Friday, September 28, 2007

Never-ending war

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

Should we start getting used to those words? Is there a way to fight the wave that seems to have overcome our foreign policy, starting a number of decades ago, but looking more and more like the offerings of nearly all republicans, too many Democrats and an unbelievable amount of our own Presidential candidates.



With such an overwhelming percentage of the American population being against any more of Iraq than is necessary to get our troops out, with no feasible or credible reason do be chest thumping at Iran and a resolution that overwhelmingly passed the Senate yesterday that all but dared Bush and Cheney to take military action against Iran, what else can one think?


I know that I don’t want to see this happen. And I know that many, MANY others in this country don’t want to see this either. However, our “leading candidates in a very strong field” (1) won’t commit to fully leaving Iraq, (2) have mentioned another 4 or 5 years of this waste of money and lives and (3) have no problem playing into a right wing and republican frame about national security, the situation in Iraq and the absolute insanity that would be an attack on Iran. So what does that give us?



Well, it gives us options like Dodd, who is the best candidate nobody has ever heard of. And that is the problem.



There is absolutely no end in sight for this occupation of Iraq. There isn’t even pretending anymore. Hell, even Friedman said that there shouldn’t be anymore Friedman Units. When did 50,000 troops for “the foreseeable future” become the bar? Oh, and what about Afghanistan and Pakistan – the two countries (other than Saudi Arabia) that we should be concerned with? Or a man named Osama bin-somethingorother?



We elected a whole bunch of Democrats who promised to get us to a point where there is less war, not more. And “doing all you can” is not nearly good enough, or honest. We need leaders that will be strong and bold and do the right thing – taking actions and not the status quo. We need fighters. What happened to the “new Congress in town”?



There is very little room for excuses when it comes to risking Americans’ lives. There is no excuse when that responsibility is abrogated for no reason that can be explained logically and factually without being purely political. This country is already bogged down in two occupations, has an unimaginable amount of debt, the housing market is crashing and the military-industrial complex keeps chugging along.



All that doesn’t even consider the amount of major problems that are facing the majority of the people in this country. Spending nearly all of our money, lives and effort on meaningless wars that are failing miserably is insane. Yet, all we are given is a date of 2013 and tens of thousands of troops in Iraq for who knows how long. And what now looks like 4 days wasted for the condemnation of a few words and ads.



Iraq is bad enough. Actually, words can no longer describe what Iraq actually “is”. And now, suddenly, the Senate has put Iran “on the table”? By a large margin, I might add. How is this anything BUT tacit approval for more aggressive action in further provoking an all out holy war in the Middle East.



This Lieberman/Kyl Amendment was a very dangerous one. And now, whatever unfolds in the Middle East will be hung around the necks of anyone who voted for this amendment. Or fell into the right wing frame on foreign policy and national security. Or failed to take bold action and a leadership role in doing everything possible to diffuse and prevent something with implications far exceeding any measurable level of arrogance and stupidity.



We are heading for never-ending war. An economy based on war. Outsourced war, so few profit greatly from it. Do we want to continue this policy? And how can we even stop this from continuing to unfold before us? Lives ending too soon and needlessly.



Is there anyone bold enough to stop it, and enough of a leader to step up at this crucial time in history?



We can’t afford for there not to have one.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Ending the war vs. "pretending" to end the war

Front paged at ePluribus Media and Booman Tribune

Despite some very heroic efforts in the Senate by Feingold, Dodd and to a degree Reid (and a few others) and the heroic efforts in the House by members of the “Out of Iraq caucus”, I think we are getting closer and closer to a point where it is looking like many Democrats are “acting like they want to end the war” as opposed to actually, truly, REALLY doing whatever they can to bring an end to this war.



Smart politics? Who really knows at this point. Smart policy? Hell no – not when we have found out that the US has been arming insurgents, the Bush administration is desperately trying to find a way to bomb Iran, al Qaeda and the Taliban are running free in Pakistan and the only signs of any success in Iraq are either due to sectarian cleansing or areas where local tribes have taken the lead without much assistance from our troops. Oh yeah, more deaths and more potent attacks are happening every day, likely to lead to well over 1,000 more dead US troops before January 2009.


Last week saw two “real” votes with respect to Iraq. The Reid-Feingold resolution calling for the funding of a withdrawal garnered only 29 votes, and Webb’s troop rest amendment, which did get every Democratic vote but still failed to get cloture.



Senator Clinton made the rounds yesterday, and wouldn’t “get into hypotheticals” when it came to a full withdrawal by 2012. Now, on one hand, she says that she won’t vote for any more funding without a plan to “start bringing troops home”. She also says that doesn’t know what she would inherit, but has anyone else noticed the bar getting moved more and more by the Democratic Presidential frontrunner? I can understand not wanting to get pinned down into a position, but jeez - most of this country wanted the withdrawal to start this year, and most of the country doesn’t want us there anymore – let alone the Iraqis themselves. If she won’t commit to a full withdrawal within 5 years, then how is that a different foreign policy from the current one? To say that she wants to see the “start of a withdrawal” is very different from saying that there needs to be a timeline for a withdrawal or funding thought a date certain.



A BIG difference.



Other Senate Democrats are resigned to “trying to chip away support” from other republicans, however there is no mention of what exactly they will tie to the $200 Billion that is currently being requested by Bush. No hard timeline? No month to month funding? No additional benchmarks? What exactly will they do here? If you take some of the quotes, it doesn’t look too promising:

They are no longer entertaining the kind of compromise measures that some Democrats had proposed this month as an attempt to woo Republican defectors, and they said they would instead seek opportunities to hold votes that would more starkly contrast Republican support for the president with Democrats’ demands for withdrawal.



“The Republican leadership and the White House is getting them all to march in line,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, who ranks third in the party leadership. “But it is marching further and further away from where America is. We just keep at it. It’s all we can do.”



Actually, Chuck, it is not ALL you can do. The funding for Iraq is not included in regular budgets. You can at least require that funds be part of the regular budget to show just how far out of whack the actual budget numbers are from the rosy projections. OR, you can NOT pass a funding bill. Or you can pass a funding bill that will only fund for a few months. There are many, many things that can be done other than to hold symbolic votes. What you ARE doing is pretending that you are doing all you can in order to try and convince more of America to vote for Democrats next year. And that isn’t nearly enough.



Symbolism doesn’t mean much to families of fallen soldiers or families of those who have crippling injuries from their service (and lack of proper armor, equipment and rest).



Over in the House of Representatives, there is a similar view that things just aren’t going to change much, despite the overwhelming view of Americans and over 70 members of the Out of Iraq Caucus:

During today's meeting, the progressive caucus, chaired by Representatives Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee, once again called for Congress not to approve further funding for the war without a timetable for withdrawal. But the members did not come across as fired up to make such a measure happen. Nor did they threaten to break with Pelosi if legislation of this sort was not offered by the House leadership. They remain antiwar--but they came across as unsure what to do about it.


There is similar frustration by Rep. Maxine Waters and Rep. Steven Cohen as well:
"It is one of the worst times to ever be in the Congress of the United States," complained California's Maxine Waters. "We look incapable of doing what the public wants us to do." A downbeat Waters also said that "even though members of Congress were elected on a platform to get us out of Iraq, they have prioritized getting along instead of following their heart and intellect."



Steven Cohen, a freshmen House democrat from Tennessee who has steadfastly opposed the war, didn't point fingers at his Democratic colleagues but nonetheless shared Water's frustration: "I think our Speaker [Nancy Pelosi] is a good leader, but maybe the leadership would be stronger if there was hope in the Senate to get the votes."



Now, things are much tougher to get done in the Senate, but here is a situation where Speaker Pelosi can set the tone by bringing some bold measures to the floor in the House. If it is true that “there is a new Congress in town” as she said months ago, then it would be nice to actually see something other than more toothless bills and “recommendations” that will certainly be ignored.



As this excellent OpEd by Bennet Kelley notes, it is time that the Democratic Leadership realizes that it has to take the reins here and drive the debate and the situation with respect to Congress’ role in Iraq – even moreso when there is no plan or any desire to do anything more than pass this disaster off to the next Congress and administration:

Congress must face the reality that, while they have provided deference to the Commander-in-Chief's prerogative to plot military strategy, it has a duty to act when the Commander-in-Chief has no strategy at all or remains in a state of denial. The Democrats have given the president ample time and resources to demonstrate that we are on a path to success in Iraq. The reality is that, after losing more soldiers during the first six months of the surge than during the entire first year of the war, we are no closer to success than before.



---snip---

The Democrats should reach out to Republicans to see if a veto and filibuster would prove compromise can be reached. If the Republicans continue to prefer slogans over strategy and false optimism over results, the Democrats have a duty to the people who put them in power and the families of our troops to hold firm and even refuse funding if necessary. Democrats must remember that, now that they are in power, it is not just Republicans that voters will hold accountable for Iraq in November.



I think this is key – and it goes against the “all we can do” lies of Senator Schumer. If the Democrats hold strong with a specific bill that passes without a veto proof majority, they will still have done their part. It is then incumbent on the republicans and Mister Bush to determine whether they want to end the funding or continue the occupation on the Democrats’ terms.



This is exactly where the Democratic Party was back when the funding bill was being discussed in April and May. They caved then, and things got markedly worse. The same options are available, yet, contrary to their belief, the climate is even more in their favor to do something strong and let the republicans vote against funding with real conditions.



That would be doing all they can. Not pretending that they are doing all they can.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

"I'd vote for a bad Democrat over any republican"

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

Not my words; rather, they are the words of a friend of mine who really isn’t all that interested in politics. And those 9 words got me thinking. Thinking of things that bode very well, some very broad observations, and things that don’t bode quite as well. On the surface, what could be bad about a friend who isn’t all that political all but committing to vote for a Democrat, any Democrat, over any republican.



Especially since she also lives in New Jersey and works in New York City, so she knows enough about the republican Presidential frontrunner to dismiss him outright against anyone that the Democrats put up.



You see, I don’t think this is an isolated incident. Many people are fed up with the direction that this country has been headed in just about every way possible. And many of these people don’t pay all that much attention to the details of what is going on or what isn’t going on in Washington. Hell, most of these people probably don’t know anything about MoveOn’s ad, let alone that Congress made a big stink about it. And most of those who know that Congress made a big stink think it was the republicans, and that it is a pretty silly thing to waste time on.


We are hardcore. I know that I am hardcore, and there are many around here who blow me away in terms of being hardcore. But that means that we know about, dissect, analyze and debate things that many people have no clue even exists. And just as we talk about the Washington DC bubble, we tend to think (or at least I do) that thinks are magnified way more than they actually are.



Again, for the Democratic Party, this is a very good thing. And it is, on most accounts, also a very good thing for this country, the netroots and our values. But it also reveals something that I didn’t really put together until a couple of days ago – and that is the reason why the netroots isn’t making as big of an impact on the current goings on as we would like. Now, we are doing some very good things, and these should by no means be discounted in the least. But we are large in size, big in attitude and motivation, and we actually can get our shit together from time to time, sometimes in a really big way.



Logically, this would lead to the potential for a bigger electoral landslide next year than we think – and even if many events don’t change all that much between now and then. And as much as this frustrates me, especially since there are so many things that I feel need immediate addressing and in more than a few instances, radical change, it ultimately means more Democrats and less republicans. We read into and dissect polls and absorb at least a half dozen versions and analyses of many events that most people only vaguely recall a few weeks later. Therefore, it only follows that, in this analysis and debate (and pressure on those that need pressure), we have stronger reactions than most.



And most want a bigger change from the past decade. Even if the investigations go nowhere, most people will only remember that Rove and Libby and DeLay and Gonzales and Cheney, Bush and many others are lying, thieving scumbags that fucked things up big time. So, as much as I hate to say it, I think that elected Democrats either already know this or are banking on this happening, and are merely looking to run out the clock doing “whatever they can do” over the next year and extend their gains in the Senate and House, adding a likely Democratic President.



That is very smart to do politically, that is if there wasn’t so much at stake.



Which leads me to my “not boding quite as well” thought. This gives elected Democrats less reason to listen to us or really do much more than pay us lip service. Now, this is a broad generalization, but Speaker Pelosi did say that she was going to post a diary every week and she hasn’t been here in months, and others have “strategically” avoided or used us in the past as well.



If they know that they are likely to gain seats, challenge in districts they otherwise wouldn’t and gain a greater majority without being bold – frankly, by being capitulating wimps, then why would they want to rock the boat? Now, that can be a callous thought, and I don’t think the motives are sinister. But there are a lot of people like my friend out there, who are just sick of what the republicans have done and will vote for just about anyone if they aren’t a republican.



If that is the case, then there very well could be close to 60 seats in the Senate and a 50+ seat advantage in the House, not to mention a Democratic White House. On the other hand, much of this would have been accomplished despite, as opposed to because of, our efforts.



More Democrats are a very good thing right about now. I think my friend is right and usually, even a crappy Democrat is better than a good republican. The problem is that we don’t need crappy Democrats. Or lazy ones who aren’t stepping up as leaders when this country needs them to the most. Maybe a leader will emerge. More likely, someone will have more than a few moments of great significance thrust upon him or her.



I have an infinitely more amount of faith in Democrats than republicans. But I also don’t have an infinite amount of patience. We need a Democratic majority. Our leadership knows this as well, and can taste it. But we also need bold leadership right now, and can’t afford to wait until January 2009.



Will someone step up in a real way? Or will we be “rejoicing” in November with a whole lot of “any Democrats”?


Friday, September 21, 2007

Reid and Schumer's secret FEC deal? (it's not good)

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

Note: Action item down at the bottom of this diary



I haven’t seen this posted anywhere, and with the focus no longer being on the US attorney firing scandal and the relationship between many of the US attorneys and election integrity issues, I think it bears pointing out. The deal involves the reconfirmation of Hans von Spakovsky, a hyper partisan republican who has many MANY shady ties to voter suppression tactics over the past couple of decades, as one of six members of the Federal Elections Commission.


Back in May, Ice Just Ice wrote a great diary called ”Keep Yer Vote Thievin' Hans Off the Federal Election Commission: Action Alert!”, and I followed it up (with much help from the ePluribus Media folks) with the three-part series on Hans von Spakovsky that is linked above. Needless to say (as I will highlight yet again below), von Spakovsky is quite possibly the worst person to serve as one of the FEC Commissioners, and his recess appointment was protested by Senator Kennedy as well as a number of other legal scholars.



Additionally and more recently, von Spakovsky was implicated in a voter suppression flap in Missouri, where he shot down a lawsuit that would more fairly represent the voters and representation for local elections. Of course, the lawsuit would have allowed more minority board members as a result of the district being a largely minority district, and probably would have resulted in less republicans being elected.



All of this being said, Senators Reid and Schumer are ready to cut a deal that would allow him to be reconfirmed for a full term, despite his large role in voter suppression, controversial and illegal voter ID laws, sockpuppetry and the illegal TX redistricting that was engineered by Tom DeLay.



According to a recent post at the Campaign Legal Center blog, Reid and Schumer are looking to cut a deal that would allow one of Schumer’s choices to be confirmed at the FEC in exchange for not challenging the reappointment of von Spakovsky (original article is at Roll Call (behind a subscription wall):

"Senate Democrats are expected to name a top lawyer for Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (D-NY) to fill a vacancy on the Federal Election Commission (FEC), a potentially safe selection that would avoid a brewing showdown with Republicans over a controversial GOP commission pick.



"Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) office plans to ask the White House to nominate Cynthia Bauerly, Schumer’s legislative director, to replace Democratic-nominated commissioner Ellen Weintraub, whose term expired last spring. Weintraub has said she will continue to serve on the commission until her successor is confirmed."



---snip---



And if Senators on both sides of the aisle were willing to take their partisan hats off for just a split second, they would agree, both with regard to von Spakovsky’s unfitness for the Commission and the need to fix the structure of this ineffective agency.



Now, some would argue that the FEC really doesn’t have much sway or much influence, but isn’t that one of the major reasons why the campaign finance laws and the election laws are in the shape they are in, and isn’t that one of the major reasons why there is such a cloud over our electoral system and so many people don’t trust the election system? And isn’t that what was a major contributing factor to the fact that there is such a question over the 2000, 2002 and 2004 elections?



Just as a bit of a refresher, here are just some of the egregious things that von Spakovsky has done over the course of his “career” that have contributed to the state of our current electoral system:





Of course, that is only a quick list of some pretty major things. And many people in this country know how bad the electoral system is, and have little faith that their vote will be counted – that is if they are even allowed to vote.



Hans von Spakovsky has proven over and over that he has the “permanent republican majority” in mind with all of his actions, and is one of the last people in this country that should be involved in the election system. Oh yeah, and when he appeared before Congress back in June, he damn near perjured himself with his testimony.



Unfortunately, election integrity, the potential of three stolen elections and the entire election system being gamed from the inside isn’t important enough for Senators Reid and Schumer. They would rather fold on a man who may have done more than any single person to ruin election integrity in the United States than do what it takes to try and take some relatively minor steps in order to potentially help the electoral system significantly.



********************



Take action!!



At the bottom of this diary by Ice Just Ice are the phone numbers of the Senators who should be contacted, including Reid and Schumer. Please please please call them, especially if they are your Senator and let them know that von Spakovsky will set back voting rights by decades – even more than he already has.




Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ads don't kill our troops. Lack of rest and training does.

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

I’ll be brief.



In yet another stunning example of the hypocrisy and betrayal of trust that Congressional republicans exhibit towards the troops that they sent to Iraq based on specious evidence (at best) and are holding hostage there now with longer deployments, lack of proper training, rest, armor and equipment, John Cornyn is introducing a Senate resolution today that will condemn MoveOn’s ad from last week.



Never mind the fact that yesterday’s blocking of Webb’s amendment to provide our troops with the proper rest in between tours was shot down by Senate republicans. Never mind the fact that this was the eighth time this year that republicans blocked Democratic Party initiatives to listen to the will of We the People and change course in Iraq.


And, despite what you may or may not think of the MoveOn ad, not only did the public not care at all about it (in terms of “not supporting Petraeus”), but also that it was Petraeus who was in charge of security training in Iraq when nearly 200,000 weapons were “lost”, many of which are likely in the hands of insurgents in Iraq.



So here we are, not even 24 hours after the republicans in the Senate betrayed their oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States by voting against restoring habeas corpus (which is in Article I of the Constitution, I might add) as well as betraying the trust of our troops by voting down an amendment that would give our troops proper rest in between tours. And what is the pressing issue for Senator Cornyn and his republican colleagues? A motion to condemn an advertisement placed in a newspaper that criticized General Petraeus.



Was there any motion to condemn the Swift Boat liars? Was there any motion to condemn Rep. Boehner’s comments that equated the lives of our troops as a “small price to pay”? Or the votes that wouldn’t give our troops proper equipment or training? For all of the whining and finger pointing at a damn advertisement, it is real interesting to see just how much “supporting the troops” really means to Senators like Cornyn, John Warner, John McCain and dozens of others.



The chance to show how much you support the troops has come up eight times this year alone, not to mention all of the times over the past few years. And every single time, nearly every single republican in the Senate has come up woefully short. In the past 24 hours alone, they have come up woefully and disgracefully short not once but twice. And now the pressing order of business is to debate whether an ad should be formally condemned? This is how time should be spent while our troops still are stuck in the middle of a civil war? How many troops and Iraqi civilians will and have died or be injured over the past 24 hours?



Get real. This ad meant nothing in the scheme of things. People are still dying every day in Iraq. Bombings are still happening and Petraeus even said that he doesn’t know if being in Iraq is making the United States safer.



It’s time to debate real issues, otherwise there is no business even being in the Senate for petty playground arguments like this. Lives are at stake. The actions of republicans in the Senate have killed many more people than one advertisement that seemed to strike a nerve because it exposes a truth to the fa├žade that is rapidly crumbling.



Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sending other people's kids off to die. Without proper rest.

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

That is what it boils down to for these chickenshit chickenhawks. Blind loyalty to a failure of an occupation which was based on lies and fake evidence in the first place. Sending other people’s children off to the other side of the world without proper armor, equipment or rest for a mission that nobody can define four years in.



And where are the “privileged” children of the privileged cowards who feign bravery and “strength” now to make up for their complete failure to serve their country in a war one generation ago? The brave, brave sons of brave, brave Mitt Romney are off campaigning in their twisted justification of “service”. Brave and steadfast Mister Bush said that he would “like to serve” but he is too old. Of course, that didn’t stop him from going AWOL when he was actually supposed to serve and his twin daughters certainly are of prime military age.


But that isn’t completely the point of this diary. I had an argument with my parents this past weekend (among many other political arguments that went absolutely nowhere fast – its those damn facts that keep getting in the way…) about Iraq. Not totally different from many other arguments that I have had with members of the “pro-kill em and bomb em all before they all kill us” crowd that I encounter from time to time. But this time, after hearing (and rolling my eyes yet again) at the comment that “we need to be strong and show our strength because they respect that” and my initial rebuttal that suicide bombers want to die so why would they be intimidated or impressed by military “strength”, I lost it.



I flat out asked if either of them would want or have wanted me to go to Iraq and fight. And as expected, silence from my father and an emphatic “hell no!” from my mother. Which completely proved my point, and led to this post – it all boils down to this:



If you don’t want to serve in Iraq, and don’t want your own family to serve in Iraq, the I don’t want to hear anything about why this is a “noble war” or that it is right or that it is just or that it isn’t something that should NOT be stopped as quickly as we can.



Period.



That little discussion ended right there, and it dovetails right into the debate going on now in Congress. John Warner and John McCain – two men who should fucking know better – are once again looking to abandon the troops that they have sent to Iraq for a mission that they can’t even define, and one of them insists needs major change of direction. I’ll say this about McCain – at least he has family serving in Iraq.



But if the only reason that 30,000 of our troops are coming home next year is because they can’t physically stay there any longer, then there is a big problem, and that problem can’t be solved by burying heads in the sand. For anyone to NOT support something as basic as getting troops the proper rest in between deployments, then they should have their head examined, and should have every single military age member of their family shipped over for a deployment of their own.



To not recognize the dire situation that our military has been in and the strain that our troops and their families are under is a complete dereliction of duty. Frankly, there are two ways to stop this travesty of justice from continuing – (1) fund a withdrawal and ONLY fund a withdrawal, and (2) reinstitute the draft.



Now, I don’t want a draft or any continuation of this disaster any longer, but as Bobby Kennedy and Charlie Rangel both said – a draft is the only way to make every family impacted by this disgrace in Iraq. And once the “lucky sperms” are at risk of being shipped halfway around the world without proper training and equipment and are thrown into the middle of a raging civil war where the only thing that both “sides” have in common is their distrust for our troops, there would be the critical mass necessary to bring this debacle to an end.



I am lucky. I don’t know anyone that was killed in the 9/11 attacks, or anyone that has been killed (or injured) or whose family members were injured or killed in Iraq. I am willing to bet that at least 70% of the country can say the same. And I am also willing to bet that many of those care more about who won American Idol or what will happen with OJ Simpson or if Britney will lose custody of her kids.



While I personally find that disgraceful, it is something that has been perpetrated and fostered by the actions of our elected (and selected) leaders. Why should much of America really care (and I don’t count answering a poll that you would rather not have our troops in Iraq anymore as “really caring”) if our own members of Congress don’t care?



Yet, voting against proper armor, equipment, training and rest is exactly what Congress has done over and over and over and over. Sadly, it is likely to do it again with the Webb amendment today.



Those members of Congress who vote against this amendment should be ashamed and should have their own military age family members immediately deployed to Iraq. Of course that won’t happen. And unfortunately, as with all prior votes, they won’t even consider the impact of this vote on the troops - other people’s children who they are shipping off and abandoning in Iraq.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Guess who is managing Blog Talk Radio's progressive radio site?

OK all you pundits-in-training, I have some good news for you.



A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a diary titled “Thank you in advance for reading this”, which talked about all of the things that me, thereisnospoon, theKK, hekebolos and dday are doing over at Political Nexus, our internet radio site. Since then, we have been real busy (also contributing to the lack of diaries by thereisnospoon and I over this time) with our site, and a few other nuggets of “progressive goodness”.


I’ll talk about the Blog Talk Radio shows we did over the past few weeks at Political Nexus below, but before I do, I want to bring some real good news to the attention of the community. First, a bit of background – Blog Talk Radio was started last year and they just went through a major upgrade to their site. Over the past year, they have made a big push into the political arena, and, sad to say, the right has been more successful at getting a framework together over at Blog Talk Radio.



In response to a couple of posts I wrote about building a progressive infrastructure as well as the six different show formats we are doing, I was contacted and had a few discussions with the “powers that be” at Blog Talk Radio, including Ed Morrisey of Captain’s Quarters, who is the overall political director and runs the Blog Talk Radio’s conservative site, Heading Right. Other than his conservative credentials, I’ll point out that Ed happens to be a real nice guy, and I’ll get into why this is a very good thing in a minute.



To make a long story short, I (and I have recruited the rest of the Political Nexus crew) was asked to be Ed’s counterpart and revamp/restart the Heading Left web site, which is the “aggregator” site for the Blog Talk Radio’s roster of progressive/liberal talk radio shows. While I am working on this and we hope to relaunch it over the next couple of weeks, you can check it out and leave us any comments.



What we hope to do here, in addition to promoting our regular shows, is to promote the other progressive radio shows that are offered on Blog Talk Radio, as well as feature user submitted shows (both audio and video – original and stuff found online that is also worthy). Another feature that we hope to build out is a full roster of local and regional progressive radio shows, and we know that some are already being done on a relatively regular basis (including Blue Jersey radio’s weekly show.



Another interesting feature of Blog Talk Radio that we are excited about is the Debate Central, which will allow progressives and conservatives to debate live, most likely being moderated by Ed or me. This is one of the things that I think can be great – we debate each other here all the time and here is an opportunity to debate those of us who we disagree with most vehemently and kick some conservative/wingnut butt with it being recorded. You will see some information related to this in the top right corner of the Heading Left site.



What I really want to do is to find and promote the best progressive voices, and I encourage anyone who is even remotely interested to head on over to Blog Talk Radio and set up an account. And if you have any leads – work on a campaign, know someone that has something interesting to say in the progressive arena, please let us know. We are always looking for more interviews and more progressive voices to promote.



Speaking of which, if you head on over to our Political Nexus site, or to our our “On Topic” page at Blog Talk Radio, you can hear our two most recent interviews – one with nyceve about the mess that is healthcare in the United States and one with One Pissed Off Liberal about Iraq Moratorium Day, the Iraq war and the use of aggression by the United States. Both are ”must hear’s”, as will the many more that we have scheduled.



So please check out Heading Left (even as we are tweaking it – we know there are some bugs that we need to work out, and if you are good with HTML, please let me know...), and set it as one of your bookmarks. We want to make this as collaborative and interactive as possible. And no, we did not forget about a new, improved and revamped Political Nexus site either – we are still working on that too.



Thanks!!

Monday, September 17, 2007

War and death by PowerPoint

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

I am a tax consultant and, over the course of my career have become intimately involved with many PowerPoint presentations. These are generally used to sell services or “products” to a client or to summarize a presentation topic. To be most effective, these presentations are high level and the slides don’t contain more than a few bullet points. At times, they are pretty effective – generally when there really isn’t a need to get into multitudes of details and the strategy behind anything in the presentation.



One of the good things about PowerPoint is that it can be used as an “Executive Summary” of what we want the client to know, and the format really only allows you to take into account certain information that you choose and present it in a manner that will (1) help your client understand what you choose to talk about and more importantly (2) allow you to persuade them that you know how to help them based on the information that you choose to present. Certainly, this wouldn’t be an effective way to hold a meeting if we were looking into detailed and complex issues associated with a client, or multiple fact patterns and assumptions – all which may be in conflict with each other.


Sadly, this is how the Iraq invasion and occupation has been run at the highest levels. A situation that would require the utmost of planning, attention to details, drilling down of data related to different situations and ever changing fact patterns as well as the ability to adapt to radically changing situations on a daily basis has been reduced to bulletpoints, summaries and rosy assessments that have been cherry picked in order to “sell a narrative” that does not exist in reality.



As we all know, the end result is a completely mismanaged invasion that was devoid of any planning, coupled with an ongoing occupation that is devoid of any strategy, planning or details. And this “death by PowerPoint” is not meant to develop any strategy for dealing with our troops, the civil war, the increased number of attacks and deaths or even how “success” is measured. Rather, it is meant to convince enough people – people in Congress, people in the media and people around the world, that “more-of-the-same” is just fine and dandy.



As anyone that does what I do for a living knows (as well as people in many many other occupations know as well), data can be manipulated and words can be spun in any way by anybody. What is appalling is that a computer tool such as PowerPoint is basically being used in the manner that it is, and that people are buying the “sales pitch”. At least Rep. Ellen Tauscher put it right when she talked about the “Green Zone fog” that people are gripped by when seeing these PowerPoint presentations. In fact, with Tauscher’s fourth visit to Iraq recently, she noticed how much worse things have gotten over the past couple of years.



**************


This actually goes back to the initial lack of planning for the invasion, when PowerPoint was used to summarize, alter the 1,200 page, 13 volume study done prior to the invasion that raised a number of significant issues that could arise post-invasion. Of course, this completely brushes off the ”Desert Crossing planning that was done back in the 1990s and predicted much of what has happened in Iraq over the past few years.



In addition to discarding and disregarding all of the prior studies and warnings about the disaster that an invasion and occupation of Iraq would cause, PowerPoint was the choice of CENTCOM back in mid-2002. Since anything can be put into a presentation and look rosy or convincing, there was a slide that assumed 5,000 troops by the end of 2006, and another slide that contained the word “UNKNOWN” to discuss post invasion hostilities. Of course, major concerns about this were raised by the State Department, to no avail.



Based on the information in these presentations, the concerns raised by “Desert Crossing”, the “Future of Iraq Project”, Retired General Anthony Zinni, the State Department, General Shinseki and even Tommy Franks were buried and not even mentioned to those who were ultimately responsible for planning and “selling” the invasion.



Now, four years, nearly four thousand US military deaths, tens of thousands of US troops casualties, a raging civil war, tens of thousands of dead Iraqis, hundreds of thousands of annual refugees and displaced Iraqis and hundreds of billions of dollars later, death by PowerPoint is still prominent.



Rep. Brian Baird was recently swayed by his visit to Iraq and the PowerPoint presentations that were given to him. Never mind the NIE and GAO reports, or the actual facts on the ground related to deaths, attacks, sectarian cleansing, injuries and lack of any progress towards most of the US-set benchmarks – all of that is easy to leave out of a PowerPoint presentation. Never mind how deaths are “counted” – charts and bar graphs can be presented in any way that the presenter wants.



While Baird was duped by this, others were wise to this shell game:

Petraeus has done his part in Baghdad, hosting dozens of lawmakers and military scholars for PowerPoint presentations on why the Bush strategy had made gains. Many Republicans and even Democrats, notably Rep. Brian Baird of Washington, came home impressed. Petraeus also persuaded intelligence officials to revise key judgments of a new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq to reflect security gains.



Some visitors suspected a skewed picture. "We only saw things that reinforced their message that the surge was working," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.



Schakowsky has stronger words about the presentations as compared to reality:
A co-founder of the House Out of Iraq Caucus, Schakowsky saw only fleeting glimpses of Iraqis' day-to-day life during her one-day trip. The few times she ventured out of the Green Zone, she was in a helicopter or a speeding convoy, soldiers hanging out of the windows with machine guns, obscuring the view. She heard about dire power and water shortages, yet saw nothing firsthand.



But the military presentations left her stunned…



---snip---



"I felt that was a stretch and really part of a PR strategy -- just like the PR strategy that initially led up to the war in the first place,"



The PowerPoint presentations themselves are chock full of distortions, misrepresentations and exaggerations (as you can see from his 2006 presentation). Even Petraeus’ testimony was accompanied by a 15 page PowerPoint presentation that twists the assumptions regarding civilian deaths, weekly attack trends, number of IEDs, levels of sectarian violence (of course, violence goes down when an area is “cleansed”) as well as other “successes”. Of course, none of these presentations mention how little electricity, water or jobs there are.



This is what passes for planning and strategy in Iraq. Taking a computer application that is meant for presentations to clients to give a high level view of an idea or their specific situation and using it to gloss over an ever changing, ever devolving and more complex set of factors in order to try and convince people that a predetermined, pre-selected set of data is “proof” that things are just peachy. However, when the only goal is to use this as a marketing tool, it does a disservice to this country, our troops and anyone who is trying to get an accurate assessment of what is going on in Iraq in order to figure out what is wrong, how wrong it is, and how to proceed.



Forgetting the fact that this shouldn’t have been done in the first place, you don’t run an invasion and occupation as a marketing initiative with Executive Summaries and cherry picked data from a 50,000 foot view.



Death and destruction is not something to be glossed over with pretty pictures, graphs and charts on a bunch of slides. Running an occupation by PowerPoint only leads to death by PowerPoint.



Friday, September 14, 2007

Abandoning our troops to "sell" lies to the country

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

By now, it is patently obvious that basically all of the rosy news on Iraq is false, distorted, irrelevant to the big picture and frankly insulting to the intelligence of anyone that even has a cursory knowledge of the NIE report, the unedited GAO report as well as all of the news about bombings, killings, sectarian cleansing and lack of progress by the Iraqi government in meeting any of the benchmarks that were laid out earlier this year.



Yet, to add insult to injury (and mounting deaths), Mister Bush and many republicans are looking to “market and sell” the ideas of good news and progress in an attempt to justifying another $200 billion dollars and thousands more of our troops’ lives over the next fifteen months – at a minimum.


Of course, we already know what the House Minority Leader thinks of our troops’ lives, and we know what one of the leading republican Presidential candidates thinks when it comes to his own sons “serving their country”. What is most baffling to me is that, over the past few days, even as basically all reports I have read, seen or heard indicate that facts contradict the rosy assessments of “progress” in Iraq, this is still being framed in terms of Bush (or whoever else) trying to “sell success”. If this isn’t the most dishonest and disingenuous of things to do to our troops, then I really am hard pressed to think of something that is.



It is sad that it took a republican Senator (Warner) to ask General Petraeus if the situation in Iraq is making America safer, and it is sadder that Petraeus said that he didn’t know. Apparently, even some republicans are feeling a bit queasy about Bush’s rosy assessment and snake oil salesman imitation.



And now, we are on the precipice of a substantial debate on just which direction to go in Iraq. This past month, the “hard sell” that we have been subjected to really showed precisely how little so many of our elected leaders care about our troops in Iraq. Still no mission, still no talk about exactly what our troops are supposed to be doing in Iraq, still no talk about a bill that will address proper rest or equipment or a timeline for them to leave.



Every single member of Congress at least is aware of what is going on in Iraq. They have seen the numbers in terms of troop casualties, they voted on bills for withdrawals, for proper rest, armor and equipment, and nearly all of them know that Petraeus said back in March that there is no military solution in Iraq. Despite the “catapulting of propaganda” over the past few weeks while Congress was in recess, somehow, many more people are aware of the real and true assessments of this “success” in Iraq. Yet, many are still resigned to a continuation of the same lack of strategy and policing of a civil war, leaving our troops as sitting ducks for attacks.



It seems as though we are being set up for another round of moving the bar and not one, not two but three more Friedman Units. Rahm Emanuel recently said that “George Bush has one strategy at this point, to make sure Iraq is someone else's problem”. Yet, there have been numerous Democratic House and Senate members (including Levin, Clinton, Obama, Clyburn, Baird, Durbin and McNerney) who have talked about continuing to leave our troops stranded and abandoned in Iraq by not taking the steps to get our troops out and not have a significant ongoing presence in Iraq.



Long term, that is one thing and is bad enough. However, when we are talking about our troops – the brave men and women who are doing all that is asked of them at least ten times over – anything other than fully funding a withdrawal of our combat troops within short order and dismantling our permanent bases is nothing more than abandoning our troops in Iraq.



There are a good number of Democrats who will be voting against any form of “compromise bill”, a bill which does little more than compromise our morals and values more than they have already been compromised. What is interesting is that there will likely be a good number of republicans who will vote against any bill with even nonbinding and toothless recommendations.



Public sentiment has not really changed all that much – even though there may have been a temporary uptick in the lies and lipstick on a pig pleas for “buying more time” to “continue the progress” – this too will fade quickly as the deaths and attacks continue to mount. Even still – even if this uptick wasn’t temporary, there is still an overwhelming view that we should be taking substantial and significant steps towards getting our troops out of Iraq much sooner than January 2009. Regardless of whether people are thinking there has been some progress – these people still don’t think that there has been enough progress to stay indefinitely.



And even if there was progress, that is all the more reason that we should be talking about a larger and real drawdown of our troops. We are now anxiously awaiting what comes out of Congress over the next few days and weeks with respect to the $200 billion request by Mister Bush to pass the Iraq disaster that was created and enabled and fostered off to someone else.



Congress was overwhelmingly unimpressed with Petraeus’ testimony. More republicans with nothing to lose (or their jobs to lose) are starting to talk about voting against abandoning and stranding our troops at least until 2009. Many in Congress talk about having to continue dumping hundreds of billions of dollars into Iraq. Their justification is that by not doing so, they would be abandoning the troops.



Too bad they have it backwards. To vote for anything other than funding a withdrawal is abandoning our troops.



There is no other way to put it and be honest.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

From "what have they done?" to "what have WE done?"

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

The second diary I ever wrote was exactly two years ago today – a reflection on the hypocrisy of the Bush administration and the sadness felt as we all remembered the attacks on 9/11. It only got 2 comments (including my tip jar) and I didn’t write a 9/11 diary last year. Quite frankly, I wasn’t going to write one this year either, but in light of some recent events, the title of this diary jumped into my head, so I figured that I would see where it took me....



”What have they done?” was a common question that I heard in the days and months after the attacks. Being in NYC that day, and having a number of friends still living in NYC (I had moved to Westchester a couple of years earlier, and moved back into NYC a few months later) – it was something on all of our minds. We all knew pretty little about Osama bin Laden and even less about al Qaeda, despite the fact that the World Trade Center was attacked a few years earlier.


We didn’t know how much the Clinton administration, or Richard Clarke for that matter, were focused on terrorism and specifically al Qaeda. We didn’t know how the republicans in Congress basically sabotaged President Clinton’s anti-terrorism efforts in the mid to late 90s. We didn’t know how Bush was ignoring and blowing off dire warnings, including a Presidential Daily Briefing, with comments like “you’ve covered your ass now”. Nor did we know about the US government’s long relationship with the Taliban before the 9/11 attacks.



All that being said, as millions of people walked around in a daze, felt like we were kicked in the gut, filled with mixed emotions of anger, sorrow, rage, desire for revenge and grief, we put our trust in those who were selected to lead this country. “Al Qaeda was responsible for the attacks and the Taliban support al Qaeda”, we were told. So we went after the Taliban and al Qaeda – with the world on our side. Even Iran (not yet the latest boogie man) reached out to help us.



”What have they done?” “Why did they do this to us?”



Those two questions were asked over and over and over. Soon, “will we be attacked again?” and “when will they attack us again?” were added to the list of questions. As the first few months after the 9/11 attacks passed, color coded terror threat assessments were blanketing the news, and as someone who worked in the World Financial Center, I thought it was only a matter of time before we would be attacked again.



The amount of goodwill that this country had was at or near an all time high. There was cooperation from countries that we hadn’t had the best of relations with, and there was potential that the United States could use this goodwill to transform the world (at least we thought) in a way that would usher in a new era of cooperation and information sharing at the outset of the 21st century.



Sadly, ”What have WE done?” is now the question that I have been asking for the past few years. Even the “what has been done in my name?” question isn’t really sufficient, despite all that I think I have done to “fight” those who have done and authorized such horrific things in the name of the United States, “freedom” and “democracy”.



Invading sovereign countries based on lies. Authorizing and carrying out torture on a large scale and oftentimes in secret cooperation with other countries. Secret CIA prisons. Suspension of habeas corpus. “Free speech zones”. Warrantless wiretapping of American citizens. Creating and denying the conditions for a civil war bordering on genocide. Neglecting an entire region of the country as a natural disaster ravaged the region. Politicizing the justice department in order to skew elections. Pissing away all of the goodwill in less than a year.



Being hated by countries in all corners of the world. Arming and funding those who are attacking our troops in Iraq, while failing to arm and equip our troops. Neglecting a growing healthcare crisis in our country. Flushing hundreds of billions into a sinkhole with little debate or thought other than disingenuous lines such as “we can’t leave our troops stranded”. Diverting wealth from the middle class to the most wealthy. An economy that has been willfully created based on a house of cards.



Threatening other countries with the use of nuclear weapons. Finger pointing and never taking any responsibility for the hell that was created in Iraq. Allowing those who attacked us to not only get away with it, but to reconstitute in a country that is supposed to be “with us”. Allowing the import of food and toys and other products that are tainted with lead paint or deadly bacteria. Neglecting to address the potential fallout from bird flu. Neglecting the infrastructure in this country that is sorely in need of repair. Denying that global warming is a danger and using the excuse of “why should we do anything if China isn’t” to not take a leadership role.



The list goes on and on and on.



Maybe it isn’t so far off to say that “9/11 changed everything”.



Just in a very different way than many people think.


Friday, September 07, 2007

"Progress", taking and switching sides in Iraq

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

Overlooked in the whole discussion about whether there is a decrease in violence in Iraq (there isn’t) or whether there is any real “progress” (there isn’t), or whether there are any real goals or strategy or mission (there isn’t) is the fact that Sunnis (including the original “insurgents” and dead enders, Al Qaeda, Saddam and much of his regime) were the original “enemies” in Iraq, only to now be this Administration’s bestest buddies. Couple this with the fact that the Shia, the ones who we were originally “helping liberate” have become Public Enemy number 1 as the rhetoric against Iran (predominantly Shiite) has been ratcheted up.



The conflict of interest exhibited by Mister Bush, his administration and his supporters is even more striking if you truly consider how little thought is being given to anything other than cosmetic indications of “success” that largely ignore the bigger picture.


The Iraqi Police Force is largely Shiite, and the Interior Ministry is run by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), also largely Shiite. Interestingly, an independent report called for the disbanding of the Iraqi Police Force and indicated that the Interior Ministry is “dysfunctional” (see the Chicago Tribune link in this paragraph). The majority of the Iraqi Parliament is Shiite and Prime Minister al Malaki is also Shiite. And of course, al Sadr and his followers are Shiite.



Early on, major attacks were by Sunnis (yeah, I know the link is Fox News), and it was the Sunnis who were the impetus for the firebombing of Fallujah at the end of 2004. Once the civil war was full blown (at least to everyone whose head wasn’t firmly buried in their own ass), things started to change.



By late 2006, it got to the point where the only thing that Sunnis and Shiites could agree on is that they wanted our troops the hell out of Iraq, and it wasn’t much longer before the Iraqi Parliament followed suit. Not only that, but our troops were, in their own words, being “shot at by both sides” of a civil war.



Then, things suddenly changed.



A December trip to Saudi Arabia by Dick Cheney resulted in a thinly veiled threat that Saudi Arabia would start to arm the Sunni insurgents if the US left Iraq. This followed reports that wealthy private Saudi individuals were funding Sunni insurgents - just around the same time that US helicopters were being shot down by Sunnis with greater frequency.



Not surprisingly, around the same time, the rhetoric about Iran (predominantly Shiite and able to exert influence in Iraq) was ratcheted up. When the assertions that Iran was behind weapons found in Iraq, (former) Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace flat out denied the link, and this line was quickly proven to be (1) a lie or (2) not even pertinent if it was true. As more and more tenuous and irrelevant links between Iran and a reason for Cheney to bomb Iran were thrown out, each one was quickly swatted down.



So what does the Bush administration decide to do next? Cut out the middleman in Saudi Arabia and arm the Sunni insurgents themselves, a move the General Petraeus was rightfully concerned about. Of course, who knows how may Sunni “insurgents” or Shiite “militia” were already armed by the US when the nearly 200,000 weapons were “misplaced” under Petraeus’ watch back in 2004 and 2005.



And where does that leave us now? Well, we have basically come full circle. The ones who were fighting against us have become our “friends” in Iraq, even though they are still attacking us. In a June article in the Washington Post, there was this blurb about the attacks against our troops (note that this is around the same time the US decided to start arming the Sunni insurgents):

Simmons said that in May, the number of armor-piercing weapons known as explosively formed projectiles roughly matched the April high of 65, and the main source of increased U.S. deaths was "large and buried IEDs," or improvised explosive devices.



U.S. deaths have risen sharply in some of Baghdad's outlying regions, such as Diyala province, where Sunni and Shiite groups have escalated sectarian violence and fought back hard against American forces moving into their safe havens. "Extremists on both sides of this thing are trying to make a statement by attacking U.S. troops," Simmons said.



Now, this was in June, before what everyone (except for those “head up their ass folks”) have acknowledged as the bloodiest and most deadly few months in Iraq had occurred. It’s a real good thing we are arming some of those “extremists” in exchange for a promise not to attack us.



As for the Shiites, well they do make up a majority of the Government, including the Prime Minister (who is suddenly not in our good graces anymore, even though nobody can do what the neocons wish for). Yet, those purple fingers don’t mean much when even Democratic Senators such as Clinton and Levin are calling for al Maliki to be replaced. And the so-called “progress”? Well if you call sectarian cleansing “progress”, then there are more than a few issues with that.



So, even though we are supposed to be supporting the Iraqi government that was “democratically elected”, we are not doing so. Is it because of the inconvenient Shiite ties to Iran? I think we know the answer to that. And even though we started off this occupation by fighting against Sunnis (who, by the way are still attacking our troops), we have now (1) given them money, (2) given them weapons and (3) pledged money to the Saudis for weapons.



It is one thing to switch sides and claim that you are now “winning”. It is another thing to completely ignore this fact, all while also ignoring the military brass in Iraq, the government that was touted as “proof of democracy and freedom on the march”. And it is yet another thing to not even question the sheer lunacy and hypocrisy of this – all while keeping our troops in danger for no reason or mission.



Sounds like a ton of “progress” to me…


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Sectarian cleansing is NOT progress

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

This past week or two have seen a large number of documents and reports being issued that paint an accurate yet bleak picture of the situation in Baghdad and the rest of Iraq.


And despite all of these sobering, yet completely expected assessments, the one thing that is being shoved down our throats is the completely disingenuous lines about “real progress” being made and how we should be “upbeat” about this escalation because it is working. Even worse is the outright lies that the violence is decreasing.



It is very simple.



The violence is not decreasing, and in the limited areas where there is a drop in violence, it is due largely to sectarian cleansing. And sectarian cleansing is not something to be proud of, nor does it show any success.



Now, the five words that are the title of this post should be memorized and used by every single Democrat and reasonable, rational person over the next few weeks. It is something that they should have already realized if they scratched below the surface of these assertions. Especially since this administration and its enablers have twisted facts, outright lied and hidden facts and details beneath the sugar coated exterior of their “expert assessments”. I’ll even give credit to Newsweek, which finally used the words sectarian cleansing in a recent article:

Thousands of other Sunnis like Kamal have been cleared out of the western half of Baghdad, which they once dominated, in recent months. The surge of U.S. troops—meant in part to halt the sectarian cleansing of the Iraqi capital—has hardly stemmed the problem. The number of Iraqi civilians killed in July was slightly higher than in February, when the surge began. According to the Iraqi Red Crescent, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has more than doubled to 1.1 million since the beginning of the year, nearly 200,000 of those in Baghdad governorate alone. Rafiq Tschannen, chief of the Iraq mission for the International Organization for Migration, says that the fighting that accompanied the influx of U.S. troops actually "has increased the IDPs to some extent."


Now, it is clear as crystal that our military is not going to solve the issues that Mister Bush and his administration have created, as General Petraeus said back in March. It is also clear as crystal (at least to those who bother to use their brains) that the “success” being touted in Anbar is neither accurate nor relevant. And, despite what Reps. like Brian Baird, Jerry McNerney, Sam Clyburn and Senators Clinton and Levin have to say, any mention of “success” or “progress” not only misses the big picture but also contributes to the thought that “we just need more time”.



We do not need more time. The escalation was supposed to quell violence in Baghdad – NOT Anbar. The reduction in violence in Baghdad is because of sectarian cleansing.



Is anyone going to say with a straight face that sectarian cleansing is a good thing? Is anyone going to buy into the fact that sectarian cleansing and the doubling of internally displaced persons is progress? And is this worth giving Mister Bush another $200 billion?


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A sneak peek at George W. Bush's "fantastic Freedom Institute"

Front paged at Booman Tribune and My Left Wing

For those who were out enjoying their Labor Day weekend, you may have missed the NY Times article from this weekend that has some very interesting and delusional musings from Mister Bush. One such musing is about his “fantastic Freedom Institute in Dallas that will be “promoting democracy around the world”.



And since Mister Bush has done such a good job at this over the past six-plus years, the halls should be filled with many shining examples of the “freedom and democracy” that Bush has been promoting around the world. Luckily, I was able to get my hands on a time machine (something about a DeLorean and 88 MPH keeps sticking in my mind though) – and I am able to share with you some of the wonderful exhibits in Mister Bush’s “fantastic Freedom Institute”.


The first thing that caught my eye were the huge wooden doors in the shape of an open Bible, because when God tells you that you were meant to lead your nation, you have to show your gratitude. And when I walked through the main entrance, I noticed the “Freedom Park for Children” on the right, so (being that it is the future and I have children at the time), we wandered over to the “Freedom Park”.



There is the waterboarding area, where you can go for a quick ‘dunk in the water’. There is the human pyramid jungle gym that children of all ages can have fun climbing on. And there is also the “squirting Freedom at the Koran” game, where you can shoot a water gun filled with a yellow liquid at a Koran target 10 feet away.



We moved on from the “Freedom Park for Kids” area over to the “Why America is the Freest and Totally Kicks Ass” Exhibit, which has some interactive sections as well as some other interesting tidbits. Here, we got to see just how free and democratic the good old US of A is. There is the Climb the Corporate Ladder Exhibit – if your income is over $500,000, then you can start on the 5th rung and climb all the way to the top while pushing cardboard “workers” off of the rungs as you step over them. Alas, if your income is below $500,000, you have to climb down to the floor below to start and can only make it back to where you started.



Other notable exhibits include Voting for Freedom, the “Free Speech Zone” - which was actually a soundproof box that you could walk into and say whatever you wanted, the “Privatization Simulator” a game which lets you take over a city and see the impact to your corporate cronies’ bottom lines from privatizing various sectors at the expense of the general population, and my kid’s favorite one, ”FISA SHMIZA” where you actually get to eavesdrop on other people in the “fabulous Freedom Institute”.



We then made our way over to the shining beacon of the entire Institute – the Iraq section. Here, the fruits of Mister Bush’s labor are on full display. Walking through the Purple Finger doorway to get to this area was interesting, especially since the finger that was purple here wasn’t the same finger that I remembered the Iraqis using when they voted.



Here, you could be the prosecutor in a mock trial of Saddam, or hear firsthand accounts of the freedom that the Iraqis enjoy – like freedom to conserve energy, freedom to relocate from one place to another and of course, the to travel out of the country. Permanently.



The last section we looked at before my kid got sick from eating all of the “freedom fries” “freedom toast” and “liberty soda” was the one called ”Democracy and Freedom – hand in hand around the world”. Here, there were many examples of Freedom™ being spread to all corners of the globe. We were able to take a simulated rendition flight to a secret location and witness firsthand the “democracy” that was spread during the Bush years.



There was a lot on the budding freedom and democracy in Darfur that Bush singlehandedly turned around with his laser focus on the matter. There was an entire wing on Afghanistan and the major human rights advances under Mister Bush’s administration. There was another wing on the rest of the world – focusing on the expanded freedoms enjoyed by the people in the very democratic countries Bush made priorities of with respect to his policies. Countries and areas such as Palestine, Iran, North Korea, China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.



It really was a shame that my “future kid” got sick and that our time was running out before we had to head Back From The Future. All in all, it was quite a spectacle. You gotta hand it to Mister Bush and Mister Rove. They really know how “fantastic” Freedom can be.



All the rest of us have to do is wait until the $5 billion for the construction is diverted from the US Treasury, and then we can all enjoy the fantastic Freedom Institute for ourselves.



Saturday, September 01, 2007

"...You Don't Introduce New Products in August"

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

Actually (and as many of us know), the entire quote by Andy Card back in September 2002 was “From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August.” Well, it is September 1, and the time is just about here for another marketing initiative by the callous destructive forces that don’t really care about what the people of this country, or anyone else for that matter says about the absolutely insane idea to bomb or “take action” against Iran.



This “marketing campaign” actually began years ago, back when Iran was labeled part of the “Axis of Evil”, and again in early 2004, when the first rumors of just how evil they were because its leader (who was already lacking support in his own country) stared down The Decider Guy and told him to go scratch – Iran was reconstituting its nuclear program. For energy purposes, we were told. And even if it wasn’t for energy purposes, that isn’t the point.


Back in December 2006, the foundation was laid for another “marketing campaign”. This one started with the same booga booga about nook-you-luhr weapons, just like the previous “marketing campaign” about Iraq started. Then it became Iranian weapons parts found in Iraq, despite the fact that nearly 200,000 US weapons were lost, and the US was funding and providing weapons to “former” insurgents, if they promised not to attack our troops.



And just as the marketing campaign for New Coke failed, so did this one – as it was immediately smacked down by the top military advisor, Peter Pace. The reward for Mr. Pace? Well, a quick “retirement” - to spend more time with his family, no doubt.



But this time, like Freddy Kruger, the “marketing campaign” wouldn’t die. More and more excuses and reasons to “shock and awe” the bad brown people in Iran would be “test marketed” and now, the New and Improved™ bullshit, um, lies, um, irrelevant half truths, um, innuendo, excuses for bombing Iran will be rolled out over the next weeks, including references to the “newly classified as terrorist group Iranian military”.



Most people are on to this charade, but no chances can be taken. Grand Moff Texan had a great diary on the frames to use and the way to address this. The best point he makes is that this is Bush’s and his supporters’ planned attack. NOT the United States’. And as the airwaves are blanketed with how we don’t want to see a mushroom cloud, or that the last thing this world needs is Iran exercising influence in Iraq or that if we leave, Iran will fill the “power vacuum” (shouldn’t this have been considered in 2002?), there needs to be major pushback.



Not this same crap again. These claims were not credible back in 2002 and they are the EXACT same claims again. These people are simply not believable.



What makes this even more disgusting than even 2002 is that after five years of death and destruction not to mention complete unmitigated disaster and failure, it is still looked at as a “marketing campaign”. Lives at stake. Lives ruined. Families ruined. Economy in the shitter. Massive upheaval. And an incredibly unpopular occupation of Iraq, not to mention this not being a remotely popular idea at all among all but a small but foaming at the mouth crew of megalomaniac idiots.



There is absolutely no rationale that would warrant bombing or invading Iran. It is that simple. The burden of proof is on those who say we have to bomb. There is no trust or benefit of the doubt. You don’t market a war. It is a sick thought and a despicable approach to take when it comes to an almost always unnecessary act of aggression.



Here is a way and here is another way and here is yet another way that you can write to Congress to urge them to unequivocally denounce this horrific plan and demand action. Or you can call this number: (202) 224-3121.



Or, here are some ways to contact the media to simply and forcefully pull the curtain back on this deadly nonsense and hopefully stop more senseless killing and a humanitarian crisis of unimaginable proportions.



These war profiteering crooks sold this country and the world a bag of crap once. We can’t let them resell a used, recycled and more deadly bag of crap.