Saturday, April 28, 2007

Tenet Finally Shows Some Intelligence

Is former CIA director George Tenet finally trying to earn his furtively-awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom?

In his explosive new book, Tenet is exposing the underbelly of the decision to invade Iraq. "White House and Pentagon officials, and particularly Vice President Cheney, were determined to attack Iraq from the first days of the Bush administration, long before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and repeatedly stretched available intelligence to build support for the war." (WaPo)

Yesterday, the White House tried to throw sand on Tenet's hairballs through counselor Dan Bartlett who asserted that "the president did wrestle with those very serious questions."

Oh, that's reassuring. The wrestling probably took the form of...."Saddam tried to kill my Daddy. Iraq has oil, we want oil. Invade. Time for a bike ride."

As with many things The Decider has touched, he has besmirched the honor associated with the Medal of Freedom by awarding it as a form of hush money to some in the administration's Iraq war cabal.

Besides Tenet, The Decider has awarded the Medal to.... Gen. Tommy "Don't Bother Me About Post-War Iraq" Franks.... Paul "Disband the Iraqi Military, I'm In Charge" Bremer.... and Donald "We Can Do More With Less" Rumsfeld.

Perhaps it never occurred to the jaded Bush and Cheney that some, like Tenet, might have a conscience that the Medal couldn't assuage. Tenet recalls in his book, "At the Center of the Storm," one of the "lowest moments of my seven-year tenure" was when a congressman told me in a public hearing in the spring of 2004 that "we depended on you, and you let us down."

Winning back his reputation won't be a "slam dunk" for Tenet, but this book is a big first step toward correcting the record and fulfilling his obligation as director of the CIA.... to protect our country.

Sadly, Tenet's revelations reinforce the growing awareness of the enemy within.... that those who swore to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States" never intended to keep that oath.

Friday, April 27, 2007

And They're Off.....

"I see a bunch of winners," was Delaware's Sen. Joe Biden's description of his fellow Democratic presidential candidates at the end of their ninety-minute appearance on MSNBC.

But, the format.... it was disappointing. Every candidate was not asked the same question, thus taking it out of the realm of "debate" and into the realm of "show and tell." Moderator Brian Williams was so determined to get through his laundry list of queries that he even resorted to a non-informative show of hands at times.

The evening's winner in my opinion was Biden. He also gets the evening's gold star for having and intelligently articulating the most detailed strategy for Iraq. He also receives the Ipana Smile Award.... you almost expect that little ping of light when he flashes his big grin. I was impressed with his presentation and am definitely going to give him a fresh look... "Yes."

The loser in my opinion was Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico. He was missing the "fire in the belly" and didn't live up to his advance billing as a likable communicator. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I thought he left his personality at home.

And, in his rambling and panderingly-incoherent answer regarding the poor job performance of Attorney General Gonzales, he admitted he tried to cut Gonzales slack because he was a friend and Hispanic. We don't need another "friends of George" president. Richardson seemed out of shape, mentally and physically.

The award for best trophy wife definitely goes to anti-war Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio. That tall red-headed beauty on the stage after the debate is his Mrs. However, he lost his verbal bomb-throwing standing to former senator Mike Gravel of Alaska.

The bomb Gravel was throwing last night was atomic, asking a too-scripted Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.... "Tell me, Barack, who do you want to nuke?" Gravel's bull-in-the-china-shop antics, while at times comic, detracted from the already squeezed time frame allotted for discussion.

Hillary wasn't Shrillary Clinton. New York's senator delivered a solid performance, showing to best effect her wonky tendencies. She remains a formidable candidate.

Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut isn't the president, but he could play one on TV. He speaks well, but on the issues he is Biden light. In the contest for the same voters, Biden wins.

That leaves just former senator John Edwards of North Carolina, the husband of the widely admired Elizabeth. He was strangely subdued. Perhaps trying to damp down his lawyer-like delivery. He didn't lose, and he didn't win. He showed up.

And there you have it, my take on last night's proceedings.

Next week we'll see ten Republicans in the same format. A "stubborn" Bush was the focus of a united front of opposition from the Democrats to his Iraq misadventure. Will the GOP rush to The Decider's defense? Or, will it be "George who?" Stay tuned....

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Shield of Injustice

It was impossible to watch without wincing.

Attorney Gonzales' tortuous testimony before the Senate Judiciary committee last week was compared to watching the clubbing of a baby seal. Except, Gonzales isn't a baby seal, he's a very useful White House front man, a pretend Attorney General shielding a pretend President and his political thugs.

During his testimony, Gonzales fell on his sword, taking full responsibility for the firing of eight U.S. attorneys while at the same time professing complete ignorance of the reasons for their dismissal.

This flimflamming so impressed "Heck of a job Brownie" Bush that he rushed to declare that Gonzales' performance had "increased my confidence in his ability to do the job."

With each layer of corruption uncovered by the now Democratically-controlled Congressional oversight committees, we find that the national interest, and the law, take a back seat to the White House agenda.... all politics, all of the time.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) has turned over the White House rock of the private briefings on Republican candidates during the last midterm election.

Senior officials in at least 15 government agencies were subjected to White House presentations on how they could affect election outcomes.... a violation of the Hatch Act forbidding political pressures meant to influence the outcome of elections.

In the briefing to the General Services Administration.... "conducted like all others by a deputy to chief White House political adviser Karl Rove.... two slides were presented showing 20 House Democrats targeted for defeat and several dozen vulnerable Republicans."

This prompted the GSA administrator to ask how GSA projects could be used to help "our candidates," according to half a dozen witnesses.

The abuse-of-power odor emanating from the White House flows over our nation like a backed up sewer. Even a sacrificing Gonzales can't mask the stench forever.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


This morning's heart-numbing news..... "Iraq Blast Kills 9 GIs, Injures 20 At Outpost." A suicide bomber rammed an explosives-rigged truck into a U.S. military outpost near Baqubah in one of the deadliest single ground attacks on U.S. forces since the start of the war in Iraq.

Where's the national day of mourning for these brave troops? Where's the Griever-in-Chief who showed up for a photo op after the Virginia Tech killings?

Is Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) going to commemorate the fallen by singing his "joke" about "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran"..... while supporting The Decider's "surge" and "stay the course" in Iraq's killing fields?

Enough. Enough heroes dying trying to rescue The Decider's sorry place in history. Enough power-driven politicians using the sacrifice of the fallen on the campaign trail.

Tell the Iraq government that we've done our part, now they must do theirs. By a date certain.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Bush's Dirty Tricks

The Bush administration's corporate-favoring policies have thrown us, and our planet, into the hazardous waste bin.

One example, "Philip Cooney, a former American Petroleum Institute lobbyist who became chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, acknowledged in congressional testimony earlier this year that he changed three government reports to eliminate or downplay links between greenhouse gases and global warming. He left in 2005 to work for Exxon Mobil Corp."

And now, WaPo reports on more Bush administration "dirty tricks".... via the Food and Drug Administration that oversees the safety of our food supply.

We learn that we have knowingly being fed disease and bacteria as the FDA "has known about contamination problems" for years.

For example, the FDA knew about ConAgra Food's salmonella-laced peanut butter from their plant in Georgia, and the E. coli bacteria-infected leafy vegetables from California's Salinas Valley.

As Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) reminds us, "This administration does not like regulation," and an underfunded and ineffective FDA is the poisonous result.

We know that Bush can increase department size and budgets, just look at his Keystone-Kops Homeland Security behemoth.

But, as Robert E. Brackett the director of the FDA's food-safety arm admits, because of manpower and budget restraints they visit problem food plants about once a year and the rest less frequently.

And, that doesn't address at all the contamination in imported foods.


At heart, the people who died or have been sickened by these deadly-dirty foods are more casualties of the Iraq war. Funds that could, and should, have been used to oversee the safety of our foods were diverted to Bush's budget-gutting pursuit of his fatal obsession.

I think the answer is.... we should bring back the medieval custom of royal tasters.

Only in reverse.

The electorate doesn't eat anything until King George has tried it.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Mothball the Electoral College

The current year-long and obscenely costly slog leading to the election of our president has become, well, ridiculous.

And that's just the primaries!

The subsequent bruising focused-saturation-advertising race between the nominated party candidates has become a statistician's joyride.... crunching the numbers to come up with the dozen or so "battleground" states, slotting states as red or blue.... with the end game being to secure the most Electoral College votes regardless of the national will of the majority of the voters.

This could change. And we have Maryland to thank for leading the way.

On April 10, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley signed into law a measure that would circumvent the Electoral College by awarding the state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the most popular votes nationwide.

It's called the National Popular Vote plan. The idea is that once enough states have signed on to put together a majority of electoral votes (270) those states agree that their electors will always vote for the winner of the popular vote in all fifty states plus D.C. This would make presidential elections truly national, every citizen's vote would count.

No need for the Supremes to swoop down to award the presidency.... neither nine citizens nor a select few states would have such power over the outcome of a presidential election.

Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000. Imagine if the National Popular Vote plan had been in intelligent response after 9/11.... the ability to stem the runaway spending of the GOP-led Congress.... an action plan to reduce man's contribution to global warming.

An experienced leader with management skills and a proven interest in the advancement of us all, not just corporations, would have been at the helm.

Contact your state representatives, your governor. Find out if they are considering the National Popular Vote plan. Encourage and educate.

It's our best hope for reining in this presidential race lunacy, and for electing a leader who can unite because he represents the will of the majority.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Hippity Hop to the Money Shop

After the Don Imus career-halting rapper-lingo jabs at the talented Rutgers women's basketball team, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) denounced his remarks as "small-minded bigotry and coarse sexism" that "showed a disregard for basic decency and were disrespectful and denigrating to African Americans and women everywhere."

Her opportunistic indignation came just days after she and hubba-Bill were thrown a fundraiser by none other than the well-heeled hip-hop producer Timbaland. The shindig at Timbaland's Pinecrest, Florida home raised a reported $800,000 for Hillary's presidential campaign.

Timbaland's rapping takes the form of, well.... violent, obscenity-laced lyrics about small-minded bigotry, coarse sexism and remarks denigrating to African Americans and women.... you can find a sample of them here.

As we have already learned, Hillary tilts at whatever windmill will gain her the presidency.

Hillary's disconnect between her public scolding and private actions remind me of the saying... "In some, the superficial runs very deep."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The Supremes, not satisfied with handing the 2000 election to the corporate bought-and-paid-for George W. Bush.... thus tarnishing their image as impartial, Constitution-protecting justices.... recently upheld a federal ban on what is misleadingly called "partial-birth" abortion.

Their decision tipped the balance-of-power over a woman's right to choose in consultation with her physician toward religiously-inspired government interference.

It's the first step in the drip, drip, drip erosion of women's protection under Roe vs Wade.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Bush: Step Back From the Abyss

Monday.... April 16, 2007.... is a date now burned into the collective memory of the country. The tragic mass murder of 32 innocents at Virginia Tech by a pathologically alienated student.

But, ponder this. That same day in Iraq, the U.S. military reported the deaths of seven more American service members. These brave souls are added to the 3,311 already lost. Are their lives any less precious, their sacrifice to be taken for granted?

While we as a nation were witnessing with helpless sorrow the heartbreaking loss of lives on the Virginia Tech campus, Iraq plunged even deeper into the abyss of instability, and our troops into deadlier danger.

"Cabinet ministers loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr quit the government Monday, severing the powerful Shiite religious leader from the U.S.-backed prime minister and raising fears al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia might again confront American troops."

And, a "major new threat is emerging in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq." The Iraqi Kurds want independence, neighboring Turks want to crush any movement in that direction.... an unstable powder keg. "As with so many aspects of Iraq, the Bush administration has wandered into a conflict that is encrusted with centuries of ethnic hatred."

Our brave occupying troops are bogged down in the midst of these ancient and deeply embedded tribal hatreds.... trying to referee a game bereft of rules or even humanity.

Bush and the Democratically-led Congress are fencing over a war-funding bill that calls for a timetable for withdrawal of our troops from this unwinnable conflict. Bush wants no such timetable. He says withdrawal would bring the terror to our shores, shores that have already been breached in so many ways by his careless, agenda-driven administration.

Bush, who attended the memorial service yesterday for the slain at Virginia Tech.... publicly abhorring the senseless loss of life there... is yet blind to the senseless loss of life in Iraq. He stubbornly opposes any measure that would start to pull our troops out of harms way, saying ironically about the legislative debate, "our troops should not be caught in the middle."

As a nation, we must do all we can to avoid the senseless loss of life.... whether at our schools and universities or in rashly-engaged wars.

Start bringing our troops home.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Mirroring Imus

Frank Rich, the brilliant New York Times columnist, hit the ball out of the park today with his editorial "Everybody Hates Don Imus." He catalogues the "astounding display of hypocrisy, sanctimony and self-congratulations from nearly every side of the debate, starting with Al Sharpton...."

For those of you who didn't hear the full context of the Imus remarks about the Rutgers women's basketball team, just the selectively edited sound bites that the media focuses on, here they are.

The reaction to this "humor," ... really a dialog with Imus's evil twin and show producer Bernie.... was a resounding enough-is-enough.

While Imus defenders like to point out the many good works of Imus, that argument is like saying the penalty for the mass murder of 33 young men by John Wayne Gacy should be lessened because Gacy spent his spare time entertaining children by dressing up as a clown.

Imus was a mass slurmeister and is now paying the consequences. As Imus said of himself.... "I dished it out for a long time, and now it's my time to take it."

One of the most troubling aspects of the whole incident is the way it buried other news of import, like the devastating bombing in the Baghdad Green Zone.... glossed over in the media's rush to make ratings and the big $$$ on the Imus controversy.

Which brings us to the bottom line.... Why the Imus-type of entertainment?... Why the media capitalizing?... Why the downward-spiraling coarsening of America? Because, the public likes, tolerates or even demands it.

Until that image in my and your mirror says "Enough" nothing will change.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Bush Power Failures

The Decider derided Bill Clinton for his personal behavior, and promised to bring a new moral tone to the White House.

What a joke.

The latest chapter of the Bush administration's ongoing trashing of our country and government are the "lost" Karl Rove emails sought by Congress in various abuse of power investigations. We're talking about at least four years' worth of missing emails diverted to the Republican National Committee account that the White House has admitted was an improper use of a political email account to conduct official business.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, in an angry speech on the Senate floor accused the White House of lying about the matter..... "You can't erase emails, not today.... They've gone through too many servers. Those emails are there-- they just don't want to produce them. It's like the infamous 18-minute gap in the Nixon White House tapes."

Then there is the sorry spectacle of our Attorney General Alberto Gonzales rehearsing for weeks about his "story" before appearing before a congressional committee next Tuesday regarding firing of U.S. attorneys and other abuses of his office.

Even though going through mock testimony sessions lasting up to five hours a day, an insider admits that Gonzales still can't get his story straight. The White House is stonewalling demands by Congress for testimony and records related to the prosecutor firings. The Bushies are insisting that Rove and other aides be interviewed privately, without a transcript and not under oath. An aide to Gonzales has refused to testify, taking 5th amendment protection to avoid self-incrimination.

The latest revelation of a Bush insider's high moral tone comes by way former under secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz.... a manipulator of intelligence before the invasion of Iraq.

In 2005 he was awarded the presidency of the World Bank where Wolfowitz now admits he made a "mistake" by personally orchestrating a high-paying job and guaranteed promotions for a bank employee with whom he is romantically involved. His 200 staffers are so taken with him that they began hissing, booing and chanting "Resign.... Resign" when he attempted to address them after they angrily demanded his resignation.

This is our morally bankrupt Bush administration, hiding behind a smokescreen of religion and patriotism, mouthing a moralism totally disconnected from their scurrilous actions.

"What Doesn't Belong and Why?" Imus

The media-shaking potty-mouth comment about the Rutgers University's women basketball players by MSNBC morning talk show host, Don Imus, has brought "posturing" to a new high, or low. First and foremost is poser Imus himself.

Did he immediately recognize his repugnant remarks and apologize? No.

Although he did apologize a day or so later, he didn't go into full grovel until after the weekend following when the call to fire him had picked up volume and mass. What followed on his part was embarrassingly over-the-top self-flagellation in a last ditch effort to save his job... and his reputation.

Many didn't buy it, starting with MSNBC and NBC who dropped his show after initially slapping him on the wrist with a two-week suspension.... something he surely viewed as a welcome vacation and a chance to dodge the misogynist-racist spotlight.

MSNBC said the reason they were severing their relationship with Imus was because of the outcry from their employees and the requirement to uphold NBC's reputation.... more first-class posturing. Their "reputation" wasn't bothered after previous countless outrageous comments by Imus.

The tipping point for MSNBC surely was when Imus advertisers started deserting his showboat....Proctor & Gamble, Staples, General Motors, American Express, Ameritrade, GlaxoSmithKline, Sprint Nextel,, Bigelow Tea.... along with the outcry from fed-up folks everywhere.

Last, but almost worse, is the pose of outrage from black "leaders" who themselves have made nasty, racially charged comments like Jesse Jackson's referring to New York as "Hymietown," or really shameless, the profit-motive excusing of abhorrent rap lyrics as "art" by the black entertainment community.

I admit that I watched Imus in the morning, looking forward to his political interviews. But, with increasing regularity I had started switching away from his program as his brand of humor.... mainly sophomoric ridicule.... or his obsessive talking about himself, made his show increasingly crass or just plain boring.

I had cringed when he berated his wife during her live appearances with him, or when he continually referred to his sportscaster (and countless others) as "fat," dissing him ad nauseam because his new wife kept her name after their recent marriage, or, pulling his guests through knotholes when he felt moody. This isn't entertainment. This is a power-bloated bully.

So, now it's up to CBS, where Imus still has his morning radio show, to decide whether or not to continue enabling him to continue on the public airways after a two-week cooling-off period.

Imus prided himself on being powerful.... through his puzzling hold on his pet powerful whom he kept on a short leash.... and untouchable as he held court and passed judgments.

Now it's up to CBS to stop the "monitoring the situation closely" posturing. "What doesn't belong and why?" Imus!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Iowa Rocks

Iowa.... the place to know.... especially if you are a business or are career-minded.

In the newly issued Forbes special report "Best Places for Business and Careers," Des Moines ranked 4th for large metros, and Iowa City ranked 5th for smaller metros based on such factors as strong economic growth while keeping costs down, quality-of-life issues such as crime rates and cultural opportunities and the education of the workforce.

So, whether you're looking for one of the best arts festivals in the country, or a good corn dog at the Iowa State Fair, a high-tech job or a small business opportunity, a superior education or a place to apply it.... think Iowa.

Cheney's Big Lie

The definition of propaganda is: Information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.

Today's headline reads: "Hussein's Prewar Ties To Al-Qaeda Discounted." That's right. Captured Iraqi documents and intelligence "all confirmed" that Saddam's regime was not directly cooperating with al-Qaeda before the U.S. invasion of Iraq according to a declassified Pentagon report released Thursday.

The report exposes our own intelligence community's prewar consensus that the Iraqi government and al-Qaeda had only limited contacts. It also discounts the persistent statements of the Bush administration that there was an Iraqi connection to 9/11.

It is mind-numbing then to learn that the same day that the report was released, shadow-King Cheney, "appearing on Rush Limbaugh's radio program, repeated his allegation that al-Qaeda was operating inside Iraq 'before we ever launched' the war, under the direction of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the terrorist killed last June."

Actually, Zarqawi did not align himself with al-Qaeda until early 2004, after the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Cheney is still spewing propadanga.... distorting the facts, beating the war drums.... still controlling The Decider's Iraq war agenda.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Follow the Money

I'm feeling sucker-punched, and disappointed in presidential hopeful John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth. After their heart-touching press conference where they announced the return of Elizabeth's cancer, they had my admiration for their grit and devotion to a cause greater than themselves.

But since, they have solicited sympathy emails on John's campaign site, and then used the email addresses of the tens of thousands who responded for their hit-up-for-money list. Some say it's just a good fund-raising strategy.

I say it doesn't pass the smell test. Just makes them another of the shameless money-grubbing pack.... knocks them off of their new-found high ground.

And, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) finally released the numbers for his campaign's haul in the first quarter of the year..... $25 million. Obama is treading on the heels of Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-NY) supposedly unmatchable money-raising machine that spewed-out a lower-than-expectations $26 million.

And, there is more bad news for Hillary behind the numbers. "Obama appears to have surpassed Clinton in several ways: He raised $6.9 million through donations over the Internet, more than the $4.2 million that Clinton raised online. He reported donations from 100,000 people, double the 50,000 people who gave to Clinton." (WaPo)

Suddenly, Hillary isn't looking like a shoo-in. This makes the Drudgies of the world most unhappy. They love giving her good headlines, almost fawning coverage trumpeting her "inevitability" as the Democratic presidential nominee. Because, she is the GOP's choice to run against.

There is no one who could rev up the base and bring out the GOP vote better than Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

McCain Isn't Fooling Anyone

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) (in the baseball cap) ditched his Straight Talk Express for an armored Humvee with full military escort to take him to his "stroll" in Baghdad's central marketplace, called Shorja.

McCain, The Decider's biggest Iraq-war justifier and presidential wanna-be, later made the claim that, "The American people are not getting the full picture of what's happening here"..... there are "signs of progress."

McCain even went so far as to assert, "There are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through - today."

Now anyone who has watched CNN's veteran Iraq war correspondent Michael Ware knows that Ware is the actual hands-down holder of the Straight Talk label. Upon hearing McCain's comment about his April Fool's Day visit to Baghdad, Ware snorted through his boxer's nose, "I don't know what part of Neverland Senator McCain is talking about when he says we can go strolling in Baghdad"

Who to believe?

Well, how about the merchants in Baghdad's Shorja marketplace.

When they heard that McCain had said that the new security plan for the city was working, they were incredulous. "What are they talking about?" Ali Jassim Faiyad, the owner of an electrical appliances shop in the market said Monday, "The security procedures were abnormal!"

The delegation arrived at the market with more than 100 soldiers in armored Humvees.... the equivalent of an entire company.... and attack helicopters circled overhead while soldiers redirected traffic from the area and restricted access to the Americans.... sharpshooters were posted on the roofs.

"They paralyzed the market when they came," Faiyad said, "This was only for the media."

He added, "This will not change anything."

Maybe McCain's crooked talk about the actual deadly dangerous situation in Iraq is one reason why McCain posted a lackluster third-place finish in the GOP presidential campaign money-raising sweepstakes for the first three months of the year.... behind Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani.

So, what's a caught-in-Neverland-talking candidate to do?

Maybe McCain can pop out of his Straight Talk Express and yell "April Fool!"

But, it's probably too late for that now. Regardless of how he tries to sugarcoat the continued occupation of Iraq, McCain isn't fooling many into climbing aboard his backfiring campaign bus.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Bush: Get Out of the Way!

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and six other representatives visit Syria.... a trip the White House describes as a bad idea.... but Israel's Acting President Dalia Itzik, who is a member of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's centrist Kadima party, said to her about her visit to Damascus "I believe in your worthy intentions."

A handful of Republican and Democratic lawmakers have already visited Syria and met President Bashar al-Assad in December after the bipartisan Iraq Study Group recommended a stepped-up diplomatic effort involving Syria and Iran to help calm the violence in Iraq. And, three Republican congressmen, Frank Wolf (VA), Joe Pitts (PA) and Robert Aderholt (AL), were in Syria on Sunday where they met with Assad.

Pelosi promised Israel she would raise with Assad the issue of three captive Israeli soldiers, two held by Lebanon's Hezbollah group and one by Palestinian militants. She is also conveying that "Israel is willing to talk if they [Syria] would openly take steps to stop supporting terrorism," Olmer's spokeswoman, Miri Eisin said.

In an hour-long meeting, Olmert and Pelosi's delegation talked "extensively" about a Saudi peace plan, dormant since 2002 and relaunched last week at the Arab League summit by Saudi's King Abdullah. Olmert has welcomed the plan, which calls for the recognition by all Arab states of Israel in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal from territories captured in 1967.

Accompanying Pelosi on her second trip to the Middle East since assuming the speakership in January are Democratic Representatives Keith Ellison (MN), Henry Waxman (CA), Tom Lantos (CA), Louise Slaughter (NY), Nick Rahall (WV) and Republican David Hobson (OH). This trip also includes stops in the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

Olmert has invited Arab leaders to a regional peace conference for an exchange of views about solving the Mideast conflict.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and said the European Union will try to help resolve the conflicts with Israel, stating she believes, "time is of the essence."

Unsubstantiated reports, fueled by Russian intelligence, predict an attack on Iran in early April by U.S. forces.... Operation Bite. These reports are believable mainly because The Decider has proven that he knows only one way to proceed in international affairs, by the use of force.

It's heartening that our lawmakers are aggressively pursuing the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. As for The Decider.... get out of the way!