Sunday, December 31, 2006

American Decency

Those who have followed my writing over the last two years have come to know me for verbose rants, intricate framing arguments, and pleas to refocus the attention of the progressive community.

Today, however, I'm going to let a few pictures speak their thousands of words, absent any significant editorializing from yours truly.

Warning: Moderately graphic photos below (mild nudity, some blood).

Here is what the American government and the American media see fit to show non-stop to the American public, 24/7 without serious moral reservation:

and even this:

Here, on the other hand, is what the American government and, to a lesser extent, the American media see NOT fit to show the American public on grounds of "public decency" or "respect":

It speaks for itself, really. I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Saddam to die within 3 hours

According to CNN's main page, Saddam Hussein is scheduled to be executed by 10:00pm EST today--in under 3 hours.

While I feel no sorrow for Hussein's fate, the haste with which this whole proceeding is being carried out is strange and unnerving to me. It would seem to me that Saddam may well have information of value to the U.S. or Iraqi governments that would warrant brokering a possible deal. After all, if Dick Cheney really still believes that there were WMDs in Iraq, then would it not be worth a trade for Saddam's life to attempt to discover if they really were sent to Syria, as the neocons claim? If the neocons believe that Saddam really did have ties to terrorists, would it not be worth a trade for his life to discover the names of even a few of those he supposedly supported?

In a few short hours, however, all such opportunities to discover further information Saddam might have will be lost. The man's guilt is certain; if anyone on this earth is deserving of the death penalty, Saddam Hussein qualifies.

But from where I stand, in a few short hours the Bushies will lose any possible last chance they might have had to salvage their initial justifications for the war on Iraq.

Like Saddam, those justifications will now go out with a whimper rather than a bang, without a remote chance of redemption or resuscitation. It will be a pathetic close to an unhappy chapter of both Iraqi and American history that began with America's and Saddam's dance with death back in the early 1980's.

Meanwhile, in the wake of Saddam's death will only come more death, more pain and more torture. More pointless waste of Iraqi and American lives and treasure.

And for what? Apparently for oil, greed, and the megalomania of two men half a world away from one another, both destined for rapid exits from the world stage and leaving legacies of death, pain and destruction.

back after the holidays

it's been a very nice and pleasant holiday week. I completely ignored politics (except for major headlines) and got a chance to spend quality time with friends and family.

But all good things come to an end, and spoon is back to the task at hand--the task of trying to help save this country from tyranny.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Seriously, how could it possibly have been WORSE?

That's all I want to know. How could it possibly have been worse?

When I and the rest of my progressive friends listen to defenders of the Administration and Republican Party deny, obfuscate, propagandize and split hairs over the monumental crimes and failures of the last six years, we are invariably tempted to get into the muddy details and argue the finer points: Whose authority was it to send in the national guard after Katrina? Did the world really believe there were WMDs in Iraq? Was Bin Laden really catchable in Afghanistan? Can democracy work in Iraq? Etcetera, etcetera.

But an epiphany hit me today: as I was preparing to engage in yet another "fine points" debate with a wingnut, I realized that I was really talking about all this in the wrong way. What I should be asking is this: "If Al Gore (or another Democrat) had been elected to office in 2000, how could it possibly have been WORSE?"

I'm serious about this. Screw the details--as long as we are willing to debate the details of how horrific foreign and domestic policy could or should have been made slightly less horrific, we ignore the fact that we are limiting the terms of the debate to generally insane and incompetent policy. By turning the argument into a hypothetical one about what a Dem president and Administration would have done, a debater can expand the horizon of possibilities beyond the pathetic limits set by the constraints of talking about the Worst. President. Ever. and his batshit crazy policies.

So here's my challenge to the Right Wing Establishment: Please tell me how it could possibly have been WORSE. Because I'm having a hard time here.

Honestly, do you really believe that the national debt would be HIGHER today if Gore had been elected allowed to serve as our duly elected president? Seriously, I want to know. President Clinton reduced the national debt when he was in office. You seriously want to tell me it would have been WORSE under a Democrat?

Truthfully now, do you really believe that the national trade deficit would be HIGHER today if Clinton had stayed in office? That the financial industry would have outpaced the manufacturing industry by even greater margins under a Dem president? Really?

Seriously, do you truly believe that a Democratic president would have been even MORE oblivious to the pre 9/11 warnings? I mean that. Your National Security Advisor was scheduled to give a speech on freaking missile defense on 9/11. I want to know--how could the national focus have been MORE misguided?

Candidly now, are you really trying to tell me that a Democrat would have botched Afghanistan any WORSE than Bush has done? Really? I mean come on now--these are the same Democrats that just got done fighting one of the most internationally agreed-upon and efficient wars in American History in Kosovo. It was Democrats who led us into WWII and Vietnam, so we're not gun-shy. Really, I want to know how Afghanistan could possibly have been done worse.

Straightforwardly, you mean to tell me that Al Gore would have failed even more spectacularly to fail to catch Bin Laden? Please explain to me how that would even have worked. I'm all ears.

In all candor, are you really telling me that America and world are better off for our having invaded Iraq? Tell me how a Democratic president who DECLINED to invade Iraq, and focused our resources on Afghanistan instead, would have left the world worse off than under Bush. I'm all ears. Or tell me which Democrat would have invaded Iraq like your hero did--either way.

With all due respect, I seriously want to know something: how could President Kerry have possibly left Iraq a more painfully excruciating disaster than it is today? How would Iraq be worse off today for having had Kerry in charge? I'm not kidding--I really want to know.

Now THIS one really leaves me flabbergasted: how in the whole wide world could ANY Democrat--even Joe/Jane Sixpack off the freaking street!--have botched the Katrina rescue and recovery any worse? You can lay the blame on Blanco and Nagin all you want--but are you seriously trying to tell me that President Gore would have left New Orleans in worse shape? No really--try it with a straight face this time.

In all honesty, are you trying to tell me that a Democratic Congress would have been even MORE out of control with government spending? Actually, I already know the answer to that one: a few of you tried to use that line in congressional campaign ads, and it was a failure because not even people as crazy and mendacious as you could say it with a straight face.

And there's SO much more where all this came from--
National infrastructure.
The divide between rich and poor.
Anti-Americanism in the world.
The proliferation and growth of Al-Qaeda.
The election of Islamist governments in the mideast.
Frayed national unity and bitter parisanship.
The Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
The housing bubble and consumer debt levels.
Electronic voting machines and voting security
Outsourcing of scientific discoveries and progress overseas.

Etc, etc.

I mean, the list goes on and on and on. On not a single one of these issues can I fathom how a Democratic administration and congress could possibly have done worse--nor can I picture how even in the wingnuttiest imaginations, they could really picture it being worse either.


I'm deadly serious about this. This a challenge. I want to know.

If there are any trolls lurking out there, here's your chance to respond without getting troll-rated; I'd like this to be a donut-free thread.

I'm waiting--but I'm not holding my breath.

And as for you, my progressive friends, as long as the wingnuts can't answer these questions--at least not with a straight face--I see no reason why we shouldn't keep on asking them again and again until their ears bleed.

Because--honestly and in unison now--how could it possibly have been WORSE?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Traditional media again clueless about blogs

There is something about fear that makes the minds of otherwise intelligent people go numb.

Over at the Washington Post, where the quality of the op-ed page has been suffering of late and bloggers have been conducting a WaPo op-ed roast, it appears that any sign, even misguided, about the possible relenting of the blogosphere is taken as good news. While I am not surprised that all the columnists and authors who get paid to produce crappy writing inferior to that of passionate amateurs would look for any succour and news of an end to their woes, it does amuse me to see the specious arguments they are willing to make.

Today, it's Raw Fisher, whose Wa-Po column purports to be "The Cold Splash of Reality, with a Side of Sizzle". I know, cue the laugh-track. His piece is hysterically called "The End of Blogging?", using a Cavuto mark at the end of the title.

His evidence?

So soon? A media research firm is now predicting that the number of blogs will peak in the coming year as the phenomenon cools off. The British firm Gartner bases its prediction on the decline of blogs on stats showing that some 200 million people worldwide who had started blogs have already given them up.

In fact, the BBC article that Fisher links to here says nothing about the "decline of blogs" at all. It simply says that the number of single-user-content blogs will begin to level off in the next year. From the actual BBC article:

The analysts said that during the middle of next year the number of blogs will level out at about 100 million.

The firm has said that 200 million people have already stopped writing their blogs.

Gartner has made 10 predictions, including stating that Vista will be the last major release of Windows and PCs will halve in cost by 2010.

Gartner analyst Daryl Plummer said the reason for the levelling off in blogging was due to the fact that most people who would ever start a web blog had already done so.

He said those who loved blogging were committed to keeping it up, while others had become bored and moved on.

Sounds like a real decline to me. It must be the end of blogging if the 100 million or so passionate people are keeping on doing it, while the other 200 million stop. By those standards, anti-Americanism in the world must be declining toward its end, what with the fall of the Soviet Union and all. The fact that anti-Americanism is now down to a smaller but still very large number of really passionate people means the country is safe, right? Apparently nobody told George Bush or Donald Rumsfeld....

But the idiocy of WaPo's Fisher doesn't stop there. He continues:

The pace at which people stop blogging will soon overtake the pace of creation of new blogs, the company forecasts. All of which doesn't mean that blogs will go away--though they will surely evolve into something else in the coming years--but rather that the initial rush of folks who are blogging just because everyone else is will end. And that's a good thing--surely we suffer simultaneously from a surfeit of data and a paucity of wisdom.

Initial rush? People have been blogging for over a decade now; in Web time, that's like a millennium. Surfeit of data and a paucity of wisdom? Hell, I can find that everyday right on the op-ed pages of the Washington Post--much less on the Human Events website. Or from any of the gasbags who regularly haunt the studios of CNN and Fox News. I've seen more wisdom come out of the blogosphere's pinky finger than out of the oh-so-wise columnists and pundits at any of the major news organizations.

But again, Fisher isn't done exposing his own idiocy yet:

Blogs have the feel of an interim form. They're new and easy to experiment with. The form is not encumbered by nearly as many rules and traditions as hem in other kinds of writing. But it is a second-order form, given mainly to commentary and rants and suggestions more than to original reporting, imagination or ideas.

I don't really know where to start with this: the man just insulted himself. If he can show me the "original reporting", "imagination" or "idea" embodied what amounts to a very clearly "second-order...commentary and rant" on his part, I'll send him a check for five dollars. Seriously. In fact, if he can accurately show me the David Brooks or Peggy Noonan column that doesn't meet his criteria for a sub-tier "interim form", I'll eat my hat. But again, I digress and distract from Fisher's wonderful wisdom:

The trick for the next phase of its evolution will be to find ways to add heft and win wider notice, perhaps even some permanance for the best work, just as the best work appearing in daily newspapers and magazines eventually found its way to books (think Dickens, Tom Wolfe, Hunter Thompson).

Ooooh yeah! Permanent form! Like print journalism! That's the ticket! If bloggers can only get their work into print like me, then they'll really have made it! Sorry, Fisher: that's not called evolution; that's called devolution.

At the end, he tops even his own previous idiocy:

Any new form meets its greatest test in the period after the fad dies. If next year is that proving time for blogs, what will the next incarnation of the blog look like?

Where will the blogging "fad" go next? Well, feast your eyes, Fisher. It's right in front of your nose at Daily Kos. In fact, Time Magazine just named it Person of the Year. It's called a community blog; it's called a social networking site; it's called a social news site (like or the new Netscape); it's called a community video uploading site. As the number of solo bloggers shrinks, the size of community blogs grows--and begins to replace (gasp!) the readership of regular newspapers.

And if you, like the rest of your traditional media pals, hadn't had your head stuck firmly in the ground for the last five years, you'd know that. But I wouldn't want to sully your precious wisdom with my second-rate unevolved rant, so keep on keeping on, Mr. Fisher. I'm sure we'll catch up with you someday.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Forgotten Holiday

Yesterday, December 15th, was Bill of Rights Day, a celebration of the 215th anniversary of the signing of the first ten articles in the Bill of Rights. The holiday was instituted by no less than FDR himself--a noble but forgotten gesture from a man who could arguably be called America's Greatest President. And he declared the holiday just one week after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, just so that the nation could be clear about where national priorities lay during those uncertain times:

This day was signed into practice by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on December 15, 1941, one hundred and fifty years after the actual signing of the Bill of Rights by our forefathers. Ironically, he proclaimed the holiday just one week after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor initiating the United States' involvement in World War II where freedom issues were at the core of wartime dogma.

The mass internment of Japanese-Americans during this period, of course, rendered some of the "bill of rights" emphasis somewhat hollow. But it is nevertheless incredibly important to note the contrast in style and emphasis between two men, one of whom can easily be called one of the Greatest Presidents, the other of whom is easily the Worst President Ever. Just one week after a horrific attack on American soil, the Worst President Ever was pushing for the Patriot Act and the mass repeals of basic 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th amendment rights; just one week after a similar attack on American soil, the Great President chose to enshrine those very rights in a national day of respect and remembrance. Both eras were marked by furious debates over emphases on freedom vs. national security; the contrast in actions by the Executive could not be more clear.

It is telling that we, as a nation and a culture, have chosen to place so much emphasis on Pearl Harbor Day--a day of grief and pain that admittedly launched us into one of the most critical and consequential wars in history--but have chosen to forget an event that truly defines us as a nation and was highlighted for specific emphasis by the very man who led us through those perilous and monumental times.

Today, that failure to honor this most fundamental imprint on our national character is a reminder of just how hollow those very guarantees and freedoms have become under this Worst of Administrations. Or perhaps it is a symptom of a nation gone astray--a canary in the coal mine of national jingoism and misplaced patriotism, where martial power is seen as a greater source of strength than is national character.

Either way, the unmarked passing of what should be a consecrated date should give us pause, and allows us an opportunity for reflection on what could have been--nay, on what should have been--our national legacy under the direction of a far worthier Presidency after the traumatic events of September the 11th.

A Worthier Presidency would have heeded the warnings in the first place, and probably prevented this long, dark nightmare in the first place.

A Worthier Presidency would have assembled a truly international Alliance, in memory of that great counter-authoritarian Alliance of 60 years ago, to rout and expunge the disease of Taliban and Al-Qaeda presence in Afghanistan with a just and mighty force.

A Worthier Presidency would have brought Justice upon Osama Bin Laden and his cohorts, rather than letting America's Most Wanted Murderer run free in the interests of conducting a war of Imperial fancy.

A Worthier Presidency would have honored the letter and and the spirit of the 1st Amendment; it would have tolerated with weary amusement the renewed calls from the Right Wing, rejoined from the days of Kosovo, to avoid mission creep in Afghanistan, to bring the troops home immediately, and the howls from Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh over the deaths of one or two American soldiers for a "wag the dog" war--all in the interest of preservation of the 1st Amendment.

A Worthier Presidency would have maintained the guaranteed separation between Church and State, rejecting the Left Behind millennarian fervor which is the inevitable Igor to the Frankenstein of war in the Middle East.

A Worthier Presidency would have been content to call a war a war, to act like it was a war, and to treat it like a war. A Worthier Presidency would have called Prisoners taken during this war just that--"Prisoners of War"--and treated them as such according to the Geneva Conventions.

A Worthier Presidency would have conducted necessary surveillance on our enemies while honoring the 4th amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, and would never have considered conducting those searches without warrants based in probable cause.

A Worthier Presidency would never have considered holding suspects indefinitely for infamous crimes without their having been formally indicted by a grand jury. Indeed, a Worthier Presidency would have shut down Guantanamo entirely.

A Worthier Presidency would have understood that torture was never acceptable, and would have honored the 8th Amendment guarantees against cruel and unusual punishments.

A Worthier Presidency would never have suspended Habeas Corpus indefinitely, simply in order to provide itself legal justification for its previous crimes against country and Constitution.

A Worthier Presidency would never have violated the 9th Amendment to the Constitution through the use of Strict Constructionism, stating that the Executive could deny any rights it deemed threatening, simply because the Constitution didn't explicitly deny its right to do so.

Alas, we do not HAVE a worthy Presidency. We have instead a national disgrace, a painful embarrassment, a shame on our character and blot upon our dignity. We have a would-be Authoritarian Imperial Monarchy, without even the usual silver lining of strict order and heightened competence that usually comes associated with deficits of freedom.

Bill of Rights day, meanwhile, lies forgotten in the rubbish heap of history as we pass blithely from the militarism of Pearl Harbor Day to the consumerism of what is now the American way of celebrating Christmas, with scarcely a moment to breathe in between.

Today, those who honor what America truly stands are left to mourn our losses on what should be a day of national celebration.


As always, however, there is still hope. We have a new Democratic Congress, and with it the power to investigate and hold accountable in whatever way necessary and/or politically expedient those who have stained our national character by forcing these tragedies upon us. We have the power, if we hold our Democrats accountable as they hold the Republicans accountable, to regain the rights that we have lost.

And I hope that one day, perhaps next year, we can help make December 15th a day to remember joyfully once more--and perhaps even make of it a national holiday as FDR had himself envisioned. It would be a fine statement, and a fitting rejoinder to the depradations of the last twelve years.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

GOP bluff finally called: War or Occupation?

Much has been made of the fact that there is a conflict betweeen most of the Pentagon top brass, which wants to train Iraqi forces and draw down U.S. troops, and the civilian "leadership" headed by Bush that wants "double down" and send more troops.  The fact that we don't have the troops to double-down with; the fact that intensifying the American presence in Iraq will only increase resistance to that presence; the fact that training Iraqi "security forces" is essentially arming and training tribal and militia groups that will not remain a consistent or national security force--all of these facts have been well-covered before, and don't need repeating.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of this conflict, however, is being largely overlooked: Finally--perhaps for the first time--the Pentagon and the Administration will have to decide whether they are fighting a war or conducting an occupation.

I have made the point many times before that ever since Saddam was quickly deposed and Bush raised the "Mission Accomplished" banner, what we have been conducting in Iraq has been an occupation, not a war.  The fundamental difference between a war and an occupation is simple:

In war, your objective is to seize (or defend) territory, kill or capture the enemy, and (hopefully) depose the enemy government.

In an occupation, your objective is to subjugate and manage a foreign population with peace and stability, while building up infrastructure in and/or exploiting the resources of that population.

Similarly, a "war" can end in only one of two ways: victory or defeat (with the occasional stalemate).  An occupation, however, can end only in annexation or withdrawal.

Rhetorically, one of the biggest difficulties in discussing the Iraq mess has come from the frustrating logical disconnect promulgated by the Administration: it talks about the conflict in Iraq as if it were a "war" (saying it will accept nothing less than "victory", for instance), but acts in all respects like it is conducting an occupation.  Democrats and progressives, meanwhile, cannot talk about troop withdrawals without looking like they advocate America's defeat in war--when all they're really calling for is withdrawal from an occupation since we cannot annex an Iraqi population that hates us.

Now at long last, however, the Administration is being forced to make a choice between WAR and OCCUPATION.


Steve Gilliard really said it best:

Sadr has at least 60,000 men under arms, and I would bet could raise far more than that if he needed to, including several army units. So what is the plan, go into Sadr City and replay Stalingrad? Then fight off the Sunnis in Ramadi, who, will for no other reason than cussedness, attack our supply lines. So you will have the US trying to hunt down people in their homes, alleys they know like their hands, streets which have been presighted for years.

And to add to this madness, they're gonna be looking for Moqtada Sadr. In his home, in the neighborhood named for his family. How much you wanna bet they fail? ...

Yes, Steve.  That would be war.  If we're actually at WAR, a replay of Stalingrad--with the concomitant horrific number of lives lost and damage done--is exactly what we're looking at.  If Sadrist militia members are the "enemy"; if al-Sadr controls territory that we want to control; if al-Sadr constitutes the leader of enemy that needs to be deposed--then yes.  That is exactly what the basis necessities of fighting a war would require.

Alternatively, there is what Meteor Blades said:

Whether the troops can be found to up the ante in Iraq and whether, if found, they can actually defeat al-Sadr in his own city without playing the Fallujah card is not something I'd want to "double-down" on even if we were just talking dollars instead of lives.

In war, the "Fallujah card" is always an option.  Much as the bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima are horrific and appalling, such large-scale massacres of "the enemy" serve a purpose in war: they prove the point that you and your army are not to be messed with, that resistance is futile, and that surrender and pacification are the only option.

Further, a large scale "war" that we would truly need to engage in to fulfill the wet dreams of the NeoCons in power would require national sacrifices and probably a draft.

But then, we're not currently fighting a war--which is why these things have not yet happened.


Democrats and progressives are not the only victims of this rhetorical disconnect.  Authoritarian FReepers and 101st Fighting Keyboardists can't figure out why this hasn't already happened; they believe that liberals are tying the Administration's hands from fighting the "war" heavy-handedly enough.

But the truth is more sinister: Bush has not been fighting a war there.  The reason for that, of course, is that what Bush and the NeoCon corporatists want from Iraq is a stable country with an American puppet government that sells its oil cheap to the United States, under the control of American oil companies.  Killing the Iraqi people, taking their territory and killing their leaders (war) doesn't serve this purpose--subjugating a foreign population with stability, while exploiting its resources (occupation) does.  You don't build 14 permanent bases if you're fighting a war, instead of engaging in an occupation.

Of course, the American people would never support the ongoing decade-long occupation of another country, so the Bushies have had to use the language of war to describe the conflict, leading to much psychological disconnect and confusion.


Now, however, the bluff is being called.  The "Occupation" is a complete and utter disaster; withdrawal is the only option at this point.

The "War", however, has really barely begun as such.  No one in their right mind would advocate actually starting to conduct such a war, of course: the loss of life on both sides, the loss of treasure, and the horrific political backlash would be beyond contemplation.  Further, the popular support for such a war just isn't there.  But that doesn't mean that the Bushies aren't crazy enough to push the attempt.

And nothing less than a momentous decision between War and Occupation is currently being made right now.  Bush and McCain, seeing their Occupation flounder, now wants a War.  The Pentagon, tired of losing men and treasure to a botched Occupation, wants a withdrawal.

Either way, though, the bluff has finally been called.  Whichever way the decision goes, though, we'll finally be able to end the rhetorical disconnect and call this conflict what it really is.

Let's pray they're sane enough to make the right choice.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Game Is Over

The fuse is lit, the trigger is set, the game is over.

The explosive revelation that the Saudis are blackmailing the United States to stay in Iraq lest they fully fund a Sunni war against Iranian-Shi'ites there was the final straw that will break the camel's back. The calls for the removal of our troops from Iraq will now begin in sold earnest from all sides of the aisle--mostly because all the Psycho Right cares about is killing Muslims--and a full-on regional war among Muslims would be just the thing to get it done.

I admit my evidence at this point is weak, as it comes solely from a Free Republic thread; unfortunately, no one else on the Right that I can see is even discussing this news from Saudi Arabia as of yet, so it's all the evidence we've got. But if the comment thread is any indication of larger right-wing sentiment, the jig is up.

Here are a few examples:

by dothedhue:

I might reconsider pulling out now. These people love to fight. Let them fight. Get it on. We'll mop up when they are done killin' each other.

by vigilanteman:
The only true friends of America in this whole fracas have been the Kurds. Set up a Kurdish protectorate, let them invite the Christians and the 10% or so of moderate Sunnis and Shiites to join them and let the rest of the country go to hell-- the place it is headed anyway. The Shiites (with Iran's backing) and the Sunnis (with the Saudi's backing) can kill each other to their heart's content.
Explain to the current leadership this is what we will do unless Al Sadr's head is delivered and the Sunni tribes start turning on Al Qaida big time. We have, at best, one more year for a political solution. Not because the American military lacks the will and the skill, but because the American sheeple led by the enemedia do.

by mameluksabre:

Lets get outa there and let Iran and Saudi-Arabia go at it. THey are itchin for a fight, let'em. We'll back the A-rabs from down in the land of Saud and use that for an excuse to take out Iranian nukes.

It'll be just like in the time of versus persian.

by Amishdude:
Dear Shia, have you noticed that Mecca is in Sunni hands?

Love, AmishDude.

And from another thread on the same topic:

by Mad_Tom_Rackham:
We should be able to use this to our advantage. An all-out war between the Sunnis and the Shias might be a very good thing for the US.

by Proud USA Republican:
Just like with the gaza strip. Let the animals kill each other off.

Western civilization wins.

by sampleman:
Here's a grim what if back at them. What if we do nothing and let the Shiites and Sunni fight to the death sucking in all Arab nations and a nuclear Iran?


Again, this is scant evidence, but I don't see that the "mainstream" right will say anything much different from this. Indeed, it is clear that the right wing is already pushing the Blame the Iraqis meme; what could be better than than being able to blame Saudi Arabia, Iran and Islam in general for the American foreign policy failure in Iraq?

What's sick about this, of course, is that the thinking here is utter moral perversion. When it looked to these people like it would be a cakewalk to invade their country, kill their leaders, convert them to Christianity and take their oil, they were all for it.

When it became a question of force-feeding Iraqis American-style democracy without actually rebuilding their country and against their will (even at the expense of hundreds of thousands of lives), these people were still all for it.

But when it comes to averting a full-fledged humanitarian catastrophe, these people are totally ready to leave and get out. Because as long as the Iraqis stayed Muslim and refused to give us their oil cheap, it was a humanitarian catastrophe that the Right Wing was looking for.

NOW these villains want to leave the Iraqi people to their devices, after we've torn up the place and left them in a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. NOW that them towelheads is pullin' jeehawds on each other, our work is done here. These people are a moral disgrace and a stain on the American character.

But at least we're all agreed now on one thing: Get our soldiers the fuck out. The ONLY possible resolution to this situation is interested parties in the region NOT wanting to see a bloodbath on their borders destabilizing their own regimes--and an international peacekeeping and humanitarian effort to prevent as much bloodshed as possible. "Go long" and "go big" are toast; "Go home" is the only option left.

The game is over. The Right Wing has finally found an acceptably high level of Muslim bloodshed to fill their black hearts with good cheer.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Bush U.N. nominee likely a Muslim--Pass the Popcorn

According to Bob Novak over at TownHall, Bush appears to be set to nominate Zalmay Khalilzad, current ambassador to Iraq, as our new U.N. envoy to replace outgoing John Bolton von Moustache:

Zalmay Khalilzad, who was announced this week as leaving as U.S. ambassador to Iraq, is the leading prospect to replace John Bolton as envoy to the United Nations.

President Bush was reported by aides as looking for someone who approximates Bolton's combination of toughness and diplomatic skill and has tentatively decided on Khalilzad. A native of Afghanistan, he has served in government posts dating back to 1985 and is the highest-ranking Muslim in the Bush administration.

There are two interesting things about this pick, if the rumors are true.

1) It will drive the right-wing base absolutely insane. If Glenn Beck literally had to ask our first Muslim congressman Keith Ellison to "prove to [him] that you're not working with our enemies" because "I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way," I can only imagine what Beck and all those Americans he thinks he speaks for will say about this nomination. If the insanely popular-with-the-nutball-right Left Behind series of novels believes that the U.N. is really the source of all evil in the world and the likely origin of the next Anti-Christ, one can only imagine the uproar they'll have at the selection of a freaking Muslim to the U.N.

Now, Zalmay Khalilzad is well liked by many who pay close attention on the right. He is a strong backer of the oil exploitation of the Middle East, having worked for Unocal and having supported the Taliban in Afghanistan prior to 9/11 when we thought they would provide stability and give us friendly oil and natural gas deals in Afghanistan. As Wikipedia says:

Khalilzad served under former U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush as special assistant to the president for Southwest Asia, the Near East and North Africa. From 1991 to 1992, he was a senior Defense Department official for policy planning. Khalilzad initially viewed the Taliban as a potential force for stability and as counter balance to Iran, but his views changed over time, especially after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Khalilzad was an advisor for the Unocal Corporation. In the mid-1990s, while working for the Cambridge Energy Research Associates, Khalilzad conducted risk analyses for Unocal for a proposed 1,400 km (890 mile), $2-billion, 622 m³/s (22,000 ft³/s) Trans-Afghanistan gas pipeline project which would have extended from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan. For this project, he met a delegation of Taliban in the United States.

So he, like Hamid Karzai, is a beloved puppet of the corporatist establishment.

Unfortunately for him and for Bush, however, the only thing his base will concentrate on is the fact that he's a Muslim--which should be hellaciously amusing. It's yet another example of the ongoing conflict between the Corporatist Right and the Religious Right.

2) The selection of the muslim Ambassador to Iraq as the new U.N. envoy would appear to signal that Bush is going to get serious about asking other Middle Eastern nations to help pick up the pieces of Iraq to do something about it. That, in and of itself, is an excellent sign in my opinion. Anything that signals a change of course of any kind by Bush is a good thing.

The problem is that it is difficult to see how much impact Khalilzad will have at the U.N. if he is seen solely as the stooge of Unocal and of Bush. Of course, it's a heck of a lot better than von Moustache. And if he performs well at the nomination hearing, I think Dems should probably confirm him--because I seriously doubt we could do much better with any other Bush nominee, and it might do some good for Iraq.

In any case, pass the popcorn. It should be fun to watch.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

You Want a What?

VirginiaDem posted a highly recommended diary on Daily Kos today demanding an apology from the various nitwits and right-wing gasbags who called us traitors, terrorist sympathizers and surrender monkeys. Many people jumped in on the threads, harping on how failure to apologize to Democrats in light of the ISG report somehow constitutes hypocrisy on the part of the Psycho Right Wing.

Unfortunately, the demands for such an apology and the underlying assumptions of hypocrisy greatly underestimate the overall Fuckwaditude of the Psycho Right. Follow below the fold for a trip to Psycholand--where no one is immune from the accusation of treason.

Exhibit A is this beauty from the New York Post:

This article boldly proclaims that the ISG report consititutes an "IRAQ 'APPEASE' SQUEEZE ON W." and the panel is "kiss[ing] up to Iran & Syria" and that the plan would (horror of horrors) "Pull troops out in '08".

And you're waiting breathlessly for an apology from these people? You think they didn't mean what they said when they called you a traitorous surrender monkey? Oh, they did. And they do.


Exhibit B comes from George freaking Bush himself, who is apparently worrying his father's aides because he is apparently dismissive of the report:

Former White House advisers to George H.W. Bush are keenly disappointed and concerned about the current President Bush's initial reaction to the report by the Iraq Study Group. They consider him rather dismissive of the group's conclusions, issued yesterday, which include the view that current Iraq policy is failing. The group recommends a variety of important changes, such as assigning U.S. troops to play more of an advisory and training role and less of a combat role. The ISG also recommends that the United States withdraw most of its combat brigades by early 2008 and that the administration increase diplomatic efforts, including starting talks with Iran and Syria and energetically working toward an Israeli-Palestinian solution. [snip]

Adding to the unease were President Bush's comments at his Thursday news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in which he avoided commenting on specifics in the ISG report.

"We have a classic case of circling the wagons," says a former adviser to Bush the elder. "If President Bush changes his policy in Iraq in a fundamental way, it undermines the whole premise of his presidency. I just don't believe he will ever do that."

And you're waiting breathlessly for an apology from the Criminal-in-Chief? He wasn't kidding when he said that a vote for you was a vote to appease terrorists. He thinks that Baker is appeasing terrorists as we speak.


Exhibit C comes from Ann Coulter, whose latest piece in Human Events declares that the "Incoming Congress Prepares to Launch 'Operation Surrender'" and says that
The "bipartisan" Iraq panel has recommended that Iran and Syria can help stabilize Iraq. You know, the way Germany and Russia helped stabilize Poland in '39.

She finishes her delightful column by stating:
I think waterboarding should be a reward for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed: OK, you've been good, Mohammed, we're only going to waterboard you today. Let's get you out of those cold electrodes and onto a nice, warm waterboard, OK?

Now that they're our new best friends, how about we turn to Iran and Syria for help on our interrogation techniques?

And you're waiting breathlessly for an apology from this woman? You think she was kidding when she said she wants you dead? She wants James Baker dead!


Exhibit D comes from Rush Limbaugh, who is spending today calling the ISG a "Dull Pile of Steaming Nothing" and openly calls it a "surrender report".

And you're waiting breathlessly for an apology from this drug-abusing, Viagra-popping, Dominican-Republic "touring" dickhead? Don't wait too long.


Exhibit E comes from RedState, where Every. Single. Frontpage. Editor has decided to roundly trash Baker and the ISG. Seriously--every last one.

And you're waiting breathlessly for an apology from these jerks? They meant every word! They still do.


Exhibit F comes from the always-entertaining folks at Free Republic, who state that even the high ranking people calling the ISG the "Iraq Surrender Group"--people like Assistant Secretary of Defense Frank Gaffney, Ret. Col. Gordon Cucullu, Investors Business Daily and others--are themselves advocating surrender to the Iraqi terrorists. Meanwhile, they wholeheartedly support Bush's intransigence in the face of the ISG.

And you're waiting breathlessly for an apology from these idiots? They would have to apologize to Baker et al. first. Hell, they'd have to apologize to the "surrender monkeys" calling Baker a "surrender monkey"!


Exhibit G comes from the conservative TownHall, in an article by Frank Gaffney that also appeared in the Washington Times, wherein he declares with community approbation that:

On Wednesday, an unelected, unaccountable and substantially unqualified commission will formally report what hasn’t already been leaked about its recommendations with respect to the conflict in Iraq. The title of the commission is the Iraq Study Group (ISG). Given the nature of its contribution, a better name would be the Iraq Surrender Group.*

And you're waiting breathlessly for an apology from this asshole? In your dreams. He meant every word.


You see, these people aren't just disgusting hypocrites. They're basically downright evil--and I for one won't be afraid to call them that.

And that is why calls for a new discourse of bipartisanship are total bullshit. Not only are these people not going to apologize to us for their abrasive and abusive rhetoric, they're not going to apologize to members of their own party and ideology. Hell, these people are hardly capable of human empathy or rational discourse.

The only way to deal with these people is to excise them as soon as possible from the political arena, and to let them rant away to their own little corner of the Psycho universe.

But don't ask them for an apology. It's not coming--and it's not worth it. The number of people they have to call traitors, surrender monkeys and terrorist appeasers is starting to grow so large that they'll soon be rendering themselves utterly irrelevant.

Patience--and a cup of good cheer

He that can have patience can have what he will. -- Benjamin Franklin

I have been accused of many different things--not all of them flattering. Depending on whether the subject has been Impeachment (prosecution, not necessarily impeachment), torture (Calm the #^@% Down) or '08 candidates (Who Cares?), well-meaning people across the blogosphere have alternately called me a DLC shill and a soulless pragmatist, as well as a wide-eyed clueless ranter and naive idealist. Meanwhile, accusations by one progressive against another of similar betrayals of idealism and pragmatism have been flying left and right, like bullets across the trenches of Progressive No Man's Land.

It's time we all put away the hatchet, because what has been happening is utterly pointless. And we can do it if we focus on a single word: Patience.

I find myself increasingly exasperated as the denizens of the progressive blogosphere proceeds to eat their own young arguing about crap over which not only the blogosphere has no control, but over which no one at this point has any control. No one, that is, except perhaps Republicans, who have shown themselves to have essentially abdicated all responsibility for actually governing this nation.

Impeachment provides the first case in point. It is truly sad to watch such luminaries of the blogosphere as Markos, Chris Bowers, Jerome a Paris and Booman argue about this with such passionate intensity, creating large rifts and broken friendships across the blogosphere. When we should be at our strongest and our bonds should be tightest, we're needlessly eating our own.

On Impeachment, Markos is wrong. So is Bowers. So is Jerome. And so is Booman.

Nobody knows shit about whether to impeach or not at this point, because it's too early to know. Not only has the first subpoena not even been issued, the Democratic Congress doesn't even take over for over a month.

Anyone with half a brain knows that impeachment will not be considered--much less succeed--absent fresh revelations stemming from investigations and subpoenas--even if those fresh revelations only bring forward in a new news cycle facts that only hardcore news-reading progressives know today.

Anyone with half a brain knows that three months from now, we have no idea what new shit will have come to light by that time, or what new events (terrorist attacks, regional conflagrations, whistleblower appearances, etc.) will have occurred invalidating all current discussions.

Anyone with half a brain knows that justice can be served just as well by the prosecution of these bastards after they leave office just as easily as by impeaching them.

Anyone with half a brain knows that impeaching Bush and Cheney tomorrow and getting President Pelosi won't suddenly bring our troops home from Iraq.

And anyone with half a brain knows that whatever the political expediency may be today, that same political calculation may change tomorrow based on new evidence.

So why don't we all just agree to to get along on impeachment, CHILL for a while, and see what the morrow (and a Democratic Majority with subpoena powers) may bring?


Same goes for 2008 Democratic candidates. Kos' 2002 cattle call shows just how silly presidential prognostications can be this early in the game--and how really silly it is for people who should be good friends to be biting each others' heads off over support of this nominee or that at this stage in the game.

Anyone with half a brain knows that Obama's, Kerry's and Hillary's campaigns for President will rest much more on what bills they push AFTER they've had a year in a Democratic Majority, than on anything they've done as impotent members of a Democratic Minority. And we don't even get our majority for over a month!

Anyone with half a brain knows that whom the Democrats decide to nominate will depend somewhat on whom the GOP seems likely to nominate, and vice versa. Right now, the GOP is running in so many different directions that it's really impossible to make a pragmatic choice right now based on the opposition we'll be facing.

Anyone with half a brain and a view of history knows that a year and a half is MORE than enough time for one or more scandals or verbal gaffes to utterly wipe one or more contenders out of the race entirely.

Anyone with half a brain knows that Clark's chances at the presidency will depend less on Clark himself, and more on how utterly FUBAR Iraq and the rest of the world becomes, and how much primacy will be seen to be necessary on matters of foreign policy.

Anyone with half a brain knows that Edwards' chances at the presidency will depend less on Edwards himself, and more on how utterly FUBAR the economy becomes for the middle class, and how much primacy will be seen to be necessary on matters of economic policy.

And anyone with half a brain knows that whatever the political winds may be today, those same political winds may change tomorrow based on new evidence and new events.

So why don't we all just agree to to get along on presidential candidates, CHILL for a while, and see what the morrow (and a new Democratic Majority) may bring?


In short, can't we all just get along? Can't we all have a little patience? Can't we focus a little more on policy for a while? Can't we stop this feuding and stop biting each others' heads off for just a little while? There will be more than enough time to play politics in the coming months. For now, It's the Holiday Season, people are dying needlessly all over the world, there are serious problems to face on just about every major policy front, and we have many places to put our noses to the grindstone.

Kos has his work on getting more Libertarian Democrats and on building DKos 4.0. Jerome has Energize America. We should be training progressive bloggers on writing newspaper op-eds, and on proper media presentation. I myself will be making a big push on cataloguing the Republican abuse of America with GOPScandals. I know that everybody has something they can legitimately work on to further our progressive goals while we wait for the Democratic congress to take over.

In the meantime, I'll be working and waiting patiently--with love and goodwill towards all my fellow progressives. Even the ones who have called me bad names. ;-)

What do you say?

No Bait and Switch, Nancy

It's hard to believe, but the Democratic bait-and-switch on progressives has already begun over a month before our Majority congress takes office. Fresh on the heels of her famous promise to make this next Congress most ethical congress ever, the capitulations to corruption and the backtracking on ethics vows have already begun.

According to the New York Times, it appears that Democrats are having trouble figuring out whether they should really and truly ban privately funded trips as they promised the voters--or whether they should just pretend to ban them and leave enough loopholes in place that nothing really changes.

This is no small issue; it has enormous implications for ethical behavior in Congress--and for taxpayer dollars. It's also what lies at the heart of many of the accusations against Jack Abramoff and his cronies. To quote the Washington Post:

Over 5 1/2 years, Republican and Democratic lawmakers accepted nearly $50 million in trips, often to resorts and exclusive locales, from corporations and groups seeking legislative favors, according to the most comprehensive study to date on the subject of congressional travel.

From January 2000 through June 2005, House and Senate members and their aides were away from Washington for more than 81,000 days -- a combined 222 years -- on at least 23,000 trips, according to the report, issued yesterday by the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity. About 2,300 of the trips cost $5,000 or more, at least 500 cost $10,000 or more, and 16 cost $25,000 or more.

The issue was important enough for Pelosi to include it in a press release demanding ethics reform in Congress in a bullet that explicitly read:

Enforce the ban on Members and staff soliciting privately-funded travel.

But now the capitualation on this extremely important issue has begun, before the debate even starts to take place:

After winning control of Congress by capitalizing on Republican scandals, Democrats are unsure whether to crack down on a perk that got some lawmakers in trouble.
The new majority is unlikely to ban all privately funded trips, which in recent years have taken lawmakers everywhere from Israel to Jamaica.

Surely, though, there must be a good reason for the capitulation, right? At least if we are going to permit corruption, there must be a Democratic special interest or two, like labor unions or progressive groups, who want to help maintain the status quo to help lobby Congress, right? It couldn't possibly be undue pressure from a controversial source that would anger the Progressive base even more than the original capitulation, could it?

One of the reasons a travel ban is unlikely is heavy pressure from pro-Israel groups, among them the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which has a long history of paying for congressional visits to Israel.

Now that's just fabulous. Before Congress is even in session, we're already ready to let the future Jack Abramoffs of the world do their thing, because freaking AIPAC throws a stink. In fact, since the biggest issue involves whether organizations who hire lobbyists should be allowed to pay for congressional travel, it may well be that groups like the Aspen Institute and AIPAC would be able to continue their corrupt lobbying efforts, while labor unions would be excluded:

A ban on trips financed by organizations that employ lobbyists would leave an opening for such groups as the Aspen Institute, which has spent $3.5 million over the past six years to fund congressional travel to policy conferences around the world. But it is unclear whether groups such as the nonprofit arm of AIPAC — the American Israel Education Foundation — would be subject to the same rules as the Aspen Institute. Trips paid for by organizations such as the United Steelworkers would likely be prohibited.

See, when I wrote that we should stop focusing on inside baseball and 2008 contenders to focus on changing the way Washington does business, some said that I was short on specifics, preferring useless rants to making serious efforts of policy. Well, THIS is exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about. If we want to get our government back and move forward in a serious way to help fix this country, we have to be vigilant about issues like this, and hold our officials' feet to the fire. And unfortunately, it looks like that is going to include some of the most powerful people on our side of the aisle:

A further complication for Democratic leaders is that Democrats have been some of the biggest recipients of privately funded travel. Based on number of trips taken, all of the top 10 recipients of privately funded travel since Jan. 1, 2000, are Democrats, according to, which is owned by Congressional Quarterly.

The No. 1 traveler has been Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio, who is expected to be the next chairwoman of the House ethics committee. Tubbs Jones, who has taken 74 trips during the seven-year period, defends her trips, which have included a journey to a Las Vegas conference in 2005 courtesy of the United Steelworkers and a speaking engagement in Barbados earlier this year paid for by the National Bar Association.

This is completely and totally unacceptable. It is no exaggeration to say that the future of this country depends on the new Democratic Congress sticking to its promises of ethics reform and justice. If they don't, progressives will swept out of office as surely and as swiftly as they were swept in. I will not sit idly by while the American People are bait-and-switched in their effort to fundamentally change the way Washington does business.

And it shouldn't be that difficult: even John McCain and Joe Lieberman are on board. I'll give credit where credit is due--if Pelosi and Reid won't pass commonsense reforms supported by the likes of McCain and Lieberman, I'll have to seriously rethink which stripe of politicians are worthy of my support.

If you want something actionable to do, my fellow Progressives, here it is:

Email Nancy Pelosi or call her offices at (202) 225-4965 and (415) 556-4862. Let her know that you will NOT be bait-and-switched, and that you demand that she make good on her promise to have the most ethical congress ever.

Email Harry Reid or call his offices at (202) 224-3542 or (702) 388-5020. Let him know that you won't be bait-and-switched, and that you demand a full blockade on privately-funded trips for Congresspeople.

Email Martin Meehan, who will be the Democratic House point man on ethics in the coming congress, or call his offices at (202) 225-3411 or (978) 459-0101. Let him know that you won't tolerate these shenanigans, and that you expect better from Democrats.

Good governance and future Democratic electoral victories depend on it.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Another foreign policy disaster: Islamists win in Bahrain

Every time you think things just can't get worse in the Middle East, they do. Every time you think that American foreign policy in the region can't get more diasastrous, another news headline jumps out at you. And every time there's an election in the Middle East--from the ascendency of Hamas in Palestine to Ahmadinejad in Iran--it seems like it's just more and more hardliners every time. And it turns out that moderates in each country blame--guess who?--the United States of Bush for making their electoral lives impossible.

Today, the news comes from Bahrain, where hardline Islamist Sunnis defeated slightly less Islamist Shi'ites, and rose to power at the expense of women and moderates, who were seen as being too American:

MANAMA, Bahrain -- Islamic hardliners dominated the Sunni supporters of Bahrain's government who defeated an opposition led by the kingdom's majority Shiites in parliamentary elections, according to official results broadcast Sunday on state television.

The election Saturday for the lower house of parliament reinforced sectarian divisions between Shiites and Sunnis and witnessed a deepening Islamic conservatism in the U.S. ally, considered among the most liberal of Gulf Arab states.

The voting gave a sweeping victory to hard-liners from both of Islam's chief branches who bulldozed challenges by progressive candidates and women. Twelve of the 22 pro-government winners were hardliners.

Now, the article attempts to claim that the elections were progress for Shi'ites and for moderates, but the facts speak for themselves. And who would've thunk it? A comparatively liberal Middle Eastern state trending AWAY from progress and toward reactionary Islamism. Increased sectarian divisions between Sunni and Shi'a. Seems to be a regional trend for some reason. What could possibly be the matter? Well, political scientists who follow the region seem to have the answer:

Ali Fakhro, a political scientist and former government minister, said the liberals were hurt by an ideological association with the United States. The Bush administration's deep unpopularity in the Gulf has strengthened the religious right, he said.

There is a delicious irony in the fact that Bush and the Republicans who have allied themselves so strongly with our own country's religious right and who have done everything in their power to turn "liberal" into a dirty word, now find themselves on the other side of an election result where even they admit that the "good guys" are liberals and the "bad guys" the religious right. And even more delicious irony in the fact that they're corrupt, exploitative and evangelical foreign policy doomed their own religious right in this country, while propelling the Islamist religious right to power all across the Middle East.

But Fakhro doesn't stop there:

"This is part of the reason the Islamists are heading for control of Bahrain's parliament," Fakhro said before the official results were announced. "The Americans say they are encouraging democratic politicians in the region, but the truth is they are harming them."

There's not really much to add to that. The words speak for themselves, don't they?

Meanwhile, it wouldn't be an election dominated by the religious right if there weren't allegations of fraud to throw in the mix:

Officials reported high turnout on Saturday. But the campaign and election were marred by widespread allegations of fraud, and the government did not allow international observers to monitor the vote.

Not, of course, that the United States can really say anything about that, because our own elections have been so laughably fradulent or fraud-enabled that we have no moral high ground to criticize others.


In sum, then, here's what we have:

1) Sunnis and Shi'ites angry with each other.

2) Islamist victories in elections in a comparatively liberal country.

3) Moderates blame the United States for causing their losses.

4) Sham and fraudulent elections about which we can do nothing, because we have no moral high ground on the issue.

I'd say we're winning hearts and minds. I can't wait for what the future will bring in Bush's newly recreated Middle East.