Saturday, September 29, 2007

Bush Lied, Lots of Stuff Died.

Before we discuss what's happening in Iraq, let's take a look back at how we got here...

As you may know, there are some people (very shrill, unserious moonbats) who believe that the White House lied to, or mislead, the world in its case for war against Iraq just because of the large amounts of evidence pointing to this they have hate in their hearts. I mean, President Bush told a reporter who asked about his plans for war in December 2002 that, "You said we're headed to war in Iraq. I don't know why you say that. I hope we're not headed to war in Iraq. I'm the person who gets to decide, not you." And then it turned out... well, it turned out that was pure bullshit.

Now a Spanish report reveals a private conservation between Bush and then-Spanish Prime Minister Aznar in February 2003, at a time when Bush continued to insist publicly that war was something he was trying to avoid. Our President told Aznar that he was going in with or without U.N. approval, and that "We will be in Baghdad by the end of March." Is that the Spanish equivalent of the Downing Street Memo, as some insist?

White House Press Secretary Dana Perino was asked about this report yesterday. She gave a long and rambling answer, insisting that we stayed focused on where we are now. But she never questioned nor denied the veracity of the report.

I wonder how many people even still have the energy to deny that the White House lied and bamboozled its way into a war they had wanted for some time. Probably much less than three years ago. But many of those people would still insist that, lies or no lies, this was the right thing to do. Why? The reason keeps on changing.

And what's happening in Iraq now, you ask? Lots of progress!

Our military leaders have developed an excellent way to spot and kill insurgents. They leave out weapons and ammunitions as "bait" and pretty much just kill anyone who gets curious about them. It's not so much 'shoot first, ask questions later', but rather 'entrap first, shoot second, never ask questions'. And it's the type of brilliant strategy that's gotten us so far.

Finally, I read today that "Civil war has been averted in Iraq and Iranian intervention there has 'ceased to exist,' Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said." So, umm, we won? Can we leave now? What's that... we never can? Oh, darn.

Friday, September 28, 2007

I Like Ike

Last night, on The Colbert Report, Stephen had on film historian David Schwartz as his guest, who runs a new website entitled The Living Room Candidate.

The website is an archive of TV campaign commercials from 1952 to 2004. This is a really fun website. It's a way to look at how much campaigning has changed... and how it hasn't.

Win Ben Stein's Sanity

When I was younger, I knew that Ben Stein had worked for the Nixon administration, but I didn't care (so did a lot of good people not guilty by association), because he was in "Ferris Bueller" and had that awesome quiz show on Comedy Central where he and Jimmy Kimmel cracked wise at each other.

It turns out that the guy is a grade-A douchebag.

This first became obvious two years ago when he ranted and raved after the identity of the Watergate 'Deep Throat' was revealed. In Stein's eyes, Nixon was a modern-day Christ, bringing peace to the world, only to be thwarted by assholes like Deep Throat mad at Nixon just because he committed numerous crimes and turned out to be a paranoid sociopath. The nerve of those monsters! He then blamed those who helped bring down Nixon for the genocides in South Vietnam and Cambodia (!). "No one doubts RN would never have let this happen," said Stein, defending the President who expanded the war into Cambodia in the first place and considered using nukes against Vietnam.

Now Stein is making a movie called "EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed", a documentary on how the refusal to teach intelligent design in schools is destroying America. Says Stein on its blog, "America is not America without freedom." He goes on to explain that apparently America is no longer America without intelligent design in schools. All of the other crazy things done in recent years by his old boss' successor must be a-okay for America... but refusing to force biblical creationism into science classes? It's the end of the Republic!

Ben Stein is a real modern day Patrick Henry. Give us intelligent design or give us death.

Weekend Odds and Ends

'The Office' is the funniest show on TV. Just wanted to say it. Here's the news...

Reason's Steve Chapman takes a critical look at Michael Mukasey and Attorney Generals past.

Remember the Walter Reed veteran hospitals scandal? The Government Accountability Office does: "Months after pledging to improve veterans care, the Bush administration has yet to find clear answers to some of the worst problems afflicting wounded warriors."

Yet another court concludes the Patriot Act is to the Constitution what acids are to bases.

Will the GOP be able to keep minorities away from the polls next year? It's up to the Supreme Court now: "The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to decide whether voter identification laws unfairly deter the poor and minorities from voting."

Is Sen. Craig staying or going? He's very confused right now. But not on hate crimes.

What's all this news about the protesting monks in Myanmar/Burma (latest news- here)? One website-- Burma Digest-- is following the saga closely. A good resource.

Finally, Al Gore calls for a ‘global Marshall plan’ on climate change. Bush has smaller plans.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

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

The Senate passed the Lieberman/Kyl 'totally not a precursor to war' Iran amendment. Oop.

So... What's The Answer?

Last April, someone asked the President a question on private U.S. militias in Iraq-

I don't know why, but current events make it worrisome the question never got answered.

Odds and Ends

It's Thursday morning, do you know where your children are? Here's the news...

President Bush was all 'blah blah human rights' at the U.N., but McClatchy newspapers reminds us that "Bush didn't mention the U.S. prisons in Afghanistan or at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. practice of holding detainees for years without legal charges or access to lawyers, or the CIA's 'rendition' kidnappings of suspects abroad, all issues of concern to human rights activists around the world." Pwned.

The United Auto Workers and GM have reached an agreement, ending the worker strike.

Keith Olbermann continues to explores the nexus between politics and terror (see previous reports- here and here)... this time in regards to what role hyped-up terror warnings played in browbeating Congress into passing the gutting-FISA warrantless wiretapping bill this past August. Fear is an amazing thing, isn't it?

This week marked the 50th anniversary of the racial integration at a public high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. This event was a key moment in the civil rights movement.

A supporter of Rudy Guiliani is throwing a fundraising party. The asked-for amount? $9.11, of course. The Guiliani campaign says the choice of amount is regrettable; I'm sure they can't imagine where his supporters would get the idea. Neither can I.

Finally, the Democrats had a lively debate last night. Livebloggings- here, here, and here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What, You Didn't Appreciate His 11th Hour Honesty?

Tom Tomorrow's Sparky the Penguin meets Alan Greenspan. It doesn't go well.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Final Thoughts on Gen. Petraeus and MoveOn

As far as I am concerned, this is a non-issue and a farce, but the right-wing is still obsessed with it (like I am obsessed with Applebees appetizer samplers), so here's my final thoughts and then I'll... move on. Ah, a pun! And a better one than MoveOn's to boot!

On the surface, the right-wing says they are angry that a group would dare to disparage one specific person all our troops (they are, in actuality, just rhetorically hiding behind the military as usual). This is a ridiculous 'scandal' on a general level, and on the specifics too.

On the general level, this is a democracy. Period. Moreover, it is a democracy based on civilian control of the military. We are not some military junta (ie. Pakistan) where we are ruled by generals. The notion that military leaders themselves are ever not open for criticism or skepticism goes against everything this country stands for.

But more specifically, Gen. Petraeus made himself a political figure-- and a ridiculously partisan one, to boot-- the second that he agreed to be the President's spokesperson and cheerleader for the surge. He surrendered his credibility in doing so.

He apparently spent the majority of August leading congressfolk around the Green Zone and nearby areas in what Sen. Webb called the "dog and pony shows". I had no idea that this was job of the commander of forces in Iraq! He also gave interviews to right-wing talk radio hosts during the summer (like Hugh Hewitt), while denying interview guests from liberal questioners like Alan Colmes and Glenn Greenwald. Etc.

And then, in what I'm sure war defenders still feel was a total coincidence, his super-independent testimony to Congress didn't deviate at all from current White House talking points. No disagreement at all! And, furthermore, the night of his initial testimony, he gave an exclusive interview to Fox News. They, in turn, honored him a week later with a laudatory primetime biographic special.

If this doesn't open Petraeus to charges of partisan hackery, I don't know what does.

Finally, the sheer ridiculousness of this story is summed up in MSNBC's David Shuster's interview with Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). Blackburn, natch, couldn't shut up about the MoveOn ad. But when Shuster asked her, "What was the name of the last solider from your district who was killed in Iraq?"... she didn't know.

All they care about is winning political fights. The war itself? That is unimportant to them.

[PS- The dispute over the numbers/statistics used in Petraeus' testimony continues.]

And No One Mugged The Waiter Either

Bill'O went to a Harlem restaurant, was shocked to discover black people are normal. "There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'M-Fer, I want more iced tea,'" he noted. Congratulations, black America, you have the Factor seal of approval now. Wear it proudly.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

'It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt .'

The latest outrage-of-the-week revolves around Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visiting New York for the U.N. assembly. Forgotten was the controversial debate over whether he would visit Ground Zero when everyone chose to focus instead on the decision of Columbia University to invite him as a guest speaker as part of their World Leader Forum series.

Matt Drudge hasn't lead with anything else for about a week now. Michael Reagan told Fox News' Neil Cavuto that Ahmadinejad is a dirty Democrat taking orders from Daily Kos. And over at the National Review and other sites, they're just going wild. Lock the doors, baton down the hatches!

Personally, I think world leaders-- even the ones we don't like-- should be welcome to come and address the United Nations, as is their right. And if they want to see the sights in Manhattan while they're here, that's fine too. I did question the judgement of Columbia in inviting him, though. Inviting someone as a featured speaker is a big statement; it doesn't imply approval, per se, but still sends a dubious message. I probably wouldn't have done it.

However, after seeing President Ahmadinejad's speech to the student body of Columbia yesterday (did you know there are no homosexuals in Iran because they are all executed... it must be true, he said it!), I am glad they brought him to their school.

Mr. Ahmadinejad showed our country the content of his character. And the audience laughed in his face. This is democracy, this is what makes our country so great.

In particular, Columbia President Lee Bollinger's introductory speech illustrates this point. It is unlikely that Mr. Ahmadinejad hears this very often in his own country (protests are abundant there, but as with our leader, they are kept far from his sight) and I doubt he will get it any harder than this at the United Nations. Take a look at the democracy in action that so many conservatives insisted would be a 'propaganda coup' for Iran-

This, of course, occurs at a time of concern between our two nations. Members of our government (ie. the disgusting Joe Lieberman and his neocon allies) are still hoping to start a new war against the foe-of-the-moment. And Iran is working to protect its interest amidst their warring neighbor... an AP report notes that "Iran closed major border crossings with northeastern Iraq on Monday to protest the U.S. detention of an Iranian official the military accused of weapons smuggling." But some context/history is needed.

We've had bad relations with Iran for decades, going back to the '79 hostage crisis. But there was a chance for a renewed relationship after 9/11. The Iranian government condemned the attacks. They even provided assistance in the beginning of the war against the Taliban/al-Qaeda, as we had a mutual enemy. But then, in early 2002, President Bush said Iran was part of his 'axis of evil' and hope of reconciliation fizzled. In 2003, Iran offered a deal to the U.S. to renounce its terror ties and make its nuclear program more transparent, in exchange for some U.S. concessions... but VP Cheney insisted the offer be rejected. So, as anger grew against America, in the wake of the invasion of Iraq and threats of expansion into other countries, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected President. This position is not as all-powerful as people believe, as it's the Supreme Leader of Iran who really controls foreign policy, and a lot of domestic too. And Ahmadinejad's belligerence (and obsession with America over his own country's economy) has now hurt him domestically, as seen by his party's losses in the 2006 council elections.

It's safe to assume that his performance in NY this week didn't help his situation there at all. And I am finding it hard today to be outraged at that result.

Primary Politics

Last night, I attended an interesting political fundraiser... 'Barack on Broadway', a short collection of song and dance and theatre to benefit Barack Obama's campaign. After the entertainment, Sen. Obama spoke to us for about a half hour.

The speech reinforced why I am drawn to the Senator (he stated his experience may "not be what Washington wants, but it's the experience Washington needs"), but also made me worry. He described himself as an unapologetically optimistic "hope-peddler" who turns down advice to engage in tougher rhetoric against his opponents. But tougher rhetoric makes you stand out, tougher rhetoric may help illuminate the differences in policy between him and his primary opponents. You can be more aggressive politically without getting into personal attacks or ad-hominem arguments.

I personally believe (naively?) that Sen. Obama is the primary candidate with the best shot of taking the general election. I just hope he has what it takes to pummel his way past the Hillary machine to get there. Last night left me audaciously concerned.

Odds and Ends

Thanks for the feedback; blogging (thoughts on Ahmadinejad) resumes today. Here's news...

Here's a look at a key reason why GOP front-runners were wise to skip the religious right "Values Voter" debate last week... a church choir there sang a remixed version of 'God Bless America' entitled 'Why should God bless America?' The lyrics condemned America for its sinful ways. Democrats might have tried to make an issue of this, but--unlike the right's daily outrage machine-- perhaps (?) they have better things to do.

The saga of the Myanmar monks gains global attention, particularly from the U.S.

News from the labor front... around 73,000 automakers (members of the United Auto Workers) went on strike against General Motors. They are fighting over job security concerns. The last such strike was 37 years ago.

Darn that liberal media! CBS News had history burying stories about the Bush administration.

The war on terrorism everyone continues! According to the Washington Post, "The U.S. government is collecting electronic records on the travel habits of millions of Americans who fly, drive or take cruises abroad, retaining data on the persons with whom they travel or plan to stay, the personal items they carry during their journeys, and even the books that travelers have carried." Very serious war they're fighting.

Finally, why does this week's U.N. climate meeting matter? Matthew Yglesias has a really good post explaining the long-term political thinking guiding it. Bush skipped, natch.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Community Thoughts

Hello, dear reader(s)... I won't have much time for blogging today, so I thought I'd check in and see who's reading this blog. How did you find the site? How often do you read it? What do you like about it? What do you not like about it? Etc.

Just looking for some general feedback, as well as gauging my readership. Thanks!

[PS- Just so this isn't a total meta-fest, here's some classic-- and prescient-- political comedy... Jon Stewart in 1996 discusses U.S. foreign policy, and two SNL skits from 2000 (here and here) accurately peg George W. Bush.]

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Weekend Video Theatre: Mandela's Dead?, Lionel Hutz, and More

Another pointless week in the debate over the war gone. Jon Stewart takes a look back-

[PS- Like Mr. Zasloff, I knew what the Mandela part meant. But it's a hypocritical metaphor.]

Quote of the Day

"More Iraqis will probably die of violence just after a U.S. withdrawal than are dying violently now. That will hand the pro-war forces a rhetorical 'I told you so.' Anyone who can blame what happened in Cambodia on U.S. doves is clearly shameless enough to blame the civil war in Iraq on the people who opposed the invasion rather than those who carried it out and then bungled the occupation.

But that's not a good enough reason to hang around, unless at some point it stops being true: that six months, or a year, or two years, or five years from now we would be able to withdraw and not have civil war and massacre follow. If we're spending blood and treasure only to postpone a catastrophe we can't prevent, the 'humanitarian' argument against a fairly rapid withdrawal collapses."
--Mark Kleiman, on why postponing the inevitable is not a serious policy.