Friday, December 29, 2006

Happy New Years!!

I'm away from the puter until the 2nd, so here's wishing any who may read this blog from time to time a fantastic New Years.

It will be even better than 2006, and we got a lot done this past year. Keep on plugging!

The state of todays journalism

There is a lot of attention being given to the rather ridiculous permutation of reality given us by White house toady Fran Townsend when discussing the continued freedom of Osama Bin Laden. This regards an interview by the White house correspondent for CNN, Ed Henry of Townsend. Here is a copy of the transcript of the exchange on CNN's Situation Room:
HENRY: You know, going back to September 2001, the president said, dead or alive, we're going to get him. Still don't have him. I know you are saying there's successes on the war on terror, and there have been. That's a failure.

TOWNSEND: Well, I'm not sure -- it's a success that hasn't occurred yet. I don't know that I view that as a failure.

Look, we can't do it alone. We understand from the intelligence that he's most likely in the tribal areas. They are inaccessible. They're difficult to reach. It's difficult terrain. And, oh, by the way, it's part of the sovereign country of Pakistan. The Pakistani governments has reached agreements with tribal leaders. We've got concerns about that.

HENRY: Are there enough troops there to get him? You've heard that charge from the Democrats repeatedly, going back to the 2004 campaign.
Orwellian language could not be better demonstrated than to define failure as success that has not yet occured, but is not failure. I'm not actually poor either... that bag of gold the aliens are going to beam onto my porch simply hasn't materialized yet.

The obvious put downs and cry for an expression of logic, or even sanity to counter the stupidity of this Townsend toady is glaring. And it is this glaring lack of followup on the part of Henry in the face of such inanity that causes me to put finger to keyboard. Is Henry some type of zombie koolaid drinking robot from Mars to not interject in amazement when this happens during his interview? How can he not react to that?! It's like Townsend has just tossed forth another talking point which Henry was entirely expecting, which talking point Henry allows to float about in our collective consiousness, unrebutted... simply looking at a piece of paper with his questions bullet pointed for his robotic monologue.

Here is how the interview would have appeared had Keith Olbermann been the interviewer:
Olbermann: You know, going back to September 2001, the president said, dead or alive, we're going to get him. Still don't have him. I know you are saying there's successes on the war on terror, and there have been. That's a failure.

TOWNSEND: Well, I'm not sure -- it's a success that hasn't occurred yet. I don't know that I view that as a failure...

OLBERMANN: (interupting) You CAN NOT be SERIOUS Ms. Townsend. Do you realize the construct of the sentence you just uttered? You my good madam have crossed the line of decency in evidently questioning my and my audiences intelligence in such a bold manner. I call upon you, madam, to retract that statement.

TOWNSEND: Blubber blubber blubber, sputter, half apology, semi retraction, splubber, attempt to fillibuster etc...

OLBERMANN: Well I suppose that is the best we may expect from you maam. I will accept the... (pregnant pause) correction and follow on. Why is Osama Bin Laden, who is responsible for the deaths nearly 3000 Americans on 9/11 still broadcasting terrorist propaganda from Pakistan, but we are about hand Saddam Hussien, who had nothing to do with 9/11, over to his exectutioners, at the cost of another 3000 dead Americans madam?
Quite simply the non response of Henry to the Townsend silliness speaks volumes of the state of the media in America today. They are sleep walking, mailing it in, going through the motions... just not with it. I find it hard to comprehend how any self respecting journalist would let the Townsend gaffe just slide by like it was just another talking point... somehow just another point of view that needed to be an unchallenged part of the discourse.

Important understandings

Yesterday the President met with his advisors and then spoke with reporters. The key word of the day for this event was "important". The White house transcript of the event covers five paragraphs, and the word "important" can be found in that transcript six times.

Here is the important part of this important briefing by this important President as far as I'm (who is not very important) concerned:
I fully understand it's important to have both Republicans and Democrats understanding the importance of this mission. It's important for the American people to understand success in Iraq is vital for our own security. If we were to not succeed in Iraq, the enemy -- the extremists, the radicals -- would have safe haven from which to launch further attacks, they would be emboldened; they would be in a position to threaten the United States of America. This is an important part of the war on terror.
Let us dissect this particular statement by Bush. He says "I fully understand it's important to have both Republicans and Democrats understanding the importancce of this mission". What he really means is he thinks it's important that Democrats knuckle under to his view on the matter. He wants the Democratic majority just elected to Congress based in large part on the dissatisfaction of the American voter with the Presidents conduct of the war, to understand that Democrats now need to follow his lead. It goes without saying from the Presidents perspective, that Republicans must also reach this understanding.

Regarding this particular sentiment by the President, let me as a voter who expressed my opinion on the Presidents Iraq policy with my vote in November, affirm my understanding on that policy. My view on this has not changed since the November elections, mind you. The President has mishandled each and every important issue he has considered in this entire sorry war. He misunderstood the intelligence in the leadup to the war, and the parts he did understand he misrepresented to Congress and the American people in an effort to influence opinion into favoring the invasion. This is important! This administration mishandled the very basic security on the streets in Iraq in the immediate aftermath of the victory, which lead to widespread lawlessness. Again, this is very important. The administration erred in dismantling the Iraqi military at the behest of Rumsfeld and Bremer. Important stuff here.

You can go up and down the line on important decisions made by this administration in respect to this war, and find near unanimity on wrong headed decisions. The accumulation of wrong headedness has led to the disastrous state of affairs this nation faces in Iraq right now. Indeed, this administration has seemed to revel in it's own ignorance, with the President belligerently refusing to face reality. How can anything be more important to the process of decision making than for the decider to have a grasp on the reality of the matter on which they are deciding?

Knowing then that the President has made decisions based upon a stubborn determination to avoid reality, and that these decisions have time and again proven disastrously wrong, exactly why is it that we ought to all wait in eager anticipation for the Presidents decision. If history is our guide the President will make the wrong decision. If anyone can justify expecting a different outcome I think we could make a case for that persons insanity. To continuously do the same thing expecting a different outcome is crazy. Those who continuously support the President expecting him to get it right one of these times follow that pattern.

Let us consider the rest of the Presidents statement: "If we were to not succeed in Iraq, the enemy -- the extremists, the radicals -- would have safe haven from which to launch further attacks, they would be emboldened; they would be in a position to threaten the United States of America. This is an important part of the war on terror. "

It is precisely because of my concern (remember, I'm one of those voters who sent that message in November) with our position in the war on terror (for lack of better terminology, let me use that admittedly imperfect term) that the Presidents blundering in Iraq is so objectionable. I honestly and deeply understand we face a lethal enemy. The Presidents actions in Iraq have strengthened our enemy. This again is very important. It seems clear to me, being a voter who sent a message in November, that when we fight against an enemy our actions ought to weaken, not strengthen them. That truism just makes sense to me... The war in Iraq has manifestly strengthened our enemies and trying to preach that we are fighting this war to defeat them is just another example of this administration bull headedly refusing to acknowledge reality.

There is one final question I would consider in all this deciding being done from Crawford Texas. In drawing up his plans, has the President actually consulted with the Democrats he is so intent on reaching across the aisle too? I understand he was on a listening tour, and I've seen the pictures of him sitting in a room surrounded by the media with Pelosi and Reid. However will the President actually take the time to hold talks with these important people about this important issue in particular? Or will he just announce his decision and expect the rest of Washington to play along? I see a crisis coming... a very important crisis between a President with 12% approval on his handling of the Iraq war, and a newly installed Democratic majority in Congress who must stop yet another mistaken policy decision by Bush.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Of partisanship and the scared Republican

Reading the report by Bob Woodward detailing the conviction by Gerald Ford that the war in Iraq was a mistake, I recalled all the other times we have had important Republicans make such pronouncements, BUT only after it was too late for their stand on the issue to have a positive impact.

I am particularly troubled by the tardiness of former Secretary of State Colin Powell to the discourse on this issue. It was widely known at the time that Powell was against the war, but somehow this administration was able to use his voice before the security council of the U.N. to lay out a falsified case for the invasion of Iraq. Powells secretary Col. Lawrence Wilkerson claims that this speech is the "lowest point" of his life.

Yet despite the open secret that Powell opposed the war, and knowing his doctrine in the conduct of war once war is inevitable, it was not until after the 2004 election that he resigned his office. It was over a year after his resignation, and well after Wilkerson launched his truth to power campaign that Powell found the ability to publicly question the administrations policies.

Colin Powell, is symptomatic of a code of silence out of loyalty to the party, that has allowed policies from this President that are obviously damaging to our nation to be carried out without question. The Republican rubberstamp Congress is another party to this travesty. The Congress is constitutionally charged with oversight of the executive branch, regardless of the political affiliations of the parties in power. Never did an executive need oversight as does President Bush, but he was allowed to carry on as he saw fit while Congressional leadership buried their collective head in the sand. Now the newest member to join the long line of Republicans who did not stand up until it was too late is the recently passed Gerald Ford.

Please don't misread me on this. I'm not here to slam Ford around. This is my take on the entire phenomena in question, not on the failings of one man in particular. Indeed I believe that many Democrats are also responsible for not standing up to Bush, even when it was not popular to do so. However, having Democratic sniping of Bush is rather to be expected, and for that reason when it happens it can be disqualified to a certain extent as partisan in nature. Having Republicans take a turn at debunking obviously failed policy is what the country needed, and precisely what we did not get until it was too late. And now it is too late. As the President says, "we are where we are", and it is the partisanship of Republicans who knew where we were going but did not speak out that has helped to lead us there.

I understand there is precedent for ex Presidents to not come across too harshly on the actions of the sitting President. However there has to come a point where a person, simply as an American citizen says to themselves that precedent must be damned. The drive to a destructive policy, dooming this nation to untold calamity with the loss of blood and treasure is too great an event to allow to pass in silence. If Ford and Powell saw this truth they did themselves and this nation positively no favors by staying silent.

Frankly I am convinced another factor that went into the wall of silence on the drive to war in Iraq was fear of the administration if a Republican were to cross them. The example provided to the world by Valerie Plame would tend to bear witness to that fear. Still one must draw the balance here... is it ok to sit silently while the President leads the nation to disaster because of personal discomfort at speaking the truth. Where is the sense of duty and patriotism to this nation?

I think history will be the harsher judge to Powell, but the after the fact Woodward revelation is not a positive in my eyes for Gerald Ford. One must wonder how many more Republicans are going to come forward in the future to detail their opposition to a failed Bush policy, before it was enacted, and which they did not protest while they could have had an effect on the matter in question.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Begging your pardon Mr. Ford

Let me start this post with some nice things to say about President Gerald Ford. It is fitting when one passes the mortal plane that those left behind reflect upon the good things the one who passed brought to our lives.

Ford was President when I was a kid, so my interest in politics was nil at the time. I remember my dad (an Assemblies of God minister) announcing at the beginning of a church service we normally held on Wednesdays that the evenings service would be interupted so that we could watch the announcement of Nixon that he was resigning. Obviously this was very important to the adults, but as far as I was concerned the big event was not having to sit for the normal amount of time during that meeting!

I don't recall anything Ford did that I was personally aware of during his Presidency. I don't even recall the controversy over the Nixon pardon. My earliest interest in politics came during the Ford/Carter election when my middle school held a mock election and I voted for Carter, because my parents liked him.

Once I became cognizant of politics, (starting in the mid 80's) whenever I considered Ford I thought of him as a moderate, kindly, affable character. I couldn't imagine Ford running an Atwater/Rovian campaign, which came into vogue in Republican circles with the Nixon dirtiness. On a personal level I'm certain Ford would make for interesting conversation over a drink, and we could even invite Shrub along to make for a rolicking good time.

Having said all that, the true intention of this post is to express my belief that Ford's pardon of Nixon, while intended to heal the nation, has lead to further insults upon our constitution by the very same political faction who needed to be taught a lesson about the rule of law in the mid 70's. Republican criminality lead to the Iran Contra scandal of the mid 80's, and to the current state of affairs with a President who doesn't seem to recognize his limitations under our constitution. The example provided by Ford was not one that called future administrations to respect the law.

I am convinced that if Nixon had been called to account for his nefarious activities that future Presidents would have considered that legacy when deciding whether or not shady conduct would be acceptable. I am also convinced that Ford set a lousy precedent which made it easier for Bush 1 to pardon people like Cap Weinberger for their involvement with Iran/Contra.

Maybe the Nixon pardon was the easy way out at the time, but what began as the easy way has morphed into a slippery slope of administrations who thumb their nose at the constitution with seeming impunity. Particularly the faction in control of the executive branch at this time. Many of the same characters who ran the Nixon Whitehouse and even more convicted of felonious conduct in Iran Contra are currently in power. Looking at the pardon in that light, we may consider that Ford was actually selfish. He took the easy way out to the detriment of future generations of Americans.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Devious Birds, Frogs, and Pres. Bush

There is a fascinating article in the science section of the N.Y. Times regarding the benefits of deception to an individual in a group. Why do most of the animals in question present factual information about themselves or their surroundings, but some other deviants present falsehood, which often leads to the benefit of the deviant?

The article presents this conundrum. If there is an advantage to be gained by falsehood, then why doesn't every other individual use the falsehood in trying to gain the same advantage? For instance, as described by the article, some birds use alarm calls to warn of approaching predators, but every now and then some miscreant bird will use that call to scare another bird from a food source. Thus the feathered miscreant is able to eat more, and have a better chance at successfully reproducing healthy chicks.

Frogs also have their share of neoconservatives lying liars. Frogs generally can tell the size of the frog they are thinking of challenging for territory by the deepness of his croaking. The deeper the croak the bigger and badder the croaker. Well some little toadies have learned that simply croaking unnaturally deeply gives the rest of the pond the notion that you are a big toady. Generally speaking, croaking is a legit way to gauge the size of the frog, but there are those who game the system and pass their little froggy genes on down the line because they aren't being their pipsqueak croaking actual selves.

There are several such examples of animal behavior that generally works to convey accurate information to those who know how to read the animal in question, but can be used deceptively. The problem of course is that once the deception becomes prevalent to a great extent then the original purpose for the behavior is corrupted. If every bird routinely sounds the predator alarm whenever another bird approaches a coveted food source then soon the entire community learns to not heed predator alarms. You don't have to have a science degree to see the problem here. The article describes scientific efforts to find the balance at issue: why do some animals benefit from deception and pass on their genes, but the entire community doesn't follow suit. Turns out the answer leads to some pretty complicated mathematical equations, and it probably makes sense to my wife (graduated BYU with a math major) but I just have to take their word for it.

I do see parralels in American society for all this however. I believe the determination by this administration to create their own reality is the basis for fundamental shift in public sentiment regarding this administrations trustworthiness. Past Presidents have been dishonest, some nearly patholigicaly so, but none have proudly governed in such a manner as to try to create an alternate reality of their choosing. There is an intrinsic difference in a President saying he did not have sex with that woman, and a President trying to remake the middle east in our image in contravention of all facts, figures, history and logic.

To me what this administration has attempted goes beyond the generic run of the mill day to day deception we can expect in political gamesmanship. That kind of daily political deceptiveness can be described as the occasional frog going an octave lower when he croaks. It is intrinsic in societal organizations with any group of animals including humans. We expect this low level deceptiveness and probably would wonder what was wrong if it went away. What the administration is trying to convince us of, beyond all basis in fact, is that an entire alternate reality is truth. They are taking this deception to a whole new level. In trying to create the alternate reality, they have marched us to disaster, and can not take the steps necessary to extract us from this because they can not be made to see that the reality they tried to create in the first place is not actually reality. We as a nation are caught by this conundrum. Someone needs to bring reality as it really exists to the President, and make him understand that the attempt to create the reality envisioned by his administration has led to unmitigated failure.

So we can understand the propensity of a leader to prevaricate about personally embarrasing situations. We can even understand the little lies that go into minor policy decisions. But when we hear the President and his deep throated toadies insist that the only problem with Iraq is progress isn't being made fast enough, in an effort to make Iraq a nation as they see fit, and they persist in this type of straight faced insistence that their delusions in the face of all evidence is the true state of affairs, society as a whole just has to give up on them.

On a bit of an aside with this point, this type of societal shift is actually very damaging to the insitution of the Presidency and thus to the consitution and America as a whole. It has long been the conservative ideal that government may not be trusted. It seems to be the neoconservative goal to put that ideal into deadly practice, and allow a massive groundswell of public disgust with the policies they have fostered to be the mechanism that gives Americans the anti government mindset they themselves foster. It is a horrible self fullfilling prophecy.

Back to the subject of the article and my post however. President Bush was selected to office after repeatedly asserting his moral superiority to the previous administration, Al Gore, Democrats in general, the rest of the world, and anyone who didn't go to church regularly. (The last sentence is intentionally overblown, in order to make a simple point.) He entered office based upon his supposed honesty, but in proudly pursuing policies that have no basis in reality, he has squandered the sense of honesty he once so carefully fostered. He has morphed, even beyond the miscreant bird, calling out alarms for his own base purposes to the bird insisting to all the other birds that the food is poison, or some such other alternate reality. On a grand scale he has become his own "heckuvajob Brownie": a patently absurd prognosticator about a rolling disaster of failed policy, which policy is seen by the entire world to be the failure it clearly is, yet the President insists is correct. In publicly claiming policies which are self evidently proven to have failed to be successful, he invites the public to no longer find his future pronouncements believable. The only ones who believe him now are the most gullible, or partisan in nature.

Unfortunately for us, the constitution calls upon us to have a leader who communicates with us as a society on these matters. The powers of the commander in chief are vested in President Bush. He is called by the constitution to "faithfully" execute the laws of our nation. The question I would love to have studied by a future Times article is what happens in the animal kingdom when the leader of the group continuously misleads the group, with horrendous consequence, in order to gain their own ends? If the example being set by President Bush is anything to judge by, the leader eventually makes himself irrelevant and slides into the dustbin of history as a failure.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas!

I'm off for the next few days, so here's wishing each and every one who reads this post, be you conservative or liberal, religious or agnostic, human or kitty, or whatever you are.... a merry Christmas. Be safe! = signing statment hades

So I am making my usual rounds about the internets and click on the site. I always link to current news when I go there, and today I noticed something striking. There has been a massive drive on signing statements for law recently signed by the President.

I'm certain I don't need to educate you on the constitutional insidiousness that is the Presidential signing statement, but for a bit of a primer on my thinking, check here, and here.

So there is a raft of new signing statements asserting the right of the President to re-interpret, ignore, reject, dessicate, and/or flambe' all manner of intent in several laws he recently signed. The Whitehouse appears to be especially proud of the signing statement on the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, because it leads the news for Dec. 21, in bold letters across the top of the page.

The absolute disdain with which the administration treats the Congress with these statements is crystal clear. Consider for example this gem from the start of the 2nd paragraph of statement related to the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006: "Section 2 of the Act purports to establish"...

Section 2 of the act does NOT purport anything. It absolutely establishes the lawfulness of the issue, given the Presidents signature, and judicial oversight, according to the fundamental precepts of constitutional law. It is the Presidents signing statement that PURPORTS to change the clear intent of the law as written by Congress. The true meaning of purport ("to present, esp. deliberately, the appearance of being; profess or claim, often falsely: a document purporting to be official," from in this context is a nearly precise definition of these signing statements. They purport to give the President unconstitutional powers to write laws as he sees fit, and then sign the law he just constructed.

Let us consider another section of the same signing statement. "The executive branch shall construe section 7 of the Act, which relates to establishing or maintaining certain facilities or establishments within the jurisdiction of the United States, in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority"...

Simply on it's face this stands constitutional muster. Since the President just signed this legislation into law, by conventional definition he will execute that law consistent with constitutional principles. Duh. I had to toss in that little clause about "conventional definition", because the President and his cronies intend to use the verbiage they construct regarding section 7 to proceed in a very unconventional manner in executing the law. The President would have us believe that section 7 no longer holds any weight because he writes his opinion, and then signs the law.

In fact the President purports to defy the constitution, by supposedly using the constitution. He relies upon the clause dealing with the authority of the president to do away with the clause dealing with the creation of law. It is blatant and dangerous, and must be stopped forthwith.

The constitution is clear. Each of the laws signed by the President with a statement changing the clear intent of the law, ought to have been vetoed, unless he considered his difference with congress to be so trifling that he could live with the law as passed originally. Each of those laws as sent to the President was determined by him to be unacceptable for one reason or the other, and by constitutional principle his recourse in these cases is the veto pure and simple, or living with, from his perspective, a flawed law.

If the President actually believes that a law as passed by Congress actually violates the Constitution it is his DUTY as chief executive to veto that law. By issuing a plethora of signing statements he opens the door for all of this legislation to be adjudicated as lawfully binding with his signature, and the signing statements to have no hold over their meaning. If this occurs, his cutseyness with the constitution could backfire in a massive way. Can you imagine this or a future administration being forced to adjudicate each law which President Bush has attached a signing statement to, individually in order to have the constitutionality of the law tested. It would be a nightmare for the federal court system!

I call upon the incoming congress to only issue laws which declare that the law is null and void if the President attaches a statement at signing. And I call upon the congress to challenge the constitutionality of the signing statements used to change the intent of laws passed by congress and issued to this point by President Bush.

The Rice example of the crux of the problem.

Todays pronouncement by Secretary of State Rice that Iraq was worth the cost in blood and treasure going forward brings to mind for me the crux of the issue.

One of the calculations of this administration in carrying out this war was to make sure that Americans did not have to sacrifice in the war effort. There was no war tax, no draft, no call for oil conservation, no call for sacrifice of any kind.

I believe this calculation on the part of the administration was an attempt to garner lasting support for the war. One of the driving forces for protest during the Vietnam War was the draft. This administration decided to try to keep us all fat and happy in order to keep the hub bub on the home front to a minimum. It is only the manifest disaster to America that this war has caused that leads to such deep seated disapproval of the war. Yet despite this groundswell of opposition, there are no massive demonstrations or social upheavals as seen during Vietnam.

So it is easy for someone like Rice or just about any other member of the ruling class in Washington D.C. to make such a pronouncement. (Jim Webb is a notable exception, and there are others.) After all, these elites are not being asked, or even having to ask Americans in general, to pay anything at all in order to conduct the war in Iraq. The Bush twins don't have to worry about having strings pulled to land plush assignments in order to avoid mandatory service in Iraq. The money we spend over there is being borrowed, to be payed by future leaders. It's like the blood and treasure being expended by our leadership is from some ghastly video game, and the consequence to them is solely political in nature. Can you imagine the consequences to them if the nation actually were asked to sacrifice for the effort? There would have been riots in the streets three years ago.

Of course it's worth it to them to continue this war. Being idiotic in the face of all the facts is all they can do in order to save what little is left of the one thing they are most desperate to protect, and most under assault. Their own political legacies.

They are more than happy to spend the blood of strangers, and the treasure of future generations in a desperate try to save their own reputations. Thats what this comes down to.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bush/Clinton/Bush/Clinton fatigue... sort of

One of the major objections heard through out the media when discussing the possible candidacy of Hillary Clinton for President in 2008 is that the nation is sick of the Bush/Clinton cycle. Now I'm certainly not on board the Hillary bandwagon by a long shot, but I reject the Bush/Clinton cycle fatigue out of hand as a negative for Hillary. In fact, if anything, this cycle would be a strength in Hillary's favor.

The nation has grown supremely tired of the Bush's. Jeb's recent admission on Spanish Television "No tengo futuro" which translates to I have no future, may as well have been followed up with "yo quero Taco Bell" or I would like to be hired to manage a Taco Bell, but my chances aren't so great... But trying to wrap the Bush's fortunes around the necks of the Clintons is supremely unfair.

The fact is Clinton left office with very high approval ratings, and continues to enjoy widespread approval. There is a very loud minority who will always hate anything to do with Clinton, and strangely enough those are the very same people who think that George Bush is doing a fantastic job as President. When it comes to the Bush/Clinton cycle, we can cut the Bush part out and the nation would be happier for it, but the Clinton part of the cycle still wins elections (Hillary won a landslide in N.Y.) and draws cheering crowds to their speeches.

If Hillary were to win the White House and govern with the same savvy and ability demonstrated by her husband, we may well be discussing a third generation of political dynasty, with the nation clamoring for Chelsea to run in 2014...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Iraqi army slaughters animals with bare teeth

There was a ceremony today in which American authorities turned the city of Najaf over to Iraqi control. During part of this ceremony, according to Reuters:
Politicians, tribal and religious leaders and soldiers watched displays of military prowess and one demonstration, hailed as a display of courage, in which five soldiers stopped before the grandstand to bite the heads off frogs.

A sixth holding a live rabbit slit open its stomach and ate its heart before tossing the carcass to his comrades to chew on.
To be honest, I find this disturbing. I'm a red meat eating, gun toting, raised in the wild, all that gung ho stuff American male, but there is a line I draw. One of those lines is the gratuitous infliction of pain on animals. If anything, this behavior from the military which we are handing control over to makes me fear for the safety of the town at the hands of their supposed protectors.

Civilized people do not engage in this wantonly barbarous behaviour. In fact one of the first signs of sociopathic inhumanity is the ill treatment of animals. Interestingly enough, the Reuters story concisely draws the parallel between the treatment given these animals by the current Iraqi military, and the thugs of Saddam Hussein:
Under Saddam Hussein's rule, his feared Fedayeen militia carried out similar acts, and in one instance were videoed hunting a fox and then tearing it apart with their teeth.
Maybe this is societal, and I as a fat and happy American do not understand the way of things on a day to day basis in Iraq. In fact, by and large I'm certain this is the case. But there are certain truths that ought to be set for civilized humanity. Wanton cruelty to animals crosses a bright line as far as I'm concerned. Then again, maybe this type of behaviour shows us how it is that so many people over there seem to think it's ok to drill out a captives knees before killing them, or whatever else they do to each other. This behavior seemed common practice under Saddam, and now it's even more common practice under the warlords and the ghouls of the Interior Ministry.

Well I suppose Americans can be happy that what happens in Najaf is no longer our concern. I'm not sure with the behaviour displayed by the Iraqi military today that I want to know what happens there going forward either.

Just who is un American here?

I note with growing alarm the propensity by a certain segment of society to demonize Muslims.

This especially came to my attention (I specify this, because I'm certain it was an issue prior to this, but I'm just too dense to notice) with the denunciation by Dennis Prager of Keith Ellison for determining to take the oath of office by swearing on the Koran. I honestly wonder if Prager and his supporters would rather have Ellison swear on a holy book which Ellison holds no fealty to? This story is old news however, so I won't spend any effort trashing Pragers stupidity...

The next story that grabbed my attention did not display intolerance on such a national platform as Prager enjoys, but it is instructive none the less as far as I'm concerned. The story dealt with the neighbors of a piece of property that had been purchased by a Muslim association, who intended to build a Mosque and community center on their property. One neighbor in particular was acting like a total fool, threatening to hold pig races on his property next to the Mosque every Friday in an attempt to offend his neighbors. This story to me showed a couple of things. The typical Americans understanding of Muslims is horribly lacking, and filled with stereotypes. The notion that the neighbors would denounce the Mosque by saying it would be a terrorist hotbed, and that Muslims would be offended by pig racing is just silly! Not just silly... but stupid silly.

Today there are two more stories, both dealing with nationally known conservative voices who are promoting intolerance of the Muslim religion. First: Conservative pundit Debbie Schlussel has promoted the meme, first promoted nationwide by Ed Maurice Rogers on MSNBC, of making sure America understands that Barack Obama's middle name is Hussein. Schlussel however goes beyond Ed Maurice Rogers effort, and explicitly says that Obama ought not be President based solely upon his ties to Islam. Obama is a devout Christian, but the fact that Obama's father is, according to Schlussel "apparently" a Muslim, Schlussel has the audacity to question Obama's loyalties in the war on terror.

The next ugliness to come to light is a letter from Congressman Virgil Goode, R. Va. in which he is quite explicit in his intolerance of Muslims. Goode wants to crack down on immigration, even invoking (he who must be blamed) Bill Clinton as an example of liberal immigration policies that will allow many more Muslims to live amongst us. According to Goode it is imperative that these Muslims not be allowed to come here in order to preserve the values of the United States of America.

I have news for Goode, Prager, Ed Maurice Rogers, the neighbor of the Mosque in Texas, Schlussel and the entire cadre of bigots who think like them. YOU are the anti American ones in this debate. Unless your ancestors walked the land bridge from Asia to N. America and you are descended from them to your station in life here now, you immigrated. Even the Indians immigrated, they just did it to uninhabited land. Go look at the Statue of Liberty, learn it's history and check out the plaque at it's base and then tell me how shutting down immigration is an American ideal. In fact the notion that America would shut out immigration because we find a particular religion objectionable is about as un American an ideal as I can think of. Do these bigots understand why the Pilgrims trundled over here on the Mayflower?

These voices of hate need to be recognized for what they are. Yet, just in case anyone reading this thinks I show intolerance of my own by pointing out the un American rantings of these anti Muslim bigots, let me just point out that I'm not advocating any of them be oppressed. I'm not trying to be unavoidably offensive to them. I am simply pointing out how wrong they are. It is the calls of intolerance for Muslims that call for oppression and stupidity.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Bush's final repudiation of Rummy

The Washington Post is reporting that the President has signaled a readiness to expand the size of the military.

This can only be read as the final repudiation of Rumsfeld by this administration. Rumsfeld advocated a leaner meaner fighting force, heavily reliant on technology and advanced weapons systems in order to dominate the battlefield. His goal was to make the military lighter and more nimble.

This doctrine was reflected in the wars in Afghaninstan and Iraq. We had allies in the northern alliance of Afghanistan so the ouster of the Taliban didn't require a lot of boots on the ground. One may argue however that the lack of manpower allowed Osama to escape Tora Bora, and this was a result of Rumsfeldian thinking. The occupation of Afghanistan by a light force has led to a resurgence of the Taliban and it may well be necessary to rethink our strategy. Afghanistan is the war that has broad international and domestic support, and it is in that theater that we must succeed.

The absolute failure of the Rumsfeldian view is most apparent in Iraq. Rumsfelds approach for light, quick, technologically savvy warfare led to an extremely fast invasion and ouster of Saddam from power. But the occupation was undermanned. Basic political decisions that may have led the citizens of Iraq to support democracy were mismanaged, most notably when we disbanded the Iraqi armed forces. Laser guided bombs and robotic air craft might be fantastic against set piece opponents, but we needed boots on the ground and sage poltical counsel in order to move beyond the initial military success. (Of course this assumes the initial decision to invade was unavoidable. The true blame for the disaster in Iraq ultimately rests on Bush's drive to needless war.) Rumsfelds mistake was not in conquering Iraq, but in trying to apply his new thinking to the occupation.

Bush agreeing to expand the military is the final repudiation of Rumsfeld. It is the right thing to do but I fear Bush may be sending the signals he is now in order to justify a troop increase in Iraq in the very near future. The fact is that expanding military manpower takes years. Any initiative undertaken by the President now won't see fruition until he is long out of office. I do hope he does not send the signal that this expansion means we can then ramp up the occupaiton of Iraq. The two issues simply are not related at this point.

British thinktank: Iraq war "terrible mistake"

The Guardian reports on the findings of a "leading think tank" in Britain that the decision by Tony Blair to assist the United States in the Iraq war was a "terrible mistake" that would shape Blair's legacy in a negative light for years to come.

The conclusion is self evident, but the road the think tank uses to arrive at that destination is obscure and needlessly scenic in my opinion:
A Chatham House paper on 10 years of foreign policy under Mr Blair concluded that its root failure was an inability to influence George Bush.


As so often with British prime ministers, Mr Blair thought unwavering public support for the US would bring private influence and lead to changes in US policy favouring British interests, but this had not happened.

Mr Bulmer-Thomas said there had been an "inability to influence the Bush administration in any significant way, despite the sacrifice - military, political and financial - that the United Kingdom has made".

Given the Byzantine complexity of Washington politics, it was always unrealistic to think that outside powers - however loyal - could expect to have much influence on the US decision-making process, he said.

"The bilateral relationship with the United States may be 'special' to Britain, but the US has never described it as more than 'close' ... Tony Blair has learnt the hard way that loyalty in international politics counts for very little," the report said.
So according to Chatham House, if only the Blair administration had been able to influence the Bush administration, then the Iraq war may have been considered somewhat of a success. The "root" failure is the lack of influence by Blair on Bush.

I would turn that conclusion on it's head and posit that the root of Blair's legacy troubles is the undue influence that the Bush administration exerted on him. The report (PDF file) asserts that English officials determined in mid 2002 that Bush was determined to go to war with Iraq. The decision at that time to ally with Bush, to extend diplomatic cover, and attempt to enroll allies in the effort is the defining moment of Blair's administration according to the report. The triangulation used by Blair (to influence Bush by being influenced to go along) to arrive at the conclusion that he should support the invasion is not the root of the failure. The root of the failure was Blair not resisting the undue influence to support an illegal, preemptive, unnecessary war. If Blair had stood up to this drive to war at the time, he may not have been able to forestall the invasion of Iraq by America, but he could have kept his nation clear of the looming disaster, joined and strengthened a phalanx of world opinion opposed to the war, and retained the support of his people to a far greater extent.

It is a slap in the face of our British allies that the water they carried for us (by the truckload) was not reciprocated with the consideration of important issues from their perspective by this administration. If the entire objective of an ally of America is to have influence with this administration, no matter the cost in blood, treasure or prestige, then the policies of Blair are an unqualified failure. And Blair has done more than most in supporting the Bush administration, even after the incompetence, arrogance and blind faith in idealism led to disaster. Despite all this however, this administration insists on poo pooing Blair, especially in respects to global warming.

What should Blair have expected in this regard? He more than most ought to have understood the bull headed arrogance of Bush. Blair reasoned that Bush would be reasonable in the face of evidence that Bush is not reasonable. In Blair's estimation, if England backed Bush on his major initiative, England would get some crumbs from Bush in return. Bush doesn't play that game. He takes what you give, but will not give anything up in return. Diplomacy is a meaningless word for this administration, and Blair is learning that lesson at the expense of British blood, treasure, and his own legacy.

Blair can thank his willingness to buckle under to this administration for his troubles. The reasons he buckled may be this or that, but it is the undue influence he allowed Bush to have that led him to his current state of being.

As to the effect on Blair's legacy if Bush were reasonable, I wonder how much good would have come from an empowered Blair considering the disaster that Iraq has become. Let there be no mistake from my perspective... with the notable exception for his Iraq policy, I think Blair is spot on with most issues of concern on the global stage. But as far as the English are concerned, it is Blair who led them into this. not Bush. Blair's successes would need to be monumental in order to not have Iraq overshadow the verdict of history on his legacy.

Frankly if Blair had managed to be the founding father of a worldwide political movement that reversed man kinds effect on global warming, he may well have overcome the Iraq blunder in histories eyes. Indeed if Blair had managed to set the stage for a solution to the Israeli/Palestinian issue which underlies nearly all of the troubles of that region. he may have overcome the Iraq mistake as well. The fact remains that he relied upon the reasonableness of an unreasoning President, hitched his legacies and nations wagons to the Iraq war with no promise in return, and got burned. The failure of the Iraq adventure, when considered in light of how this war affects the west in the so called war on terror, is a blunder that will go down in American history as the greatest strategic mistake of all time. If that is the case for America, the effect on our allies may not be so dramatic, but those effects must be bad none the less. It would have taken an absolutely brilliant piece of world stage craft for any Blair initiative following to make up for that type of error.

To wrap this up, let me point to the implicit support the Chatham House findings give us lefty types who have screamed from the rooftops about the downing street memo. Chatham House concludes that Blair knew nearly a year prior to the invasion that Bush was determined to invade Iraq. This hardly comports with the statements at the time that invasion would only be a last resort, and so on and on. The conclusion fits like a glove with the memo saying that intelligence was being fixed to support the drive to war. It is hard to imagine how the President intended to carry out his predetermined war by playing honest broker with information that may have mitigated the accusations that were being leveled to justify the war. The intelligence was fixed, the war was a needless mistake, and the end result has been disastrous. It is late in the game, and the consequences of this policy will be with us after you and I are long dead, but the lesson must be passed to future generations. Acting as the President did to lead us to this war is unacceptable. We must impeach the President in order to give this lesson. In matters of conduct leading this nation to war, there can be no greater burden of responsibility, and acting like a criminal to take us to war can not be tolerated.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Goodbye Kofi, with apologies

Kofi Annan is wrapping up his tenure as head of the U.N., and this seems as good a time as any to wish him well going forward. Annan has headed the U.N. during a very difficult time on the world stage, (since 1996) and his statesmanship will be missed as far as I'm concerned.

I believe Annans job was made tremendously more difficult by the selection of George Bush in 2000. The bellicose nature of the administration, especially after the 9/11 attacks made diplomacy very difficult in the big picture. Annan was always trying to moderate what the President insisted was to be handled without moderation. This could not have been better illustrated than when the U.N. weapons inspectors were invited to Iraq, and then withdrawn immediately prior to our invasion. Hindsight may normally be 20/20, but any sight in the case of Iraq is obfuscated by the billowing smoke and splattered blood that has resulted from the Presidents march to needless war. A war Annan desperately tried to stop before it started.

Kofi Annan recognized the worthiness of reason and fact finding. He was overwhelmed by sheer idiocy from Washington D.C.. As an American, for whatever little good it does at this point in time, I would like to tell Annan that he is and was right, and I'm sorry for the troubles he had to deal with due to my nations misguided leadership. I've always been impressed with Annans bearing and demeanor, and at no point in his tenure did he lose that standing in my opinion.

Thank you Mr. Annan for a job well done, and may fortune smile upon you in your future endeavors.

Open vs.closed ended troop surge...

Senators Reid and Clinton have both made statements about what the President is apparently contemplating going forward in Iraq.

I appreciate the sentiment expressed by Reid far more than that expressed by Clinton. The spin put on both statements would lead one to suppose that people who think like me would support Clinton over Reid. However a careful examination of what the two Senators are actually saying would show that the one who really wants a timeline for the troops to come home is Reid.

Here is the spin on the Clinton statement: "New York Democrat opposes troop surge in Iraq"

The spin on the Reid statement conversely is: "US troop surge OK for a few months: Reid"

But reading the two opinions in detail is instructive. Clinton opposes the troop surge UNLESS it is part of a comprehensive strategy to stabilize Iraq. Ergo the headline spin, she opposes the troop surge. Reid on the other hand supports the surge IF it is being used to bring the troops home in a given time frame. Clintons sentiment actually would lead to an open ended troop surge as part of a comprehensive plan for stability, but Reid ok's the surge only as a mechanism for ending the occupation.

I'm certain there are many readers wondering what in the world putting more troops in country has to do with ending the occupation. I'm hardly a military expert, but it seems plain to me that the very nature of the job would shift dramatically if the force were geared to ending the occupation rather than continuing it. I can imagine the boots on the ground patrolling right now aren't specialized in intercontinental airlift for example... or whatever other type duty an evacuation of that size would need. I can imagine we would need more people on a short term basis to bring home the troops.

On the other hand the Clinton statement is on open ended invitation for more, more of the same. Of COURSE the President is going to claim that he has a plan to stabalize Iraq. He's been saying that for the last three years! I don't think it's changed much over the course of time either... when they stand up, we will stand down. Sending in more troops for the forseeable future may allow us to prop up our effort, but it isn't a plan, any more so than stand up and stand down.

I don't give a fig what the spin is on these two Senators pronouncements, it is clear to me that Reid wants the troops home by a given date, and Clinton is still talking about American arms bringing stability to Iraq. I know who I'm with!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Rumsfeld takes one last shot of koolaid

Reading today's parting speech by Secretary Rumsfeld, one must be struck by just how little this man comprehends the struggle this nation faces in the war on terror. I realize coming from some obscure little pipsqueak lefty this may be provocative, so I invite you to consider these pearls of wisdom as given us by Rumsfeld himself:
Ours is a world of unstable dictators, weapon proliferators and rogue regimes. And each of these enemies seeks out our vulnerabilities. And as free people, we have vulnerabilities.
America, by and large, is not threatened by unstable rouge dictators. The enemy we face is nation less, and driven by hate for our policies in the world, especially the invasion of Iraq. It is precisely the line of thinking here expressed by Rumsfeld, that led us to overthrow the "rogue regime" of Saddam Hussein. Thus it is precisely that line of thinking that has resulted in the explosive growth in numbers of the true enemy of America in the war on terror. Indeed by ignoring world opinion and insisting that to even talk to our adversaries is wrongheaded, we would do well to consider who the true rogues truly are while this administration is running affairs.
Today, it should be clear that not only is weakness provocative, but the perception of weakness on our part can be provocative, as well. A conclusion by our enemies that the United States lacks the will or the resolve to carry out missions that demand sacrifice and demand patience is every bit as dangerous as an imbalance of conventional military power.
If we must appear so freaking invincible, I think it would behoove us to carefully consider the conflicts we decide to initiate. Having determined that looking weak emboldens our enemies it probably stands the test of logic to pick fights we will win. Touching off a bloody civil war, and possible regional conflagration, with the army we have at the time, probably wasn't such a grand idea in hindsight... Not that Rumsfeld or the crew would ever admit that. If we HAVE to win, finishing the job in Afghanistan and then taking stock at that point seems like a good bet. Too bad they were so freaking wrong, but by their own rhetoric they doom us to appearing weak and invite enemy aggression by being so boneheaded and flat out wrong about the war they chose to fight.

Speaking of doing whatever it takes to win, here's Rummy on the strength of America:
I know that the American people can summon the same grit that helped our founders forge from a wilderness a new frontier. I know it because I've seen it over my own lifetime. It's the same steel that sent our fathers and grandfathers across oceans to defend free nations from tyrants; that same grit that gave the Americans to endure 40 years of a Cold War under the specter of nuclear annihilation.
Frankly this sentiment, on it's own merit is correct. But the administrations call for sacrifice in the war on terror, or the war in Iraq, has been decidedly muted. With the notable exception of requesting the military to stretch itself thin with stop loss and constant rotations through the meat grinder of Iraq. Is Halliburton sacrificing for our cause? How about Shell or Exxon? For that matter what about you or me? I'll wager the average person reading this post would last about a week in Valley Forge or Morristown with the Continental Army... But far less sacrifice is being called upon than that invoked by Rumsfeld. Are our taxes higher to pay the back breaking debt this war has brought us? Are you being asked to ration your gasoline so we can start to wean ourselves from middle east oil? What exactly are we as citizens being asked to sacrifice, ala Rosie the Riveter in WWII who gave up her nylons and sugar for that cause? Great sentiment Rummy, now lets see this President or his flunkies get the gumption to actually ask us for that sacrifice. You think the Iraq war is unpopular now? Just wait til you have to pay a war tax! The war ends in six months if something like that ever happens.

Heres some more high falutin poo fuffery (that was Rumsfeldian I dare say) from the departing failure of a Sec/Def.
So it is with confidence that I say that America's enemies should not confuse the American people's distaste of war, which is real, and which is understandable, with a reluctance to defend our way of life. Enemy after enemy in our history have made that mistake to their regret.
Yer durn tootin we'll defend our way of life! That's why we just tossed the Republicans out of Congress. That's why the Presidents approval is in the low 30's. Our way of life, as I was raised to understand it was to stand for truth, to respect world opinion, to form alliances and value our friends. All sentiments which this administration has seen fit to discard. This administration has trashed over 200 years of American history. Torturing prisoners? UnAmerican, and something Rumsfeld approved of. Lying to the American people in order to pre-emptively start a needless war? UnAmerican, and just what this administration did. Using national tragedy for crass political purposes. UnAmerican... but Rovian to the core. Not counting all the votes, and being selected for the Presidency by the Supreme Court? So so unAmerican... but without that unAmerican event being foisted upon us at the start of this horrible administration Rumsfeld would not have ever had the job he just said goodbye too.

Lethal injection is dying

Today brings a couple of interesting stories relating to the death penalty. The L.A. Times is running a story reporting a federal judge in California has determined that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment. He previously ordered a moratorium on lethal injections in that state, and this ruling seems to insure that moratorium will remain in effect going forward.

The next story has to do with the botched execution of Angel Diaz in Florida. Diaz took twice as long as could normally be expected to expire. Witnesses describe Diaz mouthing words, and he was moving up to 24 minutes after the initial injection.

Diaz was executed after the failure of his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court which asked for them to declare lethal injection cruel and unusual, challenging the chemicals used. One of the three drugs, pancuronium bromide, is a paralyzing agent and death penalty opponents fear that inmates can not express the agony they endure until death due to this paralysis.

The California case described above even details how veterinarian standards for animal euthanasia are not met in California's death chamber. The use of pancuronium bromide is not accepted in euthanizing animals by veterinarians. Also the conditions of the chamber room itself do not meet the standards of practice for veterinarian euthanasia rooms. We literally treat the animals we kill better than the prisoners we kill. What does that say about our society to you?

This may not be as bad as having your head burst into flames as the electricity flows through your still living body, but it's bad enough. By definition, the procedure society uses to kill the inmate is traumatic to that person, and if anything goes slightly wrong in the states preparations, the excruciating death that results would define the term cruel and unusual. Ergo, as human beings are the ones carrying out the states sentence, since humans have not attained perfection, there will be mistakes. Cruel and unusual deaths at the hand of the state are unavoidable as long as the state puts inmates to death.

Another interesting aspect of the botched Florida execution were the initial excuses posited by state officials to explain the lengthy death of Diaz. State officials originally claimed that the execution took so long due to a liver condition that did not allow the drugs to be processed normally by Diaz's body. However the investigation of the death has determined that the execution was botched pure and simple. The drugs in the Diaz execution were administered to soft tissue, (the needle was inserted completely through Diaz's veins) not injected into the inmates blood stream. The medical examiner refused to say if he thought Diaz's death was painful. I for one believe if he thought it were not painful, he would not feel the least bit uncomfortable in saying so.

In wrapping this up, it ought to be obvious in hindsight that the initial reaction of the state officials were simply lies, in order to cover up the truly awful nature of Diaz's death. The officials who told these tall tales should not be allowed to simply lie about such a serious matter with impunity. It seems like a no brainer that we would want honest and trustworthy spokepeople representing law enforcement.

Tony Snow: A standup guy...

The title of this post is not a pun, but it easily could be... I just want to acknowledge the action of Tony Snow in trying to repair frayed relations with NBC White house Correspondent David Gregory.

Snow apologized to Gregory for saying last week that Gregory had phrased a question in a partisan way. That incident had received a lot of attention, and the apology has as well.

I can imagine how difficult it must have been for Snow to take that step. I think it is proper for those of us who in disagree with the President, and those who surround him, on nearly every occasion to give credit for the stuff we do agree with when the opportunity presents itself.

In fact this will make two posts in a row in which I have agreed with the administration. Let us just hope that the President won't ruin my attitude about the Snow apology by attempting to tie it to the war on terror.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The global war on malaria, and of course terror

There are times when the President does things that I may agree with on principle. I would be the first to want to acknowledge those cases and let me start this post with just one such example.

Today the President announced a drive to combat malaria in Africa. The program the President supports includes a mix of governmental sponsorship and private sector giving to fund such anti malarial measures as insecticide treated mosquito netting, drugs to treat patients and other tools to fight the disease. The first lady is asking school children across the nation to donate $10 to help the cause.

So far so good. Malaria is a scourge on poor nations around the globe and the more we can do to fight it the better. Frankly the President had me at hello on this one. The more our nation does to alleviate the suffering of the poor innocent third world masses, the happier I am. So what is that feeling you must have... that certain growing doubt, the still small voice that tells you, Frik is about to go on another singularly potent anti Bush tear.

Because I am! It's all fine and dandy to help poor countries and fight disease and so on. But then the President feels the urge to get up and speechify. Mind you, the President still has the chance to hold my unqualified support just so long as he is brief and doesn't try to say nuclear or any other such English language land mine he so routinely trips on. But NO! He has to go bringing this obvious humanitarian do goody two shoes project under the umbrella of the Global War on Terror!
By bringing together such a wide variety of people, this summit is sending a clear message, that we are determined to defeat malaria. We are also sending a broader message about America's purpose in the world. In this new century, there is a great divide between those who place no value on human life, and rejoice in the suffering of others, and those who believe that every life has matchless value, and answer suffering with compassion and kindness.

The contrast is vivid -- and the position of America is clear. We will lead the cause of freedom, justice, and hope, because both our values and our interests demand it. We believe in the timeless truth: To whom much is given, much is required. We also know that nations with free, healthy, prosperous people will be sources of stability, not breeding grounds for extremists and hate and terror. By making the world more hopeful, we make the world more peaceful -- and by helping others, the American people must understand we help ourselves.
Oh freaking PLEASE! Like Osama Bin Laden is pro malaria or something! Like, by pouring money into the anti malaria project America is striking a blow against Muslim extremists. Let me ask anyone reading this post. How many of the 9/11 terrorists were malaria sufferers from Botswana? How many freaking suicide bombers go to Iraq from Benin after witnessing their loved ones being ravaged by the disease? I'm sure the entire world is absolutely sick to death of all the terrorism being exported from the malarial swamps of Tanzania! We must strike back! Bring on the insecticide treated nets.

And what is this thing about the President talking that he is making the world more peaceful? My gag reflex just kicked in upon finishing that question for some odd reason. Bush makes the world more peaceful like my cat brings aromatic goodness to the area immediately surrounding his litterbox.

In fact I do believe the President has just telescoped his "new way forward" in Iraq. He isn't going to "double down" or stay the course. Far from it. He's pulling out completely... Our boots on the ground will be replaced by heaps of insecticide treated mosquito netting and cutting edge medicines to treat the malaria suffering Iraqis! Take that you Al Qaeda terrorists and dead ender Iraqi malcontents. The Maliki government is certain to reign in supreme confidence now that our President has finally come to his senses.

I just find myself very irritated to have this war on terror infect every aspect of this Presidents being. Must EVERY speech reference the war on terror? I thought part of our recovery after 9/11 was to be getting back to normal, just to be doing stuff like normal America always did. Now everytime the President approaches a mic, for whatever reason... the war on terror is the omni present topic.

If only fighting the war were so simple as alleviating the suffering of third world nations. If only we didn't have to try to work out a fair solution to the Israeli/Palestinian question. The sad fact that history will record here is that the Presidents policies figuratively poured gasoline on the fires of 9/11. He took that horrible event which united us as never before and used it to scare us into a needless war, which inflamed our enemies against us and divided us amongst ourselves. He has led this nation in precisely the wrong direction from where enlightened leadership would have taken us. The world begged us to lead in the war on terror after 9/11, and Bush squandered that for no good reason.

Frankly, to get back to the issue at hand here, I do believe I have found the cause of all the Presidents ills. It is very well demonstrated by this seemingly innocuous speech about something everyone should be able to agree upon. The President would do himself a world of good if he would just shut up. The American people are sick of his swagger, sneer, bellicosity, continued certainty even when proven wrong, and overall mannerisms. He should stay out of camera range and work as best he can to salvage some little semblance of his Presidency. After all, if the only notification of this program were a Whitehouse press release describing the program, I'd be supporting it lock stock and barrel. I still support the war on malaria, but I reject the attempt by this President to link it to the war on terror.

The ultimate test of the Unitary Executive

Those of us who live and breathe politics must be cognizant of the theories guiding policy makers. In the case of the President the average American may be excused for concluding that policy is guided by greediness and insanity, but officially one of the guiding principles behind the nuttiness of this administration is called the Unitary Executive.

This phrase is used most prominently in official business when the President uses signing statements to change the meaning of laws passed by Congress. The most famous example was when the President issued a signing statement when he signed the McCain/Warner anti torture bill. Despite the fact that the constitution explicitly provides the Congress with authority to decide the fate of captured enemies (article 1, section 8: to declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;) the President issued a signing statment declaring his intention to bypass provisions of the law which he determined were contrary to his right as commander in chief to oversee a unitary executive.

Basically the theory of the unitary executive (and please consider that I have an obvious bias in making this point, so do your own research) is that the Constitution provides certain limitations on the ability of Congress or the Judicial branches to interfere with the President in matters pertaining to overseeing the Executive branch. While this is true to a certain extent, the group currently in power wish to use this kernel of truth to explode the reach of the Presidency beyond any previously recognized limitations. For example the Constitution specifically and concisely gives guidance as to how a law becomes law. At no point is the President allowed under Constitutional guidelines to make his own law or unilaterally change the meaning of laws passed by Congress. The President may sign the laws passed by Congress or veto them. Yet President Bush has used the theory of unitary executive to sign many hundreds of signing statements that explicitly change the meaning of laws he is signing. Thus the President went over five years before issuing his first veto. There were hundreds of laws passed in the meantime that the President openly defied by simply changing the meaning of the law with a statement.

But the purpose of this post is not to rehash the absurdity of the extremes taken by this administration in the name of the unitary executive. It is to point out what will soon be the absolutely outrageous extreme that President Bush seems determined to pursue, leading this nation further into disaster in the name of his supposed right to do so.

The President may be commander in chief, but that does not give him the right to lead our armed forces into needless war and bloodshed just because he thinks, beyond all reason, that it is the right thing to do, or continue doing. The ultimate test of the unitary executive will come when Congress decides not to approve the expenditures necessary to continue or expand a misguided policy. Congress has the implicit constitutional authority to fund, or not fund, the Presidents misbegotten war.

What happens if the President, with approval ratings in the low 30's mainly due to his mishandling of the Iraq war, insists on throwing more troops into the meat grinder? The express will of the people is to bring an end to this war, not expand it. We can't allow the administration to play semantic games with us on this either. Ending the war doesn't mean pushing more troops into the fray and setting up a pro western democracy. In reality, that isn't going to happen. The notion that the American people want more-more of the same is not plausible, but I'll bet this administration will try to make it sound like that...

How this President could side step the obstacle of not recieving Congressional funding for expanding the Iraq war is beyond my understanding. But I do not have a doubt that given that circumstance he would try some absurd mechanism to keep his war going. And he would claim unitary executive power as commander in chief to do it too.

This would be the ultimate test, and the final line to be crossed in pursuit of power using the argument of the unitary executive. The right of the commander in chief to pursue goals widely discredited amongst the American people and not funded by Congress. The President would defy both Congress and the people by taking this tack, and bring a constitutional crisis upon this nation that would make Watergate look like a 3rd rate burglary.

Chances are that Congress won't have the cajones to stand up to the President when push comes to shove. But if they do... watch out.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Bush: Learning his lessons a little bit late

There are several developments on the Iraq front that, if not for the deadly serious nature of the war, would have to be considered rich material for a dark comedy.

First: The President today delayed the announcement of a "new" strategy for Iraq until sometime in January saying that he would "not be rushed" into making a hasty decision.

What profound wisdom! What appropriate consideration. How wonderful that the President now carefully considers all sides of the argument before making his decision. What incredibly stupid snarkiness I am trying to employ when considering the Presidents newfound respect for careful deliberation and consideration of all sides of an argument... I mean what stopped him from taking this same course of sage leadership in the spring of 2003?!

I note that Fox and the rest of the right wing sound machine have taken to ripping incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Silvestre Reyes, for not knowing the sect that Al Qaeda aligned with. Lets get real here. He is incoming, not sitting, and he can not be the clueless one sending our troops into harms way without basic knowledge about what he's getting into. Reyes does not have that authority. However President Bush marched into Iraq with a shocking lack of understanding of the forces he was unleashing. When the President was being briefed on the Shiite/Sunni divide in Iraqi society he actually said "I thought the Iraqis were Muslims!" This happened a year after his now famous Axis of Evil speech...

Thus we are witness to rightwing indignation that the next Congressional bureaucrat to oversee intelligence is not familiar with Al Qaeda, but nary a freaking whisper when the President took us to war in what they thought would be the United States writing the government of our choice onto the blank slate of Iraq. An issue which they thought would be accomplished with ease. The hypocrisy knows NO bounds. It's ok to make a royal mess of the region based upon ignorance, but let us pound the Democrat who fumbles the aptitudinal exam.

Frankly the audacity of the right to pick on Reyes on this is breathtaking. The entire nation is being provided with a crash course in the Shiite/Sunni split thanks to the blood and treasure being wasted due to the ignorance of George W. Bush. Now he discovers patient understanding and deliberation as a leadership tactic. This is the equivalent of the person who carelessly stepped onto the slippery slope suddenly professing a great concern for their footing going forward, after already going over the edge of the cliff. We are going where we are going, (out of Iraq, to fight that fact is to spit the wrong way into a wind tunnel) careful consideration or no.

We call for democracy in Iraq. The people of that nation are making their will in regards to our occupation felt on a regular basis. We need to understand that the Iraq we leave will not be the Iraq we insist upon building. What could be more democratic a principle than that? Let them decide. They are deciding for themselves and the sooner we let them get it over with the better for all involved. I'm afraid the best we can try to do is stop the war from expanding beyond Iraq at this point... That could be quite a challenge of itself.

Why veep may not be good enough for Obama

I posted here a couple of months ago that my dream ticket in 08 would be Al Gore/Barack Obama. If everything worked out precisely as I wish I'm convinced this ticket would be a winner, and a great platform for Obama to advance his Presidential ambitions. I've considered this for a bit HOWEVER, and can see some great reasons from Obama's perspective to run for the top of the ticket right now rather than taking the path I'm hoping he does.

If Obama hitches his team to the Gore bandwagon, by definition Obama is hitched to the fate of a Presidency he doesn't really control. If Gore turns out to be a failure, Obama's political future is ruined. I can understand why Obama would want to be judged upon his own merits, rather than the merits of events beyond his control. After all, the veep can not very well pound on the Presidents desk regarding a given policy with the argument that the veep's political life after the current administration is at stake...

Frankly the prospects for the next administration must be considered bleak. There are a plethora of problems the current administration seems to be unable to address. The over reaching nature of the Bush administration when it comes to the balance of powers may further erode the ability of future administrations to deal with the issues of the day as the Congress and Courts re-establish their checks in our system. Looking at this from the perspective of an idealistic young politician (or for that matter an idealistic seasoned pol *Hillary*) with the chance to make political history why would you want to rely upon the judgement of someone else during a very difficult time.

Consider as well the prospects for the next veep if the next administration is a huge success. The next President in my estimation has a chance at greatness. That chance is provided if the next President manages to successfully prosecute the war on terror while disengaging from Iraq at the same time. I believe the definition of greatness or catastrophic failure as applied to the Presidency depends on the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of the Presidents response to a great national emergency. There is a very good chance that the next President may achieve the status of greatness in the pantheon of his peers through enlightened leadership in a time of crisis. What then will be said of the veep when he takes the reins in a time of peace and prosperity due to the good service of his predecessor? Not much at all. Why wouldn't someone interested in greatness and confident in their ability want the job right now? Sure it will be difficult, but that's what makes the chance for greatness in the first place.

I still hold hope for a dream ticket of Gore/Obama. But on consideration of what may be going through Obama's mind, I wouldn't blame him for deciding that now is the time for his shot at Presidential history and greatness.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Followup: A.P. Blasts Keyboard Commandos

The A.P. has responded, yet again, to attacks on its reporters in Iraq by the right wing blogosphere.

Searching Google for the name Jamil Hussein will give you an idea of what a cause celebre this has become with the right wing blogdiots. 9/10ths of the over 300k hits on Google are the wingnuts chest thumping about A.P. reporting. They will not let this one go, and A.P. will not back down either.

To briefly encapsulate, (as first posted here) A.P. reported the day after Thanksgiving that 6 Sunnis had been burned alive in Baghdad. They sourced the story to a Captain Jamil Hussein. The press office for the multinational forces in Iraq issued a statement saying that there was no Captain Jamil Hussein. A.P. then sent their reporters to double check the story, and confirmed the identity of their source.

Of course the Malkin types can't let this type of thing go. The constant sniping from the right has elicited this response from Kathleen Carrol, executive editor and senior vice president of A.P.
In recent days, a handful of people have stridently criticized The Associated Press’ coverage of a terrible attack on Iraqi citizens last month in Baghdad. Some of those critics question whether the incident happened at all and declare that they don't believe our reporting.

Indeed, a small number of them have whipped themselves into an indignant lather over the AP's reporting.

Their assertions that the AP has been duped or worse are unfounded and just plain wrong.

No organization has done more to try to shed light on what happened Nov. 24 in the Hurriyah neighborhood of Baghdad than The Associated Press.
Let me just point out here that no organization has done more to obfuscate the actual state of events in Baghdad and Iraq than the press office for the multinational forces in Iraq. The Iraq Study Group detailed how the military systematically underreported the actual number of attacks by saying that only about 1/10th of attacks were actually related to the war effort. Sectarian deaths by and large chalked up to ordinary criminality. Car bombs not directed at international forces are not reported at all. Stories positive to the multinational force are bought and paid for in Iraqi media. All this is documented, yet the koolaid drinking rightwing bloggers want us to believe the military has this one right, and A.P. has it wrong... and repeatedly so. On with the response by Carrol:
We have sent journalists to the neighborhood three different times to talk with people there about what happened. And those residents have repeatedly told us, in some detail, that Shiite militiamen dragged six Sunni worshippers from a mosque, drenched them with kerosene and burned them alive.

No one else has said they have actually gone to the neighborhood. Particularly not the individuals who have criticized our journalism with such barbed certitude.
Like THAT is ever going to happen! Michelle Malkin and her ilk would last about 30 seconds outside of the Green zone. Heck, to them the Empire State building is the war zone! Remember the summer "truth tour" by the rightwing talking heads in Iraq? Remember how they all split up and walked the streets of Baghdad and Fallujah talking with the ordinary Iraqi working folk who were all so thrilled with the newly painted schools and neighborhood power plants springing up through out the land? You don't remember that? THAT'S BECAUSE IT DIDN'T HAPPEN! Except in the koolaid-addled brains of the keyboard commandos... But I digress. Carrol continues:
The AP has been transparent and fair since the first day of our reporting on this issue.

We have not ignored the questions about our work raised by the U.S. military and later, by the Iraqi Interior Ministry. Indeed, we published those questions while also sending AP journalists back out to the scene to dig further into what happened and why others might be questioning the initial accounts.

The AP mission was to get at the facts, wherever those facts took us.

What we found were more witnesses who described the attack in particular detail as well as describing the fear that runs through the neighborhood. We ran a lengthy story on those additional findings, as well as the questions, on Nov. 28.

Some of AP's critics question the existence of police Capt. Jamil Hussein, who was one (but not the only) source to tell us about the burning.

These critics cite a U.S. military officer and an Iraqi official who first said Hussein is not an authorized spokesman and later said he is not on their list of Interior Ministry employees. It’s worth noting that such lists are relatively recent creations of the fledgling Iraqi government.

By contrast, Hussein is well known to AP. We first met him, in uniform, in a police station, some two years ago. We have talked with him a number of times since then and he has been a reliable source of accurate information on a variety of events in Baghdad.

No one – not a single person – raised questions about Hussein’s accuracy or his very existence in all that time. Those questions were raised only after he was quoted by name describing a terrible attack in a neighborhood that U.S. and Iraqi forces have struggled to make safe.
I guess this isn't good enough. We have to have the satellite truck beam the live feed directly from the war-torn Hurriyah neighborhood with Capt. Hussein's smiling countenance, holding a dated newspaper and showing proper I.D., to assure the Malkinorgs that Hussein is real. Hmmm... who do I trust more? A.P. reporters on the ground and reporting on the questions being raised by their own reporting, which they confirm as accurate? Or the hair brained wingnut bloggers who are so freaking convinced that is the military press never lies and reporters are all a bunch of commie libruls who love seeing Americans die die die!!... sorry getting carried away with my righty mindset. Let us skip forward in the letter...
The story of the burnings has gotten far more attention in the United States than in Iraq, where vicious torture and death are sadly commonplace. Dozens of Iraqi citizens are gunned down in their cars, dragged from their homes or blown apart in public places every single day.
There they go AGAIN! When will the media ever learn that Americans are sick and tired of hearing about the daily massacre, mass torture killings and death orgy that has become Iraq. Where are the stories about the schoolchildren sitting in their nice sectarianless, co-ed, shoolhouses singing Kum-by-Yah as the protective American warrior benevolently watches over them? We want the truth!
As careful followers of the Iraq story know well, various militias have been accused of operating within the Interior Ministry, which controls the police and has long worked to suppress news of death-squad activity in its ranks. (This is the same ministry that questioned Capt. Hussein’s existence and last week announced plans to take legal action against journalists who report news that creates the impression that security in Iraq is bad, “when the facts are totally different.”)
Don'cha love it when freedom of the press is crushed under the boot of occupation and military control? You can report the facts as we see them, and if you step out of line we will take "legal action"! Do you know why Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera do not have Baghdad correspondents? It's because the "sovereign" government of Iraq kicked them out for being biased. I love the smell of freedom in the morning.
The Iraqi journalists who work for the AP are smart, dedicated and incredibly courageous to go into the streets every day, talking to their countrymen and trying to capture a portrait of their home in a historic and tumultuous period.

The work is dangerous: two people who work for AP have been killed since this war began in 2003. Many others have been hurt, some badly.

Several of AP's Iraqi journalists were victimized by Saddam Hussein’s regime and bear scars of his torture or the loss of relatives killed by his goons. Those journalists have no interest in furthering the chaos that makes daily life in Iraq so perilous. They want what any of us want: To be able to live and work without fear and raise their children in peace and safety.

Questioning their integrity and work ethic is simply offensive.

It's awfully easy to take pot shots from the safety of a computer keyboard thousands of miles from the chaos of Baghdad.
OH SNAP!! Pot shots from the safety of the keyboard... that is as close to actually labeling the righties "keyboard commandos" as the mainstream media have ever come. Well done, Ms. Carrol... now let me advise you to be very careful of any suspicious envelopes delivered anonymously to you at the A.P. headquarters. Chances are the white powder will be harmless, but a few of those "commandos" are actually dangerous.

Let me draw this to conclusion by thanking any who have actually read all the way through this. It is lengthy, and perhaps a bit overwrought, but I think it's important enough to warrant some attention. We know the right wants to hush up the true state of affairs in Iraq and have actually been very successful at doing so. We must not let them intimidate the A.P. on this one.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Katy haters

Click here for a link to a story on MSNBC that I find simply incredible.
A plan to build a mosque in this Houston suburb [Katy Texas] has triggered a neighborhood dispute, with community members warning the place will become a terrorist hotbed and one man threatening to hold pig races on Fridays just to offend the Muslims.
This must be some sort of joke or something. There can't really be people in America who are this freaking stupid! A mosque is a terrorist threat? Like the Islamofascists who haunt Santorums nightmares are going to blow up their own building and ruin the neighborhood? They really think this? Racing pigs is going to be offensive to these Muslims? GET A CLUE! Actually let me provide a clue for you... I don't eat kittens. I'll bet Mr. Baker (the neighbor who started this whole sordid affair) doesn't either. If someone were to race kittens around my or his neighborhood we would not be the least bit offended. Well... I wouldn't anyway. It seems like there isn't much it takes to get Baker worked up so he might take some offense to kitten racing for all I know.

Mr. Baker got off on a bad footing with his new neighbors right from the get go in their troubled relationship. The story goes thusly:
The dispute began when the group asked Baker to remove his cattle from their newly bought land. Baker agreed but mistakenly thought the Muslims also wanted him off the land his family has lived on for more than 100 years. The rumor spread.


Though he now concedes the Muslims are probably not after his land, Baker said he is obligated to go through with the pig races, probably within the next few weeks, because “I would be like a total idiot if I didn’t. I’d be the laughingstock now because I’ve gone too far.”
Seriously! I could not make this stuff up. This ... well he's a moron... is asked by the new owners of the property next door to move his cattle off the property they just purchased and he thinks they are trying to run him off his own homestead? So he goes around badmouthing his new neighbors for no apparent reason. That sort of plot line is straight out of Threes Company... And he's gone so far that he even says he can't take it back because "I've gone to far."

Here is an idea Mr. Baker... Apologize! Stop harassing your neighbor, admit your mistake and try to get along with them. It would make you look 10 times the man you look like now carrying on like a fool and making your entire neighborhood the literal laughingstock of the nation. I'll guarantee this makes the late night talk shows. Colbert is gonna rip this apart.

It just makes me wonder. How would I react if some loudmouthed, xenophobic, rightwing, pig racing, Republican know it all decided to move in next door to me? I guess I'd have no recourse but to start bad mouthing him around the neighborhood and maybe try to run some kitten races!

This story may be funny for the rest of us, but I do believe it points to a very troubling aspect of our society. The intolerance of Islamic belief and customs in America is increasing at an alarming rate. Whether it's Muslim lawmakers wanting to take the oath of office on their Holy book (not a problem for Jews Mr. Prager, nor should it be for whatever religion in question, so why the sudden outrage) or Muslims praying in airports and being taken off of airplanes for flying while Muslim... and now the Katy intolerance. We as a nation need to come to grips with this intolerance and live up to the promise that we represent. Equality, freedom of religion, and yes... the freedom to express oneself even when you go to far Mr. Baker.

Hang in there Muslims and please build that center in Katy. For what it's worth, I'm pulling for you!

Mr. Bush, do the right thing. Resign

Following the news in the hours following the release of the ISG report, I am struck by the positively obtuse nature of President Bush.

This man has been given an opportunity to rescue what little good (for lack of better verbiage) can be pulled from the Iraq disaster, and time after time he, or his toadies seem intent on shooting holes into the various recommendations of the panel.

I support the overall gist of the report only because it appears to be the only way to change direction, given this President and his preset notions about the war. By all means I would love a report that laid out the end game, and had a chance to be implemented, but we are where we are. So the ISG gives the President this chance, and he shows once again what a stubborn fool he truly is. I'm sorry if that is disrespectful, but it is the absolute truth. In todays presser with Blair, Bush was crowing about how he would prevail in Iraq! Having said that if it were only his dog Barney and himself who supported his policy in Iraq he would still press on, the President is now determined to prove the deadly sincerity of that sentiment. The ISG has provided the means to begin the course correction, yet the President insists upon further pursuing a demonstrably disastrous policy.

If the President can not be swayed despite the unanimity of opinion arrayed against him, and the course he is determined to pursue is obviously harmful and destructive to the nation, I believe he should be prevailed upon to resign his position. He should have a long heart to heart with Vice President Cheney after which the Veep resigns. President Bush then replaces Cheney with G.H.W. Bush. The President should then resign for the good of this nation, and let his father see us through ending this horrible war. The nation and the world would see this and be concurrently shocked and relieved.

If President Bush insists upon continuing in his folly throughout the course of his remaining term, the Congress ought to search for ways to implement the ISG report to the best of their ability. Appoint a Congressional delegation to open a dialogue with Syria and Iran over the Iraq issue. Cut off funding for most of the bases scattered about Iraq and specifically fund only the 5 or so that the report envisions for the short term future. End run around the President whenever they get the chance and make him irrelevant to the process. Do so with the political cover of the ISG report and make it bipartisan in nature as far as possible. Congressional Republicans know what's happening here and they certainly do not want Iraq playing a huge role in the 08 Presidential election.

I didn't mention impeachment as a solution to this particular issue, because this is not why we should impeach. We need to follow the Constitutional remedy provided when the President has been found to engage in criminal behavior. This is separate from issues of continued policy so how I see everything playing out in one regard is not a cause to apply it to other issues. Of course it is all moot if the President pulled a shocker and resigned.

Finally, there is no doubt that it would shock the world if he did resign, but President Bush actually has a history of just this sort of action in the face of adversity. His history in business is replete with failures, which when it isn't fun to play anymore leads Bush to pawn the entire affair off to daddy or daddies buddies. The President surely can not be having any fun anymore.

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