The Aeration Zone: A liberal breath of fresh air

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Walldon in New Jersey ---- Marketingace in Pennsylvania ---- Simoneyezd in Ontario
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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

An inconvenient truth

I know, I'm a little late. It opened last weekend in NYC, and I didn't get to it till today -- Wednesday. But today, I did take my wife, daughter and son-in-law to Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth in the Big Apple (after a morning at the Guggenheim, a walk through parts of Central Park, a lunch at a Greek restaurant, and a quick visit to the masoleum Time-Warner built for itself at Columbus Circle).

It was worth the time and effort, even though the commute home took 1:45, most of which was sitting still on West End Avenue between 46th and 42nd streets. That four blocks took over an hour!

Get green guys, the planet is being destroyed. We've all known that for years, but this film really spells it out and plants it in the front of your conscious mind. Time is running out.

And, by the way, despite his protests to the contrary, I think a draft of Al Gore for the 2008 run is definitely something we should consider.

Bye, bye. Probably I will get back to regular posting tomorrow. It's been great to have all my kids and grandkids home for a visit, but tomorrow the last of them leaves to return to parts far away, and the old household will be more or less empty once again. By the time I've done a little picking up, I'll be back to regular posting.

Lies, Lies and more Lies

Finally, we have some heros -- actually in the form of Marion the Librarian -- who are willing to stand up and be counted, even though they may be faced with prosecution. Here's the story from Raw Story:

Connecticut librarians spoke about their fight to stop the FBI from gaining access to patrons' library records at a news conference yesterday organized by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and in a subsequent interview with RAW STORY.

The Librarians, members of Library Connection, a not-for profit cooperative organization for resource sharing across 26 Connecticut library branches sharing a centralized computer, were served with a National Security Letter (NSL) in August of last year as part of the FBI's attempt to attain access to patron's records.

The NSL is a little known statute in the Patriot Act that permits law enforcement to obtain records of people not suspected of any wrongdoing and without a court order. As part of the NSL, those served with the document are gagged and prohibited from disclosing that they have even been served.

The foursome of Barbara Bailey, Peter Chase, George Christian, and Jan Nocek were automatically gagged from disclosing that they had received the letter, the contents of the letter, and even from discussions surrounding the Patriot Act.

The librarians, via the national and Connecticut branches of the ACLU, filed suit challenging the Patriot Act on first amendment grounds.

"People ask about private and confidential things in the library setting… like about their health, their family issues and related books they take out … these are confidential and we did this to protect our patrons from authorized snooping," said Peter Chase, Vice President of Library Connection."

On September 9 of last year, a federal judge lifted the gag order and rejected the government's argument that identifying the plaintiff would pose a threat to national security.

Yet the government continued to appeal the case throughout the reauthorization debate, passionately arguing that not a single incident of civil liberties violations by the Patriot Act had occurred. By continuing the appeal, the government effectively silenced any evidence to counter their claims.

"This all happened during the reauthorization debate and the government was saying no one's rights were being violated," said George Christian, staff liaison for Library Connection and one of the plaintiffs in the case.

As the debate over the reauthorization of the Patriot Act heated up, the librarians and others gagged by the NSL had to watch in silence, intimately aware of dangers they believed were not being exposed.

"We could not speak to Congress until after the renewal of the Patriot Act," Said Barbara Bailey, President of Library Connection and one of four plaintiffs in the case.

Although the ACLU, representing the librarians, filed the case on August 9 of last year, US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales decried any civil liberties violations in a Washington Post op-ed in December, stating that "There have been no verified civil liberties abuses in the four years of the [Patriot] act's existence."

The suit names Alberto Gonzales, Robert Mueller, and an un-named FBI official as the defendants in the case. The plaintiffs are collectively referred to in all court filings as simply John Doe.

"My testimony was informed not only by the successes of the act but also by my personal meetings with representatives from groups such as the ACLU and the American Library Association," wrote Gonzales in his Washington Post piece. During the reauthorization discussion, I asked that certain provisions be clarified to ensure the protection of civil liberties, and Congress responded."

After the Patriot Act was reauthorized in March of this year, the government stopped its appeals. Last Wednesday, the Connecticut librarians were finally allowed to say that they were the John Doe in the case, but they are still prohibited from discussing the case or the NSL.

"There are other people who have been served with these letters. We hope by our testimony that more people are aware of this and people are able to speak out," said Jan Nocek, Secretary for Library Connection and one of the four plaintiffs in the case.

"Our clients were gagged by the government at a time when Congress needed to hear their voices the most," said Ann Beeson, ACLU's lead attorney in the case. "This administration has repeatedly shown that it will hide behind the cloak of national security to silence its critics and cover up embarrassing facts. Every time the government invokes national security in defense of secrecy -- as they've done most recently with NSA wiretapping -- the American public should remember these four librarians."

It is unknown how many NSLs have been served and to whom. A University of Illinois survey conducted in 2002 found that out of roughly one thousand libraries asked, eighty five libraries said they were asked by law enforcement for patrons' records.

According to an ABC News report, Assistant Attorney General William Moschella told members of Congress "that 9,254 National Security Letters were issued in 2005 involving 3,501 people."

But much like his successor, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft claimed that the Patriot Act did not violate civil liberties and said that it has never been used to obtain library records.

Earlier this year, the Justice Department's inspector general issued no less than six reports to the relevant Congressional oversight committees indicating that there were no allegations of abuse and no violations of civil liberties since the original enactment of the Patriot Act days after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

They deserve a medal of honor, and to the extent I can award it, I do! (Yeah, yeah. That and $2.00 will get them a subway ride in Manhattan)

Fool me once: please do it again!

Oy. According to TPMMuckraker, the Prez invited Amir Taheri to the White House for a "a face-to-face . . . as one of a small group of 'experts'. . . . According to Press Secretary Tony Snow, the experts were invited to the White House for their 'honest opinions' on Iraq."

The name Amir Teheri might not ring a bell: he is the guy who recently
published an op-ed in Canada's National Post about an Iranian law that forced Jews to wear a yellow stripe. The story, reminiscent of Nazi Germany, quickly provoked outrage, but was just as quickly revealed to be a total fabrication.
Remember Ahmed Chalabi? Before the invasion, he might have seemed to have some bonafide knowledge of things. But Teheri? Now?

Why not invite Michael Crichton to write a novel about a successful end to the Iraq excursion (and the confrontation with Iran for that matter), read in into the Federal Record, and then just bring the troops home? It would be a lot cheaper in both lives and dollars, and probably about as effective. Heck, I'd even favor letting the RNC reap the proceeds (after my agent's fee).

Give Al a (second) chance?

Never had to choose between potential prom dates, but maybe this is how it feels. Yesterday, I posted a piece expressing my newfound openness to supporting Hillary Rodham Clinton as a presidential candidate.

Today, my attention was drawn to an article by Bob Somerby posted in the Daily Howler, about a recent Frank Rich column about Al Gore (it's second in a two part piece on Gore). Haven't read Rich's column, and don't think I need to-- what caught me are the fine descriptions of Gore as politician and leader. Somerby writes:

In his Sunday New York Times column, Frank Rich was just talkin’ the talk on Al Gore! “He was way ahead of the Washington curve,” Rich wrote, “not just on greenhouse gases but on another issue far more pressing than Mrs. Clinton's spirited crusade to stamp out flag burning: Iraq.” Land o’ goshen! Yes, Rich stuck the needle in Hillary Clinton [ed.: sigh, say it ain't so, Hill]—but Gore had been right about global warming! And Gore had been right on Iraq—from the start! Indeed, as he continued, the mighty pundit described Gore’s wisdom concerning the war in Iraq:

RICH (5/28/06): An anti-Hussein hawk who was among the rare Senate Democrats to vote for the first gulf war, Mr. Gore forecast the disasters lying in wait for the second when he spoke out at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on Sept. 23, 2002. He saw that the administration was jumping ''from one unfinished task to another'' and risked letting Afghanistan destabilize and Osama bin Laden flee. He saw that the White House was recklessly putting politics over policy by hurrying a Congressional war resolution before the midterm elections (and before securing international support). Most important, he noticed then that the administration had ''not said much of anything'' about ''what would follow regime change.'' He imagined how ''chaos in the aftermath of a military victory in Iraq could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam.”
For the record, Gore also said that war with Iraq could weaken America’s role as world leader. "In the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, more than a year ago, we had an enormous reservoir of good will and sympathy and shared resolve all over the world,” he said in that speech. "That has been squandered in a year's time and replaced with great anxiety all around the world.” But Rich didn’t even have time to note that; instead, he heaped a bit more praise on Gore’s wisdom. “In truth, as with global warming, Mr. Gore's stands on Iraq (both in 1991 and 2002) were manifestations of leadership,” he wrote, “the single attribute most missing from the current Democrats with presidential ambitions.”
Good grief! Gore had been right on Iraq in 1991. And he’d been right on Iraq in 2002. And all along, he’d been right on warming!?)
Right, right and right! Big Al, batting 1.000! Why aren't we out in the streets demanding a coup d'etat? (Or, demanding the reversal of the coup de jure in 2000?)

But wait, there's more from Somerby:
While we’re on the subject of Gore’s good judgments, Peter Beinart went Rich one better in his own recent assessment:
BEINART (5/30/06): If you were to go from the Gulf War through Kosovo and Iraq, you would find that a large number of people in every facet of the liberal Democratic universe were wrong, on at least one of those wars. Very, very few people were right about all three of them. The people who were—and I think Al Gore is in this category—deserve a significant amount of credit, but the truth of the matter is, if you were looking for an untainted record, you would find very few people.
Based on past writings, we’d guess that Rich would agree about Kosovo too. Who knows? Perhaps he’d even agree with Joe Klein, who says this, about Gore as vice president, in his awful book, Politics Lost: “His judgment was rock solid, admirable and visionary. And yes, I really did learn a lot from him about both military and environmental issues.”
I don't think any of these people are ardent supporters of Mr. Gore, but listen to what they say about him!

Here's the issue, and it's pretty much the same as for Hillary: Mr. Gore needs to find a way to persuade a lot of people about his genuine qualities and to overcome negative images so prevalent out there. The Republicans are part of the problem; the "mainstream media" (Frank Rich!) are part of the problem. But the responsibility lies with these capable Democratic leaders to project and communicate past these obstacles.

Lame Motto may carry lame DemocraLts

Management guru Tom Peters discredited the use by any business organizations of the motto: “we’re no worse than anyone else.” It appears the Democrats, for all their fumbling, lack of focus and paucity of intestinal fortitude may gain as a result of fitting the mold of this motto. This is because the Thuglicans are losing ground with voters.

According to Kiplinger (5/26/06), K hereafter, American voters are angry and fed up, believing the U.S. government is inept in handling Iraq, Katrina, immigration, spending, and energy policy. Duh? As Bob Herbert was quoted in this Blog, “what took then so long?” K claims the voters want big changes in DC, i.e. solutions not pontification. Thuglicans are expected to lose seats in the 06 Congressionals. K claims Dems have reenergized their party base and recruiting better candidates, more donations. and channeling voter anger at Bush. However, the 15 House and 5 Senate seats needed to regain a majority are unattainable because there won’t be many contestable GOP seats, thanks in great part to redistricting that has given GOP incumbents safe districts. Further, GOP will not be caught napping like the Dems in ’94 and will mount their standard nasty counter campaign. The wild card is Iraq which could help Dems if backlash is powerful. So far we are not impressed. Even if the Dems get close to a majority, gridlock will result. Solutions to problems with languish setting the stage for a reckoning in the ’08 Presidential election. In our view, the key wild card is the economy. The economic data continues to mount on the side of a recession in early ’07, just in time for the Dems in the ’08 Presidential election.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Court decision on government whistle blowers

I haven't read enough to fully digest today's Supreme Court decision limiting whistle blower protections for government employees, but I have a feeling the precedent set here may be significant and dangerous. Marty Lederman has a good synopsis, of which this is a small piece:

Today, the Court took that very signifiant step, holding that "when public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, the employees are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline." This apparently means that employees may be disciplined for their official capacity speech, without any First Amendment scrutiny, and without regard to whether it touches on matters of "public concern" -- a very significant doctrinal development.

It's worth reading the whole thing.

Nancy Pelosi and TV don't mix

Several weeks ago I commented on how poorly Nancy Pelosi came across on Meet the Press. Sam Rosenfeld makes the following point about this, a point with which I fully concur.

The actual job of managing a caucus in some kind of effective and strategic manner is immensely difficult in its own right. It's only the sheerest coincidence if it so happens that a person imbued with the proper skills, temperament, and ability as a caucus leader also happens to be slick and charming and photogenic. (Tom DeLay was not a good message person for the GOP. Neither is Dennis Hastert.) But the other thing about the job of congressional leader, besides that it's really hard, is that it's really important. Indeed, having someone there who's good at leading the House caucus is simply more important than having one who's good on Meet the Press.

However, I also fully concur with Kevin Drum's comment that if, like Dennis Hastert, she doesn't come across well in the TV talk show format, she should follow Hastert's example and let others do the talking for her.

Another great day in Iraq!

Their in their final throes again:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Car bombs targeting Shiite areas tear through a car dealership in southern Iraq and a bustling outdoor market north of Baghdad Tuesday as attacks nationwide killed 54 people and wounded 120 in the bloodiest day in recent weeks. Iraqi officials also said a key terror suspect who allegedly confessed to hundreds of beheadings was captured in a raid that also netted documents, cell phones and computers that contained information on other wanted terrorists and Islamic extremist groups.

"Chickenhawk", defined and defended

There is a really, really worthwhile piece, "Lions Led by Donkeys" at a blog I had never heard of, Kung Fu Monkey. Ostensibly, the writer, John Rogers, is responding to a right-wing blogger who objects to the characterization implicit in the common term, "chickenhawk". But there is much more here!

Rogers ends the article:
The problem is, there is no single word in English for a man risking absolutely nothing, who demands someone else risk absolutely everything. I'm sure there's a word in German -- they are a whizzer with those kicky compound nouns -- but none in English for that precise combination.
So, for now, we must let "chickenhawk" be its placeholder. [writer's emphasis]
This quotation is a classic instance of where one needs to have read the entire piece (or much of it) to appreciate the force of the comment. And so I will not attempt to further summarize or excerpt it, save for one element of his argument.

That element is the notion of a "covenant" between citizens of a democracy and its (professional) soldiers. The term always has theological overtones to me, and it seems to me that in our day the idea of solemn mutual obligations is almost passe. About a third of the way through the article, he writes:

. . .The fact is that soldiers make this choice [i.e., to enlist] in a specific context. They are not just entering a job. They are, to pull up my Catholic high school education, entering into a covenant with us. They take an oath to sacrifice their lives, if need be. That is, in my faith anyway, the holiest thing a person can do. In return, the civilian side of the covenant is a deep responsibility, a responsibility far beyond the emotional support one gives a sports team, or the minimal responsibility one has with employees. Our oath is simple:

  • We will make sure you have the equipment you need.
  • We will make sure have a clearly defined mission.
  • We will make sure that such missions are as well-planned as possible.
  • We will take care of your families while you are gone.
  • We will take care of you when you come home.

That's not a lot to do for someone who's out there getting shot at for you. Even better, rather than the fuzzy "we will support you" standard set by many, these are actionable, definable terms. Is "supporting the troops" just waving flags, writing supportive essays, and arguing for the nobility of their mission? I say no, those actions are laudable but meaningless if they are not backed by these concrete goals. And concrete, plainly spoken responsibilites are exactly what we need: by measuring ourselves against our progress in these arenas we can, if we are honest, meaningfully judge if we are fulfilling our duty.

The writer fills these out admirably and fully. I would add only one more covenantal obligation, or modify it: the "mission" needs to be significant and justified in ways the trumped up case for the invasion of Iraq was not. For that, The Regime owes a major, frankly incaluculable and unpayable debt to this society and to the troops and their families. Covenant-breaking is serious stuff (in traditional Christian theology, the penalty is eternal damnation).

Do read the article!

Delsuions of Endearment

From NYT, 5/31:
They love us everywhere we go, so when in doubt, send the Marines.

KABUL, Afghanistan, May 29 — a deadly traffic accident caused by a United States military convoy quickly touched off a full-blown anti-American riot on Monday that raged across much of the Afghan capital, leaving at least 14 people dead and scores injured. Skip to next paragraphHundreds of protesters looted shops in Kabul and shouted "Death to America!" Witnesses said American soldiers fired on Afghans throwing stones at them after the crash, though the United States military said only that warning shots had been fired in the air. But the crash tapped into a latent resentment of the American military presence here, and violence radiated quickly through the city as rumors circulated that the crash might have been deliberate.

Reality and good economics . . .

. . . in the White House? Is this possible?

Nobody would ever confuse the Bush White House with a "reality show", certainly not when it comes to environmentalism. But it appears as if somehow, maybe by accident or lack of ideological vetting, or sheer desperation, The Regime is about to incorporate not just an outsider, but an outsider who advocates action against global warming.

Think Progress points out that the new candidate for Secretary of the Treasury, also serves as chairman of the board of the Nature Conservancy, and as such:

Goldman Sachs Chairman Henry M. Paulson Jr., not only endorses the Kyoto Protocol to limit greenhouse emissions, but argues that the United States’ failure to enact Kyoto undermines the competitiveness of U.S. companies.
Shock! Horror! Can you say, "Harriet Miers"? Sure enough,
As a result, Paulson’s nomination is strongly opposed by a coalition right-wing groups seeking to cast doubt on climate science, such as the National Center for Public Policy Research, describing Paulson as “diametrically opposed to the positions of [the Bush] Administration.”
To add insult to injury, Paulson has apparently even connected his environmentalism with his work for Goldman Sachs:
Goldman Sachs, under Paulson’s leadership, argued that the danger from global warming is imminent and requires “urgent” action by government to reduce emissions:
[C]limate change is one of the most significant environmental challenges of the 21st century and is linked to other important issues such as economic growth and development… Goldman Sachs is very concerned by the threat to our natural environment, to humans and to the economy presented by climate change and believes that it requires the urgent attention of and action by governments, business, consumers and civil society to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
There must be a catch. Maybe he also favors forced sterilization of prisoners, NSA intercepts of US Mail, or nuking Iran. It's so hard to respect anything The Regime does.

Give Hillary a chance?

I had been thinking recently about trying to wrap my mind around Sen. Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate. As a NY state resident I had the opportunity to vote for her back in 2000, which I did happily. Since then, I have for the most part turned my back on her, not least for her early and continuing support for the invasion of Iraq. I have found it hard to be sure what she stood for on other matters-- she is hardly a doctrinaire liberal, certainly not one in the monochrome hue that right-wing political graffiti uses to deface her. It has not helped to watch Sen. Clinton now at the distance of a resident in Illinois; but I am finding myself similarly unclear regarding about our Sen. Obama here.

In any case, much as I like (the new) Al Gore and any number of other potential candidates, none have yet presented an absolutely compelling combination of policies/values/platform and electability. And it occurs to me that Hillary could yet define herself for me in a way that could gain my support. She does not have to present an exact match to my specifications, any more than would any other candidate.

By a nice coincidence, the Washington Post today offered an intriguing and very helpful profile of Sen. Clinton, and several parts of it were hopeful, to me. A few snippets:

In recent weeks, Clinton has moved to clarify her agenda with major speeches on the economy and energy. Later this summer she will help present a new strategy for the Democrats. . . . But she has yet to wrap up her ideas in a kind of package like the "New Democrat" philosophy her husband, former president Bill Clinton, used in his 1992 campaign. . . .

To the contrary, she made clear in a telephone interview on Friday that her governing philosophy may never be easily reduced to a slogan. "I don't think like that," she said. "I approach each issue and problem from a perspective of combining my beliefs and ideals with a search for practical solutions. It doesn't perhaps fit in a preexisting box, but many of the problems we face as a nation don't either."

The first thing she needs to do, alright, is to "clarify her agenda" (one might say, simply to set one): I don't think she wants support as Mrs. Clinton, nor simply as a woman candidate, and so we need to hear that agenda, desperately.

Apart from that, I like the fact that she resists "slogans" and "boxes": but again people will happily create boxes for her, and she needs to find ways to communicate those "beliefs and ideals", as well as her pragmatic approach, to the public. She needs to find ways to cut through the sound-bite media culture, and to neutralize the vitriol of the brownshirts on the right. (Here may be one adavantage to being married to the Big Dog-- he was pretty good at it.)

Another quote:
On balance, most of those around Clinton say that her hard-to-pigeonhole profile is a political asset -- the product, they say, of a curious intellect, the absence of rigid ideology, an instinct for problem solving and a willingness to seek consensus even across party lines. Her detractors see her career as the work of an opportunistic politician who has sanded the sharp edges off her views, so much so that there is little sense of authenticity when she speaks.
Curiosity, intellect, absence of rigidity, problem-solving, consensus-building: now if only she can project those qualities. After 8 years of "Chimpy"!! I could vote for that.

Almost now, her stance regarding Iraq makes sense:

On Iraq, she has tried to be a critic of Bush without renouncing her support for the resolution that authorized him to go to war, as other Democrats have done. She opposes a timetable for withdrawing troops and an open-ended commitment.

. . . "I've said many times I regret how the president has used his authority," she said. "But I think I have a responsibility to look at this as carefully as I can and say what I believe, and what I believe is we're in a very dangerous situation and it doesn't lend itself to sound bites, and therefore I have resisted going along with either my colleagues who feel passionately they need to call for a date certain or colleagues who are 100 percent behind the policy and with the president and [British] Prime Minister [Tony] Blair. . . . I know I take criticism from all sides on this, but I've tried to work my way through it as clearly and responsibly as I can."

But I still think that she must eventually go back and explain her initial vote-- if only to fault the faulty intelligence and official deceit of the Regime-- and to further explain her thinking here. Attributes of "intellect" and "lack of rigidity" and honesty could have prevented the global and national security disaster of the invasion and these are now much needed in its aftermath, to try to work our way out of the military and political morass The Regime has created.

Finally, she does win a Democratic merit badge:
But a Congressional Quarterly analysis found that she has voted with a majority of Democrats 95 percent of the time and has consistently recorded one of the highest percentages for opposing Bush on legislation of any of her potential 2008 Democratic rivals.
It would be interesting to compare this record with those of, say, John Kerry and Russ Feingold. And it doesn't help us evaluate her stands vis a vis Al Gore.

But still, Sen. Clinton-- I am ready to listen. Please speak up!

Republican jailed for phone jamming teaching in the GOP campaign school for candidates

The fellow is barely out of jail, and he goes back to his old job teaching Republicans how to cheat at politics.

A major figure in the Election Day phone-jamming scandal that embarrassed and nearly bankrupted the New Hampshire GOP is out of prison and back in the political game.

Charles McGee, the former executive director of the state Republican Party, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and served seven months for his part in the scheme to have a telemarketer tie up Democratic and union phone lines in 2002.

He's back at his old job with a Republican political marketing firm, Spectrum Monthly & Printing Inc., and will be helping out at the firm's "GOP campaign school" for candidates.

I think if I were the judge on this guy's case I would have enjoined him from political activities for the duration.

Tell us again, which one is the world's oldest profession?

Can you believe this? This is your Washington press corps in action – YOUR Washington press corps. Paul McLeary caught this and reported it in CJR Daily (Columbia Journalism Review blog): “White House Press Corps Stricken by Sudden Feebleness.” This example of herd mentality is priceless, but it's pitiful and frightening, too. No wonder Gore never stood a chance once one of them got the ball rolling.

Every now and again the curtains are pulled back ever so slightly on the inner working of the White House press corps, giving the public a glimpse of the daily lives of those rare, pampered souls who cover the White House for their
respective news organizations.

It appears, among other things, that they've all read the same issue of the same magazine -- The Economist. Studying reports of yesterday's joint press conference between President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, again and again we came across references to an Economist cover blurb, which earlier this month labeled Bush and Blair an "Axis of Feeble."

The tale of the tape, from this morning's papers:

Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post: "As The Economist magazine put it earlier this month, the Bush-Blair partnership has become the 'axis of feeble.'"

David E. Sanger and Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times: "The British news magazine The Economist pictured the two on a recent cover under the headline 'Axis of Feeble.'"

Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times (they get a twofer!): "Last week even The Economist, a British magazine that has been more favorable to Mr. Blair than most, called his partnership with Mr. Bush the 'Axis of Feeble.'"

Paul Richter of the Los Angeles Times: "The meeting of the two weakened leaders drew ridicule from some parts of the British press; The Economist magazine referred to the pair as an 'axis of feeble.'"

Nicholas Wapshott of the New York Sun: "The British press, sensing blood in the water, has billed this Blair visit to Washington 'The Swansong Tour' and has passed on The Economist's snarky assessment that the pair now make up an 'Axis of Feeble.'"

Geoff Elliott of The Australian: "Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair have been described as the 'axis of feeble' for their drastically weakened popularity."

Craig Gordon of Newsday: "Both are in their waning years in office, weighed down in the polls by the war in Iraq -- leading one British
journal to dub them the 'axis of feeble.'"

Julie Hirschfeld Davis of the Baltimore Sun: "London branded the meetings a 'lame duck summit,' while The Economist called Bush and Blair an 'Axis of feeble,' a play on the president's 2002 'axis of evil' speech about threats from Iraq, Iran and North Korea."

A simple Google search of the term "Axis of Feeble," reveals that the oldest reference was a May 12 piece in the Orlando Sentinel, which quoted The Economist bon mot a day after it came out. But it wasn't until this morning, with all those pieces about yesterday's joint press conference, that the deluge came.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

No pressure, no backbone by Democrats

From Can't blame the problem on possible problems with their communication network effort. How about apathy?

George Bush said the following the other day in response to his dropping poll numbers."You have to believe in what you're doing. You have to believe in certain principles and beliefs, and you can't let the opinion polls and focus groups, one, cause you to abandon what you believe, and become the reason for making decisions."Now compare that to what happened today in the Senate. One with courage (Feingold) stood up, and most of the rest of his "colleagues" scurried away like little mice (to call them rats would be to give them too much weight). And the same thing happened before with the attempted Alito filibuster. And before that with the Murtha resolution on Iraq.And it doesn't help that not enough of us are speaking out on any of these issues even yet. Notwithstanding the last minute flurry of calls opposing Alito, the polls were still not against him. And the problem there was that almost nobody was doing any counter mobilizing through the entire months of November and December while the right wing was building their own "done deal" narrative. Worse yet, even when the polls ARE heavily in our favor (as they are now against the Iraq debacle), STILL our Democratic members of Congress fail to act.You hear talk from people who fancy themselves political framing geniuses that all we need is the right "message," the right slogan, the right magic coining of a couple words, and the 2006 elections will be ours. What vain folly! We have a message alright, that our Democrats have a yellow stripe down their back a mile wide, and that no matter what they SAY, when it really matters they will never actually take a final stand on principle ever. THAT message is coming through loud and clear. The American people will vote for a corrupt criminal before they will vote for a coward. For proof, check out the most recent election results.Sure there have been a couple token filibusters, but mostly only when they could get members of the OTHER party to support them, and even there they ended up giving away the farm in the end anyway. Examples are the Patriot Act where a cosmetic (as the Republicans themselves were calling it) improvement was waved through by a huge margin, and the anti-torture amendment where the Bush lawyers are already arguing they were able to insert a loophole big enough to drive Guantanamo through.It is all too easy to blame the situation on our members of Congress alone. But how many of us have actually donated to support the censure resolution, or any other, or made a phone call. The People's Email Network has done everything we could to create technology to make it as fast and easy as possible to send messages to multiple members of Congress at once, i.e., instant phone number look-ups to give you all the phone numbers of your members of Congress right down to the district level. There is a very obvious reason why there are not more people speaking out, because most of those in positions of influence in the progressive media don't WANT it to happen. If they DID, you would hear them giving out Capitol toll-free phone numbers on their progressive radio shows, every day, on issue after issue. If they DID, you would see action links featured on every page of every one of their web sites at all times. Mostly you do not (this particular site being one of the incredibly rare exceptions).Yes, you heard us correctly, in their heart of hearts most progressive "personalities" in radio and in print don't want OTHER people to speak out. What they really want to do is shoot off their OWN mouths only, as if that alone would bring about policy change. One in particular we can think of has made it their life's work telling people that nothing we do will work, that our members of Congress will never listen anyway, that nothing will never change, and the proof of that being that they gave out a number one time, and that one time it was not enough. With friends like these, who needs corrupt neocon reactionaries?So the next time you visit a blog, look around and see if there are any action links featured. The next time you listen to a so-called progressive radio show count how many repeated phone numbers and internet addresses they give out in five minutes of commercials, and see how many DAYS you have to wait to hear a number for Congress or a policy action link even one time. Actually DOING something to change the world is the farthest thing from their minds, and so it is with their web visitors and their listeners.Is it any wonder more people aren't yet speaking out? Small wonder.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Memorial Day weekend

I for one will be light on the blogging this weekend, since we will have a housefull of family. The traffic to the site is already light, so I guess no one will miss us.

Have a great weekend, and remember our brave vets!

Hayden confirmed

Glenn Greenwald puts his finger precisely on the reason the Dems shouldn't have endorsed Hayden's appointment as head of the CIA.

I found the Democrats' embrace of Gen. Hayden's nomination as CIA Director to be indefensible and strategically inept. The reason isn't because there was a real chance to block the nomination; the Republican majority made confirmation all but inevitable. The reason for Democrats not to support the nomination was to avoid (accurate) lead paragraphs like this one, from a Reuters article today reporting on Hayden's confirmation by the full Senate by a vote of 78-15:

The U.S. Senate on Friday confirmed Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden as CIA director in a vote that gave a broad bipartisan endorsement to the architect of President George W. Bush's domestic spying program.

Oh for a press corps like Canada's

The LA Times, via Kevin Drum:

TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has declared he won't talk to the national media because they are biased against him, his latest move in a spat with the Parliament's press corps…

"Unfortunately, the press gallery has taken the view they are going to be the opposition to the government," the recently elected Conservative leader told a Canadian television network Wednesday.

"We'll just take the message out on the road. There's lots of media who do want to ask questions and hear what the government is doing for Canadians, or to Canadians. So we'll get our message out however we can," Harper said.

Since Harper's minority government took office after the Jan. 23 elections, his relations with the national media have become more and more strained. Determined to impose order on the traditionally chaotic press scrum in which reporters shout out questions, Harper said he would choose questioners from a pre-screened list.

The parliamentary media corps, which includes broadcast and print reporters from all over the country, worried that the new protocol would freeze out journalists perceived to be tough on the prime minister. After journalists refused to sign on to the list, Harper refused to take any questions.

On Tuesday, when Harper's press secretary announced there would be no questions after his announcement of aid to the Darfur region of Sudan, nearly two dozen reporters walked out, leaving the prime minister to make his statement in front of a single camera in a nearly empty room.

The Invisibility Cloak

If you think the NSA spying is scary now, just wait till they get their hands on this:

(AP) WASHINGTON Imagine an invisibility cloak that works just like the one Harry Potter inherited from his father.

Researchers in England and the United States think they know how to do that. They are laying out the blueprint and calling for help in developing the exotic materials needed to build a cloak.

The keys are special manmade materials, unlike any in nature or the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. These materials are intended to steer light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation around an object, rendering it as invisible as something tucked into a hole in space.

Empire or republic

Via Andrew Tobias:

Are we going to be an empire or a republic? The concluding paragraph in a long, thoughtful article – “A Republic Divided” – by David Bromwich in the Spring volume of Daedalus:

After the fall of Communism, there was an opening that passed. The United States never fully entered the world of nations. The burden of a constitutional opposition today must include education in the significance of this fact. For the sound part of the balance-of-power doctrine always lay in the idea that no one nation can control the world. We may still be the world’s best hope; it should be a comfort that we are no longer its last hope. But we cannot endure half empire and half republic. We will become all one thing or all the other: an empire that expands by the permanent threat of war, and invents power after power to enlarge the authority and reach of the state; or the oldest of modern republics, vigilant against the reappearance of tyranny and firm in repelling any leader who sets himself above the law.

Ads banned in Poland

Just in case you were wondering, Poland has banned TV ads for tampons for the duration of the Pope's visit.

George Galloway: Morally justified for a suicide bomber to kill Tony Blair

Hmmm. From the UK's Independent:

The Respect MP George Galloway has said it would be morally justified for a suicide bomber to murder Tony Blair.

In an interview with GQ magazine, the reporter asked him: "Would the assassination of, say, Tony Blair by a suicide bomber - if there were no other casualties - be justified as revenge for the war on Iraq?"

Mr Galloway replied: "Yes, it would be morally justified. I am not calling for it - but if it happened it would be of a wholly different moral order to the events of 7/7. It would be entirely logical and explicable. And morally equivalent to ordering the deaths of thousands of innocent people in Iraq - as Blair did."

Somehow I think that if someone said that here about George Bush (which, for all you idiots at the NSA who are listening in, I'm not) they would find themselves locked up at Guantanamo faster than they could say "Jack Robinson."

A passing

Last night I happened to watch Live from Lincoln Center on PBS. For once, it was not live. It was the celebration of the show's 30th anniversary, and it showed many of the great performances the show has aired over the past 30 years. At the end the host, Hugh Downs, announced that he would be stepping aside after all these years to pursue his "other passions."

I guess I became familiar with Hugh Downs when he was Jack Paar's Ed MacMahon. [But, to paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen's response to Dan Quail, Ed MacMahon is no Hugh Downs]. That was a long long time ago in a place far far away, and thinking back to it makes me feel really old, which I guess is why this event kind of got to me. I, for one, will miss his comfortable colloquy throughout the performances.

My son was six when Live from Lincoln Center aired its first broadcast.

Somehow, all this seems to fit together with a book I have been listening to which takes me back to a period only a few years earlier. A neighbor, who is also a reader of this blog, lent me the audio tapes of John Dean's The Rehnquest Choice. It's the story of how Rehnquest was selected by Dick Nixon for the Supreme Court. Significant sections of the tape are taken directly from the infamous Nixon tapes with Nixon, Erlichman, Haldeman, and Mitchell plotting to destroy the country. Listening to those thugs in their own voices reminds me of how bad things were back then. Yet, in some ways listening to this is a sentimental journey for me, because as bad as things were back then, they're far worse today with Bush and his henchmen destroying what little is left of the democracy our founders envisioned.

Then, once Nixon resigned, we still had some hope. Now, I'm not so sure. As Paul Krugman concluded his column today in the NY Times:

Are we - by which I mean both the public and the press - ready for political leaders who don't pander, who are willing to talk about complicated issues and call for responsible policies? That's a test of national character. I wonder whether we'll pass.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Do as I say not as I do

The president said no one is above the law and that he continued to support the investigation of Jefferson. The eight-term congressman is accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars to facilitate a telephone investment deal in Africa.
"Those who violate the law - including a member of Congress - should and will be held to account," the president said. "This investigation will go forward and justice will be served."

All except President Bush who is making violation of the law an art form.

Fitzgerald's arm gets longer

This is an interesting report from Murray Waas. He claims that Fitzgerald believes Rove was Bob Novak's source for Plame's identity and that the two of them may have devised a coverup story to hide that fact from the prosecutors.

On September 29, 2003, three days after it became known that the CIA had asked the Justice Department to investigate who leaked the name of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame, columnist Robert Novak telephoned White House senior adviser Karl Rove to assure Rove that he would protect him from being harmed by the investigation, according to people with firsthand knowledge of the federal grand jury testimony of both men.

In the early days of the CIA leak probe, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft was briefed on a crucial conversation between Robert Novak and Karl Rove. Suspicious that Rove and Novak might have devised a cover story during that conversation to protect Rove, federal investigators briefed then-Attorney General John Ashcroft on the matter in the early stages of the investigation in fall 2003, according to officials with direct knowledge of those briefings.

If true, one more hack may bite the dust -- an indictment of Novak seems possibile. Hmmmm.

Another witch hunt claim

Hastert claims the Justice Department is just trying to intimidate him by leaking news of an investigation of him. Maybe so, but it sort of sounds like a Tom DeLay excuse to me. After all, this is the REPUBLICAN Justice Department, where only Democrats are considered terrorists and criminals.

WASHINGTON - House Speaker Dennis Hastert accused the Justice Department Thursday of trying to intimidate him in retaliation for criticizing the FBI's weekend raid on a congressman's office, escalating a searing battle between the executive and legislative branches of government. "This is one of the leaks that come out to try to, you know, intimidate people," Hastert said on WGN radio Thursday morning. "We're just not going to be intimidated on it."

Lay, Skilling guilty

It couldn't happen to a more deserving pair.

Congressional strife

I'm not sure exactly how I feel about the FBI raiding the offices of Congressmen. There may well be significant separation of powers issues here, but they strike me as insignificant in relation to the blatant flouting of the law by Bush's NSA.

Whatever the merits of the Congressional complaint, it certainly isn't doing Bush's image much good to have the Republicans trouncing on him, even as the Democrats are too timid to do so.

Keep at it guys. This could turn out like the story of the orcs at Minas Morgul.

Getting closer and closer to Dead Eye Dick

It's getting harder and harder to believe that Fitzgerald can fail to charge Cheney with something:

Vice President Cheney was personally angered by a former U.S. ambassador's newspaper column attacking a key rationale for the war in Iraq and repeatedly directed I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, then his chief of staff, to "get all the facts out" related to the critique, according to excerpts from Libby's 2004 grand jury testimony released late yesterday by Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald.

Libby also told the grand jury that Cheney raised as an issue that the former ambassador's wife worked at the CIA and that she allegedly played a role in sending him to investigate the Iraqi government's interest in acquiring nuclear weapons materials. That issue formed the basis of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV's published critique.

In the court filing that included the formerly secret testimony, Fitzgerald did not assert that Cheney instructed Libby to tell reporters the name and role of Valerie Plame, Wilson's wife. But he said Cheney's interactions with Libby on that topic were a key part of the reason Libby allegedly made false statements to the FBI about his conversations with reporters around the time her name was disclosed in news accounts.

Hastert investigated

ABC is reporting that the FBI is investigating Dennis Hastert:

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, is under investigation by the FBI, which is seeking to determine his role in an ongoing public corruption probe into members of Congress, ABC News has learned from high level government sources...

Part of the investigation involves a letter Hastert wrote three years ago, urging the Secretary of the Interior to block a casino on an Indian reservation that would have competed with other tribes.

The other tribes were represented by convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff who reportedly has provided details of his dealings with Hastert as part of his plea agreement with the government.

The letter was written shortly after a fund-raiser for Hastert at a restaurant owned by Abramoff. Abramoff and his clients contributed more than $26,000 at the time.

A thought just occurred to me. Perhaps the FBI can find dirt on ALL of the existing members of Congress and the Senate, both Rethuglicans and the lame inside-the-beltway Dems. That would just sweep them all away in one fell swoop. Talk about a breath of fresh air!

Put the Impeach Team in Congress


"How outrageous is it that the NSA head who implemented the wiretap crimes of the Bush administration should now be considered for head of the CIA? All the members of the Impeach Team are strongly opposed to this nomination. While they are calling for impeachment, they are at the same time also opposing putting accessories to the high crimes of the president and president in positions of high public trust and responsibility.It not just that they've been secretly monitoring without warrant virtually every domestic phone call in the US. Now we find they've been expressly targeting journalists for spying. Pretty slick system, isn't it? They make all evidence of their malfeasance classified information, and then they threaten to prosecute anyone who would dare expose them in the media.As to General Hayden in particular, when challenged on the wiretap scandal recently he proclaimed, "Believe me, if there is any amendment to the Constitution that employees of the National Security Agency are familiar with, it's the 4th," after having just denied that there was any reference to the expression "probable cause" in there to regulate unreasonable searches and seizures. Unfortunately for him the text of the 4th amendment to the Constitution is in the public record.

Even GOP leaders have admitted this spying program is "clearly and categorically wrong." What they have NOT done is challenge the administration in any way on their abuses of power. But that is what we must do, to continue to speak out, to stop the Hayden nomination, and to correct the underlying problem itself, the abuse of our democracy by calling for impeachment now.

Some fear that taking a strong stand for impeachment will hurt Democractic Party candidates chances in November. The opposite is in fact true. Your fellow constituents, across party lines, are just as appalled as you are with our current members of Congress and their continued failure to stand up for us. Strong candidates who are NOT afraid to speak the truth, and NOT afraid to stand up now help our chances in November. By supporting these candidates, we can inspire the turnout we need to overcome the expected pre-meditated election fraud.Some fear that challenging the president will mobilize his base against us. What base? Less than 30% still cling to the vain belief that Bush and Cheney are either competent or truthful. Instead, we will rally our own base in a way that is not otherwise possible, and it will be the other side who sits out the election in disgust with the neocon nightmare we have for an Administration.Some fear that any replacement for either Bush or Cheney might be equally as bad. All we know is wherever the people's impeachment movement takes us we must go there. Only if the voice of the people is strong can we stop the slide into the unitary dictatorship being exercised now. At the very least we will be able to chasten their successors."

Avoiding accountability by finding a "new" Al Gore

An otherwise good writer in Salon, Andrew O’Hehir, certainly makes Bob Somerby(The Daily Howler) look like a genius in his piece today on the “new” Al Gore (“Hurricane Al,” May 24, ). Actually, on the subject of Gore in the 2000 election, I have come to the conclusion that Somerby genuinely is a genius – he has his facts down 5000 per cent better than anyone else, always nails anyone who challenges his conclusions to the wall, and I followed the 2000 election, very, very, very closely – so I have no problem channeling him slavishly on this.

So what does O’Hehir do? He certainly knows where his bread is buttered. Granted, he does not regurgitate the false “lies” claims, so perhaps that should be counted as progress. The press is finally getting the fact that repeating the “Invented the Internet,” “Discovered Love Canal,” or “Subject of Love Story” lies will bring on a torrent of thoroughly justified abuse armed with facts the reporter either didn’t bother to find out about, or deliberately ignored. That kind of repetition has become so millennially reprehensible that the emails cannot possibly be obscene enough to qualify as proportional retaliation. Somehow, O’Hehir must have done at least enough homework to have pick up on that. But otherwise, the clichés from mainstream script flow so freely he might as well have been either (a) a GOP Operative in 2000 feeding storylines to be re-circulated by Fox News, or (b) a member of the Washington press corps or circle of national pundits who could not bear to observe independently and show up Beltwaypeers – take your pick. For sure, he won’t lose any freelance assignments from the Washington Post.

“…Al Gore is sincere and earnest….Gore's personal crusade to educate the world…. Gore's wonky …lecture….this notoriously awkward politician…. Yes, his lectures are sometimes dense and wonky affairs….(Hey, babe, wanna catch the
flick about Al Gore's slide show?)…. this strange, portly man …. drone on/in his
slightly put-on Tennessee accent…. (remember, he was mostly raised in a
Washington hotel suite)….a little uncomfortable in his own skin…. the ludicrous
specter of his own "hanging-chad" defeat …. become his own man…. missionary

Get the picture? Heard this stuff before? Some of this really did come directly out of the Republican playbook. But mostly, it’s the Maureen Dowds, Joe Kleins and Arianna Huffingtons – mighty liberals for mighty liberal publications – who maintain ongoing responsibility for keeping the mindset alive. They are bending heaven and earth not to admit the utter shoddiness of their journalism and that of their closest cohorts concerning Clinton and Gore for over a decade. Of course, they realize just how terrible it was, and that they are directly responsible for George Bush and everything he has done to America since then. That’s a heavy burden to carry, but we should be demanding that they carry it.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The worst of all possible worlds and the best

What do you know? That last post posted okay. Which brings me to one of the posts that was lost in the chaos. Earlier today, Hounddog in KC (or wherever he was. You never know with Hounddog) and I were talking on the phone about the Fitzgerald investigation. I was speculating that the delay might be because he's trying to pin something on Cheney, and Hounddog, in his inimatable way, had to critique my delight at the thought.

He came up with two scenarios; the best of all possible worlds and the worst.

The worst of all possible worlds: Fitz indicts Cheney. Cheney resigns. Bush appoints some relatively good replacement (you could hardly find anyone who wasn't relatively good in comparison with Dead Eye Dick). That sets up the new guy as the obvious successor to the throne, guaranteeing another four to eight years of rule by the Thuglicans.

The best of all possible worlds: Fitz indicts Cheney. Cheney refuses to resign. Bush is saddled with a Cheney trial throughout the rest of his reign as King of all Kings. The Thuglicans implode. And, the new gov. in 2008 is all Dem.

So, are you willing to risk the worst to get the best?

Not that we have any say in it.

Eating posts

Blogger has been eating my posts all day. Sorry about the light blogging, but that's the reason. They just disappear. We'll see if it's still happening when I try to post this one.

Privatizing the Pentagon

From Juan Cole:

The BBC reports that the US gave a contract to a small private firm to import weapons for the Iraqi security forces. It brought in massive amounts of weapons from Bosnia. But the procurement process was complex and involved-- you guessed it-- subcontractors, and the weapons are hard to trace. It is very likely that a lot ended up in the hands of the guerrillas. What irony. A mania for the private sector has helped turn Iraq into Bosnian using Bosnian weapons. In this Iraq scandal, everywhere you dig you find bodies.

The press responds (sort of)

It took the NY Times three days to figure out what to say about Alberto Gonzales' threat to persecute prosecute the NY Times and its reporters for publishing the leaks about the NSA spying program. They decided to laugh it off as absurd. Ridicule is fine, but I'm afraid this is serious stuff.

It's hard to say which was more bizarre about Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's threat to prosecute The Times for revealing President Bush's domestic spying program: his claim that a century-old espionage law could be used to muzzle the press or his assertion that the administration cares about enforcing laws the way Congress intended.

It's a bit curious that, while it took them three days to respond to Gonzales, they were right on top of the FBI break-in to Jefferson's office within less than a day even though their position on the issue is a bit unclear from their editorial.

File a complaint with the FCC

The ACLU has a site available where you can file an automatic complaint with the FCC about the Bush warrantless phone tapping program. It's here.

Hilliary's Energy Policy

The Senator waxed enthusiastic on this topic recently at the National Press Club.

“Our present system of energy is weakening our national security, hurting our pocketbooks, violating our common values and threatening our children's future. Right now, instead of national security dictating our energy policy, our failed energy policy dictates our national security.” “Today I want to suggest a concrete goal of reducing our dependence on foreign oil 50 percent by 2025, a reduction in oil consumption of just under 8 million barrels a day. I believe a 50 by 25 initiative will energize our economy, not undermine it.”
Senator Clinton announced that she is introducing legislation to create a “Strategic Energy Fund” to help pay for the clean energy transition. The legislation places a temporary fee on major oil company profits that exceed a 2000-2004 profit baseline. The fee would be in place for two years, and companies could offset their fee by investing in refinery capacity, ethanol production, or electricity generation from wind and other renewable sources. The proposal also eliminates oil company tax breaks that the companies have said they don’t need, and ensures that oil companies pay their fair share of royalties for drilling on public lands. It would raise more than $50 billion to fund research, development and deployment of energy technologies that will reduce America’s oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions. The Strategic Energy Fund will:
• Invest in Renewable Energy. Move America towards the goal of producing 20 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020 by extending the production tax credit for generating electricity from wind and other renewable sources for 10 years.
• Transform America’s Vehicles. Put more efficient vehicles on the road by doubling the consumer tax breaks for hybrids, clean diesel, and other advanced vehicles, and creating a tax incentive for fleet owners to purchase more efficient vehicles.
• Accelerate Homegrown Biofuels. Speed the development of cellulosic ethanol by providing loan guarantees for the first billion gallons of commercial production capacity, and providing $1 billion for research.
• Speed Infrastructure Conversion. Increase availability of “E85” fuel pumps to 50 percent of gas stations by 2015 by providing gas station owners with a 50% tax credit for the cost of installing pumps.
• Unleash American Ingenuity. Accelerate energy research by creating a $9 billion “Advanced Research Projects Agency” for energy.
Senator Clinton also discussed renewable electricity, clean coal technology, and making better use of the strategic petroleum reserve to buffer the economy from oil price shocks.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The simple case on national security

On national security, there is only one question that matters. Ask this of the Republicans who backed this war:

In a world-wide war against terrorism, how does it help Americans for the rest of the world to hate us? Please explain how that makes sense. Sure, it's a gas to walk around insulting everyone else. But do you think strutting around like a tough guy means you are really tough? If you do, it's very simple: vote Republican.

The Democrats’ stance on foreign policy?

Intelligence Counts. Intelligent foreign policy won World War II and the Cold War. He doesn't even get it yet, but George Bush’s phony tough-guy foreign policy is losing the war on terror, and is losing the war on nuclear arms proliferation.

Ridicule counts. Find it and do it.

Iraq too dangerous for government propaganda arm

Speaking of propaganda, the government can't even keep it's propaganda arm in Iraq open things are so bad over there. Via Americablog, I see this from the Washington Post:

The Voice of America's bureau in Baghdad has been closed for the past six months, ever since the government-funded agency withdrew its only reporter in Iraq after she was fired upon in an ambush and her security guard was later killed.

All Western news organizations have struggled with the dangerous conditions in Iraq, which have led to such high-profile incidents as the kidnapping of Christian Science Monitor reporter Jill Carroll and the wounding of ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff. But for a federally funded information service to pull out of Baghdad for such a prolonged period raises questions about the Bush administration's insistence that conditions there are gradually improving.

Al Gore = Joseph Goebbels

Think Progress has the following:
Sterling Burnett is a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, an organization that has received over $390,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998. This afternoon on Fox, Burnett compared watching Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth, to watching a movie by Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels to learn about Nazi Germany. Watch it:
Of course, the propaganda the White House puts out is entirely different.

15-3 for Hayden

The Senate Intelligence Committee voted 15-3 to recommend Gen. Hayden to the floor. That means six of the nine Democrats voted FOR him.

Maybe we should just give up now. They'd probably re-elect Bush as President if they had the chance. What a bunch of wusses.

From Gore the phony to Gore the warrior

Everyone really should read this post by The Daily Howler. Say what you will about that guy, he has the Gore 2000 story down to a "t". One thing people seem to forget is that the American people believed Gore had cleaned Bush's clock in ALL of the debates. The first one was a convincing win, by about 15 points, yet only some in the conservative press acknowledged it. The mainstream press theme was how "mean" he had been, and full of boring policy stuff -- meaningful "who would you like to drink a beer with?" stuff." It was the press after each crushing win that tore him down, but Somerby is right: liberals like Arianna and the guy who just wrote the long article in The New Yorker will never admit it. Instead, as they start trying to eat crow without exposing their own massive misjudgments -- and Somerby is right about this, too: those misjudgments by people like Huffington and Dowd put Bush in the White House -- they will insist that Gore has changed, not them.

Back then, the press focused on beer-drinking as a qualification for the Presidency. Today, in the New York Times -- in the G-D New York Times -- they are digging into Hillary's marriage. You really begin to wonder what Medill, Columbia and Missouri J-schools are teaching these people. Maybe we need to start blaming the professors there.

Not just tapping your phone -- they know your financial history

It turns out the government is not just listening in to your phone calls, they're buying data on you from all the big commercial data banks.

The Departments of Justice, State, and Homeland Security spend millions annually to buy commercial databases that track Americans' finances, phone numbers, and biographical information, according to a report last month by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. Often, the agencies and their contractors don't ensure the data's accuracy, the GAO found.

Buying commercially collected data allows the government to dodge certain privacy rules. The Privacy Act of 1974 restricts how federal agencies may use such information and requires disclosure of what the government is doing with it. But the law applies only when the government is doing the data collecting.

"Grabbing data wholesale from the private sector is the way agencies are getting around the requirements of the Privacy Act and the Fourth Amendment," says Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington and a member of the Homeland Security Dept.'s Data Privacy & Integrity Advisory Committee.

Surprise, surprise.

Classified: No investigations allowed

Sorry, that's classified.

The Federal Communications Commission has told a Democratic congressman that they cannot investigate the National Security Agency's domestic data mining program because it is classified, RAW STORY has learned.

Whose right of privacy matters?

Congressmen, including Denny Hastert, are up in arms about the fact that Rep. William Jefferson's (D, LA) Congressional office was raided by the Feds (with a warrant). Frankly, I don't know what protection the Constitution affords Congressmen from searches beyond what it affords to all the rest of us. I'm not sure I see a good reason why they should have a greater right to privacy than any of the rest of us. Perhaps there's a good reason, but as it stands, this defense of the right of privacy for Congressmen when the same people are doing nothing to defend the rights of the rest of us really smells.

One is tempted to think they all want to join the prez on that high pinnacle that's ABOVE THE LAW. Of course, the laws were only written for us schmucks in the working class.

While I'm on the subject, though, I'm frankly very disappointed by the alleged activities of Mr. Jefferson. If he's guilty of them, he ought to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, just as the Republican crooks should be -- from the top, right on down.

The embedded press

Good first person report on attending a staged Bush “event” by a pundit from a Chicago suburban daily

Corralled, contained, controlled and coffee-deprived under the thumb of the Secret Service, the local media covering President Bush’s speech Monday in Chicago can’t even get permission to go to the bathroom, let alone ask the president a question.
So — based entirely on what I am allowed to see and hear at the National Restaurant Association Show — I have to conclude that President Bush is a warm, witty lover of freedom, who is wildly popular among the people of our nation.

The 2,000 or so restaurant conventioneers who pack the McCormick Place auditorium interrupt Bush’s speech and question-and-answer period more than two dozen times with applause. . . .

Questioners picked from the audience occasionally pepper their questions with comments such as “You’re doing a fine job,” or pleas for the president’s brother Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to become the next leader of the free world. . . .

A woman, who apparently disagrees, begins the Q&A session by shouting out, “Where are the weapons of mass destruction?” Bush ignores her, and the word-for-word official transcript from records her question only as “audience interruption.”
. . . .
But this is not an arena for dissent and debate. I am here to repeat, not report. I should have known what I was in for when I got my press pass. “White House Press Pool,” it reads. Underneath, in small letters, are the words “Property of U.S. Government.”
On this day, we certainly are.

The Democrats lineup

According to Chris Bowers at MyDD, there are now twelve Democrats more or less contending for the presidential nomination in 2008, Bayh, Biden, Clark, Clinton, Daschle, Dodd, Edwards, Feingold, Kerry, Richardson, Warner and Vilsack.

Then, there's the thirteenth waiting in the wings -- Al Gore.

Hell, I'd vote for any of these guys over any Republican I can see on the horizon, but of the group here I'd prefer Clark, Edwards, Feingold, or Gore. I really don't know enough about Warner to make a judgment there -- so I guess I need to do some homework.

What is it with the Democrats?

Senator Carl Levin (D, Mich) says he's going to vote to confirm Gen. Hayden for the post at the CIA. Jeese, if our own side won't stand up to the thugs and muggers who run this government, who will?

Tabloid Journalism at the New York Times

Front page, above the fold in today's New York Times is a smutty piece on the Clintons unfit even for the National Enquirer. It's full of rumors and salacious suggestions about the Clintons marital life from unnamed "concerned Democrats." It's a piece of garbage, and I refuse to link to it here, but Digby has some appropriate comments:

Democrats be advised: the press is a bunch of braindead robots who are uninterested in changing their puerile Democratic storyline even in the face of the most disasterous administration in American history.It's shocking. You can love Hillary or hate her, I don't care. But goddamit the intimate state of her marriage to Bill Clinton is nobody's business and it NEVER HAS BEEN. If the gossip rags want to play this game, there's nothing anyone can do. But it is just shameful that the New York Times would go back to their cheap, tabloid coverage of politics when the world is on fire. I'm honestly stunned that this is happening again.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Bush favors "transparent governance" abroad

Too good not to pass on, from Matthew Yglesias. No further comment needed:

From the annals of irony [NYT article]:

Bush said he would remind Western Hemisphere nations such as those that ''respect for property rights and human rights is essential,'' that ''meddling in other elections ... to achieve a short-term objective is not in the interests of the neighborhood,'' and that the United States expects other nations to stand against corruption and for transparent governance.
''Let me just put it bluntly: I'm concerned about the erosion of democracy in'' Venezuela and Bolivia, he said.
I wonder what it would be like to live in a country with a corrupt ruling party and a secrecy-obsessed president who liked to meddle in other countries. How do the Bolivians put up with it?

-- Matthew Yglesias

You're damned if you do, and you're damned if you don't

I just want to add this paragraph from Glenn Greenwald's post to ChiTom's comments -- two steps or so down:

So, to re-cap the rules: (1) When a pro-war politician gives a pro-war speech as part of a graduation ceremony, and students in the audience heckle and boo him, that shows how Deranged the Angry Left is -- because they heckled a pro-war speech. (2) When an anti-war politician gives an anti-war speech as part of a graduation ceremony, and students in the audience heckle, walk out and even riot, that also shows how Angry the Left is -- because they "provoked a near riot" by pro-war students.

Impeach the Decider

This is a short animation, one of many made by a fifteen year old girl. Take a look, it's rather moving.

Yet more on dissent: the "angry left" always wrong

And there is no "angry right"-- just ask them!

Glenn Greenwald has a spot-on analysis of recent right-wing blog posts and a WSJ editorial reacting, primarily, to Sen. McCain's commencement appearance at the New School and student reaction there. He writes:

This weekend, there was much petulant hand-wringing on the Right over the terrible breaches of etiquette and civility exhibited by the New School students against the great war hero John McCain. National Review's Rich Lowry, for instance, wrote multiple posts protesting the students' behavior, and decried their conduct as "amazing" and "incredible" because McCain is a "war hero."

Lowry sermonized against the student's conduct even though, as I pointed out in a post on Saturday, Lowry said nothing about the continuous mockery by the Bush campaign of war hero John Kerry's war wounds and military service, including the waiving of purple band-aids at the Republican National Convention, nor did Lowry condemn the ongoing attacks on the patriotism and courage of war hero Jack Murtha. And Lowry specifically defended . . . commercials against wounded combat veteran Max Cleland, dismissing complaints about such attacks on Cleland's commitment to the nation's defense as mere "whining."

But of course that is only half the story. It turns out that if you are Rep. Lacy Clay Jr. or war veteran, Rep. Jack Murtha giving a commencement address opposing the Iraq war or its conduct, then it is your fault that other students heckle you and threaten your safety!
According to Gateway Pundit -- who describes the event with giddy celebration -- this is what ensued:
Representative Lacy Clay Jr. gave such a hate-filled speech last Saturday morning at the University of Missouri St. Louis campus that he had to stop three times during his talk because the boos from the crowd had drowned him out! But unlike Murtha, Lacy Clay needed security to escort him from the building after he was through with his Bush-bash!
Jack Murtha . . ., too, has been giving anti-war speeches -- including at Commencement ceremonies -- where he forces Republican students in the audience to heckle, walk out and act disruptively. How come Rich Lowry wasn't decrying the terribly uncivil conduct towards war hero Jack Murtha? At least according to Instapundit's rationale, it's because it is the anti-war speeches themselves that are hateful -- not the student's understandable reaction -- and so the speech and the speaker are to blame for provoking the disruptive behavior of those patriotic pro-war students.
Got that? The left is angry because they heckle pro-war speeches. The left is angry because they give anti-war speeches, prompting pro-war heckling. Nobody on the right is angry or disrespectful-- all platonic ideals over there, what a bunch of hippies. Pro-peace=angry & disrespectful; Pro-war=calm & respectful. "And do-o-o-o-n' you ferget it", as Quickdraw McGraw says.

[And don't forget the standard of what counts as "hateful": see Sean Hannity's re-writing of comments by leading Democratic senators, summarized here. The characterization of Rep. Clay's remarks by a rightwing source as "hateful" is absolutely valueless. I could look them up, I suppose, but my time is finite.]

So, if Sen. McCain really meant what he said about respecting those who disagree, maybe he'd like to speak up? No sound yet . . . .

The move to censure Jimmy Carter

The crazies are at it again. This time they want to censure Jimmy Carter. Crooks and Liars has their new ad:

The really important unfinished business of America!

Fitzgerald: Libby knew that Plame's status was classified

It turns out that Patrick Fitzgerald is planning to prove that Scooter Libby knew Valerie Plame's status as a CIA agent was classified at the time he leaked it.

The classified status of the identity of former CIA officer Valerie Plame will be a key element in any trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, according to special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald has said that at trial he plans to show that Libby knew Plame's employment at the CIA was classified and that he lied to the grand jury when he said he had learned from NBC News's Tim Russert that Plame, the wife of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, worked for the agency.

That seems to me to raise the question why, then, isn't Fitz charging Libby with the actual leaking of Plame's identity? Wasn't this the very thing he was charged to do? Or am I missing something?

It seems to me that if you were afraid the government might step in to stop the trial by refusing to release documents or by invoking the State Secrets Act, they could do that anyway if you're trying to prove Plame was an undercover agent. Bush could just say that revealing anything more about Plame's status would reveal State Secrets to the enemy and, thus, stop the trial in its tracks.

Steve Almond Stands Tall

Steve Almond, an adjunct professor of English at Boston College, resigned because Boston College invited Condoleezza Rice to be commencement speaker this year. Mr. Almond characterizes Ms. Rice as having "lied to the American people knowingly, repeatedly, often extravagantly over the past five years, in an effort to justify a pathologically misguided foreign policy."

We sure don't have many government officials who are willing to stand tall like Mr. Almond, no matter how egregious our government sins.

More on dissent: McCain, New School, Jean Rohe

A little follow-up from Jean Rohe, the New School student who spoke at the commencement ceremony in criticism of Sen. McCain.

McCain's spokesperson, Mark Salter, attacked her the other day-- one might say, viciously.

It took no courage to do what you did, Ms. Rohe. It was an act of vanity and nothing more. . . . [snip]

Well, Ms. Rohe, and your fellow graduates's comical self-importance deserves a rebuke far stronger than the gentle suggestions he offered you. So, let me leave you with this. Should you grow up and ever get down to the hard business of making a living and finding a purpose for your lives beyond self-indulgence some of you might then know a happiness far more sublime than the fleeting pleasure of living in an echo chamber. And if you are that fortunate, you might look back on the day of your graduation and your discourtesy to a good and honest man with a little shame and the certain knowledge that it is very unlikely any of you will ever posses the one small fraction of the character of John McCain.

At least he didn't call for her execution, a la Michelle Malkin-- such a moderate.

Now Jean Rohe has replied to the attack today-- it is able and priceless:

I'd like to say first of all, that I don't believe that anything I've written to the public so far has been quite as nasty to Senator McCain as Mr. Salter was to me. On the contrary, I think that my writing clearly reflected my values, which is to say, never was I rude to the Senator nor did I show any disrespect. In fact, I think my compassion was made clear. To pick on me in such a bullying and sarcastic way is a clear admission on Mr. Salter's part that his fear is far deeper than any I might have felt when sticking up for myself.

The following is addressed directly to Mr. Salter:
Without taking issue with your statement point by point, I'd just like to draw attention for a moment to a few things you said. Firstly, it was clear to me why Senator McCain chose to give the same speech at every school. It was meant to show consistency in his message, and, contrary to what you suggested, there is no place in my speech or my other writing where I take issue with that. However, interestingly, it is precisely because the senator's speech had nothing to do with our graduation or anyone else's that it worked so marvelously in all settings. It was equally out of place no matter where it was delivered.

In addition, you make many assumptions about who I am and what I stand for. You assume that the words shouted from the audience reflected at all times my opinions and values. You assume that I have made myself look like an idiot, which, I can tell you, is just not true. You assume I have taken no risks. I'm curious to see which doors have been permanently closed to me in the future, simply because I've spoken up. You assume that I did what I did simply to draw attention to myself for my own
personal benefit. I have said in my writing, and I will say it again, I would never have asked for this responsibility in a million years. The entire event was stomach-churning and unpleasant because it was something I didn't want to do, but knew I had to out of an obligation to my own values. You assume that I have no experience making a living. I have been a full-time college student and have worked a job to pay my own rent and my own expenses for the past two years. You assume that I live in an "echo chamber" of liberal head-patting, when, in fact, I live in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, a neighborhood notorious for its cultural diversity and sometimes, conflict. I live in New York City where every human interaction is a test of our willingness to coexist as citizens. And finally, I think it is unfair to assume that I have not considered the hardships of Senator McCain's life. Indeed, one of my first feelings upon seeing him in the flesh was compassion for how much he must have endured in his time as a POW. If there's one thing that I know about myself, it is that I care for people, and in that sense I have a great deal of character. Please don't try to bully me anymore.

She has called it for what it is: "bullying". Fairly standard treatment of dissenters these days. Wonder if either of the NY Senators would like to speak up on behalf of this courageous, patriotic student? I wonder if a certain Arizona Senator would like to distance himself from his spokesman's disgraceful behavior? That would be a mark of "character".

We've won so we're going home

Bush and Blair are planning to announce victory in Iraq and then start slow pullout. You can tell we're getting close to an election, can't you?

LONDON -- Tony Blair and George Bush will announce that they are to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq at a summit in Washington as early as this week, RAW STORY has learned.

The process has already been carefully choreographed in an attempt to bolster the popularity of both Bush and Blair who have suffered domestically for their handling of the war.

The scope of the phased withdrawal, which will see the 133,000 US force levels cut to around 100,000 by the end of the year and British numbers almost halved, has already been agreed, one senior defence source said.

Question: Will this produce the Bush bounce? Or will it be read for what it is, shameless pandering?