Saturday, April 22, 2006
(Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)
Friday, April 21, 2006
IT WAS EARLY IN January when Eric Thode got the phone call from a member of Tom DeLay’s staff. Thode was a little surprised to hear from DeLay. As the chairman of the Fort Bend County Republican party, Thode was responsible for running the March 7 primary election, but that was two months away, and he expected DeLay to win easily against three opponents. Surely DeLay wasn’t concerned about it. So what could the eleven-term congressman from Sugar Land, the majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, want to know?
As Thode remembers the conversation, the staffer said DeLay was “contemplating his possibilities.” What if he were to win the primary with a less-than-solid showing? What if Ronnie Earle, the Travis County district attorney who had secured two felony indictments against DeLay involving the misuse of corporate funds to help Republican state legislative candidates in the 2002 election cycle, was able to win a conviction before the 2006 election? What if something happened in the federal corruption investigation of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, whom DeLay had once described as one of his closest friends? If any of these circumstances came to pass, the Democrats could win the seat. His seat.
Where was this leading? The answer wasn’t long in revealing itself. At what date, asked the staffer, could DeLay withdraw as a candidate? Was there a way for the GOP to replace him on the ballot after the primary? Thode explained the complicated procedure that allows the Republican county chairmen from the four counties in DeLay’s district (Fort Bend, Harris, Brazoria, and Galveston) to pick a replacement for a seat that becomes vacant due to death, resignation, or ineligibility. When he hung up, Thode knew what no one else in America would know for three months: The end of Tom DeLay’s political career was at hand.
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This is a BIGGIE!
TM has been a proud Bushevik publication, almost an in-house publication of the Republicon Party of Texas.
For TM to dis pore 'ol BugSpray DeLay like this is indicative of a tectonic shift in Texas politics.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
By Greg Mitchell
(April 19, 2006) -- No matter which party they generally favor or political stripes they wear, newspapers and other media outlets need to confront the fact that America faces a crisis almost without equal in recent decades.
Our president, in a time of war, terrorism and nuclear intrigue, will likely remain in office for another 33 months, with crushingly low approval ratings that are still inching lower. Facing a similar problem, voters had a chance to quickly toss Jimmy Carter out of office, and did so. With a similar lengthy period left on his White House lease, Richard Nixon quit, facing impeachment. Neither outcome is at hand this time.
The alarm should be bi-partisan. Many Republicans fear their president’s image as a bumbler will hurt their party for years. The rest may fret about the almost certain paralysis within the administration, or a reversal of certain favorite policies. A Gallup poll this week revealed that 44% of Republicans want some or all troops brought home from Iraq. Do they really believe that their president will do that any time soon, if ever?
Democrats, meanwhile, cross their fingers that Bush doesn’t do something really stupid -- i.e. nuke Iran -- while they try to win control of at least one house in Congress by doing nothing yet somehow earning (they hope) the anti-Bush vote.
Meanwhile, a severely weakened president retains, and has shown he is willing to use, all of his commander-in-chief authority, and then some.
No wonder so many are starting to look for a way to shorten or short-circuit the extended crisis period. Republicans demand a true shake-out at the White House. This week at Vanity Fair online, Carl Bernstein is calling for a Watergate-style congressional probe of possible high crimes and misdemeanors. Even Neil Young is weighing in with a soon-to-be-released song that urges, “Let’s impeach the president -- for lying.”
But rather than push impeachment for partisan reasons, the Democrats will actually put it off -- for partisan reasons. An unpopular president helps their drive for votes in November, and everything else is secondary.
So let’s assume, as Nixon might put it, that we do have George Bush to kick around for another almost-three-years. How worried should we be about the possible damage he might inflict -- and what can the press do about it?
Consider Thomas Friedman’s column in The New York Times today, and its implications.
Friedman, who still supports the Iraq war, opens by declaring that given a choice between a nuclear Iran and an attack on that country engineered by the White House, he would choose the former. That’s how little he trusts the diplomatic and military chops of Bush, Rumsfeld, Condi and Co. He cites “the level of incompetence that the Bush team has displayed in Iraq, and its refusal to acknowledge any mistakes or remove those who made them.”
But then he goes on: “I look at the Bush national security officials much the way I look at drunken drivers. I just want to take away their foreign policy driver’s licenses for the next three years. Sorry, boys and girls, you have to stay home now -- or take a taxi. ... You will not be driving alone. Not with my car.”
The problem -- the crisis -- is that Bush and Co. likely WILL be driving the “car” for 33 more months.
Friedman knows this: “If ours were a parliamentary democracy, the entire Bush team would be out of office by now, and deservedly so. ... But ours is not a parliamentary system, and while some may feel as if this administration’s over, it isn’t. So what to do? We can’t just take a foreign policy timeout.”
Perfectly said. Again, the crisis, even if he didn’t call it that: “We can’t just take a foreign policy timeout.”
Friedman, however, is very late in doubting the competence of this crew, and he still backs away from the scary wider view. What to do? he asks. He suggests that Rumsfeld depart, of course, and then he gets into specifics of how diplomacy might work re: Iran. That leaves hanging the reality of Bush continuing to serve as Master and Commander of the Iraq war and all other foreign policy into 2009.
I don’t have a solution myself now, although all pleas for serious probes, journalistic or official, of the many alleged White House misdeeds should be heeded. But my point here is simply to start the discussion, and urge that the media, first, recognize that the crisis—or, if you want to say, impending crisis -- exists, and begin to explore the ways to confront it.
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Wednesday, April 19, 2006
AP: Iraqis cave to US pressure to convene Parliament
By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Writer -- Wednesday, 1 hour, 58 minutes ago
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Under U.S. pressure, Iraqi leaders decided Wednesday to convene parliament in a bid to jump-start formation of a new unity government, stalled for months over the choice of a prime minister.
Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, left, insisted Wednesday that he still enjoyed the support of the Shiite alliance, the dominant bloc in parliament, and would not step aside.
But Shiite officials raised doubts whether the session already postponed once this week would take place Thursday as planned. They said the seven-faction Shiite alliance would meet Thursday morning and decide whether to attend the afternoon session.
The Bush administration is anxious to get a broad-based government seated, hoping it will help undermine support for the insurgency as well as calm sectarian strife that has bloodiedin recent months.
AP: McClellan quits as Bush mouthpiece
By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer -- Wednesday, 2 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - White House press secretary Scott McClellan, right, said Wednesday he is resigning, continuing a shakeup in 's administration that has already yielded a new chief of staff and could lead to a change in the Cabinet.
Appearing with Bush on the White House South Lawn just before the president boarded a helicopter at the start a trip to Alabama, McClellan, who has parried especially fiercely with reporters on and on intelligence issues, told Bush: "I have given it my all sir and I have given you my all sir, and I will continue to do so as we transition to a new press secretary."
Bush said McClellan had "a challenging assignment."
"I thought he handled his assignment with class, integrity," the president said. "It's going to be hard to replace Scott, but nevertheless he made the decision and I accepted it. One of these days, he and I are going to be rocking in chairs in Texas and talking about the good old days."
Also, a senior administration official revealed another move in the ongoing shakeup of Bush's staff, saying that longtime confidant and adviser Karl Rove is giving up oversight of policy development to focus more on politics with the approach of the fall midterm elections.
Other Recent DemLog Items:
- AP: No-Child-Left-Behind law punishes minority schools
- AP: Iran makes military threats
- AP: Shrink says Moussaoui is nuts
- SHNS: Iraqi women better off under Saddam
- Reuters: Lugar says go slow on Iran sanctions
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
AP: No-Child-Left-Behind law punishes minority schools
By FRANK BASS, Associated Press Writer -- Tuesday, 1 hour, 16 minutes ago
HARTFORD, Conn. - Wedged in a poor, gritty immigrant neighborhood, Henry C. Dwight Elementary School harks back to an earlier era of learning. Its ceilings are high, there is a fireplace in the library and students wear uniforms as they dart between classrooms.
The oldest public school in one of the nation's oldest cities, Dwight finds itself at the center of a growing national debate over whether the nation's newest education experiment is -- unexpectedly -- encouraging school segregation.
That's because the No Child Left Behind Act requires schools to demonstrate that students in specific racial, social and economic groups are making annual progress. A school fails if even one group fails. The more groups in a school, the greater chance for failure.
Dwight's population is racially and economically diverse, making its future under the law uncertain even though it is currently meeting its goals. The law stresses getting students proficient in math and reading by 2014, the principal says.
"They're (federal officials) not validating the incremental successes, but we are making great gains," said Dwight's Principal Stacey McCann, left, who supports the law. "I believe schools ... are making gains, but they might not make the mark that has been set."
Many of Connecticut's mostly white, rich suburban schools, which already are succeeding under the law, don't want the same uncertainty. They are resisting efforts to diversify, fearing that taking minority or poor students will hurt their chances to meet the law's requirements.
"We've had a reluctance on the part of school districts to accept youngsters who come in with deficiencies because they're concerned that if they get enough of them ... they'll become labeled as failing schools," Connecticut Education Commissioner Betty Sternberg said.
And that complicates Sternberg's efforts to resolve the nation's longest-running desegregation lawsuit, which accuses Connecticut of failing to provide minority students with as good an education as whites.
The state also is leading a multistate lawsuit challenging the No Child legislation, arguing it is too costly for Connecticut to administer writing tests as frequently as the government requires.
Henry Johnson, the U.S.'s assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, said he understands the concerns but believes the accountability the new law imposes on schools will ultimately benefit all children.
AP: Iran makes military threats
By ALI AKBAR DAREINI, Associated Press Writer -- Tuesday, 1 hour, 46 minutes ago
TEHRAN, Iran - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned thatwould "cut off the hand of any aggressor" and insisted Tuesday the country's military must be prepared amid escalating tensions with the international community over its disputed nuclear program.
Accompanied by Iran's army commanders, right, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, left, reviews army weapons, during a parade ceremony commemorating Army Day in front of the mausoleum of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini just outside Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, April 18, 2006. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
The defiant stance came hours before a meeting in Moscow of senior diplomats from the five permanentmembers and Germany to discuss the issue and less than two weeks before a council deadline for Iran to stop uranium enrichment.
"Today, you are among the world's most powerful armies because you rely on God," Ahmadinejad declared at a parade to commemorate Army Day.
A mental health expert diagnosed Zacarias Moussaoui as a paranoid schizophrenic, as defense witnesses told how the September 11 conspirator was seduced by jihad after a "terrorized" youth. (AFP/File/Art Lien)
SHNS: Iraqi women better off under Saddam
By BONNIE ERBE, below right - Scripps Howard News Service - 17-APR-06
A new poll of leaders of Iraqi women's-rights groups finds that women were treated better and their civil rights were more secure under deposed President Saddam Hussein than under the faltering and increasingly sectarian U.S.-installed government.
This is doubly troubling. It's troubling first, because the Bush administration used the issue of women to justify its now widely criticized invasion of Iraq in part by promising to improve the situation of women.
It's troubling secondly, because the administration has issued news releases, held public meetings and tried to gain media attention (as well as U.S. public support) for all the "good" it's supposedly doing the women of Iraq via this invasion.
The poll was released last week by the Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), a U.N. news agency covering sub-Saharan Africa, eight countries in central Asia, and Iraq.
IRIN reports the survey findings as follows: "...women's basic rights under the Hussein regime were guaranteed in the constitution and more importantly respected, with women often occupying important government positions. Now, although their rights are still enshrined in the national constitution, activists complain that, in practice, they have lost almost all of their rights."
(Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service. E-mail bonnieerbe(at)CompuServe.com.)
Monday, April 17, 2006
Lugar said on Sunday that the United States should hold direct talks with Iran on its nuclear program and go slow on pressing for sanctions, contrary to Bush administration strategy.
AP: Suicide bomber hits Tel Aviv - April 17
By DANIEL ROBINSON, Associated Press Writer -- Monday, 2 minutes ago
TEL AVIV, Israel - A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up outside a fast-food restaurant in a bustling commercial area of Tel Aviv during the Passover holiday Monday, killing seven other people and wounding at least 49, police said.
A wounded woman is rushed away from the site an explosion near a fast food restaurant in Tel Aviv Monday, right. A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up near the restaurant in a bustling commercial area of Tel Aviv during the Jewish holiday of Passover on Monday, killing six people and wounding at least 35 others, including several seriously, police and medics said. Media reports said the Islamic Jihad militant group claimed responsibility for Monday's attack, which came a day after the group pledged to carry out more such attacks. (AP Photo/Nir Kafri)
A security guard posted outside the restaurant, the target of a suicide bombing in January, prevented Monday's bomber from entering the building, police said.
It was the first suicide attack insince the Hamas militant group took over the Palestinian government 2 1/2 weeks ago. Hamas, which has killed hundreds of Israelis in attacks, has largely observed a cease-fire since February 2005.
The Islamic Jihad militant group, which is believed to be funded in part byand refuses to observe a cease-fire, claimed responsibility in a telephone call to The Associated Press. The attack came a day after the group pledged to carry out more attacks.
Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility for all six of the previous suicide attacks inside Israel since the cease-fire was declared.
Hamas leaders called the bombing a legitimate response to Israeli "aggression" a sharp departure from the previous Palestinian leadership's immediate condemnations of such attacks.
"We think that this operation ... is a direct result of the policy of the occupation and the brutal aggression and siege committed against our people," said Khaled Abu Helal, spokesman for the Hamas-led Interior Ministry.
Earlier, Moussa abu Marzouk, a Hamas leader abroad, told Al-Jazeera television that "the Israeli side must feel what the Palestinian feels, and the Palestinian defends himself as much as he can."
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, of the rivalParty, condemned the bombing, calling it a "terrorist attack."
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- AFP: Kerry joins generals calling for Rumsfeld ouster
- UCS: Simulation showing why a nuclear "Bunker Buster" will not work
- UKG: US allies are behind the death squads and ethnic cleansing
- AP: Bush, Reid Trade Barbs on Immigration
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If those links don't work, try: political blog: http://demlog.blogspot.com.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
The calls by a growing number of recently retired generals for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have created the most serious public confrontation between the military and an administration since President Harry S. Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur in 1951. In that epic drama, Truman was unquestionably correct -- MacArthur, the commanding general in Korea and a towering World War II hero, publicly challenged Truman's authority and had to be removed. Most Americans rightly revere the principle that was at stake: civilian control over the military. But this situation is quite different.
First, it is clear that the retired generals -- six so far, with more likely to come -- surely are speaking for many of their former colleagues, friends and subordinates who are still inside. In the tight world of senior active and retired generals, there is constant private dialogue. Recent retirees stay in close touch with old friends, who were often their subordinates; they help each other, they know what is going on and a conventional wisdom is formed. Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Greg Newbold, who was director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the planning period for the war in Iraq, made this clear in an extraordinary, at times emotional, article in Time magazine this past week when he said he was writing "with the encouragement of some still in positions of military leadership." He went on to "challenge those still in uniform . . . to give voice to those who can't -- or don't have the opportunity to -- speak."
These generals are not newly minted doves or covert Democrats. (In fact, one of the main reasons this public explosion did not happen earlier was probably concern by the generals that they would seem to be taking sides in domestic politics.) They are career men, each with more than 30 years in service, who swore after Vietnam that, as Colin Powell wrote in his memoirs, "when our turn came to call the shots, we would not quietly acquiesce in half-hearted warfare for half-baked reasons." Yet, as Newbold admits, it happened again. In the public comments of the retired generals one can hear a faint sense of guilt that, having been taught as young officers that the Vietnam-era generals failed to stand up to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and President Lyndon Johnson, they did the same thing.
Second, it is also clear that the target is not just Rumsfeld. Newbold hints at this; others are more explicit in private. But the only two people in the government higher than the secretary of defense are the president and vice president. They cannot be fired, of course, and the unspoken military code normally precludes direct public attacks on the commander in chief when troops are under fire. (There are exceptions to this rule, of course: In addition to MacArthur, there was Gen. George McClellan vs. Lincoln; and on a lesser note, Maj. Gen. John Singlaub, who was fired for attacking President Jimmy Carter over Korea policy. But such challenges are rare enough to be memorable, and none of these solo rebellions metastasized into a group, a movement that can fairly be described as a revolt.)
This has put President Bush and his administration in a hellish position at a time when security in Iraq and Afghanistan seems to be deteriorating. If Bush yields to the generals' revolt, he will appear to have caved in to pressure from what Rumsfeld disingenuously describes as "two or three retired generals out of thousands." But if he keeps Rumsfeld, he risks more resignations -- perhaps soon -- from generals who heed Newbold's stunning call that as officers they took an oath to the Constitution and should now speak out on behalf of the troops in harm's way and to save the institution that he feels is in danger of falling back into the disarray of the post-Vietnam era.
Facing this dilemma, Bush's first reaction was exactly what anyone who knows him would have expected: He issued strong affirmations of "full support" for Rumsfeld, even going out of his way to refer to the secretary of defense as "Don" several times in his statements. (This was in marked contrast to his tepid comments on the future of his other embattled Cabinet officer, Treasury Secretary John Snow. Washington got the point.)
In the end, the case for changing the secretary of defense seems to me to be overwhelming. I do not reach this conclusion simply because of past mistakes, simply because "someone must be held accountable." Many people besides Rumsfeld were deeply involved in the mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan; many of them remain in power, and some are in uniform.
The major reason the nation needs a new defense secretary is far more urgent. Put simply, the failed strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot be fixed as long as Rumsfeld remains at the epicenter of the chain of command. Rumsfeld's famous "long screwdriver," with which he sometimes micromanages policy, now thwarts the top-to-bottom reexamination of strategy that is absolutely essential in both war zones. Lyndon Johnson understood this in 1968 when he eased another micromanaging secretary of defense, McNamara, out of the Pentagon and replaced him with Clark M. Clifford. Within weeks, Clifford had revisited every aspect of policy and begun the long, painful process of unwinding the commitment. Today, those decisions are still the subject of intense dispute, and there are many differences between the two situations. But one thing was clear then and is clear today: Unless the secretary of defense is replaced, the policy will not and cannot change.
That first White House reaction will not be the end of the story. If more angry generals emerge -- and they will -- if some of them are on active duty, as seems probable; if the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan does not turn around (and there is little reason to think it will, alas), then this storm will continue until finally it consumes not only Donald Rumsfeld. The only question is: Will it come so late that there is no longer any hope of salvaging something in Iraq and Afghanistan?
*Richard Holbrooke, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, writes a monthly column for The Post.
Source: Washington Post.
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