Friday, December 15, 2006

A New Way Forward, After Christmas

Here's some YouTube to start off your unseasonably warm weekend...

Jon Stewart on the President's 'listening tour' and inside Barney's 'Holiday Extravaganza'.

Quote of the Day

"I never understand that question, you have a President that's in deep shit. He got us into the war, and all the reasons he gave have been proven invalid, and the whole electorate was so pissed off that they got rid of anyone they could have, and then they ask, 'What is the Democrats’ solution?'"
--Rep. Charles Rangel, responding to a question on what is the Democrats' Iraq plan.

For the record, the Democrats do have solutions and suggestions, and they are hardly a secret. The President, though, has made it clear that he just isn't interested in listening to any advice that doesn't involve continuing 'the job'.

Short of convincing the President to change his mind (never gonna happen), their only other options will be derided as 'extreme' by the punditry and others, even if met with public support.

So, Rangel is right. While the Democrats do now control the legislative branch, it's the President who's in deep shit, not them. Maybe in a few months, when things get really bad, people will start taking the Democratic proposals seriously and stop asking them the stupid questions.

[PS- But President Bush wants you all to know that he's sleeping well.

UPDATE: The NY Times has more on White House deliberations on the planned 'surge'.]

Odds and Ends

It's Friday again at last. Let's run through the news, shall we?

Today marks the end of Donald Rumsfeld's stint as Secretary of Defense. Rather than being run out of town on a rail, Rumsfeld was honored today at a Pentagon ceremony. "We've been through war together," the president said. Yes, I hear the sectarian violence in Washington DC is out of control these days.

From the no-shit department, it is revealed that Sen. Lieberman is a huge liar.

South Korea's Ban Ki-moon was sworn in yesterday as the next Secretary General of the United Nations. Seemingly acknowleding criticisms of the organization, Ban said "my first priority will be to restore trust. I will seek to act as a harmonizer and bridge-builder," adding that world governments required a "dynamic and courageous" United Nations and not one that was "passive and fearful."

His first test may come from Gaza: 'Hamas accused a Fatah leader of orchestrating the previous day's attack on Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh — and a Hamas politician appeared to call for the Fatah strongman's assassination. Leaders of both groups have warned that the violence threatens to degenerate into civil war.'

The Daily Show offers a humorous spotlight on Al Jazeera's new English network.

It's official! Satire is no longer needed; real life is its own parody. Via Rolling Stone: 'The Golden State Fence company, a firm that builds border fencing to keep illegal immigrants out of the San Diego area, has just been fined $5 million for... wait for it... employing illegal immigrants to build its border fencing.'

New Jersey legalizes same-sex civil unions; stops short of officially calling them 'marriages'.

More from the 'what are Democrats working on?' files: 'Responding to a recommendation from the Sept. 11 commission, the incoming House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said Thursday that House Democrats would create a new type of committee to better scrutinize spending on the nation’s intelligence efforts.'

Finally, tonight marks the first night of Hanukkah.

Why I'm A Liberal

Via Think Progress, Tom Delay sums up the conservative approach to governing-
The 109th Congress set a record for the fewest number of days worked - 218 between the House and Senate combined. As of last October, only 16 percent of Americans approved of the job Congress was doing. 85 percent of Americans wish Congress had accomplished more this year. And last week, lawmakers left town without passing “nine out of 11 appropriations bills needed to fully fund federal activity for the 2007 fiscal year.”

The reason? Conservatives are supposed to be lazy. At least that’s what Tom DeLay told The Hill in an interview yesterday:
"Conservatives don’t go to pass laws. Only in this town do you count the number of bills you pass and are signed by the president as a success. I count the fewer bills the best and those bills ought to be repealed instead of passing."

By DeLay’s logic, the 109th must have been the most conservative Congress in history.

Yup. That's modern conservatism in a nutshell... don't ask much of us and we won't ask much of you. They don't believe the government should do anything for people (anything above the bare minimum is basically socialism to them) or have a say in anything (unless a Republican is in power, then they want unlimited control). This type of 'dog eat dog' mentality to government and business has brought us such scandals as Enron, an outsourced American workforce, Heckuva Job Brownie, a record deficit for future generations, and infected lettuce at Taco Bell.

Last year, as we watched government at all levels fail the citizens of New Orleans in their darkest hour, I said "Please let this be an end to the era of Reagan Republicans, those who view the government as a hindrance and not a help. This belief is an ideological fallacy. They have spent the last 20+ years trying to dismantle the federal government, yet somehow spending more $$$ and creating more debt than the Democrats ever could. Not only does this make no sense, it is wrong and I plead with the Republicans to rethink this ideology. It does not work and it has failed."

That accountability moment came and went, but I'm sure it has left some lingering anger.

I am glad Tom Delay has decided we can still have him to kick around even though his old seat is now in Democratic hands. His shameless rantings will remind people why we just elected a Democratic majority and also why the Reagan-style conservativism that has ruled our country for 25 years (as popular as the man himself ended up being) is bad. As imperfect as it is, we need the government. And when done right (think New Deal), its policies could have a lasting positive impact for generations and can also inspire individuals to do great things.

There are many reasons I am a liberal, but this is a big one. They can call liberals cynical if they want to (I just call it realistic), but at least we believe that the government has a more important role to play in our society than stopping gays from marrying, throwing out a tax cut here and there, and bombing things.

And with new polls showing strong initial support for the Democratic congress (By 59% to 21%, people want Congress rather the President setting policy; more than 7 in 10 support Democratic legislative plans; etc), I am hopeful that the sea change we experienced last month was not merely a temporary rebuke of current events, but rather a reflection that people are realizing that the whole imperial court that we have had-- not just the Emperor himself-- were not wearing any clothes. It's true we deserve a government as good as its people, and we also deserve one that cares about them too.


Some articles I have read recently that I wanted to share...

-Mother Jones: The Thirteenth Tipping Point: 12 global disasters and 1 powerful antidote

-The Nation: Getting Out

-Mother Jones: Schrödinger's War

-Slate: Where Have All the Flower Children Gone?: Why you're not demonstrating against the Iraq war.

Update On Senator Johnson

How's he doing? The AP checks in-
Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson remained in critical condition but was described as recovering and holding his wife's hand Thursday after emergency overnight surgery to repair bleeding inside his brain...

..."He has been appropriately responsive to both word and touch. No further surgical intervention has been required," said the physician, Adm. John Eisold. He had said earlier, "The senator is recovering without complication."...

...It's common to take several days for someone to wake up after AVM surgery, said Dr. Sean Grady, neurosurgery chairman at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Someone who is awake and alert and talking in the first day or two typically has a shorter recovery — in the range of four to eight weeks, he said...

There was lots of speculation after the news broke about how his condition might affect the Senate (some more ghoulishly than others), but having a Senator recovering from health concerns is not new. It's happened a lot and it very rarely ever affects their standing (and even I doubt Republicans want to start the new term throwing a procedural hissy-fit over the status of a Senator's health). More from the AP-
Senate historian Donald Ritchie said senators serve out their terms unless they resign or die. He said there was precedent for senators remaining in the Senate even though illness kept them away from the chamber for long periods.

Just this year, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, missed three months of votes because of back surgery. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., D-Del., was away for seven months in 1988 after undergoing surgery for brain aneurysms.

In 1969, another South Dakota senator, Karl Mundt, a Republican, suffered a stroke while in office. Mundt continued to serve until the end of his term in January 1973, although he was unable to attend Senate sessions and was stripped of his committee assignments by fellow Republicans in 1972.

Translation: People may have sounded the political alarms bell too hastily.

Let's all wish the Senator a speedy and comfortable recovery. So far, the news is encouraging. He is up for reelection in 2008, though, and I am willing to bet this scare has him reconsidering whether to try for another term. If I have to guess, I'd say he will serve out his current term and then retire. Sounds like he's earned it.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Bush v. Nixon

Who was worse?

Three unique takes on a popular debate- here, here, and here.

I think my stance is clear, but who knows how history will rework all of this.

Darn That Liberal Media!!

Laura Bush seems to be stuck on the old right-wing Iraq war defense script (we're up to something about 'will' and 'resolve' now) and blames the media for ignoring the "good things that are happening" and exaggerating the violence. That is soooo 9 months ago, Madam First Lady.

Fox News has heeded the call for more balanced Iraq coverage, enlisting WWE wrestlers to give the 'real story' on the situation there. Journalism at its finest. I wonder if any of the wrestlers discussed the mortar attack near their taping location in Iraq next week. I also hope that The Undertaker will challenge al-Sadr to a steel cage death match for their next Pay Per View; now that'd be worth a $39.95 charge.

2008 Watch

A warning to whatever Democrats (probably just James Carville) think Hillary's a good idea-
From the "Tell Us Something We Don't Know" Department, a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll has John McCain beating Hillary Clinton "soundly" in a head-to-head 2008 matchup.

Although the poll found Americans favoring a Democratic president by an eight-point margin, that preference isn't translating to support for a particular candidate, at least as far as Clinton is concerned. McCain leads Clinton by a margin of 50 percent to 36 percent in the poll of registered voters; Clinton leads Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, still unknown to a lot of Americans, by only six percentage points.

Obama-mania? The poll didn't try any head-to-head matchups with the Illinois senator, but it did find that more than 40 percent of the Democrats surveyed said they didn't know enough about Barack Obama to say whether they had a favorable or unfavorable impression of him.

Make it stop! In my opinion, the worst possible election we could have would be John McCain (a closet neocon and arch-conservative who has convinced Americans via the 'liberal media' that he is a maverick) vs. Hillary Clinton (who never met an issue she couldn't triangulate). If these are the best two people our country has to offer, I weep for the future.

Let's think outside the beltway box, people.

[PS- John McCain's set his legislative sights on a new enemy... blogs. Get a life, Senator.]

A Helluva Headline

From Yahoo: 'KGB veteran says Russia no longer assassinates enemies'

Phew! Well now I'm reassured.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

In Which We Escalate? Or Not?

If this LA Times report is accurate, the 'New Way Forward' is right into the meatgrinder-
As President Bush weighs new policy options for Iraq, strong support has coalesced in the Pentagon behind a military plan to "double down" in the country with a substantial buildup in American troops, an increase in industrial aid and a major combat offensive against Muqtada Sadr, the radical Shiite leader impeding development of the Iraqi government.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff will present their assessment and recommendations to Bush at the Pentagon today. Military officials, including some advising the chiefs, have argued that an intensified effort may be the only way to get the counterinsurgency strategy right and provide a chance for victory...

Steve Gilliard hits on the right historical analogy: "In short, Cambodia, 1970."

The article continues-
...The approach overlaps somewhat a course promoted by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz)...

...Such an option would appear to satisfy Bush's demand for a strategy focused on victory rather than disengagement. It would disregard key recommendations and warnings of the Iraq Study Group, however, and provide little comfort for those fearful of a long, open-ended U.S. commitment in the country...

Once again, a summary from Gilliard: "The ISG [Iraq Study Group], imperfect as it was, was cover for Bush to wind down his failed war. So now, like a spiteful teenager, he's gonna show us all that he was right and Go Big, regardless of what anyone thinks."

He makes the suggestion that Congress must demand answers from the White House on this.

The LA Times article does note the many obstacles to this plan (lack of congressional and public support, uncertainty as to how Robert Gates wants to proceed, lack of troops, the status of the Iraqi government, etc), but reality didn't get in the President's way before the war and hasn't gotten in his way during it either.

A Defense official summarizes the brilliant thinking that went into this proposal: "I think it is worth trying." A lot of things are worth trying. But that doesn't mean you should. The whole war has been a (failed) series of trying things; the people in charge of these failures shouldn't keep getting more do-overs.

That they didn't try this two years ago when they still had support proves how political it is.

The President's loyal defenders would, of course, love this plan. Conservative columnist Rich Lowry says at National Review online that "[T]his will be a real gut-check moment for Bush. Will he continue to defer to his top military commanders, even when their approach is failing? Or will he exercise his power as commander-in-chief and really run the war?"

There are so many things wrong with that sentiment... not the least of which is blaming the military for this war's failures, when they were only obeying the orders of Bush, Rumsfeld, and the rest. Furthermore, the idea that Bush has 'deferred' to military commanders is also insulting, when it's been clear that he's uninterested in taking anyone's advice, even the military's. He does what he feels is most politically expedient for himself. Finally, the idea that the President has yet to actually 'his power as commander-in-chief' and should do so now is downright frightening, as no President has ever brandished that title like this one has. The Commander-in-Chief cultists have used that constitutionally-limited title to justify the President's ability to do all manner of things (torture and kidnapping, warrantless spying on American citizens, secret prisons, threatening journalists with legal action, etc) and yet Lowry dares to portray the President as somehow having been unattached thus far.

Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson rips apart this plan-
So we’re doubling down so we can continue to bleed treasure at the rate of $8 billion a month, to say nothing of the now ritual sacrifice of 100 Americans, for the forseeable future.

Plus: Now we’re going to be taking the fighting to a Sadr’s Shia armies, trying to break the back, not of Al Qaeda in Iraq, but of the one movement, the one idea that tens of thousands of Iraqis have shown themselves willing to organize and die for...

...Forget “mission creep.” This is mission lurch. Are we really going to stay in Iraq until we “neutralize” — i.e. blow to pieces or imprison in Abu Ghraib — every Iraqi who isn’t keen on our notion of a unified, multi-sectarian, pro American, pro Western, anti-Islamist Iraq? Newsflash: that’s just about everybody who hasn’t already fled to Jordan...

...My hope, such as it is, is that this is a strategic leak of “Plan Crazy,” designed as a counterweight to the let’s-get-out impulses of Baker Hamilton, such that Bush can decide to stay the course, now as a matter of centrism. Oy.

He may be right. Or not. Either way, these face-saving gambles seem doomed to fail.

Finally, the President says to stop rushing him. The Decider needs time. Hey, it's only a war.

[UPDATE: It may just be speculation with no real military support. We'll know next month.]

Sen. Johnson Suffers (Potential) Stroke

Troubling news out of South Dakota-
U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson, Democrat of South Dakota, had an apparent stroke on Wednesday at his office in Washington and has been hospitalized, NBC News reported.

The condition of the 59-year-old Johnson was unknown, the network said.

When the 110th Congress convenes on January 4, there will be 49 Democrats in the Senate, 49 Republicans and two independents. But the two independents will align themselves with the Democrats, giving them majority control of the Senate.

South Dakota's governor, Michael Rounds, who would appoint any successor if there is a vacancy, is a Republican.

For the sake of the Senator and his family, I hope initial reports are just overly concerned.

Talking Points Memo updates that Johnson was conscious when taken to the hospital.

[UPDATE (12/14): Sen. Johnson is in critical condition. He suffered "stroke-like symptoms".]

Et Tu, Mr. Vice President?

Most Americans in the past six years have gotten used to the reality of a Vice President who does not serve or address the people of his country, but rather rules in secret, only surfacing when the President has failed to sufficiently frighten the public. Salon's Tim Grieve checks in with the most powerful, but least seen, Vice President in U.S. history-
Truth be told, we haven't seen or heard much from Dick Cheney lately. The last bit of news listed on the vice president's Web site is dated Nov. 22. It's a three-sentence press release announcing that Cheney would be traveling to Saudi Arabia on Nov. 24 and Nov. 25. While we've heard a lot about what happened on Cheney's trip, we haven't heard anything else from Cheney himself. His last public words? So far as we can tell, they came on Nov. 17 -- nearly a full month ago -- when Cheney addressed the Federalist Society in Washington.

One hopes that some congressional subpoenas in 2007 will force Mr. Cheney out more often.

Additionally, yesterday I blogged on how Donald Rumsfeld is trying to distance from the war he was a chief architect of, seemingly pushing the blame toward the President. It seems now that Cheney- his BFF- is trying the same thing. Grieve has more-
...The vice president is lying low, [U.S. News and World Report] quotes a longtime associate as saying, because "Iraq is now Bush's baby, and Cheney doesn't want to be tarred with it in the eyes of historians."


As one of the early architects, outspoken proponents and constant defenders of the war in Iraq, Cheney is going to need more than a fourth-quarter disappearing act to avoid having history tie him to the debacle he and the rest of the Bush team created... [I]t was Cheney who sold the war on the claim that Saddam Hussein had "reconstituted nuclear weapons." It was Cheney who claimed that American troops would be "greeted as liberators." It was Cheney who insisted, more than a year ago, that we were seeing the "last throes" of the insurgency in Iraq. And it was Cheney who, as recently as that Nov. 17 speech to the Federalist Society, was saying that if the United States were to withdraw its troops from Iraq, the terrorists would "simply draw up another set of demands and instruct Americans to act as they direct or face further acts of murder." ...

And that's not even including that Cheney was also the key pusher of the the Saddam-9/11 connection (making the false claim that 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta met with Iraqi officials in Prague, before later playing down said claim), as well as the claim that Zarqawi had connections to Saddam (which a Senate report officially debunked in September). Cheney was King Neocon inside the White House; I am sorry to say to him, no one's forgetting that.

Mayor Mike's Big Ideas

This is some local NYC politics, so if that doesn't interest you, feel to skip past. You see, the population of New York is growing at a faster rate than the rest of the country and city officials are worried that the city's infrastructure will collapse under the pressure of this over the next 20-25 years.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg laid out his views on how the city should proceed-
...In what was billed as a "major" speech, the mayor offered a dark vision of where the city is headed over the next quarter-century if action isn't taken as he sketched the severe challenges awaiting New York and such world cities as London and Beijing.

"By 2030, our population will reach more than 9 million - the equivalent of adding populations of Boston and Miami to the five boroughs," Bloomberg told an invited audience of more than 200 in a multimedia presentation at the Queens Museum of Art...

...To prepare for such "undreamed of levels" of density, the mayor said the aging city has to upgrade almost every structure in sight - from streets to playgrounds to power plants to mass transit...

...The city is distributing a booklet next week to involve New Yorkers in the upcoming debate that makes it clear inaction isn't an option...

...Among the 10 goals outlined by the mayor were:

* Ensuring that all New Yorkers live within a 10-minute walk of a park.

* Reducing emissions that contribute to global warming by more than 30 percent.

* Opening 90 percent of waterways for recreation by reducing pollution and preserving natural areas.

* Cleaning 1,700 acres of contaminated land.

* Achieving the cleanest air of any city in the nation.

...Bloomberg said that in the next three months, his administration will present specific proposals for reaching each goal, along with regulation, legislation and financing mechanisms...

This sounds like a really great, ambitious agenda. Let's pray the same bureaucratic bullshit that's crippled-- if not outright paused-- the progress at Ground Zero for the past 4-5 years will not get in the way of needs to be done for New York.

More Odds and Ends

Too much news. The world needs to slow down. Here's some of it...

Edward Jay Epstein has a piece at Slate called 'The Polonium Connection: We have to find out where it came from', about tracing back the dose of polonium-210 that was famously involved in the death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko. Locating where it came from, he notes, is important. Related commentary from Andrew Sullivan- here.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad held a Holocaust denier's conference in his country this week (among the notable attendees was former KKK leader David Duke). The usual crazy rhetoric ensued. Gee, I can't imagine why the youth of Iran dislike him so much. Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi reminds us that an Iraqi leader-- Abdul Aziz al-Hakim-- the White House has been turning to is likely a Holocaust denier himself.

Israeli Prime Minister Olmert lets the nuclear cat out of the bag, creating regional tension.

Outgoing Republican Senator Rick 'Frothy' Santorum may rise again as a cable news pundit.

Incoming Democratic Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy promised "to combat what he denounced as President George W. Bush's war-time trampling of American rights." He noted that 'real damage' has been done to our system of government in the last few years. Additionally, he stated that "Justice Department officials can expect stepped-up oversight of the Bush administration's war on terrorism and — perhaps — some all-expense-paid tickets to Iraq to help train the corrupt police force there."

Finally, Democrats consider "the creation of an independent ethics arm to enforce new rules on travel, lobbying, gifts and other issues" that they intend to put in place next month. Intra-party self-policing does not work, they note.


It's an all-time low approval for the President's handling of Iraq.

62% believe it was "a mistake" to send U.S. troops to Iraq (more than said the same thing about Vietnam in 1973, when Nixon decided it was time to cut our losses there). Less than half believe the President will listen to Iraq Study Group recommendations. 71% say it's going badly; half believe it's getting worse. A majority believe we will not succeed. Almost 60% want withdrawals, including 25% who want all U.S. forces removed. Americans, by a 2-1 margin, have more confidence in congressional Democrats to handle the war than in the President.

The Washington Post has more on the incredible shrinking presidency.

But don't worry- the "New Way Forward" is coming. Then we'll be victorious in continuing to drag this mess out until at least January 2009, when the President will leave office and leave it for the next guy to clean up and take the blame for.... but not until after Christmas. They need a few more weeks to figure out how to properly polish this turd.

One possible cause for the delay? The 'new way forward' may include the unpopular course of sending more troops.

Until then, enjoy video of the President talking to a dog. And weep at the frivolity of it all.

[UPDATE: The AP has a preview of likely changes here; the article's as vague as our Iraq policy. Spoiler alert: It's stay the course. Reactions to the delay- here. In related news, Bush/Cheney's Saudi masters threaten to back the Sunni groups (read: insurgency) if the U.S. leaves Iraq. Finally, Newsweek's Fahreed Zakaria discusses Iraq with Jon Stewart.]

One More

The Democrats solidified their congressional takeover with their 30th pickup last night in a runoff election in Texas. Democratic candidate Ciro Rodriguez defeated incumbent congressman Henry Bonilla. Maybe this news will cheer some of you up this morning.

UPDATE: Commenter 'jcricket' at Balloon Juice sums up the significance of these wins: "So, Democrats didn’t lose a single seat, governorship or house of Congress that they were defending. They picked up the US House, Senate, 6 governorships, took control of like 9 state legislatures and increased their control in nearly every state legislature they already controlled. All this after 6 years of total Republican control and a totally gerry-mandered era that was supposed to deliver a permanent Republican majority." Yep. FYI- this is also the largest majority since 1848.

But I'm sure the 'liberal media' will still say America hates Democrats, progressives, and liberals.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Closing Thoughts From Mr. Rumsfeld

When Donald Rumsfeld resigned the morning after the elections, it was obviously seen as a response from the White House to the Democrats' victory and voter anger over the war. The President spun this during his subsequent press conference, insisting it had been the plan either way for Rumsfeld to step down... an assertion contradicted by remarks less than a week earlier on the campaign trail that Cheney and Rumsfeld would serve for the remainder for his presidency.

Now it appears we may have gotten the truth (unintentionally) from Donald Rumsfeld himself. Rumsfeld told Sean Hannity- the only 'journalist' allowed to accompany him on his farewell trip to Iraq- that "the outcome of the election" caused President Bush to believe it would be "better for someone else to be leading this department with that new Congress". Translation: Scared of how Democrats would handle Rumsfeld and his record, the President showed him the door.

Either Bush is lying or Rumsfeld is. In this case, easy money's on Bush all the way.

More 11th hour honesty from Rummy came in an interview with conservative columnist Cal Thomas, on the issue of lumping the Iraq war rhetorically into the 'war on terror'. Asked about regrets with Iraq, Rummy responded thusly-
"I don’t think I would have called it the war on terror. I don’t mean to be critical of those who have. Certainly, I have used the phrase frequently. Why do I say that? Because the word 'war' conjures up World War II more than it does the Cold War. It creates a level of expectation of victory and an ending within 30 or 60 minutes of a soap opera. It isn’t going to happen that way. Furthermore, it is not a 'war on terror.' Terror is a weapon of choice for extremists who are trying to destabilize regimes and (through) a small group of clerics, impose their dark vision on all the people they can control. So 'war on terror' is a problem for me."

It was a problem for us too, but we were told we hated America. Does Rumsfeld hate America? Perhaps.

That uncharacteristic reality-acknowledgement from Mr. Rumsfeld also seems to me an on-the-way-out attack at the President (it's never fun when a puppet does away with his master), whose entire rhetorical rationale for continuing this disaster has been variations of trying to link it to the 'war on terror' in the minds of Americans. Next thing you know, Rumsfeld will be insisting that he didn't advocate the invasion at all... Oh, wait.

Finally, asked if he has any advice for his successor, Rumsfeld replied "I don't have any advice for him."

Odds and Ends

More news saved from the cracks. First up, news from the other side of the world...

Discouraging news from the Palestinian territories: "Palestinian security forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas traded gunfire with Hamas policemen in Gaza on Tuesday as tensions soared after the killing of three young sons of one of Abbas's top intelligence officials."

And a McClatchy Newspapers report indicates that Lebanon 'is headed toward a breaking point': "Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators piled into downtown Beirut Sunday, demanding that the U.S.-backed government step down immediately or face an escalation in a siege on the prime minister's headquarters being coordinated by the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah militia."

Violence continues to escalate in Afghanistan.

And in Baghad, a suicide bombing kills at least 60 civilians. 221 were additionally wounded. In related news, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees fleeing their country are likely to seek refuge in the U.S., but the administration is expected to hold firm to their policy that only 500 Iraqis can be resettled here next year.

Meanwhile, in military-related political news, senior U.S. military officers are being accused of "using their rank and influence to coerce soldiers and airmen into adopting evangelical Christianity". The Military Religious Freedom Foundation has asked for a video implying this to be investigated.

The Hill, a congressional newspaper, reports that "The three unreleased sections of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s controversial 'Phase Two' report on the Bush administration’s use of prewar intelligence are headed for circulation next year". The report had been delayed regularly by the GOP chairman of that committee, but the incoming Democratic chairman (Jay Rockefeller of WV) promises it will be completed and released, stating "the history of all this evolution of the war has to be brought to full accountability."

Democrats also plan to "pursue a broad overhaul of tax breaks and other subsidies to oil companies in January."

The new House Intelligence Committee chair, however, really needs to do his homework.

Finally, on the issue of pork/earmarks, "Democrats taking power in January have settled on a plan to clean up $463 billion worth of GOP budget leftovers". They will "kill thousands of hometown projects, called 'earmarks'" in unfinished spending bills. Additionally, as a way of getting through the legislative mess the Republicans have left for them to clean up, they plan "to offer a single spending bill covering 13 Cabinet departments."

Finally, Jon Stewart says goodbye to the outgoing Republican congress.

Sen. Obama Must Be A Serious '08 Contender...

...He's already getting the start of the Swift Boat treatment.

This time the remarks are coming partly on the most frivilous front of attacks on Democrats... analyzing their fashion choices to belittle them. Cable news is basically just one big high school cafeteria. And as in that environment, the more vicious the attacks, the more concerned/obsessed the attackers really are with their victim.

Elsewhere, Sen. Obama engages in some playful teasing during Monday Night Football.

(But the sleeper primary candidate in my mind is still Al Gore.)

Global Warming Plots Attack On Santa Claus

Soon Santa won't need a sleigh, he can just travel by boat...

The Times (UK): Experts warn North Pole will be 'ice free' by 2040
Ice is melting so fast in the Arctic that the North Pole will be in the open sea in 30 years, according to a team of leading climatologists...

It's bad enough we won't have a white Christmas, but now this? Global warming is the ultimate scrooge.


My heart is breaking...

IndyStar: 'Mallard Fillmore' creator arrested for DUI
Hoosier Edward Bruce Tinsley, creator of the conservative comic strip Mallard Fillmore, was arrested in Columbus Dec. 4 and charged with operating a vehicle under the influence -- his second alcohol-related arrest in less that four months, according to the Bartholomew County Sheriff's Department.

Tinsley, 48, who lives in Columbus, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.14 -- almost twice the level at which an Indiana driver is considered intoxicated. He posted $755 bond.

On Aug. 26, Tinsley was arrested for public intoxication, according to the sheriff's department.

Mallard Fillmore, about a conservative duck, appears in almost 400 newspapers nationwide, including The Indianapolis Star.

This news bothers me, because it implies that the wonderfully hilarious strawman caricatures of liberals that Mallard Fillmore brightens our mornings with could be the work of a drunkard. And I just can't live with that.

If I find out that 'State of the Union' creator is a coke addict, I'll never read a paper again.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Britain Cuts and Runs From 'War On Terror'

The British have decided to stop using the phrase 'war on terror'.

They clearly don't grasp the importance of effective sloganeering in thwarting terrorism.

More Gay-pocrisy

And from Ted Haggard's state no less...

Summit Daily News (AP): Pastor of 2,100-member church resigns, admits relations with men
The founding pastor of the 2,100-member Grace Chapel has resigned after he said he had sexual relations with other men.

Paul Barnes, who led the church for 28 years, told his congregation Sunday in a videotaped message that church leaders allowed The Denver Post to view.

He and his wife have two adult daughters...

...“I have struggled with homosexuality since I was a 5-year-old boy,” Barnes, 54, said in the videotaped message. “... I can’t tell you the number of nights I have cried myself to sleep, begging God to take this away.”

He described struggling with what he believes is the biblical teaching that homosexuality is an abomination...

How many respected and otherwise sincere Christian conservative leaders have to come out of the closet (or rather, get pushed out forcefully through circumstances outside their choosing) before people realize this is natural? How many children and/or adults like Pastor Barnes have to cry themselves to sleep because their church teaches them that God made them 'wrong'? How much hypocrisy must be exposed before politicians (Mitt Romney, I'm looking at you) stop stoking this for their short-term personal gain?

The answer to both questions? A lot more, appparently.

"The New Way Forward"...

...That's the name of the President's next PR blitz for the war coming next week.

How this will be any different substantively from 2005's 'National Strategy for Victory in Iraq' (a now-forgotten huge media extravanaga made at a similarly critical point for the President) is not yet known. Perhaps a different-colored banner? Whatever it is, I am sure it will be equally forgotten a year from its announcement.

One difference between the time of that 2005 PR blitz and the one being planned now? Nearly 1,000 U.S. soldiers have died since then. For what?

[UPDATE: When all else fails, try changing regimes again- Talks under way to replace Iraq PM (AP)]

Sunday, December 10, 2006

More Thoughts On That Fancy Study Group

One more point I would like to add about the Iraq Study Group is that not one of its members opposed this war. Every member was someone who supported the invasion and the failed policies of the past few years... until the national concensus said 'no more' and then Congress got them all together to explain reality to the President.

Here are some people who the Study Group did not interview:
Al Gore, September 2002: “I am deeply concerned that the course of action ... with respect to Iraq has the potential to seriously damage our ability to win the war against terrorism and to weaken our ability to lead the world in this new century.”

Barack Obama, now a United States senator, September 2002: “I don’t oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.”

Representative Nancy Pelosi, now the House speaker-elect, October 2002: “When we go in, the occupation, which is now being called the liberation, could be interminable and the amount of money it costs could be unlimited.”

Senator Russ Feingold, October 2002: “I am increasingly troubled by the seemingly shifting justifications for an invasion... When the administration moves back and forth from one argument to another, I think it undercuts the credibility of the case and the belief in its urgency. I believe that this practice of shifting justifications has much to do with the troubling phenomenon of many Americans questioning the administration’s motives.”

Howard Dean, ... February 2003: “I firmly believe that the president is focusing our diplomats, our military, our intelligence agencies, and even our people on the wrong war, at the wrong time. ... Iraq is a divided country, with Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions that share both bitter rivalries and access to large quantities of arms.”

After all, why talk to the people who predicted accurately how it all would turn out?

Glenn Greenwald notes why this is so damaging:
What matters most -- really exclusively -- is that this Report (in the eyes of the Beltway media and related types) has become the defining position of the Center. And the Report unmistakably endorses our ongoing occupation of Iraq, and emphatically rejects the notion of withdrawing any time soon.

We just had an election where Americans repudiated this war and made clear that they want to withdraw. Yet somehow, within a matter of weeks, Washington power circles were able to shoo that election result away like the annoying mosquito that it is and supplant their own pro-war judgment as the "mainstream" view to which all serious people, by definition, pledge their allegiance.

When 2008 comes around and we still have between 130,000-150,000 troops occupying Iraq (at the cost of $8 billion per month) -- and another 20,000 or 30,000 American soldiers are dead or maimed and a few hundred thousand or so more Iraqi civilians are dead -- we can look back at this moment when the Washington Establishment, yet again, blocked the path of withdrawal.

In summary: This report gives everyone an excuse to delay the inevitable while Washington sits around and 'discusses' everything for the next year or so. It's the status quo disguised as a change.

Sen. Feingold echoes those sentiments, calling the report a "Washington inside job", and adding that "The way to win a war against global terrorist networks is not to keep over 140,000 American troops in Iraq indefinitely... The growing threats we face in places like Afghanistan and Somalia are every bit as important to our national security as Iraq. Until Congress and the Administration recognize that, we will only perpetuate the deeply misguided policies that got us into Iraq in the first place."

Americans, of course, are increasingly fed up with all of this:
Americans see no easy exit from Iraq: Just 9 percent expect the war to end in clear-cut victory, compared with 87 percent who expect some sort of compromise settlement, according to the latest AP-Ipsos poll.

The numbers evoke parallels to public opinion about the war in Vietnam four decades ago. In December 1965, when the American side of the war still had eight years to run, a Gallup survey found just 7 percent believed it would end in victory.

Dissatisfaction with President Bush's handling of Iraq has climbed to an all-time high of 71 percent, according to the AP-Ipsos survey, which was taken as a bipartisan commission was releasing its recommendations this week for a new course. Just 27 percent of Americans approved of Bush's handling of Iraq, down from his previous low of 31 percent in November.

When the story of this war is written years from now, no one will remember or remark upon this report. All they will remember is, like Vietnam, the political leaders refused to admit errors and prolonged the war to save face while a confused public got increasingly angry. The big difference with Vietnam is that LBJ's disaster would only hurt Vietnam. GWB's disaster has the potential to fuck up more an already fucked up region.

If politicians are okay with this, I wish them luck in 2008. They're gonna need it.

[PS- Yet another no-shit headline: "Bush ignores report's criticism of Iraq war handling" (AP)

The Iraqi President didn't care much for the report either. Josh Marshall looks at why.]

To Impeach Or Not To Impeach?

Today, December 10th, was Impeachment Day all across the country, as grassroots efforts to convince the new Congress to put impeachment back on the table took place. The impeachment issue is an question many Democrats and liberals are struggling with. The mainstream Democratic opinion on the matter is probably summed up by Markos 'Daily Kos' Moulitsas-
We can spend 2007 either pushing impeachment (which isn't as popular as Zogby claims, see Bowers' piece), or we can use it educating the American people about what a Democratic government would look like -- passing meaningful legislation that would improve their lives like the minimum wage, health care reform, ethics reform, stem cell research funding, policies that help families and the middle class.

Impeachment does none of that.

In a perfect world, we could do all of the above. But we don't live in a perfect world. And the second we start impeachment proceedings, the media will focus on that. Heck WE'LL focus on that, and the Democratic legislative agenda will fade into the background, ignored. A perfect opportunity to brand the Democratic Party in a positive light will be forever squandered.

So what is more important, proving that we can govern and making the case for future Democratic majorities? Or a high-profile vendetta campaign against Bush? It really is just one or the other.

Obviously, I fully support impeaching President Bush; it has a lot more support than the pundits would ever acknowledge. But I am also very sympathetic to the argument Moulitsas outlines above. It's a pragmatic argument, one whose recommendation probably does help us out better in the short-term. Building a stronger Democratic majority will do more, in theory, to undo Bush's excesses than simply removing a lame-duck from office.

So I do understand and respect why Speaker-to-be Pelosi has made the decision she made.

However, national Democrats have promised to hold oversight and accountability hearings next year, which is good. Rather then throwing impeachment out there right off the cuff, such hearings have the possibility of uncovering evidence that may make impeachment inevitable. If the impeachment process happens, it is best that comes organically through regular congressional inquiries... the way it did with Richard Nixon. If it doesn't, then hey at least some revelations about just what has been going for the past six years are better than nothing. In summation: Don't bring impeachment up as a crusade, but don't rule it out if evidence and new actions warrant it.


Another One Bites The Dust

One of the U.S.'s Cold War-era dictator allies meets his maker...

Reuters: Chilean ex-dictator Pinochet dies at 91

Rummy Says Goodbye

As part of his farewell tour (Robert Gates will be sworn in next Monday, the 18th), Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld traveled to Iraq this weekend to speak with the troops whose lives he is throwing away because he and his other project members wanted to create a new American century of military dominance all over the world. Did he again tell them that you go to war with the army you have, rather than the one you want? Because there is nothing people risking their lives like to hear more from a man in charge of their fate than condescension. It is sad that this fool is going off to retire with his millions, rather than being hold accountable for the carnage he unleashed.

Another telling Rummy moment comes from his final 'town hall' meeting in office. Asked what the worst day on the job was, Rumsfeld responded that it was when he learned of the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Odd that his immediate first pick for worst day wasn't, ohh I don't know, September 11 2001, a day when terrorists attacked America, including the building that Rumsfeld himself works in and runs. Then again, if I was potentially legally culpable for war crimes, my worst day might be the day we got caught too.

In trademark Rumsfeldian fashion... let me say goodbye: Is Donald Rumsfeld the worst Secretary of Defense in the history of the United States? Perhaps. Will history remember him kindly? No, sir.

Finally, a look back at the legacy of Donald H. Rumsfeld-

-"We urge you to... enunciate a new strategy that would secure the interests of the U.S. and our friends and allies around the world. That strategy should aim, above all, at the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from power."
(Letter to President Clinton, signed by Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and others, Jan. 26, 1998)

-"Judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at the same time. Not only UBL [Osama bin Laden]….Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not."
(Notes from DoD meeting with Rumsfeld, afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001)

-"It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."
(On February 7, 2003)

-"We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south, and north somewhat."
(Discussing WMDs in an ABC interview, March 30, 2003)

-"I didn't advocate invasion... I wasn't asked."
(In an ABC interview, on November 20, 2005)

...And That's The Word

AP: 'Truthiness' is the word of the year

Between skewering President Bush and the media at the White House press dinner, getting a hockey mascot named after him, almost getting a bridge named after him in Hungary, and now this, Stephen Colbert's having a helluva good year.

He took what could've been a one-note joke and turned it into a far more entertaining and diverse program than the 'Daily Show' (no offense to Stewart, who's still at the top of his game). Here's hoping for an interview with Papa Bear O'Reilly in 2007.

Meanwhile, In Afghanistan...

"[I]s it time for an Afghanistan Study Group?"

That's a question asked by Talking Point Memo's David Kurtz, who looks at the other war we're not winning.

And Nancy Pelosi Reaches For The Tums

Thought this worth mentioning... a runoff election occurred yesterday in Louisiana. It was the Democrats' last chance to get rid of one of their own-- Rep. William Jefferson, who is currently under investigation in a federal bribery case. You may recall a high-profile FBI raid earlier this year found $90,000 in his freezer (I assume he wanted to keep the cash crisp and fresh). Party leaders had selected another Democrat (Karen Carter) to challenge Jefferson. As it turns out, Rep. Jefferson won that election; he retains his seat.

I guess Louisiana voters are so used to corruption that even $90,000 in the freezer isn't enough to phase them. And I think we officially know who the black sheep of the Democratic congress is. At least they tried, I suppose.