Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Saving Specialist Ryan

When NPR interviewed Pres Bush this week, they played a taped question from SPEC Ryan Schmidt of Minnesota -- currently deployed to Iraq.

A simple question:
“What if your plan for a troop surge to Baghdad does not work?”

In other words, do you have a back up plan?

The President answered only the he "believes" the new plan will work. Just like he "believed" all the other failed plans would work.

So what did SPEC Schmidt think of the non-answer?

"[I]t did not answer my question. I would have liked to know more so that there will be a plan if this does not work. For some of us that are over here, particularly me, my unit, we all feel, what’s the point of us being extended if your initial plan to send more troops over here does not work? What are you going to do, Mr. President?" (

Farm Cuts

President Bush wants to cut farm subsidies. His plan would leave the popular subsidy program in place -- just do some pruning off the top.

Under the President's plan, farmers making less than $200,000 in adjusted gross annual income could still recieve the government money. The current cap is $2.5 million a year in gross income. From the AP:

That would rule out payments for about 80,000 producers who currently are eligible, officials said. Those producers collect about 4.5 percent of overall farm payments. The limit on payments would save an estimated $1.5 billion over 10 years.
The Environmental Working Group is one of the most vocal critics of farm subsidies. Sirector Ken Cook says the plan could eliminate rich, absentee farm investors. That list has included people like billionaire Ted Turner, newscaster Sam Donaldson, and basketball star Scottie Pippen in the past. (AP)

Feeling Pretty

A mash up of John Edwards primping for the cameras with "I'm So Pretty" added for effect. (YouTube)

Osama's Brother In Law Killed

Washington's been looking for Osama bin Laden for more than five years with no success.

Meanwhile, an armed gang broke into the home of Osama's brother-in-law, shot him dead, and stole his belongings.

The brother-in-law was staying at a precious stones mine he owns in Madagasgar. (MSNBC)

You Tax Dollars at Work in Iraq

A Virginia contractor spent $4.2 million taxpayer dollars on a swimming pool and 20 VIP trailers for an Iraqi police training camp.

After spending the money, the camp was never used.

That's one of the findings in a new report from the special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

It also says a $73 million Baghdad Police College has never been opened because of shoddy construction. (UPI)

Maine Could Ban Blackberrys in Statehouses

Maine lawmakers could soon ban text messages between legislators and lobbyists. Representatives want to cut off "secret, instant communications" which they see as a way lobbyists monitor activities in the legislature.

More than 30 states have addressed electronic communications on their House and Senate floors. (CNN)

Super Bowl Surge

Washington's putting out bids for contractors looking to cash in on both the Iraq War and Super Bowl XLI. From Al Kamen in the Washington Post:
"Yes, get your bids in for a fine contract to 'provide a tour manager to bring players and cheerleaders' to the Middle East so troops in Kuwait and Iraq can share in the excitement of the big game next Sunday."
The contract requires an agent to round up two players from each of the teams -- along with two cheerleaders form each team. Since Chicago doesn't have cheerleaders, it allows cheerleaders from another team.

No word on whether you'll be paid in surplus F-14 parts. (WaPo)

Whitewater Rafting through the Video Stream

When Ford bombed with the Edsel in the late 1950s, they spent a fortune on PR research to find out the best way to deal with the disaster. The final suggestion: do nothing.

Sen Hillary Clinton's (D-NY) campaign took the Edsel approach to viral video of her singing the national anthem off-key in Iowa. The video spun around the Internet -- but never emerged in the major media. The campaign has to consider that a victory.

Campaigns are struggling to determine what streaming videos can be ignored and which ones must be responded to right away -- and how to best respond to it without being "George Allened."

The best, simple explanation: The national anthem was an honest, innocent attempt to sing the Star Spangled Banner. No insult -- just the same off-key effort most of us are familiar with. Sen George Allen's "macaca moment" was an honest, deliberate attempt to insult a Virginia voter with a racial slur -- and then he made excuses and lied about it as the story grew. (NYT)

Today in Congress

Today's Schedule for the 110th Congress

Reigning in Tomcat Sales

The Pentagon's banned the sale of surplus F-14 parts.

Good idea, since only two nations ever flew the planes -- the US and Iran.

The US recently retired it's fleet of "Tomcats." So, look like the only buyers would be people supplying Iran.

The Associated Press earlier this month uncovered Pentagon sales of surplus parts -- where buyers were reselling parts to potential military threats to the US including Iran and China. (AP)

Party Games

What's the popular parlor game at Washington cocktail parties? Getting John Negroponte to say "global" and "warming" in the same sentence.

Rep Jim Cooper (D-TN) says he overheard -- at a party -- the Bush administration banned the Director of National Intelligence from saying the two words in the same sentence -- even if he's not talking about "global warming."

Rep Cooper claims the guests spent the evening trying to trick Mr Negroponte into slipping up. has the video.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Counting Iraq's Beans

Democrats have dusted off the House Oversight and Investigations subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee.

It's the only panel in Congress specifically designed to keep an eye on military related spending. From The Politico:

"Chaired by Rep. Marty Meehan, (D-MA), (pictured) the new subcommittee will delve into the details of Iraq-related reconstruction contracts, troop readiness, equipment priorities and Iraq war strategy -- looking for waste, fraud and shortfalls that were essentially ignored after the panel was shuttered in 1995 by the Republican congressional majority."

Rep Meehan also wants to focus on the billions in contracts issued so far to rebuild and rearm Iraq.

"We've spent literally billions of dollars on building infrastructure, and the Iraqi army and police have nothing to show for it." -- Rep Marty Meehan in an interview with The Politico

Rep Meehan wants the subcommittee in full swing by the end of February. That may be too late to address the President's troop surge. But it will allow time to review the 2008 Defense budget and supplemental spending requests for the Iraq War. (The Politico)

Supplying the "Surge"

While President Bush is planning to increase troop strength by 21,500 troops in Iraq -- top commanders say they don't have the vehicles and armor to put those troops into combat.

The Army's Deputy Chief of Staff for Force Development told Congress last week the Army's short 1,500 trucks for the surge. GEN Stephen Speakes also says the Army's scrambling to find enough Humvees.

Washington recently sold the Iraqis 600 up-armored Humvees -- and the general says that decision "better not be at the expense of the American Soldier or Marine."

"It's inevitable that [troops will be underequipped], unless five brigades of up-armored Humvees fall out of the sky." -- a senior Army official quoted in the Washington Post
The National Guard has been stripped of much of its equipment to supply troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nearly 60% of Guard equipment is overseas, damaged, or destroyed in the war. (WaPo)

Avoiding those "Macaca Moments"

This time last year, former Sen George Allen (R-VA) was coasting to re-election and already working on his 2008 Presidential campaign plans.

Today, he's out of work.

But on the bright side, he's found a place in the dictionary -- as a verb. From Carrie Budoff at
"In Republican campaign strategy sessions and conference calls, candidates and consultants are invoking Allen's name as a verb -- to be 'George Allen-ed' -- and devising tactics to avoid a fate similar to that of the former Virginia senator, taken down by a shaky, 51-second video that volleyed around the country via YouTube."
Candidate classes now warn politicians to expect a recording device is always watching them.

But, remember, we're talking about politicians -- the folks who've given us budget deficits, page scandals, and that whole Iraq War.

Sit back and enjoy YouTube -- they'll forget about the cameras quickly enough. (Politico)


The Daily Show takes on FOX News for its reporting the false story about Sen Barak Obama's (D-IL) elementary school.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Daily Show: Wolf Blitzer Interviews Dick Cheney

Dumpster Diving Senator

Sen Norm Coleman (R-MN) showed up at work in Washington with a gash in his head.

He says it from "dumpster diving." Sen Colman says he was "looking for something that my wife accidentally threw in the dumpster."

Musta been his "last shred of dignity" she tossed out. (WaPo, HT:

Hillary Sings

An open mike caught Sen Hillary Clinton (D-NY) singing the National Anthem just like most of the rest of us -- off the freakin' Francis Scott Key and straining to hit that high note at the end.
"'Iowa Idol' screams the headline at Drudge, but even if it's meant to be snide, it misses the mark because the clip is charming, winning and utterly endearing." -- Rachel Sklar at
And to think, Sen Clinton is the only Presidential candidate out there who's won a Grammy.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Tax Avoision & Where They Stand on Iraq

Workers on the taxpayer payroll haven't been paying their income taxes. And a website to see where Congress members stand on the President's troop "surge."

Friday, January 26, 2007

Keeping an Eye on the Legislature

The birthplace of America's legislative tradition -- and of YouTube politics -- is embracing online video to keep an eye on their state legislature.

Virginia is home to the first legislature in America. And the famous "macaca" video on YouTube led to the fall of Sen George Allen's (R-VA) re-election efforts and the rise of online video as a political tool. is a videoblog that's been posting clips of Virginia's legislature in action -- things like the death of a minimum wage hike in subcommittee.

The Washington Post reports the Democratic Party is behind the postings is using a camcorder to keep the GOP on the defensive.

Republicans complain that it leads to division and partisanship. The Democrats have responded by posting a video of Del Jeffrey Fredrick (R-Prince William) having aides block the camera during a hearing (below).

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Big States’ Push for Earlier Vote

Big states want a stake in nominating the next Presidential candidates. Small states like New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina -- by holding early primaries and caucuses -- have added influence in who gets the nomination. Big states are lining up to change the rules for 2008. From the New York Times:

"As many as four big states — California, Florida, Illinois and New Jersey — are likely to move up their 2008 presidential primaries to early next February, further upending an already unsettled nominating process and forcing candidates of both parties to rethink their campaign strategies, party officials said Wednesday."
The Times suggests the move would benefit major candidates with lots of money -- and quickly move dark horses to the back of the field. (NYT, HT:

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Kerry Bows Out

Registering only 8% support among Democrats, Sen John Kerry (R-MA) has opted out of the 2008 Presidential race. But, who knows, he may flip flop and announce next week.

From 2004 nominee to 8% in 2007. Guess he realized Democrats were for him before they were against him. (AP via Yahoo!)

Sleepy Senator

In an attempt to show he's in touch with the vast majority of Americans, Sen John McCain (R-AZ) joins them in falling asleep during the State of the Union speech:

A Kernel of Inconvenient Truth

California scientists have tracked air pollution using 70 cornfields in 30 states.

The UC Irvine scientists came up with the idea as a way to complement air samples.

Corn is grown just about everwhere in the US. It's an annual plant -- so all the carbon dioxide contained in the corn is from a single year.

Their research led to finding the Ohio Valley and California having the most carbon dioxide. Colorado had the least.

Mapping gas using corn.

Hmmm. I would have though they'd have used beans. (UC Irvine)

Gas Station To Offer 'Terror-Free' Oil - National News

Nebraskans will soon be able to fill their gas tanks without fear of filling terrorists' pockets with their money.

"Terror Free Oil" is opening a gas station in Omaha.

Part of the Terror Free Oil Initiative, they promise none of their products come from any country exporting or financing terrorism.

A econ professor at the University of Nebraska Omaha compares it to "dolphin safe tuna."

The group behind it has a website at

They say the Omaha station is the first of many planned across the nation.

They also list companies that don't import oil from the middle east -- so you can shop around until they open shop in your town. (The Denver Channel)

CIA Gets in Your Face(book)

Gone are the days of Wild Bill Donovan rounding up movie stars and ivy leaguers for a romantic life of spycraft.

The CIA has a brand new recruiting tool --

Since December, the Agency's been using it, along with a YouTube based recruiting video (below) to round up a new generation of spooks. reports:

Every Facebook user has her or his own page, and users can choose to join Facebook "groups," which can be created by individuals or sponsored by companies as paid promotions. The NCS-sponsored Facebook group was launched on Dec. 19, 2006 and will stay active for two months."

The group rounded up 200 members it's first week on the site. It's up to 2,100 members now. (

State of the Union 2007

If you missed the real State of the Union, try this spoof -- loaded with real and imagined Bushisms. Be sure to stick around for the Democratic response featuring Senators Barak Obama (D-IL) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) dueling over who gets the last word.

Subtitle Theatre: The State of the Union

We translate highlights from the State of the Union into what it really means.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

E Howard Hunt Dies

E. Howard Hunt, who helped organize the Watergate break-in, had died. He was 88.
"I will always be called a Watergate burglar, even though I was never in the damn place."But it happened. Now I have to make the best of it." -- Hunt, in an interview with the Miami Herald in 1997
Mr Hunt was convinced that Cuba's Castro regime was making large contributions to the George McGovern Presidential campaign. He believed if stealing accounting records would prove it.

The idea was wrong, and the Watergate burglars were caught -- leading to the collapse of the Nixon administration. (ABC)

Heartless Bureaucracy

Vice President Dick Cheney has found a silver lining to his being evicted from his Capitol office.

New lobbying reform laws have banned the American Heart Association from offering free CPR classes for Heart and Senate staffers.

It violates the gift ban because it includes:
  • a box lunch
  • a CPR kit -- including a training DVD & practice dummy
  • an hour long lesson
The heartless House Ethics Committee considers the contents a "thing of value" and therefore banned under the new rules.

Nixon Meets Elvis, Bush goes on Vacation

President Bush marks a milestone in Presidential vacation time, the cost of the Iraq War hits a milestone, and the Nixon Library celebrates Elvis' birthday

Monday, January 22, 2007

Winter in Upstate New York -- Mighty Green

Anyone notice all the greenery outside Sen Hillary Clinton's (D-NY) Chappaqua window in her announcement video?

A comment posted at my YouTube page points out it sure doesn't look like January in upstate New York. Makes you wonder exactly when the announcement was taped. (

Bush: Tax Health Insurance

If you have health insurance through your job -- President Bush wants to tax you for it. Those taxes would then pay for tax breaks given to people who buy their own health insurance.

The White House thinks it can reduce rising health care costs by forcing Americans to give up plans that cover everything -- in favor of bare bones health insurance.

President Bush revealed part of the plan in his radio address Saturday. He plans to unveil the plan formally in Tuesday's State of the Union Speech.

It's doubtful the plan could survive a Democratic Congress. (Star-Telegram)

Bill Richardson

Gov Bill Richardson (D-NM) became the fourth Democrat to announce his Presidential candidacy via online video:

It's getting pretty common, but Gov Richardson was able to come up with a first -- becoming the first candidate to announce his White House candidacy in a Spanish language online video at his YouTube page:


A busy weekend for White House announcements. Sen Hillary Clinton (D-NY) got most of the attention, but Gov Bill Richardson (D-NM) and Sen Sam Brownback (R-KS) also announced over the weekend. (NYT)

Today in Congress

Today's schedule for the House and Senate

Web Video Playing a Major Role in 2008

The Washington Post calls it "The YouTube Effect."

Fmr Gov Mitt Romney's (R-MA) rapid response to clips of his 1994 liberal positions on the Internet -- along with three major Democratic White House contenders announcing via online video -- hints at how important web video will be in the 2008 campaign.

Candidates are keeping in mind fmr Sen George Allen's "macaca" moment captured on video and spread around the Internet. (WaPo)

New Passport Rules

You won't be able to use your drivers license and birth certificate to get back into the US after trips to Canada , Mexico, and the Caribean after today.

Starting Tuesday, you'll need a passport to get back into the US. That includes children.

It only applies to air travelers so far -- but land and sea travelers will face the same rules next year. (NYT)

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Online Announcements

Democrats are making their Presidential announcements online. Not an original idea -- but a popular one.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

"I'm In"

Sen Hillary Clinton (D-NY) has become the latest politician to announce her White House ambitions with an online video. And she promises live, online video chats on her website this week.

"I'm In" is a brief video on her website announcing she's launched a Presidential campaign.

Former Sen John Edwards (D-NC) and Sen Barak Obama (D-IL) have each made their announcements in online videos this year. (

Thursday, January 18, 2007

"Hi, I'm Art Buchwald and I'm Dead"

That's how humor columnist Art Buchwald opens his online obit at the New York Times -- their first ever -- called "The Last Word." (NYT)

Your Government at Work: Billions in Unpaid Taxes

Federal workers failed to pay nearly $3 billion in income taxes to Uncle Sam in 2005.

That's roughly 450,000 active and retired federal employees who simply didn't file their taxes.

WTOP Radio in Washington, DC got hold of the records through a Freedom of Information Act request. Here's what they found:
  • 71 employees in the Executive Office of the President -- including folks working in the White House -- owed $664,527 in taxes for the year
  • 56,652 Postal Service Employees owe a total of $320 million
  • 3,000 Treasury Department employees owe $13 million
The Treasury Department is home to the IRS. (WTOP)

A Fine Time for Diplomatic Immunity

Foreign diplomats working in New York have run up $18 million in unpaid parking tickets. They claim diplomatic immunity -- but the city still wants it's money. Topping the list:
  • Egypt -- $1.9 million
  • Kuwait -- $1.3 million
The new Secretary General's home country of South Korea still owes $17,000. Ban Ki-moon says he's in favor of getting member nations to pay up for their diplomats expired parking.

He's even walking to work these days.

The City signed an agreement with the US State Department back in 2002 to get federal help in collecting the debt. And the -- "hey, pay up or no foreign aid for you" -- strategy appears to be working.

Diplomats have only run up about a quarter million dollars of the total in the last four years.

It's the umpteen years before the agreement where the $18 million really adds up.

New York City has only been able to collect $3 million of the debt owed it before the State Department help. (ABC)

Where Congress Stands

ThinkProgress has a running count of where Congress members stand on the President's plan to increase troop levels in Iraq. Their interactive list lets you see where each member stands and where ThinkProgress got their information.

Using statements in news releases, to the media, and constituent letters, they've identified where 414 of the 535 members stand.

At last count, 242 members oppose the plan, 107 support it outright. (ThinkProgress)

Cap Battle

Presidential explorer Sen Barak Obama (D-IL) joins potential rival Sen Hillary Clinton (D-NY) in introducing legislation to cap the number of troops in Iraq. Sen Obama's announcement came just a half hour after Sen Clinton announced her plans for a troop cap bill. (CNN)

Disaster at the Disaster Fund

Uncle Sam's biggest disaster relief program is running out of money. The Small Business Administration provides rebuilding money following natural disasters.

An internal memo obtained by the New York Times shows the SBA will have to shut down if Congress doesn't get it an infusion of money. A temporary shutdown could cause major problems for people and businesses recovering from the ice storms across the midwest.

The problem dates back to 2005, when the SBA declared it had plenty of money and didn't request it's annual budgeted amount from Congress.

Remember 2005? The year of Katrina?

SBA had to ask for an emergency infusion in 2006, and has never recovered. (NYT)

Alex Keaton Goes to Congress

Actor and embryonic stem cell research advocate Michael J Fox will attend the State of the Union speech next week. Mr Fox will be the guest of Rep Jim Langevin (D-RI). Rep Langevin has been convined to a wheelchair for most of his adult life after a shooting accident.

Mr Fox was featured in campaign ads for Democratic Senate candidates supporting the research in last year's elections. Every candidate running the Fox ad won his or her election. And the ad is considered the most widely seen political ad in history. An NPR poll of voters before the 2006 election found 100% of respondents had seen the ad (below).

Republicans Kill Ethics Bill

Republicans killed ethics reform legislation in the Senate late Wednesday. The Democratic plan would have tightened ethics rules regarding Senators' dealing with lobbyists. Republicans used a procedural move to tie the vote on the ethics reform to an unrelated bill giving new powers to President Bush.

Democrats can bring up the ethics reform bill later this year. (WaPo)

Today In Congress

Today's schedule in the House and Senate. (WaPo)

GOP Infighting Over the Surge

Republicans appear deeply divided over a resolution to condemn President Bush's Iraq plans.

Ten Republicans met behind closed doors for an arm twisting session with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). But afterwards, those attending said there was no agreement between the Republicans on what to do.

Sen Chuck Hagel (R-NE) has already joined Democrats in helping draft the resolution. Sen Olympia Snowe (R-ME) has also signed on to co-sponsor the resolution putting the Senate on the record as opposing the President's "troop surge" plans. (AP via Yahoo!)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007 targets McCain

In a pre-emptive strike on the 2008 Presidential campaign, left-leaning has launched an ad campaign linking Sen John McCain (R-AZ) to the administration plan to send additional troops to Iraq. The ad claims it was the Senator's idea and refers to it as "The McCain Plan." It's going to be a long couple of years, folks.

Warrantless Wiretaps Wiped Out

President Bush is calling it quits on his warrantless wiretapping program. It will be turned over to a special court that had previously authorized wiretaps in terrorism cases.

"The president has determined not to reauthorize the Terrorist Surveillance Program when the current authorization expires." -- Atty Gen Alberto Gonzales in a letter to Senate leaders.

The Bush administration never revealed any terrorists caught nor any terrorist plot averted because of the program. Critics complained that it circumvented the Constitution, and the FBI complained it wasted their time, forcing them to wade through hours of NSA recordings.

There were claims it was used to spy on then Secretary of State Colin Powell's staff and other political rivals of the Bush administration. (AP via Yahoo!)

Stealing the President's Thunder

Sen Chuck Hagel (R-NE) (right) is working with Senate Democrats on a resolution denouncing President Bush's planned troop "surge" in Iraq. Sources tell the AP that the resolution will be introduced Thursday, with debate scheduled around the time the President delivers his State of the Union speech next week.

At the same time -- and just one day after Sen Obama Barak (D-IL) launched his Presidential exploratory committee -- Sen Hillary Clinton (D-NY) is now on board with a plan to cap the number of troops President Bush can send to Iraq. (AP via Yahoo!)

Washington's Jet Set

Congressmen did plenty of traveling on corporate jets last year -- with Sen Trent Lott (R-MS) and Sen Harry Reid (D-LV) racking up the most frequent flyer miles from lobbyists.

Campaign committees have to pay for the jets' use -- at the rate of what a first class ticket to the same destination would have cost. keeps track of that sort of thing.

They found Sen Lott repaid corporations $40,000 for using their planes on 18 trips.

And Sen Reid repaid companies around $4,500 for six trips on their planes.

Even though Congress members may repay a company for the plane -- they may still owe the company a favor.

Afterall, they make the first move, calling some executive and seeing if a private jet is available.

And some of the companies who've proveded the planes to Senators Lott and Reid spent a total of $8.94 million dollars lobbying Congress -- in just the first six months of last year.

And that's without the jet fuel added in. (

All in the Family

Democrats made ethics reform a cornerstone of their campaigns. And Congress launched ethics reforms almost as soon as it convened this year.

But members are overlooking one loophole -- Congressional spouses who work as lobbyists. From the Washington Post:

"At least half a dozen congressional spouses have jobs as registered lobbyists and several more are connected with lobbying firms, but reining in the practice to prevent potential conflicts or the appearance of them has not been a priority among congressional leaders. Even modest proposals such as banning wives and husbands from lobbying their spouses or using their spouses' floor privileges for lobbying have gone nowhere."

Some examples: Sen Byron Dorgan (D-ND) who argued in favor of keeping the estate tax last year. His wife had been a lobbyist since 1999 for an insurance company that stood to make millions off keeping the tax.

Then there's Sen Elizabeth Dole (R-NC). She spoke in the Senate last year to avoid overreacting to the Bush administration plans to turn over port operations to a Dubai company. Her husband, fmr Sen Robert Dole was working as a lobbyist for that Dubai-based company at the time.

Neither the House nor Senate versions of the ethics reform plans ban spouses from working as lobbyists.

Senate Votes to Name Names

The Senate voted 98-0 Tuesday to require Senators to identify their links to pet projects packed into spending bills.

Anonymous earmarks have increased exponentially in the past few years as lawmakers add pork barrel pet projects to bills. The House passed similar legislation earlier this month. (WaPo)

Today in Congress

Today's schedule for the House and Senate (WaPo)

Libby's List

CNN has copies of the potential witness lists in the Scooter Libby trial -- entering day two, today. From CNN:

"Among the Washington insiders who may testify: White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, Time Magazine reporter Matthew Cooper, NBC anchor Tim Russert, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former CIA director George Tenet, and Joseph and Valerie Plame Wilson." (CNN)

No Apologies -- and a Couple of Slurs to Boot

Virginia House Delegate Frank Hargrove (R-55th Dist) opposes a bill before the legislature to apologize on the state's behalf to the descendants of slaves.

Del Hargrove, speaking in an interview with the Daily Progress of Charlottesville, said black people "should get over" slavery and asked "“are we going to force the Jews to apologize for killing Christ?” (MSNBC)

The Cost of War

The Iraq War, which was supposed to cost just a few billion dollars and be paid for with Iraq's oil revenue -- is now on track to top $1.2 trillion.

The amount is so hard to get a grip on that the New York Times has pointed out what all $1.2 trillion could buy -- including all of these items with money to spare:
  • Doubling cancer research for 10 years
  • Treatment of every American with diabetes & heart disease
  • A global immunization program of all the world's children
  • Universal pre-school for every American child
  • Rebuilding New Orleans
  • Implementing all the 9/11 Commission reccomendations
  • Screening for nukes smuggled into the US
  • Expansion of military forces in Afghanistan
  • A peacekeeping force to stop the Darfur genocide
Hey, you get what you pay for. (NYT)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Obama Announces On Line

Sen Barack Obama (D-IL) has launched his Presidential exploratory committee -- the first step in a potential Presidential campaign. He made the announcement in this video on his website.

Bet Some Troops Wintering in Afghanistan Feel Left Out

"George W Bush is the only individual in the world who is taking on this terrorist threat." -- Rep Michele Bachman (R-MN)

Iran Getting Military Supplies from the US

Uncle Sam's been selling banned equipment countries that include Iran and China.

The Associated Press reports at least six instances where middlemen went to surplus equipment sales put on by the US. There, they picked up spare parts for jet fighters and missiles among other military equipment.

US Customs officers -- speaking with the AP anonymously -- say they were able to track parts for Chinook helicopters that made it to Iran. The guy who bought them had just been released from prison for selling weapons to Iran in the past.

Federal investigators tell the AP Iran is close to getting parts for the fleet of F-14 "Tomcat" (photo) fighter planes the US sold them when the country was an ally in the 1970s. (AP)

Bush's Year Away from the White House

It'll be next week before President Bush marks six full years in office.

But he's already spent one full year of that time at Camp David -- the Presidential retreat in Maryland. President Bush made his 116th visit there Friday, marking his 365th day at the laid back hideaway.

But that's nothing compared to vacation time at the Crawford ranch. President Bush has already spent 405 days there. (WaPo)

Task Gets Taller for G.O.P. - New York Times

Sen Wayne Allard (R-CO) just made it harder for his party to take back the Senate in 2008.

Sen Allard announced he'll not seek re-election in a state that has been shifting from red to blue. The loss of the incumbent advantage makes it a bit more difficult for the GOP -- 21 Republican seats and only 12 Democratic seats are up for re-election in 2008. (NYT)


There sure are a lot of things that are just downright "unacceptable" to President Bush.

From the response to Hurricane Katrina to the current situation in Iraq, Mark Silva documents at least 16 situations around the world the President has declared "unacceptable" in speeches, news conferences, and weekly radio addresses since 2001. (Chicago Tribune)

A Convenient Truth for the Other Candidates

Reuters reports former Vice President Al Gore will NOT seek the Democratic Presidential nomination. He says he's involved in "a different kind of campaign."

Reuters has a video clip of Mr Gore in which he says he's trying to get candidates in both major parties to address global climate change. (Reuters)

Troops Take Capitol Hill

Fifty active duty military officers went to Capitol Hill Monday to oppose the Bush administration's "surge" of additional troops to Iraq.
"Any troop increase over here will just produce more sitting ducks, more targets." -- Sergeant Ronn Cantu, one of the petitioners
The 50 officers delivered Whistleblower Act petitions signed by about 1,000 troops calling for an end to the US occupation of Iraq. (WSJ)

Scooter's Day in Court

He was once one of the most powerful men in Washington -- chief aide to the Vice President, adviser to the President, ranking as high up the White House food chain as then National Security Adviser Condi Rice.

Today, Scooter Libby is just another criminal defendant in Washington, DC's courts.

The case is expected to shine a light on how the Bush administration took the country into war through cherry-picked intel and gossip shared with reporters. (WaPo)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Wikileak -- Making Every Computer User a Whistleblower promises an untraceable way to post government documents online.

The first documents are from reportedly from the Somalia Islamic court system's Office of the Chief of the Imams -- labeled "Secret Decision." Wikileak's founders claim to have more than a million documents ready for posting.

Wikileak is supposed to allow bureaucrats in oppressive regimes to post secret documents exposing the oppression in their governments.

It's also got to seem like Joe Wilson on steroids to the White House. (WaPo)

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Bush's Aspirin Factory?

Oxfam tells The Independent that they've confirmed 70 deaths of herdsmen in Somalia during last week's US air raid.

The raid targeted three senior al Qaeda members suspected in the 1998 embassy bombings in Africa. State Epartment spokesmen announced this week none of the suspects were killed in the raid.

The Independent reports it appears the herdsmen were mistaken for the target and hit with gunfire from an AC-130 gunship (pictured)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Subtitle Theatre: Bush on Iraq

We use subtitles to translate parts of the Bush Iraq speech from political-speak into English.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

What, No Macaca?

Former Gov Mitt Romney(R-MA) is courting conservatives in his bid for the GOP Presidential nomination.

What better time for someone to post clips on YouTube from a 1994 Senate Debate during which Gov Romney stands up for abortion rights, says homosexuals should be allowed in the Boy Scouts, bashing Ronald Reagan,and endorsing affirmative action.

But in his defense -- he never mentions macaca. (YouTube)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Dubya Knows Jack

Hey, remember how the White House said there were no pictures of President Bush and disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff?

Nevermind. (CREW)

Universal Health Care in California

Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) is upsetting political powerhouses from labor unions to big business with his plan to provide health insurance for everyone in the state.

Around 6.5 million Californians are uninsured. The Governor's plan for universal health care is being attacked by labor as a tax on the middle class and by big business because it gives breaks to small business.

Gov Schwarzenegger discussed the plan via a videolink Monday. He's using some of his health insurance to recover from a skiing injury. (AP via Yahoo!)

"Political Threat" List in Connecticut

Ken Krayeske was campaign manager for the Green Party's gubernatorial candidate in Connecticut last year. When Mr Krayeske went up to get a picture of the winner during her inaugural parade last week, police arrested him.

That didn't sit well with the new Governor, though. Gov Jodi Rell (R-CT) (pictured) was even more put out when she found out the police kept a list of "political threats" to the governor and someone had put Mr Krayeske's name on it.

Gov Rell has called for an investigation into the list. (Hartford Courant)

Monday, January 08, 2007

Terrorism Deaths Increased in 2006

The Terrorism Knowledge Base reports deaths from terrorism in 2006 increased by at least 10% over 2005. From CNN:
"Just how many people died from terrorism in 2006? So far, according to [Chip] Ellis [at the Terrorism Knowledge Base], 'the 2006 toll already is 10,107, which is up a significant 23 percent [from 2005].'"

The chart -- from TKB's website tools -- shows how terrorism deaths have increased worldwide since 1990. (CNN/TKB)

Monday's Political News Roundup

His Place in Bartlett's

"We are waiting for the gas to pass." New York Mayor Michael Bloomgerg on the odor hanging over Manhattan. (CBS2)

Kids, And Presidents, Say the Darndest Things

Top Ten Bushisms as determined by word geeks aided by the Global Language Monitor:

1. 'I'm the Decider.' 'I'm the decider, and I decide what is best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense.' April 18, in response to a question from CNN's Ed Henry.

2. 'I use The Google,' in reference to the popular search engine. October 24th. Interview with Maria Bartiromo of CNBC.

3. 'It was not always certain that the U.S. and America would have a close relationship.' June 29.

4. 'I've got an ek-a-lec-tic reading list.' August 29 interview with NBC's Brian Williams.

5. 'The only way we can win is to leave before the job is done.' Nov. 24 (Greely, Colo.)

6. 'Stay the course.' On numerous occasions.

7. 'When the final history is written on Iraq, it will look just like a comma.' Sept. 24. Interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

8. 'The Congress was right to renew the Terrorist Act.' In reference to the Patriot Act. Sept. 7 (Washington)

9. 'I want to be a war president; no president wants to be a war president.' Oct. 26. (Des Moines)

10. 'The fiscal year that ended on February the 30th.' The government fiscal year ends Sept. 30; Oct. 11 (Washington)"

Iraq Plans -- From the Left and Right

Senate Committee Chairmen will outline their plans to keep watch over the Iraq War -- a day before President Bush unveils his new strategy in Iraq.

Chairmen of Senate oversight committees will announce their plans for hearings Tuesday -- President Bush announces his plans Wednesday night at 9:00 pm EST in a televised address to the nation. (CNN)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Friday, January 05, 2007

Friday's Political News Roundup

What a Party

Former Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe has a new book coming out with a unique insider's view of politics. Like that time he took a vacation with the Clintons. From CBS:

"He had an insider's look at the Clintons' marriage during the Monica Lewinsky scandal _ going along on a chilly Clinton family vacation to Utah a month after the impeachment vote and watching Mrs. Clinton silently click through channel after channel reporting on her husband's infidelities before settling on ESPN. He wrote that the president described the period to him as 'an absolute living hell.'"
But was she watching the Yankees or the Mets? (CBS News)

Knowing Then, What They Know Now

If they knew then what they know now, only 15 Senators say they'd still vote for the Iraq War. ABC News called every Senator who voted for the war.

Revelations of poor intelligence, the lack of WMDs and an "imminent threat" to the US, and the lack of a clear strategy changed enough minds to have turned around the outcome if the war were voted on today.

Others hemmed and hawed when asked, and some dodged the question or phone calls all together. But in the end, only these 15 Senators said they'd still vote for the Iraq War:

1. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo.
2. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.
3. Sen. Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn.
4. Former Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.
5. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
6. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
7. Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb.
8. Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind.
9. Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo.
10. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla.
11. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.
12. former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa.
13. former Sen. George Allen, R-Va.
14. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho
15. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho

You can click here to let ABC know how you'd vote if you were a Senator. (ABC)

100 Hour Countdown: Pork on the Chopping Block

The US House takes up a plan Friday to ban "earmarks" -- the practice of inserting anonymous pet projects in spending bills. The idea is to send federal money back to the home district in an attempt to buy votes -- or benefit a lobbyist or special interest. The whole process is called "pork barrel spending."

Congress slipped in $71.77 billion for 15,832 earmarks last year. (Bloomberg via Yahoo!)

100 Hour Countdown: Lobbyist Gifts Banned

The US House Thursday voted to ban lawmkers from accepting rides on corporate jets, as well as other gifts and meals from lobbyists.

The measure passed the House 430-1.

Rep Dan Burton (R-IN) (pictured) was the only Congressman to vote against the plan. (Bloomberg via Yahoo!)

GOP's Razor Thin Victories

Democrats took control of Congress Thursday -- and Congressional Quarterly offers up a new talking point for the GOP: "It coulda been worse." From CQ:

"Of the 202 Republicans sworn in Thursday as members of 110th Congress, 15 maintained GOP control of their seats by margins of just 3 percentage points or less. On the other side of the aisle, just two of the 233 members of the new Democratic majority were winners of contests in which they retained their party’s control by similarly razor-thin margins."

CQ has a breakdown of the 15 races that will be top targets in 2008. (CQ via

Thursday, January 04, 2007

...And Cigarettes Don't Cause Cancer

A new report accuses ExxonMobil of using big tobacco's tactics to manufacture uncertainity about global climate change.

Remember how big tobacco kept arguing for years that smoking had no link to lung cancer? The Union of Concerned Scientists is out with a report detailing how ExxonMobil is doing the same thing with claims that global climate change isn't happening. From the UCS website:

"Smoke, Mirrors & Hot Air: How ExxonMobil Uses Big Tobacco's Tactics to "Manufacture Uncertainty" on Climate Change details how the oil company, like the tobacco industry in previous decades, has

  • raised doubts about even the most indisputable scientific evidence
  • funded an array of front organizations to create the appearance of a broad platform for a tight-knit group of vocal climate change contrarians who misrepresent peer-reviewed scientific findings
  • attempted to portray its opposition to action as a positive quest for "sound science" rather than business self-interest
  • used its access to the Bush administration to block federal policies and shape government communications on global warming"

But should that camel be smoking around the gas pumps?

    Cheney Sent Packing

    Vice President Dick Cheney has lost his cushy office in the US Capitol. The power shift to the Democratic Party in the November election forced him to surrender his digs to Rep Charles Rangel (D-NY).

    The Veep got an office at the Capitol in his job as President of the Senate.

    Rep Rangel wrangled the office as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee -- perhaps the most powerful committee in the House. Enough clout, at least, to evict a Vice President. (NY Post)

    So That's Why My Christmas Cards were Missing

    President Bush has declared he has the authority to open your mail.

    While signing a postal reform bill into law on December 20, the President added one of his beloved "signing statements" asserting Presidential priviledge to order any American's mail opened and read.

    Legal experts say the signing statement is contrary to current postal law and contradicts the very bill he signed into law.

    But I've got a great new excuse when creditors call looking for an overdue bill! (Mercury News)

    Drugged Out, Paranoid Chief Justice

    Late Chief Justice William Rehnquist suffered from paranoid delusions and drug dependence during the early 1980s.

    The findings come from his recently released FBI file. Legal Times got hold of it through a Freedom of Information Act Request.

    The files show Mr Rehnquist was placed on the painkiller Placidyl in the 1970s for back pain. The drug is only supposed to be used for a few days. But Mr Rehnquist continued taking the drug for roughly a decade. That long term usage led to slurred speech. He quit the drug suddenly, triggering paranoid delusions.

    The 1,561 page FBI file says Mr Rehnquist in 1981 believed the CIA was watching him and was convinced people were listening to him ouside his door.

    And people complain about "activist" judges. (Legal Times)