Saturday, May 27, 2006


Short of any major stories coming up (real stories, not the media-hyped Capitol non-shooting yesterday or a NY Times Clinton-obsessed expose on whether Hillary gives Bill handjobs) that I feel compelled to give my thoughts on, I'm taking a blog hiatus for the holiday weekend.

I thought I'd take this opportunity then as a way to check in and see who is reading this blog. If you're out there and reading this, say howdy. Where are you from? What political issues/stories captivate you the best? How'd you find the blog? What do you like about the blog? Don't like? Etc?

Come on over, we'll have a cyber-BBQ.

PS- Don't forget to see 'An Inconvenient Truth' this weekend. I had a chance to hear Gore speak in person, it's genuinely riveting. I know it's going up against those ass-kicking muties, but hey it's a long weekend, you can see two movies.

PPS- It's not politics-related, but this video on YouTube is a must-watch.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Gen. Hayden Rubberstamped Confirmed For CIA Leadership

Not that it was at all unexpected, but disappointing nonetheless.

AP: Senate confirms Hayden as CIA director
After hearing assurances he will be independent of the Pentagon, the Senate on Friday easily confirmed Gen. Michael Hayden, a career Air Force man, to head the CIA.

Hayden, a four-star general, currently is the top deputy to National Intelligence Director John Negroponte.

Hayden, 61, would be the first active-duty or retired military officer to run the spy agency in 25 years. He was approved by a vote of 78-15...

If being one of the key architects for the warrantless domestic spying program whose legality and constitutionality is still a hot topic politically isn't enough to disqualify you from a post that's come under increasing scrutiny after 9/11 and Iraq, then good lord I don't know what is.

Wonkette has the most blunt take on this confirmation-
Michael Hayden has been confirmed! Holy shit! This Friday is FULL OF SURPRISES!

The lesson is an important one: You can be an idiotic middle-manager motherfucker who’s personally responsible for an overreaching and very possibly criminal domestic spying program, while also being so lousy at this spy shit that you’re caught by USA TODAY, fer chrissakes, and none of that is any impediment to running, more or less without oversight, the most powerful intelligence agency in the world.

What a great day to be an American!


Apparently, far too many Senators were not aware that they actually had the option of saying no. Instead the majority of Democrats caved into the OMG-WAR-ON-TERROR conventional wisdom and helped to confirm a man whose nomination should have be treated with the same passionate opposition that conservatives directed toward the Harriet Miers confirmation. It will be much harder for these Democrats to express concern over the issue after having almost validated it with this vote.

For the record, I do want to highlight the good guys who voted no...

There were 14 Democrats: Evan Bayh, Maria Cantwell, Hillary Clinton, Mark Dayton, Christopher Dodd, Byron Dorgan, Dick Durbin, Russell Feingold, Tom Harkin, Edward Kennedy, John Kerry, Robert Menéndez, Barack Obama, Ron Wyden.

And one Republican: Arlen Specter.

The rest of them just wanted to rubberstamp the General and leave for the weekend.

Remember the only constitutional rights your Congress cares about is their own.

"You guys confirmed me?! Really?! Wow, what a bunch of suckers!"

Pentagon Confirms Murders Of Iraqi Civilians

The story I mentioned last week about Iraqi civilians being killed has, sadly, been confirmed.

NY Times: Military to Report Marines Killed Iraqi Civilians
A military investigation into the deaths of two dozen Iraqis last November is expected to find that a small number of marines in western Iraq carried out extensive, unprovoked killings of civilians, Congressional, military and Pentagon officials said Thursday.

Two lawyers involved in discussions about individual marines' defenses said they thought the investigation could result in charges of murder, a capital offense. That possibility and the emerging details of the killings have raised fears that the incident could be the gravest case involving misconduct by American ground forces in Iraq...

The AP has more: Marines may be charged in Iraq civilian deaths

This isn't an isolated incident. The road between Abu Ghraib and this is very clear.

These incidents are unfortunately the consequences of sending American soldiers to fight in a war with no purpose and no end. It is the same reason we saw so many massacres and murders of civilians in Vietnam. War is hell and without a sense of purpose, even the strongest soldier will lose his grip on his morality and reality. And then... this happens. A sense of purpose allows a soldier to retain his humanity and stay true to his morality. This sense of purpose is, I believe, the reason why there were very few cases of soldiers coming back from WWII with mental/psychological problems; they knew what they were fighting for. The lack of this purpose, as seen in almost every war since then (most notably Vietnam and Iraq, but others as well) has very clear, and very dark consequences.

Haditha is further proof of that and an indictment of the pro-war zealots.

As Glenn Greenwald says, "what incidents of this type do underscore is that wars are not something that are to be routine or casual tools in foreign policy... Every war spawns countless enemies, entails incidents which severely undermine a nation's credibility and moral standing, ensures that the ugliest and most violent actions will be undertaken in the country's name, and, even in the best of cases, wreaks unimaginable human suffering and destruction... [I]ncidents like these Haditha killings illustrate the moral bankruptcy and sheer stupidity of that [pro-war] mindset."

I don't profess to know the solution, but ideally our eyes should be on the exit door.

[PS- Rummy's at it again: Rumsfeld’s Revisionist History: ‘We Know Where The WMD Suspect Sites Are’]

Iran Watch, Continued

UPDATE: Diplomacy is apparently being considered by less-hawkish administration officials.

Matthew Yglesias has another great entry on the administration's flawed policy toward dealing with the Iran issue-
I'm in some ways not an objective source, but the new issue of The American Prospect has a fantastic story about Iran 2003 diplomatic initiative toward the United States in which they made a very favorable offer and expressed willingness to at least talk about anything in exchange, basically, for the United States agreeing to halt various efforts to overthrow the Iranian government or impoverish the country. Needless to say, the administration rejected the opening.

As Jim Henley observes, "If the United States goes to war with Iran, it will be because the White House really wants a war with Iran."

Yep. As I noted on Thursday, there is no absolutely no reason we should be dismissing any diplomatic solution that is available to us. I am not suggesting we approach the issue naively, but caution does not equal weakness. The Iranians know we have the upper hand, that is why they are making historically unique overtures. And yet, if you listed to the neocons like Charles Krauthammer or John Podhoretz, you would think our backs were up against the wall here. It's like deja vu all over again.

Meanwhile, the much-discussed 'badge' story continues to be debunked.

And hey, here's more proof of how well that neoconservative foreign policy is working for us!...

NY Times: Iraqi Minister Backs Iran on Nuclear Research
Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari of Iraq today endorsed the right of Iran to pursue the "technological and scientific capabilities" needed to create nuclear power for peaceful purposes, in the first high-level meeting between officials from the new Iraqi government and its eastern neighbor.

But Mr. Zebari's statement, made at a news conference after a meeting with the Iranian foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, appeared deliberately ambiguous and reflected the complex position of Iraq between the United States, which wants Iran to abandon efforts to enrich uranium, and Iran, which says it needs enrichment to create fuel for nuclear reactors...

Ooooops. Yeeps, that's awkward, that is.

Finally, something for the White House to keep in mind-
Iran says ready to retaliate against any US strike (AFP)

In Which I Describe Seeing Al Gore In Person

Last night I attended Wired magazine's panel discussion on climate change at the Town Hall theatre in Manhattan with my friend Megan. It was, of course, connected to this week's release of "An Inconvenient Truth". Speaking were Al Gore, Dr. James Hansen (head of NASA Institute for Space Studies here in NY), Lawrence Bender (producer of Gore's film), and Laurie David (ditto). The panel was moderated by John Hockenberry, from Wired and from news divisions at NPR and NBC. Chelsea Clinton and Tipper Gore were in the audience.

It was a surprisingly captivating 2-hour discussion, beginning with Gore speaking on the historic threat posed by climate change. He used a military example... He said that in his days on the Senate Armed Services Committee, they looked at international conflicts occurring on three levels of significance- localized, regional, and global. He noted that environmental issues can be looked at the same way. Global warming is, of course, the latter of the three. He noted that we are nearing a tipping point, but that there's still plenty of time to change course. One example they used during the panel was the ozone layer crisis that was an issue in the late '80s and early '90s. Dr. Hansen noted that ozone depletion has slowed down considerably in recent years, due to greater regulation and bans on chlorofluorocarbons and other dangerous agents. He further noted that those changes occurred because of several factors- agreement in the scientific community, a reluctant acceptance by special interests, a media that worked to inform citizens, politicians who enacted change, and an informed public. With global warming, only the first factor is in place. The other factors- special interests who wage disinformation, media reluctant to enage the issue, corrupt politicians, and an understandably confused citizenry - lead to a crisis ignored.

These are the obstacles they hope the film will be able to knock down. After a question asking Gore about the 'debate' about whether global warming is real or if heating is just due to normal cycles, Gore insisted there was no debate within the scientific community. He said 15% of Americans believe the moon landing was faked on a sound stage, but that doesn't mean that there's a ''debate" as to whether man landed on the moon. He said the media is partly to blame for this confusion. He compared them to a pro wrestling referee, who conventiently looks the other way when the bad guys whips out the steel chair, because it's part of the storyline.

He spoke with a clarity almost no politician I've seen has, insisting that this is our moral obligation.

The most interesting response to me came from the answer to the final question- does Gore plan to return to political life? He said that, while he understands that as President of the United States, one would be in a unique position to enact change, but he doesn't see that as his path. He stated that he is averse to the current political/media climate, calling it "toxic". He said that his skills are not suited for political service in that climate. He said that he prefers to serve his country another way... the way he has been in the past few years. He concluded by expressing his wishes that whoever wins the '08 election will take the issue very seriously and that he hopes for a change in congressional control this year. It was probably the most strongly worded response I've heard to date indicating that he will not run for President.

Finally, contrary to the usual naysayers, Gore's lecture does not revolve around scaremongering and doom-and-gloom scenarios as if we're six months away from the Earth turning into the plot of "The Day After Tomorrow". In addition to the most riveting lecture on climate change you'll ever hear, the final message is one of hope, of personal responsibility, and of each individual's ability to make a difference.

I am going to see the film tonight, as well. I'll shut up about all of this now then.

UPDATE: The Rude Pundit gives his unique take on the discussion.

Oh yes- pictures...

[Related- Gore Warms Up (The Nation)]

President Bush Admits 'Cowboy Talk' Was A Mistake

File this story in the "No shit, Sherlock" file.

AP: Bush, Blair acknowledge difficulty in Iraq
President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair acknowledged difficult progress in the Iraq war they launched together in 2003, but both vowed to keep troops there until the fragile new government takes hold. Both admitted making costly mistakes...

...In unusually introspective comments, Bush said he regretted his cowboy rhetoric after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks such as his "wanted dead or alive" description of Osama bin Laden and his taunting "bring 'em on" challenge to Iraqi insurgents.

"In certain parts of the world, it was misinterpreted."

See video- here

And it only took him him 3+ years and a 29% approval rating to realize the leader of the free world should speak in a "more sophisticated manner". Yes, George, telling a growing insurgency to 'bring it on' is not a good thing to say. For the record, though, I don't think saying bin Laden was wanted dead or alive was the mistake in that instance, but rather allowing him to escape was.

Peter Daou looks at how such a strong, uncharacteristic admission is being spun as a positive for the President-
The significance of this shouldn't go unnoticed. Bush has now admitted what the progressive blog community has said all along: Bush's tough talk was wrongheaded and cost lives.

While contrition may be a media policy that works with our lapdog press (and judging from CNN's first blush of commentary, it seems to be getting the desired result), America must now ask what this admission means. Does Bush take responsibility for the deaths generated by his admitted mistake? Does he accept the logical conclusion that his bluster resulted in the killing and maiming of hundreds if not thousands of US troops?

Don't wait for the media to acknowledge the gravity of this admission...

Case in point- watch Chris Matthews fawn over President Bush's performance.

(UPDATE: Newsweek's Richard Wolffe discusses how Bush's words came off rehearsed.)

As for the main crux of the press conference, well we're turning that corner, ya know...

[PS- Is President Bush preparing to 'cut and run' in his other war in Afghanistan?]

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Sometimes the system works. This is a big victory for many.

AP: Lay, Skilling convicted in Enron collapse
Former Enron Corp. chiefs Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling were convicted Thursday of conspiracy to commit securities and wire fraud in a case born from one of the biggest business scandals in U.S. history...

...Lay was convicted on all six counts against him in the trial with Skilling. Skilling was convicted on 19 of the 28 counts against and acquitted on the remaining nine.

The former corporate titans are now convicted felons facing years in prison when the panel found them guilty of running an elaborate fraud that gave the nation's onetime seventh-largest company a glamorous illusion of success...

'Grandma Millie' gets her justice.

Of course, now the pardon guessing game will begin. Will W save his old pal Kenny Boy come January '09? Or will he want to avoid having his own Marc Rich and just leave him to rot in jail? One would assume the latter at first, but after the mindblowing abuses of power the President has seen he can get away with in the past five years (not to mention Bush maybe feeling he owes Lay for his help in the 2000 campaign), it's still anybody's guess. He wouldn't do it until his last day in office at any rate.

Such future-guessing aside, today it's all good news on the Enron front.

This Just In: Patrick Fitzgerald To Be Shot In The Face

What did the Vice President know and when he did know it?

AP: Cheney may be called in CIA leak case
Vice President Dick Cheney could be called to testify in the perjury case against his former chief of staff, a special prosecutor said in a court filing Wednesday.

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald suggested Cheney would be a logical government witness because he could authenticate notes he jotted on a July 6, 2003, New York Times opinion piece by a former U.S. ambassador critical of the Iraq war.

Fitzgerald said Cheney's "state of mind" is "directly relevant" to whether I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's former top aide, lied to FBI agents and a federal grand jury about how he learned about CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity and what he subsequently told reporters.

Stupid special prosecutor doing his job, trying to hold criminals accountable!!!

Why you can't be more cooperative like those nice ol' Democrats?

More from the Washington Post:
Libby Told Grand Jury Cheney Spoke of Plame

"You'll never take me alive!!!"

An Inconvenient Truth

The film has opened in New York City and Los Angeles (so all the libs can masturbate to Al Gore, no doubt!!!). I am going to see Al Gore speak tonight in Manhattan (at the Town Hall theatre in midtown); looking forward to that. Then tomorrow night I am seeing the film with some friends. It will be a Gore-filled weekend.

The reviews from my local papers are in. The Daily News gives it three stars and calls it "undoubtedly the most stirring lesson in meteorology and greenhouse gases you're likely to experience" and notes that it ends with a message of hope about ways we can all make a difference. Rupert Murdoch's NY Post not surprisingly gives it one star only. They call Gore "shameless", state the film suffers from 'truth decay', and implies that the only reason liberals are concerned about climate change is an excuse to steal more tax money and scold people (oh crap, they're onto us!). Finally, the NY Times gives it a rave review, calling it "a necessary film" and describing Gore as "engaging". On a humorous note, the ratings info they post for the film states "Some of the subjects discussed might be upsetting." Indeed.

Finally, the anti-Gore smear campaigns reach a fever pitch of their own, soaring to absurd new levels, courtesy of Fox News and the Big Oil-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute. This really is the best they can do.

If pictures are allowed tonight, I will post info tomorrow on how that goes.

[Further reading:
-CSM/AP: Gore back in the limelight, and setting off a buzz
-Salon: Hurricane Al
-Salon: "Global warming kills"]

Iran, Diplomacy, And Propaganda Debunked

Does Iran want to talk? If so, is there any reason on Earth why would we shouldn't do so?

From the Washington Post-
Iran has followed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent letter to President Bush with explicit requests for direct talks on its nuclear program, according to U.S. officials, Iranian analysts and foreign diplomats.

The eagerness for talks demonstrates a profound change in Iran's political orthodoxy, emphatically erasing a taboo against contact with Washington that has both defined and confined Tehran's public foreign policy for more than a quarter-century, they said.

Though the Tehran government in the past has routinely jailed its citizens on charges of contact with the country it calls the "Great Satan," Ahmadinejad's May 8 letter was implicitly endorsed by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and lavished with praise by perhaps the most conservative ayatollah in the theocratic government.

"You know, two months ago nobody would believe that Mr. Khamenei and Mr. Ahmadinejad together would be trying to get George W. Bush to begin negotiations," said Saeed Laylaz, a former government official and prominent analyst in Tehran. "This is a sign of changing strategy. They realize the situation is dangerous and they should not waste time, that they should reach out."

Bingo. Like Saddam in 2002 and early 2003, they are making diplomatic overtures (contrary to Bush's revisionist history, he did let the weapon inspectors in and they remained there until they were ordered to leave by Bush himself in March 2003). Let's hope this time that those overtures- and potential resolutions- are not ignored. We do not, of course, know Iran's intentions, but we have a duty to sit down with them and find out.

When the Seymour Hersh story first hit that the Bush administration was planning for big-time war with Iran, some conservatives (ie. not the uber-hawkish ones who are looking forward to more military confrontations) said that was all tough talk meant to scare the Iranians into working out a diplomatic solution with us. Well now this is the way we find out if that was the case... or if the Bush crew is uninterested in any diplomacy that would interfere with their war footing.

So far the Bush administration appears not to be taking the Iranian leaders up on their offer.

Matthew Yglesias shares my skepticism that they will or that they believe in diplomacy-
If you're concerned with things like America's interests, not getting lots of people killed, and preventing Iran from going nuclear you'd take them up on the offer. I honestly don't think this is even remotely a hard question. It might not work, of course, but even that would leave us better off than we are now as the weird kid sulking in the corner refusing to talk to Billy.

Nevertheless, there's no mistaking the fact that just as Iran has been trying to at least set the stage for possibly ratcheting tensions with the United States down, there's been a fairly concerted effort in the American press to ratchet things up. The folks doing the ratcheting have, it's clear, some friends and some influence inside the administration.

People need to understand this and be clear with themselves. This is not a group of people primarily concerned with Iran's nuclear program -- anyone who thought that would be open to some negotiating. This is a group of people primarily concerned -- for whatever reason, no doubt the reasons are mixed and vary somewhat -- with continuing and intensifying US-Iranian conflict. It's not clear how influential this faction is or will be in the president's decision-making, but those of us on the outside are either with them or against them.

For proof that some people do seem to want war, look no further than the continuing warmongering of Matt Drudge, who apparently has not learned his lesson after being proved a tool repeatedly in the past week...

Speaking of Drudge, that suspect 'badge' story he helped spread appears now to be certainly false. The Canadian paper that first published the report- The National Post- has apologized for the report. "It is now clear the story is not true. We apologize for the mistake and for the consternation it has caused not just National Post readers, but the broader public who read the story," the editor stated in an editorial. In addition, more and more evidence seems to indicate that the source for the story is connected to the usual suspects- neoconservative groups like Benador Associates and the Project for the New American Century- which engaged in similar misinformation campaigns prior to the start of the Iraq war. Not that the NY Post is likely to let their readers know that, of course.

To be certainly continued...

FBI Looking At Speaker Hastert Too?

I think we have the answer now for Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert's sudden concern for the Constitution and separation of powers after a congressman's home was raided by the FBI this past week...

From ABC News:
Federal officials say the Congressional bribery investigation now includes Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, based on information from convicted lobbyists who are now cooperating with the government.

Part of the investigation involves a letter Hastert wrote three years ago, urging the Secretary of the Interior to block a casino on an Indian reservation that would have competed with other tribes.

The other tribes were represented by convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff who reportedly has provided details of his dealings with Hastert as part of his plea agreement with the government...

Ohh Dennis, it appears our talk last night was too late. I am sorry.

This story is getting criticized though because the Justice Department is apparently denying that Hastert is being investigated by them. A Department spokeswoman said "Speaker Hastert is not under investigation by the Justice Department" and Hastert's office is asking ABC to retract the story.

ABC News updates after this, insisting that they "accurately reported that Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert is 'in the mix' in the FBI investigation of corruption in Congress". They added that their "law enforcement sources said the Justice Department denial was meant only to deny that Hastert was a formal 'target' or 'subject' of the investigation." A senior official also told them "You guys wrote the story very carefully but they are not reading it very carefully."

It does indeed appear, at this point anyway, to be a case where the story was misinterpreted and/or where people didn't read the full story before summarizing it elsewhere. The original ABC story (see link above) does not state that Hastert is the subject of a Justice Department investigation (it doesn't mention the Justice Department at all), only that Hastert is, as they stated, "in the mix" of the ongoing FBI investigation of corruption in Congress. Bottom line, the controversy here appears to be solely on the wording of an accurate ABC item and how it was then interpreted by other outlets.

The usual suspects are crying liberal media conspiracy, of course. Standard protocol.

Bottom line... If it's a question of who do I trust more- ABC News or Alberto Gonzales' Justice Department? ABC by a mile.

The Food Represents America... Or Something.

What an odd cartoon.

I like the sombrero, though (it's so you know that he's a Mexican!!!).

[Related- AP: Immigration bill awaits Senate approval]

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Turning The Corner

May 2003: Mission Accomplished
May 2006: Bush Sees 'Incremental' Progress in Iraq

What a difference three years makes.

Now, as President Bush issues new assurances on the war based on the new steps their government has taken, the U.S. military is severely downsizing what it will define as 'victory' in Iraq-
An old word is gaining new currency in Washington: containment. You may be hearing a lot more of it as the Bush administration hunkers down for its final two years. Containment of Iraq’s low-level civil war, which shows every sign of persisting for years despite the new government inaugurated this week. Containment of Iran’s nuclear power, which may lead to a missile defense system in Europe. Containment of the Islamism revived by Hamas and Hizbullah, by the Sunni suicide bombers in Iraq, as well as by the “Shiite Crescent”—as Jordan’s King Abdullah once called it—running from Iran through Southern Iraq and into the Gulf...

...On Monday, Bush again appeared to sidestep the realities, calling the new “free Iraq” “a devastating defeat for the terrorists.” Back in Iraq, however, it was just another typical day: some 20 Iraqis died in bombings and drive-by shootings, with few or no arrests.

So today’s containment is a furtive policy being developed willy-nilly behind the scenes, as Bush’s pragmatic second-term officials seek to clean up the vast Mideast mess left by the ideologues who dominated in the first term. A series of cautious concepts similar to those that came to dominate the cold war are emerging as the least worst way of holding off powerful forces that are also going to be around for along time: disintegration in Iraq, expansion in Iran, Islamism all over...

...The U.S. military is already gearing up for this outcome, but not for “victory” any longer. It is consolidating to several “superbases” in hopes that its continued presence will prevent Iraq from succumbing to full-flown civil war and turning into a failed state. Pentagon strategists admit they have not figured out how to move to superbases, as a way of reducing the pressure—and casualties—inflicted on the U.S. Army, while at the same time remaining embedded with Iraqi police and military units. It is a circle no one has squared. But consolidation plans are moving ahead as a default position, and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has talked frankly about containing the spillover from Iraq’s chaos in the region....

I think that these passages sum up what an awful 'project' this war was and what a colossal mess it will continue to be for many years. And that almost all of the architects of this war still work for the government is criminal in and of itself.

Matthew Yglesias perfectly summarizes why pessimism about the outcome is just simply being realistic now-
[W]hat's the plan? And if President Bush and his team have mismanaged virtually every aspect of postwar reconstruction then why on God's earth would we expect them to suddenly implement a brilliant plan?

Nobody doubts that the best thing to happen for Iraq would be for the United States to put together a crackerjack "stability and democracy and ponies" plan and then put it into place. Iraq would end up stable, democratic, and everyone would have ponies. It'd be great. The trouble is that it's become very clear that nobody actually has such a plan on hand. And not, fundamentally, because they aren't thinking hard enough. The issue is that there are actual limits to what our troops can accomplish. They're soldiers, not magicians. They can't conjure up a sense of national identity or widespread social support for liberalism.

Bingo. And that's what many- like Rep. Murtha- have been saying for months as the usual suspects greet them with scorn. The media is, despite right-wing insistence otherwise, also to blame in that regard as well. Look at the warm reception Condoleeza Rice receives on the top news shows and you can see the media is continuingly willing to take each new proclamation of progress at its word. Out-spoken anti-war voices are rare on these programs, although that aspect of this is not as bad as it was in 2003.

In other news, another sign that the reality on the ground in Iraq is much worse than the White House would like us to believe is the fact that the Baghad bureau of Voice of America remains closed after several months. Voice of America is a government-funded media agency, similar to the BBC in England. Its closed status sends a powerful message as it undermines the administration's claims that the level of chaos the media reports is over-hyped. Guess all that 'good news' the media ignores will have to report itself now.

Finally, Robert Scheer looks at the political reasons behind the President's proclamations-
With all these turns, it’s no wonder Americans are a little “unsettled” about this quagmire, to use the commander in chief’s own delicate description of the public’s deep and bitter frustration with this war. Despite the public’s nausea over the war, hope springs eternal for a White House panicked by the prospect of a Democratic-controlled Congress with the power to investigate its mendacity. And so Bush was back in form Monday, proclaiming that the latest head honcho in Iraq has got the right stuff and that the terrorists are quaking in their sandals...

...The “turning point” Bush is actually concerned about is the U.S. midterm elections, coming up fast in his windshield. Because Iraq isn’t going to be fixed anytime soon and the troops are not coming home, the president is once again trying to sell the lie of Iraqi progress in an attempt to keep his opposition from taking control of Congress and using subpoena power to ask the right questions about how we found ourselves in such a mess. Questions such as the one Bush pointedly ignored, about the missing WMDs, raised by at least one sober delegate to the restaurateurs’ convention. Or about how come Al Qaeda was able to operate in Iraq only after the U.S. invasion and not before. The pressing test for the ideal of democracy lies not with the Iraqis, who must make their own history, but rather with an awakened U.S. citizenry finally holding its imperial president accountable.

An informed public is George W. Bush's worst nightmare. I don't think we're fully there yet (some polls continue to show about a quarter of the country still believes Iraq had a hand in the 9/11 attacks, etc), but the usual spin is getting harder for the Republicans to sell. Americans are mostly optimistic, but they're not blind, and they can only hear phrases like "turning the corner" and "making progress" so many times before they realize they are hollow. The polls reflect this. The President insists that his low ratings are just because the public is "unsettled" by war. But, to the contrary, the war (at its peak in terms of public perception) is what gave the President his highest ratings of his career. What really "unsettles" voters now is President Bush.

Of course, even though it was already obvious by then that the war was a historic disaster rooted in lies and deceit, the public failed to hold Bush and the GOP accountable for it in 2004. Will 2006 be different? I think that's less of a factor of Bush's abilities as a salesman than with the public's fatigue with caring one way or the other about it by November.

[Related articles:
-The Independent (UK): Which is the real Iraq?
-NY Times: Hold the Applause in Iraq]

Speaker of the House Demands Answers From Bush On Unconstitutional Actions...

...Finally! But wait a minute...

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and other members of Congress have expressed concern to President Bush over unconstitutional actions by the executive branch. What was the issue that prompted Congress to speak out? Warrantless wiretapping? Domestic datamining? Guantanamo Bay? The war in Iraq?

No it was more serious than any of that!

House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) told President Bush yesterday that he is concerned the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) raid on Rep. William Jefferson’s (D-La.) congressional office over the weekend was a direct violation of the Constitution.

Hastert raised concerns that the FBI’s unannounced seizure of congressional documents during a raid of Jefferson’s Rayburn office Saturday night violated the separation of powers between the two branches of government as they are defined by the Constitution...

Hey Dennis, know what else violates the separation of powers? Presidents who use signing statements to supercede the legislative authority of Congress, Presidents who tell the country we must give up our rights because we're in WWIII when no formal declaration of war has been given, Presidents who block judicial review of their actions, and Presidents who fail to brief the full committees on national security matters as legally required. But you knew that, right?

Hastert also singled out Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in that statement: “It would appear that the Attorney General himself was aware that Separation of Powers concerns existed … because in seeking the warrant the FBI suggested to the judge procedures it would follow to deal with Constitutionally protected materials.”

Dennis, if you've been the following the news in recent years, you would also know that it would appear that the Attorney General himself was aware that Geneva Convention concerns existed in the administration's use of torture he helped provide legal cover for. In addition, the Attorney General also appears to have been aware that the domestic spying program was in direct violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. I'm sure you're concerned about all of that too, of course.

Calling the Saturday-night raid an “invasion of the legislative branch,” House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) predicted the case would eventually be resolved in the Supreme Court and hinted that Congress would take further action. The majority leader said Hastert would take the lead on the issue because he is the chief constitutional officer in the House...

...“When I raise my right hand and swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States, I mean it,” Boehner said, referring to the oath members take at the beginning of each Congress. “[Justice Department employees] take the same oath, so somebody better start reading the Constitution down there.”...

I think everyone in Washington could use a lengthy refresher course on the Constitution.

Okay, at this point, we need to recap...

You see when the most basic constitutional rights of the average American is violated systematically for the past several years, Congress expresses insincere concern at best and in some cases questions the patriotism of those critical of the government's behavior.

But when the constitutional rights of one of their fellow corrupt congressmen are violated, the alarms are sounded and they're willing to go all the way to the Supreme Court to rein in the Executive branch and its growing abuses of power.

We're in really sad shape here.

[Semi-related blog post: Snapshots of the U.S. under the Bush administration (Glenn Greenwald)]

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Big Brother Is Watching (Brought To You By AT&T)- A Continuing Saga

Based on the ongoing class-action lawsuit the Electronic Frontier Foundation (with the help of former AT&T technician Mark Klein) brought against AT&T for their role in the domestic surveillance program, new details have emerged (yet again) on the extent of surveillance that has been occurring.

TruthDig summarizes some of the new findings-
This is the big one. Wired News unearths internal AT&T documents that show how the telecom company, at the behest of the government, built “secret rooms” in cities across America that enable the NSA “to look at every individual message on the Internet and analyze exactly what people are doing.”

*The story: Whistle-Blower's Evidence, Uncut
*Their followup: Why We Published the AT&T Docs
*The documents: PDF file

Boy, I feel safer already, don't you?

Note to government: Less digging through Joe Sixpack's private communications, more finding Osama. Thanks.

[Related blog post- Message for '08 Dems: Only cowards think we're at war]

Freedom (?) Of The Press

Glenn Greenwald has a great post up on the Attorney General's renewed insistence that they can prosecute/imprison journalists who publish news that reveals the administration's criminal behavior classified information. He looks at this story and the larger assaults on the institution of the press itself...

The key sections-
And the only reason, in turn, that the press is a check against the Government is because it searches for and then discloses information which the Government wants to keep secret. That is what investigative journalism, by definition, does. The Government always wants to conceal its wrongdoing from the public, and the principal safeguard in this country against that behavior is an adversarial press, which is devoted to uncovering such conduct and disclosing it to the country...

...The only "leaked" information which we would ever hear [if right-wingers got their way] is information which bolsters the administration's views (such as pre-war claims by Ahmed Chalabi about the existence of Iraqi chemical weapons) or which depicts the President as Our Hero and Protector (like the time he saved the “Liberty Tower” from destruction, or the way he ordered an innovative high-tech scheme to detect unusual levels of radiation in our neighborhood mosques). But leaks which the administration doesn't want us to know because they politically harm the president would never happen because those who are privy to such information (government employees and journalists alike) would be too fearful of criminal prosecution to inform us about it.

That is what this is all about. There is not a single instance -- not one -- which reflects any harm to our national security as a result of any of these disclosures. The press goes out of its way to avoid disclosing information which could harm national security -- the Times concealed all operational details of the NSA program when it disclosed that the President was eavesdropping without warrants and the Post concealed the location of the secret gulags in Eastern Europe when reporting that they existed. These disclosures trigger public debate over highly controversial matters and, as a result, often harm the President politically. But none of them is an example of gratuitous disclosure of secret information intended to harm national security.

That is how our country has operated for at least the last century, through two world wars and scores of other military conflicts...

Yes, that may be true, but.... 9/11 CHANGED EVERYTHING!!!!!!! Or something.

His PS was also a point I found to be noteworthy-
One of the most striking aspects of these escalating attacks on the press is just how silent the major media outlets are about any of this. The Attorney General threatened journalists with prison this weekend on national television. Shouldn't the Times and the Post be editorializing against those threats, at the very least? And yet, from what I've seen today, no newspaper has published an editorial response to the administration. Just silence.

That silence is the question I tried to address a week ago when the ABC News story about surveillance on reporters broke. It is a question that, sadly, has no answer. What would have been headline news 10 years ago today is a story that is only being kept alive by the internet and the occassionally concerned reporter. If a sense of professional self-preservation isn't enough to get journalists to fight back, I don't know what is.

Al Gore Is Ready For His Closeup; The Smear Campaigns Begin

In my last entry on Gore, I noted how the smear campaigns (smog campaigns?) against him have begun. As they escalate, I am only further convinced that the right sees Gore as a greater potential opponent in '08 than they do Hillary. The latter is the GOP's dream come true (I predict she'd get 40% of the vote just based on partisan devotion and not one point higher); the former is someone who has already proven he can go into overtime in a presidential race.

The latest attack- and a sure sign that Gore has been targeted for destruction by Republicans- came from the king of yellow journalism himself, Matt Drudge. Yesterday, Drudge posted an item on his site stating that "Gore & entourage toom 5 cars to travel the 500 yards from hotel to screening of global warming pic in Cannes." The non-story was quickly debunked by many, including Gore's representatives, who noted that Gore and all his associates walked to the screening. By mid-afternoon, Drudge had removed the item from the site completely, without a note or apology. This, by the way, is the third false story Drudge posted- and retracted- in just a few days, coming after the Iran/badges story and his 'scoop' about the Democratic National Committee and Nagin's reelection. I can only imagine would what happen to a liberal site if it had a track record like this.

Personally, I think that if the worst they can throw at Gore are Drudge's lies and television ads touting the awesomeness of CO2, than I don't think anyone on his staff should be worried at all. The buzz for the film is strong and any calls for him to return to public life are coming from average Americans, not from Beltway consultants. All good signs. Whatever Gore decides on his political ambitions (or lack thereof), it's clear his message is getting through and it's upsetting all the usual suspects.

Further reading for my fellow Gore fanboys and girls-
-AP: Al Gore issues global warming wake-up call
-USA Today: Al Gore's coming back — but how far?
-New York magazine: The Comeback Kid

[UPDATE: Fox News joins in the fun. Who knew Al Gore was so dangerous?

UPDATE #2: Sen. Clinton gets scrutinized too. Do her and Bill fuck??!!! The, yes, NY Times wants to know.]

Good Grief

Last Friday, in my post on the GOP's election year resurrection of the gay marriage ban, I used a 'Peanuts' analogy, implying that conservative voters were Charlie Brown to the GOP's Lucy, always getting that football yanked away at the last second.

Oddly enough, Tom Tomorrow has just released his new cartoon which uses the same analogy- this time mocking the way the media handled the Porter Goss resignation story (and its connection to the larger Cunningham/Wilkes scandal) as an example of how the media often buys into spin and misses the larger stories behind it.

In both Tomorrow's analogy and mine, one hopes eventually Charlie Brown will just tell Lucy to fuck off.

Trying To Figure Out What The Truth Is

UPDATE: The progaganda campaign continues today in the NY Post (natch).

Lots of buzz and speculation on the debunked story about Iran forcing Jews and Christians to wear badges. It seems to me a clearcut example of pre-war disinformation, all too similar to the lies about Iraq that many still believe today (did you hear Saddam helped Al Qaeda plan 9/11??!!!!). The source for the original piece defends his writing, while Matthew Yglesias at Talking Points Memo finds a connection between him and a well-connected thinktank filled with notable neoconservatives. Chalabi redux?

Atrios summarizes why the seemingly false story is still noteworthy-
One demonstrably false scary Iran story gets shot down rather quickly, though it of course will remain in circulation in wingnuttia and elsewhere forever. More stories will come which won't be as easy to shoot down. And the problem is, of course, that Iran doesn't have an especially pleasant government so people like me find ourselves in the unfortunate position of appearing to defend people who aren't necessarily great examples of humanity when all we're doing is trying to figure out what the truth is.

And around we go.

He's right; Iran is a despicable regime. But that doesn't make any better those in our government and elsewhere who would (again) lie and confuse the American public in an attempt to drum up the appropriate emotions to take a country into another unneccessary military adventure. Too many people were afraid to speak up against the insanity that dominated the national political dialogue in 2002 and 2003. Given their numerous failures, if our government is intent on forcing a confrontation with Iran, such cowardice to speak up this time around would is inexcusable. Keep an eye out; this story is just one part of a larger campaign.

[Related links:
-Who Started the Iranian Badge Story? — updated]

Monday, May 22, 2006

Lieberman's Fall: Krugman Understands, WSJ Freaks Out

One other interesting thing happened this weekend. Connecticut Democratic Party delegates voted on which candidate to endorse at a state convention. While Sen. Lieberman got the majority of votes, the big news was that Democratic challenger (and political newcomer) Ned Lamont received 33%, well more than the 15% he needed to force a primary election for later in the summer. It was an open vote that some delegates skipped out, leading some to suspect Lamont's numbers could have been higher in a private vote. This is obviously bad news for Lieberman, the incumbent who six years ago won the popular vote for Vice President. The fact of the matter is that while he retains of the support of the Democratic Party national leadership, Lieberman is very unpopular with Democrats all over the country. The conventional wisdom is trying to imply that this is solely because of his support for the Iraq war, but that is knocked down by the fact that many Democrats have supported the war and have not been met with this kind of opposition. The reality is that Joe Lieberman is, for all intents and purposes, a Republican. He purposely stabs his own party in the back on numerous key issues and is all too happy to prop up GOP talking points in his media travels. His downfall is proof that a) this behavior is finally catching up to him, and b) the Democratic party grassroots are finally catching up to the level of influence that the GOP grassroots have, despite the attempts by the national DNC leaders to ignore them.

Ned Lamont appears to have a very good shot at being on the ballot this November.

On the right, the Wall Street Journal is freaking out over the whole thing-
Mr. Lieberman will still be favored to win the primary, but angry-left activists around the country will now descend on the state and the fight may well turn vicious.

The left's larger goal is to turn the Democratic Party solidly against the war on terror, and especially against its Iraq and Iran fronts.

(bold added by moi... I hope you caught the same thing I did....)

Oh my! Apparently, being against Sen. Lieberman and/or against the Iraq war means that you support terrorism and want the U.S. to fail in its efforts to thwart it. Makes sense to me! That must be why 90%+ of the country supported our actions in Afghanistan. I have to believe- for the sake of my sanity- that the GOP's 'A vote for a Democrat is a vote for Osama' strategy is no longer selling with voters who are increasingly catching on to the usual tricks.

Of course, I have two other questions about the section I bolded in the WSJ piece. Number one- How exactly was Iraq a front in the war on terror before we invaded it; isn't that talking point well past its expiration date? And, more importantly, number two- We are at war with Iran?!! Yikes, I did miss some news this weekend, didn't I?

Looks like the WSJ is jumping the gun! Patience, I'm sure we'll invade Iran soon enough.

Meanwhile, the NY Times' Paul Krugman has the handle on the real issues behind this-
What happened to Mr. Lieberman? Some news reports may lead you to believe that he is in trouble solely because of his support for the Iraq war. But there’s much more to it than that. Mr. Lieberman has consistently supported Republican talking points. This has made him a lion of the Sunday talk shows, but has put him out of touch with his constituents and with reality.

Mr. Lieberman isn’t the only nationally known Democrat who still supports the Iraq war. But he isn’t just an unrepentant hawk, he has joined the Bush administration by insisting on an upbeat picture of the situation in Iraq that is increasingly delusional...

...And it’s not just Iraq...

On each of these issues Mr. Lieberman, who is often described as a "centrist," is or was very much at odds not just with the Democratic base but with public opinion as a whole. According to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, only 40 percent of the public believes that we were right to go to war with Iraq.

Mr. Lieberman’s tender concern for the president’s credibility comes far too late: according to a USA Today/Gallup poll, only 41 percent of Americans consider Mr. Bush honest and trustworthy. By huge margins, the public believed that Congress should have stayed out of the Schiavo case. And so on.

Mr. Lieberman’s defenders would have you believe that his increasingly unpopular positions reflect his principles. But his Bushlike inability to face reality on Iraq looks less like a stand on principle than the behavior of a narcissist who can’t admit error. And the common theme in Mr. Lieberman’s positions seems to be this: In each case he has taken the stand that is most likely to get him on TV.

You see, the talking-head circuit loves centrists. But a centrist, as defined inside the Beltway, doesn't mean someone whose views are actually in the center, as judged by public opinion.

Instead, a Democrat is considered centrist to the extent that he does what Mr. Lieberman does: lends his support to Republican talking points, even if those talking points don't correspond at all to what most of the public wants or believes.

But this "center" cannot hold. And that's the larger lesson of what happened Friday. Mr. Lieberman has been playing to a Washington echo chamber that is increasingly out of touch with the country's real concerns. The nation, which rallied around Mr. Bush after 9/11 simply because he was there, has moved on — and it has left Mr. Lieberman behind.

That's the answer in a nutshell.

In conclusion, Krugman gets it. He sees the larger issues at play in the Lieberman-Lamont battle and knows that the war plays only a small part in that. The WSJ and others, meanwhile, continue their attempts to marginalize liberals in this country as current events continue to prove right much of what we have been trying to say for years. Numerous polls continue to show the country is center-of-left on most of the issues (including the war), even though many may end up voting center-of-right because of a better organized media message machine on the right. For proof of how out of touch this section of the right is on issues like the war, one needs look no further than this Powerline post stating that Republicans can regain support for themselves and the war by speaking more straightforwardly about it. They state that "The public's negative view of Iraq is driven mostly by biased press coverage, not the realities on the ground." So the reality on the ground is... good? If that's their message, then they must by all means make promoting their responsibility for the Iraq debacle key to their reelection bids, because as Krugman noted, the majority of voters have moved on from that naive worldview of the Bush strategy and it will leave them behind in turn.

[Hat tips- Firedoglake and Atrios.]


Yikes! Is it 2003 again??!!

Note to Time Magazine... you can put the freedom fries down. We're past all that jingoistic fervor now. The majority of the country has calmed down and come back to their senses. Reality has slowly settled back in. Rick Santorum and his duel-embrace of congressional corruption and homophobia are radical. Jerry Falwell and his usual nonsense are radical. Donald Rumsfeld and his embrace of 'aggressive interrogation' techniques are radical. The Dixies Chicks and their songs? Ummm, not so much.

'Is America ready?'!! Better question- do they even care about these non-issues anymore?

Time Magazine, meet 2006. 2006, meet Time.

Things That Happened This Weekend

Was a fairly slow weekend news-wise, but here's the most interesting stories...

Mayor Ray Nagin wins reelection in New Orleans. Conservatives expressed confusion at how someone with such a poor track record could win reelection, even after having having failed to provide leadership in a key crisis. I refer to them to the encyclopedia under "2004 President Election" for the answer. Right-wing bloggers in particular were upset, often making borderline racist jokes in the process, yet are now pretending to be angry at allegations that the national DNC may have worked against Nagin's reelection. Me? All I care about is whether anyone is aware that hurricane season is not far away.

Citing national security reasons (what else?), Attorney General Gonzales reiterated the administration's belief that they should prosecute journalists who publish leaked government information. He also denied that they "engage in domestic-to-domestic surveillance without a court order" in efforts to find journalists' sources, but one wonders if they consider the type of phone record spying that ABC News reported as 'surveillance'. Meanwhile, ABC's Brian Ross warns of the dangers of the administration's actions. Finally, Geoffrey Stone has a great post at the Huffington Post on the issues between freedom of the press and national security.

Sen. McCain gives the commencement speech at NYC's New School and is met with protests from the students. Said one student puzzled by the choice of speaker, "we're graduating, not voting". National Review's Rich Lowry was appalled that the New School students would treat a war hero so poorly. As the students should know, only Republicans running a presidential reelection campaign are allowed to malign war heroes.

Rep. William Jefferson (D- LA) is caught on tape accepting $100,000 in bribes. Adios, loser.

Fox News' Brit Hume states that "I think everything we’ve seen so far has shown that the Iraqis continue marching on politically down the road toward democracy in spite of the violence and... perhaps to some extent because of it." Well, good news then! Dozens of Iraqis were killed or wounded in a new wave of insurgent violence over the weekend.

Gen. Hayden- CIA nominee- doesn't just support domestic spying, he supports torture too.

Finally, the GOP's election year immigration stunts are turning off Hispanic voters.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

George W. Who? Never Heard Of Him.

I recently wrote a few posts on how conservatives are increasingly attempting to distance themselves from the President and his ideology. They insist that he is barely a conservative at all and they're very disappointed in his performance. Keep in mind that nothing in his ideology or performance has changed at all since he took office, only the way the public views him. It was a lot easier for conservatives to worship President Bush with 70% approval than it is at 30% approval.

This strategy seems to me an attempt to protect the conservative platform by painting the failures of the past few years as failures of the White House only and not the Republican politics they so strongly pushed. I write this update because as new reports show the Republicans increasingly vulnerable in congressional races, I find more and more of this distancing on the right-wing blogs I read. On no issue is this more apparent than the current immigration 'debate' (great take on that by Andrew Sullivan here).

Will it work? As always, we'll find out in November.

Related articles:
-NY Times: In House Races, More G.O.P. Seats Look Vulnerable
-Knight Ridder: Americans don't like President Bush personally much anymore, either
-Washington Post: Bush's Base Betrayal