The president is calling Amnesty International's report on Guantanamo Bay "absurd." The recently released report says serious human rights violations have been committed at Gitmo.
Last evening, on Larry King's show, the vice president said he doesn't take the report seriously at all. Here's What's Left dissects the interview and concludes Dick Cheney is a liar and a coward.
The president is calling Amnesty International's report on Guantanamo Bay "absurd." The recently released report says serious human rights violations have been committed at Gitmo.
"World War I people are getting scarce," Brown said. "Nothing can be done about that."
Brown was 16 when he lied about his age so he could join the Allied cause in 1918. His Maryland driver's license still lists his birth date as October 7, 1899, instead of the correct 1901.
Nightline to Honor The Fallen on Memorial Day.
The show will honor more than 900 service men and women who have died in the past year while serving in Iraq in Afghanistan.
Last year, Nightline did this as well, but Sinclair broadcasting refused to air it on the ABC stations it owns claiming it was a political anti-war statement "disguised as news content." This year, Sinclair has chosen to air the broadcast. While they say it's because the broadcast is on Memorial Day, there's another more fundamental difference between this year and a year ago.
Did everyone guess what that difference is? That's right, last year was a presidential election year. Have a cookie.
It was a culinary rebuke that echoed around the world, heightening the sense of tension between Washington and Paris in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. But now the US politician who led the campaign to change the name of french fries to "freedom fries" has turned against the war.
Walter Jones, the Republican congressman for North Carolina who was also the brains behind french toast becoming freedom toast in Capitol Hill restaurants, told a local newspaper the US went to war "with no justification".
It's telling when guys like Jones wake up to the fact that Americans were sold a bill of goods by their government on invading Iraq.
Video is now available from the forum on Media Bias and the Future of Freedom of the Press organized by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI).
Some of the more insightful testimony came from BBC correspondent Justin Webb. He explained that while covering American politics, he has noticed the media too often defers to government officials and politicians. By contrast, he says, the British media are much more aggressive in questioning the country's leaders and seeking answers.
The video of his opening statement is here. It's in Quicktime and a little flaky, but you can still hear the audio even if the video doesn't show up.
From today's Washington Post:
Gitmo Guards Accused of Mistreating Koran: Newly Released FBI Documents Detail Allegations.
Nearly a dozen detainees at the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba told FBI interrogators that guards had mistreated copies of the Koran, including one who said in 2002 that guards "flushed a Koran in the toilet," according to new FBI documents released today.
The summaries of FBI interviews, obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union as part of an ongoing lawsuit, also include allegations that the Koran was kicked, thrown to the floor and withheld as punishment and that guards mocked Muslim prisoners during prayers.
Stores brace for mad rush on "We're Sorry" greeting cards to send to Newsweek.
The House has passed legislation by a vote of 238-194 expanding funding for embryonic stem cell research. It now moves on to the Senate which is expected to pass it easily. However, the president is still threatening to veto the legislation.
I'm still waiting for that press conference where Bush comes out against in vitro fertilization since unused embryos are destroyed in the process. This new legislation would stop that by allowing them to be used for research.
All four Wisconsin Republican House members voted against the bill.
Quote of the Day
"If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy."
-- James Madison, while a U.S. Congressman
Thanks to Skipper for the referral.
After a season of injuries, the Milwaukee Bucks beat the odds and won the NBA lottery on Tuesday night, creating exciting possibilities for next month's draft.
The Bucks, who had only a 6.3 percent chance of winning the lottery, now have the options of dealing the No. 1 pick in the June 28 draft, using it to entice Michael Redd to re-sign or simply choosing a talented player like center Andrew Bogut, forward Marvin Williams or point guard Chris Paul.
IMHO, the rule of thumb is always draft the best player available rather than draft based on need. Otherwise, you may as well trade the draft pick. Excellent news for Milwaukee hoops fans.
Senators reportedly have reached a deal on judicial nominations according to the AP.
I've never been completely opposed to a compromise on judges since this is a battle that has been escalating between the parties for years. Throughout the 1990s, nearly 60 of President Clinton's nominees were not given an up-or-down vote, and many of those weren't even given hearings. By contrast, 208 out of 218 judicial nominees have been approved by the Senate since President Bush took office; a pretty good ratio.
This most recent debate has been over the power grab being attempted by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in the form of the "nuclear option." The folks on the reactionary right who wanted to see said option become a reality probably aren't very pleased tonight.
Prior to tonight's result, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had this to say in today's Times:
"We're all grown men and women," Mr. Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said on CNN's "Late Edition." "And we're behaving like we're in the third grade. Yes, it is very doable if people of good faith will come together."
War is Real is a site put together by a military blogger who served in Iraq and is currently undergoing counseling for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
He's due to deploy for a second time this fall. It's a good read as it provides the reader with some sense of what our troops are going through in this time of war.
Discovered at Metafilter.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) gave a floor speech today in the continuing debate over the "nuclear option." In it, he quoted the late Republican senator from Michigan Arthur Vandenberg from a speech he gave on a proposal by then Vice President Barkley to change the cloture rule to end filibusters:
“...[T]he rules of the Senate as they exist at any given time and as they are clinched by precedents should not be changed substantively by the interpretive action of the Senate’s Presiding Officer, even with the transient sanction of an equally transient Senate majority. The rules can be safely changed only by the direct and conscious action of the Senate itself, acting in the fashion prescribed by the rules. Otherwise, no rule in the Senate is worth the paper it is written on, and this so-called ‘greatest deliberative body in the world’ is at the mercy of every change in parliamentary authority.”
The idea that the Senate's presiding officer can at any time arbitrarily interpret the Senate's rules is exactly what makes the "nuclear option" so nuclear. With the setting of that precedent, what is the point of established Senate rules anymore which lay out the proper procedure for the Senate to make its own rules? The answer is there is none.
More from Sen. Levin:
Mr. President, the “nuclear option”– this extra-legal changing of the Senate Rules– will cause a permanent tear in the Senate fabric because it violates a deeply held American value: playing by the rules. Our rules themselves provide the process for changing the rules. Using an arbitrary way, the Presiding Officer ruling by fiat, will produce a deeply embittered and divided Senate because it tears at the heart of the way we operate as a Senate. The Presiding Officer is supposed to be an impartial umpire, not a dictator. He is supposed to apply the rules, not rewrite them.
Those who are in favor of invoking the "nuclear option" are saying in a most obvious fashion that the end does indeed justify the means.
Our fearless leader is in town today to push his Social Security overhaul. Don't be fooled if you think this is a real town meeting open to all who wish to learn and ask questions of the president.
At one of these meetings in Denver, three people were ejected simply because of an anti-war bumper sticker on their car. Initial reports stated it was the Secret Service, but as it turns out it was Republican staffers doing the dirty work of filtering the crowd so they'd play nice.
The Daily Show recently did a piece examining the differences between the president's town hall meetings, and ones in Britain. It's hilarious but also saddening when you consider how much more ability Britons have to question their country's leaders directly.
Interested in what your representatives in Congress are up to? Plogress.com tracks legislation sponsored and co-sponsored by House and Senate members. The Wisconsin page is here.
It's a great idea for a site since it allows people to easily see for themselves what members are doing rather than rely on the media and punditry to tell them.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) calls Majority Leader Bill Frist out on his own history of filibustering judicial nominees.
From Think Progress:
SEN. SCHUMER: Isn't it correct that on March 8, 2000, my colleague [Sen. Frist] voted to uphold the filibuster of Judge Richard Paez?
Here was Frist's response:
The president, the um, in response, uh, the Paez nomination - we'll come back and discuss this further. ... Actually I'd like to, and it really brings to what I believe - a point - and it really brings to, oddly, a point, what is the issue. The issue is we have leadership-led partisan filibusters that have, um, obstructed, not one nominee, but two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, in a routine way.
Frist's argument throughout the "nuclear option" drama has been that a filibuster of a judicial nominee is unconstitutional and that all nominees deserve a vote. I guess when you're whoring yourself out to the religious right to run for president, principles and obvious hypocrisy are of little importance.
As expected, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has once again introduced the nomination of Texas judge Priscilla Owen to the full Senate for debate.
Owen has come under repeated fire from critics who assert she is a radical judicial activist who operates more on ideology than the Constitution for decision making.
Her nomination has resulted in a Democratic filibuster in the past and will again unless the Republican majority succeeds in implementing the "nuclear option" to change Senate rules. From the Washington Post yesterday:
A report last month by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service asserted that "the point of a 'nuclear' or 'constitutional' option is to achieve changes in Senate procedure by using means that lie outside the Senate's normal rules of procedure."
Also, some Democrats have advanced evidence that the GOP gambit lacks support from the Senate parliamentarian, the official who typically rules on what is allowable under the chamber's rules and precedents.
Reid told reporters last month that the parliamentarian, Alan S. Frumin, had told him that he opposed the Republicans' plan and that "if they do this, they will have to overrule him."
Frumin, who was appointed by Republican leaders in 2001, has not been granting interviews. But a senior Republican Senate aide confirmed that Frist does not plan to consult Frumin at the time the nuclear option is deployed. "He has nothing to do with this," the aide said. "He's a staffer, and we don't have to ask his opinion."
British MP George Galloway testified before the Senate subcommittee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Permanent Investigations on Tuesday regarding allegations that he was involved in corruption surrounding the UN oil-for-food program. In his opening statement, he went right after the committee's chairman Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN). Video here.
"Senator, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an oil trader. and neither has anyone on my behalf. I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one - and neither has anyone on my behalf.
Now I know that standards have slipped in the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice. I am here today but last week you already found me guilty. You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever written to me or telephoned me, without any attempt to contact me whatsoever. And you call that justice."
"I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.
Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies."
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith premieres tomorrow. According to reports, it contains some political themes that may seem quite contemporary to viewers.
Cannes audiences made blunt comparisons between "Revenge of the Sith" — the story of Anakin Skywalker's fall to the dark side and the rise of an emperor through warmongering — to President Bush's war on terrorism and the invasion of Iraq.
Two lines from the movie especially resonated:
"This is how liberty dies. With thunderous applause," bemoans Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) as the galactic Senate cheers dictator-in-waiting Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) while he announces a crusade against the Jedi.
"If you're not with me, then you're my enemy," Hayden Christensen's Anakin — soon to become villain Darth Vader — tells former mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). The line echoes Bush's international ultimatum after the Sept. 11 attacks, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."
There's a new website about the Downing Street Memo mentioned in my previous post.
The site explains what the memo is and what it means, something most of the news media in this country has failed to. The full text of the memo is there as well. It's dated July 23, 2002, a full eight months before the president sent our country to war.
"The Defence Secretary said that the US had already begun 'spikes of activity' to put pressure on the regime. No decisions had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections."
"It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force."
From the Times of London, one of the United Kingdom's conservative newspapers: Bush questioned over papers leaked in UK
A group of 89 Democratic congressmen have written to Mr Bush expressing their shock at the revelations - which have not been disputed by the Government in London - saying that the documents raised "troubling new questions" over the legal justification for the invasion, and regarding "the integrity of our administration". The letter, which has thus far elicited no response from the White House, notes that if they are correct, the documents suggest that not only was the decision to go to war taken months before Mr Bush sought congressional authorisation for war in October 2002, they would also bear out charges that the administration manipulated intelligence to back up its case, and that US diplomatic moves before the conflict were little more than a charade.
Alas, it appears the US news media, television in particular, would rather focus on Paula Abdul's scandal and the Michael Jackson trial than why we went to war on false premises.
On a 10-8 vote along party lines, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has sent the nomination of John Bolton to the full Senate without its endorsement.
Bolton is the president's nominee to be Ambassador to the United Nations, but he has come under harsh criticism from Republicans like Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) who had this to say today:
I believe that John Bolton would have been fired if he'd worked for a major corporation. This is not the behavior of a true leader who upholds the kind of democracy that President Bush is seeking to promote globally. This is not the behavior that should be endorsed as the face of the United States to the world community and the United Nations. Rather, Mr. Chairman, it is my opinion that John Bolton is the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be.
Arrests sought in election fraud
The two shysters in question have admitted to filling out multiple voting registration cards using fake names.
Lewis' warrant says he was fired by Project Vote for submitting a registration card in the name of a dead person, but before he did that, he allegedly turned in duplicate cards for the same voter on "numerous" occasions. He admitted turning in multiple entries for some family members, the warrant says.
Lilly and Lewis were charged with five felonies each: three counts of forgery, one count of election fraud and one count of misconduct in public office, because they had been sworn in as deputy voter registrars for the registration effort. If convicted as charged, each could face a maximum possible sentence of 25 years in prison.
As the article points out, Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle has proposed a law that would prohibit paying voter registration workers on a per-signature basis. This seems like a common sense reform since it goes to the heart of the problem at hand. Hopefully, the state legislature will pass it ASAP.
Tom Ridge reveals clashes on alerts, says threat level often raised over his protest
From USA Today:
The Bush administration periodically put the USA on high alert for terrorist attacks even though then-Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge argued there was only flimsy evidence to justify raising the threat level, Ridge now says.
Ridge, who resigned Feb. 1, said Tuesday that he often disagreed with administration officials who wanted to elevate the threat level to orange, or high risk of terrorist attack, but was overruled.
JuliusBlog has put together a chart showing a correlation between the terror alerts and Bush's approval rating over the past few years. It looks like Ridge wants to let the world know he didn't appreciate being used as a political tool as head of Homeland Security.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is calling Sen. Bill Frist's bluff on the so-called nuclear option.
From a statement he issued yesterday:
"I still consider this confrontation entirely unnecessary and irresponsible. The White House manufactured this crisis. Since Bush took office, the Senate confirmed 208 of his judicial nominations and turned back only 10, a 95% confirmation rate. Instead of accepting that success and avoiding further divisiveness and partisanship in Washington, the President chose to pick fights instead of judges by resubmitting the names of the rejected nominees.
This fight is not about seven radical nominees; it's about clearing the way for a Supreme Court nominee who only needs 51 votes, instead of 60 votes. They want a Clarence Thomas, not a Sandra Day O'Connor or Anthony Kennedy or David Souter. George Bush wants to turn the Senate into a second House of Representatives, a rubberstamp for his right wing agenda and radical judges. That's not how America works.
I believe there are two options for avoiding the nuclear showdown, which so many of us believe is bad for the Senate, and bad for America.
But I want to be clear: we are prepared for a vote on the nuclear option. Democrats will join responsible Republicans in a vote to uphold the constitutional principle of checks and balances."
Comedian Eugene Mirman had a hilarious exchange on the phone recently with a telemarketer urging him to switch to his phone service to a homosexual-agenda-free phone company called United American Technologies (UAT).
Mirman uses the soliciation from UAT to illustrate its absurdity. He has posted it on his website in MP3 format for all to hear.
The US Attorney's office has just completed a press conference regarding its investigation into possible voter fraud.
From the local daily:
"Investigators today said they had found evidence of fraud in the Nov. 2 election in the City of Milwaukee, including cases of felons voting illegally and people who voted twice.
They found more than 100 instances of suspected double-voting and more than 200 felons who voted improperly in the city."
There is no way of knowing who those violators voted for in the election, but thankfully these numbers aren't nearly enough to affect the margin of 11,813 by which John Kerry won Wisconsin. However, since it's only the city of Milwaukee that's being investigated and not the suburbs or other municipalities in the state, some Republicans are going to infer that they were all Kerry voters. There's no evidence to support such a claim, but it's illustrative that these folks see a world where Republicans are law-abiding and Democrats are criminals.
Quote of the Day:
"They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security" -Benjamin Franklin
Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) strayed off message on the war in Iraq recently in a letter mailed to his constituents. The letter in question states:
“I feel quite strongly that as long as we have our military in the Middle East fighting so that we can continue to purchase oil from that region, we have an obligation to find alternatives to foreign oil. It is difficult to justify the death of even one soldier when we are not doing everything in our power to explore options for oil within our country.”
As the article states though, this may not be a slip so much as another defense now being offered by some for the continuing war.
Reasons for the Iraq War:
Weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussein has ties to Al Qaeda Free the Iraqi people Democracy
"Bush said the lessons of the past will not be forgotten as the United States tries to spread freedom in the Middle East.
'We will not repeat the mistakes of other generations, appeasing or excusing tyranny, and sacrificing freedom in the vain pursuit of stability,' the president said. 'We have learned our lesson; no one's liberty is expendable. In the long run, our security and true stability depend on the freedom of others.'"
Is this the same President Bush that continues to kiss up to dictatorial regimes like the Saudi royal family? No hypocrisy to see here. Move along.
"'My Democratic colleagues and I would consider the failure to produce the requested documents in a timely manner a lack of cooperation,' according to the letter, which was made available to The Associated Press.
Those documents include an accounting of instances in which Bolton sought names and details of U.S. officials whose communications were intercepted by the National Security Agency.
Biden also sought records regarding Bolton's assertions that Cuba and Sudan were bent on developing weapons of mass destruction and on China's proliferation of weapons technology. Bolton has been the State Department's arms control chief."
The latest BBC election exit polls show Labour's majority dropping sharply from 160 seats to 66 seats.
Liberal Dems 22%
If those numbers hold or diminish the Labour majority even further, there may be pressure on Tony Blair in the weeks and months ahead to turn over control of the government to another Labour MP like Gordon Brown.
CSPAN-2 is picking up BBC One's coverage tonight if you want to tune in and watch the returns.
UPDATE: There's good blow by blow coverage of the returns over at the Guardian.
If you're looking for coverage of today's general election in the UK from the blogosphere, check out the UK political blog feed page.
There are also some good blogs listed at Politics Online.
If you need to brush up on your knowledge of the British political system, Kenny Baer has a good primer for you over at TPM.
Folkbum has a must read post about the People's Legislature gathering from the past weekend.
In particular, I have to echo his comments about how badly gerrymandered the state legislative districts in Wisconsin are:
Redistricting reform. This is a bug that's been growing under my saddle for some time now. How is it that a state that votes 50-50 in presidential elections, elects a Democrat with less than 50% for governor, and elects two Democratic US senators has a legislature that is nearly 2-1 Republican? (This partisan rhetoric is all me, not the People's Legislature). Without the threat of real competition, our legislators will never start being responsive to the people--you and me--whom they supposedly represent.
I've been meaning to address those very points, and believe the concerns of Wisconsin residents aren't being represented in the state legislature as a result of this problem.
Marquette University formerly known as the Warriors, more recently known as the Golden Eagles has changed its name again to the... (drumroll)... Marquette Gold.
I'm not a Marquette student or alum so I don't really have strong feelings on the matter. However, I've thought in the past that rather than change the name from Warriors, they could've changed the mascot to one which didn't offend Native Americans. The new nickname begs the question of why they bothered to change it at all.
Critics of those of us who believe the Constitution is secular love to say that the establishment clause of the First Amendment does not provide for a separation of church and state.
Well, lest there be any doubt that the founders intended the First Amendment to do just that, consider the text of this letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802:
"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
Chicago will be getting a new progressive talk station starting Thursday. 850-AM WCPT (Chicago's Progressive Talk) will feature Air America programming and Democracy Radio's Ed Schultz.
The station unfortunately is only allowed to broadcast during daylight hours. Considering recent media consolidation, and the lack of available frequencies in Chicago, it's at least a step in the right direction. During the evenings, 1530-AM WCKY out of Cincinnati has a powerful signal that reaches Chicago during nighttime broadcast hours. Hopefully, down the road WCPT can either be upgraded or moved to a frequency that is allowed to broadcast 24 hours.
Better yet, perhaps a Milwaukee station will adopt the format in the meantime. The effort to bring such a format to our fine city continues.
The state legislature has failed to override a veto by Gov. Jim Doyle regarding a law which would require a photo ID to vote in the state of Wisconsin.
Doyle's rationale was that it would disenfranchise the rights of thousands of voters who currently do not hold a Wisconsin ID. While there has been no evidence that voter fraud has been committed, I've stated on this site before that I think some Democrats are wrong in opposing such a requirement outright.
The governor is up for re-election in 2006, and if he's smart he will go on the offense on this issue. If he believes Republicans are playing politics on this issue and are only trying to suppress voter turnout, he ought to come up with his own version of this legislation. There is little doubt that Republican gubernatorial candidates Scott Walker and Mark Green are going to make hay of this.
Right now there is no law making it mandatory for Wisconsin residents to hold a state ID. Therefore, requiring residents to purchase a state ID to vote amounts to a de facto poll tax which is possibly unconstitutional. If Democrats and Republicans are serious about maintaining the integrity of the vote, there are pragmatic solutions to this issue. Examples of potential initiatives are as follows:
- State IDs could be made available free of charge to residents.
- Provide voter ID cards with a digital photo to residents who register to vote.
- Ensure that voters with a photo ID can be allowed to provide documentation that they live at an address different from the one on their ID if they've recently moved.
Two days remain until citizens of the United Kingdom cast their votes in the general election.
Prime Minister Tony Blair has come under increased pressure in recent weeks as Iraq has become the primary issue on the minds of voters. However, it appears that Labour will likely maintain control of Parliament, but may lose some seats in the process.
The BBC has a great poll tracker on their site so you can see how support of Labour, the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats has fluctuated over time.
If you're looking for television coverage of the election, C-SPAN has been airing programming dedicated to it.
"The senior military official told CNN that because of the U.S. deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, the report concludes that future armed conflicts would last longer and produce higher casualties.
The report finds that the United States still would have the ability to win another military face-off but wouldn't be able to build up its forces as quickly as it did for the Iraq war.
'It would be harder to sprint that fast,' the official said.
The report cites areas in particular stress: stockpiles of precision weapons and the availability of pre-positioned equipment, including vehicles, and reserve units -- who are providing much of the combat support in Iraq."
Admonished by the House ethics committee last year on three separate matters, DeLay, a Texas Republican, has faced new questions in the past several weeks on ties to lobbyists and foreign trips funded by outside groups.
"I don't know anyone who believes that there is necessarily merit to the allegations that have been put forward," Card said.
The president is putting his weight behind the embattled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Only time will tell whether this will have an impact on the integrity of the investigation.