Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Howdy blog reader(s). I am leaving this morning for sunny southern California- San Diego to be precise- for the annual Comic Con International. For the next 5 days, I will be mingling with my fellow geeks and bathing in the world's largest pop culture convention. So this will most likely be my last blog post for a few days.

I certainly have a lot of political issues/questions to ponder as I travel... will the Middle East conflict continue to escalate? Will a solution be found? Will Fox stop reporting this gleefully as WWIII? And does President Bush actually intend to use his first ever veto to kill a bill expanding federal funding of embryonic stem cell research?

I expect no pleasing answers.

Finally, I just bought Ron Suskind's "The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuits Of Its Enemies Since 9/11" for some light plane reading. I started it this morning. A fascinating and informative book that covers all aspects- big and small- of the Bush administration's execution of the war on terror and all that that encompasses.

Much of the press for the book revolves around the title, which refers to Cheney's doctrine for responding to potential threats: If there is even a one percent chance that a situation may develop into a threat, it should be treated as if it were a 100% chance. Tom Tomorrow recently shared his thoughts on that doctrine-
It takes a little while for the horror of that to sink in, but when you really think about it, it effectively means that this country has been governed by complete madmen for the past five years. Life is all about making reasonable decisions based on probable odds... If there was a one percent chance that the moon might crash into the earth someday, we would, as rational people, respond differently than if the odds were at one hundred percent, or even fifty percent. We would monitor the problem, consider options. We would not make it the single most pressing issue of the day.

You would have to be literally insane to suggest blowing up the moon immediately because there was a one percent chance that it might crash into the earth someday.

But as Suskind tells it, this is what the entire Iraq War has been about.

Digby has similar, and more detailed, thoughts on this subject.

The book also does, however, give you a look at the smaller, unknown players in the war on terror.

For some humor, check out Ron Susking being interviewed on the Colbert Report.

On that note, I am out. Have a good week all, and don't hug any Klingons you don't know.

The Real Agenda

The NY Times hits the nail on the head in a recent editorial-
It is only now, nearly five years after Sept. 11, that the full picture of the Bush administration’s response to the terror attacks is becoming clear. Much of it, we can see now, had far less to do with fighting Osama bin Laden than with expanding presidential power.

Over and over again, the same pattern emerges: Given a choice between following the rules or carving out some unprecedented executive power, the White House always shrugged off the legal constraints. Even when the only challenge was to get required approval from an ever-cooperative Congress, the president and his staff preferred to go it alone. While no one questions the determination of the White House to fight terrorism, the methods this administration has used to do it have been shaped by another, perverse determination: never to consult, never to ask and always to fight against any constraint on the executive branch.

One result has been a frayed democratic fabric in a country founded on a constitutional system of checks and balances. Another has been a less effective war on terror...

They then give a detailed analysis on three areas: The Guantánamo Bay Prison, Eavesdropping on Americans, and The Cost of Executive Arrogance. They conclude-
...To a disturbing degree, the horror of 9/11 became an excuse to take up this cause [of executive power] behind the shield of Americans’ deep insecurity. The results have been devastating. Americans’ civil liberties have been trampled. The nation’s image as a champion of human rights has been gravely harmed. Prisoners have been abused, tortured and even killed at the prisons we know about, while other prisons operate in secret. American agents “disappear” people, some entirely innocent, and send them off to torture chambers in distant lands. Hundreds of innocent men have been jailed at Guantánamo Bay without charges or rudimentary rights. And Congress has shirked its duty to correct this out of fear of being painted as pro-terrorist at election time.

• We still hope Congress will respond to the Supreme Court’s powerful and unequivocal ruling on Guantánamo Bay and also hold Mr. Bush to account for ignoring the law on wiretapping. Certainly, the president has made it clear that he is not giving an inch of ground.

On that note, Rep. Jane Harman- the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence- is smart enough to see Sen. Specter's much-hyped 'compromise' legislation for what it is: a sham proposal intended to further empower President Bush under the guise of reining him in. She states that "Not only does [his proposal] fail to force the President to comply with the law, but it actually authorizes the President to make an end-run around FISA and gives him a blank check to conduct warrantless spying on Americans." She further notes that, unlike herself, Sen. Specter has not been briefed on this program and thus is "legislating in the dark". He seems to like it there.

Finally, an amazing revelation was made today that apparently attracted the attention of only a handful of people. Attorney General Gonzales revealed today in a Senate hearing that "President Bush personally blocked Justice Department lawyers from pursuing an internal probe of the warrantless eavesdropping program that monitors Americans' international calls and e-mails". How Nixonian of him. I blogged about the blocking of that probe in May, which was justified by- surprise- national security concerns. Sorry, checks and balances, it's too dangerous for you right now.

Senior officials at the Justice Department were stunned by this revelation.

The media at large? Eh, not so interested.

It's good to be king.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Give 'Em Hell, Al!

I bought this shirt-

They have a few different shirts too ("Give 'Em Hell, Al", "Save Us, Al").

If you're in NYC, you can buy it here- Marc Jacobs on Bleeker St.

I am a geek.

[TruthDig: Marc Jacobs Releases Al Gore Fashion T-Shirts]

Quote(s) of the Day: Iraq Edition

First, a flashback quote from Colin Powell in 1992-
“There is this sort of romantic notion that if Saddam Hussein got hit by a bus tomorrow, some Jeffersonian democrat is waiting in the wings to hold popular elections. You’re going to get – guess what – probably another Saddam Hussein.”

Powell said the American people would be “outraged if we had gone on to Baghdad and we found ourselves in Baghdad with American soldiers patrolling the streets two years later still looking for Jefferson.”

Would we still be outraged three years later? {*checks polls*} Okay, that's a yes then.

And where do we stand in the war? Army chief of staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker fills us in-
I'll tell you I think we're closer to the beginning than we are to the end of all this... I do not believe that we are losing, but where I think we are on the scale of winning is very difficult, and time's going to tell."

Very encouraging, thank you.

And to bring this full circle, another flashback quote, this one from VP Cheney in 2002-
"Regime change in Iraq would bring about a number of benefits for the region. …Extremists in the region would have to rethink their strategy of jihad. Moderates throughout the region would take heart, and our ability to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would be enhanced."


The neocons' grand experiment is exploding all around us. And they only want in deeper. God help us all.

[Related reading:
-AP: At least 53 dead in latest Iraq bombing
-Billmon: The Silent Party
-Gen. William Odom : A reverse domino theory may be playing out in the Middle East]

Surprise- Iraq Is Issue #1

In what may be worrisome news for Republicans up for reelection, polls show the top three issues that will effect how people this year are.... Iraq, healthcare, and the economy. As I see it- Iraq is a disaster, healthcare is a mess, and the economy is a well-stacked Jenga pile with no real substantive support. So concern on these issues is understandable, particularly the Iraq war, which contrary to what Republicans and pundits want to believe, is the prominent issue of our time.

Healthcare probably plays best for the Democrats, followed by Iraq, followed by the economy. In what I find encouraging news, terrorism ranked low, below even gas prices. This is not to say that it's not still a concern for many Americans, but I think people are past the point where they see it as a partisan political issue. Karl Rove's gonna be pissed.

"What will be the single most important issue in your vote for Congress this year?"

November's still months away. I'll ask again for the Democrats to start some real campaigns.

Monday, July 17, 2006

What Is It Good For?

The downward-spiraling war situation in the Middle East is probably the biggest news story right now, but I have very little to add to it in terms of blogging. The situation is too complex and I lack the expertise on Mideast politics to fully dissect this conflict. I certainly hope some sort of miracle occurs and things settle down rather than escalate, but it's hard to picture that right now. I also understand that, in the deeper end of the blogosphere, much of the 'debate' tends to get bogged down in terms of choosing sides (I have found Talking Points Memo, Americablog, and others to be good escape from that). I do believe that while, yes, this war was a long time in the making, it was also avoidable. Had we not been focused on invading the wrong countries, maybe we would not have missed that, but I don't know.

With that said, it is frightening to be seeing the enthusiasm with which many on the far-right (the Malkin wing) are approaching this situation. Many of these people have long wanted a full-out war in that region and have only critiqued President Bush to the extent that he has held back (!) in his foreign policy/military action. They've wanted since 9/11 to believe we're in the midst of World War III (I'm looking at you, Newt) and they want the U.S. to be front and center in it. I linked to two good takes on this (David Ignatius' Behind the Crisis, A Push Toward War and Digby's War Cry) last Saturday. At the forefront of this push for more war and U.S. involvement is, not surprisingly, king neocon William Kristol who said on Fox News yesterday that this was "a great opportunity" to "begin resuming the offensive against the terrorist groups". This is madness and hope most of our congressional leaders will choose common sense over political expediency in responding to what may come. This isn't to say that we should shove our heads in the sand and ignore this situation by any means. This does effect us in some ways and we can affect it as well as an outside mediator with other countries. But the last people whose advice we should following are the same ones who led this country into Iraq and have been agitating for more war ever since.

As Juan Williams retorted to Kristol, "you just want war, war, war, and you want us in more war."

Finally, here's the latest news from the Associated Press-
British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called Monday for the deployment of international forces to stop Hezbollah from bombing Israel, an issue that has overshadowed the summit of world leaders.

President Bush, not realizing his remarks were being picked up by a microphone, bluntly expressed his frustration with the actions of Hezbollah, a militant Islamic group believed backed by Iran and Syria that is engaged in escalating warfare with Israel.

"See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this (expletive) and it's over," Bush told Blair in a discussion before the Group of Eight leaders began their lunch...

..."The blunt reality is that this violence is not going to stop unless we create the conditions for the cessation of violence," Blair said after talks with Annan on the margins of the G-8 summit....

Sounds like President Bush was the one being blunt.

[Related reading:
-AP: G-8 leaders struggle to prevent wider war
-Talking Points Memo: I guess conservatives have given up on the whole "9/11 changed everything" gambit...
-TPM Cafe: Whither America?]

Do You Know What It Means To Forget New Orleans?

Sen. Feingold on how little progress has been made in rebuilding New Orleans-
...What I saw in New Orleans, New Orleans East, the 9th Ward, St. Bernard Parish, and Lakeview, was that in many ways, despite people's tremendous efforts, there has been less progress in those areas than there was in Banda Aceh a year after the tsunami. It is something I will never forget. Imagine driving through your hometown only to find, to this day, deserted streets, destroyed homes, and virtually no sign of reconstruction. While the shells of some homes still stand, they are completely unlivable inside, due to weeks of toxic liquid filth soaking into the structures of every room. Next to some of these homes are concrete slabs where a house used to be, while others have trailers parked in the front yard where a family is living because the house's roof has completely collapsed. There was a house that had the back of it completely ripped off, the front was totally dilapidated and someone had put a sign on the house saying that the insurance company had only paid a little over $10,000 to fix the structure. You could see an orange line around the outside of some houses which showed where the water was standing for some time outside the house. Who knows how high the water got inside the house. This went on for blocks and blocks and blocks of several different areas I toured.

While much work has already been done, and people in the region are working very hard, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenges that remain. That made me all the more impressed with the commitment shown by the clean-up crews, constructions workers, emergency personnel, and by all those who have moved back...

...I strongly support the aid we have given to those in Banda Aceh and others who were the victims of the tsunami in 2004, and no one disputes that we have responsibility to help them rebuild. But we also have a special duty to the people of the Gulf Coast who still need us. Almost a year after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, after more than 1,500 people were killed and countless lives were disrupted, our fellow Americans do still need us, and we still need to stand by them as they rebuild their lives.

I think this sums it up from everything I've heard... the people of New Orleans/Louisiana are doing a great job of starting to pick up the pieces, but the federal government has all but abandoned them. The media too (except for when Anderson Cooper pretends to care in between Angelina Jolie interviews) long ago got bored of what was the biggest news story of last year- next to Iraq, of course. No one expected the job to be done by now, but a lot of lofty promises were thrown their way and they're still waiting on the delivery. But hey, I'm sure the residents of the Gulf Coast at large appreciate their congressmen and senators debating gay marriage and flag-burning.

Harry Shearer has been doing some great blogging on this subject.

[Related news-
-NY Times- Senate Votes to Replace FEMA With a New Federal Agency
-CQPolitics: Big Easy Makes Hard Decision, Drops ‘08 Convention Bid]