Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Attorneys: No backstory in CIA leak case

WASHINGTON - Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby agree on something: keeping Libby's perjury trial in the CIA leak case focused solely on his actions. The two are separately asking a federal judge not to allow three years of politically charged backstory in the case to seep into Libby's trial starting in January.

In new court documents, Fitzgerald argued that he shouldn't have to explain why Libby was charged while others, including the source of the leak, escaped prosecution. Libby said jurors shouldn't hear about New York Times reporter Judith Miller's 85-day jail term for refusing to discuss her conversations with him.

The court documents, filed late Monday, are an effort to keep the trial focused on whether Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, lied to investigators about his conversation with reporters regarding CIA officer Valerie Plame.

Libby's supporters have accused Fitzgerald of singling him out while not charging the source of the leak, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Fitzgerald wrote Monday that discussing that issue would be irrelevant.

"If Mr. X was investigated for leaking classified information, the government's decision not to charge Mr. X should have nothing to do with the jury's role as the finder of fact in Libby's case," Fitzgerald wrote.

The prosecutor is trying to prevent Libby's attorneys from making the argument that Libby had no reason to lie because, if he had leaked classified information, prosecutors would have charged him with it.

Similarly, Libby's attorneys said it would be unfair for prosecutors to discuss Miller's refusal to testify or the lengthy court fight involving other reporters. Miller cooperated with investigators after serving 85 days in jail.

"The introduction of these issues would undoubtedly cause jurors to wonder whether Ms. Miller went to jail in an effort to shield Mr. Libby from liability, and whether Mr. Libby is to blame for her incarceration," defense attorneys wrote.

If such testimony is allowed at trial, defense attorneys said they might have to call Fitzgerald as a witness to discuss his role in getting Miller and others to testify.

Plame believes her identity was leaked as retribution for her husband's criticism of the Bush administration's prewar intelligence on Iraq. Defense attorneys also asked a federal judge to block discussions about whether Plame's CIA status was classified or whether releasing that information jeopardized her safety or national security.


Ex-Hussein political adviser claims Iraq accepted Bush's ultimatum before invasion

Hossam Shaltout, a former political adviser to Saddam Hussein's son, said today that before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March of 2003, Saddam expressed his intent to yield to all American demands, but that the Bush administration refused his offers, according to a press release on Yahoo News.

Shaltout is a Canadian citizen who claims he was beaten repeatedly by U.S. officers while in an Iraqi detention camp, under suspicion of once having been a "right hand man" for Saddam Hussein.

"Saddam was willing to yield to all American demands, announced and unannounced, to reach peaceful resolution," said Shaltout, "but the Bush administration, including Elizabeth Cheney, undersecretary of State, David Welch, the U.S. ambassador in Egypt, and Gene Cretz, his political attache, did not respond to his offers."

Shaltout claims that in March of 2003, just as he was to read the Iraqi government's official reply to the Bush ultimatum on Al-Jazeera, the broadcast was interrupted and "the plug was pulled on the transmission." He also maintains that later, when the Americans arrived in Baghdad, he offered his assistance to U.S. military officials, but instead was arrested by Marines who went to his hotel suite and took his documents.

Left unmentioned in the press release are Shaltout's claims that he was tortured and abused during his imprisonment.

In May of 2004, Shaltout told his story to MSNBC's Chris Matthews.
"I was there to convince Saddam Hussein to step down, and I was in the last hours working on this peace agreement," Shaltout said. "And I wanted him to keep the agreement that he agreed to step down only 15 minutes before the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of this ultimatum. That was what I was doing there."

Shaltout claimed that he was beaten and tortured while held in the Iraqi prison in order to extract a false confession that he was once Hussein's "right-hand man."

"They wanted me to confess because they found the speech I was going to say and said that I‘m the speechwriter of Saddam Hussein, which I wasn't," Shaltout said. "And they want me to confess I am his right-hand man."
The ACLU has a pdf link which contains Shaltout's written claims to the U.S. Department of the Army.

According to his Web site, Rights And Freedom International, Shaltout is currently running for President of Egypt.


Money trails lead to Bush judges

A four-month investigation reveals that dozens of federal judges gave contributions to President Bush and top Republicans who helped place them on the bench. A Salon/CIR exclusive.

Oct. 31, 2006 At least two dozen federal judges appointed by President Bush since 2001 made political contributions to key Republicans or to the president himself while under consideration for their judgeships, government records show. A four-month investigation of Bush-appointed judges by the Center for Investigative Reporting reveals that six appellate court judges and 18 district court judges contributed a total of more than $44,000 to politicians who were influential in their appointments. Some gave money directly to Bush after he officially nominated them. Other judges contributed to Republican campaign committees while they were under consideration for a judgeship.

Republicans who received money from judges en route to the bench include Sens. Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Sens. George Voinovich and Mike DeWine of Ohio, and Gov. George Pataki of New York.

There are no laws or regulations prohibiting political contributions by a candidate for a federal judgeship. But political giving by judicial candidates has been a rarely scrutinized activity amid the process that determines who will receive lifelong jobs on the federal bench. Some ethics experts and Bush-appointed judges say that political giving is inappropriate for those seeking judicial office -- it can appear unethical, they say, and could jeopardize the public's confidence in the impartiality of the nation's courts. Those concerns come as ethics and corruption scandals have roiled Washington, and on the eve of midterm elections whose outcome could influence the makeup of the federal judiciary -- including the Supreme Court -- for decades to come.

The CIR investigation analyzed the campaign contribution records of 249 judges appointed by Bush nationwide since 2001. The money trail leading from Bush judges to influential politicians runs particularly deep through the political battleground states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.


Monday, October 30, 2006




101 Americans die in Iraq during October

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The American death toll for October climbed past 100, a grim milestone reached as a top White House envoy turned up unexpectedly in Baghdad on Monday to smooth over a rough patch in U.S.-Iraqi ties. At least 80 people were killed across Iraq, 33 in a Sadr City bombing targeting workers.

A member of the 89th Military Police Brigade was killed in east Baghdad Monday, and a Marine died in fighting in insurgent infested Anbar province the day before, raising to 101 the number of U.S. service members killed in a bloody October, the fourth deadliest month of the war. At least 2,814 American forces have died since the war began.

Upon arriving on an unannounced visit, National Security Adviser
Stephen Hadley went straight into meetings with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his security chief, Mouwafak al-Rubaie, telling them he "wanted to reinforce some of the things you have heard from our president."

The White House said Hadley was not on a mission to repair ragged relations, accounts of which it said had been "overblown" by the news media.

"Absolutely not," said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the National Security Council in Washington. "This is a long planned trip to get a first hand report of the situation on the ground from the political, economic and security fronts."
But the timing of the visit argued otherwise.

Last week Al-Maliki issued a string of bitter complaints — at one point saying he wasn't "America's man in Iraq" — after U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad unveiled adjustments in America's Iraq strategy.


Newspapers Across Country Support Dem Candidates...


CT: New York Times Calls Lamont "By Far the Better Candidate."

MN: Pioneer Press Knows Klobuchar Will Be Independent in Washington.

MN: Duluth News-Tribune Says Minnesotans Would Be Well-Served By Klobuchar.

MO: Kansas City Star Says McCaskill Will "Bring Needed Change."

MT: Great Falls Tribune Calls Some of the Attacks on Tester "Laughable."

NJ: Star-Ledger Chooses Menendez Based on Issues and Experience.

NJ: The Record Worries That Kean Jr. Is "An Enigma" On the Issues.

PA: Times-Tribune Says Casey Is "Exactly What the Senate Needs."

PA: Patriot News Concludes That Santorum "Has Too Many Wrong Answers."

PA: Morning Call Commends Casey's Work As Auditor General and State Treasurer.

VA: Roanoke Times Opts For Independent Webb Over Bush Rubberstamp Allen.

VA: Daily Press Chooses Webb For His Positions on Iraq.


Shreddin' With Dick

Spotted on 10/19, by an eagle-eyed Wonkette reader: The Mid-Atlantic Shredding Services truck making its way up to the Cheney compound at the Naval Observatory.

Fun fact: Mid-Atlantic Shredding Services has been contracted by the Secret Service for our Executive Branch’s record-not-keeping needs.

The present contractor providing Pickup & Destruction of Sensitive Waste Material services is Mid Atlantic Shredding Services and the current rate is $0.095 cents per lbs.

You better get crackin’, Dick — that evidence won’t destroy itself!


Sunday, October 29, 2006

GOP, Democratic leaders spar on Rumsfeld

WASHINGTON - The No. 2 leader in the House on Sunday said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is "the best thing that's happened to the
Pentagon in 25 years," sparking a debate with Democrats who said the comments show why the GOP should be voted out of power.

Rumsfeld's leadership of the bloody mission in Iraq has become a divisive issue in the Nov. 7 elections. Many Democrats and a few Republicans are calling for his resignation, but President Bush repeatedly has defended him. So did House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, during an appearance Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

"I think Donald Rumsfeld is the best thing that's happened to the Pentagon in 25 years," Boehner said. "This Pentagon and our military needs a transformation. And I think Donald Rumsfeld's the only man in America who knows where the bodies are buried at the Pentagon, has enough experience to help transform that institution."

Rep. Charles Rangel (news, bio, voting record), D-N.Y., said voters will have their chance to show if they agree with Boehner on Election Day.
"It's true President Bush may not be on the ballot, but people like Boehner and people who support Rumsfeld and Cheney and Bush, they're on the ballot," Rangel said on CNN's "Late Edition."

"And that's why we only get two years. You don't have to wait to get the president. This is a referendum on the war and the incompetency of the Bush administration."

Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel (news, bio, voting record), head of the Democratic effort to win control of the House, quickly e-mailed a statement to reporters objecting to Boehner's comments and including quotes from seven military leaders criticizing the defense secretary.

"Congressman Boehner's defense of Donald Rumsfeld makes it crystal clear that we need change in Washington from the rubber stamp Republican Congress and their blind adherence to President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld's stay the course policy in Iraq," Emanuel's e-mail said.


Tipping Point for War's Supporters?

As the fighting in Iraq swerved toward civil war in February, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va.) expressed "a high degree of confidence" that a new government would take charge and that by the end of the year the conflict "won't be the same."

As October opened, Warner returned from Iraq with a far grimmer assessment. "The situation," he said, "is simply drifting sidewise." His judgment gave voice to Republican doubt that had been suppressed in a campaign season. Lawmakers who had vowed to "stay the course" called for change. One GOP senator declared Iraq "on the verge of chaos." By last week, President Bush was saying he too is "not satisfied" and is looking for a fresh approach.

October 2006 may be remembered as the month that the U.S. experience in Iraq hit a tipping point, when the violence flared and shook both the military command in Iraq and the political establishment back in Washington.

Plans to stabilize Baghdad collided with a surge in violence during the holy month of Ramadan. Sectarian revenge killings spread, consuming a town 50 miles from the capital. U.S. officials spoke of setting benchmarks for the Iraqi government to take on more responsibility, only to have the Iraqi prime minister call that suggestion election-year grandstanding. Bush compared the situation to the 1968 Tet Offensive -- often seen as a turning point in the Vietnam War -- and urged Americans not to become disillusioned.


The Constitution

The Constitution

Thank You GEF!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Democrats lead as poll shows bump for Bush, GOP

As the race for Congress enters the homestretch, the Republicans find themselves limping to the finish line, according to the new NEWSWEEK Poll. President Bush’s approval rating continues a slow but steady climb—from an all-time NEWSWEEK-poll low of 33 percent three weeks ago to 37 percent today. But it may be too little, too late: if the midterm elections were held today, 53 percent of those likely to go to the polls would vote for the Democratic candidate in their Congressional district versus just 39 percent who would vote for the Republican.

But the poll is not all bad news for the GOP. President Bush declared this week that the administration was putting the Baghdad government on notice that it had to make progress in stemming sectarian violence and rebuilding the country. Otherwise, Washington would consider changes to its Iraq policy. And it worked—at the margins. Almost half of all Americans still believe taking military action in Iraq was a mistake, but the gap between those who say it was and those who say it was the right decision has narrowed: from 54 to 39 last week to 49 to 43 this week—from a 15-point margin to just six points.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Poll: Middle Class Voters Abandoning GOP

WASHINGTON (AP) - The 2006 election is shaping up to be a repeat of 1994. This time, Democrats are favored to sweep Republicans from power in the House after a dozen years of GOP rule.

Less than two weeks before the Nov. 7 election, the latest Associated Press-AOL News poll found that likely voters overwhelmingly prefer Democrats over Republicans. They are angry at President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress, and say Iraq and the economy are their top issues.

At the same time, fickle middle-class voters are embracing the Democratic Party and fleeing the GOP - just as they abandoned Democrats a dozen years ago and ushered in an era of Republican control.

"I don't think the Republican Party represents what I stand for. The guys I golf with, we're in the middle class, we're getting hurt," says Joseph Altland, 73, a retired teacher in York, Pa. He is a registered Republican but says he is considering becoming an independent.

The AP-AOL News telephone poll of 2,000 adults, 970 of whom are likely voters, was conducted by Ipsos from Oct. 20-25.

In it, 56 percent of likely voters said they would vote to send a Democrat to the House and 37 percent said they would vote Republican - a 19-point difference. Democrats had a 10-point edge in early October.

"I don't care if I vote for Happy the Clown, just so it's not who's there now," said Mary Nyilas, 51, an independent voter from Cologne, N.J. She said she would do everything she could to "vote against the powers that put us in this situation" in Iraq.

In the minority, Democrats need to gain 15 seats in the House and six in the Senate to win control of Congress. They are arguing for a change in leadership and trying to tap into intense public anxiety about the Iraq war as well as discontent with Bush and the Republicans in charge of the House and Senate.
The 2006 election has been likened to 1994, when backlash against the controlling party - then the Democrats - triggered the election of new rulers - in that case, the Republicans.

On Thursday, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., dismissed talk of a sour outlook for the GOP and cited signs of a strong economy. "Things are looking pretty good, and I don't think anybody would really want to change that at this time," he said in Aurora, Ill.

One of Hastert's lieutenants, Rep. Philip English, R-Pa., said that while he senses "a strong anti-Washington blowback ... the conclusion that, therefore, this is going to be an election like '94 or that control of Congress is likely to shift, I don't think is warranted yet. I think this is gong to come down to the wire."

Unlike in 1994 when the GOP offered a policy platform, English said, Democrats "seem unable to unite behind a common theme."

Democrats say history is on their side.


Memory expert in CIA leak case forgot that she met prosecutor before

A memory expert testifying on behalf of a former aide to Vice President Cheney, who is accused of lying to prosecutors in the CIA leak case, forgot that she had met the special prosecutor before, and was reduced to "stuttering" and "backpedaling" on the stand, according to The Washington Post.

Elizabeth F. Loftus, a professor of criminology and psychology at the University of California at Irvine, was trying to bolster I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's defense, but Patrick J. Fitzgerald "sliced" her up.

"Citing several of her publications, footnotes and the work of her peers, Fitzgerald got Loftus to acknowledge that the methodology she had used at times in her long academic career was not that scientific, that her conclusions about memory were conflicting, and that she had exaggerated a figure and a statement from her survey of D.C. jurors that favored the defense," Carol D. Leonnig writes.

The Post reports that "Loftus was completely caught off guard by Fitzgerald, creating some very awkward silences in the courtroom."

"One of those moments came when Loftus insisted that she had never met Fitzgerald," the article continues. "He then reminded her that he had cross-examined her before, when she was an expert defense witness and he was a prosecutor in the U.S. attorney's office in New York."


Limbaugh's Attack on Michael J. Fox

By now everyone has heard Limbaugh's little commentary about Michael J. Fox's appearance in the ad for Claire McCaskill. Well tonight Keith Olbermann supplied us with the visual to accompany Rush's latest show of idiocy.
Video - WMV Video - QT

After showing the clip of Limbaugh's sad reenactment of Fox's appearance, Keith was joined by Sam Seder to discuss it, along with other ways the Republicans turn to attacks instead of addressing the issues. Seder nails the main talking point surrounding this whole discussion - How the right attacks those who are actually affected by these issues and posses the bravery to bring them into the political arena. Just ask the Congressional pages about that one.


Rove Protégé Behind Racy Tennessee Ad

(CBS/AP) A protégé of White House political guru Karl Rove produced the controversial Republican National Committee ad targeting Tennessee Democratic Senate candidate Rep. Harold Ford Jr., that some have called racist, CBS News has learned.

The ad, in which a white woman with blonde hair and bare shoulders looks into the camera and whispers, "Harold, call me," and then winks, was produced by Scott Howell, the former political director for Rove's consulting firm in Texas.

The RNC ad doesn't mention that "Harold" is black, but the NAACP and others have complained the commercial makes an implicit appeal to deep-seated racial fears about black men and white women.

The race between Ford Jr. and Republican Bob Corker is among the most competitive and nasty U.S. Senate races in the nation. But it didn't just happen with a racially-charged ad from Republicans, reports CBS News national correspondent Byron Pitts.

The Democrats struck first weeks ago by playing the class card in an add which states that Corker's "personal income grew by 40 percent to $11 million."

Howell is no stranger to controversy. He was media consultant for Sen. Saxby Chambliss when his campaign ran an ad showing a picture of then-Democratic Sen. Max Cleland, who lost his legs in the Vietnam War, alongside Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

He also produced an ad for Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn that accused Democrat Brad Carson of being soft on welfare while showing two black hands counting cash.


Rumsfeld tells war critics to 'back off'

WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday that anyone demanding deadlines for progress in Iraq should "just back off," because it is too difficult to predict when Iraqis will resume control of their country.

During an often-combative Pentagon news conference, Rumsfeld said that while benchmarks for security, political and economic progress are valuable, "it's difficult. We're looking out into the future. No one can predict the future with absolute certainty."

He said the goals have no specific deadlines or consequences if they are not met by specific dates.

"You're looking for some sort of a guillotine to come falling down if some date isn't met," Rumsfeld told reporters. "That is not what this is about."

His comments came less than two weeks before an election for control of Congress in which the Bush administration's conduct of the war has become a defining issue. They also came two days after a timeline was first announced by U.S. officials in Baghdad and underscored strains that have emerged between the two countries.

Bush administration officials said Tuesday that they and Iraqi leaders had agreed to craft guidelines toward progress in the country. The next day, Iraq's president disavowed them, saying the benchmarks merely reflected campaign season pressures in the U.S.

Noting that this is the political season, Rumsfeld also complained that critics and the media are trying to "make a little mischief" by trying to "find a little daylight between what the Iraqis say or someone in the United States says."
Rumsfeld often spars with reporters at Pentagon briefings, but Thursday his criticism of journalists seemed more pointed than usual.
"That's a rather accusatory way to put it," he said in response to one question about reducing troop levels.

Members of both parties say next month's congressional elections have become a referendum on the war in Iraq. Control of Congress could hinge on whether voters believe the Bush administration is on the right path or if there should be a change in course and significant reduction in U.S. troop levels there.

Rumsfeld's comments on the benchmarks further muddied the waters on whether there is agreement between the Iraqis and the U.S. on how quickly progress must be made there.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

U.S. Death Toll in Iraq Worst in a Year

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - The number of American troops killed in Iraq in October reached the highest monthly total in a year Thursday after four Marines and a sailor died of wounds suffered while fighting in the same Sunni insurgent stronghold.

The U.S. military said 96 U.S. troops have died so far in October, the most in one month since October 2005, when the same number was killed. The spike in deaths has been a major factor behind rising anti-war sentiment in the United States, fueling calls for President Bush to change tactics.

In other violence, 12 police officers were killed in fighting with suspected militia gunmen in Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad, officials said. Eighteen militants also were killed.

The deadliest month for U.S. forces in Iraq was November 2004, when military offenses primarily in the then-insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, left 137 troops dead, 126 of them in combat. In January 2005, 107 U.S. troops were killed.

Polls show a majority of Americans are opposed to Bush's handling of Iraq, and at a news conference in Washington on Wednesday, he indicated he shared the public's frustration even as he pushed back against calls for troop withdrawals.

"I know many Americans are not satisfied with the situation in Iraq," Bush said. "I'm not satisfied either."

Gen. William B. Caldwell, the U.S. military spokesman, said there had been a marked decrease in violence in Baghdad since the end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, earlier this week.

Caldwell said violence has in the past tended to spike during that month, then fall off. He also said it was possible increased U.S. patrols and roadblocks in the search of a missing American soldier could be having an effect.

"Everyone is asking this very same question ... whether this is occurring naturally or is it due to the fact that we in fact established and are conducting these additional operations," he said.


Cheney confirms that detainees were subjected to water-boarding

WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney has confirmed that U.S. interrogators subjected captured senior al-Qaida suspects to a controversial interrogation technique called "water-boarding," which creates a sensation of drowning.

Cheney indicated that the Bush administration doesn't regard water-boarding as torture and allows the CIA to use it. "It's a no-brainer for me," Cheney said at one point in an interview.

Cheney's comments, in a White House interview on Tuesday with a conservative radio talk show host, appeared to reflect the Bush administration's view that the president has the constitutional power to do whatever he deems necessary to fight terrorism.

The U.S. Army, senior Republican lawmakers, human rights experts and many experts on the laws of war, however, consider water-boarding cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment that's banned by U.S. law and by international treaties that prohibit torture. Some intelligence professionals argue that it often provides false or misleading information because many subjects will tell their interrogators what they think they want to hear to make the water-boarding stop.

Republican Sens. John Warner of Virginia, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have said that a law Bush signed last month prohibits water-boarding. The three are the sponsors of the Military Commissions Act, which authorized the administration to continue its interrogations of enemy combatants.

The radio interview Tuesday was the first time that a senior Bush administration official has confirmed that U.S. interrogators used water-boarding against important al-Qaida suspects, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged chief architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Mohammad was captured in Pakistan on March 1, 2003, and turned over to the CIA.

Water-boarding means holding a person's head under water or pouring water on cloth or cellophane placed over the nose and mouth to simulate drowning until the subject agrees to talk or confess.

Lee Ann McBride, a spokeswoman for Cheney, denied that Cheney confirmed that U.S. interrogators used water-boarding or endorsed the technique.

"What the vice president was referring to was an interrogation program without torture," she said. "The vice president never goes into what may or may not be techniques or methods of questioning."

In the interview on Tuesday, Scott Hennen of WDAY Radio in Fargo, N.D., told Cheney that listeners had asked him to "let the vice president know that if it takes dunking a terrorist in water, we're all for it, if it saves American lives."

"Again, this debate seems a little silly given the threat we face, would you agree?" Hennen said.

"I do agree," Cheney replied, according to a transcript of the interview released Wednesday. "And I think the terrorist threat, for example, with respect to our ability to interrogate high-value detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, that's been a very important tool that we've had to be able to secure the nation."
Cheney added that Mohammed had provided "enormously valuable information about how many (al-Qaida members) there are, about how they plan, what their training processes are and so forth. We've learned a lot. We need to be able to continue that."

"Would you agree that a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?" asked Hennen.

"It's a no-brainer for me, but for a while there, I was criticized as being the vice president `for torture.' We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in," Cheney replied. "We live up to our obligations in international treaties that we're party to and so forth. But the fact is, you can have a fairly robust interrogation program without torture, and we need to be able to do that."

Click What is Water- Boarding?

Exxon Mobil Posts $10.49B Profit in 3Q

DALLAS (AP) - Oil industry behemoth Exxon Mobil's earnings rose to $10.49 billion in the third quarter, the second-largest quarterly profit ever recorded by a publicly traded U.S. company. Its shares briefly rose to a 52-week high.

The report Thursday comes as high crude prices this year have fueled record profits in the oil industry, triggering an outcry from consumers who were being asked to pay about $3 a gallon for gasoline in early August.

The largest quarterly profit ever was Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM)'s $10.71 billion profit in the fourth quarter of 2005.

The company may beat that next quarter, said Howard Silverblatt Standard & Poor's Senior Index Analyst. "Then in all likelihood they will be at that $40 billion mark for the year."


Ad Seen as Playing to Racial Fears

KNOXVILLE, Tenn., Oct. 25 — The Tennessee Senate race, one of the most competitive and potentially decisive battles of the midterm election, became even more unpredictable this week after a furor over a Republican television commercial that stood out even in a year of negative advertising.

The commercial, financed by the Republican National Committee, was aimed at Representative Harold E. Ford Jr., the black Democrat from Memphis whose campaign for the Senate this year has kept the Republicans on the defensive in a state where they never expected to have trouble holding the seat.

The spot, which was first broadcast last week and was disappearing from the air on Wednesday, featured a series of people in mock man-on-the street interviews talking sarcastically about Mr. Ford and his stands on issues including the estate tax and national security.

The controversy erupted over one of the people featured: an attractive white woman, bare-shouldered, who declares that she met Mr. Ford at a “Playboy party,” and closes the commercial by looking into the camera and saying, with a wink, “Harold, call me.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Ford, who is single, said he was one of 3,000 people who attended a Playboy party at the Super Bowl last year in Jacksonville, Fla.


Countdown: Making adjustments to the language of making adjustments

You have probably forgotten this, it stuck about as well as did "the New Coke"…
But just last year, the Pentagon tried to change the language. We were no longer fighting a "War on Terror" — we were fighting a "Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism".

But despite Donald Rumsfeld's endless repetition of his new phrase, the effort failed because the Commander-in-Chief refused to call the "Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism" anything but "The War on Terror".
Now in our fourth story on the Countdown — that message miscommunication is happening in reverse.

On Monday, the White House "fired" the under-producing catch-phrase "stay the course".

And apparently nobody told the Secretary of Defense.
The problem becomes when you can't make adjustments, even about the language of making adjustments.

The White House Press Secretary is now revising his revisionist history on the phrase and still coming up short. First saying that the President never said "stay the course" then yesterday, saying this to Fox News:

Well sure, to be fair, the President did say "Stay the Course" eight times.
So there they are, the eight — and only eight — times President George W. Bush ever said the phrase "Stay The Course"

And now you know tomorrow's headline from Mr. Snow.

"I never said he only said it eight times; I said we could only find eight times."

Evidently, somebody at the White House needs a little help with "The Google."

Click for the video


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

U.S. generals call for Democratic takeover

Disgusted with the leadership of the Iraq war, two retired generals say the GOP must go. Plus: More than 100 current military personnel join a campaign to get the U.S. out of Iraq -- now


Dems respond to Bush press conference, say they'll reinstate oversight

Just minutes after President Bush wrapped up a press conference that focused largely on the Iraq war, Democrats unleashed a wide range of responses--including a press conference of their own--RAW STORY has learned.

While criticizing the president for his shifting rhetoric on Iraq, members of the House and Senate also suggested policy ideas that they may spearhead if they take control of one or both houses.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Reps. Jack Murtha (D-PA), Ike Skelton (D-MO), and Jack Reed (D-RI)—each of whom hold high positions on key committees—took questions from reporters as well today, and came down hard on the president.

"He backed himself into a corner by demonizing anybody who came up with any policy alternative," said Murtha, a decorated former marine whose Iraq withdrawal proposal has received wide criticism and invited public assaults on his patriotism and courage by Republicans.

"The president's inability to answer whether or not we should have pernament bases raises more question than is warranted," said Levin.

Noting that the Defense Appropriations Bill specifically prohibits allocating funds to such a project, Murtha said "we're not gonna fund permanent bases.

"We said point blank we're not," added Murtha.

In that same conference, Democrats suggested that they would reinstate the oversight committee axed by Republicans in 1995. That way, they said, military officials would be able to testify publicly about the situation they face in Iraq which, the president admitted today, is worsening.

But they weren't the only high-ranking Democrats to respond to the president today. Moments after the president wrapped up his question and answer session with reporters, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi released a statement which harshly criticized the president, his conduct of the war, and his Secretary of Defense.

Pelosi, who will most likely become Speaker if Democrats retake control of the House in November, said that "three and a half years after the war in Iraq started, Baghdad remains a battleground, the pacification of the Sunni heartland has been declared militarily unachievable, and American casualties continue to mount." She added that the president's acceptance of the need for diplomacy is "long past due."

"Mr. Bush said that Americans won’t stand in a cross-fire between rival factions. We already are," Pelosi insisted in a written statement. She goes on to point to our low level of military readiness as evidence that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's performance—contra the president's assertion—"does not constitute a good job."


Soldiers in Revolt: 218 active-duty troops call to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq

For the first time since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, active-duty members of the military are publicly appealing members of Congress to end the U.S. occupation, RAW STORY has learned.

Under the Military Whistleblower Protection Act (DOD directive 7050.6), active-duty military, National Guard, and Reservists can send a protected communication to a member of Congress regarding any subject without reprisal.

Earlier this week, 65 military service members and National Guardsmen sent appeals for redress to members of Congress to urge an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. That total is now up to 219 service men and women, 125 of whom are on active duty.

Three active-duty servicemen (one of whom spoke under condition of anonymity) held a press conference today, along with a retired Judge Advocate General lawyer, to discuss their appeals.

"Many of us--who have to follow orders and took an oath to defend the constitution against all enemies both foreign and domestic--[also] have reservations about the orders. And," Jonathan Hutto, a Navy Seaman based in Norfolk, Virginia, concluded, "at this point some of us feel compelled to let our reservations be known and that the occupation should come to an end right now."

Hutto added the group are not pacifists or conscientious objectors and are not urging any actions that might be deemed illegal.

The grievances

Liam Madden, a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps stationed at Quantico, continued, "The real grievances are, if democracy is our goal than I believe we are going about it all wrong. The occupation is perpetuating more violence and I think is the biggest destabilizing thing we can do to the Middle East."

One service member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity of his recent year in Iraq, said that he, "was hit by IEDs, by mortars... I was hit by snipers in my convoy and I’ve seen friends injured and affected by deaths in my brigade and my unit. I can tell you that many of them are not quite sure what their purpose or focus is now."

"A lot of people don’t want to admit it," he insisted, "but we are stuck in a civil war and it’s hard for the soldiers seeing the ethnic fighting going on around them and feeling like they’re stuck in the cross fire and not really feeling like there’s anything they can do to stop it."

"And it’s very frustrating to go out in convoys and get hit and not really sure why it is and not seeing any tangible results for their actions," he added. "I think it’s very important that Congress members and people understand that we do have a voice, and pay attention to our surroundings and what’s going on--and listen to what we have to say."

Appealing for redress

Hutto explained that the idea of issuing Appeals for Redress originated in early 2006, when he was deployed off the coast of Iraq on the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt.

"An old buddy of mine, who was a member of the GI movement back in the early 1970s," Hutto explained, "sent me a 30th anniversary copy of Soldiers in Revolt, written by David Cortwright. The book chronicles the GI movement within the military during the Vietnam War who advocated to end that war and bring the troops home."

Hutto continued, "One of the avenues that they used, which was a legal one, is appealing to their political leaders in Washington. By 1971 over 250,000 of these active duty servicemen had appealed to the Congress people."
"None of the Marines know that there is a policy available to them," Madden added, "and that it’s everybody’s duty to support democracy and do it much more effectively than we are in exercising these rights in Iraq."

J.E. McNeil, a former military JAG lawyer, emphasized that all servicemen and women still have their rights as U.S. citizens and can exercise them when need be.

"When men and women join the military and put on the uniform, they don’t give up their rights as U.S. citizens," said McNeil, though "there may be some small limitations to their first amendment rights."

"They are supposed to be very clear," McNeil elaborated, "and they have been, that they’re speaking on their own behalf and not using any of the military resources to make these statements that are their own beliefs, and we should be very proud of them to do that."

Fear of reprisal

Many in the military fear reprisals for coming forth, even though they have the legal right to do so.

One soldier in the Army, who participated anonymously in the press conference had more information to reveal, saying, "Anyone who’s been involved in the military does know there are informal means of punitive actions that circumvent the legal system which are often used in different means to intimidate soldiers."

"I’ve talked to numerous soldiers," the anonymous soldier said, "and obviously looking at the numbers now, they obviously haven’t stepped forward. I will tell you, though--and I don’t think the American Public realizes--just how many soldiers and service members in general really do have reservations about the actions going on in Iraq.

"And fear," he added, is a main reason why people aren’t stepping forward.... I think that once they start seeing momentum going forward and more and more service members come out, that they will be more inclined to come out as well."
"It’s costing way too many humans, Iraqi civilians, and American service member lives," Madden concluded, "and brings us no benefits. The only people who benefit in my eyes are corporations like Halliburton. I don’t think that war is being paid for in the right manner and I think that if people want to support the troops then they should support us coming home."


Minuteman Project Exposes White House Cover-Up

Documents reveal 'shadow government' Freedom of Information request puts 1,000 new pages online

Washington, D.C. - About 1,000 documents obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request to the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America show the White House is engaging in collaborative relations with Mexico and Canada outside the U.S. Constitution, says Minuteman columnist and author Dr. Jerome Corsi.

"The documents give clear evidence that the Bush administration has created a 'shadow government,'" Corsi said.

The documents can be viewed here http://stopspp.com/stopspp/?page_id=11, on a special website set up by the Minuteman Project.

Bureaucrats from agencies throughout the Bush administration are meeting regularly with their counterpart bureaucrats in the Canadian and Mexican governments to engage in a broad rewriting of U.S. administrative law and regulations into a new trilateral North American configuration, Corsi contends.
"We have hundreds of pages of e-mails from U.S. executive branch administrators who are copying the e-mail to somewhere between 25 to 100 people, a third of whom are in the U.S. bureaucracy, a third of whom are in the Mexican bureaucracy, and a third of whom are in the Canadian bureaucracy," said Corsi.

"They are sharing their laws and regulations so we can 'harmonize' and 'integrate' our laws into a North American structure, not a USA structure."
Corsi claims the process is well along the way.

"This is totally outside the U.S. Constitution, virtually an executive branch coup d'etat," he said. "SPP is creating new trilateral memoranda of understanding and mutual agreements which should be submitted to Senate for two-thirds votes as international treaties."

Corsi said the documentation he received is missing key pieces.
"We received very few actual agreements, though many are referenced," he said. "Many of the work plans described lack the work products which the groups say they produced."


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Olbermann’s Special Comment on GOP Fearmongering

And lastly, tonight, a Special Comment on the advertising of terrorism.
The commercial, you have already seen, it is a distillation of everything this administration and the party in power have tried to do these last five years and six weeks.

It is from the Republican National Committee, it shows images of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. It offers quotes from them, all as a clock ticks ominously in the background. It concludes with what Zawahiri may or may not have said to a Pakistani journalist as long ago as 2001, his dubious claim that he had purchased suitcase bombs. The quotation is followed by sheer coincidence, no doubt, by an image of a massive explosion. "These are the stakes" appears on the screen, quoting exactly from Lyndon Johnson's infamous nuclear scare commercial from 1964, "Vote November 7th".

There is a cheap Texas Chainsaw Massacre quality to the whole thing. It also serves to immediately call to mind the occasions when President Bush dismissed Osama bin Laden as somebody he didn't think about, except, obviously, when elections were near. Frankly, a lot of people seeing that commercial for the first time have laughed out loud, but not everyone. And therein lies the true threat to this country.

The dictionary definition of the word ‘terrorize' is simple and not open to misinterpretation: "To fill or overpower with terror; terrify; coerce by intimidation or fear." Note please that the words ‘violence' and ‘death' are missing from that definition. For the key to terrorism is not the act-but the fear of the act. That is why bin Laden and his deputies and his imitators are forever putting together videotape statements and releasing virtual infomercials with dire threats and heart-stopping warnings.

But why is the Republican Party imitating them? Bin Laden puts out what amounts to a commercial of fear; the Republicans put out what is unmistakable as a commercial of fear.

The Republicans are paying to have the messages of bin Laden and the others broadcast into your home! Only the Republicans have a bigger bankroll.
When last week, the CNN network ran video of an insurgent in Iraq evidently stalking and killing an American soldier, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Mr. Hunter, Republican of California, branded that channel quote "the publicist for an enemy propaganda film," and added that CNN used it to sell commercials. Another California Republican, Representative Brian Bilbray, called the video quote "nothing short of a terrorist snuff film."

If so, Mr. Bilbray, then what in the hell is your party's new advertisement? And Mr. Hunter? CNN using the film to sell commercials? Commercials? You have adopted bin Laden and Zawahiri as spokesmen for the Republican National Committee.

‘To fill or overpower with terror; terrify. To coerce by intimidation or fear'
By this definition, the people who put these videos together: first, the terrorists and then, the administration, whose shared goal is to scare you into panicking instead of thinking, they are the ones terrorizing you.

By this definition, the leading terrorist group in this world right now is al Qaeda, but the leading terrorist group in this country right now is the Republican Party.

Eleven presidents ago, the chief executive reassured us that ‘we have nothing to fear, but fear itself.' His distant successor has wasted his administration, insisting there is nothing we can have but fear itself.

The Vice President, as recently as this month, was caught campaigning again with the phrase "mass death in the United States". Four years ago, it was the now Secretary of State, Dr. Rice, rationalizing Iraq with quote, "we don't want to be…the smoking gun to be the mushroom cloud." Days later, Mr. Bush himself told an audience that quote "we cannot wait the final proof, the smoking gun, that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

And now we have this cheesy commercial, complete with images of a faked mushroom cloud and implications of mass death in America.

This administration has derived benefit and power from terrorizing the very people it claims to be protecting from terror. It may be the oldest trick in the political book: scare people into believing they are in danger and only you can save them. Lyndon Johnson used it to bury Barry Goldwater. Joe McCarthy leaped from obscurity on its back. And now the legacy has come to President George W. Bush.

Of course, the gruel of fear is getting thinner and thinner, is it not, Mr. President? And thus, more and more of it needs to be made out of less and less actual terror. After last week's embarrassing internet hoax about dirty bombs in footballs stadiums, the one your Department of Homeland Security immediately disseminated to the public, a self-described former CIA operative named Wayne Simmons cited the fiasco as quote "The, and I mean, the perfect example of the President's Military Commissions Act of 2006 and the NSA Terrorist Eavesdropping Program-how vital they are."

Frank Gaffney, once a respected Assistant Secretary of Defense and now the president of something called The Center for Security Policy added "one of the things that I hope Americans take away from this is not only that they're gunning for us. Not just in a place like Iraq, but truly worldwide."

Of course, the "they" to which Mr. Gaffney referred, turned out to be a lone 20-year-old grocery bagger from Wisconsin named Jake. A kid trying to one-up some loser in an internet game of ‘chicken.' His threat referenced seven football stadiums, at which dirty bombs were to be exploded yesterday. It began with the one in New York City, even though there isn't one in New York City and though the attacks were supposed to be simultaneous, four of the games were scheduled to start at 1:00 pm Eastern time and the others at 4:00 pm Eastern time. Moreover, the kid said that he had posted the identical message on forty websites since September. We caught him in merely about six weeks, even though the only way he could be less subtle, less stealthy and less of a threat was if he bought an advertisement on the Superbowl telecast.

Mr. Bush, this is the what–100th plot your people have revealed that turned out to be some nonsensical misunderstanding or the fabrications of somebody hoping to talk his way off a waterboard in Eastern Europe? If, Mr. President, this is the kind of crack work your new ad implies that only you, and not the Democrats, can do, you, sir, need to pull over and ask for directions. The real question, of course, Mr. Bush, is why did your Department of Homeland Security even release that information in the first place? It was never a serious threat. Even the first news accounts quoted a Homeland spokesman as admitting strong skepticism. The kind of strong skepticism which most government agencies address before telling the public, not afterwards.

Watch The Video

Hastert's Chief of Staff Testifies in Foley Probe

Spends Over Six Hours Before Investigators on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON (Oct. 24) - The House ethics committee questioned Speaker Dennis Hastert's top aide for more than six hours Monday, as investigators tried to determine whether Hastert's office knew at least three years ago of Rep. Mark Foley's come-ons to male pages.

The closed-door testimony by Hastert chief of staff Scott Palmer could help determine who is telling the truth about when the speaker's office first learned of Foley 's conduct. Hastert has said it was in the fall of 2005.

Campaigning for a Republican candidate in Tennessee, Hastert said he plans to testify before the committee this week.

"What Mark Foley did was wrong. It was ethically wrong. It's a shame. It's actually disgusting," Hastert told reporters after a campaign rally.

In Washington, Palmer's lawyer, Scott Fredericksen, said his client hasn't changed his version of events. The Hastert aide has disputed one account that he personally was notified about Foley in 2002 or 2003.

Fredericksen said the testimony was "consistent with the position he's taken all along."

Palmer spent the longest time in the committee offices than any other witness, entering at 1:57 p.m. and leaving at 8:18 p.m. This is the third week of testimony, as the committee tries to learn how the Republican leadership handled Foley's inappropriate conduct.

The speaker has a lot riding on the outcome. He has fended off calls for his resignation with statements that his staff acted properly after the 2005 notification, and quickly had a lawmaker and the House chief clerk confront the Florida Republican.

Hastert said he didn't learn about Foley until late September, when the scandal became public and Foley resigned.


Bush officials: No big move in Iraq plan

WASHINGTON - With just two weeks until Election Day, the White House sought to ease political anxieties about security in Iraq but rejected calls from lawmakers for a dramatic policy shift.

The Nov. 7 elections will determine whether Republicans retain control of Congress, and lawmakers in both parties are calling on President Bush to change his war plans.

"We're on the verge of chaos, and the current plan is not working," Sen. Lindsey Graham (news, bio, voting record), R-S.C., said in an Associated Press interview. U.S. and Iraqi officials should be held accountable for the lack of progress, said Graham, a Republican who is a frequent critic of the administration's policies.

Asked who in particular should be held accountable — Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, perhaps, or the generals leading the war — Graham said: "All of them. It's their job to come up with a game plan" to end the violence.

Bush, in a CNBC interview, said, "Well, I've been talking about a change in tactics ever since I — ever since we went in, because the role of the commander in chief is to say to our generals, `You adjust to the enemy on the battlefield.'" conference.

White House press secretary Tony Snow said the United States would adjust its Iraq strategy but would not issue any ultimatums to the Iraqis. "Are there dramatic shifts in policy? The answer is no," Snow said Monday.

He acknowledged, however, that Bush no longer is saying that the United States will "stay the course" in Iraq.

"He stopped using it," Snow said of that phrase, adding that it left the impression that the administration was not adjusting its strategy to realities in Baghdad.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials in Iraq said Tuesday that government leaders there have agreed to develop a timeline by the end of the year for progress in stabilizing Iraq and reducing violence that has killed 300 Iraqi troops during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan alone.

Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander who appeared at a news conference with U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, also said Iraqi forces should be able to take control of security in the next 12 to 18 months with minimal American support.


U.S. poll: No one's winning in Iraq

ATLANTA, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- Sixty percent of U.S. citizens say they believe neither the United States nor insurgents are winning the war in Iraq, a CNN poll published Tuesday said.

The poll also found the number of people who say they believe the U.S.-led coalition is winning has fallen by half since December to 20 percent, while 18 percent said they believe the insurgents are winning.

In all, 64 percent of 1,013 adults polled by telephone by Opinion Research Corp., in the past three days said they oppose the war in Iraq.

While the Bush administration has refused to set a withdrawal schedule from Iraq, 57 percent of respondents said the United States should.

The non-confidence was echoed at 60 percent for those who believe things are going badly for the United States in the war on terrorism, which is up 7 percent since September, CNN said.

The poll had a 3-point margin of error.


Independents favor Democrats in U.S. poll

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- Independent U.S. voters favor Democratic candidates in next month's midterm elections by a 2-1 ratio, a Washington Post-ABC News poll published Tuesday said.

Of 1,200 adults contacted Thursday through Sunday, 59 percent of independent voters said they would vote for Democrats in the Nov. 7 poll, compared with 31 percent who favored Republican candidates.

Yet the divide appears to be more a measure of dissatisfaction with the status quo than a surge for the Democrats, the Post said, as half of the independents said they would vote against the Republican candidate rather than to affirmatively support the Democratic candidate.

Along partisan lines, 95 percent of Democrats said they will support Democratic candidates for the House, while 88 percent of Republicans said they would vote along party lines, the report said.

The poll's approval rating for U.S. President George Bush dipped to 37 percent from 39 percent two weeks ago and down from 42 percent last month.
The poll had a 3-point margin of error.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Democrats strengthen chances for Senate

Va., Mo. and Tenn. may tip the balance

WASHINGTON - Democrats in the past two weeks have significantly improved their chances of taking control of the Senate, according to polls and independent analysts, with the battle now focused intensely on three states in the Midwest and upper South: Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia.

Democratic challengers are in strong positions against GOP incumbents in four states -- Pennsylvania, Montana, Ohio and Rhode Island -- a trend that leaves the party looking for just two more seats to reclaim the majority. The main targets are states where Republicans in recent years have dominated but this year find themselves in hotly competitive races.

Except for a brief period in 2001 and 2002, Republicans have held power in the Senate continuously since the 1994 elections and now hold 55 of 100 seats. Only last year, Senate Democratic Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) said it would take "a miracle" for his party to win control. But the same issues that are leading many pollsters and strategists to predict a Democratic takeover of the House -- including the unpopularity of President Bush and the Iraq war -- have made a turnover in the Senate more plausible.


How Foley Skirted Rules To Pursue Relationships

They met on the House floor. He was a 16-year-old political junkie, dressed in the drab navy blazer and gray slacks of a congressional page, rushing phone messages to the members he served. Rep. Mark Foley was tanned and charismatic, a successful politician in his mid-40s willing to joke with him between votes.

They talked perhaps a dozen times. Then at his page graduation ceremony that June, in 2002, he was excited when Foley appeared, uninvited, and dictated his personal e-mail address for the boy to jot in his memory book. "I started contacting him right away," the young man recalled. "I knew a congressman that I . . . talked to online. That was pretty cool."

The messages were innocent at first. But after the young man moved home, he recalled, Foley started asking about "my roommates, if I ever saw them naked." Within months, the congressman was dangling a job offer, "because I was a hot boy," he said. Two years later, when he contacted Foley for advice on D.C. hotels, the congressman wrote back: "You could always stay at my place. I'm always here, I'm always lonely, and I'm always up for oral sex."

The experience of the young man, now 22, who agreed to recount his interactions with Foley on the condition of anonymity, was characteristic of the way the six-term House member pursued the online relationships that, once revealed, forced him to resign from Congress late last month. No one interviewed for this article could cite any instance in which Foley had sex with a former page. Foley's lawyer, David Roth, declined to comment for this story.
Interviews with nearly three dozen former pages suggest that the Florida Republican befriended a wide circle of teenagers during their stints as House pages. Then, shortly before they left or soon afterward, he singled out certain boys to write to -- including four newly confirmed by The Washington Post, in addition to former page Jordan Edmund and one other whose illicit online conversations with Foley ended the congressman's career. Some of the correspondence was brief and casual. But over months or years, if a boy seemed willing to go along, some conversations grew more sexual.

The FBI and Florida officials are conducting criminal investigations into Foley's dealings with former pages.

Foley was able to operate unimpeded for years -- forming the friendships with pages that would be the seeds of online relationships later on -- in spite of rigorous supervision of the teenagers in the congressional page program and a "zero-tolerance" policy for pages and adults who broke its rules.


Chatty Abramoff Gets an FBI Desk

Jack Abramoff, the lobbying scandal figure, has become such a chatty rat that probe insiders say he's been given a desk to work at in the FBI. We're told he spends up to four hours a day detailing his shady business to agents eager to nail more congressmen in the scandal. And when cooperative witnesses spend that much time inside, they get a desk. As a result of his help in the ever expanding investigation, we hear that the Feds hope to keep him in a nearby prison after he's sentenced on his conspiracy admission.


Schroeder: Bush's faith raised suspicion

BERLIN - Ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, whose second term was marked by vehement opposition to the war in Iraq, described in an advance copy of his memoirs how he was suspicious of President Bush's constant references to his Christian faith.

In an excerpt of his book, "Decisions: My Life in Politics" published in the German weekly Der Spiegel Saturday, Schroeder discusses the key political choices that marked his seven-year term in office, including the decision to call early elections and his split with Bush over the Iraq war.

"I am anything but anti-American," Schroeder told Spiegel in an interview to accompany the excerpt of the more than 500-page book that goes on sale Thursday.

In it Schroeder, who led the Social Democrats to power in 1998, recalls the tears in his eyes as he watched television footage of people jumping from the burning World Trade Center on Sept. 11.

He knew Germany would have to react.

"It was important to me that Germany fulfill its requirements as an ally" of the U.S., he wrote. "It was also fully clear to me that this could also mean the German army's participation in an American military mission."

Several months later, during Bush's 2002 visit to Berlin, Schroeder wrote he was surprised at what he described as Bush's "exceptionally mild" speech to the German parliament.

While meetings with Bush at that time were friendly, Schroeder said he could not reconcile himself with the feeling that religion was the driving force behind many of Bush's political decisions.

"What bothered me, and in a certain way made me suspicious despite the relaxed atmosphere, was again and again in our discussions how much this president described himself as 'God-fearing,'" Schroeder wrote, adding he is a firm believer in the separation of church and state.

Schroeder accused some elements in U.S. as being hypocritical when it comes to secularism in government.

"We rightly criticize that in most Islamic states, the role of religion for society and the character of the rule of law are not clearly separated," Schroeder wrote. "But we fail to recognize that in the USA, the Christian fundamentalists and their interpretation of the Bible have similar tendencies."


Friday, October 20, 2006

Approval of Republicans at Record Low

WASHINGTON (Oct. 19) - With congressional elections less than three weeks away, the Republican party's approval ratings are at an all-time low, with approval of the Republican-led Congress at its lowest point in 14 years, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Wednesday.

Forty-seven percent of respondents said they were less in favor of keeping Republicans in control of Congress, compared to 14 percent who were more in favor of maintaining the current congressional makeup, according to the poll.Only 16 percent of respondents approve of the job Congress is doing, the lowest level since 1992, NBC said.

In October 1994, when Democrats held congressional majorities, Congress had a 24 percent job approval, NBC said. Democrats lost 52 House and 8 Senate seats in the 1994 midterm elections.

NBC said the poll indicates people have been paying attention to the issues they are hearing about -- from Iraq and Bob Woodward's new book on the Bush administration's handling of the war to the unfolding scandal over former Florida Rep. Mark Foley's e-mail messages to teenage congressional aides.


Report: N. Korea 'sorry' for nuke test

SEOUL, South Korea - North Korean leader Kim Jong Il said Pyongyang didn't plan to carry out any more nuclear tests and expressed regret about the country's first-ever atomic detonation last week, a South Korean news agency reported Friday.

North Korea, however, kept up its bellicose rhetoric as more than 100,000 people gathered Friday in Pyongyang's central Kim Il Sung square to "hail the success of the historic nuclear test," according to the North's official media.

Kim told Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan that "we have no plans for additional nuclear tests," Yonhap news agency reported, citing an unnamed diplomatic source in Beijing.

Kim also told the Chinese that "he is sorry about the nuclear test," the mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo daily reported, citing a diplomatic source in China. The North Korean leader also raised the possibility the country would return to arms talks.

"If the U.S. makes a concession to some degree, we will also make a concession to some degree, whether it be bilateral talks or six-party talks," Kim was quoted as telling a Chinese envoy, the newspaper reported.

The delegation led by Tang met Kim on Thursday and returned to Beijing later that day.

China is viewed as a key nation in efforts to persuade the North to disarm, as it is the isolated communist nation's main trading partner and provides almost all of its oil, and it is weighing tough options. Government experts have called for the reduction of critical supplies of oil and food.

A North Korean official, meanwhile, defended last week's nuclear test and said Pyongyang would "crush U.S. imperialists' schemes with its self-defensive power."

"No matter how the U.S. imperialists try to stifle and isolate our republic ... victory will be on the side of justice," said Choe Thae Bok, secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency's Korean-language report.


Rezko pleads not guilty

Blagojevich pal gets FBI escort to court.

A fundraiser and close adviser to Gov. Rod Blagojevich pleaded not guilty to fraud charges Thursday after being escorted to federal court by FBI agents.

The appearance in court of Antoin "Tony" Rezko ended weeks of speculation about his whereabouts that peaked after a pair of indictments were unsealed against him last week.

Federal prosecutors charge that Rezko leveraged his influence with state leaders to extort illegal payments and a campaign contribution from investment firms seeking to do business with Illinois. He is separately accused of setting up a phony transaction involving the sale of his pizza restaurants.

Despite the official escort--agents met Rezko's plane as it landed Thursday at O'Hare International Airport--Rezko walked into court seemingly unconcerned, waving to family members and shaking his lawyer's hand.

His attorney, Joseph J. Duffy, said Rezko's travel back to Chicago had begun in his native Syria after he concluded a business trip to the Middle East.

"In the last week, there has been what I would call an unnecessary media frenzy about Mr. Rezko and his whereabouts and his intentions," Duffy said as he left the courthouse. "Mr. Rezko today in court proclaimed his innocence.

He is confident he will be vindicated in trial."Rezko was arraigned before U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras in the charge related to his pizza business and before U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve in the kickback case. Kocoras and St. Eve agreed to release Rezko on $1.4 million bail.


Republican Woes Lead to Feuding by Conservatives

WASHINGTON, Oct. 19 — Tax-cutters are calling evangelicals bullies. Christian conservatives say Republicans in Congress have let them down. Hawks say President Bush is bungling the war in Iraq. And many conservatives blame Representative Mark Foley’s sexual messages to teenage pages.

With polls showing Republican control of Congress in jeopardy, conservative leaders are pointing fingers at one another in an increasingly testy circle of blame for potential Republican losses this fall.

“It is one of those rare defeats that will have many fathers,” said David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, expressing the gloomy view of many conservatives about the outcome on Election Day. “And they will all be somebody else.”

Whether the election will bear out their pessimism remains to be seen, and the factors that contribute to an electoral defeat are often complex and even contradictory. But the post-mortem recriminations can influence politics and policy for years after the fact. After 1992, Republicans shunned tax increases. After 1994, Democrats avoided gun control and health care reform. And 2004 led some Democrats to start quoting Scripture and rethinking abortion rights, while others opened an intraparty debate about the national security that is not yet resolved.

In the case of the Republican Party this year, the skirmish among conservatives over what is going wrong has begun unusually early and turned unusually personal.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Bush Faces a Battery of Ugly Choices on War

WASHINGTON, Oct. 19 — The acknowledgment by the United States Army spokesman in Iraq that the latest plan to secure Baghdad has faltered leaves President Bush with some of the ugliest choices he has yet faced in the war.

He can once again order a rearrangement of American forces inside the country, as he did in August, when American commanders declared that newly trained Iraqi forces would “clear and hold” neighborhoods with backup support from redeployed American forces. That strategy collapsed within a month, frequently forcing the Americans to take the lead, making them prime targets.

There is no assurance, though, that another redeployment of those forces will reduce the casualty rate, which has been unusually high in recent weeks, senior military and administration officials say. The toll comes just before midterm elections, in which even many of his own party have given up arguing that progress is being made or that the killing will soon slow.

Or Mr. Bush can reassess the strategy itself, perhaps listening to those advisers — including some members of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, the advisory commission charged with coming up with new strategies for Iraq — who say that he needs to redefine the “victory” that he again on Thursday declared was his goal.

One official providing advice to the president noted on Thursday that while Mr. Bush still insists his goal is an Iraq that “can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself,” he has already dropped most references to creating a flourishing democracy in the heart of the Middle East.


Exclusive: Former House Clerk's Testimony

The former clerk of the House of Representatives, Jeff Trandahl, who testified for more than four hours before the House Ethics Committee today, is believed to have testified that a top aide to House Speaker Dennis Hastert was informed of "all issues dealing with the page program," according to a Republican familiar with the investigation.

The Republican source said Trandahl planned to name Ted Van Der Meid, the speaker's counsel and floor manager, as the person who was briefed on a regular basis about any issue that arose in the page program, including a "problem group of members and staff who spent too much time socializing with pages outside of official duties." One of whom was Mark Foley.

Trandahl's testimony before the House Ethics Committee could provide additional evidence that key members of the speaker's staff were aware of problems involving the page program for years.


Key Witness In Page Scandal To Testify

(CBS/AP) A former House clerk faces investigators Thursday in possibly the most important testimony yet on how GOP leaders dealt with allegations about ex-Rep. Mark Foley's behavior toward pages. That includes their secret handling last fall of a complaint to a congressman who testified Wednesday.

The questioning of the former clerk, Jeff Trandahl, is coming after Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., spent three hours with ethics investigators. He sought to explain how his office dealt with the complaint from a former page about too-friendly e-mails from Foley.

GOP leaders are facing scrutiny over whether they or their aides did too little to stop Foley's inappropriate behavior toward pages when problems surfaced years ago. The revelations have been followed by weakening poll numbers for Republicans, who insist that no one in their party knew of the sexually graphic e-mails that have scandalized the public.

Trandahl's testimony is critical in determining how many people knew about Foley's behavior with pages and whether there are even more incidents than those reported so far.


U.S.: 22 Pct. More Attacks in Ramadan

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - The U.S. military spokesman says there has been a 22 percent jump in attacks during Ramadan and the drive to secure Baghdad has "not met our overall expectations."

The spike in violence during the Islamic holy month of fasting was "disheartening" and the Americans were working with Iraqi authorities to "refocus" security measures, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell said.

"In Baghdad, Operation Together Forward has made a difference in the focus areas but has not met our overall expectations in sustaining a reduction in the level of violence," Caldwell said at a weekly news briefing.

Meanwhile on Thursday, a suicide bomber driving a fuel tanker struck a major police station in the northern city of Mosul, killing 12 people and wounding 25, many of them motorists waiting to buy gas at a nearby station, police said.


McCain jokes about suicide if Democrats win Senate

DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - Arizona Sen. John McCain, a likely Republican presidential contender in 2008, joked on Wednesday he would "commit suicide" if Democrats win the Senate in November.

McCain, on a visit to Iowa to campaign for Republican congressional candidates, was asked his reaction to a potential Democratic takeover of the Senate in the November 7 elections.

"I think I'd just commit suicide," McCain told reporters, to accompanying laughter from Republicans standing with him. "I don't want to face that eventuality because I don't think it's going to happen."

Democrats must pick up six seats in the Senate and 15 seats in the House of Representatives to win control of both chambers.

Polls show Democrats within striking distance of reclaiming the Senate, and in a strong position to claim a majority in the House.

"I think it's going to be tough, but I think we'll do OK," McCain said of Republican prospects.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Milbank: ‘There Are Rumors About A Third [Page Scandal], This One Involving A 16-Year-Old Girl’

Last night on MSNBC, Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank told Keith Olbermann that “there are rumors now about a third [page scandal], this one involving a 16-year-old girl.”

Milbank later noted that “political news is starting to sound more and more like you’re reading the police blotter, with Ney last week, the eighth guilty plea or conviction in the Abramoff case, piled on top of Scooter Libby and Tom DeLay and Curt Weldon. It goes on and on. And, of course, the punchline is that President Bush has declared this to be National Character Counts Week.”


Poll: 74 percent of Americans say Congress out of touch

(CNN) -- Just weeks before crucial midterm elections, a new poll says nearly three quarters of Americans see Congress as out of touch, much as they did in 1994, the last time the minority party took control of Capitol Hill.

Seventy-four percent of respondents to a new Opinion Research poll say Congress is generally out of touch with average Americans. That's up from 69 percent who agreed with that view in a January poll this year.

In 1994, 75 percent of respondents to a CNN poll also said Congress was out of touch. Voters then proceeded to vote out Democrats in both the House and the Senate, a sweep that hadn't been seen in the House since 1952. (Watch to see if the middle-class American dream is broken -- 1:50)

Recent polls have suggested increased voter interest in this election, as growing unpopularity over the U.S.-led war in Iraq and scandals in Congress have boiled over into the political arena. (Full story)

The GOP's hold on power in Congress is slim. Democrats need only a net gain of 15 seats to retake the House and six to control the Senate. Political watchers say those majorities, especially the one in the House, may be threatened.

According to the poll, 58 percent of respondents said they believe most members of Congress are focused on special interests, and 38 percent said the legislators pay more attention to constituents.


Iraq a helluva mess: Baker

FORMER US secretary of state James Baker was visibly shocked when he last visited Iraq, and said the country was in a "helluva mess", the BBC reported today.

Mr Baker is leading a review of the situation in Iraq by a bipartisan US committee of experts, and is expected to recommend a change in US strategy for rebuilding Iraq.

Citing a unnamed close friend and ally of Mr Baker's, himself a top politician, the BBC reported that Mr Baker said "there simply weren't any easy solutions".
Mr Baker was secretary of state to US President George W. Bush's father, president George Bush.

Citing unnamed members of Mr Baker's committee, The Los Angeles Times yesterday said that two options under consideration would represent reversals of US policy - withdrawing American troops in phases, and bringing neighbouring Iran and Syria into a joint effort to stop the fighting.
The BBC also reported that a third possibility was under consideration - to concentrate on getting stability in Iraq, and stop aiming to establish a democracy there.

The 10-member commission has agreed that change must be made, the Times report said.

"It's not going to be 'stay the course,'" the paper quoted one participant as saying. "The bottom line is, (current policy) isn't working. There's got to be another way."