Saturday, August 18, 2007

2008 Is Going To Be Fun

Jonathan Alter has a good piece reminding us why the electoral college remains a fucking disaster-

Newsweek: A Red Play for The Golden State--
There's some malicious mischief at play in efforts to reform our electoral system.

Guantanamo and Liberals

As a political dork, I've become addicted to the banter of Slate's weekly gabfest podcast.

However, the usually on-point Jacob Weisberg disappointed me last week by throwing his hands up in the air in a very DC pundit way by stating that, because Democrats and liberals have no substantive anti-terror policies of their own, we just need to accept the Bush administration's radical actions as the inevitable reality of American life for the foreseeable future. He added that liberals have only complaints to offer, and no better way.

My biggest beef with this-- beside the a) defeatist attitude of letting Bush do what he wants, and b) the refusal to acknowledge the political reality of public support for Democratic positions that the moderator kept trying to point out-- is how backwards he actually has it.

Liberals' complaints about Guantanamo Bay is that President Bush has no policies or ideas for the prison... and we dirty liberals are the ones fighting for a coherent policy. The White House position on Guantanamo has always been 'these people are evildoers, we're going to keep them forever without trials, and you're unpatriotic for asking us about this'. If the indefinite detention of hundreds and hundreds of people, some potentially innocent, with no trials or greater benefit is a serious policy, then I'm the king of England.

There's never been any differentiation between the few serious terrorist leaders we've caught and the people we swept up randomly or by accident or the random people Afghanis sold to us for the rewards. The President has never been able to point to any actionable intelligence gained by the torture of prisoners at the prison (or elsewhere either, to expand the point). Many prisoners have been sent home with no explanation by our government of why they were there in the first place. All attempts to move toward a serious criminal/military trial system for the prisoners so we can begin processing them and move on have been rebuffed. Etc etc.

Is that what people like Mr. Weisberg and other 'serious' liberals consider good U.S. policy?

Gitmo critics have always been clear that those in the prison need to be processed properly. They should be put on trial (a real trial-- in a military court, or otherwise) or released.

If the administration has no evidence whatsoever that these people were/are terrorists, then they should be sent home or to another country which will take them. And if the government has evidence that all these prisoners were serious terrorists, then they will have zero problem whatsoever prosecuting a successful guilty sentence for them in an honest court, after which they will be moved to the Supermax, the Hague, or elsewhere to serve their sentences.

These are not crazy suggestions. They are, in fact, Mr. Weisberg, coherent policy proposals.

[PS- As for the wiretapping issue? Get the goddamn warrants. Don't trust Bush and Gonzales with the Constitution. Restore oversight to the law(s). It's not that complicated.]

Friday, August 17, 2007

Weekend Odds and Ends

Only a few more hours 'til "High School Musical 2"! Squeee! Oh yea, here's the news...

The cost of war, via Reuters: 'Suicide rate in Army at a 26-year high'.

The Bush Administration was forced to argue its case for oversight-less wiretapping before a a federal appeals court. The reaction of the judges was one of stunned disbelief. "Are you saying the courts are to rubber-stamp the determination of the executive of what's a state secret? What's our job?," said one judge.

Meanwhile, the Senate will join the House in pretending that they can/will reverse their capitulation in handing the Bush administration this unprecedented wiretapping authority. I won't hold my breath.

Speaking of spying: "The U.S.'s top intelligence official has greatly expanded the range of federal and local authorities who can get access to information from the nation's vast network of spy satellites in the U.S." Yay!

Attorney General Gonzales can fire U.S. Attorneys, spy on Americans, and "fast-track" executions. Double yay!

Jose Padilla found guilty of terrorism support, not that pesky, scary dirty bomb business.

This just in!!! The economy is very volatile and dependent on other countries. Yikes! Better give out some more tax cuts.

Republicans continue plans to cut and run from Congress.

Finally, liberal media says as long as China keeps our prices low, they can poison us forever.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Mexicans, Highways, and Conspiracies

There's something about (Mexican) immigration that brings a number of crazy right-wing factions together. Bigots, isolationists, etc. Immigration is a very legitimate issue, but it's one they've successfully turned into one of modern politics' biggest circuses (case in point: formerly-reasonable Rudy Guiliani now sounding like a crazy person on yet another issue).

And after temporarily making sense last week, Newt Gingrich goes back to crazy town-
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Tuesday he is "sickened" that President Bush and Congress went on vacation "while young Americans in our cities are massacred" by illegal immigrants.

He was referring to one incident in NJ, because isolated crimes are always indicative of nationwide crises. And just to make clear how batshit insane he is, he added that-
Gingrich said that the "war here at home" against illegal immigrants is "even more deadly than the war in Iraq and Afghanistan."

"As an American, I am sickened that the political leadership of America could continue to go on vacation and do nothing," he said. "Why are the August vacations for the president and the Congress more precious than the lives of young Americans who are being killed because of government incompetence and inaction."

Señor Gingrich está muy loco.

Speaking of Dobbs-ian paranoia, Steve Benen looks at an urban legend popular with the same type of people who love Ron Paul and 9/11 conspiracy theories... It implies that our government plans "to build a huge NAFTA Super Highway, four football-fields-wide, through the heart of the U.S. along Interstate 35, from the Mexican border at Laredo, Tex., to the Canadian border north of Duluth, Minn." This is, of course, not true.

Stephen Colbert took on this 'conspiracy' recently too. Funny. Nuts. But funny.

Nothing To See Here, Move Along, Move Along...

In a move that would be noteworthy under any circumstances, but is chilling given the neocon's longtime desires for the region, the Bush administration moves another piece in their truly frightening game of Middle East chess.

Reuters: U.S. may soon label Iran Guard "terrorist"
The United States may soon designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization in a hard-line diplomatic move that will target the finances of the group, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

The designation... would be the first time the United States has placed the armed forces of any sovereign government on its list of terrorist organizations.

Iran experts said ramping up the pressure by squeezing financing for the Guard also was aimed at pacifying those within and outside the Bush administration who wanted military action against Tehran because of its nuclear program and were frustrated that diplomatic pressure had so far not worked...

This move may be new, but the overarching rhetoric is old hat.

A passage from Glenn Greenwald's new book ('A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency'), which I am currently reading, came to mind as I read this article today. From Chapter 4-
Despite those prior assurances to Americans of the "unique" threat posed by Iraq, the president, throughout 2006, has been applying almost identical language, and identical reasoning, to prepare the country for a potential military confrontation with Iran. His choice to depict Saddam as a Nazi-like Evil threat led inexorably to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and his similar depiction of Iran and its leaders portend the same outcome.

Thus, as the president sees and describes the world, Iran has now replaced Iraq as a "grave threat" and "state sponsor of terrorism" and the ruling Iranian mullahs and the elected Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have replaced Saddam Hussein as the new "Hitler", the current incarnation of pure Evil. Just as Saddam was allegedly too power-crazed and Evil to be reasoned with, so, too, is the Iranian government. And just as Saddam Hussein's alleged development of nuclear weapons was such an intolerable threat to American security that the United States was compelled to stop Iraq by any means necessary, the president spent much of 2006 and early 2007 making the same arguments with respect to Iran.

This isn't, of course, to defend whatever wrongs Iran may be guilty of. It's noting the hungry warmongering of our administration and the tired script they are using for it. As Time's Joe Klein says, even if you believed Iran to be a problem, "the Bush Administration has zero credibility in the world and can't deal with it."

Klein, however, thinks those of us who remain concerned that the administration will not leave office without starting this new war are worried too much-
"I remain convinced that Bush won't bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb Iran--the military and much of his party in Congress would go nuts; senior Republicans have told me that bipartisan impeachment hearings would be inevitable--but that doesn't mean Bush won't continue to try to provoke the Iranians into some sort of military mistake."

To which I reply, "Yea, right." If Bush/Cheney choose the course of war, his party will go along, along with Sen. Lieberman and maybe one of the Democratic Nelsons. Most Democrats will be so shocked (!), they'll be ill-prepared to affect this. And those of us opposing it will be labeled weak pussies by cable news pundits and editorialists.

I'd really, really, please-jeebus-please, love to be proved wrong here.

Quote of the Day

"I don't remember my mental state on 9/12/01 in perfect detail, but a broad-brush outline would be that I was freaking out...

...It simply put, wasn't the best day to be making decisions. Obviously, the country's top leaders need to make decisions in crises. At the same time, they're bound to be fallible like everyone else. And, like everyone else, eventually they need to calm down, step back, and evaluate what's happening. But Cheney and his hagiographer see it as a virtue that he continues to make decisions based on the panicky and inaccurate vision of events we had on 9/12."
--Blogger Matthew Yglesias, on why governing with a 'September 12 mindset' is very insane.

[PS- Jon Stewart interviewed the Cheney biographer last night. The incident Stewart refers to, in which Fox News' John Gibson mocked his post-9/11 grief, can be heard here.]

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


I have truly awful, horrible news... Fox News has cancelled the Half-Hour News Hour comedy show. Where we will go now for brilliant jokes about Ed Begley Jr's electric car, I have no idea.

Meanwhile, in Iraq...

With possibly over 200 dead in suicide bombings, let's look at the bigger picture this week...

Prime Minister al-Maliki continues to struggle to hold his government together-
Sunni politicians maintained a hard line Monday after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki invited key Sunni and Kurdish allies to a crisis conference in a desperate bid to reach a compromise among Iraq's divided factions...

...Al-Maliki called for the meeting during a news conference Sunday and said he hoped it could take place in the next two days as he faces growing impatience with his government's perceived Shiite bias and failure to achieve reconciliation or to stop the sectarian violence threatening to tear the country apart...

This announcement likely occurred in light of news last week that "four secularist ministers withdrew from Cabinet meetings, less than a week after the main Sunni Arab bloc quit." No Sunnis remain in this government.

This has lead conservatives like the Washington Times' Tony Blankley (the same ones urging eternal patience from Americans over our occupation of Iraq) to give up on Maliki and demand a do-over. Blankley said on KCRW's 'Left, Right, and Center' on Friday that "it might be in our interest to change the government in Baghdad" and that we may need "a ruthless policy to find a pragmatic leader." Arianna Huffington was kind enough to remind him that type of thinking put in power Saddam Hussein in the first place.

Meanwhile, an article in the Guardian Unlimited paper (UK) looks at what our overstretched military is going through just to keep holding this Jenga pile together-
...Where once the war in Iraq was defined in conversations with these men by untenable ideas - bringing democracy or defeating al-Qaeda - these days the war in Iraq is defined by different ways of expressing the idea of being weary. It is a theme that is endlessly reiterated as you travel around Iraq. 'The army is worn out. We are just keeping people in theatre who are exhausted,' says a soldier working for the US army public affairs office who is supposed to be telling me how well things have been going since the 'surge' in Baghdad began.

They are not supposed to talk like this. We are driving and another of the public affairs team adds bitterly: 'We should just be allowed to tell the media what is happening here. Let them know that people are worn out. So that their families know back home. But it's like we've become no more than numbers now.'...

Don't worry, guys. Only another decade or so left to go. Hang in there, baby!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

'How Many Dead Americans Is Saddam Worth... Not Very Many.'

Like 1994 John McCain (video), 1994 Dick Cheney seemed to know that voluntarily getting America into unwinnable quagmires for vague, jingoistic reasons was not the smartest thing that we could do. What happened to Dick between then and the founding of the neocon Project For A New American Century thinktank three years later remains a mystery. But this video is worth acknowledging.

Odds and Ends

Summer's always hot, so global warming is a lie. It's true, I read it on a blog. Here's news...

Some more of that compassionate conservatism from The Decider: "President Bush said Thursday concern should be shown those who've lost their homes but it's not the federal government's job to bail them out."

It is, however, the federal government's job to dole out corporate welfare, apparently. This news item appeared the day before the one above... "President Bush said Wednesday that he is considering a fresh plan to cut tax rates for U.S. corporations to make them more competitive around the world."

Bushie, maybe you and your congressional allies need to listen to Mike Huckabee's advice.

Speaking of Huckabee, he came in second in the Iowa straw poll, a symbolic event that brings political pundits to wax poetic about those crazy corn farming folks. Mitt Romney spent his way to first place.

Romney, of course, wants you to know that he 'misspoke' when he compared his sons' campaign efforts to military service. Rudy Guiliani similarly 'misspoke' last week. Must be something in the water.

Finally, the Republican YouTube debate is back from limbo, with a November 28 date.

Rove Sets His Exit Strategy (Pt. 2)

I'll just follow up on the Rove news with the take from the Daily Show gang-

More resignation speculation from Will Bunch, The Next Hurrah, and Talking Points Memo. Fox News says goodbye too, in their own special way.

Finally, a look back at the 1972 CBS video featuring Rove's first TV appearance. From Nixon to Bush. An appropriately historic journey for a man who stated as a matter of policy that dividing Americans was his governing philosophy.

White House Scared Congress Into Passing Bill?

A new report suggests that the White House lied to and mislead Congress in order to get them to authorize military action against Iraq pass the warrantless wiretapping bill.

To quote Captain Renault, I'm shocked, shocked to find out they would do such a thing!

[PS- Equally frustrating, as The Anonymous Liberal laments, is the lack of media coverage given to this bill, as opposed to non-stop primary coverage, celebrity trash, etc. Support it or not, this was a very significant piece of legislation. Might be worth more than a passing mention on news channels that literally run 24-7.

And Tom Tomorrow has a new cartoon summing up the Republican/Democrat dynamic.]

Monday, August 13, 2007

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan...

The NY Times ran a front-page story/analysis yesterday about the war in Afghanistan, describing what us critics have been saying for a couple of years now, but with a little more detail. The use of quotes in the title is probably appreciated by many at this point.

How a ‘Good War’ in Afghanistan Went Bad

Rove Sets His Exit Strategy

Because the numerous shenigans of the Bush administration have made me a properly suspicious fellow, I can't help but wonder what's beneath the surface of the announcement of the impending resignation of Karl Rove.

Is this really just him moving on (and why now?), having successfully taught the GOP that what goes up must come down... especially when you govern like children and start failed wars? Or is it instead because he knows that some other shoe is about to drop (Harriet Miers, for instance, resigned in January right as the U.S. Attorney scandal was about to break; Porter Goss resigned the CIA last year just before his possible connection to the Duke Cunningham/Brent Wilkes scandal was about to surface; etc).

Either way, America cannot properly condemn this monster thank him for all his hard work.

Quote of the Day

"The Democrats worry that the public won't get it; The Republicans worry that the public will get it."
--Jonathan Zasloff, encapsulating one major difference between the parties.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Weekend Video Theatre: The We're-Totally-Fucked Edition

Jason Jones has a special report, looking at the hypocrisy of those who want renewable energy production... just not in their backyard. It's this type of NIMBY-ism (like Michigan Democrats who won't support higher fuel standards for cars, because they need support from automakers) that ensures that we'll never be serious about taking on climate change.

[PS- Rolling Stone takes on another big environmental/fuel issue here: Ethanol Scam:
Ethanol Hurts the Environment And Is One of America's Biggest Political Boondoggles

Spying and FISA: Sweeping It Under The Rug (Pt. 2)

Want to know just how bad the warrantless surveillance program Congress approved is?

No longer do surveillance okays have to go through the independent FISA court (which processes pesky things called 'warrants'), they now need only be rubberstamped-- in secret-- by Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General. Yes, the same Attorney General now being investigated for using the Justice Department as a political/electoral arm of the Republican Party and for subsequent perjury to Congress.

How fun that our Constitution is in the hands of Attorney General Amnesia himself. Yay!

Beyond that, and even beyond the freedom from warrants (FISA, of course, already allowed for warrants to be applied for retroactively), the lines between domestic/international surveillance are greatly blurred. What defines a 'terrorist' and what defines 'domestic' and 'international' communications is now solely up to the discretion of the Bush administration.

Not satisfied with being one of the rare Presidents to have his illegal actions legislatively okayed by the Congress, the President intends to go further. When Congress reconvenes, he will ask for legislation giving the telecom companies, who gave their customers' records and data (warrant-free) to the government, liability from legal action.

Furthermore, the Bush administration still intends to make an example out of prosecute the person(s) who leaked the warrantless program to the NY Times in mid-2004 (the Times, of course, waited a year after Bush's reelection to finally publish the piece). From Newsweek-
[A] team of FBI agents, armed with a classified search warrant, raided the suburban Washington home of a former Justice Department lawyer. The lawyer, Thomas M. Tamm, previously worked in Justice's Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR)—the supersecret unit that oversees surveillance of terrorist and espionage targets... [T]wo legal sources who asked not to be identified talking about an ongoing case told NEWSWEEK the raid was related to a Justice criminal probe into who leaked details of the warrantless eavesdropping program to the news media...

...A veteran federal prosecutor who left DOJ last year, Tamm worked at OIPR during a critical period in 2004 when senior Justice officials first strongly objected to the surveillance program. Those protests led to a crisis that March when, according to recent Senate testimony, then A.G. John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller and others threatened to resign, prompting Bush to scale the program back...

...James X. Dempsey of the Center for Democracy and Technology said the raid was "amazing" and shows the administration's misplaced priorities: using FBI agents to track down leakers instead of processing intel warrants to close the gaps...

Plugging the leaks? Silencing and intimidating whistleblowers? Finally these guys are rolling up their sleeves and really giving it the old Nixon try. Democracy is on the march, folks.

[PS- Looking for a good summary of all this confusion? A new Slate podcast boils it down.]

Moving On Up

A laugh break, with The Onion: 'Minimum-Wage Hike Celebrated With Name-Brand Ketchup'