Saturday, June 02, 2007

Bush Administration on Iraq: Moving The Goalposts (Again)

Lowering expectations, an administration speciality, continues to apply to the Iraq situation-
U.S. military leaders in Iraq are increasingly convinced that most of the broad political goals President Bush laid out early this year in his announcement of a troop buildup will not be met this summer and are seeking ways to redefine success...

Enactment of a new law to share Iraq's oil revenue among Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish regions is the only goal they think might be achieved in time, and even that is considered a long shot. The two other key benchmarks are provincial elections and a deal to allow more Sunni Arabs into government jobs.

With overhauls by the central government stalled and with security in Baghdad still a distant goal, Petraeus' advisors hope to focus on smaller achievements that they see as signs of progress, including local deals among Iraq's rival factions to establish areas of peace in some provincial cities...

A far cry from the mighty surge fantasy the President unleashed on us in January, no?

But Gates said last week that U.S. officials may have over-emphasized the importance of Iraq's central government.

"One of the concerns that I've had," Gates said, "was whether we had focused too much on central government construction in both Iraq and Afghanistan and not enough on the cultural and historical, provincial, tribal and other entities that have played an important role in the history of both countries."

Only took 'em four or five years to figure that one out. Gold star, Mr. Secretary.

Salon's Joan Walsh looks at how this may play out in domestic policies come the mythical September moment-
September is crucial on several fronts: The defense budget, and the Iraq supplemental funding bill, come up then, too. Will Republicans make good on their threats to cancel Bush's blank check, or will they just let the administration continue to define success downward? Will Democrats devise a political strategy they can stick to before Labor Day, rather than caving in as they did before Memorial Day? You can count on one thing: The Bush administration and whatever generals he puts in charge won't be any more truthful in September than they were in January, or May. It's on war opponents, in both parties, to be smarter. Can they learn from their mistakes so far?

Nope. America doesn't learn from its mistakes; that's for pussies.

Operation Buy Time Until 2009 will remain in full effect.


Why has there not been any terrorist attacks in America since 9/11?

One man-- a former military intelligence officer-- has a pretty thoughtful blog post exploring the reason(s).


I love it when political journalists show their geek side...

Juan Cole ( Dick Cheney's least favorite TV show?-

Why the worldview of "Heroes" clashes with the vice president's "1 percent doctrine" on terrorism.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Diplomacy?!! Oh No!

For all the President's tough-guy talk in public (Bush SMASH!), the real fact-- as his own commanders quietly admit-- is that the only way the Iraqi crisis will end peacefully is through a political solution, not a military one. Our military presence there only prolongs our problems.

So it's no surprise that, while the White House is yelling at Congress (oh, and the American people) for bringing up "exit strategies", his commanders are working this angle-
U.S. military commanders are talking with Iraqi militants about cease-fires and other arrangements to try to stop the violence, the No. 2 American commander said Thursday...

...Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno said commanders at all levels are being empowered to reach out for talks with militants, tribes, religious leaders and others in the country that has been gripped by violence on a range of fronts including insurgents, sectarian rivals and common criminals...

...He said he thinks 80 percent of Iraqis — including Sunni insurgents and Shia militants — can reach reconciliation with each other, though most al-Qaida operatives won't...

Color me super skeptical. Still, this is certainly an avenue worth exploring.

Of course, politically cynical ol' me can't help but wonder what all the Republicans and general Bush cultists who accused Democrats of "treason" and "emboldening the enemy" for daring to suggest we need a timetable for withdrawal (which is now a moot point anyway) would say about the U.S. military negotiating with said 'enemy'. Oh wait, they probably wouldn't say a thing. Standard IOKIYAR (*) rules apply.

Cross your fingers and clap your hands, everyone.

[*It's OK if you're a Republican.]

Weekend Odds and Ends

Thanks to the holiday, this week went by quick. Here's a week-end news roundup...

History is going to look back on the crazy people that President Bush appointed to powerful positions and shake its collective head. He has nominated Joseph Holsinger to be the new Surgeon General. Who's he? He is the founder of Hope Springs Community Church in Kentucky which, among other things, helps cure gay people of their "lifestyle" problem. Hallelujah!

Not surprising. This is the same country that forced Joycelyn Elders out of that job for discussing masturbation.

One of the President's key advisors-- Dan Bartlett-- has left in shame for the private sector.

Things really, really suck in Darfur. And in Lebanon too.

Time magazine discovers something interesting... People like Barack Obama because he is very honest, even when it's not politically convenient for him to be. This bizarre phenomenon must be studied in greater detail.

Finally, the American media shits its collective pants over Tuberculosis Man.


What goes around, comes around... Vice President Cheney, whose administration cultivated the homophobic bigotry of the Republican base during the 2004 election cycle, now finds himself the the target of attacks by those same bigoted homophobes for sticking by his lesbian daughter as her and her partner have their first child.

I'm generally mild-mannered, but if anyone deserves the grief, it's the fucking Cheneys.

C'mon Europe...

...Tell us what you really think.

That video was from 'The Anti-Americans (a hate/love relationship)', part of PBS’ "America At A Crossroads" series. It explores how different parts of Europe view, and respond to, American culture. This clip features some French school-children expressing their perceptions of us. It's exactly how I perceive French children would perceive us.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

OMG Spoiler Alert!!1!!

The State Department is so embarrassed that our plans for the $592 million, 104 acres super-embassy in Iraq (including a food court and a pool) were seen by the American people-- and maybe even the few Iraqis with enough electricity per day to go online and come across the story-- that they've demanded the architectural firm designing it remove the images.

See, they hate when people ruin the ending, in this case that of our permanent occupation.


With all the attention being paid to Mitt Romney and Rudy 9/11, one has to almost feel bad for Senator McCain, who completely flushed his last shred of dignity down the toilet three years ago, embracing Bush Republicanism during the 2004 race in order to secure the 2008 nomination. And the base still doesn't like him! Well, this kid does and he wants to tell you why John McCain should be our next President.

Can President Bush Go Below 28%?

If the angry Bush cultists have anything to say about it (foreigners bad!), maybe he will.

[UPDATE: Wow, it's worse than I thought: "The Republican National Committee, hit by a grass-roots donors' rebellion over President Bush's immigration policy, has fired all 65 of its telephone solicitors". Mmmm, schadenfreude.]

Still Need Convincing Pres. Bush Has No Plans To Leave Iraq Ever...

...This headline should help.

AP: Bush sees South Korea model for Iraq-
President Bush envisions a long-term U.S. troop presence in Iraq similar to the one in South Korea where American forces have helped keep an uneasy peace for more than 50 years, the White House said Wednesday....

Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall shakes his head at the stupidity of this latest rambling.

No Thank You, We Like Our Greenhouse Gases

A funny thing happened. The Europeans-- particularly those like Germany who still like us-- thought the reality of climate change was so urgent and obvious that the United States would join them in constructing strong policies to combat it (since, ya know, President Bush throws out some rhetorical bones here and there indicating he is at least aware of the situation). Boy, they do not know us at all, even after all this time.

From the NY Times-
The United States has rejected Germany’s proposal for deep long-term cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, setting the stage for a battle that will pit President Bush against his European allies at next month’s meeting of the world’s richest countries.

In unusually harsh language, Bush administration negotiators took issue with the German draft of the communiqué for the meeting of the Group of 8 industrialized nations, complaining that the proposal “crosses multiple red lines in terms of what we simply cannot agree to.”

[Blueducks' note: Ummm, then what can you agree to, ohh wise Bush administration?

UPDATE: The administration unveils their climate proposal.

UPDATE #2: It's mostly bullshit, of course.]

...Germany, backed by Britain and now Japan [as well as Germany, Italy, France], has proposed cutting global greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2050. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who will be the host of the meeting in the Baltic Sea resort of Heiligendamm next month, has been pushing hard to get the Group of 8 to take significant action on climate change...

...A clearly disappointed Ms. Merkel, speaking to Germany’s lower house of Parliament on Thursday, sought to lower expectations that Mr. Bush would agree to the more ambitious agenda sought by Europe and Japan. “I can say quite openly that, today, I don’t know whether we will succeed in that at Heiligendamm,” she said.

I, however, can say quite openly that you will not succeed, Angela.

This administration is annoyingly predictable and stubborn. Why does this still shock people?

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Dick Cheney's America

Vice President Cheney gave the commencement speech at the West Point graduation last week. Besides the usual fear/war-mongering, Cheney also displayed his usual disdain for the very principles these graduates are supposedly swearing an oath to defend. Quote-
"As Army officers on duty in the war on terror, you will now face enemies who oppose and despise everything you know to be right, every notion of upright conduct and character, and every belief you consider worth fighting for and living for. Capture one of these killers, and he'll be quick to demand the protections of the Geneva Convention and the Constitution of the United States. Yet when they wage attacks or take captives, their delicate sensibilities seem to fall away."

Get that? He is describing the Geneva Convention and the Constitution as obstacles to be overcome in wartime... which is forever, in the Cheney worldview (and if the former doesn't apply in wartime, when does it apply?).

That our Vice President continues to say such radical things is one thing, but to deliver such an address to the soldiers of tomorrow at one of our nation's premier military schools is scandalous.

I can only hope-- if naively-- that the graduates see Cheney's words as the unamerican garbage they are. Of course, we've seen far too many men and women willing to follow the draconian policies this administration has crafted in secret. Since Congress has not seen fit to act here, all we can do is pound our fists and continue to wait patiently until 2009.

Zik zik zik!

Tom Tomorrow summarizes how the media treats the subject of religion in politics-

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Media Matters has also just published a study basically making the same point.

More Odds and Ends

There's too much news out there and I can't get it to stop. Here's what I found...

Irony alert!! President Bush chided critics of the increasingly-endangered immigration reform proposal of fearmongering. "If you want to scare the American people, what you say is the bill's an amnesty bill," Bush said. "That's empty political rhetoric, trying to frighten our citizens."

You tell 'em, George! Maybe immigration opponents need a color chart to inform people of the threat level Mexicans pose to us at any given moment. Stock up on duct tape, folks, Lou Dobbs says some diseased foreigners are coming to get us.

This just in! Experts conclude that torture still doesn't work.

Americans, take solace in the fact that weight issues are not just an American problem. From the AP: "A majority of adults are obese or overweight in most European Union nations and kids increasingly contributing to make Europe a fat continent, the EU's top public health official said Wednesday." Too many Royales with Cheese.

Meanwhile, President Bush requests more $$ for shitty abstinence programs that don't work.

And the liberal media folks at CNN have decided that they might be too wasting too much times reporting on 'news' (whatever that is) and have hired a new correspondent specifically to cover "the Britney, Lindsay, Michael Jackson memorabilia beat."

Finally, actor/politician Fred Thompson confirms the obvious... he's running for President.

Meet The New Boss...

...Same as the old boss?-
U.S. President George W. Bush has chosen Robert Zoellick, a former U.S. Trade Representative, as the new president for the World Bank, a senior administration official said on Tuesday.

Bush will announce his selection on Wednesday and expects the bank's board to accept it, the official said...

Describing Mr. Zoellick as a "former U.S. Trade Representative" is technically accurate, but also leaves out something important. Zoellick's previous job before this month was being President Bush's Deputy Secretary of State for the first half of his second term.

In addition, Mr. Zoellick-- like Paul Wolfowitz-- was one of the original supporters/architects of the neoconservative ideology that lead to the invasion of Iraq.

Translation: After 6+ years in Washington DC, President Bush's rolodex is still awfully thin.


Stories I came across reminding me our imperfect union's still better than the alternatives... Moscow police detain gay activists

BBC News: Second Venezuela TV is under fire-
Venezuela's government has accused a TV station of inciting a murder attempt on President Hugo Chavez, hours after taking another network off the air.

AFP: China's former food and drug chief sentenced to death

Yikes on that last one! And meanwhile, our government officials complain about having to testify before Congress in some basic oversight! I think the Chinese take accountability (when and if they have any) a little too seriously.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Where Were These Stories Three Years Ago?

By now, most political junkies have heard the story of how, in 2004, Andrew Card and Alberto Gonzales tried to strongarm a bed-ridden John Ashcroft into signing off on the warrantless wiretapping program, after he and acting-Attorney General Jim Comey expressed concern about it. Now, a Newsweek story on the Gonzales mess (isn't it great when the country's Attorney General is seen as a mess to be cleaned up?) reveals this was a very big deal at the time. Money quote-
...Back at the Justice Department, there is an equally extraordinary scene. Appalled by the White House's heavy-handed attempt to coerce the gravely ill attorney general, virtually the entire top leadership of the Justice Department is threatening to resign. The group includes the director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, Associate Attorney General Robert McCallum and the chief of the Criminal Division, Chris Wray. Some of them gather in the conference room of Deputy Attorney General James Comey, who describes Ashcroft's bravely turning away the president's men from his hospital bed. The mood that night in the conference room was tense—and sober. "This was a showdown," says a former senior Justice Department official who was there. "Everybody understood the choice they were making and the gravity of the situation. Everybody knew what the stakes were." A different source estimated that as many as 30 top DOJ officials would have resigned.

The next day Comey is summoned to the White House to meet with President Bush. The details remain murky. But it takes two weeks before a compromise is reached—averting the spectacle of mass resignation by putting more legal controls on the eavesdropping program...

This seems like big news... in 2004-- an election year-- we almost had a reverse Saturday Night Massacre, which not only would've blown the lid off the wiretapping program, but also exposed the politicization of the Justice Department in time for voters to actually do something about it. Who knows what 'compromise' the President agreed to in order to keep this all buried, but that sounds like it was a crazy two weeks.

This should also put to rest the talking point that all the people working in or around the Bush White House were totally comfortable with his illegal wiretapping program and the lengths he was willing to go to protect it. It's clear that the President mollified its biggest critics, but the acceptance of this program is certainly less uniform that they'd have us believe.

The U.S. May Have All But Given Up On Iraqi Reconstruction...

...But man, we are building one colossal embassy. This will win hearts and minds big time.

Think Progress: PHOTOS: The $592 Million U.S. Embassy In Iraq

Odds and Ends

Slowly coming back from the weekend. Here's miscellaneous news to get this started...

While Vice President Cheney is still holding out for good ol'-fashioned shock and awe, the few diplomacy-mongers in the administration have bitten the bullet and begun a conversation with Iran: "The United States ambassador in Baghdad said he and his Iranian counterpart agreed broadly on policy toward Iraq during four-hour groundbreaking talks on Monday, but insisted that Iran end its support for militants."


President Bush to Sudan: Would you like sanctions with that?

Barack Obama unveils his universal healthcare proposal. Basically, it's the same bandaid-on-a-gunshot-wound proposal that will just clean up around the edges, without solving the deeper problem... namely that this country runs healthcare like a business, rather than a basic human right. We can do better.

Good news for when we eventually destroy this planet... we discovered new ones!: "Astronomers have discovered 28 new planets outside of our solar system, increasing to 236 the number of known exoplanets, revealing that planets can exist around a broad spectrum of stellar types--from tiny, dim stars to giants."

Speaking of science fables ??, the Creation Museum has opened in Kentucky.

Finally, another study confirming that Fox "News" actually presents very little of it.

They Won't Have Cindy Sheehan To Kick Around Anymore

Cindy Sheehan explains why she is 'retiring' as the face of the peace movement.

You don't have to agree with every action Cindy has taken in search for peace to feel sad for her. This was just someone trying to make sense of her son's death. This just-ended holiday was a reminder that she is not alone. It will never make sense, but hopefully the parents of the fallen will be able to find some peace in their own lives, if not in the world.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Quote(s) of the Day: Memorial Day Edition

Quote #1 (from Andrew Bacevich, long-time opponent of the war, whose son --a soldier-- died in Iraq two weeks ago)-
"Memorial Day orators will say that a G.I.'s life is priceless. Don't believe it. I know what value the U.S. government assigns to a soldier's life: I've been handed the check. It's roughly what the Yankees will pay Roger Clemens per inning once he starts pitching next month."

Quote #2 (from Matthew Yglesias, associate editor/blogger of The Atlantic)-
It certainly strikes me as likely, though not inevitable, that after we leave Iraq there will be an increase in the level of violence. So should we stay? No. On Memorial Day Weekend 2006 it was true that if we left Iraq there would likely be an increase in the level of violence. Memorial Day Weekend 2005? Same deal. 2004? Same. 2003? Same.

Trend lines matter. We've been in Iraq a long time now, and our presence keeps not improving the situation. The fact that the actual leaving may well be difficult is no reason to simply prolong the need to leave.

I don't mean to be a downer, I know it's a holiday. But it's a somber one. It's supposed to be.

Weekend Video Theatre: America v. Reason

Al Gore sat down with Jon Stewart this past Thursday to discuss 'The Assault of Reason'. I was going to pay attention, but a celebrity couple broke up... and, oh look, a shiny thing!

Pt. 1-

Pt. 2-

Have a great weekend, everyone! Blogging will resume in a day or two.