Thursday, November 30, 2006

You stay classy, Condi.

Front Paged at Booman Tribune

Well, Condi has answered the burning question on every freeper’s mind and has ruled out a run for president in 2008. Like she even had a chance to begin with.

While I will give her credit for recognizing the advances that women have made into positions of power and have been “running and winning”, and think that we are long past due for a woman as president (since we are one of the very few industrialized countries that hasn’t had a woman as leader, let alone even RUN for president), her decision, not to mention the reasons for her to not run would make Captain Obvious look like a great visionary.

But oh, what a great primary season it would have been with you, Cat Killer MD and other republican luminaries providing endless amusement for us in the reality based community. Of course, you would have to explain why, as National Security Advisor, your big foreign policy speech that was to have been made on 9/11/01 was all about missile defense and didn’t mention terrorism or Al Qaeda at all. That would have been a treat to see you shaking in your Ferragamo boots to explain that one, or the near perfect way that you handled Tenet’s urgent request for a meeting regarding the 9/11 threats.

Oh, and we can’t forget how spot on you were about that whole “smoking gun-mushroom cloud thing:

The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly Saddam can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.

Bravo, Dr. Rice. Bravo. But just one of many highlights from your wildly successful tenure as National Security Advisor.

Or, of course the reasons why the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing titled Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the US was something that would lead to this famous remark:

I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon; that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile.

Gee, I think even our vaunted fourth estate wouldn’t let that one slide again. Plus, someone that has such thin skin that you can’t even face tough questioning during a Senate hearing which would elevate you to the most important foreign policy position at a time when your negligence led to the biggest terrorist attack this country has ever seen wouldn’t fare so well in a debate with the foaming at the mouth “reformed” republican who no doubt would have sworn off all ties to anything related to the current administration.

And what a resume you could have trotted out in your campaign. Not only your wild successes as National Security Advisor, as noted above, but the “catastrophic success” of your tenure as Secretary of State. Take the defense of this administration’s stellar efforts in the Middle East:

Rice rejected the notion that U.S. operations in Iraq have shaken Middle East stability, arguing, "Those hostilities were not very well contained, as we found out on Sept. 11, and so the notion that somehow policies that finally confront extremism are actually causing extremism, I find grotesque."

SLAM!!!! It is the critics that are grotesque. Perfect. Like those pesky spy agencies who say that Iraq has increased the threat of terrorism. And the way that you handled the Israel/Lebanon situation on your Middle East tour would make the best diplomat jealous:
On July 30, Associated Press writer Katherine Shrader reported that Condoleezza Rice had canceled a trip to Lebanon after Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and other Lebanese officials apparently made clear she "was not welcome to visit."

What a shame. So many great credentials. Not only the wild successes over the past 6 years, but also the way that you set yourself apart from Big Oil and have allegiances to “We the People” when it comes to the oil industry and energy independence. But alas, what is one to do other than to lament those poor souls at Americans for Dr. Rice – 2008 who have invested so much time and energy behind all of the superb things that you have done for this country.

Oh well, I guess you can always fall back on something that you are very good at - helping Georgie when nature calls.

So sad, Condi. To think of what could have been....just do me a favor, and please – stay classy Condi. As you always have been.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"We're . . . being shot at by both sides"

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media. Recommended at Daily Kos

Actually, the full line from Fareed Zakaria’s new article is “We’re in the middle of a civil war and are being shot at by both sides”. And while the “responsible” media has finally been smacked in the face by the brick of reality and has “made the official call” that Iraq is in the midst of a civil war, it is even more clear with each passing day that our troops have absolutely no business being in Iraq any longer.

Zakaria lays out some chilling facts with respect to the violence that our troops are caught in the middle of, and coupled with this first hand diary by TO the First, really makes you wonder if even we here realize the severity of the situation.

If our troops are fighting the “insurgents”, then surely that must mean that they are supporting the “democratically elected” government. After all, if we are spreading democracy™ then we would want to support what the Iraqi people voted for. Otherwise, we would be giving the proverbial finger to all of those “purple fingers”. Right? Right?

Um....not so fast.

If you want to understand the futility of America's current situation in Iraq, last week provided a vivid microcosm. On Thursday, just hours before a series of car bombs killed more than 200 people in the Shia stronghold of Sadr City, Sunni militants attacked the Ministry of Health, which is run by one of Moqtada al-Sadr's followers. Within a couple of hours, American units arrived at the scene and chased off the attackers. The next day, Sadr's men began reprisals against Sunnis, firing RPGs at several mosques. When U.S. forces tried to stop the carnage and restore order, goons from Sadr's Mahdi Army began firing on American helicopters. In other words, one day the U.S. Army was defending Sadr's militia and, the next day, was attacked by it.

The problem here is that al-Sadr’s party holds at least 30 seats in the Iraqi Parliament and is part of a coalition that holds 128 seats in the Iraqi Parliament. And in “BREAKING NEWS”, Sadr loyalists are now boycotting the Iraqi government because of Prime minister Nouri al-Maliki's summit with Bush. But putting all that aside for the moment, if our troops are being shot at and attacked by militia associated with someone who holds influence in the Iraqi government, as well as those who are fighting against said government, what does that say for our troops and “the mission”?

Granted, this is a bit of an oversimplification, but it does make you wonder just who the “insurgents” are and who they are supported by. And Zakaria asks that very question as well:

To speak, as the White House deputy press secretary did last week, of "terrorists ... targeting innocents in a brazen effort to topple a democratically elected government" totally misses the reality of Iraq today. Who are the terrorists and who are the innocents?

The other problem here is that even with all of our troops in Iraq, we STILL are supposed to be listening to what the Iraqis want. Remember this incident from last month?
On October 23, gunmen reportedly abducted the Iraqi-American soldier as he visited relatives in the Karada neighborhood of Baghdad. A large-scale manhunt ensued, with U.S. forces erecting barricades and checkpoints around the Sadr City section of the city, where the soldier was believed to be held. The United States maintained this cordon for eight days, until Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki issued a public declaration on October 31 insisting that the checkpoints be dismantled. U.S. commanders reportedly acceded to al-Maliki's demand and abandoned the checkpoints within hours of his request.

So if our military, and all of the troops committed to Iraq are being shot at by “the insurgents” as well as the militia which is backed by one of the more powerful and influential people (and his political party), then what? Who are we fighting with? Who are we fighting against? Surely, the Iraqis must see the value in what the troops are bringing (and this is NOT meant to, in any way, disparage the troops who are caught in this no-win situation).

Um....guess again:

To the contrary, both sides now see American troops as the problem. The Shiite ruling coalition and the Sunni insurgency both believe that if only the United States were to get out of the way, they could defeat their enemies outright. That's why, in the most recent poll of Iraqis, taken in September, 91 percent of Sunnis and 74 percent of Shiites said they wanted American forces to leave within a year.

I’ve been saying it for many months now. This has been a loser of an invasion and occupation from the start. When the premise is built on lies, it can’t be sustained. When there is no true mission or goal other than catchphrases and slogans, there is no chance of victory. When our troops are being shot at one day by people that they were “fighting with” the day before, that is the most unfair to our troops. Our troops did all that they could, given the tools, training and equipment they were provided. This can’t be “won” with guns and tanks and bombs.

Bring them home now. It is the only fair thing to do. Not only for our troops but for the Iraqis.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Afghanistan's impact on NATO's future. How bad can it get?

Front paged at Booman Tribune

The NATO Summit is this week, and the future of the Organization, as well as the impact that the “other mess” that is Afghanistan will be the top item on the agenda. Unfortunately, with the news (finally) dominated by the nearly unspeakable horrors that are actually going on in Iraq, a rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan is unfolding before the world’s eyes – and is threatening the future direction of NATO.

One of the bigger problems that NATO is facing (other than and as a result of the fact that the US “cut and ran” from Afghanistan to pursue its’ real life game of Risk™) is that more troops are needed, but countries are arguing over who should send more troops:

NATO member countries need to deploy more troops to Afghanistan to stabilize the troubled region, said parliamentarians who are meeting in Quebec City.

The 18,000-soldier contingent needs to be increased by 15 to 20 per cent, said Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, vice-president of NATO's parliamentary assembly.

The reinforcements can't come from Canada, said the Conservative senator.

With more than 2,000 soldiers currently stationed in Afghanistan, Canada has already done its part, he said.

Mr. Nolin said the ball is now in the court of the 25 other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It's not the first time the point has been pressed to the organization but there have been few takers.

And so it goes. But this attitude, right or not, is causing a strain between the EU countries and the other NATO members:
NATO is also worried that France and Germany are keeping their soldiers away from combat operations and NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer last week urged lawmakers of the alliance nations to “lean on their governments to remove restrictions on troops” operating in Afghanistan.


There is a growing rift in the military alliance as Canadian, American, British and Dutch forces in southern Afghanistan bear the brunt of heavy fighting against the Taliban insurgents whereas the French, German and Italian forces patrol relatively quiet sectors in the north of Afghanistan, under self-imposed limitations that keep them out of combat operations.

The French and German stand on reduced participation in combat operations is understandable since they opposed the US’ unilateral war in Iraq but committed troops to the ISAF for nation-building exercises in Afghanistan and not to guerrilla warfare.

“This relationship is currently suffering from under-stretch rather than overstretch. Indeed, given the magnitude of today’s security challenges, it is remarkable how narrow the common agenda of both institutions remains” said Scheffer.

Now, we can play “coulda woulda shoulda” all day long here about the dazzling number of horrific decisions made by the US in Afghanistan – from not putting enough troops toward the hunt for Bin Laden, or not putting enough troops into the country to begin with, or thinking that they could “win on the cheap” and divert most of our armed forces to Iraq, or whatever else was done. Sadly however, this is the hand that we are facing, and that hand includes Iraq, Afghanistan and all of the other chest thumping that our “fearless” leaders are doing.

The good news is that NATO is assisting in Afghanistan with over 30,000 troops. The bad news is that isn’t nearly enough, that even former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said that Afghanistan is even a more pressing issue than Iraq, and while US ambassador to NATO, Victoria Nuland knows that the military alone will not win this we have a “stay the course” mentality from the UK:

"I don't believe there is an alternative but to fight this and to fight it for as long as it takes," British Prime Minister Tony Blair told troops in southern Afghanistan last week.


"A military mission alone will not succeed," U.S. Ambassador to NATO Victoria Nuland said.

"We must have security married to good governance and development, and that means the EU, U.N. and NATO working in harmony with Afghans," she wrote on NATO's Web site last week.

Of course, there are some successes that can be pointed to, such as some improvement in healthcare and education. But in the four years since military action commenced, there have been far too many negatives and far too many steps backwards. You don’t have to look too hard to see that the huge comeback of the Opium trade is taking a huge toll on society or that bombings and deaths are still all too frequent.

NATO Secretary-General Scheffer knows that these rifts can threaten the future of NATO:

Putting caveats on operations means putting caveats on NATO's future," NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said in Brussels before the summit. "At Riga, I will convey this message to our heads of state and government, loud and clear."

The big question is whether this message will resonate enough to hold NATO together as well as not only stopping Afghanistan from deteriorating further but also to somehow achieve “victory” in Afghanistan – that is whatever “victory” can be measured by. This detailed article in the Economist seems to think that while the task is a difficult one, it is not impossible.

But we also heard that about Afghanistan back in 2002. We can only hope that some sort of consensus will allow NATO to do what it set out to do as anything else would be disastrous.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

So Is It OK if Most Voters Aren't Disenfranchised?

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

That was basically my response (not verbatim) to my dad’s email after he read my diary from Friday about our very broken voting system. He thought that I was starting to sound like a fanatic and since the Democrats won, I should just be happy – especially since no republicans were crying “fraud”.

My response was that this is a non-partisan matter, and transparent, non-partisan, non-hackable and verifiable voting is key, regardless of who wins. Being that my parents live in Florida, I figured that FL-13 was a perfect case in point, but “some people probably just didn’t want to vote for that particular race” was about as far as the discussion got.

And then, as luck had it, I stumbled across this article from today’s NY Times, titled Experts Concerned as Ballot Problems Persist.

The article is chock full of anecdotes, many be non-partisan experts and groups like as well as The Century Foundation regarding the thousands of problems (large and small) that occurred this past Election Day, and it opens with a bang:

After six years of technological research, more than $4 billion spent by Washington on new machinery and a widespread overhaul of the nation’s voting system, this month’s midterm election revealed that the country is still far from able to ensure that every vote counts.

Tens of thousands of voters, scattered across more than 25 states, encountered serious problems at the polls, including failures in sophisticated new voting machines and confusion over new identification rules, according to interviews with election experts and officials.

And as many election experts indicate, my dad’s thought of “well if the Democrats won, why should you care” is less of an exception and more of a rule in terms of what went wrong. More accurately, the races weren’t close enough for the problems to have mattered, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t still there, and aren’t still big.

As I noted the other day, there were over 12,000 calls to the Election Protection Coalition on Election Day (and an estimated 40,000 total calls to the Election Protection Coalition and Common Cause). They will release a study shortly with their findings and summary of the calls and problems.

Additionally, according to as well as the Denver Post an estimated 20,000 people just gave up and went home due to long lines and frustration:

The Denver vote on election day fell about 20,000 short of expected projections, reflecting voting day problems that now have elected officials considering a overhaul.


An analysis of past voting trends confirms that a sizable chunk of voters, confronted with long lines, likely gave up and went home fuming during Denver's disasterous Nov. 7 election.

There's no way to know exactly how many voters were affected, but when compared to past gubernatorial races, it's clear the Denver vote tally this time around came up short. "We're not going to pretend that people didn't leave without voting because they did," said Alton Dillard II, the commission's communications director.

The Century Foundation’s Tova Andrea Wang wrote the following in her article titled A Post Mortem on the Voting Process:
While voting machine malfunctions received the bulk of the press, the following are three issues that must be addressed prior to the 2008 presidential election.

Long Lines

In state after state across the nation, we saw reports of people waiting in line for hours on end because of machine failures, poll workers who didn’t know how to operate the machines, and, most troubling, insufficient numbers of voting machines. In Tennessee for example, too few machines in one jurisdiction led to waiting times of FIVE AND A HALF HOURS. This jurisdiction was predominantly minority. There were too few machines in jurisdictions in Maryland, too few poll workers in Colorado, and incredible lines in Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Utah, and Massachusetts, where the problem also was predominantly in communities of color. In all of these places, many voters left without ever casting a ballot.


Identification Problems

As we predicted, there were serious problems with voter identification. Across the country, poll workers demanded ID from voters who were not required to show ID and improperly implemented the ID rules, such as by requiring the ID have a current address when that is not the law. It wasn’t hard to know where this was likely to happen and indeed it did go on in Georgia, Ohio and Missouri, all states that have had major controversies over voter identification. In Georgia, many people were improperly asked for identification; voters were confused and thought the recent court rulings meant they didn’t have to bring any ID at all to cast a regular ballot; and in at least one polling place there were signs saying “identification required” when it is possible to vote without one under existing law.


In Ohio, it appears that hundreds of voters were turned away because poll workers didn’t know the rules of what kind of ID should be accepted. Secretary of State Carnahan of Missouri was herself improperly asked for photo ID and reported that her office got numerous complaints of similar incidents throughout the day. There were reports of improper demands for ID in Maryland, Minnesota, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.


Deceptive Practices


In Virginia there were numerous reports of voters receiving calls telling them, falsely, that their polling place had changed, and telling them to go to the wrong precinct. Some of the calls told voters that since they were not properly registered, if they voted it would be a crime.


Similarly, in Colorado it was reported that Hispanics were getting phone calls telling them they were not registered and that they might be arrested if they voted.

The Times article lists a number of other states and voting machine “issues” as well, including the following:
In Arkansas, Florida and Pennsylvania, the questions were about the voting machines themselves. In addition to the Sarasota issue, which may have been caused by a software problem, there were similar problems in the Florida counties of Charlotte, Lee and Sumter. In those counties, said Barbara Burt, vice president and director for election reform at Common Cause, more than 40,000 voters who used touch-screen machines seemed not to have chosen a candidate in the attorney general’s race. But since one candidate won by 250,000 votes, the anomaly has been generally overlooked.

On election night in Arkansas, officials discovered that erroneous results had been tallied in Benton County. After retabulating the votes, they announced that the total number of ballots cast had jumped to 79,331 from 47,134, which meant a turnout of more than 100 percent in some precincts. After a third tallying, the total dropped to 48,681.

In Pennsylvania, computer problems forced polling places in Lancaster and Lebanon Counties to stay open late. In Westmoreland County, a programming error in at least 800 machines caused long lines.

Mary Beth Kuznik, a poll worker in that county, said she had to reset every machine after each voter, or more than 500 times, because the machines kept trying to shut down.

While it wasn’t all bad – as some experts believe that this past election was better than 2004 – that to me says that we graduated from “miserable” to “horrible”. According to the Times article:
But some of the biggest states have not been able to overcome problems with new technology or rules and the lightly trained poll workers who must oversee them. In Ohio, thousands of voters were turned away or forced to file provisional ballots by poll workers puzzled by voter-identification rules. In Pennsylvania, the machines crashed or refused to start, producing many reports of vote-flipping, which means that voters press the button for one candidate but a different candidate’s name appears on the screen.

Perhaps most notoriously, officials in Sarasota County say nearly 18,000 votes may never have been recorded by electronic machines in a Congressional race, even though many voters said they tried to vote.

Hmmmm.....Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. Where have I heard about them before?

I am sure this is just the tip of the iceberg, and I certainly will try to stay on top of this, because 2008 brings us the same 400+ Congressional races, 30+ Senatorial races, countless state races and the big enchilada as well. These “errors” and issues are too large to let go. Too large to not do something about. Too important to sweep under the rug and hope for the best.

Our democracy is at stake and the whole world will be watching. Again. Let’s not be the laughingstock for the fifth straight election.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Six Boston Catholics burned alive after leaving Church

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media. Recommended at Daily Kos

No, that didn’t happen.

But what would the reaction be around this country if that was the headline they woke up to today? And I didn’t mean to pick on Boston (especially since they already suffer enough with the Red Sawx) or on Catholics – it could just as easily have been Chicago or Detroit or Nashville or San Diego and it could just as easily have been Jews or Muslims or anyone else for that matter. And with everyone too preoccupied with the holiday shopping bonanza, it makes you wonder how many people even care about the living hell that this administration has created in Iraq.

The situation, if you can still call it that, in Iraq has reached a point that even our vaunted “fourth estate” is covering the horrors that have gone on over the past couple of days. And it certainly doesn’t help when statements like "Philadelphia is just as dangerous as Baghdad" or that "Iraq has a lower civilian death rate than Washington DC" are being taken at face value.

So, let’s play that game. How would the following story play out if it were reported on the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer?

US’ Inferno Rages

Jews burned six Roman Catholics alive. And a day after Catholic attacks killed 215, scores more American bodies turned up.

Philadelphia - Revenge-seeking Jewish militiamen seized six Roman Catholics as they left prayers yesterday, drenched them with kerosene, and burned them alive while US Army soldiers did nothing to stop the attack, police and witnesses said.

The fiery slayings in the mainly Roman Catholic neighborhood of Philadelphia were a dramatic escalation of the brutality coursing through this major American city. They came a day after suspected Jewish insurgents killed 215 people in Philadelphia’s main Roman Catholic district with bombs and mortars.

The attacks culminated Philadelphia’s deadliest week of sectarian fighting since the war began more than three years ago. At least 87 bodies were found across Pennsylvania yesterday.

Somehow I think people would demand answers and be pretty pissed off. But as long as there are 30% off sales, everything is just peachy.

Would there be as much outrage as if someone took the last half price LCD television if this was the top story on the evening news:

Protestants, Luterans Unleash Reprisals

Burnings reported as American strife deepens

Washington, DC -- In a wave of reprisal killings, Protestant militiamen torched or sprayed gunfire at Lutheran churches in Washington DC and other parts of the US yesterday, defying a government curfew and propelling the country further toward full-scale civil war.

The exacting of revenge for the deaths of more than 200 Protestants on Thursday came as powerful politicians linked to the radical Protestant leader threatened to pull out of America’s coalition government if Vice President Dick Cheney attends a scheduled meeting with the President of the country who invaded America three years ago next week in Amman, Jordan.

Hmmmm. That may make people look up from their morning coffee and be a bit concerned. There are really no good answers – in fact there are not really any bad answers either. Just “horrible” and “miserable” at this point. Unfortunately, even plans that may have been feasible or viable a few months ago are probably useless. Even if “troops home now” (a plan that I have advocated for many months now) is the ultimate choice, how do we get them out?

The time for debate has pretty much passed. Even Senator Chuck Hagel (probably the only republican member of Congress who has been truthful and on point about Iraq) knows that we need to get out, soon. And it is long past time for this game to be played:

He [White House spokesman Scott Stanzel] also repeated the administration’s insistence that Iraq was not in a civil war. “We’re constantly asked that question, and while the situation is serious, Prime Minister Maliki and President Talabani have said they do not believe it is a civil war,”

What if the Chicago Tribune, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, the New York Post, USA Today and other national newspapers had day after day of headlines and news like the following:
Wave of Retaliation Sweeps United States

In the far northern town of Minneapolis, MN, a car bomb blast ripped through a crowded car dealership, killing at least 22 people and injuring 26.


As the uniformed assailants advanced to another area of St. Louis, members of a prominent Presbyterian clan in the area, fought back.

"They were ready for them and ... ambushed the attackers, countering them with RPGs and machine guns," the officer said. The ensuing fight brought casualties on both sides. A nearby hospital reported that it had received 28 dead and 32 injured.


In spite of an emergency 24 hour curfew, gunfire crackled throughout the day and mortar rounds arced over Seattle’s jagged skyline, smashing into houses of worship, residences and shops.

By Friday night, at least 65 deaths had been reported in the city and elsewhere.


A dozen or more Jewish temples around the country were hit by mortar rounds and gunfire or were burned down by Catholic mobs. Masked members of James Dobson’s militia swept through Jewish areas, setting up checkpoints and threatening to execute families that didn't leave their homes within 48 hours.

Baltimore, a mixed area of the capital, saw some of Friday's fiercest fighting. Uniformed men in police vehicles roared through the streets launching rocket-propelled grenades into houses and raking Jewish temples with gunfire, said an Army officer stationed in the area. The attackers killed three security guards at a temple and injured 10 worshipers inside.

"They proceeded to bombard the building with rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades, starting a fire that consumed the structure," said the officer, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal.

Would people care then? Would people demand answers, accountability and changes? Oh wait – there’s a 50% off sale on DVD players – gotta go.....

Friday, November 24, 2006

Yay! We Won. Now About That Whole Election Process...

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

The fact that the Democrats scored such a huge victory earlier this month should not make us forget that our election system (not just our voting machines) is horribly broken and must be dealt with in a strong and honest manner before November 2008 rolls along.

We certainly know that at least one election was, um, “marred by massive irregularities”, to say the least, costing the Democrats another seat. And frankly, lost in the celebration and euphoria of taking back both houses of Congress, real election reform should still be front and center.

There were over 12,000 complaints about malfunctioning machines or other “irregularities” and we had elected officials even having problems voting. The usual suspects (Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Georgia) plus California and North Carolina led the way with the most complaints. Not coincidentally, these states have been “repeat offenders” (Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida in 2004, Georgia in 2002 and Florida in 2000).

It is truly pathetic when a former President, Jimmy Carter, has an organization which has monitored over 50 elections and this organization would refuse to monitor the US elections because we don’t even meet the necessary criteria:

But there's no doubt in my mind that the United States electoral system is severely troubled and has many faults in it. It would not qualify at all for instance for participation by the Carter Center in observing. We require for instance that there be uniform voting procedures throughout an entire nation. In the United States you've got not only fragmented from one state to another but also from one county to another. There is no central election commission in the United States that can make final judgment. It's a cacophony of voices that come in after the election is over with, thousands or hundreds of lawyers contending with each other. There's no uniformity in the nation at all. There's no doubt that that there's severe discrimination against poor people because of the quality of voting procedures presented to them. Another thing in the United States that we wouldn't permit in a country other than the United States is that we require that every candidate in a country in which we monitor the elections have equal access to the major news media, regardless of how much money they have. In the United States, as you know, it's how much advertising you can by on television and radio. And so the richest candidates prevail, and unless a candidate can raise sometimes hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, they can't even hope to mount a campaign, so the United States has a very inadequate election procedure.

Pretty pathetic for a country that is a beacon of freedom and democracy.

But it wasn’t just the Diebold machines or the potential for vote switching or the lack of a paper trail. It is the robocalls that were being done by the GOP. And while there is anti-robocall legislation in a few states, this is something that Congress should take up as part of a comprehensive voter reform initiative.

This article has a number of ideas, some pretty good – including instant runoff voting. There are also bills in the Senate by Clinton and the House by Holt which are good starts (hat tip to lorelynn for those links).

Archaic machines and machines proven to be easily hackable and unsafe. A lack of a papertrail. Partisan participation at the highest levels of the voting and vote counting process. Rampant voter disenfranchisement, dirty tricks and voter suppression. Illegal and false threats to discourage voters. Fraud and illegally discarding voter registrations. All of this was happening again in 2006.

Who knows if there were any other elections whose results were skewed enough to change the outcome? It certainly isn’t like the issue is unheard of. Or that a sitting republican Congressman didn’t say that they would take care of the counting back in 2004. But just because the Democrats took back the House and the Senate, and just because the 2008 Senate picture doesn’t look so hot for the republicans doesn’t mean that all is peachy in our electoral process.

And it doesn’t mean that there won’t be millions of voters disenfranchised, or there won’t be some “strange irregularities” or missing smartcards or attempts to confuse voters into voting the day after election day. Or calls for people to jam the voter protection hotline. Hopefully (and chances are) the republicans will be in more of a disarray as a party, and the Democrats will be in an even better position to add to their advantage in the House or Senate. And the stakes will no doubt be even higher than they were this past voting season.

Which is why it is imperative that we don’t let this issue die. That we don’t find ourselves in the same position we are now come November 2008. That we make sure that comprehensive voter reform – voter reform with teeth – gets implemented as soon as possible. There is much that needs fixing. But the right to vote, and have your vote counted, is the very definition of democracy.

And right now, our country is a worldwide laughingstock when it comes to the very foundation of democracy.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A day to be thankful.

Front paged at Booman Tribune

I wasn’t going to post anything today but (famous last words, right?) I was just thinking about how much better things, not to mention the future, look after the past couple of weeks. Everything wrong with the country’s direction – the arrogance and smugness of the criminals and their wingnut supporters, the excusing of torture and murder, greed, lies and finger pointing – has suddenly taken a huge hit in the gut.

Not only do “they” know that, the tables and tide have turned since the election in such a huge way, and the contrast couldn’t be more obvious. So, I was thinking of what we can be thankful for – thankful in ways that didn’t seem possible as recent as a few months ago, let alone last year at this time.

While this is just the very beginning of a long road of recovery and return to sanity, and there is much to be done, I can say that I am a bit more thankful this year than in the past few years.

Of course I am thankful for having such a wonderful wife, good health in the family, and the good year that we had. And since we plan on having little clammyc’s running around in the next few years, I can, for the first time in years, say that I am thankful that they will grow up in a country and world that may not end up to be as bad as we all thought it would be just a few short months ago.

I am thankful for sanity in Congress:

During the campaign, Democrats outlined an agenda for the new session. Many of the items seem likely to win over support from moderate Republicans — and, therefore, are likely to pass — such as raising the minimum wage, reducing interest rates on student loans, and passing the 9/11 Commission recommendations.

Bush's agenda — on everything from taxes to education to judges — will also face significantly larger hurdles than it did before. Democratic leaders have offered assurances they will not raise taxes on the middle class, but some of Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans may be rolled back.

Thankful that we won’t have people like this guy or this guy to kick around anymore.

Thankful to see headlines like this exposing frauds, charlatans and hypocrites while sending the “true believers” into a defensive frenzy.

Thankful that there are some sane republicans out there who are looking out for our troops.

Thankful that there are still some in the press who are doing their jobs:

On CNN, New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh reported that a new CIA assessment concludes that “there’s no evidence Iran is doing anything that puts them close to a bomb.”

Thankful that there won’t be Congressional complicity in shredding the Bill of Rights.:
Before Democrats take control of Congress in January, they [the lame duck Congress] must pass legislation authorizing the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program.

His [Bush’s] plea for a legislative stamp of approval on the controversial spy effort is an "important priority in the war on terror," Bush said. The response: deafening silence. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist quickly dispatched aides to put out the word on Bush's request: Not gonna happen.

Thankful that these criminals, sexual predators money launderers, takers of bribes and corrupt ringleaders aren’t holding highly influential positions in how our country runs.

Thankful for many many other things - a long list (thankfully). And last but not least - certainly thankful for these people.

Have a happy Thanksgiving all.....

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Abortion is illegal and immoral. Unless we say it isn’t.

Front paged at Booman Tribune. Recommended at Daily Kos

For starters, this is NOT my position on this issue.

But after reading righteousbabe’s diary from Monday as well as the news of Bush appointing a foaming at the mouth lunatic to oversee the Office of Family Planning, I felt that it was time to tell my story. And I have generally stayed out of these discussions, even though I have been personally in a situation where I had to make these decisions not once but twice. Frankly, I don’t think that I ever told my story to anyone, so maybe this will be therapeutic to me as well.

I bring this up now, mainly because of the absolute hypocrisy of the “life begins at conception and should never be terminated, except when we think that it should” mentality that has become more pervasive as laws restricting a woman’s right to choose are being debated and placed on ballots. And no doubt, this will be ratcheted up over the next year or two, as the Supreme Court is set to weigh in again on whether it is ok to tell a woman what she can or can’t do with respect to medical decisions, even though there are cuts in fundings and programs for much of the country, and a sick twisted focus on “abstinence only” programs – as if burying your head in the sand will magically make abortions, rape, abuse and unprotected sex disappear.

While both of the times were unexpected, the fact that there were serious medical considerations took a huge role in the ultimate decision that we made. One of the two times I was faced with this decision was with my ex-wife, and we were engaged at the time. I wouldn’t otherwise mention who it was, but she sadly has succumbed to a lifelong eating disorder, so giving some background won’t invade her privacy. The identity of the other party isn’t necessary, but suffice to say that it wasn’t back when I was in high school….

We were engaged at the time, and she was taking some serious medication for anxiety (and most likely early stages of a recurring eating disorder) and the medication would have had serious adverse health effects on the fetus. Most likely, her health would have been affected as well, regardless of whether or not she carried to full term. The fact that we were not yet married, or that she wasn’t too good at holding down a full time job didn’t really factor into the decision that we made though.

The other time that I was faced with this decision also had serious health consequences come into the equation. We were told very early on that there would most definitely be brain damage, birth defects and possible complications – that is if there was no miscarriage, which was a distinct possibility.

These were not easy decisions to make - not by a long shot. Now, not that it matters much, but I was firmly pro-choice before these experiences, and am certainly still in that camp today. However, that is very different from me being ”pro-abortion”. I think that really summed up my feelings the best when he was on Meet the Press back in May 2005. I remember watching him make the following statement, and I can still recite it verbatim as it hit me like a ton of bricks:

MR. RUSSERT: One issue where the Democrats seem to be changing their thinking is abortion. Here's Howard Dean on April 17: "I think we need to talk about abortion differently... Republicans have forced us into a corner to defend abortion..." And then, April 21: "If I could strike the words `choice' and `abortion' out of the lexicon of our party, I would."

DR. DEAN: Absolutely. I'm not advocating we change our position. I believe that a woman has a right to make up her own mind about what kind of health care she gets, and I think Democrats believe that in general. Here's the problem--and we were outmanipulated by the Republicans; there's no question about it. We have been forced into the idea of "We're going to defend abortion." I don't know anybody who thinks abortion is a good thing. I don't know anybody in either party who is pro-abortion. The issue is not whether we think abortion is a good thing. The issue is whether a woman has a right to make up her own mind about her health care, or a family has a right to make up their own mind about how their loved ones leave this world. I think the Republicans are intrusive and they invade people's personal privacy, and they don't have a right to do that.

Let me tell you why I think we ought to--why I want to strike the words "abortion" and "choice." When I campaigned for this job, I talked to lots of Democrats. And there are significant numbers of pro-life Democrats in the South. And one lady said to me, you know, "I'm pro-life. I don't like abortion. I would never have one. I would hope my daughter would never have one. But, you know, if the lady next door got herself in a fix, I'm not sure I should be the one to tell her what to do." Now, we call that woman pro-choice, but she thinks of herself as pro-life. The minute we start with the "pro-choice, pro- choice, pro-choice," she says, "Well, that's not me."

But when you talk about framing this debate the way it ought to be framed, which is "Do you want Tom DeLay and the boys to make up your mind about this, or does a woman have a right to make up her own mind about what kind of health care she gets," then that pro-life woman says "Well, now, you know, I've had people try to make up my mind for me and I don't think that's right." This is an issue about who gets to make up their minds: the politicians or the individual. Democrats are for the individual. We believe in individual rights. We believe in personal freedom and personal responsibility. And that debate is one that we didn't win, because we kept being forced into the idea of defending the idea of abortion.

And there is the issue exactly. I don’t want anyone telling me what decisions that I (and my wife/girlfriend/fiancĂ©e/etc.) have to make. What makes this worse (or more of a hypocrisy) is the debate about “exceptions” to making abortions completely illegal. If you are against a woman’s right to choose, or if you are against terminating the “life” of a fetus, cluster of cells or whatever else the anti-choicers are calling it, then there should be no exceptions. To carve out an exception for any situation is to compromise the position that you have. Period. To have any other position ( do you hear that, Senator McCain?) is disingenuous, hypocritical and flat out pandering. And while I certainly don’t agree one iota with the “no abortions ever” crowd, at least they are consistent in their obsession with controlling other people’s decisions.

Would the decisions that we made have been different if there weren’t serious health issues at play? For my ex-wife, I don’t know, but maybe. For the other situation, probably not, but hindsight is 20/20, so I really have no clue.

But I can tell you this – these were not cases of rape or incest or even “life threatening” to the mother (at least to the extent that it would fit the prescribed “exemption”). And you can bet that there would be no assistance for all of the health care costs associated with the major health issues that were laid out to us.

And therein lies another big hypocrisy of the “pro-life” movement – they are only “pro-life” until birth. Then it is “screw you – you’re on your own”.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The importance of an intelligent thought process

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

For those of you who have not seen the appearance on this past Sunday’s Meet the Press by Senators elect Jon Tester and Jim Webb, I strongly recommend that you take the time to watch at least some of it. Not just because they are the “netroots darlings” or because they are Democrats, or even because you may not know all that much about them – but moreso because it shows the stark contrast between what we as a country DID have and what we SHOULD have when it comes to an intelligent debate about one of the most important and far reaching discussions and debates that this country needs to have.

The one about what to do regarding Iraq.

It is pretty much widely accepted (at least among those who aren’t living in some sort of fantasy bubble) that Iraq is an absolute and total disaster. The botched invasion and illegal occupation has led to rampant unemployment, lack of electricity, a raging civil war, and a situation that has gotten so bad for our troops, that even Henry Kissinger is saying that clear military victory Iraq is “not possible”.

The stonewalling of an investigation, or even a debate about what is actually going on over in Iraq, by this administration and the soon-to-be-former rubber stamp republican Congress has directly led to loss of thousands of lives, irreparable injuries (mental and physical) to tens of thousands of others, hundreds of billions of dollars unaccounted for or thrown at a policy that was little more than “stay the course” and other catchphrases. No doubt that a republican Senate would make all efforts to continue this lack of discourse and debate, and two of the biggest culprits of this “head in the sand” approach are soon-to-be former Senators George Allen and Conrad Burns.

This was never more evident than this past Sunday, when both Jon Tester and Jim Webb talked frankly, thoughtfully and intelligently (and with no catchphrases) about what needs to be done about the out of control mess that Iraq has become. I also say this with somewhat of a hopeful but mistrustful eye on the “heralded” Iraq Study Group.

But I have to say, that the way that Webb and Tester spoke about where we are, and what needs to be done, is a breath of fresh air, and a seriously needed one at that. Webb’s credentials, the fact that his family has a personal stake in this, and his experience bring an intelligence level that was severely lacking with George the (other) Lesser. Compare the approach of Webb, and his thought process to that of Allen:

MR. RUSSERT: Jim Webb, let me show you and our viewers what you said during the campaign about Iraq. “If we want a new direction in Iraq, we need a new team in Congress. A Democratic Congress will demand from day one that the President find a real way forward in Iraq.” What’s “a real way forward”?

SEN.-ELECT WEBB: Well, first of all, I, I was saying even before we went in that there were three major issues in the Middle East that had to be addressed. One was the Israeli/Arab situation, the other was terrorism, and the third was, was Iraq, and that if we lumped them together that we risked in—having a problem with all three of them. That has happened.

So in the—in looking at Iraq, you need a larger scope than simply what’s going on with—with the government, with the troops inside, which people keep talking about. And I’m looking forward to hearing what the Baker commission comes forward with, the Iraq Study Group. But what we need—and I’ve been saying this for more than two years—is a diplomatic approach that will bring the countries in the region to the table so that we can have ownership, some ownership, diplomatic ownership from the countries that have long-term cultural and historical ties with Iraq. And from that umbrella, then we can address the issue of moving our combat troops out and still affecting the war against international terrorism. I think that’s doable. It’s a leadership question rather than simply an issues question, and that’s what I’m looking forward to trying to bring to the table.

MR. RUSSERT: You’re talking about Iran and Syria.

SEN.-ELECT WEBB: We need to talk to Iran and Syria. I think it was a great mistake not to as this moves forward, and that’s one thing that I’ve been encouraged to hear from former Secretary of State Baker that, you know, you need to talk to your, your enemies as well as your friends. You don’t have to give up anything in terms of, you know, national concerns to be talking to them, but it’s impossible to resolve the situation now without talking to them.

Just the basic thought of a comprehensive approach to finding an answer to the mess that the troops, the Iraqis and the Middle East in general has become. Contrast this to the sound bytes and lack of thought by Allen (not from this week’s Meet the Press):
Q: "Stay the course." What does that mean? How do you define victory in Iraq, and can it be won militarily?

ALLEN: Military and security aspects of it are absolutely essential. The people of Iraq voted last year three times, 70 percent turnout, walking like slow-moving targets to vote. And they do want a free and just society there.

Q: But what is staying the course?

ALLEN: Staying the course is meaning that we don't tuck tail and run, that we don't retreat, that we don't surrender. This is a central battle front in the war on terror, and it's not just the president or the vice president or me saying that, that's what al-Qaeda says, because al-Qaeda's designs and their goals are to have an Islamic caliphate from Indonesia to Spain, with the capital being in Iraq, an oil-rich area. And we cannot allow Iraq, where al-Qaeda was and is now, we cannot allow them to have that haven for terrorist activity.

On the issue of troops, here is another issue where we are dealing with intelligence vs. knee jerk talking points (I believe this is from their September debate on Meet the Press):
Q: Would you be in favor of putting more American troops in Iraq?

ALLEN: We're going to need to do what it takes to succeed.

Q: Including more troops?

ALLEN: That is actually happening right now. If you look at the troop levels in Iraq, they are higher than they were several months ago. Moreover, they have been concentrated in the Baghdad area, so the troops are going to where they're needed. But every single week you see more and more Iraqis and their military taking control, with the US in a supportive role.

Q: Mr. Webb, should we increase American troop levels in Iraq?

WEBB: We don't have the troops. We've got people now in the Army pulling their third and sometimes their fourth tours into Iraq. We're burning out our people. It's a double strategic mouse trap--first, it was going to burn out our conventional forces, and second, that we have gotten so engaged in fighting the Sunni insurgency that we have allowed the Shia to get more power inside Iraq.

This was confirmed by Webb’s appearance this past Sunday as well, when he spoke about increasing troop levels, as well as about the role that our military can even play in Iraq at this point:
MR. RUSSERT: What happens if the situation deteriorates and it becomes a whole widespread civil war, total chaos? What do we do then?

SEN.-ELECT WEBB: Well, again, there are limits to what the United States military can do in that region. And, in fact, when the United States is operating unilaterally, it creates further potential for the kind of thing that you’re talking about because of the resentments of having the, the, the United States there alone.

So the, the key, to me, for years has been getting these countries that are tangential and other countries that have long-term interests in the stability of Iraq to take some diplomatic ownership.
And we did this in, in ‘01 after we went into Afghanistan when, when we were putting the formula together that resulted in the Karzai government, we got the countries tangential to Afghanistan and others, including Iran, by the way, Iran, India, Pakistan, to become a part of the, the process that created the, the, the solution, the governmental solution. And that’s what you need in Iraq, in, in my view. You need these countries to have—to—with, with—some of them with compatible ethnic populations and this sort of thing to, to be participating so that there is some accountability in the region other than the United States for a solution.

Tester’s assessment was just as refreshing and actually was thinking outside the box (gasp - for a Senator):
MR. RUSSERT: Jon Tester, let me show you what Major General J.D. Thurman, the senior commander of American forces in Baghdad, said. “Part of our problem is that we want this more than they do,” talking about the Iraqis. That’s a very powerful statement.

SEN.-ELECT TESTER: Well, I mean, I—the—you know, if you go back to what, what Senator-Elect Webb said about diplomatic pressures, you know, I think that is, is just so right on the mark. It, it really is critically important that we visit with our allies to develop, to develop a plan for the region, and also keep our enemies close on this thing. Because I think it’s in everybody’s best interests to try to find some sort of resolution here. And I don’t know if it’s wanting it more than they. I think it’s, it’s knowing what we accomplish when we’re done. That, that’s part, that’s part of what is, is mysterious to me when I look at what’s going on in Iraq right now.

Just amazing. The importance of people like Webb and Tester in the Senate CANNOT be measured – especially when compared to imbecile and toady George Allen or to the corrupt and equally braindead Burns.

Much of the discussion with Tester centered around corruption, transparency and accountability, and much of the rest of the discussion with Webb centered around class warfare, trade and the American worker. And while there are also very stark contrasts in how Webb and Tester approach these issues vs. Allen and Burns, since I started this diary as a contrast about Iraq, I’ll leave you with outgoing Senator Conrad Burns’ big approach to Iraq:

"He (Tester) said our president (doesn't) have a plan. I think he's got one, but he's not going to tell everybody in the world," Burns added. "If you want to go out and spar for a fight, are you going to tell your enemy what your plan is? I don't think so."

Burns later said: "There is a plan. We're not going to tell you, Jon."

We are truly luck as a country to have these two men as United States Senators. The alternative is, and has been, a disaster. We deserve these critically thinking men as Senators (and they certainly deserve to be US Senators). The American people deserve it. The Iraqis deserve it. The Middle East deserves it. And most of all, our troops deserve it.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Keeping me "protected" ... unless the shift is over.

Front paged at Booman Tribune

Yesterday was my wife and my first anniversary, and we did a bit of celebrating this weekend. The celebrating included a trip into NYC yesterday (being as we are now “bridge and tunnel people” – which absolutely pains me to say) for some lunch and an art/antique show that was on the West Side Piers (around Piers 88, 90 and 92). For those of you who are not familiar with NYC or those particular piers, the link above gives you some information, but it is off the West Side Highway around 47th Street, and is the “New York Cruise Terminal”. This will be a bit more important in a moment.

Apparently, back in November 2002, this was one of a number of “designated areas” that were deemed to be “safety and security zones”. I have no clue what that means or if it is still the same meaning as it was back in 2002. Or, for that matter, if any applicable or required procedures are being followed.

These Piers are all connected, and there may have been a couple of cruise ships docked there when we pulled into the roof parking lot of Pier 92 to park the car (around 3ish), and after we drove at least ¼ mile along the side of the piers on the main road, passing the passenger drop off area one level up, and then winding up a couple of ramps (two more levels), past another parking lot (pier 88), through the booth where we had to pay to park (pier 90), past one more docked cruise ship and finally to our lot.

Where we were suddenly met by 2 NYPD officers, one with a huge black dog who asked me to open my trunk.

I should mention that throughout this entire time (maybe 5 minutes or so of driving), we did not pass one officer, security personnel, or anyone else for that matter as we drove the length of the three piers twice and were no more than 50 feet from buildings, ships or parking lots (full, I might add) at any time.

“Um...” was the first thing that came to mind, even though I knew I had no drugs, firearms, Cuban cigars or illegal immigrants in my car.

I was finally able to say “Sure, but why, if I can ask?”. At this point, the missus knew that I wasn’t going to keep my mouth shut and was in full eye roll mode.

“We need to check your trunk”, said the cop-with-big-dog, and my reply was “for what?”

“Explosives” cop-with-dog-said – in a tone that was reeking of “well, duh!!!”

As I sighed loudly opening my trunk (since I knew that we were not NOT going into this art fair), I hear the thud of the dog jumping into the trunk and a sarcastic “why, do you have a problem with this?”

I said, “well, its just that I don’t understand why you would be searching my car for explosives” – thinking to myself that if I did have explosives in my car and really wanted to blow up the piers, why wouldn’t I have done it at any of the other 3,000 points that I just passed...

And the slippery-slope argument that I should have expected all along came out, and I could probably have recited it along with him:

”well if someone wanted to blow up a ship [pointing to ship nearby], then they could just drive up and blow it up. And we have to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Forget the fact that anyone could have strapped explosives to themselves, walked along the piers, gotten on or close enough to the ship and done some damage. Or that there anyone could have waltzed into the antique show without being given a second look. Or parked a car at any of the dozens of other places that I passed. And yes, I understand the “logic” behind the argument to violate my fourth amendment rights on such a stupidly arbitrary basis.

So of course, I said the first thing that came to mind, which was “yes, I’m well aware of the PATRIOT Act and having my rights violated as you see fit to search me for no reason” as I drove off to find a spot.

Now, I understand the “someone may blow up a boat in NYC” argument, but, on a Sunday afternoon at 3PM – on such a slow news day? And, as I said to my wife, why search the cars here and barely search any cargo or shipping containers coming into these ports on a busy weekday? Or, why not search everyone who boards a bus? Or a train? Or the subway? Or that three ounces of liquid explosives at airport security is ok but a four ounce bottle of mouthwash results in a two hour holdup? Where does it end?

The real kick in the ass here is that, not even two hours later (just after 5PM), as we left the show to go back to our car, there was nobody to be found in the still-busy and crowded buildings and parking lot. No cops. No dogs. No security guards. I guess when “quittin’ time” comes around, then keeping ‘Murka safer takes a back seat.

And as we got to the car, my wife smiled and asked me where my “cop buddy” was. To which I just shrugged and said “I guess the boats don’t need to be protected after 5PM...”

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Pathetic Moronic Neutered Lame Duck Loser

Front paged at Booman Tribune

Well, pathetic, moronic and loser are nothing new, but Georgie-boy better get used to the terms “neutered” and “lame duck” being associated with him as well. Hell, maybe “infectious disease” is appropriate, given that none of his republican cohorts wanted to campaign with him, and those that he did campaign for lost their momentum, and in most instances, the race altogether.

And if there is one thing that we have all learned from the thumpin’ that Bush and the republicans took, it is that they will certainly go kicking and screaming into irrelevancy. Take the hot steaming pile of bipartisanship that Bush has served up this past week or so – whether it be trying to ram the nomination of Bolton through Congress, or by re-nominating the most controversial judicial candidates, or by telling the Democrats (and much of the country) to piss off regarding the redeployment of troops from Iraq as some of the more egregious examples.

The “schadenfreude” part of me that wants to see him crash and burn in the most degrading and demoralizing way is really starting to shine through (even more so), now that it is more and more likely that his out of the mainstream ideas won’t get through, and how his administration’s power is waning by the minute.

Neutered is a word that I think is the best descriptive though as he can now kiss goodbye the dismantling of the social security system, as well as much of the “unitary executive” principles which ruled the past 6 years. Say what you want about the Democrats impeaching or not impeaching, but the days of the rubber stamp republican Congress are gone.

Let’s just see him try to veto minimum wage bills, stem cell research bills, bills restoring the Bill of Rights, bills fixing the Medicare debacle, strengthening the health care system or tax cuts for the middle class. And let’s just see how many of these activist and extremist judges get confirmed. Or advance that class warfare, er, “compassionate conservative” agenda. Get used to hearing “lame duck” and “embattled” in front of your name. The “decider”? ha—maybe deciding whether prison stripes or the orange jumpsuit will look better, but that is about it.

“Loser” is pretty much the word that sums up the life and experiences of our so-called-fearless leader. Oh sure, having “guv’ner”, “preznit” and “commander-in-chief” as part of your resume may look good to you, but when none of it was earned and pretty much all of it was either a failure or a disaster.

Even on Iraq, the one thing that scared everyone into believing the most absurd of lies, and giving up many of their freedoms, the overwhelming consensus is one of anger, mistrust, frustration and displeasure. And nothing screams “loser” than a chorus of 69% of the population:

Americans' approval of President Bush's handling of Iraq has dropped to its lowest level , increasing the pressure on the commander in chief to find a way out after nearly four years of war.

Of those surveyed in the latest Associated Press-Ipsos poll, 31 percent approved of his handling of Iraq, days after voters registered their displeasure at the polls by defeating Republicans across the board and handing control of Congress to the Democrats. The previous low in AP-Ipsos polling was 33 percent, in both June and August.

Thirty one percent. That pretty much sums up “neutered loser”.

But not as much as evidence of everyone running screaming at the sound of your name. as BarbinMD points out in her recommended diary the front page of the Washington Post has party insiders saying “Bush who?”. And while the author of the article was still playing kissy-face with the administration, I want to point out how quickly everyone is abandoning ship – people that were instrumental to buying, er bribing, er stealing, er helping the ascent to Top Dog. From Kenneth Adelman a former Reagan administration official and onetime member of the Iraq war brain trust:

Adelman has broken with the Bush team. He had an angry falling-out with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld this fall. He and Cheney are no longer on speaking terms. And he believes that "the president is ultimately responsible" for what Adelman now calls "the debacle that was Iraq."

Not that he should be let off the hook himself, it just adds to the chorus of terrorist sympathizers who would sooner eat glass than be associated with our strong and resolute leader. You have Newt and Arlen, Powell’s lieutenants such as Richard Haass, Richard L. Armitage, Carl W. Ford Jr. and Lawrence B. Wilkerson all calling bullshit. Not to mention the litany of top military officials who are sounding off. Hell, there is talk (long overdue due to his crimes and treasonous acts) of turdblossom taking a hike soon.

Oh, and while we are at it, there is chief neocon William Kristol predicting the pending crumbling support by republicans for stay the course er, whatever it is that the Iraq disgrace isn’t being called now.

The wheels are rapidly coming off. The George W. Bush presidency has been cemented as a total and complete failure – a full two years before it officially will end. And when it comes to “moronic”, well one never has to wait too long or be disappointed for the next example. Like this one about the lessons of Vietnam:

Mr. Bush says Vietnam does offer lessons; one of which, he says, is, "We'll succeed unless we quit."

Close to the all time most moronic thing uttered by Boy Wonder, but I think this one still takes the cake:
"By now it should be clear that authoritarian rule is not the wave of the future," said Bush. "We want that democracy in Lebanon to succeed, and we know it cannot succeed so long as she is occupied by a foreign power."

As Bart Simpson always said, “the ironing is delicious”. Have fun hurtling towards irrelevancy. I’ll make some popcorn and settle into my comfy chair. This should be fun to watch.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Profiles in Douchebaggery

Front paged at Booman Tribune. Recommended at Daily Kos

Supervillain Dr. Colossus, er, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's ridiculous comments about international law being a threat to the US can't go unnoticed.

The following gem came out of the mouth of a man who has boldly led our Homeland Security Department to a stunning report card from the 9/11 Commission that includes 5 "F's", 12 "D's" and 2 "incompletes" with respect to keeping our country safe:

"International law is being used as a rhetorical weapon against us"...and that members of the European Parliament in particular as harboring an "increasingly activist, left-wing and even elitist philosophy of law" at odds with American practices and interests.

This coming from someone who can't keep his own country safe from a hurricane that then entire world saw coming, and from an administration that has violated international law so many times that a google search for "US violates international law" comes up with nearly 3,000,000 hits. What a douchebag.

And how does Chertoff feel that we, the "noble" world police force have been "violated" and threatened? Well, such areas as not allowing the US to reject treaties, or the separation of powers, or even how the US should be able to use information that is available with respect to its' own citizens or those who are entering (or "leaving") this country.

Who was the target of Chertoff's righteous rant? Well, not only that pesky European Union, but our own "activist" Supreme Court:

Chertoff said the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Guantanamo prisoner Salim Ahmed Hamdan that required the United States to treat detainees under Geneva Conventions standards showed international law's entry into the U.S. domain.

Another concern of Chertoff? That we may not be able to protect ourselves from attacks. Who can blame him? I mean, it's not like personal data about Homeland Security personnel goes missing or that people can enter the Homeland Security Headquarters by using fake ID, or that Senior Homeland Security officials worked for an American Muslim leader who was jailed on terrorism charges.

The important thing is that we "feel" safer. Just like my mother said to me the other day when discussing airport "security". Since three ounces of explosives won't blow up a plane, but four ounces of toothpaste or a plastic ziplock bag which is more than the "standard acceptable size" should hold up airport traffic for an hour. Now THAT is progress with a capital P.

I sometimes think that even these people are starting to make statements and think "hmmm, is this too outlandish for even the most gullible of the public to believe?" And then I read a statement like the following and just realize that these people don't get the cruel irony of their statements:

The top U.S. general in the Middle East said on Friday that if the world does not find a way to stem the rise of Islamic militancy, it will face a third world war.

Army Gen. John Abizaid compared the rise of militant ideologies, such as the force driving al Qaeda, to the rise of fascism in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s that set the stage for World War Two.

"If we don't have guts enough to confront this ideology today, we'll go through World War Three tomorrow," Abizaid said in a speech titled "The Long War," at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, outside Boston.

Never mind the fact that it wasn't the Islamic militants who set up military bases in our country. Or that they didn't use illegal chemical weapons on a city in a country that they illegally invaded and occupied. Or that they lied to the world about their intentions. Or that they...well, you get the picture.

I wish I could say that we are at a turning point, but that would sound too much like all of the corners that we have been turning in Iraq. And when you turn the corner four times, well, you are back where you started....

So instead, I bring you "Michael Chertoff - Douchebag Extraordinnaire".

Friday, November 17, 2006

"The terrorists" (and Iraqis) don't care who won our election

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

I don't know if the talking meatsticks, the republican morons and the `Murkins who are spouting this nonsense about "the insurgents" and "terrorists" wanting the democrats to win are more (1) stupid, (2) self absorbed or (3) just that far detached from reality (or maybe all of the above).

Yet, here we are, more than a full week after the election, and are STILL hearing about how our enemies "win big" with the Democratic victory last week and how the insurgents were rooting for the Democrats. Couple this with the chorus of "Democrats better do something quick about Iraq or else" and "Democrats want others to do something about Iraq" and you can already see how the latest republican "deny, deny, accuse" strategy of passing off blame for their failures is taking shape.

Are these people so vain as to think that Sunnis and Shiites, who have been in the midst of a civil war for months now, or Iraqi citizens/civilians whose daily life is turned upside down to the point that each day brings basic questions about lack of electricity, clean water, unemployment and basic survival actually stop to say "hey, these elections on the other side of the world will really matter for me"?

Do the Sunnis whose families have been killed and tortured by the Shiites, or the Shiites whose mosques and homes have been blown up by each other were rooting for Nancy Pelosi (and of course her "San Francisco values")? Did they celebrate and shoot their guns off in the air when Missouri was called for McCaskill or when Allen conceded to Webb?

Were all of those hundreds (or maybe it is even thousands at this point) of headless, bullet ridden tortured bodies found in and around Baghdad these past 2 months, or the hundreds of corpses that keep surfacing in the Tigris River a show of support for John Hall or Bob Casey? Or the near 15,000 deaths of Iraqi forces from January through October, or the near 60 (average) US troops killed per month all done to get rid of Dennis Hastert as Majority Leader?

Give. Me. A. Break.

And I'm sure this was also on the minds of Iraqi citizens as well - I bet they waited with baited breath to hear Conrad Burns concede to Jon Tester. I bet that they were real thankful for the increased troop levels in Baghdad, which of course didn't really make the violence worse. I bet that the average Iraqi was thinking more about the prospects of a Hoyer vs. Murtha role as Majority Leader as opposed to, you know, just trying to live their everyday life. Take these anecdotes (hat tip to NY Times and OpEd News):

Life was also hard under Saddam Hussein, the women pointed out. Plans were equally impossible to build. But the basic fabric of life, visiting family, attending weddings and funerals, was for the most part intact. Now Iraqis are letting go even of those parts.

The ministry employee sat at the table looking agitated. She attended the funeral for the mother of a good friend this month. The family was Christian, large and respected in the community, and before the war, such a funeral would draw hundreds. Instead, 10 people came to the church service, and only one, the dead woman's son-in-law, risked following the casket out to the cemetery. Even her daughter stayed home.

Somehow, I think just the fear of what happens when you step outside your door is a bit more weighing on people's minds than Sherrod Brown's positions and views. And watching their families fall apart is probably a tad more important than who won DeLay's, Mark Foley's and Katherine Harris' congressional seats:

Houda, a 40-year-old layout designer for a magazine in Baghdad who would not give her last name, said the violence had cast her and her husband in the roles of emergency room doctors, shouting orders and performing urgent tasks. Little time remains for intimacy. The last time she remembers feeling happy together was a year ago.


It is a daily struggle not to shout at her two teenage girls, one that she usually loses. She has stopped hugging and kissing them, a strange byproduct of extreme stress, she said. Recently, her 15-year-old called to say she missed her, though they had not been apart.

And surprisingly (only if you were to look at it through the eyes of self absorbed Americans), none of these people are talking about the elections in the US:

BILAL WAHAB, Iraqi Fulbright Scholar: Of course it does, because the police are supposed to be the force that's protecting the people. And you see that the police itself is now kidnapping people.

So when you have an issue, when there's a burglar at the door, when there's a terrorist to report, when there's a militiaman who is doing some crime or a gang at the door, who are you going to call? Are you going to call the police? How are you going to call the police?

So when your protector is your own aggressor, I think that will have a great impact on the people when there's no one to trust.


JEFFREY BROWN: And, Anthony Shadid, you returned there after being away for a year. What was the biggest difference that you saw?

ANTHONY SHADID, Washington Post: You know, what struck me almost immediately was leaving the airport and seeing how the very face of the city had changed at this point. You know, I've always been struck as a reporter there about the certain resilience that I think Baghdad and much of the country has.

When I went back in October, that resilience itself seemed to have faded. There wasn't traffic in the streets; shops were shuttered; you don't even see people on the sidewalks the way you used to see them a year or two years before.

I think people have withdrawn, in a way. And it is a question of survival at this point, withdrawn inside their homes, trying to wait this out.
In a lot of ways, you feel the city itself has become atomized. I mean, it has almost like lost a sense of being one city.

Sounds like people are really cheering for those Democrats, especially when they .

JEFFREY BROWN: So, Mr. Wahab, so how do people actually function? I mean, for example, do they go to work?

BILAL WAHAB: Iraqis are amazing. We Iraqis have lived in one war or another for the past 30 years. Eight years of war with Iran, and then some 10 years of sanctions, but these other wars have always been predictable. So we used to have sirens. We used to have shelters. You know what time your town is going to get shelled, so you hide.

But this war, unfortunately, this new phenomenon that we're seeing, it's on a daily basis. People have withdrawn to their homes. My friends and the family members that work in the other parts of Iraq, they basically say, "We either don't go to work or we go to work from, say, 11:00 to 3:00," so they basically either don't go. School is the same thing. People skip classes. Professors skip classes.

But a lot of times they just force themselves out, because what are you going to do? I mean, you're talking about people staying indoors, and then now we have domestic violence because the men are at home and then they cannot put up with it. They used to turn on the television for the few hours of electricity that you have. All you see on the screen is horror.

So life is unbearable. It's existing; it's not living.

But let me guess - the domestic violence is because of the Democrats electing a woman as Speaker of the House, right?

What friggin morons - so caught up in their own warped bubbles that they think that the horror Iraqis are caught up with (the civilians, the Iraqi forces, the "insurgents" - or more accurately, those who are defending their country from an illegal invasion and occupation while our soldiers are caught in a no-win situation) take a back seat to our elections.

Jeez - if their own elections didn't make a difference in bettering their lives, what makes anyone think that OURS will have any impact on their lives or their civil war?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

60 years old and still running to daddy to clean up your mess

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

Jeez, Georgie-boy, you were right. It is hard work - but not the way you described it. It has GOT to be hard work screwing up every single thing in your entire life, especially when everything has been handed to you by Daddy and his powerful friends in the business and political world.

And knowing how much you shun your real father for a "higher father" it has got to kill you that time and time again, you have to turn to daddy's friends to bail you out when you colossally screw up whatever your latest disastrous adventure is. It doesn't matter if it is relying on daddy to get you into his alma maters (or the Skull and Bones for that matter), or for business connections, or favors for military "service", or on a failed presidency - one filled with lies, divisiveness, stubbornness and one disaster after another.

How is one to ever get mommy's approval and attention when daddy has to keep getting you out of trouble? And at 60 years old? Damn that must be bruising to your already fragile ego.

And oh, how embarrassing it must be to have the headline for this week's Newsweek as Father Knows Best, with daddy in the foreground and you relegated to the background. It must also suck to see the words "Daddy's team comes to the rescue.....once again" or words like "Can Bush save Bush" about having to call in daddy to once again fix what you broke.

You would think that this would have gotten tired and annoying back in your college days, when comparisons of daddy the captain of the baseball team made you feel like you were two feet tall. But I guess you really showed everyone when you jumped right in yourself to become a cheerleader. I guess, as the saying from Grease goes, "if you can't be an athlete, be an athletic supporter.

And oh, how you have shown to be a colossal "athletic supporter" over the years. Especially when it comes to showing daddy how independent you are. Just like that time in the mid 1980s when you were the only one who managed to NOT find oil in Texas. Or when you said back in 2000 how daddy should have invaded Iraq and you wouldn't have wasted all that political capital. May I ask you how that all worked out?

Oh yeah, an absolute disaster, which may be the understatement of the century. But not just an absolute disaster for the military, the economy, the Iraqis, the Middle East and the United States in general, but at this point, to have to call daddy once again for help. Like Robert Gates, who was close with daddy's administration replacing your partner in crime (literally) Rumsfeld. And calling in daddy's other best friend James Baker to try and come up with the least horrific plan for Iraq and the Middle East.

But we can't forget how you also had to call daddy's buddy Baker back in 2000 to help "convince" the Supreme Court that they should hand you the presidency. Or how another buddy from daddy's presidency came to the rescue in 2000 with this famous line:

"I'm with the Bush-Cheney team, and I'm here to stop the count."

Good thing you gave him that UN position, especially since nobody else wanted him there.

And what happened after your worst domestic screw up, the non reaction to a hurricane that everyone say coming? Daddy and Bill Clinton come to the rescue. Boy, did they get chummy as well. I guess when daddy finds someone who is intelligent, intellectually curious, engaging and entertaining, he probably wished at least once that Clinton was his son, and not you.

No wonder you have such a disdain for your immediate predecessor. In 60 years, you have never been able get daddy to notice you - but when you have no accomplishments, how can daddy ever give you his approval anyway?

So this year you celebrate your 60th birthday. Yet, you are still the same loser and failure that you were for the first 59 years of your life. And still, even at an age where some people are close to retiring, you still can't get anything right, and still need daddy to call in his friends and favors to bail you out of your messes.

How pathetic.