Saturday, September 01, 2007

The end of Larry Craig (reprise)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

And it's done.

"I apologize for what I have caused," said Craig. "I am deeply sorry."

For what he has caused? What about for what he did? Oh, right, of course, he did nothing wrong, which isn't to say that what he did was necessarily wrong, just illegal, and perhaps troubling, and certainly, in this case, hypocritical, reflective of profound self-hatred.

But enough. I said what I had to say last night.

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Around the world: Burma, Sudan, Sierra Leone, and DR Congo

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Once again, as part of our ongoing series, some stories from around the world that deserve more attention than they are getting -- at least than they are getting here in North America.

1) Burma: "The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) says more than 100 people have been detained in one of the harshest crackdowns in the former Burma since a mass uprising in 1988 led by students and Buddhist monks." (The tyrannical military junta (formerly the State Law and Order Restoration Council, or SLORC, now the State Peace and Development Council, or SPDC) that rules the country calls it Myanmar; dissidents, the junta's opponents, call it Burma, which is what it was called officially pre-1989. I'm going with Burma.)

2) Sudan: "The Sudanese government said Saturday that rebels from Darfur killed 41 of its soldiers in a raid outside the region, adding to fears that the conflict is spilling into the rest of Sudan. The raid on a police garrison in neighboring West Kordofan Province Wednesday has been claimed by both the Sudanese Liberation Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement, the two main rebel movements fighting the government in Darfur for the past three years." (The situation is rather complex, to be sure, but it is the Sudanese government in Khartoum that has been behind the genocide in Darfur. Which leads one to ABK: Anyone But Khartoum. Good for the rebels.)

3) Sierra Leone: "Dozens of people have been injured in clashes between supporters of rival presidential candidates in Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown. Police fired tear gas to break up the clashes, the latest in a series in the run up to the second round of voting. President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah had earlier threatened to impose a state of emergency if violence continued." (Democratic growing pains after a brutal (see Blood Diamond) nine-year civil war that ended in 2002. Still, there is reason to be hopeful that the country can withstand this bout of violence and continue to move forward.)

4) DR Congo: "A dissident Congolese army officer says there is a state of war between the government and his forces in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo." The officer in question, a Tutsi general, is accusing "the government of forming an alliance with Hutus to attack his troops". The U.N. is reporting that "tens of thousands have fled from their homes". (Get ready for a sequal to Hotel Rwanda -- yet more bloodshed in a region torn apart by civil war and genocide. One wonders how much more it can take.)

Make sure to read these linked articles in full.

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The new "Big Three"

By Carol Gee

Leadership has significantly changed hands this year in Europe. Chancellor Angela Merkel began Germany's year of European Union leadership at the beginning of the year. On May 6 France elected a new leader, Nicholas Sarkozy. And Gordon Brown replaced Tony Blair as the United Kingdom's Prime Minister in July just as "doctor-terrorists" attacked the UK. The new "Big Three" leaders of traditional U.S. allies -- Britain, France and Germany -- deserve more of our attention. How willing are they to be strong allies?

UK remains "willing." In Iraq 168 British soldiers have died since 2003. Just under 50,000 British troops were in Iraq at its highest point of involvement. The number of U.S. troops there is at an all time high of 162,000. U.S. casualties today stand at 3736 killed in Iraq. And PM Brown remains committed to the presence of soldiers from the United Kingdom in Iraq and Afghanistan. The BBC (8/28/07) reports that:

"PM rules out Iraq exit timetable." Prime Minister Gordon Brown has ruled out setting a timetable for withdrawing UK troops from Iraq, saying it would undermine their "important job" there.

Writing to Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell, he said the military still had "clear obligations to discharge".

Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the UK forces' training and mentoring role was what was needed on the ground.

France willing - to do what? In France new President Sarkozy enjoys a 60+ approval rating, even though he is "losing some of his shine," according to Germany's Deutsche Welle. French president Sarkozy took his personal vacation in New England, had lunch with our current president (OCP), and made recent headlines with his statement about bombing Iran. To quote Victor Davis Hanson at National Review (8/31/07):

. . . French president Nicolas Sarkozy. He suddenly, in the eleventh hour of the crisis, reminds the world that bombing Iran is still very possible (and he doesn't specify by whom):

An Iran with nuclear arms is, to me, unacceptable, and I am weighing my words…And I underline France's full determination to support the alliance's current policy of increasing sanctions, but also to remain open if Iran makes the choice to fulfill its obligations. This policy is the only one that will allow us to escape an alternative, which I consider to be catastrophic. Which alternative? An Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran.

Note especially the French president’s reference to “us” and the logic of his syllogism: Iran can’t and won’t have the bomb; one catastrophic remedy is bombing; therefore someone must increase sanctions or someone will bomb Iran, as the least bad of two awful alternatives. He can say all that — without the global hatred that George Bush would incur had he said half that.

German has been willing to be involved in Afghanistan but not Iraq. In May, 3000 German troops were in the northern area and three died there in a suicide bomb attack. A German taken hostage by the Taliban recently surfaced in a video. Recently Chancellor Angela Merkel was willing to speak out about human rights in China. From Germany, the Financial Times (8/27/07) reports that:

Angela Merkel will use a visit to China starting today to press Beijing to take on greater international responsibility concerning intellectual property rights, climate change and human rights in Africa.

. . . Her tough comments were seen yesterday as part of an effort by Ms Merkel to use a string of foreign trips in the next two months to reinforce her image as an international power broker, following her foreign policy successes in the European Union and G8 industrial nations grouping in the first half of 2007. Her week-long Asia trip includes her first visit as chancellor to Japan, where she will deliver a keynote speech in Kyoto on the urgency of tackling climate change.

In September she will represent Germany at the United Nations General Assembly meeting - a job traditionally performed by the foreign minister - and in October she will make a rare visit by a German chancellor to Africa, visiting Ethiopia, South Africa and Liberia.

The year 2007 is a new era in US/EU relations because new people are in place as leaders, not because OCP has changed. He is still a go-it-alone kind of guy. How to assess the partnerships? The alliance between the U.S. and Germany has been relatively strong. Angela Merkel has been a strong European Union President. The relationship between the U.S. and France may become more positive now that President Chirac is no longer in the picture, though that is still to be seen. And UK PM Gordon Brown has been surprisingly firm in his support for keeping at least a few troops in Iraq.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Where's the Lute?

By Creature

The New York Times today reports on the big Iraq strategy session at the White House between the president and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. All the big guns were present, well, all, except for one missing czar, Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute. Here's the guest list and where's the Lute?

[...] Gen. George W. Casey Jr. of the Army, Adm. Michael G. Mullen of the Navy, Gen. T. Michael Moseley of the Air Force, and Gen. James T. Conway of the Marine Corps [...]

Vice President Dick Cheney joined the meeting on Friday, as did Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Gen. James E. Cartwright, the vice chairman.

Has the so-called "war czar" already been forgotten? Has the man tasked with "the power to direct the Pentagon, State Department and other agencies involved in the two conflicts" been tossed aside?

Maybe this foot-meet-mouth breaking of the most holy of holy chicken-hawk taboos had something to do with Lute's evite being lost in Tubes.

August 10, 2007 - ThinkProgress: In an interview with NPR, the White House’s "war czar" Gen. Doug Lute said that "it makes sense to certainly consider" a military draft. "I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table, but ultimately, this is a policy matter between meeting the demands for the nation’s security by one means or another."

Or, maybe Lute's absence can be explained by the fact that as early as 2005 this czar among czars advocated withdrawing troops to "undercut the perception of occupation in Iraq."

Either way Lute's absence from public view is not a new phenomenon. After a month on the job Steve Benen was already asking the "Where's the Lute?" question and concluded: "I hope he emerges soon. If this keeps up, we may want to consider putting his face on milk-cartons."

I'm thinking we are beyond the milk-carton stage and ready for an all out Amber Alert.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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The end of Larry Craig

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I don't have much to add tonight to THE SCANDAL KNOWN AS LARRY CRAIG SOLICITING LEWD CONDUCT IN A PUBLIC WASHROOM, but I did want to mention -- and you may have heard this already -- that the disgraced senator will announce his resignation Saturday morning.

Republicans have had enough of him and so it was just a matter of time, but I doubt his party, let alone its bigoted base, will learn anything from this episode. They will continue to target gays, gays in their party will continue to remain in their closets, tormented by self-hatred and the urge to lash out, and more and more lives will be ruined.

Larry Craig can go to hell, or Idaho, whichever comes first. His party deserves far worse.

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Friday, August 31, 2007

They can't handle the truth

By Michael J.W. Stickings

"ThinkProgress is now banned from the U.S. military network in Baghdad," reports Think Progress, which, like it or not, always tells the truth about the way things are, whether it's Baghdad, Washington, or anywhere else, however unpleasant that truth may be.

Meanwhile, right-wing propaganda machines like Fox News are "still accessible," spewing partisan happy talk to those who are risking their lives on the front lines of a lost war for what was essentially a gross deception.

The U.S. military apparently can't handle the truth any better than the warmongers back home.

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The worst toilet in Minneapolis

By Capt. Fogg

Frankly, I had forgotten about Barney Frank, the Democratic Congressman from Massachusetts, until the few remaining Republican apologists willing to attempt the usual accusatory remission of the sins of their fellows, resurrected a twenty year old story about a gay friend of Frank who was found to be running an escort service out of Franks' apartment when he was not home. Upon investigation, the House Ethics Committee found no evidence that Frank had known of or been involved in this activity but he was censured in Congress for having associated with a male prostitute.

Frank is openly gay and usually wins re-election in Massachusetts's fourth congressional district by landslides of various magnitudes, but the comparison with Larry Craig, the man who made a career out of preaching family values, opposing civil rights for gay people and making remarks about "dirty, nasty" Bill Clinton; the man who was caught soliciting gay sex in a men's toilet, just smells worse than any public toilet in any third world country I've ever been in.

It's true that Republicans are tripping over their own wingtips while fleeing Craig's vicinity, but there are holdouts. Glenn McCoy, the political cartoonist whose scurrilous scribblings regularly appear in The New York Times, was quick to reply to the scandal by showing two donkeys, one telling the other, in response to the scandal to "make sure Barney Frank wasn't in the next stall."

Real humor always contains a nucleus of truth, otherwise it's just a smiling villain, ugliness with a foul grin. That's the kind of humor McCoy specializes in; the grotesque, perverted and dishonest humor designed for sewer dwelling troglodytes who would rather dredge something out of a cesspool and smear it on an undeserving victim rather than admit to any failing, any fault, any guilt, any shame or any hypocrisy.

(Cross-posted at Human Voices.)

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Looking ahead to Congress in September

By Carol Gee

Members of the U.S. House and Senate, are out of town in August, Washington D.C. is hot and muggy, and July has come and gone. When the U.S. Congress returns to session, legislators will crave a period of success. But Public opinion about how Congress is doing is at another low point.

The blogosphere again has its opportunity to assist Congress to do a better job. But our task is increasingly difficult, given today's Senator Larry Craig headlines. Discouraged citizens tend to summarily dismiss politicians after such events, saying - "A pox on all your houses!" But - whether they watch the news or not - American's sense of well-being, of safety, or even of economic stability, is driven by one unyielding issue, the wars in the Middle East.

Much of the Congressional agenda on Iraq will be influenced by what Senators and Representatives learned during this few weeks away from the U.S. Capitol. Josephine Hearn, writing for (8/25/07), feels that some of the lawmakers will shift their positions on what to do about the war, particularly after a visit to Iraq. To quote,

. . . perhaps it wasn’t a surprise when Rep. Brian Baird, a low-key Democrat from Washington State who has spent a career toiling away on local issues, suddenly came out in support of President Bush’s troop surge in Iraq.

. . . The waters are muddied for both parties. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a bigger fish than either Mahoney or Baird, urged the president on Thursday to begin pulling troops out of Iraq by Christmas.

. . . This August, the future of U.S. troops in Iraq is a topic very much in flux. Even as the chambers of Congress stand silent, a debate rages throughout the country. Lawmakers have heard it as they pad the streets of their hometowns, as they attend Rotary Club meetings and mingle with picnickers and paradegoers.

Democrats in Congress have a difficult task ahead. What can they do to repair public opinion? Many will refine their positions; others will forge stubbornly ahead - oblivious. And the public sees it as gridlock. Ed Kilgore at The Democratic Strategist tackled the question on 8/1/07, with "Unlocking the Grid." To quote from the piece,

One of the most contentious issues dividing political observers at present is how to interpret the partisan implications of the public's exceptionally sour mood, which extends to the Democratic-controlled Congress as well as the Bush administration.

The reigning theme among Beltway pundits is that Americans are sick of gridlock and partisanship in Washington, and blame both parties equally. There's a variant of this theme that's popular in some precincts on the Left: that the Democratic Congress's support is collapsing because it has been insufficiently confrontational towards Bush, particularly on Iraq; according to this analysis, cutting off funds for the war, or perhaps even moving towards impeachment of Bush and Cheney, is the only way to save Democrats from complicity with a hated status quo.

The other side of the argument has been carefully presented in the latest Democracy Corps strategy memo by Stan Greenberg, James Carville, and Anna Iparraguirre. . . the DCorps trio concludes that the partisan conflict in Washington is not eroding, and may actually be enhancing, a strong Democratic advantage going into 2008.

August is ending and Congress is wrapping up its summer recess. I conclude this post with a couple of newsletter resources that I find helpful to staying in the news loop. Each time I open my e-mails I am left with a good sense of renewal of the fight to get Congress to do its job.


  1. Congress News - Available via regular e-mails from
  2. The Democratic Strategist - Managing Editor Ed Kilgore (and co-editors William Galston, Stan Greenberg and Ruy Teixeira) also will send the newsletter via periodic e-mails.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Corruption in Baghdad

By Michael J.W. Stickings

David Corn at The Nation:

As Congress prepares to receive reports on Iraq from General David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and readies for a debate on George W. Bush's latest funding request of $50 billion for the Iraq war, the performance of the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has become a central and contentious issue. But according to the working draft of a secret document prepared by the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, the Maliki government has failed in one significant area: corruption. Maliki's government is "not capable of even rudimentary enforcement of anticorruption laws," the report says, and, perhaps worse, the report notes that Maliki's office has impeded investigations of fraud and crime within the government.

Hardly surprising, and yet more evidence that the war/occupation has been a disaster, and largely a failure. Remember all that happy talk from the warmongers about democratic self-governance, about all the great and wonderful things that were going to happen once Saddam's regime was toppled and the Iraqi people were put in charge of their national destiny?

Yeah, well...

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The Stewart Cycle

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I'm now convinced, more than ever, that Jon Stewart is the most influential media figure in America, the one who really drives the news, who really makes things happen.

Everyone talks about the weekly news cycle, with bad news often breaking (or being leaked) on a Friday. This has been especially the case with the Bush presidency, so much bad news kept for the end of the week, buried over the weekend, popping up, for the junkies, on the Sunday-morning talk-show circuit.

But what of the Gonzales resignation and the Craig bathroom-sex scandal? The news of Gonzales's resignation, long overdue, came on Monday, four days ago, the news of Craig's lewd conduct the very same day, conveniently, two months after the fact. The Craig story may have been put out, at long last, to deflect attention away from the Gonzales story. That makes sense, does it not? Even for a Monday.

But could there be another explanation? What else is going on this week?

Right, Jon Stewart is on vacation, The Daily Show is in reruns. Coincidence? I think not.

Both the Gonzales resignation and the Craig bathroom-sex scandal are perfect Daily Show stories -- lead items, in fact, worthy of satire, irony, and every other comedic weapon at Stewart's disposal, worthy of extensive coverage, multiple correspondents, huge laughs, a montage. No one could have tackled those two stories more devastatingly, more truthfully, than Jon Stewart.

And, surely, the powers-that-be know that. Which is why the cycle that matters is The Stewart Cycle. When you have a really bad story to break, something embarrassing, wait until he's on vacation.

I miss Jon Stewart more than ever this week. He will likely address these stories upon his return, but, by then, they'll be rather stale, a bit dusty, old news -- still funny, perhaps, but, ultimately, tiresome, having been tackled into oblivion by so many others.

Enjoy your vacation, Jon. We need you back.

(And what are we to do in the meantime? There's always Olbermann, of course, and thank goodness for that.)

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Monster Merkel

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The 10 most powerful women in the world, according to Forbes (via the BBC):

1. Angela Merkel (German chancellor)
2. Wu Yi (Chinese vice-premier)
3. Ho Ching (Temasek Holdings)
4. Condoleezza Rice (US Secretary of State)
5. Indra Nooyi (PepsiCo)
6. Sonia Ghandi (Indian National Congress Party)
7. Cynthia Carroll (Anglo American)
8. Patricia Wortz (Archer Daniels Midland)
9. Irene Rosenfeld (Kraft Foods)
10. Patricia Russo (Alcatel-Lucent)

Merkel? Okay. But where's Oprah? -- #21.

Here are some of the others:

23. Queen Elizabeth II
24. Melinda Gates
25. Hillary Clinton
26. Nancy Pelosi
55. Meredith Vieira
60. Laura Bush
62. Diane Sawyer
63. Katie Couric
74. Christiane Amanpour

What, no Madonna?


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Thursday, August 30, 2007

An all-inclusive sham

By Creature

Thankfully, someone at the GAO [Government Accountability Office] leaked a draft of their dour Iraq report before the Bushies could mix in their hefty dose of spin. I'm thinking, maybe, if the Bush administration stopped watering down their reports and started watering down their drinks we could finally get a sober assessment of the surge.

Update: The cherry-picking continues

The White House counters the dour GAO draft report:

"A bar was set so high, that it was almost not to be able to be met," White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said. "On the other hand, one of the things it does not take into account, which is not on the benchmark list, is the cooperation of the Sunni tribes, who have decided to fight back against al-Qaida."

I guess Dana Perino neglected to read this from Sunday's Times [UK]:

The Islamic Army has also noted President George Bush’s comments about the success of the surge. “Bush foolishly announced to the world that all the Sunnis in Iraq were fighting Al-Qaeda so he could claim to have achieved a great victory,” Shammari said. “It’s nonsense.”

The article above, which quotes the Islamic Army and their leader Ibrahim al-Shammari, also states that "the Islamic Army had signed a ceasefire with Al-Qaeda in Iraq." Funny, Ms. Perino didn't mention that bit of news today. I wonder why.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Sadr's gambit

By Michael J.W. Stickings

In Iraq, I can now say with confidence, peace is at hand. I didn't think it would come, ever, but I was wrong. The U.S.-led war and occupation seemed hopelessly incompetent, if not downright ignorant, but all is now well, or soon will be. The surge has worked, Petraeus is a god, Bush was right all along, all that was needed was time, patience, fortitude, all for the greater glory of the warmongering neocons.

What could possibly have driven me to this conclusion? Consider this:

Radical Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr says he is freezing the activities of his Mehdi Army militia for up to six months in order to re-organise it.

He has also called on all its offices to co-operate with the security forces and exercise "self-control".

Okay, there are still the Sunni insurgents, and al Qaeda, or what calls itself al Qaeda, and various other Shia militias, and much of the Iraqi security apparatus is pro-Sadr, pro-Shia, anti-American, and more than 50 people were killed in Karbala on Tuesday, and the killing continues, mass killing, day after bloody day, and the government in Baghdad is weak and ineffectual and very much in league with Sadr and the Shia militias, and the sectarian violence is civil war, more or less, and... well, there's also this:

Analysts see the move as an attempt by Moqtada Sadr to regain control over his increasingly divided militia.

So -- crap! -- can I take back that opening paragraph? For a moment there I caught a fleeting glimpse of what it must be like deep inside The Bush Bubble of Righteous Delusion.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Headline of the Day (climate change edition)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Here it is:

Wait... the deniers are right?! Damn all!

Did we get it wrong? The flooding won't be as bad as we thought it would be? It's all tree-hugging propaganda and hype?

Well, no. It'll be worse:

Climate change may carry a higher risk of flooding than was previously thought, the journal Nature reports. [italics added]

Researchers say efforts to calculate flooding risk from climate change do not take into account the effect carbon dioxide (CO2) has on vegetation.

Higher atmospheric levels of this greenhouse gas reduce the ability of plants to suck water out of the ground and "breathe" out the excess.

Plants expel excess water through tiny pores, or stomata, in their leaves.

Their reduced ability to release water back into the atmosphere will result in the ground becoming saturated.


The deniers still deny, still think they're right, still think it's all tree-hugging nonsense, still get it wrong, while projections of our common future just get worse and worse and worse, and nothing much gets done to deal with the most pressing crisis of our time, perhaps of all time.

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Loveless Larry

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Can't get enough Larry Craig? (We've posted on the latest Republican sex scandal here, here, here, and here.)

Well, his own party -- you know, the one that doesn't much care for homosexuality, nor for those who practise it -- certainly has had enough of him:

A) The Senate Republican leadership has forced Craig to "step down" (he agreed), if only "temporarily" (until he resigns, that is), from his committee assignments, notably on the Veterans Affairs Committee.

B) Two Republican senators, John McCain of Arizona and Norm Coleman of Minnesota, have called for Craig to resign. McCain: "I believe that he -- that he pled guilty and he had the opportunity to plead innocent. So I think he should resign." Coleman: "Senator Craig pled guilty to a crime involving conduct unbecoming a senator." At the other end of Capitol Hill, Peter Hoekstra, a Republican Congressman from Michigan, has also called for Craig's resignation: Craig "represents the Republican party, and I believe he should step down, as his conduct throughout this matter has been inappropriate for a U.S. senator."


At TPM, David Kurtz calls this "a sign of how toxic the political environment is for Senate Republicans". It's also a sign of the regressive sexual politics of the Republican Party. (Make no mistake, it's the gay thing that matters here. Is what Craig did any worse than what, say, Newt Gingrich did?)

And Steve Benen predicts that "Craig may soon have to decide to spend more time with his family". (The question is, does his family want to spend more time with Craig?)

Once again, you can find a whole lot more over at Memeorandum.

(Check out Jon Swift's post on why conservatives seem so gay, as well as Joe Gandelman's post on how Republicans are putting a wide stance between themselves and Craig.)

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Breaking News! Another bombshell -- Craig to enter rehab, cites suffering from "Restroom Leg Syndrome"

By J. Thomas Duffy

Beleaguered Republican Idaho Senator, Larry Craig, issued a statement this morning, following up on his "I am not gay" admission yesterday, indicating he will begin rehab treatment for "Restroom Leg Syndrome".

Craig did not divulge the rehab facility he will enter, nor state how long he has been inflicted with Restroom Leg Syndrome.

Nor was anything mentioned to the political future of Senator Craig, and how his treatment for Restroom Leg Syndrome would affect his ability to continue serving in office.

A spokesperson for Craig's Senate office needed to clarify, and confirm, for reporters that the Senator was not speaking on the more popular "Restless Leg Syndrome".

Restless legs syndrome (RLS, or Wittmaack-Ekbom's syndrome) "is a condition that is characterized by an irresistible urge to move one's legs. It is poorly understood [citation needed], often misdiagnosed, and believed to be a neurological disorder."

The Craig spokesperson hinted that the intense media attention over Senator Craig could be the cause, or trigger, of his RRLS.

In his statement, Craig stated that RRLS has "inflicted and burdened me, off-and-on, for years."

Neither Craig, nor his office, would respond to follow-up questions on how his "Restroom Leg Syndrome" differed, or was distinct from, "Restless Leg Syndrome".

Nor would anyone associated with Senator Craig respond to speculation that his "Restroom Leg Syndrome" came out of a conference call with the Republican Leadership, after they announced they were referring Craig's Minneapolis public restroom arrest to the Senate Ethics Committee.

There were reports circulating around Capitol Hill that former Tennessee Senator, Dr. Bill Frist, contacted Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, after viewing videotape of Craig's "I'm not gay" press conference, with the diagnosis.

"Frist was very certain," a source close to the Senate told The Garlic, "that is was very clear from the videotape Craig suffered from Restroom Leg Syndrome."

According to the source, Frist indicated that Craig "certainly seems to respond to the visual stimuli that characterizes Restroom Leg Syndrome."

Frist is said to have told the Republican Leadership that "having a wide stance" is also one of the symptoms associated with Restroom Leg Syndrome, but would need to see additional videotape to confirm that diagnosis.

The Garlic, in a search prior to posting this report, has yet to find a rehab facility that specializes in Restroom Leg Syndrome, and neither Craig's office, or the Senate Republican Leadership responded to inquires to identify such a rehab facility.

"I thought I had it under control," continued Craig, in his statement. "It's a bad disease ... A naughty disease ... It's a bad, nasty, naughty disease."

In a related matter, fellow Republican and Craig colleague, Senator David Vitters (R-LA), is expected to hold a news conference later today, to announce a change in his story, that he was too embarrassed to admit that he suffers from "Escort Service Leg Syndrome".

Bonus Restroom Leg Syndrome Links

Barry Crimmins: Today's Monolithic Headlines

The Sleuth - Mary Ann Akers: Senator Sang for Charity a Day After Arrest

It was announced today that Senator Larry Craig will enter rehab, for treatment on his "Restroom Leg Syndrome"

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Revisiting NOLA

By Carol Gee

Today is the 2nd anniversary of Hurricane Katrina coming ashore in New Orleans, Louisiana. I dreaded writing this post and have avoided it for days. Why is it so hard to write about this? I am safe and dry, having been in my current home for years. I have no painful memories of living in Louisiana, I personally know no one who is now a member of the New Orleans Diaspora, nor do I plan to visit New Orleans any time soon. I feel ashamed that I complain about this simple difficulty. And my shame is perhaps the collective shame of a nation associated with what happened to our neighbors in New Orleans. I feel as if I know some of the people personally because KERA, our PBS station, broadcast a powerful story at 8:00 PM last night, that is still with me this morning. (See link. For scheduled rebroadcast times, click on last night's 8:00 program box.) The title is,

"Still Waiting: Life After Katrina - The story of a large New Orleans family's struggle to return home in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Today the President visits NOLA again - Our current president (OCP) will be making his predictable in-person visit. OCP has visited before. People are not impressed, because he has said lots of things about this in the past, according to Free Republic. They remain skeptical with good reason. To quote,

YOU SAID: "Out of New Orleans is going to come that great city again."

WHAT HAPPENED: Before Katrina, New Orleans had 128 public schools, only 83 have reopened. Before Katrina, the city had 13 public libraries, today it has nine. Fewer than two-thirds of pre-storm hospital beds are available. Just 98 out of the 276 child-care facilities have reopened. Only 60 percent of its pre-Katrina population of 455,000 reside in New Orleans today.

Local musicians -- the city's heart and soul -- are barely making it. Once numbering 3,000, musicians have dropped to 1,800 -- with many begging to be paid minimum wage. So desperate, a few dozen took to the streets Sunday protesting the cut-throat wages.

What remains in parts of New Orleans is a ghost of what was. Many homes are still in disrepair and unoccupied, their front stoops leading to piles of splintered two-by-fours and dangling wires.

What we're asking, Mr. President: How can New Orleans achieve greatness, when so many residents can't go home?

The private sector will not by itself be able to save New Orleans, though they were there early and have stayed long. An upbeat LA Times story was atypical of most of the big newspapers' articles. It optimistically headlined, "Old city revels in a new spirit of innovation." And according to the Boston Globe, Citizens are still trying hard to make it better. The quote from the Boston Globe story is about the Gentilly neighborhood,

Two years after their city was nearly annihilated by a massive levee failure, the residents of this New Orleans neighborhood acknowledged that their surroundings still look pretty bad. But they also insisted that things slowly are getting better. Just 31 percent of Gentilly's 16,000 addresses were reoccupied or renovated as of March, according to a survey by a Dartmouth College professor. But another 57 percent finally were being fixed up.

Private citizens, not the government, deserved the credit, they said -- a source of grim humor among those laboring to mend the neighborhood.

"Of course, we should also thank [President] George Bush, [Governor] Kathleen Blanco, and [Mayor C.] Ray Nagin," resident Robert Counce said sarcastically as the meeting wrapped up.

The renaissance in America's most beleaguered city, such that it is, is a complex, dynamic, and messy affair. Progress lives alongside stagnation; hope alongside despair.

"Where's the money?" CNN asks the question. Congress appropriated billions for hurricane relief and rebuilding. USA Today says that the pace of rebuilding depends on who pays. Much of New Orleans still resembles an abandoned war zone. And thousands of people living in other parts of the nation are still waiting for help to come home. To quote CNN,

Domestic Marshall Plan

Nobody expected the private sector to rebuild New Orleans by itself. It was assumed the federal government would step up, especially given that the worst of the damage was caused not by the hurricane but by flooding attributed to shoddy levee construction and maintenance by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

What seemed to make the most sense was a kind of domestic Marshall Plan, or at least the appointment of a politician with disaster experience who would be as empowered as Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover was when river flooding destroyed Greenville, Miss., in 1927.

What New Orleans got instead is Donald Powell, the former chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Powell's title is federal coordinator of Gulf Coast rebuilding. His role is to be President Bush's ambassador to the disaster-stricken region, meaning his job is to deflect the considerable flak local residents send the feds' way.

Unlike Hoover in the 1920s, Powell has no real power, only a bully pulpit and an ability to play referee when local governments have a beef.

Hat tip to Wounded Bird for planning to attend this meeting: Rising Tide 2 Conference August 24-26, 2007. But, like many of us, she is having a lot of trouble writing about this Katrina Anniversary thing: "It's what happened to New Orleans that I can't write about," she laments. Read further at her blog.

cross-posted at South by Southwest

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Wag the dog in desperation

By Michael J.W. Stickings

There will be war with Iran? Why? Because Bush needs it. Badly. And because the warmongering neocons need it. Badly. For Bush, it is a matter of popularity, legacy. For the neocons, it is a matter of credibility. The Iraq War has been bad for business, pretty much destroying everyone affiliated with it. And the destroyed now need to destroy. Something, anything -- and Iran is the obvious target.

And, what's worse, Bush and the warmongering neocons don't seem to have learned a thing from the Iraq War. They still think they're right about everything, Iran included.


Here's the latest evidence of what is almost surely to come:

1) As the BBC is reporting, the U.S. has arrested seven Iranians in Baghdad, all with the Iranian Electricity Ministry. Iran claims they were there on business, an official visit, something about a power station. The U.S. military has refused to comment on the matter. (See also The New York Times.) The U.S. has for some time been trying to connect Iran to the violence in Iraq. Is this latest incident part of that campaign?

2) As Think Progress is reporting, Bush said in a speech to the American Legion today that "technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust". Just as Iraq was supposedly an imminent nuclear threat before the Iraq War, so is Iran now supposedly an imminent nuclear threat. Bush and his fellow warmongers got it wrong then, badly wrong. They are wrong now, and similarly irresponsible in ratcheting up the blood-curdling rhetoric. It was Bush today, but it's been Cheney in the recent past.

3) As The Raw Story is reporting, a new study (pdf) by two British security and arms experts "concludes that the US has made military preparations to destroy Iran's WMD, nuclear energy, regime, armed forces, state apparatus and economic infrastructure within days if not hours of President George W. Bush giving the order... Any attack is likely to be on a massive multi-front scale but avoiding a ground invasion."


One war has been lost (Iraq), one war has been forgotten (Afghanistan), and now there may soon be a third. The record speaks for itself, but the man who launched those two wars still has the power to launch another one. War with Iran would be a terrible idea under any circumstances -- a last resort, if that. It is especially terrible given the motivating forces: desperation, personal and political alike, and righteous ideological delusion.

As the Fred Thompson character, Admiral Josh Painter, puts it so bluntly in The Hunt for Red October: "This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we'll be lucky to live through it."

The war, the Iran War, will be waged over there, massively, but the ramifications will be felt around the world.

If you didn't think the Bush presidency could get any worse, think again.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"Let me be clear: I am not gay and never have been."

By Michael J.W. Stickings

In response to THE SCANDAL, Senator Larry "Lewd Conduct" Craig basically had two options:

1) DENIAL ("I didn't do anything wrong.")
2) REPENTANCE ("I'm sorry for everything I did wrong.")

It should come as no surprise that he went with #1. He wasn't looking for sex, gay sex, in that Minnesota airport restroom. Far from it. It was all a big, huge, massive misunderstanding.

You can read his statement here (and C&L has the video here). And you can find the blogospheric reaction here.

Here's the gist of Craig's denial: He's sorry. He apologizes. He pled guilty, and one would think that was enough, but that guilty plea has brought sadness to the people he cares about, presumably people he wasn't thinking about in that washroom, tapping his foot, looking for action. He "made a poor decision" -- no, there was no lewd conduct, and he wasn't looking for any, in fact, ever. No, the "poor decision" was "to plead guilty to a lesser charge in the hope of making it go away". Which is an odd sort of mea culpa, when you think about it: Why plead guilty if you didn't do anything wrong? Was he motivated by panic? Perhaps -- but unlikely. And why not even seek counsel? Was he afraid a lawyer would spill the beans?

Anyway, yadda yadda yadda.

There's an enemy, of course -- this is what rightists do, and always have done. They don't do anything wrong, it's their enemies who do. This time it's the Idaho Statesman, which "had been relentlessly and viciously harass[ing]" Craig and his family -- yes, poor Craig family! -- for a good long time before the restroom incident.

And: "Let me be clear: I am not gay and never have been."

There's the deeper denial. All-too-predictable, of course.

He's not gay, or so he claims, AND he's a great guy, a fine heterosexual. All-too-predictable again: "I love my wife, family, friends, staff, and Idaho. I love serving Idaho in Congress. Over the years, I have accomplished a lot for Idaho, and I hope Idahoans will allow me to continue to do that." He may or may not seek re-election, and he understands that his actions "have brought a cloud over Idaho" (the guilty plea, not the lewd conduct, of which there wasn't any)," and he "ask[s] the people of Idaho for their forgiveness".

And he won't talk about it anymore. Period. It's a legal matter.

Now, look, I'm not a big fan of lewd conduct -- er, sexual activity -- in public restrooms, be it homo, hetero, or any other prefix. That some people like it and seek it out, well, that's their business, and police business. Good liberal that I am, I would prefer such conduct, such activity, to remain private. And so, really, what Craig does in private is his business, too.

The problem here is that his explanation, his excuse, is simply not credible. He may call it a big misunderstanding, he may claim that he did nothing wrong, aside from the weird guilty plea, that attempt to keep it all secret, but it's his word against the word of a police officer, a plainclothesman who seems to know a thing or two about lewd conduct in public restrooms. Who is more credible -- a police officer doing his job or a conservative politician desperate not to have a gay sex scandal destroy his image and career?

Let me be clear about something, too: I find nothing wrong with gay sex. I find nothing wrong with what Craig was looking for, beyond the obvious concerns regarding anonymous sex. What I find wrong here is that what Craig was doing is illegal, that he has insulted us (including his constituents) with a lame excuse that includes the requisite scapegoat, and that, more seriously, he is a conservative Republican bigot with respect to homosexuality. He is a reprehensible man -- not because he's gay (and he may or may not be: looking for gay sex, having gay sex, and even enjoying gay sex do not make one gay -- sexuality is far more complicated than that), but because he's a hypocrite and a bigot, because he loiters in washrooms looking for some cock action even as he talks up "family values" and bangs the drum against gay rights.

And I do not at all feel sorry for him that he lives with such self-denial, self-loathing, self-hatred. It must be a nightmarish closet that he inhabits, but he deserves it.

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Top Ten Cloves: Things about admitting you have a wide stance

By J. Thomas Duffy

News Item: Craig Arrested, Pleads Guilty Following Incident in Airport Restroom

10. Nothing like an airport's public restroom that makes you want to stretch out and widen your stance

9. When visiting Minneapolis, the "Twin Cities", you like to widen your stance just a little bit more

8. Bouts of irritation when breaking in a new pair of leather pants

7. Causes you to, uncontrollably, tap your foot in the public restroom stall next to you

6. Teasing from your colleagues, how they are going to have to renovate the Senate aisles to accommodate your wide stance

5. Difficulty fitting into average American public restroom stall

4. Once admitting you have a wide stance, confuses your constituents when an issue comes up and you say you're taking a stance on it

3. The need of a really snappy line, when you whip out your business card ... Something like “What do you think about that?”

2. Gives you self-doubts, like, instead of a wide stance, maybe you'd be better off just going with a massage and some crystal meth

1. Makes it easier to spot pieces of paper on a public restroom floor

Bonus Larry Craig Links

Idaho Statesman: Men's room arrest reopens questions about Sen. Larry Craig

Barry Crimmins: Wide footprints to fill

(Cross-posted at The Garlic)

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By Capt. Fogg

"You can't get more personal than that for Americans, and so it does need to be addressed,"

said Representative Rick Larsen, a Democrat from Washington State.

"It's about your child and it's about your pet and it's about food on the table."

Larson and Representative Mark Kirk (R-IL) are in China this week as co-chairs of the U.S.-China Working Group. Kirk, who had been pushing hard for more trade with China, recently introduced a bill in congress that would increase fines for defective Chinese products by one hundred times.

China has been cracking down on toy manufacturers, according to China's
General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine and to a degree that will likely never be seen in the US where unscrupulous or careless business practices do not earn the death penalty and sometimes result in government appointments. I don't think anyone at Mattel will go to jail.

It's been less than a week since a defective Boeing 737 owned by China Airlines blew up on the tarmac in Okinawa. You can't get more personal than that for the Chinese, I would imagine; considering the discomfort and inconvenience of being burned alive. I'm sure that before long, some heads will roll at Boeing so that China does not have to embargo any more dangerous and shoddy American goods as they do with American beef, or begin to demand massive fines of the US Government for what Boeing does and so that some Lou Dobbs equivalent at the Xinhua News agency doesn't become apoplectic about The Americans trying to kill them all.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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"He aggressively and successfully pursued public corruption..."

By J. Thomas Duffy

Darn it!

I was all set to write an analogy of the Crony General's resignation using a baseball motif:

"Tell them I'm through, for love of the game"

-- Billy Chapel, from the movie For The Love of the Game

I intended to point out how, as he fleeced the city of Arlington, Texas, for a new baseball stadium, The Uniter Guy, in his oil man/baseball owner days, should have spent more time learning the game.

Not that the Crony General wasn't pitching a perfect game ... Perfectly abysmal, that is.

The Commander Guy might have picked up that you don't leave your starting pitcher in there, when he's being hit like it's batting practice.

But, then I went and read "President Bush Discusses Resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales" (h/t Barry Crimmins) and one line jumped out;

"He aggressively and successfully pursued public corruption..."

Boy, did he... with flying colors!

Take your pick... His bedpan voyeurism of badgering the sick, doped-up Kaiser Ashcroft... Torture... Wiretapping... The firing of the U.S. Attorneys... Painting the walls of the Injustice Department RNC Red and personally altering -- like Nathan Detroit and a racetrack tote board -- the work-placement averages of the Pat Robertson Law School...

And there was the other angle, of the Bush Grindhouse continuing to stagger like a freshman nerd taking his first swigs out of the brown-bottled GIQ.

Firing, excuse me, "reluctantly accepted his resignation", the Crony General on the Monday before the Labor Day weekend?

Anybody left in the Grindhouse that knows how to read a calendar?

A Friday Dump on this one, man, the havoc that would have caused ... MSNBC probably wouldn't have it until Tuesday, not wanting to muck with their mega-holiday-Doc-Blocs.

So, why would they pull the plug on the Crony General on a Monday?

As we did when the Blossom Turd pulled his smear-laden tent up and left town, what needed to be buried this week ...

It wasn't just happenstance that the Crony General suddenly "recalled" he best get his ass out of the frying pan (but with Congress insisting he keep in under the heat lamp)...

Two things will dominate the news this week:

The Crony General, from the scandals, to the swappin' spit-brotherly love stories of him and The Decider Guy.

And, who will replace the Crony General... Who will be Crony General No. 2?

While it is fanciful to talk about "putting standards" on the nominee, and how the next Crony General will have to "uphold the rule-of- law first", let's get real.

With the list of potentially-indictable crimes hanging over their heads, the next one will be lamer that Gonzales.

I just have a gut feeling about it.

"Mr. Chertoff... They're cueing you ... "

Bonus Crony General Links

Andrew Cohen: Good Riddance

Bush Loyalist Helped Shape Signature Anti-Terror Policies

Top Ten Cloves: How It Would Be Different If Alberto Gonzales Was The Head of March Madness

Alberto Gonzales Sings 'Justice For Sale'

(Cross-posted at The Garlic)

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Craig's Tearoom

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Go to Roll Call for the lewd details: "Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) was arrested in June at a Minnesota airport by a plainclothes police officer investigating lewd conduct complaints in a men’s public restroom."

A Craig spokesman (predictably) called the incident a "he said/he said misunderstanding," but a plainclothes police officer is claiming -- and is there a reason to doubt him? -- that Craig was looking "to engage in lewd conduct" in the stalls. (The officer was the one with whom he wanted to engage.)


(Revelation none of us really wanted revealed: Craig stated in a recored interview following his arrest that "he has a wide stance when going to the bathroom". Perhaps it's a senatorial thing.)

Needless to say, there's a ton of reaction over at Memeorandum.


Make sure to read Hilzoy at Sullivan's place:

Craig seems to have made a habit of voting against laws that would secure the rights of gay men and lesbians. In addition to supporting the Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, he voted against a bill that would have banned job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, against expanding the definition of hate crimes to include sexual orientation, and was rated zero by the Human Rights Campaign in each of the last three Congresses (1, 2, 3; all pdf.) I truly can't imagine what it would be like -- how little self-respect a person would have to have -- to amass that sort of voting record while cruising for gay sex in airport restrooms.

Yes, so much self-hatred, so much self-loathing. And from a conservative Republican, no less. Huh.


The Boston Globe is reporting that Craig has pulled out of the Romney campaign. Pulled out, forced out, whatever.

Hugh Hewitt, surely not alone on the anti-gay right, thinks Craig should resign. But what if he had been trolling for women rather than men?

Taylor Marsh has some useful links, notably to BlogActive, Howie Klein, and Jesus' General.


A conspiracy theory: This story was put out today, months after the incident, to deflect attention away from the Gonzales resignation.

I made it up, but it could very well be true. Right?

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How they treat AIDS victims in Papua New Guinea

By Michael J.W. Stickings


(PNG is surely a candidate for the most backwards place on Earth.)

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Canada, Afghanistan, and the poppy explosion

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Much of our attention has justifiably been focused on Iraq, and on the surge, or troop escalation, and on the upcoming report from General Petraeus, written by the White House, and on the debate between those who see Iraq for what it is, a failure, and those who want more war, that is, more failure.

But what of the real front in the so-called war on terror, the first front, before the sidetrack of Iraq, that is, what of Afghanistan?

Canadians are dying there -- the death toll is rising and we are a country in mourning. We may not stay beyond February 2009, the current deployment, and it is, needless to say, a tense political issue here. The Bloc Québécois, a Quebec-based separatist party that has the third most seats in the House of Commons, wants to bring down the Conservative government, a minority in terms of seats, over the war, but the Liberals, the official opposition, refuse to oblige -- over climate change, perhaps, but not Afghanistan, not now, maybe later.

And so the debate rages on.


Meanwhile, while Afghanistan may be more of a success -- or, rather, less of a failure -- than Iraq, at least one front of the war there has proven to be a failure, and a serious one at that:

Afghan opium poppy cultivation exploded to a record high this year, with the multibillion-dollar trade fuelled by the Taliban insurgency and corrupt officials in President Hamid Karzai's government, a UN report said Monday.

Afghanistan has opium growing on 193,000 hectares of land, a 17 per cent increase from last year's then-record 165,000 hectares, according to an annual survey by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime.

"The situation is dramatic and getting worse by the day," said Antonio Maria Costa, the UNODC's executive director.

The country now accounts for 93 per cent of the global production of opium, the raw material for heroin, and has doubled its output since two years ago, the report said.

"No other country in the world has ever had such a large amount of farmland used for illegal activity, beside China 100 years ago," when it was a major opium producer, Mr. Costa said in an interview in Kabul.

The so-called war on drugs is not the issue here -- that's another war that has long been lost. What this report suggests is that the Afghan government is essentially a municipal government in Kabul, that that government is corrupt, that the Taliban is still strong throughout much of the country, beyond the borders of Kabul, and that the war in Afghanistan, a NATO effort but very much an American one as well, whatever the monumental distraction of Iraq, a war that has been going on even longer than the more disastrous one in Iraq, has been, to put it mildly, euphemistically, a disappointment.

And I haven't even mentioned that Osama hasn't been found.

Unless the Afghan opium industry is brought under control, or at least some semblance of control, there will never be stability there. And without stability there will never be peace.

The war goes on, but to what end?

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Goodbye Gonzales

By Libby Spencer

Well, Gonzales has resigned and of course, everyone is talking about it. I haven't read anything past the headlines and George Bullard, who was pushing Bush's silly meme that poor Fredo was a victim of partisan politics.

I responded briefly, but other than that I don't have a whole lot to say about it at the moment. I didn't really expect it and thus find it suspect. I'm still mulling over what tactical advantage the White House hopes to gain from letting him go at this precise time. Clearly he and Rove both skipped out because the investigations into their criminality are getting too close for comfort, but still, this administration makes every move for political gain.

However, the biggest surprise for me by far is my emotional response to the news of both resignations. I'm glad that they're gone for the good of the country but I'm unexpectedly unelated. Somehow I can't shake the vague sense of having been cheated of the righteous indictments they so richly deserved.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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DAD! Those mean old people took Fredo away from me.

By Edward Copeland

If his statement from Crawford is any indication, Dubya sure didn't want to let Alberto go, presumably because he likes to surround himself with as many incompetents as possible so he doesn't look so bad. (Sorry George: You look like an incompetent twit no matter who is standing next to you.) In his statement, from Crawford, Dubya said:

"It's sad that we live in a time when a talented and honorable person like Alberto Gonzales is impeded from doing important work because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons."

Those Washington meanies. He better go back to the ranchhouse where Laura can hold him while he sucks his thumb and pouts. Gee, I don't suppose Bush would try to appoint Patrick Fitzgerald to replace him. Nah, Fitz wouldn't accept anyway.

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