Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Republicans: The End Is Nigh!

Events | Posted by admin
Oct 02 2006

(Okay. It’s not the end of the Republican party’s dominance at the federal level, but I think you can see it from here. Yep. There it is, just after November 7.)

Talk about “having issues.” The Republican party is trying to play down a whole lot of nasty ones. The chickens aren’t just coming home to roost. They’re borrowing a page or two from Alfred Hitchcock’s script for The Birds. Here’s some thoughts on a couple of the big ones they are facing this week.

Congressional Republican leaders are trying to dodge the fallout of the Foley sex scandal and reports of their lack of action. On C-SPAN, I could have sworn I just heard Speaker Hastert say, and I paraphrase here, that he and the leadership didn’t have any knowledge of this scandal until it broke last weekend and that is the truth because they said so. Ummm… No thanks, Denny. We’ll take a proper and full investigation of this matter over your Sergeant Schultz assertions that you didn’t know nothing.

I think it is safe to say that the Republicans are in danger of losing their status as the “party of family values” this election cycle. Not that I think that their policies have valued families that much, mind you. Add to that a little advice to pundits: Maybe you shouldn’t talk about how the Republicans are the “Daddy” party. It might come across as distasteful to more sensible and sensitive folks.

All humor aside for a moment, this matter is awful and serious on so many levels. Did Hastert and other Republicans really know about this back in 2005? Why didn’t they act back then? Is there going to be an impartial investigation, or, as we’ve seen in the White House, will the watchmen put themselves in charge of looking into this scandal? Already, I have heard the Right-Wing Noise Machine that is talk radio raise a ruckus about how Democrats are trying to capitalize on the scandal in the election. Y’know, if the tables were turned, I would rightfully expect Republicans to do that… oh, yeah, they did seek to capitalize on a sex scandal. It was called Monicagate.

Meanwhile…

Remember, Dubya. Denial isn’t just a state in Egypt.

President Bush Is having all sorts of trouble defending his administration’s actions and lack of actions regarding the total mess that is our war in Iraq and his incompetent defense secretary. That such a huge disaster could be allow to come into being in the first place, let alone persist for three long, arduous years, is not going to be quickly silenced by a White House press secretary with a list of talking points designed solely to cast aspersions and doubts on the president’s critics. If the war wasn’t started on a stack of lies, if there were not stacks of bodies discovered daily in Baghdad, and if the costs of the war wasn’t being measured in thousands of lives lost and billions of dollars wasted, maybe Tony Snow and the White House Press Office could talk this issue away. Too much has been done, however, and I believe the administration is just now discovering that it painted itself in a corner years ago.

Ask yourselves what changes can Bush and the Republican Congress make, having had complete control for five years. They can’t investigate themselves. Every time they have in the past (especially the White House), it seems that they clear themselves… funny how that happens. Congress is Bush’s poodle pen, where Republican members seem more interested in staying in the good graces of the White House than with their constituents or the Constitution. It is way past time to make some changes in Congress and vote for the accountability of our elected representatives and oversight of our government.

Update 1: Now ask yourselves how bad can it be for Bush when a former president who had a very bad four years of his own chimes in about how bad this president is.

Update 2: Yeah, the Republicans are in deep. I just checked my feeds for the right side of the blogosphere and they are, for the most part, pretty quiet about the Foley scandal. Also, GOPUSA (definitely not a Lefty-friendly site) has posted an UPI (also not friendly to the Left) report titled: Top Republicans knew of Foley e-mails.

Update 3: Newt Gingrich is currently on Sean Hannity trying to blame the Foley scandal on George Soros?

When the myth goes *pfft*.

Events | Posted by admin
Oct 02 2006

Early in 2001, as the Bush administration and a Republican ascendancy in Congress grabbed hold of the reigns of power, they were working hard to turn their proposals into policies. Right from the start, however, they ran into problems. Bush was promoted as the president with a mandate, but he received a popular vote of just less than half of the electorate and was bogged down by a sense that he had been “installed” as president by a divided Supreme Court. In the Congress, one lone Republican left the party in the Senate, throwing off one-party dominance of both houses of Congress and the White House for two more years.

The 2004 elections changed that. Bush won his majority, just barely, and his party gained full control of Congress. They went about as if they won the lottery, spending political capital with little regard of the cost. Only they hadn’t earned as much as they had thought and found themselves with little left for the day-to-day costs of doing business on Capitol Hill.

Over those years, Republicans from the president to the back bencher in the House used the attacks on September 11th and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as political backdrops to illustrate their steadfastness and toughness. They went about claiming they were making the world a better place by bashing people over their heads. Some of them might have been the terrorists they were aiming to eliminate, but many more were innocents caught up in the fog of war and either disappeared in death or emerged physically and mentally wounded. Republicans and their supporters took any critique thrown their way of methods used or actions taken on their watch as evidence of anti-Americanism at best or treason at worst.

There is so much more to recount, and what has been so far in this post doesn’t even begin to do justice to the injustices wrought by the Bush administration and the Republican Congress. Let’s cut to the chase: The Republicans are reaping what they have sown over the years and I believe they are facing a comeuppance that may be as surprising as it is unprecedented.

Look at the signs. Take popular culture, where Joan Jett, Bruce Springsteen, Green Day, The Dixie Chicks, and many other musicians and bands have made numerous songs openly criticizing the president. Or look at poll numbers, where Bush is personally wallowing way below the 50% mark, more likely to drink his beer alone than with a typical voter. Congress’ pollings return even worse results and seem to coincide with their very boisterous grandstanding on issues designed to appeal to their shrinking base. Most importantly, check out the important things, from such general things as the state of our world to our personal lives when we look into our pocketbooks or check out a book from the library. It seems the Republicans have left an ugly, indelible mark on our lives and our world.

If this year can be noted for anything, it should be the year that the Republican’s myth about themselves finally imploded. They have lost their claim to being the party of small government, of individual liberties, of families, of security, and of common sense. If anything, they have done the exact opposite in all cases. Along with the generic screw-ups, though, have come the scandals: war profiteering, sex, bribery and corruption scandals are popping up in the headlines and the party and its supporters are working overtime to contain them or spin away the ones that have gotten loose.

All this begs the question as to how their myth of themselves burst as it met reality? The answer to that should be left to every Republican politician running for re-election this November. It had better be a good one, though, because the voters don’t appear to be up for the normal election-year gamesmanship.

Start seeing students.

Events | Posted by admin
Sep 26 2006

There’s nothing worse than being forced to play a game where you have no control over the rules and different rules for different teams, where you have no say regarding who gets the good equipment and who gets the worn-out equipment, where the goal posts keep shifting, where you didn’t have any chances of winning from the beginning, and after every time you lose you are forced to reorganize your team and possibly do without a team member after each loss. Yet that is exactly what the No Child Left Behind Act has done, and the proof of this can be seen, once again, in Minneapolis’ test scores from the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments.

Minneapolis schools show slide on latest test results (Minneapolis Star-Tribune):

The Minneapolis school district slid backward overall last year in meeting the ever-increasing academic targets set by the No Child Left Behind law.

Less than half of the 64 traditional schools or 48 percent, met their achievement targets in tests given last spring. That’s down from 41 of 70 schools, or 59 percent, the year before.

The district today jumped ahead of most of the state’s school districts by releasing preliminary results of last spring’s testing. Most others are waiting for final numbers in mid-November. State officials say the process is taking longer this year because new tests were used to measure new state academic standards.-

But with many of its schools required to notify parents of their status or begin planning for improvements, Minneapolis decided to go public.

The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments in reading and math were given to grades three through eight last spring. High school sophomores were tested on reading and juniors on math. A school doesn’t pass if it misses targets for any of 18 demographic groups, or for attendance or graduation rates.

Here’s a quick summary of the highlights from the Strib’s article :

  • Minneapolis, our state’s largest district, has the greatest number of students from families in poverty and has the greatest amount of student diversity of any other city.
  • Minneapolis had seventy schools in 2004. That shrunk to sixty-four in 2005.
  • Last year, new tests were developed, along with new standards. Minnesota’s tests take more than thirty variables into account when measuring student progress.
  • Some schools that did not pass the MCAs either have had to reorganize or will have to reorganize.
  • A majority of MInneapolis’ elementary schools (K-5) passed the tests (21 out of 28), doing better than the previous year.
  • Middle schools and K-8 schools did not do well. Only six “won the game.”
  • All seven of Minneapolis’ major high schools lost.

Now, here’s what did not make it into the article, based from my recent experiences and anecdotal observations in the field last year and this year:

  • Student enrollment is declining in the city, but appears to be growing increasingly diverse.
  • Class sizes were large the year before and last year. They’ve grown larger this year, from the early grades to through high school.
  • The student body in Minneapolis goes through a lot of changes throughout the school year as new students arrive and other students leave. Last spring, during a one-month subbing assignment, I took in about three or four new students. That’s a lot of fluctuations requiring adjustments from teachers and students.
  • Teachers have been laid off yearly in Minneapolis by the hundreds.
  • Support for teachers have declined, from assistant principals all the way down to janitors.
  • The emphasis on basic reading and math assessments is having an effect on all other subject areas as they are compelled to design their areas around the goal of making sure students pass the MCAs.
  • At some schools, this meant pulling students out of (as an example from my experience)their social studies classes to receive tutoring in order to prepare them for the test.
  • Some students have, quite unfortunately yet understandably, looked at the emphasis on the standardized tests as placing a concomitant de-emphasis on the academic subjects they are taking.

The whole idea and implementation of top-down rules and standardized testing has created a no-win situation for the students of Minneapolis, their families, and for all residents of this good city. What makes matters worse is that the game is rigged and adds injury to the insults Minneapolis’ schools receive through the penalties issued against the city’s failing schools, forces them to regroup and start all over again. What Minneapolis’ schools require is a state government and citizenry that recognizes the unique challenges it faces in providing a quality education to students and possesses the willingness to address those needs in a fair and equitable manner. In short, we need to skip the state tests and start seeing the students.

Filling in the White House’s gaps.

Events | Posted by admin
Aug 18 2006

I took the liberty of putting back some of the key details of the White House’s statement criticizing yesterday’s ruling that the so-called “Terrorist Surveillance Program” violated the FISA law and the First, Fourth, and Fifth amendments to the Constitution.

Statement on the Terrorist Surveillance Program (White House):

Last week America and the world received a stark reminder that terrorists are still plotting to attack our country and kill innocent people [which, by the way, didn’t rely on underhanded, super-secret, and legally questionable means. In fact, warrants were actually issued. How’s that for irony?]. Today a federal judge in Michigan has ruled that the Terrorist Surveillance Program [, a name we made up after the New York Times busted us last year,] ordered by the President [, he is The Decider, after all,] to detect and prevent terrorist attacks against the American people is unconstitutional and otherwise illegal. We couldn’t disagree more with this ruling, and the Justice Department will seek an immediate stay of the opinion and appeal [so we can dig ourselves into an even deeper Constitutional and legal hole]. Until the Court [we tried to pack with hard-core conservatives who won’t challenge our actions] has the opportunity to rule on a stay of the Court’s ruling in a hearing now set for September 7, 2006, the parties have agreed that enforcement of the ruling will be stayed.

United States intelligence officials have confirmed that the program has helped stop terrorist attacks and saved American lives [, but don’t you ask how or we’ll accuse you of aiding and abetting the terrorists]. The program is carefully administered [, again, don’t ask how, or else], and only targets international phone calls coming into or out of the United States where one of the parties on the call is a suspected Al Qaeda or affiliated terrorist [, and that’s it. Really, honest, and truly. Cross our hearts… if we had hearts… and hope to lose our tax cuts]. The whole point is to detect and prevent terrorist attacks before they can be carried out [, so there]. That’s what the American people expect from their government [yet should remain totally clueless on how we do it, what criteria we use, or what real effect it has on preventing terrorist attacks], and it is the President’s most solemn duty to ensure their protection [, so don’t you, as John Ashcroft said in his last speech as Attorney General, go “questioning presidential determinations].

The Terrorist Surveillance Program is firmly grounded in [some] law [somewhere, but we won’t tell you] and regularly reviewed [by us, so don’t you worry your pretty little heads] to make sure steps are taken to protect civil liberties [as we have defined them, just as we have defined what torture means these days]. The Terrorist Surveillance Program has proven [by us, and wow… these rose-colored glasses Alberto gave us are great!!!] to be one of our most critical and effective tools in the war against terrorism [and because it’s totally super-secret, we can’t tell you, but it has been really, really effective, so much so that the world would stop spinning if we were forced to end it], and we look forward to demonstrating on appeal the validity of this vital program.

On a slightly more serious note, today was another good day for the rule of law and Constitutional government.

Lebanon: Now that it is (somewhat) over (for now).

Events | Posted by admin
Aug 15 2006

It looks as if the cease-fire is holding between Israel and Hezbollah. People in Lebanon, where most of the month-long conflict took place, are beginning to return to the homes and cities they fled. After days of bombs, rockets, and mortars lobbed from both sides, we should reflect on what has taken place.

Never mind, so much, whether Israel or Hezbollah won — or Syria or Iran, if you are so inclined. That geopolitical wonkiness makes for a fine evening diversion around a bar table and shouldn’t be ignored, but we miss the larger picture of what went on over there. Focus instead on who lost and I think we will have a clearer idea of the situation in the Middle East.

First of all, the Lebanese people lost… big time. Hundreds of thousands were displaced for a month, away from their homes, neighbors, friends, family, and livelihoods. They lost key parts of their civic, economic, and social infrastructure, too, with the destruction of roads, bridges, and buildings that were either residential or commercial. Mostly, however, they lost the developing sense of security they spent years trying to rebuild following the 1982 Israeli invasion, the civil war that followed, and a concluded with a Syrian occupation that ended only recently.

Israelis lost as well. While they suffered less damage and displacement from incoming Hezbollah rockets than the Lebanese did from IDF bombs, they still lost as much of that precious sense of security that the Lebanese just started to enjoy.

So, instead of chalking this recent conflict up to the same-old, dead-end comments that conflict in the Middle East is some kind of normal situation we should all simply accept, I think we should ask ourselves how we can help support actions designed to seek reconciliations between disparate groups, redemption for people engaged in these hostilities, and restoration for people who have felt the impact of the conflict and strife in Lebanon, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Simply attempting to bash the other side into submission or oblivion will not resolve the many issues at play in the Middle East. We already have clear examples of that in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more still in Israel and Lebanon over the last month.

Before a new geopolitical mess arises, it would behoove us all to talk about how we can put down the guns and find ways to get parties to sit down and work out just means of peacemaking to just, peaceful and equitable ends.

Time to lower speed limits.

Events | Posted by admin
Aug 08 2006

With BP’s announcement today of the shutdown of its pipeline from the North Slope of Alaska for, possibly, weeks or months in order to repair parts that have corroded too much, the markets reacted quickly and predictably. Oil prices surged and people are worrying about the possibility of their future gas purchases hovering around $4.00 per gallon. The administration is even releasing oil stocks from the nation’s petroleum reserve to help cope with this recent event.

It is time for our representatives in state legislatures and in Congress to take reasonable measures to help reduce the financial impact. As I write, people in many parts of the country are cruising on the interstates with posted speed limits of sixty-five, seventy, or seventy-five miles per hour; many of them will drive in excess of those limits.

I have two proposals for our representatives to entertain: The first is a simple, across the board cut in speed limits on the interstate highways. Maybe they can take them down by five miles per hour for any speed limits currently above sixty-five miles per hour. It might be palatable to the current generation of leadfoots out there and would certainly reduce the rate of fuel consumption.

The second is more drastic, yet one that I favor at this point: Cap the speed limit at sixty, everywhere. Drivers would have to accept that a mile a minute is a reasonable sacrifice in these times of constrained fuel supplies. This doesn’t have to be an effort solely for environmentalists and conservationists. Conservatives — even the most rabid, Hummer-driving, cigar-chomping, gun-toting wingnut — can also take part by printing up and distributing fuel pump hose and nozzle ribbon magnets with “Support Our Speed Limit” emblazoned on them. Heck, they can tie it to their war on terror, for all I care at this point. (Why not? They tend to tie everything else to it — torture, domestic spying, war profiteering, or Republican party power grabs. What’s one more?)

It is no secret that speed kills fuel economy. I can drive my aging Ford Focus at sixty and get thirty miles per gallon. If I drive at seventy, it drops to twenty-six. Now imagine those big ol’, gas guzzling SUVs that, more often than not, pass me by as if I was standing still. They are certainly not getting thirty miles per gallon. It’s almost certain that many of them are flirting with numbers under the teens. Add to their road speed such factors as air conditioning, wind resistance, and/or whatever they might be towing (ATV’s, boats, or horses) and we’re now talking single-digit ranges. Since Congress is dragging its heels on mandating increases in fuel economy standards, we might as well tell them to act to slow down the current fleet of vehicles, many of which are getting lousy fuel economy due to their years of inaction.

If this matter were simply about the speeds we travel, the fuel crisis might not be such a big deal, relatively-speaking. Unfortunately, it is much more than that. The price of gasoline, along with everything else affected by the price of a barrel of oil, has had a noticeable impact on people’s purchasing power and habits this year. What is worse is that we have yet to enter the winter months, when the price of heating fuel will be felt by millions of Americans. Last year, many people were compelled to turn their thermostats down to levels that were merely uncomfortable. For us in Minnesota, we were fortunate to experience a mild winter. If this winter turns out to be a harsh one, and with the added costs of fuel, I fear that many people will be more than uncomfortable. If we do not act to reduce the consumption of gasoline for use in travel, we will have a negative effect on the stocks and/or price of heating fuel.

We’ve pushed things too far for too long and it is way past time we consider actions to lower the speed limits – if not across the nation, then at least here in Minnesota.

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.

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.

No “good news” in Ramadi. Bad news to blame.

Events | Posted by admin
Jun 12 2006

Maybe the reason why right-wingers keep harping on lefty bloggers and the press is because the bad news is really not all that good.

Fear of Big Battle Panics Iraqi City (Los Angeles Times):

BAGHDAD — Fears of an imminent offensive by the U.S. troops massed around the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi intensified Saturday, with residents pouring out of the city to escape what they describe as a mounting humanitarian crisis.

The image pieced together from interviews with tribal leaders and fleeing families in recent weeks is one of a desperate population of 400,000 people trapped in the crossfire between insurgents and U.S. forces. Food and medical supplies are running low, prices for gas have soared because of shortages and municipal services have ground to a stop.

U.S. and Iraqi forces had cordoned off the city by Saturday, residents and Iraqi officials said. Airstrikes on several residential areas picked up, and troops took to the streets with loudspeakers to warn civilians of a fierce impending attack, Ramadi police Capt. Tahseen Dulaimi said.

U.S. military officials refused to confirm or deny reports that a Ramadi offensive was underway.

Thousands of families remain trapped in the city, those who have fled say. Many can’t afford to leave or lack transportation, whereas other families have decided to wait for their children to finish final examinations at school before escaping.

“The situation is catastrophic. No services, no electricity, no water,” said Sheik Fassal Gaood, the former governor of Al Anbar province, whose capital is Ramadi.

“People in Ramadi are caught between two plagues: the vicious, armed insurgents and the American and Iraqi troops.”

Residents have been particularly unnerved by the recent arrival of 1,500 U.S. troops sent to reinforce the forces already stationed at the city. Street battles between troops and insurgents have been raging for months, but the troops’ deployment left residents bracing for a mass offensive to take the town back from insurgents.

“It is becoming hell up there,” said Mohammed Fahdawi, a 42-year-old contractor who packed up his four children and fled to Baghdad two weeks ago. “It is unbelievable: The Americans seem to have brought all of their troops to Ramadi.”

The fearful city is haunted by memories of the battles that raged in nearby Fallouja in 2004. Determined to purge that city of insurgents, U.S. Marine and Army units lined up to the north and pushed south through the heart of Fallouja. They cleared one neighborhood after another in intense, constant street fighting. By the time the sweep was over, the town was largely destroyed.

Wow. There’s a lot of bad news here. To be Fox Fair and Balanced™ for a moment, where is all that good news and why isn’t the press reporting it? A city as large as Minneapolis or St. Louis teetering on the edge of disaster does not excuse reporters from going into Ramadi to tell ‘Muricans all about the opening of new schools and health clinics or the restoration of water and sewage services… which will probably… ummm… not survive… an American/Iraqi seige… ummm… yeah… never mind.