This has got to be one of my favorite quotes in a while:

“The president prefers to tell the truth, rather than make the numbers look better by pretending.”

That’s Obama’s OMB Director Peter Orszag on a remarkable step forward toward greater transparency in government that was announced earlier today.

Here’s what happened in a nutshell. Over the last eight years, whenever Bush submitted a proposed budget to Congress, he intentionally hid hundreds of billions of dollars in spending (for things like, say, the Iraq War) as so-called “off-budget” items. This was done with the intent of making Bush’s budgets seem way smaller than they really were.

What Obama has now done is to do away with all that. His budgets will now include all budget spending and will no longer hide countless billions in an “off budget” footnote.

Here’s Steve Benen:

It’s about damn time. The smoke-and-mirrors approach to which we’ve grown accustomed was ridiculous. It was a problem policymakers recognized, but didn’t want to talk about, and had no interest in fixing. It’s not only heartening to see Obama bring some sanity to the process, it will also have key practical consequences — honest budgets lead to better policy making.

Noam Scheiber added that it will be “kinda helpful to have a budget that actually means something when you’re debating public policy,” and added the political upside to using honest budget numbers for a change: “Why not make the long-term deficit look as large as possible at the beginning of your term? Not only can you fairly blame your predecessor at that point; the bigger the deficit looks, the easier it is to show progress, which Obama will need to do as he runs for re-election. To take one example, you can’t claim savings from drawing down in Iraq if you don’t put Iraq spending on the budget in the first place (which Bush mostly didn’t).”


Take a stab at guessing who said this at about Rush Limbaugh’s hope that Obama fails:

That was a terrible thing to say. I mean, he’s the president of all the country. If he succeeds, the country succeeds. And if he doesn’t, it hurts us all. Anybody who would pull against our president is not exactly thinking rationally.

Give up? Some liberal communist hippy? Some homosexual San Francisco-dwelling deviant?

Nope, Pat Robertson. Yep, the fundamentalist Christianist nutter who routinely blames the country’s ills on gays, abortionists and liberals.

You know the world is going topsy-turvy when Pat Robertson starts making sense.


Another Gitmo whistleblower comes out from hiding and reveals some truly horrifying new facts:

[T]he Nelly account shows that health professionals are right in the thick of the torture and abuse of the prisoners—suggesting a systematic collapse of professional ethics driven by the Pentagon itself.

He describes body searches undertaken for no legitimate security purpose, simply to sexually invade and humiliate the prisoners. This was a standardized Bush Administration tactic–the importance of which became apparent to me when I participated in some Capitol Hill negotiations with White House representatives relating to legislation creating criminal law accountability for contractors.

The Bush White House vehemently objected to provisions of the law dealing with rape by instrumentality. When House negotiators pressed to know why, they were met first with silence and then an embarrassed acknowledgement that a key part of the Bush program included invasion of the bodies of prisoners in a way that might be deemed rape by instrumentality under existing federal and state criminal statutes. While these techniques have long been known, the role of health care professionals in implementing them is shocking.

Such profound shame…


A new survey of historians on the Bush presidency came out recently.

Drum roll, please… Bush ranked among the ten worst Presidents of all time:

Today, C-SPAN released its second Historians Survey of Presidential Leadership, in which “65 presidential historians ranked the 42 former occupants of the White House on ten attributes of leadership.” Coming in first was Abraham Lincoln, followed by George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, and Harry Truman. Finishing last was James Buchanan. George W. Bush came in 36th, just beating out Millard Fillmore, who ranked 37th. A look at how historians judged Bush on measures such as his “economic management” and “moral authority”:


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Wow, what a surprise:

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Illinois House Republicans say they want U.S. Sen. Roland Burris investigated for perjury.

State Rep. Jim Durkin told The Associated Press he and GOP leader Tom Cross will ask for an outside investigation into whether Burris perjured himself before a House committee investigating former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment.

This morning Burris admitted Blagojevich’s brother had solicited a campaign contribution from him, a fact he didn’t mention to the impeachment committee last month:

The disclosure is at odds with Burris’ testimony in January when an Illinois House impeachment committee specifically asked if he had ever spoken to Robert Blagojevich or other aides to the now-deposed governor about the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama.

As I mentioned in a number of earlier posts, I thought the Burris appointment was a travesty. I never fully trusted the guy and now it looks like my suspicions were well-founded.

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Just a quick note to apologize for the sporadic posting you’ll be experiencing over the next two weeks.

I’m taking the Illinois bar exam on Feb 24/25th and will be in super-cram 24×7 study mode until then.

Once I manage to flush all of this useless law out of my head after the test is over, I’ll be back to my old self again.

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A new poll conducted by USA Today and Gallup find that two-thirds of the American public want our current government to investigate Bush era crimes and abuses of power:

Close to two-thirds of those surveyed said there should be investigations into allegations that the Bush team used torture to interrogate terrorism suspects and its program of wiretapping U.S. citizens without getting warrants. Almost four in 10 favor criminal investigations and about a quarter want investigations without criminal charges. One-third said they want nothing to be done.

This is pretty compelling stuff. Although only a quarter of those surveyed favored actual criminal prosecutions, the vast majority of Americans want to see the truth finally come out. As I mentioned in a post last month, I believe the best way to accomplish this is through a “truth and reconciliation” commission along the lines of what happened in South Africa.

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Polls like this make me deeply and profoundly sad:


Yep — 25% of our perpetually God-fearing populace stridently refuse to believe in evolution (and probably still believe there was a link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda).

Update: On a related note, check out this other Gallup poll, which shows that the level of religiosity in Alabama is similar to that of Iran: