Friday, January 05, 2007

Oh Yea... That War Thing

I've been gushing over the new Democratic majority in the last day or two (hey, winning has felt good for a change), but news that President Bush's speech on his 'new way forward' (read: escalation) is coming sometime next week means their honeymoon will be soon be interrupted by the issue that put them in charge... Iraq.

This headline says it all-- 'Dems to inherit agenda dominated by war' (AP)

Speaker Pelosi touched on this in her speech yesterday: "Nowhere were the American people more clear about the need for a new direction than in Iraq. The American people rejected an open-ended obligation to a war without end."

Senate Majority Leader Reid is on the record as opposing plans for escalation, stating he supports a plan "that reflects the reality on the ground in Iraq and that withdraws our troops from the middle of this deadly civil war." Robert 'Douchebag of Liberty' Novak notes that even most Senate Republicans (many of whom are up for reelection in 2008) will be reluctant to support Bush on this. Strongest among them was long-time war critic Sen. Hagel, who said "It's Alice in Wonderland. I'm absolutely opposed to sending any more troops to Iraq. It is folly."

To officially articulate the Democratic position on this, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid have written a joint letter to President Bush stating their opposition to an escalation of the war. Key sections for me-
...Despite the fact that our troops have been pushed to the breaking point and, in many cases, have already served multiple tours in Iraq, news reports suggest that you believe the solution to the civil war in Iraq is to require additional sacrifices from our troops and are therefore prepared to proceed with a substantial U.S. troop increase.

Surging forces is a strategy that you have already tried and that has already failed. Like many current and former military leaders, we believe that trying again would be a serious mistake. They, like us, believe there is no purely military solution in Iraq. There is only a political solution...

...Rather than deploy additional forces to Iraq, we believe the way forward is to begin the phased redeployment of our forces in the next four to six months, while shifting the principal mission of our forces there from combat to training, logistics, force protection and counter-terror. A renewed diplomatic strategy, both within the region and beyond, is also required to help the Iraqis agree to a sustainable political settlement. In short, it is time to begin to move our forces out of Iraq and make the Iraqi political leadership aware that our commitment is not open ended, that we cannot resolve their sectarian problems, and that only they can find the political resolution required to stabilize Iraq.

Our troops and the American people have already sacrificed a great deal for the future of Iraq. After nearly four years of combat, tens of thousands of U.S. casualties, and over $300 billion dollars, it is time to bring the war to a close...

Bold added by me. This is a good first gesture, making it clear where they stand, and they need to be as smart in getting this all over the press as the President has with his 'surge' position, but letters don't end wars. Action does. They have to know that the President will pay no mind to a word in this letter. I hope they have a plan for the next step(s).

President Bush is a very stubborn and deluded man, with known contempt for Congress. And as blogger Atrios always notes, Bush's belief that 'Leaving = Losing' (and that he needs to drag this out until 2009) guides all his actions.

Whether Democratic leaders are willing to go beyond rhetoric in the coming weeks and take the hard, risky legislative steps necessary to stop him remains to be seen.

[UPDATE: Those two 'maverick' Senators Lieberman and McCain play Iraq study group with the American Enterprise Institute to discuss how to keep this awesome war going.]

A Thousand Words

Via Wonkette, the juxtaposition of this headline and image says it all-

Andrew Sullivan, who once championed this war all the way, has a recommended read... his personal analysis of where things stand and what our options are. He debates withdrawal, ultimately deciding that the arguments in favor of it far outweigh the arguments against. He concludes, "There is no getting around this, I'm afraid. It is reality. And if we do not get out by June, I fear an even worse one."

I fear that by June, we will still in a political holding pattern.

[Related reading:
-Rolling Stone's National Affairs: Nouri al-Maliki: The Wrong Man
-Anonymous Liberal: Iraq in a Nutshell
-AFP: Bush to replace top US generals Abizaid and Casey]

The 110th: An Encouraging Start

New poll: 68% 'optimistic' about 110th Congress. That's a definite improvement over the 10-12% who liked the last congress. I'll definitely be following how those numbers settle in once the new congress really gets to work in the new couple of weeks. Other polls, of course, continue to show broad support for their agenda.

Didn't want this to get lost in the shuffle... the Washington Post has a summary of the first day, noting that Speaker Pelosi "presided over passage of the broadest ethics and lobbying revision since the Watergate era." Today they are tackling transparency and reform for legislative earmarks.

KCRW's 'To The Point' had a good discussion on where they go from here.

The first poll mentioned, however, makes it clear what Americans want the priority of the new congress to be. Hint: It's the issue that got them elected. Here are the numbers... Iraq, 45%, Economy/Jobs 7%; Health Care 7%.

Looks like a landslide. More thoughts on where that stands later.

[PS- Similar discussion to my take on the minimum wage occurring at Washington Monthly.]

The Double Standard

One thing that has always bothered me in politics, as a card-carrying liberal, is the double standard the DC political and media establishment applies on the issue of 'bipartisanship' and 'civility'... when Democrats are involved, its sacred; with Republicans, they are allowed (expected?) to run wild.

When Republicans were in control, they blocked Democrats from involvement in crafting legislation, accused them of undermining the nation's security and economy, pandered to the most radical elements of their base, and-- going back a bit-- impeached a President over blowjob perjury. As we saw during the Clinton years, and in the last six years too, 'bipartisanship' meant Democrats compromising to meet Republican demands. And, up until their final six months, calls for them to behave less partisan and more civil were few and far between. But, as soon as Democrats won back their majority in November, the Bipartisanship Police came out in full force, handing out preemptive warnings to Democrats that they ought to be on their best behavior.

Case in point: Last night's 'Anderson Cooper 360' on the new Congress was titled "Keeping Them Honest"... that's all well and good, but if only more people had been concerned about keeping the GOP congress honest, things wouldn't have been so out of control the past few years.

I don't necessarily suggest this is due to any partisan or ideological bias. To the contrary, one could argue that it's because everyone holds the Democrats to a higher standard and don't expect much from Republicans anyway (though I don't think that's entirely the case). Nor do I suggest that it's wrong to scrutinize the actions and behavior of our elected officials. I am merely pointing out the rank hypocrisy in how this scrutiny is applied.

Nowhere is this hypocrisy more annoying than from the White House. This takes chutzpah...

AP: "Bush calls on Democrats to work with him"
President Bush, facing a Democratic-controlled Congress for the first time, is urging lawmakers to work with his administration and warning that "political statements" in the form of legislation would result in a stalemate...

..."To do that, however, we can't play politics as usual," he said. "Democrats will control the House and Senate, and therefore we share the responsibility for what we achieve."...

Shouldn't that headline be the other way around? After all, this is the same President who said, just one week before the elections, that if the Democrats won, then the "terrorists win and America loses". This is the guy for whom Pelosi took impeachment off the table to play nice with. And now he has the nerve to lecture them on playing politics? As the Vice President would say, 'go fuck yourself'.

Think Progress has a reminder of how the President played politics during the GOP reign.

Luckily, some Democratic leaders are standing up for themselves. Says Senate Majority Leader Reid: "There is nothing political about finding a policy to end the war in Iraq, raising the minimum wage, achieving energy independence or helping kids afford college. In fact, politics has prevented progress on these issues for too many years."


Congressional Republicans were already ahead of the President here, complaining that they need protection from potential Democratic meanness. Three House Republicans are calling for a "Minority Bill of Rights" (guaranteeing bills would only come to the floor after open committee hearings, lawmakers would be able to offer amendments to bills, and members would have at least 24 hours to actually look at legislation before being asked to vote on it)... something first proposed by Nancy Pelosi two years ago when she was Minority Leader (and was then shot down by GOP leaders) and something Pelosi had already indicated she would grant to Republicans if her party gained power. Confronted with these inconvenient truths, Rep. McHenry, one of the aforementioned Republicans, said "Look, I'm a junior member, I'm not beholden to what former congresses did." Later, he told another reporter, "I'm not whining."

Of course, as Digby notes, it is instinct/habit for conservatives to play the victim (even when they were in the majority), so this is just reflex. Reality be damned. Now that the most partisan majority ever is in the minority, expect this to continue. They always find a way to make our parties as short-lived as possible.

Khalilzad To The U.N.?

Reports indicate that the President has finally decided on a replacement for the odious John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations. It will be Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq (lord only knows what duties that must entail). Not sure how his policies are any better than Bolton's, but he certainly couldn't be any worse... umm, right?

AP: Bush to nominate Khalilzad for U.N. job

[UPDATE: The President's also announced a new national intelligence director.]

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Democrats Officially Gain Control of Congress

Despite some earlier rants, the overall mood today was... encouraging. We made it.

Text of Speaker Pelosi's speech- here. It was a good speech and seemed to be pretty well-received. Only odd moment, though, not sure how it came off to most, after she finished speaking, Pelosi invited all the children present to come up and touch the gavel. I hope they washed their hands, damn thing probably still had Dennis Hastert's cooties all over it.

Day 1 wasn't just spent on procedural stuff, though. They got started on their agenda-
The U.S. House of Representatives, after installing its new Democratic leadership, voted to ban lawmakers from flying on corporate jets and accepting gifts and meals from lobbyists.

The House passed, 430-1, a package of rules aimed at demonstrating Democrats' commitment to cleaning up Congress. Tomorrow, the House will vote on rules designed to end the anonymous sponsorship of pet projects, or earmarks, that have been quietly tucked into spending measures...

The one 'no' vote? Republican Dan Burton of Indiana. Over in the Senate, meanwhile, there is concern about how strong a reform package Democrats can get through with a tighter majority than the House has. Hey, it's a start, I guess.

Looking forward to seeing what days two, three, and so on have to offer.

King George Claims Power To Open Mail Without Warrants

His party may have lost Congress, but the imperial presidency continues-
President Bush has quietly claimed sweeping new powers to open Americans' mail without a judge's warrant, the Daily News has learned.

The President asserted his new authority when he signed a postal reform bill into law on Dec. 20. Bush then issued a "signing statement" that declared his right to open people's mail under emergency conditions.

That claim is contrary to existing law and contradicted the bill he had just signed, say experts who have reviewed it...

..."In certain circumstances - such as with the proverbial 'ticking bomb' - the Constitution does not require warrants for reasonable searches," [White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore] said...

[Blueduck's note: It does? That's highly debatable, Ms. Lawrimore.]

...[Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies in Washington] said that Bush is "using the same legal reasoning to justify warrantless opening of domestic mail" as he did with warrantless eavesdropping.

And that scandal has never really been dealt with either by Congress (it's started to be dealt with in the courts). Will that change now? I don't plan to hold my breath, that's for sure.

But Democrats really, REALLY need to start taking these constitutional abuses seriously. As Salon's Tim Grieve says, "If that's how Bush treats legislation adopted by a Republican-controlled Congress, what can we expect from him when the Democrats' first bills begin to turn up on his desk?"

I saw Vice President Cheney swearing in new Senators today, asking them if they pledged to uphold and defend the Constitution. They all said 'yes', of course. They should've added 'You first, Dick.'

George Will: Minimum Wage Is An Affront To Capitalism

George Will is a conservative columnist for the Washington Post. I read his latest column today in Murdoch's NY Post, where it is often reprinted. Today Mr. Will takes on a great evil... the Democrats' pledge to raise the federal minimum wage from $5.15/hr to $7.25/hr.

Will dismisses this as a "bad idea whose time has come" and says the Democrats are suffering from FDR nostalgia (and what a horrible era to emulate it must seem to Reagan conservatives like Mr. Will). He goes on to describe the increase an as an all-out assault on American capitalism.

Seemingly arguing that America's ideal economy should be a complete free market with no government regulation or oversight, he states "the minimum wage should be the same everywhere: $0. Labor is a commodity; governments make messes when they decree commodities' prices." Let that one sink for a moment.

This type of conservative naivete, and I'm being polite there given that he dismisses human beings as a 'commodity', seems to believe that corporations would treat workers fairly if they didn't have to, and that they would, in fact, treat them so much nicer than they do now if only that mean federal government wasn't bossing them around. What a wonderful fantasy land that must be to live in.

Perhaps someone should remind them that New Deal-era labor/economic regulations (like a minimum wage, unions, child labor laws, the 40-hour work week, etc) were enacted after the Great Depression in response to the collapse of an unregulated free market system that saw deplorable working conditions, low wages, child labor, and no job or savings security for many Americans. And more.

It would seem that arch-conservatives like Mr. Will are nostalgic for that type of Dickensian way of life... as long as he continues to be handsomely paid for the dribble he writes, natch.

Will says at one point, "Democrats consider the minimum-wage increase a signature issue. So, consider what it says about them". I do, it says good things. Consider what it says about a well-paid conservative pundit like Mr. Will that he considers even having wage regulations to be unamerican. It doesn't say good things.

"Jefferson's Quran dates religious tolerance to the founders of our country"

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn), the first Muslim elected to Congress, took a lot of heat from conservatives about his decision to bring his Koran with him when he was sworn in (typical hysteria about Muslims 'infiltrating' America, etc etc). Ellison handled these attacks more gracefully than I would have. Rep. Ellison schooled his attackers hard today, he decided not to bring his Koran... he brought Thomas Jefferson's.

It's a good day for religious diversity in America; it's a bad day for right-wing bigots.

UPDATE: Reps. Ellison and Goode met for the first time in Congress today.

(Of course, Americans still apparently hate atheists, but we can work on that later)

Harriet, We Hardly Knew Ye

Harriet Miers, President Bush's personal lawyer (and failed Supreme Court nominee) has resigned. We will always have the memories-- botched questionairres, old love letters to W, failed overtures to the religious right-- and disappointment. Between her and Clarence Thomas, the two President Bushes could've created a real brain trust on the Court. Alas, it was not to be, and Ms. Miers had to settle for legally covering the ass of the President every day. Godspeed, Harriet.

AP: Miers resigns as White House counsel

Today's The Big Day...

...Are you excited? Anxious? Skeptical? Optimistic? I'm a little of all.

AP: Dems eager to put stamp on new Congress
Democrats savoring a return from political wilderness are ready to move quickly this week to take the levers of power in a Congress that has been run by Republicans the last 12 years.

On Thursday, Nancy Pelosi will take the gavel as the first woman speaker in the history of the House, and immediately launch a 100 legislative-hour march to quickly put the Democratic stamp on the new Congress.

Before President Bush arrives on Capitol Hill on Jan. 23 for his State of the Union address, House Democrats intend to update ethics rules, raise the minimum wage, implement 9/11 Commission recommendations, cut subsidies to the oil industry, promote stem cell research and make college educations and prescription drugs more affordable...

...The new Democratic Senate, under Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, will take a parallel if somewhat more leisurely track...

This is all good stuff... some are arguing that, politically, they should spread this out a bit more, but I think in the end it's the right call. What better contrast to the do-nothing congress they deposed could there be? Besides, best to get all this important stuff through as quickly as possible, because the even bigger stuff-- ie. Iraq-- is sure to keep them plenty busy through 2008. Much of this will also fought tooth and nail by Republicans and that will also delay things.

Tom Tomorrow explores an issue Democrats should make a priority by 2008... health care.

Polls, of course, continue to show broad support for this agenda.

In a semi-controversial move, Democratic leaders are looking to avoid gridlock in the immediate legislative agenda by limiting Republican input. From the Washington Post-
As they prepare to take control of Congress this week and face up to campaign pledges to restore bipartisanship and openness, Democrats are planning to largely sideline Republicans from the first burst of lawmaking...

...But instead of allowing Republicans to fully participate in deliberations, as promised after the Democratic victory in the Nov. 7 midterm elections, Democrats now say they will use House rules to prevent the opposition from offering alternative measures, assuring speedy passage of the bills and allowing their party to trumpet early victories...

As long as this is for the initial legislative blitz, I say more power to 'em. The Republican leaders are already on the record as saying they plan to sabotage Democratic legislative efforts, which is more than enough reason to do this. If someone tells you they are going to trip you, do you run right into their leg? For 12 years, the GOP Congress took advantage of faux-bipartisanship, playing Democrats for fools. The new majority party is making it clear that, while the minority party will have the rights that had been denied to Democrats in the past few years, they are not fools. They are in charge now, largely because the Republican's style of governing was found so odious by voters.

John Cole at Balloon Juice has similar thoughts-
"[T]he alternative is to let the Republicans participate early on, defeat or screw up all the initiatives the Democrats plan to pass, and have the Republicans then claim the Democrats didn’t change anything.

So shut ‘em out. Let them sit on the sidelines, pass your bills and fulfill your promises, and then, after the dust has settled, let the Republicans play ball. Maybe, by then, they will appreciate the fact that the Democratic practices for debate are the better alternative to the past 6 years of one party rule, and will not use the Democratic willingness to work with the opposition as a weapon."

Finally, a reminder of why Democrats need to get through this with as little fuss as possible-
And while Bush has given qualified support to the Democratic push for an increase in the minimum wage and applauded their efforts to curtail pet projects or earmarks, a vote to boost federal support of stem cell research could provoke an early showdown with the White House. Similar legislation passed by the GOP-led Congress led to the only veto of the Bush presidency.

Democrats are also certain to hit hard on a new Iraq policy, expected to be announced by Bush in January, that may increase U.S. forces in Iraq.

Bingo... the big fish still needs to be fried. They don't exactly have a lot of time to waste.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Is It Just Me, or Is It Getting Warm In Here?

Here's some sobering news to start off the ol' '07-
A combination of global warming and the El Niño weather system is set to make 2007 the warmest year on record with far-reaching consequences for the planet, one of Britain's leading climate experts has warned...

...The warning, from Professor Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, was one of four sobering predictions from senior scientists and forecasters that 2007 will be a crucial year for determining the response to global warming and its effect on humanity.

Professor Jones said the long-term trend of global warming - already blamed for bringing drought to the Horn of Africa and melting the Arctic ice shelf - is set to be exacerbated by the arrival of El Niño, the phenomenon caused by above-average sea temperatures in the Pacific...

Yeeps. See you all at the North Pole pool party!

Meanwhile, in related global warming news, Fox News believes that, because there are still massive snowstorms in America, global warming is a lie. Someone get these retards a science textbook- stat! And, surprise surprise, it's been revealed that "ExxonMobil Corp. gave $16 million to 43 ideological groups between 1998 and 2005 in a coordinated effort to mislead the public by discrediting the science behind global warming".

Finally, just like last year (and the year before that and the year before that, etc), the President is planning to make 'energy independence' a key focus of his State of the Union address. His speechwriters really do assume all Americans are morons with no memories of any kind, don't they? The big question... will he mean it literally this time?

Odds and Ends

I take a few days away from blogging and stuff doesn't even have the courtesy to stop happening. How rude. Before I dive back in, here's a quick look at what's been going on.

I have a new Governor... he's kicking ass and taking names: "Gov. Eliot Spitzer signed five executive orders in his first morning as governor of New York, including orders establishing a number of ethical guidelines for state workers and making the government more open to the public."

Meanwhile, the execution (pardon the pun) of Saddam Hussein's hanging-- particularly the leaking of a cell-phone video of the full incident-- is creating international controversy. Both the Iraqi government and the White House are taking heat for their roles in the event. Talking Points Memo has been updating regularly with new revelations... latest update here.

Washington DC may finally get the congressional representative they've been lacking.

The bigoted crusade of Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Va.) continues.

In what is no doubt a super-duper coincidence, right after the buzz starts of a Barack Obama presidential run, the liberal media keeps making 'mistakes' and confusing him with 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden. The two most recent incidents are from big sources... CNN and Yahoo News. I'm sure it's a honest mistake, name similarities are why I keep labeling the President as a bunch of pubes.

In GOP World, someone sympathetic to Rudy Guiliani's primary rivals has revealed his entire official 2008 battle plans, including a internal Guiliani campaign assessment of his strengths and weaknesses. Primary season is a bitch.

A retired army general makes the case for allowing gays in the military.

Finally, more barely-a-blip-on-the-radar news out of Guantanamo Bay: "FBI agents documented more than two dozen incidents of possible mistreatment at the Guantanamo Bay military base, including one detainee whose head was wrapped in duct tape for chanting the Quran and another who pulled out his hair after hours in a sweltering room... The reports describe a female guard who detainees said handled their genitals and wiped menstrual blood on their face. Another interrogator reportedly bragged to an FBI agent about dressing as a Catholic priest and 'baptizing' a prisoner." Is it 2009 yet?

'Constitutional Crisis'

Chief Justice Roberts says there is a "constitutional crisis" occurring in this country.

I agree... but it's not what the poor baby thinks it is.

Still Here

Blogging's been light through the holidays, but I'm still around. Tired, but around. Will be back with more to say later today after some of that... sleep... stuff. I hear the Democrats are being sworn into their new congressional majority today. That's good! But the President's still an idiot. That's bad.

More on all that later. In the meantime, Keith Olbermann has some thoughts on 'sacrifice'...

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone! Time to put down the blog for some partying.

But first, a look back at a year in politics: It was a year of depressing political news (war in Iraq gets worse, Supreme Court shifts rightward, numerous scandals like warrantless wiretapping ignored by a complicit congress, global warming warnings grow louder, Mideast conflicts more pronounced, dangerous countries-- North Korea, Russia, Iran-- got more dangerous, etc.) ultimately ending in a major shift in the political tide... with Democrats regaining a majority in the U.S. Congress and Senate, as well as numerous state legislatures and governorships. And, of course, reminders that this will not heal all wounds.

Walter Shapiro, in Salon, looks at how it was a decisive year for "The Decider". Key quote-
Now, mired in an unpopular war and deprived of the protection of a Republican Congress, George W. Bush -- the only true "decider" per self-proclamation -- must decide how to handle his final two years in office. For even amid the splendid isolation of the White House, Bush cannot escape the big message of 2006: The American people have offered a stinging vote of "no confidence" in his presidency.

It is on that note that Josh Marshall opened up a very interesting discussion at TPMCafe with this question... what was the key event(s) that caused the President's downward spiral from 2004 reelection to 2006 midterm election "thumpin'". The ensuing discussion is must-read; if you have time, I recommend grabbing a cup of coffee and diving in. Besides the obvious (Iraq), a number of incremental political disasters-- the Katrina aftermath, the failed Social Security gambit, the Schiavo fiasco-- are mentioned as events that helped reveal the Emperor was not wearing any clothes.

Elsewhere, Eleanor Clift of Newsweek looks at the President's biggest lies of 2006. Media Matters counts down the most outrageous comments of the year, with hits by Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and the Fox News all-stars. And Dahlia Lithwick in Slate lists the 10 most outrageous civil liberties violations of 2006, a recommended read.

Finally, the Associated Press reveals the top 10 news stories of 2006, as voted on by readers. The Iraq war, the U.S. midterm elections, and nuclear standoffs round out the top three slots. An AP/AOL poll finds "Seventy-two percent of Americans feel good about what 2007 will bring for the country". Another take on apparently the same poll reveals Americans also predict doom and gloom for 2007. See you next year, everyone!

Another Year At War

This is an old Calvin and Hobbes (naturally); I found it very appropriate today.

With the Hussein Deathfest in the news, time for an obligatory 'where do we stand' post. Obviously, nothing has changed; I'm not sure what more I can say on the subject than I did earlier this month. We all know the score.... President Bush is likely preparing to 'surge' more troops into Iraq, a move that is politically and publicly unpopular, in what few will yet call out as another transparent attempt to buy time for his pet project until the end of his presidency in two years.

On the surface, no more needs to be said than that.

Digging deeper, though, Matthew Yglesias explores the psychological reasons causing President Bush to lean toward escalation: "Roughly speaking, the fixed point of the president's thinking is an unwillingness to admit that the venture has failed... It's not that the president has some policy initiative in mind whose operational requirements dictate a surge in force levels. Rather, locked in the prison of his own denial he came to the conclusion that he should back an escalation, prompting the current search for a mission." Yup.

And, by the way, there's nothing more equally funny and depressing than this from the AP-
President Bush worked nearly three hours at his Texas ranch on Thursday to design a new U.S. policy in Iraq, then emerged to say that he and his advisers need more time to craft the plan he'll announce in the new year...

More time? You mean three hours of brainstorming wasn't enough??

Really puts everything in perspective, doesn't it? The article notes that it is being framed as a 'temporary' surge meant to work in unison with Iraqi political settlements. But while, in the past (it's been a while, though), I have been willing to give some benefit of the doubt to these things, I am no longer that naive. The 'temporary' surge will be anything but; it's a lie. Hopefully our new congressional leaders know this.

The seeming inevitability of this war's continuation until 2009 is really an unbearable thought. A major casuality of that, as Arianna Huffington lamented on yesterday's Left, Right, and Center on KCRW, is that the major domestic issues we need to tackle (economic issues like health care and education, or the 'drug war', etc) have been put on hold while we figure out how to end a war that never should've begun. Former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke makes the same point on major international issues.

[UPDATE: Not an uplifting way to end the year... the U.S. death toll has reached 3,000.]

Farewell To A President (Pt. II)

Leave it to Vice President Cheney to ruin an otherwise respectful funeral-
Ford's decision to pardon Richard Nixon, so divisive at the time that it probably cost him the 1976 election, was dealt with squarely in his funeral services by his old chief of staff, Vice President Dick Cheney.

"It was this man, Gerald R. Ford, who led our republic safely though a crisis that could have turned to catastrophe," said Cheney, speaking in the Capitol Rotunda where Ford's body rested. "Gerald Ford was almost alone in understanding that there can be no healing without pardon."

Ignoring the disturbing sight of a Vice President whose disdain for the Constitution and separation of powers far outrivals Nixon's (and should hopefully someday be in a need of a pardon his own) pretending to give some sort of neutral opinion on this issue, his words must be acknowledged... they reflect what has now become conventional wisdom about the pardon and how it 'healed' everything. No, the prevailing wisdom says that it was not the actions of Nixon and those around him that caused a 'crisis'- it was the possibility that his accountability for that might not end at resignation that was the danger! Horrors!

How exactly seeing Nixon stand trial (or something like that) would've plunged our nation into "catastrophe" is beyond me. The very fact that they admit the pardon was divisive for Americans contradicts their idea that it 'healed' the nation's wounds. Of course, this attitude comes from the same people who believe today our nation's fabric is so weak that giving detainees legal rights, having open and direct criticism of administration policies, and preserving civil liberties will ensure our defeat by the islamofacists lurking in every shadow. Their lack of faith in the strength of our system is pretty pathetic. And in the end, the real 'catastrophe' that Cheney and his ilk fear is that the system might catch up to them as it did for Nixon.

Finally, David Kurtz looks at the truly silly media dialogue during the funeral coverage.

[PS- Mr. Ford, like many from his time, was sad to see how far to the right his party moved.]