Sunday, January 23, 2005

Rest In Peace, Johnny

Johnny Carson, 30-year king of late night TV, dead at 79 - USAToday.

Uh oh

Light blogging the next few days - my computer's on crack again (just got back from rehab, too). So here's a quick one:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has declared all-out war against Iraq's landmark elections in a warning intended to scare away voters a week before they go to the polls amid a raging insurgency...

Zarqawi, a shadowy Jordanian militant who tops America's wanted list in Iraq, berated the country's Shi'ite majority for embracing the coming election and urged Saddam Hussein's once-dominant Sunni minority to wage a holy fight against it.

"We have declared a bitter war against the principle of democracy and all those who seek to enact it," a speaker identified as Zarqawi said in an audio tape on the Internet.

"Those who vote ... are infidels. And with God as my witness, I have informed them (of our intentions)," he said.

Zarqawi's network has assassinated politicians and beheaded foreign hostages in the countdown to the election. Despite a $25 million (13 million pound) U.S. bounty on his head, he has eluded a U.S.-led manhunt and continues to thumb his nose at American troops.

His group's almost daily attacks -- including most of the deadliest suicide bombings of the past year -- have raised fears of a bloodbath during next Sunday's election, Iraq's first since the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam.

Iraqi officials say Sunni guerrillas are not only trying to wreck the election, expected to cement the new-found power of the long-oppressed 60 percent Shi'ite majority, but also want to provoke sectarian civil war.


Ohhh, man. And elections are a week away? This is really bad. Don't get me wrong, now - al-Zarqawi is a murderous fearmonger, and I admire the courage of those who will actually try and vote. But I can't help thinking, why are all of us (Americans and Iraqis) in this mess? This is what happens when neocon idealism is set loose, untempered by realism. Ideally, the fall of Saddam is great. But do the ends justify the means? And what about the possibility of all-out civil war?

Remember this infamous Bush quote: "I don't think our troops ought to be used for what's called nation-building."

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Out of the closet?

No, I'm not talking about Sponge Bob. I mean the neocons:

WASHINGTON - In the unending struggle over American foreign policy that consumes much of official Washington, one side claimed a victory this week: the neoconservatives, that determined band of hawkish idealists who promoted the U.S. invasion of Iraq and now seek to bring democracy to the rest of the Middle East...

"This is real neoconservatism," said Robert Kagan, a foreign policy scholar who has been a leading exponent of neocon thinking - and who sometimes has criticized the administration for not being neocon enough. "It would be hard to express it more clearly. If people were expecting Bush to rein in his ambitions and enthusiasms after the first term, they are discovering that they were wrong."

On the other side of the Republican foreign policy divide, a leading "realist" - an exponent of the view that promoting democracy is nice, but not the central goal of U.S. foreign policy - agreed.

"If Bush means it literally, then it means we have an extremist in the White House," said Dimitri Simes, president of the Nixon Center, a conservative think tank that reveres the less idealistic policies of Richard Nixon. "I hope and pray that he didn't mean it [and] that it was merely an inspirational speech, not practical guidance for the conduct of foreign policy..."

Another sign of the administration's bent: Several of the leading realists of the first term, notably Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and his closest aides, have left. But leading neoconservatives, including Wolfowitz, are staying. And at least one, National Security Council aide Elliott Abrams, is said to be in line for a more prominent job at the State Department or NSC.


Wow. When you have other conservatives calling your administration "extremist," then you know there's something fishy going on. I definitely sensed the neocon message in the inauguration. Wolfowitz and his ideological allies are driving the Administration's foreign policy. Look here for more insight. If you don't already know about the Project For The New American Century, read the whole site to learn more. The list of members reads like a neocon roll call - Cheney, Bennett, Jeb Bush, Podhoretz, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Kristol. This is the blueprint for the Bush Administration's foreign policy.

One thing I found intriguing is the article's "idealist" labeling of the Bush Administration. I suppose in a way, their policies are idealist - see definition of word. I have no problem with idealism, even though I am often a realist. I think a healthy dose of both, and knowing when to apply the one perspective vs. the other, are crucial, especially in foreign policy.

For example, liberals and progressives would love to see true freedom and liberty spread all over the world, but how to accomplish it? At the barrel of a gun, as the Bush Administration has tried to do (and, if all indicators are accurate, we'll see much more of), or by using diplomacy and building true, broad coalitions?

Compare the article from the LATimes (link above) to this Orlando Patterson op-ed from the NYTimes (registration req'd). It discusses Bush's version of "freedom" vs. the classic liberal definition of the word. What I agree with is the point that Bush's so-called idealistic version of freedom is basically, as the author put it, "doing what one wants and getting one's way. It is measured in terms of one's independence and autonomy, on the one hand, and one's influence and power, on the other." This differs with the liberal definition, which "emphasizes civil liberties, political participation and social justice. It is the version formally extolled by the federal government, debated by philosophers and taught in schools; it still informs the American judicial system. And it is the version most treasured by foreigners who struggle for freedom in their own countries."

And there rests the problem with the neocon version of freedom. Sure, it's idealistic. And we often should think in idealistic terms. But when dealing with delicate foreign policy issues, the idealism needs to be tempered with realism. When we have an Administration so hawkishly supporting the forceful spread of "freedom" around the world while purging the realists in their own ranks, well, we're in for trouble. If you think Iraq is bad, wait and see what other idealistic pursuits of freedom they have in store.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Well, this is just plain stupid

The dumbest conservative idea ever - W Ketchup! Here's more:

Choose Heinz and you're supporting Teresa Heinz and her liberal causes, such as Kerry for President.

And here's a dubious bit of information from the FAQ page:

What does the “W” stand for?
Our official position is that the “W” stands for “Washington”.


Sorry, I'll stick to Heinz (and that has nothing to do with Teresa).

Thursday, January 20, 2005

I have finally arrived...

...in the blogworld! Why, you ask? Because I got my first visit from a troll today! His name is warriorjason and he has his own blog, warriorsvoice.

Here are the comments he left:

On Coronation Day:

Were is the outrage and protests concerning the Islamofacists who cutt off heads and disembowl their fellow muslims whos only crime is trying to vote? Oh yeah I never see you left wing extremists complaining about that.

On There is no crisis:

Of course you liberals are NOW saying that there is nothing wrong with Social Security but three months ago you were complaining about it.
Hypocrites


On Weekly roundup of reasons to drink:

I'd be more concerned about Iran having nuclear weapons.

And finally, on Kerry strikes back:

I do agree that there needs to be one way to do the election. Just look at how the libs stole the election in Washington state.

I have to admit, I'm a little flattered. I mean, I must be doing something right to get that kind of response. warriorjones, stop by anytime. I love reading uninformed, misspelled responses.

Bored with the Social Security mess?

Yesterday I posted about There Is No Crisis, a website about the nonexistent Social Security crisis. I noticed today that I had a comment on the post. (Trust me, it's unfortunately a rarity.)

The comment was from Daniel, author of Bloggledygook, one of the better blogs in the Pittsburgh area. Take some time to check out his site; he's a self-professed liberal, but not a leftist (although I'm not 100% sure what that means exactly). We've had a friendly back-and-forth for a little while now. We disagree on many counts, but I have some degree of respect for him. Read his comment to the post here.

I wish I could be as bored with the Social Security issue as Daniel is. But I'm too busy being concerned. And I really don't care who's zooming who. (Wasn't that an 80's Aretha song?) What really gets me is when Daniel writes "The issue come down to what you believe. Should government take money from one person to give it to another? Should younger generations be forced to support older generations who frankly should have thought ahead?"

I think this is a central idea behind the plan to dismantle Social Security. People see it as theft from their hard-earned paychecks to pay for shiftless seniors. Of course government can take money from one person and give it to another - it's called taxes! No one enjoys paying them, but where do you think the infrastructure of our society comes from? It sure doesn't come from selfish corporations. We all enjoy the fruits of our tax dollars - the Internet, the highway system, public services, etc. And when we get old, Social Security is there to provide a basic level of modern existence. Senior citizens are the ones who built the world we live in, with their own efforts and tax dollars.

Social Security wasn't intended to be the only support for seniors. It was supposed to supplement their pensions and private savings. How many of you get a substantial pension nowadays? Not that many. As for as private savings go, the vagaries of the stock market could wipe those out mighty quick. And again, how many of you make enough today to set aside much money, let alone enough to live on comfortably for 10-20 years? Not nearly enough. (There goes the "ownership society.") And so what if some senior citizens screwed up and wasted their money? Don't we, as a civilized society, owe them basic sustenance now that they're no longer able?

And as far as giving a "choice," well, I just don't think those advocating "choice" have looked closely enough at Bush's ideas. There is no crisis. If you are able to save for retirement and choose to do so, then go ahead. But we should still provide Social Security as a guarantee that, if you work all your life, pay taxes, and make it to those golden years, you will be provided for on a very basic level.

That's just what I think. I'm still not sure if Daniel supports privatization of Social Security; I don't want to put words in his mouth. Again, check out Bloggledygook sometime. Even if you don't agree with everything you see there, at least it'll provoke thought.

Coronation Day

Well, today was Bush's coronation-I mean, inauguration. I considered doing the Bush Blackout thing, but decided against it because I didn't want to give him or his cronies the satisfaction. (Yeah, I know, like I even register on their radar!) I posted yesterday that he planned to hype the "ownership society" idea, and yes he did, among other things.

One of the main themes was "freedom." Okay, freedom's great. That's precisely why he hyped it so much - it's completely non-controversial! It's like taking a stand...against murder (gasp)! What else of any significance does Bush have to say? Absolutely nothing.

However, the way he wants to apply freedom is curious (same link as above):

The president pledged to continue efforts to spread democracy throughout the world. "We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation -- the moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right.

Every ruler and nation? That's a mighty tall order there...

"America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies.

Except if we identify them as "enemy combatants." Then we can torture and imprison them at will!

"... In the long run, there is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human rights without human liberty."

I shouldn't have to point out that Bush is not an authority on justice and human rights. (see Gonzales, Rice, Ashcroft/Chertoff, Guantanamo, etc.)

All in all, quite a day. One more thing: anyone hear the tool shouting "Four more years!" at the end of the speech? Yeah, you won. As many conservatives are wont to say nowadays to us liberals: "Get over it!"

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

How tacky

Inaugural speeches give a President a chance to reach out to the American people and draw them together, or to call them to a higher purpose. For example, JFK exhorted us to "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" and FDR reminded us that "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." (How relevant is that one in today's Terror Level world?)

So what does Bush plan to talk about tomorrow at his second inauguration? the evils of government and the wonders of the "ownership society":

...Domestically, Mr. Bush will talk about freedom from government...Mr. McClellan said Mr. Bush "will talk about the importance of advancing freedom to achieve peace abroad and security at home, and he'll also talk about the importance of extending freedom in the United States by building an ownership society.

"The President wants people to have more control over their own lives and have more say over their own lives," Mr. McClellan said.


Except if they're women or gay or if they disagree with the President's policies! And I'm so sick of hearing about "the evils of government" from hypocritical conservatives. They seem to like it when it benefits them; I could go on and on. I'll save it for another post.

I'll wait to hear tomorrow's speech to make a final judgment, but if this article is at all accurate, then Bush's speech will be as vapid as the man himself. So tacky...

There is no crisis

Crisis: an unstable situation of extreme danger or difficulty.

The Bush Administration and its cronies would have you think that this word describes the state of Social Security. Hopefully, you know it just isn't the case, just like the other times Bush invoked "crisis" to get what he wanted (WMD, anyone?). Atrios turned me on to this great site: There Is No Crisis. It's entirely dedicated to debunking the conservative myth that Social Security is in imminent trouble and must be replaced with privatization and cuts in benefits. Take some time to check it out; I plan to link back to it on a regular basis.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Weekly roundup of reasons to drink

I've got to make this quick - I'm heading to Drinking Liberally tonight. So , without further ado, the weekly roundup of reasons to drink:

Rumors of Iran as next target=Iran says they're not afraid of U.S.=deja vu?

Also, more pre-election mess in Iraq.

Libations, anyone?

Monday, January 17, 2005

Kerry strikes back

Via The Raw Story: Appearing at a Martin Luther King Day event in Boston, Kerry denounced voting irregularities in Ohio:

Kerry, Bush's Democratic challenger, spoke at Boston's annual Martin Luther King Day Breakfast. He reiterated that he decided not to challenge the election results, but went on to say that "thousands of people were suppressed in the effort to vote."

"Voting machines were distributed in uneven ways. In Democratic districts, it took people four, five, eleven hours to vote, while Republicans sorted through in ten minutes -- same voting machines, same process, our America," he said.

In his comments, Kerry also compared the democracy-building efforts in Iraq with voting in the U.S., saying that Americans had their names purged from voting lists and were kept from casting ballots.

"We're here to celebrate the life of a man who if he were here today would make it clear to us what our agenda is, and nothing would be made more clear on that agenda that in a nation which is willing to spend several hundred million dollars in Iraq to bring them democracy, we cannot tolerate that too many people here in America were denied that democracy," Kerry said
.

Okay, great. So now I (and many others) want to know: What are you going to do about it? Speaking out isn't enough; legislation needs to be passed to standardize and streamline voting procedures nationally. I don't see how this could be anything but a positive for Democrats, and the nation as a whole. We're waiting!

In the spirit of the holiday (that Cheney and friends originally opposed, BTW), here are a few very relevant MLK quotes:

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."

"All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality."

"Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Mankind must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love."

Pre-election omens?

You might have already heard, but things are looking scary as the Iraq election draws near:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Insurgents killed at least 16 Iraqis on Monday in two attacks aimed at security forces, and U.S. forces suffered casualties in a suicide bombing in the flashpoint western city of Ramadi as violence continued to build ahead of national elections scheduled for Jan. 30.

Some of the latest violence, including a series of weekend attacks along a highway southeast of Baghdad, occurred in provinces which U.S. and Iraqi authorities have deemed safe enough to hold the elections and appear to be attempts to scare the country’s majority Shiites away from the Jan. 30 polls.


Of course, there's more. Read for yourself. To place it all in perspective, here's a golden oldie from Vice President Cheney, on March 16, 2003:

"Now, I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators."

Looks like I spoke too soon...

...in my earlier praise of Ted Kennedy. MyDD has the goods:

So today I'm watching the Sunday morning funnies, a.k.a. the political shows, as is my usual Sunday morning routine to get the blood pressure up. I'm flipping back and forth, and start with Face the Nation, and Sen. Kennedy, a leading liberal voice for our party, talking about several issues, Social Security among them. I flip over to ABC and watch Sen. Frist, GOP majority leader for the dark side, on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, who is also talking about Social Security. The contrast in the arguments could not be greater.

I sat there stunned, remote falling from my hands, as I watched Sen. Kennedy reinforce the GOP frame, and at one point actually talk about raising taxes to fix social security. In horror, I pick up the remote and flip over to see Frist on point, on message, and reframing several very tough questions just to repeat his message on his terms. I sit there shaking my head and again wondering why.

Their guys get it. Our guys don't...


To be fair to Teddy, at least he's "leaning against" confirming Gonzales (I'll be watching!), but that doesn't excuse his Sunday bumbling. I can't say it enough: all progressives/Dems/liberals must read Don't Think of an Elephant! And no, George Lakoff isn't paying me to say this...

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Got yer accountability right here

Via The Guardian, Accountability in action:

Two US defence contractors being sued over allegations of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison have been awarded valuable new contracts by the Pentagon, despite demands that they should be barred from any new government work.
Three employees of CACI International and Titan - working at Abu Ghraib as civilian contractors - were separately accused of abusive behaviour.

The report on the Abu Ghraib scandal implicated three civilian contractors in the abuses: Steven Stefanowicz from CACI International and John Israel and Adel Nakhla from Titan.

Stefanowicz was charged with giving orders that 'equated to physical abuse', Israel of lying under oath and Naklha of raping an Iraqi boy.

It was also alleged that CACI interrogators used dogs to scare prisoners, placed detainees in unauthorised 'stress positions' and encouraged soldiers to abuse prisoners. Titan employees, it has been alleged, hit detainees and stood by while soldiers physically abused prisoners.

Investigators also discovered systemic problems of management and training - including the fact that a third of CACI International's staff at Abu Ghraib had never received formal military interrogation training.

Despite demands by human rights groups in the US that the two companies be barred from further contracts in Iraq - where CACI alone employed almost half of all interrogators and analysts at Abu Ghraib - CACI International has been awarded a $16 million renewal of its contract. Titan, meanwhile, has been awarded a new contract worth $164m.


More background information on the topic from Robert Fisk here.

Permission to screw up, granted!

Nowadays, outrage is my primary emotion while reading the news. But this one was just too much:

President Bush said the public's decision to reelect him was a ratification of his approach toward Iraq and that there was no reason to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes or misjudgments in prewar planning or managing the violent aftermath.

"We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. "The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me."


So getting 51% of the vote gives this dolt permission to screw up as much as he can? The worst part is that, in a very small way, he has a point - with all that Bush did wrong, Kerry still lost. Just goes to show what a flaccid campaign the senator had. All the more reason why Dems have to go on the offensive, stop worrying about responding to every single nonsensical accusation from the right, and articulate a clear progressive agenda.

Just for fun, I'll leave you with another nugget of wisdom from the Prezdint (same link as above):

As for perhaps the most notorious terrorist, Osama bin Laden, the administration has so far been unsuccessful in its attempt to locate the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Asked why, Bush said, "Because he's hiding."

Thanks, Captain Obvious!

Friday, January 14, 2005

Following orders?

A little while ago, Charles Graner was found guilty of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib:

A 10-member military jury found Graner, 36, a former civilian prison guard, guilty on 10 charges, many of which were documented by photographs of sexual humiliation of naked men that shocked the world after they were leaked last year.

Graner stood at attention and looked straight ahead without any visible reaction as the verdict was read. He held his hands tightly clenched...

In his closing argument, Graner's lawyer said the former Pennsylvania prison guard was following orders of military intelligence officials at Abu Ghraib outside Baghdad as part of a vital, larger U.S. war effort in Iraq.

"Corp. Graner is a smart guy, professional and he was doing his job in Iraq," defense attorney Guy Womack told the court. "Now the government would ask a corporal, an E4, one of the junior people there, to take the hit for it."

The prosecution argued that Graner and others in his unit acted without orders for their own gratification.

"This cannot become the recruitment poster for the United States Army," prosecutor Capt. Chris Graveline said as he held up an enlarged photo showing Graner in front of a pyramid of naked detainees.


No doubt about it, what Graner did was wrong. However, it appears that he was thrown to the wolves in order to protect those who devised the plan for prisoner torture: Gonzales and the Bush Administration. Graner's lawyers tried to point this out in his defense, but to no avail.

In related news, Tom Ridge commented today that torture should not be ruled out if it could protect many lives:

Speaking to the BBC, Tom Ridge said the US did not condone the use of torture to extract information from terrorists.

But he said that "under an extreme set of circumstances" such as the threat of a nuclear attack, "it could happen".

It comes a day after the US was accused of eroding human rights by campaigners...

Mr Ridge told BBC News 24's HARDtalk: "By and large, as a matter of policy we need to state over and over again: we do not condone the use of torture to extract information from terrorists."


You don't?

But he said it was "human nature" that torture might be employed in certain exceptional cases when time was very limited.

In the event of something like a nuclear bomb threat "you would try to exhaust every means you could to extract the information to save hundreds and thousands of people", he said.


One could be drawn into all sorts of "what if" dilemmas about situations in which torture might actually be justified. But the problem is that reality is rarely as simple as these hypothetical situations. Start thinking this way, and pretty soon any terror suspect could be seen as possessing the knowledge that could save countless lives. It's a slippery slope you're walking, Mr. Ridge:

He said the US did not have the luxury of knowing where and when a terrorist attack might happen.

"I don't think it is 'if'. I think it's a matter of 'when'. We operate that way," he said.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Scottie takes one for the team

As usual, White House spokesperson Scott McClellan does his best to cover for Bush's latest screwup (WMDgate); story courtesy of David Corn at The Nation. I have to admit, McClellan is good at what he does - deflecting criticism and sidestepping hard questions. Look here for more fun with Scottie!


More fallout from Williamsgate

Oh no, I'm not going to let up on this one. Now Senators, the FCC, and even lame duck Education Secretary Paige are calling for more investigations:

Education Secretary Rod Paige directed his agency Thursday to begin a speedy investigation into its public relations contract with a prominent black media commentator after leaders of a Senate committee asked for records of the department's publicity deals.

At the same time, a Federal Communications Commission member asked that his agency investigate whether the commentator, Armstrong Williams, broke the law by failing to disclose that the Bush administration paid him $240,000 to plug its education policies to minority audiences...

The (Education) department, through a contract with the public relations firm Ketchum, hired Williams to produce ads that featured Paige and promoted Bush's No Child Left Behind law
. The contract also called for Williams to provide media access for Paige and to persuade other black journalists to talk about the law.

Federal law bans the use of public money on propaganda.

"Given our jurisdiction over the funds involved, we would appreciate your careful review of the contract with Ketchum and the payment made to Mr. Williams," said Sens. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, in a letter to Paige.

The letter, dated Wednesday, was obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday. The lawmakers are the chairman and the ranking member of the panel that oversees education spending.

They asked Paige for a list of any grant, contract or arrangement of public money being used "for public relations or anything similar to the purpose of the Ketchum contract" from the 2002, 2003 and 2004 budget years.

Harkin also plans to introduce a bill requiring federal agencies to report their entire advertising budgets to Congress, and to make clear in their ads that public money was used.


The whole debacle is truly sickening, especially in light of Bush's shortchanging of NCLB funds. Look here for more:

...Funding is still $7 billion a year under what was envisioned in the authorizing legislation for No Child Left Behind, according to the National Education Association.

And it isn't just Democrats and the teachers unions saying it. In Republican-dominated Utah, the superintendent of the state's largest school district estimated it would cost $182 million over the next 10 years to implement all the provisions of No Child Left Behind, compared to the $2.2 million per year it now receives in federal aid. And in Republican-dominated Ohio, a study for the state department of education estimated the cost of compliance with the law to be $149 million per year.


And now Bush wants to expand testing for high school students. I hope there will be funds left to help implement this plan - I mean, there are many other pundits waiting for fat paychecks!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Growing a spine?

Hopefully, the Democrats are doing just that. The hearings on the Ohio elections were one positive sign, and now there's this:

Sen. Edward Kennedy offered a mild dig at fellow Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign Wednesday, saying Democrats should have done a better job talking about values.

Kennedy said relatively small swings in several states including a shift of 60,000 votes in Ohio could have triggered a different outcome or given Democrats more seats in the House and Senate. He also rejected suggestions that Bush's win was "somehow a sweeping or a modest or even a miniature mandate for reactionary measures like privatizing Social Security."


Go, Teddy, go! You're almost making me forget about my earlier criticism of you. More:

While Kennedy said it is too easy to blame the loss on a particular issue or tactic, Democrats do need to "do a better job of looking within ourselves and speaking out for the principles we believe in."

"We were remiss in not talking more directly about them about the fundamental ideals that guide our progressive policies," he said. He added that Kerry's loss also showed that Democrats must communicate better with voters on issues of deep conscience, including abortion, without yielding the party's support for a woman's right to choose.

In a speech punctuated with broad liberal proposals to expand federal support for education and Medicare, Kennedy outlined a progressive agenda for Congress and the party.

"We cannot move our party or our nation forward under pale colors and timid voices," said Kennedy, who has served 42 years in the Senate. "We cannot become Republican clones. If we do, we will lose again, and deserve to lose."

He said Medicare should be gradually expanded to cover all citizens, and the cost would be funded through payroll taxes and general revenues and offset by savings through advances in technology.


Yes! Wow, does it feel good to hear someone as prominent as Kennedy say something like this. His comments relate directly to a book I just finished reading, Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate (A Progressive Guide to Action) by George Lakoff. I will be posting about it more in the days to come - it's a quick and easy read, and a must for anyone with progressive leanings. Kennedy basically paraphrased the book's themes in his speech today. Please do yourself a favor and learn what Lakoff has to say! It sounds like someone else has, too...(Read the book, than the link, and it'll all make sense.)

Cry Wolf

Today we learned that the U.S. has officially ended the hunt for WMDs in Iraq. I'm aware that many other bloggers have already covered this, but I'd like to take a trip back in time - come along, won't you?

Here are Bush's comments about the subject back in October, 2002 (note the ironic heading "Iraq: Denial and Deception"):

Tonight I want to take a few minutes to discuss a grave threat to peace, and America's determination to lead the world in confronting that threat.

The threat comes from Iraq. It arises directly from the Iraqi regime's own actions -- its history of aggression, and its drive toward an arsenal of terror. Eleven years ago, as a condition for ending the Persian Gulf War, the Iraqi regime was required to destroy its weapons of mass destruction, to cease all development of such weapons, and to stop all support for terrorist groups. The Iraqi regime has violated all of those obligations. It possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. It has given shelter and support to terrorism, and practices terror against its own people. The entire world has witnessed Iraq's eleven-year history of defiance, deception and bad faith...Members of the Congress of both political parties, and members of the United Nations Security Council, agree that Saddam Hussein is a threat to peace and must disarm. We agree that the Iraqi dictator must not be permitted to threaten America and the world with horrible poisons and diseases and gases and atomic weapons. Since we all agree on this goal, the issues is : how can we best achieve it?


Well, we all know now what he had in mind. The scare tactics continued:

We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas. Saddam Hussein also has experience in using chemical weapons. He has ordered chemical attacks on Iran, and on more than forty villages in his own country. These actions killed or injured at least 20,000 people, more than six times the number of people who died in the attacks of September the 11th.

And surveillance photos reveal that the regime is rebuilding facilities that it had used to produce chemical and biological weapons. Every chemical and biological weapon that Iraq has or makes is a direct violation of the truce that ended the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Yet, Saddam Hussein has chosen to build and keep these weapons despite international sanctions, U.N. demands, and isolation from the civilized world.


Look here for more outrageous quotes from the Bush administration on the supposed WMDs that made Iraq such a threat. And the evidence Bush spoke of? Check here for a thoroughly documented refutation. Much of this trickery was apparent right away, despite Bush's claims that it wasn't his fault there was bad intelligence coming from the CIA. (See Seymour Hersh's findings on the subject.) And either way, Bush found other rationales for the war to cover his tracks.

This is all old news. But now the search for WMDs is over. And how many Americans have died? 1357, with at least 10,500 wounded. Bush seems to find the humor in the situation, but I doubt the families of these men and women do.

One more related item: Bush is again playing the "crisis" card, this time with Social Security. Hopefully the American people have learned their lesson - Bush is the President Who Cried Wolf.

Update: Atrios has a link to The Poor Man's chart comparing Rathergate to WMDgate. What's the bigger outrage? Does Instawanker have anything to say about it?

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Sick and tired...

...a little of both, actually, so unfortunately I'm missing Drinking Liberally tonight. I need some sleep, so I'll keep it quick today.

Bush finally nominated a new Homeland Security chief, Michael Chertoff. It seems that he already has broad, bipartisan support:

The choice of Chertoff, whose appeals court nomination sailed through the Senate, won immediate applause on Capitol Hill.

Well, let's not start patting each other on the back quite yet. The ACLU has some reservations about the choice:

The ACLU said it takes no position on the nomination, but "we are troubled that (Chertoff's) public record suggests he sees the Bill of Rights as an obstacle to national security, rather than a guidebook for how to do security properly."

The ACLU said Chertoff "has been a vocal champion of the Bush administration's pervasive belief that the executive branch should be free of many of the checks and balances that keep it from abusing its immense power over our lives and liberty."

The group added, "His nomination as head of the Department of Homeland Security -- a new and untested agency with great influence on civil liberties -- means that Chertoff should be questioned aggressively to ensure his fitness for the position, and the strength of his dedication to the Bill of Rights."


I found this older criticism of Chertoff, from Counterpunch:

...What's so scary about Michael? Well, besides having no judicial experience and being a right-ring radical who does not believe in the Constitution and wants to rewrite federal law and rules of procedure on an ad hoc, case by case basis, as it suits him, nothing I guess.

A good place to look for Chertoff's legal philosophy is in the prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui , now taking place in the Eastern District of Virginia. Chertoff is not the prosecutor of course, Paul McNulty of the Eastern District is. But Chertoff is McNulty's boss and he is calling the shots. So Chertoff argued the government's case in the super secret hearing before the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals last week. The government is trying to block trial judge Leonie Brinkema's ruling that Moussaoui and his lawyers have access to the government's star witnesses against him. The government has refused and appealed. Judge Brinkema, who still believes in the Constitution, rightly ruled that to deny Moussaoui that access is a blatant violation of the Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses...Chertoff's goal, I believe, and the goal of Ashcroft and Bush in supporting this prosecution in federal court, is to subject federal trials, as they see fit, to ad hoc exemptions of whatever laws (be they constitutional, criminal code, or rules of procedure) that will suit their purposes. Their grand scheme is to ultimately cripple and dismantle the federal courts as we know them, one brick at a time...Chertoff argued to the 4th Circuit that the Court could not order the government to produce its start witness against Moussaoui because (are you ready?) he, the witness, is out of the country at an undisclosed location. True, but the witness is in the custody of the federal government! The out-of-the country argument is a sham. This is similar to a ruling recently by the federal court that ruled that Guantanmo Bay prisoners had no access to federal courts for claims that they be charged or release because-they are out of the country!! Of course, in federal custody, but that does not matter...


So basically, it's business as usual for the Bush Administration.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Two quickies

Here are a couple more things that I found today:

To start, Fahrenheit 9/11 won the People's Choice Award! Hooray! Moore's speech, to his credit, was short, sweet, and appropriately dedicated to the soldiers in Iraq.

Next, for those who say that there were no problems with Election Night in Ohio, check out Ohio Election Fraud. Now try and say that the recent hearings were nothing but liberal whining.

Instawanker!

Normally, I'm unable to blog at work - I'm too busy...working! But I occasionally have time to briefly check the news on the Net, and inspiration will strike. This one has been brewing all day, so here goes...

First of all, I noticed this post from Instapundit about (you guessed it) Rathergate. Now, I've posted before about Glenn's singular obsession with this scandal and the irony involved, considering his own ties to big right wing media like Fox and MSNBC. (Click links for examples of bias.)

So CBS has decided to fire four employees. This comes as no surprise to me, and really, there seems to have been some sloppiness on CBS's part in this whole thing. It's not like there's no valid question of Bush's National Guard service - look here, for instance. Meanwhile, Kerry's own record was smeared by the Swift Boat Liars, and it was treated as legitimate.

In another previous post, I wondered aloud whether or not Glenn would ever mention Williamsgate, or No Pundit Left Unpaid as I also call it. Well, to be fair, he did, although of course he waffles in his criticism by sputtering "But...Clinton probably did it too!" So what? If he did (and right now it's only hearsay), then I condemn it as much as I condemn Bush's deception. Just because Clinton may have done it does not excuse Bush's confirmed actions. Meanwhile, Kos has the dirt: Williams admitted "There are others." Glenn's stance looks more and more tenuous...

Finally, Atrios drew my attention to this. I'll second the motion: Glenn should be from now on known as Instawanker.


Sunday, January 09, 2005

Stop, you're killing me!

I just had to post this:

WASHINGTON -- Newt Gingrich is taking steps toward a potential presidential bid in 2008 with a book criticizing President Bush's policies on Iraq and a tour of early campaign states...

Really, can anyone picture Newt getting the 2008 nomination? This almost sounds like an article from The Onion. However, the laughing stops when you read some of his ideas:

--"We must establish that our rights come from our Creator and that an America that has driven God from out of the public arena is an America on the way to decay and defeat."

--"There is no attack on American culture more deadly and more historically dishonest than the secular left's unending war against God in America's public life."


I dunno, maybe the fundies have their man!

Winning hearts and minds

You might already have heard about this:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. troops targeted by a roadside bomb have mistakenly killed two Iraqi policemen and two bystanders hours after an American warplane bombed the wrong house, exacting a heavy civilian toll, Iraqi officials say.

The back-to-back incidents on Saturday fuelled anti-American anger over the deaths of innocents during a raging insurgency just three weeks before Iraq's first election since U.S.-led forces toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.

Residents said 14 people were killed in an air strike in the northern village of Aaytha, and showed 14 freshly dug graves. The military, making a rare admission of error in its fight against guerrillas, said its 500-pound bomb killed five people.

Shortly afterwards, a U.S. military convoy was hit by a explosion near a police checkpoint south of Baghdad in an lawless area known as the "Triangle of Death".

Troops escorting the vehicles struck back but at the wrong target, Interior Ministry spokesman Adnan Abdul-Rahman said. Two police officers and two civilians were killed. He said a fifth Iraqi suffered a heart attack and died at the scene.

The U.S. military launched an investigation into the bombing at Aaytha, near the restive city of Mosul, but said it had no immediate information on the convoy attack near Yusufiya
.

Anymore, I barely have the will to post this sort of news. It seems to get worse and worse. I know, some of you out there may be thinking, "Well, Scooter, that's war for you. It ain't pretty!" Yes, true. And that's why I'm generally opposed to war, especially this sort of nation-building, unilateral, pre-emptive war without a clear rationale.

I just don't see how Iraqis are supposed to be kissing our feet because we got rid of Saddam, only to create even more violence and chaos and establish ourselves as an occupying force with no real end in sight. Think - would you be able to appreciate "freedom on the march" when your whole family had been acccidentally snuffed out by foreign occupiers? It sounds like many Iraqis can't see the bright side of the war:

Iraqis voiced resentment over what they see as heavy-handed U.S. military tactics and callousness toward mounting civilian deaths, sentiment that has dented U.S. efforts to win hearts and minds and get the country behind the January 30 ballot.

"Why did these poor people have to die?" lamented Baghdad taxi driver Doraid Abdul Khaliq, 28. "Bombing, shooting and running a tank over cars have all become something normal."

Friday, January 07, 2005

Those scary Europeans

Bush must really be feeling the opposition to destroying-I mean, reforming Social Security:

(Reuters) - A top White House economic adviser warned on Friday the U.S. economy could become "more like those of Europe" if taxes were raised to stabilize Social Security for the long haul.
"That is not the direction we should be heading," the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Gregory Mankiw, told a conference in Philadelphia sponsored by the American Economic Association.


It's not surprising that he's trying to rally the faithful by invoking Big Bad Europe, especially with his dismally low approval ratings:

(Bloomberg) -- Fewer than half of Americans approve of President George W. Bush's job performance as he prepares to enter his second term, according to an Associated Press/Ipsos poll.

The same proportion of Americans approve and disapprove of the president, with 49 percent on either side of the divide, according to the poll of 1,001 adults. Bush's approval rating is among the lowest of any re-elected American leader in 50 years, according to AP, comparable to that of Richard Nixon, the only U.S. president to resign.


To the Democrats: You need to come through in stopping the President's Social Security plan, and offer your own sensible, viable alternative that preserves the program as well.

Payola!

It's Friday, and I'm tired, but I had to post this anyway. Atrios is spreading the word about Williamsgate, as I've decided to call it:

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter...sent a letter to David D. Smith, Chief Executive of the Sinclair Broadcasting Group, and Johnathan Rodgers, Chief Executive of TV ONE, demanding that their contracts with syndicated broadcaster Armstrong Williams be terminated immediately.

As reported in today's USA Today, Williams was allegedly paid $240,000 by the Bush Administration to discuss the No Child Left Behind program in a favorable light as a regular part of his radio and television broadcasts on stations owned by the two broadcast groups.

Slaughter noted in her letter that if the Fairness Doctrine were still in place, this type of deception would not be possible. The Federal Communications Commission repealed the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, which required radio and television stations to air all sides of important or controversial issues.


A new low, I would say. What a waste of taxpayer dollars! And, as Talking Points Memo points out (also via Atrios), do you really think this is the only time this has happened? Some conservatives will probably try to counter that this sort of chicanery is necessary to counter the "omnipresent liberal media bias." I wonder if Instapundit will find time to discuss this, with all of his posts about Rathergate...

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Slippery Gonzales, Spineless Dems

Well, Gonzales' confirmation hearing kicked off today, and of course he exhibited a great deal of propriety:

Gonzales defended his advice as President Bush's White House counsel that al-Qaida and other terror suspects are not entitled to Geneva Convention protections. But that wasn't the whole story, he said.
"Torture and abuse will not be tolerated by this administration,'' Gonzales told Judiciary Committee senators. "I will ensure the Department of Justice aggressively pursues those responsible for such abhorrent actions.''


Sure you will. So the advice was okay, but acting on the advice isn't! At least some Dems took him to task:

Democrats said it was Gonzales' January 2002 memo as White House counsel that led to the stripping, mocking and threatening of suspects with dogs. He had argued in his memo that the war on terrorism "renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions.''
Gonzales, as President Bush's White House counsel, was at the center of decisions about "the legality of detention and interrogation methods that have been seen as tantamount to torture,'' said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
Added Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.: The "legal positions that you have supported have been used by the administration, the military and the CIA to justify torture and Geneva Convention violations by military and civilian personnel.''


Gonzales tried to show his soft side, but thankfully some saw through it:

Saying he was sickened and outraged by photos of Abu Ghraib abuses, Gonzales described the U.S. troops in them as "people who were morally bankrupt having fun.'' Other abuses of foreign detainees probably were caused because "there wasn't adequate training, there wasn't adequate supervision''... Gonzales' response to some questions Thursday seemed to contradict his description of the Geneva Convention in his January 2002 memo.
"I consider the Geneva Convention neither obsolete or quaint,'' he said at the hearing, promising to ensure U.S. compliance "with all of its legal obligations in fighting the war on terror.''
Gonzales declined to give a legal opinion on the prisoner abuse, suggesting he didn't want to prejudice a possible criminal case as the attorney general nominee. That led to a 10-minute lecture from Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., on Democrats' long-standing complaints about Bush nominees not directly answering their questions.
"We're looking for candor, old buddy,'' Biden said. `"I love you, but you're not very candid so far.''
Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina joined in on some of the criticism, saying the administration "dramatically undermined the war effort'' by "getting cute with the law.''
"I think you weaken yourself as a nation when you try to play cute and become more like your enemy instead of like who you want to be,''
he said..."When you start looking at torture statutes and you look at ways around the spirit of the law, you're losing the moral high ground. ... I do believe that we've lost our way.''


Wow, those are pretty strong words coming from a Republican! Nice one. Sadly, all the tough talk from spineless Dems appears to be just that, talk:

Despite their questioning, Democrats showed no interest in opposing or delaying Gonzales, the 49-year old son of Mexican immigrants, from succeeding John Ashcroft as attorney general.

To quote ol' Billy Shakespeare: "...it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." If Teddy Kennedy and the rest really had any guts, they'd try to block this guy. Instead, they grandstand and then take the politically expedient path. I'm a progressive liberal type and all, but Dems piss me off when they act like this.

One more thing that got overshadowed today: Nine American soldiers were killed in Iraq today, the most in one day since the Mosul attack. That brings the count to 1350.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Gobbledygook

A few unrelated thoughts:

First, Drinking Liberally was a grand success. Thanks to Ol' Froth for organizing it and making us all feel at home. I usually am not hypersocial, but I had a great time. Hopefully this will become a weekly event! Check out his blog sometime; it's one of the best ones in the 'Burgh.

Next, anyone noticing a deadly pattern in the news coming out of Iraq? Just wondering.

Finally, something funny (we need it):

Well known for his vocal support of Tibet's Dalai Lama and celebrated for his captivating good looks, (actor Richard) Gere urged Palestinians in a television commercial broadcast ahead of Sunday's poll in the West Bank and Gaza to get out to vote for a new president to succeed Yasser Arafat, who died in November...But many voters, already struggling with the labyrinthine politics of the West Bank and Gaza, say they have never heard of the actor who swept Debra Winger off her feet as a dashing Navy officer in the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman and were even less interested when they were told he's an American.
"I don't even know who the candidates are other than Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), let alone this Gere," Gaza soap factory worker Manar an-Najar told Reuters on Wednesday.
"We don't need the Americans' intervention. We know who to elect. Not like them – they elected a moron."

Gonzales flip-flops!

This is perplexing:

Alberto Gonzales, the White House counsel criticized for calling parts of the Geneva Conventions on prisoner treatment "obsolete," will promise to live by anti-torture treaties if he is confirmed as attorney general, according to a statement obtained on Wednesday.
Gonzales said he was "deeply committed to the rule of law," in a statement for delivery at Senate confirmation hearings on Thursday. The hearings are likely to focus on Gonzales' role in policies that critics say gave rise to abuses such as those at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison... Gonzales will be questioned in particular about a January, 2002 memo to Bush in which he says parts of the Geneva Conventions on prisoner treatment were "obsolete" or "quaint" and did not apply to al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners.


So what Democratic Senators need to ask is the following: "Do you or do you not feel that the Geneva Conventions are 'obsolete?' Do they or do they not apply to prisoners captured in the Iraq war and antiterrorism efforts? A simple yes or no answer will suffice." I'll be watching.

Tom Andrews, director of Win Without War, says it all:

"This nation deserves to hear and to know what (Gonzales) believes about torture," Andrews told reporters. "This is extremely important, not only because of the moral ramifications but because of the damage this has done to the nation worldwide."

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

More mess in Iraq - I need a drink

This'll be quick - I think I'm headed to Drinking Liberally tonight. As if we needed it, here's a reason to drink:

The governor of the Baghdad region, known for co-operating closely with American troops, was assassinated along with six bodyguards as he drove to work Tuesday in yet another bloody day of rebel attacks that exposed grave security flaws in Iraq with elections less than a month away.
Other assaults Tuesday killed five American troops as well as 10 Iraqi commandos, bringing the death toll in the last three days to more than 70. Despite the violence, which U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces have been helpless to prevent, American and Iraqi leaders insist the Jan. 30 vote would go forward..."For much of the country, the situation is secure enough to move forward on holding elections," McClellan said. "There are a few areas that we're continuing to work to improve the security situation, so those areas will be able to have as full a participation as possible in elections."


Well...

While it's true that many areas of Iraq are calm, there are vast regions, including the capital, that are extremely dangerous. In places like Fallujah, which was bombed to ruins in a U.S.-led campaign in November, and the northern city of Mosul, there has been little headway in preparing for the vote.
The attacks have prompted Sunni Arab clerics to call for a boycott, and Iraq's largest Sunni political party announced it was pulling out of the race because of poor security
.

The five American soldiers killed brings the count to 1340. For what? WMDs...I mean...Al Qaida...I mean..."freedom on the march?" Goddamnit. And an estimated 15,000-20,000 wounded, many never to fully recover, not to mention at least 15,000 Iraqi civilians killed.

Time to have a drink? You bet.


Monday, January 03, 2005

Stopping Gonzales would be huge

Bloomberg.com: This report shows growing opposition to his nomination, from unlikely sources:

A dozen former military officers, including retired Army General John Shalikashvili, are opposing the nomination of White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales to be U.S. attorney general because he endorsed detaining suspected terrorists without protections accorded prisoners of war...The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Jan. 6 on Gonzales's nomination by President George W. Bush to succeed Attorney General John D. Ashcroft. Democrats led by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy say they will ask Gonzales to explain his role in drafting policies that they say spawned the prisoner abuse scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Stopping Gonzales would be a huge win for progressives and an astounding blow to Bush's illegal handling of the "War on Terra," especially in light of this:

The United States is preparing to hold terrorism suspects indefinitely without trial, replacing the Guantanamo Bay prison camp with permanent prisons in the Cuban enclave and elsewhere, it was reported yesterday.
The new prisons are intended for captives the Pentagon and the CIA suspect of terrorist links but do not wish to set free or put on trial for lack of hard evidence...The Pentagon has built a new 100-cell prison on Guantanamo Bay, known as Camp 5, and plans to ask Congress this year for $25m (£13m) to build Camp 6, a 200-bed version. The two jails are intended for suspected members of al-Qaida, the Taliban or other extremist groups, who are unlikely to go before a military tribunal because military prosecutors lack proof.


This is too frightening. Bush and his buddy Gonzales are pushing a twisted vision of America where no proof is needed to imprison and torture someone for life.

If this, as it should be, is abhorrent to everything you stand for, do something. The least you can do is sign this petition and contact your Senators.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Is this all they have?

Instapundit and other rightwing bloggers keep flogging "Rathergate" as a prime example of the omnipresent liberal bias in the media. In fact, Glenn seems to do it on an almost weekly basis - today's post, for example. Is this really all they've got to talk about on the subject? Methinks some of them should clean up their own backyards first - Glenn himself has been buddy-buddy with Fox News, and we all know about their biases...