Thursday, September 27, 2007

senator Hillary Clinton explains her vote for Lieberman-Kyl

The so-called Lieberman-Kyl amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill passed the Senate today by the disturbingly large margin of 76-22. Among the Yeas was Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York.

Though modified slightly from its original, more bellicose version, this amendment still bears an eerie resemblance to the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, and the 2002 AUMF—the two votes that gave the Bush Administration all the cover they would need to invade Iraq in 2003. In fact, Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) called Lieberman-Kyl “Cheney’s fondest pipe dream” (somehow, I think he wanted to say something other than “pipe”).

So, how does purportedly Democratic Senator and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton justify her vote to reward and codify the Veep’s nocturnal emissions?

Basically, I’m a two-faced coward, genetically incapable of real leadership as I triangulate my way to the presidency. I have no real policy in mind right now, but I want to appear tough to the 30 percent of Americans that would never vote for me anyway. I also want to reserve the option to do something similarly un-Democratic when I am president. I hope everyone allows me to be as secretive and unitary as the current chief executive.

No—not really. This is what she actually said:

Mrs. Clinton defended her vote on Iran, saying a tough stand was necessary because it “gives us the options to be able to impose sanctions on the primary leaders to try to begin to put some teeth into all this talk about dealing with Iran.”

“Now we’ve got to make up for lost time on the ground,” she said.

In other words: same difference.

(photo: Matt Rourke AP)

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I wonder if the president has ever met Kenny Shopsin

I learned something surprising today. George W. Bush, it seems, really likes killing flies. Useless News (and World Distort) reported earlier this week that someone has even made up presidential flyswatters for His Decider-ness. Apparently, Bush is really bothered by the noise. (You’d think it would distract him from the voices in his head. . . oh, that’s just his transceiver. . . oh, wait, that explains it, he doesn’t like the noise because it keeps him from hearing the voices!)

I was surprised by the news that the President likes to swat because I rather thought he was the kind of guy that just liked pulling the wings off flies.

Nowadays, he likes to call that “enhanced interrogation.”

PS & by the way: I doubt Kenny Shopsin would even let GW Bush sit down in his restaurant. . . with his secret service detail, he’d probably be a party of five.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, September 24, 2007

a different kind of page scandal

While four reporters combined forces on the front page of Sunday’s New York Times for not one, but two long stories about the race for the White House, 2008, one will have to turn all the way to page 11of the opinion section—to find some actual reporting.

Perhaps I should not look a gift horse in the mouth, but I can’t help but observe that while Messrs. Nagourney, Zeleny, Cooper, and Luo spend prize, above-the-fold real estate covering the horserace, the editorial board has actually taken the time, and the entire space allotted for all editorials, to detail the differences between all the major presidential candidates of both parties on the subject of national health coverage.

It strikes me as just a bit confused and confusing, not that the editorial board should express interest in the positions of would-be chief executives, but that a reporter with the experience or esteem of any of the men mentioned above can’t muster the same degree of fascination—or that the editors of the news portion of the newspaper don’t see fit, after all the navel gazing of the Judy Miller/Jason Blair years, to mandate that when covering a political race, they report on what ideas make candidates run, rather than handicap how they are running.

Labels: , ,

Friday, September 21, 2007

new york’s worst

WNYC, New York Public Radio, will be airing a segment on New York’s worst buildings during next Tuesday’s Leonard Lopate Show. Christopher Gray, who writes the “Streetscapes” column for the New York Times, will evaluate photos submitted by the listening audience.

I have added my two cents. . . or, actually, five buildings to the discussion, including the banal 60 Thompson (pictured above) and the dystopic new 7 World Trade Center. You can take a look at my photos by clicking on the Flickr badge above (that didn't work, so just click here to see my photo set), see a slideshow of more ugly buildings here, or take a look at all of the “nominees” submitted by the community by clicking here (requires a free Flickr account).

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, September 20, 2007


“Outrageous” seems to be the word of choice for Republican grandstanders (AKA presidential candidates) when evaluating Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s request to tour the World Trade Center site—I’m sorry, Ground Zero—while here for the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly next week.

"This is a man who has made threats against America and Israel, is harboring bin Laden's son and other Al-Qaeda leaders, is shipping arms to Iraqi insurgents and is pursuing the development of nuclear weapons," Giuliani said. "Assisting Ahmadinejad in touring Ground Zero -- hallowed ground for all Americans -- is outrageous," he said.

Another Republican hopeful, Senator Sam Brownback, blasted Ahmadinejad's request as "outrageous and unacceptable," describing the Iranian regime in a statement as "the biggest state sponsor of terror in the world."

At this point, it would be proper to take these two morons to task for their fact-free warmongering, but really, who has the time? (Here’s the shorthand: Rudy—Iran=Shiite, Al-Qaeda=Sunni; Sam—Saudi Arabians funded and executed the 9/11 attacks, Pakistan shelters bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, and various Taliban bigwigs. . . OK?) Rather, I think our very own ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, says it best:

We do not support. . . a site where so many people lost their lives be[ing] used as a photo op.

Absolutely, ZK! Why, that would be. . . outrageous!

(Photo: AP via the BBC)

(cross-posted to Daily Kos)

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

quod erat demonstrandum

I have always liked the P.J. O’Rourke quote about how “The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work, and then they get elected and prove it.” Sadly, I now see a grotesque corollary unfolding in Iraq.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

reality bites back

In choosing a retired federal judge to replace disgraced former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, George W. Bush got himself more than a good Jewish lawyer and the answer to a trivia question (What do Roy Cohen, Claus von Bulow, and Rudy Giuliani have in common?), he got himself a conundrum.

You see, Michael Mukasey was the presiding judge in the trial of Omar Abdel Rahman, the so-called “Blind Sheikh,” when he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison for his involvement in a plot to blow up New York City landmarks. President Bush himself made a big deal of Judge Mukasey’s involvement in that case, but what Bush can’t seem to reconcile, no less grasp, is that America successfully stopped a terrorist plot and locked away its planners by treating the plot as a crime and using the tools afforded under the existing criminal justice system to punish the would-be terrorists.

Back then, there was no USA Patriot Act, there was no Guantanamo, there were no military commissions/star chambers, there was no extraordinary rendition, there was no torture, and, last but not least, there was no “Global War on Terror.” But, the biggest difference, of course, is that the Blind Sheikh rots in a US prison, an historical footnote, at best, while Osama bin Laden is a free man, getting a dye-job somewhere in the northwest of Pakistan, an en ever-greater legend to an ever-growing number of radicalized Muslims.

If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say, the elevation of Judge Mukasey is a plum example of just how much the Bush/Cheney approach to terrorism bites.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, September 17, 2007

show support for our truths

In a New York Times article titled “Dozens Arrested in Antiwar Protest Near Capital” (changed to “Antiwar Protest Ends with Dozens of Arrests” in later editions—somebody could probably write a paper on that change alone)—even though the actual number of arrests was 189 (dozens indeed!)—David Johnston reports on a rally and march protesting the ongoing US occupation of Iraq.

Along with the strange need to reduce nearly 200 arrests to “dozens,” Johnston (or his editors) contrasts the antiwar protestors—who numbered in the “thousands,” according to the Times—with a counter-demonstration—number unknown (or, at least, unreported) throughout the article. I’m guessing the pro-war counter-demonstration was relatively small, because if it had been larger than the antiwar march, well, that would have been news (at least that’s how I see it), but the way the article is weighted, you’d think it was an even-handed pair of rowdy sports teams going at it on the Capitol Mall.

But I digress just a tiny bit. . . .

The paragraph that set my blood to boil was this one:

“What troubles me, the thing that is so dismaying, is they don’t realize the big picture,” said John Aldins, 54, who came from Media, Pa., with his wife, Karen, and daughter, Rachel, to show their support for the troops. The Aldins have three other children serving in the military. Rachel Aldins will join the Army in the fall to serve as a nurse.

The Aldins, the article poses, are against a redeployment of US troops out of Iraq, so, by the logic of the Times, it seems, the Aldins are showing “their support for the troops.”

Support for what, exactly? Support for the troops shedding this mortal coil? Support for more servicemen and women learning the wonders of modern prosthetics technology?

Has the New York Times not gotten the memo on this one? Are we really—in September of 2007—are we really still having to teach the Times that you can support the troops by wanting to take them out of harms’ way—by wanting to stop them from being killed for little more than a man’s vanity and a party’s political designs? Do I really need to tell David Johnston and the New York Times that antiwar is not anti-troop.

If the Aldins believe that the only way to “support the troops” is to be pro-war, then they are entitled to such an opinion—but that is their opinion, and the article should make that clear. As written, without a quote to that point, the ignorance, if not the bias, of the article, the reporter, and, dare I say it, the Times is staggeringly clear.

As far as I’m concerned—no, make that “as far as over two-thirds of Americans are concerned,” the very best way to support our troops is to be anti-war. It’s in all the papers. Perhaps someone at the Times should pick one up and read about it.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, September 13, 2007

do the math

A stuttering President Bush tonight proposed bringing home some 5,700 troops from Iraq by this Christmas, and another four combat brigades (“at least 21,500 troops,” says MSNBC) by July (unless he decides not to, but I’ll leave that for another post).

Now, there are currently 169,000 US troops in Iraq. The Sen. John Warner autograph edition Christmas bonus of 5,700 troops plus 21,500 equals 27,200 troops. The current 169,000 minus 27,200 equals. . .

raise your hands. . .

that’s right, 141,800 troops!

Prior to the surge-scalation announced by Bush in January’s “new way forward,” there were 132,000 US troops in Iraq. So, even though this so-called reduction only represents the originally scheduled drawdown of forces because of mandated and desperately needed troop rotations, it still doesn’t get the number of troops in Iraq down to pre-surge levels.

Labels: , , ,

the sweet stench of success

If a super-sized surge worth of coalition forces can’t keep President Bush’s new best thug, er, um, friend from getting all blowed up, the rest of this “bottom-up reconciliation” is going to be a bit of a tough sell.

Suddenly, tonight’s “The magic of Anbar” speech is going to need a re-write.

Labels: , ,

waiting for the other shoe to fly

President and Warlord George W. Bush will be using up valuable airtime tonight to tell the American people that he, Bush, has “decided” to “accept” the “advice” of Gen. David Petraeus, as presented in the report that, well, um, in a report that was drafted by the President’s staff. (We know that the General was lying when he said that the report was his and that he did not share a draft with anyone. He may have briefed the President without handing him a piece of paper—a plausible deniability ploy that was leaked last week—but it was reported that Petraeus had to undergo “murder boards” last weekend to prepare him for congressional questioning. You can’t very well do a mock Q&A if the questioners don’t know what they are questioning, so somebody saw drafts of that testimony. Thus, from the very first sentence in his testimony, Gen. Petraeus was lying. He then went on to make assertions about the declining numbers of Iraqi casualties without giving a source for the data. It can’t be the US military, since the Pentagon has made a very public point about how they don’t collect that sort of data—so, where did those numbers come from? Those that do collect this sort of data say that such casualties are up since this escalation began, so, is Petraeus just making this up? We could also call that lying. Gosh, this could have been a post all by itself. . . . Uh, where was I?)

The President will go on TV to tell us that he’s taking his own advice. (There, that’s more succinct.)

Of course, that’s not actually true, either. There’s no advice to take. This “withdrawal”—this new new new way forward—is, of course, not really a withdrawal at all. It’s simply troops coming home while not having anyone available to replace them. And this new new new way is more of the same ol’ same ol’.

Anyway, come evening, I am fully prepared to be throwing things at my television. . . no, not because Bush will be talking smack. . . again. . . at this point, that guy isn’t worth damaging my TV. . . hell, he ain’t
even worth the mangy Chuck Taylor that I might, uh, chuck. No, I think that I am going to be throwing things after the president speaks. It is then, I expect, that establishment journalists and the pundit class will just parrot the Patraeus/Bush talking points; never bothering to really do the research and report on the utter failure of the Bush escalation, or the fact that the current troop levels are unsustainable, and that come summer, we will just be back to “stay the course” numbers.

Nor, do I expect many on TV to ask the real question: What are we in Iraq for? Every single stated reason for invading Iraq has been debunked. Every single goal of this “surge”—as outlined by the president himself—has been left unmet. Every single measure has shown the war to be a failure. Even Petraeus himself doesn’t believe that Bush’s “strategy” for Iraq will make America safer.

So why do more and more troops have to die?

I’m not expecting anyone to ask that one.

Instead, I do expect the talking heads to paint this as a partisan battle between Democrats and Republicans. I expect to hear something about how the ideologues in both parties—I'm counting on hearing the term “radical anti-war left”—are fighting over Iraq as if it were nothing more than a political football while “serious” people try to find some middle ground.

Of course, Iraq is no political football. . . well, let me correct myself there, it probably is for many in the White House and in the minority party—it’s really all about domestic politics for them—but for me, and for many who care, Iraq is about people dying everyday. . . for no good reason.

And, of course, the real “middle ground” on Iraq is to begin to withdraw, really withdraw, troops now, and get them all out by the end of Bush’s term in office. That’s the position held by over two-thirds of Americans; that’s what I would call consensus.

But, I’m not sure I will hear much about that, either.

No, I expect that this speech will be placed in the context of a pissing match. “Who’s winning—Democrats or Republicans?” That’s what I expect.

I am prepared to be surprised, but if not, I think I can spare a shoe or two.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

i’ll take that as a “no”

I learned a long time ago, while studying the decisions leading up to the Bay of Pigs debacle, that if a military leader expresses anything less than 100% confidence that he (they were pretty much all “he” back then) can accomplish an objective, then he is virtually certain that he can’t. Even if he says something like, “I’m ninety percent certain,” you can be pretty sure that he’s thinking, “it’s gonna take a miracle.” These are can-do guys, and they don’t very much like to go before their president or their people and say “I can’t.”

What, then, to make of this?

President Kennedy learned from his disastrous experience with the Bay of Pigs invasion to read between the lines, if you will, and evaluated military advice differently two years later during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It shouldn’t take a degree in political science to know that when a supreme field commander answers a question like “Does [your strategy] make America safer?” with “Sir, I don’t know actually,” that he is really saying “not even a little.”

Which, of course, begs the question: If we have already been told that political success in Iraq is not imminent, if we already know that the current strategy has accelerated ethno-sectarian violence, and we now find out that the high and continued loss of blood and treasure does not make our own country safer, then what the hell are we doing over there???

I am somewhat heartened by a rundown of Tuesday’s testimony posted on the Democratic Caucus’s Senate Journal—at least on their website, it seems that the majority “gets it.”

When you click over and read that page, pay special attention to the number of times Gen. Petraeus says something like “I don’t know” or “I have not asked” whenever the true answer would be unpleasant or politically disadvantageous to the Bush Administration. Now that’s the kind of can-do leadership that inspires confidence, huh?

(h/t Think Progress)

Labels: , , , ,

will i ever say, oh, that again?

Somehow, I doubt it.

(photo by me, 9/11/07)

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

six years of blood

It is now six years, almost to the minute, that I was awakened by the scream of American Airlines flight 11 low over head, and shocked into running downstairs by the unnatural rumble that soon followed. Though a sitting president and a former mayor (and presidential aspirant) would like me to think about their fantasy lives as brave heroes on that day and in the 6 x 365 (+ 1 to be exact) days that have followed, all I can really think about is the blood.

I think about the blood shed needlessly that September day because a president had no interest in intelligence reports warning of an imminent attack. I think about the blood shed because a mayor had neglected the demands of first responders for better communications equipment, had located an emergency management bunker on the site of a previous attack to pay back a major campaign contributor, was AWOL for a half-hour after the attacks because he spent the night away from Gracie Mansion, and insisted on having response commanders parade around with him for the cameras rather than allow them to do their jobs and coordinate the evacuation of the burning, crumbling towers.

I think about the blood that continues to run cold because of the toxins that were released into the air after the towers collapsed—toxins whose presence was deliberately underplayed by Bush and his EPA head Christine Todd Whitman. I think about the workers on the pile who labored without proper respirators and now labor to take their dying breaths. I think about the two firefighters that died just last month because New York City and New York State have failed miserably in their oversight of the contractor entrusted with the dismantling of the Deutsche Bank building.

But most of all, I think about all of those that have died in Afghanistan and Iraq—Americans, Coalition troops, contractors, Afghanis, and Iraqis—because George W. Bush and Dick Cheney chose to turn the attacks of 9/11/01 into personal and political opportunity rather than an opportunity to bring the country and the world together in a struggle for equality and understanding.

Two thousand, nine hundred and seventy-three people were killed in the attacks of September 11. Three hundred and seventy-two Americans have been killed in Afghanistan to date (another 245 coalition forces from other countries have also died). Three thousand, seven hundred and sixty US troops have died in Iraq (and another 297 coalition forces from other countries have perished). Likely tens of thousands of civilians have died in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion. The journal Lancet believes that over 600,000 Iraqis have died as a result of Bush’s war there.

As I observed one year ago, it is hard to imagine how different things might have turned out if others had been in charge in 2001. However, I find it even harder to imagine how those in charge will do anything but cause much more blood to be spilled before the next September anniversary.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, September 10, 2007

testing. . . one, two, three. . . .

Why does the problem with feedback in the microphone of General David Petraeus at the start of his testimony before two House committees seem like the perfect metaphor for the White House authored report that Petraeus eventually recited?

Oh, yeah. . . because it’s the perfect metaphor.

Labels: ,

Friday, September 07, 2007

no play for mr. gray

Clyde, Keith—you’ve been reeeeeeeee-jected! Meet the new Just For Men spokesman.

Don’t believe me? Let’s ask the ladies:

"I think it works,” says Rita Katz, director of the SITE Institute, a Washington-based group that monitors terror messages, “he looks young, he looks healthy.”

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Democrats again willing to compromise on Iraq

That, of course, would have been a more accurate headline for today’s lead story in the New York Times:

Democrats Newly Willing to Compromise on Iraq

WASHINGTON, Sept. 5 — With a mixed picture emerging about progress in Iraq, Senate Democratic leaders are showing a new openness to compromise as they try to attract Republican support for forcing at least modest troop withdrawals in the coming months.

After short-circuiting consideration of votes on some bipartisan proposals on Iraq before the August break, senior Democrats now say they are willing to rethink their push to establish a withdrawal deadline of next spring if doing so will attract the 60 Senate votes needed to prevail.

Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, said, “If we have to make the spring part a goal, rather than something that is binding, and if that is able to produce some additional votes to get us over the filibuster, my own inclination would be to consider that.”

Or, another possibility would be: Democrats willing to compromise values over Iraq.

Or, maybe: Democrats willing to provide political cover for sinking Republicans.

Some poker face, gentlemen.

Seriously, somebody needs to slap Sens. Carl Levin and Harry Reid silly. Even if compromise was a laudable goal here—and it certainly is not—who announces in advance of a negotiation that they are prepared to give away the store?

Here’s an example: How much you want for that turkey? I’m going to offer you a dollar, but I’m really willing to go as high as you want.

Does that sound like a good strategy to you?

Let’s get this straight, guys: There is no “mixed picture” on “progress” in Iraq. The GAO report and the latest NIE both confirm that the Bush escalation has failed. There is no way to “win” this war. The Iraq debacle is hugely unpopular with American voters. Coalition troops are dying daily for no other reason than to save face for the Bush Administration and its Republican enablers. Democrats took both houses of Congress in 2006 because voters expected them to end the occupation. Americans are not looking for some face-saving measure, and no one is interested in compromise except the president who is content to run out the clock on Iraq, and Republican members of Congress who are looking for anything that sounds vaguely pro-drawdown to hang their hat on come November 2008.

This Democratic strategy doesn’t “peel off” Republicans—it props them up.

And meanwhile, people die.

How’s that gonna look come ’08?

The Democrats control Congress—they control the budgets for this war. Keep sending bills to the president that include specific deadlines for withdrawal over the next year. De-fund anything that doesn’t meet those goals. Let the president veto it. Let the extremely unpopular Bush go on TV and explain that he needs to extend this extremely unpopular war for another 2, 4, 6, 8 months. Let him. Every time the president opens his mouth, another Republican loses his seat in Congress.

Pretty much that’s how it works. The polls say so. Bush is at a place now where he actually goes down in popularity every time he makes a media push.

So let him blab about how Democrats want to bring the troops home but he wants them to stay. Let Bush talk Iraq, Iraq, Iraq all the way through to next fall.

I dare you.

You can thank me in November.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

happy birthday to me

And that’s pretty much all I have to say on the matter.

But I do have more to say on an entirely different matter. . . .

Labels: , ,