Last poll-related blog of the day, I swear. Amidst mountains of disgust with George Bush's handling of domestic issues, foreign policy issues, and all issues ever, there is an interesting number in this AP/Ipsos poll [pdf].

Including strong supporters, moderate supporters, and nominal supporters, you've got 54 percent of the country that favors the Democratic Party. The same number for the Republicans is only 36 percent. That's a difference of 18 percent, or exactly half the GOP's support.

Hillary, BHO, and Jedwards have to hope this national mood lasts. It'll be a cakewalk. Spotted on TPM.

A new FOX News poll [pdf] asks poll respondents if they find the two leading Democratic candidates for president "likeable." The results: Hillary Clinton is considered likeable by 56% of respondents, Barack Obama by a whopping 76%. Even 68% of self-identified Republicans like BHO.

So my question is this -- is the huge difference in how people perceive them a product of personality differences or the fact that Clinton has been dragged through the mud of several prominent campaigns? To put it another way, will Obama's numbers drop after some extended time in the national spotlight?

For what it's worth, respondents were much more likely to label Clinton a "strong leader" than Obama, but they were more likely to label Obama "honest and trustworthy" than Clinton.

Twenty-six American citizens, most of them believed to be CIA agents, just went on trial in Italy, but it's the Bush Administration's policies on extraordinary rendition and torture that are really under fire.

The accused themselves are in little danger. In 2003, they allegedly kidnapped a Muslim cleric in Milan and transported him to Germany and then to Egypt, where the cleric claims he suffered electric shocks, beatings, rape threats, and genital abuse while under interrogation. With what we know now about the war on terror, the allegations are almost certainly true -- the only tricky question is whether the Italians have accused the right 26 people. It doesn't much matter, because they're being tried in absentia and the United States refuses to extradite them. Their chances of serving time in Italy or anywhere else are less than zero.

So even though they're holding what amounts to a show trial, kudos to the Italians. While I'm uncomfortable with actually convicting the CIA agents of anything, since they are likely little more than foot soldiers, it's unquestionable that holding up the war on terror's ugliest aspects to bright lights is something we need more of, in Italy, around the world, and especially here at home.

Associate Deputy Attorney General Patrick Philbin didn't play by Dick's rules. He was present at John Ashcroft's hospital bed the night of March 10, 2004, as Andy Card and then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales tried to strong-arm the woozy Ashcroft into reauthorizing the controversial warantless wiretapping program. But Philbin advised Ashcroft not to reauthorize it. Eventually, facing the threat of 8 politicized resignations, Bush and his band backed down and modified the plan to address concerns shared by Philbin, Ashcroft, and the Acting A.G., James Comey.

After Gonzales (whose initials are A.G.—isn't that nifty?) assumed the post of Attorney General, he sought to promote Philbin to Deputy Attorney General. James Comey indicated today in written Senate testimony that word came down from Cheney's office that the dark lord would oppose the promotion. "I understood that someone at the White House communicated to Attorney General [Alberto] Gonzales that the vice president would oppose the appointment if the attorney general pursued the matter," Comey wrote. "The attorney general chose not to pursue it."

At first blush, this sounds like standard tit-for-tat politics. But one of the Justice department's main functions is to advise the White House on the legality of its proposed policies. If telling them that a policy would violate the Constitution (even when bringing it into line wouldn't mean throwing it out entirely) means being blacklisted, that sends a clear signal that the White House has no interest in abiding by the terms of the 200-plus-year-old document. Not that that should come as news to anybody.

Schooling efforts in parts of Africa take center stage in two recent Guardian multimedia stories on the lack of debt relief for African youth.

As Bono's One Campaign drums up support for debt cancellation, poverty relief and AIDS medication in Africa, these stories take us into the homes and daily lives of a handful of Africans.

Focused on the efforts of the British relief fund organization Oxfam, the stories critique the G8's lackluster attempts to assist the region since agreeing in 2005 to boost support to Africa by offering a close-up view of students' lives in the small village of Mali.

Children, as detailed in two stories, sit on dirt floors and don't always have pencils to write with. Water is several kilometers away by foot, and the nearest town is 10 hours by donkey. Improved schooling, Oxfam workers argue, provides much needed health education and practical skills like accounting, which would help local villagers better manage scarce resources and funds.

Sort of makes No Child Left Behind blunders look like child's play by comparison.

—Gary Moskowitz

The Perfect Storm

With our oil addiction causing climate change, wouldn't it be funny if a huge hurricane hit the oil pipelines in the desert Middle-East? It almost did. Read more on The Blue Marble.

Testimony from war czar Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute reconfirms the fact that it is politicians, and not military men, who scream "Support the troops!" as a political attack against their enemies.

When asked about the debate over the Iraq War that has consumed Washington and the nation, Lute said at his confirmation hearing today, "I don't believe it undercuts [the troop's] morale." The troops "understand the democratic process," he said, "and, in fact, that's what we've sworn to protect and defend."

It sounds a lot like what Gen. Pace said on the subject: "As long as this Congress continues to do what it has done, which is to provide the resources for the mission, the dialogue will be the dialogue, and the troops will feel supported."

Or what Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said: "I think [the troops are] sophisticated enough to understand that that's what the debate's really about."

Of course they are. The troops, after all, debate the merit of the war as much or more than anyone else. They know the same thing goes on at home, and that the mere existence of debate doesn't mean liberals somewhere want them to die. To assume otherwise is an insult to their intelligence.

So who's doing the insulting? Republicans in Congress like House Minority Leader John Boehner, who said, "Think about the message we have sent them... We have undermined their efforts, lowered their morale, and clearly sent the wrong message." Or John McCain, who said, "if we voice disapproval and send our young troops on their way... what message does it send to the troops? That we disapprove of what they're doing but we still support them, but not their mission?"

Or the dark lord himself, Dick Cheney, who said straight up that questioning the war is "detrimental to our troops." I suggest the vice president fact-check that with his generals, his Secretary of Defense, or any one of the troops fighting on the ground.

Think Progress has video of Lute's testimony.

The point system we've discussed at length here on MoJoBlog almost suffered the same fate as the guest worker program. Late last night, Barack Obama introduced an amendment to sunset the problematic point system after five years instead of the current 14, a move that infuriated the bill's sponsors and never quite mustered the support to pass. So in a 55-42 vote, the point system that will radically change the face of America's immigrant population remains as is.

Just after midnight this morning, the Senate passed an amendment to the immigration bill that would sunset the guest worker program after five years. Though the sponsors of the bill had been successful in deflecting a number of amendments, some intended to drastically reshape the bill, others intended to kill it outright, they weren't able to stop a bipartisan coalition of senators from adding the sunset to the bill. Dems don't like the guest worker program because it creates an underclass of laborers with few rights that drag down wages for low-income American workers; anti-immigration Republicans don't like it because it gives more immigrants a legal place in the country. Pro-business Republicans love the thing for obvious reasons, and composed the bulk of the amendment's opposition.

Senators are discussing this amendment like it might strangle the bill, which means that the speculation that the guest worker program would be the most contentious part of the bill was correct.

This is either a biting commentary on the capacity of YouTube fetishism to overwhelm and ruin actual debate in American politics or the worst example of an out-of-touch campaign trying to glom onto a trend it doesn't understand. Either way, it's hilarious if you have a minute to spare.

Yeah, that's right. Just a man writing, eating, writing, drinking, and writing some more. We really need to reel in the viral video aspect of the 2008 campaign -- we're in danger of losing words altogether in favor of (barely) moving images. Spotted on The Plank.