The Aeration Zone: A liberal breath of fresh air

Contributors (otherwise known as "The Aerheads"):

Walldon in New Jersey ---- Marketingace in Pennsylvania ---- Simoneyezd in Ontario
ChiTom in Illinois -- KISSweb in Illinois -- HoundDog in Kansas City -- The Binger in Ohio

About us:

e-mail us at:

Monday, July 31, 2006

They're getting our new home ready for us

The UK's Guardian informs us that the Pentagon is putting the finishing touches on a permanent prison at Guantanamo:

The controversy over the US-run detention centre at Guantanamo Bay is to erupt anew with confirmation by the Pentagon that a new, permanent prison will open in the Cuban enclave in the next few weeks.

Camp 6, a state-of-the-art maximum-security jail built by a Halliburton subsidiary, will be able to hold 200 prisoners. Commander Robert Durand, a spokesman for Joint Task Force Guantanamo, said the $30m, two-storey block was due to open at the end of September. He added: "Camp 6 is designed to improve the quality of life for the detainees and provide greater protection for the people working in the facility."

I'm so glad they want to improve the quality of life for the detainees.

Sunset on democracy

Get yourself prepared for Sunset -- "Sunset Commissions" that is. Under these plans being proposed by the White House and the Republicans a partisan committee would be appointed by the President to select government programs to be terminated. All programs selected for termination by the Commission would be terminated regardless of whether the termination was acceptable to Congress. In effect, this would give the President the power to terminate any government program he chose to terminate.

Condi Rice awarded the fickle finger of fate

So, what's going on? Is Israel really flashing the bird to Condi? This is really weird. Condi, not Israel, announces that Israel is going to halt the bombing campaign for 48 hours. Israel barely confirms that decision. Next, Israel is bombing once again.

JERUSALEM - Israeli warplanes carried out airstrikes in southern Lebanon on Monday, hours after agreeing to temporarily halt raids while investigating a bombing that killed nearly 60 Lebanese civilians, mostly women and children seeking shelter.
With this kind of diplomacy, it's no wonder W doesn't believe in diplomacy. Or, perhaps, the casue and effect works the other way. When you don't believe in diplomacy, you don't practice it well. A bit like when you don't believe in government, you don't run the government well.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Twelve Texans do justice and compassion

This story from the Houston Chronicle, about the jury in the second trial of Andrea Yates, is really worth reading. (H/t to Mahablog.)

If you are reading this on Sunday morning, you may take it as hopeful evidence that Not All Is Lost.

Creating the Ultimate Police State

Bush is proposing legislation that would in effect throw out the Constitution and the Courts:

WASHINGTON - U.S. citizens suspected of terror ties might be detained indefinitely and barred from access to civilian courts under legislation proposed by the Bush administration, say legal experts reviewing an early version of the bill.

A 32-page draft measure is intended to authorize the Pentagon's tribunal system, established shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks to detain and prosecute detainees captured in the war on terror. The tribunal system was thrown out last month by the Supreme Court.
Naturally, this came out on a Friday night so no one has paid any attention to it.

Look quick cause you may not see your country ever again.

We don't see them, we make them up

The baseball umpire parody cannot be overexagerated with the Bush regime pointed out by Krugman today in NYT. "The people now running America never accept inconvenient truths. Long after facts they don’t like have been established, whether it’s the absence of any wrongdoing by the Clintons in the Whitewater affair or the absence of W.M.D. in Iraq, the propaganda machine that supports the current administration is still at work, seeking to flush those facts down the memory hole. But it’s dismaying to realize that the machine remains so effective. Here’s how the process works.
First, if the facts fail to support the administration position on an issue — stem cells, global warming, tax cuts, income inequality, Iraq — officials refuse to acknowledge the facts.
Sometimes the officials simply lie. “The tax cuts have made the tax code more progressive and reduced income inequality,” Edward Lazear, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, declared a couple of months ago. More often, however, they bob and weave.
Consider, for example, Condoleezza Rice’s response a few months ago, when pressed to explain why the administration always links the Iraq war to 9/11. She admitted that Saddam, 'as far as we know, did not order Sept. 11, may not have even known of Sept. 11.' (Notice how her statement, while literally true, nonetheless seems to imply both that it’s still possible that Saddam ordered 9/11, and that he probably did know about it.) She went on (to say) 'that’s a very narrow definition of what caused Sept. 11.'
Meanwhile, apparatchiks in the media spread disinformation. It’s hard to imagine what the world looks like to the large number of Americans who get their news by watching Fox and listening to Rush Limbaugh, but I get a pretty good sense from my mailbag. Many of my correspondents are living in a world in which the economy is better than it ever was under Bill Clinton, newly released documents show that Saddam really was in cahoots with Osama, and the discovery of some decayed 1980’s-vintage chemical munitions vindicates everything the administration said about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. (Hyping of the munitions find may partly explain why public belief that Saddam had W.M.D. has made a comeback.)
Some of my correspondents have even picked up on claims, mostly disseminated on right-wing blogs, that the Bush administration actually did a heck of a job after Katrina.

Friday, July 28, 2006

I'll give you a dime if you will give me a $5.00 bill

So, the Republicans are ready to pass an increase in the minimum wage, but only if it's linked to an elimination of the estate tax. The Democrats choice: vote against the minimum wage in order to block the estate tax cut -- and be accused of voting against it by the thugs, or vote for it and have to swallow the estate tax cut.

Typical of Rethuglicans. They can't give anything to the poor without stealing it away again to give it to the rich. Let's hope the public gets wise to these creeps -- every one of them should be voted down.

WASHINGTON - Republican leaders are willing to allow the first minimum wage increase in a decade but only if it's coupled with a cut in inheritance taxes on multimillion-dollar estates, congressional aides said Friday.

Terror watch list = random names

It turns out that the Feds are putting random names on the terror watch list in order to "fill quotas."

The American Civil Liberties Union has asked the Chief Privacy Officer of the Department of Homeland Security to investigate a recent news report that federal air marshals are labeling innocent Americans as "suspicious" after being directed to fill a monthly watchlist quotas, RAW STORY has learned.

The Air Marshals Service responded to earlier complaints by indicating that the complaints came from disgruntled Denver employees. However, Denver's KMGH-TV contacted 17 employees in 4 different states, who confirmed the story.

I'm sure that will make us all feel more secure. And, it's certainly consolation for those who aren't permitted to travel.

I'm still looking to see whether I can find anything this government does right.

If you don't like the law, ignore it

This news is a bit stale by now, but I can't let it go by entirely without a comment. In typical Bush fashion, since the prez can't seem to get the Congress to repeal the estate tax, Bush has simply decided not to enforce the law.

The New York Times reported this week that the Bush administration is eliminating almost half of the lawyers at the Internal Revenue Service who audit the tax returns of the wealthiest Americans. These lawyers specialize in auditing the returns of those who are subject to gift and estate taxes. Since taking office in 2001 President Bush has consistently lobbied Congress to repeal the estate tax, but he hasn't been able to get Congress to go along with him. Instead, the Bush administration has now decided to force the IRS to backpedal and circumvent the tax laws.
What could be a louder signal to all you rich fat cats to ignore filing your estate tax forms?

War Crimes Act: An inconvenient law

This is convenient. The administration has concluded that it is probably guilty of war crimes, so it now wants to legalize prior violations of the war crimes laws.

An obscure law approved by a Republican-controlled Congress a decade ago has made the Bush administration nervous that officials and troops involved in handling detainee matters might be accused of committing war crimes, and prosecuted at some point in U.S. courts.

Senior officials have responded by drafting legislation that would grant U.S. personnel involved in the terrorism fight new protections against prosecution for past violations of the War Crimes Act of 1996. That law criminalizes violations of the Geneva Conventions governing conduct in war and threatens the death penalty if U.S.-held detainees die in custody from abusive treatment.

In light of a recent Supreme Court ruling that the international Conventions apply to the treatment of detainees in the terrorism fight, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has spoken privately with Republican lawmakers about the need for such "protections," according to someone who heard his remarks last week.

Gonzales told the lawmakers that a shield is needed for actions taken by U.S. personnel under a 2002 presidential order, which the Supreme Court declared illegal, and under Justice Department legal opinions that have been withdrawn under fire, the source said. A spokeswoman for Gonzales, Tasia Scolinos, declined to comment on Gonzales's remarks.

I'd prefer we tried them, convicted them, and hung them.

Israeli paper decries military dominance

From Haretz:

And this is precisely the difference between us and the others: While in all other democracies, a certain dependency of policy-makers on generals is apparent, together with attempts to reduce it, in Israel, the case is not only one of dependency but the fact that our policy-makers are held captive by the generals.

The security policy-making process is in fact the domain of the Israel Defense Forces and the defense establishment. In the absence of non-IDF national security planning bodies, the major part of the planning - not only operational and tactical planning but also strategic and political planning - is done within the army.

The result is that military considerations have often become more dominant than political ones. Thus, Israel's foreign policies have come to be based on an essentially belligerent perception that favors military considerations over diplomatic ones. Violence is seen not only as a legitimate instrument in international affairs, but almost as the only means that can bring positive result

Hezbollah and the civilians

Via Juan Cole, I came across this piece in Salon. I don't have any way of knowing if this is accurate, but it's worth keeping an ear to the ground to try to find out:

Throughout this now 16-day-old war, Israeli planes high above civilian areas make decisions on what to bomb. They send huge bombs capable of killing things for hundreds of meters around those targets to destroy them, and then blame the inevitable civilian deaths -- the Lebanese government says 600 civilians have been killed so far -- on "terrorists" who callously use the civilian infrastructure for protection.

But this claim is almost always false. My own reporting and that of other journalists reveals that in fact Hezbollah fighters -- as opposed to the much more numerous Hezbollah political members, and the vastly more numerous Hezbollah sympathizers -- avoid civilians like the plague. Much smarter and better trained than the PLO and Hamas fighters, they know that if they mingle with civilians, they will sooner or later be betrayed by collaborators -- as so many Palestinian militants have been.

One thing that does seem to be clear, nonetheless, is that Hezbollah doesn't seem to mind targeting innocent civilians with its rockets. For that, they should be condemned.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

DLC gropes for a Plan

By Rick Klein, Globe Staff July 25, 2006
DENVER -- Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton joined centrist Democrats yesterday in unveiling a new agenda designed to boost the prospects of the middle class, calling for easier access to college education, universal healthcare for children, and requiring nearly all employers to set up retirement accounts for their workers.
Clinton, a New York Democrat who helped develop the proposals for the Democratic Leadership Council -- the organization that helped propel her husband to the White House in 1992 -- said the ``American Dream Initiative" is a platform that can unite Democrats in this year's congressional elections.
``To paraphrase the historic 1992 campaign, `It's the American dream, stupid,' " Clinton told attendees of the DLC's annual meeting in Denver, referencing the ``It's the economy, stupid" theme of former President Bill Clinton's first national campaign. ``There is a better way. It's time for Democrats to show how an agenda for change can turn this country around, and bring the American dream back within reach."
The platform is filled with concepts few Democrats would argue with, including education tax credits and government-provided savings bonds for newborns. Leadership council organizers said the plan is at least a partial answer to the oft-repeated criticism that Democrats lack a positive agenda.
``We can replace trickle-down economics with rise-up economics, and we can make sure that everybody has a chance to rise up and fulfill their dreams for the future," Clinton said. ``We have the ideas and we have the will. That's what this new opportunity agenda stands for. Now all we have to do is win elections."
Yet as a platform for Democrats, the initiative is notably silent on what could be the overarching issue of the 2006 elections: the Iraq war. Clinton said the omission was deliberate, since the plan focuses on domestic policy and expanding and strengthening the middle class.
But the war remains a deeply divisive issue among Democrats, one that Republicans are eagerly exploiting. By steering clear of Iraq and controversial economic issues such as international free-trade agreements, the DLC is ignoring the very issues that could give Democrats a huge boost this fall, said David Sirota, a Democratic activist and author who has been critical of the DLC.
``It's time to lead on those issues," said Sirota, whose recent book, ``Hostile Takeover," accuses both major parties of being beholden to corporate interests. ``Their omissions are admissions of the unpopularity of the positions they've staked their name on in the past."
Senator Clinton was one of four Democratic presidential hopefuls who used the DLC meeting to hone stump speeches and court state and local elected officials. She was joined by Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa, and Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico -- all of whom are building their ambitions on mainstream messages.
They're looking to follow a path blazed by President Clinton, who used his DLC leadership when he was governor of Arkansas in the early 1990s to boost his political profile.
Yet whether the centrist strategy the DLC prefers is the best choice for Democrats in 2006 and 2008 is the subject of a raging party debate. Other presidential contenders -- including Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts and Senator Russell Feingold of Wisconsin -- are charting a more liberal course, based largely on their strong opposition to the Iraq war.
The party's ideological differences are on display in Connecticut, where Senator Joseph I. Lieberman -- a three-term incumbent and the Democrats' 2000 vice-presidential nominee -- is locked in a surprisingly tough primary battle; his opponent is capitalizing on voter anger over Lieberman's support for the war and President Bush's foreign policy.
Yesterday, former President Clinton campaigned with Lieberman -- a former DLC chairman -- a few hours after Senator Clinton delivered the most anticipated speech of the three-day DLC ``National Conversation."
Al From, the DLC's founder, delivered a veiled jab at liberal bloggers and others who want moderates to boldly attack Bush and the GOP. He told attendees in Denver that this year's election will be ``an argument, not a shouting match" between Democrats and Republicans.
``We need to grow our party, not shrink it," From said. ``We need to persuade more voters to vote Democratic, not fewer. . . . We need to be a party of ideas, not a party of anger."
Vilsack struck a similar tone, encouraging Democrats to win elections with constructive ideas rather than attacks on the president. ``It seems to me that everybody in the country understands what this administration has done wrong," said Vilsack, the DLC's current chairman. ``It is important now for this country to understand what we need to do that's right."
Senator Clinton said Democrats will focus on Bush administration mistakes in foreign policy, but she made no mention of Iraq. Clinton voted for the war and has said she does not regret her vote, though she has been harshly critical of the administration's war conduct.
``We will not let the president and the Republicans off the hook for the mistakes they've made and the disastrous policies they have followed abroad," Clinton said. ``We'll hold them accountable every bit as much for national security and homeland security as for their failures to provide Americans with economic security."
Bayh exhorted Democrats to push back when Republicans try to paint Democrats as weak on national security. Though he didn't advocate a specific message on Iraq, Bayh said the party should be aggressive, pointing out Bush administration missteps that have contributed to violence in the Middle East and have failed to contain emerging nuclear threats. ``We've got to take this issue on," Bayh said. ``If [voters] don't trust us with our lives, they're unlikely to trust us with anything else."
Few Democrats would quarrel with the DLC's agenda -- even those who have been skeptical of stances the group has taken in the past, said Robert Borosage, codirector of the liberal Campaign for America's Future. That's an encouraging sign for those who want to promote party unity in a crucial election year, he said. ``It reflects the growing strength of the progressive wing of the party, rather than the money wing of the party," Borosage said.

Sen. Obama on Energy: Details Needed

America spends $800 million a day, or $300 billion annually, on its 20-million-barrel-a-day oil habit. Passenger vehicles alone burn 8 million gallons of oil each day. Because we import 60 percent of our oil, much of it from the Middle-East, our dependence on oil is also a national security issue. With oil prices hovering near $75 a barrel and total U.S. petroleum use estimated to increase 23 percent over the next 20 years, we must act now to prevent a future energy crisis.
The Fuel Economy Reform Act of 2006 seeks to break the decades-long logjam on increasing fuel economy standards by taking a new, more flexible approach. The bill charges the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) to create regular annual increases in fuel economy with a target of 1 mile per gallon each year. This legislation flips the current debate about increasing fuel economy standards on its head, from a debate about whether standards will be raised to presumption that they will be raised.

How to rig election: get the right vendor.

From by David Dill, Doug Jones and Barbara Simons . Most computer scientists have long viewed Diebold as the poster child for all that is wrong with touch screen voting machines. But we never imagined that Diebold would be as irresponsible and incompetent as they have turned out to be.Recently, computer security expert Harri Hursti revealed serious security vulnerabilities in Diebold's software. According to Michael Shamos, a computer scientist and voting system examiner in Pennsylvania, "It's the most severe security flaw ever discovered in a voting system."Even more shockingly, we learned recently that Diebold and the State of Maryland had been aware of these vulnerabilities for at least two years. They were documented in analysis, commissioned by Maryland and conducted by RABA Technologies, published in January 2004. For over two years, Diebold has chosen not to fix the security holes, and Maryland has chosen not to alert other states or national officials about these problems.Basically, Diebold included a "back door" in its software, allowing anyone to change or modify the software. There are no technical safeguards in place to ensure that only authorized people can make changes.A malicious individual with access to a voting machine could rig the software without being detected. Worse yet, if the attacker rigged the machine used to compute the totals for some precinct, he or she could alter the results of that precinct. The only fix the RABA authors suggested was to warn people that manipulating an election is against the law.Typically, modern voting machines are delivered several days before an election and stored in people's homes or in insecure polling stations. A wide variety of poll workers, shippers, technicians, and others who have access to these voting machines could rig the software. Such software alterations could be difficult to impossible to detect.Diebold spokesman David Bear admitted to the New York Times that the back door was inserted intentionally so that election officials would be able to update their systems easily. Bear justified Diebold's actions by saying, "For there to be a problem here, you're basically assuming a premise where you have some evil and nefarious election officials who would sneak in and introduce a piece of software... I don't believe these evil elections people exist."While Diebold's confidence in election officials is heartwarming, Diebold has placed election officials in an awkward position, with no defense against disgruntled candidates or voters questioning the results of an election. The situation is even worse for those states and localities using Diebold touch-screen machines that have no voter-verified paper records to recount.Diebold voting machines have been certified to be in compliance with 2002 Voting System Standards, as required by the Help America Vote Act. These standards prohibit software features that raise any doubt "that the software tested during the qualification process remains unchanged and retains its integrity." We must ask, how did software containing such an outrageous violation come to be certified, and what other flaws, yet to be uncovered, lurk in other certified systems?There have been many significant problems - some resulting in lost votes - involving paperless voting machines produced by other vendors. Recognizing the intrinsic risks of paperless voting machines, the Association for Computing Machinery issued a statement saying that each voter should be able "to inspect a physical (e.g., paper) record to verify that his or her vote has been accurately cast and to serve as an independent check on the result." Without voter-verified paper records of all the votes, and without routine spot audits of these records, no currently available voting system can be trusted. With such records, even when machines do not function correctly, each voter can make sure that his or her vote has been correctly recorded on paper.Our democracy depends on our having secure, reliable, and accurate elections. David L. Dill is a Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University and the founder of Jones is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at the University of Iowa.Barbara Simons is retired from IBM Research and a former ACM President. Jones and Simons are writing a book on voting machines to be published by PoliPoint Press.

The Bush/Rice Theory on the Middle East

Sidney Blumenthal explains the "theory" under which Bush/Rice are operating in the Middle East:

As explained to me by several senior state department officials, Rice is entranced by a new "domino theory": Israel's attacks will demolish Hizbullah; the Lebanese will blame Hizbullah and destroy its influence; and the backlash will extend to Hamas, which will collapse. From the administration's point of view, this is a proxy war with Iran (and Syria) that will inexplicably help turn around Iraq. "We will prevail," Rice says.

That's about the stupidest theory I can imagine.

a) Israel's occupation of Lebanon was what led to the creation of Hizbullah. There is next to no likelihood that Israel will be able to destroy it by re-occupying Lebanon. In fact, if there were ever a recruiting tool for Hizbullah, this is it.

b) Unexpectedly, Israel is having a much tougher time just fighting Hizbullah than anyone expected. Some even talk about a Hizbullah victory.

c) The Lebanese are likely to blame Israel, not just Hizbullah, for the destruction of their country. And, even if they blamed Hizbullah, the government is not and will not be strong enough to destroy it's influence.

d) Why the backlash will extend to Hamas is not explained, probably because there is no explanation. This is the same sort of wishful thinking that led us to believe dropping a few bombs on Iraq (now read "Iran") would cause the Iraqis (now read "Iranians") to rise up and overthrow their government. It's really worked well, hasn't it?

e) Believing that defeating Hizbullah will cause Syria and Iran to collapse is truly la la land. It's about as likely as the killing of al Zarqawi was to cripple al Qaeda.

Effective diplomacy

In a sure sign that Bush's uniquely effective diplomacy is paying dividends, the North Koreans decided to walk out of the nuclear talks today.

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) -North Korea refused to rejoin nuclear talks until the United States drops financial sanctions, dimming hopes of reviving the stalled discussions at a security meeting here.

The communist state's announcement comes despite days of hectic diplomacy aimed at dragging Pyongyang back to the negotiating table on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum.

Important stuff

Finally, a Senator from my State stands up to do something really important:

A United States Senator has introduced an amendment to re-name the Republican energy bill after an infamous Ex-Exxon-Mobil executive, RAW STORY has learned.

Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) filed the amendment today. It would re-name the bill itself, "The Lee R. Raymond Oil Profitability Act.”

Earlier this year, Raymond received the largest exit package in U.S. history--worth nearly $400 million--to step down as CEO of the oil giant.

A great guy to have a beer with

In today's NY Times [behind subscription wall], Bob Herbert captured a truth about America's favorite drinking buddy in his column:

In two years and a few months Americans will vote again for president. I hope the long list of tragic failures by Bush & Co. prompts people to take that election more seriously than some in the past. If you were about to be lifted onto an operating table, you’d be more interested in the competence of the surgeon than in his or her personality.

So true. I couldn't give a hoot whether my surgeon would be a great guy to have a beer with.


More Israeli war crimes?

It gets harder and harder every hour to swallow the Israeli propoganda that they do everything they can to spare all Lebanese except the Hizbollah. What a crock.

The ambulance headlamps were on, the blue light overhead was flashing, and another light illuminated the Red Cross flag when the first Israeli missile hit, shearing off the right leg of the man on the stretcher inside. As he lay screaming beneath fire and smoke, patients and ambulance workers scrambled for safety, crawling over glass in the dark. Then another missile hit the second ambulance.

Even in a war which has turned the roads of south Lebanon into killing zones, Israel's rocket strike on two clearly marked Red Cross ambulances on Sunday night set a deadly new milestone.
What with Israel having continued to bomb the UN observation site hour after hour despite at least ten calls alerting them they were bombing a UN installation, bombing a Lebanese regular army headquarters, bombing apartment complexes, etc., etc. Claims these attacks are accidental just become more and more absurd.

Chemical weapons?

This report is from the Sydney Herald. I don't know anything about the reliability of the Herald's reporting:

Lebanon is investigating reports from doctors that Israel has used weapons in its 15-day-old bombardment of southern Lebanon that have caused wounds they have never seen before.

"We are sending off samples tomorrow, but we have no confirmation yet that illegal weapons have been used," Health Minister Mohammed Khalife said.

The Israeli army said it had used only conventional weapons and ammunition in attacks aimed at Hizbollah guerrillas and nothing contravening international law.

Blackened bodies have been showing up at hospitals in southern Lebanon two weeks into the war between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas that has seen at least 418 people, mostly civilians, killed in Lebanon and at least 42 Israelis.

Killed by Israeli air raids, the Lebanese dead are charred in a way local doctors, who have lived through years of civil war and Israeli occupation, say they have not seen before.

Bachir Cham, a Belgian-Lebanese doctor at the Southern Medical Centre in Sidon, received eight bodies after an Israeli air raid on nearby Rmeili which he said exhibited such wounds.

He has taken 24 samples from the bodies to test what killed them. He believes it is a chemical.

Cham said the bodies of some victims were "black as shoes, so they are definitely using chemical weapons. They are all black but their hair and skin is intact so they are not really burnt. It is something else."

The US has set the standard for civility in wartime, so I guess you can't blame others for following our example.

The "Christian" view of the Israeli-Lebanon thing

From the Wall Street Journal (hat tip to Kevin Drum):

Last week, as Israel's armed forces pounded Lebanon and worries of a wider conflagration mounted, Mr. Hagee presided over what he called a "miracle of God": a gathering of 3,500 evangelical Christians packed into a Washington hotel to cheer Israel and its current military campaign.

Standing on a stage bedecked with a huge Israeli flag, Mr. Hagee drew rapturous applause and shouts of "amen" as he hailed Israel for doing God's work in a "war of good versus evil." Calls for Israel to show restraint violate "God's foreign-policy statement" toward Jews, he said, citing a verse from the Old Testament that promises to "bless those who bless you" and curse "the one who curses you."

…Mr. Hagee is a leading figure in the so-called Christian-Zionist movement. This evangelical political philosophy is rooted in biblical prophecies and a belief that Israel's struggles signal a prelude to Armageddon. Its followers staunchly support the Bush administration's unequivocal backing of Israel in its current battle with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

President Bush sent a message to the gathering praising Mr. Hagee and his supporters for "spreading the hope of God's love and the universal gift of freedom." The Israeli prime minister also sent words of thanks. Israel's ambassador, its former military chief and a host of U.S. political heavyweights, mostly Republican, attended.

…"The battlefield will cover the nation of Israel!" he writes in "Jerusalem Countdown," his recent work, describing a "sea of human blood drained from the veins of those who have followed Satan."

God's love and the universal gift of freedon = a sea of human blood? Ah, the rapture must be at hand.

By the way, the rapture index now stands at 156 -- pretty high on the rapture scale.

Keep sounding the drums of fear

For several years now, my mother-in-law has been writing post cards (often as many as three or four a week) to the wounded GIs hospitalized at Walter Reed in an effort to demonstrate her support for our troops.

Yesterday, she received a letter from the government saying she must cease and desist because post cards are considered a security threat.

If post cards from a 78 year old woman, a Republican, a loyal Bush supporter are considered a security threat, what isn't a threat?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


The polls are not looking very good for our boy Bush. In this ARG poll, his approval rating slipped a bit (36% to 35%) this month, but the rest of the stats look really grim for King George:

Americans are again increasingly concerned about the national economy and their personal financial situations, including those saying they approve of the way George W. Bush is handling his job and the economy according to the latest survey from the American Research Group.

Among all Americans, 35% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 59% disapprove. When it comes to Bush's handling of the economy, 31% approve and 63% disapprove. Among Americans registered to vote, 36% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 58% disapprove. When it comes to the way Bush is handling the economy, 32% of registered voters approve of the way Bush is handling the economy and 63% disapprove.

A total of 19% of Americans say the national economy is getting better compared to 31% in June and 57% say the the national economy is getting worse compared to 48% in June. A total of 6% say they expect the national economy to be better a year from now compared to 15% in June and 67% say they expect the national economy to be worse a year from now compared to 52% in June.

A total of 47% of Americans say their personal financial situations are getting worse compared to 22% in June and 45% say they expect to be worse off a year from now compared to 20% in June. A total of 17% of Americans say their personal financial situations are getting better compared to 31% in June and 17% say they expect their personal financial situations to be better a year from now compared to 35% in June.

A boy can dream, can't he?

Molly Ivins is trying to get Democrats excited about the prospect of running Bill Moyers for president.

"Dear desperate Democrats," the nation's most widely-read liberal newspaper columnist begins her latest missive. "Here's what we do: We run Bill Moyers for president. I am serious as a stroke about this. It's simple, cheap, and effective, and it will move the entire spectrum of political discussion in this country. Moyers is the only public figure who can take the entire discussion and shove it toward moral clarity just by being there."

McCain Supports Prez on Signing Statements

If it only took one reason to not vote for McCain, here it is:

In response to questions from Congressional Quarterly about whether he would support Sen. Arlen Specter's (R-PA) bill to counter the President's use of "signing statements," McCain said this:

“I think the president will enforce the law."

All of which is not to say that I have any confidence in anything Arlen Specter proposes.


Co-blogger, Simoneyezd in Ontario, has a somewhat different perspective on the Israeli actions in Lebanon than I do. Here is one of his opinion pieces.

Subject: Middle East Crisis-Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon

Hezbollah and Hamas are two terrorist organizations that do not want or have peace with Israel in their sights nor do they foresee the well being and interests of the Lebanese and Palestinian populations that they hold hostage.

It is unfortunate that Israel had to resort to its retaliation that continues, but Israel has the absolute right to defend herself.

Right now Israel is taking the assaulting brunts from the forces of evil in the Middle East.

Regretfully, Israel has to perform the formidable task of defending herself and the Jewish people in Israel, the Region; and indirectly the World.

Israel is the first line of defence to western civilization on the other side of the world. Israel is the only hope for peace, stability, harmony, prosperity and sanity in the Middle East.


What a wonderful place the Middle East, being the cradle of civilization, could be if the peoples in the region would be free to reap the unending benefits and potential opportunities through the experiences of their mingled cultures, histories and natural beauty of the terrain.

Unfortunately, Lebanon, who I believe wants peace with Israel, is under the thumb of Hezbollah, being encouraged and supplied by the Syrian and Iranian rogue regimes. The Palestinians are in Hamas' noose. Hezbollah and Hamas must be disbanded.


Unless the hostilities at the northern and southern ends of Israel are contained, there is that dreadful possibility that they could spill over into a raging Middle East War, particularly with Iran and Syria fomenting and protecting Hezbollah and Hamas. Lebanon is in the unfortunate situation of a country without a government that is really able to speak for its people and pursue a peaceful destiny. It is controlled by Hezbollah with Syria's clenched fist in the background.

Ontario Canada

Pressure to confirm Bolton

It appears the Israeli lobby is pushing for John Bolton's confirmation to the UN, and the pressure may be starting to tell on Democrats who might otherwise oppose him:

Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) are "seriously reconsidering” their positions on the appointment of Ambassador John Bolton to the UN, according to the New York Sun.

The report quoted Morton Klein, President of the Zionist Organization of America who claimed to have spoken with "important friends" of the senators. He added, ""If they came out against him, I would be somewhat surprised," and that, "I think there's a reasonable chance they might support him this time around." He did however offer the caveat that, "with politics, you never know."

The paper also spoke with Jack Rosen, chairman of the American Jewish Congress, who found that the senators lack of a statement to date reflects an understanding "that the Jewish community is supporting Bolton and that when you represent a large Jewish community in New York, politics matters." In Rosen's calculation, Bolton's strong support for Israel in the current Middle East crisis might sway Clinton and Schumer to alter their positions.

It's a sad truth that no Democrat (or Republican for that matter) can expect to buck the Israeli lobby and win an election in this country.

Deliberate war crimes

It looks more and more as if Israel deliberately attacked the UN bunker in Lebanon, killing four UN observers.

Israel ignored repeated warnings it was shelling close to United Nations observers in southern Lebanon before an Israeli bomb killed four for them, the Irish foreign ministry has said.

The ministry said on Wednesday a senior Irish army officer had called Israeli military liasion officers at least six times to warn them that Israeli munitions were landing close to UN installations in the region.

The peacekeepers were killed on Tuesday night when an aerial bomb struck a United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) building in Khiam, southern Lebanon, an UNIFIL spokesman said.

"On six separate occasions he [the officer] was in contact with the Israelis to warn them that their bombardment was endangering the lives of UN staff in South Lebanon," a department of foreign affairs spokesman said.

The dead were Canadian, Finnish, Austrian and Chinese nationals.

Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary general, has condemned Israel, saying he was shocked by the "apparently deliberate targeting" of the post, and calling for it to investigate the incident.
Juan Cole asks why Israel would do this deliberately and concludes that if you plan to commit war crimes, it's best not to have neutral observers around.

I'm sorry, but this is NOT legitimate self defense. There is no way that the hundreds of people killed in Lebanon and the tens of thousands displaced can be blamed on inadvertent collateral damage. This is obviously a deliberate attempt to attack innocent civilians and undoubtedly constitutes a war crime. True, the Hizbollah attacks on Israel also constutute war crimes and were equally unjustified. But, one war crime does not justify another. Two wrongs do not make right. Both Hizbollah and those in Israel responsible for this should be tried for war crimes.

Meanwhile the US sits on its hands cheering Israel on, and neither party has the guts to speak out against this atrocity.


Before you despair . . .

Remember what has changed in less than two decades: the end of the Cold War, "the Wall" and the "Iron Curtain"; our relations with China; the end of apartheid in South Africa – as far as we knew from general faraway knowledge, that one was absolutely impossible -- Bosnia and Kosovo, Northern Ireland, trade relations with Viet Nam.

Getting Real on Stabilizing the Israei-Lebanese Border

Tom Friedman nails this in today's NYT. "We need to get real on Lebanon. Hezbollah made a reckless mistake in provoking Israel. Shame on Hezbollah for bringing this disaster upon Lebanon by embedding its “heroic” forces amid civilians. I understand Israel’s vital need to degrade Hezbollah’s rocket network. But Hezbollah’s militia, which represents 40 percent of Lebanon, the Shiites, can’t be wiped out at a price that Israel, or America’s Arab allies, can sustain — if at all.
You can’t go into an office in the Arab world today without finding an Arab TV station featuring the daily carnage in Lebanon. It’s now the Muzak of the Arab world, and it is toxic for us and our Arab friends.
Despite Hezbollah’s bravado, Israel has hurt it and its supporters badly, in a way they will never forget. Point made. It is now time to wind down this war and pull together a deal — a cease-fire, a prisoner exchange, a resumption of the peace effort and an international force to help the Lebanese Army secure the border with Israel — before things spin out of control. Whoever goes for a knockout blow will knock themselves out instead.
Will Syria play? Syrians will tell you that their alliance with Tehran is “a marriage of convenience.” Syria is a largely secular country, with a Sunni majority. Its leadership is not comfortable with Iranian Shiite ayatollahs. The Iranians know that, which is why “they keep sending high officials here every few weeks to check on the relationship,” a diplomat said.
So uncomfortable are many Syrian Sunnis with the Iran relationship that President Bashar al-Assad has had to allow a surge of Sunni religiosity; last April, a bigger public display was made of Muhammad’s birthday than the Syrian Baath Party’s anniversary, which had never happened before.
Syrian officials stress that they formed their alliance with Iran because they felt they had no other option. One top Syrian official said the door with the U.S. was “not closed from Damascus. [But] when you have only one friend, you stay with him all the time. When you have 10 friends, you stay with each one of them.”
What do the Syrians want? They say: respect for their security interests in Lebanon and a resumption of negotiations over the Golan. Syria is also providing support for the Sunni Baathists in Iraq. Much as the Bush team wants to, it can’t fight everyone at once and get where it needs to go. There will not be a peace force in south Lebanon unless it’s backed by Syria. No one will send troops."

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

More on DLC: If you believe it, say it

The blogger MyDD had a great post on the rabidly centrist DLC (Democratic Leadership Conference) that resonates with my comments yesterday about what's fundamentally wrong with the DLC philosophy. It was prompted by Bill Clinton's statement that DLC initiatives "can win elections."

Why People Don't Think Democrats Believe What They Say

Now, when you preface your policy proposals by indicating that said proposals are intended to win elections and unite your party, you have already pretty much ended any chance that people will think you making said proposals because you believe in those proposals. This is because, well, you just said that the purpose of these proposals was to win elections. . . .

More brilliant messaging from the same article: "Stone said the council's centrist approach has been the only proven success for Democrats in the past 25 years."

While this is not a direct quote, it is a widely held sentiment in some Democratic circles. It is also utterly self-defeating, since it strongly gives the impression that the only reason Democrats are moving to the center is because they think it will help them to win elections. Not only does this tacitly admit that Republicans have the right ideas and Democrats must move toward those ideas in order to win, it also is a pretty direct implication that Democrats don't believe in anything, but that they are moving to the center solely for the purpose of winning elections. . . .

If you are going to stand on your principles, then stand on your principles. There is no need to preface that stance by saying that more Democrats need to stand on principles in order to win elections. In fact, such a preface just makes it look like you are standing on your principles in order to win elections, and trying to distance yourself from those other, evil Democrats who don't stand on principles.

If you are going to talk about faith, then talk about faith. There is no need to preface your discussion of faith with a statement that Democrats need to talk more about faith. All that will do is make it look like you are talking about faith in order to win elections, and to distance yourself from those other, evil democrats who don't talk about faith.

If you are going to talk about national security, then talk about national security. There is no need to preface your discussion of national security with a statement that Democrats need to change their stances on national security. All that does is make it look like Democrats don't stand for anything on national security, and are just talking about it now in order to win elections. Oh yeah, and it distances you from those other, evil Democrats who don't hold the same national security position you do.

If you are going to move to the center, then move to the center. Don't preface it with a statement about how Democrats need to move to the center in order to win elections. All that does is make you look like a pile of mush who freely moves from left to center to right and back again in order to win elections.

The bizarre Democratic need, found most often within DLC-type conferences, to preface any proposal with a public claim that the coming proposal will help Democrats win elections is a major factor in the national belief that Democrats do not stand for anything. If you tell the country that your ideas are designed to win elections, then they won't think you stand for anything except winning elections. And then, well, you probably won't win many elections, because Americans don't like politicians who only stand for winning elections. If you want to do something, then just do it. Throwing the "this will get us elected" qualifier in front of your statements just makes us all look like spineless jackasses who are trying to pull one over on the electorate. If you want to talk faith, or be a centrist, or be a hawk, or stand on principles, then just go for it. Stop wasting our time and making us all look bad by telling us you are doing it in order to win elections.

Go figure

Go figure. Rasmussen reports that Bush's approval rating dropped 5 points overnight from 42% to 37%. Meanwhile, Harris reports that 50% of Americans believe that Iraq had WMDs and 72% believe the Iraqis are better off without Saddam. 41% say the war has reduced the threat to the US from terrorists. All those measures have risen strongly in recent months.

Nobel Peace laureate wants to kill Bush

Now, if I were to say this, I would be stuffed in Guantanamo faster than lightning:

Peace prize winner 'could kill' Bush
July 25, 2006

NOBEL peace laureate Betty Williams displayed a flash of her feisty Irish spirit yesterday, lashing out at US President George W.Bush during a speech to hundreds of schoolchildren.

Campaigning on the rights of young people at the Earth Dialogues forum, being held in Brisbane, Ms Williams spoke passionately about the deaths of innocent children during wartime, particularly in the Middle East, and lambasted Mr Bush.

"I have a very hard time with this word 'non-violence', because I don't believe that I am non-violent," said Ms Williams, 64.

"Right now, I would love to kill George Bush." Her young audience at the Brisbane City Hall clapped and cheered.

Isn't it amazing how Bush brings out the best in people?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Memo to DLC-types: It's not the 90s anymore

What’s wrong with the DLC?

Here is the bare-bones of a theory that I suspect has been said before but I have not seen myself: the Democratic Leadership Conference's down-the-middle “third way” made sense in the 1990’s, at a time when there had not been a successful Democratic President since the mid-1960s – or at least one, unlike the only intervening Democrat, Jimmy Carter, who was recognized widely as having been successful. The shift to the right, with demonization of liberal policies with a variety of myths ("welfare queens," for example) had been dramatic under 12 consecutive years of conservative Republicanism, and 20 of 24 years since 1968.

Thus, Clinton, having won with less than a majority of the vote, was forced to prove the ability of the Democratic Party to govern – to prove that the “tax-and-spend” label was a ridiculous canard. Although we did get some traditional and important liberal solutions, including the marginal but meaningful restoration of more progressive income tax structure, a long-overdue increase in the minimum wage, and better enforcement of and symbolic support for the labor laws, we also had the challenge to Sister Soulja during the 1992 campaign, changing “welfare as we know it,” keeping the top marginal income tax rate under the symbolic level of 40%, NAFTA and, perhaps above all, striving to achieve a balanced budget.

But one thing we do know is that, during the 1990s, although wealth disparity may have continued to grow as investors in stocks saw their holdings explode in value, income inequality that had grown so much during the Reagan-Bush I years, started moderating and then actually reversing itself – with poverty declining dramatically and the middle class thriving as well. Unemployment dropped below 4%, despite millions more seeking (and finding) jobs. Yet, contradicting the predictions of Republican-leaning economists, inflation impossibly stayed low and, impossibly, the budget was balanced and, even more impossibly, we actually started seeing surpluses. These were outcomes both Democrats and traditional Republicans could love.

The Clinton years gave Democrats a different story to tell: a story of competence, and a story of how shoring up the safety net for all Americans actually helps the economy and all Americans. This is reinforced by the Bush II years that have demonstrated the grotesque incompetence of the Republicans and their discredited philosophies. As some have said, Bush-Cheney has proved you won’t do a good job running the government if you actually hate it.

In other words, there is no longer the same value in the namby-pamby, wishy-washy, split-the-difference philosophies that the DLC espouses for the Democratic Party. It’s a different world this time, and we know now – from the stark contrast between the Clinton years and the latest Bush years -- that progressive values, liberal values, work better for the country. That's for everybody -- yes, even the rich whose wealth grows faster when confidence in the economy is shared top-to-bottom. Now is the time to go out and show that to the American people. There is no need to split the difference between philosophies that work and those that don’t.

Of course, there is the foreign policy side, too, the part of our national life that “changed forever” after 911. It is hard to put this into a traditional liberal-conservative scheme – neither side historically favored preemptive war or nation-building -- and yet it has evolved in that direction due to Bush’s embrace of the aggressive theories of neo-conservatism. Generally speaking, now, liberals are against the Iraq War, while Republicans support it.

The DLC seems to want us to split the difference on that one, too. Yes, Bush lied us into the war, and it was a terrible thing to do that, but we cannot “cut-and-run” now. But where is there any principle in splitting the difference on this one? Without a principle for solution, what is the solution? It seems that there is no solution, and so we just muddle along doing what we are doing, even if our very presence is the problem and cannot be part of the solution. But when we hear someone like Marshall Wittman expressing the DLC position that Democrats should never say anything that might be twisted by Republicans as showing weakness on terrorism, where is the principle in that? Simply going along with exposing American soldiers to being picked off one by one, and Iraqis in scores when we respond, because we cannot be seen as weak?

There is something quite disgusting about the level of self-promoting cynicism in this kind of triangulation. Wanting to show toughness is the very opposite of actually being tough. How about instead focusing on how to demonstrate that the Republicans are the cowards – the ones too weak to acknowledge their horrendous mistake and take the political fall-out they deserve?

The idea that the Democratic “base” turning on Joe Lieberman and his DLC ilk are “leftists” is itself an absurd canard. In fact, they represent a wide range of Democrats, including ones who are quite moderate overall. What they really share is simple: it’s time to stop being so defensive. We will win, we will show strength, by not backing down from the core of what we believe.

The DLC's position that you must stay in the center is the Maginot Line that the French set up after World War I. It was designed for the last war and not the next one. It was not successful. The DLC is fighting the war that Clinton faced in the 1990s. We’re not in the 1990s anymore, Toto.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

New Coat of Paint on the Same Disfunctional Vehicle?

Not to wear out NYT today, but this excerpted from David Brooks: We neoincrementalists have kept our democratic dreams, but we’ve slowed our gait to a cautious walk. We look for guidance these days to two other notable squishes, George Bush and Condoleezza Rice. We neoincrementalists thought they were right to offer the Iranians an incentive package before the hard choices have to be faced. And we’re impressed with how they are handling the Hezbollah crisis.
They understand that the first goal must be to ensure that Hezbollah loses. Israel must be given time to dismantle the terrorist state within a state. But they also understand that the second goal must be to ensure that the democratically elected Lebanese government be seen to win. That’s why administration officials spent so much time on the phone last week, organizing a Security Council resolution to sanction an international force in Lebanon. This force would police not only the south but also the Syrian border (to prevent Hezbollah resupply), and would help the Lebanese government reoccupy its land. Senior administration officials know they have no hopes of really disarming Hezbollah (the terrorists can hide rockets under beds) or of really expelling it from Lebanon (it is integrated into society). But they do hope to change the environment, and slowly begin to crowd out Hezbollah influence, the way healthy grass crowds out weeds in a lawn.
They argue that the situation in south Lebanon cannot be resolved militarily and talk privately about some serious nation-building, with reconstruction packages and political assistance. They also talk about resolving some outstanding Israeli-Lebanese issues to give Fouad Siniora tangible victories to brag about. Mostly, they emphasize the larger context. This isn’t just about getting a cease-fire and separation, like past peace efforts. It’s about building momentum for Arab democrats and cementing a coalition of moderate Arabs who will stand up to extremists. In short, the administration approach embodies a few principles we neoincrementalists hold dear. First, you create policies in accord with your basic values while fully understanding the downside risks — the downside risk in this case being that terrorists may have developed methods that make it nearly impossible for superior military forces to uproot them given the global media environment. Second, you go to war with the world you have. Right now unilateral actions are politically unsustainable, so everything has to be done through a coalition. And third, statecraft is soulcraft. If you can create circumstances in which democrats win, you can change perceptions and create the momentum for future victories — incrementally.

No Brain Cells Resuts in No Stem cCells

Frank Rich in today's NYT: HOW time flies when democracy is on the march in the Middle East! Five whole years have passed since ominous Qaeda chatter reached its pre-9/11 fever pitch, culminating in the President’s Daily Brief of Aug. 6, 2001. History has since condemned President Bush for ignoring that intelligence. But to say that he did nothing that summer is a bum rap. Just three days later, on Aug. 9, he took a break from clearing brush in Crawford to reveal the real priority of his presidency, which had nothing to do with a nuisance like terrorism. His first prime-time address after more than six months in office was devoted to embryonic stem-cell research instead. Placing his profound religious convictions above the pagan narcissism of Americans hoping for cures to diseases like Parkinson’s and diabetes, he decreed restrictions to shackle the advance of medical science.
Whatever else is to be said about the Decider, he’s consistent. Having dallied again this summer while terrorism upends the world, he has once more roused himself to take action — on stem cells. His first presidential veto may be bad news for the critically ill, but it was a twofer for the White House. It not only flattered the president’s base. It also drowned out some awkward news: the prime minister he installed in Baghdad, Nuri al-Maliki, and the fractious Parliament of Iraq’s marvelous new democracy had called a brief timeout from their civil war to endorse the sole cause that unites them, the condemnation of Israel.
The news is not all dire, however. While Mr. Bush’s Iraq project threatens to deliver the entire region to Iran’s ayatollahs, this month may also be remembered as a turning point in America’s own religious wars. The president’s politically self-destructive stem-cell veto and the simultaneous undoing of the religious right’s former golden boy, Ralph Reed, in a Republican primary for lieutenant governor in Georgia are landmark defeats for the faith-based politics enshrined by Mr. Bush’s presidency. If we can’t beat the ayatollahs over there, maybe we’re at least starting to rout them here.

Learning Anything Con't

Kristof goes on to say: More broadly, one reason this current bombardment — like the invasion in 1982 — is against Israel’s own long-term interest has to do with the way terrorism is likely to change over the next couple of decades.
In the past, terror attacks spilled blood and spread fear, but they did not challenge the survival of Israel itself. At some point, though, militant groups will recruit teams of scientists and give them a couple of years and a $300,000 research budget, and the result will be attacks with nerve gas, anthrax, or “dirty bombs” that render areas uninhabitable for years.
All this suggests that the only way for Israel to achieve security is to reach a final peace agreement, involving the establishment of a Palestinian state (because states can be deterred more easily than independent groups like Hamas). Such an agreement is not feasible now, but it might be five or 15 years from now. Israel’s self-interest lies in doing everything it can to make such a deal more likely — not in using force in ways that strengthen militants and make an agreement less likely.
It’s certainly true that if America were raided by a terror group next door, we would respond just as Israel has. When Pancho Villa attacked a New Mexico town in 1916, we sent troops into Mexico. But that expedition was a failure (just as our invasion of Iraq has been, at least so far).
On the other hand, there are two democracies that endured constant and brutal terrorism and eventually defeated it. Neither Spain nor Britain was in a situation quite like Israel’s (Palestinian terrorists have been more brutal in attacking civilians), but they still offer useful lessons. And both the Northern Ireland and Basque problems were often considered insoluble a couple of decades ago, perhaps even more than those in the Middle East today.
Spain could have responded to terror attacks by sending troops into the Basque country, or by bombing the sanctuaries that ETA guerrillas used just across the border in France. (France was blasé about being used as a terrorist base.) Instead, Spain gave autonomy to the Basque country and restrained itself through gritted teeth, over the objections of those who thought this was appeasement.

Learning Anything from the Past?

Kristof in the NYT today nails it. As in 1982, Israel again believes that it is improving its long-term security by attacking Lebanon. And once again, I believe, that will prove counterproductive. Israel is likely to kill enough Lebanese to outrage the world, increase anti-Israeli and anti-American attitudes, nurture a new generation of anti-Israeli guerrillas, and help hard-liners throughout the region and beyond. (Sudan’s cynical rulers, for example, will manipulate Arab outrage to gain cover to continue their genocide in Darfur.) But Israel is unlikely to kill more terrorists than it creates.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Get your mits off of us

It seems we're well-liked in Iraq:

US forces have committed butchery in Iraq and should leave, the speaker of the country's parliament has said.

Mahmoud al-Mashhadani was speaking on Saturday at a UN-sponsored conference on transitional justice and reconciliation in Baghdad.

"Just get your hands off Iraq and the Iraqi people and Muslim countries, and everything will be all right," he said in a speech as the conference opened.

"What has been done in Iraq is a kind of butchery of the Iraqi people."

Isn't it nice to have friends everywhere?

Let sleeping dogs lie

This does not sound like a step forward to me:

George W. Bush did not invent the document known as the presidential signing statement; he inherited it. Franklin Roosevelt, Bill Clinton, and even James Monroe, in 1830, authored the statements, which spell out the president's sometimes controversial interpretation of the very law he's signing. But no president has used signing statements quite like Bush.

Although the president has not issued more statements in total than any other president, he has challenged more than 750 laws in more than 100 signing statements. And he has used them to, in effect, challenge parts of laws, and challenge them more aggressively, than any president before him. Bush's liberal use of those statements first attracted attention in December 2005, when he signed a torture ban—but then added a statement reserving the right not to enforce the ban, alongside his signature. Since then, Congress has held a hearing to investigate Bush's use of the statements, a bipartisan advocacy group has condemned their use, and Democratic Rep. Barney Frank has introduced a bill that would allow Congress to override content in them that contradicts signed legislation.

Now, U.S. News has learned, an American Bar Association task force is set to suggest even stronger action. In a report to be released Monday, the task force will recommend that Congress pass legislation providing for some sort of judicial review of the signing statements. Some task force members want to simply give Congress the right to sue over the signing statements; other task force members will not characterize what sort of judicial review might ultimately emerge.

It sounds to me as if the people proposing these measures believe they are necessary to restrain the president. But, I'm not at all sure they will be helpful. As things stand now, as far as I know (subject to possible correction) neither the Supreme Court nor any other court has ever paid any attention to a presidential signing statement when interpreting Congressional intent. In other words, at the moment it appears that presidential signing statements have no effect whatever on the court's interpretation of laws. It seems to me that to ask the courts to review the signing statements simply elevates to statements to a higher plateau than they already command.

I have a feeling it's best to let sleeping dogs lie in this case.

On the value of human life

From the UK's Independent:
America's domestic policy vs America's foreign policy

This week, George Bush used his presidential veto to block a bill on stem cell research, saying he couldn't support the 'taking of innocent human life'. In Iraq, six civilians are killed by a US air strike, while casualties in Lebanon and Israel mount. George Bush (and Tony Blair) oppose UN calls for an immediate ceasefire
Need anyone say more?

A Perspective on Conflict in the Middle East

No student of history can escape the parallels between what is going on in Lebanon now and the start of World War I. The question is do we have political will and the sanity, to stop it. Those who are not interested in history are at the mercy of the present, so we might as well review.In 1914, a relatively obscure member of the Austro-Hungarian royal family was assassinated by a bunch of bumbling Serbian extremists when, after the plot had already failed, one of them was given by fate the opportunity of an easy, close up shot. Weapons had been provided to them by a secret society calling itself Black Hand, some of whose members were part of the Serbian government.In response the Austro-Hungarian government delivered to the Serbia government an ultimatum, described by British Foreign Minister Sir Edward Grey as "the most formidable document that was ever addressed from one state to another". The ultimatum was written to be unacceptable on its face, to serve merely as a pretext for war, threatening invasion and collective punishment on Serbia. And even though Serbia AGREED to 9 of the 10 demands, Austria-Hungary still declared war.Because of the various mutual defense commitments, Russia hurriedly mobilized in support of their ally Serbia, the Germans (backing Austria-Hungary) invaded Belgium to stage an attack on the French, who were Russian allies, and Great Britain declared war on Germany because of the violation of Belgian neutrality. Thus it was, within two weeks all of Europe was at war, though the United States did not enter the conflict until a German submarine sunk some of our ships in 1917 Now let us examine for comparison what is going on in Lebanon today. It is pointless to bicker like five year old children about who "started" it, in a 50 year old conflict that has never stopped smoldering. As an immediate provocation, or excuse for one, members of Hezbollah attacked some Israeli soldiers and kidnapped two, taking them back to Lebanon. Other members of Hezbollah occupy positions in the Lebanese government, and the group has admittedly been supported by militants in Syria and Iran. There are strong parallels here with the Black Hand militants of pre-World War I and their tangential ties to the 1914 Serbian government.But in response, Israel did not just THREATEN to invade and impose collective punishment; they ARE invading and have been bombing Lebanon for a week already. Already over 300 people have been killed there, mostly innocent civilians. Even more devastating have been attacks on civilian infrastructure. Most people in this country have no comprehension of the scale of the destruction. They are well on the way to leveling South Beirut already.For its part Hezbollah has been firing wildly and mostly ineffective rockets at Israel, much like Saddam's willy-nilly anti-aircraft fire during the first Iraq war, though an Israeli ship was hit and damaged.While this military distraction has been going on, violence in Iraq has continued to escalate, with report of militants streaming into Baghdad as if to prepare for an even larger offensive.All of this has nothing to do with Hezbollah, kidnapping, Israel, rocket attacks, self defense, terrorism or anything else.The Bush administration, who is green lighting Israel's every action, is manipulating public opinion at home to escalate this into a nuclear first strike on Iran, to try to regain the dominance lost in Iraq. Until you understand this nothing else will make sense. And in this they have the willing cooperation of Hezbollah and their supporters, who believe they will win the whole game if we do so, and they have our misadventure in Iraq to give them confidence.They are both wrong. Such a conflagration in the Middle East will end human civilization as we have previously known it. BOTH sides will exchange nuclear weapons strikes. The restraint which has kept the nuclear monster in check since 1945 will be vaporized. Perhaps the other side will only be able to muster dirty bombs, or perhaps a revolution in Pakistan will put fully operational warheads in the hands of Islamic militants at once, and this is assuming they have not already acquired some of the many loose nukes out there, or maybe it will take them a while longer to acquire them. But it will happen.That is all unless we find a way to break the cycle of revenge and insanity. So what will the United States do? Bush apparently believes that all he has to do is smirk his way through the next couple weeks and he'll be back on top as something even bigger and better than a war president. Now he wants to be a "nuclear war president". He will not willingly save us. But if we can get Congress to act there is still hope.There are two resolutions before Congress. The first, H. Res. 921, introduced by John Boehner (R) sides with Israel completely, condemns Hezbollah only, and excuses Israel from any fault or blame in their response to the provocation. The only thing it doesn't do is demand Hezbollah surrender in pink dresses. It is in essence a declaration that the U.S. will support Israel in ANY war of THEIR choosing, much like the kind of pacts that precipitated the cascading declarations of war in World War I.The second, H. Con. Res. 450, introduced by Dennis Kucinich (D) calls on both sides to immediately end hostile actions and to engage international cooperation to mediate the crisis. The prime minister of Lebanon, a democracy, is pleading for a cease-fire. The U.N. Secretary General is demanding a cease-fire. And only the passage of this second resolution, and a cease-fire, can disrupt the spin of the wheel at the hand of George Bush.The testosterone-fed macho types on Fox news, along with too many of their bar fight mentality supporters, are all gung ho to unleash the nukes. But let us address their primary contemptuous argument, that you can't have a cease-fire because the "terrorists" won't respect it.At an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo this last Saturday, moderate Arab governments, some publicly and some privately, were prepared to condemn Hezbollah for the provocation. They might be in a position to pressure Hezbollah in various ways, but they are being undermined by the graphic images of wanton killing and devastation coming out of Lebanon.Though not to minimize the 30 or so Israelis who have been killed so far, most of the actual destruction raining down is by Israel's hand. If this continues much longer there won't be a Muslim population in the Middle East not screaming for Israeli blood.Only a cease-fire can save Israel from itself. They have demonstrated they can launch a military strike any time they choose, and could presumably with impunity resume hostilities any time they would wish. But if moderate Arab governments start falling like dominos to militants in their own populations, any opportunity for diplomacy will be lost forever.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Dr. Seussism

I got this from a friend. It was too good not to pass on:

Subject: Dr Seussism

Several weeks ago, our commander in chief, responding to questions from
the press regarding the future of Don Rumsfeld, said, "I hear the
voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation. But I'm
the decider, and I decide what is best. And what's best is for Don
Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense."

This entry from the [original sender's] blog, had to be shared "It took
me awhile, but I finally realized what "I'm the decider" reminds me of.
It sounds like something a character in a Dr. Seuss book might say.

So with apologies to the late Mr. Geisel, here is some idle speculation
as to what else such a character might say:

I'm the decider.
I pick and I choose.
I pick among whats
And choose among whos.

And as I decide
Each particular day
The things I decide on
All turn out that way.

I decided on Freedom
For all of Iraq
And now that we have it,
I'm not looking back.

I decided on tax cuts
That just help the wealthy...
And Medicare changes
That aren't really healthy.

And parklands and wetlands
Who needs all that stuff?
I decided that none
Would be more than enough!

I decided that schools
All in all are the best
The less that they teach
And the more that they test.

I decided those wages
You need to get by
Are much better spent
On some CEO guy.

I decided your Wade
Which was versing your Roe
Is terribly awful
And just has to go.

I decided that levees
Are not really needed.
Now when hurricanes come
They can come unimpeded.

That old Constitution?
Well, I have decided
Is "just goddam paper,"
It should be derided.

I've decided gay marriage
Is icky and weird.
Above all other things,
It's the one to be feared.

And Cheney and Rummy
And Condi all know
That I'm the Decider -
They tell me it's so.

I'm the Decider
So watch what you say
Or I may decide
To have you whisked away.

Or I'll tap your phones.
Your e-mail I'll read.
`cause I'm the Decider -
Like Jesus decreed.

Yes, I'm the Decider
The finest alive
And I'm nuking Iran.
And that ain't no jive!!

Security is an issue only when it suits us

WallDon has already spoken to the Prez's personal intervention to block a DOJ investigation into warrantless NSA eavesdropping. And if you are like me, you will have also learned the irony of the fact that DOJ investigators had no problem with security clearances for looking into the leaks that led to the story of NSA actions coming out in the press. As such, I was not particularly surprised, and hardly even offended-- what else was there to expect? Concern for, ugh, facts?

But Glenn Greenwald has put his finger on the real asininity of the matter:

. . . Bush followers will argue . . . that the Commander-in-Chief was simply trying to limit knowledge of this critical, illegal program to as few people as possible, but this paragraph from the Associated Press, by itself, dispenses with that excuse:

Yet, according to OPR chief Marshall Jarrett, "a large team" of prosecutors and FBI agents were granted security clearances to pursue an investigation into leaks of information that resulted in the program's disclosure in December. . . .

When it comes to criminally prosecuting those who alerted Americans to the existence of this illegal eavesdropping, these alleged security concerns disappear, and all sorts of investigators are given full access to the details of the program to enable them to conduct an aggressive investigation. But when it comes to investigating whether the President and his legal advisors acted properly with regard to the same program, the President blocks any such investigation from occurring on the grounds that not even DoJ lawyers can be trusted to investigate.

Got that? Security requires no investigation of NSA wiretapping: not too many should know too much. Security is not a problem when investigating who leaked information about that wiretapping: the more the better!

Remember all the bravado after 9/11-- "these colors don't run", and so forth? Wrong. We have already surrendered. If the "terrorists hate our freedoms", it looks to me like they have succeeded in taking them away after all. The Regime is still running as fast as it can from democracy.

Oh well, Lincoln's brave words at Gettysburg,
we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,
were well intended. But that government is no more: it perished shortly after 9/11/2001. The soldiers at Gettysburg only put off the reckoning.

Pleading State Secrets not (yet) the 5th

Well, well, well. After having observed that The Regime's claim that state secrets prevented the courts from hearing a complaint about AT&T--a complaint about a very public and certain set of actions-- we see news today thay the courts just might agree. At least at the level of the circuit court.

Glenn Greenwald reports (no sign in the media generally-- the original story wasn't covered much either) that the court took public statements by The Regime and AT&T as the basis of its decision and found:

"the very subject matter of this action is hardly a secret. As described above, public disclosures by the government and AT&T indicate that AT&T is assisting the government to implement some kind of surveillance program" . . . [and] "significant amounts of information about the government's monitoring of communication content and AT&T's intelligence relationship with the government are already non-classified on in the public record."

Duh. Of course, there is an immediate appeal out (not of any verdict, mind you, but of the decision just to hear the case), which will probably wind up before the Supreme Kangaroos, so don't count any eggs, yet-- certainly not over the phone.



Until the U.S. can be seen as an honest broker in the Middle East, there's going to be ever increasing recruiting opportunities for the terrorists. Right now, we're not even close.

Bush frat house party

"Get your effing mits off of me!"

Couldn't resist.

A childish rant requires adult intervention

It is not at all clear to me what Israel thinks it is doing in Lebanon. As Kevin Drum points out, they occupied the country for many years and couldn't root out Hizbollah then. Why would they think they could now? Yes, maybe they can reduce the most dangerous imminent threats from Hizbollah, but do they really need to bomb the hell out of the entire country to do that? Or, is this merely outright revenge? If it's that, why extract your pound of flesh from the people who had nothing to do with it? Maybe this is like kicking the dog because you're mad at your wife, but it certainly seems a bit childish -- and, when scores of innocent people are being killed by a childish rant, some adult needs to step up and intervene.

Ah, but there's the problem. There are no adults available -- certainly not in Washington.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Bush Censure Movement Needs to Resume Speed

President Bush should be censured for breaking the law by illegally wiretapping American citizens. In 1974, Congress took responsibility for holding the President, then Richard Nixon, to the law. This Republican Congress would be showing the world that party loyalty and nest feathering is more important than their responsibility to uphold the Constitution should they not measure up to the 1974 Congress that saw its duty and rose above next feathering by performing its duty.

Regarding the proposal to censure President Bush, Republicans are on the attack, running ads accusing Senator Feingold of being "more interested in censuring the President than protecting our freedom." They can't defend President Bush's lawbreaking, so they're trying to stifle dissent by changing the subject.

Of course, this isn't about terrorism. The president already had the authority to wiretap suspected terrorists and get a warrant days later. But he went around the court set up to protect innocent Americans.Republicans like John McCain and Lindsey Graham have acknowledged that the president acted above his authority but now they're discussing plans to retroactively make his program legal. When the president misleads the public and the Congress and willfully and repeatedly breaks the law, there need to be some consequences --that's how the law works for everybody else. Censuring the president is a reasonable first step in condemning his actions.

Coulter: Add hypocracy to felony

Recently on this blog, Ann Coulter's character was taken to task for her white powder stunt with the NYT. Here's another hole in her constitution as revealed in a recent AOL news interview.

Bethanne Patrick: It's very creepy to read an entire book (Godless) that has so much anger in it, but at the same time is written by a smart woman. What has no one asked you that you would like to answer? All this last week there's been this swirl about plagiarism and then not plagiarism, and on and on. What would you like to say?

Coulter: don't think I'm angry at all. I make points, I make a few jokes. I think I write it in a way that amuses me and my friends. I don't think there's any anger there, and in fact, one of my comedy-writing friends has an idea for a sketch where you'd have a calm, happy conservative being interviewed by a liberal, brow-beating and yelling at the conservative, and continuing to say, 'She's so angry! There's so much anger here!'

If her style amuses her and her friends, it speaks volumes to her hypocrisy and poor taste. Her tactics of misrepresentation (if not wanton disregard for the facts) and attempted humiliation of liberals are as anti-Christian as it gets. Furthermore, to mask incivility as promulgation of Christians fighting for converts is a bastardization of the Christian tenants of "do unto others," show mutual respect and kindness. For Coulter, her principle M.O. is a considerable deviation of the Christian tenant taking the form of "do unto others, do it quick, and with complete disregard for facts or reality." Essentially, she is a reincarnation of the fellow travelers of the vintage '60's John Birch Society who penned such completely discredited hubris as "None Dare Call It Treason" below which all of Coulter's books have fallen.

More Middle Class crunch from Bush policies

Brookings analysis of census data uncovered an accelerated decline in middle class communities living in and around cities during the 2000-05 period. It far outpaced the 7% decline between 1970 and 2000 plunging by more than 10% in Baltimore, Chicago, LA and Philadelphia and by 21% in Indianapolis. In LA, poor neighborhoods are down 10% while rich neighborhoods are up 14%. Part of this decline is the lure of the increasing number of upscale houses built in the suburbs that are becoming progressively more unattainable for the traditional middle class. In Indianapolis, between 2000 and 2004, 27, 500 new houses were build while the population grew by only 3000. By contrast, a chronic undersupply of housing on the west coast has contributed to a decline in middle class neighborhoods there. Between 1990 and 2002 in LA population grew 11% while the number of housing units grew 5%.