Saturday, July 14, 2007

PM al-Maliki: 'Yes, It's Ok If The U.S. Leaves'.

Prime Minister al-Maliki goes off-script. If the no-confidence vote doesn't get him, Dick Cheney will. From the AP-
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Saturday that the Iraqi army and police are capable of keeping security in the country when American troops leave "any time they want," though he acknowledged the forces need further weapons and training....

...[O]ne of his top aides, Hassan al-Suneid, rankled at the [U.S. benchmark] assessment, saying the U.S. was treating Iraq like "an experiment in an American laboratory." He sharply criticised the U.S. military, saying it was committing human rights violations, embarassing the Iraqi government with its tactics and cooperating with "gangs of killers" in its campaign against al-Qaida in Iraq.

Al-Suneid's comments were a rare show of frustration toward the Americans from within al-Maliki's inner circle as the prime minister struggles to overcome deep divisions between Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish members of his coalition and enact the American-drawn list of benchmarks...

Benchmarks? Dude, the White House just said they were never serious about that shit anyway! Basically, they say that this is the most existential struggle of all time... but it's best that no one thinks or talks about it too much.

So relax, dude! Take the day off! Heck, take a whole month! Clear some brush!

One person in Iraq strongly supports the continuation of the U.S. occupation and an expansion of our war into Iran... Abu Sarhan, a leader in the al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia franchise. Said Sarhan, "I personally don't have a hatred of the American people, and I respect American civilization... The real enemy for the resistance is Iran and those working for Iran. Because Iran has a feud which goes back thousands of years with the people of Iraq and the government of Iraq."

Sounds like a guy Joe Lieberman and the neocons would love. Iraq, meet your new Prime Minister!

The I-Word

The topic of impeachment is once again a hot one (I gave my thoughts on the matter recently here; in short, I agree on principle, but hesitate as a matter of practicality). Bill Moyers dedicated nearly the entire hour of his PBS program last night to the subject, speaking with former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Fein, and Nation magazine correspondent John Nichols.

An excerpt is below. The full show can be viewed for free... here.

Meanwhile, In The Rest of the World...

A snapshot of big international news from the past week-

AP: U.S.: N. Korea claims reactor shutdown

AP: Russia suspends participation in treaty

AP: China fights back, goes after U.S. meat

AFP: Pakistan's ousted top judge to draw anti-Musharraf rally

Reuters: Sudan bombing civilian targets in Darfur: U.S. envoy

What We're Fighting For

AP: 'Iraq parliament plans August recess as fighting continues'

Friday, July 13, 2007

Fair and Balanced

The latest 'Fox Attacks' piece by Robert Greenwald, this one on global warming-

Sorry Greenwald, once Dennis Miller has weighed in, the issue is settled. Period.

Summer Fun

President Bush explains all the summer fun we'd be ruining by closing Camp Gitmo.

Weekend Odds and Ends

Only one more week until the last Harry Potter book. News to distract us 'til then...

George W. Bush's 'war' on 'terror' has been a smashing success: "U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded al-Qaida has rebuilt its operating capability [and] has been able to regroup along the Afghan-Pakistani border despite nearly six years of bombings, war and other tactics aimed at crippling it."

This is surely bad good news for the White House's supporters ?.

President Bush finally acknowledges the Plame leak; tells us it was no big deal.

Congress thinks that all this executive privilege crap is just bullshit.

Speaking of Congress, ol' Bushie's got another veto ready for them: "The White House ... threatened to veto a bill backed by U.S. House of Representatives Democrats that would slash subsidies paid to college student-loan companies."

And President Bush's nominee for Surgeon General (who founded a church which, among other things, helps cure gay people of their 'lifestyle' problem) swears he's not anti-gay. Well, I'm sold, how 'bout you?

For the first time ever, a Hindu delivered the morning invocation in the Senate chamber... except it was interrupted by religious right protestors who shouted at the cleric, calling his prayer an "abomination".

Finally, President Bush goes for broke and makes a little girl cry.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Congress: 'Okay, Let's Try This Again...'

AP: 'House Votes for Withdrawal From Iraq
Iraq Making Only Halting Progress, Bush Report Says; House Votes to Begin Withdrawal

Next stop for this bill: the Senate. After that: veto. See you in 2009, Iraq war.

Quote of the Day

President Bush gave another cookie-cutter press conference this afternoon.

Andrew Sullivan sums it up for us folks fortunate to have missed it-
"He's arguing he didn't decide to go to war; Saddam did. He's saying he agrees with his Republican critics. He's blaming the generals for all the combat decisions that have made this war a failure. His blaming Tommy Franks specifically for the troop levels was particularly piquant. So he gave him a Medal of Freedom anyway?

Worse, the president conflated every single radical element in the Middle East into one amorphous anti-American entity. It appears that he sees Shiite militias, Hezbollah, al Qaeda, Hamas and the Sunni insurgents as indistinguishable. He has even said baldly that the people bombing and murdering in Iraq are the same people who attacked us on 9/11. The Shiite militias? The Baathist dead-enders? Is he serious?... [I]n terms of forming policy, it's close to useless...

....Bush's position is that Congress can make one decision - to go to war - and then their role is to pay for it indefinitely, regardless. He'll listen, but he won't hear. He's the decider...

...The patronizing soundbites stick in the craw at this point. His formulation that we do not know whether the war can succeed but that it nonetheless must succeed is about as disorienting a leadership call as I have heard. The rank condescension toward the American people is also staggering. Look, Mr President, most Americans aren't as dim as you seem to be. Maybe it's time you realized that.

He's just out of his depth, I'm afraid. And others are sinking - and dying - as a consequence."

I have nothing I can add to that. It's sad, and depressing, and our reality.

Fun With Third Parties

Wonkette takes us back to the fun that was the Bush-Perot-Clinton debates.

Serving The President

More stonewalling fun from the President: "President Bush ordered former counsel Harriet Miers to defy a congressional summons... Contempt citations [for this] were a possibility."

They should absolutely hold Harriet Miers in contempt, and action should be taken against the President as well. Subpoenas are legally-binding. It's bad enough that the President is using the flimsly shield of executive privilege (one that has failed past presidents from Nixon to Clinton, because it's mostly a presidential fantasy) to stimy these investigations... but this Miers business is a new level of gall.

Ms. Miers-- who lest we forget the President wanted on the Supreme Court-- no longer works for the administration in any capacity. She resigned in January, right as the U.S. Attorney story was about to break, in what was, no doubt, a big coincidence. Unless I am mistaken, a President doesn't have the authority to order citizens to defy legal subpoenas.

And I'd remind the President people acting like they have something to hide usually do.

One person who did testify yesterday, though, was Bush's former political director Sara Taylor. She, like AG Gonzales and others before her, didn't seem to remember or know much at all. "I'm trying to be consistent and perhaps have not done a great job of that," Taylor said about her refusal to give the needed information, "I have tried."

Finally, Talking Points Memo highlights a key moment in her testimony, one which sums up what this scandal was all about in the first place (and one larger problem with the administration in general)... the politicization of the Justice Department and the Bush/Cheney belief that the government is theirs and that all agencies, employees, and policies belong to The Decider.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Can Any Of These Get Past The Bush/War Juggernaut?

As a followup to that last post, I offer this handy guide from Talking Points Memo-

Here It Is! A Handy Guide To All The Democrats' Plans To End Iraq War

I retain healthy skepticism. Bush intends to survive the next 18 months with his war intact.

Profiles in Courage / Making Great Progress

You know all those maverick Republicans 'turning against' the President and his war? What are they actually planning to do about this new-found 'opposition'? A writer at Daily Kos looks at the bill they are gravitating towards and what a farce it is.

In short? More lipstick for the pig, and more kicking the can down the road. Very bold stand.

And there's the news that because the "Iraqi government is unlikely to meet any of the political and security goals or timelines President Bush set for it in January when he announced a major shift in U.S. policy," that the administration response is "marshaling alternative evidence of progress to persuade Congress to continue supporting the war."

Double the 'c', double the 's', that's how you spell 'success'!

Combine that with the rumors that the al-Maliki government is in its last throes, and the reports that 140,000 fully-armed Turkish soldiers are amassing near Iraq's norther border, and you have a pungent recipe for (greater) disaster.

DHS Sec. Chertoff Has A 'Gut Feeling' We'll Be Attacked Soon...

...We should all respond by wringing our hands nervously and stocking up on duct tape.

[UPDATE: Reason mag's Radley Balko has a good post on this- 'Losing the War on Terror']

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Michael Moore vs. Wolf Blitzer

Wolf Blitzer interviews Michael Moore, and the latter lets the former have it-

Part 2 of the interview... here.

[And from Moore's site, his promised fact-check: 'SiCKO' Truth Squad Sets CNN Straight

Michael Moynihan from the libertarian Reason magazine defends Blitzer, on the other end.]

More Odds and Ends

Here's some fun presidential campaign news: "For the first time the leading candidates for the presidency will hold a televised debate devoted solely to LGBT issues... [to] be held on August 9 and broadcast on gay network LOGO at 9:00 pm ET."

Primary scan of the article doesn't seem to mention a Republican debate, though. Odd.

Meanwhile, on HuffPost, Danny Schechter says 'enough already' to 2008 campaign overload.

Wheee! More fun news: "A U.S. aircraft carrier is heading to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet area of operations, which includes the Gulf... where the U.S. has been flexing its muscles in a standoff with Iran over Tehran's nuclear programme that has stoked regional tensions."

And Al-Qaeda really seems to hate this Salman Rushdie chap.

The President's former Surgeon General says his opinions-- and those of others-- on matters like stem cell research, contraceptives, and sex education were "ignored, marginalized, or simply buried."

And a Senate panel says no $ for Cheney. We'll see if that goes anywhere in the full Senate.

Finally, the Pope says that all you heathens totally suck.

He's George Bush's Friend, It's Okay.

AP: 'Report: Gonzales knew of FBI violations'

Quote of the Day

Balloon Juice's Tim F. had a good post on the continuing efforts to marginalize those in the American public who saw President Bush for who he was all along, and who saw through the administration's hyped-up case for war. Along the way, he makes the key part on how fear, and partisan blindness, made so many conservatives go wrong-
"One hardly needed a jaundiced eye to doubt the government’s chicken little picture of a towering, evil Saddam who fired glowing red anthrax beams from his eyes and blew mushroom clouds out of his ass. A reasonable viewing of the government’s case found it sketchy, constantly shifting, based heavily on hearsay and too often (mobile labs, aluminum tubes, yellowcake, terror drones) refutable with information available to any moderately intelligent citizen...

...[Classic] conservatism winnows out the culture war noise and narrows conservatism to its putative core: private enterprise, skepticism of freely expanding government power and government solutions, and a reluctance to solve global problems by sending American kids with guns. But [when the war began] none of that attitude [was] evident at all.

What happened?... If Bush had not proved himself a criminally incompetent nincompoop I have little doubt that most of these 'conservatives,' ... would still feel just as unquestionably trusting towards a strong benevolent government (think of it as a big, tough 'brother' keeping away the mean schoolyard kids) as they did on September 12...

...The obvious point [is] that like nearly all modern 'conservatives,' his conservative principles were not all that deeply held. All it took was a single terrorist attack for American conservatives to not just suspend their principles but negate them almost entirely, enthusiastically supporting reckless military adventurism and wildly expansive government violations of privacy and private lives. Some have argued that if you scratch a conservative you’ll find a libertarian. Well, 9/11 scratched conservatives and revealed something else entirely."

And that something still rules the conservative base. And likely will for some time.

[Related reading: Conservatives and the Presidency (Cato Institute)]

More GOP Hypocrisy

More hypocrisy from the party of 'moral values'... Sen. David Vitter (R-LA)'s name has been found on the client list of the so-called "D.C. Madam". He admits he's sinned in the past and has begged God's forgiveness yada yada.

Normally, I wouldn't care who this guy, or any guy or gal, fucks on their free time, but this is the same David Vitter who said just last year, "I don't believe there's any issue that's more important than [stopping gay marriage]... I think this debate is very healthy, and it's winning a lot of hearts and minds. I think we're going to show real progress."

The GOP Hypocrites Club. It's the one part of the party whose ranks are swelling.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Live Earth: Recap

Well, Live Earth is over and global climate change has been stopped at last.

Sorry, sarcasm over now. I don't want to be like the usual suspects attacking Live Earth, and Mr. Gore specifically, for 'hypocrisy' when they themselves are in hysterical denial about the very issue the concert meant to highlight.

Matt Drudge is always reliable for this. Michelle Malkin, on a high after helping defeat the immigration bill, freaks out. National Review has an entire blog dedicated to Gore-bashing. The Reality-Based Community's Michael O'Hare has a very thoughtful smackdown of all this noise, stating "Don't like Live Earth? Fine, write a review; even better, organize your own concerts to trash the planet, or accelerate the apocalypse, or whatever. But if your key insight on Live Earth is the wattage of the amps, you are seriously missing the point."

And in the end, it was a really good show. Here are some highlights... First, Spinal Tap-

I also found good videos of performances from: Black Eyed Peas, Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Duran Duran, Crowded House, John Mayer, Dave Matthews Band, Smashing Pumpkins, Bon Jovi, Keith Urban and Alicia Keyes, Shakira, The Police (featuring Kanye West And John Mayer), and Foo Fighters.

[Related listening: Will Live Earth Be Good for the Planet? (KCRW's 'To The Point')]

News Graphic of the Day

From FOX News, where else-

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Odds and Ends

Bill O'Reilly wants you to be on the lookout for lesbian gangs. Seriously. Here's more news...

Bushie's my name, stonewalling's my game: "President Bush invoked executive privilege Monday to deny requests by Congress for testimony from two former aides about the firings of federal prosecutors." The saga continues...

Wildfires continue to ravage the western U.S.; welcome to summer in the 21st century!

The ubiquitous camera surveillance that has turned London into Big Brother Central is coming to NYC, according to the Times. Anywhere from 100 to 3,000 new cameras are possible. Say cheese, New York!

On a related note, three men have been convicted for foiled 2005 U.K. attacks.

And why has the U.K. seen more acts of terror in recent years than us? One debate ponders the effect immigration policy and inclusiveness have had on this.

Iran has slowed down its nuclear progress, according to the UN's nuclear chief.

Finally, George Stephanopoulos has fun being a total dick to Ron Paul.

Impeach!... Or Else!

Cindy Sheehan comes out of retirement to threaten Speaker Pelosi. According to the AP, Sheehan plans to run for Pelosi's congressional seat next year "unless she introduces articles of impeachment against President Bush in the next two weeks." Them's fighting words.

I am all for using the primary system to put incumbents feets to the fire, but this strikes me as counterproductive. Regardless of whether or not impeachment is justified (it is), this issue is hardly worth judging the effectiveness of a Congress. It's a political judgement call.

Sheehan says that the Speaker has "let the people down who worked hard to put Democrats back in power, who we thought were our hope for change." Ignoring even that a) most of the gridlock and squabbling have come from the Senate (Pelosi's gotten a lot of bills passed, most of which have gone on to die in the Senate thanks to GOP interference), and b) Democrats can't pull the necessary conservative votes out of thin air... this is also off.

Polls show people elected Democrats for a number of reasons-- ending the war, ending corruption, tackling economic disparity, etc-- but impeachment wasn't high on the list of priorities. Support it or not (and polls show many do), that's just reality.

I agree that ol' Bushie's a criminal scumbag, but impeachment's the wrong priority for several reasons. One is that they'll never get the necessary GOP votes, making it a masturbatory waste of time. The second is that an impeachment battle would be the rallying cry that the dejected, demoralized GOP base has been waiting for. Never hand your enemies weapons in a battle. Finally, it's a little late to begin a lengthy impeachment process, since we are in the midst of a early presidential primary campaign. That's where partisan energies should go... working hard to elect a good President, one who would work sincerely to correct the damage of the Bush term(s). Fighting an impeachment battle that we can't win is not the only way to punish Bush. Sinking the permanent GOP majority that he and Rove intended to build through their criminality also works for me.

The anger is strong. But we have to know how to pick our battles. My gut says this ain't it.


[UPDATE: She has a Daily Kos diary for this... she's definitely off the rails on this one.]

Hillary Derangement Syndrome

Yet another reason why Democrats are suicidal to consider nominating Hillary Clinton for President.

White House To Congress on Subpoenas...

...What part of 'no' didn't you understand??!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Weekend Video Theatre: The Bigger Picture

Josh Marshall, who runs Talking Points Memo, did this video-blog for the 4th of July, looking beyond the Libby headlines to see the bigger picture of how this story came to be. I think he makes a good point that the President and his defenders are very, very good at breaking down the big stories into a million little ones, so that everyone stays so focused on the little outrages, that they lose track of the bigger picture. So we take a step back.

[Related reading: Alternate History: If Today's Pundits Had Been Around During Watergate]

But, But Clinton!!

It's been a big part of conservative dogma to put all blame for failing to prevent 9/11 on Bill Clinton. Slick Willy was asleep at the wheel for 8 years, they cry! This hit its peak last September when Fox News' Chris Wallace sandbagged Clinton on the subject during a candid interview (video- here and here). Personally, I think trying to find blame for those attacks along partisan lines is just a way of emotional catharsis, but to claim that the current administration had a more realistic counter-terror ideology than the prior one is just silly.

Anyway, it turns out that the type of hard choices that President Clinton was forced to make from time to time were hardly unique. It turns out even big, tough neocon Don Rumsfeld had to make similar decisions during his reign as Secretary of Defense.

From today's NY Times: "Mr. Rumsfeld decided that the operation [to take out top al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan], which had ballooned from a small number of military personnel and C.I.A. operatives to several hundred, was cumbersome and put too many American lives at risk, the current and former officials said. He was also concerned that it could cause a rift with Pakistan, an often reluctant ally that has barred the American military from operating in its tribal areas, the officials said."

You won't see that article plugged on Blogs For Bush or the National Review.

This decision, of course, wouldn't be as frustrating if not for, beside the aftermentioned hypocritical Clinton bashing, the administration's decision-- with Rumsfeld as one of the top cheerleader-- to invade and occupy Iraq, despite it having no connection to al-Qaeda, and despite no concern whatsoever for the risk to American lives and those of local civilians. They rushed right in, guns-a-blazing, and have refused to concede error ever since. No, caution was reserved for when dealing with the actual terrorist strongholds. Ass backwards would be too nice a description of all this. I prefer criminal.

In the end, Kevin Drum notes, "maybe the world isn't quite the game of Risk that Bill Kristol thinks it is."

No-Confidence Vote?

No, it's not for Attorney General Gonzales or any of the other hapless Bush administration keystone cops. According to CBS News, "on July 15, [Iraqi leaders] plan to ask for a no-confidence vote in the Iraqi parliament as the first step to bringing down the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki."

No-confidence vote? Hey, that's something. In Vietnam, we just had these guys assassinated.

If this does indeed come to pass, no one can honestly predict what will follow. Based on our record there, I'll assume nothing spectacular. Who even knows how much influence the U.S. has over the Iraqi government at this point, but I can't see the Bushies letting them appoint someone even more beholden to radicals, if they can help it. Of course, my definition of 'radical' varies from theirs considerably.

Moreover, expect any change in government to be followed by exasperations from the Bush administration on how we really can't withdraw now, because our overstretched occupation military has to babysit help secure the new government in their transition.

And the beat goes on...