Sunday, December 31, 2006

Party of One

Well, I'll be ringing in the new year here by myself with Mr. Moet. I just popped the cork and it's going down smooth and easy so I think I'm done with politics for the day. My plan is to commit a little BWI at my other blog tonight, for as long as I stay sober enough to see the screen.

But I want to end the year here on a happy note so I'm going to steal this lovely wish I received from Marcus. I hope 2006 ends well for you and 2007 goes better than you would ever imagine!

How ever you're celebrating the evening, have a wonderful time and a very Happy New Year.
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New year milestone

Or should that be millstone? As the year turns here, in Iraq a grim marker has also been reached. According to the AP's count we just reached 3,000 war dead in Iraq. If only we could stop the counter there but I'm afraid we'll hit that millenium mark again before it's all over.

Even worse, as Juan Cole points out, 3,000 is the lowest number by which we can measure this loss. Uncounted are the troops of the "willing coalition" and the civilian contractors and the thousands of permanently disabled soldiers that lived through their tours but now will suffer a lifetime sentence of lost limbs, permanent disfigurements and/or shattered minds.

So as you raise your glass in celebrations of life tonight, as you should, take a moment to toast those who won't be coming back for the party.
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Bush passes on Ford funeral to cut brush in Texas

The wingnutia were in a uproar a couple of days ago when Harry Reid and his delegation announced they were going to be on a scheduled trip to meet with leaders in South America and wouldn't be able to attend the service in DC for President Ford. How horrible they roared. Reid would rather be sightseeing at Incan ruins than showing respect to a former president. I mean, everybody knows the local tourist sites should never be part of the itinerary for a state visit. It's not like Incan ruins have more historical importance than say Graceland.

So how interesting the right wing screech machine is strangely silent now that it appears their man Bush will refuse to cut short his vacation just to attend a silly state funeral on the doorstep of his house. That brush on the ranch isn't going to cut itself you know and besides, the prez can just go to the Tuesday ceremony, which conveniently won't interrupt his holiday. You know he hates it when his holiday is interrupted by messy realities so what's a little insulting breach of protocol? It's not like Bush isn't paying attention. I guess he just needs to crisp up his mind again.
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Polls and predictions

The year end reviews are rolling across the internets. Dahlia Lithwick posts one of the best, The Bill of Wrongs -The 10 most outrageous civil liberties violations of 2006.

On the international front, Richard Clarke posts a sobering review of the foreign policy disasters that loom ahead while the White House narrowed its focus to deal with the ongoing debacle of the occupation.

And in an object lesson on why you shouldn't trust polls, or at least the interpretation of polls, we have these dueling headlines. Using the same AP Poll, one claims Americans predict the year ahead with optimism, focusing on their personal successes.

I think this personifies the "I've got mine, too bad if you didn't get yours," mentality that permeates our society today. I remember when "sharing the wealth" was a moral value in this country. Now it's used as a way to tar anyone who embraces the concept as a commie socialist. I think we lost a lot when such a Christian concept was redefined as a political blungeon.

Meanwhile, this one claims the poll shows Americans are pessimistic about the future. This spin focused on the the nation's concerns over our misadventures in foreign policy and the fear of pending terrorist attacks on our soil. Legitimate concerns to be sure, but I found this statistic the most interesting - "One in four, 25 percent, anticipates the second coming of Jesus Christ." I guess, even though this is the eagerly awaiting event of the rapture crowd, that it does fit the pessimistic theme better because the second coming is predicted to occur on the heels of the Armageddon.

The only thing that seems clear in these result to me, is that our nation continues to be greatly divided and shows no sign of finding common ground with their fellow man, nor any particular desire to do so.
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Saddam is dead -- so what's next?

The video of Saddam's execution is raging across the internets. I'm not going to watch it, nor will I link to this barbaric display of pointless revenge. To the extent that it brings some sense of closure to the families of Hussien's victims, I hope at least that much good comes of his hanging because I'm afraid when we snapped the tyrant's neck we also choked the last breath from our own morality.

I really don't want to talk about it anymore so I'll send you to Jane Hamsher who beautifully articulates my disgust at this spectacle and Glenn Greenwald who more eloquently expresses my amazement at the notion that justice was somehow served. Fair trial? Feh. But as Glenn points out, even in that foreign kangaroo court, Saddam received more in the way of due process than our own citizens have under the unilateral rule of Bush. Further, for those who may still question whether our government had their own reasons to push for this execution, Chris Floyd fleshes out our complicity in Saddam's atrocities.

So now that Saddam is dead, what's next? Will peace suddenly break out in Baghdad? Will the violence in Anbar be quelled? Apparently not.
There was no sign of a feared Sunni uprising in retaliation for the execution, and the bloodshed from civil warfare on Saturday was not far off the daily average - 92 from bombings and death squads. ...The U.S. military announced six more service members were killed - three soldiers and three Marines.
What does that say about the occupation when consistent death tolls of 100 people a day merit no more than a routine mention buried in obligatory news of the day from the front lines of "teh war."

Meanwhile, some US military bases were reported to be celebrating but members of the Army's 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment, on patrol in an overwhelmingly Shiite neighborhood in eastern Baghdad, took a more pragmatic view.
"Nothing really changes," said Capt. Dave Eastburn, 30. "The militias run everything now, not Saddam."
Nothing really changes. Doesn't that really just sum it up?
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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Sad about Saddam

No, not because he's dead, but because he's dead at the hand of man instead of his creator. I've been against the death penalty all my life. I don't believe it deters crime and I think such a barbaric punishment diminishes us as a civil society. We're no better than the criminal we execute when we trade death for death. And I found the post execution celebration as disturbing as any where people dance on other's graves.

That's not to say Saddam didn't deserve it. But I see a lot of talk about justice being served and I don't think that's true. All I see myself in this rush to deal death is petty revenge. Justice would have served by a real trial in front of a international body. This Alice in Wonderland proceeding in a kanagroo court, unduly influenced by an occupying military force, doesn't fit my definition of due process.

I had to work today so eloquence escapes me tonight, but I've been reading reactions as I had the chance. Both Josh Marshall and Kevin Hayden have powerful posts that echo a lot that roils in my own mind but John Cole articulated my mixed feelings the best.

Unsurprisingly Bush says Saddam got a fair trial. I'd have to disagree with his assessment but it was certainly a speedy one. How convenient for George that Saddam was hung for the lesser crime. Now that Saddam has swung, he can't be tried for greater crimes in which the US was in some degree complicit by our government's support of the regime at the time.
Meanwhile, in Dearborn, Michigan, Dave Alwatan was among those who gathered at the Karbalaa center. He wore an Iraqi flag around his shoulders and grinned. He flashed a peace sign at everyone he passed.

"Peace," he said, smiling and laughing. "Now there will be peace for my family."
Dave lives here. His family already had peace. Unfortunately for any family he has left in Iraq, peace of mind will not be found in the new year and this execution will likely only add to the turmoil. And that's just sad.

UPDATE: In case you wanted to dispute my contention on US complicity in Saddam's crimes, as always, Juan Cole already has the answers.
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Justices not welcome at DC Court of Appeals

Seven former federal judges were told yesterday that their views were not welcome at the federal appeals court in Washington.

The sitting judges of the DC US Court of Appeals made an inane ruling in rejecting the former justices' amicus brief on the basis they submitted it using their former title of the Honorable so and so. How pathetic. It serves no practical purpose other than to insult their fomer peers since the judges are free to resubmit the brief without using their titles. Unless of course the court is planning to rush through to judgment and doesn't want the amicus on the public record.

The Appeals Court is deciding the fate of the Gitmo defendants. The former judges are urging the court to rule against the White House. Could it be any clearer that the sitting judges are White House lap dogs bringing politics into the process? This is the just the sort of petty little slap and deceitful circumvention of the system that is so typical of Bush.

One can only assume the obedient little sitting judges plan to subvert justice and soon rule for their master.
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Friday, December 29, 2006

Joe Lieberman - plagiarist and fool

Don't read this op-ed by SlowJo Lieberman immediately after eating. I promise you that it will cause severe nausea. Independent Democrat my ass. The man just recycled every self-serving pep talk by Bush and has the gall to call it his own work. I mean he was so busy regurgitating ancient White House talking points, I guess he forgot for a minute that he's not really the president himself and declared war on Iran.

Maybe the next time he spends ten days in the Middle East, he should go out on patrol with the soldiers risking their lives in Baghdad instead cocooned in the safe womb of the "leaders" he hobnobbed with and perhaps he might be willing to admit Iraq is already deeply immersed in a civil war. And perhaps he could ask the brave men and women who daily risk their lives whether they think a influx of new troops to "crush the enemy" is going to make any difference. As far as I can see, they mostly don't.

Even more egregious, as Glenn Greenwald notices, SlowJo's talking points serve Israel's interests better than our national security but I don't think that's Lieberman's main intent in plagiarizing the White House speeches since it so well serves Bush's "new plan forward." I figure he's paying Bush back for all his help in tricking the voters of Connecticut into installing him as the GOP's useful fool in the Senate.

If his recylced rhetoric wasn't so dangerous, it would be pathetic. But as Juan Cole points out, "the guerrillas are not outsiders who come in and then are forced out." The insurgency is mainly homegrown Sunnis and renegade Shia and increasing numbers of Iraqi civilians don't care if either side is killing US occupying forces. As Cole says:
Winning guerrilla wars requires two victories, a military victory over the guerrillas and a winning of the hearts and minds of the general public, thus denying the guerrillas support. The US has not and is unlikely to be able to repress the guerrillas, and it is losing hearts and minds at an increasing and alarming rate. They hate us, folks. They don't want us there.
And why would they? As Cole also points out. "from the beginning of history to 2003 there had never been a suicide bombing in Iraq." Now, some three years after the "liberation" the Iraqis suffer daily attacks that are killing hundreds of innocent civilians every week. Even the dimmest bulb could see the cause and effect here. Too bad Joe Lieberman can't see the light from the dark depths of his sold out soul.
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The dictator must die

Unless you're living under a rock, you've heard that Saddam will be hung in the next day or two. While the MSM is carefully considering whether ratings trump good taste in airing the execution, I'm pondering the greater effects his death will have on Iraq.

We've already stirred up a hornet's nest there this week with arresting the Iranians and killing Sadr's elder deputy in cold blood. Iran is pissed off and making noises about retribution and Sadr's supporters have taken to the streets in violent demonstrations. Meanwhile Saddam's loyalists have already begun to demonstrate as well as the first hints of the impending execution became known. It looks to me like Bush's new "surge" strategy is already working. It's creating a surge of intercine violence all across Iraq.

Does Saddam deserve to die? Of course he does. The man was a brutal tyrant and mercilessly slaughtered his own countrymen. But to paraphrase Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings - Many live who deserve death but many also die who deserve to live. Can you give life back to them? So do not be quick to deal death, for even the wise cannot see all ends and some who deserve death may yet have a part to play for the greater good. But perhaps the NYT put it best this morning.
Toppling Saddam Hussein did not automatically create a new and better Iraq. Executing him won’t either.
In fact, as far as I can see, it very likely will make things worse. And besides death is quick. If the point is to make Saddam suffer for his sins, wouldn't life imprisonment be the greater punishment?
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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Arrested reconciliation

Under the heading, WTF are these people thinking? Hot on the heels of arresting visiting Iranian officials at al-Hakim's home on alleged evidence of "meddling," our military follows up with an early morning raid at the home of a top deputy of al-Sadr and killing the old man on his rooftop for allegedly pointing a gun at the soldiers. And this after last week's elaborate ceremony, where "the U.S.-led coalition handed over control of Najaf to Iraqi forces." Right. Sort of like when we turned over sovereignty a couple of years ago.

The US military claims it was an Iraqi led raid with only 8 US soldiers there as "advisors." Yet it was a US soldier that killed the man and rumors are circulating within high government circles that he was deliberately murdered. The timing couldn't be worse for the increasingly imaginary reconciliation process.
The incident comes at a delicate time for the Iraqi political process. Sadr, who runs one of the country's most feared militias, is also a potent political force: His allies control 30 seats in parliament and four key ministries. Last month, influential politicians linked with Sadr suspended their participation in the government to protest a meeting between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Bush in Jordan. Unable to pass legislation without Sadr's support, and fearing Iraq's government could collapse, other Shiite leaders have been appealing for an end to the boycott.
Well we can forget that happening I think. With thousands of very angry Sadr supporters marching in the streets hurling rocks and calling for death to the occupiers, it's unlikely Sadr will want to be seen as appeasing the US in even the vaguest of terms.

And why did we raid the house of a high ranking supporter of our arch nemesis al-Sadr? "[A US military spokesman] said U.S.-led coalition forces had been gathering intelligence on him for a long time. He said Amiri was implicated in a roadside bomb attack on a police chief in Najaf this year." So we just had to "detain" him this hot minute? Like the guy was about to flee the country?

Only one thing seems clear to me. Bush wants Sadr out of the government and since the military has done nothing but sabotage the reconcilation process in the last week, for all his coyness about announcing his plans, it appears he's decided already to be the Great Decider for the Iraqis too. And apparently he's decided war is better than peace.
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Gerry Ford - Bush was wrong to invade

Bob Woodward posts an embargoed interview with Gerald Ford conducted in 2004. Unsurprisingly he disagreed with Bush's decision to invade Iraq. He scoffed at the WMD rationale and had this to say about "spreading freedom."
"Well, I can understand the theory of wanting to free people," Ford said, referring to Bush's assertion that the United States has a "duty to free people." But the former president said he was skeptical "whether you can detach that from the obligation number one, of what's in our national interest." He added: "And I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security."
Damn straight. It's worth a read through if just for the tasty tidbits about Kissinger being such a crybaby in private but what struck me in reading this today is that I had forgotten the "important pundits" had labeled Ford as the only president to lose a war. It's funny, but when I did my little eulogy yesterday it never even crossed my mind.

Vietnam was lost long before Ford got there. He just presided over the long overdue evacuation. I never blamed him but then again, I didn't pay as much attention to pundits in those days. Back then they were much more peripheral to the debate, rather than driving the propaganda as they do now in the internet age and the 24/7 infotainment cycle.

But in retrospect, it does shed some light on why Bush is so hellbent on staying the course in his "new" way forward. He doesn't want to be remembered as the second president to lose a war and by hanging in with all these ill-advised surges, there's some remote possibility they might work and at least it will kill enough time so the next president will be the one stuck presiding over the inevitable evacuation.
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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Is global warming skepticism melting in the White House?

Am I the only one that finds this abrupt turnabout on global warming just a little scary?
The Bush administration has decided to propose listing the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, putting the U.S. government on record as saying that global warming could drive one of the world's most recognizable animals out of existence.
I mean what did they find out to cause the complete reversal of their previous position? This administration has moved mountains of propaganda to cover up the reality of climate disruption and all of sudden they're worried about polar bears? The poor critters have been drowning in the melting polar ice pack for years already, so why now?

It's not that I'm complaining about the change. It's long overdue, but I figure they must have read something really bad in all those reports they keep suppressing to cause this sudden concern.
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Proof or propaganda in Iranian arrests?

The American military said Tuesday that it had credible evidence linking Iranians and their Iraqi associates, detained here in raids last week, to criminal activities, including attacks against American forces.
In its first official confirmation of last week’s raids, the military said it had confiscated maps, videos, photographs and documents in one of the raids on a site in Baghdad.
Forgive my cynicism, but what does that prove? Any traveler in the world would have the same in their possession. I mean, when you travel, don't you also carry maps, cameras and documents? Even more suspect is the site of the raid.
...Iraqi leaders said last week that the site was the compound of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, one of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite political leaders, who met with President Bush in Washington three weeks ago. A spokesman for Mr. Hakim said he had not heard of a raid on the compound.
So if Hakim is one of the bad guys, as we must infer since they raided his compound, why was Bush meeting with him? Isn't it his stated policy not to meet with "the enemy." I'm sure that's the reason he's been giving for failing to respond to Tehran's invitation for talks.

Call me jaded but this is feeling more like a set-up every day for the president's obvious goal of starting a new war that he thinks -- this time for sure -- he can win and thus burnish his badly tarnished legacy.
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Bush stands alone

In an otherwise real fluffer of a piece, David Ignatius makes a good analogy on the current state of the POTUS' persona. Gone is the snake oil salesman's confident smirk. Bush knows he's been exposed so he's trying at least to look a little more humble. Glaringly absent is the swaggering strut of "the chosen one." In fact he looks tired and old, as every president has by this stage of their presidency, although Bush presents more as an abandoned child who abruptly finds himself alone on the playground, rather than a man weighed down by the hard choices of his position. It's as if after a lifetime of being the center of attention by dint of his inherited good fortune, he's just realized his fair weather friends have disappeared and he's no longer popular now that the family money -- or his case the political capital -- is gone.

Unfortunately, just like most playground bullies, this will not inspire Bush to mend his arrogant ways. Instead, he will stubbornly cling to his past glory and use his remaining power to "prove" he really is a contender. I like the way Ignatius put it:
What makes reality TV gripping is that it's all happening live -- the contestants make their choices under pressure, win or lose. So too with Bush. He is making a vast wager -- of American lives, treasure and the nation's security -- that his judgments about Iraq were right. The Baker-Hamilton report gave him a chance to take some chips off the table, but Bush doesn't seem interested. He is still playing to win. The audience is shouting out advice, but the man under the spotlight knows he will have to make this decision alone.
And he will make the decision based on what's good for himself, alone, rather than what's good for people he purportedly represents. The problem is our POTUS is a man who has never had to face responsibility for bad choices. Every wrong-headed wager he's made has been rectified by his family. The victims of his reckless risk taking were bought off and the mistakes were swept under the rug, never to be spoken of again. But this time, the stakes are too high, the victims too many for Daddy to come to the rescue and we all will pay if our president plays a losing hand.
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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

First - hire all the lawyers

After six years of carte blanche with his rubberstamp Congress, the White House beefing up its legal team in anticipation of the Democratic Party's expected oversight. No big surprise there.
"Like any White House that has to deal with a Congress run by the other party, this White House has to bulk up its staff to deal with the inevitable flood of subpoenas. They're also going to have to coordinate with lots of friends and supporters," said Mark Corallo, a former top Republican aide to the House committee that issued more than 1,000 subpoenas to the Clinton camp.
Yeah they're going to have to get their alibis straight. And keep that number in mind when the Bush supporters start screaming about partisan witch hunts. But I thought this was more interesting.
Corallo and Barbara Comstock, another Republican public-relations executive with broad experience in Hill investigations, are launching a crisis-communications firm to serve officials and corporations who, Corallo said, could end up as "drive-by victims" in a new round of probes.

Snow said the firm is "certainly independent of the White House."
Whatever that's supposed to mean, but if the opportunistic vultures are already circling, the Beltway insiders clearly think the White House has so much to hide that something is eventually going to be uncovered.
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Some things old, some things new

I save links. I have hundreds of them, some dating back as far as three years. So I'm doing a little year end cleaning up and here's a few of the more recent ones that caught my eye and I didn't time to blog about.

My new co-blogger in Detroit, Christine Barry thought her best Christmas present was the demise of the PNAC plan.

This one's a keeper. TPM Muckracker is making a list of Bush administration secrecy and checking it twice. Needless to say, it's a work in progress. I could probably add a few items myself if I ever really cleared out all my links.

I loved this song when it came out but I didn't want to link to the video yesterday because it made me cry. Still I recommend you watch it today to remind yourself why we're fighting at home against the occupation of Iraq.

This one is actually new today but I don't have much more to say than this. How far have we fallen when it's a major news story that our president has admitted publicly to actually reading a newspaper? I mean it wasn't even a whole newspaper, it was just one article.

This is new today too but I just just get it. For the life of me, I don't understand why people would spend real money for virtual property. I mean, Second Life? I don't even have a first life at the moment. Just what I need is to spend all my time in somebody else's virtual world. Still I have to admit, the thought of being able to make $60 Gs a year in real money for pretend merchandise appeals to the entrepreneur in me. I guess if I was at all technosmart I might be tempted to start a business there, but frankly I think it would easier to sell surplus goods on eBay.

The next time some money grubbing neo-con tells you we have to eliminate the estate tax to save the family farm, have them read this. There is no such thing as the family farm anymore. Government subsidies have created huge monoculture farms that are not only destroying biological diversity but have all but put the family farms out of business.

And Making Light points us to underreported stories in 2006. It's a good reminder of all the small but important ways this White House is destroying our civil liberties. In particular, Bush’s Post-Katrina Power Grab should have received much more attention.
Overlooked in the $532 billion federal defense spending bill Bushed signed in October was a revision of a nearly 200-year-old law which restricts the president’s power during major crises. In December, Congressional Quarterly examined the changes, saying that the new law “takes the cuffs off” federal restraint during emergencies. Rather than limiting the circumstances under which a president may deploy troops to “any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy,” the 2006 revision expands them to include “natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident.” In other words, it’s now easier for the federal government to send in troops without a governor’s invitation.
And people called me a conspiracy theorist when I told them the White House is hellbent on creating a police state? Little by little, martial law is creeping up on us.
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Putting the care back into health

I'm glad to see this issue maintaining traction in the news cycles. In this latest item, Ezra Klein predicts it's only a matter of time before we see some kind of universal health care plan proposed by our lawmakers. He does a good job of tracing the history of how we got into this mess and notes the insurance industry is already on the offensive, deploying their full array of PR pundits to defend their position. Needless to say, the industry's proposals are designed to preserve the status quo under a new name.

In a post I found earlier via Avedon at The Sideshow, Poputonian at Hullabaloo looked at the industry on the microlevel focusing on Indiana's conversion from a state-based system to the current privatized version. The statistics for the state are more than alarming but where the money goes is the real story and it's not going to health care. Poputonian sums it up best with this stellar quote.
You gotta love that invisible hand, working in mysterious ways to create private wealth out of the public good.
He further notes that the profiteers in the Hoosier state who "apparently enjoyed seven-figure gains from some of these private transactions" are Susan Bayh, wife of Indiana Senator and former presidential hopeful, Evan Bayh and the President's uncle Bucky Bush. One wonders how these people can so carelessly sleep at night in their palatial homes, knowing there were built on the backs of 43 million uninsured, hardworking Americans?
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Another day, another diplomatic blunder

In what one supposes was supposed to send some kind of message to Tehran, US forces arrested a bunch of Iranians who were visiting Iraq. The State Department says the Iranians are suspected of meddling in the civil war there. Unfortunately, some of them were Iranian diplomats who were there by invitation of President Talabani.
Talabani's spokesman said the Iraqi president had invited the Iranian officials during his visit to Tehran. It was done "in the framework of an agreement to improve security in Iraq." The spokesman described the Iranians as "security officials."

Hosseini, the Iranian spokesman, said the Iraqi government is responsible for the Iranians' release because it invited them to Iraq and "the occupying forces must be answerable for international law based on their actions."
Just another day of hamfisted foreign policy faux pas on the Bush administration's part but one wonders if we can chalk this up to simple incompetency. Considering the naval buildup in the gulf and the increasingly volatile rhetoric coming from the White House, it sure looks to me that Bush is once again, drawing the proverbial line in the sand and daring Iran to cross it.

As I've been saying lately, I think it's too late to impeach Bush but I'm starting to look rather favorably on the idea of simply defunding our president's ego-driven misadventures.
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The Death Toll Also Rises

Well we reached a grim milestone in Iraq today. Our president Mr. Bush is now responsible for more American deaths than Osama bin Laden. The death toll of US troops has now surpassed the number of dead on 9/11 and that of course doesn't count the thousands of soldiers who lost their limbs and their mental health. Neither does it count the hundreds of thousands of civilian casualites in Iraq.

If we are to judge terrorism by its death toll, as our president has repeatedly told us we should, then one might even say George Bush is the biggest terrorist on the planet. He's acheived death and destruction on a scale that al Qaeda can only dream of and that I think, will be how history remembers his legacy.

[Thanks to memeorandum for the link]
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Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

For those of you who celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful day. And to all of you, my cherished readers and friends, my Christmas wish is for a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

In the spirit of the day, I'll put aside politics for a moment and offer you these lighter stories of the season. Here's a man who found the true meaning of Christmas. If only we could all keep such a spirit of giving throughout the year. And in remarkably good timing, yes there is such a thing as a virgin birth. We wish the mother and child all the best. And finally, on twist to the classic story, not a creature was stirring except for a mouse.
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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Dear Dems - real reform will win the oval office

Scot Faulkner has some great advice for the Democratic Party. For all the happy talk about the adults being in charge again, Scot reminds us the last time the Democrats were in power, they weren't exactly paragons of virtue either.
In 1994, House operations were essentially designed to launder funds to support incumbents. Most member services, including printing, mailing and the photography studio, were hidden in large revolving accounts. There was no way to tell who was spending what. Those fees that were traceable were usually mere shadows of the true costs to taxpayers.

...None of this was revealed because accounting practices for the House’s nearly $1 billion annual budget were surreal. Most of the House’s expenditures could not even be documented.
Reforms in the 90s helped but they didn't go far enough. Scot makes two excellent suggestions that the Democrats would do well to heed.
For starters, they should publish House finances online and make them fully searchable. My office produced a prototype Web site for the Republicans in 1996 but they squashed it. Our intent was to develop reporting formats and explanatory notes understandable to everyone. But this was more disclosure than the leadership could stomach.

In addition, Democrats should make all House meetings viewable online. The House should install two digital cameras in every committee and subcommittee room, with one facing the rostrum and another facing the witness table. The Republicans rejected an earlier version of this proposal in 1995, saying, in effect, “Not that public!”
As the saying goes, that was then and this is now. The world has changed tremendously in the last ten years. The internets have enabled the electorate to exercise a level of scrutiny that wasn't possible before and the voters will not be fooled by mere lip service to ethics and half-hearted reforms again. If the Democratic Party doesn't want to go down as the one-hit wonder of the new century, they would do well to take this advice and run with it.
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Kerry flips Bush the bird

Via The Reaction, John Kerry posts an great op-ed in the WaPo today. Michael thinks more highly of the good Senator than I do. I've never really been a big fan of Kerry's myself, but I have to agree that if he had been talking like this in 04, he might have won his spot in the Oval Office. The opening line alone is a stunner.
There's something much worse than being accused of "flip-flopping": refusing to flip when it's obvious that your course of action is a flop.
That would have been a dandy response when he was running. Too late did Kerry learn the Rovian trick of turning your opponent's slurs into an asset. Kerry goes on to bitch-slap Bush seven ways to Sunday. I especially like that he picked up on a point I made a few days ago.
We have already tried a trimmed-down version of the McCain plan of indefinitely increasing troop levels. We sent 15,000 more troops to Baghdad last summer, and today the escalating civil war is even worse. You could put 100,000 more troops in tomorrow and you're only going to add to the number of casualties until Iraqis sit down together at a bargaining table and compromise. The barrel of a gun can't answer the question of how you force Iraqi nationalism to trump sectarian loyalty.

The only hope for stability lies in pushing Iraqis to forge a sustainable political agreement on federalism, distributing oil revenues and neutralizing sectarian militias. And that will happen only if we set a deadline to redeploy our troops.
Exactly right. Bush promised last spring that the summer of 06 would see a huge turnaround in Iraq from the surge they were planning for the summer. We all know how that worked out. The violence has only escalated out of control. Why on earth do they think the result will be different this time? And the point is well taken that the Iraqis have done jack unless they're under pressure to perform. At every "turning point" from the turn over of sovereignty to the formation of the government, the Iraqis have dithered around until we set a firm timetable for them.

Judging from this latest development, nothing has changed. Dashing the Bush administration's hopes of forcing a new coalition in the Iraq government that would margalinize al-Sadr's power, revered cleric al-Sistani "will not bless nor support any new bloc or front. He only supports the unity of the Shiites." As long our troops are there to referee this civil war and run interference with the Sunnis for them, the Shia are not going to turn against the man who is so instrumental in putting together a Sharia-based government for them. That Sadr hates the US is a plus in Iraq, not a detriment.

They all hate us, but as long as we're there pumping money into their coffers and effectively protecting their militias, the people in power who are reaping the benefits are not going to kick us out. Bleeding our treasury and our troops dry suits their purposes, and ironically also suits the purposes of the extremists who don't really care who is in charge of Iraq as long as it causes discomfort to the US and reinforces the Islamic theocracy we helped to install.

[thanks to Memeorandum for the link]
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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Actions speak louder than words

Outgoing Republican lawmakers turned down Pelosi's offer to extend two month severance pay to laid off GOP staffers
. This is customary in the Senate and Nancy graciously offered the House staff the same benefit.

Were the Republicans afraid that the Democratic Party would get too much credit for their largesse or do they simply not care about the working man -- not even the ones that work for them personally? I suspect it's both.
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Just another day in the "war on terror"

Why doesn't this inspire any confidence in me? A couple of days ago, nobody wanted a troop "surge" in Baghdad except Bush. Today the generals in Iraq say, oh wait a minute, maybe we really do want a few thousand more guys. We'll think of something for them to do. I'm sure there was no pressure from the White House for them to accept this one last, "last push," one more time, to attempt to salvage some semblence of meaning from this ill-fated occupation.

Easy for them to gamble with 20,000 or so soldier's lives. And if it doesn't work, we'll be even worse off than before the "surge" but maybe this will finally shut up the warmongers who can't accept a defeat when it's kicking them in the kneecaps. But probably it won't. They'll be pushing for one more last push until the day our incompetent excuse for a Commander in Chief skulks out of office.

Meanwhile, we've killed the number three AQ guy -- again. Maybe. How many times have we done that now? It must be hard for Osama to fill that slot. Who would want to be number three when that's the guy that always gets killled?

And on a even brighter note, Condi assures us that the blood and money we've spent in Iraq has been "a good investment" because "because once it emerges as a country that is a stabilizing factor you will have a very different kind of Middle East.” She neglects to mention that emergence is expected to occur at about the same time hell freezes over.

What a cold fish. She speaks as though she's talking about pushing paper chits on Wall Street instead of gambling with living human beings who have children and families who love and need them and who will suffer for generations hence when the chits are called in to pay for this mess.
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Zawahiri writes for warbloggers

Zawahiri released an interminably long screed this week and our own warbloggers are jumping all over one sentence in it that claims the terrorists consider the midterm sweep by the Democratic Party as some kind of victory for themselves. I have to ask, so what? Didn't Bush also claim victory for the "forces of good" when Iraq and Afghanistan held free elections? If mere words had the power to make things so, I would be getting a hot air blimp under my Christmas tree this year.

But our warbloggers seize on Zawahiri's few words and hold it up as some kind of confused proof that validates their own call for the US version of jihad against Islam and find it the culimation of their dire warnings that the terrorists would win if we elected Democrats. I don't get their logic myself when I read the same words. I think perhaps the most sense Zawahiri made was in this one paragraph.
The fourth thing I wish to talk about is a message to the American people. I say to them: you only realized the failure of the administration and toppled the Republicans’ candidates after the Mujahideen slaughtered you, and you didn’t listen to the voice of morality, justice, principles and intellect. And the Mujahideen’s weapons continue to be raised and aimed, by the grace of Allah.
I mean, who can honestly deny that's true? The American people, in the goodness of their hearts wanted to believe their president had their best interests at heart and so -- aided and abetted by the relentless cheerleading of the 101st Fighting Keyboardists who assured the masses that we were on the right track and only Republicans could save us from being overrun by terrorists -- bought into the fictions the White House sold and returned an incompetent president into office.

It wasn't until the ugly reality on the ground could no longer be disguised by the smokescreen of swaggering bluster that ordinary Americans finally saw the light and realized they had been sold out by greedy and arrogant neo-cons whose purpose and personal fortunes are served better by endless war than a lasting peace.

So also, is Zawahiri's power founded on war and death. If we ordinary citizens of the planet could bypass the politicians and come to a peaceful accord on our own and learn to live with and accept each other in all our differences and our commonalities, who would listen to either Zawahiri or our own warmongers? But unlike our Warmonger in Chief, Zawahiri at least offers a defined solution.
The formula for your safety is “You shall never dream of security until we truly experience it in Palestine and all lands of Islam,” and not the fallacious formula with which Bush deceives you when he says, “We strike the terrorists in their countries so that they don’t strike us in ours.” On the contrary: if we are struck in our countries, we shall never stop striking you in your countries, with Allah’s power and permission.

And as our commander, Shaykh Usama bin Ladin (may Allah preserve him) told you, “As you bomb, you will be bombed, and as you kill, you will be killed.”
Granted it's not that useful, but heck, that last sentence could almost have come from the Old Testament of the Bible. And one has to give the Islamic extremists this much credit. They have been consistent in their rationale for jihad. They haven't changed it from week to week and month and month and year to year, according to the fortunes of battle as our own president has. They took a position and they stuck with it for decades now. But again, it's all just so many words.

In the final analysis, who is Zawahiri? He's just another warblogger calling for his followers to take up arms to acheive his aims against his perceived enemies -- not that he's likely to found on the front lines of the battle any more so than our own warbloggers in the US. He urges his people to make the ultimate sacrifice to fight the infidels -- and includes even the people of his own faith that would seek diplomacy over war in that category, calling them the Muslim equivalent of surrender monkeys. Frankly, I don't see much difference between this Islamic wingnut and our own 101 Fighting Keyboardists. Change a few a words and the rhetoric is exactly the same. And so is the human suffering that their policies promote.
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Friday, December 22, 2006

They come for peace

Thanks to the relentlessly funny Kvatch for reminding us it's Global Orgasm Day. I'll be sure to -- ahem -- do my part. Hope you all join in on the fun.
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What really happened to WTC7?

Via Avedon, who found it here, some red meat for the conspiracy theorists out there.
So, even FEMA can't figure out why WTC7 fell: In other countries, fire alone has never caused the collapse of a steel-frame building. Never. Theres not a single occurrence in recorded history. Other than in America, that is. Only on 9/11. Only in a building that happened to house a slew of banks, insurance companies and a host of dark tenants like the IRS, the Department of Defense, CIA, Secret Service, and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Only WTC 7. With one fell swoop of structural devastation, there went thousands of case file evidence against outfits like WorldComm and Enron.
I don't know about you, but my tin foil antennae have been twitching over that question since the day that building went down. I mean, the facts often stretch credibility to the breaking point, but sometimes there really is a conspiracy....

And Ruminate This is right in that New Yorkers deserve a full investigation and report on why that building went. The inability to explain it doesn't say much for Mahattan's building safety standards and the residents have to live and work in thousands of more buildings just like it.
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Bush Bumper Stickers

Sure, you'll get them in your inbox eventually, but with all the depressing news this week, I thought we could use a moment of levity and these are some I haven't seen before.
1/20/09: End of an Error

That's OK, I Wasn't Using My Civil Liberties Anyway

America: One Nation, Under Surveillance

They Call Him "W" So He Can Spell It

Where Are We Going? And Why Are We In This Handbasket?

The Republican Party: Our Bridge to the 11th Century
Whoever writes these things should be working for the Democratic Party instead of the useless consultants they pay to come up with slogans.

Update: Maybe I'm sick for finding this amusing, but it made me laugh out loud. [h/t Jules Siegel]
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Everyone loses in voting fraud

I'm really glad to see the Demcratic Party hasn't backed down from this fight. Voting integrity is the bedrock on which our system of government rests. Without it, we may as well not bother to hold elections.

It's not about who won or how to gauge the voter's intent. The bottom line is our elections should not be in the hands of a private companies and the tallies should not be conducted by computer software so secret that the code can't be disclosed to independent reviewers in order to validate the results. It makes a mockery of the whole concept of free and fair elections.

This is an issue that needs to be resolved well before 08 if we expect to restore our country to its former, pre-Bush administration glory.
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White House endangers us more than all the nukes in Iran

Flynt Leverett's op-ed was published in the NYT today and in a bold move that as far as I know is unprecendented, it was published complete with the White House redactions. I remind you this piece was cleared by the CIA and the informtion therein has appeared in other publications in its complete form, which you can check out yourself thanks to the handy guide that accompanies the piece.

Leverett and his co-author buck the conventional wisdom of limited engagement and suggest a bold "grand bargain" with Tehran, but there is nothing in this short piece that compromises our national security. The only one compromised here is George Bush, whose taunting of Tehran is exposed for what it was and is -- the intemperate swaggering of a self-involved politician who cares more about his dismal legacy than the safety and security of our country.

Somebody will figure out what's been redacted and publish an approximation of the original piece but what it really said will be far less important than what it wasn't allowed to say in the NYT today. The redactions will stand as a testimony to just how far George Bush is willing to go in destroying our freedoms and compromising our national security in order to protect his own reputation.

I've been predicting Bush would ruin this country and bring us to a worldwide crisis since 1999, long before I started blogging. But it's too late for impeachment. It's time for a national call for this president to resign and he should take Dick Cheney, who I don't doubt is behind this bone-headed move, with him.

[Thanks to memeorandum and to The Daou Report for the linkage]
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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Vacuous, thy name is Mary Grabar

As an Onion piece it would have been funny. As it is, I can't bring myself to link to this intellectually bereft piece of "trolling for hits" bait by this person who appears to be the latest Phyllis Schafly wannabe, but Shakes is a braver woman than me and rebuts it so well, so just go over there.
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Earth quakes in the politcal landscape

Holy Mother of God. Bush has lost John the Ponderous Powerline Pundit. I didn't think I'd live to see the day when he would be dissing the Dubya. Of course, it's probably just a temporary lapse of sanity.

Wait a minute, I just started reading. Now I'm just floored. Joe Scarborough and Mike Barnicle.
BARNICLE: The deaths in this war right now, at this stage in our life, our political life, our national life, and especially if there‘s a surge in troops in Baghdad—the deaths of American soldiers verges now on the criminal. And I don‘t think that‘s too strong a statement. It verges on the criminal. There‘s no plan. There‘s only this poppycock that you get from the president of the United States, who says one thing one moment, another thing the next moment, and he can‘t figure out what he is saying.

SCARBOROUGH: So what‘s going on there, Mike?

BARNICLE: What is going on there? I think you have a president totally isolated from reality, totally delusional, kind of paranoid, figuring that everyone‘s against him, including his own Joint Chiefs of Staff, figuring that history 30, 40 years from now is going to prove him correct.
Read that whole transcript for your own "jaw hits floor" moment. A month ago these same guys were calling us traitors and appeasers and surrender monkeys for saying the exact same thing. It's been a long while since I used these words, but I feel a real sea change in the air.
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Happy Solstice

If you've missed me in your comment sections it's because I haven't been to single blog on my blogroll in a month. The SAD thing really had me down this year. But whew. It's the longest night of the year folks. We made it to another solstice. Starting tomorrow the sun will be winning again. It will take at least three weeks to really notice the difference but I'll be able to tell even tomorrow.

And how even more lucky, I'm home from work and looking at another six days off. I feel better already.
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No tengo futuro

I'm working today, so just this quick hit this morning. Jeb Bush has declared himself washed up in politics. 'No tengo futuro (I have no future),'Jeb Bush told Spanish-language reporters in Miami, when asked about any possible political ambitions after he steps down next month." Interesting way to put it. Makes it sound like a he has a terminal disease instead of simply suffering from the backlash of his younger brother's "legacy."
"Jeb would have made an outstanding presidential candidate," said Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, who joined Bush at a luncheon on Wednesday hosted by a Cuban American political action committee. Brownback, a Republican who launched an exploratory committee three weeks ago to consider his own bid for the presidency, added that he was "a Jeb Bush-type conservative."

In a backhanded slap at President Bush, Brownback cited "a heritage issue" as one factor currently weighing against a Jeb Bush presidency. "People may be wanting to see a different name," he said.
I'd say that about the understatement of the year. Too bad really. Of all the Bush family men we got stuck with, Jeb is probably the one who would have made the best president. Not that I would ever have voted for him, but as the lesser of evils go, he probably is the least evil of the lot and I doubt he would have mishandled the office as badly as his brother has so far.
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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Muslims are coming....

Good to see Glenn Greenwald posting this morning. He has a letter that Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA) sent to his constituents that has to be read to be believed. I've come to expect this sort of hateful rhetoric from the wingnutia of Rightopia, but something is very wrong with our country when an elected representative to the US Congress publicly spews this sort of vile description of not only his fellow Congressman, but by definition includes millions of American citizens. You really have to read the whole thing to get the full impact, but it's short by Glenn's standards, and here's a couple of choice quotes to tempt you to click over.
The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran.
So what is he saying here? That the voters who elected Keith Ellison aren't American citizens? Or that they're lesser citizens? Or that they shouldn't be allowed to call themselves Americans because they don't read the Bible? It gets worse.
I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.
I got news for Mr. Goode (and that's a misnomer if there ever was one). The values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America are of inclusiveness. Of welcoming and accepting our fellow Americans into the great melting pot of our society, that used to be called civil before cretins like Mr. Goode got their grubby hooks into it and starting shredding the meaning of being a good American. Good Americans judge their fellow citizens on the basis of their actions, not their ethnicity or their choice of holy books.

Oddly, the best rebuttal I've seen against this evil intolerant mindset currently poisoning our country comes from that darling of the right wing herself, Baldilocks, who reminds Mr. Goode that when he paints all Muslims with that broad brush, he's tarring her too. Who knew she was raised as a Muslim? I didn't, but it's telling that she didn't grow up wanting to wage jihad on her fellow Americans and neither did most of the Muslims who were born here or who immigrated later.

Via memeorandum which is chock full of hot stories this morning. Check it out.
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Was it good for you?

Oh my God!. Hand me the smelling salts - over 90% of Americans have had pre-martial sex. This includes all those "good girls" who came of age in the 50s and not just us dirty hippies who introduced that sinful concept of telling the truth and admitting we were boinking each other. It also includes about 80% of those fundie types that take pledges of chastity and whatnot.

This news should give pause to those fundamentalist Christians who want to turn back the clock to the good old days when only men catted around and all women were self-proclaimed virgins going down the aisle.

I always wondered who all those guys were sleeping with. It seemed unlikely to me, even as a teen that every guy in the school was getting their experience with the same three "tramps" that were known to "put out." Especially since some of those "good girls" would inevitably disappear for nine months or so. Spending time with their Aunt Sally in Cleveland was the usual excuse proffered -- but we all knew the real reason.

Of course none of this will actually sway the abstinence only crowd from their appointed mission to bring back chastity belts, which is okay. Everyone needs a hobby but unfortunately, one of the biggest proponents of fantasy-based sex education is our own president, who is passing out our tax dollars by the millions to organizations that promise they can teach the human animal to just say no to something that feels so good.
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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Cheney will testify

Hot off the MSN homepage, Cheney will be called as a witness in Scooter's trial. Make of it what you will.

For myself, I am not heartened to hear Fitzgerald's assurances that Cheney won't he asked anything that would require him to assert privilege. It's starting to sound like a show trial to me.
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Straight from the lizard's mouth

I never thought I would live to see the day that Newt would be giving advice to the Democratic Party.
A. Here's the core thing for you to think about: The Republican challenge is to get back on offense as the reform party.

The Democrats' challenge is to do one of two things. What they are going to try to do, what they should do, is say nothing except "Had enough?" If they try to wear a mask and pretend to be moderates, Republicans will cheerfully take the mask off.

So the Republican challenge is, prove to the country that this is a choice, not a referendum. The Democratic problem is make this a referendum, not a choice.
Meanwhile, I may have to eat my words on Obama. He grabbed this ball and ran with it. Maybe the country is ready to elect a black man as President. I recently saw a promising poll and if he keeps making speeches like this, he could very well swing the general election. Read the whole excerpt, it's short, but I'll give you the first and last grafs.
I don't know about you, but I think old Newt is onto something here. Because I think we've all had enough. Enough of the broken promises. Enough of the failed leadership. Enough of the can't-do, won't-do, won't-even-try style of governance.

I don't know about you, but when George W. Bush said he didn't believe in nation building, I didn't know he was talking about this nation.
Doesn't that just sum it up perfectly? If he keeps that up, Obama's got a real chance.

Via my new co-blogger, Christine Barry, who recently joined us at the Detroit News and whom I already adore and consider a friend. Check out her own blog.
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A surge of uncertainty

It appears the new way forward for our Iraq policy is to create a surge of confusion among the various players who have any say. The White House is pitching its "new" surge strategy but from my armchair it looks like the same old "stay the course" dressed up in a new phrase. I mean wasn't Operation Forward Together -- you remember, the infusion of troops last summer -- supposed to the big surge that was going to quell the violence in Baghdad and change everything? As the Pentagon finally got around to announcing, the violence got much worse.

Now Bush is talking about sending in less troops in this second "surge" and expecting some different result? Why? Because he gave it a new name? And for all the rhetoric of the recent pre-midterm past, when announcing a timetable for withdrawal was being painted by the White House as handing the "terrorists" the blueprint to our strategy, why is it okay to set a surge timetable? It's all such a painfully transparent and pathetic attempt to avoid the reality that Iraq is lost, by any military measure.

Meanwhile, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the ISG, and various other learned study groups can only come to a consensus about one thing. What we're doing isn't working. Rice isn't going to say anything until George tells her what to say. It reminds me of the Tower of Babel. Everybody's talking but nobody understands each other.

Meanwhile, it's little wonder Bush doesn't want to announce his plans. It's clear to me that he doesn't have any beyond wanting to stay on the disaster course he's plotted, until he leaves office, so somebody else can take the blame when it finally falls apart altogether.
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Monday, December 18, 2006

Redefining the War on Terror

It looks like this will be worth buying in hard copy. I'm betting the article won't be on-line.
In the December 18, 2006, issue of The New Yorker, George Packer reports on a radically new approach to fighting the war on terror (“Knowing the Enemy,” p. 60). Packer talks to a remarkable theorist named David Kilcullen, an Australian anthropologist who is also a lieutenant colonel in his country’s Army and the chief strategist in the U.S. State Department’s Office of the Coördinator for Counterterrorism. Kilcullen, who is “on loan” to the U.S. government, claims that the notion of a “global war on terror” is fundamentally misguided, and argues that America is in fact facing a “global counterinsurgency.”

As Packer writes, “The change in terminology has large implications . . . The notion of a ‘war on terror’ has led the U.S. government to focus overwhelmingly on military responses. In a counterinsurgency, according to the classical doctrine . . . armed force is only a quarter of the effort; political, economic, and informational operations are also required.” In other words, America can’t simply win battles; it must win the political support of the civilian populations that feed radical Islamic movements.
I've been saying this since before Bush went into Afghanistan, but nobody listens to me.
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An American detainee's story

Donald Vance, a young Navy veteran went to Iraq as a security contractor. He became a whistleblower against his employer after having witnessed illegal arms trading at the company. He worked with the FBI to expose the fraud and as a reward he was arrested himself by US troops and held in an Iraqi prison for 97 days.

He was held incommunicado, denied access to counsel and subjected to the inhumane treatment that has become all too common a story for those who are held as "enemy combatants" at the whim of our government. If not for the efforts of his finacee and family, perhaps he would still be rotting in that jail cell.

It's a harrowing story and I especially urge my right wing readers to read it all to gain an understanding of how we lost the moral high ground in the so-called war on terror.
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You call this winning?

Ollie North, who should be rotting in jail himself for war crimes he commited during Iran-Contra, says we're winning in Iraq. Ollie offers up a heart warming little story from Ramadi about one girl's school, in one neighborhood that operates in defiance of "terrorist" threats. Not to diminish or criticize this accomplishment -- it's a big one in a way -- but it's also one small school, in one neighborhood, in a city of 400,000 people.

As the U.S. Marine corporal in charge of this little operation puts it, we can consider the war won "when these people don't need me to guard this street so their kids can go to school -- when they can do it themselves." I have to ask, just how many lifetimes will that take, when three years later they need our help to make this one small thing happen? The minute we leave, the school would close again. And how many troops would need to be in Baghdad, with a population of 5,948,800, before women can leave their homes in western dress and drive their cars again -- as they could before we invaded? Are we to commit almost our entire military to protecting the Iraqis from themselves for the foreseeable future?

And who will protect US citizens if the war comes unexpectedly to our shores?
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Padilla judge could expose domestic Abu Ghraib tactics

It's still speculative now, but I really hope this happens.
WASHINGTON — A federal judge in Miami will soon make one of the most important rulings in the Bush administration's war on terrorism and decide whether to publicly explore evidence that an accused terrorist was brutally mistreated for years inside a one-man isolation cell.

The allegations involve Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen once portrayed as one of the most dangerous Al Qaeda operatives ever arrested. Padilla's lawyers have asked U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke to set him free because of the abuse they say he suffered.

...Though federal judges rarely dismiss criminal charges before trial, the allegations are so extreme that they may prompt Cooke to hold a pretrial hearing in what would be the first public court examination into how detainees were handled after the Sept. 11 attacks.
If Padilla testifies, it will also be the first time a "terrorist" detainee spoke in open court about his torment. I hope the judge is brave enough to hold the hearings and dismisses the case.

As I've said before, Padilla is probably not a very good person but he's not a terrorist and should be set free. He's suffered enough and the residual effects of his torture -- and yes that's the only word to describe it -- will linger on for the rest of his life.
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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Fred Barnes -- White House guest

How much more enamored of your own glamor and importance can you get, than starting a column with this?
It turns out you only have to attend a White House Christmas party to find out where President Bush is headed on Iraq.
I'm so impressed. Fred Barnes, as he repeated reminds us in this little conceit, attended a White House useful tool cattle call and dutifully reports the president is in command and has a plan. A plan that has a snowball's chance in hell of working despite Fred's assurances it has a credible prospect of suceeding. (Yeah Fred, I have a credible chance of hitting the lottery tonight too. I did buy a ticket, but the odds still aren't in my favor, or of this plan.)

Nonetheless, Mr. Barnes graciously tenders his sage advice to the Decider in Chief.
The sooner Bush orders the plan into action, the better chances are that next Christmas he'll be telling White House guests that winning in Iraq is not a goal. It could actually be happening.
Yeah and Santa might really show up on my rooftop this year with 8 tiny reindeer. How times do these self-important pundits get to predict victory before they become the laughingstock they deserve to be?

Update: Heretik joined Freddy at the punchbowl.
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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Taking impeachment off the table

For the last four and half years anyway, I've dreamed of impeaching the entire White House. Heck I've even fantasized about indictments and frog marches out of 1600 Penn Ave. But at this point, I don't think it would be productive. It's simply too late. He'll be out of office before the hearings would even start.

John Dean has some practical thoughts on this at Findlaw but this piece by Chris Bowers sums up my thoughts even better.
Do I think that Bush has committed impeachable offensives? Probably. However, I would rather pursue a course of legislative action that would keep our caucus close to united, help large numbers of actual Americans, have a legitimate chance of passing both branches of Congress, conduct actual investigations and oversight and, if those investigations prove worthy, close by censuring Bush. I think is the appropriate and responsible way to act, a way that will help people, tarnish Bush, keep us popular, and keep our majorities. That is why you won't see me pushing for Bush's impeachment on this blog, or anywhere else, over the next two years

Much as I would love to kick the whole lot of them out of office as a sort of object lesson, it's way too late to bother now. Better the Dems use their power to expose the corporate kickbacks that are wasting of our tax dollars in Iraq...
That makes sense. The Dems only have two years left to deal with the excesses of this administration which are just too numerous. Impeachment would be seen as mere vengeance, while promoting some important social causes would win some hearts and minds with the voters they're going to need to swing in 08. I still have my doubts about whether the Dems can deliver any changes at all but I don't think it's fair to put unrealistic demands on the table. Better they shut down the secret surveillance programs and restore habe, than punish Bush. And fixing the electoral system is going to take a lot of time.

Internet neutrality is high on the list of protections that need to be restored. This is one arena the Dems already making a difference in and breaking up media consolidation would do us a lot more good in the long run than trying to kick Bush out. I mean the list is endless. Everything the White House has done wrong can't be righted in only two years.

I do have a passing thought for those who can't give up on impeachment though. They can use the resources and the organization that already exists to either call for his resignation, which is just as unlikely but there would be a certain satisfaction factor in asking for it, or they shift their focus to assembling a case for charging him criminally once he's out of office.

Unlike Bowers, I'm certain Bush has commited impeachable offenses, and I also believe he and Cheney very probably commited criminal malfaesance while in office. That would be the ultimate justice, to see both of them sentenced to the vast and cruel gulag they created themselves.
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White House censors critical op-ed

The unmitigated gall of this administration continues to astound me. The White House didn't like an op-ed on Iran that had to be screened through the CIA because it was written by a retired CIA officer. The CIA signed off on it as containing no classified information. The White House blocked publication under its usual state's secret criteria. That seems to be if they don't like it, you can't see it, hear it or print it.
Middle East analyst Flynt Leverett, who served under President Bush on the National Security Council and is now a fellow at the New America Foundation, revealed today that the White House has been blocking the publication of an op-ed he wrote for the New York Times. The column is critical of the administration’s refusal to engage Iran.

...According to Leverett the op-ed was “all based on stuff that Secretary Powell, Secretary Rice, Deputy Secretary Armitage have talked about publicly. It’s been extensively reported in the media.” Leverett says the incident shows “just how low people like Elliot Abrams at the NSC [National Security Council] will stoop to try and limit the dissemination of arguments critical of the administration’s policy.”
The op-ed advised offering Iran full diplomatic and economic relations and a security guarantee in return for forswearing nuclear weapons. Sounds like a more reasonable solution than nuking the entire country into glass ashtrays, hoping we hit all their nuclear facilities to me. Which I suppose the White House doesn't anyone else to see it. Perhaps it would generate more public pressure for common sense at a time Our Great Decider is busily thinking about what he is going to decide to do.

What a way to run a democracy -- into the ground. If you don't like something, ignore it, delete it, ban it and prosecute anyone who dares divulge it.

The Carpetbagger has a short list of other inconvenient truths the Bush team has suppressed. Like the number of insurgent based attacks per month in Iraq, the number of terrorist incidents worldwide, which government programs work to assist the poor, factory closings, stats on federal shortchanging of state's funding and the underperformance of charter schools. That's, of course, an incomplete accounting. Just off the top of my head, I could add climate disruption and other EPA reports on environmental damage and FDA data. I'm sure you could think of more yourself.
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Women the big losers in the war on terror

This is the saddest and most infuriating thing I've read in a month. Send this link to anybody who tells you how we liberated Iraqi women or wants you to believe we have to fight the mythical "Islamofascists" in Iran or Syria or anywhere else because they treat their women so badly. Our war on terror has set back women's rights on the Arab Street by centuries.

Hundreds of thousands are dead. Billions and billions of our tax dollars are spent and the debt will be on the shoulders of our children and our grandchildren and their children for this? Feh.
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When losing is still winning

The Weblog awards are over. The polls are closed, the ballots counted and although it's not official until Monday, it's clear that The Impolitic came in a distant but very respectable third. It was a good finish considering we turned it around from dead last and came in with double the votes of the rest of the field.

It was more fun than I expected it to be and I'm happy to have gained a couple of more conservative friends out of the deal. Second place winner Bubblehead brought the fun to the table and inspired me to actively compete and Jack's Shack, who I still don't think is as progressive as he claims, nonetheless offered up thoughtful points that challenged my thinking in the comment section here. I hope he sticks around now that it's over.

Never having actually tried to win a contest before, I learned a lot from this one. I understand a little better what it feels like to be professional politician. The temptation to say yes, when your technogenius friend offers to stuff the ballot box for you. How righteous you feel when you say no. The surprisingly amount of time and energy it takes to campaign. But mostly I learned that Leftopia is pretty great place and I'm really proud to be a small part of it.

I want to offer a special thanks to those who endorsed me in the 11th hour push. My friend David at In Search of Utopia, the inimitable skippy the bush kangaroo, the irresistable Shakespeare's Sister and a new friend Grift Drift who came through like knight in shining armor with an unexpected plug.

Most of all, thanks to all of you for voting and more importantly for visting my little space here. Your support, your company and comments make me feel a winner every day.
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Weblog Awards - Special Update

A big thanks to David at In Search of Utopia for the endorsement. David is also in the running for a award and he's in close contention for first place. Please vote for In Search Of Utopia here.

Another big thanks to skippy the bush kangaroo for the endorsement. He's also up for an award in best liberal blog category. Please vote for skippy the bush kangaroo here.

I'm almost getting a little teary eyed here at the response to my blegging. A big thanks to Shakespeare's Sister for her endorsement. She's got a whole list of others that deserve votes as well and with her endorsement comes my first dilemma. She's up against skippy in the best liberal blog category which is such a tough one because I love all the blogs on the list. But there's two days left so you could split your vote. Please vote for Shakespeare's Sister here.

A belated thanks to Grift Drift for his endorsement. This one means a lot to me because (a) I didn't even bleg him for it and (b) he doesn't agree with my politics but he says I'm a good egg and endorsed me anyway. Thanks so much darlin.

And if you haven't voted in the last 24 hours, you can vote for the Impolitic again.

Update: For those of you who have arrived because of my shameless blegging all over the internets and are wondering just who the heck is The Impolitic anyway, here's some things about me.
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Friday, December 15, 2006

General says our army is broken

I'm certainly no military genius but I just don't see how increasing our military by 7,000 soldiers a year is going to make that big a difference in our military readiness. Not to mention the cost involved.
The Army estimates that every 10,000 additional soldiers will cost about $1.2 billion a year, up from $700 million in 2001 in part because of increased enlistment bonuses and other incentives.
Call me a dreamer, but I can't help but think if we only waged war out of necessity for our national security, instead of embarking on war of choice misadventures based on political considerations, there would be plenty of volunteers and you wouldn't need incentives. Problem solved, no?

Update: How timely. I'd say this makes my point. Almost 1000 mostly active duty soldiers, including officers have signed an appeal and plan to petition Congress to withdraw the troops in Iraq.
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Fear and lies on sexed up intelligence

Thank God the UK still has a functioning press corps or the Bush administration's lies would never be exposed. The UK Independent unveils the latest hitherto suppressed internal document from Blair's side of the deceits that tricked us into this failed occupation.
It shows Mr Ross told the inquiry, chaired by Lord Butler, "there was no intelligence evidence of significant holdings of CW [chemical warfare], BW [biological warfare] or nuclear material" held by the Iraqi dictator before the invasion. "There was, moreover, no intelligence or assessment during my time in the job that Iraq had any intention to launch an attack against its neighbours or the UK or the US," he added.
Meanwhile, Rice is afraid to talk to Tehran because they might ask for some concessions that we don't want to give. How lame is that? Just because they ask doesn't mean we can't say no. Jebus, that's like saying you can't take a two year old into the grocery store because they might ask for candy.
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John McCain hearts wars

Yeah we really want this guy to be president. John McCain loves the war in Iraq and wants to make it bigger. I don't know for sure but I'm betting he feels the same way about the war on some drugs and now he introduced legislation to start a war on bloggers.

He wants to hold bloggers to a higher standard than ISP providers and hold them responsible for what other people post in comment sections and profiles. Of course he claims to be "doing it for the children" but offers no evidence that any children have been harmed by blogger comments.

One suspects a guy who is planning to run for president is more afraid of what truths in the historical record Blogtopia might expose about him. It would be very convenient to shut down the dialogue on the internets for a guy who would prefer to keep what happened in the past, in the past. And to think I felt sorry for the guy when he was swift boated by his own party.

[hat tip Grift Drift]
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What is the meaning of this?

Why is George Will encouraging Obama to run? I doubt he cares whether the Democrats win the White House in 08. I suspect it's some kind of nefarious trick.
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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Word have more power than bombs

Glenn Greewald posts on the press as a necessary adversary to the government a topic timely to a discussion I've been having with Jack's Shack in the comment section of this post.

In discussing what to do about Iran, Jack favors forceful intervention while I favor diplomacy. He makes many of the same arguments I've heard before. We can't let Ahmadinejad get away with his swaggering grandstanding and his reprehensible convocation of a Holocaust Denier's conference. He evokes the lesson of Chamberlain and Hitler, but as I pointed out to him, the world has changed a lot since 1938. We have the technology to communicate in ways that weren't even dreamed of then. I remember before the internets when it took three days to get news here, about something that happened in China. But in this communication age, words now have more power to effect change than bullets and bombs will ever have.

As Glenn points out, the NYT did their job on the Holocaust denier's conference. They reported their claims as patently false. That's what they're supposed to do. Not uncritically report both sides of the issue as if both had equal weight, but to report what both sides say and then offer evidence as to which side has more veracity in their claims. This is true when they report on Tehran and it's true when they report on the White House. Had they done their job four years ago, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in right now.

It's one of those obvious truths that often escape notice. An uncritical press is by nature biased and of no more worth than Pravda. An adversial press is objective when it lives up to its ages-old mission as a watchdog over our governments. Similarly, a vocal population can change public policy a whole lot more effectively than brute force.
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All the King's horses and all the King's men couldn't put Iraq back together again...

Do these people ever talk to each other? The Joint Chiefs of Staff are recommending a change of course in Iraq.
The chiefs do not favor adding significant numbers of troops to Iraq, said sources familiar with their thinking, but see strengthening the Iraqi army as pivotal to achieving some degree of stability. They also are pressing for a much greater U.S. effort on economic reconstruction and political reconciliation.

The chiefs also want to see a new push on political and economic issues, especially employment programs, reconstruction and political reconciliation, to help quell the problems that have fueled both the Sunni insurgency and Shiite-Sunni sectarian strife, say defense officials and U.S. military officers in Iraq. A new jobs program is considered key to pulling young men from the burgeoning militias.
Cripes. I've been saying that for many months now. Meanwhile, The Pentagon is pushing for a risky gamble with our troops lives
[S]trong support has coalesced in the Pentagon behind a military plan to "double down" in the country with a substantial buildup in American troops, an increase in industrial aid and a major combat offensive against Muqtada Sadr, the radical Shiite leader impeding development of the Iraqi government.

"I think it is worth trying," a defense official said. "But you can't have the rhetoric without the resources. This is a double down" — the gambling term for upping a bet.

...Some military officers believe that Iraq has become a test of wills, and that the U.S. needs to show insurgents and sectarian militias that it is willing to stay and fight. "I've come to the realization we need to go in, in a big way," said an Army officer. "You have to have an increase in troops…. We have to convince the enemy we are serious and we are coming in harder."
However, what doubling down means in terms of troops is muddy. I've heard suggestions ranging from a ridiculous spit in the bucket 20,000 to 100,000 and no one seems to offer an explanation as to where these additional troops would come from.

It's so easy for these policy wonks at the Pentagon to make these recommendations from their cushy little offices. I might suggest that anyone who wants to double down be required to back that theory by putting their own boots on the ground in Iraq. That might bring a little realism into the debate.
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Padilla case takes a new twist

The prosecution joined Padilla's defense team in asking for a competency hearing. It appears Padilla is so damaged from his prolonged incarceration and isolation that he is unable to comprehend the charges against him or assist in his defense.
“Jose’s experience as a detainee was so traumatic that it’s physically and mentally painful for him to answer the questions that we put to him,” said Orlando do Campo, a federal public defender in Miami. “He just shuts down. We’re covering a lot of the same area as his interrogators, and he doesn’t want to relive it.”

The government itself cited the affidavit of a psychiatrist for the defense, Dr. Angela Hegarty, who said that Mr. Padilla did not understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him and that he suffered “impairment in reasoning” as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder “complicated by the effects of prolonged isolation.”
Of course, both sides have different reasons for pushing for the hearing.
...For instance, his lawyers have asked Judge Marcia G. Cooke of Federal District Court to dismiss the charges because of “pre-indictment delay” — Mr. Padilla was apprehended in May 2002 and indicted in November 2005 — because of failure to provide a speedy trial and because of “outrageous government conduct.”

Judge Cooke set a hearing date for Monday to address these motions. But the government said yesterday that it would be pointless to discuss accusations of government misconduct based on Mr. Padilla’s word if his competence was in question. The government vehemently denies that Mr. Padilla was mistreated in military custody.
Right. Didn't the government also vehemently deny that any abuse occurred in Abu Ghraib until the photos surfaced? History I think, will look back on this matter as marking the low point in our system of justice.

Update: This just in from the WaPo.
A previously undisclosed Pentagon report concluded that the three terrorism suspects held at a brig in South Carolina were subjected to months of isolation, and it warned that their "unique" solitary confinement could be viewed as violating U.S. detention standards.
So much for the government's denials.
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Senator suffers possible stroke

This is rather horrible. Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson was in critical condition Thursday after late-night brain surgery. Details remain sketchy and there is much unseemly speculating about the political ramifications of his possible inability to fulfill his term of office.

For myself, I'm merely going to extend my thoughts and prayers to his family and wish the good Senator a speedy recovery.
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Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I am so sick. I haven't felt this bad in years. Sorry folks, but I'm going to get back under my covers and try to sleep until I feel better.
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