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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

 
The Worm Turns

by digby


Greg Sargent at TAPPED sees what's important about the emerging new and improved conventional wisdom about the Feingold resolution:

Lockhart speaks out in an interview with Chris Lehmann in his entertaining piece on Feingold in this week's New York Observer. Lehmann writes:

[Lockhart] sees no political downside to Senator Feingold's proposal - and likewise sees much desperation in the Republican spin that it would be another self-inflicted Democratic wound that would haunt the minority party in the fall elections. All the G.O.P. bluster about an early vote on the Feingold proposal to smoke out weak-sister Democrats for elimination in November, Mr. Lockhart said, "is complete nonsense."

He said: "One simple rule of politics is that the more ferociously you're pushing your talking points, the less you believe in them. The Republicans jumping so hard on this tells you that they believe they're in a really vulnerable position - that this issue is not the winner they thought it was."


Whatever you think of censure, Lockhart's hitting on a really critical point that can't be emphasized enough. Reporters and commentators have grown conditioned to believe Republicans when they say an issue's a political winner for them -- mainly because Democrats too often act as if they're convinced they're going to lose. When Karl Rove threw down the gauntlet in that speech about NSA wiretapping, few if any commentators even thought to imagine that Rove might be bluffing, even though it was perfectly likely that he was trying to psych out moderate Dems and get them to break ranks. And of course, some moderate Dem thinkers immediately followed Rove's script.



This is exactly right. They've been conditioned over the course of many years. During the Clinton era the Republicans ruled the discourse with non-stop scandalmongering which the press eagerly aided and abetted. During the 2000 campaign the press trivialized and derided Al Gore despite George W. Bush's clear lack of qualifications and helped the GOP character assassination squad at every turn. Since 9/11 the Republicans have held the line with brute intimidation tactics accusing anyone who disagreed with lack of patriotism or cowardice. I know it's been tough and I salute the Democrats for taking the amount of invective that's been hurled at them all through these dark years. Nobody who faces Republican thuggishness day after day can be called cowards.

But times have changed. The Republicans are being hoist on their own hubris and it's time to recognise that people are sick of their tired cant and want to hear from us again. Listening to George W. Bush's speeches for the last five years, particularly after 9/11, is like having someone sing "It's a small world after all" over and over and over again. It was bad the first time. Now it makes you want to stab your ears with a letter opener. The press, forced to listen more often than anyone else, seems to have reached its limit as well.

Make the argument, Dems. People are ready to listen.


Read all of Chris Lehman's article if you haven't had the chance. It's great.



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Oh, You Mean that Freedom

by digby

Oh my goodness, the Fox All-Stars have discovered that religious freedom is hard to guarantee in a theocracy. Seems this Christian who has been sentenced to death by an Afghan court for converting from Islam has opened their tired little eyes to the fact that "democracy" isn't easy to impose on a nation that's following strict Islamic law. Yah think?

They agree that this kind of thing has implications for Iraq too, can you believe it? Mort Kondrake says that he's been hearing that women in Basra are all having to cover themselves up in burkas now!(No kidding) Fred Barnes is concerned about Iraqi Christians too.

Evidently, the wingnuts are up in arms about this story. Someone in the handpicked military family audience even brought it up during Bush's Q&A; today. (And here I thought everything was going great over there but the press isn't reporting it.) The whole place can go to hell in a handbasket but if Christians are persecuted then there's a problem.

Oh wait, that's only certain Christians. Some deserve what they get for "putting their heads into the mouth of the alligator."



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Animal Magnetism

by digby


Since this is shaping up to be bloggy fun day, I can't help but weigh in on this delicious little dust-up over at Jeff Goldstein's dog house pertaining to none other than my pal and blogging companion, tristero.

Tristero already wrote about it, as you all probably know. But he failed to properly highlight Goldstein's bizarrre and freakish dog-fantasy comment, which I feel is important for posterity. I suspect it was because he felt that its exceedingly disturbing images of bestiality might have been too vile and odious for discerning readers. He is right. But I believe that there should be a record of right wing insanity and I think people should be forced to look at it so they know that when these same people claim the left is unhinged, they are merely projecting their own incredibly fucked up psyches on to others.

These are the people, remember, who claim to have better values than you:

Today's subject: tristero, who (let's face it) has the intellect of a gibbon, though he clearly fancies himself a brilliant debunker of lockstep winguttery. In fact, his post
(as seen on Digbysblog) - Loven stole HIS idea about the strawmans, we're told / and Atrios was exactly right that I'm an idiot who doesn't realize my own idiocy (a pronouncement, incidentally, that can only be made by one who assumes he is far more intelligent than the object of his scorn, which position essentially deconstructs the study in the Atrios post tristero fellates, or else proves it to his detriment, I'm not sure which) - is par for the course with these bandwidth sucking cocklords. You allow them to stay and say their piece, and they interpret that as a "right" that you now owe them, and they then take that as an invitation to start helping themselves to things in the fridge, or slipping a finger up your dog's asshole, etc.

Well, sorry, but that ain't my thang. These fucktards want to take shots at me on their own sites, they can have at it. But from now on, they can keep it there, or they can bitch about me on sites I don't give a shit about anyway.

What they can't do is take pot shots at me on other sites, then slather some peanut butter on their joints and show up here hoping to help themselves to a quick hummer from my dog.

So goodbye to tristero. And there will be others, as well. I won't let this place turn into the cesspole Cole nurtures.

And seriously, what did tristero offer here? He's a mouthpiece for lib-Dem talking points, from the few posts of his I read, and I have more interesting conversations with beets and sea monkeys than I ever could with someone who is so bent on getting noticed by Atrios that he's already committed to sing a Katrina and the Waves cover at the next Eschacon - while wearing nothing but one of those bitchin' Che berets.



Keep in mind that tristero's post on Goldstein's blog was inoffensive. It was the post on this blog that got him banned. The offensive line?: "Hat tip to Jeff at Protein Wisdom who really is exactly as Atrios describes him."

That's it. That's what brought on this gut-wrenching, noxious screed. Somebody appears to have a very, very thin skin.

But let's talk about the rather, shall we say, hallucinatory imagery we see in that post. I'm beginning to think that someone needs to do a serious psychological study of the effects of bestiality on conservative politics (or is it the effects of conservative politics on bestiality?) There are just too many instances of this for it to be a coincidence. Lil' Benji and his box turtles, Santorum and his man-on-dog action, Rush and his fantasies of women and german shepards, Laura Bush and the horse cocks --- the list goes on. (Oh boy, here comes another round of freaky google hits. Hello Abu, howya doin?)

Here's Rush:

"...the trend toward more new mothers leaving the workforce. Yes, it's a trend. It started years ago when the feminist movement decided that their best friends were going to be German shepherds. You know. So that's -- well, it's true. You go to the right airports and you can see it."


What is it about these people that makes them constantly think of animal sex? (In Rush's case it's also an obsession with being tortured by women, but that's another story.) When you think about how to insult a political rival, does your mind automatically turn to bestiality? Mine doesn't. The idea of someone slathering their joint and asking the dog for a hummer has literally never entered my mind. (And I have a dirty mind.) But this goes way beyond any pornographic visual I have ever entertained. Ever. In fact, it makes me sick. Sticking your finger up a dog's ass is something that I would think only occurs to veterinarians and perverts.

This imagery is not exactly well ... mainstream. And yet, right wingers seem to come up with it all the time. I know that pets are part of the family and all, but I don't this is what most Americans have in mind when they hear the wingnuts lecturing everyone about family values. And, just because it's a dog doesn't mean it isn't sodomy, you know. Even if your dog's a girl.

ugh

Now, I've got a picture of Jeff Goldstein wearing nothing but an "Uncle Sam Wants You" t-shirt, his joint slathered from top to bottom with a 1/4 teaspoon of peanut butter, singing "How much is that doggie in the window?" If you'll excuse me, I have to go puke and then get my brain dry-cleaned.

Oh, not just because of the synapse frying revulsion of that image. Sorry. As bad as that is, I can take it. It's this, featuring even more disturbing bestial images --- and even worse writing.

Thanks to Hilzoy at Obsidion Wings for that coup de grace. She shall burn in hell for making me read that.


Update: Oh. My. Dear. God. This peanut butter thing is part of the whole Abu Ghraib horror. Read Jeanne D'Arc.



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Stop By And Say Hi

by digby


This is a great idea. Senators are all home (for what, their 6th or 7th break of the year?) and are going to be hearing from their constituents. It would be very effective if any of you in cities or towns where your Democratic senator has an office, to walk in and have a little chat with the staff (or the Senator if he or she is around) about how you would like them to support Feingold's censure motion. Give them the personal touch.

You could also call and find out if your senator has any public appearances --- town hall meetings or such -- where you could go and have a nice chat about how you think it's important to support Feingold because the country needs to know that Democrats don't endorse breaking the law --- and don't think that any president has a right or a necessity to do it, even in a time of war. You know, just remind our elected representatives what Democrats actually stand for.

Read Glenn's post for pointers on how to make the argument.



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Lil Benji, Day 3

by digby

I think it's awfully of interesting that the Washington Post hired a 24 year old ex-Bush staffer, whose daddy (also a Bush staffer) was in charge of the making sure Abramoff got what he wanted. (Wasn't the entire Deborah Howell flap about the shoddy Abramoff coverage in the first place?)

Josh Marshall has the scoop:

You see, it turns out the Domenech family came in for a number of Bush administration appointments. Not only Ben, but Ben's dad, Doug, who was White House liaison to the Department of Interior.

Or to put it more colloquially, White House guy to make sure Jack Abramoff got what he wanted with the Indians and the Pacific Island stuff.

Wayne Smith was the point man for Indian casino policy at the Department of Interior. He ended up having kind of a rough ride over at Interior. And, according to Smith, as reported last year in the Denver Post, Domenech told him "we had to pay attention to [Jack] Abramoff, because otherwise the religious right and (Ralph) Reed are going to come up and bite us, and our whole base will go crazy. They will light up our phones, shut down our phone lines."

According to Smith, Domenech was the conduit for Abramoff operative Italia Federici. Said Smith: "Doug would come down and say, 'Italia called and Jack wants this' That's how it all happened internally."


Oh my. He's not just "involved." He's in it up to his eyeballs.


Here's our new writer for the Washington Post, back when he was "Augustine" on Red State, writing about how the Republicans are actually the party of ethics (not that Abramoff is really that bad of a guy.)The "do what's right Republicans" need to flush the system of the "do as you're told Republicans." Looks like Dad is one of those "do as you're told" guys. Oooops.

(Are we dealing with another one of those weird Republican father-son deals again? Haven't we had enough of that these last five years? I even hear the kid has a Henry V obsession. Of course, that's better than a "Red Dawn" obsession, but still.)

I think this may have been a poignant, if weak, defense of dear old Dad:


Oh please By: Augustine

That's bullcrap. Abramoff boasted of being an insider at EVERY agency, not just Interior. Because he lied to his clients, we're supposed to believe that he actually had any effect on policy? Please.

Norton is hated by environuts, for good reason: she got more done on environmental issues than anyone else has since James Watt.


That's sweet. Just because his father was up to his eyeballs in Abramoff's deals at interior doesn't mean that Abramoff actually had any effect on policy.

Besides, Dad knew it was just about keeping the "wackos" in the base happy, see. The forced childbirth fanatics, for instance. Like his own son.

And I'm sure others have already found the most intriguing "Augustine" post --- the one that probably brought him to the attention of the people who evidently hate Froomkin at his place of employment:


If one spends any amount of time reading the columns of washingtonpost.com's Dan Froomkin - whose status as leader of the hack is without compare - it's easy to realize that, on any given day, the cut and paste function has to be a tiring chore. Every day, it's use the same template, find a new reason to hate. "Bush is a liar because X." "The President is a fool because X." "The White House wants to kill your child's pet because X." Etc. He has his crowd, and he plays to it.


Coming from a little boy who calls Coretta Scott King a communist on the day of her funeral, that seems a little bit much, don't you think?


Jim Brady and John Harris: Happy at last.


Update: Jane says "fly little wingnut fly" and sends Jim Brady a personal thank you note. I agree that Lil' Benji is going to be the gift that just keeps on giving.


UpdateII: For those of you who don't read wingnut talk fluently, Publius at LawandPolitics was kind enough to translate Lil' Benji's first post.



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The Anti-Pleasure Brigade

by tristero

Ampersand makes a good case that the anti-choice gang's statements are less consistent with a moral opposition to abortion than they are with a desire to punish women for having sex. This reminded me of a response Digby got recently:
Digby makes the wisecrack about her not having sex. I can only take from his comment, that he is like so many other's of the same ilk who believe we're all like jungle animals and have to hump when the mood strikes. Of course, that isn't the case. People don't walk down the street and just bump into each other and start screwing (unless it's a Cinemax movie). We have the mental capacity to be able to take care of such business in private. We also have the ability to abstain. Nothing is going to happen to us if we don't have sex.

And if you're in a position like this woman, a low paying job and two kids already. Guess what? Don't fuck.
This is not the attitude of a person opposed to abortion, but of someone who doesn't want women to have access to pleasure. If he was merely opposed to abortion and only abortion, he would have written, "If you're in a position like this woman, a low paying job and two kids already, guess what? You and your partner damn well better use good contraception or get your tubes tied or be prepared to accept the consequences of raising a third kid."

But no, it's either/or to this guy. Either you have sex or you don't. He lives in a world where there is no morally acceptable way to use condoms, birth control pills, diaphragms, or any other effective means to enjoy sexual activity without the potential for procreation.

It is insane to call these people "pro-life." If they are pro anything, it is pro-misery. They wish to make everyone's lives, especially women's, as dreary, as guilt-ridden, and as fearful as possible. Unless you do exactly as we say and especially, don't fuck, you will be hounded by furies, and we are only too willing to be those furies. And if you're not happy following our "God-given" orders for a moral life (an outrageous, blasphemous lie), if you don't love raising that third or fourth kid you really don't want, or enduring a grim, neutered existence stripped of all potential for pleasure and joy, hey don't blame us. That's your problem.

Fortunately, there is an alternative to this sickening, cramped, and phony worldview. It is called liberalism, which holds, as one of its self-evident truths, that human beings have a right to the pursuit of happiness.
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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

 
Al's Vision

by digby


I will always have a great fondness for Al Gore. In 2000 I watched him get trashed by a ruthless Right Wing Noise Machine and a sophomoric press corps who were determined to punish him for Clinton's sins (which only they and the very right wing of the Republican party felt required punishment in the first place.) It was one of the most god-awful displays of character assassination we've ever seen --- and the way it ended, with the Republicans pulling every lever of brute institutional power they had to seize the office, had to have been a terrible, dispiriting event. I know how bad I felt. I can only imagine the searing disappointment he must have endured.

But what seems to have happened to him in the aftermath is quite inspiring. Rising from the ashes of his defeat, he has come back to be an authentic, inspiring voice for progressive thought. I suspect that when you have been publicly cheated out of something so huge, you figure nothing in your public life could ever hurt you again.

It turns out that Gore took exactly the right lessons from his defeat and has focused his attentions not only on the vapid bloodlessness that has become the Democratic approach to politics -- but he has also focused on the primary instrument of his demise: the establishment media.

In a fascinating cover article in The American Prospect, called The New, New Gore, Ezra Klein uncovers what's up with Al Gore's new media obsession and what he's really doing with that TV network he started. Unsurprisingly, the guy who invented the internets, has a lot of ideas about the future. Check it out.



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A New Goldberg Is Born

by digby


Like his progenitor, Jonah Goldberg, this new "Red State" blogger at the Washington Post proves that conservatives should never, ever (EVER) discuss popular culture. They are in over their heads and it always makes them look very foolish.

He pontificates at length about the fact that his allegedly liberal bosses (Jim Brady???) didn't know the ultimate, totally awesome, awesomliness of the film "Red Dawn." In his world this movie is what they call "cool."

Back here on planet earth, it's what 10 year olds call "cool," and everybody else calls "camp." It would be the equivalent of Left Wingers revering "Wild In The Streets" for its serious political message.

I'm with Brad DeLong. This is going to be fun.
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A Great Honor Has Been Conferred

by tristero

Apparently, I have become the
first person officially banned by Jeff Goldstein from commenting on his site. He cites as one of his main reasons that I tried to solicit a blowjob from his dog. At least that's what I think he said, it's kinda hard to tell with poor Jeff.

For the record, I want to state categorically I did no such thing (and what is it about rightwing nuts and their obsessions with man-on-dog?). I never met his dog and have no interest in doing so. Everyone knows I have far more kinky...proclivities.

Now we're talkin' hot, Jeff.

Tx to Kevin K. in comments for the heads up.
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Bad News And Good News From Iraq

by tristero

Looks like the Iraqi police cannot protect themselves. Eighteen police officers died - eighteen! - when a police station - a police station! - was attacked.

But, as Tom Friedman says, where some see lemon, others see lemonade. The good news is that at least some business is thriving in Iraq: terrorism insurance. Now there's a racket...sorry, career with a bright future.
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Amy Sullivan Redux

by tristero

Amy Sullivan responded, and graciously, to my open letter to her. Here are some excerpts, posted with her permission (spelling hers):
... It is good and right to criticize wacked-out crazy conservative religious beliefs. Yes, it is. If you follow *all* of my writing--not just the stuff that gets people hopped up--I do in fact critize all of those guys. Often. But you don't say,"Boy, I hate that George Bush because he talks about Jesus all the time." Or, "Man, the whole idea of faith-based initiatives is just religious crap." Or, "We have a theocracy because Bush went into Iraq and that's what the apocolyptic crazy Christian nuts want him to do."

You say, "Bush can talk about Jesus all he wants, but he can't base his policies on religion and he has to explain why he's bringing religion into political debate." And, "The faith-based initiative is a political sham; Bush hasn't put any money into it because he doesn't actually want to help poor people." And, "Bush was wrong to go into Iraq, and those apocolyptic people are crazy, but those are two separate things."

It may sound like I'm splitting hairs, but I'm not. If you don't delineate, it's easy for people to dismiss you because it's sounds like you're being reflexively anti-religion. And it makes it harder for you to have any credibility when you do go after them for trying to recruit churches to do GOP campaign work or for giving Dobson a say in picking justices or for wrapping themselves in the Christian flag without living up to any of the social gospel principles in the Bible.

In the sentence directly after the one you quoted, I went on to say that it's perfectly appropriate to criticize them and I think that should happen. But I think people need to recognize that everything we say and do is scrutinized for evidence of religious hostility. That's reality. So be smart about it. Give thoughtful religious moderates a reason to say, "Yeah, they're right. These guys are a bunch of hypocrites. I belong over there instead." Not, "Boy, those guys seem to hate people like me." Because they're NOT all fundamentalists.
Her point is clear and it's one I, too, have made: focus your rhetoric. She's right about that general point. There are just a few problems with her own rhetoric.

First, aside from a few village atheists with absolutely zero political power, like a few bloggers and commenters, no one has said any of the things she deplores. So I have to ask directly: Amy, who exactly among the important Democrats or commenters has made these kinds of intemperate comments? Where has, to use your earlier examples, Kevin Phillips or Bill Moyers talked that way?

Secondly, it is not the religious moderates in either party that provoke criticism. It is the genuine apocalyptic loons in the Republican party that have all of us, including Amy herself, alarmed. The serious problem, which Amy finesses, is that these people are in positions of immense power. In fact, the must-read article Amy references makes this abundantly clear. Brownback was appointed by Frist, himself a radical christianist as his remarks on AIDS, abortion, and Schiavo make abundantly clear. Brownback was influenced by Charles Colson, prays with Ed Meese. The man who mentored Pat Robertson has the power to send an envoy to the president of the United States to remind him to be more christianist.

Furthermore, the article describes what can only be characterized as a very serious and very secretive 25 year plus attempt to overthrow the Constitution of the United States and replace it with a theocracy, a conspiracy between Catholic and Protestant christianists (a "co-belligerency") which, if they were, say communists and socialists, could only be described as treason.

Amy thinks there is no theocracy in the US and that Bush doesn't want one. She's right and she's wrong, respectively. There is still religious toleration, but over the course of his career Bush has let slip several comments, about Jews for instance, that reveal his desire. The seriousness of what is going seems to escape her. Amy apparently misunderstands what is meant by the phrase "religious freedom" (as may Sharlet himself) when used by Brownback and his ugly ilk. She tends to think that this means that genuine Christians feel oppressed by a secularist society that is arrayed against them. Not so. "Religious freedom" is a term Rushdoony uses in "The Roots of Reconstruction" as an explict synonym for a christianist theocracy.*

No one has a problem with Colin Powell's expression of religious beliefs. Or Christie Whitman's. Or Chuck Hagel's. And so on. Unfortunately, they are not at the very top of the Republican Party and the people who *are* are theocrats (political) as well as fanatics (religious). Yes, indeed, we need to hone our rhetoric. But not for a moment must we forget who these people are. Nor can we minimize their extremism. That is a serious mistake, and that is the mistake Amy makes when she criticizes "the left" for allegedly going after religious people when, in fact, that simply is not the case in the mainstream discourse.

[*Update: I am not, for a moment, suggesting that Bush subcribes to Dominionism or Christian Reconstruction. What I am asserting, and hope to demonstrate in some future posts, is that Reconstructionist objectives and language pervades the discourse of the radical right christianists, that Reconstructionist influence is direct via extensive associations with other sects and cults, such as Robertson's and Dobson's and that major effort is being expended to minimize these associations and to hide them from wider scrutiny. Bush desires a theocracy, it is true, but he is neither intellectually, morally, or emotionally equipped to understand or advocate pure Reconstructionist thought. He does, however, share many of the same obsessions and use many of the same tactics.]
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Monday, March 20, 2006

 
Jessica T. Mathews On Iran

by tristero

Jessica T. Mathews, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, advocated "coerced inspections" of Iraq as an alternative to invasion and conquest. Time and again, she and other CEIP members warned against the dangerous illusion of forcing democracy at the point of a gun. In short, she and CEIP were among the majority of the world who needed to be taught no lessons on the perils of naive idealism (a la George Packer and the other liberal hawks), far right militarism (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al), or reality-deficient neo-conservatism (Wolfowitz, Kristol, etc).

There isn't a chance in hell that the Bush administration will take what Jessica T. Mathews has to say about Iran seriously. But, by God, you should, and so should anyone who cares about constructing a sensible alternative to the slow-motion slide into nuclear catastrophe that is the current American foreign policy:
The administration must, finally, hold its nose and recognize that the nuclear challenge is the indisputable priority. It must get off the sidelines and into negotiations with Tehran. It must solidify agreement among its fellow permanent [United Nations security] council members by working closely with Russia, not least by concluding a long overdue pact on civil nuclear cooperation. Russian participation would make it possible to provide Iran with a credible international guarantee of uranium enrichment and reprocessing services.

With China and the others, the United States needs to make clear that the Security Council can resort to other steps besides economic sanctions to significantly raise the cost to Tehran of its continued defiance, beginning with making International Atomic Energy Agency inspections mandatory rather than voluntary.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (and her fellow foreign ministers from the council's permanent members) should be flying to Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa and other leading countries of the G-77 to explain why Iran is wrong to claim that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty gives it the "right" to enrich uranium, and why Iran's abuse of the treaty devalues each of their commitments to give up nuclear weapons.

Given the American record with Iraq and Iran, others will be skeptical that Washington has made a clear choice for nonproliferation and away from regime change. The message will have to be steady and unequivocal. If President Bush and Secretary Rice continue to say one thing and Vice President Dick Cheney and our ambassador to the United Nations, John R. Bolton, say another, the effort will quickly fail.

Members of Congress have a direct responsibility as well. Only they — especially the Democrats — can make such a policy change possible. They will have to forgo the indulgence of slamming the administration from the right and currying favor with pro-Israel voters by vying to see who can be the most anti-Iranian.*

All of this, and more, is what serious anti-nuclear diplomacy would look like. It has not yet been tried. Anyone who promotes the use of military force from the present position of American indecision and before the obvious political steps have been taken is repeating the error that led us into Iraq.

The international community's record on Iran's nuclear program (as on North Korea's) has been feckless. Only the United States can change that. If we fail to pursue this effort with unwavering, clear-minded diplomacy, a nuclear-armed world will be the Bush administration's chief legacy, no matter how the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism turn out.
Open memo to Kevin Drum and Matthew Yglesias: You all but dismissed Mathews in 2002/03. This time, boys, listen up. Once again, she's absolutely right.

[UPDATE: The talks have not been going well. But apparently, they will continue.]

* Note to right-wingers, especially neo-conservatives: Jessica Tuchman Mathews is the daughter of Barbara Tuchman. Yes, THE Barbara Tuchman. This means that in addition to having one helluva brilliant mom, Mathews' background is Jewish. So don't even begin to try accusing her of anti-semitism merely because she places America's interests above those of Richard Perle's far right business friends in Israel.
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Why We've Got His Back

by digby

Russ Feingold appeared on Charlie Rose and I suspect it may be what forced Bill Kristol to admit that he was "an impressive politician" who made the case very effectively.

Crooks and Liars has the video and I urge you to watch it all. He has his finger on the pulse of the Democratic base --- which, by the way, represents the new majority.

Here's a short excerpt. When Charlie asked about all the pearl clutching about his censure motions among the beltway courtiers, he replied:


Shades of October 2002. These are the same pundits, consultants, and spin miesters who said you've gotta vote for the Iraq war or George Bush is going to hang you out to dry and he's gonna show that you don't care about the troops and you don't care about the fight against terrorism.

They pull it every time. And the Democratic insiders in Washington and the consultants fall for it every time. They don't realize that the thing that bugs people about the Democratic party right now is that we don't seem to stand strongly enough for what we believe in.

How can we be afraid at this point, of standing up to a president who has clearly mismanaged this Iraq war, who clearly made one of the largest blunders in American foreign policy history? How can it be that this party wants to stand back and allow this kind of thing to happen?

And then add to that the idea that the president has clearly broken the law --- and a number of Republican senators have effectively admitted that, by saying "you know, we need this program so let's make it legal," --- so they are admitting it's illegal.

The idea that Democrats don't think it's a winning thing to say that we will stand up for the rule of law and for checking abuse of power by the executive --- I just can't believe that Democrats don't think that isn't something, not only that we can win on, but it does, in fact, make the base of our party, which is so important, feel much better about the Democrats. The Republicans care deeply about making the base of their party feels energized. What about the people of our party who believe in the Democratic Party especially because they fight for the American values of standing up for our rights and civil liberties?



Word.


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Bad Arguments 101

by digby


I just heard someone say "they've been calling it a quagmire for years!"



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Hoisting The Sail

by digby

There is no more reliable arbiter of beltway conventional wisdom than Cokie Roberts. Her entire career has been built on the idea that she knows what the establishment is thinking (which the establishment then inexplicably twists into what "the people" are thinking.) She has spent her life in Washington DC and is as much a part of the firmament as the Arlington cemetary. When she speaks, the poobahs have issued an verdict. This morning on NPR she said this:


Democrats are enjoying their miseries. Jack Reed of Rhode Island said to me this week-end "we have a strong wind at our back and all we have to do is get a sail up, any sail, some sail" but they haven't managed to do that yet.

They were interested to see how Senator Russ Feingold's call for censure worked with the blogosphere, mainly, and also in polls. Because Democrats backed away from his call just dramatically, even Democrats like Nancy Pelosi of California didn't want anything to do with it. But a Newsweek poll out today shows 42% of the people supporting censure including 20% of Republicans. So Democrats are feeling pretty good about where they are in all this.


Apparently the establishment needed some numbers in order to know what to think. OK. As I wrote earlier, I think some of our leaders' natural political instincts have been hobbled by an over-reliance on strategists and pundits. But I would remind the courtier class who are advising the Democrats of what Bill Kristol said this week-end: politics is not just about running on issues people already agree with, it is trying to change public opinion. Somebody had to jump start the debate about the president's theory of presidential infallibility and abuse of power. It's a huge issue to millions of Americans and it's vital that politicians of both parties recognize this.

The Newsweek poll says that 53% of the people believe it is a political ploy, but I suspect that there are more than a few Democrats within that number who are vastly relieved to see a Democrat with enough imagination to try to seize the debate and change public opinion. One can call it a political ploy (although Fiengold is one of the few guys in the congress with a real reputation for integrity) but to the base it's a political ploy in service of bedrock principle. Democrats cannot pass legislation. They cannot force the president to change his Iraq policy. They don't have the power to call hearings or subpeona witnesses. Even when they have hearings, the Republican chairmen refuse to put the witnesses under oath.

Political ploys are the only way the minority can make its voice heard. I have the cable blathering on in the backround most days, much of the time tuned to C-Span. There are dozens of press conferences held each week on both sides of the aisle. It's is a very rare one that anybody sees or hears. This is no way to get your message out.

I have no idea how many people might have favored censure before Feingold put it out there. But it's amazing that without any prior discussion at all, this large minority, including a large chunk of Republicans, were ready to agree with his motion. Or perhaps it isn't so amazing. Kos reminds us this morning:

The Alito filibuster was supposed to be a disaster for Democrats. Somehow, their numbers didn't suffer. Murtha was going to kill Dems by making them "look weak on defense". But somehow, people seem to agree with him. Now, Feingold's censure resolution is supposed to be a disaster for Democrats. Yet if that was the case, why are Republicans reacting so virulently against it? Bill Kristol admits the censure motion is hurting Bush. Meanwhile, Brit Hume's head exploded at the resolution. Not the action of a man confident that Feingold is hurting the Democratic Party.


That's because they know that these things aren't hurting the Democratic party. The only party hurting right now is the Republican party.

People want to know what Democratic base really stands for? The same thing that the majority of the country stands for. We believe in the rule of law, civil liberties, civil rights and supporting the troops --- all of those things are embodied in the Alito filibuster motion, the Feingold NSA wiretapping resolution and the Murtha plan. None of them were done out of an expectation that they would win passage in the congress or force the president to change course. These actions, regardless of motive, have laid down the stakes in the next election, which is why Brit Hume had an aneurysm about the proposition that the NSA wiretapping issue might actually play to the benefit of Democrats.

If that's so, then it's true that Republicans are going to be in for a tough time under a Democratic congress. People need to prepare for the fact that accountability is going to be on the menu. Nobody is going to be impeached over silly blow-jobs but there are some very serious matters that the Republican congress has refused to deal with. If that stirs up the GOP base, then fine. It stirs up the Democratic base too.

In any case, the Republicans are going to move their base anyway, so there's no margin in worrying about it. (Via Joe Gandelman) I see that Fred Barnes reports that aside from the usual labeling of Democrats as traitors and cowards, the Republicans are planning to begin another assault on civil liberties in order to turn out their conservative Christian voters.

There's another part of the 2006 Republican strategy. This spring and summer, Republican leaders in the Senate and House plan to bring up a series of issues that are popular with the Republican base of voters. The aim is to stir conservative voters and spur turnout in the November election. Just last week, House Majority Leader John Boehner and Whip Roy Blunt met with leaders of conservative groups to talk about these issues.

House Republicans, for their part, intend to seek votes on measures such as the Bush-backed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, a bill allowing more public expression of religion, another requiring parental consent for women under 18 to get an abortion, legislation to bar all federal courts except the Supreme Court from ruling on the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance, a bill to outlaw human cloning, and another that would require doctors to consider fetal pain before performing an abortion.


I assume that it will be successful with those voters, too. They tend to be very supportive of the party that articulates their views, and everyone agrees that they form an important component of the Republican base. The Republicans know what they are doing with this. They have a very sophisticated GOTV effort that significantly outperformed the Democrats in 2004:

It is ... particularly disturbing that while both Republican and Independent turnout increased sizably from 2000 to 2004, Democratic turnout remained flat. We may have helped move a lot of unlikely voters, but we did not mobilize our base nearly as well as Republicans did.


Mid-terms are turn-out elections. It's always lower than the presidential years. The Alito filibuster motion, the Murtha withdrawal plan and the Feingold resolution all serve to shake up the establishment and public opinion. But they also send a message to the base of the Democratic party that the party hears their concerns. The establishment at large can take them for granted if they choose. The Republicans won't take their base for granted. They never do.



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The Moussaoui Memo

by tristero

Here's a reminder in case the Bush epoch has caused you to forget why you need a competent, knowledgeable administration and not a bunch of ignorant fools and top officials who value faith over facts. Someone has to make sure the right dots are getting connected. During the spring/summer of 2001, that did not happen:
"Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, Clarke wrote, scowled and asked, 'why we are beginning by talking about this one man, bin Laden.' When Clarke told him no foe but al Qaeda 'poses an immediate and serious threat to the United States,' Wolfowitz is said to have replied that Iraqi terrorism posed 'at least as much' of a danger. FBI and CIA representatives backed Clarke in saying they had no such evidence.

'I could hardly believe,' Clarke writes, that Wolfowitz pressed the 'totally discredited' theory that Iraq was behind the 1993 truck bomb at the World Trade Center, 'a theory that had been investigated for years and found to be totally untrue.'"
And sure enough, when your leaders are total morons, that leads to a clear pattern of inexcusable neglect and wasted effort:
The FBI agent who arrested Zacarias Moussaoui in August 2001 accused headquarters of criminal negligence for its refusal to investigate Moussaoui aggressively after his arrest, according to court testimony Monday.

Agent Harry Samit testified under cross-examination at Moussaoui's trial that FBI headquarters' refusal to follow up "prevented a serious opportunity to stop the 9/11 attacks" that killed nearly 3,000 people.

...

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Edward MacMahon, Samit acknowledged that he predicted in an Aug. 18, 2001, memo that Moussaoui was a radical Islamic terrorist in a criminal conspiracy to hijack aircraft. Moussaoui ended up pleading guilty to two specific counts that Samit had explicitly predicted in his Aug. 18 memo.

Despite Samit's urgent pleadings, FBI headquarters refused to open a criminal investigation and refused Samit's entreaties to obtain a search warrant.


"You needed people in Washington to help you out?" MacMahon asked.

"Yes," Samit said.

"They didn't do that, did they?"

Samit said no.

He confirmed under questioning that he had attributed FBI inaction to "obstructionism, criminal negligence and careerism" in an earlier report.
It makes me sick to read about this. How do these people sleep at night?
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update below

He Takes Questions

by digby

Someone finally asked George W. Bush the one question I've been wanting someone to ask since 9/11:

"Do you believe terrorism and the war in Iraq are signs of Armageddon?"

He sputtered and blinked, the audience laughed and he said: "I've never really thought about it that way" and "this is the first of heard of that, by the way." And then he blathered on with his usual incoherent boilerplate, making no further reference to it openly or in religious codes speak, except to the extent he said we would militarily defend our ally Israel. I wonder how the Bosh loving legions of the Christian Right feel about that?

The questioning was quite pointed and he didn't much like it, practically begging part of the way through for it to be over. ("How long do you people do questions around here?" and "Doesn't anybody work in this town?")

He claimed that he'd never said that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11. Where did people get the idea that it was, do you suppose?


Posted 9/6/2003

Poll: 70% believe Saddam, 9-11 link



I believe that he majored in history at Yale, which is something that Yale should be very concerned with in terms of recruitment. His understanding of 20th century European history comes in at about fifth grade level.

He has said that his job is "to protect you" about 50 times. Does anyone find this paternalistic "I will protect you" stuff as creepy as I do? I thought Americans were supposed to be self reliant. I think Democrats ought to consider saying that "the president doesn't protect the American people all by himself. He isn't our father or our nanny. The American people, working together, protect our country."

What's the difference between Iraq and Iran? With Iraq there were 16 UN resolutions. (Of course, the invasion resolution to actually invade didn't pass, but who's counting?) Apparently, invading Iran is just a matter of getting the paperwork in order.

I did enjoy the question about domestic policy in which the questioner said that American children were facing "terrorists" in the streets every day. And then mentioned the images from Katrina and poverty and wondered what Bush was going to do about it? What do you suppose he was talking about?

His adolescent sense of humor seems more and more out of place considering the state of the world --- and his presidency. People still laugh, but it is awkward now.

When it was over he looked like he really, really needed a drink.

Oh and in case you haven't heard, we're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here, the oceans don't protect us anymore, we have an enemy that hides in cave and 9/11 changed everything. And his job is to make decisions and protect us.


Update: Jonathan Schwartz at A Tiny Revolution noticed a few months ago that Bush's desire to protect us is very similar to Saddam's professed desire to protect the Iraqi people. It's one of those "I'm doing this for your own good, it hurts me more than it hurts you" kind of deals. no wonder I find it so creepy.


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Paint It Black

by tristero

Welcome to another Monday in Bushland. Let's catch up on two recent minor little incidents you may have missed celebrating three years of success in Iraq. What prevents either of them from being characterized a scandal of nation-shaking proportions should be patently obvious by now: neither involved, as far as we know, coitus per os.

The Black Room:
The new account reveals the extent to which the unit members mistreated prisoners months before and after the photographs of abuse from Abu Ghraib were made public in April 2004, and it helps belie the original Pentagon assertions that abuse was confined to a small number of rogue reservists at Abu Ghraib.
And Black Bag Jobs:
n December, the New York Times disclosed the NSA's warrantless electronic surveillance program, resulting in an angry reaction from President Bush. It has not previously been disclosed, however, that administration lawyers had cited the same legal authority to justify warrantless physical searches. But in a little-noticed white paper submitted by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to Congress on January 19 justifying the legality of the NSA eavesdropping, Justice Department lawyers made a tacit case that President Bush also has the inherent authority to order such physical searches. In order to fulfill his duties as commander in chief, the 42-page white paper says, "a consistent understanding has developed that the president has inherent constitutional authority to conduct warrantless searches and surveillance within the United States for foreign intelligence purposes."

...

It could not be learned whether the Bush administration has cited the legal authority to carry out such searches. A former marine, Mueller has waged a quiet, behind-the-scenes battle since 9/11 to protect his special agents from legal jeopardy as a result of aggressive new investigative tactics backed by the White House and the Justice Department, government officials say. During Senate testimony about the NSA surveillance program, however, Gonzales was at pains to avoid answering questions about any warrantless physical surveillance activity that may have been authorized by the Justice Department.

...

At least one defense attorney representing a subject of a terrorism investigation believes he was the target of warrantless clandestine searches. On Sept. 23, 2005--nearly three months before the Times broke the NSA story--Thomas Nelson wrote to U.S. Attorney Karin Immergut in Oregon that in the previous nine months, "I and others have seen strong indications that my office and my home have been the target of clandestine searches." In an interview, Nelson said he believes that the searches resulted from the fact that FBI agents accidentally gave his client classified documents and were trying to retrieve them. Nelson's client is Soliman al-Buthe, codirector of a now defunct charity named al-Haramain, who was indicted in 2004 for illegally taking charitable donations out of the country. The feds also froze the charity's assets, alleging ties to Osama bin Laden. The documents that were given to him, Nelson says, may prove that al-Buthe was the target of the NSA surveillance program.
The searches, if they occurred, were anything but deft. Late at night on two occasions, Nelson's colleague Jonathan Norling noticed a heavyset, middle-aged, non-Hispanic white man claiming to be a member of an otherwise all-Hispanic cleaning crew, wearing an apron and a badge and toting a vacuum. But, says Norling, "it was clear the vacuum was not moving." Three months later, the same man, waving a brillo pad, spent some time trying to open Nelson's locked office door, Norling says. Nelson's wife and son, meanwhile, repeatedly called their home security company asking why their alarm system seemed to keep malfunctioning. The company could find no fault with the system.

In October, Immergut wrote to Nelson reassuring him that the FBI would not target terrorism suspects' lawyers without warrants and, even then, only "under the most exceptional circumstances," because the government takes attorney-client relationships "extremely seriously." Nelson nevertheless filed requests, under the Freedom of Information Act, with the NSA. The agency's director of policy, Louis Giles, wrote back, saying, "The fact of the existence or nonexistence of responsive records is a currently and properly classified matter."

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Sunday, March 19, 2006

 
Liberal Bias In The Washington Post

by tristero

Propagating secularist creation myths:.
Scientists said yesterday they have found the best evidence yet supporting the theory that about 13.7 billion years ago, the universe suddenly expanded from the size of a marble to the size of the cosmos in less than a trillionth of a second.
And not a word of balance from the other side, as if the sincere faith of millions of Americans in a Christian God didn't matter at all to the Post's editors.

I just hate it when the media reports carefully vetted scientific data as fact and not as just one of many valid points of view. I'm not asking for them to ignore the opinions of these so-called scientists, but they really should report the fact there's a lot of controversy about whether this kind of evidence is valid. LIke, were you there, huh, Mr. Hotshot Washington Post? As if this ludicrous nonsense - a marble blows up like a baloon to become the entire universe in a trillionth of a second - is more plausible than Genesis? Give me a break!

Have some scepticism, people!
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Changing Public Opinion

by digby

John Amato has the video up of Brit Hume having a hyperventilating hissy fit this morning on Fox news at Bill Kristol's assertion that Feingold's motion is good for Democrats. Wow.

Brit seemed unusually concerned that Mara Liasson, Bill Kristol and Juan Williams all indicated that Feingold's move was either principled or good politics (or both) didn't he? And then he went completely ballistic when Juan Williams challenged his misleading assertion that the public is "surprisingly" "astonishingly" "overwhelmingly" in favor when asked "should we listen in on al Qaeda communications in the U.S." --- by pointing out that it's the illegality of the program that concerns people.

Hmmm. Brit's a bit emotional on this issue. In fact, he sounded downright defensive about it, which is very puzzling. The last I heard, this was great for Republicans, Democrats look silly, they're rallying the GOP base and alienating the middle. Just yesterday it seems I'd heard that Feingold is going to cost the Democrats the election. Why get so upset when everyone who's anyone agrees that this is NSA wiretapping is such a winner for the Republicans?

Now, you don't suppose that the Republicans have been bluffing about this issue, do you? It's a coincidence, I'm sure that they cracked the whip on Lincoln Chafee who's running in an extremely anti-Bush state. They can't worried that those numbers that show 25% percent of Republicans favor censure mean that this thing could actually motivate Democrats more than Republicans in the fall, can they?

Nah. He just had a little too much coffee this morning.

I think it's worthwhile to note what Bill Kristol said after Brit's little tirade:

This is smart for the Democratic Party. It is going straight at a strength of president Bush. You don't get into politics only to play at issues where you already have public opinion on your side. He's trying to change public opinion. I disagree with it, and I hope he doesn't succeed, but he's making the case that it's illegal, he's going to have editorial pages backing him up, and the Republicans are just whining that "oooh he's just trying to censure the president." They aren't making a substantive defense of the program.


It's a tough defense to make, once you start getting into the legality of it, as Hume's sputtering anger showed.

When one party is as unpopular as the president the the Republicans are now, the public is open to hearing things they haven't been willing to hear in a long time. Our polarized electorate suddenly isn't so polarized anymore, even though the gasbags refuse to admit it. For the first time in a long time, some people are willing to give our side a listen. It is vitally important that the Democrats use this opportunity to draw the country back from the hysteria that overtook it after 9/11, an emotional conflagration stoked by an opportunistic administration and a slavering media. That hysteria permitted them to normalize preventive war, torture and kidnapping --- and assert a radical, unconstitutional view of the role of the president in our government, none of which the country signed on to because it was all done in secret. This simply has to stop, and people need to start seeing Democrats stand up and declare "enough is enough."

There has never been a greater time or a greater hunger for our political leadershihp to offer a straightforward, principled way back from the feeling that the country is hurtling out of control. The censure motion puts out a marker that the end of this wild ride is almost over.


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Please Steal From MORE Of My Posts! I Don't Mind In The Slightest!

by tristero

Sorry, folks. I just can't resist. Jennifer Loven of AP today (March 19, 2006):
"Some look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude that the war is lost and not worth another dime or another day," President Bush said recently.

Another time he said, "Some say that if you're Muslim you can't be free."

"There are some really decent people," the president said earlier this year, "who believe that the federal government ought to be the decider of health care ... for all people."

Of course, hardly anyone in mainstream political debate has made such assertions.

When the president starts a sentence with "some say" or offers up what "some in Washington" believe, as he is doing more often these days, a rhetorical retort almost assuredly follows.

The device usually is code for Democrats or other White House opponents. In describing what they advocate, Bush often omits an important nuance or substitutes an extreme stance that bears little resemblance to their actual position.

He typically then says he "strongly disagrees" — conveniently knocking down a straw man of his own making.

...

Because the "some" often go unnamed, Bush can argue that his statements are true in an era of blogs and talk radio. Even so, "'some' suggests a number much larger than is actually out there," said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

A specialist in presidential rhetoric, Wayne Fields of Washington University in St. Louis, views it as "a bizarre kind of double talk" that abuses the rules of legitimate discussion.
Tristero, January 17, 2003:
Here is a three sentence excerpt of what he [Bush] actually said in that speech:
[T]here are some who would like to rewrite history -- revisionist historians is what I like to call them. Saddam Hussein was a threat to America and the free world in '91, in '98, in 2003. He continually ignored the demands of the free world, so the United States and friends and allies acted.
This short phrase is packed with a breathtaking array of logical fallacies, grammatical errors, lies by omission, distortions, and grotesquely unfair attacks. The most egregious tactic is, of course, projection . As Bush rewrites the WMD search out of history, he has the unmitigated gall to accuse his opponents of rewriting history.

Bush also uses personalization here: 'revisionist historians is what I like to call them.' In a very interesting article in The Nation this week, Renana Brooks discusses the extraordinary amount that Bush personalizes. While The Nation article is not available online, a similar article on Brooks's website notes that personalization is the 'hallmark' of an abusive personality. And, Brooks notes, Bush uses personalization all the time, for example in his speech to Congress immediately post 9/11: 'I will not falter, I will not tire, I will not fail.'

In addtion, Bush employs one of his favorite constructions in the above quote: 'There are some who...' Usually, Bush uses the 'some who' technique merely to exaggerate an opponent's position (the straw man) as ,for example, here, regarding tax cuts: 'Some members of Congress support tax relief but say my proposal is too big' . It is rather rare for Bush to combine the straw man with projection, and for good reason. The purpose of a straw man is to create an easily refuted argument. If that straw man is, in fact, a projection of your own position, you are saying that your argument is incredibly weak.
Also, Tristero, June 1, 2003:
And did you catch that straw man towards the end? "Some on the left, I guess are saying force in Iran..." Common Bush construction.
I'm quite serious: if you can use something I wrote in a blog, steal it. Make it your own; don't bother crediting me if you don't want to. I'm perfectly delighted! And you don't have to wait three plus years, you know.

Hat tip to Jeff at Protein Wisdom who really is exactly as Atrios describes him.

[Update: Needlenose notes that when you have arguments with non-existent people, there are some (hah hah!) who will rightly question your sanity.]

[Update: There are some - I just love it! - who think I was seriously accusing an AP reporter of slogging through my three-year-old blogposts looking for story ideas to rip off. To clarify (I hope): I'm sure she wasn't; obviously I was joking around about that. What's no joke is that, apparently, it took more than three years before someone in the MSM noticed this obsessive rhetorical tic of Bush's. If anyone knows of an earlier discussion of the "there are some who" construction, by all means lemme know. When I wrote my posts, I knew of none. I don't think even Renanna Brooks pointed to them in the Nation article I mentioned.]
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For Republicans, Bad News Is Good News. And Good News Is Good News.

by tristero

It's been blogged around, but it's too great to pass up. Jamison Foser::
...NBC's Matt Lauer made an extraordinary claim this week. Referring to Bush's approval ratings -- which seem to reach a new low every day -- Lauer asked Tim Russert:
LAUER: These approval numbers, Tim, are they in some ways a blessing in disguise for Republicans in these midterm elections? Because, basically, they can look and say, 'Look, I don't have a popular president here. I can turn my back on that president, or even oppose that president going into these elections and stem the tide of this voter anger.'
Think about that for a moment: Lauer suggests that Bush's low approval rating is a good thing for Republican candidates, because now, they can run away from him. We assume Lauer would agree that it would be a positive for Republican candidates if Bush had a high approval rating. What, then, is left? Can anything be bad news for Republicans?

...

It's about time media stop portraying every new controversy as a danger to Democrats, and start recognizing that these things are threats to Republicans: they're the people in charge of a government widely seen as incompetent and corrupt; they're the party led by a horribly unpopular president; and they're the people who pushed a soundly rejected Social Security privatization scheme. And yet, media see everything as an opportunity for them, and a danger for Democrats. Osama bin Laden may be dead? Good news for Republicans: They got bin Laden! New tapes prove bin Laden is still alive? Good news for Republicans: It reminds people of the threat of terrorism! Democrats don't criticize Bush? Good news for Republicans: Democrats are timid! Democrats do criticize Bush? Good news for Republicans: Democrats are shrill!

Enough.

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The Boundries Of Our Power

by digby

I'm glad to see Steve Clemons being quoted saying this in today's harsh Philadelphia Inquirer editorial:

Before Iraq, said Steven C. Clemons, a useful mystique surrounded the strength of the United States. Clemons heads foreign policy studies at the New America Foundation.

Rogue nations such as Iran didn't know the boundaries of our power. This blundering war of choice in Iraq has revealed them.


I've been saying this for a long time and it still seems to me to be the most salient strategic argument for not going into Iraq after 9/11. Back in February 2004 I wrote:

I get the impression from casual conversation and reading the papers that a lot of Americans understand that Junior lied to get us into Iraq, but they don't think it really hurt anything. In fact, since Saddam was a prick and it didn't really cost us much to take him out (well, except for the loss of life and the billions spent), it was a pretty good thing to do, on balance. Kicking a little butt after 9/11 probably sent a message we needed to send.

The problem with this is that they don't understand what a huge error in judgment the Iraq operation was in terms of our long term security and readiness. Nor do they understand the extent to which we damaged our alliances and how dangerous it was to blow our credibility at a time like this.

[...]


... Wes Clark and others made the argument some time ago that Iraq was a distraction from the real threat and it has been said by many that the invasion would lead to more recruitment of terrorists. And, there have been other discussions about the effects of a stretched thin military of reserves and national guard troops. But, I haven't heard any talk about what an enormous amount of damage has been done by the conscious exposure of our intelligence services as paper tigers.

Regardless of whether they hyped, sexed up or pimped out the intelligence on Iraq, the fact is that by invading Iraq the way we did and being proved complete asses now that no WMD have been discovered, one of our best defenses has been completely destroyed. It may have always been nothing but a pretense that we had hi-tech, super duper satellites with x-ray vision and all-knowing eavesdropping devices that can hear a pin drop half a world away but it was a very useful pretense. Nobody knew exactly what we were capable of. Now they do. It appears to everyone on the planet that our vaunted intelligence services couldn't find water even if they fell off of a fucking aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.

It's this kind of thing that makes really crazy wackos like Kim Jong Il make mistakes. When a hugely powerful country like the United States proves to the entire world that it is not as powerful as everyone thought, petty tyrants and ambitious generals tend to get excited. This is why mighty nations should never fight wars unless they absolutely have to. It is always better to have enemies wonder whether they are as omnipotent as they appear. They should not risk proving otherwise unless they have no choice.



The Bush administration (and frankly, many in the country) believed that it was necessary to make a strong show of force in order to deter more terrorist attacks.It didn't matter where, just that it was done. But Rumsfeld and Cheney and Wolfowitz and others who had been nurturing ever more bizarre, ivory tower theories of American power over two decades believed that it would be better to do it with fewer troops than the professionals considered necessary. Not finding WMD was never considered a serious problem, because they had never really felt it would make a difference one way or the other. Indeed, on some levels, it was better if they didn't. To prove to our enemies that even if we lie, even if we send in a handful of troops, even if we don't prepare and even if we go it alone with only Great Britain and Poland as our allies, we still win --- well, that's power.

(They have used this theory of power quite effectively in domestic politics. They prefer to win with a slight majority and then declare a great victory, rub the other side's nose in it, because it creates a sense of helplessness to constantly lose narrowly.)

Take another look at that famous comment by the anonymous Bush aide in the New York Times magazine article by Ron Susskind:

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''


This was not metaphorical. They literally believed that they could create their own reality. I don't think people really understand that. And why wouldn't they? It's what they had done for some years with great success in this country.
It's their worldview. They believe that if the act like victors, if they say they are strong, if they procalim victory --- then it's true.


The mantra on the right remains that everything changed after 9/11. (Dick Cheney said it again today.) Let's assume that's correct. If so, then undertaking this war was a recklessly dangerous experiment in psychological warfare that failed and left this country much weaker than it was before 9/11. All this money spent, all this fighting, all this messianic freedom rhetoric has actually made this country weaker than it has been at any time since the end of WWII. We have proven that we are a befuddled, undisciplined giant that allowed a radical political faction with half-baked delusions of grandeur to hijack the country. Either we make a precipitous course correction pretty soon, or the rest of the world will start banding together to get us under control.



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Liberal Boogeymen

by digby

In an otherwise uncharacteristically astute column, George Will writes:

But who, he wonders, will control the likes of Moqtada al-Sadr? Imagine, Ricks says, another cleric, the Rev. Al Sharpton, controlling the Bronx with a militia he can call into the streets at any time.


Writers at the Washington Post believe that the closest thing we Americans have to a violent radical cleric is a black liberal from godless NY city. (He didn't even have to the good graces to pick Farrakhan, for god's sake.) And here I thought liberals' biggest problem was that we didn't have enough of that old time religion.

I have news for both Ricks and Will. There are plenty of radical American clerics who I can imagine controlling large portions of the country with a well-armed militia, and none of them are black or liberal.



And why do you suppose an image of armed blacks came to mind when they wanted to evoke the boogeyman?



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We Told You So.

by tristero

Three years on, the Times finally gets it.
The last three years have shown how little our national leaders understood Iraq, and have reminded us how badly attempts at liberation from the outside have gone in the past.
We told you so. And we weren't alone. The truth is that the majority of the entire world told you so. Long before March 19, 2003, a day as infamous as Dec 7, 1941. Or September 11, 2001 for that matter.

I'll say it again. I have never felt worse about knowing I was absolutely right than I did about the March of Folly. This was a lesson only incompetents unfit for public service needed to learn.

Furthermore, it was - no, it is - inexcusable that the American press, including the New York Times, deliberately refused to report the real story of the run-up to war. They did so out of fear and out of greed. They were afraid of retaliation from the extreme-right Bush administration and their amen choirs. They were seduced with big bucks via increased ratings and sales from dramatic we-are-there imbedded coverage. There were also outright bribes.

But even if the Times now does get it, they still see fit to cut the man personally responsible for opening the Gates of Hell more slack than he deserves. They write, "Chances are that at the time George W. Bush did not have an inkling of how badly he was being served by the decision makers at the Pentagon." Bullshit. Bush knew exactly what was going on. He knew he was being fed lies. And he knew he was deliberately feeding the American public lies. Look again at The Sixteen Words, my friends, every single syllable of which was carefully crafted to lie. Look at his body language as he told that lie and all the other ones.

Nope. Bush was in on the lying and inept planning from the start. As he was with the response to Katrina and every other disaster of his administration.
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Saturday, March 18, 2006

 
X-treme Politics

by digby

I'm not trying to get back into the religion debate tonight, but I do think that while we are talking about the Democratic wackos who the pundits believe are wildly out of the mainstream with their calls for censure, we shouldtake a little peek at some of the things that are happening on the other side. Right there in Washington.

How about this group, called the Justice House of Prayer in Washington SC:


The Justice House of Prayer (JHOP) exists to raise up a house of prayer to contend with every other house that challenges the Lordship and supremacy of Christ over all affairs.

Birthed out of theCall prayer assemblies and theCause prayer initiative, the Justice House of Prayer is a community of young and old who seek to lift a continuous (24/7) cry of worship and intercession for and out of our nation’s capitol.

The primary motivation of all that is done at JHOP is to pour out our extravagant love and devotion to Jesus Christ who is worthy of all praise and adoration.

At the same time, a unique and defining characteristic of JHOP is governmental intercession as delineated by the 1 Timothy 2 mandate. True reformation, revival, and revolution in our nation will only be born out of a spiritual shift and this can only occur when we have altered the spiritual atmosphere and power structure through sustained prayer and fasting. And to that end, JHOP was established.

Months before the recent shifts in the Supreme Court, the Lord made it clear through numerous prophetic voices that the composition of the Court was about to change and that if the Church would seize the window of opportunity that had been blown open, we could see "judges restored as at the first."



Ok fine. If people want to do this, it's their right. But check out this video from the ABC's 20/20 showing the kids who come to Washington to pray 24/7. I realize that these kids are just doing the common behaviors of the charismatic churches, with the rocking, the speaking in tongues and the rest. But, no matter how much people want to pretend that this is mainstream, it ain't. Particularly since these kids come from all over the country to do this praying in Washington with the express purpose of outlawing abortion.

These are the same kids who came up with this, during the Schiavo mess:



Again, they have a perfect right to do this. But all these pundits who insist that Democrats who want the president censured for abusing his office are "extremists," need to take a closer look at the state of the nation and recognize that when it comes to extremism, the right is where the action is.


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Don't Make Trouble

by digby

Eleanor Clift has penned a column that she clearly wrote while half in the bag after playing spin the Jameson's with Chris Matthews and John McLaughlin at Bob Shrum's St Paddy's Day bash. A bigger puddle of misguided conventional wisdom I have not seen in quite some time.


Democrats must have a death wish. Just when the momentum was going against the president, Feingold pops up to toss the GOP a life raft.


*sigh* How many more years are we going to hear this tired nonsense from establishment pundits before people wake up and realize that ever since the Democrats took on this appeasment strategy they have been losing. I have written before that I was an enthusiastic New Democrat at one time --- embracing all the stuff about modernizing politics and marginalizing the "crazies" and creating a new, technocratic party where our "competence" would so dazzle the population that we could set aside all that unpleasant passion and ideology and just simply run the government "the smart way." Man, did I like the sound of that.

There was only one little problem, after we were done patting ourselves on the back for being more brilliant than everyone else in the room, the Republicans beat the crap out of us over and over again. And over time that vision has been whittled down to a belief that if we just wait them out, the country will wake up and realize that we aren't really worse than the other guys so don't make waves.

The conventional wisdom in DC has now ossified into a reflexive notion that Democrats must do nothing. Ever. They must hold back and say nothing when the Republicans are on top and they must hold back and say nothing when they are on the ropes.

Naturally, Clift turns to ex-Republican and current DLCer, Marshall Wittman:

To win in '06, he says, "Democrats need to take the Hippocratic Oath: first, do no harm."


To the Republicans.

But the scruffy, louts out in the country disagree that taking on the Republicans while they are down is bad politics. With a president at 33%, they wonder why in the hell they can't do any harm? What kind of margin for error do we need, a president in the low 20's? A negative 10? How low does a Republican have to sink before we aren't afraid to take him on?

Clift assumes, without any kind of proof, that Feingold's motion is going to help Republicans in the polls. Why? The polling suggests that there is a very sizeable minority, in one poll a plurality of people who favor censuring the president.

But nobody in DC even entertained the possibility before dismissing it out of hand. Jim Lehrer was gobsmacked last night when Tom Olipghant suggested that this wasn't such a left field move after all:

JIM LEHRER: Before we go -- quickly -- what do you think of the Feingold -- speaking -- you mentioned Feingold -- what do you think of the Feingold resolution to censure President Bush on the NSA surveillance thing?

DAVID BROOKS: I think the conventional thing, that Republicans -- any time Democrats are in the news, Republicans feel good about it. When Republicans are in the news, they feel bad about it.

DAVID BROOKS: So, it was -- it was good for the Republicans. And I think most Democrats acknowledge that.

TOM OLIPHANT: Yes, but a little polling data to end.

JIM LEHRER: Oh, my goodness.

TOM OLIPHANT: For censure or against it, American Research Group last week: for, 48, against, 43 -- impeachment: against, 50, for, 43. There is...

JIM LEHRER: You mean this is a national poll?

TOM OLIPHANT: That's right, 1,100 cases last week.

JIM LEHRER: OK.

TOM OLIPHANT: This -- there are emotions out there in the country. Feingold did not make this up.


Brooks is right that most Washington Democrats "acknowledge" that this will hurt Democrats, but it is based on the fact that they have internalized GOP cant that says Democratic voters are extremists and the president is popular.

Just a couple of months ago Matthews was saying this:

"Everybody sort of likes the president, except for the real whack-jobs, maybe on the left."


Even now, with the numbers so clear, he can't process it:

"I always thought Bush was more popular than his policies. I keep saying it, and I keep being wrong on this. Bush is not popular. I'm amazed when 50 percent of the people don't like him -- just don't like this guy. Thirty-nine percent like him. Are you surprised? Does that fit with the world you walk in?"


Clearly it doesn't fit in in the world Chris Matthews and Eleanor Clift walk in, which is the Republican establishment.

Clift writes:

The Democrats' dilemma is how to satisfy a restive and angry base without losing the rest of the country. "If someone proposed stringing up Bush like they did Mussolini, that would have a lot of support in the base of the party, too," says a Democratic strategist. "But it's not smart." Democrats want the November election to be a plebiscite on Bush's job performance, not a personal vendetta. "Republicans will rally round him if they think it's a personal attack just like we did with Clinton," warns the strategist.


Clinton had an approval rating in the 50's. The country was in the midst of the greatest expansion in history. The entire world looked to us to lead them through the post cold war world. Yet Republicans insisted on impeaching him for lying about a sexual indiscretion That's a personal vendetta.

This president is in the low 30's. Most Americans hardly feel the good news in the economy because the benefits have been rigged to go to those who make more than $250,0000 a year. He's made a fetish out of abusing his power with a non-stop assault on the contitution, international law and civilized norms. He has asserted a principle of executive authority that says he does not have to abide by the law. And it's extreme to think this deserves a mild rebuke from the body that writes those laws in the first place?

And I shouldn't have to point out that since the Republicans impeached president Clinton, among other things, they have increased their majority in the congress, won two presidential elections, enacted every wet dream tax cut they ever had, rolled back every regulation they ever hated and installed two right wing ideologues on the court. And that doesn't even begin to cover it.

Yes, the Republicans have certainly paid a steep price for impeachment, haven't they?

Grover Norquist really understands Washington. When asked what he thought would create more social comity between the parties he wasn't just being cute:


Rock-ribbed Republican Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, proffered a solution, tell[s] us that Democrats must accept the finality of their powerlessness. "Once the minority of House and Senate are comfortable in their minority status, they will have no problem socializing with the Republicans. Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant, but when they've been fixed, then they are happy and sedate. They are contented and cheerful. They don't go around peeing on the furniture and such."


He was showing a deep understanding of how today's political establishment works. The DC pundit-strategist class have "accepted the finality of Democratic powerlessness." People like Marshall Wittman and Eleanor Clift are telling the rest of us to do it too. Remember the GOP is the "daddy party" and you all know what he's like when he get's mad. Don't make trouble.

Clift wrote:

"there is a vacuum in the heart of the party's base that Feingold fills, but at what cost?"


Cost?

If the Democrats lose in November, I'm sure she'll find plenty of reasons to blame Democrats, but it won't occur to her that the reason people didn't vote for the D's was because the party listened to people like her and campaigned like a herd of neutered animals instead of listening to their hearts, their minds, their constituents and their leaders who were prepared to take a stand for what we believe in. No, they'll blame the "extremists" who want a safety net and a sane terrorism policy --- and leaders who defend the constitution. It couldn't possibly be that their tired, stale reflexive passivity is to blame when half the base fails to turn out because they just. have. no. hope.



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Is Your Blood Pressure Too Low?

by tristero

I can't go. I'd probably have a thrombo, as Austin Powers sez. But if you live in New York, and you're starting to feel much too calm and relaxed, you can get your blood racing on Monday night by going to a yak-fest at Miller Theater, Columbia U entitled Iraq: Three Years Later. The participants are Noah Feldman, Victor Davis Hanson, Joe Klein, Kenneth M. Pollack, and Andrew Sullivan.

It is bound to be a thoughtful, serious discussion. There will be no third-rate minds on hand - you know, the kind of childish, unimaginative mentalities that thought in 2002 that Bush's invasion of Iraq was the stupidest fucking idea they'd heard in their lifetimes.
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Less Is More

by tristero

In Bushland, the more inept you are, the more you can be trusted. For example, those crack Iraqi security forces:
[Condoleeza Rice] said she ``would call attention to the role that Iraqi Security Forces have played in this offensive,'' which ``demonstrates that Iraqi forces are indeed taking on more of the security side.''

...

The U.S. military last month said there were no Iraqi battalions capable of operating without support, a reduction from one battalion in September and three in June that were in the Pentagon's top category of readiness, Level 1.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

 
Iraqi Army Captures JFK's Killers

by tristero

Not really. And this probably ain't true, either:
An Iraqi-U.S. operation targeting insurgents in the vast hardpan desert northeast of Samarra has led to the capture of a possible ringleader of the bombing of the Gold Mosque, Iraqi officials said today.
Of course, I could just be getting cynical in old age. I mean, what's not to believe, right?
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PoMo Conservatism

by digby

Josh Marshall has written a nice riposte to Peggy Noonan's whiny lament about George W. Bush's liberal betrayal. He writes:


I'm not sure what to say to erstwhile Bush supporters other than, 'Nice try.'

In yesterday's online WSJ Peggy Noonan asks readers whether they understood George W. Bush "to be a liberal in terms of spending" when he first came on the political scene in 2000.

I've been mulling over the last few days just how to characterize this: but it is certainly a muddled and bad-faith form of ideological projection mixed with evasion.


There really isn't much point in trying to characterize it at all. As I've written before, it's a common pathology among conservatives when their policies fail. When Bruce Bartlett's book came out I wrote a post called Institutional Apostasy:

It's not the lack of conservatism that makes a guy like Bartlett jump ship. It's the failure. As long as Bush was riding high you heard almost nothing from these people. Oh sure there was a column or two from iconoclasts like Paul Craig Roberts or the occasional jab from Pat Buchanan. But there was no real outcry over the prescription drug benefit or the steel tariffs or the deficit during the entire time Bush has been in office. Certainly the anti-conservative notion of nation building, which Bush ran on, was totally jettisoned from conservative discussion. (We are all Wilsonians now.) Conservatives supported him so enthusiastically that they frequently compared his oratory(!) to Winston Churchill's:


To a greater extent than any politician since Churchill, President Bush has set forth and defended his policies in a series of speeches that combine intellectual brilliance and philosophical gravity. Today's speech in Latvia was the latest in this series, and, like the others, it will be studied by historians for centuries to come.



This was the cult of Bush. But, as with all modern Republican presidents who become unpopular, he will be ignominiously removed from the pantheon. They did it to Nixon, they did it to Bush Sr and they are now doing it to Churchill the second. It's always the same complaint. They failed not because of their conservatism, but because they were not conservative enough.


Last fall as the rats were beginning to lurk around the deck of the sinking ship, I wrote:

Movement conservatives are getting ready to write the history of this era as liberalism once again failing the people. Typically, the conservatives were screwed, as they always are. They must regroup and fight for conservatism, real conservatism, once again. Viva la revolucion!

There is no such thing as a bad conservative. "Conservative" is a magic word that applies to those who are in other conservatives' good graces. Until they aren't. At which point they are liberals.

Get used to the hearing about how the Republicans failed because they weren't true conservatives. Conservatism can never fail. It can only be failed by weak-minded souls who refuse to properly follow its tenets. It's a lot like communism that way.


Appropriately, modern conservatism turns out to be the first post-modern political movement.


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Republican Self-Love

by digby

I just had the misfortune to see two swaggering, self-satisfied windbags named Rick and Bubba being interviewed by Neil Cavuto. For those of you who aren't familiar with them, which I wasn't, they are radio talk show hosts who have written a book called "Rick and Bubba's Expert Guide To God, Country and Family." Talk about arrogant know-it-alls. Rarely have I seen people more in love with themselves than these two.

They believe that they delivered the election to bush in 2000 by denying Gore his home state of Tennessee. One of them (Rick or Bubba I'm not sure which) looked into the camera, nodded his head and said,

"You're welcome America."


Oh no, thank you.



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Operation Overblown

by digby


Time magazine reports

On Scene: How Operation Swarmer Fizzled

Not a shot was fired, or a leader nabbed, in a major offensive that failed to live up to its advance billing

[...]

The press, flown in from Baghdad to this agricultural gridiron northeast of Samarra, huddled around the Iraqi officials and U.S. Army commanders who explained that the "largest air assault since 2003" in Iraq using over 50 helicopters to put 1500 Iraqi and U.S. troops on the ground had netted 48 suspected insurgents, 17 of which had already been cleared and released. The area, explained the officials, has long been suspected of being used as a base for insurgents operating in and around Samarra, the city north of Baghdad where the bombing of a sacred shrine recently sparked a wave of sectarian violence.

But contrary to what many many television networks erroneously reported, the operation was by no means the largest use of airpower since the start of the war. ("Air Assault" is a military term that refers specifically to transporting troops into an area.) In fact, there were no airstrikes and no leading insurgents were nabbed in an operation that some skeptical military analysts described as little more than a photo op. What's more, there were no shots fired at all and the units had met no resistance, said the U.S. and Iraqi commanders.

But contrary to what many many television networks erroneously reported, the operation was by no means the largest use of airpower since the start of the war. ("Air Assault" is a military term that refers specifically to transporting troops into an area.) In fact, there were no airstrikes and no leading insurgents were nabbed in an operation that some skeptical military analysts described as little more than a photo op. What's more, there were no shots fired at all and the units had met no resistance, said the U.S. and Iraqi commanders.


The only thing missing was the president parachuting in to the strains of "Danger Zone" from Top Gun, wearing a tight jumpsuit and carrying a plastic turkey

Chris Allbritton, reporting on the same story notes:

"Operation Swarmer" is really a media show. It was designed to show off the new Iraqi Army - although there was no enemy for them to fight. Every American official I've heard has emphasized the role of the Iraqi forces just days before the third anniversary of the start of the war. That said, one Iraqi role the military will start highlighting in the next few days, I imagine, is that of Iraqi intelligence. It was intel from the Iraqi military intelligence and interior ministry that the U.S. says prompted this Potemkin operation. And it will be the Iraqi intel that provides the cover for American military commanders to throw up their hands and say, "well, we thought bad guys were there."

It's hard to blame the military, however. Stations like Fox and CNN have really taken this and ran with it, with fancy graphics and theme music, thanks to a relatively slow news day. The generals here also are under tremendous pressure to show off some functioning Iraqi troops before the third anniversary, and I won't fault them for going into a region loaded for bear. After all, the Iraqi intelligence might have been right.

But Operation Overblown should raise serious questions about how good Iraqi intelligence is. I can't tell you how many times I've been told by earnest lieutenants that the Iraqis are valiant and necessary partners, "because they know the area, the people and the customs." But when I spoke to grunts and NCOs, however, they usually gave me blunter - and more colorful - reasons why the Iraqi intelligence was often, shall we say, useless. Tribal rivalries and personal feuds are still a major why Iraqis drop a dime on their neighbors.


I'm beginning to wonder if we haven't officially moved from tragedy to farce. And I'm not talking about the military. I'm talking about the pathological need on the part of the cable networks to go back to the glory days when Bush was commonly compared to Alexander the Great every chance they get. I think they see themselves as handsome windswept heroes, telling their epic stories under fire. But, those acts of shallow egotism are a big reason we got into this mess in the first place. It's time for the producers and news anchors to put away their designer safari vests and move on.


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Jaws Of Victory

by digby

Following up on my post below about Lemming Bayh's revolutionary strategy to stick as closely to the president on national security as he can so that people will trust him with their lives, here's some interesting news from a new NPR poll today:

A new poll of likely voters finds that President Bush and his party no longer have the advantage on issues of foreign policy and national security, which they used to dominate.

The poll, conducted for NPR by a Republican and a Democratic pollster, suggests that the ongoing instability in Iraq, the Dubai ports deal, job outsourcing and other global issues in the news lately appear to be weighing heavily on voters' minds in this midterm election year.

Republican pollster Glen Bolger says that, from his perspective, the results are a "bunch of ugly numbers."

[...]

It's not uncommon to see polls where Democrats beat Republicans on domestic issues, such as the economy and jobs, health care and Social Security. But in this poll, when asked which party they trust more on issues such as the Iraq war, foreign ownership of U.S. ports and attention to homeland security, majorities chose the Democrats. Only on the question of Iranian nuclear weapons do the president and his party come out ahead.

Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg says the numbers present Democrats with a real opportunity for electoral gains. "All of these issues are related to different kinds of foreign threats to the country," he notes. "On every single issue, voters favor the Democrats. This is a different landscape -- we were looking for 20-point advantages for Republicans on anything related to security. This ought to be the center of where you would trust the Republicans, and that's not happening here. There's clearly a new opening, new doubts about the Republicans and new openings for the Democrats."

[...]

... Glenn Bolger says the poll shows that Republicans in Congress helped themselves politically by abandoning the president.

"One clear piece of evidence in the data is that Republicans benefited by showing some independence from the president on the ports deal," Bolger says. "Democrats have a 16-point advantage over the president in terms of who [voters] trust, and only an 8-point advantage over the Republicans on the ports deal. So the Republican Congress' stand of independence cut the Democratic advantage on this issue in half."


Feingold seems to feel this zeitgeist and so do some others (like the Iraq veteran band of brothers who are running as Democrats.) The rest of the caucus is lagging behind, mired in 2002 thinking.

Separating themselves from the president --- and forcing the Republicans to rally around him --- is good politics. The NSA wiretapping issue in and of itself is not going to rally the greater public to Bush. It's the optics of Democrats issuing a rebuke that counts. The base, on the other hand, is hungering for leadership on these specific issues and wants desperately to rally around the party. Yet they are treated with terrible disrespect even though the polls show that two thirds of the country are unhappy and a majority is ready to throw the bums out.

Democrats do themselves no favors by following a cautious strategy in this climate. They are driving their voters crazy and convincing everyone else that they don't have the will to win. The Republicans have a very slick machine, based in churches and fueled by talk radio, that will work overtime to get their base out. Their survival depends on it. Democrats cannot depend on low GOP turnout to get them over the line.


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What Matters Most

by digby


Hughes For America makes an interesting observation about Republican priorities:

We learned Wednesday that the Federal Communications Commission has proposed a $3.6 million fine against numerous CBS stations and affiliates concerning a 2004 episode of "Without a Trace" that included "teenage boys and girls participating in a sexual orgy." The FCC also upheld its historic $550,000 fine against CBS for the Janet Jackson incident during the Super Bowl two years ago.

Meanwhile, the Sago mine - where 12 people died in January - was cited 208 times in 2005. The largest single fine, by comparison, was a mere $440. Not only that, but it was also reported that federal inspectors had repeatedly determined that the violations at Sago affected only one person, doing so to avoid the larger fines that come when more miners are involved.


Well, we know that they don't want to regulate business, even if lives are at stake. That would be wrong and bad for the economy. But regulating 10 PM cop shows (with no nudity) like "Without A Trace" or PBS documentaries about The Blues that use the word "shit" is much too important for such considerations. Little pitchers have ears and all. Too bad those little pitchers down in West Virginia no longer have fathers.

I find it quite interesting that they keep fining CBS so heavily when Fox has some of the most subversive, deviant (and creative) programming out there. In cartoon form. Perhaps the thought police are too busy obsessing over the F word to understand what their kids are watching. Or maybe it's something more sinister. It's important to remember that the vast majority of complaints are the result of organized wingnut campaigns. And organized wingnuts know the score.


Hughes for America is holding a fund raising drive. His stuff is better than Riverdance, I guarantee it.


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Words Speak Louder Than Actions?

by digby


So Firedoglake tells me that Lemming Bayh is in favor of the new rage in Washington --- if a Republican breaks the law, then just change the law! As the NY Times editorial board wrote earlier this week about president Bush's domestic advisor Claude Allen: "If the current Congress had been called on to intervene in the case of Mr. Allen, it would probably have tried to legalize shoplifting."

Bayh, in a torrent of process talk, explained that he doesn't support Feingold's measure because:

... the first thing Democrats need to do, Bayh said, is take Republicans on in an area they've dominated: national security.

"It's a threshold issue for us, and it's a threshold issue for America," Bayh said. "People aren't going to trust us with anything else if we first can't convince them to trust us with their lives."



All the great Democratic strategists know that the best way to do that is to blather incessantly about "what Democrats need to do," while simultaneously rubber stamping every crackpot GOP security program no matter how lawless or unnecessary. Yielding submissively to the Republican dominance you profess to be "taking on" is an excellent way to convince people that you can protect them. Great plan. Awesome.



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Attention Deficit

by digby

Matt Yglesias says deficits don't matter after all, at least not to the public:

Back in 1993, 17 percent of poll respondents said the deficit was the biggest problem facing the country, today that's way down to two percent.


Oh Ross Perot, where art thou now? We haven't heard a peep out of the crazy old coot since Bush took office ran through the surplus and then ran up the debt to unprecedented levels, have we? There was a time, when the deficit was much, much lower than it is now, that he felt the problem was so dire that he was compelled to start a third party to make sure that it was dealt with.

I had always thought he was the Bush's arch enemy and yet he has been strangely silenced throughout Junior's reign. You don't suppose that stuff about Republican operatives disrupting his dauighters wedding was true do you? ... nah. Karl Rove wouldn't do something like that.



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Girl Just Wants To Have Fun

by digby

John over at Crooks and Liars has Katherine Harris' brave interview with Sean Hannity in which she declares. "as God is mah witness I will nevah be hungry again ... oh sorry... "as God is mah witness I will spend every last million I have on mah Senate race."

"Let me tell you what the truth is. I'm staying... I'm going to put EVERYTHING on the line...I'm going to commit my legacy from my father, $10 million. This is everything that I have"

Not exactly everything. Her husband is reportedly worth somewhere around 20 million.

She says that he backs her decision one hundred percent. I wonder if he's seen this video of his wife canoodling with another man during the debate on WMD intelligence legislation.



Watch out Lindsey. This woman's a wildcat in the chamber.





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Thursday, March 16, 2006

 
From The This-Is-Way-Too-Weird-To-Be-A-Joke Department

by tristero

Looks like DARPA has a monopoly on all the good dope. And they've been having a high old time. They're seeking proposals for work on creating cyborg cockroaches, beetles, and moths:
DARPA seeks innovative proposals to develop technology to create insect-cyborgs, possibly enabled by intimately integrating microsystems within insects, during their early stages of metamorphoses. The healing processes from one metamorphic stage to the next stage are expected to yield more reliable bio-electromechanical interface to insects, as compared to adhesively bonded systems to adult insects. Once these platforms are integrated, various microsystem payloads can be mounted on the platforms with the goal of controlling insect locomotion, sense local environment, and scavenge power. Multidisciplinary teams of engineers, physicists, and biologists are expected to work together to develop new technologies utilizing insect biology, while developing foundations for the new field
of insect cyborg engineering.
via PZ Meyers, who explains in some detail why this is, shall we say, a bit unlikely to work. PZ writes, "This is like sending some guy who knows next to nothing about avionics into a 747 with a pickaxe, a voltmeter, and a 9V battery, and telling him to hack into the wiring and take control of the plane. It may not be impossible, but it is the next best thing."

Or like putting some guy who knows next to nothing about anything in charge of the world's most powerful country and giving him the opportunity to send troops to invade the Middle East without provocation. And expecting good to come out of it.

[UPDATE: Via comments comes this link to the world's smallest flying robot. Be sure to check out the groovy video of the gadget hovering and maneuvering with eerie precision in the air.]
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Manly

by digby


Why do you suppose that in the Pew poll, the second most popular word (after incompetent) to describe the president is "idiot?" Hmmmm.





Good thing he isn't one 'o them brie 'n cheese eatin' liberals or somebody might look at all that fancy expensive gear and call him an elitist rich guy. Can't he just shoot his friends in the face like real men do?


Via Pearlswine, who says this may be the most unpresidential picture ever taken, and that was before he noticed the little pink socks.

They are cute.


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Dear Amy Sullivan

by tristero

I see you've apologized for the knee-jerk left comment. I'm glad you have the guts to know when you're wrong and admit it.

But then you persist in getting it all wrong:
I do think there is a tendency on the part of some on the left to criticize conservative politicians on the basis of their religious views.
Jeebus, Amy, of course there is! That is a GOOD THING! They SHOULD be criticized! They HAVE to be criticized! And YOU should be among the first to let them have it! Why?

First of all, they're the ones that bring the subject of religion up in a political context, over and over and over, and - as with the fight over science in the classrooms - when it is wildly inappropriate. They're the ones making a political issue out of religion. Therefore, it can, and must be forcefully addressed.

Secondly, they're certifiably crazy. Case in point: This fanatical, bigoted bastard is a close friend of Bush. THAT is why sensible people like Moyers and Phillips are alarmed about an imminent theocracy. And Graham is only one of dozens, many of whom make this guy look as liberal as Jesse Jackson. Amy, do you know how close this country came recently to approving a Christian Reconstructionist agenda as science in public schools? These people are serious about a theocracy. And seriously insane.

Thirdly, they are trying to disguise their purely secular lust for power by hiding behind the skirts of priests. I'd think a religious person like yourself would be the first to be horrified and disgusted at their corruption of Christian belief for political gain. They are cowards and they are liars. They cannot be permitted to advance a secular agenda under the guise of faith.

And fourth, do you have any idea of the filth that spews from these pigs' mouth on a regular basis about the religious beliefs of liberals? Of Democrats? Of well-known public figures? Against Muslims? Against Jews? Against members of Christian denominations they disagree with? What makes their beliefs immune to criticism? Because they talk the Good Talk, and profess they are people of faith in the traditional cadences of evangelical American Christianity ? Anyone can do that, and has done that. But people of faith aren't cowards and sneaks who pretend that a religious agenda is a scientific theory that deserves equal time. But that's what these people do.

Bottom line, Amy: You want people to stop criticizing your religious beliefs, you don't deliberately make them a political issue. You don't make them the focus of serious discussions of government policy. Otherwise, your personal religious beliefs are fair game.

And this is said by someone who has demonstrated the utmost respect, tolerance, and interest in the beliefs of all faiths. It is because of their persistent intolerance of other people's religion and politics that conservative political operatives get no free pass from me. They blaspheme Christ by bringing the Gospels into a partisan political struggle. I am amazed that you, of all bloggers, think that's not proper to criticize. It most certainly is. The Republican exploitation and hijacking of religious belief is a dangerous travesty of public piety. And it's at these people - the Dobsons, the Falwells, the Grahams, the Frists, and yeah, the Brownbacks - your anger should be directed. Not at pious, intelligent patriots like Bill Moyers, for heavens sakes!

Love,

Tristero
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Depraved Government

by digby

Every once in a while I'm struck anew by the utter lawlessnes and barbarity of the United States government under Republican rule. I follow this stuff so closely that it all blurs for long periods of time until something, out of the blue, shocks me almost physically. Today, I have been catching up on some things and started reading in depth about the decision of Federal District Judge Trager's heinous decision to dismiss Maher Arar's case against the US for kidnapping him at Kennedy Airport and rendering him to Syria to be tortured for almost a year.

This is a Kafkaesque tale that makes shivers go down my spine when I read about it. I simply can't wrap my arms around the idea that the American government is openly and proudly doing these things --- or that those who dissent are veritably dared to speak out against it lest they be branded terrorist sympathizers.

We have normalized torture, which I find akin to normalizing pedophilia for all its deviant --- if not uncommon --- malignity. To be clear: what shocks me is not that torture happens or that our government tortures. We have ample evidence that it has historically done so. What is unprecedented is this banal, rather dull acceptance that torture is perfectly natural and necessary.

Nat Hentoff has an article in this Week's Village Voice about this Arar case in which he cites a previous Apellate Court decision about torture from 1980:

In this landmark decision, Filártiga v. Peña-Irala, David Cole points out, the appeals court decided that "the prohibition on torture was so universally accepted that a U.S. Court could hold responsible a Paraguayan official charged with torturing a dissident in Paraguay . . . The [U.S.] court declared that when officials violate such a fundamental norm as torture, they can be held accountable anywhere they are found."


Notice the language in that decision, "enemy of all mankind." Here's the final paragraph in the opinion in its entirety:


In the twentieth century the international community has come to recognize the common danger posed by the flagrant disregard of basic human rights and particularly the right to be free of torture. Spurred first by the Great War, and then the Second, civilized nations have banded together to prescribe acceptable norms of international behavior. From the ashes of the Second World War arose the United Nations Organization, amid hopes that an era of peace and cooperation had at last begun. Though many of these aspirations have remained elusive goals, that circumstance cannot diminish the true progress that has been made. In the modern age, humanitarian and practical considerations have combined to lead the nations of the world to recognize that respect for fundamental human rights is in their individual and collective interest. Among the rights universally proclaimed by all nations, as we have noted, is the right to be free of physical torture. Indeed, for purposes of civil liability, the torturer has become like the pirate and slave trader before him hostis humani generis, an enemy of all mankind. Our holding today, giving effect to a jurisdictional provision enacted by our First Congress, is a small but important step in the fulfillment of the ageless dream to free all people from brutal violence.


So much for that. In our quest to deliver the almighty God's gift of freedom to each man and women in this world, we seem to have decided that the fundamental human right to be free of torture is no longer operative.

This was 1980. In 2006, just 26 years later we see this (from Hentoff again):

Now let us hear how Judge Trager justifies his dismissal of Maher Arar's suit for the atrocities he endured in Syria because of the CIA. In his decision, Trager said that if a judge decided, on his or her own, that the CIA's "extraordinary renditions" were always unconstitutional, "such a ruling can have the most serious consequences to our foreign relations or national security or both."

A judge must be silent, even if our own statutes and treaties are violated! What about the separation of powers? Ah, said Trager, "the coordinate branches of our government [executive and legislative] are those in whom the Constitution imposes responsibility for our foreign affairs and national security. Those branches have the responsibility to determine whether judicial oversight is appropriate."

Gee, I thought that the checks and balances of our constitutional system depend on the independence of the federal judiciary, which itself decides to exercise judicial review.

Judge Trager went further to protect the Bush administration's juggernaut conduct of foreign policy: "One need not have much imagination to contemplate the negative effect on our relations with Canada if discovery were to proceed in this case, and were it to turn out that certain high Canadian officials had, despite public denials, acquiesced in Arar's removal to Syria."

"More generally," Trager went on, "governments that do not wish to acknowledge publicly that they are assisting us would certainly hesitate to do so if our judicial discovery process could compromise them."


Right. He didn't even use a legal reason, just bought into the bedwetting cowardice that seems to have overtaken most of the government after 9/11 and hid under the covers. He left all the scary stuff to the preznit and his big strong armymen, rather than do his duty and follow the constitution or supreme court precedent. Nothing to see here.

When in American history have so many government officials in the other branches submitted themselves so willingly to executive authority? We are now three five years away from 9/11. The smoke has cleared and the rubble has been cleaned up. The "War on Terror" has been going on longer than WWII. If anyone thought that people would gather their wits about them and come to their senses about these things, the rubber stamp congress and deferential judiciary have shown that they have no intention of stopping the Bush administration's attack on the constitution or it's normalization of the depraved.

Democrats have got to win this next election. They are, for all their flaws, all we have standing between us a this continued abasement of American values. Taking the Republicans out of the majority is essential to the survival of what few ideals we have left.

If you find yourself wondering why you bother with politics, go read Arthur Silber's masterful series on torture. You'll be reminded why it's important.



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Constitutional Infirmity

by digby


I'm beginning to think they are actively trying to destroy the constitution just for the hell of it.

President May Have Known of Constitutional Defect Before Bill Signing

Wednesday, March 15, 2006 -- Rep. Waxman asks the White House to respond to information that the Speaker of the House called President Bush to alert him that the version of the Reconciliation Act he was about to sign differed from the version that passed the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Waxman writes: "If the President signed the Reconciliation Act knowing its constitutional infirmity, he would in effect be placing himself above the Constitution."


The nutshell version of this story is that the Senate passed the Omnibus Budget bill with a two billion dollar error regarding certain medicare payments in it. The vote was as close as possible -- Cheney had to break the tie. The clerk found the error, which happens from time to time apparently and requires a re-vote on the correct version of the bill. But the Republican leadership didn't fix it because they were afraid that when they brought it back up for the required re-vote in the Senate, it wouldn't pass. They kept it to themselves and the House passed the incorrect version of the bill on another close vote --- 216-214 and they sent it to the president who signed it --- error and all.

Waxman now has reason to believe that the president was informed by Hastert that he was signing an incorrect version of the bill and Bush unconstitutionally signed it anyway.

This is the kind of corrupt, partisan, iniquitous leadership these assholes have perpetrated since they took power. They commonly hold votes open for as long as it takes to bribe a member to vote for it. Democratic members are locked out of meetings and not allowed to see bills before they are required to vote on them. They design the votes to be as close as possible so they don't get any Democratic support -- the more they can take the Democrats out of the process, make them look impotent to their constituents, the more likely they are to demoralize Democratic voters and make them feel helpless to change things.

But, it's unconstitutional to do what they did. Just because you have to do a tough vote over again to make it legal, you don't get to just ignore the constitution to avoid having to do it. Or at least that's the way it used to be.

This is the kind of thing that would be ripe for hearings if the Democrats were to win the elections in the fall. It needs to be exposed, so that people can see the Republicans held accountable for their reign of political terror in the congress. The public does not understand, nor should they need to understand, the arcane rules governing the Senate. But anyone can understand that the Republican congress passed, and the president signed, a budget knowing that it was unconstitutional. And they did it because if they fixed it, as required by law, they knew it wouldn't pass.

Waxman will be the Chairman of the committee that will investigate these atrocities --- and he's been making a list and checking it twice since 2001. If the country would like to see some accountability, he's a guy who will do it. After all, he's the one who got the tobacco chiefs to say they didn't believe smoking was addictive --- under oath, I might add, something that's gone out of fashion since the Republican vassals were put in charge of overseeing their liege lord, the prince of the Codpiece.



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Bomb Iraq!

by digby

Gosh, I get a kind of warm feeling remembering those good old days back in 2002, when we were all hunkered down around Atrios' place, watching the metaphorical skies fill with fireworks. We even had our own campfire song:


If you've got no other reason, bomb Iraq (clap, clap)
If you've got no other reason, bomb Iraq (clap, clap)
If you've got no other reason, other than election season
If you've got no other reason, bomb Iraq (clap, clap)


Ah yes. Chalabi, we hardly knew ye.


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Air War

We got ourselves an air war.

Hersh told us why a few months ago:
In recent weeks, there has been widespread speculation that President George W. Bush, confronted by diminishing approval ratings and dissent within his own party, will begin pulling American troops out of Iraq next year. The Administration's best-case scenario is that the parliamentary election scheduled for December 15th will produce a coalition government that will join the Administration in calling for a withdrawal to begin in the spring. By then, the White House hopes, the new government will be capable of handling the insurgency...

A key element of the drawdown plans, not mentioned in the President's public statements, is that the departing American troops will be replaced by American airpower. Quick, deadly strikes by U.S. warplanes are seen as a way to improve dramatically the combat capability of even the weakest Iraqi combat units. The danger, military experts have told me, is that, while the number of American casualties would decrease as ground troops are withdrawn, the over-all level of violence and the number of Iraqi fatalities would increase unless there are stringent controls over who bombs what...

Within the military, the prospect of using airpower as a substitute for American troops on the ground has caused great unease. For one thing, Air Force commanders, in particular, have deep-seated objections to the possibility that Iraqis eventually will be responsible for target selection. "Will the Iraqis call in air strikes in order to snuff rivals, or other warlords, or to snuff members of your own sect and blame someone else?" another senior military planner now on assignment in the Pentagon asked. "Will some Iraqis be targeting on behalf of Al Qaeda, or the insurgency, or the Iranians?"

...

This military planner added that even today, with Americans doing the targeting, "there is no sense of an air campaign, or a strategic vision. We are just whacking targets - it's a reversion to the Stone Age. There's no operational art. That's what happens when you give targeting to the Army - they hit what the local commander wants to hit."
One senior Pentagon consultant I spoke to said he was optimistic that "American air will immediately make the Iraqi Army that much better." But he acknowledged that he, too, had concerns about Iraqi targeting. "We have the most expensive eyes in the sky right now," the consultant said. "But a lot of Iraqis want to settle old scores. Who is going to have authority to call in air strikes? There's got to be a behavior-based rule."

...

Robert Pape, a political-science professor at the University of Chicago, who has written widely on American airpower, and who taught for three years at the Air Force's School of Advanced Airpower Studies, in Alabama, predicted that the air war "will get very ugly" if targeting is turned over to the Iraqis. This would be especially true, he said, if the Iraqis continued to operate as the U.S. Army and Marines have done - plowing through Sunni strongholds on search - and - destroy missions. "If we encourage the Iraqis to clear and hold their own areas, and use airpower to stop the insurgents from penetrating the cleared areas, it could be useful," Pape said. "The risk is that we will encourage the Iraqis to do search-and-destroy, and they would be less judicious about using airpower - and the violence would go up. More civilians will be killed, which means more insurgents will be created."

Even American bombing on behalf of an improved, well-trained Iraqi Army would not necessarily be any more successful against the insurgency. "It's not going to work," said Andrew Brookes, the former director of airpower studies at the Royal Air Force’s advanced staff college, who is now at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, in London. "Can you put a lid on the insurgency with bombing?" Brookes said. "No. You can concentrate in one area, but the guys will spring up in another town." The inevitable reliance on Iraqi ground troops' targeting would also create conflicts. "I don’t see your guys dancing to the tune of someone else," Brookes said. He added that he and many other experts "don't believe that airpower is a solution to the problems inside Iraq at all. Replacing boots on the ground with airpower didn't work in Vietnam, did it?"
Nope, it didn't.

I've said over and over again that stay or withdraw is not the issue. Bush will screw it up either way. U.S. military airstrikes have significantly increased in Iraq. And it all makes poltical sense. What better way to boost poll approval ratings hovering at 33% (way, way, too high imo) than to bring the troops home? Airstrikes'll do that. Nevermind it will make the situation far worse than it already is (hard to believe, but true). It will be an Iraqi problem; a large American presence will be history. And Bush's poll numbers will rise.

Tragically, the beginning of a plan to find a real-world solution to the dangerous mess Bush created in Iraq will have to wait until January, 2009 when a hopefully sane president will take over. In the meantime, thousands will die for no reason at all except that an incompetent, bumbling, and frightened fool is president of the United States.

Makes you kind of angry, doesn't it?
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It's So Easy. Replace The "Q" With "N" And...

by tristero

Hooyah! Iran is now the new Iraq. Read all about it here. From the article:
The strategy document declares that American-led diplomacy to halt Iran's program to enrich nuclear fuel "must succeed if confrontation is to be avoided," a near final draft of the document says.
Fortunately, we've got the combined diplomatic genius of Condoleeza Rice and John Bolton spearheading the effort to avoid "confrontation."
China's leaders, it says, are "expanding trade, but acting as if they can somehow 'lock up' energy supplies around the world or seek to direct markets rather than opening them up — as if they can follow a mercantilism borrowed from a discredited era.
That sounds about right. Only America has the right to 'lock up' engergy supplies and follow a mercantilism from a discredited era. Where does China get off, anyhow?

Interestingly, the document includes the United States itself in its assessments:
"Recent trends regrettably point toward a diminishing commitment to democratic freedoms and institutions," the document reads.
Oops. They were talking about Russia. An understandable mistake on my part.

Moving right along, it's still the case that the worst ideas remain official American policy.
But chief among the sections that remain unchanged is the most controversial section of the 2002 strategy: the elevation of pre-emptive strikes to a central part of United States strategy.

"The world is better off if tyrants know that they pursue W.M.D. at their own peril," the strategy says.
Um, er...I think the lessons the world learned from Iraq is the critical importance of nuclear defense against the US - it's worked for NoKo, after all - and that the US is too overcommitted and unpopular to stop anyone else from acquiring them.

And the final sentence of the article notes a curious oversight in the National Security Strategy 2006:
It stays away from the subject of global warming.
But this is not the final draft. I'm sure the complete text will have a lot to say about global warming and what the Bush administration is doing to ameliorate its effects.
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Early Spring Reading List

by tristero

(Note: Links are to Powells Books, a fine independent bookseller.)

Mark Danner on the Downing Street Memos and then some. Danner is one of the greats of the American press. Not to be missed.

The Enemy of My Enemy: The Alarming Convergence of Militant Islam and the Extreme Right. And now you know why Horowitz has been so swift to insist that it's liberals who are in bed with Osama. But seriously, this could be a terrific book. The thing is that the author, George Michael, is going to have to define the "extreme right", because obviously many rightwing conservatives - eg Flemming Rose, Franklin Graham, the Dobson scum, etc. - clearly loathe islamism, if not Islam itself. But it sure is mighty curious how close islamist values mirror christianist ones.

Since both these books won't be out until April, that gives me plenty of time to finish off Jonathan Israel's masterpiece, Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750, all 834 pages of it. And it's wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. In related reading, I'll also have time to complete my first serious pass through Spinoza's writings since college. Folks, you ain't read nuttin' 'til you've read his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. The word on the street (grin) is that Spinoza is dry, cold, and difficult. Not true. I find him deeply moving and, well, not exactly easy on occasion, but clear as a bell most of the time and worth every second. I've been gobbling up excerpts from this set of selections from Spinoza's work. It includes the complete Ethics, which I've just started and don't expect to grok for many, many years. There are the usual disputes in academe about translations, but the ones here, by Curley, seem more than adequate.

If you need some hand-holding getting into Spinoza - as I did - Israel's book has some superb, concise chapters on Spinoza's works that can help as a guide. I would skip The Courtier and the Heretic by Matthew Stewart, about Spinoza and Leibniz, which got some good reviews recently. I read it, and yes, it's a very fast read, but that's because most of the book is taken up with biographical stuff and very little detail of their philosophies. But I suppose if all of this is brand new to you, Stewart's book is a good way to get a toe wet. But definitely go on over to Spinoza himself. Beautiful. And if you already know him, you might want to read him again, just to remind yourself that there once was a time when people thought a reality-based government was a pretty good idea.
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Planning Ahead

by tristero

To add one more observation to Digby's post about how Republicans are using the censure effort to rally the Republican base:

The GOP has been anticipating a serious effort to hold Bush accountable for his incompetence for years. For example, here is Jed Babbin from National Review Online in 2003. He's worrying what might happen to poor George Bush if there's another serious terrorist attack in the US:
If such an attack succeeds, the Democrats have been positioning themselves to benefit from it. All the talk of inadequate funding for homeland security — as if pouring money on Rainbow Tom Ridge will solve anything — is a predicate to their strategy. Bush will be blamed for protecting us inadequately. If the damage is sufficiently severe, and the economy tanks, they may even try to impeach him. If you think they can't do that, think again.
But even 2003 seems a little late to start planning the pushback strategy we're seeing against Feingold. My rough guess is that they started to develop it within days of the Supreme Court decision in 2000 that put Bush in the White House. That's why this effort to "rally the base" is so organized and the message is so meticulously tailored: this isn't an attack on Bush, but on the Republican Party which, as we all know, is the true party of America. It's also why it's an easy sell to a compliant, lazy press; they've been told to anticipate it for years, and "what it really means" when it finally happens.

Dig: Republicans started planning Clinton's impeachment in November, 1992. Y'wanna bet when they'll start working to impeach the next we-should-be-so-lucky Democratic president? Y'think they haven't started? Wanna bet?
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