Friday, October 13, 2006

High Stakes Hilarity

It's Friday evening, time to begin another weekend with some YouTube fun. This week's offering is another 'Daily Show' clip... this one looking at the President's Wednesday press conference as well his insistence that he listens to the advice of his generals. Enjoy.

On a related note, the Washington Post looks at how our President "finds the world around him increasingly 'unacceptable'". If only he could learn to 'tolerate' the world the way the Iraqis have the chaos and violence around them:
Bush Confounded by the 'Unacceptable'

Finally, as with Iraq, the President has no plan if his party loses Congress.

Global Warming Continues Its Assault

Hey, maybe there's something to this global warming. Think we should look into it?

Reuters: Climate change inaction will cost trillions: study
Failing to fight global warming now will cost trillions of dollars by the end of the century even without counting biodiversity loss or unpredictable events like the Gulf Stream shutting down, a study said on Friday...

Meanwhile, Newsweek conspires to keep American readers ignorant on another important issue.

Quote of the Day

"Now I’ve seen what happened in Abu Ghraib, and Abu Ghraib was not torture. It was outrageous, outrageous involvement of National Guard troops from Maryland who were involved in a sex ring and they took pictures of soldiers who were naked."
--Moderate (!!) Republican Rep. Chris Shays of Connecticut, in a debate Wednesday night

This is what Republicans like Shays and Rush Limbaugh dismiss as sexual/fraternity hijinks-

This is what the House and Senate have now authorized for their President.

These are a very disturbed group of people.

You Iz Da Man, Bob Ney!!

One more down...

AP: Rep. Bob Ney pleads guilty to bribery
Rep. Bob Ney pleaded guilty Friday in the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling investigation, the first lawmaker to confess to crimes in an election-year scandal that has stained the Republican-controlled Congress and the Bush administration.

Standing before Judge Ellen S. Huvelle, Ney pleaded guilty to conspiracy and making false statements. He acknowledged taking money, gifts and favors in return for official actions on behalf of Abramoff and his clients...

He has yet to resign (that won't happen for a few weeks).

But Bob, it's Friday afternoon! That's when all good Republicans resign in disgrace!

Still reeling from the Foley resignation, expect the GOP leadership to try to kick him to the curb as soon before the election as possible (or they'll put it off until after the election, no big deal). The last thing they want is such a high-profile member of Congress hanging around until November after having admitted to crimes related to the lobbyist they are all trying hard to pretend never existed. Their only saving grace may lie in the fact that the details of the Abramoff scandal are much less sexy than what Foley did and thus the media will find it unworthy of exploring any further.

[But Republicans really want you to know that Sen. Reid made some money on some land he owned (it's all purposely confusing), so you should talk about that instead. Plus Barbra Streisand! Or something. It all sounds like death rattles to me.]

Turning The Corner

The British army is eyeing the exit door in Iraq...
The head of the Army is calling for British troops to withdraw from Iraq “soon” or risk catastophic consequences for both Iraq and British society.

In a devastating broadside at Tony Blair’s foreign policy, General Sir Richard Dannatt stated explicitly that the continuing presence of British troops “exacerbates the security problems” in Iraq.

Oops. Guess Gen. Dannatt doesn't realize how high the stakes are.

But hey, we're committed, right? Let's check in on that-
A commission formed to assess the Iraq war and recommend a new course has ruled out the prospect of victory for America, according to draft policy options shared with The New York Sun by commission officials.

Currently, the 10-member commission — headed by a secretary of state for President George H.W. Bush, James Baker — is considering two option papers, "Stability First" and "Redeploy and Contain," both of which rule out any prospect of making Iraq a stable democracy in the near term...

...Instead, the commission is headed toward presenting President Bush with two clear policy choices that contradict his rhetoric of establishing democracy in Iraq. The more palatable of the two choices for the White House, "Stability First," argues that the military should focus on stabilizing Baghdad while the American Embassy should work toward political accommodation with insurgents. The goal of nurturing a democracy in Iraq is dropped...

...The "Redeploy and Contain" option calls for the phased withdrawal of American soldiers from Iraq, though the working groups have yet to say when and where those troops will go...


Good thing the President doesn't read papers; he might end up being exposed to reality.

[Related- U.S. seen retreating from democracy push (Reuters)]

The GOP's Gay Problem

The fallout from the Foley scandal has revealed more than just the increasingly desperate and loathsome ends the GOP leadership will go to save their collective asses, it has also opened the closet door and revealed that- GASP!- there are gay Republicans. Ohh, sure they've been very polite and quiet about it (and they are so helpful to fight against their best interests), but the cat's out of the bag now and the religious right is very confused and angry. Why, they thought the Republicans were their partners in ridding America of the homosexual menace. But if the Republicans have been hiding some gays in their midst, what gives? Could gay people be more prominent and diverse than they thought? EEP! And with Foley's loathsome actions appearing to only further solidify the homophobia of many on the right, the Republicans have to decide whether to go it along with it or not. Likely, they will go along, because they've put such a stake in the anti-gay political gravy train.

Here's the Village Voice's Dan Savage on this GOP's gay position-
[I]f someone turned up e-mails or IM chats in which I asked a kid to measure his cock for me—or asked him for details about his masturbation habits, or whether I made him horny, or if he just came—I don't think Dennis Hastert, Tony Snow, Matt Drudge, and Rush Limbaugh would launch a cover-up to protect my skanky ass or, failing that, rush to my defense, pointing out that it was just, you know, a few naughty e-mails or the fault of some dirty-minded teenage beasts. They would call for my head.

So why would they bend over forward to accommodate Foley?

Because, in their eyes, Foley was doing everything right. The religious conservatives in the GOP's base don't seriously believe that gay men can become straight. (Want to stop a straight person from making the ex-gay argument? Ask him if he'd let his daughter marry one.) What they believe in—what they demand—are closeted homos, homos like Foley, a single man who refused to answer direct questions about his sexual orientation. (Has any straight man ever refused to reveal his sexual orientation?) The religious conservatives in the GOP's base want all gays to be like Foley: deny who we are, live our lives alone, refuse to answer any questions about our sexuality. To them, Foley was a good, closeted homo, deserving of every consideration.

The GOP was willing to cover for Foley because Foley, by being closeted, covered for them for years. So what if closet cases act out in sexually inappropriate ways? A few raped altar boys and skeeved-out pages are a price the gay haters are only too willing to pay if it means fewer out homos.

This sounds about right to me.

The Vice President's relationship with his daughter, Mary Cheney (who is the perfect embodiment of a self-hating homosexual), is a great example of the party that feels one way in private but publicly acts just the opposite- and extremely so. The Republican closet is very a crowded and very disturbing place.

Andrew Sullivan had a similar discussion on 'The Colbert Report' last night.

Going Nukular, Pt. III: We're Gonna Go Sanctions On Your Ass

Sanctions grow more likely for North Korea in the wake of all their nuclear fun...

AP: U.S. hopes for vote on NKorea sanctions
The United States dropped the possibility of using force against North Korea over the regime's purported nuclear test, a concession to Russia and China in the hope of seeing a U.N. Security Council resolution on the standoff passed by Friday...

Just be sure to tell the U.N. representative who tells him to stay away from the shark tank.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Quote of the Day

"These budget numbers are not just estimates; these are the actual results for the fiscal year that ended February the 30th."
--President George W. Bush discussing the economy and budget (yesterday)

Count all of the things wrong with this statement.

In Lighter News...

"We will not allow the enemy to win the war by changing our way of life or restricting our freedoms."
--President George W. Bush (September 12, 2001)

"What has changed in the past five years that justifies not merely suspending, but abolishing the writ of habeas corpus for a broad category of people who have not been found guilty or even charged with any crime?... [Are] our people so terrified that we must do what no bomb or attack could ever do by taking away the very freedoms that define America?... What has happened that the Senate is willing to turn America from a bastion of freedom into a cauldron of suspicion ruled by a government of unchecked power?"
---Democratic senator Patrick Leahy (September 28, 2006)

Amid the important news surrounding North Korean nukes and the GOP's post-Foley woes, another important story has slipped through the cracks of that ol' liberal media... the passing of the detainee bill. The bill got lots of press early on when it could be covered from the sexy angle of 'maverick' Republican senators standing up to Bush on Geneva concerns (unimportant sidenote: all three eventually caved and voted for the bill), but got more depressing, and thus less news-worthy, when it became obvious we as a country were about to legalize indiscriminate torture and send habeas corpus on vacation. The larger implications of this bill went undiscussed by all except for some obscure print journalists and miscellaneous bloggers.

It is on this note that I wanted to post this excellent segment from Keith Olbermann's "Countdown" in which he tackled those implications with an appropriate mix of anger and snark. If you have a few minutes free, I highly recommend watching it-

Last week, I asked a question... has the President actually signed this detainee bill yet (you know the one needed so urgently it positively had to be passed before the elections)? If so, I haven't heard any news of it. Have you? And if it wasn't signed yet, then that confirms what an idious political ploy this all is. I'd expect a major signing ceremony/media-fest closer to the election, followed by endless GOP speeches about why Democrats want you to die.

As for those who insist that this bill is only about foreign terrorists (when the language of it is far broader) and Americans have nothing to fear, another cautionary lesson. If the case of Maher Arar (an innocent Canadian citizen abducted by the Bush administration while in NYC, and then sent to Syria to be tortured for nearly a year) is not horrifying enough, let us also flashback to the saga of Jose Padilla... the infamous 'dirty bomber'. To date he has not been charged with the terrorism charges that warranted deeming him an 'enemy combatant', but instead vague charges, one of which was recently thrown out. His indefinite suspension (during which he was repeatedly tortured) prompted a pre-Hamdan rebuke from the Supreme Court. This man who- like the Miami Seven and U.K. liquid bomb plotters after him- was deemed the next 9/11 in the waiting has now been all but forgotten.

Glenn Greenwald checks in on his case this week and shares some revealing details about what was done to him while in prison. From his legal defense's recent brief-
In an effort to gain Mr. Padilla’s "dependency and trust," he was tortured for nearly the entire three years and eight months of his unlawful detention. The torture took myriad forms, each designed to cause pain, anguish, depression and, ultimately, the loss of will to live. The base ingredient in Mr. Padilla’s torture was stark isolation for a substantial portion of his captivity....

...Mr. Padilla’s dehumanization at the hands of his captors also took more sinister forms. Mr. Padilla was often put in stress positions for hours at a time. He would be shackled and manacled, with a belly chain, for hours in his cell. Noxious fumes would be introduced to his room causing his eyes and nose to run. The temperature of his cell would be manipulated, making his cell extremely cold for long stretches of time. Mr. Padilla was denied even the smallest, and most personal shreds of human dignity by being deprived of showering for weeks at a time, yet having to endure forced grooming at the whim of his captors...

...He was threatened with being cut with a knife and having alcohol poured on the wounds. He was also threatened with imminent execution. He was hooded and forced to stand in stress positions for long durations of time. He was forced to endure exceedingly long interrogation sessions, without adequate sleep, wherein he would be confronted with false information, scenarios, and documents to further disorient him. Often he had to endure multiple interrogators who would scream, shake, and otherwise assault Mr. Padilla...

...It is worth noting that throughout his captivity, none of the restrictive and inhumane conditions visited upon Mr. Padilla were brought on by his behavior or by any actions on his part. There were no incidents of Mr. Padilla violating any regulation of the Naval Brig or taking any aggressive action towards any of his captors. Mr. Padilla has always been peaceful and compliant with his captors....

This is not some 'folk' captured on the 'battlefield' overseas... he is/was a U.S. citizen. But in the Bush/Cheney worldview, the entire planet is the battlefield and we are all potential enemy combatants. Jose Padilla may indeed have been a bad man, or not, but that is almost irrelevant. What is relevant that his case is not an extraordinary circumstance or an aberration. It is official U.S. policy. It is the path we have chosen to take- all to defend our freedoms of course.

Andrew Sullivan sums it all up: "The U.S. Congress has approved this president's extraordinary powers to detain any one at will, without charges, keep them indefinitely, and torture them if the president wants to. Some have argued that this can only happen to non-citizens. That is untrue... We live in a country where one man - the president - now has the power to detain any one at will, without being charged for years at a time, and tortured. This isn't an emergency provision, to be revoked when a conflict ends. Since this war has no fixed enemy and no fixed end, it is now our permanent reality. America as we have known it, is over. Al Qaeda never had the power to do this damage to constitutional liberties. We did it to ourselves."

Finally, Village Voice journalist Nat Hentoff looks at this bill in his column with a telling revelation... then-Attorney General Ashcroft wanted to add into the Patriot Act the suspension of habeas corpus, but Rep. Sensenbrenner (conservative chair of the House Judiciary Committee) refused on principle. Five years and numerous constitutional abuses later, he and his colleagues passed a bill doing what he once opposed and more. For short-term political reasons, they betrayed their oath of office and their country.

Do you feel safer? Do you feel more free? I do not.

Paging Al Gore...

A presumptive 2008 Democratic front-runner has dropped out of the race...

Reuters: Democrat Warner will not seek White House: sources
Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, considered a prime contender for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, will announce on Thursday he will not seek the White House, sources close to his campaign said...

This leaves the remaining front-runners (though who knows who will enter/leave the race in the next year) as Sen. Clinton and Sen. Kerry, neither of which options seems appealing. Clinton's too triangulating and divisive and Kerry has his shot already and blew it. So who does that leave the Democrats with?

Al Gore.

They need a candidate with a strong foreign policy record, but one who can also say that they didn't support the Iraq debacle, and one whose terrorism policies are more police-work and intelligence than shock and awe, fear, and Big Brother. Gore fits the bill. His ability to run on the Clinton-era successes (something he failed to do the first time around) without being tainted by Bubba's scandals would help immensely. In addition, the characteristic which caused the media to deride him- his stuffiness and wonkiness- might seem now a plus compared to eight years of frat-boy 'what me worry' leadership and rampant intellectual incuriousity.

For a VP candidate, I'd prefer Sen. Feingold, though as a) an unapologetic liberal and b) a Jew, he might not play well in the heartland. I care about neither, but let's be realistic. Sen. Lieberman's religion was considered a negative to many voters in 2000. A safer, but equally good, choice would be John Edwards, who was sinfully underused in the 2004 campaign and whose natural charisma could compensate where Gore might be lacking. His 'two Americas' theme on poverty and our shrinking middle class has only gained traction among voters since he began speaking about it. Together, he and Gore could really tap into a lot of the unrest many Americans are feeling after years of post-9/11 patriotic silence.

The Democrats would be foolish not to draft them to lead the party's ticket.

(And let us also hope that the Republicans are stupid enough to sink McCain's candidacy again)

The Truth

The Republican Party's secret contempt for the religious fundamentalists it uses to gain power has been obvious for years, but now the base is finally starting to catch on. Here's what Tucker Carlson said to Chris Matthews this weekend-
CARLSON: It goes deeper than that though. The deep truth is that the elites in the Republican Party have pure contempt for the evangelicals who put their party in power. Everybody in ...

MATTHEWS: How do you know that? How do you know that?

CARLSON: Because I know them. Because I grew up with them. Because I live with them. they live on my street. Because I live in Washington, and I know that everybody in our world has contempt for the evangelicals. And the evangelicals know that, and they're beginning to learn that their own leaders sort of look askance at them and don't share their values.

MATTHEWS: So this gay marriage issue and other issues related to the gay lifestyle are simply tools to get elected?

CARLSON: That's exactly right. It's pandering to the base in the most cynical way, and the base is beginning to figure it out.

The Foley scandal and subsequent coverup only further revealed the GOP's hypocrisy.

A new book- 'Tempting Faith'- further explores this reality-
More than five years after President Bush created the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, the former second-in-command of that office is going public with an insider’s tell-all account that portrays an office used almost exclusively to win political points with both evangelical Christians and traditionally Democratic minorities...

...Kuo, who has complained publicly in the past about the funding shortfalls, goes several steps further in his new book.

He says some of the nation’s most prominent evangelical leaders were known in the office of presidential political strategist Karl Rove as “the nuts.”...

...More seriously, Kuo alleges that then-White House political affairs director Ken Mehlman knowingly participated in a scheme to use the office, and taxpayer funds, to mount ostensibly “nonpartisan” events that were, in reality, designed with the intent of mobilizing religious voters in 20 targeted races...

Will these revelations translate at the ballot box? We'll find out in a couple of weeks.

In his excellent book, "What's The Matter With Kansas?: How Conservatives Won The Heart of America", Thomas Frank notes how the Republicans bring up these tired 'culture war' issues at every election and yet they never do anything about it... because if they did, they wouldn't have the issue to use a boogeyman in the next election cycle. And they keep doing it because the base falls for it every time.

Conservatives in the heartland- Don't like watching your jobs get shipped off to Asia or destroyed by the Walmart corporate culture? Want better access to affordable healthcare? Want cleaner air and drinking water? Want the government's focus to be on rebuilding this country rather than Mideast nation building? Apparently not, because many of you are too busy worrying about queers, flags, and abortion to notice that your elected officials are destroying the American way of life.

We need your help here people. Trust me, your votes are better spent elsewhere.

As Frank notes in his introduction-
In fact, backlash leaders systematically downplay the politics of economics. The movement's basic premise is that culture outweighs economics as a matter of public concern- that Values Matter Most, as one backlash title has it. On these grounds it rallies citizens who would once have been reliable partisans of the New Deal to the standard of conservatism. Old-fashioned values may count when conservatives appear on the stump, but once conservatives are in office the only old-fashioned situation they care to revive is an economic regimen of low wages and lax regulations. Over the last three decades they have smashed the welfare state, reduced the tax burden on corporations and the wealthy, and generally facilitated the country's return to a nineteenth-century pattern of wealth distribution. Thus the primary contradiction of the backlash: it is a working-class movement that has done incalculable, historic harm to working-class people.

The leaders of the backlash may talk Christ, but they walk corporate. Values may 'matter most' to voters, but they always take a backseat to the needs of money once the elections are won....


Bottom line- Liberals and queers don't seem that important when you're collecting unemployment at age 37.

Global Warming Strikes Again

Now it's after our foliage too.

The Republican: Report: Global warming threatens rich fall colors

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


In a perfect illustration of what a terrorized, fear-fueled culture we have become, a small plane crash in Manhattan this afternoon was immediately reported from a 'OMG ITZ 9/11 ALL OVER AGAIN SOUND THE ALARMS' angle. Did any facts indicate that this may have been terrorism? No, it was clearly an accident, but that was hard to tell through all the speculation and fearmongering occurring during this 'Breaking News'. I watched this unfold live on CNN and was less shocked by the crash than I was at the way these so-called journalists were running around asking the most silly questions simply because it made for good television. Is this going to happen every time there is this kind of accident or a similar tragedy? Will fear and sensationalism continue to trump rational thought and common sense? Yes and yes. This sort of child-like fear-state is also what has crippled our national politics for five years.

If this country is truly serious about fighting terrorism (it's not- though it loves the fighting part), then a nice first step would be to step acting so terrorized.

'Mr. President, How Do You Like My Tie?'

President Bush is giving a press conference right now; I'm watching it live. With the Foley/GOP implosion and intra-party dissent on Iraq in the headlines, he wants to reassert himself in the news. So far, he's spinning like crazy on his administration's Korea policy and on what is happening on Iraq (he coined a new word: 'Isradicals').

He also just admitted his 'go it alone' foreign policy has been a failure and asked why people are getting mad now that he's worked with others diplomatically on the North Korean issue when they had criticized that old policy. Maybe it's because no one's seen any evidence that they ever even had a real diplomatic approach, or any approach besides rhetoric, to the issue. Ignored a question on what his 'red line' is on North Korea and refused calls for direct bilateral talks.

On Iraq, he keeps saying over and over 'the stakes couldn't be higher' and isn't saying much else. He also just dismissed new information on the number of Iraqi civilian deaths and says he doesn't "accept" those numbers. Disgusting. He also repeated that nonsensical 'If we leave Iraq, the enemy will follow us here'. Somebody really needs to demand that he explain/defend that retarded logic. He also denied that we have a 'stay the course' policy while then insisting that we need to stay the course. This is a train wreck.

Now he's playing the fear/terror card- spinning on his terror policies (making the detainee bill just about 'interrogation' and no mentions of torture and habeas corpus) and accusing Democrats of 'not understanding the world'. Yawn. A reporter called him on it, and the President insists his characterization is correct and that Democrats don't want to interrogate 'folks' or deal with attacks. Says they have fixed the image problems caused by Abu Ghraib, ignoring that the bill they just passed retroactively pardons such past and future abuses. I feel safer already.

Now it's getting repetitive (this press conference could've mostly be given using old sound clips from old speeches) and he's dodging on most of the North Korea questions. Another press conference that will remembered by no one in two days.

I'm going back to bed.

[Related: North Korea threatens war over sanctions (AP)]

Et Tu, Ralph Peters?

When people like Al Gore, Ted Kennedy, and Phil Donahue suggested in 2002 that invading Iraq would be a bad idea, it was treason. When Howard Dean said in 2003 that it was a disaster, it was treason. When John Murtha said in 2005 that it was time to start leaving, it was treason. Now, in late 2006, when conservatives like Ralph Peters or John Warner say to start heading for the door, it's... reason?

This is a typical conservative theme- fight an issue tooth and nail, demonizing your opponents at an every turn, but then once the issue becomes overwhelmingly accepted and inevitable, grab onto it and pretend that you always felt this way, and that (somehow) your enemies were still wrong.

Ralph Peters- a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel and regular contributor to many conservative publications like the NY Post- has long been a defender of President Bush and his foreign policy. He gained some press in March with a trip to Iraq he used to declare any news of a civil war was just media lies. His recent books include 2005's 'New Glory: Expanding America's Global Supremacy' (he's been a big supporter of war with Iran) and 2006's 'Never Quit the Fight'. Now he says... yea, maybe we shouldn't rule out quitting this fight.

I look at his new editorial- NO MORE TROOPS: IT'S UP TO THE IRAQIS NOW-
..."Stay the course" is meaningless when you don't have a course - and the truth is that the administration still doesn't have a strategy, just a jumble of programs, slogans and jittery improvisations.

Took you 3.5 years to figure that out, huh?

Sending more troops wouldn't help and can't be done. It's too late. We've reached the point where Iraqis must fight for their own future. If they won't, nothing we can do will bring success.

As this column stressed months ago, the test for whether we should remain in Iraq is straightforward: Will Iraqis fight in decisive numbers for their own elected, constitutional government? The insurgents, militiamen and foreign terrorists are willing to die for their causes. If "our" Iraqis won't match that strength of will, Iraq will fail.

If Iraq's leaders stop squabbling and lead, and if Iraq's soldiers and police fight resolutely for their constitutional state, we should be willing to stay "as long as it takes." But if they continue to wallow in ethnic and religious partisanship while doing as little as possible for their own country, we need to leave and let them face the consequences.

I've long agreed with this position, even back when it was labeled 'cut and run'.

Money quote section-
Make no mistake: Were our nation directly threatened, our ground forces would surge to respond powerfully and effectively. But as far as Iraq goes, they've given their best. They're willing to die for our country. But we should never ask them to give their lives to postpone a political embarrassment.

Ding ding, we have a winner. And that's really what the President is doing... throwing more soldiers into his fire just to avoid conceding defeat until 2009, when he plans to pass the buck to the next President.

He ends by deflecting the blame onto the obviously guilty party... the Iraqis-
Those of us who believed that the situation in the Middle East required desperate measures may have to accept that the cynics were right when they insisted that Arabs can't govern themselves democratically. What if it doesn't take a village? What if it takes a Saddam?

If Iraq does fail, the cold truth is that the United States will do fine. We'll honor our dead, salve the wounds to our vanity and march on stronger than ever (with the world's most powerful and most experienced military). But the Middle East will have revealed itself as hopeless.

Translation: 'This war would've gone perfectly if those savage Iraqis had just taken a break from all the death and destruction exploding around them to show some gratitude for the amazing gifts that we laid at their feet. Why oh why did they want to fail us so badly?'

What an asshole.

It seems obvious to me why so many conservatives are slowly starting to throw their pet project of a war under the bus. They can see that this may be their undoing at the ballots next month and they don't want it hanging over their heads come 2008 as well.

As for those of us who were called 'moonbats' and 'traitors' or 'terrorist sympathizers' for opposing this war and regularly advocating for its end (Mr. Peters, for example, just this past January called Democrats the "Osama bin Laden Fan Club"), these turnarounds are both equally comforting and angering... Comforting that it seems it may soon indeed be just President Bush, Laura, and Barney supporting this mess and that steps may be taken next year to force Bush's hand. Angering in that, despite having reached the conclusion we had reached from the beginning, they will never admit that we were right and they were wrong; they will continue to lambast liberals as being fools who don't understand foreign policy. Will they listen to us next time? Will they be more humble? No and no. They will "march on stronger than ever", continuing to make more mistakes for which they will never accept the blame.

Had enough?

[PS- Newsweek's top foreign correspondent- Fareed Zakaria - echoes Peters' sentiments, stating that "It is also time to face the terrible reality that America's mission in Iraq has substantially failed." Meanwhile, former Bush Sr. Secretary of State James Baker is getting press touting an alternative plan for the war, that is sure to go nowhere politically. Finally, new polls show more Americans than ever disapprove of the Iraq war and the Republicans' leadership on it.

UPDATE: Here's a telling AP headline- Army: Troops to Stay in Iraq Until 2010 ]

Talking Is For Pussies. We Prefer Doing Nothing.

Amid news of a second nuclear test, a headline that says it all...

AP: White House rejects North Korea talks

You have to love the hypocritical money quote by U.S. ambassador John 'recess' Bolton: "This is the way North Korea typically negotiates by threat and intimidation. It's worked for them before. It won't work for them now."

And the neoconservatives wouldn't know anything about that, would they, John?

[Related/recommending reading:
-Think Progress: North Korea’s Atomic March
-Wonkette: The Forrest Gump of the Apocalypse
-Salon War Room: White House: It's "silly" to ask whether Bush was right on North Korea

And you just have to see this ad that Drudge is hyping to believe it.]

The War on Terrorism (But Not Really)

Via Andrew Sullivan, news of another twarted terror plot in the U.K.-
Robert Cottage (49), of Talbot Street, Colne, and David Bolus Jackson (62), of Trent Road, Nelson, made separate appearances before the court charged with being in possession of an explosive substance for an unlawful purpose...

...The 22 chemical components recovered by police are believed to be the largest haul ever found at a house in this country...

Mrs Christiana Buchanan, who appeared for the prosecution in Jackson's case, alleged the pair had "some kind of masterplan".

She said a search of Jackson's home had uncovered rocket launchers, chemicals, BNP literature and a nuclear biological suit...

Given the super-crazed media hype in August, and temporary banning of liquids from airplanes, following the the thwarting of a liquid bomb plot in the U.K. that turned out to be fairly exaggerated, why have we not heard any reports yet about the arrests of these potential terrorists??

Andrew Sullivan has the obvious answer: that "this plot was by British far-rightists, the UK equivalent of Timothy McVeigh. And that's why you haven't heard of it. It doesn't serve the interests of the two governments to hype it."

Of course.

A snarky British blogger sarcastically states that "No doubt they’re organising the triumphant press conferences as we speak. Regardless of whether they are innocent or guilty, the Home Secretary will be commending his staff for their successful action, whilst calling on all decent, moderate members of the white community to condemn these Anglofascist extremists and their perverse interpretation of their cultural and moral values, and urge them to do more to co-operate with the authorities fully to deal with the threat in their midst. Meanwhile, he says, the police will be instructed to step up their guard, and white people will be subjected to targeted stop and search and additional security checks at railway stations and airports. At the same time, he would of course try and reassure the law-abiding majority that the government is working full pelt to thwart the forces of Anglofascism, and that we should not be afraid to sit next to white people on the Tube, even if they’re wearing rucksacks or sporting that funny shaven head haircut some of them have. The announcement’s due any minute. No doubt. I’m sure of it. Any minute now."

Last month, I also linked to a piece by Glenn Greenwald on how Michelle Malkin- one of the most radical defenders of Bush's terror policies- was outraged that three convicted Christian terrorists in Indonesia were going to be executed, because she supposedly had concerns about the fairness of the trial. At the time, I noted how that example perfectly illustrated how the far-right views the war on terror as just a means for a battle between Christianity and Islam... and not really about stopping terrorism at all. Stories like this one out of the U.K. only further hammer home that point.

Certainly Muslim extremists are the predominant threat we face. There is no question there- Madrid and London reminded us of that. But let's not also ignore that their threat provides a useful political tool for our leaders, who have exploited it immensely. And let us also not lose sight of the fact that terrorism didn't begin and end with Al Qaeda.

[Related/recommended post by Jonathan Schwarz on this hypocrisy:
It’s not the killing Americans part that’s important]

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Army Finds A Solution To Its Recruiting Woes...

...Continue to lower its standards. Yea, that'll help.

"Be all that you can be. Or not. It's not really a big deal."

AP: Lower standards help Army recruit more
The U.S. Army recruited more than 2,600 soldiers under new lower aptitude standards this year, helping the service beat its goal of 80,000 recruits in the throes of an unpopular war and mounting casualties.

The recruiting mark comes a year after the Army missed its recruitment target by the widest margin since 1979, which had triggered a boost in the number of recruiters, increased bonuses, and changes in standards...

...According to statistics obtained by The Associated Press, 3.8 percent of the first-time recruits scored below certain aptitude levels. In previous years, the Army had allowed only 2 percent of its recruits to have low aptitude scores. That limit was increased last year to 4 percent, the maximum allowed by the Defense Department...

...About 17 percent of the first-time recruits, or about 13,600, were accepted under waivers for various medical, moral or criminal problems, including misdemeanor arrests or drunk driving. That is a slight increase from last year, the Army said...

Yet another sad cost of the President's misguided military policies.

Rather than a politically suicidal call to renew the draft to keep their quagmire going, the White House would rather degrade the Army's image even lower than they have already. And people gave Clinton shit for 'gutting' the military (by actually making it less bloated and more effective)?!

But fear not! They are planning a new marketing campaign to boost their numbers-
In its battle to win the hearts and minds of recruiting-age Americans, the Army is replacing its main ad slogan -- "An Army of One" -- with one it hopes will pack more punch: "Army Strong."...

'ARMY STRONG'??! 'Good grief' is more like it.

This is a $200 million campaign, by the way. Your tax dollars at work.

Quote of the Day II

"You know, the nation is united on the need to fight terror. That's not an issue. The question is, the issue is how this administration has gone about choosing to do that. And lots of people are very upset about that.

And now, the administration has forged the final link by suggesting that if you exercise your constitutional rights to free speech in opposing this administration's policies in Iraq, you are therefore posing a threat to national security and subject to arrest. And I don't know about the rest of America, but I find that thought and that logic, that twisted logic, absolutely terrifying."
--Steven Howards, speaking on Democracy Now about being arrested for criticizing the Vice President

Quote of the Day

"So the Bush approach to NK is all blustery talk and very little delivery department. The NK approach to weapons research is very little bang for all the bluff.

Do these two deserve each other or what?

In Karl's grand quest to dumb down expectations, we are left with two miserable failures hell bent on World War III. The only thing saving the planet is the only thing they succeed at - being incompetent.

Maybe Mark Foley should mediate a measuring of State Wangs to settle which fool is the victor."
--An email to Talking Points Memo on news that North Korea's test may have been a dud.

Meanwhile, the buzz is that they're planning a second test soon.

It Takes (Global Warming To Move) A Village

More liberal lies on global warming made up to take away our SUVs...

AFP: Warming, melting Arctic forces native Alaskan village to move

The U.N.: More Concerned About Afghanistan Than President Bush

I don't get why our big, tough War President (™- 2001) seems so unconcerned with his first war-- the one actually launched against bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorists and their Taliban co-conspirators. He never mentions it and from what I've been reading, it seems NATO commanders are running the show, while Donald Rumsfeld's attention is focused elsewhere (if anywhere at all). A cynical man might begin to think that they only did this war as an afterthought while they concentrated on laying the groundwork for a less logical war which they viewed as their pet project. Thank goodness I am not a cynical man.

Reuters: U.N. Security Council plans Afghanistan mission
The U.N. Security Council plans a mission to Afghanistan to review the volatile situation and assure the country's people of the world body's commitment, Japan's U.N. Ambassador Kenzo Oshima said on Monday...

...Fighting in Afghanistan between insurgents and coalition forces this year is the worst since the hard-line Taliban government was ousted in late 2001 by a U.S.-led invasion...

...A U.N. mission, mandated until March 2007, supports and advises the Afghan authorities on economic and political development, justice reform, humanitarian aid and anti-drug programs.

Oshima said the council remains concerned about the security situation, particularly in the country's south and southeast, and the recent increase in production and trafficking of opium -- the raw material for heroin...

...[Oshima] said the council also "looked forward to increasing cooperation between Afghanistan and the partners against the Taliban, al Qaeda and other extremist groups in promoting peace and prosperity in Afghanistan."

Hopefully they will have better luck than we have, but the odds aren't good.

Starting a war and then dumping it in others' laps seems a recurring theme with this President.

Pervertgate IV: The Schadenfreude

I love the smell of karma in the morning.

-Washington Post: Poll Shows Strong Shift of Support for Democrats
-Washington Post: GOP Officials Brace For Loss of Seven to 30 House Seats
-Newsweek: A Political Limbo How Low Can Republicans Go?
-Time magazine: Time Poll: The Foley Scandal Has Hurt the GOP
-NY Daily News: Foley & The Polls: Americans Taking Aim At GOP Sex-Chat Scandal

This can only mean one thing...

Time for the White House to use terrorism to frighten voters back in line!

Finally, Kos says to Democrats: Don't count your chickens before they're hatched.

[PS- Speaker Hastert literally whistled past the graveyard this morning in an incredibly poorly-planned press conference. He said that anyone who covered up concerns about Foley's actions "should be gone". Ummm, you first, Dennis.]

Monday, October 09, 2006

Going Nukular, Pt. II: Notsomuch?

Was North Korea's nuke test more hype than 'holy crap!'? That's the $64,000 question.

Just as well for the President- this is the last thing he wants hanging over his head.

AP: Scientists Probe North Korea Nuke Test

Separation of Church and What?

Today's Republican party has become so married (heterosexual marriage, of course) with the radical religious right that it has affected so many aspects of our politics. You have a President who believes that God wanted him to wage war against the 'evildoers' (whether he had the right country or not), politicians who don't believe in creationism pretending to in order to avoid political crucifixion from their base, a party that believes that gay marriage is more a danger to America than poverty, and an entire Congress with their President who last year stopped the whole national agenda to try and save one braindead woman from her own family while most Americans looked on in disgust. You have pundits like Limbaugh and O'Reilly ranting about "secularists" in this country as if they were discussing KGB spies working in the CIA. The danger of having a majority party subservient to a base dedicated to moving America backwards and not forwards cannot be understated.

And in the same way that they have gamed the debate so that you cannot criticize their anti-terror policies without being accused of coddling terrorists, so too have they set it up so you cannot criticize this radical fundamentalism without being accused of being intolerant to religion. It becomes intolerant to acknowledge their intolerance.

Despite all this, it is encouraging to me to see some of those politicians most guilty of this getting their comeupance, whether it's Tom Delay's fall from grace or the impending electoral losses of Katherine Harris, Rick Santorum, Conrad Burns, and others. I hope that is a sign that America is rejecting the stranglehold this fringe group of fundamentalists have on our politics.

Still, here's another example of how far-right religious politics is poisoning our system-
Religion has entered the political fray in a race for an appellate court bench in east Texas.

The Austin-based Republican Party of Texas played the religion card in a Sept. 21 online newsletter. As alleged in the newsletter, Texarkana solo E. Ben Franks, Democratic nominee for a seat on the 6th Court of Appeals, "is reported to be a professed atheist" and apparently believes the Bible is a "collection of myths.'"

Whether Mr. Franks is qualified for this job seems irrelevant to the Republican party. He may be an ATHEIST (eep!) and therefore he must be stopped at all costs, lest he win the election and base his decisions on the rule of law and not the Robertson/Dobson agenda.

Later in the article, the spokeswoman for the Texas Democratic Party says-
Officially, however, there can be no religious test for holding office.

Officially John McCain doesn't have an illegitimate black baby. Officially John Kerry's war record is solid and honorable. Officially Democrats support wiretapping terrorists (legally) and have a strong anti-terror positition... But you will be amazed at what the Republican party can accomplish 'unofficially', ma'am.

These people really need to be booted out of office. God willing, of course.

Going Nukular

With many experts questioning the validity of reports of North Korea's successful nuclear test, but most assuming the evidence is mostly accurate for now, time to ponder how (if?) this will play out politically.

The President gave a press conference this morning, calling the test "provocative", but left without taking any questions from the press. It would seem this took some in Washington by surprise, which is a baffling thought.

Some are calling this another October suprise (the media in particular regurgitates the idea that anything involving national security helps the White House politically), but I hardly see how it will benefit the White House to hype up a situation that they have done much to ignore and downplay in the past few years, while they carried out the doomed-to-fail neocon Mideast agenda. The administration's North Korea policy began and end with branding the nation part of their 'axis of evil' five years ago.

This is a failure of U.S. policy, no matter how you slice it.

Besides, this situation hardly fits into the GOP's narrow, cartoonish definitions of what defines 'national security'. I don't know how this would play out politically- they'd blame Clinton (natch) and segue to Iran when they can- but my gut tells me they won't make this as predominant an issue as some are expecting.

The usual actions will be taken- the U.N. Security Council will address the matter, we will join with other nations in imposing sanctions, etc- but I don't expect this to be a major political issue leading into the elections.

A commenter at ThinkProgress notes that this brings the number of known nuclear countries to nine- United States, Britain, Russia, France, India, Pakistan, Israel, China, and North Korea. That's nine countries too many if you ask me.

Finally, in what may have been a preemptive rebuke to this expected news, the United States has officially nominated Kofi Annan's successor as Secretary General: South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon. Annan's term expires at the end of this year.

Odds and Ends

Lot going on; here's some of the stuff falling through the cracks...

Here's the latest good news from Iraq: "Gunmen wearing military uniforms assassinated the brother of Iraq's Sunni Arab vice president in his home Monday — the third sibling the official has lost this year to the country's violence."

Andrew Sullivan seeks reframing the war debate as an ultimatum to the President: Fire Rumsfeld... or leave Iraq now. Refusal proves how unseriously he takes his self-made crisis. Me thinks this the Democrats could get traction with such an approach.

NATO's top commander in Afghanistan warns that the country is at a tipping point.

The NY Post, meanwhile, takes on America's greatest threat... Democrats. Be afraid, folks!

Condoleeza Rice's Mideast trip- surprise!- made no progress on our diplomatic fronts.

Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, the high-ranking Navy lawyer who took the "Guantanamo case of Osama bin Laden's driver to the U.S. Supreme Court - and won - has been passed over for promotion by the Pentagon and must soon leave the military." Well, the White House and Congress already raped that Supreme Court victory with their new detainee bill, so why not also fire the lawyer who won it?

Vice President cursed out Bob Woodward over his new book, 'State of Denial'.

The United Nations human rights chief speaks of larger than expected civilian deaths in Darfur.

More details on the resignation of Susan Ralston, aide to Karl Rove, shows that the quiet Friday resignation was due to "disclosures that she accepted gifts from and passed information to now-convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, becoming the first official in the West Wing to lose a job in the influence-peddling scandal."

Sen. Allen, already facing tons of 'macaca'-related troubles, now has a new scandal to face: reports that he "failed to tell Congress about stock options he got for his work as a director of a high-tech company". Jim Webb = stoked.

Finally, in the continuing saga of Pervertgate, we learn that a GOP member of Congress confronted Foley as early as 2000. This news comes as the House leadership continues attempts to downplay the scandal. Their meltdown continues.

North Korea Passes The Test

Hey, here's some fun news to start your week...

AP: North Korea says nuclear test successful
North Korea said Monday it has performed its first-ever nuclear weapons test. U.S. and South Korean officials could not immediately confirm the report.

The South Korean seismic monitoring center confirmed that tremors felt at the time of the alleged test were not natural occurrence.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said information still needed to be analyzed to determine whether North Korea truly conducted the test...

Money quote from the Korean Central News Agency: "The nuclear test is a historic event that brought happiness to the our military and people."

Well at least the media will have something to obsess over now in addition to Mark Foley.

Kim Jong Il: Sent from planet Xiron to conquer the Earth

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Democracy's Alive And Well In Russia

Journalist criticizes the government.

Journalist later winds up shot in the head in her apartment.

I wonder how that happened? Me thinks Bush's friend Pootie-Poot is a bad man.

NY Times: Journalist Critical of Chechen War Is Shot Dead