Saturday, October 28, 2006

Too Tired To Blog. You Do It.

I'm exhausted. Working all weekend. Hope to be blogging soon, if Blogger actually works.

In the meantime, I owe you a 'Great Pumpkin' clip and I shall provide. Enjoy-

"Whatever happened to the World War 1 Flying Ace?"

What Would A Democratic House Look Like?

The Nation has a thorough preview of the agenda of a Democratic House...

Pelosi's Moment
If Democrats take back control of the House of Representatives next month, they could become the dynamic wedge that starts to revitalize national politics. How? By legislating aggressively on ignored issues that people care about. By opening up the frank debate Republican leaders have suppressed for the last decade. By dragging reluctant Democratic senators and presidential candidates toward embracing a more progressive agenda for 2008...

Read the whole thing; it's a recommended read.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Countdown to Halloween: 5 Days And Counting...

One week before the elections (when hopefully we will receive a treat rather than a trick) is another fun day- Halloween! As the name of this blog indicates, I am a big Halloween fan. Each day until then, I will be counting down with a clip from "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown". Today's clip features the quote that gave this blog its name-

"Dear Great Pumpkin..."

Quote of the Day

"We have a negligent press in this country... We know more about Tom and Katie than we do about global warming. We're the most entertained, least informed people in the world."
--Robert Kennedy Jr, lamenting how our press has let us down at a critical time

Adapting To Win

Here is the Democrats' new campaign ad-

Not too shabby. Could do without the silly music, though... the content speaks for itself.

Meanwhile, Sen. Frist tells Republican candidates to avoid "the Iraq and terror issue".

And while this drama plays out at home, the death count in Iraq continues to grow.

UPDATE: The Bush cultists' solution to the failing war? Escalation. That worked so well with Vietnam.

[PS- Fairly off-topic, but since we're discussing campaigning, I understand that there is a lot of talk about the whole Limbaugh/Michael J. Fox thing all over the place. I find the whole thing too disgusting to discuss and, as with Coulter, I don't think Limbaugh deserves the validation that mentioning him in detail provides... especially since this carefully-crafted sideshow means that we miss the point in an important debate about stem cell research and the priorities of the two main parties (science v. religion). We all know already that the lowest of low conservatives dominate the political dialogue in this country (and that the average conservative doesn't seem to mind at all). That they're stooping to even new lows in the face of predicted defeat is also not surprising. We can only hope that these idiots are in their last throes (David Weigel thinks they are) and that the media at large will stop treating them as if they are in any way relevant or insightful analyzers of politics, and start ignoring them like the carnival barkers they are. Most people in this country don't know who George Will is. But they do know Rush Limbaugh and that speaks volumes about the state of conservatism. Finally, Chris Matthews looks at the anti-Ford ads in Tennessee.]

Cheney <3 Waterboarding

The United States leads by example as always...

McClatchy Newspapers: Cheney confirms that detainees were subjected to water-boarding
Vice President Dick Cheney has confirmed that U.S. interrogators subjected captured senior al-Qaida suspects to a controversial interrogation technique called "water-boarding," which creates a sensation of drowning.

Cheney indicated that the Bush administration doesn't regard water-boarding as torture and allows the CIA to use it. "It's a no-brainer for me," Cheney said at one point in an interview...

A "no-brainer"? Need any more proof that our country is ruled by sadistic idiots? We'll be sure to thank Mr. Cheney when the first reports of captured U.S. soldiers being waterboarded come in.

This is what the Congress authorized for their President with their detainee bill. This is the kind of country we are now. Is this the America our soldiers are dying to protect? An America that legalizes torture, denies suspects habeas corpus rights, and keeps justice in the shadows in our permanent war based on one man's say-so? That's not my America. And 9/11 didn't "change" that; we did.

And the Village Voice's Nat Hentoff asks the question I also posed in my previous entry- will conservatives still blindly support this unamerican tyranny if/when a Democrat takes control? Because, crazy me, I get the impression that they are just happy for now to turn their backs on our nation's founding principles out of cult-like partisan fervor. Asks Hentoff- "[I]f there's another 9-11, will Congress rush to give whomever then is president what is left of the Constitution? Even if the Democrats by then control the Congress and White House?"

I hope that's a question we never have to answer.

In other news, Bush's policies have made it impossible to prosecute a captured 9/11 terrorist.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

New Jersey Court On Gay Unions: Everyone Deserves Equal Rights

Another step on the inevitable road to gay marriage...

AP: NJ court stops short of gay marriage OK
New Jersey's Supreme Court opened the door to gay marriage Wednesday, ruling that homosexuals are entitled to the same rights as heterosexuals, but leaving it to lawmakers to legalize same-sex unions.

The high court gave lawmakers 180 days to rewrite marriage laws to either include same-sex couples or create a new system of civil unions for them...

Kudo to the Garden State. I want full-on, official marriage (not this separate, but equal 'civil union' crap), but this is certainly a good start. Marriage will come in time.

Money quote from the official ruling: "Denying committed same-sex couples the financial and social benefits and privileges given to their married heterosexual counterparts bears no substantial relationship to a legitimate governmental purpose. The Court holds that under the equal protection guarantee of Article I, Paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution, committed same-sex couples must be afforded on equal terms the same rights and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples under the civil marriage statutes. The name to be given to the statutory scheme that provides full rights and benefits to same-sex couples, whether marriage or some other term, is a matter left to the democratic process."

The only remaining question is whether this issue is still considered controversial enough (or even relevant enough) to rile up conservative voters the way it did in 2004. Bob Menendez certainly hopes not. Of course, Massachusetts has had full-on legal gay marriage for 2.5 years and, much to the dismay of people like Pat Robertson or Rick Santorum, the apocalypse is not upon us. So maybe (with wars, a massive deficit, falling wages, jobs moving overseas, global warming, etc), it's not such a big scary deal for a democratic society to allow two gay adults to marry each other, no?

UPDATE: The cultists at National Review are freaking out. They want to know if Democrats will "defend" marriage. It's amazing; these people talk about gay marriage with the same fear that surrounds their discussions about 'islamofacism'. They are also hoping for a backlash, if only because smearing Michael J. Fox is not as fun as a 2004 redux of gay marriage Chicken Little-ing. Kathryn Jean Lopez leads the way.

UPDATE #2: The "values voters" (whatever that means anymore) take the bait. Whose love would Jesus protest?

We're #53! We're #53!

The U.S. continues to lead the world by example...

Washington Post: U.S. Rank on Press Freedom Slides Lower
Some poor countries, such as Mauritania and Haiti, improved their record in a global press freedom index this year, while France, the United States and Japan slipped further down the scale of 168 countries rated, the group Reporters Without Borders said yesterday...

...Although it ranked 17th on the first list, published in 2002, the United States now stands at 53, having fallen nine places since last year.

"Relations between the media and the Bush administration sharply deteriorated after the president used the pretext of 'national security' to regard as suspicious any journalist who questioned his 'war on terrorism,' " the group said...

But hey, look on the bright side, we're still better than North Korea or Saudi Arabia!

If At First You Don't Succeed...

President Bush once again pledges to re-push his rejected Social Security privatization/gutting next year, proving once again how out of touch he is with basic reality. This issue was so unpopular, even a GOP congressional majority (back when the armor was merely beginning to crack) couldn't get any movement on it. It was so unpopular, even the hand-picked conservative supporters at the President's numerous 'town hall' meetings in the spring of '05 were not buying. Poll after poll showed this issue, which the President hoped would be his legacy (when his real legacy was exploding halfway around the world), was overwhelmingly unpopular. And yet this President, the same one who had to be told by his staff in summer '05 to stop the PR tour and move on, thinks he is a position to try one more hard sell in '07. Whatever these people are smoking, I want some.

Washington Post: Social Security Enters Elections-

Bush Remarks Please Democrats, Perplex Republicans

Staying The Course

As discussed previously, an interesting drama is playing out on the right: The White House has reiterated they have no intention to change their Iraq strategy, while also denying their use of the 'stay the course' battle cry that has been the cornerstore of their Iraq speeches for years. They are also now using words like 'benchmarks' and 'measures' as if this represents a change, when they've been using those words for years too as they get increasingly meaningless in the face of an impotent Iraqi leadership. And after months of parroting the 'stay the course'/'cut and run' rhetoric, Republicans on the ballot are distancing themselves from Bush and the war, but only so far as they think will satisfy voters. Many of those Republicans are verbalizing positions on the war that just months ago they were saying would embolden the terrorists.

They are attempting once again to portray themselves as the smart, serious party on the war... this time by blatantly lying about their past rhetoric, embracing some positions Democrats have been advocating for over a year, and then telling people to vote against the same Democrats whose positions they are cribbing from.

Josh Marshall has been posting many examples of this, including a Pelosi-related one.

Is this what the President meant in January by wanting open and honest debate on the war?

Still, preparing now to dial down their level of support for the war, have these Republicans learned their lesson? Have they really changed? No. They will continue to make more mistakes for which they will never accept the blame. For instance, if President Bush tries to push for war with Iran in the near future, those who are now slowly seeing the light on Iraq and Bush's foreign policy will be among the first to cheer him on.

The dialogue changes, but in reality (in both rhetoric and policy), it's still stay the course.

Case in point: The talk from U.S. officials these days is about wanting to increase the U.S. troop levels inside Iraq, not looking at ways to decrease the American presence there.

Meanwhile, a revealing moment in Baghdad yesterday-
This morning, coverage of U.S. ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. George Casey’s Baghdad press conference was briefly interrupted.

The TurkishPress notes that “the hall was plunged into darkness by one of Baghdad’s regular power cuts, despite the fact the venue was in the capital’s heavily-fortified Green Zone, also home to the US embassy.”

This was not just a random glitch. This is life for the average Iraqi, even inside the capital.

(UPDATE: Boy, those Republicans really are cutting and running from the Iraq debate. Sen. Frist has told Republican candidates that they should avoid focusing "on the Iraq and terror issue" and focus on more important economic issues. It's a 2002 in reverse!

Elsewhere, the President gives a speech. He acknowledged concerns, but says it's all good.

And Prime Minister al-Maliki tells Bush to take his timetable/benchmarks and shove it. )

In related news, Andrew Sullivan explores how steadfast, conservative heartland voters are on the brink of turning against Bush and the war that is being fought with their children.

Finally, this info... the amount the war costs us for every second that we remain in Iraq? $6,300. Take that, poor people! One of the top priorities for the Democrats when/if they win back Congress must be to investigate where that money- our money- went exactly. I don't expect the White House will cooperate on that.

[PS- Bill O'Reilly says bad news from Afghanistan is a "myth". Someone should tell him the sand is a very bad place to store ones head. At least he is mentioning that war, unlike our big, tough War President. These are the very wise and serious people who are in charge of our country. And on that scary note, I will go to bed.]

Leading By Example

Why we will never be able to lecture other nations on their human rights abuses...

Reuters: Governments say they follow U.S. on jail treatment
Some countries try to refute criticism over their treatment of prisoners by saying they are only following the U.S. example on handling terror suspects, a U.N. human rights expert said on Monday.

Manfred Nowak, the U.N. investigator on torture, told a news conference that "all too frequently" governments respond to criticism about their jails by saying they handled detainees the same way the United States did...

...Nowak, along with other U.N. human rights officials, has criticized U.S. policies against terror suspects, including secret jails, harsh treatment and the lack of due process. He turned down a visit to Guantanamo Bay because he could not interview detainees and prison officials in private...

Thanks, President Bush! Thanks, Vice President Cheney! Thanks, Congress!

Thanks for making us... safer??

Meanwhile, there are reports that the number of those being held in our secret prisons (you know the ones Bush said in September he is closing because the few people he had there were going to Gitmo to face his kangaroo courts) is actually in the tens of thousands. I'm sure they are all terrorists too, of course.

Finally, a conservative blogger hits on a point some have been trying to make to the Bush-defending right for a while: "I can’t wait to hear the bleating when President Hillary Clinton (or whoever) uses all of her expanded powers in 2008. Sure, it was ‘fun’ passing those laws and using those votes to portray all Democrats as terrorist-loving defeatocrats, and it may have yielded some short-term political gains, but we’ll see how much fun those broad powers are in the future."


(And they're not much 'fun' now, for the record)

Rock The Vote (*)

The Senate race in Virginia provides another case why electronic voting machines are a disaster waiting to happen... in short, the name of candidate James Webb will be shortened (?!) on the summary page of the ballot to "James H. 'Jim'". Yea, James Webb was way longer than that. Officials blame the error on "an increase in the type size on the ballot". It is not expected to be fixed before election day.

Welcome to American democracy in the 21st century.

(And ain't it funny how all these voting 'errors' always affect the Democrats?)

New Orleans and the Gulf Coast: The Forgotten Disaster

Talking Points Memo contributor DK hits on a topic I've been thinking about for a while... how the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina- an event we all assumed would dominate Bush's domestic agenda for the remainder of his term the way Iraq is for his foreign agenda- has all but disappeared from the national radar. That is the secondary tragedy of Katrina. It is the fault of the politicians who simply don't care because they can't benefit in any way from rebuilding the Gulf Coast, a lazy media with the worst case of ADD ever, and a populace that is simply too busy living their lives to remember those who are struggling to rebuild theirs.

DK shares the stories of how the tragedy has affected some reporters for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, a paper which won a much-deserved Pulitzer for their coverage post-Katrina. One of their photographers recently attempted a very public suicide, but was prevented by some hard-working police officers. One of the paper's top reporters writes of descending into depression over the last year or so, before finally seeking help.

This stories are not unique; they are all too common.

DK adds: "It breaks your heart. But it also makes me mad as hell. Mad that this slow-motion disaster of broken levees and shattered lives happened in the first place. Mad that the disaster is still happening, a feckless governmental response dragging out the misery and the suffering just as if the fetid water were still pouring through the levee breaches. Mad that in the face of this overwhelming catastrophe at home we are spending by some estimates $246 million a day to create a catastrophe in Iraq. Mad that in light of all of this ineptitude and indifference the party in power has a chance, a very real chance, of retaining some or even all of its power in the first national election since Katrina."

I feel the same way. If not Iraq, if not this, what would people hold them accountable for?

[PS- For the best Katrina-related blogging on the net, it's Harry Shearer as always.]

We've Been Lousy Guests

This planet was so kind to let us crash here and then we went and got all drunk and trashed the place. I hope it won't affect our friendship. I think maybe if we volunteer to clean up, she will forgive us.

Reuters: Humans living far beyond planet's means: WWF
Humans are stripping nature at an unprecedented rate and will need two planets' worth of natural resources every year by 2050 on current trends, the WWF conservation group said on Tuesday.

Populations of many species, from fish to mammals, had fallen by about a third from 1970 to 2003 largely because of human threats such as pollution, clearing of forests and overfishing, the group also said in a two-yearly report.

"For more than 20 years we have exceeded the earth's ability to support a consumptive lifestyle that is unsustainable and we cannot afford to continue down this path," WWF Director-General James Leape said, launching the WWF's 2006 Living Planet Report.

"If everyone around the world lived as those in America, we would need five planets to support us," Leape, an American, said in Beijing...

Maybe Democrats can run on a 'planetary security' platform.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Dennis Hastert Answers Some Questions

I saw this headline today and giggled like a little girl...

'Hastert urges quick action on Foley' (AP)

Look out America, Denny Hastert's on the job!!!! And you know, as Speaker of the House, how he has been known for such swift and decisive action. This Congress has been known for nothing if not their committment to accountability and honesty! No scandal has been left unturned when Denny the Pooh runs the show! Boy howdy, ol' Denny is gonna get to the bottom of this quickly!

The article begins-
House Speaker Dennis Hastert testified in private before ethics investigators Tuesday and then said they should work quickly to find out who knew about Rep. Mark Foley's come-ons to congressional pages and what was done about it...

Translation: 'I'll get right on finding out how long I've been turning a blind eye to Foley's actions what dastardly villain (or Democrat) failed to tell me about this, so that I- the man who last year removed the head of the Ethics Committee for tattling on Delay- could have immediately taken action... preferably after the election.'

More on today's hearings- here.

[PS- And the Republican scandals keep piling up and getting weirder every day.]

Ford v. Corker

One Senate race the media is covering strongly is the Tennessee race for the seat Dr. Bill Frist is leaving (it is the cover story in Newsweek this week). The race is between Republican Bob Corker and Democrat Harold Ford. Based on what I have seen, Ford is running a mostly issue-oriented campaign, while Corker's campaign has revolved around variations of "Ford is a party animal who loves porn (and terrorists) and banging white chicks". Case in point, Corker's latest TV ad:

Needless to say, the RNC is playing dumb on the ad. Campaign ad? What ad?

Elsewhere, Ford crashes a Corker event to debate him in person.

Two more weeks and all this insanity will be over.

UPDATE: Harold Ford has a new ad in response to this nonsense. It's pretty good.

Quote of the Day

"Strategic retreats are often the choice of wise leaders, shrewd generals. Having the clarity of vision to see the difference between the possible and the desirable can often allow you to change course early and avoid a debacle later. Here you see the White House which has banged away at 'stay the course' and 'don't question the policy' for like two years now and suddenly at the crunch point they're bailing out. Or trying to bail out -- but now they really can't. The White House political czars look like nothing so much as those panicked embassy workers and refugees on the compound rooftop clamoring to get one of the last seats on those final helicopters out of Saigon. Same amount of planning, about as much dignity.

Like I wrote earlier today, the president has run this war like a confidence game. And as you would expect, that's led to a bubble. The support is tough but brittle. Any move off the absolutes, with us or against us, stay the course vs. cut and run, and the whole think starts to crack. Once the White House comes out for pragmatism and flexibility, that leaves them perilously close to embracing reality itself. And that, of course, is like the kryptonite of Bush's superherodom. After that, the deluge."
--Josh Marshall discussing the White House's strategic limbo on Talking Points Memo

Meanwhile, a headline that says it all: Bush admin. won't shift Iraq strategy

[PS- 65 active-duty soldiers plan a press conference tomorrow asking Congress to end the war.]

Sorry Jeff, Time For You To Fake Your Death Too

While Ken Lay has been posthumously exonerated, Enron's chief executive wasn't so lucky...

AFP: Enron's Skilling gets 24 years prison for fraud
Former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling was sentenced to more than 24 years in prison for fraud and conspiracy in one of the biggest corporate scandals in US history...

Meanwhile, the Justice Department is sueing the estate of Ken Lay for over $12 million.

Monday, October 23, 2006

President Bush Is...

... a pathological liar.

It must really comfort the families of soldiers to know their loved ones' fate is in his hands.

[Semi-related reading: The Exodus: 1.6m Iraqis have fled their country since the war (The Independent)]

Monday Bonus YouTube Theatre

Long weekend, trying to catch up on other things...

In the meantime, enjoy two videos from this weekend's edition of 'Real Time w/ Bill Maher'. In the first clip, Bill and the panel discuss the Military Commissions Act. Bill and Rep. Franks I think hit on all the right points, while the panel's conservative tries to pretend as if we are living in a TV show. The second clip is the 'New Rules' segment at the end; this week, Bill tells the think tanks that have been wrong about everything that maybe they should pack it up. Enjoy!



Sunday, October 22, 2006

Weekend Funnies: The 'How Is This Not A Major Scandal?' Edition

As a NY Times reader from India wrote to the paper, "The President and the Republicans may have won a battle with the Democrats, but they should take a step back to see that we are slowly losing the war on terror by compromising on the principles and ideals laid down in the United States Constitution."

[Related- Andrew Sullivan gets an email from South Africa: Losing the Idea of America]


In a previous entry, I noted that the President had finally conceded some Vietnam/Iraq similarities, agreeing to a comparison between the violence in Iraq today and the 1968 Tet Offensive (oft-credited for being a major turning point here against support for the war). On KCRW's 'Left, Right, and Center' yesterday, conservative Tony Blankley explained that what the President was getting at was that the Iraqi insurgents today are aiming to recapture the effects of the '68 offensive and damage the will of the American people prior to an election. As Arianna Huffington rebutted, the notion that the rising sectarian battles inside Iraq are based on who they'd prefer to be Speaker of the House is absurd. Blankley insisted that we must stay the course and not lose our will (or our Republican congress). Admittingly, I wasn't alive during Vietnam, but Blankley's logic was intellectually insulting.

The notion that Americans began to turn against Vietnam because they had somehow been psychologically manipulated by the actions of the VietCong is bullshit, and is simply meant to reinforce the current Bush spin that Americans have only turned against his war because of similar manipulation by insurgent violence and our 'liberal' media. The fact of the matter is that people slowly began turning against Vietnam because they came to the conclusion that the war was a mistake, that it was not worth the cost, and that we could not win. It is the same today with Iraq.

Conservative revision on Vietnam has solidified in the past few years. To hear conservatives tell it, the lesson of Vietnam is that we allowed ourselves to lose our will and to prematurely exit the war, leaving South Vietnam to ruin. I wonder where these conservatives were in 1968 (if they had been born yet). Probably not in the jungles of Vietnam, I bet.

Most intelligent people, however, seemed long ago to understand that the lesson of Vietnam was: that we never should've gotten involved in that war to begin with; that our problem was not that we exited prematurely in '75, but that we stayed too long and didn't cut our losses in '65; and that it is not only not right, but not possible, for the United States to engage in military aggressions in foreign lands to serve domestic political theories (the domino theory fears for Southeast Asia, reinvented as Bush's democracy-reverse-domino theory for the Mideast). That some conservatives do not understand this, and seem unaware of this reality, however noble their intentions may indeed be, is a frightening thought.

Despite a much higher body count, the Vietnam era did have a few things over this one... a Congress that was willing to challenge its own party's Presidential leadership in substantive ways and a news media that didn't attempt to sugarcoat the realities of the war. The absence of the latter today is a big reason why pundits and politicians remain able to discuss/dismiss the war in abstract terms.

Of course, the symbolic similarities between Vietnam and Iraq are endless (including that both were started by using lies- attacks in the Tonkin Gulf, WMDs and 9/11 ties- to escalate a war based on existing policy) and I won't go through the litany. But one major thing that they do have in common is that history will look back on both as mistakes that consumed an era that was supposed to be ruled by hope and progress, the fault of stubborn politicians willing to commit political suicide rather than admit a mistake. I hope that maybe this time we will remember to learn the lesson.

Vietraq, Pt. II

An argument against withdrawing from Iraq (though, make no mistake, it is now only a question of when we will 'cut and run' as the President calls it) is that our departure will cause the region to descend into chaos. I will ignore pointing out that that difficult choice wouldn't even be a factor if our government had not started this war of choice to begin with, because our lack of axis to a time machine makes that just braggin' rights for us smart liberals and is a moot point to the current problem. Those fears of withdrawal repercussions were the same ones that the U.S. officials who continued the Vietnam war for years and years too long used to justify staying the course. They were wrong. While, yes, the initial fallout was a bloody one for South Vietnam, the dominoes did not fall as they feared.

Leslie Gelb (who worked at the Defense Department in Johnson's administration and is currently President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations) looks at these concerns and asks the following question: Would Defeat in Iraq Be So Bad?

Here's what he says-
To me, the relentless mud slide of insurgency and civil war in Iraq is leading to unacceptable strategic disaster for the U.S. There appear to be no viable paths to follow in order to avoid it. Neither "staying the course"--whatever that Bush strategy now means--nor the Democrats' idea of exiting by timetables offers a semblance of success. Both approaches produce only nightmares: general chaos; Iraq's center taken over by terrorists emboldened by victory over America, their pockets bulging with Iraqi oil money; southern Iraq controlled by pro-Iranians or Iran itself; and Iraq's neighbors picking at the nation's carcass until regional war erupts and prompts oil prices to hit $150 a barrel.

But while those fears have a real hold on me, I can't help transporting myself back more than 30 years to that day in Vietnam when I felt certain the dominoes would fall throughout Asia and destroy America's strategic position there and elsewhere. I was wrong about those dominoes, as were almost all foreign-policy experts.

It was April 28, 1975. The last U.S. officials scrambled aboard helicopters, bound for home, heralding defeat as North Vietnamese troops tramped into the South Vietnamese capital. And it was the most ignominious kind of defeat, one that came after a decades-long war, after tens of thousands of Americans and Vietnamese had been killed, after our Presidents had pledged it would never come to that.

We expected China and the Soviet Union would be ascendant, that allies like Japan and South Korea would doubt our resolve and reposition themselves, and that North Vietnam would claim the rest of Indochina. Almost none of that happened.

Three years later, the standing and power of the U.S. in Asia were greater than at any other time since the end of World War II. Our friends and allies in the region were worried about communist ascendancy, as we were, and they all rallied behind us. They understood clearly that their security depended on our presence and power in Asia. And so the dominoes never fell.

Could the consequences of defeat in Iraq not be as bad as we imagine? In the first place, the Arab jihadi terrorists will be more difficult to handle than the North Vietnamese. Hanoi's leaders ran a disciplined country with ambitions limited to Indochina. The jihadi terrorists in Iraq can't be bargained with, and their hatred runs global. Victory in Iraq would embolden them.

But we are not without ways to check their victory, even as we might exit Iraq. We have allies at the ready (the Kurds, the Saudis, the Turks, the Jordanians, etc.) who fear the jihadis as much as we do and potential allies (the Baathists and the Sunni tribal leaders) who want to rule their own piece of Iraq and also fear and despise the jihadis. As we gradually withdraw, we and others could provide Baathists the wherewithal to crush the terrorists. Without a large U.S. military presence, they probably would do a better job of it.

As for Iran's hold on southern Iraq, the risk looms large. But we easily forget that Iraqi Shi'ites are Arabs, not Persians. They have their own pride, traditions and interests. We should stand ready to help these Shi'ites as well.

All logic could prove illusory if Iraq's neighbors plunge the region into war. But they, including Iran, desire to avoid the abyss that engulfs their oil production (their only source of funds) and subjects them to internal rebellions. Washington has the diplomatic power to help shape this concern, starting now and including Iran.

To be sure, Arabs don't succumb readily to being herded in one direction, even where common interests dictate. All could bolt for the door, appease the terrorists and just raise oil prices. But we don't know until we try hard.

And we had better try--and soon. Although the last thing Americans want is a defeat in Iraq, events may be sliding in that direction and we need to shrink the fallout. The nightmare scenario could begin now, or in the next two years as troops are withdrawn, or thereafter, abruptly or slowly. To speak of defeat is not to advocate it but to prepare to minimize it.

While the Ford and Carter administrations worked hard to cushion the falling dominoes, the Asian dominoes moved quickly to save themselves by buttressing our power. We can't expect to be as lucky with the denizens of the gulf region. And we certainly wouldn't make our luck by staying the course and hiding behind Bush's fears of Middle East dominoes. We need him to unstrap America's still muscular diplomacy to seed the antiterrorist soil within Iraq, to structure a regional peace among states that cringe from regional war, to blunt the disasters of chaos and defeat--and perhaps even to snatch successes beforehand.

Food for thought.

Democratic Agenda Resonates With Americans

The use of Rep. Nancy Pelosi by the right as a political boogeyman may work to rally the faithful, but I hope they aren't expecting the average voter to a) care who she is, or b) find her agenda for a Democratic congress unpopular. Pelosi recently revealed her 'First 100 Hours' plan for the new Congress (I discussed it in detail- here). The Democrats haven't publicized it as much as they should be, but the latest polls show a strong support for its tenets-
Most worrisome for the president, should the Democrats retake one or both houses of Congress, the American public supports their proposed “First 100 Hours” agenda. An overwhelming majority says allowing the government to negotiate lower drug prices directly with pharmaceutical companies should be a top priority for a Democratic Congress (74 percent, including 70 percent of Republicans); 68 percent want increasing the minimum wage to be a top priority, including 53 percent of Republicans; 62 percent want investigating impropriety by members of Congress to be a top priority; and 58 percent want investigating government contracts in Iraq to be a top priority. Fifty-two percent say investigating why we went to war in Iraq should be a top priority (25 percent say it should a lower priority and 19 percent say it shouldn’t be done.)

The same polls show support, but not as strong (meaning after winning Democrats would have to work hard to explain their case), for rolling back the tax cuts (a slight majority does support) and for impeaching the President (which Pelosi said, unfortunately, she wasn't interested in anyway).

Why the Republicans would believe that the average meat-and-potatoes Americans would not vastly prefer this progressive, Democratic agenda over the GOP protect the rich, war-is-peace, economy-gutting, religious fundamentalist, socially backwards, save Terri Schiavo, divisive, rubberstamp agenda is beyond me.

I am very excited. We may soon have a Congress which remembers how to govern.

[Related reading- Confident Democrats Draft Broad Health Care Agenda (NY Times)]

Odds and Ends

More miscellaneous rescued from the cracks...

No huge news revelations this week, the news cycle is starting to feed on itself.

President Bush recess appoints another unqualified person rejected by Congress to a key position... this time appointing Richard Stickler to head the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Stickler is a crony whose nomination was twice rejected by Congress (his lack of qualifications deemed troubling in light of recent mine disasters). Heck of a job, Bushie.

The Republicans suspended a Democratic staffer "pending a review to determine if that staffer leaked a classified National Intelligence Estimate to the New York Times"... However, Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL)- who requested the suspension- admitted that it was "payback" and stated that "I’ll tell you why I did it. The reason I did it was because Jane Harman released the Duke Cunningham — who sat on our Intelligence committee — report." That report was not classified. Aren't they just keen??

Iraq's Prime Minister has has given an order "to stop providing mortality figures to the United Nations, jeopardizing a key source of information on the number of civilian war dead in Iraq." No comment.

A rare portrayal of the human costs of war?? The comic strip 'Doonesbury'.

Meanwhile, Vice President Cheney loves to lie.

The Christian Science Monitor explores the difficulty of Western nations in integrating their Muslim immigrants. This has been sparked by recent debates in England and elsewhere over the veil that Muslim woman wear over their face.

Condoleeza Rice expresses tolerance/'deference' to a gay couple; pisses off conservatives.

Finally, farmers become more eco-friendly in the wake of global warming.