Saturday, October 13, 2007

Those Bleeding-Heart Conservatives

After the WMD rationale and the 9/11-mongering fell apart in mid-2003, Iraq war defenders quickly settled on a new reason for why we invaded... it was because of Saddam's record of human rights abuses! We were on a humanitarian mission of democracy! I remember a debate I had about this meme with a Cheney fangirl over two years ago (scroll to comments); it was transparently hypocritical even back then. More so now.

I read this horrifying post at the National Review by Mark Krikorian, which not only featured more war-lust by Bill Kristol, but also exemplifies the aforementioned hypocrisy. Krikorian states, in regards to calls for military interview in Burma, this-
"I'm sorry — is this a joke? What possible American interest is there in Burma? Even the president's talking about Burma at the UN was too much for me, but at least vigorous hand-wringing can be harmless, so long as it doesn't lead to anything (my graduate advisor used to say "the American people support all steps short of action"). Burma's irrelevant to the world economy, exports no oil, isn't in a strategically important location. I eagerly anticipate the day when Burma's long-suffering people rise up and lynch the criminals who oppress them, but, really, what's it to us?"

Ahh, the Republican party... stalwart defenders of American business interests human rights!

This attitude should never be a shock. The Project For A New American Century-- the 1990s home of the neocons who eventually became the architects of the Iraq invasion-- made clear their only goals were to "shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests." Not the bleeding-heart and scary rhetoric they used to bamboozle the public.

Neoconservative pundit Charles Krauthammer took a similar position earlier this year, explaining the reason why his crew abandoned the Afghanistan mission to start a new war of choice in Iraq. He dismissed the former as "a geographically marginal backwater with no resources and no industrial or technological infrastructure" (blueduck's note: oh, and it was also actually where that pesky 9/11 thing was planned from) while the latter was "one of the three principal Arab states, with untold oil wealth, an educated population, an advanced military and technological infrastructure... [and] the fact that its strategic location would give its rulers inordinate influence over the entire Persian Gulf region". Kaching!

18 months ago, Helen Thomas asked this President what this war was actually about. It's time to keep asking these people that question. Make them honestly defend what so many have died for.

[PS- Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez states the obvious... Iraq's "a nightmare with no end in sight."]

Friday, October 12, 2007

And The Nobel Peace Prize Goes To...

...Al Gore! He, and a U.N. climate change panel, was awarded the Nobel for "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change." A well-deserved award... now about that change. How's it coming along?

This is only intensifying the draft Gore presidential buzz. Sadly, I think it's a lost cause.

[UPDATE: This TPM post sums up my feelings on this, the reactions, and the future.]

Weekend Odds and Ends

Please don't suck tonight, 'Friday Night Lights'. Thanks. Here's the news...

Regarding the wiretapping bill, President Bush stomps his feet and demands "retroactive immunity to U.S. telecommunications companies that helped conduct electronic surveillance without court orders"... which seems to dumb ol' me an admission of guilt!

And Alberto Gonzales, fearing the justice that he denied to so many, lawyers up.

Upset over a U.S. House vote branding the WWI-era "killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks genocide", Turkey has recalled its ambassador for the moment. Oh, and for genuinely unrelated reasons, they might invade northern Iraq! What a mess!

The U.S. Marines, meanwhile, want out of Iraq... and into Afghanistan. Afghani-what?

Jon Stewart and Lynne Cheney have a friendly chat. The second half is good stuff.

Finally, I briefly mentioned this on Tuesday, but the swiftboating of a 12-year-old-- who delivered a Democratic radio address on S-CHIP-- by prominent right-wingers (ie. not random fringe folk) deserves further mentioning... it perfectly illustrates the growing insanity of the GOP base. No liberal/Democrat would've even thought of stalking a family, harassing neighbors, posting vicious lies about a child and his family just because he/she had advocated for a GOP issue. It's sociopathic. Updates- here, here, and here (bonus, if anyone needs further convincing that Michelle Malkin is a horrible person... read this).

The Tooth Fairy Pays For Everything

NY Times columnist Tom Friedman, apparently recovering well in his return to sanity, discusses the administration's kneejerk aversion to taxes... even to pay for the things they support the most.

Speaking on a recent (and failed) Democratic effort to use raising the idea of a 'war tax' to highlight the fiscal irresponsibility of our mess overseas, Friedman writes-
It is now 'fiscally irresponsible' to want to pay for a war with a tax. These democrats just don’t understand: the tooth fairy pays for wars. Of course she does — the tooth fairy leaves the money at the end of every month under Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson’s pillow. And what a big pillow it is! My God, what will the Democrats come up with next? Taxes to rebuild bridges or schools or high-speed rail or our lagging broadband networks? No, no, the tooth fairy covers all that. She borrows the money from China and leaves it under Paulson’s pillow...

...The [larger] question is, can we pay for [the war] and be making the investments in infrastructure, science and education needed to propel our country into the 21st century? Visit Singapore, Japan, Korea, China or parts of Europe today and you’ll discover that the infrastructure in our country is not keeping pace with our peers’.

We can pay for anything today if we want to stop investing in tomorrow.

Personally, I see this less as a celebration of the joy of taxes (fun for the whole family!) than a simple call to getting our national priorities back in order. A radical concept, I know.

(On a related note, Kevin Drum looks at the facts/fictions of U.S. tax policy.)

I wonder what more needs to happen to us before there's enough national will to turn our priorities back around? A recession? A couple more bridges collapsing, or cities swimming underwater? The black plague? Your guess is as good as mine, folks.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Public Service Announcement: So You Wanna Vote In A Primary?

I read (thanks internet!) that the deadline here in NY to change your party registration to vote in the primary is tomorrow. That date probably varies from state to state. Consider this a general reminder that, if you're still independent, but want to vote in the primary, the clock's ticking. Contact your local Board of Elections for info.

The general ridiculousness of primaries now basically means the whole thing will be decided after the first week of February, so don't miss your opportunity to help shape this mess!

The Cult of Ron

One of my personal pet peeves--as a guy who reads lot of political stuff online-- is the growing prevalence of Ron Paul cultists who hijack every blog comment section, YouTube video discussion, and postings to pontificate about our savior, Ron Paul.

At the risk of stereotyping, these people are usually hysterical, insisting the rest of us are just police state apologists who don't realize that 9/11 was the first part in a government conspiracy to have the U.N. take over America, steal our guns, and turn the U.S., Canada, and Mexico into one super-country controlled by the illuminati(*). Rep. Paul himself is far from being a Lyndon LaRouche, but it's hard to tell from his most rabid supporters.

(*Note: This Vincente Fox interview on The Daily Show will not assuage those fearing a North American Union)

Sometimes, though, it results in good discussions that get to heart of people's philosophies.

A good example is the comment section of a recent TPM news piece that focused on Rep. Paul. His supporters, of course, showed up, lamenting the evil that is... government. However, some other commenters got into a spirited defense of government done right, and how opposition to the concept of this is usually based on paranoia. In particular, reads the comments by 'colonpowpow', 'Fred M', and 'Joe Monster'.

I assume most people don't have the time to read blog comment discussions (and perhaps it's sad that I do), but if you do, this is a quality debate.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

More Odds and Ends

It finally feels like Fall outside. So I'm going for a walk. But first, lots of news...

The GOP candidates held a debate yesterday (in the afternoon?!) on economic issues. The best recaps I found are... here, here, and here. TPM's video highlight reel- here.

Watching Sean Hannity trying to explain to James Dobson why a religious right third-party candidate will hurt the GOP is highly entertaining for me. I am reminded of Bill Maher and Michael Moore on their knees in 2004 begging Ralph Nader not to run.

Are Democrats capitulating on wiretapping again? It's hard to tell, but I'm nervous.

Barack Obama gave a comprehensive speech on his energy proposals on Monday. It's getting rave reviews. Let's hope these ideas catch on with others in positions of power.

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, gets snippy with a concerned voter over her Iran vote.

Finally, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough calls Iraqis 'losers' for complaining about Blackwater abuses, and is schooled by Sen. Webb. Meanwhile, Iraq again asks them to please leave.

What Is S-CHIP?

Stephen Colbert helps kids understand what this S-CHIP talk is all about-

If this video doesn't help, this McClatchy article is actually a good overview.

[PS- Stephen's book-- 'I Am America (And So Can You!)'-- came out yesterday. A quality book; it comes with stickers. Will it best Paul Krugman's new book in sales? The showdown is on.]

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Meanwhile, in Iraq...

Disastrous embassies aside, how are things in Iraq? Let's check in-
For much of this year, the U.S. military strategy in Iraq has sought to reduce violence so that politicians could bring about national reconciliation, but several top Iraqi leaders say they have lost faith in that broad goal.

Iraqi leaders argue that sectarian animosity is entrenched in the structure of their government. Instead of reconciliation, they now stress alternative and perhaps more attainable goals: streamlining the government bureaucracy, placing experienced technocrats in positions of authority and improving the dismal record of providing basic services.

"I don't think there is something called reconciliation, and there will be no reconciliation as such," said Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, a Kurd. "To me, it is a very inaccurate term. This is a struggle about power."...

The article is worth reading in full, with a take on this from all sides involved.

This point may be obvious on its own, but with the Iraqis seemingly giving up-- for now-- on the concept of reconciliation, the President's post-midterm rejustification for staying in Iraq holds less water than ever (and it was a colander to begin with). So, at this point, there's no official reason why we're occupying that country. It's war for war's sake.

The British have the right idea. They're staying the course on their schedule for withdrawal.

Analyzing the GOP Collapse

Even diehard Republicans these days will admit their party is facing a serious, ongoing crisis... not just at the ballot box, but also in terms of its core philosophy.

Conservative NY Times columnist David Brooks gets very deep in his take on this, stating the problem is that "Over the years, the voice of [Edmund] Burke has been submerged beneath the clamoring creeds. In fact, over the past few decades the conservative ideologies have been magnified, while the temperamental conservatism of Burke has been abandoned." That's not un-true.

But blogger John Cole-- who twice voted for Dubya, but ran screaming for the hills sometime last year-- cuts to the chase a bit better, in my opinion. He explains his exodus-
"It had nothing to do with Burke, and everything to do with what the party had become. A bunch of bedwetting, loudmouth, corrupt, hypocritical, and incompetent boobs with a mean streak a mile long and no sense of fair play or proportion.

Seriously- what does the current Republican party stand for? Permanent war, fear, the nanny state, big spending, torture, execution on demand, complete paranoia regarding the media, control over your body, denial of evolution and outright rejection of science, AND ZOMG THEY ARE GONNA MAKE US WEAR BURKHAS, all the while demanding that in order to be a good American I have to spend most of every damned day condemning half my fellow Americans as terrorist appeasers.

That isn’t even getting into the COMPLETE and TOTAL corruption of our political processes at every level...

...Screw them. I got out. They can have their party."

And I know this is truer than people think. I have an uncle who is one of the nicest, most generous guys I know... and he drives a VW bus painted with hippie stuff, only eats organic foods, etc. But he is a diehard Republican. Won't watch TV because of the 'liberal propaganda' it spews. Thinks Democrats are 'communists'. Is scared that terrorists are hiding behind every corner, ready to destroy us all at a moment's notice. Thinks that the only problem with the war is that Bush is too much of a pussy to just nuke the whole place and get it over with. These attitudes are not just limited to buffoons like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, or Ms. Coulter. Those stars simply reflect the craziness that has infected the heart of the GOP base.

(This disturbing story involving Michelle Malkin and a 12-year-old is the perfect example.)

So Cole's summary is better to me than Mr. Brooks'. But maybe it's Burke too. Who knows.

But Are The Trains Running On Time?

One of the biggest signs that we plan to keep a footprint in Iraq for a very long time has been the construction of a U.S. super-embassy in Baghdad. This $592 million, 104 acre compound is the perfect place for the choppers to evacuate us from when Baghdad falls.

Two articles check in on the progress of this monstrosity. First, the Washington Post-
The massive U.S. embassy under construction in Baghdad could cost $144 million more than projected and will open months behind schedule because of poor planning, shoddy workmanship, internal disputes and last-minute changes sought by State Department officials, according to U.S. officials and a department document provided to Congress...

...While some of the new costs could be covered by an existing supplemental funding request for Iraq, the State document said the department is still searching for ways to pay for nearly $70 million of the additional work.

McClatchy news services has a look of their own. Turns out even the sprinklers don't work.

A perfect metaphor for the entire war/occupation itself.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Green Cities / Fair and Balanced Climate Analysis

I'd be posting this even if isn't wasn't 85° at 11pm in early October, but it makes it timelier.

Reader's Digest has an environmental article which, among other cities, looks at the world's 'greenest' cities... meaning not most amount of trees, but implementation of sound environmental living (see pg. 4 in the piece). No U.S. city shows up on their list until #15, and that is my hometown of New York. I am sure there are small towns somewhere with lower carbon footprints, but I guess they were focusing on metropolises.

An interesting overview. Take the quiz on the side too!

Fox News, meanwhile, looks on the bright side of climate change... the melting of the Artic is making long-buried oil more accessible! I'd remind Fox that our obsession with oil is a big part of why we're in this mess, but I don't want to be compared to Nazis.

Supporting The Troops

Here's a depressing story... the military uses corporate accounting tricks to deny benefits to members of a National Guard unit that had been deployed in Iraq for 22 months (extended because of the surge). The benefits would've helped pay for the officers' education. Blogger John Cole notes that this type of game is commonplace.

Everyone put on your flag lapel pin and clap harder!

Odds and Ends

Working on Columbus Day sucks. I miss my bed. Anyway, here's the news...

Found two good opinion pieces... One makes the point that "The truth of the matter is that only the presence of U.S. forces allows the group called 'al Qaeda in Iraq' (AQI) to survive and function, and setting a timetable for the occupation to end is the best way to beat them." A good read. The second discusses the point (that really should be obvious) that "the consequences of an attack on Iran would be devastating, both in the region and beyond."

Sesame Street is working on a special DVD to help families of injured veterans.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan: The country "has entered a period of political limbo, caught between Gen. Pervez Musharraf's presidential election win and a future Supreme Court ruling on whether he was even eligible to run." An important story to follow.

Like scandals involving the religious right and moral hypocrisy? Then you are in luck, folks!

John Mellencamp has written a new song about the racially-charged 'Jena 6' scandal in Louisiana. The mayor of Jena is dismissing the song as "inflammatory".

Finally, the government launches a new campaign to convince kids that abstinence rocks.

Headline of the Day

Yet another no-shit headline about our President to start off the week...

AP: Bush leaving some problems to successors

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Weekend Video Theatre: Why We Fight

I finally got around to watching the 2006 documentary, "Why We Fight" on cable, which looks at U.S. policy in the matters of war in the post-WWII era. It's even better than the excellent reviews made it out to be. Recommended.

And I discovered that someone put the whole thing on YouTube! Here's the first part-

The rest of the film is available here-- Pt. 2, Pt. 3, and Pt. 4.]