2006/05/31

My favorite whipping boy...

The DLC's Al From pulls through again, with a statement so incredibly stupid I just had to do a double-take:

"Most people are not satisfied with their politics and would very much like to see more politicians who just got things done," said Al From, founder and chief executive officer of the Democratic Leadership Council, a centrist policy group. "Most people really aren't about ideology. Most people really are about, 'Let's get something done that's going to make my life better.' "

Now I have opposed GW Bush for a long time, most especially since he announced that Iraq was a threat to World Peace and had to be dealt with, but I really have never seen him as a fellow who couldn't get things done. With both a Congress and a Senate having been controlled by his party for the last five years, the only things Bush hasn't been able to do are the things that nobody wants done. Sure, Bush can't get Roe vs Wade tossed out, but that's not for lack of competence, that's for lack of Americans willing to see it tossed in the garbage bin.

I am entirely willing to see our government come to a creaking, shuddering halt if that means that the Bush Administration can't do any more damage.

2006/05/29

So much news...

Let's see - The Second Battle of Fallujah occured right after the American election of 2004. American soldiers appeared to have won the battle, but months later, the city still wasn't safe. Now:

Falluja has resurfaced as a major stronghold of anti-U.S. resistance despite a massive U.S. assault that had almost turned the city of nearly 300,000 inhabitants into ruins.

Rebel attacks have intensified recently and the U.S. finds it increasingly difficult to subdue the city.

The Americans control all entrances to the city and have remote control digital cameras guarding volatile quarters.

But the rebels still find ways to infiltrate Falluja and mount suicide raids on U.S. convoys.

In other words, a Third Battle of Fallujah may be necessary because the job wasn't done right either the first OR the second time! Here's a possible reason why:

Yet, visible rebuilding is taking place. More than 140,000 of the city's original residents have returned. Groups of men hammer away at buildings, and shops and restaurants have reopened in some neighborhoods. American officials say more homes have running water now than before November.

Right after the siege, the Americans doled out $8 million to 20,000 people as an initial reconstruction payment. Iraqi engineering teams estimated that 32,000 homes needed repairs and that the total cost of reconstruction would be $500 million. The government of Ayad Allawi, the former prime minister, ordered a fifth of that to be paid out, and it was flown by helicopter to the main Marine base, called Camp Fallujah.

Problem: After an Iraqi sheik brought the continued failure to deliver the remainder of the needed money to the attention of the Americans, the Americans talked to him about the elections coming up in December 2005, suggesting they were using the reconstrction money as an incentive for Iraqi citizens to get out the vote. Obviously, if the city is exploding again, then the aid might not have ever arrived.
--------------------

In the competition between Americans and Iraqi insurgents, it's not clear who's making better use of technology.

This is a dangerous problem, because the insurgents are stitching together their own communications network. Using cellphones and e-mail accounts, these guerrillas rely on a loose web of connections rather than a top-down command structure. And they don’t fight in large groups that can be easily tracked by high-tech command posts. They have to be hunted down in dark neighborhoods, amid thousands of civilians, and taken out one by one.

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Then, suddenly, the lead tank lurches to a halt. Through roiling clouds of dust, illuminated by the tank’s headlights, Feldmayer sees a pile of concrete and earth. The lead tank’s fancy navigation system has just led them into a roadblock, too tall for the vehicles to climb. A dozen soldiers curse in unison.

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It’s at this point, just beyond the edge of the American network, where the guerrillas are best connected. Using disposable cellphones, anonymous e-mail addresses at public Internet cafés, and “lessons learned” Web sites that rival Cavnet, disparate guerrilla groups coordinate attacks, share tactics, hire bomb makers, and draw in fresh recruits. It’s an ad hoc, constantly changing web of connections, so it’s hard for U.S. spooks to know where to listen in next. It also lets the insurgents keep a loose command structure, without much hierarchy—just like the network-centric theorists call for. Even if their communications are compromised, only a small cell is exposed, not the entire insurgency. "They’re more effectively networked than we are," says Hammes, the guerrilla-war expert. “They have a worldwide, secure communications network. And all it cost them was two dinars.”

On the plus side for Americans, friendly fire incidens are way down. American soldiers are far less likely to be shot at by their own forces than before.

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And hey! Good news! The Washington Post ombudsman has corrected an error! And it only took her since January to do so.

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The BBC reports a accident by an American "large cargo truck." Very disturbingly:

Hundreds of Afghans gathered after the accident, chanting "Death to America" and "Death to Karzai".

They pelted the US military vehicles with stones before scattering when the shooting began.

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As many as 2,000 protesters then headed for the city centre, towards the presidential palace and parliament, setting fire to police cars and police checkpoints.

Bursts of heavy gunfire could also be heard close to the US embassy, whose staff were moved to a secure location.

This doesn't sound to me like things are going well between the occupation forces in Aghanistan and the Afghanis. In fact, it sounds like the Afghanis are awfully hostile to the Americans in their midst.

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And in the category of extremely positive news, the momentum the Bush Administration was trying to build up for military action against Iran seems to be dissipating.


In Iraq, our ability to dictate events and a direction for the country is diminishing with every passing day. New Prime Minister al-Maliki is still unable to get agreement among the parties on filling the Interior and Defense ministry positions. Nir Rosen’s essay yesterday in the Post shows that we are less and less of an influence in Iraq, while the militias now are the power center in the country, inciting fear and disorder. Bush has in effect made our military look impotent and criminal in the Islamic world, evidenced further by how we are losing control in Afghanistan, the job Bush never finished.

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Furthermore, Iran wants direct talks, its president and clerics are unified in this desire for the first time, and the Iranians seem to be either slowing down their enrichment program or running into technical difficulties. I have heard from a source that the Iranians are willing to compromise and trade off the work they have already done at one site if we would simply show them some respect and talk with them directly.

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Our tough, rejectionist posture towards Iran was further undermined when the new al-Maliki government in Iraq came out in support of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and Iran signaled it was tired of waiting for the Bush Administration to talk with it about Iraq’s future, and decided to work with regional states to forge their own future.

Iran's president appears to have agreed to tone things down and to not play into the hands of the warmongers who wish to use him as a scare figure. The NY Times article linked to above cites Iranian economic problems as having been a significant moderating influence.


2006/05/28

Oh good grief!

Gregg Easterbrook argues that:

Intelligent design is a sophisticated theory now being argued out in the nation's top universities.

Okay, let's get this straight. There are two theories as to how life evolved. There is the scientific theory, known as evolution and which was developed primarily by Charles Darwin in The Origin of Species in 1859. It's been refined and incrementally improved upon, but it has not been essentially modified since the book was published. On the other hand, there a whole raft of other theories known as Biblical Literalism, Creationism and Intelligent Design. All three of them boil down to the book known as:

Genesis (Greek: Γένεσις, having the meanings of "birth", "creation", "cause", "beginning", "source" and "origin"), also called The First Book of Moses, is the first book of Torah (five books of Moses), and is the first book of the Tanakh, part of the Hebrew Bible; it is also the first book of the Christian Old Testament.

There is no essential difference between any of the three theories and there is no connection whatsoever to science. It is not possible to disprove the Book of Genesis, nor by the same token, is it possible to prove the Book of Genesis. You either believe it or you don't. You have faith or you do not.

There's nothing wrong with having faith and believing that the Book of Genesis is literally true, but there is something very deeply wrong with wasting class time by ignoring science and by going over matters best left to Sunday school or to the pulpit.

2006/05/27

Bush sorta kinda expresses regrets about "Bring 'em on"

When John Paul Jones declared "I have no yet begun to fight!", he did so from the decks of the Bonhomme Richard, a ship that had taken heavy damage from the enemy to the point where the captain on the other side offered to allow the American ship to surrender. In glaring contrast, when Bush said "Bring 'em on," he did so from a comfortable TV studio, 7000 miles away from the fighting in Iraq. Bush owes veterans of the Iraq War vastly more than:

Last night, he answered: "Saying 'bring it on,' kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong signal to people. I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner -- you know, 'wanted dead or alive,' that kind of talk. I think in certain parts of the world it was misinterpreted, and so I learned from that."

In other words, Bush has regrets purely about how his language was "misinterpreted", not about in how it was properly and accurately understood, as the language of a chickenhawk, the language of someone who is in no danger. It's all very fine and well to talk like a tough guy when the shells are exploding around you and your ship seems to be on the verge of sinking. That's heroic and that deserves respect. Talking like a tough guy from halfway around the world is the action of a coward and deserves nothing but scorn.

The blog Crooks & Liars has a marvelous picture of Bush that beautifully sums up how our President feels about the whole press conference.

Excellent post from DailyKos on chickenhawks and on who really deserves to be honored on Memorial Day.

Answering Max Boot

On May 17th, Max Boot wrote a column in the LA Times defending the warrantless NSA spying program, asserting that "So far there has been no suggestion that the NSA has done anything with disreputable motives." Actually, there have been quite a few such suggestions based on the past history of the Bush Administration. The notion that the Bush people are somehow above suspicion is a quaint one with absolutely no basis in reality. He further says near the very end of his column that:

If it is later determined that an intelligence-gathering operation was not ordered for legitimate national security objectives — if, for instance, it was designed to gather dirt on political opponents — then the culprits would be punished with lengthy prison sentences.

That's a very nice thought, but of course it's kind of difficult to see how the "culprits would be punished" if there's no investigation and before he made this statement, he spent an enormous amount of time and energy denouncing those who are "civil liberties agitators, grandstanding politicians and self-righteous newspaper editorialists" and who are "hyperventilating worrywarts [who} fret that fascism has descended." Kind of difficult to see how Max's sensible statement concerning ensuring that the warrantless NSA spying program was legitimate can be anything but a careless afterthought tacked on to the end of his screed denouncing those who oppose the program.

Assorted critics, taking a break from castigating the Bush administration for doing too little to protect the homeland, are now castigating it for doing too much.

World O'Crap clobbers this talking point extremely well:

A lot of you idiots don’t seem to understand this very important point, so let’s try to illustrate it with an analogy: An elderly woman is walking home from the bank after cashing her Social Security check. A blond 15-year old male whizzes past on a Razor and snatches her purse. She reports the theft to a cop, who immediately walks over to a bus bench and starts beating a 65-year old black woman with his nightstick. The grandstanding victim complains that this isn’t helping to get her purse back. The moral of the story is: There’s just no pleasing you people.

As there have been no captured bad guys identified as being al Qaeda operatives for the past five years, it's difficult to see how the warrantless NSA spying program is accomplishing anything of any use to regular Americans. Why would the Bush Administration continue a blatantly illegal program that wasn't doing what Bush energetically insists its accomplishing? I refer you to the first quote about "gather[ing] dirt on political opponents." There has been no proof that Bush used the NSA to give his re-election team an improper advantage during the 2004 election, but then, there's been no investigation either.

The Black Commentator reminds us that:

[Bush] comes from a family that demonstrates a blatant disregard for the most basic moral norms. Prescott Bush was a traitor in war time and a grave desecrater. George W. stole his way into the presidency and is now prepared to risk confrontation with China, Russia and the rest of the world in order to use nuclear weapons against Iran.

There is simply no evidence that the US is dealing with an honorable person who wouldn't abuse the advantage that the NSA's illegal spying program would give him. Max suggests that FISA is obsolete:

This archaic law should be euthanized. Replace it with legislation that gives the president permission to order any surveillance deemed necessary.

In a passage well worth quoting at length:

But one aspect of the administration's decision to violate FISA that has received relatively little attention is just how extraordinary is the sudden claim that FISA, after governing eavesdropping in this country for 27 years, is unconstitutional.

It's not uncommon for a law to be passed and signed into law under a cloud of questionable constitutionality. Since McCain-Feingold was enacted, for instance, scores of people have claimed that McCain-Feingold entails unconstitutional abridgements of First Amendment liberties and litigation began almost immediately after it was signed into law. Indeed, on the very day the Senate approved it, many Senators expressed their view that the law was unconstitutional. That happens commonly with laws which are believed to be unconstitutional -- substantial public debate exists among politicians, law professors, lawyers, and others regarding the law's questionable constitutionality.

But nothing like that ever happened with FISA. It was enacted in 1978 by a vote of 95-1 in the Senate. It was amended six times since then, including under the Bush presidency. President Bush asked for amendments liberalizing its provisions, and never once suggested it was unconstitutional. Four different presidential administrations prior to this one -- two Republican and two Democratic -- complied with its provisions while engaging in surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes, including during the height of our Cold War with the Soviet Union, and during all sorts of military actions, including the Persian Gulf War and military deployments in Latin America, Yugoslavia, and throughout the Middle East.

Until George Bush, no President had ever claimed that the requirements of FISA were unconstitutional. None ever claimed that their Article II powers were infringed because they had to obtain judicial warrants before eavesdropping on Americans, and none ever claimed that their ability to engage in intelligence gathering was impeded in any way by the warrant requirements of that law. There was never any debate in any prominent academic circles or among political pundits over the constitutionality of FISA. The Reagan Administration was filled with ideologues and advocates of strong executive power and yet, as it went to the FISA court every time it wanted to eavesdrop on Americans, it never once claimed that FISA was unconstitutional in any way. Nobody of any prominence did, because its constitutionality was never in doubt.

There is simply no evidence whatsoever that FISA is in any way, shape or form a hindrance to catching bad guys within the borders of the United States. Max displays a lot of misdirected anger here. The people he denounces are trying to protect American citizens. We may not know exactly what the Bush Administration is up to, but that doesn't mean we citizens have nothing to worry about.

2006/05/25

The Hillary and Bill story

On May 23rd, the NY Times published a somewhat lengthy (14 kilobytes or 2000 words) story on the marriage of Hillary and Bill Clinton that ran for perhaps 100-150 words on the front page, above the fold and with a photograph. The story was continued in the Metro section.
Personally, I've never particularly liked Hillary due to her having been in charge of the Task Force on National Health Care Reform back during the very beginning of Bill Clinton's first term and making such a complete mess of it that there hasn't been serious talk of comprehensive health care reform since.
The NY Times article was not written because there was any sort of "peg" to hang the story on or in fact, any genuine news within the article itself. The story was written by Patrick Healey, a reporter who has handled several anti-Democratic and pro-Republican stories (The story includes several useful links for yelling at the Times with.

Atrios goes over one of the most serious problems with "The return of Monica Madness"

And, finally, it puts on display the utter vapidity of the press corps we're dealing with. If Dean Broder, who has been covering Washington since 1820, can't sit through a 45 minute speech on energy policy, and the press on Air Force One would rather watch King Kong than the Hayden hearings, while they devote their time and resources to a long 50-source article about how often the Clintons are getting busy, then we have a problem, and it's not something we're going to clear up at a blogger ethics panel.

Yes, that's correct, the article concentrated on how often Hillary and Bill "did it" and yes, the author really interviewed 50 sources, he even counts the number of times the Clintons spent the night together over 17 months. Has America's press corps really sunk this low?!?! I mean, with the American occupation of Iraq rapidly collapsing and the dollar on the verge of meltdown, is the sex life of the Clinton's really a page-one story!?!?!? As firedoglake points out, there are magazines eminently qualified to do such stories. It's also obviously meant to put Democrats on notice that they will be relentlessly trivialized during the run up to the 2008 election.

Except for one thing: who the hell cares? I mean really, who cares? Except for the inside, gossip queens of the Beltway, how exactly does this put gas in someone’s tank, keep their kid safe on the battlefield, stop their job from being downsized, or help them pay the balloon payment on their already-ballooning mortgage? What in the hell are these people doing calling this crap "reporting?"

The press corps has made it clear that the Democrats will be lampooned and laughed at and made to look deranged because they just can't stomach a return to wonk-style politics, where politician actually care about people and issues. We progressives, liberals and leftists need to make a really loud stink about this, and it needs to commence right away!

2006/05/24

Al From's thoughts

From Al From, who runs the Democratic Leadership Council:
"There's a group in our party that makes a lot of noise and I don't think they've ever won an election."

Let's look at how well the Democratic Party has done while under the influence of Al From's DLC , shall we?
(Source: Clerk of the House)

Year
Senators
Representatives
% Democrat
1992
56
258
59
1994
57
204
47
1996
48
206
47
1998
45
211
48
2000
45
212
49
2002
50
204
47

Democrats held a consistent numerical advantage over Republicans since 1956 and since 1984 had been slowly but steadily gaining seats.
The DLC basically ran Democratic Party political strategy from the time Bill Clinton assumed office until 2002. Democratic Senators and Representativess underwent a dramatic shrinkage in 1994, the first "mid-term" or "off-season" election cycle after Clinton took office, when Clinton should have been at his peak of political effectiveness. The last cycle here, the 2002 cycle, is especially troubling. During midterm elections when the Presidency is not at stake, the opposition party usually wins seats (Though usually not as dramatically as the Republicans did in the 1994 electios). The exceptions are few and far between. 2002 was a dramatic exception, with eight seats in the House being lost. Granted, in the Senate, Democrats saw a gain of five seats, but they quickly lost the majority they had as the result of the 2002 election.

In 2004, insurgents from what Howard Dean called "The Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" made a strong, but unsuccessful attempt to seize control from the DLC. As our wing of the party has argued, Democrats have gained from the extra energy and enthusiasm that our wing has brought into the party.

A further thought from Al From:
"A very simple thing happened that changed Democratic politics dramatically, and that was that the [Iraq] war turned bad."

"Turned" bad?!?!?! The war "turned" bad?!?! Er, when exactly was it ever good?!?! The problem, obviously, was that the Iraq War didn't stop when US troops captured Baghdad. Instead, the war simply changed shape and metamorphosized into a guerrilla struggle. It took awhile, things were pretty quiet from about April 2003 until August/September 2003, though sniping and small ambushes never truly stopped. The US had a very narrow window of opportunity where a vigorous reconstruction project might have done a bit of good, but it's doubtful that the guerrilla war could have been avoided. By September, it was pretty clear that the war had begun again in earnest.

All that being said; yes, it's clear that the war in Iraq prevented a dash into Iran or Syria, prevented a victory parade down the main streets of Baghdad a month or two before the 2004 Presidential Election and made it possible for opponents of the war to make their case to the public that those who went along with the war were acting against the interests of the American people.

Al From is a perfectly good American, but an absolutely useless Democrat. The sooner the Democratic Party gives him and his group the boot, the better.

2006/05/22

A few interesting comments from Lieberman defenders

The Wall St Journal (From their accessible, non-subscription OpinionJournal.) defends both Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman. McCain is described as having "reacted with admirable restraint" in response to a student who declared in her speech:

"I am young and though I don't possess the wisdom that time affords us, I do know that preemptive war is dangerous. And I know that despite all the havoc that my country has wrought overseas in my name, Osama bin Laden still has not been found, nor have those weapons of mass destruction."

Yep, poor John McCain, having to respond to a "rude" student who points out the complete failures of his hero, Bush.

Poor, pitiful Joe Lieberman is described as facing "political extinction" because of "his pro-war views." Actually, as firedoglake points out by quoting Paul Krugman of the New York Times, the issue is very considerably more than just the war. Lieberman is a perfectly fine American Senator, he's just not a very good Democrat. He consistently puts his own political benefit above that of the Democratic Party as a whole.

But in any event, the WSJ then makes a wildly inaccurate statement:

"The left's larger goal is to turn the Democratic Party solidly against the war on terror, and especially against its Iraq and Iran fronts."

The War on Terror on the left side of the aisle is understood to apply strictly to al Qaeda and to various terrorist attacks around the world. The Iraq War and the upcoming Iran War are understood to be imperial grabs for natural resources, i.e. oil. The idea behind these two wars is not necessarily to get the natural resources for American use so much as it is to monopolize those resources and control access to them by the up-and-coming economic powers India and China. The political left has always understood that these two conquests had nothing to do with al Qaeda save in a purely talking-point, propagandistic context.

As with the student quoted above, the left has continued to point out that the Bush Administration, at best, allowed 9-11 to occur through a combination of negligence, incompetence and dereliction of duty. Why might the left be "enraged" and "rude"? Gee, let's review - the WOT is launched in response to an attack that could have been prevented had either the press or the Bush Administration kept their eyes on the ball, the emotional energy that was unleashed in response to the 9-11 attacks are diverted into an imperial grab for resources and there is considerable evidence that John Kerry actually won the last election. Golly, I can't imagine why the left might be angry!

Back to the WSJ:

"We doubt all of this will help Democrats with the larger electorate, which whatever its doubts about Iraq does not want a precipitous surrender."

Straw-man time again! The WSJ skips over the argument about whether or not it's wise to withdraw from Iraq and goes directly to the unsubstantiated accusation that the left wants a "precipitous surrender." The political left as a whole does not have a unifed position on when and how to pull out of Iraq. Generally, the left would like to have it be as soon as possible. The proposal made by Congressman Murtha to "Iraqitize, Internationalize and Energize", i.e. to pull off to bases that are still within Iraq or the Gulf, but in any event outside of Iraq's population centers has aroused a good deal of support on the left despite not being a complete pull-out.

In other words, the left is quite willing to be reasonable and pragmatic about how the pull-out is done.

UPDATE #1: Yes, al Qaeda appears to be actively taking part in the Iraq War on the other side from American troops in Iraq, but the important question there is: Will al Qaeda reman in Iraq if and when US troops leave? Doubtful. Al Qaeda is in Iraq for the purpose of fighting American troops, both to cause damage to American military capabilities and perhaps more importantly, to get experience in fighting Americans and to learn how to better ambush and attack American troops. Once Americans leave, al Qaeda might have other reasons to stick around, but the major current reason for being in Iraq will have disappeared.

Iraqis currently have reason to cover for and assist al Qaeda because al Qaeda is assisiting Iraqis to throw American troops out of their country. Once Americans leave, it's difficult to see why Iraqis would want to keep al Qaeda around. As both Iraqis and al Qaeda currently use the same supply sources and hiding places and tactics, it's hard to see how al Qaeda could survivie a determined Iraqi attempt to expel them. As foreign jihadists and al Qaeda have never constituted more than 3% to 5% of the forces opposing US troops in Iraq, they'd quickly find themselves in a very uneven fight if they tried to stay.

So, is there currently reason to say there's a connection between Iraqi insurgents and al Qaeda? Yes.
Would that alliance survive a US departure from Iraq? Doubtful.

UPDATE #2: Rabbi Michael Lerner, prominent progressive Jewish activist and founder of Tikkun, has come out with a salute to a collection of articles on 9-11.in which he endorses concerns that the World Trade Center towers could not have fallen down merely due to being hit by airplanes and that activists should try to tell the story in a way that minimizes the evil people involved and instead stresses turning 9-11 from a theoretical concern into an activist project. In fact, Rabbi Lerner emphasizes that a truth-seeking alliance could heal wounds left by the destruction of that day.



2006/05/20

Updates

Ned Lamont over-achieves goals in Connecticut primary!!! Joe Lieberman has been acting quite nervous the past few days over the campaign of Lamont to unseat him as one of Connecticut's senators. Turns out Joe was right to worry. Lamont only needed 15% of the vote:

Connecticut Bob called once again to give the final unofficial tally — Lieberman 1014, Lamont 497. That puts Ned at roughly 33%, WILDLY in excess of what they anticipated. The Lamont people are jumping around, hi-fiving each other, slapping each other on the back. Rape Gurney Joe’s people are wandering around in a daze, wondering what hit ‘em.

Three words: "a short ride."

Best aspect of this is that it's a great advertisement for the netroots, the folks who organize themselves around, and take their cues from, the liberal blogs. Lieberman has been an awful Democrat, straying from the party line and voting with the Republicans time and time again. Connecticut and the Democrats generally are bette off wthout him.

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Whoooo!! Seriously warped statements from a conservative blogger! Lemme put it this way - I would never leave my young neice in his care! The idea that the age of optimal attractiveness for women is between 15 and 20 is bad enough. That statement pegs him as a pervert all by itself. The really bad statement follows, that one where he asserts he can prove the first statement by noting how many females in that "optimal" age range get raped! Yup. Read it yourself. He really does say that. Susan Brownmiller's Against Our Will, published in 1975, pretty much blew apart the theory that women get raped because men find themselves sexually attracted to them. Depressingly, this conservative blogger proves himself to be about thirty years behind the curve. In an update, his concern is not that his son has been fighting at school, but "Did he win?"

UPDATE: Pandagon quotes an earlier column wherein our conservative makes it clear that he doesn't want to look at Jennifer Aniston's breasts in GQ because at 36 years old, she's rather over the hill.

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Republicans try to initiate an anti-gay constitutional amendment in a session where the public had limited access. Senator Russ Feingold objects to it, Senator Arlen Specter acquiesces to it. Question: Where are all of the other Democrats on the Judiciary Committee!?!?!?! Why is Feingold acting all alone at a time and in a place where he could have used the support of his fellow Democrats?!?!?! Why is this guy constantly having to act by himself? Seriously, Democrats need to start supporting their fellow party members!!!

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A long time after the USA Today story ran about the other warrantless NSA spying program, AT&T appears to have been assisted by the Bush Administration reworking the laws allowing them to lie without legal consequences.
Funny, but for an Administration that claims it has the right to do all sorts of things, they don't appear eager to put anything to the test. Oh, and the confirmation hearing of General Hayden helps to reveal the utter crminality of the Bush Administration when it first supported the idea of warrantless NSA wiretapping, even when alteratives were available.

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Sigh! Happy happy, joy joy!!! Turns out "turning to the right" isn't working out too well!! Simply turning to the extremes isn't turning out to be a successful strategy after all! If y'all don't turn to the left, sadness follows!

2006/05/14

The latest warrantless NSA spying scandal

Someone in our email group sent along an appeal from Act For Change to protest the latest warrantless NSA spyng scandal. In response, someone sent us the following message:

My first reaction to this is that the phone companies were complying with a government request after 9/11 and should not be held accountable for complying with that request.
There has to be a balance between what we want our government to do to protect us from terrrorist [sic] attacks and protecting our right to privacy.

Heartily agreeing with the claim that there "has to be a balance", I nevertheless disagreed with holding the telecommuncations companies blameless:

One major telecommunications company declined to participate in the program: Qwest.

According to sources familiar with the events, Qwest's CEO at the time, Joe Nacchio, was deeply troubled by the NSA's assertion that Qwest didn't need a court order — or approval under FISA — to proceed. Adding to the tension, Qwest was unclear about who, exactly, would have access to its customers' information and how that information might be used.

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Unable to get comfortable with what NSA was proposing, Qwest's lawyers asked NSA to take its proposal to the FISA court. According to the sources, the agency refused.

The NSA's explanation did little to satisfy Qwest's lawyers. "They told (Qwest) they didn't want to do that because FISA might not agree with them,"

The NSA obviously did not feel confident that its request was legal. Despite a poll taken long before American citizens could get a handle on what the issue was all about, a later poll showed Americans were quite upset over the decision and legal action could be very, very costly for the telecommunications companies, not that Constitutional rights should be dependent on polls in any event.

As to the idea of balance, our objector agreed with me in a later message that the Bush Administration had not engaged in any such thing. Major problem with the idea of balance is that the Administration never, at any point, sought any input from anyone outside their own little, tight circle of cronies and ideological soulmates. It's also become quite clear that there are simply no legal restraints on the program.

Worried about Dick Cheney listening in Sunday on your call to Mom? That ain't nothing. You should be more concerned that they are linking this info to your medical records, your bill purchases and your entire personal profile including, not incidentally, your voting registration. Five years ago, I discovered that ChoicePoint had already gathered 16 billion data files on Americans -- and I know they've expanded their ops at an explosive rate.

And no, the assertions that the government does not know your name, only your phone number and the calls you've made, was quickly scotched in the USA Today article:

With access to records of billions of domestic calls, the NSA has gained a secret window into the communications habits of millions of Americans. Customers' names, street addresses and other personal information are not being handed over as part of NSA's domestic program, the sources said. But the phone numbers the NSA collects can easily be cross-checked with other databases to obtain that information. [emphasis added]

The fact that the telecommunications companies did not turn over specific identifying information to the government means nothing. The government can easily get that information anyway. And make no mistake, Congress very clearly came out against the very similar Total Information Awareness program back in 2003. Hopefully, the whole issue will blow General Hayden's nomination to run the CIA completely out of the water, but ya never know.


2006/05/10

Reaction to Stephen Colbert's comedy routine

First, after about a week of embarrassed silece, Richard Cohen of the Washington Post wrote a dismissive article about Stephen Colbert's routine poking fun at Bush and his Administration. I responded with a letter, as did around 4000 others. Richard's subsequent weeping and whining and wailing caught the attention of the left blogosphere, who essentially agreed with DailyKos who said that if Cohen had a coherent point to make then why did he waste valuable time sniffling and sobbing and moaning about angry emails?

2006/05/09

The DLC talks foreign policy

The LeftCoaster looks at some of the DLC's favored presidential candidates for 2008 and we see them offer the following advice:

Bayh accused the president of mishandling Iran and North Korea while weakening U.S. alliances and the nation's armed forces. He said the war in Iraq has been "tragically, tragically" mismanaged.

So the Iraq War was merely "mismanaged", eh? I wonder what Bayh would advise the President to do about manpower. Right now, the Army has been caught taking an autistic 18 year old. Obviously, they did so because the US has reached the limits of what persuasion can do.

Seriously, does anybody think the Bush Administration just plain forgot to have a national draft? It's been plainly obvious for over three years that a draft would energize the anti-war movement and would cause the war to come to a screeching halt. All of the sudden, the war would mean something to young people in a personal way instead of just being a faraway, "one of these days" possibility.

Sorry, but the "mismanaged" excuse doesn't fly.

Warner said the key for Democrats is to represent a muscular foreign policy that respects and supports U.S. troops; deploys diplomatic, economic, and when necessary, military assets against U.S. enemies; rises to the challenge of global competition; and unites friends and divides enemies — "not the reverse," which he complained Bush has done.

Yet, there seemed to be limits to how far Warner would go. He told reporters afterward that while he hopes the Iraq war is successful, he would consider pulling U.S. troops out if the country did not make progress in coming months on democracy and security.

Okay, but Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army is actively competing with the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution for influence within the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance. Al-Sadr, as people might remember, is not very fond of the United States being in Iraq and he's very obviously a popular figure within that country. What exactly does Mark Warner plan to do about al-Sadr? What would his response be to an Iraqi demand for US troops to leave?

As the LeftCoaster puts it:

To Warner and Bayh, talking about Bush’s record and holding him accountable for his mistakes is nothing more than “lashing out in anger” and political retribution.

Accountability means nothing to these people. They've got a bunch of clever slogans with no clear thought behind them and they don't intend to hold Bush accountable for anything.

Yeah, okay guys. Great plan. Nice ideas. Way to go.

Yeesh.

Whatta buncha losers.

2006/05/06

Fallout from Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert made a real splash at the Correspondnt's Dinner that is televised here. This provoked The Washington Post's Richard Cohen to write a column entitled "So not funny" (Pretty pathetic, in order to demonstate his credentials as a "funny guy", Cohen cites some of his elementary school teachers.) I wrote the following letter in response:

Dear Mr Cohen,
So now we're beginning to see the reaction from the press corps. After previously trying to ignore Colbert's performance (Which personally, I thought was hilarious), the "scandalized" and "outraged" press corps goes to bat for their "Dear Leader".
You remark that Bush couldn't respond because of the civility and decorum that the setting and the moment required. Pardon me, but didn't Cindy Sheehan bring up exactly the same point that Colbert and Helen Thomas did? Didn't Sheehan ask "What was the noble cause that my son died for"? As you might remember, Bush was completely unable to answer that question.
Bush's inability to respond to Colbert's ribbing (Bush could very easily have given an interview the next day wherein he referred to "some critics" and explained to the American people what the answer to Helen Thomas' question was.) shows, again, that he simply can't answer any serious questions about the Iraq War. There simply are no answers. THAT was the true point of Colbert's performance.
Did Colbert demonstrate a lack of true courage? Perhaps, but he showed far more courage than the press corps did a few years back, when Bush "couldn't find the WMD" underneath the tables and couches in the White House. For that routine, the press corps' response was to laugh uproariously and to congratulate Bush on his marvelous sense of humor.
The press corps is now demonstrating far more tender concern for the fragile ego of America's "Dear Leader" than they are for any kinds of standards.