2006/08/30

Senator Bill Frist is concerned

Senator Frist (R-UT) complained on August 30th that the Democrats are:

taking the spotlight and doing whatever they can to focus that spotlight on Iraq, and trying to separate Iraq from the larger challenges that we have with the rise of the fundamentalist extremists

Gee, why would those dirty, rotten scoundrels be doing that? Hmm, perhaps because that's where US soldiers are fighting and dying? Nah, that can't be it. The Democrats must be up to something sneakier. Greenwald suggests that perhaps that's because:

We have 140,000 troops in a country on the verge of all-out sectarian war, a country which happens to sit in the middle of the most strategically important and inflammable region on the planet. That's the result of a war in which we've lost 2,600 American lives, have had tens of thousands more wounded, killed tens of thousands of Iraqis, and spent hundreds of billions of dollars.

But nah, that can't be it because the Democrats are taking attention away from "Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah, plus other areas where terrorism [exists]."
That must be it! The Democrats are just trying to confuse us! This makes Senator Frist angry. Of course, that makes it difficult to explain why, at the 2006 President's Dinner, Bush himself described Iraq as "the central front on the war on terror." But to remind folks of that would simply bring bothersome, y'know, facts into the picture. Greenwald then details how Frist intends to spotlight his preferred issues over the next few months.

In other news on demagoguery, DefSec Rrumsfeld came out swinging. Paul Begala remarked that Rumsfeld sounded like "a batty old man." Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) remarked that:

I have long thought that the Secretary of Defense’s judgement has been impaired.
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...we have been in Iraq- longer than in Europe for World War II. For him to talk about moral clarity when Abu Ghraib happened on his watch and destroyed our moral credibility in the world is interesting as well.
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...you must know your enemy. Clearly the Bush Administration did not when it went to Iraq. [Transcript cleaned up]

So Democrats gave as well as they got! Hoo yah! Now they need to keep this up into November and we're all set!

Update: Rumsfeld actually made a few decent points, but they're points that demonstrate he's not fully thought the things through.

2006/08/29

I'm sorry, but this is pathetic!

I had just finished reading about LaShawn Barber in the comments section to this post (Yes, it's a satire) when I beheld this post. This gives me great insight to the chickenhawk mindset. Barber sounds brave and true and full of bravado at first:

If I’m ever captured by Muslim maniacs or non-Muslim maniacs who gave me a choice between denying my Savior and death, I’d want to face death with all the dignity I had left.

Hear, hear! Dignity's a good thing and if someone believe's strongly enough in their religion that they'd rather die than renounce it, I'm all in favor of that. Doesn't matter who your god or goddess is, if you believe that strongly, then hoo yah for you!

But then:

[Clarification: If I gave the impression that I thought I would “lose” my salvation if I denied Christ, I certainly didn’t intend to, though the previous sentence may read that way. The Bible teaches that once Christ forgives us, we’re always forgiven...]

Aw c'mon! What happened to all of that fine, fine, pure, righteous, determined belief?!?! Barber figures, well because, y'know, as she's saved anyway, no need to actually, y'know, take any risk of actual physical harm. What?!?! To assume that one is saved is the absolute height of arrogance! Barber speaks as though she's got her ticket all pre-punched and ready. She knows where she's headed to and she's looking forward to it! Sorry, but we get judged after death. Whether one believes in predestination or not, no one on Earth knows the mind of God. No one knows what the decision is until after there's no more chance for any do-overs.

If Barber was male and of fighting age (I have no idea how old she is), she'd assuredly be a chickenhawk. Someone who talks all brave and tough when there's no danger, but who runs and hides when the situation appears risky.

Cheney's statements

"Some in our own country claim retreat from Iraq would satisfy the appetite of the terrorists and get them to leave us alone," Cheney told a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, Nevada.

Dan Froomkin of the WaPo quotes a reporter who explains how the Bush Administration uses the rhetorical device of the "straw man":

Jennifer Loven , in a bold departure for the Associated Press, wrote a whole story on Saturday about Bush's extensive and generally unchallenged use of straw-man arguments.

"When the president starts a sentence with 'some say' or offers up what 'some in Washington' believe, as he is doing more often these days, a rhetorical retort almost assuredly follows.

"The device usually is code for Democrats or other White House opponents. In describing what they advocate, Bush often omits an important nuance or substitutes an extreme stance that bears little resemblance to their actual position.

"He typically then says he 'strongly disagrees' -- conveniently knocking down a straw man of his own making.

"Bush routinely is criticized for dressing up events with a too-rosy glow. But experts in political speech say the straw man device, in which the president makes himself appear entirely reasonable by contrast to supposed 'critics,' is just as problematic."

Just search the White House Web site for those phrases, and you'll find wonderful examples of Bush's straw-man use of " some people say ," " some say " and " some people in Washington ."

So it's pretty obvious that Cheney is using a "straw man" here. No one in America is on recod as suggesting anything that even remotely sounds like a desire to appease terrorists. Many members of the press corps are referred to as "stenographers" because they appear to be in the habit of simply writing down whatever they're told without stopping to ask how reasonabl or credible the statement is. John from AmericaBlog is correct in putting Patricia Wilson's designation as "reporter" in quotes, as her following statment isn't just that of a stenographer, but of a complete press whore:

Cheney did not use the word "Democrats," choosing instead the anonymous "some"

This statement not only fills in the blank that Cheney left open, it suggests that there actually are people who have made statements suggesting that they want to appease terrorists. Further on, Wilson accurately relays the story about Bush denying that Iraq had anything to do with 9-11:

When Bush answered a question about Iraq last week by raising Sept. 11, a reporter asked him "What did Iraq have to do with that?" The president replied, "Nothing," and added, "Nobody has ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack."

But prior to the U.S.-led invasion, Cheney suggested that one of the Sept. 11 hijackers met in Prague before the attacks with an Iraqi intelligence agent. The bipartisan Sept. 11 Commission found no evidence such a meeting took place.

The puzzling part about the second paragraph is that it begins with "But." The word "But" suggests that the "Mohammed Atta in Prague" story has some substance to it, that the repetition of the story stands as some sort of rebuttal to the "Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11" statement. By March 2002, the Atta story was regarded as highly dubious, if not ouright false. So it's difficult to see why this statement was even included.

While Cheney's statement that 9-11 occured before the US invasion of Iraq and that therefore violence in the Mideast cannot be blamed exclusively upon the invasion of that country, it's nevertheless true that the number and intensity of terrorist attacks has increased exponentially since then. No, the Mideast was not a happy, idyllic and peaceful place prior to March 2003, but that hardly means that the US invasion and occupation of Iraq have been irrelevant. Instead of acknowledging this, however, the reporter of the piece simply goes on to the next bullet-point. She apparently felt that quoting Cheney's less-than-complete analysis was sufficient to comprehensively cover the subject.

Cheney then finishes off with still more straw men and our reporter obediently repeats these accusations as though it was not the job of reporters to check out alleged "facts," as though it was not a reporter's job to provide some context.

Cheney said terrorists wanted to arm themselves with chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons, "to destroy Israel, to intimidate all Western countries and to cause mass death in the United States."

Our reporter then records that Cheney was contemptuous towards those who disagreed, that his critics were naive. About the desire of people in foreign countries to do these terrible things, there is no doubt. But, and as a REAL reporter would have asked, do these terrible people have the capability to do these terrible things? Sure, the British arrested a group of people who wanted to blow up several planes over the Atlantic, but considering that many of them had not even obtained passports yet and that binary explosives are considerably trickier than the action movies suggest, it's not at all clear that they were a real threat.

2006/08/28

Lieberman responds

Senator Joe Lieberman responds (In a way that bloggers can respond back to) by writing an editorial for the Hartford Courant. He complains about people taking their politics too seriously, identifying the problem as: "partisanship and polarization that is blocking us from addressing the issues." Funny, I thought it was called democracy in action.

His comments on saving the submarine base at Groton are heartwarming IF one agrees that America needs that base and that money spent on the base is money well-spent. Not having looked into that particular issue, I can't really say, but I'm not aware that submarines have done much for US national security over the past two decades without a Soviet Union to oppose.

Lieberman is correct in identifying his "different way forward" as distinct from Ned Lamonts preferred mode of confrontation to the President. But his idea of handling the issue:

"I believe that the best way for us to win the war in Iraq is to come together - the administration, Congress, and Republicans and Democrats - to find a solution that will allow our troops to come home with Iraq united and free, with the Middle East stable and the terrorists denied a victory."

is fatally flawed by the utter and total lack of cooperation from the President. As Bob Edgar, the head of 38-denomination National Council of Churches said back in January 2003: "We're asking [President Bush] to at least listen to us before he makes the final decision to go to war." By March, it was clear that religious representatives were getting frustrated over their inability to dialogue with Bush:

"The entreaties of the pope and the cardinal seem not to have persuaded Mr. Bush, who at a news conference a day later made clear that war was imminent and that if necessary, the United States would wage it alone, without the support of the United Nations. If so, many Christians say the attack would not be a 'just war,' according to a theory developed by St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, because it would not have what they consider proper authority, an important requirement for a just war."

More recently has of course been the case of Cindy Sheehan, a woman who did not consult with Democratic pollsters and strategists before heading out to speak with the President in Crawford, TX. ( I'm not even sure she's met with Democrats since then, either.) But Bush's reasons for not meeting with her were entirely political.

"For Bush, Sheehan's presence seems to create a no-win situation.

"If he invites her to talk, he further elevates her protest, potentially angers the other families of the more than 1,850 Americans who have died in Iraq and provides Sheehan a greater forum to spread her anti-war views.

"If he ignores her, he risks appearing so callous that he doesn't have the time, or the inclination, to spend a few minutes of his vacation with a mother who lost her son as a direct consequence of the president's foreign policy decisions."

As we know, Bush decided on "callous." Bush was never the slightest bit interested in discussing his policy with anyone who disagreed with him, a fact made very clear by Paul Koring of Toronto's Globe and Mail

" 'I will never question the patriotism of somebody who disagrees with me,' [Bush] said, raising the very issue. In fact, questioning the patriotism of political opponents who crossed the Bush administration over the war in Iraq, both before it was launched and ever since, has been routine."

Senator Lieberman ought to concentrate his persuasive powers where they need to be concentrated, on the President and the President's supporters in the Repbulican Party. We on the anti-war left are not the ones who need lecturing or persuading.

2006/08/26

Responding to a Greenwald post

My, my, it's certainly "Beat-up-on-Glenn-Reynolds" week, eh? Not a problem, I just wrote a post below berating Glenn for confusing "sweet spot" with "political center". Not the same thing at all. Is Glenn correct in saying that the anti-war movement made numerous inaccurate predictions? He's certainly correct in tagging certain prominent individuals with that charge. As someone who attended what I believe was the first anti-Iraq-War demonstration (Washington DC in late September 2003) and who has played roles in local demonstrations ever since (He says, puffing is chest out with pride) I was one of those who remembered later in life the one fact about Karl Marx that gets repeated endlessly when you're in junior high school. Karl Marx was wrong. Marx made predictions about how the proletarians would rise and everything would be wonderful after that.

Well, Marx may have gotten a lot of other things right, but the proletarians were brought off and neutralized and if a movement is ever to be democratic, it must begin that way. The idea that an awful, tyrannical State would "fade away" after society was "fixed" is not true, never was true and never will be true. The anti-war movement very deliberately does not have leaders who dictate decisions to the rest of us. The way Russia was ruled after 1917 was precisely the way their revolutionary movement was run before their success and as we saw, it continued to be run in that fashion until 1989.

The lesson that lefties must never predict the future was one we kept to. That's why Reynolds quotes a lot of politicians, who didn't have that idea pounded into them. That's why one can't find many predictions from The Nation (The Editors didn't refer to an Iraq "qaugmire" until late November 2003 even though there were a few suggestions of it earlier) or from Z Magazine (Rahul Mahajan mentioed "quagmire" in mid-April 2003 and BTW, does an excellent summary of the anti-war position at the time.)

Instead, we focussed on the fact that Iraq most likely didn't have the WMD that Bush & Co claimed they had and that the legal basis for invading was approximately the same as Der Fuehrer's was to invade Poland in 1939. The Iraq War was and is a war of unprovoked aggression and the Bush Administration has not to this day told the American people their true motivations for launching it.

2006/08/25

Darwin & Hitler?

[Ann] Coulter, who also wrote the bestselling "Godless: The Church of Liberalism," said Hitler simply was taking Darwinism from the theoretical to the practical.

"He thought the Aryans were the fittest and he was just hurrying natural selection along," she said.

"We talk about the link between Darwin and Hitler, and in the middle ground, eugenics," said Newcomb. "Darwin led to eugenics, which led directly to Hitler."

Abortion follows, because the logic supporting that says not all human life is to be protected.

"To put it simply, no Darwin, no Hitler," said Kennedy, who is host for the special. "Hitler tried to speed up evolution, to help it along, and millions suffered and died in unspeakable ways because of it."

I'm sorry, but Coulter and Newcombe are both giving Der Fuehrer far too much credit here. They're both making the presumption that Hitler justified the Holocaust on pseudo-intellectual grounds. He did not. Hitler had every intention of similarly slaughtering several million inhabitants of what was then the Soviet Union. He is documented as expressing the desire to turn Moscow into a lake and to turn vast numbers of the Slavic peoples into slaves.

To argue that Hitler was basing his theories on any sort of intellectual theory is to argue that the Unabomber was justifying his theories on similar grounds. Sorry, but the Unabomber was just a deeply disturbed man who murdered his victims at a distance. Nothing more.

If we were to look for what made Hitler's theories popular to Germans, if we were to look for why regular Germans found Hitler's theories attractive, we need only look at the German propaganda of World War I. German authorities constantly told the German people that they were winning. The German people were constantly being told of heroic German victories and crushing Allied defeats.

When the Western Front collapsed and Allied soldiers were soon walking the streets of German cities, regular German citizens were absolutely flabbergasted. "What happened to all of our great victories?" They cried. "We thought the Allies were on their last legs" They muttered.

Hitler explained all that. "We were stabbed in the back," he said. From THIS grew the Holocaust. Evolution was, at most, a convenient justification put out to satiate those with intellectual pretensions. At best, it was used to allow smarter German people to justifiy the barbarity of the Holocaust.

No, there's no connection between Darwin and the Holocaust. Had Darwin's theories not existed, Der Fuehrer would have simply used some other justification.

Update: As my commenter points out , Hitler didn't even use Darwin as a rationalization. Der Fuehrer was a straight Creationist/Biblical literalist/Intelligent Design-er.

Further update: The Anti-Defamation League chimes in.

2006/08/24

A particularly stupid use of the term "sweet spot"

Generally, the term "sweet spot" is used to mean the spot on the golf club, the baseball bat or the tennis racket where connecting with the ball will have the desired effect. Strike a golf ball so that it connects with the center of the head of the golf club, i.e. the "sweet spot", and the ball will fly straight and true.
Billmon recently referred to Hezbollah having found the sweet spot between being a state (Powerful, but having many targets an enemy can strike at) and a guerrilla force (Weak, but flexible and having most of their assets hidden).

This, however, is a truly stupid use of the term:

JOE GANDELMAN looks at Republican pundits deserting Bush, which does seem to be a phenomenon. Bush -- who, as I've said before, has always been politically weak, just stronger than Kerry or Gore -- is in the "sweet spot" on the war, fighting hard enough to anger the antiwar folks but not hard enough to please the prowar folks.

I can understand what Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds is driving at here. It's often held that if the political left and right are both criticizing you, you must be doing something right. Problem is, they may both be appalled at your stupidity and incompetence, they might have different motivations for criticizing you (Rightwinger: "You failed to glorify Dear Leader enough!" Leftwinger: "Your piece fails to be useful to the voting public!"), or they might be criticizing different aspects of the same program (The warrantless NSA spying program is not catching anybody vs it's instrusive upon citizen privacy).

But as is pointed out above, the sweet spot is a point of maximum effectivenss, a point where the ball travels to where you want it to travel to. Reynolds is pointing out that Bush has reached a point of maximum ineffectivesness. This is normally referred to as the "worst of both worlds" or perhaps the "sour spot."

There's absolutely nothing "sweet" about being criticized by both sides.

2006/08/23

Commenters on the FISA case and the Administration's warrantless NSA wiretapping

I noted here that I corresponded with a conservative who contended that the mainstream media put out generally fair and accurate articles. This view takes a terriffic beating with this post by Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald delivers a very, very negative portrayal of the right-wing writer Ann Althouse, but makes it crystal clear that the New York Times is very much to blame for hiring her in the first place. Ms Althouse was hired to comment on the FISA/warrantless wiretapping case, a case that she very, very clearly knew very little about before being assigned to it. Greenwald describes in an earlier post how Althouse attacked Judge Taylor's decision and then shows us:

But then, in an "Update," Althouse has to correct herself because, apparently, she read the Comment section to Kerr's post and realized that she was just wrong about what happened -- specifically, that the court did previously deny the DoJ's request and ordered the DoJ to address the substance of the plaintiffs' claims. Learning about the procedural history of this case caused Althouse to write:

Arguably, this gave the defendants an opportunity to present evidence to defeat the summary judgment motion, and they chose not to take it.

In other words, Kerr's critique (which Althouse endorsed) of the court's opinion is just wrong -- factually wrong. The court directed the DoJ to address the substance of the claims and the DoJ simply failed and/or refused to do so -- facts which neither Kerr nor Althouse even knew when attacking the court's opinion.


Althouse attacked Judge Taylor's decision without being aware of a great many facts about the case. These are facts that would have been easy to have on hand, had she been following the case for a while as opposed to doing a rush job of reading the judge's decision and then immediately writing upon it. Greenwald mentions that Laurence Tribe was following the case and, unsurprisingly, reached many of the same conclusions that Greenwald did. As it was, Althouse kind of "parachuted" into the case, commenting on it after only having had time to skim the decision without taking the time to do any real background research. In a particularly ludicrous comment. Althouse complains that Judge Taylor's decision represents "judicial activism." As Greenwald puts it:

Althouse's accusation of "judicial activism" here is particularly incoherent given that Judge Taylor was upholding and enforcing a law (called FISA) that was overwhelmingly enacted by the American people through their Congress. Enforcing a democratically enacted law -- as Judge Taylor did -- is the opposite of what "judicial activism" describes (i.e., where a judge ignores the "will of the people" by undemocratically striking down laws they enact).

It is horrible beyond belief that an editorialist is given free reign to comment on a very important judicial decision that she quite obviously, barely understands. The idea that the NY Times is a responsible journalistic enterprise that is minimally competent to present citizens with the news they need takes terrible damage here.

2006/08/18

Unbelievably bad editorial

The WaPo (Washington Post) wrote an unbelievably bad editorial on the Bush Administration's warrantless NSA wiretapping case. Instead of looking seriously at the substance of what U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor said, they're instead focused very intently on the style of what she said. Her opinion simply (One imagines them dipping into their silver snuffboxes while the ladies among them flutter their fans) doesn't reach the high, high standards of the WaPo ediorial board. Let's dispense with the idiotic assertion that "The program exists on ever-more uncertain legal ground." The program flatly, blatantly defies the Constitution. It's illegal. Period.

The Bush Administration has long argued that the AUMF, the Authorization to Use Military Force against Iraq gives them authority to conduct warrantless wiretapping. But this assertion has long since been under very serious dispute. In fact, Senator Feingold noted as much in his Censure Resolution of March in this year that the AUMF simply gave no such authority. The Bush Administration also claimed that the President has unenumerated (i.e. not explicitly declared) powers to conduct wiretapping at will. Hamdan vs Rumsfeld, was put out in June of this year and the Wikipedia summary of the case states that:

Because the military commission does not meet the requirements of the Uniform Code of Military Justice or of the Geneva Convention, it violates the laws of war and therefore cannot be used to try Hamdan.

The unenumerated presidential powers, according to the Supreme Court, simply do not exist.

These are the only two grounds that the WaPo editorial can cite to justify taking the Bush Administration's position seriously. Both grounds are completely specious. It is thoroughly, thoroughly, utterly disgusting that the WaPo cannot simply agree that the Bush Administration's conduct is simply and purely illegal. To argue, as the WaPo does, that the country must show great care and thought and deep consideration in "evaluating or in ensuring the program's legality" is revolting nonsense of the most disgusting sort.

Is it really so very difficult for this administration to obey the law? Must the WaPo put themelves on the wrong side of the struggle between the Constitution and the Bush Administration?

2006/08/16

We get a challenge

Andrew Sullivan throws the glove down:

But, for all Cheney's and Rumsfeld's flaws, they are at least proposing something serious, however ineptly carried out. I have yet to hear anti-war voices on the left propose a positive strategy for defeating Islamist terror at its roots, or call for democratization of the Arab Muslim world.

There's a very good reason for the lack of a call to democratize the Arab Muslim world. Democracy, by its very nature, cannot be forced on anyone. For a nation to be non-democratic is not necessarily a terrible thing. Being a centralized, monarchical nation, with rulers who do not answer to citizens, is not necessarily a "Hell on Earth." For many centuries, during Europe's Medieval Era or Middle Ages, monarchy was the norm. Sure, it might have been nice to have had democratic states, but Medieval economies were so basic, democracies weren't really needed. The decisions that needed to be made on land distribution and other subjects could be handled by having the king visit an area once every five or ten years.

The people of the Arab Middle East are of course as advanced as we in the West are, but their economies aren't at the same level of complexity. Their economies simply don't need the detailed, subtle, sensitive management that our post-industrial economies do. The economic entities there don't require the same level of regulation that our corporations do. For their economic level of development, their more-tribal system is fine.

How about abusive, tyrannical rulers like the pre-2003 Saddam Hussein? Well, on the one hand, keeping a strong grip on Iraq's nationalist passions doesn't appear to have been such a bad idea. Not sure whether Iraq's current low-level civil war would have broken out anyway or whether the occupation provoked the civil war somehow (The fact that John Negroponte was the Ambassador to Iraq for a spell and that he was Ambassador to Honduras during a very busy time for Central American death squads does not fill me with confidence as to the innocence of the US.)

But of course tyranny is bad. Roman citizens disliked serving under Caligula and some of the Egyptian pharaohs came in for severe criticism as well. Tyranny is hardly a modern invention. Yes, democracy is a very good cure for tyranny. But I can't imagine that coming into a country, guns blazing, blasting whole city blocks into rubble is preferable to ANY level of tyranny. At that point, we're speaking of priorities. Dunno, but I sorta suspect people would rather be alive than free. Living right under Caligula (People living 50 miles away had very little to worry about), I might feel differently.

So is imposing democracy a good idea? No, because that's a completely blue-sky, cherry-tree fantasy. Is there another way to get countries to democratize? Yes, trade, aid, education, economic development, that sort of thing. "But Rich." You say "What can we do that will be effective today?!?!" Can't help ya there. We'll have to use the highly imperfect and often disappointing tool called diplomacy. Need to get democratization done faster? I don't see that the American government is accomplishing any such thing.

2006/08/14

In response to an editorial

On Sunday August 13th, the Philly Inquirer published an editorial entitled “A self-test on whether you are a partisan” wherein the editor tried to play cute by trying to copy Jeff Foxworthy with his "You just might be a Redneck if..." tagline. Pretty weak and fairly insulting "comedy" I thought. One of my buddies from the Rapid Response letter-writing network thought so too.

My response was as follows:

Am I a partisan? Absolutely. No two ways about it. But there's more than one kind of serious hard-core partisan. Do I make the presumption that the other side is ready and willing and able “...to do dastardly things to win.“? Yes, I most certainly do.

But the second part of that question is: “Does that justify dastardly things on our part?” My answer, and the answer of all of the liberals, leftists and progressives that I associate with, is “Absolutely not.” Rules must be followed, consideration must be shown. I'm part of a group that pickets Senator Specter's home every month over the Iraq War (Our next picketing is on August 20th - our flyer in PDF format.) . His house is actually about a hundred yards from where we gather. We have never blocked or disrupted his home and have no intention of ever doing so. We leave the area clean of litter every time. The notion that conservatives might do worse is in no way an excuse for anything.

Favorite “facts”? I had an email conversation with a conservative who felt that the media has a large, safe middle area known as the “Mainstream Media” where citizens can more or less take for granted that anything published there is, to the best of the MSM's knowledge and given ordinary human frailties, true. Unfortunately, that hasn't been true for well over two decades. Liberals don't accord any media outlet automatic trust. If DailyKos and Atrios and even Z Magazine agree on something, that doesn't make it true. These folks must win our trust every day by carefully-reasoned arguments and by well-documented facts. The story must “ring true” by being consistent with human nature and with what we've observed of the particular actors in the story so far.

Yes, I'm a partisan, but that doesn't make me all-wise. If we progressives were to take over all the levers of power tomorrow, we'd prefer that conservatives hang onto some and that conservatives continue to be given a place at the table. We're not perfect and will not always make the right choices. Truth is best found via vigorous debate.

The “Blog Cabin” feature is one of the best in the paper because we don't get mushy, middle-of-the-road, unclear pieces like “Terror still a danger, Bush says; Democrats criticize readiness”. No, Democrats are not opposed to “readiness”, their complaint is that the Bush Administration is using the latest terror alert in a highly partisan manner to gain electoral advantage. The assertion that President Bush only cares about national security and that it's the Democrats who are playing politics is belied by the fact that Bush is still on vacation. If there were truly an emergency, why is Bush making speeches at fundraisers? Would an actual emergency leave time for such things?

Truth is not and never was in the middle. As Jim Hightower once put it “Ain't nothin' in the middle of the road 'cept yellow stripes and dead armadilloes.”

2006/08/13

How involved is Iran in other Mideast troubles?

As this DailyKos piece makes clear, Ambassador Khaliizad, and by extension it's likely the US Government, thinks that Iran is VERY heavily, deeply involved. Problem with that theory is Occam's Razor. Essentially, this theory espouses parsimony in making theories, i.e. cut the theory down to its essentials. Don't add a lot of unneccessary detail that just clutters up the picture.
Is it necessary to conlcude that Iran is motivating the Iraqi insurgents to fight? Hardly. The fact that Iraq was invaded by a bunch of white, infidel Americans who appear to be more interested in Iraq's oil than in liberating Iraqis combined with the fact that Iraq's physical reconstruction has still not managed to raise Iraqi living standards even up to Iraq's February 2003 level and you have a completely sufficien explanation.
Do we need Iran to explain how Iraqi insurgents get their weapons? Again, hardly. Iraq was a very heavily armed society long before March 2003. Virtually every household had at least one AK-47. Also, the Iraqi government had ammunition dumps scattered all over the countryside. Those ammo dumps were not properly secured because the US Army was in a rush to get to Baghdad. The other major weapon of the insurgents is the IED, the Improvised Explosive Device. As the ammo dumps were not secured, this is a fully sufficien explanation for the ability of the insurgents to fight on.
We can't rule out Iranian involvement in Iraq, but it's hardly necessary to make the presumption that Iran must be involved.
Is Iran involved with Hezbollah? Again, there's no reason to think so. The Katyusha rockets (The Soviet Union originally produced them for use in World War II, so like the AK-47, it's difficult to trace where they ultimately came from.) that are landing all over Northern Israel could have been put into place many years ago as it would have been a pretty sure bet when Israel first pulled out of Lebanon in 2000 that Israel might someday return. Again, that doesn't rule out Iranian involvement, but it's hardly necessary to bring them into the picture to explain anything.
I strongly suspet that Iran is far less involved than the US thinks it is, but that Iran makes a good "Villain-of-the-moment" for the US to blame things on.

UPDATE: AIPAC, the lobbying group for Israel concocts a veritable Legion of Doom to describe all of the terrorist groups allegedly working out of Lebanon alongside Hezbollah. Deserves the conservative blogger's comment: "Interesting, if true."

2006/08/12

Exploiting the airplane plot discovered in Britain

It's been a few days since police and investigators broke up a ring that was planning to smuggle explosive liquids aboard planes crossing the Atlantic and to then detonate the explosives onboard several of the aircraft simultaneously, but the political exploitation of the would-be plot has been non-stop ever since.

First has been the attempt to make it seem as though the Bush Administration's warrantless NSA spying program has had something to do with discovering the bad guys:

Who is for aggressive and secret initiatives to monitor terrorist groups and suspects, trace their finances, interrogate captured combatants thoroughly and detain combatants as long as necessary?

Wow, quite a lot of hands today - even in Connecticut. Thank you.

And who is for prohibiting all the above, and revealing as much as possible about what intelligence and covert initiatives we have underway, because the public (and, oh, yes, our enemies, too) have a right to know?

Ned Lamont, thank you. Mr. Sulzberger and Mr. Keller, thank you, as well. The gentlemen and gentlewomen from the ACLU, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Gov. Dean, Mr. Moore, Ms. Sheehan, Mr. Baldwin — loved you on Saturday Night Live! — thank you all so much.

Notice of course, that Mr May doesn't specifically, precisely say that "aggressive and secret initiatives" had anything to do with foiling the plot. Nor does he specifically, precisely accuse Ned Lamont of being a traitor nor that Democratic voters of Connecticut are dupes or that any of the other named persons don't care about whether Americans are secure or not. But it's all strongly suggested.

Senator Rick Santorum is a bit more explicit:

"Leaking this type of information [about the warrantless NSA spying program] is traitorous," Santorum said. "The traitors must be pursued aggressively."
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At his news conference, Santorum said the British arrests confirmed that the terror threat was continuing and that the administration's widespread electronic surveillance was an appropriate response.

So it was amusing to see that Fox News is concerned about people trying to politicize the problem:

This week's experience reminds us of a hard fact: The terrorists have to succeed only once to achieve their goal of mass murder, while we have to succeed every time to stop them. Unfortunately, some have suggested recently that the terrorist threat is being used for partisan political advantage. We can have legitimate disagreements about the best way to fight the terrorists, yet there should be no disagreement about the dangers we face.

Not that Fox News isn't claiming that Republicans aren't trying to polticize the news, they're just suggesting that liberals and Democrats shouldn't do so.

It's extremely impotant to notice that breaking up the plot owed absolutely nothing to what in the US would have been un-Constitutional means. The police in Britain had obtained warrants for each and every target of their surveillance. The US assisted the British, but were entirely capable of doing so via the lawfully-constituted FISA courts.

Only Bush followers could point to a successful law enforcement operation which, by all appearances, complied with the law, and try to use it to argue how necessary it is that the law be broken.

And of course, one has to wonder how really important and scary and urgent the whole issue was in the first place when President Bush remained on vacation throughout the "crisis" and attended fundraisers instead of heading back to Washington DC. AmericaBlog notes that airports gave away unopened liquids to the homeless, suggesting that they knew the liquids were harmless.

Fortunately, Democrats appear to be picking up on the fact that the media is not their friend and that the media can't be expected to attack Republicans on their behalf. Democrats have spoken out strongly about VP Cheney's attempt to use the British plot to paint Democrats as weak on security.

POLITICIZING THE PLOT: A SAMPLING OF WHAT THE GOP HAS DONE SO FAR
Cheney Knew About Terror Plot When He Attacked Dems in Rare Conference Call. In a rare conference call with reporters on Wednesday, Cheney suggested that the results of the CT primary might encourage "the al-Qaida types." The AP notes, "As Cheney made those comments, the administration was aware of the plot unfolding in Britain..."

To Democrats: "More of this, please!"

UPDATE: The DCCC has a timeline for August 9th and the Republican political exploitation of the British bombing plot.

2006/08/08

Reasons for opposing Iraq War

There are many reasonable, and even correct, reproofs that one may have for the conduct of the war. They are, to be sure, all retrospective.

There are a great many things wrong with this op-ed from the Wall St Journal, but this passage is particularly offensive. It was quite clear long before the invasion of Iraq began that it was a grossly immoral and completely unjustified exercise in raw power. Personally, it was quite clear to me long before the war began that Iraq did not possess nuclear weapons of any sort, nor did it possess the ability to produce any such weapons. I was convinced that there was a measurable probability that it possessed chemical or biological weapons, but it was quite clear that it had no ability to deliver said weapons.

Attacking a country that posed no threat to our country, especially considering that "Shock & Awe" was a deliberately planned part of that attack, was immoral. Attacking a country that turned over a 12,000 page document demonstrating that it had no WMD withot making the slightest attempt to prove that the document was false (And which to this day has not been proven false in any of it's particulars) was completely unjustified.

It was also my observation that Afghanistan had been nowhere near reconstructed. Major combat operations were completed in November 2001 and it was clear that no serious reconstruction had taken place by the time the Iraq War was being considered. It was my conclusion then and that conclusion has been proven correct since, that the Bush Administration's reconstruction of Iraq after the conquest would be similarly negligent.

No, my reasons for opposing the Iraq War were never "retrospective." I opposed it long before it broke out for the very same reasons that I oppose it today. My reasons were consistent with those of millions of other people around the world and our numbers grow larger all the time.

BTW, www.prawnworks.net lists 10 reasons as to why PRAWN currently opposes the Iraq War. It has not been necessary to update it very much.

2006/08/07

Bush Administration: evil or stupid?

I once served temporary duty onboard the USS Hunley (AS-31) as it went down to Florida to do something about Hurricane Andrew (1992), we had a big blue generator aboard to power all of the ship's electrical devices. Normally, the Hunley's engines produced all of the power the ship needed, but technology had outstripped the capacity of the ship to keep up. Wild, off-the-top-of-my-head guess is that the generator was about 20'x20'x70'. Well, it seems the NSA is in a bit of a bind that a spare generator can't fix. The NSA covers 350 acres (A football field is a little less than an acre) and they knew a decade ago that they were short of electrical power.

The NSA is already unable to install some costly and sophisticated new equipment, including two new supercomputers, for fear of blowing out the electrical infrastructure, they said.

Yeah, yeah, I know, that means Clinton was in office for four of those years, so we can properly blame him for not getting right on that. Nevertheless, Bush has been in office for almost six years, so its kinda hard to blame the last guy for the continued failure to see to it that the supersecret spy agency had enough electrical power to perform its mission.

Y'know, it's things like this that make one wonder whether the Bush Administration is evil or stupid. My tendency of course, is to consider them evil. But this latest bollixing up makes me wonder.

2006/08/06

So, how was the Iraq War going again?

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Hundreds of thousands of Shiites chanting "Death to
Israel" and "Death to America" marched through the streets of Baghdad's biggest Shiite district Friday in a massive show of support for Hezbollah in its battle against Israel.
Say, wasn't that the place we just liberated?
D'oh!


2006/08/05

Interesting items on 9-11

A fellow named Andrew Bard Schmookler wrote letters to about a dozen relevant individuals and suggested that as around 42% of Americans consider the official investigations and conclusions about 9-11 to be incomplete and unsatisfactory, that perhaps these individuals might wish to re-start those investigations, to assure the public that they were indeed serious abut the issue. BTW, a third of the public believes that there was a conspiracy.

His answer? (crickets chirping)

Wonder why this is? Wonder why no one wishes to defend the conclusions of the 9-11 commission?

We might also notice that Ann Coulter's criticism of the 9-11 Widows (Known popularly as the "Jersey Girls") was a completely ad hominem, fact-free attack that obsessed on their characters, but said absolutely nothing as to the merits of their case. Please note also what Media Matters pointed out about her appearance with Matt Lauer of the Today Show:

Given Coulter's history of inflammatory and offensive rhetoric, why does Today continue to grant her solo interviews, and why did Today grant her a forum to promote a book containing similar statements?

Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz and ABC News senior national correspondent Jake Tapper have been critical of Coulter's rhetoric, but have complained, along with Coulter, that the status of the 9-11 Widows made them invulnerable to criticism by opponents. Media Matters investigated and found that in none of the cases cited by Kurtz and Tapper was criticism squelched, inhibited or even at all restrained. In no cases did "their personal tragedies...shield them from rebuttal."

Also,

On the June 7 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News contributor Sandy Rios stated that Coulter's "words are laser-focused on the truth"
-----------
On the June 7 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, Republican strategist Jack Burkman defended Coulter's statements "[a]ll the way," asserting that Coulter "understates the point" and is "telling the truth."
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During a fawning interview on the June 7 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, host Sean Hannity asked Coulter a series of leading questions -- paraphrasing her attacks on the 9-11 widows...
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Also on the June 7 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, Republican strategist Karen Hanretty asserted that Coulter's attacks on the 9-11 widows were not "mean spirited," but rather "tongue-in-cheek," "satire," and examples of "Ann's own personal style."

So yes, we can legitimately say that Ann Coulter is a terrible person for attacking the widows, but notice that Coulter is hardly alone. She was supported by a whole phalanx of Republican supporters. She's hardly a "rouge agent" and was clearly supported by the Republican Party.

And now we have a book by two members of the 9-11 Commission that claim, surprise, surprise, they don't really agree with all of the conclusions of their commission! As AmericaBlog points out:

Well here's a thought. Rather than telling us this in a book years too late, why didn't the book's authors stand up at the time and make a difference when it mattered?

The website 911Truth defends

Specifically, the good and dedicated lower-level military people [who] were confused by the events of 9/11 because 9/11 occurred at the same time as the multiple war games with their live fly exercises, plane into building scenarios, false radar inserts, and apparent interference by Cheney.

But that:

Norad has already changed its story numerous times, apparently to address impossibilities with the official story pointed out by 9/11 skeptics.

I think there's a WHOLE lot more to the story than we, the public, have been told!

Wow! Even Friedman says Iraq is lost

Even Tom Friedman, he of the "The next six months will be crucial" fame (Because he kept saying that so often, bloggers refer to six months as "A Friedman") finally admits that:

When our top commander in Iraq, Gen. John Abizaid, tells a Senate Committee, as he did yesterday, that “the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I’ve seen it,” it means that three years of efforts to democratize Iraq are not working. That means “staying the course” is pointless, and it’s time to start thinking about Plan B -- how we might disengage with the least damage possible . . .Whether for Bush reasons or Arab reasons, democracy is not emerging in Iraq, and we can’t throw more good lives after good lives. (emphasis added)

So what does America's glorious Commander-in-Chief do? Obviously, he goes to Crawford TX to clear brush! I mean, dude, the prez has to have his priorities, eh? I mean, whoever heard of actually working at a job, huh? With Iraq collapsing and with Israel bogged down in Lebanon (Billmon has claimed that the fighting there now resembles Iwo Jima.) well, y'know it's not like the US really needs a full-time president, now is it?

Abdul Khaleq Abdulla, a U.S.-educated political scientist at Emirates University in the United Arab Emirates, a U.S. ally in the Iraq war, said the news coverage of Lebanon is deepening Arab hatred of the United States.

'People hold America morally and politically responsible for this. They hate America at this point, and it will last,' he said. 'They see the destruction of Iraq and Palestine on a daily basis. And now they see destruction in Lebanon on a daily basis. The blame leads through Tel Aviv and straight to Washington.'

The Arab media emphasize that Israel's bombing of Lebanon is being carried out with U.S.-made F-16 and F-15 warplanes dropping U.S.-made guided bombs _ paid for with American tax dollars. This week, front pages splashed reports that Washington was rushing an emergency shipment of 'bunker buster' bombs to Israel's air force.

And where is Karen Hughes, our Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in the U.S. Department of State? One would think that the fighting in Lebanon would be something she'd be involved in, considering that her job description reads that she is "...to promote America's values and confront ideological support for terrorism around the world." Or, as Fred Kaplan of Slate puts it: "The main task of this posting is to improve America's image in the Muslim world." For an Administration official to be in the position she's in and to be AWOL at a time like this is just amazing.

2006/08/03

Joe Lieberman and "Heckuva job, Brownie"

At the end of August 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. The result was an absolute disaster for the citizens of that city and as of January 2006, the city was still a complete mess. During the disaster, President Bush visited the city and spoke with the head of FEMA and declared: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

Michael Brown's main concern, while the people of New Orleans were trapped on their roofs with no food, clean water or shelter from the late-summer sun was:

Sharon Worthy, Brown’s press secretary, to Cindy Taylor, FEMA deputy director of public affairs, and others, Aug. 31, 2 p.m.:

“Also, it is very important that time is allowed for Mr. Brown to eat dinner. Given that Baton Rouge is back to normal, restaurants are getting busy. He needs much more than 20 or 30 minutes. We now have traffic to encounter to get to and from a location of his choice, followed by wait service from the restaurant staff, eating, etc.”

What can we say? Here was a guy who knew his priorities! After the crisis, we then heard:

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel published an editorial comment on September 8, 2005: "[N]othing can restore FEMA's full functionality so long as the agency's incompetent director, Michael Brown, remains at the helm. Brown, a patronage appointee with no previous disaster management experience, embarrassed himself last year with his attempts to justify FEMA's waste of more than $31 million in hurricane relief given to areas not affected by a hurricane." (emphasis added)

How is Joe Lieberman involved with Brown's disastrous performance? Well, it turns out that Lieberman was the chairman of the Committee on Governmental Affairs when the Democrats were briefly in the majority in 2002 and he approved Brown's appointment to be Deputy Director of FEMA in a whopping grand total of 42 minutes. What is the point, we can ask, of an opposition Senator who acts as a rubber stamp for the Chief Executive? The President has plenty of Republican Senators who will do that for him. There's absolutely zero need to keep a Democratic Senator around who will simply wave through an obviously unqualified applicant.

Question for your Republican buddies:

Here's a question you can ask your Republican or conservative friends:
"How many soldiers from the Iraq War have you assisted with their post-traumatic stress disorder?"
Watch 'em squirm!