As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, June 16, 2005


I caught a replay of today's Downing Street Memo hearing, chaired by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), which gave voice to those who want the whole truth from this Administration about why we went to war in Iraq. I think it's safe to say that this issue has begun to reach critical mass; there in my email box, it was one of my top five stories, and it didn't even involve a celebrity or a missing white girl:

At a public forum where the word "impeachment" loomed large, Exhibit A was the so-called Downing Street memo, a prewar document leaked from inside the British government to The Sunday Times of London a month and a half ago. Rep. John Conyers (news, bio, voting record) of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, organized the event.

The president "may have deliberately deceived the United States to get us into a war," Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said. "Was the president of the United States a fool or a knave?"

The Republican leadership tried to obfuscate or shut down this meeeting at every turn. First they denied access to the Capitol. Then they relented and gave them a tiny room in the basement (the hearing room looked like it was for a local town hall meeting rather than a group of Congressmen). Then they scheduled 11 major votes on the same day so legislators would have to shuttle back and forth to the House chamber.

Didn't work. Once you give people a taste of the truth, they tend to want to know more. They want to know why, in the words of British intelligence, "the facts were being fixed around the policy" in Iraq. They want to know, as Cindy Sheehan does, why her son had to die for a war that may not have been necessary. They want to know why a pliant media yawned and exclaimed "old news" at this piece of documentary evidence, the first tangible sign of a plan to hoodwink the American public into war.

They want to know why a US Congressman, not a terror suspect, not an illegal foreign national, but a US Congressman, was stopped at the White House gates today:

The White House refuses to respond to a May 5 letter from 122 congressional Democrats about whether there was a coordinated effort to "fix" the intelligence and facts around the policy, as the Downing Street memo says.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan says Conyers "is simply trying to rehash old debates."

Conyers and a half-dozen other members of Congress were stopped at the White House gate later Thursday when they hand-delivered petitions signed by 560,000 Americans who want Bush to provide a detailed response to the Downing Street memo. When Conyers couldn't get in, an anti-war demonstrator shouted, "Send Bush out!" Eventually, White House aides retrieved the petitions at the gate and took them into the West Wing.

It's another act of denial. If we can just get through this rough patch, I can imagine Frank Luntz saying, people will forget about this. Just deny and play defense until it peters itself out.

Well, it's not going to wear itself out. Very few days anymore are historic, but today was. Already, hundreds of thousands of Americans, fully 1 in 500, want to know why war with Iraq was inevitable, why intelligence was twisted and shaped rather than analyzed. It will turn into millions. To let this peter out would do a disservice to the 1,700+ dead soldiers and their families, to the tens of thousands of wounded, to the untold thousands of Iraqi civilians, all of whom suffered for a lie. That's right, a lie. Nobody in that Capitol Hill meeting room was afraid to say it today, and neither am I. The collective power of this thing is going to reach from coast to coast. And if we're to believe the primary source, there'll be plenty more to discover:

Michael Smith: Yes there are other facts you still don't know and the media should be using these public documents as a base from which to find them out because it is those facts that will really damage Bush. Some of the media already are on the case. Knight Ridder went in very early on in this story and I see is still going. The LA Times and The Washington Post and lots of smaller papers have all been doing their bit. They need to keep going. If the administration, as it claims, did nothing wrong, it has nothing to fear from journalists looking for the facts.

I don't care about damaging Bush. I want some truth after 4 years of misleading and muddying the waters. I want some accountability from an unaccountable government. I want the American people to know they can trust their leaders to make determinations in their name, not in service to some other unidentified goal.

This is just going to get bigger and bigger. The Administration would do well to just answer the questions. They won't be able to play defense forever. This is the beginning of a movement for truth and accountability.


The Halliburton Two-Step

Welcome to your Halliburton two-step lesson! Here's step one: The US government runs a gulag-like prison in Guantanamo with horrible living conditions. So have your former CEO, Dick Cheney, defend the facility amid calls for it to be shut down.

Here's step two: Halliburton to the rescue!

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Halliburton Co. unit will build a new $30 million detention facility and security fence at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the United States is holding about 520 foreign terrorism suspects, the Defense Department announced on Thursday.

An air-conditioned two-story prison, known as Detention Camp #6, will be built at Guantanamo to house 220 men. It will include exercise areas, medical and dental spaces as well as a security control room, the contract announcement said.

I guess Cheney knew just the guys that could spruce up the place. It begs the question of whether the intention all along was to build a shitty facility and get called out for it, just so Halliburton could swoop in under the guise of "you said we needed to fix it!"

By the way, this is not the first time Halliburton has received a contract for work on Gitmo. In 2002 they built 200 new cells for $9.3 million. In 2003 they were paid another $13 million for additional construction. I'm sure sooner or later they'll get it perfect.

According to Runsfeld, US taxpayers are now in for $100 million at Gitmo since 2001, and we're about to dump $30 million more. That's a lot of money to subsidize al Qaeda's greatest recruiting tool.


Denial Denial Denial

This would be the Kubler-Ross stage of most importance to Republicans. From the WaPo:

Frist, R-Tenn., said he had only sought to make sure the most up-to-date testing was performed to determine whether Schiavo was truly in a persistent vegetative state, the diagnosis accepted by state courts.

"I never made the diagnosis, I wouldn't even attempt to make a diagnosis from a videotape," said Frist, a heart surgeon.

In the same article:

Debating the emergency legislation, Frist questioned the diagnosis of doctors who said Schiavo's smiles and eye movements were automatic responses and not evidence of consciousness.

"I question it based on a review of the video footage. ... And that footage, to me, depicted something very different than persistent vegetative state," Frist said at the time. He also said that "she certainly seems to respond to visual stimuli."

You can deny all you want, but some people in this country still have memories. And databases. And Google. That's a diagnosis, and a wrongheaded, superficial one at that. I know because I sent Frist a tape of me looking real sad in an attempt to snag myself a pony. I mean, as long as everybody gets their own personal laws made for them...

This is more than a trend, this tendency for Republicans when cornered by their own lies and misstatements to throw up the "I never said that" wall. I'm not sure if it's cognitive dissonance or their own contempt for the American public, banking on the public being too stupid to remember the quotes (or for the media to report them). But it's surely the saddest, most craven dodge you can make.


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Corruption Part II

Looks like Duke Cunningham and Ted Stevens have been comparing notes:

WASHINGTON — Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) made $822,000 last year from the sale of a controversial real estate investment with an Anchorage developer who had obtained a huge federal contract with his help, records show.

In 1997, Stevens invested $50,000 with developer Jonathan B. Rubini. Last year, at Stevens' request, Rubini and his partner bought back the senator's interests in their deals for $872,000, according to Senate financial disclosure forms made public Tuesday.

About three years after he made that investment, Stevens helped Rubini secure a $450-million Air Force housing contract. The senator had no financial interest in that deal.

Just the fact that they have to say "no financial interest in that deal is telling enough.

(p.s. really no way for me to do a lot of updating this week, I'll have to get to it over the weekend)


Monday, June 13, 2005


Corruption is what did in Democrats in the Congress in the early 90s, and with good reason, as Jim Wright and others forgot themselves, didn't play by the rules, and they paid for it at the ballot box. 2006 is shaping up to be 1994 redux, with the familiar stench of corruption engulfing the ruling party. Witness the latest, not DeLay, not Coingate in Ohio, but this gem from out in San Diego:

SAN DIEGO - A defense contractor bought Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's Del Mar home in November 2003 and sold it nearly nine months later at a $700,000 loss, it was reported today.

At the time, the Republican congressman was supporting Mitchell Wade and his firm MZM Inc. in efforts to win Pentagon contracts, The San Diego Union- Tribune reported.

Some would say that the defense contractor simply made a bad land deal (bet they could gin up an 8-year investigation off of that scrap of information), and the money-for-favors element doesn't logically follow. But consider that as soon as Wade bought the house, his defense business went through the roof, and he was awarded millions in contracts, making him a Top 100 federal contractor virtually overnight. And consider that Wade put the house on the market within a month after he bought it. And consider that Wade's company is a major contributor to Rep. Cunningham. And consider... never mind, you're done considering.

You just should not, as a congressman, do business with someone who you're in a position to help. Simple axiom, right? Nonpartisan one, too. But one that escaped Mr. Cunningham.

Corruption is already the theme of the 2006 elections. Democrats need to run on a platform, true, but nobody ever got sick in a campaign talking about the other guy.


Wild Man Martinez

For a freshman senator, Mel Martinez (R-FL) is sure in the mix of things. First a senior staffer of his writes the Schiavo memo saying that the issue was "a great one" for Republicans. Now he's suggesting that the US close down Gitmo:

KEY WEST, Fla. -- Sen. Mel Martinez said the Bush administration should consider closing the Guantanamo Bay prison for terrorism suspects -- the first high-profile Republican to make the suggestion.

"It's become an icon for bad stories and at some point you wonder the cost-benefit ratio," Martinez said Friday. "How much do you get out of having that facility there? Is it serving all the purposes you thought it would serve when initially you began it, or can this be done some other way a little better?"

Boy, Sen. Martinez has sure become an embarrassment to his party by shooting his mouth off. Do you think "mainstream" Republicans will have to answer for his claims. Will they be lined up on Meet the Press and asked "What do YOU think of en. Martinez' comments? Have they hurt your party?"

Oh wait, I forgot, It's OK If You're A Republican (or IOKIYAR, a term whose meaning I didn't know for the longest time).

The point is that Martinez clearly speaks his mind, whatever side of the issue he's on, and that's OK for GOP leaders to do. It's clearly not OK for the chairman of the DNC (at least to the Beltway pundit class). a related note, Digby caught this, and I can't believe I didn't, but this line that Judy Woodruff said on MTP Sunday was fascinating:

Woodruff pointed out that the Republicans have wisely learned to throw their red meat "below the radar" -- through the local news and direct mail ---while the Democrats haven't. No comment on why the Republican red meat remains "below the radar" when the creme de la creme of Washington punditry clearly knows all about it. Nor was there any speculation about how it came to pass that Dean's comments dominated the cable news networks with an obsessive glee usually reserved for Bill Clinton's pants, while Tom Delay can put out a hit on federal judges and it gets a one minute segment betwen the blog report and Bay Buchanan.

Since the press IS the frickin' radar, to say that the GOP smartly flies below it is absurd. Not only that, the famed "vote or the Democrats will ban the Bible" flyer did get mentioned during campaign season, albeit (as Digby rightly points out) with little fanfare compared to the Dean brouhaha.

I think the point Woodruff had no idea she was making was that the Republican direct mail and whisper campaigns are anonymous, while Dean comes out and says what he's thinking. Isn't it a marvelous political climate we live in to know that making crazy statements anonymously is considered genius, while speaking out in the open is to be derided? Of course the bullshit here is that the media knows exactly where these "under the radar" things are coming from, yet they take top Republican operatives' plausible deniability on faith, and never, ever try to connect the dots. Clearly Woodruff and the Beltway kool kidz are saying that the DNC should send out unsigned mailers claiming that Republicans will put Jews in ghettos and return blacks to plantations. That would be the "smart" thing to do.