2006/12/15

Well, the PLAN sounded real good...

Byrd-Obey Approps Move Puzzles OMB, Lobbyists

2006/12/11

Bush & McCain both out of it

Obviously, neither President Bush nor Senator McCain reside in what a Bush aide snidely referred to as the "reality-based community." Bush commented on the possiblity of opening up discsussions on Iraq with Syria and Iran:

"Countries that participate in talks must not fund terrorism, must help the young democracy survive, must help with the economics of the country," Bush said. "If people are not committed, if Syria and Iran is not committed to that concept, then they shouldn't bother to show up."

The demand of "help the young democracy survive" sounds to me like a real deal-killer. Syria & Iran may not consider it in their interests to maintan the government of Iraq precisely as it is. They might prefer that a genuinely popular leader like Muqtada al-Sadr take charge. Obviously, that course of action would not fit Bush's definition of "help the young democracy survive" as he doesn't like Hugo Chavez of Venezuela either, despite that fact that Chavez has been absolutely and unequivocally, properly and legitimately elected.

Syria & Iran might also have problems with "help with the economics of the country" as they might prefer that American oil companies give France & Russia back the oil fields that those two nations were rudely ejected from back in March 2003. As that would cost American oil companies future oil sales as well as make it impossible for the US to hoard all of Iraq's oil for itself, Bush would obviously define that as hurtful to Iraq's economy.

Also, Bush's whole odd notion of diplomacy presumes that opponents/enemies/people who are not friends have more to gain from talking to the US than the US gains from talking to them. That's not necessarily true and it appears especially untrue with regards to the Iraq situation. Sure, it would be nice for Syria & Iran to live next to neighbors that aren't at war and the Iraq War might spill over its borders to destablize those two countries, among others. But Syria & Iran aren't losing people at the rate of a little over two soldiers a day and many, many more wounded. American desire to continue with the war is also quite low, the number of Americans who want US troops to leave Iraq is now at 71%. Bush is hardly in a position where he can make demands as to the conditions that Syria & Iran must meet before he'll talk with them.

McCain? Well, he's now demanding that Republicans reject:

"...the major recommendations of the [ISG] group because they did not present a formula for victory."

Of course, it's not at all clear what a "formulas for victory" would look like. Obviously, McCain's major recommendation of adding more troops to the mix gives us a clue that his formula includes more violence, more killing and more bloodshed, but has the rather serious problem of not being at all realistic. Affluent people feel: "Military service isn't for our son. It isn't for our kind of people." With the war being as unpopular as it is, recruiting is down and the Republicans have shown absolutely zero desire to institute a draft. It's not at all clear where the soldiers would come from that McCain wants to throw into the battle.

Neither Bush nor McCain counts as a member of the reality-based community.

2006/12/08

Evaluating the ISG Report

First of all, Glenn Greenwald in talking about the James Baker-led Iraq Study Group Report, makes the extremely good point that the decision to be made by America citizens concerning the Iraq War and the ISG Report is not, never was and never can be one that involves any degree of nuance. It's a strict, up-or-down, yes-or-no, get-out-or-stay-in choice. Anybody seeking to introduce any kind, form, shape or variety of nuance is simply aiding and abetting President Bush and his "We're going to stay in Iraq until Hell freezes over" strategy. As Greenwald puts it:

"In 2002, it was clear that the President was intent on invading and occupying Iraq, and all sorts of people endorsed that central idea but then -- like James Baker or Tom Friedman -- added their own caveats about how they thought it should be done. That didn't matter. Anything other than unambiguous, emphatic opposition to the invasion counted as support for the war. It fueled, rather than impeded, Bush's ability to invade at will."

And as Jonah Goldberg adds:

"The report undercuts the Murtha crowd by delegitimizing the quick bug-out (AKA redeployment) option and makes staying in Iraq at least until '08 the "conventional" or "mainstream" point of view.

"For Bush, isn't this the only part of the ISG report that matters? And when it comes to the actual situation in Iraq, the report basically confirms established policies of the White House and the Pentagon. So, in effect, doesn't the heralded bipartisan commission in effect give Bush the leeway to — ahem — stay the course?" [emphases in original quote]

As Bush himself puts it:

"We [Bush & British Prime Minister Tony Blair] agree that victory in Iraq is important; it's important for the Iraqi people, it's important for the security of the United States and Great Britain, and it's important for the civilized world. We agree that an Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself and sustain itself as an ally on the war on terror is a noble goal. The Prime Minister and I seek a wide range of opinions about how to go forward in Iraq, and I appreciate your opinions and your advice."

Yeah sure, you can disagree with eternal, neverending war in Iraq, if of course you don't think "the civilized world" is important. I mean, if you think "the security of the United States and Great Britain" can be tossed to one side like a used-up hankie, then sure, go right ahead and advocate withdrawal. Part of the last sentence is pretty classic here: "The Prime Minister and I seek a wide range of opinions about how to go forward in Iraq" In other words, If your advice does NOT concern how to get Iraq to "sustain itself as an ally on the war on terror" then geddouddahere, you're wasting your breath. The advice Bush & Blair are looking for concerns "how to go forward." Period. If Iraq wants to be an Iran-lite, an Islamic theocracy and a slacker in the WOT (War on Terror), obviously that just won't do.

You see, the Iraq War does not involve, ordnary, mortal adversaries:

"The primary victims of the sectarian violence are the moderate majority of Iraqis -- Sunni and Shia alike -- who want a future of peace. The primary beneficiaries are Sunni and Shia extremists, inside and outside of Iraq, who want chaos in that country so they can take control and further their ambitions to dominate the region."

It's chaos and extremism vs the "moderate majority," It's a "future of peace" vs those "inside and outside of Iraq" who want to "take control." There's no possible, conceivable way that Bush and his buddies can ever seek any sort of accomodation or coexistence or tolerance for the other's existence. Bush is defining the enemy in absolutist, sharp-edged terms. No nuance here whatsoever. It's life or death, glorious victory or humiliating defeat.

Progressives and Democrats can either do as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reed and Speaker Nancy Pelosi are doing, i.e. pick and choose what they will and won't support, take the ISG Report on an a la carte basis or they can call BS on the whole thing and demand a pull-out.

Update: Hoo boy! I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at THIS meeting!! Bush had a meeting with Democrats at which he rambled on about how he was the greatest, most bestest president evuh and how Harry Truman was also misunderstood and underestimated and how everybody realized later tha Truman was right and people should just siddown an' shuddup and let him do his thing.

[Senate Majority Whip-elect Richard] Durbin [D-Ill] said he challenged Bush's analogy, reminding him that Truman had the NATO alliance behind him and negotiated with his enemies at the United Nations. Durbin said that's what the Iraq Study Group is recommending that Bush do now — work more with allies and negotiate with adversaries on Iraq.

Bush, Durbin said, "reacted very strongly. He got very animated in his response" and emphasized that he is "the commander in chief."

2006/12/07

Pelosi and historical "babes"

There's an excellent discussion of "framing" at firedoglake. Well worth reading and it's expecially heartening because it shows very clearly that Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi "gets it." Just like Kathleen Turner "got it" for the movie "Serial Mom," (Turner very clearly understood the joke that was at the center of the movie) the rhetoric Pelosi uses reminds me of an historical "babe" (Obviously, my definition of "babe" doesn't necessarily have much to do with a woman's looks) who really "got it", Elizabeth I of England. The dialogue she has with her sister "Bloody Mary" is priceless! She has to convince her suspicous sister that yes, she's a loyal and faithful and devoted subject. But she also has to convince Mary that no, she can't convert to Roman Catholicism or do anything else which might weigh on her conscience, i.e, that would compromise her popularity with the English people. Brilliant stuff!
I think we're in for some good times with Pelosi in charge

2006/12/05

Job vs vacation

"Instaputz" whipped up a list of "Instapundit's" many, many erroneous statements and predictions. Reading the list, one has to wonder how Instapundit maintained a career as a law professor. I should think he would have been let go a long time ago. In any event, I followed one of the links, which led me to the following piece:

The Psychology of Bush Hatred
Sunday, November 28, 2004
........

I thought of that insight today when I glanced at Maureen Dowd's column and read this sentence, "Maybe it's because George Bush is relaxing at his ranch down there (again) while Osama is planning a big attack up here (again)."

That is the voice of a petulant child, angry that she has a tummy ache while Daddy is at work or Mommy is visiting a friend, or the voice of a grouchy wife angry that she has a migraine while her husband is out coaching the kids' baseball team. You're upset that you're in pain (we've all been there), so you get mad at someone whose presence wouldn't make the pain any better. No mature student of politics believes the president of the United States goofs off on vacation. It's not the kind of job you escape. George Bush may be completely insane to voluntarily. spend July in Texas--as opposed to Bill Clinton's favored coastal retreats--but Osama bin Laden is no more or less a threat than in Bush were in Washington. But if blaming Bush makes people feel better, safer, or at least able to focus their anger on someone they can hurt, they'll blame Bush. "

It was pretty obvious to progressives like myself at the time, but it's become even clearer since this post was published that Bush has a real problem with extended vacations. His first month-long summer vacation was in 2001. He received a PDB on August 6th that said "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." How do he respond? As far as anybody can tell, he didn't. He had a summer vacation to conduct, after all. Might have helped if the guy had taken a shorter vacation and y'know, had done his job.
The second vacation of note was in 2003. It's doubtful that anything the US could have done in the summer of 2003 would have resulted in victory in Iraq, but there was a window from the fall of Baghdad to about the time the fall season began that Iraq's insurgency could have been weakened and delayed with an energetic and well-funded reconstruction program. Bush wandered off to Crawford, Texas, about the time that the existence of a serious, long-term insurgency became impossible to deny. The US Army needed a full-time Commander-in-Chief who was dedicated to doing the job. The Army didn't get that in 2003.
The third time of note was in 2005, when Bush was hanging around during his final week of vacation. Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Bush consulted by closed-circuit television with Louisiana officials, then went back to his vacation. Bush went to Arizona to celebrate John McCain's birthday,. then to an Arizona resort to discuss Medicare drug benefits. That evening, Governor Blanco said "Mr. President, we need your help. We need everything you’ve got.” [Newsweek]. Thinkprogress: "2PM CDT — PRESIDENT BUSH PLAYS GUITAR WITH COUNTRY SINGER MARK WILLIS [AP] BUSH RETURNS TO CRAWFORD FOR FINAL NIGHT OF VACATION [AP]"
Again, Bush seems to have had a real problem doing his job.
To complain about Bush taking long vacations is hardly "Bush Hatred." It's entirely reasonable to expect the President to do his frickin' job, even if that job interferes with his precious vacation time!!

2006/12/01

Silly, silly people

Rumsfeld received an award at the Union League tonight. Why? Who knows? The Union League apparently thought Rumsfeld was obviously doing a good job. So much for their good sense and discrimination.

UPDATE: The Philadephia Inquirer did a nice piece on the protest.

David Horowitz, who used to be a lefty radical back in the 1960s, but then "went bad" and turned conservative, sent out an appeal today:

"Simply put, Professor Beinin has set out to chill our free speech. He asserts that we've defamed him by putting his picture on our booklet, 'Campus Support for Terrorism.' That booklet's been out for more than a year."

The claim that this fellow would have for damages against Horowitz seems pretty self-evident, but I agree that waiting a year before launching the case seems a bit peculiar. My only claim to legal expertise is that my sister was a paralegal for a number of years and that we sometimes discussed a few legal cases here and there. My wild, off the top of my head guess is that because courts like to deal in solid, proven quantifiable facts, people probably wait until the damage to their reputations has been done, count up what the false accusation cost them and then, with a solid cost in hand, go to the courts for relief. According to my theory then, the plaintiff was confident after a year about just how much Horowitz's action cost him in terms of lost jobs, lost pay raises, people's refusal to hire him, etc. I say toss the book at Horowitz! He should pay enough to have to cancel his next vacation, perhaps enough to make him sell a yacht or two!

George Will, whose columns I remember reading back in the 1970s, is clearly experienced enough that this can't possibly be an error. Here's the original set of statements:

"At a private reception held at the White House with newly elected lawmakers shortly after the election, Bush asked Webb how his son, a Marine lance corporal serving in Iraq, was doing.

"Webb responded that he really wanted to see his son brought back home, said a person who heard about the exchange from Webb.

“I didn’t ask you that, I asked how he’s doing,” Bush retorted, according to the source.

"Webb confessed that he was so angered by this that he was tempted to slug the commander-in-chief, reported the source, but of course didn’t."

And now George Wills' version:

"When Bush asked Webb, whose son is a Marine in Iraq, 'How's your boy?' Webb replied, 'I'd like to get them [sic] out of Iraq.' When the president again asked 'How's your boy?' Webb replied, 'That's between me and my boy.' "

Completely absent from Will's version is Bush's arrogant, snippy, response to Webb's desire to bring US soldiers back home. "I didn't ask you that" comes across to me as an absolutely imperial disdain "How dare you question ME, your glorious Dear Leader, you peasant?!?!" Was it appropriate for Webb to inject politics into what appeared to be a friendly, non-political question? Perhaps not, but both of them are politicians, this sort of thing comes with the territory.
My real question here is not so much about Will himself, but the supposed difference between bloggers and people who write for mainstream media newspapers and TV. The alleged difference is supposed to be that MSM people are supposed to have editors who are supposed to catch stuff like this. When a writer is being blatantly dishonest and unfair, editos are supposed to, well, edit. As leaving out that snippet changes Bush's comment from one of imperial disdain to one where people wonder "What's Webb getting so excitable about?" an editor REALLY should have caught that!
Jacob Weisberg's piece in Slate is a reasonably good look at the Iraqi situation until we get to this part:

"As in the final stages of the Vietnam War, we face the question: If we have lost, why are we still there? One answer is that George Bush is a stubborn man—even this week, he was insisting we won't withdraw 'until the mission is complete'—an apparent synonym for 'when hell freezes over.' A better answer is that we're staying to prevent genocide. Without a military force separating Sunnis and Shiites, the present savagery could go Cambodian, with remaining secular democrats as the first victims."

Okay, the situation in Iraq has ALREADY gone "Cambodian." Maybe it hasn't reached those numbers of casualties yet, but there's simply no question that slaughter and torture and brutality are the daily fare of Iraqis. Are US troops preventing genocide? For US troops, simply protecting themselves is a full-time job. The great majority of the violence in that country is the violence of Iraqi insurgents against American soldiers or Iraqis who collaborate with the American occupation. Sorry, but US troops are not in Iraq to keep the two main religious groups apart and they aren't doing any such thing in any event. As in Cambodia 1975, the US simply has no power to prevent a massacre from taking place after US troops leave or are driven out.

DailyKos has more. "What, does [Weisberg] think the people of these nations will happily see their men and women in uniform sent into the Iraq meat grinder to try and save Bush's incompetent ass?"


Yglesias has a marvelous comment concerning Charles Krauthammer's latest nutty notion.

Glenn Greenwald examines NY Times columnist Tom Friedman: "It is still the case in Establishment Washington that having been pro-war in the first place is a pre-requisite to being considered a "responsible, serious" foreign policy analyst. And having been anti-war from the start is the hallmark of someone unserious. The pro-war Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden are serious national security Democrats but Russ Feingold, Nancy Pelosi and Jack Murtha are the kind of laughable losers whom Democrats need to repudiate."

Very, very intriguing piece in which Sara Robinson compares reporters to the "Kewl Kidz and Queen Bees" of junior high school. These people haven't really changed since they were 11 and they WON'T change until the Democratic grown-ups take charge.

2006/11/27

Bit of comic relief for y'all

Victor Davis Hanson blogs for the National Review: "[T]here really will come a time, believe it or not, when a future American President baffled and paralyzed by the latest insanity from the Middle East -- whether an Iranian nuke or a Syrian invasion of Lebanon or another Middle East war or the usual assassination and killing of Americans -- will ask former president George Bush II for advice, as a then fawning media will look back to his past 'toughness' and 'determination' when under fire. That seems unhinged now, but it too will come to pass, as they say."

What can I say, but BWAH-HAH-HAH-HAH!!! No, I don't believe it for a minute. The idea sounds completely "unhinged!" In order for Bush to get consulted about anything in the future, he'll first have to accomplish something useful in the next two years. As his track record is utterly devoid of useful accomplishments, he's got to accomplish a lot of work in a very short time to do that.

2006/11/24

Piece by Cliff May

DailyKos looks at this article and concludes our boy Cliff May is delusional. After having read just the first few paragraphs, I had to agree.

Of all the possible responses, the most perverse may be this: To propose that Americans pull out of Iraq, abandoning innocent Iraqis to the tender mercies of those dispatching the terrorists.

The foreign jihadists in Iraq (An unknown percentage of whom are al Qaeda) have never numbered more than 5% of the people fighting US troops in Iraq. The great majority of the fighters are native Iraqis and are most probably Saddam Hussein-era Army members. There's very little danger of "terrorists" taking over Iraq in the wake of an American withdrawal.

Yet that is what many Americans now favor, perhaps because they have been persuaded that when Sunnis and Shites [sic] kill one another, Americans must be to blame.

Yeah, gee, I wonder where people got such a crazy idea. Hmm, let's see, in February 2003 there was, um, NO sectarian violence/civil war and in November 2006, there WAS!! Gee, I wonder what happened in the meantime? Wouldn't have been perhaps, an American occupation?!?! Whether or not the sectarian violence could have been avoided after the invasion, the US still has to take responsibility for invading.

[Saddam Hussein] has long maintained that the United States lacks the will to prevail against a determined enemy. Years ago, he told Americans: “Yours is a society that cannot accept 10,000 dead in one battle.”

The American people are fully prepared to stand against a determined enemy when there's a good reason to. Taking on tough foes is not a problem. Taking on a country that posed no threat to the US and occupying it against the will of their people (See Reason 4) is something else again entirely.

Many Americans see no link between the conflict in Iraq and America’s war with the militant Islamist movement. Osama bin Laden’s top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, would beg to differ. He has called Iraq one of the “two most important battlefields” of the world war now underway.

Please note that Iraq became an "important battlefield" AFTER the US invaded it. If the US wins, al Qaeda simply moves on to a new battlefield. If the US loses, al Qaeda gains a great victory. Problem is al Qaeda stands to lose only what they put into the struggle. The US can't hit anything that al Qaeda hasn't committed. If the US begins to make great gains, al Qaeda withdraws the forces that are in danger. The US is dealing with a classic "lose-lose" proposition.

The other key battlefield is Afghanistan. Should the U.S. accept defeat in Iraq, how many suicide-bombings in Kabul will be required before America and its allies retreat from that far less strategically vital front as well?

This is a consequence of what we call "screwing up." By failing to secure Afghanistan, by reconstructing it and winning the loyalty of the Afghans, the US ran off to invade a country that had nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks. Yeah, it sure is a mess allright.

Iraq is a mess. It has not become, as [the] president hoped it would, “a country that can sustain itself; a country that can govern itself; a country that can defend itself; and a country that will be an ally in the war against these extremists.”

Well, yeah. When you set out goals for the country that are utterly delusionary, it will become a mess. The US wanted an Iraqi government that was pro-US and pro-capitalist and that would be willing to let it pump their oil and make off with 100% of the proceeds. What, the plan failed?!?! Wow, whatta surprise.

But because “victory” as Bush once defined it now seems out of reach, it does not follow that the solution is to cut and run — or even to cut and stroll away, the policy euphemistically called “phased redeployment.” More modest but still significant goals can be achieved.
We can continue to fight Saddamist insurgents and al Qaeda terrorists wherever we find them — and we find them in Iraq.

Continued death and destruction. Massive bloodshed. Killing everywhere. Gee, sounds like a really wonderful plan!

We can accelerate the training of Iraqi forces.

Had the US succeeded in producing trained Iraqi battalions that could fight on their own over the last three years, this might be a worthwhile plan. As it is, it's little more than wishful thinking.

We can do what is necessary to stabilize Baghdad — as we have pledged to do and tried to do but so far have failed to do because sufficient resources have not been devoted to the task.

This is the "magical pony plan" produced first by the DLC, then Joe Lieberman, than John McCain. It depends on the US finding more troops to fight in Iraq. From where, nobody knows.

As for the sectarian violence, our presence is not the cause and our absence would not be the cure.

The US has occupied Iraq since late April 2003. OF COURSE the sectarian violence is the fault of the country that's occupying Iraq. Would the absence of the US solve the problem? Worth a try, as Iraqis don't want US troops there to begin with.

By continuing to play the role of honest broker between the Shia and Sunni communities, we may be able to prevent the conflict from spiraling into all-out civil war.

The conflict has already spiraled into "all-out civil war" thank you very much. At no point has the US acted as anything like an "honest broker." The US has been interested in Iraq's oil from well before the conflict began.

There are no good options in Iraq.

Duh.

There are only bad options and worse options. Let’s hope President Bush and the new Democratic leaders in Congress are wise enough to distinguish between the two.

As President Bush has demonstrated absolutely zero wisdom so far and as the "new Democratic leaders in Congress" have had absolutely no input whatsoever, the new regime can hardly do worse.

UPDATE: And do you want to know what's really sad? Cliff May is part of the Iraq Study Group. Yup, that's right. A man who's not really connected to reality is going to help figure out how to get the US out of his mess.

2006/11/21

Cohen & moral seriousness

Excerpt from "The Lingo Of Vietnam" by Richard Cohen:

... let me explain that the "I" in the foregoing sentence is really four people. There is the "I" who originally thought the Vietnam War was morally correct, that the communists were awful people and that the loss of South Vietnam (the North was already gone) would result in a debacle for its people. That's, in fact, what happened. It was only later, when I myself was in the Army, that I deemed the war not worth killing or dying for. By then I -- the second "I" -- no longer felt it was winnable, and I did not want to lose my life so that somehow defeat could be managed more elegantly.

Things are precisely the same with Iraq, and here, too, I -- No. 3 -- originally had no moral qualms about the war. Saddam Hussein was a beast who had twice invaded his neighbors, had killed his own people with abandon and posed a threat -- and not just a theoretical one -- to Israel. If anything, I was encouraged in my belief by the offensive opposition to the war -- silly arguments about oil or empire or, at bottom, the ineradicable and perpetual rottenness of America.

On the contrary, I thought. We are a good country, attempting to do a good thing. In a post-Sept. 11 world, I thought the prudent use of violence could be therapeutic. The United States had the power to change things for the better, and those who would do the changing -- the fighting -- were, after all, volunteers. This mattered to me.

But these volunteers are now fighting a war few envisaged and no one wanted -- not I (No. 4), for sure. If at one time my latter-day minutemen marched off thinking they were bringing democracy to Iraq and the greater Middle East, they now must know better. If they thought they were going to rid the region of weapons of mass destruction and sever the link between al-Qaeda and Hussein, they now are entitled to feel duped by Bush, Vice President Cheney and others. The exaggerations are particularly repellent. To fool someone into sacrificing his life to battle a chimera is a hideous abuse of the public trust.

Cohen was kicked out of the tree-house of liberalism a long time ago, so we can no longer accuse him of not being a liberal (still true, but it's an old accusation). What he demonstrates here is that he cannot be considered a morally serious person. Here's the letter I sent to him:

Mr Cohen,

In your op-ed, you do not distinguish between the Bush Administration and the American People. Certainly, the American People went to war against Iraq because of WMD and supposed Iraqi connections to al Qaeda. But the Bush Admnistrtion very consciously and deliberately lied about those things, so we can dismiss the idea that these were motivations for them. What were their motivations? You make the case that the American People were acting out of the goodness of their hearts, that they were sincerely trying to help. Again, this was indeed a very real motivation for the American People. But was that really the motivation for the Bush Administration? That's a very difficult case to make.

Having been opposed to the war from the beginning, I take great offense at the notion that my objections to war were "silly arguments about oil or empire." The idea that "at bottom" my motivations were something else entirely is merely a conjecture on your part.

In August 2005, Bush declared ''If Zarqawi and [Osama] bin Laden gain control of Iraq, they would create a new training ground for future terrorist attacks," Bush said. ''They'd seize oil fields to fund their ambitions." In other words, yes, oil was indeed part of the Bush Administration' s calculations, even if it was an indirect calculation, a bit of projection on their part.

As the Washington Post put it in September 2002, "A U.S.-led ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could open a bonanza for American oil companies long banished from Iraq, scuttling oil deals between Baghdad and Russia, France and other countries, and reshuffling world petroleum markets." Oil was indeed an important part of US calculations from the very beginning.

I agree that the American People had noble and selfless motives for taking part in the Iraq War, but I'm quite skeptical that the same case can be made about the Bush Administration.

Obsidian Wings takes aim at the statement: "In a post-Sept. 11 world, I thought the prudent use of violence could be therapeutic." Sorry, but I served in the military for nearly a decade. I wasn't in there because my possible death might serve as someone's therapy or because my killing some foreigners might soothe someone's nerves back home in the US. Whether Cohen thinks of killing foreigners when he says "therapeutic" or whether he's acknowledging that US troops might die as well or whether he just thinks it's cool to rub out a lot of innocent civilians, I don't know or care. Cohen has absolutely no claim whatsoever to being a morally serious person. His admitting that, in neither case did he turn against either war because they were immoral, but turned merely because they didn't seem "winnable" cements my view of him as a morally unserious person. Editor & Publisher points out that:

Cohen reveals that he turned against Vietnam only after he joined the military and realized he didn't particularly want to die in an "unwinnable" war. Jumping ahead, it was easier for him to support the Iraq invasion because those doing the fighting would be "after all, volunteers. This mattered to me." In other words: It was okay if they died for a mistake -- in a "therapeutic" cause -- because they had signed up for the military, in peacetime.

A more truly disgusting rationalization woul be difficult for me to come up with. A fight does not become immoral because it becomes unwinnable. Winnability has nothing to do with morality. Nor does the morality of a war have anything to do with whether someone is a volunteer or not. My years in the Navy were years that I volunteered for. No, that would not give anyone the right to have casually tossed my life away for their own "therapy." My life is worth a bit more than that. So too, are the lives of every human being involved with the wars that the US gets tangled up in.

2006/11/20

Radio Show on Presidential Signing Statements

I attended a taping of Justice Talking: Presidential Signing Statements on the 17th. The show will play on the radio station WHYY 91 FM at 3:45pm on December 4th (invitation). The show began with Host Margot Adler and guests Mickey Edwards and Christopher Schroeder, both of whom have worked in the government and have also taught as professors. They didn't disagree with each other as much as they took slightly different perspectives on presidential signing statements. As an historical overview, it was made clear to the audience that the current president did not invent signing statement and that they go back at least as far as Jimmy Carter (1976-1980). Signing statements are now used in very unique ways. They've never before contradicted the legislation just passed. Before G.W. Bush, they were always used to clarify what the legislation intended to do or to complain that the president would have used a line item veto if he were able.
The participants did not mention it, but Bush's particular use of signing statements goes back to current-Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito's days as a member of the Reagan Justice Department.
The main question between the two speakers was over exactly what effect the signing statements were having. Schroeder was convinced they had no discernible effect while Edwards was convinced they were being used in some unknown, covert manner. The number of signing statements is not entirely clear as the Bush Administration has never given a definitive number, but it's around 750 to 800.
Speaking as a lefty liberal pro-Constitution kinda guy, I was quite pleased with the statements made by Senator Arlen Spector, who came on after the two debaters were done. Everything Spector said was completely in line with our liberal, pro-Constitutional point of view. One item I was especially pleased at hearing mentioned by him was the fact that the bureaucrats who carry out the detailed enforcement of the laws often use legislative histories to clear up various points in the legislation that do not speak for themselves. There's an excellent chance that they also see signing statements as similarly authoritative and use them while working out how to enforce the laws.
The Boston Globe was one of the first media sources to point out the current use of presidential signing statements.

2006/11/14

Progress on diplomatic solutions to Iraq

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Bush remained cool to such a move, saying Syria needed to get out of Lebanon and Iran needed to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

He pointed out that the United States had offered direct talks with Iran about its nuclear ambitions if Tehran would agree to stop uranium enrichment, which Iran has refused.


So, Bush's idea is that the idea of getting Syrian and Iranian help/diplomatic solutions to the Iraq quagmire is to drag unrelated issues into the conversation. Also, he seems to have the peculiar iddea that the idea of diplomacy is to get the other guys to surrender all of their advantages first, then when negotiations begin, there's nothing left to negotiate over as the other side has already given up everything that motivated the US to begin negotiations in the first place.

Update: "While the administration's defenders claim that it has exhausted diplomatic possibilities..."
I believe that the statement above shows us that diplomacy has not been seriously tried. Bush has no interest in real diplomacy and has never really tried any. The current situation between the US, Iran, Syria and the Iraq insurgents brings to mind a metaphor of Bush flailing about in the water, having gone down for the second time (Third time is normally the last time), the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Syrian President: Bashar Al-Assad are passing by in a rowboat. Ahmadinejad takes pity on Bush and extends an oar to him. Bush replies: "Hey!! Why don't you junp in the water and pull me out? What's that? Will I drag you under? You'll just have to take the chance that I'll decide to be a nice guy and not do so. What, your clothes will get wet? $#%#@, just GET DOWN HERE!!!" Surprise, surprise, Ahmadinejad and Al-Assad look at each other, shrug and keep paddling on.

2006/11/08

Who to credit for the Democratic sweep?

Somehow, the astonishing and amazing idea has spread that the recent election was a victory for conservative Democrats. Hardly! Rahm Emanuel represents the DLC, the group that oversaw the disastrous losses of 1994 (New Gingrich called it the "Republican Revolution.") and that failed to get the Democratic majority back (Except for a few razor-thin Senate wins) for the rest of the years of their grip on Democratic strategy. Emanuel is hardly any sort of genius strategist, in fact, the blogger Digby quotes the New Republic to show that, while not all of Emaneul's candidates failed, Emanuel was very clearly NOT the crucial factor tha made the difference. This was not the year of the conservative, corporatized DLC. 2006 was the year of the grassroots, the year of the bloggers, the years of "the fighting progressives."
In fact, DailyKos is complaining about the "...most moronic media lines last night, and continuing through today, [that] is how 'conservative' these newly elected Democrats are." After listing numerous successful House and Senate candidates who can't possibly described as conservative, he ends up concluding: "...during the campaign, every single one of these Democrats was accused by their Republican opponents of being 'too liberal'. Every single one of them."

Election highlights

The Note from ABC News is a right-wing publication that thinks Karl Rove is a master politician. So what do they say when it becomes clear that Rove is a one-trick pony that used up all of his mojo? Today's Note is completely silent on him..

Howard Dean today gives appropriate credit to the blogs. The liberal blogosphere spotted problems like robo-calls right away and immediately brought them to widespread attention, where the Democratic Party could deploy lawyers and then get "cease-and-desist" orders issued right away. The last-minute dirty tricks didn't work because the blogs are faster than the dirty tricksters are.

I simply can't think of enough foul, damning, dirty language to describe Laura Ingraham's comments yesterday. Having heard that the 1-800-DEM-VOTE voter help line was getting jammed due to all the dirty tricks Republicans were playing, Ms Ingraham encouraged her listeners to call the number and jam up the lines still further!!! To give you some idea of how bright Ingraham's listenners were:

CALLER: Well, you get the number, they ask you to put in your zip code; they ask you, of course, English or Spanish.

INGRAHAM: Blood type?

CALLER: And, you know, they say that they'll trace back to your phone. They give you options as to do you want to find your polling place, did you have trouble voting?

INGRAHAM: Do you know what zip code you live in?

CALLER: Oh yeah, I did. I'm pretty sharp. [emphases added]

When a help line covers the entre country, it's hardly a surprise to hear that they have an automated line to help direct the calls to the right department. Why this obvious measure brought forth the snide comment "blood type?" is not at all clear. And it's a matter of pride for someone to know their own zip code?

Update (11/19): Woo Hoo!!! Senator Pat Leahy grills an apparently clueless elections official about Ingraham's attempted interference with the midterms! Good for Leahy!!

DailyKos points that South Dakota is not exactly Massachusetts when it comes to reproductive choice. They're among the most conservative states in the nation. When even South Dakota decides 55-45 to not pass a draconian ban on all abortions (The only exception allowed was to save the life of the mother.) we can safely conclude that the really hard-core anti-abortionists are out-of-touch extremists.

MyDD points out that all of the candidates supported by the left blogosphere either won or made very strong showings. None of them were known before the blogs decided "Hey, let's support this candidate!" None of them were produced by Democratic Party machinery.

DailyKos posts picture of Majority Senate Leader Harry Reid amd House Majority Leader (Soon to be Speaker of the House) Nancy Pelosi!!

2006/11/07

And keep in mind...

Tony Snow being interviewed by Rush Limbaugh: Americans don't like the Iraq War because "what they constantly get on television and newspapers is a failure narrative. They hear body counts, they don't hear about successes" whereas "the war is more popular in Iraq than it is in the United States because the Iraqis actually get to see the Americans in action."

Interestingly though,

_Almost four in five Iraqis say the U.S. military force in Iraq provokes more violence than it prevents.

_About 61 percent approved of the attacks _ up from 47 percent in January. A solid majority of Shiite and Sunni Arabs approved of the attacks, according to the poll. The increase came mostly among Shiite Iraqis.

And:

The State Department, meanwhile, has also conducted its own poll, something it does periodically, spokesman Sean McCormack said. The State Department poll found that two-thirds of Iraqis in Baghdad favor an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces, according to The Washington Post. McCormack declined to discuss details of the department's Iraq poll.

Being an American, I of course think the troops are doing the best they can, but Iraqis do NOT see US troops as "liberators," do NOT see them as even reducing or holding back the violence they deal with every day. US troops are seen as provoking violence, not keeping a lid on it.

It's time for a change.

2006/11/06

Twas the Night Before Midterms...

Hilarious poem, done to the rhythm of "T'was the Night before Christmas"

Snappy, fun tune you can hum to yourself as you vote the bad guys out of office tomorrow

Serious stuff about robocalls and how Republicans are AGAIN trying to steal the election

Editorial by NY Times columnist Paul Krugman

President Bush isn’t on the ballot tomorrow. But this election is, nonetheless, all about him. The question is whether voters will pry his fingers loose from at least some of the levers of power, thereby limiting the damage he can inflict in his two remaining years in office.

There are still some people urging Mr. Bush to change course. For example, a scathing editorial published today by The Military Times, which calls on Mr. Bush to fire Donald Rumsfeld, declares that “this is not about the midterm elections.” But the editorial’s authors surely know better than that. Mr. Bush won’t fire Mr. Rumsfeld; he won’t change strategy in Iraq; he won’t change course at all, unless Congress forces him to.

At this point, nobody should have any illusions about Mr. Bush’s character. To put it bluntly, he’s an insecure bully who believes that owning up to a mistake, any mistake, would undermine his manhood — and who therefore lives in a dream world in which all of his policies are succeeding and all of his officials are doing a heckuva job. Just last week he declared himself “pleased with the progress we’re making” in Iraq.

In other words, he’s the sort of man who should never have been put in a position of authority, let alone been given the kind of unquestioned power, free from normal checks and balances, that he was granted after 9/11. But he was, alas, given that power, as well as a prolonged free ride from much of the news media.

The results have been predictably disastrous. The nightmare in Iraq is only part of the story. In time, the degradation of the federal government by rampant cronyism — almost every part of the executive branch I know anything about, from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has been FEMAfied — may come to be seen as an equally serious blow to America’s future.

And it should be a matter of intense national shame that Mr. Bush has quietly abandoned his fine promises to New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast.

Rest

Getting those extra 100,000 bodies into the Army

I've commented on this before, but it's worth repeating. The DLC, Joe Lieberman and John McCain have all claimed that the US can add 100,000 bodies to the Army, no problem, no fuss, no difficulty. If that's the case, why are recruiters going to such lengths to sign up troops?!?!?!
Prospective soldiers are being told that:

"Nobody is going over to Iraq anymore?" one student asks a recruiter.

"No, we're bringing people back," he replies.

"We're not at war. War ended a long time ago," another recruiter says.

------------

One Colorado student taped a recruiting session posing as a drug-addicted dropout.

"You mean I'm not going to get in trouble?" the student asked.

The recruiters told him no, and helped him cheat to sign up.

Recruiters are desperate to sign people up because there's a severe shortage of new bodies to fill billets and there's very little in the way of sensible reasons to go over there, regardless of how patriotic folks may be. The question for the DLC, Lieberman and McCain then is WHERE are these extra 100,000 bodies going to come from?

2006/11/04

Fundamental problem with reading comprehension

Compare these statements from Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and "senior terrorist leaders."

"If we leave Iraq, then the insurgents will leave Iraq, the terrorists will leave Iraq."

"The jihadists (are) in Iraq. But that doesn't mean we stay there. They'll stay there as long as we're there."

And now for the other side:

"WND read Pelosi's remarks to the terror leaders, who unanimously rejected her contention an American withdrawal would end the insurgency."

Note: Pelosi did not claim that all violence in Iraq would end upon American withdrawal. She claimed that there were jihadists in Iraq who were there only because Americans were there. Once Americans leave, so will the jihadists. The great majority of the violence in Iraq is against the American occupation of Iraq. Once that ends, so will most of the violence. That's not to say everything there becomes peaceful, it means that a big problems gets measurably smaller. I have zero problems with bad guys making statements that serve their own interests (As al Qaeda and other groups have gained in strength and popularity, of course they would want to convince Americans to "stay the course.") but there's no reason for American news services to blatantly misread what the bad guys are saying in order to prop up Republicans.

2006/11/01

Fair vs balanced

Back when I was stationed in the South, a shipmate (co-worker) of mine invited me to see a Christmas play at his church. I knew this guy was a serious, hard-core Southern Baptist, but said "Sure." After the play, we stopped off for some ice cream. My shipmate told the servers that he and I had just seen this play. They asked him what his religion was. His answer infuriated me. "Oh no, I'm just a Christian."
Just.
No particular denomination.
I kept quiet, but it rankled me. Here was a fellow with very strong, specific viewpoints on religion and he was presenting himself as "just" a vague, general, nondenominational Christian. I have zero difficulties presenting myself as what I am, a Congregationalist Protestant who goes to a Methodist church because there are no Congregational churches in the area and this church is a member of the UCC. So this passage immediately raised my hackles:

HH: Before we press on to the specifics, we’ve got to get our plumb lines down, Mark Halperin. We’ve got to locate you on the political map somewhere, so the people will know how to adjust for the lie of the green. Did you vote for Kerry or Bush last time around?

MH: I believe that if you are a reporter covering politics, in America today, certainly, and probably I’d have the same view in the past, I think it’s important to try to restore credibility to the media, what we call the old media. And that requires doing what…the metaphor I used to use was we’ve got to be like Catholic priests and give up sex. But that metaphor’s lost some of its currency. We have to step away from politics. We can’t have political views. So I don’t discuss my political views. I don’t discuss…I will say, somewhat controversial in the minds of some, I don’t vote, because I think that just opens up the question of how can I say I’m being objective, and fighting for truth, if I’m making a decision about who to vote for in a presidential race.

Uh-huh. No viewpoints at all. Totally neutral. Ri-i-i-ight! Not only that, he thinks several thousand reporters around the country can be the same way. Su-u-u-re! I read this passage and the needle on my BS detector immediately swung into the red. Sure enough, it seems this guy edits The Note, an online "tip sheet" that alerts reporters to important stories. Eric Boehlert's book Lapdogs has a whole chapter on The Note where he demonstrates that it's a hard-line right-wing journal that fawns over Karl Rove and considers President Bush as little less than a denizen of Olympus come down to Earth. They provide links to stories that make Republicans look good and do their best to ignore stories that either compliment the Democrats or otherwise make Republicans look bad.
My view on reporters and objectivity can be summarized via those famous terms "fair & balanced." "Fairness" is quite possible to obtain and very desirable. If a conservative (I.e., on the other side of the political aisle from me) presents a decent argument, it should be presented to one's readers in a fair manner. It's improper to twist or distort the argument by leaving out crucial facts or leaving the context unfilled-in.
"Balance?" Not so much. I can't see that as being seriously important either in TV time or in newspaper column-inches. All too often, reporters nowadays take it to mean that both sides must be presented as equally guilty or innocent. Back during a period in the Abramoff scandal, reporters appeared almost desperate to find something, anything they could use to drag the Democrats into the story. Problem is, both sides are NOT always equally guilty or innocent and it's a serious distortion of reality to suggest that they are. Frequently, Democrats end up getting splattered with Republican mud for no better reason than for the particular media outlet to have a balanced story.

While writing this, my group had a meeting with the Editor & Executive Vice-President of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Amanda Bennett. In the middle of our lengthy discussion, she claimed that what is on the blogs "isn't news" i.e., one doesn't go to the blogs to find out what's going on in one's local area or in the world generally. One desires a broader, more general view than what blogs can provide. I replied that yes, blogs are usually written by a single individual or by a small group and most of the writing on them tends towards the editorializing and tends not to involve breaking news or other original material. But there is indeed some real "news." There are a few blogs written by people who can do serious, on-the-spot reporting or who are at least close enough to the event and generally knowledgeable enough that when these writers tell you something, it's worth taking seriously.
The primary reason that I would like to see a closer relationship between the blogs and "the news" would be to plug a major hole that's developed in this country's major media. The major news organizations were vulnerable to the tactics of Senator Joe McCarthy back in the 1950s and President Bush has proven absolutely and beyond the slightest shadow of a doubt that they still are. As I suggest above, the major media are afraid to be seen as too judgmental. They're wary of being seen as having taken a hard and fast position on anything, of being seen as biased. If the President uses a "straw man" argument ("President George Bush gave a speech today which included a line that it is foolish to try to negotiate with al qaeda. Well…duh."), the major media (I can't immediately think of any times when the Inquirer has been guilty of this.) doesn't seem to have any idea how to handle it. The following is a depressingly familiar refrain from Media Matters (And FAIR and other liberal media analysis websites): "ABC, CNN, and CNBC -- uncritically reported President Bush's false claim that..." (Emphasis added).
The major news organizations do a perfectly acceptable job when the subject is nonpolitical or noncontroversial. If there's any real or serious controversy, they adopt the "balanced" position of the ol' "he said, she said" formula. This formula has proven itself to be grossly inadequate to handling the continual lies and distortions that the Bush Administration engages in.
My suggestion: Let the blogs run interference for you! Let us take the slings and arrows that the critics toss at you. If you feel that a Democrat or a lefty has made a point that your research people have certified is inaccurate, quote a right-wing blog that says so. We bloggers will be happy to be the "she" in the "he said, she said" story. Naturally, you wouldn't use any statements that you aren't completely certain about, but we'll be happy to supply the quote that says "Senator Rick Santorum lied today when he claimed that..." and statements like that. Is there a better way o handle dishonesty from politicians? Back in the 1950s, Senator Joe McCarthy found that if he made an accusation, it was featured on page one of the next day's paper. Eventually, there would be a correction, but it would be relegated off to a small piece on page seven. In time, the truth caught up with him, but not before countless lives were cruelly destroyed and the public had turned against him. Since then, the major media has not successfully come up with a way to handle the problem.
As I said, I can't think of any examples offhand where the Inquirer has done this, but the "balance" problem is, I think, a very major reason that the major media is losing market share. It's losing credibility because it hasn't come up with a way to handle lies from politicians.

2006/10/29

Preview of things to come

I hate the Democrats who, in support of this strategy, spout lie after lie: that the president knew in advance there were no WMD in Iraq; that he lied to Congress to gain its support for military action; that he pushed for the democratization of Iraq only after the failure to find WMD; that he was a unilateralist and that the coalition was a fraud; that he shunned diplomacy in favor of war.

These lies, contradicted by reports, commissions, speeches, and public records, are too preposterous to mock, but too pervasive to rebut, especially when ignored by abetting media.

I'm not sure that anything on that list of "lies" even counts as unsubstantiated. Far as I can tell, it's all completely true. Crooks & Liars has read the Senate Intelligence Committee report and testifies that, yes indeed, "...all pre-war claims were bogus including Niger yellow-cake, aluminum tubes and Atta-in-Prague [that] were the 'strongest' pieces of evidence indicating a WMD program and Saddam-al-Qaeda link." It was obvious to me in late 2002 that Bush & Co were delivering loads and loads of BS. Too bad the press never caught on. The "Gang of 500" appeared to be a lot less informed on the issue than I was.

2006/10/28

Torture redefined

Vice-Presidnet Cheney interviewed on radio show:

"Would you agree that a dunk in water [i.e., waterboarding, a procedure whereby a subject is made to feel as though he's drowning] is a no-brainer if it can save lives?" asked Hennen.

"It's a no-brainer for me, but for a while there, I was criticized as being the vice president `for torture.' We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in," Cheney replied. "We live up to our obligations in international treaties that we're party to and so forth. But the fact is, you can have a fairly robust interrogation program without torture, and we need to be able to do that."

What Cheney gives here is a defense that's only technically true. It is true that Congress recently passd a law that makes certain specified forms of torture legal/illegal. Not that there have been any internatoal agreemets to that effect, not that the morality of torture has changed in the slightest. Congress only passed the law because they've been acting as a rubber stamp parliament for the past six years anyway. Yes, there was a bit of kabuki where "Saint" John McCain and several other Senators appeared as though they were challenging the President, but that was all smoke and mirrors.

"We don't torture" is true strictly and entirely because American law has been adjusted so that a procedure that is clearly and unambiguously torture is now no longer defined as such. Of course waterboarding is torture, no matter what VP Cheney's personal opinion on the matter is. Regardless of how much the Bush Administration would like to believe otherwise, the US has unambiguously defined waterboarding as torture in the past:

"As early as 1901, a US court martial sentenced Major Edwin Glenn to 10 years hard labour for subjecting a suspected insurgent in the Philippines to the 'water cure'.

"After the second world war, US military commissions successfully prosecuted as war criminals several Japanese soldiers who subjected US prisoners to waterboarding.

"In 1968, a US army officer was court martialled for helping to waterboard a prisoner in Vietnam."

Torture is when one physically abuses a person, not just for the fun of it, but in an organizd fashion. It's done either to obtain information or simply to humliate, perhaps "break" a person. In the latter case, getting information is just the ostensible, theoretical objective. International human rights treaties are not specific as to what constitutes torture vs what is a "tough interrogation procedure" or any other such verbal gymnastics.

Update: As I was writing this, President Bush defended Cheney's remarks, but with very interesting similarities:

"Q Sir, do you agree with the Vice President that a dunk in the water is a 'no brainer' when it comes to interrogating a terror suspect?

"PRESIDENT BUSH: This country doesn't torture, we're not going to torture. We will interrogate people we pick up off the battlefield to determine whether or not they've got information that will be helpful to protect the country."

As Froomkin points out, however: "But of course Bush has never said how he defines torture, so the answer was meaningless."

2006/10/23

Has America REALLY sunk this low?

Right-wing harpy Melanie Morgan had to wipe the blood from her fangs in order to continue her rant about how the US wasn't "tough" enough in dealing with Iraq.

First off, Chris Matthews of Hardball mentioned John McCain's proposal of adding 100,000 bodies to America's armed forces without mentioning where this 100,000 more troops are going to be coming from. The Army and Marines have long since been issuing "stop-loss" orders to prevent servicepeople frm leaving, have long since been taking soldiers up into their 40s and sometimes even in their 50s and the Army recently lowered its intelligence test requirements for joining. A major reason the armed forces are having difficulty filling their ranks because it's not terribly clear what the purpose of the war is.

MATTHEWS: More troops?

MORGAN: I think that…yeah, we should have a lot more troops in the beginning. Look, I’m not a cheerleader for the President of the United States. Um, I…I believe that he made the right decision and he did it for the right reasons. I don’t agree with all of the way the war has been prosecuted. I think we should have gone in and just blitzed Iraq. We haven’t had a, a serious war, really, since WWII. We’ve had…

MATTHEWS: What would that mean, blitz?

MORGAN: It would have…it means that we should have gone in and be prepared to win it, not just to do…to avoid collateral damage. And I think that’s one of the mistakes that uh, this administration has made…

MATTHEWS: How many Iraqis do you figure have been killed so far?

MORGAN: I have no idea…because there are figures all over the map, Chris. I mean, it depends on who’s doing the survey and asking the questions….

So let's see, Morgan is "not a cheerleader," but her only criticism of the way Bush has fought the Iraq War was that US troops didn't do enough killing going in. Avoiding collateral damage was a "mistake" as more Iraqis were allowed to survive. How many Iraqis perished? Eh, who cares? Matthews continues:

MATTHEWS: Well, they’re saying something like 50…and the, the other experts are saying 600,000, so it’s probably in the low 100,000s, if you take a middle position. You think that’s not enough violence over there?

The two different figures arise from two different methods of accounting. The 50,000 dead comes from media and government reports of specific individuals dying, the 600,000+ comes from counting the population before & after the US invasion and accounting for the missing people.

MORGAN: I didn’t say that…

MATTHEWS: You said, “blitz” and “don’t worry about collateral damage” …

MORGAN: I said in the very beginning…when we came in…we needed to win, we needed to use our, our guns, and we needed to use our superior air forces and we needed to win. We didn’t choose that strategy…

Actually, the United States DID "win" and very quickly. The "major combat operations" lasted only a short time and everyone in the Bush Administration thought that was pretty much it. US forces needed to do a bit of clean-up, but as the soldiers were told "The way home goes through Baghdad."

The real problem was, apparently, that the US "...let [the bad guys] slip into the shadows."

In other words, the US should have taken a "kill 'em all" or openly genocidal approach to planning the battles.

"We" just needed to be "tougher," i.e. to kill more bad guys and not worry about collateral damage.

Has the American political dialogue really sunk this low? Are US talk shows seriously featuring people who openly speak of genocide as a military tactic? It was very nice to see the host openly criticize Morgan's ideas, but one has to wonder how such a person got into such a prominent advocacy position in the first place. Not that I'm a conspiracy theorist or anything, but does Morgan perhaps speak for more than just herself? What might the US be doing behind the scenes? Well...

2006/10/21

Again, where are these extra 100,00 troops going to come from?

In this and in this post, I expressed frustration and incredulity that various people want to increase the number of troops in the Army & Marines in order to deal with the deteriorating situation in Iraq. All very fine and well, but where are these troops going to come from? This is a hugely important question as the Bush Administration has done absolutely everything short of a draft to get people into the military and keep them there.

"Saint" John McCain (So-called because of his kabuki performance in appearing to seek to preserve habeas corpus, while actually doing no such thing.) has, well, sort of an answer to the question:

MCCAIN: I don‘t think we need to think of the draft again because I don‘t think it makes sense in a whole variety of ways. But I guarantee you, if these young people felt that this nation was in a crisis and we asked them to serve, virtually every one of them would stand up because I have the greatest confidence in the young people of America.

Um, soooo, er, I guess what McCain is saying is that somebody needs to explain to the American people why Iraq is a crisis and to then ask young people to serve. Apparently, if someone did that, then the volunteers would sort of pop out of the woodwork and the recruiting offices would be full. Um, sure, right, OK. Basic problem is that the Iraq War is not and never was a response to a serious crisis. It was always a game involving oil and money. Bush can't convince his daughters or any of his nephews to sign up to fight in the war because the war has nothing to do with anything involving idealism or self-sacrifice.

2006/10/19

Results of "negotiations" on torture bill

For anyone who thinks that "Saint" John McCain and his fellow moderates actually drove a hard bargain with Bush over the rights of detainees who have been declared "Illegal Combatants":

Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes in the New York Times: "Leading Republican lawmakers, among them Senators John W. Warner of Virginia and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who balked at the initial White House version of the bill and forced a much-publicized compromise, were also on hand. But the third leader of that Republican rebellion, Senator John McCain of Arizona, was noticeably absent."

As for that supposed compromise, Tony Snow put an end to any pretense that there was any such thing at his briefing yesterday , a few hours after the bill became law:

"Q Do you think -- this has been described as a compromise. The President basically got everything he wanted, didn't he?

"MR. SNOW: Pretty much, yes."

No Signing Statement


Here's another sign of how pleased the White House was with this legislation.

Signing statements -- in which the president quietly asserts his right to ignore legislative provisions that he believes conflict with his interpretation of the Constitution -- have become a controversial tradition at the Bush White House.

But at Monday's briefing , Snow disclosed that there would be no signing statement issued for this bill.

Reporters were shocked, and asked why.

"Q Tony, was there any agreement with Congress that there would not be a signing statement?

"MR. SNOW: No.

"Q This just seems like the kind of bill where there are a lot of things to be interpreted and take a look at.

"MR. SNOW: They did a really good job this time.

"Q Wow. (Laughter.)"

Why "improve" on perfection? If the White House got everything it wanted, then the "negotiations" between the GOP moderates and the President were just so much kabuki (Highly formalized, ritualized dance steps) that was far more for appearance than for effect.

In another section:

"But what the American people need to know is we have a program in place that is able to get intelligence from these people and we have used it to stop attacks. The intelligence community believes strongly that the information we got from the detainee questioning program yielded information that made America safer, that we stopped attacks."

My problem with this argument is the time factor. Information from captured bad guys is an extremely perishable commodity. All militaries all over the world do what we call "muster." Soldiers assemble, stand in a line and call out "Here, sir!" as the person in charge reads out their names. (Obviously, there are many variations on this, small groups can muster in a less formal way. The principle is the same, the senior person in the group is responsible for knowing where all of his or her assigned members are at all times.) Once it's been determined that a member is missing, the next step is obvious. If the missing person is aware that there's a bomb planted in the middle of the city, where it is and when it will go off, the senior person in the group will presume that the member has been captured and will talk. The bomb will then be set off early or it will be moved.
Sure, you can learn about "The Ticking Time Bomb," but by that time the bomb will have been moved, placed under guard or set off early. Any information that the bad guys have is useful for an extremely limited amount of time. The idea that "The intelligence community" gained useful information through torture is within the bounds of possibility, but it strikes me as very, very highly unlikely.
It's also worthwhile to keep in mind that Abu Ghraib was operational during a time in Iraq when insurgent attacks were steadily increasing. At the very, very best, the tortures engaged in there held down the rate of increase by a modest amount. Even if we accept that premise, the good gained has to be weighed against the loss of moral justification for being in Iraq in the first place.

The "evenhandedness" of Fox News' Chris Wallace

10 September, ABC shows "Path to 9-11," a TV miniseries that blamed President Clinton for 9-11.
22 September, Chris Wallace of Fox News challenged former President Clinton to explain why bin Laden was still alive when the next President, George W. Bush took office. Why did Clnton fail to kill bin Laden? As this was a surprise, unannounced question on Wallace's part, Clinton got a bit heated in his reply. Clinton received criticism all across the TV dial because he responded energetically.
Wallace was described as even-handed, objective, and a nice guy.
Why of course Wallace was just as tough on the Bush people as he was on Clinton, Fox News supporters said.
Well, here was a chance to prove it.
Wallace recently had Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on his show. She had been on 23 times previously and as the seventh anniversary of the bombing of the USS Cole was very close by, people sent in 20,000 emails asking Wallace to prove his evenhandedness by asking her why the Bush Administration did nothng between Bush's inauguration in 2001 and 9-11. Specifically, why didn't the Bush Administration do anything about the recent certification by the CIA (Less than 20 days before Bush took office) that the USS Cole was bombed by bin Laden?
Wallace decided to chicken out, proving absolutely and unequivocally that Fox News is a Republican propaganda organ.

2006/10/16

Iran running arms to Iraq insurgents?

The argument against the charge that Iran is running some sort of "Ho Chi Minh Trail" to Iraqi insurgents has long been the one of "Occam's Razor," the principle of not making a theory any more complicated than it needs to be to explain something. Iraqis use simple, easily-obtained weaponry (AK-47s & IEDs), they have all the training they need (Pre-war, a very large military establishment) and with the American occupation, all the motivation they need (Harsh pre-war sanctions, infidels who don't speak their language and don't care about their culture occupying their land, Abu Ghraib, etc.). Nevertheless, the British decided to investgate to see if the Iranians were sending anything over anyway.

Result?

Nothing.

Does the Bush Administration want to attack anyway? Well,
If the fallout from the Foley scandal makes it appear inevitable that the Democrats will take the House, the Iran card may be the surest one, and perhaps the only one, that the Bush administration has left to play.

2006/10/14

Re: "The Sounds of Silencing" Oct 13

Peggy Noonan at Wall St Journal's OpinionJournal

Commentary from lawyer/blogger Glenn Greenwald

Ms Noonan asks why the left could not silence a critic. Katie Couric featured the father of a student killed in the massacre at Columbine High School making crazy and preposterous statements about the massacre having something to do with women controlling their own bodies and deciding on their own whether to bring pregnancies to term. But the unnamed "blog critic" had it right. The question was not "Why wasn't this critic of abortion rights silenced?" The question was "Why was this lunatic given a national platform from which to make crazy statements?"

Ms Noonan claims that the left does not want debate. Fuuny, but when former President Bill Clinton reacted heatedly to a Fox News person repeating talking points from the Disney/ABC miniseries of less than a month previously, conservatives and most of the news media demonstrated absolutely zero desire to debate the issue of presidential responsibility for 9-11. Clinton was portrayed as crazy and belligerent and cartoonists portrayed him as lunging at the poor, defenseless Fox News person.

No one in the media, to my knowledge, took up the point of "Yeah, just what did Bush do between January 2001 and early September 2001 to head off 9-11?" It's curious that the side of the political aisle that is now lecturing leftists had so little interest in the solid and substantive issue of presidential responsibility when it came to their own president. Had your beloved, "civilized" right wing, Ms Noonan, stopped to question themselves over that point, we liberals might take your crocodile tears seriously.

2006/10/11

Straw man arguments explained

Bush made a statement about his warrantless NSA spying program:

"'One hundred and seventy-seven of the opposition party said, 'You know, we don't think we ought to be listening to the conversations of terrorists,' ' Bush said at a fundraiser..."

This is of course complete nonsense. Democrats don't have a problem with listening in on the conversations of al Qaeda, they just have a problem with doing so without warrants and without agents demonstrating probably cause to believe that those being monitored are indeed al Qaeda and not just some peaceniks plannng their next legal, peaceful demonstration.

Many journalists, including the WaPo's Dan Froomkin, have remarked upon the President's tendency to do verbal sparring with imaginary foes who present made-up arguments. Well, now an aide of his explains:

"White House spokeswoman Dana Perino defended Bush's remark as a reasonable extrapolation of the Democratic position. 'Of course, they aren't silly enough to say they don't want to listen in on terrorists, but actions speak louder than words, and people should know what the Democrats' voting record is,' she said."

Of course Bush didn't say anything suggesting he was re-writing anything that anybody said. Reading his statement, he appears to be quoting a number of people who all say more or less the same thing.

And naturally, the voting records of Democrats shows no such thing. People including Froomkin have commented on the tendency of Bush to make statements like this. Bush has repeatedly made up inane arguments, attributed those arguments to opponents of his and then masterfully and heroically demonstrate to his followers how inane the arguments are. In order to spot the fact that it's a straw ma argument, one has to know what the actual positions of the Democrats are. Accordingly, these arguments are very persuasive to "low-information" supporters, they're "not so much" to opponents and informed people.

The interestig and hopeful part is that enough people are catching on to this to provoke Bush's spokespeople to make up justifications.

2006/10/10

The "moral superiority" of Republicans

Open letter to Chris Matthews

Sources to write to him:

Chris Matthews
Chris Matthews

MSNBC
viewerservices@msnbc.com
MSNBC TV
One MSNBC Plaza
Secaucus, N.J. 07094
MSNBC contacts

Hardball
hardball@msnbc.com

Mr Matthews,
I must say, reading the snippet below and having read Digby's blog post, I'm really baffled as to how the Republican Party can claim any sort of moral superiority over their Democratic rivals.

Matthews: You didn't give us the deadliest which is that Democrats are now trusted more on moral values

Fineman: I thought that was the next question

Matthews: (incredulous) I mean that is a stunning ... the Democrats are the big city party, the tolerance party the ... in many ways libertarian on social issues and moral issues and now they're perceived to be more priestly, more honorable on moral questions ... I guess that includes sexual questions ... than the Republicans.


As you might remember, in late August of last year, New Orleans was flooded with water that was so full of junk and poisons that it was pretty much impossible to swim in it. People were trapped on their rooftops with very little in the way of clean water, food or shelter from the late summer sun. Citizens of New Orleans felt they didn't really need to stock up on anything because they were American citizens and could therefore expect rescue boats and helicopters to come along soon.
Please remember that G.W. Bush visited the home of "Saint" John McCain, the guy who later performed the torture bill kabuki, where he pretended to be a moral voice in the "debate." Bush celebrated McCain's birthday while the citizens of New Orleans died in the poisonous water and on their rooftops. The Vice-President remained at his ranch, the Secretary of State went to New York City to buy shoes and see a comedy.
The polls show that disapproval of the President's performance has actually grown by a modest amount in the past year, meaning NO ONE has forgotten, no one has forgiven.

Even when we leave all the conspiracy theories aside, the rock-hard, indisputable fact of 9-11 is that, in the very best possible case, the Bush Administration displayed negligence, incompetence and dereliction of duty. The website 911Truth.org lists 80 articles in both the mainstream and alternative press/blogs concerning Bush Administration foreknowledge/advance warnings about 9-11. At no time has Bush or any other member of his current Administration ever expressed the slightest regret over their dereliction of duty. How anyone can look at this record and say that Bush & Co are moral is, again, beyond me.

On the Iraq War, Bush has never once gone to the funerals of any fallen soldiers, his wife has visited wounded soldiers in the hospital, but secretly, as though there were something shameful in doing so, the Bush daughters could very easily have signed up to be Navy pilots after graduation from college and could be bombing targets in Iraq during the day and sleeping on the aircraft carrier at night. We have yet to hear calls to sign up for duty in Iraq from Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Michelle Malkin or any other right-wing pundits. Where is the morality here?

There has been a dispute over the past few years as to whether pharmacists can deny RU-486 to women who wish to head off their pregnancies. Wal-Mart came out in favor of pharmacists' "freedom" to do so, K-Mart said "No, pharmacists should do their job and dispense the medicines they're asked to dispense." Right-wingers and Republicans both appear to be in favor of allowing ignorant busybodies to interfere in a very serious and private matter with no controls as to whether they know the woman in question or anything about her situation. The Terry Schiavo case simply illustrated this general attitude in glaring detail.

In the case of former Congressman Foley and his pedophilia, Dr James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family and the fellow who "outed" Spongebob Squarepants as gay, took over a week to even mention Foley and as of 10 Oct 06, does not feature Foley on the home page of his website.

You've made the claim that Republicans are more moral because they believe in balanced budgets. Well, first of all, President Reagan may have believed in balanced budgets in theory, but a quick glance as to how he actually managed the budget makes it clear that he had, at best, only a vague, theoretical grasp of how to actually balance budgets. Second, a Marxist economist, as she would favor helping out people on the lower rungs of the economic ladder, has just as legitimate a claim to being moral as a balanced-budget-believer does. One could argue about which system is better in the long run, but it is simply impossible for one side to say "We're moral and the other side isn't."

The Republican claim to moral superiority is just that, a claim. Right-wingers and Republicans have absolutely no reason whatsoever to flaunt themselves as morally superior to liberals and I'd greatly appreciate it if you'd acknowledge that in the future.


2006/10/07

Tony Snow explains Bush's "just a comma" comment

The comma refers to the period of time between last year's election and today. We're talking about — well, the President is making the point is, when you look at a history book, a 10-month period is a comma.
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And I've talked to him about this a number of times. It was simply — what he means is that in the grand sweep of history
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Helen Thomas then points out (quite reasonably, I think): The war is three-and-a-half years old.

MR. SNOW: I know, but notice that "comma" reference was simply referring to the time since — what he really is referring to is the short lifetime so far of the government. Everybody trying to say, ah-ha, and trying to draw conclusions, is it working, isn't it working; do you have confidence in the Prime Minister, do you not? It's 10 months old. It's a government that is still in its infancy and trying to deal with a host of complex and very important issues. So when you take it in the broad sweep of history, and as we look back — you and I probably — well, you may, centuries from now, but I don't think I'm going to last as long as you will, Helen — but the facts is –

What Snow & Thomas disagree on seems pretty clear. Snow is essentially arguing that the "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic" exercise that was concluded with the installation of the new government of Iraq was a "decisive turning point," much as was the signing of the Iraqi constitution on 8 March 2004:

US President George W Bush called the adoption an "historic milestone"

Or the "turnover of authority to the Iraqi people" on 28 June 2004, which resulted in:

"This is a historical day," Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said. "We feel we are capable of controlling the security situation."

Added Iraqi President Ghazi Al-Yawer: "This is a day we are going to take our country back into the international forum. We'd like to express our thanks to the coalition," Al-Yawer continued. "There is no way to turn back now."

Historic, eh? Funny how nobody celebrated the second anniversaries of these famed and historic days. 22 June 2005, Kofi Annan declared that various international pledges of support given at a conference in Brussels marked a:

"This conference marked a watershed for Iraq," Mr Annan said afterwards.

He said he hoped the long-suffering people of Iraq would "take heart from this strong message of support" and that the declaration would make future challenges "appear a little less daunting"

And of course, there was the 8 June 2006 killing of the head of "al Qaeda in Iraq," Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. British Prime Minister Tony Blair was wary of using the term "turning point." but was suitably enthusiastic:

[It] was a sign of "a new spirit to succeed", said Mr Blair.

"Our task, obviously, is to turn that spirit, that willingness, that desire to succeed into effective action," he said.

"If we are able to do so, then we will have accomplished something that goes far beyond the borders of Iraq."

Further commentary in this particular article demonstrates that the British press is far freer and less corporatized than the American press is by leaps and bounds.

Helen Thomas was correct. The Iraq War is three and a half years old, currently longer even than the US war against Germany. Germany and Italy declared war on the US on 11 December 1941 and VE Day was 8 May 1945, 1244 days. The number of days from 19 March 2003 to 1 October 2006 is 1292 and there's no end in sight.