Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Incident at Allen Campaign Stop in Charlottesville

I found this through Americablog, and I will even admit that this is pretty shocking. The original source of the story is through NBC 29 News:

Senator George Allen, (R) made a campaign stop in Charlottesville Tuesday morning and it was met with controversy.

As Senator Allen was exiting a ballroom, coming to talk to the media, a protestor started yelling and asking, "Why did you spit on your first wife?". He wasn't able to get near the senator as he was tackled by three men wearing Allen stickers, presumed to be staffers. He was pushed and manhandled and ended up on the floor, near windows at the Omni.

Senator Allen went back into a conference room and after the man was removed from the building, we were able to talk to Allen and asked him what he thought of the incident. He responded saying stuff like that happens.

Here is the video link through YouTube.

What I find really disturbing about this incident is that the protestor was pushed and manhandled by three Allen staffers. These staffers had no business in attacking this protestor. These staffers were a part of the hotel security staff, nor were they police officers. These Allen staffers just went in and started attacking this guy.

The Associated Press has some more information regarding this incident. Apparently Allen was attending a campaign event there with North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole. The protester has been identified as Mike Stark, a first-year law student at the University of Virginia. According to the AP story:

On the video, three men, all wearing blue Allen lapel stickers, immediately grabbed the man, dragged him backward and slung him to the carpet outside a hotel meeting room. The video showed one man tackle him. The men are presumed to be staffers, according to Charlottesville TV station WVIR.

The man who tackled the protester said, "Now you're getting personal."

The protester answered by saying he hadn't touched anybody.

From looking at the video, I can't say if the protestor had even touched Senator George Allen or not. What I do see are three staffers assaulting this protestor. This protestor asked a question to Allen of why did Allen spit on his wife. Talking Points Memo has been looking into this part of the story, regarding Allen's divorce to Anne Patrice Rubel in 1983. The records of Allen's divorce have been sealed. TPM Cafe reports that a summons or an arrest warrant was issued to a George Felix Allen by the Albemarle Circuit Court back in 1974. TPM Cafe obtained photos of the arrest warrant log entries through Daily Kos poster CrellMoset. There is no way to know if this "George Felix Allen" is the same Senator Allen of today. All other court records regarding this particular case--which is registered as Case No. 7516K--have been destroyed ten years ago by statute. TPM does say that Senator George Allen was attending the University of Virginia in 1974, located in Charlottsville, VA. Charlottsville is also a part of Albemarle County.

So what does this all mean? Someone named George Felix Allen was issued either a summons or an arrest warrant back in 1974 through the Albermarle County Court. We don't know what this was for. There are no further records.

But there is more here. According to a September 26, 2006 Washington Post article:

RICHMOND, Sept. 25 -- Virginia Sen. George Allen on Monday denied allegations by a college football teammate and another former acquaintance that the senator used a racial epithet to refer to blacks during and after his time at the University of Virginia in the early 1970s.

The accusations by R. Kendall Shelton, 53, a radiologist in North Carolina, and Christopher C. Taylor, 59, an anthropologist at the University of Alabama, reignited questions about Allen and race as he campaigns for reelection against Democrat James Webb.
Shelton said Allen frequently used the "N-word" to describe blacks and nicknamed him "Wizard" because of the similarity of his name to that of Robert Shelton, a former imperial wizard of the Alabama Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He also recounted an event from 1973 or 1974 in which he, Allen and a third friend, were hunting deer. After the deer was killed, Shelton said, Allen cut off the doe's head, asked for directions to the home of the nearest black person and shoved the head into that person's mailbox.

So even back in 1974, not only are there allegations of Allen using racial slurs, but there is this report of Allen cutting off a deer's head and stuffing into a mailbox of a black person's home. This incident could show that Allen has not only has a racial streak within him, but he could also have a violent streak--a violent streak that may have required the Albermarle County Court to issue an arrest warrant back in 1974? And if so, what could have caused this streak of violence?

Update: The Washington Post is now picking up this story:

Democratic activist who verbally confronted U.S. Sen. George Allen (R) at a campaign rally in Charlottesville today was shoved, put into a chokehold and thrown against a window by three men wearing Allen stickers, according to a widely disseminated video of the incident.

W. Michael Stark, who identified himself in an e-mail after the incident as a law student, yelled a question at Allen about whether he had ever spit on his first wife, an unsubstantiated charge that has been circulating on liberal blogs on the Internet. Allen supporters hauled him away from the senator as television cameras rolled.

"I demand that Senator Allen fire the staffers who beat up a constituent attempting to use his constitutional right to petition his government," Stark wrote in an e-mail. He did not answer his phone or return several messages.

Charlottesville Police Lt. Gary Pleasants said Stark reported the incident today and indicated he wanted to press assault charges against the men. Pleasants said police are investigating and trying to determine the names of the Allen staffers involved.

"We will find out who the people are, give him the information and he can go to the magistrate and try to obtain a warrant for them," Pleasants said.


Allen aides accused Democrats and the Webb campaign of orchestrating the event as a way of getting news organizations to write about the Internet rumor. "These are the typical Jim Webb tactics," said spokesman Dan Allen, no relation to the senator. "It was disappointing to see, and this certainly has no place in Virginia politics."

Kristian Denny Todd, a Webb spokesman, said Stark has no affiliation with the Webb campaign. "I have no idea who this guy is or what he was trying to accomplish," she said. "I saw the video and from what I saw, he was wrestled to the ground by a bunch of Allen supporters so that is not very nice behavior."

I figured it was a matter of time before the Charlottesville Police would get involved in investigating this incident--especially since there is a video of the assault. It also doesn't surprise me that the Allen campaign is trying to blame this incident on Democratic challenger Jim Webb--gee, is that the same Jim Webb tactic that caused George Allen to make the "Macaca" slur?

And all of this is coming out just one week before election....

Harris campaign going south

I found this off The Washington Post:

Katherine Harris, who is trying to become a U.S. senator, says she is writing a tell-all about the many people who have wronged her. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to: the Republican leaders who didn't want her to run, the press that has covered her troubled campaign, and the many staffers who have quit her employ, whom she accuses of colluding with her opponent.

She is vague about what, precisely, makes her a victim, but she says she has it all documented.

"I've been writing it all year," she says in that kittenish voice. She often smiles and cocks her head as if she's letting you in on a secret. "It's going to be a great book."

If it is, it may be one of very few things that go well for the two-term Republican congresswoman. Once beloved by the Republican leadership for her role in overseeing the 2000 recount that delivered the presidency to George Bush, Harris was snubbed by those old friends before the primary. Republican chieftains, considering her too polarizing to win a statewide race, tried to recruit others, and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) said publicly that she could not win. Fundraising has been poor. She has come under scrutiny for her role in a bribery scandal. She has caught flak for a series of bizarre statements, including a comment in August: "If you're not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin."


The way Harris sees it, a vast left- and right-wing conspiracy, encompassing both the "liberal media" and the Republican "elite," is attempting to keep her out of the Senate. She says anyone could see the way the panel of questioners coddled [Democratic candidate Bill] Nelson at their debate last week. Her voice gets all high and mocking as she imitates them.

To be honest, I think I would love to see a tell-all book by Katherine Harris about her inept Senate campaign. I'm sure she has plenty of dirt that she can pull out on not just her staffers, but also the Republican Party as well. She was the darling in the 2000 Florida election snafu for the Republican Party--now she is completely snubbed by that same Republican Party for being too controversial. And I would hope that as Harris publishes her tell-all book on the campaign trail, that we would also see some tell-all books from her campaign staffers. The details are just juicy:

Perhaps the worst blow to Harris's campaign has been the stories that have emerged from former staffers. They describe a Jekyll-and-Hyde candidate who can be seductively charming at one moment and pitch a temper tantrum the next, throwing a cellphone at a wall or a sheaf of papers at a campaign manager. Former chief adviser Ed Rollins, who managed Ronald Reagan's reelection to the White House in 1984, said working for Harris was like "being in insanity camp." He likened her staff to dogs that have been kicked.

Before he became the first of three campaign managers to quit, Jim Dornan programmed his cellphone to play the theme song from "The Exorcist" when Harris called.

Several of her former staffers say they would have kept silent about goings-on in the Harris campaign if Harris herself had not publicly criticized them after they left, accusing them of being bad at their jobs, of putting "knives in my back" and of working with the Nelson campaign. They describe her as a micromanager, unable to trust her staff, prone to tears and rages over tiny things. They say she would rewrite speeches and press releases over and over. She would get upset if an aide hadn't brought her the correct coffee order from Starbucks. Dornan, the former campaign manager, says Harris was so concerned that only the best photographs of her went up on the campaign Web site that she insisted on going through every picture.

"It would be weeks and weeks and weeks before we could put anything up on the Web site," he says.

Dornan says he once infuriated Harris right before an event by setting it up so she could make a grand entrance. Instead, she wanted to greet supporters at the door as they arrived.

"She just goes completely ballistic," Dornan recalls. He says she yelled at him for 10 minutes and accused him of ruining her life. "I literally held the phone away from my ear, and everybody within a six-foot circle of me could hear her screaming."

Harris's former staffers say they worried about her health, especially after the death of her father earlier this year and the news that she was implicated in a bribery scandal with a federal contractor named Mitchell Wade, who had pleaded guilty to bribing former congressman Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.). (Wade admitted funneling $32,000 in illegal donations to Harris, but Harris has said she didn't realize the contributions were illegal and ultimately gave the money to charity.)

They worried about her clothes -- suit jackets and sweaters that were too tight, skirts that were too short. Rollins says an aide was dispatched to take her shopping for more senatorial apparel.

They worried about what one former field coordinator called her sense of "religious mission." Two former staffers -- Rollins and another onetime campaign manager, Jamie Miller -- have said Harris told them that God wanted her to be a senator. Rollins adds, "She told me that she thought she could be the first woman president."

These would make great instruction books on how NOT to run a senate campaign.

U.S. drops bid over royalties from Chevron

Graphic showing how Chevron circumvents royalty payments to the federal government through selling natural gas to Dynegy. From New York Times.

This is off The New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 — The Interior Department has dropped claims that the Chevron Corporation systematically underpaid the government for natural gas produced in the Gulf of Mexico, a decision that could allow energy companies to avoid paying hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties.

The agency had ordered Chevron to pay $6 million in additional royalties but could have sought tens of millions more had it prevailed. The decision also sets a precedent that could make it easier for oil and gas companies to lower the value of what they pump each year from federal property and thus their payments to the government.

Interior officials said on Friday that they had no choice but to drop their order to Chevron because a department appeals board had ruled against auditors in a separate case.

How's that for a Halloween trick on the American taxpayer, while Chevron gets tens of millions in free royalties for a treat? It gets even scarier:

In a written statement, the department’s Minerals Management Service said it would have been useless to fight Chevron.

“It is not in the public interest to spend federal dollars pursuing claims that have little or no chance of success,” the agency said. “M.M.S. lost a contested and controversial issue” before the appeals board. “Had we simply wanted to capitulate to ‘big oil,’ the agency would not have issued the order in the first place.”


“The government is giving up without a fight,” said Richard T. Dorman, a lawyer representing private citizens suing Chevron over its federal royalty payments. “If this decision is left standing, it would result in the loss of tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of dollars in royalties owed by other companies.”


But the Bush administration has come under fire on Capitol Hill for its record on collecting payments. While the Interior Department has sweetened incentives for exploration and pushed to open wilderness areas for drilling, it has also cut back on full-scale audits of companies intended to make sure they are paying their full share.

BOO! Here is the real Halloween scare--the Bush administration has refused to even make sure that Big Oil is paying the U.S. government the royalties for pumping oil and natural gas on federal lands. The Bush administration is siding with Big Oil in giving away natural resources that is owned by the U.S. government. And the Bush administration even knows they are giving away these resources to Big Oil without payments. Continuing with the Times story:

Administration officials knew that dozens of companies had incorrectly claimed exemptions from royalties since 2003, but they waited until December 2005 to send letters demanding about $500 million in repayments.

In February, the Interior Department acknowledged that oil companies could escape more than $7 billion in payments because of mistakes in leases signed in the 1990s. Top officials are trying to renegotiate those deals, but some Republicans and Democrats have complained that the administration is dragging its feet.

In addition, four government auditors last month publicly accused the Interior Department of blocking their efforts to recover more than $30 million from the Shell Oil Corporation, the Kerr-McGee Corporation and other major companies.

“This latest revelation proves that the Bush administration is incapable of preventing big oil companies from cheating taxpayers,” said Representative Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, a senior Democrat on the House Committee on Resources. “The public has been systematically fleeced out of royalties that these companies owe for the privilege of drilling for oil and gas on lands belonging to all of us.”

Three separate instances of the Bush administration dragging its feet in collecting almost $8 billion in royalties from Big Oil companies—that is the Bush administration putting the interests of Big Oil above that of the whole country’s interest.

The real problem here is that the entire royalties’ process is secretive. According to the NY Times story, the Interior Department "does not announce that it is accusing companies of underpaying royalties nor does it announce its settlements in these disputes." In fact, the U.S. government does not even disclose how much money each company pays in royalties. This has introduced a form of cheating by the Big Oil and energy companies. In the Chevron case, Chevron sold its holdings in more than 50 processing plants to Dynegy, a natural gas company, in exchange for a 26 percent stake in Dynegy, in 1996. Companies, such as Chevron, are allowed to deduct processing costs--which involve separating water and liquid fuels such as propane and methane from natural gas--from their sales revenue when they calculate their royalty obligations. For the next seven years, Chevron sold all its domestic natural gas to Dynegy for processing. During that time, Chevron understated it natural gas sales to Dynegy, while also inflating the costs of processing the gas at Dynegy. This combination reduced the royalty obligations Chevron had to pay to the federal government. According to the Times:

From 2001 to 2003, after detailed audits of several Chevron leases, the Interior Department said the company was reducing its “sales value” by exaggerating processing costs at six of Dynegy’s many plants. At one plant, auditors estimated Chevron had claimed five times the actual costs.

At first glance, the suspected underpayments seemed trivial: about $6 million out of hundreds of millions in royalties. But the audits were limited to only a handful of plants. Had the Interior Department pressed its claims successfully, it could have recovered money tied to all the other plants, and for other years.

Chevron paid the $6 million but appealed. The file in that case now runs more than 900 pages, most of it still off-limits to the public.

Chevron’s ties with Dynegy also appeared to be closer than those between the other companies. Chevron described Dynegy as an affiliate in some reports to shareholders. Chevron was also Dynegy’s biggest supplier of raw natural gas, its biggest customer for gas processing and one of its biggest for processing byproducts like propane and methane.

There is so much more here. The state government of New Mexico sued Chevron over this same issue, forcing Chevron to pay $10.4 million in extra royalties without admitting wrongdoing. Private property owners in Oklahoma, who leased land to Chevron, also sued the company over this same issue, forcing Chevron to pay $60 million to settle out of court in 2005. This is a convoluted, systematic process by which Chevron is able to get away with avoiding royalty payments, in a system where all information regarding royalties is considered proprietary information by companies, and thus is secretive. And it is not just Chevron that is getting away with this. According to the Times:

John Bemis, the assistant commissioner for gas and minerals in New Mexico, said his state was challenging a growing number of such alliances. In addition to the $10.4 million royalty settlement with Chevron, New Mexico persuaded ConocoPhillips to settle a similar case in August for $9.5 million and is negotiating with BP in a third case.

Interior Department officials have shown little interest in evidence from either New Mexico’s experience or a current court fight with Chevron over federal royalties.

Trick or treat.


Have a fun night out Trick-Or-Treating--watch out for the rocks!

And hopefully the Great Pumpkin will select your pumpkin patch as the "most sincere."

Monday, October 30, 2006

Another milestone: 101 Americans died in Iraq for October

Well, we've got another milestone here to report. This is from MSNBC News:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The American death toll for October climbed past 100, a grim milestone reached as a top White House envoy turned up unexpectedly in Baghdad on Monday to smooth over a rough patch in U.S.-Iraqi ties. At least 80 people were killed across Iraq, 33 in a Sadr City bombing targeting workers.

A member of the 89th Military Police Brigade was killed in east Baghdad Monday, and a Marine died in fighting in insurgent infested Anbar province the day before, raising to 101 the number of U.S. service members killed in a bloody October, the fourth deadliest month of the war. At least 2,814 American forces have died since the war began.

So how is the Bush administration taking this new milestone? Well, here's what Dick Cheney had to say:

Cheney, who 17 months ago said the insurgency was in its last throes, said that "there's going to be probably a continued level of violence for some considerable period of time in Iraq." He said that unlike other wars, it was unlikely there would be some dramatic turning point that signals progress.

"There is progress," Cheney said. "It's just — you're not going to see the kind of thing ... a victory like Midway in World War II where we sank all the enemy carriers, or a surrender ceremony at the end of the war. It's the kind of thing where you have to keep grinding it out day after day after day. It's tough."

And here's what Senate Majority Leader John Boehner had to say:

"I think Donald Rumsfeld is the best thing that's happened to the Pentagon in 25 years," Boehner said. "This Pentagon and our military needs a transformation. And I think Donald Rumsfeld's the only man in America who knows where the bodies are buried at the Pentagon, has enough experience to help transform that institution."

Donald Rumsfeld hasn't said anything about the 101 American casualties, nor has President Bush. In fact, the entire Bush administration appears to be mum on this rather bad news story. President Bush is more interested in talking about tax cuts and gay marriage today, rather than Iraq. In fact, Iraq has become an albatross for the GOP election campaign. Public opinion polls are not only showing that Americans are turning against the U.S war in Iraq, but also that the war is dragging down President Bush's poll numbers. Is it no wonder that the Bush administration is turning back to the tired old Republican issues of tax cuts and gay marriage just eight days before the congressional midterm elections?

Cheney links rise in Iraq violence to U.S. election

Is it me, or is there a rise in the level of incompetence in our government? Check out what Vice President Dick Cheney if flapping his mouth over. From Yahoo News:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vice President Dick Cheney said on Monday insurgents had stepped up attacks in Iraq to try to sway next week's U.S. elections and they were constantly surfing the Web to keep tabs on American public opinion.

"Whether it's al Qaeda or the other elements that are active in Iraq, they are betting on the proposition they can break the will of the American people," Cheney told Fox News. ."..They're very sensitive to the fact that we've got an election scheduled."

Cheney said America's enemies in Iraq possessed the Internet savvy to monitor U.S. developments, helping them to time attacks aimed in part at influencing the elections. But he cited no evidence to back the theory.

If Vice President Cheney has no evidence to back this theory of al Qaida monitoring the U.S. elections and are using stepped up attacks in Iraq to sway those elections, then why is Cheney even bringing this subject up when he has no evidence? A week ago, Keith Olbermann gave a brilliant special commentary regarding the Bush administration's and the Republican Party's use of terror against the American people as a means to maintain their political power over next week's elections. Here is a part of that special commentary:

The dictionary definition of the word “terrorize” is simple and not open to misinterpretation:

“To fill or overpower with terror; terrify. To coerce by intimidation or fear.”

Note please, that the words “violence” and “death” are missing from that definition.

The key to terror, the key to terrorism, is not the act—but the fear of the act.


By this definition, the people who put these videos together—first the terrorists and then the administration—whose shared goal is to scare you into panicking instead of thinking—they are the ones terrorizing you.

By this definition, the leading terrorist group in this world right now is al Qaida.

But the leading terrorist group in this country right now is the Republican Party.


This administration has derived benefit and power from terrorizing the very people it claims to be protecting from terror.

It may be the oldest trick in the political book: scare people into believing they are in danger and that only you can save them.

In other words, Vice President Cheney is using terrorism against the American people so that the Republicans can maintain their control in Congress. Vice President Cheney is also a terrorist.

U.S. failed to track arms for Iraqi security forces

Talk about incompetence here. This is off The New York Times:

The American military has not properly tracked hundreds of thousands of weapons intended for Iraqi security forces and has failed to provide spare parts, maintenance personnel or even repair manuals for most of the weapons given to the Iraqis, a federal report released Sunday has concluded.

The report was undertaken at the request of Senator John W. Warner, the Virginia Republican who is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and who recently expressed an assessment far darker than the Bush administration’s on the situation in Iraq.

Mr. Warner sent his request in May to a federal oversight agency, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. He also asked the inspector general to examine whether Iraqi security forces were developing a logistics operation capable of sustaining the hundreds of thousands of troops and police officers the American military says it has trained.

The answers came Sunday from the inspector general’s office, which found major discrepancies in American military records on where thousands of 9-millimeter pistols and hundreds of assault rifles and other weapons have ended up. The American military did not even take the elementary step of recording the serial numbers of nearly half a million weapons provided to Iraqis, the inspector general found, making it impossible to track or identify any that might be in the wrong hands.

Exactly where untracked weapons could end up — and whether some have been used against American soldiers — were not examined in the report, although black-market arms dealers thrive on the streets of Baghdad, and official Iraq Army and police uniforms can easily be purchased as well, presumably because government shipments are intercepted or otherwise corrupted.

This is sheer incompetence here. The U.S. military did not even bother setting up a tracking system for a half million weapons' serial numbers--did the military not consider the possibility that these weapons would end up on the black market? Now we've got the possibility that these weapons are currently in the hands on the insurgents--who are killing American soldiers with weapons purchased by the American taxpayer.

But it gets better. Continuing with the Times story:

Because the inspector general is charged only with looking at weaponry financed directly by the American taxpayer, the total of lost weapons could end up being higher. The Government Accountability Office and the Pentagon inspector general are expected to look at weapons financed by all sources, including the Iraqi government.

The inspector general’s office, led by Stuart W. Bowen Jr., also a Republican, responded to Mr. Warner’s query about the Iraqi Army’s logistical capabilities with another report released at the same time, concluding that Iraqi security forces still depended heavily on the Americans for the operations that sustain a modern army: deliveries of fuel and ammunition, troop transport, health care and maintenance.

Mr. Bowen found that the American military was not able to say how many Iraqi logistics personnel it had trained — in this case because, the military told the inspector general, a computer network crash erased records. Those problems have occurred even though the United States has spent $133 million on the weapons program and $666 million on Iraqi logistics capabilities.

The report said that although the United States planned to scale back its support for logistics and maintenance for Iraqi security forces in 2007, it was unclear whether the Iraqi government had any intention of compensating by allocating sufficient money to the Ministries of Interior and Defense.

The inspector general only looked into the losses of weapons' shipments that were financed by the U.S. taxpayer--neither the inspector general, the Pentagon, nor the GAO even bothered looking into weapons shipments purchased by the Iraqi government. And because of this, the loss of weapons could be even higher. Second, we've got an Iraqi security force that is completely dependent upon the U.S. military's logistics program--in other words, the Iraqi logistics program is a complete joke. And the U.S. wants to reduce its support for logistics to the Iraqi security forces in 2007? It is no wonder that a half a million weapons disappeared. And the U.S. spent over a half billion dollars on the Iraqi logistics capabilities--what a waste of money.

So let's take a look at some of the weapons that were lost:

In its assessment of Iraqi weaponry, the inspector general concluded that of the 505,093 weapons that have been given to the Ministries of Interior and Defense over the last several years, serial numbers for only 12,128 were properly recorded. The weapons include rocket-propelled grenade launchers, assault rifles, machine guns, shotguns, semiautomatic pistols and sniper rifles.

Of those weapons, 370,000 were purchased with American taxpayer money under what is called the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund, or I.R.R.F., and therefore fell within the inspector general’s mandate.

Despite the potential risks from losing track of those weapons — involving 19 different contracts and 142 delivery orders — the United States recorded serial numbers for no more than a few thousand, the inspector general said.

There are standard regulations for registering military weaponry in that way, governed by the Department of Defense small-arms serialization program. The inspector general’s report said that when asked why so many weapons went to Iraq with no record of serial numbers, American military officials in Baghdad replied that they did not believe the regulations applied to them.

American military officials said they did not believe that the regulations for registering military weaponry for Iraqi security forces did not apply to them? I just don't have a comment for this type of stupidity within the American military.

Continuing on:

There were also significant discrepancies in the numbers of weapons purchased and those in Iraqi warehouses. While 176,866 semiautomatic pistols were purchased with American money, just 163,386 showed up in warehouses — meaning that more than 13,000 were unaccounted for. All 751 of the M1-F assault rifles sent to Iraq were missing, and nearly 100 MP-5 machine guns.

Well, you could say that the insurgents have some good tastes in their weaponry. The MP-5 is probably one of the best submachine guns in the world--widely used by government security and police forces. It is a fairly lightweight, compact machine gun. While its 9 x 19 mm Luger cartridges may not have the stopping power to pierce the modern U.S. body armor, it can certainly be a great terror weapon for the quick hit-and-run tactics the insurgents have been adopting.

The M1-F is a Bulgarian assault rifle, that can be manufactured for either a 5.56 Nato round, or a 7.62 Kalashnikov round (used in the AK-47). I don't know which type of ammunition these M1-F rifles were chambered for, but I'm certain the insurgents can find plenty of 5.56 and 7.62 ammunition in Iraq.

What a mess.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Let's all waterboard

I found this through both YouTube, and through The Dead Guy. And yes, it is wickedly funny--perfect for a weekend snark:

Friday, October 27, 2006

McCain: Send 20,000 more troops to Iraq

I found this small story through Yahoo News:

LANCASTER, N.H. - Republican Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record), a possible 2008 presidential candidate, said Friday the United States should send another 20,000 troops to Iraq.

A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain said increasing U.S. forces would require expanding the standing Army and Marine Corps — a step the Bush administration has resisted. He also reiterated his opposition to a hasty U.S. withdrawal.

"If we leave ... the fighting will evolve into chaos there," McCain told reporters after speaking at an event for local Republican candidates.

Reporters asked him to elaborate on his statement last week in Iowa that more combat troops are needed in Iraq to quell a "classic insurgency."

"Another 20,000 troops in Iraq, but that means expanding the Army and the Marine Corps," he said.

"It's not just a set number."

A former Navy pilot who was held prisoner in Vietnam, the Arizona senator argued that he has been saying for three years that more U.S. troops were needed in Iraq.

McCain's itinerary has included Iowa and New Hampshire, two early voting states in the presidential primary process.

I just have one question for you Senator--where are you going to find the 20,000 troops that we don't have to send to Iraq? You claim tht you want to expand the Army and Marine Corps--exactly how are you going to expand the number of troops? Are we talking a draft here?

Please explain yourself Senator?

Cheney's Remarks on Dunking Terrorism Suspects Fuels Debate

This is off The Washington Post:

Vice President Cheney said this week that dunking terrorism suspects in water during questioning was a "no-brainer," prompting complaints from human rights advocates that he was endorsing the use of a controversial technique known as waterboarding on prisoners held by the United States.

In an interview Tuesday with Scott Hennen, a conservative radio show host from Fargo, N.D., Cheney agreed with Hennen's assertion that "a dunk in water" may yield valuable intelligence from terrorism suspects. He also referred to information gleaned from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the captured architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but stopped short of explicitly saying what techniques were used.

"Would you agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?" Hennen asked.

"Well, it's a no-brainer for me," Cheney said, "but for a while there, I was criticized as being the vice president for torture. We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in."

Uh-oh! Looks like Cheney put his foot in his mouth. Dunking a terror suspect's head in the water is a "no-brainer" for getting valuable intelligence. But that's okay--a dunk in the water is not considered torture by Cheney.

However, Cheney's remark has certainly angered human rights activists. Amnesty International USA's Executive Director Larry Cox issued the following statement:

"What's really a no-brainer is that no U.S. official, much less a Vice President, should champion torture. Vice President Cheney's advocacy of water-boarding sets a new human rights low at a time when human rights is already scraping the bottom of the Bush administration barrel.

The U.S. Department of Defense specifically prohibited water- boarding in its newly issued Army Field Manual. U.S. Senators have stated clearly that water-boarding is unacceptable.

This administration aims at a radical break with our country's proud human rights tradition. The America we believe in does not torture people."

Human Rights Watch issued the following comment:

Cheney’s comments on the legality of waterboarding contradict the views of the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Defense Department, as well as fundamental principles of international law, and could come back to haunt the United States if not corrected by the Bush administration, Human Rights Watch warned.

“If Iran or Syria detained an American, Cheney is saying that it would be perfectly fine for them to hold that American’s head under water until he nearly drowns, if that’s what they think they need to do to save Iranian or Syrian lives,” said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.

These are the responses from two of the big human rights organizations. Cheney's comments have also been picked up in the blogosphere--Carpetbagger Report, Mahablog, The Democratic Daily, Talking Points Memo, and even The Huffington Post--just to name a few here.

With all this criticism coming up on Cheney's water-boarding comments, the Bush administration needed to go into campaign-spin mode. Continuing with the WaPost article:

Asked about Cheney's comments this morning, President Bush said: "This country doesn't torture. We're not going to torture. We will interrogate people we pick up off the battlefield to determine whether or not they've got information that'd be helpful to protect the country."

At the daily White House briefing, White House spokesman Tony Snow was peppered with questions about what Cheney thought the "dunk in the water" question meant and why, in turn, he considered the "dunk in the water" technique a "no brainer."

"Let me give you the no brainers here," Snow said. " . . . No brainer No. 1 is that we don't torture. No brainer No. 2: We don't break the law -- our own or international law. No brainer No. 3: the vice president doesn't give away questioning techniques. No. 4, the administration does believe in legal questioning techniques of known killers whose questioning can, in fact, be used to save American lives."

Snow said his understanding of Cheney's comments came from a conversation with the vice president's spokeswoman, Lee Anne McBride.

"The vice president says he was talking in general terms about a questioning program that is legal to save American lives," Snow said, "and he was not referring to waterboarding."

You've got to love the spin-mode here. President Bush just keeps denying that the United States does not torture--even after Cheney has said that it is a "no-brainer" for dunking suspects’ heads into water. Tony Snow goes down his own "no-brainer" list: We don't torture. We don't break international law. The vice president doesn't give away questioning techniques--wait a minute, didn't Vice President Cheney say it is a "no-brainer" to dunk suspected terrorists’ heads into water? Isn't that a questioning technique? And finally Snow concludes his "no-brainer" list with it is okay to use "legal" questioning techniques against terrorists if such techniques will save American lives. So does dunking a terrorist's head in the water amount to a legal questioning technique? The vice president believes so--it is a "no-brainer" to him. Of course, the Bush administration has "repeatedly declined to say which techniques they believe are permitted under the new [Anti-terrorism] law and have steadfastly declined to discuss methods used in the past." So even here the Bush administration is contradicting itself, where the President and Press Secretary Snow claims the U.S. doesn't torture, Vice President Cheney considers dunking a terrorist's head into water as a "no-brainer" for questioning and torture techniques, and yet the administration refuses to discuss whatever torture or questioning methods they are currently using, or have used in the past.

But it gets so much better here. Continuing again with the WaPost article:

Snow said his understanding of Cheney's comments came from a conversation with the vice president's spokeswoman, Lee Anne McBride.

"The vice president says he was talking in general terms about a questioning program that is legal to save American lives," Snow said, "and he was not referring to waterboarding."

"What could 'dunk in the water' refer to if not water boarding?" Snow was asked during the briefing.

" . . . I will let you draw your own conclusions," Snow said.

"I'm asking for an explanation about what 'dunk in the water' could mean," the reporter said.

"How about a dunk in the water?" Snow said.

"So 'dunk in the water' means what? -- we have a pool now at Guantanamo, and they go swimming?" the reporter said.

"Are you doing stand up [comedy]?" Snow said, to laughter in the briefing room.

In one sense, you just have to laugh at the absurdity of the Bush administration here. The president denies that the U.S. is torturing. The press secretary asks the reporters what they think torture means, and the vice president flaps his mouth, which gets the administration into trouble in the first place--with less than two weeks to go before the elections. I can't even get angry here because I'm watching a Bush White House that is staffed by clowns. The sad thing is that while these clowns are yucking it up, the waterboarding torture continues on in Gitmo, and other American-controlled prisons in Iraq and possibly Afghanistan.

It is a no-brainer all right.

Friday Fun Stuff--Rick Santorum Political Campaign Ad

I found this political ad through the Daily Kos, and I thought it was a very strange ad for Rick Santorum to be airing. Interestingly enough, Santorum represented the World Wrestling Federation as a lobbyist for the law firm of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart, arguing that " professional wrestling should be exempt from federal steroid regulations because it is not a sport." With Santorum trailing Democrat Bob Casey in the polls, it doesn't surprise me that Santorum's campaign staff would go back to some of Santorum's earlier work for political inspiration to entice Pennsylvanian voters to the polls.

So here is the Rick Santorum political wrestling ad via YouTube:

Thursday, October 26, 2006

CA governor's race--A choice between TweedleDum and TweedleDee

Who do I choose--Tweedledum or Tweedledee?

I've been meaning to write a post on California politics, but I've been stuck trying to figure out what I want to say here. Let's take the California governors race--it is a disaster! On the left side, we've got your consummate politician, State Treasurer Phil Angelides running on the Democratic ticket. On the right sidek, you've got The Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger running on the Republican ticket. And I feel like I'm stuck with a choice between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

So first let's get into this Los Angeles Times story:

MONTEREY — State Treasurer Phil Angelides has failed to narrow Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's double-digit lead in the contest for governor, and Californians are leaning toward approval of all but one of the $43 billion in bond measures on the state's Nov. 7 ballot, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The findings by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California came as Schwarzenegger campaigned for the bond issues in Monterey, the Santa Barbara area and San Pedro, while Angelides lashed out at the governor outside a fire station in Sacramento.


In the race for governor, the poll found Schwarzenegger leading Angelides by 48% to 30% — statistically unchanged from the institute's survey last month.

Angelides continues to suffer from lackluster support among Democrats despite his recent moves to spur enthusiasm among voters in his own party, according to the poll.

He has pledged to demand the return of California National Guard troops from the war in Iraq. He has hammered Schwarzenegger for supporting President Bush's reelection in 2004. And he has run a TV ad telling viewers he was inspired to enter politics by the drive to dump another Republican president, Richard Nixon.

Yet the poll found that just 57% of Democrats back Angelides. Even in the Bay Area, the state's most solidly Democratic stronghold, Schwarzenegger has pulled slightly ahead of his challenger.

This is a major problem that I have for supporting Angelides--I just don't care for the guy. When I look at Angelides and I see another Democratic politician here--Gray Davis. Gray Davis was also a consummate politician, who was certainly well qualified for the governorship. But the problem with Davis was that he was boring. Davis really had no vision for California. In fact, you could say that Gray Davis was a caretaker--not a leader. Now we come to Phil Angelides. Angelides is certainly intelligent, competent, and qualified for the California governor's mansion. But Angelides is also boring and uninspiring. I have not heard of anything in terms of a vision for California from the Angelides camp. The political commercials I've seen are mainly attack ads showing Schwarzenegger giving "George W. Bush" campaign rally speech in Ohio. But what is so funny is that I already know that Schwarzenegger is linked to George W. Bush--I don't need a political attack ad to remind me of that. So I'm still stuck as to deciding why I should cast my vote for Phil Angelides--and Phil Angelides hasn't given me a reason why I should vote for him.

Now we come to Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger. We do have the Governator's record to look at here. Schwarzenegger came into power here on a recall election which threw out Democratic governor Gray Davis in 2003. Schwarzenegger came into the Governator's mansion promising to sweep out the corruption of California politics; however he left his broom in LA. Schwarzenegger started pushing is big "special election" ballot initiatives designed to strip power away from both the Democratic Party and the Democratic-controlled legislature in favor of the Governor and the Republicans. Schwarzenegger's job approval ratings dropped down to 37 percent as he personally campaigned for the special election initiatives. In the end, the special election initiatives failed miserably. Since the, the Governator has moved towards the center. Schwarzenegger hired former Gray Davis aid Susan Kennedy to be his chief of staff. He has signed a $37 billion bond proposal for rebuilding California's infrastructure. Schwarzenegger signed a minimum wage bill which increased California's minimum wage to $8.00 an hour--even after he vetoed two previous minimum wage bills in 2004 and 2005.

So Schwarzenegger has learned one valuable lesson in politics--it does pay to compromise with a Democratic-controlled legislature for getting bills through for the good of the state. And I will admit that I do like divided government at times--when one political party controls the legislature and the other political party controls the executive office, then it becomes difficult for a single political party to stuff its own extreme political ideology down the other political party's throat. Divided government appears to work--unlike the current governmental disaster we have in Washington. Does that mean I want to vote for Schwarzenegger? Not really--I certainly can't forgive him for the mess he made with the special election initiatives. But if Schwarzenegger continues to govern from the center, and doesn't try to push any extreme right-wing crap on us, then I could begrudingly accept him for four years as a lame-duck governor--even if I refuse to vote for him.

So that is the situation that I'm stuck with--having to choose between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. I might have been interested in Steve Westly for governor, but Westly lost to Angelides in the California primary. So I'm stuck here.

Maybe I should just vote Green....

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

GOP retires ‘Playboy’ ad in Tennessee

I found this off MSNBC News:

The Republican National Committee said Wednesday it was taking off the air an attack ad that critics said was a racial slur against Democratic Tennessee Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr. (who is African-American), one day after the party’s chairman said he saw nothing wrong with it.

The ad - in which a young, white actress talks about meeting Ford, a 36-year-old bachelor who is black, “at the Playboy party” and invites him to “call me” - was denounced as a race-baiting tactic by the Ford campaign, the NAACP and Republican former Sen. Bill Cohen.

Bob Corker, Ford’s Republican opponent for the seat being vacated by Senate Republican leader Bill Frist, also called it “tacky” and asked that it be pulled.

Danny Diaz, a spokesman for the RNC, insisted that the ad, which RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman defended Tuesday in an interview on MSNBC-TV, wasn’t being “pulled.” He said the decision had nothing to do with the controversy; instead, the ad had simply “run its course.”

Officially, the ad was commissioned and paid for by the RNC’s independent expenditure unit, which isn’t allowed to coordinate or communicate with the national party or its candidates. That became a point of contention as Republicans fought among themselves over who was responsible for the spot.

Even though it included a disclaimer that said “the Republican National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising,” Mehlman maintained Tuesday that the RNC couldn’t do anything about it.

There has been quite a bit of controversy regarding Republican campaign ads in the Tennessee senate race. This particular ad was very glaring in that it portrayed Ford as a black playboy with naked white bimbo women lusting after him. Here is the ad via YouTube:

Of course Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman has defended this ad on MSNBC, saying:

Mehlman: I don’t have the authority to take it down or put it up. It’s what called an independent expenditure.

The way that process works under the campaign reform laws is I write a check to an independent individual. And that person’s responsible for spending money in certain states. Tennessee is one of them.

I’ll tell you this, though. After the comments by Mr. Corker and by former Senator Cohen, I looked at the ad. I don’t agree with that characterization of it. But it’s not an ad that I have authority over. I saw it for the first time the same time that they did.


Mehlman: I think that there is nothing more repugnant in our society than people who try to divide Americans along racial lines. And I would denounce any ad that I felt did.

I happen not to believe that ad does, but as I said before, I don’t have the legal authority to take the ad down. It’s an independent expenditure. I looked at it. I just disagree with what Mr. Shelton (director of the Washington Bureau of the NAACP) said about it.

The last thing Mehlman wants to do is pull this ad in the face of withering criticism against the Republican Party's showing of this ad in Tennessee. Mehlman knew that this ad was both racist and sexist. He knew that this ad would generate a huge amount of racial controversy. Mehlman knew that this ad was targeted towards lower educated, racist Republicans--even as he lied to Tim Russert on MSNBC. So the Republicans ran this ad over the past couple of days in Tennessee--just before the controversy started generating a nation-wide criticism against the Republicans. And now Ken Mehlman and the Republican Party is taking this ad off the air because the ad has "run its course."

But the Republican Party's race baiting still isn't finished in Tennessee. Now we have a new Republican Party radio ad attacking Harold Ford while African tom-tom drums play in the background. Here's the link to the radio ad via TPM.

What is even more amazing about this radio ad is that Republican Bob Corker doesn't feel it is racist, because he apparently approved the radio ad in the first place. But on CNN, Corker told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he couldn't get the "bimbo" ad pulled off the air. He claimed the same line of defense that RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman claimed--these ads were from "independent expenditure groups." Guess what--we've got a circular argument where both Corker and Mehlman claim they can't do anything about these ads being shown in Tennessee. Corker also claimed the ad was "tacky," but never admitted that the ad was racist. You can view the exchange here on Crooks and Liars. In a sense, Corker is trying to claim that he is a victim of the National Republican Party interfering with his own election by showing this "tacky" ad, for which he has no control over, but will benefit him if enough Tennessee Republicans vote for Corker because of Harold Ford's race. RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman is also trying to make himself and the Republican Party out as the victim here, saying that the Republican Party couldn't control these independent expenditure groups, or the bimbo ad they aired in Tennessee. You just have to marvel at the blame game here--even as Corker continues to air his racist radio ad with the African jungle drums.

CNN airs video of snipers targeting U.S. troops

I don't know how many people have seen this CNN video, but it should be shown again to show Americans just where this war in Iraq is heading. There are a number of conservative lawmakers who are claiming that this video should not have been shown--that we are giving aid to the terrorist's propaganda machine. I believe that it is a bunch of crap. The American people should see both sides of this story, so they can make their own judgements on this war itself. So, I am providing this You Tube link to the orginal CNN story here:

Stay the Course....

This is one wicked political ad:

This is how you expose the Republican Party lies. And you run this commercial again and again and again throughout the country.

White House Courts Conservative Base

This is from The Washington Post:

Beset by discouraging polls and division within ideological ranks, the White House is accelerating efforts to woo back disaffected conservatives and energize the Republican base in a reprise of a strategy that succeeded in the last two campaign cycles.


The message that Bush and others are sending to alienated supporters is that, no matter how upset they have been about various policies or political missteps over the past couple of years, life would be far worse under the Democrats. They name liberal lawmakers who would take charge of key committees and warn conservatives that taxes would go up and protection against terrorists would go down. And they cite, in particular, the confirmation of two conservative Supreme Court justices who might have been blocked by a Democratic Senate.

"The White House strategy is to remind us who would be in leadership in the House and Senate" if Democrats win, said Gary L. Bauer, president of a group called American Values and a Christian conservative who sends a daily e-mail to 100,000 supporters. "The idea is that that's going to be enough to get out most of this vote."

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and a close Rove associate, said the White House team is blanketing the conservative circuit. "They're out there, they're talking to people, they're at our meetings," he said. "This is a full-court press." Norquist dismissed conservatives who are threatening to stay home on Election Day: "They're not doing anything other than whining."

Gee--where have we seen this strategy before? Stop whining and vote Republican because if you think we're that bad, then just think how much worst it is going to be under the evil Democrats? It is the politics of fear and terrorism--brought to you by the Republican Party and the Bush White House.

But let's continue on with the WaPost story:

Some conservatives said it is too late. "They honestly need a baseball bat against the head," said Republican pollster Frank Luntz, who helped Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) take over Congress in the 1990s. "Because if they don't change the lexicon immediately, as bad as this election is going to be, they're going to lose the presidency in 2008. I've given up on 2006. They've already made so many mistakes, there's no way they can fix it in two weeks. But I'm worried now they're going to lose all the marbles."

The White House courtship of the right paid enormous dividends in the past, but this year it is complicated by a far more skeptical audience than in 2002 and 2004. Conservatives who were key to those victories have grown frustrated with the Bush policies on federal spending, immigration, Iraq and foreign affairs, and uncertain of his commitment to issues such as preventing legalized same-sex marriage. The Mark Foley page scandal did not help reassure "values voters," as strategists call them, nor did the publication of a book by former White House official David Kuo saying that Bush aides dismissed Christian conservatives as "nuts."

The entire Republican legislative agenda--both the Republican-controlled Congress and the Bush White House--has been a disaster for this country. No wonder the conservatives are whining and staying home. This Bush administration has become a whore for corporate tax breaks and Big Business consolodation of power, has become a whore for a greater share of the national wealth flowing up to the rich elites, has become a whore for the PNAC neocons who dream of a new century of American imperialism. These policies have enriched a select group of conservative elites at the expense of the entire nation. It is no wonder that the public opinion polls are showing a deteriorating slide of President Bush's job approval ratings and the Republican Congress' approval ratings. This country is on the wrong track.

And what is the Bush administration's response to all this? Will the Bush administration even consider readjusting their policies to reflect the will of the American people? Of course not. The Bush administration's response is more marketing spin. Consider this from the WaPost:

"This is going to be a very important part of the election," said White House political director Sara Taylor. "In a traditional midterm headwind, Republicans are going to have to make sure they turn out their base. In places where they do that, Republicans are going to win races they're supposed to win. In places where they don't do that, they're going to have a much harder time."

The White House has tried to rev up its base in various ways. Bush has given interviews to Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, the Wall Street Journal's Paul Gigot, and groups of conservative columnists and talk show hosts. Cheney appeared last week on Rush Limbaugh's radio show and yesterday gave an interview to conservative television and radio commentator Sean Hannity.

To maximize the blitz, the White House set up a tent on the North Lawn yesterday and let 42 radio hosts broadcast live during the day. Because it was on government property, "Radio Day" included outlets such as National Public Radio, but "it's mostly conservative talk," White House press secretary Tony Snow said. "This is a chance to talk to people and get heard," said Snow, a former talk show host who did more than 20 interviews yesterday and has also been dispatched to talk to conservative Web sites such as the Power Line blog.

Rove wandered into the tent with a piece of paper guiding him to a dozen interviews yesterday. Others on hand included Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, presidential counselor Dan Bartlett, White House homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend, and budget director Rob Portman.

More marketing spin! Let's set up a big tent for the conservative radio personalities to interview top Bush administration officials. That way the Bush White House can continue pushing out their stale talking points.

You have to admit that the Bush administration is consistent at marketing spin. It is about the only thing they could ever do--both good and bad.

Advertising Terrorism: Special Comment by Keith Olbermann

Keith Olbermann nails the Bush administration again with another Special Comment on Countdown with Keith Olbermann. This one is especially powerful because he clearly shows how this Republican administration under George Bush has terrorized the American people into voting for the Republican Party as the party to keep them safe from terrorism. In other words, the Republican Party uses fear and terrorism as a means to maintain power and win elections.

Before I get to Olbermann's Special Comment, I'd like to include the link to the Republican Party's website which shows this political campaign commercial.

And here is Olbermann's Special Comment:

Two weeks left before the midterm elections....

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Bush's new marketing tactic: Steer clear of "stay the course"

This is from The Washington Post:

President Bush and his aides are annoyed that people keep misinterpreting his Iraq policy as "stay the course." A complete distortion, they say. "That is not a stay-the-course policy," White House press secretary Tony Snow declared yesterday.

Where would anyone have gotten that idea? Well, maybe from Bush.

"We will stay the course. We will help this young Iraqi democracy succeed," he said in Salt Lake City in August.

"We will win in Iraq so long as we stay the course," he said in Milwaukee in July.

"I saw people wondering whether the United States would have the nerve to stay the course and help them succeed," he said after returning from Baghdad in June.

But the White House is cutting and running from "stay the course." A phrase meant to connote steely resolve instead has become a symbol for being out of touch and rigid in the face of a war that seems to grow worse by the week, Republican strategists say. Democrats have now turned "stay the course" into an attack line in campaign commercials, and the Bush team is busy explaining that "stay the course" does not actually mean stay the course.

Instead, they have been emphasizing in recent weeks how adaptable the president's Iraq policy actually is. Bush remains steadfast about remaining in Iraq, they say, but constantly shifts tactics and methods in response to an adjusting enemy. "What you have is not 'stay the course' but in fact a study in constant motion by the administration," Snow said yesterday.

You've got to love this political spin here. For almost four years, we've constantly heard from the Bush administration how we must "stay the course" in Iraq. We can't leave Iraq--can't pull out! When Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down. There have been so many different variations on the theme, but the overall message from the Bush White House has been the same--the United States will no adapt its war strategy in Iraq, or pull any troops out of Iraq. Stay the course has literally meant having the U.S. walk straight off a cliff.

Well, guess what? The Bush administration's war strategy in Iraq is not working. We've seen the NIE estimates which are clearly showing that the U.S. is losing the war in Iraq. We've seen the reconstruction blunders in Iraq. We've seen Republican cronyism when sending staff over to help rebuild Iraq's infrastructure. And finally, even the Iraqis want the U.S. to leave. But all of this is ignored by the Bush administration--we need to stay the course.

But "stay the course" has become a problem for the Bush administration. The Democrats have been using the phrase as a means to attack a static, stubborn, and losing strategy that the Bush administration adheres to. So now the Bush White House marketing staff is adapting the message--stay the course doesn't literally mean stay the course. It really means something like we'll shift our course and tactics to adjust to a shifting enemy's course and tactics. In other words, the Bush administration is trying to explain in this new series of marketing spin that they have always been willing to change the course of U.S. policy in Iraq on a tactical level while refusing to adapt the U.S. policy in Iraq on a strategic level. That is a huge difference here. The Democrats have been attacking the Bush administration's Iraq policy on a strategic level--what is our mission in Iraq? What are the criteria for success in our mission? How long will it take to complete our mission? What is the criteria for failing in this mission, and if we do fail in Iraq, then what are our options? Now look at Tony Snow's quote from yesterday: "What you have is not 'stay the course' but in fact a study in constant motion by the administration." A study in constant motion by the administration. Snow does not say that the Bush administration is not re-examining its entire Iraq policy, nor does Snow say that Bush administration is changing its course on a strategic level. What we are seeing is a Bush White House marketing spin on how the administration is "changing the course" through a tactical level, while ignoring the overall strategic problems of its Iraq policy. Look at this New York Times story where the top American general in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., is calling for an increase in American troop levels in Iraq. However Casey is also saying that no major tactical or strategic shifts will take place in Iraq--at least not until after the elections. So in effect, the Bush administration is still staying the course here.

We should understand what this tactic really is--just another crass Bush White House marketing tactic to deflect strong Democratic attacks against their Iraqi policy. But I will also say that I certainly find it interesting that they are making this marketing change just two weeks before the elections. The poll numbers are really showing America's shift against the war in Iraq. According to ABC News:

opposition to the war remains the prime issue driving congressional voter preference. And the war's critics include not just eight in 10 Democrats but 64 percent of independents, 40 percent of conservatives, 35 percent of evangelical white Protestants and a quarter of Republicans.

It matters: Among the four in 10 registered voters who favor the war in Iraq, 73 percent support the Republicans in their congressional districts. But many more, nearly six in 10, oppose the war, and 78 percent favor Democrats for the House.

That spells a continued, dramatic Democratic lead: Fifty-four percent of registered voters in this ABC News/Washington Post poll prefer the Democrats in their districts, 41 percent the Republicans. This is the highest level of Democratic preference we've seen in ABC/Post surveys this close to Election Day since 1984.

Among likely voters, the race is a nearly identical 55-41 percent.

The Bush administration's marketing strategy for "stay the course" has failed. It is time to change the course of Bush White House marketing strategy now. And as the Bush marketing strategy changes course, their static course in Iraq continues to fail them. According to U.S. News and World Report:

America's 43rd month in Iraq is turning out to be one of the deadlier ones yet for its men and women in uniform. Flag-draped coffins are quietly being sent home almost every day. October has been particularly brutal, with U.S. forces squeezed between a stubborn Sunni insurgency, volatile Shiite militias, and surging sectarian strife.

The numbers have been piling up-fast. More than 2,780 Americans have been killed in Iraq-and over 9,500 have been seriously injured. The small town of Salem, N.H., is among those mourning one of the 73 soldiers killed so far this month-Army Cpl. Nicholas Arvanitis. The 22-year-old paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division was fatally shot while on patrol in a city north of Baghdad.

I guess even when the Bush administration claims they are adapting their course in response to an adjusting enemy, they are still failing.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Independents Favor Democrats Over Republicans

Well, this is certainly not good for our Optimist-in-Chief. This is from The Washington Post:

Two weeks before midterm elections, Republicans are losing the battle for independent voters, who now strongly favor Democrats on the major issues facing the country and overwhelmingly prefer to see them take over the House in November, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Independents are poised to play a pivotal role in next month's elections because Democrats and Republicans are basically united behind candidates of their own parties. Ninety-five percent of Democrats say they will support Democratic candidates for the House while slightly fewer (88 percent) Republicans said they plan to vote for their party's candidates.

The independent voters surveyed said they plan to support Democratic candidates over Republicans by roughly 2-to-1 (59 percent to 31 percent), the largest margin in any Post-ABC News poll this year. Forty-five percent said it would be good if Democrats recapture the House majority while just 10 percent said it would not be. The rest said it would not matter.

The poll also found that independents are highly pessimistic because of the Iraq war and the overall state of the country. Just 23 percent said the country is heading in the right direction compared to 75 percent who say things have gotten off track. Only a quarter of independents approve of the job Congress has done this year and only a third believe the Iraq war has been worth fighting.

Independent voters may strongly favor Democrats, but their vote appears motivated more by dissatisfaction with Republicans than by enthusiasm for the opposition party. About half of those independents saying they plan to vote Democratic in their district said they were doing so primarily to vote against the Republican candidate rather than affirmatively for the Democratic candidate. Just 22 percent of independents voting for Democrats are doing so "very enthusiastically."

Overall, the poll showed that the political climate continues to favor Democrats. President Bush's approval rating among all Americans stood at 37 percent. Two weeks ago, he was at 39 percent, and in September at 42 percent. By more than 2-to-1, Americans disapprove of the way Congress has been doing its job.

The Republicans are in trouble here. They have created both a "culture of corruption" in Washington, and they have refused to provide any congressional oversight into these Republican scandals. The Republicans have continued to push their own extreme conservative political agenda, refusing to engage in true bipartisanship with the Democrats. Finally, the Republican-controlled Congress has played the role of a rubber-stamp Congress to the Bush administration, even refusing to provided oversight between the branches of government.

All of this has accumulated into a snowball effect against the Republicans. Their refusal to engage in any government oversight has certainly labeled the Republicans as the corrupt political party. The scandals are even going towards the heart of the Bush electorate--the Evangelicals--as David Kuo's book Tempting Faith describes how the Bush administration played politics with the Evangelicals to gain political campaign contributions and evangelical votes, but refused to even adequately fund the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. In other words, the Republican Party was conning the Evangelicals to provide money and votes to the Republicans, while providing nothing in return. By shunning the Democrats out of the congressional decision-making process, the Republicans have only themselves to blame for the disasters that plague our country--no matter how hard they try, the Republicans can't blame the Democrats for four years of Republican-controlled government blunders of Iraq, Katrina, health care, out-of-control government spending, Intelligence failures, lousy job market, and scandals. Not only can the Republicans not blame the Democrats for their own failures, but the extreme partisanship they've created in Washington has denied the Republicans of any bipartisan legislation they could have touted as accomplishments for the elections. The Republicans have no legislative accomplishments they can provide to either centrist Democratic or Independent voters. Even this partisan environment the Republicans have created for six years has denied the Republicans any chance of reaching out towards Democratic congressmen for bipartisanship. The Republican Party has created a rubber-stamp Congress for a unitary executive Bush presidency. Bipartisanship, according to the Republicans, also means that the Democrats should rubber-stamp whatever legislation the Republicans can force down the Democrats throats. This is another failure that is coming back to haunt the Republicans to court moderate in independent votes--if the Republicans are unwilling to compromise with the Democrats, they are certainly unwilling to compromise with moderates and independents.

So now we come to this political poll. The polarization has split the country between the two political parties, where each will vote for their own political party's candidates. The Republican Party has certainly alienated the more moderate members of their party with their extremist ideology, and perhaps the Republicans have even caused the Evangelicals to stay home from voting after the details were revealed in the release of Kuo's book Tempting Faith. This brings us back to the independent vote. What is left for the Republicans to sell to the independents to vote Republican? According to the WaPost:

Iraq is cited most frequently as the most important voting issue in the midterm elections. Two weeks ago, 26 percent of those surveyed cited the war as the single most important issue determining their vote in November, compared with 23 percent who cited the economy and 14 percent saying terrorism. In the new poll, 27 percent say Iraq but 19 percent mentioned the economy, with 14 percent saying terrorism.

Independents are almost as likely as Democrats to cite Iraq as the single most important issue in the campaign. Both are twice as likely as Republicans to single out the war when asked about the election's top issues.

Independents do not limit their criticism of the war to the president. Fifty-five percent of independents said congressional Republicans deserve a "great deal" or a "good amount" of the blame for problems there. Fewer (just 36 percent) give congressional Republicans credit for helping to prevent a terrorist attack against the United States since Sept. 11, 2001.

It all comes back to Iraq. Iraq is a huge disaster for the Republicans here. The Bush administration sold their invasion and occupation of Iraq on the threat of Iraq's possession of WMDs. The Bush administration marketed this invasion with cherry-picked intelligence supporting their war. The Bush administration failed to provide enough troops to occupy Iraq, and failed to develop an adequate reconstruction program to rebuild Iraq. Now the U.S. military is embroiled in low-tech insurgency in Iraq that they cannot win. Public opinion polls have shifted from American support of the war to American opposition to the war--and the Bush administration continues to promote their "stay-the-course" strategy. These continued Bush administration failures in Iraq are now translating into poll results against the Republican Party. And there is more according to the WaPost:

Voters also continue to trust Democrats more than Republicans to deal with the war, as well as the economy and ethics in government. On terrorism, the two parties are at parity.

But independents, the key swing voter group, strongly trust the Democrats on all of those issues by margins ranging from 14 percentage points on terrorism to 23 percentage points on Iraq and North Korea and 26 points on ethics in government.

The growing independent support for Democratic House candidates represents a significant shift in attitudes since the 2004 election, when the Democrats held only a narrow advantage. In winning his reelection, Bush and Kerry split the independent vote (49 Kerry-48 Bush) and in the vote for the House, independents divided 49-46 percent for Democratic candidates.

The Republican scare tactics of voting Republican because the Republicans are stronger on terrorism are no longer working. When the independents are trusting the Democrats more than the Republicans on issues of terrorism, Iraq, and North Korea, then the Republican Party has to promote even more outragious scare tactic ads such as this latest GOP ad?

Are independent Americans so gullible as to accept the premise of this latest Republican scare tactic ad? Even after being exposed to the overwhelming evidence of Republican corruption, crass partisanship, intelligence failures, and failures in Iraq, Bush administration lies, and GOP scandals?

Or is it that the Republican Party hopes to believe in such American gullibility?

Foley, Ney, and Cunningham all get to keep their congressional pensions.

I also found this off ABC News--The Blotter:

Former Congressman Mark Foley may have stepped down in disgrace, but he will be eligible for his congressional pension no matter what, even if he faces jail time, according to Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayer's Union, a non-partisan taxpayer advocacy group.

"We estimate $32,000 annually, and that would begin at age 62," Sepp said. "And the pension will grow as the cost of living rises."

Foley was earning $165,200 annually, the standard salary of a House member, up until he resigned on Sept. 29 after ABC News questioned him about sexually explicit Internet messages with former congressional pages.

In May of this year, the House proposed legislation taking pensions away from members convicted of bribery and corruption, but that bill has been stalled in "conference negotiations" before going to the Senate, meaning that two recently convicted congressmen, Congressman Bob Ney, who is still collecting his full salary, and former Congressman Randall "Duke" Cunningham, will also get their pensions "no matter what," according to Sepp.

Foley and Ney's service records are almost identical. Ney will start with $29,000 annually, slightly lower than Foley's because he is married. Both can opt for a reduced pension starting at 56, which means they can start collecting their checks in just four years.

Cunningham, who is 64 and now in prison for accepting bribes, immediately began collecting $64,000 annually when he stepped down in November of 2005, after racking up twenty years of service in the military and Congress.

The House Clerk's press office did not return calls for comment.

You have just got to love this--a sitting congressman can be convicted of bribery, corruption, and perhaps even rape. Yet that same convicted congressman will always get their pension, even as they screwed the American people during their years of public service.

Key staff members in Hastert's office expected to testify regarding Foley scandal

Well, it appears the House Ethics Committee is setting its sights on Hastert's office. Yes, we've got another exciting edition of Folye's Follies here. I found this off ABC News--The Blotter:

Top aides to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) are expected to testify this week in the House Ethics Committee investigation of the Foley page scandal.

Hastert may also appear, according to Chicago Sun-Times political reporter Lynn Sweet. Today Chief of Staff Scott Palmer entered the room to testify before the committee around 2p.m.

The investigation of how the Republican leadership handled the issue has provoked turmoil and finger-pointing in Hastert's office, congressional sources say.

Some of Hastert's principal aides have hired criminal defense lawyers to represent them during the investigation. Ted Van Der Meid, Hastert's chief in-house counsel, has retained Washington, D.C.-based attorney Lee Blalack, who also represents convicted former Congressman Duke Cunningham.

A key focus of the congressional investigation is the timing of when Hastert and his top staff first learned of Foley's problem behavior toward congressional pages.

The results of an internal review conducted by the speaker's office, released on Sept. 30, said Hastert's staff only learned of complaints about Foley in the fall of 2005 after a congressional page complained about inappropriate e-mails.

But former House Clerk Jeff Trandahl as well as Kirk Fordham, Foley's former chief of staff, have both told associates, and are believed to have testified before the House Ethics Committee, that top staff in Speaker Hastert's office were informed several years ago about Foley's inappropriate behavior toward congressional pages.

There are a couple things I find interesting with this story. The first is how the Ethics Committee is shifting its attention now towards Hastert's office just two weeks before the congressional midterms. So far, the committee is looking at Hastert's staff--both Palmer and possibly Van Der Meid for now. But it is going to be really big political news once Hastert is called in to testify before the Ethics Committee. That is certainly not good to have two weeks before the election.

The second thing I find interesting is that Hastert's staff members are hiring criminal defense lawyers to represent them during the investigation. Van Der Meid has just hired Lee Blalack, who has also just represented Duke Cunningham--that's comforting to know, considering how Cunningham was convicted of bribery. I just have to wonder what Van Der Meid knows about this Foley mess.

There is a truth somewhere in all these contradictory statements between Hastert, Reynolds, Shimkus, Alexander, and all the minor staff members of Fordham, Trandahl, Palmer, and possibly even Van Der Meid. The longer this thing stays in the news, the closer we are at getting towards the truth of this issue.

Bush administration rooting for North Korea nuclear test

This is just insane. I found this through Think Progress, then went back to the Washington Post story regarding Secretary of State Condi Rice's view that the North Korean nuclear test allowed China to engage in the debate and crisis. This little paragraph was buried deep in the WaPost story:

Before North Korea announced it had detonated a nuclear device, some senior officials even said they were quietly rooting for a test, believing that would finally clarify the debate within the administration.

This is just insane! Bush administration officials rooting for this North Korean nuclear test? This little paragraph brings up a whole host of questions regarding the Bush administration's policy on North Korea. What is the Bush administration's policy on North Korean nukes? From what I can gather, the administration has been extremely confrontational regarding North Korea, both in refusing to negotiate directly with the North Koreans and in pushing the idea of overthrowing the North Korean government. It is no wonder the North Koreans went ahead with their bomb production and the subsequently failed test. My second question would be where the division is within the Bush administration on this policy? Who sided with the neocon views of non-negotiating with the North Koreans, and who sided with a more moderating stance--perhaps similar to the Clinton administration's approach toward the North Koreans? And finally, who exactly were rooting for these North Korean tests? I'd be curious to hear the names of these senior administration officials rooting for North Korean nukes.

But there is more here. This little paragraph shows the complete failure of the Bush administration's policy on North Korea. The Bush administration rejected any sort of negotiations with North Korea, rejected the Clinton administration's Agreed Framework program, for a fantasy idea of isolating North Korea and hopefully prompting an overthrow of Kim Jong II. The Bush administration decided to invade Iraq on the premise of fantasy Iraqi WMDs, while ignoring the real threat of North Korean WMDs. In a sense this little paragraph shows a complete division within the Bush administration between officials who may have wanted to embark on a policy of real politics with North Korea to obtain measurable results in limiting North Korea's nuclear ambitions, and the neocons who dreamed an ideology of extreme American imperialism. This debate between the real politics and ideologues never went away.

Battle for House GOP seats widens

I found this off The Los Angeles Times:

A growing number of GOP incumbents in seats once considered "safe" — including Melissa A. Hart in Pennsylvania, Ron Lewis in Kentucky, Richard W. Pombo in Tracy, Calif., and Gutknecht here — are struggling this month against a powerful current of discontent with the nation's direction, the performance of Congress and President Bush, and the war in Iraq.

Republican seats at risk have nearly tripled since January, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. Then, 18 GOP seats were endangered; now, 48 are considered in play.

"The battleground is way broader than anyone thought was possible," said Eli Pariser, executive director of the political action committee associated with the liberal group MoveOn.org.

To take back the House, which they lost in 1994, Democrats need a net gain of 15 seats — something they could do, perhaps, without capturing any of these newly competitive seats. But Democratic strategists believe that if the party can break into this second tier of Republican-leaning districts, they could greatly increase their odds of building a majority large enough to survive for longer than two years.

In a measure of the party's growing optimism, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee plans to announce Tuesday that it will begin airing advertisements in 11 new districts, including eight the party had not considered competitive until recently, party sources say.

Now I do find this story interesting, when comparing it to my previous post showing Bush as the Optimist-in-Chief. There is a huge contradiction here. First there is the LA Times story showing that 48 GOP seats are considered in play for the elections. We've seen the political polls showing that 16 percent of Americans approve the job Congress is doing. And we've seen the New York Times story showing Bush as optimistic in the Republicans maintaining control of Congress. President Bush's optimism regarding the Republican's ability to maintain control of Congress doesn't support either the poll results or the current political situation that the Republicans are finding themselves in. Are we looking at a Bush White House existing in a fantasy world, or does Karl Rove still have an "October Surprise" up his political sleeve?