Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Seymour Hersh. Fantastic as usual.

As is the case with nearly every article written by the man, Seymour Hersh's article in The New Yorker is simply a must read. It is entitled Up In The Air, and in large part covers the possibility that the administration may withdraw large numbers of ground forces and rely upon air power to halt a possible civil war. In the past I have argued for a similar type arrangement for withdrawal, based upon the thoughts of Juan Cole whom I find imminently knowledgeable and very much worthy of consideration when forming opinion on the subject. However the Hersh article has led me to reconsider the wisdom in supporting such a plan. I haven't abandoned said arrangement mind you. I am simply willing to consider the questions raised by the Hersh article in this regard. This sort of reconsideration of ones position in face of evidence that does not support ones stance would be a great example for president Bush, should he ever decide to read this blog! **snark**

For the purpose of this post however, let us consider the first part of the Hersh article. This section deals with the mindset of the president, various close advisors, and the generals in charge of carrying forth his vision for Iraq. Mr. Hersh writes:
Current and former military and intelligence officials have told me that the President remains convinced that it is his personal mission to bring democracy to Iraq, and that he is impervious to political pressure, even from fellow Republicans. They also say that he disparages any information that conflicts with his view of how the war is proceeding.
The inability of this president to consider viewpoints that differ from his own is one of the most glaring weaknesses of the man. It is not a weakness to gather information that does not comport to your viewpoint. In fact it is dangerous to simply push alternate evidence aside because the decision maker and his/her advisors are only human and may make mistakes. If you are mistaken in concluding the predetermined outcome to your decision, failing to even comprehend the possibility that you may be wrong, you have no way of realizing the consequences of the error prior to the disaster. You simply can not be led to understand that you may be wrong for this or that reason. But this realization only comes when one believes one is liable to have human failings. Mr. Hersh's article seems to indicate that president Bush is not concerned by this type of misgiving:
Bush's closest advisers have long been aware of the religious nature of his policy commitments. In recent interviews, one former senior official, who served in Bush's first term, spoke extensively about the connection between the President's religious faith and his view of the war in Iraq. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the former official said, he was told that Bush felt that "God put me here" to deal with the war on terror. The President's belief was fortified by the Republican sweep in the 2002 congressional elections; Bush saw the victory as a purposeful message from God that "he's the man," the former official said. Publicly, Bush depicted his reëlection as a referendum on the war; privately, he spoke of it as another manifestation of divine purpose.
To me this divine inspiration attributed by president Bush is one of the most terrifying manifestations of his stewarship. President Bush would be well served to remember he is only human. This near messianic complex from the president ought to be an example to future generations of how dangerous the mixing of church and state can be. This belief has led us down the path of financial ruination, caused the death of tens of thousands in a needless war, led to arguably the greatest strategic blunder in American military history, and caused us the esteem of nearly the entire world. Not a good record from Gods hand on Earth. Furthermore, if the president is considering the results of the various elections in determining the will of God, it would serve him well to remember that Al Gore actually won the 2000 election popular vote, and that only a supreme court intervention (which supreme court one may add is continuously attacked by fundamentalists as being consistently Christian christian in its rulings) gave the electoral college votes to Bush. It seems like saner heads in the white house would perhaps work towards disillusioning the commander in chief of these dangerous notions, but according to Hersh, such is hardly the case:
"The President is more determined than ever to stay the course," the former defense official said. "He doesn't feel any pain. Bush is a believer in the adage 'People may suffer and die, but the Church advances.'" He said that the President had become more detached, leaving more issues to Karl Rove and Vice-President Cheney. "They keep him in the gray world of religious idealism, where he wants to be anyway," the former defense official said. Bush's public appearances, for example, are generally scheduled in front of friendly audiences, most often at military bases. Four decades ago, President Lyndon Johnson, who was also confronted with an increasingly unpopular war, was limited to similar public forums. "Johnson knew he was a prisoner in the White House," the former official said, "but Bush has no idea."
People may suffer and die, but the Church advances? I thought the charge of Jesus Christ was to spread the gospel. Gospel among other things means the good news. It seems to me that the gospel as practiced by president Bush would be unrecognizable to the saviour he purports to follow. Rather it seems that the God of Bush is distinctly of an old testament nature, complete with the vengeful display of the mighty armies of Gods chosen people to the sorrow and annihilation
of the non-believer.

So we see that rather than disabusing the president of his messainic complex, his advisors have actually encouraged it. I hope with great fervor that this does not culminate with the president awaking some dark night in a cold sweat, having been given a message from God in his dreams that some nation Bush does not see eye to eye with should be given a lesson in the righteousness of the lord via an intercontinental messenger of holy atomic vengeance. And who might be there at that crisis moment to dissuade the president from carrying forth the will of God? The people who have encouraged that belief in the first place? We have three more years of leadership from a man who is insulated, can not be made to acknowlege the basic reality of events he is supposed to be leading us through, and thinks he is called by God thus making his reasoning divine. This is a dangerous time for America, and the world.

Finally... the issue delineated by the last quote from the Hersh article is troubling for me as well. The notion that public events by the president are for the benefit of supporters alone is something I sincerely hope future presidents will not promulgate. Bush is not the president of the red states of America. His policies do not just affect the conservatives who live here. In my readings of civil war history I am often struck by the access given to president Lincoln by the average citizen of the time. I certainly would not condone opening the white house to the public as was largely the case of Lincolns time, but the insulation of the president of the United States from the dissent of American citizens seems somehow intrinsically un-American to me. Since when should a citizen be denied access to a governmentally paid town hall meeting simply because of the bumper sticker on their car. Loyalty oaths to vote a certain way to gain access to campaign events? Quite simply that seems wrong. Let the president face the people every now and then. Not the people the local Republican party musters for the event, but an actual representative sample of the public. The president should hear the voice of the people, or all the bluster about spreading democracy around the world seems to be simply a hollow echo with no real meaning. Listen up president Bush! The people are telling you to change your ways and you refuse to hear them.

Fox news attacks Christmas, welcomes "Holiday Trees"

Fox news personalities lately have been in full cry about various retailers wishing people "happy holidays" as opposed to "Merry Christmas" or some such other religiously correct greeting. Thus it must be quite distressing to these same personalities that Fox has a story on their website welcoming the arrival of "holiday trees" to Washington D.C.. We are waiting with bated breath for the thunder from Bill O'Reilly and the rest of the gang regarding this travesty!

The greeting "happy holidays" seems to me to be perfectly non hostile to Christians. The entire season, including New Years is encapsulated with this greeting. The New Years holiday is not of particular significance to Christians as opposed to any other group that follows our calendar. If Christmas were the single holiday at this time of year, then one could wonder if there possibly were a bias in a greeting that did not seem to mention Christmas. Yet there are a plethora of holidays from various religions at this time of year, and a completely secular holiday that follows close upon the heels of whichever holiday you may celebrate. Wishing a person "happy holidays" hardly should be viewed as an attack on Christianity in light of the various holidays being celebrated at this time of year.

Christmas trees on the other hand are totally a Christmas tradition. Renaming the Christmas tree as holiday trees would be akin to renaming the menorah, the holiday candelabra. This is just silly, and to me indicates a serious disconnect on the part of Fox news from any notion that they are the defenders of Christianity against the secular horde at the gates.

Let the Christmas tree remain what it always has been. I for one can not wait for the day that Bill O'Reilly calls for a boycott of Fox news.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Doing the peoples (of the future) business, congress should heed history.

Knowing that a couple of my readers have libertarian conservative views on the issues, lately I have posted with an eye to showing how traditional conservatives and Democrats might agree about the current administrations disastrous governance. Unfortunately, this is where I hop off the gravy train kiddies. For this post has to do with taxes.

First let me ask those who may be reading this post, whom did you vote for in the last two presidential campaigns? If the answer is Bush, let me now ask, is it fair for you to vote for someone who carries forth policies that you and those who agree with you expect future generations to pay for? (If the answer was Gore or Kerry, we already agree, so you probably don't need the edification provided by this post.)

I full well understand that one of George Bush's major campaign promises was to lower taxes. But that was hardly the sole proposition upon which Bush based his campaign. He also promised to forgo nation building, (nation building is a very expensive endeavor), maintain a balanced budget, (the word maintain is applicable, we all know Clinton left years of balanced budget in his wake) and to generally be a good fiscal steward for the budget. So when Bush deviates from his promises, and starts racking up huge budget deficits, is it really fair to future generations that the one promise he keeps is to cut taxes, (which tax cuts overall benefited the wealthiest amongst us) while running up huge deficits?

We would be well advised to heed history when it comes to the issue of taxation. The founding principle of trickle down economics is that when the wealthiest benefit from lower taxation, they spend that additional income in such a way as to create more jobs and opportunity for the middle and lower class. But we should remember that Reganomics lead to an expansion of the economy only paired with an enormous increase in budgetary outlay, leading to enormous deficits. This conundrum also applies to the expansion under Bush II. When then candidate Reagan was campaigning for the Republican nomination for president in 1980, George H.W. Bush famously termed supply side economics "voodoo economics", and that moniker is apt.

It is obvious that any dimwit could engineer an economic expansion given unfettered access to hot checks. In the two examples of economic expansion under voodoo economics, what we are actually witnessing are the funding of the administrations initiatives by future generations, while letting the wealthy of the generation who enjoy the initiative, recieve tax cuts. Never in human history have we actually seen a tax cut in time of war. We are funding a disasterous war on the backs of the future. This truly is a doubly vexing wrong.

In recent history we have had two examples of administrations who have followed the trickle down philosophy of governance (Reagan & Bush II), and both have resulted in burgeoning budgetary deficits. We have one example of fiscal responsibility, (Clinton) and a balanced budget. In all three examples, we have had an economic expansion (Bush II's started a bit late but it is expanding). Yet there has never been an expansion on the scale we saw under Clintons stewardship. The turnaround in budgetary responsibility came with the passage of the 1993 Clinton budget, without a single vote from the Republicans in congress. It is highly educational to consider what they had to say when that budget was being debated.

""Clearly, this is a job-killer in the short-run. The impact on job creation is going to be devastating."
Rep. Dick Armey, (Republican, Texas)

"The tax increase will...lead to a recession...and will actually increase the deficit."
Rep. Newt Gingrich (Republican, Georgia)

"I will make you this bet. I am willing to risk the mortgage on it...the deficit will be up; unemployment will be up; in my judgment, inflation will be up."
Sen. Robert Packwood (Republican, Oregon)

[Hindsight and judgement when it comes to Sen. Packwood... How ironic!]

"The deficit four years from today will be higher than it is today, not lower."
Sen. Phil Gramm (Republican, Texas)
These people believed in supply side economics and were convinced that the passage of the Clinton budget in 93 would result in economic ruination. So there you have it. Supply siders rely upon future generations wealth to fund the initiatives they like, where as the Clinton model proves that economic prosperity and budgetary sanity can be accomplished concurrently, despite the howls of protest from the supply siders.

It is well understood that campaigning on the promise to raise taxes is akin to removing your name from the ballot in the red states. So instead Democratic candidates should run on history. We have seen the results of the two competing theories, and for anyone to argue that the budget mess wrought by the Republican leadership we have in Washington D.C. has left us in better standing than when president Clinton left office is simply not credible.

And in case you couldn't guess, yes I am a BIG Clinton fan. That said, let me finish this post with his statement, which I have attempted to justify with this post, on ABC News This Week from Nov. 26:
I think it's very important that Americans understand, you know, tax cuts are always popular, but about half of these tax cuts since 2001 have gone to people in my income group, the top 1 percent. I've gotten four tax cuts.

They're responsible for this big structural deficit, and they're not going away, the deficits aren't. Now, what Americans need to understand is that that means every single day of the year, our government goes into the market and borrows money from other countries to finance Iraq, Afghanistan, Katrina and our tax cuts. We have never done this before. Never in the history of our republic have we ever financed a conflict, military conflict, by borrowing money from somewhere else.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The president is not going to move. What do Democrats do?

CLINTON: They should continue to oppose it, and they should make it an issue in the 2006 election, and they should make it an issue in the 2008 election. And they should hope, to goodness, for the sake of our country, that the cows don't come home before we have time to rectify it.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Harmonic convergence. Why true conservatives and Democrats may join teams.

Of late I have noted a remarkable phenomena. When I read true conservative columnists, I find myself agreeing with them a lot more than was the case in the past. Here are some recent examples.

Pat Buchanan wrote a column for Human Events on November 10 in which he said the following:

However, post-9/11, Bush II converted to a neoconservatism that calls for unilateral American intervention in the Middle East and the Islamic world, to bring down dictators and establish democracy.

Thus, in March, 2003, Bush, in perhaps the greatest strategic blunder in U.S. history, invaded an Arab nation that had not attacked us, did not want war with us, and did not threaten us—to strip it of weapons we now know it did not have.

Result: Shia and Kurds have been liberated from Saddam, but Iran has a new ally in southern Iraq, Osama has a new base camp in the Sunni Triangle, the Arab and Islamic world have been radicalized against the United States, and copy-cat killers of Al Qaida have been targeting our remaining allies in Europe and the Middle East: Spain, Britain, Egypt and Jordan. And, lest we forget, 2055 Americans are dead and Walter Reed is filling up.

True to the neoconservative creed, Bush launched a global crusade for democracy that is now bringing ever closer to power Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Syria, and Shia fundamentalists in Baghdad and Basra.

Democratic imperialism is still imperialism. To Arab and Islamic peoples, whether the Crusaders come in the name of God or in the name of democracy, they are still Crusaders.
The overall point of Buchanan in this article was to call for a return of the Republican party to Reagan conservatism. Yet in making the argument he sounds remarkably similar to the loyal opposition (Democrats) as we point out the various fallacies and negative impacts of neoconservative leadership. Yet Buchanan's truck is not just with Bush's conduct of foreign affairs by a long shot.
Under Bush II, social spending has exploded to levels LBJ might envy, foreign aid has been doubled, pork-at-every-meal has become the GOP diet of choice, surpluses have vanished, and the deficit is soaring back toward 5% of GDP. Bill Clinton is starting to look like Barry Goldwater.
While one may rest assured that Buchanan is hardly a fan of Clintons presidency, one is left to wonder if he may not conclude that the alternative offered by neoconservatives to this point has been even worse for America. I have yet to see him hold forth on that particular point, but statementss like these hardly offer support for reaching a different conclusion.

Onto another non-neo conservative: Here is Ron Paul's speech on September 08 from the well of the house of Representatives. Representative Paul is a nominally a Republican from Texas, but he enjoys lifetime membership in the Libertarian party and has never renounced that. Representative Paul said:
"Shortly after the new administration took office in January 2001, this goal of eliminating Saddam Hussein quickly morphed into a policy of remaking the entire Middle East, starting with regime change in Iraq. This aggressive interventionist policy surprised some people, since the victorious 2000 campaign indicated we should pursue a foreign policy of humility, no nation building, reduced deployment of our forces overseas, and a rejection of the notion that we serve as world policemen. The 9/11 disaster proved a catalyst to push for invading Iraq and restructuring the entire Middle East. Though the plan had existed for years, it quickly was recognized that the fear engendered by the 9/11 attacks could be used to mobilize the American people and Congress to support this war. Nevertheless, supposedly legitimate reasons had to be given for the already planned pre-emptive war, and as we now know the "intelligence had to be fixed to the policy."

[he quotes the downing street memo!]

Immediately after 9/11 the American people were led to believe that Saddam Hussein somehow was responsible for the attacks. The fact that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were enemies, not friends, was kept from the public by a compliant media and a lazy Congress. Even today many Americans still are convinced of an alliance between the two. The truth is Saddam Hussein never permitted al Qaeda into Iraq out of fear that his secular government would be challenged. And yet today we find that al Qaeda is now very much present in Iraq, and causing chaos there.

The administration repeatedly pumped out alarming propaganda that Saddam Hussein was a threat to us with his weapons of mass destruction, meaning nuclear, biological, and chemical. Since we helped Saddam Hussein obtain biological and chemical weapons in the 1980s, we assumed that he had maintained a large supply-- which of course turned out not to be true. The people, frightened by 9/11, easily accepted these fear-mongering charges.
And Dick Cheney currently calls Democrats who question the misleading of America into this war disingenuous cynical oppurtunists? Ron Paul, nailed the administration months before the prince of darkness started pontificating about the ebil Dems. Of course, Mr. Paul being a wise man saw what was coming and leapt to the defense of his Democratic brethren in arms against the neoconservative administration:
It's not unusual for the war crusaders to condemn those who speak the truth in an effort to end an unnecessary war. They claim those who want honest reasons for the enormous sacrifice are unpatriotic and un-American, but these charges only serve to exacerbate the social unrest. Any criticism of policy, no matter how flawed the policy is, is said to be motivated by a lack of support for the troops. Yet it is preposterous to suggest that a policy that would have spared the lives of 1900 servicemen and women lacks concern for the well being of our troops. The absence of good reasoning to pursue this war prompts the supporters of the war to demonize the skeptics and critics. They have no other defense.
Good lawd! I'd love to vote for this man someday, but I just disagree with him on too many issues... But he has my respect, and I can't say that about very many Republicans running the show in Washington D.C. of late, although I love to point it out when it's true.

I could post the entire Paul speech here and agree with it NEARLY point by point, but it's a long speech.

If you want to get a taste of some truly venomous traditional conservative ranting about this administration check out what Paul Craig Roberts says. Buchanan and Rep. Paul are positively tame in comparison. From Roberts column of May 18:

George W. Bush and his gang of neocon warmongers have destroyed America's reputation. It is likely to stay destroyed, because at this point the only way to restore America's reputation would be to impeach and convict President Bush for intentionally deceiving Congress and the American people in order to start a war of aggression against a country that posed no threat to the United States.

America can redeem itself only by holding Bush accountable.

As intent as Republicans were to impeach President Bill Clinton for lying about a sexual affair, they have a blind eye for President Bush's far more serious lies. Bush's lies have caused the deaths of tens of thousands of people, injured and maimed tens of thousands more, devastated a country, destroyed America's reputation, caused 1 billion Muslims to hate America, ruined our alliances with Europe, created a police state at home, and squandered $300 billion dollars and counting.
Hows THAT for disingenuous political opportunism Mr. Cheney? It would be tempting to accuse Mr. Paul of plagarizing this blog, except he said this three months prior to this blogs existence. Believe me however, I am not plagarizing him, because what he says is the truth and it is out there for any one not blinded by dogmaticism to see for themselves. By the way if you are wondering, Mr. Paul's conservative credentials run long and deep. Becoming a fellow of the Hoover institute is not something liberals commonly achieve. Here is his entry in Wikipedia if you're interested in learning more about his conservative credentials.

The point of all this is this speculation. The Republican candidate for president in 2008 must make a very public and convincing repudiation of neoconservatism if they wish to bring traditional conservatives back to the fold. We see a schism happening before our very eyes in the Republcan ranks. It is hard to imagine these conservatives voting for a liberal Democrat, but it is also hard to imagine them voting for a continuation of Bush governance. Therefore I think a moderate Democrat could claim their temporary allegiance, or if they are given the choice of a liberal Democrat vs. a neoconservative Republican, they may vote a third candidate insuring a Democratic victory. We shall see what we shall see, but what we are seeing now does not bode well for Republican unity going forward.

Anthropomorphize: to attribute human form or personality to things not human

This is a completely apolitical post. I found the picture below and completely anthropomophized these two cheetah cubs. Now I am an unabashed cat lover so that may be part of my reaction. But how someone could see this picture and not have the same reaction I did is beyond me.

The background on this picture can be found here.

And God bless the U.S. soldiers who are trying to rescue these cubs.

The definition of anthropomorphize in the title is provided by Merriam-Webster online.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Senator McCain: South Carolina primary pushback?

Truthout.org has a very interesting article regarding the senate investigation into the use of pre-war intelligence by the administration. The article quotes a senior official from Senator John McCains office who definitely is not towing the administration line regarding this investigation.
When the probe is complete, which aides to Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) - both of whom are aggressively working to collect pre-war intelligence documents that undercut administration's claims that Iraq posed a grave threat to national security - said will likely be in early 2006, there could be some sort of "public reprimand" brought against lower-level administration officials who work or worked at the Defense Department, the National Security Council, and in the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, for "cherry-picking" questionable intelligence on Iraq and using it to win public support for the war.

Based on the way the probe is starting to shape up, it's clear the administration, particularly [Undersecretary of Defense Douglas] Feith, who resigned earlier this year, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and possibly Cheney will bear the brunt of the blame, because the three of them sidestepped the usual intelligence gathering process that historically was handled by the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency in favor of their own clandestine intelligence gathering operations in which questionable information on the so-called Iraqi threat was collected and used by administration officials to build a case for war but wasn't vetted by career intelligence analysts, said a senior aide to McCain who requested anonymity for fear of angering members of the GOP.
Is it just me or has Senator McCain been out front a lot lately in pushing back against this administration? We know he's a maverick, and before there was swiftboating the Bush team unleashed their sewage campaign on McCain in South Carolina. Maybe this is McCain finally getting a chance to show King George that allies are not just needed when everything is going swimmingly well. One can only wonder if in the back of his crafty little mind, Senator McCain was waiting for the day he could lead the Republican backlash against the crowd he justifiably feels wronged by.

Let me say as an aside here that while I may disagree with McCain on nearly every issue commonly debated in politics (torture of detainees being a notable exception) I have a respect for the man which I don't often bestow to Republicans running the scene in Washington D.C. these days. On some level he's earned this just from his experience in N. Vietnam, and despite my occasionally rolling my eyes at some policy proclamation he rolls forth, I still listen to what he has to say without automatically assuming that the opposing point of view should be my compass.

But I digress. Regarding the gist of the quote from the truthout article, one must wonder what is meant with the talk of reprimanding lower level officials, followed by the discussion of how Rumsfeld and possibly Cheney will bear the brunt of the blame. How far up the ladder in these various offices will the blame be taken? And who would consider the undersecretary of defense to be a lower level administration official? This fellow is a stalwart in the neoconservative movement, and was singled out for a specially venomous attack by Lawrence Wilkerson in his recent cabal speech , where in he called Feith one of the supidest men he had ever met.
"Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, whom most of you probably know Tommy Franks said was the stupidest blankety, blank man in the world. He was. (Laughter.) Let me testify to that. He was. Seldom in my life have I met a dumber man."
Feith was picked to lead the Office of Special Plans which was a sort of magnet attracting intelligence that supported the image of Iraq as threatening while rejecting intelligence that contradicted those claims in the leadup to the war. Look at the Wikipedia entry for office of special plans to get an idea about the methods used and why Mr. Feith may well have needs to be concerned over the senate and now the pentagon poking into the business of this office in the leadup to the war.
Last month, under pressure from Democrats and some Republicans, [read Senator McCain and maybe others] and with public support for war eroding, the Pentagon's Inspector General agreed to probe Feith's secret spy group, the Office of Special Plans, and whether the operation played a role in manipulating pre-war Iraq intelligence in addition to knowingly passing dubious intelligence from defectors from Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress to the White House to convince lawmakers and the American public into backing the war.

The truthout article goes into solid detail regarding how the intelligence leading us into war was twisted and morphed by OSP to fit the administrations goals, but my main focus for this post is to speculate on a very interesting possibility. That the tactics used by Karl Rove and George Bush in the 2000 primary victory over John McCain in South Carolina are now coming around to bite them when they could least use the trouble. It absolutely serves them right. I may not agree with Senator McCain on many issues but I can only wish him well in his goal to make life miserable for this group of white house weasles. It is too bad that he could not have seen fit to do this earlier. I say the same thing about Wilkerson, Scowcroft Powell and who ever else jumps off the neocon ship as well... but we are where we are so let us welcome them aboard the good ship 'Straight Talk express' at this late stage of the game.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Using democracy to destroy freedom: Leo Strauss and neocons in the spotlight.

This post will be based heavily on an article written by Shadia B. Drury on Sept. 11, 2003. This article is titled Saving America: Leo Strauss and the neoconservatives. This article studies the philosophy of German immigrant and professor Leo Strauss, who is widely credited as being the inspiration of modern day neoconservatism.

The first point I wish to address is the difference between traditional conservatism and neoconservatism:
...the old conservatism relied on tradition and history; it was cautious, slow and moderate; it went with the flow. But under the influence of Leo Strauss, the new conservatism is intoxicated with nature. The new conservatism is not slow or cautious, but active, aggressive, and reactionary in the literal sense of the term. Inspired by Strauss's hatred for liberal modernity, its goal is to turn back the clock on the liberal revolution and its achievements.
It is my opinion that when discussing issues between advocates of these varying forms of conservatism, while I may not agree with the traditional conservative on many issues, I find them more intellectually honest and just generally more respectable than the neoconservative proponents. The libertarian form of conservatism offers many appealing and honest arguments for it's perspective, but the neoconservative approach I (and Ms. Drury) find is simply dishonest, and in most cases intentionally so.
The trouble with the Straussians is that they are compulsive liars. But it is not altogether their fault. Strauss was very pre-occupied with secrecy because he was convinced that the truth is too harsh for any society to bear; and that the truth-bearers are likely to be persecuted by society - specially a liberal society
The concept that the little people can not handle the truth explains why neocons love the Fox News channel. But is it not just a bit odd that attempting to disseminate the truth by other news outlets brings forth the wingnut crowd in full cry about the liberal media. One of my posts from very early in this blogs existence regards why factual reporting by news outlets is determined to be liberal by these folks. Quite simply facts support liberalism, and thus are of no use to those who wish to have their ideology spoonfed by the news they ingest. Thus the overall point is that neocons, believing the masses can not handle the truth, attack those who wish to enlighten us as to the true state of affairs.
According to Strauss, ancient philosophers (such as Plato) were wise and wily, but modern philosophers (such as Locke and other liberals) were foolish and vulgar. The wise ancients thought that the unwashed masses were not fit for either truth or liberty; and giving them these sublime treasures was like throwing pearls before swine. Accordingly, they believed that society needs an elite of philosophers or intellectuals to manufacture "noble lies" for the consumption of the masses. Not surprisingly, the ancients had no use for democracy. Plato balked at the democratic idea that any Donald, Dick, or George was equally fit to rule.
Hah! Methinks Ms. Drury threw a humorism in here. Normally it is Tom Dick or Harry, but she tosses in the first names of three luminaries in the current administration. Three luminaries busily carrying forth the neoconservative agenda where-in they are the priveliged few who can be trusted with the truth and liberty to carry forth their wishes, without that meddlesome interference of the great unwashed masses.

Furthermore, the world of Plato, and the world of Strauss have far greater differences than similarities. One may argue that the historically recent enlightenment of mankind, something Strauss decries, scientifically, politcally, and in most other ways one can think of on a societal level has resulted in the unparalleled growth and expansion of mankind. In many ways this has been harmful, but in many more ways it has led to our benefit. And one may only hope that the continued enlightenment of mankind on a grand scale will lead to the solution of what currently seem to be intractable problems, much as it has led to the solution of previously impossible problems, like human flight, medical discoveries and on and on. The advancement of humankind through enlightenment is simply to valuable a goal to be left in the hands of the elite few.
Praising the wisdom of the ancients and condemning the folly of the moderns was the whole point of Strauss's most famous book, Natural Right and History. The cover of the book sports the American Declaration of Independence. But the book is a celebration of nature - not the natural rights of man (as the appearance of the book would lead one to believe), but the natural order of domination and subordination.

In his book On Tyranny, Strauss referred to the right of the superior to rule as "the tyrannical teaching" of the ancients which must be kept secret. But what is the reason for secrecy? Strauss tells us that the tyrannical teaching must be kept secret for two reasons - to spare the people's feelings and to protect the elite from possible reprisals. After all, the people are not likely to be favorably disposed to the fact that they are intended for subordination.
What Strauss is saying here is that dominion and subordination is the natural state of mankind and that that system should not just be acknowleged and lived with, but perpetuated and celebrated by those who know the truth of the matter. This is a myopic view that sees no possibility for the evolution of the human condition. America itself is a lesson in history that proves Strauss wrong. We have grown to be the wealthiest and most powerful society on the face of the planet, not through the Straussian perception that the natural order of humankind is determined by dominion and subjugation. It certainly is the case that America has struggled through out our existence with the question, and we were wracked by a terrible civil war that had much to do with that question. Yet we have striven to rid ourselves of this ideological burden and have prospered for the attempt to progress. It is no wonder that Straussian theory found a receptive audience with many traditional conservatives, leading to the near death of old style conservatism. He literally called for the clock to be turned back on thousands of years of human societal evolution. He thus found an audience with many in what could properly be termed the American Taliban movement. For both Muslim and Christian fundamentalists decry the progression of society and wish for a return to the simpler days of moral absolutism and religious rule by cleric.
Of course, Strauss believed that the wise would not abuse their power. On the contrary, they would give the people just what was commensurate with their needs and capacities. But what exactly is that? Certainly, giving them freedom, happiness, and prosperity is not the point. In Strauss's estimation, that would turn them into animals. The goal of the wise is to ennoble the vulgar. But what could possibly ennoble the vulgar? Only weeping, worshipping, and sacrificing could ennoble the masses. Religion and war - perpetual war - would lift the masses from the animality of bourgeois consumption and the pre-occupation with "creature comforts." Instead of personal happiness, they would live their lives in perpetual sacrifice to God and the nation.
Leo Strauss must be applauding from the grave as America has been led down the path of perpetual war by the Bush administration. To say that the invasion of Iraq killed two birds with one stone misses about ten other birds that were killed by the stone of invasion. And not one of the goals this administration claimed as a reason for war with Iraq has been shown to be true, or worth the cost to America in terms of lives lost or treasure spent. Perpetual war will be the result if wiser heads do not step into the breach of American leadership soon and begin to make intelligent peace in the middle east. I believe with all my soul that the west must be victorious in the war on terror, and fully support our mission in Afghanistan. But the invasion of Iraq was a strategic military blunder on a grand scale and one that we will not soon recover from. A blunder which in an earlier post I described as leading to generational conflict. Perpetual war is indeed an apt moniker.

The first part of the title of this post is: Using democracy to destroy freedom. That is literally the goal of the neoconservative movement.
How can America be saved from her dangerous fascination with liberty? Irving Kristol came up with the solution that has become the cornerstone of neoconservative policies: use democracy to defeat liberty. Turn the people against their own liberty. Convince them that liberty is licentiousness - that liberty undermines piety, leads to crime, drugs, rampant homosexuality, children out of wedlock, and family breakdown. And worse of all, liberalism is soft on communism or terrorism - whatever happens to be the enemy of the moment. And if you can convince the people that liberty undermines their security, then, you will not have to take away their liberty; they will gladly renounce it.

In an essay entitled "Populism Not to Worry," Irving Kristol argued that Americans should embrace populism, or the rule of the majority, despite the reservations of the Founding Fathers. The latter feared the tyranny of the majority, and institutionalised safeguards to protect the liberty of individuals and minorities. But Kristol and the neoconservatives want to dismantle these very safeguards against majority rule. Kristol tells us not to worry. Why not? Apparently because the neoconservatives believe that America has been ruled by an unwise liberal elite for over two hundred years, and they are willing to gamble that the people will be wiser, which is to say, more likely to endorse conservative policies.
The goal of this movement is intrinsically un-American. This is a dangerous time for our nation as we have grown to understand ourselves. Secrecy, lying and the abuse of power by the current leadership in Washington D.C. are eroding the foundations this nation was founded upon. Who would have predicted in 2000 that in 2005 we would have a debate on the use of torture for unlawful combatants? The notion that American leaders could possibly conclude that torture may be necessary would have been equivalent to the notion that the white house would be beamed into space by aliens before the current administration took the reins. They must not be allowed to make America into their image.

Information is the key to fighting them. They rely upon the ignorance and dogmatic beliefs of the populace to allow them to rule as they have. Now the nation is slowly waking up to the true state of affairs, and the wheels are coming off. One can only hope that we hang on by the skin of our teeth until 2006. If we could see the emergence of a truly traditional conservatism to take the Republican party back from this movement, it would be truly helpful to this nation. In the meantime I believe that anyone who is not a died in the wool Koolaid drinker would be wise to vote a Democratic ticket in 2006.

Finally if you are inclined to believe that Ms. Drury must be some liberal who is not really interested in accurately portraying Mr. Strauss, here is a link to his entry in Wilkopedia. I believe it will give further backing to Ms. Drury rather than proving her an idealogical hit person in regard to Mr. Strauss.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Withdrawal debate? What debate?

In case you haven't heard, the debate over scheduling a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq has unofficially ended. Going forward anyone arguing that we should stay there indefinitely is virtually peeing into the wind. Somebody please notify the administration.

What this you may ask? No more debate? What gives Mr. Frik? Well the sovereign government of Iraq installed by America and ostensibly given free reign to govern independently has called for a withdrawal timetable.
The participants in Cairo agreed on "calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops according to a timetable, through putting in place an immediate national program to rebuild the armed forces ... control the borders and the security situation" and end terrorist attacks.
And this wasn't even the controversial stuff! Check out this nugget from the Seattle P.I. given to us by our Iraqi allies.
The conference's final statement also stated that "resistance is a legitimate right for all people" - a nod to Sunni Arab leaders who have sought to distinguish Iraqi insurgents they say are resisting the U.S. presence in Iraq from terrorism.

But the statement added, "Terrorism is not legitimate resistance and thus we condemn terrorism and the acts of violence, killings and kidnappings that target Iraqi citizens; civil, governmental and humanitarian organizations; national wealth and houses of worships. We ask that they be immediately confronted."
Wow... so the insurgents should not attack civilians, or houses of worship, or aid organizations, or their neighbors wife, nor his ass, nor the palm trees lining the road, nor the great heron or those after his kind, nor the factory of the township, nor the...etc etc etc... but guess who didn't make the off limits to attack list? Coalition troops! Nicely done by our Iraqi comrades. Now according to official policy American troops are legitimate targets. And no amount of spinning from state department flack Sean McCormack can turn this turkey into an eagle.
"They are calling on people to confront terrorism, so I think that is certainly very positive," spokesman Sean McCormack said of a statement adopted by Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders at a reconciliation conference in Cairo, Egypt, backed by the Arab League.

The statement, he said, deals with the legitimate right to peaceful protest, peaceful expression of differences. And, he said, the United States had "no quarrel with that idea."
Erm... that would be all fine and dandy Mr. Spin, but peaceful resistance was not what the Iraqis were contemplating. We would love it if the insurgents made their displeasure known by striking and conducting protests, but the term "resistance" here is not presaged with the word peaceful. As is made clear in the MSNBC article:
The final communique, hammered out at the end of three days of negotiations at a preparatory reconciliation conference under the auspices of the Arab League, condemned terrorism, but was a clear acknowledgment of the Sunni position that insurgents should not be labeled as terrorists if their operations do not target innocent civilians or institutions designed to provide for the welfare of Iraqi citizens.
In Egypt, the final communique's attempt to define terrorism omitted any reference to attacks against U.S. or Iraqi forces. Delegates from across the political and religious spectrum said the omission was intentional. They spoke to The Associated Press anonymously, saying they feared retribution.
Golly Iraqi allies... thanks for the backup on this. Based upon these developments alone president Bush would be absolutely dimwitted to not give the Iraqi government exactly what they asked for. A timetable to take away what the Iraqi government now says are legitimate targets for the insurgency. Our troops obviously have worn out their welcome and it is now time to start planning the withdrawal.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Bush wanted to bomb Al Jazeera

A big ten gallon hat tip goes to Corpus Callosum for this blockbuster. It appears there is a new Downing Street memo in circulation that details the wishes of president Bush to bomb the headquartersof Al Jazeera in Quatar.
The five-page transcript of a conversation between Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair reveals that Blair talked Bush out of launching a military strike on the station, unnamed sources told the anti-war-in-Iraq daily.

The transcript of the pair's talks during Blair's April 16, 2004 visit to Washington allegedly shows Bush wanted to attack the satellite channel's headquarters.

Blair allegedly feared such a strike, in the business district of Doha, the capital of Qatar, a key western ally in the Persian Gulf, would spark revenge attacks.

The Mirror quoted an unnamed British government official as saying Bush's threat was "humorous, not serious".

Al-Jazeera's perspectives on the war in Iraq have drawn criticism from Washington since the US-led March 2003 invasion.

The station has broadcast messages from Al-Qaeda terror network chief Osama bin Laden and the beheadings of Western hostages by insurgents in Iraq, as well as footage of dead coalition servicemen and Iraqi civilians killed in fighting.

A source told the Mirror: "The memo is explosive and hugely damaging to Bush.

"He made clear he wanted to bomb al-Jazeera in Qatar and elsewhere. Blair replied that would cause a big problem.

"There's no doubt what Bush wanted to do -- and no doubt Blair didn't want him to do it."

Another source said: "Bush was deadly serious, as was Blair. That much is absolutely clear from the language used by both men."
My oh my. This certainly puts a different outlook on the question raised back in 2003 as to whether or not Al Jazeera was being targeted by our military. As quoted in the above link:
November 19th, 2001 – The Guardian reported about the bomb that destroyed Al-Jazeera’s offices in Kabul, Afghanistan. The reports states, “Al-Jazeera certainly believes it was a target. Speaking on the telephone to News World from Qatar, its chief editor, Ibrahim Hilal, said he believed that it's Kabul office had been on the Pentagon's list of targets since the beginning of the conflict”.

The same report quotes spokesman, US Col. Brian Hoey as saying, "The US military does not and will not target media. We would not, as a policy, target news media organisations - it would not even begin to make sense."
Well it is beginning to make sense in hindsight Col. Hoey. The article has a series of events that tend to show that the military was actively targeting Al Jazeera and other independent news organizations.

So now we may begin to comprehend why it was that American media simply rolled over and played dead for the first 4 1/2 years of this administration. They made an example of Al Jazeera when it came to news coverage that did not kow tow to the administration. Thank god Mr. Blair has the sense to talk him out of it. Bomb Qatar... now thats a real doozy.

Before and after, a look at congressional oversight:

Boston.com has a very telling article which describes the difference in the oversight role congress has taken with regards to the Bush II presidency compared with the Clinton presidency. Consider: (block quotes are from the story, regular text is my commentary)
Back in the mid-1990s, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, aggressively delving into alleged misconduct by the Clinton administration, logged 140 hours of sworn testimony into whether former president Bill Clinton had used the White House Christmas card list to identify potential Democratic donors.

In the past two years, a House committee has managed to take only 12 hours of sworn testimony about the abuse of prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.
Of course we all know that the damage caused to America was far more extensive and harmful with regards to the possible use of the Christmas card list to get donors than that little brou ha ha over in Abu Ghraib. This is obviously a glaring example where the Republican controlled congress has simply seen fit to not investigate what would be an embarrassment to the Bush administration.
An examination of committees' own reports found that the House Government Reform Committee held just 37 hearings described as ''oversight" or investigative in nature during the last Congress, down from 135 such hearings held by its predecessor, the House Government Operations Committee, in 1993-94, the last year the Democrats controlled the chamber.

Party loyalty does not account for the difference: In 1993-94, the Democrats were investigating a Democratic administration.
Party loyalty indeed does not account for this difference. Party honsesty does. The Democrats understood it was the congress' role to oversee the administration in many areas, where-as the Republican led congress evidently has no interest in doing so because they are part and parcel of the same machine.
''I'm not sure they're stepping up to the plate on the more pressing issues of the time," former representative William F. Clinger, a Pennsylvania Republican, said of his party's leaders.
Based upon the statement of Mr. Clinger, we must suspect that there are several other facts he may not be sure of. Like the earth is round, kittens purr when you pet them, the moon causes tidal fluctuations and the Aspen leaves turn in the fall because their roots connect them. Well actually a lot of people didn't know about that last one until Mr. Libby saw fit to enlighten us on that matter, but the point remains. I suspect that Mr. Clinger actually believes that the Republicans are not fulfilling their oversight responsibilities and he was just putting it nicely.
''Congress has enormous power and it does nothing," said Frank Silbey, a former investigator for the Senate Labor Committee under both parties. ''It is absolutely the worst situation I have ever seen in my life. Congress shows no inclination to expand the public's right to know. That's one of the reasons for government oversight."
The publics right to know only goes so far Mr. Silbey. If you were a loyal Republican you would understand that the public does not need to know about several dozen facts like: this administration mislead America into a needless war, that our leaders have set forth policies that condone the torture of detainees, that this administration has no use for science when it sets policy normally based upon science, and that George Bush is capable of making a mistake.
Further, some of the recent hearings defined as oversight by panel leadership in fact served to advance a Bush administration agenda. In addition to the hearings into faith-based service providers and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, House and Senate panels have sought to expose the dangers of buying imported or pharmaceuticals sold on the Internet, buttressing a Republican and drug-industry position that Americans should not be permitted to buy cut-rate prescription drugs outside the United States.
In other words it is worse than we thought. The "oversight" of this congress consists of rubber stamping administration policies and giving them talking points to carry out their agenda. Why even pretend you are conducting oversight? It does not even constitute a figleaf for this congress to make these claims.

[Representative Tom] Davis [the current chairman of the Government Reform Committee] said the inquiry topics were worthy, and noted that the committee agenda -- which must be spelled out at the start of each session -- had been approved unanimously by the committee, including Democrats on the panel.
So according to rep Davis, it appears that the Democrats are part of the problem right? This is a great example actually of when the "facts" do not support the truth. Check out this part of the article:
Waxman, who held his own unofficial hearing into Iraq contracting, has been rebuffed in his efforts to conduct bipartisan investigations on a number of topics that involve members of the administration and powerful industries. The rejected list includes: the administration role, if any, in condoning detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, the use of government funds for ''covert propaganda" in the media, the politicization of science policy, government secrecy, industry influence in rule-making at the Environmental Protection Agency, the decline of FDA enforcement against drug companies, and the case of naming Plame Wilson, the CIA operative.
So saying Democrats agreed to investigate the non-controversial stuff does not mean they approved of the lack of investigation on a whole range of issues that Republicans clearly do not want to look at. The Republicans have taken to not answering the questions presented them by pointing to facts that simply have no bearing on the issue. To say the Democrats signed off on the investigations carried out does not excuse the lack of oversight on the big questions the Democrats would like to oversee even though Rep. Davis would like to throw that "fact" out there as a smokescreen.

Finally we have the cases where oversight of important issues is actually given by congress, and the Republicans use the hearings to simply excuse the inexcusable and try to say that what we are seeing happening before our very eyes is not really happening at all:
Under pressure, the Government Reform Committee did hold four hearings in the last Congress on contracting for Iraqi reconstruction. But critics say the panel was mostly interested in exonerating Halliburton, Cheney's former firm, accused of overcharging the government in its contracts. The final report dismissed critical witnesses as ''so-called whistle-blowers" and attributed reconstruction mishaps to ''the fog of war."
''It appeared to me that the House hearings were called in order to defend Halliburton, which is a pretty pathetic way to do investigative oversight," said Senator Byron L. Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat who led shadow hearings. ''To the extent that the Republican-controlled Congress has done any oversight at all, it has largely been done to support Halliburton and to allege that anyone looking into these things has been partisan."
The notion of an independent legislative oversight role has been turned on it's head by the Republicans ruling Washington. In my opinion this is as good as any issue short of the Iraqi quagmire for Democratic congressional candidates to run on in 2006. This issue is about basic honesty, good governance, and bringing a real change to the scene in Washington D.C. And I suspect should Democrats gain control of the congress in 2006 that the oversight role may not simply encompass administration snafu's and how to fix the damage, it could lead to impeachment proceedings based upon malfeasance by the president. But let us not put the cart before the horse in this regard. Democrats must gain the ability to dictate the matters that are overseen and then we shall see what we shall see.

Brilliant! (the explanation for the possible first veto)

In case you have been ignoring the news of late, the administration is threatening to veto the defense appropriations bill if it includes provisions outlawing "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" of detainees. This would be the very first veto given by president Bush in his entire tenure as president. The reason for the threatened veto?
The White House has said that Bush would likely veto the bill if McCain's language is included, calling the amendment "unnecessary and duplicative."
One must read any statement given by this administration in Orwellian. What unnecessary and duplicative in Orwellian means is necessary and original. It is true that there are laws on the books that dictate the humane treatment of detainees, most of which stem from treaty obligations. Yet this law covers all detainees, and the administration has seen fit to classify the detainees in question as unlawful combatants, meaning previous treaties do not apply to them in the view of the administration. Therefore these provisions, covering all detainees under American control, is a codification of law that is necessary, and not covered under administration policies.

Yet the threat to veto a bill with which the administration purports to agree with because it is a duplication of previous law is just not understandable. If the administration agrees (as they claim they do but we know they really don't) with the intent of the law, what is the problem here? It is clear the recent events have made the torture of detainees an issue, and one that needs to be clarified. Declaring that we do not torture is not clarification. The administration attempted to lay down a legal basis for torturing unlawful combatants, and now protesting their innocence hardly assuages the concern of the world in this regard. They simply may not be trusted, and congressional oversight on this issue, though long overdue, should be forced upon them.

Finally, defining torture in a very narrow way to only include the infliction of pain on a scale one would experience with major organ failure does not mean that torture as commonly understood is not torture. Making a detainee stand with his hands shackled behind him and fastened by chains so that the hands are raised to an unnatural level may be termed a stress position, and therefore not torture by this administration. Or waterboarding, as described in the post below this, insofar as it only instills terror and not actual physical pain may not be construed as torture by this crowd. But this is them simply parsing the word torture. And by all widely accepted standards of that term, we have and do torture these detainees. So when you hear them proclaim we don't torture, you know they mean we aren't pulling out fingernails under official sanction. But the image of a detainee, chained naked to the floor of a cold cell and doused with cold water on a regular basis, being found in the morning with his hair pulled out, is the image of a tortured person. We may not torture as the administration defines it, but we do torture as defined by the rest of humanity. Let us legislatively outlaw the practice forthwith, and start the long road back to America being able to expound to the world about human rights.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Lets call it what it is...

Here is a story from ABC regarding the "enhanced techniques" (read Orwellian for torture) used to break detainees, and a partial history of how these techniques have been employed. Now if you read this blog on a fairly regular basis, you know I've called this administration stupid, ignorant, liars, buffoons etc... but this will be a first for me. I think this article actually proves that in it's conduct regarding the treatment of detainees, that this administration is ... evil. I mean actually malignant, insidious, cancerous and just plain on the wrong side of good and evil.

You may say... "gee Mr. Frik, coming a bit unhinged are we?" Well look at the following passage and let us consider the implications.
According to CIA sources, Ibn al Shaykh al Libbi, after two weeks of enhanced interrogation, made statements that were designed to tell the interrogators what they wanted to hear. Sources say Al Libbi had been subjected to each of the progressively harsher techniques in turn and finally broke after being water boarded and then left to stand naked in his cold cell overnight where he was doused with cold water at regular intervals.

His statements became part of the basis for the Bush administration claims that Iraq trained al Qaeda members to use biochemical weapons. Sources tell ABC that it was later established that al Libbi had no knowledge of such training or weapons and fabricated the statements because he was terrified of further harsh treatment.

"This is the problem with using the waterboard. They get so desperate that they begin telling you what they think you want to hear," one source said.
This means the administration is a party to the torturing of a prisoner to get false information, that they then used to mislead the country into a needless war. To be fair the paragraph following the above quote reads:
However, sources said, al Libbi does not appear to have sought to intentionally misinform investigators, as at least one account has stated. The distinction in this murky world is nonetheless an important one. Al Libbi sought to please his investigators, not lead them down a false path, two sources with firsthand knowledge of the statements said.
Yet these sources are evidently unaware that the CIA knew as early as February 2002 that Al Libbi's claim was not reliable. In January of 2004,while not being tortured Al Libbi recanted the testimony he gave while being tortured. And the weasle words of the source quoted in the disclaimer are simply hard to give credence to. Al Libi did not intentionally mislead his interrogators, he was simply trying "to please" them? He wasn't offering them sexual favors or trying to do their laundry... HE WAS TRYING TO END THE TORTURE! He HAD to mislead the interrogators to please them. As quoted in the CIA warning, Al Libbi simply was not in a position to know about contacts with Iraq, and the CIA knew this.

What was the interrogation method used on Al Libbi you may ask? There were two techniques used to break him, and these are described by the ABC article as:
Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.

The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water.

According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.

I truly believe that the final word confess in the above block quote should be in quotation marks.

As if this weren't already bad enough, consider this. These techniques were imported from the infamous prison camps, of North Vietnam and Korea. These are techniques used against our own POW's, not in an effort to gain actual intelligence from them, but to break them and to gain false confessions.
The Pentagon effectively signed off on a strategy that mimics Red Army methods. But those tactics were not only inhumane, they were ineffective. For Communist interrogators, truth was beside the point: their aim was to force compliance to the point of false confession.
Thus it is that the weasles can claim Al Libbi didn't intend to lie... he just wanted to please his captors. He wanted to give them what they wanted to hear... a false confession.

How this nation, who for so long claimed the moral high ground in respect to human rights has been brought to this pass by this administration is a sad and disgusting tale. But I calls 'em like I sees 'em... and to me this stain on our national honor, which is now shown to have actually assisted this administration in a misguided march to needless war in Iraq, has given up any claim we as a nation once held in this regard. And the acts being committed in our name, being evil when committed by our enemies against POW's, are evil today as well. We as good citizens of our democracy must NOT close our eyes to this. Or history will consider our generation in a very shameful light.

Now I'm not calling for violent revolution or rioting in the streets mind you. But I believe with a growing fervor that those responsible for this stain on our nation must be brought to account, and legally punished for this. When those responsible are thrown into jail, where they will be treated much more humanely than they allow those inmates under their control to be handled, then America can approach the world stage, having in some manner punished the wrong doers, and begin to retake the standing we once had on the issue of human rights and decency. Let us not be the generation that allowed our nation to become the enemy.

Why won't the administration cooperate with the Fitzgerald investigation?

One thing to consider with the recent revelation that the identity of Valerie Plame was leaked prior to Scooter Libby discussing her with Judy Miller. It has been the stated assertion of the white house since day one of the investigation that they would fully co-operate. So why aren't they?

If they were, Fitzgerald would have known that the identity of Mrs. Plame was leaked prior to Libby talking with Miller. Mr. Fitzgerald would not then have stated in his press conference regarding the indictment of Mr. Libby that the first known leaker was Mr. Libby.

Yet the white house on a daily basis asserts that everybody is fully cooperating with the special counsel. It is obvious that Scooter Libby did not do so, as clearly shown from the indictment. And now, it is clear that at least one other official is not cooperating as well.

Mr. Fitzgerald said that his investigation of the matter should have been concluded in October of 2004, and that only Judy Millers refusal to provide testimony delayed the investigation. I think now it is clear that this would be an extremely charitable reading of the case at this point. Not only is it Millers refusal to testify, it is the stonewall of this administration, despite their continual protests to the contrary, that has hindered the investigation. I know, I know... you are finding it simply impossible to believe that the administration is not being entirely truthful when they make their claims. *snark*

Friday, November 18, 2005

Why democracies should not fight elective wars

President Bush is fond of saying that "democracies do not invade their neighbors." Of course if you are the world largest super power, you don't have to invade your neighbor. You have the ability to invade nations half the globe away just fine.

The gist of the presidents comment is that replacing Saddam with a democratic form of government brings stability to that region. Nevermind the chaos and grief that stems from our effort to reach this goal. After all, when you have Gawud on your side the ends must justify the means. And to be sure there is a kernel of truth in the presidents saying. After all, the U.S. has yet to march into Canada, and the unpleasantness with Mexico happened long ago... back when our democratic institutions were not nearly so advanced as we see today.

There is a good reason democracies would do well to heed the spirit of the presidential saying noted above and not invade others except in self defense or the defense of allies. A democracy, by definition, is subject to a regular transition of leadership, and a flux in their democratic institutions determined by the whim of the people. If a particular leader thinks it is a good call to go to war, but that war is not necessary, when the public see's fit to change the governments leadership or institutions, the new government may not see things the same as the old administration did. Thus it should be that when it comes to the involvement of our democracy in a foreign war it should be under the certain knowledge that that deployment is absolutely necessary.

Under these terms, it would be well understood that the war America should be involved with is in Afghanistan, based upon the terrorist attacks of 09/11. The war in Iraq was presented as a pre-emptive strike and as such under this proposition, and by the spirit of the quote of the president, would not be an example of a justified war. I suspect president Bush will hand the problem he created to the new president in 2009. However, this may not happen because public opinion has soured on the war, and the president seeing the harm his policies are inflicting on his own party in the various upcoming elections may see fit to cut short the war. Yet we have witnessed on more than several occasions the bullheaded nature of president Bush in carrying forth wrong headed policy in contravention of all considered advice, based upon his gut feeling alone.

The turmoil we see on the national political scene at this time is a direct result of our democracy fighting an elective war. Let us hope that future generations learn, the lesson we should have learned in Vietnam, with this generations folly.

The hopeless one man crusade

Call me crazy, but just about every night I watch The Situation with Tucker Carlson on MSNBC @ 8pm pst. I have a valid reason for this! It is a news program that my conservative girlfriend and I can watch together without getting into a big hairy argument which ends with her in tears and me genociding the enemies on some PS II game with steam coming out of my ears. We then watch The Countdown with Keith Olbermann to sort of balance out the ideological atmosphere in our surroundings. BUT... I digress.

Tucker Carlson is taking every opportunity that comes his way lately to slam around the investigation being conducted by Patrick Fitzgerald. And frankly watching Carlson as he reaches his outlandish conclusions regarding Mr. Fitzgerald is amusing. Let us consider some recent examples. All of the following quotes may be found here , by clicking on the transcript for The Situation for November 17.
I want to know what you think of the response to Fitzgerald, that would be Pat Fitzgerald, the special counsel, continuing this at this point pointless investigation, turning, you know, Washington upside down, causing turmoil.
One must wonder if perhaps Mr. Carlson is psychic, and knows before the investigation has ended that the final outcome is pointless. On what does he base this conclusion? What happens if Mr. Fitzgerald finds evidence of a widespread conspiracy to break the law that reaches to the highest levels of the administration, and brings indictments against several more top level officials? Mr. Carlson will apparently be in full denial of the importance of that outcome, because he has already prejudged the investigation at this point to be pointless.

Tucker Carlson was interviewing Rachel Maddow of Air America Radio, and this exchange was just hilarious from my point of view:
MADDOW: Tucker, you have been waging a one-man campaign against Patrick Fitzgerald.

CARLSON: Yes. One man, that's right.

MADDOW: And nobody else is jumping on the bandwagon.


MADDOW: It almost makes me feel a little bit sorry for you, although I completely disagree with you on this.

CARLSON: Because I'm taking a principled stand, because I'm not allowing my irritation with George W. Bush to supersede the principle here, and that is, you shouldn't put reporters in prison for doing their job, A. And B, the public has a right to know what its government is doing. I'm taking a principled stand; it's not a political stand.
So Mr. Carlson is opposed to the investigation on the principle that reporters should be able to be party to breaking the law in the course of their profession, with impunity. The original charge here involves leaking the identity of an undercover CIA operative to the press. If the press is intrinsically part of the original crime, how are the people served by allowing that crime to go unpunished because Mr. Carlson doesn't like the special prosecutor trying to find the facts in the matter. The fact of the matter is that reporters SHOULD feel uncomfortable when approached by politicos with classified information that serves the politico's partisan agenda at the expense of national security.

The continuation of this investigation may have been upsetting for Mr. Carlson, but it is necessary to get to the truth of the matter, (something Mr. Carlson professes to be his guiding principle in carrying forth his one man crusade.) What Tucker really promotes with this reasoning is the coverup... the hiding of the truth in the Plame affair, in the name of journalistic integrity. In effect he proclaims, 'let us remain ignorant, to promote future understanding.'

And there is a reason no one else is jumping on your bandwagon Mr. Carlson. Is there even such a thing as a bandwagon when only one individual is carrying on about an issue? That's more like a band-unicycle or something. Once again I digress. The reason no one else is jumping on board is simply that your reasoning is baseless Mr. Carlson. You surely cannot believe that you are the sole purveyor of truth, the lone individual to see the light about all this? When one is faced with the weight of the rest of considered opinion, from the president on down, which is nearly uniformly impressed by Mr. Fitzgeralds conduct of this investigation, one must wonder how one reached ones conclusion.

Heres a snip of transcript from November 16:
CARLSON: Well, first of all, I mean, the macro point is, and this is my question to you, he didn't indict. Pat Fitzgerald did not indict on the leak itself, right? The underlying crime, the basis of this entire investigation, has been proved, or shown at least to this point to be not a crime.

MADDOW: It hasn't been. We don't know.

CARLSON: It has been shown, by admission. He hasn't - though he gets up and makes these self-righteous, windy, arrogant statements about American national security, OK, pal, indict on it, and he hasn't. What the hell is this investigation about? I‘ve totally lost track.

One must presume that besides sounding all hysterical, Mr. Carlson is also being intentionally moronic. The whole point of continuing the investigation is to get to the bottom of what happened, but he seems to be insistent that Mr. Fitzgerald indict on the original charge last month, or admit defeat and stop investigating Carlson's right wing buddies. One must wonder at this type of circular logic, and conclude that there is a good reason Tucker finds himself on the wingnut side of the ideologocal spectrum. He draws fantastic conclusions based upon faulty reasoning.

I know, I know... Tucker is against the war and not happy with this presidents administration, and we are subject to him reminding us of this on a nightly basis, even as he weasles and obfuscates the issues in their favor. To me Tucker seems like a nice fellow. Someone it would be interesting to sit down with over a chess game and a cup of coffee to debate the issues of the day. I would like to start a one man crusade of my own, but I might sadden my girlfriend should my anti-tucker bandwagon gather momentum. Besides, it is so readily apparent that Tucker is off the deep end when it comes to this issue that actually the pro-Fitzgerald bandwagon is well under way, with Mr. Carlson sniping from the rear on his unicycle...

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Why blaming Clinton now may not be such a good idea ( He may swat you around )

After nigh on 6 years of being subjected to a seemingly endless litany of righty hot air where-in everything from white house keyboard malfunctions to 9/11 were blamed on Bill Clinton, this administration finally crossed a line. As previously posted here, administration figures and other Bush apologists have taken to quoting president Clinton to justify the Iraq war. Well president Clinton saw fit to respond, and he isn't too happy with being used like this, as he makes clear,much to the chagrin of the neocon toadies... I won't mention any names ( coughtuckercarlsoncough ). Here is a snip of what Mr. Clinton had to say:
"It was a big mistake. The American government made several errors ... one of which is how easy it would be to get rid of Saddam and how hard it would be to unite the country,"
Now let us not hold our breath for the administration, having mistakenly used Mr. Clintons supposed support for the invasion, to realize the error of their ways and pay attention to Mr. Clintons correction of their self delusion. It is obvious that when something goes haywire, they will blame Clinton without fail. With the Iraq debacle going seriously off track we should have anticipated a fall back to this same old tired Republican tactic.

Unfortunately there simply is no way to blame Clinton for this one. As my earlier post makes clear, while president Clinton was hardly a fan of Saddam, his policy was long term containment. And his success in carrying forth this policy is self evident now that president Bush saw fit to march in to gather up non-existent WMD.

Yet I wonder at the effectiveness of blaming a former president who left office with over 60% approval ratings from a president with approval ratings hovering in the mid 30's. I understand the desire to bask in the reflected glow of president Clintons popularity, but the track record of the current administration is such that they only mentioned Mr. Clinton when they were slamming him around. So to now go to his sage words in justification of your own failed policies rings untrue, and frankly a little desperate. I'm glad that he saw fit to hop off that particular bandwagon, and eagerly anticipate Hillary following suit.

As for some pundit getting all hot about president Clinton speaking truth in an Arab land... I say shame on you mr. pundit. The actions that have done so much to set the Arab world against us need to be condemned by our leaders. If only the ones still in power would travel overseas to offer their apology and start us down the road of making this right we would be far better off. Telling the truth overseas is not unpatriotic, and in fact is a welcome reprieve from the current example we see as president Bush beats the rhetorical war drums (read lies without shame) on his trip to Asia.

Happy Birthday to Mr. Dean.

It is Howard Deans birthday today and I would like to wish him a very happy birthday.

I think his leadership of the Democratic party has been a breathtaking success. The Democratic party was downtrodden, powerless, ineffective, and basically not relevant after the elections of 2004. Dean takes the reigns, starts talking trash about the Republicans, sets off a few fireworks, and less than a year after he takes over look where we are. We have them running for the hills. They can't pass their own spending bills, or even get the votes to drill for oil in ANWAR... there is open revolt on the hill, The president can't run from Washington D.C. fast enough to escape the inferno he must endure whenever he returns to the scene of the crime. I think Deans leadership has been remarkable and I look forward to continued fiestiness from him for the foreseeable future. And anyone who saw the dueling party leaders on Meet the Press last sunday must surely appreciate the masterful persona of Mr. Dean compared with that talking points weasel geek Ken Mehlman.

Here is a site you can go to if you wish to leave a birthday greeting for Mr. Dean. (hat tip Blue Gal )

Any feedback on the new look here is welcome

I changed the template on the blog because I kept noticing that links over on the right were not showing up if they weren't highlighted. So if you have any comments on the new look, good or bad, please leave a comment. I'm also thinking about adding a counter just to see how much traffic actually comes around. Also any other site interested in exchanging links, feel free to leave a comment or gmail me... assuming I like your content I'd love to trade... Thanks.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Cheney angered: wreathed in shadowy flames, sacrifices virgin

Dick Cheney today blasted Democratic critics of the empire by saying:
Wait a minute. Sorry. I was just recalling a nightmare I had last night where I was being chased by a dumpy Ogre with demonic powers and a pace maker. Let me start this post over again shall we?

Title: Cheney angered, takes the high road... over a cliff.

The link above still works despite all my previous snarkiness. Let us consider some of what this article has to say shall we?
Cheney called Democrats "opportunists" who were peddling "cynical and pernicious falsehoods" to gain political advantage...
If one were to simply replace the word "Democrat" with "administration sources" in the above quote, one would have an exact description of administration activity while leading the nation into the Iraq war. Cynical & pernicious falsehoods regarding the situation in Iraq is what this is indeed all about Mr. Cheney. With the congressional Republicans spooked by the widespread disapproval of the administrations conduct of this nightmare, and Democrats finally finding a voice with the issue it is all coming apart for the Bushovichs. Falsehood this Mr. Cheney. You used the platform of 9/11 for your political advantage in pushing a needless war. How cynical and pernicious was that? And when the administration still surfed a wave of public approval, but a voice was heard in opposition to the lies that led us to the sorry pass we find ourselves in now, what did your office do Mr. Cheney. You cynically and perniciously ruined the career of that mans wife. Now these facts are coming out Mr. Cheney and no amount of shrillness and hysterics will close this pandoras box. Why not be a good little Ogre and tell the truth right now, rather than making us wrench it from you piece by piece as you bellow and moan about the nastiness of it all? Let me catch my breath and let us consider another part of the story shall we?
"The saddest part is that our people in uniform have been subjected to these cynical and pernicious falsehoods day in and day out."
This assertion by Mr. Cheney is simply grand scale foopahery. It is this administrations misbegotten policy, their cynical and pernicious lies, that have subjected our troops to this quagmire. The political opposition telling the truth may result in great discomfort to you Mr. Cheney, but do you honestly believe the average G.I. dodging IED's and mortar rounds really gives a hoot that Harry Reid stopped the senate in order to get to the bottom of your misuse of intelligence leading to this disaster? If anything it seems to me the proper and responsible course of action to take, so that future generations look at the sorry example set by this administration and determine to never let it happen again. You pretend that the truth of the matter aids and comforts the enemy Mr. Cheney. The true aid and comfort is given by those who based upon neo-con ideology and falsehoods alone led us into a needless war. While we lower the recruiting standards of our military to make up for the loss of volunteers, you have insured that the recruitment goals of our enemy will be filled to overflowing due to your blunder Mr. Cheney. You may as well be designated second in command of the recruitment office for Al-queda in Washington D.C. And your anti-American drive to protect our non-right to torture detainees isn't helping matters in this regard either, in case you haven't figured it out Mr. Cheney. The day your administration leaves office will be a sad day for Al-queda, but a joyous one for patriots across the nation.

I'm really trying to not write book sized posts so I think I'm gonna let this rest for now.

[UPDATE Check out this page of misleading statments compiled by the House Government Reform committee Democrats.] (hat tip Dan Froomkin, columnist for the Washington Post.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

My email to O'Reilly asking to be included on his enemies list...

In case you don't get out and about the liberal side of the blogosphere much, you may not be aware that Bill O'Reilly has started an enemies list on his site. Or he's promised to do so anyway. With this in mind, here is the mail I fired off to him:

Subject: Liberal Pinhead checking in sir!

I would like to draw your attention to this post on my blog: http://clublefty.blogspot.com/2005/08/oreilly-defines-himself-extremist.html

I really feel like I have earned a spot on your enemies list with this post. I mean I use your own words to define you as extremist, THEN (gasp) I link to Media Matters to prove my point!! I did this quite a long time before there was this joyful news regarding your enemies list to, so I'm no Johnny come lately to your party.

As further proof of my blogs worthiness of inclusion on your list I would point out my blogs name... Club Lefty !!! I mean come on now... Club Lefty really should be on that list.

Finally I promise if I do make your list I will link to that list from my site.

Thank you for your consideration of my request.


Oh sure! Now they LOVE President Clinton

Check out this story on MSNBC for the latest example of the Bush administration citing President Clintons administration to justify itself.
[Donald Rumsfeld] noted that President Bill Clinton ordered four days of bombing in December 1998.
Here is white house spokesman Scott McClellan the day after senate Democratic leader Harry Reid shut the senate down to force an investigation on the administrations manipulation of intelligence leading to the Iraq war.
"If Democrats want to talk about the threat that Saddam Hussein posed and the intelligence, they might want to start with looking at the previous administration and their own statements that they've made,"
First of all, it was President Clintons policy to contain Saddam. There can be no doubt in the mind of any sane individual that had President Clinton used the same tactics and intelligence used by the Bush administration to justify an Iraqi invasion he would have been horribly savaged by not only Republicans, but the left wing of his own party as well. Just consider the uproar from the Republican side over President Clintons masterful use of military force in the Balkans. Here is a link to an article on Daily Kos, detailing a few Republican quotes regarding the Balkan involvement. An engagement which did not cost a single American death in carrying out. Yet we are now to believe these same Republicans would have been all gung ho behind president Clinton had he chosen to invade Iraq?

If you really wish to use President Clintons positions to justify your own, please understand the consequences of going there. First, can you really cherry pick what you like about the Clinton/Iraq policy? Well if your a Republican, cherry picking the facts you like about Iraq certainly has historical precedence, but disastrous consequences. Let us consider president Clintons Iraqi policy as described by Mr. Clinton himself.
"So we will pursue a long-term strategy to contain Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction and work toward the day when Iraq has a government worthy of its people."
When it comes to president Clintons Iraq policy, it was what it was and that does not depend on what the definition of was is. President Clinton was right with his containment policy, and president Bush was wrong with the invasion.

Now if only this administration would reverse nearly 6 years of their disastrous ruining of America and truly start paying attention to how president Clinton ran the ship of state, woudn't that be refreshing.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Irresponsible mixed signals 101: A partial chronology of Bushovick achievement.

President Bush, in his new campaign style speech in response to his falling approval and trust worthiness numbers has repeatedly made the following assertion.
[Some Democrats] "are playing politics with this issue and sending mixed signals to our troops and the enemy. That is irresponsible..."
A couple of posts ago I addressed the Bush administrations penchant to rewrite history with a few examples that demonstrated how they do so. Let us consider the administrations penchant to send mixed signals shall we?

Here is a shining example straight from the presidents mouth as posted on the BBC Sept. 18, 2003:
We have no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the 11 September attacks:
But wait! Here is the text of the resolution passed by congress as approved by president Bush in October of 2002:
Whereas members of al Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq;
And later in the same resolution as presented to congress after consultation with the president:
Whereas Congress has taken steps to pursue vigorously the war on terrorism through the provision of authorities and funding requested by the President to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001 or harbored such persons or organizations;
So there you have it. The president knowing Saddam was not involved with Al-queda justifies going to war in Iraq because of that non-connection. Talk about damaging mixed signals!

Check out this answer given in a news conference with George Bush and Tony Blair after the resolution was passed but before the Iraqi debacle had commenced:
Q One question for you both. Do you believe that there is a link between Saddam Hussein, a direct link, and the men who attacked on September the 11th?

THE PRESIDENT: I can't make that claim.
But it appears that the president made PRECISELY that claim in his letter to congress dated March 18, 2003 giving them notice that he was about to embark on the Iraqi debacle:
acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.
Hold on here Captain Mixed Signal... my poor lil haid is spinning from all the confusion you've caused on this issue. I could easily cite 10 more examples of this type of Saddam/Al queda linkage, denial of linkage, but I believe the point is sufficiently proven.

I don't want to make a book of this post so lets just consider one more mixed signal given by the administration regarding the Iraq war. The administrations oft stated claims about the strength of the insurgency in Iraq. The very first blunder in this case was the presidents famous landing on the air craft carrier Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003. Standing under a banner proclaiming Mission Accomplished, the president declared major combat operations in Iraq to be over. The number of American killed in combat operations to that point had been 239.

Great! Here's a signal that the fighting is over, and now we are going to swing into action making Iraq into our image. However we are well aware that combat operations were indeed not over... and this led to an interesting exchange between the president and a white house correspondent on Wednesday July 2, 2003.
President Bush: There are some who feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is bring them on. We got the force necessary to deal with the security situation.
Great! Here's a signal that the fighting is not over and the president welcomes further bloodshed. Of course the insurgents failed to pick up on the presidents air craft speech but were all to willing to oblige him with the bring it on bufoonery. But this does not end the administrations horrible track record at gauging the insurgency. Check out these irresponsible mixed signals given to the American people.

Vice president Dick Cheney: , Monday May 31, 2005.
"The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline. I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency."
Vice president Dick Cheney: , June 24, 2005 on why the insurgency was still so violent:
"If you look at what the dictionary says about throes, it can still be a violent period,...The point would be that the conflict will be intense, but it's intense because the terrorists understand if we're successful at accomplishing our objective, standing up a democracy in Iraq, that that's a huge defeat for them."
If you try to decipher what signal the veep is sending here and wind up with the number 42, congrats... I did to. I mean he clearly prefaces his last throes comment with a qualifier having to do with the level of military activity declining, then justifies it with a definition that includes further intense conflict.

I AM turning this post into a book. Let me finish with this statement. When it comes to irresponsibly sending mixed signals, to take a lecture from this administration about the dangers of this practice is simply laughable on it's face.

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