Tuesday, July 31, 2007

How to respond to "the surge is working"

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

I’ll preface by reiterating what I have said for many months now – that I wish nothing more for our troops to be safe while in Iraq and return home quickly and safely. They are in an impossible situation – put there by the stubbornness and wishful thinking by so-called “experts” and “leaders” who couldn’t lead a fake army in a game of RISK™. I will also say that any sort of military victory that our troops would have or could have achieved in Iraq occurred a few months after the initial invasion.

This can’t be denied. We went in and took out Saddam’s regime (right or wrong or for whatever reason – good, bad or worse) rather quickly. It was a swift military victory for our troops. As much as we make fun of the “Mission Accomplished” moment, had there been any semblance of a post-invasion plan, things would be very different now. Not necessarily better, but certainly very different. Tens of thousands of Iraqis may not be dead. Hundreds of thousands may not have fled the country. And our military could have done what they should have been doing all along – finding those who actually attacked us on 9/11.

However, we are long past the point where any military “success” could be construed as anything that would go towards “winning” anything. At this point, any military success is just putting a band aid on a shotgun blast. Sure, the “surge” may quell violence in some areas for some time, but the reality of it is that these are battles that are being “won”, not the war. Besides, you can’t win an “occupation”, which this clearly has become long ago.

That won’t, however, stop the likely cast of characters from crowing that there are many successes in Iraq as a result of the ill advised and ill planned escalation. I would expect this (and can easily dismiss these comments) when they come from the likes of Kristol, Kagan, Keane or any of the other likely cast of neoconservative liars whose only vested interest is saving their own “legacy” or covering their ass with these lies and verbal hallucinations.

But when the New York Times prints an article by two members of the Brookings Institution, and Majority Whip Clyborn warns of a split in House Democrats if there is a favorable report (like there is any chance the report wouldn’t be more favorable than it should be) by General Petraeus (note: there is a good discussion in a diary from last night by DualAg), you can just smell the capitulation and propaganda being ratcheted up to new heights. And yes, it is noted that Brookings hasn’t been the “left leaning” think tank that it is portrayed as.

Now, in terms of reality, violence and deaths have increased and continue to be on the rise. The Iraqi government is on vacation this month, so any short term military “progress” would be out of date by the end of August anyway. Congressional republicans have been talking about the magic date of September to do anything – and it is more obvious now than it was in the past that they will most likely point to a favorable report by Petraeus as a reason to “stay the course” or continue the escalation.

Some Democrats will get weak kneed as republicans will take to the airwaves and crow about how we are thisclose to victory and can’t bail out now. But there are a few things that are continuing regardless – (1) public sentiment is getting more and more against this continued occupation and (2) small “victories”, whether it be military or other will be trumpeted as proof that we need to continue.

Democrats must not fall for this, and we need to keep pressure up here. The fact remains that Petraeus himself said that there is no military solution in Iraq. The fact remains that more dead Iraqis are NOT a sign of success, besides, arming Sunni insurgents in Iraq and flooding the lawless tribal region in Pakistan is a good way to keep the body counts high. The fact remains that the Iraqi government wants us out. The Iraqi people want us out. There is sparse electricity, clean water or jobs. Controlling a small region of the country for a short period of time is not accomplishing anything meaningful.

Winning battles does not necessarily mean winning wars, or winning hearts and minds. And it doesn’t pass laws or make a government any closer to functioning.

In September, there will be a push for another Friedman Unit, if not more. Democrats will most likely be on the defensive again. They should not be. The “surge” is, quite frankly, bullshit and irrelevant. It has absolutely no bearing on whether the Iraqi government will ever function, or whether the Iraqi people get jobs or water or come back to the country, or bring back the dead, or settle centuries-old grudges.

Even if it is “working”, it is NOT working. Winning battles (if we are even “winning” battles) will not resolve anything. Winning battles does not “win” an occupation. And no amount of clouding the truth or metrics can change that.

Monday, July 30, 2007

How about a promise to roll back the "Unitary Executive" powers?

Front paged at Booman Tribune, ePluribus Media and My Left Wing. Recommended at Daily Kos

The Bush administration has expanded its' powers greatly under the "Unitary Executive" theory. As President, what specific steps would you take, how would you take them, and when would you take them, in order to roll back these unnecessary and unprecedented powers that the Executive Branch now claims to have?

That was the question I submitted to the YearlyKos President’s Forum, and will hopefully get the chance to ask one or more of the candidates (or Congressional officials) this question if it is not chosen for the Forum. Actually, this was also discussed in some detail in my diary yesterday – kicked off by a comment made by Mad Kossack. Mad Kossack indicated that those on the right should consider how happy they would be if a President Hillary Clinton has the same powers that Bush and his administration have so generously given to themselves.

And it goes much deeper than just Clinton, obviously. This issue was touched on a week or two back when Digby, thereisnospoon and I talked about impeachment. While the frame that Mad Kossack mentioned yesterday (and is linked above) is a great one to use when talking about this to our “counterparts”, it is a question that should be fully addressed by all Presidential candidates, Democratic and republican.

We have a right to know if a President Romney or Giuliani (gasp) would continue to assert Executive Privilege over questionably legal and national security matters. Whether signing statements will become the norm. What will happen to all of the laws that Bush issued a signing statement for. The Executive Orders that were signed allowing the Vice President to declassify information, or for the President to declassify information at will and without using the historically proper channels. To continue conducting itself in secrecy. And so on, and so on.

We also have a right to know whether a President Edwards, Obama, Clinton (or Richardson or Biden or anyone else) would repeal these Orders and other interpretations of the law. Would President Clinton defer to the judiciary or the legislature in matters that prior Presidents have? Would President Obama issue a signing statement for a law that would be passed by a republican controlled Congress if he didn’t agree with it? Would President Edwards have the US abide by the International Criminal Court?

I would hope that the answers to all of that are ones that run contrary to what this administration has asserted. I would think that the Democratic candidates would roll back these provisions. I would hope that the republican candidates would as well.

All that being said, I would expect the Democratic candidates to disavow the “Unitary Executive” principle and talk about how they would roll back this theory. Doing it with personal actions (i.e., not abusing the power) only is not nearly enough, as it will still keep these provisions in place. What we need to know is when and how they will roll back these provisions. We need to know what specific things they will do. We need to know what they find the most odious of the Unitary Executive principles and why. And we certainly need to know which of these principles they find acceptable, as well as why they are acceptable.

This country was founded and has functioned with checks and balances – with each branch being co-equal. This is obvious to us, and to many others in this country. Just because there is a Democratic President does NOT mean that it is in any way ok for the Executive Branch to have this amount of unchecked power - regardless of whether this power is used. The “Unitary Executive” theory was a prominent part of two administrations – both of them will (or have) gone down in history as a black eye for this country as well as a major overreach and rife with criminal behavior.

It has no place in our Government, regardless of whether it will be asserted. Many of these powers are now a part of the Executive Branch until they are repealed. Democrats should not have these powers available to them any more than the republicans should – even if this particular cast of Democrats will be more responsible with such powers. I don’t think that many around here will disagree with that sentiment.

Certainly, a vocal stance by the Democratic candidates on this matter can go a long way towards gaining the upper hand in the discourse as well as to show the seriousness of restoring the Constitution as rule of law in America. But it is more than an issue of framing. It is a matter of this country’s guiding principles.

Any future administration should roll back these powers. We have a right to know when and how they will be rolled back. Any candidate that firmly, specifically and comprehensively addresses this issue will go a long way towards getting my (and most likely many others’) vote.

Not to do so would be doing a disservice to the American people, and more importantly, the Constitution.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

What will it take to end this madness?

Front paged at Booman Tribune, ePluribus Media and My Left Wing. Recommended at Daily Kos

I ask this as a serious question.

One that requires more than a cry for impeachment, or calls for inherent contempt as a response. Or boycotts, more investigations - even total election domination, for that matter (although that would humiliate the republicans and would be oh-so-satisfying in a schadenfreude kind of way).

Pretty much everything is broken. The electoral system, checks and balances, healthcare, the government, our military, infrastructure and any semblance of fairness for at least 75% of the American public. Each day brings more news that is so outrageously disgraceful yet it is met with “just another fucking thing” and a shake of the head.

Where to even begin? What is more important – getting out of Iraq or affordable healthcare for the tens of millions who don’t have it? Election integrity or restoring the Constitution? Keeping the United States adequately protected from natural disasters (let alone terrorism) or reversing the environmental standards that have declined over the past few years? Helping the middle class or dealing with the declining overall health of this country’s citizens or making sure that Medicare will be able to take care of all these people? Fight the lies and hatred of those on the right to shine a light on reality or keep up investigations that will shine a light on the crimes of the past six years but will probably not result in the removal of anyone from office?

You get the picture. The foul rotten stench of modern day republicans and its alliance with corporate money as well as fundamentalism and neoconservatism has so thoroughly permeated this country’s culture, economy and government that nothing short of a full house cleaning would do the job of ridding this cancer from America’s system. The healthcare industry, Fox News, partisan convicted criminals or idiots passing for “pundits” or experts. Our electoral system, Justice Department, judiciary, K Street and Wall Street. $1,000,000 entry fee just to run for Congress (a pretty big number), a tax system rigged towards the lucky and insanely wealthy. And so on.

There is a crisis of unimaginable levels emerging here – as a result of just about every decision (most of them willful) over the past seven years and much planning in the previous ten years or so. It is a cancer on this country, a cancer that has grown and spread. Every area is important – and there are many more areas which need addressing. I’d love to see Gonzales impeached. But what will it do in terms of his Justice Department anyway?

There has to be more to hope for than we better not fucking bomb or invade Iran. That shouldn’t be a wish. That should be a given. But with the way that some Democratic candidates are talking, even that isn’t a given if we see a Democratic President in 2008 (I’m just sayin…).

Obviously, all of the things mentioned above are of utmost importance. Do we want a republican President to have all of the powers that the Bush administration usurped gave to themselves? Hell, do we even want a Democratic President to have these powers? Unless there was an expiration date on the Executive Orders, that is a reality. Of course, all children should be able to get healthcare and elections shouldn’t be rigged from the inside.

I don’t have answers to many of these questions. I have ideas on how to do some things, but even if I (or we) were to come up with the best answers to these issues and questions, how would I (or we) get anyone to listen? Certainly, the “total electoral domination” would be a big help (and a lot of fun). Maybe it is a start. A mediocre Democrat is nearly always better than even the most reasonable of republicans. I’d take either Nelson over Snowe, Collins or Chaffee pretty much every time (but never Holy Joe).

Self-identified “independents” are trending towards these issues in pretty big numbers, but not necessarily always to the Democrats. Even ½ of the “undecided” independents could make 2008 an electoral landslide. Which means that they need to be made aware of the crimes, robbing of the treasury and middle class as well as the hijacking of our Constitution that has been done over the past 7-10 years. Which, I guess, leads back to investigations and countering the lies of the right. And so on and so on and so on.

Some of these are intertwined, and maybe it isn’t as daunting as it seems. And yeah, this may be a bit rambling, but sometimes when you stop to look around, the initial (and most logical) response is, man, things are really fucked up...”

For me, today is one of those days.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Cracks in the edifice

Front paged at Booman Tribune, ePluribus Media and My Left Wing

Many times over the past few years, we have been giddy and excited about the prospect of finally seeing the Bush administration and its enablers get their come-uppance, only to ultimately be disappointed for one reason or another. Plamegate, Fitzmas, 2004 elections, unsubstantiated rumors of Rove’s indictment, Libby’s commutation and many many others come to mind.

Yet, now, I can’t help but feel a bit different. The stone wall (pun intended) that is the Bush administration and its enablers is starting to crack in many places. And while this won’t get us out of Iraq now, fix the foreign policy “errors”, undo the damage from Katrina, the middle class or many of our basic rights – at least not as quickly as they were damaged or taken, the pendulum is starting to swing back a lot qui
ker than many of us thought a few short months ago.

The 2006 elections were a big start. And while the Democratic Congress hasn’t moved mountains (or tackled the tough big legislative items that Americans really need), they have done quite a few things – things that are still pretty tough with a de facto tie (at best) in the Senate, an Executive Branch that thinks nothing of overstepping at will just for shits and giggles, and a slowly-waking-from-its-six-year-coma media that should have republicans on the ropes, the enablers of this administration on the verge of going the ways of Rick Santorum and the nightmare we have been experiencing since 2001 a few (albeit small) steps closer to being over.

These past few weeks, despite the lack of movement on meaningful legislation on Iraq, are starting to show just how scared (and quite possibly dangerous) those who have been comfortable with and supportive of the republican policies and actions are, and should be.

O’Reilly’s latest crack up has been the subject of much derision and many a diary here – moving the bar from “then they ridicule you” to “then they fight you”. With the laughable attacks by right wing hatemongers against our continued pulling back of the curtain and hateful screeds that are nothing more than ad hominem or strawman attacks, we aren’t too far off from the final part of Ghandi’s quote: “then you win”.

And win we will. If the Bush administration (and the republican enablers in Congress) are willing to and their plan is to draw out congressional confrontations until they are out of office, then this will only bode better for us as progressives and supporters of the Democratic Party. More than 20 republican Senators are up for reelection next year. What they do, who they are associated with and who they support will speak volumes come next when they have to face their districts or states.

Gonzales continues to lie and lie badly before Congress, leading for more calls to impeach him (since we know he won’t resign and Bush won’t fire him). Even Arlen Specter (and yes, he is a leader among the “say one thing and do another” crowd) has come close to calling him a liar, while Senator Jay Rockefeller used the words “perjured himself” when talking about the nation’s top prosecutor.

Two top current and former officials are now the subject of contempt citations – and if the administration (led by Justice Department head liar Gonzales) stonewalls this as well, then the rest of the country could get just as comfortable with the words “inherent contempt” as we have been over the past month or so. Either way – with all that is coming out and has come out regarding the US attorney firings, the “lost” and deleted emails, the absolute disgust shown for the “rule of law” by Sara Taylor, Monica Goodling and others in the “Law ‘n Order” party – even without Democrats making a big public deal about this – the public is not on the side of the Administration and its enablers.

Blood is in the water. And while we can sense and smell it, “they” are finally starting to realize that it is their blood, not ours. A 25% approval rating, or one that has been under 40% for as long as Bush’s has been is a dangerous sign for a party that has stood behind him in lockstep. Even though Congressional approval ratings are also in the shitter and approval for the Democrats is down, it is still higher than for republicans, and there is still a very large gap between who the country would like to see in power come 2008.

That isn’t to say that there isn’t a lot more work that the Democrats need to do. Or us for that matter. But not only is the “permanent republican majority” fading quicker and quicker in the rear view mirror, it is closer to a permanent mess. Lackluster candidates, no vision, failures up and down the legislative line and little more than hysterical ranting that is becoming a dyke which is looking more and more like it is about to explode.

I, for one, will continue to press as hard as I have been. And will be sure to stock up on popcorn as well.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

What better way than this to give al Qaeda access to nukes?

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

Yeah, yeah, I know -an alarmist title. Well....whatever. I was originally going to call the diary “Al Qaeda, nukes and Paksitan – how close to reality is it?” but decided not to. Consider that the subtitle.

But the situation which somehow seems to get ignored or dismissed by more people than I can believe is the fact that over the past few weeks we have found out the following:

While I have written about the deteriorating situation in Pakistan a couple of times, as recently as mid May outlining how our “bestest buddy in the WarOnTerrah™” was devolving into chaos, while our own intelligence sources were recognizing that al Qaeda and the Taliban were reconstituting for months, while Afghanistan President Karzai was pointing fingers at Musharraf for not doing enough to stop attacks by al Qaeda and the Taliban – we were treated to ”it’s a lawless area, we can’t do anything....Musharraf is helpless to do anything”.

All of that may very well be true. However, Musharraf hasn’t done jack to help us – whether it is being soft on AQ Khan, whether it is making deals with the Taliban or other anti-American tribes or forces, whether he, or anyone for that matter, can actually control the region – the result is the same. Six years after we were attacked, this administration’s and it’s republican enablers’ choice of friends and policies have made things markedly worse in the one area they needed to be (and were on their way to being) successful..

And now, a stronger and more energized al Qaeda (the “real one”, not the franchises that are popping up around the Middle East and Europe) as well as the Taliban are nearly untouchable in a country with the capability, if not in actuality at least a couple dozen weapons. As for the arguments that the people of Pakistan won’t stand for anything of the sort, well, many people here wouldn’t stand for rigged elections or the Supreme Court appointing an undeserving candidate as President or the loss of our basic rights either.

Besides, Musharraf isn’t “Mr. Popularity” in the country right about now either. As for the likelihood of another attempt on Musharraf’s life, well the strength of al Qaeda hasn’t helped ole’ Pervez in that category either. Per the Newsweek article out this week:

Pakistani intelligence officials believe Zawahiri was behind two attempts to kill Musharraf that failed in December 2003. Since then, Zawahiri has been on an almost personal crusade to assassinate or overthrow the Pakistani leader. In his latest video, which is among at least 10 audio and video spots he has released this year, and which was produced and put on a jihadist Web site in record time, Zawahiri condemned the Red Mosque raid and urged Pakistani Muslims to "revolt," or else "Musharraf will annihilate you."

This is a potential issue, to say the least, and the money quote from John Arquilla, an intelligence expert at the Naval Postgraduate School talks about the consequences of al Qaeda in Pakistan and what appears to be a debate on what to do in Pakistan (emphasis mine):
[it is] “the battle for Al Qaeda's strategic soul. There is a profound strategic debate over whether to focus on overturning the government in Pakistan ... because that puts them in control of a nuclear capacity.

And to think of what could have been if Bush and his greedy republican lackeys didn’t cut and run from Afghanistan. Other than being tied down in Iraq with our troops doing what they should NOT be doing there (and without any semblance of a mission), a country disgraced and shunned in the world, unable to protect itself from natural disasters, and in economic peril – we have somehow been able to make the very groups that attacked us stronger, more centralized, more focused and more appealing to people that want to support their cause.

Oh yeah, and much closer to being able to obtain an actual nuclear weapon.

Heckuva job...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

At best, censure gives republicans an easy out

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

Notwithstanding my diary from January titled In defense of censure, the political and actual climate (not just on a global warming level) have changed substantially. Back then, I argued that censure would be a good first step to shift the Overton Window on impeachment and get the public used to hearing the term being used in a more “mainstream” kind of way.

Well, guess what? That has already happened without a call for censure or a censure resolution. Impeachment talk, whether it is about Bush, Cheney or Gonzales (who I am the most in favor of impeaching rightfuckingnow for a myriad of reasons), has been in public discourse for months. And not just among the “crazylibrulleftwingradicaltroophatingterroristlovingbabykillers” either.

But I don’t want to talk about whether we should or should not impeach or who we should or should not impeach. That has already been discussed ad nauseum here (and you can hear me actually talk about it with digby, Big Tent Democrat and thereisnospoon here). What I want to talk about, and what I fail to see is how censure, in and of itself, will accomplish much at this juncture – other than to give cover to republicans in Congress.

And yes, censure would force republican Senators to go on record as supporting Bush, Cheney or whomever else for whatever is contained in the censure resolution. And with over 20 republican Senators up for reelection (including some juicy targets) next year, it would force some of them to stand behind the bordering on egregiously illegal acts committed by this administration.

But it would also accomplish something else – something that has even more consequences. Even if it passes, it will not hold any water here in the US in terms of (1) convincing any more people that this administration is rotten to the core and (2) truly holding this administration accountable (as the esteemed Senator from Wisconsin feels) in any meaningful way. Hell, Bush, Cheney and their cohorts are willfully flaunting their egregiously illegal acts and defiance of any call for accountability. Not only that, it also would accomplish a third and more important thing from a political perspective - it will give republicans an opportunity to take cover and distance themselves from Bush, Cheney or Gonzales without actually doing a damn thing.

This is no different from the republican WINOs in Congress on Iraq (Waverer in Name Only) – letting them talk tough but not actually put anything of substance behind those words.

For starters, I would assume (and if I am wrong then I think this would still apply anyway, just on a lesser level) that a censure resolution would need 60 votes for cloture just to come to a floor vote. This way, McConnell can LET Collins, Snowe, Sununu and a few other republicans vote for cloture and still have the motion fall short for an actual “upperdown” vote. This would obviously be the worst of both worlds – having some republicans say “well, I DID ‘ demand accountability' and distanced myself from the actions of the Bush administration”, while not even letting a motion that wouldn’t even result in any meaningful action come to a vote.

To be quite honest, I also think that this may be enough for some Democrats to say that they too distanced themselves from Bush, Cheney, etc. without having to really do something bold. If this is step A (or B) in a multi-step plan that ends with impeachment, or also involves impeachment, then great. Go ahead, Russ – I’m all for it.

I guess.

It can’t hurt in further shifting the debate towards Congressional action against this administration. But to me, the debate has shifted already without censure even being something that most Americans even know exists. But it is, as I mention in the Senator’s diary, a double edged sword. At this point, it doesn’t do anything positive in and of itself other than keep the Overton Window shifting. But it can also backfire in a serious way.

As I also said in the Senator’s diary, regardless of whether a censure motion passes or even makes it through cloture, we need to be ready (“we” ESPECIALLY being our elected representatives) to counter any spin from the right wing – as spin and framing are really the only things that can come out of a censure motion in terms of “reigning in” or “demanding accountability” from this administration.

And we know how good the Democrats are at getting their message or framing across...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

What makes 'em tick?

Front paged at Booman Tribune

Earlier in the week, I received an unsolicited email from my very own wingnut stalker. It happens from time to time – a random email shows up, either directly to me, or as a comment in (or in response to) a diary of mine. Luckily, I haven’t received anything that was remotely threatening – mainly strawman arguments, ad hominem attacks, and other lovely terms such as “baby killer”, “traitor” or the always lovely “asshole” or “liberal idiot”.

This particular unsolicited email was titled “pelosi and reid”, and didn’t seem to be in response to anything that I wrote in particular. But it said, in only the oh-so-eloquent way that an unhinged wingnut can say:


Can you tell me why these 2 Losers

approval rating is 16%.???????????????????

Why are they more hated than the greatest President since Reagan?

You far-left BabyKillers are getting yours really good.

Support out Country, you Losers!!

O'Reilly has your number and jetblue's!!

Sour grapes!!



“greatest president since Reagan”? “Far left baby-killers”? “Support out (sic) Country, you losers”? With not just one but TWO exclamation points. Rush Limbaugh would be so very pruod.

After a “um, who the fuck are you?” reply, the outrage was back with words like “far left babykilling whackos”, “despised by most Americans”, “accept God into your heart if you abortionbabykillers have one”, “your secular-progressive sickness”, “Michael Moore” and “kool aid”. Oh yeah, and good ole’ Matthew said that I should pray with him to find love and not hate.

Well, I’ll just say that after one last reply to that nonsense, I passed the email off to my good friend trashablanca, who toys with trolls like a cat does with a mouse. End of story there…

But I got to thinking – what made this total stranger not only decide to send me an email that was so full of anger, hate and hypocrisy (oh yeah, “Matthew” is a log cabin republican too), but what makes people like this think, do and say the things that they do. Not to say “know thy enemy”, but jeez….what the fuck?

I’m not talking about differences of opinion here – that is something that we see quite a bit of even here in the progressive blogosphere. I’m talking about outright venomous hate and stereotypical comments, wild accusations that are based in nothing more than some pre-conceived (or pre-programmed) notion about all those who dare to question what they are being told. Of course, when they were being told the same things by Democrats, then they were falling over themselves to feign moral outrage.

How does someone reconcile the “culture of life” when it comes to abortions or DNR wishes, and stranding hundreds of thousands of people in the Gulf Coast to starve and die needlessly? Or bombing other countries’ innocent citizens because they are “obviously enemies or all want to kill us”, yet obsessed with discarding embryos that would otherwise be used for stem cell research? Or sending troops to kill and die based on something that has long since been proven to be a lie, yet be ok with there being absolutely no mission, armor or equipment for our troops?

Is it ignorance? Arrogance? Is it willful? Why the feigned moral outrage that is so easily rebuked but is contradictory on its face?

And, while I don’t mean anything along the lines of trying to figure out why someone thinks that gay marriage will be the end of civilization (obviously it won’t), or that protecting children from sexual predators is of utmost importance (obviously it is), how the hypocrisy is so easily uncovered, especially in this day and age whereby the outrage at something – even something that is, on the most basic level, morally correct (like opposition to sexual predators) actually translates into the very behavior that is the target of outspoken outrage? Generally leveled by “moralists” “good American republicans” or “family oriented conservatives” at the “hedonistic”, “soulless” and “America hating liberals”.

Is it low self-esteem that causes this projection? Is it suppression of reality or acting the part of living a lie? A lie that is hiding the very behavior that is being exemplified? Is it a cry for attention, and negative attention is better than no attention whatsoever? Surely, this can’t all be a product of the yearning and need for an authoritarian environment that is playing out in cities and towns across America every day?

Now this doesn’t only relate to wingnut stalker trolls. What makes a person who hasn’t served one day in the military and would crap his pants faster than David Vitter can put on a diaper if he ever set one foot near what is actually going on in Iraq give a lecture to a retired major general on what should and should not be done in Iraq? Or Jonah Goldberg, William Kristol, Tom DeLay, G. Gordon Liddy or any other neoconservative or republican hack or criminal or chickenhawk be absolutely wrong about, well, everything, never admit to the bare facts and then think they have any authority to provide advice, ask for another chance, or be taken even remotely seriously?

And what the hell makes those who take these jackholes seriously tick? Were they beaten up too many times on the playground as a child?

On one level, it is very easy to dismiss and mock. Hell, it is one of my favorite things to do. But, we do need to think about this and figure out how to counteract this behavior if we are ever to build a progressive movement. Not even necessarily to change their minds – and hell there are some things that are so far out of the realm for any common ground, but to diffuse their actions for the ones who should be on our side but are skeptical.

Trolls and wingnuts come in many shapes, sizes, levels of vitriol and degree of anger. Most of them lie without thinking twice, project their outrage and behavior, are very vocal and don’t care about anything other than scoring points or getting the first, dirtiest shots in, rapidly lower the level of discourse to attacks, lies and name calling so that there is no chance of rational discussion, and are generally just as hypocritical as the words they are saying.

We need to recognize how they try to shape the debate, and what is their motivation for their total disregard for anything other than shouting you down. How are they even taken seriously? How do get our ideas and objectives out there? There are many things that are in serious need of debate and a new direction.

Iraq. Foreign policy in general. Healthcare. Education. The environment. Jobs. The tax code. And that is just a very few. The next few years will be a major battle of ideas and direction. If we see what we are up against (on the more basic level as opposed to the high level government corruption) and understand what we are dealing with, then we have a better chance at progress.

I use “Matthew” above as the initial example – mainly out of fun. But there are millions of “Matthew’s” out there who use these tactics on people like me, us, whomever they come into contact with and at various levels of “credibility”. And they are “winning” in a way that they have no business even being part of the picture.

We can easily change that.

I'm extremely lucky. So why does that not sit well with me?

This is a healthcare diary. A story about what happened to me today – a day when I woke up with what I immediately recognized as kidney stones (no, that isn’t the lucky part). The lucky part is the treatment that I was able to get for something that was once described to me as “the male counterpart to giving birth in terms of pain”.

The unsettling part is the fact that tens of millions of Americans would still be doubled over in pain – neglected or ignored, or even worse – unable to pay for a basic level of service that should be available to all Americans.

My stance on healthcare, as well as my wife’s (and in contrast to other people who I am otherwise close with), is that a certain standard of care should be available to all Americans. I don’t want to digress into a discussion about “legal” or “illegal” Americans – let’s just say “Americans” here. Unfortunately, I know this is not held by nearly as many people as it should, and that the standard of care is pretty much directly related to your ability to (1) afford insurance and (2) pay for the services. There is an alternative, as our own Dear Leader said the other day – just go to the emergency room. And wait. And wait some more. And then maybe receive a basic level of care.

I really hesitated before writing this diary – I didn’t know how it would sound or how it would come off. At the outset, and after reading the myriad of healthcare diaries posted here by nyceve and many other kossacks, I am almost ashamed at the level of care that I have access to, yet I know how very lucky I am to be in the position that I have this level of care available to me. Throughout the day, I couldn’t help but think about why the most basic of services are what I'll call "selectively available", and why so many others suffer over a cold, a sprained ankle, kidney stones or any other ailment – serious or minor.

What I did today is nothing that sounds out of the ordinary – I had a medical issue, I found the appropriate people to treat it, and I got the treatment I needed, with a promise that if (gasp) surgery or anything else is required, I can get that too – as soon as tomorrow. I didn’t need a referral, I didn’t have to pay for anything today (other than $22.00 for the pain medication) and I was able to get my initial appointment pretty much immediately and a CAT scan scheduled for a few hours later.

Why is this the case?

Well, for starters, I have a job. One that has health insurance. That is the first problem. Having health insurance should, in no way, be predicated on not only having a job, but having one that offers health insurance. As long as this system is in place, then the major hurdle to any meaningful overhaul in the healthcare system is also still in place. This obviously (at least to me) impacts employers with higher health insurance rates, employees who have to pay for specified plans as opposed to something that may be more applicable, and more so to those who don’t have insurance or a job that offers insurance.

Secondly, I have one of those “high deductible health plans” that allows me to use pre-tax dollars to pay my out of pocket costs. We did it mainly because my not-yet-pregnant wife wanted to go to the doctor she wanted to go to, but we do have to pay $2,600 or so (or maybe we EACH have to pay $2,600) out of pocket before the insurance kicks in. Quite a large chunk of change, and again, something that should not be so cost prohibitive to tens of millions of Americans who would like to see the doctor that can best help them without jumping through hoops or cutting through the massive amount of red tape. So far, we have been lucky there too, as we are relatively young and in good health, and therefore haven't had many medical expenses to pay.

An alternative would have been to take Bush’s advice and just “go to the emergency room”. But why do that and take away the opportunity, however minor for someone else to get the proper healthcare for whatever reason they were at the emergency room. Why should I be able to get a basic level of treatment for something that is extremely painful (although the missus told me that if I bring up “the kidney stones line” when she is giving birth, she will jump up from the table and punch me in the face) – with absolutely no muss, no fuss and so many others can’t?

I am not special. I don’t deserve this level of care any more than the person next door, down the block, in the next town, or 5 states over.

What does it say about this country when the standard of care received is based predominantly on luck? Today, I saw just how lucky I am.

Everyone else should be just as lucky. And it is total crap that it isn’t the case.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The insanity of "waiting until September or October"

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

While it is noble for some republican Senators to come out and finally realize the death, destruction, raging civil war, chaos and near genocide in Iraq is not getting any better and that a “change of course” is warranted, there has really been much of a free pass about the complete insanity of calls to wait until September or October for Bush to come up with a “new plan” or Petraeus to give his not-so-long awaited “progress report” with respect to the escalation.

We have been told in clear terms that all of the benchmarks outlined back in January are failing or have not been met.

We have been told that the threat from al Qaeda has not decreased since 9/11. In fact, this very statement, simply stated, completely repudiates the entire approach taken by the Bush administration and supported by the neocons, the republican party, Joe Lieberman, the fighting keyboardists and the other chickenhawk warmongers since we were attacked in 2001.

To talk about any further waiting before a strong push for withdrawal or a significant reduction in forces as well as a massive change in course with respect to Iraq can be summed up in two words: cowardly and unpatriotic.

What makes things even worse, not to mention more of an example of how demoralized this country SHOULD be when it comes to fighting those who attacked us, we are not only losing in Iraq, but also against al Qaeda in Pakistan (per Bush’s own aides), and are losing in Afghanistan to the Taliban and al Qaeda resurgence.

If these three undisputable facts don’t show that we are not only losing the two non wars that we started, but also a third in Pakistan that we haven’t even started. I’ll also point out here that the $750 million that the US has pledged to the lawless region in Pakistan is rightfully thought by many to be another all time classic stupid initiative as the whole meaning of the word “lawless” seems to escape the brain trust behind this idea. If the region is “lawless” then how will at least some of the money not fall into enemy hands? Even if a small percentage will, how many weapons will a few hundred thousand buy that can be used against us?

Which brings me back to Iraq and the Senate slumber party last night. The NY Times article addressing this is titled “Democrats Lack Support to Force Vote on Pullout. While it does mention the words “Republican filibuster” in the very first paragraph, it features some of the same tired statements, which only serve to show the weak and spineless nature of the republican party.

From Norm Coleman:

“We need to change mission,” said Senator Norm Coleman, Republican of Minnesota, who was among a handful of lawmakers who spent nearly the whole night in the chamber, listening to the debate. “But we have to do it thoughtfully, we have to do it strategically.”

Thoughtfully and strategically. Like not giving proper body armor. Or arming Sunni insurgents. Or not having any plan for the first 4 years to begin with. Or, for that measure, ignoring all of the evidence on the ground, the generals, former generals and expert after expert who warned of every single event that has happened to date.

Or playing “kick the can” for another few months and leaving our troops in the middle of a situation that they have no business being in, with no plan and the only measured results being of the “horrible” and “miserable” variety.

From McCain:

“It doesn’t pass the smell test,” Senator John McCain of Arizona, the senior Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said of the Democratic criticism.

He and other Republicans challenged the wisdom of the withdrawal plan, saying it would short-circuit an escalation of military forces before the buildup had sufficient time to work, hand terrorist forces a victory, damage the nation’s reputation and leave Iraq in chaos.

Of course, six months was the timeframe given initially for where there HAD to be results – results which are holding true to all expectations when this ill advised escalation was first announced to begin with. As for the while “handing terrorists a victory”, I merely need to point to the recent study indicating that al Qaeda is stronger than ever, and that Bush’s own people indicated that the battle in Pakistan was lost. And with respect to our “nation’s reputation”, McCain should probably have thought about that before getting behind the PATRIOT Act, excusing the torture memos and actual torture, suspension of habeas corpus and the secret prison camps.

However, the so-called “brave brave republican Senators” like Warner, Lugar and Lamar Alexander who have “challenged the president with a call for a plan” which would merely recommend a new course in a few months and not really call for anything material is a farce among farces.

An insult upon tons of prior insults already heaped upon our troops by the republican party troop haters. It is disingenuous and serves absolutely nothing other than playing cheap political games with our own citizens lives. It is craven. It is absolutely ludicrous and should be only labeled as such.

There is absolutely nothing that can change for the better over the next two to three months – not on the Iraqi political side with the Parliament being on vacation for all of August, and the only thing they can agree upon is that our troops should leave. Not on the violence front as violence in every measurable metric has been increasing to unacceptable levels. Not on the security front as the Green Zone is now not even close to safe (unless you are a pandering visiting Senator and have the luxury of 500 troops protecting you).

To wait for an artificial date will only result in more death and destruction, on top of no accountability. It is dangerous and insane. And it is unpatriotic, and a slap in the face of our troops as well as the Iraqi civilians.

It should only be referred to in this manner. Loudly, forcefully and repeatedly.

Monday, July 16, 2007

(ACTION ITEM) FEC nominee in voter suppression flap. Again.

Front paged at Booman Tribune, ePluribus Media and My Left Wing. Recommended at Daily Kos

If you needed any more reasons other than the myriad of reasons I stated in the three-part series of why Hans Von Spakovsky is quite possibly the worst choice for FEC Commissioner, well, then today is your lucky day.

As reported the other day in the St. Louis Dispatch, von Spakovsky shot down a lawsuit and plan to make voting a bit more fair and representative of the population in Missouri. This, of course, is no real surprise to anyone who has even remotely followed von Spakovsky’s career that included working in Florida for the 2000 recount, ramming voter ID laws through in Georgia and Arizona over DOJ voting rights section experts, assisting with Tom DeLay’s bordering on if not outright illegal mid census redistricting in TX and a slew of other actions that served to suppress millions of likely Democratic voters during his stint at the DOJ’s voting rights section and as a recess appointment to the Federal Elections Commission.

All in the name of “enforcing the Voting Rights Act or the Help America Vote Act”.

I won’t go into all of von Spakovsky’s sordid history here, but you can read the details at the ePluribus Media link above. However, I will say that he is up for confirmation in the Senate for a full term on the FEC, now that his recess appointment has lapsed. And, his responses to the Senate committee were, shall we say, less than forthcoming.

That being said, a bit of history is warranted. A while back, I did a diary (also with the good folks at ePluribus Media) about another DOJ Voting Rights Group employee, Robert Popper. The article, titled Voter Rights: Is Robert Popper the Fox Guarding the Henhouse? talks about some of Popper’s actions as Special Litigation Counsel for voting rights at the DOJ. He too has a history of actions and lawsuits that he took on, in the name of “making districting more fair and equitable” (not his exact words) or enforcing the Voting Rights Act.

Some of these suits were also signed off by Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General. I mention this for a number of reasons – first to indicate that Gonzales was well aware of these tactics and that as Attorney General, he at least had nominal oversight of these actions.

Prior to coming over to the DOJ, Popper developed a highly controversial plan that was a thinly veiled attempt at gerrymandering. Per the Popper diary linked above:

Popper and Polsby also authored a law review article titled "Ugly: An Inquiry into the Problem of Racial Gerrymandering Under the Voting Rights Act," which asserted that "ugly" (meaning misshapen) districts were not accurately representing the voting demographics of a particular district. Popper and Polsby advanced the thesis that the creation of "compact" districts that did not take into account the racial composition of a district was superior to the creation of majority-minority districts that gave minorities representation in rough proportion to their percentage of the population. While the Polsby-Popper reports contend that compactness will restrain gerrymandering and other proponents indicate that compactness will "reverse prior Democratic gerrymandering," there are many opinions to the contrary.

One, Harvard University study's simulations (by Micah Altman, who is Associate Director of the Harvard-MIT Data Center), indicated that "district compactness can systematically influence election results."

I mention this because the case dealing with von Spakovsky now is somewhat of an “affirmative action” type of case as it relates to the layout of a district for local election purposes. Specifically, I mention this because one might think that a lawsuit that would realign the voting process for these purposes (even though in this instance it is to more fairly represent the district is not something that the DOJ voting rights section should be involved with. But on the contrary, Popper, von Spakovsky routinely were involved in things of this exact nature but to have the opposite effect – to dilute minority districts in order to skew the election demographics towards a more likely republican victory.

So when von Spakovsky killed this plan in Missouri, he was going against actions that he and his “people” took over the disagreement and disapproval of career DOJ employees and experts in the area of election law.

Per the article in the Dispatch:

For more than a year, a team of veteran attorneys in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division crafted a lawsuit arguing that Hazelwood School Board elections violated voting-rights laws.

The attorneys had seen a pattern they found disturbing: Only two black candidates had won election to the seven-member board during the past decade, in a district where about 65 percent of the nearly 20,000 students and about 40 percent of the voting population are black.

In early 2004, the staffers made a pitch to their deputy assistant attorney general, arguing that the trend could be stemmed if the school district scrapped its at-large election setup and had candidates run in subdistricts.

Three months later, the officials said, Hans von Spakovsky — counsel to their boss — vetoed the plan, in effect killing the suit.

I’ll repeat that so it can really sink in.

A plan that was okayed by local officials, and even others at the DOJ voting rights section, which would more fairly represent the demographics of a district that DOJ attorneys felt violated voting-rights laws was killed by von Spakovsky. Why? Same reason as all of the others – it wouldn’t favor republican electoral chances (not that von Spakovsky would come out and say that, but hey, if you are batting 1.000 with respect to this area, I think it is fairly obvious).

We mentioned in the ePM von Spakovsky article, as well as in other posts that are linked there that there is ample evidence of other career DOJ employees being overridden for what THEY call “partisan politics”. And in this case, the same charge is being levied:

Greenbaum and six other former Justice Department lawyers contend otherwise.

In a letter to the committee, they said von Spakovsky "violated the sacred rule that partisanship should be checked at the door of the Justice Department. Moreover, he was the point person for undermining the Civil Rights Division's mandate to protect voting rights."

Among its many duties, the Justice Department targets jurisdictions whose at-large election methods dilute the votes of minorities, said Joe Rich, former voting rights section chief from 1999 to 2005, and one of those who signed the letter.

And this man is up before the Senate for a full term appointment as FEC Commissioner. Obviously, he is completely unqualified to serve in this capacity as a highly partisan republican with the history he has.

Take Action: At the bottom of this excellent diary by Ice Just Ice are links to contact information for Senate Committee on Rules and Administration members.

Contact them and let them know that Hans is not the man for the Commission.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Will the republicans get credit for Iraq withdrawal?

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

Laugh or shake your head at the above question at your own peril.

Because there are a couple of very disturbing trends emerging over the past couple of months that should make all of us, as well as the Congressional Democrats, sit up and take notice. Saying that “we know we have to do better”, as Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid recently said won’t cut it. The level of anger and resentment over the capitulation bill was far greater than they estimated.

And if there isn’t something with real teeth coming out of the Defense spending bill debates, there may not be another chance that the Democrats have to recover – that is until and unless they concede some credit to the republicans (which is already happening in the press) for any change of course that may occur. This, as of a few months ago was an absolutely laughable thought, and is still pretty ridiculous, given the 100% total and unconditional support to anything that this administration has done or wanted to do in Iraq for the past 5 years.

But a very different story is starting to emerge – even as the Congressional republicans are stonewalling any meaningful attempt by the Democrats to do anything on Iraq – symbolic (which, by the way, most Americans see right through anyway) or not. And this story is nothing short of a potential disaster for the Democratic Party.

For starters, DrWolfy has a diary up that points out the very low approval rating of Congressional Democrats, with a 20 point drop amongst Democrats over the past two months. Now, I don’t want to really discuss the finer points of a poll in general, or the polling methods of AP/Ipsos, because I want to focus on the larger picture here.

I’ll start with what people are saying about Democrats and then talk about how the republicans are slowly being portrayed as “coming out against Bush” with respect to Iraq. For starters, here are some quotes from The Bergen Record article yesterday:

"I disapprove of all the fighting that they do all the time," said Tammy Lambirth, a Democrat and data researcher from San Antonio. "They're not making George Bush do anything. They're not doing anything themselves."


"They've abandoned all the social issues," lamented Rod Butler, a Democrat and a music teacher from Redondo Beach, Calif. "They don't want to deal with universal health care. They don't want to deal with the problems in our education system. It just goes on and on."

Lambirth again, from a different article:
"The Republicans are just stonewalling everything, and the Democrats are just not stepping up and making them do what they need to do, especially about Iraq," said Lambirth, a Democrat. "They need to make our troops get out of Iraq."

From a WaPo article last week:
"I think Americans were expecting a great deal from the new Congress, and Congress has always been held in low esteem, but Congress really hasn't delivered on what it promised, especially on Iraq," said Paul Light, a congressional expert who is a professor at New York University.


"I think the decline in support (for Congress) since the Democrats took over reflects in part the unhappiness of the base in the inability of Democrats to immediately stop the war in Iraq," said Thomas Mann, a congressional expert at the Brookings Institution.

Of course, immediately stopping the war is an unfair expectation, but nothing of real consequence isn’t something to be proud of either. Now, I am of the opinion that something will be done to the extent that there will be less troops in Iraq by next year. I also think that (and this may be the subject of a future diary) that Iraq will be more “off the table” than we think come next year. Sure, there will be a disaster to deal with, sure there will be troops there and a bloody humanitarian crisis. But most Americans seem to only be concerned with getting our troops out – and not as much as the aftermath (other than the “they’ll follow us home” line, which I don’t even know how powerful that still is).

All that being said, that leads me into the second part of my point – and the title of this diary. It isn’t enough to continue to hold “symbolic votes” to show where the republicans stand on Iraq. There is Democratic Senator Carl Levin coming out and talking about “not leaving our troops out there without funding”. There are the Blue Dogs in the House who are still a bit skittish with respect to any drastic bills or statements regarding getting out of Iraq.

And there really aren’t any prominent Democrats who have come out and directly (as well as forcefully) refuted the absolute lie about stranding our troops in Iraq if funding is cut. There also isn’t much of a forceful pointing out of the absolute hypocrisy of the republicans who called for a withdrawal date or an end to funding of military missions when Clinton was president.

All of this would hurt the Democrats as is. However, we have been subjected to a flurry of “brave brave republicans stand up to Bush on Iraq” headlines lately. Just consider the following:

Now, it is painfully obvious that anything that would pass Congress would need a major bipartisan approval in order to override a Bush veto. But the story that is emerging is that the Democrats can’t get their act together on an Iraq withdrawal plan, and some “bold respected GOP Senators are calling for a new way in Iraq” or “Republicans look for change of course in Iraq” or “Congressional republicans won’t support continued Iraq plan”.

What is even worse here is that there has been no meaningful legislation proposed or even any meaningful alternative that republicans are letting come to the floor for a vote, when it comes to our troops.

Yet, it isn’t the Democrats who are getting any credit for trying to change the debate and push a plan forward. The blocking of meaningful amendments by republicans in Congress isn’t getting any notice. The continued “same as it ever was” action by the Congressional republicans is getting buried. Fingers are being pointed at Congress in general, and when specific, more so at the Democrats.

As ludicrous as it sounds, it is the Democrats who are getting the blame for not doing enough to get our troops out of Iraq, even though they have only had a few months and fewer opportunities to do so. And it is the republicans who are getting the small bit of glory for pressuring Bush to change course.

If and when there is meaningful change on Iraq, you can bet that the republicans will try as hard as they can to take the credit for it. And if the Democrats let that happen, then that is as pathetic as it is laughable.

And scary for us all as it could mean disaster for the Democrats come next November.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

How to build a lasting progressive movement?

Originally posted at Open Left

Over the past year or so, I have thought about this issue quite a bit. And I know that this is something that Chris Bowers has also talked much about (hence, my posting of this here). There are a number of things at play here - the enormous gap between the infrastructure that the right has built up (message machine, think tanks, College Republicans, etc.) and where the progressive netroots is now being one of the most obvious.

Granted, the rise of the conservative movement started after the 1964 defeat of Goldwater and is 50 years in the making. That being said, it is fairly safe to say that in the past couple of years, we have come much further than the conservative movement had in their first decade.

I'll start with a blurb from an excellent article in the upcoming The Nation, titled, Will the Progressive Majority Emerge? (hat tip to David Mizner for linking it). After a three paragraph listing of issues and breakdown of how Americans perceive themselves with respect to them (such as Roe v. Wade, helping the poor, "abstinence only" programs, immigration, rehabilitation for youth offenders, etc.), the article gets to the heart of the matter, as far as the Democratic Party goes (emphasis mine):

You suspected it all along. Now it just might be true: Most Americans think like you. Nearly two-thirds think corporate profits are too high (30 percent, Pew notes, "completely agree with this statement...the highest percentage expressing complete agreement with this statement in 20 years"). Almost three-quarters think "it's really true that the rich just get richer while the poor get poorer," eight points more than thought so in 2002.

If only there was an American political party that unwaveringly reflected these views, as a matter of bone-deep identity. You might think it would do pretty well. Which leads to the aspect of the Pew study that got the most ink: "Political Landscape More Favorable to Democrats," as the subtitle put it. When you compare Americans who either identify themselves as Democrats or say they lean toward the Democrats with Republicans and Republican leaners, our side wins by fifteen points, 50 percent to 35, the most by far in twenty years. As recently as 2002 it was a tie, 43 to 43.

Plunge below the surface, however, and this stirring tale becomes disconcerting. Yes, again and again, the views of independents track the views of Democrats--more so, in fact, with every passing year.


Pew says independents are thinking like Democrats, and that fewer and fewer want much to do with the Republican Party.


But these people are not signing up as Democrats. The proportion of those who call themselves Democrats has held steady, in the lower 30s.

Here's a riddle: What's an "independent"? More and more, it's an American who holds positions we associate with Democrats but who refuses to call himself by the name. Why? Part of the reason is that people say to themselves, "If only there was a party that thought like me--that was for harnessing the power of government to help the needy and protect the middle class; for reining in business excess; for fighting overseas threats through soft power instead of reckless force." But they don't find today's Democrats answering to the description.

And that leads to the most basic of questions. What does the progressive "majority" stand for, what do we want to accomplish (since we are some of the more invested of people in trying to build this movement), what are the hurdles and how do we get there?

The first question is really one that sets the tone for pretty much everything else. What is the goal of the "movement"? Certainly, communities like Daily Kos come to mind - and the main stated goal is "to help get Democrats elected". Now, that will help further the movement, but is more of a goal to me than a movement. And one of the drawbacks of an overly targeted focus on electoral matters is that it doesn't speak to the larger cause of what we as progressives want to promote.

Obviously, this is why the republican party moved in the direction that it has since the Reagan years. They (the conservative wing) defined what they wanted to accomplish, figured out how to get there, and moved the party in that direction over the next two plus decades. This is a big challenge, but the payoff could be huge - given the demographics in the polls cited in The Nation article, and the amount of independent voters that agree with many of the same positions that we have.

Back in January, I wrote a diary titled "We are staring at a tremendous opportunity", and it touched on the next part of this - the infrastructure and the hurdles. Both of these go hand in hand to me. Blogs and blog communities serve as the largest part (to date) of the infrastructure, but even they are limited, and in my mind, have come close to reaching their maximum effectiveness. Sure, they can sway officials or serve as a message machine, but even if readership were to triple, it isn't even coming close to reaching the amount of people that it needs to. Even if everyone repeats every "frame" or position or issue that is posted on these communities to two or three people, it isn't nearly enough.

But it is a good start. How to develop a message. How to pressure those in Congress (at least on Daily Kos and some others). How to provide some level of journalism (like TPM and ePM) that isn't currently being provided. How to network.

The biggest hurdle is being taken seriously - or a lack of funding. Really, they are one and the same as without money, things can't get funded and off the ground, and without things being "off the ground" they aren't taken seriously. Take the following example: many people who have posted on the front page at RedState or other right wing blogs have been snatched up by think tanks, conservative publications or other places where they can continue to do what they were doing - and get paid for it. And frankly, I have read many of these people, and they don't hold a candle to many of us on the left.

So why do they get noticed and we don't? One big reason to me is that the right wing movement and message machine has made the investment to bring these people along and incorporate them into the already established infrastructure. YearlyKos may provide a very good opportunity to take this to the next level - as there could be some of the very people there who can help with the infrastructure in some way or another. At least I hope so and will be seeking them out.

In my diary back in January, I said the following:

here are many of us here that use Daily Kos for many different reasons. Some for support, some for sense of community, some to advance a cause, some to make a difference, some to reach out, some to educate, some to learn and so on.

For me? Somewhat all of the above. But most of all, I use it as a means to an end - a much bigger end with a much bigger and long term goal in mind. I love posting here. I love doing the research, getting involved and thinking that I can sway opinion or keep the conversation going, even to a small degree. I would love nothing more than to do this until someone notices and I can take it to the next level, whatever and wherever that next level may be.

As thereisnospoon, dday and I were saying the other night, there are so many things that need to be put into place in order for us to take it to the next level and be taken seriously enough to be able to make that difference. Some prominent Democrats already see it and use it to their benefit. Some are intrigued but keep their distance. And some don't really give a shit about us. At least not yet.

Personally, I think that the biggest issue with reaching others (and the area I have been the most interested in) is the whole "message machine" area. With television and traditional radio waning in influence, there is a whole new medium available - podcasts, YouTube, Facebook, blogtalkradio and others which would allow millions of people to be reached on demand and allow many more people to reach the general public. We don't need to replicate a FoxNews (at least think of a legitimate one) or the right wing hate radio (as traditional fingerpointing lack of substance punditry is also on the decline). But we do need to have that outlet - especially before those on the right beat us to it.

This is something that thereisnospoon and I (and a few others) are trying to do with Political Nexus, which has live interactive netroots radio shows, shows that deal with framing of issues (and for those who will be at Yearly Kos, we are also doing a workshop on the Overton Window and progressive strategies. And I am sure that there are many other similar projects that are all working independently from each other (including MyDD radio, and BlueJersey Radio, to mention two).

Taking these examples, a centralized, high quality infrastructure - even just with talk radio - that can be promoted through Facebook, Daily Kos, the progressive blogs, and wherever/however else - could go a long way to at least getting the message out, talking about the issues, educating the public, and even get some of us to not have to do this as a hobby. And that is only one area of the "message machine".

As far as the how do we get there part, well, there are some things that can be done. Chris Bowers and a few others have talked at great length about funding ourselves (see the above 5 for under $5K as an example). With all of the hundreds of millions of dollars that have already been spent on the primaries, what could a mere 1% of that fund? Hell, what could ½ of 1% fund?

I have been thinking of something that would be able to serve as a progressive movement fundraiser - I don't have many ideas of the "how" yet, but it would seem to me that until someone wins the lottery or we find our own "sugar daddies", it is on us to do this. I'd be open to any ideas as to the "how", but it would seem as though we could do some fundraising drives that could fund specific initiatives. If people are already giving $20 or $30 to a candidate who already has $20,000,000 in the bank, why not give it to developing a movement that is longer term, more permanent and could set the tone for decades? And I didn't even begin to talk about running progressive candidates from the netroots as another example.

Hell, I don't have the answers. I have more questions than answers as more ideas pop into my head. And it gets real frustrating, because the Democratic Party stands to gain so much from having such an infrastructure - let alone us as progressives in moving the Democratic Party in the direction we want to. There is a lot that we have to accomplish - but the payoff (even if not in terms of dollars) is tremendous. The demographics are there, the republican party is imploding, and we have the energy.

The question is how we harness what we have and keep what we have going after Bush leaves office, the republicans are in the minority and "railing against the right" doesn't serve a purpose more than to blow off steam.

Um, Congress...Gonzo lied to you. Again. Dump him. Now.

Front paged at Booman Tribune, ePluribus Media and My Left Wing

Once again, we have found out that Alberto Gonzales lied to Congress as the release of an FBI report shows that he knew that there were civil rights abuses from the Patriot Act when he told Congress there were none that he knew of.

That makes at least two documented lies to Congress, (the other being about the Senate confirmation of Bush appointed attorneys), on top of his other lies to reporters, stonewalling about pretty much everything this administration has done, crafting legal “justifications” for torture and whatever else he has done to Make John Ashcroft look like a saint in comparison.

In March, Senator Schumer said that he had evidence that Gonzales lied under oath. Yet, nothing has been done since then. Just the other day, Rep. Nadler (D-NY) called for resignation and a special prosecutor. I’ll take this moment to point out that, also back in March (when everyone was taking bets on when Gonzales would resign), I said point blank that he will never, ever resign.

Sadly, I am turning out to be right here, as stall, lie, projection, obstruct justice, feigned outrage, run out the clock and dare Congress to actually do something other than issue letters has been the modus operandi for this criminal administration and its enablers since November. As a result of this, Democrats have looked weak – not taking nearly enough credit for the good they have done, and getting dragged down by investigations and threats that have yet to go far enough – in some instances despite overwhelming evidence of crimes and behaviors that warrant strong punitive action (and for the politically squeamish, at little political cost).

Which is why it is absolutely imperative for Congress to not just call for resignation, not just write letters of disgust, not just call for a special prosecutor (as we know how that can turn out anyway – especially if there is a quid pro quo within this administration anyway to lie and cover up and obstruct justice).

It’s a no-brainer – Gonzo must go. Now.

If Schumer is right, and there is proof that he lied, and we now know there is more proof, then have the House start impeachment proceedings against Gonzales. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain here. As I stated in my diary about why Gonzales will never resign, he is inextricably tied to Bush, this administration and its egregious power grab and policies. ALL its’ policies. And, the stonewalling and coverup of these policies and decisions. He is the lynchpin to this house of cards.

The administration isn’t just not playing by the rules, it is playing a game of Calvinball with the justice system and the Constitution. As for the “we don’t have the votes” issue, well, sorry for not giving a crap here – we have “proof” (right, Senator Schumer?) so if any republican wants to stand behind a man who has lied to Congress, not to mention probably violated enough ethics rules to get disbarred if he were anyone other than Alberto Gonzales, let them.

He should be their anchor. If impeachment barely passes the House and it is called “partisan political witch hunts”, well then point out that supporting someone that is lying to Congress (by the nation’s top prosecutor, nonetheless) is indeed partisan politics.. If any Senators want to vote against conviction – in the face of documented proof of lying before Congress – let them go down with Gonzales and this administration.

How’s that for a campaign ad? Especially for those 21 republican Senators who are up for reelection. Don’t know many that would be keen on defending a position where they didn’t want to convict someone of lying to Congress.

Gonzales is the key to this administration. If he goes, so does the justification for all of its actions. As well as its’ point person for stalling and covering up. Most importantly, it will show that the Democrats are serious about oversight, are willing to play hardball and not roll over to Mr. 26% and his thugs.

Plus, you know, it could help actually move the investigations along and help with that public image that many of the Democrats are so worried about.

This is how you get to this administration. If Gonzales is impeached, the administration is cut off at the knees. And justice will finally be served against those who so carelessly trampled on our Constitution for the past 6 ½ years.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

"Moral" and "family" values and republican sex scandals

Front paged at Booman Tribune and My Left Wing. Recommended at Daily Kos

I am a guy who likes his fair share of schadenfreude. No, I don’t revel in the misery of others, but when those who oh-so-very-much deserve their come-uppance get it, sometimes I can’t help but smile.

A great wide smile.

Now, I don’t know if there are any names of Democratic (former or current) officials or members of Congress on the DC Madame’s list, but frankly, that isn’t really the point here today. It is frequently those who rail against ”evillibrulamoralvaluesandlifestyle” like homosexuality or breaking the law or (gasp) a nipple on TV or whatever other crap is conjured up by those “do as I say not as I do” hypocrites moralists that end up being caught with, er, their pants down.

Jeff Gannon was one example. Not the homosexual part, but the prostitute part. Which seems to be a recurring theme among the party that likes to talk about how the state of marriage in this country is damn near ruined by those who want to marry someone of the same sex. Never mind the fact that so many high profile “perfect republican” (or “conservative”) marriages seem to be uncovered as a farce when the husband has to admit that he was involved in “only massages” or used the services of an escort service at DC poker games, or bought drugs from a male prostitute who he had a relationship with (in addition to his “other responsibilities” as leader of a SuperDuperUltraMegaChurch).

Even before the DC Madame’s list was made public, a republican “insider” had to fess up and resign. Now we have a republican Senator who used the services of a pay-for-sex service, and one of Giuliani’s staffers as well. Not that this implicates Giuliani in this, but it does show the judgment of those who he associates with and trusts in his campaigns. Regardless of whether one thinks that prostitution should or should not be legal, fact is - it IS illegal. So much for preaching morality.

And to those wingers, before you even get started – just remember one thing - Bill Clinton never paid someone illegally for sex, so don’t even go there.

Sure, there may be one or two examples of high profile Democrats becoming embroiled in a sex scandal. JFK has his. Clinton had his as well. And some may not be on the “up and up” when it comes to legality. But the Democratic Party isn’t telling everyone in this country what they should or should not do in their bedrooms. And the Democratic Party isn’t the ones that are obsessed with physical features of males in a clearly hypocritical conflicted/homophobic manner.

No, you don’t see the Al Sharptons or other Democratic “community leaders” talking about showering with their sons to show them that you have a bigger penis like James Dobson does. You don’t have pundits talking about the awesome features of Barack Obama or John Edwards the way that they talk about Mitt Romney’s “broad shoulders” and “great temples”. Well, you did have George Bush talk about Obama’s “glistening pecs” but again, Bush is a republican.

You don’t have a wrestling coach as House leader protecting a colleague who broke laws by getting involved with online sex chats with underage Congressional Pages while Congress was voting on the Democratic side of the aisle. And I can’t help but recall how Foley spearheaded initiatives to protect minors from sexual predators.

The projection by sexually repressed republicans would be laughable if it wasn’t so dangerous and damaging to the victims and, to a lesser degree, those who are duped by their “moral superiority”. A partial listing of republican sex scandals includes many Congressional officials, Christian Coalition members and other prominent republicans. The scandals range from cheating (legal but certainly not moral) to sexual harassment to sex with teenage boys to prostitution to child pornography, and hit people like John Bolton, Jim Bakker, Newt Gingrich, Bill O’Reilly and many others.

It is one thing to be lectured on how your supposed lifestyle and belief system is amoral and “bad for society”. It is another when the lecture is coming from those who are clearly projecting and are guilty of far worse transgressions or crimes than those they are decrying or accusing others of.

But when those who call others “sinners” are caught in the middle of the very “sins” they are railing against, well, there is a level of hypocrisy that is both disgusting and satisfying. And no, I don’t mean satisfying in that there are any victims here – but the more they preach and the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

And watching these moral midgets fall one by one by one is pretty fucking satisfying.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Hopeless and taking lawlessness to a new level in Iraq

Front paged at Booman Tribune, ePluribus Media and My Left Wing

I mention Iraq in the title since it isn’t too much of a stretch for readers to think that I am talking about the situation here in the US as well. And while it is fairly obvious that the situation in Iraq is horrific, we generally only get blurbs about the violence and a ton of effort focused on our troops, contractors or other similar angles.

I don’t want to do that, at least not today. What I want to talk about here is the Iraqi civilians.

I have written before about the plight of Iraqis in the past, but not nearly enough. How there are thousands of additional refugees every day, how the middle and professional classes have long since fled. How water, jobs and electricity are all scarce. How it would only take around $100 million to put over 150,000 Iraqis back to work at the state run businesses...

There has been much “buzz” about how republicans are finally admitting that the “surge” was a complete unmitigated disaster and a drawdown of troops is something that should be considered, not to mention words of “I can no longer support a failed approach”. And while that is nice to hear on one hand, and way too late on the other hand, it doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of how much worse things have gotten in Iraq lately.

After a while, numbers have less of an impact. A few weeks ago, I was told in a diary I wrote about violence in Afghanistan that it was no big deal that there were some bombings and killings because a few dozen every week wasn’t all that much. We see stories every day how “dozens of tortured bodies were found in the streets of Baghdad”, or that “four troops were killed by an IED” or that “three suicide bombers killed 50 and injured 100 more” – the numbers are too much to even fathom.

Imagine if only one suicide bomb or car bomb went off here in the US. Now picture 4 of them. Every single day. For five years. And getting worse.

Lists like this come out every single day, and have been getting longer, more grizzly and more telling of the chaos. But that only talks about those who have died, been killed, tortured or whatever other horror awaited. Stories like this one from CBS News last Friday talk about those who are still around – those who are living without hope:

CBS News has learned that on July 15, they [Iraq leaders] plan to ask for a no-confidence vote in the Iraqi parliament as the first step to bringing down the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Even those closest to the Iraqi prime minister, from his own party, admit the political situation is desperate.

"I feel there is no strategy, so the people become hopeless," said Faliy al Fayadh, an MP from the Dawa Party. "You can live without petrol, without electricity, but you can't live without hope."

So much for liberation, spreading freedom and bettering their lives after Saddam’s regime was taken out. How Iraqis could be longing for the days when Saddam was in power is a testament to just how so completely fucked this administration has made that country. Just about the only thing that the Iraqi Parliament has been able to agree upon is the fact that they want our troops out and out as soon as possible. And even with the outward support for Maliki, it is rumored that this no confidence vote got the approval of Cheney himself.

It was also reported over the weekend that pretty much NONE of the security and political goals set out in January will be met. No worries of course, the Iraqi people don’t need to worry about there being no security (as the escalation has backfired and can be described in a best case scenario as “whack-a-mole”). They don’t need any form of government either or jobs, electricity, food, water because those aren’t really the Bush administration’s goals in Iraq either:

In a preview of the assessment it must deliver to Congress in September, the administration will report that Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar province are turning against the group al-Qaeda in Iraq in growing numbers; that sectarian killings were down in June; and that Iraqi political leaders managed last month to agree on a unified response to the bombing of a major religious shrine, officials said.

Those achievements are markedly different from the benchmarks Bush set when he announced his decision to send tens of thousands of additional troops to Iraq. More troops, Bush said, would enable the Iraqis to proceed with provincial elections this year and pass a raft of power-sharing legislation. In addition, he said, the government of President Nouri al-Maliki planned to "take responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces by November."

Of course, these benchmarks were put into law, and are not even remotely related to other arbitrary and temporary signs of “improvement” which really have no material long term impact on Iraqis lives. But even this is, well, bullshit, frankly, to Iraqis lives, as lawmakers have now told them to just arm themselves and defend themselves from the ongoing carnage:
During a news conference Sunday in Baghdad, Abbas al-Bayati, a Shiite Turkmen lawmaker, criticized the security situation in Armili. In the absence of enough security forces, al-Bayati said authorities should help residents "arm themselves" for their own protection.

The call for civilians to take up arms in their own defense was echoed by the country's Sunni Arab vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi.

"People have a right to expect from the government and security agencies protection for their lives, land, honor and property," al-Hashimi said in a statement. "But in the case of [their] inability, the people have no choice but to take up their own defense."

As if there needed to be an excuse for more violence – the “leaders” in Iraq have basically thrown up their hands and told the already-hopeless Iraqis that they are on their own, grab a gun and good luck to you.

Because, you know, that will really make the situation less volatile and give the Iraqis more hope for a better future.

Friday, July 06, 2007

If you want public support for impeachment...

Front paged at Booman Tribune, ePluribus Media and My Left Wing

There have been a significant number of diaries lately about impeachment. These touch on many angles, including some great “action” posts by buhdydharma or Meteor Blades, some tactical ones (like those by Major Danby, Booman and one earlier today by Delaware Dem) and a great many rants.

However, I don’t want to argue the merits of impeachment, nor do I want to argue the reasons or the avenues to pursue. I want to take a bit of a different approach – one that I have seen touched on by Hunter as well as thereisnospoon, but one that I felt needed to be flushed out a bit more. I’ll start by saying that all of these diaries I note above, as well as some others are excellent, and we certainly are a motivated bunch in terms of pressuring Speaker Pelosi, the House Judiciary Committee Members and other members of Congress.

Sadly, while vocal and motivated, we are not a large crew in terms of size, but we can use this forum and motivation to a great benefit at times. What I mean here, and what is imperative is that there must be more than just us (and I mean “us” in a broad manner) banging the drums and talking about impeachment. We need this to be out in the public discourse – to have people that already want Bush, Cheney, Gonzales or whomever else out of office to talk openly about the need for impeachment

So, how do we do this? Well, it is simple. The republicans are very good at one thing (and I don’t mean crime or corruption) – a clear and concise message. For us to move “impeachment” into the public discourse (more than just freeway blogging and “the angry left”), we need a clear and concise reason. Luckily, there is one - Obstruction of Justice.

This is so simple for the average American to understand. With approval ratings hovering around 26%, Bush “leads the pack” (over Cheney and Gonzales, of course). I have been starting to hear people say that “people are starting to use the “I word” lately” – and this comes from people who only somewhat follow what is going on. I believe that Hunter said it in his front page post the other day when he indicated that Bush’s commutation of Libby’s sentence amounted to obstruction of justice on Bush’s part.

That is the line to use. Whenever referring to this “phase” of the Libby/Plame matter, it should be referred to as an act that was done in order to obstruct justice.. Libby obstructed justice. Bush rendered his punishment moot in order to continue that obstruction. Cheney obstructed justice throughout the entire Plame outing process. Gonzales obstructed justice with respect to his lies under oath before Congress. Carol Lam was fired so that the Bush administration could obstruct justice with respect to her prosecutions of other republican Congressmen.

See how easy it is? It is very easy and it all boils down to three simple words. If the republicans or those who would argue against impeachment want to defend the obstruction of justice, let them.

The failure to respond to Congressional subpoenas is obstructing an investigation and therefore is obstructing justice. If Congress, as Senator Leahy indicates, will pursue Contempt of Congress charges, and if Gonzales (in his capacity as Attorney General) won’t cooperate with the prosecution of these charges, then he is obstructing justice. Bush already admitted that parts of the NSA spying program were illegal. Or, at least he admitted to doing something that was illegal but he had the right to do so. Congress wants information on this – if he won’t provide information into a potentially criminal investigation, then he is obstructing justice.

There are so many other examples of this – even since January. Even if the prior acts won’t result in impeachment charges, covering up the prior acts will amount to obstructing justice. Let the “law and order party” defend obstructing justice. After all, when they talked about the illegal spying by saying “if you don’t have anything to hide, then who cares” - this should apply now as well. “Missing” emails? “Lost” documents? All the same.

It is clear that the administration’s tactic is to drag things out in the hopes that either the public will forget it or that they can run out the clock. Current acts warrant impeachment. The public needs to get behind us. They also write LTEs, OpEds in local papers, call into radio and TV shows. We are here to let the public know why impeachment rightfuckingnow is warranted.

The public understood obstruction of justice with Nixon. And here is an excellent tie in (as a special bonus) to Fred Thompson – as pointed out by litigatormom yesterday, he was a mole for the Nixon White House with respect to the Watergate investigation. Does this country want a President who helped to obstruct justice?

This is what the Bush administration does. They lie, they steal, they do whatever they want to. And then whenever it comes time for accountability, they obstruct justice. We know this. We don’t need the public to be confused with the ins and outs of why unless someone is interested in learning more.

But for purposes of convincing the public why we need to impeach now and just as importantly, that Bush, Cheney, Gonzales and other members of the administration are STILL committing impeachable acts now (as opposed to just what was done in the past) - it needs to come in a simple but powerful message.

They’re obstructing justice.

Those words should be a substantial part of our everyday vocabulary from here on out. The public can understand this. The public can get behind this.