Sunday, October 28, 2007

Selling out values for political expediency is disastrous

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

Rahm tells freshman Congressional officials and candidates to take a harder stance against illegal immigration at a time when republicans are turning off entire segments of the population because he doesn’t want the republicans to attack Democrats as being weak on immigration.

Nancy Pelosi takes impeachment off the table before any investigations are even underway, leading to Contempt of Congress charges being ignored because, well, the thought is “what are you going to do about it anyway?”.

A horrific FISA bill was passed in August because, well, a number of prominent Congressional Democrats didn’t want to stand firm and were afraid of being accused by the republicans as “soft against terror”. Never mind the fact that it is the same republicans who rubber stamped a cut-and-run from Afghanistan, the escape of bin Laden (still at large if he is still alive), the reconstituting of al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan pretty much unfettered and have been the party of torture.

Reid, DiFi and Nelson trade a dollar to the Senate republican for two quarters by allowing a racist with a horrific track record like Southwick to get a lifetime appointment by getting a promise for the republicans to not hold up future appropriations bills.

Retroactive immunity for telecom companies wasn’t immediately smacked down as absolutely unacceptable under no circumstances, and Reid didn’t have the back of Dodd, Biden or Obama when they promised to filibuster or put a hold on any bill that contained this language.

A “secret compromise” between Reid, Schumer and a number of Senate republicans regarding FEC appointments such as the most odious Hans von Spakovsky would allow someone with one of the worst records in history on voting rights to sail through confirmation for a full term. Thankfully, principled Senators like Obama stepped up and are doing whatever they can to make sure that he gets a separate vote, or does not get reconfirmed.

Deals made with respect to Bush’s appointments and the betrayal of true values held by Democrats as well as the American people allowed for the confirmation of disgraced criminal and perjurer Alberto Gonzales to the position of Attorney General, leading to the purging (and covering up of the purging) of US Attorneys for specious and political reasons – all in the name of election tampering.

And with the California dirty tricks initiative not only back but possibly linked directly to illegal actions by the Giuliani campaign, these last two items would pretty much negate the DOJ or the FEC actually doing their job when it comes to investigating more crimes by prominent republicans.

What makes matters worse is that (1) none of these have even touched on Iraq which is the main issue that America voted the Democrats into power for, and (2) the whole “moral values” platform that the republican party ran on and ran into the ground makes this a perfect storm for them come next year – yet time after time, many of the Democrats in leadership positions have compromised their core values for political deals, out of fear of who-knows-what or for reasons that frankly, I have no idea why.

Further, the terms of the debate have been controlled by the republicans, not the Democrats – at a time when the Democratic Party has (1) American public opinion, (2) the morally right side of the issue and (3) the upper hand with facts and the truth on their side.

The entire purpose of building a majority and continuing that majority is to take the core values that are held by those who got you elected (and I do believe that many of these Democrats that I am speaking of share these core values) and apply them to the issues facing the country. It is really that simple – actually even simpler when all of the above is on our side.

Yet, we progressives constantly find ourselves banging our heads against the wall or just shaking our heads as we read, see or hear about yet another situation where our core values are being sold out for reasons that I can’t fathom. The way to govern or to build a majority should be based on these basic concepts – yet it seems as those who are steering the ship are taking actions and charting a course that is based on fear of what will be said about them by people who a large portion of the American people have long since tired of.

Why is this? Is it out of fear? Is it out of complacency? Is it out of not wanting to rock the boat in order to potentially win big next year? Either way, the answer isn’t a good one. Right now, we are at a crossroads as the general public still trusts Democrats more on nearly every issue, yet we have always been good at being ahead of the curve.

What happens if a few things that I mention above backfire? What happens when the public tires of deals with republicans when the obvious response would be to stand firm? What happens when that very large block of independent/undecided voters is either fed up to the point where they don’t go to the polls or if Congress passes another $50 or $150 or $190 billion bill with no real timelines or other constraints? What if Bush bombs Iran?

Values is what will win elections. Values is what will build a movement. Values is what Americans want (and I don’t mean the whole “moral values” nonsense that is the hypocritical mantra of the republican party). If the Democratic leadership keeps on selling out these values for political deals or out of fear of being called names, then that is a very dangerous situation to be in. Not only will it threaten to be a losing proposition, but it will also have wide ranging effects on We the People – whether it be regarding Iraq, Iran, healthcare, election integrity, the DOJ or holding people accountable for their criminal acts.

Having the upper hand when it comes to core values is one of the biggest advantages that we have. The fact that it so readily is compromised and bargained away for 50 cents on the dollar is very disturbing and a recipe for disaster.

Friday, October 26, 2007

What if the Kurds beat back Turkey?

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

Before getting into the ramifications of a Turkey/Kurd conflict in Iraq, I just want to point out that Saddam was charged with gassing the Kurds in the 1980s and that was one reason that he was an evil man whose country we must invade, yet it is ok for Bush offers bombing strikes against the PKK Kurds in Iraq for Turkey.

Now, there is quite a bit of hypocrisy there to begin with as we know how many times the surgical air strikes have hit wedding parties or other innocent civilians, while not coming anywhere near the “intended target”. And there is also the sheer lunacy of engaging the only group within Iraq (or much of the surrounding area) that hasn’t made life miserable for our troops or the “mission™”. They haven’t attacked our troops like the Sunnis (who are being armed by the US and a number of wealthy Saudis) or the Shiites (who were the ones we were supposed to be “liberating” in the first place. They aren’t harboring bin Laden, al Qaeda and the Taliban like Pakistan.

And they are unlike the rest of the region in that there has been a major issue with the Kurds splintering off and away from the rest of Iraq and be independent. Now, whether that is feasible or not (or whether it has been closer to reality since we invaded Iraq in 2003) isn’t really the issue here. The issue really is that the thought and possibility is out there, and it is feasible, certainly more so if certain events break one way or another.

Of course, there is also the little issue of this year, of all years, being the year that the US Congress has decided to piss Turkey off by condemning the Armenian Genocide that occurred between 1915 and 1920. So, could this be a hasty attempt at mending fences? Or is this just another ill-thought out knee jerk reaction to something that has rapidly spiraled out of control, only to be exacerbated by those who can’t do anything other than chest thump?

All that being said, there are a number of issues that certainly aren’t being considered by those who are making the decisions about whether we should stick our fingers in yet another pie that we have no business sticking our fingers in. I’m pretty sure that if another country invaded Mexico or Canada and the conflict threatened to spill over our border, or if there were hundreds of thousands of refugees entering our country, or if we felt threatened by the country that invaded, or if we don’t share the same goals and interests as that country, you would bet that we would get involved. Hell, we get involved in shit halfway around the world that we have no business getting involved with, so why not something right in our backyard?

For starters, this invasion of Iraq was supposed to be a cakewalk, against a bunch of dead enders, and look at what is going on. The civil war is threatening to splinter into many little sub civil wars. And there is no guarantee that in any given situation, the “mighty military” doesn’t necessarily have the big advantage (see Israel vs. Hezbollah in Lebanon and US in Iraq).

I see two major issues that arise from the potential conflict between Turkey and the Kurds, and neither one is a good one. It would be compounded by the backing of this administration – especially if it is as half-assed as everything else that this reverse-Midas administration has done in Iraq and Afghanistan – (1) the backlash against the US military in Iraq and (2) the ramifications if the Kurds beat this bombing campaign back.

There are already not enough troops in Iraq to do whatever it is that they would currently be “required to do”, let alone stretch into another major conflict in the only relatively stable region. We can’t possibly devote enough resources or attention to helping Turkey and their military out in this conflict. If the Kurds can hold their own, it strengthens their case and cause for independence. And with an overwhelming vote in the US Senate for a de facto partition in Iraq, this offer to bomb can’t sit well with either the Kurds or Turkey.

We also shouldn’t forget that one of the reasons for the “no-fly” zones was to help out the Kurds in Iraq, yet there has been conflict and controversy for a good number of years between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds. Over the years, we have hedged our bets with our relationship (or whatever you can call it) with both Turkey and (indirectly) the Kurds in Iraq. Getting involved here would be disastrous on a few levels, no matter who prevails.

If the Kurds prevail, then that creates another major problem with a group that will be, shall we say, less than sympathetic to the US and our troops for assisting Turkey. They will be more confident about breaking off on their own – something that Turkey doesn’t want to see happen. And if the Kurds do not prevail, then they can make things very difficult in Iraq as a number of weapons and explosives that were lost in Iraq ended up in PKK hands and have already been used in Turkey.

In the precarious situation and the potential for a colossally stupid “all in” strike against Iran, the Strait of Hormuz will no doubt be blocked, and any ships in the region will be sunk. Turkey, despite the fact that it didn’t allow the US to use its bases for the 2003 invasion, would be one of the only “ways out” of Iraq for our troops. That is, if Congress does anything remotely resembling what the American people are demanding.

By getting involved in and inflaming the situation between Turkey and the Kurds, the US is pretty much guaranteeing that our troops will be trapped (to a degree) in Iraq in the event of a withdrawal or need for withdrawal of troops. Of course, by getting dragged into yet another conflict, there would be a further strain on our troops. But they are tough, so why think of whether we can even support this logistically, let alone the ramifications of sticking our noses in this bubbling over situation.

There are so many bad things that can happen, and the ripple effect (both long term and on the security of our troops, not to mention the further eroding of our credibility below zero) of getting involved or encouraging more violence between the Kurds and Turkey is just insane. As with everything else that was done in Iraq, there are only options of “bad” and “worse”. This region was just about the only one that we could reasonably not have to worry too much about.

And now, it is something that we will not only have to worry about, but could be crushing on so many levels.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The failure of the "Anbar model's success"

Front Paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

A lot has been made of the success in Anbar, even though the so-called “surge” had absolutely nothing to do with Anbar, and the tactics used in Anbar are vastly different from those used in Baghdad. And while metrics such as Sunni-Shiite violence being down in Baghdad and other areas are good, the fact that this decrease is related to sectarian cleansing is nothing to really be proud of.

A number of people have been touting the success in Anbar and even talked about this model as something to emulate in other areas of Iraq. Taking the fact that one of our “allies” was recently killed after a visit by Bush, and that the US is almost as unpopular in Anbar as al-Qaeda out of the mix, there is something that is being ignored which has larger ramifications.

That is the fact that the “Anbar model” relies mainly on getting local leaders to tamp down on the violence, reducing the violence little by little and therefore (as the thought process goes) lead to the ability for political reconciliation which, of course, would lead to us being able to withdraw our troops from these areas (yeah, right…). The only little problem here is that this is creating tension and a power struggle not only between Sunnis and Shiites, but within factions of Sunnis and Shiites. So what we are getting to here with the “Anbar model” is more than one civil war – we have multiple - dozens, if not more – different Shiite factions vying for power in each region and the further splintering of Shiites and Sunnis against their own.

Now, if you want to say that creating or promoting smaller civil wars from a larger civil war is impressive and a model to emulate, I have no response to that. But the truth here is that it really doesn’t do much other than put the US (and really our troops) in the middle of figuring out if they should back once Shiite group or another (and risk the violence and further lack of trust that goes along with that) or one Sunni insurgent group over another – even if both of these groups were recently attacking our troops.

Sadly, this isn’t going to turn out so well if any realistic mid to long term view is considered. As noted in the WSJ article linked above, even some of the military commanders on the ground have big concerns with this:

"People think that all of the violence in Iraq is Sunni on Shia or Shia on Sunni, but it's not," said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, who commands the army's Third Infantry Division, in an interview in Iraq last month. "It's guys from the same communities fighting each other for power, money and influence."

Gen. Lynch likens the strife to the fights among organized-crime families. "I tell my guys, the best way they can prepare before they come out here is to watch 'The Sopranos,'" he said, referring to the popular U.S. television mob drama.

Another issue with this is that even if the US is able to back some factions that would be more “friendly” to our efforts, this is dangerous in that it we may not be siding with the more influential factions, not to mention that we would (1) piss off those factions that we are not backing, which will likely lead to more attacks on our troops and (2) have no business choosing sides in a civil war, let alone mini-“civil wars within a civil war” in the first place.

One example here is al Sadr and his militia. Clearly he has had much influence over a large portion of Shiites, and he is (or was, depending on the day) a significant enough player in the Iraqi Parliament. Yet, he has been designated as public enemy number one and there is no way that we would back him, even if by doing so would provide an easier path towards a decrease in violence and political reconciliation. The upshot of not supporting al Sadr is that other Shiite factions are cooperating to a degree with our troops, but it is a fine line that neither they nor we should be walking:

Many U.S. commanders remain divided over whether to intervene directly in the infighting between the Mahdi Army and the Badr Corps, given the possibility that such a move could inflame large portions of Iraq's Shiite majority.

In an interview last month, Lt. Col. Peter Andrysiak, then-deputy commander of the 1st Cavalry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, said the U.S. "can and should" support the Badr Corps in its fight with the Mahdi Army. He argued that Mr. Hakim's militia is broadly supportive of the Iraqi government while Mr. Sadr's forces aren't.

"Badr is reconcilable, and we can win them over. JAM is not," he said, using the military's acronym for the Arabic name of Mr. Sadr's forces, the Jaish al-Mahdi.

Other senior officers disagreed. "It's a dangerous thought process, once you start down that path," Gen. Lynch said.

The other issue here is that the “Anbar success” was based on the fact that the local Sunni leaders don’t want al Qaeda around nearly as much as the US doesn’t want al Qaeda around. So when local Sunni leaders and factions helped the US troops against al Qaeda in Anbar, there was a singular common goal – to rid Anbar of al Qaeda. We shouldn’t forget that a number of these Sunni insurgent groups (or “former insurgent groups” if there is such a thing) are the same ones who are part of the insurgency that is responsible for close to 80% of the attacks and deaths of our troops.

Of course, we also can’t forget that the Shiites are more aligned with the philosophy of Iran – the country that Bush and Cheney are itching to bomb because they are “actively engaging and attacking our troops”. This little nugget that is being repeated ad nauseum doesn’t consider the two little details that (1) if Russia invaded Mexico and the violence looked like it was going to spill over into Texas that the US would most certainly not close its eyes and hope this all goes away and (2) there hasn’t been any real proof of any assertions made by Cheney and Bush.

I don’t want to minimize the success that occurred in Anbar with respect to al Qaeda. But it is foolish to think that this wasn’t more of the exception than the rule and certainly it is foolish to think that a model that further splinters the Iraqi population into Shiite against Shiite and Sunni against Sunni is anything that will achieve a mid or long term success.

In fact, it seems like this is just a recipe for more disaster and will only make any kind of regional political reconciliation or autonomy more difficult, not to mention the near impossibility of there being anything of substance on a national level.

Friday, October 19, 2007

What's the deal, Harry?

I was very close to making the title a call for a new Senate Majority Leader, but I am holding off for now. I fully realize that there is a slim, if any, majority for the Democrats in the Senate, and I fully realize that it is pretty easy for the minority party to make most things get 60 votes to even get the “upperdown vote”.

And yet, when Reid was minority leader, he couldn’t (wouldn’t?) pull off the same tactics when it came to horrible bill after horrible bill was rammed through. However, this isn’t really my reason for writing this diary today. It is one thing to have your hands tied by procedural maneuvers, or even to be gun shy for political reasons – but it is another thing to actively do things that would undermine the values that this country (and presumably the Democratic Party) holds dear, especially when it is behind the scenes and in a sneaky manner.

There are two things that jump out within the past week or two that Reid has done that really, REALLY irked me. The first was with respect to reports of a secret deal that Reid was spearheading with respect to the confirmation of Hans von Spakovsky as FEC Commissioner. Here, Reid was looking to make a deal to get Hans – a man who is the least qualified to serve on the FEC – confirmed in exchange for two other Democrats being confirmed as well. Now, I understand deals that are for political expediency, or deals that are for political comity.

But when it comes to dealing with the republicans in Congress over the past few years, there has been absolutely no reciprocation in this area – in fact it has been quite the opposite. What makes matters worse for me here is that we are talking about election integrity in a time when three out of the past four elections have had their integrity severely called into question. Regardless of whether the FEC is “toothless”, as many people say, the message that Reid is sending (in addition to the precedent that this would be setting) is that he doesn’t care all that much about election integrity issues.

This is precisely the opposite of what the Senate Majority Leader should be doing in terms of setting an example. To use backroom deals for political expediency, especially on matters as significant as election integrity sends a horrible message to Americans, constituents, interested parties and of course, party activists. Thankfully, Obama has placed a hold on Hans’ nomination for the time being.

The other issue, of course, relates to yesterday’s hold on the FISA legislation that Senator Dodd informed Reid that he intends to place. Now, I don’t know if he has or will change his mind, but he at least signaled his intent to bring the FISA bill to the floor anyway, putting Dodd in a position where he would have to filibuster. Once again, this is an issue of taking actions on an issue that much of the public is firmly on one side of (warning - .pdf file), yet the action likely goes AGAINST the public sentiment. Additionally, it puts one of his own Senators in a situation where he would be forced to “be at odds” with his own Majority Leader. And of course, we know how that will play in the press.

I will credit him for his support and co sponsorship with Feingold on Iraq, but that is more of a Senator than as a Senate leader. There have been other issues, some of which are beyond and some which are within Reid’s control. There are situations where he has been outmaneuvered, others where he has taken a stand that is baffling, and others that are just flat out maddening.

We may not like McConnell and he may be a snake but he is loyal to the republican party’s “values” (or whatever you can call them nowadays). There are too many things that Reid has done, said or we have found out which make me scratch my head. And frankly, these two more recent acts really make me wonder what he is thinking and doing in his role as Majority Leader.

With a nickname like “Give ‘em hell Harry”, he isn’t supposed to be giving hell to the Democratic Party and the vast majority of Americans that want to see the change, dedication and actions that he promised would come if only the Democrats were in the majority. I don’t expect him to get us out of Iraq singlehandedly or to move mountains.

I expect him to stand up for what is right, to lead his party in the Senate and to NOT undermine election integrity or the movement to counter the gross violations of the Constitution that this administration has done time after time.

And frankly, more of what he is doing is disheartening me than it is motivating and exciting me.

The one candidate who is already acting like a leader

Recommended at Daily Kos

I have been a passive supporter and growing less wishy washy in my support for Senator Dodd since right around Yearly Kos. As most people still aren’t following him or his actions in the Senate, I didn’t really follow him until a couple of months ago. And frankly, I still am not really following him that closely. At this point, however, I am more excited about him being our next President than anyone else, other than Gore.

But he has opened my eyes in a way that would make me proud to actively support Dodd’s candidacy because of how much of a leader he IS being now – in the job that he was elected to do, and how he is stepping up on, well just about everything. Yes, Clinton and Obama and Edwards supporters will all think that I am taking a swipe at their candidate, and frankly, I am to a degree. But before yelling, flaming and getting defensive about it, I would gladly vote for any of the three (even Clinton).

And yes, Obama did a great thing with respect to Hans and that gets BIG points from me. I still am a fan of Edwards, even though I am not overly excited by what he is doing – or at least what I hear when I glance a the rec list. But he was where I was leaning, more so by default. And Clinton, well, I can say that I’ll be voting for her.

All that being said, I think that it is time to get serious about supporting someone whose actions back up his words and whose credentials are also rather impressive. But, how can you NOT support Dodd if you go down a list of issues that matter to you and see his positions and actions and that he is saying and doing things because they are RIGHT, not because they are SAFE.

Today’s action on the FISA bill was a no-brainer. Many Congressional Democrats who were until just recently in the minority had complained that they couldn’t do anything and had no power because of the Senate rules and being in the minority. Now that they are in the majority, they should be able to do some things that America wants them to do.

Anyone can put a hold on a bill or an action. This week, we saw two such instances. And, as I said above, that scored big points with me. But with a track record of introducing bills on withdrawal from Iraq on his own as well as with others like Feingold and Reid, we know his position on Iraq. And more importantly, we can be proud of his position AND actions he is and has been taking on this very important matter..

What is just as important is that whole “unitary executive” issue this country is going to have to unravel, Dodd has introduced legislation called the Restoring the Constitution Act (an idea that I am proud to share with Senator Dodd).

With Dodd, you are already seeing him lead and command respect. He is taking actions, sponsoring legislation, doing what is right for America - RIGHT NOW. He isn’t waiting until he would be inaugurated. He may be talking about how he would lead if elected President, but he is also showing how he is leading in whatever capacity he currently can.

He has made me really want to vote for him. He is someone that I would be proud to actively support. He is someone that I can feel good about telling others about taking a harder look at as a candidate. Why so many people are overlooking him is beyond me. He deserves a good hard look. He is acting like a leader.

And he can use your support.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

It's hard work fighting an army of strawmen

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

You have to feel for our conservative, neoconservative, right wing and keyboard kommando brethren. I mean, there is just so much that they are up against. With total control of Congress for over a decade, the White House and the Judicial Branch for at least the past 6 years (longer if you count how many Supreme Court Justices have been appointed by republicans) and near total control of the political, economic and foreign policy agenda – it is tough to find others to blame when shit meets fan and it all blows up in their face.

It goes back all the way to the welfare queens that were stealing from We the People by getting 80 social security numbers and having 25 children. Good thing that was beaten back before it got out of hand. And yet, over and over again, there is the multitude of strawmen armies that keep trying to ruin the great republican dream. It never stops, and it has just got to be exhausting to constantly be on the front lines without sufficient rest against the boogyman of the day, week or month. If it wasn’t the gays that want to ruin the institution of marriage and make incest legal, then it was those who were for legalizing infanticide.

And with the country at war, it is even tougher to defend from the increasing number of strawman militia that have propped up. phony soldiers that had the gall to talk about their actual experiences in Iraq. How can those who are bravely providing color commentary on what is REALLY going on in Iraq from thousands of miles away be expected to "fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars" against the troops, the liberal media, as well as the 70% of Americans loony left who want out of Iraq?

In addition to the Islamic extremists who want to smuggle nukes across the Mexican border, there are the illegal immigrants who want to come here and commit so many crimes. Not to mention the phony jews who dare to get offended at blowhard Coulter’s predictably offensive and just as stupid comments, or the secular progressives who advocate legalization of narcotics, euthanasia, abortion at will, gay marriage and HATE CHRISTMAS!!!. Can you believe that these people are actually out there?

Of course, there are also those of us liberals who support terrorism. Not this kind of terrorism which actually does exist and did happen (and still is happening), but this kind of terrorism that those who weren’t in charge and didn’t blow off warnings and didn’t focus on it were clearly responsible for, and actually cheered it on.

Yes, so many groups of strawmen ganging up on these fine upstanding citizens, nay, heroic patriots who are so bravely fighting off all these strawmen armies that they themselves created. It gets tiring saving the world from evil people that want basic affordable healthcare for millions of children. And it must be downright exhausting telling those fake troops who put their lives on the line for this country what is really going on in Iraq.

But those liberals.....they don’t stop. They want to kill babies. They want to take away everyone’s guns. They hate Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and Jesus Christ – that is if they even believe in them. They want to legalize rape and marrying your pets. They are out of the mainstream. And they hate America.

So many strawmen who were responsible for the shape this country is in. Their agenda, values and actions are emboldening the terrorists and leading to the downfall of society.

It’s tough being a republican, conservative, neoconservative, rightist or keyboard kommando nowadays.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The party that likes to destroy people's lives

Front Paged at Booman Tribune

Now, it isn’t totally that simple, but it really is that simple. This has been the general modus operandi for the republican party – at least over the past decade. Forget about governing, forget about issues, forget about any discourse or even heated debate. It is either you march lockstep completely on everything or your life will be destroyed.

This starts at the top and works its way down throughout the party apparatus – the administration, the Congressional leadership, mainline members of Congress, the “mouthpieces” like Rush, Hannity, Malkin, Coulter and the like, and of course the “keyboard kommandos” at LGF and at Freeperville. This is precisely why the level of discourse in this country has devolved to, well, next to nothing. This is why we ended up in Iraq and have the major issues with respect to all of the problems facing the country.

There is no “working with the other side” to republicans. That is “weak”. It is why those who spoke out against going into Iraq were “traitors”. It is why Michael Schiavo was demonized and his life turned upside down in the wake of a tragedy. It is why Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson’s lives and her career were put through hell. It is why Michelle Malkin gave out the phone numbers of anti-war protesters at a California University.

It is why, whenever there are issues that need to be addressed in this country, those who are not on the “side” of the republicans, the issues don’t matter – it becomes a race to destroy the person’s credibility, life, job and family before the actual issues are debated. It is why, instead of talking about the merits of SCHIP, the office of the Senate Minority Leader is involved with the smearing of a 12 year old and his family. It is why it was more important to protect Mark Foley than it was to protect the underage pages that he was having internet sex with.

It is why Brandon Friedman and the veterans who have served in Iraq and/or Afghanistan are being called traitors by those who have better things to do or are serving their country by, well, bravely staying here and harassing those who actually did serve. It is why Glenn Beck asks a newly elected Congressman who happens to be Muslim to “prove that he isn’t a terrorist”. It is why the people who were stranded in the Gulf Coast were “asking for it” because they should have known better when they lived in that area of the country.

It is how Karl Rove got George Bush elected at Governor of Texas and nominated by the republican party in 2000 over John McCain. It is why Dan Rather was smeared and fired for the Bush National Guard documents when the facts surrounding Bush going AWOL were never challenged. It is why Keith Olbermann was sent an envelope containing white powder by an Ann Coulter fan.

And it is why anyone (mind you that we have been very right on so many of the ISSUES) who points out the inaccuracies, the shortcomings, the problems or the flaws in a republican position that the issues are not up for debate – it is the smearing of the person raising the doubts, questions, flaws or issues that is personally attacked. These people are lower than the lowest form of scum. They are sick fucks who get off on swarming on people or politicians who raise legitimate questions or just don’t completely agree 100% with their twisted and hate filled world view.

Now, this isn’t new. But it is a way to further alienate the republican party from the independent or undecided voters. Which party is trying to look for answers, which party is trying to help the people of this country? Which party has consistently shown to attack the messenger, not the message? Which party is all about the politics of destruction? And which party is more concerned with ruining your life if you disagree with them?

Time and time again – it is the politics of personal destruction. Even when the person being destroyed is already a victim (as in the case of the Frosts). There are too many problems in this country facing too many millions of people for this type of behavior to continue driving the discourse (or lack thereof).

We need to move this country forward. And only one party has any interest in that (regardless of whether they are doing as much as we would like). The other party is only interested in tearing down the lives of those who don’t fall completely in line or dare to want things like affordable healthcare, help during a natural disaster or no wars based on lies.

It isn’t “a few bad apples”. It is a concerted effort at all levels of the republican party. And the American people should know what they are getting when they pull that lever or push that button next November.

And we should keep telling them what they get when they vote for or support the republican party.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Tie the cost of everything to the cost of Iraq

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

Well, not everything - but at this point, it is about time that even the most timid of Democrats can use the out of control amount of money being dumped into Iraq as a sledgehammer for just how much of a trade off Americans have had to (or will have to) make with respect to Iraq

Since there is such a low percentage of people in this country who are actually making a sacrifice for this failed ploy at world domination, unless Americans see the stark numbers of where their tax dollars (and their children’s tax dollars) are going to, and all of the much needed and neglected services they are no longer getting, all of the opinion polls about the growing percentage of people who want funding for Iraq cut or want our troops out of Iraq won’t matter at all.

And this leads to an excellent framing opportunity that frankly, should have been used a long time ago. The change here is that finally, FINALLY, an increasing number of Congressional Democrats are realizing just how much their constituents are very (passively) against continuing this disastrous Iraq policy, and how much those who are dictating this policy are (1) clueless and (2) ignoring other more pressing issues.

On last night’s 60 Minutes, the head of Interpol talked about the international law enforcement agency and the trouble it is having when it can’t monitor terrorist activities or respond to threats that it may be aware of:

Security isn't the only reason that countries don't cooperate with Interpol. Sometimes they're just embarrassed. Last year, when 23 people escaped from a prison in Yemen, including the mastermind of the al Qaeda attack on the U.S.S. Cole, Interpol found out about it by monitoring Arab television.

"Worldwide in the last two years, we've had 43 countries where escapes have occurred. And zero of those countries -- zero of those countries notified Interpol. That can't happen. That shouldn't happen. People wouldn't believe it's happening, but it's happening," Noble says.

Not only is Interpol underutilized, Noble says it is also hopelessly under-funded. The U.S. contributes $5.5 million to the organization's $50 million budget, a pittance compared to big city police departments.


"And we know that terrorist activities are being planned," Noble says, wiping a tear. "And we know that if we don't respond, people will die. And I know I'm a smart guy. I know I work hard and I know I can persuade people to do things. I know. But I can't get the U.S. and other governments to understand that the problem's a billion-dollar-a-year problem. You know, not a million-dollar-a-year problem. But I know that it's gonna change. It's gonna happen one day."

OK, granted, many countries don’t respect Interpol, but if the US is so concerned with Homeland Security and “monitoring terrorists”, then why not provide some funding for the entity that has the world’s largest database of known terrorists? By the way, the amount of funding provided by the US for Interpol is the same as it spends for 10 minutes in Iraq.

House Speaker Pelosi is starting to get it as well. Yesterday, she equated the SCHIP funding that Mister Bush just vetoed as being equal to the cost of 40 days in Iraq. Say what you will about her leadership or some of her actions or words, but this is a brilliant move on her part. It shows just how out of control the spending is on Iraq (regardless of how poorly many Congressional Democrats are handling the funding issues), how little Bush and the republicans who side with him on SCHIP care about the problems facing millions of families here in the US, and also the sacrifices that these people are willing to make in pursuit of their priorities.

This is a winning formula. Just take a look at the 2007 Budget proposed by Bush and take your pick of program cuts. Environment. Education. Medicare. $300 million cut to the EPA. Over $3 billion cut for education. Over $45 billion in cuts to various Medicare programs. With a low ball estimate of $200 million per day, the education and EPA cuts amount to just over 2 weeks in Iraq, while the Medicare cuts would be equal to around 7 months in Iraq.

Medicare gets sacrificed. Tax cuts for the middle class get sacrificed. Screening cargo at our ports gets sacrificed. Education funding gets sacrificed. SCHIP gets sacrificed. But untold billions for Iraq never get sacrificed.

Most Americans aren’t even aware of these program cuts, let alone how they compare to the amounts being spent every day in Iraq. By not only highlighting each and every thing that the republicans in Congress filibuster (or default filibuster),or that Mister Bush vetoes but also contrasting the cost of Iraq as compared to these programs, it will compound the defense into not only why it is so necessary to cut, vote against or veto so many of these vital programs, but also to defend why needlessly sending all of this same money to Iraq is more important.

And regardless of whether Bush or the Congressional republicans think, the vast majority of American people would rather have their money spent here than in Iraq.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The "electability" curse. This time, against the republicans.

Front paged at ePluribus Media and Booman Tribune


It’s a word that we are unfortunately all too familiar with. It is a big reason why we had John Kerry instead of Howard Dean in 2004. and it is a word that was also used quite a bit in 2006 when it came to the Democratic Party “leadership’s” (read: Rahm and the DLC) thoughts on the candidates fielded in the Congressional races in order to win back the majority.

Rarely is it a word that is used in a real glowingly manner. It is a term used almost as a last resort – when there is really nothing else that is praiseworthy enough to get a large number of people excited about. When someone is talked about as “electable”, none of their positions matter much, or are anything really worth praising.

“Sure, we really aren’t excited about [Candidate X], but he/she is the most electable. He/she has the best shot of winning.”


But now, even as the “beleaguered Democrats” are in the news and getting a (sometimes very well deserved) reputation for not doing enough to roll back the Administration’s abuses or bring meaningful action toward ending the sinkhole and occupation of Iraq, it is the republicans who are now using the word “electable” and “best chance of winning” to describe their Presidential candidates.

Well, that and words like “handsome”, “broad shouldered” and other strangely homoerotic/homophobic words if it is referring to Romney.

No more “strong on [issue X]” or “firmly against [any more of Y]”. Just “vote for me because I can win.” Giuliani is telling voters that he has the best chance of winning. Because, of course, the polls that are nearly five months before the first primary tell them so. Never mind the stances he has on nearly every single “values” voter hot button issue. Never mind the fact that most of the country doesn’t yet know how much of a farce and charlatan he actually was with respect to 9/11 – before, during and after. And never mind the fact that once someone meets him or sees him interact with others, he is usually immediately hated.

Interestingly, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that most of the people who do favor “Amuricka’s Mayor™” are ones who don’t know all that much about him.

Yet, it doesn’t end here. Grandpa Fred Thompson begs to differ with Rudy. Hell, it was the very powerful combination of “conservative and electable” that got him to throw his hat in the ring in the first place. And now, he is still being declared as more electable than than the other candidates. Of course, never mind his stances on things that he can’t even remember himself. Or for making his audiences fall asleep. Or his “flip flopping” on some positions. Or the fact that he is called lazy by everyone that ever worked with or for him.

But that doesn’t even begin to describe the depth of this bad news for the republican Presidential field. Getting back to how “electable Rudy says he is, a lot of republican voters would vote for a third party candidate who was backed by the hypocritical theocratic gasbags who run the current form of the republican party over him. And a recent Washington Post article on Guiliani, the republican candidates and “electability” had this scathing indictment of the republican party buried in the article:

Half of those surveyed named Giuliani as the most electable Republican in the field, a slight dip from where he was in earlier polls. More significant perhaps is that no other GOP candidate comes close on an issue of vital important to a demoralized party worried about the elections.

I want to point that out again:

Electability is an issue of vital importance to the republican party – a party that is “demoralized” and “worried about the election”.

This is a far cry from the “permanent republican majority” that was rammed down our throats just three years ago. This is the sign of a party with absolutely no direction, no plan, no core issues to rally around. No values – certainly not the ones that it has trumpeted for (and against) for the past decade as they have continuously been exposed for the corrupt, criminal and hypocritical degenerates that they are.

This is a last resort. When you start hearing about or talking about a candidate as being “electable”, that only means two things:

Your candidate and your party is in big trouble.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Questions I'd like asked (and answered) about Blackwater

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

My note: As I am writing this, the House of Representatives just passed a bill that would subject ALL contractors to US law, so this is a big step in the right direction. Of course, the White House opposes this and my guess is that it will be vetoed if passed in the Senate. The House vote was passed with an overwhelming vote of 389-30.


With all of the news and the controversy surrounding Blackwater USA over the past few months (or years), I have been waiting for a couple of questions to be asked and answered. I can come up with a partial answer to some of them, but it still doesn’t sit well enough with me and I think it should be discussed a bit further.

First, the questions, and then a bit of analysis and “likely answer” to some of this, but still something that falls far short of something that is acceptable, especially given the events that have happened with Blackwater employees over the past few years.

  • Why is Blackwater one of three private security firms with a State Department contract as opposed to a Defense Department contract? (more on this distinction later);

  • Why has the State Department not taken the same steps as the Defense Department to ensure that its contractors have some form of accountability under the UCMJ, US law or Iraqi law?

  • Was this distinction made and the contract provided under the State Department guidelines in order to specifically avoid any form of liability? (this one I don’t have any answer to, but I would be interested in seeing if there are any shady links here).

As far as the first question goes, there is a lot of detail here. For starters, the likely “on the surface” response will be that Blackwater’s contract is to protect State Department employees and other high level officials in Iraq and therefore, it should fall under the State Department. However, there are a number of things that I find wrong with that. First, in a diary I did a few months back, I reference this passage from Blackwater’s own web site:
We are not simply a "private security company." We are a professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations firm who provides turnkey solutions. We assist with the development of national and global security policies and military transformation plans. We can train, equip and deploy public safety and military professionals, build live-fire indoor/outdoor ranges, MOUT facilities and shoot houses, create ground and aviation operations and logistics support packages, develop and execute canine solutions for patrol and explosive detection, and can design and build facilities both domestically and in austere environments abroad.

So they basically bill themselves out as a “professional military”, and many of their members are former military personnel. And while the goal of the contract is for its’ 1,000 employees who are in Iraq to protect high level officials, there are numerous instances where they are doing much more. According to a CNN article about a plane crash in Afghanistan in 2004 where the pilot (a Blackwater employee) was quoted as saying “this is fun” while doing what his co-pilot said were “X-Wing fighter” moves prior to a crash that killed 6 people, including three troops. Interestingly, the article notes that Blackwater was hired by the Defense Department in this instance.

There is also the 2006 killing of an Iraqi vice president’s aide by a Blackwater employee, and as noted in this post, there are many instances of Blackwater acting in more of a military capacity than in a “private security” capacity:

Yesterday's Congressional report, issued by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, contended that employees of Blackwater USA have fired their deadly weapons in 195 incidents in Iraq since 2005.

The report found that in 163 of those 195 cases, the Blackwater contractors fired first, and more often than not they fired from moving vehicles without ever stopping to check for the dead or wounded. The report also contends that the U.S. State Department has tried to buy off the relatives of those Iraqi civilians killed by Blackwater personnel.

In other words, your tax dollars are being used to provide hush money to protect a for-profit mercenary corporation from embarrassment and also, presumably, from criminal charges and liability exposure.

All of this, in addition to many more bits of information that would be too long a list to include here, make me ask why they are at least not partially covered under the Defense Department. And here is why I ask that question. An excellent article by Sidney Blumenthal talks about Order 17, which basically exempted all foreign contractors within Iraq, including private military firms, from any Iraqi laws. This order was one of the final acts of L. Paul Bremer, and the Order was written by Lawrence Peter. Peter oversaw the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior (which was cited as “dysfunctional and sectarian” in a recent military report) before becoming Director of....wait for it... the “Private Security Company Association of Iraq”. Oh yeah, Lawrence Peter is also a $40-per-hour consultant on security issues to the Pentagon’s Defense Reconstruction Support Office, which issues contracts.

A recent McClatchy article discusses the contractor situation in Iraq:

In all, there are 137,000 contractors working for the Department of Defense in Iraq, compared with nearly 170,000 members of the U.S. military.

The Pentagon probe will deal only with contractors working for the Department of Defense. The Blackwater guards suspected in the Baghdad shooting were working under a State Department contract and couldn't be held accountable under military law.


"Commanders have UCMJ (Uniformed Code of Military Justice) authority to disarm, apprehend, and detain DoD contractors suspected of having committed a felony offense in violation of the RUF (Rules on the Use of Force)," Gordon wrote. The memo was dated Tuesday.

England said commanders should review contractors' standard operating procedures and make any necessary changes to the way they authorize force to "minimize the risk of innocent civilian causalities or unnecessary destruction of civilian property."

The State Department hasn't distributed a similar memo, and it is unclear what, if any, U.S. law applies to the actions of its contractors.

In Blumenthal’s article (linked above), there is this bit of testimony from Erik Prince (head of Blackwater) before Congress, which lends credence to Blackwater being under a Defense Department contract (and therefore UCMJ):
On Tuesday, the chairman of Blackwater, 38-year-old Erik Prince, heir to an auto-parts fortune and an evangelical right-wing former Navy SEAL, appeared before the House Oversight Committee. He presented himself as though he were a general of U.S. forces, deserving deference from lowly civilians. Indeed, he declared that Blackwater's mercenaries were part of the "total force" in Iraq. If they were, of course, they would be subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. When pressed, Prince retreated into his fortress of privatization. "We're a private company, and there's a key word there -- private," he said. (emphasis mine)

It should be noted that there was a law change in 2005 with respect to contractors working in Iraq for the Department of Defense. While there are currently around 15 private security companies under DoD contracts in Iraq, there were over 30 at one time. As noted above, Blackwater is one of three private security contractors that operates under the State Department, and has had contracts with the Defense Department as well – so it can’t claim that it wouldn’t have any reason to be under a Defense Department contract.

An MSNBC article gives some good background on the State Department/Defense Department issue:

Over the past year, the military has issued a series of “fragos,” or fragmentary orders, designed to impose greater accountability on security contractors operating under Defense Department contracts. Blackwater was not covered because it reported to the State Department.

The new rules included procedures for the registration of weapons and streamlined the reporting of shooting incidents. The U.S. military’s director of security for the Green Zone, where approximately three dozen private security firms are based, has conducted sweeps that netted hundreds of unauthorized weapons.


None of the new orders applied to Blackwater, which has received $678 million in State Department contracts since 2003 and operates under the department’s authority.

So, this is far from over – even with the House vote. But it does leave these other very important questions – how did Blackwater escape any form of accountability due to its State Department contract, and was this intentionally done? The House vote will cover State Department contracts, but it doesn’t answer the “why” part of the second question I posed above.

Hopefully, more information will come out, but these questions shouldn’t be overlooked.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Is it because she isn't white?

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

Imagine, if you could even think of the horrific situation, where a 20 year old “pretty white woman” was abducted by six black men and women, raped, stabbed, made to eat rat droppings, drink from a toilet, threatened with death if she tried to escape and tortured for around a week.

Imagine, not only what living hell that poor woman went through, but also the fact that she was still undergoing treatment for her injuries around a month later. Imagine the 24 hour outrage on the cable news, the papers, every caring human being, not to mention the outrage by the racist people who would be decrying this, “the culture that promotes animals like this”, how this was a hate crime and the potential revenge for these horrific acts.

Imagine that the suspects all had prior arrests and records for prior crimes, including one who was arrested for murder of an 84 year old woman but pled to a lesser charge of manslaughter. We would hear about this for months, and we would all know her name, the suspects names, backgrounds and every little development in her treatment, the case and the potential blowback to the community.

Now that you have finished imagining this hell that the poor woman was subjected to, ask yourself if you have ever heard the name “Megan Williams”. I bet you haven’t. I know I didn’t – at least before today when I got an email about this matter.

You see, Megan Williams is black. And all of what you just imagined actually did happen to her a few short weeks ago, yet there has been so very little reported on this case. No round the clock commentary on CNN. No “panel of experts” talking about the degradation and breakdown of the justice system that allowed these six to even be in a position to kidnap, rape and torture Ms. Williams. No calls for protests or help for Ms. Williams or her family in this time of need. No “on the ground” reporters with live updates at the local jail, courthouse or even interviewing the locals.

No “special segments” advertised on any of the major news networks and programs. At least none that I have seen. But if you look at ABC News’ web site’s US News page, you will find a story about Natalie Holloway’s mother “still holding out hope”. And the big poll on is whether Britney can get her life back.

I am white. I couldn’t even begin to imagine the subtle racism or discrimination that occurs on a day to day basis. I wouldn’t even try to put myself in a position to discuss experiences, dirty looks, out of line comments or anything else. No matter how much I am against this and no matter how much I speak out against it, I probably can’t do it justice or appropriately capture the emotions, anger and frustration of those who experience this.

All that being said, I can speak and have spoken out quite a bit about the “missing pretty white woman” syndrome that has taken over the reporting arm of the US corporate media. When was the last time that a missing “non-white” woman was reported as missing for more than a few minute segment? What kind of coverage would a story like this get if Ms. Williams was a “pretty white woman”? And whose family has lots of money?

Yet, once again, we have a stark contrast here. Ms. Williams is not white. And I have no idea as to whether she is pretty or wealthy, but neither of those mean anything. What does matter is that she was kidnapped, brutally beaten, tortured and threatened with death by six white people in West Virginia. And that these six people have long records, her life is scarred beyond repair and unspeakable acts were committed against her while she was imprisoned by thugs and criminals for a week.

What also matters is that this got very little ongoing coverage, and the volume that the media silence speaks when the victim isn’t white, young, pretty and wealthy.

Why else wouldn’t this story get the coverage it deserves?

Monday, October 01, 2007

No Rahm, the next President WON'T bring them home.

Front paged at Booman Tribune

That is the problem, or at lest there is no firm commitment to bring them ALL (or even most) home.

You see, Rahm, the problem with your latest pile of crap you and your Democratic Party colleagues are peddling is that you can’t even honestly talk with a straight face about bringing our troops home (hat tip to andgarden for his diary from last night.

I was going to write about the impact of the Kyl/Lieberman hall pass for Bush and Cheney to attack Iran, the ongoing disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan and the threats arising everywhere else on our already stretched too thin military. I was also going to write about the fact that the next President will inherit a military that will likely have barely functional equipment, subpar armor and weapons and will have the lowest morale in my lifetime. And while that is all relevant, we now know that the bar has now been moved to 2013 by none other than Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards in terms of when they can “bring our troops home”, as Rahm said.

Oh sure, we have the “we won’t get into hypothetical situations” line that Senator Clinton has become fond of and is now being adopted by other candidates. But the bottom line is that the Presidential primaries are a job interview for the Presidency and we, the ones who are interviewing you for that position want to know how you would perform in that capacity.


And if we can’t even get a commitment for the ONE THING that we were promised, when it is clear as day that sitting on your hands is not remotely close to all that you can do now to move us away from never ending war.

There is no accountability for this debacle. There is no plan for getting us out in the next eighteen months. Or to even try.

And that is a dangerous proposition for the Congressional Democratic leadership to be putting forth at this point in time. Dangerous for our troops, dangerous for the Iraqi people, dangerous for America’s security, dangerous for America’s economy and dangerous for your reelection prospects.

If you think that the independents who are sick of the occupation in Iraq, the never ending stream of billions of dollars sunk there and the complete lack of accountability to the troops and the American people by Mister Bush and now, members of the Congressional Democratic leadership like Rahm Emanuel, Nancy Pelosi and even those who are running for President, then you are sorely mistaken. Despite the overwhelming disgust for the republican corruption and lack of caring for the needs of We the People, there are many who will see this as “more of the same” or “what’s the difference between the two parties”.

Now, I am not one of those people, but there are millions of them in this country. These people are not stupid. These people want out of Iraq. They know that Congress can defund the occupation and want Congress to do this in increasing numbers. To wait for “the next President” to bring our troops home is lazy and disingenuous.

And we now know that it is patently false, since the top three contenders on the Democratic side have joined all of the republican candidates (except for Ron Paul) in keeping our troops in Iraq.

How will you explain the difference between the parties to all of those independent voters and undecided voters?