For much of the past year, two U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups have been patrolling the Persian Gulf in what VP Dick Cheney called "a clear message to friends and adversaries alike [that] we'll stand with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating this region." Recent reports, however, suggest the U.S. build-up could be drawing down. The USS Enterprise — now underway to the Persian Gulf from its homeport in Norfolk, Virginia — is due to relieve the departing USS Stennis in a few weeks. But unless there's some change of plans, the USS Nimitiz will not be immediately replaced when it returns home in late September, making the Enterprise the sole carrier in the region. The Navy is calling the move routine, but according to one Bush Administration official, it is part of a conscious effort to reduce pressure on Iran. Meanwhile, Israeli Military Intelligence reported on Tuesday that Iran might be nearing a "technological threshold" that could enable it to begin producing nuclear weapons sometime within the next two years. Could it be that the Bush Administration will favor a diplomatic track? Maybe, but, as the inside source pointed out, U.S. warplanes at land bases in Turkey, Iraq, and Afghanistan are all within easy striking distance of Tehran.

Muckraking has always been a favorite hobby of ours here at MoJo (see some recent examples here, here, and here), so we're delighted to see our friends at the Center for Investigative Reporting are bolstering their online efforts. Their redone website is a real beauty and their muckraking blog, appropriately called The Muckraker, provides links to the best investigative journalism around the web. It's a great resource if you create investigative journalism, or just like reading it.

Of all the possible reasons why John McCain's top aides might have been fired, forcing the Senator to wear "gay sweaters" is not one I would have guessed. Wow.


James Ridgeway has a piece on that details how politicians side with credit card companies instead of financially struggling citizens because massive financial institutions donate to political campaigns and bankrupt or near-bankrupt individuals do not.

It's well worth a read, because the issue really tests the values and principles of the top Democrats running for president. Edwards fights for the little guy the hardest on the issues of credit card debt and regulating credit card companies, Obama sort of waffles, and Clinton usually sides with big business, much to her benefit. Clinton receives more campaign money from banking interests than anyone other representative in Congress, according to Ridgeway. Just another sign that she's the big money candidate in this race.

Today, it was announced that Louisiana Sen. David Vitter was an occasional client of the famous "Canal Street Madam." Jeanette Maier, who called Vitter "honorable," "a good man," and said that his wife "should be very proud of her husband...." Maier met Vitter at a fishing rodeo where her employees were hired as prostitutes for local politicians. She says that he stopped visiting her establishment before it was raided by the federal government in 2001.

Only yesterday, we learned that Vitter, an enthusiastic opponent of gay marriage, was a patron of the even more famous "DC Madam." After his visits to the DC Madam's establishment were made public, the senator acknowledged he had committed a "very serious sin," then said that out of "respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there — with God and them." The New Orleans Times-Picayune did not think this was an adequate explanation, and expressed such — before the new revelation appeared about the Canal Street Madam.

It is puzzling how Vitter used visiting prostitutes here and there as part of his so-called family values agenda and his head-on campaign against gay marriage, but we have certainly seen this type of behavior before from elected moralists.

One of the obvious winners in this nasty business is Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, who has endured personal attacks, sometimes vicious, from Vitter since the day he first campaigned for the U.S. Senate. Only the day before the DC Madam story came out, Vitter had attacked Landrieu for abandoning Louisiana and giving money to left-wing causes and values. In this case, the money involved a program intended to benefit Louisiana children, a matter Vitter's staff apparently did not bother to learn. At any rate, whatever left-wing values Landrieu is alleged to be supporting (and that would be news to those of us who are part of the left wing!), they probably do not include condemning gay people in between trips to brothels.

Anxious to talk to Fox in language they understand? (Clearly they fail science-speak.) Try dollar-speak. There's enough of us &mdash the 7 out of 10 Americans who know human-caused climate change is real &mdash to get their attention. Check it out.


Yup, this was Lou Dobb's parting blow after Michael Moore bulldozed over Wolf Blitzer during a recent interview on CNN. Moore surely doesn't need any publicity help from me, but this clip is priceless.

Moore, who got worked up and red-faced, got some good jabs in, criticizing CNN's coverage of Iraq and health care, but in the end he ends up looking belligerent and a little ridiculous. His loud barking covered up what could have been stellar points. He has this problem with his movies as well. His messages could surely go further if he brought down his level of grandstanding a notch or two. But then again, why change now? That's what has made him as successful as he is.

Senate Judiciary committee chairman Patrick Leahy has posted his response to the revelations in the Washington Post today that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales misled Congress in stating that "there was not one verified case of civil liberties abuse."

Leahy writes that the Senate Intelligence committee was not the only one Gonzales deceived:

In addition to the comments the Attorney General's provided to the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2005, detailed in The Washington Post story today, the Attorney General also failed to provide the Senate Judiciary Committee with the accurate information regarding the timing of his knowledge of abuses of National Security Letters (NSLs). In answers to questions posed by Chairman Leahy to the Attorney General following the Committee's April 2007 oversight hearing, the Attorney General indicated that he first learned of the NSL abuses through drafts of the Office of Inspector General's report on NSL abuses, just prior to the public release of that report in March 2007. The Judiciary Committee received the Attorney General's answers last week.

Leahy had asked Gonzales: "Please state when you first became aware of the widespread abuses of NSLs at the FBI."

A bribery scandal involving at least 31 people culminated in the execution of China's former food and drug chief; the most senior Chinese official to receive the death penalty in seven years.

Zheng Xiaoyu, 62, was convicted of taking bribes worth some 6.5 million yuan ($850,000) and also for approving substandard medicine that was reportedly blamed for at least 10 deaths.

The former food and drug chief's death sentence got the netroots chattering. According to one report, bloggers and other writers demanded a stiff sentence for Xiaoyu because of scores of deaths in recent years from fake drugs and food products tainted by industrial chemicals that he may have approved.

But Xiaoyu is not the only problem China's State Food and Drug Administration has. China's consumer product quality-control systems have been called into question as of late due to incidents ranging from fake drugs to chemical-tainted food, as China has opened its economy.

For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration linked poisonous ingredients from China to a massive recall of pet food and animal feed in the past two months. The pet food has been blamed for the deaths of thousands of pets, according to unconfirmed reports that pet owners have made to the FDA.

In addition, an industrial chemical, found in medicines that contained ingredients from China, has been blamed for dozens of deaths in Central America and the Caribbean. The chemical was also found in Chinese-made toothpaste that reportedly contained diethylene glycol falsely labeled as glycerin, the same poison that the Panamanian government mistakenly mixed into cold medicine last year, killing at least 100 people there.

The question on some people's minds now is how China will safegard food at next summer's Olympic Games.

Just got off the phone with a spokesperson for the Senate Judiciary Committee. Contrary to the White House diktat yesterday that it was citing executive privilege in denying requests from Congress for the testimony of even ex-White House officials, she says that former White House director of political affairs and Karl Rove aide Sara Taylor will appear before the committee tomorrow. What happened, I asked. "She's under subpoena," committee spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said. Stay tuned.

Update: Muckraker Paul Kiel says likewise, House Judiciary committee chairman John Conyers is going to require former White House counsel Harriet Miers to show up at his committee and invoke privilege. He anticipates that Taylor plans to do the same thing.

Wednesday Morning Update: The AP says Taylor plans to follow White House direction to not answer questions about her role in the US attorney firings:

"While I may be unable to answer certain questions today, I will answer those questions if the courts rule that this committee's need for the information outweighs the president's assertion of executive privilege," Sara M. Taylor, who left her White House job two months ago, said in remarks prepared for presentation to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
"Thank you for your understanding," she added in the statement.
The Post reports that the Senate Judiciary Committee may not in fact be feeling so understanding:
A spokeswoman for Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) said the panel has questions that will not fall under that restriction. But committee Democrats made clear that they will not be satisfied with that and will press the White House to drop its assertion of executive privilege. The Senate could cite Bush or Taylor or both for criminal contempt, which would send the matter into the courts.
"I hope Ms. Taylor chooses to reject the White House's insistence that she carry out their stonewalling and, instead, works with us so that we can get to the bottom of what has gone on and gone wrong," Leahy said in a statement last night.