Tuesday, January 30, 2007

half glass full of shit

In a sprawling and vapid interview with NPR’s Juan Williams, President Bush was asked about apparent daylight between his own prognostications regarding the situation in Iraq, and those recently tossed off by his boss number two, Dick Cheney.

I think the VP is a person expressing a half-glass-full mentality.

Let’s assume, just for the sake of yucks, that Bush actually knows the expression is “glass half full,” and let’s also assume the president knows what it means (I know, I’m asking you to assume a lot. . . and when you assume. . . .). So, if Cheney is a glass-half-full kind of guy—in other words, an optimist—then what does that make Bush? Or, more to the point, if Cheney is looking at a situation that is 50/50 at best (literally half full/empty), and he is insisting it is all still going great guns, then he really isn’t so much an optimist as he is a delusional lunatic. . . or a liar.

One might be led to follow up, “Is that glass half full of blood, Mr. President?”

Which leads me to another thing about that interview: Juan Williams was, as he almost always is, very soft on his subject. There were only a few slightly challenging questions, and even fewer follow-ups. Most specifically, how many times are we going to have to hear Bush assert that if we pull out of Iraq, the terrorists are going to follow us here? And how many times are we going to have to hear that assertion without having someone—Williams or any other member of the establishment media who hears this—then ask the president something like: What evidence do you have that that will happen? On what do you base that assertion? Can you give any examples? Don’t most internal and external reports state that the US presence in Iraq is actually manufacturing more terrorists?

I mean, come on! This isn’t that hard, is it? It occurs to me right away—is it really possible that none of these follow-up questions pop into the minds of the professionals privileged enough to ask the questions?

If anyone can find an example of a professional journalist following up this “terrorists will follow us home” fabulation with one of the questions I suggest above, I will post it here and throw in some suitable reward.

Like maybe a half a glass of something. . . something other than bullshit.

(And, yes, I think I just made up the word “fabulation.”)

(Oops, nope, just looked it up; Robert Scholes beat me to it. But I’d like to bring the word into common usage with a broader meaning: a completely fantastic assertion. "Fantastic" meaning “the stuff of fantasy” and not “excellent,” of course. . . but I digress. . . .)

Monday, January 29, 2007

where have all the flowers gone?

It is perhaps a little funny to think that Rep. Barney Frank owes his seat in Congress, and so his new power as Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, to Pope John Paul II. . . but only a little.

After a weekend where Americans once again had to march to remind elected “leaders” that they could not claim to be fighting an unjust war in our name, I have some thoughts on the passing of Father Robert Drinan.

Those thoughts got a little long, so I moved them over to capitoilette.

Friday, January 26, 2007

what can you get for $3,500 (besides a flat-panel TV)?

President Bush was in Lee’s Summit, Mo, yesterday speechifying about his latest proposal to pretend to get health insurance to some of America’s 47 million uninsured. Speaking to a “roundtable” of seven invited guests and 30 reporters assembled at the private St. Luke’s East hospital, Bush used his token underclass representative, a working mother of two, to pimp his tax-based incentives for purchasing private health plans.

Bush said that the woman and her husband would get about $3,500 (in annual tax refunds) that the family could put toward the purchase of health insurance.

$3,500 for a family of four? Now, I pay for a private plan that is decent, but far from “gold plated” (as the president likes to characterize the plans that cover more or less all expenses), and I pay substantially more than $3,500—and I am an individual! What kind of plan can a family get for $3,500? And what kind of deductibles, co-pays, and out-of-pocket charges would that cheap a plan require of an already financially strapped family?

Even in a controlled gathering with a hand-picked example, the president can’t build a convincing case for his tedious token domestic policy initiative. How stupid does that make him. . . or his proposal?

And speaking of stupid: Bush pointed at a flat-panel display blinking out a patient’s vitals and remarked, “Medicine is finally catching up with the rest of America in terms of information technology,”

WTF? Like what, because a flat-panel TV is something Bush recognizes, he decides medicine is now modern? Before cool TVs, information technology and medicine didn’t intersect? Flat screens aren’t even actually “information technology”—they’re just “technology.”

When will somebody get serious about providing health coverage for all Americans? Seriously.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

worst. sotu. ever.

Well, that was the one of the most tedious and tepid State of the Union speeches I’ve ever eaten a pizza to—and it would have been completely forgettable, too, if it wasn’t delivered after six years of disastrous one-party rule. Alas, because of this administration, we actually need a speech like this to admit failure, propose a drastic change of course, and downright beg the Democrats for help. . . I know, I know. . . if wishes were horses. . . .

Well, that speech was tired and vapid, but it was still chock-full of lies and empty promises. . . unfortunately, I have a plane to catch, so I will direct you to a nice real-time fact-check—with video—posted by the good folks at Think Progress.

And, for a good summation of my feelings, well, I couldn’t put it much better (or, at least, more succinctly) than today’s lead editorial in the New York Times:

In early 2001, he promised to bring Americans together and instead embarked on his irresponsible tax cuts, a divisive right-wing social agenda and a neo-conservative foreign policy that tore up international treaties and alienated even America’s closest allies. In the wake of 9/11, Mr. Bush had a second chance to rally the nation — and the world — only to squander it on a pointless, catastrophic war in Iraq. Mr. Bush promised bipartisanship after his re-election in 2004, and again after Hurricane Katrina. Always, he failed to deliver. He did not even mention New Orleans last night.

PS For a reference to New Orleans, check out Sen. Jim Webb’s Democratic response to the SOTU. It is one of the best examples of this genre I can remember (although, the crossed legs thing was a bit wacky). And Webb mentions New Orleans in the third sentence!

PPS Did anyone else notice that both Cheney and Pelosi seemed to be sucking on something throughout the president’s address?

I mean like a mint or a lozenge—geez!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I want my, I want my, I want my NIE

Back when I was in school, if I didn’t turn in my work, I didn’t get to pass. The idea that any member of Congress would brook the Bush Administration moving forward with the escalation of their Iraq debacle without first demanding to see the long-delayed update of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) is almost as unforgivable as the purely political delay of the NIE itself.

The latest excuse proffered by the intelligence community for the report’s delay is that they were all too busy “dealing with the many demands placed upon it by the Bush Administration to help prepare the new military strategy on Iraq.”

You were too busy crafting the new “strategy” to first evaluate the old one? Might as well have just said, “my dog ate it.”

I think there needs to be one more demand placed on the National Intelligence Center and their bosses in the White House: no NIE, no cash for your escalation.

While the House Republican leadership—John Boehner and Roy Blunt—like to pretend they have now discovered the idea of congressional oversight by offering some sort of select committee to kibitz about the escalation after the fact, and so-called centrists in the Senate look to split hairs in order to split votes on a non-binding anti-escalation “sense of the Senate” resolution, might there be a few of our elected representatives that would offer real oversight to express what should be the binding sense of over two-thirds of the American people?

Without a current estimate of the situation as it now stands, there is no way for Congress to perform its constitutionally mandated duties, no way for it to advise and consent, no way for it to effectively manage the purse strings, no way for it to fully evaluate the New Way
Forward ™; so it is up to Congressional leaders to draw the line.

For those of you in the back of the classroom, let me repeat: No NIE, no money for escalation.

How hard is that, guys and gals?

Friday, January 19, 2007

send lawyers, guns, and money

Actually, says Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, we can keep the lawyers, he mostly just wants the guns and money.

ROME: Iraq's prime minister said security forces would have better control over their country if the United States had equipped them with more — and better — weapons, speaking during an interview in which he was deeply critical of Washington, an Italian daily reported Thursday.

. . . .

"The situation would be much better if the United States had immediately sent our security forces more adequate weapons and equipment. If they had committed themselves more and with greater speed we would have had a lot fewer deaths among Iraqi civilians and American soldiers," al-Maliki was quoted as saying by Corriere.

This call by the Shiite PM for more guns came on the same day that his government rolled out a new $41 Billion budget—a 21% increase over last year—that cuts the office responsible rooting out corruption and graft by 13%.

As for the lawyers, well. . .

Mr. Maliki also defended the much-criticised execution of Saddam Hussein, at which Shia guards taunted the former leader and videotaped his hanging. Earlier this week, Mr. Bush said the hanging looked like a "revenge killing" and that the Iraqi government "has still got some maturation to do".

But Mr. Maliki said Saddam and his co-defendants were given a fair trial, and that it was his government's constitutional prerogative to carry out the death penalty.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bush: hypocrisy on steroids

I know what you’re thinking. . . you’re thinking this is going to be a post about some incredibly hypocritical thing done by our president—like so incredibly hypocritical, it’s like “hypocrisy on steroids!”

But, no, this really, quite literally, is a post about Bush’s hypocrisy on steroids.

Remember back in the 2004 SOTU when Bush, confronted by all the troubles and tribulations his reckless tax cuts and even more reckless foreign policy had wrought, decided to take some time to tackle a serious issue with global implications? Yes, I’m talking about steroid use in professional sports:

To help children make right choices, they need good examples. Athletics play such an important role in our society, but, unfortunately, some in professional sports are not setting much of an example. The use of performance-enhancing drugs like steroids in baseball, football, and other sports is dangerous, and it sends the wrong message -- that there are shortcuts to accomplishment, and that performance is more important than character. So tonight I call on team owners, union representatives, coaches, and players to take the lead, to send the right signal, to get tough, and to get rid of steroids now.

That big “shortcuts to accomplishment” chuckle aside, it was rank hypocrisy at the time, because Bush, as a one-time minority owner of the Texas Rangers, knew that he and his fellow team owners looked the other way as players beefed up because it gave the fans what they supposedly wanted—higher power numbers—and the owners what they wanted—higher revenues.

But that’s old news. Fast forward to this week and you have the “no steroids” president welcoming the world champion St. Louis Cardinals at the White House. There were flubbed jokes by Bush and lamely obvious attempts to congratulate himself for his leadership by congratulating World Series MVP David Eckstein, but the real winner was when Bush tried to use a throwaway line from Cards manager Tony LaRussa to highlight his own “legendary” judgment skills and leadership style.

It’s a longish story, but the upshot of it is that Bush knew the Cardinals would be world champs because Tony LaRussa told him so, even though, when he did, things weren’t going so well for the Cards.

It turns out LaRussa just wanted to end on a positive note, and told Bush he believed in the team, even though, at that point in the season, he didn’t. GWB’s example of how belief in success trumps evidence to the contrary was based on a complete misread of his famous gut. As Bando puts it: “Bush finds affirmation in the fact that his outcome was correct, neglecting the reality that his process was horribly flawed. . . .” (Bando tells the whole story better than I do, so please check out his post.)

But that’s not the hypocrisy either! (Yes, I buried the lead.) You see, during the very week that this president who once railed against performance-enhancing drugs was honoring some high-performing baseball players, the Bush Administration was purging federal prosecutors they found politically undesirable—and one of the prosecutors forced out of his job was US attorney Kevin Ryan, the man heading the investigation of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative, aka BALCO.

BALCO is, of course, the supplements lab responsible for providing steroids and growth hormone—and all that other “wrong message”-sending stuff—to some of Baseball’s biggest stars. . . like Barry Bonds, for instance.

While many in the attorneys office will continue to work on the case, this move will certainly slow its progress just weeks before the start of a season where Bonds is slated to push past Hank Aaron as Baseball’s all-time career homerun leader. And Michael Raines, an attorney for Bonds, is feeling mighty good about it all:

I think if you get somebody in there who has got a sense of what they have done to try to develop a case against Barry, and they see all of the problems that [investigators] have created to try to prosecute Barry. . . I think a capable prosecutor is going to say, “There is no way we are going to tarnish the image of this office with trying to prosecute Barry Bonds.”

Now I have no idea if Bush and/or his DoJ henchmen have decided they have a particular stake in putting the BALCO case to bed, but whether or not this was its intent, the purely political move has clearly put the case in peril.

The hypocrisy, you ask? Same as it ever was. The PR presidency talks a good game—promising sunshine, lollipops, quick victory, no child left behind, hurricane relief, money for aids in Africa, and drug-free sports—but while its words are designed to win brownie points (no heck-of-a pun intended), its actions are designed to score political ones. . . truth, justice, and baseball be damned.

It’s like hypocrisy on steroids!

(Cross-posted to Daily Kos)

(AP Photo/Ron Edmonds detail)

I was for the war before I was not against it

Can Hillary Clinton triangulate her way to political irrelevance? She sure seems to be giving it a shot.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

big duh. big lie. bigger war?

Towards the end of an Alex Johnson/Andrea Mitchell piece ominously titled Saudis Consider Sending Troops to Iraq, you will find this two-sentence paragraph:

Saudi officials reassured Rice on Tuesday that they had no intention of getting in the middle of the dispute between Iran and the United States. Rice emphasized that the U.S. campaign to disrupt Iranian networks threatening U.S. forces in Iraq would be confined within the boundaries of Iraq, officials said.

As for the first sentence: No way! Really? No intention of getting in the middle? Considering the headline above, it seems to me they’d be doing quite the opposite. In fact, that’s exactly the case. Besides telling Condi of their theoretical willingness to sacrifice troops if the US won’t sacrifice troops for them, the Saudis summoned Vice President Cheney last November to make their desires very clear. In the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the Saudi royals will not accept a US tilt toward the Shiites.

As for the second sentence: Who was that BS statement intended for, Madam Secretary? Clearly not for the Saudis, but clearly not for anyone who pays attention, either. Beyond what Sy Hersh has been reporting for years now about covert US ops inside Iran, there comes, this morning, news that the Iranians have shot down a pilotless US spy drone within Iran.

Yes, that would be outside the boundaries of Iraq.

There are clearly not enough hours in my night/morning to blog about the myriad of scenarios made possible by these two points. . . but, rest assured, each and every one of them is a cataclysmic nightmare.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

memo to Condi

I have probably said this to you before, Madam Secretary, but I feel the need to say it again: HOPING FOR THE BEST IS NOT A STRATEGY!

You see, I feel the need to remind you because I read that before you left on your Mideast shopping trip, er, um, listening tour, you had this to say to the assembled senators of the Foreign Relations Committee:

It's bad policy to speculate on what you'll do if a plan fails when you're trying to make a plan work.

I know this kind of overconfidence has worked really well for your husband boss in the past, but you’re supposed to be the smart one. Considering your gang’s track record in the region, all this arrogance just makes you look stupid. . . or lazy. . . or, considering that the folk definition of insanity is repeating the same experiment while expecting different results, just plain mad.

Speaking of stupid, lazy, and mad, you might want to tell your husband boss that this is not some college game of Risk. He can’t just “accidentally” spill his Shiner (oh, wait, that’s right, he went to school in Connecticut—he was probably spilling a Genny Cream or something) all over the board when he doesn’t like how things are going—and the tens of thousands of dead or wounded Americans and Iraqis don’t get a do-over.

(Thanks to NPR for putting me on to Condi’s “policy,” and to TPM for helping me track down the link to the quote.)

Monday, January 15, 2007

memo to congress

Today is MLK day, so, perhaps, with so many momentous issues before the 110th Congress, with such a strong need for the exercise of strong oversight, it would be best for all of us to remind the majority party of some words once spoken by Dr. King:

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

And, as I remind everyone every year, King Day is a national holiday. . . just like Christmas, Labor Day, and the Fourth of July. . . if you are at work, go home!

Friday, January 12, 2007

now you tell us

Photo: President Bush on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, 5/1/03

“Victory will not look like the ones our fathers and grandfathers achieved. There will be no surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship.”
—President George W. Bush,
national address on Iraq policy,

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bush: here’s a bad idea to distract you from my really bad idea

When unpacking President Bush’s Wednesday address, there is so much to get one distressed and disgusted. . . and yet, there is so little.

Bush, who seems to have dropped the term “New Way Forward” for fear of being laughed out of the room, spent most of his airtime last night rolling out a plan that wasn’t a plan at all: he will send more soldiers to do exactly what they have been doing for years—with no fixed deadlines for their return and no true objectives for their mission. “Clear and hold” has been, as even Bush admitted, the strategy in many parts of Iraq at many points during this quagmire; the difference now is that the “hold” part is now supposed to go on for, well, forever.

In earlier operations, Iraqi and American forces cleared many neighborhoods of terrorists and insurgents, but when our forces moved on to other targets, the killers returned. This time, we will have the force levels we need to hold the areas that have been cleared.

I kept waiting for the “until” part, but Bush never provided that. We will have a force to clear (of who and what is another point of “debate”—terrorists and insurgents? Give me a break), and troops enough to hold what has been cleared. . . and, it seems, that’s as far as the plan goes. It’s a level of “strategic” planning that rivals the initial invasion. Apparently, we need only wait for Muqtada al-Sadr to send candy and flowers.

That, in and of itself, was awful enough to make me fume, but there was something else in the speech—not buried so much as hidden in plain sight—that made this little “surge” (or “escalation,” to call a spade a spade) look like nothing so much as a sideshow (speaking of which, was anyone else reminded of Cambodia last night?).

It’s funny to think of Iraq as a sideshow for the real circus—almost as funny as it was to hear Bush invoke Joe Lieberman as his example of bipartisanship, or watch the President pretend that he paid any attention to the Iraq Study Group report—but a few words in the speech, coupled with some ominous actions in the region, made it seem that this misdirection play was the only thing strategic offered by George Wizard Bush last night. In other words: please ignore the war behind the curtain.

I noted last fall that the US had sent an additional naval strike group to the Gulf, and there is now a third aircraft carrier readying for deployment to the same waters. Bush admitted as much on Wednesday while more overtly expanding his threat.

Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenge. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

We are also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region. We will expand intelligence sharing and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies. We will work with the governments of Turkey and Iraq to help them resolve problems along their border. And we will work with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region.

Al Qaeda, the last time I checked, doesn’t have an air force, and there is no such thing as the Mahdi Navy, so the presence of two or three carrier strike groups and—as so obviously added by Bush—Patriot air defense systems are not there to fight any “terrorists” or “insurgents.” Rather than heading the advice of the Baker Commission and engaging Iraq’s neighbors diplomatically, Bush used last night’s address about the Iraq escalation to threaten a new war—if not outright declare it—most directly with Iran.

Or maybe the administration is not going to declare a war so much as try to provoke one. Within hours of Bush’s speech, US troops invaded the Iranian consul in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil. Kurdish authorities have blocked access to the area, but Reuters reports that Americans carted off five employees along with computers and documents.

And there you have the real “new way forward.” The escalation of the Iraqi conflict? It would be a stretch to even call it a tactical change. But by engaging Iran militarily, Bush did show us the depth of his strategic thinking. While everyone is debating about his “surge,” he will have cover to launch a horrible new crusade.

As I queasily predicted back in March, the way forward is pointing increasingly to the east.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Well, ladies and gentlemen, our long national nightmare will soon be over, for tonight, the decider will finally decide. . . .

Or, rather, President Bush will let us know what he likely “decided” over a month ago and then put aside while his henchmen orchestrated such pasty gems as the “presidential listening tour” and those “non-decisional meetings” down Texas way. All of this to allow time for everyone to lose interest in the Iraq Study Group (Baker Commission) report, and, conveniently, also push the big speech into the middle of the first working week of the new Democratic Congress so as to drown out the “First 100 hours” hoopla, hijack the Democratic domestic agenda with Iraq talk, and steal attention from the first female Speaker of the House by focusing interest back on the big, he-man “War President.”

And don’t think that the timing of the big and (surprise, surprise) disastrous battle for Haifa Street in Baghdad and the pathetic (and what will soon prove to be disastrous) air-strike in southern Somalia were just coincidental, either.

But back to that War President thing. I didn’t coin that phrase, of course. War President is the Bush Administration’s idea of good branding for this service-evading cheerleader. I can’t begin to count the times that Bush or one of his feckless band of brothers have compared Iraq to World War II and GWB to FDR or Truman. Why, just today, I heard some PNAC-er on the radio making the Roosevelt analogy (forgive me, I can’t find a link), about how FDR didn’t have to deal with a “micromanaging” (you’re about to hear the right use that word a lot, by the way) Congress, and everyone stood together to fight the war that had to be fought, etc., etc. Which, I‘m afraid, does beg the question: What would FDR do?

Between the bombing of Pearl Harbor and VJ Day, was there ever a period of seven weeks where Roosevelt or Truman just did nothing? Was there ever a period where Allied forces just kept marching and dying because the President was “not going to be rushed into making a difficult decision”? Did FDR ever spend a long holiday at Warm Springs taking non-decisional meetings? Did Give ‘em Hell Harry need a listening tour to actually focus his attention on the war?

Can you imagine Franklin Roosevelt delaying a strategic shift for nearly two months in order to score some paltry points on the domestic front?

I’m not naïve enough to say that other presidents have never manipulated wars for political gain, but can you really imagine FDR playing politics with the lives of American soldiers the way George Bush does?

Or, to look at it another way: Can you imagine if George Bush and his “brain trust” had the chance to fight WWII the way they have fought the Iraqi debacle?

I can. I would never have been born, and the rest of you would all be doing the goosestep.

UPDATE: The White House has announced that Bush will be making tonight’s White House address from the Map Room, where FDR did much of the war planning for WWII. Again, the PR presidency wants to draw the comparison to Roosevelt. Of course, when I hear “Map” and “Bush” in the same sentence, what I think of is the common assessment of W during the 2000 campaign—that appraisal also required a flashlight in addition to a map for Bush to find (or maybe not find) a particular part of his anatomy.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

oh, captain mercaptan

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg learned a new word Monday: mercaptan.

Faced with a foul odor blanketing a sizeable chunk of his city, the Mayor came out for a press statement just before 10AM and made several assertions, among them, that the smell was not caused by natural gas, because methane is odorless, but (and I’m filling in the blanks here a bit) because what we think we’re all smelling is gas, what we are smelling is mercaptan, the sulfurous-smelling compound added to natural gas so that if there were a leak, we’d smell it.

Get that? Bloomberg didn’t say one possibility is that what we smell is plain mercaptan, based on the similarity of smell and the absence of electronic sniffers pinging on methane. Instead, Mayor Mike just asserted it was mercaptan, even though he knew no such thing.

How do I know that he didn’t know? Because hours after the Mayor spoke, the Department of Environmental Protection made it very clear that they had no idea what caused the odor. “Nothing has been confirmed. We’re left with a mystery,” said a spokesman.

Mayor Bloomberg was probably conferring with ConEd guys who offered up the possibility of mercaptan, and Mike thought, “that sounds smart and informed, I think I’ll drop that word”—and by the time he was standing in front of the cameras, his fun word became the official word. . . over and over again.

Which is why when the Mayor followed with something akin to “we have no idea what is going on, but we know there is no danger,” I was reassured not at all. . . and incensed very much.

I mean, what with Michael Bloomberg’s obviously uninformed assertions, all I need is Christine Todd Whitman to declare the air safe to know that I’m totally fucked.

(PS Props to the New York Times for finally acknowledging the government’s previous bio-dispersal experiment, code name: project maple syrup.)

Monday, January 08, 2007

John McCain is a lying, unprincipled, uncourageous, opportunistic asshole

Regular readers all know that I have spared neither sleepless nights nor daily slights in my attempt to document each and every way in which John McCain is an asshole. (Google knows it, too.) There is a nice compendium of some of my previous “research” here, and my latest multifaceted discovery here.

profiles in courage

Contrast Sunday’s lead editorial in the Washington Post, in which Fred Hiatt pussyfoots around taking a real stand for or against Bush’s latest big-talk-little-action distraction (the so-called “surge”), with Gail Collins's top editorial (her last as head of the editorial board) in the Sunday New York Times, where she takes the President to task for his dictatorial rule at home and his “inhumane and unconstitutional” treatment of prisoners taken in his war on terror. Contrast, also, WaPo’s absurd labeling of pro-escalation Senators McCain and Lieberman as “principled and even courageous,” with the NYT’s praise for two senators who actually have shown a sense for the principles that should guide the United States and some courage in standing up to the administration:

The Democratic majority in Congress has a moral responsibility to address all these issues: fixing the profound flaws in the military tribunals act, restoring the rule of law over Mr. Bush’s rogue intelligence operations and restoring the balance of powers between Congress and the executive branch. So far, key Democrats, including Mr. Leahy and Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, chairman of a new subcommittee on human rights, have said these issues are high priorities for them.

We would lend such efforts our enthusiastic backing and hope Mr. Leahy, Mr. Durbin and other Democratic leaders are not swayed by the absurd notion circulating in Washington that the Democrats should now “look ahead” rather than use their new majority to right the dangerous wrongs of the last six years of Mr. Bush’s one-party rule.

This is a false choice. Dealing with these issues is not about the past. The administration’s assault on some of the nation’s founding principles continues unabated. If the Democrats were to shirk their responsibility to stop it, that would make them no better than the Republicans who formed and enabled these policies in the first place.

Which editorial board do you think is more courageous?

Friday, January 05, 2007

deckchairs? check. Titanic? check. . . .

John Negroponte, a man who was only ever good at one thing in his life, and that was empowering death squads, is cutting and running from his cabinet level job as Director of National Intelligence to handle Condi Rice’s dirty laundry as her deputy at the Department of State.

Apparently, Rice and President Bush asked Negroponte (former Ambassador to Honduras and Iraq, among other blood-soaked spots) to leave that supposedly important DNI post to take on some of Rice’s workload—specifically, handling China, North Korea and Iraq—so that the Secretary of State can purportedly devote more of her time to Middle East Peace. . . and shoe shopping.

Shoe joke aside, honestly, if Rice wants to offload the PRC, the DPRK, and the Iraq debacle, then what exactly are we paying her for?

In addition, just what kind of commitment to intelligence reform does Bush demonstrate by asking Negroponte to leave the job of setting up this new National Intelligence bureaucracy stunningly unfinished so that John can spend more quality time in Foggy Bottom?

Also, what does this say about the Bush Administration’s talent pool when the president has to shuffle Negroponte, Zalmay Khalilzad, and two or three others in order to keep a few key foreign policy posts filled? (Rhetorical question.)

Finally, with Bush set to nominate retired Vice Admiral John Michael McConnell to replace Negroponte as DNI, the US will have all of its major intelligence agencies headed by military men (including Michael Hayden at CIA and Keith Alexander at NSA), while the Defense Department is now run by a former top spook, Robert Gates.

When many across the political spectrum seem to feel that one of the major problems with US intelligence is that it is overly militarized and overly controlled by the military (80% of the intelligence budget is controlled by the Pentagon), doesn’t the current arrangement seem absurd, if not outright dangerous to our national security?

bringing new knives to the same gunfight

In an attempt to distract and shift blame while he stays the course in Iraq, President Bush is set to announce that he is replacing Gen. George Casey, top military man in Iraq, with Lt. Gen. David Patraeus, and replacing Gen. John Abizaid, head of Central Command, with Admiral William Fallon, currently head of the Pacific Command.

While both moves are overwhelmingly motivated by domestic politics rather than military strategy (because there is no military strategy), the choice of the Navy man Fallon to head the command responsible for directing two protracted ground wars—Afghanistan and Iraq—is especially. . . how did Martha Radatz put it? . . . “unusual.”

That would be one word.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

what is Virgil Goode thinking?

Congress’s only Muslim member, Representative Keith Ellison of Michigan will be sworn in later today—and, it should be noted, when he is officially sworn in, he will not have his hand on a copy of the Koran. . . because when members of Congress are officially sworn in, they don’t put their hands on anything. Members simply raise the right hand and swear to defend the US, the Constitution, the Congress, etc.

Where you do see religious books turning up is in ceremonial swearing ins that are photographed for whatever it is that folks do with staged photos of this sort. And it is in one of these—in a ceremonial staging—that you will see Rep. Ellison’s hand on a copy of the Koran.

That this copy will be the one that was Thomas Jefferson’s copy notwithstanding, one of the Michigan Democrat’s colleagues, Rep. Virgil Goode (a Republican representing Jefferson’s birthplace in Virginia, by the way) is having kinipshins and night sweats over the thought of swarthy hordes of Muslims destroying his beloved House of Representatives and taking over America—and the first step toward that end will be Keith Ellison putting his hand on a book other than the New Testament during a ceremonial photo-op.

Even some of the more xenophobic of Goode’s Republican colleagues have distanced themselves from the Virginia Representative’s stand, but the seemingly butt-stupid and clearly racist Virgil Goode just keeps on keepin’ on about how Keith Ellison’s entry into Congress will undermine American civilization (yes, he really said that).

But what I really want to know is, why is Virgil Goode frothing about some ceremonial swearing in when it is clear the condition of our American civilization is in so much more trouble already. That’s right, I’m talking about the Eid stamp.

It’s scary enough that the federally regulated United States Postal Service has spent time and money commemorating other minority holidays, but is Rep. Goode aware that we have a stamp carrying US postal value that commemorates the Feast of the Martyrs—the very same holiday celebrated by the 9/11 hijackers!?!

Obviously, I kid—but I am surprised that Virgil Goode and his freaky friends have not made more noise about this. I mean, I wouldn’t have known to be mock outraged if I hadn’t seen a cancelled stamp with my very own eyes. Where are the guardians of our fictional Christian roots?

Honestly, I would be much happier to see no sectarian holidays commemorated on US stamps—no Christmas, no Hanukkah, no Easter, no Eid (I don’t know what to do about Kwanza—it’s not actually sectarian, now, is it?)—for that would truly honor our nation’s roots and our founding father’s intentions. But, seeing as I don’t actually live in such a utopian America, I am pleasantly surprised to see that we have an Eid stamp. . . almost as surprised as I am not to see Rep. Virgil Goode flipping out about it.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

President Gerald Ford is still dead

Happy New Year, everybody! The late former president has been dead since Christmas, and, as I write this, he is still not in the ground! Hey, I’m all for honor and reflection, and it’s not that every dog doesn’t deserve to have its day—but eight days? Talk about your long national nightmares!