Saturday, June 23, 2007

More Weekend Odds and Ends

Another quick roundup of news/links. Feel free to suggest anything interested I missed...

Steven Benen explains what "caging" is in regards to voter fraud, and how it relates to the U.S. Attorney scandal (related cartoon summary- here). If the GOP governed as well as they campaign and scam elections, we'd living in a utopia.

This just in!! Talk radio influencing GOP on immigration debate. Also, sky is blue.

Using some of that fancy diplomacy business, the U.S. has gotten North Korea to agree "to shut down the reactor at the heart of its nuclear arms development program within about three weeks". As soon as the check clears.

Dems to Emperor Cheney... if you're not part of the executive branch, no money for you!

Finally, Rolling Stone has a video on the administration's climate change denial campaign.

Where We Stand

Jon Stewart checks in with Operation: Clusterfuck to see where things stand-

Friday, June 22, 2007

Democratic Strategies on Healthcare?

A followup to my entry on the 2008 candidates' strategies on Iraq... since 'Sicko'-mania is sweeping the nation (really great review from an EMT worker in the NY Daily News), momentum will continue to build for the candidates to develop clear healthcare policies.

Via blogger 'Digby', the LA Times breaks down where the following candidates stand: Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama, and Bill Richardson. Kucinich is the only one so far calling for truly universal health care, but many of the front-runners do lean in that general direction.

On the Republican side, Rudy Guiliani, Jim Gilmore, Mike Huckabee, Duncan Hunter, John McCain, and Ron Paul don't even have listed healthcare positions. Healthcare crisis? What healthcare crisis? We have islamofascists to bomb, dammit! Of the candidates who have a position-- Mitt Romney, Sam Brownback, Tom Tancredo, and Tommy Thompson-- all advocate a market-based solution to the issue. Because, you know, everyone's complaint is that private enterprise doesn't control our healthcare decisions enough.

And that's where we stand. Stay healthy, everyone! You literally can't afford not to.

Weekend Odds and Ends

We survived another week with our sanity. Congrats, first drink's on me. Here's the news...

Michigan Democrats, you're on notice, because the Senate leadership just scored this: "Senators reached agreement Thursday on a proposal to increase automobile fuel economy standards to 35 miles per gallon, the first significant boost demanded of automakers in nearly 20 years." Hopefully this will survive after 'compromises'.

It'll be even more impressive if they can pull this off: "The House will cast a landmark vote Thursday when it decides whether to reverse U.S. policy and provide contraceptive grants to groups overseas that also provide abortions. This has been greeted with, you guessed it, promises of a veto from the President.

But thanks to that pesky war, everyone hates Congress. And Lil' Bush is in Nixon terrority.

Speaking of the Executive Branch... ABC News reports that "Vice President Dick Cheney has asserted his office is not a part of the executive branch of the U.S. government, and therefore not bound by a presidential order governing the protection of classified information by government agencies."

Someone needs to impeach this monster hand this man a civics textbook.

ABC News also reports that the military spends tens of billions a year on projects like bombs to make people gay, psychic teleportation, arming sharks with chemical implants, and more. Your tax dollars at work!

Wyoming has found its new Senator... it's Republican John Barrasso.

Finally, did Osama bin Laden arrange the post-9/11 U.S-Saudi flights?! The truth is out there!

Beware of Bears

Via Keith Olbermann, Bill O'Reilly takes on the serious issue of bears. Colbert will be proud.

Guantanamo Forever!!11!

As I was preparing to leave work this evening, I came across this shocking, breaking AP story-
The Bush administration is nearing a decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and move the terror suspects there to military prisons elsewhere, The Associated Press has learned.

President Bush's national security and legal advisers are expected to discuss the move at the White House on Friday and, for the first time, it appears a consensus is developing, senior administration officials said Thursday...

...Officials familiar with the agenda of the Friday meeting said Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff, National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Peter Pace were expected to attend...

I emailed the story to myself to write about when I got home.

But when I got home and logged on, an updated version was up, and it reads-
...President Bush's national security and legal advisers had been scheduled to discuss the move at a meeting Friday, the officials said, but after news of it broke, the White House said the meeting would not take place that day and no decision on Guantanamo Bay's status is imminent.

"It's no longer on the schedule for tomorrow," said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council.
"Senior officials have met on the issue in the past, and I expect they will meet on the issue in the future."...

I guess the Associated Press scared them off. Loose lips sink ships, AP!

Here's my uneducated guess at to what happened... Some sort of deliberations about Guantanamo were planned by the relatively sane members of the administration-- I'm thinking Gates and maybe Rice-- and news was leaked in hopes of building support. But when the fascist authoritarian hardliners-- basically Cheney, Gonzo, McConnell, etc-- got wind, they put the kibash on the whole thing immediately. Guantanamo forever!

Here's the rescheduled meeting date... January 21, 2009. Secretary of State Biden presiding.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Democratic Strategies on Iraq?

Need a primer on how each of the leading Democratic candidates plan to deal with Iraq?

Salon's Tim Grieve gathers up the recent statements on the matter from Bill Richardson, Dennis Kucinich, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama. Might be interesting to bookmark and see if any of these change over the next 6-12 months.

[PS- No Mike Gravel? They must've been afraid he'd throw a rock at them.]

Quote of the Day

Via Matthew Yglesias, I see the President defended the stem cell veto by saying this-
"Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical."

I'm glad to see the President finally admit the moral absurdity of his entire foreign policy worldview.

[*And let's not even get into the absurdy of calling to-be-discarded cells 'human life'.]

'Sicko' Release Pushed Up

Well it looks like thanks to no-good people like me watching pirated versions of the film, the Weinstein Co. is pushing up the release of Michael Moore's "Sicko". From IMDB-
In an apparent reaction to the posting of high-quality digital prints of Michael Moore's Sicko on several peer-to-peer websites (Moore has suggested that the piracy was undertaken in order to sabotage the film.) the Weinstein Co. announced Tuesday that it will open the film in New York on Friday, a week earlier than originally scheduled, and provide sneak previews in 43 theaters in virtually all the top 30 markets.

The official release date is still June 29, I believe.

It's a really good film. Since I don't foresee us getting universal health care anytime soon (you know me, eternal optimist), it will likely remain relevant for years. It'll tide you over 'til "Transformers" at any rate.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The 19th Time's The Charm

The leaders of the surge receive their latest orders from the White House-

[Related reading: A war on rewind, in a bleaker Baghdad (AP)

Gates says Iraq troop surge only starting to bite (AFP)]

Odds and Ends

More news that you can use. Well, not really. But it is news. Mostly.

President Bush issues veto # 3, this one again on stem cell research funding. Geez, George, get a new bit! So the score now stands at Bush Administration- 648; Science- 0.

As for other pending legislation... Democratic Senators hoping for energy legislation must battle the Michigan senators and congressman who are looking out for their BFFs in the auto industry. Democrats also face a fight with Republicans over a bill "that would make it far easier to organize workers". Republicans are still freaking out over immigration. Finally, some in Congress squabble over what to do about the President's signing statements.

NY Governor Eliot Spitzer's promise to legalize gay marriage just got a step closer to success, but still has a long road to travel. The bill was "was approved 85-61 by the state Assembly Tuesday after an often emotional three-hour debate," but "is not expected to be acted on any time soon in the Republican-led state Senate."

Palestinian Prez Abbas calls Hamas "murderous terrorists"; Israel begins attacks on Gaza.

Finally, Chris Matthews sums up cable news... "We’re all reacting here and putting on shit. We have nothing."

Rudy Guiliani: National Security Expert

Because those in DC have so blindly accepted the narrative of Rudy Guiliani: National Security Expert and Counterterrorism Hero, we need more stories like this to remind people what an empty suit he is as a national figure, and how his 'national security' expertise consists solely of finding ways to exploit it-
Rudolph Giuliani's membership on an elite Iraq study panel came to an abrupt end last spring after he failed to show up for a single official meeting of the group, causing the panel's top Republican to give him a stark choice: either attend the meetings or quit, several sources said.

Giuliani left the Iraq Study Group last May after just two months, walking away from a chance to make up for his lack of foreign policy credentials on the top issue in the 2008 race, the Iraq war.

He cited "previous time commitments" in a letter explaining his decision to quit, and a look at his schedule suggests why -- the sessions at times conflicted with Giuliani's lucrative speaking tour that garnered him $11.4 million in 14 months.

Giuliani failed to show up for a pair of two-day sessions that occurred during his tenure, the sources said -- and both times, they conflicted with paid public appearances shown on his recent financial disclosure. Giuliani quit the group during his busiest stretch in 2006, when he gave 20 speeches in a single month that brought in $1.7 million...

This isn't from The Nation, by the way, it's from the conservative-friendly Newsday.

The Guiliani people offered up a response, which simply doesn't hold water.

Reading this also reminded me of Rudy's former Police Commissioner, Bernie Kerik, who almost became Homeland Security Secretary, except someone had to go and spill the beans on what a scumbag he is (plowing his mistresses across the street from Ground Zero, while rescue workers worked 18-hour shifts developing the 'WTC Cough' in the process).

Prior to this, Kerik was sent to Iraq in 2003 by the Bush administration to use his serious foreign policy credentials to help in the rebuilding process (hey, remember that?). He was designated to be "the Interim Minister of Interior of Iraq," basically helping train new police forces, among other tasks. He spent three months-- instead of the year he was supposed to-- dicking around, and left when he realized that a) he was in a war zone, and b) rebuilding countries is tough work.

All things considered, this probably makes Rudy a shoo-in for the GOP nomination to many.

After all, the current administration-- which consolidated Republican power in Washington from 2002 to early 2006 based on the aura of terrorism-fighting and war strength-- has never really cared about the terror issue beyond who it could profit politically. A new book on homeland security ('The Edge of Disaster') reveals, among other things, that-
1) Under the Bush Administration's budgets, there is far more money spent by the Pentagon protecting its own domestic military installations ($16.5 billion) than protecting the rest of us.

2) In 2002, as part of the legislation creating the Homeland Security Department, Congress directed the administration to construct a list setting priorities for protecting critical national infrastructure: which energy facilities, utilities, bridges, ports, water and other crucial services are most at risk of terrorist attacks and what are the plans for protecting them. Five years later, the Administration still has not developed this list.

3) There was one important pre-9/11 success story: Project Impact, in which the federal government helped fund and worked closely with local governments in developing resilient systems that could provide services in the wake of disasters and terrorist attacks. It was cancelled by the Bush Administration.

The successes we have had, as I've noted before, were due to diligent police work and intelligence-gathering, the very things the administration dismissed as antiquate, as they demanded the right to torture people and spy without warrants.

[PS- Romney will double Gitmo and Fred Thompson looks tough, so competition's steep.]

Michael Bloomberg Ditches GOP; Reminds Us We're In Deep Shit

Mayor Bloomberg realizes that he wasn't fooling anyone and leaves the sinking Titanic known as the 'Republican Party' after, well, 6 years of a marriage of convenience-
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Tuesday that he would leave the Republican Party, in a maneuver seen as possible preparation for launching an independent presidential bid in 2008...

..."Although my plans for the future haven't changed, I believe this brings my affiliation into alignment with how I have led and will continue to lead our city," said the billionaire businessman who was elected as a Republican. He also is a former Democrat...

...Bloomberg, 65, has repeatedly denied he is interested in running for president, saying he will serve out his mayoral term ending in late 2009, but his protests have done little to silence the media buzz...

...As the fact that every version of this story mentioned 2008 in the lead paragraph proves.

[UPDATE: For what it's worth, Bloomberg insists that he's not running.]

As readers of this blog know, I'm (in general) a supporter of Mayor Bloomberg. Voted for him twice. And I think this is a good move, as he's always been independent in action anyway, if not before in affiliation. But now is not the time for Time magazine's action hero to decide that the presidential race needs another NYC mayor.

Yes, third-party candidates always keep things interesting, and I wouldn't mind Bloomberg becoming the Ross Perot of 2012. But not 2008. It's just too important an election (yes, all elections are important, but this is the post-Bush election and there's too much at stake). Third-party candidates rarely take equal votes from both sides. Ross Perot took conservative votes away from Bush The First. Ralph Nader took the few thousand votes Al Gore needed to avoid a recount. And given that a) more independents (like myself) vote Democratic than Republican, and b) Bloomberg's liberal positions on many issues... I think we know which side his votes would come from.

So please, Mayor Mike, stick to your PLANYC 2030 project and keep the national ambitions on hold for now. Start small. Cabinet position anyone (Sec. of Treasury, EPA chief)?

[Related: Bloomberg: U.S. 'Is in Trouble'- On the Coast He Chides Candidates (NY Sun)]

Darn That Liberal Media!!1!!!

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen's columns are also locally reprinted here in the NY Daily News. I saw yesterday morning he had a column advocating a pardon for Scooter Libby and I rolled my eyes without reading it. Turns out maybe I should have.

Via Salon's Glenn Greenwald, I see that this column perfectly sums up the casual, if not downright bored, attitude that our darn liberal media takes to Republican scandal and corruption. Cohen wrote-
This is not an entirely trivial matter since government officials should not lie to grand juries, but neither should they be called to account for practicing the dark art of politics. As with sex or real estate, it is often best to keep the lights off.

{*brain explodes*}

Hey asshole, the whole point of your fucking job (assuming you and your colleagues still even consider yourselves 'journalists' at this point) is to turn those lights on for us!!! It is not your job or place to yawn your way through a national political scandal and decide what stories are "run-of-the-mill" and what's totally lame and boring. It's to report the fucking news and take it seriously. Then we-- the voters, the public-- decide if it's important or scandalous or not. The modern media has decided that scandals are only serious if they play well on TV (OMG Scooter Libby is sooo lame. Bring back that Mark Foley pervert, lol). This guy works for the Washington Post, a paper that several thousand years ago put its credibility and future on the line by pursuing a little story called Watergate that seemed trivial on the surface too.

What I'm saying here about the role of media isn't shouldn't be controversial. Hell, even Bill Clinton, no stranger to scandal, understood this. At the 1993 White House Correspondents Dinner, the new President said-
"It is your job to report on what we do... to analyze it, to probe it, to criticize it. To lift it up to light and turn it around and show all of its facets to the American people. I think it's my job to try and do something beside just enjoy the honor of being the President of the United States. And in the interplay of our efforts, sometimes I will misstep. Sometimes you will too. But the Constitution provides for you a freedom that is virtually without limit, because the Framers recognized that without it, people like me who get power with the best of motives would inevitably abuse it."

What he said.

Remember in early September 2005, when the media declared they had awoken from their post-9/11 slumber and were serious about the person of journalism and holding people accountable again? Neither do I.

Richard Cohen's email is, if anyone wants to say hi.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Another Republican Thinks '24' Is Real...

...This time it's Supreme Court Justice extraordinare, Antonin Scalia.

Defending torture, Scalia says "Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?... Say that criminal law is against him? 'You have the right to a jury trial?' Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer? I don't think so."

This is your brain. This is your brain on the war on terror.

Supporting The Troops, Pt. 745

AP: Army considers longer combat tours again

How's that surge going, boys? Having a good time? See you back home 2009 eventually.

Ron Paul

Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) has come out of nowhere to be one of the most buzzed about primary candidates of the moment. His breakout moment was in the second GOP debate when he upset Guiliani by acknowleding the effects our foreign policy may have had in causing 9/11.

But Paul Mania has become so ubiquitous in the blogosphere (which, ultimately, doesn't exactly decide elections, but is still influential)... his small, but intensely loyal, group of followers seem to be in every comment thread on blogs and YouTube. I've even seen some naive liberals saying "Hey, this Ron Paul's a great guy!" I guess the primary season needed a Ralph Nader.

But they're just latching on to a few good positions and not seeing the real ideology underneath. Not everyone comes to a position from the same direction.

Yes, everyone likes that he didn't support the stupid war in Iraq and that he supports civil liberties. But why is this considered a big deal? Has American politics really devolved so low that this makes someone a big deal? Wait, I think I know the answer to that one.

But Ron Paul is not exactly a Texan Dennis Kucinich; quite the opposite.

Ron Paul is a classic far-right, anti-government isolationist... picture Pat Buchanan without the shame. His lack of support for the war wasn't based on concerns of morality, national security, etc. It was because he doesn't think the United States should be involved with foreign affairs at all, or hell, even deal with other countries. He supports civil liberties, yes, but only because he sees the concept of government as inherently bad.

Ron Paul has stated that he would abolish basically every federal agency... the IRS, Department of Education, Social Security, Environmental Protection Agency, FEMA, etc. Is this really what people want? For example, remember how many people died in the Gulf Coast because FEMA was run by George Bush's cronies? Now imagine what it would've been like with no FEMA at all and no federal rescue agencies. Remember how insane the concept of George Bush's Social Security privatization plan was? Now imagine no Social Security at all. Etc.

Welcome to Ron Paul's America.

And most people all agree that Rep. Tom Tancredo is a bigot and a loser, and then many of these same people praise Paul. Ask yourself why Ron Paul is the candidate of choice for David Duke (see here and here) and I think you will see that the real Ron Paul is not the one who is marketing himself to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

There's a lot of crazy folks running on the GOP side. Ron Paul's just the most interesting.

Is America Conservative?...

...A recent study aims to prove otherwise.

The Modern Middle East, In A Nutshell

Via Lloyd Dangle, one of my favorite political cartoonists-

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Monday, June 18, 2007

Bush Administration Destroys Emails, News at 11

Haha, I'm just kidding, this won't be on the news tonight.

Think Progress: Investigation Uncovers ‘Extensive Destruction’ Of RNC Emails, Violations Of Records Act

Odds and Ends

Heat, humidity, chances of thunderstorms? Must be summer in NYC. Here's the news...

Rolling Stone interviewed Al Gore for a recent article. They have posted audio excerpts on their website blog. The comment section is filled with amusing rants too.

Meanwhile, the European Union is backing Mahmoud Abbas' new emergency government in Palestine, but the article notes that "The rift has left the Palestinians with two rival governments — a Fatah-allied government in the West Bank and the Hamas leadership in Gaza. Abbas seeks peace with Israel, whereas Hamas is sworn to the Jewish state's destruction."

So, ummm, this crisis is going to require more than just giving one side a thumbs-up. Regional summit? Proposing more half-assed peace plans? What's the solution here?

Seymour Hersh, in the New Yorker, tells the story of Army Major General Antonio M. Tagub, who investigated the Abu Ghraib abuses and paid the price for his moral courage. He basically confirms what we've kind of known along... Secretary Rumsfeld and other higher-ups were aware of what was going on; they just didn't give a shit.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, Attorney General Gonzales has found a great way to downplay the charges that he and the White House have politicized the Justice Department to death... his solution is to install "a more vigorous process for annually evaluating prosecutors," including "hauling in every U.S. attorney for a meeting to hear, among other things, politicians’ beefs against the prosecutor." Heckuva job!

Finally, Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi says that liberals have become a bunch of pussies. Wanna fight about it, Matt? The Atlantic's Ross Douthat says that Taibbi's the one being a pussy and he should realize that-- if the Democrats play their cards right-- everything could be coming up Milhouse. I concur.

Quote of the Day

"Were our founding fathers here, they would surely look on Iraq with horror and judge that the nation they created had fundamentally lost its way. If the war in Iraq leads the United States to return to its traditional, restrained grand strategy, then perhaps the whole experience will not have been in vain.

Either way, the Iraq syndrome is coming. We need to be prepared for the divisiveness, vitriol, self-doubt and recrimination that will be its symptoms. They will be the defining legacy of the Bush administration and neoconservatism's parting gift to America."

--Christopher J. Fettweis (assistant professor of national-security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College), on the coming 'Iraq War Syndrome' that will grip the nation.

Headline of the Day

AP: 'U.S. should stop arming Sunni militias: PM Maliki'

Sounds good. And I think we should stop arming Shiite militias too. What say you, Mr. Maliki?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Michael Moore's "Sicko"...

...Has been leaked and can be viewed on Google Video.

Big copyright law supporters might wanna wait for June 29. For what it's worth, I liked it.

[UPDATE (6/18): It's been taken down. Torrents may be around, for those who want to try.]

Weekend Video Theatre: Lil' Bush

This is from the first episode of Comedy Central's "Lil' Bush"... which began as a series of cell phone shorts last year. I wasn't too impressed (they clearly weren't going for subtle); I like my political satire Colbert-style myself. And maybe they were going for subversive rather than funny, but that would've worked better back, say, in 2004 when his approval ratings weren't weighted down to around 30% or below.

Your mileage may vary. Thoughts?

(Second part of the premiere episode... here)

September? What September?

Remember all that talk a month or so ago about how it was okay that the Republicans were still standing by the President on Iraq, because come September they were going to revolt? Surprise, liberal media, you've been had again!

Recent events indicate that the Republicans are walking away from and downplaying the September moment.

Operation: Kick The Can Down The Road continues in full stride.