Friday, June 30, 2006

Independence Day Salute

Old Fashioned 4th -- thanks to the Peringer Archives.

Check in for updates and new podcasts over the holiday weekend. But first, have a safe and happy Independence Day!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Supreme Court Blocks Bush, Gitmo War Trials

By a 5-3 vote the US Supreme has shot down President Bush's arguments for military tribunals to try prisoners held at Gitmo.

"Justices rule the Bush administration overstepped its authority in creating military war crimes trials for detainees as part of its anti-terror policies." -- Associated Press

Now, what to do with those "darn dangerous" detainees? (WashPost)

Tom DeLay -- The Democrats' Friend

Tom DeLay may have cost Republicans control of the House of Representatives. Maybe not this year -- but after this year's elections.

Tom DeLay had to leave his leadership role and has since left Congress over his role in a Congressional redistricting scandal.

The US Supreme Court ruled that Texas' redistricting is pretty much OK. There are problems with one district but the Court ruled states can redistrict anytime they want -- not just after a Census every 10 years.

The problem for Republicans is that Democrats are poised to win control of some pretty populus states this fall -- and that could mean more Democratic seats in Congress.

Kiplinger Forecasts reports:

"We expect Illinois, New Mexico, New Jersey and New York to wind up with Democrats in control of both the governor's mansion and the state legislature after the November elections. So redistricting in those states might shift enough seats to the Democratic column to give that party a majority."

The Democrats may no longer have Tom DeLay to kick around -- but you can bet some Republican strategists are kicking around some ideas for kicking his butt.

The redistricting wasn't the scandal. It was funding the redistricting that brought Tom DeLay down. The Washington Post called the court decision a "hollow victory" for Mr DeLay -- since it won't affect his upcoming criminal trial.

DeLay's Potential Democratic Legacy

In the end, it was for himself --not his party that Mr DeLay got Texas redistricted. The move meant more Republicans in the House and extended the survival of a GOP majority. But utlimately, the additional Texas Republicans were beholden to DeLay -- giving him muscle within the "inside baseball" of Capitol Hill power struggles.

The ticking timebomb of nationwide redistricting frenzies that could shift control to the Democrats was always there. Mr DeLay jumped the Democrats and expected to get crowned. Too bad, he was playing chess instead of checkers. (Kiplinger Forecasts/HT:


The Department of Veterans Affairs reportedly gave permission for an analyst to work on data at home. That data was on a laptop stolen from his house -- jeapordizing personal information of around 26 million veterans and two million active service members.

The VA wants to fire the analyst -- and says he wasn't supposed to take the data home.

The analyst is fighting back, saying he had approval from higher-ups who want to scapegoat him. And the Associated Press has obtained VA documents backing him up.

That should make things really pleasant for VA Secretary Jim Nicholson when he testifies on Capitol Hill today. (AP)

The Long Road to Here

Route 66 may have been the "Mother Road," but the Interstate Highway System has made us all brothers and sisters.

It created a cultural revolution in America and left a mark on our civilization as clear and deep as the unifying power of Rome's aqueducts, forums and arenas.

Celebrating today's 50th anniversary of the Interstate Highway System -- a caravan has been traveling the Interstates to "Zero Milestone" (right) outside the White House. The Washington Post describes their journey:
"They have been celebrating a system that includes 47,000 miles of highway with 55,500 bridges, 104 tunnels, 14,750 interchanges and zero traffic lights."

President Dwight Eisenhower signed the law authorizing the system on June 29, 1956. As a young Army officer, he'd led a military convoy across the US -- and was shocked to find it took weeks to drive from coast to coast. (WashPost)

Taking Apart a Cold War Legacy

Expect an announcement -- as early as today -- that the last of the largest nuclear warheads in the US arsenal from the Cold War has been dismantled.

A new generation of more reliable warheads is supposed to allow the US to maintain a smaller inventory of nukes. (WashPost)

A Single Person Could Swing an Election

How important is one vote?

The Washington Post reports a single person could swing an election. As long as he's a hacker.

A team of cybersecurity experts tested electronic voting machines in a mock election -- and were able to change the outcome. In it -- candidate Tom Jefferson actually led by 80,000 votes -- but a hacker was able to reprogram voting machines so that the win went to his opponent -- Johnny Adams.

Easiest way to prevent the fraud? Researchers say an auditable paper trail. None of the major voting machines provide those right now. (WashPost)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Bush Back in His Base's Graces

President Bush appears to have appeased his base who were jumping ship on him back in the spring. The latest Gallup Poll shows the President down a point from their last approval rating.

But he's appears to have brought his base back into the fold. That's left him hovering in the mid to high 30s in approval ratings.

TV Screen

Click on the TV Screen
to see Gallup's own Video Podcast
with their Analysis of the Numbers (Gallup)

Sunday, June 25, 2006

With Friends Like These

Iraq's new government wants US troops out, amnesty for insurgents, and money for the people we've attacked. And the Secretary of Homeland Security weighn in on Jack Bauer. Let's go to the tape.


Saturday, June 24, 2006

Poll Position: If They Can Make it There...

The Democrats' hopes for a House majority may hinge on the Senate and
Governor races in New York.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Denny's Grand Slam Land Grab

House Speaker Denny Hastert (R-IL) grabbed the opportunity to use $207-million in taxpayer money to make a personal $1.5 million profit on a land deal. (HT: ThinkProgress)


And the Washington Post says Mr Hastert isn't alone. They've got the skinny on pork projects enriching other members of Congress: Rep Ken Calvert (R-CA) made a huge land profit after a pork project drove up the value of some land he bought. And Rep Gary Miller (R-CA) tucked money into the highway bill to pay for street improvements -- on a real estate development he co-owns.

Bloomberg reports that Rep Alan Mollohan (D-WV) funnelled $179 million tax dollars to companies that contributed to his family run charity. The Robert H Mollohan Family Charitable Foundation took in $225,427 from 21 outfits that benefited from the Congressman's pork barrel spending on them.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Bush Terror Policy: Mental Patients, Red Herrings & Goose Chases

Pulitizer Prize winner Ron Suskind's new book The One Percent Doctrine paints a frightening picture of America's anti-terrorist efforts devolving into a series of paranoid wild goose chases after 9/11 -- while real terrorist threats go unchecked or un-noticed.

In short, it tells how the administration built it's anti-terrorist policies on the ravings of a disturbed mental patient -- taken off his medication and subjected to water torture.

Abu Zubaydah -- the hot shot al Qaeda "Number 2" (the first of the #2s we captured) turned out to be the travel agent for al Qaeda's wives and kept diaries written by each of his three personalities.

Abu Zubaydah -- or, let's call him "al-Sybil" for the split personality thing -- started talking under torture -- making up "targets."

The Washington Post sums up the process of getting useless information:

They strapped Abu Zubaydah to a water-board, which reproduces the agony of
drowning. They threatened him with certain death. They withheld medication. They bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep. Under that duress, he began to speak of plots of every variety -- against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty. With each new tale, "thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target." And so, Suskind writes, "the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered."

The title of the book comes from the administration's theory that if there is a 1% likelihood that a rumor is true -- it should be treated as the truth. That spreads resources thin and commits them to thousands of wild goose chases.

CIA terrorist hunters say they saw their jobs as no longer looking for intel, but looking for arguments to back up the administration's policies.

There are also some good lines -- like the one about Bush brushing off a warning on the Aug 6, 2001 PDB as "All right. You've covered your ass, now."

It also details how the President ignored his top people at Tora Bora who wanted more troops committed.

President Bush relied on untrained Afghan warlords -- letting Osama slip away.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Soldiers Bodies Found -- Amnesty Questions Linger

It was a US ordnance team that recovered the bodies of Pfc Thomas Tucker of Madras, OR and Pfc Kristian Menchaca of Houston, TX. Their mutiliated bodies had been booby-trapped with IEDs. US forces spotted the bodies at dusk, but had to wait until dawn to see the traps set for them.

The two young soldiers were kidnapped after a firefight over the weekend. No US military spokesman will go into detail as to what condition their bodies were in, other than saying they'd been tortured and beheaded. Drawing the line at that gives you an idea of what they didn't want to talk about. The military is relying on DNA to identify the remains.

Amnesty for Insurgents

This brutality comes just one week after five US Senators spoke in support of the idea of amnesty for insurgents, to bring peace and stability to Iraq.

The idea was floated by an Iraqi government aide -- later fired for even suggesting it. But before that happened, the "Gang of Five" spoke in favor of forgiveness:

  • “If they bore arms against our people, what's the difference between those people that bore arms against the Union in the War between the States? What’s the difference between the Germans and Japanese and all the people we’ve forgiven?” -- Sen Ted Stevens (R-AK)

  • "Forgiveness has been a major factor in what has been a political miracle in Africa." -- Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), comparing the idea of forgiving insurgents and terrorists to the Nobel Peace Prize winning efforts of Nelson Mandela

  • “Is it not true today that we have Iraqis who are fighting the war against the insurgents, who at one time fought against American troops and other coalition troops as they were marching to Baghdad, who have now come over to our side and are doing one heck of a job of fighting along, side by side, with Americans and coalition forces, attacking and killing insurgents on a daily basis?" -- Sen Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)

  • “…Might it not just be as useful an exercise to be trying to pass a resolution commending the Iraqi government for the position that they’ve taken today with regard to this discussion of Amnesty?” Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

  • John Cornyn (R-TX) joined McConnell in supporting the idea of praising the Iraqi government for the idea of forgiving insurgents and terrorists who've killed American troops.

The idea would have pardoned the people responsible for killing or wounding roughly 20,000 Americans. (WashPost/RawStory)

Safavian Guilty

A jury has found David Safavian guilty of four of the five felony counts he was charged with.

Mr Safavian was a the former top man at the Office of Budget and Management for President Bush. He was charged in the corruption scandal surrounding disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. (WashPost)

We Should Keep it Because it Failed Miserably!

The much debated domestic wiretapping program completely missed an apparent al Qaeda plot to attack the New York subways with cyanide gas bomb.

Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Suskind details the plan in a new book -- The One Percent Doctrine. TIME magazine has run excerpts from it. His book says intelligence agencies discovered the plot in 2003 -- only after al-Qaida's number two Ayman al-Zawhiri called off the attack.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) wouldn't go into much detail about the plot in an interview with the New York Daily News. He would say he was briefed on the plot and that the suggestion that al Qaeda canceled the plan "was correct."

But the wiretapping program never detected the plot. It instead discovered through a mole inside al Qaeda. And it appears the US didn't know about it until after the plot was canceled.

Nevertheless, Sen Roberts jumped on the opportunity to use the threat to help sell the domestic wiretapping program.

Meanwhile, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says the plot "underscores the stupidity" of the Homeland Security Department cutting New York City's anti-terror aid by 40%. (NYDN)

Monday, June 19, 2006

Going Easy on Folks Who Hire Illegals

You'da thunk 9/11 would have had Washington cracking down on people who make it easy for illegal immigrants to make money. But Washington's been going pretty easy on companies that hire illegal immigrants.

The Washington Post reports the Immigration and Naturalization Service scaled back work-site enforcement by 95% between 1999 and 2003.
Look at how things have changed over the years:

This first chart shows how enforcement has dropped off dramatically in just four years. The numbers for 2003, shown in blue, barely show up in comparison to 1999's numbers.

Number of prosecutions of employers hiring illegals:
1999: 182
2003: 4

Fine notices issued to companies hiring illegals:
1999: 417 companies
2003: 3 companies

The second chart shows how the amount collected in fines has declined just as dramatically over the same time.

Fines collected from companies hiring illegals:
1999: $3,600,000
2003: $ 212,000

Don't Think, Don't Anticipate

Vice President Dick Cheney has added his comments to an ever increasing list of quotes the administration has made about being caught off-guard:

"I don't think anybody anticipated the level of violence that we've encountered." -- Vice President Dick Cheney, on the Iraq insurgency, June 19, 2006

"I've asked why nobody saw it coming." -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, January 30, 2006 on the Hamas election landslide

"I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees." -- President Bushtalking about Hurricane Katrina, September 1, 2005

"I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center." -- Condolezza Rice, White House News Conference, May 16, 2002

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Doing "a Number" on Tony Snow

White House Spokesman Tony Snow shows his mastery of the language, the death toll in Iraq passes a milestone, and Karl Rove and John Murtha declare their own civil war.


Saturday, June 17, 2006

Sail On

The President has spent a lot of time and energy this week urging all of us to "stay the course." He invokes the memory of Ronald Reagan when he brings up that 1984 campaign slogan.

But Mr Reagan had a course in mind. He saw the place he'd bring the ship of state to shore. With the Iraq War, the President has never let us know where we're going.

I like sailing. I love harnessing the wind to take me where I want to go -- regardless of the direction the wind blows. I know how to tack to get to where I want to go. I understand laying out a plan before hand to get where I'm going.

So, as a sailor (small “s”) I’d have to say, “What is the course?”

When you set out on the water, you have an idea where you’re going—unless it’s a party cruise. That's just a float -- with lots of stuff to numb your brain. With Iraq, our brains are numb, but it's no party cruise.

The Horizon We Never Reach

For three years, we’ve had no clear goals in Iraq.

There were no WMDs, so we changed course.

Freedom and democracy are great—but they’re pretty vague. We’ve had three elections in Iraq. If that’s “freedom and democracy” then why are we still there? After three elections, we changed course.

Standing up the Iraqi military is great. There are now more Iraqi security members than there ever were US troops. So why isn’t it mission accomplished”...again?

We changed the course again.

Now Captain W has us sailing around in circles telling us to “stay the course.”


Just let me know what it takes to bring this boat to shore. I’m sure me, you, the American people, and certainly the troops would be willing to do it for a little shore leave!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Poll Position: Bush Bombs after Zarqawi

Bush bombs in the polls after the Zarqawi attack. Pennsylvania and Ohio in 2006 could be part of the equation for the 2008 election.

Coming soon: Poll Position is getting it's own weekly feed. Check for it at iTunes.

Homeland Security: Phoning it In

Delaware Governor Ruth Ann Minner (D-DE) (left) has a hotline to the federal Deparment of Homeland Security.

Thing is, the only people who ever use it are telemarketers -- calling her.

She says other Governors around the country have told her they have the same problem. It's got them wondering just how secure the line is. She still gets the calls -- even after the DHS put the numbers in the federal "Do Not Call" registery.

Reporters tried calling the Department of Homeland Security for comments, but no one called back. Maybe the lines were busy. Or maybe DHS was listening to a great sales pitch on how they could save on their long distance service! (The News Journal)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Bleak Outlook for the Terror War

Foreign Affairs is out with it first 'Terrorism Index.'

The Council on Foreign Relations publishes the journal and found a surprising consensus among the bipartisan experts surveyed. This from the Toronto Star:

"Some 86 per cent of them said the world has grown more, not less, dangerous, despite President George W. Bush's claims that the U.S. is winning the war on terror.

The main reasons for the decline in security, they said, were the war in Iraq, the detention of terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay, U.S. policy towards Iran and U.S. energy policy."
The Star reports that the respondents included a former Scretary of State and past Directors of the CIA and National Security Agency. (Toronto Star/Foreign Affairs)


Pentagon says military deaths in Iraq hit 2,500. (Reuters)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Washington Blows Hurricane Money

The Government Accountability Office figures 16% of the disaster relief paid out after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita had nothing to do with disaster relief -- well, maybe the divorce lawyer would count.

The Associated Press reports among the items purchased:
  • An all-inclusive, one-week Caribbean vacation in the Punta Cana resort in the Dominican Republic
  • Five season tickets to New Orleans Saints football games
  • Adult erotica products in Houston and ``Girls Gone Wild'' videos in Santa Monica, California
  • Dom Perignon champagne and other alcoholic beverages in San Antonio
  • A divorce lawyer's services in Houston.
Heckuva job they did there, Brownie! (KLBJ Radio)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Bush Bombs after al-Zarqawi

The latest Gallup Poll shows the President's approval ratings continue to edge up -- but that he got no real bounce from the death of terrorist leader al Zarqawi last week.

TV Screen

Click TV Screen to Watch Gallup Video Podcast

Their latest approval rating is at 38% for the President.

That's Gallup's best number for him since early March -- but only up two points from last month.

Meanwhile, the latest CBS News poll shows the President's approval slipping -- down two points from last month to 33%.

Monday, June 12, 2006

War Cabinet

President Bush is meeting with his War Cabinet and top military commanders in Iraq this week. It could be an opportunity for the President to draw down troops from Iraq -- taken in light of a new Iraqi government and the death of terrorist leader al Zarqawi.

But the President is downplaying that possibility almost as much as he's downplayed the death of Zarqawi.

War Cabinet

Click the TV screen to see the AP Video report on the meetings. (AP)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Hurricane Season

The Sarasota Times-Herald has a great new hurricane tracker using Google Maps. Click on the radar image here to see the latest storm info.

We'll have a permanent link to the site throughout Hurricane Season. (Sarasota Times-Herald)

SCOTUS Cases Still to Go

Three weeks to go in the Supreme Court session and a ton of cases yet to be decided. SCOTUSBlog has a complete list. (SCOTUSBlog)

Vodcast: Strategery & Whack-a-Mole in Iraq

Going into the fourth year of the Iraq War, the President sees a break to break open a strategy for winning it. Paul Bremer and Newt Gingrich talk about the need for the President to outline a strategy for finishing the Iraq War.


Friday, June 09, 2006

Friday Fun: Diet Coke & Mentos

Absolutely nothing political about this video -- just some fun for a summer Friday. Two guys, 200 liters of Diet Coke and 500 Mentos. The spurting fountains will have you sneezing Diet Coke out your nose.

Tom, We Hardly Knew Ye

Combative to the end, Rep Tom Delay went out with a bang. In a speech from the House floor, he argued that partisanship is better than statesmanship and compromise.

To mark his last day in Congress, we reprise this video podcast:

This video podcast originally appeared on Watching Washington back on April 4.

The Washington Post has video of Mr DeLay's actual speech.

TV Screen

Click on the TV screen to watch Rep DeLay's swan song. (WashPost)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

There Once was a Man from Iraq....

There Once was a Man from Iraq -- a Presidential limerick on terrorism and al Zarqawi as he battles back from record low poll numbers. Officially, the White House sees military and diplomatic opportunities. Behind the scenes, they can see political opportunities.

Word-for-Word: The President's Statement on the Death of a Terrorist

The President's statement on the death of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The most wanted terrorist in Iraq was killed in an air raid by F-16s in a house north of Baghdad. The picture here was taken after al-Zarqawi's death. (The White House)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Bush Bouncing Back?

A new Gallup poll shows President Bush bouncing back from his record low 31% approval rating in early May. The latest numbers show him at 36%.

TV Screen

Click TV Screen to watch the Gallup Vodcast

Gallup suggests steadier gas prices and Bush's push to woo his base with support for a gay marriage ban and stepped up immigration efforts could be to credit.

You can see more analysis in the Gallup vodcast by clicking on the TV screen above.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Remembering June 6, 1944.

Remembering June 6, 1944: With the words of General Eisenhower, President Reagan, and Andy Rooney.

Throwing his Tin-Foil Hat in the Ring

Jimmy Carter once filed a report on a UFO citing.

But Don Avery is perhaps the only candidate running this year who claims to have seen both Bigfoot and a UFO. He's running for County Commission in Flathead County, Montana.

Mr Avery may get a newspaper endorsement out of this revelation -- from the Weekly World News. (Great Falls Tribune)

Friday, June 02, 2006

Power Trips -- 2006

On Monday, American Public Media's Marketplace and American RadioWorks, Northwestern University's Medill School, and the Center for Public Integrity launch "Power Trips,."
It's an investigation of privately sponsored travel by members of Congress and their aides.

Researchers analyzed more than 25,000 travel disclosure documents into millions of dollars worth of trips.

The Center will stream the results of the investigation live on The Center has organized these records by congressional office, trip destination, trip cost and trip sponsor. (Al's Morning Meeting)

DC = Low-Risk

The Raw Story reports the Department of Homeland Security has placed Washington, DC in the bottom 25% of states and territories likely to see a terrorist attack.

This despite two of the 9/11 planes targeted the nation's capital.

The placement means the DHS considers Washington a low-risk target. Al Qaeda is known for attacking targets it did not destroy in previous attacks. The 1993 World Trade Center attack followed by the 9/11 attacks being the most famous example. (TRS)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Poll Position Vodcast: Worst. President. Ever.

Poll Position: Oil prices keep the President's poll numbers down and that leaves him at the bottom of the barrel among Presidents over the last 61 years.


A Milestone

Sometime today, I hit 10,000 views on YouTube for my videos and vodcasts.

I started using YouTube as an archive for the convenience of my blog readers.

That's not nearly as many viewers as I've had through iTunes, but YouTube has really drawn in a new audience for me. I'd encourage any vodcasters out there to give them a try.

Go to the Videotape

Here's the Hillary Clinton video shown at the New York Democratic Convention where the Senator was nominated for re-election this week:

TV Screen
Click on TV Screen
to watch the Hillary Video

Not bad when you can count on a former President to give you a glowing testimonial. Of course he owes her -- a lot. (Hotline)

"Zero" National Icons

The Department of Homeland Security -- fresh off it's handling of Hurricane Katrina -- has decided New York City and Washington, DC don't need anti-terrorism money as much as say Jacksonville and Sacramento.

DHS determined that New York City has "zero" national monuments or icons. Forget about the Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State Building, and Statue of Liberty.

"The Department of Homeland Security and the administration have declared war on New York," Rep. Peter King (R-NY) - quoted in the Washington Post
Anti-terrorism money was cut from $207-million to $124-million. DC's funding was slashed from $77-million to $46-million.

Sen Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Rep Peter King (R-NY) fired off some postcards to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff reminding him of some of the icons he seemed to have missed (right).

Meanwhile, Louisville, Charlotte, and Newark and all saw massive increases in anti-terror funding. (WashPost)