Thursday, May 31, 2007

If There Will Be No Ceremony On A Battleship...

I am a bit bemused at President Bush's analogy between the situation we face in Iraq being similar to the Korean occupation.

Hostilities were ended on the Korean Peninsula due to the signing of an armistice on July 27, 1953. The signing ceremony occurred in the South Korean village of Panmunjom. (Scroll down to page 489 of this link for a description of the ceremony.)

President Bush has used a talking point several times in the past that victory in Iraq will not be realized with a surrender ceremony on a battleship. Let us acknowledge that there was no battleship airlifted to Panmunjom for the Korean armistice signing. Yet the overall point remains here. The President admits there will be no ceremony ending hostilities in Iraq, yet he thinks there is an analogy between Korea and Iraq.

It is unimaginable that the American people would have allowed our forces to remain in Korea for 60 years if the Korean war had continued on without the armistice. The only way the President can draw a comparison between Iraq and Korea is to end hostilities in Iraq, which he knows is not going to happen. If the President believes that America is going to keep our forces in Iraq as hostilities drag on and on for 60 years, he is delusional. Frankly, the President being delusional is not out of the question given his fantastic pronouncements on the war through out our occupation of Iraq.

This call for permanent bases in Iraq reverses course on longstanding public policy in regards to Iraq. Congress has previously voted to not fund the construction of permanent bases in Iraq. The administration has repeatedly stated that our goal was to leave Iraq as soon as their government could defend itself. That was what the oft repeated administration talking point "when they stand up, we'll stand down" was all about.

In fact, at no point until yesterday has there ever been any sort of official stance that America would occupy Iraq in perpetuity. Let us briefly consider the Presidents own words on the permanence of our occupation of Iraq: Here is the President from his famous Mission Accomplished speech, May 1 2003:
"Our coalition will stay until our work is done. Then we will leave, and we will leave behind a free Iraq."
Here is President Bush at the Republican National Convention in 2004:
"So our mission in Afghanistan and Iraq is clear: We will help new leaders to train their armies, and move toward elections, and get on the path of stability and democracy as quickly as possible. And then our troops will return home with the honor they have earned"
Here is the President in the 2005 State of the Union, eerily echoing his convention speech:
"We are in Iraq to achieve a result: A country that is democratic, representative of all its people, at peace with its neighbors, and able to defend itself. And when that result is achieved, our men and women serving in Iraq will return home with the honor they have earned."
The President in the State of the Union from 2006:
"The road of victory is the road that will take our troops home."
Here is the President, just 5 months ago in his prime time address to the nation announcing the troop surge:
"If we increase our support at this crucial moment, and help the Iraqis break the current cycle of violence, we can hasten the day our troops begin coming home."
As the situation in Iraq has worsened the support for the occupation to continue even in the short term range of over a year has fallen dramatically. In fact an analysis of President Bush's statements on public opinion may well explain this seeming disconnect from reality. The President has turned the widespread dissatisfaction with the course of events in Iraq into support for the surge using logic which again raises the specter of a delusioned Commander in Chief. When the President sees widespread dissent with the occupation, he looks at large numbers of people who want to win, and are upset that we are on a losing course. This, despite the overwhelming numbers which say that the people have given up on "winning" in Iraq. The divergent outlook from the President to the people has come to the point that the President now calls for a permanent occupation, as support for our occupation of Iraq sinks to never before seen depths.

If there is any point at which the Congress must finally step in and draw the line, saying this far and no farther, it is at the point that the President seems determined to lead the nation further into a disaster, to the point of trying to cajole us into understanding that the disaster must be allowed to continue in perpetuity. The President has dropped all pretense of ever wanting to leave Iraq, and wants to prepare American public opinion to accept that. Delusion, thy name is Bush.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Podhoretz: Wrong From The Get-Go...d.

The Wall Street Journal editorial by Norman Podhoretz imploring the President to bomb Iran should provide plenty of fodder for a rant by yours truly. If I wanted I could go line by line and bash out a novela in rebuttal of all of the wrong headed and deluded points which Podhoretz makes. But let me just focus on the very first impression he gives with the editorial.

I think the title and subtitle are very noteworthy:
The Case for Bombing Iran
I hope and pray that President Bush will do it.
I am dismayed that Podhoretz wouldn't pray for a peaceful solution to present itself. To my way of thinking, it would be best to pray for ANY possible outcome which fit the point of view of the person in prayer other than for America to bomb another nation. Isn't it strange that someone would proudly proclaim that they were praying for an action which would result in hundreds of deaths directly, with perhaps thousands more dead in the aftermath.

Pray for the Iranians to "see the light" and verifiably stop any weapons program they may have. Go to your knees and fervently pray that a peaceful social change sweeps Iran and the Ayatohlahs are retired from leadership. Beg God to send aliens to beam the components of the Iranian program into the sun. Pray for ANYTHING other than the death and destruction which Podhoretz prays for. Any peaceful solution would be preferable from my point of view.

I am particularly concerned after the example provided by heavenly guidance to the President in regards to the war in Iraq. President Bush said that he did not approach his father for advice going into Iraq, but appealed to a higher father for guidance. The notion that Godly leadership is responsible for the mess this nation is in in Iraq is simply incomprehensable. It is more believable to think that God if favoring the enemy, by allowing America to become distracted in Iraq, wasting lives and treasure as the true believers who attacked us on 9/11 scurry about in the mountains of Pakistan, ducking the occassional Predator drone. So now that we have Podhoretz invoking prayer in order to bring on another war... let us pray that truly enlightened leadership prevails.

In fact I find this prayer for American power to smite our enemies a mirror image of the religious fanaticism which Podhoretz thinks needs to be defeated. Remember the video released a couple of years ago of the Iraqi sniper shooting an American soldier in Baghdad... the soldier was slightly wounded but eventually chased down and captured the guy that shot him and ended up giving medical treatment to the insurgent who had himself been wounded. Watching that video, one part that always stuck with me was how the cameraman shooting the film with the insurgent captures audio of someone softly chanting "Alahu Akhbar" several times during the course of the sniping. The insurgents were sniping Americans while praying!

Why does Podhoretz believe his supplication to God is any more worthy than the insurgents? They both are intrinsically similar. If anything, Podhoretz' call for heavenly influence would result in much greater death and destruction than a lowly insurgent sniper could ever aspire to. Both men are certain in their faith. In fact I wonder if Podhoretz would consider becoming a real holy "warrior" (beyond kneeling in prayer asking God to assist in initiating the deaths of thousands of the "enemy"). Could not the case be forwarded that the faith and reliance upon God is manifest to a much greater extent by the insurgent than by the pundit?

Not that I believe God, as I understand God, is moved by either of these examples. Humans are given free agency, allowed to believe as they choose and manifest those beliefs unfettered from coercion from on high. If you want to believe that praying for war to come is going to help, or that praying for a successful kill in urban warfare will improve your aim... then more power to you. I just happen to think that both of these men are similarly deluded.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sully on Fie ah!

I have a fairly regular rotation for daily reading. One major blog I make a point of visiting is The Daily Dish by Andrew Sullivan.

Sullivan is a fiscal conservative so our economic outlooks tend to be irreconcilable with each other. Sullivan also USED to be a noted hawk, but his outlook on foreign policy has shifted dramatically in the last several years. Having supported the initial invasion of Iraq, Sullivan now consistently faults President Bush for the disaster that Iraq has become. Sullivan also is appalled at the legalization of torture for the first time in American history. And it is these two issues that have compelled me to write up a kudos to Sullivan, based upon posts to the Dish over the holiday weekend.

Sullivan's outrage over the torture issue is spot on. George Washington set the tone for American attitudes on the practice even from before founding of this nation. The military and social emergency faced by Washington was the greatest "threat" to America in our history, by definition. Our very existence hung in the balance with the colonies roughly split equally three ways. 1/3 patriot, 1/3 loyalist and 1/3 not caring which side prevailed. What greater emergency to America could there possibly be than the very founding of this nation, which was done by warring with the greatest military on the planet at that time. Yet faced with the crucial question central to the very existence of this nation in a war against the dominant force of his time, Washington had the wisdom to decree that British prisoners were not mistreated.

The official policy from that time till Bush was never to torture people under our control. I am not foolish enough to think such mistreatment never occurred. The oppression of the native Americans and the history of slavery for nigh on 100 years after Washington's example with British prisoners hardly reflect well on American idealism through our history. But we never did officially practice torture, and after WWII America made great efforts to stand as a bulwark for human rights. Somehow Bush was able to refute over 200 years of history and for the first time allow for this hideous practice.

Torturing prisoners is nearly uniformly the path tread by the monsters of humanity. The tales of horror emanating from history and the sociopaths of our times are the yardstick measuring the depravity of the leaders who allow it. What do we recall of Genghis Khan today? The depraved barbarity and lurid tales of outlandish torture. Pol Pot? Killing fields and camps where the victims were tortured to death with nearly none living left to tell the horrible tale. The worst of the worst are not the suicide bombers and backwards religious extremists. The worst of the worst is the leaders of the very nations we rely upon in the so called war on terror. Any man who could order another person slowly lowered feet first into a vat of boiling water under the authority of the state is the worst of the worst. That man leads the nation of Uzbekistan, who is one of our allies in the war on terror. There are many such examples of our friendship with these brutal thugs... these worst of the worst.

So now that I have reiterated my deep feelings on this issue, let us see what Sullivan has to say... In a post entitled "Verschärfte Vernehmung" Sullivan draws the parallel between the practices of the Gestapo in the early 40's to what the President is allowing to happen now. Sullivan points out how the defense given in the war crimes trials matched modern day defenses nearly verbatim. The Germans argued they were not interrogating uniformed combatants and so the rules of war did not apply. They argued that they used various techniques that did not result in permanent disfigurement and the injuries were slight. Indeed, many of the techniques which Bush allowed were specifically declared to harsh by the Gestapo. Yet the defense of that day, which remarkably reflects the same arguments in play by the John Yoo's of today, did not spare the accused from the firing squad. Sullivan masterfully ties this history to our modern circumstance, and anyone who honestly thinks that torturing detainees is a good idea should read that post. It must give one pause. If it does not, I fear the reader has hardened their heart beyond all reasoning.

Now normally I'll read Sullivans blog and agree with something or the other, but that won't cause me to rush over here to pound out a pat on the back for him. That changed today when I read the above post on Gestapo history... and then saw a post that Sullivan put out that echoes what I have said for years in regards to George Bush's efficacy in fighting the so called war on terror. In a post entitled "Al Qaeda's Enabler" Sullivan makes the case that "Bush is the best thing to happen to al Qaeda since its founding"... Here is a link to a page that has several previous posts, going back to the first month of Club Lefty's existence in which I call the President the top recruitment officer for Al Qaeda in Washington D.C.

This argument is truly devastating when considering the Bush record. Everytime Bush drawls on about his most solemn duty being to protect the American people, (besides making me exclaim that he's just wrong about that in particular) I think that even if he were right that he's doing a very poor job at it. I am hard pressed to see how turning the world against us, inflaming Arab hostility, placing our army in their midst to provide target practice and training, and generally being bull headed in the face of disaster is somehow protecting us. Bush has proven catastrophically wrong headed in his approach on issue after issue. If Al Qaeda had been able to select a President in 2000, they could not have dreamed of the results given them by Bush.

It truly is a thrill to see someone else pick up that cudgel and bash the administration about the ears with it. Especially someone who is not noted for being a lefty, Democratic blogger. So nice posts Sully... I will keep coming back for more.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Cheney Is A Traitor

The stories coming from Washington about the activities being carried out by Dick Cheney are truly breathtaking. First Steve Clemons of the Washington note reported that Cheney is worried that President Bush will not make the right decisions regarding Iran, and Cheney is performing an end run around the President in order to guide America to a military confrontation with Iran.

Cheney has an aide meeting with hawks around Washington trying to form a narrative that will rally neoconservatives to a single purpose, which is to attack Iran. If the President can not be moved with pressure from the domestic right the Vice President is planning on colluding with Israel. They would strike Iran, causing retaliatory strikes against American interests in Iraq and the Gulf, and drawing America into a hot war with Iran.

This report is now being confirmed by Joe Klein, who has double sourced the story. Kleins sources also add the insight that when Rumsfeld was exiting the Pentagon, the President asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff about the proposed troop surge into Iraq. They were unanimously opposed. The President also asked their opinions on an attack on Iran, and again the Joint Chiefs were unanimously opposed, mainly because of the sketchy intelligence we have inside Iran. The Chiefs also warned that the response from Iran, both in the region and possibly to the American homeland could be "devastating".

Let there be no mistake in this regard. What Cheney has been caught doing is no less than treason. He is using his office in attempting to supplant the wishes of the Commander in Chief with Cheneys own determinations, leading us into a war we would not otherwise fight. And those assisting him in trying to force the President to a military confrontation that Bush does not want are being treasonous as well. Clemons reports on a conversation with a former national intelligence official who characterizes the activities of Cheney and his subordinates as "potentially criminal insubordination". Cheney does not just need to resign, he needs to be arrested!

Let me add one final observation. Any red blooded American conservative who has a Cheney acolyte approach them requesting assistance in fomenting an unwanted war against the wishes of the Commander in Chief should be ruined if they assist with the scheme. Conservative think tanks, media personalities and talking point manufacturers should come to the defense of this nation right now. If the Vice President is allowed to carry out this scheme there is no meaning to the Constitution. Principled conservatives... stand and fight for this nation now. Make it clear that plots fostered in the fevered minds of zealots to lead this nation to war are not a feature of conservatism. On the other hand, if these conservative institutions are found to be assisting in the treasonous actions of the Vice President, they should be punished severely.

The Least Worst

I understand my fellow liberal bloggers, t.v. commentators and anti war activists angst at yesterdays vote to continue funding the Iraq war with no time lines. The history of this blog is filled to the brim with rants against the Iraq war, George Bush, Bush's conduct of the war, and any other permutation of the Iraq wars affect on this nation. So I'm on board folks.

In fact not only do I understand the angst of those who I side with in the grand political scheme, but to use a famous Clintonism, I feel their pain. How is it that a President who is mired with public approval in the low 30's can be handed a victory over an issue that the vast majorities of the public disagree with him upon is simply mystifying. This President has the Democratic leadership in Congress wheedling their pants, afraid that he might talk badly about them. Yet having President Bush slam you around in todays environment should be considered a badge of honor, and a positive in the eyes of the nation. The Democrats are terrified of looking weak by not funding the troops, and wind up looking weak by not standing up to Bush.

So do they actually expect Bush and his boot lickers in Congress to start playing nice now? If so, the Democrats are not only weak, they are delusional. You can expect to hear Republicans across the nation and the air waves continue with the whole cut and run defeatocrats meme... because now these Republicans know that using that logic freaking works! And as long as the Democrats on the hill act like a herd of scared sheople being herded by wolves, you can't blame the Republicans for taking advantage of it either.

So am I cheesed? You bet! BUT... this is where I may part ways with many of those who agree with me. I'm not ready to completely wash my hands of all things Democrat and throw my all into building a 3rd party or marching on Washington to try to bring it all down.

I agree that the most important issue of our times is the Iraq war. On that alone, consider the head way made in the first five months of having a Democratic Congress. The first ever timeline to end the war passed and sent to the President. An epic battle over funding that went on for several months, where as under Republican leadership these funding bills were passed with barely a peep. Things have obviously shifted and I don't think that shift is going to start reversing itself to the Republican position. It will only get better from our perspective.

Iraq may be the most important issue, but it is not the only issue. The entire Justice Department embroglio would not be happening if the Republicans had retained control of Congress. I for one remember what oversight meant under Republican control. Oversight for them meant overlooking.

Frankly, after aproximately a decade in the minority, I would have been amazed if Democrats would have swept into power and not made any misteps early in the game. Let us hope they have learned their lessons on this one. Next time they should not start the debate under the premise that the Republicans just have to wait it out and the Democrats will fold. The starting premise of the next debate needs to be that the President may have the funding needed to end the war, but not to continue it indefinitely. If Bush vetoes that, he will be refusing the funding needed by our troops. It is not the Presidents job to fund the troops so he can take what he is offered, or have nothing at all.

Let us get this right going forward. But let us get this right with the party that can get it right rather than committing political suicide over a demand for purity in our party. If we fragment because of this we are playing directly into the hands of the Republicans, and if we think things are going to improve under their leadership then we are ignoring very recent history which demonstrates precisely the opposite.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, the Democratic party is the worst political party you can vote for... except all the others.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Collecting Intelligence Morals 101

The President has been very noisy of late about the moral imperative driving his thought process in the war in Iraq, and the so called war on terror in general. Having the President hang his logic on morality even as people die by the thousands due to a needless war in Iraq seems a little hollow from my perspective. But the President has to go there in order to sleep at night, so I would like to examine an aspect of our morality as shown by the issue of gays being discharged, and the negative impact of don't ask don't tell on our military's ability to collect intelligence.

The A.P. reports that three Arabic translators have recently been discharged from the military for being gay. This brings to 58 the number of translators who have been discharged from the military under don't ask don't tell. Yet with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan stretching on, Arabic translators are desperately needed by our military. An example of the value of the interpreters to their units is the case of Ian Finkenbinder as described by Nathaniel Frank in the New Republic.
When Ian Finkenbinder served an eight-month combat tour with the Army's 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq in 2003, he was tasked with human intelligence-gathering, one of the most critical ingredients in the Army's effort to battle the deadly Iraqi insurgency. It is also essential to the U.S. goal of winning support from the Iraqi street. Finkenbinder's job as a cryptologic linguist was to translate radio transmissions, to interview Iraqi citizens who had information to volunteer, and to screen native speakers for possible employment in translation units.

Finkenbinder was a rare and coveted commodity. Having attended the Army's elite Defense Language Institute (DLI) at the Presidio of Monterey, he graduated in the fall of 2002 with proficiency in Arabic at a time when the United States was scrambling to remedy a dire shortage of linguists specializing in Arabic, Farsi, and other tongues critical to the war on terrorism.

So it's not surprising that, according to Finkenbinder, his company commander was "distraught" last month at the prospect of having to start discharge proceedings against him just before the 3rd Infantry, which spearheaded the Iraqi invasion with its "thunder run" to Baghdad, was scheduled to redeploy for a second tour. But he had no choice. The Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gay troops makes no exceptions for linguists, and Finkenbinder had revealed he is gay.
It occurs to me in reading this description that there are many ways of gathering intelligence. One way is to have a person in a unit who can communicate with the locals and interpret local radio traffic. Another way is to sweep through a neighborhood, take all the suspicious looking people to Abu Ghraib, stack them in naked pyramids and sic dogs on them until they tell you what you want to hear. Or you can also stick the detainee in a sleeping bag face first and beat them to a pulp, but getting dead people to tell you the goods is nigh on impossible.

Now I understand that administration koolaid drinking toadies (and if I'm really lucky the Pentagon office set up to respond to blog posts about the military) will posit that what I'm describing are the actions of a few bad apples, and that hundreds of people have been prosecuted for crossing the line and torturing detainees. The fact is that General Paul Kern, who was tasked with investigating the Abu Ghraib scandal wrote an op ed for the Washington Post, which ran in yesterdays edition, in which he says:
As the investigator of the atrocities at Abu Ghraib prison, I confronted the outcome of current interrogation policies.
The General is clear about this. The current interrogation policies led to Abu Ghraib... not some past incongruities and mistaken impressions passed on to bad apples. If anything, the tremendous increase in prosecutions of service members for torturing detainees is emblematic of systemic disregard for the Geneva conventions. This flood of cases actually demonstrates the pervasiveness of the problem. The Geneva conventions have been rendered moot while the civilian leadership of the military have bent over backwards to allow for torture while calling it "enhanced interrogation". Notice I carefully deliniated the support for these techniques as coming from the civilian leadership, because the military leaders that have let their opinions on the issue be known are nearly uniformly opposed to the position taken by the President.

Yet thanks to the warped priorities forwarded by this administration, the interpreters who can help us understand the Iraqi's living with our occupation are routinely booted from the service for being attracted to members of the same gender, even as Bush legalized the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" by signing the military commissions bill. How sad is it that if someone crosses the line (whatever that is) in torturing prisoners, the most effective way to end the barbarity would be to accuse the transgressor of being gay!

This hangup with the military on service members being gay, even as we allow torture in the laws which govern the collection of intelligence, is a sad reflection of twisted morality. The military would be ok recruiting the Marqius De Sade but would not be ok recruiting Ellen DeGeneres. What kind of twisted morality has brought us to that pass?

But who cares as long as the commander in chief can drawl on and on with his take on the morality of the war and he sleeps well at night...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Cub Scouts From Hades!

Some blogospherians have linked to a write up in News Max which describes Ann Romney. The overwrought writing in describing Mrs. Romney has caused a few snickers:
"Ann is warm and very natural. She has the look of an outdoors woman bred to be an equestrian, which she is — good carriage, rosy complexion, square jaw, and blond mane.

"When she is not flashing her truly unbelievable smile, she may lower her eyes demurely. But Ann Romney is not demure — she may be modest, but she isn't meek. She is unpretentious, but she isn't shy. She lowers her eyes, thinking, and then looks up directly at her interviewer and dazzles him with that smile."
A woman "bred to be an equestrian"?! Good grief. In her defense... Ann was not born in a freaking kennel!

In reading the newsmax article in question however, there was another quote that struck me as very odd. Mitt describes the first time he ever saw Ann as a young boy this way:
[H]e was a Cub Scout in elementary school, he and some other scouts saw Ann riding a horse bareback across a railroad track.

"What do Cub Scouts do when they see a little girl on a horse?" Mitt says now. "We picked up stones and threw them [at her]."
Erm... no. Again in Anns defense, even if it is decades too late. Most little boys, Cub Scouts or no, do not respond to little girls on horses by throwing rocks at them! In fact I would be very concerned if I ever witnessed such a spectacle.

If I ever have a son in the scouts and this type of behavior comes to my attention, I will feel it is my duty to lay down some firm ground rules. One would expect such behavior from a little boy to indicate an uncertain future which has a good likelihood of various troubles with the law. Especially if that type of behavior is commonplace.

On the other hand, if my little girl were ever assaulted in such a manner while innocently riding a horse in the vicinity of a group of Cub Scouts... let us just say the den leader would have no doubts as to my thoughts on the subject, and there would be some ground rules established with those little hellions.

You get the sense that Romney considers this tale as emblematic of the halcyon days of yore, when little boys fished with line tied to knotty tree branches, the only meaning of the word Coke was for the soft drink which cost a nickel(perhaps buffalo head) for each glass bottle, and duck and cover drills were mandatory at the start of each school year... oh yeah... and little girls had to watch where they rode their horses lest they be bombarded by the little thugs dressed up in their little cub scout outfits! Can you imagine that world? Anns father hikes her up on the horse and tells her to avoid going down by the rail road tracks... there was a group of Cub Scouts down there and we all know how they can be with little girls on horses!

Well hardy hardy har har. Now we know that Mitt Romney isn't fit to be a den leader in the Cub Scouts. I would suggest he not spread that story too much... it really does not reflect well in hindsight as far as I'm concerned.

Goodlings Contradiction

Monica Goodlings opening statement shows that she is fully onboard with the Justice Department's strategy of blaming the entire affair on Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty. We saw the seeds of this strategy planted the day after McNulty resigned, with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales repeatedly asserting that the final reasoning for the firings had been McNulty's. Gonzales could barely contain his glee, smirking through out the press conference in which he repeatedly layed the blame at the feet of McNulty.

Yet Monica's take on the situation demonstrates a singular unwillingness to acknowledge her own responsibility in the less than truthful testimony from DOJ officials to Congress. She points to various players telling her to stay out of sight lest she be recognized as White House liason, causing Congressional inquiry into the White House role in the firings. She then castigates McNulty for being less than truthful with his testimony to Congress regarding White House involvement.

If Goodling is part and parcel of an attempt to hide her own role from Congress because she is White House liason, it is hardly convincing that she now professes shock that the White House role was not truthfully discussed while she was being shuffled into the background in order to throw Congress off the scent. Obviously she knew why she was being hidden. She was part of the plan to forward the coverup, and blaming that on McNulty now seems disingenuous.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My Take On Hersh: Duck

Seymore Hersh is reporting on an American tie with the recent fighting in Lebanon. The gist of his reporting is that the Bush administration has made a fundamental decision to back the Sunni side of a sectarian struggle in the Muslim world that America is fomenting. The current fighting in Lebanon is an unintended off shoot of that policy.

According to Hersh, the group that the Lebanese army is fighting right now were backed by America in last years Israeli/Hezbollah battle. The group is named Fatah al-Islam, and they are Sunni. They were considered a counterbalance to the Shiite Hezbollah. During last years fighting they were allied with the Lebanese government, but that obviously has changed.

Hersh however gives this particular angle much wider context. The Bush administration is fomenting sectarian strife between Shiite and Sunni in an attempt to stop the spreading influence of Syria and Iran, even if it means backing hardline Sunni extremist groups. Of course, the ultimate hardline Sunni extremist group is Al Qaeda.

This brings to mind the recent news from Iraq. I think we may be witnessing the initial stages of this strategy in the events in Iraq. The news has been abuzz with the dramatic change in environment in Anbar province. The local chiefs have decided to play ball with the coalition and attacks in the Sunni Triangle have fallen dramatically. Conversely we see bubbling unrest in Iraq's southern area with attacks on British coalition forces steadily increasing, and Iranian expertise in shaped charge explosives contributing to a growing casualty list for coalition forces around Baghdad.

If Hersh is accurate, and IF my reading of the situation in Iraq can be tied to Hersh's reporting (notice that is a huge if, I admittedly am not the font of Mideast wisdom here... can someone run this by Juan Cole?) then I expect there to be a substantial worsening of the situation around Baghdad and in the southern half of Iraq. In fact calling it a worsening security situation may be a serious understatement. If Americans are thrust into an all out knock down drag out insurgency from the Shiite in Iraq, we are in for a very bloody and tough slog.

I honestly do not think the American people would tolerate that situation very long. We were led to war in Iraq to rid the world of a supposed threat from WMD. That goal has long since been... accomplished, and morphed into several other goals. Having us in Iraq to help foment a civil war for control of the worlds most populous religion really was never part of the agreement.

If Hersh is right about this, I think it is beyond ironic considering the Bush administrations history. America was attacked by Sunni fundamentalists (Al Qaeda) on 09/11 and in response we deposed the Taliban from Afghanistan, who had ongoing tensions with Iran. The Taliban came close to starting out right wars with their neighbors to the west on a couple of occasions, once murdering several Iranian diplomats. Then President Bush, inexplicably, turned the attention of the nation from Afghanistan, allowing Osama Bin Laden to wander off into Pakistan, so Bush could lead us to invade Iraq. The history of hostilities between Iran and Iraq was all out war between Saddam and the Ayatollah with the resultant deaths of hundreds of thousands on both sides. So in response to 9/11 America relieved Iran of enemies on both their eastern and western frontiers. Iran could not have been dreaming of such success if they had been dictating the terms of American policy directly to the President as they saw fit.

Yet NOW the Bush administration discovers the looming threat of Shiite domination of the middle east, and is goading sectarian violence, even as we place additional forces into the Iraqi quagmire. In order to combat this we find ourselves allying with the same sect which is responsible for 9/11. The disastrous consequences of this Presidents positively wrong headed and ill conceived foreign policy could not be worsened if the President had actively tried to sabotage our international efforts.

Here's an idea! Expend half the effort we have spent on botching things up, and forge a working peace between Israel and the Palestinians. That would lead to a dramatic decline in the worlds unhappy experience with fundamentalist Islamic terrorism.

Oh right... bringing the Palestinians to the table would be talking with people who don't see things like we do. We would be rewarding our enemies! Whatever was I thinking.

Bush Is Taking His Party Down With Him

Hearst Newspapers analysis shows that President Bush is on course to have troop levels in Iraq at record highs at the start of 2008. Once the new year commences, the President will say that he does not want to influence domestic politics during an election and will keep troop levels steady until after his term ends.

Recent history reminds us of the last time the President ignored public opinion and stayed the course in Iraq during an election. Republican candidates in the 06 midterms took a drubbing despite doing their best to separate themselves from the President. The panic in Republican circles was palpable as the election bore down with continued troop levels and an increasingly out of touch President determined to ignore the will of the people on Iraq.

Which raises the question. With the President seemingly determined to ignore the will of the people and feed even more troops into Iraq, how will the Republican party fare in the 2008 election? How would it feel to have to appeal to the core Republican voters who overwhemlingly support the President and his Iraq policy, in order to win the Republican nomination, but then have to win the general election? It seems to be an impossible task.

The Democrats in Congress have tried their level best to spare their Republican comrades that scenario by attaching timelines that end the occupation to funding for the war. Republicans seem dead set on bringing the catastrophe, from their point of view, that was the 06 midterm election to an even greater fruition by not helping Democrats overcome the President on Iraq funding. At some point, Democrats will have to bow to the stubborness of this President and his allies in Congress, pass a bill without timelines, and allow the President to destroy his own party in 08, to an even greater extent than he did in 06. Seriously! The Democrats are trying to throw the Republicans a lifeline as they flounder in stormy waters, and the Republicans are spurning that lifesaving offer.

This is reminiscent of the abusive relationships where the abused partner can not seem to leave the abuser, no matter what happens to them. They make excuses for the abuser, justify the abuse, refuse to see the danger, and when society tries to help them they reject that help and want to save the abuser. I know there are reasons for this behavior, and I'm not trying to pass judgement on people who have found themselves in this horrible predicament. But most people look at that type of situation and wonder, why won't the abused person just leave?!

Why won't the Republican Congress members just vote against President Bush, and leave this destructive relationship? Those of us on the outside looking in on this disfunctional pairing are left scratching our heads at the spectacle. What it comes down to is that we can't FORCE them to act in their own best interests. If they insist on doing it, we will witness the President beat Repubublican candidates to a bloody pulp at the ballot box, willingly allowing him to lead them straight to the private sector.

To my Republican friends who are having to put up with this continued travesty... I appeal to you. Help us (Democrats) help yourself. Help us end this war before it destroys you. If you don't, you have only yourselves to blame.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Lesson In A Press Conference

The President held a joint press conference with Nato Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer which I believe holds a valuable lesson for the President in regards to the worlds opinion in the "war on terror".

The President did not take long to bring up this struggle when the event started. Yet the entire focus for the President and Secretary in regards to the "war on terror" had to do with Afghanistan. Performing a search in the transcript of the event for the word Iraq will not yield one single result. Let me highlight this point: not ONCE does "Iraq" pass the lips of either man in that press conference.

Of course the reason for that is that America could not get Nato backing for the ill conceived and disastrous war in Iraq. Indeed, Iraq's neighbor to the north is Turkey, which is a member of Nato. Not only did Turkey refuse to contribute forces for the invasion of their southern neighbor, they refused to allow us to use Turkey to launch our own forces into Iraq. Turkey has been a regional ally of America for decades, even allowing us to stage missles in their territory during the Cold War, until the Soviet Union bargained their removal in order to rachet down the Cuban missle crisis. Turkey's refusal to allow the 4th Infantry division to cross it's southern border resulted in that division being shuffled around the region and marched through Kuwait... mainly arriving after the invasion launched from Kuwait had toppled Saddam.

Turkeys snub followed close upon the refusal of Germany and France to back our position in the United Nations. Great Britain contributed troops to the Iraq adventure. So it was clear early on in the process that the members of the Nato alliance would not hold a uniform position in the Iraq war. This was a marked change from the Afghanistan campaign to dethrone the Taliban, and the following occupation, which has enjoyed Nato participation. Not just from Nato participants, but under the auspices of the alliance as a whole.

Thus it is that the President must focus on Afghanistan when the Secretary General of Nato comes a-calling. Iraq is a glaring example of how this President discarded traditional alliances, costing American prestige in world opinion in the most disastrous decision in American military history. Nato certainly isn't acting like Iraq is the central front in "the war on terror". They appear to be more knowledgeable about this matter than the President! The real war on terror is being fought in Afghanistan, and the war in Iraq is giving the enemy a tremendous boost in recruitment and by siphoning off resources which should be used in the real war against those who attacked us on 9/11.

The lesson from this press conference then, as far as I'm concerned, is that our President is a colossal bonehead. He must realize it too. I mean can you imagine how Bush must feel knowing that he is going to go to a press conference to talk about the "war on terror", but he can not mention the war in Iraq even once? He must have broken into a cold sweat, wondering how in the world he could pull that one off.

One final question. How is it that after years of having "the war on terror" and the war in Iraq conflated by the President and his spokestoadies, that some intrepid member of the Press corps didn't sally forth with the following question. "Mr. President, you said of Mr. Scheffer: 'The Secretary General of NATO has been a strong advocate of fighting terror, spreading freedom, helping the oppressed and modernizing this important alliance'. How do you reconcile that with the fact that Nato has refused to participate in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, which you claim is the central front in the war on terror?"

The Wrong Approach To A Lawless President

The House has passed a funding bill for U.S. intelligence services, and an amendment on this bill reaffirms that the FISA law should govern domestic collection of foreign intelligence. This is being reported as a set back for the Administration who wants legislation sent forward that expands Presidential authority to wiretap beyond current FISA allowances. Oddly enough, I contend that adding this amendment to the bill may really give a victory to the Bush administration.

Adding this amendment would allow the President to veto the bill, and in effect veto the FISA law. That is, unless his veto were over ridden which I do not believe can be done with any veto as the Congress currently stands. The President would be given the ability to veto a law which has already been passed, and never repealed.

I'm not sure that this nation has ever before witnessed such a procedure as is being undertaken by the Congress right now. The remedy given by the constitution for a President who refuses to abide by any law is impeachment, pure and simple. I think Congress may be making a substantial error by trying to address an instance of lawlessness by a President with an affirmation of the law in question. The FISA law was passed and signed, and never has been repealed. It is the law of the land, and affirming that is pointless, except to give the President the possibility of vetoing it by vetoing the bill that affirms it.

If Congress can not find the will to proceed with the constitutional remedy provided for a President who defiantly breaks the law and proclaims their intention to continue in the same way, I think they would be well served to not try to invent other ways to bring the President into line. They either fulfill their constitutional roles, or they don't, but trying to make it up as they go along is not a wise course. The founding fathers gave us the remedy for this particular situation, and not one of those founding fathers is around to give their advice on making up another way forward if the Congress can't be moved to take the right course of action in the first place.

The precedent being set in this entire affair is extremely damaging. Are future Presidents going to be able to declare their intention to simply defy a law they do not agree with, and have the Congress try to reaffirm that law with other legislation, which the offending President can then veto? This is a boneheaded precedent brought in response to the actions of a bone headed President, and not a practice which I want my generation of leaders to set for an example going forward.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Beyond the pale

The Congressional testimony about the hospital drama with then Secretary of Justice John Ashcroft being strong armed by the administration to approve the NSA spy program has gotten alot of attention. The drama might be straight out of Hollywood, but the real important story for this nation is what happened when the administration was foiled in getting the requested approval.

Bush certified the program, allowing it to continue even as the top officials in the Justice Department prepared to resign en masse. The President did give them the changes they required to stay in their jobs, but the program ran for an additional several weeks before those changes were agreed upon.

This means that the President allowed a program to continue even after he was explicitly told by the Justice Department, headed by John Ashcroft, that the program was unconstitutional. In searching for reactions to that particular aspect of the story, I found the following highly dubious claim in an article in the Washington Post:
[T]he president authorized the program the Justice lawyers had refused to certify as legally permissible, and it continued for a few weeks more, according to former deputy attorney general James B. Comey's careful testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Under the Constitution, the president has the final authority in the executive branch to say what the law is.
Wapo seems to be laboring under the delusion that the President, as the head of the executive branch, is able to determine what is or is not allowed by the constitution in regards to actions by his branch of government. There is not a hint of any stricture upon executive behavior in that belief. The President may merely declare that warrantless spying is constitutional, even though that action is obviously a breach of the 4th amendment. That amendment is very clear. We are secure in our "persons, houses papers and effects" and can not be searched unless a warrant is issued based upon probable cause, which warrant is issued with an oath or affirmation as to the particulars of the search.

I appreciate WAPO paying attention to this story, but their interpretation of Presidential powers is completely beyond the pale. We know that the President allowed a blatantly unconstitutional program to go into effect, even after he was told in no uncertain terms that the program was unconstitutional. Also the FISA law is still the law of the land and this program was an explicit violation of that statute. The President does not have the authority under any reading of the constitution to revoke laws despite WAPO's dubious logic.

The House has recently approved a reaffirmation of the FISA law in the authorization of the budget for intelligence activities. If this gets to the Presidents desk it would have to be the first time in our nations history that a law was re-presented for Presidential approval after having successfully been passed initially, and never being repealed by Congress. It is shameful that the President has violated that law, and proudly proclaimed his intention to keep doing so going forward.

Finally... I don't care if Congressional committees were briefed on this program in super secret confidential terms. The members can not disagree with the program publicly without facing 10 years in prison. That is not consultation, but rather it is a monologue with the audience being threatened with jail if they retell the story. This figleaf offered up by the President and his apologists in no way gives him any more right to act unlawfully and in violation of the constitution than some thug with a gun alerting a bank manager he's taking all the money, and if the manager hits the alarm it's curtains, allowing the thug to later claim that the manager let them have the money.

This travesty of an administration is doing it's best to bring our constitutional form of government to a sad conclusion. They have accrued to themselves dictatorial powers, allowing for the torture of detainees, the suspension of habeas corpus for American citizens upon the sole determination of the President that the citizen is a threat, misled the Congress and the American people in order to start a disastrous and unnecessary war, allowed for the defacto revocation of laws that the President determines are not to his liking, and instituted the blatantly unconstitutional NSA spy program. The Congress does not have the cajones to take the only remedy constitutionally provided for this type of danger as represented by the President to our fundamental way of life, impeachment. If it is not this President which brings down the curtain on our Republic, it will be another in the not too distant future if this is allowed to progress unchecked.

Our Father Who Art In Heaven...

Warning!! Longwinded religious type post ahead.

A controversy is brewing in the Ohio legislature regarding the daily prayer being offered at the start of each legislative day. Evidently the ministers being brought in by certain Republican members have used their turn at offering this daily prayer as a chance to appeal to the most holy for affirmation favoring the ministers opinion on business before the legislature.

This brings to mind for me the manner and meaning of prayer. If you are new to reading this blog, let me affirm my faith as a Christian, with a generally liberal point of view on political subjects. I was raised in the finest evangelical traditions with my father being an Assemblies of God preacher in Montana. My earliest memories of formal prayer were of people bowing their heads, closing their eyes and speaking in biblical English to God. If I were feeling particularly mischievous I would half cock my head and look through squinted eyes, trying to catch any others of the gathered faithful who may be cheating by not closing their eyes and so on.

After reaching adult hood I kept my faith, but dropped the trappings of an organized church in favor of simply trying to live my life as best I could, trusting that my sense of right and wrong would be guided as God saw fit. In this new approach I came to believe that prayer was more than a formal supplication to God. To me any time that I was given a situation in which I would think in my own head... what would God like me to do here, that the answer which I felt was appropriate was how I ought to proceed. Therefore prayer for me became the simple outreach to God, in any way that I knowingly would do so, in my own consciousness. Of course doing so formally with head bowed and eyes closes still holds meaning mind you... but so does the much more common inner thought asking for guidance, or thought of thanks for something that has happened.

My understanding of God is that he (I'm sorry for using the male reference, I'm actually not sure that God has a gender as we understand it, but I will use the male reference simply for ease of use) can not be comprehended by the mind of man. I use the analogy of the ant on the airport tarmac trying to understand a Boeing 747. That ant knows the object that looms over it is massively powerful and unbelievably noisy at times... and if the wrong approach is taken to it that the ant and it's entire colony may be wiped from existence with seemingly no effort by the 747. But the ant really has no comprehension of what it is facing. The ant's brain isn't geared to comprehend such things, and even if it were the scale is so massively out of whack that it would take generations of ant research to even start to comprehend the function of a 747, and an eternity for the ants to research the actual mechanics and physics involved. So I always take any assurance that a person understands the will or manner of God with a grain of salt, no matter how holy or righteous that person appears to be, because no matter how much they pretend otherwise, that holy person is still an ant in the grand scheme of things. (My faith does allow for one notable exception to this rule mind you!)

Anyway... to bring this back to the Ohio controversy, I've always been slightly bemused when people take an occasion of formal prayer in order to present a personal point of view to those gathered as if God should righteously decide the matter in their favor. And for me, when a person presents their view via prayer on an issue that is controversial in nature, I start to cringe. Appeals to God for his help in matters which are open to debate or being contested by opposing sides seem crass to me. This is strictly my opinion, and I can relate with the temptation to try to invoke God on your side. I'm just not convinced that he is going to help your team beat the other team, and it is a pretty good bet that the percentage of fans praying for the team you root for is approximate to the percentage praying for victory for the other side. Pray for the health of the players, and that the contest would be enjoyable, with good weather and what not, but don't expect God to make the ball bounce your direction.

Abraham Lincoln famously faced this conundrum when he mused:
The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God can not be for and against the same thing at the same time.

This call for Godly intervention for the side you root for seems highly inappropriate in matters where the issues in question are politically partisan in nature. It would seem that the minister is calling the faith of any who disagree with them into question based upon that ministers opinion of what or what is not Gods view. If I were about to vote on tax funds for religious schooling, and I didn't think the state should be paying for that, I would be a bit peeved to have some preacher man open the session with an appeal to the almighty to open the eyes and show the light to those who do not see the Godly approach to that issue, from the preacher mans perspective anyway.

This is one of the major concerns I have with organized prayer in school. I favor a moment of silence for each student to reflect upon the coming day and use that moment as the student sees fit. But I see a definite danger to having teacher led prayer in public schools, with a diverse body of students. There is a near certainty that any student choosing to no participate would be labeled negatively by their fellow students. For those who did choose to participate, just imagine the diversity of faith in the classrooms across the nation. Can there possibly be an appeal to God which would not offend one group or the other?

Even the manner of the praying is open to debate. I married into a family of very traditional Mormons, and when I visit the inlaws I willingly take part in most of the family activities relating to that faith. The nightly prayer before bedtime is conducted with the family in a circle, on their knees with arms folded over their chests, heads bowed, mischievous kids squinting to see who is cheating. The language of the prayer is biblical, reminiscent of my childhood as the son of an evangelical preacher. I'm certain the inlaws would not be offended at other practices in other families, but many Mormons do hold this style of prayer as nearly a sacred type tradition. Some far eastern traditions involve prayer wheels and some orthodox traditions have incense carrying the supplications to God. My own belief mentioned above would fit perfectly with a moment of silence, but would not be recognized by many faiths as having validity. Who is to even say what prayer actually is?

I believe it is what each of us believe it to be, or even not to be as the case may be. It is a personal matter. Institutions in which the participants do not hold similar beliefs would be well served to approach the issue with due consideration for all those involved. If the Ohio legislature wants to start their day with a prayer, more power to them. If the Ohio Republicans want to turn that event into a chance to politicize God and proselytize for their particular faith... shame on them.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Support the Troops, Stop Torture

Two former high ranking military officers have written an op ed for the Washington Post calling on America to turn away from any form of torture. This makes a near unanimous wall of opinion from military officers who unequivocally oppose the use of torture by this nation. They do not hold that opinion because of some misplaced bleeding heart sympathy for the enemy. They have the best interest of our fighting forces at heart.

The most obvious reason to oppose torture is to consider our standing in calling for the humane treatment of our service members when they are captured on the battlefield. Even now there are three of our men recently captured by the enemy in Iraq. I know full well that these men have probably endured atrocity and humiliation beyond measure, and I pray that I am wrong about this and for their well being. Just imagine the outrage we would feel if video hit the news of these men being waterboarded. Yet how hollow would the official expressions of outrage and indignation appear in that circumstance? We have given up the moral high ground on this issue in particular and we desperately need to reclaim it.

Another reason we must explicitly and verifiably stop torture is because it strengthens the enemy. The struggle we are engaged in will not be won with a military victory. We must win battles against the enemy in a war for reason. This is particularly difficult because we must rely upon an appeal to reason in the face of a call to fundamentalism. I believe we can see in our own society how a political argument based upon reason and logic can fail to convert those only interested in faith in that which is unproven. So we have a difficult enough task as it is without turning the locals against us by disappearing their friends and loved ones, who if they come back spread tales of horror and grief at the hands of the west. Not to mention the once innocent people we treat like this who are radicalized against us, determined to have their revenge for the ill treatment they received while in our hands.

Think of this on a personal level. If a family member or loved one of yours were to become the victim of a foreign governments torture, which government was occupying your nation, would you simply let the incident pass without response? Isn't the human condition such that regardless of the overall politics leading to the occupation of your nation, that on a very personal level you would fight them? Or at least resist to the best of your ability, even if you are unable to put your life on hold to pick up a rifle? To me, this is really just common sense.

We have fought the war on terror to this point as if Osama Bin Laden himself were pulling the strings attached to a marionette of President Bush. We have seen the ranks of Al Qaeda increased dramatically due to our ill conceived and unnecessary invasion of a nation that was not involved with Al Qaeda. In that war we have wasted more American lives than were lost in 9/11, and drained hundreds of billions of dollars from our treasury. And we have ceded the high ground once so carefully defended in the cause of human rights by allowing the torture of detainees.

I call for the leadership of this nation, following the inauguration of a new President and Congress in 2009, to affirm the Geneva conventions in the Senate with a Presidential signature as the first order of business.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Overdosing on Testosterone in S. Carolina

Anyone attending the Republican debate in South Carolina is in danger of having to kiss any future athletic endeavors good-bye. Most sports have banned the use of performance enhancing drugs, including testosterone. Anyone who attended the debate last night received well over the legal limit allowed to be present by most sporting associations simply by absorbing the excess testosterone exuded from the Republican candidates. Indeed, it is instructive that the biggest laugh of the night came at the expense of Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards, casting him as a frequenter of beautry parlors. Funny stuff there... if you are a homophobic red blooded bare knuckled truck drivin' alpha Republican!

There was only one person who did not come across as a chest thumping Silverback Gorilla wannabee in the debate. Ron Paul hearkened to the roots of Republicanism when he said:
Well, I think the party has lost its way, because the conservative wing of the Republican Party always advocated a noninterventionist foreign policy.

Senator Robert Taft didn't even want to be in NATO. George Bush won the election in the year 2000 campaigning on a humble foreign policy -- no nation-building, no policing of the world. Republicans were elected to end the Korean War. The Republicans were elected to end the Vietnam War. There's a strong tradition of being anti-war in the Republican party. It is the constitutional position. It is the advice of the Founders to follow a non-interventionist foreign policy, stay out of entangling alliances, be friends with countries, negotiate and talk with them and trade with them.
Of course such truth and logic from Paul makes him subject to ridicule by the hosts of the debate. Fox news anchors and White House correspondents aren't going to take any of that pre 9/11 thinking!
MR. [Wendell] GOLER [Fox News White House correspondent]: Congressman, you don't think that changed with the 9/11 attacks, sir?

REP. PAUL: What changed?
Ron Paul is a down the line libertarian, and for that I respect him a great deal... but his response to the 9/11 change question was sorely lacking. Rather than asking "What changed?" Paul would have been better served by denouncing the notion that Republican history, which was Pauls original point in this, somehow changed. History is freaking history! It is mindboggling that 9/11, in the mind of the Fox White House correspondent, changed the course of events which had already occurred. I guess it turns out that Taft did want to get into NATO, Republicans were not elected to end Korea and Vietnam, so on and so forth, because 9/11 happened in 2001...

I have focused thus far on this particular example of a non hostile or overly aggressive Republican in the debate as instructive of the response Paul got from the hosts and his fellow candidates, who commence to berate him for supposedly not understanding the causes of 9/11. Paul touch of sanity was definitely misplaced on that stage, surrounded as he was by patently absurd chest thumpers of the first order.

Let us examine the rest of the gang. They (except Paul, who having that 'sane' pre 9/11 mindset was excluded from answering the following) were presented with a scenario certain to bring out the best manufactured rage we could expect... from baboons in rut.
Three shopping centers near major U.S. cities have been hit by suicide bombers. Hundreds are dead, thousands injured. A fourth attack has been averted when the attackers were captured off the Florida coast and taken to Guantanamo Bay, where they are being questioned. U.S. intelligence believes that another larger attack is planned and could come at any time.

How aggressively would you interrogate those being held at Guantanamo Bay for information about where the next attack might be?
To paraphrase the answers, McCain thinks this scenario is a one in a million but evidently he would personally torture the detainees in the one very unlikely event. The rest of them would happily order the torture of the detainees, but would not call it torture per se.

I am particularly troubled by the response of Mitt Romney to this question. He wants to double the size of the prison in Guantanamo Bay. He also would authorize the use of "not torture but enhanced interrogation techniques". Mr. Romney uses his faith prominently in his campaign. I have a great respect for Mormonism. I don't happen to believe in much that Mormons believe in , but I respect their fundamental adherence to principles that are good and wholesome. Mitt Romney's chest thumping over gitmo, and mealy mouthed acceptance of torture by any other name than what it is, is objectionable. I would like to ask Mr. Romney... who would Jesus waterboard?

I have another question I would like to ask all these candidates. How would any one of them feel if Al Qaeda released video footage of the three service members they have captured in Iraq being waterboarded? Or piled into a naked pyramid? Or undergoing any of these "enhanced techniques" designed to coerce information via the infliction of bodily pain or psychological distress. You freaking KNOW each and every one of them would be positively outraged, full of righteous indignation and pushing to turn the next Al Qaeda base found into a radioactive glass parking lot.

So after finding out that all of the candidates were willing to torture detainees, (besides McCain unless the one in a million circumstance forced him to do it personally), Fox added a twist to the scenario guaranteed to evoke even greater scenes of rhetorical roid rage.
MR. HUME: Governor Thompson, let me enrich the scenario just a little bit. Let's assume for the sake of discussion here that we now also have additional intelligence that indicates with high certainty that the attackers were trained in a West African country hostile to the United States, in camps openly run by the terrorist organization that sent them. What kind of response would you agree to for that?
I am entirely serious here... My wife is my witness. When I saw this I immediately commenced my best imitation of the typical Republican candidate on display by acting like an ape, interspersed with proclamations like BOM DEM! STONE AGE!! etc etc etc... You will just have to trust me on this... it was hilarious! Unfortunately, my reaction was not far from the reactions given by the various candidates as they alternately peed all over their podiums, attempting to mark their territories as most manly numero uno chief alpha male.

The sad fact is that the Republican candidates MUST behave this way because of the voters they must appeal to. The most recent Gallup poll shows that the vast majority of Democrats and a strong majority of independents think that the decision to go to war was a mistake, but 3/4 of Republicans think that decision was not a mistake. Pushing the candidates further to the crazy rightwing fringe was the fact that the debate was held on Fox News... and the real world knowledge (as opposed to alternate reality 'knowledge' constructed from right wing fantasy talking points) of the average Fox viewer has been demonstrated to be sorely lacking time and again. The Republicans had to make an appeal for votes from an audience that still believes that Saddam and Osama were in cahoots over 9/11, and the WMD in Iraq were spirited to Syria in trucks... which somehow never were sighted by the surveillance aircraft swarming the Iraqi skies immediately prior to the invasion.

In the interest of not writing a book, let me wrap this up. Crazy macho b/s by President Bush has led us to the state we are in today. Republicans, still being overwhelmingly supportive of President Bush, may think that things are going swimmingly well (especially if they are glued to Fox and Rush for their daily input) but I'm not sure this is going to fly very well in the 2008 general election.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Is Rosie Taking the High Road?

When The View announced that Rosie O'Donnell would not be coming back for a 2nd season, O'Donnell nit picker Donald Trump was quick to proclaim that he was responsible for her departure.

Yet when the fall lineup for NBC did not include Trump's show The Apprentice, I note that Rosie did not make one peep claiming credit for NBC's decision. That really is to bad from my perspective. Rosie should let Trump have both barrels every chance she gets. Until he begs for mercy that is!

The truth is that Rosie didn't have anything what so ever to do with Trumps show not making the lineup. Which shows the difference between these two in my humble opinion. Trump didn't have anything to do with Rosie's departure from The View either, but he felt free to pull a cheap shot out of his butt and fling it at the camera.

I am troubled re: Falwell

Well... this is going to be a tough post.

Jerry Fallwell died today. I have been following the reaction from the left wing blogosphere, and to be honest I do not like alot of what I see.

I may have fought tooth and nail against everything Falwell stood for in politics. I may have thought his take on Christianity was sadly warped, and detested how his example reflected on those of us who try to live Christian lives.

But the man died. He had a family, and those people must be saddened by his passing, regardless of his politics.

Indeed I think those who typically agree with me show the same sort of intolerance and hatefullness that we found so objectionable in Fallwell when they rejoice at his death.

I am not saying the fight for justice and social equality of we the people, in all of our forms, should be put on hold for the time being. We need to redouble our efforts to fight that which Fallwell represented. But at least show some of the same tolerance and good will which we call for in those who disagree with us.

Today of all days... let us be the example. Let us reflect on Fallwell as a fellow human being, with foibles and weaknesses like any other man, but with a family and others who loved him... Today of all days, do not let us become that which we hate.

Con Blogs Ignore Whales, Try to Harpoon Minnows

So there is a big to do on the intertubes regarding various right wing blogs targeting House Republican leadership over the seating of an ethically challenged California Republican on the Appropriations committee. The effort was kicked off by and Anklebitingpundits have added their conservative imprimatur to the effort. Let me note here that I did not link in the last sentence because I blog from work, and my company has their site blocked for whatever reason. (Daily Kos has been blocked as well, and on the blog scales of weightiness, the loss of Kos far outweighs the loss of Redstate from my perspective.)

Yesterday when I first heard about this my immediate reaction was to wonder if the concern for ethical standards stopped with the appropriations committee, or perhaps there would be an entirely new attitude on these sites regarding the entire Republican machine in Washington, including administration figures neck deep in scandal. So after work, I went home and loaded up and did a search of their home page for the word "Bush". As of last night at approximately 8 pm pst, there was 1 mention of Bush, from an advertisement. Now Redstate has a chronological order to it's posts so I went through each story one by one. Of all the diaries on their home page, not one mentioned anything at all regarding any sort of Bush administration story, not to mention stories focusing on administration scandal. The stories mainly focused on the attempt to have the ethically challenged Republican replaced on the committee, and their disdain for Democrats (and by extension the American people) when it comes to the Iraq war. I then loaded up the previous page in the chronology of Redstate, and the same applied.

Well today brings news that Ankle Biting Pundits is the latest to take up the cudgel to beat House Republican leadership about the head. I can load their site from work so this is contemporary information as of the time I'm bashing out this post. Performing a search for "Bush" on their home page offers no hits. In fact, the list of categories that can be searched for pertinent stories in the history of ABP does not even include a category for Bush, or any permutation there of.

First, let me focus on the area of agreement between these conservative sites and myself. House Republican leadership seems determined to ignore the ethical foibles of their members, and I can't blame the other side for getting fed up with it. It does occur to me that this level of outrage may have better served their cause prior to the midterm election last year, but you go to the ballot box with the candidates you have, not the candidates you would like to have. Thus, I welcome the addition of Redstate and APB to the vast ranks of Americans, concerned by the utter contempt demonstrated time and again by Congressional Republicans for ethical standards.

BUT... the notion that House Republicans ought to be the sole focus of outrage over unethical behavior in Washington D.C. is simply laughable! The Bush administration has set the bar very low for ethical limbo. House Republicans look positively angelic next to the criminal enterprise currently running this administration. Bush's 2000 campaign antics where in he would solemnly raise his right hand as if taking an oath and promise to "restore" integrity and honor to the White House would make a great Saturday Night Live skit in the waning days of the Bush error.

Focusing on the House Republican leadership for turning a blind eye to ethics standards is the conservative blogs ignoring the diseased and stinking 4000 pound elephant in the room, to focus on freshening up after a flatulent mouse. The priorities seem just a bit out of whack here oh ye of the conservative blogosphere! I mean welcome aboard the 'bash Republican Congress critter band wagon'... just try not to ignore the 'Bush is worse than Nixon, cronyfilled administration criminal enterprise must be stopped' freight train that is currently blowing the doors off of the entire Republican establishment.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Tom Delay: Go ask Alice, I Think She'll Know

Tom Delay has written a screed for the Politico that could be mistaken as a missive straight from the drug addled mind of Lewis Carrol.

Delay repeatedly demonstrates a singular disconnect with reality. For example:
The Democrats have a fundamental misconception about the polls on the war. What the American people are expressing in their public opinions about the war isn't a desire for us to surrender, but for us to win more quickly.
Actually the American people overwhelmingly agree with the conclusion of the Baker/Hamilton Iraq Study Group that there can be no military victory in Iraq. Delay must ignore poll upon poll that shows this particular belief and use gymnastic twists of logic to explain the fact that Americans overwhelmingly are dissatisfied with events in Iraq. Delay in effect has reworked a talking point that has held prominent favor by administration apologists of late: That Bush recognized the discontent of the American people and gave us what we wanted, a change of course in Iraq, which is his surge plan. As is the case in nearly all the lying and talking points showered upon us daily by the Bush administration, there is a kernel of truth to Delay's blather. The people are not happy with the war. The notion that the answer to this is to escalate, and that the people want us to "win" sooner, is truly fantastical. I'm tempted to ask Delay to put aside the koolaid filled hookah prior to picking up the pen.

Here is another twilight zone quote from Delay:
President Bush has put a man, Gen. David Petraeus, and a plan, the counterinsurgency surge, into action to bring about positive results. There's nothing more he can do, except report back to the American people about the progress.
Tom Delay seems to know something that very few people, beyond administration toadies, know. That the surge will bring about positive results. In fact Delay is so certain of this truth that he has already determined that the President will in the future report back regarding the progress brought about because of the surge. There is no room for anything but the certain success brought about by the enlightened leadership of President Bush in the fevered thinking of Tom Delay.

Yet history shows us that Delay's absolute faith in the President is at best misplaced, and at worst positively indicative of the hallucinogenic stupor Delay suffers from. History in fact demonstrates a singularly inept, corrupted, sorry, deadly, mistaken, and wrong-headed series of policies forwarded by this administration in regards to Iraq. This is the continued pattern from before the war even started no less, with the leadup to the war being disastrously mishandled as well. 20/20 hindsight being what it is, these mistakes by the Bush administration are evident for even the most ardent koolaid drinker to see. Why is it then that Delay has determined that the surge proposed by Bush will result in any other outcome than all the other policies forwarded by Bush?! Not only is Delay convinced that the surge is going to work, he has predetermined that future reports by the President will detail progress. Delay seems to be able to read the future! Another comment here about koolaid hookahs and what not would just be redundant, so let us move on to the next Delay delusion.

I think it would be appropriate to wrap this post up with my take on how Delay wrapped up his article:
What the president needs is to do is fill the unforgiving year-and-a-half left of his term with 18 months of Texas tough. He's got it in him, and the country needs it now more than ever.
The absolute last thing this nation needs is for the President to continue with his blustering, tough guy, go it alone attitude. We are where we are because of the very behavior which Delay thinks we need more of! Delay waxes eloquent for 7 paragraphs on how the President can recover from what Delay admits are dismal poll numbers, by urging the President to do more of the same... or to do more more of the same. Delay's reasoning seems to follow the logic of one who finds himself in a hole, deciding the best way out is to dig deeper, faster, and with a bigger shovel. But considering the fantastical delusion displayed by Delay in the rest of the article, what else should we expect? I think those who have any influence upon the White House would be well served to read Delay's article carefully, and proceed to do the precise opposite in every case that Delay offers them his wrong headed and delusional advice.

To wrap up let me ask my readers, who nearly by definition are curious and interested in the news, which side of the political divide have proven more correct on these matters in the last couple of years. I've been blogging for nearly 2 years now, having started the summer after the 04 election. When I started Bush's approval was just under 50%. I would put my record on the line regarding prognosticating the effect of Bush policy against any koolaid drinking Bush apologist and fare very well I believe. I certainly am not alone in this. The entire Lefty Blogosphere from giganto Kos to lil old me and the others like me by the tens of thousands are winning this debate. Not because we are loud mouthed wrong headed gas bags either! Quite simply we are right, we show it day by day, and we are winning because of it. ... I'm just pointing this out because it is right and proper to pat oneself on the back every so often. Lord knows, Delay and his gang are past masters at it, even if they have to ignore self evident realities in order to make themselves feel better about losing so badly.

Friday, May 11, 2007

When Politics Kill

Now seems as good a time as any to reflect upon the danger represented by the over politicization of everything by this White House. Currently the heat is on the administration for trying to politicize the Justice Department. But let us recall the Federal response to Hurricane Katrina, because this serves to demonstrate the grim reality of how this administration plays politics with everything... even the lives of disaster victims.

1st, check out the advance preparations by FEMA for Hurricane Frances. Hurricane Francis was one of several hurricanes to hit Florida in 2004. FEMA moved massive amounts of resources to the region prior to Frances' landfall in Florida. Tractor trailers loaded with generators, communications vehicles, water and ice trucks pre staged in Florida at FEMA's request, pharmaceutical caches... the list goes on and on.

Next check out the advance preparations by FEMA for Hurricane Katrina. Those preparations consisted of the staging of several search and rescue teams, and several dozen medical emergency response teams to the region. Food and ice were to be moved into the affected areas after the storm had passed.

The difference could not be more apparent. Florida was swamped with federal attention before, and after, the storms hit. They were a very important swing state in a Presidential election year. New Orleans was literally swamped by flood water, and for nearly a week after the disaster the media showed daily images of suffering and death reminiscent of a circle of Dante's inferno... and the federal government was on vacation! Louisiana's people suffered because they were not fortunate enough to be an important state in the electoral count during a Presidential election.

The fact that the FEMA response to the Florida hurricanes was based in large part upon the political season is reflected by this story in the Sun Sentinel.
As the second hurricane in less than a month bore down on Florida last fall, a federal consultant predicted a "huge mess" that could reflect poorly on President Bush and suggested that his re-election staff be brought in to minimize any political liability, records show.

Two weeks later, a Florida official summarizing the hurricane response wrote that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was handing out housing assistance "to everyone who needs it without asking for much information of any kind."

Contemporary accounts in the media during the campaign noted the political advantage given to Bush by his role as President, being able to show up in a crucial electoral state and throwing around money like a flower girl on speed. Here is the Washington Times... which is hardly a liberal rag.
President Bush will tour hurricane damage in Florida today on a trip that, while considered official White House business, also provides political opportunities in a state he barely won in 2000.
"Many lives have been affected by this hurricane," he told a campaign rally here. "I know you join me in sending our prayers to those people who look for solace and help."

By declaring the state a federal disaster area and showing up with millions of dollars for clean-up and reconstruction, Mr. Bush is playing a role unavailable to Sen. John Kerry — that of benefactor to the very voters who may once again decide the presidency.
Thus we see a President whose attentiveness to Floridians affected by hurricanes in an election year was extraordinary. But what do we see about Presidential attentiveness for those affected by Hurricane Katrina? On the day Katrina made landfall we have a picture of George Bush eating cake with John McCain in sunny Arizona, immediately prior to giving a political speech to a pre picked audience on his medicare prescription plan. The day following landfall we have a picture of Bush strumming a guitar, immediately after giving a political speech at the Naval Station in San Diego which focused on the war in Iraq. It is literally as if the President were the bastard child of a union between Marie Antoinette and Nero. Strumming guitar as New Orleans drowned and eating cake as the citizens he is charged with leading are starving.

The President was on vacation and then went about his political business as normal until politics absolutely forced him to fly over the devastation caused by Katrina. Politics forced him to repeatedly visit the disaster in the following weeks, but he did not act until he was forced to by politics, as the nation reacted in revulsion at the utter misery playing out day by day on our television screens.

Once the immediate crisis had passed the continuing federal aid was politicized as well. Once Michael Brown was cut loose he started spilling the beans. According to Brown the federal government took a decidedly different approach to Democratic Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco than to Republican Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour.
"Unbeknownst to me, certain people in the White House were thinking, `We had to federalize Louisiana because she's a white, female Democratic governor, and we have a chance to rub her nose in it,'" he said, without naming names. "`We can't do it to Haley [Barbour] because Haley's a white male Republican governor. And we can't do a thing to him. So we're just gonna federalize Louisiana.'"

"This is exactly what we were living but could not bring ourselves to believe. Karl Rove was playing politics while our people were dying," Blanco said through a spokeswoman, referring to Bush's top political strategist. "The federal effort was delayed, and now the public knows why. It's disgusting."
Guess who was appointed by the President to oversee the federal effort in the disaster zone after "Heckuvajob" Brownie was sacked... none other than Karl Rove.

The politicization of the Justice Department is the story causing the most noise right now. Let us not forget the victims of the politicization of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In many ways, the sheer incompetence and cronyism bared by Katrina was the initial wave in a series, each demonstrating the disastrous consequences of unfettered partisanship in the running of day to day government by this administration. It is as if the Government itself has been overcome by Hurricane Bush, with the partisan winds and flooding overwhelming the levees constructed to separate the political from the non political. Yesterday it was FEMA, today the Justice Department... and who knows what tomorrow brings?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Presidential Obligations

There has been alot of talk recently about politicians in Washington determining military strategy and Generals on the ground and so on.

I find the disdain shown by the administration for civilian control of the military troublesome. The constitution specifies the roles set forth by the various branches of government, and there is not ONE clause to be found in that document giving the military autonomy to set it's own policies. The President is a civilian, elected to office for a set term by civilians specifically for the constitutional purpose of serving as Commander in Chief. The funding of the military is the job of Congress, a body populated by civilians, each elected by civilians. Drawn to the ultimate conclusion the logic arguing against civilian interference in military matters is as if the President has suddenly proclaimed that he has abdicated his role as Commander in Chief to the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and he is outraged that Congress will not follow suit.

Luckily, the mainstream media seem to be seeing through this talking point, as I hear Chris Matthews and other's question it's validity on constitutional grounds. However, there is another long standing administration talking point that directly relates to this entire willingness to subvert the constitution out of a desire for security. The most recent example given by an administration figure of the faulty logic I wish to refute (yet again) was given yesterday by Tony Snow, when he said:
The President is Commander-in-Chief, and he is President of all the American people. He understands the political concerns of people. But as Commander-in-Chief, his job, his solemn obligation really is one toward national security, and that is first and foremost.
The Presidents "solemn obligation" which is "first and foremost" is to uphold and defend the constitution. The constitution is very clear in this regard. Here is the oath used at inauguration to swear in the President, word for word as given by the constitution:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
The President does not swear to keep us safe or secure. The oath he takes is to preserve, protect and defend the constitution! That is the Presidents first and foremost obligation, his sacred duty and the purpose which should be his main concern.

There is no excuse for the President authorizing unconstitutional measures in the pursuit of security. In fact I think the President, by flouting the FISA law in pursuit of security, deserves impeachment for precisely this reason. (There are several other justifications to impeach as well mind you...) The freedoms given us by the constitution the President is supposed to protect are what make us unique as a nation. What use is it to have a nation entirely secure, each of us safe from harm, but living without freedom? Is that really America as you and I understand it? By and large, citizens of Saudi Arabia are safe. Citizens of Cuba are safe. There are citizens of various repressive regimes around the world that are generally secure in their persons from danger, but whose lives are lived under distinctly un-American circumstances, due to the system of government that rules them.

I would LOVE to hear an administration figure respond to this rebuttal of one of their favorite talking points.

On Presidential Credibility

Yesterday, even as I was bashing out my last post touching on the Bush bubble, we heard the news that 11 moderate Republican House members pierced that bubble with an hour and a half of frank discussion about Iraq. Part of that discussion included the admonition of the house Republicans that the people needed to be told honest information going forward and that the conduit for that information should be General Petraeus, not the President, because Bush has lost all credibility with the American people.

Let me again, in all seriousness, offer this honest assessment to any high falutin Republican bigwig who may stumble over my blog and who can pull some levers. Here is my honest opinion on how how they may begin to finally pull their party out of the doldrums of public opinion: Put a muzzle on the President.

It is to the point that Republican House members are now telling the inner circle that Bush can't be the one to tell us information on Iraq. I think this is actually worse than the American people tuning the President out... The President continuously lies to us and in many cases the lies are so fantastically outlandish that only the most ardent koolaid drinking administration drone, or Fox news anchor could give the statement any credence. But rather than tune the President out, a significant segment of we the people are holding this against him. Everytime he tells us some wierd factoid that has no basis in truth, or some alternate spin on reality that is obviously based in right wing fantasy, he gives the American people more reason to long for his departure. He gives more fodder to the late night talk show hosts and John Stewart/Stephen Colbert. He gives more ammo to myself and my brethren in the lefty blogosphere.

The President would do himself and his party an enormous favor if he would just stay in the White House and silently sign or veto bills going forward. What kind of hint does he need, beyond Republicans asking him to please clam up on the Iraq war?!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The 30% Bubble

U.S. News and World Report recently ran an article titled A Sinking Presidency, describing the worsening political situation faced by the White House. The fact that President Bush lives in a bubble surrounded by yes people is expanded in this article, with the perspective given by a former administration insider:
Former 2004 Bush campaign strategist Matthew Dowd recently broke with his former boss by declaring that Bush is "secluded and bubbled in"-a reference to the protective "bubble" that insulates the White House. Dowd's assessment is shared by many Republicans in Washington. "Isolation is inevitable in any White House," says a former Bush aide who returned to the West Wing recently to chat with former colleagues. Now that he is out of the bubble, the former aide says, he can see an isolation he didn't recognize before. "People in the White House are talking only to each other, reconfirming each other's and the president's perceptions and judgments," he says.
The famed Bush bubble has been the talk of Washington for years, but now it turns out that the insulation extends well beyond George Bush to encompass the entire administration. Dowd, in effect, expands the much ballyhooed Bush bubble to encompass the entire administration. No wonder Congressional oversight hearings since Democrats have taken control have seen such spectacular melt downs, from the head of the GSA, Lurita Doan, being heard asking her aides to take her drinking glass because she didn't want "them to have my fingerprints, they've got me totally paranoid!", to Alberto Gonzales' famed appearance being compared by another Republican to the clubbing of a baby seal.

One of the great perplexities to my side of the great political divide has to do with the 30 percenters. Call them what you will. Koolaid drinkers, The Borg, wingnuts, or any of another half dozen such labels intended to denote mindless acceptance of all things Bush. How is it that there is this immutable base that can not be reached, no matter the facts or logic given them. I think the U.S. News story provides the equation I've been searching for.

What Matthew Dowd exposes as a bubble encompassing the entire administration widened the perception, in my mind at least, from just the President to the entire White House. Another level of bubble expansion can explain the seemingly unrealistic opinions and self serving facts espoused by the administrations benefactors on Capitol Hill, and that would place the entire Republican establishment of Washington D.C. in that bubble.

Just one more expansion of the bubble is enough to encompass anyone in the Republican party who wants to be in the bubble. Anyone who doesn't want to open their eyes to truth or reality can surround themselves in this bubble. Anyone who wishes can be nearly as out of touch and in an alternate reality of Republican making as the President, his administration, and Republican Congress members.

All they have to do is rely upon Fox news for their daily information. Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and the rest of the right wing hate gang are good for strengthening the veneer of alternate fact their bubble consists of. They can read the Washington Times and columns from Ann Coulter for further reinforcement. All of these sources and many more reinforce the notion that things are going swell in Iraq, that the President is always right, that Democrats are going to be the unwitting cause of the next 9/11, and that the Generals on the ground in Iraq formulated the surge.

The President isn't the only one in the bubble. 30% of the entire nation is!

Now I'm certain that the same people I accuse here would accuse me of being in my own ideological bubble. The fact is that it is very difficult for a liberal to have the resources to surround themselves with the sort of echo machine conservatives have. There is no liberal equivalent for Fox News. I can't go to any one of 5 liberal talk shows on the radio. If I only wanted to live an online existence I could construct that bubble, but I spend so much time at work looking at a monitor that my home time is spent anywhere BUT at the keyboard. I just don't think there are as many opportunities for a liberal bubble to be created, and frankly I would not want one as it is.

The question is... how do we burst the bubble on the 30 percenters?

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