Saturday, May 05, 2007

The League of Democracies?

Here's a right-wing fantasy that will probably never happen... marginalizing the United Nations and creating a new League of Democracies where "tyrants need not apply". This was made mainstream when mentioned by Sen. McCain in a recent speech. In theory it sounds good, but the idea is rooted in an ideological mess.

This is indicative of two aspects of right-wing thinking... a) throwing the baby out with the bath water, and b) viewing the world in childish black-and-white terms.

First, throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Yes, the United Nations is a flawed institution that has seen its power reduced in recent years and has been harmed by corruption scandals. But the same can be said for every institution and/or government of this magnitude.

So, what's the solution here? Cleaning house? Restoring the ideals for which the body was formed to fight for? Etc?

Nope. The answer, says the right, is to scrap the whole thing and call it a wash. People who hate the U.N. (and diplomacy too, for that matter) should not be entrusted with reforming it. It's the John Bolton dilemma all over again.

Secondly-- and definitely even worse then that first part-- is the black-and-white idea that their substitute-U.N. should only include our allies and friends. It's been said that President Bush lives in a bubble. The rest of the conservative movement apparently wants to join him there.

The world is a messy, gray place. There are many forms of government, of varying degrees of quality. We can't just ignore/bomb them all away. The whole point of a United Nations or a State Department is to work with the ones who are problematic and attempt to reach compromises and solutions. It's easier said then done, but you try and you keep at it. You don't throw your hands up in the air and decide that the world consists of only the nations we deem to be 'democracies'.

The issues that Sen. McCain says he'd want this new organization to fight for-- "relieve suffering in Darfur, fight the AIDS epidemic in Africa, develop better environmental policies... helping struggling democracies succeed", etc-- are all within our grasp already. We just lack the will, and we don't need a new institution for that.

It doesn't help us either that we are bogged down in an endless war that has destroyed our international credibility. Until we wrap that up, all these other problems are going to continue to fall by the wayside.

Artic Melting Ahead Of Schedule

I was going to make a sarcastic joke here about the Artic vetoing our timetable for its melting, but I'll refrain. This is pretty serious stuff and needs mainstream attention-
The Arctic ice cap is melting much faster than expected and is now about 30 years ahead of predictions made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.S. ice expert said on Tuesday...

...No ice on the Arctic Ocean during summer would be a major spur to global warming, said Ted Scambos, a glaciologist at the National Snow and Ice Center in Colorado.

"Right now ... the Arctic helps keep the Earth cool," Scambos said in a telephone interview. "Without that Arctic ice, or with much less of it, the Earth will warm much faster."...

That's been the problem with global warming... it hasn't been happening fast enough!

Any possible solutions?-
Asked what could fix the problem -- the topic of a new report by the intergovernmental panel to be released on Friday in Bangkok -- Scambos said a large volcanic eruption might hold Arctic ice melting at bay for a few years.

But he saw a continued warm-up as inevitable in the coming decades.

Okay... so more volcanos?? Why not try dropping a big ice cube into the ocean?

Let's face it, we have no good answer on what to do here.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Quote of the Day

I think-- with the Bush years slowly winding down-- we are beginning to see some sanity (again, slowly) returning to the issue of terrorism. You have presidential candidate John Edwards saying that he is not going to use the 'war on terror' terminology and outlook (calling it "a Bush-created political phrase"). Military and congressional officials are also getting away from it. And you even have the position of President Bush himself (quietly) shifting to the point where he's now saying the exact same things that Sen. Kerry was ripped apart for saying in 2004.

And then yesterday I read this piece by Andrew Sullivan on the Iraq war, democracy in the Middle East, and terrorism. It stuck out to me because of its soberness. Keep in mind that this guy who said 5 days after 9/11 that "The middle part of the country - the great red zone that voted for Bush - is clearly ready for war. The decadent Left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead - and may well mount what amounts to a fifth column." He did come to his senses (again, slowly) during 2004.

And now in 2007, here he is agreeing that-- gosh-- maybe we should put the whole thing into perspective and calm the hell down. He wrote yesterday-
"The great unanswered question of our time is: why have we not had another major terror attack since 9/11 in America? I don't know the answer. Although I'm sure the CIA has foiled some plots, our knowledge of the competence of the federal government should inhibit us from assigning them too much credit. Perhaps serious global jihad is indeed the province of a few wealthy and motivated religious fanatics, and not the widespread threat we fear. Perhaps Arab culture is unproductive even when it comes to murdering innocents. Perhaps we've been lucky. I certainly don't buy the idea that the war in Iraq is somehow preventing them from attacking us here. You can't find 19 true-believers to get on a plane while you're pursuing a classic Arab insurgency? The point of terror on a 9/11 scale is partly to get us to over-estimate the strength of the enemy. Maybe they succeeded. And maybe, as a result, we're trapped."

I, here in my enclave on the coast, fully agree with this.

Baby steps, my friends. Baby steps.

Republicans Debate

Three takes on last night's debate from Time's Joe Klein, Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson, and Think Progress.

A Political Solution

More of that progress we're making with things over in Iraq...

AP (via CBS News): Iraq Lawmakers' Vacation Plans Draw Fire-
U.S. Lawmakers Furious About Iraqi Lawmakers' Plans For A Summer Break

International Herald Tribune: Kurds and Sunnis have concerns about Iraqi oil legislation

That Pesky Food Problem

The Bush administration still has not found a 'war czar' to oversee their many quagmires, but they have added a new, different czar to their roster.

The Baltimore Sun reports that "The Bush administration appointed a new 'food safety czar' yesterday and directed him to develop a plan for addressing shortcomings exposed by recent scares in the human food supply."

Note to the food... either you are with us or against us. You've been warned.

[This issue has been a big bugaboo of Bill Maher's for some time, by the way.]

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Is There Any (Democratic) Legislation The President Won't Veto?

For the first six years of his presidency-- when the Republicans pretty much had the run of the place-- George W. Bush signed every piece of crap that came across his desk. If he even read any of them (beyond having Cheney check for threats to his unlimited executive power), I'd be shocked. He only issued one veto before this week-- to stop those lazy stem cells from getting handouts from the federal government-- and that wasn't until late in 2006 as a last-ditch effort to shore up the nutjobs base before the elections.

Now? George W. Bush is on the veto like white on rice.

Since the Democrats took control in January, the President has threatened to veto the following for one reason or another... the minimum wage increase, the cutting of student loan interest rates, requiring the government to negotiate with drug companies over the price of medication, ending subsidies to oil companies, more stem cell research, and the 9/11 Commission bill.

A helluva legacy. Gosh, I thought the pundits/conservatives were all about compromise?

Anyway, let's now add one more to that mighty list-
The White House issued a veto threat Thursday against legislation that would expand federal hate crime law to include attacks motivated by the victims' gender or sexual orientation.

The hate crimes bill, with strong Democratic backing, is expected to pass the House Thursday. Similar legislation is moving through the Senate.

But the legislation, which also would increase the penalties for bias-based violence, has met outspoken resistance from conservative groups and their Republican allies in Congress, who warn that it undermines freedom of speech, religious expression and equal protection under the law...

Americablog has details on the hypocrisy behind this position- here and here.

Perhaps some reporter might wanna ask the President why he opposes issues/bill that have such broad support? After years of insane rhetoric about Democratic obstructionism based on the (rare) occassions they stood up to the GOP, I truly can't believe no one is making this into a bigger deal.

After The Veto

Senator Feingold blogs about what Congress should do now (hint: don't cave!).

And the NY Daily News' Mike Lupica has a good column on the 'Mission Accomplished' anniversary. He calls out everyone-- the President, the Democrats who supported the war when it was popular, Rudy Guiliani's terrorism faux-expertise, George Tenet, etc-- and spotlights one Senator who got it right. A good read.

Odds and Ends

Here's some miscellaneous news of note as I get myself psyched to see 'Spiderman 3'...

Tonight, Republican presidential candidates will debate/tiptoe around President Bush.

Secretary Rice met with her Syrian and Iranian counterparts at an international conference in Egypt on the situation in Iraq. Some inadvertent diplomacy may have occurred.

In other Iraq war news, President Bush reminds Congress that he's "the commander guy".

In other foreign policy news, "A House Armed Services subcommittee voted yesterday to establish a year-long, bipartisan commission to reevaluate the U.S. nuclear strategic posture for the post-9/11 world." What a waste of money! The answer... nukes for us and some allies = a-okay; nukes for our enemies = wrong. An entirely consistent strategic position.

Israelis are super pissed at Prime Minister Olmert and call for his resignation.

Finally, Sudan and Chad kinda, sorta agree to token gestures to resolving the Darfur crisis.

Quote of the Day: Navel-Gazing Edition

Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum on why liberal blogs are no match for right-wing media-
"By national radio and TV standards, that's not 'sizeable' at all. It's puny — and it's not growing much either. So it seems to me that Hertzberg was basically right: in the context of what it takes to support mass media, there just aren't very many liberals who are interested in listening to hour upon hour of seething resentment and raw contempt. That seems to still be a mostly conservative vice."

I think that's about right... red meat will always trump thoughtful analysis. Oh, and listening is easier than reading. The latter's active and the former is passive. Americans... not so into the active (does texting 'American Idol' votes count as active?).

Liberals will never out-scream the conservatives. We'll just have to hope that enough people have seen how inept conservative government is on the federal level to appreciate that a clear alternative is out there.

I won't hold my breath, but I'll cross my fingers (to mix my metaphors).

I Love The Onion

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The Army and the Internets

The Army is cracking down on the blogging/emailing of soldiers...

...But it wants to use its own YouTube channel to show its propaganda videos.

So, basically, the military brass likes the internet(s), as long as they get complete control over the content of anything coming from it. Time for soldiers to start communicating by carrier pigeon.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Spy Games II: The Backtracking

In January, when the administration announced it was ending the warrantless wiretapping program and returning to the legally-required procedures of court approval for surveillance, I was skeptical.

Turns out skepticism is justified. Just in from the NY Times-
Senior Bush administration officials told Congress on Tuesday that they could not pledge that the administration would continue to seek warrants from a secret [FISA] court for a domestic wiretapping program, as it agreed to do in January.

Rather, they argued that the president had the constitutional authority to decide for himself whether to conduct surveillance without warrants...

The article adds that-
...The exchange came as the administration is seeking new legislation to update the surveillance act to expand the government’s surveillance powers, in part to deal with vast changes in communications technology since 1978, when the measure was enacted...

So let's review, shall we? The administration is demanding asking Congress to revise the existing wiretapping laws... while simultaneously insisting that they are not constitutionally required to obey any such laws anyway. Gosh, I sure can't imagine why so many Senators are wary of all this.

And let's not forget that FISA is a virtual rubberstamp that rejects no warrant requests.

These were impeachable offenses and the President got away with them, because the right-wing made even discussing the matter tantamount to treason. And now here we are, with the administration insulting the intelligence of the Congress and the public, and the best Senators can do is express their concern. They need to move past the tut-tutting and lay down the law. Literally. Tell the President, 'You have to obey the laws of this land. PERIOD.' If not to stop Bush (because they won't), then to set an important precedent.

That doing so would be considered politically risky says alot about where we are.

Pat Tillman, Heroism, and Silence

Ken Ashford looks at how the right chewed up and spit out Pat Tillman.

Their silence now that the truth about him and his death is officially known speaks volumes.

Odds and Ends: Purgegate Edition

With Alberto Gonzales nailed down, this story's losing steam, but here's the latest...

This just in, from the AP: "Senators subpoenaed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales Wednesday, ordering him to provide all e-mails related to presidential adviser Karl Rove and the firings of eight federal prosecutors." Oh my.

Former U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton: Justice Department told me to keep my mouth shut.

Finally, a DoJ official confirmed to fired U.S. Attorney Carol Lam-- who had brought down Rep. 'Duke' Cunningham and was investigating other federal officials for corruption-- that the orders for the purge were "coming from the very highest levels of the government."

Prime Minister Blair To Finalize Resignation Soon

The times, they are a'changing in the United Kingdom. Prime Minister Blair's previously announced plans to step down remain on track. The Guardian reports that he plans an official resignation announcement late next week. Labour Party politician Gordon Brown is expected to replace him.

This has implications for us beyond just removing President Bush's top international ally from power. The Washington Monthly notes that Brown does not support the Iraq war and therefore the pending British departure from that country is definitely on track as well.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

BREAKING: President Bush Vetoes Iraq Bill

Well, it's official... the President has vetoed the Iraq spending/withdrawal bill.

If I were you, I'd ignore his cookie-cutter speech about battles for civilization and Democratic 'surrender' and how we need to fund the troops who are apparently feasting on crumbs as we speak, etc. There's a new "Veronica Mars" on tonight. Watch that instead.

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[What's the matter, George? You used to like timetables/exit strategies. You changed, man.]

Happy Mission Accomplished Day!

Today is the fourth anniversary of the day that the President and the media declared the war in Iraq to be over and won. All this other pesky stuff happening there for the last four years? Just the aftershocks, pay it no mind.

This photo-op was definitely the pinnacle of the media's Iraq war/Bush love-fest-- most disturbingly Chris Matthews' obsession with George Bush's, umm, manliness. Four years and one quagmire (well two if you count Afghanistan, but apparently no one does), they have surely learned a lesson about buying into White House spin, right? Right??

Here was an AP story on the front page of Yahoo this morning...

AP: 'Bush seeks cooperation on U.S. war funds'
President Bush said Monday he wants to work with Democrats on compromise legislation to pay for the Iraq war but will carry through on his threat to veto any spending bill that sets a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal.

"I'm optimistic we can get something done in a positive way," Bush said in a Rose Garden news conference with leaders of the European Union....

Cooperation? Yea, right. By 'wants to work with Democrats', the actual text of the article clearly implies the what the President means is that he demands Congress give him exactly what he wants and then shut the fuck up. The AP knows that, but they're too polite to say it. They shouldn't be.

Whether or not Democrats cave on the withdrawal stipulation, this sure as hell ain't cooperation.

No, Thank You.

That's apparently what the Bush administration said when offered Katrina-related help-
Just $40 million of $854 million offered to the United States to help the Gulf Coast recover from Hurricane Katrina has been used so far, and most of the offered aid was never collected, the Washington Post reported in Sunday's editions.

Key supplies and services such as mobile telephone systems, medicines and cruise ships to house victims were delayed or refused because the U.S. government could not handle them, the newspaper said...

..."Tell them we blew it," one official wrote, according to the newspaper. But then she added: "The flip side is just to dispose of it and not come clean. I could be persuaded."...

I think it was Arianna Huffington who originally said it, but New Orleans is truly the domestic version of Iraq for this President. And neither is likely to see real help until 2009. I wonder if the President even remembers that he gave this speech 19 months ago? Maybe someone should ask him.


We're making sooo much progress in Iraq.

A department of the Iraqi prime minister's office is playing a leading role in the arrest and removal of senior Iraqi army and national police officers, some of whom had apparently worked too aggressively to combat violent Shiite militias, according to U.S. military officials in Baghdad.

Since March 1, at least 16 army and national police commanders have been fired, detained or pressured to resign; at least nine of them are Sunnis, according to U.S. military documents shown to The Washington Post...

...And in terms of reconstruction-
In a troubling sign for the American-financed rebuilding program in Iraq, inspectors for a federal oversight agency have found that in a sampling of eight projects that the United States had declared successes, seven were no longer operating as designed because of plumbing and electrical failures, lack of proper maintenance, apparent looting and expensive equipment that lay idle.

The United States has previously admitted, sometimes under pressure from federal inspectors, that some of its reconstruction projects have been abandoned, delayed or poorly constructed. But this is the first time inspectors have found that projects officially declared a success — in some cases, as little as six months before the latest inspections — were no longer working properly....

What a fantastic war/occupation/clusterfuck. Worth every dead civilian and soldier penny.

Alberto Gonzales Is Still Attorney General...

...And here's a new, big bombshell on why that's a continuing travesty.

The Bigger Picture (Pt. II)

A few days ago I mentioned a speech that Rep. Rahm Emanuel gave putting all the of Bush administration scandals into a larger context of a group of people putting party above country as a governing ideology. I noted that I didn't have video of it.

I have now found video of it... courtesy of Crooks and Liars.

Oh No, They're On To Us!!

Today is 'May Day' and that means that conservatives' semi-dormant irrational take on the immigration issue (okay... mostly just the Mexicans) is about to explode all over again.

But between all the talk about America's immigrant culture and immigration laws and labor/economic realities, etc, is a secret that the people who run our society don't want you to know about. Luckily for America and Baby Jesus, the Utah Republicans have uncovered this plot-
...Don Larsen, chairman of legislative District 65 for the Utah County Republican Party, had submitted a resolution warning that Satan's minions want to eliminate national borders and do away with sovereignty.

In a speech at the convention, Larsen told those gathered that illegal immigrants "hate American people" and "are determined to destroy this country, and there is nothing they won't do."

Illegal aliens are in control of the media, and working in tandem with Democrats, are trying to "destroy Christian America" and replace it with "a godless new world order -- and that is not extremism, that is fact," Larsen said.

At the end of his speech, Larsen began to cry, saying illegal immigrants were trying to bring about the destruction of the U.S. "by self invasion."

Republican officials then allowed speakers to defend and refute the resolution. One speaker, who was identified as "Joe," said illegal immigrants were Marxist and under the influence of the devil...

I have no idea what I can possibly add to this. It all just speaks for itself.

[PS- The Senate is still pushing for immigration reform. Sounds like they're in on it too.]

Monday, April 30, 2007

Odds and Ends

Don't have the time to do these stories justice, but here's a quick runthrough...

Secretary Rice will be attending a regional summit in Egypt to discuss the situation in Iraq later this week and said she would not rule out engaging with her Iranian counterpart. Dick Cheney = pissed.

Speaking of Mideast conflicts a completely new topic, the Washington Post reports that the "Interior Department will announce a proposal Monday to allow oil and gas drilling in federal waters near Virginia that are currently off-limits and permit new exploration in Alaska's Bristol Bay and the Gulf of Mexico". Here's a crazy idea... why not use some of the billion$ we invest in oil drilling to actually try and find a viable, sustainable alternative to oil?

Ohh, I'm sorry, are we still in the permanent denial phase? Nevermind then.

Alberto Gonzales is still hard at work running the Justice Department trying to convince Congress he's functionally retarded: "For the moment, Gonzales' days will be spent in much the same way they have been for most of the spring: preparing to defend himself before Congress..."

Liberal media alert! Time magazine has hired proud Republican suck-up Mark 'Drudge Rules Our World' Halperin.

Finally, in non-political news, hope is out there for victims of Alzheimer's disease.

They Have Inquiries Too

I saw this headline about the internal Israeli probe into last summer's war with Hezbollah/Lebanon off to the side on Drudge (sex scandal = big!) and was amused-

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It notes that the report concludes that Israeli leaders "hastily led country into conflict without comprehensive plan". Gosh, I can't imagine what they would be like, eh, Mr. Drudge?

I hope that their government is better at learning lessons than ours (we really stink at it). I also hope that they don't have the counterpart(s) of right-wing talk radio, Fox News, the NY Post, and countless newspaper columnists accusing everyone of treason for even having this discussion. I'd like to believe that level of stupidity is uniquely American.

The AP article on this probe here: 'Olmert will not resign after report '

Primary Ponderings

Why no mainstream love for the uber-qualified Bill Richardson? Is it all about the benjamins? Or is it a popularity contest? Probably both. I remain undecided (calendar says it's still 2007), but this guy's resume is pretty impressive.

You can see his latest campaign ad-- about Iraq-- here.

"Increasingly foolish and indefensible."

A good NY Times editorial on the abstinence-only delusion.

(Not that it'll convince the sex is icky crowd any more than the ever-growing revelations of their hypocrisy-- see Ted Haggard and now Randall Tobias, etc-- but hopefully with enough time the crazy people will be forced back into the basement.)

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Weekend Video Theatre: Bush v. Bush

The Moyers special too depressing? Here's a more humorous Iraq-related video...

Jon Stewart: "Basically, first-term president Bush, you invaded to remove the threat of Saddam Hussein. And you, current president Bush, are there to battle the threat created by the lack of Saddam Hussein."

This aired on the same show as the McCain interview.

[PS- President Bush is all ready to veto plans to threaten his super-awesome war.

And more proof the 'surge' is just time-buying escalation with no concern for actual results.]

'Buying The War' (aka Darn That Liberal Media!)... Pt. II

Earlier this week, I plugged the Bill Moyers documentary- 'Buying the War'. For those who missed it, PBS has made it available for viewing online for free. You can do so: here.

Everybody should definitely watch this... it's a truly shocking memory-jogger. I'd forgotten just how quickly after 9/11-- even before our forces had entered Afghanistan-- that the politicians and pundits began beating the drums for invading Iraq. It's criminal that this happened. At the very least we should not ever forget it.

Big thanks to Bill Moyers for reminding us, however depressing it is, of how we got here.

The Bigger Picture

Because the media reports scandals in a bubble and/or like some catty soap-operas ('OMG Lindsey Graham yelled at Alberto Gonzales! Daaaamnnn, you go girl'), most people likely see them as isolated incidents of political chicanery. In the case of the Bush administration, most of these scandals are linked by common threads. Few people (my favorite exception is the muckraking gang at Talking Points Memo) try to piece these together.

The common thread is extreme partisanship and power. Republicans hate the idea of government and have thusly been mixed at running it, but the Bush Republicans used government-- moreso than their predecessors-- as a way to consolidate their own power and to enrich their friends. The U.S. Attorney purge, the warrantless wiretapping program, war profiteering, the cronies and FEMA and elsewhere, etc... all guided by this ideology.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel this week gave a speech really tying this all together well in an incredbly damning indictment of the Bush White House. It was major news all over the country seen by absolutely no one.

He summed it up thusly: "The Bush Administration has redefined the famous challenge of President Kennedy’s inaugural address. Instead of 'Ask not what your country can do for you,' it has become 'Ask what your government can do for our party.'"

Anyway, here are some highlights from the text (I couldn't find video)-
Not since the days of Watergate, when our judicial system and intelligence community were deployed by the White House in the service of partisan politics, have we seen such abuses. And in many ways, what we have seen from this administration is far more extensive than that scandal.

Partisan politics has infiltrated every level of our federal government – from scientific reports on global warming to emergency management services to the prosecutorial power of the federal government itself. Even the Iraq War – from our entry to the reconstruction – has been thoroughly politicized and manipulated.


[T]hese are not isolated incidences. It’s a pattern of political appointees who put partisan interests ahead of country –- and were told to do so.

He concludes-
While we pursue these ideas -– and others -– to get politics and policy back into balance, ultimately we need leaders who see public service as a calling and not a profit center for themselves or their political allies. A Congress that takes its oversight responsibilities seriously is our best antidote to the unprecedented politicizing of government. Furthermore, the media must also continue to shine a bright light on government and keep our leaders honest and accountable. That vigorous oversight ought to extend to the next Administration, whether Democratic or Republican and Congress.

The saddest legacy of the Bush Administration’s six-year trail of cronyism and corruption is that it contributes to the public’s already cynical view of government. This makes it even more difficult for those of us who believe that the purpose of government is to secure a better future for our country and all of its people. Repairing this sorry legacy is the first challenge our next President will face.

Ummmm, yea, good luck with that, Rahm. They're too busy covering John Edwards' haircut.

The whole speech can be read- here. It's a Cliff Notes of Bush administration corruption.

[UPDATE: The Bush cultists at Powerline brag that the administration is 100% scandal-free.]