Saturday, December 31, 2005

Those who refuse to make New Year's resolutions because they always break them anyway miss the point. Making resolutions is a cleansing ritual of self-assessment and repentance that demands personal honesty and, ultimately, reinforces humility. Breaking them is part of the cycle.

-Eric Zorn

In this spirit of annual accounting, I advocate finding a few minutes for your own personal year-in-review.

Get a pen. Check out the form below. Clip it. Or print it. I guarantee that if you fill in the blanks, you'll realize some things about your 2005 you had only half registered before.

When you consciously review your year, you may notice how little you noticed it as it whizzed past. To review is to re-view. To rewind, pause, look again. And in looking again, to see more clearly.

You may be astonished by how much happened. And how much didn't. By how much has changed. And how much hasn't. You may laugh or sigh to notice that your life remains its usual jumble of contradictions.


In 2005, I gained (this does not mean WEIGHT unless you want it to__________________.

I lost (this does not mean WEIGHT unless you want it to)______________.

I stopped ____________________.

I started____________________________.

I was hugely satisfied by____________________.

And frustrated by ___________________________.

I am so embarrassed that I ___________________.

Once again, I_________________________.

Once again, I did not_____________________.

The biggest physical difference between me last December and this December is_________________________.

The biggest psychological difference between me last December and this
December is _________________________.

I loved spending time _______________________.

Why did I spend even two minutes_________________?

I should have spent more time______________________.

I regret buying __________________.

I will never regret buying_________even though with that money I could have bought __________________.

I __________________________ way too much.

I didn't _____________________________ enough.

________________________drove me crazy.

Was_________________crazier than ever last year? Or was it me?

The most relaxing place I went was:

I feel so_____________________when I write that down.

Why did I go to:

The best thing I did for someone else was:

The best thing I did for myself was :

The best thing someone did for me was:

The one thing I'd like to do again, but do it better, is:

The Magical Victory Tour

By Matt Taibbi
Rolling Stone


Up until now this president's solution to everything has been to stare into the cameras, lie and keep on lying until such time as the political problem disappears. And now, unable to comprehend that while political crises may wilt in the face of such tactics, real crises do not, he and his team are responding to this first serious feet-to-the-fire Iraq emergency in the same way they always have - with a fusillade of silly, easily disprovable bullshit. Bush and his mouthpieces continue to try to obfuscate and cloud the issue of why we're in Iraq, and they do so not only selectively but constantly, compulsively, like mental patients who can't stop jacking off in public. They don't know the difference between a real problem and a political problem, because to them, there is no difference. What could possibly be worse than bad poll numbers?

On this particular day in the briefing room, it's just more of the same disease. McClellan, a cringing yes-man type who tries to soften the effect of his non- answers by projecting an air of being just as out of the loop as you are, starts pimping lies and crap the moment he enters the room. He's the cheapest kind of political hack, a greedy little bum making a living by throwing his hat on the ground and juggling lemons for pennies.

Putting his hat out for the Strategy for Victory, he says nothing new - there is no real strategy, remember, just words - and it quickly becomes clear that the whole purpose of this campaign is not to offer new information but to reinforce the administration's most shameless and irresponsible myths about the war: that we invaded to liberate Iraq, that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11, and so on. McClellan does this even in the context of responding to angry denunciations of this very tactic.

For instance, when a reporter asked why the administration still insists on giving the impression that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attacks, McClellan answered, "I don't think that [it] does. But I think what you have to understand about September 11th is that September 11th taught us some important lessons: one, that we need to take the fight to the enemy and engage them abroad . . ."

Implying, in other words, that the enemy who attacked us was in Iraq. Same old shit.

After hearing McClellan talk for what seemed like the thirtieth time about our continuing efforts to spread democracy, I finally felt insulted. Giving in to the same basic instinct that leads people to buy lottery tickets, I raised my hand. I figured I'd ask nicely, just give him a chance to come clean. C'mon, man, we know you're lying, why not just leave it alone? I asked him if he couldn't just admit, once and for all, that we didn't go to Iraq to spread democracy, that maybe it was time to retire that line, at least.

"Well," he said, "we set out the reasons we went to Iraq, and I would encourage you to go back and look at that. We have liberated 25 million people in Iraq and 25 million people in Afghanistan . . ."

"But that wasn't the reason we went -"

"Spreading freedom and democracy," he said, ignoring me. "Well, we're not going to re-litigate why we went into Iraq. We've made very clear what the reasons were. And no, I don't think you define them accurately by being so selective in the question . . . that's important for spreading hope and opportunity in the broader Middle East . . ."

"Just to be clear," I said, exasperated, "that's a different argument than was made to the American people before the war."

"Our arguments are very public," he said. "You can go look at what the arguments are. That's not what I was talking about."

He smiled at me. There's your strategy for victory in Iraq: Fuck all of you - we're sticking to our story.


Journalists Should Expose Secrets, Not Keep Them

By Norman Solomon

Journalists should be in the business of providing timely information to the public. But some - notably at the top rungs of the profession - have become players in the power games of the nation's capital. And more than a few seem glad to imitate the officeholders who want to decide what the public shouldn't know.

When the New York Times front page broke the story of the National Security Agency's domestic spying, the newspaper's editors had good reason to feel proud. Or so it seemed. But there was a troubling back-story: the Times had kept the scoop under wraps for a long time.

The White House did what it could - including, as a last-ditch move, an early-December presidential meeting that brought Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and executive editor Bill Keller to the Oval Office - in its efforts to persuade the Times not to report the story. The good news is that those efforts ultimately failed. The bad news is that they were successful for more than a year.

"The decision to hold the story last year was mine," Keller said, according to a Washington Post article that appeared 10 days after the Times's blockbuster December 16 story. He added: "The decision to run the story last week was mine. I'm comfortable with both decisions. Beyond that, there's just no way to have a full discussion of the internal procedural twists that media writers find so fascinating without talking about what we knew, when, and how - and that I can't do."


Climate Shock: We're on Thin Ice

By Kelpie Wilson
t r u t h o u t | Review

Thin Ice
: Unlocking the Secrets of Climate in the World's Highest Mountains

By Mark Bowen
Henry Holt, 2005

"In Sanskrit, Himalaya means 'abode of snow,' but as crops and people die from lack of water while watching the highest mountains on Earth turn from white to black, that name may soon seem grotesquely inappropriate."
-- Mark Bowen, Thin Ice
Climate shock comes from the realization that climate change is not only real, but huge; it is not only huge, but it is now; and it will affect your life very shortly. Not your grandchildren's lives. Not your children's lives. Your life. Soon - if it hasn't already.

If you have not experienced climate shock yet, you will when you read Thin Ice by Mark Bowen. Thin Ice is the story of the scientific team from Ohio State University, led by researcher Lonnie Thompson, that has spent the last two decades drilling ice cores in tropical mountain glaciers. Their aim is to retrieve information about climate history from the ice, but there has been a race against time as these glaciers melt, making new history.

Thin Ice is an exciting adventure story. The logistics of transporting the scientists and their drilling equipment into the most inaccessible places on Earth bring hair-raising tales. The team members struggle with altitude sickness, windstorms destroy the solar panels that power their drill, crampons get stuck in ladders deployed over widening crevasses, and the crew tries to float ice core samples off the mountain with a hot-air balloon.


Friday, December 30, 2005

Bill on Illegal-Immigrant Aid Draws Fire

Churches, social service agencies and immigration groups across the country are rallying against a provision in the recently passed House border-security bill that would make it a federal crime to offer services or assistance to illegal immigrants.The measure would broaden the nation's immigrant-smuggling law so that people who assist or shield illegal immigrants would be subject to prosecution. Offenders, who might include priests, nurses or social workers, could face up to five years in prison. The proposal would also allow the authorities to seize some assets of those convicted of such a crime.

Proponents of the legislation have argued that such provisions would make it harder for illegal immigrants to thrive in the United States by discouraging people from helping them. The legislation, which cleared the House this month, could also subject the spouses and colleagues of illegal workers to prosecution.

Several Republicans and Democrats in Congress say the measure appears unlikely to become law. But the legislation has touched off an outcry among groups that teach English and offer job training, medical assistance and other services to immigrants.


(Now this proposed legislation is certainly a reflection of Christian values! eaprez)

After 5 Years, White House Core Intact

Loyalty and continuity have marked the Bush White House since early on. After two wars, devastating strikes by terrorists and hurricanes, a bruising re-election and countless legislative battles, President Bush's team is continuing the trend — defying history and shakeup rumors to remain almost entirely intact five years in.

"They've been there long enough to qualify for the Medicare prescription drug benefit," quipped Paul Light, a professor of organizational studies at New York University.

The big question is how much longer Bush's inner circle can hold together.

Only a handful of the president's most senior aides have departed since Bush came to Washington in 2001. Though some have shifted roles, it's a familiar cast of characters at the president's side: Vice President Dick Cheney, chief of staff Andy Card, political guru Karl Rove, deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin, counselor Dan Bartlett, budget chief Josh Bolten, White House counsel Harriet Miers and press secretary Scott McClellan among them.


(I'm hoping Fitzgerald takes some of the mystery out of this by issuing another indictment against Rove. eaprez)

US probes eavesdropping leak

The U.S. Justice Department has launched an investigation to determine who disclosed a secret NSA eavesdropping operation approved by President George W. Bush after the September 11 attacks, officials said on Friday.

"We are opening an investigation into the unauthorized disclosure of classified materials related to the NSA," one official said.

Earlier this month Bush acknowledged the program and called its disclosure to The New York Times () "a shameful act." He said he presumed a Justice Department leak investigation into who disclosed the National Security Agency eavesdropping operation would get under way.

Justice Department officials would give no details of who requested the probe or how it would be conducted.


(I wonder if it's against the law to leak a secret operation that isn't legal to begin with. I think the legality of what the president ordered should be determined before wasting time/money finding out who divulged what they were doing. eaprez)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Merriam-Webster Online has created a window into our national preoccupations by releasing the Top 10 most-looked-up words of 2005, in order of their most-looked-uppedness.

      1. integrity
      2. refugee
      3. contempt
      4. filibuster
      5. insipid
      6. tsunami
      7. pandemic
      8. conclave
      9. levee
      10. inept

Is Wal-Mart Good For America?

Low wages, poor benefits and worker abuse are the hallmarks of Wal-Mart's business practices, and the retail giant is setting the example for companies all across America.

You can learn more about how Wal-Mart's policies send American jobs overseas by watching the rebroadcast of PBS's Frontline documentary, "Is Wal-Mart Good for America?" on Tuesday, January 3.

Click here to check local listings to see when the one-hour special—one of the highest-rated programs in Frontline history—will air in your community.

NSA Web Site Places 'Cookies' on Computers

The National Security Agency's Internet site has been placing files on visitors' computers that can track their Web surfing activity despite strict federal rules banning most of them.

These files, known as "cookies," disappeared after a privacy activist complained and The Associated Press made inquiries this week, and agency officials acknowledged Wednesday they had made a mistake. Nonetheless, the issue raises questions about privacy at a spy agency already on the defensive amid reports of a secretive eavesdropping program in the United States.


Pentagon Calls Its Pro-U.S. Websites Legal

U.S. military websites that pay journalists to write articles and commentary supporting military activities in Europe and Africa do not violate U.S. law or Pentagon policies, a review by the Pentagon's chief investigator has concluded. But a senior Defense Department official said this week that the websites could still be shut down to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

The Pentagon inspector general's inquiry concludes that two websites targeting audiences in the Balkans and in the Maghreb region of northern Africa are consistent with U.S. laws prohibiting covert propaganda, are properly identified as U.S.-government products and are maintained in close coordination with U.S. embassies abroad, according to a previously undisclosed summary of the report's findings.


'What's in that bill?' The risk of deadline votes.

The first session of the 109th Congress is over, but lawmakers and interest groups are still sorting out what surprises may have been buried in its final bills.

A clause added here or lifted there can shift the fortunes of whole industries and regions. Even insiders say it's tough to follow what's in, what's out, and why.

But even before the results are tallied, observers say it's been a bumper year for add-ons, especially in conference committees behind closed doors.

The year ended in a crush of tough negotiations, late-night votes, and hastily printed bills so vast that few lawmakers had time to read them. Early in the morning on Dec. 19, lawmakers got their first glimpse of the 774-page final version of a nearly $40 billion spending cut bill. The time? 1:12 a.m. House members had to vote on the measure just four and a half hours later.

"It's just one example of the increasing breakdown of any rules in the Congress," says Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a public interest group.


Homeland Security Is Faulted in Audit

Nearly three years after it was formed, the immense Department of Homeland Security remains hampered by severe management and financial problems that contributed to the flawed response to Hurricane Katrina, according to an independent audit released yesterday.

The report by Homeland Security Inspector General Richard L. Skinner aimed some of its most pointed criticism at one of DHS's major entities, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Katrina and a subsequent storm, Rita, increased the load on FEMA's "already overburdened resources and infrastructure," the report said.

In addition, the report found, "the circumstances created by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita provide an unprecedented opportunity for fraud, waste and abuse," primarily because FEMA's grant and contract programs are still not being managed properly.


How a Well-Connected Lobbyist Became the Center of a Far-Reaching Corruption Scandal

Jack Abramoff liked to slip into dialogue from "The Godfather" as he led his lobbying colleagues in planning their next conquest on Capitol Hill. In a favorite bit, he would mimic an ice-cold Michael Corleone facing down a crooked politician's demand for a cut of Mafia gambling profits: "Senator, you can have my answer now if you like. My offer is this: nothing."

The playacting provided a clue to how Abramoff saw himself -- the power behind the scenes who directed millions of dollars in Indian gambling proceeds to favored lawmakers, the puppet master who pulled the strings of officials in key places, the businessman who was building an international casino empire.

Abramoff is the central figure in what could become the biggest congressional corruption scandal in generations. Justice Department prosecutors are pressing him and his lawyers to settle fraud and bribery allegations by the end of this week, sources knowledgeable about the case said. Unless he reaches a plea deal, he faces a trial Jan. 9 in Florida in a related fraud case.


Presidents all the same when scandal strikes

Two of the most powerful moments of political déjà vu I have ever experienced took place recently in the context of the Bush administration's defense of presidentially ordered electronic spying on American citizens.

First, in the best tradition of former President Bill Clinton's classic, "it-all-depends-on-what-the-meaning-of-is-is" defense, President Bush responded to a question at a White House news conference about what now appears to be a clear violation of federal electronic monitoring laws by trying to argue that he had not ordered the National Security Agency to "monitor" phone and e-mail communications of American citizens without court order; he had merely ordered them to "detect" improper communications.

This example of presidential phrase parsing was followed quickly by the president's press secretary, Scott McLellan, dead-panning to reporters that when Bush said a couple of years ago that he would never allow the NSA to monitor Americans without a court order, what he really meant was something different than what he actually said. If McLellan's last name had been McCurry, and the topic an illicit relationship with a White House intern rather than illegal spying on American citizens, I could have easily been listening to a White House news conference at the height of the Clinton impeachment scandal.


Bush Team Rethinks Its Plan for Recovery

President Bush shifted his rhetoric on Iraq in recent weeks after an intense debate among advisers about how to pull out of his political free fall, with senior adviser Karl Rove urging a campaign-style attack on critics while younger aides pushed for more candor about setbacks in the war, according to Republican strategists.

The result was a hybrid of the two approaches as Bush lashed out at war opponents in Congress, then turned to a humbler assessment of events on the ground in Iraq that included admissions about how some of his expectations had been frustrated. The formula helped Bush regain his political footing as record-low poll numbers began to rebound. Now his team is rethinking its approach to his second term in hopes of salvaging it.

The Iraq push culminated the rockiest political year of this presidency, which included the demise of signature domestic priorities, the indictment of the vice president's top aide, the collapse of a Supreme Court nomination, a fumbled response to a natural disaster and a rising death toll in an increasingly unpopular war. It was not until Bush opened a fresh campaign to reassure the public on Iraq that he regained some traction.

The lessons drawn by a variety of Bush advisers inside and outside the White House as they map a road to recovery in 2006 include these: Overarching initiatives such as restructuring Social Security are unworkable in a time of war. The public wants a balanced appraisal of what is happening on the battlefield as well as pledges of victory. And Iraq trumps all.


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.
Mohandas Gandhi

Group accuses Santorum of switch

A conservative organization that touts itself as a supporter of traditional values blasted Sen. Rick Santorum for his withdrawal of support for the Dover Area School District's unconstitutional intelligent design policy.

"Senator Rick Santorum's agreement with Judge John Jones' decision ... is yet another example of why conservatives can no longer trust the senator," the American Family Association of Pennsylvania said in a news release Friday.

The association's president, Diane Gramley, said Santorum - who is expected to face a tough re-election challenge next year from state Treasurer Robert P. Casey Jr. - should heed her organization's remarks.


A Veteran's Iraq Message Upsets Army Recruiters

As those thinking of becoming soldiers arrive on the slushy doorstep of the Army recruiting station here, they cannot miss the message posted in bold black letters on the storefront right next door.

"Remember the Fallen Heroes," the sign reads, and then it ticks off numbers - the number of American troops killed in Iraq, the number wounded, the number of days gone by since this war began.

The sign, put up by a former soldier, has stirred intense, though always polite, debate in this city along the edge of Lake Superior in northeastern Minnesota. In a way, many of the nation's vast and complicated arguments about war are playing out on a single block here, around a simple piece of wood.

The seven military recruiters here, six of whom have themselves served in Iraq, want the sign taken away. "It's disheartening," Staff Sgt. Gary J. Capan, the station's commander, said. "Everyone knows that people are dying in Iraq, but to walk past this on the way to work every day is too much."

But Scott Cameron, a local man who was wounded in the Vietnam War, says his sign should remain. Mr. Cameron volunteers for a candidate for governor of Minnesota whose campaign opened a storefront office next door to the recruiting station, and he has permission to post the message he describes as "not antiwar, but pro-veteran."


Impeachment Buzz

Ruth Conniff

What sense does it make that some of the same Washington media and political leaders who countenanced the Clinton impeachment over a semen-stained dress, somberly intoning about the "rule of law," consider impeaching Bush beyond the pale?

No sense at all.

The question about impeaching Bush has nothing to do with legal grounds, and everything to do with politics.

But in the last few weeks, the political climate has been changing, so that more people are seriously considering whether Bush has committed one or more impeachable offenses. The revelations about Bush's spying on Americans through the NSA helped change things a bit.

Representatives Johns Conyers and John Lewis and Senator Barbara Boxer are talking, in public, about impeachment now.


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Peace hath higher tests of manhood, than battle ever knew.
John Greenleaf Whittier

Recently Added Hyper Links

The Divided States of bu$hmerika
This blog has HUNDREDs of links to more leftist sites. He has an array of people posting to his site which keeps it interesting.

Deep Thought

Original commentary on current events.

Liberally Speaking
Essays from a liberal point of view.

Iraqis Condemn 'Election Fraud'

Thousands of Iraqis have staged a protest in Baghdad about results from the recent parliamentary elections, which they say were tainted by fraud.

Demonstrators chanted slogans alleging the polls were rigged in favour of the governing Shia religious bloc.

Some politicians have been calling for a campaign of civil disobedience if their complaints about the election are not properly investigated.

Marchers carried banners supporting Sunni Arab and secular Shia candidates.

They called for a national unity government to be set up that would share power more widely among Iraq's different communities.


Will a Trent Lott Retirement Hand Senate to Dems?

Trent Lott within the next week plans to decide between seeking a fourth term in the U.S. Senate from Mississippi or retiring from public life.

That could determine whether Republicans keep control of the Senate in next year's elections. For the longer range, Lott's retirement and replacement could signal that Southern political realignment has peaked and now is receding.


Bush's counsel on spying now under close scrutiny

When President Bush sought to reassure the country that his authorization of spying on Americans without warrants was a reasonable exercise of his power, he emphasized that his orders were always reviewed by the attorney general and the White House counsel.

''Each review is based on a fresh intelligence assessment of terrorist threats to continuity of our government and the threat of catastrophic damage to our homeland," Bush said in his Dec. 17 radio address. ''The review includes approval by our nation's top legal officials, including the attorney general and the counsel to the president."

The current occupants of those jobs are Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and White House counsel Harriet E. Miers. Prior to 2005, Gonzales was White House counsel and John Ashcroft was attorney general.

The current dispute over whether the president had the authority to order domestic spying without warrants, despite a law against it, has put new focus on the legal officials who have guided Bush. And the qualifications of Ashcroft, Gonzales, and Miers could become a focus of the upcoming Senate hearings on the spying decision.

Legal advice given to the president in national security matters can hardly be of greater importance. Telling Bush that he lacks the authority to make a particular move could leave the country vulnerable to attack; assuring him that he has the power to override civil liberties could consign innocent suspects to imprisonment, abuse, or disappearance to secret holding areas in other countries.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, Bush's legal advisers have cleared the way for him to hold enemy combatants without trials; eavesdrop on overseas telephone calls and e-mails; place ever-greater numbers of government documents under a veil of secrecy; imprison a US citizen indefinitely on the suspicion of terrorist links; and, according to The Washington Post, operate a secret CIA prison in an Eastern European country.

In each case, the legal official responsible for assessing the extent of Bush's powers was Ashcroft, Gonzales, or Miers.


Most Recent
Operations Iraq Freedom and Enduring Freedom casualties

December 27, 2005
Army Spc. Lance S. Sage
26, of Hempstead , N.Y.

Army Pvt. Joshua M. Morberg 20, of Sparks , Nev.

Complete Casualty List

Monday, December 26, 2005

Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.
Baruch Spinoza

Barron's Editorial Calls for Congress to Consider Impeachment

Barron's editorial page editor Thomas G. Donlan penned a column for Monday's edition entitled "Unwarranted Executive Power" which calls on members of the House Judiciary Committee to investigate if the Bush Administration violated the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and to either change the law or consider impeachment, RAW STORY has learned.

Barron's Magazine is a weekly publication for investors published by the Wall Street Journal.


Ohio Soldier Killed Christmas Eve

SEVEN HILLS, Ohio (AP) — A Cleveland-area soldier was killed in Iraq on Christmas Eve when he was attacked by enemy forces, the Department of Defense announced yesterday.

Master Sgt. Joseph J. Andres Jr., 34, of Seven Hills, was conducting combat operations at the time of the attack in Baqouba, the Defense Department said.

He died Saturday in Balad of injuries suffered in the fighting, according to a release.

Andres was assigned to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, N.C. A message was left yesterday seeking comment from Andres’ family.

The Department of Defense did not provide any other information on Andres’ death.

Silent Night

By William Rivers Pitt

The first paragraph of the story reads, "An Ohio soldier was killed in Iraq on Christmas Eve when he was attacked by enemy forces, the Department of Defense announced Sunday." This lost soldier from Ohio is one of 2,168 who have died in Iraq. His death is no harder than all the others, no less wrenching for his family. Somehow, however, this death on Christmas Eve brought an extra twist of the knife for me, though I did not know the man, and now, never will.

I'm not sure why. Certainly I am thinking of his family, who found out the day before Christmas that a beloved son was gone. I cannot even begin to imagine their sorrow. They experienced, along with every other family of every soldier fighting over there, the fear of that knock on the door, or that phone call, or that telegram. On Christmas Eve, the terrible message came. Santa brought them a crisply folded American flag, and the thanks of a grateful nation. Christmas will never be the same for them, ever. There are no words for this. None.


Bush Seeks More Wins for His Agenda in '06

President Bush, bruised by months of setbacks, enters the new year hoping to win congressional battles over tax cuts and immigration, get rebellious Republicans back in step and nurture a new democracy in Iraq — the make-or-break issue of his legacy.

Expect the president to bring in 2006 the same way he ended the old: Trumpeting good economic news and talking, reassuringly, about Iraq where excitement over a historic ballot has been tempered by growing disenchantment with the war and a death toll of U.S. troops that tops 2,160.

The war in Iraq and sluggish diplomatic efforts to deter the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea will continue to dominate foreign policy for the president, who plans a trip early in the new year to India.

At home, Bush will be after the Senate to confirm Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court in January. He also wants immigration reform, including a guest worker program.'

Absent from his to-do list is a plan to overhaul the tax code. White House advisers say there may be some efforts to simplify it, but a sweeping restructuring would need more discussion. Also off the list is revamping Social Security, the one-time centerpiece of Bush's domestic agenda that failed to gain traction even though he crisscrossed the country to win support for it.


The top US military commander admitted Sunday that Iraqis wanted US and other foreign troops to leave the country "as soon as possible," and said US t

The top US military commander admitted Sunday that Iraqis wanted US and other foreign troops to leave the country "as soon as possible," and said US troop levels in Iraq were now being re-assessed on a monthly basis.

The admission by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Marine General Peter Pace followed a decision by the Pentagon to reduce the current level of 160,000 soldiers in Iraq by two army brigades, which amounts to about 7,000 soldiers.

"Understandably, Iraqis themselves would prefer to have coalition forces leave their country as soon as possible," Pace said in a Christmas Day interview on Fox News Sunday. "They don't want us to leave tomorrow, but they do want us to leave as soon as possible."


Who told the worst political untruth of 2005? (NEWSWEEK)

Every holiday season, we on "The McLaughlin Group" hand out news awards. Some categories, like "Biggest Winner," are easy (My choice was Chief Justice John Roberts, with the oil companies as runner-up). Others are a struggle to fill, like who to insult with the “Overrated” award.

In compiling this year’s list, I had the highest number of entries for the category, “Biggest Lie.” I chose the White House declaration that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby had nothing to do with leaking the identity of a covert CIA agent. They were the principal participants in the effort to discredit former ambassador Joe Wilson because he had raised doubts about one of the pillars of their argument for war, namely that Iraq had tried to buy yellowcake uranium to make a bomb.

Another favorite—heard all the time from the White House—is that “everybody saw the same intelligence we did.” Members of Congress don’t see the President’s Daily Briefing (one of them was the glossed-over pre-9/11 document that warned “Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside the U.S.”), and they didn’t see all the qualifying caveats about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, or the doubts about the credibility of the sources the administration was relying on.

Bush is good at stating the obviously untrue. “We do not torture,” he declared despite ample evidence to the contrary from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo to secret prisons in Eastern Europe. Vice President Cheney went to Capitol Hill repeatedly to lobby for the U.S. right to torture, capitulating only when the vote went against him 90 to 9. Sen. John McCain, who was tortured when held prisoner during the Vietnam War, took on Bush’s No. 2 and stood up for democratic principles. It’s a wonder Cheney has any credibility left after assuring the country in May, “the insurgency is in its last throes.”


Powell Supports Government Eavesdropping

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell on Sunday supported government eavesdropping to prevent terrorism but said a major controversy over presidential powers could have been avoided by obtaining court warrants.


Bush Presses Editors on Security

President Bush has been summoning newspaper editors lately in an effort to prevent publication of stories he considers damaging to national security.

The efforts have failed, but the rare White House sessions with the executive editors of The Washington Post and New York Times are an indication of how seriously the president takes the recent reporting that has raised questions about the administration's anti-terror tactics.

Leonard Downie Jr., The Post's executive editor, would not confirm the meeting with Bush before publishing reporter Dana Priest's Nov. 2 article disclosing the existence of secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe used to interrogate terror suspects. Bill Keller, executive editor of the Times, would not confirm that he, publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Washington bureau chief Philip Taubman had an Oval Office sit-down with the president on Dec. 5, 11 days before reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau revealed that Bush had authorized eavesdropping on Americans and others within the United States without court orders.

But the meetings were confirmed by sources who have been briefed on them but are not authorized to comment because both sides had agreed to keep the sessions off the record. The White House had no comment.


Sunday, December 25, 2005

We consider Christmas as the encounter, the great encounter, the historical encounter, the decisive encounter, between God and mankind. He who has faith knows this truly; let him rejoice.
Pope Paul VI

Number of Operations Iraq Freedom and Enduring Freedom casualties
as confirmed by U.S. Central Command: 2406

Most recent casualties

December 22, 2005

Army 1st Lt. Benjamin T. Britt, 24, of Wheeler, Texas

Army Spc. William Lopez-Feliciano, 33, of Quebradillas, Puerto Rico

December 23, 2005
Army Sgt. Regina C. Reali, 25, of Freso, Calif.

Army Spc. Cheyenne C. Willey, 36, of Fremont, Calif.

December 24, 2005

Army Master Sgt. Joseph J. Andres, Jr., 34, of Seven Hills, Ohio

Army Sgt. Myla L. Maravillosa, 24, of Wahiawa, Hawaii

December 25, 2005
Army Spc. Sergio Gudino, 22, of Pomona, Calif.
Army Spc. Anthony O. Cardinal, 20, of Muskegon, Mich.

Complete Casualty List

This Season's War Cry: Commercialize Christmas, or Else

By Adam Cohen

Religious conservatives have a cause this holiday season: the commercialization of Christmas. They're for it.

The American Family Association is leading a boycott of Target for not using the words "Merry Christmas" in its advertising. (Target denies it has an anti-Merry-Christmas policy.) The Catholic League boycotted Wal-Mart in part over the way its Web site treated searches for "Christmas." Bill O'Reilly, the Fox anchor who last year started a "Christmas Under Siege" campaign, has a chart on his Web site of stores that use the phrase "Happy Holidays," along with a poll that asks, "Will you shop at stores that do not say 'Merry Christmas'?"

This campaign - which is being hyped on Fox and conservative talk radio - is an odd one. Christmas remains ubiquitous, and with its celebrators in control of the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court and every state supreme court and legislature, it hardly lacks for powerful supporters. There is also something perverse, when Christians are being jailed for discussing the Bible in Saudi Arabia and slaughtered in Sudan, about spending so much energy on stores that sell "holiday trees."

What is less obvious, though, is that Christmas's self-proclaimed defenders are rewriting the holiday's history. They claim that the "traditional" American Christmas is under attack by what John Gibson, another Fox anchor, calls "professional atheists" and "Christian haters." But America has a complicated history with Christmas, going back to the Puritans, who despised it. What the boycotters are doing is not defending America's Christmas traditions, but creating a new version of the holiday that fits a political agenda.


(Just another 'non-issue'. A huge distraction to stir up support from the Repulican backwoods base. Once again the ultra right have resorted to the 'politics of hate'. Stirring up evil intent where there was none. Trying to pin the old 'anti-Christian' label on the left since the 'un-American' label has lost its power now that the majority of American's believe the President lied about Iraq. This just goes to show you how desperate they are to remain relevant. Interesting all the noise that was made over the national tree being called the National Christmas Tree rather than the National Holiday Tree. I wish Speaker Hastert showed as much indignation over the slashing of the Food Stamp budget as he showed over the use of the "H" word. It becomes all the more ridiculous when one considers that the Christmas Tree evolves out of a pagan tradition and not a Christian one. Funny how these 'Christians" are so eager to embrace paganisim along with materialisim. I have a totally different understanding of the teachings of Jesus than they do. My faith is in no way diminished by what words are used or not used. The use of the word 'holiday' does not affect how Christmas is observed in my home. To the best of my knowledge, citizens in the United States are not being prohibited from attending church, reading their Bibles or praying. Seems to me these 'persecuted' Christians are very insecure in their faith - otherwise why the constant clammoring to have their religion on display in stores, schools, court rooms and plastered all over holiday sales ads? We don't have "Hanukkah Sales" or "Ramadam Sales" -- it is all such nonsense. This issue is a waste of energy and a distraction from things God would have us focusing on. I believe how one treats others is much more relevant than the use of the word Christmas. When Christians are prohibited from worshiping and are being thrown to the lions or burned at the stake then I will reconsider the assertion that they are being persecuted. Until then "Happy Holidays" eaprez)


Will Durst's 2005 Xma$ Gift Wi$h Li$t

  • For former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, who says he's thinking of running for the presidency in 2008: Second thoughts.
  • For hotel heiress Paris Hilton: A yearlong sabbatical in Kazakhstan. Actually, that gift is for the rest of us.
  • For Bill O'Reilly: A four-day, all-expenses-paid trip to the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco.
  • For Gavin Newsom: A copy of the unrated version of "Requiem for a Dream," so he can see what sexist and offensive really looks like.
  • For Hillary Clinton: A new best seller entitled "It Takes an Impeachment."
  • For the Democratic Senate: The gumption to continue the fight for the rights of minorities. Even if the main minority they're fighting for these days is themselves.
  • For San Francisco Police Chief Heather Fong: A sense of humor.
  • For Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: One blessedly quiet year in a Donald-Rumsfeld-free zone.
  • For the Democratic House of Representatives: A spine.
  • For George W. Bush: An approval rating higher than his average test scores in college.
  • For televangelist Pat Robertson: A "Clue Train" Fast Pass so he can ride for free for 30 days.
  • For Supreme Court Justice nominee Samuel Alito: A Harriet Miers Swimsuit Calendar.
  • For Cindy Sheehan: Whatever it takes to prompt more cries from Rush Limbaugh that she's just a political tool.
  • For Harriet Miers, Bush's personal lawyer who called him the smartest man she ever met: A round-trip ticket to anywhere she wants, as long as it's not Texas.
  • For Vice President Dick Cheney: A five-gallon tub of sneer removal.
  • For Barbara Bush: Fewer photo-ops (and I only remember one).
  • For Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens: Permission to drill for oil in his own butt.
  • For the King of Pop Michael Jackson: Enough sense to stay the hell in Bahrain.
  • For California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: A shoehorn necklace to assist in his chronic foot-in-mouth disease.
  • For all members of our armed forces currently involved in this mission to extricate our oil out from under their sand: A safe return and, yes, that does include our mine-sniffing dolphins.


    Christmas in New Orleans

    Picture Santa's sled with a rolling kitchenette attached and you have some idea about the size of a FEMA trailer. I came across a yard of them when I got lost on the highway near Baton Rouge, where most of my family evacuated out of New Orleans.

    The trailers are not the double-wides I imagined--but some are festooned with lights and an artificial Christmas tree outside the door as in a Bobbie Ann Mason short story. A FEMA trailer is more like a camper that you'd attach with a hitch to your four-wheeler when you want to get out of the city for the weekend. Tiny, but nonetheless a gift.

    As the rest of the country, children and adults alike, envision Christmas with piles of presents from their favorite electronic and clothing stores, the people of the Katrina diaspora are waking up daily with thoughts of clean underwear, one comfortable chair and not being home for the holidays. But they are trying to make it.


    Saturday, December 24, 2005

    Somehow not only for Christmas but all the long year through, the joy that you give to others is the joy that comes back to you. And the more you spend in blessing the poor and lonely and sad, the more of your heart's possessing returns to make you glad.
    John Greenleaf Whittier

    'They' Destroyed New Orleans

    By Kenneth Cooper, AlterNet
    Posted on December 24, 2005, Printed on December 24, 2005

    My little cousin, Kenneth, sits across from me smoking a cigarette in the driver's seat of his car. Like everyone else in my family, he lost everything when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. Now he sits in my driveway on a Saturday night in LaPlace trying to understand why.

    "Them people blew them levees," he says, looking at me, puffing on his cigarette. "They wanted to save the white people Uptown, but they ain't know it was gonna be this bad."

    I just look at him when he says this. He's sincere, not a trace of doubt in his voice. Some people might call him crazy for believing a theory like that. But truth is, he's not alone, far from it. Last month I went to Arlington and visited some of my in-laws, who evacuated there. When the subject of Katrina and the levees came up, all of them went to talking the exact same way.

    "That's how they do us."

    "They ain't want us there in the first place."

    "So you know they don't want us back."

    "And they wonder why people down there runnin' up in stores."


    The Best $24.95 MoveOn Ever Spent

    If you're a typical fan of Flickr, the community photo-sharing site that was recently bought by Yahoo, then you are undoubtedly already familiar with Flickr's tagging system, which allows anyone who uploads a photo to the site to add his or her own topical notations to each photo. One of the site's best features is its main tags page, where not only can you see some of the hottest tags in the last few days (snowday and lennon being two example), but you can also browse the site's most popular tags, which are arranged in a "tag cloud" that shows each word (beach, birthday, cameraphone, japan, me, vacation) and indicates its relative popularity by the word's type size. Click on any tag and you're taken to a stream of recent public photos with that tag.

    But if by some chance you stumble onto one Flickr member's home page, you'll discover a very odd-seeming list of tags in its cloud, led by antiroverally, approved, candlelight, cindysheehan, faceamerica, great, memberadded, mothers, photopetition, and vigil.

    Welcome to the public Flickr account of With little notice, the giant liberal advocacy group has dipped its toes into the social networking slipstream, and so far it's quite enthralled with the experiment.

    Says MoveOn CTO Patrick Michael Kane, of the firm We Also Walk Dogs, "Flickr has got to be the best $24.95 we've ever spent. We've been able to review, organize and make available over 11,000 photos to MoveOn (and Flickr!) members." In November alone, he says, the group uploaded over a gigabyte of photos, and it has been able to make photos from campaigns available in real time.


    Friday, December 23, 2005

    Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.
    Oren Arnold

    Head of CIA Tells Turks to Prepare for Attack on Iran

    You’d think the fact Porter Goss, head broom sweeper at the CIA, recently told the Turkish government the United States plans to attack Iran and Syria would be headline splashing news in the New York Times and the Washington Post. But although the news was carried in the Turkish press, it elicited hardly a murmur here in America, with the exception of United Press International and Reuters. As for the latter, only Goss’ meeting with Turkish officials on the “separatist terrorist organization” known as the Kurdistan Workers Party was mentioned and nothing about the impending attack, while the UPI mentioned it in the fourth paragraph, stating: “Goss said that Iran sees Turkey as an enemy and will ‘export its regime,’ warning Ankara to be ready for a possible U.S. aerial operation against Iran and Syria.”


    EU arrest warrant issued for 22 CIA operatives

    A Milan court has issued a European arrest warrant for 22 CIA agents suspected of kidnapping an Egyptian cleric from Italy’s financial capital in 2003, Prosecutor Armando Spataro said on Friday.

    Milan magistrates suspect a CIA team grabbed Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr off a Milan street and flew him for interrogation to Egypt, where he said he was tortured.

    Prosecutors asked the Italian Justice Ministry last month to seek the extradition of the suspects from the United States, but Justice Minister Roberto Castelli has not yet decided whether to act on the request.


    Frist's Setbacks as Senate Leader Imperil His Presidential Bid

    Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist last week rejected anything less than a full renewal of the Bush administration's anti-terror legislation. He said he had ``made it very clear'' he wouldn't accept a temporary extension of the USA Patriot Act, as Democrats were demanding.

    Six days later, after threatening to allow the law to lapse, Frist accepted a short extension of the law. The Republican leader was forced to swallow that reversal because eight members of his own party had joined with Democrats to support an extension.

    The Dec. 21 defeat capped a year of setbacks for Frist, whose leadership has been weakened by a series of missteps, divisions within his own Senate Republican caucus and a probe of his stock trades by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Most Capitol Hill observers now regard Frist as ``the weakest majority leader in perhaps 50 years,'' said Charles Cook, editor of the Washington-based Cook Political Report.

    This performance has taken a toll on his presidential aspirations in 2008, once regarded as promising. Earlier this year, Republican activists such as Gary Bauer, president of American Values, an Arlington, Virginia-based group that opposes abortion and same-sex marriage, had called Frist a serious contender. Now, said Cook, ``I don't think he has a snowball's chance in hell.''


    Power We Didn't Grant

    By Tom Daschle
    Friday, December 23, 2005; A21

    In the face of mounting questions about news stories saying that President Bush approved a program to wiretap American citizens without getting warrants, the White House argues that Congress granted it authority for such surveillance in the 2001 legislation authorizing the use of force against al Qaeda. On Tuesday, Vice President Cheney said the president "was granted authority by the Congress to use all means necessary to take on the terrorists, and that's what we've done."

    As Senate majority leader at the time, I helped negotiate that law with the White House counsel's office over two harried days. I can state categorically that the subject of warrantless wiretaps of American citizens never came up. I did not and never would have supported giving authority to the president for such wiretaps. I am also confident that the 98 senators who voted in favor of authorization of force against al Qaeda did not believe that they were also voting for warrantless domestic surveillance.

    On the evening of Sept. 12, 2001, the White House proposed that Congress authorize the use of military force to "deter and pre-empt any future acts of terrorism or aggression against the United States." Believing the scope of this language was too broad and ill defined, Congress chose instead, on Sept. 14, to authorize "all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons [the president] determines planned, authorized, committed or aided" the attacks of Sept. 11. With this language, Congress denied the president the more expansive authority he sought and insisted that his authority be used specifically against Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.

    Just before the Senate acted on this compromise resolution, the White House sought one last change. Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words "in the United States and" after "appropriate force" in the agreed-upon text. This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas -- where we all understood he wanted authority to act -- but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens. I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority. I refused.


    Appeals Court Won't Speed Up DeLay Trial

    A Texas appeals court on Thursday rejected a bid by U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay to get a speedy trial on a money-laundering charge lodged against the powerful Republican lawmaker.

    DeLay had sought an quick trial on the charge in the hopes that an acquittal would allow him to return to his post as U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader next month.

    He gave up that post in September after he was indicted in Travis County, Texas on charges related to violations of campaign-finance laws.

    DeLay's lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, said he would appeal the ruling from the three-judge panel and ask the state's highest criminal appeals court to dismiss the case.


    House Passes One-Month Extension of Patriot Act

    The House of Representatives agreed to extend a controversial domestic surveillance law this afternoon, but it limited the extension to a little over one month and rejected a carefully brokered compromise from the Senate that had given the law a six-month reprieve.


    Iraqis March, Say Elections Were Rigged

    Large demonstrations broke out across the country Friday to denounce parliamentary elections that protesters say were rigged in favor of the main religious Shiite coalition. Also, the U.S. military said two soldiers were killed when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in Baghdad on Friday.

    No other details were released. At least 2,163 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.


    Thursday, December 22, 2005

    "Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal." : Martin Luther King, Jr.

    'Impeachment' Talk, Pro and Con, Appears in Media at Last

    Suddenly this week, scattered outposts in the media have started mentioning the “I” word, or at least the “IO” phrase: impeach or impeachable offense.

    The sudden outbreak of anger or candor has been sparked by the uproar over revelations of a White House approved domestic spying program, with some conservatives joining in the shouting.

    Ron Hutcheson, White House correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers (known as “Hutch” to the president), observed that "some legal experts asserted that Bush broke the law on a scale that could warrant his impeachment.” Indeed such talk from legal experts was common in print or on cable news.

    Newsweek online noted a “chorus” of impeachment chat, and its Washington reporter, Howard Fineman, declared that Bush opponents are “calling him Nixon 2.0 and have already hauled forth no less an authority than John Dean to testify to the president’s dictatorial perfidy. The ‘I-word’ is out there, and, I predict, you are going to hear more of it next year — much more.”


    U.S. Allies in Iraq Want Out, Adding to Bush Pressure

    The U.S.-led ``coalition of the willing'' in Iraq will be less willing in 2006.

    The U.K., Italy and South Korea are making plans to reduce or even withdraw their troops by the end of next year, following other nations, such as Ukraine and Bulgaria, that have already started to depart. ``It is not a matter of if, but how,'' said Roberto Minotti, senior research fellow at the Aspen Institute in Rome.

    The reduction of foreign troop levels will make little difference on the ground in Iraq, where U.S. troops now number 160,000, out of a total force of 184,000. The real impact may be political, undercutting President George W. Bush's claims to be leading an international operation and adding to pressure on him to set a firm plan for a reduction in U.S. forces.

    ``It makes even more of a mockery of what the administration likes to call a coalition,'' said retired U.S. Army Major General William Nash, now a fellow at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. ``My guess is that it would bring the international legitimacy of the operation into question.''

    When U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq in March 2003, the coalition included 35 nations, whose numbers are now down to 28. By the end of this month, Ukraine and Bulgaria will have withdrawn combined troops of 1,250. ``Our troops will be back home before the New Year,'' Ukraine's Chief of General Staff Serhiy Kyrychenko said at a Dec. 12 press conference in Kiev.


    Judges on Surveillance Court To Be Briefed on Spy Program

    The presiding judge of a secret court that oversees government surveillance in espionage and terrorism cases is arranging a classified briefing for her fellow judges to address their concerns about the legality of President Bush's domestic spying program, according to several intelligence and government sources.

    Several members of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court said in interviews that they want to know why the administration believed secretly listening in on telephone calls and reading e-mails of U.S. citizens without court authorization was legal. Some of the judges said they are particularly concerned that information gleaned from the president's eavesdropping program may have been improperly used to gain authorized wiretaps from their court.

    "The questions are obvious," said U.S. District Judge Dee Benson of Utah. "What have you been doing, and how might it affect the reliability and credibility of the information we're getting in our court?"

    Such comments underscored the continuing questions among judges about the program, which most of them learned about when it was disclosed last week by the New York Times. On Monday, one of 10 FISA judges, federal Judge James Robertson, submitted his resignation -- in protest of the president's action, according to two sources familiar with his decision. He will maintain his position on the U.S. District Court here.


    IRAQ: Game Over!

    The last hope for peace in Iraq was stomped to death this week. The victory of the Shiite religious coalition in the December 15 election hands power for the next four years to a fanatical band of fundamentalist Shiite parties backed by Iran, above all to the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Quietly backed by His Malevolence, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, sustained by a 20,000-strong paramilitary force called the Badr Brigade, and with both overt and covert support from Iran's intelligence service and its Revolutionary Guard corps, SCIRI will create a theocratic bastion state in its southern Iraqi fiefdom and use its power in Baghdad to rule what's left of the Iraqi state by force.

    The consequences of SCIRI's victory are manifold. But there is no silver lining, no chance for peace talks among Iraq's factions, no chance for international mediation. There is no centrist force that can bridge the factional or sectarian divides. Next stop: civil war.

    There isn't any point in looking for silver linings in the catastrophic Iraqi vote. The likely next prime minister, Adel Abdel Mahdi, is a smooth-talking SCIRI thug. His boss, Abdel Aziz Hakim of SCIRI, is the former commander of the Badr Brigade and a militant cleric who has issued bloodthirsty calls for a no-holds-barred military solution to the insurgency. The scores of secret torture prisons by the SCIRI-led Iraqi ministry of the interior will proliferate, and SCIRI-led death squads will start going down their lists of targets. The divisive, sectarian constitution that was rammed down Iraq's throat in October by the Shiite religious bloc will be preserved intact under the new, "permanent government" of Iraq led by SCIRI.


    Santorum now critical of Dover case

    Early this year, Sen. Rick Santorum commended the Dover Area School District for "attempting to teach the controversy of evolution."

    But one day after a federal judge ruled that the district's policy on intelligent design was unconstitutional, Santorum said he was troubled by court testimony that showed some board members were motivated by religion in adopting the policy.

    And, he said in an interview, he disagreed with the board for mandating the teaching of intelligent design, rather than just the controversy surrounding evolution.

    Santorum - who sits on the advisory board of the Thomas More Law Center, which defended the school board in court - said the case offered "a bad set of facts" to test the concept that theories other than evolution should be taught in science classrooms.

    "I thought the Thomas More Law Center made a huge mistake in taking this case and in pushing this case to the extent they did," Santorum said.

    He said he intends to withdraw his affiliation with the Michigan-based public-interest law firm that promotes Christian values.


    Wiretap Furor Widens Republican Divide

    President Bush's claim that he has a legal right to eavesdrop on some U.S. citizens without court approval has widened an ideological gap within his party.

    On one side is the national-security camp, made even more numerous by loyalty to a wartime president. On the other are the small-government civil libertarians who have long held a privileged place within the Republican Party but whose ranks have ebbed since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

    The surveillance furor, at least among some conservatives, also has heightened worries that the party is straying from many of its core principles the longer it remains in control of both the White House and Congress.Conservatives have knocked heads in recent months over the administration's detainment and treatment of terrorist suspects, and as recently as yesterday over provisions of the Patriot Act. Strains also have grown among conservatives over government spending and whether to loosen U.S. immigration rules.


    Lobbyist Nears Terms on Plea Deal

    Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist under indictment for fraud in South Florida, is expected to complete a plea agreement in the Miami criminal case, setting the stage for him to become a crucial witness in a broad federal corruption investigation, people with direct knowledge of the case said.

    One participant in the case said the deal could be made final as early as next week.

    The terms of the plea deal have not been completed, and the negotiations are especially complicated because they involve prosecutors both in Miami and in Washington, where Mr. Abramoff is being investigated in a separate influence-peddling inquiry, participants said. Details of what he feels comfortable pleading guilty to are "probably largely worked out," the participant said, while the details of the prison sentence are less resolved.


    Progressive Talking Points 12/22/05

    Drilling for a Plan

    In a severe defeat to oil drilling backers, the Senate yesterday blocked an attempt to open Alaska’s wildlife refuge to oil drilling. Sen. Ted Stevens and other conservative lawmakers’ attempt to attach the amendment to a must-pass military budget bill was rebuffed by a vote of 56-44. The fate of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has yet to be determined, but what is certain is that drilling in Alaska will not solve our oil dependency problem.

    • The Senate Rules could not help conservative lawmakers push their agenda this time. The Senate stood up to Sen. Stevens and those who tried to hijack the defense spending bill. When the drilling language was removed, they quickly and overwhelmingly approved the bill with a 93-0 vote. Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) has threatened to put drilling into a filibuster-proof bill next year, signaling that conservatives are not ready to give up their special interest fight.

    • Oil drilling in Alaska is not the answer to our nation’s energy crisis. The American people know this, but somebody has to tell Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK). Stevens has been pushing oil drilling in his home state for 25 years to no avail. Drilling would only mean the "equivalent of about 1 cent per gallon of gasoline at the pump, nowhere near the amount needed to make a dent in our energy crisis.

    • The way to fix our nation’s energy crisis is through a real energy bill. Congress had an opportunity to affect real change with this year’s energy bill, but they instead catered to special interests and did nothing to address our nation’s dependence on foreign oil. The Center for American Progress has a plan to wean ourselves from oil addiction by moving away from oil dependence, enhancing domestic energy supply, prioritizing energy efficiency to enhance supply and improve reliability, and tackling global warming.

    Wednesday, December 21, 2005

    Mourn not the dead that in the cool earth lie, but rather mourn the apathetic, throng the coward and the meek who see the world's great anguish and its wrong, and dare not speak: Ralph Chaplin

    Living In The Twilight Zone

    By EAPrez

    I find my emotions today running the gamut of sadness, hopelessness, anger, disgust, disbelief and fear.

    I am saddened by the events we see unfolding in our nation - and I am loosing hope that the people in power can or will be stopped. I fear for our nations future. I worry that our chance has passed and that we are witnessing the last gasps of democracy in our country. I am disgusted that so many people are apathetic and disinterested about the events going on. Some are ignorant of history and don’t understand the significance of this moment - others are married to a ‘party’ rather than the principles the country was founded on and others have their own agenda which they believe is of divine origin. Others are just plain shallow devoting their attention to mindless pursuits.

    Sometimes I feel like I’m a character in the old Twilight Zone series. The world as I knew it now has a sense of ‘unreality’ about it. I have to pinch myself sometimes to make sure I am awake. A few examples:

    Currently, we have in power an administration who came into that power by means that at least 50% of us found “questionable”. A questionable election? In OUR country? Yet half the country became weary of the entire matter and told the rest of us to get over it. Now we find out --- that the conspiracy folks were right --- Deibold machines can be hacked and two Florida Counties have ended their love affair with Deibold. It is incomprehensible to me that after those recent revelations that ALL counties across America didn’t dump Deibold. Like I said, ‘unreality’.

    I feel disbelief that the administration in power when told of the serious threat of terrorism decided to sit by, do nothing, and let it happen. Rather than question the chain of events surrounding the attack - our President was praised for being able to talk in complete sentences through a bullhorn and for ordering the no brainer attack on Afghanistan. This was not a moment of great leadership as has been portrayed. Anyone with half a brain would have minimally done what Bush did in the aftermath of 9/11. We are told over and over and over that this was the moment he became a great leader. I see this as the moment when the public and the media surrendered their power and became sheep like.

    I feel disbelief that although there was overwhelming evidence to the contrary -- the citizens of this country were conned into supporting a war that was totally unnecessary. They voluntarily chose not to use their critical thinking skills and endorsed our president dropping bombs on a country that was not a threat. I am angry that the press has been slow to find and report the facts even though they were always out there to be found.

    I feel disbelief because In my country we have people in charge who support torture and with a straight face legitimize it -OPENLY- while some of our citizens nod their heads in agreement. We have established secret prisons around the globe, our government kidnaps citizens of other nations, jails people without charges or representation - even our own citizens - we’ve established military tribunals - and now the revelation that the president has authorized wire tapping. Good God what has become of us? Where will it end?

    After Katrina hit the gulf coast we became aware of how ill prepared the government is for a catastrophic event. We’ve heard in the media since then just how little this administration has done to prevent another attack. That we aren’t as safe as the president states.

    I fear another catastrophic event is in our future - the near future. Kerry indicated in the presidential campaign that his biggest concern would be the nuclear weapons in Russia -- yet this administration is doing nothing about them. A nuclear detonation would be much more catastrophic than a category five hurricane. An event like that will be just what this administration ordered to facilitate the dismantling of our government and to secure their perpetual power. What’s even more frightening is that a significant number of the population will go along with it - convinced that its the only way they can be protected.

    Yes, I’m very sad today.