Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Cheney in the Twilight Zone:

Here is a story that is just weird. The White House insisted that a press briefing given by Vice President Cheney not name him as the source of the briefing. That would be odd enough, but the Vice President commenced to refer to actions he had taken during his trip, and to himself in the first person, making the entire affair seem like an episode from the Twilight Zone. The only thing lacking was a monkey tearing up the wing of Air Force Two... hey wait a minute! Air Force Two did experience technical difficulties **cue Twilight Zone music-dudu dudu-** during this trip.

So we have Vice President Cheney anonymously briefing the press and saying stuff like:
The reason the president wanted me to come, obviously, is because of the continuing threat that exists in this part of the world on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border
Let me just make one editorial comment here. I’ve seen some press reporting (that) says, ‘Cheney went in to beat up on them, threaten them.’ That’s not the way I work
How is a reporter supposed to present this if they have to keep the source anonymous? And why would Cheney not just give an on the record press briefing? Well considering his recent meltdown during his interview with Wolf Blitzer, I suppose keeping him off the record is the best policy actually.

In a final touch of Twilight Zone like oddity, the Vice President says this:
“But Musharraf, of course, has been the target of assassination attempts,” the official said. “He’s been closely allied with us going after al-Qaida. And, again, you’ve got people who, in effect, are betting the farm, so to speak, that they can count on the United States to be there, and to support them, and in many cases provide the leadership necessary to prevail in this global conflict with these extreme elements of Islam. And it would be difficult to sustain that conviction on their part if the United States were to suddenly decide that the problems in Iraq are too tough, we’re going to pack it in and go home. So there are consequences in this part of the world for a course of action that some people are advocating in the U.S.”
To paraphrase Cheney, staying in Iraq is showing our ally Musharraf that we are there for him. He even uses the term in this context "betting the farm". Again, let us cue the Twilight Zone music, because what Cheney says here is quite simply bizarre, considering Musharraf's own position on the invasion and occupation of Iraq. From the summer of 2002, nine months before the invasion:
The President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, has said a United States attack on Iraq would "alienate the Muslim world".
General Musharraf warned that such a step would have "very negative repercussions".
Here is Musharraf in April of 2004, barely a year into the occupation:
Asked if the US-led Iraq war has been a distraction from the battle against Al-Qaeda and Taliban remnants by diverting resources from Afghanistan and Pakistan, Musharraf replied: "Yes indeed".
In fact, here is Musharraf, virtually begging the Americans to get an exit strategy and depart Iraq!:
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf tells Newsweek that the visibility of any foreign troops in Iraq-whether American or British-is not at all welcome. "Nobody likes [to be occupied by] foreign troops. The answer lies not in bringing in more foreign troops but in raising the army in Iraq itself so it can take over security. Everything should lead to an exit strategy."
So who do we believe when it comes to how Musharraf would view an American withdrawal from Iraq? Vice President **cue the dudu dudu music** Cheney? Or Musharraf himself? I suppose the answer for most people to that question is perfectly obvious, but just remember this my friends. There is a base segment of the American population who think that Cheney is making a valid point, not based upon any knowledge of actual facts, but based solely upon logic that it is true because Cheney said so.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Proof that Cable news is off base.

I have watched the decline of cable news programming recently and despaired. I thought there was honestly no helping the decline, because I assumed that people who watched cable news are simply interested in the gossipy tabloid type pablum that so dominates cable news programming. My assumption was that providing real news for long periods of time would be a money losing effort, as eyeballs were peeled away to gape at the soap opera offered by most cable news programs these days.

This was a sad (and perhaps mistaken) realization for me. The money talks argument is hard to overcome when what you are discussing boils down to the cable broadcaster trying to make a buck. If the sheople want tabloid on cable news then that is what the cable news will give them right?

It turns out this may not be a simple as it seems. Check out this article by They show the subjects being covered by various news outlets during the week of Feb. 18-23. The results are eye opening to say the least.

First, let me copy and paste the explanation for the statistics used to create the article:
PEJ’s News Coverage Index is a study of the news agenda of 48 different outlets from five sectors of the media. It is designed to provide news consumers, journalists and researchers with hard data about what stories and topics the media are covering, the trajectories of major stories and differences among news platforms.
So the entire purpose of this site is to show what the various outlets are covering. Lo and behold, looking at what cable television was covering during this week, we see that coverage of Anna Nicole Smith nearly doubled coverage of the next most covered topic, the 2008 presidential campaign. Where as we see that coverage of the Smith debacle was dwarfed in every other medium. Smith doesn't even make the list for online or radio news.

To me, the online news results are especially telling. Online news viewing is entirely a matter of choice. When I see an article I do not want to read online, I simply do not click the link to read that article. It seems clear that online news determined that there were stories of more import to their community than the Smith story. This simply reinforces my determination that cable is doomed to fail as viewers decide to boot up for news, rather than click to some cable gossip show in the hopes of getting real news in between the pablum.

Viewer choice in cable news programming is another matter. I told the story a few posts ago about trying to watch MSNBC last week, and winding up getting all hostile at the t.v. because of the coverage. In other words, to watch cable news last week was to watch Smith stuff, and the only way to get away from it was to shut off the news completely. That applies for every channel, and is reflected in the article from Consider for example that coverage of the Smith death led to 1 1/2 hour straight of commercial free non interrupted programming by CNN. Loyal CNN viewers had to endure or go to the competition, who were undoubtedly covering Smith as well, just with commercials. For those of us who want to watch cable news out of nothing more than force of habit and a desire to stay informed, last week was a desolate waste of time. (Let me grudgingly note that Hardball, while strictly not "news" but more news commentary, was an exception to the rule. Even Countdown devoted segments to the Smith disaster.)

Broadcast news also reflected less an interest in the Smith debacle by a wide margin compared to cable. Network coverage of Smith placed a distant fourth in coverage by the broadcast networks. Keep in mind that viewership of the major network news dwarfs viewership of cable news substantially. One must wonder how the major networks can keep so many eyes on their news if they seem to be disregarding the story that cable news executives determined their community was most interested in?

The aggregate coverage of all news by all outlets shows the Smith story coming in a respectable 3rd. Without the overkill by cable news, the placing in importance by the Smith debacle would have been substantially less than 3rd.

Out of this, I conclude that there is an audience for real news on cable. There are established channels that purport to give news on a regular basis. I would love to see one of them retool themselves to provide strictly news worthy programming. The soap opera pablum does not need to be ignored with this type of programming. It has it's place in human interest type stories that do not purport to be headline material. But I would love to see a cable network give a shot to real news rather than the tripe they are feeding us now.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Obama's new politics

Obama is making a lot of noise about a new style of politics, basically promising to stay on the high road in his race for the presidency. It seems that Obama is serious about this, even repudiating the tactics of his own staff for their part in the recent Geffen blow up.

I honestly would love nothing more than for this to work. Idealistically, the notion that a campaign would focus on issues, relying upon the beliefs of the candidate rather than the perception fostered by that candidates opposition, would be wonderful. In fact if Obama were to be able to bring this new style of politics to successful fruition, this nation would owe him a great debt of gratitude for that act alone, not withstanding his effectiveness at leading the nation.

However, I believe down to my very core that Obama's quest is doomed to failure. Being deeply concerned with campaigns dating from Michael Dukakis through to John Kerry, I simply know that running a campaign above the fray is a losing proposition.

The character running Obama's campaign response is a slimeball. Obama is trying to stay above the fray by denouncing the conduct of Robert Gibbs in the recent Obama/Clinton Geffen flapdoodle. Robert Gibbs is the character responsible for tying Howard Dean to Osama Bin Laden in the Iowa primaries in the last presidential campaign. He is dirty, low down, disgusting... and he sunk Deans campaign in Iowa.

The "architect" responsible for George Bush's last two electoral victories is a low down dirty rotten scoundrel named Karl Rove. Make no mistake about it, Rove has gone lower than can be imagined, even to the point of smearing a war hero (John McCain) from the same party to help his candidate win the primaries. Rove may be a walking human turd, but he has won the last two presidential campaigns.

John Kerry allowed the swiftboaters to sully his record for an entire month before he defended himself. A war hero was beaten in 2004 by a war shirker, who's administration is stocked full of draft dodgers and fellow shirkers, but who somehow presented himself as the candidate who understood the military. Kerry allowed himself to be painted as a 70's peacenik radical who served dishonorably, and he lost a race he should have won in a landslide. The unfortunate truth is that Kerry would have done far better with a disgusting human turd running the show behind the scenes than trying to stay focused on the issues as his heroism was called into question.

Republicans have proven themselves past masters at smearing war heroes they run campaigns against with possibly the most egregious example being the treatment of Senator Max Cleland. Cleland lost three limbs in combat at the age of 25... but somehow the Republican who ran against him in 2002 managed to make him seem sympathetic to Americas enemies in the war on terror. Clelands Republican opponent,Saxby Chambliss, was given a student deferment in the Vietnam war and never served in the military.

Finally, consider the genesis of the dirty campaign from my perspective. The first time I ever followed a campaign closely was with Michael Dukakis V George H.W. Bush. Even just seeing the name Dukakis reminds me of the horrible frustration of that election. Watching Dukakis stubbornly insist on talking about issues on a daily basis, as the elder Bush campaign led by dirty trickster Lee Atwater slammed him and his wife around was my first lesson in effectiveness of the politics of personal destruction. Seeing a 17 point Dukakis lead in the polls evaporate and him lose in an electoral landslide. He was spot on about the issues of the day, and he stayed above the fray to the point that it ruined him politically.

Bill Clinton got it right, and Hillary learned that lesson. Hillary, correctly so, has made no bones about it. You hit her, she's going to try to take you out. That is the way it has to be until some remarkable event occurs to change the dynamic of modern day campaigning. Clintons attack dog has since lost a lot of his bite, but I remember James Carville back in 1992 just being ferocious. He wasn't dirty, but he certainly was not above the fray either. And he helped win that election.

So I honestly hope that Obama is successful in his quest to change politics as we know it. But I fear that he will prove to be just another politician with a lot of good ideas but no willingness to take up a dirty challenge to him on a personal level. If he is able to withstand that and still win, I will be highly impressed and grateful. But I'm not willing to back another candidate who stays above the fray and because of that timidity or idealism, loses on election day.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Jumping at the chance to defend a wingnut

So I'm bopping about the internet tubes this afternoon when I came across a link at Raw Story that I had to check out. The link leads to a column in the Washington Post by Mary Ann Akers titled Techno Ted's Wacky Site.

Basically Ms. Akers was doing her own surfing about the tubes of internet wonderment and happened across the website of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens. Evidently some clown at the server which hosts the Stevens website has tweaked the message on error pages in a humorous way, saying that people who land on that page must be aliens, or uneducated cats on the keyboard and so on.

For some reason Ms. Akers takes this obvious attempt at humor as cause to slam Senator Stevens around, speculating that he has decided not to run for re-election after all, asking if he's ok, and generally ridiculing Stevens for being a luddite. I call foul!

Casting the language of that error page in any light other than an obvious attempt at humor is to entirely miss the point. Stevens over the years has impressed me as being singularly cranky, un-humorous and generally an unpleasant fellow. It seems to me that if he was the one responsible for the verbiage on the error page, it would be a step in the right direction for him.

Frankly, I'm dissapointed in Matthew Miller, the spokesperson for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign for rising to the bait when contacted by Akers, and slamming Senator "the internet is a series of tubes" Stevens for another seeming example of internet buffoonery. I think it would be a sign of maturity and wisdom for Miller to retract his statement after duly considering the issue at hand.

One final point needs to be made. If Ms. Akers wants to write an attack article targeting Stevens, why not just go to his website and start blasting away at any of several dozen wrong headed positions he has taken on various issues. I think Ms. Akers thought she had the makings of a gotcha column based upon Stevens fumble regarding the internet tube business and went for the cheap shot. Well in my opinion, that cheap shot missed it's intended target completely, and boomeranged back on Ms. Akers, making her appear to be the one out of touch on this issue.

A liberals take on "breaking the American will"

A long standing argument used by proponents of the war in Iraq uses the logic that to pull out is to send the signal that the American will to fight was broken. The administration touts the stated goal of Al Qaeda to break our will in Iraq, and claims that to pull out before "victory" is achieved is to validate the terrorists strategy.

In using this logic, the White House asks Americans to think of the great wars this nation has seen in our history. However, there is a major difference between the historical times that Americans have toiled through war without breaking, and the Iraq war. That major difference is the justness of the cause.

Is there anyone who would argue that Americans ought to support the continuation of an unjust war. If there is, then I have no reason to argue with them, because their position is so far gone that there is no reasoning with them. If we can agree that a war started on mistaken logic ought to be brought to conclusion as soon as possible, and that we who think that way are in fact patriots, it is easy to see why a withdrawal from Iraq is not actually breaking the American will at all. Remember, this is still (nominally at least) a Republic. It makes perfect sense that for this nation to embark on a great struggle, that our cause ought to be manifestly just, lest the public rightly demand that the unjust struggle cease, and seemingly hand our enemies a victory by default.

So when the White House compares Iraq to the American Civil war, World War Two, or the Revolutionary War, they would do well to remember the reasons this nation entered and endured those calamitous wars.

Our nation came into existence with the ruinous war of Independence, and the justifications for that war can be found in the document that founded this nation. Compare the Declaration of Independence against the rhetoric that led this nation to war in Iraq, and you will note a marked difference: We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal. Those words changed the world. The logic of the declaration in detailing the various reasons for separation of the colonies from England and tyranny is expressed in terms that can not be argued.

Against those causes for Americans to endure a ghastly war, consider Colin Powells speech before the U.N.
Numerous human sources tell us that the Iraqis are moving, not just documents and hard drives, but weapons of mass destruction to keep them from being found by inspectors.


We also have satellite photos that indicate that banned materials have recently been moved from a number of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction facilities.
The list of fabrications used to justify the invasion of Iraq went on and on. This speech, this ultimate case for war in Iraq is a very sad case when compared to the cause for the Revolutionary war.

Now as I ramble on here, remember that it is the White House asking us to make these comparisons. I am merely doing their bidding, but the logic they try to use is destroyed by their own comparisons.

Next let us consider World War II. The cause of that war was the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The case was made by Franklin D. Roosevelt and these are his famous words:
Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives: yesterday, December 7th, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
There is no ambiguity. The reason we entered WWII are not in doubt. No one has ever, or ever will question Americas justness in that war. Consider that call to war against President Bush's speech in Cincinnati on Oct. 7, 2002:
America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.
So as we compare the two wars, it is apparent that the cause of Americas entry into WWII was obvious and just, whereas the reasons given for the invasion of Iraq were wholly fabricated.

Last, in thinking of reasons to continue a great struggle, let us consider the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln made the case for the continuation of that struggle in the greatest speech in American history.
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
A year had not passed from the time Lincoln signed the Emancipation Declaration til he gave the Gettysburg Address. That struggle was for the very existence of America as a Republic. A struggle to free a race from bondage. A great struggle that would end with either the death of America, or the rebirth of this nation in greater freedom. There could be no greater cause than that on which to base the following two years of death on a biblical scale in the Civil war.

Yet when we consider the various reasons listed to continue the Iraqi occupation, who can name them. I mean realistically, not some fanciful diatribe about flowering democracy in the middle east and so on. The only reason I can fathom is to allow this President to exit from power and pass the responsibility for the disaster he has birthed to the next President. This realization, or a similarly bleak one, has been reached by the majority of Americans, and it is not their will that has been broken in reaching that realization. It is the veritable dawning of the truth in our collective minds.

Let me end this by pointing to another struggle which we are engaged in, and which shows no sign of seeing the American will being broken. The attacks of 9/11 led to our invasion of Afghanistan. Let me quote the President as he stood on the smouldering rubble of the twin towers on 09/14:
I can hear you. (Applause.) I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. (Applause.) And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.
That then was this Presidents call to just war. A call that the American people and the international community followed enthusiastically as we invaded Afghanistan and deposed the Taliban. There is no call for retreat from that field of battle. If anything, the voices from my side of the political divide have decried the lack of focus and will in Afghanistan.

It would behoove this administration to heed their own calls to compare the great struggles of our past with our current wars. And they should take heart in the fact that America has not lost it's will in a war that is widely considered just. I know I take heart in the fact that Americans do not seem to want to blindly continue a war that is widely acknowledged to have been mistakenly embarked upon.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Speaking of what is or isn't news...

Let me perform a bit of a public service here and now. I want to launch a preemptive strike from my little corner of the blogosphere.

Any television network that gives a television program to the whack job judge overseeing the freakazoid Anna death show, will be boycotted. Their advertisers will be bombarded with hate mail and their local affiliates will be picketed.

The notion that a judge would use his courtroom as a platform to blatantly pitch himself is outrageous. To intentionally turn the proceedings into a travesty which will rudely intrude into every newscast I want to watch tonight is not acceptable. This man ought to be disbarred, and deported to Antartica.

I just KNOW that some network can't wait to toss this guy a show. And it makes me sick.

The reason I'm willing to pay this a bit of attention on Club Lefty is because this weirdo is doing something to our system of justice, which if he is allowed to set a precedent may lead to all sorts of ugliness. This entire story needs to dissapear. And this freak of a human certainly should not be rewarded for his terrible behavior.

That is news to me

So I'm watching the "news" last night with my wife, when suddenly for no apparent reason what so ever, I commenced to ranting and raving like a lunatic at the television. Well, to be accurate, the no apparent reason logic was my wifes.

You see, we were watching MSNBC's early morning program. They led off with the story of Anna Nichole Smiths rotting corpse and deranged judge. After several minutes of that they covered Iraq, and then Vice President Cheney for a bit. THEN... they went into a rundown of the travails of Britney Spears. That is the point where I started ranting.

America has been stupified to the point that gossipy trash which would have been headlines in the National Enquirer, but nowhere else, just 20 years ago, now is fed to us as important news. 20 years ago the networks would have put this tripe in the final few minutes of the broadcast, and everyone watching would have known that this was the signal that this particular broadcast had jumped the shark, and to only watch if there was nothing else of interest on. Yet the sad thing is... it's not going to stop, because most of the sheople love it.

My wife was a bit taken aback by this, because from her perspective this was a typical newscast. Actually, it truly is typical, and it is just me, and those like me who want to watch real news who get aggravated by it. We just want to retch at 10 minutes of precious news cycle devoted to a dead model and a one time superstar imploding on the world stage.

The "news" once offered as a money losing public service by the broadcast networks has been perverted by conglomeration and greed to be simply another money making enterprise. And there isn't any money in tracking down the financial records of 363 tons of cash flushed into Iraq, or that type of story. But there is money from advertisers in hyping the latest blonde celebrity gossip. The fact is that "news" these days must be gleaned from between the gossip stories, and nearly invariable right wing talking heads shouting their talking points.

I don't know how to turn this around. To try to fix it is to throw money away. It would be to the benefit of those who cared to follow the news to have such an outlet, but that channel would basically be C-Span on steroids.

Maybe the answer is the internet. Thats where I turn these days for most information I use, and I suspect that increasingly those who feel like me will do the same...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Schizo White House

Vice President Dick Cheney and the White House have heralded the announcement of the withdrawal from Iraq of British forces as a "victory". In the very same appearance the Vice President condemned the approach of Democratic Congressional leaders to the Iraq war as an affirmation of Al Qaeda strategy.

So somehow, withdrawing is ok if you're a Brit, but if you don't support a surge in American troop levels, you are validating Al Qaeda. The illogic could not be more obvious. We are used to seeing the White House disconnect from reality, but with Cheneys statement he has disconnected from the alternate reality he created!

Now I realize there are those on the right, and under the age of 3, who will not admit to this logical fallacy. I simply ask you to consider the following truths: The threat that has been harped upon the loudest for the last several months by the Bush administration has been about the supposed intrusion of Iran in the war in Iraq. Britain is responsible for security in southern Iraq, which is the population hub of the Iraqi Shiite population. It is that demographic which is closely allied with the Iranians. Therefore it seems that the Iranians, who pose the greatest threat according to the White House, are being allowed unfettered access to their allies in southern Iraq by the withdrawal of the British.

But keeping our soldiers in the middle of a civil war is vital, in order to not give validation to Al Qaeda.

Here is what validates Al Qaeda Mr. Cheney. Pictures of Iraqi's piled into naked pyramids, guilty pleas by Americans for raping and killing Iraqi families, invading Arab lands against the expressed will of the international community, basing war against an Arab land upon falsehood, causing untold thousands of deaths, bleeding the treasury and military, using 9/11 as a platform to run roughshod over the constitution, and the list could go on to create a book. In fact it is YOU Mr. Cheney... you and this administration who have validated Al Qaeda beyond the wildest dreams of that vile organizations founders.

I suggest a new tack for Democrats who want to end this horrible Bush mistake in Iraq. If it is victory when the British withdraw, let us also have our victory, and withdraw in turn. After all, it is the White House who have used the word victory in describing the British withdrawal.

Or will they veritably have their cake, and eat it too?

More Russert talk...

I am not an expert on Plamegate, and I don't play one on t.v.. But I can tell b.s. when I smell it, and I'm calling foul on an argument used by the defense.

Once again, the defense relies upon the Russert told Libby the goods defense. They attempt to make the jury believe this by asserting Libby would never have used this argument if it were not true, because he knew Russert would be questioned.

That logic is an example of a tack in wide use by the Bush administration. They are past masters at using a strictly true fact to argue for a position that the fact actually does not back up. In this case, what Libby's defense argues is strictly speaking correct. Russert would be questioned. What is left unsaid however is that when Libby lied to the FBI about Russert, he thought the press in general, and Russert in particular would refuse to answer the questions regarding sources.

In fact knowing that the press would fight this tooth and nail, as proved to be the case, it makes perfect sense that Libby would use Russert early in the investigation. It fits perfectly with the coverup. Libby says Russert told him about Plame thinking the prosecutor isn't going to get any answers from Russert... making Libby's lie on the issue non discoverable.

This journalistic reluctance to testify is what led to the incarceration of Judith Miller. It was only after that fight, and the belated release from confidence of the journalists by Libby, Rove and the rest of the gang that Fitzgerald was able to get answers from them.

So if the journalists had been willing to give their testimony from the very beginning of the investigation, Libby's point would be valid. As it stands, his point is literally true. But consideration of the state of the investigation when he testified shows the logical fallacy of his argument, and by trying to use that logic I believe Libby only implicates himself in the coverup.

I certainly have not followed the court battle as closely as some of my fellow lefty bloggers have so I'm not sure about the following question. I wonder if Fitzgerald made a point of describing the battle to get journalists to testify at any point of the trial? I certainly hope so, because that would have to make the jury wonder about why the defense was making the point that Libby would not have gone with the Russert lie because he knew Russert would be questioned.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

And a big thank you to Russert...

The Libby trial is wrapping up. I find the closing arguments by the defense to be instructive of the way administration insiders use the press, but do not mind giving them a hearty thank you by trying their best to impeach the press's credibility.

Todays example in media relations is courtesy of Tim Russert. This is the same Tim Russert who was a favorite of administration insiders for being the format to get their message across, unimpeded by those pesky things other journalists worry about like truth, or facts, and so on. You would think the people who most benefit from this compliance would be interested in protecting their doormat... but such is not the case.

Libby's lawyers are making this a he said/he said affair, by making trying to make the crux of Libby's supposed innocence Russerts word vs Libby's. I find it highly amusing. In order to make their case they must destroy Russerts credibility. Russert, a long standing institution in journalism, moderator of one of the longest running political shows in America's history is having his word challenged by an inveterate liar. It is almost justice for Russert turning that show into an adminsitration soapbox.

One can only imagine the mortification of Russert if a jury of 12 people were to actually find Libby more believable than himself. The moral of the story? If you lie down with dogs, you are liable to get fleas. Someone needs to give Russert a flea bath...

Monday, February 19, 2007

Repost: Bush is no Washington

The following is a post I made on Oct. 9, of last year. It seems apropo for today given the Presidents comparison betwixt himself, and the veritable father of our nation. I suppose there is one comparison. It seems that as successful as George Washington was in ruling, George Bush seems to be equally disastrous with his governance. Anyway, without further ado, here is my repost of Bush is no Washington.

The N.Y. Daily News has an article that is getting a bit of attention from my fellow lefty type bloggers. The focus of most of these blogs is on how the Presidents mood has taken a turn for the worse with the recent political setbacks for the Republican party. The Presidents prickly nature is legendary and this story just adds to that legend. The part of the story that was news to me was the following part, at the end of the article:
Bush is less worried about his standing with history, telling aides that George Washington's legacy is still being debated two centuries later.
Frankly I don't know where to begin with this logic. Who is debating the legacy of George Washington? He is considered one of the greatest Presidents in American history. Until this assertion by President Bush, I was unaware that George Washington's legacy was up for debate. This matter is settled, and it is only the modern day Georges need to obfuscate the already certain verdict of history on his own failed policies that leads him to throw mud at the legacy of the nations leading founding father.

Let me bastardize the response of the late great Lloyd Bentsen to Dan Quayle in one of the greatest political flamages of history. In response to President Bush's understanding of George Washington, I say: Mr. Presdident, I didn't know George Washington, Washington was not a friend of mine, but Mr. Bush, you are no George Washington.

There are so many differences between the two men that to list them all would lead to a 10 page tome. Let me just focus on the one difference that truly points to the chasm between the men. Washington at several points in his leadership, both of the Continental Army and then as President, put aside the temptation to hold power that he felt should not be invested in a single man in a democracy. In the face of this great personal temptation for the realization of unfettered power, Washington declined in the best interest of his nation. Indeed Wasington was the perfect man at the perfect time to lead the colonies into independence in such a way as to make their progeny the greatest nation on the face of the earth.

George Bush on the other hand has failed in the same test of power sharing. Given a compliant Congress and sympathetic courts Bush has expanded executive power. Using the tragedy of 9/11, Bush has used fear and obfuscation to further expand his power. He has not needed to worry about oversight by Congress. He has used the so called signing statement to re-write legislation he does not favor and then sign the law as he has written it against all constitutional precepts. Indeed he claims the ability to do this based upon his so called constitutional right to oversee a unitary executive, while ignoring the most basic constitutional separation of powers.

The Vice President is unapologetic in his belief that the executive branch ought to be given unfettered power, and Cheney has been supported steadfastly by Bush. Even in the face of unqualified failures of policy on a global scale, causing death and suffering of biblical scope, this President claims that those who do not agree with him are fools and support our enemies. He is unwilling to admit the possibility of his own falibity and insists upon pursuing policies which have been demonstrated to be wrong headed in the face of disaster. Indeed, on several occasions President Bush has seemed to indicate his own belief in what he perceives to be the divine nature of his calling.

All of this points to an enduring drive by President Bush to expand his political power. This to me is the glaring difference between Bush and Washington. This difference is magnified by the fact that Washington tended to follow a path guided by intellectual curiosity and wisdom, where as Bush tends to walk a path guided by dogma and self assuredness whatever the consequence.

To be sure Washington was not a perfect man, but his political skill and self sacrifice makes him one of the greatest leaders in American history, well placed for the emergencies that he faced. Until President Bush called that truth into question that is.

"The biggest recruiting tool of all"

With today's post, I would like to address something administration spokes toady Tony Snow said on Meet the Press.
But I’ll tell you, you want something to go wrong? Have the United States leave before the job’s done in Iraq, and invite al-Qaeda—give al-Qaeda the biggest recruiting tool of all, which is to say we made the Americans leave.
Having this administration lecture the citizenry on what will and will not prove a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda is to define the phrase ignorant temerity. If the chickenhawks running this show had any understanding of our enemies recruiting tools, they would never have started this war in the first place. The invasion of Iraq is becoming more and more widely acknowledged as one of the greatest blunders in American history. It would be bad enough if we simply went in and found ourselves inextricably bogged down... but it's even worse than that.

Let me spell out how this war is worse than just a typical "imperialist" type adventure leading to occupation quagmire. If you read my blog on a regular basis, thank you mom and step dad, but you've already read this opinion several times. But by golly I think it's so very very important. So here is why this war is worse than your typical military adventure gone off the tracks...

We are involved in a global struggle against a virulently militant sect of Islam. Going forward I will refer to this struggle as the global war on terror, war on terror, gwot, or wot, not because those terms describe the situation we find ourselves in perfectly, but because it is the widely accepted terminology for the struggle. This struggle has been ongoing for decades, but previous to 9/11, the wests (beyond Israel's) involvement was mainly political and law enforcement in nature, with occasional military actions. Well, of course 9/11 changed that, and from my perspective properly so.

However the military component after 9/11 ought to have been chiefly used to bring an end to the regime of the Taliban, attendant with rooting Al Qaeda out of Afghanistan. As far as war is concerned, the invasion of Afghanistan was entirely justified. The world recognized this and supported Americas leadership in the effort with a truly global coalition assisting us. The American led coalition made quick work of the Taliban, and everything to that point was fine...

However, once the military component in the war on terror became necessary, it is as if the Bush administration completely failed to recognize the importance of the political and law enforcement aspects of the fight. Law enforcement was jumbled together with the military's handling of detainees, leading to the embarrassment of Guantanamo Bay, which in turn led to the Al Qaeda recruiting tool of Abu Ghraib.

The political side in the war on terror is barely a fig leaf for Bush administration bluster and saber rattling. Diplomacy for these folks comes down to "you are with us or you are against us", and if you are on the other side, talking to you somehow validates your position. Since when has diplomacy been reserved for those who agree with us?

But American diplomacy took the biggest hit with the Presidents blunder into Iraq. Prior to that invasion, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the President was given unheard of levels of support both domestically and internationally. He squandered that by invading Iraq with next to no international support. Furthermore, the justifications used by the administration to take this nation to war were based upon falsehoods leading to acrimony when the truth became apparent. The loss of this political support for the administration has drastically curtailed American effectiveness with our ability to work with police in nations once allied with us, but now opposed to our administration. For one small example, consider that suspects in foreign lands now appeal their extraditions to American custody by claiming in their courts that they may be interned at Guantanamo Bay. In effect these suspects plead that placing them in American control is the same as rendering them to a nation that will torture them. And the awful truth is, they are justified in believing this!

Yet the loss of international political support leading to the loss of effectiveness of law enforcement and diplomacy is just the beginning of the reasons that Iraq may justly be concluded to be the greatest strategic blunder in American history. One of the greatest reasons this invasion was so massive a blunder is due to precisely the reason Tony Snow so boldly mentioned as a justification to continue the mistake. When Snow describes withdrawal as the biggest recruiting tool of all, he has it precisely backwards. It is the invasion and occupation of Iraq that have inflamed the Arab world, and given Al Qaeda their dream recruiting tool. George Bush could not have acted more in the interests of Al Qaeda with the invasion of Iraq if he had been taking orders directly from Osama Bin Laden. It is Bush and his mistaken policies that are the biggest recruiting tools for our enemies, not correcting those mistakes... All the hot air and jingoism from this administration can not change that.

We will only begin to mitigate this error when we acknowledge it, and take corrective measures.

Friday, February 16, 2007

House Republican Leadership: Strike 3, Career Liars

The last week has been highly instructive when considering the course taken by the leadership of the Republicans in the House of Representatives. There are three cases in which they used deception for purely short term political gain.

Speaker Pelosi is on notice that any, and I do mean ANY, chance the Republicans perceive to attack her will be used. Even if they have to make up the stuff they are attacking her for.

Even the White House could not go along with the right wing noise machine in full throat over the supposed plane scandal, which really wasn't. When the Republican attack dogs are too far out there for even Karl Rove to back up, you KNOW that's freaking bad. So strike one.

Then the "house based Republican Study Committee" had to admit they were wrong to attack Speaker Pelosi for posting clips from C-Span on You Tube. In the press release by the RSC, they say: "The RSC spoke with C-SPAN today, who confirmed that these videos violate C-SPAN copyright/trademark of the House proceedings." The funny thing is... and any news junkie worth their weight in spit knows this already... C-Span is NOT copyrighted. So the RSC backed off... Strike two.

So Pelosi is obviously a target... but how about the American people in general?

For strike three, consider the debate on the non binding resolution to condemn the troop surge into Iraq called for by President Bush. There are actually two parts to this deception... I'm calling b.s. on the word put out by Republican leadership before the vote that 50-60 Republicans were expected to vote for the resolution. This was done in order to minimize the well understood number more likely to defect from the Republicans, which in the final tally was 17. If a corporation were to intentionally inflate their predicted losses before the actual figures were released, they would be accused of fraud and insider trading.

Let us consider the entire house debate on the surge. What issue could be more vital to the interests of the nation than the way forward in Iraq? But house Republicans pre determined to debate anything but the surge. As a leaked memo from Republicans Pete Hoekstra and John Shadegg proclaimed: "If we let Democrats force us into a debate on the surge (in troops) or the current situation in Iraq, we lose,".

Thus we were regaled with Republican silliness about Normandy, fighting them there so we don't have to here, the global war on terror, and anything else the resolution did not actually address. So we see the Republicans unwilling to face the issue which is of the greatest concern to most Americans. They deceptively seek to change the subject, and prove themselves incapable of admitting the paucity of their logic, except in internal memo's which are not meant to see the light of day.

These house Republicans have proven themselves to be completely deceptive and devoid of redeeming virtue where matters of public trust are involved. If this is the example they intend to carry into the 2008 elections, I expect another tidal wave to cement Democratic power in that institution.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Bush's Iran logic leads to his own impeachment

In yesterdays press conference with President Bush, he expressed the opinion that whether or not the top levels of the Iranian government were aware of the flow of weapons to Iraq was not pertinent:
THE PRESIDENT: What we do know is that the Quds force was instrumental in providing these deadly IEDs to networks inside of Iraq. We know that. And we also know that the Quds force is a part of the Iranian government. That's a known. What we don't know is whether or not the head leaders of Iran ordered the Quds force to do what they did.

But here's my point: Either they knew or didn't know, and what matters is, is that they're there. What's worse, that the government knew or that the government didn't know?


Can I -- let me -- I can't say it more plainly: there are weapons in Iraq that are harming U.S. troops because of the Quds force. And as you know, I hope, that the Quds force is a part of the Iranian government. Whether Ahmadinejad ordered the Quds force to do this, I don't think we know. But we do know that they're there, and I intend to do something about it.
Bush intends to "do something about" Iranian weapons ending up in the hands of insurgents, regardless of the fact that Iranian leadership may not be responsible. Using the logic relied upon by the President then, I believe his removal from office is warranted due to the Presidents pursuit of policies that resulted in tons of weaponry under coalition control falling into the hands of the insurgency. I will remind the reader that multi tons of weapons which devolved to coalition control after the invasion of Iraq were left unguarded, and looted by the same people who are now fighting us. The fact is that the weapons looted after the invasion due to the negligence of the administration in protecting these ammo dumps are, beyond a shadow of doubt, currently being used by the insurgency, whereas the evidence pointing to Iranian complicity is tenuous at best. In other words, the case is stronger by far for Bush's complicity in accidentally arming the insurgency than Iranian involvement.

The validity of Iranian weaponry in Iraq is at best a cloudy issue. Iran does have a security arrangement with Iraq. The Iraqi government has protested the detention of Iranians by American forces for supposedly arming insurgents, saying the Iranians were invited by Iraq and ought to be protected with diplomatic immunity. It is highly probable that the Iraqi government, supposedly sovereign and able to pursue an agenda of it's own choosing, is taking weaponry from Iran, and disbursing those weapons to it's allies in the civil war.

Just a few days ago American forces arrested the number three person in control of the Iraqi health ministry for ties to the Shia militias. He is charged with funneling money to Al Sadr's militia. One must wonder if any of this money was taken from the 363 tons of cash loaded on pallets from the N.Y. Fed and airlifted to Baghdad with next to no accounting for the distribution of those funds. Funds which were urgently requested in order to fund Iraqi government ministries, which one must presume included the health ministry. If any of this money can be traced to that source, it would seem to me another example of the President unknowingly supplying the insurgency because of mistaken policy.

In fact the Maliki government has previously complained about a lack of equipment and training from the coalition to Iraqi army and police units. I have argued for quite some time that we never will see those units fully armed or trained by Americans because to do so is to arm and train the Baghdad wing of the Iranian revolutionary guard. If Iranian weaponry and influence is to be embargoed at the border, it would behoove this administration to touch base with our supposed allies, the sovereign government of Iraq on the issue. If our allies are allied with Shiite militias, and turn to Iran for arms, is the leadership of Iran complicit in arming the insurgency? That is a dubious proposition at best.

What is not a dubious proposition is that the vast majority of casualties suffered by coalition forces may be directly tied to the Sunni insurgency. Those insurgents took advantage of the chaos immediately following the invasion to empty vast stores of munitions and we see the deadly results of that lack of security on a daily basis. There is no question that the Bush administrations lack of planning resulted in a huge windfall of weaponry to the insurgency.

If the President can say that action against Iran is warranted by the possibility of Iranian weapons unwittingly going to the Shia militia's, that logic leads us to question what may be done to those responsible for unwittingly arming, and funding of the insurgency immediately after the invasion? The only remedy provided by the constitution for the people of the United States to "do something about" the President is impeachment.

Again, this is using the logic posited by the President, which I believe, as usual, is flawed. I do believe knowledge of the transgression is necessary in order to condemn the accused in these matters. This applies equally to the Iranians and to the Bush administration. I also believe the nature of the ignorance regarding the consequences of boneheaded policy by the Bush administration is nearly unbelievable. Who were the geniuses who thought it would be a good idea to leave weapons depot's unguarded? So while I do believe there are a litany of reasons the President ought to be impeached, I do not think his near willful ignorance in these matters is one of those reasons.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I am Spartacus

The saga of the Edwards blogger hire has come to a sad end with the resignation of the two bloggers hired by the Edwards campaign.

The way this was blown up has caused harm to all bloggers, both lefties, and the ones who so loudly beat their chests on the right as well. Believe me, when it comes to people expressing offensive opinions to certain groups, there is no set of bloggers who are safe. This was an example of right wing bloggers throwing stones from their glass houses. And they have harmed themselves, and all of us using the I Net tubes to express ourselves with their actions.

How about this for offensive content? On many occasions I have called George Bush the top recruiting officer for Al Qaeda based in Washington D.C. On nearly a daily basis I refer to koolaid drinking, administration toady, rightwing blogdiots etc... Indeed, I am Spartacus. Because evidently, since I have strong opinions and express them, I can expect to be forever stonewalled if I were to be so bold as to have political ambition, or a campaign were to like my work and try to hire me.

Well guess what folks... Nearly by definition, anyone who has the drive to blog about politics has strong opinions that someone else is going to find offensive. That is what makes America America. You can be opinionated and find your way. Politics is not only the pervue of the milktoast middle. The notion that a political position would be denied someone for offending a group they oppose is just outlandish.

Furthermore, like it or not the right wing blogosphere is Spartacus too. They are just as, if not more offensive than the left wing rabble rousers out here. If there is justice they will be held to the same impossible standards they hold the lefty bloggers to. When that happens, what do you think they will say when they find themselves unable to be gainfully employed in politics because of opinions they held which offended others?

So yes. I am Spartacus. And I say that proudly.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Did Newt start the Pelosi plane lie?

Check out the final half paragraph of U.S. News and World Report's write up on Newt Gingrich. The context of the quote is Newt attending a meeting of GOP brass, and urging them to get tough on Democrats in Congress. He has three tactics, but the last one is what caught my attention relating to Pelosi and the plane smear.
Finally, drop a bomb the media will love. The gop did, slapping Speaker Nancy Pelosi's demand for an "Air Force Three" to fly her home to San Francisco. Says a leadership aide, "He brings up things that we didn't even know about."
Thus it sounds like the idea for the story was hatched by Gingrich himself, and is solely intended to politically harm speaker Pelosi. How else would one read the sentence "He brings up things that we didn't even know about." in that context. The Republicans may not have even been aware of the plane issue until Gingrich fed them the story.

For a rundown on the history, and just how dirty and slimy this attack on Pelosi is, check out Media Matters, and or TPM's write ups on the (non) story.

If it is true that the lie originated with Newt, would this not be the height of irony considering Newts own troubles with plane travel in the past? Gingrich was widely pilloried for truculently submitting a spending bill that President Clinton would be forced to veto, shutting down the government, complaining of having to exit the back of Air Force One after a flight to Israel to attend a funeral.

Frankly, this kind of hit job has the stench of partisan Republican hackery that so marked the rise of Newt to power. Indeed, this sort of audacious, baseless attack marked his reign as leader culminating when, as speaker he oversaw the impeachment of Bill Clinton for lying about an affair... even as Gingrich was well known for carrying on his own illicit dalliances. Clinton even used what at the time was called the Newt defense: that oral sex didn't count. The woman so willing to wear the kneepads for Gingrich says the he liked to keep it oral, so he can say "he never slept with her". I suppose the perfect answer to this is supplied by Gene Simmons, who while discussing his many many encounters admonishes that sleeping was not the noteworthy part of the transaction.

I apologize for getting all prurient on my readers... I'm just trying to convey the depths of dirtyness which Newt signifies.

The gall! It would not surprise me in the least if it turned out that the unfounded and slimy charge leveled at Pelosi originated in Gingrich's fevered brain. And if this does prove true, she should consider it an honor to be Newts target. I would hardly care to give serious consideration to the worthiness of Newts moral compass, so having him against you must be a good sign.

Congress: Cut off funding for Gitmo

I propose that the Congress specifically reject funding for the detainee center in Guantanamo Bay. I would like to see them spell out that no part of funding for any other programs are to be spent in order to continue the detainee center, beyond zeroing out funding for the detention center in particular. Further Congress needs to include language that specifies if the President attaches a signing statement to the defense appropriations bill that would include this language that the entire bill is rendered null and void.

This may not be original thinking on my part, but I have yet to hear this proposed. I would just like to do my part to put a good idea out there.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Who said this about who?

The [nation at issue's] people, are good, decent, honorable people. And they've got a government that is belligerent, loud, noisy, threatening -- a government which is in defiance of the rest of the world. And so our objective is to continue to keep the pressure, in hopes that rational folks will show up and say, it's not worth it...
I do not like playing charades, so I'll just let the reader know that the above is a slightly paraphrased quotation by President Bush, regarding Iran, from his interview with C-Span. But I contend that quote could very well be from any other world leader regarding the people and government of the United States of America.

Look in the mirror President Bush. There is the noisy, beligerent, in defiance of world opinion, threatening world leader that ought to concern you. As someone this President pretends to follow for guidance in his life once said (again paraphrasing), remove the log from your own eye before complaining of the mote in your neighbors.

As my neighbor at work said when I brought this story to his attention: "Classic projection".

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Congressional "Iraq Catch 22"

Reading the results from the latest A.P. poll on public approval for the Democratically controlled Congress provides some very key insights Congressional leadership would do well to consider going forward.

Congress enjoys a modest bounce in overall public esteem, but still has a disapproval rating at 58%. Most of the gain appears to have come from a swing in the opinions of Democrats with Congressional approval swinging from a mere 9% last fall to 39% currently.

The reason this bounce in opinion has not been a trampoline type skyward launch is because of Congressional inability to effectually deal with the war in Iraq. Non binding resolutions about the major issue confronting this nation is not sufficient in the opinion of the majority of the American people. And frankly, we the people are right about this.

Thus, when MSNBC's coverage of this story talks of the Iraq catch 22, I think they use the right phrase for the wrong reason. In their article they quote Diane Bania of Florida as saying:
"They are caught in a Catch-22, because Iraq is the thing that's on most people's minds and it has to be dealt with, and it leaves very little time and energy to do anything else,"
If only Congress would do the right thing, it would not matter how much time or energy they sucked out of other issues to get it right on Iraq. If Congress acted decisively to stop the surge into Iraq public approval for them would increase dramatically. The Iraq catch 22 then is the inability of the Congress to do the right thing regarding Iraq, because they are afraid of being perceived as weak on terrorism and security, even when doing the right thing would accrue to their short term benefit in the polls. Why this seeming disconnect one might ask?

Because what happens in Iraq going forward is going to be ugly and disastrous no matter who controls policy in Washington. Looking at this in the long term, rather than short term, if Congress were to get a spine and stand up to this surge then whatever happens afterwards will be painted as the fault of Congress. Nevermind the four years of unmitigated disaster and folly that have led us here. Congressional leadership would rather have what is coming to be the Presidents doing entirely, not theirs partially.

Frankly, from a strictly long term politically cynics point of view, this might be sound strategy too. To play the cynical devils advocate here, the Iraq mistake is not going to have a happy ending, so why not continue to put that on the Republicans rather than getting involved to bring this to a painful close sooner, rather than dragging it out for a painful close later. If George Bush is successful in foisting off the responsibility to the next President, we'll cross that bridge when we get there I guess.

I may think the Congress are a markedly better bunch now that Pelosi and Reid are seeing to affairs, but I must admit that this punt the ball strategy on Iraq is a disappointment for me. And I believe the rest of the nation feels that way too. The question is, if Democratic leadership gets the notion that lack of action on Iraq is causing dissatisfaction with the public, are they going to be able to justify doing the right thing, and taking some of the blame for the inevitable disaster? That is the Iraq catch 22.

There is one further catch to the Iraq catch 22. As the Democrats proceed with the oversight so missing from the Republican rubberstampers, the evident need to close down the quagmire in Iraq will become ever more apparent. The more Democrats do their job, the more they will be pushed to stop the Iraq adventure. The Democratic leadership may wind up pushing themselves into a position where they have to take partial ownership for the ending of the disaster, because to do anything less would be even more politically damaging.

So far this post has been mainly about my perceptions of what everyone else is thinking. My thinking follows the following logic. The President has proceeded in a wrong headed fashion at every point. It is up to the Congress to bring an end to this, and the sooner the better. There will be lots of squealing from the right blaming Democrats for the mess we leave behind, and these righties may even be able to sway a few voters with all the heat they are certain to generate. However history will know, as will the masses of people, that this is due to the administrations many obvious errors. The few voters swayed by the blather of the right will be more than offset by the many voters who see the truth of the matter. It is time for the Congress to get some courage and stop the Bush generated quagmire, because it is the right thing to do.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

On blogrolls and what not...

So Kos went and tidied up his blog roll... and there are some hurt feelings because of this. Not that it matters to Kos, or anyone who was unceremoniously dumped but this subject fits in nicely with some recent thought I've had regarding Club Lefty.

When I first kicked off Club Lefty, I'll be entirely honest. I thought maybe I have what it takes to get a decent amount of readership, and maybe I would be able to get an ad or two to generate a bit of income on the side.

Well that dream was crushed about 6 months into the experiment. Club Lefty is mainly visited by inlaws, and a couple of other blog owners who link over... but really hasn't generated much independent traffic. Every now and then I'll post something cogent, written well enough to warrant a link from some other site. I'll never forget the post I wrote that got linkage from Crooks and Liars and resulted in about 400 hits that day. Or my post about Jamil Hussein which landed in a prime spot on Google and resulted in a bunch of hits, mainly by right wing types. But these spikes in traffic are the oddity, not the norm.

Another factor weighing against me in my struggle to get my opinion to a wider audience is my blogging schedule. I work during weekdays and that is when I blog. I'm on the computer all day at work so when I'm at home I don't spend a lot of my time on the internet. Which means if I were to get any sort of following, they would only have content on weekdays. Plus I'm not really prolific because I like to take a subject and link to sources, and basically parse out my response. So I further sacrifice quantity for quality, which makes for kind of a boring site. You hit Club Lefty once after I post on a weekday and you know whats happening here for the next 24 hours.

I've also come to the realization that my writing is just not top notch blogger quality. I'm not posting this in a huff mind you, this is just me facing the truth of the matter. My writing tends to be in long, complicated sentences with lots of comma's and elipses... and oddly placed pauses, often with mispellings, (sometimes intentionally so mind you) which can be very hard to follow unless you are reading it with my brain. And you have to be a great great communicator in order to kick start a successful blog these days. There are a million others just like me, all angling for a part of the spotlight so you have to be really good to be heard.

So I've long since come to the point that I gave up the hope of blogging for cash because I'm not that great a writer, and not prolific enough to warrant a lot of traffic. But since I'm so freaking opinionated I can not just stop blogging. So if you've read this far, you can probably tell that I've been in deep thought about how to proceed with this site. For the time being, I'll keep it as is, but eventually I see me moving. I think the moniker "Club Lefty" is pretentious. While I started with an intention of building up readership and what not to almost have a clubby atmosphere, obviously geared to lefty opinion, I've long long since given that goal up.

I've thought about shutting down Club Lefty and starting a new blog. Something started with a more realistic attitude. Make the title a bit more appropriate for the task I set myself, and just keep it as an outlet for my political venting. Maybe have a blog named "The Work Day Liberal" or something like that.

Really this is a post with no point now that I get to where I want to wrap it up. Just sort of letting anyone who may wonder know where I'm coming from, and where I may be going to...

Microcosm of Iraq: Giving flat soccer balls

Salon has a story written by Mark Benjamin that serves as a microcosm of the American quagmire in Iraq.

Soccer is huge in Iraq. A unit of Americans stationed in a forward operating base was tasked with a mission to win the hearts and minds of the local populace by handing out soccerballs. However, when the soccerballs arrived they were not accompanied with any means where by they could be inflated.

After casting about for possible solutions the base commander eventually washed his hands of the affair, declared that the locals would have to be greatful for what they got, and ordered the balls distributed uninflated.
It seemed crazy. "We were so pissed," said [sniper, Garett] Reppenhagen. But orders are orders. When you are told to hand out flat soccer balls, you hand out flat soccer balls. So the soldiers who served in 2nd Battalion, 63rd Armored Regiment piled the flat soccer balls into their Humvees. Driving through the Sunni Triangle's war-torn towns, they tossed the deflated balls to children, who crowded the sides of the roads, running beside the canals and lush greenery that lined the banks of the Diyala River. "Kids were swarming us," Reppenhagen said. "We went to a couple of schools and delivered stacks of them. Everybody we saw got a flat soccer ball."


When the Humvees began to retrace their route back to the base, the futility of the operation was becoming painfully clear. "Kids were wearing these soccer balls as hats," Reppenhagen said. "They were kicking them around. They were in trees. They were floating in canals. They were everywhere. There were so many soccer balls."

Today, Reppenhagen still cringes when he recalls the soccer ball operation, which to him says so much about the entire U.S. occupation in Iraq.
Here we have some brainiac administrator hitting upon a good idea to help win the populace over, who while planning the operation does not consider the most fundamental components needed for success. The result is an embarrasment for the military and frustrated, hostile locals. No one wins...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

More White House idiocy

The Politico is rapidly becoming a must read for daily political news. I especially appreciate this portion of their mission statement:
There is more need than ever for reporting that presents the news fairly, not through an ideological prism. One of the most distressing features of public life recently has been the demise of shared facts. Warring partisans -- many of whom take their news from sources that cater to and amplify their existing opinions -- live in separate zones of reality. In such a climate, every news story is viewed as either weapon or shield in a nonstop ideological war. Our answer to this will be journalism that insists on the primacy of facts over ideology. Our belief in this is one reason The Politico will not have a traditional editorial page. Only rarely will we write as "We."
I'm afraid if The Politico really intends to follow this policy, there will be no helping them being perceived as inherently biased to the liberal point of view. Observing the recent feature in public life of the demise of shared facts is one thing. There is overwhelming evidence that this is due to the express intent of the leadership of the Republican party to remake reality as they see fit. This is apparent in attacks on science, boneheaded determination to stay the course in the face of self evident disaster while proclaiming the success of the mission, and various other manifestations of Republicans in la la land. I just posted yesterday about a Republican who is so out of touch that she actually said that creating the world that the Iraqi insurgents and terrorists breed and operate in was a good thing, and followed that up with a call to support the troops. There is no other way to describe that than la la land.

The need for a source like the Politico is because of the effect of Fox news, and conservative railing at fact based news sources. There is a reason that majorities of Fox viewers remained convinced through out the 2004 election that Saddam Hussein was affiliated with Al Qaeda. In fact one prominent rightwing koolaid drinker rejoiced at the fact that Fox viewers were so misinformed, proclaiming it was despite the public school system and the liberal talking points etc etc... Somehow she forgot to mention it was also in spite of the truth! Yet another example of a conservative attacking the facts as liberally biased.

There is a reason the vast majority of Republican Congress critters surveyed doubt the scientific validity of human driven global warming. And there is a reason that the dead ender masses of conservative sheople defiantly support these willfully ignorant politicians despite the mounds of evidence (again, those pesky facts!) that debunk their views. In fact there is a reason that the Bush administration has spent years hushing up the scientists at NASA and everywhere else they could reach. This is a direct attack by this administration upon scientific fact, and could not be a clearer example of the alternate reality they have attempted to create by attacking and ignoring the truth.

There is a reason some koolaid drinking Republican house member from Tennessee actually believes that creating a cess pool of insurgency and terrorism to put more troops into was the right thing to do. How is it exactly that Vice President Cheney can be widely ridiculed for the lunacy he spouted about Iraq in his interview with Wolfe Blitzer, but he still enjoys strong support by the base, hardline, whacko right wing of the Republican party? It is because they can not be driven to see basic truth.

We can only hope that the Politico continues to faithfully execute the mission to bring us only fact based news. To this point I have found them a good source for the news they cover. I'm certain they will face a storm of criticism from the right because of their fact based nature, and hopefully the Politico won't fold to the pressure and become another tool of the right wing echo chamber.

Somehow I've managed to start a post intended to cover an article at The Politico into a rant at Fox news. What a way for this massively popular and rapidly growing blog ##big snark## to welcome The Politico!

Anyway, today The Politico has an article titled: "Bush Wants Funding Jump for Anti-Drug Ads Rated as Useless". Now I'm certain Rightwing freaks will hit the roof at the headline alone because of a perceived bias. But actually, there is no bias... that headline is entirely accurate in every word and meaning. If anything the headline actually downplays the harmful effects the ad campaign may be having.

Now let me point out before we get into the meat of the article that the reporter who wrote it once worked for the Marijuana Policy Project. The Politico makes no attempt to hide that fact. They put it in bold letters on the side margin of the article. The Marijuana Policy Project lobbies to legalize marijuana. The White House in fact has threatened to go to The Washington Post and tell columnists Howard Kurtz of this conflict of interest... I think it speaks well for The Politico that they ran the story rather than allow themselves to be buffaloed by administration blustering. Because what this boils down to in the end is that the article is entirely accurate.

Here is the meat of the story. President Bush's budget calls for an increase in spending for advertising anti drug ads, which the government has determined through a scientific study (oooh there's that dirty science word again) may actually increase the likelihood that kids use drugs.

If anything an advocate for legalizing marijuana would be perceived by the righties as wanting to encourage marijuana use. (That would actually be wrong, but I won't get into that right now, unless pushed to go there in comments) The article points out that it is administrations blundering that is contributing to increased pot usage, not legalization efforts (which are not even mentioned). If there is a bias here it is to report an activity that should be stopped in an effort to slow down marijuana usage, and it appears that the White House are the ones advocating the pro pot side here.

In a prime example of what I described earlier (facts not driving policy or the thought process of right wingers) the administrations reaction to the study was to shelve it for over a year.
The bad study results weren't news to the White House, which sat on the research for a year and a half while continuing to fund the ad campaign on the basis that the study was still ongoing, Slate magazine reported in September. In October, National Journal reported that John Carnevale, former director of budget and planning for the drug czar's office, admitted that the office "did not like the report's conclusions and chose to sit on it."
This really is a prime example of cutting off ones nose to spite ones face, and then paying for a bigger knife to further mangle oneself. The administration funds a program to decrease drug use, which a scientific study shows has the opposite effect, but since the administration does not like the study they do not release it, and continue the harmful program. Despite the evidence they persist in harmful practices and increase the budget to do so. Sound familiar at all?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

"Giant pallets of cash" = stale news to GOP

The United States loaded 363 tons of cash on palettes and airlifted it to Iraq during the reign of provisional authority L. Paul Bremer.

363 tons of cash. This is getting into territory where it is easier to measure the weight of the money than the amount involved. I mean 363 tons of cash just boggles the mind. It was the largest cash transfer in the history of the federal reserve. And the sad fact is that this is all money that was sent into a black hole. Fully $8.8 billion can not be accounted for after being given to Iraqi government agencies.

Who was accounting for all this money you might wonder. Why it was a fat slob in a van down by the river! Chris Farley fans might appreciate the attempt at humor, but the truth actually was not far removed. The only accounting firm hired to keep track of cash flown by the pallet load to Iraq was a CPA so small that it was run from a house in San Diego. That CPA firm, named North Star, no longer exists and never actually ran an audit of the Provisional Authorities internal spending controls. This firm was payed $1.4 million, for what must be the worst case of accounting ever in the sordid history of human pursuit of filthy lucre.

Mentioning spending control in the same sentence as Iraq Provisional Authority seems inappropriate somehow. We have tales of contractors bringing duffel bags to be loaded with shrink wrapped bills on pay days. Offices in the green zone awash in $100 bills. Money being distributed from the back of pickup trucks. Money payed to repair an elevator in a hospital in Hilla, which was not done, with the elevator failing resulting in 3 people killed. Insurgents stole cash on raids that were never reported. It is all surreal, and disheartening considering the state of affairs in Iraq at this time and the burgeoning budget deficits at home.

Of course we know that the GOP, that political bastion of fiscal responsibility, would have their people calling for a full accounting of this sordid affair, right? Wrong actually. Republicans accused Democrats of reviewing stale news to embarrass the administration.

This actually is embarrassing if one considers that the Republicans were in control of Congress while these events unfolded and positively refused to conduct the oversight so obviously needed at the time. In a way then the Republicans have it right, but saying this only proves the rubberstamp nature of the Congress when Republicans held the power. They refused to take care of an embarrassing situation when it happened and now it is up to Democrats to look back in time and try to sort it out. Maybe if the Republican controlled Congress had seen fit to oversee and take corrective action when this boondoggle was happening, they wouldn't be the minority right now.

Marsha Blackburn loses credibility on Iraq

I watched Hardball last night and saw the most amazing interview between Chris Matthews and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn. (R, Tn)

Blackburn managed to completely lose any semblance of credibility when considering the issue of Iraq in my opinion. A few weeks ago I wrote a post detailing my litmus test for credibility on Iraq when it comes to the ruling and pundit class. The basic premise is that President Bush admitted mistakes in the occupation. So the pro war talking heads could only be credible going forward if they also admitted mistakes in occupation. To quote from my post, the litmus test I set was:
Any person who supported the war in the first place but now wants to be taken seriously as a critic must express the opinion that the invasion was a mistake.
Blackburn failed that litmus test completely by saying the following:
MATTHEWS: Was sending American troops in to occupy Iraq a smart thing for American interests?

BLACKBURN: When we go in and we topple Saddam‘s regime and we began the world that the insurgents are working in and the breeding ground that they have there, that‘s the right thing to do.
Now my litmust test applies to pundits who are out there trying to gain credibility by admitting mistakes were made, and this does fit Blackburn in this case, as we shall see. But first let us focus on this quote in particular. Blackburn actually says that not only was overthrowing Saddam good, but creating the world and the breeding ground the insurgents are operating in now was good as well. To me that sentiment borders on insanity. Or treason. I honestly hope I wouldn't have to explain my reasoning here, because to me it is self evident. If Blackburn considers this "support [for] our men and women in uniform", one must wonder what sort of horrible sentiment must be expressed in order to be considered harmful to the troops.

Blackburn wants to be taken seriously so she can not claim that everything has been perfect all along. If even President Bush admits errors have been made, she must admit to errors as well, which she does very grudgingly:
MATTHEWS: And occupy it for four years?

BLACKBURN: Has everything been perfect going forward? Not exactly right.
"Not exactly right." The only shred of credibility left to Blackburn after this comes from the fact that she has a vote in the House of Representatives. There simply is no other reason to give her opinion any heed what so ever beyond that sad fact.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Baptism of the dead.

Let me alert my readers that the following post has a bearing on my life, as my wife was raised, and still practices as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. (Here after referred to as Mormon, or LDS for sake of ease.) I'm certain family members of hers will read this post so I'm sort of touching on sensitive territory as I proceed.

My wife and her family are familiar with my personal beliefs. I have carefully studied the teachings of Joseph Smith and prayed after my own fashion as to the true nature of spirituality, and after due consideration determined that Mormonism is not for me. I believe an odd sort of amalgam of Christianity. What it comes down to for me is the belief that God is unfathomable, and all we as humans can hope to do in our lives is live as we are led to believe God would want us to. In my way of thinking good Mormons will go to heaven, as will good Muslims, Jews, Protestants, Catholics and even Tree worshipers from 5000 years ago who had no possible way of understanding modern spiritual concepts.

One appreciation I have for Mormonism is the precept they seem to live by, allowing for humankind to follow the individuals spiritual calling as the individual sees fit. This tenet of Mormonism has had a real impact on my life in particular, as my wifes family have treated me with great respect and kindness, even if their politics are diametrically opposed to my own, and I'm not a member of the Latter Day Saints. Mormons are very interested in seeing to it that you understand where they are coming from, and are keen on having you join the church, but (in my experience) they will not condemn you for holding your own beliefs.

So an issue has been brought to my attention which I believe does not speak well for this tolerance on the part of my Mormon sisters and brothers. This issue is the Mormon belief in the baptism of the dead. Now I'm certain that my explanation of this practice will be sorely lacking in detail or the fundamentals which lead to the practice, and I admittedly have yet to broach the subject with my in laws or wife, but here we go anyway.

Remember how I previously expressed my belief that good Muslims, Jews, and pre historic tree worshipers would all go to heaven if they lived good lives? Mormons hold a distantly similar belief. In order for a non Mormon to get the benefits of church membership, Mormons believe that non members will be given the opportunity to accept the teachings of Joseph Smith after they are deceased. My wife has made me promise that after I am dead, if I am approached in the afterlife and offered to become a Mormon, that I would accept. I of course complied!

Mormons also hold that in order to be a Mormon, one must be baptized. We are talking full immersion baptism here folks, none of that pansy water sprinkle stuff they like in other denominations. Well, you can see the rub here right? How can a person be invited to Mormonism from beyond the grave if they have not been baptized... and no the answer is not to go dig up their mouldering bones for a dunking either.

The answer is the belief in the baptism of the dead. Mormons believe that a member in good standing with the church can stand in for a deceased non believer and be baptized in their stead. The non believer will then be offered the choice to accept or decline Mormonism in the afterlife.

Despite the good intentions, I can understand how this practice would be upsetting to certain groups and families. The story that leads me to post today details how Mormons intend to give Pope Benedict the baptismal of the dead. This rite has been performed on behalf of many many people who simply by their lifes work seem to have a very well grounded belief that should be respected, not questioned. The Pope? Pope John Paul III has been baptized after death on no less than 3 occasions. Several other Popes have been as well. Spiritual giants of many other religions and sects of Christianity are not immune.

The LDS leadership agreed in 1995 to remove the names of Jewish holocaust victims from the rolls of those given the rite. However recent investigations serve to show that despite the best intentions of church leadership, thousands of questionable names remain on the rolls. Despite the Mormon belief in the voluntary nature of the recipient to accept the baptism, I can full well understand why a family member of a holocaust victim would be upset at the practice. Especially when considering that Adolph Hitler has also been given the baptism of the dead. I don't know of any relatives of mine who were involved in the holocaust, but I'll admit that I feel a bit peeved at the thought that Adolph would be offered eternal bliss along with those he was responsible for killing, due to well meaning LDS members.

In fact the LDS leaders have tacitly admitted the problems, urging members to only baptize relatives, and agreeing to purge the rolls due to the outcry. However they note that it would be impossible for them to check each name submitted out of the tens of thousands of baptisms performed each month so as to stop the rite when questions arise.

I honestly do not believe that the members of the LDS are doing this out of spite or to be hurtful. In fact the motivation is to do good. It is that drive to do the right thing, even if that action is not appreciated by the family or organization of the recipient that makes this issue just about impossible to settle in my opinion. If someone is convinced they are saving the mortal soul of the recipient, it is hard to imagine the means to stop the practice regardless of the sensitivities of the recipients family member and so forth. Yet saying these members do not mean to be spiteful does not remove the odious nature of the practice in the eyes of the unwilling recipients family and loved ones, and that feeling is justifiable as far as I'm concerned.

To wrap this up, I would be very interested in hearing how Mitt Romney would respond to this issue. I might make a habit of commenting on Romney from the perspective of a non-Mormon in touch with the Mormon perspective, and able to fairly judge the issues in my humble opinion, depending on what kind of reaction I get to this post.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Constitution in hot water

This post is based upon the renowned tale of the frog which is placed in a pot of luke warm water. The frog initially does not jump out of the pot because the water is comfortable. As the heat under the pot is incrementally increased, the frog does not leap from the pot because it doesn't realize the water is becoming dangerously hot. Eventually the frog succumbs to the boiling water.

I consider this tale apropos of the situation our constitution is going through at this point in our history.

It started with the very act which allowed this President to be sworn into office. Looking back now, we see the seeds of disregard for constitutional principle planted in the willingness by the administration to take office after stopping the counting of votes in Florida. To use the power of a stacked Supreme Court to stop a recount. To use a horribly biased, clownish buffoon of a Secretary of State in Florida to fight those who wanted to find the truth of the matter in the votes cast. Rent a mobs, high priced lawyers and family ties were the tools used by this President to gain his office. After handily losing the national election, and scoffing at the fundamental constitutional right of the people to express themselves via the vote, this President was selected to office. This is the veritable constitution being placed into a pot of water on the stove.

I mark the very first incremental increase in the temperature of the water on May 24, 2001. This is the very first time the President used a signing statement to alter the express will of the Congress in a law that he signed.
Section 3 of the bill requires the Secretary of Agriculture to submit to certain committees and subcommittees of the Congress a preliminary report concerning any immediate needs for additional
legislative authority or appropriations and a final report with recommendations for legislation that will improve efforts to assess, prevent, or control transmission of certain diseases. Section 3 will be interpreted in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to recommend to the consideration of the Congress such measures as the President shall judge necessary and expedient.
Now President Bush is hardly the first President to employ signing statements. But past Presidents typically used them in ways that clarified questions left open by the legislation in question, and only used sparingly. President Bush purports to use signing statements to invalidate entire provisions of laws he signs. In the signing statement above, he says that even though Congress passed, and he signed, a law requiring certain reports from the administration, that he reserved the right to disregard that law.

It is simply preposterous. This is a basic affront to the fundamental role laid out by the Constitution for the executive branch. Any legislative body worth it's weight in spit would have demanded those reports and entered a confrontation with the President. Rather, the Congress, until the election of 2006, meekly allowed the blizzard of such signing statements to pass unchallenged. As far as I'm concerned the Republican Rubberstamp Congress allowing Bush to rule, with no oversight what so ever, even in the face of widely known unmitigated disaster is another instance of the heat of the water being increased ever so slightly.

The next increase in temperature came in response to 09/11/2001. This day ought to be remembered by successive generations as a holy day. A day of sorrow and contemplation. A day that unites the nation in grief.

And this nation did unite as never before. After 9/11 President Bush enjoyed unheard of support both internationally and domestically. Indeed at the time Democrats were heard to say that they were glad President Bush had been selected President. Not because Al Gore would have been a bad leader during these times, but because the nation could unite behind Bush. This was not intended to reflect positively for Bush oddly enough. It was Democrats recognizing that modern day Republican leadership is so bitterly divisive and partisan that they would have refused to unite behind a President Gore.

What did President Bush do with this wealth of support after 9/11. He turned up the heat on the constitution. He pushed through the patriot act. He authorized wiretaps that did not follow the guidelines of the FISA law. He authorized the torture of detainees captured in the new war on terror. He authorized secret prisons and asserted his right to declare American citizens "enemy combatants", liable to imprisonment with no legal recourse. This is not just theoretical either, he has actually done this to American citizens. All of these actions further eroded the constitution.

Indeed the President often expresses the basic logic he uses in order to carry out these unconstitutional measures. You can find quote after quote, in speech after speech in which the President says that the most solemn duty he has is to protect the people of the United States of America. The fact of the matter is that his most solemn duty, the duty which he swore to uphold on two separate occasions, is to protect and defend the constitution of the United States of America to the best of his abilities. That then is his most solemn duty.

Using the political capital given him by a united nation after 9/11, George Bush and his administration lied to the world, the nation, and Congress in order to start a needless war. The war in Iraq, based upon lies, mistaken idealism and greed, is the embodiment of the so called Bush doctrine which advocates pre-emptive war. If the policy of the nation is to start war pre-emptively, it must be by Congressional mandate. The President was given this figleaf for his war in Iraq, but only after using his administration as a weapon of mass deception. The administrations deceptiveness and manipulation in leading America to needless war, which has dramatically harmed our interests in the true war on terror, is another incremental increase in the ambient temperature surrounding the constitution.

There are many more examples of this administrations disdain for constitutional principle. I believe the underlying point here is made sufficiently though. The constitution is being incrementally boiled alive and it is well past time that the administration be stopped from continuing the practice. It may already be too late. The precedents, the ongoing damage to the balance of powers, and the consequences we will experience for generations to come because of the blunders of this President may be beyond mitigation.

The only hope I see at this point is for the Congress to call upon the constitutional remedy provided for the removal of federal officers. Our generation faces a decision that will affect nothing less than the future course of Democracy in America. We can allow the constitution to be altered, or perhaps even done away with by this horribly misguided administration, or we can make a lesson of them for future generations with impeachment.

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