Friday, February 23, 2007

Quote of the Day

Salon's Gary Kamiya looking ahead to life after George W. Bush-
"Hating George W. Bush sometimes feels like a full-time job. I get up in the morning, open the paper, and it's Bush World. His ruinous handiwork is all over the place, whether it's Putin threatening to start a new Cold War, another Neanderthal anti-Enlightenment skirmish in the U.S. or some fresh hell in Baghdad. I turn on the TV and there he is, uttering reality-averse platitudes while mangling the English language in his best frat-boy twang. And then there's the Internet, where my bookmarked band of rhetorical assassins stir facts and commentary about his wretched tenure into a damning cocktail that I happily imbibe...

...To tell the truth, I don't know if I actually hate Bush. I'm not sure if you can hate someone you don't actually know, and I'm not even sure if I really hate anyone. But I definitely feel every other negative emotion you can imagine toward him -- anger, contempt, fear, disgust, outrage -- so let's go ahead and call it hate. And millions of other Americans are in the same boat.

But this is all going to change. Pretty soon, we won't have Bush to kick around anymore. And I've started wondering: What are we going to do then?...

First, of course, there's going to be one hell of a mess to clean up. Whoever replaces Bush is going to face a daunting array of national and international problems. God only knows what will be happening in Iraq by then; whether or not U.S. troops are out, we could be watching a genocide. The rest of the Middle East could easily have degenerated further. Radical Islamists are still going to be planning terror attacks. The global environment will not magically heal itself. Our economy, propped up with Chinese money and crippled with an enormous deficit, could have turned south. The unhealthy schism between red-state and blue-state views of the world could have gotten wider. And there are all those festering problems that Bush's world-scale idiocies have allowed us to ignore -- little things like the healthcare crisis, race relations, the dismal state of public education, and the soaring prison population.

Bush is responsible for some of these problems, but not all of them. And it doesn't ultimately matter what he's responsible for anyway. Once he's gone, we're going to simply have to deal with what's in front of us...

...The challenge, as we prepare for life after Bush, is to hold onto the political passions his dreadful presidency inspired, without becoming a completely political person. To take the negative energy he created and turn it into something positive. To learn to see a full spectrum of ideas and opinions, throwing away the monochromatic goggles we have been forced to wear during the last six years. And to carefully water and tend to our own gardens, which have grown thin and unappealing during these dry and wasted years.

Bush nearly succeeded in killing the American spirit. Our best revenge will be to forget him -- and come back to life."

A recommended read.

[PS- Take a journey into the bizarro world in which Mr. Bush is one of greatest Presidents.]

The Long Haul?

Reminder to '08 candidates that the administration's digging in our collective heels in Iraq.

It does seem that, for the most part, Democrats may understand this dilemma better than the increasingly cornered GOP, with news this evening that "Senate Democrats are drafting legislation to limit the mission of U.S. troops in Iraq, effectively revoking the broad authority Congress granted in 2002" with one tentative proposal being to then "restrict American troops in Iraq to combating al-Qaida, training Iraqi army and police forces, maintaining Iraq's territorial integrity and otherwise proceeding with the withdrawal of combat forces".

But I am still not 100% sure even they understand the magnitude of the all-consuming Iraq problem. Adding to the tough political road in actually getting any proposed exit strategy pushed through, the powers that be continuing ramping up while we discuss winding down. The longer the President's war has been allowed to continue, the harder it will be to climb out of the hole he is digging.

Beyond just keeping that in mind for now, it's a good lesson to learn for the future.

[PS- British newspapers speculate on another reason Blair chose now to begin withdrawals.

UPDATE: We're really circling the drain now... they're resurrecting Ahmed Chalabi.]

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Recommended Reading

I read these articles/posts and now I am passing them onto you...

LA Times: Why the British are scaling back in Iraq--
The military can't fight there and in Afghanistan without approaching 'operational failure,' one critic says. Something had to give.

Glenn Greenwald: Frank Gaffney's WMDs

James Boyce (HuffPo): General Wes Clark: Fighting The War On Iran While Other Democrats Just Fight Each Other

Village Voice: While Schumer Slept--
For five years, New York's senior senator said nothing about the toxic cloud that hung over his own constituents.

Washington Post: In Far North, Peril and Promise--- Great Forests Hold Fateful Role in Climate Change

[Humorous Update: This crazy world's so biased against conservatives, they had to create their own internets.]

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The War Debate In Congress: A Cartoon Summary

And of course even Tony Blair-- President Bush's greatest ally-- gets it. So why don't we?

[Related reading: Democrats vow to seek limits on Iraq war (AP)

UPDATE: Wouldn't it be interesting if our political system worked like this?

UPDATE #2 (2/22): Joe at Americablog is right... if the President and his lock-step minions in the GOP put even half as much energy into managing this war as they have into attacking their political enemies, it might not be as spectacular a failure as it is.

They gave up on the war (which was little more than an ideological fantasy fulfillment to begin with) long ago and have just spent the past couple of years trying to win a war of perceptions at home, while failing to realize that throwing away lives and money in this shortsighted way is why they have lost all wars, real and perceived.]

Your Liberal Media, Hard At Work

Here's some fun stuff I found on the intertubes this morning...

Daily Kos: NY Post Lays a Big GOP Turd on its Front Page Today

Glenn Greenwald: The "fantastic job" Newsweek's Richard Wolffe claims he is doing

Crooks and Liars: Bloggers get Bashed at the National Press Club by the WH crew

[PS- Here's a story that might get notice had Britney Spears not bought a wig or whatever.]

Supporting The Troops: Rhetoric v. Reality

Keith Olbermann looks at the deplorable state of facilities our wounded veterans endure.

[PS- Cartoonist Ward Sutton has a handy guide on troop morale for patriotic citizens.]

Iranian Irony?

For a bunch of radicals, the leaders of Iran do seem to have a humorous appreciation of irony, if only unintentional. Let's take a look at two examples.

First up, a number of attacks and explosions have occurred within the past week inside Iran. From the UK's The Independent newspaper: "A car loaded with explosives blew up near a bus carrying members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards in southeastern Iran, killing 18 of them, the state-run news agency reported today."

Iranian officials are angered over this armed insurgency causing chaos in their country and are placing responsibility for it with... wait for it... the United States. Hard to verify and prove such an accusation, but hey since when does that matter? Zing!?

(Sidenote: No one is suggesting that no foreign weapons have made their way into Iraq, but rather that the motives and case the administration has made-- which they won't even fully stand by beyond rhetoric-- makes little sense and singling out Iran as opposed to the other regional hands in this cookie jar ignores a much more complex picture, likely on purpose.)

Secondly, there is this new news about Iran and its nuclear program: "Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday said his country was ready to stop its enrichment program and return to talks provided Western nations also stopped their own. Ahmadinejad told a crowd of thousands in northern Iran one day ahead of a U.N. Security Council deadline that it was no problem for his country to stop, but that 'fair talks' demanded a similar gesture from the West."

Translation: 'We'll give up our nuclear program if you give up yours'. Double zing?!?

It might almost be humorous if our leaders weren't, you know, playing war games.

[UPDATE: Gen. Wesley Clark and others launch to inform/engage citizens about this issue.

UPDATE #2 (2/22): "A senior Iranian government official" makes diplomatic nod to the U.S.]

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Justice and Injustice

These two stories aren't related in any way, but I am posting them together as contrasts. One shows a positive step forward for our country; the other a negative step backwards. I imagine the far-right has a different take than me on which story is which.

First up, the news today from the Garden State-
The US state of New Jersey has become the latest to begin registering same-sex partnerships as civil unions, granting couples new legal rights.

Registered same-sex couples in New Jersey now have adoption and custody rights, as well as new allowances on hospital visits and medical rights.

It is the third state to allow civil unions, a step below the full marriage rights permitted in Massachusetts...

And secondly, some national news on the status of habeas corpus for military detainees-
A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that foreign-born prisoners seized as potential terrorists and held in Guantanamo Bay may not challenge their detention in U.S. courts, a key victory for President Bush's anti-terrorism plan.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 2-1 that civilian courts no longer have the authority to consider whether the military is illegally holding the prisoners — a decision that will strip court access for hundreds of detainees with cases currently pending...

Barring federal court access was a key provision in the Military Commissions Act, which Bush pushed through Congress last year to set up a system run by the Defense Department to prosecute terrorism suspects...

...Attorneys for the detainees immediately said they would appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court, which last year struck down the Bush administration's original plan for trying detainees before military commissions...

And there you go.

Satire v. Reality

Did anyone else watch Fox News' "Half Hour News Hour" on Sunday? Aside from the absurdity of Fox News even pretending to be a legitimate news channel at this point, it was as unfunny as previews indicated. Let's summarize: Comedians Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter do their usual schtick, the hosts call Hillary Clinton a lezbo and remind everyone Barack Obama is black, some spoof ad 'expose' about the ACLU, and a running gag making fun of Ed Begley Jr (?!) for owning an electric car. I genuinely felt bad for them watching it.

Anyway, on the subject of humor, I've often lamented how our increasingly insane political culture makes satire harder to pull off. How do you top, for instance, a U.S. company building a border fence to keep illegal immigrants out... and hiring illegal immigrants to do it?

It's on that note that I read this Onion article last week-
President Bush announced Monday that his administration will permanently sever ties with the democratically controlled United States Congress, ending a nearly 220-year-old alliance between the two governmental branches.

"Our administration no longer recognizes the authority of this rogue body," said Bush in a televised Oval Office address. "Clearly, these combative men and women have a political agenda in direct opposition to our own. They have no concern for my national interests, and have left me no choice."

After six years of cordial relations between the executive and legislative branches of government, tensions flared up in January when Congress came under the control of "hostile new leadership." After a dramatic standoff last week over American policy in Iraq, the president openly denounced Congress, refused to accept calls from majority leaders, and returned Congress–approved legislation unsigned and unread....

Pretty fun stuff, as usual. Then I read this, from U.S. News and World Report, days later-
With President Bush unable to get much traction so far in moving his agenda through Congress or in improving his job-approval ratings with the public, White House advisers are casting about for ways to jump-start his final two years, including issuing executive orders to get things done without having to ask for support from the Democratic-controlled Congress.

“He should get a list of the executive orders for the last 200 years, as a guide, and choose what he wants to do,” says an informal Bush adviser. One proposal that fiscal conservatives are pushing is to halve all capital-gains taxes, as a way to encourage investment and job creation.

Some conservatives argue that even if Bush somehow regains his political footing, whatever he might work out with the Democratic majority in Congress wouldn’t be very good legislation, so he should go the executive-order route and bypass Congress altogether.

Not as funny.

Reality outpaces satire again! {*shakes fist*}

More Odds and Ends

I can't leave this world alone for a minute without it getting into trouble...

Today were the closing arguments in the Scooter Libby trial. Soon the jury will deliberate. Meanwhile, though, the National Journal's Murray Waas continues to explore the revelations about Vice President Cheney resulting from this trial.

A 3-way attempt at Mideast peace-- U.S., Israel, Palestine-- struggles to meet expectations.

Finally, PBS' Frontline has been airing a 4-part series called 'News War', an investigation into the relationship between the White House and the news media, as well as the future of news (Crooks and Liars has links to video- here). Parts 1 and 2 have aired; 3 and 4 coming in the next few weeks.

Odds and Ends

Congress is on vacation this week. Wish I was too. Here's what's been going on...

While we were fiddling in Iraq, this happened: "Senior leaders of Al Qaeda operating from Pakistan have re-established significant control over their once-battered worldwide terror network and over the past year have set up a band of training camps in the tribal regions near the Afghan border, according to American intelligence and counterterrorism officials."


Meanwhile, wounded veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars return home to be greeted with less than impressive accomodations at U.S. veteran medical centers. Articles shame Army into promising to do better.

Speaking of Middle East wars a completely different subject, studies show that the world is running out of oil and getting at what remains will be difficult and enviromentally-damaging.

Finally, beware GOP! Stop taking money from Al Qaeda supporters, please.

Mardi Gras

Not sure how well most people have been following the recovery of New Orleans (if you work for the federal government, I already know the answer to that), but with today being Mardi Gras, I thought we should check in.

No one's been more passionate in following this story than Harry Shearer. From his blog at Huffington Post and his public radio perch at KCRW, he's been demanding accountability for what happened and chronicling the city's journey back. On this week's 'Le Show', his guest was New Orleans Times-Picayune columnist Lolis Eric Elie.

It's an interesting discussion about the culture of the city, its recovery, and local politics. If you have an hour free today, it's a recommended listen for some unique perspective on an oft-ignored issue.