Archive for July, 2006

With Negroponte, you get Death Squad

Just Thoughts | Posted by admin
Jul 12 2006

Spotty dissects the barbarous mind of a local attorney. What is frightening about Death Squad John’s thinking is that he and his sort have never made much of a distinction between those we fight and those who question the fighting. Death Squad John talks of the battlefield, but it’s been clear for some time that to him, the battlefield continues into the streets here at home. His cohorts in the right wing continue to call for the execution of Americans, including Supreme Court Justices, New York Times employees, politicians who disagree with them, virtually all liberals, and whoever else is the next target du jour in a manner that lays bare any claims they might have to loving America.

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Via the delicious and sexy TBogg, we see that Ann Althouse is on a bit of a roll as to Title IX, with a few commenters outlining precisely what doom we face if we don’t keep women’s admissions to higher education open. I guess with the burden of equal opportunity, we are deprived of the chance to have wills and estate plans drawn up in the exacting style of commenter Fitz.

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When conservatives write their own obituaries, the living surely suffer. Here’s what a French-hating fellow from Virginia wrote recently when he knew the end was near and that he could get the last word in:

He died at MCV Hospital and sadly was deprived of his final wish which was to be run over by a beer truck on the way to the liquor store to buy booze for a double date to include his wife, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter to crash an ACLU cocktail party. In lieu of flowers, Fred asks that you make a sizable purchase at your local ABC store or Virginia winery (please, nothing French – the *censored*) and get rip roaring drunk at home with someone you love or hope to make love to. Word of caution though, don’t go out in public to drink because of the alcohol related laws our elected officials have passed due to their inexplicable terror at the sight of a MADD lobbyist and overwhelming compulsion to meddle in our lives.

Our condolences to the family.

Welcome to Dubya’s Bizarro World.

Events | Posted by admin
Jul 11 2006

First, and foremost, I want to say: huh-wha-huh-who-wha???

Ready? Strap yourselves in tight and do not stick your arms or your brain outside this ride…

Detainees to Get Protections Under Geneva Conventions (Washington Post):

The Bush administration, in an apparent policy reversal sparked by a recent Supreme Court ruling, said today it will extend to detainees in the war-on-terror the guarantees of humane treatment specified by the Geneva Conventions.

The decision, announced by White House spokesman Tony Snow this morning, according to wire service reports, comes in the wake of a landmark June Supreme Court ruling rejecting the administration’s persistent argument that the Geneva Conventions did not apply.

Snow said U.S. detainees have been treated humanely but “we want to get it right. . . . It’s not really a reversal of policy.” Snow called the Supreme Court decision “complex.”

Neither the White House nor the Pentagon provided any immediate details as to what it would do differently or how the decision would effect its controversial policies on interrogation, which have provoked an international outcry as well as considerable domestic controversy.

A Pentagon spokesman said a statement would be issued shortly.

The specific provision of the Geneva Conventions involved — known as Common Article 3 — prohibits violence to prisoners, cruel treatment, torture and “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.”

Two points: First, it is about damn time! Second, and this is my little paranoid voice speaking, what are they really up to? I say paranoid because I know the administration is all about promoting “human dignity” … … … as a phrase that was meant to undermine human rights, as outlined in international law, which includes the Geneva Conventions.

Onto a second weird story (there really should be a limit on the daily intake of BushCo crazy talk). Now, please note that there is setting the bar low, then there is burying the bar six feet under. The following represents the latter.

Budget Deficit Estimate Drops to $296B (Washington Post):

President Bush said today a new, lower estimate of this year’s federal budget deficit shows that his economic policies are working, and he declared that his plan to cut the deficit in half by 2009 is now a year ahead of schedule.

In a speech at the White House, Bush hailed a report today from the Office of Management and Budget showing that this year’s budget deficit “will actually come in at about $296 billion,” compared to what he said was the White House’s “original projection” of $423 billion. The midyear revision is attributable in large part to a recent surge in tax revenue.

“That’s what happens when you implement pro-growth economic policies,” Bush said, pointing to tax cuts that he said have left nearly $1.1 trillion in the hands of workers and business owners. “We’re way ahead of cutting the federal deficit in half by 2009. As a matter of fact . . . we’re now a full year ahead of schedule. Our policies are working.”

Bush cautioned, however, that “we cannot depend on just a growing economy . . . to keep cutting the deficit.” He called on Congress to help cut “wasteful spending” and to tackle what he said was “unsustainable growth in spending for entitlement programs,” such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

The fanfare surrounding the new estimate also includes an appearance today by Budget Director Rob Portman at the National Press Club.

But the favorable news about the money rolling into the Treasury stems largely from shifts in the economy, including fatter corporate profits, executive bonuses and stock market gains, that reflect growing inequality, the administration’s critics contend. And even the White House acknowledges that in the long run, the nation’s fiscal outlook remains bleak.

Three brief points for this story: First, a three hundred billion dollar deficit is still in the meter range of “Super Nasty Big Bad.” Second, if the tax revenues are due to the rich getting richer, is the administration going to call for even more tax cuts for the wealthy? Third, if Bush wants to cut wasteful spending, how about looking at that Defense Department budget and the cost of the war in Iraq?

To borrow from one of America’s classic movies — no, not Casablanca…. Airplane! — I picked a bad day to quit smoking… drinking… sniffing glue.

More blogging in hard times.

Interesting | Posted by admin
Jul 10 2006

Last week, I wrote on the challenges Michelle and I have faced in the past year. As usual, instead of thoughtfully considering my personal musings, some right-wingers concluded that I was simply whining and should go find some Prozac. Personally, I think they didn’t care to listen to what I had to say about life in north Minneapolis. Heck, I suspect that these are the same people who didn’t hear Scott Ritter, Hans Blix, David Kay and Charles Duelfer tell the world that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction before, during and since the American invasion of Iraq because they went deaf beating their war drums, but I digress. I wish ours was simply an isolated phenomenon or simply a streak of personal bad luck, but it isn’t.

Let’s take a brief look at something basic that is affecting people’s lives lately: health care.

I have friends and family who are currently experiencing acute job insecurity or were recently unemployed. Some are teachers either entering the field or trying to stay in the field. Others work, or worked, in jobs that were either near the top of the corporate food chain or the bottom. Those who have lost their jobs that had health benefits are now struggling. Many of us are familiar with COBRA, which is supposed to give people the option to keep their health insurance after leaving a job, but for many people, the loss of the job is the loss of the health benefits, because paying the premiums under COBRA is simply not possible.

For all the (in my opinion, quite dubious) arguments against a single-payer, universal system of health care, critics cannot argue against the fact that, at the very least, people would have coverage regardless of their employment status or economic class. As an added benefit, we wouldn’t have to read stories about how CEOs of HMOs have received huge salaries and bonuses — which I suspect are a small part of the reason for our spiraling premiums and diminishing coverage year after year — or see statistics that show that most personal bankruptcies are caused by a personal health crisis that incurs a huge, unavoidable medical bill.

The last thing people need is to have their personal lives thrown into disarray when they are uprooted from their working lives.

Dems in touch with public? No way!

Interesting | Posted by admin
Jul 08 2006

Way.

Public Just As Divided As Democrats On Iraq (The Left Coaster):

One of the staples of a lazy, White House-fed press corps is the ongoing drumbeat of “Democrats are divided about Iraq” stories that pop up every week or so in the media. The latest installment comes from Liz Sedoti of the AP, which has run this GOP-inspired storyline already several times before. Aside from providing this as a fresh example of how the media takes a spoon-fed storyline from the GOP and continues a narrative for them, I wanted to bring this up for an even simpler reason: Why does the media expect the Democrats to be unified when the public itself is divided on Iraq?

Gallup reports today that there is no consensus amongst the general public on what to do in Iraq, with the country split approximately in thirds between immediate withdrawal, gradual withdrawal, and staying the course. …

When it comes right down to it, I believe it is the political party that most closely resonates with the voting public that wins elections. If the Dems are more in tune with the public on Iraq, the state of the economy, civil rights, and open and accountable government in all three branches (that means no exemptions for a certain Unitary Executive), then I have hope for our nation’s federal government this year that we will see an end to the Republican party’s ham-fisted rule.

I see two ways this story could wind out, however: On the one hand, Republicans can use the public’s uncertainty against itself, arguing that they, at least, have a plan — even if “staying the course” is nowhere near a plan — and maintain their rule because they have convinced or harangued voters into maintaining the status quo in Washington. One the other hand, they can try to utilize that uncertainty to their advantage, only to run into a brick wall of public impatience. The way the party’s poll numbers, along with the president’s own numbers, have been trending (that would be in the way-sub-50% range, if you hadn’t noticed), I am leaning toward the second possibility at this time.

The war in Iraq is simply not going as the administration and its backers have promised. Three years, hundreds of billions of dollars, and thousands dead along with tens of thousands injured can’t be talked away as easily as Republicans might hope. Meanwhile, the price of gasoline grates many working-class Americans who are not feeling the same optimism as the right-wing wants them to feel. I have encountered people who feel as if their civil rights, freedoms, and system of democratic government with checks and balances are under siege by this administration and its supporters in Congress. It will be tough for the Republican candidates to muster support this election cycle in the face of such daunting issues, ones that they have created and left unresolved for six years running.

How hard is it to report all that “good news” in Iraq?

Events | Posted by admin
Jul 06 2006

Well, just ask someone who has been there.

Seven Questions: Covering Iraq (Foreign Policy):

Reporting from Iraq has become one of journalism’s most difficult and dangerous jobs. FP spoke recently with Rod Nordland, who served as Newsweek’s Baghdad bureau chief for two years, about the challenge of getting out of the Green Zone to get the scoop.

FOREIGN POLICY: Are Americans getting an accurate picture of what’s going on in Iraq?

Rod Nordland: It’s a lot worse over here [in Iraq] than is reported. The administration does a great job of managing the news. Just an example: There was a press conference here about [Abu Musab al] Zarqawi’s death, and somebody asked what role [U.S.] Special Forces played in finding Zarqawi. [The official] either denied any role or didn’t answer the question. Somebody pointed out that the president, half an hour earlier, had already acknowledged and thanked the Special Forces for their involvement. They are just not giving very much information here.

FP: The Bush administration often complains that the reporting out of Iraq is too negative, yet you say they are managing the news. What’s the real story?

RN: You can only manage the news to a certain degree. It is certainly hard to hide the fact that in the third year of this war, Iraqis are only getting electricity for about 5 to 10 percent of the day. Living conditions have gotten so much worse, violence is at an even higher tempo, and the country is on the verge of civil war. The administration has been successful to the extent that most Americans are not aware of just how dire it is and how little progress has been made. They keep talking about how the Iraqi army is doing much better and taking over responsibilities, but for the most part that’s not true.

I appreciate the standard complaint from the people at the New Wingnut Media that I have not been to Iraq and should take the word of people who have been there. However, I get the sense that they exclude such reporters as Nordland, who spent two years over there just trying to cover events since the American invasion and occupation. Those pesky reporters, you see, are not as easy to control and tend to send back stories that are not fully vetted and polished by the Pentagon.

The “real story” of Iraq cannot be fully appreciated unless we can read, see and/or hear the good, the bad, and the ugly news of the consequences of our nation’s actions over there. Complaining that reporters, bloggers, and other American citizens who refuse to wear Bush Brand™ Rose-Colored, Peril Sensitive Sunglasses as somehow willfully ignorant of all the “good” the invasion and occupation has brought Iraq smacks of a pollyannish, immature, and unenlightened attitude.

On a slightly tangental note, has anyone noticed how right-wing bloggers promote constitutions, freedoms (of speech, religion, peaceful protest, and of the press, for example), civil and political rights, women’s rights, democratic elections and representation, and the building and repairing of the social infrastructure in countries on the other side of the planet? That’s great, and more power to them, but don’t you wish they could spend just a little more time promoting such things in our own backyard before Bush or Cheney are photographed with some dangerous weapon (y’know… shotguns, chainsaws, or aircraft carriers with “Mission Accomplished” banners emblazoned across control towers) as some kind of testosterone-fueled testament to the power of a Ba’athist dictator Republican party-controlled Unitary Executive?

Who dares say we are losing the war on terror?

Events | Posted by admin
Jul 05 2006

Why those lousy, scheming, surrender monkeys. Of course, it would be the French who would report such a biased piece of work, thereby endangering the war effort. How could they? Just who do they think they are to… cite… stats… from… hmmm…

America is clearly losing the ‘war on terror’ (Lebanon’s Daily Star, via Agence France Presse):

Despite high-profile arrests, security operations and upbeat assessments from the White House, the United States is losing its “global war on terror,” experts warn. Five years after Washington launched its hunt for those responsible for the September 11, 2001, attacks in the US, the world has not become a safer place, and a new large-scale strike against America at some point appears likely, they say.

Even the killing last month of Al-Qaeda in Iraq’s leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, hailed by the White House as a major blow against the terror network, has not dented its ability to recruit new militants or mount attacks.

In May the influential US magazine Foreign Policy and a Washington-based think tank questioned 116 leading US experts – a balanced mix of Republicans and Democrats – on the progress of the US campaign against terrorism.

Among others, they consulted a former secretary of state, two former directors of the Central Intelligence Agency and dozens of the country’s top security analysts.

The result? Eighty-four percent believe the United States is losing the “war on terror,” 86 percent that the world has become a more dangerous place in the past five years, and 80 percent that a major new attack on their country was likely within the next decade.

“We are losing the ‘war on terror’ because we are treating the symptoms and not the cause,” argued Anne-Marie Slaughter, head of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

“Our insistence that Islamic fundamentalist ideology has replaced communist ideology as the chief enemy of our time feeds Al-Qaeda’s vision of the world,” boosting support for the radical cause, she said.

For Leslie Gelb, president of the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, the unity of views expressed by those questioned reflects a deeply criti-cal attitude toward the administration of US President George W. Bush.

“It’s clear to nearly all that Bush and his team have had a totally unrealistic view of what they can accomplish with military force and threats of force,” he said.

Other experts questioned the very nature of the American campaign.

“It was a doomed enterprise from the very start: a ‘war on terror’ – it’s as ridiculous as a ‘war on anger.’ You do not wage a war on terror, you wage a war against people,” said Alain Chouet, a former senior officer of France’s DGSE foreign intelligence service. “The Americans have been stuck inside this idea of a ‘war on terror’ since September 11. They are not asking the right questions.”

“You can always slaughter terrorists – there are endless reserves of them. We should not be attacking the effects of terrorism but its causes: Wahhabite ideology, Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood. But no one will touch any of those,” Chouet argued.

Instead he said US policy in the Middle East, which had “turned Iraq into a new Afghanistan,” was acting as a powerful recruiting agent for a generation of Islamic radicals.

The continued US presence in Iraq and “the atrocities committed by a campaigning army,” the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq and the “grotesque” US detention center at Guantanamo in Cuba all “provide excuses” for violent radicals, he said.

The United States has “fallen into the classic terrorist trap – they’re lashing out at the wrong targets,” causing collateral damage that boosts the cause of their opponents, he said.

Michael Scheuer, who headed the CIA’s Osama bin Laden unit from 1996 to 1999, agreed that Washington was acting as its own worst enemy in the fight against Islamic terrorism.

“We’re clearly losing. Today, bin Laden, Al-Qaeda and their allies have only one indispensable ally: the US foreign policy toward the Islamic world,” Scheuer said.

“The cumulative impact of several events in the past two years has gone a good way toward increasing Muslim hatred for Americans, simply because they are Americans,” he added, citing Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and the East-West row over cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad.

“Each of these events is unfortunate but not terribly serious for Western minds. But from the Muslim perspective they are deliberate and vicious attacks against the things that guide their lives and their faith,” Scheuer said.

Council on Foreign Relations? Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton? University? Central Intelligence Agency? Hey… those are our surrender monkeys.

Okay, seriously for oh-so-brief-a-moment, These people who were polled and the organizations doing the polling and analysis are nowhere near the “cut ‘n run” caricatures right-wingers will try to make them. Once again, we can see that the war in Iraq has not only been a distraction from focusing on the capture of Osama bin Laden, it has bolstered al-Qaeda’s support and recruitment and left most people who practice Islam feeling alienated. If we “stay the course,” and Bush and Friends insist we do, we will certainly continue their downward spiral and gain little more than more dead Number Twos and more dead terrorists, which might sound nice except that they would have been created in our failure to look past the symptom that terrorism represents and in our treatment of Iraq as little more than our private battlefield.

While many Americans buy into Bush’s message that we are fighting terrorism “over there so we don’t have to fight them over here,” it makes the serious error of assuming that Iraqis have no problem with their homes and cities being turned into a “Central Front” for our military endeavors. Iraqis, truth be told, did have many problems with oppression and violence conducted by their government. They did not, however, have a problem with al-Qaeda terrorists or terrorism in general before March 19, 2003. Now, they have Bush Brand Freedom™ and Democracy™, but I have to wonder how much that is worth when it results in the deaths of tens of thousands in the space of a few years, so far. Not only that, but take into account the lack of electricity, gas shortages, ethnic and religious sectionalism, the evacuation and destruction of a city of 300,000 (as Falluja experienced), the state of siege in another town (as Ramadi is currently experiencing), daily violence in the form of attacks on individuals and mass bombings, a foreign government setting a stage for them to fight a war on their behalf (as the US wants Iraqis to do so we can “stand down as they step up) and a fractured and divided government that appears constantly to be on the verge of falling apart. You can see where many Iraqis affected by these circumstances might not be completely satisfied with the results of their “liberation.”

At its core, the Bush administration’s war on terror has neither clear definition nor realizable goals. It represents a bottomless pit, into which we are throwing the lives of Americans and Iraqis with no chance of filling. It is a money pit and it sucks material resources for no real benefit in return. We know these things and we know the administration sees no end in sight.

It has been three years and we have little to show for this war except 2,500 dead Americans, 50,000 dead Iraqis, and a $400 billion bill for the war after three years? Simply put, Bush needs to find a much better strategy than the preserving the status quo. If he doesn’t, will we all be willing to accept 5,000 dead Americans, 100,000 dead Iraqis, and an $800 billion war tab in another three years? I certainly will not.