Iraq war and occupationAccording to Republican senator Gordon Smith, Bush tells a group of Republican senators and top administration officials that he is preparing to send roughly 20,000 more US troops to Iraq, and that the idea originated with Maliki. "It was clear to me that a decision has been made for a surge of, I suppose, 20,000 additional troops," says Smith. In return, Maliki has promised to provide more military divisions, promised to use certain tactics without regard to religious sects, and promised not to shield Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. "He [Bush] went at great length to say how impressed he was that Prime Minister Maliki would come to them with a plan as to what was needed to restore the political processes of Iraq," Smith adds. Bush thinks that "because this was their [the Iraqis'] proposal, they would come through," Smith adds. In December, Smith, a former supporter of the war, joined war critics in the Republican party, denouncing US policy in Iraq as "absurd" and "criminal." Smith has not said whether he supports or opposes Bush's plans for escalation, but says, "I wish I had more faith in Maliki than I do. The president has that faith and it frankly remains to be seen whether their part of the bargain will be met," he said. (Reuters/Yahoo! News)
Bush's economic policiesFamilies earning over $1 million saw their federal tax rates drop more sharply than anyone else. Tax rates for some middle-income families actually rose in 2004, the last year for which data is available. The study proves that the tax cuts target the top 1% of income earners for the steepest cuts. Though tax cuts for the rich were bigger than those for other groups, the wealthiest families paid a bigger share of total taxes. That is because their incomes have climbed far more rapidly, and the gap between rich and poor has widened in the last several years. Families in the middle fifth of annual earnings, who had average incomes of $56,200 in 2004, saw their average effective tax rate edge down to 2.9% in 2004 from 5% in 2000. That translated to an average tax cut of $1,180 per household, but the tax rate actually increased slightly from 2003. Tax cuts were much deeper, and affected far more money, for families in the highest income categories. Households in the top 1% of earnings, which had an average income of $1.25 million, saw their effective individual tax rates drop to 19.6% in 2004 from 24.2% in 2000. The rate cut was twice as deep as for middle-income families, and it translated to an average tax cut of almost $58,000. The New York Times writes, "Put another way: rich families were the undisputed winners from President Bush's tax cuts, but people in the bottom half of the earnings scale were not paying much in taxes anyway." (New York Times)
9/11 attacksEl Motassadeq was convicted in November; he is sentenced today. "I understand your suffering," he tells Dominic Puopolo, an American whose mother died in the WTC bombing and who spoke at the sentencing hearing. "The same thing is being done to me, my kids, my parents, my family -- my future is ruined." Though Puopolo says he forgives el Motassadeq, he adds, "You have a chance to rebuild your life and be back with your family. Others don't. Your life is not over, but my mom's is."
Conservative smear campaignsInstead, it is taking a "vacation" day at the order of the Democratic leadership, apparently in contradiction of Speaker Nancy Pelosi's promise for the House membership to work five full-length days a week to achieve the Democrats' "100 Hour Agenda." Conservative gossip Matt Drudge immediately posts a story on his Drudge Report Web site proclaiming (in all capital letters), "Dem Vow Already Broken: House Sets 4-Day Work Week," but Drudge, as usual, is wrong. For one, the Democrats do not intend to go to a four-day work week; more importantly, the Democratic leaders called the vacation day at the request of the Republican minority leadership. The Democrats were given a request from House Minority Leader John Boehner, and, in the words of a senior Democratic aide, "Mr. Boehner made this request, and in the interest of comity, Democrats granted it." Drudge accuses the Democrats of shutting down the House because of the college football national championship being played tonight between Ohio State University and the University of Florida in Tempe, Arizona. "Hill sources claim the House is taking Monday 'off' this week, because of the championship football game," Drudge writes, without, again as usual, actually citing any sources. Drudge also includes a graphic taken from a press release sent from the office of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, which, in Drudge's words, "boldly declares: 'Monday, January 8, 2007: The House is not in session.'" Not included in Drudge's fallacious accusations is the fact that the Republican leadership of the previous Congress only mandated, as a rule, 2 1/2-day work weeks. (Raw Story)
Dick CheneyA "canned hunt" is when club stewards release large numbers of pen-raised birds, often with their wings clipped, from nets in front of the "hunters," who then blaze away at the confused and helpless birds in an orgy of blood and death (Attytood's Will Bunch calls the birds "living-and-breathing skeet"). Rolling Rock is an exclusive club for wealthy "hunters" and golfers. Bunch writes, "You can certainly argue whether or not hunting is a sport, but there's no sport here. This is quite literally the 'shock and awe' of bird killing." The Humane Society wrote after a December 2003 visit by Cheney to the ranch, where he slaughtered around 70 pen-raised pheasant, "Bird-shooting operations offer pheasants, quail, partridges, and mallard ducks, often dizzying the birds and planting them in front of hunters or tossing them from towers toward waiting shotguns.... Our criticism is simple to understand: Farm-raised pheasants are about as wary as urban pigeons and shooting them is nothing more than live target practice, especially when they are released from a hill in front of 10 gunners hidden below in blinds -- as Cheney and his party were. Such hunting makes a mockery of basic principles of fair play and humane treatment, and the vice president should not associate himself with such conduct." But Bunch writes that Cheney's bloodlust extends far past his penchant for slaughtering defenseless animals: "[H]e's releasing caged birds on Monday, and then on Wednesday releasing 20,000 young American men and women into a civil war where they may become sitting ducks for IEDs. That's our definition of a real sicko." (AP/Yahoo/Attytood)
"Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam." -- Senator Ted Kennedy, January 9
War with IranIran is, of course, a Shi'ite-led nation, and most of its neighbors with the glaring exceptions of Iraq and Syria (and Lebanon's Hezbollah) are led by Sunni Muslims, secular governments, or religious coalition governments. Jordan's King Abdullah warned of an emerging "Shi'a Crescent" in the region, extending from Damascus to tehran and passing through Baghdad; many in the region warned that Hezbollah's recent bitter fighting with Israeli forces in Lebanon marked the beginning of a "Shi'a alliance." Nasr, a staffer on the Council on Foreign Relations, writes, "From Bahrain to Iraq, we are facing a Shi'a revival. Moqtada al-Sadr in Baghdad is getting his inspiration from Hezbollah's model." Nasr notes that the al-Sadr family has deep roots in Lebanon, and circumstantial evidence shows that al-Sadr's Mahdi Army may have receiving some training and indoctrination from Hezbollah fighters. Overall, Nasr says that "the Shi'a-Sunni conflict, in some ways, is becoming like what the Protestant-Catholic conflict was for Europe, during the medieval period or recently in Northern Ireland. It's about religion and identity, but also about politics and power. Shi'ism and Sunnism are like the major division in Christianity between Protestants and Catholics. For a very long time there was a Sunni domination over the Arab world, but now, because of what happened in Iraq, we have the very first case of that balance being disturbed by power-sharing in favour of Shi'as." And Nasr says that many Sunni leaders are worried that this "Shi'a revolution" will spread to other countries with large Shi'ite populations, particularly Bahrain and Pakistan.
Iraq war and occupationKennedy says that representative Ed Markey will introduce similar legislation in the House. In a speech to the National Press Club, Kennedy says in part, "The president is commander-in-chief, but in our democracy he is still accountable to the people. Our system of checks and balances gives Congress -- as the elected representatives of the people -- a central role in decisions on war and peace." The bill will "reclaim the rightful role of Congress and the people's right to a full voice in the president's plan to send more troops to Iraq," says Kennedy. "Our bill will say that no additional troops can be sent and no additional dollars can be spent on such an escalation, unless and until Congress approves the president's plan. Our proposal is a straightforward exercise of the power granted to Congress by Article I, section 8 of the Constitution. There can be no doubt that the Constitution gives Congress the authority to decide whether to fund military action. And Congress can demand a justification from the President for such action before it appropriates the funds to carry it out." Not only does the bill challenge Bush's intentions to escalate the numbers of troops in Iraq, it challenges nearly a century's worth of steady encroachment on Congress's ability to authorize and manage the US's war powers by the executive branch.
Iraq war and occupationSome are as follows:
Iraq war and occupationHe writes, "Today, I introduced legislation to reclaim the people's right to a full voice in the president's plan to send more troops to Iraq. My bill will say that no additional troops can be sent and no additional dollars can be spent on such an escalation unless and until Congress approves the president's plan. Congress must exert its constitutional authority and demand a vote before any escalation in Iraq. In October 2002, members of Congress authorized a war against the regime of Saddam Hussein, not to send our troops into a civil war. I voted against that resolution and feel an escalation of this war only compounds the original mistake of going in the first place. ...Instead of continued mistakes and shoot-from-the-hip policies, it's time to get this right. The president must make clear the mission of our troops and lay out a path to bring them home, and Congress must stop being a rubberstamp for failed policies and stand up and act." (Huffington Post)
Iraq war and occupationThe non-binding resolutions join the more binding legislation announced earlier today by Senator Edward Kennedy that would require Bush to gain Congressional approval before sending more troops to Iraq. In both chambers, Democrats make it clear that the resolutions, which will do nothing in practical terms to block Bush's intention to increase the number of troops in Iraq, will be the minimum steps they would pursue. They say that they will consider more muscular responses, like seeking to cap the number of troops being deployed to Iraq or limiting financing for the war -- steps that could provoke a Constitutional and political showdown over the president's power to wage war. "If you really want to change the situation on the ground, demonstrate to the president he's on his own," says Democratic senator Joseph Biden, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. "That will spark real change." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says, "We believe that there is a number of Republicans who will join with us to say no to escalation. I really believe that if we can come up with a bipartisan approach to this escalation, we will do more to change the direction of that war in Iraq than any other thing that we can do." In response, Bush has been working with Congressional Republicans to shore up support for the occupation. But at least ten Republican senators will oppose Bush's plan to increase troop levels in Iraq. All but one or two Democratic senators will back the resolution. Of the proposed troop escalation, House Democrat Martin Meehan says, "Twice in the past 12 months the president has increased troop levels in a last-ditch effort to control the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Iraq. Rather than cooling tensions in Baghdad, the situation has descended further into chaos."
Iraq war and occupationBefore Bush's long-anticipated speech announcing the escalation of troop numbers in Iraq, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell calls his Republican colleagues together for a private talk. Several GOP senators had already come out against the plan. McConnell, Bush's closest Senate supporter on Iraq, hopes to keep others from defecting, and urges his fellow Republicans to stand together at least until Bush had the chance to speak to the country. After the meeting, the senators go outside the room to display their unity to waiting reporters. McConnell tells reporters that the idea of sending more troops to Iraq is just the thing to "give us a chance to succeed." He then steps aside so the other senators could second his sentiments. Not one comes forward. McConnell turns to Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott, the Republican senator in charge of keeping the senators together and focused. "Trent?" McConnell says, motioning him toward the microphone. Lott demurs. "I don't think I have anything to add," he says, leaving McConnell stranded.
Anti-terrorism and homeland securityThe measure includes commitments for inspection of all cargo carried aboard passenger aircraft and on ships bound for the United States. "Our first and highest duty as members of this Congress is to protect the American people, to defend our homeland and to strengthen our national security," says Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. The House bill does not address how the legislation will be paid for; a similar bill introduced in the House last year had a price tag of over $53 billion. 128 House Republicans vote against the bill, including Hal Rogers, who accuses Democrats of political posturing. Rogers says that Democrats merely want to "look aggressive on homeland security. This bill will waste billions of dollars, and possibly harm homeland security by gumming up progress already underway." Rogers's Republican colleague, John Mica, bemoans the bill's provision that screeners at the Transportation Security Agency would receive collective bargaining rights. The legislation directs the Homeland Security Department to establish a system for inspecting all cargo carried on passenger aircraft over the next three years. It also requires scanning of all containers bound for the US, using the best available technology. Large ports would be given three years to comply, smaller ports five years. The measure also establishes a new program of grants to make sure local governments can communicate effectively in the event of a crisis. One of the tragedies of 9/11 was the deaths of New York firefighters who were trapped inside the World Trade Center and could not hear urgent warnings to evacuate that were broadcast on police radios. (AP/USA Today)
Congressional DemocratsLouise Slaughter, the chair of the Rules Committee, says she disagrees with the exemption. "I would've done it straight out," she says. Slaughter does not say which representative is responsible for the exemption. While the package is widely seen as a watershed reform, intended to stem the corrupting influence of lobbyists that plagued the 109th Congress and which many critics say cost Republicans control of the legislature, the new rules do little to sever ties between members of Congress and political action committees (PACs) and non-profits, many of which are affiliated with the lobbying offices that are the targets of the new restrictions. They also allow "institutions of higher education," as defined by the Higher Education Act of 1965, to repay the House for expenses incurred by members traveling under their auspices. According to one source close to the Rules Committee, Slaughter wants more restrictive measures, but the rules require "a unanimous vote in our caucus" and a majority on the floor of the House. Apparently the exemption is a result of a compromise between more reform-minded Democrats and Democrats more wedded to the traditional cozy relationships between lobbyist and lawmaker.
Partisan Bush appointeesCambone and Boykin have planned a number of counterterrorism operations in the years after 9/11 in several countries, including the January 7 strikes against Somalia. Both Boykin and Cambone are controversial, with the devoutly evangelical Boykin receiving heavy criticism for his intolerant views of Islam (see the October 2003 page of this site, among others, for more information about Boykin's jingoistic diatribes), and both Boykin's and Cambone's attempts, under former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, to wrest control of intelligence-gathering from the CIA. Cambone, a close colleague of Rumsfeld's, is best known for his part in creating the policies that condoned and tolerated the abuse and torture of Iraqi and other prisoners. In 2004, Boykin himself refused to competently investigate claims of prisoner abuse by a military intelligence unit, Task Force 6-26, whose motto was, "If you don't make them bleed, they can't prosecute for it." The task force, who was found by Boykin to have done nothing improper, was later found to had taken over an old torture chamber and used it to "beat prisoners with rifle butts, yell...and spit in their faces," according to the New York Times.
Randy Cunningham corruption investigationBefore getting caught in 2005, Cunningham was involved in a sprawling corruption ring between Congress and the national security community. The scandal involves current and former CIA officials, including Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, the executive director of the agency. Foggo would be the highest-ranking CIA official to be prosecuted in the agency's history. Prosecutors had expected to indict Foggo several months ago, but the CIA's refusal to declassify important documents has hampered their efforts. Until now, prosecutors found Congress equally uncooperative; last month, the prosecutors were forced to subpoena several Republican-led committees to force their leaders to turn over documents. Foggo's indictment, and possible plea bargain, would be a notable triumph for the Feds. For many months the case has stagnated, and observers have wondered if the investigation was hopelessly compromised. Indiciting and convicting Foggo would also be important for prosecutors, as it would give them leverage to go after alleged Cunningham briber Brent Wilkes. Wilkes, who ran a government contracting business, was close with Foggo and worked closely with him. Despite being identified by Cunningham as a major briber, Wilkes has refused to plead guilty or cooperate with prosecutors. (Wall Street Journal/TPM Muckraker)
Partisan Bush appointeesNominees William Haynes, William Myers and Terrence Boyle ask that their names be withdrawn for consideration; another nominee, Michael Wallace, asked on December 27, 2006, that his name also be withdrawn from consideration. Haynes is the Pentagon's top lawyer, and is one of the prime architects of Bush's abusive policy toward treatment of detainees in the war on terror. Boyle, a federal judge in North Carolina and protege of segregationist former Republican senator Jesse Helms, provoked opposition from Democrats who cite his rulings in civil rights and disability cases, as well as his higher-than-average turnover rate by higher courts. "The president is disappointed in this inaction and hopes that the days of judicial obstructionism are beyond us," says White House spokesman Dana Perino, but Senator Charles Schumer has a different view: "Democrats stand ready to work with the administration to confirm judges who are not extremists, either left or right."
Partisan Bush appointeesTomlinson's term as chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which runs VOA, Radio Free Europe, and the Arab-language propaganda outlet Al-Hurra, expires soon. Tomlinson, a longtime crony of Karl Rove's, claims that he is leaving to write a book, but in reality Senate Democrats would almost certainly have blocked his reappointment. Tomlinson was ousted from the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the agency which distributes federal funds to PBS and National Public Radio, in late 2005 for illegally politicizing public television and radio broadcasts, including the secret commission of unscientific "content studies" and ensuring that federal funds went to conservative producers. And in the summer of 2006, the State Department found that Tomlinson violated federal law by running his private horse breeding and racing operations out of his government office, and by improperly putting a friend on the broadcasting board's payroll. Of course, Tomlinson says that he is innocent of any wrongdoing, and that his critics are merely attempting to "criminalize political differences." (Washington Post)
Partisan Bush appointeesVeteran lawyer Fred Fielding is replacing Harriet Miers as Bush's lead counsel. Fielding represented former presidents Nixon and Reagan, and is expected to help defend Bush against charges which almost certainly come from the round of hearings Democrats will soon hold in Congress. (AP/Yahoo! News)
Media manipulation and marketing by GOPYou know that the mission accomplished banner was put up by members of the USS Abraham Lincoln, and the president, on that very speech, said just the opposite, didn't he?" Not only is Snow telling an egregrious lie, he is telling one that is easily refuted. In his speech, Bush stood in front of a large banner that read, "Mission Accomplished," a banner prepared and hung by his own communications staff. In the opening of his speech, he declared, "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed." He called the "battle of Iraq" a "victory." In his radio address shortly after the speech, he boasted, "I delivered good news to the men and women who fought in the cause of freedom: their mission is complete and major combat operations in Iraq have ended." The speech originally included the phrase "mission accomplished," but it was removed at the behest of then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld; Rumsfeld, however, couldn't get the White House to not put the banner up. In October 2003, then-White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan admitted that the White House, not members of the Lincoln, had "take[n] care of the production of the banner." Much more information about the speech and its impact can be found on the May 2003 page of this site. (Think Progress)
Conservative hate speech and intoleranceBeck is known for, among other things, calling Hurricane Katrina victims "scumbags" and challenging newly elected Democratic House member Keith Ellison, a Muslim, to prove he is not a terrorist. One of Beck's first planned "special commentaries" will be about the "myth of global warming." ABC's Jim Murphy, senior executive producer of "Good Morning America," says blandly, "Glenn is a leading cultural commentator with a distinct voice. At times, he is the perfect guest for many of the talk topics we cover on morning news programs. ...[W]e will likely be sparking a lot of dinner-table debates, which is exactly what we set out to do with our show every night." Noteworthy comments by Beck can be found sprinkled throughout the pages of this site. (AP/Yahoo! News)