a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain…

While I’m not much for authoity figures in general, political or not, it is sometimes neccessary to have someone take the lead. Someone to lay out a plan, to set goals, to organize people and sometimes just to set a tone. As Arianna Huffington points out, Bush said he welcomed, “an honest debate about Iraq”. If that’s true , why are his surrogates Swiftboating Congressman John Murtha. Shouldn’t America expect its president to lift the debate up from the gutter. The President Needs to Denounce the Swift-Boating of Murtha… Now!

They are the lowest form of character assassination — cranked out by the GOP attack machine with ruthless efficiency (and almost comical predictability). A belly flop into the Beltway sewer that degrades a political culture already so befouled it might seem beyond further degradation. But then we get this effluvium — and the stench hanging over our democracy becomes unbearable.

Bush must make it clear, immediately and in no uncertain terms, that, as a country, we need zero tolerance for this contemptible attempt to shove the reputation of a man who put his life on the line for his country into the media wood chipper. If Mrs. Alito cried over some of the questions asked of her husband, what should Mrs. Murtha do, slit her wrists?

Arianna betrays her inherent idealism. She gives weight to the possibility that Rovian Republicans want politics any place but the sewer. The culture of Bush-Rove-Delay likes political discourse down and dirty, thats how they win and as long as they keep winning, the constant barrage of hate wrapped in the flag will continue. Bush, by his silence shows his cowardice, which his apologists try to portray as resolve, a nice bit of reality manipulation.

You can’t tell the players without a scorecard, names to know: Unraveling Abramoff: Key Players in the Investigation of Lobbyist Jack Abramoff

Jack A. Abramoff: Up until 2004, Jack Abramoff was one of the most influential lobbyists in Washington. He leveraged his close ties to Republican and conservative leaders, including then–House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), to collect tens of millions of dollars from clients such as casino-rich Indian tribes. He treated lawmakers and their aides to lavish trips, meals and tickets to sporting events, and directed the tribes to donate millions of dollars to political candidates and parties. Now he is at the center of one of the widest-ranging federal corruption investigations in decades.

DeLay ex-aide pleads guilty in Abramoff case

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Michael Scanlon, a former top aide to Rep. Tom DeLay and a onetime partner of high-powered Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge Monday.

[ ]..He is a longtime associate of several top GOP leaders, including DeLay, Americans for Tax Reform director Grover Norquist, and former Christian Coalition chief Ralph Reed.

Bank robbers are generally idiots, why rob banks when you can get a degree steal all the money you want with a handshake and a spread sheet.

The Anonymous Liberal has Al Gore’s speech

The President’s men have minced words about America’s laws. The Attorney General openly conceded that the “kind of surveillance” we now know they have been conducting requires a court order unless authorized by statute. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act self-evidently does not authorize what the NSA has been doing, and no one inside or outside the Administration claims that it does. Incredibly, the Administration claims instead that the surveillance was implicitly authorized when Congress voted to use force against those who attacked us on September 11th.

This argument just does not hold any water. Without getting into the legal intricacies, it faces a number of embarrassing facts. First, another admission by the Attorney General: he concedes that the Administration knew that the NSA project was prohibited by existing law and that they consulted with some members of Congress about changing the statute.

Breaking the very thin wall that is left of America’s privacy hasn’t yielded the kind of results that would justify this administration’s burning of the constitution one piece at a time. Burning it all at once might shake a few people out of their bedroom slippers while they sit, eyes glazed, watching the Boob Tube…Spy Agency Data After Sept. 11 Led F.B.I. to Dead Ends

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 – In the anxious months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the National Security Agency began sending a steady stream of telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and names to the F.B.I. in search of terrorists. The stream soon became a flood, requiring hundreds of agents to check out thousands of tips a month.

But virtually all of them, current and former officials say, led to dead ends or innocent Americans.

F.B.I. officials repeatedly complained to the spy agency that the unfiltered information was swamping investigators. The spy agency was collecting much of the data by eavesdropping on some Americans’ international communications and conducting computer searches of phone and Internet traffic. Some F.B.I. officials and prosecutors also thought the checks, which sometimes involved interviews by agents, were pointless intrusions on Americans’ privacy.

As the bureau was running down those leads, its director, Robert S. Mueller III, raised concerns about the legal rationale for a program of eavesdropping without warrants, one government official said. Mr. Mueller asked senior administration officials about “whether the program had a proper legal foundation,” but deferred to Justice Department legal opinions, the official said.

President Bush has characterized the eavesdropping program as a “vital tool” against terrorism; Vice President Dick Cheney has said it has saved “thousands of lives.”

But the results of the program look very different to some officials charged with tracking terrorism in the United States. More than a dozen current and former law enforcement and counterterrorism officials, including some in the small circle who knew of the secret program and how it played out at the F.B.I., said the torrent of tips led them to few potential terrorists inside the country they did not know of from other sources and diverted agents from counterterrorism work they viewed as more productive.

As Ezra Klein notes

our problem was never that we lacked sufficient intelligence, but that we lacked the ability to process it. Hence the phrase “connecting the dots,” we had the dots, they just weren’t linked. So what the NSA program has done, apparently, is offer a few million more dots, the overwhelming majority of which simply get in the way of making those crucial connections. Feel safer?

What is at the center of Bush and his supporters thinking about the NSA program? Its much like their thinking about Iraq and terrorism. They’re jumping in the air, arms frailing about, giving the impression that they are doing big important things beyond the grasp of the average American. All to distract from the facts, the NSA program is an unfocused needle in a haystack search and Iraq had less to do with terrorism then people we consider allies, like Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Cons complained for years, and it turns out ignorantly so, that governement was big and incompetent. Bush and company have greatly expanded government and dumped down the competence to record lows.

Lawrence Kudlow stands on corner, wets finger, sticks it in the air, On the Extent of “Corporate-Welfare Subsidies”

It does seem these Bush minions were for pork barrel spending before they were against it, but I have to wonder as to Larry’s undocumented claim.

RED (Voice Over)
I find I am so excited I can barely
sit still or hold a thought in my
head. I think it is the excitement
only a free man can feel, a free
man at the start of a long journey
whose conclusion is uncertain…
297 THE BUS 297

RED (V.O.)
I hope I can make it across the
border. I hope to see my friend
and shake his hand. I hope the
Pacific is as blue as it has been
in my dreams.

I hope.

from THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION by Frank Darabont, based on the story;
Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption
by Stephen King