Browsing the blog archives for February, 2007.


Updates

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Bush Administration

A federal judge found that Jose Padilla is competent to stand trial.

Rep. Mel Watt, Chairman of the Financial Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, presided over a hearing today: Insurance Claims Payment Processes in the Gulf Coast after the 2005 Hurricanes; see videos here.

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No War in Iran

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Bush Administration, Middle East

StopIranWar.com Intro

Gen. Wes Clark and Jon Soltz of VoteVets.org discuss their website, StopIranWar.com.

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There’s No Pleasing Some People

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Bush Administration

You probably heard that a a suicide bomber detonated himself in Afghanistan yesterday, and the incident became international news because Vice President Dick “the Dick” Cheney was nearby and was, by some accounts, the intended target.

Apparently a number of commenters to this Huffington Post news item left snarky remarks to the effect that the terrorist missed. I hope they were joking. In any event, the Huffington Post closed comments and deleted the most egregious comments from their site, which is what I would have done, also.

So exactly how can Pajamas Media find fault with Huffington Post about this? I agree with Ron Chusid:

Perhaps the most absurd attack of all comes from Pajamas Media. They criticize Huffington Post for showing the good taste to remove the comments expressing a desire that Cheney had suffered harm. Apparently they fail to realize that the fact that liberal bloggers will not tolerate such expressions of violence on their blogs undermines their entire argument against the liberal blogs. Of course if they were able to process information in a rational matter they wouldn’t be conservatives.

See also Glenn Greenwald. As Glenn points out, comments — especially anonymous comments — do not necessarily reflect the positions of the web site/blogger or other readers or anyone else on this planet. It is unfortunate that there are people who wish physical harm on others, like expressing a wish to lynch Supreme Court justices, or making excuses for commenters who wish to lynch Supreme Court justices. Or mocking a blogger who has breast cancer.

Oh, wait; those weren’t commenters. Those were bloggers. Right-wing bloggers. Sorry.

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Bush’s Slow Bleed

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Bush Administration, Congress, Democratic Party, Karl Rove, News Media

On the same day that Joe Biden writes in the Boston Globe in favor of repealing the 2002 war resolution, Julie Hirschfeld Davis of the Associated Press reports that Dems are backing away from the idea. Or maybe they’re just postponing it. Or not.

However, later in the article, Hirschfeld Davis claims that a rift has developed between Jack Murtha and Nancy Pelosi over plans to use congressional spending powers to force a change in Iraq policy. But a closer look reveals that Hirschfeld Davis is suffering a rift between her keyboarding fingers and her brain. HD writes,

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., meanwhile, said she doesn’t support tying war funding to strict training and readiness targets for U.S. troops.

The comments distanced her from Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., who has said he wants to use Congress’ spending power to force a change in policy in Iraq, by setting strict conditions on war funding.

Pelosi said she supports holding the administration to training and readiness targets, but added: “I don’t see them as conditions to our funding. Let me be very clear: Congress will fund our troops.”

Asked whether the standards should be tied to a $100 billion supplemental war spending measure _ as Murtha has proposed _ Pelosi demurred, saying it was up to the panel that drafts funding bills.

HD of the AP is comparing apples to oranges and coming up with spinach. To understand where Pelosi and Murtha are coming from, check out what Lolita Baldor (who would name a kid “Lolita”?) reports for the Associated Press

Strained by the demands of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a significant risk that the U.S. military won’t be able to quickly and fully respond to yet another crisis, according to a new report to Congress.

The assessment, done by the nation’s top military officer, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, represents a worsening from a year ago, when that risk was rated as moderate.

The report is classified, but on Monday senior defense officials, speaking on condition on anonymity, confirmed the decline in overall military readiness. And a report that accompanied Pace’s review concluded that while the Pentagon is working to improve its warfighting abilities, it “may take several years to reduce risk to acceptable levels.”

Just one more indicator that Bush’s Folly is making us more, not less, vulnerable. Anyway, Nancy Pelosi just issued this statement:

“This unacceptable state of readiness affected our military long before President Bush ordered an escalation of the Iraq war in January, but the escalation is making it worse.

“The harmful effects on the readiness crisis of the President’s escalation plan are just beginning to be seen. Two Army brigades scheduled to go to Iraq in the spring will do so without completing their normal training cycles and without all of the equipment required to do their jobs. We should not be sending troops to Baghdad unless they are fully trained and fully equipped. We already owe a great deal to our troops, and we do them a disservice by putting them in dangerous situations without being fully prepared.”

What Pelosi says it not at all at odds with what Jack Murtha has proposed. To the contrary; as David Sirota explains, Murtha’s plan also supports troop readiness. Although you wouldn’t know that from reading the “mainstream” media. Quoting the Washington Post:

To be sent to battle, troops would have to have had a year’s rest between combat tours. Soldiers in Iraq could not have their tours extended beyond a year there. And the Pentagon’s ‘stop-loss’ policy, which prevents some officers from leaving the military when their service obligations are up, would end. Troops would have to be trained in counterinsurgency and urban warfare and be sent overseas with the equipment they used in training.

Hmm, you might be saying. I thought Murtha’s plan was all about de-funding the war; what the Republicans are calling a “slow bleed.” In fact, “slow bleed” is what the Bush Administration is doing to our military, and Jack Murtha is trying to stop the bleeding.

What Murtha proposed was tying war funding to readiness. According to the WaPo article by Jonathan Weisman and Lyndsey Layton linked above, Murtha “botched” this proposal.

The plan was bold: By tying President Bush’s $100 billion war request to strict standards of troop safety and readiness, Democrats believed they could grab hold of Iraq war policy while forcing Republicans to defend sending troops into battle without the necessary training or equipment.

But a botched launch by the plan’s author, Rep. John P. Murtha (Pa.), has united Republicans and divided Democrats, sending the latter back to the drawing board just a week before scheduled legislative action, a score of House Democratic lawmakers said last week.

For the life of me I can’t figure out what it was Murtha “botched.” After wading through several paragraphs reeking with hysteria, it appears that Murtha’s only “flub” was that he announced the plan on a web site associated with Moveon.org. After which all of Washington came down with the vapors.

Please.

Anyway, since Weisman and Layton announced that the Dems are rifting, our gal Hirschfeld Davis picks up the cry:

The developments on both sides of the Capitol reflected a new level of disarray in Democratic ranks on Iraq. Swept into power by voters clamoring for an end to the war, Democrats have seen their efforts falter under a reality more complicated than they found on the campaign trail.

Hirschfeld Davis doesn’t mention that most of the “complications” are being manufactured by the Right Wing Echo Chamber. The fact is, you have to go to leftie web sites to get a clear, non-hysterical explanation of what Murtha proposed. The MSM is just recycling rightie talking points and declaring the plan “botched” and the Dems “divided”; the usual narrative, in other words.

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In the Strife of Truth With Falsehood

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American History, blogging, Iraq War

Back in 1845, American poet James Russell Lowell wrote a poem, published in the Boston Courier, protesting the Mexican War. Some time later the words were set to “Ton-y-Botel” by Welsh composer Thomas J. Williams and became the hymn “Once to Every Man and Nation.” [Workplace warning: The page plays a midi file upon opening.] First verse:

    Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
    In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
    Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
    And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and that light.

While stumbling around looking for something else I came across a post by rightie blogger Carol Platt Liebau, who misplaces “Once to Every Man and Nation” in the Civil War era, and then claims it as a pro-war hymn. Talk about the strife of truth with falsehood! The pseudo-conservative struggle to mangle and destroy all of American history, institutions, and democracy itself continues.

Last verse:

    Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
    Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
    Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
    Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.

Let’s hope. Anyway, I say Liebau owes James Russell Lowell an apology and her readers a public correction.

Update: I’ve found at least one source that calls what Lowell wrote an “abolitionist” poem, although the large bulk of references say it was an antiwar poem. However, no one calls it a “pro-war” poem.

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Libby Trial

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Bush Administration

Potential jury contamination problem; possible mistrial. Jane Hamsher is blogging from the courthouse, so check in with firedoglake for updates.

Update: Looks as if deliberations will continue. One juror has been dismissed, however.

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Muck and Mire

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Democratic Party, elections

Some people don’t learn. After suffering six years of an incompetent and corrupt administration, the nation is about to plunge into another content-free, all-smears-all-the-time presidential election campaign cycle.

I blame two parties: The candidates and the news media.

Paul Krugman writes that we know next to nothing about the Democratic candidates’ stands on several major issues (he promises to call out the Republicans in a later column).

First, what do they propose doing about the health care crisis? All the leading Democratic candidates say they’re for universal care, but only John Edwards has come out with a specific proposal. The others have offered only vague generalities — wonderfully uplifting generalities, in Mr. Obama’s case — with no real substance.

Second, what do they propose doing about the budget deficit? There’s a serious debate within the Democratic Party between deficit hawks, who point out how well the economy did in the Clinton years, and those who, having watched Republicans squander Bill Clinton’s hard-won surplus on tax cuts for the wealthy and a feckless war, would give other things — such as universal health care — higher priority than deficit reduction.

Mr. Edwards has come down on the anti-hawk side. But which side are Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama on? I have no idea.

Third, what will candidates do about taxes? Many of the Bush tax cuts are scheduled to expire at the end of 2010. Should they be extended, in whole or in part? And what do candidates propose doing about the alternative minimum tax, which will hit tens of millions of middle-class Americans unless something is done?

Fourth, how do the candidates propose getting America’s position in the world out of the hole the Bush administration has dug? All the Democrats seem to be more or less in favor of withdrawing from Iraq. But what do they think we should do about Al Qaeda’s sanctuary in Pakistan? And what will they do if the lame-duck administration starts bombing Iran?

The “pundits” have already made me tired talking about the horse race. The newsies cover the campaigns but tell us nothing about the candidates. Example: Check out the exchange between Chris Matthews and Brian Williams in this Hardball transcript. A snip:

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC ANCHOR: It‘s hot and it‘s early, Chris, but I harbor this theory that about a dozen Democrats, all of them already in politics, really care about this fight.

My theory goes further. As you know, I don‘t do opinions, but I read a whole lot of people‘s opinions every day on both sides. One of them I consumed today is that Hillary Clinton was so hurt at not being the cool kid at Malibu High School, in effect, that they could not believe—put another way, a funny thing happened on their way to the presumptive Democratic nomination.

Here comes Barack Obama, who, for set of reasons and a set of new beliefs about Hillary Rodham Clinton and her electability, comes in and sweeps in. And these stars, who they could always count on, fell head over hills in love with him. And this is what we are watching happen.

You combine that with the pros working for this Clinton campaign, and this is what we are looking at on page one of the tabloids.

MATTHEWS: Were you surprised at the swift reaction from Howard Wolfson for Hillary Clinton, to come out on this show last night and basically accuse the other candidate, Barack Obama, himself, of putting Geffen up to this attack on Hillary and her husband?

WILLIAMS: It was out of “The Godfather”: “Michael, do you renounce Satan?”

I am not surprised, Chris, only because the Clinton team, say what you will—and people will anyway—politically about them in the White House, in the prime of their years, what did we know about them? They were pros politically. They were good leakers. They were good attackers, and they were good defenders.

Hillary Rodham Clinton has some pros working for her. We have had some experience with them, all of us in this business have. And, so, I was not surprised. They are going to try to give rapid reaction an entirely new name.

MATTHEWS: The question is, can they set the rules? They have set a couple of rules in the last go-round here. One rule is, you can‘t attack Hillary in any fashion, or that‘s dirty politics.

Do you think they did that against—Howard Wolfson, also speaking for Hillary, her communications director, a couple of weeks ago, did it to John Edwards for a rather general comment that he made about the Congress not fighting the war, or opposing the war, and now doing it again the other day. Can Hillary say, no attacks on me, period, and get away with it?

I hadn’t noticed there was any kind of rule about not attacking Senator Clinton, but perhaps there is. Bob Herbert writes about the Obama-Clinton-Geffen flap:

Most of the analyses after last week’s dust-up over David Geffen’s comments to Maureen Dowd have focused on whether the Clintons succeeded in tarnishing the junior senator from Illinois. What I found interesting was that no one questioned whether the Clintons would be willing to get down in the muck and start flinging it around. That was a given.

When Senator Obama talks about bringing a new kind of politics to the national scene, he’s talking about something that would differ radically from the relentlessly vicious, sleazy, mendacious politics that have plagued the country throughout the Bush-Clinton years. Whether he can pull that off is an open question. But there’s no doubt the Clintons want to stop him from succeeding. …

… We’ll have to wait and see whether Senator Obama is really offering a new, more hopeful brand of national politics. But here’s a bit of unsolicited advice for a candidate making his first foray into the crucible of presidential politics:

Don’t listen to those who tell you not to fight back against the Clintons. You will not become president if you allow yourself to become their punching bag. Keep in mind the Swift-boating of John Kerry. Raising politics to a higher level does not mean leaving oneself defenseless.

Along the same lines, here’s a column in today’s Boston Globe about Hillary Clinton’s use of her first name on her campaign buttons. Please.

The fluff piece about Al Gore in yesterdays Washington Post contained more information on Gore’s actual accomplishments (that he made a documentary) than most campaign reporting contains about the candidates.

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Al Wins!

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Democratic Party, entertainment and popular culture, science

If you’re watching the Oscars, by now you know Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” won in the best feature length documentary category. If you missed it, you can watch Al’s acceptance at Crooks and Liars.

Be sure to see William Booth’s article in WaPo, “Al Gore, Rock Star.” Sample:

Take the Cannes Film Festival: Al Gore was mobbed. By French people. He was a presenter at the Grammy Awards, alongside Queen Latifah, where he got one of the biggest welcomes of the night. “Wow. . . . I think they love you, man. You hear that?” the current Queen asked the former veep. Earlier this month, the ticket Web site at the University of Toronto crashed when 23,000 people signed on in three minutes to get a seat to hear Gore do his thing on the oceanic carbon cycle. At Boise State, Gore and his slide show sold out 10,000 seats at the Taco Bell Arena, reportedly “faster than Elton John.”

That popping sound you hear is the exploding of rightie heads.

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A Note of Optimism

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torture, War on Terror

The Talking Dog interviews David Rose, author of Guantanamo: The War on Human Rights and a contributing editor of The Guardian and Vanity Fair. Here’s the note of optimism:

Eventually there will be a pendulum change– the values that made the United States unique– the power of its Constitution– will reassert themselves. Enough people will regard Guantanamo with the same shame as the detention of Japanese in World War II… or the Red Scares… We’ll just have to see if and when this happens.

Let’s hope.

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Slush Funds

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Bush Administration, Middle East

Crooks and Liars:

Sy Hersh tells us that the echos of Iran Contra weighed heavily in Negroponte’s decision to resign his post and is claiming that Bush is funneling money without authorization or oversight that has ended up in the hands of Sunni jihadist groups.

Negroponte — Iran Contra — Hmmmm.

We already know that the Bushies used money appropriated for Afghanistan in Iraq. We know that money appropriated for Iraq reconstruction was directed elsewhere. It would not surprise me at all if all kinds of money is being spent that Congress doesn’t know anything about.

See Hersh’s new New Yorker article, “The Redirection.”

The new American policy, in its broad outlines, has been discussed publicly. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that there is “a new strategic alignment in the Middle East,” separating “reformers” and “extremists”; she pointed to the Sunni states as centers of moderation, and said that Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah were “on the other side of that divide.” (Syria’s Sunni majority is dominated by the Alawi sect.) Iran and Syria, she said, “have made their choice and their choice is to destabilize.”

Having failed to mop up the Taliban and al Qaeda, the Bushies are now turning their misdirection toward Hezbollah. This is just the sort of thing the neocons would have thought up, isn’t it?

Some of the core tactics of the redirection are not public, however. The clandestine operations have been kept secret, in some cases, by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis, or by finding other ways to work around the normal congressional appropriations process, current and former officials close to the Administration said.

A senior member of the House Appropriations Committee told me that he had heard about the new strategy, but felt that he and his colleagues had not been adequately briefed. “We haven’t got any of this,” he said. “We ask for anything going on, and they say there’s nothing. And when we ask specific questions they say, ‘We’re going to get back to you.’ It’s so frustrating.”

Frustrating ain’t half of it. See also Think Progress.

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