignored pleas from Katrina victims, again

And you can't blame Brownie for this one.

As early as March 2006, FEMA began to receive complaints about formaldehyde odors. After one trailer was tested, an April 2006 e-mail sent from a FEMA attorney to another staffer concluded, "The end result — well above OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) standards Tester himself developed eye-watering symptoms of exposure."

Yet, in response to complaints, FEMA's legal department advised that testing "would imply FEMA's ownership of the issue." Another read, "Do not initiate any testing until we give the OK...Should [tests] indicate some problem, the clock is running on our duty to respond to them."

From the testimony of Scott Needle, MD to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform:

My concern in this issue stems from my experience treating children in Hancock County, Mississippi in the weeks and months following Hurricane Katrina. In spring 2006, certain patterns of illness emerged among some of my patients. Many children returned repeatedly to my office with symptoms that would not go away, or that would clear up and then recur: sinus infections, ear infections, colds, and other respiratory symptoms.

In talking with these families, I found that they all shared two common characteristics. First, they were all living in travel trailers provided by FEMA. Second, these families reported that their symptoms started not long after moving into these trailers.

Dick Cheney's official duties

A federal judge agrees that outing covert CIA agents is part of Dick Cheney's job description:

"The alleged means by which defendants chose to rebut Mr. Wilson's comments and attack his credibility may have been highly unsavory, " Bates wrote. "But there can be no serious dispute that the act of rebutting public criticism, such as that levied by Mr. Wilson against the Bush administration's handling of prewar foreign intelligence, by speaking with members of the press is within the scope of defendants' duties as high-level Executive Branch officials."

Of course, "speaking with the press" wasn't the problem. Revealing state secrets was.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Absurdity alert: filibuster edition

Just now on CNN: Republican leader Mitch McConnell complaining that Harry Reid tabled the bill that the Republicans filibustered.

Stop poking the hornet's nest

Proving that Homeland Security doesn't even understand basic pest control:

Frances Fragos Townsend, Bush's homeland security adviser, took issue with the suggestion that the president had ignored warnings from the intelligence community that attacking Iraq would stimulate al-Qaeda's drive for recruits and influence.

"You're assuming it's a zero-sum game, which is what I don't understand," Townsend said. "The fact is, we were harassing them in Afghanistan, we're harassing them in Iraq, we're harassing them in other ways, non-militarily, around the world. And the answer is, every time you poke the hornet's nest, they are bound to come back and push back on you. That doesn't suggest to me that we shouldn't be doing it."

Actually, that's exactly why you aren't supposed to poke hornet's nests. You're supposed to fumigate and destroy them:

Do not disturb the nest in anyway.

Do not make any loud noises.

Treating hornets should be done at night, without shaking the nest.

Simply removing the nest will not resolve the problem, because surviving wasps will reconstruct a new one.

Just asking

Does anybody else wish that, instead of inviting groups of sycophants and ego strokers to talk about his legacy, George Bush would have instead called in a group of Senators and foreign policy experts to brain storm a solution to the disaster in Iraq?

And that instead of keeping quiet and "waiting until September" to start debating the country's priorities, we were having a vigorous debate right now?

Tom Coburn asks: "Why can't we just shoot people?"

A "Culture of Life" Republican Senator proves that being a devout Christian doesn't guarantee you have a solid sense of morality:

Tom Coburn, R-OK: "Why is it wrong for a Border Patrol agent who has stopped a van full of drugs, and the guy's running, why is it wrong to shoot him after they've told him to stop?"

U.S. Attorney Sutton: "Under the Constitution, if somebody's not causing you fear, you can't just shoot 'em because you're trying to stop 'em, or you're angry at 'em or you want to teach them a lesson,"

Coburn: "If in fact the message was: 'You come here with drugs, we interdict you and you don't stop, we're going to wing you, we're going to shoot you' – that message itself would do a lot to stop a lot of this."

Sutton: "If we let our agents just open fire, shooting to kill ... some innocent person is going to get gunned down execution-style by a cop, and there's going to be an outcry,"

h/t DSADevil

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The party of winners

British journalist Johann Hari on a cruise with America's most partisan wingnuts catches this quote:

Yes, D'Souza says, in a swift shift to domestic politics, "of course" Republican politics is "about class. Republicans are the party of winners, Democrats are the party of losers."

Kind of an odd statement after the beating they took last November.

Then again, Brits sometimes have a problem with American-English. Maybe D'Sousa said "Republicans are the party of whiners"

Monday, July 16, 2007

Let the real filibusters begin

A filibuster is an attempt to prolong debate, typically used by the minority to prevent passage of a bill with majority support. Best exemplified in the movie Mr. Smith goes to Washington in which an honest Senator battles against graft and corruption by taking to the well of the Senate and stands his ground until the corruption is exposed and his rivals defeated in shame.

It's hard to believe that just 2 years ago, the Republicans attempted to kill the filibuster entirely. They complained that the Democrats were abusing the system by denying a vote on 10 of Bush's 229 judicial nominees. Former majority leader Bill Frist invented the idea of the "nuclear option" to strip the minority of it's right to continue debate.

But times change. Mitch McConnell embraced the idea of the filibuster within days of the 2006 elections, after the Republicans lost both Houses of Congress. Since January, he's blocked votes over 40 times, on everything from funding renewable energy to implementing the 9/11 Commission's recommendations. No more talk of "up or down votes". Today he's all about minority rights .... well in the Senate, anyway.

So it's good to hear that Harry Reid now plans to start making Republicans take to the floor of the Senate if they don't want to cut off debate.

I'm guessing Senator McConnell isn't going to cut as sympathetic a figure as Jimmy Stewart while he's on the Senate floor arguing against ethics reform and increasing the minimum wage.

Ron Paul: restore Constitutional checks and balances

From Ron Paul's House web site:

Recently, the General Accounting Office studied nineteen instances where the President issued so-called “signing statements.” In such statements, the President essentially begins the process of interpreting legislation – up to and including declaring provisions unconstitutional—hence often refusing to enforce them.

The GAO study found that in nearly 1/3 of the cases studied, the administration failed to enforce the law as enacted.

The legislature should not yield its authority to the executive. Our constitutional republic demands that all branches of government understand and respect our system and jealously guard their own prerogatives.

In modern Washington nothing is more misunderstood, and less appreciated, than the genius of republicanism. Presidents issue signing statements that effectively “approve in part and reject in part,” laws of the land—even though there is no constitutional provision for such a process. In addition, Congress cedes its powers at the crucial moment when a decision on whether or not a war is to be fought will be made, only to then criticize the effort it could have used its powers to stop.

Maybe if we ethnically cleanse Iraq they'll stop fighting?

via ThinkProgress we learn that it isn't only politicians who have stupid ideas for Iraq.

[Michael O'Hanlon and Edward Joseph] hoping to draw the attention of Bush administration policymakers are proposing a partition plan for Iraq that would divide the country into three main regions.

The proposal would require the acquiescence of major political factions in Iraq. There would be substantial, voluntary movement in mixed, volatile areas.

This idea echos the plan supported by Joe Biden and Sam Brownback to divide the country into Shia, Sunni and Kurd dominated regions and is only slightly less stupid than Tommy Thompson's idea to partition the country into 18 parts.

That these men believe that any political factions would acquiesce to an American partition simply proves they haven't been paying attention for the last 4 years. Our forces haven't been able to convince any of the parties to do anything to date. Not even the Shia, who were effectively given the keys to the entire country when the Bush administration created the new government.

As for the substantial, voluntary relocation they imagine, it will most certainly be substantial, but hardly voluntary. We've already seen massive coerced relocations by Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish death squads as each faction attempts to claim territory. This plan would legitimize these efforts with an American seal of approval.

We already have a long sad history of these ethnically based partition plans. India and Pakistan remain on the edge of war over boundaries disputed for 60 years now and the European plan to ethnically partition Bosnia resulted in a bloody campaign as all sides slaughtered their rivals in a final land grab.

A plan that calls for the voluntary ethnic-cleansing of Iraq would be a disaster.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Putin decides the Cold War isn't over after all

While George Bush has been obsessesing about small actors like Iran and Syria, he's been completely blind to the threat of a resurgent adversary in Russia.

He saw the Berlin wall fall and the Soviet Union disintegrate. "Reagan won the cold war". Put a check mark in the win column. It's time to move on to the threat of militant Islam.

So he complains that decades old treaties which have helped keep the peace between the two nuclear giants are "outdated", launches wars of preemption, and decides to build a missile shield right on the border of our old nemesis.

The Russians, of course, remember that the original purpose of the "missile shield" was to counter their military power, not Iran's. They see the Vice-President declaring that the United States is the world's sole superpower which won't permit any rival, and they see NATO expanding into old Soviet block nations while hostile forces build up along their borders, first in Afghanistan, then Iraq and soon possibly Iran and Syria.

Vladimir Putin very much sees a growing threat. And he doesn't think it comes from Iran.

Unfortunately, George Bush appears to sincerely believe that "the Cold War is over" and that Russia and the United States have become fast friends. This despite Putin's rollback of democratic reforms in Russia, his assertion of dominance over former Soviet states and his repeated declarations that the Americans have become like the Nazis of old.

And now Putin has taken a page from Bush's playbook and begun declaring treaties outdated himself:

Russia engaged the West in a new round of brinkmanship yesterday when Vladimir Putin effectively tore up a vital treaty designed to end the threat of war in Europe.

In a chilling message to his adversaries, the Russian president signed a decree suspending Moscow's participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, a move that will allow Russia to mass tanks on its border with Europe for the first time in 15 years.

Limiting the number of troops that could be stationed on Cold War front lines by both sides, the treaty required Russia to move the bulk of its military hardware east of the Ural Mountains, the geographical divide between Europe and Asia. With the treaty's demise, Mr Putin seems to be declaring a return to adversarial Cold War politics.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Hillary Clinton on the "Right to Return" to New Orleans

From the June 28th debate:

MS. MARTIN: [W]ould you support a federal law guaranteeing the right to return to New Orleans and other Gulf regions devastated by Hurricane Katrina, based on the United Nations Human Rights Standards Governing the Internal Displacement of Citizens?

SEN. CLINTON: I have proposed a 10-point Gulf Coast Recovery Agenda, because it’s sort of as a chicken and an egg issue, Michel.

First, we’ve got to get the hospitals back up. We’ve got to get the law enforcement and the fire departments -- you know, right now this administration has basically neglected with almost criminal indifference the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast, in particular New Orleans and the parishes.

So even if we were to give people a right, there is nothing to return to. We have got to rebuild New Orleans, and it’s not only the protection from the levees, it is all the infrastructure. And until very recently, the administration would not give the people of New Orleans the same right we had after 9/11, which was to get FEMA money without a 10 percent match.

And we finally got that changed, but it was outrageous that it took so long.

In May she visited the city and explicitly called for rebuilding the city with significantly greater protection from future storms.

"I believe we should order the corps to achieve Cat 5 protection over time"

The "right to return" refers to a suit brought by many of the city's residents, particularly those who lived in the most devastated areas. They believe that the wealthier communities are trying to build a smaller New Orleans, purged of its poorest citizens. Federal reconstruction aid has been slow to arrive and gone largely to the city's land-owners. Before Katrina, a majority rented their homes and worry that there is no guarantee they will have anyplace to return to.

When the mandatory evacuation of New Orleans was lifted, residents of public housing, many of whom left with only the clothes on their backs, returned to find most of their homes locked and boarded up. This closure was not due to hurricane damage or flooding. In fact, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology architect's assessment in October 2006 showed no structural damage and minimal interior damage to most of these buildings because these all-brick structures were built to withstand such storms.

The city, developers and the feds are planning the largest urban renewal and black removal in U.S. history. While it's clear that blacks were hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina, there is no aggressive plan to bring them home.

While HUD professes to want something better for public housing residents, its plan falls woefully short. There is no strategy to replace every unit that is demolished nor to increase the number of affordable housing units to meet growing needs.

Monday, July 2, 2007

"I'm looking for Jack Bauer"

Since so many senior Republican officials dream of styling their national security strategy on FOX's 24 ; it should be remembered that in Jack Bauer's universe the United States has had two presidents assassinated, lost possession of a stealth fighter and a nuclear weapon, seen several reactors melt down, experienced multiple suicide bombings and had at least one city nuked.

This despite the frequent use of enhanced interrogation methods in the national defense.

That's because the fictitious Counter Terrorist Unit is completely inept and disfunctional. Jack Bauer tortures people because he doesn't know what the hell he's doing.

The most insidious of traitors

Matt Yglesias thinks Bush took the honorable path in freeing Scooter Libby.

I didn't think he would do it, but it's really the only honorable course of action available to him. It would be silly for Bush to pretend to believe that people deserve to be punished for breaking the law to help cover up his administration's crimes when he clearly believes no such thing.

But, there are those who get absolved for doing Bush's dirty work, and there are those who don't:

Eleven U.S. soldiers _ all from the enlisted ranks _ have been convicted in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, with former Cpl. Charles A. Graner Jr. receiving the harshest sentence, a 10-year prison term.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The leading cause of death among black women

During Tavis Smiley's Democratic debate, the candidates were asked about AIDS and it's affects on black America:

MS. MARTIN: [Y]ou can imagine how disturbed we were to find out from the Centers for Disease Control that African-Americans, though 17 percent of all American teenagers, they are 69 percent of the population of teenagers diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.

SEN. CLINTON: You know, it is hard to disagree with anything that has been said, but let me just put this in perspective. If HIV/AIDS were the leading cause of death of white women between the ages of 25 and 34, there would be an outraged outcry in this country.
According to the CDC, HIV is the leading cause of death among black women 25-34 years old, and is a significant killer of all American women. Black women are 23 times more likely to contract AIDS than their white counterparts.

Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for white women 25-34.

American women as a whole are most likely to die of heart disease or stroke.