Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Long Time Bush Supporter (Me) Breaks Over Iraq War

Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack have written an editorial which cherry picks the most positive signs from Iraq and calls upon America to stay the course just a little while longer. This type of editorial is hardly noteworthy, but for the fact that O'Hanlon and Pollack try to give themselves legitimacy by proclaiming that they are "two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq.”

By that billing, one would think that a couple of liberals who have always been against the war have looked at the situation and decided to change their minds... suddenly switching opinion from against the war to for it. That would be a mistaken impression because the truth is that O'Hanlon and Pollack are war critics in the vein of McCain, and even Bush himself, not in the vein of Barack Obama or Keith Olbermann. O'Hanlon/Pollack supported the invasion from the start with O'Hanlon writing a book before the invasion making the case for war. Like McCain they have consistently called upon more troops to be sent to Iraq. Like both McCain and Bush they have decried the futility and results of the policy to this point.

So the reaction by the mainstream media to the call from these two to stay the course was to announce that two critics of the war had taken an independent look at the facts and changed their tunes. Well if that is the case, let me announce that I am a long time administration supporter, and backer of the war in Iraq... and I have independently reached the conclusion after years of studying the facts that the war in Iraq is harming American interests and should be brought to a close as soon as possible.

You may wonder why I am able to proclaim myself a longtime supporter of the administration. In the past I have written that troops in Iraq should be left there at least until the next President is in office (because I have so little trust in Bush's competency that I don't think he could get such a massive undertaking done without making a huge mess of it). I have also been extremely vocal in expressing my belief that we are facing a deadly enemy in the "war on terror" and I think the west must win the struggle (in which invading Iraq was one of the worst strategic blunders in American history and harmed us incalculably in effectively fighting the true enemies in the "war on terror"). I have also praised the initial planning in conducting the invasion (the actual invasion itself was conducted in fine style which is the ONLY thing they did right). In fact time and again I have encouraged the White House and Republicans to take the correct actions in order to stop the plunge in public support for the war (by muzzling the President).

I could go on and on documenting all the times I have supported the President and praised the war effort. So it is with a heavy heart that I must now announce that despite my longtime support for the war in Iraq and this Presidents vision for the Middle East, upon reviewing the facts (widespread public discontent with the war and support for withdrawal, continuing violence and no political solution in sight) I must reluctantly announce that I have changed my mind. America should admit that the invasion was wrongly concieved, the planning for post invasion occupation has been disastrous, and we must begin to ameliorate the resultant blow to our national interests by extricating ourselves from the resulting quagmire. Admitting error is not a sign of weakness. When one looks at the facts and draws the conclusion that they were mistaken, as is now unanimously the case regarding the supposed threat of WMD, it is not weakness to admit the error and try to correct our course.

I only wish I had the platform O'Hanlon and Pollack have. I'm certain yet another change in heart on the war would be huge news, even if it is from pro to anti war...

Monday, July 30, 2007

Why The WhiteHouse Gonzo Leak Doesn't Wash... Or Even Worse Does It?

I blog from work, and today has been a particularly busy work day. So if I have missed someone out there making the same point in essence, forgive my inattentiveness.

The WhiteHouse leaked a justification on Alberto Gonzales' testimony that they believe allows the public record to jive. They say that Gonzales raced to the hospital bed of then Attorney General John Ashcroft regarding a classified NSA data mining program, not the widely publicized NSA surveillance program.

Recalling the particulars of the controversy, Gonzales has testified that the NSA surveillance program as described by President Bush was not controversial. However deputy A/G James Comey described the now famous midnight rush to the bedside of A/G Ashcroft to stop him from being strong armed by Andrew Card and Gonzo. Comey describes a program which lead to the threatened resignations of most of the top leadership of the Justice Department, which hardly jives with the spin by Alberto that the program was non controversial.

Why the explanation that we are seeing reaction to two different programs doesn't wash is because of the House Judiciary committee testimony of FBI director Robert Mueller. It is that testimony which the White House is immediately trying to square with Gonzales previous statements. In that testimony Mueller is quite clear. Regarding the program at issue during the hospital caper he says: "The discussion was on a national -- an NSA program that has been much discussed, yes,"

The problem here is that there is only one program which has been "much discussed". The new data mining program which was leaked to cover Gonzo's rear can not be Mueller's "much discussed" program because prior to this weekends leak no one had ever known of it's existence. Unless...

Maybe what Mueller is talking about is the Total Awareness Information program which Congress defunded, strangely enough the day prior to Gonzales and Card trying to strong arm the incapacitated Ashcroft. In other words, what if Congress specifically outlawed a program which the President was not willing to let go of? Could Mueller then get away with saying the program was much discussed (it was unanimously voted down at the time) while the White House is casting about for legal justifications to keep the program going.

What happens if the Justice Department roundly disagrees with the White Houses take that simply having Congress outlaw a program is not grounds to do away with the program? I imagine the leadership of the Justice Department being asked to sign off on blatantly illegal activities at the time. That leadership is without John Ashcroft who was hospitalized, and Comey is too good a lawyer to be the fall guy for that kind of illegality. Who ever it is that signed off on allowing a program to continue despite being specifically outlawed by Congress would have his neck way out there if the program were to leak.

If this is the case then it is Mueller who is playing loosey goosey with the details. He is trying to make it appear that the program is already well known, and that necessarily means it is the so called terrorist surveillance program. But if it is in fact a program outlawed by Congress but kept running under cover of classification and in secret... that is an even worse scandal to my way of thinking. That is the administration (yet again) being a law unto themselves, in contravention to the very constitution which the President has sworn to uphold.

In my way of thinking the lesson history will take from this abomination of an administration is just how important the oath taken by the President upon assuming office is. That oath does not once mention the President being charged with protecting America, or keeping us safe. Yet time and again we hear Bush and his mouthpieces tell us that keeping us safe is his most important duty. His most important duty is to defend and uphold the constitution. Yet in the name of protecting us the President has time and again had occassion to dismiss fundamental constitutional precepts.

I rather suspect that we are witnessing yet another instance of classified law breaking (and this instance is one of the most damaging to our system yet if it proves true: I mean the President is basically defying Congress in secret) being shown the light of day.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Truthout Has THE Goods Re Rep. Election Fraud

When I first started blogging I was a big big fan of Truthout.org. Then Patrick Fitzgerald announced the indictment of Scooter Libby over the Plame affair, and Jason Leopold ruined Truthout for me. I remember breathlessly reading Leopolds reports each day and his repeated articles reporting that Rove would be indicted... that the announcement was going to be made any hour now, it had already happened and so on. These assertions, needless to say, did not pan out.

I started feeling like I could not trust their reporting, that the Plame affair had ruined their credibility, and I stopped relying upon them as a source.

The cold shoulder I've given Truthout may have turned considerably warmer as of today. Here is a link to a set of emails [PDF file] which Truthout has posted which prove that the Republican party was involved in extensive voter suppression in several states during the 2004 election. Note the emails describing how the Republican party hacks were worried about leaving their figurative "fingerprints" on the suppression. The courts have long kept their eye on the Republican party in particular, with orders dating back to the mid 80's which prohibit just the type of activity which Truthout now has documented proof of.

I note that one of the reporters who has uncovered the story is none other than Jason Leopold.

So I'll call this even. This story is a big one... I've frozen out Truthout for well over a year due to my disenchantment over the Plame business, but presenting exclusive documented evidence of voter suppression balances the ledger from my perspective. Readers of this blog may expect more Truthout linkage going forward, until such a time as they misreport another big story... and I will be watching for that.

Last Nights Viewing In A Nutshell

Last night I watched two television programs that I feel the need to bloviate about.

Part one: Whither The Controversy?
First off is my take on last evenings Hardball with Chris Matthews. That program opened with two segments dealing with the walking talking disaster that is Alberto Gonzales. Tony Snow filled the first segment with Matthews positively glowing over Snow's performance as professional liar in chief for the White House. The next segment was filled with two legal experts who normally would find themselves in disagreement, but spent their time agreeing that Gonzales was an inveterate liar.

The entire rest of the program after these two initial segments focused on the absolutely silly and contrived controversy between the Clinton and Obama campaigns over their outlook on dealing with foreign leaders.

In two months 95% of the American electorate will not be able to accurately recount the details of the Clinton Obama spat. The significance of this tempest is actually that it is drawing heat and attention even as the administration melts down before us. What is more important here? Gonzales can be proven to have perjured himself, meaning that the Justice Department is being run by a FELON... or Clinton and Obama peeing all over each other as alpha dogs marking their territories in a meaningless spat 6 months from the first vote being cast in the primary.

If you take your cues from Hardball, the most important story by far is the pissing contest between Obama and Clinton.

If I were Howard Dean I would call my candidates together and tell them to go on hiatus until December. The meaningless spat which is sucking up so much media attention is distracting from the real news of the day... and that real news is very favorable to the Democratic side of the political divide. In fact the entire Presidential campaign kicking off immediately after the mid terms is positively asinine, and if the Democrats agreed to a campaign cease fire I'm certain the public at large would feel extremely grateful. I know I would!

After Hardball, I flipped over to C-Span and watched a Congressional hearing on the proposal to grant accused terrorist detainees the habeas corpus rights which last years MCA law stripped from them. Watching these proceedings inspired me to write...

Part two: Just Trust Us, They Are Ebil Killers!!
What struck me about this hearing was the absolute bull headed tenacity of the Republican side of the debate in referring to the detainees in the worst terms imaginable. Listening to Republican after Republican refer to the killers and terrorists we hold in Guantanamo was part of a very strange debate. The entire purpose of the debate is to find a way to determine IF these detainees are indeed so very horrible and thus truly qualified for continued captivity as terrorists and killers. By insisting on pre-determining the guilt of the accused the Republicans demonstrate the problem for which there must be a solution in order to restore the minimum sense of America as a just nation. They have already determined the guilt of the detainees, and that is all we need to know at this point.

Time and again this administration has been proven wrong in determining who is or isn't a terrorist. Just consider the hundreds of thousands of names on the no fly list, and ask yourself if Teddy Kennedy or the myriad other children and old folk hassled when they try to fly are actually terrorist threats. Consider the proven innocent victims of this nations rendition program, sent from our control to other nations for the purpose of being tortured, and later released because they were not who we thought they were. Just how is it that Osama Bin Laden is living in some cave in Pakistan, scurrying about with a dialysis machine in tow, but Saddam Hussein swung at the end of a rope in large part because of being tied in with Al Qaeda?! For heavens sake, this nation was led to war because of this administration wrongly tying an entire freaking nation to the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11! And somehow we are supposed to just trust that they have it right about the detainees in Guantanamo? Please!

I've already read enough reports from those who are intimately involved with the proceedings at GITMO to lose all sense of confidence in the ability of this administration to find justice for those detainees. In fact I'm certain that many of them are innocent, and we have tortured them, in many cases forcing them to confess to crimes they did not commit. This entire affair has stained our honor and we should be about setting it right, not perpetuating the wrongs we've done.

And Republican Congress critters parroting the administration by asserting the detainees are vicious terrorists doesn't mean it's true.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Guantanamo Proceedings Corrode The Rule Of Law

Lex Lasry, the neutral observer from the Law Council of Australia has released a scathing report on the case of David Hicks. Hicks is the first detainee imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay to be adjudicated guilty of the charges against him and is now serving a jail term in Australia. He will be released in December of this year.

The report details an Alice in Wonderland quality to the process, in which the punishment is first determined, and then the trial of the accused is allowed to proceed to it's inevitable finding of guilt. Hicks' case seems to have been settled in such a way as to give political and legal cover to the Australian and American governments. The Australian Law Council describes the proceedings as ad hoc, and condemn the entire affair as corrosive to the rule of law.

Just who is it that is on the side of Democracy and the rule of law in this war? Remind me again of how we Americans stand for justice and freedom. It's hard to see that when our Government is guilty of torturing detainees (and by God it IS torture no matter how much they try to redefine that word) and making up the rules as we see fit. But... I digress.

Reading through the report itself, (you may link there from here, by downloading a pdf file) is actually quite interesting. I often try to burrow through just this type of report and wind up going cross eyed after a few paragraphs of legalese, but this report is different. Take for example the riposte delivered to President Bush at section 3.29:
The MCA was signed into law by President George W Bush on 17 October 2006. During the course of the signing ceremony, he said:
"The bill I'm about to sign also provides a way to deliver justice to the
terrorists we have captured..."


3.30. It will be noted that the President, in his opening words, purported to resolve an issue against the detainees which Military Commission trials might have been more appropriate to deal with – has it been proved beyond reasonable doubt that in the particular case the accused is a terrorist? Apparently the President was already satisfied about that and so, in a few words, demonstrated the lack of independence which infects this process.
Well played Mr. Lasry. However pointing out failures in the logic employed by President Bush is mere child's play compared to deconstructing the apparatus used to railroad Hicks into a guilty plea.

Lasry deconstructs the case against Hicks with the same no nonsense dispatch as he used to destroy the President's credibility on the issue. On the charge of providing material support to terrorists, Lasry demonstrates that this was not a "crime" under Australian, or even U.S. law at the time that Hicks is alleged to have done it. In fact that charge was not even applicable to Hicks until Congress passed the MCA act in 2006. Lasry notes several well respected lawyers and experts in the field of international law who agree that this particular charge against Hicks was bogus. In effect America can not retroactively criminalize behavior which was actually understood to be legal when the behavior was engaged in. That makes perfect sense from my perspective.

Lasry also notes the opinion of Chief Prosecutor Morris Davis in justifying applying a law retroactively:
Colonel Morris 'Moe' Davis said David Hicks’s defence team was claiming that the offence he faces – material support of terrorism – was being applied against him retrospectively.
He said this defence was argued to prevent people being punished for something that they couldn't have known was wrong.

But he said Hicks's father had told him “It’s wrong to take up arms against our own”.

Colonel Davis said it was going to be hard to argue that “Gee, I had no idea that what I was doing was wrong when I reported in to al-Qaeda and got a rifle and hand grenades and went out to fight against my countrymen and their allies”.

He said he was not going to get into the specifics of the evidence, but it’s certainly “in the public domain the comments (by Terry Hicks) made in December 2001 when he said: ‘In my eyes, David Hicks is a terrorist'."

Frankly I am embarrassed that this Davis character can express this kind of opinion and be in any way associated with a supposedly fair process aimed at finding the guilt or innocence of people accused of being terrorists. As Lasry notes, Hicks' father must be surprised at his sudden elevation to lawmaker. What Lasry doesn't bother to mention, because on a basic level this point has no legal bearing but is something any human being understands instinctively, is that parents finding fault with their children is an ancient aspect of humanity. My mother has been mortified on several occasions by choices I have made, yet the thought that I would serve prison time because she thought I was making bad judgements is just absurd. Just think of the overflowing prisons America and Australia would have if parental approval were suddenly a new standard by which legality were decided.

Lasry next delves into the absurdity of the proceedings of the military tribunal in particular. Hicks entered the proceedings with three lawyers, which the judge quickly whittled down to one. One lawyer was detailed to Hicks' defense by the military, but the judge found she did not have standing because she was a civilian. That lawyer, Ms. Rebecca Snyder, pointed out that the MCA and various other sections of military law specified that assistant counsel did not need to be enlisted, but the judge refused to give her standing.

Next comes the truly weird handling of the standing of Hicks' civilian lawyer. The defendant is allowed to have civilian representation by the terms of the MCA, but one condition for standing is that the lawyer agree to comply with all regulations regarding the commission. At the time of the proceeding there were no regulations on these commissions, as the Secretary of Defense was in the process of drawing them up. As such Joshua Dratel, Mr. Hicks civilian lawyer was willing to agree to conform to regulations as they currently stood, but was not willing to sign an agreement on regulations not yet in existence. The judge was only willing to give him standing if Dratel agreed to all the rules, even those not yet known. Of course Dratel could not accept this, (who in their sound mind would?!) so he was booted from the table as well. Upon losing Dratel as counsel Hicks expressed himself about what seemed a supremely frustrating and surreal process: “I am shocked – I just lost another lawyer”

Lasry notes in covering this that the judge was usurping power expressly granted the Secretary of Defense, without any recourse for delegation of those powers by the MCA. The judge is not allowed to independently determine the rules governing the commissions. It seems to me that if a civilian lawyer had made himself a party to such an activity that he may be liable for contempt charges by being a party to an illegal proceeding before the court. That's just my take on it though... somehow I suspect everything would have worked out fine for Dratel if he had just knuckled under and accepted the judges illegal solution.

The judge then noted that the apparel Hicks was wearing was prejudicial to his case. Never mind that Hicks was escorted to the hearing and bracketed by two guards through out the proceeding... the fact that his hair was long and he was not wearing suit and tie was a detriment to the possible fairness of the proceeding. All of the past prejudicial declarations and actions by everybody involved, from the President whose very statement as he signed the law was a finding of guilt for those whom the law applied to, down the line to the Secretary of Defense and so on were not addressed as affecting the fairness of the trial. That Hicks' attire should cause such a concern over fairness was laughable according the Lasry.

The proceedings then launched into the fitness of the judge himself to oversee the proceedings and so on and so forth. But here comes the kicker. The entire procedure was a contrivance. By the time the commission had started the plea deal had already been arranged. It was literally a show trial. How disgusting is it to know that the very first proceedings under the MCA were a show trial, in the finest style of dictatorial regimes famous the world over and through out history.

This has turned into a monster post, and I don't like pounding out books for any people who may take an interest in my rantings to have to wade through. I would just wrap this up with a glowing recommendation for the report by the Law Council and Mr. Lasry on the MCA proceedings at Guantanamo Bay. After reading the report one is left with the sad conclusion that the Bush administration with a complicit Congress has set up an inherently unfair process by which those accused are railroaded. Even pretending that there is a legal veneer of legitimacy to the process is corrosive to the basic meaning of the rule of law.

Please read the report and draw your own conclusions.

Monday, July 23, 2007

On Congressional Approval

If you don't know that public approval of Congress is substantially lower than the Presidents poll numbers, you don't watch many talking head news programs. If you do watch these programs you have had this fact drummed into your skull repeatedly, time and again, day in and out, for the last several weeks.

But when you actually look at the numbers, you find quite an interesting set of facts. One of the major reasons Congressional support has plummeted is because liberals (like yours truly) are upset with the inability of Democrats to... what is the phrase to use here... oh yeah, grow spines. Most of the recent loss of support for Congress comes from Democrats, because their leadership won't stand up and fight like we think they should.

Do you for one second think that means people like me are going to turn that frustration into votes for Republicans in 2008? Hah! It means that Congress is liable to take a decidedly leftward turn, until the nation feels that the people representing them will effectively challenge Republican dogmatics.

Another interesting subplot to these polls are the numbers which think the Congress is actually better under Democratic rather than Republican leadership. The very same polls showing such dissatisfaction with Congress also shows wide majorities of people trusting Democrats leadership on the most important issues of our times. The Washington Post published a poll just this week mirroring this disapproval of Congress, but widespread approval with Democratic leadership.

Congress is losing popularity because the war is dragging on for no apparent reason, the President is thumbing his nose at the nation, crooks are running the Department of Justice, and our Vice President is setting policy when he ought to be institutionalized... but Congressional reaction is tepid at best. For example, if charges of perjury before Congress can not be levied against Alberto Gonzales, there is no point in having those laws on the books going forward. The Attorney General is an inveterate liar, to the point of committing bald faced and obvious perjury, and Congress isn't doing a thing about it.

Here is what it comes down too. If any big wig Democratic strategist ever stumbles over Club Lefty, here is my advice for what little it may be worth. You are in a street fight and you are fighting by the Marquess of Queensberry parliamentary rudimentaries even as your opponents have spent the last 7 years MMA'ing your butts all around the political arena. Fight Back! Take off the gloves and slam them back! You will see those poll numbers rebound just from having your base jump up to support you. If you are trying to win over the Republican base, just change parties so we can vote you out and get back to sanity in this nation.

If the Republicans are going to obstruct everything and anything, Democrats in Congress may as well let them obstruct the impeachment of Gonzales at the very least. You can't do anything anyway Democrats... so grow spines and get nothing done with a fight. Let the Republicans be the obstructionists, protecting the 25% President, as the situation in Iraq degenerates and the people get madder.

Don't sit around blubbering about them not playing nice. Did our Democratic leaders really think they would get anything past these Republicans anyway? This is the party that prevailed upon Collin Powell to sacrifice 30 years of distinguished public service in order to present a pile of unmitigated crap to the U.N. leading up to the Iraq war. The only toxic substance of any note in Powells presentation were the insidious vapors emanating from the papers from which Powell was reading. Powell threw away decades of hard earned respect and good will by making that presentation and will go down in history as a tragic figure... a once respected Bush administration tool. That sort of loyalty and devotion may be hard to fathom, and the devotee may wish they had clearer judgement in hindsight, but it is this type of blind faith in wrong headed idealism that guides Republicans under this Presidents leadership.

The American people expect Democrats to do what they can to stop this disaster. If the Republicans won't play along (which we know they will not) that is no excuse for the Democrats to simply lay down and continue being beaten to a pulp.

McConnel Admits Psychological Torture

I watched Meet The Press yesterday and noticed something very telling in the answers given by Mike McConnel regarding the new standards for interrogation from the Bush Administration. Let me quote McConnel directly:
"[T]his is a program where we capture someone known to be a terrorist, we need information that they possess, and it has saved countless lives. Because, because they believe these techniques might involve torture and they don’t understand them, they tend to speak to us, talk to us in very—a very candid way."
McConnel spent most of the program vociferously denying that the U.S. tortures, yet he admits with the above quote that our interrogators rely upon the detainees believing that they will be tortured in order to get them to talk. Any definition of torture will include restrictions against making a person believe they will be tortured or killed. You do not have to actually cause physical pain to a person to torture them by nearly any definition in common usage of the word torture. So... there you have it. McConnel just admitted that America is psychologically torturing prisoners by making them believe they will be subject to physical torture.

In fact I believe McConnel began to unearth a truth of the basic nature of the program set forth by this administration from the early days of the so called war on terror. This administration wanted the Arab street to fear us. Beyond invading and occupying their lands, we embarked upon some hideous practices with the goal of putting fear into the Muslim world community. Thus it is that the American people are told in mantra like fashion that we do not torture, but the very examples of our evil doing with detainees are let loose in the Arab community to spread their own tales of what it means to fall into American hands. One of the objectives of torture is to terrorize the community from which the victims are taken in order to gain that communities compliance. McConnel seems on the cusp of admitting our complicity in just such a horrible mindset by saying that it is in our interest that the Arab world think we do torture captives.

This is exactly the wrong mindset which the side of freedom and goodness ought to portray to the world. There should be no doubt what so ever in any ones mind as to our record on human rights. We should hold ourselves to impeccable standards, and there should be no cause for concern that any one considering our record in this matter would question us. The notion that our leaders want some people to think we may torture them is really pathetic actually. How the mighty have fallen, and our leaders have set us on the path tread by the past monsters of history, indeed the very monsters of our own times which we once railed against for precisely the same actions which we now permit. It is well within many of our memories how our then leaders railed against the Soviets over their use of the very same gulags which we now use ourselves to disappear our captives!

And now we actually hear the leader of American intelligence services admit that he believes it is in our best interests that the people we capture to think they will be tortured. How wrong headed is that?! George Washington and the other great leaders of this nation must be twirling in their graves.

The believable threat of torture is in itself an unacceptable form of psychological torture, and now our leaders have tipped their hand. It doesn't matter now what kind of nuance or justification they have for the inquiries at this point. Now we know they want Muslims to think they will be tortured if we capture them, and that is all we really need to know, isn't it.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Politics In Iraq: Americans Never Will Get It...

Lately there has been a lot of hot air blowing about how outrageous it is that the Iraqi parliament is taking the month of August off. I wonder what exactly would we expect to see accomplished if the parliament kept working though?

The politicians and sundry other punditry want to see some political benchmarks set in order to be able to say that progress is being made in Iraq. I contend that the political table is set, that we are where we are because of the political realities on the ground in Iraq. Sitting around gazing at our navels in contemplation of how far we have to go to reach political benchmarks is to engage in the wrong endeavor. By America setting up benchmarks and pleading with the leadership of Iraq to meet those goals, we are not accepting reality.

This then is the reality. American benchmarks have relatively little bearing in the political realities governing Iraq. When Maliki told the world the other day that American forces could feel free to leave and the Iraqi's would defend themselves he was cluing us into the political reality of a sectarian Shiite leader. Maliki feels that the Shiites are strong enough to be able to win, or at least defend themselves in a civil war with the Sunni.

Remember when Bush met with Maliki in Jordan when the surge was in the planning stages. The part that made the most news was how Maliki stood Bush up on the first day. The part that truly has the most effect on the situation however was what Maliki proposed to Bush in place of the surge. Maliki wanted American forces pulled back from Baghdad and to be allowed to control the capitol on his own. His intention was obvious. Maliki was counting on the Shiite militias to give Baghdad a sectarian cleansing. After several months of horrendous violence, Baghdad would have been a largely Shiite stronghold, and that puts that sect well down the road to domination of the most important parts of Iraq. Now all this is from the perspective of Maliki... who we may as well consider to be a Shiite warlord at this point.

The Kurds have consolidated the north. Right now their major concern is the border with Turkey. As the Turks mass forces on the border and threaten to wipe out Kurdistan, Americans hear the occasional whisper of news from Northern Iraq. Compared to the rest of the nation though, northern Iraq is a bastion of stability, so American attention is widely diverted from that region. That will change if the Turks invade, or if the Shiite consolidate the south of Iraq and move to take the city of Kirkuk.

The Sunni's seem to have come to the realization that the only thing protecting them from a bloody awful extermination at the hands of the Shiite are American forces. Without Americans patrolling Baghdad the chances are there would have been an influx of refugees from that city flooding Anbar. I am convinced that the recent good news from Anbar describing the ousting of the Taliban [erm... Al Qaeda, thank you PragueTwin in comments for the correction] is a recognition by the Sunni that American forces are all that remain between them and a losing position in a long drawn and bloody civil war.

But what this comes down to is that political benchmarks designated by Americans are just that. American. These benchmarks are doomed to fail because they are not in the best interests of the Iraqi's, unless you consider being a western puppet to be in Iraqs best interests. Those benchmarks are for the benefit of American politicians and military commanders. I am convinced that long after we are gone that the situation on the ground will have worked itself out in such a way as to be relatively stable, but not recognizable when judged by the goals set forth by American leadership.

We need to recognize this is an Iraqi problem, which will have an Iraqi solution. It may well end with 3 states, and the Sunni getting the short end of a long stick. (That is the most likely long term outcome from my perspective) Perhaps regional powers will get dragged into the fray and the end result can not even be imagined at this point. (Imagine Saudi Arabia Jordan and Syria backing the Sunni, Iran backing the Shiite and Turkey slugging it out with the Kurds and how that ends is any ones guess).

So if American politicians expect any great movement on the political benchmarks we Americans want to see reached in Iraq, I'm afraid that hope is just another manifestation of wrong headed happy think.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Thats A Dynomite Talking Point!

People who follow the news day in and out know a talking point when they hear it. Typically a talking point is distributed by the White House to the right wing noise machine, who in turn spreads it around the air waves. But lately there has been a talking point from Democrats making the rounds, and I must say that I really like it.

Here is Senator Harry Reid rolling out the talker today: They are protecting the President rather than protecting our troops.

Here's Senator Webb in his beat down of Senator Graham on Sundays Meet The Press, with the same point in different words: "We’re now in a situation where the soldiers and the Marines are having less than a one to one ratio, and somebody needs to speak up for them rather than simply defending what this president’s been doing."

I detect a theme developing, and this point is actually spot on target. President Bush's policies have required the sacrifice of the military, and their families... and you hear a lot of hot air from Republicans about supporting the troops, but all they are really worried about is that the President be protected. It is actually embarrassing to watch these administration flunkies out there defending obviously wrong headed policies that cost American lives and treasure just so their President can go back to Crawford and leave the mess to the next President.

Let me say this as plainly as can be said. I realize what I'm about to say is inflammatory, but I'm the guy who repeatedly states that Bush is the top recruitment officer for Al Qaeda housed in Washington D.C. so just deal with it. The President is responsible for the death of hundreds of military members solely with the intention of not having a loss in Iraq as a part of his legacy.

I'm not even going to specifically fault him for invading and the first few years of occupation in this context. After last years mid term elections which swept Democrats to power, followed by the Iraq Study Group telling us the obvious truth that there could be no "victory" in Iraq... after it should have been clear to everybody that the jig was up... Bush chose to send more soldiers to their deaths.

At this point there can be no doubt as to why he is behaving like this. Bush's prideful nature can not allow him to admit the defeat wrought by his own wrong headed and bumbling handling of the entire Iraq debacle. Americans are literally dying by the hundreds, being maimed and disabled, having their families ripped asunder, because of George Bush's pride!

If the President has his way on this, Bush will claw along until the end... leaving the entire mess in someone elses lap. Then when it all comes tumbling down, Bush and his few remaining sychophants will declare that the President who was handed the mess is at fault for not seeing the affair through to victory. The rest of the world will know better, but that doesn't matter to these delusional types. If they can justify it in their own mind, no matter how tenuous the logic, they will be able to sleep at night and wake the next day to continue the charade.

Frankly, I think this game by the President will only serve to sully his legacy even further. Not only did he blow it by invading a nation which did not threaten us, but Bush set policies which led to quagmire, and then refused to end the mess once it became apparent to everybody that staying was futile... because of his prideful nature. What a failure of a President.

Whenever I consider this legacy stuff I like to recall the days immediately following 9/11. The nation was united as never before with red white and blue lining our cities streets. The Presidents approval was over 90%, and the entire rest of the world stood with us in the new struggle. The President has followed disastrous policies which split this nation's people one from another, and alienated us from the rest of the world. The man who came to power promising to be a uniter, had the nation united under his leadership as has never been seen prior to that moment, but leaves us deeply divided amongst ourselves. How ironic that it was Osama Bin Laden who was the uniter, and George Bush who was the divider.

Thus it is that the lapdog Republicans who continue to enable this atrocity are responsible for protecting the President. Thus it is that Democrats and Republicans of good faith are spot on when they describe the lapdog R's as protecting the President and not the troops. It is a point that I'm happy to see spread around.

Friday, July 13, 2007

A Possible Gore Run? My Take For Dumbies

So I've gotten all mixed up in a site called Helium which asks members to contribute articles that are judged against other articles by users. The title of the article is determined, and writers submit articles based upon the title.

I've submitted three articles: 2 on politics and 1 on how our family named our cats. The major difference between Helium and blogging is that Helium doesn't allow linking and the way that site works with preset titles it's not focused on the immediate news of the day.

Well, I noticed Helium recruiting writers for an article titled: "Will Al Gore bid for 2008 and could he do it?" This article was being solicited by a magazine who wanted a bit of detail on Gores environmental activism and whether or not he may run for President... and win (or I suppose do) it.

Normally I wouldn't cross post something like my effort at that type of article, because I'm certain that the average person who stumbles over Club Lefty is politically aware enough to not be interested in a pretty basic primer on Al Gore and speculation on a possible Gore run. But I thought I'd post my article from there to Club Lefty, just to see if there is any positive response. Or any response at all. I suppose no response is it's own response in a way.

Before I post the article, let me point out the major error I've found in reading it, after posting it. I reference Gores prescient opposition to the Iraq war in the fall of 2001, but the particular speech I'm thinking of actually occurred in the fall of 02. I also misspell "will" about 3/4 of the way through the article.

So without further ado, here is my cross post from Helium to Club Lefty on the question... Will Al Gore bid for 2008 and could he do it?:

We are faced with two questions while considering a possible bid by Al Gore for the Presidency. Will Gore run and can he win?

The first part of this equation is the most difficult. Gore has already tasted life in the White House and it is evident that his experience as Vice President did not dissuade him from wishing to make his own mark as President. Gore witnessed President Clinton being savaged by partisanship that has rarely been witnessed in American history. Witnessing President Clinton's political crucifixion (and triumphant resurrection) up close and personal did not dissuade Gore from running in 2000. People who know about such things describe the itch to be President as a bug that is hard to be rid of and Gore running in 2000 may well prove their point.

It is difficult to imagine the disappointment Gore felt after actually winning the 2000 election, but losing the majority of the electoral college votes. Yet Gore must consider the nations perception of the Presidency of George Bush as a sort of vindication.

Since the traumatic events of 2000, Gore has risen to the challenge of maintaining relevance after politics as few have ever have managed to accomplish. Gore's stance against the Iraq invasion in the fall of 2001 seems prescient in hindsight. His repeated affirmations of the constitutional principles on which America was founded seem more enlightened with each passing day. Each revelation of possible criminality and cover up from the Bush administration serves to strengthen Gores repeated calls for principled and constitutional leadership.

Where Gore has made the biggest mark is with the issue that defined him from the early days of his career in politics. He has long been a proponent for the environment, holding the first hearings on the issue of global warming as a member of Congress in the 1970's. He wrote Earth In The Balance, which was released in 1992. His best known contribution was the documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which changed American perceptions on the issue of global warming. Gore has proven himself a mighty champion for the causes he promotes and being able to use the power of the Presidency would give him an unmatched platform to affect those issues.

After finding this success in a life apart from politics the question of whether or not Gore wil see fit to run again is a very valid one. Gore has seen the ugliest side of the worst partisanship up close and personal. He was exposed to that ugliness, and then bitterly disappointed after the 2000 election debacle. Who could blame him for not wanting to put his family and himself through that again.

But... we are asked to consider if he does decide to run, can he win? This part of the equation is exceedingly simple. He already has won a national election. In fact he has been a part of a ticket which has won a total of three national elections. Gore won the election of 2000 by over half a million votes and there is no reason to suppose he could be the top of the ticket and do it again. The fluke that kept Gore from taking the oath of office would be nearly impossible to replicate. With this in mind, I think it is not only possible that he would win, but likely. Further, with the current mood of the nation, it is likely that Gore could come to power with a solidified Democratic majority in Congress.

A ticket of Al Gore/Barak Obama would be hard to beat by anything the Republicans would nominate.

So to answer the two sides of the equation: Will Gore run. On a scale of 1-10 I give the probability that he does a 7. He's had the bug, and it's hard to be rid of. If he does run will he win? I'll give that a 9.5 on the scale.

My advice To Republicans, Redux

The President gave a news conference yesterday which Peggy Noonan (yes... I will now throw up a link to Peggy freaking Noonan!) saw fit to write a column about.

Noonan writes on the growing masses of people who get irritated at the sound of George Bush's voice. People who she knows were once Bush supporters, but now talk of not being able to believe a word that comes from the Presidents mouth. Taking the W stickers off the car and gritting their teeth until the end of this disastrous Presidency.

When it is Peggy Noonan preaching to the right wing choir that having this attitude can no longer be sloughed off as "Bush derangement syndrome" but that there are real issues with this Presidents style in public appearances which gall typical folk, someone HAS to start taking notice. I've been on that wagon for well over a year now (this will be my 5th post this year alone advising the Republican establishment and the White House to do themselves and the nation a huge favor by "muzzling" Bush) and having Peggy-right wing rah rah girl-Noonan take note may finally result in someone who can do something doing something.

As if to reinforce my perception that the right wing talking heads who are forced to justify this administration are lame brained, Ed Rogers was on Hardball last night spouting precisely the opposite message:
BARNICLE: The press conference this morning, president of the United States, how is he going to keep the Republicans in check here?

ROGERS: By having...

BARNICLE: I mean, people are walking away from...


ROGERS: By having press conferences, in effect, pleading, in effect, reminding people over and over there is a logic to his position.
How it is that Rogers thinks the President pleading and cajoling with press conferences is going to keep Republicans in line just mystifies me. The President has had an absolutely frenetic schedule recently. Everyday he is somewhere giving a speech and the feeling of the people that he is lying to us on a regular basis is destroying him. Rogers has it exactly backwards. The way for the President to try to hold Republicans is to muzzle himself. It is in his best interests that the American people not be reminded on a daily basis that the President is an out of touch, congenital liar.

Of course Rogers can't help but parrot administration talking points which makes the idiocy understandable. He talks about the tremendous recruiting tool that leaving Iraq would give to Al Qaeda. Hello?! What is the invasion and occupation of an Arab land if not THE ultimate recruitment tool for them? Duh! Fixing that error, one of the, if not the worst strategic blunder in this nations military history is not somehow wrong headed...

So anyway it's stuff like that which drives me and most of the rest of the nation batty. The obviously wrong headed delusions spouted by Bush and his apologists. The President assertively proclaims fantasy as reality, and mistaken policies as the correct course to pursue, making everybody who disagrees with him seem like we are somehow blind and wrong in our assumptions even as the entire world can see and understands that it is the President and his loud mouthed toadies who are deluded and mistaken.

At least Peggy Noonan appears to be reaching an understanding of this problem. If she see's it there is a very good chance that the truth of the matter will spread into the circles of power, and soon the President will be prevailed upon to do himself and the nation a favor by hushing himself.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Oh yeah... read this...

Click the title to read the absolute truth about Iraq.

Then do something.

Call your Congress critter. Stand on the corner with a sign. If you don't already have a blog start one.

And remember... America has come to this point because of the Bush administration. I expect war crimes trials for the perpetuation of an unjust war which has resulted in an absolute disaster to our nation in so many ways. We must serve justice. If we sit by and avert our attention we are no better than any other nation which has allowed dictators to march them to war using patriotism and God to have their evil ways.

That article has got me a bit fired up... can you tell?

Mailing It In For Thursday

For my fellow bloggers who occasionally drop by, what I'm experiencing today is probably something which afflicts all bloggers every now and then. I'm fresh out of blogger inspiration. I'm just writing this post to toss a little sumpin sumpin up on a work day.

The pity of it is that there really appears to be so much to take on. It's like there is so much going on that it's overwhelmed me. Bush sounded like a goofball at his press conference today. Miers took contempt of Congress to a whole new level. Barbara Boxer said that impeachment is not off the table, because you can't just take the Constitution off the table. There really is a lot of material to post on today.

Maybe part of my problem is I've gotten just a bit hooked on a new site. Helium. It's a site where you post writing and other people judge your story compared to other stories. And if you are good enough at it you might even make some sheckels. If anyone has heard of it or has any horror stories leave me your impression in comments if you don't mind.

In the meantime... I'm gonna go back to surfing the tubes, feeling partially motivated to post on topics every now and then... but not inspired enough to actually put my mind to it and bash out a post.

I'll come back strong tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Cult Of Bush

Todays report by the N.Y. Times regarding the testimony of former Surgeon General Richard Carmona's testimony to a congressional panel really should scare the poop out of normal people. Administration koolaid drinkers will probably feel heartened, but what Dr. Carmona testifies he experienced as the Surgeon General of the Bush administration sounds like what we would hear from a North Korean defector.

Dr. Carmona testified under oath, so if it can be proven that he's lied in his testimony he may be subject to federal charges of perjury and contempt of Congress. Can you imagine telling tall tales about the administration under those conditions? I rather doubt it.

Carmona confirms the many other reports by scientists, and those who are nominally supposed to be guided by science in the Bush administration, of having policy based strictly upon politics.
On issue after issue, Dr. Carmona said, the administration made decisions about important public health issues based solely on political considerations, not scientific ones.

“I was told to stay away from those because we’ve already decided which way we want to go,” Dr. Carmona said.
Can you imagine the frustration of a scientist or a doctor who reaches the pinnacle of his profession in the U.S. government, only to have some political flunky advise them that they really shouldn't concern themselves on the issues they are expert in, because the policy has already been set? Also of note is how the policies under this administration invariably contradict the science. The Bush administration has entirely politicized the entire administrative branch of government. This is another example of how the Cult of Bush has taken control of the executive branch and America needs a serious intervention in order to deal with this problem. It is now up to Congress, and frankly they have not given me cause for confidence in their ability to grow spines and end this travesty.

Carmona describes having political operatives "order" him to mention President Bush three times on every page of each speech he gave while Surgeon General. Dr. Carmona also describes a report which has yet to be released after he "refused to sprinkle the report with glowing references to the efforts of the Bush administration". This seriously sounds like the stuff we used to hear about coming from the Kremlin of the old U.S.S.R.

How could any self respecting person deal with this type of enforced Bush cultism? For that matter, is there no shame from the political minders of the administration? Would not a normal person feel a sense of shame in so blatantly calling for political intervention in matters which are not in the least political. Remember, these scientists and doctors who are being imposed upon are people who are tops in their fields in the endeavor they have made their life's work. These are not your typical political proteges, fresh out of Liberty university and into the Republican machine. Dr. Carmona is a well respected medical professional. His job is to heal people and set policy based upon the best interests of a healthy nation, not to be some boot licker for President Bush.

This is the same problem which has led to the destruction of the Justice Department under President Bush. Listen to what constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley says on Countdown with Brother Olbermann:
This president, to be blunt, has ruined this institution. I have litigated against the Justice Department my whole career, but there was always respect, a mutual respect, but always respect for the institution and its body of work. It is gone. There are many people I‘ve talked to in the Justice Department who are abhorred by just what is going on there.

The loss of integrity, the politicization of the institution. It is a destruction of one of our oldest and most cherished institutions and this president did it in very fast order.
Professor Turley is hardly a left wing radical, having testified to Congress in support of the impeachment of Bill Clinton. The destruction which Turley bemoans has been due to the politicization of the Justice Department at the hands of the Cult of Bush. The wild eyed fervent young graduates of Liberty university who were installed into the high levels of the department and given the keys to hire and fire career employees were not suited to the job, except as political cronies. They now admit to crossing the line in injecting politics where career positions are concerned. These people, be they in the Justice Department or overseeing scientists at NASA, The Park Service, or the Surgeon Generals office are nothing but zealots, convinced they are doing Gods work and that George Bush is Gods hand servant on Earth. It is quite literally the Cult of Bush.

I suggest the political handlers who are forcing scientists and doctors to mention Bush in speeches and insert clauses in reports which reflect glowingly upon his leadership move to North Korea after they are booted from the White House. After this nation is rid of our dear leader, I'm certain the dear leader of North Korea could use their services.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Vitter Scandal: Why Does GOP Go There?!

I was honestly trying to be nice regarding the sex scandal surrounding Senator David Vitter (R LA). Even after it was revealed that Vitter was a cosigner of the defense of marriage act (attendant with the standard hot air about the sanctity of marriage and how evil homo's are) and his wife was quoted in 2000 threatening to cut off his equipment if she were ever given the Hillary treatment, I was seriously trying to stay nice and just let him resign in shame... BUT then I read a story titled GOP official says Vitter should resign. (H/t therawstory)

The headline drew my interest so I clicked through to read the story and, to my absolute astonishment I read the following:
In the wake of U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s apology after his phone number turned up in an escort service's call list, a member of the Republican State Central Committee called for him to resign.

Vincent Bruno of Kenner said today that Vitter should resign “for his own good, the good of the party and the good of his family.” If he doesn’t resign, Vitter should “join the Democratic Party where they think that kind of behavior is OK.”
If I didn't know better I would have to think the Bruno is just trying to lob softballs to the Democrats. Bruno must be a Democratic plant in the leadership of the Louisiana GOP, and he's using Vitter in order to sic Democrats onto the sordid history of Republican hypocricy in regards to family values.

Ok then... Let me defend the Democratic party by going down the path which Bruno wanted to take. Let us simply consider the party Bruno is a leader in. The GOP is the party of Newt Gingrich, who carried on an extramarital affair even as he led the impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton. Dan Burton was another impeachment leader, despite fathering an illegitimate baby. Henry Hyde also rabble roused for impeachment, before being exposed for having an affair that broke up a family when discovered.

Rudy Giuliani, the current front runner for the GOP nomination has been married 3 times, had multiple affairs while married, and is on film cross dressing while having Donald Trump feel him up! I mean seriously Mr. Bruno... why even go there?

<----The Front Runner For The GOP's Nomination For President Rudy Giuliani. The GOP Also Includes Vincent Bruno Of Louisiana.

Do I really need to continue? Mark Foley, Ted Haggard, Dan Livingston, Tom Delay... I mean even Strom Thurmond, the poster boy for pre civil rights segregation was diddling the 'colored' help when he was a young'n.

I'm sorry Bruno... you're really going to have to do better than claiming that some GOP Senator ought to be a Democrat because of his hooker troubles. If anything, with Bruno's attitude about wholesome goodness maybe he is the one who should switch parties.

Lieberman: The War Is Not Lost, The War Is Lost.

Joe Lieberman (? CT) was interviewed in right wing radio world by Bill Bennet. Lieberman used the toxic ambiance of the Bennet program to launch an attack on Senator Harry Reid (D NV)

Lieberman is well known for his insane ramblings about Iraq and the middle east so I don't think it's very surprising that he is taking on opponents of the quagmire. However, in slamming Reid around, Lieberman seems to declare that the war is not lost, even as he declares that it is lost:
You know, Harry Reid said a while ago that the war in Iraq is lost. It's wrong. It's not lost. In fact, I would say we're beginning to win it. We've turned the tide with the new strategy. And in fact, I cannot conceive of a circumstance in which American forces would lose the war in Iraq, on the ground in Iraq. If we lose it, it's gonna be lost here at home, in a different kind of war for public opinion and political support."
Based upon that criteria, the war has been lost. When Lieberman says "If we lose it, it's going to be lost here at home" he is conceding defeat by any sane reading of the situation. Public support for the war is in the cellar, and the wide majority is calling for withdrawal within a year.

Frankly Lieberman going to the "we're beginning to win it" rhetoric is just laughable. How many times has Lieberman, not the President or other right wing blow hards but Lieberman in particular, waxed eloquent about turning the corner, signs of victory, the improving situation and so on and on and on. Let us take an incomplete trip down memory lane, courtesy of Joe-we're beginning to win-Lieberman:
11/29/05 I have just returned from my fourth trip to Iraq in the past 17 months and can report real progress there. More work needs to be done, of course, but the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood--unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn.

Progress is visible and practical.
Yet amazingly, the outlook in Iraq improved in a marked fashion immediately after this quote, because three weeks later Lieberman noted an improvement... in the past two weeks!
12/17/05 "The last two weeks have been critically important and I believe may be seen as a turning point in the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism,"
Here is Mr. Lieberman in a debate with Ned Lamont during the Democratic primary for his Connecticut Senate seat. Which primary I remind you Lieberman lost, due in large part to his nonsensical blather on Iraq.
07/07/06 "The situation in Iraq is a lot better, different than it was a year ago. The Iraqis held three elections. They formed a unity government. They are on the way to building a free and independent Iraq. Their military -- two-thirds of their military is now ready, on their own, to lead the fight with some logistical backing from the U.S. or stand up on their own totally. That's progress."
One is left with the conclusion that Lieberman habitually thinks we are winning in Iraq, no matter how obvious it may be to the rest of the world that he and the rest of the Bush bots are dead wrong. Now Lieberman himself has given us a yardstick which by any measure serves to demonstrate the war is lost. The yardstick of public opinion.

Unfortunately we must conclude that Lieberman actually does not believe his own rhetoric. But in telling us that a war fought by this nation must have public support or be doomed to fail, Lieberman actually has a point. He just needs to actually recognize his own point.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Bush's Record For Being Wrong On Iraq Continues

The A.P. is reporting that the Iraqi government has missed every benchmark for political, economic and other reform in a progress report to be delivered to Congress this week.

This makes over four years running in which every major policy undertaken by President Bush with respect to Iraq will have been conclusively proven to be wrong in foundation, scope and undertaking. Look at his record this way. Bush has allowed the greatest military machine in the history of human kind to be fought to a standstill by several tens of thousands of insurgents armed with homemade bombs. That is the record of his leadership as commander in chief in a nutshell.

When President Bush announced the surge early this year he was clear. There would be certain expectations of the U.S. backed government in Baghdad. These expectations have been missed in every respect, and yet again we see that the President has embarked this nation on a policy which is wrong headed. Over 500 American service members have been killed since the President announced the surge.

The record of futility by this administration truly is amazing. The only thing they did right in this entire sorry affair was the military overthrow of Saddam. They were wrong headed and mistaken in their arguments leading us into the war, but the actual invasion itself was conducted in fine style even if there were some hiccups along the way like Turkey not playing ball.

So the unbroken record of administration stupidity commences immediately after the invasion, with the failure to secure the populace which led to widespread looting, and continues to this very day with the now failed surge.

The same applies to the Bush apologists who have been cheering him all along. The record of wrong headed prognostication and general hot aired idiocy we have been exposed to from the neoconservative toadies in the media can not be fathomed. It would be difficult to look at any major argument which they have forwarded which makes any sense at all in hindsight. The record of these Bushie cheerleaders can be summed up with one simple word. Pathetic.

It is up to Congress to take the keys from this unfathomably incompetent gang of cronies and try to get the American bus out of the Iraqi quagmire. Congress MUST remember that at no single point since the invasion has Bush or his enablers been right in setting forth policy, so they can't let him be the final word on the solution.

In fact the record of Bush incompetence is so utterly complete that I don't trust him to oversee the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. I think he would find a way to botch that. His heart simply isn't in it, and there is no more dangerous undertaking than the withdrawal of an army from the presence of an active and lethal enemy. If Bush were to oversee a withdrawal and things went off the tracks, as they almost certainly would under his dunderbrained leadership, the resulting mess could be truly awful.

The Senate seems to be moving to a solution which implements the Iraq Study Groups findings as policy going forward. This plan envisions a pull back from the population centers in Iraq and a draw down of troop levels with approximately 30,000 remaining in theater for force protection by March of 08. I would tend to support such a course of action going forward with an eye to the complete removal of forces under the leadership of the next President.

Let the military plan for a pull back in Iraq, based upon the ISG findings, and then let the next President be the one to withdraw the troops. As much as I believe we need to get out of Iraq I just don't trust Bush to get a full scale withdrawal right because his record is so dismal.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

When Being A Democrat Might Land You In Prison

The Libby pardon has served to starve the Justice Department Scandal of air. But for those following those events, there has been a new element recently added to the mix. The conviction of former Alabama Democratic Governor Don Siegelman on corruption charges for a supposed quid pro quo when he appointed Richard Scrushy to a state panel overseeing the permits process for building new hospitals in Alabama.

What brought this trial to national prominence is the sworn affidavit of a well connected Republican lawyer who assisted Siegelman's Republican opponent in the 2002 campaign. According to this affidavit Karl Rove influenced the U.S. prosecutor to bring the charges against Siegelmann.

This in and of itself throws the prosecution of Siegelmann into an entirely new and sinister light. Can it be true that Rove is capable of instigating Justice Department investigation and prosecutions of political enemies? In effect simply being a Democrat can be cause for criminal proceedings at the hand of the Bush administration.

I suppose however if the case against Siegelmann is strong enough, even if it were politically motivated at inception, one would be hard pressed to stand in defense of a proven crook. After all, Siegelmann was found guilty on seven counts all revolving around his dealings with Scrushy. However Siegelmann was acquitted on 25 other charges.

Looking at the facts of the case, one is struck by the lack of criminality in what the Federal government seems to be accusing Siegelmann of. In particular the government charges that Scrushy paid $500,000 to the campaign for a state lottery that would pay state school tuition's. In return the government claims that Scrushy was appointed to the board by Siegelmann in a nefarious quid pro quo.

Yet there is no claim the Siegelmann was personally enriched by the transaction. And Siegelmann had been appointed to the same board by the three past governors, all of them Republicans.

Further, in reading the case that Siegelmann's lawyers are taking to appeal, it is hard to fathom how the jury deliberations were allowed to stand in the first place. Or how they reached their findings. Siegelmanns lawyers are in possession of Gmail's between two of the jurors, sent while the jury was deliberating, which prove that those jurors were determined to find the defendants guilty, and were looking up information which had not been presented to the jury over the internet. Once these emails were found, how could that jury be allowed to continue their duties in respect to Siegelmann? That is a clear cause for mistrial, or the dismissal of the verdict in case the evidence of outside influence on the jury be found after the verdict is announced.

As to the question of how the jury reached the conclusion they did, it is clear that the testimony of the one witness which the government used to hang their case on was hardly credible. In fact it can be conclusively proven that the facts which the witness purported to have witnessed were physically impossible. That witness is one Nick Bailey, who pleaded guilty to an assortment of white collar crimes and agreed in a plea deal to cooperate with the feds in the prosecution of Siegelmann. Bailey purported to discuss the quid pro quo with Siegelmann who was holding the check from Scrushy as they discussed the transaction. But Bailey places that conversation on a date in which the check had yet to be written. Thus Bailey is witness to an event which could not have occurred.

Bailey does not claim to have been present when the check was written or to have heard the quid pro quo worked out when it happened. His testimony in effect is hearsay as to Scrushy's understanding of the supposed transaction. It may well be the case the Scrushy simply wrote a check without any idea as to how Siegelmann would consider that, and that Bailey connected the dots when Siegelmann mentioned appointing Scrushy to the board he had already sat on during past administrations. That is not a quid pro quo... that is politics. A person who donates to the causes the politician in question roots for is far more likely to be promoted than one who donates to causes the politician finds odious. Duh!

So the one witness the government relies upon is using a plea deal to lessen his sentence, witnessing something it is not possible to witness, and not actually witnessing the quid pro quo in the first place. Siegelmann is guilty of not personally benefiting from the proceeds of his "criminal" undertaking, and Scrushy was appointed to a board he was appointed to under the past two Republican governors.

What is the crime in that? I rather suspect the crime is that Siegelmann was a Democrat in the home state of Karl Rove.

This case if very reminiscent of the recent dismissal of charges against Georgia Thompson, after she was found guilty of being a Democrat corruption charges brought the the U.S. attorney in Wisconsin. The appeals court summarily dismissed the charges against her (she actually saved the state money by signing the cheapest contractor, as opposed to spending more money for an out of state contractor) calling the evidence against her "beyond thin".

We've got major problems with political persecution of Democrats by the Bush Justice Department, and Siegelmann is sitting in jail right now because of it. Quite frankly it's an outrage, and something which ought to concern Republicans as well. After all, they will not hold the keys to the White House forever. All they have to guarantee that their ox will not be gored, as they have gored the Democratic ox, is the trust in the good faith of the Democrats.

Friday, July 06, 2007

So Freaking Predictable: Clinton Did It Too

Who didn't see this coming? It is so predictable. When President Bush pulls a stunt which goes against every principle he's ever stood for and the entire nation (besides the inevitable right wing koolaid crowd) hoots and hollers in unified derision, the inevitable refrain from the Bush toadies is Clinton did it too.

I just want to scream when I hear some spineless Democratic talking head sputter and stutter over the latest Clinton did it talking point. Clinton did not do anything remotely similar to Bush's pardon of Scooter Libby. If Clinton had actually pardoned a member of his administration who had lied to a grand jury in order to cover the tracks of the Vice President and/or Clinton himself, the Republicans would have formed a lynchmob.

The case which most closely approximates the Libby situation is that of Susan McDougal. McDougal was indeed pardoned by Bill Clinton when he left office, but she spent 18 months in prison before Clinton's pardon for refusing to testify against Clinton. She spent all that time in prison, including 7 weeks in solitary confinement, on civil contempt charges for refusing to testify, and President Clinton had the same power to free her which Bush just used to free Libby. I think it is positively outrageous to compare Bush's self serving commutation of the Libby sentence with what Clinton did in McDougals case. Susan McDougal had the courage to stand for what she believed in, in defiance of a prosecutor gone wild, even as she rotted in jail. Her example has no comparison to Libby, who Bush and Cheney were afraid would start squealing like a stuck pig if he had to spend even one night in jail. Besides which nobody died in the Whitewater deal. Literally hundreds of thousands have died in the war which Libby lied to help get us into.

The most commonly cited pardon these brain dead right wingers bring out is the final day pardon by Clinton of Marc Rich. Can anyone show how Rich's prosecution, incarceration, fining, or otherwise legal harassment would have ever touched on anything relating to a legal issue regarding Bill Clinton? Oh oh oh!!! Don't forget that Rich's legal representative in Washington D.C. was none other than Lewis Libby...

The fact is that nearly ALL Presidencies are closed with a flurry of pardons. What is not a fact is that Clinton, or any other President, kept administration figures out of prison after being found guilty of multiple felonies in the pursuit of covering up the wrongdoing of people higher up the food chain. Wait a minute... there actually is one example of a President using pardon of an administration figure who could have told tales about that President. Digby reminds us all about George Bush the firsts pardon of Cap Weinberger over the Iran Contra affair, in a post appropriately titled Very Close To The Tree.

One really can't help but wonder how queasy it must make a typical right wing administration robot feel to continuously have to fall back on the Clinton did it too meme. Everything about these folks exudes disdain for Clinton. Clinton hatred defines these people. Yet they always find themselves measuring their manifestly wrong headed blunders by the Clinton yardstick. They also are invariably wrong in measuring themselves by the Clinton yardstick, comparing Clinton's apple to Bush's rancid pile of dung and equating both as equal. If Clinton pardoned Rich it's ok that Bush pardoned Libby. If Clinton issued a signing statement congratulating Congress on moving some piece of legislation to his desk, or clarifying legitimately obscure language in the bill until such point as Congress revisits the issue, then it's ok for Bush to issue a signing statement changing the meaning and intent of the bill he is signing. And so on and on and on.

The idea that one would justify their position by looking for the examples provided by someone they consider horrible shows how weak their position is. It actually reminds me of the weak justifications we heard for torturing detainees, and the Iraqi populace of Abu Ghraib. The terrorists treat people they capture even worse. They behead their captives. Well gee... Saddam strung up his prisoners and had rape rooms. We should be able to torture a bit because we're still not as bad as the enemy. Christopher Hitchens wrote a screed in 2005 that echoed precisely this logic. To paraphrase...'why is the west on the defensive over Abu Ghraib when under Saddam it was so much worse?'

Because Mr. Hitchens we SHOULD be better. We MUST be better. I mean... duh.

The right wing gas bags of this nation look at the enemy when they look for the standards they should hold themselves too. Whether it be in real war, or the political civil war they are losing so badly. George Washington didn't look to the example provided by the British with their ghastly prison ships when he decreed that British prisoners would be treated with respect. Remember, most of the people held by the Brits were captured civilians, not wearing a uniform and quite often involved in what today would be defined as terrorism.

Besides which, Republicans would be well served to consider how this is liable to come back to bite them. Can they imagine the shocking depths of depravity this nation will be exposed to if President Hillary Clinton is allowed to argue that Bush did it too!?

Oh that's right... we already are experiencing those shocking depths of depravity. It's just that the administration koolaid drinkers think it's ok because we have President Bush taking us down the drain.

I just know that if I ever hear a future Democratic President justifying some blunder with the admonition that Bush did it too, I'm probably going to retch.

Bush Derangement Syndrome Redefined

Andrew Sullivan has posted an email he received accusing him of being a victim of "Bush derangement syndrome".

The term Bush derangement syndrome is a pejorative term used by conservatives to tar political opponents. Charles Krauthammer coined the term in a column he wrote in 2003. Here is the definition of the term as provided by Krauthammer: "the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency — nay — the very existence of George W. Bush". If you listen to talk radio, Fox News or read the conservative blogosphere, you have most likely stumbled over this term.

One must wonder if Bush derangement syndrome must apply only to opponents of Bush. How is it that near slavish devotion to the President is indicative of mental soundness? The case may be made that the neoconservatives and hard right evangelicals who continue to supply the only support for this manifestly disastrous President are the ones who are mentally unbalanced.

You could almost feel the exhilaration of the Republican base when the President took his stand on the immigration issue and the wingnut task masters on Fox and Talk Radio signalled that it was time to finally protest a Bush policy. At last, the great mass of right wing koolaid drinking Bushbots were able to loose the political chains that bound them, and attack the President. They did so with glee, vitriol spewing from the White House and Congressional switchboards as well as the radio speakers if you happened to tune to the wrong station. Finally the attack dogs were given a chance to leap at the throat of the President, and they did not let that chance pass. The task masters had given their charges the keys to the chains that bound them for so long, and they were just thrilled at the freedom they had not experienced since Bill Clinton exited the White House.

Of course there are other scattered examples of this type of brief parting of the ways between Bush and his base. The nomination of Harriet Myers is such an example. But the overall point remains valid. The hard right wing koolaid drinkers are slavishly devoted to a failed President, and that truth is what should be the cause of concern amongst those psychoanalyzing the American electorate. It turns out that my side of the political divide were prescient regarding the issues we were railing about when Krauthammer wrote his cutesy little meme, and the strange mental behavior is being exibited by the other side.

There are a myriad of examples in which the vitriol given to Bush over immigration would normally have been expected from this very same group, yet the partisanship (which is what sunk immigration) that defines their very reason for existence has kept them silent. For example... Bush ran in 2000 on a platform of fiscal responsibility. Yet now fiscal responsibility is a trademark Democratic rallying cry, helping us win the Congress in the last election. One must consider outrage at the current state of the budget as a sign of so called Bush derangement syndrome, because the fact is that a very large percentage of the vituperation directed at the President on this score has been from the lefty blogosphere and our allies. Indeed a sure sign that a conservative is moving out of the darkness is the first time they write a blistering critique of budgetary affairs under this Presidents tutelage.

Remember the Bush promise in 2000 to not use our military to nation build? That was supposed to be a dig at Clinton's involvement in foreign affairs. Who could have even imagined then that our military would be fed into a quagmire in Iraq with the oft expressed mission of standing them up so we can stand down? Yet, somehow, building Iraq is now a signature Republican position. Only one Republican Presidential candidate is running against the war, and Ron Paul is considered a kook by the vast majority of his own party. One must consider condemnation of the Presidents manifest disaster in Iraq as a worrisome sign of so called Bush derangement syndrome. Indeed, a sure sign that a conservative is moving to enlightenment is the first time they write a blistering critique of the handling of the Iraq debacle by President Bush.

Who could have ever imagined the party of Ronald Reagan supporting the torture of captives? Reagan made his name lambasting the Soviet Union for their gulags and human rights violations. Yet we have come to the point where President Bush is literally using the very same gulags the Soviets used in order to disappear people the President determines are allied with Al Qaeda. It is the world turned upside down, where black is white, and the right wing koolaid drinkers line up in blind support of this abomination in our names. One must consider outspoken affirmation of American ideals for human rights and against our detainee policy as a symptom of so called Bush derangement syndrome. Indeed a sure sign that a conservative is moving from the thrall of Bush is the first time they write a blistering critique condemning Bush for torturing people.

There are scads of issues we could play this game with.

Which makes one wonder... what is wrong with the mindset of the blindly loyal Bushbot which allows them to justify to themselves the obviously wrong headed direction this President has taken us in so many cases? Consider the outcry if it were Bill Clinton who pursued these policies. Consider the Clinton derangement syndrome which put us through an impeachment because of tawdriness in the Presidents personal life. Can you imagine how the right would have reacted to Clinton authorizing torture? I can't! Getting our military bogged down in Iraq? President Bush is the commander in chief of the greatest military force in the history of the planet and he has allowed our army to be fought to a standstill by a few tens of thousands of homegrown insurgents armed with home made bombs! I mean just think of what that says about the Presidents effectiveness in his role and the reaction that your typical Bushbot would have if Clinton were the one stupid enough to have led us to this state of affairs.

Let me provide a redefinition of the term Bush derangement syndrome, from a lefties perspective. Bush derangement syndrome: The sudden onset of blind acceptance for a given policy of George Bush, even if the policy in question is directly contradictory to the long held opinions of the victim prior to Bush's Presidency.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A Good/Bad Headline...

"Feeling bias may hike blacks’ breast cancer risk" advises the headline on MSNBC.

Maybe this is just my typical American societal sexually repressed juvenile type reaction to that headline, but I immediately wondered what sort of bias there was to black breasts being felt. I suppose on a strictly personal level I would have to count myself as a contributor to bias against feeling black breasts, because in all my wild days as a free agent, I was decidedly segregationist in this respect. Simply from not having the same opportunity mind you, not from any taste against black breasts... Now I'm off the market on a permanent basis so my contribution to desegregation when it comes to feeling breasts isn't going to improve either.

Besides, what in the world would a bias in feeling have to do with breast cancer. It must be that while feeling breasts some percentage of suspect lumps are found, but that somehow black breasts were not subject to the same groping desires so the lumps would be more liable to escape notice? All of these considerations raced through my mind even as I clicked the headline to find out what the fuss was all about.

It turns out that a better description in lieu of the word "Feeling" in the headline would have been "The perception of", to make the headline read "The perception of bias may hike blacks’ breast cancer risk". In other words, blacks who think they routinely face bias in their everyday lives are more liable to have breast cancer than the rest of the population.

Once the gist of the story became clear to me, I thought to myself that the headline was really very bad. Then I realized that if my own example were any indication, that the headline may very well be doing exactly what headlines are meant to do. Reeling readers into the story.

But still, that is a bad headline.

The Election For Restorlution

Let me give anyone reading this my current position on the Democratic nomination for President. I am holding my support for either of the major candidates with the hope that Al Gore will enter the race. If Gore seeks the nomination I will support him whole heartedly.

That being said, there are currently three leading contenders for the Democratic nomination. John Edwards is going to get the short end of this post unfortunately. I like what Edwards says and if he gets the nomination I will have no problem throwing my whole hearted support to him in the general election.

The clash of the titans at this point in the game is between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Before breaking down the reason for this post let me advise the reader that I lean Obama in this contest, mainly because of the Iraq war. Also my wife is a libertarian conservative and she actually likes Obama, but really has a lot of issues with a potential Clinton Presidency. Regardless of how I lean now or whom I may support in the future (assuming Gore does not enter the race) I will have no problem giving full support to either Clinton or Obama in the general election if either wins the nomination.

Today I read an article in the Democratic Strategist which coalesced the appeal of both Clinton and Obama nicely. Both are change candidates. What kind of change are you looking for, if any, is the question.

Obama professes to want an entirely new paradigm in politics. His call for apolitical solutions appeals to those who are tired of the great partisan divide. Obama is the veritable Rodney King appealing in the middle of the riot: "Can't we all just get along?"

If Obama managed to pull that off there is no doubt that America would be much better for it. That's a huge if, because to make it work both sides have to put aside their ambitions and work for the obvious common good. Honestly, I admire the vision, but the dream is beyond the reach of any person to bring to fruition in my opinion. It will have to be events which draws America together. Once together enlightened leadership can endeavor to keep us unified going forward. The attacks of 9/11 serve to show this point very well. The nation unified as never before in response to that event, but unenlightened leadership chose to use that unification in the pursuit of crass political power and now we find ourselves bitterly divided.

Clinton on the other hand also offers us a vision of change, but her vision is one that is reminiscent of her husbands leadership. Hillary Clinton has embraced her husbands Presidency, and makes it clear that she will not make the mistake Gore made in 2000 by keeping Bill in the shadows and trying to hide from him.

This approach actually diverges widely from Obama's wish for nonpartisan appeal. Clinton would take us back to the 90's, and the rabid partisanship of the right wing attack machine which gave her husband so many fits while in office. Clinton takes care to appeal to moderates, knowing she will have the left in the general election, but also realizing she will never have the extreme righties. If the Republican nominee has to appeal to Bush fans to win that nomination and the general election has results that reflect Bush's popularity, Hillary can win in a landslide.

The major difference would be that a Clinton election would be an affirmation of the stewardship of President Clinton in the 90's and an utter repudiation of the Republican leadership of the 00's. Bill did alot of good for the nation, and liberals had reason for disappointment despite the perception that the aggrieved during his term were all right wingers. Going back to the 90's means a continuation of partisanship from the extremists in the Republican party against a centrist, competent and popular Clinton. I actually find this a very tempting reason to support Clinton. What better way to drive the wing nuts insane than for the majority of voters to elect the very incarnation of liberal evil (from the wingers perspective). What better repudiation of their failed policies and disastrous leadership than to affirm the 90's. Can you imagine how batty they will go with Hillary on the bully pulpit? So yes... one of the reasons I am tempted to back Hillary is to see the Bush administration toadies go nuts. And Obama wanting to make nice with everybody probably isn't going to give me that immediate satisfaction... but...

To be honest I rather expect Obama to face the same challenge that Clinton will. Trying to make nice with the other side is fine and dandy until right wing talk radio and Fox start fomenting the base. The Republicans owe their souls to the wackos of their party and it's hard to imagine Obama making that crowd suddenly see reason and logic. Thus Obama may not want it, but he too will have to deal with partisanship.

Clinton calls for a restoration: A return to a time when peace and prosperity were only soured by the constant whine from Republicans. Obama calls for revolution: The overthrow of the system as we know it and a call for unity where unity seems impossible.

I will support either one if they win the nomination. Therefore, I am for a restorlution!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Just Amazing Hypocricy On Sentencing

Ed Kilgore over at The Democratic Strategist has unearthed a stunning example of the gall of the Bush administration.

Alberto Gonzales made a speech on June 1 pushing for toughened mandatory minimum sentences which would require jail time for nearly every criminal convicted in a federal court. Here is a bit of the A.P.'s report on that speech:
The Bush administration is trying to roll back a Supreme Court decision by pushing legislation that would require prison time for nearly all criminals.

The Justice Department is offering the plan as an opening salvo in a larger debate about whether sentences for crack cocaine are unfairly harsh and racially discriminatory.

Republicans are seizing the administration's crackdown, packaged in legislation to combat violent crime, as a campaign issue for 2008.
Recall that the President, in justifying commuting Libby's prison sentence for being found guilty of 5 counts of obstruction of justice and perjury, asserted that the sentence was too harsh. That sentence fit the guidelines which Alberto Gonzales thinks should no longer be advisory, but mandatory. So the Bush administration thinks the federal sentencing guidelines are too harsh when it comes to an administration figure, but should be strengthened for the rest of us.

Also recall that the President did not confer with the Justice Department, the prosecutor or the judge regarding his decision to commute Libby's jail time. The guidelines by which commutations and pardons are normally considered were not a part of the Libby case. The President consulted only a small cadre of advisers, but those consultations occurred over the course of several weeks.

It is abundantly clear that the President tried to keep the judicial process in play in order to be able to use the old standby that to comment on the Plame affair is not appropriate because there is an ongoing legal proceeding. Libby had to be kept from serving time lest he actually start talking. The President thus had to justify not pardoning Libby ("respect the jury" yada yada yada) but keep Libby out of jail ("sentence was too excessive"). In trying to walk that impossible line Bush has made a mockery of the very sentencing guidelines which his party wanted to strengthen in a craven appeal for votes.

If I were serving time in federal prison for obstruction of justice or perjury, I would be just a little bit peeved now. If I were in the administration however, I would feel entirely comfortable in not being entirely candid with investigators should I be called to testify.

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