Saturday, September 01, 2007

Iraq: Always 'Six Months' Away From Victory

It's becoming a running joke among war critics how supporters of it always tell us that the next few months are crucial in Iraq and we all just need to be more patient... usually, an interval of 'six months' is given for everyone to shut up and see the inevitable progress. They tell us this now in 2007, they said it in 2006, and in 2005, and in 2004, and in 2003. It's almost as if they're a bunch of delusional liars!

On this note, Think Progress has created an interactive, flash-based timeline of the "broken record we've been hearing from our leaders." This is a must-bookmark page.

Our Long National Nightmare Is Finally Over

Sen. Craig has resigned, as expected. At last, America is free of corruption and scandal.

Weekend Odds and Ends

It's Labor Day weekend. Time to burn all my white shirts or something. Here's the news-

Suffering from mortgage problems? Fear not. President Bush is coming to save you.

Whoa, I thought that defining this war as being about oil makes someone a far-left moonbat: "Gasoline prices could rise to about $9 per gallon if the United States withdraws troops from Iraq prematurely, Rep. Jon Porter [R-NV] said he was told on a trip to Iraq." YIKES! Even if true, that's less a reason to stay in Iraq than it is to... you know, get off oil.

Democratic candidates will donate to charity money received from a controversial donor.

Fred Thompson, meanwhile, may finally stop pretending and actually run for President.

Univisión is holding Spanish debates for the candidates in September... except that the Republican debate has been cancelled. Only McCain would agree to participate. Típico.

Finally, universal healthcare should be as 'controversial' politically as free hugs and puppies.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Going, Going... Gone! (A Continuing Saga)

Today is Karl Rove's last day (officially) dividing the American public for short-term political gain, but as we've seen, he's far from the only one heading out.

Tony Snow is officially resigning as Press Secretary, because he can make more money lying in the private sector. Republican officials also state that the resignation of Sen. Craig is imminent. Today, Sen. Warner of Virginia announced that he won't be seeking another term next year. And the Justice Department's Inspector General insists that the resignation of AG Gonzales will not mean an end to the investigation of his wrongdoing.

Given how the GOP coalition is falling apart, I can't understand why so many Democrats remain so scared of them.

All The King's Horses and All The King's Men...

On CNN Tuesday, this report from Baghdad correspondent Michael Ware (unintentionally?) exposes the hypocrisy of the surge... that we're actually undermining the Iraqi government it claimed to help and secretly cutting deals with insurgents-

Meanwhile, the Washington establishment has seemingly settled on two saviors to all our Iraq woes... Gen. David Petraeus and former Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi (though it remains questionable for now whether all the recent Maliki/Allawi talk foreshadows a coup, or just politicians floating some crazy ideas out there).

Regarding the latter, one blogger flashed back to 2004 when "Allawi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq, pulled a pistol and executed as many as six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station, just days before Washington handed control of the country to his interim government." So he's the guy we want back if we want to go the Bill Maher-preferred route and just throw a dictatorial strongman in there and call the whole thing a wash.

In regards to the highly-respected Gen. Petraeus, it's been revealed-- on the eve of his the White House's report to Congress-- that he had the recent National Intelligence Estimate altered to his liking. The Washington Post reported that "Presented with a draft of the conclusions, Petraeus succeeded in having the security judgments softened to reflect improvements in recent months, the official said." Sounds like a man we can count on for an impartial, sober analysis.

Pres. Bush is hoping to milk an addition $50 billion out of Congress with this report, natch.

And, in what is also not good timing for him, an investigation (which focuses in one part on a senior American officer who worked under Petraeus) reveals that "federal agencies are investigating a widening network of criminal cases involving the purchase and delivery of billions of dollars of weapons, supplies and other matériel to Iraqi and American forces... [in what] amounted to the largest ring of fraud and kickbacks uncovered in the conflict."

In conclusion, there is no white knight who can fix the President's mess. But we knew that.

[UPDATE: The latest column by neocon, and Iraq war architect, Charles Krauthammer pretty much confirms that they're ready to dump Maliki and call a do-over here.]


With the arrest of Sen. Craig re-stoking many isolated peoples' worst stereotypes and bigotries about gay men, could there be good news on the horizon? A sea change?

Yesterday in Iowa (so not exactly Massachusetts), a judge in Polk Country overturned the state's same-sex marriage ban, stating it violated constitutional rights of due process and equal protection. He also "ordered local officials to process marriage licenses" to gay couples.

A county attorney planned to appeal (possibly even to the state Supreme Court) to reinstate the ban. If he gets a less progressive judge, he may even succeed. But this is a good step.

[PS- Matthew Yglesias has a good post on the hypocrisy and bigotry of social conservatives-- vis-à-vis Sen. Craig-- and the consequences it's had for gay men and women among them.]

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Headline of the Day II

After four and a half years of pointless war, this is just really pathetic.

AFP (via Yahoo): Bush aides say Iraq report set benchmarks too high

Headline of the Day

AP: 'Federal official defends Katrina effort'

Yea, you guys have been doing-- to coin a phrase-- a heckuva job.

I wanted to do a Katrina anniversary post worthy of this saga, but I have drawn a blank. What more can be said about the great human tragedy that occurred two years ago, and the lonely struggle of Gulf Coast residents as they still fight to rebuild (including those in Mississippi and Alabama who lost their homes too)? It continues to be a national shame. And, with the exception of those who live in the nearby areas, there's little we can actually do.

I'll refer back for now to my Sep. 3, 2005 post. And two posts from last year as well.

For those who want to stay regularly updated on the state of New Orleans, the best place to go (besides the local papers) is Harry Shearer's blog at the Huffington Post. Shearer has been following this story passionately both online and with live reports on his weekly public radio program, Le Show. He's, as Anderson Cooper likes to say, keeping them honest.

[PS- Some other recommended articles from USA Today, the AP, and Reason magazine.]

Odds and Ends

Suffering from news overload? Me too! This post probably won't help matters, however...

With the Walter Reed hospital scandal forgotten, the official who promised to resign... hasn't. Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley announced his resignation in March. He's still there. Pentagon officials respond that he's in "a transition status." Umm, ok.

Democrats are scared of attacks ad; not sure whether to stand up for constitutional rights.

Hey, this sounds like a great time to buy a house: "U.S. home prices fell 3.2 percent in the second quarter, the steepest rate of decline since Standard & Poor's began its nationwide housing index in 1987."

NY Governor Spitzer (now swimming in the fun that is Albany scandals) is calling attention to the S-CHIP legislation battle by threatening 'to sue the federal government on charges that new regulations on children's health insurance violate an existing program that covers children from lower-income families.' He states that this is "a moral imperative."

Are there any children's product not being recalled due to lead paint?

As we near the sixth anniversary of the 2001 attacks, it's downright depressing to note that so much of America still remains in a state of irrational pants-shitting fear. Case in point... two hikers were arrested in New Haven for leaving a trail of flour. Run for your lives!

Finally, Sean Hannity is a total and complete douchebag. But that's not news, is it?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Gonzales' Greatest Hits

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert picked a helluva week to go on vacation (again, guys?). With us robbed of their take on this matter, I will default to the muckrakers at Talking Points Memo, who played no small role in blowing the lid off the U.S. Attorneys scandal. Here they count down the Top 10 moments of Gonzales' congressional testimony-

And here's a roundup of internet columns on the matter... Glenn Greenwald implores the Democrats to take the confirmation hearings for Gonzales' replacement seriously, and use them to address what has happened to the Justice Department. Slate's John Dickerson looks at why President Bush hangs on to his incompetents for so long. And the Washington Post's Andrew Cohen passionately makes the case against Alberto Gonzales.

Finally, the cultists at Red State demand that... President Bush politicize the Justice Department even further by putting in even more cronies. Yikes, I'm outta here!

The Very Serious War On Terror

The current issue of Newsweek has a great cover story called 'Into Thin Air: He's still out there. The hunt for bin Laden.'. It's a long article, filled with lots of interesting details. We all know how we had bin Laden cornered at Tora Bora in late 2001, but let him slip away. But the article also reveals a late 2004 close call as well.

But beyond the details our hunt for the elusive Osama, the article singles out two factors which "made the job harder than necessary." They are, a) the delicacies of our relationship with Pakistani prez Pervez Musharraf, and b) the diversion that was our invasion of Iraq.

On the latter point, the article notes that-
While the terrain required deep local knowledge and small units, career officers in the U.S. military have long been wary of the Special Operations Forces best suited to the task... Rather than send the snake eaters to poke around mountain caves and mud-walled compounds, the U.S. military wanted to fight on a grander stage, where it could show off its mobility and firepower. To the civilian bosses at the Pentagon and the eager-to-please top brass, Iraq was a much better target. By invading Iraq, the United States would give the Islamists—and the wider world—an unforgettable lesson in American power. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was on Rumsfeld's Defense Policy Board and, at the time, a close confidant of the SecDef. In November 2001, Gingrich told a NEWSWEEK reporter, "There's a feeling we've got to do something that counts—and bombing caves is not something that counts."

I'm sorry, I must've missed the part there about WMDs, rape rooms, and democracy.

You see, actually focusing on the people responsible for the attacks would be boring, less politically advantageous, and not as profitable. Plus it would show the jihadists that they we are deliberate, rational, and competent in our goals. Lame! Better to show them our crazy face and tell them to 'suck on this' instead. A serious foreign policy.

It adds about this that-
By early 2002, new Predators—aerial drones that might have helped the search for bin Laden—were instead being diverted off the assembly line for possible use in Iraq. The military's most elite commando unit, Delta Force, was transferred from Afghanistan to prep for the invasion of Iraq. The Fifth Special Forces Group, including the best Arabic speakers, was sent home to retool for Iraq, replaced by the Seventh Special Forces Group—Spanish speakers with mostly Latin American experience. The most knowledgeable CIA case officers, the ones with tribal contacts, were rotated out.

The danger now, says Arquilla, is that the longer the Iraq War goes on, the more skilled the new generations of jihadists will become. "They're getting re-educated," he says. "The first generation of Al Qaeda came through the [Afghan] camps. The second generation are those who've logged on [to Islamist Web sites]. The next generation will be those who have come through the crucible of Iraq. Eventually, their level of skill is going to be greater than the skill of the original generation."

This is a very serious war we're in. Serious and smart. You're a traitor to think otherwise.

Denial Ain't Just A River In Egypt

Politicians love to take their scandals and make them worse, and Sen. Craig's no exception.

After being caught in a compromising position in an airport restroom in June by police, Sen. Craig plead guilty-- by accident, he swears!-- and had the story buried. Yesterday, he held a Republi-conference (*) to say, basically, that he's not gay, he did nothing wrong, please leave him alone, the media is out to get him.

[*Republi-conference = press conference where you don't actually take any press questions.]

For those curious about the actual, odd incident that lead to all of this, CNN has the arrest report. And a local CBS station makes the journalistically questionable decision to, ummm, reenact the bathroom incident.

For what its worth, no conservatives are actually defending the Senator, and many have strongly called for his immediate resignation. Why the clear ethical line here, when so many other recent political transgressions have met with strong GOP defense? It could be that the Idaho governor who'd get to replace him is a Republican and thus the real political fallout is if he doesn't resign. Or, it could be that this scandal involves teh gay (ick!). Probably 70% the former, 30% the latter.

Finally, on that last point, Reason magazine's David Weigel hits the nail on the head, in regards to how conservatives don't realize that they contribute to these problems. Weigel posts an example of one of the many homophobic, grade-school jokes being posted at the National Review today, then to a followup post where the same columnist wonders why it's always Republicans nowadays caught in these sex scandals. "Yes, it's a real mystery why a conservative Republican might be less open about his sexuality than a liberal Democrat," Weigel snarks in response to that.

If America were truly tolerant to homosexuality (to the point where we'll all stop seeing gays/straights as two different classes of people), people like Larry Craig would have gotten to spend their adult lives having healthy, open relationships with men... not hiding in public restrooms. I wish our culturally conservative friends in America grasped that.

[PS- What truly warrants resignation? He tried using his Senate card to intimidate the cop.]

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Taking It Seriously

When I read the breaking news online Monday morning that Attorney General Gonzales was resigning, I immediately turned on CNN to get the latest on this story. My mistake.

With an exception or two, the newsfolk I saw on CNN in the half hour I watched were snippy, bored, or dismissive. One anchor made repeated comments about how they were supposed to be covering the Michael Vick story, but now would be covering this for a little bit instead (journalism!). But mostly, their crimes were bad reporting.

At no point in the time that I watched did anyone on air explain what the U.S. Attorney scandal was about (the unprecedented firing of prosecutors for partisan reasons, related to schemes to indict Democrats near the midterm election), nor did they acknowledge any of the many other reasons (his key role in the White House's torture policy, warrantless wiretapping, turning the DoJ into a political arm of the Republican party, etc) that lead so many to demand Gonzales' resignation... not the least of which was that he knowingly perjured himself on many of the aforementioned matters. One correspondent dismissed all the scandals as a "pesky" affair.

Instead, they repeated White House talking points about how angry Democrats took down our hapless Attorney General. Several anchors cheerfully retold Gonzales' rags-to-riches story and how he worked so hard to get where he was. Shame that this had to happen.

I didn't even want to know what the Fox News coverage was like.

As we approach what will-- and should be-- the long and serious confirmation hearings to find a new Attorney General, it's important that the media treat this matter seriously... and not as an overblown 'pesky' partisan matter like how the White House wants it to appear. As one blogger notes, Gonzales, "by being so transparently interested only in advancing the interests of George Bush at the expense of the laws he swore to uphold, the Constitution, and the national interest, he deepened cynicism about government at a time when we badly needed leaders worthy of our trust and our confidence."

I know this story isn't as sexy as Michael Vick, but it'd be nice for the media to treat it so.

OMG Iran!!! Siren Siren!

Matt Drudge only brings out his super-cool flashing siren .gif when he is in absolute hysterics has something serious to report. So imagine how frightened and ready to starting blowing stuff up I was when I saw this!

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The linked-to AP report (at the conservative news repository, natch) reads-
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned Tuesday that a power vacuum is imminent in Iraq and said that Iran was ready to help fill the gap.

"The political power of the occupiers is collapsing rapidly," Ahmadinejad said at a press conference in Tehran, referring to U.S. troops in Iraq. "Soon, we will see a huge power vacuum in the region. Of course, we are prepared to fill the gap, with the help of neighbors and regional friends like Saudi Arabia, and with the help of the Iraqi nation."

That is all the article reads. In its entirety. Just the latest rantings of the lunatic who is President of Iran. No actual plot, no declaration of war... just the usual bluster of a man who enjoys feeling more powerful than he actually is. The truly laughable part is Ahmadinejad's invocation of Saudi Arabia as his "friend" in this. Saudi Arabia (the dominant Sunni bully in the yard) is much as Iran's (dominant Shiite bully) friend as oil is friends with water. In short, this is crazy talk from a crazy man.

I know folks like Drudge want a new war to play with. But us adults don't like the way they treated the two they already made us buy them, and so we're gonna tell them 'no' (again) and ask them to take a time-out instead.

My President Will Be...

...Not a pawn of ideologues, progressive, sane, smart, and grounded in reality.

Sen. Feingold, channeling Bob Dylan, participates in an ad for the Progressive Patriots Fund-

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Rev. Ted Haggard Will Pray For You, Larry

Another hypocritical (closeted) 'moral values' Republican exposed? From Roll Call, via TPM-
Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) was arrested in June at a Minnesota airport by a plainclothes police officer investigating lewd conduct complaints in a men’s public restroom, according to an arrest report obtained by Roll Call Monday afternoon.

Craig’s arrest occurred just after noon on June 11 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. On Aug. 8, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct in the Hennepin County District Court. He paid more than $500 in fines and fees, and a 10-day jail sentence was stayed. He also was given one year of probation with the court that began on Aug. 8.

Of course, the issue here is hypocrisy. If the Senator wants to solicit gay sex (or whatever the hell was happening here) in a restroom, that's his dirty business. But he belongs to a party that proclaims to be the deciders of what 'morality' means in America, usually just a reflection of how the most zealous members of their base are feeling. They also-- Craig included-- made anti-gay legislation a cornerstore of their recent election strategies.

Exposing the hypocrisy will hopefully cause them to (eventually) abandon fundamentalism.

[PS- On a related note, 'Jeff Gannon' is back... and wants to be taken seriously. Adorable.]

Odds and Ends

I thought this would be a slow news week. Ooops! Let's get started...

The Democratic National Committee is battling Florida, based on the state's decision to move its primary into January. It's pushing to the forefront the state battles over which primaries should be dominant.

Meanwhile, forest fires ravaged Greece as the country works to quell them.

French President Sarkozy called "for a clear timetable to be set for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq in his first major foreign policy address." He also warned against the dangers of attacking Iran.

CNN conducted an exclusive interview with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal. They spoke about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, along with other regional concerns.

Finally, Rolling Stone looks into where our tax money in Iraq went to. A must-read.

The Justice Department's Long National Nightmare Is Finally Over

Attorney General Gonzales has finally resigned, via the NY Times as well as news wires.

Lots of things to ponder here. Not sure why the White House finally dumped Gonzales, having stubbornly held on so long. Also, we will find out soon if the rumors of Michael Chertoff replacing him are true or not. One would think that President Bush wouldn't replace Gonzales with someone also controversial and unpopular like Chertoff, but as we know President Bush apparently only knows a dozen or so people in all of Washington DC.

My personal pick would be former Deputy Attorney General James Comey. Not only is he a very respected prosecuter, but he has expressed, in his past work with the administration, a strong streak of political and judicial independence. But that, of course, is why the pick won't be him. Bring on AG Chertoff and his terror-sensing gut!

Regardless of who is picked, these confirmation hearings will be a long and serious matter. Of course, the media won't treat it that way, lamenting-- much to the White House's glee-- of angry Democrats and show trials and all that nonsense. The position of Attorney General has been treated as a political joke by the Bushies; but opposing that has been and will be portrayed as partisan by a lazy media.

Finally, Talking Points Memo looks back at Gonzales' biggest lies. Good times.

[UPDATE: It's noteworthy that the White House denies Gonzales ever did anything wrong... yet hasn't released a reason why he resigned (and no, Democrats not liking him isn't a reason). The resignation press conference was revealing in that it said basically nothing.

UPDATE #2: Acting Attorney General will be Paul Clement, currently Solicitor General. Also, if Chertoff is promoted to AG, his possible DHS replacement is Bush pal Clay Johnson.]

Sunday, August 26, 2007

And We Would've Gotten Away With It Too, If It Wasn't For You Meddling Kids

With the Iraqi government continuing to crumble just in time for the Bush administration to begin a fresh round of time-buying next month (Maliki out, Allawi back in?), the new narrative from the noise machine is that the 'surge' is "working"... and anyone who disagrees is a defeatist jerk.

The NY Post (where else?) put this opinion piece by columnist Charles Hunt on page 2 of Friday's paper, as if it were a legitimate news piece. He states that "Democrats bristle when people call them 'Defeatocrats,' but they're certainly living up to that name," going on to explain how Hillary Clinton and John Edwards having changed their minds on Iraq in recent years makes them part of the "'lose at all costs' crowd." He concludes that "one thing is for sure. It's too late for all those young men and women who have already paid their last full measure."

Damn you war critics!!!! Why did you kill all of those troops?!!

In reality, though, things aren't as simple as Hunt believes. The Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum looks at the actual statistics from Iraq on the number of attacks, the size of insurgency, civilian and troop casualties, and other metrics. The #'s show that violence has gone up since the 'surge', while availability of resources has gone down. That does tend to happen when you escalate a war.

And a NY Times report reveals an increase of Iraqis leaving the country-
Despite some evidence that the troop buildup has improved security in certain areas, sectarian violence continues and American-led operations have brought new fighting, driving fearful Iraqis from their homes at much higher rates than before the tens of thousands of additional troops arrived, the studies show...

...Though most displaced Iraqis say they would like to return, there is little prospect of their doing so...

And with our leaders floating the possibility of changing the Iraqi leadership that the 'surge' was meant to assist, it's hard to tell what all of this destruction was for now.

I'd like to believe that most people understand that while you might decrease violence somewhere by turning said area in a tightly-controlled military garrison town, that this is a stop-gap measure that is not sustainable indefinitely and must be replaced soon with internal political stability (of course, the White House has predicably moved the goalposts on this issue). But, as Hunt himself noted, the "great thing about a presidential campaign is that all the nuances... fall away." And so, for the defenders of this mess, all they will say is that we were winning, until 'the rug was pulled out from under' our troops by 'defeatists'.

The actual people in charge of this war and its policies bare no responsibility for anything.

Weekend Video Theatre: New Rules!

Bill Maher has returned. Here is his latest set of 'New Rules'. I hate those plastic shoes too.

Why Is The Democratic Congress So Unpopular?

Glenn Greenwald cuts past all the right-wing spin (America must miss the good ol' days of unilateral GOP control!) and cuts straight to the real reason(s) for the low ratings. In short, polls and other data consistently show that people agree with the Democrats generally on policy... they just hate that they lack the damn balls to implement it.