Monday, October 30, 2006

Playing Games with Statistics

Some right wingers have been trying to minimize the danger to our troops in Iraq from time to time by playing with statistics. Check out the excellent graph from Winds of Change, which shows a steady drop over the years from accidents in the military and then a sharp spike in deaths due to hostile fire and a rise in undetermined deaths after our invasion of Iraq.

Clearly, the military deaths of Americans in Iraq is far less than most of our wars but given that Iraq is an optional war we did not need, nearly three thousand deaths and over 20,000 wounded in Iraq is unacceptable.

One thing this graph does not show is the spike in the number of deaths of veterans in the year after they leave the military after just serving in a war or return stateside while in the military after serving in a war. Nearly every war claims more victims that the statistics show.

Of course, the statistics for Iraqi civilians is beyond tragic.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Republican Congress Woefully Out of Touch

There really is a difference between mainstream Republicans and the right wingers. The right wingers just don't seem to get how much of a failure Bush and his crew have been.

We all know that Majority Leader, Tom DeLay, was not good for America, that his philosophy was so right right and so avaracious in terms of his own power and in terms of developing the Republican money machine through lobbyists and campaign contributors that he left tens of millions of Americans out of any kind of consideration. Think of it for a moment. Can any democracy ignore tens of millions of people, I mean numbers far exceeding the populations of half the countries in the world!

When it came to foreign policy, Tom DeLay was never particularly consistent except to promote whatever policy maintained his personal political power. Like other Republicans in Congress, DeLay simply rubber stamped Bush when Bush still had high numbers.

But DeLay is gone and now we have boneheads like House Majority Leader John Boehner who says things like this (via Yahoo News):
The No. 2 leader in the House on Sunday said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is "the best thing that's happened to the Pentagon in 25 years," sparking a debate with Democrats who said the comments show why the GOP should be voted out of power.

Rumsfeld's leadership of the bloody mission in Iraq has become a divisive issue in the Nov. 7 elections. Many Democrats and a few Republicans are calling for his resignation, but President Bush repeatedly has defended him. So did House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, during an appearance Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

"I think Donald Rumsfeld is the best thing that's happened to the Pentagon in 25 years," Boehner said. "This Pentagon and our military needs a transformation. And I think Donald Rumsfeld's the only man in America who knows where the bodies are buried at the Pentagon, has enough experience to help transform that institution."

Rumsfeld is one of three reasons that Iraq is such a foreign policy disaster (Bush and Cheney being the other two). Too few troops, too much looting and too much operational confusion can be laid squarely at the feet of Rumsfeld. And that's before Rumsfeld gave us Abu Ghraib. If you're going to go to war, you better know what you're trying to accomplish. The war in Iraq is a strange one and one of the things Americans are beginning to realize is that it's a political war, not a war of necessity.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Senator Race in Tennessee Still Tight

Harold J. Ford, Jr., may have a chance of winning the senate seat in Tennessee. If nothing else, he's made a real contest of it and has forced Republican candidate Corker, who thought he had a sure thing, to go dirty in the campaign. Here's a long post by Kiosan of A Voce:

I was born and grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. If someone had come to me 15 years ago and told me Harold Ford, Jr was going to make a serious bid for the Senate, and might even win it, I probably would have laughed myself into convulsions.

I'm not laughing today. The race is in serious enough contention that WaPo carries an article on the front page.

Ford, a Democratic House representative from Memphis, is young, telegenic, charismatic, smart, and one of the more socially conservative Democrats offered up this year for our national consideration. ...


... A savvy campaigner with an established moderate record, Ford has been making significant gains in the polls.

And this has surprised a number of people, particularly those who assumed Tennessee was a foregone conclusion with a red punctuation mark. For the last ten years, the state has strongly favored Republican candidates. ...

Be sure to read the whole post. I can't say I know much about the local politics but let's hope the Democrats do well in Tennessee. Given the record of the GOP in recent years and the rampant corruption in Washington, Republicans can no longer waltz into an election and automatically assume they have the votes sewed up because they have big business and big money behind them. It's time for a different direction.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina Goes On

Without people, our country is nothing. But Republicans in Washington only care about winning and oh yes money for themselves and their cronies. I wonder when the people who dominate Washington will start caring about what's happening to our country again?

Here's a searing story from the Times-Picayune of New Orleans about the hammering effect of Hurricane Katrina and the hollow response of Washington and the numbing effect of walking through a permanent disaster area month after month:
My hands shook. I had to look down when I walked down the steps, holding the banister to keep steady. I was at risk every time I got behind the wheel of a car; I couldn't pay attention.

I lost 15 pounds and it's safe to say I didn't have a lot to give. I stopped talking to Kelly, my wife. She loathed me, my silences, my distance, my inertia.

I stopped walking my dog, so she hated me, too. The grass and weeds in my yard just grew and grew.

I stopped talking to my family and my friends. I stopped answering phone calls and e-mails. I maintained limited communication with my editors to keep my job but I started missing deadlines anyway.

My editors, they were kind. They cut me slack. There's a lot of slack being cut in this town now. A lot of legroom, empathy and forgiveness.

I tried to keep an open line of communication with my kids to keep my sanity, but it was still slipping away. My two oldest, 7 and 5, began asking: "What are you looking at, Daddy?"

The thousand-yard stare. I couldn't shake it. Boring holes into the house behind my back yard. Daddy is a zombie. That was my movie: Night of the Living Dead. Followed by Morning of the Living Dead, followed by Afternoon . . .

. . . . . . .

My own darkness first became visible last fall. As the days of covering the Aftermath turned into weeks which turned into months, I began taking long walks, miles and miles, late at night, one arm pinned to my side, the other waving in stride. I became one of those guys you see coming down the street and you cross over to get out of the way.

I had crying jags and fetal positionings and other "episodes." One day last fall, while the city was still mostly abandoned, I passed out on the job, fell face first into a tree, snapped my glasses in half, gouged a hole in my forehead and lay unconscious on the side of the road for an entire afternoon.

You might think that would have been a wake-up call, but it wasn't. Instead, like everything else happening to me, I wrote a column about it, trying to make it all sound so funny.

It probably didn't help that my wife and kids spent the last four months of 2005 at my parents' home in Maryland. Until Christmas I worked, and lived, completely alone.

Even when my family finally returned, I spent the next several months driving endlessly through bombed-out neighborhoods. I met legions of people who appeared to be dying from sadness, and I wrote about them.

I was receiving thousands of e-mails in reaction to my stories in the paper, and most of them were more accounts of death, destruction and despondency by people from around south Louisiana. I am pretty sure I possess the largest archive of personal Katrina stories, little histories that would break your heart.

I guess they broke mine.

Disasters are real. The president and his friends tried to turn it into a cartoon. Karl Rove tried to turn it into a photo op to prop up Bush's numbers when it was New Orleans that needed propping up. The media got stuck on endless loops of looting rather than the tragic situation that existed in New Orleans and elsewhere along the gulf. Congress shed a few tears, voted some money and immediately Republicans were trying to figure out how to make money and special deals on the misery.

It's time to admit it. We're a broken country. Until they clean up their act, the Republicans aren't going to have any answers. Maybe the Democrats don't have all the answers either but until the Republicans return to some level of decency, it's time to give the Democrats a chance.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Pat Tillman's Brother Speaks Out

Former football player, Pat Tillman, died in Afghanistan in an ugly friendly fire incident that was initially covered up. Raw Story has a post by Pat Tillman's brother, Kevin Tillman:
Editor’s note: Kevin Tillman joined the Army with his brother Pat in 2002, and they served together in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pat was killed in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004. Kevin, who was discharged in 2005, has written a powerful, must-read document.

It is Pat’s birthday on November 6, and elections are the day after. It gets me thinking about a conversation I had with Pat before we joined the military. He spoke about the risks with signing the papers. How once we committed, we were at the mercy of the American leadership and the American people. How we could be thrown in a direction not of our volition. How fighting as a soldier would leave us without a voice… until we get out.


Somehow we were sent to invade a nation because it was a direct threat to the American people, or to the world, or harbored terrorists, or was involved in the September 11 attacks, or received weapons-grade uranium from Niger, or had mobile weapons labs, or WMD, or had a need to be liberated, or we needed to establish a democracy, or stop an insurgency, or stop a civil war we created that can’t be called a civil war even though it is. Something like that.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow our elected leaders were subverting international law and humanity by setting up secret prisons around the world, secretly kidnapping people, secretly holding them indefinitely, secretly not charging them with anything, secretly torturing them. Somehow that overt policy of torture became the fault of a few “bad apples” in the military.

Be sure to read this searing piece. There's a growing number of officers and soldiers who wonder what we're trying to accomplish in Iraq at this late date. Bush is running out of new reasons and our rubber stamping Republican Congress is unwilling to challenge him. We need new voices to speak for average Americans.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Voters Turning Away from GOP Retreads

A number of Republicans have been in Washington so long they have forgotten who they work for. As an example, consider Republican Congressman Jerry Lewis of California as we see in this post by TPM Muckraker:
As TPMm readers know well, House Appropriations chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) is under federal investigation for possible improprieties in how he oversaw Congress' spending of $900 billion annually. Yesterday, we reported that Lewis had dropped nearly $800,000 in legal fees to defend himself against the probe.

This evening, Congressional Quarterly reports (sub. req.) that in a round of calls Monday evening, Lewis fired 60 investigators who had worked for his committee rooting out fraud, waste and abuse, effective immediately. As in, don't bother coming in on Tuesday.

The investigators were contract workers, brought on to handle the extraordinary level of fraud investigations facing the panel. Sixteen permanent investigative staff are staying on, according to CQ.

And then, there's Vice President Cheney whose strange view of the universe is getting a bit like a bad movie. Here's Think Progress with that story:
Just last month, the Senate Intelligence Committee — chaired by Bush-ally Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) — concluded that there was absolutely no relationship between Saddam Hussein and the late al-Qaeda operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Nevertheless, in an interview with a South Bend, Indiana television station yesterday, Vice President Cheney falsely asserted that Zarqawi was proof of a connection between Iraq and al Qaeda.

Cheney’s statement is a lie. Here’s precisely what the Senate Intelligence Committee found:
Saddam Hussein attempted, unsuccessfully, to locate and capture al-Zarqawi and…the regime did not have a relationship with, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi. [p. 109]

After four years, Cheney is still peddling the same frauds. Let's review one of the characters from four years ago who was pushing hard for war in Iraq, Richard Perle; here from Common Dreams, is just one of the stories about Perle mixed agenda:
In February, the Defense Policy Board, a group of outside advisors to the Pentagon, got a classified presentation from the super-secret Defense Intelligence Agency on crises in North Korea and Iraq.

Three weeks later, the then-chairman of the board, Richard N. Perle, offered a briefing of his own at an investment seminar on ways to profit from possible conflicts with both countries.

Perle and his fellow advisors also heard a classified address about high-tech military communications systems at the same closed-door session in February. He runs a venture capital firm that has been exploring investments in that very area.

The disclosures in recently released board agendas and investment documents are the latest illustrations of how Perle's private consulting and investment interests overlap with his role on the board, which advises the secretary of Defense.

Think of it. Perle was thinking of ways of profiting from Bush's flawed policies! There are many more characters in Washington doing 'hard work' for George W. Bush. The Washington Post has a story on the Republican breakdown:
With top Republican strategists now privately predicting substantial House losses, President Bush and top GOP officials plan to spend the final days of the 2006 campaign attempting to rally partisans and limit conservative defections with dire warnings about the consequences of a Democratic Congress.


Beyond the White House, however, there is increasing anxiety among Republicans about whether new efforts to frame the party's message can be effective in turning a tide that seems to be running powerfully against them as a result of the Iraq war and the Mark Foley page scandal.

For months, Republican leaders have sought to reassure candidates and activists with a succession of strategies. These included efforts to transcend the national environment by focusing House and Senate races on local issues, as well as high-profile speeches by Bush casting Iraq as just one theater in a larger war against terrorists. But none of these approaches has succeeded over a sustained time in reversing polls showing deep voter unrest and willingness to punish Republicans for the performance of Washington.

Never has a Congress done so little for the American people and scrambled so hard to pretend otherwise.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

CNN Poll Says Congress Is Out of Touch

It's a given by now that Congress is out of touch for those of us that have been paying attention. A great many more Americans are discovering that our elected representatives are a bit too beholden to their rich friends and their own pocketbooks. I have no problem with a high salary for Congress as long as it's the American people who are paying the bill but too many members of Congress tend to lose their way when the bills and the bills of their relatives are getting paid by big business and a Republican corps of hundreds of lobbyists.

Here's the CNN poll:
Just weeks before crucial midterm elections, a new poll says nearly three quarters of Americans see Congress as out of touch, much as they did in 1994, the last time the minority party took control of Capitol Hill.

Seventy-four percent of respondents to a new Opinion Research poll say Congress is generally out of touch with average Americans. That's up from 69 percent who agreed with that view in a January poll this year.

In 1994, 75 percent of respondents to a CNN poll also said Congress was out of touch. Voters then proceeded to vote out Democrats in both the House and the Senate, a sweep that hadn't been seen in the House since 1952.


Fifty-five percent of respondents said they are dissatisfied with the current opportunities for the next generation to live better than their parents, and 44 percent said they were satisfied.

Respondents also were asked whether "big business" has too much influence over decisions made by the Bush administration.

Seventy-nine percent of those surveyed in the new Opinion Research poll said they feel big business does have too much influence over the administration's decisions. The poll comes after a congressional lobbying scandal and questions about White House ties to the Halliburton Co., a key U.S. contractor in the Iraq war.

I have no problem with big business earning money but I do have a problem with the growing attitude in business that the average American is just nothing but a cash cow to be milked by predatory business practices that allow pollution, jobs being sent overseas, less and less health insurance, innovations that aren't very innovative (look at how many expensive drugs have flopped in the last ten years as one example) and predatory loans just to name a few practices. One per cent of our country shouldn't be owning ninety per cent of the country. The current generation of very right wing Republicans has got to go. But these Republicans won't go unless voters turn out in record numbers and make them go.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What's Dennis Hastert Waiting for?

When it comes to the ethical behavior of his fellow Republicans, House SpeakerDennis Hastert sees no evil, hears no evil and if by chance he knows something, he ain't speaking. The Foley scandal is only one example of a House leadership that looks the other way when Republicans are playing games or doing things they shouldn't. This is no way to run a Congress. It's time for Hastert to step down.

Charles Babington of The New York Sun wonders though who would replace Hastert:
The House speaker, Dennis Hastert, a Republican of Illinois, shows no sign of resigning over the Mark Foley-House page scandal. But the mere suggestion that he might do so raises an intriguing political and constitutional question: Who would replace him while Congress is in recess?

The answer, it appears, is on a piece of paper locked away in the House clerk's office. In a little-noticed action taken nearly four years ago, the House amended its rules dealing with the "continuity of Congress" in emergencies and the succession of speakers. The rule, cited recently in Roll Call, directs the speaker to "deliver to the Clerk a list of Members in the order in which each shall act as Speaker pro tempore ... in the case of a vacancy in the office of Speaker."

Now Babington is talking about a legal document that dictates the succession if something happens to the Speaker during a recess. But think about it for the moment. The Republican leadership under Hastert is nothing to brag about. In fact, it's embarrassing. Hastert doesn't run the House by himself. In fact, when DeLay was around, he left no doubt that he and not Hastert was in charge. Not much has changed since the departure of DeLay. We need some accountability in Congress and we need a change. If there is to be reform in Congress, Hastert isn't the only one that needs to go.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

John Edwards May Benefit from Warner's Absence

The 2008 presidential primaries begin in 15 months. The frontrunner is Hillary Clinton, and already Al Gore and Mark Warner seem to be out of the race. At this point, the closest competitor to Senator Clinton appears to be John Edwards.

In recent weeks, perhaps thanks to her husband, Bill Clinton, Senator Clinton has raised her game somewhat. We'll see. Until recently, she gave the impression of reading the polls too closely and parsing her words too carefully rather than establishing her leadership.

These are tricky times for both Republican and Democratic contenders for president. For over two years, McCain has tied his wagon to Bush's failing policies and the senator shows signs that he's not particularly quick on his feet or adept at truly understanding this era.

Including Hillary Clinton, the candidate who seems to be paying close attention to the seriousness of these rapidly changing times, and adapting, is John Edwards. I could be wrong, but he seems to have become the quickest study of any of the potential candidates. We'll soon know as the campaign begins to hit up.

Tim O'Brien the Minneapolis Star Tribune had this item recently about the departure of Mark Warner and the effect it may have on Edwards potential run:
No candidate has declared for the 2008 presidential race, but the Democratic field was still narrowed on Thursday when former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, one of the party's top prospects, said he was going to pass on a bid. Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post's The Fix (5) said former vice presidential nominee John Edwards stood to gain. "Edwards and Warner were seen as occupying the tier just below that of Clinton -- the two candidates given the best chance of dethroning her for the nomination. Edwards is now alone in that second tier and -- at the moment -- has had the best 2006 of any of the aspiring candidates."
John Edwards has been out campaigning for other Democrats and he has things to say. A post by him can be found on today's Think Progress:
(Our guest blogger, John Edwards, is a former North Carolina Senator and candidate for Vice President)

There are happy anniversaries and sad ones. October 17th is one of the sad ones. It’s been a year since Congress put into effect a new bankruptcy law that makes it harder for people to declare bankruptcy and get a fresh start. It was easy for Congress to characterize bankrupt families as “deadbeats” and ignore the reality that more than 90 percent of all bankruptcies are due to medical emergencies, job loss, divorce or a death in the family.

This anniversary has got me thinking. Our middle class is built on shaky ground. The latest sign: a wave of new foreclosures driven by higher interest rates, lower housing prices, and predatory mortgage lending.


Predatory lending isn’t the only problem for families that are working hard, paying their bills, and still struggling to get by. Short-term payday loans with excessive interest rates can quickly turn into a crushing long-term debt. Congress recently passed protections for our military men and women, but why not all families?

It’s well past time to install leaders who care about issues like predatory lending, rising mortgage foreclosure rates, increasing the minimum wage, and helping middle and low-income families. Americans deserve leaders that have the backbone to stand up and do something about their concerns. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again until it’s a reality — we need a government that works for all of its people, especially the most vulnerable among us.

Like I said, Edwards seems to be paying close attention to the times.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Murtha Out Supporting New Democrats

Rep. John Murtha is a strong voice in the Democratic Party. His criticism of Bush's Iraq policy, despite his initial support, has made him a repeated target of Republican hit jobs. Murtha, though, has held his ground and talked facts rather than nonsense. I still remember his excellent performance on the House floor last year as he took on Republican members who didn't really want to talk about Iraq.

Well, he's going to Ohio to do some campaigning and TPM Cafe's election central has the story:
Jack Murtha is coming to Ohio to campaign for Dem Victoria Wulsin -- and against Wulsin's GOP opponent, "Mean Jean" Schmidt, the woman who memorably called Murtha a "coward" a year ago. Today's Cincinnati Post reports that Murtha will invade Mean Jean's district on behalf of Wulsin this coming Saturday.

Schmidt's invective against Murtha will go down as one of the low points of the Republican party on the floor of the House that anyone can remember in recent years. Hopefully, there will return a time when Republicans have respect for veterans regardless of whether they're Republican, Democrat or independent.

Mark Warner Not Running for President

Mark Warner has announced on his website that he won't be running for president. Here's part of the statement on Forward Together (bold emphasis mine):
Nine months ago, I left the office of Governor in Virginia. I was immensely proud of what we had accomplished. We faced historic challenges and got real results.

Upon leaving office, I committed all my time and energy to Forward Together because we need a new direction in America.


I’ve heard that regardless of the depth of dismay at the direction President Bush has taken our country, rank and file Democrats are energized, and want ours to be a party of hope, not of anger.

I am especially proud of the work we’ve done in supporting those kinds of candidates throughout America.

We got a lot done.

Forward Together has contributed more money this year to Democratic candidates and party organizations than any other federal leadership PAC. Our effort raised over $9 million.


...about a month ago, I told my family and people who know me best that I would make a final decision after Columbus Day weekend, which I was spending with my family. After 67 trips to 28 states and five foreign countries, I have made that decision.

I have decided not to run for President.


In my speeches, I always acknowledge that what disappoints me most about this administration in Washington is that with all the challenges we face . . . and the tragedies we have experienced, from 9-11 to Katrina . . . that the President has never rallied the American people to come together, to step up, to ask Americans to be part of the solution.

I think a number of our party’s potential candidates understand that. I think, in fact, we have a strong field. A field of good people. I think they’re all hearing what I heard: that Americans are ready to do their part to get our country fixed. I wish them all well.

I prefer a broad field of candidates to a smaller one and I'm sorry to see Warner leave so early. I admit he was about my third or fourth choice but he would have made a fine candidate. I hope he does what Al Gore has been doing for the last five years: be a strong voice for the Democratic Party without having to worry about jostling for a position in the polls. He says he wants to talk about the future of our country and I hope he does so.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Senator McCain Oblivious to Bush's Failures

I used to sort of like John McCain; that is, until he decided to take more and more of his marching orders from George W. Bush. McCain doesn't seem to notice Bush's failures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Bush failed to finish the job in Afghanistan and has no clue when it comes to the other countries. One can hardly point to any major accomplishments.

The reality to John McCain is that the world is passing him by and he simply has trouble keeping pace with events. Attacking Bill Clinton when President Bush is only three months from the start of his seventh year in office is getting embarrassing for the Republicans. Steve Soto of The Left Coaster seems to get it:
Uh, senator, how many IAEA inspectors did we have monitoring North Korea in the 1990’s and how many do we have on the ground now? By the way Senator, if giving the North Koreans energy assistance as required by the framework agreement is the sign of a failed policy, then what did you say when George W. Bush gave Pyongyang the same assistance back in 2002?


Senator, how many nuclear weapons tests did the North Koreans conduct during the 1990’s? And how many tests and how much weapons grade material have they developed since 2000 right under your nose while you sat on the Senate Armed Services Committee?

McCain ought to know better than to repeat right wing Republican talking points; the only thing that was ever interesting about McCain was his independence and that is now gone. We need people in the House and the Senate who can think for themselves and think clearly.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

American Military Overstretched Thanks to Bush Administration Bungling

I think we know by now that Donald Rumsfeld doesn't know what he's doing and Henry Kissinger's best days are behind him despite his bizarre recommendation to Bush to hang on to Rummy. We went to war in Iraq without finishing the job in Afghanistan and we're beginning to pay the price for trying to run two incompetent wars from the White House, the Vice President's office and the politically appointed civilian wing of the Pentagon. Drew Brown of the McClatchy Washington Bureau has the story on America's military:
The war in Iraq has become such a drain on the Army and the Marines that it's seriously damaged the U.S. military's ability to respond if other crises arise, two Democratic congressmen said Thursday.

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Reps. John Murtha, D-Pa., and Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, warned that because funding for the military has been siphoned off to pay for the war, the Army and Marines are running dangerously short of the necessary troops, equipment and training to stay combat ready.

"This makes deployments impossible unless we are prepared to put our troops at risk," said Abercrombie, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. "It also makes conducting homeland security or disaster response missions more difficult, if not unacceptable in terms of public confidence."

They said combat readiness for the Army especially had dropped to levels not seen since the end of the Vietnam War and would continue to deteriorate for as long as U.S. forces remained in Iraq. Because most of the active-duty U.S. ground forces are committed to the war, they said, the U.S. military lacks a strategic reserve to respond to other crises.

"We don't have a combat unit that is really trained to the point where it can be deployed," said Murtha, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee. "We don't have a strategic reserve unless you say the Navy and Air Force are strategic reserves."

We're supposed to have the resources to fight two wars but there's a catch: we're not supposed to be fighting two wars. If we had finished the job in Afghanistan, that would have meant a large reserve of the military with all its equipment and its continued training ready for a quick deployment if necessary in case of a second war anywhere in the world. If you're doing diplomacy and your enemies know you have that reserve, it makes them cautious and the second war may not even be necessary if you understand all the tools in the foreign policy kit. But, by allowing ourselves to be tied down by voluntarily taking on a second war we did not need (and botching it besides), we're having trouble finishing either war in a way that makes sense (largely because we missed the important window of opportunity to stabilize and rebuild either country); and nearly continuous war for five years along with the massive tax cuts for America's wealthy has left our military overextended, underequipped and increasingly, undertrained. That is where we now stand and it is likely to be the legacy Bush will be leaving us when he returns to Crawford, Texas in two years. And there are people in the Bush administration seriously thinking of taking on Iran.

Will Republicans Clean House or Play Musical Chairs?

When the very corrupt Tom DeLay was forced to step down, there was a brief period of hope that Republicans would get their act together and clean up the corruption in the House that can be traced to any number of Republicans. There was even hope that Republicans would restore power to the House Ethics Committee. But no such thing happened. The "What me worry?" leadership of Dennis Hastert remained in place. Will Republicans clean house or just keep the corruption going among themselves but with just a little less noise to bother voters?

Dennis Hastert isn't resigning, at least yet, despite his inability to ever notice that his fellow Republicans aren't always acting in the best interests of the public. Here's an article by Carl Hulse and Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times:
Backed by measured words of support from President Bush, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert opened an intense drive on Tuesday to hold on to his post, but behind the scenes senior Republicans weighed whether he could survive the scandal surrounding former Representative Mark Foley.

Among the options being considered by senior Republicans is for Mr. Hastert to announce that he will stay on as speaker through this year but not seek re-election to the post assuming Republicans retain control of the House, said people on and off Capitol Hill who were involved in the discussions. They said the advantage of such a step would be to postpone a disruptive leadership fight until after Election Day.


Though Mr. Bush stopped short of saying explicitly that he wanted Mr. Hastert to keep his job, White House officials said the president wanted to return the loyalty Mr. Hastert had shown the administration. But they said the White House was resigned to more political damage as the Foley case played out no matter what Mr. Bush and the House leadership might do or say.

Some would argue that Hastert has been far more loyal to Bush and the Republican Party than to the U.S. Constitution or to the American people. Certainly Bush is pleased that Congress politely allowed the president to do whatever he wanted as if Congress were not one of the three branches of our government. But to hang on the the speakership just to pick up a few votes? It's past time for Hastert and some of his friends to start accepting responsibility for their failures.