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Boos for Bush

In an interview with ABC News last week, Cheney alleged without any evidence that Iran was "heavily involved in trying to develop nuclear weapons enrichment, the enrichment of uranium to weapons-grade levels."

And as I wrote in my March 21 column, Bush falsely and inflammatorily stated that the Iranian government has "declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people."

These people appear to have learned nothing.

Torture Watch

A segment of CBS News's " 60 Minutes" yesterday described the case of Murat Kurnaz, who at the age of 19, "vanished into America's shadow prison system in the war on terror. He was from Germany, traveling in Pakistan, and was picked up three months after 9/11. But there seemed to be ample evidence that Kurnaz was an innocent man with no connection to terrorism. The FBI thought so, U.S. intelligence thought so, and German intelligence agreed. But once he was picked up, Kurnaz found himself in a prison system that required no evidence and answered to no one."

First, he was taken to a U.S. base in Kandahar, Afghanistan. "Kurnaz claims his interrogations at Kandahar turned to torture. He told 60 Minutes that American troops held his head underwater.

"'They used to beat me when my head is underwater. They beat me into my stomach and everything,' he says.

"'They were hitting you in the stomach while you're head was underwater so that you'd have to take a breath?' [CBS's Scott] Pelley asks.

"'Right. I had to drink. I had to . . . how you say it?' Kurnaz replies.

"'Inhale. Inhale the water,' Pelley says.

"'I had to inhale the water. Right,' Kurnaz says.

"Kurnaz says the Americans used a device to shock him with electricity that made his body go numb. And he says he was hoisted up on chains suspended by his arms from the ceiling of an aircraft hangar for five days.

"'Every five or six hours they came and pulled me back down. And the doctor came to watch if I can still survive to not. He looked into my eyes. He checked my heart. And when he said okay, then they pulled me back up,' Kurnaz says.

"'The point of the doctor's visit was not to treat you. It was to see if you could take another six hours hanging from the ceiling?' Pelley asks.

"'Right,' Kurnaz says.

"'I suspect you know that the U.S. military will deny this happened. The U.S. military will deny that you were shocked. It will deny your head was held in a bucket of water. It will deny that you hung from a ceiling for days at a time,' Pelley remarks.

"'Doesn't matter whatever they will say. The truth will not change,' Kurnaz says. . . .

"After six weeks in Afghanistan, Kurnaz was loaded onto another plane, this time bound for Guantanamo. The Pentagon labeled the prisoners 'unlawful enemy combatants.' They didn't have the rights of prisoners of war and were beyond the reach of any court.

"At Guantanamo Kurnaz says he endured endless months of interrogations, beatings at the hands of soldiers in riot gear, and physical cruelty which included going without sleep for weeks and solitary confinement for up to a month in cells that were sealed without ventilation or were set up to punish him with extreme conditions.

"'It's dark inside. No lights. And they can punish you in isolation by coldness or by the heat. They have special air conditioners over there. Very strong. They can turn it very cold or very hot,' Kurnaz says.

"He says it went on year after year, always the same questions about al Qaeda, and the endless effort to break his will. He heard nothing from the outside and wondered whether anyone knew that he was there."

Resignations Watch

Carol D. Leonnig writes for The Washington Post: "Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson announced his resignation today, citing "personal and family matters." He has come under pressure from Congress for his refusal to answer questions about a federal lawsuit and whether he tried to steer land to a business friend. . . .

"According to two government sources who work on housing issues, Jackson was called last Monday to the White House, where top Bush administration aides discussed his ability to continue to lead the agency. The sources requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

"That meeting came three days after two senior Senate Democrats called on Bush to oust Jackson. Sens. Patty Murray (Wash.) and Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.) advised the president that his secretary's refusal to answer lawmakers' questions made him unable to lead the $35 billion agency. A White House spokesman replied that Bush continued to have confidence in Jackson."

Jackson also famously asked in 2006: "Why should I reward someone who doesn't like the president, so they can use funds to try to campaign against the president? Logic says they don't get the contract. That's the way I believe."

Christopher Lee writes in The Washington Post: "A mid-level White House staff member has resigned after informing officials of allegations that he misused federal grant money for personal gain before he joined the government, a White House official said yesterday.

"Felipe Sixto quit as special assistant to President Bush on March 20 after learning that the nonprofit Center for a Free Cuba planned to take legal action against him, said White House spokesman Scott Stanzel. Sixto was chief of staff at the Washington-based group for about three years before joining the White House's Office of Intergovernmental Affairs last July. . . .

"Sixto's resignation comes on the heels of another mid-level staff member's abrupt departure from the White House. Special assistant Tim Goeglein resigned Feb. 29 after acknowledging that he had plagiarized material for a newspaper column."

Treasury Plan

Howard Schneider writes for The Washington Post: "Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. today proposed a broad overhaul of the way the nation oversees the financial system, elevating the role of the Federal Reserve in monitoring markets and recommending other changes in hopes of curbing some of the practices that have slowed the economy in recent months and led to steep losses at mortgage and financial companies."

Edmund L. Andrews writes in the New York Times: "Many of the proposals, like those that would consolidate regulatory agencies, have nothing to do with the turmoil in financial markets. And some of the proposals could actually reduce regulation."

Damian Paletta, Greg Ip and Michael M. Phillips write in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required): "Congressional Democrats and others say the current crisis is the result of too little regulation, not too much. 'It takes a certain chutzpah to say the appropriate response to a financial crisis is to loosen regulation,' said Barbara Roper of the Consumer Federation of America, a consumer-advocacy group. 'Wall Street [in the plan] generally looks to me like they didn't get hit with anything they don't want.'

Paul Krugman writes in his New York Times opinion column: "Anyone who has worked in a large organization -- or, for that matter, reads the comic strip 'Dilbert' -- is familiar with the 'org chart' strategy. To hide their lack of any actual ideas about what to do, managers sometimes make a big show of rearranging the boxes and lines that say who reports to whom.

"You now understand the principle behind the Bush administration's new proposal for financial reform, which will be formally announced today: it's all about creating the appearance of responding to the current crisis, without actually doing anything substantive. . . .

"So, will the administration's plan succeed? I'm not asking whether it will succeed in preventing future financial crises -- that's not its purpose. The question, instead, is whether it will succeed in confusing the issue sufficiently to stand in the way of real reform."

A New Housing Plan?

Lori Montgomery and David Cho write in The Washington Post: "The Bush administration is finalizing details of a plan to rescue thousands of homeowners at risk of foreclosure by helping them refinance into more affordable mortgages backed by public funds, government officials said. . . .

"The plan is similar to elements in legislation proposed two weeks ago by Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, officials said. . . .

"If enacted, the plan would mark the first time the White House has committed federal dollars to help the most hard-pressed borrowers, people struggling to repay loans that are huge relative to their incomes and the diminished value of their homes."

Wrong Number

Peter Baker writes in The Washington Post: "President Bush visited a credit counseling service here Friday to promote his administration's efforts to help homeowners crunched by the mortgage crisis. 'I want my fellow citizens, if you're worried about your home, to call this number: 1-88-995-HOPE,' he said. 'Let me repeat that again: 1-88-995-HOPE.'

"The only trick? He was one '8' short. As the president shook hands with guests after his statement, Danny Cerchiaro, a homeowner from Iselin, N.J., who had gotten help restructuring his mortgage, whispered something in Bush's ear. The president promptly went back to the lectern. 'Danny just told me I've got to get the number right,' he said sheepishly. '1- 888-995-HOPE.' . . .

"It was not the first time, though, that the president got the number wrong. When he announced the program in December, he gave the first four digits as 1-800 instead of 1-888. That incorrect number he announced led callers to a Christian education academy near Dallas."

Karl Rove Watch

Adam Nossiter writes in the New York Times: "Former Gov. Don Siegelman of Alabama, released from prison Friday on bond in a bribery and corruption case, said he was as convinced as ever that politics had played a leading role in his prosecution.

"Speaking by telephone in his first post-prison interview, shortly after he had left the federal penitentiary at Oakdale, La., Mr. Siegelman said there had been 'abuse of power' in his case, and repeatedly cited Karl Rove, the former White House political director.

"'His fingerprints are smeared all over the case,' Mr. Siegelman said, a day after a federal appeals court ordered him released on bond and said there were legitimate questions about his case."

Husna Kazmir writes for the George Washington University newspaper, the Hatchet: "Republican strategist Karl Rove was unfazed by two separate interruptions from protesters calling him a war criminal as he spoke about the 2008 election in front of a sold-out crowd at the Elliott School of International Affairs Friday night."

Said Rove: "I was introduced as a genius so you gotta make up your mind. I'm either an idiot or a genius!" has some video clips.

Cartoon Watch

Brian Duffy on Bush and the economy; Ann Telnaes makes a monkey of the president.

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