Saturday, June 09, 2007

Weekend Odds and Ends

Paris Hilton's been brought to justice. Our long national nightmare is over. More news...

Due to concerns that, at a re-confirmation hearing, administration officials might be forced to account for the disaster they have formented in Iraq Democrats might say mean things to him, Defense Secretary Gates has announced "the decision to replace Gen. Peter Pace as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when his term ends in September". Pace was a huge anti-gay bigot, so no loss there. He will replaced by Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chief of naval operations, who I am sure has a fucking brilliant plan to end this quagmire.

Is Mayor Bloomberg's congestion plan a traffic fee or a tax? They report, you decide.

Senate Republicans are threatening a temper tantrum "total meltdown" if the Democrats don't approve all of the President's judicial nominees ASAP without asking any of those annoying 'questions' they're so fond of. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell threw his crayons at the wall and promised to hold his breath until he gets his way.

And voter fraud... proudly brought to you by the Republican party for over 20 years.

Finally, the Senate will vote Monday whether to hold a no-confidence vote on Attorney General Gonzales. A vote to decide whether to vote on something? Good lord! How about they vote instead to see who really believes the President gives a shit what Congress (or the public or anyone) thinks.

Beyond Bush

Newsweek's top international correspondent (and frequent 'Daily Show' guest) Fareed Zakaria has the cover story this week. It's on restoring America's place in the world, following the end of this administration (only 19 more gruelling months!). It's entitled 'Beyond Bush: What the world needs is an open, confident America.'

The very fact that such an article even exists speaks volumes about the damage that the Bush presidency has done to America, at home and abroad. Worst president ever? It's not even a contest.

If you have the time, it is worth reading. I don't agree with all of Zakaria's statements/positions, but I think he gets the general idea right, and certainly has seen enough of the world to know what he's talking about.

The Onion

Two articles from this week's 'Onion' that I enjoyed, and I thought I'd share...

-Retired Gen. George Washington Criticizes Bush's Handling Of Iraq War

-Hey, Wasn't There Some Sort Of National Tragedy A Few Months Back?

Friday, June 08, 2007

"That's When Terrorism Becomes Frighteningly Successful..."

Chris Matthews, the most politically schizophrenic anchor on MSNBC, does get it right here on what's wrong with the GOP approach to the war on terror-

Immigration Reform Dead, News At 11

NPR: Senate Abandons Immigration Bill

And so we hit the snooze button on immigration for another year. You win this round, Mr. Dobbs.

Iran: A Naive? Rational Look

Well-respected author Reza Aslan has an op-ed in the LA Times that would give Dick Cheney heartburn. It's entitled "Making Iran our friend: Abandoning our stated goal of regime change could bring about the reforms in Tehran the U.S. has always wanted."

She rightly makes the point (another inconvenient truth) that the administration's faux-tough policies and rhetoric toward Iran-- not to mention the invasion and occupation of Iraq-- have actually had the reverse effect intended... they have made Iran more powerful and dangerous than they were before.

It should be noted that, in the immediate 9/11 aftermath, the Iranians were very sympathetic to us, even offering assistance in our war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, which we accepted. Then the neocons wanted to play war games, so Iran became part of the "axis of evil", they got angry/scared, elected hardliners like Ahmadinejad, and put more effort into undermining our interests in the region. A self-fulfilling prophecy.

Did we blow our chance at peace? Ms. Aslan ponders that question-
FINALLY, AFTER three decades of mutual animosity, outright threats and puerile name-calling, the United States and Iran this week engaged in a constructive dialogue about their common concerns in the Middle East. Already the optimism that followed those talks has given way to the usual tit-for-tat accusations. Still, one can't help but wonder: After all these years, could the U.S. and Iran slowly be moving toward a more diplomatic relationship or even — dare I say it — rapprochement?

Let's not get ahead of ourselves. For that to happen, Iran will have to meet certain conditions. It must stop sending arms to Hezbollah. It must cease meddling in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And it must pursue a more constructive role in stabilizing Iraq.

But the U.S. has conditions of its own to meet before it too can be considered a reliable negotiating partner. Most important, it must once and for all abandon its policy of actively pursuing regime change in Iran...

...The great irony, of course, is that abandoning regime change in Iran is the surest way to ensure the regime's collapse. This is because, contrary to widespread perception, Iran is already a democracy. It's just not a very successful one.

Unlike most other countries in the Middle East, Iran has a long and deeply embedded democratic tradition that goes back more than a century. The country boasts what is arguably the most robust political culture in the Muslim world. Since 1980, Iran has held more than 20 elections — all of them freer and fairer than those of any of America's Arab allies — that have drawn 60% to 80% of the electorate to the polls. Despite harsh restrictions on who may run for office, Iran's elections offer lively political campaigns and raucous debates between contrasting candidates who do not shy away from any topic of concern...

...The lesson to be learned from America's misadventure in Iraq is that democracy cannot be promoted from the top down; it must be reared from within...

...Taking regime change off the table also would allow the U.S. to deal more effectively with Iran's nuclear program. It is likely that Iran's leaders do not want nuclear weapons, because of their prohibitive cost and significant security risk. But they would like to have the option of developing them fairly quickly if necessary. And why not? Iran has learned a valuable lesson from its fellow "axis of evil" nations: one did not have nukes and it was obliterated by the U.S. military; the other has nukes and it is being plied with money to relinquish them...

...The days in which Iran could be viewed as a rogue state teetering on the verge of collapse are over. Thanks to U.S. actions in the region, Iran is the new power in the Middle East. It's well past time the United States started treating it as such.


A shame that one of the most calm, intelligent, and accurate takes on this situation that I have across is from an op-ed in one paper and not in the mainstream media dialogue about Iran, which still mostly works off the White House rhetoric. I agree that there is hope for positive change here, and I believe we would've had it after 9/11 with a better President. Let's hope the next President has time to fix this, and let's hope the current President doesn't fuck this up before then any more than he has.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Hindsight Foresight is 20/20

Bill Moyers highlighted on Friday's episode of 'Bill Moyer's Journal' audio of a 1964 conversation between President Johnson and his National Security Adviser, in which Johnson confides that he was gravely concerned about our Vietnam policy. "I don’t think it’s worth fighting for and I don’t think we can get out. And it’s just the biggest damn mess that I ever saw," he said.

He went on to escalate the war anyway and it lasted another 11 years.

Headline of the Day

I take back what I said in the last post, this is the headline of the day...

AP: 'Judge freezes Rep. William Jefferson's assets'

(And if you don't know why that's funny, read the history of this case.)

Odds and Ends

Thank God almighty, Paris Hilton is free at last! Now here's some other lame political crap...

My favorite headline of the day thus far... 'Bush says Russia won't attack Europe'. Phew! Now I feel much safer. Have no fear, you crazy Europeans, Vladimir Putin may be a murderous totalitarian, but he has no plans to extend his tyranny beyond his borders.

And the Washington Monthly looks at the controversy over Bush's planned anti-missile bases.

And over at the G8 Summit, the European governments agreed on a climate plan which sets "a goal to cut greenhouse gases and negotiate a new agreement on tackling climate change within the United Nations."

President Bush says that-- as with Iraq-- he'd prefer some non-binding benchmarks instead.

Back at home, the right-wing 'Free Scooter' movement continues.

And as a team of scientists reports that "they have produced the equivalent of embryonic stem cells in mice using skin cells without the controversial destruction of embryos," Congress has passed a new stem cell research funding bill... which will be vetoed.

The Senate Judiciary Committee cleared a bill designed to restore habeas corpus rights for detainees. The bill will be voted on later this month.

Finally, President Bush's new Surgeon General nominee is a real fucking nutcase.

Quote of the Day

"After all, everyone with a pulse and a three-digit IQ knows that the single most effective policy to cut down illegal immigration isn't a border fence or more money for patrol cars. The single most effective policy would be to seriously clamp down on businesses that illegally hire undocumented workers. Really clamp down. There are plenty of smart proposals out there for doing just that, and some of them even have the added bonus of costing almost nothing.

But of course we know who opposes this policy change: the corporate paymasters of the Republican Party. Maybe somebody ought to have a word with them about that."
--Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum, on what real immigration reform is, and why we'll never get it.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Mid-Week Video Theatre: Better Know The Food Stamp Challenge

Stephen Colbert gets to better know Illinois congresswoman Jane Schakowsky, one of the few representatives who participated in the recent Food Stamp Challenge. Take it away, Stephen-

The Tucker Carlson clip he shows is particularly angering. Yes, poor people are more likely to be overweight. But that's not because they're lazy fatasses sitting around eating Cheetos all day while buying big-screen TVs with their welfare checks. It's because the cheapest foods (fast food dollar menu, pasta) are also the most unhealthy; the healthiest foods (fruits and vegetables, organic goods) are out of many Americans' budgets. Good health has become a luxury the poor can't afford. Why people don't get this I don't know.

[Related reading: Cost of hunger calculated at $90 billion (The Washington Times)]

Meanwhile, In Iraq...

The NY Times reports that "Three months after the start of the Baghdad security plan that has added thousands of American and Iraqi troops to the capital, they control fewer than one-third of the city’s neighborhoods, far short of the initial goal for the operation, according to some commanders and an internal military assessment."

Well, that was... predictable.

But have no fear, says Gen. Petraeus... the real surge hasn't even started yet. Wooooo!

Meanwhile, while our leaders dither, the British government obviously gets it-
...A senior military official told The Sunday Telegraph: "Britain is not physically capable of fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq at the same time. The question is: which do we give up? The Government and the defence chiefs have decided that we should give up Iraq.

"There is an agreed timetable, a glide path, which will see a complete unilateral withdrawal in 12 months."...

Military pragmatism? Sounds like a bunch of defeatocrats to me.

Hey speaking of 'defeatocrats', blogger Matthew Yglesias takes on the ridiculous beltway logic of people like the Washington Post's editorial board that there's no difference between the Democrats and Republicans on that issue. Says Yglesias, "But there's obviously a huge difference between the Bush/Romney approach of defining the United States as locked in endless combat with an amorphous and endlessly-growing set of frightening Muslims and saying you're going to dedicate serious energy to focusing on and targeting al-Qaeda. These aren't just different things, they're opposing sentiments."

The problem is that people have so fully bought into the Bush administration bumper-sticker view of this matter that they don't understand why those sentiments are opposed to each other. The former is a counterproductive farce created for domestic/jingoistic purposes; the latter is a practical foreign policy strategy.

Finally, the Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum rips into the conventional wisdom that a full withdrawal would be bad and that we should leave small forces behind. That suggestion misses the point, he says. It's "a big enough number to keep the Arab public convinced that we intend a permanent imperial presence in the region, but too small a number to accomplish anything effective... A much better option would be to draw down nearly to zero, keeping troops and air support nearby but not physically within Iraq. Otherwise the pressure to intervene will rear its head constantly and Iraq will remain the festering centerpiece of American foreign policy, preventing us from devoting our attention to more serious issues. We can't afford that, and neither can Iraq."

Think we'll be debating that in September? If 'yes', you give Congress too much credit.

[PS- Now Turkey is getting involved?? Oh, what a lovely war we have.]

Note To The GOP on the Bush Legacy: You Break It, You Bought It

Basically on the same note as my post from Sunday on the Republican implosion, Salon's Glenn Greenwald has an excellent post up on 'The great right-wing fraud to repudiate George W. Bush'. He basically says what I said, but better.

Money quote-
One of the few propositions on which Bush supporters and critics agree is that George Bush does not change and has not changed at all over the last six years. He is exactly the same.

And none of the supposed grounds for conservative discontent -- especially Bush's immigration position -- is even remotely new. Bush's immigration views have been well-known since before he was first elected in 2000, yet conservatives have devoted to him virtually cult-like loyalty and support. Just logically speaking, Bush's immigration views cannot be the cause of the flamboyant conservative "rebellion" against Bush since those views long co-existed with intense conservative devotion to Bush.

There is really only one thing that has changed about George W. Bush from the 2002-2004 era when conservatives hailed him as the Great Conservative Leader, and now. Whereas Bush was a wildly popular leader then, which made conservatives eager to claim him as their Standard-Bearer, he is now one of the most despised presidents in U.S. history, and conservatives are thus desperate to disassociate themselves from the President for whom they are solely responsible. It is painfully obvious there is nothing noble, substantive or principled driving this right-wing outburst; it is a pure act of self-preservation.

He provides before/after quotes from folks like Rush Limbaugh, Bob Novak, and Rich Lowry.

Worth reading in full. I hope most Americans' memories are as good as Glenn's.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Missed The Republican Debate?

The snarky gang at Wonkette live-blogged it... here, here, here, and here.

[UPDATE: Tom Tomorrow highlights a particularly odious moment.

UPDATE #2: Think Progress has video of the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' part. They all love it.]

More Odds and Ends

Have you seen this robot? The Japanese created a monster. Anyway, here's more news...

Bad news for our ol' pal Scooty!!! From the AP: "Former White House aide I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison Tuesday for lying and obstructing the CIA leak investigation... [Judge] Walton fined Libby $250,000 and placed him on probation for two years following his release from prison. Walton did not immediately address whether Libby could remain free pending appeal."

And on the 10th anniversary of the Project For A New American Century too!

A huge victory today for opponents of the FCC: "A federal appeals court tossed out an indecency ruling against Rupert Murdoch's Fox television network yesterday and broadly questioned whether the Federal Communications Commission has the right to police the airwaves for offensive language." Personally, I think they should allow people to say all kinds of fucking crazy shit on television.

Meanwhile in the forgotten war, Afghanistan and Pakistan are not getting along.

Finally, the GOP '08 candidates will debate tonight. Mitt Romney says TRIPLE GITMO!!!


Some recommended reading on the JFK terror plot that has everyone buzzing...

The Anonymous Liberal: BREAKING NEWS: Another Group of Halfwits Arrested in Connection with Plot that Makes No Sense

TPMMuckraker: JFK Terror Plot: Intentions vs. Capabilities

Norah Ephron (HuffPost): How to Foil a Terrorist Plot in Seven Simple Steps

Also, you must watch Keith Olbermann's updated 'The Nexus Of Politics And Terror' segment.

Finally, my mayor, Michael Bloomberg-- who obviously forgets he's a member of the Fear Republican Party-- gives New Yorkers the whole 'you have nothing to fear but fear itself' treatment-
"There are lots of threats to you in the world. There's the threat of a heart attack for genetic reasons. You can't sit there and worry about everything. Get a life," he said.

That "What, me worry?" attitude pretty much sums up Bloomberg's advice to New Yorkers on the terror plot. As far as he was concerned, the professionals were on it, so New Yorkers shouldn't let it tax their brains.

Be glad you're not running for President, Mike. That talk'll get you Ron Paul-ed real quick.

They All Look The Same To FOX

Fox News reports on the indictment of Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) this evening-

[UPDATE: He's stepping down from his one committee assignment, but refuses to resign.]

Bill Clinton vs. Stephen Colbert

Oh, it's on now.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Senator Thomas Passes Away

Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY) died of leukemia today. He was 74.

Odds and Ends

[Wolf Blitzer] Okay everyone, raise your hand if you want a roundup of news [/Wolf Blitzer]

Bad news for the administration's draconian Guantanamo policies: "A US military judge Monday dismissed murder charges against Omar Khadr, a Canadian Al-Qaeda foot-soldier captured in Afghanistan, arguing he did not have the jurisdiction to try him... [The judge] found that when Khadr was reviewed for the only time by a so-called Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) in September 2004, he was classed under the old definition used at Guantanamo of 'enemy combatant.' The MCA was clear that the new military commissions now in use 'shall have no jurisdiction over lawful enemy combatants,' shall as those fighting in uniform for a recognized state, the judge said."

Hopefully, this turn of events'll make our courts to take another look at Guantanamo policy.

Meanwhile, President Bush is at the G-8 summit in Germany amidst many protests.

And considering all the fancy talk on global warming the White House threw out before the summit, I'm sure they wanted to avoid headlines like this: "The Bush administration is drastically scaling back efforts to measure global warming from space, just as the president tries to convince the world the U.S. is ready to take the lead in reducing greenhouse gases." Call them the Ostrich Administration.

Back in Washington DC, Rep. William 'Dollar Bill' Jefferson (D-LA) is finally indicted after a long corruption investigation. He is being charged with 16 federal crimes, including racketeering, soliciting bribes and money-laundering.

Speaker Pelosi has responded to this. Forget talk, Nancy, kick this fool out ASAP.

Finally, have you fucked a senior DC official? Larry Flynt's offering $1 million for your story.

Neocons <3 War

Matthew Yglesias has a reminder that, before 9/11 gave them the chance to take on 'Islamism' and the Middle East, the neocons had originally considered stoking conflict with the Chinese. I don't think people would've been suckered into this as easily, but I do remember the hints here and there pre-9/11 that the Bush administration wanted to paint China as our new Big Bad.

Question for any neocons wanting a second chance... can you start a war over toothpaste?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

'Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Over'...

...So said the title of a January 2001 'Onion' article. It was prescient.

Some people would like to keep that 'nightmare' a mere memory.

As anyone who's taken an introduction to anthropology class in college knows, there are two types of societies in the world... the individualistic and the collective. The individualistic, of course, place more emphasis on the individual and an 'every man for himself' worldview. The collective is more group-based and places emphasis on shared accomplishments and goals. The degrees of these vary by society, and there's always an ebb and flow.

This worldview divide is, of course, one of the more basic things separating conservatives and liberals in America. The latter leans toward the collective while the former embraces individualism. Historically, the lines were much closer than are now (we went from the post-war "Ask not what your country can do for you" climate to the Reagan-ruled "Me Decade" in just 20 action-packed years). The right has been taking their position to extremes in recent decades-- with everything that seems to threaten corporate control individualism written off as "socialism" (*)-- while the left is just grabbing onto the center, hoping not to be swallowed up.

It's in this environment that Matt Drudge recently posted this 'scandalous' headline (red font = BAD NEWS!!)... a quote from Senator Clinton, who by historical standards is to the right of Richard Nixon.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

The linked-to article states-
The Democratic senator said what the Bush administration touts as an ownership society really is an "on your own" society that has widened the gap between rich and poor...

..."There is no greater force for economic growth than free markets. But markets work best with rules that promote our values, protect our workers and give all people a chance to succeed," she said. "Fairness doesn't just happen. It requires the right government policies."...

...Beyond education, Clinton said she would reduce special breaks for corporations, eliminate tax incentives for companies that ship jobs overseas and open up CEO pay to greater public scrutiny.

Clinton also said she would help people save more money by expanding and simplifying the earned income tax credit; create new jobs by pursuing energy independence; and ensure that every American has affordable health insurance...

..."It's not as if America hasn't been successful these last six years, but the measure of success does not relate to what's happening in households across our country," she said. "It's like trickle down economics, without the trickle."...

While I am generally not the biggest fan of the Senator, I should note that it was the Clinton-esque approach to politics-- old-school Democratic compassion and populism mixed with an individual entrepreneurial spirit-- that gave us those 8 years of (relative) peace and prosperity.

So I see stuff like the Drudge headline and I shake my head. To me, the idea that Sen. Clinton is expressing there is basic common sense... societies function better when people work together (and sacrifice) for shared goals, rather than living for themselves. But in America, in 2007, it is considered a controversial, a partisan statement.

It is for that reason that, while the conservatives propose the craziest things with a straight face (ie. privatizing the still-functioning Social Security system), liberals have to hem and haw their way around positions that are actually very well supported by the general public (ie. watering down 'universal' health care proposals). None of the legislative/issue-based problems that we face in America today will be solved until this stigma is destroyed. Until then, we will continue to put band-aids on shotgun wounds, because the real solutions remain politically controversial.

Some balance in these worldviews is fine, but we can't keep going over the edge.

[*Just to prove I'm not exaggerating... I literally found this as I was preparing this post.]

Don't Ask, Don't Tell...

...I'm watching the Democratic primary candidate on CNN live right now. Every candidate stated, on the issue of gays in the military, that they'd get rid of the odious 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy. That is an encouraging sign. It's a good debate so far.

The AP has a story on the debate... here. A liveblogging of it... here. Video... here.

The Republican Implosion

Jeffrey Goldberg at The New Yorker has written an article on the implosion of the Republican party. It's a good read.

One thing it contains a lot of, however, is quotes from people like Newt Gingrich who lament the fall of the Republican brand, while distancing themselves from their contribution to that fall. The goal here seems to be clear (and has been for a while)... paint the past six years-- and President Bush-- as some aberration unconnected to 'conservativism' (whatever that even means at this point) and try and assure people that making the Republican Party more conservative is what will save the party and America in turn.

Even more upsetting than that narrative is how eager the 'liberal media' seems to push it.

As conservative blogger Rod Dreher says, "Bush is today who he always was. The difference is we conservatives pretty much loved the guy -- when he was a winner."

More Weekend Odds and Ends

Here's another quick roundup of news as the afternoon day begins this Sunday...

Once again, invading, occupying, and/or blowing up random Muslim nations careful police work and (legal) intelligence-gathering has foiled another (potential) terror plot... this time one involving JFK Airport here in good ol' Queens. Last night, when I first bookmarked the story, the headline read: "Terror Plot 'One Of The Most Chilling Imaginable'". It's now been changed to "JFK Terror Plot Foiled In Planning Stages". The story goes on to emphasize that "law enforcement sources stressed was in the planning stages and never posed an actual threat to New Yorkers." A far cry from the FEAR FEAR FEAR headlines dominating the usual places last night before I went to bed (Matt Drudge, for one, has since moved on to an Iran-based FEAR FEAR FEAR headline).

That's always the case with these stories... they're usually less than what they seemed at first. Journalists, pay attention. Serious plots are rare, and we have excellent law enforcement capabilities.

And the soft bigotry of low expectations continues to provide positive headlines for Bush.

The military is angry at servicemen who have strong opinions about the war wear their uniforms to protest. The VFW leaders are, in turn, telling the military to get a life. But, as the VFW should know, military folk are only allowed to be in uniform for Bush administration photo-ops. God bless America!!

Administration battle on war/diplomacy... Cheney is from Mars, Condi Rice is from Venus.

Finally, the immigration debate continues to tear the Bush cultists apart. Karma, Georgie.