Friday, March 21, 2008

Shrub's Last Year


Jobless claims surge to highest level in 6 yearsClaims for unemployment insurance at highest point since March 2002; layoff filings worse than expected
August 7, 2008
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of newly laid off people signing up for jobless benefits last week climbed to its highest point in more than six years as companies cut back given the faltering economy.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that new applications filed for unemployment insurance rose by a seasonally adjusted 7,000 to 455,000 for the week ending Aug. 2. The increase left claims at their highest level since late March 2002.
A program to locate people eligible for jobless benefits played a role in the increase, a Labor Department analyst said. However, the analyst couldn't say how much of a role.
The latest snapshot of layoff filings was worse than analysts expected. They were forecasting new claims to drop to around 430,000.
The data disappointed Wall Street. Stocks appeared headed for a lower opening with the Dow Jones industrial average futures down 99 at the 11,532 level.
The new layoff filings were distorted by the outreach program to notify people that they could qualify for additional benefits under a new law.
When people went to state claims offices to apply for these extended benefits, state officials discovered that some were eligible for - but haven't filed for - their initial unemployment benefits, the Labor Department analyst said. That accounted for some of last week's increase, he said.
Meanwhile, the four-week moving average of claims, which smooths out weekly fluctuations, rose to 419,500 last week, the highest since mid-July 2003.
The number of people continuing to collect unemployment benefits went up by 31,000 to 3.3 million for the week ending July 26, the most recent period for which that information is available. That was the highest since early December 2003.
Among the companies announcing job cuts in late July or early August were: General Motors Corp (GM, Fortune 500)., Weyerhaeuser Co (WY, Fortune 500)., and Starbucks Corp (SBUX, Fortune 500). Bennigan's restaurants, owned by privately held Metromedia Restaurant Group, are closing, driving more people to unemployment lines.
Squeezed by high energy prices and fallout from housing and credit troubles, employers clamped down even more on hiring in July. The nation's unemployment rate jumped to a five-year high of 5.7%, the government reported last week. Employers cut jobs every month so far this year, driving up losses to 463,000.
Economists expect another half million jobs to be eliminated this year alone. The jobless rate could hit 6.5% by the middle of next year.
The country is getting pounded by many negative forces, the Federal Reserve said Tuesday.
"Labor markets have softened further and financial markets remain under considerable stress. Tight credit conditions, the ongoing housing contraction and elevated energy prices are likely to weigh on economic growth over the next few quarters," the Fed said.
Against that backdrop, the Fed decided to leave a key interest rate steady Tuesday. The Fed can't afford to cut rates anymore because it could aggravate inflation. On the other hand, boosting rates too soon would deal a blow to the economy and the ailing housing market.
Felons Seeking Bush Pardon Near a RecordBy Charles Savage
Published: July 19, 2008
WASHINGTON — Felons are asking President Bush for pardons and commutations at historic levels as he nears his final months in office, a time when many other presidents have granted a flurry of clemency requests.
Among the petitioners is Michael Milken, the billionaire former junk bond king turned philanthropist, who is seeking a pardon for his 1990 conviction for securities fraud, the Justice Department said. Mr. Milken sought a pardon eight years ago from President Bill Clinton, and submitted a new petition in June.
In addition, prominent federal inmates are asking Mr. Bush to commute their sentences. Among them are Randy Cunningham, the former Republican congressman from California; Edwin W. Edwards, a former Democratic governor of Louisiana; John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban; and Marion Jones, the former Olympic sprinter.
The requests are adding to a backlog of nearly 2,300 pending petitions, most from “ordinary people who committed garden-variety crimes,” said Margaret Colgate Love, a clemency lawyer.
Ms. Love, who was the United States pardon attorney from 1990 to 1997, said the backlog was overwhelming the vetting system, meaning that many petitions might not reach Mr. Bush’s desk before he leaves office.
“I have cases that date from the Clinton administration,” Ms. Love said. “I have cases that I filed in the last two or three years and have not even gotten any word about the first step of the investigation being authorized. It’s unbelievable.”
A Justice Department office with about half a dozen officials reviews petitions and recommends whether requests should be granted, although presidents are free to disregard its views. Under the Constitution, Mr. Bush can issue a commutation, which reduces a sentence, or a pardon, which forgives an offense and erases the criminal record, to anyone.
But even if a felon’s petition reaches the Oval Office, legal specialists said that most of those seeking mercy from Mr. Bush should expect to be disappointed.
The Bush administration took office amid heavy criticism of Mr. Clinton’s last-minute pardons, most notably to Marc Rich, the fugitive financier whose ex-wife had donated to Mr. Clinton’s presidential library.
Against that backdrop, Mr. Bush has made little use of his clemency powers, granting just 157 pardons and six commutations. By comparison, over eight years in office President Ronald Reagan granted clemency 409 times and Mr. Clinton 459 times. More than half of Mr. Clinton’s grants came in his final three months.
Fred F. Fielding, the White House counsel, declined to be interviewed about clemency plans.
Erik Ablin, a Justice Department spokesman, said the administration was committed to “giving each clemency petition received the careful review that is necessary to make an appropriate recommendation.” Mr. Ablin noted that any cases left unresolved by Mr. Bush would stay open for his successor.
As the administration wrestles with the cascade of petitions, some lawyers and law professors are raising a related question: Will Mr. Bush grant pre-emptive pardons to officials involved in controversial counterterrorism programs?
Such a pardon would reduce the risk that a future administration might undertake a criminal investigation of operatives or policy makers involved in programs that administration lawyers have said were legal but that critics say violated laws regarding torture and surveillance.
Some legal analysts said Mr. Bush might be reluctant to issue such pardons because they could be construed as an implicit admission of guilt. But several members of the conservative legal community in Washington said in interviews that they hoped Mr. Bush would issue such pardons — whether or not anyone made a specific request for one. They said people who carried out the president’s orders should not be exposed even to the risk of an investigation and expensive legal bills.
“The president should pre-empt any long-term investigations,” said Victoria Toensing, who was a Justice Department counterterrorism official in the Reagan administration. “If we don’t protect these people who are proceeding in good faith, no one will ever take chances.”
Emily Lawrimore, a White House spokeswoman, would not say whether the administration was considering pre-emptive pardons, nor whether it would rule them out.
“We are going to decline to comment on that question since it is regarding internal matters,” Ms. Lawrimore wrote in an e-mail message.
The administration would also not disclose any views submitted on petitions. The first time Mr. Milken sought a pardon, for example, prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Commission opposed it.
New petitions for clemency are on pace to surpass 2,100 this fiscal year, which ends in September. The record is the 1,827 petitions filed in 2001, which included Mr. Clinton’s final months. [Read entire article at:]
Bush signs spy bill and draws lawsuitby Randall Mikkelsen
10 July 2008
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush signed a law on Thursday overhauling the rules for eavesdropping on terrorism suspects but immediately met a civil liberties challenge calling it a threat to Americans' privacy.
"This law will protect the liberties of our citizens while maintaining the vital flow of intelligence," Bush said at a White House ceremony to mark a rare legislative victory for the president during his last year in office.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in Manhattan federal court as Bush signed the measure and called for the law to be voided as a violation of constitutional speech and privacy protections.
"Spying on Americans without warrants or judicial approval is an abuse of government power, and that's exactly what this law allows," ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said in announcing the suit.
The action was filed on behalf of human-rights groups, journalists, labor organizations and others who say they fear the law will allow the U.S. government to monitor their activities, including compiling of critical reports on the United States.
Bush quickly signed the bill a day after Congress gave it final approval, with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama dropping earlier opposition to vote for passage. Obama's Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, has supported the bill but was absent for Wednesday's vote.
The bill authorizes U.S. intelligence agencies to eavesdrop without court approval on foreign targets believed to be outside the United States.
The administration says the measure will allow it to swiftly track terrorists. But the suit charges the law permits warrantless surveillance of phone calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens who may have legal and legitimate reasons for contacting people targeted by government spying.
The bill seeks to minimize such eavesdropping on Americans, but the suit says the safeguards are inadequate.
The law lets government "conduct intrusive surveillance without ever telling a court who it intends to surveil, what phone lines and e-mail addresses it intends to monitor, where its surveillance targets are located, or why it's conducting the surveillance," said ACLU national security director Jameel Jaffer, the lead attorney in the suit.
The most contentious issue in negotiations over the bill was a provision that grants liability protection to telecommunication companies that took part in a warrantless domestic spying program Bush began after the September 11 attacks.
The law shields those firms from billions of dollars in potential damages from privacy lawsuits.
McCain criticized Obama's vote in favor of the law as an inconsistency, and ACLU Legislative Director Caroline Fredrickson called it "very disappointing."
The Democrat's campaign had earlier said he would support efforts to block legislation with a telecommunications immunity provision, but Obama voted for the overall bill Bush signed after casting a losing vote to strip the immunity provision.
"Given the choice between voting for an improved yet imperfect bill, and losing important surveillance tools, I've chosen to support the current compromise," Obama said on his campaign Web site.
(Additional reporting by Edith Honan in New York; Editing by David Alexander and David Wiessler)
© Thomson Reuters 2008. All rights reserved.
Closed-Door Deal Could Open Land In Montana
Forest Service Angers Locals With Move That May Speed Building
By Karl Vick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 5, 2008; Page A01
MISSOULA, Mont. -- The Bush administration is preparing to ease the way for the nation's largest private landowner to convert hundreds of thousands of acres of mountain forestland to residential subdivisions.
The deal was struck behind closed doors between Mark E. Rey, the former timber lobbyist who oversees the U.S. Forest Service, and Plum Creek Timber Co., a former logging company turned real estate investment trust that is building homes. Plum Creek owns more than 8 million acres nationwide, including 1.2 million acres in the mountains of western Montana, where local officials were stunned and outraged at the deal.
"We have 40 years of Forest Service history that has been reversed in the last three months," said Pat O'Herren, an official in Missoula County, which is threatening to sue the Forest Service for forgoing environmental assessments and other procedures that would have given the public a voice in the matter.
The deal, which Rey said he expects to formalize next month, threatens to dramatically accelerate trends already transforming the region. Plum Creek's shift from logging to real estate reflects a broader shift in the Western economy, from one long grounded in the industrial-scale extraction of natural resources to one based on accommodating the new residents who have made the region the fastest-growing in the nation.
Environmentalists, to their surprise, found that timber and mining were easier on the countryside.
"Now that Plum Creek is getting out of the timber business, we're kind of missing the loggers," said Ray Rasker, executive director of Headwaters Economics, a nonprofit that studies land management in the West. "A clear-cut will grow back, but a subdivision of trophy homes, that's going to be that way forever.
"It's kind of the ugly face of the new economy."
Rey said he, too, laments the ascension of "McMansions" over working forest, but he insisted that the law obliged him to accommodate Plum Creek's request for clarification of its rights to cross public land. Rey emphasized that during the private negotiations, Forest Service lawyers leveraged promises from Plum Creek to moderate the impact, including mandating "fire-wise" measures to reduce the danger from summer wildfires.
Under the new agreement, logging roads running into areas controlled by Plum Creek could be paved -- and would thrum with the traffic of eight to 12 vehicle trips per day to and from each home, according to O'Herren. Critics say that will further imperil grizzly bears, lynxes and other endangered species in the Crown of the Continent ecosystem, a region of rugged peaks, glacier-carved valleys, and sparkling rivers and lakes that straddles the border between Montana and Canada -- and that in parts remains as Lewis and Clark found it.
"For us, this is kind of an arterial bleed, and we're either going to get a handle on it or not," said Melanie Parker, executive director of Northwest Connections, an environmental group in the Swan Valley, 60 miles northeast of Missoula.
Parker recently eased an SUV through Glacier Ridge, a nascent subdivision marked by freshly scraped lots and sumptuous views of the Mission Range on one side, the Swan Range on the other and the still-sparsely populated valley in between. The spring-fed bottomland is prime bear habitat where her husband, Tom, a hunting guide, saw his first grizzly.
"Look at that, Tom!" Parker yelped, after a climb up a knoll revealed a three-story log home, still wrapped in Tyvek HomeWrap insulation. "They're like mushrooms. You get a few sunny days and they pop right up."
[Read remainder of article at:]
Ultimate Proof, Bush is a Traitorby Alan Stang
April 18, 2008
There are many proofs of the assertion that el presidente Jorge W. Boosh is not loyal to the United States, that he is in fact a traitor. One of those proofs is of course his refusal to stop the illegal alien invasion of our country, which he could stop in ten minutes by picking up the phone. The fact that he does not pick up the phone is proof that he wants the invasion, that he is leading it.
Another proof is his sponsorship of the North American Union, which means that he is literally leading a campaign to abolish this country by submerging it in a regional government with Mexico and Canada. This is not at all an exaggeration. Boosh is working to abolish the United States. He is a traitor. What else could you call an alleged “American” who is doing that?
But there is an even more devastating proof that this man should be arrested. It comes to us from the military. From time to time I have alluded to the fact that Boosh has given the edge in combat to the enemy; that under Boosh an American really shouldn’t go into combat without his lawyer; that Boosh is demoralizing our military by throwing our own – the best of the best – into prison, convicted of “war crimes.”
Let’s put some individual faces on this treason by looking at a few examples of what Boosh has done. Marcus Luttrell is a Navy SEAL. In June, 2005, he and three others parachuted deep inside Taliban territory in Afghanistan. Their mission: kill or capture a Taliban leader named Ahmad Shah, thought to be close to Osama bin Laden.
But a couple of local Afghans discovered their hiding place. One of the SEALS voted to kill them. Another voted to let them go. The third abstained. The deciding vote was Marcus Luttrell’s and he elected to spare them. Why? “I didn't want to go to jail.” The SEALS let the Afghans go. The Afghans reported their presence to the Taliban, about one hundred of whom returned and attacked. Three of the four SEALS were killed.
Sixteen Special Forces rescuers aboard a Chinook choppered in. The Taliban shot it down with an RPG. All sixteen were killed. Luttrell was the Lone Survivor. That is the title of his book, published last year by Little, Brown. His nose was broken, his face torn up, some vertebra were shattered; his legs were full of shrapnel. Nineteen men died because Marcus Luttrell voted to let those Afghans go. Why? Again, “I didn't want to go to jail.” He was worried about committing a war crime.
What? Why would a Navy SEAL – the best of the best – dropped by his superiors among the enemy to kill one of them, devote precious attention to worry about going to jail? Because of the Rules of Engagement. It was the Rules of Engagement that killed those nineteen men. Who imposes those Rules of Engagement? Well, who is Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces? It is el presidente Jorge W. Boosh. It was Boosh who killed those nineteen men by imposing those rules, by planting that fear in Marcus’s mind.
Compare this horror to World War II. The reason that war is so important in this case is that it was the last war we fought that was legal and the last we tried to win. There was a legal declaration and we won in only three-and-a-half years. Could you name for me please one – one is all I ask – just one war crime committed by U.S. forces in that war? You say you can’t?
Does your inability to name one mean that wherever we fought around the world for three-and-a-half years there never was an incident in which Americans – not worried about going to jail – killed interlopers, or maybe did something else that armchair strategists taking tea would not be happy with?
No, obviously to believe that would be hopelessly naïve. There no doubt were many such incidents, but, because we were fighting to win, our government chose to look the other way, chose to give our men the edge. This is the place to recall for the hundredth time what combat is like and what truly American policy in war should be.
The judge hears the evidence in court. He retires to his chambers. He hits the books and studies the cases. He applies the cases to the facts. Stare decisis. The Constitution (we hope). Then he rules. Suppose, after all this, he makes a mistake? His mistake will be corrected by the court of appeals. If they make a mistake, it will go higher. In combat, much of the time, you have one second – often less – to decide who lives and who dies, and there is no judicial review. Your decision can’t be rescinded, whoever is dead.
So the question is not whether you will make a mistake. You will. Especially behind enemy lines and house-to-house. You will make mistakes every day. That is not the question. The question is, will command back you up? And the answer is, yes, a government run by Americans will do that because, if you put a man in combat, it is a sacred trust, a most holy commitment originating in scripture to protect him. If the children of Israel honored their commitment to Rahab, an enemy hooker, how much more allegiance do we owe our own men?
And what should be American military policy? We should stay out of “foreign entanglements.” We should scrupulously mind our own business. I’m talking of course about our federal government. No bases around the world. No “foreign aid.” We should encourage our people and our businesses to visit and trade privately with other people around the world. We should be mild in disagreement; we should defer in disputes. We should do everything possible to avoid conflict. We should tell people that if they want what we have they should emulate us.
But we should also let it be known that when all this fails, when, despite all this effort someone attacks us, we shall drop Marcus Luttrell behind enemy lines, 6'5" and 240 pounds of Texas choice beef, with orders to kill everything that moves and not to worry about jail. We should let it be known that we have the world’s most devastating military and that if you attack us despite these prodigious attempts to mind our own business, you will wake up tomorrow dead in a smoking hole in the ground.
Remember, I can take no credit for this foreign policy of genius; all I am doing is repeating in modern terminology the policy the Founding Fathers bequeathed us. Instead of which, Washington gives the edge not to our own but to the enemy. The Rules of Engagement tell our men to be polite, as if today’s war is an Eighteenth Century duel between gentlemen. Again and again, Jorge W. Boosh tries to throw our men into jail. Marcus was quite right to be worried.
Here is another example of what happened to a man who did the opposite. U.S. Army sniper Evan Vela Carnahan is now serving ten years in prison. What did he do? Remember the “Sunni Triangle,” the “triangle of death?” He was there last year. In more than three days, his sniper team had slept about four hours. The temperature was 120 degrees. And his superiors were complaining that the snipers were not killing enough.
Suddenly, outside Iskandariyah, an Iraqi discovered their “hide,” making as much noise as he could, trying to alert nearby hostile Iraqis, yelling despite the sniper team’s efforts to keep him quiet. Carnahan’s superior ordered him to shoot the man to protect the team, which he did. And to please high Iraqi government officials, our government sacrificed him. Sgt. Carnahan is now in prison. Would he have been jailed for disobeying orders if he had not killed the man? By the way, he has a brother who has been in the Navy for six years.
As I write, Jose L. Nazario is waiting to go on trial. In 2004, he was a Marine and fought in the month-long battle for Fallujah. This was room-to-room, house-to-house, hand-to-hand combat. One hundred and fifty Marines were killed. More than two thousand were wounded. Nazario’s battalion alone suffered thirty three dead and more than six hundred wounded.
His unit came under fire from a house. Inside the house, the Marines found Soviet AK-47 rifles and ammunition, along with four men. Another Marine on the radio told Nazario to kill them. He allegedly killed two. He was honorably discharged from the Marines after eight years of service and two tours in Iraq, moved to Riverside, California and became a policeman. Last year, Washington charged him with two counts of manslaughter in the incident, which they cannot prove really happened.
Does all this not remind you of Soviet agent Henry Kissinger’s remark that military men are “‘dumb, stupid animals to be used’ as pawns for foreign policy?” See Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, The Final Days (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1976, chapter 14, p. 194). Why has this enemy alien not been deported? That is obviously what Washington believes. Remember, these are just the latest examples of the Boosh Administration’s treasonous treatment of our men. Boosh is still trying to convict the remaining three Haditha Marines. The first five were exonerated.
So there is a crime here, yes, but the crime is not what Sgt. Vela did, what Navy SEAL Luttrell did not and what Sgt. Nazario is accused of doing. The crime is blithely starting a war drunk with imperial fantasies on behalf of favored international corporations, a war there was no legal, constitutional reason to start, a war in which our military men – the best of the best – are treated like one-use, throw-away accessories. If enough young Americans understood this, no one would enlist.
Blackwater USA is a private security outfit that the Boosh Administration has awarded more than $1 billion in contracts. Last September 16, in Baghdad, Blackwater guards allegedly killed seventeen Iraqis while escorting U.S. State Department vehicles. No one has been prosecuted because the Blackwater people are contractors not governed by the law. But military men there under orders are kicked to the curb.
Again, Jorge W. Boosh is responsible for all this. We know that because if he were to pick up the phone and say, “Stop this at once,” it would stop – at once. He is a coward who, like his pal Clinton, the Arkansas rapist, evaded combat himself. Imagine dropping this smirking mountebank with Marcus Luttrell behind enemy lines.
What a great idea!
© 2008 - Alan Stang - All Rights Reserved
April 16th, 2008
Bush Administration Backs Down on Fraud and Abuse
Bush administration backs down on fraud and abuse
By: Steve Benen @ 7:15 PM - PDT
As a rule, Americans probably don’t expect government officials to go out of their way to protect waste, fraud and abuse, but then again, the Bush administration includes a special group of people.
Earlier this year, the Justice Department proposed new rules requiring U.S. contractors to report any and all waste, fraud or abuse they run into while doing taxpayer-financed work. Shortly thereafter, someone in the administration — it’s still not altogether clear who — added an exemption to the rules. Contractors would be required to report problems, but all contractors who do work overseas would be exempt. Given the more than $100 billion in such contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past five years, the exemption didn’t make any sense.
For months, the White House remained mum, refusing to explain why the pro-fraud exemption was added, who added it, and what the Bush gang would do about it.
Today, the White House gave in.
Reversing itself after months of criticism, the administration closed the loophole that was quietly slipped last year into a proposed Justice Department crackdown on government contract fraud. […]
Government policywriters said the original rule was drawn up quickly, and chided the Justice Department for not explicitly making sure that overseas contracts should be included in the crackdown. “It was only after publication of the proposed rule … that DoJ and other respondents expressed concern about the overseas exemption,” the draft states. […]
A Bush administration official on Monday called the loophole “a drafting error” that happened when policywriters merely cut and pasted a 20-year-old Defense Department regulation into the contracting crackdown.
Yes. Of course. “Drafting errors” that benefit Blackwater and Halliburton subsidiaries work their way into policy regulations all the time. How embarrassing.
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Bush's Last Fans -- The Evangelical Right, the Facilitators of War and a Sadly Diminished McCain Frank Schaeffer
Posted March 13, 2008 10:15 AM (EST)
President Bush was on my old stomping grounds this week. Back in the early 1980s I was also the keynote speaker at the NRB (National Religious Broadcaster's) convention.According to the New York Times, (March 12, 2008):
President Bush delivered a rousing defense of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on Tuesday, mixing faith and foreign policy as he told a group of Christian broadcasters that his policies in the region were predicated on the beliefs that, freedom was a God-given right and 'every human being bears the image of our maker...' Calling freedom a 'precious gift,' Mr. Bush said: 'The liberty we value is not ours alone. Freedom is not America's gift to the world; it is God's gift to all humanity.' His words were punctuated by shouts of 'Amen.'
When I spoke to the NRB I was introduced by Pat Robertson. I delivered a rousing take-back-America-from-the-godless-humanists speech. I was cheered too. I spoke shortly before I quit working as a "Professional Christian." I didn't quit as soon as I should have, because you can lose your faith and still pretend, because there are bills to be paid, because you are booked up for a year, because this is what you do.
I finally got out of the evangelical movement in 1985 when I belatedly outgrew my fundamentalist background. I wanted to be a writer, not of religious propaganda but of actual books. I also quit because I had slowly woken up to the fact that the religious right I was in bed with -- because my late father Francis Schaeffer was one of their leaders, and in the nepotistic evangelical tradition I followed in his footsteps -- were not conservatives. They were anti-American agitators for a thinly disguised theocracy.
On the same day as the NRB/Bush story quoted above was published the Times also happened to report that William J. Fallon, the commander of American forces in the Middle East whose outspoken public statements on Iran and other issues put him at odds with the Bush administration, is retiring early. Admiral Fallon upset the Bush administration with comments that according to the Times; "emphasized diplomacy over conflict in dealing with Iran, that endorsed further troop withdrawals from Iraq beyond those already under way and that suggested the United States had taken its eye off the military mission in Afghanistan." A senior administration official said that Fallon's comments, "left the perception he had a different foreign policy than the president."
As he has for the last eight years Bush disregards the advice of his military leaders when they don't agree with him. (Disclosure: My son volunteered for the Marines in 1999 and served in Bush's wars so this is personal.) As if answering admiral Fallon In his NRB speech Bush said; "The decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision... It is the right decision at this point in my presidency, and it will forever be the right decision."
These days most Americans would have booed Bush's statement, but not the right wing evangelicals at the religious broadcasters convention.
[Read full article:]
Bush's last year in office: is the best yet to come?
By Barry Rubin
January 8, 2008
What should President George W. Bush, currently visiting the Middle East, expect to achieve during his last year in office, even as the American people begin to choose his successor?
The answer could not possibly objectively clearer and subjectively more obscure. The gap between the real Middle East and how it is perceived by all too many people in Washington and in the academic-journalistic elite is far too wide.
Three quick examples are useful to underline this point. First, the Annapolis summit was widely hailed throughout America and the West as a big success, even by Bush's biggest enemies. (That means, of course, it achieved the main goal, which was not primarily about the Middle East itself.) In the region, however, less than one-fifth of Israelis and Palestinians thought it had done any good. People in the region knew better.
Second, many in the United States have hailed what seems to be a de-escalation of U.S. pressure on Iran over the nuclear issue. The response by Gulf Arab states, though, has been to conclude America is weak and retreating, followed by their escalated efforts to make their own appeasement deal with Tehran.
Third, the same is true for Syria, where American efforts at conciliation have emboldened Damascus and demoralized the Lebanese moderates resisting Syrian domination.
One can only hope that Bush and his administration consider the effect of what it does on the Middle East.
Bush on track to become the vacation presidentBy Julie Mason
09 August 2007
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau
President Bush tries to set an example for Americans whenever he can, in terms of physical fitness, faith, optimism and a certain overall moral rectitude. He also sets an excellent example on taking vacation.
On Thursday, Bush left for a weekend in Kennebunkport, Maine, and his family's summer compound, Walker's Point. On Monday, he heads to his Crawford retreat, where he has spent all or part of 418 days of his presidency, according to Mark Knoller, a CBS News White House correspondent and meticulous record-keeper.
The 1,600-acre ranch has proved a durable haven for Bush, who often disappears into its varied landscapes for days or weeks at a time without public appearances. He has an attractive stone house, shaded swimming pool, miles of rugged bike trails and law enforcement at every entry point keeping people out.
"I fell in love with it the minute I saw it," Bush said of his ranch in 2001. "I like being out here. I like spending a lot of time outside."
The presidential vacation-time record holder is the late Ronald Reagan, who tallied 436 days in his two terms. At 418 days, and with 17 months to go in his presidency, Bush is going to beat that easily.
Even so, this year's August vacation for Bush is a contrast to previous years such as 2005, when he dragged out vacation in Texas to five weeks. That was also the year Bush remained on vacation immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit.
Bush Family Piggy Bank Receives Default Notice!
Carlyle Capital Corp. failed to meet four margin calls yesterday for $37 million, and has received notice of default from its lenders. The fund is the publicly traded arm of the Carlyle Group, the Washington D.C. equity and leveraged buyout firm that lies at the nexus of corporate and governmental power in the U.S. The Carlyle Group is the modern day source of enormous wealth for the Bush family. George H.W. Bush is a shareholder and former board member, as are key members of his administration such as Frank Carlucci, former head of the CIA, and James A. Baker, former Secretary of State. Carlucci ran the Carlyle Group for many years and Baker served as legal counsel. The Carlyle Group is noted for its substantial contacts with governments around the world, especially in the military and intelligence areas. Former president Ferdinand Ramos of The Philippines, as well as John Major, former U.K. Prime Minister, have served on the board of directors.
Carlyle Capital Corp. was formed in July of 2007 with $300 million in publicly-raised capital. It proceeded to borrow $22 billion and invest in Aaa rated agency securities, which are bonds issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These securities have generally been considered tantamount to no-risk U.S. Treasuries, because the agencies are chartered by the U.S. Congress. It is a sign of the increasing depth of the global credit crisis that a fund like Carlyle Capital Corp. is unable to find buyers for such securities to raise cash for margin calls. Similarly, a year ago it would have been unlikely that the fund's lenders – mostly Wall Street banks – would have been issuing any margin calls against a fund holding such highly rated securities. But Wall Street brokers are now applying steep haircuts against even Aaa rate securities in an attempt to preserve their own liquidity.
The very high amount of leverage used by the Carlyle Capital Corp, typical of hedge funds, is now working against it as well. Several months ago it received a $150 million line of credit from its parent, the Carlyle Group, but it is unclear why the parent firm is no longer providing such support to its fund. The Carlyle Group is privately owned, and the fund is the only publicly traded entity within the group.
It is now clear that the credit crisis is striking at the very epicenter of business and governmental power in America, and potentially threatening the fortune of the Bush family. For a long time it was assumed that a board seat was being left open for President George W. Bush upon his retirement in 2009, but in recent years that speculation has been dampened since the Carlyle Group requires from its board members a minimum of useful international contacts and some basic business competence.
By Numerian 2008-03-06 10:50
Let Them Eat Spam
By Bob Parks, Sunday, November 16, 2008
CNN’s class envy non story is one of those reoccurring CNN class envy, non-stories we get for the amusement of some and revulsion of others.
The global economy may be undergoing a significant downturn, but the White House’s dinner budget still appears flush with cash. After all, world leaders who are in town to discuss the economic crisis are set to dine in style Friday night while sipping wine listed at nearly $500 a bottle.
According to the White House, tonight’s dinner to kick off the G-20 summit includes such dishes as “Fruitwood-smoked Quail,” “Thyme-roasted Rack of Lamb,” and “Tomato, Fennel and Eggplant Fondue Chanterelle Jus.”
To wash it all down, world leaders will be served Shafer Cabernet “Hillside Select” 2003, a wine that sells at $499 on
Like homelessness, I don’t recall too many stories like this during the Clinton years, and I don’t expect to see too many during the coming Obama years. Not because homelessness and hunger have been solved, but their mere mention is an embarrassment that need be shoved under the rug until Republicans can be blamed later.
Good-Bye and Good Riddance Mr. BushBy Frosty Wooldridge November 17, 2008
According to the New York Times, 524,000 Americans lost their jobs in September and October. Unemployment spiked at 6.5 percent. Additionally, 28 million Americans subsist on food stamps. Millions maintain heat and lights with assistance from ‘energy banks’ subsidized by other Americans who still enjoy jobs.
“The economy is slipping deeper into a recessionary sinkhole that is getting broader,” said Stuart G. Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group in Pittsburgh. “The layoffs are getting larger, and coming faster. We’re likely to see at least another six months of more job reports like this.”
For the past eight years, George Bush watched, and assisted as some eight to twelve million illegal migrants crashed U.S. borders to displace American workers while they wreaked chaos in American schools, hospitals and prisons. At press conferences, he said, “They do the jobs that Americans won’t do.” While reports show illegal aliens killed more Americans via drunk driving, murders and rapes than combat soldiers suffered death in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr. Bush no longer speaks about illegal migrants doing the jobs that Americans won’t do. Gees! Can’t figure that one out now, can we?
At the same time, Bush and Congress gave away jobs by pushing for millions of H1-B and H2-B visas for foreign workers to displace American jobs. Bush worked hardest at offshoring, outsourcing and offshoring American jobs. He and Congress killed U.S. manufacturing. He finished the job that Clinton started!
But Bush’s most ominous act as president remains his lie of “Weapons of Mass Destruction.” He created it to foment the Iraq War that killed 4,300 young men and women while it lacerated 32,000 into lives fraught with pain, anguish and missing limbs. While an estimated 150,000 Vietnam veterans committed suicide after service in Vietnam, twenty years from now will bring chilling statistics of how many lives suffered irreversible emotional damage and suicide from war time service in Iraq. The personal carnage already piles up across this country.
Benjamin Franklin, one of our founding fathers, said, “A highwayman is as much a robber when he plunders in a gang as when single; and a nation that makes an unjust war is only a great gang.”
Bush’s odious ego, unbalanced emotions and lack of rational thinking—brought the planet an immoral-unethical war that degrades the United States in the eyes of the fellow nations. Bush promoted senseless slaughter with depleted uranium bombs and left millions as refugees.
When the door slams behind him as he walks out of the White House, the world rejoices.
“Bush single-handedly destroyed America’s image as a beacon of freedom,” said Simon Schama in Britain’s Guardian. “His administration inflicted mutilations on internationally agreed standards of humane conduct for prisoners—and on the protection of domestic liberties enshrined in the American Constitution. If the Statue of Liberty were alive, she would weep tears of blood.”
“It’s hard to fathom the damage bush has inflicted upon the planet,” said Jean-Claude Kiefer in France’s Dernieres Nouvelles d’Alsace. “He bequeaths the world the Iraq War, stalemate in Afghanistan, oil imperialism, financial crisis, U.S. debt weighing on the entire planet, and withdrawal from the Kyote Protocol—and the list is not exhausted.”
Raghida Dergham of Dar al-Hayat said, “The Bush strategy was based on undermining stability in the Gulf region. The result has been tragedy for hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and the rise of Iran as a regional power.”
What does Bush’s time in power mean to regular American citizens? I, for one, pity the man who killed enormous numbers of humanity and ruined so many lives. Beyond unconscionable depicts his legacy upon American and Iraq families. The global tragedy he created exceeds 9/11 by a factor of 100 and more.
He fought a “War on Terror” by getting our soldiers killed 10,000 miles away but left our borders as wide open as a 24-hour mall. The irony and insanity of Bush’s actions leave me breathless.
Bush usurped our sense of right and wrong as well as our ethics and morality. Instead of leading us toward employment and full exercising of the American Dream, he drowned us with millions illegally crashing into our country without warrant. Instead of solving our $700 billion annual trade deficit, he did nothing to stop our manufacturing base as it slipped off shore. He failed to take the lead on energy conservation or a plan for the Post Oil era.
Instead of paying down the national debt, Bush grew it to $9.4 trillion. We stand nostril-deep in a cesspool of debt, exacerbated by the Iraq War killing our kids and bank account for decades to come.
Instead of solving the “War on Drugs” costing us $70 billion annually, by placing troops on the border and fencing, he undermined the Border Patrol and ICE with ‘token’ enforcement. Worse, he jailed, with his political assassin Johnny Sutton, Border Patrol officers Campeon and Ramos for stopping a drug dealer by shooting him in the butt. Those two courageous agents languish in jail while their families suffer loss of their husbands and fathers. Yet the drug traffic increases into a miniature war as reported by the LA Times:
Mexico Under Siege: A Times Special...
While 400,000 illegal migrant mothers birth their instant ‘jackpot babies’ annually, our hospitals and medical systems collapse from lack of funding and non-payment by millions in this country illegally. Bush’s incompetence along with Congress exceeds comprehension.
Instead of enforcing our immigration laws to rid us of 20 million illegal aliens, he promoted the McCain-Kennedy Amnesty to not only give criminals a free ride and equal citizenship, he bragged, “I’ll see you at the signing!”
Instead, grassroots Americans collectively beat their sitting president by overturning the amnesty by sheer force of voices and numbers. Had Bush, Kennedy and McCain succeeded in passing their seven proposed amnesties, our situation would have worsened by a factor of 20 to 30 million more people leeching into our financial services paid for and meant for American citizens.
While Bush failed to enforce our laws, 350,000 convicted illegal aliens sit in our federal, state and city jails from horrific acts of violence, rapes, thefts, drunk driving and other killings of American citizens.
With our civilization facing horrific energy shortages, he failed to promote even a single plan for fuel efficiency, conservation or a strategic plan for our future.
Finally, with our schools overrun by 4.3 illegal alien children and our national language staggering via assault of the Spanish language, Bush accelerated our country into a fractured and Balkanized nightmare—yet to see its full destructive power upon our culture.
Bush’s level of incompetence and duplicity leaves our country staggering into the 21st century--cut, bleeding, drained, exhausted, without borders and without a rudder. We face Hobson’s Choice on a scale unprecedented in modern times.

Iraqi journalist throws shoes at Bush during press conference in BaghdadThe shoe-thrower -- identified as Muntadhar al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist with Egypt-based al-Baghdadia television network -- could be heard yelling in Arabic: "This is a farewell ... you dog!"... he screamed: "You killed the Iraqis!"CNN, December 14, 2008, Iraq -- A man identified as an Iraqi journalist threw shoes at -- but missed -- President Bush during a news conference Sunday evening in Baghdad, where Bush was making a farewell visit.
Bush ducked, and the shoes, flung one at a time, sailed past his head during the news conference with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in his palace in the heavily fortified Green Zone.
The shoe-thrower -- identified as Muntadhar al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist with Egypt-based al-Baghdadia television network -- could be heard yelling in Arabic: "This is a farewell ... you dog!"
While pinned on the ground by security personnel, he screamed: "You killed the Iraqis!"
Al-Zaidi was dragged away. While al-Zaidi was still screaming in another room, Bush said: "That was a size 10 shoe he threw at me, you may want to know." Watch Bush duck the shoes »
Hurling shoes at someone, or sitting so that the bottom of a shoe faces another person, is considered an insult among Muslims.
Al-Baghdadia issued a statement Sunday demanding al-Zaidi's release.
Al-Zaidi drew international attention in November 2007 when he was kidnapped while on his way to work in central Baghdad. He was released three days later.
Bush had been lauding the conclusion of a security pact with Iraq as journalists looked on.
"So what if the guy threw his shoe at me?" Bush told a reporter in response to a question about the incident.
"Let me talk about the guy throwing his shoe. It's one way to gain attention. It's like going to a political rally and having people yell at you. It's like driving down the street and having people not gesturing with all five fingers. ...
"These journalists here were very apologetic. They ... said this doesn't represent the Iraqi people, but that's what happens in free societies where people try to draw attention to themselves."
Bush then directed his comments to the security pact, which he and al-Maliki were preparing to sign, hailing it as "a major achievement" but cautioning that "there is more work to be done."
"All this basically says is we made good progress, and we will continue to work together to achieve peace," Bush said.
Bush's trip was to celebrate the conclusion of the security pact, called the Strategic Framework Agreement and the Status of Forces Agreement, the White House said.
The pact will replace a U.N. mandate for the U.S. presence in Iraq that expires at the end of this year. The agreement, reached after months of negotiations, sets June 30, 2009, as the deadline for U.S. combat troops to withdraw from all Iraqi cities and towns. The date for all U.S. troops to leave Iraq is December 31, 2011.
Bush called the passage of the pact "a way forward to help the Iraqi people realize the blessings of a free society."
Bush said the work "hasn't been easy, but it has been necessary for American security, Iraqi hope and world peace."
Bush landed at Baghdad International Airport on Sunday and traveled by helicopter to meet with President Jalal Talabani and his two vice presidents at Talabani's palace outside the Green Zone.
It marked the first time he has been outside the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad without being on a military base.
The visit was Bush's fourth since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
Afterward, Talabani praised his U.S. counterpart as a "great friend for the Iraqi people" and the man "who helped us to liberate our country and to reach this day, which we have democracy, human rights, and prosperity gradually in our country."
Talabani said he and Bush, who is slated to leave office next month, had spoken "very frankly and friendly" and expressed the hope that the two would remain friends even "back in Texas."
For his part, Bush said he had come to admire Talabani and his vice presidents "for their courage and for their determination to succeed." [Read entire article at:]
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20 January 2009
Get out and don't come back ...