Saturday, December 17, 2005

Links of the Day

Links for reading...

-A sign of progress in Iraq or just part of an inevitable road to civil war?:
Sunni Leader Open to Coalition Government

As always... fingers crossed.

-Doctor Senator Frist once again confirms his status of a man of great moral fiber:
AP: Frist AIDS Charity Paid Consultants

Poor Fristy's credibility is in a persistant vegetative state.

-President Bush? Controversial nominees? I am shocked!:
Bush Picks Controversial Nominees for FEC

Note to FEC, if anyone of them is nicknamed "Brownie"... run.

-And, finally, the guy who took on McDonald's will take on the Republican's war on science:
'Science' Scooped Up

Give 'em hell, Morgan!

They Hate Us For Our Freedoms

Another day, another story on how the Bush administration utilizes the tactics of fascism to 'protect' us. Fear, paranoia, the government spying on its own citizens... so nice we haven't let the terrorists take away our freedoms. This isn't a tin foil hat fantasy anymore, people, this is reality today in the United States of America.

I know this violation of the law wasn't blowjob perjury, but can we begin impeachment proceedings soon, please?

This spy program was personally authorized by the President himself.

From the AP: Bush Approved Eavesdropping, Official Says

President Bush has personally authorized a secretive eavesdropping program in the United States more than three dozen times since October 2001, a senior intelligence official said Friday night...

...The official said that since October 2001, the program has been renewed more than three dozen times. Each time, the White House counsel and the attorney general certified the lawfulness of the program, the official said. Bush then signed the authorization.

The President does acknowledge, and tries to defend, this:
Bush Acknowledges Approving Eavesdropping

The President insists that this program is "consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution". I sincerely doubt that this is the case, but I am sure the President is hard at work today battling terrorism having his lawyers find every loophole possible to help him in that argument. Note to George: Don't use the 'executive privilege' argument, that didn't work out so well for Tricky Dick.

Angry officials in Washington plan to investigate this program early next year:
Shocked Lawmakers Demand Spy Program Probe

Let's hope this isn't another lip-service investigation. This week's victory against the Patriot Act gives me hope, of course.

Sen. Feingold, as always, says it best: "If that's true, he doesn't need the Patriot Act because he can just make it up as he goes along. I tell you, he's President George Bush, not King George Bush. This is not the system of government we have and that we fought for."

A lot of blogs are covering this... I like what AmericaBlog said best-
If Bush thought eavesdropping laws were too onerous post 9/11, he was required to ask Congress to CHANGE THE LAW, not just violate it for 3 years

...We now know that for the past 3 years the Bush administration broke American law in order to spy on American citizens. Why? Bush says it's because the current law was so onerous that our spy agencies couldn't find the terrorists in a moment's notice....

...In America, when the president has a problem with the law he goes to Congress and presents his case, and asks our elected officials to weigh the merits of the case and then vote on changing the law. Only dictators say to hell with Congress, to hell with our laws, to hell with our democratic process .... We need an immediate independent investigation, and if this story is confirmed, Bush should resign or be removed from office.

Amen to that.

We all want the government to protect us (yes, even liberals!!) and we are all grateful that great efforts have been undertaken to accomplish this goal successfully. But there is a right and a wrong way to do so. The President chose the wrong way. One might argue that, given the terrorist threat, we should give the White House the benefit of the doubt. NO. This administration has proven over and over it cannot be trusted. The President once jokingly remarked things would be easier for him if he were a dictator, now it turns out the joke may be on us.

Only those Americans who've surrended to the Bush culture of fear could not be concerned about the implications of this story. The President of the United States has put himself above the law, above the Congress, because he feels his duties as leader put him beyond such Constitutional limitations. That is not a democracy. We cannot surrender our democracy because of fears of enemies, no matter how serious (and I am not underestimating the genuine threat we face). The bottom line is this- The President cannot simply disobey laws (continually, for over three years) that he finds bothersome. He swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution and our laws, not subvert them whenever feels necessary.

The President must be impeached for these actions.

Please Congress, don't let this one get away. The American people demand accountability.

Other blog looks at this scandal:
-So When You Hear the Words “the American People,” Just Lie Back on the Cushion, Because You’re About to Get Screwed
-An Incredible Day in America
-If The President Does It It's Not Illegal

Conservatives On Spy Scandal: Pffffftttt

It's not even a remote surprise that Bush supporters are unphased by this news.

There is nothing, no civil liberty, that they wouldn't sacrifice to our leader so he can save us from the bad men. Granted, if Al Gore or John Kerry were President today and were engaged in these activities, they'd be storming the Capital with flaming sticks and pitchforks. But when George W. Bush does it (or does anything, doesn't matter what), it is a-okay. Makes sense.

Whenever I hear a story like this, and in turn the conservatives blowing it off like it's a non-issue (as I have seen on a number of sites), I ask myself this: WWHICWP?

What Would Happen If Clinton Was President? That 'liberal media' was on Clinton on everything. To many conservatives, Bill Clinton was one of the most destructive Presidents ever. Think of these scandals: Whitewater, Travelgate, OMG Clinton got a haircut at the airport, OMG the White House took contributions to let diplomats stay in the Lincoln Bedroom, and BlowJobGate....

Now think of these scandals: Secret energy meetings, 9/11 warnings ignored, stonewalling post-9/11 investigations, prisoners held without trial, Osama gets away, faulty WMD intel (Niger forgeries, bogus 9/11-Saddam links, etc) leads to disastrous war in Iraq, no plans for post-war Iraq, Abu Ghraib and systematic torture, no-bid contracts to Halliburton who overcharges the army and 'loses' millions in Iraq, CIA agent outed by White House official, Scooter Libby perjures himself in said case, Bush cuts vacation short to save braindead Terri Schiavo, reporters paid by White House to promote agenda, Jeff Gannon snuck into White House press corps and has secret visits to White House, Karl Rove under investigation, Bush refuses to cut vacation for approaching hurricane, Katrina aftermath botched, torture ban veto threatened, Supreme Court woes, and war continues, and now a secret spying program... To name the most offensive.

Yea, I don't know why I find George W. Bush to be worse.

Shame on the New York Times

The New York Times, which broke the spying story, witheld the story for a year.

Bush Secretly Lifted Some Limits on Spying in U.S. After 9/11, Officials Say

The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting. Some information that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists has been omitted.

Anyone wanna bet that they had the story around, say, late October 2004, and were asked to withhold it? Totally not because of any major electoral event occurring around that time, but because of 'national security' concerns? Similar to how Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation was stymied in 2004 due to uncooperative reporters, but by mid-2005 the reporters were coming out of the woodwork with testimony and mea culpas like they were going out of style. Surely a coincidence, don't lose any sleep over it, God bless America.

Since when does the New York Times, let alone any journalist, take orders from the White House?

If only Richard Nixon had known that all he had to do was call up Bob Woodward and say "Hey stop publishing your stories, it's a, ummm, national security issue. [expletive deleted] Thanks."... Actually today's Bob Woodward probably would have agreed, but that's a separate issue.

The Times had evidence of criminal behavior on the part of the White House and they agreed to keep it hidden for over a year? Why? Because Bush's approval numbers were still high enough last year that everyone was still afraid of him? They figured it could wait until his numbers were in the toilet before revealing this? I hope they will be asked to explain this further. After the Judy Miller/Plamegate debacle, they cannot afford a further eroding of their integrity.

Shame on the New York Times. Their responsibility is to the public, not the White House.

Merry Christmas, Movie House!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Jib Jab: 2005 Year In Review

The newest Jib Jab cartoon is out- a look at George W. Bush's year in review:

I Only Spy On You Because I Love You, Baby

Update on the story that government is illegally spying on Americans...

President 'The Constitution is just a goddamned piece of paper' Bush has responded in typical Bush fashion- by refusing to give an actual response. Hey, it's not like this is an important issue like Tom Delay's innocence here.

Bush Won't Discuss Report of NSA Spying

President Bush refused to say whether the National Security Agency eavesdropped without warrants on people inside the United States but leaders of Congress condemned the practice on Friday and promised to look into what the administration has done.

"There is no doubt that this is inappropriate," said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said there would be hearings early next year and that they would have "a very, very high priority." He wasn't alone in reacting harshly to the report. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the story, first reported in Friday's New York Times, was troubling...

Here's some evasive remarks from Bush in an interview Jim Lehrer did:
"[W]e do not discuss ongoing intelligence operations to protect the country. And the reason why is that there's an enemy that lurks, that would like to know exactly what we're trying to do to stop them.

I will make this point. That whatever I do to protect the American people — and I have an obligation to do so — that we will uphold the law, and decisions made are made understanding we have an obligation to protect the civil liberties of the American people."

And if you believe that, I have WMDs in Iraq I'd like to sell you.

The Washington Post chimes in on the story too: Bush Authorized Domestic Spying

But hope does grow stronger... the Senate is fighting the Patriot Act:
Senate Rejects Extension of Patriot Act

The Senate on Friday refused to reauthorize major portions of the USA Patriot Act after critics complained they infringed too much on Americans' privacy and liberty, dealing a huge defeat to the Bush administration and Republican leaders...

Douchebag of Liberty

Well Robert Novak is finally done at CNN.

And, SURPRISE, he's making his status as a tool official and heading to Fox News... where all the patriots go.

Robert Novak Leaving CNN for Fox News

Commentator Robert Novak, who hasn't been seen on CNN since swearing and storming off the set in August, will leave the network after 25 years and join Fox News Channel as a contributor next month.

How nice for Robert. He betrays his country by outing a CIA agent and now he heads to Roger Ailes's Fair and Balanced Wonderland where he will be welcomed by his fellow faux-patriots in a warm embrace of Bush-worshipping love. So nice of Fox, who considers people like Cindy Sheehan and John Murtha to be guilty of treason, to give Novak an outlet for his opinions. Given all the trouble other Plamegate reporters are in (Judy Miller disgraced and gone from the Times, Viveca Novak on forced leave, and Bob Woodward's reputation tarnished), it's interesting to see that the one who actually outed Ms. Plame seems to be doing very well for himself.

To quote Mr. Novak, "I think that's bullshit".

Twas the week before Christmas

The War on Christmas has arrived in the floors of Congress.

The US House of Representatives was debating House Resolution 579 yesterday, a resolution "expressing the sense of Congress that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected, and that references to Christmas should be supported". Yes, that's right, the same day elections took place in Iraq and the White House decided to better hide ban torture, Congress was debating Christmas.

Congressman John D. Dingell (MI-15) recited this poem to the Congress in reaction this nonsense:

Twas the week before Christmas and all through the House
No bills were passed ‘bout which Fox News could grouse;
Tax cuts for the wealthy were passed with great cheer,
So vacations in St. Barts soon would be near;

Katrina kids were nestled all snug in motel beds,
While visions of school and home danced in their heads;
In Iraq our soldiers needed supplies and a plan,
Plus nuclear weapons were being built in Iran;

Gas prices shot up, consumer confidence fell;
Americans feared we were on a fast track to…well…
Wait--- we need a distraction--- something divisive and wily;
A fabrication straight from the mouth of O’Reilly

We can pretend that Christmas is under attack
Hold a vote to save it--- then pat ourselves on the back;
Silent Night, First Noel, Away in the Manger
Wake up Congress, they’re in no danger!

This time of year we see Christmas every where we go,
From churches, to homes, to schools, and yes…even Costco;
What we have is an attempt to divide and destroy,
When this is the season to unite us with joy

At Christmas time we’re taught to unite,
We don’t need a made-up reason to fight
So on O’Reilly, on Hannity, on Coulter, and those right wing blogs;
You should just sit back, relax…have a few egg nogs!

‘Tis the holiday season: enjoy it a pinch
With all our real problems, do we honestly need another Grinch?

So to my friends and my colleagues I say with delight,
A merry Christmas to all,
and to Bill O’Reilly…Happy Holidays.

Crooks and Liars has video of the speech: Dingell's Holiday Jingle

Links of the Day

TGIF, everyone. Here's some links...

-WE CAUGHT ZARQAWI!!!... and then we let him go:
Official: Iraq Freed Al-Zarqawi Last Year

-The bad news (for Republicans) keeps on coming in the Abramoff case:
Abramoff Partner to Cooperate in Wire-Fraud Probe

-Bush clarifies/spins his claim of Delay's innocence:
Bush: I Was “Just Saying He’s Presumed Innocent”


The New York Post has an editorial today entitled:

AKA: Iraq Votes - Bush Wins

Bush won the election? OMG!

What office was he running for there? I wasn't aware he was on the ballot.

Joke aside, the title says it all, what this is really about to them- the President and his agenda. It's a war for the President to regain approval ratings and the good people of Iraq are mere bystanders. Victory for them is only secondarily about the Iraqis and their ability to conquer hundreds of years of ethnic divides and sustain a working democracy; their primary concern about Iraq is our President and his ability to deflect criticism and redeem himself for 2.5 years of mismanagement and deceit. I won't sit here and pretend my top concern is for the people of Iraq, but then I am not the group who invaded their country for my own political interests under the premise of an altruistic quest to give them freedom.

If Iraq's election is a major victory, it is one for the citizens of that country and not American politicians.

Shame on the Post for using this election simply as opportunity to attack the President's critics.

Brit Hume Asks All The Hard Hitting Questions

Fox News somehow managed to convince the media-shy President to sit down for an exclusive interview with that muckraking Brit Hume. The interview was mostly fluff, the journalistic equivalent of a 69, with Hume throwing a number of Gannon-esque softballs at the President.

Crooks and Liars has video: Bush talks about his Posse

Here are some highlights:

HUME: I want to ask you about some of the people around you and your relationship with them and how they stand with you.... Secretary Rumsfeld, how does he stand with you?

BUSH: Good. He's done a heck of a job. He's conducted two wars, and at the same time is out to transfer my military from a military that was constructed for the post-Cold War to one that is going to be constructed to fight terrorism.


HUME: Vice President Cheney. There's been some thought that the relationship with him while on the surface remains fine, that he isn't quite the respected advisor he might once have been to you.

BUSH: You know, the vice president goes through I guess what all people in Washington go through at some time or another... The truth of the matter is, our relationship hasn't changed hardly at all. He's a very close advisor. I view him as a good friend... And yet, the relationship is a deeper relationship than initially, which is only normal given the amount of time we spent with each other.


HUME: How about Karl Rove, the man you once called the architect.

He went through some trials and tribulations — and they appear largely to be over now...

BUSH: Somebody said that was recent speculation, and we're still as close as we've ever been. We've been through a lot. When I look back at the presidency and my time in politics, uh, no question Karl had a lot to do with me getting here. And I value his friendship. We're very close.

Translation: 'Nope, no troubles here! We're one big happy family! Kind of like the Sopranos! Thanks so much for asking!!!' :-D

HUME: Turning to politics here, Democrats say that there is a culture of corruption among Republicans in Congress. Now, we've had the DeLay indictment, part of which has since been dismissed. You had — you've got this Abramoff investigation going on up there, and whatever the outcome, it isn't pretty....

BUSH: ... I'm — you know, the Abramoff — I'm frankly, not all that familiar with a lot that's going on up there on Capitol Hill. But it seems like to me that he was an equal money dispenser, that he was giving money to people in both political parties. Yes, I mean, it's really important for all of us in public life to have the highest of ethics. So we can only trust the American people.

The President doesn't know what's happening on Capital Hill? "Wassat, we got some sorts of Congress now?" And he claims he's not that familiar with the Abramoff scandal, but he does apparently know enough to claim Abramoff gave equal money to both parties? This is not true, of course. Mr. President, can Congress attend the White House ethics refresher courses too?

HUME: You know a thing or two about Texas politics. What is your judgment of the prosecutor in the case, Ronnie Earle?

BUSH: I'm not going to go there, simply because I want — I want this trial to be conducted as fairly as possible. And the more politics that are in it, the less likely it's going to be fair.

Translation: 'Brit, you already did my work for now by even mentioning Earle's name, furthering the myth that we've created that he is some sort of partisan monster who exists solely to hurt poor ol' Tom. So I'm gonna pretend to take the high road and not comment.'

HUME: Do you just — do you believe he's innocent?

BUSH: Do I? Yes, I do.

Did you catch that, folks? Before Mr. Bush said he didn't want to comment on the trial so it could be "be conducted as fairly as possible". And two seconds later, he declares Delay's innocence. Judge and jury all in one, this President is.

Also, are you thinking how hypocritical it is for the President to say that given the "ongoing investigation" line they've been using to escape talking about the Plame case? Of course you were. Well then you'll be pleased to know that the White House press corps ripped Scott McClellan a new one over it yesterday. OneGoodMove has video of another bad day for Scotty. David Gregory said it best- "You have a policy for some investigations and not others, when it's a political ally who you need to get work done?". Tsk tsk, David, why can't you be more polite like Mr. Hume?

HUME: Can you say today that if you had known then what you know now about the weapons, that you would have made the same decision.

BUSH: I said it today, and I said it at the last speech I gave.

And I've said it throughout the campaign to the American people. I said I made the right decision. Knowing what I know today, I would have still made that decision.

HUME: Now if you had this — if the weapons had been out of the equation, because the intelligence did not conclude that he had them, it was still the right call?

BUSH: Absolutely.

The weapons weren't the main reason we had to invade? Just some sort of side issue, I suppose? Gosh, sir, that's not what you said on the eve of invasion. Sir, I wish you had told Americans that weapons weren't very relevant to the war in 2002 and 2003, people might not have been so scared! Of course then they wouldn't have supported an invasion, so I guess you had to do what you had to do.

HUME: And one last country, Iran.

BUSH: Yes. Well, it's a real threat. You might remember, I called it an axis — part of the Axis of Evil for a reason. I'm concerned about theocracy that has got little transparency, a country whose president has declared the destruction of Israel as part of their foreign policy and a country that will not listen to the demands of the free world to get rid of its ambitions to have a nuclear weapon.

HUME: So what do you do?

BUSH: Well, we continue to work the diplomatic front

Work the diplomatic front? Isn't that what you were supposed to do with Iraq?

But then again, no one in Iran ever tried to kill your dad, so I understand.

HUME: Well there are people, Mr. President, that think that you believe that you are personally chosen for this office and this time to do these things. What about that?

BUSH: I think I was chosen by the American people, and I knocked on their doors an awful lot in 2000 and 2004. I believe that — you know, there's some people who believe in pre-destiny...

[*clears throat*] Actually, sir, the American people chose Al Gore in 2000. That's undisputed. You were chosen by the Supreme Court and the electoral loophole known as the Electoral College. Just needed to clarify that.

HUME: Let me get your thoughts, Mr. President, on — on how you think or hope you'll be remembered...

BUSH: I hope that first, as a person, I'll be remembered as a fellow who had his priorities straight: his faith, his family and his friends are a central part of his life.

I notice the 'American people' aren't on there. His faith, his family and his friends. Yep, sounds like our President really understands our priorities. Thanks for reminding us of where we stand, sir!

And thanks Brit for really grilling him! What a scoop!

History Lesson

In regards to the story of the government spying on Americans, I offer this Benjamin Franklin quote:

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

I Spy

As Iraqis try out that whole democracy thang, we... currently travel somewhat murkier waters.

From the NY Times:
Bush Secretly Lifted Some Limits on Spying in U.S. After 9/11, Officials Say

Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials...

...The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting. Some information that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists has been omitted...

I guess I shouldn't have made all those calls to the 'I <3 Osama' hotline.

For related news, Crooks and Liars has video of an MSNBC report on the recent news that the Pentagon has been spying on peace/anti-war groups around the country. Great report; well worth watching. I was watching MSNBC tonight as well (well during the commercials of the "Daily Show")- even Tucker Carlson was offended and disturbed by this news... and he's a douchebag!

Hope remains, though, for the Senate is taking a stand on the Patriot Act:
Feingold Now Has Numbers on His Side

[Sen. Russell Feingold] was a minority of one four years ago, when the Wisconsin Democrat cast the lone Senate vote against the USA Patriot Act in the traumatic weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. The law, he said then, gave government too much power to investigate its citizens. Ninety-nine senators disagreed.

Now add more than two dozen senators to Feingold's side, including the leaders of his party and some of the chamber's most conservative Republicans, and the balance of power shifts.

A Republican senator (Larry Craig, R-Idaho) says it best: "Folks, when we're dealing with civil liberties, you don't compromise them."

[2002 mode] Senator, don't you know we have to the government all the power it wants... or the terrorists win. [/2002 mode]

Did The Congress Have The Same Intelligence As Bush?

Yes. And Saddam was responsible for 9/11. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise!

Congress doesn't see same intelligence as president, report finds

President Bush and top administration officials have access to a much broader ranger of intelligence reports than members of Congress do, a nonpartisan congressional research agency said in a report Thursday, raising questions about recent assertions by the president...

...The Congressional Research Service, by contrast, said: "The president, and a small number of presidentially designated Cabinet-level officials, including the vice president ... have access to a far greater overall volume of intelligence and to more sensitive intelligence information, including information regarding intelligence sources and methods."...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Rock The Vote

Update on the elections in Iraq...

Millions of Iraqis Vote in Relative Peace

Millions of Iraqis, from tribal sheiks to entire families with children in tow, turned out Thursday to choose a parliament in a mostly peaceful election — among the freest ever in the Arab world.

So many Sunni Arabs voted that ballots ran out in some places. The strong participation by Sunnis, the backbone of the insurgency, bolstered U.S. hopes that the election could produce a broad-based government capable of ending the daily suicide attacks and other violence that have ravaged the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Difficult times lie ahead, however. The coalition of religious Shiite parties that dominates the current government is expected to win the biggest portion of the 275 seats, but will almost certainly need to compromise with rival factions, with widely differing views, to form a government...

Torture Ban- It's Official

Okay, now it's officially a done deal-

Bush Accepts McCain's Ban on Torture

I like this quote from the President:
"[The agreement will] make it clear to the world that this government does not torture and that we adhere to the international convention of torture, whether it be here at home or abroad."

And what did your veto threats make clear to the world?

That you stood for torture and Sen. McCain did not. He won, you lost. Nice try, though.

Links of the Day

Stories of interest...

-The Patriot Act continues to be debated in the Senate, as a few Republicans join the opposition:
Senate GOP Fights to Sustain Patriot Act

-Progress begins for New Orleans, with a pledge that the levees will be secured:
Feds to Rebuild New Orleans Levees

President Bush will request $1.5 billion more to help rebuild the levee system in New Orleans, the top federal official for reconstruction announced Thursday...

"We understand that the people of New Orleans need to be assured that they're going to be safe when they get back home, that their city has an infrastructure that is capable of sustaining a possible storm next season or in the seasons afterward," Chertoff said...

-The melting polar ice caps result in tragedy- the drowing of polar bears:
Is Global Warming Killing the Polar Bears?

White House to Accept Torture Ban

10 years ago, did you ever think you'd have to see that headline?

Anyway, the word today (not confirmed, but pretty much a done deal) is that the White House is going to accept the McCain torture ban. This isn't, of course, because the White House truly stands against the practice of torture. God/Bush forbid.

Rather, they are just accepting the reality that overwhelming support for the ban in the Senate and House makes the bill veto-proof. Besides, would Bush really have made his first veto ever against a torture ban? Most people said no but I bet he would have. That's how he rolls.

I cannot express how insane this all is to me. The fact that this was a necessary debate to begin with is horrifying enough, but it was made worse by the White House's strong resistance to the ban, as well as their use of semantics to defend themselves (torture is illegal, and we don't call what we do 'torture', therefore we don't torture or break the law).

Sure, war is a nasty bit of business and things happen that we don't want to know about, but our actions in this war crossed the line (and then tortured it) and cost us some of the moral high ground. No one doubts that in the case of an immediate threat (the old '24' scenario that's as likely to happen as you getting by a bus), we do have to look the other way and use unpleasant methods to get the information needed to stop it. This, however, is not what was happening.

Torture has been systematic. Much like war used to be a last resort, but now is considered the first resort, torture (something we condemned Saddam for) was believed only acceptable (if then) as an absolute last resort. Instead it has been used a standard interrogation tool... and in the case of Abu Ghraib, a fun way for stressed out troops to pass the time. As the al-Libi, Jose Padilla, and other examples show, torture is simply not effective and counterproductive to the war. Not to mention, gee ya know, it's immoral and illegal and makes us no better than those we fight. But who cares about morality. Lets the libs worry about that PC garbage.

So this is a good victory. Potentially only a symbolic one, I fear. For the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld cabal will not stop the practice of torture, they will simply work twice as hard now to hide it. For instance, we already know that they have added an addendum to the Army Field Manual to better permit torture. If this torture ban is to be anything but lip service, Congress needs to investigate all claims and hold the White House's feet to the fire (and maybe even waterboard them a little) to enforce this ban.

Still, a good victory for the American people and a loss for the zealots in the White House.

AP: Sources: White House to Accept Torture Ban

After months of resistance, the White House has agreed to accept Sen. John McCain's call for a law specifically banning cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of foreign suspects in the war on terror, several congressional officials said Thursday.

Under the emerging deal, the CIA and other civilian interrogators would be given the same legal rights as currently guaranteed members of the military who are accused of breaking interrogation guidelines, these officials added. Those rules say the accused can defend themselves by arguing it was reasonable for them to believe they were obeying a legal order...

Vote Or Die

The other day I posted some thoughts on the elections: Iraq: Make or Break Time

Well, today is the big day... The elections.

An AP article: Iraqis Cast Ballots Amid Tight Security

My feelings on the war itself have always been negative. I didn't support it before it began (silly me, I had the strangest feeling that the case for war was misleading and had been hyped up) and the constant lies and mistakes and violence have only made me feel stronger that this was/is a mistake.

After 9/11, Bush stood atop Ground Zero for his photo-op and promised that the people who knocked these buildings down would hear from us soon. They both have (but probably not in the way we imagined) and yet they haven't, though we have caught 12 of the 84 #2 guys in Al Qeada. Bush promised that he would capture Osama bin Laden, 'dead or alive'. He didn't. To be honest, he doesn't spend that much time thinking about him anymore; he's truly not that concerned about him. Instead, the President settled for getting the guy who tried to kill his daddy and using every bullet, bomb, and dollar we have to give his particular idea of freedom to the Iraqi people.

The original rationale for the war has been changed so many times, the top remaining justification seems to be 'Well we're there already, so we better stay and try and fix this'. Which is a fair point, but nothing we do there will ever justify for me this utterly senseless, and vain, invasion.

Onto the main issue... Regarding the elections themselves and the potential of this democracy in Iraq to be successful (a somewhat separate issue from the invasion), my feelings can best be summed up as this:
I am rooting for this to work out, but I won't be holding my breath.

I would love to be proved wrong.

Still, it is my belief that if anything good comes out of this, it will be less of our doing and more of the Iraqis'. Any success in Iraq will be in spite of the United States. That isn't a knock at our soldiers, who are doing the best they can and never should've been sent to Iraq to occupy a nation in the first place. It's a knock at this administration (notably the Bush/Cheney/Rummy trio) and their complete incompetence in managing this war. The President says Iraq is a central front in the war on terror. Well it is now and you can thank Mr. Bush and Rummy and their 'bring it on'/'stuff happens' policies for that.

As I said, the only hope now lies in the Iraqis's ability to work together to turn this lemon into some half-decent lemonade. Assuming the people elected share our goals there.

The Iraqis choose a government this week. Odds are good that they may choose one that sides more with our enemies than they do us. Another unintended consequence of incompetent neocon foreign policy. Of course, as I said earlier this week, the election itself isn't the victory. The victory lies in the hope that a new government will curb the violence and make our presence there no longer needed. And then this 3 year distraction from the important tasks facing our country will be over and we (and hopefully the Iraqis too) can go on with our lives.

Fingers crossed, people. Fingers crossed.

Rummy, You're Doing A Heck Of A Job

President Bush delivers the kiss of death to Rumsfeld?

Via Think Progress, here is an excerpt from Brit Hume's interview with the President:
HUME: Is he here to stay as far as you are concerned?

BUSH: Yes. End of my term is a long time, but I tell you, he is doing a heckuva good job. I have no intention of changing him.

Me thinks President Bush needs to learn some new words.

Peace On Earth, Good Will Toward Men

Here's what Bill O'Reilly said yesterday on his radio show (with my notes):
"There is no separation of church and state [Note: Well no, not under this President]. Okay, that's a myth, that's a lie. It's been fostered upon you by the secular progressives who don't understand the Constitution, don't wanna understand the Constitution, don't even like the Constitution [Note: Yes, thank goodness the Republicans are here to defend our Constitution]. And they're trying to peddle this nonsense about separation of church and state, which is why you can't say 'Merry Christmas' [Note: Yes, you will in fact be arrested for saying it]. It's insane... The only reason I'm engaged in this at all is that I will not tolerate the disrespect of an American tradition [Note: Umm, actually Bill'O, the modern incarnation of Christmas started in European nations like Germany] ... I will not tolerate disrespect in that area... It's like spitting at the President... [Note: The only people who get close enough to the President to at him are Laura, Barney, Andy Card, and Harriet Miers]

...The press, which is 100% behind not saying 'Merry Christmas' [Note: You mean like Fox News, which has 'Happy Holidays' mentioned on dozens of pages of their website, but not a one 'Merry Christmas'? That press?], they want it out of there."

Too bad Bill'O has to keep making things up in order to stoke the 'War on Christmas' fires:
War on Christmas Fraud Exposed: The Silent Night “Rewrite” That Wasn’t

But hey, that's how FOX works- using religion as "a divisive weapon".

Awwww... makes your heart melt. Merry Christmas, guys!

The Onion takes on this 'controversy':
Activist Judge Cancels Christmas

And enjoy this cartoon-

Related cartoons:
-The Last Temptation of Right-Wing Christian Crackpots
-The World According To Bill O'Reilly

Links of the... Night

Some quick stories of interest before bedtime:

-Ford comes to their senses, chooses customers over Christian zealots:
Ford to advertise Jaguar, Land Rover in gay publications

-Rummy is subpoenaed to hand over Pentagon documents on the Katrina response:
House Panel Subpoenas Rumsfeld on Katrina

-Ken Lay bides his time before his January 2009 pardon by scapegoating prosecutors and his former CFO:
Ex-Enron chief Lay blasts prosecutors, Fastow

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Voter Fraud Is On The March

Amidst the preparation for tomorrow's elections, some disturbing news from Iraq...

From CNN:
Truck with allegedly fake ballots detained

With the country's parliamentary elections slated for Thursday and early voting already under way, a truck carrying what are believed to be fake ballots was detained in the Iraqi border province of Wasit, the U.S. military said Tuesday...

Good enough for Ohio, good enough for Tikrit.

Is the Pentagon spying on Americans?...

No wonder we can't catch Osama- the government's too busy digging through Michael Moore's garbage can!

NBC investigates:
Is the Pentagon spying on Americans?-

Secret database obtained by NBC News tracks ‘suspicious’ domestic groups

The Defense Department document is the first inside look at how the U.S. military has stepped up intelligence collection inside this country since 9/11, which now includes the monitoring of peaceful anti-war and counter-military recruitment groups...

...The DOD database obtained by NBC News includes nearly four dozen anti-war meetings or protests, including some that have taken place far from any military installation, post or recruitment center.

Is this the democracy that we're exporting overseas?

O'Reilly Says Torture Bad (?!)

I was listening to a podcast of Bill O'Reilly's radio show (for amusement purposes) from yesterday and this is what he said about the discussions about the anti-torture McCain legislation:

"As long as the President has the option, and he alone should have it, to have any and all methods of interrogation, if necessary, I'm fine with it. The U.S. military should not be torturing anybody."

Careful now, Bill'O, that's awfully distant from what many of your contemparies are saying about torture (most are even still playing semantics on what it is). Don't go soft on us now, tiger!

PS- Out of curiousity, who would be doing the torturing in such a necessary situation? The President himself?

President Bush: I Take Responsibility For This Awesome War

The President 'defends' the war (while ignoring the original rationale) and 'takes responsibility' for bad intelligence (by blaming others for it):
Bush Defends Decision to Go to War in Iraq

President Bush accepted responsibility on Wednesday for going to war with faulty intelligence, but firmly defended a decision that has deeply divided the country. "We cannot and will not leave Iraq until victory is achieved," he said.

President Bush 'takes responsibility' for the intelligence failures in the same way he 'took responsibility' for the Katrina aftermath. Ask the people of New Orleans how that one is working out.

I also liked this paragraph:
"My decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision. Saddam was a threat and the American people and the world is better off because he is no longer in power," the president told the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

He was? This is news to me.

"Hmmmm. I wonder if they're buying it."

White House Plays Politics With Torture, McCain Wishes He Was Back In Hanoi Hilton

Yes, we're actually still debating the issue of torture. Why a time we live in! Welcome to George W. Bush's America. Where torture is okay and you are unamerican for questioning it.

The White House and Sen. McCain still can't reach a compromise on his anti-torture legislation:
McCain, White House at impasse over detainee treatment

The newest disagreement is due to changes in the Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation, which McCain intended to set as the standard for interrogation conduct. The manual had been very clear torture was never allowed, banning all "coercive interrogation techniques" (Think Progress takes a look at this). Now this has changed.

Just like Kansas changed the definition of science to accomodate 'intelligent design', so too has the Pentagon changed the rules to accomodate torture (which we don't do, of course). A New York Times report states:
The techniques are included in a 10-page classified addendum to a new Army field manual that was forwarded this week to Stephen A. Cambone, the under secretary of defense for intelligence policy, for final approval, they said.

The addendum provides dozens of examples and goes into exacting detail on what procedures may or may not be used, and in what circumstances. Army interrogators have never had a set of such specific guidelines that would help teach them how to walk right up to the line between legal and illegal interrogations.

The NY Times report: New Army Rules May Snarl Talks With McCain on Detainee Issue

One Pentagon official states in the report that "This is a stick in McCain's eye. It goes right up to the edge. He's not going to be comfortable with this."

Note to John McCain:
You get what/who you paid helped campaign for. Caveat emptor, Senator.

Douchebag of Liberty: 'Bush Knows'

Robert Novak says that President Bush knows who the original Plame leaker is.

Novak stated at a luncheon audience at the John Locke Foundation:
"I'm confident the president knows who the source is. I'd be amazed if he doesn't...

So I say, 'Don't bug me. Don't bug Bob Woodward. Bug the president as to whether he should reveal who the source is.'"

Way to pass that buck, Bob!

If this is true, is the President not required to present this evidence to the Justice Department?

If he does knows and doesn't say, isn't he pulling a Nixon?

Do the American people care enough to demand an invesigation? Considering there's no blowjob involved, I'll say no.

Links of the Day

I saw "Kong" last night. Good stuff. I'll tell Drudge; it can be his top story.

Here are some links obviously of less importance than "Kong"...

-Sean Hannity doesn't want people taking Saudi money; perhaps so Fox can get more:
Hannity’s Hypocrisy: Criticizing Colleges For Taking Money From Saudi Prince Who Funds Fox

Speaking of Hannity, I wonder if issue #2 of Liberality is out yet.

-More evidence that the U.S. swept its secret prisons under the rug prior to Condi's visit:
Investigator: U.S. Shipped Out Detainees

A European investigator said Tuesday he has found mounting indications the United States illegally held detainees in Europe but then hurriedly shipped out the last ones to North Africa a month ago when word leaked out...

Now where will we 'not' torture people?

-Finally, Arianna Huffington wonders why none of the Plamegate reporters have been fired:
Plamegate and the Press: When Will Somebody Get Fired?

My favorite part: "CNN execs defended keeping Novak on the air despite all this. No, he was only asked to take a paid breather after committing the mortal TV sin of saying the word 'bullshit' during a live telecast and walking off the set (a quick review: saying 'bullshit' will get you suspended -- but not fired; acting like a piece of shit has no employment consequences)..."


Matt Drudge ran this propaganda headline on his site this morning:

Iraqi Voter: “Anybody who doesn’t appreciate what America has done and President Bush, let them go to hell”...

Yes, I am sure all those people whose loved ones were killed and/or homes destroyed can really feel the love. But hey, if this particular voter is that enthusiastic, then the rest of you crybaby Iraqis best suck it up and stop acting like women. "Booohooo, my son was blown up!". Ingrate.

PS- Question... If war is indeed hell, aren't they already there?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Turn That Frown Upside Down, Hurricane Victims!

Laura Bush channels her mother-in-law and asks Katrina victims to look on the brighter side of their destroyed lives:
Laura Bush urges families in Katrina areas: 'Try not to be sad'

First lady Laura Bush on Monday urged parents here to cling to normal holiday practices even as families face dual hardships - recovering from Hurricane Katrina and coping while family members are stationed overseas for military service.

"There are still a lot of people not spending Christmas in their homes, but I encourage families to have all the same traditions," Bush said to children and parents at a Naval Construction Battalion Center...

This is good because some Katrina victims are living in barns.

Why, they can pretend it's a manger! Merry Christmas!

Some uppity Katrina victims, not content to put on a happy face and accept the White House's ignoring of their situation, have decided to take action. Some New Orleans residents are planning a rally in Washington to remind people of their situation. Sen. Mary Landrieu is supporting the rally. The rally is scheduled for tomorrow.

Others are also working to get the message to Congress. Displaced residents of the Lakeview section of New Orleans gathered $10,000 to purchase a full-page ad in Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper. The ad (which you can see in full- here) states- "In the past three months, we have become experts at waiting. Waiting for flood waters to recede. Waiting for word from family and friends. Waiting to see what our homes and our city has become... Now we are waiting on you." The ad also gives specific examples on how Congress can help, including securing the Port of New Orleans, and supporting legislation that would assist the thousands of underinsured families.

Similar sentiments to this recent Washington Post editorial (from a New Orleans Times-Picayune writer):
Do Not Forsake Us

I imagine we'll see many more pleas for help like these in the next year.

Crooks Of A Feather...

The Delay and Cunningham corruption scandals converge?

Prosecutor Issues Subpoenas in DeLay Case

A Texas prosecutor has issued subpoenas for bank records and other information of a defense contractor involved in the bribery case of a California congressman as part of the investigation of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay...

1,000 Days Of War

Today is the 1,000th day of the Iraq war.

The London-based paper The Independent has a special report entitled: "Iraq: 1,000 days of war-

From Shock and Awe to a country torn between insurrection and democracy"

It has been the strangest war. A thousand days ago, on 20 March 2003, the US and British armies started a campaign which ended a few weeks later with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

It seemed so easy. President George Bush announced that the war was over. The American mission had been accomplished. Months passed before Washington and London realised that the war had not finished. In fact it was only just beginning...

Some subarticles-
-The war in numbers: From WMD to the victims

Key stats: $204.4 billion (The cost to the US of the war so far. The UK's bill up until March 2005 was £3.1 billion), 2,339 Allied troops killed, 98 UK troops killed, 30,000 Estimated Iraqi civilian deaths, 53,470 Iraqi insurgents killed, 67 per cent Iraqis who feel less secure because of occupation, 66 journalists killed in Iraq (Journalists killed during Vietnam war: 63), 47 per cent Iraqis who never have enough electricity, 70 per cent of Iraqi's whose sewage system rarely works, 90 Daily attacks by insurgents in Nov '05 (In Jun '03: 8), 82 per cent Iraqis who are "strongly opposed" to presence of coalition troops, 15,955 US troops wounded in action, and (last but not least) 0 Number of WMDs found

-A timeline of key events:
How a triumphant invasion turned into a disastrous occupation

-And a look at how the war has affected other Middle East nations (verdict- not so good):
A war and its fearsome consequences: How the world has changed post-Iraq

And an AP update on election week in Iraq: Iraqis Go to the Polls in 15 Countries

Today's Top Story... KONG!

Matt Drudge has "King Kong" as the top story again!

Good lord Matt, even Peter Jackson's not this obsessed with the film! You know there's a war going on, right?

The 9/11 Files

The Village Voice had a great article last week looking at the findings of several reports on the 9/11 attacks (9/11 Commission and others) and identified what they felt were the 10 most important remaining questions. The questions were:
1. Where was the "National Command Authority"?
2. Who gave the order to try to shoot the planes down?
3. What exactly were all those firefighters doing in the towers?
4. Did anyone think the towers would collapse?
5. Why was Giuliani's command bunker at ground zero?
6. Why did 7 WTC fall?
7. How did the twin towers fall?
8. How dangerous was—and is—the air at ground zero?
9. What exactly did Zacarias Moussaoui plan to do?
10. What's on those blanked-out pages?

Read the article for details.

See also: Running From the Truth-
9-11 Commission dealt with several issues by simply ignoring them

An Imperial Bubble

Newsweeks's Fareed Zakaria seems to agree that Bush lives in a bubble and an imperial one to boot. Zakaria is, of course, absolutely correct. As noted by many journalists in September, the notion of Bush as an imperial leader was cemented with the image of Bush up in the sky staring down at the devastation of the Gulf Coast outside the window of Air Force One, as if merely looking down on the plight of peasants.

Whoever the next President is (McCain, Hillary, Barney the Dog?), I think one of their top priorities will be a mixture of opening the Presidency back up from a sealed-off bunker and also traveling around the world just to let them that we acknowledge their right to exist.

It's amazing to me (in that modern definition of ironic) that many Bush voters (the 'average' American) supported him because he was just like them, a real guy, etc... when he is, in fact, the ultimate elitist. They thought Bush was the type of guy you could have a beer with (and he doesn't even drink!). It was, of course, a very transparent lie. President Bush has little to no concern for the average American, which if not already evident by his economic policies was made clear in the Katrina aftermath. The only people he cares to know are his old buddies from Texas and Yale and the more loyal members of his daddy's Cabinet who took charge of his. The majority of Americans may not have noticed, or care, but it certainly has rubbed much of the world the wrong way. We've still got 3 years until then, but I am hopeful the candidates of either party will understand that this is a trend needing to be reversed.

An Imperial Presidency-

Bush's travel schedule seems to involve as little contact as possible with the country he is in.

President Bush's most recent foreign trips, to Latin America and Asia, went off as expected. He was accompanied by 2,000 people, several airplanes, two helicopters and a tightly scripted schedule. He met few locals and saw little except palaces and conference rooms. When the program changed, it was to cut out dinners and meetings. Bush's travel schedule seems calculated to involve as little contact as possible with the country he is in. Perhaps the White House should look into the new teleconferencing technologies. If set up right, the president could soon conduct foreign policy without ever having to actually meet foreigners...

...To foreigners, American officials increasingly seem clueless about the world they are supposed to be running... And it is particularly ill suited for the world we are entering. As other countries come into their own, economically and politically, they want to be listened to, not simply tolerated. They resent being lectured to by the United States. They are willing to be led, but in a very different style...

Links of the Day

Going to see "Kong" tonight. Here's some stories that will make you go ape...

[*dodges tomatoes*]

-More bad news for Tom Delay as the Supreme Court challenges his gerrymandering:
Supreme Court to Review Texas Redistricting

The Supreme Court said Monday it would consider the constitutionality of a Texas congressional map engineered by Rep. Tom DeLay that helped Republicans gain seats in Congress...

Gotta get Alito on the bench QUICK! He'll stop this anti-Delay judicial activism!

-Sen. Robert Byrd warns Frist on using the nuclear option to stop a supposed filibuster of Alito, stating "If the senator wants a fight, let him try it. I'm 88 years old, but I can still fight, and fight I will for freedom of speech. I haven't been here for 47 years to see that freedom of speech whittled away and undermined.":
Byrd Warns Frist Against 'Nuclear Option'

Think Progress has video of Byrd explaining to Frist that an up or down is not a constitutional promise.

-The CEO of Diebold resigns:
Diebold CEO resigns after reports of fraud litigation, internal woes

Awww, but who will 'deliver' swing states for Republicans next time? A sad day for fans of voter fraud.

The Fair and Balanced Grinches Who Stole Christmas

Tom Tomorrow vents on the affect this War on Christmas crap has had on holiday spirit...

He hits the nail right on the head.

We put up our Christmas tree yesterday. It doesn’t have much to do with my faith, or more specifically, my lack thereof — it’s been a few years since Sunday School, but I don’t recall that Jesus had much to say about the relative merits of Douglas Firs vs. Scotch Pines. But it’s still an important ritual, providing a sense of continuity to the scattered threads of my life.

And you know what? I don’t want the spectral presence of Bill O’Reilly hovering over that room. I don’t want that moment to be about politics. I don’t want the yearly bittersweet act of hanging the handcrafted ornaments I inherited when my mother died to feel like some sort of concession to the right-wing knuckleheads.

Atrios said it well a few days back — these people have managed to spoil Christmas. It’s the story of the Grinch, re-told, except this time, the Grinch has learned to be even sneakier — he’s sucking the joy out of Christmas by posing as its biggest defender, creating conflict and strife where none need exist.

But to regain some holiday cheer, watch Air America's Sam Seder on CNN on a 'War on Christmas' segment. Seder, bless him, refuses to take the subject seriously at all, using it to discuss/mock the actual war going on. Bob Knight from the Culture and Family Institute felt he was underestimating this war on Christmas and these poor, persecuted Christians! Seder, in turns, wonders how Knight would ever get on TV if he wasn't pretending to be attacked:
Sam Seder and the War on Christmas

"Listen, as far as the war on Christmas goes, I feel like we should be waging a war on Christmas. I mean, I believe that Christmas, it's almost proven that Christmas has nuclear weapons, can be an imminent threat to this country, that they have operative ties with terrorists and I believe that we should sacrifice thousands of American lives in pursuit of this war on Christmas. And hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money... We have intelligence... We tortured an elf."

Bubble Boy

President Bush fires back on the bubble criticism:

Bush says he does not live in a bubble

U.S. President George W. Bush said on Monday that he does not live "in a bubble" and that he is well aware of what is going on outside the White House, rejecting critics' claims that he is out of touch with public opinion...

..."But I'm very aware of what's in the news. I'm aware because I see clips. I see summaries," he said. Bush added that staffers also brief him daily on what's brewing on domestic and international issues.

"Frankly, it is probably part of my own fault for needling people, but it's a myth to think I don't know what's going on," Bush said. "And it's a myth to think that I'm not aware that there (are) opinions that don't agree with mine. Because I'm fully aware of that."

So his refusal to respond to the problems around him are on purpose? Oh, well, that's... better?

Monday, December 12, 2005

And The GOP's Heart Shrunk Three Sizes That Day

Followup to the post about GOP's 'white flag' ad attacking Democrats...

Salon has investigated the ad and found some frustrating amusing answers:
The Grinch Who Doctored Photos
The RNC's fraudulent new ad.

The RNC's new Web video "Retreat and Defeat" starts with a flat-screen TV playing clips from Democrat[s] ... Then the camera pans back, and we learn that we've been watching these clips over the shoulder of a U.S. soldier dressed in desert camouflage, his service rifle strapped to his back. Candy canes hang on the wall just above the screen, which flashes the message: "Our soldiers are watching and our enemies are too."

The video conveys the impression that somewhere in Iraq, a soldier is having his mission and Christmas tarnished by weak-willed Democrats. Here is a frame from the ad and the actual picture of the soldier, taken two years ago. As shown below, the soldier was really watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas!...

The image in the ad:

The actual image the GOP reworked for the ad:

The article continues...

What neither party has done—until now—is inject the idea that the other party is undermining our troops overseas...

This is not the president's official message, at least in classier settings. "There's an important debate going on in our nation's capital about Iraq," he said last week at the Council on Foreign Relations, "and the fact that we can debate these issues openly in the midst of a dangerous war brings credit to our democracy."...

....The video's treatment of Barbara Boxer is just bizarre. "So there's no specific time frame," they quote her as saying, "but I would say the withdrawal ought to start now, right after the elections December 15th." The liberal California senator has surely said something more incendiary somewhere, but that quote is simply stating administration policy...

Our soldiers are watching. But all they're seeing is a cartoon.

If the Democrats plan to retaliate with an ad of their own, might I suggest the Star Wars Holiday Special?

Superimpose Dick Cheney over Bea Arthur and you've got an entertaining, if confusing, ad!

Loose, Confident, and Utterly Deluded

Arianna Huffington has a good take on President Bush's latest speech on her blog...

Bush’s Speech: Loose, Confident, and Utterly Deluded

Iraq: Make Or Break Time

It's do or die week (maybe even literally) for the Iraqis. This week's parliamentary elections will be the turning point in the war... or so the White House wants us to believe. It's all they've been talking about for weeks, hoping that a successful election will lead to the booming (but not in an explosion kind of way) democracy we've been told is there waiting to flourish. This would, in turn, justify/absolve for them 2.5 years of violence, anarchy, misinformation, and constant mistakes. As Iraqis stand up, we still stand down. And Republicans can then look forward to putting the war behind them, so they can go back to their agenda of... cutting taxes, ballooning the deficit, dismantling Social Security, merging church and state, saving comatose women from their husbands, and ignoring Osama bin Laden.

Of course, this election will not (in the short-term, anyway) be a deciding factor in Iraq.

Recall that Iraq had another high-profile election last January that was heralded as a humongous success. It too supposedly vindicated the President's Iraq policy. Even notably cynical people like Jon Stewart and Bill Maher were second-guessing their opinions of the war after that election. Purple fingers were seen in every newspaper. But it wasn't to last. The election didn't change the big picture in Iraq. The violence grew worse and the country's infrastructure remained in tatters. The Iraqi woman who stood next to Laura Bush at the post-election State of the Union address turned against the war and against the White House. I wouldn't expect to see her at the next State of the Union address.

So the question isn't necessarily whether this election this week will go off smoothly. It is likely that it will be and that Iraqis will vote in larger numbers than last time (even many insurgents are planning to stop blowing stuff for up for a few hours to vote). The real determining factor of its success will be whether it has any impact on the violence or the insurgency (the Iraqi part of it anyway, Al Qeada will be dealt with later I suppose). Will this be a government that welcomes, and encourages, Sunni participation? If so, will enough Sunni dissidents abandon the insurgency that it will dwindle to a size that can be defeated? If not, what's plan B? The impact that the election has on the violence and the divisions that caused it will be the real litmus test for victory.

If things don't go as the White House is predicting (has anything?), how much longer will the Iraqis tolerate us staying in their country? And how much more patience will the American people have in waiting for the Bush administration to win a war that the majority no longer believe in?

These are the questions to keep in mind as Iraq heads toward Thursday's election.

Some links on where we stand now...

An ABC polls shows Iraqis optimistic about the future, but also disapproving of the military presence there:
Poll: Broad Optimism in Iraq, But Also Deep Divisions Among Groups

An ABC News poll in Iraq, conducted with Time magazine and other media partners, includes some remarkable results: Despite the daily violence there, most living conditions are rated positively, seven in 10 Iraqis say their own lives are going well, and nearly two-thirds expect things to improve in the year ahead...

...Other views, moreover, are more negative: Fewer than half, 46 percent, say the country is better off now than it was before the war. And half of Iraqis now say it was wrong for U.S.-led forces to invade in spring 2003, up from 39 percent in 2004.

There's other evidence of the United States' increasing unpopularity: Two-thirds now oppose the presence of U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq, 14 points higher than in February 2004. Nearly six in 10 disapprove of how the United States has operated in Iraq since the war, and most of them disapprove strongly. And nearly half of Iraqis would like to see U.S. forces leave soon...

And President Bush gives his estimate on the cost (in Iraqi lives) of the war:
President Bush offered encouragement to war-weary Iraqis on Monday but acknowledged they have paid a heavy price — 30,000 dead — as a result of the U.S.-led invasion and its bloody aftermath...

Easy bet... that estimate is on the low end.

And the voting begins early for some in Iraq:
Early Voting Begins in Iraqi Parliamentary Elections-

Voters to Choose First Fully Constitutional Assembly Since Beginning of War

Well... here goes nothing.

Up Or Down

Sen. Bill Frist insists he will go nuclear if the Democrats attempt to filibuster the Supreme Court nomination of Samuel Alito. He states that "I have stood from day one on principle that these Supreme Court justices — nominees deserve an up-or-down-vote, and it would be absolutely wrong to deny him that".

Tell it to Harriet Miers, sir.

Links of the Day

Stories of interest to start the week...

-Sen. Obama criticizes the "me first!" style of conservatism Republicans practice:
Obama says Republicans practice "Social Darwinism"

Republicans controlling the federal government practice Social Darwinism, a discredited philosophy that in economics and politics calls for survival of the fittest, according to a Democratic U.S. senator.

Sen. Barak Obama of Illinois, a fast-rising Democratic star, told Florida party members that only a philosophy among Republicans of sink or swim explains why some Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans still live in cars while Republicans in Washington prepare next week to enact $70 billion in tax breaks...

-Nora Ephron looks at how the media failed prior to the war in Iraq:
A Great Story

Bottom line- War sells.

-On the subject of press, James Wolcott rants on the recent mea culpas of Plamegate reporters:
Circle Jerks

I don't want to hear another "name" journalist defend a colleague based upon friendship. I'm sick of journalists vouching for each other's sterling character and unimpeachable integrity based upon social contacts and shared histories...

-Finally, George Clooney once agains defends American liberalism:
Interview: Tony Allen-Mills talks to George Clooney

Bush on the Constitution: 'It's just a goddamned piece of paper'

The President eloquently discusses our nation's Constitution...

Bush on the Constitution: 'It's just a goddamned piece of paper'

Last month, Republican Congressional leaders filed into the Oval Office to meet with President George W. Bush and talk about renewing the controversial USA Patriot Act...

...."Mr. President,” one aide in the meeting said. “There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution.”

“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,” Bush screamed back. “It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”

I’ve talked to three people present for the meeting that day and they all confirm that the President of the United States called the Constitution “a goddamned piece of paper.”...

Supporting The Troops, Bush-Style

What the government really thinks of our fallen soldiers...

Family Upset Over Marine's Body Arriving As Freight

Marine Bodies Sent To Families On Commercial Airliners

There's controversy over how the military is transporting the bodies of service members killed overseas, 10News reported...

...Dead heroes are supposed to come home with their coffins draped with the American flag -- greeted by a color guard.
But in reality, many are arriving as freight on commercial airliners -- stuffed in the belly of a plane with suitcases and other cargo...

Put another magnet on your car, folks, it'll make you feel better.

Death of an American City?

The government (federal and local- but mostly federal) may be too busy to care about New Orleans, but luckily a few in the media are still watching the story... and shaking their head. Yes, luckily, there are a few who remember that just three months ago an American city was submerged in water and all but destroyed. A few remember that an event that topped 9/11 in terms of destruction occurred down South and the government moved on because it could not gain (only lose) from it politically. A few remember that there are people still living there, still waiting for help. And a few remember that that on the evening of September 15th, President Bush turned on some temporary lights in Jackson Square and promised us "one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen", spelling out in great detail an immediate plan for recovery that in all likelihood only existed in the script of that speech.

Certainly no one expects the city to be rebuilt overnight, nor do they absolve the state and local authorities of their responsibilities, but it is unacceptable that the White House shows no signs of still caring, let alone delivering on just one of the promises made that evening.

The NY Times has an editorial on this today:
Death of an American City

We are about to lose New Orleans. Whether it is a conscious plan to let the city rot until no one is willing to move back or honest paralysis over difficult questions, the moment is upon us when a major American city will die, leaving nothing but a few shells for tourists to visit like a museum.

We said this wouldn't happen. President Bush said it wouldn't happen. He stood in Jackson Square and said, "There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans." But it has been over three months since Hurricane Katrina struck and the city is in complete shambles...

...At this moment the reconstruction is a rudderless ship. There is no effective leadership that we can identify. How many people could even name the president's liaison for the reconstruction effort, Donald Powell? Lawmakers need to understand that for New Orleans the words "pending in Congress" are a death warrant requiring no signature...

...If the rest of the nation has decided it is too expensive to give the people of New Orleans a chance at renewal, we have to tell them so. We must tell them we spent our rainy-day fund on a costly stalemate in Iraq, that we gave it away in tax cuts for wealthy families and shareholders. We must tell them America is too broke and too weak to rebuild one of its great cities.

To make the point clearer, here is what Washington Post reporter Mike Allen said today on Meet The Press:
"I’m going to tell you something to amaze you; it amazed me yesterday. The last time the President was in the hurricane region was October 11, two months ago. The president stood in New Orleans and said it was going to be one of the largest reconstruction efforts in the history of the world. You go to the White House home page, there’s Barney cam, there’s Social Security, there’s Renewing Iraq. Where’s renewing New Orleans? A presidential advisor told me that issue has fallen so far off the radar screen, you can’t find it."

Hey, I can see why Barney Cam might be more important than New Orleans. He's what Bush likes best- a loyal friend who never criticizes him.

This cannot continue to just be a subject discussed in ocassional editorials, or as a side topic on cable news stations, or as the desperate pleas of people like Harry Shearer. Next to the situation in Iraq, this is the top issue facing the Bush administration, and also one of their top failures. The man reelected to save us from bad men and destruction needed a homemade DVD to understand what happened to the Gulf Coast. A promise to rebuild turned out to be another White House photo-op. And the Republican Congress, wondering when the next shoe/indictment is gonna drop, are too wrapped up in their own self-created messes to care either. Our only hope is that the Democrats will take up the cause.

Next to the war, this must be the top issue in the 2006 elections. Ohh sure, Iraq is important, but is it more important than an American city? We may yet win the war in Iraq (well really, there are no winners in that mess, the best we can hope for is that there's no losers either), but we are losing a war right here at home. If we can waste $300-400 billion to destroy and then rebuild Iraq, then surely we can rebuild the city of New Orleans.

The Democrats must make rebuilding the highest priority. And they must remind people that the promises the Republicans made in order to gain power (protecting the public, compassionate conservatism, etc) washed away in the waters of Lake Pontchartrain when they had their first real test. To quote Jon Stewart on his first post-Katrina show, "This is inarguably, inarguably, a failure of leadership from the top of the federal government". The Democrats must simultaneously remind people of this fact and also work to correct it and rebuild. Then, in November of next year, the American people will have an opportunity to correct the mistake they made last year and put real leadership back in control of our government.

It won't fix everything, but it'll be a start.

Related link- Katrina's Official Death Toll Incomplete

President Bush Makes With The Talky Talk.]

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Voice of God

The Onion solves the mystery of why President Bush thinks God speaks to him...

Voice Of God Revealed To Be Cheney On Intercom

Bush (Still) In The Bubble

Remember after Katrina, all those stories of President Bush's isolation and the implosion of his Presidency?

Well we haven't exactly improved since then.

From Time magazine:
His Search For A New Groove-

The President has had a dreadful year, and his approval ratings are anemic. What Bush is doing to try to reverse his second-term slump

No one has written a playbook for the President who is trying to stop a second-term slump before it becomes a long slide to oblivion...

...But he may have done worse than mark time in the first year of his second term; he may have lost it--to scandal, to the collapse of his ambitious domestic-policy gambit on Social Security, to Administration incompetence in the face of a natural disaster and to mounting casualties in a war that most Americans now regard as a mistake. The public's trust in Bush's judgment and character has sunk, threatening both his legacy and the Republican hold on Congress...

From Newsweek magazine:
Bush in the Bubble-

He has a tight circle of trust, and he likes it that way. But members of both parties are urging Bush to reach beyond the White House walls. How he governs—and how his M.O. stacks up historically.

[Bush's] inattention to Murtha, a coal-country Pennsylvanian and rock-solid patriot, suggests a level of indifference, if not denial, that is dangerous for a president who seeks to transform the world... History suggests it can be a mistake to listen too closely to the ever-present (and often self-aggrandizing) critics. But likewise, the idea that any president can go it alone is, to say the least, problematic...

...True mandates for hard choices come from reaching out and compromising. Bush's father understood that. Breaking his own "read my lips" promise at the 1988 Republican convention, he raised taxes in 1991 as part of a fiscal-reform package that was essential to the 1990s economic boom. The tax hike probably cost the senior Bush a second term in 1992. But it was the right thing to do. It's very unlikely the son would do the same.

The more things stay the same, the more they suck.

Making Progress

Just saw this headline on Yahoo:

"Iraq gov't closing borders ahead of voting"

It sure sounds like things are really under control over there.

[The article- here]

9/11 Changed The Formula

Links of the Day

Stories of interest on a lazy Sunday afternoon...

-It appears that Karl Rove's fate is in the hands of Time reporter Vivica Novak:
Report: Rove's Lawyer Told of Conversation

And Ms. Novak tells her side of the story in Time: What Viveca Novak Told Fitzgerald

There is an editor's note that "By mutual agreement, Viveca Novak is currently on a leave of absence". I wish Karl Rove was too.

-Deposed and imprisoned, Saddam Hussein still looms over Iraq in a crucial week:
Saddam Casts Long Shadow Over Elections

But Saddam Hussein is very much a player in Thursday's national elections, even if he is not a candidate... His legacy has shaped the electoral debate as the country's Shiite, Sunni Arab, Kurdish and other communities struggle to find a formula to share power...

-The Democrats look ahead to their political future in upcoming election years:
Democrats Test Themes for `06 and `08

To hear Democrats tell it, an anxious and isolated public craves a sense of national community and would galvanize behind a leader who asks people to sacrifice for the greater good... Edwards, Vilsack and Warner, all likely presidential candidates in 2008, are toying with the same lofty community-and-purpose message. And that says as much about the sour mood of the country as it does about the state of the Democratic Party.

-Finally, the Village Voice's by Sydney Schanberg looks at the lies to led to war:
How Do They Deceive You?-

Let me count the lies—the building blocks of Bush's 'democracy'

Winning The War Against... Democrats

The Republican party, because they have no legitimate way to fire back at war critics, have fallen back on what works... smear! The Republican National Committee has unleashed a new 'white flag' attack ad, portraying the Democrats as defeatists who are destroying the morale of our troops with their unamerican rhetoric. Perhaps the Republicans should remember that when they used this tactic on Rep. Murtha, it backfired and they had to backpedal on their attack. The ad (which can be seen here) also features a clip of Rep. Nancy Pelosi saying we should withdraw some troops after this week's elections. I guess the GOP ignores that Rumsfeld is saying the exact same thing. I don't see how this ad will help the Republicans. All it does it remind people that they are better at smearing their enemies than they are coming up with real ideas on how to win the war.

Already, one Senator (Senator Daniel Inouye, the Ranking Member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee) has called on the President to take down the ad, stating that it is "a shameful and disgusting attempt to distract the American people from the problems in Iraq. It may improve the President’s political fortunes, but the American people and our troops will pay the price. I hope that President Bush realizes how shameful it is to play politics when what we really need is leadership."

Mr. Senator, why do you hate America?

Welcome To Blog-Con

Not political, but a cartoon that I found amusing...