2007/12/20

Proper punishments

Interesting comment:

"The Senate late yesterday delayed until next month its consideration of a vote on a new government eavesdropping bill.
"Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) delayed the bill because more than a dozen amendments were planned, with not enough time on the legislative calendar to manage them.
--------
"Senate leaders are trying to decide whether to shield the companies from the roughly 40 pending lawsuits alleging violations of communications and wiretapping laws. The White House says that if the cases go forward, they could reveal information that would compromise national security. If they succeed, the companies could be bankrupted."
(emphasis added)

I don't think compromising national security is a reasonable objection to holding telecom companies accountable for having knowingly violated the law and having assisted the government in spying on their customers. But the idea that going ahead with lawsuits could bankrupt the companies is worth some serious thought.

I was in Boston in the late 1970s when the Bottle Bill was discussed. There were far too many bottles littering the landscape and the $100 fine for littering wasn't doing the job of getting people to toss their empty bottles into the trash. The thought behind the bill was that a small punishment, consistently applied, would be more effective. When a litterer threw away a used soda or beer bottle, the litterer only lost $0.05, but it was a punishment that was consistent. A litterer lost the $0.05 every time a bottle was carelessly discarded. If the original litterer didn't care about the money, there were plenty of people who did and who would pick up the bottle and turn it in for that $0.05.

In June 1969, an aircraft carrier collided with a destroyer, the destroyer was sliced in two and 74 crewmembers were killed. Now obviously, had a lone bomber or gunman killed 74 persons, the punishment would be swift and terrible. In this case, "A court-martial and the inquiry that followed found Captain Stevenson not at fault, yet his career was doomed from the moment his crew readied [US Destroyer] Evans to take up plane guard/rescue position, as [Australian aircraft carrier] Melbourne prepared for night-flying operations." I saw a Navy training film in 1991 that made it clear that a junior officer was in charge of the destroyer at the time and that both Stevenson, the destroyer's captain, and the junior officer were court-martialed. Their careers were effectively dead. Now, the collision had the same real-world effect as a mass murder, but to treat the collision as equivalent to a mass murder would have had a significant "chilling" effect on the officers of the Navy. Officers would have been terrified of making an error and would have checked and double-checked every decision and would have tried to "pass the buck" as much as possible. I remember reading that General (Who later became a Field-Marshal) Erwin Rommel was complaining in 1943 that his superiors were happy to order anything done as long as it was done under someone else's signature, i.e. as long as it wasn't their responsibility. Rommel felt that this attitude was the result of excessive punishments.

A Petty Officer First Class (PO1) on my ship had been promoted to Chief Petty Officer (CPO) and had to go through a few months of training and indoctrination before he could put his new uniform on. He was in my office, speaking with my CPO. My CPO hollered at a Seaman "Shipmate! Get over here!" Hearing in his voice that our CPO was neither angry nor impatient, the Seaman got up and walked reasonably quickly over to where the CPO and PO1 were talking and stood awaiting further instructions. "Now, you see, [a female CPO who worked down in Engineering] would have asked very gently and politely and, oh, you can go now Seaman, would have gotten the same result. Her authority as a Chief would have been enough to get the Seaman to report over here. I yell just because I like yelling."

What has been the result of the Bush Administration's use of torture to force captured personnel to tell their interrogators what the interrogators want to hear? According to Dan Froomkin of the WaPo

"But it all boils down to the fact that, so far, no one from Bush on down has come up with a single documented example of American lives saved thanks to torture."

While simply putting someone like Charles Manson away for life can be justified on the basis of "He's permanently dangerous and we know of no way to really cure him," there is simply zero evidence that going really, really tough on a bad person is going to produce meaningfully positive results. There's a good deal of evidence, some of which I've cited above, that small punishments, consistently applied, can be effective. Accordingly, I'm very sour on the idea of tossing executives of telecom companies who have collaborated with the Bush Administration's spying on American citizens into jail for lengthy periods (I'm extremely skeptical as to the usefulness of purely financial punishments as I suspect the guilty executives would just find a way to pass on the pain without suffering any themselves), but I think that the "hate and discontent" (A phrase we used a lot to describe near-mutinous conditions) that they and their companions feel can be maximized by tossing them into jail for relatively short periods of time. Six months should do it. If we allow them a limited amount of time per day to communicate with the outside world, then the executive will not be cut off in such a way that the company will simply learn to get along without. As the executive will, given the opportunity, try as hard as possible to stay "in the game" and relevant, the lines of authority are likely to end up bollixed up and confused.

Obviously, if customers are aware that guilty executives are still exercising limited control over their departments, this can only hurt the company. For junior executives to take their positions for limited periods of time and to then have to give them back will cause further friction and annoyance. For the executive to feel obliged to quit the company after just six months in prison will cause still further "hate and discontent."

All in all, it would be a very jolly punishment, causing maximum friction, annoyance and aggravation while minimizing any real damage to the telecommunications company. Guilty executives would still be available to head off crises and solve any serious problems, but they wouldn't be available to start up any new projects or initiatives.

2007/12/07

Response to Rick Santorum's proposal to spark revolution in Iran

I attended college in Washington DC from 1978 to 1982, the last two years of the Carter Administration and the first two years of the Reagan Administration. I was absolutely appalled to hear members of the Reagan Administration blaming the troubles in Central America (El Salvador's 12-year civil war began in 1979, as did the Sandinista takeover of Nicaragua) on "outside agitators," as though one could simply create revolutions at will wherever they were tactically necessary. One item that was made quite clear by books like Washington's War on Nicaragua and David and Goliath was that the sparsely-populated NorthEast of Nicaragua was an area where the Contras could operate pretty much at will, but in the heavily-populated SouthWest area, they were a negligible presence.
Well, just as with the ABM/Star Wars/Missile Defense/etc program, bad ideas never really die, they just hibernate for awhile and then rise yet again from the dead. So I was appalled, but not particularly surprised, to see Rick Santorum produce pretty much the same "We can gin up revolutions wherever and whenever we please" idea resurrected yet again in the pages of the Inky. A buddy of mine sent the Inky a good letter and I sent them the following:

Rick Santorum describes Iran as being an extremely important component of the two armed political parties Hezbollah and Hamas. He also states that "support for pro-democracy groups can be effective" in forcing Iran to adopt policies it currently resists.

I would notice that the US has tried and failed miserably to create indigenous resistance movements in other countries. Back during the 1960s, the US failed so miserably to create an indigenous resistance movement in North Vietnam that the effort was abandoned long before the US lost South Vietnam. During the 1980s, the indigenous resistance movement created for Nicaragua did so poorly that the Contras would have been completely ineffective had it not been for other policy tools (Primarily trade sanctions) being used in concert with them. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, there was no indigenous resistance movement to help US troops conquer the country, there was no "Fifth Column" to work behind enemy lines, despite the fact that US agencies had over a decade to create one.

Is Iran just smarter than the US at doing this sort of thing? My suspicion is that they're not. My suspicion instead, is that Hezbollah and Hamas serve genuine political needs within their home countries. After all, they were both successful at electoral politics there. If the US succeeds in "cutting off the head" (i.e., invading and occupying Iran), will Hezbollah and Hamas shrivel up and die? They might be weakened by the loss of Iran, but I seriously doubt their influence would end.

Santorum declares, not that Iran is a serious threat in its own right, but that "a nuclear-armed Iran would be our greatest national security challenge since the end of the Cold War." In other words, it's a comparative threat, not a threat per se. Personally, I consider Global Warming to be a vastly greater threat than Iran, but Santorum is speaking specifically of "national security" challenges.

Let's not "Put aside politics to confront Iran," let's instead see if we can work out some sort of workable solution for us all. We've had quite enough of the US showing its fangs and rattling its sabre. Those policies have gone nowhere. It's time for more serious and more sensible policies.

2007/12/04

Joe Klein's lies and insubordination

Speaking as a military veteran (PN3, USN, 1991-2001, as a Third-Class Petty Officer, I was the Navy equivalent of an Army Corporal), when I experienced, witnessed or even heard about an act of insubordination, my fists would clench and my eyes would narrow and I'd ask "They/he/she did WHAT?!?!?" Writer/artist Donna Barr very clearly had the same attitude towards insubordination that I did when in an issue of Desert Peach (About General Erwin Rommel's fictional gay brother, who was the Colonel for the 469th Halftrack and Grave-Digging Battalion) a group of junior personnel engaged in a silly series of highjinks and were punished by having to dig up and then move the entire camp one foot to the East.

Now, did Time Magazine commit an act of insubordination by refusing to print the letters of Senate Intelligence Committee Senator Russ Feingold, House Intelligence Committee Representative Rush Holt, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes, all of whom wrote to correct Joe Klein's false smear about the Democrats and their proposed FISA bill?

No.

Magazines are not and hopefully never will be, required to print the letters of anyone, even Congresspeople. Still, hearing about this gave me the same ol' feeling. I tightened my fists and narrowed my eyes and wondered "Those people did WHAT?!?!?" It is further relayed to us that over a hundred persons cc'ed Glenn Greenwald, the author of the initial posting on their letters to Time and over a dozen cc'ed him on questions concerning the issue that were posed to Howard Kurtz, the person assigned to be "media critic" for Time Magazine.

Words fail to convey how infuriating this is. These are the people's representatives trying to correct an obvious lie in a magazine that goes to four million readers.

2007/12/01

Why does the left blogosphere exist? Reasons #2,143,657 thru #2,143,659

In Media Matters, newsperson Cooper Anderson praises presidential candidate Mike Huckabee for giving a nonresponsive answer to a question that goes to the very raison d'etre (Reason for being) of his candidacy. Huckabee's justification for running is that he's a devout Christian. The question asked was how Jesus would feel about the fact that, as Governor of Arkansas, Huckabee approved quite a number of executions, a practice which is approved of in the Old Testament, but a practice that Jesus came down firmly in opposition to. Huckabee gave an answer which completely avoided this central problem.

The left blogosphere exists precisely because of events like this. Anderson praised Huckabee's non-answer. Anderson made the presumption that Huckabee is a devout Christian and that the death penalty question is just some silly complication that shouldn't prevent people from seeing Huckabee in the same fashion. But why should anybody get a free pass on questions of faith, especially when their alleged faith is so central to their presidential candidacy? Shouldn't a newsperson insist that Huckabee justify how his alleged faith is consistent with his worldly actions?

Now, one can be excessively skeptical of someone's faith. Witness the recent page one WaPo article questioning whether presidential candidate Barack Obama is "truly" a Christian or is, in fact, a Muslim. Problem with this question is that Obama has not performed any public actions or taken any public positions that one could argue are more Muslim-inspired than they are Christian-inspired. The Muslim world does not have any equivalent to the Soviet Union's Comintern (1919-1943, initiated to try and consolidate all the Communist movements and to bring down Capitalism), they are nowhere near as centralized as the Communist movements were and do not appear to have any designs on countries outside their borders. One could perhaps argue that a Muslim might oppose Israel, but the Israeli paper Haaretz has been unequivocal about that. "Obama supports Israel. Period." So even if Obama were a Muslim, it's not at all clear what that would mean. Fortunately, the WaPo has quite justifiably taken lots and lots of criticism over this article.

Another event which has also resulted in lots of criticism for the traditional media has been Time Magazine's Joe Klein (Author of Primary Colors) opining ignorantly on FISA. From immediately after publication of Klein's article on 21 Nov to 30 Nov, when The Center for Citizen Media published another piece on the controversy, lawyer and blogger Glenn Greenwald hammered away at Klein's failure to read the original bill as opposed to just listening to GOP Rep. Pete Hoekstra and rushing off to scribble his story, stopping just long enough to put in a quick "Democrats disagree" without indicating the substantive nature of the Democratic disagreement or that disagreement was not confined to Democrats. Klein's quote is:

"Unfortunately, Speaker Nancy Pelosi quashed the House Intelligence Committee's bipartisan effort and supported a Democratic bill that — Limbaugh is salivating — House Republicans believe would require the surveillance of every foreign-terrorist target's calls to be approved by the FISA court, an institution founded to protect the rights of U.S. citizens only. (Democrats dispute this interpretation.) In the lethal shorthand of political advertising, it would give terrorists the same legal protections as Americans. That is well beyond stupid."

Never identified was the "bipartisan effort" that was quashed. At no point since the original FISA bill was composed in the late 1970s have foreigners been covered under its protections. Yes Republicans could advertise that the Democratic FISA bill would "give terrorists the same legal protections as Americans," but, and this is an important point, ONLY if the Republicans were LYING!!! Was "Limbaugh...salivating"? I'm sure he was, because he knew he had a idiot like Klein covering for him. As Harper's Scott Horton points out (In a piece that's a very good summary of the whole dispute)

"Not only was the substance of this description factually inaccurate in almost every respect, it was the very core of the piece. Moreover, what Time ran was a shameless mouthing of talking points that had been circulating on Capitol Hill by Republican spinmeisters through the prior week."

Eventually, as Wired's Ryan Singel points out, Time put out two corrections, neither of which truly addressed the central fallacy, the ludicrous charge that Democrats were trying to grant new rights to foreigners.

Why does the left blogosphere exist? Because our media is broken. Because our traditional media figures are incapable of doing their jobs. Because they've lost their way and have become lazy and inattentive and search for shortcuts where they can pop off their opinions without being truly responsible for those opinions.

2007/11/25

Poll on 9-11 and Bush Administration foreknowledge

Firedoglake points out that two-thirds of Americans believe that the Bush Administration knew that 9-11 would occur before it happened. Author of the post doesn't really believe it, but concedes that Americans have excellent reasons to consider that to be the truth.

The Bush Administration had the Patriot Act ready to go by 19 September 2001. The written-out act clocked in at 83 kilobytes (Personal letters are about three to seven kilobytes, a newspaper editorial is about eight to 12 and 20 kilobytes constitutes a lengthy article) and it had 51 sections. There was nothing in a Houston Chronicle article of 7 October 2001 about the Patriot Act existing in draft form before being introduced. Why was the draft rejected as it stood? "However, due to Congressional opposition [to] its broad powers, the act is revised and reintroduced on October 2." And yes, comparisons have been drawn between that and Germany's Enabling Act of 1933, passed a very short time after the Reichstag Fire.

What is President Bush's general attitude towards democracy? See Mary Shaw's description of Bush's relationship to Pakistan's General Pervez Musharraf where Musharraf appears to take very strong actions against democracy in Pakistan and yet, according to Bush "hasn't crossed the line" and My reproduction of a US News paragraph where I highlighted several pertinent passages, all of which suggest democracy is a tremendous bother and really, just too boring and restrictive for Bush's taste. In other words, he doesn't think much of it.

NSA warrantless surveillance began about half a year before 11 September, indicating that 1.) The Bush Administration was interested in engaging in intense surveillance long before their alleged provocation occurred and 2.) This broad and intense surveillance, strangely, did NOT prevent 9-11 from taking place.

And remember, Bush fought the creation of the 9-11 Commission:

Kristen [Breitweiser]: "With regard to the 9/11 Commission, President Bush fought the creation of the commission, fought the legislative language to make sure the commission was set up in a bipartisan manner, fought the funding of the commission, fought an extension for the commission, fought access to individuals and documents."

And refused to publicly testify on his recollections of that day and before for the public record:

The two leaders [Bush & VP Cheney] were not under oath and no recording was made of the private session at the White House.
"I'm glad I did it. I'm glad I took the time... I enjoyed it," Mr Bush said after the conversation lasting more than three hours.

Three years after Bush's & Cheney's behind-closed-doors testimony, the public still has no idea as to exactly what anyone in his administration did to stop the attack before it occurred or what they did when they realized that the attack was underway. Notably, the then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice also refused to testify publicly and under oath.

When reading the following passage, keep in mind that it only takes a nuclear missile 30 minutes to make it from Russia to the US. It is EXTREMELY important for the President to be kept informed of threats on an immediate, real-time basis:

Two accounts explicitly state Bush was told while in the motorcade. "The President was on Highway 301, just north of Main Street… [when] he received the news that a plane had crashed in New York City." [Sarasota Magazine, 11/01] (See adjacent map for the location where he is told.) Another account states, "Bush was driving to the school in a motorcade when the phone rang. An airline accident appeared to have happened. He pressed on with his visit." [Observer, 9/16/01]
The first media reports of Flight 11’s crash into the World Trade Center began around 8:48, two minutes after the crash happened. [New York Times, 9/15/01] CNN broke into its regular programming at that time [CNN, 9/11/01], though other networks, such as ABC, took a few more minutes to begin reporting. [ABC, 9/14/02] So within minutes, millions were aware of the story, yet Bush supposedly remained unaware for about another ten minutes.

Sorry, but the idea that Bush was unaware of the attack as it was taking place well before he arrived at the Emma Booker Elementary School is very, very hard to credit.

Nah, sorry, but it's been my belief for quite some time that the Bush Administration knew full well that the 9-11 attack was on the way and consciously and deliberately decided to do nothing to stop it.

2007/11/20

Various outrages

Dan Froomkin has some goodies today. He quotes the statement to President Bush from departing Presidential Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend:

"In 1937, the playwright Maxwell Anderson wrote of President George Washington: There are some men who lift the age they inhabit, til all men walk on higher ground in their lifetime.
"Mr. President, you are such a man."

Erm, not exactly. First off:

Washington felt that public appearances were important for the president -- and his appearances were indeed open to the public. . . . Washington was intent on establishing the precedent that the president was chosen to represent the whole country, not just his partisan supporters. . . .

Bush, on the other hand:

...traveled to the historic Berkeley Plantation in southeastern Virginia yesterday for an event carefully calibrated to emphasize his compassionate side. In his remarks, he encouraged "all Americans to show their thanks by giving back."
But, as usual, he wasn't talking to all Americans. At least not in person. Admission to the event was tightly controlled by White House and Republican party officials.

Also,

George Washington believed that America's credo required that prisoners taken in time of war be treated with dignity and respect. He forbade torture and other acts of abuse. He required that the religious convictions of the prisoners be respected. "Treat them with humanity, and let them have no reason to complain of our copying the brutal example of the British Army in their treatment of our unfortunate brethren who have fallen into their hands," he wrote in a famous order on January 8, 1777.

Do I even need to mention Abu Ghraib?

And just how does our esteemed President feel about the give and take and intricate negotiations that democracy involves?

US News reports that Bush advisers say "that President Bush's spirits are getting a lift because of his new focus on unilateral actions to circumvent Congress. He is described by these advisers as delighted that he can move beyond butting heads with Democratic leaders and can get things done through executive orders and administrative actions.
"'He is always 'up' but he's been in a very good mood lately," says a senior White House official. "He likes the feel of things right now." At a meeting last week to discuss his use of unilateral actions to get around Congress,"This is the kind of thing we should be doing" -- a particular reference to his moves to reduce aviation congestion over Thanksgiving. He feels it's important to address such "kitchen table" issues that affect Americans in their daily lives, rather than get bogged down with endless battles with Congress, an aide said. [emphases mine]

And I have to agree that Bush's speech on the general theme of giving thanks got pretty darned offensive:

"Today, the men and women of the United States Armed Forces are taking risks for our freedom. They're fighting on the front lines of the war on terror, the war against extremists and radicals who would do us more harm. ... we vow that their sacrifice will not be in vain."

About two thirds of Americans do not agree with this statement. The Iraq War has nothing to do with freedom and the occupation of Iraq has nothing to do with the problem of terrorism, a tactic used by the weak against the strong. The Iraqis that the US armed forces are battling are natives of the country, defending their homeland against foreign invaders who apparently want to steal their oil. As for sacrifices not being "in vain," does that mean Bush is vowing to stay until a probably-unattainable "victory" is achieved?

And finally, a comment on his close adviser Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:

"The rock star diplomat has become the workaday American secretary of state..."

Whuuh?!?!? Excuse me, but since when did Rice ever deserve to be accorded "rock star" status? Isn't "rock star" status something one reserves for successful government servants who, you know, like, actually accomplish things?!?!

2007/11/09

Gauging seriousness

Various bloggers are suggesting that perhaps Bush & Cheney aren't panting and lusting and whining and scratching at the door to start a war with Iran. Patrick Poivre d'Arvor of French TF1 Television interviews Bush:

Poivre: "So to a certain extent, you did contribute to giving greater power to Iran, because it no longer is facing its hated enemy on the other side. So now is there a true threat in Iran, and are you ready now to invade Iran as you did with Afghanistan and Iraq? So it is indeed true that Vice President -- is it true that Vice President Cheney has a plan for that?"
Bush: "I don't know where you're getting all these rumors -- there must be some weird things going on in Europe these days -- because I have made it abundantly clear, now is the time to deal with a true threat to world peace -- that's Iran -- and to do it diplomatically and peacefully. And that's what I'm going to spend a lot of time on with President Sarkozy. But of course we want to solve these problems peacefully. . . ."

You see, when the President is unable to answer serious questions seriously, or even to acknowledge plain and obvious facts, I just can't help but be suspicious as to what he's up to. Of course the US has, by removing a "hated enemy" of Iran from their Western border, made Iran more of an expansionist threat (Iran is still a "regional power" as compared to the US being a "hyper power," several levels more powerful. "More of a expansionist threat" does not mean a "serious expansionist threat.") The idea that the US has, whether accidentally or not, aided and abetted the growth of Iranian power is not a "rumor," it's a fact.

Reporters from the RTL and N-TV German television networks then had an interview with Bush.

Question "Do you think that the nuclear threat that Iran poses right now is larger than the threat Iraq posed about five or six years ago?"
Bush: "I think they were both dangerous. I think both of them could have been solved diplomatically. Saddam Hussein chose to ignore the demands of the free world and Security Council 1441 -- which, by the way, Germany voted for initially. And I think they're both dangerous. And I think therefore the lesson of Iraq is that we can work together and solve questions peacefully now. . . ."

But Saddam Hussein did NOT "ignore the demands of the free world and Security Council 1441." Saddam Hussein, in December 2002, turned in a 12,000 page document detailing all of the weapons that Iraq possessed at the time. It was met with considerable scorn, skepticism and derision, but there was never any proof that anything in that document was even questionable, let alone that it was in any way inaccurate. And in response to another question:

"I've committed our troops into harm's way twice, and it's not a pleasant experience because I understand the consequences firsthand. And so I owe it to the American people to say that I've tried to solve this problem diplomatically. And that's exactly what I intend to do."

Actually, I got the impression that Bush enormously enjoyed sending soldiers off to war.

Minutes before President Bush's solemn announcement that the US military were in action against Iraq he vigorously pumped his fist and declared: "I feel good". [Mirror]

"There are some who feel like that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is bring them on," Bush said. "We've got the force necessary to deal with the security situation."

And "firsthand"? In November 2003 "Mr Bush spent two hours having dinner with about 600 stunned US troops at Baghdad airport before leaving Iraq." Bush snuck in, remained at the Baghdad airport and snuck out. All of his following visits have been equally surreptitious.

Granted, his wife Laura thinks that she's endured a harsh lot in life, apparently right alongside the troops:

ANN CURRY: Do you know the American people are suffering… watching [Iraq]?
LAURA BUSH: Oh, I know that very much, and, believe me, no suffers more than their president and I do when we watch this. And certainly the commander-in-chief who has asked our military to go into harm’s way.

Nah, the idea that Bush & Cheney won't attack Iran is a bet that I won't put any money on. It seems entirely plausible they will and no, I can't believe for one minute that Bush takes war with anywhere even close to the seriousness that it requires.

2007/10/24

Blackwater may have to leave Iraq

From Chapter 12 of Machiavelli's The Prince:

"[Mercenaries] are ready enough to be your soldiers whilst you do not make war, but if war comes they take themselves off or run from the foe; which I should have little trouble to prove, for the ruin of Italy has been caused by nothing else than by resting all her hopes for many years on mercenaries, and although they formerly made some display and appeared valiant amongst themselves, yet when the foreigners came they showed what they were."

And now, with the mercenary/contractor outfit known as Blackwater:

"...the Iraqi government is revoking a CPA-era edict, known as Order 17, immunizing contractors from prosecution in Iraqi courts."
"...if a full revocation succeeds, American companies or individual contractors might simply up and leave Iraq rather than potentially face charges in an immature justice system."

Blackwater personnel are better than the mercenaries of Machiavelli's Renaissance-era Italy as Blackwater personnel have indeed put themselves into harm's way and have indeed suffered casualties. Still, one has to wonder how much has really changed in the last 500-odd years.
And yes, Blackwater personnel have legitimate concerns over how safe they are in dealing with an Iraqi government that doesn't have a very lengthy track record.

A recent assessment by Ambassador Patrick Kennedy found serious problems "with virtually every aspect of the department’s security practices, especially in and around Baghdad, where Blackwater has responsibility," so it's not like the Iraqi government is overreacting. A very major problem with getting rid of the contractors in Iraq is, of course, that "There are now nearly as many private contractors in Iraq as there are U.S. soldiers," meaning that if all of the contractors were to leave, a force of roughly 168,000 soldiers would suddenly find its effective strength cut in half. Contractors mostly perform static or supply convoy guard duties, meaning that if the US recruited more soldiers to fill the gaps, those soldiers would largely not be performing in-the-field combat duties. Still, removing roughly 150,000 trained, armed personnel means that those people have to be replaced somehow or the mission in Iraq must be curtailed. Complete withdrawal might be the only option.

Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week

David Horowitz is running IslamoFascist Awareness Week this week. Talking Points Memo looks at an online conversation that Horowitz has with IslamOnline.net. One point that Horowitz makes is rather interesting.

Ashraf palloor: No godly religion, whether Islam or Christianity can have a merger with the fascist ideology even though fascist movements in Europe were well supported by the church authorities there. Like dumping western nuclear waste into the third world countries, western intelligentia is trying to put all the dirty things they invented into our backyards. Fundamentalism, anti Semitism, fascism, etc. were not created by any eastern thinker. I doubt there will be an Al Qaeda like organization, who authorizes suicide missions, in the muslim world if there was no CIA funded Jihad in Afghanistan.
We, our religious scholars or ordinary people, never approved the totalitarian rulers among us, but you are the one supporting them and protecting them. Can you support us to have freedom of speech or to get back our lands occupied by Israel and America peacefully or to get rid of extremists among us instead of connecting islam with fascim?

David Horowitz: The fascist movements in Europe were supported by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Ba'ath parties in Syria and Iraq, and by the Palestinians and their leader Haj Amin al-Husseini. Fascist ideology -- particularly Jew-hatred -- became integrated with Islamist ideology. If America had not supported the Afghanistan resistance, there would have been two million Muslims slaughtered by the Soviets instead of one million. The United States has rescued millions of Muslims in Somalia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. You don't say what your nationality is but if it is Palestinian, the Israelis have taken no lands that were yours. All the lands bordering on the river Jordan were controlled by the Ottoman Turks for 400 years until 1920. All the states created from these lands -- Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Israel were created out of lands that belonged to the Turks.

Sounds like Horowitz is reciting accurate history, but I wonder if two national groups can't support each other on a few issues regardless of the fact that they might disagree on just about everything else. The US made an alliance with the Muslims that inhabited areas of the former Yugoslavia during the Clinton Administration, but that doesn't mean the US supported Muslims who were living in Palestine, nor did it mean that the US hesitated to send bombers over to Iraq whenever there was a somewhat plausible reason for doing so. Horowitz has not produced any reason to use the term "Islamofascism," I've always considered it an idiot term and still do.

Update: Paul Krugman agrees: "[T]here isn’t actually any such thing as Islamofascism — it’s not an ideology; it’s a figment of the neocon imagination. The term came into vogue only because it was a way for Iraq hawks to gloss over the awkward transition from pursuing Osama bin Laden, who attacked America, to Saddam Hussein, who didn’t."

2007/10/19

Telecoms and FISA immunity

Well, let's see, our local paper ran a piece from the WaPo on Oct 18 (No coverage at all on the 19th) that suggested that Bush's warrantless surveillance of the private communications of American citizens began after 11 Sept 2001, despite the fact that a person from the telecom company Qwest testified that it began in late February 2001. Note that the WaPo reported both stories. The Next Hurrah explains why the rest of the story takes place in the Senate and not the House. The Democrats in the House got rolled by a Republican proposal that tied passage of the new FISA bill with the defeat of al Qaeda. Democrats love the Constitution, but are deathly afraid of being seen as "soft on terror."

Glenn Greenwald tells us how important this issue is:

It would be one thing if we were talking about some sort of radical new policy or measure that is widely considered "extremist." But the opposite is true. We are talking about the basic linchpins of our form of government -- oversight, warrants, the rule of law, core constitutional liberties, what Atrios described earlier as "everything most of us grew imagining this country stood for. . . .what we all thought were American values."

It was looking pretty bad by the mid-day of 18 October, like the Senate was going to pass a "fix" to FISA (Badly damaged by a vote in August that was also passed with the help of hysterical scare tactics) that would have given telecommunications companies amnesty and future immunity from numerous lawsuits that were alleging that the telecom companies violated everyone's privacy by giving too much information to the government.

Senator Chris Dodd stood up and declared he'd put a "hold" on the proposed bill. (Dodd's campaign has pulled in over $150,000 in just the last 24 hours since his announcement.) Gee, ya think Americans are hungry for leadership?

And yes, the White House complied with Senator Jay Rockefeller's longstanding demand for documents as to exactly how telecommunications companies were collaborating with them, but:

Did Rockefeller's crack staff get through the "millions of pages" in three days? Did the White House really produce what was requested or bury its non-compliance in a blizzard of useless documents and duplicates, as it did repeatedly with document dumps on the U.S. attorneys scandal?

Wired explains why Rockefeller supports telecom immunity. Money, essentially. Even though Rockefeller is worth over $100 million, Wired explains why he needs campaign cash. Eye-popping graphs. AmericaBlog explains that "The Democrats have no game plan."

Would Senator Barack Obama stand up and put a "hold" on the vote? Nah, Obama proved to be "all hat and no cattle," (Talks a real good game, but folds at crunch time) though he made a statement in favor of retaining the US Constitution, he was vague about where he'd draw the line. Senator Patrick Leahy in the meantime, makes it clear he's not happy about the proposed telecom immunity. Senator Russ Feingold made it clear that he'd take whatever action was necessary to see to it that a proposal including immunity didn't make it to the floor. Senator Joe Biden joined in and said he'd join Senator Dodd in filibustering a bill.

2007/10/14

Can we vote for a new "Dean of the Press Corps"?

David Broder's latest piece, typically, was an essentially single-sourced piece on health care and how a small minority of Congresspeople endorsed the plan coming from the "Committee for Economic Development (CED), a high-powered business group." Broder's piece was typical for its narrow perspective, a pro-big-business viewpoint that featured only a modest caveat from a government body and that was it.

Broder's was far from a worthless contribution to the health care debate, but Frank Rich of the New York Times made a really marvelous, worthwhile contribution to understanding America and the Iraq War over the past few years. As a DailyKos writer points out, Rich uses links properly. Most traditional reporters don't use links at all.

Rich clearly consulted a wide variety of sources in making his latest report. As a firedoglake writer points out, Rich's record is far from perfect and the traditional media in general engaged far more in active collaboration than it did in just negligent looking-the-other-way.

I did think the following passage was especially worthy of note:

Call me cynical, but when Laura Bush spoke up last week about the human rights atrocities in Burma, it seemed less an act of selfless humanitarianism than another administration maneuver to change the subject from its own abuses. As Mrs. Bush spoke, two women, both Armenian Christians, were gunned down in Baghdad by contractors underwritten by American taxpayers. On this matter, the White House has been silent. That incident followed the Sept. 16 massacre in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, where 17 Iraqis were killed by security forces from Blackwater USA, which had already been implicated in nearly 200 other shooting incidents since 2005. There has been no accountability.

As somebody pointed out a few years ago, the Bush Administration's rhetoric is just fine. Nothing wrong with their rhetoric at all. It's when their rhetoric collides with reality that we get problems.

So can we fire David Broder from his position as "Dean of the Press Corps" and promote Frank Rich to his place? Can we? Pretty please?

2007/10/08

Interrogations & the law

WaPo Headline: "Bush Defends Interrogations," printed in Philly Inquirer as "President Defends harsh interrogation."
WaPo's Dan Froomkin presents various views
My letter on the piece:


There are two, and only two, acceptable and legitimate ways to deal with a law one doesn't like. First, one can obey the law anyway and argue that the law should be changed. Second, one may commit civil disobedience, violate the law in an open manner and accept the consequences for doing so. A subcategory of civil disobedience is the "executive" or "command" decision wherein an executive or commander openly declares that a rule will not be followed in a specific instance.

To decide behind closed doors that a law will not be followed and to then back up that decision with a secret legal memorandum that no one outside the Executive Branch can review is nothing short of a criminal act. The President's declaration that the United States "does not torture people" is absolutely meaningless because the Bush Administration's definition of the word "torture" is classified.

Likewise, the declaration by CIA Director Michael Hayden that "Fewer than 100 hardened terrorists have gone through the program..." is likewise meaningless because no one outside of the Executive Branch has been able to conduct any serious review of "the program." No one who is not under the direct authority of the President can confirm or deny the number of "hardened terrorists" nor that the people detained and interrogated under "the program" were terrorists to begin with.

2007/10/04

Update on Limbaugh & Free Speech

On Sept 26, Rush Limbaugh insulted hundreds of thousands of soldiers and veterans by suggesting that anyone who opposed the Iraq War was a "phony soldier." Since then, the feud between the left blogosphere and Limbaugh has grown in noise and intensity with Melanie Morgag, a talk-show radio host, referring to Greg Sargent's blog "The Horses Mouth" as "The Horses Ass" and otherwise screaming at him; Glenn Beck took off on Limbaugh's selective editing (Limbaugh left out 1 minute & 35 seconds of his comment) of what he had said and lied on the air to soften Limaugh's comments; VoteVets.org has tried to place an ad on Limbaugh's hometown radio station only to be told that Limbaugh's fans wouldn't like that exercise of free speech on their station.
This last incident raises important free speech questions. There's no question that the VoteVets ad is hostile towards Limbaugh and that Limbaugh's listeners might be offended by it, but the speaker in the ad was personally attacked by Limbaugh as being mentally incompetent to have an opinion on the issue he was speaking on. If VoteVets are paying for the ad (They are) and the ad is entirely true (The rejection letter makes no mention of the ad's truthfulness, only that the ad "...would only conflict with the listeners who have chosen to listen to Rush...") then it's not at all clear why the ad is unacceptable in a democracy that purportedly, allegedly takes free speech seriously. Free speech doesn't just mean one gets to say whatever one pleases. It also means that people have a right to respond when attacked. And that's precisely what VoteVets are trying to do.
I searched the Philadelphia Inquirer's news section and the last time the "Inky" mentioned this fight was way back on the 29th. I recommend we write them and ask why.

2007/09/27

Limbaugh insults anti-war soldiers

So the question on Rush Limbaugh and his "phony soldiers" crack is "Will we see anywhere near the fuss and bother over Limbaugh's remark that we just witnessed over the MoveOn 'Petraeus/Betray US' ad?"

Yeah, me neither. I don't trust the Democrats to raise anywhere near the stink that the Republicans recently raised over MoveOn.

Here's the quote, but keep in mind that Limbaugh has frequently complained that people don't read the whole context of his remarks, so if one wishes to write him to complain:

[Here's the essential context for the actual quote]
CALLER 1: Good. Why is it that you always just accuse the Democrats of being against the war and suggest that there are absolutely no Republicans that could possibly be against the war?
LIMBAUGH: Well, who are these Republicans? I can think of Chuck Hagel, and I can think of Gordon Smith, two Republican senators, but they don't want to lose the war like the Democrats do. I can't think of -- who are the Republicans in the anti-war movement?
CALLER 1: I'm just -- I'm not talking about the senators. I'm talking about the general public -- like you accuse the public of all the Democrats of being, you know, wanting to lose, but --
LIMBAUGH: Oh, come on! Here we go again. I uttered a truth, and you can't handle it, so you gotta call here and change the subject. How come I'm not also hitting Republicans? I don't know a single Republican or conservative, Mike, who wants to pull out of Iraq in defeat. The Democrats have made the last four years about that specifically.
CALLER 1: Well, I am a Republican, and I've listened to you for a long time, and you're right on a lot of things, but I do believe that we should pull out of Iraq. I don't think it's winnable. And I'm not a Democrat, but I just -- sometimes you've got to cut the losses.
-----------------
[And The Quote]
LIMBAUGH: "Save the -- keep the troops safe" or whatever. I -- it's not possible, intellectually, to follow these people.
CALLER 2: No, it's not, and what's really funny is, they never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media.
LIMBAUGH: The phony soldiers.
CALLER 2: The phony soldiers. If you talk to a real soldier, they are proud to serve. They want to be over in Iraq. They understand their sacrifice, and they're willing to sacrifice for their country. [emphasis from Media Matters]
------------------
BTW, Representative Patrick Murphy (D-PA) is both a combat veteran AND against the Iraq War, so is the entire membership of the Iraq Veterans Against the War. On their site, the IVAW claims that "Over 2000 soldiers have signed the Appeal For Redress." Out of 168,000 soldiers currently serving in Iraq, that's obviously a small minority, but it's far from legitimate to say that all "real" soldiers, by definition, support the Iraq War. They don't.
CNN says: "Anti-war sentiment among Republican poll respondents has suddenly increased with 38 percent of Republicans now saying they oppose the war." Again, a minority, but it's simply inaccurate to say that being a Republican means one automatically supports the Iraq War.
Limbaugh's assertion that any soldier who opposes the Iraq War is a "phony soldier" is simply false just as it's false to say that all Republicans, by definition, support the Iraq War.

For Limbaugh, a lifelong civilian (The phrase during World War II was "never heard a shot fired in anger."), to accuse soldiers who don't agree with his views on the Iraq War is a flat-out insult and deserves our hearty, full-throated condemnation.

Update:

A Media Matters piece on Limbaugh's (false) assertion that he was actually referring to one specific fake soldier (Could the White House bailing out over Rush's comments be motivating this climbdown?) contains what journalists refer to as a "nut paragraph," a paragraph that summarizes what the whole controversy is all about.

'LIMBAUGH: -- the weapons of mass destruction. We gotta get beyond that. We're, we're there. What -- who cares if, if -- we all know they were there and, and"

I'm not really sure how Limbaugh wants to "get beyond" the WMD issue. The point of that is that the war was initiated on lies, upon untruthful statements and misrepresented facts and overlooked/ignored aspects. Opponents of going to war in the six months before it started were not honestly debated. We were instead shouted down. There was no honest discussion of whether of not Iraq really and truly posed a threat to the US or indeed, to its' immediate neighborhood. Instead, American citizens received a lot of hysterical, overheated, screaming propaganda. Allegedly earnest "liberals" in the press want US citizens to base their decisions on the personal qualities of the men making the accusations against purported national foes, not upon the evidence that they present in these accusations.

Susan Estrich, one of the Fox News liberals, wrote: "The Democrats, especially the Democrats running for president, have a problem, and his name is Petraeus." She asked: "But attacking the General who oozes courage, fortitude and decency?" (emphasis added) demonstrates that many alleged liberals still don't want to honestly debate the actual issues involved.

Yeah "We're, we're there" but I don't see that Americans should "get beyond" the fact that the US is in Iraq for reasons that have never been honestly and forthrightly discussed.

"Mahmoud [Ahmadinejad, Iranian president] even admitted it in one of his speeches here about -- talkin' about Saddam using the poison mustard gas or whatever it is on his own people"

True, Saddam Hussein used poison mustard gas on his own people in 1987. That demonstrated that Saddam Hussein was a monster and not to be trusted, but not that Iraq posed any immediate threat to anyone in 2003.

"-- but that, that's moot, right? What, what's more important is all this is taking place now in the midst of the surge working."

There's actually no such evidence. The "surge" has utterly and miserably failed to achieve any of its objectives. 70% of Iraqis believed in September that it had failed. Only 50% of Shiite Muslims in Iraq saw attacks on US troops as justified, but 93% of Sunni Muslims in Iraq thought so. One might keep in mind the fact that, in the event of a US withdrawal from Iraq, Shiites are 60% of Iraq's population and that their co-religionists in Iran would have gained a greatly expanded influence. Shiites might not actively hate the US presence in their country, but it's highly unlikely they'd fight to keep US troops there. Any "Hearts & Minds" campaign has long since been lost and an academic study shows that the US's highly mechanized military has little or no chance of prevailing in any sort of guerrilla struggle in any event (Due to what the author refers to as "information starvation").


"And all of these anti-war Democrats are getting even more hell-bent on pulling out of there, which means that success on the part of you and, and your colleagues over there is, is a great threat to them. It's just, it's frustrating and maddening, and it is why they must be kept in the minority." 

Limbaugh's problem is that Democrats are merely reacting to the situation in Iraq. He'd like to believe that Democrats are actively creating the situation, but that's simply not the case. The essential difference between the way that Limbaugh sees the struggle in Iraq and the way progressives see it is that he blames insufficiently dedicated Americans for not having enough faith, for the occurrence of war's failures. Progressives believe the war was a really terrible and immoral idea to begin with and that if a long, drawn-out guerrilla struggle was not a certainty to start with, then it had certainly become apparent to us that the guerrilla war had begun in earnest by the time the President went on a month-long vacation in August of 2003.

2007/09/25

IEDs and "real reporters" vs pundits

Mark Bowden brings up some very good points about good and bad journalism, but I bristled a bit when he spoke of "real journalists" and then began the next sentence with "We." Judith Miller of the New York Times was considered a "real journalist" and the Times later admitted (In a short piece back in May 2004 buried in the back pages) that her stories "...relied too heavily on now-suspect sources with insufficient corroboration." Yes, the Knight-Ridder reporters Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay were much better and much more accurate, but they were often featured on page A17 while Ms Miller got front-page, above-the-fold treatment with a picture to boot.

In February of this year, the Washington Post featured a story suggesting that IEDs in Iraq were imported from Iran. The story was filled with anonymous sources and blamed Iran's Quds Force. American officials charged outright that a certain brand of improvised explosive devices were arriving from Iran.

Problem: The LA Times reported that Iraqi machine shops were found turning out components for precisely these IEDs. Not only that, the devices simply aren't difficult to manufacture and Iraq has the capability to manufacture them. No credible evidence has been produced saying the IEDs originate in Iran, let alone that a particular group in Iran is to blame.

Bigger problem: We now have a legislative proposal, the Lieberman-Kyl Amendment, that calls upon the US to "...
combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran." What are some of those activities? Well, the National Review identifies "...agents of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards [who] fund and arm the Shiite extremists whose IEDs pierce the armor of U.S. soldiers..." and that "Explosively formed penetrator (EFP) attacks have risen dramatically.”

A truly qualified set of "real journalists" would be calling attention to how shaky the case against Iran really is as opposed to the same old set of mindless stenographers we have now. Silence, allowing the current accusations to stand, is just as deadly as lies and could lead to yet another unnecessary war.

2007/09/15

Katie Couric & the "big boys"

Y'know, I don't think there's a single progressive blogger who would hold it against a Hollywood figure or a network newsperson who decided, based on the poll numbers, to change their positions on matters like war and peace. That would be fine with us because it would show a respect for the people and the whole concept of democracy.

Katie Couric and CBS News are doing very poorly in the ratings right now. Couric's latest happy, happy, joy, joy experience of riding around in a Humvee with General Petraeus sent the network's ratings sinking even lower than before. Unlike in the push for war in late 2002 - early 2003, there is a bit of a noticeable pushback to the Petraeus-Crocker Report (Really the Bush Administration Report as, even if those two had written their own speeches, the public believes by a slight majority that they simply aren't allowed to voice their true feelings) with bloggers eliciting answers (Not good answers, mind you, but answers) as to why the General's figures didn't add up.

Which makes it very disappointing to see the CBS report "Bush Stays The Course On Iraq." The story talks about Bush's proposal to lower the US force in Iraq from 168,000 to 138,000, but nowhere mentions that these 30,000 troops are going to come back home in any event as troop rotations demand it. The "surge" always had to be a temporary tactic as the Army and Marines are stretched to the breaking point, with troops spending far too much time on the battlefield and not nearly enough time back home recuperating. This is not a obscure point. From the very beginning in November 2006, the "surge" was described as a temporary, short-term measure. Only later did it become a long-term increase (The latest word is that there will be an increase in troops over and above pre-surge levels).

Now, we can all understand why Fred Hiatt supports the war through thick & thin. He supported the war from the beginning and to see it lost would be a crushing blow to his ego. The weight of a million Iraqi deaths would be on his head as well as those of almost 4000 US soldiers and Marines and nearly 30,000 wounded, may of them crippled for life. All of that will have gone for nothing if the war is lost. Hiatt supports the war no matter what.

Why does Katie Couric support it? After all, she moved over from Today long after the Iraq War started. She apparently has nothing to lose by saying it was a lousy idea to begin with. It's hard to say why she supports it. Perhaps she's been a hard-line, right-wing conservative all along, even when she was on Today. Perhaps she's trying to fit in with the "in crowd" or the "big boys." "Hey, if I smoke cigarettes too, the big boys might like me! They'd see that I was cool, too!"

2007/09/12

The Petraeus-Crocker Presentation

Starting off on 9 September, 54% of the American public said the presentation on the "Surge" in Iraq by General David Petraeus and Ambassador-to-Iraq Ryan Crocker would not change their minds. A majority of them said so because they didn't believe that the General would be allowed to honestly present his real views on the matter, which are presumably more pessimistic than what the Bush Administration would like to have him say.

As blogger Glenn Greenwald points out, if the "Petraeus Report" is not a PR success, it won't be because the Bush Administration and General Petraeus didn't given it "the old college try." Greenwald compares the later presentation Petraeus gives for Fox News to an interview given to Pravda by a Soviet general, a production by "North Korean state television" and "...a direct examination at a trial, where a friendly lawyer gently leads his own witness to present claims in the most persuasive manner possible, with the lawyer interrupting only to clarify the witness' statements and to provide helpful suggestions as to how the witness can make his case even more effectively."

Media Matters notes that conservative commentators outnumbered progressive commentators eight to one on Fox News' coverage of the Congressional testimony, and the progressive appeared directly opposite a conservative. If one adds in the six Fox News people, that's 14 to one. Coverage of Petraeus' testimony wasn't much better the next day. NBC and the Wall St Journal both simply reported the statistics that Petraeus & Crocker cited without presenting any challenging or skeptical views on them. "These media outlets did not note that Petraeus' statistics regarding civilian casualties and sectarian violence differ from the findings in two recent congressionally mandated reports."

One of the very serious problems with Petraeus' figures is that he never presented any comprehensive definition of "sectarian" versus "ethno-religious" violence. As late as the 12th, Petraeus and Crocker were still presenting explanations as to which was which. Petraeus has claimed that "two US intelligence agencies" have reviewed and confirmed his figures, but both the CIA and DIA have denied being the agencies. Also, one of the problems with that is that no one in the Bush Administration appears to be entirely clear as to exactly who it is that US forces are fighting in Iraq.

Firedoglake did live-blogging for the Petraeus-Crocker presentation. Of course, on the 10th, traditional media outlets were complaining that the "sea of statistics" being presented was just a hopelessly confusing mess and just couldn't be understood. Obviously, they just weren't using the right sources.

2007/09/07

Just how meaningful is AQI?

It seems the group al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) really isn't all that large:

"The first instructive set of data comes from the U.S.-sponsored Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. In March, the organization analyzed the online postings of eleven prominent Sunni insurgent groups, including AQI, tallying how many attacks each group claimed. AQI took credit for 10 percent of attacks on Iraqi security forces and Shiite militias (forty-three out of 439 attacks), and less than 4 percent of attacks on U.S. troops (seventeen out of 357). Although these Internet postings should not be taken as proof positive of the culprits, it's instructive to remember that PR-conscious al- Qaeda operatives are far more likely to overstate than understate their role.
"When turning to the question of manpower, military officials told the New York Times in August that of the roughly 24,500 prisoners in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq (nearly all of whom are Sunni), just 1,800—about 7 percent—claim allegiance to al-Qaeda in Iraq. Moreover, the composition of inmates does not support the assumption that large numbers of foreign terrorists, long believed to be the leaders and most hard-core elements of AQI, are operating inside Iraq. In August, American forces held in custody 280 foreign nationals—slightly more than 1 percent of total inmates."

So why does the US portray them as this hugely monumental group that's causing all sorts of trouble in Iraq, making it appear that "If we can just take them out, everything will improve!" Andrew Tilghman goes through many very good reasons why and, when he gets to how AQI might be benefiting from other players in Iraq talking them up, he reminds me of the story of Rose O'Neal Greenhow, a Confederate spy in the US Civil War. Greenhow made extravagant claims for how much information she was able to transmit to the Confederacy, but no one questioned her claims until a decade or so back. I remember reading that Greenhow exaggerated her role simply because it pleased her to represent herself as a dramatically capable spy. The fellow who broke the case, Allen Pinkerton, also had a motivation to exaggerate her role as he had just taken over the newly-formed Secret Service right before catching her. He cheerfully collaborated in building her legend as, having been the one who caught her, that made him and his new organization look all the more competent and effective.
In much the same way, Tilghman reveals that there are many players in Iraq who benefit from the appearance of a powerful and effective AQI. It's quite clear that AQI will remain in Iraq as long as the Americans remain. The author is of the firm belief that AQI will leave Iraq shortly after the Americans do as 1) Iraqis will have no reason to want to keep them around and 2) They simply aren't powerful enough to remain at large and independently operating once their reason for being there disappears.

The article is well worth reading for the many insights into the insurgency and how US forces are dealing with it.

2007/09/06

General Petraeus' numbers

The bloggers emptywheel and DemfromCT from The Next Hurrah get the scoop on the numbers that General Petraeus will use to describe the "surge" and how it's going. It's kind of a distinction that their favorite reporter from the WaPo was buried on page A16 of today's paper, kind of like being on Nixon's Enemies List.
Basically, the numbers the General will use mean far less than will meet the eye. The numbers will appear to be far more impressive than they actually are.

2007/09/02

Karl Rove and the Commander in Chief

In The Rove Presidency by Josua Green of the Atlantic (Sorry, but to get the full story, you'll have to pick up a paper copy of the magazine), Green paints a picture of Karl Rove as a political adviser who had the run of the place. A major problem with the Younger Bush presidency was clearly Rove's desire to remake the Social Security program. For some reason, Rove didn't grasp the fact that it was turning even loyal Republicans off and there was no one senior to Rove other than Bush, Bush gave vastly too much authority to his political adviser (The problem with doing that goes back to the old phrase "To a man with a hammer. every problem looks like a nail") so no one overruled Rove and the Younger Bush presidency commenced a tailspin shortly after they had successfully kicked Senator John Kerry's butt in the 2004 election.
I especially noted Bush's problem with over-delegating the work of the presidency in the spring and summer of 2003. "Major combat operations" had been successfully concluded but it was clear that there was a substantial guerrilla force at large in Iraq. The testimony of Dr. Phebe Marr to the Senate in April 2004 (PDF) made it quite clear that there were two areas that Iraqis were concerned about and that failure to address these problems contributed to the strength of the insurgency "I would make clear we have no long term designs on [1. establishing long-term] Military bases [or 2.] Control over oil."
By the time Bush took his month-long summer vacation in Crawford, TX, it had become clear to bloggers like myself that Bush needed to sit down at the map table and hunker down with advisers and to really plan out how to deal with the growing insurgency. Obviously, he never did. This demonstrated a crucial disadvantage of what Joshua Green identifies as the "Reagan style" that Bush adopted, the idea that Bush would be the big-idea man and that his subordinates would fill in the details as they went.
As a Commander-in-Chief, the Younger Bush left and leaves a great deal to be desired.

2007/08/21

Bush's democratization policy

In the WaPo article "As Democracy Push Falters, Bush Feels Like a 'Dissident' " on August 21, Peter Baker covers only one set of critics of Bush's policy towards the two Palestinian groups, Hamas and Fatah. Hamas won the election that the White House decided to call for, "...critics saw it as proof that the president's democracy agenda was dangerously naive. They were saying, 'We told you so.' " Neither I nor anybody I knew saw the President's policy as naive. Instead, we waited and watched and, just as we expected, President Bush did nothing to try and work with Hamas. What this told us was that the democratization policy was a fake, was that democratization was a very skimpy window dressing on a policy designed to seize Mideast oil resources.
If we agree that Bush was serious about democratization, then the problem becomes obvious. Bush took advice from far too narrow a group. He only took advice from people who agreed with him on just about everything, meaning his ideas never got a real discussion from people who genuinely disagreed. As a direct result, his policies never survived their first collision with reality.

2007/08/18

Why do some institutions exist?

In The Deputy by the German author Rolf Hochhuth, the question of what the Roman Catholic church should have done about Nazi persecution of the Jews was raised forcefully. The book acknowledged that the Roman Catholic church faced the very real possibility of extinction, but asked what the purpose of the church was. Was it not better for the church to cease to exist in Germany rather than to continue as nothing more than an interest group?

The group blog Firedoglake has raised much the same question about NARAL, the National Abortion Rights Action League. It's boss, Nancy Keenan, has been raking in contributions hand over fist for the express purpose of protecting abortion rights. What has Keenan's performance actually been like on the issue? Well, "Then NARAL goes and endorses people like Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Arlen Specter and Joe Lieberman — all of whom voted for cloture on Alito." There were other votes involved, but voting for cloture allowed Alito to get onto the Supreme Court.

As we've seen, Alito has not been friendly to choice. Alito wrote in 1985 that: "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion" and according to CNN in April "New justices Alito, Roberts provided solid conservative majority to uphold ban." The "ban" was the ban on late-term abortions and was vaguely worded. The only female on the court, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg read out a "bitter dissent" on that.

The same question arises in the case of the mainstream news programs and Jose Padilla. The piece provides links to commentaries at the bottom as to what the Padilla case is all about, but the important question that the piece concentrates on is whether or not the news programs looked at the question of whether Padilla was tortured or not. Unfortunately, there is ample evidence that he was, evidence that is documented as having been comprehensively ignored by the news programs.

The simple question as to whether Padilla received counsel was crystal clear. Padilla did not receive any counsel for such a long period that when he did

"...according to Padilla's lawyers and a forensic psychiatrist who examined him, Padilla was uncertain whether his attorneys actually represented him or were part of the government's interrogation tactics, refused to review video recordings of his interrogations, and was reluctant to discuss what happened to him in the brig for fear of being sent back. According to one attorney, 'During questioning, he often exhibits facial tics, unusual eye movements and contortions of his body. ... The contortions are particularly poignant since he is usually manacled and bound by a belly chain when he has meetings with counsel.' "

Keep in mind that the news media was advised of all this in December 2006. They then had until August 2007 to inform the American public, but did not do so. Why do these news programs exist? If they can't be counted on to tell American citizens when an American citizen is being locked up and tortured, when they can't be bothered to protest the fact that a fellow American citizen is being held without charges, what CAN they do?

Our media is very badly broken and desperately needs to be fixed!

2007/08/15

The "General Petraeus Report" becoming the "Bush Administration Report"?

Dana Perrino, White House Spokesperson, held a press conference in Crawford TX on August 15th.

Q "Dana, there's a report out today that the September Iraq report will be written by the White House, and not by Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus. Is that accurate?"
MS. PERINO: "Well, let me remind you of a couple of things. The Congress asked for these reports from the President; they asked for the President to report to the Congress. And so the July 15th report will be no different to the September 15th report, in terms of how that works. And the President has said that he's going to take the recommendations from General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, and then he will consult further before deciding on any possible next course of action."

Not entirely clear what she means, but this is a clear step-down from "I know a lot of people talk about 'the Petraeus report,' in fact, you have a report that is a joint report by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker." Now the two of them are just going to be making "recommendations" that Bush will then consider, along with many other inputs. I would especially note: "[Congress] asked for the President to report to the Congress." Not "Congress asked for General Petraeus to report..."

Horse's Mouth has more on the story, plus numerous quotes indicating that the report would be a joint Petraeus-Crocker production.

2007/08/12

Philadelphia columnist and 9-11

The Philadelphia Daily News' Stu Bykofsky suggested in a column on 9 Aug that the current morale problems in America were due to 9-11 being so far in the past. His solution? "Another round, barkeep!" Yup, Bykofsky would like to see another 9-11-type attack with another 3,000 dead Americans. According to Bykofsky, Americans were united and energized after the 9-11 attack and that the US needs to get back that unity and sense of purpose.

Bykofsky veers off a bit and discusses the Persian Gulf War of 1991, which he says was an example of how to do a war right - it took less than 100 hours of on-the-ground fighting and fewer than 300 American troops died.

Bykofsky veers off yet again and opines that Americans aren't as tough as the British, who sustained a guerrilla-type war in Northern Ireland for 40 years.

Does it sound here like Bykosky is making a coherent argument? Not to me, it doesn't. What do 9-11, the Persian Gulf War of 1991 and "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland have to do with American lack of resolve to keep fighting the current Iraq War that began in 2003?

Patrick Cockburn of The Independent sums up the essential problem the US has in occupying Iraq:

"The US dilemma in Iraq goes back to the Gulf War. It wanted to be rid of Saddam Hussein in 1991 but not at the price of the Shia replacing him; something the Shia were bound to do in fair elections, because they comprise 60 per cent of the population. Worse, the Shia coming to power would have close relations with Iran, America's arch-enemy in the Middle East.
"This was the main reason the US did not press on to Baghdad after defeating Saddam's armies in Kuwait in 1991. It then allowed him savagely to crush the Shia and Kurdish rebellions that briefly captured 14 out of 18 Iraqi provinces.
"Ever since 2003, the US has wrestled with this same problem. Unwittingly, the most conservative of American administrations had committed a revolutionary act in the Middle East by overthrowing the minority Sunni Baathist regime."

It's apparently true that on 1 May 2003, Bush the Younger thought he had achieved a rapid victory akin to the one that Bush the Elder actually achieved back in 1991 (Because Bush the Elder settled for much more modest goals), but it's not at all clear that another attack on Americans will boost our sense of urgency enough to overcome the basic problem that Cockburn points out.

The real problem with Bykofsky's thesis is that it's no longer just his opinion. Matt Drudge gave Bykofsky a big thumbs-up with a listing on his top row in the center column of The Drudge Report. "Radio host Mike Gallagher, who claims to have 'over 3.75 million weekly listeners' across the country, hosted Bykofsky" and John Gibson of Fox News interviewed him (The ThinkProgress piece features a YouTube video of the John Gibson interview).

Of course, as Atrios points out, if another 9-11 attack occurs, it won't prove the "Dirty (Effing) Hippies" wrong, it'll prove that President Bush was wrong. Bush, after all, promised Americans that he wouldn't let another 9-11 attack occur. "President Bush pledged anew Friday that Osama bin Laden will be taken 'dead or alive,' no matter how long it takes."

As to the 9-11 attack itself, there are quite a few questions about that, 40 questions as compiled by 911Truth.org. And as of this May, Rasmussen reports that 22% of the American public believes that the Bush Administration knew of the 9-11 attack in advance. Republicans overwhelmingly reject that point of view, Democrats are 35% in favor of that view and 39% reject it.

2007/08/11

PRAWNWorks down for the moment

http://www.prawnworks.net/ is down at the moment. Hopefully, it's just a payment problem and nothing like what happened to David Lindorff's http://www.thiscantbehappening.net/
I've gone to the payment section of 1and1.com and have written a message to them. Hopefully, that will clear things up and regular posting will resume soon.

2007/08/10

Open letter to Rep Schwartz

Honorable Representative Allyson Schwartz,

First of all, let me say that I'm extremely pleased to see your name among the "Nays" on Congress' Roll Call Vote 836 on S.1927, the bill that allows unlimited warrantless surveillance of American citizens with no meaningful oversight whatsoever. We're essentially now in a pre-FISA era, with the government able to spy on us at its leisure.
The WaPo's Dan Froomkin tells us a very sad tale of Democrats trusting in a Bush official to be non-partisan, high-minded and disinterested (i.e., willing to act without regard to the Republican Party's self-interest). I'm aghast and astonished to see that Democrats were expecting any such thing from any Bush loyalist. Regardless of how Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell performed in his job prior to this vote, Democrats should have known that nobody serving under this President could be trusted a single inch. McConnell's spokesperson claims that McConnell's arm was not twisted and that there was no back-room pressure applied to make him cooperate with Bush to bamboozle the Democrats. I believe the spokesperson. I see McConnell as enthusiastically and joyfully participating in a long-arranged plan to put one over on the hapless Democrats.
Why was FISA gutted? The progressive blogger Digby points out that the "existential threat" that stampeded the Democrats into cooperating with Bush & McConnell doesn't come from abroad, but from right here at home:
"It's coming from within, from a governing class of both parties who are creating a national security apparatus that is going to end up squeezing the lifeblood of liberty right out of this country --- all in the name of keeping us safe."
The blog Crooks & Liars relates the extremely depressing tale of where America appears to be headed. A group of "non-stop transit" passengers who never had the slightest intention of setting foot outside the gates of the airport where they were transferring from one flight to another, go through hours and hours of annoying and humiliating "processing." All of the passengers left with the determination never to enter US territory ever again.
I've reproduced the email conversation I had with my fellow PRAWN members because I'd like for you to inform your fellow Democrats in the House how very badly this vote has hurt them. It also shows that no, it's not at all impossible for Democrats to be "outflanked on the left." There is the Green Party to consider. I never saw a single Democratic button or banner or sign at an anti-war demonstration until about six months prior to the 2004 election and I don't remember seeing very many at the last big protest either. Standing up for Constitutional rights shouldn't be a left vs center issue. It should, if anything, be a far-right vs everybody issue.

Herewith, the conversation:

From: Anne Ewing [Add to Address Book] Flag Message | Mark Unread
[This is spam]
To: Anne Ewing
Subject: Don't let Congress off the hook for letting Bush wiretap our phone calls
Date: Aug 7, 2007 8:06 PM

Hi,

The Democratic-controlled Congress did the unthinkable on Saturday night: They gave President Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales more unchecked power to wiretap Americans without a warrant. Yes, that's the same Attorney General who is currently mired in scandal and probably committed perjury on this very issue.

Enough is enough. We have to send a strong message to Congress that there is no trade-off between fundamental liberties and security. Preserving our Constitution is essential to our security--we can't lead on freedom around the world when we're actively undermining the rule of law at home.

I signed onto this petition demanding that Congress reverse this capitulation to Bush and the politics of fear. (I also suggested that I would not want to vote for anyone who voted for this disgraceful legislation.) Can you join me? Just click here:


Thanks!
Anne



Anne Ewing

---
Ignore this email address. For some reason I need to use this mac.com account in RI, but don;t intend to use it otherwise, and I receive verizon.net just fine.

From: "John A. Murphy" [Add to Address Book] Flag Message | Mark Unread
[This is spam]
To: prawn@lists.riseup.net,
Subject: Re: [prawn] MoveOn Petition about Congressional capitulation
Date: Aug 8, 2007 8:54 PM
Attachments: Nader for pres 08.jpg

The trouble is that MoveOn is just a Democrat front organization looking for your name and e-mail address so they can put you on their mailing list of potential activists. They said absolutely nothing when the Democrat controlled Congress voted to continue the war and nothing when Pelosi said "impeachment is off the table".
The Democrats know that they don't have to pay any attention to anything that comes from MoveOn because MoveOn will ultimately support them. If you want to protest what the Democrats have done, call voter services in your county and ask them to send you a voter's registration form and then change your voter's registration from Democrat Party to Green Party. That will send them a message they understand, otherwise they will simply say to you "what are you going to do, vote for a Republican".
Vive La Résistance,
John A. Murphy
"To live as if our choices make any real difference in the long run may be the act of a fool, but to live as if they do not, that is the act of a coward."
— Albert Camus


From: Rich Flag Message | Mark Unread
To: "John A. Murphy", prawn@lists.riseup.net
Subject: Re: [prawn] MoveOn Petition about Congressional capitulation
Date: Aug 8, 2007 9:09 PM
Yeah, I notice that MoveOn pieces aren't often on this list serve, but I figured
this was an especially infuriating move by the Democrats.  I'm not really ready
to sign up for a third party quite yet.  I'd like to see some evidence that
it would accomplish more than trying to reform the Democrats. 
Rich



From: "John A. Murphy" [Add to Address Book] Flag Message | Mark Unread
[This is spam]
To: Rich, prawn@lists.riseup.net
Cc: Camden County Green Party
Subject: Re: [prawn] MoveOn Petition about Congressional capitulation
Date: Aug 8, 2007 10:21 PM
Attachments: Nader 2008.jpg Clear Day Bkgrd.jpg

What kind of evidence do you need Rich? People have been trying to reform the Democratic Party since 1972. Back in 1972 they actually listened to us. They gave us an antiwar candidate in the person of George McGovern. As soon as George McGovern got the nomination, every one of the Democratic Party's corporate donors jumped ship. The Democrats at that point should have said, "look at how much power the corporations have, let's pass legislation doing away with the concept of 'corporate personhood' and make sure that we pass legislation to publicly fund all federal elections". But that's not what the Democratic Party said. What the Democratic Party said is that it would no longer listen to its constituencies but it would do whatever its corporate sponsors wanted it to do. That's why we have no universal single-payer health care, no tuition free education and that's why the Democrats have backed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and to approve the Patriot Act and gave us Bill Clinton the most violent president in the 20th century who killed over one million innocent men, women and children in Iraq with bombs and sanctions.
If the Democratic Party simply had a problem with organization, it could be changed from within. The Democratic Party however is fatally flawed. Look what it has done to the labor movement, the women's movement, the civil rights movement and now the antiwar movement!
I'm sick to death of hearing "why don't the Democrats... if only the Democrats... if the Democrats were smart..." if I hear one more Democrats say "don't the Democrats see they could win by going a different way"; I'm going to puke.
Stop fearing what will happen if you give up on the Democrats. Your fear of what will ensue if they wither away is really all they have left at this point. Stop pretending the system isn't broken. Unless you like sham democracy and one party politics, I mean.
Stop pretending the Democrat Party is interested in fixing itself or being fixed or changed. In other words stop trying to fix the Democrat Party -- because, according to the thinking of the "real" Democrats, the ones who own and operate the party, it isn't broken and it doesn't need to be changed. And please quit all the moaning about the "stupid Democrat leaders" blowing chances. The Democrat leaders are not stupid. But if you are still bedding down with them and expecting something to change, you do have every reason to wonder about yourself.
Vive La Résistance,
John A. Murphy
"To live as if our choices make any real difference in the long run may be the act of a fool, but to live as if they do not, that is the act of a coward."
— Albert Camus


Nader

From: Monique Frugier [Add to Address Book] Flag Message | Mark Unread
[This is spam]
To: prawn@lists.riseup.net,
Subject: Re: [prawn] MoveOn Petition about Congressional capitulation
Date: Aug 8, 2007 10:39 PM
Attachments: unknown-3 KB unknown-25 KB Forwarded-Message

While it is true that MoveOn members are mainly Democrats, it does not mean that all members embrace MoveOn silence re: Impeachment. In fact one of my group: "Main Line Citizens for Impeachment" (most of our members are also MoveOn members) sent them a letter stating our position and that we wanted them to take a stand on this.
We had a conference call yesterday and MoveOn is calling for August to be a month to organize rallies all over the country, reach out in communities, organize rallies at our representatives' offices, and tell them that they will get the heat come next elections if they do not push for the end of the war in September.
Yes, it is true that nothing is being said re: Pelosi and the impeachment "off the table", but the way I see it is that while MoveOn is gathering many new members, I am also making many new personal connections and just got the names of 8 people interested in joining the group I moderate "Rapid Response Pa.", a group of letter-writers. And guess what? Among the 20 people present at our meeting yesterday, only one does not support impeachment.
One can be a MoveOn member and yet make her/his OWN voice heard.
Come the presidential elections, for me I do not see the need to change party in order to support my anti-war candidate and be part of the Résistence At the end, Green and/or Independent party will do what I will do. So what is the difference? That I will be accused of giving a vote to the Republican party?
Monique.

From: larry petkov [Add to Address Book] Flag Message | Mark Unread
[This is spam]
To: prawn@lists.riseup.net,
Subject: Re: [prawn] MoveOn Petition about Congressional capitulation: Monique right again!
Date: Aug 8, 2007 10:49 PM
John;
I think Monique is using the correct strategy here to build the anti-war movement. We should put the pressure on the Democrats to come out for Impeachment and stop funding the war. We can back Dennis Kucinich who has the courage to stand up for these issues.
If the Democrats don't come around and try to ram Hillary down our throats(which I think they will), then we can talk about planning an independent run.
I think the Greens are too diffuse and marginal to really shake the Democratic establishment.
Let's hope another independent candidate will step forward like former Senator Mike Gravel to challenge.
But if noone does I would certainly vote for Nader rather than Hillary the Hawk!
The Greens hurt themselves badly in the 2004 election by not backing Nader 100 percent. Supporting Cobb was a disaster.
Larry


From: "John A. Murphy" [Add to Address Book] Flag Message | Mark Unread
[This is spam]
To: prawn@lists.riseup.net,
Subject: Re: [prawn] MoveOn Petition about Congressional capitulation
Date: Aug 8, 2007 10:59 PM
Attachments: unknown-3 KB

You must disassociate yourself from MoveOn just as you have disassociated yourself from the Democratic Party. MoveOn is just as bad as UFPJ which has surrendered the antiwar movement into the hands of the Democratic Party.
John Murphy



From: David Kalkstein
[Add to Address Book] Flag Message | Mark Unread
[This is spam]
To: prawn@lists.riseup.net,
Subject: Re: [prawn] MoveOn Petition about Congressional capitulation
Date: Aug 8, 2007 11:03 PM
Attachments: unknown-4 KB unknown-3 KB Forwarded-Message

You must disassociate yourself from MoveOn ...
Must we all do that, or are Monique and Rich the only ones who must do that?
Please let me know so i can proceed.
david


From: "John A. Murphy" [Add to Address Book] Flag Message | Mark Unread
[This is spam]
To: prawn@lists.riseup.net,
Subject: Re: [prawn] MoveOn Petition about Congressional capitulation: Monique right again!
Date: Aug 8, 2007 11:16 PM
Attachments: nader living wage lg.jpg Clear Day Bkgrd.jpg

We must not back any Democratic candidate -- especially Dennis Kucinich. Dennis Kucinich is the Judas goat of the Democratic Party. It is people like him and John Conyers who keep the so-called progressive Democrats (which is like saying virgin prostitutes) from leaving the Democratic Party.
In 2004 the so-called antiwar Dennis Kucinich threw his support to John Kerry instead of the antiwar candidate Ralph Nader with whose positions he agreed entirely. He told his supporters than that it was not about the war it was all about party unity. Anything you see done by people like Kucinich is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. You don't fight Nazism by joining the SS. Neither do you fight the neoliberal, imperialist policies of the Democratic Party by being one of its members let alone one of its elected officials.
You don't build a strong antiwar movement by supporting the pro-war Democratic Party which maneuvered us into World War I, World War II, Korea and who gave us Lyndon Johnson -- remember good old Lyndon -- the guy who'd lied to us about the Gulf of Tonkin and then killed 3 million innocent men, women and children in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam? And don't forget our old friend Harry Truman who dropped nuclear weapons on the civilian populations of two Japanese cities just in order to send the old Soviet Union a message (not to end World War II sooner as your high school history textbook might have told you). The last thing you want to do in order to stop a war you support a Democrat. That's like becoming a prostitute in order to promote virginity!
John Murphy
Green Party
Pennsylvania
: Steering Committee
GNC: National Delegate
Candidate: Representative in Congress
District 16: Pennsylvania

Nader
VOTE PEACE: VOTE GREEN: VOTE NADER '08


From: Monique Frugier [Add to Address Book] Flag Message | Mark Unread
[This is spam]
To: prawn@lists.riseup.net,
Subject: Re: [prawn] MoveOn Petition about Congressional capitulation
Date: Aug 8, 2007 11:26 PM
Attachments: unknown-5 KB unknown-3 KB Forwarded-Message

Speaking to a French who is old enough to speak about occupation and Résistence( having been born in North Africa in 1944, and whose father died defending his country), I will tell you that in order to be effective, changes do not happen in disassociation but
rather in speaking out and in actions.
Monique.


From: David Kalkstein [Add to Address Book] Flag Message | Mark Unread
[This is spam]
To: prawn@lists.riseup.net,
Subject: Re: [prawn] MoveOn Petition about Congressional capitulation: Monique right again!
Date: Aug 8, 2007 11:31 PM
Attachments: unknown-7 KB unknown-63 KB Forwarded-Message

We must not back any Democratic candidate --
Who is the "we" that must not back any Democrtic candidate? Is it just Rich, Larry and Monique, or is it required that all of PRAWN must not back any Democratic candidate?
I need to know, so I can behave according to the rules.


From: Rich Flag Message | Mark Unread
To: prawn@lists.riseup.net
Subject: Re: [prawn] MoveOn Petition about Congressional capitulation: Monique right again!
Date: Aug 9, 2007 12:16 AM
1. I'd like to collect this conversation into a single blog post and forward the link to Rep Allyson Schwartz, who thankfully voted against S.1927, the bill that surrenders our Constitutional liberties to warrantless wiretapping. Please let me know if anyone objects. I'll put it all on http://www.prawnblog.blogspot.com/ sometime tomorrow.
2. Markos "Kos" Moulitsas of DailyKos reacted to Bill O'Reilly's charge that Kos intended to overthrow the government. Kos responded "Why would we do that? We have one third of it now and next election, we'll pick up another third." The point being that the "netroots" project has been far more successful than any previous attempt at changing our government. The other two big pushes, the Jesse Jackson and Ross Perot campaigns, were both personality-based campaigns that collapsed as soon as the personalities failed to keep the momentum going. Yeah, it's a long and rocky road ahead, but I just don't see any other way being anywhere near as successful as the "netroots" campaign has been.
Rich

From: Monique Frugier [Add to Address Book] Flag Message | Mark Unread
[This is spam]
To: prawn@lists.riseup.net,
Subject: Re: [prawn] MoveOn Petition about Congressional capitulation: Monique right again!
Date: Aug 9, 2007 12:32 AM
Attachments: unknown-9 KB Forwarded-Message message-footer.txt

No objection from me.
Monique.



From: "John A. Murphy" [Add to Address Book] Flag Message | Mark Unread
[This is spam]
To: prawn@lists.riseup.net,
Subject: Re: [prawn] MoveOn Petition about Congressional capitulation
Date: Aug 9, 2007 1:36 AM
Attachments: unknown-3 KB

Then you are well aware of what happened in occupied France during the 1930s and 40s. The Weimar Republic essentially gave France two choices: they could accept the Vichy government (controlled by French Nazis) or have a government directly imposed upon them from Berlin.
Many French chose to collaborate with the Germans through the Vichy government. Other Frenchmen including Albert Camus, fully aware of the consequences of their actions, joined La Résistance. They realized that a Nazi was a Nazi whether he spoke French or German. There was no difference between French Nazis and German Nazis. Similarly today there is no significant difference between the corporate driven, imperialist war machine of the Republican Party and the corporate driven, imperialist war machine of the Democratic Party. You do not collaborate with the enemy. La Résistance saved the lives of countless Allied forces which ultimately liberated France, not from within but from without.
The real problem in the United States is the two-party system which of course is nothing more than a one party system. Noam Chomsky calls it "the corporate party", Cindy Sheehan calls it "the war party", Ralph Nader calls it "the duopoly". This system cannot be altered or changed from within; it can only be opposed and resisted from without.
You might also ask yourself what did Gandhi do in occupied India? The United States has been occupied by a political elite which is controlled by 1,300 corporations -- 57,000 people decide what happens in this nation. They do not care how many antiwar demonstrations in which you participate because they can be sure if they look in your wallet they'll find a credit card from Chase or Bank of America or some other financial institution which continues to fund the war parties.
The corporate war party must be resisted. Join the resistance; join the Greens not the collaborators.
Vive La Résistance,
John A. Murphy
"To live as if our choices make any real difference in the long run may be the act of a fool, but to live as if they do not, that is the act of a coward."
— Albert Camus


From: "John A. Murphy" [Add to Address Book] Flag Message | Mark Unread
[This is spam]
To: prawn@lists.riseup.net,
Subject: Re: [prawn] MoveOn Petition about Congressional capitulation: Monique right again!
Date: Aug 9, 2007 1:54 AM
Attachments: democrats-scared.jpg Clear Day Bkgrd.jpg
The last thing you want to do is have any communication with the elected officials of an imperialist war party. what are you looking for - a pat on the head and a kick in the ass? That's all you'll get form them!
The Democrat Party is a reactionary, pro-war party. It is now and it has always been so. It has backed every war in the history of the United States since it came into existence. It is the proslavery party which has now destroyed the civil rights movement, the women's movement, the labor movement and most recently the antiwar movement. It is where social movements go to die.
Want to work for peace? Join the Greens! The Democrat Congress is worth less than 3 grams of bottled syphilitic whore spit.
John Murphy
Candidate: Representative in Congress
District 16: Pennsylvania


scaredy-cats



From: Rich Flag Message | Mark Unread
To: "John A. Murphy"
Subject: Re: [prawn] MoveOn Petition about Congressional capitulation: Monique right again!
Date: Aug 9, 2007 6:59 AM
John,
I'll certainly take your message under advisement.  BTW, the main point I intend
to make with my proposed post to Schwartz is going to be "Look at the mess
the Democrats have gotten themselves into!  See how much your fellow Democrats have
damaged themselves!"
The netroots don't just want a seat at the table of the Democratic Party, they
want to change the conversation so that we can turn it into an engine of social
change.  ALL of the new people elected in 2006 are in the anti-globalization camp,
f'rinstance. 
Rich


From: Joseph Gauger [Add to Address Book] Flag Message | Mark Unread
[This is spam]
To: prawn@lists.riseup.net,
Subject: Re: [prawn] MoveOn Petition about Congressional capitulation: Monique right again!
Date: Aug 9, 2007 7:01 AM
Attachments: message-footer.txt
If Kos says that "we have control" of Congress and will soon have the presidency, he is obviously not speaking as a member of the anti-war or progressive movements. As we've established, the Congress belongs to the Democratic wing of the Establishment. Despite all the rhetoric about changing direction and ethics reform, the Democratic leadership is well aware of how things are run in this country and have shown that they are quite comfortable with that arrangement.
The problem with organizing effective resistance to the Establishment is that the latter is skilled at coopting any burgeoning political movement. The essential power structure of American politics has remained intact through every supposed reform movement. Supporters of extensive, top-down reform are forced to continually reorganize as their groups go "mainstream". Groups like the Green Party, which are constructed so that corporate/Establishment influence is minimal, are denied access in other ways. But I agree that our best hope lies with them as opposed to Democratic candidates.

Joseph Gauger

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the
final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are
not clothed." -- Dwight Eisenhower


From: Rich Flag Message | Mark Unread
To: prawn@lists.riseup.net,
Subject: Re: [prawn] MoveOn Petition about Congressional capitulation: Monique right again!
Date: Aug 9, 2007 11:38 AM
Joseph,
You make some very good points, but allow me to present someone who speaks for the netroots (from http://www.horsesass.org/?p=3283 )


What’s the difference between a true netroots Democrat and an establishment Democrat? The willingness to criticize members of one’s own party when it really counts.
In her latest web ad WA-08 netroots “rock star” Darcy Burner not only sticks it to her Republican opponent Dave Reichert for handing warrantless wiretapping powers to President Bush, Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzales… she also takes on the 41 Democratic House members who voted with him.
“When Republicans like Dave Reichert give George Bush everything he wants, that’s bad enough. But too many people in my own party aren’t listening either. The warrantless wiretapping bill won’t make us safer, but it will strip us of the rights so many of our families have fought to preserve, including mine.”
This race is about bringing new leadership to the House, not just padding the Democratic majority. No doubt Burner would like DCCC support and the money that comes with it, but anybody who thinks she’s taking her cues from the other Washington, just isn’t listening.

------------------------
Just plain battling Republicans isn't the point. We're also into reforming the Democrats. We're not satified with the Democratic Party as it is.
Rich



From: larry petkov [Add to Address Book] Flag Message | Mark Unread
[This is spam]
To: prawn@lists.riseup.net,
Subject: Re: [prawn] MoveOn Petition about Congressional capitulation: Monique right again!
Date: Aug 9, 2007 10:56 AM
Attachments: unknown-64 KB
Monique:
I like the way John conveniently ignores the candidacies of Eugene McCarthy, Bobby Kennedy, George McGovern, and the huge anti-war movement in the Democratic Party in 1968 and 1972. There were plenty of anti-war Senators back then: Bayh, Proxmire, Church, Hughs, Gravel, Moorse, Gruening, etc.
Many people who lived through that period are certainly disgusted with the Democratic response today to the crisis. But to ignore splits in the Democratic Party on the war is foolish.
larry



From: +Steve Bozzone [Add to Address Book] Flag Message | Mark Unread
[This is spam]
To: prawn@lists.riseup.net,
Cc:
Subject: Re: [prawn] MoveOn Petition about Congressional capitulation: Monique right again!
Date: Aug 9, 2007 11:52 AM
Attachments: unknown-63 KB
To throw some thoughts in:
I have always believed that the pathos of "We don't work with them because _______" is contrary to building a popular movement. If there's something you don't like about an organization, work from the inside to change it. If we continue to remain exclusive and seperatist, we won't reach the masses. I really like what John Murphy has to say, but I agree with Monique. If a minority opinion isn't represented in an organization, then it won't have an opportunity to examine other viewpoints.
Beyond a blog post, it sounds like PRAWN could use a message board!
Best,
Steve





From: "John A. Murphy" [Add to Address Book] Flag Message | Mark Unread
[This is spam]
To: prawn@lists.riseup.net,
Subject: Re: [prawn] MoveOn Petition about Congressional capitulation: Monique right again!
Date: Aug 9, 2007 1:08 PM
Attachments: play democrat.jpg unknown-63 KB

I didn't ignore those people -- the Democratic Party ignored the people. I went "clean for Gene" back in 1968. But they didn't give us gene McCarthy they gave us Hubert Humphrey the man who would continue the slaughter in Vietnam and as a result we got Richard Nixon! (In retrospect of course Richard Nixon was to the left of William Clinton.) But as I said in an earlier note which you apparently did not read, back in the Democratic Party still listened to us and indeed they gave us George McGovern in 1972. But as it is McGovern got the nomination every corporate donor left the Democratic Party and McGovern sank like a slug. That's when the Democratic Party made his decision to ignore its constituency and to do only the will of its corporate sponsors. To believe anything other at this point in time is either perverse, insane or rampant ignorance.
John Murphy


sit!



From: Joseph [Add to Address Book] Flag Message | Mark Unread
[This is spam]
To: prawn@lists.riseup.net,
Subject: Re: [prawn] MoveOn Petition about Congressional capitulation
Date: Aug 9, 2007 3:01 PM
Attachments: unknown-3 KB message-footer.txt

Weimar Republic ended before Nazis came to power.
Joe