Saturday, November 18, 2006

Weekend Funnies: The "I'll Be Thankful When It's Over" Edition

(Listen to the President's Thanksgiving radio address- here)

Slow news weekend here at home. So here's some more good news from Iraq...

-Firedoglake: Your Iraqi Army
-The Guardian: Al-Qaida 'planted information to encourage US invasion'
-Balloon Juice: Fish Or Cut Bait
-TPMCafe: Someone Tell Bush We Lost Vietnam

UPDATE: Even Henry Kissinger now has conceded a military win in Iraq is impossible.

UPDATE #2: Syria's foreign minister goes to Iraq... calls for timetable for U.S. withdrawals.

[PS- Meanwhile in Afghanistan... NATO has less than encouraging news.]

"...Or the dogs with bees in their mouth and when they bark they shoot bees at you?"

This is by far the weirdest, most eye-catching headline I've read all week...

Reuters: "Israel developing 'bionic hornet' robot to combat militants"

Friday, November 17, 2006

Failed Lessons

In my earlier entry about Afghanistan and Iraq, I mentioned us not learning the lessons of the Vietnam war, as evidenced by our wayward foreign policy choices. I'll assume most people reading this blog already agreed with that assessment. The President clearly does not-
President Bush said Friday the United States' unsuccessful war in Vietnam three decades ago offered lessons for the American-led struggle in Iraq. "We'll succeed unless we quit," Bush said shortly after arriving in this one-time war capital...

So says the man who spent most of that war laying in a hammock while drunk.

Think Progress reminds us this rhetoric is likely the work of Bush advisor Henry Kissinger.

As I said last month: "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. ... 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."

On the same day I also linked to a piece in Time magazine by Leslie Gelb (who worked at the Defense Department in Johnson's administration and is currently President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations) entitled "Would Defeat in Iraq Be So Bad?: After Vietnam, the dominoes did not fall. What that tells us about this war", in which she laid out the case for how we can limit the fallout of our inevitable departure. And it is inevitable. Those like the President waiting for anything even resembling 'victory' are delusional and are simply buying time for themselves politically.

Sen. McCain, who supports an escalation of hostilities, said in a speech this week that "As troubling as it is, I can ask a young marine to go back to Iraq. What I cannot do is ask him to return to Iraq, to risk life and limb, so that we might delay our defeat for a few months or a year. That is more to ask than patriotism requires." Of course, this is an unintentionally ironic statement, because what Sen. McCain won't admit (least of all to himself) is that this is exactly what we are asking of our troops.

As Glenn Greenwald noted, people like the President and Sen. McCain never realistically address whether we are winning or losing (or can even win at all) because they simply insist "on our divine entitlement to magical victory". Following up on his statement about the lessons of Vietnam as he sees them, the President also said in Hanoi today that "We tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take a while". Perhaps the President has forgotten that it was his administration that expected 'instant success' (I seem to remember discussions of a cakewalk and a war that "could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.") This new bleak assessment of success over "a long period of time" is after-the-fact rhetoric intended to buy time while he waits for that magical victory he believes he is entitled to, whether it is coming or not.

Finally, today also comes news that the White House "is preparing its largest spending request yet for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan... [with] $127 billion to $160 billion in requests from the armed services for the 2007 fiscal year... on top of $70 billion already approved for 2007." When all is said and done, the financial cost (if, fortunately, not the human cost) for the Iraq war would top, you guessed it, the one in Vietnam.

Not coincidentally, approval for the President and his war is at a new low.

UPDATE: Speaker-to-be Pelosi says working to end this war will be a priority of Democrats.

[PS- Here's a headline that speaks volumes of the President's standing in the world:
Vietnamese greet Bush with indifference (AP)]

Democrats Get To Work

With still a month and a half before they become the congressional majority, Senate Democrats don't want to waste any time getting down to business. Here is a quick look at some issues they are working on...

First up- The minimum wage. Both Sen. Kennedy (who will become chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) and Speaker-elect Pelosi have made clear that raising the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 is a priority. This is not expected to be opposed by the President, who the AP notes "signaled readiness last week to consider some Democratic priorities such as a minimum-wage increase, overhauling immigration policy and finding compromise on renewing the No Child Left Behind education law."

Other issues Kennedy expects progress on? Stem cell research, increasing Pell Grant sizes, cutting interest rates on student loans, and health care coverage expansions.

Second up- Campaign/electoral fraud. Democrats have long complained about this issue, but haven't been in a position before to do anything about it. Majority Leader-to-be Harry Reid said one of the first 10 bills his Senate passes will be to make criminal penalties out of campaign scams that intended to harass or confuse potential Democratic voters. One issue there is the infamous 'robo-calls' many people received in the days close to the election, in a phone message claiming to be from the Democratic candidate (but actually from the GOP, with negative messages about the Dem); if they tried to hang up, the machine would repeatedly bombard them with more calls. The second scam was sample ballots and campaign literature listing as a 'Democrat' the candidate's name who was actually a Republican (hoping to trick Democratic voters into voting for the Republican on the actual ballot). As Salon says, "Call it a reminder of what oversight looks like".

Finally, third up- Rolling back the more unsavory aspects of the Military Commissions Act. Senator Dodd of Connecticut is introducing legislation called 'The Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act' which will: restores Habeas Corpus protections, narrows the definition of 'unlawful enemy combatant' to individuals who directly participate in hostilities against the U.S. who are not lawful combatants, bars info gained through coercion (read: torture) from being introduced as evidence, excludes hearsay evidence deemed to be unreliable, authorizes the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces to review decisions by the military commissions, limits the authority of the President to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions without oversight, and provides for expedited judicial review of the Military Commissions Act to determine its constitutionally.

Sen. Dodd correctly notes that the current bill the Republicans passed for the President "will be the subject of endless legal challenges" and therefore a better bill is needed to a) avoid legal issues, and b) actually get the prosecution started quicker without endless battles. This announcement comes right on the heel of news that Gitmo hearings "called no witnesses, withheld evidence from detainees and usually reached a decision within a day as it determined that hundreds of men detained at Guantanamo Bay were 'enemy combatants'".

This all sounds good to me so far. What say you?

Odds and Ends

Some more miscellaneous stories saved from the cracks as the weekend arrives...

The AP reports that "The Bush administration is offering to narrow the scope of proposed U.N. sanctions designed to force Iran to cease enrichment of uranium" and may now "aim at denying technology to Iran for its nuclear industry and its enrichment programs but not crimp Iran's oil and gas production". My guess? They don't want to be too harsh in case they need to ask Iran to help bail us out on the Iraq debacle.

Time magazine debunks 5 myths about the midterm election results...

...While CBS News' Dick Meyer good riddance to the Gingrich-fueled Republican majority.

Another report reveals that "The CIA has acknowledged for the first time the existence of two classified documents, including a directive signed by President George W. Bush, that have guided the agency's interrogation and detention of terror suspects." This is confirmation that authorization for interrogation methods (read: torture) did come from the Oval Office, and not just underlings.

British and U.S. forces search for "four kidnapped Americans and an Austrian" kidnapped in a hijacking in Iraq.

Finally, O.J. Simpson is a real sick douchebag.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan...

The title of a new blog post by Glenn Greenwald says it all-

Afghanistan and Al-Qaeda -- together again

Money quote:
...The few war advocates left insist that all we need in Iraq is just some more troops and some more time. Except we don't have more troops (according to the military itself) and the ones we do have are spread thin and exhausted from multiple tours of duty. And even if we did have some magic troops materialize for Iraq, what would we do about Afghanistan, which -- according to Bush's own ambassador -- requires a commitment of enormous additional resources over many years just to prevent the country from "fall[ing] apart again"?

And even if these severe and dangerous problems could be solved with a massive increase in resources (money and troops) -- an extremely precarious premise, to put it mildly -- how would we pay for that? The Republican propaganda machine has made even the mere mention of tax increases politically toxic. Even the suggestion that the Bush tax cuts maybe shouldn't be made permanent was a weapon that was used by Republicans in an effort to keep themselves in power. And we are a country that is drowning in deficits and buried by debt. "Imperial overstretch" doesn't even begin to describe the untenability of our predicament...

...If we want to fight the wars necessary to maintain our dominance in the Middle East, then we should do so. And if we don't, then we shouldn't. But this middle course -- where we plod along aimlessly, starting wars that we're not really committed to winning and therefore are losing -- is not only the most incoherent course, but also the most destructive one.

What is indisputably clear is that our current course is totally unsustainable. That's just reality. It isn't that things have progressed too slowly in Afghanistan and Iraq. It's that the situation has deteriorated in both countries, to the point where Al Qaeda now has not one but two countries (not counting a nuclear-armed Pakistan) in which it is more or less free to operate. And the stronger they get, the more of our resources are needed to keep up. Yet we don't have the resources needed and aren't willing to make the sacrifices necessary to get them. But we pretend that's not the case by insisting on our divine entitlement to magical victory and depicting those who claim otherwise as people who hate the troops and don't want to win.

What he said (and bolded added by moi for emphasis).

He brings up many good points, not the least of which is that these wars-- which have been used to justify everything the Bush administration does, not to mention their reelection two years ago-- are treated as afterthoughts. Just go about your business, American people, just a few wars going on over here, that's all. I was reading of one of the local papers today about the history of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and how the parade was canceled for a few years during the second world war. Many sacrifices were made during that war... food rationing, people collecting tin and rubber, people working in factories, and filing their income taxes three times a year. That was a war that was truly being fought by everyone in this country, and not just in the "rah rah rah" way conservative bloggers think they're fighting the war on terror by ranting about islamofacism on their website. So oblivious is this President to reality of the war(s) he started, that it only momentarily seemed to register that this cost him control of his Congress last week. I am not saying I wanted to be told we had to start eating turnips, but something in the neighborhood of a national discussion of the implications of foreign oil dependency, etc, would have helped.

It is clear that the leaders of this country no longer have the 'will' for really going to war and being serious about it, here and abroad... if only because the public is more willing to blindly support a war if it can be fought quietly, with others' lives and the money of future generations. Which may be for the best. Because maybe in the future, they will not start wars preemptively by choice, or use war casually as a political weapon. WWII was won because it was treated seriously, and it was treated seriously because it was a necessary war that the world fought together. We made some really poor military decisions in the 60 years since that time, the lessons of which we were supposed to learn after Vietnam, but we never did.

Then 5 years ago, we were attacked again, and went to war inside Afghanistan with some pretty clear goals. But our President got bored with that pretty quickly, as his administration implemented their subtle plans to start a new war of their choosing to settle an old score and bomb the Middle East into democracy (they hoped this would only take a week or two to accomplish). And so here we are. Losing two wars. But the President insists that we will win. Why? Because we say so! Clap harder, everyone!!

If the President's plan for war in 2002/2003 had been better thwarted, would Afghanistan be doing better today and would our general status in the world be better as well? It seems hard to argue otherwise.

Let's see how quickly the next generation will forget that lesson.

Quote of the Day

"Now look, God’s still up there. We still have these natural changes, and this is what’s going on right now. New science comes out. ... They came out with a great discovery just a few weeks ago. And this came from the geophysical research letters and you know what they said? Hold on now! They said the warming is due to the sun. Isn’t that remarkable?"
--Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), dismissing global warming as a hoax on Fox News (natch)

What's remarkable is that he's chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works until January.

It can't be overstated how lucky we are that people like Inhofe will soon be out of power.

Par For The Course

More reminders that the election didn't curb the President's worst impulses...
The Bush administration has appointed a new chief of family-planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services who worked at a Christian pregnancy-counseling organization that regards the distribution of contraceptives as "demeaning to women."

Eric Keroack, medical director for A Woman's Concern, a nonprofit group based in Dorchester, Mass., will become deputy assistant secretary for population affairs in the next two weeks, department spokeswoman Christina Pearson said yesterday...

...The Keroack appointment angered many family-planning advocates, who noted that A Woman's Concern supports sexual abstinence until marriage, opposes contraception and does not distribute information promoting birth control at its six centers in eastern Massachusetts...

Here is the general rule for how the President picks someone to serve in these positions: Pick the person whose personal beliefs most directly contradict the stated objectives and goals of the organization you are appointing him to. Watch as he uses his position to subtley sabotage what progress said organization has made in recent years. Repeat.

Pentagon Reclassifies Homosexuality (Sort Of)

Bad news, hawkish homosexuals, the army still doesn't think you're fit to go die in Iraq...

AP: Pentagon alters homosexuality guidelines
Pentagon guidelines that classified homosexuality as a mental disorder now put it among a list of conditions or "circumstances" that range from bed-wetting to fear of flying.

The new rules are related to the military's retirement practices. The change does not affect the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that prohibits officials from inquiring about the sex lives of service members and requires discharges of those who openly acknowledge being gay.

The revision came in response to criticism this year when it was discovered that the guidelines listed homosexuality alongside mental retardation and personality disorders...

Hmmmm. Maybe the military should stop letting Borat write these guidelines.

They desperately need more recruits, but not if it makes a few people feel icky.

[PS- On a semi-related note, Dan Savage hopes that the Rev. Haggard revelations, besides just exposing the hypocrisy of those who want to legislate their morality, will mean the end of the 'ex-gay' movement. Says Savage, "If Jesus can't be bothered to work a miracle for the most powerful evangelical minister in the country, what 'hope' is there for the average dyke? None. The ex-gay thing is over. It's dead. It was bullshit from the start. And I will personally track down and bitch-slap the next fundie douche who sends me an e-mail explaining how Jesus can cure me." Amen.]

Save Us, Al

Is it Gore in '08? One reporter tries to look at the clues....

Al Gore and 2008

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Pelosi Officially Named Speaker / Hoyer Chosen As Majority Leader

The most important decision in the history of America has finally been made!!! After selecting Nancy Pelosi to be the Speaker of the House for the 110th Congress, Democrats have selected Steny Hoyer of Maryland as the new Majority Leader, as was expected.

Much was made of Pelosi's decision to back dark-horse pick Jack Murtha for the spot. The media, egged on by conservative pundits desperate in the past week to have something to pick on Dems about, have been acting as if this customary contest would determine the success or failure of Pelosi's leadership... instead of, you know, waiting for Congress to actually convene before judging her (and let's not forget what we went through to get here). They were going to rip the decision a new one no matter how it went; the 'Dems divided' storyline is too easy a crutch. This seems silly because, in general, Democrats are more united than they have been in years. If endorsing Murtha ends up being the worst thing Pelosi does, this country will be in very, very good shape in the next few years.

The understandable media focus on the new majority also ignores the deep(er) divisions which continue to tear apart the GOP after the electoral loss. Conservatives are in disarray over their party's leadership choices, including Sen. 'Schiavo Memo' Martinez for RNC Chairman and Sen. Trent Lott (yes, that Trent Lott) as... wait for it... 'minority whip'. The House minority leadership was also decided, but the media overanalysis is absent there. While the GOP is still trying to figure out why they lost (I'd be happy to explain it to them), the Democrats are looking forward.

Most Americans, unaware of these maneuverings, see Speaker-elect Pelosi as I do... a strong leader with a bold vision for her country and party's future. She has also reached out to the President and he (uncomfortably, momentarily) reached back out. Where people, and I, will judge Pelosi is on how much of her proposed domestic agenda she will be able to accomplish. Most of it, fortunately, is common-sense progressive stuff that most Republicans will have a hard time arguing against. This is what people are focused on... the actual issues that affect their lives.

The latest polls have a wakeup to media outlets obsessing on the inside-the-beltway stories: "The situation in Iraq continues to be the top issue mentioned by Americans when asked to name the most important problem facing the country right now. More than a third of Americans name Iraq as the top problem, and is now, by one point, at the highest level seen on this measure since the focus on Iraq began four years ago. Other problems facing the nation as mentioned by Americans include the general state of the economy, healthcare, government dissatisfaction and corruption, immigration, and terrorism."

Focus, people, focus. There's a war going on and it's about to get a lot worse.

I Need To Eat Lunch Soon, I Suffer From 'Low Food Security'

From the same party that turned ketchup into a 'vegetable' to fill lunchroom health quotas, renamed the estate tax the 'death tax' so it seem like something that taxes death instead of rich people's inheritances, and passed something called the Healthy Forests Initiative which allows timber companies to destroy forests comes the next great rhetorical scam... the renaming of a feeling we used to call "hunger" as "low food security".

The Washington Post reports "the Agriculture Department issues a report [annually] that measures Americans' access to food, and it has consistently used the word 'hunger' to describe those who can least afford to put food on the table. But not this year... [because] 'hungry' is 'not a scientifically accurate term for the specific phenomenon being measured in the food security survey,' [according to the report's author]." The article adds that "The USDA said that 12 percent of Americans -- 35 million people -- could not put food on the table at least part of last year. Eleven million of them reported going hungry at times. Beginning this year, the USDA has determined 'very low food security' to be a more scientifically palatable description for that group."

Oh, and the report is usually released in October; this year, it was delayed 'til mid-November. Can't imagine why!

God bless the GOP, doing Christ's work all over our land. He'd be proud.

The Big Fool Says To Push On

Voters: 'Mr. President, do you understand the message that we sent to you last Tuesday?'

President Bush: 'No, apparently not.'

The Guardian (U.K.): US plans last big push in Iraq
President George Bush has told senior advisers that the US and its allies must make "a last big push" to win the war in Iraq and that instead of beginning a troop withdrawal next year, he may increase US forces by up to 20,000 soldiers, according to sources familiar with the administration's internal deliberations.

Mr Bush's refusal to give ground, coming in the teeth of growing calls in the US and Britain for a radical rethink or a swift exit, is having a decisive impact on the policy review being conducted by the Iraq Study Group chaired by Bush family loyalist James Baker, the sources said.

Although the panel's work is not complete, its recommendations are expected to be built around a four-point "victory strategy" developed by Pentagon officials advising the group....

Though this is all speculatory for now, one has to wonder how much of this is based on the President's sincere beliefs that this is the right thing to do, and how much is based on him doubling down and trying to do the opposite of what Democrats want in hopes that he can prove them wrong? Judging by how politically-calculated every decision he's made on this war has been, I'm sure it's more the latter. How many people will have to die before the President is willing to concede we are in a no-win situation and should cut our losses in the least harmful way possible? Many, many more I am afraid.

Atrios brings up a good point that if the President actually does go through with this, it pretty much takes the wind out of McCain's 2008 sails. McCain's big selling point is that he will fix the Iraq mess by sending in 20,000 troops for one last big push to win it... exactly what the President is planning now. So now that'd be off the table for McCain. And if Bush does this gamble and loses, well then McCain will be seen as the guy who advocated the failed escalation that solidified our loss in Iraq. Where either of them plans to get these 20,000 troops from is also a good question. Time for recruiters to lower their standards some more?

Ohh, that four-point plan mentioned above? Here is the summary, via The Guardian-
· Increase US troop levels by up to 20,000 to secure Baghdad and allow redeployments elsewhere in Iraq

· Focus on regional cooperation with international conference and/or direct diplomatic involvement of countries such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia

· Revive reconciliation process between Sunni, Shia and others

· Increased resources from Congress to fund training and equipment of Iraqi security forces

This is all sounds nice (if a little too familiar), but where were these big ideas three years ago when they might have actually helped? Ohh that's right, the White House was too busy being arrogant and telling anyone who tried to expose them to reality a traitor and terrorist sympathizer. Heck, they were still doing that up until the election last week.

Following the voters' not-so-subtle rejection of the President and his war, he and his crew are now coming out and saying "C'mon, please give us one more chance. We promise to get it right this time, we swear...". But I am far too cynical at this point to let the drunks drive us home, no matter how sobered up they insist they are. We've just been through this too many times (and the fact that the article credits Henry Kissinger for putting Bush on this path says it all).

Since it became clear in the summer of 2003 that 'mission accomplished' actually wasn't, we've been through a number of milestones that we were told were going to 'turn the corner' and secure victory. Catching Saddam was going to make everything better, then handing over sovereignty was going to make everything better, securing Fallujah was going to make everything better, setting up a unity government was going to make everything better, holding the purple-finger elections was going to make everything better, turning Bagdad into a garrison town was going to make everything better, etc etc... but they didn't. But every next time, well that we are told will be different.

Gen. John Abizaid told the Senate Armed Service Committee yesterday that Iraq has "four to six months" left before it all falls apart. This time they mean it. Salon's Tim Grieve reminds us that this is some serious deja-vu:
As somebody said the other day, the "next six months" are always critical in Iraq. Tony Blair told reporters back in January 2004 that Iraq was about to enter "a very critical six months." Chuck Hagel said "the next six months will be very critical" in August 2005, and Joseph Biden said "the next six months are going to tell the story" in December 2005. U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said in July that "the next six months will be critical in terms of reining in the danger of civil war." Gen. George Casey said in early October that "the next six months will determine the future of Iraq." And a certain New York Times columnist has declared the importance of the "next six months" so many times that 180 days is now known in some circles as "a Friedman."

Maybe the next six months in Iraq really will be the critical ones. Maybe they won't be. But here's a modest proposal either way. Instead of talking about the future of Iraq in terms of months -- hey, we'd all like a little more time! -- let's quantify it a different way. At the current rate of things, six additional months in Iraq means that 416 more U.S. soldiers will die. Are we willing to bet their lives on the odds that the six monthers are finally right this time?

Or, as someone said in 1971, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

For those of us who have been screaming for years about what a disaster this war is to no avail, until just this past year when public opinion fortunately shifted against this madness, all of this stuff coming out of Washington (the calls for last-push escalation, the crazy idea that any idea that comes out of James Baker's blue-ribbon commission of old Bush family cronies will be independent, etc) is depressing to behold. I remain hopeful that a Democratic majority in the House and Senate will be able to have a major impact on the war issue in a way the rubberstamp GOP never would have, but it's clear that (as expected) the President's talk of 'bipartisanship' doesn't apply to big issues like the war. The Democrats better work overtime in confronting this issue, or they risk sinking with this ship when they have so much important legislative work to do. I keep saying this, but if we are still having this same discussion in another few years, it will be a serious tragedy.

Finally, one blogger looks at Sen. Feingold's withdrawal proposal, another explores media debate of that issue, while another looks at Iraq's not-so-unity government.

UPDATE: Another ominous headline-- "Iraq gov't in crisis after staff abducted, tortured" (AFP)

And yet another-- Sectarian Strife in Iraq Imperils Entire Region, Analysts Warn (Washington Post)

CNN's Glenn Beck To Muslim Congressman: 'Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been...'

The liberal media needs liberals. One Keith Olbermann doesn't balance out this nonsense.

Media Matters: CNN's Beck to first-ever Muslim congressman: "[W]hat I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies' "

[PS- Speaking of Mr. Olbermann, he had a good segment last night on the Fox News memo that Huffington Post got their hands on yesterday. Remember when questions arose in 2004 about the story CBS ran on the President's days in the Texas Air National Guard, numerous executives lost their jobs. But when Fox is revealed over and over to pushing propaganda and a strict partisan agenda... nothing. The reason? People hold CBS News to a very high standard. No one expects any better of Fox-- especially their viewers.]

A Change Is Gonna Come

The President, in that spirit of bipartisanship we've all been hearing about, is using his trip to Asia to take on the Democrats' position for withdrawals in Iraq and concerns on globalization, dismissing both as "the old temptations of isolationism and protectionism". Yes, the Mr. With Us Or Against Us, who has isolated us from many of our former allies, is lecturing the Democrats on that. Apparently, for instance, Americans concerned that outsourcing our workforce to another continent will gut the American economy are foolish isolationists whose ideas must be "rejected". Or downsized. Whatever.

Now comes the question of whether the President will take that same stance in regards to the issue of global warming, which he acknowledged exists, but isn't sure needs to be dealt with. Will he concede the issue and sign off on legislation? Or stand firm and veto? The polar ice caps wait with baited breath!

Three Democratic senators who are to lead powerful environmental committees in Congress urged President George W. Bush on Wednesday to combat global warming by putting mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions...

...The three lawmakers -- Barbara Boxer of California, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, who was re-elected as an independent but has identified himself as a Democrat -- urged Bush to work with them "to signal to the world that global warming legislation is on the way."...

One can hope the President will greet the legislation as a liberator.

UPDATE: What we're up against... Sen. Inhofe (R-Ok) dismissed climate change concerns as "brainwashing".

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Quote of the Day II

"It strikes me that the celebratory mood our side should embrace for awhile has dried up rather quickly. Yes there are lots of things in the world to be pissed about which won't magically be fixed the day we start calling her Speaker Pelosi. Yes the media sucks and our leaders are imperfect. And, yes, George Bush shit the bed and there's no good way to unshit it.

But, no, the future of the Republic doesn't depend on who is elected to be Majority leader, or just about anything else right now.

Relax. Put your feet up. Feel like a winner for a few minutes."
--Blogger 'Atrios', on what's been a long and busy week in American politics.

I'm still on cloud nine, for the record.


Although we may are now behind South Africa on the issue of gay rights, we are light-years ahead of Iran (*) where "A gay Iranian man was hanged in public on Tuesday in the western city of Kermanshah on the charge of sodomy."

Always nice to get a little perspective.

(* Unless that creepy rodeo guy in the Borat movie get his way)

It's The Economic Populism, Stupid

USA Today looks at another big issue that helped turn the tide in last week's elections...

Election pushes globalization to forefront

(UPDATE: Sen.-elect Jim Webb has an editorial in the Wall Street Journal on these issues.)

Quote of the Day

"The point of such a hearing [for Robert Gates] would not be to torpedo his nomination, but rather to put down some markers on Iraq and attempt to define the parameters within which the Administration will operate going forward...

...After the 1968 elections, not many Americans would probably have guessed that we would be in Vietnam for another six and a half years. We're at a similarly decisive moment now."
--Talking Points Memo contributor David Kurtz, on the importance of the Gates hearings.

That last paragraph is the most important point. President Nixon ran on a campaign of ending the war and instead spent most of his presidency continuing Johnson's escalation, accomplishing nothing more than increasing the body count. Finally, reality (and domestic scandals) set in and he was forced to cut our losses and end a dark chapter in American foreign policy. If a similar decision isn't made soon-- and the Democrats do have ideas in that regard-- then we will find ourselves deeper in the hole in a few years, as President Bush prepares to cut and run back to Crawford leaving his successor with the difficult choice he couldn't bring himself to make.

The media needs to stop acting as if the platform that the Democrats ran on (and won with) was winning the war, rather than ending it. We'd all like to win, but even many of the war's earliest, most fervent supporters are realizing that is no longer an option. The circumstances are not with us and we don't have the resources in any case. I've yet to hear a compelling case to the contrary. It's all just variations of 'stay the course'.

Whether it's a timetable for phased withdrawals, bringing in the U.N. to craft a solution, or some other path, our main focus should be on developing an exit strategy. Otherwise, this election will have meant nothing and we will all be watching this play out in a few years.

[Related reading:
-Newsweek (Michael Hirsh): All the King's Horses…
It's too late for Jim Baker, Nancy Pelosi or anyone else to put this Humpty Dumpty back together again. But if Iraq is hopeless, there’s still time for Afghanistan.

-Time magazine (Michael Kinsley): When "Oops" Isn't Enough--
Would it really kill the neocons to apologize for the Iraq war?

Hard To Have Faith

A headline for the "we can't stand down 'til they stand up" crowd:

NY Times: Iraq Govt. Orders Arrest Of Police Officers In Connection With Massive Kidnapping

My sympathy and support for the Iraqi people is absolute. The Iraqi leaders? Notsomuch.

Go Directly To Gitmo, Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect Any Rights

We're fighting for freedom, we're fighting for democracy, etc etc...

AP: Administration: Detainees have no rights
The Bush administration said Monday that Guantanamo Bay prisoners have no right to challenge their detentions in civilian courts and that lawsuits by hundreds of detainees should be dismissed...

...Human rights groups and attorneys for the detainees say the [Military Commissions Act] is unconstitutional. Prisoners normally have the right to challenge their imprisonment...

Not in George W. Bush's America. Here he is the sole decider of whether or not you are a terrorist. Guilty until proven innocent. If we ever present you an opportunity to prove it.

The most Orwellian part?
The Justice Department said Monday that the detainees have no constitutional rights because they are being held overseas. Giving military detainees access to civilian courts "would severely impair the military's ability to defend this country," government attorneys wrote.

Translation: 'If we adhere to the ideals we are supposedly fighting for, it'll make us less safe... somehow.'

Meanwhile, Glenn Greenwald has the latest in a series of tales of innocent men snatched up by the government and disappeared down W's rabbit hole... Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri was in the United States legally on a student visa and lived in Peoria with his wife and five children. Here is what happened to him-
In December, 2001 he was detained as a "material witness" to suspected acts of terrorism and ultimately charged with various terrorism-related offenses, mostly relating to false statements the FBI claimed he made as part of its 9/11 investigation. Al-Marri vehemently denied the charges, and after lengthy pre-trial proceedings, his trial on those charges was scheduled to begin on July 21, 2003.

But his trial never took place, because in June, 2003 -- one month before the scheduled trial -- President Bush declared him to be an "enemy combatant." As a result, the Justice Department told the court it wanted to turn him over to the U.S. military, and thus asked the court to dismiss the criminal charges against him, and the court did so (the dismissal was "with prejudice," meaning he can't be tried ever again on those charges). Thus, right before his trial, the Bush administration simply removed Al-Marri from the jurisdiction of the judicial system -- based solely on the unilateral order of the President -- and thus prevented him from contesting the charges against him.

Instead, the administration immediately transferred al-Marri to a military prison in South Carolina (where the administration brings its "enemy combatants" in order to ensure that the executive-power-friendly 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has jurisdiction over all such cases). Al-Marri was given the "Padilla Treatment" -- kept in solitary confinement, denied all contact with the outside world, including even his own attorneys, not charged with any crimes, and given no opportunity to prove his innocence. Instead, the Bush administration simply asserted the right to detain him indefinitely without so much as charging him with anything.
Feel proud?

I hope the Democratic congress will have the courage to take on these immoral, illegal, and unconstitutional practices without fear of being labeled unpatriotic or weak on terrorism. As I said on the warrantless wiretapping issue, if we are to accept that we are involved in a struggle against global terrorism of an indeterminate length (and by definition, there is no end to such an ill-defined struggle), then it is doubly important that we not compromise our laws, values, and Constitution for some illusionary expediency in fighting it. Our soldiers aren't dying so George W. Bush can act like a law unto himself.

[PS- The Washington Post writes about two memos the Democrats might want to ask about.]

Fair and Balanced

Anyone who has seen Robert Greenwald's documentary "OUTFOXED: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism" knows that one of the main ways the Fox management ensures partisan purity is by passing out memos with the top talking points for the day (ie. in August 2004, memos instructed Fox News personalities to hit Sen. Kerry on the Swift Boat and 'flip flop' fronts) so that everyone will be hitting the same points.

The Huffington Post has gotten its hands on one of these Fox memos from late last week, in response to Democratic election results. Read it and chuckle at the official propaganda outlet of the Republican minority. Money quotes: "Just because Dems won, the war on terror isnt over" and "Be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents, who must be thrilled at the prospect of a Dem controlled Congress." Wow and wow. Journamalism at its finest.

[PS- This isn't in that memo, but here is how is reporting the race for House majority leader: "Murtha, Hoyer launch bloody campaign for House No. 2 spot; Lott, Alexander vie for Senate GOP No. 2 position". See, when it's the Democrats, it's a "bloody campaign"; when it's the Republicans, they "vie" for the spot. Got it?

UPDATE: Trent Lott is back!? Murtha's bid on the Dem side appears a lost cause.]

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Are We A Better Country Than South Africa?

South Africa, a country with apartheid until 1994, has now outpaced us on gay civil rights...

AP: S. Africa parliament OKs gay marriages
The South African parliament on Tuesday approved new legislation recognizing gay marriages — a first for a continent where homosexuality is largely taboo...

If their government can look past the cultural taboos of the fringe, why can't we?

I am reminded of something Bill Maher said two weeks ago: "America must stop bragging that it's the greatest country on Earth and start acting like it." Amen.

More Advice To The Democrats

The American Prospects' Robert Reich has the standard advice for the Dems...
Some Democrats want to expose the malfeasance and nonfeasance of the Bush Administration -- find out who really knew what and when with regard to weapons of mass destruction, Abu Ghraib, Katrina, payoffs to Abramoff, and all the other rot. That’s understandable, but it would be far better if Democrats used their new-found power to lay out a new agenda for America...

...[The] public and the media are already suffering from outrage fatigue. And the Democrats wouldn’t be credible, anyway. It will be easy for Republicans to dismiss their efforts as more of the same old partisan bickering...

...Instead of dwelling on what’s gone wrong, Democrats should focus on what to do right. For example:
  • Cut the Alternative Minimum Tax so it doesn’t slam the middle class, and roll back the Bush tax cuts for the rich.

  • Open Medicare to every American who needs affordable health insurance, and use Medicare’s resulting huge bargaining clout to reduce drug prices.

  • Bar companies from deducting from their corporate income taxes any executive pay in excess of $1 million a year.

  • Raise the minimum wage and index it to inflation.

  • Reform Social Security by eliminating the ceiling on payments so people earning over $100,000 a year pay the same percent of their income as everyone else.

  • Raise fuel economy standards, eliminate subsidies to the oil companies, and use the money instead for basic R&D in non-carbon based energy.

  • Renegotiate the Kyoto protocols on greenhouse gas emissions.

  • And while we’re at it, reaffirm the Geneva Conventions.

Democrats should use their new-found clout to offer ideas for tackling America’s hard problems. Even if these bills get vetoed by the President, at least they set out an agenda for where the nation ought to be heading.

That’s what the election of 2008, which started yesterday, ought to be about.

We will be hearing variations of this alot in the coming weeks.

I think everyone agrees that the main priority should be a forward-looking legislative agenda (because our country's problems are too vast to keep putting off), but I am sick of this "investigations will make them look partisan!" nonsense. They were elected in part because people were upset and disturbed by the actions of the current administration... Impeachment is already off the table and Rep. Pelosi and Sen. Reid are on the record as promising to run a tight, controlled ship. I doubt, however, Americans will mind a few targeted hearings (read: not the fishing expeditions of a 1,000 subpoenas the GOP went on throughout the '90s) to get to the bottom of things that the Republicans have covered up for the past few years: why we went to war in Iraq, how our tax money has been spent there/war profiteering, global warming, misuse of intelligence, etc.

These are not insignificant matters. For the Republicans-- who spents millions of dollars investigating Clinton's sexual behavior and then covered up for Bush-- to get angry at such hearings only further reiterates why we are lucky that voters threw them out of power.

Looking to the future should be the priority, but if we sweep the past under the rug without first holding it up to the light, we are ensuring that future administrations will attempt the same radical paths. The Republicans and the media are preemptively dismissing any plans by the Democrats for oversight and accountability as "payback time", but I hope the Democrats and the public know better. It is Congress' job to do this stuff. The only people arguing otherwise are those worried about what uncomfortable facts may come to light on the other end of a Democratic subpoena.

As for the comment that the Democrats wouldn't be "credible" on these matters, what does that mean? Who would be credible? The Republicans? President Bush? James Baker and his fancy little commission? I do take comfort in noting that many-- but not all, natch-- of the people saying these things are the same people who said the Democrats couldn't take both houses of Congress, writing story after story of the genius of the (now-failed) Republican strategy. These same people are now raising the bar so high for the Democrats that even the slightest misstep will be seen as a monumental failure.

I'd urge Dems to heed this advice on legislation and bipartisan support. But ignore the rest.

A Tale Of Three Headlines

I don't even need to comment; these three headlines really do tell the whole story...

Reuters: Bush, Israel's Olmert turn up heat on Iran

Reuters: Iran says ready to consider any U.S. offer to talk

AP: Blair wants Iran to aid Mideast peace

One of those is not like the other.

[Yellow inter-journalist Matt Drudge, meanwhile, lays it on thick. It's a bad habit for him.]

Odds and Ends

Lot of news in the past week, here's a quick roundup of the big stuff...

Groundbreaking begins on the Martin Luther King memorial on the National Mall.

President Bush, proving once again he has a disturbingly distorted view of what kind of nation we are, said in his weekly radio address that Americans "can take pride" that we held an election "even in a time of war". Yea, thanks for not cancelling them, George. I assume this radio address is probably closer to how he is really feeling.

Oh, and that liberal media? Nope, still not liberal.

Speaker-to-be Pelosi is asserting herself into the Majority Leader race by publicly backing Rep. Murtha (for his early stance for withdrawal from Iraq) against the safer candidate, Rep. Steny Hoyer. Pelosi is also under scrutiny for saying she won't name as chair of the House intelligence committee Rep. Harman, who is the ranking Dem on the committee, in favor of another controversial candidate. This is being watched closely by the media, waiting not-so-patiently for the Dems' first screwup so they can pounce.

Senate Democrats, however, have already selected party leaders. Full leadership lineup- here.

Joe Lieberman, who will caucus with the Democrats (if only for his own self-interest), is still playing games, hinting he wouldn't rule out switching sides. And some are wondering what kind of oversight Sen. Lieberman is planning for the administration he has supported so much, now that he will be chair of Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Likely answer? Not much.

The NY Times, meanwhile, thinks Sen.-elect Tester is really awesome. I concur.

Over at the RNC, they have selected the next party chairman: Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida, who will remain in the Senate as he does this job. Little history note... Sen. Martinez's office was responsible for the spring 2005 memo to Republicans instructing them on taking advantage of Terri Schiavo for political gain. Keep up the great work!

The person responsible for sending "suspicious white powder to celebrities and U.S. politicians" (Jon Stewart, David Letterman; Keith Olbermann, Nancy Pelosi, and Sen. Charles Schumer) has been caught. It was Chad Castagana of California, who apparently frequented numerous right-wing websites (surprise, surprise).

Elton John says that religion sucks.

Finally, in that pesky ol' war, gunman have kidnapped at least 150 people "in a lightning raid on a Baghdad higher education office" today. Meanwhile, at "least 82 people were killed or found dead in murders, bombings and clashes nationwide." Sounds like a place we should be staying indefinitely.

Monday, November 13, 2006

And Now, The Real Battle Begins

Here is the no-shit headline of the week: "Elections may shift U.S. Iraq war policy".

Money quote: "More than half of voters said they disapproved of the war in Iraq, wanted troops to start coming home and didn't think the war has improved security in the United States, according to exit polls conducted Tuesday for The Associated Press and the television networks. Those most unhappy with the war helped put Democrats in control of Congress."

The new Congress doesn't convene until January, but the war debate has already begun.

First the Republicans... Since we all know that the White House doesn't have an Iraq plan/policy (still waiting for James Baker and his crew to think one up for them), I'll use Sen. McCain, the presumptive nominee for the elections in 2008 (a year in which in which we'll still be deeply mired in the Iraq mess if he has his way) to illustrate the GOP position. Sen. McCain was on 'Meet The Press' yesterday morning reiterating his support for sending in more troops. Maybe two years ago that would've made a difference, but now that option should be off the table and in the trash. At this point, the only way anyone should be definining "victory" is us getting out with the least amount of collateral damage possible. Tim Russert, to his credit, did point out to McCain that there is very little support for sending in more troops and the vast majority of Americans want to start getting out. Much like in his recent interview on 'Hardball', McCain seemed uninterested in addressing that pesky fact. In that interview, Chris Matthews had confronted McCain on the issue of where the tens of thousands of extra troops he wants to send to Iraq are going to come from, doing an audience experiment to point out that once asked to actually, you know, volunteer to go fight this war, the amount of support for the war decreases to about nothing.

McCain also said that this is a "critical time" in Iraq and that "we’re either going to lose this thing or win this thing within the next several months." This is, of course, the exact same thing these people have been saying since 2004. These people are delusional. This attitude isn't much better than that of the President, who is on the record as just hoping for the best and buying time until his term expires and then leaving the mess for the next President to clean up.

Bottom line-- the Republican position here was rejected by voters. Time to move on.

And so we come to the Democrats... Based on everything I have read, here is the Democrats' proposal: Establish a timetable for withdrawals to put pressure on the Iraqi government to take more responsibility, make 2007 a "year of transition" based on said timetable with remaining troops training Iraqi forces and/or moving to the periphery, consider the splitting of Iraq into three autonomous governments (Shia, Sunni, Kurd), and finishing withdrawls once this process is complete. Says Sen. Levin (D-Michigan), "We need to begin a phased redeployment of forces from Iraq in four to six months... The point of this is to signal to the Iraqis that the open-ended commitment is over and that they are going to have to solve their own problems."

I have seen a lot of talk in the media that timetables are bad because it might 'embolden' the terrorists. Newsflash-- us invading Iraq emboldened them a hell of alot, so that argument is moot. The fact of the matter is that a stern timetable (with withdrawals beginning as soon as possible) is the only way we can get the Iraqis to truly 'stand up'. If we wait for them to stand up first, we'll still be in Iraq by the time the 2012 election rolls around. If this war is still an issue (and not something that is winding-down, as we focus our energies elsewhere) by the 2008 election, it will only be because the Republicans were too stubborn to realize withdrawal doesn't have to be synonymous with surrender.

We stayed in Vietnam for over a decade because we kept waiting for that miracle to come and make everything right. It never came (and it won't come now either), and ultimately President Nixon was forced to accept reality after a year or two of his own misguided escalation and end LBJ's mistake.

As for the assertion that us leaving would ensure that the Iraqis will be massacred, I would add that they're being plenty massacred now. If we remove the walking targets known as U.S. troops from the country and leave a political solution on the way out (ie. the three autonomous governments plan), I have to hope that the Iraqis can begin to undo the mess our misguided invasion created. I would also be fine with financial support to the country after we leave, but even that must be finite in duration. This wouldn't exactly be our first military withdrawal, you know. We've lived with the consequences before, we'll live with them again. And hopefully in the future, the trigger-happy fools who run our country's foreign policy won't be so quick to rush us off to war to serve their own ideological desires.

In conclusion, while no one is advocating going from extreme to the other ('stay the course' to 'withdraw everyone today'), the voters made it clear that they have no patience for anyone who wants to drag this failed experiment out any further, and they would like to see our troops coming home as soon as possible. Withdrawals-- on a timetable or not-- are the only option we want to hear about. Period. Any politician thinking about their political future in 2008 and beyond must accept this reality and move on. No more waiting for some undefinable victory, no more buying time. We need to cut our losses and start bringing this war to a close now, not in two or three years when Bush leaves and the next guy has to clean up his mess. Now.

(Oh, and Afghanistan? It's not going so well either. Just for the record.)

Investigating War Profiteering, What A Concept!

Some more encouraging news from return-to-oversight department...

The Democrats plan to immediately press for legislation to reinstate a federal oversight agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, that was recently terminated by the Republicans because "the agency’s findings have consistently undermined Bush administration claims of widespread success in the reconstruction of Iraq." Transparency and accountability are coming back.

Says the NY Times, "The bills, the first of what are likely to be dozens of Democratic efforts to resurrect investigations of war profiteering and financial fraud in government contracting, could be introduced as early as Monday morning." Indeed, investigating the war profiteers should become a congressional priority in 2007.

Democrats Pledge Not To Fuck Up Like The Republicans Did

Fingers crossed, people, fingers crossed...

Washington Post: Democrats Find Lessons In GOP Reign
...Led by a feisty Nevada senator and the first woman in history to claim the House speaker's post, the long-banished Democrats hope to prove their bona fides as lawmakers and challenge a president from the other party to accept their agenda, a game plan taken straight from the Gingrich era's "Contract With America." They also intend to challenge President Bush to change course in Iraq and consider their demands for a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops.

But Democrats say they will avoid the overreaching, arrogance and rancorous partisanship that left them virtually powerless on Capitol Hill and spawned an era of political corruption and influence-peddling. Democratic leaders vowed last week to pass major ethics reforms early in the new 110th Congress, and to offer Republicans seats at the negotiating table and ample opportunities to amend bills on the floor -- opportunities that were denied their party...

...House Democratic leaders have put forward an ambitious opening salvo for January, a 100-hour legislative blitz that includes raising the minimum wage, boosting alternative-energy research and repealing tax breaks for oil companies. They also want to beef up seaport screening, expand college tuition assistance, boost stem cell research and allow the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices under Medicare...

...But once the 100 hours or so pass, pressure will mount on Democrats to confront what many liberals see as the misdeeds of Bush and the Republican Party. The party's base is clamoring for Democrats to repeal tax cuts skewed to the affluent, to revisit the new law authorizing military tribunals for terrorism suspects and to investigate the run-up to the Iraq invasion.

To some Democrats, such calls raise memories of the aggressive -- and ultimately self-destructive -- stance that House Republicans took when they stormed to power in the 1994 election and later voted to impeach President Bill Clinton, only to see Clinton acquitted in the Senate...

.Once Democrats have exhausted their consensus agenda, a legislative priority list they call "6 for '06," they will have to decide whether they need to become more ambitious -- balancing the budget, overhauling immigration policy, or tackling problems of poverty and the uninsured, for instance -- or focus on the nuts and bolts of governance to prove competence ahead of the 2008 campaign...

Despite attempts to paint it as controversial somehow, the majority of the Democrats' planned agenda is 100% mainstream and very popular. Change the course in the war, a lot of economic populism, some oversight, and a return to scientific progress... it's hard to see what any reasonable person finds objectionable there. Again, if you listened to the concerned rhetoric about 'extreme' Democrats, you'd think that this was their agenda.

Besides the standard disdain for liberals and the 'no mandate!' mantra I hope I have complained about enough, one thing in this article does really annoy me... the talking point I keep hearing that starting investigations and hearings will make Democrats look 'partisan' and 'extreme' and will turn off voters. I have to believe this is untrue. It's not like the Democrats are going overboard like talking about investigating... semen stains on dresses. Heck, they even ruled impeachment out (a decision I am willing to live with), even though most Americans probably wouldn't be opposed to it. Investigating how we got into Iraq, where our tax money went to in said war, what the President has done with the extra powers Congress gave him, what to do on global warming-- stuff like that-- is not extreme. It is only because the outgoing Republican Congress so shirked their oversight duties (to the point where people seem to have forgotten they were supposed to hold oversight hearings) is why it seems extreme now. The Democrats are simply going to do the stuff the Republicans were supposed to do, but didn't. It's literally their job.

All this proves to me is that no matter how out of the way the Democrats go to be bipartisan and to prove their moderation, everything they do will be spun by the Republicans and the lazy media as extreme or out of the mainstream. They can't win. Our only hope is that the Democrats are finally smart enough to not listen to these professional morons and just do the job we elected them to do.

I'm sure I'll be repeating this alot as the conventional wisdom machine continues along...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Democrats On Warrantless Wiretapping: 'We're No Rubberstamp'

Sign of the times... a headline we would not have read a week ago-

AP: Warrantless wiretaps unlikely to be OK'd

Democracy rules. From the article-
Legislation aimed at President Bush's once-secret program for wiretapping U.S.-foreign phone calls and computer traffic of suspected terrorists without warrants shows all the signs of not moving ahead, notwithstanding President Bush's request this week that a lame-duck Congress give it to him...

...As for next year, Bush should not expect Democrats to allow such legislation to pass without language establishing considerable congressional oversight of any expansion of warrantless wiretaps.

"We have been asked to make sweeping and fundamental changes in law for reasons that we do not know and in order to legalize secret, unlawful actions that the administration has refused to fully divulge," said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the next Judiciary Committee chairman. "If legislation is needed for judicial review, then we should write that legislation together, in a bipartisan and thoughtful way."...

Bold added by me because... bingo.

Meanwhile, losing the election doesn't mean the White House gave up on the 'opposing us = terrorist appeasement' rhetoric-
The Bush administration has a backup plan. In speeches over the next few weeks, the Justice Department will launch a new campaign for the legislation by casting the choice as one between supporting the program or dropping it altogether — and appearing soft on al-Qaida.

Disgusting. Is this the new bipartisanship the right keeps discussing?

Meanwhile, I wait fruitlessly for someone, anyone, in the government or media to actually address the issue of how warrantless, illegal wiretapping makes any operational difference versus going through the legally required oversight channels. Anyone care to tackle that pesky lil' fact?

More questions that people should be asking- here.

This news of this opposition to the bill will get the people on the far-right who think the entire U.S. legacy should be reworked to accomodate the never-ending War On Terror (the Malkins and Hannitys, etc) defensive, but as we have been told by the right... elections have consequences. The Democrats-- who grew less timid throughout the year in standing up to the President's unconstitutional view of his powers-- now have expressed a desire to reverse his most extreme actions. If we are to except that we are involved in a struggle against global terrorism of an indeterminate length (and by definition, there is no end to such a struggle), then it is doubly important that we not compromise our laws, values, and Constitution for some illusionary expediency in fighting it. We must not view the law and Constitution as expendable, we must not view the entire world as one big battlefield and everyone in it as terrorist on our sole judgement, and we must not use this struggle as an excuse to radically expand the powers of our government.

The right-wing will continue to distort this as a strawman battle between Tough Republicans and Appeasing Democrats, as between the Undefeatable U.S. and the Omipresent Islamofascist, but the Democrats must not give in. I disdain terrorism as seriously as every American, but I will not sit on my hands and watch our government turn its back on its ideals for some false sense of security. The idiotic politicians who say things like "you don't have civil liberties if you're dead" are the ones who truly hate America.

Finally, Sen. Leahy also pledges to restore habeas corpus rights for detainees.

Checks and balances. We missed you. Welcome back.

The Iraqi Perspective

A look at how the Iraqis view the occupation and what changes our election may bring-
Hashim al-Menti smiled wanly at the marine sergeant beside him on his couch. The sergeant had appeared in the darkness on Wednesday night, knocking on the door of Mr. Menti’s home.

When Mr. Menti answered, a squad of infantrymen swiftly moved in, making him an involuntary host...

...Mr. Menti had passed the time watching television. Now he had news. He spoke in broken English. “Rumsfeld is gone,” he told the sergeant, Michael A. McKinnon.

“Democracy,” he added, and made a thumbs-up sign. “Good.” ... “This is better for Iraq,” he said. “Iraqi people say thank you.”...

....Mr. Menti, 50, a radiologist by training, spent part of the afternoon trying to impress the meaning of the news on the young sergeant beside him on the couch.

The war policy was soon to change, he said.

“I think in one year you return to America,” he said.

The sergeant sat implacably.

“This is good for you,” Mr. Menti said. “No?”

He spoke of years of fear. Under Saddam Hussein, he said, they were afraid. Now, with the American troops and insurgents fighting in Anbar, they are still afraid. He returned to the news of Mr. Rumsfeld’s resignation.

“People in America are very happy,” he said. “I saw this on TV. And I am very happy. Thank you, American people.”

He pointed at the young marines before him, smoking on his couches, drinking his hot, sweetened tea. “These soldiers, in Iraq, they make freedom?” he asked.

“Yes,” Sergeant McKinnon said.

“What kind of freedom?” he asked.

He had been talking about the living conditions in the province since the night before, when the marines appeared at his door.

There are almost no schools, he said. There is almost no medicine. There is little food, and no electricity except from generators. The list went on. No water. No work. Violence. Abductions. Beheadings. Explosions.

His son-in-law had been kidnapped by insurgents seven months ago, he said, and a note the insurgents left said he was abducted for being friendly with American troops. He has not been seen since.

In Baghdad, he said, Iranian-backed death squads were killing Sunni citizens. The country was falling apart.

“You like freedom?” he asked the sergeant. “This kind? This way?”

“No,” Sergeant McKinnon said.

“I think you and I and many people do not like freedom in this way,” he said. “I believe this. I am sure.”

“It is wrong, the American Army coming here. It is wrong.”

He looked at Sergeant McKinnon, who is younger than many of his 14 children. He was trying to draw him out.

“If American Army came here for three months, four months, O.K.” Mr. Menti said. “But now is four years.”

If there were no American military presence in Iraq, he said, there would be no insurgents. One serves as a magnet for the other.

Mr. Menti spoke to the sergeant as if he were an American diplomat, as if he had some influence over the broad sweeps of American foreign policy. The sergeant remained quiet and polite.

“I don’t think he realizes that we’re trying to make this country safer for him,” he said to Lance Corporal Maguire.

“I think he realizes that we’re trying to make it safe, but that the more we stay here the more people come in and make it worse,” Lance Corporal Maguire replied....

Food for thought.

And no, I don't like freedom in that way either.

Sound Advice

Andrew Sullivan to Democrats: Don't forget about terrorism.

How could they forget?

My New Governor Rules

Fox News' Neil Cavuto recently interviewed Eliot Spitzer. The discussion went like this:

Cavuto: 'Punishing corporate criminals undermines capitalism, comrade!'

Spitzer: 'Ummm no... corporate crime undermines capitalism.'

Fox News really isn't taking the election results well.

Sen. Feingold Rules Out '08 Run; I Cry A Little Inside

After a week of non-stop good news, a little let-down was inevitable. Sen. Feingold has announced today officially that he is not seeking the presidential nomination in 2008, as had been expected. This really disappoints me, but I am glad to see Sen. Feingold wants to commit himself 100% to his Senate duties rather than be a part-time Senator while he prepares a presidential run (we're looking at you, John and Hillary). Now, it must be said here that every Feingold supporter knew he had little chance of getting the nomination amongst better-funded candidates. Not just because he is an unapologetic liberal, but also because he is a) Jewish, and b) single/divorced. Let's face it, in many parts of the country, that woudn't 'play well'.

But every Democratic primary season needs one honest candidate in the mix to keep the others honest-- to call them out on the issues that actually matter, not just the ones their overpaid pollsters tell them are. Sen. Feingold has always been ahead of the curve on the issues (the war, Patriot Act, campaign reform, warrantless wiretapping, etc) and could have forced other candidates to debate issues that, while they might think are politically uncomfortable, are actually vitally important. Alas, it is not to be, and we can hope that another dark-horse candidate who shares these same values and positions will step into the race next year. Listen to liberals/Democrats and you will hear a real worry about Sen. Clinton and her chances of winning the general election. A stronger, less-triangulating candidate is needed. Who will step up to fill that void? At this point, I'd prefer to draft Al Gore out of retirement, but I'm 100% open to any candidate who makes their case.

Here is an excerpt from Sen. Feingold's letter announcing the decision:
...Like many Americans, I am excited by the results of the November 7th election... [I]n this new Congress we can start, not only to undo much of the damage that one-party rule has done to America, we can actually advance progressive solutions to such major issues as guaranteed healthcare, dependence on oil, and our unbalanced trade policies. The Senate of the 110th Congress could also well be a place of greater bi-partisan opportunities for change; something I am very proud to have been effective at in both Republican and Democratic Senates...

...Unfailingly, people responded well to my positions: opposition to the Iraq war; calling for a timeline to redeploy our troops from Iraq so we can focus on those who attacked us on September 11th, 2001; my opposition to the flawed provisions of the USA Patriot Act that threaten the freedoms of law-abiding Americans; my call for accountability for the Administration's arrogant disregard for the law especially with regard to illegal wiretapping; fighting for fiscal responsibility including tough common sense budget rules that will help end the reckless policies that have heaped a mountain of debt on our children and grandchildren; as well as my strong belief in guaranteed healthcare for all Americans and substantial investment in alternative energy sources and technologies.

Yet, while I've certainly enjoyed the repeated comments or buttons saying, "Run Russ Run", or "Russ in '08", I often felt that if a piece of Wisconsin swiss cheese had taken the same positions I've taken, it would have elicited the same standing ovations. This is because the hunger for progressive change we feel is obviously not about me but about the desire for a genuinely different Democratic Party that is ready to begin to reverse the 25 years of growing extremism we have endured.

I'm sure a campaign for President would have been a great adventure and helpful in advancing a progressive agenda. At this time, however, I believe I can best advance that progressive agenda as a Senator with significant seniority in the new Senate serving on the Foreign Relations, Intelligence, Judiciary and Budget Committees. Although I have given it a lot of thought, I cannot muster the same enthusiasm for a race for President while I am trying simultaneously to advance our agenda in the Senate...
Thanks, Senator.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go take the 'Russ in '08' button off my bag...

[Related reading:
-The Nation: Feingold Won't Seek Democratic Nod
-Glenn Greenwald: Why the Beltway class can't comprehend the Russ Feingolds of the world]

Spinning the Democratic Majority, Pt. II

Another good take on how the media seems to be purposely missing the point on the Democratic takeover...

NPR Check: The Invisible Issue