Friday, February 27, 2004

New Presidential Line of Succession Sought - No, I am not Making This Up

Even my favorite humorist Dave Barry would never run this story in his column. First it's not believable, and second it's not funny, it's frightening. Therefore, it must be coming from a Bush apostle...

Legislation introduced this month by Senate Republicans, including Texan John Cornyn, would dramatically change the way presidential succession works.

Should the president become incapacitated along with the vice president, members of Congress would be ineligible for the top leadership position in favor of Cabinet members.

At this time, if a president and vice president were killed, the speaker of the House would become president. Next in line would be the president pro tem of the Senate, a senior member of the majority party.

Cornyn and other lawmakers, along with a number of scholars and researchers, think the law is outdated and may be unconstitutional.

The bill he introduced with Republican Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi would remove members of Congress from the line of succession. Instead, Cabinet members, beginning with the secretary of state and followed by the treasury secretary, defense secretary, attorney general and the homeland security director, would form the line behind the president and vice president.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., has not taken a position on the legislation

I know you have several questions, veterans, and others reading, so I've attempted to save you some time by asking the questions for you:

What happens if your president has already been incapacitated mentally for three years?
What happens if you can't find the vice president?
Why is Denny (me too! Mr. President!) Hastert not raising his hand on this one?
How come we don't see any elected officials in the new line of succession?
Have you thought about the fact that our attorney general, who lost his Senate election to a dead man, could be the next president?

Clearly this new line of succession will have to be addressed in yet another new Amendment to the Constitution (after the president firebombs San Francisco). But I don't think the succession list was cleared with Mr. Bush before it hit the media. Fortunately for you readers, it so happens that a White House snitch has emailed me the real order of succession, after the president & vice president: if you still have your copy of last Sunday's Parade magazine, you can see it on the cover - the top 10 dictators in the world. If none of those guys are acceptable, the snitch says that Arnold Schwarzenegger is ready (yes, I know, but another Constitutional Amendment is in the works...)

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Two Unconnected Events?

It's late at night - so just one more blog for today. I've just finished rereading the 50th anniversary edition of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury - OK, OK, yes I read the original too, a few years after it came out. The Public Library system of Portland, Oregon is recommending the book to everyone to read and discuss. It was a hard hitting, shocking polemic at the time, warning of the dangers of losing our civil liberties by no longer being able to possess or read books. If you were caught with a book, your house and you would go up in smoke, burned to ashes by government officials.

I don't know about you, but I think Bradbury is still one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time.

Oh well, it is getting late, but come to think of it, this is the only time I really feel safe about pulling out my copy of the 2004 World Almanac (See the blog post for Tues Dec 30, "Finally the Real WMDs are Discovered"). I just got up from my desk - I thought I heard something and went back to my reading, looking over my shoulder out the window. Let's see, did you know that the U.S. produced over 300 million bushels of sorghum last year?

I'm sure I hear a noise outside - no it's just my imagination. Surely John Ashcroft could care less whether I owned this book or not, right??? Strange, now it smells like something's burning...

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The Next 50 Amendments to the Constitution Are Being Prepared...

While Mr. Bush manufactures issues to keep our attention off of his disastrous presidency, Greg Palast sees a great market for consultants (from Halliburton?) to help the president out by drafting a whole new set of amendments to the Constitution to protect us from all sorts of nefarious characters seeking illegal relationships. Mr. Palast has beaten them to the punch, however, and reports that civil disobedience has already set in. For example... Mr. John Stump filed for the State (of Massachusetts) to recognize his "special permanent relationship" to the Red Sox, a love that dare not speak its name too often.

Then there's Loretta Lomax, the former Mrs. Stump, who is asking the State to recognize her long-standing commitment to her career in financial services marketing. "It's a lifestyle choice," says Ms. Lomax, "and the State should not interfere with a relationship as fulfilling and loving as I have ever experienced. There is nothing 'unnatural' about it."

Clearly Mr. Bush will be so busy with his Constitutional amendment writing duties, that he probably won't have realized what happened when he wakes up in his rocking chair in Crawford, Texas, this time next year.

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Thursday, February 26, 2004

Scary Advisors 101 - the Ongoing Story: This White House Chooses to Fight Terrorism With Those Supporting Terrorist Acts Against the U.S.

Much has been made of the heavy influence on Mr. Bush from people like Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft, Donald Rumsfeld, and Richard Perle (whose new book "An End to Evil" would be better titled "Evil For Fun & Profit"). Now it has become clear that just being scary isn't enough for two of these close Bush advisors, Karl (with a "K") Rove and Grover Norquist. These guys are not just influential, they are downright dangerous.

Rove & Norquist, who have the ear of the president (and the brain?) are, incredibly, so intent with pushing their agenda of world pre-emptive expansion, that they have no idea of the possible consequences, nor the resulting idiocy of their actions. Here is just a small piece of some good investigative journalism..

The rise of Khaled Saffuri to political prominence within the U.S. Muslim community has all the ingredients of a Horatio Alger success story. Brought up as a stateless exile in Kuwait, Saffuri came to America as a student in 1982, went to college in San Diego, and soon gravitated into the world of Muslim activism.

In 1998, along with Republican activist Grover Norquist, Saffuri established the Islamic Institute in Washington with the stated purpose of promoting free-market ideals in the Muslim world and of bringing American Muslims into the Republican Party.

Recognition of his role came with a thunderclap during the 2000 presidential campaign, when Karl Rove named him the Bush campaign's point man for Muslim outreach. With George W. Bush in the White House, Khaled Saffuri had arrived.

By all accounts, Saffuri put his new prominence to use, promoting the friends who had helped him achieve his newfound status and advocating for the issues about which they cared. One by one, he introduced them to President Bush and his entourage. With Saffuri frequently smiling in the background, they proudly posed for campaign photographs and, later, attended White House events.

Now, however, some of the very people Saffuri introduced to Bush and Rove are in federal prison on terrorism-related charges. Others have been expelled from the country. Still other former colleagues and donors have become subjects of a massive federal probe into U.S. funding of terrorist organizations that is code-named Operation Greenquest.

Norquist, the conservative fund-raiser and antipork president of Americans for Tax Reform, insists that any attempt to tie Saffuri to terrorist supporters is "guilt by association." Those who make such accusations, Norquist tells reporters, are "racists and bigots."

But Saffuri's ties to radical Islamists and apologists for terror are neither superficial nor coincidental. An Insight investigation has uncovered a consistent pattern of fund-raising and influence operations in which Saffuri played a prominent role side by side with Abdurahman Alamoudi, a well-known Muslim activist who was Saffuri's employer at the American Muslim Council (AMC). Alamoudi was arrested last September on charges of illegally taking cash payments from the government of Libya in exchange for lobbying the Bush administration to lift sanctions against the Qaddafi regime.

Alamoudi also was one of the leaders of a vast network of Hamas supporters operating across the United States under the guise of American Muslim activist groups.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Alamoudi attended a leadership conference in Beirut in January 2001 along with top leaders of Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda. These and other Alamoudi actions and statements were cited by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Brett Gentrup in a September 2003 affidavit in support of Alamoudi's arrest.

Another key Saffuri ally, Sami Amin al-Arian, was arrested on Feb. 20, 2003, by federal agents in Tampa, Fla., because of his alleged ties to Palestinian terrorists. Like Saffuri, al-Arian is a Palestinian who came to this country from Kuwait. He was the subject of a long-standing criminal investigation because of the leadership role he allegedly played in Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a group that has claimed responsibility for the murder of hundreds of Israelis and more than a dozen Americans, and that raises money for terror in the United States.

The federal indictment against al-Arian alleges that he used his position as a professor at the University of South Florida to gain visas for terrorists to enter the United States. It also alleges that he transferred cash into overseas accounts that were used for the planning or support of terrorist operations that killed Americans.

Of the 40 donors to (Saffuri's) PAC, the documents show, nearly half have been arrested or are under investigation for terrorist ties.

When asked by Wall Street Journal reporter Glenn Simpson if he thought radical Muslim groups such as the friends and associates of Khaled Saffuri were exercising "undue influence" at the White House, Karl Rove simply shrugged and replied, "No."

As evidence of Saffuri's ties to three prominent terrorist suspects deepens, say alarmed conservatives, those blanket denials may look to be increasingly hollow.

As has often been noted before on this blog, the people that the president has chosen to advise him - and how that advice has been handled - speak volumes about about his misunderstanding of leadership. In this case, as in so many others with Mr. Bush, the uncontrolled zeal of those who would convince him to act is, ironically, NOT making this country any safer from terrorism.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2004

At Least One Child Was Left Behind…

On Why There is Illiteracy

"Then you wake up at the high school level and find out that the illiteracy level of our children are appalling." —George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Jan. 23, 2004

On Why There Will Be Consequences

"In my judgment, when the United States says there will be serious consequences, and if there isn't serious consequences, it creates adverse consequences." —George W. Bush, Meet the Press, Feb. 8, 2004

On How to Empathize With an Ally

"I was a prisoner too, but for bad reasons." —George W. Bush, to Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, on being told that all but one of the Argentine delegates to a summit meeting were imprisoned during the military dictatorship, Monterrey, Mexico, Jan. 13, 2004

On How Hard it is to Remember Where You Are – or Who You Are

"One of the most meaningful things that's happened to me since I've been the governor — the president — governor — president. Oops. Ex-governor. I went to Bethesda Naval Hospital to give a fellow a Purple Heart, and at the same moment I watched him—get a Purple Heart for action in Iraq — and at that same — right after I gave him the Purple Heart, he was sworn in as a citizen of the United States — a Mexican citizen, now a United States citizen." —George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Jan. 9, 2004

On Why This Sexual Orientation Stuff Can Be So Confusing

"We had a chance to visit with Teresa Nelson who's a parent, and a mom or a dad." —George W. Bush, Jacksonville, Florida, Sept. 9, 2003

"So thank you for reminding me about the importance of being a good mom and a great volunteer as well." —George W. Bush, St. Louis, MO., Jan. 5, 2004

On Making Sure That You Know How to Use the Word “Commiserate”

"I want to remind you all that in order to fight and win the war, it requires an expenditure of money that is commiserate with keeping a promise to our troops to make sure that they're well-paid, well-trained, well-equipped." —George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Dec. 15, 2003

"See, without the tax relief package, there would have been a deficit, but there wouldn't have been the commiserate — not 'commiserate' — the kick to our economy that occurred as a result of the tax relief." —George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Dec. 15, 2003

On Why Having More Than One Continent Creates Problems

This very week in 1989, there were protests in East Berlin and in Leipzig. By the end of that year, every communist dictatorship in Central America had collapsed." —George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Nov. 6, 2003

On Why the President Needs to Have an Understanding of Different Religions

Whether they be Christian, Jew, or Muslim, or Hindu, people have heard the universal call to love a neighbor just like they'd like to be called themselves." —George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., October 8, 2003

And Finally, Why Mr. Rumsfeld was Standing Behind Mr. Bush at a Recent Speech, Whispering in His Ear, “Um Mr. President, um, Mr. President…”

"See, free nations are peaceful nations. Free nations don't attack each other. Free nations don't develop weapons of mass destruction." —George W. Bush, Milwaukee, Wis., Oct. 3, 2003

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Tuesday, February 24, 2004

An Unnecessary War – More Unnecessary Deaths

One of more than 500 similar stories is presented below without comments, other than these: when this blog has covered personal stories in the past, some emails inevitably have come in with accusations ranging from "hitting below the belt" to "you are a traitor for not supporting the president’s actions."

To paraphrase the famous Harry Truman quote: If it’s too hot in the kitchen, it’s time to get out.


Local hero dies to settle President Bush's personal vendetta

Army 2nd Lt. Seth Dvorin, 1998 graduate of South Brunswick High School, son of Sue Niederer of Hopewell Township and Richard M. Dvorin of East Brunswick, husband of Kelly Harris Dvorin of Watertown, N.Y., died in Iraq on Feb. 3, one of more than 500 American soldiers to have died since March 19, when the president authorized what he called a "decapitation attack" against the Iraqi leadership.

He was laid to rest Tuesday, after memorial service at the East Brunswick Jewish Center attended by about 300 people.

Lt. Dvorin served in Iraq for a little more than five months as part of the 10th Mountain Division, 3rd Battalion, 62nd Air Defense Artillery. His death brings the war home for us, makes this far-off international issue far too local for my taste. Each of the men and women fighting in Iraq, in Afghanistan, each of the soldiers stationed in the DMZ in Korea, stationed at bases around the globe has a hometown and friends and family and a community that cares, that worries.

And each of them deserves our gratitude. I have always considered myself lucky not to have served and grateful to those who have, especially those who have been wounded or killed in action, men and women who, as the cliché goes, have made the ultimate sacrifice.

My quarrel about this war and about others in the past have never been with the soldiers serving but with the statesmen and leaders of both political parties who always seem too willing to send people like Seth Dvorin into battle for whatever level of political expediency exists at the time.

This wasn't going to be a political column, but Lt. Dvorin is dead because of politics, because the president of the United States sold this war with a wink and a lie, told us it would be a cakewalk, that the Iraqis would welcome us with open arms.

Am I being insensitive to Lt. Dvorin's memory?

Ask his mother, who told one of our reporters, "My son died for absolutely nothing." Ms. Niederer places the blame for Lt. Dvorin's death at President Bush's feet. "Seth died for President Bush's personal vendetta. Bush put us where we should never have been. We're not even in a declared war."

Ask his father, who sent President Bush a letter shortly after he was informed of his son's death asking the president why his son "and every other soldier that was killed, maimed and wounded have to suffer settling your vendetta?"

His father calls this nine-month fiasco in Iraq a "meaningless war" and asks the question, "Where are all the weapons of mass destruction, where are the stock piles of chemical and biological weapons?"

"War used to be an honorable thing," Lt. Dvorin's stepgrandmother, Florence Sapir, told us. "This one is as far from that as you can get. Seth died in vain. So did the more than 500 other soldiers who died over there. They died for nothing."

Thanks to BuzzFlash for the lead

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Monday, February 23, 2004

“Rumsfeld Told Suicide Bombers Pose Greatest Threat”

Let me get this right – is Mr. Rumsfeld just finding this out? Or has USA Today been totally out of touch with reality for nine months?

The chief threat to stability in Iraq is evolving away from pro-Saddam guerillas to suicide bombers and other terrorists, U.S. military officers told Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Monday.

This might have been a new insight in May of last year. Let's hope that it is USA Today that hasn't quite kept up with the facts, because if this is new information for the Secy of Defense, he needs to start keeping up with the news - since his boss doesn't care to do so.

Rumsfeld, on a daylong trip to the occupied Iraqi capital, was briefed on the threat and the status of new Iraqi security forces, which the U.S. hopes will eventually take the lead in combatting it. For now, though, they work largely under the leadership of the better-equipped and trained U.S. forces.

The origin of these terrorists remains murky — in particular the extent of their relationship with al-Qaeda, officials said. Some are thought to be from the homegrown Ansar al-Islam group; others are thought to be former supporters of ousted President Saddam Hussein who have joined Islamic extremist groups, and others might be from al-Qaeda itself.

"We've seen a real step up on the part of these professional terrorists from al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam conducting suicide attacks," Ambassador Paul Bremer, chief of the Coalition Provisional Authority, told reporters after meeting with Rumsfeld Monday.

Now compare the two highlighted phrases from above. "Officials" need to start talking with Mr Rumsfeld. Their act is not quite together, and this news release sounds like it came directly out of the Dept of Defense - it tries to show that Mr. Rumsfeld is on top of the situation, but in fact does the opposite.

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Saturday, February 21, 2004

A New Start!

Welcome! Don't worry, we are not abandoning the ideas and focus that Veterans for Dean - the Blog started with 6 months ago. Like Gov Dean, and DeanforAmerica itself, which transformed American politics and the Democratic party, this is a good time for a new beginning! Please continue to join me, along with your friends, as we keep the heat on to replace the Bush administration in November, lock, stock, and barrel. Veterans, active duty forces, the Reserves and National Guard - and their families - will continue to have a strong, progressive voice here.

The Dean campaign linked to, and supported, this blog from the beginning, and this blog will continue to support future efforts to "take back America." All VetsforDean archives are still available for you to look through. Please see them, along with many other links of interest, over on the right side of this blog. I look forward to your joining me and speaking your mind, as well. See you back here on Monday!

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A Shorter Kept Promise Than a Las Vegas Wedding Vow...

Nine days after assuring us that more than 2.6 million jobs would be created this year, the president had to eat crow for breakfast. Not to be outdone after Mr. Bush's confident promise of job creation, his chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, N. Gregory Mankiw (see Monday Feb 16th blog below) said the president was even understating the figure, which in Mankiw's estimate would be closer to 3.5 million new jobs. Crow tastes better when eating with a friend...

The White House backed away Wednesday from its own prediction that the economy will add 2.6 million new jobs before the end of this year, saying the forecast was the work of number-crunchers and that President Bush was not a statistician.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan, asked repeatedly about the forecast, declined to embrace the prediction which was contained in the annual economic report of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Unemployment and the slow pace of job creation are political liabilities for Bush as he heads into a battle for re-election. Despite strong economic growth, the nation has lost about 2.2 million jobs since he became president.

The jobs forecast was the second economic flap in recent days for the White House. Last week, Bush was forced to distance himself from White House economist N. Gregory Mankiw's assertion that the loss of U.S. jobs overseas has long-term benefits for the U.S. economy.

Asked about the 2.6 million jobs forecast, McClellan said, "The president is interested in actual jobs being created rather than economic modeling."

He quoted Bush as saying, "I'm not a statistician. I'm not a predictor."

Well, you don't read the papers either Mr. President, but that doesn't excuse your lack of leadership. Must have been another "intelligence failure" that caused this problem too - in this case from your CHIEF ECONOMIC ADVISOR. Oh, don't bother saying it, we know his job is not in jeopardy either. Congratulations, you have just given 8 million people searching for work right now another reason not to vote for you.

And by the way, we know you have trouble reading or remembering numbers - but try remembering these, will you? ... more than 535 dead and more than 14,000 battlefield casualty evacuations. That shouldn't be too taxing for you.

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