Monday, December 31, 2007

Some thoughts from the past 12 months

2007 started with such promise - there would be “big changes” - or so we were told. And on some levels (mainly personal), it has delivered - I still have my job (and it is better than at the beginning of the year), YKos was great, I have a baby on the way....but in the world of politics and around the world, things don’t look as rosy as we may have thought back when a new Congress took session. Some of this is the fault of Democratic leadership, a lot of this is the fault of Bush and the republican party, or the corporate media, or the fault of nobody. But, a lot did go on this past year, and all I can say is that I hope 2008 holds out more in terms of delivery and less in terms of broken promises, frustration, disappointment, bewilderment and lowered expectations.

The 3,000th US military death in Iraq was just before the new year. There were promises of a “new Congress in town” and a change of direction in Iraq. Another close to $200 billion was approved during the year for “continuing operations” with absolutely no real change in direction. The “surge” has been an absolute failure - a reduction in deaths due to sectarian cleansing and voluntary temporary stop in violence by al Sadr’s militia with no political benchmarks met is no success in any way.

A new record was set in the Senate by republicans on filibustering. Except that it suddenly wasn’t called a “filibuster” anymore. It was now the conventional wisdom that you “need 60 votes for anything” and votes can fail with 58 votes in favor. Amid the record obstruction, there were cries for bipartisanship and to let bygones be bygones. Of course, that meant letting a new Attorney General through even though he wouldn’t comment on torture being torture.

As for “bipartisanship”, we had a veto of SCHIP which most of Congress and the American people were in favor of. There were appointments and near appointments of people who were quite possibly the worst possible candidate for the position that Bush was appointing them to. More bipartisanship showed when many brave Democrats joined with the republicans to condemn (and some others) - and the favor was returned when Rush Limbaugh was condemned praised on the Senate floor for calling certain troops “phony”.

Impeachment was pulled off the table immediately - opening up the door for the complete abrogation of duties by both Congressional Democrats and republicans alike. E-mails were “mistakenly deleted”. Servers were “lost”. Subpoenas were issued, then ignored. Stern letters were written, which were promptly thrown out upon receipt. Documented proof of torture was found out to have been destroyed to protect those who did the torturing.

Major widespread illegal wiretapping and data collection was uncovered but since impeachment was off the table, it only made sense to try and push through a bill that would give retroactive immunity to anyone that broke the law. Ironically, this was a “fix” to another law that was hastily passed and would give more powers to a President who had admitted to impeachable offenses.

War with Iran was somehow averted (for now), despite claim after claim and excuse after excuse and lie after lie was thrown out - each time to be smacked down but then trotted out again in a different form. The intelligence community finally stood up to the neoconservatives and spoke the truth about Iran and its nuclear weapons program, only to be “discredited” by the same people who were able to strong arm the “evidence” back in 2002 and 2003. And nobody is making the link to Valerie Plame’s outing to the lack of any intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program after 2002.

Afghanistan is still an ignored disaster. Pakistan is still an ignored disaster, only to get worse. Saudi Arabia was (and may still be) arming Sunni insurgents who have been killing our troops and shooting down our helicopters. Not to be outdone, we are arming Sunni insurgents who were killing our troops if they only promise to kill al Qaeda instead.

We learned that “illegal aliens” (because “undocumented immigrants” just isn’t all that scary) is the biggest threat to this country since gays who wanted to get married. One of the Presidential candidates (regardless of who actually wins the republican nomination) will want the biggest fence ever keeping those dirty Mexicans out, a quadrupling of the size of Gitmo, more torture and will bring an ideology that would make Ghengis Khan and the KKK proud.

The bold new direction in Iraq has become an “if” as opposed to a “when”. “Compromise” now means “republicans and Bush don’t have to give an inch - all they have to do is whine and stomp their feet”. Actions that are blatantly illegal are excused if the one committing the acts steps down or resigns - only to find a different place or way to commit more crimes.

The middle class is broke. The country is broke. The financial situation is precarious at best. The housing market is a mess. The healthcare system is even worse. The environmental issues have been discovered to be worse than previously thought. Americans are getting fatter, lazier, dumber - and are falling behind other countries in most categories. Our military is broken - our troops can’t do any more than they have been.

The Constitution is still under attack. Election integrity has no elements of integrity. The Justice Department is more concerned with vengeance and revenge than justice. Any progressive legislation (or any legislation that doesn’t meet Bush’s strict standard of “this is exactly what I want) gets vetoed and falls by the wayside - all due to a “lack of votes”. Symbolic victories have become the goal in many instances, and a Congressional minority has dictated the direction of legislation.

“Just wait until we have a majority” has become “we need 60 votes” which has become “we don’t have a veto proof majority” - all of which have really become symbols for disappointment, and why there is talk of a third party candidacy as being “viable”.

Well, a New Year starts in just a few short hours, and I hear that it holds such promise. Too bad it will start as 2007 did - with the marking of another 1,000 US troop deaths in Iraq. But since Iraq isn’t an issue for people anymore - it is really “just a number”, right?

al Qaeda...with the the grassy knoll

The way that the reports have been coming out with respect to Bhutto’s death is not totally surprising. The fact that there are differing facts emerging is also not surprising - although the conflicting and “evolving” stories regarding just how she died, who is taking responsibility and who is pointing fingers (not to mention where the fingers are being pointed) is a bit more disturbing.

First it was bullets, then no bullets but shrapnel, then no bullets or shrapnel but the sunroof of the car causing so much force that blood was covering much of the interior of her car (warning - pics that you may not want to see) with no head wound takes this into the lone-gunman-with-bad-rifle-and-worse-angle-and-magic-bullet territory.

What is even more questionable here is that the Interior Ministry was claiming that there was no wound from the attack and at the same time blaming al Qaeda for the attack on Bhutto’s life. And, just for good measure, we can throw in the police abandoning their posts while Bhutto was still in the area - reminiscent of , if not necessarily on par with the last minute changes to JFK’s route in Dallas, the Secret Service being told to stand down and the lack of other measures taken to protect Kennedy.

Now, this may or may not be what we are told it appears to be at this point. But there are parallels that can already be drawn which require answers now - before more theories are put forth and can’t be verified or discounted. With no autopsy being performed (as one contributor at TalkingPointsMemo points out):

I am not a forensic pathologist, and so my opinions should be taken with something of a grain of salt. However, as a pediatrician, I see a fair amount of head injuries, both acutely and in follow-up. I find the explanations coming from Pakistan regarding the mechanism of Bhutto's demise to be unconvincing, to say the least. If they are positing that Ms. Bhutto died from an essentially self-inflicted injury while ducking, I find that contention absurd. It is implausible in the extreme that she would have generated sufficient velocity in ducking that short distance to sustain a skull fracture, much less a fatal head injury that would have prevented emergent resuscitation. And yes, any reasonably competent physician would be able to distinguish between a gunshot wound, a shrapnel injury and a skull fracture, open or closed. Further, if no post-mortem was done, it is essentially impossible for them to attribute the cause of death to a head injury, unless it was an open head injury. Traumatic brain injury as a cause of death cannot be effectively diagnosed by visual inspection alone. If an open head injury is supposedly the cause of death, shrapnel is a much more likely cause of the injury than ducking. I find their explanation patently preposterous.

So, the internal bleeding that had to have been caused by the sunroof was so severe that the inside of the car was covered with blood, but this cause of death apparently doesn’t seem likely - especially without a more detailed examination than was done.

As for the “it was al Qaeda’s fault” - well, that certainly is plausible, even if it is some group that is sort of affiliated with al Qaeda but hasn’t taken responsibility for the assassination. There were many who wanted Bhutto killed - al Qaeda among them. But what threat did she actually pose to al Qaeda? She was the US hand picked puppet who was once and could have again been a popular leader. But her terms as Prime Minister were littered with corruption charges, and she may not have been nearly as effective as many would have thought.

All of that notwithstanding, the excuse of “eliminating a friend of the United States” doesn’t seem to be the general reasoning for al Qaeda to be responsible for assassinating a figure such as Bhutto. Of course, this may very well turn out to be true, but “some communication between al Qaeda members that was intercepted” doesn’t seem to be all that convincing - at least not yet. It certainly doesn’t seem as though she would be able to take a very hard line against them - even if she was very outspoken against religious extremists. While she would have certainly been more of “an issue” for the Taliban and al Qaeda, it is difficult to imagine her doing more than reversing the “wink and a nod” approach that Musharraf has been taking - even more so with a power sharing agreement between Bhutto and Musharraf.

The assassination attempt against her recently also had some strange elements to it, as noted by Gareth Porter:

Bhutto had been the object of an assassination attempt in Karachi two months ago under circumstances that raised suspicions of official complicity. The street lights had suddenly failed to work, making the would-be assassin's work easier, despite protests by her staff.

After that attempt, Bhutto believed elements in and close to the military aligned with the extremists wanted her dead. "I know exactly who wants to kill me," "They are dignitaries of General Zia's former regime who are behind extremism and fanaticism," she told the French magazine Paris-Match. She pointed specifically to the army's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, which was instrumental in creating the Taliban regime and has been managing Pakistan's alliance with the Taliban -- and al Qaeda -- ever since.

The fact that Musharraf stepped down from his military leadership post doesn’t have as much bearing as it would seem in terms of his supporters. He was (and is) very unpopular, with approval levels hovering in the Cheney territory. And while I am not in any way pointing the finger at him for Bhutto’s death, Musharraf was in an interesting position. A man with few supporters but those who supported him were pretty powerful and loyal to him. He was losing his grip on power and is more interested in keeping whatever power he can than he is in placating Bush or Cheney in the “WarOnTerror(TM)”. And it certainly can be argued that Musharraf would have much damage to his political life as a result of this as well.

But, it is not out of the question for certain elements in the very powerful ISI to be in cahoots with elements of the Taliban or al Qaeda. And it merits explanation as to why the police suddenly left their posts, why there was no autopsy (even if it was put out there that this was requested), why the stories kept changing - with all of the changing stories coming from the Interior Ministry and not the doctors and why so many different explanations, accusations and charges are being thrown out with respect to the cause of death and those who are responsible for her death.

When nearly all of the changing stories and accusations are coming from the same place, it warrants even more scrutiny.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

About that "key ally in the WarOnTerror(TM)" thing...

The whole US/Pakistan relationship and history is pretty complex, to say the least. But then again, so are the US/Afghanistan, US/Iran and US/Iraq relationships. But none of the other countries (or nearly any other country) has been “touted” by Mister Bush and his neocon supporters as suck a strong ally or key ally or friend in the WarOnTerror(TM) than Pakistan.

This, despite a certain volatile mix of apathy, extremism, military rule and nuclear weapons proliferation, some of the “highlights” including:

Pakistan also has a long relationship with the United States, although it is more of one that is based on convenience for the US. We have alternately shunned and supported this country, although we have also supported its "enemies". It was one of only three countries who recognized the Taliban as legitimate before abruptly changing its mind after 9/11.

Pakistan’s leader seized power in a coup, and has, at times, suspended the Constitution, held positions as President and leader of the country’s military, looked the other way as terrorists set up in his country. It had no ties to Saddam or to 9/11, however, it has been sympathetic to extremists that have caused death and destruction within the country – including against political leaders. On the other hand, there were ties between the country and the Taliban in the months leading up to 9/11.

Pakistan’s population is not sympathetic to the United States; rather it is fairly hostile or apathetic at best. Not only does the Taliban and al Qaeda have large membership in the country, but many of its citizens in certain regions had been harboring them and therefore letting them roam free – recently, its leader was less popular than bin Laden according to polls. Last year, Musharraf said that he wouldn’t go after bin Laden if bin Laden agreed to live a peaceful citizen.

The country also has nuclear weapons, and was dangerously close to a nuclear conflict with its neighbor a few years ago. The high level official in Pakistan’s government who was responsible for its nuclear weapons program (Khan) sold nuclear secrets to a number of other countries, and is basically a free citizen (not totally but certainly not being punished). Most recently, it was uncovered that Musharraf really has no interest in cracking down on extremists and terrorist groups and was accused last year of looking the other way while the Taliban and al Qaeda were launching attacks over its border against US and NATO troops.

With the news today of Bhutto’s assassination - this brings a situation that some recognized a “bubbling disaster” well over a year ago to a whole new level of “disaster”. The fact that she was assassinated wasn’t completely unexpected - it was unfortunately more a matter of when as opposed to if (and not all that much different on a basic level from her father) it would happen. There was already an attempt on her life not too long ago and upon her return she was warned that her security couldn’t be guaranteed.

She was the new Musharraf. Just like Allawi was the new Chalabi and Malaki was the new Talabani who was the new Allawi. Or something like that.

Even though it was fairly obvious that Musharraf himself was hardly a “friend in the WarOnTerror(TM)”, even by generous standards, it was never the Bush administration’s goal to actually take on al Qaeda and countries that “harbor terrorists”. Or even have a strong military - as evidenced by the way that this country’s foreign policy follies have been conducted over the past decade or so.

But what has Pakistan actually really done that hasn’t made matters significantly worse than they were in 2001? The terror network is stronger and based out of an area in the country that is virtually untouchable. It operates with near impunity as well as protection by the locals and can launch attacks over the border in Afghanistan against US and NATO troops with no consequences. It has nuclear weapons and has already been on the brink with India in the past.

It has sold those same nuclear weapon secrets to countries around the Middle East that we have had bad relationships with to begin with, and are now only further inflamed by reckless disregard for rational and sane diplomacy. And its leader, who had recently suspended the Constitution, dismissed members of his Supreme Court and suspended elections. And now, when the state of emergency was finally lifted, one of his chief political opponents has been assassinated, and early reports are already pointing the finger at the Taliban, al Qaeda and Pakistani jihad groups.

Whether this is true or not remains to be seen. Certainly, many in the Pakistani military who are still supportive of and loyal to Musharraf have reason to want Bhutto assassinated. Yet, the Pakistani military has not been branded as a terrorist organization, as Iran’s basically was.

In either event, it became obvious even to the biggest disbelievers in reality that Musharraf was not effective even as a puppet as he was only desperately trying to hold onto whatever power he could in any way that he could. And, as much as this may be hard for some of the neocons to believe - Musharraf viewed his own political survival (and his actual survival) as more important than doing what Bush and Cheney wanted him to do.

Whether Bhutto would have been better or not is something we will never get to find out. Whether this means that Musharraf once again suspends elections and imposes another state of emergency will ultimately decide whether this becomes a situation where wholesale violence and rioting will break out and how high a priority this country will finally become in terms of facing a dangerous and already violent mix of suppression and anger.

But this all requires a change on the most basic level. Pakistan must be recognized for what it is and not we hope it is or what it may have sort of been at one time. There is a very dangerous situation in Pakistan and there has been for quite some time. In actuality, it is (as it really should have been) the biggest potential foreign policy challenge on many levels.

Last month, Stephen Cohen, a Brookings Scholar whose expertise is Pakistan, had this to say:

Pakistan was once America’s “most allied of allies.” But the Bush administration, whose major foreign policy initiative in South Asia was towards India (a recent gaffe by a Bush administration official even ranked India above Pakistan), has weakened the relationship. Administration officials have gloated that they coerced Pakistan into signing on to the ill-named war on terrorism. In return, Islamabad played a double game regarding its participation in this struggle. Its intelligence services supported the Taliban, while only reluctantly going after the al Qaeda forces embedded in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The failure to round up the Taliban leadership was a matter of state policy: the Pakistan army still regards India as its major threat, and the Taliban are used to counterbalance Indian influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan would like a stable Afghanistan, but it does not believe that Hamid Karzai is the man to lead that country, and Pakistani generals are certain that the US will sooner or later pull out of Afghanistan, leaving the Indians as Karzai’s major prop. As for al Qaeda, the Pakistan army is unprepared to engage in counterinsurgency warfare within its own borders; no wonder several US senators have stated that the US ought to go in to the FATA if Pakistan cannot, and round up the known al Qaeda (and Taliban) leadership.

This is a very different situation from 7 or 10 years ago. And as for Bhutto and her party’s “relationship” with the Pakistani militants, many of whom operate relatively freely?
The PPP is weakest where the militants are strongest, and cannot be counted on to provide the political guidance to tackle them. The militants are not interested in ministerial bungalows in Islamabad, they want to turn Pakistan into a base from which they can attack other soft Muslim and Western states (and India), and even lay their hands on Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Musharraf may have sidelined the journalists, lawyers, and judges, but he has yet to demonstrate that Pakistan has the will, or the capacity, to develop a comprehensive counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency strategy.

The last sentence is the one that resonates the most - and is also very close to how this administration has approached the problems and causes of Islamic extremism (not to mention other religious extremism....) and aggression towards America.

Musharraf, like Bush and Cheney, is a coward in the “WarOnTerror(TM)”. And with that being a common thread, that isn’t really a “key ally” after all.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Blaming her family and her doctors

Yes, that is what some kind hearted people are doing in the aftermath of Nataline Sarkysian’s unnecessary death.

I have watched around 45 seconds of Fox News in the past few years, cumulatively. And all 45 seconds were around 5 minutes ago (around 5:20PM EST) as I was flipping through the channels. I don’t know exactly what I expected to hear when I stopped to hear what “some show” was going to say with respect to Nataline’s tragic death at the hands of CIGNA’s callous and heinous acts of greed.

When I realized that I was, in fact, listening to the fine upstanding blackhearted people on Fox News Live (I don’t even know their names, but frankly it may be better off that way), I should have immediately continued to search for something worth watching.

Yet, like watching a train wreck - not because I want to but because I couldn’t turn my head, I heard what may have been one of the most stunning displays of a lack of compassion as well as a disgusting defending of CIGNA coupled with full on finger pointing and blame centered squarely at the Sarkysian family and their doctor.

At Christmas time, and right after the tragic and unnecessary death of a 17 year old, nonetheless.

”They should have had the surgery and litigated for reimbursement later on”

That was the comment that made me change the channel, get up and go get my computer. But it was just the cumulation of a 45 second flurry (at least what I caught, but since they were getting ready to break for commercial, I imagine this had been building to a crescendo) of hate and blame and callous lack of any emotion, empathy or even the slightest sense of decency.

”What makes this unconscionable is that the surgeon wasted 36 precious minutes after CIGNA faxed over the approval - 36 minutes that could have made a difference”

That was the first comment I heard, and I guess maybe I kept the channel on that station in disbelief of what I was hearing. Never mind the weeks, or even hours, that CIGNA delayed approval of a transplant that was most certainly needed. Never mind the fact that the Sarkisyan family most likely would have done whatever they could to help their daughter and never mind the precarious financial situation that they were already possibly in - let alone the one that CIGNA was putting them in.

”This is horrible precedent. There is no cause of action and think of how many other families would sue with this being a precedent. CIGNA shouldn’t settle - they should fight this”

That was a response to one of the commentators saying that this will settle because CIGNA doesn’t want to risk a jury trial and a guilty verdict. Because, at the end of the day, it is all about making sure that the insurance companies don’t admit responsibility or liability for their actions. It isn’t about people, or healthcare, or even common sense.

Just dollars and cents.

But don’t blame poor CIGNA here - after all, they finally succumbed to massive public pressure to approve something that would cost them lots of money to pay for. And they did it 36 minutes before Nataline died - certainly not CIGNA’s fault there either.

Merry fucking Christmas, CIGNA. May you all rot in hell.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Saluting the Veterans of the War on Christmas

For starters, I must give a hat tip to Brandon Friedman for coming up with that saying as we were going back and forth discussing sayings that we should be using this upcoming year.

But at this time of year, especially on Christmas time - a holiday where religion is now intertwined and nearly synonymous with a front running Presidential candidacy - we should celebrate some deserving yet underappreciated people. These battle tested, wounded and weary warriors whose crusade to engage, battle and fight with those “non-believers” and satan lovers (liberals too, no doubt) who are waging this War on Christmas.

How can we not take a moment to stop and thank those who stand tall and use every weapon at their disposal in order to fight a cataclysmic fight to the death against the godless souls who want to purge the world from celebrating the birth of the one who represents all “true Americans”.

People like Fred Thompson:

COLMES: Senator, you recently got the endorsement of Congressman Steve Young. And you were very happy about that. Steve King, excuse me. You were happy to get that endorsement. He recently initiated HR847, recognizing Christianity as a great faith, expressing support for Christmas. Is this a good use of Congress's time? Do you support that kind of legislation? Is this a good thing for this guy to be doing?

THOMPSON: I don't know anything about that bill. I know Congressman King though, and I would tend to think that anything he would do would be totally appropriate.

COLMES: ...Are candidates trying to out-God each other? We keep hearing, you know — Mike Huckabee has been talked about a little while. Some people think there's a cross in his new add, Christian leader in one of the ads. Where do you stand on this issue of candidates trying to out- God each other in this race?

THOMPSON: Well, the candidates are going to have to make up their own minds about what they think is appropriate. There's no question that faith is important to us as a people, and it's important to our country. You know, the Declaration of Independence itself points out that our basic rights come from God and not from government, and that's been our tradition, and always will be.

“Our basic rights come from God and not from government, and that’s been our tradition, and always will be.” In response to a question about whether candidates are trying to “out-God” each other. Bravo, Grandpa Fred. A score of 97 on the unintentional comedy scale. Truly a brave soldier in the War on Christmas.

And to you, John Gibson, a brave Veteran with the excellent use of the battle tested “deny, deny, accuse” attack by (1) promoting himself and Mike Huckabee for predicting that this War would lead to someone like Huckabee making his ad as if he was provoked by the "political correctness pushing Christians out of the public square" and (2) condemning Huckabee for “upping the ante” over Bush in over-the-top messianic Christian crusader that was condemned for the public expression of his faith.

Yes!!! A Medal of Freedom for Mr. Gibson for denying that this is Huckabee’s fault, and that it was something he warned about - AND blaming it on the other side.

And as a highly decorated four star general in this War on Christmas who has been through three prior War’s as well, Bill O’Reilly, (this is a pretty funny article) who just this week went on the offensive with a brutal attack against Great Barrington that has been compared favorably to the “shot heard round the world”.

On this stealth surprise attack in the middle of the night, O’Reilly sent one of his top commanders and launched a devastating attack against the town council:

Watters told the council "You guys are attacking these Christmas lights here" and asked "is this some kind of ruse to de-emphasize Christmas?" Omigod. When a council member replied that "that is not an accurate statement" Watters asked him "what are your feelings regarding the Christmas lights?" He was told they were private feelings and none of his business, then was dressed down further by another member who told him they resented his accusations of attacking Christmas, or Christianity, and said they were asking very reasonable questions in trying to save the environment.
Major Watters is certainly due for a promotion after this bold and daring initiative where he literally put himself at risk and in the direct line of fire.

So with these inspiring stories of the Christmas War Vets, I now realize how proud I should be to have these brave Soldiers of God here to protect me in this long and ongoing War on Christmas - putting themselves at risk and laughing in the face of danger against the Godless souls who are slowly trying to suffocate Christmas out of this great country.

Next thing you know, they’ll be fighting against those who want to make it so the sales, songs, celebrating and decorations can’t start until after Halloween.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The long road back to respectability

This is something that has been on my mind for some time, yet I still haven’t quite figured out where I am going with it. Over the past decade, this country has fallen from grace in a big way. Granted, “grace” is overstated, since there were many stains on the integrity and hypocritical nature of what we say as opposed to what we do long before Mister Bush took office in 2001.

But even taking that all into consideration, the way that this country’s promise and opportunity was hijacked - not by “republicans” or “Democrats” or even “neoconservatives” per se - since 2001 makes one (or at least makes me) look at what has gone on and how much respectability has been lost and wasted by a combination of greed, money, arrogance and wanton disregard for the rule of law.

In 2004, I thought that things would get better once Kerry was elected. Or, at least, it wouldn’t continue to get worse. Sadly, even if Kerry did win, much would still be the same - sure, there wouldn’t be such a mess of the Justice Department, and there would be two people other than John Roberts and Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court, and we wouldn’t be dumping hundreds of billions into Iraq and a good number of other horrific things that are a direct result of the abomination that is the current Executive Branch.

But most of the problems facing Americans would still be big, regardless of who is in the White House - just a degree of how big.

That being said, it isn’t really worth playing the “what might have been” game, because Bush is in office, not Kerry. And with the way that Bush and many in Congress have been acting, the “just wait until Democrats are in the majority” line of thinking has been an even bigger disappointment when it comes to just how far we have to go in order to regain any respectability or advance any real progressive causes.

There is no credible explanation other than “they don’t represent us” that would explain the capitulation on Iraq funding or on FISA and the failure to have any meaningful consequences from the investigations that have been launched, nor the interest in stopping torture (or at least bringing this to light when it was first learned), the selling out of the middle class for oil and gas companies on the energy bill, the reckless disregard for the budget deficit on the AMT legislation or the challenges by Democratic party “elite” to progressive candidates by the DLC.

It’s even worse on the “other side” as the number of republicans who aren’t absolutely repulsive has dwindled to, at best, a single digit number. Stopping legislation that would help the middle class, that would be fair on wiretapping, would eliminate unnecessary and unaffordable tax cuts for special interests, stonewalling and lying and withholding documents and looking the other way about crime, corruption or the favored few are just a few of the many anti-American things that are done.

All just to show that they can obstruct everything because if they can’t get exactly what they want every time then nobody will get anything.

The same tools that wouldn’t be used by Democrats when they were in the minority (specifically by Reid and a few other Senators) are being used at every turn. Even Presidential candidates who are standing up for the Constitution are being railroaded by their own party “leadership”, while a number of impeachable offenses have occurred and been uncovered since last November with no consequences.

The same special interests are being rewarded and sheltered from accountability while not being prosecuted or seriously investigated for their complicity in violating federal law or international treaty. The election in November 2006 was supposed to take care of this. The election of 2006 was supposed to change the status quo and bring us in a new direction.

Over a year later, things have most certainly not changed - in fact, you can say that they have gotten worse. We have learned that many more of those Democrats that would make it all better were either liars or inept. We saw a party that turned its back on the winner of the Connecticut Democratic Primary for Senate for one of “its own” - a man who has only proven to be a power hungry egomaniacal liar and is now supporting a republican (McCain) in the New Hampshire primary as opposed to a Democrat. This is not nearly the first time that Lieberman has done this, yet he is welcomed with open arms by Senate Democrats over a progressive candidate that their own party’s voters wanted to represent their state.

We will be told that 2008 is the year that will change everything. Yet, the two leading contenders for President won’t even honor their word and promise they made to support Chris Dodd’s filibuster on retroactive immunity for telecom companies. How does that demonstrate leadership, and what message does that send to the American people?

The amount of “House” cleaning that needs to be done is massive. The balance of whose interests are being served is highly skewed. The current two parties have their differences but on the big picture and issues that are vital to the American people, there is more common ground with each other than with We the People. Not wanting to make moderate changes to the status quo or not wanting to tackle the big issues isn’t much different from willfully obstructing the passage of legislation that would make moderate changes to the status quo. Both result in nothing.

How different will 2008 be? Or 2010 and 2012, for that matter. Will there be enough progress on global warming or healthcare or our education system or energy independence or our deteriorating infrastructure? Will we be any closer to withdrawing from Iraq? Will we be bogged down elsewhere, or still debating which Middle Eastern country we need to attack rightfuckingnow? Will the US dollar continue to be as weak, will the job market be any better and will the economy be any better? Will the US Justice Department be cleansed of its partisan ideology? Will our election system still be the laughingstock of the civilized world?

So much has happened that has done so much damage in so many ways. And it will take more than elections or incremental change to bring back any semblance of respectability for this country.

I shouldn’t say “this country”, as it isn’t the country itself - there is still opportunity and a lot that is right and good about it. I should say our “system” and our leadership with respect to their priorities and reputation. But we have seen very little change of direction as compared to what was promised in 2006. And our reputation is damaged beyond levels that would never even be considered a few years ago.

I do have faith that things can change - that things can get better again and at least there will be some accountability or change of direction. More and more however, I am realizing just how far we have to go to get there.

Important enough to break the law but not important enough to fund

Follow the money.

It is what people say to do when you are looking for the underlying motives of someone, or to see who would gain from some action (or crime). It is what people say to do when you want to talk about where one’s priorities are, hence, the whole “put your money where your mouth is” saying.

And with Mister Bush, as well as the Congressional leadership (including those who are in charge of appropriations and negotiating the budget), by “following the money”, we can come to three conclusions:

  • There isn’t enough of a priority to protect Americans’ rights from invasion of privacy. We knew this for a while and on a number of issues - most recently with respect to retroactive immunity for telecom companies for their illegal acts;

  • There is no real priority to bring the occupation of Iraq to an end - as evidenced by another $70 billion in “no strings attached” funding on top of the $400 bazillion already provided with no strings attached.

  • There is no real priority by either Congress or the Executive Branch to actually provide the requisite funding for Homeland Security.

There were a few articles at the beginning of this month, three of which are noted above which touch on the budget “debate” (and I use the work loosely because there has been very little debate and a whole lot of foot stomping and breath holding by Bush and no real negotiating or debate). And while a lot of attention is focused on telecom amnesty as well as who is fighting for We the People, there hasn’t been much discussion regarding the link between the FISA fight on retroactive telecom immunity and the lack of funding for port security, police and fire departments, rescue departments and anti-terrorism programs.

Put differently, Bush and Congressional leaders it is more important to provide cover for illegal acts in the name of national security than it is to actually step up and provide funding for national security.

From a December 1 AP report:

the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has given $23 billion to states and local communities to fight terrorism since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, “but the administration is not convinced that the money has been well spent and thinks the nation’s highest-risk cities have largely satisfied their security needs.”

The White House budget documents indicate that DHS wanted to provide $3.2 billion to help states and cities protect against terrorist attacks in 2009, but the White House said it would ask Congress for less than half—$1.4 billion—according to the AP.

And the AP report said the decision by the White House to eliminate port security and transit grants, among others, would not take effect until September 30, 2008.

Now, the article does go on to say that some Democratic Senators (Barbara Boxer included) are dead set against this and would fight against this, but I’m not so convinced based on prior actions that the words will match the deeds once the negotiations and “bipartisan bridge building” by the Democrats actually commences.

And the reason that the telecom companies need to have the retroactive immunity? National security, of course:

AMY GOODMAN: The telecom companies are arguing that they can’t defend themselves in court because of national security, and that’s why they need immunity. Your response, Michelle Richardson?

MICHELLE RICHARDSON: Well, you know, they can always say they didn’t do anything. If they didn’t wiretap Americans without warrants, they could simply say that. What they want to do is say, “Well, the President told us it was OK. We had no ability to defy him.” And that’s not a legal justification. We have to realize these aren’t mom-and-pop organizations that don’t know the law. These are very sophisticated massive companies with lots of lawyers who knew what they were doing was illegal at the time they were doing it. They just really didn’t expect to be caught.

“They just really didn’t expect to be caught”. So then declaring that they were just following orders and are hiding behind “national security” to avoid being punished for their actions. And as far as the following orders part goes, it is simply amazing that we already know that Bush most likely directed the telecom companies to break the law and spy on American citizens and that too many in Congress are bending over backwards to accommodate these law breakers.

At the same time that the administration is crying “national security” in order to protect themselves from prosecution or accountability for breaking law after law after law, it has the audacity to cut billions in funding for national security programs at the same time they are excusing law breaking for reasons of national security.

With these completely conflicting matters, it is impossible for the Administration to claim that they are interested in preserving national security and therefore need to excuse illegal violations of the Constitution while at the same time cutting billions in funding for many programs that are specifically designed to strengthen homeland security.

Why Bush has been able to have it both ways is mind boggling. Why Democratic leadership doesn’t make a major issue of the cuts to homeland security funding is baffling. Why tens of billions of dollars are permitted to be dumped into a failure of an occupation with absolutely no accountability or strings attached is plain stupid. And the fact that telecom companies are asking for (and will likely get) retroactive immunity for crimes they committed due to “national security” reason is a gross miscarriage of justice.

The fact that all of these are allowed to happen makes a complete mockery of our government, our elected representatives, national security itself and the rule of law.

And we need to ask ourselves who our elected representatives are actually representing.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A moment crying for leadership.


It is a word thrown around all too frequently, and far to often without much though as to what actually constitutes leadership. Oftentimes, it means doing something or being in a position where your words or actions can motivate others, while it also means having the ability to make others want to follow you based on your actions or stances on issues. And other times, it means taking a strong stand for what you know in your heart and mind is the right thing, regardless of the odds or the obstacles.

Most of all, leadership is demonstrated by actions, and while there are many many opportunities to talk about how one would lead, there are fewer opportunities to stand up for your beliefs, both symbolically and in reality - and to back up your words.

This is one such opportunity.

As noted yesterday by ttagaris, and as demonstrated by Presidential candidate, Senator and, in the event that he doesn’t get the nomination, future Senate Majority Leader Chris Dodd is demonstrating leadership with respect to retroactive immunity for telecom companies as part of the upcoming FISA legislation.

At the time that retroactive immunity first was raised as a possible consideration, Senator Dodd was first to vow to do all in his power to ensure that no bill contains such an egregious blanket pre-empltive pardon for any behavior that was done in the past which was illegal. To think that such a preposterous accommodation would even be considered by Democrats in Congress, let alone its so-called leader and the top ranking Senator on the Intelligence Committee blows the mind.

Yet, Dodd said he would block the bill, and he did. Then he vowed to put a hold on the bill, and he did. After being ignored by Senate “leadership”, he vowed to filibuster and do anything in his power to stop a bill containing retroactive immunity. And so far, he has held true to his word, his beliefs and his values - despite the overwhelming odds and roadblocks.

When Dodd first stood up against this gross miscarriage of justice, three Presidential candidates came out and said that they would support Dodd - Senators Biden, Clinton and Obama.

Three people who want to be the leader of the United States. Three people who vowed to stand with Dodd, the American people and most importantly, the United States Constitution. Not only did Biden, Clinton and Obama vow to stand with Dodd, they vowed to “support a filibuster”.

Yesterday, Chris Dodd posted a note with action items on his website asking whether Senators and Presidential candidates Biden, Clinton and Obama will be true to their words and oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” He included links to call or email the Senators, since as much as we would like to see a latter day Mr. Smith, the fact is that Dodd will need help fighting for the Constitution.

All three Senators are, I’m sure, quite capable. They would all make very fine or satisfactory Presidents - hell, they have the potential to be more than that. But this campaign is about leadership, and three candidates have promised to support a 4th in showing leadership.

We have heard nothing from any of the three candidates/Senators in terms of whether they will be in Washington DC to stand with Dodd. None of their websites have anything about the FISA legislation, nor their pledge to stop retroactive immunity, nor their vote of support for Dodd. In fact, Clinton’s website has her all over Iowa on Monday, (neither Obama nor Biden’s have their calendars past tomorrow).

This country needs a leader. It is very easy to go “on the record” to say that you will take a strong stand or be a leader. Here is a chance for each of the three Senators who are running for President and vowed to support a filibuster by Dodd to show that leadership in the position that they were elected to carry out.

This is a time for leadership. Not a time to betray the Constitution or Americans by going back on your promises. After all, promises are promises, and leadership is demonstrated by actions, not promises.

Why is Reid not skeptical of Bush's demand for telecom immunity?

I’ll start right at the outset of this by pointing out that Chris Dodd lost to Tom Daschle by one vote to become the Senate Minority Leader, and would have run again but didn't have the votes to beat Reid. Both drational and booman have excellent posts up about Reid screwing over Dodd and the rest of the country on the FISA bill with respect to telecom immunity. With this, instead of asking what could have been if Dodd had one more vote, let’s use this to push for what will be (if Dodd doesn’t win the Presidency, of course).

While their diaries are excellent, I want to take a different angle here, and I have action items directly from Dodd himself at the bottom of this post. What I want to know is, if Bush is pushing so hard for retroactive immunity for the telecom companies in their illegal acts, then why is Reid (and Sen. Jay Rockefeller) so hell bent on going against his own party, including many of the Presidential candidates in order to accommodate this?

Some say that it is because they received money from the telecom companies. While that may be a contributing factor, there are many other ways to not have the telecom companies be completely and totally liable for their illegal actions. There are also a number of ways to do this without also accommodating Mister Bush’s demands with no compromise from him.

Back in August, the Washington Post had an article titled, NSA Spying Part of Broader Effort, which confirmed a number of things that were pretty damning to Bush (emphasis mine):

The Bush administration's chief intelligence official said yesterday that President Bush authorized a series of secret surveillance activities under a single executive order in late 2001. The disclosure makes clear that a controversial National Security Agency program was part of a much broader operation than the president previously described.

The disclosure by Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, appears to be the first time that the administration has publicly acknowledged that Bush's order included undisclosed activities beyond the warrantless surveillance of e-mails and phone calls that Bush confirmed in December 2005.


News reports over the past 20 months have detailed a range of activities linked to the program, including the use of data mining to identify surveillance targets and the participation of telecommunication companies in turning over millions of phone records. The administration has not publicly confirmed such reports.

We know from this, as well as other articles that were released and written about since then that the NSA was collecting data and phone records using the help of the telecom companies as well as Bush’s involvement in this and that this was pretty much unprecedented.

On his website, Senator Feingold has a copy of the letter sent to Reid about adopting a version of the FISA bill that does not include retroactive immunity. And a few months back, a number of articles indicated that the White House “cut a deal with the Senate Intelligence Committee for it to review documents not available to anyone else in exchange for providing retroactive immunity:

Senate Judiciary Committee members yesterday angrily accused the White House of allowing the Senate Intelligence Committee to review documents on its warrantless surveillance program in return for agreeing that telecommunications companies should get immunity from lawsuits.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), the ranking Republican, said any such agreement would be "unacceptable," signaling that legislation granting immunity to certain telecom carriers could run into trouble. Leahy and Specter demanded that the documents, which were provided only to the Intelligence Committee, be turned over to the Judiciary Committee as well.

The White House didn’t even really deny this allegation at the time:
Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, said yesterday that what the White House did was "not exactly" a quid pro quo but that the intelligence panel "expected to legislate on the liability" and so "we've been accommodative on sharing information."

A week or so back, Troutfishing wrote a diary about secret directives and secret memos that Bush himself signed authorizing torture. Similarly, there are documents that are at least being withheld from the Senate Judiciary Committee. The same committee whose FISA legislation will be railroaded by Reid for the Senate Intelligence Committee bill that gives immunity to the telecom companies.

But if the Senate Intelligence Committee can review these documents and come to the conclusion that retroactive immunity is necessary, then why can’t the Senate Judiciary Committee see those documents as well?

And more importantly, what is in those secret documents that (1) Bush doesn’t want anyone to see unless they promise not to hold anyone responsible for illegal data mining and wiretapping, (2) does it in fact, lead right back to a directive by Bush himself for the telecom companies to break the law and (3) won’t this shelter Bush from being held directly accountable for not only breaking the law, but authorizing (or forcing) others to break it as well?

We need to know what Bush is hiding, what he ordered and told the telecom companies to do and if he directed them to break the law. We also need to know why Harry Reid is allowing this to happen against the will of his party and the American people, and why he is covering for Bush’s potential criminal acts.

*****Action Items From Dodd*****

Here is the link to Chris Dodd’s website link for action items, and here is the text from his site:

Today, that FISA fight we've all been waiting for begins.

In a few hours, Majority Leader Harry Reid will ask for something called a "motion to proceed" on FISA, effectively disregarding Chris Dodd's "hold" on the bill.

Remember when this all started playing out? A lot of people rushed to send out strongly worded press releases about how committed they were to "supporting a filibuster."

Call or email the Senators that pledged to support a filibuster and ask them to be there when it happens to pick up the ball after Chris Dodd can go no longer.

Leadership is demonstrated through action.


Let's see what we can do. And while we are at it, ask what secret Executive Orders and other documents Mister Bush is hiding from what he says is a "legal" program.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

With all due respect, Rep. Harman (update)

Looking at your profile here, it is clear that you are familiar with posting diaries at Daily Kos. So you know how we like to engage with each other, especially when one posts a diary here. However, with today’s diary scolding the community as well as the one a few weeks ago actually calling out a respected community member, coupled with the lack of any comments or replies to any of us here for nearly 18 months, I am at a loss as to figuring out what you want from this community.

As you know, we are a passionate bunch. But we are generally very respectful of our elected representatives, even when we disagree (even vehemently at times) with them. And we do expect some level of respect back from those who post here. We are also a very smart community, and know when we are being told the truth, when we are being lied to and when we aren’t being told the entire story.

We are fiercely protective of the United States Constitution. And we do not like one bit that it has been trampled or treated the way that it has over the past 7 years. Unfortunately for us, for Congress and for the rest of the world, the former Democratic minority and current Democratic majority are at least complicit in this by:

  • Not using whatever tools were available while in the minority to block horrific legislation from being rammed through;

  • Allowing the republican minority to do just that with legislation that will help millions of Americans;

  • Allowing torture to be committed by the CIA and authorized by the highest levels of this government and not blowing the whistle when any of this first came to light;

  • Allowing horrific candidates to be confirmed for positions that they do not deserve (and I know this is the Senate not the House, but it is the frustration that we have with the Democrats);

  • Allowing subpoenas to be ignored without any ramifications;

  • Allowing the stonewalling by the administration regarding illegal acts on wiretaps, data mining, misuse of intelligence, destruction of evidence – whether it be CIA tapes of torture or of emails that should be preserved; and

  • Most importantly, folding over and over and over again on Iraq (and Iran) while hiding behind “we don’t have the votes” as an excuse to not stand up for the Constitution.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is a good start to see why the frustration level here (and across America) is where it is. Put bluntly, we feel that Democrats see a golden opportunity for huge gains next year if they “don’t rock the boat”. However, this is something that we feel is unacceptable – as the Constitution and human life here in the US as well as overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq is way too important to not take a stand for what is right.

The Iran NIE was very telling – you are right about that. But the rhetoric is still being used to saber rattle and try to discredit the findings. At the same time, the right is pushing the meme that “Iraq is just not a big deal for voters anymore” despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary and there is no pushback from Democrats in Congress. Not to be outdone, we find out that the CIA willfully destroyed tapes indicating torture and you may have had knowledge that torture was being used but didn’t shine a spotlight on this. We appreciate the “sternly worded letters” but that won’t do with this administration.

Not by a long shot.

You chide us in your diary today about needing to build bipartisan bridges on Iran and Iraq. But let me ask you this – whether it is judicial appointments and the “nuclear option”, or it is FISA patches or it is Iraq funding or it is AMT legislation or other legislation that will benefit millions of Americans - just what compromising is Mister Bush or your republican counterparts doing?

We are frustrated with there being no compromise of any material consequence by ANY republicans while Democrats continue to give more and more, as We the People get less and less.

If the bar is now being moved from “just wait until the Democrats are in the majority” to “we don’t have 60 votes in the Senate” to “we don’t have veto proof majorities” (as you said in your diary today), then do you really expect us to swallow all of that and not question why this is the case now where it was never the case before?

On Iraq and Iran it is simple – Kyl-Lieberman should never have come to a vote. Iraq funding bills need to be passed in order to continue the occupation. You will never get enough republican support to pass a bill that Americans will be happy with. And even if you did, Bush would veto it. But if no spending bill is passed, then there is no funding and no more occupation of Iraq.


Bush and the republicans count on Democrats folding if they hold their breath and stomp their feet long enough. And we expect more from our elected leaders. So please, and I have kept this very respectful, if you are to come here and scold us, don’t expect us to take it lightly. And if you don’t even have the courtesy to stick around and answer the tough questions that we have, then why bother coming here at all?

Update [2007-12-12 16:24:53 by clammyc]:: Even though I doubt she will do this, I would welcome Rep. Harman onto my BlogTalkRadio show to talk through these matters and to see what she wants or expects from the netroots. Maybe this can be a starting point to develop some sorely needed dialogue between the netroots and our elected representatives. If any of her staffers read this, my email address is in my profile.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Will any of our "leaders" truly stand up against torture?

I think that by now, this is a very valid concern and question. Sure, we have had many people in Congress, the administration or wherever else say that torture is bad – abhorrent even (still quite an understatement). And we have heard how this is something that must be stopped, or that “if we only knew then”, or that it will not be tolerated, or frankly, whatever other platitudes or excuses are to be (or have been) used.

But through all of this – even stemming back from when the first pictures of Abu Ghraib were discovered and brought to light – nothing has been done about it. By anyone. And despite the following stunning facts, we are no closer to being a country that “doesn’t torture” then we were back when mister Bush, Alberto Gonzales, Donald Rumsfeld, John Yoo and whatever other people within the United States Government sanctioned, called for, turned the other cheek to or participated in acts that can only be described as torture:

The US Department of Justice, the Secretary of Defense, the White House Counsel (who became the Attorney General), the “highest levels of the White House”, the CIA and both Democrats and republicans in Congress (if not a number of others that I am forgetting) all have contributed to the torture of individuals, either implicitly or actively – by condoning it, dismissing it, pretending it didn’t happen, or with the mildest forms of protest – whether through a “letter” which was ultimately disregarded or by NOT blowing the whistle on these heinous acts.

The CIA willfully destroys evidence of torture despite being warned not to and being asked to preserve any such information. The excuse is that it wanted to protect the identity of those who committed the torture. Put another way and in five simple words: (1) evidence tampering, and (2) obstructing justice (not to mention the fact that torture is illegal to begin with). The incoming Attorney General won’t come out and say that clear acts of torture are torture, presumably for fear of putting more people on the hook for illegal acts.

And in a stunning turn of events, this was ok enough for two Democratic Senators, Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein – two Democrats who have given their blessing to torture by allowing an Attorney General nominee out of committee that can’t even take a strong stand against these horrific acts. High ranking Reps and Senators on both sides of the aisle “may or may not have known” back in 2003 that these acts were committed, yet they did nothing to stop it, nor to shed light on the draconian and repulsive acts committed in the name of this country (thank you too, Jane Harmon and Jay Rockefeller). Of course, the whole “I don’t recall” excuse is being given by Harmon, but I find it hard to believe that someone wouldn’t recall if they were privy to information about the United States engaging in torture.

And here we are. A country that most certainly has tortured individuals – even some that were by no means “high value targets” (as if that would make it ok to actually torture them even if they were high value targets). A country whose current Attorney General won’t discuss what actually amounts to torture, the prior Attorney General was involved in justifying torture and the Attorney General before that recently said that he wouldn’t mind being waterboarded. A country when the “opposition party” at the time, now currently in a position to really get to the bottom of what happened, why it happened, how to ensure it will never happen again and most importantly to the outside world (in addition to those of us here in America who are utterly ashamed that we are associated with these acts) that the people responsible for promoting, conducting, approving, allowing or sanctioning torture are held accountable for their actions.

All of them, not just the “low level bad apples”.

Our leadership – in the House, the Senate and on both sides of the aisle – as well as our Presidential hopefuls – need to step up and demand (or conduct) the proper investigations and accountability for those who have destroyed evidence or obstructed justice. As we all saw with Alito, letting someone through despite all better judgment or evidence to the contrary can have disastrous results. And with Mukasaey, we have someone that has said he would do things that would “not be comfortable” for the White House.

Here is his chance.

As for our Congressional leaders, they have been inexplicably absent from taking the lead on this issue. High level Senators have given a tacit seal of approval to torture. It is all but absent from the Presidential campaign. There is no outrage, only excuses and ass-covering. It is a travesty of justice and a mockery of our Constitution as well as the principles that our country was founded on.

Why is it so difficult for someone to take a strong stand against torture? If nobody in Washington is willing to be bold on that issue, then what can we expect from them? Does anyone in a leadership position really care about the huge amount of damage that these acts, revelations and lack of accountability have on our nation?

Or will we “officially” be a country that sanctions torture? Because right now, we are dangerously close to that point.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The uninvited and unwanted guest

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

We’ve all dealt with them before.

It could be an old friend who you still have fond memories of but has really changed and let you down over time – yet you just don’t have the heart to break things off or say “enough”. It could be an acquaintance or even a family member who you just have to deal with from time to time and you figure that if you make the best of it, it won’t be all that bad and eventually it will all be over. It could be someone who isn’t a bad person who has just let you down over time but you still have a soft spot for. Or, it could be someone who tags along with a friend and you’re now stuck with them.

Right at the outset, you know that it could possibly go badly, so you are tentative and walking on eggshells – just waiting for the other shoe to drop. It could be them asking for money yet again, even though they owe you from the last time and the time before. And although you promised yourself (and maybe others) that you wouldn’t give in and do it again, you are just too good natured.

Or you don’t want to “make waves”.

Maybe it isn’t a money thing. Maybe it is just the fact that you were hoping for a nice quiet evening and now it is hours (or days) later and you are still “entertaining” those who you never really wanted there in the first place. Or, you may remember the last time that you caught them snooping through your private papers and didn’t think it was a big deal because “you probably didn’t have anything to hide anyway”.

It could have been something completely different from all of that. Maybe you recall the time that they destroyed your collection of vintage GI Joes but didn’t admit that they were actually destroyed. Either way, you sit and wonder if your guest will happen to find the collection of old baseball cards and start defacing them “just like we used to do in college”.

At some point, you start to realize that your view of your (former) friend or current guest is even worse than what you originally thought. And then you may wonder if it is also you – why are you putting yourself in that position? Can you do anything to get your guest to leave? Can you cut off ties and possibly repair your relationships with others who refuse to associate with you when your “guest” comes around? Or has your guest poisoned your relationships and tainted their views of anyone who still associates themselves with your guest?

Inevitably, it is not the guest who changes or suddenly sees the abhorrent, crude and insensitive behavior that turns so many people off. Certainly, if the guest is used to being the rude obnoxious loud mouth bully. It has to be the host – the one who constantly is accommodating that must realize that either his/her behavior and just as importantly, hopes and expectations have to change.

For everyone’s sake – otherwise it could get very lonely and frustrating.

Friday, December 07, 2007

But oh, how they loved the "sexed up" 2002 Iraq NIE

Much has already been written about the recent NIE and how the United States Intelligence Community is a bunch of lying, terrorist loving conspiracists that don’t have a clue about “real intelligence”.

Yet, these people have such short memories, as they were singing the praises of the NIE back when it was convenient for them to do so.

Let’s start with one similarity, just to dismiss the “Cheney didn’t pressure anyone onthe NIEs and even if he did, they didn’t change. anything” comments that may come.

Gareth Porter reported last month that Cheney tried to stifle dissent and have the judgments that he didn’t agree with stricken from the Iran NIE:

A National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran has been held up for more than a year in an effort to force the intelligence community to remove dissenting judgments on the Iranian nuclear program, and thus make the document more supportive of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s militarily aggressive policy toward Iran, according to accounts of the process provided by participants to two former Central Intelligence Agency officers.

But this pressure on intelligence analysts, obviously instigated by Cheney himself, has not produced a draft estimate without those dissenting views, these sources say. The White House has now apparently decided to release the unsatisfactory draft NIE, but without making its key findings public.

Hmmmm....and the same Gareth Porter reminds us that the Washington Post uncovered pretty much the same thing back in 2003 when it came to Iraq, although that time, it worked for Cheney:
Cheney may have had a bigger impact in shaping the intelligence estimate on Iran to fit the policy he is pursuing than was the case on Iraq in 2002.

The Washington Post reported in June 2003 that Cheney and his chief of staff Scooter Libby had visited CIA analysts several times in 2002 to get them to reexamine their skeptical analysis on the WMD issue. But equally important, the Post quoted a "senior agency official" as saying that speeches by Cheney in August 2002 charging Saddam with having a nuclear weapons program "sent signals, intended or otherwise, that a certain output was desired from here."

The effect was achieved despite the fact that the October 2002 NIE on Iraqi WMD was done very quickly, because it had been forced on the White House in September by the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Bob Graham. The White House had only just begun to roll out its propaganda campaign on the fictive Iraqi nuclear weapons program at that point.

I should mention that I am a fan of Porter’s work, and if you check it out, I bet you will be as well.

That being said, I linked above to Norman Podhoretz (one of Rudy’s top advisers I might add) and his thoughts that the NIE and intelligence community is conspiring to make Bush and Cheney look bad. I also linked to John Bolton’s stunning comments about how this NIE was, ironically enough, ”internally contradictory and insufficiently supported”

I’ll let the words internally contradictory and insufficiently supported sit out there for a few moments, just so everyone can bask in the irony and unintentional comedy meter break all records. Shall we recall how credible “Curveball”, the forged yellowcake documents, Chalbi, the mobile bioweapons labs and “slam dunk” evidence about aluminum tubes were?

But back in late 2002, Bolton’s own Department was knee deep in pushing the “Niger uranium” lies
even though this was clearly not the case as pointed out by the State Department months earlier in a prior report not incorporated into the final NIE. Of course, this made it into the SOTU address a month or so later, adding to the reliance on made up evidence that was not based in fact.

And the ethically challenged Podhoretz was not shy about praising the 2002 NIE when he defended Bush a few years ago in another ironically titled post “Who is lying about Iraq?”:

George Tenet, his own CIA director, assured him that the case was “a slam dunk.” This phrase would later become notorious, but in using it, Tenet had the backing of all fifteen agencies involved in gathering intelligence for the United States. In the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of 2002, where their collective views were summarized, one of the conclusions offered with “high confidence” was that

Iraq is continuing, and in some areas expanding its chemical, biological, nuclear, and missile programs contrary to UN resolutions.

Michael Ledeen, another very fine upstanding credible and rational individual swore up and down that the Iraq uranium claim was accurate suddenly had an about face when the facts don’t fit his outlook of the world.

We can’t forget David Wurmser, a man who is tied to John Bolton, Dick Cheney, the PNAC, Paul Wolfowitz , Chalabi and the American Enterprise Institute. Oh yeah, he has also been investigated for espionage related to passing information along to Israel, wrote an article about overthrowing Saddam in 1997, and most importantly, was one of the most important people when it came to the “disinformation campaign” about Iraq after 9/11:

Just after September 11, 2001, Feith and Rhode recruited David Wurmser, the director of Middle East studies for AEI, to serve as a Pentagon consultant.

Wurmser would be the founding participant of the unnamed, secret intelligence unit at the Pentagon, set up in Feith's office, which would be the nucleus of the Defense Department's Iraq disinformation campaign that was established within weeks of the attacks in New York and Washington. While the CIA and other intelligence agencies concentrated on Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda as the culprit in the 9/11 attacks, Wolfowitz and Feith obsessively focused on Iraq. It was a theory that was discredited, even ridiculed, among intelligence professionals. Daniel Benjamin, co-author of The Age of Sacred Terror, was director of counterterrorism at the National Security Council in the late 1990s. "In 1998, we went through every piece of intelligence we could find to see if there was a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq," he says. "We came to the conclusion that our intelligence agencies had it right: There was no noteworthy relationship between Al Qaeda and Iraq. I know that for a fact." Indeed, that was the consensus among virtually all anti-terrorism specialists.

In short, Wurmser, backed by Feith and Rhode, set out to prove what didn't exist.

And what did the man who had so much to do with getting the public to believe the lies about Iraq have to say about this NIE?
"One has to look at the agendas of the primary movers of this report, to judge how much it can really be banked on," said David Wurmser, a former Middle East adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, who has worked with the report authors.

Actually, that may break the John Bolton record for the irony/unintentional comedy meter.

In all this hemming and hawing about how the 2007 NIE on Iran is “poorly supported”, “controversial”, “politically motivated”, “questionable” or whatever other negative adjective that the right wing warmongers can conjure up, one thing is clear:

They were all for the NIE findings before they were against them.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Time to put impeachment back on the table

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

Joe Biden said it recently about bombing Iran and impeachment. Hell, some loudmouth said it back in February as well. But we can’t afford to wait for the smoking gun about whether we will bomb Iran to be the mushroom cloud over Iran, right?

Noted terrorist loving communist far left radicals such as Joe Scarborough and Pat Buchanan are calling for hearings into who knew what and when. And frankly, we know that there was highly questionable behavior with respect to the “when”.

We know that there were thinly veiled threats about avoiding World War III and Iran having the knowledge to make nukes by Mister Bush at a time when he most likely knew (or should have known, and someone was deliberately keeping that information from him). We know that the White House still isn’t coming clean, as they demanded that Iran do. We just found out that Israel may have known about this for more than a month before Bush claimed he knew about it.

And now that this NIE contains information that isn’t all too pleasing to Cheney, Bush, John Bolton or the other neocon warmongers, let’s remember what Cheney said back in 2003 about the 2002 NIE that he had changed:

Last October, the Director of Central Intelligence issued a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's Continuing Programs of Weapons of Mass Destruction. That document contained the consensus judgments of the intelligence community, based upon the best information available about the Iraqi threat. The NIE declared -- quote: "We judge that Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction program, in defiance of UN Resolutions and restrictions. Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons, as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions. If left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade." End quote.

Those charged with the security of this nation could not read such an assessment and pretend that it did not exist. Ignoring such information, or trying to wish it away, would be irresponsible in the extreme. And our President did not ignore that information - he faced it. He sought to eliminate the threat by peaceful, diplomatic means and, when all else failed, he acted forcefully to remove the danger.

And certainly, the White House defended its’ reliance on the 2002 NIE on numerous occasions (of course there is plenty written about Cheney pressuring the CIA and intelligence community in 2002 for an NIE that was ultimately changed).

So here we are again. There is something very wrong going on here. There was a deliberate use of the words “World War III”, “Iran” and “nuclear weapons” in the same sentence. There is more documented evidence coming out, and more people are stepping forward contradicting Bush, Cheney or some of their war drum banging cohorts. There is an intent to deceive the public regarding whether Iran is a threat, how big of a threat it is, who they are a threat to and why they are such a big threat.

There is no coalition-of-the-anything now except for a coalition of countries who are laughing at us for the predicament that we have let our “leaders” get us into and who scoff at anything that our “leaders” say due to a complete lack of credibility. There will be no more sanctions. There will be no more trust in Bush, Cheney or anyone else from Russia, China, Germany or the other major UN countries.

Congress was pretty complicit, at least by turning the other cheek in 2003 – 2006 as first their own party leaders in the administration and then this past year with the opposition party leaders in the executive branch regarding Iraq, illegal wiretapping, deleted emails, ignoring subpoenas or whatever other crimes this administration may have committed in the past.

And somehow, Congress is yet again given a chance to redeem itself for shirking its responsibility so many times over the past six years with these new developments. Crimes may very well have been committed. Illegal pressure may yet again have been put on the intelligence community by members of the executive branch. There certainly was a campaign to obfuscate and distort the truth – over and above the general “guilt by association” language used so often in the run up to Iraq about Saddam, al Qaeda and 9/11.

On top of all that, it is looking increasingly clear that people at the highest levels of this government (once again) knew one thing and deliberately said another. This country deserves to know if impeachable offenses were committed by Bush, Cheney or anyone else.

Scarborough and Buchanan are right. Investigations are warranted. I know that Rep. Conyers is up for the challenge. I know that he, and a good number of other very fine patriots in the House, knows what is at stake. It’s time to see what happened, who knew what, when they knew it, and whether they deliberately hid it from others that should have known or deliberately tried to conceal it from and deceive the public.

And that means that impeachment can be off the table no longer.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Trying to lie us into war. Again.

Front paged at Booman Tribune

Let’s stop parsing and ignoring the very basic heart of the NIE findings, Bush’s and Hadley’s comments over the past couple of days, as well as a number other facts that just so happen to be eerily similar to that other country that starts with the letters “I”, “r” and “a”. It’s the same exact playbook as last time around – make no mistake about it. Except, this time there is one major difference:

This time, they got caught lying.

You want a frame? There it is. Unsupported and unsubstantiated claims are once again being made with the knowledge they are false in order to scare the country into another war. And they’ve been caught doing it this time.

Plain and simple. It’s not like they haven’t lied before. It’s not like most people don’t think they will lie again. Even down to the splitting hairs about Bush’s choice of words (as my good friend occams hatchet pointed out yesterday), including something much worse than the “16 words” from the 2003 SOTU Address when Bush said this back in October(emphasis mine):

But this -- we got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel. So I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. I take the threat of Iran with a nuclear weapon very seriously. And we'll continue to work with all nations about the seriousness of this threat. Plus we'll continue working the financial measures that we're in the process of doing. In other words, I think -- the whole strategy is, is that at some point in time, leaders or responsible folks inside of Iran may get tired of isolation and say, this isn't worth it. And to me, it's worth the effort to keep the pressure on this government.

Now, as pointed out by emptywheel and the fact that the White House is still stonewalling the very simple question of “what did Bush know and when did he know it?”, it is getting closer to the point where we can see that certain people - many of the same certain people that did this very thing about Iraq were either lying or have no memory and should be removed from office from being unsuited to serve.

As much as it is tempting to choose the latter, I am going to go with the former.

Problems here are also precisely the same as they were with Iraq. False talk of “the hope for diplomacy” and the shoving of the Overton Window with the completely false and/or irrelevant “facts” of ties to killing Americans (like Saddam to 9/11) and being terrorist organizations (as Saddam met with Atta) or “slam dunk” evidence of weapons of mass destruction related program activities or the aforementioned “knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon are being trotted out relentlessly.

The NIE slams the door on another round of sanctions, which of course had proven to be so effective with Iraq anyway. And when there is talk of Bush telling Iran to “come clean” just as he did to Saddam, then you don’t even get a C- for originality. So, there is still no letting up, even as people at the American Enterprise Institute know that the NIE report means that Russia, China and whoever else is not going to agree with Bush to go any further in pressing Iran.:

Other countries may not see it that way, though, and diplomats said the report may cripple U.S. attempts to win a third round of U.N. sanctions against Iran. Just two days earlier, Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns met in Paris with British, French, Russian, Chinese and German counterparts to seek support for a new Security Council resolution.

"You'd think that the effort to get a third resolution is dead," said Bruce Riedel, a former senior official at the CIA, Pentagon and NSC now at the Brookings Institution. "This has got to be a very serious argument to be used by opponents of a third resolution. It will say America's own intelligence community says Iran has halted its nuclear weapons program four years ago."

Michael Rubin, an American Enterprise Institute scholar and a leading Iran hawk, agreed. "Certainly it makes diplomacy a lot more difficult," he said. "It almost gives Berlin, Beijing and Moscow an excuse not to come together for a third round of sanctions."

So other countries and even neocon wannabes know the gig is up. The same vague threats of Armageddon with no facts to support the threats or warnings. The dismissal of the entire United States intelligence community and its unanimous findings in favor of “good solid evidence and intelligence I’ve seen which the intelligence community isn’t privy to”. Which begs the question as to why the intelligence community isn’t privy to this kind of information when dangerous warmongering lunatics is.

But these words need to start being said, and not with any equivocating. They are lying, just as they were lying about Iraq. They must be stopped before it is too far gone. Hearings must commence. Impeachment must be back on the table.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The NIE is precisely why Iran must be bombed now

Front paged at Booman Tribune

See, y’all got it all backwards. None other than Norman Podhoretz just knows that this is a vast left wing and intelligence community conspiracy. Mister Bush says that this is proof that we need to step up pressure on Iran - precisely because they stopped their weapons program.

And that goes exactly with the thinking of the chest thumping “send others off to kill and die” crowd. Are you “formidable” and do you have nuclear weapons? Then sorry, we don’t want to mess with you. But if you appear to be formidable and “evil”, but aren’t really a dire (or even imagined) threat to the US, your neighbors or anyone else, then it is of utmost importance to make sure that the weapons that aren’t being developed, well, aren’t being developed.

Which makes the NIE confirm the reason why Iran must be bombed. Just look at recent past history.

Pakistan – has nukes, quite possibly sold nuclear secrets to Iran, Iraq, Syria, North Korea and who knows what other countries. Harbors terrorists that are launching attacks against our troops, and who were responsible for 9/11. Clearly, our friend.

North Korea - charter member of the “Axis of Evil”, thumbed its nose at the US while developing nukes and telling Bush to piss off. Too crazy to bomb, especially since one of those nukes could possibly hit the west coast of the US.

Israel - heh....(and I am Jewish)

Which brings us back to Iraq and Iran. Of course it doesn’t really matter what the facts are or who knew what and when. It doesn’t matter that this same bunch of criminals leading the drumming for war with Iran and Iraq ruined the ability to actually track what was going on with their nuclear weapons program. What matters is certainty.

Now, certainty to some may be 16 of the country’s intelligence agencies agreeing on the fact that there is no need to bomb Iran – especially after its discontinuance of any weapons program, and even as recently as this summer there has still been no sign of nuclear weapons.

But, see – that is looking at it completely backwards. Logic doesn’t apply to madmen such as Bush, Cheney, the neoconservatives at the American Enterprise Institute, er, Ahmadinejad. Witness the always sane John Bolton:

"While I was in the administration, I saw intelligence march up the hill and down the hill in short periods of time with no reason for them to change their mind," said John R. Bolton, Bush's former ambassador to the United Nations. "I've never based my view on this week's intelligence."

Forget those commie terrorist loving intelligence agencies. It is that good solid intelligence from people like Doug Feith, Richard Perle, the above luminary Podhoretz and Paul Wolfowitz that was spot on with respect to Iraq, so it must be trusted over the entire intelligence community Or we can take the sage advice of Stephen Hadley, who conveniently ignored calls and memos indicating that the “16 words” should be taken out of Bush’s SOTU Address:
Hadley added, pointing to Iran's continued enrichment of uranium, which could eventually be used to assist a weapons program. "I'm sure some people will use this as an excuse or a pretext for, you know, flagging on the effort," he said. "Our argument is actually it should be just the reverse, because we need to keep the halting of the nuclear weapons program in place."

So, don’t believe your lying eyes. The NIE doesn’t prove anything other than that Iran is more dangerous than ever, and must be bombed. After all, it may develop the weapons that it stopped trying to develop years ago. And we can’t take any chances that this clearly non-imminent threat may eventually at some point become just a plain “non-imminent threat”.

That much is clear.