Otis Chandler

28 February 2006 |permalink | email article

The Los Angeles Times produced an epic tribute Tuesday to honor Otis Chandler, its legendary publisher who inherited a stodgy family jewel in 1960 and, for the next 20 years, transformed a parochial, right of center, broadsheet into a major American paper.

If a Pulitzer Prize is awarded for obits, the draft filed by the late David Shaw before his death Aug. 1, and Mitchell Landsberg, who re-wrote the text and did additional reporting, qualifies ñ and not just because the farewell runs 13,500 words.

It’s a candid, revealing piece - warts and all ñ about the tumultuous history under three Chandler publishers, starting with Harry Chandler, Otisí grandfather; Norman Chandler, his father - and very influential mother, Dorothy ìBuffî Chandler. How Otis followed an unexpected path as a maverick to remake the paper over 20 years with top talent, often to the displeasure of many family members, is riveting.

That the family, majority Times Mirror stockholders, sold out to the Tribune Co. in 2000, and Otisí disenchantment with its management leading to his praise for the merger, is covered in unvarnished detail.

For a city with so little understood history, the obit is mportant to educate a new generation of readers, and for newly arrived editors and reporters to grasp in the wake of Tribune-mandated buyouts which cost the paper valuable institutional memory. 

It was refreshing for many of us who remember the Otis era to see the Timesí former Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Paul Conradís soaring eagle tribute on the op-ed page. Conrad, love him or loathe him, made these pages sizzle. It’s no longer true.

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Red-Flag Port Warning Ignored

27 February 2006 |permalink | email article

A just released Dec. 13 intelligence assessment by the U.S. Coast Guard of Dubai Ports World and its United Arab Emirates owners raises new questions about the White House deal.

ìThere are many intelligence gaps, concerning the potential for DPW or P&O assets to support terrorist operations, that precludeî the completion of a thorough threat assessment of the merger. ìThe breath of the intelligence gaps also infer potential unknown threats against a large number of potential vulnerabilities.î

The Coast Guardís red-flag warning was completed just over a month before the six-port deal received government approval Jan. 17, with W. out of the loop. Before a bipartisan uproar, the deal was to become effective this week.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Senate Homeland Security Chairwoman, asked, ìHow could there not have been the 45-day investigation thatís clearly required by law?

Is it any wonder that W.ís approval ratings have reached an historic low?

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Arnold’s Makeover: Is It Credible?

26 February 2006 |permalink | email article

Arnold Schwarzenneger was elected as a bipartisan reform governor. But the defeat of his special-election reform initiatives last fall places his re-election prospects in jeopardy. Wounded, with a 35% approval rating, can he still snatch victory from defeat?

After pandering to the right wing, the makeover Republican is headed back to the center where his winning margin in 2003 came from Democrats and independents. Over the weekend he addressed a state GOP convention in San Jose with delegates unhappy with his hiring of liberal Democratic strategist Susan Kennedy as chief of staff and strategist.

Aping the late Democratic Gov. Pat Brown, he again pitched his $222 billion infrastructure package to rebuild roads, schools, waterways and flood systems ñ calculated to help him regain support from constituencies he lost last year ñ while asserting a traditional GOP boldness ìto take the people forward.î

On NBCís ëMeet the Pressí Sunday, an ebullient Schwarzenegger refused to say heís running as a Bush Republican but rather as an ‘Arnold Republican’ to serve everyoneî - asserting the state is better off than four years ago. 

On an ominous note, his biggest convention applause line was not about borrowing billions to rebuild the stateís public works. It was mention of conservative Sen. Tom McClintock, his main GOP 2003 opponent in the recall campaign. That McClintock, a candidate for lieutenant governor, disagrees with Schwarzenegger on many policies demonstrates just how much the governor needs 80% of the party vote to win. The governor said he has it now, but MTP moderator Tim Russert correctly said it is just 66%, to an inaudible reply.

Schwarzenneger trails two Democrats, state Treasurer Phil Angelides and state Controller Steve Westly; women are skeptical about him; and Bushís unpopularity hurts him with Democrats and independents with Latinos, in a switch, leaning heavily Democratic in early polls.

The governorís has also hired two White House operatives, Matthew Dowd, who engineered both Bush presidential wins, and Steve Schmidt, the former media ìartillery shellî for Dick Cheney and Samuel Alito. Badly trailing multimillionaires Angelides and Westly in fundraising, the governor has Sen. John McCain, the champion of campaign finance reform, headlining a March 20 dinner. Head table seating with the incumbent starts at 100 grand.

Schwarzeneggerís best hope may be a Democratic donnybrook that will leave the winner vulnerable. Ironically, often contradictory reporting by the print media and quotes from academic pundits suggest the Democratic contenders inspire little passion. That said, the governor is not an even-money bet today. 




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It’s About Container Security, Stupid!

26 February 2006 |permalink | email article

Intense political debate continues over approval of the White House deal for a Dubai-owned company to take over operations at U.S. ports. But Sunday TV chat confirms there is no serious debate over container security, the core problem.

Critics worry terrorists could infiltrate the company; ex-colleagues lobby Congress for approval; W., who considers United Arab Emirates a close ally, despite past connections between 9/11 hijackers and UAE, suggests criticism of Arab ownership may have racial overtones.

The discussion should be more nuanced. In fact, foreign management of the American ports in not new as the role played by companies in China, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and European trading partners - and not government owned - illustrates. The ineffective argument by the White House is that port security is the responsibility of the Coast Guard and Custom officials. That a failed Department of Homeland Security is now a major player in the port issue is, after Katrina, chilling.

The UAE deal plays directly into 9/11 fears and the specter of terrorists from the Middle East penetrating U.S. port defenses as an episode of ì24,îthe celebrated Fox television drama graphically demonstrated a year or so ago.

A New York Times analysis (2/23) suggests the Bush administrationís real port problem is how long it has taken the federal government to set and enforce security standards - and to provide the technology to look inside millions of containers that flow through them. Only 4% or 5% of those containers are inspected and there is virtually no standard for how containers are sealed. (Today’s report from Dubai in the NYT describes gamma-ray scanner devices inside containers at the port as “antiterrorism measures still far short of what is needed to ensure security, U.S. auditors and maritime experts say.”

Stephen E. Flynn, a retired Coast Guard commander and port security expert on the Council of Foreign Relations, describes the real fear if a nuclear weapon is put inside a container:  ìIt will probably happen when some truck driver is paid off to take a long lunch, even before he gets to the terminal.î

With W., a president come lately on a critical issue - and his conservative base in rebellion over the port deal - the trump-card boast of Karl Rove ñ ìDemocrats are pre-9/11, Republicans post-9/11î ñ is now oh so yesterday. The party opposite momentarily appears more hawkish in the polls on security issues ñ a turnover of no small consequence in Election 2006.


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W: Port Security Catch-22

22 February 2006 |permalink | email article

A blindsided W. threatens his first veto of any bipartisan legislation seeking to block the administrationís decision to allow a company controlled by the United Arab Emirates to assume management of key U.S. ports.

Homeland security, a phrase the maximum leader patented, has unexpectedly created perhaps the greatest crisis of his presidency. Conservatives are already calling it ìanother Harriet Miers moment.î

While the United Arab Emirates is an ally of the U.S., opponents note 9/11 hijackers traveled through the UAE and jihadists affiliated with al Qaeda have used its banking system.

A stunned president, unaccustomed to back talk from Republicans, including the congressional leadership, demanded opponents ìstep up and explain why all of a sudden a Middle Eastern company is held to a different standard than a British company.”

The issue has clearly touched a national nerve. Within minutes after the subject became the lede on CNN, the network received more than 3,000 e-mails condemning the scheduled takeover of ports in New York, Philadelphia, Newark, Baltimore, Miami and New Orleans.

Bush insisted that he did not see the issue as a political fight but it is one. Majority Republicans, facing re-election and fearing a backlash, worry about being called ìsoft on securityî ñ giving the Democrats a dream turnover issue to exploit.

Unless heís able to effectively kill legislation that would block the port deal ñ or accedes to a 45-day review before it becomes effective early next month - the ìwar of terrorî president will face a stupefying Catch-22:  back down, or make good on his veto threat. An override would badly damage his legacy.

See 19 Feb. Body Politic Post.

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Cheney, Libby, Intel Leaks

21 February 2006 |permalink | email article

Dick Cheney remains incandescent. The guy he shot in a hunting accident hoped he hadnít caused trouble. W. said Cheney acquitted himself on Fox News. Now, a federal prosecutor says Tricky Dick 2ís former chief of staff wants to thwart the criminal case against him.

Scooter Libby was indicted on charges of perjury and obstructing of justice in an investigation of who revealed secret intelligence information about the identity of a covert CIA agent, Valerie Wilson. Through his attorneys, Cheneyís most trusted aide wants sensitive government documents, including the Presidentís Daily Brief for nearly a year for his defense.

The prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, in a court filing late last week told a federal judge that defendants like Libby had an incentive to derail their trials by asking for sensitive documents that the government might not want discussed openly.

Fitzgerald, the U.S. Attorney in Chicago, called the request for the daily brief ìbreathtakingî and ìa transparent effort at graymail.î Thatís the practice of discouraging a prosecution from proceeding by contending that a defendant may need to disclose classified or sensitive information as part of a complete legal defense.

John D. Cline, a San Francisco lawyer representing Libby, challenged the allegation. He told the New York Times that a 1980 law made graymail impossible because the government knew exactly what information the defense was seeking, and a judge must rule on whether it was necessary to the defense case.

Legal jousting aside, what makes the Libby case, slated for trial next January, riveting is what Cheney said in a Feb. 15 interview on Fox News, his favorite network. He revealed he had the authority to declassify intelligence information, citing an executive order that specifies who has classification authority. Besides the president, he said, it ìalso includes the vice president.î

Cheney declined to say if he had ever directed information to be declassified on his own. Significantly, he also said he could not discuss whether he told Libby to leak secrets.

But Libby, the National Journal reported this month, has testified that his superiors directed him to provide reporters with facts from the National Intelligence Estimate in 2003 to bolster the administrationís case for the invasion of Iraq that the United States led.

If Libby was given the authority to out Wilson, who was his direct control at the highest level of government?

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Arab Co. Control of U.S. Ports?

19 February 2006 |permalink | email article

The Bush administration is defending approval of a $6.8 billion sale that gives a company in the United Arab Emirates control over six major American ports. The White House considers the UAE an important ally in the fight against terrorism.

It is another myopic rationale for how President Bush parses the war on terrorism. Islamic nations like the UAE and Pakistan are considered to be on our side. But are they? Why is Pakistan so deliberately ineffective in hunting down Osama bin Ladin?

Note that the FBI considered the UAE an important operational and financial base for the hijackers who carried out the 9/11 attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Note also that UAE was one of only three nations to recognize the now-toppled Taliban in Afghanistan and a key transfer point for shipment of smuggled nuclear components sent to Iran, North Korea and Libya by the now-pardoned Pakistani scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan.

A secretive U.S. government panel that considers security risks of buying or investing in American industry, and includes representatives from key federal departments, could have asked W. to block the purchase. But it unanimously agreed that the transaction should not be halted.

Shipping terminals in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia will be affected by the sale to Dubai Ports World. That the Homeland Security department, which has listed major ports along the East and West coasts among top terrorist targets, signed off is less than satisfactory based on its poor performance record on Katrina.

(On CNN today, HS chief Michael Chertoff defended the deal, said the Coast Guard is in charge and the subject is “classified.” Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, citing the Los Angeles port, demanded briefings.)

Equally astonishing is that the president, who insists 9/11 mirrors his view of radical Islamic terror, has not been pressed by the mainstream media to reconsider the White Houseís earlier approval of DP World.

Sen. Robert Menendez, D- N.J. told the Associated Press, which broke the story, he will introduce legislation to prohibit companies owned or controlled by feoign governments from running port operations in the United States. Sen. Rick Santorum, R.-Pa., facing a tough re-election fight, has urged the president to prevent the sale.



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Cheney: Why Not Full Disclosure?

16 February 2006 |permalink | email article

The vice president accidentally shot a friend while quail-hunting on a Texas ranch early last Saturday evening. The president was informed third hand; the White House waited almost 24 hours instead of issuing an immediate response. The rest is like a bizarre remake of ìWag the Dog.î

The prominent Texas attorney, well known to the president, was treated at the scene by Secret Service agents, transferred to a local Corpus Christi hospital, had a minor heart attack and is now recovering.

The Secret Service informed local police, a guest said it was the victimís fault and Dick Cheney, too busy to comment, decided the ranch owner should first give the story to the local newspaper Sunday morning. The story was posted on its web site at 1:30 p.m. and news agencies get it an hour later.

At 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Chief of Staff Andrew Card Jr. told the president about a hunting accident involving Cheneyís party. At 7 p.m., after speaking with the ranch owner, Karl Rove broke the news to George W. Bush. The presidentís consigliere, aware of the political ramifications, wanted the White House to issue a brief statement. But there was none because Bush was weak and Cheney insisted on complete control.

That Bush would defer to the famously reclusive Cheney when the administration is already far down in public opinion, and under siege on almost every domestic and foreign policy issue, reveals more than anything else that the vice president is really the shadow president. Think absolute executive power, CIA leak case, neocons, Iraq, energy task force secrets. The list is long.

It confirms my belief that Bush 41 and his closest associates wanted Cheney on the ticket to baby sit Bush 43 but, boy, how that strategy has backfired. Privately, Republicans are concerned Cheney is toast ñ a joke and no longer a political asset. 

ìStar Warsî filmmaker George Lucas best captured Cheney, saying this week in the empire Congress is irrelevant ìbecause the emperor controls everything.î Asked who the emperor might be, he said, ìItís not who you think. The emperor works behind Darth Vader.î The implication was Cheney would be cast as the behind-the-scenes-villain.

Yesterday, Cheney finally bowed to White House pressure. Reinforcing his disdain for mainstream media, he gave an exclusive interview to the conservative Fox cable network. Appearing contrite, he accepted full responsibility for the incident, insisting the delay was for ìaccuracyî in reporting but expressed no regret. Whoís buying it? 

Basic instinct matters.

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The Troubles in Iraq

13 February 2006 |permalink | email article

Condi Rice downplays the key role played by the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr in the unexpected nomination of Ibrahim al-Jafaari to continue as Prime Minister in the next Iraq government. Jafaariís retention appears to confirm the growing strength of anti-U.S. fundamentalists within the new Iraqi Parliament.

How naÔve is Rice? Has she forgotten that the messianic Sadr led two violent uprisings against the U.S. occupation and the interim government in 2004, controls the largest bloc of seats within the Shiite alliance and recently visited Iran and Syria and is reported to have expressed solidarity with their hostility to the U.S.?

Jafaariís retention is a stunning setback for secular forces in Iraq and a fresh blow to President Bushís dream of democracy. A moderate Islamist with strong ties to Iranian leaders, he is criticized for failing since taking office in 2004 to significantly improve security in Iraq, permitting abuse and allowing death squads to the kill Sunni Arabs by the Shiite-dominated government.

The failure of the expected nominee, Adel Abdul Mahdi, a member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution, makes power sharing with the main Kurdish and Sunni groups more difficult. This is especially the case if the alliance led by the former interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, whom the U.S. favors, is excluded from the cabinet.

Anything short of a stunning compromise, as insurgent violence continues unabated in and around Baghdad, is certain to spark anew the bitter debate on selective U.S. intelligence to justify a conclusion that the president decided to attack well before the March 2003 invasion.

Paul R. Pillar, the former CIA official who coordinated U.S. intelligence on the Middle East from 2000 until last year makes credible arguments, dismissed by Republicans as ìpre-war intelligence myths,î in the upcoming issue of the journal Foreign Affairs.

*  The administration ìwent to war without requesting ñ and evidently without being influenced by ñ any strategic-level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq.î
*  It ìrepeatedly called on the intelligence community to uncover more material that would contribute to the case for war,î including information on the ìsupposed connectionî between Hussein and Al Qaeda, which analysts had discounted.
*  Intelligence community assessments before the invasion indicated a postwar Iraq ìwould not provide a fertile ground for democracyî and would need ìa Marshall Plan-type effortî to restore its economy despite its oil revenue.
*  The first request he received from a Bush policymaker for an assessment of post-invasion Iraq was ìnot until a year after the war.î
*  That assessment, completed in August 2004, warned that the insurgency in Iraq could evolve into a guerilla war or a civil war. Bush, who told voters during the 2004 campaign that the mission was going well, described the assessment to reporters as ìjust guessing.î





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The Kickapoo Identity

13 February 2006 |permalink | email article

When asked about Jack Abramoff on Jan. 26, President Bush replied, ìI donít know him.î But a photo of him and the disgraced lobbyist appear together in a photo on the Time Web site that is the first published image of the two together in the same room. What does it mean?

Scott McClellan says it means nothing, is one of thousands of photos the president has taken with thousands of people over the last five years and has no relevance to the Justice Department investigation of Abramoff. Still, the scandal cast a dark shadow over a weekend Republican retreat in Maryland where Bush reassured the faithful about his weak poll standing. If the GOP really cares about the appearance of a conflict in a midterm election year, it means something.

Time and the New York Times published the photo Saturday showing Bush greeting Chief Raul Garza, leader of the Kickapoo tribe in southwest Texas at the Old Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House on May 9, 2001. Abramoff is looking on from the background and, yes, Karl Rove is seen in a partial profile watching from the presidentís right shoulder.

Although it is not clear what contact Abramoff had, if any, with the president during the 20 minutes the session lasted, the picture taken by a White House photographer is revealing. It demonstrates that the lobbyist, anxious to demonstrate his political influence with Indian tribes, was able, with the aid of senior administration officials, to penetrate the innermost sanctum of government.

NYT reported that the photograph was provided to it by Chief Garza, under indictment on federal charges of embezzling money from his tribe, who said he had ìnothing to hideî in his dealings with Abramoff and the White House. His lawyer said the lobbyist arranged for the chief to attend the meeting, ostensibly for a group of state legislators supportive of Bushís 2001 tax cut plan. Also in attendance was Grover Norquist, a leading conservative tax strategist and friend of Abramoff.

While Abramoff never got the contract to represent the tribe and its lucrative casino, the ìKickapoo Identityî ñ a mere photo op or more ñ is a classic metaphor for influence peddling at the summit in Washington.

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Bush: Recycling the News

10 February 2006 |permalink | email article

President Bush disclosed yesterday new details of a foiled terrorist plot to fly a highjacked jet into a Los Angeles skyscraper, the tallest building on the West Coast, and crediting international cooperation in the war on terrorism with thwarting the 2002 scheme.

His speech appeared to confuse and stun many, gave the impression that Republicans want to make national security the #1 issue in the midterm elections and caused a peevish Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to vent that the White House had not given him advance notice.

While some details are new - the planned use of a ìshoe bombî by hijackers to access the cockpit door - neither Bush nor the White House gave any real reason beyond Rovian spin for releasing details of a plot they first disclosed last October. In fact, most of what Bush said about the plot was already recycled news.

The Sunday Times (London) reported on March 28, 2004 that Osama Bin Laden ordered his operations chief, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to prepare for an attack on Heathrow soon after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. as part of a two-pronged assault, with a cryptic reference to the Library Tower in Los Angeles.

On March 31, 2004, the Los Angeles Times confirmed that an attack on the Library Tower was planned but never carried out. ìWe were made aware of that information last spring,î said John Miller, the LAPDís top anti-terrorism official (now a rising figure in the FBI) who detailed a number of immediate measures to heighten security and implement high-rise evacuation drills after the plot was uncovered.

Miller said the Joint Terrorism Task Force first learned of Al Qaedaís aborted plans for a second wave of attacks in 2003, according to the Times story. It noted that ìtwo law enforcement sources said that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, captured in March 2003, reportedly told his interrogators that the Library Tower ñ now known as the U.S. Bank Tower ñ was targeted along with Chicagoís Sears Tower.î

It is known that L.A. public officials, including then-Councilman Villaraigosa, were privy to briefings on the Al Qaeda plot by Miller three years ago, making his rant a little disingenuous. The mayor told AP that he was amazed that the president would make an announcement on national TV without informing his office. But his office said the White House made such a disclosure on Wednesday.

Villaraigosa issued a reassuring statement updating many of the precautions detailed by Miller in 2003. But Kevin Roderick, editor of laobserved.com, was not reassured by the mayorís math that LAFD helicopters can evacuate 350 people an hour off the roof of a burning building. ìHow many hours would it take to clear a sixty-story office tower?î

The mayor did get a live shot on CNN, but so what? Bush daily plays the network like a fiddle.

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Lobby Reform:  McCain-Obama Duel

08 February 2006 |permalink | email article

The riveting exchange of letters on lobbying ethics reform this week between Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was refreshingly transparent and a departure from the phony collegiality that governs rhetorical exchanges in the U.S. Senate. 

It suggested that trouble lies ahead in ongoing bipartisan efforts to come up with legislation governing relations with lobbyists in the wake of the guilty plea by superlobbyist Jack Abramoff.

A petulant McCain accused the freshman senator of ìpartisan posturingî on ethics reform ñ a charge turned aside by Obama as puzzling and regrettable

Based on Obamaís previous letter thanking McCain for the invitation to a meeting to discuss reform proposals, McCain wrote ìI concluded your professed concern for the institution and the public interest was genuine and admirable. Thank you for disabusing me of such notions.î

Obama responded he had no idea what ìprompted your responseÖThe fact that you have now questioned my sincerity Öis regrettable but does not in any way diminish my deep respect for you nor my willingness to find a bipartisan solution to this problem.î

Three points to consider:

First, Republicans, not Democrats, are at the center of the Abramoff scandal. They are angry at attempts to link the lobbying issue to what Democrats call the Republican ìculture of corruption.î

Second, McCain, certain to seek the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, understands the problem but hopes to be the un-wingnut who can appeal to Democrats and independents. While a media favorite, his emotional outburst suggests heís politically thin-skinned and vulnerable in the long run.

Third, Obamaís parry of McCainís attack was both deft and cool. He made headlines as keynote speaker at the 2004 Democratic National Convention and won election to the Senate. He is the Democratsí fastest rising star.

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Bush Budget: What About Justice?

08 February 2006 |permalink | email article

Say a long goodbye to President Bush as a ìcompassionate conservative,î the promise he made on taking office in January 2001. That month the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal budget would run a huge surplus, in excess of $5.6 trillion between 2002 and 2011.

This week, as Bush releases his new budget plan, the budget office predicts deficits for the five years starting Oct. 1 totaling more than $2.2 trillion. Making tax cuts permanent, 9/11, a recession and dramatic increases in on national security are the reason.

The priorities in the presidentís $2.77 trillion plan, increased spending on the military and domestic security, come at the expense of addressing the huge budget deficit by deeply slashing domestic programs, including health and human services and education.

His obsessive mantra of ìprotecting our citizens and our homelandî may assuage fiscal conservatives by slowing the rate of spending but the larger question is whether, in a midterm election with control of Congress by Republicans at stake, voters will buy his package in November. Or decide W. has his priorities confused.

I mean, the discretionary military budget is up 6.9% and does not include supplemental appropriations of at least $50 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007 and an increase of 1.3 % for homeland security. Consider big funding drops in vocational education, slowing the growth of Medicare and eliminating a food program for low-income women, infants, children and people over 60.

ìA budget is a statement of moral choices, and this budget makes the wrong choices,î said John Spratt Jr. of South Carolina, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee.

I recall the warm embrace of Bush and Bono of U2 at the recent National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. The Irish rock star said:

ìHereís some good news for the president. After 9/11 we were told America would have no time for the worldís poor. America would be taken up with itís own problems of safety. And itís true these are dangerous times, but America has not drawn the blinds and double-locked the doors.î

In complimenting America, Bono made clear help was not about charity but about justice. I question whether Bush understands the distinction.

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White House Confidential

06 February 2006 |permalink | email article

ìFleischer recalled that Libby ëadded something along the lines of, you know, this is hush hush, nobody knows about this.î

The noir language echoes ìL.A. Confidential,î James Ellroyís crime novel about LAPD and Hollywood corruption in the late 1940s. The quote, from then White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, refers to his lunch with I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, Vice President Dick Cheneyís then chief of staff, on July 7, 2003.

Itís fact, not fiction, part of newly released pages of a formerly secret legal opinion by a federal appeals judge about the identity of a CIA officer at the heart of the criminal leak case involving Libby, as reported by the New York Times.

Judge David S. Tatel ës written opinion disclosed that Libby acknowledged to prosecutors that he had heard directly from Cheney about Valerie Wilson, married to Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador who criticized the Bush administrationís about Iraq policy. That was more than a month before the columnist Robert Novak first disclosed her identity on July 14, 2003.

The new material amplified and provided new details outlined in the October 2005 indictment of Libby which accused him of falsely telling reporters that he had first learned about Ms. Wilson from reporters when, in fact, according to the charging document he learned about it from government officials like Cheney. (Libbyís lawyers hint his defense strategy may be that his preoccupation with affairs of state may have led to ìimperfect recall.î)

Judge Tatelís formerly secret opinion were reportedly largely drawn from affidavits supplied by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel in the case who is the U.S. Attorney in Chicago.

The new information includes the lunch at which Libby told Fleischer about Ms. Wilson and that she had sent her husband to Africa to examine intelligence reports indicating that Iraq sought to buy uranium ore from Niger. Judge Tatel wrote that Fleischer described the lunch to prosecutors as ìkind of weird,î noting that Libby ìoperated in a very closed-lip fashion.î

Several pages of the opinion, said to contain information about Fitzgeraldís investigation of Karl Rove, the senior White House political adviser, remained under seal. Rove has not been charged but remains under investigation.

Credit release of the new material to lawyers for the Wall Street Journal - a major First Amendment ruling for the right of public access to court records. It raises fresh questions about the hush hush world of the shadowy Cheney, principal architect of the decision to attack Iraq without evidence of WMD ñ or any uranium ore from Niger.

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Super Bowl 40: L.A. Bid Stalls

05 February 2006 |permalink | email article

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue told his annual pre-Super Bowl news conference that negotiations between the league and the players union about a new collective-bargaining agreement are not going well. Without a deal, rumors about a special ownersí huddle before their March meeting to consider a Los Angeles franchise are now DOA.

It is known while L. A. is on the agenda for discussion in Orlando, Tagliabueís priority is a new collective bargaining agreement next month. Given recent rhetoric by the NFL Players Association he acknowledged that the labor issue is a complication which must be resolved prior to putting a franchise in the City of Angels.

Without an extension, the commissioner said relative to L.A., ìissues of how to ensure the proper private financing for a stadium and related issues would be very difficult to resolve.” Still, he added, ìa lot of things get done at the 11th hour and 59th minute.î

Sundayís Super Bowl is the 40th since the first played in the Los Angeles Coliseum. It was a time when professional football was still a game, not a billion-dollar business, and when John Q. Public could afford a couple of tickets. If the NFL and the players union ever get real MAYBE the city can field a team before 2010.

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NFL, L.A. Coliseum Update

03 February 2006 |permalink | email article

The years long kabuki dance between NFL owners and the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission about the possible return of a team to the famed oval, without professional football since the Raiders left after the 1994 season, nears an end.

Sundayís Super Bowl game between the Steelers and Seahawks in Detroit marks the 40th anniversary of the first championship playoff in the Coliseum between the Packers and the Chiefs, with owners about to decide at their March meeting in Orlando whether or not to return to the City of Angels.

But informed rumors now are that a decision on Los Angeles could be made at a special meeting of league owners in the next couple of weeks. The caveat is that the NFLís long-running collective bargaining issues with the players association are resolved as a deadline nears.

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State of the Union 2006

01 February 2006 |permalink | email article

There were striking contrasts Tuesday night between President Bushís more somber and modest menu of domestic ideas and the Democratic response by newly elected Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine about ìa better wayî to run the nation.

Bush, mindful of his legacy and a crucial midterm election, outlined proposals on health, education and energy. The most striking was the declaration that the U.S. must get over its addiction to oil, setting a goal of replacing 75% of the nationís Middle East oil imports by 2025 with ethanol and other energy sources.

Given that Bush 41 and Bush 43 made their marks in the oil business the comment seems slightly disingenuous - all the more so because of their longtime coziness with oil-rich Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Arab states friendly with the U.S., in contrast to oil-rich regimes in unstable Iraq and nuclear crazed Iran.

Bush, of course, has mentioned less dependence on oil in four State of the Union addresses while Nixon and Carter made the same hollow promises to make the U.S. self-sufficient in energy.

The president broke no new ground on foreign policy; defending the war on terror, justifying his secret domestic spying program without warrants and never mentioning withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, a top poll concern with voters.

A few TV pundits thought the ingenue Virginia governor was not muscular enough and failed to lay out an alternative Democratic agenda which, of course, is not really surprising because no coherent one exists.

But Kaine hit the right notes, blasting the administrationís poor choices and bad management in Iraq, responding to Hurricane Katrina and a lack of focus on the nationís health care system. ìThe federal government should serve the American people.î

Some party activists and liberal blogs were uncomfortable with the choice of Kaine because during last yearís campaign the former Jesuit missionary in Honduras invoked his religious beliefs. What a hypocriticial reaction! As the first Roman Catholic governor of Virginia, he opposed abortion and the death penalty, but assured Virginians that he would uphold the law on both.

That Kaine defeated Bushís candidate in a Red state sends a strong message to the national Democratic party that it needs to get real, shift away from it’s tired New York-Boston-Washington beltway mindset and find a fresh new face to recapture the White House in 2008.

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