Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Walter Reed's commander knew of the neglect for years

This is off The Washington Post:

Top officials at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, including the Army's surgeon general, have heard complaints about outpatient neglect from family members, veterans groups and members of Congress for more than three years.

A procession of Pentagon and Walter Reed officials expressed surprise last week about the living conditions and bureaucratic nightmares faced by wounded soldiers staying at the D.C. medical facility. But as far back as 2003, the commander of Walter Reed, Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, who is now the Army's top medical officer, was told that soldiers who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan were languishing and lost on the grounds, according to interviews.

Steve Robinson, director of veterans affairs at Veterans for America, said he ran into Kiley in the foyer of the command headquarters at Walter Reed shortly after the Iraq war began and told him that "there are people in the barracks who are drinking themselves to death and people who are sharing drugs and people not getting the care they need."

"I met guys who weren't going to appointments because the hospital didn't even know they were there," Robinson said. Kiley told him to speak to a sergeant major, a top enlisted officer.

So apparently Kiley was told of the neglected veterans who were involved in drinking, sharing drugs, and not getting the care they needed at Walter Reed. Kiley was the commander of Walter Reed at that time. Does he investigate these allegations? No. Does he assign an Army officer to talk with Robinson, and look into these allegations? No--Kiley brushes Robinson away with an excuse of just go tell the sergeant major about this, and let this mess languish in the Army bureaucracy.

But it gets so much better. According to the WaPost:

Kiley lives across the street from Building 18. From his quarters, he can see the scrappy building and busy traffic the soldiers must cross to get to the 113-acre post. At a news conference last week, Kiley, who declined several requests for interviews for this article, said that the problems of Building 18 "weren't serious and there weren't a lot of them." He also said they were not "emblematic of a process of Walter Reed that has abandoned soldiers and their families."

Kiley lives across the street from Building 18. If Kiley was receiving reports of the deplorable conditions, then why didn't Kiley just walk across the street and see for himself what the conditions in Building 18 were like? Kiley claims that the conditions in Building 18 "weren't serious and there weren't a lot of them." Did Kiley even bother to go into the building and see for himself? Let's go back to the original WaPost story that broke the Walter Reed scandal:

Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan's room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses.

This is the world of Building 18, not the kind of place where Duncan expected to recover when he was evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center from Iraq last February with a broken neck and a shredded left ear, nearly dead from blood loss. But the old lodge, just outside the gates of the hospital and five miles up the road from the White House, has housed hundreds of maimed soldiers recuperating from injuries suffered in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And let's not forget this picture here from the WaPost photo essay:

Army Specialist Jeremy Duncan lives in Building 18, where the wall of his room is covered in black mold. The combat engineer was evacuated to Walter Reed from Iraq in February 2006 with a broken neck and a shredded left ear. He nearly dead from blood loss. Michel du Cille - The Washington Post.

All Kiley had to do was to walk across the street from his house, and see for himself what the conditions were at Building 18. I'm guessing that either A) Kiley never bothered looking at the conditions at Building 18, or B) Kiley doesn't support the troops. Continuing with the main WaPost story:

But according to interviews, Kiley, his successive commanders at Walter Reed and various top noncommissioned officers in charge of soldiers' lives have heard a stream of complaints about outpatient treatment over the past several years. The complaints have surfaced at town hall meetings for staff and soldiers, at commanders' "sensing sessions" in which soldiers or officers are encouraged to speak freely, and in several inspector general's reports detailing building conditions, safety issues and other matters.

In 2004, Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) and his wife stopped visiting the wounded at Walter Reed out of frustration. Young said he voiced concerns to commanders over troubling incidents he witnessed but was rebuffed or ignored. "When Bev or I would bring problems to the attention of authorities of Walter Reed, we were made to feel very uncomfortable," said Young, who began visiting the wounded recuperating at other facilities.

Beverly Young said she complained to Kiley several times. She once visited a soldier who was lying in urine on his mattress pad in the hospital. When a nurse ignored her, Young said, "I went flying down to Kevin Kiley's office again, and got nowhere. He has skirted this stuff for five years and blamed everyone else."

The wife of a congressman complains to Kiley about a soldier who was lying in urine on his mattress pad. When she complains to the nurse, the nurse ignores here. When she complains to Kiley's office, Kiley office--and subsequently Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley--ignores her. I'm even surprised that this Republican congressman, Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.), knew about the deplorable conditions at Walter Reed, and never bothered to do anything about it. Young claims he reported these conditions to the commanders of Walter Reed, and perhaps to Kiley himself, but leaves the situation at that--Young never bothers to report this problem to the press. Then again, the last thing that a Republican congressman would want to do is to damage his political party in both the Congress and the White House with this deplorable scandal, while the country is involved in an unpopular war, and the Bush administration is demanding that the American public supports the troops by re-electing Republicans into Congress during the 2006 midterm elections--remember, the Democrats support the al Qaeda terrorists because they want to lose the Iraq war. The Democrats don't support the troops!

I don't know what else to say about this scandal? The shock, horror, and disgust about how both the Army, and the Republican leaders in both Congress and the Bush administration have treated these wounded vets from Iraq and Afghanistan like so much garbage. It is incredible.

The more these revelations come out, the more we need to end this war in Iraq.

WaPost: Fired U.S. Attorney Says Lawmakers Pressured Him

I've been watching this latest Bush administration / U.S. attorney scandal being played out with a detached eye, wondering just how bad it can get. This whole mess started when the Bush administration decided to replace eight U.S. attorneys. Some of these attorney firings included U.S. attorney in San Diego,Carol Lam, who successfully prosecuted the Duke Cunningham corruption case. The Bush administration claimed that these attorneys were being pushed out due to poor performance reviews, however it has been revealed that the attorneys fired are now being replace by Bush loyalists. Yes, we've got another Bush scandal of politics over policy here.

Now let's go to the latest news on this scandal. Here's the latest Washington Post story on this scandal:

A political tempest over the mass firing of federal prosecutors escalated yesterday with allegations from the departing U.S. attorney in New Mexico, who said that two members of Congress attempted to pressure him to speed up a probe of Democrats just before the November elections.

David C. Iglesias, who left yesterday after more than five years in office, said he received the calls in October and believes that complaints from the lawmakers may have led the Justice Department to fire him late last year.

Iglesias also responded to allegations from Justice officials that he had performed poorly and was too often absent, citing positive job reviews and data showing increasing numbers of prosecutions. He also noted that he is required to serve 40 days a year in the Navy Reserve.

Iglesias declined to name the lawmakers who called him, but he said in an interview: "I didn't give them what they wanted. That was probably a political problem that caused them to go to the White House or whomever and complain that I wasn't a team player."

Iglesias's allegations were met with strong denials from the Justice Department yesterday but prompted the Democratic-controlled House and Senate judiciary committees to announce that they would issue subpoenas for testimony from Iglesias and other fired prosecutors if necessary. Iglesias said he would not testify unless subpoenaed.

WOW! Two members of Congress requested that Iglesias speed up his own investigation of Democrats, obviously so that the probe could be publicized and the Democrats named in this investigation, and possibly arrested or subpoenaed, just before the November elections. I would love to know who those two members of Congress were, and where did they get their marching orders from for pressuring Iglesias into speeding up this probe? The WaPost has some interesting speculation here:

Spokesmen for Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) and the state's two Democratic lawmakers, Sen. Jeff Bingaman and Rep. Tom Udall, said the lawmakers and their staffs had no contact with Iglesias about the case. The offices of New Mexico's two other Republican lawmakers, Sen. Pete V. Domenici and Rep. Heather A. Wilson, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

So Republican Senator Pete Domenici and Republican Rep. Heather A. Wilson did not respond for comments on this story. Why? Did they have any contact with Iglesias? I would love to hear what their statements are, because right now they are both in the spotlight for pressuring Iglesias on this matter.

There is more in this WaPost story:

In briefings about the firings on Capitol Hill, Justice Department officials had said that Iglesias was the target of complaints from members of Congress, according to several sources familiar with the meetings, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss personnel issues. The Justice briefers did not specify the nature of those complaints, the sources said.

Iglesias was the target of complaints by members of Congress. Who were those members of Congress that made the complaints against Iglesias? Were they also Republican members of Congress? Did Domenici and Wilson register complaints against Iglesias, perhaps after Domenici and Wilson may have been the congress-members who were responsible for pressuring Iglesias in pushing his probe--since neither Domenici and Wilson have responded for repeated requests for comment by the WaPost for this story. The Republicans in Congress were certainly being investigated in a number of criminal and corruption investigations regarding Jack Abramoff, Bob Ney, Tom DeLay and the entire K Street money scandal? There is so much more in this WaPost story:

The charges by Iglesias added a new dimension to the ongoing controversy over the fired prosecutors, at least four of whom were presiding over major public-corruption probes. Although other fired prosecutors have publicly defended their records, they have never alleged that political pressure related to an ongoing criminal investigation played a role in their dismissals.

In addition to Iglesias's probe of Democrats, fired prosecutors in Arizona, Nevada and California were conducting corruption probes involving Republicans at the time of their dismissals.


In an interview Tuesday, Iglesias said the two lawmakers called him about a well-known criminal investigation involving a Democratic legislator. He declined to provide their party affiliation, but his comments indicated the callers were Republicans.

New Mexico media outlets reported last year that the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office in Albuquerque had opened a probe into allegations involving former Democratic state senator Manny Aragon and government construction projects in Bernalillo County. No charges have been filed in the case.

Iglesias said the lawmakers who called him seemed focused on whether charges would be filed before the November elections. He said the calls made him feel "pressured to hurry the subsequent cases and prosecutions" but said he did not receive similar contacts from anyone in the executive branch. He acknowledged he made a mistake by not reporting the calls to the Justice Department.

Referring to the calls, Iglesias said: "I suspect that was the reason I was asked to step down, but I don't know that I'll ever know."

Iglesias said other criticisms of his performance by the Justice Department "are demonstrably untrue statements." He added: "We all have a right to defend our honor. I felt like my honor and the honor of my office was attacked."

Iglesias produced statistics showing that his office's immigration prosecutions had risen more than 78 percent during his tenure and said the office prosecuted record numbers of narcotics and firearms cases as well.

Iglesias cited a January 2006 letter from Michael A. Battle -- the Justice official who fired him -- commending him for "exemplary leadership in the department's priority programs." A November 2005 evaluation obtained by The Washington Post also said Iglesias was "experienced in legal, management and community relations work and was respected by the judiciary, agencies and staff."

This was a political assassination by the Republicans, possibly even the Bush administration. Iglesias was doing his job, rooting out government corruption. He was investigating a state Democratic senator who may have been involved with some illegal government construction contracts. In October and November, the Republicans were embroiled in a number of scandals. The Mark Foley sex IM scandal broke out late September of 2006. On November 4, 2006, Evangelist Ted Haggard resigned after it was revealed that he had taken drugs and was having sex with a male prostitute. The Jack Abramoff scandal continued to make headlines with House representative Bob Ney resigning on November 3, 2006. And to top it off, we had Republican Senatorial candidate George Allen's campaign staff assault a protester, with the entire incident caught on video. We still had the disaster of the Iraq war, just hanging as a backdrop of gloom against both the Republican Party and the Bush White House. It is no wonder that the Republicans wanted to counter these scandals and disasters against their own party by publicizing some Democratic scandals, thus reinforcing the Republican claims that the Democrats are just as corrupted. But since Iglesias refused to play ball with the Republican Party, he was canned. And a Bush party loyalist will take his place.

McClatchy and Salon have more details regarding this story. More background information on this scandal can be found here, here, here, and here. There is so much more to come.

McCain will formally announce his presidential bid in April

The biggest non-secret announcement is finally out. Arizona Senator John McCain will formally announce his bid for the Republican nomination to the 2008 presidential election in April. This is off MSNBC:

WASHINGTON - Republican Sen. John McCain will officially enter the presidential race with a formal announcement in early April.

The Arizona senator disclosed the timing of the long-expected announcement in a taping for the "Late Show with David Letterman" on CBS. The segment was set to air Wednesday night.

"I am announcing that I will be a candidate for president of the United States," the senator told the talk show host.

There was no doubt that McCain would eventually become a full-fledged White House candidate, and he had been expected to make his candidacy official in the spring.

The 2006 midterm campaign had just ended when McCain took the first formal step toward a presidential run in November. He formed an exploratory committee and gave a speech casting himself as a "common sense conservative" in the vein of Ronald Reagan who could lead the party back to dominance after a dreadful election season.

As I've said, it was one of the biggest non-secrets here as to whether John McCain would run for president, or not--Of course he would run. He's been pandering to the Religious Right and the hard-lined conservatives since the end of the 2004 election. In my February 18, 2007 post, I've noted that the McCain campaign revamped their entire website, getting it ready to the point where McCain was ready to announce his candidacy. In that posting, I was expecting McCain to formally announce his candidacy in the next couple of weeks. I imagine the McCain campaign was getting a lot of buzz as to when McCain would announce--hence the McCain campaign's pre-announcement on the David Letterman show to quell all this buzz. It is all election PR here to generate headlines for the McCain campaign tomorrow, and then the formal announcement will also probably generate headlines for the McCain campaign in April.

The video of John McCain's pre-announcement on the Letterman show can be views on McCain's campaign website here.

Walter Reed patients punished by Army for talking to WaPost

I found this off both Americablog and Shakespeare's Sister, while the original source is The Army Times:

Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.

“Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media,” one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

It is unusual for soldiers to have daily inspections after Basic Training.

Soldiers say their sergeant major gathered troops at 6 p.m. Monday to tell them they must follow their chain of command when asking for help with their medical evaluation paperwork, or when they spot mold, mice or other problems in their quarters.

They were also told they would be moving out of Building 18 to Building 14 within the next couple of weeks. Building 14 is a barracks that houses the administrative offices for the Medical Hold Unit and was renovated in 2006. It’s also located on the Walter Reed Campus, where reporters must be escorted by public affairs personnel. Building 18 is located just off campus and is easy to access.

The Army got slammed by the Walter Reed patient's talking to the WaPost reporters about the crappy conditions they have received. This was a public relations nightmare that the Army did not want to have been made public. And now the Army has decided to punish these veterans--their patients--by imposing this Basic Training crap upon them.

This is how the Army supports the troops. Disgusting.

Stock market's rollercoaster ride

A look at the major stock indexes for the past two days. From the New York Times.

It is time now to look at the roller coaster ride over the past two days. Let's look at this ABC News story of the Dow's 416-point drop on Tuesday:

NEW YORK Feb 28, 2007 (AP)— Stocks had their worst day of trading since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks Tuesday, hurtling the Dow Jones industrials down more than 400 points on a worldwide tide of concern that the U.S. and Chinese economies are stumbling and that share prices have become overinflated.

The steepness of the market's drop, as well as its global breadth, signaled a possible correction after a long period of stable and steadily rising stock markets that had not been shaken by such a volatile day of trading in several years.

It began with a 9 percent slide in Chinese stocks Tuesday, which came a day after investors sent Shanghai's benchmark index to a record high close, setting the tone for U.S. trading. The Dow began the day falling sharply, and the decline accelerated throughout the course of the session before stocks took a huge plunge in late afternoon as computer-driven sell programs kicked in, and also as a computer glitch caused a delay in the recording of a large number of trades.

The Dow fell 546.20, or 4.3 percent, to 12,086.06 before recovering some ground in the last hour of trading to close down 416.02, or 3.29 percent, at 12,216.24, leaving it in negative territory for the year. Because the worst of the plunge took place after 2:30 p.m., the New York Stock Exchange's trading limits, designed to halt such precipitous moves, were not activated.

A display board at the New York Stock Exchange shows the Dow Jones Industrial Average down more than 415 points during the closing moments of the trading session in New York February 27, 2007. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

It was the Dow's worst point decline since Sept. 17, 2001, the first trading day after the terror attacks, when the blue chips fell 684.81, or 7.13 percent. In percentage terms, it was the biggest decline since March 24, 2003, when the index fell 3.6 percent as investors started getting rattled as U.S. casualties mounted in the early days after the invasion of Iraq.

The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 50.33, or 3.47 percent, Tuesday to 1,399.04, and the tech-dominated Nasdaq composite index was off 96.66, or 3.86 percent, at 2,407.86. Both indexes have also turned negative for the year.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies dropped 31.03, or 3.77 percent, to 792.66.

And today, the market's rebounded somewhat after yesterdays big sell-off. This is off Businessweek:

Stocks were modestly higher in heavy trading Wednesday afternoon, though well off their best levels of the session, after Tuesday's plunge in China's stock market sent U.S. indexes to their worst day in years. Shanghai rebounded overnight, but European bourses were lower and most Asian markets took a second straight tumble.

In afternoon trading Wednesday, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 35.49 points, or 0.29%, to 12,251.73. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index added 6.67 points, or 0.48%, to 1,405.71. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite gained 9.04 points, or 0.38%, to 2,416.9.

Market breadth was positive, with 21 stocks advancing for each 11 declining on the NYSE. Nasdaq breadth was 17-12 positive. Trading was heavy amid margin calls, notes Standard & Poor's MarketScope.


But upside may have been limited by some less-than-encouraging economic reports. U.S. fourth-quarter gross domestic product growth was revised down to 2.2% from the advance reading of 3.5%, for a third straight quarter below 3%. The headline number was "exactly as expected," says Action Economics.

Meanwhile, U.S. new home sales tumbled 16.6% in January to a 937,000 pace, the largest decline since 1994, from an upwardly revised 1.123 million in December.

The Chicago purchasing managers' index, a gauge of factory sentiment in the Midwest, eased to 47.9 in February, weaker than expected, from 48.8 in January.

So what happened here?

From what I can gather, this whole mess started in China where a government crackdown on "illegal share offerings and other banned activities" caused China's stock market to drop the most in 10 years. According to Bloomberg:

The Shanghai and Shenzhen 300 Index slid 250.18, or 9.2 percent, to 2457.49. The measure, which jumped 13 percent in the past six sessions, closed at a record yesterday.

Today's rout wiped out $107.8 billion from a stock market that doubled in the past year as 249 of the key index's 300 shares plunged by the 10 percent limit. The 300 index is valued at 38 times earnings, compared with 16 times for the Morgan Stanley Capital International Emerging Markets Index.

The State Council, China's highest ruling body, has approved a special task force to clamp down on illegal share offerings and other banned activities in the market, the government said. The group will provide advice on regulations and policy explanations of the securities market, according to a statement published Feb. 25 on the central government's Web site.

Banks in China are banned from lending money for stock investments. The regulator last month ordered banks to examine personal loans to prevent them being used to buy shares. The central bank carried out similar crackdowns on unauthorized margin trading in 1997 and 2001 after indexes surged.

The government must pay attention to ``bubbles'' in its stock market before they get out of hand, Cheng Siwei, vice chairman of the Nation's People Congress, wrote in a commentary published Feb. 6 in the Chinese-language Financial News. The Congress next convenes for an annual meeting on March 5.

China's economy has been growing spectacularly. The World Bank is estimating that China's growth will fall from 10.7 percent in 2006 to 9.5 percent for 2007. Even a 9.5 percent growth rate is still impressive. A lot of investment money has been flowing into China. According to a January 15, 2007 International Herald Tribune story:

Excluding the financial sector, foreign direct investment in China rebounded last year after a fall in 2005, the Commerce Ministry said Monday.

Not including banks, insurance and securities, foreign direct investment amounted to $63.02 billion in 2006 — a 4.47 percent rise over 2005, the ministry said on its Web site.

Including the financial sector, China drew $69.47 billion in foreign direct investment in 2006, down 4.06 percent from 2005.

But China reported cumulative nonfinancial foreign investment of $54.26 billion in the first 11 months, suggesting a December figure of about $8.76 billion.

China's economy has surged more than tenfold since foreign investments were allowed in 1980, with money pouring into factories on the east coast.

So is it no wonder that the Shanghai and Shenzhen 300 Index was valued at 38 times earnings, as the Bloomberg story reports? There was certainly some speculation going on, as investors were chasing after some big profits in a sizzling Chinese economy here. The China Securities Regulatory Commission decided to issue new regulations in the securities market, perhaps as a means to limit a potential Chinese stock market bubble. We had a little panic start up in the Chinese stock market, as these regulations were announced. The panic reverberated into both the European and U.S. markets.

There is more here to this story than just a Chinese government crackdown on illegal trading causing a world-wide panic. There is also still a weakness in the U.S. economy. U.S. economic growth slowed to a 2.2 percent annual rate during the last three months of 2006.

U.S. real economic growth slowed to 2.2 percent during the fourth quarter of 2006. Graphic by New York Times.

New home sales in the U.S. fell 16.6 percent--the most in 13 years, according to the Commerce Department.

New home sales plunge 16.6 percent. Graphic from New York Times.

And finally, the Commerce Department reported that new orders for durable goods plunged 7.8 percent in January. There is even talk that the U.S. manufacturing is now in a recession.

U.S. manufacturing orders for durable goods dropped by almost 8 percent in January 2007. Graphic by The New York Times.

And I haven't even talked about the problems with the U.S. budget, the rising war costs of Iraq, or the already $8 trillion in U.S. debt. These are all serious problems with the U.S. economy. This U.S. economy is not strong. If a speculative shock Chinese stock market can cause a major drop in stocks on Wall Street, what will happen when a serious economic crisis takes place within China?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Olbermann Special Commnet--Condi Rice's comparison of Iraq war with Hitler

I know that the Bush administration has been spending lots of "political capitol" comparing the Iraq war with the Second World War, and comparing Saddam Hussein to Adolf Hitler. Google "Saddam Hussein, Adolf Hitler," and you'll get over 945,000 hits. That analogy is not new.

But now here is where the analogy heads into the Twilight Zone. Secretary of State Condi Rice appeared on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, February 25, 2007, and made this whopper of a quote:

WALLACE: Let's turn to Iraq talking now about rewriting the 2002 congressional authorization for the use of force in Iraq.

Given that our mission there has changed so dramatically over the last four years, don't they have a point?

RICE: We don't need to do anything but to allow the commanders on the ground — General Petraeus, who's gone out there as the new commander — to pursue the course that he and other commanders have put together and have recommended to the president. That's what we need to concentrate on as a country.

I know it's extremely difficult. And yes, as the president has said, we've now overthrown Saddam Hussein. We are in a different situation, even, some would say, a different war. But the consolidation of a stable and democratic Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein is a part of what America owes to the Iraqi people, owes to the region and owes to ourselves so that our own security is there.

Chris, it would be like saying that after Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change, then, the resolution that allowed the United States to do that so that we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown. It's a part of a continuum of what we're trying to do in Iraq.

And here's the YouTube video of Rice's Hitler answer:

This is just wild! After Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change the resolution "so that we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe...." What Condi Rice is saying here is that the United States declared war on Adolf Hitler first, and once the U.S. had overthrown Hitler, Congress wanted to change the resolution that allowed for Hitler's defeat in order to deal with post-war Europe. That is the latest Bush administration's link between Saddam Hussein and Adolf Hitler, which is to argue against the Senate Democrats legislation overturning the 2002 resolution allowing Bush to go to war with Iraq. Dr. Condoleezza Rice made that statement. As Keith Olbermann says in his Special Comment, Dr. Rice should get an "F" in high school remedial history for making such a blundering statement. For the United States did not declare war on Germany first--it was Germany who declared war on the United States first, on December 11, 1941, just 4 days after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

There are so many more of Dr. Rice's blunders of comparing Saddam Hussein with Adolf Hitler, but I'll reserve those blunders for Keith Olbermann's Special Comment. The key item here to remember is that this Bush administration is trying to spin everything it can to keep this Iraq war dragging on until George Bush can leave office in 2009--and leave this stinking pile of manure for a supposed Democratic president to clean up, and take the blame for losing in Iraq. With the Senate Democrats now considering binding legislation to stop this Iraq war, the administration is waging a scorched earth battle just to delay any Democratic legislation, with teeth, from being passed until after Bush leaves office. Just about every analogy this administration has used to justify this Iraq war has failed. Now they have gone into the realm of fantasy in comparing a false analogy of this U.S. war in Iraq with a rewritten history of the U.S. entry into the Second World War, and even of the post-Second World War history. It is insane. And yet, this PR-spin was designed to rally whatever Republican base there is that still supports the Bush war in Iraq, and the president. This PR-spin was designed to salvage Bush's legacy.

So here is Keith Olbermann's Special Comment from Countdown. You can view the YouTube video here:

And here is the transcript of Olbermann's Special Comment:

On "Fox News Sunday" Feb. 25, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice paralleled World War II with the state of Iraq when discussing what would happen if Congress were to revise the Iraq authorization:

We already know about her suggestion that the president could just ignore whatever congressional Democrats do about Iraq.

Just ignore Congress.

We know how that game always turns out. Ask President Nixon. Ask President Andrew Johnson.

Or ask Vice President Dick Cheney, who utterly contradicted Secretary Rice on Monday when he warned President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan about what those mean congressional Democrats could do to his foreign aid.

All of this, par for the course.

But about what the secretary said regarding the prospect of Congress’ revising or repealing the 2002 authorization of the war in Iraq:

Here we go again! From springs spent trying to link Saddam Hussein to 9/11, to summers of cynically manipulated intelligence, through autumns of false patriotism, to winters of war, we have had more than four years of every cheap trick and every degree of calculated cynicism from this administration, filled with Three-Card Monte players.

But the longer Dr. Rice and these other pickpockets of a nation's goodness have walked among us, waving flags and slandering opponents and making true enemies — foreign and domestic — all hat and no cattle all the while, the overriding truth of their occupancy of our highest offices of state has only gradually become clear.

As they asked in that Avis commercial: "Ever get the feeling some people just stopped trying?"

Then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld thought he could equate those who doubted him with Nazi appeasers, without reminding anybody that the actual, historical Nazi appeasers in this country in the 1930s were the Republicans.

Vice President Cheney thought he could talk as if he and he alone knew the “truth” about Iraq and 9/11, without anyone ever noticing that even the rest of the administration officially disagreed with him.

The president really acted as if you could scare all of the people all of the time and not lose your soul — and your majority — as a result.

But Secretary of State Rice may have now taken the cake. On the Sunday morning interview show “Of Broken Record” on Fox, Dr. Rice spoke a paragraph, which if it had been included in a remedial history paper at the weakest high school in the nation would've gotten the writer an "F" — maybe an expulsion.

If Congress were now to revise the Iraq authorization, she said, out loud, with an adult present: "… it would be like saying that after Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change, then, the resolution that allowed the United States to do that, so that we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown."

The secretary's résumé reads that she has a master’s degree and a Ph.D in political science.

The interviewer should have demanded to see them, on the spot. Dr. Rice spoke 42 words. She may have made more mistakes in them than did the president in his State of the Union Address in 2003.

There is, obviously, no mistaking Saddam Hussein for a human being. But nor is there any mistaking him for Adolf Hitler.

Invoking the German dictator who subjugated Europe; who tried to exterminate the Jews; who sought to overtake the world is not just in the poorest of taste, but in its hyperbole, it insults not merely the victims of the Third Reich, but those in this country who fought it and defeated it.

Saddam Hussein was not Adolf Hitler. And George W. Bush is not Franklin D. Roosevelt — nor Dwight D. Eisenhower. He isn't even George H.W. Bush, who fought in that war.

However, even through the clouds of deliberately spread fear, and even under the weight of a thousand exaggerations of the five years past, one can just barely make out how a battle against international terrorism in 2007 could be compared — by some — to the Second World War.

The analogy is weak, and it instantly begs the question of why those of "The Greatest Generation" focused on Hitler and Hirohito, but our leaders seem to have ignored their vague parallels of today to instead concentrate on the Mussolinis of modern terrorism.

But in some, small, "You didn't fail, Junior, but you may need to go to summer school" kind of way, you can just make out that comparison.

But, Secretary Rice, overthrowing Saddam Hussein was akin to overthrowing Adolf Hitler? Are you kidding? Did you want to provoke the world's laughter?

And, please, Madame Secretary, if you are going to make that most implausible, subjective, dubious, ridiculous comparison; if you want to be as far off the mark about the Second World War as, say, the pathetic Holocaust-denier from Iran, Ahmadinejad — at least get the easily verifiable facts right: the facts whose home through history lies in your own department.

"The resolution that allowed the United States to" overthrow Hitler?

On the 11th of December, 1941, at 8 o'clock in the morning, two of Hitler's diplomats walked up to the State Department — your office, Secretary Rice -- and 90 minutes later they were handing a declaration of war to the chief of the department's European Division. The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor four days earlier, and the Germans simply piled on.

Your predecessors, Dr. Rice, didn't spend a year making up phony evidence and mistaking German balloon-inflating trucks for mobile germ warfare labs. They didn't pretend the world was ending because a tin-pot tyrant couldn't hand over the chemical weapons it turned out he'd destroyed a decade earlier. The Germans walked up to the front door of our State Department and said, "We're at war." It was in all the papers. And when that war ended, more than three horrible years later, our troops and the Russians were in Berlin. And we stayed, as an occupying force, well into the 1950s. As an occupying force, Madam Secretary!

If you want to compare what we did to Hitler and in Germany to what we did to Saddam and in Iraq, I'm afraid you're going to have to buy the whole analogy. We were an occupying force in Germany, Dr. Rice, and by your logic, we're now an occupying force in Iraq. And if that's the way you see it, you damn well better come out and tell the American people so. Save your breath telling it to the Iraqis — most of them already buy that part of the comparison.

“It would be like saying that after Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change then, the resolution that allowed the United States to do that, so that we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown."

We already have a subjectively false comparison between Hitler and Saddam. We already have a historically false comparison between Germany and Iraq. We already have blissful ignorance by our secretary of state about how this country got into the war against Hitler. But then there's this part about changing "the resolution" about Iraq; that it would be as ridiculous in the secretary's eyes as saying that after Hitler was defeated, we needed to go back to Congress to "deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown."

Oh, good grief, Secretary Rice, that's exactly what we did do! We went back to Congress to deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after Hitler was overthrown! It was called the Marshall Plan.


Gen. George Catlett Marshall!

Secretary of state!

The job you have now!


Twelve billion, 400 thousand dollars to stabilize all of Europe economically — to keep the next enemies of freedom, the Russians, out and democracy in! And how do you suppose that happened? The president of the United States went back to Congress and asked it for a new authorization and for the money. And do you have any idea, Madame Secretary, who opposed him when he did that? The Republicans!

"We've spent enough money in Europe," said Sen. Robert Taft of Ohio.

"We've spent enough of our resources," said former President Hoover.

It's time to pull out of there! As they stand up, we'll stand down!

This administration has long thought otherwise, but you can't cherry-pick life — whether life in 2007, or life in the history page marked 1945. You can't keep the facts that fit your prejudices and throw out the ones that destroy your theories. And if you're going to try to do that; if you still want to fool some people into thinking that Saddam was Hitler, and once we gave FDR that blank check in Germany he was no longer subject to the laws of Congress or gravity or physics, at least stop humiliating us.

Get your facts straight. Use the Google!

You've been on Fox News Sunday, Secretary Rice. The Fox network has got another show premiering Tuesday night. You could go on that one, too. It might be a better fit. It's called "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?"

Rock on Keith!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Cheney warns Musharraf to get tough in War on Terror--or else Democratic Congress will cut aid to Pakistan

Vice President Cheney’s trip was shrouded in secrecy, and he was on the ground for only a few hours, sharing a private lunch with Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan at his palace. Pakistan Press Information Dept., via Associated Press

Now this is a rather ironic story here from The New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 — Vice President Dick Cheney made an unannounced trip to Pakistan on Monday to deliver what officials in Washington described as an unusually tough message Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, warning him that the newly Democratic Congress could cut aid to his country unless his forces become far more aggressive in hunting down operatives with Al Qaeda.

Mr. Cheney’s trip was shrouded in secrecy, and he was on the ground for only a few hours, sharing a private lunch with the Pakistani leader at his palace. Notably, Mr. Cheney traveled with the deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Steve Kappes, an indication that the conversation with the Pakistani president likely included discussion of American intelligence agency contentions that Al Qaeda camps have been reconstituted along the border of Afghanistan.

The decision to send Mr. Cheney secretly to Pakistan came after the White House concluded that General Musharraf is failing to live up to commitments he made to Mr. Bush during a visit here in September. General Musharraf insisted then, both in private and public, that a peace deal he struck with tribal leaders in one of the country’s most lawless border areas would not diminish the hunt for the leaders of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Now, American intelligence officials have concluded that the terrorist infrastructure is being rebuilt, and that while Pakistan has attacked some camps, its overall effort has flagged.

So Dick Cheney took a secret trip to Pakistan in order to warn Musharraf to start getting tough on the Bush administration's Great War on Terror, otherwise them evil Democrats will cut U.S. military aid to Pakistan. Isn't this the same Dick Cheney who has compared House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's opposition to the Bush surge as helping al Qaeda terrorists? Is this the same Dick Cheney who has claimed that the Democrat's withdrawal or redeployment proposals actually "validates the terrorist strategy?" Is this the same Dick Cheney who suggested to American voters that if they elected John Kerry in the 2004 presidential elections, they would face another 9/11 terrorist attack in the United States? Is this the same Dick Cheney who accuses critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policy as aiding the terrorists? Well, now it appears that not only are the critics and the Democrats who oppose the Bush administration's Iraq policy are not only aiding al Qaeda terrorists, but now they want to cut U.S. aid to Pakistan because Musharraf isn't doing enough to fight against those al Qaeda terrorists. Mr. Vice President, if the Bush critics and congressional Democrats are terrorist sympathizers, as you have alluded to so many times before, then why would they want to cut military aid to Pakistan because of Musharraf's inability to remove al Qaeda's presence from Pakistan? If anything, these congressional Democrats/al Qaeda terrorist sympathizers should be happy with Musharraf's lack of progress in fighting the Great War on Terror. Al Qaeda is rebuilding its network inside Pakistan. The last thing that these congressional Democrats/al Qaeda terrorist sympathizers would want is to demand Musharraf to get tough on the Great War, or else the congressional Democrats/al Qaeda terrorist sympathizers will cut U.S. aid to Pakistan. Mr. Vice President, there is no logic to your arguments here. If anything, these congressional Democrats/al Qaeda terrorist sympathizers would want to tell Musharraf that Pakistan is doing a great job in fighting the Great War on Terror, and that we should be providing even more U.S. aid to Pakistan to help them in their fight.

I think I need to go play on my Sit-and-Spin now.

Levin: Republicans didn't investigate Walter Reed because they didn't want to embarass Bush

This comment is just amazing. Think Progress has Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) talk on Sunday's Meet The Press about why the Republican-controlled Congress didn't investigate the problems at Walter Reed since the U.S. invasion of Iraq because “they did not want to embarrass the President.” You can watch the video from Think Progress here. Here is the Meet The Press transcript of the show, and Levin's quote:

MR. RUSSERT: Before you go, you are chairman of the Armed Services Committee, as I mentioned. These are the headlines all week long about Walter Reed Hospital and the plight of young men and women, many of them amputees, who came home. Here’s the headline: “Soldiers Face Neglect, Frustration At Army’s Top Medical Facility.” “The Hotel Aftermath: Inside Mologne House,” “Survivors of War Wrestle With Military Bureaucr,acy and Personal Demons.” And then this cover of Newsweek, “Shattered in body and mind, too many veterans are facing poor care and red tape, why we’re failing our wounded.” “One reason to worry about a crush of new vets at the VA has to do with the proportion of wounded to dead Americans in Iraq. In Vietnam and Korea, about three Americans were wounded for every one who died. The ratio in World War II was nearly” 2-to-1. “In Iraq, 16 soldiers are wounded or get sick for every one who dies.” Could your committee have done more oversight with Walter Reed?

SEN. LEVIN: Sure. I think all—it was the lack of oversight here for the last many, many years, for a number of reasons. And by the way, I think, in part, it was because it was a Republican Congress and a Republican president that didn’t—they didn’t want to embarrass the president in a whole host of areas. But we have a responsibility, and the secretary of defense, I think, has accepted that responsibility. And I give him credit. He welcomed those headlines. He wasn’t defensive about it. He was disgusted, and he was absolutely upset, and he said that they are going to act, and that’s clearly overdue. Where we need a surge is not in Iraq, we need a surge of concern for our troops, for the veterans, for the injured, for the wounded, for the families of those who lost loved ones. That’s the surge of concern, and that’s the surge that we need. We’re going to have a hearing a week from Tuesday on the Walter Reed situation. We’re going to take all the steps that are needed. These young men and women deserve everything we can possibly give them.

Carl Levin is right. The Walter Reed Scandal is a complete embarrassment for the Bush administration. Right after the WaPost story came out, the Army responded by attacking the WaPost, claiming "it was a one-sided representation." White House press secretary Tony Snow first said that President Bush was aware of the conditions at Walter Reed before the WaPost story broke, before backtracking with claims that Bush wasn't aware of the conditions until after the WaPost story broke, and that the blame for this scandal should be directed towards the Pentagon. Check out this YouTube video on the Snowjob denying responsibility for Walter Reed:

It is just spin after spin after spin.

Update: The Senate will now conduct investigative hearings into the Walter Reed scandal. This is from TPM Muckraker:

Starting next week, the Senate wades into the muck at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The Senate Armed Services Committee announced today that next Tuesday, March 6, a host of responsible Defense officials will parade to the Dirksen building to try to explain how conditions at the Army's elite hospital complex deteriorated to the horrific conditions depicted in last week's depressing Washington Post series.

Perhaps the most anticipated testimony will come from the Army's surgeon general, Lt. General Kevin C. Kiley. The Pentagon reacted to the Post investigation with near-unanimous horror and regret -- Army Vice Chief of Staff General Richard Cody took personal responsibility in a Thursday press conference -- and vowed to get to the heart of the problem. Kiley has been the exception. While he hasn't challenged the facts that the paper reported, last week he attacked the expose as "one-sided" and assured reporters, "this is not a horrific, catastrophic failure at Walter Reed."

Defense Secretary Gates disagrees. On Friday, he declined to endorse Kiley's characterization, saying "I have not seen anything or heard anything in the time since (the stories ran) to lead me to believe that those articles were in any substantial way wrong." To get out in front of the scandal, Gates announced the creation of an internal investigation -- led by Clinton and Reagan defense officials -- into Walter Reed, the Bethesda Naval hospital and "any other centers they choose to examine." While he said he hadn't heard of any additional problems with veterans' outpatient services beyond Walter Reed, Gates emphasized that the Pentagon needs to understand "the scope of the problem."

It is going to be interesting to see the contradictions between what the Pentagon generals will be saying in the Senate verses the political PR-spin coming out of the Bush White House.

Sunday Times: US generals ‘will quit’ if Bush orders Iran attack

This is quite an interesting Sunday Times story:

SOME of America’s most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources.

Tension in the Gulf region has raised fears that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely before President George Bush leaves office. The Sunday Times has learnt that up to five generals and admirals are willing to resign rather than approve what they consider would be a reckless attack.

“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”

A British defence source confirmed that there were deep misgivings inside the Pentagon about a military strike. “All the generals are perfectly clear that they don’t have the military capacity to take Iran on in any meaningful fashion. Nobody wants to do it and it would be a matter of conscience for them.

“There are enough people who feel this would be an error of judgment too far for there to be resignations.”

A generals’ revolt on such a scale would be unprecedented. “American generals usually stay and fight until they get fired,” said a Pentagon source. Robert Gates, the defence secretary, has repeatedly warned against striking Iran and is believed to represent the view of his senior commanders.

The threat of a wave of resignations coincided with a warning by Vice-President Dick Cheney that all options, including military action, remained on the table. He was responding to a comment by Tony Blair that it would not “be right to take military action against Iran”.

I don't know how accurate this story is, however we've certainly seen plenty of stories coming out where top Pentagon generals and retired generals have criticized the Bush administration's war in Iraq. Now the PNAC neocons want to attack Iran. There is an insanity here within this Bush White House, where the president and Vice President Dick Cheney are so willing to drag this country down into a complete disaster for....what? Salvaging Bush's failed "legacy?" I'm not sure I can calculate the political consequences of five top generals and admirals quitting in protest of a Bush attack on Iran--not only would it be a huge news story here, but there would be an incredible outrage in Congress against the Bush White House. And I can't even say what the American publics' response would be.

Another monkey wrench to toss into this mess.

WaPost-ABC News Poll: More Americans trust Congress over Bush on Iraq

This is off The Washington Post:

Congressional Democrats still hold a sizable advantage over President Bush in whom the public trusts to handle the Iraq war, although the gap has narrowed somewhat since Bush's State of the Union speech, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

With Bush's approval ratings mired by the unpopular war, Americans trust congressional Democrats over Bush to handle the situation in Iraq by a margin of 54 percent to 34 percent. That is down from a 27-point gap before the president's address last month. Since that time, trust in the Democrats on the issue has slipped six points. That has not been matched by increasing confidence in Bush, but by a five-point rise in the number who trust neither the Democrats in Congress nor the president on the issue. There has also been an eight-point decline in the Democrats' advantage among independents.

Although trimmed, the Democrats maintain a substantial edge on the war in large measure because of Bush's low ratings on handling the situation in Iraq. Two-thirds of Americans disapprove of how the president is handling the Iraq war; 31 percent approve. And intensity continues to run against Bush on the issue: Fifty-five percent "strongly disapprove" of his work there, while only 17 percent "strongly approve" of it.

Bush's ratings on Iraq continue to be highly partisan. While two-thirds of Republicans approve of how Bush is handling the situation in Iraq, more than nine in 10 Democrats disapprove of the job he is doing there. Among independents, 31 percent approve and 68 percent disapprove. Intensity is also a factor here: Eighty-three percent of Democrats strongly disapprove of Bush's performance on the Iraq issue, while far fewer Republicans, 38 percent, strongly approve.

The war remains the biggest drag on the president's overall approval rating. In this poll, 36 percent approved of the way Bush is handling his job, while 62 percent disapproved. Bush's approval rating has increased marginally from five weeks ago, when it matched his career low of 33 percent.

The poll of 1,082 adults was conducted by telephone between Feb. 22 and 25 and has a margin of error of three percentage points.

First there is that six point drop on the trust of the Democrats over Bush. For the past couple of months, the Democrats have been trying to get a non-binding, no-teeth, resolution rebuking the Bush administration's troop surge in Iraq. They have failed in the Senate. And a good chunk of this failure can be attributed to the Republicans filibustering the Democrats on this issue. When the Democrats took control of Congress, there has been a lot of talk in the mainstream media at how the Democratic-controlled Congress will be a major check on the Bush administration's war in Iraq. This talk filtered down into the American publics' psyche--they thought that the Democrats could stop Bush. Apparently it is not as easy as all that punditry talk had said it would be. Hence, the six-point drop of Americans who trust the Democrats over Republicans, and the five-point increase in Americans who trust neither party.

It is now time for the Democrats to start introducing binding legislation into the debate. Senate Democrats have introduced legislation overturning the 2002 resolution allowing Bush to go to war in Iraq. And there is certainly legislation being developed to cap troops, begin withdrawals, and to adopt the Iraq Study Group recommendations. The Democrats are starting to turn up the heat here. The key here is to get these bills with teeth out into debate, introduce them into the American publics' debate, and pressure the Republicans into a poor choice of either supporting the president's, and the Republican Party's war, or supporting the American peoples' desire to get out of Iraq. We'll start seeing more legislation, with teeth, coming out over the course of this year. And the more this legislation, and debate, is brought up, the greater the pressure it will force upon the Republicans in Congress.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Political bloggers fear publicists will infiltrate their sites

I found this through Eschaton, but the original source is from

WASHINGTON -- Erick Erickson has been running the popular blog long enough to know what his readers' postings sound like: red-meat conservative rhetoric served up with a little dash of populist anger.

So when postings from an unknown writer on the site showed up praising Senator John McCain -- one of the site's least-popular Republicans for his deviations from hard-core conservative orthodoxy -- Erickson thought he smelled a rat.

Or maybe a sock puppet, shill, or a troll -- Web slang for bloggers who pretend to be grass-roots political commentators but instead are paid public relations agents.

The author of the pro-McCain articles on, Erickson determined after a Google search, was a Michigan political operative whose firm worked for McCain's political action committee.

With big corporations now hiring public relations firms to pay fake bloggers to plant favorable opinions of the businesses online, many political bloggers are concerned that candidates, too, will hire people to pretend to be grass-roots citizens expressing views.

"This is going to happen more and more, and blogs are going to have to be vigilant," Erickson said in an interview. "I expect there will be commenters jumping in and trying to build negative campaigns to cause scandal for the other side. That's my fear."

The Internet has already become a prime target for such manipulation. Tom Rosenstiel, the director of Project for Excellence in Journalism , said the growing influence of political blogs, combined with the relative ease of posting negative information anonymously, make them "irresistible for dirty tricks and attack politics."

"Candidates, history shows, will do anything they can to win. The only downside to a candidate is getting caught," he said. But the downside for blogs could be far greater, because the blogs' credibility rests on the idea that they represent unvarnished grass-roots opinion.

Public relations agents are attracted to the blogosphere because Web comments "can fly under the radar and have no fingerprints attached to them. They have the impression of being citizen-based and independent, and if the conditions are right, what's in the blogs can influence the mainstream press and have a real echo effect on a campaign dialogue," Rosenstiel said. "I think the impact is going to be that when the 2008 campaign is over, blogging may be damaged."

For now, bloggers must be their own police. Participating in online political discussions without disclosing financial ties to a candidate would violate the unwritten rules of the blogosphere, website operators said.

"Campaigns and organizations promote their candidates and efforts, obviously," Markos Moulitsas , the founder of , a prominent liberal blog, said in an e-mailed response. "If they do it openly, it's well accepted. If they use sock puppets ( create aliases to hide their identities), then it's a big deal."

Will publicists and political campaign bloggers try to hack into political blogs to plant their own favorable stories and commentary? Of course they will. The problem these bloggers are going to have is that they will be going up against the grass-roots enforcement of the blog readership itself. A good example of this is to look at the postings on The Daily Kos, and see how the Kos readership police their site from such troll attacks. The real danger here isn't the troll attacks on such political blogs. It is when paid political bloggers start placing fake stories and commentary, leading to the fake stories, attacking political candidates on opposing party blogsites. An example of this would be if a paid political blogger for a Republican candidate would place a fake story attacking the Democratic opponent on a large, conservative blogsite--and this can go the other way around where a paid political blogger for a Democratic candidate attacks the Republican opponent by placing stories on a large, liberal blogsite. These type of stories have a way of reverberating throughout the blogosphers, making it difficult to pinpoint where this story originated--especially if several paid political bloggers placed the same stories on multiple blogsites, and made multiple comments on these, and other, sites with links going back to the story. Here you are trying to incite the partisan anger of the blog readership into attacking the opposing political party candidate. We can see how partisan anger could be inflamed through the "swift-boating" of 2004 Democratic candidate John Kerry, the allegations of Illinois Senator Barack Obama attending an Islamic school, and even the controversial hiring non-firing, and the eventual resignation of the 2 bloggers on John Edwards' campaign. Now these particular examples were started by either conservative political organizations, Religious Right leaders, or even right-wing news organizations. But one thing is clear--they took on a life of their own within the blogosphere. So there are ways for political hacks and publicists to use the political blogs to push their own political agenda.

Senate Democrats stepping up the pressure on Iraq

This is off The New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 — Senior Senate Democrats, stepping up their confrontation with President Bush over Iraq policy, are preparing legislation that would limit the role of United States troops there to counterterrorism efforts and prohibit them from interceding in sectarian violence.

Senate officials said Thursday that the proposal now being drafted would be a new turn in their attempts to force the White House to halt its troop buildup in Baghdad. They described it as more substantive than the nonbinding resolution of opposition to the increase that stalled in the Senate last Saturday.

The officials would speak only if not identified because the central proposal was still being drafted and needs to be presented to all Senate Democrats when they return from a weeklong recess next Tuesday.

They said the proposal was intended to essentially overturn the 2002 resolution granting Mr. Bush the authority to remove Saddam Hussein from power, and limit the military to combating Al Qaeda in Iraq, keeping Iraq from becoming a haven for terrorists and training Iraqi forces. The proposal’s goal, officials said, would be to allow combat forces not engaged in those duties to be removed from Iraq next year.

The chief authors are Senators Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Carl Levin of Michigan, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. The plan is to try to attach the proposal to an antiterrorism bill the Senate expects to begin considering Tuesday.

Lawmakers and senior aides said that such a plan was unlikely to pass Congress, and even if it did, it would certainly be vetoed by President Bush. But Democrats say their intention is to keep pressure on both Mr. Bush and Congressional Republicans who are facing a public frustrated with the war. Democrats say that other Iraq proposals are likely to emerge as well.

A couple of comments here. First, there is no way for the Democrats to pass any resolution or bill to limit the Bush administration's troop surge, cap war funding, or initiate a troop withdrawal. The Senate is too closely divided between the Democrats and Republicans. Furthermore, any bill or resolution that even passes the Senate will certainly face a presidential veto. Bush will still get what he wants on Iraq for the next two years.

The key here is that the Senate Democrats are now defining the Republican position on Iraq. In drafting these resolutions and bills, they are forcing Senate Republicans to take a position of either supporting the Bush administration's policies on Iraq, or facing a possible voter wrath in November 2008. The Senate Democrats tried to push two non-binding resolutions through the Senate, but they were both blocked by Republican filibusters. This is not a failure of the Senate Democrats, but rather it is the result of Republican delaying tactics. Now the Democrats are going to start introducing legislation with some teeth in it. This new round of legislation is to overturn the 2002 resolution authorizing President Bush to use military force to depose Saddam Hussein. This resolution will not pass the Senate, but it will force Republicans to again choose sides between the president's war escalation--especially if Bush does decide to attack Iran--and the American publics desire to get out of Iraq. This is all about positioning for the 2008 elections.

The Washington Post has an interesting detail regarding this latest Democratic legislation:

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) began calling for a reauthorization of the war early last month and raised it again last week, during a gathering in the office of Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). Participants included Kerry, Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl M. Levin (Mich.), Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), Jack Reed (R.I.) and Russell Feingold (Wis.). Those Democratic senators have emerged as an unofficial war council representing the caucus's wide range of views.

"We gave the president that power to destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and, if necessary, to depose Saddam Hussein," Biden said of the 2002 resolution in a speech last week before the Brookings Institution. "The WMD was not there. Saddam Hussein is no longer there. The 2002 authorization is no longer relevant to the situation in Iraq."

Biden and Levin are drafting language to present to their colleagues when the Senate reconvenes on Tuesday, following a week-long recess.

The new framework would set a goal for withdrawing combat brigades by March 31, 2008, the same timetable established by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. Once the combat phase ends, troops would be restricted to assisting Iraqis with training, border security and counterterrorism.

The Senate Democrats are now adopting the Iraq Study Group proposals for withdrawing troops from Iraq. The American public has already shown that they support the Iraq Study Group's recommendations over that of President Bush. By linking this latest legislation with the Iraq Study Group recommendations, the Senate Democrats are again forcing the Republicans into a bad choice of either supporting President Bush's war escalation--and Bush's own snubbing of the ISG report--or supporting the will of the American people. This will all go into record, which can then be used against the Republicans in 2008.

The Democrats are doing what they have to do--hold the Republicans feet to the fire on Iraq and increase the pressure.

Vilsack drops out of the Democratic presidential race

Tom Vilsack, right, answered a question from George Stephanopoulos during a candidates forum in Nevada Wednesday. (Photo: Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press)

This is off CNN News:

DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) -- Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack said Friday he is dropping out of the 2008 Democratic race for president.

Vilsack's campaign lasted 15 weeks.

"The reality is that this process has become ... about money, a lot of money," the former two-term governor told reporters.

Vilsack, a harsh critic of the Iraq war, was considered a long shot for gaining the Democratic Party's nomination. He faced stiff competition, notably from Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois.

Vilsack opposed President Bush's plan to send more U.S. troops to Iraq, and said this week that Congress should immediately cut funding for the war, according to the Des Moines Register.

Speaking at the first issues forum of the 2008 Democratic presidential campaign, Vilsack said his rivals eventually will agree with his stance.

"As more and more of our young people die, as more helicopters are shot down ... I think more and more Americans are going to see the wisdom of this position," he told reporters after the forum. "And I will guarantee you, six months from now, virtually everybody on that stage today will be where I am today."

Vilsack proposes diverting the war funding to the development of alternative fuels.

Eight of the nine Democrats running for president participated in the Wednesday event in Carson City, Nevada, sponsored by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, an influential Democratic voting bloc.

Vilsack formally announced his presidential candidacy in November; his gubernatorial term ended in January.

So Vilsack has dropped out because he couldn't get enough money raised for his campaign. I guess this is going to be another money-raising, record-spending presidential election year that will make the 2004 presidential election look like a children's tea party.

Who is next on the drop-out list?

Friday Fun Stuff: Rats swarm KFC/Taco Bell in New York

In this image made from video rats move around inside a KFC-Taco Bell restaurant in Greenwich Village in New York, Friday, Feb. 23, 2007. (AP Photo/Rafael Garcia Jr. via APTN)

Okay, this is both incredible, and pretty sickening. Here is the story on CNN:

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Video of a dozen or more rats scurrying around a closed KFC/Taco Bell restaurant in New York City's Greenwich Village early Friday morning prompted shrieks from onlookers and fodder for the morning television talk shows.

The restaurant, on 6th Avenue near New York University, has been cited as recently as December for a number of health code violations, including evidence of rodents and live cockroaches.

KFC and Taco Bell is owned by Yum Brands (Charts) - a publicly held corporation based in Louisville, Ky.

The company said in a written statement that the restaurant was inspected as recently as Thursday and tried to address the problem by doing construction in the basement. Ironically, it said, that work may have temporarily worsened the infestation problem.

"This is completely unacceptable and is an absolute violation of our high standards," the company statement says. "We've talked with the franchisee, who is actively addressing this issue, as is evident by the preventative construction in the basement yesterday that temporarily escalated the situation.

"This store will remain closed until this issue is completely resolved. The health department inspected the restaurant yesterday and we will ask them to return when work is complete to give the restaurant a clean bill of health"

Most Taco Bell restaurants are owned by franchisees.

Public records indicate that the last listed owner on record for this franchise is Matthew Bernardo of Madison, Conn. Calls to Bernardo were not returned.

The same restaurant was cited for evidence of rodents several times in the past three years, among other violations. In its most recent inspection, the restaurant scored a 10 on the city Department of Health's inspection meter. A score of 28 or more indicates that the restaurant poses a public health hazard.

The restaurant's scores have improved from a 16 in 2004 and a 14 in March of 2006.

Still, the Department of Health has cited the restaurant for evidence of rodents and live rodents and insects in each of the past three years.

There are video links of the rats scurrying happily through the empty restaurant on MSNBC, and 2 videos from Yahoo News here and here.

Update: YouTube has got a number of video postings here:

Thursday, February 22, 2007

New poll claims American public wants to win the war in Iraq

Over at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall has a great analysis of a New York Post poll claiming that 57 percent of Americans want the United States to win the war. So lets get into this New York Post poll:

February 21, 2007 -- In a dramatic finding, a new poll shows a solid majority of Americans still wants to win the war in Iraq - and keep U.S. troops there until the Baghdad government can take over.

Strong majorities also say victory is vital to the War on Terror and that Americans should support President Bush even if they have concerns about the way the war is being handled, according to the survey conducted by Public Opinion Strategies.

The poll found that 57 percent of Americans supported "finishing the job in Iraq" - keeping U.S. troops there until the Iraqis can provide security on their own. Forty-one percent disagreed.

By 53 percent to 43 percent they also believe victory in Iraq over the insurgents is still possible.

Despite last November's electoral victories by anti-war Democrats, the survey found little support among voters for a quick pullout of U.S. forces.

Only 25 percent of those surveyed agreed with the statement, "I don't really care what happens in Iraq after the U.S. leaves, I just want the troops brought home." Seventy-four percent disagreed.

The survey was conducted before last week's House of Representatives resolution repudiating Bush's war policies.

It does seem ironic how this one poll contradicts the multitude of poll results that have come out showing the American public against the Bush administration's escalation of the war. The irony here is that this poll was created by a Republican polling firm, where the questions were designed to elicit the responses that the firm wanted to report. Talking Points Memo Greg Sargent has the story on this:

The poll -- which was done by the big GOP firm Public Opinion Strategies and ran under the glaring headline "America Says Lets Win War" -- is being promoted heavily by wingnut talk show hosts, bloggers and others. They are aggressively using it to pump up GOP morale and to undermine Dems' resolve in advance of a showdown between Congress and the White House. Rush Limbaugh said that it's going to "shock the Democrats," while PowerlineBlog's Paul Mirengoff sagely observed that it shows that "the Democrats' defeatist approach to Iraq may not be a winning political strategy." Some liberal bloggers have already started to debunk the poll -- don't miss Steve Benen's skillful skewering of the survey right here.

But guess what: I've just asked another Republican pollster who says he originally supported the war -- let me repeat that, a Republican pollster who says he supported the war -- to analyze the poll. His take? He basically says the poll's a crock. The pollster, David Johnson, the CEO of the GOP firm Strategic Vision, tells me that some of the key questions were leading and designed to elicit the answers they got. "This poll is not the quality we've come to expect from national polling firms," Johnson tells me.

In other words, this is a push poll.

Now Sargent goes into some very specific details on how this push poll was created, which includes critically examining the actual questions here. The question I'm asking here is why was this poll created?

The first, obvious answer to this question is that the poll was conducted by GOP polling firm Public Opinion Strategies. But there is more here. First, some background information. According to Raw Story, Public Opinion Strategies 'was responsible for the "Harry and Louise" ad in the early 90's that scuttled Clinton's health insurance proposals. In 2001, it was charged with violating Virginia's polling disclosure laws, and it has also been accused of using push polls to influence elections.' One possible example of Public Opinion Strategies using push polls to influence elections could be found in this Baltimore Examiner story, which showed Republican governor Robert Ehrlich tied with Democratic challenger Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, for the Maryland governor's race, at 41 percent each with 15 percent undecided. This was unusual, since statewide polls were showing O'Malley leading Ehrlich by around 11 percentage points. The election results show that O'Malley beat Ehrlich by 6.8 percentage points. What is even more interesting is that all the polling organizations showed O'Malley leading Ehrlich from April 2006 until Election day, with the exception of Public Opinion Strategies 41 percent tie. One more bit of information here. According to The Baltimore Examiner, "Ehrlich is known as a longtime client of Public Opinion Strategies...." More examples of Public Opinion Strategies use of push polling can be found here. It is interesting how Public Opinion Strategies was willing to publish both the national poll showing American support for President Bush's Iraq war, and the earlier Maryland governor's poll showing support for Republican governor Ehrlich--even as both Public Opinion Strategies' polls contradicted the numerous national polls results for both Bush and Ehrlich.

And that is exactly what they are doing. This entire Public Opinion Strategies poll, as published in The New York Post, was designed to provide some type of quantitative support for the Bush war in Iraq. Right after this poll was reported in the NY Post, it caught on in the right-wing blogosphere, and the right-wing propaganda machine. Among the right-wing blogs that picked up this story are Right Wing Nuthouse, Daily Pundit, Powerline, Q and O, Blue Crab Boulevard,, Free Republic, Sister Toldjah, The Mudville Gazette, and finally, The Drudge Report. This poll gives the right wing their own numbers to cite as evidence of support for the Bush administration's war in Iraq--and all the other polling data from the national polling organizations are wrong! It is why this poll was conducted by a Republican polling organization to prop up support for the conservatives on this war. Consider the Public Opinion Strategies' press release on this poll:

(Alexandria, VA) February 20 -- In the wake of the U.S. House of Representatives passing a resolution that amounts to a vote of no confidence in the Bush administration's policies in Iraq, a new national survey by Alexandria, VA-based Public Opinion Strategies (POS) shows the American people may have some different ideas from their elected leaders on this issue.

The survey was conducted nationwide February 5-7 among a bi-partisan, cross-section of 800 registered voters. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent. The survey was commissioned by The Moriah Group, a Chattanooga-based strategic communications and public affairs firm.

"The survey shows Americans want to win in Iraq, and that they understand Iraq is the central point in the war against terrorism and they can support a U.S. strategy aimed at achieving victory," said Neil Newhouse, a partner in POS. "The idea of pulling back from Iraq is not where the majority of Americans are."

The survey was conducted two and a half weeks ago, but it has only now been released after the Senate Republicans were able to block the Democrats vote on the non-binding resolution on Iraq. The timing on the publication of this poll result gives a PR-sense that the House Democrats are out-of-touch with the American people in passing these non-binding resolutions rebuking President Bush's troop surge, while showing that the Senate Republicans are protecting this country from a Democratic Party that is allied with the al Qaeda terrorists.

Also in the Public Opinion Strategies' press release:

"How Americans view the war does not line up with the partisan messages or actions coming out of Washington," said Davis Lundy, president of The Moriah Group. "There are still a majority of Americans out there who want to support the President and a focused effort to define and achieve victory."

It is rather ironic how Public Opinion Strategies is practically claiming how they are on the side of the American people, showing the out-of-touch, partisan, Washington establishment really what the American people want--support the president and achieve victory in Iraq! However, reports that the Public Opinion Strategies received over $1.54 million from 1/19/2005 to 9/30/2006 by the National Republican Congressional Committee for its 2006 election cycle. Public Opinion Strategies was ranked number 8 out of the top 50 companies that the NRCC paid expenditures out for the 2006 election cycle. So there is a serious PR-spin game going on here.

But it is not just a PR-spin game to attack the Democrats. This is a spin game to maintain conservative Republican support for this Bush war in Iraq. This Public Opinion Strategies poll was specifically designed to show American support for this Iraq war. Its questions and answers were easily debunked through Talking Points Memo, The Carpetbagger Report, No More Mr. Nice Blog, The Horses Mouth, and other liberal blogs. This poll was meant to convince conservatives to continue supporting President Bush's war, even as the disaster grows with the British troops now pulling out of Iraq. This Bush administration cannot afford to see its support with the conservative and Republicans erode further below the 30-35 percent mark that is reported in the national polls. It is a strategy to keep dissatisfied Republicans in line with the president. It is a strategy to keep this Republican Party from fracturing itself over this war in Iraq.

Update: After cross-posting this on The Daily Kos, Blue South provided a comment regarding the 2006 North Carolina's 8th Congressional District race between Republican congressman Robin Hayes, and Democratic challenger Larry Kissell. According to BlueNC, the Hayes campaign paid Public Opinion Strategies $500 for political services (If I'm reading this FEC form correctly. The BlueNC site also includes an interesting October 18, 2006 memorandum between Public Opinion Strategies Gene Ulm and Congressman Robin Hayes regarding a poll conducted by P.O.S for Hayes. In this memorandum, P.O.S reports that Hayes leads Kissell 49% to 33%, and that Kissell has a greater unfavorable rating than a favorable rating. BlueNC questions whether this was a push-poll, reporting that there is no methodology or questions released regarding this poll--only the results were published. BlueNC also notes that:

[All] of the four principals of POS who are listed at SourceWatch - Glenn Bolger, William D. McInturff, Neil S. Newhouse and Gene Ulm - have given generously to Republicans and a couple have given to TOMPAC, Together for Our Majority Political Action Committee. This is the leadership pack for embattled RNCC leader Tom Reynolds....

BlueNC reports that Reynolds has contributed to Hayes "to the tune of at least $30,000 over the last 3 cycles through his TOMPAC" committee. So there is a lot of back scratching going on between the Republicans and even P.O.S. A very interesting twist on this story.

Update 2: I went over to the Center for Public Integrity's site, and found that Robin Hayes paid Public Opinion Strategies $33,250 for "research" for the 2003-2004 campaign. The Center reports that Public Opinion Strategies received over $6.8 million for the 2003-2004 campaign. There is no information yet regarding the 2006 campaign. The Center also provides a profile of P.O.S. here. It is also an interesting connection showing the relationship between Public Opinion Strategies and the Republican Party.