Friday, March 30, 2007

My 2 cents in a blogswarm: Theocracy corrupts.

Blue Gal has asked bloggers to blog against theocracy over this weekend. Here are my two cents.

It would be very simple for me to simply point to the various times President Bush has waxed messianic, and then point out the disaster that he has wrought on our nation and the world. So rather than take the easy road, let me use the current scandal paralyzing the Justice Department as an example of the issue at hand.

What do Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling have in common? For people who follow the news, you may respond that they appear to be heavily involved in a scheme that included deceiving Congress. This apparent deception has so worried Ms. Goodling that she has determined to invoke her fifth amendment rights if called to testify before Congress. Mr. Sampson's emails detail a scheme to install a prosecutor in Arkansas without Senate approval, while deceptively making it appear that the Justice Department was actually working with the Senate. He was forced to resign as chief of staff for the Attorney General immediately following the release of the first round of documents because of the damning evidence contained in those emails. In testimony before the Senate yesterday he testified 122 separate times that he did not recall something.

But there is something else Mr. Sampson and Ms. Goodling have in common. Both are devoutly religious, graduating from universities that are permeated by religion. Monica Goodling graduated from Messiah College, founded by none other than Pat Robertson. Their mission statement reads in part: "to produce Christian leaders who will make a difference, who will change the world." They further describe themselves as being "committed to an embracing evangelical spirit".

Kyle Sampson was raised in Utah, graduating from BYU and serving a mission in Minnesota. Having married a long time member of the church, I have a basic understanding of the LDS, and I can verify that this was no small feat by Mr. Sampson. In serving a mission he gave 2 years of his life, with alot of that time spent walking door to door in a suit, giving his testimony of the worthiness of the message of Joseph Smith to whoever answered the door when he knocked. He was allowed recreation on Mondays, but the rest of his time was devoted to his responsibilities as a missionary. I may not agree with Sampson's politics, but he has earned my respect for what must be a deeply held faith.

So how is it that these two prominently religious and devout people have come to a point in their lives that they are widely reviled for being liars, corrupted, and otherwise unsavory? One having resigned in disgrace and the other fearful of jail time if she testifies... I contend they have reached the ugly end of the relationship which is often formed by the marriage of political power and a deepset conviction that ones faith is inherently infallible.

Believing that you are doing Gods work (or the right thing as it were, if you are not a believer) when you run into a bit of an obstacle can be a source of strength. It can test ones faith. How you react to that testing serves to demonstrate the true character of the person. I'm saying that belief can be a good thing, it doesn't have to be negative. However...

What happens to the fervent believer who is confronted by obstacles that are institutional in nature. Politics naturally gives institutional blocks. America's very system of checks and balances is not conducive to success for the political holy warrior. If you must install a particular attorney because of political considerations, and you believe your party is doing Gods work, it is easy to justify fudging the truth to Congress. You can justify claiming to act in good faith while really acting in bad faith. You are just fighting the good fight.

Having no doubt about the justness of your cause is a deadly combination when it comes to political endeavor. It nearly invariably corrupts both the political and religious. We see now a paralyzed Justice Department, roundly considered hopelessly politicized and the reputation of two top staffers, renowned for religious zeal, in tatters.

I am a Christian. I certainly am not calling for only non believers to be allowed to lead the nation. I only want our leaders to admit that they are fallible. Maybe if Mr. Sampson and Ms. Goodling had taken a moment of introspection, and questioned whether it would be right to lie and plan deception, just questioned themselves, they would have realized that what they were doing was taking them down the wrong road. Religious people offer great wisdom and talent for this nation. But let us keep our religion and politics separate, because to mix them is to corrupt both.

[Update: Please read the comments to this post for a correction as to the affiliation of Messiah College with Pat Robertson... and also me lamenting the fact that I was a week early with this post. I will follow on Friday with a timely post on another aspect of theology which I find objectionable.]

Jeremy Zilber officially rocks...

Here I am, some obscure little blogger in an ocean of blogs. My voice is a veritable whisper in the storm. My opinion has as much effect on the national debate as an individual drop of water has in the desert. But every few months or so, something happens on this blog which makes me decide it is all worthwhile. Yesterday that something happened...

I wrote (I hate even using the word wrote to describe my past Neanderthal like expressions via the keyboard, especially in the context of having an accomplished author comment on the blog but I digress) about the Gmail account of Michael Beck (oag) with yesterdays post. One of the tidbits I found interesting about Beck's Gmail account was the targeted ads from Google, one of which was an ad for the children's book "Why Mommy Is A Democrat". So this afternoon I checked Club Lefty in preparation to make a post adding my two cents to the blog against theocracy blogswarm Blue Gal tuned me into. Lo and behold there was a comment waiting on the Gmail post:
jzilber said...
I'm the author/publisher of Why Mommy is a Democrat. Thanks for pointing this out -- I think it's hilarious. And of course I'm honored to be a small part of an official document dump.

(By the way: Google has much more control over where the ad shows than I do. I'm trying to target Democrats, but Google shows the ad on virtually any website or gmail correspondence that has anything to do with politics or related topics. It's an inexact science, to say the least. If anyone could figure out a more efficient way to place these ads, they'd put Google out of business in about five minutes.)
I am absolutely delighted that the author of Why Mommy Is A Democrat would leave a comment on that post. So I googled Jeremy Zilber just to see what turned up, and... lo and behold, Club Lefty isn't the only blog graced by our esteemed author. Mr. Zilber seems to enjoy nothing more than parachuting behind enemy lines and mixing it up in their home territory. He's gone on a radio show with the founder of Powerline, and responded in the comments to another decidedly right wing blog called COUNTERCOLUMN: The Adjunct of Evil. These two examples of Mr. Zilber's good work in mixing it up with the other side on their turf are in the first 10 of 26,700 links relating to Mr. Zilber.

I'm certain there are many other such examples... with appearances both on the left and right side of the political spectrum. I must say though that his comment here made my day, and I wish him all the best in his continued work to get out the word!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Michael Beck @ Gmail?

Yesterday the Justice Department dumped another load of emails. There has been lots of buzz about the Administration skirting records keeping laws by using outside private email providers in order to not have the communications be part of the official record.

In yesterdays docudump, check out document AG000001014. There is someone named Michael Beck from the office of the Attorney General replying to an email from Kyle Sampson from Beck's Gmail account. Sampson instructs Beck to print and attach a letter and an email and give them to Alberto Gonzales. "Please print (1) the attached letter and (2) the below e-mail for the AG. Thx."

I have to admit that when I saw this Gmail, I actually burst into laughter. I have a Gmail account. I found the glimpse into Beck's Gmail account both humorous and fascinating... and frankly a bit spooky. He had 3363 spam mails sitting there. He had 643 emails in his inbox. Beck obviously saves every correspondence sent to him, no matter the import, or lack there of, of the mail he receives. Good lord my man, after you start acting legally in regards to official business conducted by yourself at the Justice Department and switch all the pertinent correspondence to the correct system... discover the delete link!

Obviously Mr. Beck's email address is known by just about every spam generator in the world. I get lots of spam with my Gmail as well, but I have my address publicized @ Club Lefty, and just about every other time someone wants my email they get my Gmail. I wonder how many spam mails one would get if they set up a Gmail account and kept that address secret? In other words, Beck is hardly undercover, and is using a widely accessed publicly available server to conduct Justice Department business. I hope and pray that Beck doesn't have ambitions to move up the food chain to a position that would require him to have a security clearance.

I also had to chuckle at the advertisements that Gmail targeted at Mr. Beck. The sponsor ads are not the same for everyone with Gmail. They target you based upon your google searches and other criteria. The very top ad is for the book "Why Mommy Is A Democrat". This makes me wonder if the publishers of WMIAD are targeting anyone who shows an interest in politics rather than just people sympathetic with the message of the book. The rest of the sponsor ads seem to have a definite right wing flavor. My favorite is the ad to get specialized bumper stickers from www.rightwing ... and the right side of the page is cut off. I wonder though, what kind of right wing bumpersticker do you suppose would be most appropriate for Mr. Beck?

Beyond the fascinating look inside a bigwigs Gmail world... I was flummoxed about just who Micheal Beck was. Googling his name in the news offers nothing. Searching for his name on the DOJ website: nothing pertinent. Talking Points Memo is the bible on all things Justice Department scandal, but no mention of Michael Beck there. In fact, searching the Judiciary Committees archives for documents between 03/01/07 and today brings up only 1 other relevant page. The Gmail from Beck is on Feb. 8. The day prior Sampson instructs Beck to copy an unrelated transcript and give it to Gonzales.

So we have 2 separate examples of Sampson instructing Michael Beck (oag) to copy documents and give them to Gonzales. From this I deduce that Beck is Gonzales' gatekeeper, and he's using Gmail to correspond with other members of the Justice Department. If there is something I'm missing from all this... feel free to point it out to me.

Frankly, I'm certain that Beck is not classified or undercover (if he is he is the biggest security risk going right now) so he shouldn't be very difficult to track down as a government employee. But I've used up my sleuthing skills... and I think the little bit unearthed to this point is very interesting.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

An example of Gonzales protecting our kids.

I think the following story is simply appalling. Gut churningly, sickeningly... make me want to retch, appalling!

The Texas Rangers conducted an investigation into allegations that administrators of the Texas Youth Commission were sexually abusing the kids they had locked up. These are kids incarcerated in youth facilities for various run ins with the law. It turns out that these administrators of the Texas Youth Commission are perverts who would wake these kids after hours for "all night sex parties". The investigation proved that these abuses were systematic.

But the Justice Department declined to prosecute. Not because the abuse did not occur. But because none of the boys who were abused complained of experiencing physical pain during the course of the abuse. Also listed as reasons to not prosecute were that the Justice Department could not find that the administrators had used death threats or other such threats of force or kidnapping in order to abuse the teen age boys. So if some pervert has his way with a minor by offering them candy in exchange... that's ok? COME ON! The letters from the Justice Department even use the word "assault" to describe the interactions between the administrators and the boys... but somehow they can't find any reason to prosecute these child rapers! It really is outrageous.

This was Gonzales last Thursday: "I'm not going to resign. I'm going to stay focused on protecting our kids,". I am sick to death of this administration using hot button phraseology while conducting themselves in ways that directly contradicts what they are saying. A great example is how conducting the war in Iraq has supposedly helped us in the war on terror. These issues are too freaking important to simply gloss over with platitudes while you do the exact opposite of the right thing to do behind the scenes. Gonzales needs to START acting like the top law enforcement officer of the land and protect kids for real... not just when it is politically convenient.

Which brings us to the issue of exactly why the Texas Ranger investigation was met by such a yawn from the Justice Department. The investigation occurred during the summer of 05. The Justice Department letter declining to prosecute these pedophiles was written on Sept. 07, 2005. This insured that the lurid details of the scandal would not be playing out in the courtroom and in televisions across the state of Texas during Rick Parry's run for Governor. The fact is that the federal prosecutor actually had indictments drawn up, but was instructed from Washington to not serve them. Protecting known pedophiles in charge of at risk youth in order to not cause political ripples is sick sick sick! Then trumpeting yourself as the great protector of children... well that's about typical for the cabal running this adminisration right now.

Guess what folks. This is just another of a seemingly endless string of stories about this administration that are simply beyond the pale. This type of revelation is so common these days that it truly is like rain on a ducks back. There simply is no way to keep up with all this. No one can be blamed for just going into a shell.

Finally, how many times have you heard "if this had come out when Clinton was President" followed by some description of political armageddon which would have been the Republicans response. Heck, even now, over 6 years after Clinton left office, he is still the favorite whipping boy of conservatives. Their main justification for manifest disaster after disaster by this administration is that Clinton did it too, but with inevitably weak and tenuous logic to demonstrate their case. Well try to imagine the absolute volcano that would have erupted had the Clinton Justice Department declined to prosecute administrative pedophiles in youth prisons in a blue state just prior to an election. Just try to imagine the reaction to that!

400,000 reasons Vilsack endorsed Hillary

Just to clear up where I'm coming from I'm not one of those rabid "anybody but Hillary" lefty type firebrands. If Hillary wins the 08 Democratic nomination I'll support her. My logic is that it is not only the person who occupies the office, but the people that person puts around them that is important in the way this nation is led. One of the lessons of the Bush administrations disastrous reign of errors has been that when incompetence and idealism are the hall mark of the people governing the executive from top to bottom the nation suffers.

So when news filters down that her campaign will pay off $400,000 of debt wracked up by Tom Vilsack in his failed bid for the 08 nomination, close on the heels of his endorsement of her... I must say that just looks ugly.

Here's a grand idea. If any Democratic candidate wants my endorsement for the nomination, pay my bills for the next year and we've got a deal! ... Actually upon consideration of this proposal, tempting as it may be, I would not be able to prostitute myself in such a manner. However I suppose that everyone has a price, and I'll admit that mine is substantially less than $400k!

How in the world did Vilsack manage to accumulate nearly half a million dollars in campaign debt with nearly a year to go before the first caucus? Looking into my crystal ball, I see some intrepid investigative reporter on the Vilsack endorsement/campaign debt scent with a breaking news story immediately prior to the Iowa caucus.

I find this part of the article particularly ironic:
Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said suggestions of any endorsement quid pro quo are "ridiculous."

"One thing's got absolutely nothing to do with the other," he said. "They've known each other for years. If she weren't running for president, she'd be doing whatever she can to help retire his debt."
Oddly enough Mr. Singer is absolutely correct. No one is "suggesting" there is a quid pro quo here Mr. campaign spokesman guy... When something is so freaking obvious there is no need to suggest it. That would be like "suggesting" that America was fighting a war in Iraq. It is painfully obvious. I would suggest that a person who denies the obvious truth has learned the lessons provided by the Bush administration regarding truthiness all too well.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Giving the administration a political figleaf

With today's passage by the Senate of a deadline to withdraw from Iraq as part of continued funding of the war, I believe the White House has been given a political figleaf that the President is probably too idiotic to use.

When the war appropriations funding bill reaches the President with a time line included for withdrawing forces it is his chance to get out of the manifest disaster that is Iraq while proclaiming loudly that he was forced to do so against his will. Congress sent him a funding bill that had the time line, and forced him to abort the mission before it was complete. The administration could then loudly proclaim that the disaster which inevitably follows is the Congress' fault.

To be sure, the truth of the matter is that whenever American forces leave Iraq there will be a tremendously horrible cataclysm. The only difference between whether this happens in 2008, or any other year in the future are the number of ruined American lives, and the amount of money flushed down the toilet. The sooner we end this charade, the better for this nation, and the sooner the inevitable consequence of Bush's folly in Iraq can be gotten over with.

Keep in mind that the Congressional time line would hit in the midst of the 08 Presidential election. Whoever the Republican candidate is must be absolutely PRAYING that the President signs a bill with a time line immediately prior to the election. It gives Republicans the best of both worlds. The war ends, and they have the fig leaf of Congressionally mandated time lines to point to when things go sour.

However, I fully expect the President to veto the bill and send it back to Congress. Or he may simply sign the bill and attach a signing statement asserting his right to ignore the law he just signed. Whatever course President Bush chooses, I expect the method by which the occupation of Iraq is wrapped up will be the next Presidents problem... not Bush's.

I believe the timing being pushed by Congress is hardly accidental. There are two political reasons for setting a time line for next summer. First, is the obvious impact the time line has on the election. It must make it difficult for the President to not sign the bill despite the public stands of the Republican candidates in support of the Presidents Iraq disaster. They must be salivating at the prospect of election season with Iraq in the rear view mirror except the fat target of Democrats in Congress who they would like to blame for the "loss". This pressure from his party will certainly weigh on the President when push comes to shove and the bill with the timetable hits his desk.

The 2nd consideration in the timing I believe was for the Congress to try to pre-empt the President in the policy. It is widely accepted that if the military remains in Iraq when 2008 dawns that Republicans expect to be walloped at the polls. The obvious answer is to withdraw the troops post haste. Congress can take some credit by putting a time line just prior to the election, even if the President was planning to do it anyway.

The absolute best political outcome for Democrats would be for the President to simply veto the bill. This then would be his war lock stock and barrel. He was given the opportunity to end it and petulantly refused to do so. Democrats did what they could to end the war but what can they really do with slim majorities and this President?

There is another consideration as well. What is the right thing to do regardless of the politics? The right thing to do has never been a guiding principle for the Bush administration. It's always been about politics with them. The rampant incompetence and cronyism has led to disaster upon disaster, including major consequences in the Iraq war. The right thing to do is to cut our losses and get out. Keep troops in the area as an over the horizon response force in case terror camps form. Work with Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to stop the turmoil from spreading. And most importantly do whatever it takes to establish peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

So setting the time line may carry inherent domestic political danger, but it is the first baby step in carrying out the right thing to do.

On cancer

Today brings the bad news of Tony Snows worsening condition on top of Elizabeth Edwards battle with cancer.

It is odd how these type of things come in waves. My father in law, Tom, is in the last stages of his battle with cancer.

The rapidity with which he has declined is breathtaking. When I first met Tom there could have been no way to imagine him in his current condition. He has completed the Iron Man race. He has run literally hundreds of marathons up and down the west coast. He woke every morning and jogged at least 5 miles. Tom was also passionate about gardening. In other words, Tom was one of the most vital, and energetic people I have ever met.

He has been battling colon cancer for well over a decade but it really didn't slow him down. Year after year Tom still jogged, ran marathons, gardened and was the very picture of vitality. UNTIL the doctors told him that the cancer was untreatable.

That word came a couple of months ago, and Toms decline in health has been dramatic since then. Now he cant stand by himself. My mother has to escort him to the bathroom every 40 minutes or so 24/7. He can barely string 2 sentences together without becoming exausted.

I actually don't know where I'm going with this post. To be honest, Tom has had a long, full life so this isn't a call to join me in pity at his condition. He is living his final days surrounded by loved ones and free of pain. There are many more pitiful ways to leave the mortal plane. I guess what is getting me about this is how the entire issue of cancer seems to be raising it's ugly head.

Some day long after you and I are gone, mankind will be free of this scourge. That is a day which will be greeted with joy by all of humanity... liberal, conservative, religious, atheist, young and old.

Monday, March 26, 2007

I'll be a bit slow posting this week...

My spot at work has been moved to another area so while I get acclimated to my new surroundings I won't be too concerned with hitting my goal of at least 1 post every work day. It's like I'm working in an entirely new environment with new people to get used to working around and a whole new ambience...

Friday, March 23, 2007

Hardball with Tom Delay

There are a couple of things about the recent interview between Chris Matthews and Tom Delay on Hardball that have been sticking in my craw.

The part of this interview that has gotten the most attention is when Matthews quoted a portion of Delay's new book, which Delay denied was in the book. Matthews then reads the quote directly from the book, and Delay again denies it. Matthews then hands the book to Delay to read for himself. Delay uses the excuse that he does not have his glasses so he cannot read the passage in question, in what must go down as one of the greatest denials of obvious truth in modern times.

This incident truly is a parable of the modern day Republican party. The undeniable truth is not true at all and ought to be debunked. Often times they do this for no apparent reason. Delay's quarrel with Matthews was over the insignificant detail of whether Delay wrote that Dick Armey was "blind" or "drunk" with power. Delay is willing to battle the host reading his own freaking book over that meaningless detail, making himself appear very foolish in the process.

Another part of this I found remarkable was how Delay actually says at the end of that particular exchange "we could argue about this all night." The transcript does not have this quote because it was drowned out in laughter and cross talk, but I remember watching the segment, and catching that quote from Delay. My reaction at the time was... "no you can't." You actually can not argue all night about what is written in a book when the book is available to settle the argument.

Actually, upon reflection, maybe I have fallen into Delay's mindset myself. I suppose you actually COULD argue about such a matter all night, if you were craven enough to completely ignore the immutable proof. In other words, you could argue about it all night, if you had the mindset of a three year old in a temper tantrum... or were Tom Delay. I'll bet Tony Snow and Dick Cheney could carry on a argument about a quote in a book as well.

By definition there is no point in reasoning with Tom Delay at this point in his life. No amount of proof may be offered which would sway him. For someone who wants to be an opinion shaper in American politics, Delay has proven himself singularly unworthy to hold our respect, because he is unable to admit manifest error.

This sort of bull headed ignorance of the obvious perhaps explains the next part of this interview which stood out for me. Here is the transcript of the part where they talk about Mark Foley:
MATTHEWS:... When you say: “I didn‘t know Mark Foley was gay,” you really thought you—you really didn‘t notice that about his lifestyle?

DELAY: I don‘t pay attention to that kind of stuff.

MATTHEWS: You work with this guy, you didn‘t know?

DELAY: I don‘t listen to gossip. I don‘t—I did not know. I mean, people would tell me things, but unless I see him dancing with his lover on the floor, I don‘t care about.

MATTHEWS: You‘re a real doubting Thomas, aren‘t you?

DELAY: I don‘t care about that kind of stuff.
This is clearly another example of Delay ignoring the truth before his very eyes. "People would tell me things" is him saying that he overlooked Foley's foibles for some reason. I'm certain if people had told him things about a Democrat, Delays forbearance would have been substantially less evident.

Frankly Matthews ought to have jumped on Delay on exactly what people were telling him about Foley. I can see turning a blind eye to Foley being involved with another man, even if that would demonstrate a certain level of hypocrisy from a Republican leader in Washington. But what Foley was mixed up with was hitting on the Congressional Pages. The record shows that Foley's relationship with the pages had raised eyebrows as early as 2001, causing some Congress members to warn their pages to stay away from him. If Delay turned a deaf ear to someone alerting him to Foley's Page problem, that seems like a bit of a story to me, and I wish Matthews had followed up on that.

The time is rapidly approaching when the people who lead this nation by idealism and dogma alone are replaced by those who care about things like facts and truth. In the meantime I would like to thank Delay for providing yet another example of the mindset which has led this nation to the state of affairs we are currently in.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Now THAT is real "family values"

John Edwards appeared with his wife at a press conference to announce a recurrence of her cancer. Despite various reports to the contrary he will continue his run for President.

So... Edwards didn't follow the example provided by Newt Gingrich and serve his wife with divorce papers when she was hospitalized with cancer.

Edwards didn't follow the example of Rudy Giuliani and announce to his wife at a press conference that he was divorcing her. Then, in an attempt to define the word absurd, Giuliani's answer to queries about his estranged children from his previous wife is a plea that the media allow his family life to be kept private. Only the Republican front runner for President could display such a shocking example of hypocrisy, and not be laughed into political retirement.

In fact Mitt Romney is the only viable Republican running who could hope to hold a candle to the example shown by the Edwards... or the Clinton's for that matter! I can just see the steam coming off of any conservative who reads this, but the fact is that whatever foibles President Clinton has, his marriage to Hillary is the only marriage for either of them.

I look forward to the vast ocean of right wing family values voters who will certainly switch their previous monolithic support from Republicans to Democrats. The fact is the Democrats lead by example in living the types lives these same voters profess to be the ideal. The leading Republicans, with the notable exception of Romney, hardly can say the same.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Breath taking cynicysm

MSNBC is breaking an investigative report on the stone walling of benefits to the survivors of safety officers who die as a result of heart attacks and strokes on the job.

Congress passed the Home Town Heroes Act of 2003, which was signed by the President. That act purported to give the presumption that a death by a police or fire officer caused by heart attack or stroke while on the job would be considered to be in the line of duty, and benefits given to survivors accordingly. The Justice Department has already denied 34 claims, with 206 cases pending. Not one... let me reiterate this point... NOT ONE of these claims has resulted in benefits being paid to the survivors of the deceased safety officer.

That is bad enough, and I'm certain much deserved righteous indignation will flow based upon that alone. However, the part that stuck in my craw is the following blurb from MSNBC:
With heart attacks recognized as the leading cause of on-the-job deaths of firefighters, the Hometown Heroes Act easily passed the Congress with support of both parties. President Bush signed the law in a ceremony on Dec. 15, 2003, and both he and Vice President Dick Cheney have used their support for the law as a sure-fire applause line in speeches before fire and police organizations.
What kind of sick, cynical cretins are these? They publicly pound their chests about their concern for survivors in a cheap applause line, but not one survivor has yet seen the benefit they so publicly praise because of the obtuse, and hostile attitude of the Justice Department to the law. It appears this is a case of the Justice Department running out the clock and stonewalling survivors who are clearly intended to be the beneficiaries of the Home Town Heroes Act. This administration is filled top to bottom, by self interested, incompetent, blowhards. They are the modern day Pharisees and Sadducee's of Christs time. Detached, wealthy because of public largess while the common citizen toils and is harmed by their policies, publicly pious and ingratiating while privately corrupt. The notion that Bush and Cheney pop off with their supposed support of this law even as their administration stone walls the beneficiaries is highly objectionable to me.

Maybe this will be the final straw for Gonzales. Beyond all the lying, pro torture, bull crap we now have the Justice Department being hostile to the interests of survivors of safety officers. One must wonder how that's going to go over in what must already be a very difficult time at the DOJ.

Let me end on a positive note. I must commend MSNBC on this story. This is investigative reporting as it is meant to be done, and it is good to see. Thank you to MSNBC, and keep up the good work.

Well THAT was a no brainer...

The House sub-Committee on commercial and administrative law (otherwise known as the House sub-Committee on WHA?) has voted to authorize subpoenas of various White House officials regarding the fired prosecutors debacle. It was a voice vote, and carried without objection, which ought to send a signal to the White House that this is not a partisan endeavor.

The notion that Congress would accept unsworn, untranscribed private testimony from White House officials is simply silly. On the issue of the Justice Department in particular just the last week has brought forth ample evidence of intent by administration officials to mislead Congress in sworn testimony, deceive the prosecutors in particular as to the reason for their dismissals and intimidate them if they testified to Congress, obstruct Congressional involvement in approving replacements, and general bad faith by the administration. With this record thus far into the fired prosecutor affair, compelling sworn on the record testimony by the administration is truly a no-brainer.

Adding spice to the mix, we have testimony that the FBI misused provisions of the Patriot act to illegally collect private information on Americans, and then lied about that in testimony before Congress when the Patriot act was up for re authorization. Yet the President thinks we should accept the unsworn, unrecorded, private testimony of his flunkies in order to get the truth? He must really think we are idiots to even make that proposal.

The "solution" offered by the administration can be summed up with the following. Congress and the American people should trust them. The President loudly proclaimed his desire to get the truth out, even as he proposed to stone wall, or have his henchmen tell their side in private, unsworn, and unrecorded. How is that telling the people exactly what happened? We are just supposed to trust them? Why?!

Beyond that, the White House has lost ALL credibility on just about any issue which can be considered. If I were a big proponent of the notion that the executive branch needed protections and more power in the constitutional balance of powers, I would not feel comfortable having the Bush administration be the champions of my cause. They have proven singularly untrustworthy, and a basic level of trust is implicit in arguing that one branch or the other be allowed to carry on with minimal oversight. Ironically, despite the administrations drive for more power to reside in the executive, their legacy may result in precisely the opposite outcome. After approving torture, rendition, unnecessary and disastrous war, proving incompetent on a massive scale and generally being secretive and obtuse... it is clear we need to rein in the executive, not allow them greater leeway.

The President seems intent on bringing about this confrontation over an issue on which it can be proven his administration has acted in bad faith, and decieved Congress. There are no issues of national secrecy involved. If this is the hand he chooses to play, I believe it will prove a loser for him, which actually means a win for America.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Freedom of Speech & Science

Republicans in Congress are doing their best to justify patently wrong headed policy by the Bush administration. Evidently, Republicans believe it is just fine for policy wonks with no scientific credentials to alter the reports of scientists when it comes to global warming. According to Rep. Chris Cannon "Free speech is not a simple thing and is subject to and directed by policy,"

That statement is highly objectionable. Free speech is ok, so long as what you say reflects policy? Thats not free speech at all, and trying to claim that administration goals and policies ought to guide science is simply asinine. Especially when the administration in question has such a horrible record when it comes to science issues. Global warming, evolution vs creationism, combating aids by insisting on abstinence only programs, plan b contraception... all of these and more scientific issues have been wrongly decided by this administration. But we should think it's ok for their policy goals to be reflected by the scientists, not for the policy to be guided by the scientists. It seems to me that the Republicans have this backwards!

James Hansen, one of the most vocal critics of the administration on global warming, caused a bit of a stir when he likened administration policy to the tactics used by Nazi Germany... which I must say is a bit of a reach for me. Hansen has a problem with the administrations policy of having a "government information officer" being present during his interviews with reporters, and refusing to allow him to be interviewed by NPR. I'm certain Nazi Germany had the same sort of issues, but the silencing of those who do not agree with the state is common in authoritarian regimes the world over. Cubans, Chinese, North Koreans,... you name the dictatorship, you will see that type of big brother control of information. I find it highly objectionable, but to single out the Nazi's for comparison is to take the debate to a whole other level, which I do not believe fits the situation at this time.

If Hansen gets abit shrill about this, I can hardly blame him though. Science is science. There are certain truths that can not be washed away by the whims of political affiliation. As an extreme example, imagine a President deciding due to religious concerns that science should demonstrate that the Sun rotated around the Earth, or that the Earth is flat. There is no conceivable way that it would be acceptable for scientists to be forced to knuckle under to an obviously wrong headed point of view. Yet Republicans expect just that. If scientists refuse to bow to the political will of the administration they will be censored and shadowed in ways that remind us of the very regimes they purport to fight against.

When Republicans like Rep. Darrell Issa say stuff like "I am concerned that many scientists are increasingly engaging in political advocacy and that some issues of science have become increasingly partisan as some politicians sense that there is a political gain to be found on issues like stem cells, teaching evolution and climate change," we need to understand what he is really saying. Science only can be used as a political club when a certain ideology decides that dogma should serve as the foundation for policy rather than science. In the scientific community the major controversies of our time are not being debated. Evolution and global warming are widely accepted, with only the occasional big oil shill or religiously motivated scientific luddite being in opposition. Saying that creationism holds the same gravitas as evolution in scientific circles is equivalent to saying that some medical professionals think that smoking is not addictive. The vast majority of the medical community would strenuously object, but until very recently big tobacco had their shills who made precisely that argument.

I understand what I'm about to say is highly partisan, and liable to irritate Republicans to no end should they read it. But this reflects my thinking on all this precisely. To Republicans I say science does not have a particular point of view beyond seeking truth. I understand that quite often, truth by it's very nature is subversive and tends to back the liberal side of the great political divide. Reporting facts leads to network news being demonized as liberal. One of the major guiding principles of this administration early on was that reality was not what ought to guide policy, but that they should create their own reality. However, no matter how hard you fight it, I am a firm believer that the truth will win the day when all is said and done. Dogma and idealism may shake the foundations and try to storm the gates, but truth is what it is. That can not be changed no matter who holds the apparatus that feeds us our information. Some of us may think the earth is flat, but that does not make it so.

What can be changed however is political leadership that refuses to acknowledge the validity of science, and truth.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Bong hits for the 1st amendment...

Even if Joseph Frederick loses his case before the Supreme Court, he has won. Somehow the battle he fought as an experiment of the first amendment has given a meaningless, if somewhat provocative phrase national prominence.

Frederick's sign, held up across the street from his high school, read "Bong hits for Jesus". The sign was displayed as the Olympic torch passed through town, and earned Frederick a suspension. But what is truly ironic from my point of view is the prominence given to this absurd phrase because some high school principal saw fit to punish a student for trying to make this absurd phrase prominent. If principal Morse had known then what she knows now, do you think her sense of moral outrage would have been over ruled by her common sense.

It is because of her that the phrase bong hits for Jesus is famous across the land. That phrase would never have headlined and other news sites, been broadcast by the networks and radio talking heads... or even been mentioned on this simple little blog without principal Morse's helping hand. Without her assistance that phrase would have caused a few chuckles along the parade route, maybe a letter or two to the editor of the paper and then would have been forgotten with the passage of time. Now it is a part of the record of the Supreme Court! Frederick's experiment has been very telling indeed.

In this case it is clear that even if Frederick loses before the Supreme Court, he has won. His silly phrase is headlines across the land. Beyond the questions raised by the first amendment Frederick has proven another truism. The best way to kill an idea may be to simply ignore it, and let it die in the footnotes of local history. Fighting a thought or a phrase only puts it out there. In the case of bong hits for Jesus, it has taken a life of it's own because some person in authority tried to shut it down.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Seeing the forest through the emails: Conspiracy

Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States, or the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress—
(emphasis and italics are mine)

In all the recent hubub over the prosecutor firings, I have yet to hear anyone mention what I believe the recent docudump of emails clearly shows. A conspiracy from the White House and Justice Department to obstruct Congress.

The news seems to focus on the various falsehoods being given in response to the crisis. As proof of the lying is brought forth there is an inclination to focus on the gotcha aspect of proving the lie, then watching the White House scramble to a new point of view. The White House recently has been reduced to expressions of dismay at administration officials having been shown to give false testimony to Congress, even as it is shown that they were determined to give misleading responses to political inquiries from well before the prosecutors were fired. The punishment for obstruction of Congress is a fine and up to five years imprisonment.

The emails demonstrate a plan to answer political inquiries about the firings with a preset list of deceptive talking points. The "political upheaval" was expected to be "strenuous" and administration targets of the pressure were instructed that they MUST follow the talking points. The emails also prove that in the particular case of the replacement of the prosecutor in Arkansas that the Justice Department engaged in a plan to stall Congressional objections and run out the clock, while claiming to act in good faith.

It seems clear that despite White House protestations of dismay at deceptiveness with Congress, it was the intent of the Justice Department and White House to be deceptive from the very start. The White House simply conspired to obstruct Congress, and have been caught red handed at it. This has nothing to do with hazy memories. They planned this, and have given us the road map showing the path they chose to take.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Calling foul on the Hazy Memory Defense

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow backpedaled from pointing the finger at Harriet Miers as the genesis of the prosecutors firing scheme. After emails were revealed which showed Karl Roves early involvement with Alberto Gonzales, Snow now says that memories of how it all went down are "hazy".

It is one thing to forget what happened. It is entirely another matter to remember events which never happened, and base justifications on those made up memories. Remembering something that did not happen is the definition of just making stuff up, otherwise known as lying. Being found out in the middle of a lie and deciding to lie to cover the original lie... causes one to have to remember other stuff that didn't happen. But when all of this is spelled out in email which sees the light of day, it causes the White House to just throw out the hazy memory defense and look like a bunch of idiots.

Beyond the evident lying, we have the issue that the White House and Justice Department set forth a plan to mislead Congress. Before the firings they generated talking points which everyone from the administration who faced political pressure MUST adhere too. On the appointment of a political appointee to the prosecutors office in Arkansas, there is clearly a plan to mislead Congress spelled out by the following:
“I think we should gum this to death,” Mr. Sampson wrote. “Ask the senators to give Tim a chance, meet with him, give him some time in office to see how he performs, etc. If they ultimately say ‘no never’ (and the longer we can forestall that the better), then we can tell them we’ll look for other candidates, ask them for recommendations, interview their candidates, and otherwise run out the clock. All this should be done in ‘good faith’ of course.”
So we have proof that the White House and Justice Department launched this with the intent to lie about it, and then when caught lying they lie some more, and finally they plead hazy memory.

I'm afraid we have come to the point with this administration that their lying is so commonplace and expected that even doing so under oath and before Congress, with malice aforethought, is not actually considered grounds for the punishment of those who perjure themselves. Even planning in detail the use of "good faith" stall tactics, once clearly a case of obstruction, is now just more of the same, hardly causing a lifted eyebrow. This administration has zero credibility, and it is due to the lead of the President, the Vice President, the ex Secretary of Defense, Karl Rove, Alberto Gonzales, Condy, ex Press Secretary McClellan and current P.S. Snow (who continuously lie to the press for a good living) and the rest of this patently dishonest cabal. It is a rarity to hear one of these folks talk in a forthright and honest manner.

It must just irk the average neoconservative, once so concerned and outraged by the lies of President Clinton over an extra marital affair, having to defend this group. They are congenital liars, to the point that they put the plans to mislead Congress and the nation into emails to coordinate the deception. It really is a sad commentary on the state of honesty in this administration.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

When Cheshire Cats Attack! Or Whats Up With Tom Delay?

The Washington Post sent a three man team into Robert Novaks sarcophagus. Said team opened Novaks coffin, where upon two of the team were promptly sucked dry of blood, but the third was allowed to escape with a column... written in the blood of his two colleagues. Novakula's column details the upcoming book of Tom Delay.

I've been wondering what Delay has been up to lately. He seemed to slowly disappear from the scene leaving only the image of his beaming smile from the mugshot. As it turns out, Delay has been bashing out a tome which purports to set the record straight about his time in Washington.

Delay is angry. Of course anger being nothing new to Delay, one would kind of expect that. You already knew he does not like liberals, Democrats, atheists, Muslim's, Hollywood, the French, soccer, rock and roll, unicorns, puppies, and a host of other such subversive influences. But in this book Delay lets Republicans have it! There is nothing so fun as hearing about a good old fashioned wood shedding of conservatives, by conservatives, as told by a conservative.

This must be heavens gift to liberals, making us all warm and happy even as the formerly dejected Conservatives fell further into despair.

Let us consider some of what Delay says about his fellow Republican leadership shall we? Delay laments the lack of moral standing by Republicans in pursuing the impeachment of President Clinton for lying about an extra marital affair, even as Newt Gingrich carried on his own extra marital dalliance. In noting this rank hypocrisy Delay demonstrates the ability to tell an obvious truth. Noting this ability is not me trying to sound snide or sarcastic mind you. This basic ability to be honest in a most basic manner is a welcome change from what we have grown to expect from Republican spokespeople for the last several years. As tempting as it is to slam Delay around for his own ethical lapses while lecturing Gingrich about moral hypocrisy, I'll simply move to the next subject.

Here is Novakula relating Delay's take on President Bush:
The memoir ends DeLay's reticence in criticizing President Bush. Deriding Bush's self-identification as "a compassionate conservative," DeLay asserts that "he has expanded government to suit his purpose, especially in the area of education. He may be compassionate, but he is certainly no conservative in the classic sense."
Here I must call foul. Delay was the major Republican political force in the House of Representatives during the time Bush was supposedly responsible for overseeing this nightmare from Delay's perspective. Does Delay simply expect his readers to forget how he declared "ongoing victory" over wasteful spending and declared there was no fat left in the federal budget? When it comes to the expanding size of government, Delay's Cheshire Cat grin ought to be pictured with a feather from the missing Canary dangling precariously from his toothy grin. He shares the guilt with Bush, he is not the innocent bystander he portrays himself as.

On the particular issue (education) which Delay takes Bush to task over, this is what Delay told Rush Limbaugh:
"Well, I have to admit it, I voted for that awful education bill. . . . I came here to eliminate the Department of Education . . . so it was very hard for me to vote for something that expands the Department of Education. . . .But this is one [the Presidents] big agenda items... I did not want to be the person -and I have people who follow me- to keep it from going on."
Interestingly enough, when Tom Delay debated his opponent in the 2004 election he claimed to support the No Child Left Behind Act. Just think of this. John Kerry was widely scorned for being for it before he was against it. But Delay was voting for it even as he was against it, and then was for it again, but with the new book, is against it! My po li'l haid is a spinnin' all 'round tryin' to keep up wid jus wha' Delay stands for when it comes to educayshun!

With stuff like this I just can't wait for the Bush and Gingrich memoirs to come out...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Prepare to Withstand Political Upheaval

Step 3 of the Justice Departments "Plan For Replacing Certain United States Attorneys" begins with the header: Prepare to Withstand Political Upheaval. Step 3 reads thusly:
U.S. Attorneys desiring to save their jobs (aided by their allies in the political arena as well as their allies in the Justice Department community), likely will make efforts to preserve themselves in office. We should expect these efforts to be strenuous.
Recipients of such "appeals" must [must is underscored in the original] respond identically:

What? U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president (there is no right nor should there be any expectation that U.S. attorneys would be entitled to serve beyond their four-year term)

Who decided? The administration made the determination to seek the resignations (not any specific person at the White House or the Department of Justice).

Why me? The administration is grateful for your service, but wants to give someone else the chance to serve in your district.

I need more time! The decision is to have a new acting or interim U.S. attorney in place by January 31, 2007 (granting ``extensions'' will hinder the process of getting a new U.S. attorney in place and giving that person the opportunity to serve for a full two years).
There are two problems I have with this plan. First, and least importantly: I am sick and freaking tired of the barrage of vapid administration daily talking points. Here we have in memo form a list of talking points which administration figures MUST (underlined) adhere to when being questioned on the firings. "We are grateful for your service but we are giving someone else a chance". This is just the sort of mindless pablum that passes for answers all the time from this administration. There really is no meaning or substance to that answer. And there is no getting beyond it if the person who is giving that answer just rinses and repeats it until the questioner has to throw up their hands in despair and move to the next source. Who will give the same freaking answer!

These talking points sound like a White House press briefing. "The Administration made the determination", not anyone in particular. Like there is some sort of ethereal embodiment called the administration which makes independent judgements beyond the knowledge of the members of the publicly perceived "administration". It is just this type of maddening non responsive, non answer to valid questions that I really find objectionable about so much of this administrations interaction with the public.

The next objection I have to this plan, and the most important in regards to actual consequences of the entire affair, is that it shows an evident determination to obstruct Congressional inquiry into the matter. The instruction clearly encompasses responses to questions from Congress members. Being intentionally non responsive to various people is one thing, but instructing administration officials to be non responsive when questioned by Congress is obstruction pure and simple. I believe this instruction serves as written proof of a conspiracy by the administration to obstruct Congress, and that is against the law.

That misleading testimony was given to Congress is beyond doubt. Gonzales admitted it in yesterdays press conference, and today President Bush said:
Any time anybody goes up to Capitol Hill, they've got to make sure they fully understand the facts and how they characterize the issue to members of Congress,... And the fact that both Republicans and Democrats feel like that there was not straightforward communication troubles me and it troubles the attorney general. So he took action, and he needs to continue to take action."

There is a reason Gonzales and now Bush have expressed regret that testimony to Congress has not been complete and even misleading. If there was coordination in making that testimony incomplete and misleading, how is that not a violation of law? What Gonzales said at yesterdays press conference, and the President also seems to be saying today in an effort to mitigate the damage, was that the false testimony was simply a function of everyone not being aware of all the facts and what not. It looks like it may be Bush and Gonzales that are not giving the complete answer in this regard, and the testimony was given per instructions in step three of the plan. Frankly this obfuscation from Bush and Gonzales would just be more of the same, and what else should we expect at this point?

This is Conservative Media Fairness.

Brent Bozell leads the Media Research Center. That group purports to be a media watchdog with the intention of pointing out instances of media bias against Conservatives.

I came across his site today while searching for the documents on the fired prosecutors, in relation to a post I'll have later. A cursory look at today's offering by Brent Bozell at Media Matters serves to prove the absolute dearth of logic in use at that organization.

Today's article by Bozell rehashes a Conservative talking point which has been entirely debunked. The title of Bozell's hit piece says it all: "Bush’s Eight Vs. Clinton’s 93". Bozell then commences with the canard that the 8 prosecutors fired on Dec. 7 pale in comparison with the clean sweep dismissal of all the prosecutors which happened when Clinton took office in 1993. (Which also happened when Bush took office in 2001, and happens as a matter of course when any President intitially takes office.)

I'm not going to waste my precious typing skill rebutting that logic. Rather it is for us to consider what this says about the honesty and worthiness of Brent Bozell's media watchdog group in the first place. They are up in arms that the media are not reporting a wrong headed and illogical right wing talking point. Media Matters is so biased that they demand the media report conservative untruth or be called to account by Bozell et al for not being fair! They provide a telling commentary on their own bias, not on the medias.

Sadly, I'm certain there are a few hundred koolaid drinking followers of Bozell who will read that story and feel outraged by this supposedly obvious example of media bias against conservatives. It really has come to the point that being fair means reporting the facts which provide the liberal viewpoint, and fiction, which are provided by the right wing talking points.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Under the radar: Admin allied with Saddamists

There is a story brewing out there which has entirely been drowned out by the Justice Department brou ha ha and sundry other domestic affairs. Yesterday I saw a story on the prosecutors in Iraq who are going to bring charges against the anti Iranian group Mujahideen Khalq. The post I wrote yesterday focused on Fox News employ of a registered foreign agent for the National Council of Resistance of Iran. The NCRI was a front for the Mujahideen Khalq (MEK), which, as noted above, are being tied by Iraqi prosecutors to Saddam Husseins repression following the 1991 Gulf War.

The problem for the Bush administration if MEK is charged with crimes against humanity for helping Saddam is that MEK is a prime source of information on Iranian affairs for the administration. Not that the administration would consider the source of this intelligence and take it with a grain of salt... Past history serves to prove that bad information from biased sources are no problem if that intelligence fits the adminsitrations purposes. Heck, take MEK intelligence with a grain of salt? Try a freaking block of salt!

MEK is designated a terrorist organization by the State Department, has been affiliated with Saddam Hussein since the early 80's, conducts violent attacks against Iran, engages in cult like rituals with it's membership, is Marxist (fitting nicely with the Baath party of Iraq) and generally considered a bunch of weirdo kooks. Yet they have a cadre of conservative support from the likes of Tom Tancredo. Tancredo, far from distancing himself from this radical group thinks the U.S. ought to fund and support them. This support is based upon one fact, and one fact alone. MEK is fighting the Iranian regime.

Evidently it doesn't matter to Tancredo and his type that MEK are thuggish, Marxist, cultish, and now prosecutors in Iraq say, genocidal radicals. I can not WAIT for the fire works we are sure to witness when some intrepid reporter asks Tancredo if he regrets supporting groups now found to be in league with Saddam Husseins repressive regime? All of that is forgiven just as long as MEK fights Teheran, from the perspective of the Tancredo crowd. It is positively sickening.

Heres another interesting exercise in digging out the truth. Google Ghorbanifar mek. We already have learned who MEK is, but who is this Ghorbanifar character? Just the middle man between the Reagan Administration and Iran in all the activity that led to the Iran Contra scandal. He met administration officials in Paris in 2002 regarding Iran, apparently with several members of MEK. If you dig far enough you can connect all kinds of characters with MEK. Michael Ledeen introduced Oliver North to Ghorbanifar. It simply goes on and on. I would love to see Seymour Hersh write up a 2000 word article tying the neocons to MEK, and thus to the repression of Saddam Hussein.

Finally we need to make sure that the intelligence we rely upon in determining policy in Iran is corroborated by sources other than a terrorist organization who did Saddams dirty work. I'm certain the neocons are more than happy to take what MEK gives them and package it as proof of Iranian wrong doing. But history, and now justice for those repressed by Saddam dictate that we consider the source and judge accordingly.

[Update: Read this excellent article detailing the involvement of adminstration officials in turning MEK in Iraq into our special forces ops in Iran. Then deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz has his fingerprints all over that decision.]

The midterm election bears fruit

Much as I like to grouse about Congress when things don't go just the way I want them too...(for goodness sakes, the nation is with US in being against the war so stop pussyfooting around about it!) I would like to point out that the Justice Department firing scandal is fruit being harvested by the nation from the election of 2006, which gave Democrats power in Congress.

The entire prosecutor firing scandal would never have happened without Democratic leadership in Congress. There may have been mumblings and some outrage with the lefty blogs, but the Republican leadership of Congress would never have conducted an oversight hearing. The fired prosecutors would never have been called to testify. The calls from Republican Congress members pressuring the prosecutors to launch politically motivated investigations would never have been made public. Remember, the prosecutors were being good Republicans about this and keeping quiet. The testimony before Congress is what really kicked this scandal into overdrive.

All of this would have never even rippled the pond of the main stream news outlets. It may have made interesting fodder for some back page diaries on Kos, and some c list bloggers may have tried to raise a fuss, but without Democrats running Congress this story gets nowhere. The Justice Department would have gotten away with the same old pattern we've seen for years in this White House: being allowed to run roughshod over the system in an entirely wrongheaded manner, and Republicans in Congress would have looked the other way.

In today's press conference, Attorney General Gonzales purported to accept responsibility for the scandal. In the same press conference Gonzales admits that testimony before Congress by the Justice Department about the firings was incomplete and misleading. The Attorney General is admitting that the Justice Department committed perjury and obstructed Congress. If he actually did take responsibility in deed rather than just word, he would have announced his resignation at the press conference.

Indeed, his resignation is what this may come down too actually. That would be a veritable golden apple when it comes to fruit harvested from the mid term election.

Monday, March 12, 2007

NRCAT speaks for me.

Nothing less is at stake in the torture abuse crisis than the soul of our nation. What does it signify if torture is condemned in word, but allowed in deed?
As a liberal Christian, I would like to whole heartedly endorse the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.

As a matter of course I try to keep my personal feelings about God's will, judgement or what not out of my blogging. I think that to rely upon what one believes to be a divine truth in order to justify yourself is to cut off all meaningful debate. To invoke God as the author of your opinion is the end of conversation really... what point is there to continue at that point? Besides which, how is it that you or I as human beings (presumably!) pretend to comprehend the will of God in these matters? To do so is arrogance of the highest degree.

Furthermore, I'm not one to use normally meaningless terms like "soul of our nation". That sort of language is normally used by a politician trying to show an empathy for the viewer, in a crass but meaningless attempt to gain approval. However, in this case, I think that term is apropos. American ideals, principles and more's through out our existence have been shaken to the core by this one issue. It is a question of the basic meaning of America. Do we stand for what we always have stood for, or have we allowed the terrorists to render those former truths meaningless. I say to allow torture to stain this nations honor is to give a part of our soul away. It is to lose an intrinsic part of what it once meant to be an American.

There is a clear line of before and after in our nations history. Before we condemned torture in all it's forms. After, we caved in to our basest elements, allowing fear to take hold and decay our principles. American honor already has been stained by this horror, but I believe to my core that Americans must take action to cleanse ourselves of this stain to the best of our abilitities. We must do what we can to reclaim what it meant to be American. That starts with the denunciation of torture by the people as a whole and NRCAT is a part of that.

On to my interpretation on spirituality and torture. Despite my misgivings at granting Godly approval on an issue I feel strongly about, I can not grasp any spiritually sound argument that would allow for the use of torture by a moral nation. I can not imagine any person honestly convincing themselves that Jesus would condone it. Maybe I have fallen into a trap I studiously try to avoid, but so be it. If anyone who considers themselves to be spiritually in touch would care to enlighten me as to how I may be interpreting this wrongly, please feel free to give me an education on the matter. Until such point as someone can show me the error in my determination on this matter however, I feel confident in drawing a hard line on the issue: Torture is not moral and can never be so. A nation that strives to be moral will not allow it, in any form, period and end of story.

Fox News contributor affiliated with Saddam's purge of Kurds and Shiites.

Reuters is reporting that prosecutors in Iraq intend to bring charges against the Mojahedin-e Khalq organization. Prosecutors charge that this group conspired with Saddam Hussein to suppress the Shiite and Kurds following the 1991 Gulf War.

Searching Fox News for the name Alireza Jafarzadeh brings up a series of articles contributed by Jafarzadeh to Fox News. This man was registered as a foreign agent of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. This group is the political wing of the Mojahedin-e Khalq organization... My oh my, but politics does make strange bedfellows, no?

Fox News ought to repudiate all connections with this character. The thought that Fox News, (recognized as the chief news outlet sympathetic to the Bush administration, and who cheered us into the war in Iraq) would pay a man recognized as a principal spokesperson for a group that assisted Saddam Hussein in his genocidal repression of Iraqi's is otherworldly.

How Fox proceeds at this stage will be very telling of their moral compass. I rather suspect they do not have one, and will continue to employ Jafarzadeh because he parrots the positions of the Bush administration.

I suppose there is one way of looking at this. First, Fox cheerleads the nation into war in Iraq. Then Fox has a man on the payroll who speaks for a group that helped Saddam repress his people. Now thats fair and balanced.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Politicizing the formerly non partisan

Paul Krugmans commentary in the N.Y. Times is getting a lot of play. Commenting on the firing of the 8 federal prosecutors, Krugman relies upon statistics to make his case that the prosecutor scandal is not the ones who were fired, but the ones who weren't.
Donald Shields and John Cragan, two professors of communication, have compiled a database of investigations and/or indictments of candidates and elected officials by U.S. attorneys since the Bush administration came to power. Of the 375 cases they identified, 10 involved independents, 67 involved Republicans and 298 involved Democrats. The main source of this partisan tilt was a huge disparity in investigations of local politicians, in which Democrats were seven times as likely as Republicans to face Justice Department scrutiny.

How can this have been happening without a national uproar? The authors explain: "We believe that this tremendous disparity is politically motivated and it occurs because the local (non-statewide and non-congressional) investigations occur under the radar of a diligent national press. Each instance is treated by a local beat reporter as an isolated case that is only of local interest."

And let us not forget that Karl Rove's candidates have a history of benefiting from conveniently timed federal investigations. Last year Molly Ivins reminded her readers of a curious pattern during Rove's time in Texas: "In election years, there always seemed to be an FBI investigation of some sitting Democrat either announced or leaked to the press. After the election was over, the allegations often vanished."
Believe it or not, I don't want to focus this post on how the prosecutors scandal reflects on the partisanship of the Bush administration. I think the prosecutors are a symptom of a much much larger problem.

There ought to be certain aspects of government which are not partisan in nature. I believe it is a given that the dispensation of justice should not be determined by the political affiliation of the prosecutor. But there are other aspects of governance that ought not be partisan in nature, yet have been used by this administration in very partisan ways. For example...

The people hired to rebuild and govern Iraq after the invasion ought not have been chosen based upon a political litmus test. The disastrous consequences of politicizing the Iraq Provisional Authority probably doomed any fleeting chance America had to bring stability and security with democracy to Iraq. I'm not saying the young Republican wunderkinds who were hired to do their magic didn't do their best in a difficult situation. It's just obvious that they weren't up to the job. Can you imagine the disaster if Harry Truman had picked the administrators of Japan immediately after WWII based upon their domestic political beliefs? It is preposterous, but it is precisely what the Bush administration did in Iraq.

Science should not be politicized. Science is science. Science class should teach science. There are not two "sides" to science, despite the Presidents stated wish to teach both sides of evolution and creationism (gussied up to look like science and called intelligent design) in science class. Scientists aren't trying to teach our children evolution in sunday school, so why are the right wingers trying to teach our kids creationism in science class?

The politics of science manifests itself with this administration most however on the issue of global warming. The administration is now stopping scientists from talking about polar bears, and how their numbers reflect on global warming. It is frankly absurd. Scientists having to have their speeches vetted by political appointees. It truly is Orwellian. Science needs to be reclaimed for all of us, not just Republican hacks.

There are all kinds of examples of this, and many ways that we have been harmed as a result of it. But I have save the worst example for last.

How is it that 9/11 was politicized? Having an attack commercial showing the face of Max Cleland, a Democratic war hero who gave three limbs to his nation on the battlefield, morph into Osama's face is beyond the pale. The Bush administration and Republicans across the nation have politicized 9/11 in the most crass and despicable ways imaginable. 9/11 was used as a platform to take this nation to needless war in Iraq, and the continued occupation of Iraq is still continuously conflated with the so called war on terror by the administration and their toadies.

It literally enrages me to think of that smouldering pile of rubble with the remains of nearly 3000 dead Americans... used to start a war that has nothing what so ever to do with their deaths. What a horrible perversion. The people who died that day were liberals and conservatives. Democrats and Republicans, Greens and Libertarians. Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Athiest...

Somehow a day that ought to be sacred in the memory of all Americans, a day more properly devoted to national mourning and rememberance, a day of somberness and reflection on America and what we should be grateful for... has been twisted by this administration to partisan purposes. The Republican party has tried to use 9/11 to have their way with our political system. 9/11 has been used to take American ideals away from us. Before that awful day not one of us could have imagined the time would come that our nation would officially condone torture. Or the imprisonment without trial or recourse to law of human beings. Allowing our government to spy upon us and not throwing those responsible from office when that was found out.

The use of 9/11 for political purposes is truly perverse from my perspective. It is the ugliest example of making a partisan issue from something that by all rights ought not be political in nature.

Karl Rove on the Bush Doctrine: Creating his own reality

"Presidents set in motion certain things that their successors evaluate and decide by and large, particularly the structural ones, to adopt,"
These are the words of Karl Rove, and pain me as it does, I partially agree with him on this particular sentiment. To me, this is an example of how even a broken clock is correct twice daily. The truth of this statement however is the veritable grain of truth, at the center of an amalgam of untruth, fantastical delusion, and plain wrong headedness. For example:
He said that the biggest Bush legacy will be what he terms the "Bush doctrine." It "says if you train a terrorist, harbor a terrorist, feed a terrorist, you will be treated like a terrorist yourself. And then the corollary of that, which is that we will not wait until dangers fully materialize before taking action."
Quite frankly it will be the job of future leaders to entirely disassemble the so called Bush doctrine. The notion that America is justified in attacking nations which represent a future threat is outlandish. By definition, it is a doctrine which only one nation as sole world super power may hold. Any nation which holds the doctrine of pre-emptive war represents a threat to any nation which it has differences with. It is America who represents a potential threat to every nation on the face of the planet, with our weapons of mass destruction and the determination that any nation which represents a future danger from our point of view are themselves eligible for pre-emptive attack.

Besides, with the many proven examples of the Bush administration being flat out wrong about who is and is not a terrorist, is harboring, feeding or training a terrorist really the benchmark we want set for attacking another nation? Who defines terrorist anyway?

The Bush doctrine may have been accepted by a frightened nation immediately following 9/11, but Iraq, and common sense dictate that the Bush doctrine will become an unpleasant footnote in the history of this nation. America can not lead by example even as we start wars against nations which are not a threat when we launch the invasion. That example leads to global chaos as neighbors attack each other to stop possible future aggression by their neighbors.

Rove however only gives a passing acknowledgement to the damage done to the Bush doctrine by the war in Iraq:
Rove rejected the suggestion that future presidents might be deterred from the Bush doctrine by the enduring violence and unintended consequences let loose by the invasion of Iraq. "Could be," he said. "But it has a logic of force and nature and reality that will cause people to examine it, adjust it, test it, resist it -- but ultimately embrace it."
Could be? That's the only possibility Rove gives to the Iraq disaster influencing future leadership? "Could be". That's like saying that witnessing the consequences of someone getting plastered after absent mindedly walking in front of a speeding train "could be" a lesson for those considering crossing the rail road tracks. Rove cites force, nature, and reality (REALITY!) as justifications for the Bush doctrine. Considering the example of Iraq shows how all of the factors listed by Rove argue against the Bush Doctrine.

Force: Iraq has led to the over extension of American force. This is not me being a partisan hack. This is from the leaders of our military, who warn of breaking points, eroding capability and so on. If this nation were to be faced with another crisis, it is difficult to see how we could respond without instituting a draft. Our options in the use of force in response to an emergency have been curtailed due to the implementation of the Bush doctrine in Iraq. The logic regarding force seems to argue against future pre-emptive wars, not for them from my perspective.

Nature: The natural order is such that occupied nations resist. The only way to get around that is to brutally repress the natural insurgency. In doing so we renounce any claim to long held American ideals. We see the early stages of just this type of thinking in the scandal of Abu Ghraib. Make no mistake about it. For the Government of Iraq to be able to function in security there will have to be a period of time in which we turn our heads as our allies pull out the fingernails and perform other such heinous acts against those they are fighting. Without that brutal oppression, the people of an occupied nation will eventually wear out the occupiers, and that is the true nature of things. The logic of nature again argues against the Bush doctrine, as long as America stands for even the most rudimentary human rights. This administrations approach to human rights is a whole other issue for another longwinded post.

Reality: This is most ironic coming from the same administration so infamous for being proud of creating their own reality. Reality is reality, not what you make of it. The Iraq government may be a partner in the war on terror, and the beginning of the flowering of democracy in the middle east according to the reality of a lot of kool aid drinkers in the administration and across the land. But the reality is that our invasion strengthened Iran, the nation most associated with terrorism since 1979. Beyond strengthening Iran, the overthrow of Saddam has installed allies of that terrorist nation into power in Baghdad. Even as the neocons have striven to create a reality that an acid tripping heroin junkie would consider out there, they have created a reality that is the exact opposite to what they intended.

This profligate use of force has cost this nation billions of dollars and thousands of ruined lives. Another unfortunate reality which this administration, and their Congress toadies have not been able to come to grips with... beyond just burying their heads in the sand and letting the bill skyrocket for future generations to account for. Future generations which will look at the Bush doctrine and, according to Rove, continue the same folly they will have to pay for! Reality will not be kind to the Bush doctrine as future leaders consider whether or not the Bush doctrine ought to be continued.

The Bush doctrine is especially dangerous when paired with the one percent doctrine forwarded by Vice President Cheney. The Cheney doctrine is the determination that the response to perceived threats must be the same, whether there is a 100% certainty that the threat is real, or only a one percent chance that the threat exists. The response is the key to this doctrine, not the analysis of the evidence which the response is based upon.

All I can say about the one percent doctrine is that it is quite obviously bone headed. Especially when paired with a determination by idealists in the administration to manufacture evidence in order to drive public and Congressional opinion into supporting a war. Any person who considers the one percent doctrine to be an effective use of logic is nearly by definition a right wing koolaid drinker.

The greatness of America is what led us to be able to have the ability (if not the idiotic determination) to spend more on our military than the rest of the world spends on all other military forces combined. It was not a massive military which led to our greatness. It is not the ability to dominate the world with our power which will lead to American greatness going forward. If anything, it is reliance on that power to spread our will which will lead to the inevitable outcome experienced by empires throughout history. It will be the job of future Presidents to stop the march down the path trod by empires from ancient Rome to the Soviet Union. Or as Rove, Cheney and Bush seem to advocate, continue that march to empire and eventual self destruction.

I trust future leaders will see the folly of Rove, Cheney and Bush, even if R/C/B do not.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Pelosi nails it!

Let me first admit to my own failings as a political animal. I full well know that I am hopelessly liberal. In fact I'm proud of that. I try to stand back from the raging tempest and see things clearly, but I know that more often than not my thinking is hopelessly colored by my partisanship. Honestly, I wouldn't change that if I could.

This partisanship on several occasions has resulted in me being sorely disappointed with the newly installed Democratic Congress. For example, I was very put out at Congressional Democratic leaderships determination to take impeachment off the table. Impeachment off the table? Not only should it be squarely on the table, but we will do future generations of Americans a terrible disservice if we do not bring this administration to an inglorious political end. Not just in the court of public opinion. In the halls of justice. In the history books. In any way imaginable on a societal level... from kindergarten classes to hospital death beds, the memory of this administration ought to be as of a stain that was unfortunate for it's happening, but eventually cleaned by impeachment. Future wanna be lawless, power hungry, opportunistic, war mongers must look at the example our generation makes of President Bush, and decide to not pursue the same course for fear of sharing that ignominy.

Frankly impeachment ought not be a political hot potato. Sadly, it is.

Don't get me wrong either. Congress has improved markedly since the grown ups took control in January. One example of this is the reaction of Speaker Pelosi to a veto threat from the White House if Congress withdraws funding for blindly continuing the Iraq disaster. The headline on the story is fantastic: "Pelosi says 'So what?' to Bush veto threat on Iraq funding"

I say right on! So what if the President veto's that bill. He must sign a bill that has funding or by default there is no funding what-so-ever. (Unless the President just creates his own money to fund the war, which I wouldn't put past him actually.) If the President veto's legislation, because goals supported by the vast majority of Americans are set as landmarks in that bill, he will be the one cutting off the funding not Congress.

I especially appreciate Pelosi's detailed response to the veto threat:
"I say to my colleagues never confine your best work, your hopes, your dreams, the aspiration of the American people to what will be signed by George W. Bush because that is too limiting a factor,"
Here's my new commercial idea inspired by Nancy Pelosi: Speakers gavel: $20.00 Stylish Designer Dress Suit: $750 New Drapes for the Speakers Office: $200 Finding your voice and speaking truth to power: Priceless!

So yes there are times when I roll my eyes and throw up my hands in frustration at the new Congressional leadership. But then there are days like today when I read a story and want to pump my fist in the air in triumph with a hearty exclamation of Right On!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Warped post war priorities: Secure oil or ammo?

Today brings news that the CIA conducted a pre invasion operation in Iraq to save the oil fields from being destroyed.
[Rep. Joe]Wilson [R, S.C.] said that "extraordinary efforts had been made to make sure that the oil wells were not blown up. The CIA, of all things, had provided funds to the persons who worked in the oil industry that if they stopped Saddam Hussein from blowing up the wells they would be employed. Plus, they would also be given money in advance and at the conclusion -- like $100 in advance and $100 afterwards to make sure the oil wells weren't blown up -- and that's a reason they weren't."
Oddly enough, I do not believe the invasion of Iraq was simply a grab for the oil fields. I believe the administration considered the oil a nice benefit, but not the most important reason for the invasion. I think the underlying reason was George Bush's determination to end what he thought of as a family feud between the Bush's and Hussein's, while being surrounded by people who thought invading Iraq would be a good idea based upon a very dubious academic theory. How it is that logical people could be brought to believe that American force of arms and occupation in an Arab land would not result in catastrophe is simply mind boggling. Yet the neocons were convinced they could change the entire dynamic in the middle east with flowering democracy and western style civilization as the happy result.

They found a willing commander in chief in President Bush based in part on the sons perceptions of his fathers performance as President. By Junior's logic, senior had not completed the job. He had allowed Saddam to live and then made America look bad by quashing rebellion that we had encouraged. Then on a personal level Saddam had tried to assassinate senior. It did not take much, if any, convincing by the neocons for junior to be brought on board the invasion bandwagon.

Once the invasion was underway however, the actions taken by this administration certainly contributed to the impression that oil was the reason we invaded. Immediately after the invasion American forces moved to secure the oil fields and the Oil Ministry building in downtown Baghdad. This at the same time that Iraq was plunged into chaos with looters sacking museums and trucks being rented out by locals to whoever wanted to drive up and load them with vast amounts of material from the unguarded ammo dumps dotting the countryside. The losses incurred due to this early looting can not be calculated. American lives are still being spent daily due to the arming of the nascent insurgency from unguarded ammo dumps. The historical artifacts stolen from the cradle of civilization are priceless and can not be replaced. All this while our forces formed a protective shield around the oil ministry.

Who can blame the Iraqi's for questioning our motives? And today's revelation by Rep. Wilson just makes it more obvious that our priorities were warped. Saving the oil wells was a big priority, with plenty of pre war planning and even secret operations by the CIA going into the effort. What in the world made our leadership think the oil protection part of the equation through so carefully, but entirely disregard the rest of post invasion planning. It borders on criminal to occupy a nation and allow that nations armories to be left unguarded and looted for use by those who will fight the occupation.

I believe the families who have lost loved ones in this war have a right to know. What made protecting the oil so much more important than guarding the explosives that fell into the wrong hands? Was it not the President himself who said where mistakes have been made, he accepts responsibility?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

U.S. questions it's own human rights record

My jaw dropped when I read about the annual State Department report on human rights. If my jaw dropped I can just imagine John Boltons head glowing beet red and his moustache bursting into flames upon reading this report.

It seems that the State Department is aware of the problems that the United States of America has with our own record on human rights, and makes a point of acknowledging these troubles in the report. I must admit that I am very pleasantly surprised and actually hopeful that this admission leads to some soul searching and corrective actions on behalf of this administration.

In my own small way, I would like to help the State Department by documenting a small portion of what I consider to be the administrations sad lack of respect for human rights. To do so, I willconsider the criteria used to judge nations on their respect for human rights, and how those criteria relate to the activities of this administration:
Disappearance --Covers cases in which political motivation appears likely and in which the victims have not been found or perpetrators have not been identified. Cases eventually classified as political killings in which the bodies of missing persons are discovered also are covered in the previous section, while those eventually identified as having been arrested or held in detention may be covered under "Arbitrary Arrest or Detention."
There is no doubt that America is responsible for disappearance of detainees on a wide scale. The report of CIA secret prisons was confirmed by the President of the United States. The existence of these prisons was classified, so when the story was leaked, there was wide spread condemnation for someone exposing national security to our enemies. Running these secret prisons is to define the term disappear.

In the late summer of last year, in an obvious election year ploy to cover the administrations illegal activities, the President announced the transfer of 14 "high value detainees" from secret prisons to the Guantanamo Bay detention center and urged passage of the Military Commissions Act. Yet there are still thousands more unaccounted for detainees, many believed to be held in detention at Bagram Airforce Base in Afghanistan, and many others held without charge in Iraq.

Finally is the case of an American citizen arrested on American soil. George Bush declared Jose Padilla an enemy combatant and held him incommunicado at a military prison from June 2002 til January 2006. During this time Padilla appears to have been held in extreme isolation including sensory deprivation, resulting in mental difficulties which are yet to be understood. His keepers refer to him as acting much like a piece of furniture. This neatly segues to the next criteria for consideration in a nations commitment to human rights.
Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment --Covers torture (an act of intentionally inflicting severe pain, whether physical or mental) and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment committed by or at the instigation of government forces,
This definition of torture is decidedly more in line with conventional definitions than the one accepted by the administration: the infliction of pain on a level approaching organ failure or death. Stress positions, fear techniques, sleep deprivation, humiliation, exposure to temperature extremes and many other practices accepted by this administration as not being torture, are in fact torture according to the State Department.
Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence-- Discusses the "passive" right of the individual to noninterference by the state.
FISA law violations, and the Presidents stated determination that he has the constitutional right to break the laws of the land and spy on people he thinks need spying upon because he has determined them to be a security threat fly in the face of this one.
Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights --Discusses whether the government permits the free functioning of local human rights groups (including the right to investigate and publish their findings on alleged human rights abuses), whether these groups are subject to reprisal by government or other forces, and whether government officials are cooperative and responsive to their views.
The American government refuses to discuss many many aspects of our detainee program, from the places we detain prisoners to the techniques used to interrogate them. The President on several occasions when asked specifically about the use of waterboarding has declined to answer that question, saying that to do so would be to expose interrogation techniques and harmful to national security. In two very high profile cases, the U.S. government has been proven responsible in foreign courts for the mistaken rendition of foreign nationals, but when these cases are brought to our domestic courts the government pleads that to even allow the cases to proceed would be to damage national security. They argue that to even discuss the cases in court would be to harm national security, using the dubious logic that two of the most widely publicized and notorious cases must be kept "secret". All of these examples and many others do not argue well for American compliance with openess and cooperation into human rights violations. The Red Cross is allowed unfettered access to detainees at Guantanamo Bay only because they agree to the condition that they not discuss those visits publicly.

Based upon these examples, and there are many more, I would have to agree with the State Department and Condoleeza Rice in being concerned about our own record on human rights. And I must say that I am pleasantly surprised to find myself agreeing with Rice for once.

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