Saturday, November 04, 2006

We're Going To Torture You...

...But please don't tell anyone about it.

Washington Post: U.S. Seeks Silence on CIA Prisons-
Court Is Asked to Bar Detainees From Talking About Interrogations

The Bush administration has told a federal judge that terrorism suspects held in secret CIA prisons should not be allowed to reveal details of the "alternative interrogation methods" that their captors used to get them to talk.

The government says in new court filings that those interrogation methods are now among the nation's most sensitive national security secrets and that their release -- even to the detainees' own attorneys -- "could reasonably be expected to cause extremely grave damage."...

Torture is fine for them. But exposing/discussing it- that to them is the only true crime. Because then the prisoners could train to... what? Possibly survive?

Have we ever had an administration this scared of basic accountability or checks and balances?

Odds and Ends

Here's some miscellaneous news that fell through the cracks as we hit the last stretch...

Rev. Ted Haggard, who resigned two days ago as president of the National Association of Evangelicals because of rank hypocrisy reports of meth-fueled gay liaisons, was dismissed by the megachurch he led today. Haggard, of course, was a close friend of the White House. I love the smell of karma in the evening.

As Saddam's verdict nears, there are reports that a hanging may be the punishment. There are also fears of a "firestorm" of violence following the verdict. Baghdad remains virtually locked down.

David Frum says Vanity Fair lied; he totally loves this war as well as passing the buck for it.

Nuclear programs are very in this year, thanks to a number of trendsetters like North Korea, Iran, or India. Now Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia have announced that "they were embarking on programmes to master atomic technology". Remember we as a nation used to universally denounce nuclear proliferation?

Military recruiters, faced with a major shortage of recruits for some reason (your guess is as good as mine), still resort to deceiving their prey in order to get them to enlist. One tactic? Telling potential recruits that the Iraq war is over.

Latest climate change issue? A potential “global collapse” of all species currently fished.

Finally, the Supreme Court will hear a case next week examining whether the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act passed by Congress in 2003 restricts abortion rights. Think the decision will be controversial?

What Are They Fighting For?

A tragic story that highlights another cost of the White House's torture policy- the mental impact on our soldiers ordered to carry out these 'alternative interrogations'. After all, this isn't likely what they signed up for...

Arizona Daily Star: Report: Flagstaff soldier killed self after protest
A Flagstaff soldier who died in Iraq committed suicide after she refused to participate in interrogation techniques being practiced by her U.S. Army intelligence unit, according to a report about an Army investigation aired by a Flagstaff radio station.

U.S. Army Spc. Alyssa R. Peterson, 27, died Sept. 15, 2003, in Tel Afar, an Iraqi city of about 350,000 residents in the northern part of the country.

At the time, the U.S. Department of Defense listed her cause of death as a "noncombat weapons discharge."...

...Spc. Peterson had been assigned to C Company, 311th Military Intelligence Battalion, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), which is based in Fort Campbell, Ky. She was in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedon, functioning as an Arabic-speaking intelligence specialist.

On Tuesday, a KNAU Public Radio reporter, who had filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the reports of the criminal investigation into Peterson's death, aired a report that Peterson had committed suicide.

According to KNAU, an Army investigation found that Peterson had objected to interrogation techniques that were being used on prisoners.

"She refused to participate after only two nights working in the unit known as the cage," stated the KNAU report.

She was subsequently assigned to monitoring Iraqi guards at the base gate and was sent to suicide prevention training, stated the KNAU report. And on Sept. 15, Army investigators concluded she shot and killed herself with her service rifle, according to KNAU.

The KNAU report also stated that Army spokespeople for Peterson's unit refused to describe the interrogation techniques and that all records of the techniques have been destroyed...

Is this what we're fighting for? Is the army that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld have created with their madness? In 3 days, we can register our verdict of all on this. We can make our voices heard.

3 more days...

[PS- Neoconservativism normally means never having to say you're sorry... but three former warmongers neocon White House allies, and architects of the Iraq invasion, are throwing in the towel. Richard Perle, Kenneth Adelman, and David Frum discuss with Vanity Fair watching their pet project fail all around them, throw Bush under the bus, and say they wish they could take it all back. Maybe.

And speaking of getting thrown under the bus, an editorial set to be published on Monday in top military papers (Army Times, Air Force Times, Navy Times and Marine Corps Times) calls for the resignation of Sec. Rumsfeld. The article begins with the following quote first-uttered by a Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent during the Korean War: "So long as our government requires the backing of an aroused and informed public opinion ... it is necessary to tell the hard bruising truth." Agreed. But where have you been for the past 3.5 years?

Finally, as if on cue, Vice President Cheney says it's full speed ahead on the war.

UPDATE: These are two concurrent headlines on Drudge right now-

Unintentionally says it all, in my opinion.]

Please You See My Movie Film

If you don't have plans yet to see the 'Borat' movie, make some.

It's the funniest movie evah.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Friday, November 03, 2006

Quote of the Day

"I hope that when the political history of the last half century is written it will show, as it should, that the Republicans engaged in a brand of divisive electoral politics that pitted Americans against each other: white against black, men against women, rich against poor, native born against immigrant, straight against gay. Republicans deserve to be tarred by history for exploiting our weaknesses, our prejudices, and our lesser selves for their own political gain. But those are still our weaknesses and our prejudices. We own them. And it is our lesser selves that have succumbed to the Republican political pitch and been willing to be exploited. Removing the Republicans from power will only be a temporary fix unless we fundamentally fix ourselves so that no one, no party, no movement can exploit those same weaknesses again."
--Talking Points Memo contributor DK on the larger perspective behind the GOP's impending losses

4 more days, 4 more days...

Mr. Lamont Goes To Washington?

This may be the best political ad I've seen yet this season-

Now I understand that Ned Lamont is trailing Joe Lieberman in the polls, and that his odds aren't great, but I have to hold onto hope that Lamont's get-out-the-vote operations will be able to pull of a miracle like they did in August's primary. Despite billing himself as the type of non-partisan hero who will save Washington, Lieberman represents exactly what is wrong with politics... a bitter, deluded incumbent whose top political cause is himself. Hence his decision to name his party 'Connecticut for Lieberman' when 'Lieberman for Connecticut' would've had a much better implication. See the difference? And while some have dismissed this battle as a one-issue race (the Iraq war), what issue could be more important? For Lieberman to be unabashedly, hawkishly to the right of even many Republicans in his support for this war is no arbitrary fact. Is that enough reason to toss him out? Ignoring even Lieberman's other regrettable positions (on Social Security, on the White House energy policy, economic/job issues, his disappearing act during the 2000 recount, etc.), I say sure. His incumbency and name-value may save him from defeat, but Connecticut voters should not forget that they are choosing to reelect a man who has shown open disdain for the voters of the party he swears he remains loyal to. For now, anyway.

[The Nation: Lamont vs. Lieberman, Round 2]

This Shit Is Getting Out Of Control

Matt Drudge is leading today with a conspiracy theory about Nancy Pelosi.

[insert snarky right-wing 'tin foil hat' comment here]

Perhaps Mr. Drudge should stick to doing Sen. Allen's dirty work, spinning away the Foley scandal, scaring people about Iran, and attempting to debunk global warming. His Pelosi headlines are always pretty silly.

However, he was also hyping this NY Times piece last night, though I don't know why-
Last March, the federal government set up a Web site to make public a vast archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war. The Bush administration did so under pressure from Congressional Republicans who had said they hoped to “leverage the Internet” to find new evidence of the prewar dangers posed by Saddam Hussein.

But in recent weeks, the site has posted some documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraq’s secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb.

Last night, the government shut down the Web site after The New York Times asked about complaints from weapons experts and arms-control officials. A spokesman for the director of national intelligence said access to the site had been suspended “pending a review to ensure its content is appropriate for public viewing.”...

Bold added by moi. No doubt Sen. Santorum and Rep. Hoekstra think we found the WMDs again or something.

And the Saddam verdict is just two days away. That should bring out Drudge's siren.

Is it November 7th yet? I just can't take it all anymore.

[PS- There is another NY Times article today that to me seems equally newsworthy (but less hyped) because it speaks volumes about how this administration has demonized transparency and accountability... it reveals that a recent military authorization bill passed by Congress and signed by the President "terminates [a] federal oversight agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, on Oct. 1, 2007" which was run by "a Republican lawyer named Stuart W. Bowen Jr. in Iraq have sent American occupation officials to jail on bribery and conspiracy charges, exposed disastrously poor construction work by well-connected companies like Halliburton and Parsons, and discovered that the military did not properly track hundreds of thousands of weapons it shipped to Iraqi security forces." The report further adds that "The clause was inserted by the Republican side of the House Armed Services Committee over the objections of Democratic counterparts during a closed-door conference, and it has generated surprise and some outrage among lawmakers who say they had no idea it was in the final legislation."

Had enough?]

Hacking Democracy

HBO is airing a disturbing, but important, documentary this week (one that's apparently angering the Diebold company) called 'Hacking Democracy'. It debuted tonight, but it will be airing again on Saturday and likely at least once more this weekend as well. I watched parts of it; it's pretty sobering stuff. From their synopsis-
Electronic voting machines count about 87% of the votes cast in America today. But are they reliable? Are they safe from tampering? From a current congressional hearing to persistent media reports that suggest misuse of data and even outright fraud, concerns over the integrity of electronic voting are growing by the day. And if the voting process is not secure, neither is America's democracy. The timely, cautionary documentary HACKING DEMOCRACY exposes gaping holes in the security of America's electronic voting system...

Salon has a detailed review- here.

I guess I should consider myself lucky to some degree that my district still uses the clunky metal machines with the big lever. No chads, no electronic 'glitches' switching my vote to Republican-- just the good ol'-fashioned lever of democracy.

And with the election days away, more stories of concern are cropping up...

BradBlog: HERE WE GO AGAIN: 'Just Push the Yellow Button and Vote as Many Times as You Want' on Sequoia Touch-Screen Voting Machines!

AP: E-mail ballots for military questioned


These issues were mostly ignored after 2000 and 2004. Let's hope this year that changes.

Finally, CNN's Jack Cafferty looks at efforts to monitor the elections for potential fraud.

Go On An Eight-Week Carbon Diet

Slate magazine challenges readers to weigh their personal contributions to climate change.

Embrace your inner treehugger today.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is Cultural Conservative

Ted Haggard, president of the 30-million-member National Association of Evangelicals, and condemner of homosexuality, resigned today. Why?

Because of "allegations that he carried on a three-year sexual relationship with a male prostitute."

(UPDATE: Haggard apparently concedes some of the allegations.)

You can't see, but I'm smiling right now.

Quote of the Day

"If you think Katrina was a success, Iraq is now Katrina. Iraq is the foreign policy of Katrina. And this President cannot handle the reality... This is not an election anymore, it's an intervention."
--Andrew Sullivan, on CNN last night discussing the choice before us next week

[PS- On a related note, pro-war journalist Ralph Peters continues to come to terms with the reality of this mistake (I previously chronicled his awakening- though he still passes the buck onto the Iraqis and acts as if the failure says nothing about our foreign policy- here). Money quote: "[The troops] don't face the mere forfeiture of a few congressional seats but the loss of their lives. Our military is now being employed for political purposes. It's unworthy of our nation." Bingo.

5 more days...]

Closing Arguments

We all know what the Republicans' final pitch is: That the Democrats are troop-hating, terrorist-loving perverts who will tax you into the poorhouse and impose their San Francisco values onto Joe Sixpack. But what about the Democrats' closing argument? One word: Iraq.

I'm sure many would prefer a broader argument that addresses many other issues on people's minds, but they tried that earlier in the campaign (Pelosi's '100 Hours plan') and no one seemed to notice, so it's best not to muddy the waters. The fact is that Iraq is issue #1 for most Americans.

Anyway, here's the DCCC's last national ad before the election:

Josh Marshall ponders the argument behind that issue-
The issue of the day may be Iraq. I think it is. But an issue isn't an argument. An argument brings the issues together and motivates action. So what's the argument? What should candidates and surrogates be saying at campaign stops this week?

I think it comes down to this. Beyond the incompetence, the bungled policies and the lies (which are plenty bad enough), where the country finds itself is a situation in which the leadership of the country either can't see, or won't see, or most likely wants to pretend not to see what a growing majority of the country clearly can see.

It's most clear, most visible in Iraq. Though there's a bit less consensus on whether it was a mistake from the outset, there's an overwhelming consensus among Americans today that Iraq has become a disaster for the United States and that it's not going to get better on the course we're now on.

But the president just says, No. Sure, there are a few bumps along the way. But fundamentally it was a good idea, we're doing the right thing and we're on the right track. No matter what however many people tell him, that's what his gut tells him so it's full speed ahead. He's going to stay the course right over the cliff.

In America, political action in Washington usually tracks fairly closely with public opinion, even though the voters only get a real bite at the apple every two years. But it doesn't have to be that way. The people in charge can pretty much ignore what people think and say. For the two years between elections, they're close to invulnerable.

And that's the closer in this election. How do you think Iraq has gone? How do you think Congress is doing its job? How did you think Katrina was handled? Different people are going to have different hot button issues. But across the board I think what we're seeing in the country is that sense of disconnect -- things are seriously off course but the folks in charge won't admit it and don't know what to do about it.

So to voters I think the pitch is, think back over the last two years. You only have one chance to go on record with your verdict. Thumbs up or thumbs down. One chance before you have to go back and sit in the stands again for another two years.

Are you on board with what's happening? Or do you want to go on record saying things have to change? One chance.

And if you give the thumbs up, how will you feel when you wake up on November 8th?

Under the 'keep it simple, stupid' rules, I think this sounds about right.

Some more pesky facts on this front (via the NY Times): "A classified briefing prepared two weeks ago by the United States Central Command portrays Iraq as edging toward chaos, in a chart that the military is using as a barometer of civil conflict." Read the full details- here.

(And the right-wing wants you to know it is treasonous that you know that now.)

Finally, the anti-war sentiment grows... within the military?

Hell Hath No Fury Like A Conservative Scorn

In what could be a pivotal swing vote next week, more and more traditional conservatives (read: not the cultists who view reality through the prism of the Murdoch media) are getting fed up with the monstrosity that currently calls itself the Republican Party. Several conservatives (Christopher Buckley, Joe Scarborough, Bruce Fein, etc) wrote a series of essays for the Washington Monthly in September entitled 'Time For Us To Go: Conservatives on why the GOP should lose in 2006'. They are not alone. Here are some recent examples of anti-GOP conservative rage I have come across...

First up, conservative blogger/author Andrew Sullivan-
I was chatting with some friends after the Maher show. They'd been against the war from the beginning. They were African-American and said it was obvious to them that the WMD argument was what they called "game." They weren't surprised. I was. I believed George W. Bush. And I trusted him. And as the evidence has poured in that my faith and trust were betrayed, my surprise has turned to rage. I'm not a generally angry person. But if I have placed my trust in someone on a matter of this gravity and I find out they lied, bungled and betrayed me and others who trusted them, then all I can say is: they picked the wrong guy to bamboozle.

You don't send 19 year-old kids to risk their lives and die to protect your own political power or advance your own partisan purposes. You don't abandon thousands of innocent Iraqis who also trusted you to marauding gangs of terrorists and murderers, and stand by and tell critics to "back off". You don't ask people of good faith to support you in a critical war and then secretly breach the Geneva Conventions and torture people and blame only a few grunts on the ground for your war-crimes.

The anger of the left, I realize, was always there. But the anger of the betrayed and decent right and center is deeper. Some readers think my anger has gotten the best of me. Maybe on occasions it has. But I'd rather be too angry than too afraid to call these people what they are.

And pro-war conservative blogger John Cole-
I don’t know when things went south with this party (literally and figuratively- and I am sure commenters here will tell me the party has always been this bad- I disagree with that, and so do others), but for me, Terri Schiavo was the real eye-opener. Sure, the Prescription Drug Plan was hideous and still gets my blood pressure pumping, and the awful bankruptcy bill was equally bad, and there were other things that should have clued me in, but really, it was Schiavo that made me realize this party was not as advertized. And it is frustrating as hell...

...In short, it really sucks looking around at the wreckage that is my party and realizing that the only decent thing to do is to pull the plug on them (or help). I am not really having any fun attacking my old friends- but I don’t know how else to respond when people call decent men like Jim Webb a pervert for no other reason than to win an election. I don’t know how to deal with people who think savaging a man with Parkinson’s for electoral gain is appropriate election-year discourse. I don’t know how to react to people who think that calling anyone who disagrees with them on Iraq a “terrorist-enabler” than to swing back. I don’t know how to react to people who think that media reports of party hacks in the administration overruling scientists on issues like global warming, endangered species, intelligent design, prescription drugs, etc., are signs of… liberal media bias.

And it makes me mad. I still think of myself as a Republican- but I think the whole party has been hijacked by frauds and religionists and crooks and liars and corporate shills, and it frustrates me to no end to see my former friends enabling them, and I wonder ‘Why can’t they see what I see?' I don’t think I am crazy, I don’t think my beliefs have changed radically, and I don’t think I have been (as suggested by others) brainwashed by my commentariat.

I hate getting up in the morning, surfing the news, and finding more and more evidence that my party is nothing but a bunch of frauds. I feel like I am betraying my friends in the party and the blogosphere when I attack them, even though I believe it is they who have betrayed what ‘we’ allegedly believe in. Bush has been a terrible President. The past Congresses have been horrible- spending excessively, engaging in widespread corruption, butting in to things they should have no say in (like end of life decisions), refusing to hold this administration accountable for ANYTHING, and using wedge issues to keep themselves in power at the expense of gays, etc. And I don’t know why my friends on the right still keep fighting for these guys to stay in power. Why do they keep attacking decent people like Jim Webb- to keep this corrupt lot of fools in office? Why can’t they just admit they were sold a bill of goods and start over? Why do they want to remain in power, but without any principles? Are tax cuts that important? What is gained by keeping troops in harms way with no clear plan for victory? With no desire to change course? With our guys dying every day in what looks to be for no real good reason? Why?

Are their sentiments indicative of a larger trend? Let's hope so.

5 more days, 5 more days...

The Architect's Last Stand

The media is debating how the outcome of this election will determine whether or not Karl Rove is really a 'genius' as he was labeled by them after the '04 victory. Rove can cement that status, they say, by defying the odds and saving the GOP minority. I find the whole debate disingenious on those terms.

Mr. Rove is hardly a 'genius'. His strategy was simple (although maybe his skill was realizing the obvious): turn the tide with slim majorities by using wedge issues to drive out the arch-conservatives who may not regularly vote. It doesn't take a 'genius' to play upon people's fears of terrorism, gay-bait, play the race card, launch smear campaigns from a distance, and wrap yourself in the flag while doing it. All it takes is making up in balls what you lack in morals. That Rove mastered this better than most is hardly something we should celebrate.

I hope a Democratic victory will show that you can't always win by appealing to the lowest common denominator.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Your Liberal Media At Work...

With the media carrying the water for the Kerry non-story just as they did with the Swift Boat lies in '04 (it was the #1 story tonight on CBS News. #2? The possibility of rampant voter fraud next week. Ahh, priorities), conservatives still want you to remember that the media is run by communist leftists who are in George Soros' pocket.

Why, just look at the way that Mark Halperin, Political Director of ABC News, has been... sucking up to every conservative blogger and pundit he meets in hopes that his totally unbiased journalism style will receive the stamp of approval from people who view the free press as borderline seditious in nature. Wait, what?

Money quote from Talking Points Memo: "[S]hould lightning strike and Dems take over, what will happen to those DC worthies whose career has been based on fellating the Republican power structure?"

Good question.

(PS- I am reminded of another botched 'joke'... this one the media adored.)

It's Always Darkest Before The Dawn

As the end to one-party rule grows closer in this country, the desperation of the Republican Party to retain the stranglehold they have had over our nation grows stronger. These next six days will be unbelievable in terms of the shit that will fly and will make 2004 like a tour through the candy factory. For instance, the President said on Monday that a Democratic victory means that "the terrorists win and America loses." Yes, the President of the United States said that. I mean no hyperbole in stating that these people hold contempt for the democratic process, which has been evident in the way they have governed. And they will stop at no low to prevent themselves from being held accountable to it.

So don't be shocked at anything they say or do from now until next Tuesday. We've already mentioned the crazier-than-usual campaign ads. But there's another trick up the GOP sleeve. It's... Diebold ...the faux-scandal!!

The Republicans have been waiting for a chance to go on the offensive and Sen. Kerry unintentionally handed it to them with a comment about students needing to educate themselves and avoid mistakes later in life like 'getting stuck in Iraq' as the President has, which was misread as him attacking the intelligence of the troops. Kerry tried to make a decent point, worded it poorly, and ends up looking like an idiot. I believe that was called "2004". In a sane world, this gaffe would be worth mentioning on page 8 or 9 of a newspaper, but the GOP is treating it like it is the biggest scandal in months (just go to Michelle Malkin's blog tonight and watch the insanity unfold). Why is this getting so much hype? Because it's all the Republicans can do at this point-- get mad at a non-issue and attempt to use it to rally their base against those evil Democrats.

After all, would they rather be out there discussing the Iraq war? The Afghanistan war? Outsourcing? Stagnant wages? Torture? The dangers of one-party rule? The constitution? The Katrina aftermath? The deficit? Etc? No, none of those things are important to the GOP. They'd rather get mad at gays for trying to get married or at Democrats for daring to run for political office or at Kerry for putting his foot in his mouth.

After six years of rule, is this all they have left? John Kerry's verbal gaffes, Drudge says Jim Webb loves father-on-son pedophelia, the specter of Nancy Pelosi and her 'San Francisco values', and the nonexistent Democrats who wants to raise your taxes and surrender to the terrorists? If that is- and it is- then that is more reason to throw these bums out.

Faced with an obvious loss of the House (though now they are claiming that as long as its not by a huge margin it won't be a real loss) and a potential loss of the Senate too, they are pulling out all the stops. These are the last desperate gasps of a party that has been in power too long and yet still has no accomplishments worth noting to run on.

Every second we waste talking about this is a second we should be talking about the war, etc. For instance, this morning I read about an American soldier who has been abandoned in Iraq. There is some controversy over where the orders came from. This, apparently, pales in comparison to the Kerry gaffe.

John Kerry, who has a history of taking too long to say the right thing, did sum it up good yesterday after this 'controversy' erupted: "they're afraid to debate -- you know, they want to debate strawmen because they're afraid to debate real men. Well, we're going to have a real debate in this country about this policy. The bottom line is: These Republicans want to distort this policy. And, this time, it won't work because we are going to stay in their face with the truth. No Democrat is going to be bullied by these people, by these kinds of attacks that have no place in American politics. It's time to set our policy correct. They have a stand-still-and-lose policy in Iraq, and they have a cut-and-run policy in Afghanistan. And the fact is, our troops, who have served heroically, who deserve better, deserve leadership that is up to their sacrifice -- period."

Both parties would surely admit that this is one of the most consequential midterm elections in the last 50 years. But only one party is treating it like the serious national debate that it is. The incumbent party is treating it like a joke, beating every stereotypical campaign tactic into the ground and ranting hysterically about things that affect no one's lives. Is it working? I don't know, I can't imagine that, after all we've been through, that it is. It does genuinely seem that, this year, people are looking past the trees and seeing the forest.

6 more days, 6 more days...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"That's nothing compared to the fury of a woman who has been cheated out of trick-or-treats."

I am going trick or treating. I hope you all have good holiday plans too.

In the meantime, enjoy this classic Tom Tomorrow cartoon from 2003-

Mr. Tomorrow is often ahead of the curve on these issues.

Here's some related reading:
-Time magazine: Can This Machine Be Trusted?:
The U.S.'s new voting systems are only as good as the people who program and use them. Which is why next week could be interesting

-Miami Herald: Glitches cited in early voting:
Early voters are urged to cast their ballots with care following scattered reports of problems with heavily used machines.

Quote of the Day II

"If I know anything, I know scary, and giving this president and this out-of-control Congress two more years to screw up our future is downright terrifying."
--Legendary author Stephen King.

Time To Cut The Cord

The President may not like timetables, but the troops don't share his stubborn stupidity...

More U.S. officers doubt insurgents would gain, and believe that Baghdad must be pushed.

Growing numbers of American military officers have begun to privately question a key tenet of U.S. strategy in Iraq — that setting a hard deadline for troop reductions would strengthen the insurgency and undermine efforts to create a stable state.

The Iraqi government's refusal to take certain measures to reduce sectarian tensions between Sunni Arabs and the nation's Shiite Muslim majority has led these officers to conclude that Iraqis will not make difficult decisions unless they are pushed...

..."Deadlines could help ensure that the Iraqi leaders recognize the imperative of coming to grips with the tough decisions they've got to make for there to be progress in the political arena," said a senior Army officer who has served in Iraq. He asked that his name not be used because he did not want to publicly disagree with the stated policy of the president...

..."There is a new belief that the biggest problem that we face is that our forces are the sand in the gears creating problems," said Campbell, coauthor of a book on national security policy. "We are making things worse by giving the Iraqis a false sense of security at the governing level."...

Time to start wrapping this up.

The President's hand must be forced. Remember- he has no plans to end this himself.

[hat tip- State of the Day]

Quote of the Day

"I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpation."
--Former President James Madison, realizing the truest threats to democracies are from within

Adds Greg Saunders: "Our freedoms haven’t been taken away, they were given away by a populace that has been crippled by fear. With each 'accountability moment' that has passed, the American people have agreed to allow the 'gradual and silent encroachments' of our freedom to continue. With an election just one week away, here’s hoping that we can finally heed the words of the father of our Constitution and reclaim our liberty from powerful elites who see the Bill of Rights as little more than a technicality."

7 more days, 7 more days...


Some surprising news on the nuclear front on this spooky day...

AP: North Korea agrees to nuclear talks
North Korea agreed Tuesday to rejoin six-nation nuclear disarmament talks in a surprise diplomatic breakthrough three weeks after the communist regime conducted its first known atomic test. A U.S. envoy said the talks could resume as early as November...

See, diplomacy's not that hard, now is it?

Now go call Mahmoud and ask him if he'd like to talk too.

Ohh Great Pumpkin, Where Are You?!!

In honor of this blog's namesake...

Welcome, Great Pumpkin!

Watch the full special, courtesy of YouTube-

Where We Stand

A look at where we stand from political analyst Charlie Cook (via Talking Points Memo)-
With the election just eight days away, there are no signs that this wave is abating. Barring a dramatic event, we are looking at the prospect of GOP losses in the House of at least 20 to 35 seats, possibly more, and at least four in the Senate, with five or six most likely.

If independents vote in fairly low numbers, as is customary in midterm elections, losses in the House will be on the lower end of that range. But if they turn out at a higher than normal level, their strong preference for Democrats in most races would likely push the GOP House losses to or above the upper levels.

The dynamics we are seeing this year are eerily similar to those in 1994. The President and party are different, so are the issues, but the dynamics are comparable.

In 1994, Democrats were in trouble because of tax increases, a failed health plan, and the crime bill (read, guns). There were also a myriad of scandals that started in the late 1980s that moved voters, including many Democrats, to reject the party's candidates, including some once-popular incumbents.

This year, it is the war in Iraq and scandals. For conservatives, the list also includes the Mark Foley affair, immigration, high government spending and high deficits. For Democrats and independents, stem cell research and Terri Schiavo round out the list. Finally, it would seem that voters of all ideological stripes feel that the GOP-lead Congress has become dysfunctional.

Please, please let this actually translate into hard results next Tuesday.

At this point I would describe myself as guardedly optimistic. I feel the wave, but I am not counting my chickens, etc. I was certain in that last stretch of the 2004 campaign that Sen. Kerry had hammered it home and then found myself on the morning of November 3rd watching him concede defeat to a President who would go on to use the mandate he claimed to further divide his nation. So I am not going to delude myself into believing that popular opinion and anger and hope translate correctly at the voting booth. But I am holding onto hope, because without that my brain wouldly implode upon itself after all of this.

Conservative columnist George Will wrote earlier this month that "After the 1936 election, in which President Franklin Roosevelt shellacked the Republican nominee in all but two states, a humorist wrote: 'If the outcome of this election hasn't taught you Republicans not to meddle in politics, I don't know what will.' If, after the Foley episode -- a maraschino cherry atop the Democrats' delectable sundae of Republican miseries -- the Democrats cannot gain 13 seats, they should go into another line of work."

Ignoring what the Democratic party would do if they fail to win either the House (which seems a lock at this point) or the Senate (a tougher shot, but within reach), I don't know what I would do. If we cannot get rid of this Congress (the worst ever, as Rolling Stone correctly notes) and have voters hold this President accountable for the numerous disasters and abuses of the past 6 years-- the war(s), Katrina, torture and prisons, deficit, the loss of jobs, the degrading of our democracy into one-party authoritarianism, the religious right's hijacking of our government as embodied by the Shiavo affair, constitutional integrity, etc etc x100-- then I will officially have lost all hope in the system. These people are killing my ability to believe in America. And I hate them for it. As Bill Maher quipped last week, what will it say about our country if we can't throw the bums out?

But I'm getting ahead of myself. There's still one week left. I am literally counting the days.

Monday, October 30, 2006

It's The War, Stupid

A sobering look at the Iraqi insurgency from CNN's Baghdad correspondent, Michael Ware-

Related reading from Anthony Shadid in Iraq: 'This is Baghdad. What could be worse?'

Meanwhile, equally sobering news from the war that the President all but cut and run from-
The conflict in Iraq is drawing fewer foreign fighters as Muslim extremists aspiring to battle the West turn their attention back to the symbolically important and increasingly violent turf of Afghanistan, European and US antiterrorism officials say.

The shift of jihadis to Afghanistan this year suggests that Al Qaeda and its allies, armed with new tactics honed in Iraq, are coming full circle five years after US-led forces ousted the Taliban mullahs...

Yep. Right back where we started from... except for a few thousand soldiers, billions of dollars, any military flexibility, and our international credibility and respect. We should never have had to come to this point. The Afghanistan issue should've been finished years ago, but the President decided to take a little detour and we've been stuck there ever since. And so, the larger mission, the one people actually supported, lays by the wayside, held together by a NATO coalition as stretched as our forces in Iraq. I am not sure what the exact solution is here, but I know we would have to be borderline psychotic to continue trusting our current leaders to handle it. Change. Accountability. Now... Please.

Finally, it appears we've lost many of the weapons sent to Iraq. I hate when that happens.

UPDATE: A thought-provoking cover story by Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria-
Rethinking Iraq: The Way Forward

The drawdown option: It is past time to confront reality. To avoid total defeat, we must reduce and redeploy our troops and nudge the Iraqis toward a deal. Here's how.

[PS- At least 100 Americans have been killed in Iraq this month alone. For what?]

Quote of the Day

"If President George Bush's hasty news conference on Iraq this week was the Republican October Surprise -- unveiling some sudden presidential flexibility after three and a half years of stubbornly staying a losing course -- it didn't work.

With the midterm elections now days away, it smacked more of a change in semantics than a serious change in the direction of a war that seems to be spiraling out of control...

...The president declared himself confident that Republicans would sweep to victory and maintain their stranglehold on both houses of a Congress that's done nothing but rubberstamp Bush's war policies and Republican efforts to enrich their fat-cat donors and themselves, of course.

If he's right and that's the result of the Nov. 7 elections, then the American people will finally have fulfilled H.L. Mencken's prophecy that we'd continue choosing the lowest common denominator until, in the end, we get precisely the government we deserve...

...This unseemly circus and its clowns in Congress can't go away fast enough and with enough dishonor and disgrace to suit the circumstances. Their place in America's history is secure: They will go down as the worst administration and the worst Congress we've ever had. Period.

They deserve to lose both the House and the Senate on Nov. 7, and the White House in 2008. They bullied their way into a war that they thought would be a slam-dunk and then so bungled things that the only superpower left in the world has been humbled and hobbled in a world that they've made more dangerous for us.

Thanks, guys. You've done a heckuva job. We won't forget it."
--Joe Galloway, senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder, on 'Ruining America'.

[Related reading on this topic from The Telegraph (UK)-
The road to delusion: Next week, George W Bush faces his last, critical electoral challenge. Niall Ferguson assesses a failed presidency.]

Campaign Ads

I had done a few posts in the past week or two on campaigns, spotlighting a few of the good and a few of the bad. I have decided not to bother anymore (well, after pimping this Lamont ad featuring a message from Gen. Wesley Clark, who was my first pick for the Presidential race in 2004 and I believe remains a underrated voice in that party)... With a few notable exceptions, none have been particularly good and most have been downright disgusting. I am at that 'one week before the election' point where the whole process is becoming overwhelming to me. I'm ready to vote; I'm anxious.

Is it November 7th yet?

The War Against Climate Extremism

More news on how that jihadist known as 'The Climate' is planning to attack our society...

AFP: Global warming could cost trillions of dollars
Global warming will cost the world up to seven trillion dollars in the next decade unless governments take drastic action soon, a major report will warn...

...According to the Observer, the Stern report says unchecked climate change would cost up to 3.68 trillion pounds -- more than World Wars I and II and the Great Depression of the 1930s.

It also warns that the world needs to spend about one percent of global gross domestic product -- equivalent to about 184 billion pounds -- on the issue now or face a bill up to 20 times higher than that in future, the paper says.

Stern also calls for a successor to the Kyoto agreement on greenhouse gases to be signed next year, not in 2010 or 2011 as planned, because the problem is so urgent, it adds.

Failure to act quickly would trigger a global recession, he reportedly adds, and calls for an international framework to tackle the issue.

This is hardly a unique finding; similar studies have reached the same conclusion. This is an important concern that has been too easily dismissed as just some environmental issue. It really needs to become a global priority, just as terrorism has. It will require rethinking the way we do many things and may require some early, temporary sacrifices (a switch to biofuels and/or other alternative energies would involve some hefty startup costs, I imagine), but it's an issue we need to think long-term on. We can do this. Let's roll.

Meanwhile, another report on this study also reveals that "The Chancellor will also announce that Al Gore, the former US Vice-President, is to advise him on environmental policy." Well at least one country is making use of his knowledge.

Finally, yet another Bush appointee tells science to buzz off.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Weekend Funnies: The 'No Laughing Matter' Edition

Recommended reading tonight from George Will in the new Newsweek:
Togetherness In Baghdad-

A surreal facet of the Iraq fiasco is the lag between when a fact becomes obvious and when the fiasco's architects acknowledge it.

[PS- The countdown continues; here's today's 'Great Pumpkin' clip:
"Trick or Treat!"]

A No-Brainer

On Thursday, I wrote about an interview in which Vice President Cheney confirmed/celebrated the administration's use of waterboarding as part of their torture program. "It's a no-brainer for me," Cheney said. Well, the problem was that Cheney has a habit of saying things the White House wishes he didn't (insurgency is in its last throes, continuing much-debunked lies about Mohammed Atta in Prague or a Zarqawi/Saddam relationship), so the White House went into full spin mode, trying to assure reporters that the Vice President was not talking about waterboarding when he was talking about waterboarding. As usual, the media took the bait and is (again) burying the lead. Talking Points Memo contributor DK elaborates-
We're darn near six years into this nonsense, but still the White House can beat the press corps like a drum. I'm referring to Cheney's comment that waterboarding detainees was a "no brainer," which the White House has managed to turn into a story about what Cheney really said or what he really meant by what he said.

There's no legitimate doubt about what Cheney said and what he meant. Cheney knows it. The President knows it. So do Tony Snow and the whole White House press corps. Yet we have this spectacularly silly dance--clever people being too clever by half: Snow and Cheney's staff cleverly parsing the interview, and the press cleverly trying to trip up the parsers.

The whole episode has been converted from a story about torture to another in the endless series of stories about the strange relationship between the press and this White House....

...No thinking person believes Cheney was referring to anything other than waterboarding. The White House is unable to explain what else Cheney could have been referring to. Yet the leading papers are unable to cut through the malarkey.

I suppose the only thing we work harder at being in denial about than Cheney's comments is the fact that we have used waterboarding and other forms of torture. Every thinking person knows that to be true, too, and it shouldn't take Cheney's slip of the tongue to convince us.

What he said.

The same thing is still happening with the Limbaugh/Fox faux-debate. What should have been a discussion of what a vile, useless man Rush Limbaugh is or more importantly the actual issue Fox was campaigning about (the benefits of stem cell research), has now actually turned into a 'debate' over whether Michael J. Fox faked the symptoms of a disease he is dying from for a relatively low-key ad. These were the same reporters who pretended the country was 'split' on the Schiavo intervention when in fact almost everyone was reaching for the barfbags. Now these same lazy, mindless idiots are pretending that there is a 'debate' over whether Vice President Cheney endorsed waterboarding when he... endorsed and celebrated waterboarding. This is your 'liberal media' at work. This is why most people are so ill-informed. It is amazing, in fact, that people are as informed as they are.

Our government has a program of legalized torture. Instead of debating the White House's half-assed semantics, let's start debating whether that is the type of nation we wish to be... Oh, and if we have time, let's also discuss the Bill of Rights at large, habeas corpus, the principle of innocent until proven guilty, the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, warrantless spying, government corruption, the state of American journalism, the economic crunch, and some other boring things too.

[Related reading:
-AP: UN official: U.S. terror law may violate international treaties
-Balkinization: Yes, It's a No-Brainer: Waterboarding Is Torture
-The Nation: The Torture Election

PS- Some of these topics were discussed on this week's 'Real Time w/ Bill Maher'. His guests were Harry Belafonte, Christine Todd Whitman, and Andrew Sullivan. It was a good panel and an interesting discussion.]

November Surprise?, Pt. II

Two weeks ago, I mentioned that the date for Saddam Hussein's verdict to be read was announced to be November 5th (a week from today and two days before the election). I sarcastically stated that this totally had to be a coincidence, because a) I am cynical, and b) I am smart and have been paying attention. What about that wacky 'liberal' media of ours? Have they been paying attention? While they cover Hussein's verdict (if the WMDs do not fit, you must acquit!) next week, will they realize/acknowledgement that the secondary story here too-- that this is another decidely undemocratic attempt by the White House to hijack the news cycle the day before a critical election that looks to be a referendum on their governing and their war(s)?

David Brock of Media Matters for America has called on the media to answer that question (with details relevant to the trial and past examples of similar behavior): "Why has the verdict been postponed? Is it designed to influence this fall's election? Is this yet another example of the administration playing politics with our policy in Iraq? These are the questions the media should be asking. Forget the October surprise -- it looks like Karl Rove and the Bush Administration have been preparing for a November surprise. They have a documented history of timing major national security announcements for their own political gain. With Saddam Hussein's verdict being delayed until two days before this year's midterm election, the media should be asking the administration about this transparent grab for political advantage."

I hope that no one out there will be holding for breath for this one.

UPDATE: Hmmm, now it appears this surprise may not happen after all-
A court trying Saddam Hussein for crimes against humanity could delay its verdict by a few days, the chief prosecutor said on Sunday, in a move that would shift the announcement until after U.S. midterm elections.

The U.S.-backed court had been due to deliver a verdict on November 5, two days before U.S. elections in which President George W. Bush's Republicans fear they could lose control of Congress.

The chief prosecutor, Jaafar al-Moussawi, said the Iraqi High Tribunal was still working on the judgment. "We will know a day or two before the trial if they are ready to announce the verdict," Moussawi told Reuters....

...News of the possible delay follows a week of public spats between U.S. officials and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Maliki's aides say he is furious at U.S. pressure on him ahead of the elections as the American public turns increasingly away from Bush's Iraq policy.

I'll be curious to see how these powerplays between Bush and Maliki end... both are very proud, stubborn men.