Friday, December 01, 2006

I Don't Need Your Civil War

Well, it's Friday evening... time to wind down with some YouTube viewing.

In this clip, the Daily Show's Jon Stewart and John Oliver debate what to call the civil war sectarian situation thingy in Iraq. In the end, Stewart and Oliver decide to "agree to disagree on how we state our agreements".

[Related reading: No graceful exit-

We blundered into Iraq for made-in-America reasons. Now our absorption in domestic politics will dictate our blundering out.

Peace in the Middle East

Former President Jimmy Carter has written a new book... 'Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid'

It is sure to be controversial.

Considering that our national dialogue for the past 5 years has been very much Middle East-centric, it is amazing how little spotlight this situation gets in the grand scheme of things (understandably, being bogged down in a quagmire elsewhere does tend to distract us). After all, this conflict really is the underlying issue that fuels much of the discontent in that region. Whatever your opinion on this conflict, there is no denying that (unlike what President Bush tries to paint Iraq as), this is the 'central front' in a war on terrorism. It is a front that we cannot fight, but one which our place in the world makes us responsible for helping to solve.

Besides our inability to work miracles, one large problem has been that our leaders and media figures have been too busy over the years picking sides (and it's entirely lop-sided as to which side on top of that) to actually sit down and approach this situation honestly. The only one who seemed to me to achieve a decent balance was Bill Clinton, but he never really committed to the issue (distracted by domestic scandals, both real and fake). It all becomes just another topic to debate, rather than a key international crisis in need of solving.

I don't know what it would take it to change that, other than the right President. That person has yet to submit their application.

Quote(s) of the Day

Two quotes today... one looking at the issue's substance, the other at how it's been spun.

"Bush’s war in Iraq has been repudiated, the midterm elections did this. There is now wide open intellectual space to debate America’s next foreign policy...

...Now is the time for an honest post mortem of Bush foreign policy. Bush foreign policy has failed not just because of incompetence or bad luck in Iraq. The entire intellectual edifice of Bush foreign policy – such as it is – is deeply flawed. And let’s be clear. The Bush administration’s grand strategy is not simply a variation on earlier postwar liberal internationalist grand strategies – as some conservatives and liberals suggest. It was a radical departure from America’s postwar liberal hegemonic orientation – and the world has bitten back."
--G. John Ikenberry (current professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University, and former State Dept. employee) asking how deep the failure of the Bush foreign policy goes.

With the exception of maybe the first month or two of the Afghanistan mission, the failure goes all the way down, in my opinion. It's just been a total disaster, the extent of which even early Bush cynics like myself never anticipated.

The saddest part is that we cannot even give them the benefit of good intentions. All of this failure is rooted in the hijacking of our country's foreign policy by a small, and narrow-minded, group of ideologues who believed that the great tragedy of 9/11 gave them a blank check to make reality their dreams of U.S. military supremacy on the world stage, starting with a pet project in Iraq. And now they are using the plight of the Iraqi people-- who have suffered the most for their lack of foresight-- to justify postponing the inevitable for another year or two.

The next quote touches on that and their efforts to deflect blame for their crimes...

"I'm sorry that these starry-eyed neocons who looked at George Bush and saw a genius are disappointed that the rest of the country didn't support their vision. They were given more of a chance to prove themselves than dreamers and fools usually are --- and they failed on a grand scale. This is what the Bushites deserve and what they should expect for ram-rodding through a war without real public support and then screwing it up royally. The families of all these dead and wounded soldiers, unfortunately, didn't deserve this and neither did the poor Iraqis who didn't know they were going to be guinea pigs in a 7th grade neocon thought experiment based on cartoons and psycho-babble.

Blaming the American people is an excellent political strategy, however, and I hope these conservatives keep it up. There's nothing that betrayed voters like more than to be called stupid, cowardly and traitorous."
--Blogger 'Digby', on the rhetoric that assigns blame in every direction except for those actually responsible.

The election was supposed to change all this. In 2007, we'll find out if that's the case.

We Will Never Lose If We Remove Our Shoes

Airport security is going to get so much more fun.

AP: Millions of Travelers Rated for Terror Potential-
Assessments Cannot Be Viewed or Challenged

AP: Phoenix airport to test X-ray screening

(*subject title is reference to Barenaked Ladies song, 'Take it Back', from their new album)

House Intelligence Committee Chair Selected; World Exhales

After weeks of almost entirely fact-free media speculation on who will chair the House Intelligence Committee come January (egged on Alcee Hasting's camp, then spun by pundits to frame it badly for Pelosi because they just need something to discuss), the soon-to-be-Speaker has made her actual selection. Thus concludes what is sure to be the first in a series of ridiculous overblown Democratic non-scandals emanating from the GOP noise machine over the next two years. Once again the pundits were ridiciously off the mark-

AP: Aides: Reyes to chair Intelligence panel
House Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi has chosen a Border-Patrol-agent-turned-congressman to lead the House Intelligence Committee, according to congressional aides.

Democratic leaders are contacting congressional and other political officials to tell them Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, will be the new chairman of the committee when Democrats take over in January...

...Under Democratic control, his committee is expected to conduct more public oversight of some of the most difficult issues facing the United States, including terrorism, Iraq and government surveillance. Given the committee's inherently secret nature, much of the work will have to be done behind closed doors.

In an interview this month, Reyes said he will insist on more information about the Bush administration's most classified programs and how they are working. The Republicans, he said, have made a habit of rubber-stamping those programs....

Sounds good to me. And all this talk of oversight (kind of, you know, the function of the committee) is the main reason why Rep. Pelosi decided not to re-appoint Jane Harman as chair. As ranking Democrat, Harman has shown depressingly little interest in finding out what the hell is going on (on warrantless wiretapping, on the war, on Bush's other less-than-legal war on terror activities). It was a ridiciously relaxed, 'benefit of the doubt' attitude to matters of great seriousness. Hopefully Rep. Reyes is a little more curious about these things.

And media, next time will you get the facts before reporting a story? You won't? Oh darn.

[PS- Justin Rood at TPMmuckraker runs through the list of the many lawsuits and congressional probes set to (hopefully) reveal the truth about the President's warrantless spying program.

Ohh, and if someone wants to do something about how we treat terrorism suspects, that'd be great too.]

Whose Fault Is The Iraq Debacle?

It's your fault, of course. You fucking weak-willed, unappreciative American idiot. Shame on you for destabilizing the Middle East by destroying George W. Bush's brilliant master plan with all your fucking questions and concern. You should've clapped harder.

Just for that, you're uninvited to the White House holiday dinner. No pumpkin trifle for you!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sometimes, You Can Find Some Good News

From the NY Times-
The cost of treating children infected with H.I.V. and AIDS is poised to plummet next year, under a deal announced today between two Indian drugmakers and former President Bill Clinton’s foundation.

Cipla and Ranbaxy Laboratories agreed to make 19 different anti-retroviral drugs designed for children available to 62 developing countries at an average price of $60 a year, which is less than half of the lowest current price, the Clinton Foundation said in a statement. Because not everyone has access to the lowest current price, the plan will actually translate into a four- to six-fold cost reduction for many children, said Stephen Lewis, the United Nations special envoy for H.I.V. and AIDS in Africa.

Many current AIDS drugs are made only in dosages and formats appropriate for adults, but the new drugs will be made specifically for easy administration to children.

“Whatever else happens,” Mr. Clinton said by telephone this evening from Chennai, where he flew after announcing the program in New Delhi, “we’re going to be able to save hundreds of thousands — and, in the next few years, millions — of lives of young people, because there’s a funding source to get them medicine, there’s an affordable price, and the medicine itself is a 3-in-1 pill that will be far easier to take and stay on.”...

Something encouraging to start off your evening for a change.

UPDATE (12/1): Today the world marks World AIDS Day. Keep it in your thoughts.

Just Say No To Hillary

More and more, Hillary's sure-thing candidacy is being as the lost cause that is.

Andrew Sullivan pleads, 'Spare Us, Hillary'. I concur.

(Though I also think all this Obama talk is a bit premature and silly, as well)

Where We Stand

This summary of yesterday's events from the Washington Post says it all-
As late as Wednesday afternoon, it appeared that the White House was planning to go ahead with a three-way meeting that evening among Bush, Maliki and King Abdullah of Jordan. But when reporters showed up at the palace where the meeting was to take place, they were told by White House counselor Dan Bartlett that the session was off.

[Scooby Doo] Ruh-roh! [/Scooby Doo]

Bush and Maliki finally met today... after, of course, administration leaks trashing the latter.

I think this Newsweek headline says it all about how flexible the President will be:
"Adjust the Course-
Despite the Democratic congressional victory and James Baker's independent commission, President Bush seems unwilling to make major policy changes on Iraq."

And the meaningless war and senseless deaths beat goes on...

In other news: Iraq and Iran have reached a security agreement with each other. Vice President was summoned by his masters in Saudi Arabia because the leaders in that country are "concerned about the damage that the conflict in Iraq is doing across the region". A new poll finds that the majority of Americans believe Iraq is in a civil war, and only 13% believe incoming Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will improve matters, and over half support a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops with an additional 18% supporting an immediate withdrawal.

Oh, and James Baker's Iraq Study Group has reached a "consensus agreement" on Iraq. The group will release its super independent and awesome conclusions on December 6. I waited with bated breath.

When The Senator Met The President

For a guy born in super high society, the President sure has poor social skills.

From The Hill-
At a private reception held at the White House with newly elected lawmakers shortly after the election, Bush asked Webb how his son, a Marine lance corporal serving in Iraq, was doing.

Webb responded that he really wanted to see his son brought back home, said a person who heard about the exchange from Webb.

“I didn’t ask you that, I asked how he’s doing,” Bush retorted, according to the source.

Webb confessed that he was so angered by this that he was tempted to slug the commander-in-chief, reported the source, but of course didn’t. It’s safe to say, however, that Bush and Webb won’t be taking any overseas trips together anytime soon.

2007 will be rough year for President Bush. He is used to dealing with Joe Lieberman Democrats who want to give him hugs and kisses, and if he flipped out at Webb for answering a simple question honestly, then I can't imagine the tantrums he will throw when Congress actually stands up to him on the important issues.

The Washington Post has an expanded version of how the conversation ended-
"How's your boy?" Bush asked, referring to Webb's son, a Marine serving in Iraq.

"I'd like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President," Webb responded, echoing a campaign theme.

"That's not what I asked you," Bush said. "How's your boy?"

"That's between me and my boy, Mr. President," Webb said coldly, ending the conversation on the State Floor of the East Wing of the White House.

Translate: 'I don't care about your son, dude. Just give the pleasant, banal answer I expect.'

Our new Democratic Senate is nice, yes, I like it very much.

Does This Mean Terri Schiavo's Corpse Is Out As VP?

Doctor/Senator Bill Frist has announced that he will not run for President in 2008.

Please try not to cry so hard tonight, folks. Someone might catch AIDS.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

'Tis The Season

The real war may be a lost cause, but Bill'O is staying the course for the 'War on Christmas'.

Think Progress: O’Reilly Misfires In ‘War On Christmas’ Attack On Crate & Barrel

President Bush on Iraq: No, Let's Stay Forever

Once again the media gets all excited over the President's latest diplomatic adventure as if it means anything, and once again the President surprises no thinking person when he just says the same things he's been saying for years, no matter what pesky facts get in his way.

AP: Bush says U.S. won't pull out of Iraq
President Bush, under pressure to change direction in Iraq, said Tuesday he will not be persuaded by any calls to withdraw American troops before the country is stabilized...

Translation: We'll stay forever. An indefinite occupation. Just what the electorate ordered... oh, wait.

He's going to drag this out for the remainder of his presidency and then leave the growing mess for the next guy to clean up. This has been his official policy for over nine months now. And he will use the 'independent' recommendations of the Baker commission to enable this somehow, I am sure of it.

Bush said he will ask al-Maliki to explain his plan for quelling the violence.

See, the President wants to stay so that can he save face. But he still doesn't have a plan ('National Strategy for Victory' is soooo 2005), nor does he want to get his hands dirty. Just tell Maliki to fix it. Somehow. But we're not gonna leave. No. Bush wants us there when Maliki pulls the stability rabbit out of his hat.

More still-
Bush pushed back against skeptics of his goal of spreading freedom across the Middle East. "I understand these doubts but I do not share them," the president said.

Okay, so you're still delusional. That's a little disconcerting, but thanks for confirming.

More again-
Earlier Tuesday, Bush blamed the escalating bloodshed in Iraq on an al-Qaida plot to stoke cycles of sectarian revenge, and refused to debate whether the country has fallen into civil war.

So, he's blaming al-Qaida (which he's just using as shorthand for any violence he can't explain) for Iraq's internal sectarian problems. The same al-Qaida that wasn't in Iraq until we invaded it? For the same sectarian problems that no architect of this war made any attempts to understand before they swung at the beehive with their big, expensive bats? Okay then. Umm, Chris at Americablog, can you take this one? "Call Iraq 'civil war', call it 'sectarian violence' call it what you like, but to blame it all on al Qaiada is just another example of why Bush does not and will not get it. He is unable to see that Iraq has crossed the tipping point, that things have changed for the worse. If he is unable to see what everyone else sees how does anyone expect that he can turn around his final two years in office?"

Thanks. And I can add 'worst President ever'?

Why do I feel like that I have written this exact same entry at least a dozen times before? Because I have. Why do I feel like I will be writing it a dozen more times in the next two years? Because I will.

I know that the Democrats want to be nice and bipartisan and not be super crazy like the Republicans have been (and god bless 'em for it), but they really will have to hit the President hard on this issue. They are not dealing with a sensible man-- he is man who believes he is on a divine quest to bring democracy to the Middle East, no matter how many people have to die along the way. Or until 2009, when he's off the clock at last.

Playing nice and reaching across aisles is fantastic for issues like the mininum wage and immigration and global warming and healthcare, but not this war. They won this election in large part because the people on the other side of the aisle have so lost touch with reality. They may get back in touch with it sometime down the line, sure, but they have yet to do so. And so our new congressional leaders will have to risk sticking their necks out here; otherwise, all the legislative accomplishments they get passed will be continuously overshadowed by the ugly little war that would not end.

This election was about putting America back on the right track. One big thing to get out of the way first.

[Semi-related PS: There was a good discussion on KCRW's 'To The Point' yesterday (podcast- here), the kind you never hear on cable news. Episode dated 11/27; titled 'Violence and Diplomacy in the Middle East'.]

Quote of the Day

"'Centrism' as defined in the political dialogue today means 'being in the middle of elite opinion in Washington, D.C.' But if you plot this 'center' on the continuum that is American public opinion, you will find that it is nowhere near the actual center of the country at large.

The center of elite Washington opinion is ardently free trade, against national health care, opposed to market regulation, for continuing the Iraq War, and supportive of the flattest tax structure we've had in contemporary American history. That center is on the extreme fringe of the center of American public opinion, which is ardently skeptical of free trade, for universal health care, supportive of strong market regulations, insistent that the war end soon, and in favor of making the tax system more progressive.

This is not some conspiracy theory I'm putting forward here - it's all out in the open, proved by public opinion data readily available to anyone who looks for it."

--David Sirota, trying to figure out what pundits mean by the 'center'.


It's no secret that the leaders of the religious right in this country have as much in common with the teachings of Jesus as does a sales circular. But, much like the conservative movement that long ago allowed itself to be hijacked by these fanatics, when presented with an opportunity to change, they choose to stay the course. Here is an upsetting story-
The president-elect of the Christian Coalition of America has declined the job, saying the organization wouldn't let him expand its agenda beyond opposing abortion and gay marriage.

The Rev. Joel Hunter, who was scheduled to take over the socially conservative group in January from Roberta Combs, said he had hoped to focus on issues such as poverty and the environment.

"These are issues that Jesus would want us to care about," said Hunter, a senior pastor at Northland Church in Longwood, Fla...

..."They pretty much said, 'These issues are fine, but they're not our issues, that's not our base,'" Hunter said...

Rev. Hunter comes off here as the anti-Robertson... someone who believes that-- gosh!!-- poverty and the environment are more important concerns for Christians than abortions and queers gittin' hitched. And the Christian Coalition wanted none of that crazy talk! So another opportunity for self-improvement has slipped away. And we will still have Pat Robertson's perverted religiousity to kick around.

The plus side, again, is that now we'll have a congress not subservient to all of this.

Take My Liberty If You Spare Me Death

Newt Gingrich: 'The war on terror means freedom of speech should be reexamined.'

Blueduck: 'Please GOP, be stupid enough to nominate psychotic fools like this in 2008!'

Seems our long national nightmare isn't over yet; guess it's just more of a slumber now.

[PS- Before we "lose a city", Newt?? We almost lost New Orleans last year, as you may recall, and your party couldn't care less. Still don't. Go check in on the Big Easy, so that I don't have to hear another homeland security lecture from the Heckuvajob Party. Thanks; they'd appreciate the political support down there.]

Sen. Hagel on Iraq: It's Over, Time To Get Going

Republican Senator Chuck Hagel has written an op-ed calling for a phased withdrawal from Iraq. It is being mostly ignored, with many still choosing to ignore reality. Will Hagel be listened to where Democrats like Sen. Levin were dismissed? Don't hold your breath.

Washington Post Op-Ed (Sen. Chuck Hagel): Leaving Iraq, Honorably
There will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq. These terms do not reflect the reality of what is going to happen there. The future of Iraq was always going to be determined by the Iraqis -- not the Americans....

...The United States must begin planning for a phased troop withdrawal from Iraq. The cost of combat in Iraq in terms of American lives, dollars and world standing has been devastating...

...That is what is at stake over the next few months.

(full op-ed in link above)

Here are the most significant parts to me of his editorial-

Sen. Hagel said at the beginning that "There will be no military victory or military solution for Iraq" and also that "The future of Iraq was always going to be determined by the Iraqis -- not the Americans."

That has been true for some time now... but most are only now saying so.

The Senator also said: "We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam. Honorable intentions are not policies and plans."

That, in particular, has been true since the beginning of the war.

As was this: "And our effort in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate, partly because we took our focus off the real terrorist threat, which was there, and not in Iraq."

And this.... "We've been funding this war dishonestly, mainly through supplemental appropriations, which minimizes responsible congressional oversight and allows the administration to duck tough questions in defending its policies. Congress has abdicated its oversight responsibility in the past four years."

This has all been true for years... and it is what Republicans have been trying to paint as false or unpatriotic for just as long. The election has allowed and/or forced many Americans who have denied reality for the sake of party loyalty to finally acknowledge it. But that does not mean that these truths about the war became true on November 8th of this year. They have been true for a very long time. The political environment just changed enough for good men like Sen. Hagel to speak these truths out loud at last without fear of reprisal from within their own ranks.

I am also glad he brought up the bigger picture of the Mideast crisis when he said this: "The Middle East is more combustible today than ever before, and until we are able to lead a renewal of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, mindless destruction and slaughter will continue in Lebanon, Israel and across the Middle East."

He's right. And every second we have wasted occupying Iraq is a second we should've been spending on that issue-- the root cause of most of the instability in the region. We used to understand that. But the President distracted us from those larger issues with fearmongering about mushroom clouds and Saddam the 9/11 co-conspirator so that the neocons could advance their personal agenda of military dominance.

In conclusion, Hagel is absolutely right when he says "The United States must begin planning for a phased troop withdrawal from Iraq." And we must begin that ASAP; no more stalling.

It could've been started over a year ago, when the polls really turned against this madness, but the President was stubborn. Still is. As are many Republicans, best exemplified by John McCain (who seems to want to be the LBJ of this war without ever even being president). Hopefully the media will stop taking people like them seriously and start seeing the real leaders in that party are people like Hagel. And maybe they will then also realize that Democrats have had phased withdrawal plans waiting for some time now-- and that, instead of waiting for whatever bullshit compromise plan the Baker junta will throw at us, we should begin implementing those plans as soon as possible. Because Iraq is about to explode (on a greater level than before) and we don't want to be there when that happens.

[PS- That ol' "liberal" media? Still not citizens of RealityLand.]

A Thousand Words

This is a picture that is sure to break the heart of neocons everywhere...

It is Iraqi President Jalal Talabani having a jovial meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran yesterday. The two met to discuss issues of regional stability, most prominently controlling the violence in Iraq.

I am sure that the President and the neocon ghostwriters of his foreign policy never, ever set out to further destabilize the region, reunite the long-time enemies of Iraq and Iran, and have us reach out to a member of the 'axis of evil' to help us clean up our mess... but there you have it.

This outcome was predicted by some on the left, but that warning, as with the rest in 2002/2003, was discarded as the whinings of weak fools by the 'sensible' fools who helped lead us into disaster. This is the price of messianic hubris.

For better or worse, we have to live with this. It's their region; not ours. Theoretically, they want it under control as much as we do. They have the real stake in that.

Oh, and this would of course be a lovely time to start becoming energy independent, no?

[AP: Iraqi president seeks Iran's help]

More Odds And Ends

Pipe burst. Room flooded. It's that kind of a week. Here's more news saved from the cracks-

NBC News has officially decided to call the situation in Iraq a civil war (just because it, you know, is). Expect many pundits and right-wing bloggers to waste more time engaging in more semantical arguments about this.

Rush Limbaugh, tempermental child that he is, is done playing with the Middle East toy. Says that we should just "blow the place up." I'm sending him to bed without his oxycontin.

We still have Rummy to kick around for a while... facing likely confirmation, Robert Gates won't be sworn in as Defense Secretary until the new year. The reason? "[T]he delay is a 'personal gesture' from Bush to Rumsfeld: By waiting until after Dec. 29 to send him packing, Bush gives Rummy the right to call himself America's longest-serving secretary of defense." Awww, what a nice gesture between criminals. Those 'fresh perspectives' the President spoke of when he announced Rummy's exit three weeks ago can wait another month, right Middle East?

$500 million. That's what the President "hopes to raise... to build his library and a think tank at Southern Methodist University in Dallas". I'm sure there'll be a wall in Washington DC in 20 years that will be his real legacy.

Moving on... with the issue heating up over who will be the chair of the House Intelligence Committee when the new congress convenes, Glenn Greenwald notes that the ethical failures of Alcee Hastings leaves out one important thing: the leadership/intelligence failures of front-runner Jane Harman. Counters Josh Marshall: Third option, please.

(UPDATE: Rep. Pelosi meets with Hastings... he will drop his bid for the position.)

Ed Kilgore to Democrats: Don't write off the South!

With even the top energy companies 'coming to terms with climate change' and attempting preemptive adjustments before the new Congress forces them to clean up, Matt Drudge is still leading the way for climate change skeptics. Think Progress catches him in action again.

More from Think Progress... yes, people, raising the minimum wage is actually a good thing.

Oh, and also, the House's GOP frontman on the immigration issue is a crazy person.

The AP reports that the "Justice Department has begun an internal investigation into its handling of information gathered in the government's domestic spying program." Italics added by me because, well, that will go nowhere. The investigation, for instance, does not plan to address the constitutional implications.

Finally, some Colorada residents say 'bah humbug!' to 'peace on earth, goodwill toward men'. From the AP again: "A homeowners association in southwestern Colorado has threatened to fine a resident $25 a day until she removes a Christmas wreath with a peace sign that some say is an anti- Iraq war protest or a symbol of Satan." Well happy holidays to you too, homeowners association!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Meanwhile, In Iraq...

So much news, one doesn't know where to begin. Let's start with the scary stuff.

First up, a major problem threatening to unravel the barely-stable Iraqi government: "Radical anti-U.S. Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's political bloc, a key player in Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government, threatened on Friday to withdraw from the cabinet and parliament if Maliki met U.S. President George W. Bush as planned in Jordan next week."

Hmmm, methinks that is not going to end well.

The Iraqis, however, used to all the carnage in their streets as a daily reality, call for calm-
Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders called Sunday for an end to Iraq's sectarian conflict and vowed to track down those responsible for the war's deadliest attack.

But as they went on national television to try to keep Iraq from sliding into an all-out civil war, fighting between Iraqi security forces and Sunni Arab insurgents raged for a second day in Baqouba, the capital of Diyala province north of Baghdad...
This, of course, is beyond our control.

A curiosity hit me today as I was thinking... what would be the top issues of the day today had our leaders not put us on the path to war in Iraq four years ago? What would the last three elections have been about? What would be the top focus of Congress' energies? What would I be blogging about right now? Something to ponder. Unfortunately, such pondering is a luxury our leaders cannot afford.

The President, for instance, is on a diplomatic frenzy, looking for any help he can get.

This past weekend in Iraq, for the record, was a notably horrific weekend, even by current standards. Hundreds of people were killed in the past few days alone, with some even being burned alive. Is it a coincidence that the violence grows more and more the longer our occupation continues? A question that answers itself.

The NY Times has a report on how the "insurgency in Iraq is now self-sustaining financially".

And CNN's John Roberts explains the reality of Iraq to Howard Kurtz.

Glenn Greenwald, full of fact-fueled rage as usual, reminds us that the President and his defenders tried to spin away the violence last month, claiming it was only a short-term thing meant to influence our election. I'm sure they have a new spin in place to place the blame for all of this at everyone's feet but their own.

With Al-Sadr making a power play in Iraq and Jordan’s King Abdullah warning that "the problems in the Middle East go beyond the war in Iraq and that much of the region soon could become engulfed in violence unless the central issues are addressed quickly", Firedoglake's Christy Hardin Smith wonders why anyone thinks they stand to gain by tying their anchors to this mess (particularly stubborn U.S. politicians)-
In the end, who is served by being the King of Chaos? And who will reap the benefits of this whirlwind spinning out of control and reaching its tentacles of death and destruction further and further outward in the region? Beyond the war profiteering and the no-bid contracts, who benefits from George Bush's war? The McCains and the Lieberman's of the world cannot back down now, or they will lose face in their own minds, seemingly, based on their recent statements and actions. The Bush Administration certainly is not going to admit an error — heaven forbid. We have created our own worst nightmare, and worse, we did it without any provocation from Iraq other than the stubborn public statements of a madman which were used to justify the actions of a hotheaded President bent on revenge and one-upsmanship on his Daddy.

Somewhere, in the mountains of Afghanistan or Pakistan, Osama Bin Laden is smiling.


Any politician who cares about their political future would do well to admit failure (yes, it is okay to do that) and immediately begin a) finding a way out of Iraq, and b) completely rethinking our approach to the Middle East crisis. We haven't done the latter in a long time. Let's start now, before it's too late.

Finally, with The President Formerly Known as The Decider handing over his decision making duties on Iraq to the Baker Commission, few (even among the Democrats) seem to to be questioning the seriousness of this. Former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, however, is. He says that while the commission "will probably come out with some sound advice on dealing with the neighborhood," it essentially "will offer some procrastination ideas for dealing with the crisis." Sounds like an accurate prediction to me.

Ohh, and by the way, the Iraq war has now outlasted U.S. involvement in WWII. Good night.

Yes, Virginia, There Is A Congress

The Republican congress was known for a short work week (one of many reasons they basically accomplished nothing of grand significance... except for legalizing torture and lots of tax cuts and huge $$ deals for defense contractors), and also for acquiesing to the President's agenda. The incoming congress wants it to be known that the times they are a'changing-
House Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi made clear Tuesday she's not willing to cede the public spotlight to President Bush in the weeks before his State of the Union speech.

Pelosi plans to start the 110th Congress with a bang on Jan. 4 -- when the House holds its ceremonial swearing in and elects her as speaker -- by immediately setting off on a sprint of several weeks to enact the Democrats' ambitious 100-hour agenda.

Lawmakers usually return home between the swearing-in ceremony and the president's speech, but analysts say the hurried schedule gives Democrats a chance to show instant results. It could also put Bush on the defensive, forcing him to sign or veto a host of popular initiatives.

"Given the well-earned do-nothing reputation of the 109th Congress and its record-setting minimal number of days in session, Pelosi is right to get a quick and sustained start to the 110th Congress," said Thomas Mann, a congressional scholar at the Brookings Institution. "Forget the vacation time -- better to move quickly to set an expectation of more time and serious work in Washington."

Pelosi, in a statement, said the rapid start is needed to tackle a lengthy to-do list that includes everything from passing new ethics rules to raising the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour...

Now that's some good congress-ing. You go, girl. More encouraging headlines...

-Raw Story: Pelosi announces Iraq 'Democratic forum'

- AP: Democrat pledges array of investigations

Plans by Rep. Dingell include hearings on the new Medicare drug benefit, spending on government contractors in Iraq, an energy task force overseen by Cheney, and a review of food and drug safety. Rep Rangel promises Democrats don't want a fight with the President, they want to prove they can govern. Rep. Frank wants to tackle "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". Intelligence agencies to face 'cleanup agenda'

Sen. Rockefeller "wants to correct what he called a 'lack of oversight' by the committee" and "include reviews of the Bush administration's warrantless eavesdropping and the CIA's secret prisons". Warrantless wiretapping, in particular, is an issue the current congress virtually neglected.

-McClatchy Newspapers: Boxer plans Senate hearings on global warming

The Boston Globe, however, in a detailed overview of VP Cheney's career in government, notes "that the newly empowered Democrats in Congress should not expect the White House to cooperate when they demand classified information or attempt to exert oversight in areas such as domestic surveillance or the treatment of terrorism suspects".

The Globe article looks at Cheney's extreme views on unlimited presidential authority and is a recommended, sobering read. One example they use is how Cheney, as a top Republican congressman during the Iran-Contra scandal, defended the White House's actions and insisted his fellow congressman were the villains for attempting to limit the President's authority in any way. This, folks, is our Vice President.

Anyway, can you tell I'm excited for this new Congress? Democrats aren't perfect, but compared to the outgoing congress, they are a breath of the freshest air we've inhaled in a long, long time. I'm hope they're up to the task; I hate being disappointed.

Blah Blah Blah

I wish I had time and/or brain energy for more personal or in-depth blogging today, but a bad stomach bug means I will try to cram as much information in as little space as possible. I hope these couple of posts coming up tonight will be coherent. In the meantime, some aural recommendations.

I listen to a number of political podcasts ('Left, Right, and Center', 'Democracy Now', Slate's podcasts), but the one I am enjoying most these days is KCRW's 'To The Point', hosted by Warren Onley. It is a hour-long news show with a global perspective, that also has discussions on top political/cultural issues of the day. Recommended listening for absorbing information while multitasking at home or work.

Also, this week's parody weekly radio address is particularly hilarious.

Rummy on Abu Ghraib: "Make sure this is accomplished"

This really, really hasn't been Rummy's month.

Reuters: Rumsfeld okayed abuses says former U.S. general
Outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized the mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the prison's former U.S. commander said in an interview on Saturday.

Former U.S. Army Brigadier General Janis Karpinski told Spain's El Pais newspaper she had seen a letter apparently signed by Rumsfeld which allowed civilian contractors to use techniques such as sleep deprivation during interrogation.

Karpinski, who ran the prison until early 2004, said she saw a memorandum signed by Rumsfeld detailing the use of harsh interrogation methods.

"The handwritten signature was above his printed name and in the same handwriting in the margin was written: "Make sure this is accomplished"," she told Saturday's El Pais...

Not that this is shocking news-- just more confirming the obvious.

Andrew Sullivan summarizes the significance of this, though-
But that [Rumsfeld] actually signed off on key measures to inflict prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, and to violate the Geneva Conventions by ensuring certain prisoners were never registered (so they could be tortured without a paper trail) is news. All of this needs thorough Congressional investigation, and criminal charges if necessary. There was a reason the Bush administration rushed through the Military Commissions Act before the last election. It was their last chance to give Rumsfeld, Cheney, Gonzales and Bush retroactive legal impunity for their war crimes. They succeeded. But international law can still be brought to bear. And the light of day can still be shed on what these men ordered, and what torture techniques they endorsed and monitored. This is not over.


And probably another major reason why the President choose now to dispatch him.

'Happy Feet': A Liberal Conspiracy??

...That is what you would believe if you watched Fox News or listened to other conservative propagandists. Fox's Neil Cavuto called the new children's cartoon about a dancing penguin a piece of insidious “far left” political propaganda, apparently because the characters have trouble finding food because of overfishing and oil drilling. Because, you see, to cultists like Cavuto, even acknowledging basic environmental reality is 'liberal' propaganda.

Sad that Republicans have turned protecting the environment into a partisan issue. And lucky for us that their ability to do so is coming to an end.

Carpetbagger Report: The conservative crusade against cartoon characters

Odds and Ends

Trying to catch up... here's a start...

A major issue that someone might want to look into before 2008: "After six years of technological research, more than $4 billion spent by Washington on new machinery and a widespread overhaul of the nation’s voting system, this month’s midterm election revealed that the country is still far from able to ensure that every vote counts."

Remember that big liquid bomb plane plot out of the UK this past summer that was hyped up as the next 9/11, but ultimatelt turned out-- surprise!-- to be less than advertised? Well now it turns out the U.S.'s attempt to rush the investigation for political purposes may have had unintended consequences: "A team of suspected terrorists involved in an alleged UK plot to blow up trans-atlantic airliners escaped capture because of interference by the United States, The Independent has been told by counter-terrorism sources... As a direct result of the surprise detention of the [initial] suspect, British police and MI5 were forced to rush forward plans to arrest an alleged UK gang accused of plotting to destroy the airliners. But a second group of suspected terrorists allegedly linked to the first evaded capture and is still at large, according to security sources." Oops.

A lot of attention is being paid to Nancy Pelosi's decision to back Rep. Alcee Hastings (who as a judge was impeached by a Democratic congress in the '80s) for chairman of the House Intelligence Committee over the presumed would-be chair Rep. Jane Harman for a number of reasons. No decision has been made yet, but it's been a controversial subject. Talking Points Memo has thoughts on this matter as well as some history on Hastings. Let's hope a third person gets the slot.

Did Mitt Romney support gays before he hated them? Americablog has more on a flip-flopping GOP '08 frontrunner.

In the Middle East, more of the same: " Israeli troops withdrew from the Gaza Strip as an unexpected truce took hold Sunday, but two major Palestinian militant groups, saying they had no intention of stopping their attacks, fired volleys of homemade rockets into Israel."

Finally, an editorial in the American Conservative says good riddance to the GOP majority.

Mission Unaccomplished

Has there ever been an administration with as much open disdain for basic reality and truth as this one? When they're not demonizing anyone who dares to disagree with them as unpatriotic (or worse), they attempt to rewrite history, particularly in regards to the Iraq war. There are lots of examples of this: Donald Rumsfeld pretending they never made any optimistic predictions before the war, miscellaneous revisions on why we went to war, the President's lie that it was Saddam who kicked UN inspectors out before the war when it was in fact W himself, etc etc... Now they are trying to rewrite their most bungled photo-op.

Atrios has the details-
[I]f one goes to Mission Accomplished Day at and then clicks on the video link there's something interesting.

Notice anything weird? The black bar at the bottom of the video?

They clipped off the top quarter of the video, and pushed the rest up, in order to hide the Mission Accomplished banner.

Video demonstration of this- here.

1984 much, George?

Don't worry, George, we'll never forget your great triumph.

Energy Companies Forced To Deal With Climate Realities

Bad stomach bug keeping me away from the internet. Hope to blog more later when the Pepto-Bismol kicks in.

With the science no longer questionable on climate change (shhh, don't tell Exxon-Mobil) and with an environmentally conscious Congress coming into session in about six weeks, the major energy companies are now (slowly) accepting that they will have to be part of the solution-
While the political debate over global warming continues, top executives at many of the nation's largest energy companies have accepted the scientific consensus about climate change and see federal regulation to cut greenhouse gas emissions as inevitable.

The Democratic takeover of Congress makes it more likely that the federal government will attempt to regulate emissions. The companies have been hiring new lobbyists who they hope can help fashion a national approach that would avert a patchwork of state plans now in the works. They are also working to change some company practices in anticipation of the regulation.

"We have to deal with greenhouse gases," John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil Co., said in a recent speech at the National Press Club. "From Shell's point of view, the debate is over. When 98 percent of scientists agree, who is Shell to say, 'Let's debate the science'?"...

....Paul M. Anderson, Duke Energy's chairman and a member of the president's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, favors a tax on emissions of carbon dioxide, the most prevalent greenhouse gas. His firm is the nation's third-largest burner of coal.

Exxon Mobil Corp., the highest-profile corporate skeptic about global warming, said in September that it was considering ending its funding of a think tank that has sought to cast doubts on climate change. And on Nov. 2, the company announced that it will contribute more than $1.25 million to a European Union study on how to store carbon dioxide in natural gas fields in the Norwegian North Sea, Algeria and Germany....

It's a start.

UPDATE: A major Supreme Court decision on carbon emission regulations is expected soon.