Saturday, February 17, 2007

Is It 2009 Yet?

I hadn't intended to post again today, but the Murdoch Media forced my hand.

For proof of what a bunch of shrieking McCarthy-ites the Republican base has become under George W. Bush, look no further than the front-page editorial of today's NY Post. It perfectly illustrates the "standard corruption that infects our political discourse" that Glenn Greenwald wrote about the other day.

Ralph Peters-- who was for the war before he was against it before he was for it again-- parties like it's 2002.

He states that "Providing aid and comfort to the enemy in wartime is treason. It's not 'just politics.' It's treason... The 'nonbinding resolution' telling the world that we intend to surrender to terrorism and abandon Iraq may be the most disgraceful congressional action since the Democratic Party united to defend slavery." Hyperbole much, Ralph?

Keep in mind this is a guy who, a year ago, called the Democratic Party the "Osama bin Laden Fan Club" and said that civil liberty safeguards in surveillance law are "overkill". But these radical sentiments aren't isolated to the editorialists of Rupert Murdoch's rags... they are the typical sentiments of the Republican party, as the Jon Stewart clip I posted below illustrates.

And the punditry, which regularly examines the uncouth writings of random liberal bloggers, pays no mind to the rhetoric of the GOP which implies that to try and end a war (apparently something we've never done before) is treasonous and that the majority of the American people, who support this course, are surely traitors as well. So much for all that 'bipartisanship' and 'civil' discourse they seemingly value more than actual policies and progress.

Just another reminder that the insanity of the last six years didn't magically end on November 7th. They've picked their scapegoats and they're staying the course. And Democrats are damned if they do (Republicans will blame them for the war's inevitable failure if they take any decisive action to stop it) and damned if they don't (people will be angry that they didn't wind down the war as they promised).

It's going to be a really, really long two years.

Weekend YouTube Theatre

As usual, I'll kick off your weekend for you with some comical YouTube viewing. This week, Jon Stewart looks at the absurdity that surrounded the House of Representatives' debate over the Iraq war.

One clip he missed... the 'Git-R-Done!' defense of escalation.

[PS- The House passed the resolution with a 246-182 vote. The Senate has a tougher road.

UPDATE: Things didn't go well in the Senate... Republicans blocked the vote again.]

Friday, February 16, 2007

Quote(s) of the Day

Today is anti-escalation (non-binding) resolution day in the House. Tomorrow, the Senate drags themselves in on the weekend to pick up where they leave off. I already made my feelings on all this known the other day, so today I'll share two takes on this I found compelling.

First up, Glenn Greenwald takes on the tired 'endangering our troops' rhetoric of the GOP-
[T]he standard corruption that infects our political discourse has rendered the de-funding option truly radioactive. Republicans and the media have propagated -- and Democrats have frequently affirmed -- the proposition that to de-fund a war is to endanger the "troops in the field."

This unbelievably irrational, even stupid, concept has arisen and has now taken root -- that to cut off funds for the war means that, one day, our troops are going to be in the middle of a vicious fire-fight and suddenly they will run out of bullets -- or run out of gas or armor -- because Nancy Pelosi refused to pay for the things they need to protect themselves, and so they are going to find themselves in the middle of the Iraq war with no supplies and no money to pay for what they need. That is just one of those grossly distorting, idiotic myths the media allows to become immovably lodged in our political discourse and which infects our political analysis and prevents any sort of rational examination of our options.

That is why virtually all political figures run away as fast and desperately as possible from the idea of de-funding a war -- it's as though they have to strongly repudiate de-funding options because de-funding has become tantamount to "endangering our troops" (notwithstanding the fact that Congress has de-funded wars in the past and it is obviously done in coordination with the military and over a scheduled time frame so as to avoid "endangering the troops").

Someone needs to remind the Democrats that they won the election this past November by finally not falling for the GOP's false constructions. They stood their ground, made their case, and won. And now, with that victory behind them, they're falling back into the GOP's trap. And the GOP here is using the cheapest trick in the book... an invoking of 'the troops' to defend even the most insane actions (see also: Bush's rhetoric toward Iran). The public knows how hollow that is; why don't the Democrats?

FYI: Even a Fox News poll shows that a majority supports defunding the escalation.

Next, John Cole tells Democrats to drop the rhetoric and tell it like it is-
If I hear one more Democrat or Democratic talking head (as I am right now on Hardball) utter some variation of the following, I am going to blow my gasket:
The reason we support the non-binding resolution is because the voters sent a clear message…
Steve McMahon, some strategist for the Democrats, just said this a few times, and I almost threw my remote at the television. In short, Steve (and the rest of you), NO NO NO NO NO!

The reason to support the non-binding resolution is to do anything you can without cutting off funding to get this President to seriously confront the problem in Iraq. The reason to support the resolution is because this administration didn’t even listen to the people who came up with the idea and are now half-ass implementing it. The reason to support the resolution is to acknowledge that right now, with this President and this administration, we are probably doing little more than throwing more good lives down the drain.

Some contradiction between the two quotes. But the general sentiment is right.

Al Gore: "I have no intention to run for president."

It was all just rumors anyway, but it looks Al Gore is officially out of the 2008 presidential guessing game. A real shame; he's a natural leader. And he was the only (potential) candidate whom I was genuinely excited about.

Not that he has much free time these days anyway. Besides his work on climate change, he's got a new book coming out in May ('The Assault on Reason') and is planning "a 24-hour concert series on all seven continents to highlight... the dangers of global warming." This 'Live Earth' concert is scheduled for July 7.

And now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go be depressed over here.

Religion, Politics, and the Great Blogosphere

There's an interesting debate going back and forth on some of the big blogs about the role of religion/faith in the Democratic party. One large point that keeps getting made is how the DC Democratic establishment keeps believing that they need to pander to certain groups to win, when all actual reality indicates people just want someone who is real and is a strong leader (meaning the need for Democrats to be overtly religious like stereotypical Republicans exists solely in the mind of pundits). A good summary of this debate-- and how it played out in the 2006 elections-- comes courtesy of Markos 'Daily Kos' Moulitsas.

Recommended read.... Religion, values, and politics

Thursday, February 15, 2007

War, War, War

In Afghanistan.

And in Iraq too.

And in... Iran as well?

[PS- The escalation in Baghdad continues. The Senate will meet on Saturday to confront it.]

Operation Obsfucation?

I missed the President's big press conference yesterday, but I did spent too much time afterwards reading up on it. The most important aspects of it news-wise were the Iran parts, which were confusing as all hell. And honestly, I think that was the point. Throw out some random, vague accusations which allows people to jump to their own conclusions while maintaining plausible deniability for yourself. 2002 deja vu.

For an example, the following Reuters and AP reports were reporting on the same speech! But try and make sense of the two in terms of a cohesive narrative, as they both apparently got two different things from the same information (such as it is).

Reuters: Unclear if Iran leaders ordered weapons to Iraq: Bush
President George W. Bush said on Wednesday he did not know if the leaders of Iran ordered members of the Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guards to provide improvised explosive devices to militias in Iraq...

...His comments contrasted with comments by U.S. officials in Baghdad who had said earlier that the highest levels of the Iranian government were involved.

Okay, now take it away, Associated Press-

AP: Bush: Iran supplying weapons in Iraq
President Bush said Wednesday he's certain the Iranian government is supplying deadly weapons used by fighters in Iraq against U.S. troops, even if he can't prove that the orders came from top Iranian leaders...

..."I'm going to do something about it," Bush pledged, displaying apparent irritation at being repeatedly asked about mixed administration signals on who was behind the weaponry...

Yea, I don't know where anyone would be getting mixed signals from.

Confused? That might just be mission accomplished as far as the White House is concerned. If your brain is need of a serious reality infusion, I highly recommend this detailed, fact-based summary of the saga thus far, courtesy of Talking Points Memo. Really take a few minutes to read the whole thing; he brings all of this into perspective.

(UPDATE: Now the administration's officially backtracking on the allegations their anonymous military officials made on Sunday. It'll live on with right-wing hawks, of course.)

Salon's War Room also looks at all the line-blurring quotes from administration officials.

For other topics discussed at the press conference, go here, here, and here.

Haha, I Get It, Obama Is Black

Fox News has leaked a 2.5 minute preview of 'The 1/2 Hour News Hour', aka what a conservative 'The Daily Show' would be like (of course, that equivalency doesn't work since a) TDS's targets are political absurdity of all stripes, and b) TDS doesn't air on an actual news channel). You have to see this; it's pretty embarrassing.

Another promo available- here.

UPDATE: Another clip is leaked... with comedians Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.

[PS- 'Real Time w/ Bill Maher' is back this Friday. So that's cool.]

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

More Odds and Ends

Some things I read/listened to today that I wanted to pass on...

Time mag: Warlord or Druglord? (How the war on terror is at war with the war on drugs)

Crooks and Liars: Costco CEO: Raising Minimum Wage Is A Good Thing

KCRW's 'To The Point': Is Warfare Being Contracted Out by the Pentagon?

World-Renowned Scientist Matt Drudge Debunks Global Warming

The latest in a series of self-believed 'gotcha' headlines on global warming from Mr. Drudge-

Conserva-logic in a nutshell: Continued existence of winter + cold = NO GLOBAL WARMING!

As my friend Anthony said to me to the last time Drudge did this, if we ever get to the point that we should be shocked that cold still exists, we're in really deep shit. Of course, with this level of brilliance, it's no wonder that the political director of ABC News and the national politics editor of the Washington Post say that "Matt Drudge rules our world".

And people wonder why in 20+ years, we've only made minimal progress on this issue.

[PS- Someone please email Mr. Drudge a copy of Ward Sutton's latest cartoon.]

Quote of the Day

Via Andrew Sullivan, from an 1848 letter Abraham Lincoln wrote a colleague who was arguing that the President could initiate war with Mexico without congressional approval-
"Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose, and you allow him to make war at pleasure. Study to see if you can fix any limit to his power in this respect, after having given him so much as you propose. If to-day he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, — 'I see no probability of the British invading us;' but he will say to you, 'Be silent: I see it, if you don't.'

The provision of the Constitution giving the war making power to Congress was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons: Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This our convention understood to be the most oppressive of all kingly oppressions, and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood."

And quoting Pete Seeger, "Well, I'm not going to point any moral; I'll leave that for yourself."

On a related note, I posted a link yesterday with a look at how the 'axis of evil' line made it into the 2002 State of the Union (it was to obscure Bush's specific intentions toward Iraq). Here's some similar background about how the infamous '16 words' about Iraq and uranium made it into the 2003 State of the Union (when they knew it was bullshit). There's not enough ink to properly document the sordid history of the Iraq war. And as Stephen Colbert mocked Monday night the punishment seemingly decided for all of this is none.

Back in the present, the polls are in... 63% want Congress to legislate a timetable for withdrawal. That's 12% higher than those who support merely passing a non-binding resolution condemning escalation. Sounds about right. Speaker Pelosi's speech yesterday, though, seemed to hint that she views such resolutions as just the beginning.

Finally, a leaked GOP memo reveals their escalation debate strategy... change the subject.

[UPDATE: Right-wing 'journalists' post their own Lincoln quote... except they made it up.]

2008 Rant Again

There's tons of 2008 presidential race news out there (Barack Obama making it official, Republicans convincing themselves Rudy Guiliani is their savior), but I still can't bring myself to get into it all on this blog.

First, I still think it's too early. Primary campaigns starting a year early? No, thank you. It cheapens our democracy by immediately going from one election cycle to the next. The media is largely to blame for this, since they started the 2008 debates about a week after the midterm elections. Except for focusing on the larger issues of the coming campaigns (ie. healthcare), I'm ignoring the battle between candidates for now.

A secondary reason is that, being the big old cynic that I am, I am pessimistic about 2008. The noise machines are in full insanity mode (did Obama go to a madrassa?, is Hillary too calculating?, why does Obama hate our troops?, aren't John Edwards' bloggers so nasty?, why did Obama dare defend himself when the Australian prime minister said terrorists are rooting for him?) while seemingly ignoring-- comparatively, anyway-- the other side of the coin.

I think my feelings on this race then are summed by this quote posted, geekily enough, on a Simpsons forum I frequent: "This will end up like the 1968 election. So many great ideas, such an important election, so many qualified candidates, and they end up electing Nixon."

Prove me wrong, America. Prove me wrong.

Odds and Ends

Cupid's arrow again hits the President and war; they're in love. Here's the rest of the news...

The defense will rest their case in the Scooter Libby trial today. They have not decided not to have Vice President Cheney or Libby himself testify. Gosh, I can't imagine why.

It was still a bad day for crooked Republicans: "A federal grand jury returned 11 counts of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering against Kyle 'Dusty' Foggo, executive director of the CIA until he resigned in May, and his close friend, San Diego defense contractor Brent Wilkes." This comes out of the same corruption investigation that sent former Rep. 'Duke' Cunningham packing last year.

Conservative heavyweights to Bush on Iran: Start killing people, please.

Rudy Guiliani to Al Gore: You need to be more aggressive on the global warming issue.

It appears once again that too many conservatives don't understand that '24' is a fictional television program. I know how they feel; when I was 5, I thought 'C.H.I.P.s' was a documentary on highway patrolmen.

Construction hasn't even really started on the Freedom Tower, but it's already for sale.

The army is forced to lower its recruiting standards again, as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars drag on. And more and more returning veterans are finding themselves left behind.

Finally, Rep. Charles Norwood (R-GA) passed away yesterday after battling cancer.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Stupid, But Entertaining

Media Matters' Eric Boehlert looks at how the media establishment decides which 'scandals' to promote.

Democrats and the War

Democrats were elected this past November for several reasons, the largest of which was to lead the way out of Iraq. How's that going? They're not exactly having the easiest of times there. That can mostly be blamed on the President's sudden post-election decision to escalate the war and remove Congress from the loop even more than before. Still, a debate is raging as to how Democrats must proceed now.

Glenn Greenwald says Democrats need to wake up and actually do something.

For a different take, I want to highlight an email Talking Points Memo received yesterday (which in turn was a reaction a Washington Post op-ed by William Odom, a retired Army lieutenant general who worked in both the Carter and Reagan administrations, in which he said it's time to turn things around).

The reader argues that the political climate still doesn't favor Democrats enough that they could actually do anything (and as a personal sidenote from me, I'll note their Vietnam-era majority was much larger). His basic argument is that Democrats' focus then should be to keep the heat on President Bush and the GOP as a whole (moreso the latter, as the former doesn't have anything real to fear from the political consequences of continuing the war), while simultaneously reminding the public over and over the ways in which the Bush crew has created and formented this disaster. This would, he surmises, increase the pressure from the public and force their hand.

Where do I stand? My passions and my principles lie with what Greenwald says. But from a more practical standpoint, I understand where the TPM reader is coming from. But where I think all sides agree here is that the Democrats need to do more than pass non-binding scolding resolutions and they need to be forceful in confronting this war. Voters are paying attention. More importantly, there are lives at stake too.

[PS- Speaking of non-binding resolutions, the House is rolling out theirs this week.]

Deal Close With North Korea

A sad lesson for the rest of the world... How to get the U.S. to engage in mutually beneficial diplomatic discussions with you? Acquire and detonate a nuclear weapon. It worked for North Korea! So, in that regard, maybe we can understand why fellow 'axis of evil' member Iran might want to join the nuclear club. It's apparently the only way to get the U.S. to get over its phobia of diplomacy.

Anyway, possible good news of a deal being reached with North Korea to shut down the nuclear program in exchange for fuel supplies. It's all tentative, naturally. The BBC has all the details.

[UPDATE: This just in via Reuters- N.Korea agrees to nuclear disarmament steps.]

Restoring the Constitution

A few Democratic Senators unite to support a bill called the 'Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007', aimed at reversing much of the greatest damage done by last Fall's Military Commissions Act (which the then-GOP Congress seemingly okayed faster than it's taking both parties now to finalize that minimum wage increase). The bill would "restore Habeas Corpus protections to detainees, bar information acquired through torture from being introduced as evidence in trials, and limit presidential authority to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions."

As Ned Flanders once said, 'Godspeed, little doodle'.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Make It Stop

Newsweek's cover story this week is entitled "THE HIDDEN WAR WITH IRAN". It is amazing to me that, as people see the situation growing increasingly tense and forboding, the media and Congress are taking a 'Well let's just see how this plays out' passive attitude rather than the forceful 'We need to find out what the hell is really going on here this time' attitude a situation this combustible warrants. If there is any debate left whether our elected officials and the media have learned any real lessons from what happened in 2002 and 2003, I think it's sadly over.

We can agree we know nothing for certain right now, but we also know that this is an administration that really has little to no concern for the consequences of their actions. Common sense would assure us 'Oh, this is just tough talk to get the Iranians in line; they're not stupid enough to actually do anything'. But common sense and this administration go together than oil (pardon the pun) and water. Hence, the worry.

Anyway, here are some related links on this issue. Some good/scary Monday reading-

AP: U.S. says Iran leadership arming Iraqis

Eason Jordan (HuffPost): Stop This Now: No-Name Allegations, Sourcing Identify US Officials Presenting Disputed Evidence Against Iran

The Washington Monthly blog: IRAN'S BOMBS

ThinkProgress: U.S. sending third carrier strike group to Gulf

The Washington Monthly blog: MORE IRAN

Digby: "Preserving All Our Options"

[UPDATE: Even more reality-based perspective in Salon- here.]

Shedding Light

The AP has a very well-written piece on some of the revelations about the inner workings of the Bush administration that have come out of the Libby investigation and trial. Just passing it along as an interesting read... the specific points on Cheney are the most interesting (but not surprising, of course).

Additional, related blog commentary on the Cheney co-presidency here.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

'Trends? Sorry, I Only Understand What's Happening This Second.'

The latest cartoon from Ward Sutton. A classic.

PS- Bummed about the cold? At least you don't have 110 inches of snow like upstate NY...