Friday, August 31, 2007

In an August 17, 2007 column appearing on MSNBC.com, Eleanor Clift of Newsweek noted that Nancy Keenan, president of NARAl Pro-Choice America, has argued that asking Presidential candidates their views of abortion or Roe v. Wade is less useful than asking a series of questions about family planning. Clift notes that not only are all the Republican candidates rhetorically "pro-life," but, more ominously, "the culture war goes on with some large corporations, such as Wal-Mart and Kroger, slow to stock the morning-after pill, and numerous reports of pharmacists refusing to offer it, especially in hard-to-access rural areas."

Keenan suggests more revealing questions: 1)Do you think it's acceptable for a pharmacy to refuse to fill a woman's prescription for birth control pills based on the personal views of the pharmacist? 2)Should hospital emergency rooms be allowed to withhold information from a rape victim about the morning-after pill, which can prevent a preganancy if it's taken soon enough after the assault? 3)Do you support age-appropriate sex education?

Even if these appropriate questions are not asked, Democrats should be careful about handling this last issue. When in July, Barack Obama stated "But it's the right thing to do, to provide age-appropriate, science-based, sex education in the schools," Mitt Romney accused the Illinois Senator of advocating teaching sex education to kindergarten students. (As ABC News reported here, Obama supported a failed measure in the Illinois state Senate in which kindergarten students would have been given rudimentary sex education, with an opt-out provision.) No matter that Governor Romney had not questioned Massachusetts' age-appropriate sex education curriculum, which included kindergarten students. (No word yet on whether Romney has changed his position on his date of birth, mother's maiden name, or the number of months in a year.) This is the kind of emotion-laden, volatile issue the GOP likes to trot out at election time and with the Repubs loathe to question civil partnerships (and Democrats on record as opposing gay marriage), sex education is among many which could become the GOP's wedge issue of the season.
The Republican Media- no. 7

Talking Points Memo ran on 8/30/07 an item inspired by a story of CNN the previous day. Entitled "Summer of Scandal" and subtitled "Republicans, Democrats Exposed," the report included host Wolf Blitzer referring to "dirty laundry... touching both political parties" and correspondent Carol Costello claiming "... both parties are not going to relax if and when he's (i.e., Senator Larry Craig) gone; they're going to be waiting for the next bombshell." It cited Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, involved in an affair with a woman covering his Administration for Telemundo; and James McGreevey, who resigned as Governor of New Jersey in 2004 after having an affair with a male aide.
More recently, scandal has touched one Democrat- William Jefferson, U.S. Representative from Louisiana, indicted in June for bribery. Twelve (12) Republicans have been caught up in scandal. They are the following: 1)Thomas Ravenel, Louisiana State Treasurer and then-state chairman of the Giuliani campaign, indicted for possession and distribution of cocaine; 2)Lisa Murkowski, U.S. Senator from Alaska, against whom a group has filed a complaint for buying a house at far below market value, constituting an illegal gift; 3)Ted Stevens, U.S. Senator from Alaska, under FBI investigation for his relationship with an oil field services contractor- Bill Allen of VECO Corp.- who had been convicted for bribing state lawmakers; 4) Don Young, U.S. Representative from Alaska (is there a pattern here?), also under F.B.I. investigation for his relationship with VECO; 5) David Vitter, U.S. Senator from Louisiana, client of "D.C. Madam," Deborah Palfrey; 6)Larry Craig, U.S. Senator from Idaho, who pled guilty to disorderly conduct in Minnesota for soliciting sex with an undercover male police officer at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport; 7)Bob Allen, state representative from Florida, charged with solicitation of prostitution after allegedly offering to perform a sex act upon an undercover police officer in the bathroom of a public park in Florida; 8)John Doolittle, U.S. Representative from California, whose Washington-area home was raided by the F.B.I. and whom The Washington Post reports "helped steer millions of dollars in military funding to one of the defense contractors tied to the bribery case" of former U.S. Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham of California; 9)Tom Feeney, U.S. Representative from California, also under federal investigation for involvement in the Abramoff corruption case; 10)Rick Renzi, U.S. Representative from Arizona, target of an F.B.I. investigation in a land swap deal; 11)Pete Domenici, U.S. Senator from New Mexico, being investigated by the Senate's Select Committee on Ethics for the phone call he made to David Iglesias, later fired as U.S. attorney for New Mexico, to intimidate Iglesias for not yet having indicted local Democrats for corruption; 12)Heather Wilson, U.S. Representative from New Mexico, whose phone call to Iglesias about the same matter(s) has provoked an interview with Iglesias by the House Committee on Official Standards of Conduct.

Had the report by CNN, emphasizing an alleged bipartisan problem of corruption, been broadcast by Fox News, it would not have been notable. We expect that from GOP TV. However, presented by CNN- previously derided by Repubs as the "Clinton News Network"- it demonstrates the Repub bias of the mainstream media.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

On MSNBC's "Super Tuesday" coverage this afternoon, Tucker Carlson, discussing Fidel Castro with Patrick J. Buchanan, derided the Cuban dictator as "almost as far left" as John Edwards, whom he said "could win an election- in Latin America." (quotes may not be exact, but are identical in essence).

This is what is left of Communist to Tucker Carlson: ensuring that the government not impinge on an individual's reproductive freedom; protection of Social Security benefits; a trade policy with protection for labor and the environment; adoption of spousal benefits for gay people, though not the legalization of gay marriage; universal health care and a health care system responsive to the needs of individuals and families, rather than to drug and insurance companies; recognition of global warming and protection of the environment; opposition to reparations for slavery (CNN/YouTube debate, 7/23/07); shifting the burden of taxation from the middle class to the upper class; ending the Iraq war as soon as possible. (Ironically, moments earlier, Carlson and Buchanan were agreeing that a gradual withdrawal would endanger the remaining American troops.)

Say, for the sake of argument, that Edwards is as much a leftist as Buchanan is a rightist or Carlson a silly libertarian. Would the former North Carolina Senator have no chance if nominated? Consider the Presidential elections of 1976, 1980, 1984, 1992, 1996, 2000* (every mention of that election must come with an asterisk), and 20004- seven (7) of the last eight (8) elections. What do these elections have in common? The Presidency was won by the major-party candidate further from the ideological center. Jimmy Carter was a liberal back when liberals were not required to call themselves "progressive;" Ronald Wilson Reagan was very conservative, as Repubs continually remind us; supporters of Bill Clinton, father of an income tax increase that helped bring the longest peacetime economic expansion in American history, touted him as "centrist" (endearing him to the media) and "progressive" (i.e., liberal); and George W. Bush is clearly to the right of Ronald Reagan, though many conservatives (including Tucker Carlson), recognizing a failed Presidency, have labored to claim otherwise.

John Edwards is an underdog in the Democratic nomination race and would face vicious attacks (which, as the Clinton camp, points out, any nominee would face) from the Repubs. However, it would be fascinating to have a campaingn in which a Democratic nominee actually runs as a populist supporting the middle class, as reflected by Edwards' statement at the Livestrong Presidential Cancer Forum on 8/27/06: "If you give drug companies and insurance compies and their lobbyists a seat at the table, they'll eat all the food...We have to confront them head on, fight them,and bring about the change we need for universal health care."

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A "Remarkable" Speech- part 6

Gaining practice, President Bush has become quite adept at waving the "bloody shirt" at his critics, as he demonstrated toward the conclusion of his speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention on 8/22/07 in Kansas City, Missouri. The President actually, with no hint of shame, said:


Our troops are seeing this progress that is being made on the ground. And as they take the initiative from the enemy, they have a question: Will their elected leaders in Washington pull the rug out from under them just as they're gaining momentum and changing the dynamic on the ground in Iraq?


Yes, he did say "pull the rug out from under them." Lisa Myers of NBC News reported in September, 2006 that the Pentagon "awarded one of its favorite defense contractors, Raytheon, a $70 million dollar contract to develop a new system to combat rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), which have killed nearly 40 Americans in Afghanistan and more than 130 in Iraq." This, despite an Israeli anti-RPG system, Trophy, which a Pentagon division found extremely effective in tests, contrasted with the Raytheon system, tested only by the company itself. Add that to insufficient body armor and declining health care for veterans- and the President allegedly believes Democrats are "pulling the rug out from under" our soldiers in combat. This is a President who can't resist demonstrating how truly lacking in moral character he is.
A "Remarkable" Speech- part 5

In his speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars on 8/22/07, President Bush tried to draw an analogy between the Iraq war and the War in Vietnam. He stated in part:

His number two man, Zawahiri, has also invoked Vietnam. In a letter to al Qaeda's chief of operations in Iraq, Zawahiri pointed to "the aftermath of the collapse of the American power in Vietnam and how they ran and left their agents."


So the President believes that the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam emboldened our enemies and that a withdrawal from Iraq would do the same. But let me suggest a different analogy: Lebanon.

In mid 1982 (from counterpunch.org), James Bovard notes in "Terrorism & Tyranny: Trampling Freedom, Justice & Peace to Rid the World of Evil," President Reagan dispatched U.S. troops to support the Lebanese army in the civil war raging in Lebanon. On April 18, 1983 a man drove his van into the U.S. embassy in Beirut. After it detonated, 46 people, including 16 Americans, were killed and hundreds of people injured. Although our soldiers were targeted by Muslim snipers,the U.S. force remained, and on October 23, 1983, a Mercedes truck was detonated at the Marine barracks in Lebanon, killing 243 Marines. The Administration skillfully deflected blame for the attack(s), avoided accountability for the President's policy, and warned of dire consequences if we were to withdraw. Bovard quotes Reagan as arguing a U.S. withdrawal could result in a Middle East "incorporated into the Soviet bloc."

The Marine barracks were hit again; in September, 1984, Reagan blamed Jimmy Carter, and during his re-election campaign shamelessly (and falsely) accused Democratic opponent Walter Mondale of saying the Marines "died in shame." (But he had that great 'aw, shucks' manner.) Eventually, the Marines were withdrawn, with little or nothing accomplished.

Sound familiar? This President also warns of dire circumstances, quoting two anonymous scholars as saying "defeat would produce an explosion of euphoria among all the forces of Islamist extremism, throwing the entire Middle East into even greater upheaval. The likely human and strategic costs are appalling to contemplate." And this President skillfully avoids all accountability, and implies treasonous motives to his political enemies.
Good idea, though, for Bush to ignore this history. PBS.org notes following our Lebanon debacle, we suffered these terrorist attacks, in which one or more Americans were killed, over the next four years: hijacking of TWA Flight 847; hijacking of cruise ship Achille Lauro; bombing of Rome and Vienna airports; bombing of La Belle discotheque; bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. All on the watch of St. Ronald.
A "Remarkable" Speech- part 4

In his speech on August 22, 2007 to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, President Bush drew a parallel between the war in Iraq and the successful installation of democracy in Japan following World War II. It was quite a reach, and falls short. He argued:


Those who said Shinto was incompatible with democracy were mistaken, and fortunately, Americans and Japanese leaders recognized it at the time, because instead of suppressing the Shinto faith, American authorities worked with the Japanese to institute religious freedom for all faiths. Instead of abolishing the imperial throne, Americans and Japanese worked together to find a place for the Emperor in the democratic political system.

And the result of all these steps was that every Japanese citizen gained freedom of religion, and the Emperor remained on his throne and Japanese democracy grew stronger because it embraced a cherished part of Japanese culture. And today, in defiance of the critics and the doubters and the skeptics, Japan retains its religions and cultural traditions, and stands as one of the world's great free societies. (Applause.)

You know, the experts sometimes get it wrong. An interesting observation, one historian put it -- he said, "Had these erstwhile experts" -- he was talking about people criticizing the efforts to help Japan realize the blessings of a free society -- he said, "Had these erstwhile experts had their way, the very notion of inducing a democratic revolution would have died of ridicule at an early stage."

Instead, I think it's important to look at what happened. A democratic Japan has brought peace and prosperity to its people. Its foreign trade and investment have helped jump-start the economies of others in the region. The alliance between our two nations is the lynchpin for freedom and stability throughout the Pacific. And I want you to listen carefully to this final point: Japan has transformed from America's enemy in the ideological struggle of the 20th century to one of America's strongest allies in the ideological struggle of the 21st century. (Applause.)

Unfortunately for this twist, MSNBC found and put on Countdown that "one historian," John Dower, historian and professor at MIT and author of the award-winning "Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II." Stating that the use of his quote was "really perverse," Dowe asserted "everything says this is entirely different" than occuped post-war Japan. He cited Japan's "strong democratic tradition before" the militaristic culture took hold, the "fault lines" in Iraqi society absent in Japanese society, and the "formal war with a formal surrender" after World War II. He noted that the U.S.A. began planning for the occupation in 1942 and that democratic reforms were completed within the first three years of the surrender of Japan. Dowe asserted that he is "very distressed" at the "misuse of history" and maintained Administration officials "do not use history for illumination but for propaganda." Dowe was informed that politico.com has White House spokesman Tony Fratto claiming Bush used the quote "to in no way endorse his view of Iraq, only his view of Japan," suggesting that President Bush now is lecturing us on Asian history.

Better yet: with a spokesman, not Mr. Bush, issuing this preposterous statement, the President is spared the accusation of yet again lying to the American people.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A "Remarkable" Speech- part 3

In his speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars on August 22, President Bush repeated some of his favorite, discredited arguments. Here are three, helpfully included in the same paragraph:


As we saw on September the 11th, a terrorist safe haven on the other side of the world can bring death and destruction to the streets of our own cities. Unlike in Vietnam, if we withdraw before the job is done, this enemy will follow us home. And that is why, for the security of the United States of America, we must defeat them overseas so we do not face them in the United States of America. (Applause.)


There was a "terrorist safe haven on the other side of the world" as of September 10, 2001. Following the attacks of 9/11/01, United States forces, as directed by President Bush and supported by vitually every member of Congress from both parties, invaded Afghanistan and removed the Taliban, ally of al-Qaeda. Now, our resouces go to Iraq instead of Afghanistan, where, according to the Telegraph of the United Kingdom, as of mid-2006 "the country is facing its worst crisis since the Taliban was overthrown."

Will the "enemy" really "follow us home?" Probably no more than the enemy followed home the eighteen nations which were part of the "Coalition of the Willing" in 2003 which since have withdrawn their troops. Does George W. Bush believe that "the enemy will follow us home"if American troops are withdrawn from the Middle East? He apparently didn't believe it when he withdrew virtually all American troops from the kingdom of Saudia Arabia in spring of 2003.

Must we "defeat them overseas so we do not face them in the United States of America?" If "them" is the group of insurgents and terrorists (and al-Qaeda is only a small portion of the violent forces) in Iraq, not likely. If "them" is al-Qaeda, perhaps we should fight them, rather than pursuing in Iraq a war which is spawning more terrorists. Just a thought.
A "Remarkable" Speech- part 2

In George W. Bush's speech on August 22, 2007 before the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention, the President repeated his favorite mantra and suggested an unusual basis for formulating American foreign policy. Here it is:


There was another price to our withdrawal from Vietnam, and we can hear it in the words of the enemy we face in today’s struggle -- those who came to our soil and killed thousands of citizens on September the 11th, 2001. In an interview with a Pakistani newspaper after the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden declared that "the American people had risen against their government’s war in Vietnam. And they must do the same today."
His number two man, Zawahiri, has also invoked Vietnam. In a letter to al Qaeda’s chief of operations in Iraq, Zawahiri pointed to "the aftermath of the collapse of the American power in Vietnam and how they ran and left their agents."
Zawahiri later returned to this theme, declaring that the Americans "know better than others that there is no hope in victory. The Vietnam specter is closing every outlet." Here at home, some can argue our withdrawal from Vietnam carried no price to American credibility -- but the terrorists see it differently.
We must remember the words of the enemy. We must listen to what they say. Bin Laden has declared that "the war [in Iraq] is for you or us to win. If we win it, it means your disgrace and defeat forever." Iraq is one of several fronts in the war on terror -- but it’s the central front -- it’s the central front for the enemy that attacked us and wants to attack us again. And it’s the central front for the United States and to withdraw without getting the job done would be devastating. (Applause.)


The President, as usual, conflates the war in Iraq and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In a speech vigorously, if misleadingly and reprehensibly, defending his war policy, Bush refers to "the enemy we face in today's struggle- those who came to our soil and killed thousands of citizens on September the 11th, 2001." The enemy which came to our soil on 9/11/01 is not in Iraq but probably in northwestern Pakistan, where al Qaeda is regrouping and bin Laden may be holding out. Of course, bin Laden might have been captured in that region (Tora Bora) in December, 2001, as the Christian Science Monitor reported, but this Administration, which continually uses support for our soldiers as a political tool, outsourced the job from the American military to Afghan warlords, outsourcing being one of the favorite tools in the Republican arsenal. Iraq is not "the central front for the enemy that attacked us" but for other insurgents and terrorists rallying around a cause Mr. Bush has offered them.

And is it necessary for the American people to be admonished to "remember the words of the enemy. We must listen to what they say?" The Washington Post reported in December, 2006 "the tension between the President and the Joint Chiefs of Staff over the proposed troop increase" and noted "the uniformed leadership has opposed sending additional forces without a clear mission..." We have a President who periodically vows to follow the advice of the generals- unless they disagree with him- but apparently listens more intently to bin Laden than to the Joint Chiefs or foreign policy realists.
A "Remarkable" Speech- part 1

The President's speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City, Mo. on August 22, 2007 contained so many distortions several blog entries are necessary. I begin here.

Like our enemies in the past, they kill Americans because we stand in their way of imposing this ideology across a vital region of the world. This enemy is dangerous; this enemy is determined; and this enemy will be defeated. (Applause.)

Judging from the previous paragraph of his statement, the President was referring to "the terrorists who wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places."

What are these "other places?" Could he have meant Pakistan? This is a government whose agreement with the Taliban in late, 2006: a)according to ABC News, "provides for the Pakistani army to return "captured Taliban weapons and prisoners" as well as to pull the national army out of northwestern Pakistan; b)according to counterterrorism expert Richard A. Clarke "means that the Taliban and al Qaeda leadership have effectively carved out a sanctuary inside Pakistan." A government which, according to Eurasianet.org, will have received $499 million in aid from the U.S.A. in fiscal 2007 and will receive $785 million in fiscal 2008, if the Administration's budget proposal is approved. A government which, according to the libertarian-conservative CATO institute, "was the chief political and financial sponsor of the Taliban in Afghanistan from the beginning" and which may now receive $3 billion dollars in additional aid from the U.S. over the next five years. (It appears no determination has been made as to whom this aid, which may land in the hands of the Taliban or even al Qaeda, will be distributed.)

No, the President wasn't referring to Pakistan. But perhaps he was referring to Hamas, Hezbollah, the Palestinian Liberation Front, the Shining Path, or any of the other 38 groups on the State Department's List of Foreign Terrorist Organizations in 2007. There is no way to know with a President whose enemy is always "they" or "them."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Republican Media- No. 6

Mike Barnicle, substituting today for Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball, was discussing politics with three individuals, one of them Anne Kornblut of The Washingon Post. She asked Kornblut- not a partisan, but an objective reporter- how the issue of the Iraq war is playing in Iowa and New Hampshire. She replied- I'm not making this up- "Republican crowds are a little different. They still want to be supporting the troops." (No one corrected her.)

As against Democratic troops, who, she apparently believes, do not support the troops. Imagine a reporter saying "Democratic crowds are a little different. They still want peace." Or, "Democratic crowds are a little different. They still want to support Main Street America." It won't happen.
The Edwards campaign says "Senator Hillary Clinton's view that the President's Iraq policy is 'working' is another instance of a Washington politician trying to have it both ways." Responding to Edwards' campaign chairman, former Michigan Representative David Bonior, Clinton aides, according to The New York Times, "said her 'remarks' that military tactics in Iraq are working referred specifically to reports of increased cooperation from Sunnis leading to greater success against insurgents in Al Anbar province."

So what did Clinton actually say? According to WashingtonPost.com, "we have begun to change tactics in Iraq and in some areas, particularly (emphasis mine) in Al Anbar province, it's working."

I have not read the full transcript of the Senator's remarks, which appears not yet to be available, but Mrs. Clinton now has given cover to the President's misguided policies. She could have argued that the "surge" is working in Al Anbar province but further jeopardizing the war effort elsewhere in Iraq. (This would be similar to the strategy of municipal police forces in the U.S., which often target a drug-infested corner/neighborhood, only to move the criminal activity elsewhere in town.) Instead, she contended the tactics are working "in some areas, particularly" in Al Anbar. And given that her speech otherwise was critical of the Administration's policy, she characteristically was "trying to have it both ways."
Which, sadly, still makes her remarks superior to those of the two Republicans, John McCain and Anything For A Buck Fred (Thompson), who were invited to address the assemblage. "As long as there is a prospect for not losing this war," the Arizona Senator pleaded, "then we must not choose to lose it."

But it gets worse, with lobbyist-turned Senator-turned actor Thompson claiming leaders "took a holiday" from the fight on terrorism in the 1990s. Apparently, he forgot about the memo of January 25, 2001, largely ignored, from counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke to National Security adviser Condoleeza Rice, urgently requesting a "principals meeting" on the threat from Al Qaeda. And President Bush's failure to respond to the famous August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing "bin Ladin Determined To Strike in U.S."

Hilary Clinton may be providing cover to George W. Bush. But these and other remarks of the GOP candidates only underscore the greater danger posed by the party they want to represent next November.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Former Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove appeared today on NBC's Meet the Press. He was asked by David Gregory, substituting for Tim Russert, about remarks Dick Cheney made in 1994, as revealed in a video appearing this past week on YouTube. Cheney therein defended the decision of George Herbert Walker Bush not to invade Beirut at the close of the war and try to apprehend Sadam Hussein. Gregory quotes Cheney in the video as saying

Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein’s government, then what are you going to put in its place? If you take down the central government of Iraq, you can easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off.

It’s a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq. And the question for the president, in terms of whether or not we went on to Baghdad and took additional casualties in an effort to get Saddam Hussein, was how many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth? And our judgment was, not very many, and I think we got it right.

Queried about the former Secretary of Defense's apparent change of opinion, Rove responded


And you’re right, 1994. He, he was describing the conditions in 1994. By 2003 the world had changed. It changed on 9/11, and it became clear—it should be clear to every American that we live in a dangerous world where we cannot let emerging threats fully materialize in attacks on our homeland. Between 1994 and 2003 Saddam Hussein ignored a total—between 1991 and 2003, 16 UN resolutions that said “live up to the agreement that you made in the aftermath of the first Gulf war to disclose your weapons of mass destruction and to account for them.” He didn’t. He was thumbing his nose at the international inspection regime. He was taking money from Oil For Food and putting it into programs to maintain his state security apparatus. He was funding terrorists. He was supporting terrorists, harboring terrorists. He became a dangerous threat, and people are entitled over time to look at the conditions and change their mind, and that’s exactly what Dick Cheney did...


We've come to assume that whenever this war is questioned, the bloody shirt of "9/11" is waved. The Administration and its apologists never tire of exploiting the murder of 3,000 American citizens to bolster flagging support of its failed war effort. And we know that none of the hijackers were Iraqi nationals, that most were of Saudi origin. (That's Saudi Arabia, the Bush family's favorite Arab nation.) And that Saddam's Iraq was less involved in terrorism than Iran or Syria(or Afghanistan, obviously).
But Rove's statement contains something new. Arguing that Cheney "was describing the conditions in 1994," whereas "by 2003 the world had changed," Rove implies that the world, presumably due to the threat of terrorism, had become more dangerous over the intervening nine years. But the September, 2001 terrorist attacks had not made the world more dangerous but rather had awakened us to the threat. We know from Fairness in Accuracy and Reporting (FAIR) that Gen. Hussein Kamel, the late Iraqi weapons chief and son-in-law to Saddam Hussein who told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) (and, separately, the CIA) when he defected in 1995 that the regime had destroyed its entire stockpile of chemical and biological weapons and banned missiles. And that as early as March, 1999 former UNSCOM inspector Scott Ritter declared "none of Iraq's major biological weapons production facilities are in operation today, with some of them having been destroyed completely. Iraq's chemical weapons program has been driven into hiding, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has destroyed Iraq's pre-war nuclear weapons facilities." So Saddam posed no more, and probably less, of a threat in 2003 than in 1994.
Perhaps Cheney had decided that removing Saddam Hussein in 2003 posed less of a risk than it would have in 1994. Except that he would be wrong. As he argued in a November 2006 article in Slate, journalist Christopher Hitchens, an ardent, consistent, and obviously misguided supporter of Gulf War II, believes allied forces could have cleanly toppled the Hussein regime in 1991. Broad international support included that of Syria, though gained with a price; Iran (now friendly with the Shiite regime in Iraq) had limited influence following its war with Iraq; and the strength of sectarian militias was slight.
There is no way of knowing whether invasion of Baghdad in 1991 would have been successful and not resulted in nearly worldwide enmity, an increase in terrorism, and nearly 4,000 American deaths. But we do know what happened when we tried this in 2003. And that no one has been more consistently wrong about the war than Dick Cheney.
The Democratic Presidential debate broadcast this morning by ABC television and moderated by George Stephanopoulos and the very sharp David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register yielded a few good questions and some lively disagreement. One of the best questions, I believe, was the following from Yepsen (addressed initially to Senator Dodd):
"I want to ask you about performance-based pay. Should more effective teachers be paid more than less effective ones?"
Mike Gravel responded in the affirmative, Dennis Kucinich prattled on and never answered, and John Edwards was not asked. Barack Obama, however, advocated "a performance-based system that teachers buy into," while eschewing one imposed upon a school district, or one imposed by a school district upon the teachers' union and the employees it represents.
Hillary Clinton nee Rodham Clinton supported "incentive pay for school-wide performance." This presumes, apparently, a)there is an accurate means to determine how well a school is performing which, inadvertently, No Child Left Behind has demonstrated may not exist; and b)if valid criteria for determining a school's performance can be achieved, inefficient and ineffective Teacher X should be rewarded because of the effectiveness of the other teachers (or effective Teacher Y should be denied reward because of the ineffectiveness of the teachers at his/her school). (Mrs. Clinton did, wisely, avoid the temptation to endorse the Bush Administration's failed education program.)
But there were a few more thoughtful responses. Bill Richardson recommended a "minimum wage for teachers" and scrapping the No Child Left Behind Act. Chris Dodd urged that teachers be paid more for working in certain rural or urban areas, apparently those which are most needy and likely to be underserved. And Joe Biden opened by noting that his wife is a veteran teacher and argued there "needs to be performance-based pay"- except that his characterization was rather unconventional. He suggested "paying the best performing students who want to teach and give them a chance," asserting a community should "pay those people who perform in undergraduate school, give them an alternative... to get the same pay an engineer gets." These are original ideas, if nothing else. I've never heard anyone suggest that colleges (in the form of the grades given out) should be given veto power over the pay of a teacher in a school district. And as for paying teachers the same as engineers, I'm not sure even many teachers would find that realistic.
But the Senator was right on target with another remark: "And the one thing any teacher can tell you is that the last person you want to base your performance, judge your performance, is the administrator of a school." Which is about all you need to know about the viability of "performance pay" or "merit pay." And why the best response to the question was included in Senator Dodd's answer: "no."

Friday, August 17, 2007

Continuing on about Rudy Giuliani-
in Wayne Barrett's Village Voice article, "Rudy's Five Big Lies About 9/11," Barrett posits lie #3 as "Don't Blame Me For 7 WTC, Rudy says." In a brazen denial of reality, the former mayor blames his then-director of emergency management, Jerry Hauer, for placing the city's emergency command center at the World Trade Center. Both the police commisssioner and the highest-ranking uniformed officer in the New York City Police Department both thought it foolish to put the command center there, unsurprising given that the terrorist behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center said that it remained a likely future target. But political considerations reigned supreme, and Barrett explained:

The 7 WTC site was the brainchild of Bill Diamond, a prominent Manhattan Republican that Giuliani had installed at the city agency handling rentals. When Diamond held a similar post in the Reagan administration a few years earlier, his office had selected the same building to house nine federal agencies. Diamond's GOP-wired broker steered Hauer to the building, which was owned by a major Giuliani donor and fundraiser. When Hauer signed onto it, he was locked in by the limitations Giuliani had imposed on the search and the sites Diamond offered him. The mayor was so personally focused on the siting and construction of the bunker that the city administrator who oversaw it testified in a subsequent lawsuit that "very senior officials," specifically including Giuliani, "were involved," which he said was a major difference between this and other projects. Giuliani's office had a humidor for cigars and mementos from City Hall, including a fire horn, police hats and fire hats, as well as monogrammed towels in his bathroom. His suite was bulletproofed and he visited it often, even on weekends, bringing his girlfriend Judi Nathan there long before the relationship surfaced. He had his own elevator. Great concern was expressed in writing that the platform in the press room had to be high enough to make sure his head was above the cameras. It's inconceivable that the hands-on mayor's fantasy command center was shaped—or sited—by anyone other than him.

In short: Rudolph Giuliani became a hero, "America's Mayor," because he was very visible and appeared authoritative walking around lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001 because he had nowhere to go. HIs command post/bachelor pad unavailable, the mayor and his huge entourage scoured the streets of Manhattan for seven hours looking for a place to hunker down.

Leadership- that's Rudy.
Rudolph Giuliani is at it again. As reported by Greg Sargent's blog, on August 9, 2007 Rudy told reporters in Cincinnatti

"This is not a mayor or a governor or a president who's sitting in an ivory tower," he said. "I was at ground zero as often, if not more, than most of the workers. I was there working with them. I was there guiding things. I was there bringing people there. But I was exposed to exactly the same things they were exposed to. So in that sense, I'm one of them."

Yahoo reports the head of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association of New York, John McDonnell, responding "I have a real problem with that statement. I think he's really grasping and trying to justify his previous attempts to portray himself as the hero of 9/11."
But now there is more information. Today the New York Times reports

A complete record of Mr. Giuliani’s exposure to the site is not available for the chaotic six days after the attack, when he was a frequent visitor. But an exhaustively detailed account from his mayoral archive, revised after the events to account for last-minute changes on scheduled stops, does exist for the period of Sept. 17 to Dec. 16, 2001. It shows he was there for a total of 29 hours in those three months, often for short periods or to visit locations adjacent to the rubble. In that same period, many rescue and recovery workers put in daily 12-hour shifts.

And what was he doing there? The chart accompanying the NYT's story reveals numerous meetings with dignitaries- and an interview with Barbara Walters and one with Oprah Winfrey. And Giuliani says "I was at Ground Zero as often, if not more, than most of the workers (and) was exposed to exactly the same things they were exposed to. So, in that sense, I'm one of them." Yes, roughly ten hours a month, meeting with the likes of Dennis Hastert, Vincente Fox, Oprah, and Barbara. Just like all the other Ground Zero workers.

Leadership- That's Rudy.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Karl Rove had quite a run. Two gubernatorial victories for George W. Bush, followed by two Presidential victories for the man whose judgement, competence, and honesty are reflected in a popularity rating which has been well under 40% for a long time. And here is one major area in which Mr. Bush's judgement pales in comparison with that of his immediate predecessor: Bill Clinton's main political advisor, James Carvile, was his main political advisor; George W. Bush's main political advisor, Karl Rove, was also a policy advisor. So our nation was subjected not only to bad policy but to a President even more driven by political considerations than was William Jefferson Clinton.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Your tax cuts (for the wealthy) at work.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission has announced that Mattel is recalling 9.5 million toys made in mainland China. Most of the products contact a magnet that can fall out and be swallowed by young children and the other toys contain lead paint. Thomas Moore, a CPSC Commissioner, explained "staffing cuts and other resource reductions have limited the Commission's ability to carry out its mission."
On Lou Dobbs Tonight, correspondent Bill Tucker noted today that since 1980 the Commission's staff has been slashed 59%, from 978 to 400. That would be 26.6 (approximately) years, all but eight under Republican Presidents dedicated to the philosophy that the only thing more evil than (income) taxes is government regulation. And for the other eight years? The President from the corporatist Democratic Leadership Council, a President who prides himself on being a "centrist," whom the mainstream media generally holds in high esteem because he is not beholden to the interest groups the Democratic Party "panders" to- like, say, labor and consumers. Those annoying people who believe in fair trade because free trade works for only one side. Those annoying people who always are complaining about American jobs being outsourced. Those annoying people who believe in government inspection to keep safe our toys- and toothpaste, and fish, and pet food, and tires.

Manufacture of the recalled toys reportedly was subcontracted by a Chinese company to another Chinese company. Mattel Chairman and CEO Bob Eckert exclaimed "I'm disappointed, I'm upset, but I can ensure that we are doing everything we can about the situation." ("I'm shocked, shocked, to find that gambling is going on in here!")
So Mattel is offering vouchers to consumers to buy other toys- which, presumably, also are made in mainland China, as are approximately 80% of the toys purchased in the U.S.A.

I have an idea of something else Mattel can do for its consumers in this country, its largest market. Open a manufacturing plant here and employ some Americans.

Monday, August 13, 2007

So, Mitt Romney is celebrating his victory in the Iowa Republican straw poll in Ames, where nearly 15,000 partisans paid a poll tax to vote on Saturday, August 13. But his glee, if sincere, is foolish. Take a look at these results from IowaPolitics.com:

Detailed results

14,302 ballots cast

1 Mitt Romney, 4,516 votes, 31.6 percent
2 Mike Huckabee, 2,587 votes, 18.1 percent
3 Sam Brownback, 2,192 votes, 15.3 percent
4 Tom Tancredo, 1,961 votes, 13.7 percent
5 Ron Paul, 1,305 votes, 9.1 percent
6 Tommy Thompson, 1,039 votes, 7.3 percent
7 Fred Thompson, 203 votes, 1.4 percent
8 Rudy Guiliani, 183 votes, 1.3 percent
9 Duncan Hunter, 174 votes, 1.2 percent
10 John McCain - 101 votes, 0.7 percent
11 John Cox- 41 votes, 0.1 percent

John McCain (at one time almost the presumptive nominee), Rudy Giuliani (leader in most national polls), and Fred Thompson (Anything For A Buck Fred, who leads in the other national polls and appears to be the Dream Republic Candidate) did not compete. Sam Brownback, Tom Tancredo, Ron Paul, and Tommy Thompson, who did compete, finished third through sixth. Tancredo, Paul, and T. Thompson- all marginal- now, then, and forever. The first runner-up? Mike Huckabee, more personable, less threatening, and quicker on his feet than Brownback. Obviously, among the announced candidates, Romney and Giuliani are the front-runners, and I believe Romney has a much better chance of being nominated. But he can't be happy that Huckabee beat out Brownback, Tancredo, Paul, Thompson, and Hunter.
Chris Matthews, host of Hardball on MSNBC, this evening continued his role as unofficial campaign chairman of Giuliani for President. In a group discussion of Giuliani's prospects, Matthews stated "anybody that can end crime as a menacing factor, a big factor of life in the big cities, is going to be a hereo, even to people who don't live in the cities." So let's take a look at the reduction of crime Rudy G. allegedly brought about.
The crime rate (as measured by incidents per 100,000 inhabitants) did in fact decline during Mr. Giuliani's tenure in office, from early 1994 to early 2002. However, this chart, from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Report, indicates that nationally the violent crime rate in 1993 was 747.1; the property crime rate, 4740.0; and the "crime index total," 5487.1. The latter two categories then proceeded to decline each year through 2001, and the property crime rate in each year except from 2000 to 2001 (which saw a small rise). Meanwhile, this graph demonstrates that while nationally, the rate of crime during Giuliani's tenure dropped, it may have have plummeted in big cities- for example, in Los Angeles; somewhat more in New York City; and far more in Newark, N.J. And I don't remember anyone crediting the recently-indicted Sharpe James, who served as mayor from 1986 to 2001, as a heroic crime-buster.
Pushing Giuliani now as a latter-day Elliot Ness may be particularly timely, given that his mythical reputation as the "hero of 9/11" suffered another blow by the recent Village Voice article, written by Wayne Barrett, entitled "Rudy's Five Big Lies About 9/11." So don't blame Matthews; hopefully, the Giuliani spin will fool enough primary voters and eventually give HRC (or one of the guys) a target even bigger than Rudy's ego.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Attack On The Middle Class

Normally, discussion of a law enacted 2-3 years earlier would be of little interest to anyone, but this should be an exception, and, given that I started blogging only a few months ago, I couldn't have commented then.

On April 20, 2005 President Bush signed into law the euphemistically and absurdly named "The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005," a harsh attack upon the middle class and main street America. Originally introduced eight years earlier, the act, pushed by lobbyists from the credit card and banking industries, established a means test for filing for bankruptcy protection. According to Project Vote Smart, this restriction "determines whether the individual would be allowed to file under Chapter 7, essentially exonerating their debts after they have liquidated their assets, or if they would be forced to file under Chapter 13, requiring them to pay back creditors on a court-approved timetable."

This law was, and is, a serious blow to the middle class. Testifying against the bill, Elizabeth Warren (who teaches bankruptcy law at Harvarad University) warned it would "increase the cost of bankruptcy protection for every family, regardless of income or the cause of financial crisis, and decrease the protection of bankruptcy for every family, regardless of income or the cause of the financial crisis." Supporters were unconcerned that: in the eight years since the bill was conceived, credit card profits had increased 163%, from $11.5 billion to $32 billion; effective interest rates often are hidden in the fine print of many contracts and sometimes range to 29%; and approximately half of personal bankruptcies are due to illness or medical bills (according to commondreams.org).

Why the interest in the legislation now? The bill first passed in the House, 302-126 with zero(0) Republicans having enough interest in the average American to vote against it. The bill then passed by 74-25 in the Senate, where zero (0) Republicans voted against it. (Can you detect a pattern?) I don't have to tell you how John McCain, Duncan Hunter, Sam Brownback, Ron Paul, and Tom Tancredo voted.

All votes opposing the bill came from the Democratic side of the aisle. Five Democrats currently running for President were serving in the U.S. Congress at the time. Representative Kucinich and Senators Obama and Dodd voted against this egregious bill. Senator Biden of Delaware, a state dominated by banking interests, voted for it. Senator Clinton was recorded as "not voting." A characteristic profile in courage.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Bushfib- no. 2

In his press conference of August 9, 2006, President Bush made several debatable assertions but, to his credit, only one statement which was clearly beyond distortion or obfuscation. By law, the President is required to submit to Congress two reports to include "an assessment of how the Sovereign Government of Iraq is performing in its efforts to achieve a series of specific benchmarks."

According to colunnist Dan Froomkin, writing in White House Watch for washingtonpost.com, Mr. Bush asserted "in the July 15 report that I submitted to Congress, there were indications that they had met about half the benchmarks and some of the political benchmarks they were falling short." However, "progress" had been found in only eight of eighteen benchmarks (o.k., almost half) but the "Initial Benchmark Assessment Report" did not address whether the benchmarks had been met, only whether "progress" had been made. To illustrate: in the case of one of the benchmarks in which progress had been made, the report maintained "progress toward achieving this benchmark has been satisfactory, and we will continue to monitor and engage with the committees to produce a satisfactory effect over the next 60 days." Hence, there were not even "indications" of benchmarks having been met; otherwise, the report would not have differentiated between "progress" and the "effect," which could be measured only over the following 60 days.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Romney's Concept of Service

More on Mitt Romney. Following a speech today in Bettendorf, Iowa, the former Michigan governor took a question from a Rachel Griffiths, who identified herself as a member of Quad City Progressive Action for the Common Good, as well as the sister of an Army major who had served in Iraq. As reported in TPM Cafe, she asked "... how many of your five sons are currently serving in the U.S. military, and if none of them are, how do they plan to support this war on terrorism by enlisting in the U.S. military?" In a long response which touched on support for the volunteer army and the soldiers serving in Iran, and comments about his niece, Romney stated:

It’s remarkable how we can show our support for our nation and one of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping to get me elected, because they think I’d be a great president. My son, Josh, bought the family Winnebago and has visited 99 counties, most of them with his three kids and his wife.

Griffiths clearly was not amused and asked for her reaction, responded "he told me the way his son shows support for our military and our nation is to buy a Winnebago and ride across Iowa and help him get elected." To give equal time: on the atlantic.com, substituting for Andrew Sullivan, Eric Kleefeld writes "I don't think Mitt Romney is so insensitive that he would intentionally compare the sevice of our troops to people working for his campaign. But I do think he did a great job of putting his foot in his mouth this time."

I don't buy this. I'm not convinced this does not reflect Romney's thinking about himself, service to country, or patriotism. I don't believe he is stupid, that he "put his foot in his mouth." Democrats underestimate this fellow at their peril, just as they always have George W. Bush- the guy who outmaneuvered (with the help of James Baker and others) them in the aftermath of the 2000 Presidential election, in the 2002 vote authorizing military action in Iraq, and recently, in expanding the power of the Executive Branch in wiretapping American citizens.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Romney And Abortion

We all know former Governor Mitt Romney has flipped on abortion rights, but a comment he made during the August 5, 2007 televised debate in Iowa throws more, or perhaps less, light on his remarkable conversion.

The debate led off with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News asking Kansas Senator Brownback about the "robo-call," which the campaign calls an "urgent action alert," in which a caller tells the prospective primary voter "as late as 2005, Mitt Romney pledged to support and uphold pro-abortion policies and passed taxpayer funding of abortions in Massachusetts. His wife Ann contributed money to Planned Parenthood. Mitt told the National Abortion Rights Action League that 'you need someone like me in Washington."

Calling the call "desperate and perhaps negative" (perhaps negative?), Romney stated "I changed my position. When I was governor and when I faced an issue of life or death, when the first time a bill came to my desk that related to the life of an unborn child, I came down on the side of life."

So far, so good. This is the Romney position on abortion as he has argued it, roughly "I was for abortion (rights) before I was against it." But later, Romney offered a curious response to Adam T. Waldron of Pocatello, Idaho, who asked "...what is a defining mistake of your life and why?" The former governor said "the greatest mistake was when I first ran for office being deeply opposed to abortion but saying I supported the current law, which was pro-choice and essentially a pro-choice position."

So now Mr. Romney is saying that he always (or at least before he was elected to anything) was pro-life. He did not ever change his mind, according to this formulation, but merely lied about his position. Which makes his previous (oft-repeated) statement that he changed his position... what- a lie?
Stepford GOP

We pause a moment while excoriating, ridiculing, and demeaning the House and Senate Democrats for permitting passage of the euphemistically named "Protect America Act of 2007," which amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 2007 by expanding the executive branch's powers of surveillance. It is true, as the mainstream media emphasizes, that 41 Democrats in the House of Representatives and 17 Democrats (including Connecticut's Joe Lieberman, technically an Independent) voted for this unfortunate measure passed by the Democratic-controlled chambers. However, it is not so widely reported (as demonstrated in this Boston Globe article) and certainly not emphasized, that in the House, two (2) Republicans voted against the measure and in the Senate, 0 (that's zero) Republicans voted "nay." Yep- lots of independent thought in that GOP.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Iraq And The Republicans

Although not the issue I'm most interested in, the Iraq war is the biggest issue in the country, so it's useful to take a look at the comments regarding the U.S. involvement made by the Republican Presidential candidates during the August 5 debate televised by ABC.

Not surprisingly, only Representative Ron Paul, who noted "the war is not going well because the foreign policy is defective," condemned Persian Gulf II. However, the nature of the comments differed dramatically. Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, supporting a three-state solution and arguing that there is more to the war than military, asserted "we need a political surge." Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee referred to Saudi Arabia (a bold move for a Republican) and urged that our nation "end our dependency on foreign oil," an unusual, if wise, assertion for a Republican.

Former Governor Tommy Thompson and U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo included a hint of criticism of President Bush. Thompson stated "I've laid out a plan that we have to give all our resources... to our fighting men and women... but beyond that it is not fair (for the soldiers) to shoulder all the burden, to pay for a war that's costing us ten billion dollars a month, that we're not funding, we're just passing it on to our children and grandchildren..." And he cited "a failure of our President and Congress" not to pressure the Iraqi government sufficiently. (The failure of the Bush Administration to supply our soldiers adequately, while passing on a hugh tax cut for the wealthy, is- or should be- one of the great scandals of this Administration.) And Tancredo, while stating "we are in a war with radical Islam," declared "no President should ever send anyone in this military and keep one arm tied behind them." (A note here- this was a common criticism among Americans during the Vietnam War, that President Johnson was foolishly fighting a war of restraint.)

Comments of these four individuals- Tancredo, T. Thompson, Huckabee, Brownback, and Paul- are reasonable, to varying degrees valid, and completely non-partisan and bi-partisan.
That's the good news. The other four candidates- U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter and the three (aside from the non-candidate, Anything for a Buck Fred) leading men- were partisan and irresponsible. Mitt Romney fantasized that Obama "has gone from Jane Fonda to Dr. Strangelove." (Although given Romney's proclivity for philosophical acrobatics, one nearly expects to learn that he once contributed to the "Obama for Senate" campaign fund.) He proclaimed "it's time... for the people of America to a show huge surge of support including our leaders in Washington for our families and these troops... to make sure this surge is a success." Translation: if this escalation fails, it is ony because of the opposition from not only Democratic members of Congress but also Main Street Americans.

To hearty applause, Duncan Hunter described "the Democratic debate" as "a race to see who could stampede to the exit the quickest" while "not a single Democrat (sic) candidate paused in the rush to the exit to say to our Marines "good job. You guys are fighting and achieving with blood, sweat, and tears what the country needs." Those troop-hating Democrats-the guys who sent our soldiers into a battle without a plan to win the peace, proper supplies, or adequate health care. (Scratch that. That was President Bush.)

But though not the most vitriolic, the saddest remarks came from John McCain, who declared "we will not set a date for surrender as the Democrats continue to do." Echoes of the lovely "stab in the back" argument that served the Nazis so well after World War I, ascribing the loss of that war to invisible enemies. Invisible, as in the reputation for bipartisanship and independence that McCain once coveted.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Terrorism, Pakistan, And Obama

Let's go over a couple of the facts about Pakistan:

-in September, 2006 President Pervez Musharraf negotiated a deal with the tribal warlords of northwestern Pakistan, effectively ceding all control to them, while the Pakistani army would be removed from that region;
-Osama bin Laden is believed to be holed up in northwestern Pakistan;
-The United States pays $80 million a month to Musharraf's government, payments thus far totalling approximately $5.6 billion, presumably for anti-terrorism efforts; and
-the recently released National Intelligence Estimate argues that al-Qaeda has reconstituted itself in northwestern Pakistan and the U.S.A. (or, the "homeland" to those who share the Nazi's fondness for the term) "will face a persistent and evolving terrorist threat over the next three years" due primarily to al-Qaeda.

Thus paying attention, on August 1, Barack Obama gave a statement outlining his policy on terrorism. It included the following:

As President, I would make the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional, and I would make our conditions clear: Pakistan must make substantial progress in closing down the training camps, evicting foreign fighters, and preventing the Taliban from using Pakistan as a staging area for attacks in Afghanistan.

I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.

The following day, Obama (according to WashingtonPost.com), responding to a question about use of nuclear weapons in Afghanistan or Pakistan), stated "There's been no discussion of nuclear weapons and that's not a hypothetical that I'm going to discuss."

In the Presidential debate of 6/3/07 from Manchester, New Hampshire, Senator Clinton, asked if as President she would enact a no-fly zone in Darfur: "well, but we're not going to engage in these hypotheticals"; and about a missile strike against Osama bin Laden that might kill civilians: "I don't think it's useful to be talking in these kinds of abstract hypothetical terms." So on 8/2/07 she criticized Obama's refusal to discuss a hypothetical situation by arguing that he should not be discussing a hypothetical question: "Presidents should be careful at all times in discussing the use and nonuse of nuclear weapons." (If this is incomprehensible to you, you're paying attention.) Of course, Obama's response was not that of a President discussing the use and nonuse of nuclear weapons- but rather that of a candidate, a distinction lost on a candidate who herself refuses to answer "hypotheticals."

Fortunately, Senator Clinton did not criticize Obama's readiness to strike terrorist camps in Pakistan, if necessary, by conventional means. Others,however, were not so reticent. "It is dangerous and irresponsible to leave even the impression that a President would needlessly and publicly provoke a nuclear power," intoned Senator Dodd, aghast that a Presidential candidate might actually tell the American people what he would do as President. Warning "it is important not to unnecessarily inflame the Muslim world," Governor Richardson, in his rush to split infinitives and reassure Muslims, inadvertently implied that Muslims everywhere approve of the terrorism bin Laden and the Taliban have provoked. And still auditioning for Secretary of State in the Clinton Administration, Senator Biden remarked "the way to deal with it is not to announce it but to do it," apparently forgetting that, not currently being President, the Illinois Senator cannot "do it." Obama's statement, Biden continued, puts Musharraf "in the position that makes it virtually impossible for him to do anything other than what he's done, basically cut a deal with the warlords on the border." (Which, obviously, is the situation that Obama's consideration of a strike against terrorist camps is a reasonable response to. This can get very confusing.)

Senator McCain, whose foreign policy expertise has been demonstrated by his steadfast support of Mr. Bush's counterproductive invasion of Iraq, also criticized Obama's stance against the terrorist camps in northwestern Pakistan. And Bush spokesman Tony Snow lectured "our approach to Pakistan is one that not only respects the sovereignty of Pakistan as a sovereign government..." seemingly unaware that when a sovereign government declares a portion of its territory off-limits to its own security forces, it has ceded a significant portion of its sovereignty (and usefulness to a "war on terror.")

What does Senator Obama understand that these guys don't? A "war on terror" must be more than a slogan.







Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Republican Media- No. 5

I don't mean to pick on CNN as a part of the pro-Republican media. It would be easy to select items from FOX News to demonstrate a pro-GOP slant. But given that FOX News is a virtual arm of the Republican Party, demonstrating bias there would not prove bias in the mainstream media generally. And besides, one can go to the Republican National Committee's website and get reports nearly as objective as those on FOX News. Herewith an exchange from Larry King's interview with President Cheney televised last night on CNN:

King: "So, those 3,000-plus lives have not died in vain?"
Cheney: (agreeing) "Yes, sir."
King: "So in restrospect you would still go into Iraq."

The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 commission) found no evidence of a "collaborative relationship between Saddam and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda organization before the U.S. invasion." Further, Acting Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble, in a Defense Department report released in April, 2007 and here summarized by WashingtonPost.com, reported that "captured Iraqi documents and intelligence interrogations of Saddam Hussein and two former aides 'all confirmed' that Hussein's regime was not cooperating with al-Qaeda before the invasion of Iraq."

Sure, the Administration has been trying since that disastrous day in 2001 to make the linkage between al-Qaeda and the late Saddam Hussein. According to TIME.com, NBC reported that former NATO commander-in-chief General Wesley Clarke stated that "people in and around the White House had made a concerted push to link 9/11 to Iraq and... he was urged to make that link during his TV appearances." CBS, TIME noted, reported that "Defense Secretary Rumsfeld had urged his aides to begin making the case for striking Saddam as well as bin Laden within hours of the atacks."

Richard A. Clarke, the counter-terrorism adviser on the U.S. National Security Council on September 11, 2001, recounted in his book Against All Enemies Inside America's War on Terror- What Really Happened this regime's push for war by manufacturing a link. Shortly after the attacks, Wolfowitz told Clarke (who had argued that only al Qaeda was "an immediate and serious threat to the United States") "you give bin Laden too much credit. He could not do all these things like the 1999 attack on New York without a state sponsor. Just because FBI and CIA have failed to find the linkages does not mean they don't exist."

So Larry King conflates our incursion into Iraq with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. And therein repeats a key Republican talking point, the myth that Iraq was involved with the attacks, thereby suggesting a connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. And this is repeated throughout "the liberal media."

Problem Of A Different Sort

Two days after the mid-terms, the Daily Beast reported “I think he’s a fantastic politician in the best sense of the word,” (Bern...