28 February 2006


Highlights from yesterday's
National Governors Association Meeting.

Good morning. Thanks for coming.
I enjoyed it last night, I hope you did, too.

It was a lot of fun. And thank you all for giving
me a chance to come by.

What I thought I'd do is say a few things and
then answer some questions, if you have any.

We have got a chance to achieve some big things
for the country, to lay the stage for peace and to keep
America in the lead. And these are goals that both
Republicans and Democrats should share.

You know, there's a lot of politics here in Washington,
so it's -- when you say, well, you know, it's a Republican
goal to make America competitive, I just don't agree
with that.

It should be a national goal. It's a national goal
to protect our people. And, therefore, it requires a lot
of collaboration throughout all aspects of government.
And no better collaborators to implement good policy
than our governors.

So thanks for giving me a chance to come and
share some insights with you.

First, one question that ought to be confronting
everybody is how do we keep this economy of ours
strong? A couple of notable exceptions, like our
friends in Michigan and Ohio, in particular -- maybe
Washington State

-- the overall economy is in great shape. People
are working, productivity is up, people own their
homes, small businesses are flourishing.

And the fundamental question is what can we do
together to keep it that way.

Part of it is to be wise with taxpayers' money.


I spend a lot of time worrying about disruption
of energy because of politics or civil strife in other
countries --

because tyrants control the spigots. And it's in our
national interest that we become less dependent on oil.

AND THEN . . .

We've got to expand solar power.

I went to a facility there in Michigan to see a
fantastic company called United Solar. I don't mean
to be pushing them, but nevertheless, they're
making a great product.

I remember going out to Colorado to the facility
out there, the research facility on alternative uses
of energy.

We've got fantastic chances to advance this
really important agenda, and we look forward to
working with you to do so.

It's one of these issues where when we continue
to make these technological breakthroughs we'll
leave behind a better tomorrow for our children
and grandchildren.

26 February 2006

Must ... Have ... Briefs

Scooter reaches for the family jewels.

25 February 2006

Mars Is Hard

"The cruise has not been easy," Mr. Graf said.

"We've accomplished an awful lot during that,
but now we're starting to enter into the realm
where we've lost two spacecraft in the last
15 years."

24 February 2006


A groundswell of sectarian fury continued to roil
Iraq on Thursday after Wednesday's bombing of a
major Shiite shrine, leaving at least 138 people
dead in the past two days and political negotiations
over a new government in ruins.

The threat of full-scale civil war loomed over the
country as Sunni politicians lashed out at Shiite
leaders on Thursday, accusing them of igniting
anti-Sunni reprisals, and at the American military,
charging it with standing idly by as the violence
erupted. The most powerful Sunni Arab political
group said it was suspending talks with Shiite and
Kurdish politicians on forming a new

22 February 2006

He's A Busy Man

The AP reports:

While Bush has adamantly defended the
deal, the White House acknowledged that he
did not know about it until recently.

"He became aware of it over the last several
days," McClellan said. Asked if Bush did not
know about it until it was a done deal,
McClellan said, "That's correct." He said the
matter did not rise to the presidential level,
but went through a congressionally-
mandated review process and was
determined not to pose a national security

"The president made sure to check with all
the Cabinet secretaries that are part of this
process, or whose agencies or departments
are part of this process," the spokesman
said. "He made sure to check with them --
even after this got more attention in the
press, to make sure that they were
comfortable with the decision that was

"And every one of the Cabinet secretaries
expressed that they were comfortable with
this transaction being approved," he said.

See? Someone eventually gave Bush the heads-up. Just
like after the VP shot his buddy in the face, or after a
Category 5 hurricane destroyed a major U.S. city.

And then he made few phone calls, checked-in with the
guys down the hall, and made sure everything was cool.

So what more do you want? Perhaps a legally required
45-day investigation by the the Committee on Foreign
Investment in the United States?

Guess again.

Another Great Idea

It simply boggles the mind.

WASHINGTON - Brushing aside objections
from Republicans and Democrats alike,
President Bush endorsed the takeover of
shipping operations at six major U.S.
seaports by a state-owned business in the
United Arab Emirates. He pledged to veto any
bill Congress might approve to block the
The president on Tuesday defended his
administration's earlier approval of the sale
of London-based Peninsular and Oriental
Steam Navigation Co. to Dubai Ports World,
despite concerns in Congress it could
increase the possibility of terrorism at
American ports.

The sale — expected to be finalized in early
March — would put Dubai Ports in charge of
major shipping operations in New York, New
Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and
Philadelphia. "If there was any chance that
this transaction would jeopardize the
security of the United States, it would not go
forward," Bush said.

"It sends a terrible signal to friends around
the world that it's OK for a company from
one country to manage the port, but not a
country that plays by the rules and has got a
good track record from another part of the
world," Bush said.

Good track record, huh? Here’s what U.S. News & World
Report had to say about Dubai back in December 2005:

From Egypt to Afghanistan, when terrorists
and gangsters need a place to meet, to relax,
maybe to invest, they head to Dubai, a
bustling city-state on the Persian Gulf. The
Middle East's unquestioned financial capital,
Dubai is the showcase of the United Arab
Emirates, an oil-rich federation of sheikdoms.
Forty years ago, Dubai was a backwater;
today, it hosts dozens of banks and one of the
world's busiest ports; its free-trade zones are
crammed with thousands of companies.
Construction is everywhere--skyscrapers,
malls, hotels, and, soon, the world's tallest

But Dubai also serves as the region's criminal
crossroads, a hub for smuggling, money
laundering, and underground banking. There
are Russian and Indian mobsters, Iranian
arms traffickers, and Arab jihadists. Funds for
the 9/11 hijackers and African embassy
bombers were transferred through the city. It
was the heart of Pakistani scientist A. Q.
Khan's black market in nuclear technology
and other proliferation cases. Half of all
applications to buy U.S. military equipment
from Dubai are from bogus front companies,
officials say. "Iran," adds one U.S. official, "is
building a bomb through Dubai." Last year,
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
agents thwarted the shipment of 3,000 U.S.
military night-vision goggles by an Iranian
pair based in Dubai. Moving goods undetected
is not hard. Dhows--rickety wooden boats
that have plowed the Arabian Sea for
centuries--move along the city center,
uninspected, down the aptly named
Smuggler's Creek.

Hey, if Brown & Chertoff can be put in charge of disaster
response, and Cheney can create our energy policy, why
not let the folks from “Smuggler’s Creek” administer our
ports? Really. What could possibly go wrong?

Digby writes:

If there are three hallmarks of this failed Bush
administration, it is hubris, incompetence and
cronyism. This port deal features all three.

Indeed. You know you’ve hit the trifecta when even Frist
and Hastert start looking for the exits.

The confrontation between Mr. Bush and his
own supporters escalated rapidly after the
Senate Republican leader, Bill Frist, and the
House speaker, J. Dennis Hastert, joined
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Gov. George E.
Pataki and a host of other Republicans in
insisting that the transaction must be
extensively reviewed, if not killed. That put
them on essentially the same side of the
issue as a chorus of Democrats, who have
seized on the issue to argue that Mr. Bush
was ignoring a potential security threat.

The White House appeared stunned by the
uprising, over a transaction that they
considered routine — especially since China's
biggest state-owned shipper runs major ports
in the United States, as do a host of other
foreign companies. Mr. Bush's aides defended
their decision, saying the company, Dubai
Ports World, which is owned by the United
Arab Emirates, would have no control over
security issues.

Of course not. They’d just be in charge of answering the
phones, replacing the toner in the copy machines and
receiving large sums of U.S. tax dollars they can send
back to their friends in Smuggler’s Creek.

C’mon guys! What’s the worst that could happen?

20 February 2006

Mission Accomplished

Anyone with a functioning brain and a shred of honesty
always knew that the hardest part of this Iraq
adventure would be creating a stable government after
removing Saddam. Fortunately for us, that part of the
deal is someone else's problem.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The U.S. ambassador
delivered a blunt warning to Iraqi leaders
Monday that they risk losing American
support unless they establish a national
unity government with the police and the
army out of the hands of religious parties.

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad delivered the
warning as another 24 people, including an
American soldier, died in a string of
bombings, underscoring the need for the
country to establish a government capable
of winning the trust of all communities and
ending the violence.

Such a government is also essential to the
U.S. strategy for handing over security to
Iraqi soldiers and police so the 138,000
U.S. troops can go home. But talks among
Iraqi parties that won parliament seats in
the Dec. 15 election have stalled over deep
divisions among Shiites, Sunni Arabs and

Deep divisions that have existed for centuries. But that
didn’t stop our president from telling Britain's prime
minister only months before invading Iraq that he
“thought it unlikely that there would be internecine
warfare between the different religious and ethnic

Like I said... a functioning brain and a shred of honesty.

14 February 2006

Any Questions?

Scotty's Pals:

Q: Scott, just a few questions to follow up
on the accidental shooting by the vice president.
Does the president think that the vice president
should address this publicly personally, speak to
the American people in any fashion, to explain
what happened and why it took so long to
disclose it publicly?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think what happened
has been explained. The vice president's office
has talked about it. I've talked about it. And I
represent the president and speak for him. The
vice president's spokeswoman speaks for him,
as well. So that information has been provided.
We went through this pretty thoroughly

Q: So the president doesn't think that the vice
president should actually speak about it himself,
not through intermediaries?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, look, I mean, you've
talked to the vice president on a fairly frequent
basis in the past, and I'm sure you will in the
future, as well.

Q: But he shouldn't really have to address it
specifically, in your --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he has, through his

Lawrence O'Donnell:

How do we know there was no alcohol? Cheney
refused to talk to local authorities until the next
day. No point in giving him a breathalyzer then.
Every lawyer I've talked to assumes Cheney was
too drunk to talk to the cops after the shooting.
The next question for the White House
should be: Was Cheney drunk?

I have never gone hunting with ultra-rich
Republicans on a Saturday afternoon, but I have
seen them tailgating at Ivy League football
games, so it's hard for me to believe that any of
their Saturday lunches are alcohol free.

James Wolcott:

The question the press should ask itself
when it has time to pause and (ha-ha) reflect is:
Why has Dick Cheney been allowed to be secret
agent vice president since 9/11? Everyone foolishly
accepted that he needed to be in an undisclosed
location in case of terrorist attack, but there hasn't
been a terrorist attack and Cheney has used the
9/11 moment as a permanent opaque bullet-proof
shield between himself and accountability on
everything pertaining to his office. Has there ever
been an administration where the vice president
was more aloof, arrogant, and stealthier than the
president himself? As Dana Bash said the other
night on CNN, the vice president's office routinely
refuses to let anyone know what the veep's schedule
is, what his travel plans are, who he's meeting with,
etc. They didn't know he was spending the weekend
shooting quail and the occasional fellow hunter
until the news broke in Texas. He's an elected
official, which he seems to have forgotten, as has
the press, as has the Republican Party, as have the
American people.

and Jane Hamsher asks:

What happens in Texas hunting accidents if
you're Hispanic?

13 February 2006

Deadeye Dick

Apparently Dick Cheney wasn’t happy with the low
profile this story was getting, and did something
sure to keep his face in the primetime spotlight.


08 February 2006

Coming Soon: Future Disasters

President Bush (8/15/05):

Federal funds will cover the great majority of
the costs of repairing public infrastructure in the
disaster zone -- from roads and bridges to
schools and water systems. Our goal is to get the
work done quickly. And taxpayers expect this
work to be done honestly and wisely, so we will
have a team of inspectors general reviewing all

In the rebuilding process, there will be many
important decisions and many details to resolve,
yet we are moving forward according to some
clear principles. The Federal government will be
fully engaged in the mission, but Gov. Barbour,
Gov. Blanco, Mayor Nagin, and other state and
local leaders will have the primary role in
planning for their own future.

Reuters (2/6/06):

Shortcomings in aid from the U.S. government are
making New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin look to
other nations for help in rebuilding his hurricane-
damaged city.

Nagin, who has hosted a steady stream of foreign
dignitaries since Hurricane Katrina hit in late
August, says he may seek international
assistance because U.S. aid has not been
sufficient to get the city back on its feet.

Associated Press (2/6/06):

The Bush administration offered no new aid for
Hurricane Katrina victims in the budget it
released Monday, instead putting modest amounts
of money into preparedness and response plans
for future disasters.

06 February 2006

Cheesy History Lesson

Previous presidents, Gonzales argued, have
"authorized the warrantless surveillance of the
enemy during wartime" in ways "far more
sweeping than the narrowly targeted terrorist
surveillance program." He cited presidents
Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson and
Franklin D. Roosevelt and noted that Gen.
George Washington authorized the interception
of letters during the Revolutionary War.

I hate to piss all over your little parade Alberto, but there
was no American Constitution during the Revolutionary
War and General George Washington was not yet
president. Your same logic would imply that because
previous presidents fought in wars (unlike our current
Bedwetter-in-Chief) it is therefore legal for any sitting
president to pick up a gun and shoot someone. It’s not.
Likewise, it is also illegal for the president to own slaves,
even though the other George W. did so over two
hundred years ago.

You see folks, times change and so do laws. It
doesn’t matter what was legal when the guy calling the
shots was Washington or Lincoln or Alexander the Great.
Current U.S. law says the government must obtain a
if it wants to spy on Americans. You can argue
that everyone from Nixon to Atilla the Hun got to play
with different rules ‘til the cows come home, but it won’t
change the essential, indisputable truth...

The Bush Administration broke the law.

Paper Trail

Another disturbing memo.

Lucky for Bush, the US media won’t bother writing about it.

Tony Blair told President George Bush that he
was "solidly" behind US plans to invade Iraq
before he sought advice about the invasion's
legality and despite the absence of a second UN
resolution, according to a new account of the
build-up to the war published [Friday].

A memo of a two-hour meeting between the two
leaders at the White House on January 31 2003
- nearly two months before the invasion -
reveals that Mr Bush made it clear the US
intended to invade whether or not there was a
second UN resolution and even if UN inspectors
found no evidence of a banned Iraqi weapons

"The diplomatic strategy had to be arranged
around the military planning", the president told
Mr Blair. The prime minister is said to have
raised no objection. He is quoted as saying he
was "solidly with the president and ready to do
whatever it took to disarm Saddam".

The disclosures come in a new edition of Lawless
World, by Phillipe Sands, a QC and professor of
international law at University College, London.
Professor Sands last year exposed the doubts
shared by Foreign Office lawyers about the
legality of the invasion in disclosures which
eventually forced the prime minister to publish
the full legal advice given to him by the attorney
general, Lord Goldsmith.

The memo seen by Prof Sands reveals:

· Mr Bush told Mr Blair that the US was so
worried about the failure to find hard evidence
against Saddam that it thought of "flying U2
reconnaissance aircraft planes with fighter cover
over Iraq, painted in UN colours". Mr Bush
added: "If Saddam fired on them, he would be in
breach [of UN resolutions]".

· Mr Bush even expressed the hope that a
defector would be extracted from Iraq and give a
"public presentation about Saddam's WMD". He
is also said to have referred Mr Blair to a "small
possibility" that Saddam would be

· Mr Blair told the US president that a second UN
resolution would be an "insurance policy",
providing "international cover, including with the
Arabs" if anything went wrong with the military
campaign, or if Saddam increased the stakes by
burning oil wells, killing children, or fomenting
internal divisions within Iraq.

· Mr Bush told the prime minister that he "thought
it unlikely that there would be internecine
warfare between the different religious and
ethnic groups". Mr Blair did not demur, according
to the book.

Think Progress has more.

05 February 2006

The Spying Game

The Washington Post reports:

The Bush administration refuses to say -- in public
or in closed session of Congress -- how many
Americans in the past four years have had their
conversations recorded or their e-mails read by
intelligence analysts without court authority. Two
knowledgeable sources placed that number in the
thousands; one of them, more specific, said about

The program has touched many more Americans
than that. Surveillance takes place in several
stages, officials said, the earliest by machine.
Computer-controlled systems collect and sift basic
information about hundreds of thousands of faxes,
e-mails and telephone calls into and out of the
United States before selecting the ones for scrutiny
by human eyes and ears.

Successive stages of filtering grow more intrusive
as artificial intelligence systems rank voice and
data traffic in order of likeliest interest to human
analysts. But intelligence officers, who test the
computer judgments by listening initially to brief
fragments of conversation, "wash out" most of the
leads within days or weeks.

The scale of warrantless surveillance, and the high
proportion of bystanders swept in, sheds new light
on Bush's circumvention of the courts. National
security lawyers, in and out of government, said
the washout rate raised fresh doubts about the
program's lawfulness under the Fourth Amendment,
because a search cannot be judged "reasonable" if
it is based on evidence that experience shows to be
unreliable. Other officials said the disclosures
might shift the terms of public debate, altering
perceptions about the balance between privacy lost
and security gained.

Reddhead writes:

Five years of this incompetence, and nothing to
show for it. Bloody brilliant. (Allow me to pause
for a moment to bang my head on the keyboard.)

04 February 2006

Is that a subpoena in your pocket?

Mark your calendars.

January 8, 2007: Scooter goes to trial.

Ted Wells, one of Libby's lawyers, said the
defense team was "very happy" with the
January 2007 trial date. "The defense will
show that Mr. Libby is totally innocent, that
he has not done anything wrong," Wells said
outside the courthouse.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald did not
oppose the date during the hearing, and his
team left the courthouse without

You can bet there will be plenty of journalists in the
courthouse next January -- and not all of them covering
the trial.

Lawyers for both sides made clear Friday
that a significant part of their cases will rely
on testimony from reporters.

Walton told the lawyers that he wants them
to identify soon the reporters that each side
wants to testify at trial to give news
organizations time to fight the subpoenas.

Fitzgerald said both sides should know
which reporters they want to subpoena by
early spring.

And that’s right around the corner. By the time we’re
done with the Superbowl and the Oscars, we should be
hearing who the nominees are for Best Supporting Stooge
in a Government Scandal or Cover-Up.
There are already
several strong candidates.

Will it be Tiny Tim?

Lawyers for NBC News reporter Tim Russert
suspected in the spring of 2004 that his
testimony could snare Vice President Cheney's
top aide, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, in a lie and
Russert resisted testifying at the time about
private conversations with Libby, according
to court papers released yesterday.

Russert was aware that a special prosecutor
probing the leak of a CIA operative's name
knew of his summer 2003 telephone
conversation with Libby, and that Libby had
released him from any promise of
confidentiality. But Russert, the Washington
bureau chief for NBC News and host of
"Meet the Press," and his attorneys argued in
previously sealed court filings in June 2004
that he should not have to tell a grand jury
about that conversation, because it would
harm Russert's relationship with other

Russert ultimately testified under oath about
the conversation after a federal judge ordered
him to do so in July 2004. The information
Russert provided became important evidence
that Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald
used to indict Libby in October on five felony
counts of lying to the FBI and a grand jury,
and of obstruction of justice.

Or Jailbird Judy?

Libby was also asked about two July
conversations he had with Miller. He said he
never mentioned Wilson's wife to Miller in
the first conversation but passed along some
information another reporter told him about
Plame in the second, according to the

Miller testified last year, however, that she
thought Libby was the first government
official to mention Wilson's wife to her and
that he did so in three conversations: on June
23, when she visited his office in the
Executive Office Building, and on July 8 and

Or perhaps the Prince of Darkness himself?

During Monday's speech in the Hinckley
Caucus Room, Joe Wilson said, per his wife's
request, he no longer refers to Bob Novak as
a "douche bag."

Novak identified Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame
Wilson, as a CIA operative in a 2003 column,
beginning an investigation into who leaked
her name.

Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff,
Lewis "Scooter" Libby, has since been
indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice.

"Bob Novak is not in jail because he sang like
a canary to the Grand Jury," Wilson said. "He
is a denizen of the deep who crumbled like a

[Hat tip to TPM for photo]