Lewis Libby perjury trialThe jury consists of nine women and three men, and includes a former reporter for the Washington Post who once had Bob Woodward as his editor and NBC reporter Tim Russert as his neighbor -- both Woodward and Russert are slated to testify in the trial. The presiding judge is Reggie Walton. Jury selection was difficult, with many potential jurors being excused for expressing negative feelings about the Bush administration and its policies. (MSNBC ["Fact File"])
Iraq war and occupationMany of Bush's most loyal Congressional Republicans are joining Warner in backing away from Bush's policy. The measure Warner and other Senate Republicans are backing is more measured in tone and less critical than the bipartisan resolution cosponsored by fellow Republicans Chuck Hagel and Olympia Snowe, and Democrats Joseph Biden and Carl Levin. But Warner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have already met to discuss forging a single resolution from the two slightly disparate ones. So far five Republican senators, including Hagel, Warner, Norm Coleman, Susan Collins, and Gordon Smith, are behind the resolution; fellow Republican senators Thad Cochran, Pete Domenici, and Ted Stevens are looking for their own way to express their concerns.
US Attorney firingsWilkes has deep connections to at least three pending investigations of California's Republican Congressional delegation and possibly four. He was named in the Randy "Duke" Cunningham indictment as "Conspirator #1," was proven to have given Cunningham $500,000 in return for a huge number of Pentagon contracts for Wilkes's defense contracting company, ACDS.
War with IranPerle is very close to the administration, particularly to Dick Cheney. He is currently a fellow at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute. At a presentation at the Herzliya Conference in Israel, Perle says that the present policy of attempting to impose sanctions on Iran will not cause it to abandon its nuclear aspirations, and unless stopped the country will become a nuclear power. Perle is contradicted by another presenter, Dr. Robert Einhorn, who until 2001 was senior advisor to the secretary of state on nuclear nonproliferation, chemical, biological and missile delivery systems. Einhorn says that of all available options, including the military one, he believes continued pressure on Iran will force its leadership to pay a political, economic or other price and conclude on its own that its nuclear aspirations were harming its interests. But Einhorn says taking the military option off the table would be foolhardy.
Conservative hate speech and intolerance"Look, let me put it to you this way: the NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it." WorldGolf commentator William Wolfrum retorts, "Limbaugh, who never met a marriage he wouldn't end in divorce, apparently has come to the belief that there are dangerous social and cultural elements emanating from the NFL, apparently in the form of doo-rags and tattoos. Just something to remember from Limbaugh: If you get hooked on pills, can't stay married to save your life, and like to pump your penis full of Viagra prior to trips to the Dominican Republic, you're cool. Wear a doo rag and taunt opponents during a game of professional football, well, you're representing a gang and are part of the decay of modern society." (WorldGolf)
Lewis Libby perjury trialThe defense comes out swinging -- not so much against the charges or the prosecution, but against the White House. Libby's attorney Ted Wells says top White House officials tried to blame Libby, the former chief of staff to Dick Cheney, for the 2003 leak identifying former CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, and decided to protect Bush's political strategist, Karl Rove, but not Libby. Wells tells jurors that Rove "was viewed as a political genius," but in contrast, "Mr. Libby was just a staffer" and "Karl Rove was the life blood of the Republican Party." According to Davis, Libby complained "they want me to be the sacrificial lamb." Another Libby lawyer, Theodore Wells, says that Libby told him, "They're trying to set me up. They want me to be the sacrificial lamb. I will not be sacrificed so Karl Rove can be protected." Cheney then personally intervened to get the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, to publicly clear Libby in the leak. Soon after, Cheney wrote a note to senior Bush advisors saying that it was wrong "to protect one staffer" -- meaning Rove -- and "sacrifice the guy who stuck his neck in the meat grinder," referring to Libby who, Davis says, was "ordered" by Cheney to refute negative stories. Libby's own notes show that he first learned of Plame's identity, not from NBC reporter Tim Russert, as he claimed, but from Cheney.
Iraq war and occupationThey have thoroughly searched the rugged Iraqi province of Diyala, bordering Iran, and a hotbed of Shi'ite insurgents. Americans have found some mortars and antitank mines that are clearly Iranian, but no evidence of more advanced weaponry crossing the border, and have located no Iranian agents working with their fellow Shi'ites. Bush has, in recent days, escalated his rhetoric against Iran almost to the same level as his thunderous pronouncements against Saddam Hussein in the months before the March 2003 invasion, but, like his war rhetoric against Iraq, has failed to provide evidence of his claims. And no reporters have seen any real evidence of Iranian involvement. The lack of publicly disclosed evidence is again leading to questions of whether Bush is overstating, or manufacturing, a case against Iran, and if so, to what end. "To be quite honest, I'm a little concerned that it's Iraq again," says Democratic senator John Rockefeller, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Iraq war and occupationHe warns that failure in Iraq will have "grievous" consequences. He spends much of the address discussing a variety of economic issues, but offers little of substance and few, if any, new ideas on any fronts; he entirely fails to mention the efforts to rebuild the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Democratic senator Jim Webb garners far more "buzz" with his tough rejoinder; Webb says, among other things, that the US needs a "new direction" in Iraq. "The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military," says Webb, who has a son serving in Iraq. Of Iraq, he says the costs of war have been "staggering;" of the US economy, he says, "When one looks at the health of our economy, it's almost as if we are living in two different countries. Some say that things have never been better. The stock market is at an all-time high, and so are corporate profits. But these benefits are not being fairly shared. When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did; today, it's nearly 400 times. In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day." If Bush takes the "right kind of action," says Webb, then Democrats would join him. But, he says, "If he does not, we will be showing him the way." (BBC [link to video of Bush's speech], Crooks and Liars [link to video of Webb's response])
Anti-terrorism and homeland securityTonight, Bush lies about four "successes" in the so-called war on terror. The problem is, none of the four incidents he cites ever happened. The four are detailed by investigative reporter and activist David Swanson.
Conservative smear campaignsBush begins the speech on a bipartisan note, honoring the first Madam Speaker, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, and calling on the country to come together. Then he says, "I congratulate the Democrat majority," dropping the last two letters from "Democratic." The dropped "-ic" is significant because. as Washington Post reporter Libby Copeland observes, "it is a semantic tactic that's been part of Republican warfare for decades. It's a little thing, a means of needling the opposition by purposefully mispronouncing its name, and of suggesting that the party on the left is not truly small-'d' democratic. The president's pronunciation was all the more striking because it was apparently not what Bush was supposed to say. The prepared speech that the White House distributed beforehand retained that precious '-ic.'" Bloggers and Democrats picked up on the omission almost immediately. "We all noticed," says Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, founder of the liberal blog DailyKos. "He just clearly couldn't help himself." John Podesta, the chief of staff under Clinton and the president of the centrist-liberal Center for American Progress, says succinctly, "Like nails on a chalkboard." And Democratic strategist Paul Begala sums up the omission by saying, "He offers this olive branch. Boom, 10 seconds later, he drops the hammer, insults the party and he winks at his base.... It tells you what's in his heart. It tells you that he has no damn desire to compromise." Nonpartisan political analyst Charlie Cook is more forgiving: "I doubt if it was a conscious slight. I think it was just a force of habit." When it comes to omitting the "-ic," Republicans "have been doing it so long that they probably don't even realize they're doing it."
Global warming and the environmentBush responds by cancelling a meeting with the executives. Instead, White House press secretary Tony Snow continues to mouth the same platitudes, telling the press corps and, indirectly, the CEOs that the best way to handle "climate change" is through "innovation" -- an indirect accusation that the CEOs and their companies are responsible for fixing the problem. Many corporate leaders, feeling that some sort of regulation or tax on carbon emissions is inevitable, want the federal government to come up with a nationwide standard and avoid different regulatory standards for each state. "We can and must take prompt action to establish a coordinated, economy-wide market-driven approach to climate protection," the executives write in a letter to Bush. In an interview later, Jeffry Sterba, chairman of PNM Resources, a New Mexico utility and one of the signees, says that it is better to act now than to be forced to act in a "precipitous way" later. The executives support a system that would create a cap on emissions, give allocations to companies based on past emissions and allow firms to trade allocations to meet gradually declining emission targets. The system, similar to one being used in Europe, would have far-reaching implications for utility rates, power plant construction, energy efficiency and American automobiles. The executives' plan would slow the growth in greenhouse gases over the next five years, then reverse that growth and cut annual emissions by 70% to 90% of today's levels in 15 years. The CEOs represent such companies as General Electric, PNM, Lehman Brothers Holdings, PG&E, Alcoa, Caterpillar, BP America, Duke Energy, DuPont and FPL Group. (Washington Post)
Lewis Libby perjury trialLibby earlier testified before a grand jury that he had learned Plame's identity from NBC reporter Tim Russert. Former CIA senior official Robert Grenier says he received an anxious phone call from Libby on June 11, 2003, asking about reports a former ambassador -- Plame's husband Joseph Wilson -- had made a trip to Africa to check on reports Saddam Hussein had tried to buy uranium in Niger for Iraq's weapons program. Libby, Grenier said, was angered irked by accounts that Wilson was telling reporters he had been sent on a fact-finding mission to Niger at the behest of the vice president's office. (Wilson is largely correct, as examination of earlier items about Wilson's trip to Niger confirm -- see the February 19, 2002 item for one example -- but Libby did not want the involvement of Cheney's office to become public knowledge.) Grenier said he promised to look into the matter, but before he could speak with Libby again, he was summoned out of a meeting with the director of the CIA by Libby seeking answers. Craig Schmall, a CIA. employee whose job was to brief Libby and Cheney, testified his notes showed Libby had spoken to him on June 14, 2003, and he was annoyed by Wilson's trip to Niger.
Lewis Libby perjury trialThe record already reveals that three senior administration officials -- Libby, Rove and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage – had discussed Plame's CIA identity with journalists amid the campaign to undermine Wilson. As part of that tearing down of the former ambassador, administration officials claimed that Wilson's wife had helped him get the assignment to check out reports that Iraq was trying to obtain yellowcake uranium from Niger, suspicions that Wilson and others concluded were unfounded." Add to the mix two other as-yet unnamed officials, who in June 2003 attempted to steer Time reporters towards asking questions about Wilson and Plame. Parry writes, "At the top of the operation to counter Wilson were Bush, who approved the partial release of a CIA National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's WMD, and Cheney, who dispatched Libby to meet with reporters." Bush agreed to release the selectively edited NIE in order to discredit Wilson and other Iraq war critics. (Apparently, at the time of his writing, Parry was not aware that former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer had also admitted to revealing Plame's identity to reporters.)
Anti-terrorism and homeland securityHe acknowledges that Britain faces a different and more dangerous threat than in the days of IRA terrorism, and that it has "all the disturbing elements of a death cult psychology." But, says McDonald, "It is critical that we understand that this new form of terrorism carries another more subtle, perhaps equally pernicious, risk. Because it might encourage a fear-driven and inappropriate response. By that I mean it can tempt us to abandon our values. I think it important to understand that this is one of its primary purposes." McDonald points to the rhetoric surrounding the "war on terror," adopted by most British lawmakers after its coinage by Bush, to illustrate the risks: "London is not a battlefield. Those innocents who were murdered on July 7 2005 were not victims of war. And the men who killed them were not, as in their vanity they claimed on their ludicrous videos, 'soldiers.' They were deluded, narcissistic inadequates. They were criminals. They were fantasists. We need to be very clear about this. On the streets of London, there is no such thing as a 'war on terror,' just as there can be no such thing as a 'war on drugs.' The fight against terrorism on the streets of Britain is not a war. It is the prevention of crime, the enforcement of our laws and the winning of justice for those damaged by their infringement." (Guardian)
Iraq war and occupationThe committee resolution is non-binding and not expected to have any effect on Bush's policy decisions. The vote is 12-9, with 11 Democrats and Republican Chuck Hagel voting for the resolution. "We better be damn sure we know what we're doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder," says Hagel. Chairman Joseph Biden says the legislation is "not an attempt to embarrass the president.... It's an attempt to save the president from making a significant mistake with regard to our policy in Iraq." The resolution moves to the floor of the Senate for debate; Biden has said he is willing to negotiate changes in hopes of attracting support from more Republicans. House Democrats intend to hold a vote shortly after the Senate acts. Even some Republicans are uneasy about the escalation. Richard Lugar, who voted against the measure, says, "I am not confident that President Bush's plan will succeed." However, "[i]t is unclear to me how passing a nonbinding resolution that the president has already said he will ignore will contribute to any improvement or modification of our Iraq policy. The president is deeply invested in this plan, and the deployments...have already begun." Lugar says Congress must ensure that Bush officials are "planning for contingencies, including the failure of the Iraqi government to reach compromises and the persistence of violence despite US and Iraqi government efforts." (AP/Truthout)
Iraq war and occupationThe familiar, increasingly delusional, rhetoric is a strong contrast to Bush's less combative tone from his State of the Union address the night before. Cheney, being interviewed by CNN's Wolf Blitzer, becomes increasingly contentious as the interview wears on. He refuses to admit that Iraq is a "terrible situation," but merely acknowledges that there are "problems." Congressional opposition "won't stop us" from sending 21,500 more troops, but will, he growls, only "validate the terrorists' strategy." Cheney tells Blitzer, "The pressure is from some quarters to get out of Iraq. If we were to do that, we would simply validate the terrorists' strategy that says the Americans will not stay to complete the task, that we don't have the stomach for the fight." None of Cheney's rhetoric is new, but he is apparently unused to, and unappreciative of, the newly minted resistance to his rhetoric. When Blitzer asks whether the administration's credibility had been hurt by "the blunders and the failures" in Iraq, Cheney cuts him off: "Wolf, Wolf, I simply don't accept the premise of your question. I just think it's hogwash." In fact, he says, the operation in Iraq has achieved its original mission. "What we did in Iraq in taking down Saddam Hussein was exactly the right thing to do. The world is much safer today because of it. There have been three national elections in Iraq. There's a democracy established there, a constitution, a new democratically elected government. Saddam has been brought to justice and executed. His sons are dead. His government is gone. If he were still there today, we'd have a terrible situation." Blitzer himself interjects, "But there is," to which Cheney retorts, "No, there is not. There is not. There's problems -- ongoing problems -- but we have in fact accomplished our objectives of getting rid of the old regime, and there is a new regime in place that's been here for less than a year, far too soon for you guys to write them off. ...Bottom line is that we've had enormous successes and we will continue to have enormous successes."
Attack on civil libertiesBernstein says, "In the case George W. Bush, the American system has obviously failed -- tragically -- about which we can talk more in a minute. But imagine the difference in our worldview today, had the institutions -- particularly of government -- done their job to ensure that a mendacious and dangerous president (as has since been proven many times over, beyond mere assertion) be restrained in a war that has killed thousands of American soldiers, brought turmoil to the lives of millions, and constrained the goodwill towards the United States in much of the world." Comparing the disreputable members of both administrations, he says, "In terms of small-bore (but dangerous) characters like Howard Hunt and Gordon Liddy with their schemes, I doubt that any presidency approaches the criminality of the Nixon White House. But the Watergate conspiracy -- to undermine the constitution and use illegal methods to hurt Nixon's political opponents and even undermine the electoral system -- was supervised by those at the very top. In the current administration we have seen from the President down -- especially Vice President Cheney, Attorney General Gonzales, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld -- a willingness to ignore the great constitutional history of the United States -- to suspend, really, many of the constitutional guarantees that have made us a nation apart, with real freedoms unknown elsewhere, unrestricted by short-term political objectives of our leaders."
Election fraudAnyone with that key, or a working copy, can, within 60 seconds, place a vote-scrambling or vote-changing "hack" into the machines' software, according to an investigation by Princeton University scientists. The lock can be picked within 10 seconds, but Diebold makes it even easier -- photos of the key are available on Diebold's Web site, and those photos have been used to make working copies. The keys are readily available, as the self-same keys are used in thousands of hotel minibars and filing cabinets. (Diebold has since removed the photos from its Web site, but the photos can be viewed at the BradBlog link below. They have also removed the mechanical key locks from some machines and replaced them with "smart card" keys, also easily hacked.) Diebold spokesman Mark Radke defends the decision to use identical keys on every machine by saying ingenuously, "Can you imagine, if the wrong keys went to the wrong precincts the morning of the election, what would happen?" Interestingly, Diebold has recently been certified to deliver security services under the aegis of the Department of Homeland Security. (BradBlog [link to video])