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Archive for December 10th, 2006

Has King Karl Lost His Magic Touch?


It’s an ugly rumor, but it’s spreading like wildfire: Karl Rove has lost his touch.

In an amazing betrayal within a family where top political aide Rove is royalty, Bushies have been sneering at his pre-election happy talk that the gop would keep the Senate and take a slight hit in the House, both soon to be run by Democrats.

And now we learn that President Bush really believed the GOP was safe, too. On the day before the elections, he asked embattled House gop leader Dennis Hastert to run for speaker again so he could guide the White House’s agenda in Congress.

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Impeachment rallies held coast to coast


This Sunday’s Human Rights Day has been renamed “Human Rights and Impeachment Day,” as groups hold rallies across the United States calling for President Bush and Vice President Cheney to be impeached. This Sunday marks the 58th anniversary of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“The purpose of the events is to organize people to lobby their Congress Members for investigations and impeachment and to lobby their local and state governments for resolutions in support of impeachment,” Democrats.com co-founder Bob Fertik writes.

The rallies were “kicked off” yesterday at a New York City forum which featured former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman, who served on the Judiciary Committee during Nixon’s impeachment hearings, and anti-war “peace mom” Cindy Sheehan, whose son, Casey, was killed while serving in Iraq over two-and-a-half years ago.

Fertik told RAW STORY that the two speakers were a “genuine inspiration to the enthusiastic crowd of progressive activists who believe we have more than enough evidence to begin the impeachment process.”

A participant in the NYC event named Aaron offered the following rave review: “Excellent organizing, speakers great, good time had by all, the bush is quaking in his cowboy boots!”

“Sheehan reminded us that each day’s statistics are real families’ tragedies,” Fertik added. “Holtzman reminded us that impeachment works — and strengthens our great nation — when it’s done the right way, as it was in Watergate.”

As her final legislative act on Friday, outgoing Georgia Rep. Cynthia McKinney introduced an impeachment bill, although it was just a “symbolic parting shot” by the controversial Democrat and has no chance of passing. Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had promised before the midterm elections that impeachment would be “off the table,” and after the Democrats regained control of Congress, Rep. John Conyers, the soon-to-be chairman for the Judiciary Committee agreed.

According to After Downing Street, one of the activist groups helping to organize this weekend’s events, there “will now also be rallies to honor and thank Cynthia McKinney.”

Events scheduled for today include rallies and parades held in such cities as Seattle, Madison, Chicago, Detroit and Tallahassee.

At a beach in San Francisco, plans were made to use a mass of human bodies to spell out the word “Impeach!” However, a blogger from the Beach Impeach Project announced late Saturday night that “dangerous surf conditions have forced postponement” until the first weekend in January.

Also in San Francisco, “under the spot where the UN signed its charter 60 years ago,” activists will sing “carols” while clad in orange jump suits, similiar to the ones that detainees at Guantanamo Bay are forced to wear.

DEVELOPING…AS NEWS FROM EVENTS OF THE DAY TRICKLES IN…

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GOP Laments Mixed Results As Control of Congress Ends


Demoralized Republicans adjourned the 109th Congress at 5 a.m. yesterday with a near-empty Capitol, closing the door on a dozen years of nearly unbroken GOP control by spending more time in the final days lamenting their failures — to rein in government, tame the deficit and temper their own lust for power — than reliving their successes.

Still reeling from their electoral defeat Nov. 7, Republicans capped an era of conservative ascendance with the passage of business tax break extensions, a package of trade measures, and legislation to stave off physician-payment cuts they once trumpeted in their budget-cutting drive.

While GOP leaders touted their handiwork, it was a far cry from 12 years ago when the Republicans swept to power with the zeal of self-described revolutionaries and a mission to shrink the size of government, limit its reach, strengthen the nation’s security and end an era of a privileged, imperial Congress.

“Together, we reformed welfare. We cut taxes, and small businesses grew all over the nation,” House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said in a late-night farewell address. “We promised to protect this nation from further attack, and by grace of God and with the leadership of President Bush, we have been successful.”

But beyond Hastert’s speech, a conclusion punctuated by the release of a scathing House ethics committee report on the Mark Foley-House page scandal and last-minute budget squabbles yielded more recriminations than congratulations.

“You know, the American people took the reins of government away from the Republican Party . . . in this last election. They did so, I think, in large part because they were tired of our hypocrisy,” fumed Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) from the Senate floor. “Our leadership and some of our members grew arrogant in their own power, and with arrogance comes corruption,” said Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), a member of the class of 1994.

“We came to change Washington, and Washington changed us,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

As they grapple with defeat, Republicans seem to have difficulty taking stock of their 12 years in power, but those years had enormous impact. Republican Congresses fundamentally changed the welfare system, cut taxes time and again, expanded the powers of the government to combat terrorism in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and added a prescription drug benefit to Medicare.

Combing through the fine print of the 1994 “Contract With America” campaign manifesto, one finds goals that Americans now largely take for granted. Congressional committee chairmen, who once built empires from inviolable perches, are now term limited. The contract anticipated a lucrative tax credit for each child, the end of a tax penalty on marriage, federal incentives for adoption, the easing of limits on the amount seniors could earn and still receive their Social Security benefits and some curbs on civil litigation. The overriding political fear of tax increases, still evident as Democrats move to resume control, can be seen as a conservative victory, as can a federal minimum wage that has grown increasingly irrelevant after nearly a decade without change.

Yet measured against the ambitions of 1994, not much has changed. The House Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee might be no more, but the departments of commerce, education and energy, once slated for the chopping block, are still very much alive, as are the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Compared with the size of the economy, government discretionary spending has grown. The vision of a term-limited Congress of everymen, rotating through Washington after short stints, has all but vanished. And government programs such as Medicare and federal education bureaucracies are larger and more pervasive.

“It’s a mixed bag,” said former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), the architect of the 1994 revolution. “In a three-year period, we changed things fairly dramatically. We, candidly, then failed.”

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Iran Offers to Help U.S. Exit From Iraq


MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) – Iran’s foreign minister delivered a blunt challenge to the United States on Saturday, saying Tehran is willing to help U.S. troops withdraw from neighboring Iraq but only if Washington makes some tough policy changes.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki claimed U.S. troops were responsible for at least half the violence tearing apart Iraq and that their departure would pay security dividends for the entire region.

“If the United States changes its attitude, the Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to help with the withdrawal from Iraq,” Mottaki told the International Institute of Strategic Studies conference here. “Fifty percent of the problem of insecurity in Iraq is the presence of foreign troops.”

Mottaki echoed calls made last week by Iran’s top national security official, Ali Larijani, for Gulf Arab countries to eject American bases in their countries and establish a regional security pact with Iran. Mottaki went further and offered deeper cooperation with the six Gulf Arab states on energy, tourism, business and counter-narcotics.

Iran’s offers do not seem to have tempted Gulf neighbors who are apparently more worried about the dangers of living near Iran’s nuclear facilities, especially amid threats by Washington and Israel to use military force to destroy them.

Mottaki’s forceful speech was a challenge to U.S. interests in the Gulf and a strong display of the country’s rising assertiveness in the face of U.S failures in the region.

At one point, Mottaki addressed an international audience that included U.S. Vice Adm. David Nichols, the deputy chief of U.S. Central Command, and said the regional chaos sparked by the Bush administration’s twin wars demonstrated that U.S. military force was no longer a realistic policy option in the Middle East.

“Today the time of threats is over. The period of unilateralism is over,” Mottaki said. “Look at Iraq. Look at Afghanistan. That gives us a very important lesson.”

Iran’s proposal for a Gulf security alliance shows no sign of gaining traction among the region’s Arab leaders. Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheik Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said security of the energy-rich region depends on the United States, the European Union and other major oil-importing countries.

Much of the discussion at this security conference centered on the U.S. Iraq Study Group report, and its recommendation that Washington seek Iran’s help in steering Iraq away from civil war.

William Cohen, defense secretary under President Clinton, urged Iran to push for talks with Washington.

“If you forgo aspirations for nuclear weapons and cut off funding for radical elements and support the Mideast peace process, then yes, you’d be welcomed into the international community. We’d have billions of dollars going into your economy,” Cohen told the Iranians among 250 delegates from 22 countries.

“If Iran is simply interested in pursuing a nuclear energy program and not weapons, that’s something the U.S. wouldn’t object to and would support.”

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Donald Rumsfeld on Farewell Tour of Iraq


Outgoing Defense Secretary Makes Final Trip After Stepping Down Amid Criticism of War

Dec. 9, 2006 — Outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was in Iraq today on his 13th unannounced visit since the war started in 2003, ABC News has learned. It was an unusually secretive farewell tour of the nation that will almost certainly define his legacy.

The trip, laden with symbolism, is among the last stops in Rumsfeld’s farewell tour, with just nine days left before former CIA Director Robert Gates assumes Rumsfeld’s third-floor office in the Pentagon.

Reporters usually agree to keep Rumsfeld’s trips to Iraq secret until he arrives on the ground, under standard Pentagon rules designed to avoid alerting insurgents. But this visit has remained undisclosed even after his arrival.

The trip comes weeks after President Bush announced a day after Election Day that he would replace Rumsfeld. In the election, public concern over the course of the Iraq war led voters to hand both houses of Congress to Democrats, who had remained in the minority for the vast majority of the president’s tenure.

Rumsfeld’s visit also comes just days after the bipartisan Iraq Study Group declared the situation in Iraq to be “grave and deteriorating” and recommended major changes in the war policies that Rumsfeld oversaw.

Rumsfeld addressed Pentagon employees with a catch in his throat this week. He said Americans would be mistaken to withdraw from Iraq immediately and that his worst day on the job was when he learned of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal that tarnished the war effort.

“I wish I could say that everything we’ve done here has gone perfectly, but that’s not how life works, regrettably,” Rumsfeld told Defense Department employees.

At that meeting, a sometimes emotional Rumsfeld quoted a wounded service member he had met in a military hospital.

“He looked up and he said, ‘If only the American people will give us the time, we can do this,'” Rumsfeld said. “We’re getting it done. And it is a fact, it will take patience and it will take understanding.”

Rumsfeld has been a polarizing figure in the United States and Iraq. One Iraqi told ABC News that “Rumsfeld failed in Iraq,” but another said, “If his visit benefits Iraq, I welcome him.”

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