Saturday, September 30, 2006

Boehner & Hastert knew about Foley IMs

The Foley scandal fallout is now starting to taint the House leadership. I saw this story off Americablog, traced it to Talking Points Memo, where the original source is The Washington Post:

The resignation [of Foley] rocked the Capitol, and especially Foley's GOP colleagues, as lawmakers were rushing to adjourn for at least six weeks. House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told The Washington Post last night that he had learned this spring of inappropriate "contact" between Foley and a 16-year-old page. Boehner said he then told House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). Boehner later contacted The Post and said he could not remember whether he talked to Hastert.

It was not immediately clear what actions Hastert took. His spokesman had said earlier that the speaker did not know of the sexually charged online exchanges between Foley and the boy.

This is just frickin' incredible! This scandal is breaking out fast and furious, tainting the entire House leadership. I know a lot of this information has already been reported on Kos and many of the other liberal and progressive blogs. This is obviously a CYA on the Republican Party’s part. However, I’m starting to wonder if this CYA is really a part of a Republican election-year strategy that was conceived back in 2005.

Boehner knew about Foley's online molestation for at least six months. Boehner would have told House Speaker Dennis Hastert about this almost immediately after he learned of this. Now Boehner is telling the WaPost that he doesn't remember when he told Hastert about Foley. It is certainly obvious that Hastert didn't do anything about Foley. This is about as crass of a CYA as you can expect from the Republican Party that is not willing to police its own party members.

Talking Points Memo has got a lot of information regarding this scandal. TPM found this Roll Call story where Chairman of the House Page Board, Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) actually interviewed Foley about some of the contacts with the page about a year ago. Shimkus informed Hastert's office, however the GOP says that Hastert himself was not informed. And what is more interesting, Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI),the only Democrat on this board, was never informed of this interview.

Here's the Roll Call story:

Ex-Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), who resigned Friday after reports of his improper communications with a former male House page were made public, was interviewed about some of those contacts by the chairman of the House Page Board and the then-Clerk of the House last year.


At least four Republican House Members, one senior GOP aide and a former top officer of the House were aware of the allegations about Foley that prompted the initial reporting regarding his e-mail contacts with a 16-year-old House page. They include: Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) and Reps. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) and John Shimkus (R-Ill.), as well as a senior aide to Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and former Clerk of the House Jeff Trandahl.

It is interesting how a lot of the top Republican leadership knew about Foley's allegations--now we have National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds in the loop on this. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) works on electing Republicans to the House of Representatives. Right now, the Republicans have a 30-seat majority in the House-—with 230 Republicans, 200 Democrats, and 1 Independent. If the Democrats can maintain control of their 200 seats, then they would need to take away 18 of the Republican House seats to become the majority party. I’m just giving an overview here—I don’t want to get into the nit-picking of the 2006 election-year strategies between the two political parties. And it will probably be difficult for the Democrats to take away 18 Republican House seats. But what I find interesting here is that NRCC Chairman Reynolds was informed of Folley’s allegations. It is Reynolds’ job to maintain Republican control of the House during the elections, and to work on expanding that control by electing more Republicans. Reynolds would have had to look at how a Foley sex scandal could damage the Republican Party’s election-year strategy, and the political consequences of not just Foley’s seat being lost to the Democrats, but the overall political damage towards maintaining the Republican majority of the House. If Reynolds was informed about Foley back in 2005, then the Republicans were worried about an election-year fallout from this scandal. Otherwise, why inform Reynolds in the first place?

The Republicans didn't want this scandal to break out. They wanted to keep this scandal contained within their own party. Had Shimkus informed Kildee of Foley's allegations, Kildee probably would have demanded a deeper investigation into Foley, which could have revealed the sexually-explicit IMs. Foley would have been forced out of the House back in 2005--just about the time when the Republican's "culture of corruption" with Tom Delay and Jack Abramoff were making big headline stories. The Republicans may have feared that if they informed Kildee, then the Democrats would have leaked this story to the press back in 2005--that certainly is possible. Then again, the press may have already known about these Foley allegations, but never reported on them because they were never verified. John Aravosis at Americablog claims he received copies of Foley's emails several months ago, but never reported the story because he could never verify them. The Republicans wanted to keep this scandal contained within their own party. Foley was a safe Republican congressional seat--a shoo-in for the midterm elections. The Republicans wanted to keep Foley in his safe seat, rather than risk this seat with a messy Republican primary scarred with a child molestation scandal--and you know the Democrats would have made this an issue in the race for Foley's seat. The Republicans thought that they could keep this scandal covered up until after the midterm elections--hang on to the Republican majority in Congress. If the scandal broke out after Foley's re-election and Foley resigned, then then Foley's seat would remain open until after a special election could be held in Florida--there is no temporary appointment for a vacant House seat. Thus, the status quo would remain regarding the party control of the House. This cover-up is about election-year strategy. And the Republican Party almost succeeded here.

And yet, the entire scandal blew up in the Republican Party's face. Foley's sexually explicit emails and IMs to the 16-year-old were revealed, and now the Republican cover-up of this scandal is breaking out--just six weeks before the midterm election. The Republican Party is trying to perform some political damage-control. According to the WaPost article:

But Forti said lawyers hope they can replace Foley's name on the ballot. At a minimum, he said, party officials can designate an alternate candidate who would be credited with all votes cast for Foley on Nov. 7. "It's a very Republican seat," Forti said, adding that Republicans "can move forward" when they have a new candidate.

Florida GOP Chairwoman Carole Jean Jordan said in a statement that executives from each county in Foley's district "will meet to choose a replacement on the ballot." Possible candidates include state Rep. Joe Negron, she said. The decision, she said, is "very time-sensitive" because the replacement "would have the opportunity to get around the district and campaign in a very short amount of time."

I'm not sure whether the Republicans can succeed in finding a replacement candidate for Foley's seat, have that replacement candidate's entire political campaign office and staff up and running, and get a political message out to the voters in less than six weeks--all while defending itself against Democrat Tim Mahoney's attacks. An even bigger question would be is there a credible Republican candidate willing to take on this task? The WaPost story tosses out state Rep. Joe Negron as a possible candidate. Is Joe Negron willing to take on this six-week political campaign? This is an almost impossible task for the Republicans.

We'll find out soon.

Update here: I found this tidbit of information off the Boston Herald:

The congressional sponsor of the page, Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., said he was asked by the youth's parents not to pursue the matter, so he dropped it.

Alexander said that before deciding to end his involvement, he [Alexander] passed on what he knew to the chairman of the House Republican campaign organization, Rep. Thomas Reynolds, R-N.Y. Reynolds' spokesman, Carl Forti, said "We are not characterizing conversations that Congressman Reynolds may have had or may not have had with other members of Congress on that subject."

So it was Rep. Alexander who informed Reynolds about the Foley sex scandal. When did Alexander give Reynolds this information--and more importantly why? I'm not sure where this information fits into my original hypothesis here.

I also found another Daily Kos story by Srkp23 saying that Reynolds told Hastert about Foley and that Reynolds knew about Foley almost 11 months ago. There is no confirmation to this story, but I am certainly interested in the connection between the Herald story saying Alexander informed Reynolds, and Srkp23's diary saying Reynold's both knew about Foley almost 11 months ago and that Reynolds' also informed Hastert. I would love to learn what the timeline is as to when these top representatives informed each other, and as to who informed who regarding Foley.

Update II: It is confirmed. Roll Call has just reported that Reynolds has issued a statement Saturday saying that Reynolds informed Hastert of Foley's sex allegations just after the February 2006 GOP leadership elections. Reynolds knew about Foley back in 2006. Reynolds also would have known that a House ethics investigation into Foley's sex allegations would have quickly became public, and would have certainly jeopardized Foley's safe Republican seat to Democratic Party attacks--Foley's safe Republican seat would have became a toss-up seat. The Republican Party didn't want this sex scandal to emerge during the midterm elections. They tried to cover it up.

Update III: The Associated Press has the Reynolds' story out now.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Florida Rep. Foley Resigns From Congress Over E-Mails

Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla. speaks at a news conference in Tallahassee, Fla. in this March 16, 2004 file photo. Foley submitted a letter of resignation from Congress on Friday in the wake of questions about e-mails he wrote a former male page, according to a congressional official. (AP Photo/Phil Coale, File)

This is what happens when you fool around with minors. This is from The New York Times:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., resigned from Congress on Friday, effective immediately, in the wake of questions about e-mails he wrote a former male page.

''I am deeply sorry and I apologize for letting down my family and the people of Florida I have had the privilege to represent,'' he said in a statement issued by his office.

The two-sentence statement did not refer to the e-mails and gave no reason for Foley's decision to abruptly abandon a flourishing career in Congress.

Foley, 52, had been a shoo-in for a new term until the e-mail correspondence surfaced in recent days.

His resignation comes less than six weeks before the elections. It was not clear how Republicans would fill his spot on the November ballot.

Campaign aides had previously acknowledged that the Republican congressman e-mailed the former Capitol page five times, but had said there was nothing inappropriate about the exchange. The page was 16 at the time of the e-mail correspondence.

It was not clear what prompted Foley to abruptly decide to give up a successful career in the House.

Foley, who represents an area around Palm Beach County, e-mailed the page in August 2005. The page had worked for Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., and Foley asked him how he was doing after Hurricane Katrina and what he wanted for his birthday. The congressman also asked the boy to send a photo of himself, according to excerpts of the e-mails that were originally released by ABC News.

Foley's aides initially blamed Democratic rival Tim Mahoney and Democrats with attempting to smear the congressman before the election.

The e-mails were posted Friday on Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington's Web site after ABC News reported their existence. The group asked the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to investigate the exchange Foley had with the boy, who served as a page for Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La.

It appears that Foley was exchanging some creepy emails with a former 16-year-old page--I mean, Foley asked the boy to send a photo of him. What was Foley going to do with that photo?

Of course, this is a real big problem for the Republican Party. Foley was a shoo-in for re-election. Now with the midterm elections just six weeks away, it will be almost impossible for the Republicans to replace Foley's name on the ballot. If the Republican Party is unable to replace Foley with another Republican Party candidate, then the seat is practically a given for Democratic rival Tim Mahoney.

Finally, here is one more little surprise off ABC News--Foley was the chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children. And he was emailing a 16-year old minor.

Talk about irony here.

Friday Fun Stuff--Political Cartoons

Well, we've just destroyed whatever was left of our democracy and Constitution with the passage of this new terrorism bill in the Senate yesterday. So I thought that today's Friday Fun Stuff will be some political cartoons that have just come out regarding this issue.

M.e. Cohen,

Ed Stein, Rocky Mountain News

Rex Babin, Sacramento Bee

You wanted a dictatorship America--well, you've got one! Long live King George I!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Heralded Iraq Police Academy a 'Disaster'

The Baghdad Police College was built so poorly that feces and urine trickle from the ceilings, and floors rise inches off the ground and crack apart. Photo Credit: Photos By The Office Of The Special Inspector General For Iraq Reconstruction

Okay America--Guess where your taxpayer dollars are going in the Iraqi reconstruction? This is from The Washington Post:

BAGHDAD, Sept. 27 -- A $75 million project to build the largest police academy in Iraq has been so grossly mismanaged that the campus now poses health risks to recruits and might need to be partially demolished, U.S. investigators have found.

The Baghdad Police College, hailed as crucial to U.S. efforts to prepare Iraqis to take control of the country's security, was so poorly constructed that feces and urine rained from the ceilings in student barracks. Floors heaved inches off the ground and cracked apart. Water dripped so profusely in one room that it was dubbed "the rain forest."

"This is the most essential civil security project in the country -- and it's a failure," said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an independent office created by Congress. "The Baghdad police academy is a disaster."

Well how about that? A $75 million police college so badly constructed that feces and urin rain down from the ceilings and floors heaving up and cracking apart. An Iraqi police college--one of the more important institutions in Iraq that the U.S. needs to get running, so we can train enough Iraqi police and security forces to maintain control of the country so that the U.S. occupation forces can leave Iraq. A $75 million dollar "dump." Who built this "crap house?"

The report serves as the latest indictment of Parsons Corp., the U.S. construction giant that was awarded about $1 billion for a variety of reconstruction projects across Iraq. After chronicling previous Parsons failures to properly build health clinics, prisons and hospitals, Bowen said he now plans to conduct an audit of every Parsons project.

"The truth needs to be told about what we didn't get for our dollar from Parsons," Bowen said.

A spokeswoman for Parsons said the company had not seen the inspector general's report.

The Coalition Provisional Authority hired Parsons in 2004 to transform the Baghdad Police College, a ramshackle collection of 1930s buildings, into a modern facility whose training capacity would expand from 1,500 recruits to at least 4,000. The contract called for the firm to remake the campus by building, among other things, eight three-story student barracks, classroom buildings and a central laundry facility.

It would appear that Parsons has been regularly providing crappy Iraqi reconstruction work for the U.S. taxpayer. I found this little story off ABC News' The Blotter:

Hundreds of millions of dollars that were spent to improve Iraqi healthcare have been squandered, according to some in Congress.

As an example of the wasted funds, Sen. Mark Dayton (D-MN) and others point to a $243 million contract that was awarded to the Parsons Corporation by the Army Corps of Engineers to build and repair 141 health clinics in Iraq. Three years after the contract was awarded, Parsons had spent $200 million on completing just 20 clinics.

In a hearing before the Democratic Policy Committee last week, doctors and healthcare workers testified about the conditions at the clinics that Parsons was paid to refurbish. Leaking roofs, cracked paint, moldy floors and broken light bulbs were just some of the problems listed by Dr. Ali Fadhil, an Iraqi physician and Fulbright scholar. But it is the sewage system that Dr. Fadhil said was the most significant problem.

"Parsons and its subcontractor created a sewer system that does not work, and that has resulted in raw sewage bubbling into the hospital's operating room and other critical areas," he told Congress.

The Army Corps of Engineers canceled the contract earlier this year after the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction issued a report blaming the corps for lax oversight of the contract.

Parsons Corporation said today that although only 20 clinic projects were completed, there was "a substantial amount of work" done on the remaining clinics in the contract. They also added that there was a funding issue and that not enough money was provided to complete the terms of the contract.

Sewage coming up from the floors of a Parsons-constructed hospital, urine raining down from a Parsons-constructed police academy--is there a connection here?

I found this little report by U.S. Labor Against The War. I don't know how reliable this information is, but I will include it here. Parsons Corporation has some connections within the Bush administration. According to this USLAW report:

Until 2001 its Board of Directors included current United States Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao. Elaine Chao’s husband is Mitch McConnell, the assistant U.S. House of Representatives Majority leader and the chairman of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, a key foreign policy position. McConnell has links to defense contractor Northrop Grumman, and has received donations from Halliburton and arms firm Lockheed-Martin. Also sitting on Parsons’ board of Directors is Admiral RJ Zlaptoper, a former Commander-In-Chief for the U.S. Pacific Fleet. James NcNulty, Parsons’ Chairman and CEO, had a 24-year Army career before coming to Parsons in 1998.

Political Contributions: $249,401 contributed between 1999-2002. 61% of this went to Republicans (roughly $152,000), with $2000 given specifically to George W. Bush.

Guess the Bush administration is looking after its own constituents here. It is especially interesting how the connections flow from the top officials of the Bush administration to the top corporations that receive these fat contracts with almost no oversight. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chow was on Parson's board of directors. Multiply this connection hundreds or thousands of times through the various posts, assistant-deputy-secretaries, and offices that the Bush administration filled in its six-year reign, and you've got the perfect recipe for corporate waste and fraud. And Parsons is just one small example--I'm not sure I want to explore the fraud that Halliburton, Bechtel, or some of the other bigger companies have committed.

But let's get back to the original Post story here:

Complaints about the new facilities, however, began pouring in two weeks after the recruits arrived at the end of May, a Corps of Engineers official said.

The most serious problem was substandard plumbing that caused waste from toilets on the second and third floors to cascade throughout the building. A light fixture in one room stopped working because it was filled with urine and fecal matter. The waste threatened the integrity of load-bearing slabs, federal investigators concluded.

"When we walked down the halls, the Iraqis came running up and said, 'Please help us. Please do something about this,' " Bowen recalled.

Phillip A. Galeoto, director of the Baghdad Police College, wrote an Aug. 16 memo that catalogued at least 20 problems: shower and bathroom fixtures that leaked from the first day of occupancy, concrete and tile floors that heaved more than two inches off the ground, water rushing down hallways and stairwells because of improper slopes or drains in bathrooms, classroom buildings with foundation problems that caused structures to sink.

Galeoto noted that one entire building and five floors in others had to be shuttered for repairs, limiting the capacity of the college by up to 800 recruits. His memo, too, pointed out that the urine and feces flowed throughout the building and, sometimes, onto occupants of the barracks.


The Parsons contract, which eventually totaled at least $75 million, was terminated May 31 "due to cost overruns, schedule slippage, and sub-standard quality," according to a Sept. 4 internal military memo. But rather than fire the Pasadena, Calif.-based company for cause, the contract was halted for "the government's convenience."

The U.S. government is not going to fire Parsons for this disaster of a contract--no, it is going to halt this contract for "the government's convenience." This means that Parsons is not going to be blamed for the terrible work they did. If this type of shoddy work had occurred in a public works project--or even a private construction project--the contractor would have been fired on the spot, and perhaps even sued for damages. But in this Iraqi reconstruction project, Parsons gets a little slap on the wrist. But it gets better here:

Col. Michael Herman -- deputy commander of the Gulf Region Division of the Corps of Engineers, which was supposed to oversee the project -- said the Iraqi subcontractors hired by Parsons were being forced to fix the building problems as part of their warranty work, at no cost to taxpayers. He said four of the eight barracks have been repaired.

In other words, it wasn't Parsons' fault for this shoddy work--it was the Iraqi subcontractors' that Parsons hired who caused this disaster of a project. And now Parsons is forcing the subcontractors to fix the project at no cost to the taxpayers' cost--or Parsons' profits. Can it get any more worst that it is now?

How about this little conclusion:

The U.S. military initially agreed to take a Washington Post reporter on a tour of the facility Wednesday to examine the construction issues, but the trip was postponed Tuesday night. Federal investigators who visited the academy last week, though, expressed concerns about the structural integrity of the buildings and worries that fecal residue could cause a typhoid outbreak or other health crisis.

"They may have to demolish everything they built," said Robert DeShurley, a senior engineer with the inspector general's office. "The buildings are falling down as they sit."

Inside the inspector general's office in Baghdad on a recent blistering afternoon, several federal investigators expressed amazement that such construction blunders could be concentrated in one project. Even in Iraq, they said, failure on this magnitude is unusual. When asked how the problems at the police college compared with other projects they had inspected, the answers came swiftly.

"This is significant," said Jon E. Novak, a senior adviser in the office.

"It's catastrophic," DeShurley added.

Bowen said: "It's the worst."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Poll: Most Iraqis favor U.S. pullout in a year

Amazing how CNN just came out with this poll here:

(CNN) -- Seventy-one percent of Iraqis responding to a new survey favor a commitment by U.S.-led forces in Iraq to withdraw in a year.

The majority of respondents to the University of Maryland poll said that "they would like the Iraqi government to ask for U.S.-led forces to be withdrawn from Iraq within a year or less," according to the survey's summary.

"Given four options, 37 percent take the position that they would like U.S.-led forces withdrawn 'within six months,' while another 34 percent opt for 'gradually withdraw(ing) U.S.-led forces according to a one-year timeline.'

"Twenty percent favor a two-year timeline and just 9 percent favor 'only reduc(ing) U.S.-led forces as the security situation improves in Iraq.'"

The month's poll came in the midst of a turbulent year marked by increased Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence in Baghdad and elsewhere in the nation.

The poll's summary also suggests that most Iraqis think the American presence is doing more harm than good.

"An overwhelming majority believes that the U.S. military presence in Iraq is provoking more conflict than it is preventing and there is growing confidence in the Iraqi army," the summary said. "If the U.S. made a commitment to withdraw, a majority believes that this would strengthen the Iraqi government.

"Support for attacks on U.S.-led forces has grown to a majority position -- now 6 in 10. Support appears to be related to a widespread perception, held by all ethnic groups, that the U.S. government plans to have permanent military bases in Iraq."

The poll was conducted September 1-4 by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland. It was fielded by KA Research Ltd./D3 Systems Inc. Questions were asked of a nationwide representative sample of 1,150 Iraqi adults.

Does this sound familiar? Surprise--this poll has been out for almost two weeks now--I've even reported the poll results in my own blog posting here, and through a cross-post on The Daily Kos here. Of course, one interesting aspect here is that World Public Opinion has released the full report of the poll here. And I will say that it is interesting that CNN has published a story on this poll just three days after the NIE story broke out, showing the rise of Islamic extremism. In one sense, both stories complement each other. The NIE story clearly shows what a disaster the U.S. war in Iraq has become in fueling anti-American extremism and global terrorism, while this World Public Opinion story shows how the Iraqis want the U.S. out of their country and clearly support terror attacks against the U.S. occupation forces. Both stories certainly contradict the Bush administration's PR-spin on the Iraq war.

I wonder if the American people are starting to listen here.

White House Refuses Release of Full NIE Intelligence Report

It appears that while the Bush administration is so willing to release the conclusions of the NIE report, they refuse to release the entire report. This is from The Washington Post:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House refused Wednesday to release the rest of a secret intelligence assessment that depicts a growing terrorist threat, as the Bush administration tried to quell election-season criticism that its anti-terror policies are seriously off track.

Press secretary Tony Snow said releasing the full report, portions of which President Bush declassified on Tuesday, would jeopardize the lives of agents who gathered the information.

It would also risk the nation's ability to work with foreign governments and to keep secret its U.S. intelligence-gathering methods, Snow said, and "compromise the independence of people doing intelligence analysis."

"If they think their work is constantly going to be released to the public they are going to pull their punches," Snow said.

You've got to love the PR-spin here--we can't release the report because it will jeopardize the lives of the agents making this report. And even worst, if the agents realize that their work is released for public scrutiny, then they will only write analysis that is "politically correct." Where have we heard this lame excuse before--how about where the Bush administration can't reveal the secret evidence they have on the Gitmo detainees, or the secret prisons, or the use of torture, or just about every scandal and disaster they wish to keep hidden from the American public? Now the Bush administration refuses to release the entire NIE report. The Bush administration knows that if they release the full report, it is going to add more fuel to this controversy--President Bush has added plenty of fuel to this controversy by releasing the four pages of NIE conclusions just one month before the midterm elections. The conclusions are just about as damaging to the Bush White House as ever--you'v got to wonder what is in the rest of the report here.

But there is more excuses here. How about this one:

Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, warned, however, that releasing more of the intelligence assessment could aid terrorists. "We are very cautious and very restrained about the kind of information we want to give al-Qaida," Hoekstra said.

This is not about releasing information to al Qaeda--This is about releasing information to the American public! It is amazing at how these excuses keep coming up about revealing any details of the Bush administration's scandals and disasters of the war in Iraq, their Great War on Terror, secret prisons, Gitmo, use of torture--they don't want the American public to understand the true nature of not only this administration incompetence, but also the criminal nature the Bush administration has become. All of these excuses are major CYAs.

Release the full frickin' report!

Bush released part of NIE report

US President George W. Bush gestures as he answers questions from the media during a press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC. The Iraq war has become a "cause celebre" for global terrorists, fuelling recruitment and hostility to the United States in the Muslim world, according to declassified intelligence findings.(AFP/Jim Watson)

It appears that President Bush released a part of the NIE report. This is off The Washington Post:

The Bush administration yesterday released portions of a classified intelligence estimate that says the globaljihadist movement is growing and being fueled by the war in Iraq even as it becomes more decentralized, making it harder to identify potential terrorists and prevent attacks.

The war in Iraq has become a "cause celebre" for jihadists, breeding resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and drawing new adherents to the movement, the assessment says. The growth in the number of potential terrorists is also being fed by corruption, slow-moving political reform in many Muslim countries and "pervasive"anti-American sentiment, according to the report.

The jihadist movement is potentially limited by its ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam and could be slowed by democratic reforms in the Muslim world, says the document, which reflects the collective judgment of the nation's 16 intelligence agencies. In addition, it asserts that ifjihadists are perceived to be defeated in Iraq, "fewer fighters would be inspired to carry on the fight."

A whole four pages of this 30-page report can be downloaded here.

Iraq has become "cause celebre" for jihadists. That is a pretty sobering analysis of just how bad the situation has become in Iraq. We're not just losing the war in Iraq, but we've also created a breeding ground for new terrorists. The longer we stay in Iraq, the stronger and more experienced this anti-American jihadist movement becomes in the Middle East.

The big question I would ask here is why did President Bush release the conclusion of this report? The conclusions of this report actually refute everything the president and his administration has said about Iraq and how we aresupposedly winning the war. Continuing with the Post story:

President Bush took the extraordinary step of releasing portions of the classified report, which was completed in April, to counter assertions made after information from the document was leaked to media outlets over the weekend. Articles based on those leaks said the report blames the war in Iraq for worsening the global terrorist threat -- an interpretation that the administration calls a distortion of its contents.

Speaking at a White House news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Bush angrily called the leak a political act intended to affect the upcoming midterm elections. "Somebody has taken it upon themselves to leak classified information for political purposes," he said.

The president added that it is naive to think that terrorism would be any less pervasive if the United States had not invaded Iraq, repeating his oft-made point that extremists attacked U.S. interests around the world long before the start of the war.

"My judgment is, if we weren't in Iraq, they'd find some other excuse, because they have ambitions," Bush said. "They kill in order to achieve their objectives."

Bush said he reluctantly ordered the release of the National Intelligence Estimate so people can form their own conclusions about it. "You can read it for yourself," he said. "We'll stop all the speculation, all the politics about somebody saying something about Iraq, somebody trying to confuse the American people about the nature of this enemy."

It is just amazing. Even after publishing the conclusions of this report, Bush continues to claim that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was necessary to stop the terrorists--this time it is the terrorists who have ambitions to kill people and find excuses to conduct their terror attacks elsewhere. So we must invade and occupy Iraq in order to bring the terrorists into Iraq so that the terrorists will not achieve their terrorist ambitions to kill people in other parts of the world? The absurdity is simply amazing becauseNIE report concludes that the U.S. war in Iraq is actually fueling a rise in jihadist and anti-American extremism, which could then spill over to global terrorism--thus showing the complete failure of the Bush administration's argument that we're fighting the terrorists in Iraq so we don't have to fight them here or in the rest of the world. It is absurd.

There is more here. Now we come to President Bush's reason for releasing the report. First Bush is angry that this report has been leaked out--it pretty much destroys all the feel-good Bush PR-spin about how we're winning the war in Iraq, just before the
congressional midterm elections. And yes, this report could affect the midterm elections--resulting in losses to the Republicans. President Bush ordered the release of theNIE conclusions so that the American people could draw their own conclusions from the report. "You can read it for yourself," he said. "We'll stop all the speculation, all the politics about somebody saying something about Iraq, somebody trying to confuse the American people about the nature of this enemy." This Bush statement is interesting. It is obvious that President Bush wants to limit the political damage thisNIE report is generating before the midterm elections. The Bush administration is probably hoping that by releasing the conclusion of this report, the controversy will die down by next week, and the Republicans can continue spinning their Iraq-war fears to the American public. In one sense, this release of theNIE conclusion actually plays into the Republican pro-war claims--where the possible rise of jihadist extremism requires the U.S. to remain in Iraq to complete its mission and contain this extremism in Iraq, rather than adopting the Democratic plan of cutting and running which would continue fueling the rise of suchjihadist extremism throughout the world.

But there is this last Bush statement, "[S]omebody [is] trying to confuse the American people about the nature of this enemy." My question here is who is trying to confuse the American people about the nature of the enemy? The NIE report pretty much lays down the conclusions of who the enemy is, and their growing strength and numbers. For five years, the American people were never given a true reason as to why we had to invade Iraq, who our enemy in Iraq was, how we are going to fight our enemy in Iraq, and what exactly will be the criteria for determining a success or victory in Iraq. Instead, this Bush administration has continued to give us lies and political spin, designed to frighten and confuse the American people about the true nature of our enemies. It is President Bush and his PNAC neoconservatives that has consistently confused the American people in defining the nature of the enemy in their Great War on Terrorism, shifting our attention away fromOsama bin Laden and al Qaida, to focus on their PNAC dream of creating a Pax
American of American military imperialism in Iraq and the Middle East, while also controlling Iraqi oil production. And in confusing the American people about the true nature of our enemy,al Qaeda, jihadist extremism, or even anti-American extremism, President Bush has ignored and allowed this dangerous enemy to become even more powerful and more difficult to fight against because of the Bush administration's desire for itsPNAC war in Iraq.

We will pay the price of this disaster in American blood and American treasure for decades to come.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

White House considers declassifying NIE report

Well, this is certainly interesting. The Bush White House is now considering declassifying the leaked NIE report. This is from The Washington Post:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration said on Tuesday it may declassify an intelligence report in order to respond to Democrats who say the
document shows the Iraq war has been a distraction from the war on terrorism.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said officials were "giving serious consideration" to releasing the National Intelligence Estimate on the U.S. terrorism threat to demonstrate that the section being seized on by Democrats is only one part of the overall picture.

The report, part of which was leaked to the media, has become an issue in the runup to November 7 mid-term elections when control of both houses of Congress is at stake.

Part of the report said U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded the Iraq war has made the worldwide threat from Islamist extremists more dangerous.

It has inspired their growing militant movement and created a ready source
of anti-American rhetoric, current and former intelligence officials familiar with the document say.

Perino said one paragraph in the lengthy report was "wildly taken out of context" and that some officials believe the whole document, provided to the U.S. Congress in
April, should be released to put that paragraph in context.

This is going to be another ongoing problem for the Bush White House. The Bush administration is trying to downplay this report, saying the Democrats are taking the report's conclusions out of context because they are only reading one paragraph from a few pages of the entire report--the report actually supports the Bush administration's rational for the Iraq war andGWOT . The problem here is that if the Bush administration releases the entire report, who knows what the conclusions, firestorm or criticisms would be once the Democrats get the full picture of this fullNIE report? We don't know what else is in that report--or if there is more damning evidence against the failed Bush policies on global terrorism and Iraq. By
releasing thisNIE report, the Bush White House could be adding more gasoline to this firestorm of controversy. But at the same time, if the Bush White House doesn't release the entire report, this controversy will continue to boil in the last weeks before the midterm elections, possibly hurting the Republican chances of maintaining control of Congress. The Bush administration may feel that releasing theNIE report
will quickly dampen this controversy before the midterm elections. It is certainly an interesting problem for President Bush.

My personal take--I'd love to see what is in that NIE report.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Keith Olbermann rips into Bush again

Keith Olbermann had another Special Commentary in his MSNBC news show Countdown with Keith Olbermann. He rips into President Bush and the neocon's--and especially Fox News'--desire to blame President Clinton for the September 11th terrorist attacks. Another devastating commentary.

Crooks and Liars has the video stream of Olbermann's Special Commentary here.

And here is YouTube's link:

I'm just going to post this special commentary in its entirety here:

And finally tonight, a Special Comment about President Clinton’s interview. The headlines about them are, of course, entirely wrong.

It is not essential that a past president, bullied and sandbagged by a monkey posing as a newscaster, finally lashed back.

It is not important that the current President’s portable public chorus has described his predecessor’s tone as “crazed.”

Our tone should be crazed. The nation’s freedoms are under assault by an administration whose policies can do us as much damage as al Qaida; the nation’s marketplace of ideas is being poisoned by a propaganda company so blatant that Tokyo Rose would’ve quit.

Nonetheless. The headline is this:

Bill Clinton did what almost none of us have done in five years.

He has spoken the truth about 9/11, and the current presidential administration.

"At least I tried," he said of his own efforts to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. "That’s the difference in me and some, including all of the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They had eight months to try; they did not try. I tried."

Thus in his supposed emeritus years has Mr. Clinton taken forceful and triumphant action for honesty, and for us; action as vital and as courageous as any of his presidency; action as startling and as liberating, as any, by any one, in these last five long years.

The Bush Administration did not try to get Osama bin Laden before 9/11.

The Bush Administration ignored all the evidence gathered by its predecessors.

The Bush Administration did not understand the Daily Briefing entitled "Bin Laden Determined To Strike in U.S."

The Bush Administration did not try.

Moreover, for the last five years one month and two weeks, the current administration, and in particular the President, has been given the greatest “pass” for incompetence and malfeasance in American history!

President Roosevelt was rightly blamed for ignoring the warning signs—some of them, 17 years old—before Pearl Harbor.

President Hoover was correctly blamed for—if not the Great Depression itself—then the disastrous economic steps he took in the immediate aftermath of the Stock Market Crash.

Even President Lincoln assumed some measure of responsibility for the Civil War—though talk of Southern secession had begun as early as 1832.

But not this president.

To hear him bleat and whine and bully at nearly every opportunity, one would think someone else had been president on September 11th, 2001 -- or the nearly eight months that preceded it.

That hardly reflects the honesty nor manliness we expect of the executive.

But if his own fitness to serve is of no true concern to him, perhaps we should simply sigh and keep our fingers crossed, until a grown-up takes the job three Januarys from now.

Except for this.

After five years of skirting even the most inarguable of facts—that he was president on 9/11 and he must bear some responsibility for his, and our, unreadiness, Mr. Bush has now moved, unmistakably and without conscience or shame, towards re-writing history, and attempting to make the responsibility, entirely Mr. Clinton’s.

Of course he is not honest enough to do that directly.

As with all the other nefariousness and slime of this, our worst presidency since James Buchanan, he is having it done for him, by proxy.

Thus, the sandbag effort by Fox News Friday afternoon.

Consider the timing: the very weekend the National Intelligence Estimate would be released and show the Iraq war to be the fraudulent failure it is—not a check on terror, but fertilizer for it.

The kind of proof of incompetence, for which the administration and its hyenas at Fox need to find a diversion, in a scapegoat.

It was the kind of cheap trick which would get a journalist fired—but a propagandist, promoted:

Promise to talk of charity and generosity; but instead launch into the lies and distortions with which the Authoritarians among us attack the virtuous and reward the useless.

And don’t even be professional enough to assume the responsibility for the slanders yourself; blame your audience for “e-mailing” you the question.

Mr. Clinton responded as you have seen.

He told the great truth untold about this administration’s negligence, perhaps criminal negligence, about bin Laden.

He was brave.

Then again, Chris Wallace might be braver still. Had I in one moment surrendered all my credibility as a journalist, and been irredeemably humiliated, as was he, I would have gone home and started a new career selling seeds by mail.

The smearing by proxy, of course, did not begin Friday afternoon.

Disney was first to sell-out its corporate reputation, with "The Path to 9/11." Of that company’s crimes against truth one needs to say little. Simply put: someone there enabled an Authoritarian zealot to belch out Mr. Bush’s new and improved history.

The basic plot-line was this: because he was distracted by the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Bill Clinton failed to prevent 9/11.

The most curious and in some ways the most infuriating aspect of this slapdash theory, is that the Right Wingers who have advocated it—who try to sneak it into our collective consciousness through entertainment, or who sandbag Mr. Clinton with it at news interviews—have simply skipped past its most glaring flaw.

Had it been true that Clinton had been distracted from the hunt for bin Laden in 1998 because of the Monica Lewinsky nonsense, why did these same people not applaud him for having bombed bin Laden’s camps in Afghanistan and Sudan on Aug. 20, of that year? For mentioning bin Laden by name as he did so?

That day, Republican Senator Grams of Minnesota invoked the movie "Wag The Dog."

Republican Senator Coats of Indiana questioned Mr. Clinton’s judgment.

Republican Senator Ashcroft of Missouri—the future attorney general—echoed Coats.

Even Republican Senator Arlen Specter questioned the timing.

And of course, were it true Clinton had been “distracted” by the Lewinsky witch-hunt, who on earth conducted the Lewinsky witch-hunt?

Who turned the political discourse of this nation on its head for two years?

Who corrupted the political media?

Who made it impossible for us to even bring back on the air, the counter-terrorism analysts like Dr. Richard Haass, and James Dunegan, who had warned, at this very hour, on this very network, in early 1998, of cells from the Middle East who sought to attack us, here?

Who preempted them in order to strangle us with the trivia that was, “All Monica All The Time”?

Who distracted whom?

This is, of course, where—as is inevitable—Mr. Bush and his henchmen prove not quite as smart as they think they are.

The full responsibility for 9/11 is obviously shared by three administrations, possibly four.

But, Mr. Bush, if you are now trying to convince us by proxy that it’s all about the distractions of 1998 and 1999, then you will have to face a startling fact that your minions may have hidden from you.

The distractions of 1998 and 1999, Mr. Bush, were carefully manufactured, and lovingly executed, not by Bill Clinton, but by the same people who got you elected President.

Thus, instead of some commendable acknowledgment that you were even in office on 9/11 and the lost months before it, we have your sleazy and sloppy rewriting of history, designed by somebody who evidently read the Orwell playbook too quickly.

Thus, instead of some explanation for the inertia of your first eight months in office, we are told that you have kept us "safe" ever since—a statement that might range anywhere from zero, to 100 percent, true.

We have nothing but your word, and your word has long since ceased to mean anything.

And, of course, the one time you have ever given us specifics about what you have kept us safe from, Mr. Bush, you got the name of the supposedly targeted Tower in Los Angeles wrong.

Thus was it left for the previous president to say what so many of us have felt; what so many of us have given you a pass for in the months and even the years after the attack:

You did not try.

You ignored the evidence gathered by your predecessor.

You ignored the evidence gathered by your own people.

Then, you blamed your predecessor.

That would be a textbook definition, Mr. Bush, of cowardice.

To enforce the lies of the present, it is necessary to erase the truths of the past.

That was one of the great mechanical realities Eric Blair—writing as George Orwell—gave us in the book “1984.”

The great philosophical reality he gave us, Mr. Bush, may sound as familiar to you, as it has lately begun to sound familiar to me.

"The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power...

"Power is not a means; it is an end.

"One does not establish a dictatorship to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.

"The object of persecution, is persecution. The object of torture, is torture. The object of power… is power."

Earlier last Friday afternoon, before the Fox ambush, speaking in the far different context of the closing session of his remarkable Global Initiative, Mr. Clinton quoted Abraham Lincoln’s State of the Union address from 1862.

"We must disenthrall ourselves."

Mr. Clinton did not quote the rest of Mr. Lincoln’s sentence.

He might well have.

"We must disenthrall ourselves and then we shall save our country."

And so has Mr. Clinton helped us to disenthrall ourselves, and perhaps enabled us, even at this late and bleak date, to save our country.

The "free pass" has been withdrawn, Mr. Bush.

You did not act to prevent 9/11.

We do not know what you have done to prevent another 9/11.

You have failed us—then leveraged that failure, to justify a purposeless war in Iraq which will have, all too soon, claimed more American lives than did 9/11.

You have failed us anew in Afghanistan.

And you have now tried to hide your failures, by blaming your predecessor.

And now you exploit your failure, to rationalize brazen torture which doesn’t work anyway; which only condemns our soldiers to water-boarding; which only humiliates our country further in the world; and which no true American would ever condone, let alone advocate.

And there it is, Mr. Bush:

Are yours the actions of a true American?

Negroponte says U.S. not at higher risk

Okay, we’ve seen some pretty wicked stuff coming out over the past week on Iraq and the Bush administration’s Great War on Terror. I’m still trying to read through it and understand it myself. But one thing I’ve noticed so far has been the PR-spin—it is like an amusement park ride, designed to whirl and twirl your head around and around. So I thought it would be fun to take a trip on the newest ride in George Bush’s White House Carnival of Neo-Conservative Fun. We’re talking about the NIE-Spinner.

I'm going to start this fun ride with Sunday’s New York Times story on the NIE estimate that the U.S. invasion of Iraq has increased Islamic radicalism here:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 — A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.

The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.

An opening section of the report, “Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement,” cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.

The report “says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,” said one American intelligence official.

Sounds pretty bleak and scary--doesn't it? The U.S. is in trouble with creating a whole new network of Islamic radicalism due to the Bush administration’s war in Iraq. Can it get worst? How about this September 21, 2006 Los Angeles Times story about the House Intelligence Committee's report on terrorism and the Iraq war:

WASHINGTON — The House Intelligence Committee warned in a report Wednesday that the terrorist danger facing the United States was "more alarming than the threat that existed prior to Sept. 11, 2001," prompting criticism from Democrats that the Republican-dominated panel was seeking to alarm voters in advance of the midterm elections.

The report was approved by the committee on a party-line vote, with Democrats objecting to its tone and contents in strongly worded minority opinions.

Republicans have sought to focus attention on national security issues, believing voters will prefer the GOP approach. President Bush has made a series of high-profile speeches in recent weeks defending the war in Iraq and repeatedly mentioning Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

The House report augments that effort, describing Iraq as the central front in the war on terrorism. Even so, there are portions that appear to undercut White House claims that counter-terrorism efforts over the last five years have made the U.S. significantly safer.

The House report augments that effort, describing Iraq as the central front in the war on terrorism. Even so, there are portions that appear to undercut White House claims that counter-terrorism efforts over the last five years have made the U.S. significantly safer.

Bush and others in the administration have frequently said, for example, that up to half of Al Qaeda's command structure had been captured or killed through aggressive operations by the CIA and other agencies.

But the House report is less sanguine: "Although coalition forces have killed or captured several of Al Qaeda's top leaders, these vacancies have been filled by a new generation of extremists. Most of these new leaders have obscure backgrounds, and the intelligence community lacks knowledge about their particular methods of operating."

The document also warned that Iraq has become a new breeding ground for terrorists who may target other countries. "Fighters who leave Iraq will have acquired first-hand experience in urban warfare," the report said. "Upon returning home, they have the potential to use their knowledge, credibility and popularity to recruit and train younger generations to fight against the United States and our allies."

The committee acknowledged that all of the information in the report was "drawn only from publicly available sources" so that it could be released without concern for classification issues.

Guess what--we're losing the Great War on Terrorism! We’re in really deep doo-doo here--why, even Donald Rumsfeld is not safe, with three top American military leaders calling for his resignation in a Democratic Party congressional committee hearing, due to his involvement in the disaster of Iraq. The terrorists are coming to attack and kill us--these intelligence reports even say so! We're doomed!

But don't fear--all is not lost! For the chief intelligence czar John Negroponte is here to save the day! This is also from The Washington Post:

The conclusion of U.S. intelligence analysts that the Iraq war has increased the threat from terrorism is only "a fraction of judgments" in a newly disclosed National Intelligence Estimate, Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte said yesterday.

"What we have said, time and again, is that while there is much that remains to be done in the war on terror, we have achieved some notable successes against the global jihadist threat," Negroponte said in a statement. "The conclusions of the intelligence community are designed to be comprehensive, and viewing them through the narrow prism of a fraction of judgments distorts the broad framework they create."

This NIE conclusion represents only "a fraction of the judgments" in the full NIE report? So John, if you claim that the conclusions are only a fraction of the judgments in this NIE report, then why not publish the entire report so we can see the full conclusions and the majority of the judgments that say we're winning the GWOT, and in Iraq? Show everything so we can make the decisions about the Bush administration’s GWOT, and Iraq, ourselves. And by the way John, could you also please name some of those "successes against the global jihadist threat?

Negroponte-spin not working! Must find new Neocon hero—two neocon heros! How about Republican Spin-Machine is here to save the day! I found this off of another Washington Post story titled, Democrats Focus on Terrorism Report in Attacks on Bush:

Frances Fragos Townsend, the top White House adviser on terrorism, said one paragraph in nine pages of "key judgments" from the intelligence community discusses how "the war in Iraq is being used by extremists to spread the global extremist message," but added, "It does not say it has made us less safe." The "one thing that would make us less safe" is an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, she added.

Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) noted that there have been no attacks on the United States since Sept. 11, 2001, and he described the new reports as "selective leaks put out within five or six weeks of the election designed to help the Democrats get control of the Congress."

So, the Democrats are now considered "extremists" by White House advisor Frances Fragos Townsend, because they are using the NIE report to criticize the Bush administration's war in Iraq, thus spreading "the global extremist message" that is making America less safe. So Ms. Townsend, if you're connecting the Democrats to extremists, spreading a "global extremist message," does that also mean you're connecting the Democrats to the terrorists? Are the Democrats aiding the terrorists? Is that what you're saying?

But Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell makes an even more outragious statement--There have been no attacks on the United States since September 11th. Um, Mitch--did it ever occur to you that the al Qaeda terrorists have not attacked the U.S. mainland because of the logistical difficulties in setting up and carrying out such attacks in this post-9/11 world? Besides, why should al Qaeda even attack the U.S. mainland again--not when they can head over to Iraq and attack the U.S. occupation troops, with shorter supply lines and better communications between al Qaeda terror cells?

Must bring out big PR-spin-meister guns! Must go to the prima donna White House press secretary Tony Snow, and hear what he had to say about the NIE report:

Spokesman Tony Snow sought to challenge news reports on Sunday about the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq and terrorism, which represents the comprehensive consensus findings of the 16 US intelligence agencies.

[The NIE report] "notes that should jihadists be perceived to have failed in Iraq, fewer will be inspired to carry on the fight," the spokesman said as US
President George W. Bush traveled here for a political fundraiser.

Bush has been saying that the war made Americans safer as he campaigns ahead of November 7 legislative elections, in which the unpopular war in Iraq may cost his Republican party control of one or both houses of the US Congress.

The Washington Post said the report described the Iraq conflict as the primary recruiting vehicle for violent Islamic extremists.

While the US has seriously damaged Al-Qaeda and disrupted its ability to carry out major operations since the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, it noted, radical Islamic networks have spread and decentralized.

"One thing that the reports do not say is that war in Iraq has made terrorism worse," said Snow, who also insisted that the new reports "contain nothing that the president hasn't said."

Talk about parsing the language here. The NIE report doesn't say that the war in Iraq has made terrorism worse--Tony Snow is now parsing the language to say that Bush's war in Iraq has forced the terrorists to fight in Iraq, rather than here in the US--thus claiming that the Bush administration has protected the U.S. homeland since there have been no terrorist attacks on the U.S. since September 11th. So in fact according to Tony Snow's view, the war in Iraq has actually made America safer since we're fighting those al Qaeda terrorists in Iraq. Didn’t Negroponte just criticized Democratic opponents for parsing the language of the NIE report by saying such opponents are taking only "a fraction of judgments” in the report to criticize the Bush administration? Didn’t both Francess Townsend and Mitch McConnell parse the NIE report—Townsend saying that Democratic Party criticisms are also contributing to the rise of “the global extremist message—thus linking Democratic criticisms of the Bush administration with the rise of Islamic radicalism? Didn’t Mitch McConnell parse the NIE report by claiming the Bush administration protected the U.S. from terror attacks because there have been no al Qaeda terror attacks since 9/11? Why am I seeing twirly-swirly circles all around me?

Look at me--I'm spinning! Weeeeeeee!

U.S. Median Home Price Suffers 1st Slip in 10 Years

This is off The Los Angeles Times:

California existing homes sales in August suffered the biggest year-over-year drop in nearly 25 years while the national median home price posted its first decline in more than a decade as the housing market showed more signs of erosion, according to figures released today.

Statewide sales of existing houses plunged 30.1% in August from the same month last year to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 442,150 properties, according to the California Assn. of Realtors. That was steepest year-over-year decline since August 1982, when sales tumbled 30.4%

The California median sales price for existing homes rose an anemic 1.6% in August compared to the same month last year to $576,360. The median price is where half the homes sold for more and half sold for less.

Nationwide, the median sale price for all existing houses fell to $225,000 in August, a 1.7% drop from the same month last year, according to the National Assn. of Realtors.

It was the first such year-over-year decline since 1995 and the largest since 1993, according to economist Steven Wood of Insight Economics.

The drop in the sales rate has contributed to an increasing number of unsold existing homes, which totaled 3.92 million units in August — the highest supply since April 1993, according to the association.

While some housing industry analysts and economists say they expect the market to firm next year, others are not so sure.

"The speed of the collapse has been astonishing," economist Ian Shepherdson of High Frequency Economics stated in a research note. "With inventory still rising, there is no chance of any short-term relief. Prices and volumes have a long way to fall yet."

On a regional basis, the West was the only part of the nation in August to report an increase in the median sales price, a meager 0.3% rise to $345,000. Sales, meanwhile, fell 2.3%.

The median sales price in the Northeast fell 3.9% in August to $271,000 on a 1.9% sales increase. The Midwest posted a 1.1% decline in the median sales price to $176,000 but a 0.7% sales increase. In the South, the median sales price dropped 2.6% and sales slipped 0.8%.

You know, I just have one little question to ask here. How many consumers can afford to buy $576,000 dollar home, here in California, when the job prospects out here are simple low wage retail sales jobs that will pay $6.75 an hour with almost no benefits?

U.S. Median Home Price Suffers 1st Slip in 10 Years

This is off The Los Angeles Times:

California existing homes sales in August suffered the biggest year-over-year drop in nearly 25 years while the national median home price posted its first decline in more than a decade as the housing market showed more signs of erosion, according to figures released today.

Statewide sales of existing houses plunged 30.1% in August from the same month last year to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 442,150 properties, according to the California Assn. of Realtors. That was steepest year-over-year decline since August 1982, when sales tumbled 30.4%

The California median sales price for existing homes rose an anemic 1.6% in August compared to the same month last year to $576,360. The median price is where half the homes sold for more and half sold for less.

Nationwide, the median sale price for all existing houses fell to $225,000 in August, a 1.7% drop from the same month last year, according to the National Assn. of Realtors.

It was the first such year-over-year decline since 1995 and the largest since 1993, according to economist Steven Wood of Insight Economics.

The drop in the sales rate has contributed to an increasing number of unsold existing homes, which totaled 3.92 million units in August — the highest supply since April 1993, according to the association.

While some housing industry analysts and economists say they expect the market to firm next year, others are not so sure.

"The speed of the collapse has been astonishing," economist Ian Shepherdson of High Frequency Economics stated in a research note. "With inventory still rising, there is no chance of any short-term relief. Prices and volumes have a long way to fall yet."

On a regional basis, the West was the only part of the nation in August to report an increase in the median sales price, a meager 0.3% rise to $345,000. Sales, meanwhile, fell 2.3%.

The median sales price in the Northeast fell 3.9% in August to $271,000 on a 1.9% sales increase. The Midwest posted a 1.1% decline in the median sales price to $176,000 but a 0.7% sales increase. In the South, the median sales price dropped 2.6% and sales slipped 0.8%.

You know, I just have one little question to ask here. How many consumers can afford to buy $576,000 dollar home, here in California, when the job prospects out here are low wage retail sales jobs that will pay $6.75 an hour--and with almost no benefits?

Three Retired Officers Demand Rumsfeld's Resignation

How's that for a headline? This is from The Washington Post:

Three retired military officers who served in Iraq called today for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H.Rumsfeld , telling a Democratic "oversight hearing" on Capitol Hill that the Pentagon chief bungled planning for the U.S. invasion, dismissed the prospect of an insurgency and sent American troops into the fray with inadequate equipment.

The testimony by the three --two retired Army major generals and a former Marine colonel -- came a day after disclosure of a classified intelligence assessment that concluded the war in Iraq has fueled recruitment of violent Islamic extremists, helping to create a new generation of potential terrorists around the world and worsening the U.S. position.

In testimony before the Democratic Policy Committee today, retired Maj. Gen. John R.S. Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq in 2004 and 2005 and served as a senior military assistant to former deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz, charged that Rumsfeld and others in the Bush administration "did not tell the American people the truth for fear of losing support for the war in Iraq."

Joining his call for Rumsfeld to resign were retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul D. Eaton, who was responsible for training Iraq's military and police in 2003 and 2004, and retired Marine Col. Thomas X.Hammes, who served in Iraq in 2004 and helped establish bases for the reconstituted Iraqi armed forces.

It is amazing how we now have these three retired generals giving testimony to a Democratic committee hearing just one day after The New York Times published a National Intelligence Estimate report saying that the Iraq war has actually increased Islamic radicalism and the overall threat of terrorist attacks since the September 11th attacks. Both the NIE report and the generals' testimony are just two more examples of the Bush administration's complete failures in not just fighting against terrorism, but also how their war in Iraq has made America even less safe than before September 11th.

And this stuff is coming out just one month before the midterm elections.

Army Warns Rumsfeld It's Billions Short

This is how you fight a war "on the cheap." I found this off The Los Angeles Times:

WASHINGTON — The Army's top officer withheld a required 2008 budget plan from Pentagon leaders last month after protesting to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that the service could not maintain its current level of activity in Iraq plus its other global commitments without billions in additional funding.

According to a senior Army official involved in budget talks, Schoomaker is now seeking $138.8 billion in 2008, nearly $25 billion above budget limits originally set by Rumsfeld. The Army's budget this year is $98.2 billion, making Schoomaker's request a 41% increase over current levels.

"It's incredibly huge," said the Army official, who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity when commenting on internal deliberations. "These are just incredible numbers."

Most funding for the fighting in Iraq has come from annual emergency spending bills, with the regular defense budget going to normal personnel, procurement and operational expenses, such as salaries and new weapons systems.

About $400 billion has been appropriated for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars through emergency funding measures since Sept. 11, 2001, with the money divided among military branches and government agencies.

And this number is just going to get even bigger as the Bush administration continues its war in Iraq.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Friday Fun Stuff--Come on and EAT ME!

Six Flags Great America's Lunch Special of the Day

I found this off Yahoo News, and I think I've lost my appetite:

GURNEE, Ill. - Why wait in line when you can just eat a cockroach? That's the question Six Flags Great America is asking its thrill seekers during its Halloween-themed FrightFest. The amusement park is daring customers to eat a live Madagascar hissing cockroach in exchange for unlimited line-jumping privileges.

The promotion, which has Lake County Health Department officials shaking their heads, starts Oct. 7.

Anyone who chows down the entire 2- to 3-inch horned cockroach gets a pass for four people to cut to the front of ride lines through Oct. 29.

Park officials insist it's safe to eat the crunchy critters, but health officials are cautioning participants.

Consuming live roaches might increase risks of gastrointestinal illness and allergies, according to Bill Mays, Lake County Health Department's community health director.

Cockroach eaters will have to sign waivers and still pay admission fees, said Six Flags spokesman James Taylor.

The bug buffet continues with a cooked roach eating contest Oct. 13 — Friday, Oct. 13.

Taylor says he's hoping someone can beat the 2001 Guinness Book of World Records feat in which a British man downed 36 cockroaches.

"I've heard people say, 'Wow,' 'Ew,' a lot of one-worders," Taylor said. "A lot have said that they wouldn't eat a cockroach, but they sure would like to see someone else do it."

You know, I can just imagine someone actually eating that hissing cockroach, and then cut into line of the first, and hottest, amusment park ride in Great American. And while experiencing the whirly-twirly-whoopsy-doopsy ride, what went down into that individual's stomach will come up.

And the ghost of the Madagascar hissing cockroach will have its just revenge.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Abizaid Doesn't See Drawdown Until Spring

This is from The Los Angeles Times:

WASHINGTON -- No drawdown of troops in Iraq will likely be possible until next spring, the top American commander in the Middle East said today.

Gen. John Abizaid, the head of the U.S. Central Command, said that six months ago he would have predicted that two brigades--about 7,000 soldiers--could have been withdrawn by now. But rising violence and the difficulty in forming a permanent Iraqi government have scuttled those plans.

"We clearly did not achieve the force levels we had hoped to. Why is that? Part of it is that the sectarian violence got worse and part of it is the development of the security forces," Abizaid said.

The Iraq war has been growing increasingly unpopular with the American public. And as the November elections inch closer, Iraq has become an ever more divisive political issue.

Earlier this year Gen. George Casey, the top commander in Iraq, told the White House that he hoped to withdraw troops this fall. But the rising numbers of murders and attacks in Baghdad have convinced American and Iraqi leaders that they needed to beef up military forces, particularly in the capital.

After a series of small reductions at the beginning of the year, the number of soldiers and Marines in the country has again begun to increase. There are now 147,000 troops in Iraq, an increase of about 20,000 since June.

"I think that this level will probably have to be sustained through the spring, then we will reevaluate" Abizaid said. "I think these are prudent force levels, they are achieving their military effect."

Does anyone see the irony here? The Pentagon and Bush White House have been talking about possible troop drawdowns for this fall, and the congressional midterm elections. But instead of troop drawdowns, the Pentagon has increasing the number of U.S. forces in Iraq by 20,000 to a current number of 147,000 troops. Instead of pulling troops out of Iraq, the Bush administration has been putting more troops into Iraq, while publicly talking about troop drawdowns.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Ties to GOP Trumped Know-How Among Staff Sent to Rebuild Iraq

This story is a WOW of a story. Instead of sending the most qualified individuals to help in the reconstruction of Iraq, the Bush administration sent over political hacks where qualifications were based on loyalty to the Bush agenda, rather than knowledge and experience.

This is the first part ofThe Washington Post story:

Adapted from "Imperial Life in the Emerald City," by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, copyright Knopf 2006

After the fall of Saddam Hussein's government in April 2003, the opportunity to participate in the U.S.-led effort to reconstruct Iraq attracted all manner of Americans -- restless professionals, Arabic-speaking academics, development specialists and war-zone adventurers. But before they could go to Baghdad, they had to get past Jim O'Beirne's office in the Pentagon.

To pass muster with O'Beirne, a political appointee who screens prospective political appointees for Defense Department posts, applicants didn't need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.

O'Beirne's staff posed blunt questions to some candidates about domestic politics: Did you vote for George W. Bush in 2000? Do you support the way the president is fighting the war on terror? Two people who sought jobs with the U.S. occupation authority said they were even asked their views on Roe v. Wade .

Many of those chosen by O'Beirne's office to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran Iraq's government from April 2003 to June 2004, lacked vital skills and experience. A 24-year-old who had never worked in finance -- but had applied for a White House job -- was sent to reopen Baghdad's stock exchange. The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator and a recent graduate from an evangelical university for home-schooled children were tapped to manage Iraq's $13 billion budget, even though they didn't have a background in accounting.

The decision to send the loyal and the willing instead of the best and the brightest is now regarded by many people involved in the 3 1/2 -year effort to stabilize and rebuild Iraq as one of the Bush administration's gravest errors. Many of those selected because of their political fidelity spent their time trying to impose a conservative agenda on the postwar occupation, which sidetracked more important reconstruction efforts and squandered goodwill among the Iraqi people, according to many people who participated in the reconstruction effort.

The CPA had the power to enact laws, print currency, collect taxes, deploy police and spend Iraq's oil revenue. It had more than 1,500 employees in Baghdad at its height, working under America's viceroy in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, but never released a public roster of its entire staff.

Interviews with scores of former CPA personnel over the past two years depict an organization that was dominated -- and ultimately hobbled -- by administration ideologues.

Now wonder the reconstruction of Iraq has been a total disaster. Read the entire story. It is just amazing.

New WPO Poll: Iraqi Public Wants Timetable for US Withdrawal, But Thinks US Plans Permanent Bases in Iraq

I came across this World Public Opinion Poll story that I thought was very interesting. It appears that the Iraqis don't want the U.S. forces occupying their country, and that they approve of the attacks on our troops. It is a fascinating read:

A new poll of the Iraqi public finds that a large majority of Iraqis think the US plans to maintain bases in Iraq permanently, even if the newly elected government asks the US to leave. A large majority favors setting a timeline for the withdrawal of US forces, though this majority divides over whether the timeline should be over a period of six months or two years. Nearly half of Iraqis approve of attacks on US-led forces—including nine out of 10 Sunnis. Most Iraqis believe that many aspects of their lives will improve once the US-led forces leave, but are nonetheless uncertain that Iraqi security forces are ready to stand on their own.

The poll was conducted for by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland and was fielded by KA Research Limited/D3 Systems, Inc. Polling was conducted January 2-5 with a nationwide sample of 1,150, which included an oversample of 150 Arab Sunnis (hereafter simply called Sunnis).

Asked whether “the US government plans to have permanent military bases in Iraq or to remove all its military forces once Iraq is stabilized,” 80% overall assume that the US plans to remain permanently, including 79% of Shia, 92% of Sunnis and 67% of Kurds. Only small minorities believe that the US plans “to remove all its military forces once Iraq is stabilized” (overall 18%, Shia 21%, Sunni 7%, Kurds 28%).

Iraqis of all ethnic groups also agree that the US is unlikely to take direction from the Iraqi government. Asked what they think the US would do if the new government were to ask the US to withdraw its forces within six months, 76% overall assume that the US would refuse to do so (Shia 67%, Sunni 94%, Kurds 77%).

Now I don't know how accurate these poll numbers are, but I will say that they do provide some interesting trends regarding the Iraqi public's perception of the war--especially with the breakdown according to ethnicity and religion. The majority of the Iraqi population generally agrees that the U.S. is establishing permanent bases there, and believes that the U.S. would not withdrawal from those bases. The Iraqis do have a desire for their government to ask for a U.S. withdrawal, however the differences in the actual timetable for a withdrawal shows sharp divisions in the ethnic and religious groups, with the Sunnis favoring a U.S. withdrawal in less than six months, while the Shia and Kurds favor a longer timetable of over two years.

Now here is some really interesting poll numbers:

Respondents were asked what would happen in a variety of areas if US-led forces were to withdraw from Iraq in the next six months. Majorities of Iraqis express confidence that in many dimensions related to security, things would improve. Sixty-seven percent say that “day to day security for ordinary Iraqis” would increase, a consensus position among all ethnic groups—83% of Sunnis, 61% of Shia and 57% of Kurds. On other points, Sunnis and Shia agree, but the Kurds diverge. Overall, 64% believe that violent attacks would decrease, including a majority of Sunnis (86%) and Shia (66%), but 78% of Kurds think they will increase. Overall, 61% think that the amount of interethnic violence will decrease, including a majority of Sunnis (81%) and Shia (64%), but a majority of Kurds (68%) think it will increase. Similarly, 56% overall agree that the presence of foreign fighters in Iraq will decrease if US-led forces withdraw (Sunnis 74%, Shia 64%), but 74% of Kurds think they will increase.

Interestingly, there is a fair amount of consensus that if US-led troops were to withdraw, there would be substantial improvement in the performance of the Iraqi state. Overall, 73% think there will be an increase in the willingness of factions to cooperate in Parliament, including majorities of Kurds (62%), Sunnis (87%) and Shia (68%). Sixty-seven percent assume there will be an increase in the availability of public services such as electricity, schools and sanitation (Sunni 83%, Shia 63%, Kurds 54%). Sixty-four percent assume crime will go down (Sunnis 88%, Shia 66%), but here again the Kurds diverge, with 77% assuming crime will increase.

A majority of the Iraqis believe that the security conditions would improve if the U.S. withdrawals. And it is not just the security conditions in Iraq that would improve, but also the performance of the Iraqi state, and public services. It is almost like the U.S. occupation is hampering the Iraqis, forcing ordinary Iraqi citizens to participate in the insurgency against the U.S. occupation, rather than pursuing their own economic self-interests. There is some divergence here with the Kurds. The Kurds believe that the security situation will decrease if the U.S. withdrawals in the next six months, crime and interethnic violence will increase and that foreign fighters will stay in Iraq. I would say that the Kurds are fearful that a quick U.S. withdrawal would force a Shia-controlled Iraqi government to encroach upon their autonomous region in northern Iraq. The Kurds want their own country--their own homeland. While the Kurds may not want an indefinite U.S. presence in Iraq, they want the U.S. to stay long enough so that the Kurds can establish their own governing region, strengthen their own militia, and take control of their own economic resources so that they can create and protect their own homeland, once U.S. forces withdrawal. It is interesting that the majority of the Kurds believe that interethinic violence will increase, while the Sunnis and Shia believe that the interethnic violence will decrease. This divergence of opinion makes me wonder if the Kurds believe that a Shia-Sunni government would try to force their control on the Kurdish regions.

There is one positive point here. "Overall, 73% think there will be an increase in the willingness of factions to cooperate in Parliament, including majorities of Kurds (62%), Sunnis (87%) and Shia (68%)." A majority of all three ethnic groups believe that cooperation between the groups would improve in Parliament if the U.S. establishes a timetable for a withdrawal. A timetable is finite. It would mean that on a certain date, the U.S. would pull its forces out of Iraq, leaving Iraq to the Iraqis. It would mean that the three ethnic groups would have to find some way to cooperate with each other in governing Iraq before the U.S. forces leave. Otherwise, Iraq would degenerate into a civil war. The Iraqi population believes that cooperation is possible between the ethnic groups. Here I would have to wonder if the Iraqi population (of all three ethnic groups) could exert pressure on their own ethnic leaders to ensure their cooperation. As long as the U.S. remains in Iraq indefinitely, that will never happen. Perhaps it is time to explore new course changes in our Iraq policy and the war.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Star Wars--The Empire Strikes Out!

Okay, so how about some more postings on this Senate rebellion against the Bush White House over the anti-terror bill? Let's start with this CNN.Com story:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday voted 15-9 to recommend a bill -- over the objections of the Bush administration -- that would authorize tribunals for terror suspects in a way that it says would protect suspects' rights.

The bill was backed by Republican Sens. John Warner of Virginia, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Sen Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

It differs from the administration's proposal in two major ways: It would permit terror suspects to view classified evidence against them and does not include a proposal that critics say reinterprets a Geneva Conventions rule that prohibits cruel and inhuman treatment of detainees.

In a decision earlier this summer, the Supreme Court ruled that the administration must meet Article 3 standards in its treatment of detainees.

Article 3 prohibits nations engaged in combat not of "an international character" from, among other things, "violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture" and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment."

Now this little act of rebellion by the Senate Armed Services Committee forced an angry President Bush to come out against the Senate in a special White House press conference. But I've already talked about that in a previous post here.

But there is an interesting detail regarding former Secretary of State Colin Powell. It would appear that Powell supports the Senate provisions regarding the military tribunals:

But critics, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell and top Republican senators, oppose reinterpretation of the Geneva Conventions rule.

Powell expressed his opposition in a letter to McCain that was released Thursday.

Warner, Graham, and McCain, a former Vietnam POW -- along with Powell -- oppose any changes to the U.S. interpretation of Article 3, arguing that it could adversely affect enemies' treatment of captured U.S. service members.

"The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism," Powell, a retired Army four-star general, wrote in his letter to McCain, whose amendment last year opposed the use of torture. (Read Powell's letter)

"To redefine Common Article 3 would add to those doubts," Powell said. "Furthermore, it would put our own troops at risk."

Here is Powell's letter to Senator McCain. Powell has broken his silence and has come out in complete opposition of the Bush administration's attempts to redefine the Geneva Conventions, thus allowing the United States to perform torture sessions against terrorist suspects. Powell states that if the Bush administration goes ahead with their own definitions of the Geneva conventions, then you can bet that other countries will apply their own definitions to the conventions--and torture will pretty much be allowed. And U.S. troops will be exposed to such torture sessions.

Well, this has placed President Bush into a real dizzy of a tizzy. Here's the Washington Post's story on the Bush press conference:

Bush bristled at the criticism from his former top diplomat yesterday, calling it "flawed logic" and accusing Powell of equating U.S. tactics with those of terrorists, even though Powell's letter made no such comparison. "It's unacceptable to think that there's any kind of comparison between the behavior of the United States of America and the action of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children," Bush said.

He likewise rejected the argument that nations such as Iran and North Korea would cite U.S. precedent in reinterpreting Geneva rules. "If the nations such as those you named adopted the standards within the Detainee Detention Act," Bush said, meaning the model for his preferred legislation, "the world would be better."

And now here's the Bush quote rejecting both McCain's and Powell's criticism. From The New York Times story on the Bush press conference:

Mr. Bush rejected the crux of Mr. McCain’s argument when a reporter asked him how he would react if nations like Iran or North Korea “roughed up” American soldiers under the guise of their own interpretations of Common Article 3.

“You can give a hypothetical about North Korea or any other country,” Mr. Bush said, casting the question as steeped in moral relativism. “The point is that the program is not going to go forward if our professionals do not have clarity in the law.”

He also discounted an argument made in a letter from Mr. Powell that his plan would encourage the world to “doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism.”

Asked about that analysis, Mr. Bush said, “If there’s any comparison between the compassion and decency of the American people and the terrorist tactics of extremists, it’s flawed logic.”

First, what is so amazing is how Bush can't understand the hypothetical question here. If the United States adopts its own standards regarding the Geneva Conventions, then you can bet that North Korea will adopt their own standards on the conventions. President Bush believes that nations should have the right to define the Geneva Conventions according to the U.S. standards as defined by the Bush administration's Detainee Detention Act--in other words, by the U.S. standards as defined by President Bush. But the other nations of the world are not going to define the Geneva Conventions according to President Bush's definition--they will choose their own standards. The world will not be a better place.

Now the Powell criticism. President Bush responded to Powell's criticism with this quote "If there’s any comparison between the compassion and decency of the American people and the terrorist tactics of extremists, it’s flawed logic." Unfortunately, it is the president who has flawed logic. Powell never compared the compassion and decency of the American people with the terrorist tactics of extremists here. Powell criticized the Bush administration for using extreme tactics of torture on terror suspects, saying that the Bush administration's policies are causing the world to "doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism." The Bush administration is responsible for the world's turning against the United States--NOT the American people. What President Bush is trying to do is to combine the morality of American people with his own administration in comparing the United States with "terrorist tactics of extremists." That is flawed logic on the president's part. What is even more ironic is that the President Bush doesn't have the support of the American people. According to this September 2006 CNN poll story:

(CNN) -- President Bush's unpopularity -- due largely to the war in Iraq -- seems likely to affect GOP candidates in congressional midterm elections in November, according to a CNN poll released Wednesday.

Fifty-five percent of 1,004 Americans said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who has supported Bush administration policies, according to the poll conducted by Opinion Research Corporation on behalf of CNN. Forty percent said they would be more likely.

The war in Iraq appears to be a main factor in Republican opposition, poll results show. Fifty-eight percent of poll respondents said they are opposed to the war, compared with 39 percent who approve of it.

Sixty-two percent said they believe no one is winning the war; 25 percent said the United States is winning and 12 percent said the insurgents are winning.

Asked whether the Iraq war is part of the U.S.-led war on terror, 53 percent said they believe it is a separate action, while 45 percent said they believe it is connected, as the Bush administration has repeatedly insisted.

And now here is an April 2006 CNN story on Bush's poll numbers:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush's approval ratings have sunk to a personal low, with only a third of Americans saying they approve of the way he is handling his job, a national poll released Monday said.

In the telephone poll of 1,012 adult Americans carried out Friday through Sunday by Opinion Research Corporation for CNN, 32 percent of respondents said they approve of Bush's performance, 60 percent said they disapprove and 8 percent said they do not know.

That's a significant drop from the way Americans perceived the president a year ago. In a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll carried out April 29-May 1, 2005, Americans were split on their assessments of Bush's performance, with 48 percent saying they approved and 49 percent saying they disapproved.

President Bush has divided the country here, with an increasing majority of the public opposing his policies. And yet the only way for Bush to respond to Powell's criticisms is to apply this "flawed logic" of claiming the American people support his administration's war on terror.

There is one more little detail I have to comment on regarding this rebellion. This is off the New York Times story on the Bush press conference:

Although he declared his eagerness to work with Congress, Mr. Bush raised his voice several times and poked the air with his index fingers for emphasis.

“There’s a debate about the specific provisions in my bill, and we’ll work with Congress to continue to try to find common ground,” Mr. Bush said. “I have one test for this legislation. I’m going to ask one question as this legislation proceeds, and it’s this. The intelligence community must be able to tell me that the bill Congress sends to my desk will allow this vital program to continue.”

This is just incredible. Whatever anti-terror bill Congress creates must be approved by the intelligence community? Congress has to get its bill rubber-stamped by the intelligence community, whose civilian leaders have been chosen by the Bush White House? Talk about President Bush's arrogance here. Congress drafts the legislation that the intelligence community must abide by. Now the intelligence community can provide recommendations and advice to Congress when Congress is creating the legislation, but whatever legislation is passed by Congress (and signed into law by the president), then the intelligence community must abide by the laws. That is the way the system works. President Bush wants the system to work backwards, where the intelligence community--under the Bush administration's supervision--tells Congress what legislation to draft. Incredible.

There will probably be more to come on this rebellion next week. Stay tuned.