Friday, December 30, 2005

"What has happened to this country?"

I just read a speech given by former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray on February 27, 2005. The question posed in the title to this post is asked by Mr. Murray in regards to Britain, but it can be asked of America as well.

The speech is spot on, and applies to America as well as to Britain. I am convinced that we must win the war on terror. There has never been a word typed in any post on this blog that questions that. Indeed it is this conviction on my part that leads me to criticize the Iraq war in formulation and conduct. The more we sacrifice our core values and beliefs in this effort, the more apparent it is that our enemies are winning this war. Not by the bomb and bullet, but by our leaders determination to surrender the values that make us what we are.

The notion that we, the international champions of human rights and democracy, support the absolutely brutal thug that rules from Tashkent should send a shudder through any informed American. If we fight a war on terror should we not fight the institutional terrorism promoted by our "allies"? Evidently if the terror is being used against "radical Muslims" that is fine and dandy. We actually create militant extremists out of moderates when they and their family members are tortured. Imagine if the government Mexico suddenly started boiling protestants alive. You'd see alot of militant evangelicals taking issue with that I can assure you. I especially deplore the sentiment of the U.S. ambassador to Uzbekistan when Mr. Murray tried to tweak his conscience:
The American ambassador said to me ‘well most of them are Muslims’ as thought that explained everything. I said that I didn’t think that seemed like particularly good reason why they should be locked up. He said ‘But they’re extreme Muslims’. I said ‘from what I can see there is very little history of political or terrorist violence in Uzbekistan and most of these people are not extreme in the sense that they are advocating violence’. What he said to me was ‘We are next door to Afghanistan; we are next door to the Taliban. The kind of society the Taliban impose is itself a form of violence and for example the subjugation of women is itself a form of violence. So if that’s what we are holding back, then some reduction of civil liberties in the interim is no bad thing. To which I replied that there was virtually no history of Taliban type Islamic extremism in Uzbekistan and certainly the people I had been meeting were not Taliban type extremists in any sense. Furthermore even if some of these people did propound a Muslim based society, with Sharia law and so on, then as long as they were not advocating violence to achieve it then this was a case of ‘well I detest what you say but I will defend your right to say it.’ I certainly didn’t think there was any excuse at all for throwing them in jail and pulling their fingernails out.
How absolutely sickening. We are not concerned with whether or not these victims of our ally are actually innocent or guilty. This behavior from our ally is acceptable because the victims are Muslim! To me the American ambassador in Tashkent is a bigot, a party to the worst forms of torture known to man kind, and he has blood on his hands. Much the same as the people in power in whatever government who know what is happening actively encourage the abuse by supporting the dictator in Kashtent, and making use of intelligence gained by torture. Indeed... what has happened to this country?

And now with the Graham-Levin amendment passed we will be able to use the "intelligence" gained from this ally in our prosecution of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay. Shame! As ambassador Murray says, we sell our soul for dross. When asked if the Uzbeks were to uncover a plot to fly a plane into Canary Wharf, if Mr. Murray really believed that intelligence ought to be ignored, he was spot on with his answer:
This of course discounts the fact the information’s all not true anyway. It’s all nonsense. It would be impossible through all that dross to pick out the true bits.
The McCain amendment might have given pause to the abuse of prisoners under American control, but this amendment should not end the debate. As long as we encourage our allies in the war on terror to feed us information from prisoners that has been gained by torture, we as a nation are complicit in the horrors. It is simply unbelievable that this administration has turned America from our long held concern on human rights to what we see today.

When will the good people of America wake up... and see what has happened to this country.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

British torture memos...

Daily Kos has posted several memo's that the British government has been fighting to keep secret. The memos in large part are from Craig Murray who was the British ambassador to Uzbekistan, and is now attempting to publish a book that would prove the wests complicity in using information taken from the worst imaginable forms of torture.

Please read these memos. The importance of these documents can not be overstated.

The depths of depravity by our Uzbeki "allies" can be found in the State Departments 2004 report on human rights.
The Government maintained that extensive burns on the two men's bodies were the result of a tea fight; however, independent analysis by experts in the United Kingdom of photographs taken shortly after their deaths concluded that the men had likely been suspended in boiling water.
A tea fight? A TEA FIGHT?!? That must be some Uzbeki attempt at sick humor. Yet we consider these thugs an ally in the war on terror, and we use intelligence taken from them using these tactics? Shame!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Tom Lassiter: Reporting on Iraq from outside the box

Tom Lassiter with Knight Ridder news services has recently issued several reports that are simply fascinating for the insight provided when reporters are able to step outside the box in reporting from Iraq. Yesterday I posted on one of these articles which detailed how the Kurdish Peshmerga had infiltrated the Iraqi national army with an eye to killing their commanders and storming the city of Kirkuk when given the command to do so by the Peshmerga. Today brings two more fascinating articles, one of which details the internal divisions in the Iraqi army based upon ethnicity, and the other on how Mr. Lassiter was able to bring us these stories. First let us consider how Kurdish and Arab men in the same unit clash regarding a possible future civil war in Iraq:
"If the Kurds want to separate from Iraq it's OK, as long as they keep their present boundaries," said Sgt. Hazim Aziz, an Arab soldier who was stubbing out a cigarette in a barracks room. "But there can be no conversation about them taking Kirkuk. ... If it becomes a matter of fighting, then we will join any force that fights to keep Kirkuk. We will die to keep it."

Kurdish soldiers in the room seethed at the words.

"These soldiers do not know anything about Kirkuk," Capt. Ismail Mahmoud, a former member of the Kurdish Peshmerga militia, said as he got up angrily and walked out of the room. "There is no other choice. If Kirkuk does not become part of Kurdistan peacefully we will fight for 100 years to take it."

Reading the article I posted about yesterday, one may wonder if the Kurdish captain would really qualify as a "former member" of the Peshmerga militia. Look at this sentiment from Col. Sabar Saleem, also a "former" Peshmerga member:
"War is just another kind of political solution," said Saleem, a former Peshmerga.

He said that while he wore an Iraqi army uniform he had a much larger mission in mind.

"I tell you that I am a part of the Iraqi army, but when it comes to the Kurdish cause I am willing to offer my life, my head, for one inch of Kurdish land," Saleem said. "Especially for Kirkuk."

This kind of reporting is simply must read and very hard to find in the American media. He is giving us raw first hand information that when considered in the overall context of the Iraqi conflict presages dire consequences for the region. I agree that Kurdistan is a worthy goal and would like to see the Kurds get their homeland without a regional blood bath. But the current American plan for Iraq does not envision a Kurdish homeland, and it is clear the Kurds are dead set intent on independence, whatever the cost may be. If we stay the course it is apparent the two visions for the region come into conflict, and Mr. Lassiter on a local level in his area has pulled the shades from a window that we would be well served to look through

It is through the reporting of Tom Lassiter that we are finally getting a feel for how this could turn from the derailment we are currently experiencing to a horrendous regional train wreck. How is it then that it seems only Mr. Lassiter is giving us this type of reporting? (Not to denigrate other reporters mind you, but these articles by Mr. Lassiter are simply one of a kind.) The answer is found in this article titled "how the story was reported". Put quite simply, Mr. Lassiter does not let the American or Iraqi military guidelines that specify he must be accompanied by an "American military assistance team" stop him from using contacts to get these stories.
For this story, I took a commercial flight from Baghdad to Irbil on Dec. 20 and, working with a Kurdish translator, contacted the Peshmerga leadership. Peshmerga leaders then opened many doors, arranging visits to Peshmerga militia units that turned out to be units of the Iraqi army.

For example, the Peshmerga arranged for Iraqi soldiers at a base in Irbil to meet me on the afternoon of Dec. 21 and take me - along with two pickup loads of soldiers with AK-47s and heavy machine guns - to the Kurdistan Democratic Party's headquarters in Mosul.

Party officials then escorted me across the street to an Iraqi army brigade headquarters, where I spent the evening conducting interviews and going on patrols. The next morning, I was taken to the division headquarters in Mosul and spent the day doing interviews. I rode back to Irbil with a brigade commander in a convoy of sport utility vehicles and pickups equipped with heavy machine guns.
There is no doubt that the job of a journalist in Iraq is hazardous in the extreme. So we who care for the truth and accuracy in the news we consume should really be appreciative of the steps taken by Mr. Lassiter to step outside the box and bring us these reports. On a very small level and for what it's worth I would like to express my gratitude to him for doing his job so well in such dangerous conditions, and wish him good luck going forward.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Kurds infiltrate Iraqi army

The Kurdish Peshmurga militia has infiltrated 10,000 members into the Iraqi army who are prepared to kill their commanders and take the city of Kirkuk according to Knight Ridder news source.
The soldiers said that while they wore Iraqi army uniforms they still considered themselves members of the Peshmerga - the Kurdish militia - and were awaiting orders from Kurdish leaders to break ranks. Many said they wouldn't hesitate to kill their Iraqi army comrades, especially Arabs, if a fight for an independent Kurdistan erupted.

"It doesn't matter if we have to fight the Arabs in our own battalion," said Gabriel Mohammed, a Kurdish soldier in the Iraqi army who was escorting a Knight Ridder reporter through Kirkuk. "Kirkuk will be ours."
This has to send a chill through the stay the course crowd. Prior to the invasion the Kurds were staunch allies and this is one of the reasons that Turkey denied us the use of their territory for a drive from the north. If Iraq is to fragment there is a significant likelihood that Turkey would invade N. Iraq and touch off a regional conflict that could pull in Iran, Syria and who knows who after that.

It is clear from this story that the Kurds are plotting just such a move for independence. I have previously speculated that one of the reasons we may see such slow development of an independent Iraqi defense force is because we have no interest in training and arming the Baghdad arm of the Iranian Republican Guard. Now it appears we may have cause to worry about just such a concern from our Kurdish allies as well.

Staying the course in Iraq means we will have to have a military force in country for decades to come, in order to forestall just this type of catastrophe. If Turkey must be brought to the table to accept an independent Kurdistan on it's southern frontier we by default accept the fragmentation of Iraq. To forestall that fragmentation we will have to be the military force that keeps Iraq glued together until we know for a certaintude that the Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites truly have no ambitions that would lead to the fragmentation of Iraq and resulting calamity.

So stay the course actually means a long term commitment to hold Iraq together. At some point the "sovereign government of Iraq", responding to public pressure is going to ask us to pack up and go home. What then? If we stay after that we pass from Iraqi democracy installation fix it man to blatant imperialist ruler.

Not to mention that such a goal throws us into conflict with the longheld Kurdish dream of independence. (Which case I might add I believe they can make a very good case for, if we can stop the region from turning into a meatgrinder with Turkey.) We now face a simmering insurrection by a Sunni minority. If the Kurds throw their lot behind an insurrection to gain independence what we now face will be the halcion days of stability in post invasion Iraq. Believe it or not, there could come a future generation that will look back on the sickness that was the Saddam Hussien tyranny, and think how nice we had it. All we did was contain him and let him keep these factions controlled under his iron fist.

One final point. Is there any worse a place one could think of in which to force a democratic experiment? Iraq is a relic creation of an imperialist power that has no natural rhyme or reason for cohesion without an overbearing military presence. I am convinced long after you and I are dead and gone, and the (possibly irradiated) dust has settled after the region is pacified, that Iraq as we currently understand it will only exist on outdated maps. So if the Bushovichs wanted to export democracy to the region, why not start with a place that is inherently homogeneous, where the citizens all have a unified sense of nationalism. I think the whole democratic experiment via military force is wrongheaded as it is. In fact if the president had made that case in 2003 rather than ginning up the WMD evidence I have no doubt he would never have received the necessary support to carry forth the plan now termed "stay the course". But if one is going to carry forth with the experiment, for goodness sakes do it somewhere that is not going to fall apart once the democracy has taken hold and we can bring our troops home.

Another wingnut hypocrite...

Tennessee Republican Senator Jeff Miller sponsored a defense of marriage act [pdf] which among other things "solemnized" the relationship between one man and one woman. This seems to be just another case of some rightwing family man pandering to his base by "protecting" them from the "homosayx-wall" hordes forcing their lifestyle on the rest of us. What makes this story interesting however is the marital lifestyle of Senator Jeff Miller.

It seems that senator Miller thinks every OTHER marriage in Tennessee should be solemnized by the law, but his own marriage is decidedly an unsolemn affair. And yes I mean affair in every sense of the term. This particular family values Republican had the unmitigated gall to take the aide he was having an affair with to a Martina McBride concert WITH the three impressionable, children borne by his wife of 15 years! OH THE HUMANITY!!

Then the Gawud fairing senator actually took his girlfriend to the divorce signing... This just seems wrong on so many different levels. Marriage should be solemnized in state law, but you take the woman you are having an affair with to the divorce signing? This really is a new level of hypocrisy to my way of looking at it.

This all is somewhat dated, but what brought this to my attention today was the response of the senator to coverage of the whole sordid affair by the media. He wrote a threatening letter to those businesses who advertised in the Bradley News Weekly. The letter reads in part:
'Myself and many others are going to be watching in the next several weeks to identify and remember those in this community that wish to subsidize the destructive nature of this type of publication in our community.'
Of particular note is the fact that the senator does not dispute the accuracy of the coverage by this paper. So in effect he is threatening advertisers of a publication because that paper is reporting truthfully! Of course I am very much aware that honest, factual reporting is considered destructive by most conservatives. But the fact is that the senators behavior directly reflects upon his supposedly pro family stand on political issues and he ought to be exposed as the sham he really is.

To the advertisers and the paper I say: well done. To senator Miller I say: shame.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Did Iraqi sovereignty give way to quid pro quo...

American forces in Iraq released 22 high ranking members under Saddam Hussien immediately after the December 15th elections. The Iraqi government is promising to arrest these former prisoners and says their freedom is not acceptable:
National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie said after he met top Shi'ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf that he would not accept their being at liberty: "There are warrants of arrest for them issued by Iraqi judicial authorities and if they are released, we'll arrest them."
The Americans are sticking by their decision:
"The 22 individuals no longer posed a security threat to the people of Iraq and to the Coalition forces," U.S. commander General George Casey said on Saturday in a joint statement with the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad.

U.S. forces "therefore, had no legal basis to hold them any longer"...

The legal basis to hold them would be that they were involved with the dictatorship of Saddam Hussien, not that they posed a security risk while they were held. Saddam Hussien is not on trial now because he was wrapped up in the insurgency after he was overthrown. He is on trial for actions he took while he held power. Much the same as the Iraqi government would like to see happen with the prisoners we released. Will the Iraqi government get to see it's wishes fulfilled regarding these people? Evidently not:
Asked where the freed prisoners were, U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson said he could not elaborate but added that it was a U.S. reponsibility to "safeguard them after their release".
According to the defense lawyer for one of the former prisoners it was the Americans who determined there was no legal reason to hold them, not the Iraqi government.
Badia Aref, a Baghdad lawyer... said the U.S. authorities, had ruled that the Iraqi cases against the 22 had insufficient basis.
If the Iraqi's are truly sovereign, why can not they be allowed to reach their own determination regarding the legal case against these former prisoners? It seems to me that any pretense at Iraqi sovereignty while under coalition occupation has long since been a casualty of the war, and with this case has officially been buried in the desert sands.

Why then would we release these people? One can not help noticing that the election on December 15 passed largely peacefully, and the release came in the following days. The notion that there would be a quid pro quo with America agreeing to release the prisoners in exchange for an informal ceasefire during the election is addressed thusly:
Countering suggestions that the releases were a gesture to Sunnis after they took part peacefully in the Dec. 15 election, the Americans added: "The decision to release them was based on law, not on politics or any other consideration."
The timing of the release, against the wishes of the Iraqi government is just too coincidental to accept at face value. On the other hand there is no direct proof beyond the circumstantial timing that there was a quid pro quo. If there was a deal however, I am of the opinion this would actually be a good sign IF the sovereign government of Iraq had agreed to the deal. This would mean that the coalition had opened a dialogue with the insurgents and had actually been able to reach an agreement with them, which both sides honored. Rather than both sides being intractable in their various positions we may have been able to reach a political understanding with the insurgents.

This could have been a great outcome, and a reason for hope going forward. If appearances do turn out to be true however, the Bush administration managed to sully the political victory by snubbing the sovereign government of Iraq in carrying forth the plan. How typical this would be of this administration. Even when they get it right, they do it wrong.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to anyone who may read this. If you do not celebrate Christmas then heres wishing you have happy whatever holdiay you celebrate! =o) Thanks for reading this blog...

Friday, December 23, 2005

Sell out... I define thee!

Ok folks... this is going to be my first sports related post. Do not worry, sports will not now be a regular topic in this blog. But I do like my sports so I'll try to get it all out of my system right now.

This is the before and after picture of a sell out:

Also, since we are on sports, if anyone reading this has any interest, I root for the Seattle Mariners, Seahawks and a I'm BIGTIME UO Ducks fan! Go Ducks!!
I hate (yes hate!) the Raiders, Cowboys, UW Huskies, Notre Dame, and especially the Yankees.

Daschle: Congress forbade domestic war powers

Tom Daschle, majority leader of the senate when the legislation authorizing the president to combat terrorism with all force necessary, says that when this was up for consideration the congress expressly denied the administration expanded powers domestically. In today's Washington Post Daschle writes:
On the evening of Sept. 12, 2001, the White House proposed that Congress authorize the use of military force to "deter and pre-empt any future acts of terrorism or aggression against the United States." Believing the scope of this language was too broad and ill defined, Congress chose instead, on Sept. 14, to authorize "all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons [the president] determines planned, authorized, committed or aided" the attacks of Sept. 11. With this language, Congress denied the president the more expansive authority he sought and insisted that his authority be used specifically against Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.

Just before the Senate acted on this compromise resolution, the White House sought one last change. Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words "in the United States and" after "appropriate force" in the agreed-upon text. This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas -- where we all understood he wanted authority to act -- but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens. I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority. I refused.
If this is the truth, and there is no reason to believe it is not, one of the central defenses offered by the administration to justify the NSA spy program is demonstrated to be a lie. If the administration tried to add language to the authorization to allow expanded powers domestically, and that was explicitly denied, they can not now credibly claim that the authorization allowed for them to have expanded powers domestically. It really is just that simple.

The administration knows full well they could not get the language they wished for in the authorization, yet they proceeded to violate the intent of the congress. How is this not impeachable? The justifications they have used are now demonstrated lies. The administration breaks the law with impunity if there are no ramifications from this activity. The koolaid drinkers in congress seriously need to consider their role in bringing down our democracy, and fulfill their oversight role, even if it hurts their party. It is time to put the good of the constitution before the good of their party, or for us citizens to put them out of office in 2006. I believe a platform of impeachment should be front and center for those wishing to be elected in 2006. Lets call it the constitutional protection plank in our platform.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

O'Reilly wants cab drivers shot dead

If you are wondering what this is all about, the story is here.

Thanks to Agitprop for the tip.

Oh by the way... check out the blotches on this guys face when the makeup corps is not around. And what's up with the whole wandering eye thing?

Hey Saddam: Shut up or we'll give you something to really cry about...

The latest allegations of abuse of a detainee comes from none other than Saddam Hussien , claiming that he was beaten head to toe. To this I say what a load of crap!

If Saddam were worked over it is highly doubtful he would now be allowed to stand in court and make his preposterous claims. In fact it is highly doubtful he would be standing at all. This freak is lucky the guys who drug him out of his hole didn't toss a grenade in first and ask questions later. Count your blessings little man.

It really irks me when people I really do not agree with use the arguments I and those who agree with me posit, in an effort to further their own twisted agenda. Whether it's George Bush talking up clear skies and healthy forests whilst doing all in his power to destroy environmental protections to Saddam decrying his treatment under American activity and slamming the Bush administration around. The entire non koolaid drinking universe knows the Bush administration is populated with creeps and congenital liars without having Saddam throw his two cents into the fray. That does not mean that Saddam is not a sadistic, horrible, lying creep himself. So spare those of us who are fighting the good fight your pontification Saddam. Amazing, isn't it, how when you are facing the judge you are so enlightened with truth and wisdom. We wish you had demonstrated this reasoning and sense of outrage at injustice when you were ruining your nation you reptile!

As to the allegations of mistreatment... when the judge overseeing the case mentioned that he might transfer Saddam from American to Iraqi control if his allegations of mistreatment bore truth, that was not the judges idea of a possible solution, it was a threat! You think being filmed in your undies is bad? Just wait til the department of the interior goons get you hooked up with the electrodes and start in with the power drills. Oh right... Saddam already knows all about that from when he was ordering that type of thing back in the good old days. Everybody remembers when their parent used to tell them to stop crying or they would get something to really cry about. The judge just said the same thing to Saddam.

The coming constitutional crisis.

A couple of recent events cause me to believe the Bush administration faces a full blown constitutional crisis. Not just regarding the congress but with respect to the judicial branch as well.

The case of president Bush actively breaking the FISA law, and proclaiming that he will continue to do so has lead to the resignation of the presdiding judge on the FISA court. The acting presiding judge is attempting to convene the remaining court members for a briefing on the program. It is possible that the FISA court could disband depending on the answers provided in this briefing. If the FISA court disbands in response to the illegal activity of president George Bush, that will set off a crisis not seen since the Nixon impeachment.

Another less publicized but still enormously important case involves Jose Padilla. The administration won a very important ruling from the 4th circuit court of appeals affirming the presidents right to hold American citizens determined to be enemy combatants indefinitely without charging them with a crime. The 4th circuit court is well understood to normally have a more conservative tilt than the U.S. supreme court, where the case would next have been considered. And this is where things start to get interesting.

Two business days prior to the filing of the case with the supreme court the Bush administration conceded the case and requested that the 4th circuit court stay their decision. The administration then tried to charge Padilla in a civilian court in Florida. (The circuit court was considering whether or not the administration could hold Padilla indefinitely, not the merits of the case against him.)

Judge Michael Luttig, widely considered a front runner in consideration for a possible future supreme court nomination by president Bush, just ruined his chances at that nomination with a stinging rebuke to the administration in it's conduct of the Padilla case. Judge Luttig called the credibility of the administration with the courts into question in his decision by saying they appear to be attempting to bypass a supreme court review of the presidents wartime powers. Judge Luttig also questioned why the administrations case before the Florida court uses different charges against Padilla than those used to justify expanded presidential authority in the war on terror.

It is quite clear that in respect to the FISA court and now the 4th circuit court, the administration has a full fledged judicial uprising on it's hands. One wonders if the FISA court does not accept the administrations reasoning what happens? For a court to consider the constitutionality of the administrations activity with the NSA spy program an injured party must bring the case. Would it be possible to argue that the FISA court itself has been injured and to have them bring the case? This court is statutorily obligated to authorize the administration to conduct the eavesdropping. I think the case could be made that if the administration steps beyond the statute, they are an injured party. Just imagine the constitutional crisis such a move would precipitate...

And it appears that despite all the machinations of this administration, they are going to be forced to make their case to the supreme court. What happens should the court rule against them, but the administration simply declares that for the good of the nation they will not abide by that decision. It is perfectly clear in regards to the FISA statute this is the course the administration has taken. If the administration can do this with a congressional statute, why not a court ruling?

I am convinced that George Bush will be impeached for several high crimes and misdemeanors. I'm not certain the senate will remove him from office after impeachment, but one can only hope that if the senate does take that step president Bush does not see fit to simply ignore that congressional action as well.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Judge Posner gets it wrong...

In an op-ed in todays Washington Post judge Richard Posner makes an argument for expanding the rights of the administration to spy on Americans. Rather than go point by point to refute what I believe to be incorrect reasoning by the judge, let me focus on the following statement in the article:
The only valid ground for forbidding human inspection of such data is fear that they might be used to blackmail or otherwise intimidate the administration's political enemies. That danger is more remote than at any previous period of U.S. history.
Where has the judge been for the last three years one must wonder. What does he think of the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame after her husband publicly disagreed with the presidents state of the union speech. This one action by the administration is proof positive that the judge is absolutely incorrect with his reasoning. The signal given by this one action was unmistakable. Political opponents of this administration are fair game for ruination by any means necessary.

Consider the following: Karl Rove, widely accepted as having taken part in the outing of a covert CIA agent for political reasons, still reports to work each day and holds a top secret clearance. Mr. Rove is legendary for his willingness to bend ethics and the law in pursuit of political goals and in the cause of ruining political opponents. At some point a bell is going to go off in a reporters head, and they will ask one of the most important questions that can be asked in these dark times. Regarding the NSA spy program: Is Karl Rove or any other political appointee of this administration privvy to those conversations?

Judge Posner justifies his reasoning with the following quote:
Because of increased political partisanship, advances in communications technology and more numerous and competitive media, American government has become a sieve. No secrets concerning matters that would interest the public can be kept for long.
Once again we are left to wonder... where has this judge been for the last several years. The secretive nature of this administration is absolutely legendary. Maybe the judge can prove his point by alerting the rest of the world who originally leaked Valerie Plames name. Evidently the president himself does not even know that! Or the judge could show how open everything is nowadays by releasing the newly classified techniques approved for detainee interrogation in the army field manual. Who was in the vice president energy task force? Can the judge get us the records of chief justice John Roberts when he was white house counsel? There are dozens of such secrets that a wide swath of citizenry would be very interested in knowing that are kept under wraps by this administration, usually under the guise of national security or executive privelige. The fact is that the notorious obsession with secrecy demonstrated by the administration shows the judges reasoning to back up his original erroneous contention is also just plumb wrong.

Quite simply, this administrations unbridled grab at power whilst keeping the citizenry in the dark about the true state of affairs is precisely the reason we need to check them going forward. If the president can simply create laws as he sees fit in complete secrecy, we have passed from a glorious experiment in democracy to a very close shadow of the tyranny that we threw off in the revolutionary war, complete with kings and rubberstamp legislative bodies. The presidency is dead, long live the king.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Judge finds lies by religious proponents ironic

The case in Dover P.A. testing whether "intelligent design" may be taught in science class has adjudicated in favor of science vs dogma. This really should not be a surprise, so rather than posting here about the victory of science vs dogma, I wish to focus on a comment made by the judge in his ruling:
"It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy."
Ironic indeed. It seems to me that the entire intelligent design movement is based upon deceit. The reason creationists have turned to intelligent design "science" is because the courts have ruled that teaching creationism in public schools establishes religion. Creationists have therefore changed the language they use to promote their view. But it remains the same view. Creationists feel that having lost the scientific and legal battle regarding their religious viewpoint means they must make it appear their actions are not religious in nature. In doing so they rely upon deception. Which it would seem to me is intrinsically anti-Christian, or anti-religion of nearly any sort.

The history of Christianity is replete with examples where true believers stood proudly for their beliefs, in many cases leading to their martyrdom. The one famous case where an apostle renounced his belief is that of Peter. When Jesus told Peter he would renounce him three times before the cock crowed Peter could not imagine it happening. Yet it appears for all the world that modern day creationists are intent on publicly renouncing their religious convictions, knowing full well they do so as they commit the act. In the emulation of Peter the modern day creationist does not bother being shocked at the notion they would deny their belief, and they feel no shame when their denial of belief is revealed. Indeed they rely upon this public denial to forward their cause.

In a previous post I ranted about a proven case of apparent perjury in the Dover case. The actions of the creationist school board member are very instructive of the deceptive nature of the I.D. movement:
A former school board member who denied advocating that creationism be taught alongside evolution in high-school biology classes changed his story Thursday, after lawyers in a federal courtroom played a TV news clip that recorded him making such a comment.

William Buckingham explained the discrepancy by saying that he "misspoke."

...The clip that was shown later in the day came from an interview that he gave to a news crew from WPMT-TV in York later in the month.

"It's OK to teach Darwin," he said in the interview, "but you have to balance it with something else, such as creationism."

Earlier in Thursday's court session, Buckingham claimed that he had been misquoted in stories from two newspapers that reported his advocating the teaching of creationism to counterbalance the material on evolution.

"It's just another instance when we would say intelligent design and they would print creationism," he said.

When Stephen Harvey, the plaintiffs' lawyer, noted the similarity of the newspaper reports to what he told the TV crew, Buckingham replied, "That doesn't mean it's accurate."
Have you no sense of shame suh! Have you no sense of shame? (Trying to imitate John Daly on a weblog really does not work so well) I mean, what about the 9th commandment? Is it ok to simply disregard spirituality and biblical teachings in order to reach a political goal? How cynical is that?

Finally it does distress me greatly when I find myself so commonly arguing against the supposed Christian perspective of events, because I identify myself as a Christian. It is unfortunate that the neo-conservative movement in America has hijacked religion and used it to further their political goals. By their fruits you shall know them. I find the fruits of modern day neo-conservatism to be bitter, and wish that the religious aspects so wrapped up in modern day politics would be delegated to our private lives, not the legislatures and courts of the land.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Spygate myths 101:

Let us consider several myths in connection with the defense of the administration regarding authorization of the NSA to spy on American citizens.

Myth 1: The spying was conducted only on citizens known to have connections with terrorist organizations.

My rebuttal to this myth can be found here . To paraphrase that rebuttal, the administration has already proven very inept at being able to accurately identify those involved with terrorism. There are several examples listed in the post of mistaken identification of terrorism suspects. One case I did not mention but I find extremely telling is the FAA's no fly list. This list of individuals who are given enhanced security clearance when trying to fly from American airports is notoriously inaccurate. One of the most startling examples of this list being flat wrong is that Senator Ted Kennedy made the list and it took him and his staff more than three weeks to have his name taken off. In one case the Senator was unable to board a flight until a supervisor could identify him. So if the administration added Senator Kennedy to the no fly list because of supposed connections with terrorists, one must wonder if they were spying on his calls...

Busting myth 1 cliff note style: If this administration can not accurately identify people with terrorist affiliations, they can not claim they were only spying on Americans with terrorist connections. (duh)
Myth 2: The administration had congressional oversight of the program.

The administration did consult with congressional leaders several times regarding the program. But these consultations were classified and the members who were briefed were legally prohibited from publicizing the existence of the program. If they had concerns they were not able to voice them except in private communication. Senator Rockefeller wrote a letter to vice president Cheney that expressed strong concerns to the administration over this program. Representative Nancy Pelosi also claims she expressed strong concerns during the briefings. Senator Harry Reid in an email to supporters says he was notified once earlier this year, but the administration did not seek his advice or consent, and key details regarding the program were not divulged. In both Senator Reid and Senator Rockefellers cases it is noteworthy that they comment on the fact that they were forbidden to discuss the program even with their staff. And this is congressional oversight?

Busting myth 2 cliff note style: The congressional briefings can hardly be considered congressional oversight, since the congress members briefed were not able to check the program even if they disagreed with it.
Myth 3: The president has the constitutional and statutory authority to spy on American citizens without judicial review.

In the press conference given by the president Monday, as well as the press conference by attorney general Alberto Gonzalez , this claim has been repeatedly asserted. Yet to this point there has not been one example I know of where the specific language is cited to justify this program. Rather the constitutional clause the administration rests their case upon seems to, if anything, make the case that the spy program is an impeachable offense.

In the presidents news conference he cites article II of the constitution. That article includes the oath sworn by the president when they enter office, and this oath is the crux of the administrations argument:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Rather than permitting unconstitutional activity, this oath expressly prohibits presidential behavior that is unconstitutional. One would be hard pressed to argue that one could preserve and protect the constitution by using unconstitutional methods. The real constitutional issue is brought by the 4th amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Quite clearly a warrant demonstrating that the taking of evidence is reasonable is needed in order for a person to not be secure in their person, house, or effects. (I think effects here is really founding father genius by foretelling cell phones and email!) Quite clearly the president does not feel this constitutional obligation is worth protecting or preserving.

Thus the only way around this constitutional (non) conundrum is to justify the unconstitutional intrusion with a statute of some sort. (Which statute if ever created will be struck down by any judge to the left of Atilla the Hun as unconstitutional... but I digress) The administration therefore cites the resolution passed by congress on September 14, 2001 that authorized the president to use any force necessary to fight the war on terror. A careful reading of this resolution however in no way gives the president any constitutional power other than the right to use force to combat terrorism.

The administration also is fond of using the FISA (foreign intelligence surveillance act) to justify the presidents ability to spy on American citizens. Yet that act specifically established a secret court to grant warrants for surveillance of American citizens. How can the administration claim FISA protection when they are not using the FISA procedures to authorize the spying? The simple answer is they can not.

Busting myth 3 cliff note style: Read me the language that allows the president to disregard the fourth amendment. (This could get complicated however, as you probably will need to explain to whoever you are busting the myths with that the language they fumble around for actually means the president must obtain a warrant to spy on American citizens.)
Myth 4: Exposing the NSA spy program has harmed America.

This really is simple logic which will not involve me linking you around the web. The FISA law noted above is not classified. So any citizen with terrorist connections who cared would be well aware that their calls could be monitored, without them realizing it on a case by case basis, with a FISA warrant. Indeed it is even possible for the spying to take place before the FISA warrant is granted, so long as the administration gets the warrant at some point. FISA warrants have been an issue for quite some time with civil libertarians so this is hardly a national security type secret. The ease with which the warrants are obtained basically makes the process a rubber stamp for the administration. The ability to spy on suspected terrorists was not revealed by the revelation of spygate. The presidents authorization of illegal spying is all thats revealed.

Busting myth 4 cliff note style: The harm to America in this case stems from having the president run amok over the constitution, not having the terrorists re-learn something they already knew.

This post is turning into a book, and I try not to get so long winded. There are several other myths being promulgated by the white house which mayhaps I will tackle in a future post. In the meantime just remember this final myth. George Bush was elected president of the United States of America. I'm not going into the whole Florida/Ohio vote debacle here. What I'm saying is that as far as George is concerned, he was elected king.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Why the Bush defense for spying on citizens is not acceptable...

President Bush today admitted that he authorized spying on American citizens without judicial review. The president asserted that this extra legal spying was "a vital tool" in the war on terror. Also, the story notes:
He said it is used only to intercept the international communications of people inside the United States who have been determined to have "a clear link" to al-Qaida or related terrorist organizations.
And this contention of the presidents that a clear link existed as a prerequisite for the spying is where the rub comes in.

There are many many examples where this administration has been flat wrong in it's assertions about who and how various entities are connected with terrorism. Let us consider several high profile cases, and how the proven errors by this administration reflect on the contention of the president that the spying he authorized was only of people determined to have a clear link to terrorism.

The first story is that of Portland Oregon attorney Brandon Mayfield:
A federal judge ... cleared Portland attorney Brandon Mayfield of ties to the Madrid train bombings after the FBI made the stunning admission that it erred when analyzing a copy of fingerprints.

Portland's FBI Special Agent in Charge, Robert Jordan, said the error, based on a "substandard" copy of the prints, will prompt the agency to review its guidelines for making identifications and ask an international panel of experts to analyze what went wrong.

He also apologized to Mayfield, a former Army officer and Muslim convert who was mistakenly arrested earlier this month as a material witness in the March 11 terrorist attack that killed 191 and wounded some 2,000
This case is noteworthy due to the fact that a court order was obtained to conduct the initial secret searches of Mr. Mayfields office. We therefore see that even with judicial oversight, the administration can make the wrong call. Now we are to trust them to make the right call on who is involved with terrorism, without even the figleaf of judicial oversight? Not acceptable.

Another high profile case in which the administration could not prove it's case is that of Professor Sami Al-Arian:
A former college professor was found not guilty Tuesday of key charges linking him to a Palestinian terrorist group that allegedly operated an underground cell in Florida, ending a lengthy trial that balanced allegations of terrorist-related acts against assertions of abused constitutional rights...

The indictment did not allege a connection to al Qaeda or to any attacks on U.S. soil, but it was issued -- amid considerable fanfare by the Bush administration -- within 18 months of the Sept. 11 attacks and as the United States prepared for war with Iraq.

If the administration could not make it's case before a jury in this very high profile case, are we now to trust that they should be allowed to determine who is connected with terrorists, with not one iota of judicial review? Again... this is simply not acceptable.

Next, let us consider three of many cases of mistaken "rendition" of detainees from America to foreign nations for enhanced interrogation: This tactic in the war on terror has not one particle of judicial review.
Maher Arar: A Syrian-born Canadian citizen with a family and a residence in Canada was apprehended by U.S. authorities when he wastransferring planes in New York. He was apprehended because he was on a terrorist watchlist. Mr Arar was then handed over to Syria, who repeatedly tortured him for information for ten months.

Kahlid el-Masri: A Lebanese-born German national was on vacation when he was detained by Macedonia border guards and taken away in handcuffs. He was accused of terrorism. He was injected, placed on an airplane and woke up in Kabul, Afghanistan where he was tortured by "Men with American accents", for four months and then released.

Mamdouh Habib: An Egyptian-born Australian, Mr. Habib was travelling in Karachi, Pakistan when he was arrested by Pakistani police. He was questioned by Pakistani authorities then handed over to Egypt. There he was beaten, tortured, injected with drugs. From Egypt he spent time in U.S. interrogation in Afghanistan and finally Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He was released in January 2005.
These men were all eventually found to have no connection with terrorist organizations, yet their freedom and basic human rights were taken from them by this administration. Yet now this president asks us to accept that he has the ability to determine which American citizens have a link with terrorists? Again... this is not acceptable.

Finally let us consider the biggest case to date in which this administration asserted that there was a connection with terrorists when there really was none. This case affects each American citizen to this day. On March 18, 2003, president Bush certified to congress that he had determined to attack Iraq, based in part thusly:
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.
By certifying that Iraq was in any way involved with the attacks of September 11, the president officially codified a lie. One that has contributed to the expenditure of well over $200 billion, over 2,100 dead American military members, and by the presidents admission around 30,000 dead Iraqi citizens.

With this record before us, we are now to believe that this administration should be trusted to determine which American citizens are connected with terrorist organizations? Once again... this assertion of unfettered presidential power when considered against the past inaccuracies of this administration regarding who or what is or is not connected with terrorism is simply, not acceptable.

Friday, December 16, 2005

We don't torture, but we'll use torture evidence.

It appears the white house gave up the threatened veto of Senator John McCains anti torture amendment with an eye on the Graham-Levin amendment included in the same defense appropriations bill.

This amendment will allow the military tribunals which are reviewing the status of the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay Cuba to use evidence gathered when detainees are tortured by foreign governments.

There is no law which this administration recognizes that stops them from rendering detainees to nations well known for torturing prisoners. Notice the careful qualification "which this administration recognizes", to the premise of the previous statement. Because there are treaty obligations and established international law that does make the practice undeniably illegal. The practice of taking a person with no judicial recourse from society and giving them over to another nation with no possible oversight by anyone except those who are doing the rendering is intrinsically extra legal. Secretary of State Rice simply saying we do not render prisoners for the purpose of torturing for intelligence is not credible after the -repeated -examples -where it -has been shown -that we -actually do [pdf] -precisely that.

So now we actually have proposed congressional approval for using intelligence gained from torture in the cases of those being held at Guantanamo Bay. This circular reasoning is simply unacceptable. Under the McCain amendment Americans are now supposed to be prohibited from torturing detainees, yet Americans still can use the evidence gathered by other nations who torture against detainees? It is not difficult to see where this road leads. America picks up a "high value" detainee, gives them to the Iraqi Interior Ministry, , or some other such ally, and after the interrogators get what we want to hear we ship the detainee off to Guantanamo for an appearance before the military tribunal. Which tribunal will be presented with all the evidence extracted from the detainee under torture! If Americans are now expressly forbidden from torturing detainees, the information garnered from the torture of detainees should be banned from American proceedings. Period!

One wonders, if Senator McCain had been moved from captivity in North Vietnam to a Soviet gulag to be tortured, would he now be more concerned with the policy of rendition? I do not think the nationality of the interrogator who is operating the power drill, or the electrodes, or whatever, has any bearing on the amount of pain the detainee feels when they are being broken. But who am I to say? I'll tell you who I am... I'm an American! And I say Americans need to take the high road back from the absolutely evil, depraved, and sick bosstyds who have made us a nation that relies on torture!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Eagle Forum: Science is stoopud

Let me preamble the following post with this. I assure you that what I'm about to comment on is not a joke on the part of The Eagle Forum. I know it is tempting to think we should take this as a light hearted attempt to bring some humor to a subject that is oft times bitter... but I am afraid such is not the case with the following argument.

Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum has posited the most novel argument yet in defense of creationism against evolution:
Evolutionists claim that their battle against creation-science is primarily a "scientific" issue, not a constitutional question. But our treasured U. S. Constitution is written by persons and for persons. If man is an animal, the Constitution was written by animals and for animals. This preposterous conclusion destroys the Constitution. The Aguillard Humanists leave us with no Constitution and no constitutional rights of any kind if they allow us to teach only that man is an animal.
This seems relatively simplistic logic that can easily be debunked with a simple glance at the dictionary. Merriam Websters Online gives the first word in the definition of person as "Human". Human in turn directs us to humans...(of or relating to humans, consisting of humans) and VOILA! Humans is defined: "a bipedal primate mammal (Homo sapiens)" Looking at the entry of "man" leads to the same definition (a bipedal primate mammal) without having to trace back to human. Holy cow... according to Merriam Websters online, using the logic posited by the Eagle Forum, the Schlaflyites have just launched a broadside at the constitution! **snark**

Actually they have not done so, any more so than those supporting science over dogma have in turn. The Schlafly rag is correct to note that the constitution was written by and for persons, but their logic falls apart after that assertion. For instance, had the constitution been written by and for say... super intelligent eagles, (obviously more intelligent than their namesake forum members) then it would pertain to eagles. Eagles, like persons, are animals but that does not mean the document does not pertain to them. There is no reason that humans, being animals by definition, can not have rights defined in the constitution.

Who is the Eagle forum to be weighing in on science anyway? They have just proven what scientific dunderheads they are by claiming that humans are not animals! And we are to take their opinion on the issues regarding science seriously after this? I mean if I proclaimed that the earth is flat and in the next breath declared that my notions should gain a hearing in science classes on geography, I'd be laughed out of the principals office. The phrase "if man is an animal" in the Eagle Forum argument is actually one of the most un-scientific arguments that can possibly be made to forward a (non) scientific cause.

What does Phyllis have against animals anyway?!? Does she think humans are supernatural and magical? Odd how we share so many traits with mammals if humans are so freaking special is it not? I say it loud and proud. I am proud of my animal heritage. Primates RULE! Why is Ms. Schlafly ashamed of who she is anyway? And this particular animal is very vocal in his support of the constitution. Which document, if anything, Ms. Schlafly and her gang are continuously attempting to undermine by having their dogma taught as science in public schools. If teaching creationism in science class does not establish religion, it is hard to see how you can define any teaching as not being constitutional.

So with of this sort of logical fallacy, we are to conclude that so called intelligent design should be taught in science class? This if anything proves the absolute dearth of supportive evidence to back their case. I feel comfortable giving you this assurance. The argument given by the Eagle Forum would not survive either scientific analysis, or a second grade debate society.

[Hat tip to Crooks and Liars for the heads up on this story]

On torture... McCain wins! Or did he?

White house sources are saying that the white house has agreed to accept the legislation of Senator John McCain intended to outlaw torture of detainees under American control. This seems to be a victory for the good guys right? There are two developments that when considered against the Orwellian nature of this administration should cause champions of the American way to not celebrate victory quite yet.

First: The provision accepted by the white house allows American agents who may be prosecuted for torturing detainees to defend themselves by saying that it was reasonable for them to believe they were following a lawful order. This is the standard held by the military.

However the process by which a military order is determined to be lawful or even to have been given in the first place is regimented and not liable to be an issue. Can the same be said for CIA agents? The business of the CIA is by it's very nature clandestine, and in many cases not open to public debate. What is to stop CIA director Porter Goss from simply drawing up a list of techniques that would not be legal under the McCain language, and covertly giving that list to agents in the field for use against detainees. In which case the agent may reasonably argue that they felt they were following a legal order, and that order is classified. The legal battle over going to trial with the defense based upon classified evidence would be epic.

Second: The Pentagon yesterday updated the Army field manual with new instructions regarding the treatment of detainees. The new manual is classified so there is no telling what is legal now. My inclination here is to hold the applause on the McCain amendment passage until such point as it is clear that the new manual does not allow for the inhumane treatment of detainees.

The McCain amendment is a step in the right direction. What is really needed now is for the International committee of the Red Cross to be given access to all detainees under American control. And we need to push for legislation that expressly forbids the extra judicial rendition of detainees to other countries where it is well understood that prisoners are treated inhumanely.

Frankly, the damage to Americas reputation and standing in the international community has already been done by this administration. The road to recovery in regards to detainee treatment is for us to fully disclose who we have in custody, where they are held, and how they have been and will be treated. This administrations obsession with secrecy and extra legal proceedings in this regard hardly bode well for progress on this front.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Getting Orwellian on three issues.

Here are three seemingly not related issues. You may wonder why in the world the frikster would tackle these topics in one post. The answer my friends is that the administrations response to these issues demonstrates one point.

The first issue: Despite continued administration protestations that detainees under American control are not tortured, the negotiations between Senator John McCain and the white house over the inclusion of anti-torture language in the defense appropriations bill have reached an impasse.
The administration fears the McCain provisions could limit the president's ability to stop a terrorist attack, and it has been seeking to add language that would offer some protection from prosecution for interrogators accused of violating the provision.

But the senator has rejected that. Instead, he has offered to include language similar to that in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It would allow accused civilian interrogators - like military interrogators - to defend themselves if a reasonable person could have found they were following a lawful order about treatment of detainees.
The white house is fighting the McCain legislation tooth and nail behind the scenes while publicly proclaiming every time they have the chance that we do not torture. There is a basic disconnect here. Either we do not torture in which case the Senator's legislation is not objectionable, or we do torture. The only way this administration can claim it does not torture is to redefine the practice in such a way that only the most severe treatment can be called torture. Senator McCain would define the techniques that could be used to not include practices this administration wishes to not be defined as torture.

Next issue: President Bush has has signed an order streamlining the processing of Freedom of Information Act requests:
"It's positive in the sense that it puts the president on record as recognizing that there is a problem with the FOIA process," said Mark Tapscott, director of the Center for Media and Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation.

"But the negative is that the focus is on process rather than getting at the root problems - too broad exemptions and complete lack of any penalties either for individuals or agencies that violate FOIA," Tapscott said.
In other words, the streamlining of the process simply means that requests will be rejected faster, not that more information will be made available.

Final issue: The president today claimed responsibility for the Iraq war while admitting that it was based upon faulty intelligence:
"It is true that much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong," Bush said. "As president, I'm responsible for the decision to go into Iraq."
On first blush this may seem to be some sort of mea culpa. I mean it is perfectly obvious the president was responsible for this war before he came out and owned it today right? It also has been perfectly obvious for quite some time that the intelligence misused by the administration to justify the war was bad. So what point is there for the president to be revealing these truths at this point of the game? Well the point of this presidential admission, as well as the real point behind my raising the three issues in the same post is this!

The response of the administration in all three cases means precisely nothing, while appearing to be an actual attempt to address the negative consequences of their governance. This is the way this crew works. They publicly appear to be working to address the obviously wrong headed way they govern, but really nothing constructive happens. Publicly proclaiming we do not torture does not mean we do not and they can not fool John McCain with all their hot air. Streamlining the process by which this administration has fundamentally restricted release of information under the FOIA process does not mean the process is not restricted. And the president saying he is responsible for the decision to go to war, based on bad intelligence means absolutely nothing if there are no consequences for that decision. Furthermore this is no mea culpa on behalf of the mistaken president. He clearly states that given the choice, he would do it again!

I could list ten more issues where in this administration practices the same deceptive governing style. I do not wish to turn this post into a book however so I'll let it rest with this. The administration of George Bush would make Orwell proud of his ability to predict the future in his famous work of fiction.

Canada to The United States: Butt out!

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin responded to criticism by U.S. ambassador David Wilkins today.
Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin escalated a war of words with the United States on Wednesday, telling Washington not to dictate to him what topics he can raise in the run-up to Canada's January 23 election.

But U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins, who warned Canadian politicians on Tuesday not to bash the United States as part of their campaigning, denied on Wednesday he was trying to control the election debate.
This is yet another case of a Bush administration flunky denying what is self evident. Ambassador Wilkins says he is not trying to control the election debate, yet his criticism of Prime Minister Martin was in response to Martin's rhetoric regarding an issue of the election debate. I suppose Ambassador Wilkins is not trying to control the entire election debate, but he certainly is interjecting his opinion into this aspect of the issue.

It seems however that not only are the Bushovichs receiving fire from the liberals north of the border. The conservatives are none to happy about this as well: Here is Stephen Harper, leader of the conservative party:
"I actually think the (U.S.) ambassador's intervention was inappropriate... I don't think foreign ambassadors should be expressing their views, or intervening in an election," Harper told reporters in Vancouver.
Sheesh... even the side the Bushovichs want to win in the upcoming election are requesting that the ambassador butt out of the debate. It seems clear that Mr. Harper considers ambassador Wilkins foray into the debate an intervention in the election. So if everybody north of the border, agrees it is an intervention in the election on behalf of the United States, who is our ambassador to claim that it is not? He is a representative of an administration that denies self evident truths and plays in a world of fantasy... that's who he is.

We can only hope that Canada has not installed Diebold machines at the precincts. Wouldn't that be ironic. Not only did Diebold deliver Ohio to Bush, they could deliver Canada as well!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

U.S. warns Canada: Talk nicer.

David Wilkins, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, has warned the parties contesting the upcoming elections to stop being so mean to their neighbors to the south.
“It may be smart election-year politics to thump your chest and criticize your friend and your No. 1 trading partner constantly,” Mr. Wilkins said in a speech to the Canadian Club at the Chateau Laurier Hotel in Ottawa. “But it is a slippery slope, and all of us should hope that it doesn't have a long-term impact on the relationship.”
Well considering slippery slopes, how slippery is the slope we start down when we attempt to interject our line of thinking into the political campaign of our Canadian neighbors? Their election is their business, and America involves itself there-in at the peril of the side 'we' would like to see win the election. After all this administration is intensely unpopular with Canadian population, and the perception that George Bush or Mr. Wilkins would be happy with a particular outcome is certain to improve the prospects of the opposing party. One can only imagine the pained expression on the faces of the Conservative party leadership as news of Mr. Wilkins bluster broke.
“The last time I looked, the United States was not on the ballot for the Jan. 23 election,” Mr. Wilkins said to scattered applause.
Well we are now Mr. Wilkins... and your conservative buddies to the north are none to happy to see that development:
The Conservative Leader sent an open letter this week to the right-wing Washington Times newspaper, repudiating much of a recent glowing commentary that painted a potential Conservative win as “a rare foreign event that manages to put a smile” on Mr. Bush's face.

Mr. Harper also said Tuesday a Conservative government would not join the American-led war in Iraq, as some opponents have contended.
**fake news alert** According to Liberal Party candidate Paul Martin, Ambassador Wilkins has been invited to speak at daily media events until election day. **end fake news alert** If Mr. Wilkins wants to insure a conservative victory he needs to talk up the liberals... not the other way around. Sheesh, where is Karl when you need him?

As to the propriety of Canadian politicians holding forth with their opinions on Canadian/American relations... Of course the relationship of Canada to the United States plays a far greater role in their elections than vice versa. I'll wager a significant percentage of American citizens could not correctly place Canada on a world map! Who doubts that had some tremendous political issue been presented during the 2000, or 2004 elections that threw Canada in a bad light, candidate Bush would have attempted to make full political use of said issue. Or is this the ONE time the Bush campaign would have remained silent and let a political winner just slide by without exploitation. Thank goodness this post is in type, because if I were talking to you right now I'd have to pause for a moment while you recovered from the hearty laugh you just enjoyed.

The administration, in the finest traditions of the greatest example of democracy on the face of the earth, is engaged in a concerted attempt to influence the Canadian election.
The Bush administration, [author Stephen Clark] says, entered the election fray last week when it rebuked Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. Frank McKenna over Mr. Martin's “rather banal” statements at the Montreal summit.

“Everybody and his brother knows that U.S. is trying to sabotage [the Kyoto Protocol],” he said. But chastising an ambassador in such a public manner was about as serious a diplomatic move as possible, short of expulsion, he argues.

“It's very rare to do that, and it can't be an accident,” he said.

But, he argues, the Bush administration underestimates their popularity in Canada.

“The White House has made a decision to intervene,” Mr. Clarkson said. “It should help Mr. Martin, just because the Bush people are so unpopular here.”
In other words we see here a first hand example of the Bush administration making up facts (they really are not unpopular in Canada) in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and bungling their approach to the issue based upon their faith based presumptions. But I doubt very seriously that any amount of Bush administration wishing and hoping is going to change the results of the Canadian election.

So to our Canadian neighbors we say keep on giving this administration the bashing they deserve. This rhetoric is speaking truth to power, and is the path to electoral victory. According to the polls south of the border, the Bush administration is nearly as unpopular here as it is up there. Too bad we can not hold a no confidence vote of our own...

Monday, December 12, 2005

R Emmett Tyrrell Jr looks at Bush's presidency.

In recognition of the five year anniversary of Al Gores phone call to George Bush conceding the 2000 election, The Guardian asks six prominent commentators to reflect on the Bush presidency to this point.

I wish to confine my analysis of this article to the critique offered by R Emmett Tyrrell Jr, founder of the American Spectator.
Although Truman was viewed a failure, he is now esteemed as one of the "near-great" presidents. He was inspired in the 1940's by high-minded ideals, as was FDR, who perceived Hitler's threat to our civilisation perhaps even before Winston Churchill. Truman, too, was an enemy of tyranny; in March 1947, he told a joint session of Congress: "I believe that it must be the policy of the US to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures."

This was called the Truman Doctrine. Today, with minor emendations, it might be called the Bush Doctrine. Like Truman, Bush will be adjudged a failure or a success on the outcome of his "support of free peoples". His foreign policy is his greatest gambit.
First, the Truman doctrine was a response to communism. In the vernacular of the time, the foes of communism were "free peoples" by default. Yet it is clear that Truman in the cause of fighting communism had no misgiving in supporting the repressive and dictatorial regimes who supported the west against communism.

As to the wars fought by Truman and Bush, I find it hard to compare the war in Iraq with either WWII or Korea. I know many Bushovichs are fond of comparing the war on terror as a whole with WWII, complete with the analogy of Pearl Harbor to 9/11, but the conflicts as a whole are widely separated by various distinctions. We did not alienate allies with our conduct of WWII, but in carrying forth the Iraqi invasion the Bush administration has alienated the vast majority of those who allied with us in the war on terror following 9/11. The war on terror is being fought against a fundamentalist ideology, and thus will not conclude if or when we conquer the territory of the leadership arrayed against us. Rather attempting to do so would, and is, further exacerbating the Islamic world and strengthens, not weakens, our enemy. In WWII we used our military against the interests of our enemies, (Germany, Japan and Italy) yet in the war on terror we have invaded a nation that had no bearing in the war prior to our invasion. If America had invaded Mongolia in response to Pearl Harbor it is quite obvious they would have turned to the Axis for support, and our cause would have been disastrously weakened. There are several other important differences between the war on terror and WWII. The same stands for the Korean war, and if challenged I may denote several stark differences there as well, but I don't want to make this post too lengthy.

Therefore I can but conclude the Truman doctrine, designed for the containment of communism, is not comparable to the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war, unilateralism, and the spread of democracy through force of arms in the middle east. Did Truman ever start a war with another country to fight communism? Keep in mind that America defended S. Korea, we did not start that war.

Speaking about the presidents political opposition Tyrrell says:
They loathe this president. They are proud of their anger. The intensity of this anger is peculiar. After all, Bush's domestic policy is not that much different from Reagan's and his foreign policy is pretty much in line with the doctrine that Truman lent his name to and which FDR would indubitably have approved. How does one account for this dispendious wrath? More than principle or personal interest, politics is the domain of psychological need. In the case of Bush, the need of a passing Old Order to have enemies.
I find the comparison of Bushism with Reaganism here telling. It may be true that Reagan approached governance with a distinctly hands off attitude, and this may have provided the occasional embarrassment as the president was fed answers by his wife or caught snoozing during important times. But his cabinet by and large was filled with competent, if conservative, membership. Bush on the other hand has chosen a notoriously cronyistic approach to leadership roles in his administration. If he passes the buck to them on decisions, many of them can be counted on to figure out a way to take that buck and enrich themselves with it. And Bush's cabinet has proven time and again to not be interested in facts when reaching their decisions. At one point, when it became clear that the Reagan administration had sold arms to Iran and used those proceeds to fund the anti Sandinista movement, Reagan owned the truth and admitted the facts of the matter. Something that is quite honestly inconceivable from president Bush.

Also Reagan was well known for chatting up people who disagreed with him. When is the last time you have heard of president Bush meeting with the democratic congressional leadership. This president is quite simply unable to hear the opposing viewpoint and not interested in the facts if they do not bear out his side of the argument. Since normally, the facts are not with him the Bush tendency is to simply make up facts as need be.

Yes I bear my disdain of president Bush's policies as a badge of honor. How could one not be proud to stand for the truth, against torture, for science, against corruption and cronyism, against unprovoked war, and the list of Bush's abominable governance could go on for another twenty items. Darned right I'm proud of that.

Overall, Tyrrell appears to be an apologist for this administration, in the end passing off Bush's troubles due to the need of the left to have an enemy. I tend to think the Bush troubles may more appropriately be layed at the feet of inept, corrupt and blindly idealistic governance. It is not the liberals of America who have led us down this path... it is the liberals who are merely pointing to the facts of the matter while the Koolaid drinkers pretend that everything is going along perfectly fine.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Democratic strategy? It's Al-Qaida stupid!

Recently I've heard a lot of discussion about division within the Democratic party. So let me point out several facts that every elected Democrat that I know of agrees with. And how we should use these facts to unite our party and present America with a plan for Iraq.

Let us first agree on what we agree on. The enemy of America is Al-Qaida. Iraq had no association with Al-Qaida prior to our invasion of Iraq. America is fighting Al-Qaida in Afghanistan, and our cause in that nation is widely supported by the international community as well as the American public.

I believe that most mainstream Democrats would be in agreement with me to this point. There are a few prominent Democrats who do not support the war in Afghanistan, and while I hold a great respect for them, I believe the Democratic party as a whole must decline to forward their view on the Afghani war. (Sorry Cindy and Michael... love you guys but we just don't agree on this one.) With the possible exception of the Al-Qaida-Iraqi pre-war connection, most Americans be they Democrat or Republican agree with these positions because they are self evident truths.

To me the message of the Democratic party should be encapsulated in one simple saying. It's Al-Qaida Stupid! The myth of the Al-Qaida-Iraqi connection is still carefully fostered by this administration as we see speech after speech in which 9/11 is invoked in the name of staying the course in Iraq. I believe goal number one of our party should be to tell the truth to the American people. And the truth is that our actions in Iraq have, (let me emphasize the following word,)STRENGTHENED, not hurt Al-Qaida.

Well Mr. Frik you might say, we are where we are. What do you propose to do in Iraq that will not further strengthen our enemy. My answer to the readers who might so inquire is this. We must own our mistake, and take action to correct these errors. First of all on the domestic front, how can it make sense for any managerial position you can imagine to so horribly botch day to day operations of the endeavor they oversee, yet be the leadership needed to fix their own mistakes? Especially if that leadership is so unwilling to admit the mistake in the first place. When we as Democrats are asked for a plan in Iraq, after we tell the questioner that it's Al-Qaida stupid, our next sentence should be that we must replace the driver that drove this bus into the ditch and then get ourselves out of this situation. Never in managerial history has a leader demonstrated mistaken logic in such a repeated manner, yet without admitting mistakes been able to correct their course of action. After mistakenly assuring us that there were wmd, we would be greeted as liberators and Iraqi oil would pay for the war, we are now to believe this administration has it right regarding future developments in Iraq? That's just silly talk...

That's all well and good, but what about a plan once we are in power? Democrats should point to the several documented examples of our Iraqi allies calling for a timetable for withdrawal, and give them what THEY want. While the Republicans call that cut and run, Democrats should call that Iraqi sovereignty. Furthermore whenever cut and run is brought up, Democrats need to reflexively say... it's Al-Qaida stupid. We are fighting them in Afghanistan, and we should be reinforcing that front in the war on terror not strengthening Al-Qaida with a mistaken military adventure in Iraq. Democrats are not for cutting and running from Al-Qaida. Indeed it seems to me the case can be made that by not finishing the job in Afghanistan, it is the Bush administration who has cut and run from the first battle in the war on terror. And strengthened Al-Qaida doubly so in the process.

The only thing left to buttress this argument is to prove that the Iraqi quagmire is helping, not hurting Al-Qaida. This again is a pretty straight forward proposition. It may sound good to say we are fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here, but that logic is easily taken down, besides which "there" should be Afghanistan, not Iraq. There are several well documented examples of our intelligence, as well as allied intelligence, fretting about Al-Qaida becoming stronger as a direct result of the Iraqi quagmire. All we need to do is tell the truth of the matter. Our presence in Iraq strengthens Al-Qaida, and after all... it's Al-Qaida stupid.

The day that the Bush administration puts forth a speech about Iraq that does not invoke 9/11 is a day of victory for the truth. It quite frankly is deceptive advertising when they link the two. If 9/11 is the platform by which this administration justifies Iraq, that shames the memory of the nearly 3000 who died that day, and the over 2000 who have died in the war in Iraq. Let Democrats tell the truth and take away this shameful tactic so commonly used by this awful president. 9/11 was brought to us by Al-Qaida, and when it comes to how we should conduct the war on terror, let us not forget... it's Al-Qaida stupid.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Yet another 'high level Al-Qaida figure' captured in Iraq

In what has become an all too regular event, the capture of a high ranking member of Al-queda in Iraq was announced on Friday.
The American military Friday arrested a high-ranking member of al-Qaida in Iraq in the town of Ramadi, the U.S. Marines said.

Amir Khalaf Fanus, also known in the Ramadi area as "the Butcher," was wanted for criminal activities including murder and kidnapping
Well Mr. Butcher is really very lucky that Secretary Rice has clarified our position regarding detainee treatment. Under the old rules, he would likely have been at the bottom of some naked human pyramid with women's underwear on his head as you read this. Or worse. But did you notice how Ms. Rice allowed that there could be instances where our policies may be violated by rogues and miscreants in our employ? Maybe The Butcher is getting worked over after all. I'm sure Ms. Rice is keeping a close eye on the details of his treatment, unless of course some loose cannon rendered Mr. Butcher to the Iraqi interior ministry.

The real point of this post however is, how many top level officials can there possibly be in Iraq? We see headlines proclaiming these captures all the time. At some point it seems reasonable that Al-Qaida would run short on management material because their leaders are being rounded up in droves. At what point do we simply have Abu Musab al-Zarqawi running around acting the fool with a few Al Qaida grunts, because all the top and midlevel management have been captured and killed?

Well it appears that the magic has worn off with the media regarding all these high level captures. When I started bashing out this post I could only find the story on MSNBC. It just really is no longer news when we get these high profile arrests anymore. They are going to have to start doing better if they want more news coverage. I've got a great idea! How bout capturing Osama?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

John 'Bushlip' Bolton VS. Kofi 'Da Kid' Annan

Monday should be a very interesting day at the U.N. It seems that Kofi Annan and John Bolton have a disagreement to iron out and a previously scheduled meeting set for Monday will be when the figurative scatological reference hits the veritable instrument used to circulate air.

It seems that Mr. Bolton came out swinging when The U.N. United Nations human rights chief, Louise Arbour, spoke out regarding human rights being sacrificed on the altar of the war on terror.
"The absolute ban on torture, a cornerstone of the international human rights edifice ... is becoming a casualty of the so-called war on terror,"
She never actually mentions the United States, but she does paraphrase Benjamin Franklin rather loosely:
"Pursuing security objectives at all costs may create a world in which we are neither safe nor free,"

Evidently not realizing that Ms. Arbour never actually mentioned the U.S., Bolton opened wide his mustachioed maw and spewed forth the following:
"I think it is inappropriate and illegitimate for an international civil servant to second guess the conduct of what we are engaged in the war on terror with nothing more as evidence than what she reads in the newspapers,"
Keeping in mind, she never mentions America (have I mentioned that already...) it seems to me highly questionable for the American ambassador to hold forth on the issue. To me this is similar to say, the U.N. commissionerr on graft and white collar crime coming out against bribery and corruption in exchange for favorable legislation, and having the Republican congressional leadership let loose an outcry. Sometimes prudence is the better part of valor.

It is obvious who she was referencing in her remarks, yet without actually naming America does it make sense for our ambassador to blow his cool and display such a sensitivity to these remarks. Would it not be better for him to allow the stated policies and remarks of those involved with the policies speak to our innocence? Let us remember, the U.S. denies the practices Ms. Arbour was discussing. George Bush says we do not torture detainees. Condoleeza Rice just announced that we do not "render" suspects to other nations in order for them to be tortured, and America abides by international law in these regards. So in effect, by blowing his stack, Bolton has implicated us by protesting too loudly. What gives here?

And who is John Bolton as the ambassador to the U.N. from America, the great purveyor of international freedom and democracy, to lecture the U.N. on which of it's employees should be allowed to say what to whom? Being the head of the U.N. human rights division, it is entirely appropriate and useful for Ms. Arbour to voice her opinion when she sees human rights being trampled. I do not recall Mr. Bolton coming unhinged when the U.N. cited China for it's abhorrent record on human rights. We profess freedom of speech and for all the world to follow our democratic example, yet when Bolton does not like what he hears he chides the speaker.

Let me forestall an attack I can see developing from the right on this issue. Those who agree with me are not saying that Bolton does not have the right to say what he said. We are not pulling the same stunt he did. We are simply using the same right he has to voice our opinions regarding something he said. Bolton is the one saying someone should shut up when it comes down to it, not those who respond to what he said.

Well Kofi Annan is having none of it, and good for him. John Bolton is intrinsically a bully and I hope with great fervor that Annan gives whatever Bolton b.s. thats dished out back in spades. I would absolutely LOVE to be a fly on the wall in that meeting. We can only hope that Bolton does not entirely lose his cool resulting in him chasing Annan about the U.N. or some such unpleasantness. If history is our guide however, I would suggest Annan wear his running shoes.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Helen TKO Thomas vs. Scotty McTalkpoint McClellan

Whenever I find myself with bloggers block, linking to and searching for the latest press briefing by Scott McClellan oft times proves a source of material for a (hopefully) decent post. Today's press briefing did not disappoint.

In this exchange, Scotty finds himself being pummeled by the lioness of the white house press corps Helen Thomas.
MR. McCLELLAN: The Iraqi people have made tremendous sacrifices. Our troops have made enormous sacrifices to lay the foundations of peace for generations to come and help transform the broader Middle East, which has been a dangerous region of the world that has been a breeding ground for terrorism. That's why it's so important --

Q It wasn't a breeding ground before we went in.

MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, if we weren't fighting the terrorists in Iraq, they would be planning and plotting to attack America.

Q How do you know that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Because they attacked us on September 11th, they attacked us -- they attacked people in London, they attacked people in Madrid, they have attacked people across the civilized world.
Note the standard talking point delivery of Mr. McClellan which is eviscerated by the on point and pertinent questioning by Ms. Thomas. Quite simply we are witness again to the beautiful work of this wonderful lady. But let us consider the talking point expressed by Mr. McClellan.

When he says "if we weren't fighting the terrorists in Iraq, they would be planning and plotting to attack America" he apparently is under the dangerous assumption that since the enemy is so wrapped up with us in Iraq that they have given up any unpleasantness they would possibly have brought to us on the home front. Nevermind that we have conveniently presented them an extremely target rich environment smack dab in a hostile land. Evidently Scotty and the gang do not consider that when our troops are dying and being maimed by the dozens each week, that the terrorists are being given exactly that which we profess to be taking away. Opportunities to attack America! I'm certain that some wizard of white house public relations thought up this talking point, and they brought this sadly lacking logic into the public discourse to buttress their argument. Even a cursory glance at their reasoning soon points to the illogic of the argument. I mean do the American family members of the dead and wounded soldiers not believe that they are American? They are attacking us there because there is where we are... DUH.

Let us consider the absolute revision of history given by Scotty when Helen shoots his argument down in flames.
"Q How do you know that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Because they attacked us on September 11th, they attacked us -- they attacked people in London, they attacked people in Madrid, they have attacked people across the civilized world.
Sigh... Yet again, it is well established that Iraq had no part in the 9/11 attacks. So when Mr. McClellan says "they" in the above quote, they were in Afghanistan, not Iraq. So we kicked them out of power in Afghanistan in a widely supported military action. Iraq really should not be a part of this equation. Yet this administration saw fit to try to make it so, and have continuously made statements that erroneously tied Iraq with 9/11.

Then comes another revision of history. Scotty in one sentence says that the Iraq quagmire is stopping the terrorists from carrying out attacks against us because we are fighting them over there. Then he says that proof of the intent of terrorists to attack the civilized world is demonstrated by the bombings in Madrid and London. HELLO!?! Both of these attacks happened well after the invasion of Iraq, and both have been linked directly to Spain and Britain's involvement in the Iraq war. In a classic example of having your cake and eating it too, Scotty claims that the Iraq war has disabled the terrorists ability to strike the civilized world, while pointing to cases where our allies have been struck as proof that the terrorists are determined to strike the civilized world. It seems to me the logic presented by the administration would not survive a fourth grade level debating society.

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