Saturday, June 30, 2007

Cats: Just Giving Us The Benefit Of Themselves

This is a post that is not focused on politics. It does focus on another of my favorite subjects however... cats.

The journal Science has published a study tracing the "domestication" of the common house cat to about 10,000 years ago. Every type of house cat known is descended from one of four females in a species of wild cat still present in the Middle East. The authors of the study believe that rather than mankind domesticating the cat, that the cat domesticated itself.

Around 10,000 years ago humans stopped subsisting entirely by hunting and foraging and started farming. Along with the granaries built to hold the fruit of the land came rodents feeding on our hard earned food. At some point several wildcats found the easy pickings in the rodent infested granaries and set up shop in the area. The humans found the new arrival to be very beneficial in controlling the rodents so they decided to not drive off the cat. At some point the mama cats had kittens who were so cute and fun to play with that enlightened humans have been HUGE cat fans from that day til now! Unenlightened humans on the other hand like dogs and think cats are good for only causing allergies.

Dr Stephen O'Brien, one of the authors of the study puts it this way:
"The felidae family is well known as a successful predator: very deadly, very ferocious, very threatening to all species including humankind," says O'Brien.

"But this little guy actually chose not to be that. He actually chose to be a little bit friendly and also was a very good mouser."

The wildcat brought "two very valuable commodities" to these early farmers, O'Brien says.

"One is, he helped dispatch the thousand or so rodents that were living on the grain stores and second he probably provided some amusement to the early families and their children by being friendly," he says.

"So that was the beginning of one of the most successful biological experiments ever undertaken, where a nasty, ferocious, deadly predator changed its attitude and became friendly with humans."
These findings go a long way in explaining the mysterious and aloof nature of your every day house cat. They were not "domesticated" by humans. They domesticated themselves. Long ago they chose to cohabitate with us and that distinction between cats and other domesticated animals serves to explain much that we find so curious about our feline companions. Domesticated dogs were trained and given rewards for behaving as we liked them to. They were fed depending solely upon when the people they were around decided to feed them, or they were able to make off with a stolen meal. Domesticated cats fended for themselves in the early days of the feline/human relationship and the differences are striking. Cats have an ingrained sense of individuality and self awareness. They are massively egocentric. The universe of the typical dog revolves around it's owner. My wife and I know that the universe revolves around our cats, from their perspective, and we play along with their game because we want them to think we are good sorts!

Note that it was not any other species of rodent predator that filled this niche. We don't have half a billion Boa Snake ancestors roaming the world after having domesticated themselves 10k years ago. Why not the Mongoose? For some reason it was this species of wild cat in the Middle East... and I for one am very happy that is the case.

Now I've read some reaction to this study on the intertubes which draws the conclusion that your cat chooses to live with you, just because you're good at opening cans. I'm not certain that the study results pertain to individual cats in individual circumstances in today's world. In fact when I was a kid in Montana I knew ranchers who had cats subsisting entirely on the pickings around the ranch who could have chosen at any point to move along. But they stayed put and I'd like to think that the relationship between the people on the ranch and the cats was some small part of the equation from the cats perspective. Cats are well known to go feral if they do not socialize with humans, but I think this is caused by the humans, not the cats. Cats don't have a drive to escape domestication, but there are unfortunate times when a cat isn't accepted, or given the opportunity to be taken into a home, and then nature takes over.

That said let me just admit that this is all gut feeling from my years of cat ownership and fandom. Maybe it is the case that if my cats Rustee, or Xiahou Meow were to leave the house and find an alternate food source, I would just be a distant memory of days gone by. Somehow though I know they would miss the rituals that have bonded us together. Rustee loves being petted while he eats... we have named this ritual "purr eat". Who's going to do that if he turns into some little wild critter making his living as best he can from the landscape? Xiahou Meow loves being rolled up in a blanket and roughed around. Am I to believe that if she were to find herself with a choice of living in our home or living in the wild, if the food situation were equal in both cases that it would be a coin flip from her perspective? Somehow I don't buy that. Just listening to Xiahou get up in the window and meowing piteously whenever my wife or I leave is proof enough for me.

Friday, June 29, 2007

This Court Sponsored By (Insert Corporation Name here)

A little noted decision by the Supreme Court has overturned a precedent on anti-trust law regulating retail pricing dating back to 1911.

The court ruled that manufacturers may fix the retail costs of goods. Prior to today the retailer fixed the price, leading to the famed "manufacturers suggested retail price" sticker in car windows. The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 split decision featuring the same Roberts/Scalia/Alito/Thomas/Kennedy majority that combined to swerve the court rightward through out it's term, ruled that the precedent setting retail pricing for this nation since 1911 were outdated, and out of step with modern economics.

Believe you me, I don't make any pretense at being an economic wizard, but frankly this opinion is baffling. The forces of economics guiding this nations entire financial engine since early last century are what have brought us to where we are today. The Supreme Court is meddling with the fundamentals here. Surely one of those basic forces is the mechanism by which prices paid by consumers for every day common retail goods is set. As the famous line from Mr. Beale goes: YOU have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and YOU WILL ATONE!

"Modern economics", as defined by the rightist bloc which ruled 15 times this year in favor of shielding businesses and corporations from consumers, seems to consist of corporate interests doing whatever they please and consumers just having to deal as best we can with the consequences. You are likely to see the consequences of the retail price fixing ruling in higher prices for many common retail items in short order. You may thank the Supreme Court when you notice this lightening of your wallet, which will directly enrich the corporate interests this court seems to be so eager to help at your expense. The same corporate interests which have largely benefited from the largess of the Bush administrations policies, and a compliant Congress, now have the Supreme Court making sure that the entire weight of Government sides with them against the rest of us. The next thing we might expect is for the Justices to start wearing corporate logos on their robes in the style of race car drivers.

There have been many occasions for pundits to note the eagerness of the ascendant conservative bloc to over turn settled law despite the oft heard protestations during confirmation that they held a heavy respect for precedent. The retail price fixing ruling may not be sexy to write about or particularly interesting reading, but I think this ruling has a greater chance of directly affecting you than most of the other rulings which did get a lot of opinion. After all, what are you more likely to do in the next week or so: go buy something from a retailer, or stand on a parade route holding a bong hits for Jesus sign?

It is indeed time for Senatorial oversight of Supreme court nominees to move past the pro-forma questioning in which the nominee refuses to speculate on the most important issues that may come before them. Senators should pin them down on judicial philosophy, and get a real understanding of the consequences that voting for the nominee means for the future of this nation. If the nominee refuses, they are not guaranteed or even particularly deserving of votes for confirmation. There is no clause in the constitution which specifies the tone or line of questioning which is appropriate for nominees. After all, we see that the constrained hearings which have become commonplace for today's nominee did not draw out the truth of the matter when it came to Alito and Roberts willingness to overturn precedent no matter how often they expressed their respect for settled law in the hearings.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

My advice to Republicans Part VII

This is a continuation of an ongoing series which I started long ago, calling upon the White House to do themselves and the nation a favor by retiring President Bush from the public speaking circuit. Thus far my well meaning advice has not been heeded (or even freaking noticed for that matter) by the White House... But the President was given the crux of this message when it came to Iraq just a couple of months ago.

Remember when that gaggle of house Republican moderates went to the White House and had a frank one on one discussion with President Bush? One of the messages they had for the President was that he had lost all credibility with the American people regarding the Iraq war. If future statements on the situation in Iraq were to be believed, those statements would have to come from General Petraeus.

I knew when that meeting occurred that the President would not be able to help himself. Just today Americans were provided the latest example of President Bush taking the bully pulpit and providing less than candid talking points on the Iraq war. I don't know about the rest of you, but I really hate it when someone claims some sort of moral high ground for their position, which position is based largely upon lies and deceptive talking points. (Which position additionally is working at cross purposes to the best interests of the nation resulting in the wasting of blood and treasure on a biblical scale, but this little aside doesn't really fit with the theme of this post so I'll leave it at that.)

After getting through the pleasantries and acknowledging the notable attendies, Bush gets straight to dissembling with the very first substantive statement on affairs in Iraq:
Earlier this year, I laid out a new strategy for Iraq. I wasn't pleased with what was taking place on the ground. I didn't approve of what I was seeing. And so I called together our military and said, can we design a different strategy to succeed? And I accepted their recommendations.
It must be considered instructive that the very first factoid Bush tosses forth after getting down to the meat of the speech is an outright, demonstrable falsehood. Rather than heeding the advice from the moderates of his own party and staying silent, or even taking care that his statements be above reproach in regard to honesty, the President launches his speech with a lie!

The fact is that the Generals who were in place when the President shopped the surge idea to them last fall did not approve of that plan, and were replaced. In fact The Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously opposed the plan. In fact General John Abizaid, then head of CENTCOM very publicly expressed his opposition to the surge, and unequivocally stated under oath to Congress that every commander in Iraq was opposed to the surge as well:
I've met with every divisional commander. General Casey, the corps commander, General Dempsey--we all talked together. And I said, `In your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq?' And they all said no'
In fact this surge was based upon a paper at a conservative think tank cranked out by two civilians, one retired military and the other a noted neocon. Nothing is further from the truth than the notion that the surge is a plan forwarded by commanders or any other such military planners. In fact the Generals who objected to the surge in Iraq were canned, despite all the hot air from the President justifying the surge based upon listening to the commanders on the ground.

In fact the President is an inveterate liar and can't help himself, which is the reason he has no credibility left, and only makes himself appear foolish when he makes his ridiculous claims... which are, in fact, not factual. He simply MUST promulgate the notion that the surge is the result of listening to the military because any other explanation for the bone headed approach he has taken would be met with wide spread derision. Well... even wider spread derision anyway.

The Republican moderates who tried to get the President to shut up and have Petraeus carry the banner on Iraq had the right idea. Just today we see the Presidents newest cause celebre going down to defeat. I remember turning to my wife the other day after seeing Bush spew some nonsense about the immigration bill and exclaiming, "if he really wanted that to pass he'd shut up about it!"

I think the day is coming very soon when this lesson will get through to someone who matters at the White House. For them to have any effectiveness at all going forward they must put a muzzle on Bush. He is wedded to demonstrably untrue talking points which he can not let go of. Simply consider the President's approval ratings! Why would anyone with approval ratings under 30%, and disapproval numbers over 60% think that continuing to speechify on your issues is going to result in the sudden turnaround of those numbers. The entire nation is yearning for the day this disaster of a President leaves his office, and he wants to rub it in our noses every day that he's still the decider guy. If the White House's intention is to harm the causes they champion and remind Americans every day why we detest Bush's leadership... just let him keep up the daily speeches and other such appearances.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Tinfoil Hats! Get Your Tinfoil Hats Here!

Something has been nagging me about the timeline with the boiling controversy over the Vice President not allowing administrative oversight when it comes to his offices handling of classified materials.

The executive order which Cheney's office relies upon was signed on March 25, 2003. Prior to 2003 the Vice President's office allowed the Information Security Oversight Office to conduct routine audits of classified material but since 2003 has stopped cooperating with that oversight.

The invasion of Iraq started on March 20, 2003. I find the timing here remarkable. Within a week of the invasion of Iraq the President signs an executive order which the Vice President claims exempts him from oversight regarding classified materials, which materials would be crucial in any investigation of the lead up to the war.

Then, within six months of the invasion and executive order regarding classified materials, Valerie Plames status as a CIA employee was leaked to the press. This disclosure was part of a concerted effort to defend the administration from accusations that they twisted intelligence in order to lead the nation to war. That effort to defend the White House from those accusations was led by the Vice President's office and involved more leaking of classified material...

At Cheney's request President Bush declassified selective portions of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's pre war WMD capabilities, and Iraq's connections with Al Qaeda so that Scooter Libby could then leak those findings to the press. The declassification came without the knowledge of then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, then National Security Advisor Condaleeza Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet, or any other officials who would normally be part of the process of declassification. Libby understood that only three people knew about the selective NIE declassification, Bush, Cheney and himself. This is one of the weirdest cases of handling of state secrets, that can be imagined. It seems that simply because the President decided that classified material was politically expedient to publicize that he allowed it to be leaked, in effect becoming the highest level leaker possible.

Indeed Libby held the understanding that he could disclose any classified information he thought would defend the administrations case, Cheney's blessing. This behavior tends to underscore the need for minimal oversight on classified material in Cheney's office, and the absolute care free nature of that office when they started operating as if there would be no oversight going forward.

Could this be the reason that Fitzgerald did not pursue charges based upon the leaking of Plame's name? According to this line of logic, the President changes the status of the Vice President to allow him the same classification authorities as the President with the March 2003 order. So if Plame's name is leaked at the Vice Presidents direction, it can not be a crime because Cheney suddenly has commander in chief powers to declassify. Simply by authorizing the leak Cheney makes it a non crime.

Fitzgerald then can only prosecute if someone is not fully truthful during the investigation. Libby was convinced that if he were to tell the truth the Vice President would be tarnished and Libby would lose his job, so he lied repeatedly in the early investigation.

I think the Plame outing casts a long shadow on the current controversy over Cheney's perception of his authority under the Presidents March/03 executive order. The entire affair was due to careless handling of classified information coupled with politically motivated revenge. With Cheney's office convinced they were free from even minimal oversight it is easy to see how we have arrived at this stage of the game.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

FISA Judge Says Law Works If We'll Let It

Walter Pincus has a write up in the Washington Post about a speech given by former FISA judge Royce Lamberth.

When the NSA spy program initially came to the nations attention the administration claimed that the FISA law was outmoded, that applications for warrants caused delays, and the entire FISA system was cumbersome. Lamberth gives details which tend to prove the exact opposite of the administrations talking points.

For example, Judge Lamberth was caught up in the immediate aftermath of the Pentagon attack on 9/11, but describes how he was able to respond to the attack in his role as FISA Judge even before he had been freed from the mess:
He said he was driving near the Pentagon on his way to work on Sept. 11, having been to the dentist, and recalled, "My car was engulfed in smoke, and I couldn't move." He called for help, and the FBI came "to get me in a position where I could get Justice to start approving FISA [warrants]. . . . By the time the FBI got to me in my car, I had already approved five."
Does that sound like a cumbersome process, with delays and various roadblocks impeding the investigation of the attacks? Lamberth approved five warrants when he was caught in the traffic jam after the Pentagon attack. How do you get more flexible and responsive than that?

Judge Lamberth tells us that the FISA court changed it's procedures after the 9/11 attacks in order to provide even faster and more responsive action when the administration requested it:
In the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the court shifted gears. "We changed procedures and put in all the orders from September 12 forward based on the oral briefing with the director of the FBI and the chief judge of the FISA court," Lamberth said. "The courts can respond in times of national crisis, and I think the courts have to, and we did."

One reason, he said, is that "if you move very quickly, that's when things are most productive, particularly in e-mails. As soon as an event happens, everybody is e-mailing everybody and you pick up the most productive tape."
Not to mention that the FISA law specifically allowed the administration to conduct warrantless surveillance in the case that some event caused a delay in the issuance of a warrant by the FISA court, as long as that warrant was obtained within three days after the surveillance was started.

Also noteworthy is Judge Lamberth's description of the successes of the FISA program in catching terrorists and seeing them successfully brought to justice for their activities. Take for example the Judge's recollection of the Ahmed Ressam case:
Ahmed Ressam ... was arrested at a Canadian border crossing with explosives in December 1999. He was later convicted of taking part in a plot to bomb U.S. sites during millennium celebrations. Lamberth said investigators found a "little piece of paper . . . with a phone number on it" in Ressam's wallet.

"The FBI came to me that same night for a warrant for that number. I gave it to them. It led to an apartment in New York. The tap on that apartment in New York led them to the cell in Montreal that had set Ressam on his way," the judge added. The apartment was raided on "a warrant that I issued under FISA . . . and they found bomb-making materials at the apartment."
This case is an example of how the system worked effectively and in a manner consistent with the laws and constitution of America. Under the Bush administration however terrorism cases quite often can not be brought against those accused because allowing them access to courts would expose the administrations allowance of torture in interrogating the accused. The cases against many of the accused are based upon the tortured confessions of other detainees which evidence would never be allowed in court.

What I'm getting at here is that we see justice given to terrorists when we follow the constitution, but we have an ongoing stain on American honor when extra legal mechanisms are relied upon by the Administration, which system does not lead to fair justice. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will never be tried for masterminding the 9/11 attacks in a fair court because that would expose the people directing his detention as war criminals who tortured him and threatened his children to make him tell us what we wanted to hear. The Bush administration has denied American citizens justice in many cases where justice is demanded and harmed our interests on the world stage in so doing.

The administration is fond of bashing people who do not agree with them for having a pre 9/11 mindset. I contend the danger to American ideals comes from the post 9/11 mindset of the Bush administration, tearing down constitutional precepts, acting outside the law, and causing dishonor to America. Just as the word liberal is supposedly poisoned with heavily negative connotations, yet I proudly accept that label, let me also proudly acknowledge that I hold a pre 9/11 mindset. A mindset which looked to the constitution and the laws of the land for solutions to our problems. A mindset which would not allow unreasoned fear to guide this nation from the moorings on which it was founded. Judge Lamberth is just the latest little piece of news that reaffirms my view in this matter.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Devils Advocate Or Devils Idiot?

There is all kinds of stuff regarding Vice President Cheney floating around the intertubes today. The WAPO story on Cheney's crucial role in reversing 230 years of Constitutional government and pushing for unfettered Presidential power in time of war is a must read.

I also read the transcript of today's press conference with White House spokes toady Dana Perino, and she spent the entire time dancing around the Vice President's recent argument that his office was not a part of the executive branch.

The WAPO story and today's presser may only seem to be connected due to the focus of each being Cheney. But a closer look at the stories serves to show a striking similarity as you read along. In both cases the Vice President stakes out positions which those who must argue for him find very difficult if not impossible to sustain.

Here are some examples from the WAPO story:
In the summer and fall of 2002, some of the Bush administration's leading lawyers began to warn that Cheney and his Pentagon allies had set the government on a path for defeat in court. As the judicial branch took up challenges to the president's assertion of wartime power, Justice Department lawyers increasingly found themselves defending what they believed to be losing positions -- directed by the vice president and his staff.
[White House Deputy Counsel Timothy] Flanigan said that [Cheney's counsel David] Addington's personal views leaned more toward [Solicitor General Ted] Olson than against him, but that Addington beat back the proposal to grant detainees access to lawyers, "because that was the position of his client, the vice president."
[White House Associate Counsel Bradford] Berenson told colleagues that the court's swing voter would never accept absolute presidential discretion to declare a U.S. citizen an enemy and lock him up without giving him an opportunity to be represented and heard. Another former Kennedy clerk, White House lawyer Brett Kavanaugh, had made the same argument earlier.

Addington accused Berenson of surrendering executive power on a fool's prophecy about an inscrutable court. Berenson accused Addington of "know-nothingness."
When a U.S. District Court ruled several months later that Padilla had a right to counsel, Cheney's office insisted on sending Olson's deputy, Paul Clement, on what Justice Department lawyers called "a suicide mission": to tell Judge Michael B. Mukasey that he had erred so grossly that he should retract his decision. Mukasey derided the government's "pinched legalism" and added acidly that his order was "not a suggestion or request."
Thus we see Cheney sending people off to do his bidding who do not believe they have a case, fully expect to lose in court, and plead behind the scenes for changes around the margins in order to make Cheney's wrong headed positions more palatable. Cheney steadfastly insists that his determinations be adhered to, and the logic that is used to defend those policies is routinely demolished when brought to a legal test. The only Cheney policy which is allowed to go uncorrected is that wrought in secret and never challenged because it is not yet known, or can not be proven.

Skip forward to today's press conference and we see more of the same. Poor Dana Perino finds herself the latest lamb fed to the wolves at the behest of the Vice President. The Vice President's office is relying upon hopelessly inane logic to argue that he is not bound by an executive order, saying that his office is not a part of the executive branch by dint of his Senatorial duties. We must believe that Ms. Perino knows this novel argument is indefensible,(how could she not) but it is her lot in life to present the White House line to the press... and since Cheney is actually a part of the executive branch she has to defend him to the best of her abilities. As the entire world hoots and hollers at the stretch Cheney is attempting, and the founding fathers spin like propellers in their graves, Perino takes the stage:
Q Dana, as long as we're talking about branches of government, can you go back to Vice President Cheney again, the argument that he's not part of the executive branch. Does the President believe he's part of the executive branch?

MS. PERINO: I think that that is an interesting constitutional question, and I think that lots of people can debate it. I think when we were talking about the EO from last week, we've gone over that several times. You probably don't want me to go over it again. But the Vice President -- any Vice President has legislative and executive functions.
Q Dana, for 200-plus years, everybody from civics class on up has had a certain understanding of the way our government works. And this EO clarifies more than 200 years of constitutional scholarship about the way our system works?

MS. PERINO: Maybe it's me, but I think that everyone is making this a little bit more complicated than it needs to be. The President writes an executive order; he says --

Q I'm talking about the part where the Vice President says that there's a question about whether or not he's part of the executive branch.

MS. PERINO: And the point I was trying to make to you before is that I --

Q This really falls into "sky is blue" stuff.

MS. PERINO: For the past two centuries the Senate has provided payment to the Vice President for his duties as a member of the government. I understand that he has roles in both branches. I am -- I don't think that it's as clear-cut as you're trying to make it.

Q That the Vice President of the United States is --

MS. PERINO: I think there is no denying that he has functions in both the legislative and the executive branches. That is a fact.
Q No, he introduced the topic. The Office of the Vice President introduces that into the argument, into the debate; "well, we're not part of the executive branch."

MS. PERINO: I think that that is also a fact -- and as I said to Kelly, I'll see if I can get more from the Vice President's office to see if they -- how they connected the two, or if they did.

Q He can argue he's part of both, but he can't possibly argue that he's part of neither. And it seems like he's saying he's part of neither.

MS. PERINO: Okay, you have me thoroughly confused, as well.
Reading this transcript, one can not help but feel embarrassed at the position that Ms. Perino finds herself in. She finds herself having to take a verbal pounding while steadfastly defending the indefensible. I think in her womanly shoes, I probably would have left the room and either burst into tears, or stalked to the Veeps office for a bit of hysterics. Sheesh, am I being sexist or what?!

At some point someone has to go to the President with the message that Cheney is freaking nuts and making the rest of the administration look hopelessly idiotic. It's hard to do your job if you've been painted into a box and there is no way to proceed without looking stupid.

How much would someone have to be paid to go to work each day and knowingly take a wrong headed position. To just know that you are wrong, and you look stupid being wrong... but having to do it to protect the boss. I often imagine being discovered: Al Gore bumps across Club Lefty or All Things Democrat and likes the tone of some polemic, and hires me to crank out talking points against his Republican opposition in the 2008 general Pres. election... *sigh*. I'd be doing what I like and paying the bills, working for someone I believed in. What could be better? But then I read stuff like the WAPO story and the press briefing transcript and I wonder if it's really for me. Could I actually get out there and parrot my guy's line day after day, no matter how stupid it made me look? I'd like to think I'd have the self respect to draw the line somewhere before having to argue from my platform that the Veep isn't a part of the executive branch...

I mean playing a bit of devils advocate is one thing. Being an idiot for the devil? That's quite something else.

Friday, June 22, 2007

You Owe $516,348

The Government is using creative accounting practices to hide multi trillions of dollars in debt according to Dennis Cauchon with USA Today. The entire liability for each U.S. household on the accumulated debt is $516,348.

The debt accumulated in fiscal year 2006 was over $1.2 trillion in reality, but was reported after creative accounting to be only $248 billion. That represents an accumulated debt owed on the federal budget for each household of $11,434 for 2006 alone.

If corporations or professional accountants were to use the methods which the federal government uses, they would be tossed in the pokey for defrauding their investors. Of course we know that there was a revolving door between corporations and the agencies in government that oversaw those agencies under the Republican rule of Washington D.C., so maybe that explains how these creative accounting practices came to be the rule of thumb on federal budgetary matters.

But this is all going to turn around, because Kvatch reports that since the Democrats have taken control of Congress, the President is bound and determined to stand against wasteful government spending.

But we are where we are, which is a whole lot worse off than where we were when Bush was selected in 2000. So if your household would pay just $31,000 for the next 75 years (and every other household in the nation follows suit) we pay off all the debt accumulated to this point.

I have an even better idea. Charge each Republican household about $93k per year for the next 75 years and make them pay... literally pay... for the budgetary disaster the Republican Congress and Bush foisted on America.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Nader: Harshing My Calm From The Left.

Let me put my cards on the table right from the get go here folks. I am a bona fide died in the wool Nader hater, and I'm freaking defiantly proud of it. I believe that Ralph Nader is indirectly responsible for the 8 years of disaster to America and our constitution that George Bush will be responsible for when he finally leaves office. Frankly I wonder how Nader sleeps at night. If I were him I would lay awake thinking of the dead by the hundreds of thousands that my ego maniacal actions in 2000 helped to bring the world.

Frankly, my take on Nader has been a true source of anguish for me. The fact is that I used to think of Nader as a lion of the left. His work on behalf of the little guy, against the major corporations, telling truth to power and generally telling it like it is earned my admiration. Then he threw the 2000 election to Bush, and my former admiration for Nader turned into outright revulsion. Honestly, I detest Nader as much as Bush.

Nader KNEW better. The rhetoric in 2000, about there being no difference between Bush and Gore, has proven in hindsight to be what informed voters knew it was when Nader was spouting it: patently ridiculous. Ask the dead Iraqi's about that difference. Ask future generations who will have to pay the bills wracked up by this dismal Presidency, bills to pay for manifestly wrong headed and disastrously anti American initiatives and practices about that difference. Frankly the mealy mouthed excuses proffered after the 2000 disaster by Nader and his apologists only serve to aggravate me further. They say Gore lost the race on his own, Gore lost his home state, Gore ran a bad campaign etc etc etc... All true, which means that Gore (who by the way WON the election despite everything) needed every vote he could scrounge. Gore won, the Republicans cheated and stole the election, and Nader enabled them to do so, period end of story, deal with it you sniveling little Naderbots!

So today when I saw a headline with Naders name in it... I assiduously did my level best to avoid the story. Today is Thursday, one day short of Friday. A new poll shows Bush at 26 percent approval. The Democrats in Congress seem to be realizing that the way to proceed is to fight Bush tooth and nail so they are making noise about Iraqi time tables. Novakula is convinced the Democrats will sweep the 08 elections. Things are generally looking up from my perspective... so why should I ruin my good natured feeling by reading about that twit Nader?

Well all of my best intentions came crashing down when Raw Story put up a blurb of a headline that sucked me in. "Nader mulls run; Clinton a 'coward'".

Just who the freaking bleeping bleep does Nader think he is calling out Hillary like that?! Believe me, I'm no great Hillary supporter here, in fact I'm far from it. She made the wrong vote on the war and she's triangulating too much for my tastes. But Hillary a coward? I'll bet she could kick Naders butt in a cage match, and would probably like to get the chance after he called her out like that!

I may not be on board the Clinton bandwagon at this point, but believe you me... if she gets the nomination I'll be with her big time. And if Nader tries to sabotage her like he did Gore... well there are going to be more than a few anti Nader rants coming from this very pissed off blogger.

There should be no further evidence needed of the wrong headed and egomanaical course which Nader will be remembered for than to consider who it was who funded his inane run in the 2004 election. The very same Republicans who contributed to Nader were a who's who of big money donors to the Bush campaign. They backed Naders efforts to place his name on the ballot in dozens of states where his public support was a pittance of that required to legally have that honor. It was Republicans who hired the bought and paid for signature gatherers who were so blatantly caught cheating in order to get the number of signatures required. Yet somehow, whenever anyone pointed this out to Nader he seemed to be the only person in America who didn't see the obvious truth.

Nader managed to take years of credibility as a champion of decency and justice and ruin it all by allowing himself to become a Republican tool. Nader has more than repaid corporate America all the grief and dollars he cost them to make safer products and act like better corporate citizens. In fact corporate America owes Nader a great debt of gratitude, and the American consumer owes Nader scorn and derision, because of his egotistical derailment of Gore in 2000. Haliburton salutes you Nader. Raytheon, Clear Channel, Exxon, Wal Mart and the rest of the gang all owe you big time brother... and they thank you from the bottom of their shriveled up blackened greedy hearts. If you would like to try it again in 2008 I'm certain they will be right there with open wallets, you stupid tool.

See why I tried to avoid that Nader headline?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Frontline's Endgame Opened My Eyes

I missed the first twenty minutes or so of Endgame by Frontline, (thanks to brother Olbermann and my Pavlovian channel change to MSNBC @ 9pm on weeknights) but the ending 2/3's of the program really changed my perception on a couple of fronts.

I was surprised at the continued influence held by Vice President Dick Cheney in policy matters. Story after story has circulated about how a rift has developed between Bush and Cheney, or how Cheney has fallen from favor and lost influence in the White House. Yet the basic presentation and decision making process of the surge for the administration serves to show that Cheney is influential as ever. This may take a couple of paragraphs, but let me explain how the surge shows Cheney's continuing influence in White House affairs.

The seeds of the surge were planted when Colonel H.R. McMaster instituted a new military strategy in the city of Tal Afar in May of 2005. This strategy is called clear, hold and build. Clear the area of insurgents, hold the area after clearing it rather than leaving and letting the insurgency come back, and build up the area using Iraqi reconstruction funds. This strategy was a success in Tal Afar, and in a matter of months Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice was a vocal proponent of clear, hold and build as a strategy for the entire nation of Iraq.

Fast forward to the fall of 2006. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has been tossed overboard after the thumping handed Republicans in the mid term elections. The White House is searching for a new strategy and retired General Jack Keane and Frederick Kagan have written a paper based upon clear hold and build for a conservative think tank. (Note that Kagan is a military historian, a noted neoconservative and has never served in the military, while Keane had been retired from the service for approximately three years when they wrote the paper. The Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously opposed the surge, as did the commanders in Iraq at the time. None of this was covered in Endgame, which could have been a three hour program imho.) The President is impressed by the paper and Kagan and Keane are summoned to the White House.

This is where the influence of the Vice President becomes apparent. Keane and Kagan first have a meeting with the President and several other cabinet members. This meeting included several people proposing different plans for Iraq. After that meeting, Kagan and Keane met with Vice President Cheney to describe the details of the surge plan in detail.

Keane partially describes the moment he knew that his plan would be official policy thusly:
"The thing that made it conclusive to me was that evening, one of the vice president's advisers called me and said that the meeting in the White House with the president was decisive, and as a result of that, this operation is probably going to go forward."
[Let me note here that the transcript of the Keane interview provided by Frontline as of the time I am writing this post is incomplete, and the transcript for the entire program is not yet available. Watching the program live, this quote from Keane actually dealt with the process by which the President determined to go with the surge as follows. After the Keane/Kagan/Cheney meeting the Vice President met with the President, and it was that White House meeting which the Vice Presidents advisor was referring to as decisive. If there is any controversy over this expressed in comments, the entire transcript for the program will be available approximately 1 week after airing, and I'll be happy to add further documentation at that time]

So it is clear from this history that the Vice President was intimately involved in the White House deliberations and decision making process which led to the surge. My perception of a Vice President being shuffled into the background where his only influence is sending minions to the neocon establishment to push buttons is officially gone. Cheney is still the unseen force directing power behind the Presidency he always has been. If he can so heavily influence the surge policy, the policy the front line generals and military leadership from Rumsfeld through the Joint Chiefs rejected, Cheney is still instrumental in policy making decisions at the administration. God help us all.

The next misperception this documentary cleared up for me is that Secretary of State Rice is the voice of reason and pragmatism in the administration. Rice is the one who started championing clear hold and build, over the objections of Rumsfeld. The surge never happens if clear hold build doesn't get the boost Rice gives it in 2005. Clear hold build requires many more troops than we currently have in Iraq. The current surge is simply clear hold build for Baghdad. The administration would like to stabilize Baghdad and then spread that success through out Iraq. If that happens we will have more surging and decades of occupation for a successful completion of the strategy.

Rumsfeld's aversion to clear hold build was due to his model of warfare predicated upon fewer boots on the ground, made possible by greater technology enabling control of the battlefield. I believe Rumsfeld's downfall was due to his application of sound theory regarding the conquering of the battlefield, to the occupation following the invasion. The ONE thing this administration got right in Iraq was the drive to Baghdad and ouster of Saddam's government and for that Rumsfeld should get credit. But Rumsfeld's doctrine was a DISASTER for occupation. We left the populace undefended, and left ammo dumps dotting the country side open for the local populace to come around in their trucks and cart away. Who can say how many casualties are attributable to those disastrous post invasion decisions, which allowed an insurgency to take root and grow?

So what is Rice's answer to this manifest disaster? Clear hold build... Rumsfeld is wedded to the Rumsfeld doctrine so the increase in troop strength needed to clear hold build the entire nation of Iraq did not fly with him. Rumsfeld was wrong headed in nearly every aspect of his stewardship, but at least he didn't push to compound that error. Thus we have Rice, the Secretary of State, and the supposed voice of reason, sanity and realism being one of the early forces which pushed for the surge over the objections of Rumsfeld, who was tossed off the bus. Rumsfeld may have been wrong headed in nearly every aspect of his stewardship, but at least he did not try to compound those errors by feeding even more troops into the meat grinder he helped create. In a reversal of previously held perception, I am left with the impression that Rice was the instigator and Rumsfeld the more level headed one when it comes to escalation policy in Iraq.

As mentioned before, I thought Endgame could have been a three hour program. I can not recall any part of the program dealing with the Iraq Study Group. There was no mention in the program of the White House reaction to proposals from other groups and people calling for a withdrawal... phased, immediate or any other permutation there of. The disagreement with the surge by the Generals in place during the winter of 06 is not touched upon. When the credits rolled on Endgame I had the distinct impression that the final product was truncated.

But, as you can see, there were some eye openers for me in the program. I would definitely reccomend it to any who missed it the first time around.

To Deport Or Not To Deport: Why Is There A Question?

ABC reports on the plight of one Yaderlin Jimenez. Yaderlin illegally entered America from the Dominican Republic in 2001. She married Alex Jimenez in 2004. Alex petitioned Big Brother to give his wife a green card which, unfortunately, brought her to the attention of the hostile eye of Sauron.

Why does the story of Yaderlin deserve any more attention than hundreds of others facing deportation, separation from children and families and uncertain futures in a land thousands of miles from home? Because Alex is one of the two soldiers whose unit was attacked and is now missing in Iraq. A third member of his unit was also captured and later found dead near the Tigris river.

That's right... the government is working to deport the wife of a soldier missing in Iraq. It would be bad enough if the couple were just dealing with Alex being in Iraq and having to go through this domestic nightmare. Can you imagine our soldiers having to worry about dodging IED's in the broiling heat surrounded by misery and death on a biblical scale... and having to worry and fret about your wife's immigration status. I wonder how many soldiers have been killed or wounded from being all distracted by thoughts on legal proceedings at home, rather than concentrating on surviving the deadly situation they find themselves in.

Frankly, it is preposterous! Any spouse of a member of the U.S. military should be automatically given full citizenship, out of hand, end of story. And at the ceremony they should be thanked for contributing to this nation with a loved one in uniform. Give Yaderlin a freaking medal, not a court date... Lets hear the right wing freaky koolaid drinkers go ballistic about that!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Goyal The Foil Strikes Again

Reading the transcript of today's White House press conference, the following exchange caught my attention.
Q Tony, two questions. One, there is disturbing news, and the Indian American community is very angry that Senator Obama and his campaign has been calling the Indian American community taboo and other names, calling names, and all that because of the relations with the Clinton's, President Clinton and Hillary Clinton. My question is, how does -- what does President think about the Indian American community and his relations with the Indian American community?
This question is doubly offensive, because the questioner attacks Senator Obama quite unfairly while lobbing a big fat softball with no apparent journalistic purpose over the heart of the plate for Tony Snow to swing away at. In fact when I first read the transcript I thought that questioner must be the Fox or Washington Times correspondent... because who else would attack Senator Obama while lobbing a puff question to Snow? Well the questioners 2nd try at the 2 part question quickly dispelled my initial impression of the outlet the questioner may report for:
Q Second, just on Sunday I was in Washington, here at the Verizon Center, over 20,000 Indians, mostly Hindu, gathered together there. And their message was peace and unity, internationally and here also. The question is here that President has gone to all the denominations here, but never to a Hindu temple. And he goes to church, I go to temple, but he is a religious man, so am I. What my question is that this weekend --

MR. SNOW: You want to know if he's going to go to the temple?

Q This weekend there is a grand opening of Hindu temple in Adelphi, right on the beltway, if he can make it there sometime or --

MR. SNOW: I don't think that's on the schedule, and I think you do appreciate, Goyal, that Presidents don't do casual drop-bys.
Evidently the questioner is not only unfair, but he's intensely ignorant. We KNOW the President isn't going to the opening of the Indian temple because they aren't part of his evangelical base. Maybe if Indian Hindus comprised a significant voting bloc in the Republican party the President would deign to do a teleconference... In fact the opening of the Temple is far more likely to be attended by Obama, or any of the other Democratic candidates than by George Bush.

As I read this, I found myself wanting to find the identity and purpose of this reporter. We have several clues here as to the identity of the questioner. He is obviously very concerned with Indian affairs. He is also concerned with issues regarding Hinduism. Thus we can rest assured that Fox Noise and the Washington Times are not the ones paying him. Finally, we have Tony Snow referring to him as "Goyal". Time to warm up the Google browser and take it for a spin! Searching for "Goyal white house press" in google gives about 67,000 results. Quickly perusing the initial results, one can not help but notice the repeated use of the term "Goyal the foil".

Raghubir Goyal of the India Globe has earned the name Goyal the foil because of years of behavior which have caused him the enmity of the press corps, but the favor of the various press secretary's. When the unfortunate press secretary has had enough of a particular line of questioning, Goyal can be counted upon to ask a question on Indian or Pakistani affairs. This has been going on since the Lewinsky scandal... when Mike McCurry could take a bit of a rest from hostile press questioning by calling on Goyal the foil.

It seems that Goyal is a long long time member of the White House press corps who works for a "local tabloid" named the India Globe. The reason I have quotes around local tabloid is because doing a google search for that paper will not yield any pertinent results. I did find one site which was under construction which I believe may be for the paper which Goyal reports for, but who is to say. I must say that for a member of the White House press corps to be reporting for a paper which does not have a web site is quite telling. Maybe they do have a website... but finding it is nearly impossible. But I have digressed... as is typical.

So not only if Goyal out there making life easier for these habitual liars, but now he has unfairly tarred Senator Obama. Now don't get me wrong here. The Obama staffer who sent that letter on Clinton and Indians deserved to be slapped around a bit by Obama. In no way should this post be construed as an attack on Indians or denigrating to affairs that they are concerned with. In fact what I'm about to say is, I think, helpful for them.

It does Indians and Hindu's no good to have a single minded, absurdly out of touch correspondent for an unknown local tabloid bringing up their affairs every time the White House press secretary needs a break. Especially when that reporter is going to start unfairly attacking Presidential candidates, who have vast reserves of popularity compared to the public perception enjoyed by Bush. I understand if Obama is a bit wary of the issue right now, but I'd love to see him take it to Goyal over this unfair attack. Or even better, demonstrate some deserved respect for Hinduism by attending the temple opening, and then calling out this Goyal character and making him get his facts straight.

Rudy's Bad Day... Or TPM Day @ Club Lefty

Today has to go down in history as one of the worst ever in the history of candidates running for President. Rudy Giuliani and the world may well remember todays date, 06/19/07, as the beginning of the end of his front runner status for the Republican nomination.

1st comes news that Rudy was booted off the Iraq Study Group for not attending meetings. After failing to attend any of several meetings he he was given a choice by the ISG's top Republican: attend meetings or quit the group. Rudy quit, citing previous time commitments... because the ISG meeting times evidently conflicted with his speechifying for filthy lucre.

That story is bad enough for a whole month of anti Rudy write ups, but then the other shoe dropped. Rudy's campaign manager in the state of South Carolina has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy to possess crack cocaine with the intent to distribute! My oh my... Rudy's S.C. campaign manager is a crack dealer?! That's freaking bad bad bad. Especially for a candidate whose schtick is being Mr. Law and Order Father Figure Protector Guy.

Joshua Marshall Targets Intertubes Stevens

One of the must read sites for any self respecting, in touch lefty is Joshua Marshall's Talking Points Memo. TPM has been instrumental in following the Justice Department attorney firing scandal since it was just a tiny little non story. I've even heard talk about TPM getting a pulitzer for their coverage.

Well now TPM head honcho Joshua Marshall has issued a call for Alaskan insiders to contact TPM with any information they may have on the nefarious ways of the one and only Senator Ted -the internet is "a series of tubes"-Stevens. TPM has a proven knack for spotting major stories early, and they have started to focus on Stevens.

I find this development particularly ironic due to Stevens signature quote on internet affairs, and the fact that TPM is a (admittedly left leaning) net based investigative site. Actually, the quote from Stevens which has been the cause of so much mirth went like this:
I just the other day got... an Internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday, I got it yesterday. Why? Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the Internet commercially.
[...] They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the Internet. And again, the Internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes. And if you don't understand those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material
Thus it was that a meme was born. Intertubes. This word also fits nicely with President Bush's much mocked "internets" observation in a debate in 2004.

Yet if TPM has their way, Stevens may find himself reconsidering the notion that the intertubes are not like a big truck. I have a feeling Marshall is going to be dumping all over Stevens, and the mechanism for the dumping will be that series of tubes...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Learning From Nuremberg... To Defend Torture

I hate it when people on either side of the political divide bring out the the heavy handed Nazi label. Tossing that label out there just stops debate. You can not expect the other side to listen or respond intelligently after being tarred with that label. For example, Rush Limbaugh long ago gave up any hope of holding an intelligent conversation with any self respecting feminist, by repeatedly invoking the appellation of feminazi.

But by golly, you can not ignore the eerie echoes from the practices of the Nazi's in regards to their interrogation of prisoners, and this administrations allowances for detainees interrogation in the so called war on terror.

Andrew Sullivan has the document proof that the same techniques which led to death penalty convictions from the Nuremberg trials have been authorized by President Bush. In fact the name for these techniques are identical in translation from German to English... they and we both calling it "enhanced interrogation" rather than torture.

In fact the Germans banned techniques which the Bush administration has allowed, because the methods were too harsh. Also the internal controls on who could be tortured were explicit, with each case being taken to regional commanders who authorized the ill treatment of the detainee. It seems that the Bush administration told everybody the gloves were off, and many detainees around the world were abused by low level grunts with no oversight.

Not only that, but the legal justifications currently being given for enhanced interrogation in the so called war on terror are exactly echoed by the defense in the Nuremberg trials. The people being tortured were not covered by the Geneva conventions as they were not uniformed combatants. The enhanced interrogations had to be conducted in order to save lives (the Nazi's had their own ticking time bombs), and so on.

I find it entirely unacceptable that the people leading this nation in a global struggle of freedom and democracy against intolerance and extremism have taken their cues from the monsters of history. It is appalling that the lessons the Bush administration have learned from the Nuremberg trials are the most effective arguments to use in a torture defense.

Special Guest Post: Pride In Our Heritage Of Freedom

The following post is from my wonderful wife. I posted a picture of her and our new lil kitty a week or so ago.

Just so you know where she's coming from, my wife is a libertarian conservative. If she thought that Ron Paul had a chance to win the Republican nomination, she would vote for him in the primary and general elections with enthusiasm. She is also a Mormon, so she is predisposed to rooting for Mitt Romney to win... but there are several aspects to Romney that are not to her liking. She didn't particularly care for either candidate in 04, but she would not vote for George Bush so she reluctantly supported Kerry as the lesser evil. From this years crop of Democratic candidates she likes Obama the most, but positively loathes H. Clinton. When it comes to actually talking about the issues though, we do try to keep political arguing between ourselves to a minimum. I tend to be impassioned while she is more reserved, and doesn't like the hostility on display when I start ripping on the Bush administration. But there are times when we do get carried away in debate and she can argue like a cornered she devil when her buttons get pushed!

So with that little bit of an introduction into my wifes political take (from my perspective anyway) let me post her 1st effort at writing a blog post. She didn't want me to post it, but I wheedled her into sending it to me so I could... (Maybe I'll leave a comment about how this post came to be if anyone expresses an interest) Her article was untitled so I have taken the liberty of tossing on a title which seems appropriate:

My wifes 1st post: Pride In Our Heritage Of Freedom

I am a direct descendant of Patrick Henry, and I take great pride in that heritage. He earned his place among the founders of our country as one of the great voices inspiring the Revolution. He spoke the famous words, "give me liberty or give me death," which still inspire us over 200 years later. But now I believe that we're beginning to forget the principle behind that quote.

We live in a frightening world, and, especially since September 11, terrorism has loomed as a very real threat. Politicians have won favor by promising to protect us, and the government does indeed have a responsibility to "provide for the common defense." But as Patrick Henry pointed out, some things are worth dying for; the United States of America was founded upon that idea! We must not sit idly by and allow our freedoms to disappear in exchange for our safety. If we allow (or legalize) illegal wiretapping, if we suspend the right of habeas corpus, if we accept abhorrent tactics such as torture, we may manage to prevent a few acts of terrorism - but what then, once our liberty has been eroded and our principles destroyed? Do we seek mere survival, or does our great country stand for something more noble and essential? There are some sacrifices that we cannot make! Fear of attack and death is natural, but we should be even more motivated by a fear of losing the wonderful liberties that the Founders and many patriots since have fought to preserve. In the great words of Patrick Henry, "Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Air Conditioned Battlefield

The big news from General Peter Pace is that he stated in no uncertain terms that he was forced from the Joint Cheifs of Staff. But the reason he gives for not wanting to voluntarily step aside is what really grabbed my attention:
"I said I could not do that for one very fundamental reason," which is that no soldier or Marine in Iraq should "think _ ever _ that his chairman, whoever that person is, could have stayed in the battle and voluntarily walked off the battlefield.

"That is unacceptable as a leadership thing, in my mind,"
As far as claims to be involved on the battlefield, General Pace has a eensy weensy bit of a claim. He has visited Iraq and Afghanistan on several occassions. However the experience of Pace when he goes into theater is entirely different than the experience of the typical American soldier in the field in Iraq.

Pace's excursions to the theater are more in tune with the typical American politicians experience. Spending a couple of days in tightly secured safe locations, and perhaps making a foray into the street surrounded by layers of security and media. Or giving speeches to gathered troops and meeting with Iraqi politicians, all happening far removed from any danger. To be clear when it comes to Iraq and Afghanistan, Pace has never experienced the day to day danger that the soldiers who actually are fighting on the battlefield endure.

Pace's statement hearkens back to the day when the Generals leading their armies actually did take the battlefield, calling the shots on the scene as the two sides slugged it out. The mortality rate of military leadership in modern wars is a pittance of the wars in World history. This is a result of technology making it necessary for the leadership to stand off and control the battlefield from over the horizon. But if Pace were to actually follow his own rhetoric and lead from the theater, expecting his peers and subordinates to behave in like manner, the casualty rate of the General officer corps would certainly be much higher.

In fact most of General Paces leadership of the war effort has been conducted on front lines comprised of his desk at the Defense Department, in the halls of Congress and the White House, and speaking to the press from various locations scattered about the U.S. capitol. I believe this is as it should be, but for Pace to say that he was on the battlefield is a real stretch.

But one must look at the fact that Pace has worn the uniform for many years and give him credit on that score at least. Pace putting himself front and center on the battlefield is less of a stretch than Tony Snow placing George Bush on the front lines during this exchange at yesterdays lie fest:
Q I have one follow-up. Are there any members of the Bush family or this administration in this war?
MR. SNOW: Yes, the President. The President is in the war every day.
Q Come on. That isn't my question.
MR. SNOW: If you ask any President who is a Commander-in-Chief --
Q On the front lines --
MR. SNOW: The President.
That is beyond weak and Snow would feel ashamed at saying this type of thing if he had any sense of decency. Trying to place the President in the front lines of the war is just moronic! It is reminiscent of the time that Hugh Hewitt (right wing radio drone) got all up in Michael Ware's grill about who was where in the war on terror. In case you don't know, Ware is the reporter for Time Magazine, stationed in Baghdad, and has been embedded with front line military units in nearly every major battle in Iraq. Here is Hewitt trying to capture some of that glory while interviewing Ware in March of 06:
Ware (MW):'re sitting back in a comfortable radio studio, far from the realities of this war.

Hewitt (HH): Actually, Michael, let me interrupt you.

MW: If anyone has a right...

HH: Michael, one second.

MW: If anyone has a right to complain, that's what...

HH: I'm sitting in the Empire State Building. Michael, I'm sitting in the Empire State Building, which has been in the past, and could be again, a target. Because in downtown Manhattan, it's not comfortable, although it's a lot safer than where you are, people always are three miles away from where the jihadis last spoke in America. So that's...civilians have a stake in this. Although you are on the front line, this was the front line four and a half years ago.
This is the mentality of these right wing war pushers. They try to bask in the reflected glory of American support for the troops, by pretending that pushing a botched war and advocating it stretch on for the foreseen future is the equivalent of the efforts of the soldiers who are truly on the front lines. The real consequences of this war are sanitized, tabulated, and rhetorical when these Bush apologists and the rest of us have to deal with them. The main difference between Bush apologists and the rest of us is that the rest of us have the good sense to recognize that commuting to work in our air conditioned gas guzzlers and generally conducting ones life as we all do on the homefront does not equate to being on the front lines in the so called war on terror. We should treat those who try to draw that outlandish equation with the contempt they deserve.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Why President Liebermann Would Be Better Than President Bush

Common Dreams has an article by Robert Scheer titled ‘President’ Lieberman: A Cautionary Tale. Sheer's premise explores the possibility that after winning the election of 2000, Al Gore would have been allowed to be sworn in as President, only to die while in office leading to Joe Lieberman assuming the Presidency.

Scheer draws from Lieberman's insane ramblings to arrive at the conclusion that Lieberman may be more damaging than Bush at leading America. Sheer's point is to give pause to anyone who would support any Democrat based solely upon the notion that their candidate is more electable in the general election than another choice.

If Lieberman's own words are the only consideration we take into the discussion, Scheer's point is valid. However I believe there are many other factors which combine to make the Bush administration more disastrous than a possible Lieberman administration ever could have been, under Scheer's scenario.

The major difference would be the composition of the Lieberman administration compared to the Bush administration. Starting at the very top, is there anyone Lieberman could pick after assuming the Presidency that would be worse for that office than Dick Cheney? Lieberman would have to make a herculean effort to find someone as dangerous and wrong headed as Cheney has proven. Just having the dark and brooding presence of Cheney out of Washington would be a tremendous plus to Lieberman in the scenario Scheer describes. How much of the disaster that has fallen this nation under the Bush administration can be laid upon Cheney's doorstep?

The rest of the administration would follow that pattern. Alberto Gonazales would not have disgraced the office he currently holds, Donald Rumsfeld would have remained a footnote in the history books, and the list goes on and on. Even outside the cabinet, like John Bolton at the U.N. and Wolfowitz for World Bank... the people Lieberman chose in their stead would mainly have come from the liberal side of the great divide in American politics. Simply judging from recent history, we find that the office holders of the Clinton Administration were, by and large, competent. Heckuvajob Brownie would still be running the Arabian Horse Association.

The basic history of America and the world may well have changed dramatically under Scheers scenario. When Bush came to power the administrations distaste for all things Clinton led to the discarding of the Israeli/Palestinian peace initiative. Who knows what may have happened in the middle east if a comprehensive peace plan had been reached with a Lieberman ambassador continuing the Clinton example.

In fact with the Bush administrations well known disdain for terrorism warnings prior to 9/11, (again because Clintonians had pushed hard to give terrorism a high level of importance during and after the transition) who is to say how a Lieberman led administration would have reacted when the alarm bells started going off? One thing is certain: the memo titled "Bin Laden Determined To Strike In U.S." would not have been given to the President at a ranch in Texas! Maybe a Lieberman led Justice Department would have put two and two together, and a greater awareness of the threat from terrorism suspects learning to fly, but not land, jumbo jets would have led to heightened security at the nations airports?

Scheers article raises interesting questions in considering a temporal change, but he has not convinced me that a Lieberman administration would be worse for America than Bush's leadership has proven. I'll wrap this up by pleading that readers do not think this post is intended as a defense of Lieberman. The Senator from Connecticut is a wrong headed Bush apologist and I wouldn't cast a vote for him if he were opposed by a door knob. I'm just saying that there is more to consider in judging a Presidency than simply who is the President. I feel comfortable in my conclusion that a Lieberman administration would have proven better for America than Bush has.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Giuliani's Commitments, Is This A Joke?

Yesterday Rudy Giuliani unveiled his "Twelve Commitments to the American People". People who are familiar with Giuliani's previous record on commitments could be easily spotted because they were rolling around on the floor holding their sides and laughing.

Well Giuliani just had to take us there, so let us examine the path already travelled by Giuliani in order to understand the possible path he would lead us down, regarding commitment. This is a sordid tale, and one that many of you may be familiar with, but as we consider this history let us keep in mind that Giuliani is the one giving us the commitments these days. I'm not just doing this for the sake of slamming Giuliani for no apparent reason.

What do we suppose Giuliani's second cousin, Regina Peruggi,would say about his record on commitments. They were married in 1968, had a trial separation in 1976 were legally separated in 1982, followed by a legal divorce later that year. Coincidentally, Giuliani started dating Donna Hanover in 1982. I'm certain however that their relationship was entirely platonic until the divorce with Peruggi was finalized... because we all know how strong Giuliani is when it comes to commitments. The Catholic church granted Giuliani an annulment on his first marriage which led to Giuliani's next notable commitment.

In 1984 Giuliani married Hanover. 2 children and 16 years later, Giuliani was busted in a extra marital affair with Judith Nathan. Giuliani then famously called a press conference and announced that he was separating with Hanover, before even letting her know of this arrangement. Hanover should have seen the handwriting on the wall though, because she got mixed up with Giuliani when he was previously committed to Peruggi, and he had been caught carrying on with an extra marital affair with a staff member in the late 90's. The resultant divorce was ugly, and was finalized in 2002.

Giuliani is now committed to Judith Nathan, having married her in 2003. With his record on commitment however one can only wonder how long this relationship will last.

I could get into the familial commitment between children and parents regarding Giuliani, but I think the point has been made sufficiently. Giuliani giving us his commitments really should be great material for the late night comedians.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

NRCC Extravaganza Warplans Revealed

The New York Times political blog has gotten their hands on the packet from Roy Blunt and Joe Wilson [PDF] to all the other Republican members of Congress detailing the fundraising goals for this years NRCC Presidents Dinner. It really is an eye opener in my humble opinion.

The NRCC war plans call for the poor Republican Congressional members to call various big wig money donors and corporations like common money grubbing telemarketers. The Congressmembers are given a list of people to call and talking points to try to reach the financial goals set for them by the NRCC. The memo is very helpful, providing a list of past big money contributors to the NRCC, and listing all the Republican house members with their committee assignments and fundraising goals.

Odd... looking through the talking points, we see that the Republicans have heard the message of the American voters as expressed last November, but performing a search for the word Iraq in the document will not offer one instance in which that word is used. Not one. Yet we are to believe that the Republicans heard the message of the voter last year? Please! If I were considering a donation and my local Republican toady were foolish enough to ring me up and start blabbing about having heard the voters, my first question would be what is the plan to get out of Iraq.

We learn in the talking points that President Bush is committed to helping the Republican effort at winning future elections, but oddly enough he intends to do this by actually going to their dinner rather than disappearing for the evening! I wonder how many Republicans up for re-election in the coming cycle will conveniently skip the opportunity to mug it up with the President in front of the cameras? If the example provided by last years midterm election is any indication, where-in most Republican candidates avoided the President as if he were infected with e bola, the answer is not many.

But then again there is always lower taxes. You just can not have a list of Republican talking points without hammering on lower taxes. Odd though... searching for the word deficit or budget in the memo also offer no hits. Here is the distillation of Republican policy in regards to the budget. We can have our children's cake, and eat it too.

About 1/3 of the way through the memo is a massive list of donors... and as can be expected some familiar names are there. Halliburton, R.J. Reynolds, Northrup, Clear Channel and so on. Every now and then there is a name that made me wonder "what the hay?" For instance, Major League Baseball... I would be very interested in seeing how all of these big monied corporations legislative interests fared when the Republicans held unchecked power in Washington D.C.

To be honest though, I don't believe this is a Republican problem. Most likely the list kept by Democrats for their dinners carries many of the same names. This is a problem through out our government and will remain a problem until we are able to force the public financing of campaigns into law.

I think we are far far removed from any public financing of campaigns, and one of the major reasons is that these same Congressmembers feed at the trough of the corporations in their personal finances. How many of the Congressmembers listed in this memo will retire from their Congressional office straight to an office in some board room, making millions and lobbying for their cause?

The next hurdle I see to public financing of elections is the bias of the mass media to the proposal, again for prurient reasons. The media accrues billions of dollars in revenue every election cycle, and that would dry to a trickle if public financing were passed. Beyond that incentive, the media (beyond the intertubes) is owned by corporations, many of which can be found on the list in that memo.

There is one thing going for us in getting public financing passed. These Congress critters can't be happy when they are called to the telephone bank to fill their quota for the NRCC or the DLCC. They might get rich eventually, but they must feel a bit dirty getting there.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Just An Old Fashioned Love Post

Well, regular readers of this blog know that I mainly focus on giving my take on political issues. But this post is going to be a bit different so be forewarned!

A couple of weeks ago me and my lovely wife Carrie were contemplating names of cats. We were planning on letting Rustee, the ferocious lion, grow to the age of 5 and then getting another cat. We already had settled on a boy cat (tom) name: Chairman Meow. So we were contemplating what we might name a girl cat (queen) and I recalled a name we both liked from the video game Dynasty Warriors. Xiahou.

Xiahou means little in Chinese. It rhymes with now, but the starting sound is like Zha as in Zhazha Gabor, so it sounds like Zheow. After I threw the name Xiahou out there I immediately liked it... but I could sense hesitancy from Carrie. I was starting to wheedle on about how great the name Xiahou was when sudden Carrie chimed in with "Xiahou Meow!"

As soon as she said it, we KNEW we had the perfect queen name. It was a perfect match with a possible future (now way way future) addition of Chairman Meow. In fact it was SOOO perfect that we would have to get a new little kitty... just so we could name her that. The topper on it all was when I researched the meaning of the name and we found out we would be naming her "little meow".

June 3rd was our 1st anniversary, and we were a bit confuzzled about what the first anniversary is... I suggested dirt, or cheese, Carrie thought maybe leaf or something silly like that. Since we didn't really know (turns out it is paper) we decided we would declare our first anniversary our kitty anniversary! We went down to the local animal shelter on June 2 and picked out the newest member of our loving little home. Actually Rustee threw a hissy fit when we first brought her home... but Rustee has always been such a drama tom!

It's been over a week since we got her, and now Rustee and Xiahou are becoming friends... chasing each other around the apartment and generally having a grand time. Xiahou is a snuggler of the first order, which is something we wanted in a kitty because Rustee has always been a bit stand offish, in a playful sort of way. Yesterday I took this picture of Carrie and Xiahou, and I thought it was sooooo cuteiful that I would share with anyone who bumped across Club Lefty, along with a bit of a post on how we came to name, and then own Xiahou Meow.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Connecting The Dots, DOJ Style

My work has blocked several sites which I routinely used to peruse, but luckily for me has unblocked several others. Daily Kos is blocked, but Firedoglake has been unblocked. I presume it was the word 'dog' in the latter site which tripped the censors... but that supposition is just me drawing a half baked connection between a firewall that is supposed to catch non work safe intertubes content, and an innocuous word that could be contextually naughty.

At least I'm able to realize that my conspiratorial inner ramblings would probably be shown to be devoid of substance if the facts were presented to me. But this makes me wonder at the inner conspiratorial ramblings of the prosecutor who could think that a periodically homeless man's fevered imagination of bombing a pipeline 40 miles from the jet fuel tanks in JFK would result in a chain reaction, much like the pipeline was a giant fuse, leading to the eventual vaporization of half of New York when the Jet fuel tanks blew. The overwrought descriptions from the prosecutor and attendant police toady really was telling when the actual details of the proposed holocaust are revealed. But why would these law enforcement big wigs cause such a furor over something which turns out to be so utterly silly.

Much like Keith Olbermanns periodic features on the nexus of politics and terror, which show a connection betwixt various embarrassments for the Bush administration, closely followed by hyped up terror events, I see a political connection. Actually, Lewis Z Koch of Firedoglake sees a connection and I have drawn it out a bit, if you care to follow me on another rambling muse down conspiracy lane.

Right now a jury in Miami Florida is hearing arguments in the case of Jose Padilla, and two other defendants. I won't bother going into detail about the sordid history of the Bush administration and Jose Padilla, so if anyone who stumbles over this post needs a primer on this travesty just click on the link to Mr. Koch's work at FDL and read away. Suffice to say that the Bush administration has a lot riding on the outcome of this trial. If they lose, one of the most dangerous enemy combatants in the war on terror will be free to roam the nation, raining death and destruction as he sees fit... from the administrations perspective anyway. But I digress!

The part of Mr. Koch's report on the Padilla trial today that made me say "hmmmm" was this:
It is very likely that this tedious testimony became more relevant for the jurors when they looked at their weekend news (news the jurors were permitted to see.) Here was another case of a conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim. Federal prosecutors in New York Saturday charged one former member of the Guyamese parliament and three other men, including a former airport employee, with planning to blow up terminal buildings at John F. Kennedy Airport, fuel tanks and the fuel pipeline that runs beneath the airport complex.
Could THAT be why the Justice Departments prosecutor made such a huge stink about such a transparently hopeless dud of a terrorist plot? The Feds are trying to influence the Padilla jury?!

Maybe... it fits very nicely if we consider the much ballyhooed arrests of the six men who intended to storm Fort Dix and lay waste to the countryside. Those arrests were made on May 9th. That is the VERY DAY that the announcement was made that a jury had been selected in the Padilla trial. Truly amazing coincidence.

What about the arrest of the hapless 7 in Miami, charged with thinking about blowing up the Sears Tower in Chicago. In nearly every story to be written up about that plot when it was in the news, you can do a search for Padilla and find a blurb describing how Padilla's case is working it's way through the court in Miami. We should also note that Chicago comes into play, being where Padilla was originally arrested, and being the target of the hapless 7. Evidently terrorists in custody in Florida in June of 06 really had it in for Illinois!

I'll wager there are other such examples of high profile terrorist alarms which fit happenings in the Padilla trial. I've just taken the alarms I can recall from memory, and they did fit nicely.

I would love to hear this question posed to some high powered, in the know, bigwig at Justice. Like maybe Al G. himself. Has the timing of the much publicized terror plots being brought to light been arranged in order to influence the Padilla trial?

Probably not. But that possible connection is more realistic than starting a chain reaction in a combination pipeline/fuse 40 miles from the target winding up with the destruction of JFK. Now if only I had the bully pulpit occupied by that hysterical prosecutor in New York! Someone quick... ring up Brother Olbermann.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Journalist Hades

Journalist Sahar al-Haideri of the independent Aswat al-Iraqi news agency has been killed in Iraq.

She was one of dozens of people killed in another bloody day in Iraq. Typically her passing would be little noted and certainly no cause for a special post here at Club Lefty.

But Sahar is the latest victim in a wave of journalists killings in Iraq. At least 12 journalists were killed in the month of May alone.

To me that is a staggering figure. Is there any more deadly a job in the civilian sector in the entire world?

And the thanks these folks get for their work is hardly adequate. The President and his spokestoadies have made a drumbeat on how wrong the media is for doing their jobs. The Pentagon seems intent on making balanced reporting from the theater impossible, proudly budgeting money to plant stories in the local press. The right wing blogosphere has demonstrated time and again a willingness to slander and nit pick these journalists, and have hardly shown remorse when demonstratably proven wrong in their attacks.

Indeed the occupation forces seem willing to go out of their way to make the life of non embeded journalists miserable since early on. Al Jazeera in Baghdad was bombed killing a journalist. When they entered Baghdad, American tanks shelled the Palistinian Hotel which housed the press, killing two journalists. American forces have held A.P. Photographer Bilal Hussein in detention for over a year without charging him.

It really must seem like one of the deadliest, least thankful jobs on the planet. So for what little good it does, let me as an obscure little blogger acknowledge the hard work and dedication of those who report the news from Iraq. Good luck to each and every one of you. I for one appreciate it.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Bush: "It Should Frighten the American People"

I'm not sure that I've ever seen the President so blatantly wish for the American people to be frightened than the following quote he gave to the traveling press corps that accompanied him to the G-8 summit:
"What's difficult is the fact that al Qaeda continues to kill. And it frustrates the Iraqi people, and it should frighten the American people that al Qaeda is active in Iraq looking for a safe haven from which to launch further attacks."
This one statement crystalizes the governance of President Bush perfectly. Straight from the Presidents mouth comes a call for the American people to be afraid.

Could there be any more shameful a quote in the history of our nations leadership. How is it that any President could be brought to the point of calling for fear to guide this nations policies.

I'm having a hard time imagining how this sentiment can ever be justified in an American President. The great moments in Presidential history have called upon American resolution in the face of great adversity, American understanding and acceptance following a great war, Americans to honor the fallen of the battlefield and resolve to carry on the struggle for the Constitution and the United States of America. Perhaps the most famously inspirational moment in Presidential history was Roosevelt's clarion call upon the nation to NOT be afraid.

The reaction of the Administration and Republican party after the 9/11 attacks was an appeal to fear in a crass political calculation to accrue greater political power.. But never was this fear mongering expressed in so blatant terms as this quote by President Bush.

I'm not sure that this quote is on tape, but if it is it may well be noted by historians as one of the lowest points of a failed Presidency. I'll bet when he was campaigning in 2000 the President never imagined the day would come that he would actually call upon the American people to be afraid. That is nearly the definition of failed leadership.

GOP Resurrects Baker/Hamilton

The Baker Hamilton Iraq Study Group findings were released to the public on 12/06/06. The findings of the commission were widely anticipated and seen as providing an opportunity for the Bush administration to start an end game with the occupation of Iraq. The President and administration have explicitly rejected the findings of the ISG on several occassions, most notably when talking about "victory" in Iraq, which the ISG specifically says is no longer possible, and when rejecting robust diplomacy with Syria and Iran. Another notable rejection of the ISG findings by the administration is that the report calls for most troops to be pulled out of Iraq by early 2008.

Today brings news that a bipartisan group of Senators is moving forward a plan to make the findings of the Iraq Study Group official U.S. policy. A bipartisan plan following the same guidelines has already been introduced on the House side.

According to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count website 585 Americans have been killed in Iraq since the presentation of the Iraq Study Groups findings in December of 06.

Now I don't pretend that American casualties will drop to zero the very day that the policy changes to comport to the ISG findings. But the day we shift the policy brings us closer to the day that we bring this debacle to a close.

Frankly, I think the 585 dead Americans since Dec. 6 have been slaughtered on the alter of Bush's ego. He could not bring himself to accept the ISG because that meant not being able to talk about military victory. It meant a refutation of the Presidents bone headed policies in this war.

Accepting the ISG means that Harry Reid's statement that the war is already lost, which drew so much flack and still has Democrats in the Senate running for cover, and is essentially the view of the Iraq Study Group, is correct. Admitting that is simply impossible for this President and his koolaid drinking diehard supporters. Yet if there can be no victory, by definition, we are just extending a losing effort until we have had enough and end the occupation. This nation never went to Iraq with the notion that we would be there for years, let alone decades, fighting a bloody insurrection with no prospect for victory... slowly bleeding American lives and treasure in perpetuity. The sooner we accept the inevitable, the sooner we can bring an end to this disaster, and the ISG findings start us on that path.

I hear talking heads demand a plan to deal with the bloody aftermath if we pull out or pull back. Frankly the plan is to acknowledge the forces we have unleashed and prepare this nation for the consequences. WHEN we leave, there will be catacalysm and death on a biblical scale left in our wake. We have a choice. Leave asap, and watch a horrible aftermath work itself out. Or drag out the occupation with the dead Americans and drained treasury for another year, decade, or century, and then leave and watch a horrible aftermath work itself out.

Our planning should consist of leaving a force in the region (Kuwait works) that can respond to possible terror training camps that may take root in our absence from over the horizon. And we should consider right now a plan to pay reparations to the survivors after the catacalysm we leave behind sorts itself out.

Yes, I hate the fact that it has come to this. Disastrous leadership will have led America to unleash genocidal ruination as a consequence of wrong headed policy. But I am unwilling to simply drag out the inevitable at the cost of more blood and treasure when the outcome will remain the same regardless of how long the occupation drags on.

So lets get this over with, take our lumps, and hope the end of the debacle comes sooner rather than later. Accepting the ISG report is a good first step.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Letters To The Judge III

Irony, thy name is Perle. Check out this missive from Richard Perle to Judge Walton regarding the character of I Lewis Libby:
"There are many aspects to integrity, but perhaps the most difficult to sustain is the courage to say what one thinks will best serve the country, even when others in powerful positions may disagree. Many people aren't willing to ask tough questions, or buck a consensus position, when doing so would risk exposing themselves to criticism from their peers or those officials whose judgement can make or break public careers. Scooter had the courage and integrity to present his views to his colleagues for a full debate, which is a crucial element of good government."
Reading this, it is as if Perle has not one iota of knowledge about the outting of Plame, and just randomly pulled something nice to say about Libby out of thin air, which just happened to cast the Wilson/Plame outing into focus. The person on the inside who presents the opposing point of view for consideration, at the risk of their own or their wifes career was hardly Libby in the affair being considered by Judge Walton. Would that truth not mean that those who retaliated against such a person and broke the law in doing so are working against the best interests of good government? That would have to reflect negatively on the character of the people responsible for that retaliation and the resultant coverup. Perle might as well have requested the judge toss on a few extra months!

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