Monday, April 30, 2007

Regarding Tenet

The latest commentary by George Tenet is coming out and provoking all kinds of response. I agree pretty much with mcjoan at Kos on this. What Tenet has to say fits in to what I already believe, but he has no credibility. If he had wanted to be taken seriously he should have spoken out in 2003 or 2204 to change our politics then. At least in 2005-2006 he would have provided useful input. Now he is just covering for himself, so who can take him at face value.

One great thing I heard this morning on the Young Turks are Air America. Given George Tenet's complaint that he is surprised, shocked and hurt that Dick Cheney threw him under the bus as we say. Cenk Uygur had a great comment. George Tenet was supposed to be the head of our Central Intelligence Agency, the man ultimately responsible for gathering and analyzing information and drawing conclusions from it. And he was surprised that Dick Cheney would throw him under the bus. Three quarters of the entire world has known for decades that Dick Cheney would throw his grandmother under a bus to avoid getting into trouble himself. Sigh.


How Much Clearer?

How much clearer could it get that we are making no progress in Iraq. On the one hand we have the Maliki government in Iraq purging its military of qualified commanders precisely because those commanders are effective at controlling Shite militias. But aren't the violent Shiite militias, the ones that would be aligned with Iran, one of our biggest problems? Certainly, according to reports, the Americans are not happy with this purge. This month is turning out to be the fourth deadliest month for the coalition. Sectarian violence in Baghdad goes on apace. What infrastructure rebuilding we did accomplish in the first years after the fall of Saddam are crumbling. The Bush administration itself is scaling back any talk of progress in Iraq.

Harry Reid is correct, George Bush's adventure in Iraq is a failure. We need to remove our forces from there as soon as is at all possible.


Saturday, April 28, 2007

Discontent in the Officer Corps

Via Blue Girl, Red State we find this article in the Armed Forces Journal. Now I'm not an expert in military affairs, but I'm also not entirely ignorant. The fact that this article is being written is a very serious issue that needs to be addressed. This degree of dissatisfaction in the field grade officer corps is a definite problem. There is always some disaffection in the ranks but the degree of unhappiness being expressed these days is exceptional. Lt. Col. Paul Yingling describes a number of problems which are plaguing the military now.

Two of the things he discusses have particular salience to questions of politics outside the military. Lt. Col. Yingling states "War is not a military activity conducted by soldiers, but rather a social activity that involves entire nations." This is at the heart of the current political disconnect. Our current political leadership is taking exactly the opposite position. They have left the whole weight of fighting in Iraq on the sholders of the military. They have failed to provide the national support that the military needs. This failure dates back to the lead up to the war. For a nation to successfully prosecute a war requires a great deal more than a bare 51% support of the population. Especially if that 51% is achieved via fraud and deceit. Yet our political leadership accepted this a sufficient to take the nation to war. There needs to be broad popular support for the sacrifices our military need to make if we are to engage in a long war. This Administration has failed to provide that support.

Another issue that the article raises is a growing disconnect in the army between the Generals and the lower ranks. The Generals have chosen to ingratiate themselves with the political leadership rather than fulfill their obligations to accurately inform the political leadership as to what was needed for this war. This disconnect between those in management and those who actually need to make things happen is a broader problem in society, see here for more on this.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Desperate Bush

John Aravosis sees another indication that Bush is feeling desperate these days. Bush is at Camp David for the Abe visit. Bush does not want to veto this bill. Note that "The White House has not said whether Bush plans a quiet veto or a public ceremony." They are not all that keen on making this a public issue. The veto, and the showdown are not attractive to this Administration. They are loosing this fight and they know it. As long as the Democrats stay aware of that fact, a decent funding bill will become law.

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David Broder

Well the whole David Broder disconnect has become striking. He writes on April 26th that Sen. Harry Reid is the Democrat's Gonzales. Yes, that Harry Reid shows the same degree of incompetence that Alberto Gonzales does. Specifically, Broder claims that there is a "...long list of senators of both parties who are ready for these two springtime exhibitions of ineptitude to end." Referring to Gonazles and Reid. Yet the next day the entirety of the Democratic Senatorial caucus wrote a letter backing up Reid completely. So much has been made already of the absurdity of Broder writing an editorial saying that many Democratic Senators considered Reid an embarrassment and inept when, in fact, all support him entirely.

I think that Atrios captures the attitude of someone like Broder nearly exactly. This nation does not have a privileged class, it has no aristocracy. People like David Broder believe that it does, or at least that it should, and that they comprise it. And these folks are very angry at those forces that would prevent the coming into existence of their beloved aristocracy.

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Romney on Osama

So here is Mitt Romney on the need to capture Osama bin Laden
... the country would be safer by only "a small percentage" and would see "a very insignificant increase in safety" if al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was caught because another terrorist would rise to power. "It's not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person," Romney said. Instead, he said he supports a broader strategy to defeat the Islamic jihad movement.
First let me say that this does seem to capture conservative thinking very well. This is why I believe that conservatives should never be let anywhere near national security or defense. They really do believe that capturing Osama bin Laden is, to paraphrase, not worth the money, but getting rid of Saddam Hussein is worth the lives, money and sacrifices that have been, and will continue to be, made in Iraq. That is a proposition so absurd, so lacking in sense, so unsupported by experience and evidence as to stagger the imagination. No one holding to such ridiculous beliefs should have any responsibility for the national defense.

An effective system of national defense depends critically upon achieving two goals.
  1. Anyone who actually has, or is in the immediate process of trying to, harm the people, or property under the protection of, the United States of America will be swiftly and effectively stopped and, as needed, destroyed.
  2. All others will be left unmolested.
To provide the security that this nation deserves requires that both of these requirements be met. To provide security for this nation, we needed, long ago now, to have captured and destroyed Osama bin Laden to demonstrate that item 1 applies. Our continued failure to do so is both a humiliating failure on the part of the United States to defend our honor, our people and our property and the largest failure of our national security in recent memory.

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White Feather

Oh. My. God. This, via Tbogg, is amazing. The arrogance. The Chutzpah. The ignorance. It reaches new levels. Just yesterday Josh Marshall wrote "Michelle Malkin and friends slide deeper and deeper into self-parody." So their response seems to have been "You think that was deep, you have no idea how deep we can go. Take that."

Apparently, some of the Malkin crowd have got the brilliant idea to send white feathers, a symbol of cowardice, to members of Congress who voted for the war funding resolution.
The White Feather has been a symbol for cowardice. I suggest that white feathers be sent to the leaders of the Senate and House for the cowardly vote that abandons our soldiers around the world.
Voting for the war funding resolution gets you a symbol of cowardice? Huh? That alone sounds absurd, but it gets better. For the white feather as a symbol of cowardice has a very specific historical reference, specifically (see here for more)
In August 1914, Admiral Charles Fitzgerald founded the Order of the White Feather. With the support of leading writers such as Mary Ward and Emma Orczy, the organisation encouraged women to give out white feathers to young men who had not joined the British Army. One young woman remembers her father, Robert Smith, being given a feather on his way home from work: "That night he came home and cried his heart out. My father was no coward, but had been reluctant to leave his family. He was thirty-four and my mother, who had two young children, had been suffering from a serious illness. Soon after this incident my father joined the army."
A white feather was handed out to able bodied, military aged men, who were not in uniform, during WWI to symbolize their refusal to serve their country in times of war. Huh. Gosh who fits that description. Where would we find able bodied men (and in this day women) who believe their country needs military service, but who won't provide it. Calling on military aged men to serve their country in time of war, or brand them as cowards. Now what does this remind me of?

Incidentally, feathers were not sent to MPs for voting funds for the war, or disagreeing with the PM on the execution of the war, or for supporting withdraw from Gallipoli. Those are not the kinds of things that drew a white feather.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Courage at VT

I came across this in the Washington Post and had to make one more comment on the reprehensible comments made by some conservatives concerning the students at VT, see here and here for my earlier comments. The thing that has raised my ire is the fact that people like Derbyshire and Blake (as well as others) accusing the students at Virginia Tech of cowardice for not getting together and rushing the shooter. Follow the links above to see my earlier reasons for finding the comments of Derbyshire and Blake to be deplorable, but the report from the Washington Post adds more reason. To quote the report

State police offered several new and chilling details about the deadliest shooting by an individual in U.S. history, saying that Cho's later attack at Norris Hall lasted nine minutes and that he squeezed off more than 170 rounds. Law enforcement officials said they found 17 ammunition magazines at the scene. [Emphasis added]

Nine minutes. From the time he started shooting in the classrooms until he shot himself lasted nine minutes. It can take that long for trained soldiers to respond. Yet spineless twits like Derbyshire and Blake shoot off their mouths about the courage of these students without finding this out, without giving the students even the slightest benefit of the doubt. The various people who have said these things truly are the lowest of the low.

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Moderate Republicans

So while wandering around the internets today I came across this post at The Impolitic (via The Moderate Voice). It seems Jim M went off looking for Moderate Republicans using a Google search. It seems like a good idea. After all, we do hear, or at least used to hear about moderate Republicans. There have been times when it seemed that these folks could be very important to the fate of the nation. Read the whole post on his effort (and the rest of the blog), but I was struck by this list of what makes up a moderate Republican that Jim M found here. So the list is

  • A passion for civil liberties;
  • A disdain for conformity and suspicion of authority;
  • A belief that the Constitution is a living, breathing document with timeless values that must be made relevant in a modern age;
  • A commitment to protect the environment and not engage in mindless exploitation of the nation's natural beauty. A spirited case must be made for reusable energy sources like solar power. Modern technology provides many options before the earth is harshly, brutally, and needlessly pillaged.
  • A strong belief that diversity -- gender, racial, social, sexual, ethnic, and religious -- should be celebrated because it gives the United States moral strength. Diversity -- in the long-term, encourages respect, understanding, and a greater sense of community;
  • A commitment to fiscal prudence and limited government;
  • A recognition that government does have a basic social responsibility to help those in need;
  • A belief that the nation does have international responsibilities;
  • A belief that God and religion have a very important place in America -- at the dinner table and in churches, temples, and mosques. But it should never be used by politicians to advance a narrow moral agenda;
  • A belief that the national government should be used in a limited manner to advance the common good;
  • A commitment never to put party above country; and
  • A responsibility to publicly criticize those who call themselves Republican when the situation merits. Moderate/Progressives have a duty to vote against the party line when it doesn't serve the greater good. Doing so doesn't make them less Republican; it demonstrates that they have the honor, political courage, and intellectual honesty to put nation above party.
See the thing is, this seems to me to be a pretty good description of ... um ... a Democrat. That could explain the difficulty of finding them in the Republican party.

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Hatch Act

Read this post by Kagro X over on Kos. Ok, now keep in mind that the people who are doing these things, and the people who are defending these things insisted passionately in 2000 that Al Gore could not be trusted as President because he might have used the wrong phone on some occasions. The people in the current Administration have no principals and cannot be trusted. Now often the term "no principals" is used to refer to people who have very few principals, but they are so limited that to say none is a slight exageration, but of no matter. I don't mean that. I mean that they have no principals, at all. None.

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Maryland Politics

A couple stories out of Maryland politics. Donna Edwards was a net roots hero in 2006, a true progressive Democrat seeking to unseat the current Democratic incumbent in Maryland's fourth House district Al Wynn. Wynn is rather closely tied to the DLC, insider Washington and corporate interests. There was a lot of buzz about her primary challenge that she nearly won. Well, via Freestatepolitics, it looks like she'll try again in '08. Whether or not her chances in '08 are better remains to be seen. She has proved that she is a contender and can run a respectable campaign. Will the progressive tide keep rising? We'll see.

Also from Freestatepolitics, it is reported that our senior Sen. Barbara Mikulski will endorse Hillary Clinton. I don't know how that will help Hillary in her national campaign overall, but having Mikulski's support her in Maryland will carry a fair bit of weight. As FSP reports too
There's a good deal of symbolism in this move. Besides being the most senior female U.S. Senator, Mikulski was also the first woman elected Senator in her own right -- i.e., she wasn't appointed or filling a dead husband's seat. Having her join the campaign to elect the first female President could be a enormous boost for Clinton, who already enjoys more support from women than from men. A recent debate in the American Prospect fleshes out that dynamic in more detail.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Suffering over Iraq

From AmericaBlog Joe Subday has this observation
Listen, you Americans, Laura Bush wants you to know the President is suffering over Iraq. In fact, Laura told Anne Curry on the Today Show, that the American people need to know that "no one suffers more than their President and I do." No one? She's as delusional as her husband. Of course, her husband is the person who caused the suffering -- and is the one person who can end it.

I would wager that there are 3,300 families in America that are suffering more than George Bush. And, there are tens of thousands of injured soldiers who are literally suffering.
But Joe just doesn't get it. In the Bush world this country is divided into two classes, a servile class and a privileged class (see here, here, here, here and here). The Bushes, the media, political, social and economic elites are of course part of the privileged class. All those soldiers and soldiers families are part of the servile class so they don't count. Now you can understand. Among the people who actually matter, the privileged class, George and Laura Bush no doubt suffer as much or more than anyone. Once you understand that, it all makes perfect sense and Laura is being fine.

Indeed, once you understand the servile/privileged distinction, much of what has happened over the past six years makes perfect sense. The only question is, do we want that kind of a society. I say, No!

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Immunity for Monica

Goodling that is. Well the earlier predictions have panned out and the House Judiciary committee will subpoena Monica Goodling's testimony, with immunity. As she faces no prospect of incriminating herself, that's what the immunity does, she has no grounds to refuse her testimony. Monica was very much in the middle of the planning for and execution of the purge. I know this because I've been working on a project to review all the emails in the various document dumps and develop a database (follow the link to help out) to keep track of who wrote what to whom. Nearly all the emails, and certainly all the major developments that I've seen, include Monica in the from, to, or cc line. She was in the middle of it and will now testify, under oath and with immunity. Should be fun. Keep in mind that here reason for pleading the fifth was to avoid incriminating herself. At this point she can only incriminate herself for refusing to testify or for testifying falsely.

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Rahm Emanual's Speech at Brookings

Thanks to Greg Sargent of TPM the full text of Rahm's speech is available here. It is all that the excerpts promised and then some. In particular I very much approve of what I can best describe as the tone of the speech. We on the left, thanks to our reality based character and love of critical review and the scientific approach, too often come across as not quite being sure of our position until the audience approves. The thing is that is exactly the right attitude when presenting a scientific finding. As a scientist you are looking for everyone else in the field to critically review your work and test it before treating it as a fact. Some measure of uncertainty is expected, even from the researcher himself, until some consensus is reached among other knowledgeable researchers. However, in the political realm one needs to speak more as an attorney would to a jury. In that case, the attorney should already be firmly convinced of his clients case before starting to address the jury and should always treat the conclusions as being already resolved. That legal attitude I get from this speech by Rahm Emanuel. I am very glad to see it.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Extraterrestrial Life?

These results are exciting, but I can tell you to read with a grain of salt. The claim that this "... may be the first habitable planet orbiting a nearby star" is perfectly true so long as you keep your mind focused on that word "may". One problem with transferring scientific discoveries to the general public is the fact that in sentences like the one quoted that "may" too often gets translated to "probably is". "Probably is" is wrong, "may" is right. That's why they said "may". Scientists do try and use just the right words to say things, that is kind of why jargon becomes so common. But I digress.

This news is exciting because it does indicate that there exist planets close in size to that of the earth near other stars. As the article says, getting the size of a planet, especially a relatively small one, exactly right at the huge distances from here to other stars is very difficult. Now remember what I said about being careful with words. I said "exactly right". What I mean is that it could be the size of Mars (smaller than the earth) or the somewhat bigger than the earth (I believe that they estimate 1.5 times the size of the earth), but it's not the size of Jupiter. So it is a rocky planet that could have once had an atmosphere and might still have one. The star it is orbiting is a red dwarf, so it is much older and cooler than the Sun, but if there was once life on the planet, there might still be life there now.

On the other hand, this planet is not just like the earth, so if the conditions for life to form require something just like the earth then it might still be barren. Or if it once had life, but life could not hang on, it would be barren. However, that said, this confirms that this solar system is not unique and that there are planets smaller than Jupiter orbiting other stars. Also, we can safely assume that if there were only a very few such planets, we would not have found them. This is not the only such small, earthlike planet out there. Therefore it is also likely that there are other planets, more like the earth, and more likely to have life, out there.

This planet is, what I would call, a likely candidate for extraterrestrial life. It could well be there, but we haven't found confirmation yer.

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Wow, all I can say is wow.

Well, ok I can say more. This from over at TPM is an advanced copy of remarks that Rahm Emanuel will make tomorrow at the Brookings Institute. Rahm has certainly picked up the steam that we progressives have been longing to see in our Democratic leaders. Go over to Josh's site and read it all, but a few quotes here

His[Rahm's] aides are billing the speech as a broad and far-reaching indictment of the GOP and the Bush administration that seeks to find a common thread in all the GOP scandals from the Attorney Purge to the Katrina failure to the mendacity that brought us the Iraq war.

That common thread: On every conceivable policy front, the administration and the GOP have placed party before country, and government has become politicized to its core. Rather than casting the administration's manifold failings as simply the result of incompetence, Emanuel will argue that they're really driven by nothing more than all-pervasive partisanship -- the imperative of putting party before country, always, without fail.

"There is a common denominator," Emanuel will say. "Instead of promoting solutions to our nation’s broad challenges, the Bush Administration used all the levers of power to promote their party and its narrow interests...Nothing was free from political influence."

This captures a point I've tried to make before. These are not, and should not be treated as, a bunch of individual issues. There is a common theme throughout these issues, which incidentally Rahm has captured very well. I was frustrated in the run up to the 2006 election with talk implying that we had to pick one issue to make the center of the campaign. All the progressive issues are tied together and we can, and should, always make a point of linking them and showing the links. Read the whole thing and look for a full transcript tomorrow. It will be well worth noting.

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Rove in the Crosshairs?

There has been a bit of a low-key roller coaster ride in the left blogosphere today over an investigation into Karl Rove. It started with this report in the LA Times informing us
But the Office of Special Counsel is preparing to jump into one of the most sensitive and potentially explosive issues in Washington, launching a broad investigation into key elements of the White House political operations that for more than six years have been headed by chief strategist Karl Rove.

The new investigation, which will examine the firing of at least one U.S. attorney, missing White House e-mails, and White House efforts to keep presidential appointees attuned to Republican political priorities, could create a substantial new problem for the Bush White House.
So it would seem that Karl is once again on the hot seat. And considering that there is plenty of reason to suspect improper activity by Karl, given that the Attorney General doesn't know anything about how the USAs got fired, it's a good guess that Karl knows something. Also, where are those missing emails? You get the idea.

Enthusiasm cooled a bit, however, as folks got looking into who would do the investigating. The OSC is headed by Scott J. Bloch who it seems is a pretty loyal Bush supporter. In fact he is, or has been, under investigation for much the same sort of thing that he is now supposed to investigate Rove for. Not encouraging. For more on the sordid tales concerning Mr. Bloch check out Jeralyn at Talk Left and mcjoan at Kos. So, there seems to be little reason for hope.

Then the latest news in this story is that the investigation was started by a Hatch Act complaint filed by David Iglesias. Yes the David Iglesias of fired USA fame. You can read about it at Think Progress. This makes the whole story much more interesting. I still have little confidence in Mr. Bloch, but not quite so little as I had after reading Jeralyn and mcjoan. There are two reasons for this. One is that if David Iglesias is filing the complaint then he intends to fight the White House and fight it hard and he thinks this might work, or at least produce some results. He, at least, is not expecting a pointless whitewash. Maybe he is just wildly optimistic, but assuming he is not, something might come of this. The second reason to be hopeful again, is that while there are no doubt many Bush sycophants who will do anything to support the man, not all of the Bush "loyalists" will turn out to be quite so completely loyal. It might be that Mr. Bloch falls into this category.

So, in short, I would not start decorating for Fitzmas yet, but I also will hold out some hope that this latest investigation will help in at least a small way to bring justice to this White House (and Karl Rove in particular)

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War Supplemental

Well the rhetoric only gets hotter over the war funding supplemental bill. The Administration is fighting hard, it is true, but the WaPo article also makes clear that the Democrats are fighting back as well. I continue to see the Administrations position as weak and that they know it. Bush again offers some non-negotiating negotiations in order to forestall his veto
In a somber statement on the South Lawn of the White House before leaving on a trip to New York, Bush said he was willing to meet with Democratic leaders "as many times as it takes to resolve our differences," but he signaled no intention to compromise with them on the funding bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But why tender an completely disingenuous offer of negotiations if you have no intention of compromising? And from past experience it is clear that he does not intend to compromise. Clearly he is still hoping that the Democrats will cave. That is because for he, and his party, it will be very bad for him to veto this bill. The Democrats are getting stronger and more confident every day. Bush's position is only weakening. These are the words of a desperate man.

The opinions of military leaders are also growing more and more to be in line with the Democrats and at odds with the President. Consider Lt. Gen. William E. Odom

However, a group of retired generals who have criticized Bush's conduct of the war released statements today applauding the supplemental appropriations bill, calling it the best way to show real support for U.S. troops.

"The bill gives the president a chance to pull back from a disastrous course, reorient U.S. strategy to achieve regional stability, and win help from many other countries -- the only way peace will eventually be achieved," said retired Army Lt. Gen. William E. Odom, a former director of the National Security Agency during the Reagan administration. His and other flag officers' statements on the congressional action were distributed by the National Security Network, a Washington-based group that advocates what it calls "progressive national security policy solutions."

or Maj. Gen. John Batiste
Among the retired generals who commended the war-funding bill was Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who formerly commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq.

"This important legislation sets a new direction for Iraq," Batiste said in a statement. "It acknowledges that America went to war without mobilizing the nation, that our strategy in Iraq has been tragically flawed since the invasion in March 2003, that our Army and Marine Corps are at the breaking point with little to show for it, and that our military alone will never establish representative government in Iraq. The administration got it terribly wrong, and I applaud our Congress for stepping up to their constitutional responsibilities."

or Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, who was in charge of training the Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004, said, "The argument that this bill aides the enemy is simply not mature." He said it gives the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, "great leverage for moving the Iraqi government" toward political compromises aimed at undercutting the insurgency.

or Lt. Gen. Robert G. Gard Jr.

"We must commence a coordinated phased withdrawal of U.S. combat troops and condition our continuing support of the Iraqi government on its fulfilling the political commitments it has made to facilitate reconciliation of the contending secular factions," said retired Army Lt. Gen. Robert G. Gard Jr., a former senior Pentagon official. "Otherwise, we will continue to be entwined in a hopeless quagmire, with continuing American casualties, which will render our ground forces ineffective."

or Maj. Gen. Mel Montano

Retired Army National Guard Maj. Gen. Mel Montano, a former adjutant general of New Mexico, said the bill "not only reflects the thinking of the Iraq Study Group but puts teeth to the phrase 'Supporting the Troops.' " He said establishing timelines "returns the responsibility of self-preservation and regional sovereignty to the people of Iraq and their government."

Note that these are not half-hearted comments showing weak support for the lesser of two evils. The Generals see the current state of affairs as one that is decidedly not in the nations best interest from a military, national security, and foreign policy standpoint, and that beginning to withdraw from Iraq is a necessary move. While it is tragic that the nation has come to this crossroads, to move forward now in the best interests of the American people means to pull out from Iraq.

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More Like This

Here is Senator Harry Reid's response to the latest from our Vice President. This is the way that the Democratic leadership needs to talk. This is the kind of thing that the Progressive community has been wanting, has been calling for, for the past six years. To quote in full

Vice President Cheney should be the last person to lecture anyone on how leaders should make decisions.

Leaders should make decisions based on facts and reality, two words that seem to be foreign to the Vice President

This is the same guy who said Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and that we would be greeted as liberators. And it's the same guy who continues to assert that Saddam Hussein had links to al Qaeda long after our own intelligence agency conclusively refuted this notion. To suggest he lacks credibility would be an understatement.

The Vice President's and others' attacks on those who disagree with their failed policies are signs of desperation. They are lashing out because they know the days are numbered for their failed strategy and that the American people and a bipartisan majority are determined to force this Administration to change course in Iraq.

This is all exactly correct. The Administration, the Vice President in particular, has no credibility when it comes to making decisions regarding national security or foreign policy (or much else really). The policies of this Administration have indeed failed and people should feel free to state this clearly and emphatically. And finally the current lashing out by the Administration is a clear sign of their desperation. The Democratic leadership, the Democratic party and the Progressive movement need now to hold firm and oppose the policies of Dick Cheney and George Bush and eventually a changed policy in Iraq will be produced. A policy in accordance with the desires and interests of the American people.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Maybe a Good Compromise

The Iraq War supplemental spending bills have been reconciled. The House and Senate have reached a deal. As John Aravosis puts it, "it's the House benchmarks and the Senate timetable for withdrawl." Looks like it might be a fine compromise. No caving to George Bush. Congress needs to stick to its guns and make the man sign it with the imposed restrictions, or follow through on his threat and veto it. There had been some talk around the internet that the reconciliation bill might be quite watered down. It seems like that is not the case.

Update: Via mcjoan at daily Kos here is a WaPo article on the bill. It looks like it is headed for a veto. The bill should reach Bush's desk by late Thursday. If it does get to Bush's desk on Thursday then he has until May 8 to veto it.

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Gonzales increased Bush's confidence. Kind of says it all.

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Another installment in the debate on Framing is going on in various parts of the left blogesphere triggered by this Op-ed by Matthew Nisbit and Chris Mooney. Tristero over at Hullaboloo has offered this and this, critical of what Nisbit and Mooney wrote. For a different perspective read Mark Chu-Carroll over at Good Math, Bad Math.

There is a lot to the debate, and I'll have more to say on the science aspects in a future post, but part of the debate is simply a matter of what is meant by Framing. Meteor Blades over on Kos sums up the possible, conflicting meanings, here, in a post on the Partial Birth Abortion ruling by the Supreme Court this week. To quote from Meteor Blades:

Many people hate the term "framing." I understand at least one of their fears: framing can turn into an excuse to substitute marketing for principles. In other words, instead of a technique to get a right-on message across, framing can dilute the message, contaminate and weaken the principle. In order to be more persuasive, what we're trying to be more persuasive about gets partially junked. It's a reasonable worry.

Other people, of course, argue that framing is merely a euphemism for marketing, which is a euphemism for manipulation, and no way in hell should progressive politics be marketed because to do so means selling out to the perniciously unprogressive idea that people should be manipulated into accepting any point of view.

Who can argue that we shouldn't manipulate people? Manipulation implies lying, and nothing could be less progressive than that.

I think that does sum up a major question with regard to Framing. Does it make the message more clear and powerful, or is it just hand waving and deception. Well, clearly you can just do deceptive marketing. But I think that it is also possible, with many of our progressive arguments to make them much more powerful and much more accurate, if we would review the language we use and the way we frame issues.

Consider, for example, the way we progressives discuss taxation and spending. For illustrative purposes I will pick one company, Disney from this report, who paid no taxes in 2003. The no taxes issues makes the argument clearer, but the same case may be made with regards to other extremely low rates. Now the progressive community will argue that Disney should pay more taxes, often saying implicitly, if not explicitly, that the reason is, Disney has the money. Then the money should be spent on education say, because the people being provided student loans say, need the money. Now these statements are true, Disney does have the money and the recipients do need the money. Often, the progressive argument does not get much beyond these reasons. However as a means of persuading people to support a policy the reasons have enjoyed less success than we progressives would have enjoyed. (Consider the last six years)

I would argue that one could restate the case, without sacrificing anything of accuracy or honesty, in the following way. Disney corporation enjoys services of enormous value provided by the United States of America. Consider only the fact that the USA serves to secure the copyrights and trademarks of the Disney corporation. This service alone is worth billions of dollars to the corporation. In addition the US protects physical assets, financial assets, and via the ability to incorporate sharply reduces the otherwise enormous liability Disney would have. These services are worth a great deal, and so as a part of the economy, it would be perfectly fair for the US to charge a fairly substantial price for these services. In short, we could argue that the reason for taxing Disney is to charge them for services rendered. Now to be fair, progressives do sometimes point out that the very wealthy enjoy great benefits from our society. Rarely, however, are these benefits spelled out clearly and explicitly. They should be.

The second half of the progressive plan can, as I said, be described as a means of aiding those who can't afford college education. This is true. It is equally true, that if the United States of America is to be able to provide the rather outstanding security services it provides, that it needs to have a number of things. I would describe these things as:
  • Infrastructure of
    1. Transportation
    2. Communication
    3. Power distribution
  • A population that is
    1. Broadly prosperous
    2. Well educated
    3. Generally healthy
    4. Economically secure
Notice item 2 of the second bullet. To provide the excellent services we do to the likes of Disney corporation we really need to have a population that is well educated. Spending money to achieve that end is another perfectly accurate explanation for funding student loans

In short we can, as we often do, describe our progressives plans in terms of taking from the well-to-do in order to help poorer parts of society. And I am not advocating that we must stop doing so. This is a fine frame, but one of limited appeal. I am suggesting that we also use the equally accurate frame of charging for services rendered and spending so as to be able to continue providing those services.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Gonzales' future

Via Josh Marshall we learn a bit more about the status of Alberto Gonzales. The money quote Josh refers to is
Publicly, the White House was standing by its A.G. One White House adviser (who asked not to be ID'ed talking about sensitive issues) said the support reflected Bush's own view that a Gonzales resignation would embolden the Dems to go after other targets—like Karl Rove. "This is about Bush saying, 'Screw you'," said the adviser, conceding that a Gonzales resignation might still be inevitable. The trick, said the adviser, would be to find a graceful exit strategy for Bush's old friend.

As I've been saying, Bush is not going to let Alberto go, not easily. Now, I should point out that the reason here is not one of my reasons, but still, the idea that AG was going to leave however poorly he did with the Senators is misguided. The above quote indicates to me that prospects of Bush firing Gonzales are less than I previously thought. According to this adviser, the central issue is to find a "graceful exit strategy". Well with everyone calling for Gonzales to resign, in the harshest terms, there is no graceful strategy.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Maryland and the Environment

Good news from the Maryland statehouse. We will be entering into the RGGI agreement with 9 other Northeastern states to create.

..the first "cap and trade" system in the United States to control emissions of carbon dioxide, the primary global warming gas. Starting in 2009, each state will be allocated a certain amount of carbon dioxide its power plants are allowed to emit (for Maryland, it's 37,503,983 million short tons a year). The states would then auction off the credits to electricity producers, who would be forced to stay below the caps or buy unused credits from cleaner power plants.
I believe that this is a promising approach, using market forces where possible, to achieve better environmental results. Attention to Global Climate Change is needed, so it is good to see some people taking the lead (and I'm very happy to see my state be part of that). I also think this is among the best approaches economically as well. It seems that there are studies to back this up
Shari T. Wilson, secretary of the Department of the Environment, said an economic impact study required by the Clean Air Act found that the agreement could reduce utility bills by establishing conservation programs.

"That should be a benefit to consumers as well as address global warming," she said.

Matthias Ruth, director of the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Environmental Research, who conducted the study, said the agreement will provide moderate environmental benefits and with little economic cost - and possibly economic gains from energy efficiency.
I have long been of the opinion that the horror stories of economic collapse favored by the right should be adopt better environmental policies are a crock. I expect some cost, but as the studies above indicate, I would not be shocked to have better environmental controls both clean up the environment and improve the economy.

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DOJ Email Database

Over on Daily Kos one intrepid Kossack is gathering a team to create a searchable database of the DOJ US Attorney firings emails. I've put in some work and it is pretty easy, very interesting and should be quite useful. Follow the link and help out.

Just to name one interesting thing that has popped out to me in the short time I've been working on this. For all the right wing effort to push the "Clinton did it too" meme, I've had a chance to read specific emails from the Bush Administration principals who arranged the purge and what they had to say about the Clinton firings. For example, Paul McNulty had this to say, on March 04, 2007, about the difference between the Clinton firings and the Bush purge
On the issue of the Clinton USAs, we called each one and had them give us a timeframe. Most were gone by late April. In contrast, Clinton DOJ told all but a dozen in early March to be gone immediately. I would have someone run it by Margolis if were going to use this.

As I wrote here, the only striking thing about the Clinton firings was the manner (or manners) used in executing it. It was otherwise, just like every other new Administration replacing US Attorneys.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

I've been saying

that Bush cannot let Alberto go. It seems others are agreeing with this take.

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White House Reaction to Alberto Gonzales

This is too rich. White House insiders think AG hurt himself with the Senate yesterday, but no one knows what Bush will do. The money quote though is
No one is looking for a replacement yet, sources said, and the White House is waiting to see how this plays out with the public and members of Congress over the next couple of days.
Remember when this was the White House that, unlike that bad Mr. Clinton, didn't follow the polls. No they just "see how this plays out with the public and members of Congress" which is an entirely different thing, just couldn't be moor different. And then they need to watch public opinion to determine how Alberto Gonzales's testimony went over. A more pitiful trainwreck, outside of a six year old caught with his hand in the cookie jar, has not been seen in decades, and they need to watch public opinion to figure out how it went. Sigh.

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Not a Good Week for Republicans in Congress

The FBI raided a business connected to
As a result of the raid, Renzi is stepping down from his seat on the House Intelligence Committee, according to a statement from his office obtained Thursday evening by Roll Call.

Doolittle likewise has resigned his seat on the Appropriations Committee after his home was raided the week before.

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According to the latest from McClatchy the US training of Iraqi forces is no longer a primary focus. Keep in mind that our current strategy, as far as it goes, is to send in an additional 20, 000 (or 40,ooo depending upon who is counting, the day of the week and the political climate) US troops to secure Baghdad while the Iraqi forces are brought up to speed and can take over. That was the surge, that was the plan to follow rather than the ISG recommendation that we negotiat with Iran and Syria while we start to pull out. That is what George Bush has been calling for.

There has been plenty of criticism of this plan, and there has already been plenty of reason to call it a failure already. US casualty rates are higher than they have been at any time during the war except for the first weeks of fighting. Indeed, the usual drop in casualty rates during February and March never materialized this year. Then this month the casualties have been unusually high throughout the month. Civilian casualties were down for awhile when the surge started, but are back up as high or higher than ever. Furthermore, that decrease occurred in Baghdad, but the attacks continued, or became worse, outside the city. In short, it has already become clear that the increase in forces that Bush put together has not been enough to bring the insurgency to heel so that Iraqi forces could take over.

Now we learn that there really aren't any substantial Iraqi forces to take over, nor are they being formed at any appreciable rate. With no reasonable expectation of Iraqi forces taking over in the immediate future, the mission is clearly a failure. We need to recognize that and move on.

I've said before that the mission in Iraq has long since taken on the character of the British at Gallipoli, a ill-conceived operation that has been executed so poorly as to be worse than useless. The interests of the United States, and I believe Iraq as well, would be far better served by withdrawing our forces from Iraq and deploying our resources elsewhere. No military force in history has ever achieved ultimate victory without experiencing setbacks and reverses along the way. Withdrawing from Iraq is no more surrendering to the terrorists than withdrawing from Gallipoli was surrendering to Turkey (Great Britain did go on to defeat the Turks you know. Look it up.)

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Gonzales' future

Josh Marshall reports that the buzz is that Alberto Gonzales' stock has crashed. Atrios likewise reports that CNN is giving much the same analysis. Or you can see what Talk Left has to say, not good for the AG. Alberto is in trouble. However, as Josh also says
But let's not get distracted by Alberto Gonzales. He's just a cog. In almost every case, what we're talking about here is Gonzales's willingness to take orders from the White House -- most importantly from Karl Rove and President Bush -- on firing US Attorneys for corrupt purposes and using the Justice Department to suppress Democratic turnout in swing states. Mr. Gonzales is a secondary issue. The real players are in the White House.

The real players are in the White House. I'm not exactly willing to put money on it, but I expect that the White House's players are going to try and brazen this out, for a while longer at least. I think this is the case because I suspect that they cannot afford to try and replace Gonzales. There are many more secrets that they do not want to have come out, and with the current Congress they can not count on a sympathetic AG. Look, for example at what is happening with their new Secretary of Defense, here and here. An AG equally willing to buck the Administration would be a very big headache for these "players". I don't know how long they can hold out, but do not expect a resignation from Gonzales for several days yet, maybe much longer.

Update: I keep saying that our Boy George is not interested in firing Alberto Gonzales. It will be some time more, if ever, that he actually does the deed.

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Not Going Well for Alberto

Apparently things are not going too well for our AG Alberto Gonzales. This from Byron York is pretty damning, especially considering that this is from the NRO, generally pretty friendly terrain for members of the Bush Administration. In Byron York's words, for example
The major problem with his testimony is that Gonzales maintains, in essence, that he doesn’t know why he fired at least some of the eight dismissed U.S. attorneys.

or from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham
“Mr. Attorney General, most of this is a stretch,” Graham told Gonzales. “I think most of them [the U.S. attorneys] had personality disagreements with the White House, and you made up reasons to fire them.”

At this point it would seem that Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. Sam Brownback, and Sen. Tom Coburn, solid conservatives all, have all been extremely critical of Gonzales. And by that I mean calling for him to resign or accusing him of lying. These aren't the only conservatives on the committee giving the AG a tough time and the Democrats are even less friendly. Alberto is having a bad day.

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Courage at VT

From Ali Eteraz, via The Moderate Voice comes a story of heroic bravery at VT. Apparently two students were lying in a classroom after the shooter had come and left. One was injured, the other not, but both were pretending to be dead in an effort to stay alive. Cho came back to finish off anyone left alive and was coming close to shoot the uninjured one, when the injured student made a movement and drew Cho's fire, loosing his life in the process. Cho then left leaving the one student alive. I find this particularly relevant after the kind of awful commentary coming from parts of the right wing blogsphere having the audacity to question, in the most insulting terms possible, the courage of these students. See my earlier post, and related linkes, concerning Derbyshire and Blake for example. For anyone to question the courage of any who survived the ordeal in Virginia is, in my mind, unconscionable.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Chimps and Humans

Fascinating article on the current state of knowledge concerning our closest relative the chimpanzee. The DNA sequence similarity between chimps and humans is very high. There are almost no differences in most proteins, only a few show significant differences. Not surprisingly, the similarities in behavior and mental capabilities are also very high. As research into chimp behavior and abilities goes on, it is turning out that there are fewer differences between us than once supposed. Chimps are fairly adept tool users, we can no longer claim that title exclusively. Apparently too, chimps are better at short term memory than are humans. All in all it is an excellent read.

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More Congressional Corruption

While were on the subject of Congressional corruption the William Jefferson case is getting a bit more active as well. The district director of Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) has been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury. I've been wondering what was happening with this case. Given the rather clear issue and evidence, let's face it ninety grand in your freezer is a pretty good clue that you are not on the up and up. Let's hope we see some progress on this one this summer too. As anxious as I am to see the Republican corruption brought to heel, I am no less anxious to see the corrupt in the Democratic party turned out. Jefferson is an embarrassment, this case needs to be brought to a close.

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FBI Raids Congressman's home

Latest reports are that the Viginia home of Rep. John Doolittle was raided by the FBI last Friday. Now this raid would be in relation to the Abramoff scandal. Clearly, although it hasn't been in the news for several months, that investigation is still underway and still producing results. I would suspect as well that the FBI is not casually raiding the homes of Congressmen, so there is probably something pretty significant already uncovered. The Republican party can hardly continue to function with these issues popping up one after the other. None of the various scandals has been resolved completely before new ones pop up. And with the Democrats pushing their oversight role in Congress this is only going to get worse for the GOP. Keep watching is all I can say.

Update: More on the raid and the Doolittle relationship to Abramoff in the Washington Post. Incidentally the Post is claiming that the near simultaneous resignation of Kevin Ring, former legislative director to Doolittle, from the lobbying firm of Barnes & Thornburg was a coincidence. Ring was also implicated in the Abramoff scandal and it had been thought that the two events were linked.

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SCOTUS on Abortion Ban

By a narrow majority 5-4 the court has upheld the ban on so-called 'partial birth' abortions. For those who wanted to "keep our powder dry" during the Alito and Roberts confirmations, was it worth it? What, I am left wondering, did we ever do with that dry powder? I can't think of a thing.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Our Brave Chickenhawks

Well McJoan at daily Kos has assembled a response to the great commentary by John Derbyshire and Nataniel Blake. Both of these authors have offered up much the same commentary on the events in Virginia yesterday. Apparently they feel that the students at Virginia Tech should be ashamed for not charging the gunman and saving the day. Now, neither of these two is putting his life on the line in any way, so talking about others being afraid or cowardly is rather risky. Saying that others should be ashamed, that is just insulting. This attitude is particularly rich coming from a war hawk as the main argument for the war in Iraq is that if we don't fight the terrorists over there the terrorists will come here. So Derbyshire and Blake are all for sending several thousand US soldiers off to die so that Derbyshire and Blake will be safe from harm. Not the strongest position from which to speak of other people's shame.

But another thing occurs to me on this. Like Blake and Derbyshire, I am not enlisted nor enlisting into the military, nor have I ever been. My knowledge of the military is indirect so I am happy to be corrected if I am wrong. But my impression is that joining the army, let us say, one is put through an intensive period of training, much of which is aimed at preparing you for the shock and confusion that is combat. After weeks of this preparation, training and initiation into what combat is like it still generally requires an experienced lieutenant and a few good noncoms to keep a group of green soldiers just out of basic training organized and under control when the shooting starts. The reason we go to all that effort and the reason for the medals and the honor we attend to our men and women in uniform is because keeping your head and doing what needs to get done once the shooting starts is hard. It is very, very hard to do. It is rather absurd to expect any number of completely untrained individuals to show the kind of initiative these two chickenhawks are just assuming everyone else should show.

On a side note, some people promoting the incident would have been much less severe had the University not had a policy forbidding the possession of any firearms on campus. Just one thought. The University also had a policy against underage drinking when on campus. Any guesses as to how effective that was. Good money says that there were more than a couple of firearms in dorm rooms around campus, but the lack of any population trained in response to a shooting meant that no one would be shooting back.

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Virginia Tech

At this point everyone is well aware of the tragedy that yesterday took place at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute. I have no commentary to make on the event. It is horrific there is nothing more to say. My heart goes out to those who died and to those who were left behind.


Immunity for Goodling

It appears that Monica Goodling will be granted immunity from prosecution so that she can testify before the House Judiciary Committee. Ms. Goodling, you may recall, has distinguished herself for being a) a high ranking official in the Justice Department of the United States who b) could not testify before said committee on the grounds that it might tend to incriminate her. Since then she has left the department and will likely be granted immunity tomorrow. The immunity has not yet been granted, the committee will vote on it tomorrow. So she will finally be in a position to tell us what she knows about the firing of the eight US Attorneys.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

What is wrong with these people?

I mean Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI). Why in the name of all that's holy is he offering to cave on the Iraq war supplemental. Bush has not yet vetoed the bill. Do not offer Bush something better before he vetoes the bill. Even if you are going to cave, which the Democrats really should not (see Talk Left on this) at least make the President veto the bill. Everyone in the country wants the Democrats to hold firm and everyone in the country will see Bush's veto of the bill as Bush refusing to support the troops. Do not give the man an out. There is absolutely no reason at this point to be offering anything to George Bush on this issue. Harry Reid has it right (via Greg Sergent)

Harry Reid is now on C-Span responding to the President's speech today demanding that Congress defy the American people and give him a bill funding his war with no withdrawal timelines. Asked by a reporter if Congress would be making some kind of offer to Bush in the quest for a compromise, Reid said:

"The offer is that the President sign our bill."

That is absolutely the only offer that should be made at this point.

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Nothing would more quickly or more effectively change Cuba for the better than if the US would open up trade and travel between our countries.

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What Matt says here. The injustice suffered by the Duke Lacrosse players is one that is possible to suffer if you are upper or middle class white, but one that you are very unlikely to suffer. But it seems to me that this is part and parcel with the similar view that has been shaping our foreign policy for years. A large part of the population (largely overlapping the group Matt is talking about) believe that the United States is barely able to survive against a great force of enemies that is almost overwhelming us at every turn. That the United States is constantly being abused and mistreated by the world and that we rarely ever get anything we want, we rarely get our way. People who believe that Newt Gingrich's view that the United States today is very much like Washington at Valley Forge is just about right.

The fact is that citizens of the United States, and in particular middle-class or more prosperous white male ones, live it a state of such awesome security as has scarcely been imaginable to any other humans in the history of mankind. Our security is not absolute, not perfect, but it is unparalleled and great. Yet a large fraction of our populace is in a constant lather that this extraordinary state of security is not enough, and must be augmented at whatever cost to other people (generally people whose state of security is less than that of those who are complaining.) To someone of my outlook (and apparently to Matt's as well) this is absurd.

The expectation of absolute security is impossible. It cannot be realized and we each need to recognize that we might face harm or ruin through no fault of our own. We need to make the system as fair and just as possible and we need to fix problems that are uncovered. But we also need to be able to face the possibility of personal harm with courage. For one thing, the ability to face danger with courage is one of the most powerful tools a people can have for overcoming enemies. In other words, a willingness to face danger decreases the need to do so. A paradox I know, but the nature of the world nonetheless. Or from another perspective, if we display to the world that we can only function if we are guaranteed absolute security, then we look weak, very weak.

It is also the case that to improve the security of any one group to absolute security we would have to reduce the security of some other group. Indeed that is what we do. As Matt points out the kind of mistreatment that the Duke Lacrosse player's faced is faced regularly by poorer and minority folks all the time. But such disparities are unjust and serve to erode confidence in our legal system and thus reduce the security it can provide. In other words such shifting of security to a favored group serves to provide a short term increase (or perhaps only ever the illusion of an increase) in security, but in the long term weakens us all.

We, as a nation, particularly those of us in a position of comfort and relative safety, need to get away from listening to the Victor Davis Hanson's of the world, recognize our high degree of security, embrace courage, and work to make others more secure and worry far less about our own safety.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Bush's fingerprints

Read the reporting by Josh Marshall on the news coming out of Arizona. It would seem that there is growing evidence that the Attorney purge, at least Iglesias' firing was ordered by George Bush himself.

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Iraq Insurgency

The Washington Post reports on the current state of the Iraqi insurgency. The insurgency has long consisted of a large number of dispirate groups. Most operate in some local area not nationally. There has not been much in the way of national coordination. The article quotes
Many of the insurgent groups, however, are reluctant to unite. Abu Aja Naemi, a commander of the 1920 Revolution Brigades based in Duluiyah, north of Baghdad, recalled a meeting among various groups to discuss forming an umbrella organization. The idea fell through, he said, over concerns about turf.

"Every commander of an organization said, 'I have my own method that I am following, and so I am going to follow it,' " said Naemi, who said his fighters have clashed with al-Qaeda in several cities, including Haditha and Husaybah. "If there is greater organization, they worry that in the future they will lose power in their areas. So they work separately."

His own group has splintered in recent weeks, leading to the emergence of a faction of mostly Palestinian fighters calling itself Hamas, after the radical Palestinian organization. Naemi said that for now, the new group was still allied with the 1920 Revolution Brigades and serving as part of its military wing.

These groups seem a likely to splinter as to unite.

Still, it would seem that there is a growing serious split between the bulk of the Suni insurgent groups and al Quaeda. The al Quaeda groups are more deadly to the Sunni population than are the Americans and so their welcome in Iraq is all but gone. This is very good news. Removing al Quaeda's influence in the country will be a good thing. But it does point up the foolishness of this entire operation. Our invasion of Iraq has only served to increase the number of enemies we are fighting. Al Quaeda was able to become strong in Iraq because of our invasion and in addition we added a large fraction of Sunni Arabs, who were not earlier supportive of attacks on the United States, to the ranks of those who were attacking Americans. In short we have spent thousands of lives and billions of dollars to separate these groups who should never have been joined together in the first place.


Secrecy and Torture

Scott Horton is an Attorney in NY and author of the blog No Comment. Read what he has to say about Torture, Secrecy and the Bush Administration.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Bush Legacy

Daniel Metcalfe, a thirty year veteran of the United States Department of Justice discusses his experience there and the impact of the Bush years, in particular the influence of Alberto Gonzales. The results are not pretty. In short he says that Gonzolas has "shattered" the long standing tradition of isolating the Department from politics. For a very brief summary, the following
Actually, I began earlier, in the first Nixon administration, as a college intern in 1971. But I was there again in the Watergate era, when I worked in part of the Attorney General's Office during my first year of law school in 1973-1974, and then continuously as a trial attorney and office director for nearly 30 years. That adds up to more than a dozen attorneys general, including Ed Meese as well as John Mitchell, and I used to think that they had politicized the department more than anyone could or should. But nothing compares to the past two years under Alberto Gonzales.

or the following
But the process of agency functioning, however, became dramatically different almost immediately after Gonzales arrived. No longer was emphasis placed on accomplishing something with the highest-quality product in a timely fashion; rather, it became a matter of making sure that a "consensus" was achieved, regardless of how long that might take and with little or no concern that quality would suffer in such a "lowest common denominator" environment. And heaven help anyone, career or noncareer employee, if that "consensus" did not include whatever someone in the White House might think about something, be it large, small or medium-sized.

Much more of the same can be seen throughout. This is the legacy that Bush will leave behind. What is even more tragic is the lack of appreciation for how serious this is.

Governments are created by people in order to create security and stability so that the people may, in peace, go about their daily lives. The government exists to avoid that Hobbsian state of nature, the war of all against all. A government is able to do so because the population subject to it grants it enormous power to investigate, seize property, arrest and imprison. These powers are awesome and must be controlled. If these powers are abused then the government can destroy the state of security it is created to produce. The most important control is to insure that these powers are used to enforce agreed upon laws. The worst possible abuse of these powers is if they are used solely to advance the political ambitions of one faction or another. Yet, in spite of a long standing tradition of keeping politics out of the Justice Department, the Bush Administration has with contempt for the honorable traditions of this nation ended that separation. The result is to create the worst kinds of abuses of government power. The case in Wisconsin illustrates where this may go. The American people responded in time last November. Let us hope the damage is not too great.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Rove's Emails

Is this really sufficient?
Karl Rove's lawyer on Friday dismissed the notion that President Bush's chief political adviser intentionally deleted his own e-mails from a Republican-sponsored computer system.

The attorney said Rove believed the communications were being preserved in accordance with the law.

I mean, shouldn't one need to take positive action to insure that all emails were being preserved, not just "believe" that they were. I'm pretty sure that if I were in that situation, I would need to be able to show that I had take positive steps to insure that they were all being saved. The stories that the White House is coming up with are simply not credible.

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Extending troop deployments

So on Tuesday President Bush addressed the American Legion and, among other things, took the opportunity to lay into Congress over the war funding supplemental

The bottom line is this: Congress's failure to fund our troops will mean that some of our military families could wait longer for their loved ones to return from the front lines. Others could see their loved ones headed back to war sooner than anticipated. This is unacceptable. It's unacceptable to me, it's unacceptable to our veterans, it's unacceptable to our military families, and it's unacceptable to many in this country.

This is what Bush was saying on Tuesday. Now set aside for a moment the absurdity of him claiming that because Congress has passed a bill that will require him to bring troops home sooner than he wants, he will veto the bill, forcing the troops to stay there longer, and this will be the fault of Congress. Let's for a moment believe that there is some plausible reason behind his basic claim. On Tuesday he is claiming that if Congress presents him with a bill with a time line, then because of the time line he will be forced to extend troop deployments. Ok.

On Wednesday the Pentagon, you know the Pentagon ultimately answerable to and run by George Bush, announces that troop deployments will be extended by three months. This is you know, well before the bill from Congress is presented to him. So, this increase in the troop deployment time is not being caused by the form of the bill presented by Congress, because you know there is not yet a bill being presented by Congress. This in spite of the fact that 24-hours earlier the President was saying that Congress was, maybe, going to force the increase in the troop deployment time.

Something is a little fishy. It gets worse.

It turns out that the announcement on Wednesday was forced because someone leaked the increase in the troop deployments to the press.
In terms of why we're announcing it simultaneously with the unit commanders, I'll be very blunt. Some very thoughtless person in this building made the unilateral decision yesterday to deny the army the opportunity to notify unit commanders who could then talk to their troops 48 hours before we made a public announcement. And, I can't tell you how angry it makes many of us that one individual would create potentially so much hardship not only for our servicemen and women but their families, by letting them read about something like this in the newspapers.
So it would seem that the Pentagon was expecting to increase the length of the troop deployments, and would need to increase those deployments whatever form the funding bill from Congress took.

Mind you from President Bush accusing Congress of forcing this to happen depending upon the form that the funding bill takes, until Gates is announcing the new policy, takes approximately 24-hours. But that is only because "some thoughtless person in this building" leaked the information. Could it be that the White House plan was to sit on this information until the bill came from Congress then make the announcement and blame Congress, even though they were planning this change all along? I wonder.

Mind you it gets even worse. The "good" explanation, the one that the White House wants you to believe is that George Bush doesn't know what's going on.
Dana Perino explained the timing by claiming that President Bush had been in the dark about the troop deployments until the morning it was announced:

Q So why did he tell the American Legion that people would be staying in Iraq longer because of the Democrats, when his own Pentagon, 24 hours later, was going to keep people there longer?

MS. PERINO: Well, one, I don’t know if the President knew about the — the meeting — remember, yesterday morning is when Secretary Gates came and talked to the President. […]

Q And so the President didn’t know about his own policy until Wednesday?

MS. PERINO: I’m not aware that the President knew that there was going to be — that Secretary Gates had come to any decisions.

So, the best explanation, is that George Bush was so concerned about the possibility that the form of the funding bill might force troop deployments to be extended, but was unaware that his existing policies were doing exactly that anyway. Now that he knows that his current plan is going to force these extensions, which on Wednesday were a real concern, does it matter any more? Apparently not. And this is the "good" explanation.

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Bush is getting very weak

As reported by Think Progress the Bush Administration invited senior congressional reporters to the White House last week in order to pressure them into reporting more on "divisions" within the ranks of Iraq war critics. The fact that they are doing so, and the fact that it is being leaked out and reported on, shows the growing concern the White House has over vetoing the spending bill. As I've been saying, the White House does not want to veto this bill and furthermore the Democrats are starting to understand that the White House doesn't want to veto this. This is more and more becoming a fight, like Social Security reform, that the White House will loose. This report is important on two fronts, one it shows the growing desperation of the White House on this issue and as Think Progress points out it highlights the unity of the Democrats

In fact, congressional opponents of the war are remarkably united on efforts to set a timeline for redeployment, bolstered by consistent public opinion polls showing broad public support for withdrawal. Meanwhile, conservatives are splintering. This week, a “diverse collection of House Republicans has formed an ad hoc group” to encourage the White House “to compromise on negotiations with Syria and Iran and on setting a date for withdrawal from Iraq.”

The White House is in a losing fight and wants the media to help them carry water. We’ll be watching to see if any congressional reporters fall in line and write up the White House spin.

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Missing emails - Play Hardball

With regards to the missing Bush White House/RNC emails Mark Kleiman suggests that the Democrats need to get tough and play hardball. He has a few suggestions on what can be done. I'm certainly in agreement. Especially after the latest claim from Fred Fielding that executive privilege extends to anything done by anyone that might show that George Bush did something wrong. What with the Democrats showing an every more united front and a growing willingness to confront the Republicans plus the voters growing happiness with the Democrats doing so, I have some hope that a few of Mark's suggestions will be taken.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Rahm Emanuel calls for Democrats to hang tough

This is a piece of very welcome news. Here is a memo from Rahm Emanuel urging all Democrats to hand tough and continue to pressure Bush on the war funding resolution. Now Rahm Emanuel has not been one of the most progressive and anti-war members of the Democratic caucus. Indeed he has come under considerable fire from the left side of the party for being too centrist, too DLC. So, if Rahm Emanuel has adopted this position then the Democratic leadership is united and we are in an excellent position to keep the rank and file similarly united. In other words, even the Blue Dogs should be willing to go with what he is saying. Here are a few choice quotes from the memo

We find ourselves in a strong position because the American people support our policy objectives and our plan for Iraq, especially as they measure up against the failures of the administration’s policies. As we continue through the process of sending an Iraq spending bill to the President for his approval, we need to go beyond the debate about the funding for the war, and remind the American people of the policies we are recommending -- benchmarks for the Iraqis, support for our troops through training and equipment, and a plan for a responsible and strategic redeployment of our troops. It is also important that we remind the country of the policy position of Congressional Republicans on Iraq – their rubberstamping of the President’s Iraq policies, and their refusal to conduct responsible oversight.

President Bush has continued to demand Congress provide him with a blank check for an open-ended commitment of American troops in Iraq. Democrats and the American people agree that we must change direction in Iraq by providing our troops with the resources and protection they need, while planning for a strategic and responsible redeployment of US troops.

As we move forward, we should not lose sight of the fact that nearly 70% of the country supports our plan for Iraq. The country is more engaged in this issue than any other, and has paid close attention to the plans offered by Democrats and the President. The country has made a conscious decision to support our approach.


Given the Republicans' unwillingness to offer their own alternative or plan for funding our troops and changing direction in Iraq, Democrats must remain resolute while publicly urging the President to join us for meaningful negotiations on the supplemental. While we will never reject out of hand any offer from the President to meet and discuss the supplemental, we must insist on meaningful negotiations with the White House.

Read the whole thing but these are exactly the kinds of things I want to hear from the Democratic leadership. Given the position Bush is in over this funding bill, I am absolutely convinced that the Democrats can win this fight if they do just hang tough. With members of the Democratic caucus such as Rahm Emanuel articulating these ideas, we should be in good shape.

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Deleted emails, how could that have happened?

Things are moving fast in the whole purgegate story. The latest is that the White House employees have been using Republican party servers for sending and receiving email rather than White House servers. This is an illegal end run around federal requirements that all public correspondence be saved. The White House now claims that many of these emails got lost, gosh darn. According to Froomkin
Countless e-mails to and from many key White House staffers have been deleted -- lost to history and placed out of reach of congressional subpoenas -- due to a brazen violation of internal White House policy that was allowed to continue for more than six years, the White House acknowledged yesterday.
According to CREW the count is actually somethinig above five MILLION (that's right million) missing emails. The explanations coming from this Administration are simply not credible. For example
Stanzel said that "some people" may have used their non-government accounts for official business due to "an abundance of caution" in order to avoid violating the Hatch Act, which prohibits the use of government e-mail for overtly political purposes, such as fundraising -- and due to "logistical convenience."
This Administration that put together a power point presentation to show how the GSA could help elect Republicans had "an abundance of caution" to avoid violating the Hatch Act. Please. They were aggressively trying to violate the Hatch Act.

Any reasonable person must conclude that they set up an illegal system for sending and receiving email that facilitated destroying the email so that they could cover up activities that were even more illegal. Yes, it is true that no one should suffer criminal penalties until proven guilty of a recognized crime via due process. But it is clear from the existing circumstantial evidence that this White House is up to its ears in illegal activities. There is now plenty of evidence to warrant a thorough investigation.

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