Friday, September 29, 2006


I know that the stuff I've been posting in the past week has been pretty depressing stuff to slog through. Well, that's the frightening reality in which Americans now live. But I figured, hey it's the weekend, let's go for a light post to cheer up my loyal reader(s).

Borat has been in the news a lot lately. His movie is out in November and man have they been laying it on thick for the promotional efforts, with Borat showing up all over the place. If this movie bombs, it will not be for lack of trying. Anyway, here's a classic Borat segment from the 'Ali G Show' in which he joins a Republican congressional candidate on the campaign trail.

PS- Borat in the news!!
-Reuters: White House gates shut to "Borat"
-USA Today: Borat's Kazakh Embassy Statement

And our President meets with the President of Kazakhstan.

Quote of the Day

"[Republicans] like to question the courage and patriotism of Democrats for being unwilling to shed more American blood and waste billions more on a pointless war, that the country was lied into and that's made us far less safe and more despised throughout the world. Aside from the fact that the majority of Americans no longer support the Iraq war -- and, thus, they must all be cut-and-run defeatists as well -- it is the Republicans who have shown themselves to be the lily-livered cowards among us.

Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their whole craven cabal are scared stiff -- and they want us to all be very afraid as well. How frightened are they? They're so afraid that they are willing to go against everything this country stands for, in a blind panic that they think will somehow protect their sorry asses from the big, bad terrorist bullies.

They are so damn scared that they're willing to take a country that was founded on individual liberty and turn it into a police state -- all out of fear.

So they respond to Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda attacking our country -- and, according to Bush, 'our way of life' -- by putting their collective tails between their legs and abandoning the very core principles crafted by the founding fathers to embody 'our way of life.'

I didn't realize it at the time, but the hideous losses we suffered on 9/11 would truly test our national character more than any event of my lifetime. Do we stick with the values and hard-learned lessons of our past in the face of these new challenges or do we let Osama bin Laden truly ruin our country by becoming a shadow of the nation we have always been?...

...It's trivial for a nation to stand by its creed when times are easy. But it's times like these, when circumstances and conditions are tough, that give us the real test of our national strength, courage and resolve.

Under Republican leadership, we are failing that test in the most miserable and pathetic way."
--Blogger Bob Geiger, clarifying who the cowards are in our government.

I'll say it again- Remember this moment.

The Party of Values

Here's the latest news from the great party that rules our country-

One more down... Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla) resigned today after emails surfaced from a former young male page in which the congressman made suggestive comments and asked for 'pics'. Newly revealed IM conversations (see PDF) sealed his fate. House leadership knew of the problem.

Bush supporters go on a field trip to Guantanamo Bay prison.

White House officials have for months been pretending they didn't know disgraced GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Turns out, ummm, they lied. Hundreds of contacts between Abramoff's team and the White House have been revealed.

Virginia Senator, and presumed 2008 presidential nominee, George Allen goes all Mark Fuhrman on us.

Finally, a new book by Bob Woodward- 'State of Denial'- reveals more disturbing truths and the President, his inner circle, and the Iraq war. What a great ride this has been.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Remember This Moment

In his column today, Dan Froomkin calls the debate going on in the Senate as we speak "a defining moment for this nation". I couldn't agree more.

How will the world, and history, view this moment if we do not oppose it?

Most of these decisions (secret prisons, indefinite suspensions, kidnappings, torture, warrantless wiretapping, etc) were made in secret in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 by leaders who were scared and thus overzealous to prevent a great evil from repeating itself. Perhaps this was inevitable. Mistakes were made in previous wars (Adams passing the Alien and Sedition Acts, Lincoln suspending habeus corpus, FDR okaying the internment of Japanese-Americans), and those were made by Presidents who- unlike now- had great records and accomplishments to point to. Those mistakes did not win those wars, though, no more than the current ones (ie. how does wiretapping without a warrant make any operational difference?) will. They were aberrations that haunted us for decades.

But now five years after those decisions were made, with the worst of it now public, and rational thought slowly returning to the decision-making process, these same leaders were faced with a choice: To admit they had mistakes, as in many previous wars, but pledge from this point on to refocus their approach to the issue and return to the rule of law? That would seem the sensible option, but not to an administration obsessed even before the attacks with secrecy and power. Or- To seek congressional approval for their actions to continue as a way of retroactive absolution? Obviously they have chosen the latter.

And so what could have been written off by history as the temporary mistakes of an overzealous wartime President are now on course to become permanent parts of the American legacy and image. America will become to the world that which they intended to defeat in the first place.

The saddest part of this is, as the Washington Post editorial pointed out, how unnecessary all of this is. This legislation and this battle was forced as an electoral strategy, as one last effort to score cheap 'national security' points with a divided, confused, and scared electorate. So desperate is this administration to maintain their party's control on the Congress, out of fear of accountability among other reasons, that they would seek to degrade their country to acts which we have always denounced in other nations. This used to be the stuff of parodies.

Their actions will not defeat terrorism, not win the hearts of minds of moderates in the world, not defeat the insurgency in Iraq or the Taliban in Afghanistan, not bring back the dead of 9/11, not help our military out of their quagmires, not find Osama bin Laden, not restore our Treasury, and not bring the world closer to peace. They would rather win elections than win wars.

How sad that such opportunistic cowards have been chosen to lead this great country. And sadder still that we let them do it.

I love America, but it is our leaders who made me ashamed of it. But still, I believe in our democracy. I will not give up hope that this can be defeated. Or that, failing that, we can elect new leaders who will reverse this unamerican course and restore sanity to America. I remain, in my cynicism, inwardly optimistic.

If any of this seems over-the-top, it is only because you failed to pay attention.

UPDATE: Well, it happened... the Senate passed this historical monstrosity. All of the 'maverick' Republicans (McCain, Warner, Graham, Specter, etc) predictably voted for it. One Republican, one, voted against it- Sen. Chafee. Truly disgusting is the fact that 12 Democrats voted in favor of it- Carper, Johnson, Landrieu, Lautenberg, Lieberman, Menendez, Nelson (Fla.), Nelson (Neb.), Pryor, Rockefeller, Salazar, and Stabenow. I hope they are proud. More details- here. The vote is mostly ignored by the media. Drudge is pleased, of course. I feel ill. America just officially ceded the moral high ground.

UPDATE #2: In the House, they rubberstamped the President's illegal wiretapping program.

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Benjamin Franklin

Republicans On Iraq: Divorced From Reality

This interview with Rep. John Boehner on 'Hardball' seems a key one for two reasons. Firstly, the level of denial expressed in it (Boehner still insists that Saddam had WMDs and ties to 9/11... things even the President has stopped insisting at this point!) is borderline pathological. Secondly, this guy is the majority leader for the United States House of Representatives. If our current Congress cannot even accept reality as it is, then no rational person should look to them for leadership on the war. Rational people may agree and disagree on Democratic party positions on what to with the Iraq debacle (I favor leaving, as soundly as that can be accomplished), but at least they operating from the real world. That makes them the winners of this debate by default to begin with, and by continuing to call for the necessary change and accountability after that.


And a partial transcript-
MATTHEWS: "Should Congress have authorized this war in Iraq?"

BOEHNER: "Absolutely."

MATTHEWS: "Why? What good has it done us?"

BOEHNER: "Beyond liberating the Iraqi people, we have taken the war to the terrorists. There is no question..."

MATTHEWS: "The terrorists were in Iraq when we got there?"

BOEHNER: "Whether they were there or not, it is now the central front in our war with al Qaeda."

MATTHEWS: "That may well true because we went there..."

...."There are no weapons of mass destruction, there's no connection to the 9/11, the president and the vice president admitted, and there was a war that the vice president never predicted."

BOEHNER: "Chris, while we have not found weapons of mass destruction, the whole world believed that he had them. I believed that he had them. What he did with them, we don't know."

MATTHEWS: "Did he have them?"

BOEHNER: "I do believe that he had them. And I do believe that we did the right thing by taking out a dictator who was causing insurrection in the entire region."

MATTHEWS: "Do you believe he had a role in 9/11?"

BOEHNER: "Not a direct role, a supportive role."

MATTHEWS: "What was the support?"

BOEHNER: "Training terrorists, training camps in Iraq..."

MATTHEWS: "For 9/11?"

BOEHNER: "For terrorists. There is no question that he supported their activities. He supported the training camps up in northeastern Iraq. There is no question about it."

MATTHEWS: "So Saddam Hussein was in league with the al Qaeda group?"

BOEHNER: "He was providing cover for them, yes."

MATTHEWS: "I keep trying to find that evidence, Congressman, and I can't find it. Nobody has come up with that. The vice president was asked about it, the president was about that, they both admitted recently that he had no role in 9/11....

.... What was his indirect role? Did he help 9/11?"

BOEHNER: "Not directly."

MATTHEWS: "OK, OK. You keep going back to that."

I would hope that Rep. Boehner is not so deluded that he actually believes all this.

UPDATE: Senator Trent Lott (the former Majority Leader with chronic foot-in-mouth disease) said today that "Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me." Also, upon being asked if Iraq was a topic at a meeting he had at the White House, he said "We don't [obsess on that] and the real people out in the real world don't for the most part." These are your duly elected leaders, folks.

Finally, more great headlines from Iraq!:
-AP: Poll: Iraqis back attacks on U.S. troops
-Washington Post: Most Iraqis Favor Immediate U.S. Pullout, Polls Show
-AP: Saudis plan long fence for Iraq border
-Reuters: Quarter million Iraqis flee sectarian violence
-Boston Globe: Cost of Iraq war nearly $2b a week

House Votes For Iran Sanctions

Well, we haven't invaded Iran yet, so Rumsfeld must be disappointed. Oh how he suffers.

AP: House approves Iran Freedom Support Act
The House voted Thursday to impose mandatory sanctions on entities that provide goods or services for Iran's weapons programs. The vote came as U.S diplomats continued to press the U.N. Security Council to penalize Tehran if it fails to end its uranium enrichment program...

Senate Democrats Speak Out

Ask and ye shall receive... the Democrats have been awakened.

Today, as the President's torture bill nears passage in the Senate, the Democrats there are attempting to stop this from happening. Do they have enough votes (or barring that, a filibuster) to accomplish that? That remains to be seen, but at least we can now say that it won't be from lack of trying.

If this passes, we can still hope the Supreme Court will dispose of it.

I want to note this: the three 'maverick' Republicans who the media still pretends got the White House to 'compromise' in some way all today voted against preserving habeus corpus as part of an amendment to this legislation. This speaks volumes about their true character.

(UPDATE: The Democrats waived the right to a filibuster. WTF!??)

Anyway, here's a sampling of what some Democrats are saying...

Sen. Feingold of Wisconsin-
"I welcome efforts to bring terrorists to justice. It is about time. This Administration has too long been distracted by the war in Iraq from the fight against al Qaeda. We need a renewed focus on the terrorist networks that present the greatest threat to this country.

But Mr. President, we wouldn’t be where we are today, five years after September 11 with not a single Guantanamo Bay detainee having been brought to trial, if the President had come to Congress in the first place, rather than unilaterally creating military commissions that didn’t comply with the law. The President wanted to act on his own, and he dared the Supreme Court to stop him. And he lost. The Hamdan decision was an historic rebuke to an Administration that has acted for years as if it were above the law...

...Habeas corpus is a longstanding vital part of our American tradition, and is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution...

...Some have suggested that terrorists who take up arms against this country should not be allowed to challenge their detention in court. But that argument is circular – the writ of habeas allows those who might be mistakenly detained to challenge their detention in court, before a neutral decision-maker. The alternative is to allow people to be detained indefinitely with no ability to argue that they are not, in fact, enemy combatants. Unless any of my colleagues can say with absolute certainty that everyone detained as an enemy combatant was correctly detained – and there is ample evidence to suggest that is not the case – then we should make sure that people can’t simply be locked up forever, without court review, based on someone slapping a “terrorist” label on them...

...Either we are a nation that stands against this type of cruelty and for the rule of law, or we are not. We can’t have it both ways..."

Sen. Dodd of Connecticut-
"Mr. President, the Administration and Republican leadership would have the American people believe that the War on Terror requires a choice between protecting America from terrorism and upholding the basic tenets upon which our country was founded -- but not both. This canard has been showcased in every recent election cycle.
I fully reject that reasoning. We can, and we must, balance our responsibilities to bring terrorists to justice, while at the same time protecting what it means to be America. To choose the rule of law over the passion of the moment takes courage. But it is the right thing to do if we are to uphold the values of equal justice and due process that are codified in our Constitution...

...As Justice Jackson said at Nuremberg, “we must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants today is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our lips as well.” Mr. President, to rubber-stamp the Administration’s bill would poison one of the most fundamental principles of American democracy. I urge my colleagues not to allow that to happen."

Sen. Kerry of Massachusetts-
"We’ve got to tell the truth about what’s happening right now – right now – in our country. We must start treating our moral authority as a national treasure that doesn’t limit our power but magnifies our influence...

...The only guarantee we have that these provisions really will prohibit torture is the word of the President. But we have seen in Iraq the consequences of simply accepting the word of this Administration. No, we cannot just accept the word of this Administration that they will not engage in torture given that everything they’ve already done and said on this most basic question has already put our troops at greater risk and undermined the very moral authority needed to win the war on terror."

Sen. Leahy of Vermont
"We can export freedom across the globe, but at the same time we are cutting it out in our own country. What hypocrisy!"

Sen. Clinton of New York-
"The light of our ideals shone dimly in those early dark days [of the Revolutionary War], years from an end to the conflict, years before our improbable triumph and the birth of our democracy. General Washington wasn't that far from where the Continental Congress had met and signed the Declaration of Independence. But it's easy to imagine how far that must have seemed. General Washington announced a decision unique in human history, sending the following order for handling prisoners:
"Treat them with humanity, and let them have no reason to complain of our Copying the brutal example of the British Army in their Treatment of our unfortunate brethren."
Now these values – George Washington’s values, the values of our founding – are at stake. We are debating far-reaching legislation that would fundamentally alter our nation's conduct in the world and the rights of Americans here at home. And we are debating it too hastily in a debate too steeped in electoral politics..."

More coverage on C-SPAN- here

In the afterword section of his book "The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit Of It Enemies Since 9/11" (the definite book on the war on terror- successes, failures, and everything in between), Ron Suskind says the following:
The torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay; the construction of the great terrorist-finding machine, with its communications head and financialo body; the self-interested use of classified materials to carry forward political ends; the very concealment of the true nature of what's been happening since 9/11 in favor or a sanitized, "need to know" version-- are all means that, whatever their advertised value, strike at the nation's character.

And sadly, give true comfort to our enemies, graced with more recruitment tools than they could have hoped for.

The sensation of newness about 9/11, and our response, meant- to be fair- that early on, we stumbled across this yin/yang of ends and means as though we'd never been introduced.

That period, fortunately, is now ending.

Let us hope that his words don't prove naive.

[Finally, a sampling of good takes on this issue: Tortured justice:
As Democrats scramble to protect detainee rights and their own congressional futures, President Bush is angling for a star-spangled signing ceremony just before the midterm elections. The rush is "very political," says Sen. Dianne Feinstein -- and will likely succeed

-NY Times editorial: Rushing Off a Cliff
-Andrew Sullivan: Legalizing Tyranny
-The Colbert Report (via YouTube): The Torture "Compromise"
-Glenn Greenwald: The legalization of torture and permanent detention ]

Meanwhile, In Afghanistan...

Thousands more U.S. troops will be put under NATO control in the coming weeks, as part of renewed efforts to take back a country increasingly mired in violence and insurgency. This plan "would extend their control to the eastern section — which U.S. troops now command" and "would put as many as 12,000 U.S. troops under foreign battlefield command, a number that U.S. officials said could be the most since World War II."

AP: NATO adds U.S. troops for Afghan mission

Conservative 'Values' Voters

We hear so much about America's strong 'values' (which now includes torture) and how liberal politicians should so do more to reach out to 'values voters'. This was especially true after the 2004 election, in which reporters were obsessed with the 'values voters' (read: the ones who showed up to condemn gay marriage) who helped guarantee the win for President Bush. I hate these people. No, not the religious and moral in general. They are good people and I don't want to badmouth them because of their fringe. But I mean the faux-'values voters' in the far-right who speak for them and whom the media and politicians insist we take seriously.

This past weekend was the conservative Values Voters summit, which summed up how vile and backwards these people are. Right up front, I want to make it clear, that this wasn't a group of the fringe.... this was the mainstream of today's Republican party. Among those attending the summit: Tony Snow, Attorney General Gonzales, Senator George Allen, Governor Mike Huckabee, Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity. Keep that in mind.

Here is a sample speech from a speech by Bishop Wellington Boone, founder of the Wellington Boone Ministries-
"This matter of gay — I want the gays mad at me. I’m not on enough of their hit lists ... But I want to tell you something is, they don't know, we're driven by God to deal with this stuff, and I want to say to you that, in this regard, I'm not playing with you. That when it comes to the matter of this gay stuff, I know that a family is not a man and a man or a woman and a woman. It's a man and a woman. That's the creative order, and I'm not backing down. I'm standing flat-footed on that right there. [Applause]

Everywhere I get to speak, I am guarded by the grace of God, being strong on it. Now they're fussing on it, they're saying a few things, but they don't have me, you know, in their, you know, on their web sites. They're not coming at me strong, and I would say this. Back in the days when I was a kid, and we see guys that don't stand strong on principle, we call them 'faggots.' A punk is — and our people, I'm from the ghetto, so sometimes it does come out a little bit. I got another one I'm gonna say in a minute — [laughter] — that don't stand up for what's right, we say, 'You're sissified out!' 'You're a sissy!' That means you don't stand up for principles. And I just believe that God hasn't called us to be sissies on a principle level. We're called to be, to stand up and be men. I'm not talking about as in gender. I'm talking about man of God, men in the marketplace, and when a U.S. senator or congressman says that he wants me to vote for them, and he's not biblically based — if he doesn't have God as his Lord, how can somebody that doesn't feel the need for God lead me?"


And here's a speech by Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) (link has video)-
"...But, you know, when I was in the last weeks of my last campaign [talking about gay marriage], you know what I was thinking? Where’s our side? What are they doing? And I believe that when you’re in a cultural war like this, you have to respond with equal and hopefully greater force if you want to win this battle. But this battle is the most important issue that we face today, and what an honor it has been to serve in the United States Congress and carry the Marriage Amendment.

Last time, we were 54 votes short in this legislative session. That’s 9 votes more than we had last year. But there is much work to be done. So I hope that you will realize how high the stakes are. The future is grim unless we do what we need to do to win this battle. We need to elect people to positions of authority in the states and in the United States Congress, and we need to fight the good fight for our children and our grandchildren. Thank you very much."


Gosh, why can't all politicians reach out to these wonderfully moral people more? :)

A reader to Andrew Sullivan's blog summed up his experience at the summit-
I went to the Family Research Council/Focus on the Family/American Family Association "Values Voters" summit this weekend at the Omni.

It is much, much worse than we know.

The first woman I spoke to (from Erie, PA) railed on about how Chuck Hagel is a flaming liberal and John McCain should be tried for treason. I thought that maybe I'd run into an isolated crazy. Oh no - it only got worse from there. The level of contempt for anyone who diverges from the Holy Word of W is beyond description. I was sort of 'undercover' so I could just let people talk to me, not leading the conversation, not baiting, and it horrified me to hear how many were perfectly comfortable with any form of torture in the name of patriotism if the Commander In Chief gave it the ok.

Meanwhile, in the plenary I got to hear from George Allen on how he's been done wrong by the media and watched a ballroom of about 1,700 people seem to feel permission to let their hate for The Gays run wild every time a black minister hit the stage. (I have my own copy of the very popular brochure, "The Rape of the Civil Rights Movement: How Sodomites Are Using Civil Rights Rhetoric To Advance Their Preference For Sexual Perversion.")

There is no room for disagreement, because it is tantamount to evil. Dissent is the same as blasphemy, and everything is approached in orthodox terms. I've always been a conservative because I believe that there is such a think as good and evil and that moral relativism is a crazy road on which logic can rarely stick. I believe in limited government and individual liberty. I know I can do things better than any bureaucracy ever will. But what conservatism has become with these people is horrifying. They'd trade liberty for a handshake from W., compassion for power. And they've got one amazing plan in place to make sure that future generations have a tighter, more limited, and clearly more hostile worldview. I went there hoping to prove myself wrong about what I thought was happening, but I just couldn't do it.

This is the Republican Party's base.

This is who is in charge of America.

Had enough?

Beyond Shameful

With only the Senate hurdle left to clear, we are almost the torture country...

AP: House approves bill on terror detainees
The House approved legislation Wednesday giving the Bush administration authority to interrogate and prosecute terrorism detainees, moving President Bush to the edge of a pre-election victory with a key piece of his anti-terror plan.

The mostly party-line 253-168 vote in the Republican-run House prompted bitter charges afterward by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., that opposition Democrats were coddling terrorists, perhaps foreshadowing campaign attack ads to come...

PERHAPS?! Jesus Christ, Associated Press, I know you're just a wire service and you're not allowed to add commentary, but c'mon! The campaign attack ads not only accusing Democrats of coddling terrorists, but comparing them to terrorists themselves, have been airing non-stop since 2002. The only reason this vile legislation was even rushed for a September vote was so that it could be used as an electoral wedge (see previous entry). That context is entirely necessary to point out in an article like this.

In a statement issued after the vote, Bush, who will visit GOP senators Thursday morning, urged the Senate to approve the measure and congratulated the House for its "commitment to strengthening our national security."

Hastert's comments were biting. He said in a statement that Democrats supporting the measure "voted today in favor of MORE rights for terrorists."

He added, "So the same terrorists who plan to harm innocent Americans and their freedom worldwide would be coddled, if we followed the Democrat plan."

Have you no sense of decency, Mr. Speaker, at long last? Have you no sense of decency?

Amazingly enough, one of the more sane takes on this whole debacle comes the Washington Post's editorial board, which has had a spotty record when it comes to these issues. Yesterday's editorial- 'Rush to Error'- said-
As we have said before, there is no need for Congress to act immediately. No terrorist suspects are being held in the CIA detention "program" that President Bush has so vigorously defended. Justice for the al-Qaeda suspects he has delivered to Guantanamo has already been delayed for years by the administration's actions and can wait a few more months. What's important is that any legal system approved by Congress pass the tests set by Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) months ago: that the United States can be proud of it, that the world will see it as fair and humane, and that the Supreme Court can uphold it.

The compromise legislation cobbled together in the past week by administration officials and a group of Republican senators, including Mr. Warner, doesn't pass those tests...

...White House pressure may have persuaded many in Congress that the easiest course is to quickly approve the detention bill in its present form and leave town. If so, their actions almost surely will come back to haunt them...

Their actions have been haunting us for years, why stop now, they would say.

Finally, I saw a new AP headline title 'GOP on track to pass anti-terror bill'. This is proof enough of Rove's success in marketing this monstrosity. This is not an 'anti-terror' bill. It's a 'legalize torture and indefinite imprisonment and get us off the hook retroactively for war crimes' bill. If this bill passes, the decision of who is and is not a "terrorist" is solely up to the President's discretion, with no legal need to prove or barely make any accusations for this. This will defeat terrorism forever... how?

Democrats Fall For Rove's Trap Again; Prepare To Okay Torture

There is now news that, in addition to taking the House this November, they may also take the Senate as well. And yet, as polls indicate their chances are improving, I am left to wonder this week whether they even deserve it. As with the Iraq war vote in 2002, the Democrats have again fallen for Karl Rove's trap and refused to stand up on principle, for fear of maybe upsetting some conservative voter somewhere who wasn't going to vote for them anyway. Yesterday, the House approved the President's torture bill and the Democrats did little to stop it. To be fair, there were some notable exceptions (like would-be-Speaker Nancy Pelosi), but far too many Democrats went along with it. The same seems like it will be the case in the Senate, with some exceptions like Barack Obama, but with no overall denouncement of this bill. Sad.

In what can't be good news for the Democrats, their most vocal cheerleaders- liberal blogs- have finally had enough with their spineless bullshit that they are calling them out. Good. They need to get a loud and clear verbal smackdown. First up, Greg Saunders-
I applaud Markos for being patient enough to stand by the Democratic party and encourage people to not drop out of the political process, but when is enough enough? At what point do you say “screw it” and come to the conclusion that the people in Washington don’t represent your core values? You know the Democratic party is in a sad state of affairs when a post encouraging people to stick by the party ends like this :
Democrats think “looking strong” means bombing Iraq or Iran, when “looking strong” really means standing for something because you believe in it, even if you might not think it’s the smartest political play. Whimpering every time Rove says “boo!” is not strength. Caving in to the administration is not strength. Surrendering what should be core beliefs because of political expediency is not strength.
Update: Rereading this, I don’t think I was clear on this point — please do put pressure on Democrats to do the right thing. On torture or whatever. Please get angry when they fail us and core American values.

Why should we continue to put pressure on politicians to do something that would come as second nature to any decent person? What does it say about our leaders if we have to beg them to oppose torture? If the Democrats aren’t willing to risk their careers for a higher principle like preserving the right of habeas corpus or protecting the separation of powers, isn’t it reasonable to conclude that they don’t feel strongly about these issues and probably shouldn’t be representing us?

Exactly. Voters like a politicians who stand up for their principles, even if they don't 100% agree. This is one reason why the President was reelected, because people saw him as 'standing for something' even if his policies were overall unpopular. The Democrats need to realize that being tough means showing you have a spine, not acquiesing to what seems politically expedient at the moment.

Next up, Glenn Greenwald-
In 2002, substantial numbers of Democratic senators voted in favor of the resolution to authorize President Bush to use military force in Iraq. At the time, they argued that they had no choice politically but supporting that measure because their opposition would be used by Karl Rove to depict them as weak on terrorism. Despite support of the war resolution by a solid majority of Democrats (29-22), the centerpiece of the GOP campaign against Democrats nonetheless was the accusation that they were weak on terrorism. The GOP even ran commercials morphing the face of Max Cleland into Saddam Hussein's face even though Cleland had voted for the resolution.

That Rovian strategy -- luring Democrats into supporting Bush's terrorism policies and then accusing them anyway of being weak on national security -- is precisely what led to the 2002 GOP takeover of the Senate and historic midterm gains.

In 2004, Democrats rejected a candidate who unambiguously opposed the Iraq war (Howard Dean) in favor of a candidate who voted for the war resolution (John Kerry), only to watch as Republicans successfully depicted Democrats as being weak on terrorism. Over and over, Democrats allow Republicans to depict them as weak on terrorism because they are afraid to take a stand and to articulate the rationale behind that stand.

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!

Democrats, we are talking about a bill that legalizes torture, rapes habeus corpus, and basically gives the President (and all future Presidents- this isn't just about Bush) the right to detain anyone anywhere for as long as he wants, do anything to do them, file no charges against them, and then dispose of them in the manner of his choosing. This bill would go down in history, as so many now-forgotten wartime acts, as one of most odious passed in America. Please do a favor and show us that you recognize this fact. Fight. If you cannot defeat the lame-duck Republicans, you will have to understand why some Americans will not trust you to take on Osama.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on the Daily Show

One of the Daily Show's more interesting interviews-

AP: Pakistan Prez appears on 'Daily Show'

Freudian Slip?

Thought this interesting nugget got lost in all the other Iraq news...

President Bush said this to CNN's Wolf Blitzer in an interview that aired Sunday:
"I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iran — Iraq — it will look like just a comma because there is — my point is, there’s a strong will for democracy, these people want a unity government, the unity government’s functioning.”

When this exchange was mentioned, everyone seemed to focus on the odious 'comma' comment, rather than the interesting Freudian slip with the word 'Iran' in there before immediately catching himself and saying 'Iraq'. Gee, I wonder what's on Georgie's mind?

I've said it before, but Democrats really should be making it clear that war with Iran IS on the ballot this November in the form of every Republican candidate. The President wants this war bad, and the Republicans will go along with whatever he wants to do. We need a Congress that won't let Bush drive us over the cliff. Third time is not the charm here.

Finally, Juan Cole was on Democracy Now on Monday and gave a very thorough and balanced take on the Iranian situation. It was incredibly informative. I highly recommend reading the transcript and just listening in general.

Republicans Compromise America's Integrity

As we all hold onto hope that a) the Democrats can muster enough support to kill the President's torture bill, or b) the current congressional session will simply end without it passing, many people are taking a deeper look at how frightening this bill actually is.

Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson looks at what it will do to our Geneva obligations-
Geneva gives no enforceable rights:
(a) IN GENERAL.—No person may invoke the Geneva Conventions or any protocols thereto in any habeas or civil action or proceeding to which the United States, or a current or former officer, employee, member of the Armed Forces, or other agent of the United States, is a party as a source of rights, in any court of the United States or its States or territories.

Bush gets to define Geneva as he wishes:
(3) INTERPRETATION BY THE PRESIDENT.—(A) As provided by the Constitution and by this section, the President has the authority for the United States to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions and to promulgate higher standards and administrative regulations for violations of treaty obligations which are not grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.

A decade of lawbreaking wiped clean:
(2) RETROACTIVE APPLICABILITY.—The amendments made by this section, except as specified in paragraph 2441(d)(2)(E) of title 10, United States Code, shall take effect as of November 26, 1997, as if enacted immediately after the amendments made by section 583 of Public Law 105-118 (as amended by section 4002 of Public Law 107-273).

Andrew Sullivan looks at other provisions dealing with who can be apprehended or branded a 'terrorist'. Glenn Greenwald also writes on that provision, noting that "this bill would give the Bush administration the power to imprison people for their entire lives, literally, without so much as charging them with any wrongdoing or giving them any forum in which to contest the accusations against them. It thus vests in the administration the singularly most tyrannical power that exists -- namely, the power unilaterally to decree someone guilty of a crime and to condemn the accused to eternal imprisonment without having even to charge him with a crime, let alone defend the validity of those accusations."

In a related post, Sullivan takes a critical look at the motives of Sen. McCain.

Meanwhile, the Republicans may be 'compromising' some more... on warrantless wiretapping-
Republican leaders said Monday that they had reached a tentative agreement to garner political support for legislation on domestic surveillance, in part by sidestepping the question of whether the president has the constitutional authority to order wiretapping without a court order.

There was wide disagreement about the plan’s impact. Supporters billed the most recent version as a way of requiring a court order for most domestic wiretaps. But civil rights advocates and even some administration officials suggested that it would maintain the status quo in allowing the continuation of wiretapping without warrants under a program approved by President Bush...

But, wait! Encouraging news from the Boston Globe-
Congress is unlikely to approve a bill giving President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program legal status and new restrictions before the November midterm elections, dealing a significant blow to one of the White House's top wartime priorities.

House and Senate versions of the legislation differ too much to bridge the gap by week's end, when Congress recesses until after the Nov. 7 elections, according to two GOP leadership aides who demanded anonymity because the decision had not yet been announced.

Glenn Greenwald has two great posts on this wiretapping issue over at Salon. The first notes that, since the President has refused to fully brief Congress on the program's details, that they are 'voting in the dark' on this important issue. They are, in essence, trying to rubberstamp an illegal wiretapping program without even knowing its details or whether it is even useful. Pretty pathetic Congress we have. He second post is about the fallout if Congress does indeed fall to pass a bill before the recess. He notes that this means that the President will continue to be wiretapping American citizens outside of existing U.S. law and the Constitution. He expresses hope- which I am reluctant to share- that this will force Democrats to finally hold the President accountable for his actions.

And that's where we stand today.

Quote of the Day

"The truly disturbing part is that the only criterion for detaining anyone without charges - citizen or non-citizen, at home or anywhere in the world - is the president's discretion. If Rumsfeld decides you're an enemy combatant, you can be whisked away into a black hole, tortured, or have to prove your innocence in a military commission while he insists on your guilt. The 'battlefield' is everywhere; and the war is endless. This is not, to put it mildly, what the founding fathers had in mind. It is one of the darkest hours for Western liberty in a very long time. And most conservatives are cheering. Watching habeas corpus go down the plughole is not something I ever thought I would have to contemplate. Well done, Osama. You won this one big time."
--Andrew Sullivan, on what our President and Congress are about to do to our country.

Confirming The Obvious: Iraq War Made World Less Safe (Pt. II)

Following up on a post Sunday about reports that a classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) from April found that "the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks", there were calls from Democrats to declassify the document and release it for public consumption. Yesterday, President Bush agreed to declassify parts of it. The PDF of the declassified document is available- here.

Despite the President's rhetoric, the report does say what the initial leaks implied-
The war in Iraq has become a "cause celebre" for Islamic extremists, breeding deep resentment of the U.S. that probably will get worse before it gets better, federal intelligence analysts conclude in a report at odds with President Bush's portrayal of a world growing safer.

In the bleak report, declassified and released Tuesday on Bush's orders, the nation's most veteran analysts conclude that despite serious damage to the leadership of al-Qaida, the threat from Islamic extremists has spread both in numbers and in geographic reach.

Bush and his top advisers have said the formerly classified assessment of global terrorism supported their arguments that the world is safer because of the war. But more than three pages of stark judgments warning about the spread of terrorism contrasted with the administration's glass-half-full declarations...

If these are the parts Bush agreed to release, imagine what's in the parts he didn't release.

Read the AP report linked above for a good breakdown on its non-Iraq findings. The sad part is that those non-Iraq findings do paint a decent picture, showing that we have made good progress in breaking down Al Qaeda (I recommend reading Ron Suskind's "The One Percent Doctrine" if you want specifics). But then President Bush had to go invade Iraq and he overshadowed any of that progress by creating countless new problems for us to deal with. Sad.

UPDATE: Rep. Jane Harman (D- CA) has revealed the existence of another classified NIE, this one specifically dealing with Iraq. The White House has said that it won't be made public until January... 2 months after the elections.

The official spin on this by the Bush defenders is a strawman-- they state that those discussing the findings imply that the Iraq war created terrorism and that they didn't hate us already. No one is arguing this. The report clearly states, however, that the war has increased terrorism and further radicalized Muslims against the U.S. and its allies. After 9/11, most of the Muslim world sympathized with us. In fact, the attacks even drove a wedge among those who had been sympathetic to bin Laden, feeling that he had gone too far and that an attack on civilians was not justified by jihad. This was a fantastic opportunity to unite the world against terrorism and bring the Middle East together, as best as could be done. This opportunity was squandered and the President's "with us or against us" pronouncements and Iraq obsession ended up losing that sympathy and convincing many in the Muslim world that maybe bin Laden was right after all. It was shortsighted and hubristic.

And, as I noted, this was the outcome that was forewarned and ignored.

Furthermore, the President said yesterday that "I think it's a mistake for people to believe that going on the offense against people that want to do harm to the American people makes us less safe". Well this also is a bit of a strawman. It's also gravely stupid. There is a smart way and a stupid way to 'go on the offense'- the stupid way will make you less safe. Secondly, this quote once again attempts to conflate the Iraq invasion with the war on terror. It was a poor lie three years ago and it's a poor lie today.

I close with some more headlines on Iraq, none of them any more hopeful than this...

-AP: U.S. Army extends Iraq duty for 4,000
-AP: Iraq forms panel on constitution changes
-The Independent (UK): A journey into the 'Taliban republic' where the militias rule unchallenged
-AP: Ex-military officers criticize Rumsfeld
-YouTube: Maj. Gen. John Batiste - Planning & Conduct of the Iraq War
-AP: Congress approves $70B more for Iraq, Afghanistan

Our Poor, Abused Lil' Planet

We treat it so badly, no wonder it has decided to fight back...

AP: Global temperature highest in millennia
The planet's temperature has climbed to levels not seen in thousands of years, warming that has begun to affect plants and animals, researchers report in Tuesday's issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Quote of the Day

"While we spend time discussing the philosophical implications of being involved in Iraq, while politicians use 'the war' as a plank in their campaign platform, while the talking heads offer their self important insights as to the why's whereof's and therefore's... let us not forget one thing.

Every day there are families from sea to shining sea who are receiving a knock on their door. Their loved one has been killed on foreign soil.

The President of The United States is not able to clearly define - beyond some vague, meaningless line of bullshit - what victory in Iraq is let alone what constitutes success in his grand War On Terror.

For what has the person being shipped home from Iraq given their life? I am not understanding it."
-Blogger 'Kilroy' on the deeper question more and more Americans are asking themselves.

Unfortunately, I do not have an answer. For hubris? Empire? Misguided ideals? None of those seem satisfactory.

U.S. 'Relaxes' Air Travel Restrictions

For those who do a lot of traveling, this news will be of great interest-
The government is partially lifting its ban against carrying liquids and gels onto airliners, instituted after a plot to bomb jets flying into the United States was foiled, officials said Monday.

"We now know enough to say that a total ban is no longer needed from a security point of view," said Kip Hawley, head of the Transportation Security Administration, at a news conference at Reagan National Airport...

But, but, but I thought this was the next 9/11! I am so shocked, I forgot to be surprised!

But wait! There's a catch!-
That means that after passengers go through airport security checkpoints, they can purchase liquids at airport stores and take them onto their planes. The new procedures go into effect on Tuesday, Hawley said.

The new security regimen is for an indefinite period and will take effect Tuesday morning, officials said.

So it's a win for airport shops, but still an overall loss for common sense. Huzzah.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Video: Bill Clinton Delivers TKO To Fox News' Chris Wallace

Well, here is the much-hyped Fox News interview with former President Clinton. The clip I post below is not the full interview; it is merely the section of the interview where Wallace confronts Clinton with the "Path To 9/11" spin. I assume this is what people want to see most. For the full interview, go here:
-Part 1
-Part 2

I do recommend Part 2, where Clinton discusses the elections and the GOP fear campaigns.

Besides the intelligence and passion Clinton brings to this interview, this is also what makes it stand out to me: He does not hesitate to admit he made mistakes and does not try to claim some nonexistent victory. Still, he defends his record as it is, using the facts and history instead of the reasonless emotional appeal we get from our current President. Secondly, he isn't shy about calling Wallace out on the partisan context in which this line of questioning arose. At the end, Wallace, who seem shocked that Bill Clinton would react so passionately to this sandbagging, says the interview was one of his more "unusual"... meaning Fox News and their followers are so used to dealing with wimpy Colmes-faux-Democrats, who are no more than punching bags for the Hannitys of the media, that when actually confronted with a real Democrat, it it a shock for them. And if you watch the second part of the interview, linked above, you can further see a man dedicated in his retirement to dealing with pressing global issues.

Kudos to Bill Clinton for reminding us that the Democratic Party is very much alive and kicking. It made this ol' cynic crack a smile. More of this, please.

UPDATE: Why didn't I expect this- The backlast begins. In addition to media coverage obsessed with the most unimportant details of this noteworthy interview, the Murdoch-owned NY Post spoke with Condoleeza Rice to rebut the Clinton interview. She stated that he was wrong about the current administration's pre-9/11 activities, insisting that the 9/11 Commission (you know, the one her and her boss fought at every turn) confirmed they did a good job. I won't waste much space on all this (it's starting to bore me), but do want to note that Think Progress debunks alot of this- here, here, and here.

Weekend Funnies: The In-Our-Names Edition

Blogger 'Billmon' said the following a week ago when we naively held onto hope that the 'maverick' Republicans were serious and/or that Democrats would more visibly join the fight: "We are, in a sense, at the moment of truth. The sadistic and/or bizarre acts committed in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and the CIA's secret prisons can be written off as the crimes of a few bad apples with names like Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld -- or, more charitably, as the consequences of a string of bad and brutal decisions made under emergency conditions by men who were terrified by all the things they didn't know about Al Qaeda. Either way, they were not acts of national policy, endorsed and approved by Congress after open, public debate... So now we'll find out, I guess, what we're really made of as a nation -- down deep, in our core."

We got our answer this week. And it wasn't pretty. We torture.

[Related reading:
-Andrew Sullivan: Stop The Torture Bill
-Glenn Greenwald: Everyone -- including Democrats -- agrees to pretend that Bush "compromised" on torture
-Digby: Rigorous Process]

Confirming The Obvious: Iraq War Made World Less Safe

Another Iraq headline that all Democrats should be using to highlight the war's failures-

NY Times: Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terror Threat
A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.

The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe...

This outcome was, of course, obvious to those who tried to speak out against this war before the President and his party hoodwinked the country into it (reread Al Gore's Sept. '02 speech to the Commonwealth Club, and this incredibly prescient report from the CATO Institute from August of '02, as but two of many examples). We were labeled unpatriotic, or worse, for our concerns.

More warnings have been flowing from critics as the war has progressed (and as our soldiers came home in caskets- hidden by the government, as our treasury was depleted, and our credibility destroyed), and only recently are falling on something other than deaf ears.

That we need to start bringing this war to a close goes without saying... but what cannot be said enough is that it never should have been started in the first place. It wasn't a good idea that went bad- it was always an unnecessary and immoral preemptive action. And while the past cannot be changed, we still have an obligation to hold our leaders accountable for the decision(s) they made. The President continues to lie to the American people about how this war began, he wants to stay the course, he wants to expand his war into Iran and elsewhere. We need a new Congress to check this President, we need accountability. I hope the path to that will begin in November.

I also recommend this Daily Kos post which sums up well the impact this war has had.

(I also want to note how much I am looking forward to Frank Rich's new book- 'The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina'- in which Mr. Rich breaks down the marketing campaign used to sell the war and the administration's embrace of 'truthiness' in general. Sounds like a must-read.)

Rob The Vote

As if we needed to further show the continuing devolving of the Republican party, Rush 'Excellence In Broadcasting' Limbaugh bragged about the GOP election fraud tactics in 2004 and encouraged conservative activists to continue them. Let's go to the tape...
"I mean, you take a look at the average Democrat voter registration drive, you can take for every hundred thousand voters they register, the cumulative IQ would probably be less than a pencil eraser. So when it comes time for the election, half of them can be fooled in saying, 'No, it’s not Election Day. It’s tomorrow, Wednesday.' And they show up on Wednesday to vote when the polls are closed, and the Democrats claim a trick has been played on them. That’s how stupid some of their voters are...

...You think I’m lying? That happened. Republicans did a dirty trick and sent a flier out a week early and said due to unfortunate circumstances, certain precincts, Election Day will be held on Wednesday, blah, blah, blah, blah. Democrats heard about it, this is such a dirty trick. They were worried because they knew it would work, because half their voters are stupid idiots! They have to be when you look at the way they vote..."

Republicans: Not just the Party of Torture, but also proudly the Party of Disenfranchisement.

One of the greatest- and most ignored- scandals of the past decade has been the well-documented electoral fraud utilized by the Republicans in the last few election cycles (see Florida in 2000, New Hampshire in 2002, Ohio in 2004). Besides being, you know, a crime, this undermines our democracy at its core, a fact that people like Mr. Limbaugh seem quite proud of. And unless it is stopped, it WILL happen again. And again.

I recommend these two links for starters for a preview of what's coming this November...

-Rolling Stone (Robert F. Kennedy Jr): Will The Next Election Be Hacked?
-Washington Post: Major Problems At Polls Feared

These and other reports indicate electronic voting machines are a disaster in the making.