Friday, August 31, 2007

Leave now or be in Iraq for at least a decade.

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

As long as all of the chips are down, or at least $147 billion of them plus another $50 billion of them are, let’s just put it out there. This is the choice we are facing with respect to Iraq. Either Congress gets serious about timelines, cutting off funding and planning on getting our troops out and choosing a “very bad” option as opposed to “much worse” option down the road.

There are a few facts which make this an already impossible situation to have any potential favorable resolution – in any measurable or meaningful way – and these facts give us two options. Those two are simple: make plans to leave Iraq in relatively short order or stay there for ten, twenty, thirty or more years with an overstretched military, hundreds of billions of dollars wasted, hundreds of thousands or millions of lives ruined, and more violence and destruction than anyone can fathom.

I'll say it again, that is the choice we are facing with respect to Iraq, and it is time that these two options are put out there as the choices we are staring at.

Consider the following two positions taken by General Petraeus over the past few months. For starters, he says that this is a “decades long” struggle. And a few months earlier, he said that there is no military solution in Iraq. So right there, we have a decades long struggle that our own military commander indicated will not be able to be solved with his military.

More recently, the NIE released earlier this week indicated the dire political process in Iraq. Nobody, NOBODY in their right minds believes that the United States can positively influence the political process in Iraq – certainly not in the short to mid term. Besides, if the “purple fingers” meant anything at all, then it is really none of our business to stick our noses in where they don’t belong (hear that, Senators Levin and Clinton?).

Violence is out of control. This is the most violent summer yet. More casualties per attack, more lethal attacks, more sophisticated attacks. Borderline ethnic cleansing. Rampant unemployment. Little to no electricity or clean water. The government MIA. Hundreds of thousands of US weapons “missing” (read: lost to or stolen by those who are attacking us and each other). Hundreds of billions of dollars gone.

And now another $200 billion more? For WHAT???? If it isn’t for getting us the hell out of dodge, then it shouldn’t even go any further than that. More of the same is just that – more of the same. No timeline now means what? If not now, then when the hell is it the “right time” to talk about a withdrawal or a real exit strategy?

The GAO report giving the unvarnished truth about how dire the situation is in Iraq is being whitehoused, er, whitewashed and will clearly be more rosy than the truth. As will the Petraeus White House report on Iraq.

And that is the thing, which I will say very clearly - this administration and its supporters lie through their teeth about Iraq. They are using our troops as pawns as they chest thump about something that will never ever ever happen. Wishing and clapping hard doesn’t make anything happen. These are lives at stake – not pieces in a game of Risk™.

You would think that the news that a plane carrying US Congressmen (three out of four who are republicans) was shot at in Iraq would send a dose of reality through these people and jolt the discussion back from the land of make believe. You would think that the steady stream of reports indicating how far out of control things are EVERYWHERE would at least have this outrageous $200 billion demand from Bush be laughed out of the discussion.

Yet here we are, on the eve of Congress coming back into session, and there is not only a risk that this $200 billion request will be granted but that a certain core group of traitors will hijack the debate into a third war with Iran to go along with the other two that we are getting our asses handed to us in.

It comes down to a simple question for those in Congress who are trying to tap dance around the elephant in the room. That includes all Presidential candidates who are in Congress and have a voice, because this will define your presidency as well.

Do you have the courage to act now and make a significant move towards ending the disaster in Iraq and turning this country around? Or do you want to stay in Iraq for decades, sinking hundreds of billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of troops into it? Do you want a rebuilt military and the National Guard here doing what it should? Or do you want to continue bankrupting this country and destroying the military as well as what little bit may be left of our reputation around the world?

Do you want to address all of the very important and major problems facing this country? Or do you want to have a draft in order to support another 10 – 15 years of military occupation in Iraq that will only have more disastrous results?

That is the choice. Out now or not for decades. Your actions over the next few weeks will determine what your choice is. And there can be no excuses – you can’t say that you didn’t know this was coming.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

One of these things is not like the others...

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

Some of you may remember the Sesame Street song that shows four different things, three of which are alike and one that is not. By the time the song is over, you are supposed to guess which of the four is not like the other three. And with respect to a number of recent developments on Iraq, the near unanimous mutiny by different yet unexpected parts of our government on the events going on in Iraq and the “progress” that is most certainly not being made on any meaningful level has one component that sticks out like a sore thumb.

Heading into the Congressional recess, there was the general consensus that the Democrats would stay united, very uniform and consistently vocal about the unequivocal need for us to move towards an exit strategy – whether it is cutting funding, setting a deadline for withdrawal or highlighting the reality that some small gains in security in some areas are (1) welcome and great news but (2) really irrelevant in the overall scheme of things, given the lack of benchmarks being met, the increase in violence and intensity of attacks and the complete breakdown of the political process. There was also a general concern that the Petraeus report would be a whitewash but touted by the republicans as reason for another couple of Friedman units. There was also a thought that the military itself, the intelligence community and other areas of the government would either stay on the sidelines or have their findings remain classified.

Strangely, as with much “conventional wisdom”, much of this is pretty much completely off the mark. So, in that respect, all of those things are like each other.

For starters, we find out that the Petraeus report will be written by the White House with “input” from Petraeus, effectively blunting any level of potential objectivity. Not that this wasn’t on people’s minds to begin with, but the fact that it was leaked more than a month before the report would be issued gave ample time for Democrats and many others to shine a light on this. In fact, Senator Clinton referred to the report as “the White House report”, and even Chris Matthews called bullshit on the report.

Then, we find out that the new NIE’s key findings have been declassified ahead of the Petraeus White House report and it contradicts all of the late July-early August preemptive optimism about “I think that we will be pleasantly surprised with the Petraeus report” and “let’s wait until September and see what the Petraeus report will say”. The report offers a sobering assessment of what is actually happening, and what the prognosis is for the next six to twelve months. Violence up and continuing to be up. Ethnic cleansing “segregation” in Baghdad as the main reason for small decreases in violence. More deaths and more attacks. A government in a “very precarious position” with little hope of any major progress. Still no electricity, clean water, jobs and more refugees.

While this was a welcome dose of reality, I don’t understand why this NIE was made public while many others were not, or were heavily redacted. This administration certainly knows how to keep things from ever seeing the light of day (or at least the truth from ever seeing the light of day), and the assessment by the intelligence community here was not painting a pretty picture by any means.

And if that wasn’t enough, over the past couple of days we have seen even more piling on by some unlikely sources. As pointed out by The Angry Rakkasan, even the Pentagon, military analysts and military commanders are throwing their hands up and will not be presenting any form of consensus opinion to Bush. Again, not only do you have a situation where military personnel who are still involved and have a vested interest (as opposed to all of the retired generals whose words were not made public until either after they were relieved from duty or just before they were “coincidentally” replaced) speaking out against any continuance of these failed and deadly non-policies, but the fact that they will be doing so is being made public.

On top of that, a new draft GAO report is noting that only three of the eighteen benchmarks are being met, further reinforcing the fact that no promises are being kept, no actions are being followed through on and no real progress is being made. Once again, the fact that such a damaging-to-the-administration yet truthful assessment of the events in Iraq is being leaked before its final version is scrubbed “reviewed” by the Defense Department is stunning.

Last but certainly not least, we have the Democratic Party’s positioning on Iraq, which is especially noteworthy in light of the Petraeus testimony before Congress on September 11 as well as the upcoming debate on funding (where Bush has just asked for another $50 billion on top of the prior request of $150 billion). And while there has been some positive statements from some Democrats (including Pelosi, Reid, Clinton and a few other traditionally reliable sources), there has been a surprising number of Congressional Democrats who have made the “get out of Iraq” goal much tougher than it needs to be.

First there was House Majority Whip Clyburn’s preemptive comments about a “positive report by Petraeus potentially splitting House Democrats on a timetable for withdrawal. Of course, this set the table for hand wringing, even before all of the above news and reports were released. Way to shoot yourself and your party in the foot while simultaneously putting it in your mouth, Rep. Clyburn.

Then there were comments made by Rep. Jerry McNerney that seemed to contradict each other. First, he saw progress after a trip to Iraq and was willing to be a bit more flexible (these comments were not helped by some “clarification” by the columnist who wrote the article). Then, he clarified his comments by reaffirming his commitment to a “date certain” for withdrawal. Then, he clarified those comments by saying that he is willing to be flexible for more time if need be. Certainly, while we know that he is for a withdrawal, his comments did not do much to help the cause - especially in light of the reports that were coming out all around this same time.

And of course, there was Rep. Brian Baird making comments in support of the continued escalation in Iraq, even as his constituents ripped him for it, and Senator Clinton’s VFW speech last week where she alternated between talking about failed policies in Iraq and the need to withdraw troops with talk about progress being made in certain areas (wholly irrelevant to the big picture) – all while latching onto a right wing extremist frame of “preparing to fight the new war” just as the administration is ratcheting up rhetoric about bombing Iran (not to mention the two “wars” we are currently already getting our asses handed to us in).

While Baird’s supporters say that he is still for a withdrawal and voted against the original AUMF and Clinton’s supporters point out that she was talking about the “war on terrorism”, they fail to realize the larger point and impact that their words have in contradicting every other assessment, the bigger picture and the larger struggle between those who are truly doing everything they can to come up with a true way out of Iraq and those who are issuing platitudes or not doing all they can. There is a big difference between the words “keeping us safe” and “rebuilding the military” as opposed to “staying on offense” or cheapening the word “war”. In the debate over Iraq, any wavering from a firm, consistent and solid message will spell doom for getting any closer to withdrawal.

And somehow, while the “out of Iraq” crowd (now nearing 70+% of America) is finding unlikely allies from the intelligence community, the military commanders, even some members of the press who are actually reporting things that are newsworthy and calling bullshit on rosy assessments, somehow, the one place where we figured to have the strongest ally is not that place.

Being on the wrong side of the truth about Iraq is not a good place to be. Some of those who were traditionally on that side are, for whatever reason, coming over from the “dark side”. However, there are some who, for whatever reason, feel that it is better to hedge their words and offer some support towards this administration – possibly in the hopes that it makes them look “stronger”, or “willing to negotiate” or whatever other reason. However, it only makes them look foolish in light of all the other news coming out.

With the upcoming debate on funding, it will be interesting to see how this plays out, and if one of these things is still not like the others.

Let’s hope that they all get on the same page. For our sake, for the Iraqi’s sake, and for their sake as well.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Just what exactly is "the new war", Senator Clinton?

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

Note: This will probably piss off the ardent Hillary supporters, and it should. However, it should because of the hard right turn on neoconservative foreign policy issues and the threat of more vague war as well as the cover she is providing for the continuation of a failed and deadly policy by this administration. Let’s hope that there is some objectivity here as opposed to the “knee jerk freeper like sexist” strawman name calling that I have endured in the past for criticism of her words and policies.

I have thought Senator Clinton has done a pretty good job in the Senate. I say this as a New Yorker who saw some of the things she has done over the past six years for the state. I have also long thought that she would not make a good leader as far as President of the United States. There are a number of reasons why, some personal, some policy, some perception and some because of who she associates with. That is not to detract from her being a very capable Senator, but in this time in history, I feel we need a strong leader that “gets it”, especially with respect to this country’s priorities and our foreign policy role around the world.

Comments like this one that she made the other day about “things working in Iraq but only years too late in changing our tactics” and “we can’t be fighting the last war, we have to be preparing to fight the new war” are two of the most recent and most egregious examples of why Senator Clinton doesn’t “get it” on so many levels and is increasingly showing why she is not nearly the best candidate to lead this country through the next few, very difficult and trying years.

So, Senator – what exactly did you mean by “the new war”? I think We the People have a right to know just what war you have in store for this nation if you are to be trusted as our leader? Does the “new war” call for meddling and sticking your nose into another country’s political process and call for the removal of that leader, as you have recently (and so wrongfully done) about al-Maliki? If you are so interested in removing a country’s leader – especially one that has repeatedly failed to do right by that country, why not start right here in the US? Or is that not “politically feasible” for you?

Does the “new war” include praising a failed and fatally flawed non-mission of “whack-a-mole” in Iraq (especially since any reduction in violence in Anbar is wholly unrelated to the escalation), while ignoring the harsh reality of massive deaths to Iraqis, increased bombings, lack of any security, no political hope of reconciliation anytime soon or the findings of our own National Intelligence Estimate which was released right around the same time you made those asinine comments about “progress”?

Does the “new war” involve bombing Iran over reasons that have been proven unfounded, out and out false or specious at best? Does it involve ignoring reality and any hopes for peace in the Middle East? Does it continue the neoconservative doctrine of world dominance to the detriment of this nation’s infrastructure and economy?

Does the “new war” involve a war on the lack of fair and affordable health insurance for tens of millions of Americans? If so, then why are you waiting to “unveil” your plan, whereas a true leader would be out in front on this most important issue?

To me, each statement that is made about “progress” in Iraq – ESPECIALLY when it talks more about the failed mission that most of America wants over than it does about the heroic effort that our overextended and overworked (not to mention underpaid and underequipped) troops are putting in – with absolutely no idea as to what they are supposed to be doing is a failed statement.

There can be no progress that would bring the situation in Iraq any closer to a feasible resolution. There can be no progress when the main reason for a decrease in violence in certain areas is due to ethnic cleansing and segregation. That is not progress. That is more evidence of failure.

Calling for the replacement of al-Maliki is not “progress”. It is nothing more than asking for more time for the occupation, killing and attacks to continue. I’ll say it plainer for you: it is not al-Maliki. Nobody can fix this situation. To replace him would merely reset the clock for more death and theft waste of taxpayer dollars.

Sorry, Senator – you just don’t get the big picture. And being first lady for eight years is no more “experience” than working in the state legislature. It is merely a different perspective. And clearly, that perspective still hasn’t led you to say the things to articulate a vision that this country sorely needs.

We should be protecting ourselves. As your husband said, “strength AND wisdom”. That means preparing for NO war. Not a “new war”.

Those words are dangerous. Those words are counterproductive. Those words call for more of the same. You might as well say “meet the new war, same as the old war”.

And we don’t need, nor can we afford more of the same.

Friday, August 24, 2007

"The new war" is already being fought

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

With all due respect to Senator Clinton, “the new war” is already underway. In fact, it has been for close to seven years, and truly it has been raging for the past four years.

Whether you, the the Bush Dog Democrats, the lobbyists who you feel represent people like us, other colleagues in the Senate or the House on either side of the aisle, corporatist, neoconservative or stay the course people who are afraid of the scary brown person lurking under your bed realize it or not – this is a new war going on. Sadly, it seems as though if you don’t realize it, you are probably on the wrong side here.

I use the word “war” with a heavy heart. While it is a cheap way to describe a conflict, especially one where the weapons used are not of a violent nature, and there are no bombs (other than a few “f-bombs” here and there) being dropped, it is the term used by people who like to over inflate and over conflate issues into silly bite size (or sound byte size) pieces like “war on drugs”, “war on terror” or “war on Christmas”. So, I use it for context only.

On one side of this“war” is the American public, who overwhelmingly are against a continued military presence in Iraq, or much of the Middle East for that matter, are against the policies of this administration, are against elected officials who are not accountable to anyone or are not holding those accountable who need to be. This side is also against the corporatization of the economy and government, and for some form of affordable basic medical care, less spending, fairer taxes and better education standards. They are in favor of a document called “The United States Constitution” and the rights enumerated within that document. They also like to keep the right of privacy. Both Democrats and republicans are on this side.

On the other side of this “war” are those who think that “if we just did things differently in Iraq, it would have been so much different”. Or that it is ok to let a man who lied under oath to Congress about warrantless wiretapping would be given more powers to wiretap without a warrant. To “stay on the offense”. To not keep our ports, railways, infrastructure safe. Or not rebuild the Gulf Coast. Or try to influence politics in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan or any other country in such a blatant manner. Or protecting our environment is no big deal. Both Democrats and republicans are on this side too.

Our side knows that Iraq was never going to be successful with the very foundation of lies and fear tactics it was based on. We know that the lies spouted and double speak will be captured somewhere and come back to bite you in the ass. We hold people accountable. For their actions and their words. Both Democrats and republicans, for that matter.

We have candidates running for Congress who share our values much more than you do. And we have resources. Lots of resources. Our side is growing. More people realize that they don’t like the other side’s actions. We catch the lies and discredit those petty liars. We want change. We want serious action on getting out of Iraq. We want fair and affordable healthcare. We will fight for these things. And we ARE fighting for these things.

Of course, now that I’ve tipped you off, I would expect a complete change in tactics (ok, that was overreacting). But as a number of you have noted (both Democrats and republicans), “elections have consequences”. And people need to live up to the promises made while running for office. We don’t forget.

But if you think that the “new war” is going on out there as opposed to right here, then that is precisely why, to our side, you are not fit to lead our country at this very important time in our history.

You can’t lead if you don’t “get it”.

Sadly, you don’t get it.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

It's right there in black and white. So now what?

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

I’ll be (relatively) brief.

By now, most have seen or at least heard about the new NIE that says what we all already knew about Iraq. That there have been “measurable but uneven improvements in Iraq’s security situation” and that the next six to twelve months are going to suck even worse than the past six months. Thinkprogress has a good roundup of the major points – that the government in Iraq is pretty much useless, the violence is going to get worse (and mind you – this has been the bloodiest and most violent summer since 2003), the refugee crisis is going to get worse and a few other lovely tidbits.

I was going to write a diary asking the Democrats who have recently come back from Iraq or those who have opened their mouths to indicate that there has been “progress” in Iraq, exactly what progress was being made and how was that, in any way, shape or form something that was even relevant to the big picture. But the one thing that stuck out the most for me was this passage about why the “sectarian violence” is down a bit in certain areas:
The polarization of communities is most evident in Baghdad, where the Shia are a clear majority in more than half of all neighborhoods and Sunni areas have become surrounded by predominately Shia districts. Where population displacements have led to significant sectarian separation, conflict levels have diminished to some extent because warring communities find it more difficult to penetrate communal enclaves.

Let me put that another way, the ethnic cleansing and civil war has displaced and driven so many people from their neighborhoods that the main reason for the reduction in violence is because the violence has segregated and displaced the population. Oh goody.

We know that Petraeus himself said back in March that there was no military solution in Iraq. We now know that the NIE is saying that there is little hope of any political solution anytime soon. This is also coupled with, and evidenced by (1) no benchmarks being met, (2) a non-existent Iraqi government which is on vacation and who knows if they are coming back, (3) a burning desire to get us out, (4) wholly uncalled for butting in by the US government into how and who should lead Iraq’s government and (5) there is already a power vacuum as every “leader” is criticizing everyone else.

So, no political solution, no military solution, and an NIE that comes oh-so-close to using the words “sectarian cleansing”. What makes the over-the-line comments by Levin, Clinton and others calling for al-Maliki to be replaced is that it puts the blame on him, and would essentially be extending this disaster by “resetting the clock” for his replacement – a replacement that would be doomed from the start, just as Maliki was.

Senator Reid issued the following earlier today:

“Today’s National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq confirms what most Americans already know: Our troops are mired in an Iraqi civil war and the President’s escalation strategy has failed to produce the political results he promised to our troops and the American people.

Our troops have done everything asked of them and more. Unfortunately Iraq’s leaders have not. And as today’s NIE makes clear, a political solution is extremely unlikely in the near term. Further pursuit of the Administration’s flawed escalation strategy is not in our nation’s best interests.

Every day that we continue to stick to the President’s flawed strategy is a day that America is not as secure as it could be. As the intelligence community reported in another NIE just weeks ago, America’s attention is distracted from Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, which has regenerated its capacity to its pre-9/11 levels. That is why it is so essential that this September, Republicans join with Democrats to change course in Iraq and work to restore our nation’s security.”

That is a perfect sound byte. And in light of this, as well as recent statements from Reps. Clyburn and McNerney, not to mention Senator Clinton, somehow we see the Democrats moving away from the “changing course in Iraq”. We know that the republicans are not budging. We have seen the beginnings of a major spending spree on ads that falsely tie 9/11 to Iraq. We have seen a push to get the less wingnutty of the republicans back in line. We have already seen the “previews” of Petraeus’ the White House report that was supposed to be rainbows and chocolates.

There is nothing more that our troops can do in Iraq. Every single metric shows that things are getting worse on a big picture scale. You can always find a number that can support a more rosy outlook. But that is not reality. Troops dying is a reality. This failed and doomed from the start invasion is a reality.

It is time to make major moves towards “wrapping up” our military involvement in Iraq. All evidence points to no other option now. So, it is now up to the Democrats in Congress to make it happen when they come back into session.

We know what the republican plan is. We know what the administration’s plan is. We know what We the People want (and voted the Democrats into a majority for).

The ball is in Senator Reid, Speaker Pelosi, Senators Levin, Clinton, Leahy, Obama and the House “Bush dogs” court, among many other people who were entrusted with making REAL efforts to ending this fiasco. This is the moment of truth. All of the evidence and support is there.

So, what’ll it be?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Impeaching Gonzales would restore integrity to impeachment

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

The stupidest most illogical reason that I hear for not pursuing impeachment charges against Bush or Cheney or Gonzales or anyone else for that matter is that it “would look partisan and petty and retribution for the partisan and petty impeachment of Clinton”.

To that, I say bullshit.

If you (the abstract “you”, of course) want to argue that we don’t have the votes, or that there isn’t enough time, or that the public would rather have investigations go on in the background while real bold legislation is being pursued, or that there are other bigger more pressing matters, I can accept that. I don’t necessarily agree with many (or maybe not any) of these reasons, but I at least can accept them.

But this whole line of crap that “impeachment is forever tainted” will make me want to scream. Does anyone honestly think that if a Democratic administration member did ANYTHING even remotely close to any of the myriad of things that Gonzales, Bush, Cheney or anyone else has done that the word “impeachment for the sake of the rule of law” won’t be dripping from every republican, talking meatstick and corporate owned major media publication nonstop?

If you don’t think so, just remember what Clinton was impeached over, who controls the message and who can’t message their way out of a paper bag.

There are a myriad of reasons why impeaching Gonzales is a slam dunk, and would restore confidence in Democratic leadership in Congress, as well as raise the profile of the Democratic led Congressional investigations (not to mention lend credibility to the investigations) and raise the approval of Congressional Democrats among those who think that some or many are not willing to stand up to this administration. As for the reasons to impeach Gonzales (just in case Senator Dodd needs more convincing), well, I alone have laid out a few reasons here and here and here and here and here and here and here.

Impeachment is a very serious thing – and should not be taken lightly. It is very likely that one of the main reasons why impeachment was deliberately rammed through the House in the late 1990s was to reduce it to the “cheap political theater” that it is now known as. Or, maybe it was a side benefit to some other reason.

But the bottom line is that the word “impeachment” is viewed as taboo to many people because of the hyper partisan nonsensical political theater that was Clinton’s impeachment. And it is all too convenient of an excuse for those who don’t want to take a stand against some of the most corrupt and sinister people ever to serve in such high offices here in the United States government.

However, I think that just the opposite is true here. We have so many reasons - valid, imperative reasons, to impeach Gonzales that NOT to do so is what will forever cheapen the power of impeachment. If not Gonzales, if not now, then please tell me what could EVER be the case for bringing impeachment charges against anyone? Why wouldn’t the argument down the road be “if Gonzales wasn’t impeached, with all of the evidence that the Democratic Congress said they had, then why should XXXXX be impeached over something that clearly does not rise to the same level?”

It’s about time that more people who are supposed to know better realize that unless impeachment is used now against Gonzales, there will never (hopefully) be a better reason to pursue impeachment. By doing so, it will (1) restore integrity to the impeachment process and (2) put an end to this stupid lazy nonsensical excuse once and for all.

It’s a no-brainer.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Follow through, or don't even bother investigating

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

I’m pretty pissed off right now. And frankly, I’m not nearly alone here, as Congress’ approval is at an all time low, according to a new Gallup Poll. And even though there is more approval for Democrats than republicans, and even though there is a preference for Democrats than republicans, there is one thing that republicans are very very good at – understanding that if the public doesn’t like the other side more than they don’t like you, then you can win. Not that this is going to happen, but it could happen.

I know that we all would love to see Bush, Cheney, Rove, Gonzales and whoever else frog marched, impeached and locked up for many years. I am also aware of the precedent that would be set if these actions don’t go punished, or even investigated. But with the country in such bad shape by nearly every metric that even the slumbered masses have taken their heads our of their asses the sand long enough to start realizing just how dire the situation could be.

Now that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the problems that face this country – Katrina has still left the Gulf Coast in shambles and ignored to the point where it isn’t much better than it was close to two years ago. The housing crisis is going to get worse. A LOT worse, as people won’t be able to afford their mortgages, as mortgage companies go out of business and the cascading effect hits other areas of the housing sector. Iraq is a sinkhole of death, destruction and even our Democratic leaders (with a lot of help from the blue dogs) aren’t taking a bold stand or the lead on probably the most important issue facing this country. That goes for the Presidential candidates as well – especially those who are in Congress and in a position to act as the leader that they want to be.

The infrastructure is a mess – the bridge collapse is just another example, as I have written about our decaying railways and the decline in mine safety over the past few years as well. Roads are in disrepair, the power grid is outdated, and there are so many more examples of needs with not enough money to even keep up with the necessary maintenance, let alone major repairs. We are falling behind in education, the environmental issues are still “up for debate” and the White House has even fought regulations with respect to lead paint.

People are working more and taking home less. This is compounded by high gas prices, a lack of adequate or affordable health insurance and the AMT squeezing all of the people it SHOULDN’T, while not touching many of those it should be hitting.

You know, real problems that touch on them. Problems that they want Congress to tackle - no matter how big or how tough they may be. And here is a news flash – Americans would rather have the Democrats TRY to implement a healthcare plan, or deal with infrastructure issues, or hold their ground on Iraq and actually have a timetable set – even if it results in a veto than to have nothing but hand wringing.

So where am I going with all this?

Investigations are nice. Investigations are warranted. Threats are also good, especially when there has been no indication of compliance or cooperation for years. But, toothless investigations and threats of the “just wait until your father gets home” variety aren’t going to do much other than waste time, energy and resources.

Actually, I take that back – it will also (1) piss off those who demand accountability because we see the toothless threats time and again and are getting tired of it and (2) give fodder to those on the right who accuse the Democrats of partisan witch hunts or “playing politics”.

Before you dismiss the second point above – just remember who controls the message.

The other day, Senator Dodd, a Presidential candidate who I am liking more and more, had the following to say about impeaching Gonzales:

"Alberto Gonzales - I gotta tell you, if your question would have been just about Alberto Gonzales, I would've been a little less secure in my answer to you," said Dodd, who said he didn't support pursuing impeachment of Bush or Cheney. "The president and vice president of the United States, I just don't want to go down that road. Gonzales - I'm open to you convincing me that this is one we might want to move on."

Now, as much as I am liking Dodd more and more, this is just an unbelievable statement. He is open to being convinced about impeaching Gonzales???? A man who is an attorney (and supposedly bound by a professional code of ethics) and is caught lying time and time again. To Congress. The nation’s TOP attorney, who either can’t get a handle on the most basic as well as the most controversial high profile things going on in his own Justice Department, or who is pulling the strings and lying about it. A man who crafted the support for torture. And lord knows what else.

Before anyone says that impeachment comes from the House and he can only vote to convict, I say that I am sure that Dodd has many friends in the House and as someone who is running for President, should be able to take a leadership role here in forcing the issue.

Leahy lets deadlines come and go, while throwing around words like “contempt”. Reid talks about changing direction in Iraq. Much of the Democratic leadership talks about how they want to change the FISA rule they just allowed to be brought to the floor. Frankly, the argument of being afraid that something will happen that wasn’t picked up by spying and the Democrats will be blamed is the stupidest, laziest and dishonest argument that I have heard in a good while. For starters, let’s answer a couple of questions:

  • Who is responsible for the lack of enough qualified Arabic translators that can even interpret any messages that are intercepted?

  • Who gave no though to invading Iraq or the aftermath, even though there was ample warning?

  • Who blew off the most bold warnings that the US was in dire threat of being attacked, blew off warnings about al Qaeda, and then responded with a “ok, you’ve covered your ass now”

  • Who decided to give money to the Saudis, even though they have ties to the 9/11 attackers and had ties to wealthy nationals who funded the insurgency in Iraq?

How about going on the offensive? How about getting legislation to the floor that actually helps the major disasters that are facing Americans? How about getting on national television, writing OpEds or holding press conferences on the steps of the Capitol letting everyone know that Bush is going to veto a bill with respect to expanding health care access for children – that is if the republicans don’t stop it from passing? Or that they are going to impeach Gonzales? Or that there will be a major transportation bill that funds the things it needs to fund - even if Bush vetoes it. Even if the republicans hold the bill up?

That is the republican strategy – block everything and say that the Democrats did nothing other than investigate for partisan purposes. And in the battle of message, the Democrats are losing badly.

If the investigations don’t result in meaningful actions, and the status quo in Congress continues, then the 2008 elections will be a lot closer than we would like them to be.

This country has lots of major problems that need to be solved. This is the Democratic Party’s chance to step up to the plate. We can’t wait until after the 2008 elections for much of this. And it is foolish to think that independents are going to flock to the polls based on a disappointing two years as Democrats need them to.

To put it more bluntly, either shit or get off the pot. There is enough evidence to charge more than a few people and hold them in inherent contempt. Either do it or don’t even bother investigating anymore.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Leaving Iraq won't cause "them to follow us home"

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

I’ll even add a “by and large” or a “materially” for those who think that the title is a bit too strongly worded.

But it is time that this is absolute ridiculous reason for dumping billions more in money (haphazardly, I might add), neglecting those who DID attack the US on 9/11 (and its interests outside the US before that), neglecting our infrastructure, healthcare, education and costing hundreds of thousands of lives both here through such neglect and abroad as the disastrous civil war in Iraq continues to be on autopilot as no bold leader has the guts to stand up and utter the words (or similar words) in my title.

“If we leave now, things will get worse and they will follow us back here”.

I thought this was discredited long ago. But, it has reared its ugly head in full force as we anticipate the complete whitewash of a report issued by General Petraeus. Or more accurately, it will have his name slapped on it, although if he were to be honest, then nothing he says will actually be reflected in the report itself.

The Democratic Presidential candidates all dance around a withdrawal timetable or even a plan. As discussed in yesterday’s debate, and as so aptly noted in the Washington Post article, titled, Democratic Rivals Caution Against Swift Iraq Withdrawal, they miss a chance to really look at the larger picture. While there was good discussion about the differing opinions on the consequences of various plans, we still don’t get any real smackdown of the one line that is still sticking in much of the public’s mind and is being used as a hammer by republicans and talking meatsticks to keep the United States bogged down in a worsening situation just to save their political hides.

But admitting the truth is the first thing that needs to be done before we can even consider the “how” and “when” of leaving Iraq. And very few are doing so. Obama was right when he said that there are only bad options and worse options. Yet, we still don’t hear anyone calling pre-emptive “BULLSHIT!” on the farce of the “September report”. Obama is also correct in talking about the real danger that lies in Pakistan. Yet, chest thumping towards Pakistan isn’t going to do much either in the absence of some cold hard truth telling.

However, some of what Obama is saying needs to be said, and needs to be part of the truth telling. An article on Politico titled GOP recruits unafraid to sound hawkish might as well be titled “GOP recruits unafraid to sound like chest thumping short sighted idiots”. And it extends to Democrats such as Majority Whip Rep. Clyburn as well:

Former GOP Rep. Jim Ryun, running in a Republican-leaning Kansas district, also warned about the consequences of a withdrawal from Iraq. He said voters in the district, which includes Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth, largely want to give the surge a chance.

"When you leave early in a situation that's not stabilized, you leave behind a worse situation," said Ryun. "We don't want the conflict to follow us home."

The report by Petraeus is shaping up to be a key moment for both parties in how candidates calibrate their rhetoric.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told The Washington Post last week that a positive assessment from Petraeus might keep conservative Blue Dog Democrats, many facing tough reelection bids, from endorsing a timetable for withdrawal.

And so it goes. Frankly, it is not only dishonest, but also is lazy. If you take this line of thought, you never have to make a tough choice. Just sound bites, platitudes and keep that head buried in the sand. The troops are already there, the situation is already a disaster beyond anyone’s wildest thoughts of how bad it could have gotten and taking the same lazy way out won’t raise anyone’s profile either.

If it was just there, it would be bad enough. However, we have talk radio host and OpEd columnist in the Dallas Morning News Mark Davis with this gem:

The current U.S. surge in Iraq may succeed enough to create new reserves of patience in a country once again tempted to give up. But even if it does not, we would do well to remember that the people we are fighting today want to follow us home.

At least there is this bit of honesty from The Indianapolis Star, which lays out just how this whole “lather, rinse, repeat” strategy of lying and Friedman Units has worked:
He (Bush) has tried one general after another. They all tell Mr. Bush what he wants to hear. If we don't beat them in Iraq, they'll follow us home. Also, we can win in Iraq if we don't suffer a lack of will and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Gen. David Petraeus is now in charge and he stays right on message: While there is a high price for staying in Iraq, including mounting American casualties, the price for leaving could be higher.


We are in the midst of a public relations surge by the Pentagon, timed to coincide with Gen. Petraeus' Sept. 15 report, and designed to persuade The Decider to extend this war once again. Just before the 2004 election, Petraeus published an op-ed article in The Washington Post in which he said, "Iraqi leaders are stepping forward, leading their country and their security forces courageously." He misled America then and I predict he'll do the same in September. But, then, Mr. Bush is so ready to be misled.

The problem here is that as things have gotten markedly worse in Iraq over the past few months, there has been a substantial decline in the US media reporting of what is going on. So the failures and disasters get buried, while the “we can’t leave or else we will be hit here” and “wait for the Petraeus report because I hear good things are going to be in the report” are all that is being said, reported and heard.

That is total crap, as we all know.

Leaving Iraq will be ugly. But the situation there was already really, truly ugly. And it is worse with each passing day. Our options have long been either “bad” or “worse”. But the “badness” of the bad options and the “worseness” of the worse options are getting, well, “badder” and “worser” as the can keeps getting kicked down the road.

Of course, much of this is qualified with a “yes, things have been bad, and there were poor decisions and a lack of planning, but……” In reality, there STILL is no plan – not even this escalation was a real plan, especially since there were no benchmarks met, the Iraqi government is a farce and the fighting is spreading to areas all over the country now. Besides, dishonesty is bad enough when lives are not being lost as a result.

And what will make things worse? What will increase the threat of being hit here in the US again? Well, many things that are getting buried as well:

  • Giving $20 Billion to the Saudis, even though most suicide bombers in Iraq are Saudis. Not to mention that they are likely Sunnis, who were the insurgents until Bush realized that Iran was Shiite and therefore more of an enemy than those who had been blowing up our troops.

  • Ignoring the bubbling disaster in Pakistan, where Al Qaeda (and presumably bin Laden if he is still alive) as well as the Taliban have reconstituted to launch attacks in Afghanistan;

  • Thinking it is a good idea to throw billions of dollars at the lawless region of Pakistan where Al Qaeda and the Taliban are – to try and win the “hearts and minds” just like in Iraq;

  • Having a presidential candidate declare that the US should bomb Mecca and Median “just to send a message” and not have him be censured or removed from Congress for making such threats;

  • Arming the insurgents in Iraq, or at least those who “were” insurgents if they promise not to use their weapons on US troops, then LOSING nearly 200,000 of the weapons; and

  • Declaring the entire de-facto Iranian military as a “terrorist organization” – just because.

You know, things like actually taunting extremists in a “Bring em on” kind of chickenhawk chest thumping way.

But until this line of thinking is demolished once and for all, it will continue to give America and its so-called leaders a pass to further its dishonest lack of debate and therefore keep us mired in Iraq – all while ignoring the real issues around the world and pretending that up is down and black is white.

We expect more, our troops expect more, and frankly, we can’t afford to have one more day of “if we leave they will follow us home”.

It’s a dishonest and cowardly line. And a deadly one.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Tell me again why you are even the least bit credible?

Front paged at Booman Tribune. Recommended at Daily Kos

This statement pretty much sums up how I feel about basically anything I hear on the corporate controlled “news”, from “experts”, certainly the Administration or its supporters and sadly, many people who think they know what they are talking about when in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

People who have been proven completely wrong, or have been caught time and time again willfully twisting facts, reality, or out and out lied or cheated to broke the law (regardless of whether they were adequately punished, if at all for their transgression), have been proven to be little more than blathering, whining hypocrites are still controlling the discourse – not just who is talking, but who is NOT talking and what is being put out as “conventional wisdom”.

Many of us know this and are frustrated as all hell. Frustrated at those who actually take themselves seriously as they so blatantly say things that only someone so far detached from any semblance of reality, or just plain don’t care that so many people know how full of shit they are because it really doesn’t matter to them anyway. Frustrated at the lack of ability or spine or whatever else to expose them completely, and mock their words with an appropriate level of derision. Frustrated at the lack of a strong voice (or the means to use their own voice) to throw back our heads in a deep belly laugh at the sheer lunacy that emanates from their lying mouths.

But, it is this consistency that gives us the biggest opportunity to change and drive the narrative over the next couple of years. No matter where you look, there are people who are attempting to control the narrative and direction who are not in the least bit credible. Plain and simple. And it is this derision coupled with dripping sarcasm which will go a long way towards further exposing what we are not only up against, but the completely preposterous nature of anything said by these people to be even considered as worthy of serious discussion.

The “long awaited Petraeus report” that is to grace this country in a few weeks? Written by the White House. The pre-emptive “let’s wait and see what Petraeus says” should immediately be replaced with ”there is absolutely no reason to think that anything in this report isn’t fabricated or sugar coated and is the least bit credible”.

William Kristol, Frederick Kagan or anyone else for that matter have no business whatsoever giving any opinion, advice or strategic musing on what the US foreign policy should be in Iraq, Iran or anywhere else. We know what they think. And they have NEVER been right, or even close. Their words should be met with a mocking laugh as if they have any credibility.

Karl effing Rove? Are you kidding me? His business card has his title as “Lying Cheater”As he attempts to rewrite his own history now, and president Bush’s history with his “library”, let’s not forget the great many things that make Rove, as well as every campaign he associates himself over the next year lying sacks. Things like deleted emails, US attorney firing involvement, Tim Griffin and caging, leaking Valerie Plame’s name, being in charge of Katrina construction (how’s that one going), republican felon Jack Abramoff, Swift Boaters are just the very first ones that jump to mind. Any candidate that he helps should be tarred with the association to Rove.

The other republican presidential candidate idiots and “pygmies” (according to a Newt)? Rudy? Racist charlatan who associates with criminals linked to the mob. McCain? Even he doesn’t believe what he is saying anymore. Slick Mitt? Keep playing that clip of him talking about his sons’ great sacrifice and service. Or his being able to debate himself for hours with all of the contrary positions he has taken.

“Analysts” and “experts” who were on the receiving end of Plame leaks and didn’t say anything? G. fucking Gordon Liddy, Tom DeLay or other criminals finger pointing? Give me a goddamn break. O’Reilly? I’d like to know if he is still sexually harassing his female coworkers – then we can talk about his opinions on other things. Limbaugh? How’re those illegal prescriptions working for you? Coulter? Hannity? Glenn Beck? When was the last time you didn’t shamelessly lie through your teeth?

Basically the entire narrative that is being pushed upon us is a bill of goods. Explaining how and why they are wrong and we are not is futile. The lies told with straight faces by people who take themselves way too seriously are laughable. So, they should be met with laughter. Period. There are some people who are hardcore into the kool aid and will never be convinced. But they can be mocked mercilessly and exposed for the clowns they are.

Wrong about Iraq. Wrong about Iran, social security and national security. Wrong about the environment, education and the economy. The list goes on and on. Even if they were lying and knew they were lying – that makes them even less credible.

They have been in control for too long. They are being exposed as frauds, imposters and lying cheaters. And they have absolutely no business telling anyone what they think is going on or should be done.

It should be dismissed loudly, forcefully and concretely so that the grown ups can actually do what needs to be done, instead of letting the irresponsible oafs continue to drive this country off a cliff.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Please take my guns. I have nothing to shoot anyway.

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

I must give a major hat tip to Van Buren for that comment in my diary about the 4th Amendment earlier in the week. Frankly, it is (to me) one of the best analogies I have heard with respect to talking about the power grab and erosion of rights the past six years in the name of “security”.

How many times have we heard the entirely irrelevant, factually incorrect and short sighted comment from someone when it comes to the illegal spying and warrantless wiretapping (not to mention the upcoming expanded use of spy satellites within the US) that “they have nothing to hide so who cares if the government is spying”?

Besides the fact that there is the massive collection of personal data by companies which has been lost, stolen or otherwise compromised – leading to identity theft and countless hours (and money) spent by individuals to deal with this, and there is the use of this data for nonstop bombardment of targeted marketing campaigns, it is the slipperiest of slopes to argue this position.

But, as Van Buren so aptly noted in his (or her) comment, it is the excusing of basically every OTHER right under the first ten amendments that are being shrugged off in the name of a false sense of security, while the one amendment that is completely taboo to talk in any reasonable or rational manner without the NRA or other interest group to blow the entire argument out of proportion, take comments out of context and generally lose the ability to have any rational conversation.

And that is precisely why the counter argument should hit on the right to bear arms. Certainly this is an issue that generates a lot of passion, and I see two benefits here of using this counter argument: (1) it exposes the sheer hypocrisy of so easily giving up a basic right – whether it be free speech, religious freedom, habeas corpus, or against unreasonable search and seizure – while vehemently dismissing outright (rightfully so, I might add) even the thought of taking away the right to own any gun that anyone wants to own, with as little restriction from regulation as possible; and (2) it raises the specter that, if the government can chip away at or flat out take away any other rights, then what is to stop it from taking away the right to protect yourself?

The bar keeps getting moved when it comes to other rights. Free speech zones are a perfect example. Censoring what Pearl Jam did in the Lollapalooza show is another example. Pre-screened “town hall meetings”, secret data rooms, spy satellites, expanding the authority of the Attorney General or President way beyond any plausibly rational or Constitutional authority when it comes to torture, spying or whatever else they want to do are some other examples.

And for those who don’t think that it happens all the time, or has been happening for longer than you may know, I will refer to a line that struck me from Jesselyn Radack’s excellent book, The Canary in The Coalmine that almost knocked me over when I read it. She was talking about her first contacts with Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff and how the government was able to get certain information related to this without either party having any idea. This is from the Columbia Journalism Review and is titled “Who’s Tracking Your Calls?” (emphasis mine):

So who traced Isikoff's calls? In the final analysis it really doesn't matter whether the justice Department did, and shared the information with Hawkins Delafield, or whether the firm did, and shared the information with the department. Either way the government got a record of Isikoff's calls to an important source on an important story, without either party's knowing about it. It's a quick lesson on how far an irate government may go to burn your source.

Now, imagine that the government bursts into your home, and instead of taking your computer, files and other personal information, it takes away your guns, ammo and license. Just because they (1) have a suspicion that you may have done something wrong or may eventually use them in a crime (even though there is no real basis for that suspicion) and (2) because they can. And, let’s also say that this was happening with regularity, was relatively random, and generally didn’t result in anything other than the wrongful confiscation of guns and ammo. Somehow, I don’t think that the NRA or the population of gun owners will be too happy about this development.

But it’s no big deal, right? You probably weren’t going to use the gun anyway, so who really cares?

Suddenly, the argument shifts and it is a bit more offensive than just the right to a fair and speedy trial, to hear evidence against you, to face your accuser, to exercise free speech and to not have unreasonable warrantless spying on you, confiscation of your computer and bugging of your phones.

Strange where peoples’ priorities are.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I want my pound of flesh

Front paged at Booman Tribune and My Left Wing

There, I said it.

Ideally, my first choice is Cheney, but I don’t want to settle for any less than Gonzales and/or Rove.

Just because Rove has resigned to try and fix the 2008 elections, um, “spend time with family” doesn’t mean that there is real cause for celebration here. As I discussed last night with Jeff Huber and thereisnospoon on our blog talk radio show, this move only frees him up to do the one thing that he has dedicated the past 25+ years to doing. And since we all know how he, Alberto Gonzales, Hans von Spakovsky, Tim Griffin and the other fine upstanding republicans have worked as hard as possible to subvert the election process for the foreseeable future (remember that “permanent republican majority”?), it is all the more imperative that Senator Pat Leahy follows through as I am sure he will in order to keep Rove in the legal hot water that he so very deserves to be in for as long as possible.

Resignation and leaving this Administration should not alleviate the responsibility for all of the actions undertaken while part of this administration. It is nice to look back and see republican party leaders and administration officials such as Bill Frist, Harriet Miers, Tom DeLay, John Ashcroft, Andy Card, Rick Santorum and now Dennis Hastert no longer leading the sleazy charge to raid the Treasury and keep this country speeding over a cliff. But it will be nicer to see some true accountability.

On one hand, the mere fact that Alberto Gonzales is still the face of this administration with respect to, well just about everything, is enough to remind many many Americans just why, no matter how frustrated they are with the actions of some Democrats in Congress, the alternative on the other side of the aisle is far worse. On the other hand, this is a man who authorized torture, rendered the Geneva Conventions “quaint”, lied through his teeth to Congress on many occasions, was either heavily involved in a potentially very illegal political purge of US attorneys (his own Department, mind you) and therefore lying about more than we already know or is so out of touch that he has no business being in the position he is in, and is, in the words of members of his OWN party – “simply not credible”.

He should go. And it should be painful – embarrassing not only to him, but to anyone that supported him. The fact that impeachment hearings on him are not yet underway is a question that I can not find any reasonable or rational answer for. And I have thought long and hard about this. I’ll also take perjury charges against Sara Taylor, von Spakovsky (always good for an FEC Commissioner to lie before Congress as well) and anyone else who did so.

After all, if I lied to Congress, or under oath, or in court, or in an affidavit, I don’t think there would be much sympathy for my lies.

I have no clue how Rove slithered his way out of an indictment by Fitzgerald (not that his sentence wouldn’t have been commuted as well), but his ignoring the subpoenas (I assume they will be ignored) should result in inherent contempt. Ditto for Harriet Miers. And anyone else who is hiding behind a laughable claim of Executive Privilege. If that is what Fielding and Addington and Bush want to do, fine. Let them do it and let the courts decide while Miers and Rove are sitting in custody.

These people can not be let off the hook. As much as I would like to see Bush impeached, I do see the other side of the argument here in terms of viability and time it would take to do this. And I am firmly of the belief that there are more than a few things that he has done since January alone that could very well result in impeachment charges.

But Gonzales? Rove? Miers? These people are inextricably linked to Bush and the administration anyway. The stain of being impeached that we want to see Bush be painted with would be close to as effective if these three people were held to account in a meaningful way. If we talk about the “rule of law”, then these people CAN NOT escape consequences.

It would restore faith in “the process” to many people on a number of levels. It would restore faith and confidence in the Democratic Party to the extent that people are getting a bit wary. Heck, it would even be a smart and effective political move for the Congressional Democrats – especially if it was used against these three people. And most importantly, it would restore faith in the fact that the “unitary executive theory” is one that should be put out to pasture once and for all.

Especially with the declaration that Iran is basically a terrorist organization, the FISA law was expanded yet again and the White House is going to be (re)writing Petraeus’ report to show that the Iraqis are actually holding hands and dancing in the streets as opposed to bombing each other and bombing our troops.

The wind needs to be taken out of their sails. The fact that there is even wind or sails at this point is mind boggling. This is yet another accountability moment. People need to pay.

I want to see it. The country wants to see it. The country needs to see it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The 4th amendment's last stand

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

Is today (or this week) going to effectively all but be the end of the 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizures? On one hand, this does not seem to be anything that hasn’t been thought or written about before. Yet on the other hand, it is the 4th friggin Amendment we are talking about here. And, it doesn’t seem to be a big deal to many people (present company excluded, of course) – that is, if they even know about it.

The Democratic members of Congress who inexplicably let a bill sponsored by the Minority Leader get passed which gave Alberto Gonzales - an Attorney General so bad that hearing him be called a “sneaky lying SOB” and the “most dangerous” attorney general is a daily occurrence - more power to spy on Americans are smacking themselves. Senator Reid, no doubt feeling the hangover and sinking feeling after a long night of being screwed in an utterly embarrassing way, is calling for a “do over”.

But just as you can’t get a do over on losing your virginity, you don’t just get rights back that were taken away or given up as easily as these were. This is a bigger disappointment, or at least very close to as big a disappointment as the stunning collapse on the Iraq supplemental bill.

And on the same day as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals hears not one but two cases on domestic spying, we are treated to news that nobody in the administration gives a rat’s ass about anything other than whatever they feel like doing and the government is expanding domestic use of spy satellites.

Why settle for just a stick in the eye when you can make it a flaming stick, right?

It is amazing enough that even one of these things is going on, let alone all of them. At the same time. What makes this even more surreal is that, even with all of the evidence that has been leaked, presented, testified about or discussed with respect to acts that are (1) not legal, (2) admitted to being authorized and/or done by the highest levels of this administration, (3) pretty much with full knowledge that they were not legal when they were being done or authorized. what was the general response to all of this, for this long period of time?




(sound of crickets chirping).....




The government (not to mention) AT&T argues there is no secret data mining or illegal surveillance. Except when there is. But even still, it doesn’t matter because even if it did exist, it is a matter of national security and can’t be discussed. Or denied, even though denying it acknowledges that it can be denied, even though there is nothing to deny in the first place. But the spy satellites are there to monitor “terrorists only”, and won’t be used for nefarious purposes either. Well, not either, per se, because there is nothing else that is being done anyway. Or not being done.

And if the Ninth Circuit thinks that is a peachy keen argument, or even if it calls bullshit on that outrageously arrogant and childish argument – it will go on from here. The Supreme Court will either deny cert (more likely, to me) if the government wins, or will grant cert really just needing one vote to effectively replace the text of the 4th Amendment with one word and a date:

”Striken”, 2007

Now, who in the Senate can say that voting against Roberts, Alito and Gonzales while still voting for cloture on their “upperdown votes” wasn’t such a big deal?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

"Because he can"

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

I guess it can also read “because they can”, as this goes way beyond Bush himself. But that seems to be the response that I am hearing most for, well, just about anything that is absolutely outrageous that is said or done by this administration, or its rabid, foaming at the mouth supporters.

And it shows just how ridiculous and vacuous the arguments are in support of some of the most disgusting and vile acts against the Constitution, the American people, the Iraqis and just about anyone else that doesn’t fit into the “lucky sperm” category. And while this is somewhat of a reflection on the 25% who still support Bush or his policies, it is more of a reflection on how far that the general discourse and level of critical thinking has sunk in recent years.

After all, technically, those who say this are correct. Bush can fire any US attorney that he wants to for whatever [legal] reason he wants to – no questions asked. Yet, of the over 400 US attorneys that have served over the past 25 years or so, none were fired “just because”, let alone for issues related to election fraud or investigating high level government officials.

Just because “he can” or because “it isn’t illegal” doesn’t make it right, ethical or even acceptable. Not by a long shot.

Even putting aside the inane ramblings and rantings of the zombies and talking meatsticks whose heads exploded over a blue stained dress, this line of thinking has threatened the fabric of our democracy (small “d” for the time being). There is hardly any two way conversation or debate anymore – and in the limited instances where there is, the ideology and basic viewpoints are so far apart that it is like talking a different language.

Or talking to a brick wall – which may be easier, since we wouldn’t have to figure out just what language said brick wall was speaking.

Outing a CIA operative and the entire network of contacts, who just so happened to be investigating nuclear proliferation at a time when we were invading another country for….supposed nuclear proliferation? Sorry, no crime committed technically, so move on. Just “patriotic” officials doing what was within their legal rights.

Sort of.

Authorize torture, indefinite incarceration and detention of people, just because you can? Disregard the Geneva Conventions? Well, John Yoo has more letters after his last name than are actually in his name, so he must know what he is talking about. And Alberto Gonzales was on the Texas Supreme Court, so he wouldn’t lie, right? Besides, those people at Abu Ghraib had it coming to them, and the troops were just blowing off steam, without any guidance from Rumsfeld anyway. Not to mention the fact that Saddam attacked us on 9/11 anyway.

What’s that? None of that is true? Oh well, if it wasn’t legal, then there would be punishment, and since there was no punishment, then it must have been ok.

Signing statements negating laws? Secret Executive Orders giving the Vice President the ability to declassify whatever he wants whenever he wants however he wants? Ignoring subpoenas based on specious “Executive Privilege” assertions? Suspending habeas corpus for “certain cases” where “enemy combatants” are declared, just because?

Why not? After all, there is nothing that says that this can’t be done, right? And if there is, so what – it isn’t really totally illegal anyway.

So that’s the level that things have devolved to. Not because it is right. Not because it is ethical. Not because it is something that would benefit the American people. Not because it is even completely legal.

Because he can.

Our founders would be so proud.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

How about a bill called "Restoring our Constitution"?

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media. Recommended at Daily Kos. Picked up by Buzzflash and The Randi Rhodes Show

I made a comment yesterday about something that was on my mind for a long time, although I never bothered to articulate it until then. It stems from the talks about bringing the farce of a theory that is the “Unitary Executive” to its well deserved end once and for all, as well as a number of comments made in my diary about this from last week indicating that the current Congress shouldn’t wait until a Democratic President (hardly a slam dunk) in order to put an end to this disaster of a theory.

My comment was geared towards something that would create as much of an impression on the American public as Gingrich’s “Contract with America” did back in 1994, and would not only score points with We the People, but would also drive a stake through the most egregious of acts that this administration has undertaken in its never ending assault on our liberties and the Constitution.

A bill, put out by the Democratic Congress called Restoring our Constitution Act of 2007 would codify (for those “strict constructionist” hypocrites) some of the most basic things that have been chipped away over the past few years. Hell, what would it look like if Pelosi, Reid, Feingold, Durbin or whichever other Democrat stood on the steps of the Capital Building, trumpeting a “return to sane and rational government”? Of course, it would also help if the Democrats were really serious about such things like expanding the powers of Bush or Gonzales to run roughshod over this country, but that isn’t really the purpose of this diary.

Since there are so many things that have been done over the past few years, I am sure that many are missing from this brief summary below, but this is certainly a good start (again, keeping it to a “top 10” for ease of discussion, while many more could come under these subheadings.

No more “free speech cages zones”. This is the biggest no brainer, and while it can address the rights of people to have their voices heard in a time and place that isn’t miles away and cordoned off from those who should hear the protests. How free is speech if (1) it has to be in a designated “zone”, or (2) can only be expressed with a bumper sticker or t-shirt of approval?

Reaffirm habeas corpus. Remember, our own buffoon in chief, Attorney General himself indicated that there was no express right to this in the Constitution. While this is absolutely ridiculous and completely preposterous, apparently this is something that needs additional clarification. I don’t think that many Americans would have a problem with this one.

No torture. Ever. Or Extraordinary Rendition and secret CIA prisons for that matter. Yes, this one was passed already, but there were gray areas here, and it is clear that this practice is still going on. Of course, there are still those who occupy their own branch of government who think a “dunk in the water is a no brainer”. So is the repeal of these practices.

Rejoining the ICC and abiding by international treaties. It is only fair that if we want to regain our status in the world community, or at least save face, that we do what (1) we are supposed to be doing and (2) ask other countries to do. I would add Kyoto and some other things not related to the Constitution to this, but I want to focus on the more basic stuff for now.

Eliminate the validity of signing statements. Not all signing statements, as they are useful and clarify certain issues at times. But those where the President declares that he doesn’t have to follow a law because he doesn’t feel like it is total crap and should be eliminated. Retroactively, if that were at all possible...

Clarify when “Executive Privilege” can be invoked. This should be considered carefully but there are clear instances where they have stepped way WAY over the line here. I would add some methodology for a fast tracking of a ruling here and stiff penalties for non compliance, whether it is against the President or those who are being covered by the bogus claims.

No spying on Americans without a warrant. Period. As ben masel and I were discussing yesterday, this is not a new issue, yet it is very straightforward and very clear. On that same note, there should be a reference to the NSA data mining program and the telecom companies that are clearly a part of this egregiously illegal act.

Anti-voter intimidation, suppression and dirty tricks. This needs MAJOR penalties as it impacts elections on and around election day. Maybe something related to challenging the votes in regions or districts where there is clear issues. Maybe changing the entire election process. Either way, this is perfect for making the case for election reform.

Requirement that people in government positions, especially high level ones, are actually qualified for the positions they are appointed to. No more “Brownie”. No more Liberty University graduates in high level positions at the age of 25. While this is tough to enforce, it may work for certain high level positions.

Reaffirm “co-equal branches” of Government. Yeah, this is the most basic of premises but not only is this not the case in practice here, it is becoming accepted more and more. No more blowing off subpoenas without automatic “inherent contempt”. No more secret documents being hidden from Congress. No more classification of documents for “national security purposes” when it is clearly a bullshit reason. And so on.


Well, that is 10 – and in keeping with the “KISS” theory (no, not the band), those are the first ones that came to mind. As I said, there are probably many many more, including a number that are just as important, if not more so (no “pre-emptive war” for example). But for a Party that is severely lacking in the presentation skills and ability to actually tell people what they are doing right (and take advantage of the good things they are doing), this would be a complete win.

The other benefit is that if the republicans or talking meatsticks start to whine about this being a “cheap political ploy”, then the response is “if this is then what was the Contract with America?”. It also puts republicans in a position where they have to vote for either the Constitution or this administration and its crimes, power grab and lies.

Because, after all, you’re either for the Constitution or you are against it.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

"There's a new Congress in town." Or something like that...

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

What a great moment it was when we realized that the Democrats not only retook the House, but also retook control of the Senate (sort of). And when Speaker Pelosi made Bush look the damn fool by saying, “calm down with the threats, there’s a new Congress in town”, we all went wild like she had just scored the winning touchdown at the end of the Super Bowl. Or, just like she had put Bush in his place, whichever metaphor you like to use.

To a large degree, she was right. There have been oversight hearings into some of the crimes and shady dealings of this administration. There was the “first 100 hours” which resulted in some good legislation passing the House. But in terms of Pelosi’s most excellent statement to Bush back in March, it is unfortunately not the case in terms of “the new Congress” and Bush’s threats.

Being that Congress is now in recess (although it would have been an excellent way to distinguish the Democrats from the republicans if that recess was cut short or eliminated this year, but that is a different story for a different day), now is the time to let our Representatives know just how great of a job the “new Congress” has done when it has come to dealing with Bush’s threats.

Let’s take a trip down (relatively short term) memory lane, shall we?

March 18, 2007, Meet the Press: Senator Schumer gets bold about Gonzales’ lying under oath about the US attorney firings not being for political purposes, saying that there is evidence that Gonzales lied under oath. So, as a result, the most logical thing to do here is to impeach the nation’s top attorney who is already unpopular and make republican Senators and Congresscritters formally back Gonzales and Bush or take a meaningful stand for the Constitution, um, have a motion to censure Gonzles and cripple him politically a but more, um, sorry, make that fail to even get cloture on a toothless “no confidence vote”, which gave republican Senators like Norm Coleman (MN) Susan Collins (ME), Chuck Hagel (NE), Gordon Smith (OR), Olympia Snowe (ME), Arlen Specter (PA), and John Sununu (NH) a way to distance themselves from Bush and Gonzales without any political risk or consequences whatsoever.

Then we find out through James Comey’s testimony that even John Ashcroft refused to sign off on the wiretapping program, and that many top DOJ officials were close to resigning after a midnight clash at Ashcroft’s hospital room (quite possibly ordered by Dick Cheney), and that there may be the blogosphere’s equivalent of “deep throat” with respect to the spying program. Oh yeah, back in 2006 a majority of Americans were in favor or impeaching Bush if he was involved in illegal wiretapping (note how that was all BEFORE Comey’s testimony). So, it only makes sense that the “new Congress in town” would give Alberto Gonzales, the most incompetent, lying, corrupt, duplicative attorney general EVER more powers with respect to spying, largely in part to the “Blue Dog” sellouts. What makes this even worse is that this bill was sponsored by MINORITY LEADER McConnell. Please tell me how the hell this bill saw the light of day, let alone got the vote that it did? Please tell me when the “old Congress in town” let any major bill sponsored by a Democrat see the light of day?

One more thing to give the “new Congress in town” credit for is Iraq. Despite all of the polls and signs that getting out of Iraq and standing up to Bush’s threats (like Pelosi said to him back in March), a measure that was very quickly and rightfully called the “capitulation bill” gave Bush and his sub 30% approval rating all of his money with no strings attached. Once again, the Blue Dog sellouts and the stunning ability to frame any situation in the worst possible way led prominent Senators to talk about “leaving or troops unfunded on the battlefield” and buying into the absolute hypocrisy and lies levied by the bullying but lying disingenuous hypocritical republicans.

This leads to the “showdown” in September that will ultimately do…..well, who the hell knows now that Petraeus, Cheney and all of the OpEds trumpet the “coming success” of the ill fated and ill planned escalation plan, which frankly has only resulted in zero benchmarks being met, more attacks on troops, even within the Green Zone, more refugees, less electricity and water, and an Iraqi government that has officially gone AWOL after being unofficially AWOL for many many months.

The Democrats have done a lot of good. But we have done a lot for them, to get them elected, to support them and to trust them. When they do right, we certainly let them know. But when they betray their promises and their supporters, it is imperative that they know about that too. These three are the most egregious of examples where there is, frankly, no excuse for the actions taken, as well as many actions NOT taken.

They are elected to represent We the People, and they are on recess now. We the People should put as much pressure on them to start realizing that they have America on their side with respect to the issues and that giving in to the most criminal, most corrupt, most secretive, most vindictive and most divisive administration ever is unacceptable on any level.

And it is not the kind of “new Congress” that America wants to see.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Hello kettle? This is the pot. You’re black.

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

Not that republican hypocrisy is anything new, or that this particular crew of Presidential candidates hasn’t shown on numerous occasions to be a shining example of contradictions and a penchant for projection and duplicative comments. But yesterday’s “debate” ratchets up the unintentional comedy to entirely new levels.

I say this, despite it being so early in the primary season, because it is imperative that whichever angry hypocritical lying extremist white male “wins” the republican primary’s overall candidacy for the general election is dead on arrival. So, even this early, we should be aware of their flip flopping, projection and lies, because every single one of them will need to be brought to the foreground and kept in the public eye (not to mention discourse) to make sure that each candidate’s fatal flaws (and yes, more than one have more than one fatal flaw) are tarred to them from this point forward.

Luckily, it is easy to tell when a republican is lying (“when their lips are moving”) or when they are guilty of a certain behavior (they start to rail against “those on the left” who, in the twisted mind of the accuser, are exhibiting this behavior), there were many instances in yesterday’s debate where this shone through.

And where to even begin? Perhaps with this quote from Romney (when talking about Obama), a man who thinks the term “allies” includes a country that is harboring al Qaeda, whose leader made a deal with the Taliban, and has left bin Laden alone, despite the admission that he is probably in their country and has allowed its top nuclear scientist to sell of nuclear secrets to other countries with little to no consequences:

"I mean, in one week he went from saying he's going to sit down, you know, for tea, with our enemies, but then he's going to bomb our allies," Romney said.

If Pakistan is our ally, then frankly, I don’t want Romney deciding who our allies are, and what defines an ally.

And Romney (as well as Duncan Hunter) continued to munch on his shoe after firmly planting his foot in his mouth with this great nugget about the potential for going into Pakistan:
"We keep our options quiet. We don't go out to say to a nation that's working with us that we intend to go in there and bring on a unilateral attack," said Romney. "The only people who can defeat radical jihadists are Muslims themselves."

California Rep. Duncan Hunter echoed Romney's sentiment.

"When you have a country that is cooperating, you don't tell them you are going to unilaterally move against them," Hunter said.

Hmmmm, so what does that say about all of the announcements by Bush, Rice, Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld, Kristol, Wolfowitz and whomever else I forgot to mention on national television that we were going into Iraq (pretty much unilaterally)? Or that we are unilaterally provoking Iran right now, even after they cooperated with us regarding Afghanistan and offered more cooperation on three separate occasions? Or, regardless of Hunter’s definition of “cooperating”, all of the other countries that we have taken unilateral action against over the years? I believe that Mr. Hunter has voted in lockstep with Bush’s unilateral plans for years now.

McCain’s thinly veiled swipes at Democrats who (1) see reality in that the escalation is not working in any meaningful way by any metric and (2) are trying to pass measures that will get our troops out of the middle of a civil war, or get them proper armor and equipment, or the required rest or training or treatment when they return, had this ludicrous comment:

"We do now have a strategy that is succeeding. We do have a military whose morale is up because they see this success."

I'm going to be judged by history, not by public opinion polls," McCain said, saying he looked to the generals on the ground to lead the war strategy.

Good news, Senator – history is already judging you and the returns are both spot on and not looking good for you. Sellout, panderer, out of touch, suck up to Bush are just a few of the words that come to most people’s minds when your name is brought up. As for looking to the generals, what about all those calls by the generals who said that more troops were needed? What about all those votes against armor and equipment when the generals asked, nay, begged for them? What about the calling for a post invasion plan by the same generals or the call by Shinseki for at least two to three times the original number of troops?

As for the “strategy succeeding”, let’s look at all the ways. No benchmarks met. More killing of Iraqis, more displaced Iraqis, more attacks on US troops, a “wack a mole” approach, funding and arming the insurgents and an Iraqi Parliament that just took August off after BOTH Sunni and Shiite blocks either left or threatened to leave.

Not to forget the “frontrunner” and biggest hypocrite of the lot, we have Giuliani chastising the boogyman “liberal Democratic assumption” of raising taxes to pay for infrastructure maintenance:

"The way to do it is to reduce taxes and raise more money," Giuliani said to audience applause.

Citing his time spent as the New York City mayor and taking a dig at the three senatorial Democratic front-runners, Giuliani said he was "against the liberal Democratic assumption that you have to raise taxes to raise money."

But those internets are a pesky thing, and it wasn’t all too difficult to find out that spending under Giuliani’s second term wasn’t all that far off from spending under a comparable period under Mayor Koch, and the big difference was the difference in inflation rates during the two periods. It was also pretty easy to find out just how much of a big spender Rudy was during his term. This spending far outpaced the rate of inflation, while Rudy refused to sign a pledge NOT to raise taxes, overreported the amount of overall tax cuts that were passed, cut taxes at the expense of other programs, dramatically increased the size of the NYC government and even according to the Club for Growth, Giuliani was a big fan of corporate welfare.

So, he only cut “some taxes” – just like other republicans, and even the conservative and Viveca Novak say that he took credit for many cuts that he had little to do with, fought to keep a tax on individuals (the NYC nonresident tax, and fought to keep the NYC personal income tax surcharge for a number of years), while the biggest tax cut (half of the total) was for renters of commercial real estate – hardly one that impacts many of “We the People”.

So once again, we have a treasure trove of information that should be used against these corporate controlled, overspending, lying, hypocritical, out of touch, flip flopping double talkers.

Just because most of America isn’t watching these debates, and just because most of us aren’t as well doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be doing our homework. Consider this my homework for the week. Let’s make sure that whomever limps out of the republican primaries is a “dead man walking”.