We enjoyed a pleasant evening with our friends John and Angela from church. Angela is taking graduate courses in Chinese culture, and so we met at our family's favorite Chinese restaurant for a typically excellent dinner and superb company and conversation. We then returned to Casa Swank and took in the oldest Chinese film in my DVD collection, the fun 1959 Grace Chang flick Air Hostess, which I described as "a Chinese Doris Day movie" and the guys at Teleport City describe a whole lot better.
Mark Kleiman comments on CIA Director George Tenet's polite refusal to take the blame for the Bush Administrations, er, exaggerations of intelligence to portray Saddam as a threat.
And the Administration still can't resist the fantasy. Bush's State of the Union contained an applause line about not asking other nations permission to defend ourselves. Well, we never have, nor should we. But Iraq was about self defense only if Saddam was a threat. Bush and his minions claimed to have proof, and of course we know now that such proof could not possibly have existed. (Daily Kos reminds us of the recent anniversary of Colin Powell's swiftly debunked tissue of lies delivered to the UN.) As the Bush Administration adheres desperately to its election year cut-and-run plan, it's important to remember that far from putting an end to the threat from Iraq, the Bush Administration created one -- and left America's credibility, so vital for our future defense, in tatters.
Federal law enforcement officials said that they have developed hard evidence of possible criminal misconduct by two employees of Vice President Dick Cheney's office related to the unlawful exposure of a CIA officer's identity last year. The investigation, which is continuing, could lead to indictments, a Justice Department official said.
According to these sources, John Hannah and Cheney's chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby were the two Cheney employees.
"We believe that Hannah was the major player in this," one federal law enforcement officer said.
This development of course raises the question of what the vice president (to say nothing of the President) knew and when he knew it. The question of why Bush still fails to act to get to the bottom of this scandal, of course, remains open.
Yesterday my oldest daughter mentioned at the dinner table that a house had exploded near her preschool. The local paper confirms the story.
A powerful explosion destroyed an Irvington home around 2:40 a.m. today, sending a shock wave through a two-block radius -- causing severe damage to several homes and a nearby nursing home, downing power lines, shattering windows and injuring at least two people.
Fire department officials said the cause and origin of the explosion, which took place on the 300 block of South Ritter Avenue, was still under investigation.
Indianapolis Fire Department spokesman Captain Gregg Harris said a 57-year-old man who lived at the house was transported to Wishard Memorial Hospital in serious condition.
A 17-year-old neighbor was taken to Community Hospital for breathing problems.
Almost four hours after the explosion, a gas fire still burned in a crater where the house once stood -- sending plumes of smoke into the frigid morning air.
The houses next to the explosion site suffered heavy damage and would likely be demolished, Harris said.
Utility workers shut off gas and electricity to several homes in the neighborhood, but had to use a backhoe to dig up a portion of the street to reach a gas line that continued to feed the fire at the destroyed house.
Here's another article from this morning's paper. A gas leak is suspected as the cause of the blast.
Dwight Meredith gazes into his crystal ball and wonders aloud why Republicans are so fond of Bush -- and then observes that since they are, the eventual Democratic nominee has his work cut out for him.
In the last few days, there has been some indication that that Mr. Bush’s Republican support could slip. The Kay revelations, the introduction of a budget calling for a $521 billion deficit, Mr. Bush’s failure to let House Republicans know that the cost of the prescription drug benefit might be greater than thought and new polls showing John Kerry ahead of Mr. Bush, all may have caused doubts about Mr. Bush in the minds of some Republicans.
If Mr. Bush’s Republican support weakens, or if his base is not motivated for the election, he is in serious trouble. The Democrats are motivated to beat him and will unite around their nominee. In a 50-50 nation, unity and enthusiasm are crucial. If Mr. Bush loses a significant portion of Republican support, he could be toast.
I doubt that will happen. The campaign, including a “slime and defend” effort against he Democratic nominee, Bush’s substantial war chest, his ability to frame the debate from the bully pulpit, and above all the war on terror are likely to keep Republicans in the fold.
Meredith has a point, which is why the Democratic nominee must point out Bush' substantial shortcomings in the War on Terror -- not the least of which was the stunning success of Operation Ignore all the way up to 9/11.
Don't forget, the real scandal is that Bush could order the members of his Administration who outed a covert CIA agent -- an act Bush's father likened to treason -- to reveal themselves and resign, but he refuses to.
At last, the question of how Bush spent the final years of his National Guard duty is beginning to grow legs. CalPundit calls upon Bush to "Release your service record, Mr. Commander in Chief." Joshua Marshall and Mark Kleiman both weigh in, and Phil Carter points out that records that can prove whether Bush did -- or did not -- report for duty are almost certain to exist.
Joshua Marshall notes that Bush's military service, or rather the conspicuous shortcomings thereof, may turn out to haunt him in this elections as it did not in 2000.
The Post piece bends over backwards to give plenty of benefits of the doubt. But it makes clear that the president jumped to the head of the line to get into the Guard because of political connections. And then, after he'd been given a comparatively easy way to get out of getting shot at or killed in Vietnam, he proceeded to blow off his service for substantial periods of time while in the Guard.
The Post points out that there is no definitive proof of Bush's non-attendance. But there is an utter lack of any documentation for his showing up for service and the officer he was supposed to report to during the key period in question continues to insist that he never laid eyes on him.
In the president's defense are a) the president's word, b) the memory of some friends who say "they recalled Bush leaving for Guard duty on occasion", and c) the fact that the aforementioned officer, when contacted yesterday by the Post, couldn't specifically remember how often he was on the base at the time.
As is all too typical with Bush, many of the questions could be resolved if Bush simply released his military records, which, if memory serves me right, he refuses to do.
From the economy to Iraq to stem cell research, facts are constantly at odds with the Bush Administration's claims about its policies. Wired takes a look at the Bush Administration's apparent attempts to stack the deck in its favor.
Under the guise of promoting sound science, the Bush administration is advancing a policy that could make it more difficult for federal agencies to protect health and the environment, U.S. scientists say.
A White House Office of Management and Budget, or OMB, bulletin (PDF) drafted in August 2003 would allow the government to hand-pick scientists to second-guess scientific research, opponents say. The text of the bulletin says its purpose would be to ensure that all research affecting federal regulations, such as environmental or health advisories, would be thoroughly peer reviewed by unbiased researchers.
But scientists feel the government is commandeering a term that is near and dear to their hearts.
Peer review is the backbone of all serious science. It's a process by which top experts in a given field examine research for flaws, and often send it back to researchers for more work before it's disseminated to the public. But scientists say the White House version of peer review would allow the government to stack review committees in favor of the government and industry.
Imagine my surprise. As always with the Bush Administration, read the fine print, and watch what they do, not what they say.
Joshua Marshall observes that the President seems to have realized that his resistance to an official probe of his deception befuddlement regarding Iraq's weapons capability makes it clear seem that he has something to hide. Marshall also reminds us that, as with everything the President does, you can't trust first impressions, but must read the fine print:
Here are the key grafs (emphasis added) ...
The details about the commission are not yet firm, including how much authority it would have to investigate not just the intelligence gathering apparatus but also how the administration used the intelligence it was given.
By joining the effort to create the commission rather than allowing Congress to develop its framework on its own, Bush will likely have more leverage to keep the focus on the CIA and other intelligence organizations rather than on the White House. Democrats have asserted that Bush exaggerated the intelligence on Iraq to justify going war, a theory that was boosted by recent allegations from former Treasury secretary Paul H. O'Neill that Bush had been contemplating the ouster of Hussein long before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
There it is. They want to wall off the investigation so it only scrutinizes their political enemies at the CIA and the rest of the Intelligence Community.
Of course, Bush will do everything in his power to ensure the investigation not report before the November elections. Demcorats must continue their efforts to ensure that the delay doesn't matter.
President Bush's new budget will project that the just-enacted prescription drug program and Medicare overhaul will cost one-third more than previously estimated and will predict a deficit exceeding $500 billion for this year, congressional aides said Thursday.
Instead of a $400 billion 10-year price tag, Bush's 2005 budget will estimate the Medicare bill's cost at about $540 billion, said aides who spoke on condition of anonymity. Bush will submit on Monday a federal budget for the fiscal year 2005, which starts next October 1.
Bush just signed the Medicare measure into law last month. While it was moving through Congress, Bush, White House officials and congressional Republican leaders had assured doubting conservatives that the bill's costs would stay within the $400 billion estimate.
Some conservatives voted against the legislation anyway, and many of them are already angry that Bush has presided over excessive increases in spending and budget deficits.
Are we going to hear a lecture by David Brooks and Charles Krauthammer how deranged and unhinged the conservatives are in letting their disgust over Bush's obvious lack of integrity show?
Brad DeLong explains why he's angry at the Bush Administration:
Why do so many of us who worked so hard on economic policy for the Clinton administration, and who think of ourselves as mostly part of a sane and bipartisan center, find the Bush administration and its Republican congressional lapdogs so... disgusting, loathsome, contemptible? Why are we so bitter?
After introspection, the answer for me at least as clear. We worked very hard for years to repair the damage that Ronald Reagan and company had done to America's fisc. We strained every nerve and muscle to find politically-possible and popularly-palatable ways to close the deficit, and put us in a position in which we can at least begin to think about the generational long-run problems of financing the retirement of the baby-boom generation and dealing with the rapidly-rising capabilities and costs of medicine. We saw a potential fiscal train wreck far off in the future, and didn't ignore it, didn't shrug our shoulders, didn't assume that it would be someone else's problem, but rolled up our sleeves and set to work.
Then the Bush people come in. And in two and a half years they trash the place. They trash the place deliberately. They trash the place casually. They trash the place gleefully. They undo our work for no reason at all--just for the hell of it.
As the saying goes, if you aren't outraged, you aren't paying attention.