Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Baldies blogity boo

Following are my quick hit off the cuff takes on several major news stories of the day.

Issue one: A recent poll shows that a strong majority of Iraqi's want American forces to leave immediately. My take? According to Vice President Cheney these Iraqi respondents are "morally confused". If they weren't all turst sympathizers they would be for us! Why can't we just pile them all into a naked pyramid til their moral confusion is conquered and they beg us to stay.

Issue two: The House has passed it's version of the suspected terrorist detainee bill and the conventional wisdom has it passing easily in the Senate as well. My take? SHAME! Any government official who has sworn an oath to protect our constitution is honor bound to do just that. This law is blatantly unconstitutional, and to blindly give this rubberstamp in a desperate attempt to give the President a legal fig leaf in the face of obvious war crimes will be seen by history as a sad day for once principled Republicans. Reagan must be rolling in his grave right now. Mr. Gorbachev... tear down this wall! So we can build a secret prison here and use the same methods your KGB has made notorious and we have fought against for decades...

Issue three: According to Republican House candidate Marilyn Musgrave , the most important issue facing America today is... GAY MARRIAGE! (I apologize to any conservatives who accidently read this blog and just saw the most evil two words in the lexicon today) My take: If you honestly believe that gay marriage is the most important issue facing the nation you are one of three things. Insane, a koolaid drinking wingnut, or a combination of the two. I'll bet her number two important issue is the war on Christmas... or something equally stupefying.

Time to revoke Dr. Frists Medical license?

The AMA policy regarding torture reads thusly:
Torture refers to the deliberate, systematic, or wanton administration of cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatments or punishments during imprisonment or detainment.

Physicians must oppose and must not participate in torture for any reason. Participation in torture includes, but is not limited to, providing or withholding any services, substances, or knowledge to facilitate the practice of torture. Physicians must not be present when torture is used or threatened.

Physicians may treat prisoners or detainees if doing so is in their best interest, but physicians should not treat individuals to verify their health so that torture can begin or continue. Physicians who treat torture victims should not be persecuted. Physicians should help provide support for victims of torture and, whenever possible, strive to change situations in which torture is practiced or the potential for torture is great. (I, III) Issued December 1999.
Dr. Bill Frist currently holds a license to practice medicine granted by the state of Tennessee. While the AMA does not have the power to directly withdraw that license, the state board of medical directors does take guidance for their decisions based upon the AMA code of medical ethics.

Dr. Frist is currently advocating legislation in the U.S. Senate that would allow the President of the United States to be the lawful arbiter of what or what is not defined as torture. The President in the past has vociferously proclaimed that we do not torture. He did this while condoning the technique of waterboarding which has been historically defined as torture. In order for the President to be able to proclaim we do not torture he must rely upon internal administrative findings that practices that are not the equivalent of major organ failure do not constitute torture. In the case of waterboarding however, the historical and legal precedent clearly demonstrates that the practice is in fact defined as torture.

If Dr. Frist is promoting legislation to allow the President to pursue techniques commonly accepted as being torture against detainees, how does he not violate the code of conduct regarding torture as given by the AMA. He obviously is facilitating torture in so far as he is using his leadership role in the Senate to pass a law that will result in the torture of detainees. In order to facilitate an activity it is not necessary for the accused to be the one actually doing the action. Saddam Hussein is being tried for war crimes based upon his knowledge and promotion of the events in question. No one is accusing him of personally being in the firing squads or pulling the lanyard on the artillery pieces that lobbed the poisonous gas canisters into the Kurdish areas. It is not necessary for criminals to have direct involvement in a crime they have aided or abetted. A person who contracts a murder is as guilty in the eyes of the law as the actual killer even though the contractor is not the direct agent of death.

I believe that if Dr. Frist is the agent by which a piece of legislation is passed allowing the President to legally torture that his medical license should be revoked. For that matter, any Doctor being used by the CIA or any other governmental agency to directly oversee the torture of detainees ought to have their license revoked as well.

The fact that we are even considering all this is an absolute travesty and a sad commentary on the state of affairs that the Bush administration and the Republican rubberstamp Congress have led this nation to.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Baldy's Tuesday Blogasm

Following are the short, spastic, somewhat emotional responses by me, the bald headed freak, to several of today's top political news stories.

Issue one: George Bush told CNN's Wolf Blitzer "I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq, it will look like just a comma". My take? When did we go from Iraq being the centerpiece for regional democratic change to being a historical comma? Bush PRAYS history looks on this like a comma, because if there is a long drawn out historical perspective it is going to be very tedious from his perspective. Indeed that history will be written in the blood of the victims by the thousands of this Presidents hubris and blindness to reality. The President never was much for reading, but that history is his legacy, and it is far more than a comma.

Issue Two: The President released about 1/10th of the NIE report that has proven so controversial recently. Despite the President claiming the report does not make the case that the war in Iraq has increased the threat of terrorism, the parts that were declassified stated just that. My take? Remember the good old days when the President would declassify stuff to make political points? Now he's reduced to declassifying stuff that hurts him politically... while angrily asserting that it does not. Somebody throw the emperor a towel!

Issue Three: Congress now appears unlikely to pass legislation authorizing the Presidents illegal wiretapping program: My take? The President has already claimed inherent power under the constitution to conduct the program so why is it suddenly so important to change the law to actually make it legal? Because he knows he isn't going to get that from a Democratic Congress, and despite all the bluster the legality of the program is far from certain. In fact without this legal figleaf, the possibility of impeachment is staring George right in the face. The same goes for the torture compromise, so now we just have to work to keep that from being passed.

The Algerian 6: Another Bush detainee foulup

I just stumbled across this article in the Washington Post that details the trials and travails of the so called Algerian 6.

To briefly recount the story, 6 Muslims, 5 who held dual citizenthip with Bosnia and Algeria were arrested by Bosnian authorities based upon U.S. intelligence reports that they were planning to blow up the American embassy. These men were acquitted of the charges in Bosnia, but the U.S. made a huge stink and effectively forced the Bosnians to turn the accused over to U.S. authorities when they were released from Bosnian custody. Also of note is the fact that besides the Bosnians acquitting the accused of the original charge, that American authorities have dropped the embassy bombing accusation as well, but still insist that these men ought to be held as enemy combatants.

The reasons these men are still considered to be security risks are simply unbelievable. One is being held because he is a Karate champion and taught orphans in Bosnia Karate. He is also proficient in the use of computers. Seriously! This man is not allowed to be free because he is good with computers and he knows martial arts. Another man is being held based upon the fact that he was wearing a ring that is similar to rings worn by a militant wing of Hamas. According to his wife this ring is a commonly worn anniversary symbol and multitudes of Bosnian Muslims are guilty of being terrorists if this is the standard for evidence. Another man is accused of actually meeting Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan... whilst he was actually in Bosnian custody due to the American charges in the first place.

This entire case, from the disproven bombing charge to the reasons given now for continuing to hold these men as enemy combatants fairly reeks of high handed tyranicism. This is just another of a long list of mistaken identities and false charges that have led to everything from ruined travel plans to ruined bodies and ruined lives. Where do these men go to get these years back? Can you imagine the absolute hope crushing situation facing the falsely accused? Having been found innocent they find the mundane details one could expect to find in any life used to justify their detention. You know martial arts. You're good with a computer. You helped with charity work. You are the enemy!

It is time. It is well past time. The excesses of this administration in "keeping America safe" must be stopped and repudiated. With the many examples of the innocent lives ruined, to give this administration more power to continue their mistakes is pure folly. We ought to be giving them a hard check and demand they either prove their case against these and all the rest of the detainees in fair trials or shut down the entire effort and send these people home.

The last option is not very appealing. It seems that when you hold a person incommunicado, subject to torture, based upon falsehoods and information gleaned by the torture of others, that person sort of gets radicalized against you. I mean when John McCain was released by the North Vietnamese he hardly came back the model commie convert. Heck... McCain ought to have held an expectation of long term captivity based upon his mission and it's outcome in his war. The people we are mistakenly uprooting from their homes and lives based upon lies and wrongly held assumptions have no such expectation. Can you imagine the hatred you would feel for the nation responsible for treating you, or a family member like this? We are creating enemies where none existed in the first place, and that seems to be a calling card for this administration.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Baldy Soundoff !

Welcome to Mondays off the cuff reaction from the bald headed freak (me) to the news of the day!

Issue one: The N.Y. Times report on the National Intelligence Estimate that concludes the Iraq war has contributed to an increase in the threat of terrorism rather than effectively combating terrorism. My take: Gee you think? Next thing you know we're going to discover that dams create lakes, birds fly, and George Bush is a disaster. Hardly earth shaking stuff there... unless you are a died in the wool wingnut koolaid drinker, in which case you will never hear about this NIE report because the people you gather news from do not think it is newsworthy. Oddly enough, they are sort of right about that, but for all the wrong reasons.

Issue two: Jerry Falwell says that a possible candidacy by Hillary Clinton for President would mobilize his base better than would the candidacy of Lucifer for the same office. He later said that the comment was tongue in cheek. My take: When Chavez said George Bush was the Devil, he didn't mean it LITERALLY either. I'll hold my breath waiting for the mighty righties to rise in indignation in defense of Senator Clinton... still not breathing... not gonna breathe... darn! I exhaled and learned that lesson in right wing hypocrisy the hard way I suppose.

Issue three: Three teamates of Senator George Allen when he was quarterback for UVA accuse him of being a racist and routinely using the "n" word. My take: Allen might have a bit of a race problem, but that didn't stop him from eating chicken and watermelon for lunch today. In fact just to prove how racially sensitive he is you can look forward to future campaign events where George will reach out to minorities by handing out literature at a welfare office and then hosts a bar-b-que around a large burning T... in celebration of Martin Luther King.

Point taken...

This post at Kos has a comment by bmaples that really clarified one of the issues about torture. Bmaples writes:
A meme I'd like to stop

Bill, as much as I absolutely love you (from afar, even), and as much as I almost always marvel at both your writing and your intelligence, you have repeated a meme that I would like to see stopped. Here it is:
The bottom line is torture doesn't work.
I know, and I know that you know, that that is not the bottom line. Torture is wrong because ... it is WRONG; it is immoral at best, and evil at worst.

We need to be very explicit on this. Otherwise we wind up with "well, yes, most torture doesn't work, but THIS new thing we've got always works, so it's okay, right?"

We are against torture for many, many reasons, and its lack of efficacy is certainly one of them. But at the root, torture is the same sin as racism, and oppression, and genocide -- the reducing of another human being to "the other." And we must always stand against that.
I really do not feel that my paltry intellect can express it better than Bmaples has. It's wrong because it's wrong. I just felt that the point was important enough to warrant a bit of echo from club lefty...

Friday, September 22, 2006

the growing anger

I normally don't post until late in the afternoon pacific time, but there is an event happening in the lefty blogosphere that I must comment on.

The "compromise" between the Senate "maverick" Republicans and the Whitehouse has effectively thrown a switch for concerned liberals across the nation. Before this we were upset with the direction of the nation, concerned about the excesses of this administration and mad about a rubberstamp Republican congress. This "compromise" allows the President to define lesser breaches (more Orwellian language, a breach is a breach by gum) of the Geneva Convention, legalizes past breaches of the law, and allows the use of evidence gained by torture prior to 2005.

The liberal (my) side of the American divide is erupting in protest. Unfortunately our interests are given voice by precious few in Washington D.C. these days. But this particular issue is so very important to the basic fiber of this nation that we can't just let it pass with a bit of grumbling. We must not let this pass. If not now, when? If not this, what?

Codifying into law the right of our rulers to torture prisoners ought to horrify decent Americans across the board. How it is that a significant portion of the population can be frightened into supporting institutionalized torture ought to be a frightening lesson in the use of propaganda and hysterical fear mongering by our political leaders.

Does America torture? Is that truly what we are to become? If so then we are no different than the next lawless bully who rules a nation. If we are to actually go down that road I say without equivocation... our enemies have won. They have changed us to such a great extent that we are no longer recognizable compared to what we used to be. Because of our enemy, our leaders are determined to change the very fabric of what we are. What we stand for. Over 200 years of history. Soon to be gone and with the blessing of those who were supposed to stand and protect these ideals.

So yes there is an eruption of protest by the left. The last hope for this nation is that Democrats will fillibuster this abomination. I frankly am sick and tired of the people in Washington who ought to represent me running like scared rabbits. Stand and fight. Do the right thing! STAND for what America has always been. The traditional values side could not be clearer here. Fight this or suffer the approbation of history, who will judge all of us as being the generation that allowed the American democratic experiment to derail into a trainwreck of political folly and idiocy.

America legalizes torture? Not while I sit around grousing about it... They'll do it over my screams of indignation and protestations.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Thus sayeth Baldy

Following are my (the bald headed freak) off the cuff takes on the major news of the day:

Issue 1: The Whitehouse and "maverick" Republicans have reached a deal on the treatment of detainees. My take? Only in America could an agreement between Republicans from the administration and Republicans from Congress be hailed as a compromise accord. Well only in America, the one time Soviet Union, 1930's Germany, pre war Iraq... you get the picture.

Issue 2: David Broder broadsided liberal blogs saying we are "foul mouthed". My take? Did Broder devote time to slapping down Vice President Cheney when he told Senator Leahy to "go f#$% yourself" on the Senate floor? If not... shut the f#$% up Broder! The vulgarity by this administration (I mean honest to goodness filthy language, bird flipping and so on) is simply legendary, but Broder picks on bloggers. Who has more influence Broder?! What a pud.

Issue 3: The U.N. has issued a report that actually questions if torture in Iraq is worse now than under Saddam's thumb: My take? I'm not sure that during the horrible final moments of their existence that these victims of torture really care that they are dying in a democracy or in a despotism. Let freedom reign, the flowering of democracy, all those platitudes we hear from administration spokes figures... do not sound as nice when heard against a backdrop of the agonized shrieks of the victims.

That does it for today's Friks take on... Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Friks take on...

Following are my off the cuff takes on the major political news of the day!

Issue 1: Tony Snow and Alberto Gonzalez are going to speechify along with the likes of Ann Coulter and Jerry Falwell at an upcoming conservative confab. My take? This proves that Coulter and Falwell are hopeless rightwing idealogues... I mean who else would speak at a conference which features Snow and Gonzalez?

Issue 2: The death toll in Iraq soared over the summer, and the military is warning of worse to come during Ramadan. Meanwhile Darth Cheney says given the same choice, the administration would not change a thing. My take? When is this psychopathic freak of a vice president going to be carted off in his straightjacket and left in the rubber room? Do the same thing!? That statement is as near to the definition of insanity as any I can think of.

Issue 3: At the U.N., Hugo Chavez told the U.N. that Bush was the Devil. My take? Next time Chavez should say what he really means. Besides, Beelzebub was a bit peeved at the comparison. You might not like his policies, but at least he's competent! The Devil that is.

Issue 4: Top leaders on Capitol Hill are all abuzz about reaching a compromise on the Presidents detainee... erm... what do you call it... oh yeah the word is torture. They want to compromise on allowing the President to authorize torture. Friks take? I hope and pray we don't arrive at a compromise after strapping Graham, McCain and Warner to a board and dunking them until they finally rubberstamp the Presidents version... If that doesn't work the admin could always just pile these 3 Senators and a few recalcitrant Dems into a naked pyramid. Not only would they get their legislation but it would be the final proof that these tactics really work!

This concludes todays friks take on.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Where in I try to talk like a pirate

Arrrrr there mateys, today be talk like a pirate day!

Awww shucks who the heck am I kidding... I can no more talk like a pirate than I can be milked like a cow. But that's not stopping me from tossing some linkage to my favorite blog by a lesbian pirate!

I'm just stuck for stuff to post on today. The President went before the U.N. all talking about peace this and peace that. Mr. President, I didn't know Ghandi, Ghandi was not a friend of mine, but Mr. President you are no Ghandi!

Senator Allen melted down after being asked to comment on his mothers Jewish ancestry. I'm not sure what the big deal is here, but then again I'm not some redneck voter from Virginia so maybe I'm not the guy to ask...

Dick Cheney told us that the war on terror was a "war of nerves". Maybe I'm being silly here, but the notion of playing chicken with someone who actually wants to die doesn't seem very smart to me. Can we make this a war of intelligence and technology instead. After all Patton told us that the object of war was not to die for our country but to make the other bosstyd die for his. A war of nerves against suicide bombers... thats kind of silly.

You know... I kind of like this snarky blow by blow of big daily news. I'm gonna have to start doing this more often!

Monday, September 18, 2006

With friends like Scarborough...

Today I've seen a lot of buzz on the column written my Joe Scarborough. In this column Joe advises Republicans campaigning for Congress to run from President Bush in order to be re-elected.

Believe me when I tell you that when it comes to Bush bashing, yours truly takes a back seat to no-one. So one would suppose that Joes recent rants on Bush (who can forget his segment asking if Bush was an idiot) ought to have me standing and cheering right? Hardly.

Mr. Scarborough's approach here actually is an honest assessment of the situation from a truly conservative point of view. He is not rooting for the Democrats to gain control with this column. Joe is trying to save control of the House and Senate for the Republicans.

Frankly the advice he gives is self evidently correct. Pay attention to the news and you see time and again where the President or Vice President touches down in some section of the country that features an incumbent Republican in a fight for his or her Congressional career, and that candidate has prior engagements which preclude said candidate from being seen with the President/Vice President. In fact, about the only political ads featuring Republican candidates and George Bush in the same room are being run by Dems. Obviously the President is radioactive and it just makes sense for people who want to win elections to distance themselves.

The question then must be, given the example presented by the last 5 plus years of this administration, can we expect the newfound independence of your average Republican incumbent to last past election day? Example after example can be seen of these very same Congress members rubberstamping the administrations agenda. Are we to believe them now that they claim enlightenment, or can we make an accurate guess as to future performance based upon past votes?

Let there be no doubt for the American people as they consider their choice. You can vote for Republicans, who have demonstrated time and again that if the President wants it he gets it, no questions asked, (until this election cycle) or you can vote for their political opposition. Voting Democrats into power guarantees that this President will be checked.

I would like to focus on a couple of items in particular in Mr. Scarborough's editorial. First he slams President Clinton:
So what if Bill Clinton misbehaved? At least that president found time to personally negotiate terms of subcommittee markups -- even if he was defiling the Oval Office at the same time.
Defiling the Oval Office? How many people died as a result of President Clinton's misbehavior? I can point to deaths by the thousands promulgated by the lies of President Bush. Ask me which was worse for this nation. The peace and prosperity of the leader getting some on the side or the endless war and debt of the leader who lied us into this mess. Which of these men is truly the defiler of the office?

Joe riles me up with the following pile of crap:
But these Republicans have one advantage that Clinton's party lacked in 1994: Their opponents are Democrats. The Party of Pelosi. The party that is so tongue-tied on its best political issue that I still can't tell you where it stands on Iraq. Nor can they explain how they would balance the budget or stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

That failure to present an alternative vision is in stark contrast with Gingrich & Co., who spent 1994 drawing up a legislative package, a plan to balance the budget and enough position papers to strip an Amazon rain forest.

This year, maybe Democrats can beat something with nothing. As for Republicans, their only chance of survival is blasting the president for mistakes of the past and attacking the Democrats for their failings of the future.
Please be honest here. Do you really believe that Nancy Pelosi is such a negative figure in American politics? Ask me which of the following I would like to have hung around my neck if I were running a tight race in Montana or Virginia. I can be saddled with Nancy Pelosi or George Bush. Do you think either Democratic candidate is actually going to have to make a point of running away from Pelosi? The whole point of the article is that Republicans ought to run away from the President, but somehow Pelosi is a Democratic boogeyman. Well three cheers for Nancy, because she smells like a rose compared to the effluence seeping from the White House.

And what is this balderdash attacking Dems for the "failings of the future"? What does that even mean?! I would suggest that Joe start consulting a better fortune teller because (based upon past results as previously discussed) Democratic control of Congress and/or the Presidency is actually a great barometer of success and prosperity for America. Indeed the past examples of a Republican stranglehold on political power is a great predictor of things to come should we continue down that path. America is clearly disenchanted with the path we are on... and Joe just wishes we would continue down that same old worn out path for the next couple of years.

Redefining torture... to allow cattle prods.

According to MSNBC the Administration would like to define article three of the Geneva Conventions in such a manner as to allow electrocution during interrogations:
Trying to end a protest by dissident Senate Republicans, the White House says it's confident it can reach a compromise on proposed rules for interrogating terror suspects.

But neither side is saying how an agreement can be achieved on whether to allow highly controversial methods by the CIA, such as electric shock, forced nakedness and waterboarding, in which a subject is made to think he is drowning. The Bush administration says those techniques have foiled terror plots. Opponents say they verge on torture.
I'm an opponent of allowing these techniques, and I hereby declare (and am proud to say that I must be amongst the 1st to observe) that what we are talking about here does not "verge" on torture. To use electric shocks on a prisoner, and to make them think that they will drown to death defines the word torture. If mock executions are outlawed how does waterboarding not fit that description precisely.

The article three of the convention forbids "humiliating and degrading treatment" and "outrages upon personal dignity". How in the twisted world of this horrible administration can we define using waterboarding, forced nakedness, stress positions (brings to mind the image of our Vietnam POW's kneeling on the floor with their arms hooked behind them by a bamboo rod across the back) and electrocution as not being degrading or humiliating. Of course each of those techniques is an outrage. This administration must not be allowed to use their Orwellian techniques to redefine torture.

Any American who thinks these techniques are proper in the pursuit of gaining intelligence ought to consider the specter of an American POW being electrocuted or forced into stress positions, naked, by a country who has signed the convention. We are now in the process of giving away one of the major protections afforded our service members in time of war, and the administration is trying to make this into a campaign issue! How twisted is that?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Bush pummels Powell by using strawman

The Presidential meltdown (news conference) today brought us a great example of one of the favorite tactics used by this administration in countering critics.

To briefly recap, Colin Powell has written a letter to the Senate in disagreement with the Presidents proposal to allow the CIA to torture certain terrorism suspects. The President was asked about this letter today and promptly went to the logical fallacy known as beating the strawman.

Let us see how this works shall we?
QUESTION: Mr. President, former Secretary of State Colin Powell says, "The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism." If a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former secretary of state feels this way, don't you think that Americans and the rest of the world are beginning to wonder whether you're following a flawed strategy?
Now this is a straightforward proposition. Frankly the position taken by Secretary Powell is understated. The world is not "beginning to doubt the moral basis" of our conduct. The world has already reached the conclusion that we are overbearing, inhumane, and generally wrong headed in this regard. So Powell is softpedaling this conclusion, but the President literally tries to say that Mr. Powell has called America the same as the terrorists!

Here is the Presidents reply to the question:
BUSH: If there's any comparison between the compassion and decency of the American people and the terrorist tactics of extremists, it's flawed logic.
Hah! The President actually says his opponents are using flawed logic in the same breath in which he himself uses flawed logic. The use of the word "if" as a qualifier does not justify the President then making up stuff in order to look logical. The President continued his answer thusly:
It's just -- I simply can't accept that.

It's unacceptable to think that there's any kind of comparison between the behavior of the United States of America and the action of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children to achieve an objective.
Let us be clear on this. The only person who is raising the comparison here is President Bush himself. He does so to make it seem like those who do not agree with him are the ones making the comparison. This strawman logic is comparable to someone contesting a speeding ticket in court by testifying that it is perfectly clear that they were not responsible for the hit and run down the road, so the ticket ought to be dismissed.

Unfortunately there is no judge or prosecutor riding herd on the President during these events to point out the folly of this tactic. I'm certain that there is a significant percentage of people (mainly Fox News viewers) who will see this and conclude that Colin Powell is in the process of conversion to Islam and is on the side of terrorism.

Just one further note on this controversy. Is it not telling that those who are coming out against legalizing the President to authorize torture are old school military members. But the administration is filled to overflowing with people who have never served in the military. So now we are to believe that those who have served with honor are wrong and those who dodged the draft and did not serve are right? And somehow the American people are supposed to weigh both sides of the argument and conclude that the side that wishes to abide by the Geneva Convention does not want to protect us? Quite frankly, I believe Rove has miscalculated this one...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Helen Thomas: Bush justifications "lame"

Helen Thomas writes a column that comes out tomorrow in which she pulls no punches on this administration. Here is a bit of that column as shown at Raw Story .
U.N. inspectors and two U.S. task forces spent months and millions of dollars searching Iraq for evidence of weapons of mass destruction -- the centerpiece of Bush's rationale for going to war -- but found nothing.

Reminded of this inconvenient truth during his appearance on NBC-TV's "Meet the Press" last Sunday, Cheney had to fall back on the pathetic excuse that, even though Saddam didn't have such weapons, Iraq had the capability of obtaining them. Against that yardstick, most of the world is a potential target for invasion and occupation.

The never-give-an-inch vice president concluded: The invasion was "the right thing to do" and "if we had it to do all over again, we'd do exactly the same thing."

That statement is outrageous, given the reality that none of the stated reasons for the U.S. invasion turned out to be accurate.
Amen Sister Thomas!

Incompetence is one thing. Stubbornly promoting incompetence in the face of overwhelming evidence that you are on the wrong track, all the while insisting that you are right and everybody else is wrong is simple idiocy. We are literally ruled by willful idiots.

With truths like these I am just amazed that there is actually a competition for control of the Congress in the midterm election. With the administration proving to be such a disaster, and so incompetent, it seems that right now is the time for a check and some oversight. The only way this will come about is for a change in Congress. It is clear that the American people are sick of our leadership, but there is somehow a chance that when the dust of this election settles that we will have at least two more years of the same. How is this even possible?!

It makes me wonder if the Democratic process in this nation has been irretrievably damaged by the naked theivery of the 2000 election followed by an executive power grab with an acquiescent Congress. Maybe it is time for some democratic reform in what is supposed to be the prime example of robust democracy on the face of the planet!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Mystery solved.

If anyone cares, the mystery I speculated about here is solved. To recap that mystery, the steep drop in the death toll reported by the Baghdad morgue for August had been trumpeted by the American military as proving the effectiveness of the recent security crackdown. However ABC reporters blogging from Iraq had been astounded by a clarification by the morgue which tripled the number of deaths previously reported. I had wondered at what caused the discrepancy, and now that mystery has been solved. It turns out I was right to speculate that there were machinations at work to prove a point that really was not the case.

CNN is reporting that the official tally of "murders" as calculated by the U.S. military did not report people killed by "bombs, mortars, rockets or other mass attacks when it reported a dramatic drop in the number of murders in the Baghdad area last month". The military only counted people killed by drive by shooting, execution and torture.

Seriously, the Orwellian machinations of the people in power in pursuit of justification for their policies knows no bounds. The Iraqis killed by carbombs are not dying of heart attacks or strokes! Of course they were murdered. Give us a break here and stop acting like we are children being spoonfed this propaganda.

If anything, now the effectiveness of Operation Together Forward has been called into question because, taken in aggregate, the number of dead from violence in Baghdad did not fall at all. And any credibility once held by the military spokespeople who trumpeted the reduced murder figure now has been called into serious doubt by their own duplicity.

Monday, September 11, 2006

On unity

The Whitehouse has released selected excerpts from the Presidents prime time speech tonight. The over riding theme they wish to show is what they term as a call to national unity to fight the war on terror.

How dare this President call upon this nation to unify behind him. We were unified as was never the case in history in the aftermath of 9/11. Both domestically and internationally the world rose in indignation at the atrocity conducted by Al Qaida. It is this President's boneheaded policies that have led to the division we see today. Yet he now wants us to unite behind him? How stupid does he think we are anyway?! Let us stand united behind the worst President ever and feel good about ourselves in our national resolve to ignore the disasters unfolding around us.

When Presidential candidate George Bush promised to be a uniter not a divider who could ever have imagined the world of today? The President had what he promised to deliver during that campaign, but that delivery was not by his hands. Osama Bin Laden united the nation and the world as nothing in our history has ever done. And George Bush has squandered that. By insisting that he is right even when it is evident to all that he is wrong. By his administration lackeys insisting that those who tell the truth are liars and calling into question their patriotism. By using the bloody platform of 9/11 to scare America into a needless quagmire in Iraq. By so many more divisive and wrongheaded policies... George Bush and his administration have caused deep divisions which will take generations of effort if they are ever to be repaired.

We now see what truly must be the great irony of this Presidency. It is Osama that was the uniter, and George Bush the great divider.

Mr. President... coming before us now in the heat of a midterm election, and exorting your subjects to all get on board isn't going to work I'm afraid. Frankly this pitch would be more believable if you had chosen to make it when you weren't trying to hold onto power by the skin of your teeth. If you want unity, try to govern as a uniter, not a divider. It is your actions which have divided us, not your words...

Unfortunately you have shown time and again the stubborn tenacity of wrong headed purpose which has led this nation to a sorry pass. How can we now unite behind your policies when time and again you have been proven so disastrously wrong! To follow you at this point would be equivalent to the 20/20 sighted being led by the blind. You cling to your dogma and failed policies in what can only be called willful idiocy.

In fact there recently has been a unity of purpose growing in the land Mr. Bush and Bush koolaid drinkers. And that unity of purpose is to turn your rubberstamp Congress out and bring just a little sanity to the leadership of America.

Friday, September 08, 2006

A rant on Bush blunders in WOT

The report released by the Senate today detailing in small part the deception and failings of this administration leading into the Iraq war is a very instructive primer regarding the war in Iraq in the context of the war on terror. First lets cover what the report says and then I'll give a bit of a rant about it all...

Once again, we see it proven that far from being allied with Al Qaida, Saddam considered Islamic extremists a threat. Furthermore the administrations continued use of al-Zarqawi's presence in Iraq prior to the invasion as proof of Iraqi complicity with Al Qaida is positively destroyed. In fact Saddam "attempted, unsuccessfully, to locate and capture al-Zarqawi and that the regime did not have a relationship with, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi."

This intelligence ought to be well known by the administration, yet as late a August 21, 2006 Bush was using Zarqawi to paint Saddam as being in league with terrorism.

The report notes that CIA Director George Tenet changed his assessment of Iraqi involvement with terrorism before the war at the behest of administration policy makers.

What of the use of intelligence by the Iraqi National Congress? Despite CIA and Department of Defense warnings that the I.N.C. was a tool of foreign governments hostile to the United States, most notably the Iranians, the NSA (who brings us domestic spying) continued funding them. The administration used intelligence ginned up by the I.N.C. despite numerous red flags by various intelligence agents that the sources were unreliable.

Lets just put it this way. The report says that Bushco got it wrong in just about every way they could do so as far as the report is concerned. So onto my rant.

The damage done to this nation by this administration in carrying forth retribution for what amounts to a personal grudge by President Bush against Saddam Hussein can not be underestimated. The men around the President who helped lead us into this pit based upon misbegotten ideological fantasies bear responsibility as well. They must... MUST... be held to account for this criminal enterprise that has so damaged this nation.

You may say, "golly frik, you're going a bit off kilter with this aren't you?" Here is why I feel the need to scream this from the rooftops. I am full well aware of the absolutely deadly struggle we are engaged in against Islamic extremists. This is a war that we must win. And our leaders acting like willful idiots in the face of this threat is costing us blood, treasure, and the international good will so important in winning this struggle.

I am reminded of the unification of America in our national purpose, and how the rest of the world joined us after the horrible events of 9/11 in stamping out the Taliban. That was America responding to the terrorists who hit us as the rest of the world cheered us on. It is our obligation to the dead of 9/11, and the well being of America to get this right!

But this administration had to use the platform provided by the horror of 9/11 in order to promulgate a needless war in Iraq. Osama Bin Laden united America and the world, and George Bush has been the cause of calamitous division. He has accomplished this division in possibly the most idiotic, boneheaded fashion possible. How are we to win the real war on terror when, with very few exceptions, the rest of the world views us as the heavy handed cowboys that George Bush personifies? Battle for hearts and minds? Let us bomb them into submission, and threaten them... and make them love us!

I agree whole heartedly with the President in that we are indeed in a struggle which we must win. Yet we are witness to the meltdown of Iraq, and lately of Afghanistan, which is the real war on terror. If you follow the news you have to be simply shocked at the state of affairs in Afghanistan. The area of control by the Taliban now encompasses the southern half of that nation, and the Nato commanders are calling for more troops. THAT is the war we should be fighting. You would not hear a peep of dissent from this liberal if only we fought that war intelligently and let that be the major front in the war on terror.

Invading Iraq is like Roosevelt invading Mexico in response to Pearl Harbor. The Axis probably would have loved to have Mexico be the central front in WWII but our leadership wasn't idiotic enough to do something like invade a nation of no consequence in the war we were fighting. The war in Iraq being foisted on us as part of the war on terror will go down as the biggest strategic blunder in American military history. It has strengthened our enemies, weakened our military force and lost the support of most of the world for our cause.

Now it is clear (for anyone who doesn't drink the koolaid) that we were played like a fiddle by the Iranians. How is it that the nation with millions of loyalists in Iraq embedded all around our occupation forces, and intent on expanding their influence and power was the major winner of the Bush Iraqi blunder? And the other major winner is Al Qaida! Good one Mr. President.

Yet the President is now in full fevered get out the wingnut vote campaign mode, trying to make us think it is because of his enlightened policies that America is winning the war on terror. If this is winning imagine how well someone with a bit of reasoning and intellectual curiosity could do in the Whitehouse.

I'm waiting for the October surprise. My money is on killing or capturing Osama... because the political mileage from that coup needs to be realized right now from the administrations perspective.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Using torture to get votes

The President speechified yesterday (2 months before the mid term elections) and made several proposals and announcements that were intended solely for domestic political consumption. Let us consider the ramifications of the Presidents course of action in regards to suspected terrorists and their prosecution, and how the electorate is liable to respond.

Let us start with the observation that the Army field manual which dictates treatment of detainees under military control was released the day of the Presidents speech. It is clear that the manual only applies to detainees under military control, and not interrogations conducted by the CIA on foreign soil. In fact the President asserted in his speech his determination that detainees under CIA control ought to be harshly interrogated, and the State Department has reserved the right to have terrorism suspects captured in the future interrogated by the CIA.

Let there be no doubt. By all commonly accepted definitions the tactics employed by the CIA are torture. The uncommon definition of torture previously adopted by this administration ( only pain equivalent to major organ failure) was simply a figleaf allowing extreme tactics before the uproar over Abu Ghraib and Senators Warner/McCain put a stop to use of those tactics. Yet we now know with a certainty that the administration fully intends to use these tactics on future "high value" detainees. The President is able to say they don't torture because their definition of torture is outlandishly hard to attain.

Which brings us to the issue of what constitutes evidence. I contend that one of the reasons the administration wishes to keep evidence against suspects secret is because that evidence is gained through torture (as commonly defined). The problems with that evidence ought to be clear to anyone who gives a second of thought to the matter. Suspect A is tortured, tells the interrogators what he thinks they want to hear so they will stop, and accuses suspect B of involvement with terrorism.

In fact this has happened on several occasions, the most recent being the arrest and interrogation of Rashid Rauf in Pakistan. Pakistan broke (polite term for tortured) Rashid which led to him accusing his brother who lived in Britain of conspiring to blow up airliners bound for the U.S. This confession in turn led to the arrest of dozens of supposed terrorists in Britain and a huge scare over airline travel that nicely coincided with Ned Lamonts victory of Bush buddy Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Democrat(ic) primary. A couple of weeks later though, Rashid's brother was released from custody with no charges. The release was hardly attended with the fanfare and scare mongering the arrests were made with however.

So this leads me to wonder why the administration wants to try terror suspects but keep the evidence that is used against them secret. The notion that to bring the intelligence used to accuse the suspect to their attention is to expose intelligence assets is not believable. This nation has a long and distinguished history of bringing international criminals to justice in our justice system. There didn't seem to be a problem convicting Manuel Noriega. There is a reason the druglords of South America fear extradition to the United States. It is not because they are afraid we will expose our intelligence sources when we try them!

Even closer to the point, America has a history of prosecuting international terrorists successfully as well. Omar Abdul-Rahman (widely believed to have been one of the top spiritual guides for Al Qaida) and Ramzi Yousef quickly come to mind. With this history of success in prosecuting international criminals and terrorists based upon sensitive intelligence precisely why would the administration wish to hide the evidence against terror suspects? What has changed?

Because now that evidence may be based upon torture. Be it torture at the hands of the CIA, from suspects rendered to other countries who do the dirty work, or from intelligence gained from nations who torture their own citizens. In fact the administration wishes for these trials to proceed with the implicit acknowledgement that intelligence gained by (commonly defined) torture be allowed as evidence against the accused. (They call it coercion) It is definitely in the interest of this administration that this evidence be allowed, but not brought before the public. You can't have the public feeling sympathy for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed when they find out he was waterboarded and when that didn't work the CIA authorized even worse treatment, to the point of holding his pre teen sons in custody and using them to make him talk.

Quite simply, this is heinous. As the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan (one of President Bush's allies in the war on terror) Craig Murray says, relying upon intelligence gathered in this fashion is selling our soul for dross. Our Uzbek allies boil their muslim terror suspects alive. I'll bet they get all kinds of great intelligence!

Military lawyers are not on board with this program. They fear that if the U.S. uses this logic that future POW's would face the same sort of treatment. For that reason I don't think it will be possible for the President to use this tactic to get votes by portraying Democrats as weak on terror. When the military itself calls into question the Presidents line of reasoning it is not going to be easy to say that Democrats are out of line on this one. In fact Republican Senators Warner and McCain are off the reservation on this one too.

This just leaves me shaking my head and wondering. How cynical is it to try to use the torture of terror suspects in an attempt to get out the vote? More importantly, will it actually work?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

ABC gets something right...

I know this is lets blast ABC month with my fellow bloggers on the left, (and they richly deserve it all) but I need to point out a story ABC is running on their webbie which corrects a bit of propaganda that's been floating about for the last month or so.

The headline reads What Dropoff? August Death Total in Baghdad Morgue Triples . The story details how the Baghdad morgue has just revised it's total death count for the month of August upwards by triple the previous reports!

Anyone who follows the news at all knows that the administration backdoor drafted thousands of formerly inactive reserve troops and moved thousands more from other parts of Iraq to Baghdad in order to participate in Operation Together Forward. This operation was a collaboration between the Americans and Iraqi security forces to establish secure zones in neighborhoods and then expand those zones. As proof that the plan was working, anyone following the news was regaled with evidence of the operations effectiveness as shown by the lesser amount of deaths reported by the morgue. Now we learn that the true numbers are roughly equal to the numbers before the operation.

I wonder exactly how it is that so many dead bodies were never reported in the 1st place. How many people do you suppose were convinced that Baghdad was becoming a massive Greenzone of safety because the proof was in the numbers. Numbers that upon further reflection show what a trainwreck the Iraqi quagmire has become.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Army sells out our troops, literally

The crowd that continuously trumpets their support of the troops is bringing us more of the same ol same ol. Remember the lack of body armor and up-armored Humvees? Now we have the Army stopping deployment of a very effective anti-RPG system.

The Israelis have developed a system that recognizes when an RPG (rocket propelled grenade) is fired and launches a counter strike that is highly effective at stopping the projectile before it reaches it's target. In testing the system performs nearly flawlessly. The Army planned to deploy the system on a couple of vehicles being sent to Iraq but that plan has been stopped. The reason this system will not be deployed is because one of the Armies largest contractors is developing a system that will compete with the Israeli system.

The product currently being offered for deployment is remarkably proficient in testing. Out of 30 tests it destroyed the RPG 30 times. The one test that had less than perfect results was due to the counter battery striking the RPG in the tail. By all standards this system is highly effective at killing one of the greatest threats to life and limb of our soldiers deployed in Iraq.

Sounds like a great idea on the surface. The trouble starts when the Army declined to deploy the Israeli system, and the reason should be absolutely shocking for anyone who cares about the health and well being of our service members. Raytheon has been awarded a massive contract to develop an anti RPG system. To deploy the already tested system is to place the still to be developed Raytheon contract in jeopardy.

The Raytheon system won't even be ready for testing until 2011 at the earliest. I guess our soldiers will just have to cross their fingers and trust the enemy doesn't target their vehicle for the next 3 years. Or even better would be for the citizenry to elect a veto proof majority of Dems to Congress and have us vote some sanity into Washington.

When oh when will this nation be freed from this greedy, uncaring, deadly, incompetent group of thugs currently in power?

Hell freezes over: I agree with the Pope!

The Vatican must be trying to discombobulate liberals... because when I read this article on MSNBC about Pope Benedict's stance on a red hot political/social issue, I went into it thinking our views would be polar opposites. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The story details Pope Benedict's determination to publish the proceedings of a weekend seminar on evolution. In what must be a sad example of my prejudices on any given issue of social import that I take an interest in the news, I fully expected this seminar to validate the King James creation account. Nothing could be further from the truth! Check out some of these quotes from the story:
The minutes, to be issued later this year, will show how Catholic theologians see no contradiction between their belief in divine creation and the scientific theory of evolution, they said after the annual closed-door meeting ended on Sunday.
Which can only mean one of two things. The Pope doesn't understand evolution, or he isn't hide bound to the literal interpretation of creationism as laid forth by the "Judeo/Christian" biblical account. Turns out the answer to this conundrum is the 2nd option:
Unlike creationists who oppose the theory of evolution, the Catholic Church does not read literally the Biblical account of God creating the world in six days.
It also turns out that I wasn't the only interested party who thought that the Pope would take this chance to issue directives supporting the so called intelligent design theory of creation:
Advance media speculation had said the debate might shift Vatican policy to embrace "intelligent design," which claims to prove scientifically that life could not have simply evolved, or the "creationist" view that God created the world in six days.

"It wasn't that at all," Father Joseph Fessio S.J., provost of Ave Maria University in Florida, told Reuters.
So far so good. Now if there is going to be a difference betwixt the Pope and I on this issue, it would have to be in what science has to say about how all this got started. That is after all what this comes down to when all is said and done. It is my humble opinoin that what should be taught in science class is the science and the religious viewpoint ought to be taught in religious/philosophy class and never the twain shall meet. Well it turns out there really is no difference at all between my opinion and the Vatican on this:
"He said this meeting could be an impulse to revive the discussion between theologians and evolutionists," said Father Stephan Horn,


"He's been concerned for a long time, and especially now that he is pope, about fostering a discussion between faith and reason," Horn said by telephone from Rome.


Benedict and Schoenborn have said several times over the past year that intelligence in the form of God's will played a part in creation and that neo-Darwinists who deny God any role are drawing an ideological conclusion not proven by the theory.

They say they use philosophical reasoning to conclude that God created the world, not arguments which intelligent design supporters claim can be proven scientifically.

"There's a controversy in the United States because there is a lack of awareness of a thing called philosophy," said Fessio, whose Ignatius Press publishes Benedict's books in English.

"Evangelicals and creationists generally lack it and Catholics have it," he said.

"When you look at the world and see what appears to be order and design, the conclusion that there is a designer is not a scientific conclusion, it's a philosophical one."
Well let the evangelicals chew on that for a bit! Quite simply there could not be a better mix offered of religion and science in discussion of the controversy. Quite simply there is philosophy, and then there is science. The only trouble I would have going forward would be to have the Vatican now declare that philosophy ought to be taught in science class. Coming from the Pope, one would expect a certain amount of spiritual guidance on the subject, but they very carefully deliniate the science from the philosophy.

They do make the point that teaching evolution as simply a Godless process is a philosophy of it's own. By and large however, the point of evolution is not to disprove God. The science can not and does not claim to speak to that particular issue at all, because it is intrinsically philosophical. Science is what it is, and it is not a tool that is often used to prove or disprove God. Unless you are an evangelical zealot trying to push your view in science class that is.

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