Friday, September 29, 2006

Principles like Feingold's

Sherrod Brown, I Want My Senator
To Show Principles Like Feingold’s

Sherrod Brown is the Democratic candidate in Ohio for the US Senate. Brown is challenging the incumbent Republican senator, Mike Dewine. Brown is currently a member of the House of Representatives and is one of 34 Democrats who voted to support the passage of the “Military Commissions Act,” the “torture” legislation dealing with non-American citizens detained as terrorist suspects. This act empowers our government the right to deny detainees any right of judicial review of their detention.

It is surprising and disconcerting that our Democratic challenger would support such legislation and would agree on this matter with the likes of Dewine, Hastert, Boehner, Frist, McConnell, Santorum -- political hacks who consistently show no principles and who consistently seek first to do whatever is needed to gain political advantage. The most charitable explanation of Brown’s vote is that he fears the Republican slime machine, and, in this matter, he is willing to compromise his own principles. The Republican play book, after all, has already been revealed by Majority Leader Boehner in his comment: “I wonder if (the Democrats) are more interested in protecting the terrorists than protecting the American people." A less charitable explanation for Brown’s vote is the possibility that Brown is simply revealing himself for who he is: he is not compromising principles, he is just another politician, not encumbered by principles, making his decisions based upon what his polling data shows. He knows that Democrats will continue to support him over DeWine, and, by this vote, he hopes to be inoculated from the ferocious “protecting terrorists” attacks against him that Republicans would otherwise be funding.

But Democrats who parse their principles for what they hope is political gain, I believe, greatly underestimate a huge and growing number of the American voters -- who include many Republicans and Independents -- who are looking for political leaders who are willing to take principled stands. By his "yes," Brown has missed an opportunity to elevate his race for senator to one based on principles; Brown has missed an opportunity to take a principled stand. I feel that this could have been a successful wedge issue for Brown, had he made a principled stand, rather than making the political calculation that he made. Had Brown taken a stand against this legislation, such a stand would have revealed a character of courage that would have had wide appeal and would have worked in his favor. His calculation of compromising principles for political gain, I feel, will be read as cowardice and, therefore, even from a political standpoint, his calculation was simply wrong. He is ahead in the polls -- but, by refusing to make a courageous choice in this matter, he may find that the enthusiasm of his supporters may diminish.

I would like my senator from Ohio to make the type of speech on the senate floor that was made by Russ Fingold, in his explanation for his “no” vote. The first part of this speech, dealing with habeas corpus, is excerpted below:

Statement of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold
In Opposition of the Military Commissions Act

Mr. President, I oppose the Military Commissions Act.
Let me be clear: I welcome efforts to bring terrorists to justice. It is about time. This Administration has too long been distracted by the war in Iraq from the fight against al Qaeda. We need a renewed focus on the terrorist networks that present the greatest threat to this country.

But Mr. President, we wouldn’t be where we are today, five years after September 11 with not a single Guantanamo Bay detainee having been brought to trial, if the President had come to Congress in the first place, rather than unilaterally creating military commissions that didn’t comply with the law. The President wanted to act on his own, and he dared the Supreme Court to stop him. And he lost. The Hamdan decision was an historic rebuke to an Administration that has acted for years as if it were above the law.

Finally, only because he was essentially ordered to do so by the Supreme Court, the President has agreed to consult with Congress. I would have hoped that we would take this opportunity to pass legislation that allows us to proceed in accordance with our laws and our values. That is what separates America from our enemies. These trials, conducted appropriately, have the potential to demonstrate to the world that our democratic, constitutional system of government is our greatest strength in fighting those who attacked us.

And that is why I am saddened that I must oppose this legislation. Because, Mr. President, the trials conducted under this legislation will send a very different signal to the world, one that I fear will put our own troops and personnel in jeopardy both now and in future conflicts. To take just a few examples, this legislation would permit an individual to be convicted on the basis of coerced testimony and hearsay, would not allow full judicial review of the conviction, and yet would allow someone convicted under these rules to be put to death. That is simply unacceptable. We would not stand for another country to try our citizens under those rules, and we should not stand for our own government to do so, either.

Not only that, this legislation would deny detainees at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere—people who have been held for years but have not been tried or even charged with any crime—the ability to challenge their detention in court. Among its many flaws, this is the most troubling—that the legislation seeks to suspend the Great Writ of habeas corpus.

The legislation before us is better than that originally proposed by the President, which would have largely codified the procedures the Supreme Court has already rejected. And that is thanks to the efforts of some of my Republican colleagues for whom I have great respect and admiration.

But this bill remains deeply flawed, and I cannot support it.
One of the most disturbing provisions of this bill eliminates the right of habeas corpus for those detained as enemy combatants. I support an amendment by Senator Specter to strike that provision from the bill. I ask unanimous consent that my separate statement on that amendment be put in the record at the appropriate point.

Habeas corpus is a fundamental recognition that in America, the government does not have the power to detain people indefinitely and arbitrarily. And that in America, the courts must have the power to review the legality of executive detention decisions.

Habeas corpus is a longstanding vital part of our American tradition, and is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.
As a group of retired judges wrote to Congress, habeas corpus “safeguards the most hallowed judicial role in our constitutional democracy – ensuring that no man is imprisoned unlawfully.”

Mr. President, this bill would fundamentally alter that historical equation. Faced with an executive branch that has detained hundreds of people without trial for years now, it would eliminate the right of habeas corpus.

Under this legislation, some individuals, at the designation of the executive branch alone, could be picked up, even in the United States, and held indefinitely without trial and without any access whatsoever to the courts. They would not be able to call upon the laws of our great nation to challenge their detention because they would have been put outside the reach of the law.

Mr. President, that is unacceptable, and it almost surely violates our Constitution. But that determination will take years of protracted litigation.

Mr. President, why would we turn our back on hundreds of years of history and our nation’s commitment to liberty -- particularly when there is no good reason to do so? We should be working to provide a lawful system of military commissions so that those who have committed war crimes can be brought to justice. We can do that quite well without denying one of the most basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution to those held in custody by our government.

Some have suggested that terrorists who take up arms against this country should not be allowed to challenge their detention in court. But that argument is circular – the writ of habeas allows those who might be mistakenly detained to challenge their detention in court, before a neutral decision-maker. The alternative is to allow people to be detained indefinitely with no ability to argue that they are not, in fact, enemy combatants. Unless any of my colleagues can say with absolute certainty that everyone detained as an enemy combatant was correctly detained – and there is ample evidence to suggest that is not the case – then we should make sure that people can’t simply be locked up forever, without court review, based on someone slapping a “terrorist” label on them.

There is another reason why we must not deprive detainees of habeas corpus, and that is the fact that the American system of government is supposed to set an example for the world, as a beacon of democracy. And this provision will only serve to harm others’ perception of our system of government.

Mr. President, a group of retired diplomats sent a very moving letter explaining their concerns about this habeas-stripping provision. Here is what they said: “To proclaim democratic government to the rest of the world as the supreme form of government at the very moment we eliminate the most important avenue of relief from arbitrary governmental detention will not serve our interests in the larger world.”

Many, many dedicated patriotic Americans share these grave reservations about this particular provision of the bill.
They have reservations not because they sympathize with suspected terrorists. Not because they are soft on national security. Not because they don’t understand the threat we face. No. They, and we in the Senate who support the Specter amendment, are concerned about this provision because we care about the Constitution, because we care about the image that American presents to the world as we fight the terrorists. Because we know that the writ of habeas corpus provides one of the most significant protections of human freedom against arbitrary government action ever created. If we sacrifice it here, we will head down a road that history will judge harshly and our descendants will regret.

Mr. President, we must not imperil our proud history. We must not abandon the Great Writ. We must not jeopardize our nation’s proud traditions and principles by suspending the writ of habeas corpus, and permitting our government to pick people up off the street, even in U.S. cities, and detain them indefinitely without court review. That is not what America is about.

Unfortunately, the suspension of the Great Writ is not the only problem with this legislation, nor is it the only instance where the legislation goes beyond establishing military commissions to include unnecessary provisions with deeply troubling results.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Democracy in Iraq & America

Bush and Cheney can't build democracy in Iraq or anywhere else because they can't handle democracy here at home.
-S.W. Anderson

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States was energetic and determined, and during the 40 years of the Cold War it was patient and deliberate. In neither case did any U.S. president intentionally preach fear as the major message to the people - on the contrary.

With his very loose formulations, the president is now creating a climate of fear that is destructive for American morale and distorting of American policy.
-Zbigniew Brzezinski

Our ever so grateful friends in the new democratic Iraq — well, they had elections anyway — are trying to tell us something:

Get out, already! Or, if not right now at least within the year. Oh, and by the way, if our people kill your people, your people have got it coming to them.

"Rushing Off a Cliff"

New York Times Condemns
Proposed Torture Legislation

Thursday's New York Times, September 28, published a strongly worded editorial -- "Rushing Off a Cliff" -- analyzing and condeming the proposed legislation dealing with torture. This is an excerpt from that editorial.

Last week, the White House and three Republican senators announced a terrible deal on this legislation that gave Mr. Bush most of what he wanted, including a blanket waiver for crimes Americans may have committed in the service of his antiterrorism policies. Then Vice President Dick Cheney and his willing lawmakers rewrote the rest of the measure so that it would give Mr. Bush the power to jail pretty much anyone he wants for as long as he wants without charging them, to unilaterally reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, to authorize what normal people consider torture, and to deny justice to hundreds of men captured in error.

These are some of the bill’s biggest flaws:

Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of “illegal enemy combatant” in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.

The Geneva Conventions: The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret — there’s no requirement that this list be published.

Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.

Judicial Review: The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial.

Coerced Evidence: Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable — already a contradiction in terms — and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.

Secret Evidence: American standards of justice prohibit evidence and testimony that is kept secret from the defendant, whether the accused is a corporate executive or a mass murderer. But the bill as redrafted by Mr. Cheney seems to weaken protections against such evidence.

Offenses: The definition of torture is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.

There is not enough time to fix these bills, especially since the few Republicans who call themselves moderates have been whipped into line, and the Democratic leadership in the Senate seems to have misplaced its spine. If there was ever a moment for a filibuster, this was it.

We don’t blame the Democrats for being frightened. The Republicans have made it clear that they’ll use any opportunity to brand anyone who votes against this bill as a terrorist enabler. But Americans of the future won’t remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration.

They’ll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Condoning Torture

Condoning Torture Moves Us
Towards Totalitarianism

In a recent e-mail discussion concerning torture, a long time friend offered a defense of torture as a necessary means of acquiring vital information needed to prevent the destruction of lives via terrorist acts. My reply:

The defense of torture that you offered in your previous e-mail, it seems to me, is one appropriate for a 30 second political attack ad or a bumper sticker slogan. But it is not a defense that corresponds to reality. Your defense of torture sounds to me like a takeoff of the TV program, “24” : our hero, Jack, stiffs the interrogation rules demanded by his soft headed bosses, uses “harsh” torture-type questioning methods strictly forbidden by those soft headed bosses, and at the last minute before the end of the TV allotted program time, finds out the crucial information that saves the day. You are saying that you want the government to have authority to torture a detainee -- when a detainee has vital information. But you're not dealing with the larger question: how many detainees may need to be tortured before the government finds the one detainee that has the vital information?

I can see the 30 second attack ad that your justification would produce: Jack saves the day because he has the guts to torture. Democrats are slime because they are soft headed and oppose taking the tough actions needed to defeat terrorism. Did you catch the recent comment by the Republican Majority Leader, John Boehner? He said: "I listen to my Democrat friends, and I wonder if they are more interested in protecting the terrorists than protecting the American people." (The more I read this comment, the more I am amazed.)

It would be impossible to have a torture policy based on the notion that only those with vital knowledge will be tortured. Isn't that the purpose of much torture -- to find out if, in fact, the detainee has vital knowledge? Bush and Co are seeking authority to pursue an effective torture policy, not an ineffective policy. Before the Supreme Court intervened, the administration was operating on the premise that they had authority to take this position: "We will torture, if and when we feel like it, for whatever reasons that we deem sufficient, and we will never be required to justify our practices." Republican leadership seem to be betting that Americans will support a carte blanche torture approval.

The slope to totalitarianism is greased by selfish interests. People support the move to totalitarianism when they support totalitarian measures. Americans are being urged to support totalitarian measures with the promise that these totalitarian measures will assure personal safety. Americans are being urged to give into a view that says, "I don't care what my government does -- so long as it makes me safe." In this war on terrorism, our government has treated non-Americans detainees to secret prisons, incarcerated detainees with no judicial review, sought to have trials in which the detainees could not review evidence against him, and tortured. The administration is betting that Americans will support these actions, because these actions promise to make them safe. But, these actions stoop so low that, as Colin Powell says, we are losing our moral basis for fighting terrorism. And I am wondering if by agreeing to stoop so low, that, as a society, we are agreeing to a slide towards totalitarianism.

We have declared a never ending war on terror -- and our war on terror is producing more terror, more terrorists, which, in turn, has made us increase our war on terror. We've seemingly created a perpetual terror and war producing machine. And propelled by this engine of terror, what is the next logical cycle in this process? What about the threat of American grown terrorists? Should we allow the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to hamper our government from taking effective action against American terrorists, or those who might be terrorists, or those who might encourage terrorists, or those who might know a terrorist, etc.?

The war on terrorism, it seems to me, if it continues to escalate, will eventually cause an assault on our Constitution and our Bill of rights. We may start by not caring how non-Americans are treated in this war on terror, by not caring if the Geneva Conventions are trashed -- because we only care about our own safety. But if concern for our own safety is the determining factor, then it is not hard to imagine the next step -- not caring how Americans accused of terrorist connections are treated, and not caring how much growth in totalitarian power is accrued to the government. And those who do care will be slimed. I can almost hear John Boehner say: "I wonder if these people, who say they are protecting the Constitution, are really more interested in protecting the terrorists than in protecting the American people."

It seems logical to me that this never ending war on terror, unless we find better strategies, will lead to a growing movement to reinterpret, to eviscerate, the Bill of Rights -- as, similarly, Bush sought to destroy the Geneva Conventions. And if Bush and his ilk get to appoint one or two more Supreme Court judges -- such reinterpretations of our Constitution, should they be pursued by those in power, could very well have judicial approval. It seems clear: If we do not find a better way to answer the terrorist threat, then the war on terror will cost us all very dearly.

Monday, September 25, 2006

President Clinton takes on Faux News

Paula, Paula, Paula!! Get a grip.

CNN's Paula Zahn hyped the Clinton story to the hilt. The title across the bottom of the screen screamed "Clinton's Rage". Paula asked Paul Begala about Clinton "losing his temper", and asked why the former President had come "uncorked".

I saw the same footage. I saw a wonderfully thoughtful, canny, intelligent, passionate, articulate man politely and forcefully expressing his just anger at patently false representations of his good work as President. He never lost his cool. He spoke with serious intelligence and great force about serious issues. More power to him. Hooray for grabbing a bit of the nation's attention. Surely the American people were reminded of the wonderfully thoughtful, canny, intelligent, passionate, articulate President that he was. And surely they were immediately stuck with all that George W. Bush isn't.

The inescapable comparison cannot hurt us in November.

Had Enough?

I have a bumper sticker on my car:
Had Enough? Vote Democratic.

In looking online for more stickers I found Tim Roemer's Op Ed from the New York Times:

"The administration said Iraqis would greet us with roses as liberators, yet our soldiers are attacked with homemade bombs and rocket-propelled grenades. Had Enough? Vote Democratic.

"The administration said it was prepared for a hurricane in New Orleans, yet our government's feeble response prompted Bangladesh to offer us $1 million in aid. Had Enough? Vote Democratic!

"The administration said it would bring competency to our federal budget, yet our nation faces catastrophic deficits. Had Enough? Vote Democratic!"

I might add:

George Bush said he was a compassionate conservative , yet he wants to weaken the Geneva Conventions. Had Enough? Vote Democratic!

The Administration said the invasion of Iraq would make us safer, yet their own National Intelligence Estimate has shown the opposite. Had Enough? Vote Democratic!

Rove on a Waterboard? What an Image!

In a comment to Mike Bock's last post, Zenyenta pointed to the Americablog suggestion that Karl Rove and a few others from the Bush administration volunteer to experience some of Bush's alternative interrogation methods (I wish I were a cartoonist!) and see where they think the line should be drawn. Imagine Karl on that waterboard. Or the Blusterer-in-Chief, himself. Somehow I think those boys would soon be swearing to anything the "professionals" asked of them.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Torture Is...

It Depends Upon What
The Meaning of the Word “Torture” Is

President Bush has said flatly that the US “does not torture.” Yet, he says that, because of a Supreme Court ruling, there is a need for more “clarity.” Bush wants to make sure that there is an agreement in congress that certain interrogation techniques are given legal protection via new laws. These techniques, according to Bush, are essential for the continuation of a “program” that has been successful in producing valuable information. Bush argues that these interrogation techniques may be “harsh,” but that they do not comprise “torture.”

At his 15 September 2006 press conference, Bush said:
"This debate is occurring because the Supreme Court ruling said that we must conduct ourselves under the common article three of the Geneva Convention. And that common article three says that--you know--there will be no outrages upon human dignity. That's like very vague. What does that mean? Outrages upon human dignity? That's a statement that's wide open to interpretation."

It appears that Bush is acting on a fear that the interrogation practices that his “program,” evidently, has used for some time, needs legal protection via new laws -- because, if a jury simply applied Geneva Convention standards, as a basis to evaluate the legality of current interrogation techniques, without “clarification,” via new congressional action, then he and his chain of command could be held criminally liable.

The Geneva Convention provision, that Bush cited, prohibits "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment." It is amazing that Bush would argue that what constitutes “outrages upon human dignity” is vague and open to interpretation. Don't we know an "outrage upon human dignity" when we see it? Anyone looking at the pictures from Abu Ghraib would not be confused whether those pictures reveal such “outrages.”

Far from fearing that the Geneva standard is too “vague,” that someone might not really understand if a specific practice is an “outrage upon personal dignity,” or not, it seems obvious that Bush is afraid that the Geneva standard is, in fact, too definitive. His interrogators, evidently, very well know that their “harsh” methods would be universally condemned as an “outrage,” therefore against the Geneva Convention, and, therefore against US law. So, the interrogators must have legal protection, via laws that give more "clarity," the story goes, or the program will need to end.

Do we torture? Bush says “no,” and now we can see how Bush justifies that “no,” regardless of his certain knowledge of many outrageous interrogation practices that his administration has sanctioned. The Bush justification goes something like this: We do not torture prisoners, because, the word “torture” means to treat prisoners in such a way as to violate the Geneva Convention. And we do not violate the Geneva Convention, because our interrogation practices are not an “outrage to human dignity.”

What Bush seeks to do is to buttress his weak justification, a justification that no jury would buy, with this additional statement: “And the congress has clarified, via law, that our practices do not violate the Geneva Convention -- therefore we do not torture.”

The arrogance is amazing. And the cynical political calculation is amazing. The fact that this issue is coming to a head six weeks before election is not a happenstance. But surprisingly, and refreshingly, Rove's playbook is not working quite like planned because Republican senators, rather than Democratic senators, are leading the opposition to the proposed Bush legislation. These Republican senators are receiving grief, but nothing like the insult, accusation and venom that certainly was planned for the Democrats had Democrats led the opposition.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Making it a War On The Infidel

John Dean discusses the evolving Bush strategy (shared by Bin Laden) of characterizing the struggle between civilization and terrorism as a struggle between civilization and Muslims.
We have gone from the non sequitur of the "war on terrorism" (A war on "the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce for political purposes"?) to the neologism of the "war on Islamic fascists." Or, depending on the speaker, on "Islamofascism." Why the new rhetoric?

The answer is simple: Pure politics.
Bush has done very little right in his response to terrorism from the very beginning. He continues to make matters worse with his ham-handed "bring-em-on" rhetoric. He is Bin Laden's primary recruiter. How there can be 39% of the American people who still support this little man, I cannot comprehend. There are four states (Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Nebraska) where he still has majority support. And two others (Texas and Mississippi) where more support him than not. I suspect Bush's radical rhetoric has bolstered his standing in his base a bit, but it has increased his freefall among the moderates. For that little bit of political juice he is risking a real clash of civilizations by further alienating the non-violent Muslim majority.

Read John Dean's excellent analysis. (What a shame Nixon wouldn't listen.)
Dean again:
It is ... too soon to know if the Bush Administration can again play the American voters for fools, and deceive just enough of them to squeak out another victory at the polls.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Ends of Things

Very few established institutions, governments and constitutions ... are ever destroyed by their enemies until they have been corrupted and weakened by their friends.
-Walter Lippman, journalist (1889-1974)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Danger for Democrats

S.W. Anderson of Oh!pinion, a very perceptive political observer, warns those of us hoping for an awakening at the polls in November, that we had better beware of the media, which is always ready to abet the Republican noise machine:

The key to the danger for Democrats going forward is that if polls start showing Republicans scoring an upswing, the media will jump all over the chance to report how the underdogs have come from behind to win again.


No matter what the polls say, no matter how bad it looks for the GOP, no one should underestimate Republicans’ willingness and ability to say and do anything to win.

The Big Lie

Ruth Rosen, a historian and journalist, reviews the new Oliver Stone movie, "World Trade Center", at the History News Network.

She gives a very positive review of the movie's aesthetics and the portrayal of the remarkable bravery of many victims and rescuers. But she ends with this:

And yet, in none of these profoundly moving scenes is there even a mention of who might have committed this atrocity. Neither the name al-Qaeda, nor Osama Bin Laden, is so much as whispered.

You might say, "But everyone knows it was al-Qaeda." And you'd be right, but do most Americans really know just who those terrorists were or that they had no connection to Iraq -- that not a single one of them even came from that country? It doesn't sound very important until you realize that various polls over the last five years have reported from 20% to 50% of Americans still believe Iraqis were on those planes. (They were not.) As of early 2005, according to a Harris poll, 47% of Americans were convinced that Saddam Hussein actually helped plan the attack and supported the hijackers. And in February, 2006, according to a unique Zogby poll of American troops serving in Iraq, "85% said the U.S. mission is mainly 'to retaliate for Saddam's role in the 9-11 attacks'; 77% said they also believe the main or a major reason for the war was 'to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq.'"

The Big Lie, first coined by Adolf Hitler in his 1925 autobiography Mein Kampf,was made famous by Joseph Goebbels, propaganda minister for the Third Reich. The idea was simple enough: Tell a whopper (the larger the better) often enough and most people will come to accept it as the truth. During World War II, the predecessor of the CIA, the Office of Strategic Services, described how the Germans used the Big Lie: "[They] never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it."

This is, in fact, just what the Bush administration has been doing ever since 9/11. As a result, in 2005, an ABC/Washington Post poll found that 56% of Americans still thought Iraq had possessed weapons of mass destruction "shortly before the war," and 60% still believed Iraq had provided "direct support" to al-Qaeda prior to the war. In June 2006, Fox News ran a story once again dramatizing the supposed links between 9/11 and Iraq. And, as recently as July, 2006, a Harris poll found that 64% of those polled "say it is true that Saddam Hussein had strong links to Al Qaeda."

The Bush administration's Big Lie has worked very well. Dick Cheney, the point man on this particular lie, has repeated it year after year. In a similar way, George Bush has repeatedly explained his 2003 invasion of Iraq, which had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11, by insisting that we must fight terrorists in that country so that we don't have to fight them here. (It turned out to be something of a self-fulfilling prophesy.)

Neither these, nor so many other administration statements had a shred of truth to them. Even the President, who repeatedly linked Saddam Hussein to the terrorist organization behind the September 11th attacks, admitted on September 18, 2003 that there was no evidence the deposed Iraqi dictator had had a hand in them. But that didn't stopped the Vice President from endlessly repeating the Big Lie that justifies this country's invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Most of the controversy over World Trade Center has focused on whether, as the fifth anniversary of the attacks approaches, it is still too soon for a cinematic depiction of these horrendous events. For some people, perhaps that may well be the case. I myself don't think it's too soon for such a film; but I do worry that, powerful and evocative as it is, it may, however inadvertently, only deepen waning support for the war in Iraq,

Despite the near flood of documentaries on the terrorist attacks heading toward the small screen this September, Stone's film, for many Americans, may end up being the definitive cinematic record of what it felt like to be inside the hellish cyclone known simply by the numbers 9/11.

To offer a faithful recreation of that historical catastrophe, however, Stone owed viewers the whole truth, not merely a brilliant, graphic portrayal of what happened and how it affected the lives of some of those involved.

As it ends, a written postscript appears that describes what happened to the buried Port Authority policemen, their families, and the ex-Marine who helped rescue them (whose last line is: "We're going to need some good men out there to revenge this"). We learn that the two men survived an unbearable number of surgeries and are living with their families. Next we read that the ex-Marine re-upped and later did two tours of duty in Iraq. At that moment, I wanted to shout out, "Don't you mean Afghanistan?" Then I imagined the satisfaction Dick Cheney and sore-loser Senator Joseph Lieberman would take in this not-quite-spelled-out linkage of 9/11 and Iraq.

I kept waiting for what never came -- even a note in the postscript reminding the audience of those who had actually committed the crime. This is where, by omission, Stone's film ends up reinforcing the administration's Big Lie. You could easily have left the theater thinking that the saintly ex-Marine had gone off to fight those who attacked our country.

That evening, I wrote the words that should have appeared in the postscript: "Government officials later confirmed that the organization which plotted the destruction of the World Trade Center was al-Qaeda, led by Osama Bin Laden, a Saudi Arabian, and Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian. Nineteen men executed the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Fifteen of them came from Saudi Arabia; the remaining four from Egypt, The United Arab Emirates, and Lebanon. None of them came from Iraq."

Friday, September 15, 2006

Democratic Argument

Here are a group of quotes from Congressional Debate back in June. Somehow I never finished the post.


Congressman Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) :
...since day one of the war in Iraq, Democrats have provided the President with everything he asked for, yet Republicans have denied the President the one thing he needed: oversight.
Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-CA):
...simply calling Iraq an intelligence failure ignores the larger policy failures that created the false momentum toward war.
Congressman John Dingell (D-MI):
... Like many other members of this body I supported the President’s father when he came to Congress seeking authorization to liberate Kuwait.
There the process was honest, open, and truthful. The intelligence was clear; the mission was finite; and the world was united. Here the process is closed, the debate filled with hyperbole and half-truths, the world is alienated, and our mission is murky and indefinite...

Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA):
...our country is at war. Men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces, Republicans and Democrats, are making the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq to defend our freedom, with 2500 men and women having lost their lives. They deserve our respect and admiration. But we do not honor them with this debate today.
Instead of discussing ideas and long-overdue course corrections, we are being confronted with slogans. My colleagues on the other side of the aisle would like this country to believe that their party will “stay the course” in Iraq, while we want to “cut and run.” That kind of gross distortion may resonate on right-wing talk radio, but nothing could be further from the truth. We need to make sure the job is done right in Iraq, and leave as soon as possible.
Our men and women in uniform are striving, sometimes without the necessary troop strength and without adequate equipment, to make the effort in Iraq a success. And here the House majority is undermining the democratic process and the very principles that these brave servicemen and women have gone abroad to defend...
House Minority Leader Nancy Palosi (D-CA):
“On every important aspect of the Iraq war, President Bush and his advisors have been wrong: wrong on the reason to go to war; wrong on the reception our troops would receive; wrong on the rapidity with which the Iraqi economy would be able to pay for the war and reconstruction; and wrong on the willingness of the international community to join in efforts to stabilize Iraq.

“But don’t take my word for it. This gross incompetence has driven some of our fighting generals to level devastating public criticism. Major General John Batiste who led the First Infantry Division in Iraq, has said: ‘My own decision to speak out goes back to watching first hand the arrogant and contemptuous attitude of Rumsfeld as he ignored the advice of military experts during preparations for war, and then living with the impact of those strategic blunders as a division commander in Iraq. Secretary Rumsfeld and his team turned what should have been a deliberate victory in Iraq into a prolonged challenge.’ That is why, over two years ago, I asked for the resignation of Secretary Rumsfeld, and I do so again today. No one has been held accountable for all of these mistakes in Iraq.

“This incompetence comes at great cost. The Bush Administration is so obsessed with the effort to paint an optimistic picture of the situation in Iraq that it refuses to face the facts. The facts are these: more than 2,500 American troops have been killed, more than 18,000 have been injured – over half permanently, and as the war costs have grown over $400 billion, key reconstruction projects remain unfinished. As defense and intelligence expert Anthony Cordesman recently wrote: ‘The U.S. aid process has failed…it has wasted at least half of the some $22 billion in U.S. funds and much of the $34.6 billion in Iraq funds it attempted to use to secure and develop Iraq’s economy.’ This is outrageous. Where is the accountability? In fact, Mr. Cordesman concludes that the U.S.-managed Iraq reconstruction efforts have been as failed as our response to Hurricane Katrina.

“The Bush Iraq policy has diverted resources and attention from what should be the focus of our effort against terrorism in places like Afghanistan. The lack of stability and deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan is a casualty of the war in Iraq. The war has not made our country safer, it has not made our military stronger, it has caused great damage to our reputation in the world, and it has hindered the fight against terrorism.

“In the face of all of the incompetence and cost of this war, the President urges us to stay the course. ‘Stay the course,’ Mr. President, is not a strategy, it’s a slogan. I will vote against this resolution because it is an affirmation of President Bush’s failed policy in Iraq.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

When Sudden Terror Tears Apart

When Sudden Terror Tears Apart

by Carl P. Daw, Jr.

When sudden terror tears apart
the world we thought was ours,
we find how fragile strength can be,
how limited our powers.

As tower and fortress fall, we watch
with disbelieving stare
and numbly hear the anguished cries
that pierce the ash-filled air.

Yet most of all we are aware
of emptiness and void:
of lives cut short, of structures razed,
of confidence destroyed.

From this abyss of doubt and fear
we grope for words to pray,
and hear our stammering tongues embrace
a timeless Kyrie.

Have mercy, Lord, give strength and peace,
and make our courage great;
restrain our urge to seek revenge,
to turn our hurt to hate.

Help us to know your steadfast love,
your presence near as breath;
rekindle in our hearts the hope
of life that conquers death.

I discovered this hymn on Frank Logue's blog, Irenic Thoughts. It can be sung to lots of common tunes including "Amazing Grace" and "America the Beautiful". It was written by the Rev. Carl P. Daw, Jr., a prolific Episcopal hymnwriter. He wrote this hymn in response the terrorist attacks of 2001. The hymn debuted at the noon eucharist at the Episcopal Church Center, New York City, on September 18, 2001. Daw, is the executive director of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada.

The hymn is Copyright © 2001 Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream IL 60188. All rights reserved. According to the United Methodist Committee on Relief website this poem may be reprinted for individual and congregational use with the appropriate copyright information and author credit line. Hope Publishing Co. has waived the usual fee/permission requirements.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Every Possible Measure of Support

From Keith Olbermann:
The only positive on 9/11 and the days and weeks that so slowly and painfully followed it was the unanimous humanity, here, and throughout the country. The government, the President in particular, was given every possible measure of support.
Those who did not belong to his party - tabled that.

Those who doubted the mechanics of his election - ignored that.

Those who wondered of his qualifications - forgot that.

History teaches us that nearly unanimous support of a government cannot be taken away from that government by its critics. It can only be squandered by those who use it not to heal a nation's wounds, but to take political advantage.

Terrorists did not come and steal our newly-regained sense of being American first, and political, fiftieth. Nor did the Democrats. Nor did the media. Nor did the people.

The President - and those around him - did that.

Wisdom of the Neo-Cons - Bring 'em on!

Neo-con bluster...
"There are some who, uh, feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is: Bring 'em on. We got the force necessary to deal with the security situation."
- George W. Bush, July 2, 2003

[Got a favorite similar bit of Neo-Con Nonsense? Send it to the]

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

How Do We Make Peace?

How Do We Make Peace?
How Do We Make a Better World?

I’ve been reading over the transcript of President Bush’s 9-11 nationally televised speech. I keep thinking: what brilliant propaganda it all is. It weaves a world view and advances theories as if, as if, it was presenting a truth about the nature of terrorism, the behavior of terrorists, the realities of the Middle East. It advances goofy ideas as truth.

The reality outlined in Bush’s speech would have us believe that followers of Hesbollah, Hamas, and Al Qaida are all terrorist brothers, all seeking the same ends, and, that the teenager that blows herself up in a Televiv market does so to advance the same purpose as the 9-11 hijackers sought to advance. This reality would have us believe that the sectarian war in Iraq is a means for the USA to pin down the terrorists overseas so that these terrorists will not be able to attack us here at home. Wow. The misconceptions, the false premises really are breathtaking.

Sometimes, when teaching math, I could almost begin to see the muddle in a student’s thinking. And sometimes I would understand how my well meaning teaching approach had actually contributed to the muddle. What the Republicans are hoping, it seems to me, is actually to produce muddle in voters’ thinking. The Republicans, it seems to me, hope to develop a clear and convincing story line that somehow justifies the Iraq war, and that connects the purpose of pursuing the Iraq war to the greatest generations’ purpose of pursuing WW2. The appeal is that, just as WW2 was justified, this war is justified. The Republicans have created a simplistic story, one that is incredible, and not helpful in educating the public about this important world situation of terrorism, one that greatly impacts public policy. I expect this Republican story to be repeated by Republican candidates nationwide. What is important to note, of course, is that this Republican story is not meant to truly inform or educate the public concerning complex issues. The story has a quite different purpose. The purpose of the story simply is to elect Republicans.

Donald Rumsfeld recently fed into this story in a speech in which he conflated terrorists with Nazis. He would probably conflate terrorists with Darth Vadar, and all those on the Star Wars dark side in their Nazi looking uniforms, if he could, but, in this developing Republican story line, the Darth stand-in apparently is Osama bin Laden. I read that Bush mentioned Osama’s name seventeen times in just one of his terrorism speeches immediately preceding his 9-11 speech. I imagine that Osama is happy to get the attention, and I can imagine that the attention greatly helps his recruitment drive.

Pres. Bush, in his speech said: “September the 11th, we learned that America must confront threats before they reach our shores; whether those threats come from terrorist networks or terrorist states.” And so,according to the Republican story, the Iraq war was inevitable after the 9-11 attacks. And so, the story goes, fighting terrorism, by taking a military fight to them, was a bold but necessary and tough decision, and thank heavens that there was a strong Republican in charge to make that tough decision, because, after all, the Democrats cannot be counted upon to be strong.

The Republican story about terrorism that I am briefly outlining really is sickening in its goal to manipulate public opinion through misinformation. But, regardless of how twisted, the deep background questions that the Republican story seems to attempt to answer are valuable questions, regardless. It seems to me, the Republicans are presenting an answer to important questions: How do we make peace? How do we create a better world? And it seems to me that Democrats must attempt to answer the same questions.

The Republicans are saying that their actions in Iraq have a long term purpose -- creating a more peaceful and better world. The sacrifice of tens of thousands of lives and the spending of hundreds of billions of dollars to pursue the Iraq war, according to Pres. Bush, is ultimately to create more peace, freedom and prosperity in the world. I don’t agree that the Republican answers to these questions make sense, because their answers, to me, seem ungrounded in reality and seem more primed to maintain Republican power, rather than finding true solutions. Their answers, to me, in fact, seem destined to simply create more problems.

The Republicans, in their terrorist policy and in their Iraq war, at least are pretending to advance ideas that purport to show a means of attaining a positive vision of the future. The Democrats, it seems to me, must respond. The Democrats must explain how the Republican ideas -- because they are not based on reality -- are flawed, and the Democrats must come up authentic ideas of how a positive future can be attained.

What is lacking is insight and wisdom and honest evaluation. Can our political system rise to the challenge and produce the kind of dialogue, analysis and participation that our country needs? What is the truth about terrorism? Why did 19 Muslim men, mature and educated, determine to take their own lives in the horrendous 9-11 hijackings. Do we know? Somehow the explanation of their motivation as, “They hate our freedom,” doesn’t ring true to me.

Islamic terrorists are not aliens from outer space determined to ruin our “way of life.” They are fellow human beings who have arrived at ruinous and tragic decisions by using the same human faculties and human emotions that we all use. Can we dare try to understand what is behind a terrorist’s resolve for self destruction? Can we dare to think or try to understand how life experiences, environment, family and cultural history could bring humans to such life destructive choices? Could we dare to attempt to see ourselves in the terrorist’s place?

The impulse to label the terrorists as Nazis is an impulse to label fellow humans as somehow so evil as to be outside the pale of what is human, not deserving of understanding, only deserving of war. But the Nazis were Godless and were guided by the lunatic ideas of Adolph Hitler. The basis for Muslim thinking and Muslim devotion is vastly different and much more in common with our own thinking than the thinking of Nazis ever could have been. Wouldn’t some dedication to truth, to insight, to wisdom be a good start to solving the problem of terrorism in our world?

The fear, I imagine, of many Democrat politicians is that insight and truth about terrorism, about the Palestinian problem, or about the Middle East, in general, may end up sounding wimp like or sounding anti-Israel. I imagine that the fear of many Democrat politicians is that the Republican media machine will seek to destroy, via outrageous lies and distortions, anyone that speaks truth that disputes the Republican terrorism story line.

The Democrats need to make a commitment to truth, not, as the Republicans, simply to make a commitment to do whatever is needed to get elected. Voters, I believe, will reward Democrats who seek office -- if they have the courage and insight to articulate their own vision, their own story, based upon truth, that answers the same questions that the Republicans purport to answer: How do we make peace? How do we create a better world?

Monday, September 11, 2006


Five years.

I saw my assistent principal -- the principal was out that day -- talking earnestly with the teacher across the hall. I stepped out of my fourth-grade classroom to see what was up. She just said there were reports of a possible terrorist attack. We'd avoid upsetting the kids with any announcement, but she wanted us to be aware. By the time my planning time rolled around I had gathered the gist of what was happening from quick forays into the hall and whispered snips of conversation with other teachers. I walked into my neighbor teacher's classroom where she had the news on, now that the kids were at PE. I saw the smoke rising from the towers, several teachers were crying. And then the unthinkable happened. A tower collapsed. And soon the other. It turned out I was watching a tape: the others teachers assumed I had known. I don't think any image has ever affected me so dramatically.

You, dear Reader, also know exactly where you were and what you were doing, I'll bet.

Of course, the terrorists had made a horrible mistake. They had succeeded in inflicting great pain and sorrow, but if we were terrorized we were also galvanized. No action could have united our divided country so completely or garnered us more allies around the world. Firefighters and police officers of both parties and no party fought side by side to save the occupants of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Passengers of a miscellany of political stripes rushed the hijackers on the fourth plane and likely forced it down before it could hit one of our national shrines. Leaders of both major parties worked to give the executive the authority it needed to punish the terrorists. Soldiers of all races, religions, and parties risked their lives, and some gave their lives, to take the fight to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Those of us still bitter over the debacle of the election of 2000 immediately put partisanship on the back burner and gave wholehearted support to our national leadership. No one was concerned about red vs. blue any more, we were concerned for the Red, White, and Blue.

Few leaders in all of history have had so golden an opportunity to show greatness as did America's leaders in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 2001. Much of the world declared themselves "Americans" in spirit. America, itself, was united in the face of this escalated threat to our nation.

What would a Lincoln or a Roosevelt have done? Or a Clinton or a Reagan?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

RPG Protection for Our Troops?

According to Oh!Pinion, a new tool is available to help protect our troops from the deadly rocket propelled grenades that have caused such carnage in Iraq.

The Israeli-produced RPG killer, Trophy 1, costs upwards of $400,000 and can easily be mounted on land vehicles or helicopters. Available since last spring, it’s been needed since our troops entered Iraq three and a half years ago.

However, without strong intervention from the top, our troops will have to wait — for five freakin’ years — for a yet to be fully developed system from a U.S. corporation, Raytheon. According to NBC News’ report, Raytheon is an “Army favorite.”
This should be something that people on all sides of the political spectrum can agree we should pursue. And anyone who puts business interests ahead of our troops well-being should be publicly outed and never allowed another cent of public money.

The Path to 11-7

When the Republicans have no positive record to run on and no positive ideas for the future, as is true now, they simply make up stuff about Democrats. They ridicule Al Gore for things he never said. They "swiftboat" John Kerry. They Put Max Cleland's pic up with Hitler's. And now they pass off as "docu-drama" the myth about Bill Clinton passing up gifts of OBL's head on a platter. Here's a clip from the Media Matters report on The Path to 911.
On the September 8 edition of CNN's American Morning, conservative radio host and former Reagan administration official Bill Bennett acknowledged that "the Clintons had a point" in pressuring ABC to correct the film and admonished ABC for "falsify[ing] the record," adding, "I think they should correct those inaccuracies." Bennett also said that conservatives who have embraced the film "now have to be consistent," noting: "When The Reagans, that show about the Reagans, CBS show, came out, it had all sorts of distortions and misstatements. Conservatives went crazy and had it relegated somewhere -- I don't know. It never appeared on CBS."

Basically it sounds like the Republicans who put this "docudrama" together have accepted a popular internet myth that Clinton was given opportunities to capture or kill Bin Laden and passed them up. Here is conservative author and journalist Richard Miniter (taken from the same Media Matters report):


I did extensive reporting into the Clinton years, and as you say, I'm not afraid to take a few shots.


But certainly if I was the producer, I wouldn't have gone with this scene, because there's no factual basis for it. It seems to be drawn from an Internet myth, from a profound misunderstanding of what actually happened.

If people wanted to be critical of the Clinton years, there's things they could have said, but the idea that someone had [Osama] bin Laden in his sights in 1998 or any other time and the -- Sandy Berger refused to pull the trigger, there's zero factual basis for that.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Wisdom of the Neo-Cons - Take Two

Neo-Con Blather #65782518

“And a year from now, I’ll be very surprised if there is not some grand square in Baghdad that is named after President Bush."
-Richard Perle, 9-22-2003

[Got a favorite similar bit of Neo-Con Prescience? Send it to the]

The Evil-dictator-removal Business

Found this from Gary Hart on the Huffington Post this morning:
By unnecessarily invading Iraq, based on false assumptions, rather than relying on containment, the principle that won the Cold War, we will be living with the consequences for a long time to come. We should not go to war because we want to, but only because we have to. There was no imperative to invade Iraq.

Forget the convenient default justification of removing an evil dictator. We have never been in the evil-dictator-removal business. By our unprovoked invasion we have: created an international training camp for jihadists; released ancient Sunni-Shiite-Kurdish animosities; established the conditions for a restrictive theocracy where before a secular Arab society existed; increased instability in the most volatile region of the world; and, perhaps most of all, surfaced a Great White Whale to accomodate George W. Bush's latent Captain Ahab.

Fervor and Intensity

One of my problems with the War in Iraq has been that it has been a war without cost to the average citizen. If we as a nation believe so radical a step as war is necessary, then we as a nation, not just our military and their families, should go to war. This time, instead of calling for national sacrifice, a universal draft, rationing, or blood-sweat-toil-and-tears, our President is cutting taxes for the wealthy and sending fewer troops than needed while redeploying these overstretched troops again and again.

Rep. John Murtha, one of the Republicans' favorite Democrats until he had the temerity to listen to folks actually fighting the war instead of the little man behind the curtain, writes:

The President, Vice President, Secretaries of Defense and State have been blitzing the media lately in attempts to shore up support for the War in Iraq. They assert that today's wars must be fought with the same fervor and intensity as when we fought Nazism during WWII and then Communism until its celebrated fall.


When several military experts called for the addition of hundreds of thousands of troops early in the Iraq War, the Bush Administration rejected the call, and instead chose to fight with a minimal force. And now, when our troops have been deployed over and over again; when almost all of our combat units at our bases at home are at the lowest state of combat readiness; and with this Administration's continued insistence to stay a failed course; it is now more obvious than ever that we can not sustain this war on its current course and we must change direction.


While the Administration stresses that we are a country at war, they refuse to spread the burden proportionately. Instead, they pursue tax incentives for the rich, run up our federal deficit, and spend astronomical sums in Iraq with little or no control over wasteful and fraudulent spending. This is not the picture of a country at war. Consider the following:

The current war in Iraq has lasted longer than the Korean War, World War I and World War II in Europe. This war is the first protracted conflict in modern times in which our nation has not utilized a draft for additional support. If the President is genuinely serious in his comparison with communism and fascism, perhaps he should reconsider a call to reinstate the draft.

[Rep. Murtha cites the figures to show that the current available force is decreasing and is smaller than just the draftee portion of our troops in WWI, WWII, Korea or Vietnam.]

It is unlikely that the President will call for a draft. A draft is politically unpopular. But we cannot continue to allow the President to pursue open-ended and vague military missions without a change in direction.

Two years ago, I was one of only two in the House of Representatives who voted for a draft, because I believe if we are a country truly at war, the burden should be shared proportionately and fairly. So Mr. President, you have two options, either change the course in Iraq and reduce the burden on our overstretched active force or reinstitute the draft. We cannot sustain the current course.

Shame on George Bush.

By the way, shame on any blogger who questions the patriotism of Jack Murtha just because you disagree with him.

See Murtha's complete article here.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Many Lies Of Mitch McConnell

The Many Lies
Of Mitch McConnell

When Mitch McConnell last Sunday told this whopper, “Secretary Rumsfeld has done an excellent job,” I decided to get the transcript from “Face the Nation.” I was wondering how many lies that McConnell, the senate Republican whip, told in his short interview -- besides this Rumsfeld whopper. Yes, I know, the word, "lie" is an ugly word and it is one that I seldom use, but, there seems to be no other word that really describes Sen. McConnell's statements on "Face the Nation."

Sen. McCONNELL: Well, I think it is important to remind the American people that if the Dean Democrats were in charge ... the prisoners down at Guantanamo would be treated better than American soldiers in the court system.
Now, I define a lie as saying something that you know not to be true. This statement about the Democrats is an outrageous claim. What makes the statement a lie, it seems to me, is that Sen. McConnell, a very informed man, knows that what he is saying is not true. He is saying something for advantage, he is fronting an opinion that he hopes others will believe. But this statement is just too goofy; it is impossible to believe that McConnell, an informed, thoughtful man, is reporting his true judgment.

Sen. McCONNELL: If you cut and run in Iraq, the terrorists will soon be back here, like they were on 9/11.
The assertion that every Muslim that destroys and kills are a part of the same group, terrorists, is a lie. It is a notion that is simply not true. McConnell knows very well that this view of terrorism is not true, yet this premise, this lie, is at the center of his logic. It seems this lie about the nature of terrorism is a key element in the new story line product that the Republicans are evidently attempting to persuade the public to buy. This story line portrays Iraqi violence in terms of Nazi aggression and criticizes opposition to administration war policies as the same sort of foolish appeasement that emboldened the Nazis.

Sen. McCONNELL: What they'll do (the Democrats) is cut and run in Iraq, they'll raise our taxes, we know that, and they'll try to impeach the president. That's their agenda.
Again, a lie in my book is when you make a statement that you know is not true. McConnell is a smart man and he very well knows that he is not telling the truth about the Democrats’ agenda. Someone might say that McConnell is entitled to his opinion and I agree, he is entitled to make his own judgments, but, the point is that McConnell is not stating his own opinion or his own judgment. McConnell is the Senate Republican Whip. He is delivering the party line and, in so doing, he is deliberately making statements that he knows are not true.

Sen. McCONNELL:`I think Secretary Rumsfeld has done an excellent job. He'll be remembered as one of the great secretaries of defense.''
Can anyone believe that Sen. McConnel is stating about Rumsfeld what he, himself, believes to be true? This statement gives unreserved praise to Rumsfeld that is simply not deserved by any objective standard, and it seems impossible that McConnell is giving a statement of his true opinion. Certainly the Republican leadership must be very frustrated with the conduct of the war and very disappointed in the poor leadership that has created and perpetuated such a fiasco. But they won’t admit their own incompetence. I find it amazing that Sen. McConnell can make such a statement about Rusfeld with a straight face. He is showing amazing party discipline as he steadfastly delivers the party line -- yes, we are competent; yes, we are great -- but, it seems to me that by making such a statement about Rumsfeld he loses credibility. (It was this Rumsfeld statement, after all, that provoked me to write this Blog.)

Sen. McCONNELL: Well, the Democrats had a chance to increase the minimum wage just a month ago. Every Republican, I think maybe with one exception, voted for a package that would have included the Kennedy minimum wage increase. They wouldn't take yes for an answer.
Again, Sen. McConnell knows very well that the Republicans tacked the permanent repeal of the estate tax as part of the minimum wage bill and that this estate tax provision, an extreme giveaway to the extremely wealthy, was why Democrats voted against the bill.

I get the feeling that this McConnell interview is a preview of a coming massive Republican campaign of misinformation and outright lies. There needs to be a truth squad. Wasn't finding and reporting the truth, wasn't holding officials accountable to some standard of truth once the role of the press -- pre Fox News? What is amazing about the McConnell interview is that the moderator had no challenge to the reality that McConnell was promulgating. It was as if McConnell was saying, "The Moon is made of cheese," and the moderator was saying, "Interesting. Tell me what kind."

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Speak up.

Al Gore, a true patriot, delivered an important speech back in January. I re-read it today. He discusses fear and our founders.
Fear drives out reason. Fear suppresses the politics of discourse and opens the door to the politics of destruction. Justice Brandeis once wrote: “Men feared witches and burnt women.”

The founders of our country faced dire threats. If they failed in their endeavors, they would have been hung as traitors. The very existence of our country was at risk.

Yet, in the teeth of those dangers, they insisted on establishing the Bill of Rights.

Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol? Is the world more dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with tens of thousands of missiles poised to be launched against us and annihilate our country at a moment’s notice? Is America in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march—when our fathers fought and won two World Wars simultaneously?

It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it is up to us to do the same.
The Democratic Party is imperfect. We have our charlatans. We, too, are beholden to special interests too often. But at this moment in our history it is critical to put the brakes on the the Republican juggernaut. Gerrymandered Congressional Districts make incumbancy more powerful than ever. Radical Republicans control all three branches of the government. The Executive Branch has unprecedented power and Congress is exercising virtually no oversight. It is time to take our country back from the fearmongers. It is time to reclaim our freedoms. Vote Democratic. Work for Democratic candidates. Send contributions to Democratic candidates. Speak up.

"...terrorists win when they terrorize."

John Dean is participating in an online discussion today. In one of his responses he says:
It is not clear to me why more has not been made of the fact that fearmongering feeds terrorism — and the terrorists win when they terrorize.
Amen. It seems obvious to me that Bush's policies and pronouncements have, inadvertently of course, furthered the cause of the terrorists.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

A Great Moderate-to-Progressive Blogger

I've managed to hang onto the Limb for ten months, now. My readership is very small -- mostly my own family, most of whom are appalled with my political views. On the other hand can it be only coincidence that the country, as a whole, has moved toward my positions during these months? (wink)

Somehow, however, the Limb has attracted the attention of a few excellent bloggers of a similar bent. One of my favorites, and my most frequent commenter, is S.W. Anderson of Oh!pinion. S.W. has very strong opinions, but always presents them in thoughtful, reasonable, terms. My thinking has been enriched by his often succinct comments on my blog. I thought I would pick a few to share, and , as I am wont to do, got carried away. If you’ve missed any of S.W.’s comments at the Limb, here are a bunch of them:

Amen! to this response to my post on warrentless surveillance:
In a very real and deeply disturbing sense, Bush's action in this matter reveals him as someone who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
On Tony Snow’s conclusion that OBL was “led” to the 2001 attacks by the perception of American weakness displayed when Bush Sr “walked away” in 1991.
I notice Snow doesn't mention conclusions bin Laden might've drawn from withdrawal of our troops in Lebanon following the Khobar Towers attack. Maybe that's because Ronald Reagan ordered that withwdrawal.

This is just another iteration of the White House-GOP false-choice propaganda line: anything that deviates from The Decider's definition of staying the course is cutting and running.

As for Poppy Bush, I think he's so tickled pink his boy is president and so annoyed that so many fail to appreciate his boy's sterling qualities that he's in complete denial about George W.'s execrable performance in office.
I love this one on a Neo-Con bragging in 2003: “This war is over”.
Perfect case of chickenhawks counting their eggs before they're through laying them.
When I reacted to Cruella Ann Coulter’s vile comments:
Ah, but saying shocking, incendiary, acid, insulting, shrewish, attention-getting things is Coulter's schtick. She thus generates buzz, sells books and gets booked on Fox and elsewhere, so she can perpetuate the cycle.

Red-meat vendors like Fox keep hold of the eyeballs of right-wing hard cases through her appearances. Supposedly middle-of-road vendors like CNN have her on, then tut-tut and say ooh, what she said in mock shock after having thus made a bid for the eyeballs of right-wing hard cases.

It's a racket all the way around.
I ran a wonderful RJ Matson cartoon that skewered the right-wing disdain for the courts:
That is a good cartoon.

I tend to think right wingers have it in for judges because, unlike officials who serve in other branches, judges are nearly impossible to influence or control. Few belong to or identify with a political party. They're not subject to lobbying and most don't have their hand out for campaign money.

Judges are also relatively hard to intimidate by having Limbaugh, Hannity, Boortz and the rest of the noise machine go after them.
On an essay by the Questing Parson about the “myth of redemptive violence”:
It behooves warmaking countries to frequently countentance calls to conscience from third parties and from people opposed to all wars. Not necessarily that countries at war can or should be immobilized or even shamed by what they hear from dissident voices. But they should maintain awareness that when hostilities end there will usually be an accounting and sometimes even a reckoning.

If nothing else, it's worth remembering war is so terrible it takes a toll on victors as well as the vanquished, whether or not the victors realize in the short run that this is so.
On the lowering of military standards that have resulted from Bush’s policies, S.W., an old military guy himself, said:
How ironic this is, because a big feature of our all-volunteer force has been higher-quality, better-motivated recruits.

If there's one kind of person our military never needs or has any business accepting, it's thugs.

Integrity, discipline, grit and a sense of purpose about something greater than self and "what I want now" are keys to successful soldiering. Thugs by definition lack those attributes. Consequently, they are huge liabilities to other troops and to the mission.
On a quote by Edmund Burke about the perils of empire:
Excellent advice, of course. Nevertheless, as Bush has told us, he hears the voices but he's the president, so he gets to decide.

Sort of like a kid telling his pals that since he bought the box of Cracker Jacks, he gets to play with the prize.

Heaven help us all.
On Al Gore’s movie: An Inconvenient Truth:
Plain old common sense should be enough to convince any thinking person that two or three centuries of massive, escalating alteration of the atmosphere is bound to have negative consequences.
Add to global warming the combination of burgeoning world demand for energy — mostly fossil fuels — and predictions about "peak oil," meaning the time when we've maxed out what's economically feasible to extact, and it's not hard to see there are really big crises up ahead. Not that far up ahead, at that.

Consider how many people now live in places that require vehicular transportation to get to and fro. Consider how many people live and work in places where high summer heat and humidity and/or bitter winter cold mean they inevitably require lots of energy just so their homes will be habitable and their workplaces will be bearable.

Right now, it's as though we're all on an airliner with a brain-dead pilot. We had better start facing facts and developing ways to deal with these problems. We can't afford the luxury of electing dolts or people hellbent on enjoying the political rewards of denial.
On my prayer for the long life of Justice John Paul Stevens:

As for Stevens, I too am with The Man on the Limb. One or two more like Thomas and Scalia, and this country's in for some rough sledding — for very long time.
When I lamented that both sides in the fight over the separation of church and state often get it wrong:
I think much of what strikes you as efforts to pretend religion doesn't exist or to deny or ignore the importance of the Judeo-Christian tradition are manifestations of a natural, inevitable phenomenon in our democracy: countervailing pressure.

That is, when you have people going on cable squawk shows and people such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity insisting America was founded as a Christian nation, has been a Christian nation all along, is a Christian nation now, and you have people calling in to talk shows presenting those notions as a given, inevitably, people who aren't religious, aren't Christian and even Christians who have a clue, will push back.

The more pushy the Christian-nation folks get, the more push-back they're going to generate.

And of course, the resulting hubbub will encourage the hottest heads and meanest mouths on both sides to ratchet up the intensity from time to time, especially when lawyers and the media get involved in a flashpoint situation.

Times were better and the level of respect shown was greater when it was considered good form among people of faith to let their religious beliefs work at the level of conscience and character building, internally, when they were taking care of the people's business in various branches of government.

Nowadays, I suspect, even people who'd prefer to operate that way fear they'll lose ground politically, especially in red states, if they don't at least match those who engage in conspicuous Bible thumping and wear their faith on their shoulders, like a chip.
When Congress finally had a bit of debate on the War in Iraq:
Given that it didn't appear until an election year in which the public has turned sour on the war, this sudden appearance of dissension in the ranks of congressional Republicans rings hollow.

It's enough to make me wonder, if the November election turns into a landslide loss for the GOP, will we see neopacifist Republicans donning love beads and showing the peace sign in '08?

On a post about Coulter’s “Fair Game” comment:
Coulter and Hannity, together. Perfect match.

Add O'Reilly to this vacuum for truth and decency, and you'd have enough concentrated evil to fuel a sequel to "The Exorcist."
On another post about Coulter and my daughter’s suggestion that the Republicans “excommunicate her”:
Excommunicate her?

Not as long as she stokes their fires and money can be made off of her hatefulness.

Know their values not by what they say their values are, but by what they demonstrate their values are.
On the potential for another Gore candidacy:
Gore has maintained he would be amenable to a draft but doesn't plan to run.

If he does get drafted (unlikely) or decides to run, I hope he'll swear off political consultants, campaign wizards and anyone else who tries to shape the image he projects. If he wants advice on that, he should listen to Tipper and to his extremely bright and articulate daughter, period.

Gore is a good, capable, experienced man. He has a lot to offer. He doesn't need to come forth as a new Al Gore, just a steady, consistent Al Gore.
On our addiction to oil:
We most certainly could do plenty to improve our situation. What's needed is solid, sensible leadership. We need policy wonks who know a lot, care a lot, do their homework, then look and plan ahead. We need leaders who know what the people are capable of if summoned and challenged to do their best.

What we've got is cardboard cutouts labeled "leader."
On my lament that Republicans seem to rarely get beyond ad hominem attacks to any real discussion of the issues:
Your conclusion is dead on target. Just try it and see what right wingers and their noise machine do with thoughtful, intelligent attempts at discussion.

A favorite tactic I've run into is that they routinely reject out of hand any complaints or criticisms, saying "you're just a Bush hater, so what else could we expect?" That charge is supposed to invalidate the critic and criticism in one economical put down.

Then they feel the matter is settled, no further discussion needed.
On a group of quotes from unlikely sources critical of Bush’s policies:
That's an excellent and eye-opening set of quotes. I wish everyone could read them and then stop and think.
I'll toss in this additional food for thought.

It doesn't take a Z-big or Henry the K to figure out that a big reason Iranians elected Ahmedinejad and support his nuclear aspirations is because they feel threatened.

Iran has grudges against the U.S. that go back decades: our ousting of the country's democratically elected leader in the 1950s, our long support for the shah and our support of Saddam in the horrendous Iran-Iraq War. All that on top of the close U.S. alliance with Israel.

So, Bush brilliantly sends an army to invade the country next door, in an act of naked aggression.

Anyone who puts himself or herself in Iran's position would feel threatened and want nukes too.

Bush and his cronies are ignorant and extremely foolish. To paraphrase Rumsfeld, they don't even know what they don't know.

God help us all if their seemingly limitless willingness and ability to do the exactly wrong thing results in a war of aggression against Iran.

Well, S.W., thanks for dropping by the Limb so often. It was good to review your thoughtful comments. You and I share an intense anger at the boneheaded policies of our president. We both occasionally let him have it. But you are a patriot who does not let the vitriol smother reason. Thanks for helping to express, in reasonable and constructive terms, our righteous anger at this divisive administration. With the body count reaching new highs every day, the government using unwarranted surveillance, and the VP and Sec. of Defense comparing us to "Nazi appeasers" it is difficult to avoid the vitriol.

The Oh!pinion post today is another good one.