Apologists can shout all they like that no laws were broken, that hardball politics is nothing new, or whatever. The fact remains that officials close to both Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush leaked the identity of an undercover operative for political reasons. Whether or not that act was illegal, it was clearly unpatriotic.
Monday, October 31, 2005
Saddam Hussein accepted an 11th-hour offer to flee into exile weeks ahead of the U.S.-led 2003 invasion, but Arab League officials scuttled the proposal, officials in this Gulf state claimed.If true, it represents yet another way that we could have avoided 10,000+ dead or injured Americans and thousands of dead Iraqi's. It would've required our government to have worked with other Gulf states as opposed to standing in front of the world declaring "you're either with us, or against us."
My friend's thoughts are right on the mark:
Now we learn that Saddam was WILLING TO RELINQUISH POWER AND LEAVE IRAQ weeks before we invaded. We could have achieved the stated goals (which were bogus to begin with) without firing a shot. Are we seriously to believe that while we were making war preparations, the administration was unaware of the goings-on at the Arab League meeting? Either these people were actually that abysmally ignorant, or they conciously chose war anyway. Can any excuse whatsoever be offered for not pursuing this goal, rather than attacking, if it was known? Perhaps that no compromise should have been made that would allow Saddam to escape prosecution? Bin Laden murdered thousands of Americans when the Towers fell, and bragged about it. Why would it be OK for Bin Laden merely to be "marginalized" [as our President has said publically], and not Saddam, who never attacked us and was no threat?
This country is being run by either spectacular fools or monsters, take your pick.
I have an agenda for those who persist in supporting this administration.
First, attend a week long technical conference put on by our engineers and scientists presenting what we could accomplish in advancing our energy infrastructure with a $100 billion research effort, less than half the cost of this war.
Second, GIVE a presentation to the thousands of American families of our service people explaining to them why it's better that their loved one is dead or horribly maimed for life than it would have been to let Saddam give up power on his own, so that free elections could have been held in the fall of 2003.
Finally, go to Iraq. Explain to the families of the 26,000 dead who live in poverty and cower in fear from a pervasive and well-organized insurgency, while Americans in the Green Zone are choosing from three different flavors of ice cream for dessert, how much better off they because we invaded their country, rather than just let Saddam leave on his own. To lift their spirits, lead them in song. I'm sure they'll particularly be inspired to learn how "god shed his grace on" us. And not them.
Friday, October 28, 2005
It's not like we haven't seen it before with the likes of Swift Boat Vets for Truth... and push-polling to smear McCain in the 2000 campaign. In both instances the tatic wasn't to discredit the message -- it was simply to discredit the messenger. Never mind if the policy or position being advocated was sensible... by discrediting the messenger all of the utterances of the accused become suspect.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
I know I've been ranting lately, but I have another:
I'm tired of conservatives comparing the upcoming indictments to those handed down during Clinton's second term. Yes, there are likely to be for perjury and obstruction of justice: but the similarity stops there.
Clinton was investigated by a special prosecutor for his involvement in a land speculation deal that took place approximately 10 years before he became president... and everyone accepted the fact that the Clintons LOST money in the deal.
The original Republican special prosecutor, Fiske, was preparing to dismiss the case without any indictments - a conclusion that was in line with those reached in the Pillsbury Report (another investigation into the matter) - when he was replaced with independent council Ken Starr.
Making a long story short, that should still be about the end of it. Ken Starr when on a multi-year witch hunt using the power of the independent council to not only look into the Clinton's Whitewater investment, but Paula Jones sexual harassment suit - and any other 'sleezy' report regarding the presidents behavior he could find. What we wound up with was a perjury and obstruction charge based on the fact that the president lied about his relationship with Monica.
Ok, the president lied under oath about his "indiscretion" with an intern... This was the result of a multi-year (+70 million dollar) investigation that started out looking into an investment he made a decade earlier. Why was Ken Starr even interviewing people about the president's sexual conduct? Sounds like a witch hunt to me.
Fast-forward to today.
The United States is at war. Actually we're fighting two wars: one in Afghanistan in an attempt to stabilize a country that was run by a bunch of religious zealots who aided and harbored those who attacked us. The other, a war against a bunch of nationalists who oppose our presence and machinations in their country (they are supported by a relatively small number of terrorists). This second war has only the remotest of links to terrorism: a claim that democracy in Iraq will somehow quell the ground-swell of violent Islamic fundamentalism.
I doubt the outcome, but I guess we will see the results in the next 5-10 years. But I am drifting off topic.
So here we are: The current investigation centers on decisions and the subsequent actions high-level officials in the government made regarding the lead-up to war: Specifically, how the government used intimidation, lies and propaganda to convince the country that war with Iraq was necessary.
Ok, so here we are. Reader's Digest version:
- Bush administration: We have an investigation into specific allegations surrounding the public release, by high-level administration officials, of a covert operative's name. The indictments are likely to focus on "who said what and when", but perjury and obstruction of justice charges surrounding the issue seem directly applicable to the original topic of the investigation. If Rove and Libby perjured themselves, they should pay the price.
- Clinton administration: We had an investigation into Clinton's supposed use of 'undue pressure' in securing loans for a failing land deal. Three separate investigations resulted in no charges related to the matter. However, the special prosecutor did catch the president in a lie about who he had consensual sex with...
- Reagan administration (just to complete the picture): We had a president who authorized his operatives (North, Poindexter and others) to directly violate federal law by continuing aid to the Contra's in Nicaragua (after the Congress passed a law ending support for this group that had been killing civilians by the thousands). Additionally, the money used to support the Contras was obtained by illegally selling weapons systems to the Iranians - weapons systems we as tax payers paid for. Also remember, the Iranians were holding some of our citizens hostage in Lebanon (via their proxies) and considered us the 'Great Satan'.
But for my money the people who claim to be the most religious, most "moral" seem to turn out to be the ones we have to worry about most.
Now it gets scary: This president will now nominate someone who not only has a strong legal background -- but appeals to his base of evangelical nut-cases who think its their job to impose their version of christian values on the rest of us...
I have no problem with people of faith -- I just wish they'd quit trying to impose their beliefs on me through the government.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Monday, October 24, 2005
From the CSMonitor article:
In a rare display of intraparty passions, the fight transformed the staid Senate floor into a rhetorical shooting gallery last week, as freshman Sen. Tom Coburn (R) of Oklahoma took on one of the Senate's most powerful chairmen over the now-infamous "bridge to nowhere."
"We need to wake up.... No more low-priority projects in the face of half-trillion-dollar deficits. No more exorbitant bridges to nowhere," he said, referring to $453 million earmarked for two Alaskan bridges added to the highway bill by that state's senior senator, Ted Stevens. Senator Coburn proposed redirecting those funds to repair bridges in Louisiana destroyed by hurricane Katrina.
In a response laced with shouts, Senator Stevens denounced the Coburn amendment as a threat to state sovereignty. "This amendment is an offense to me.... It is a threat to every person in my state," he said. The amendment failed 15-82.
No sir: YOU are an offense... and offense to the idea of sane government.
At the same time House Republicans are still pushing for more tax cuts.
What is it gonna take for the American people to wake up and throw these people out of our government?
Friday, October 21, 2005
Kansas law prohibits any sexual activity involving a person under 16, regardless of the context. The 1999 "Romeo and Juliet" law specifies short prison sentences or probation for sexual activity when an offender is under 19 and the age difference between participants is less than four years — but only for opposite-sex encounters.
Unfortunately the defendant has already spent 4+ years in prison.
Limon and the other boy, identified only as M.A.R., lived at a group home for the developmentally disabled. In court, an official described M.A.R. as mildly mentally retarded and Limon as functioning at a slightly higher level but not as an 18-year-old.
No matter what your personal feeling regarding homosexuality, isn't "lady justice" supposed to be blind?
In the past few days I've been speaking with Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill (mostly Republicans) about the mood back home. I've learned that it's one thing to read in the paper that two-thirds of Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction. It's an altogether more bracing experience to go to town meetings and church and the supermarket and find this sentiment blasting you in the face.
The most interesting tales came from Republicans elected from districts President Bush carried by fewer than 10 points. Those districts were once moderately supportive of the president, but now, as one member of Congress said, the anger at Bush is so deep it's almost indescribable.
It's a generalized feeling of betrayal. At town meetings, big subjects like Iraq and the deficits barely come up. But there is a sense that this guy Bush promised to make us feel safe, and it's clear from the Katrina fiasco and everything else that we are not safe.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
He points out that this administration is a "do as I say, not as I do" purveyor of democracy. Friedman uses a fictitious Iraqi delegation visiting the US to get his point across.
Let's start with the separation of church and state and the idea that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States".
[...] after two years of being lectured to by U.S. diplomats in Baghdad about the need to separate "mosque from state" in the new Iraq, he was also floored to read that the former Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr, now a law school dean, said on the radio show of the conservative James Dobson that Miers deserved support because she was "a very, very strong Christian [who] should be a source of great comfort and assistance to people in the households of faith around the country."
"Now let me get this straight," Judge Mithaqi said. "You are lecturing us about keeping religion out of politics, and then your own president and conservative legal scholars go and tell your public to endorse Miers as a Supreme Court justice because she is an evangelical Christian.
How about torture:
"How would you feel if you picked up your newspapers next week and read that the president of Iraq justified the appointment of an Iraqi Supreme Court justice by telling Iraqis: 'Don't pay attention to his lack of legal expertise. Pay attention to the fact that he is a Muslim fundamentalist and prays at a Saudi-funded Wahhabi mosque.' Is that the Iraq you sent your sons to build and to die for? I don't think so. We can't have our people exposed to such talk."
A fellow delegation member [...] said he did not want to spend another day in Washington after listening to the Bush team defend its right to use torture in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfi said he was heartened by the fact that the Senate voted 90 to 9 to ban U.S. torture of military prisoners. But he said he was depressed by reports that the White House might veto the bill because of that amendment, which would ban "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment of P.O.W.'s.
And finally the Pravda-like control this administration imposes on all communication:
If our leaders understood what it means to live and work in a democracy they wouldn't have this attitude -- that the ends justify the means. Somehow they think they can spread democracy abroad if only they didn't have to deal with its "constraints" here at home.
[...] he wanted to go home after watching a televised videoconference last Thursday between soldiers in Iraq and President Bush. The soldiers, 10 Americans and an Iraqi, were coached by a Pentagon aide on how to respond to Mr. Bush.
"It was right from the Saddam playbook. I was particularly upset to hear the Iraqi sergeant major, Akeel Shakir Nasser, tell Mr. Bush: 'Thank you very much for everything. I like you.' It was exactly the kind of staged encounter that Saddam used to have with his troops."
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
I was reading a post on Human Voices blog... It got me thinking about the incredible opportunity we missed in
After the attacks on this country we were justified in going after the perpetrators -- and those that harbored them -- in
In October 2001 the hunt for Osama was on in earnest. Our administration was making all the right noises: we’d deal with Osama and help the Afghans rebuild there country: a country that has seen nothing but strife for decades. By November 2001
But just as things were looking better than I had hoped, our focus changed … Osama was no longer the priority – and neither was truly stabilizing
We all know what happened next.
But what did we loose by changing our focus? What would have happened if we’d continued our efforts in that rugged and impoverished country? What if we had spent the money and effort we’re currently spending in
Here’s what I think would have happened.
We’d have captured or killed the leader of the movement that spawned the 9/11 attacks. We would have created and stabilized a fragile democracy in one of the cradles of radical Islamic fundamentalism. We’d have swiftly dealt justice to the terrorists who committed atrocities on our soil.
What a message: a demonstration of American might while simultaneously establishing a democracy in the former home of not only radical fundamentalism, but a region of the world where the Soviets (our former foe) spent a decade to no avail.
Such a message may have given pause to other terrorist cells and to other middle-east leaders who harbor terrorists… but the signal of American military prowess would have been noticed throughout the world – by the Chinese, the Russians and any other power that harbored doubts about American resolve.
Maybe I’m extrapolating too freely – but it seems a likely outcome given the way events were unfolding.
But we’ll never know... The administration had a far more grandiose plan. Bush and the Project-for-New-American-Century crowd decided going after the people that attacked us wasn’t enough.
We all know what happened next.
Instead of a demonstration of American might, justice and charity we’re stuck … stuck both in
"The Colbert Report" [...] is an extended play on the fact that, in the age of "The Daily Show" or "Hardball" [...], not only can't people differentiate between real news and slanted, self-serving blather, they can't distinguish between real journalists and those who play journalists on TV. If the guy's name is flashing all over the place, he must be important.
In keeping with this trend, Colbert's name is scattered all over the set -- [...] During the opening credits, an eagle flies around his head, and words flash across the screen: "POWERFUL," "COURAGEOUS," "EXCEPTIONAL," and also "DOMINEERING," "RELENTLESS," "GRIPPY." Yes, you read that right: Grippy. Soon, Colbert tells us about his own personal brand of no-nonsense, hard-hitting ... well, nonsense. Somewhere out there, Bill O'Reilly is fidgeting and twitching like the villain whose voodoo doll just took a thumb tack to the forehead.
In a nice play on O'Reilly's "No-Spin Zone" foolishness, Colbert wants us to know that even though his name is all over the place, the show isn't all about him. "No, this program is dedicated to you, the heroes!" he bellows. "And who are the heroes? The people who watch this show -- average, hardworking Americans. You're not the elites, you're not the country club crowd. I know for a fact that my country club would never let you in. But you get it! And you come from a long line of it-getters!"
Immediately, Colbert has his finger on the throbbing pulse of right-wing punditry, the dexterity with which they pander to the working class without getting any mud on their Italian wing-tip loafers. "On this show, your voice will be heard," Colbert reassures us, "in the form of my voice."
Yeah, it's a cheap shot but it is soooooo true.
The conservatives still decry liberal intellectualism... But aren't these the guys who planned a war strategy using a bunch of guys from a Washington think-tank? ... and didn't all of those predictions and assessments turn out to be wrong?
Maybe we need to get some real intellectuals back in government. Not the kind that substitute faith for fact and belief for reason.
Monday, October 17, 2005
The issue (for me) isn't what would carry the day in court, but what makes sense given world history regarding the influence of religious belief on government. I think history shows that far more often than not such influence is negative.
I realize this isn't what you are debating -- however, I'm an engineer, not a lawyer. My interest is not in the legal basis for the intent of the establishment clause: What is smart and what is legal are two different questions.
The founders set up a form of government unseen in the world at that time. They invented it out of whole-cloth based on their personal experience, and their view of the larger world. Their personal writing and beliefs are extremely relevant to a discussion since they formed the very basis of the government they invented! Central to their belief system is the belief that religious influence on government was something to be avoided at all costs. Again, I point to a myriad of letters from Jefferson, Franklin , Washington, Madison , etc. etc. These beliefs are the very foundation of the "Godless Constitution". To simply dismiss them because they are not admissible in a court of law completely misses the wisdom in the creation of our system of government and laws in the first place!
As to the legal battles surrounding religion and government we need not look very deep to find the roots of the controversy. How many Supreme Court justices self-identify as "Christian" … All of them.
Hence the crux of the (legal) debate: how can you expect a person, who acknowledges that they hold beliefs in revealed, absolute truth that are neither founded on demonstrable facts or evidence accountable to a law made by men? We can't – and that's why we have people like Scalia on the court who actually believe the Ten Commandments form part of the basis of our laws and "scholarly debate" on the subject (again, refer to Jefferson's writing on this subject where he coolly dismantled the argument that the Ten Commandments form the basis of common law: British common law, on which much American law was based, existed before Christianity had arrived in England.). [My aside: which Ten Commandments should we display anyway? Those in Exodus 30 or 34… they are VERY different yet the chapter 34 says they are the same as those Moses supposedly brought down from the mountain. I prefer the later ref in which we find 10- Thou Shalt Not Seethe a Kid in it's Mother's Milk.)
Could Abraham Lincoln, who wrote a manuscript arguing against the divinity of Christ and the divine inspiration of the Bible and stated:
"My earlier views of the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation and the human origin of the scriptures, have become clearer and stronger with advancing years and I see no reason for thinking I shall ever change them."
be elected to office today? Of course not…This leads back to my original point: 'coming out Christian doesn't take ANY moral courage. It is akin to identifying as a republican while sitting in front of Tom Delay's Congress.
The mad-men have the keys to the kingdom.
As to Christianity itself, I doubt there would be many who professed to be Christian if they actually read the entire bible: and spent a bit of time really digesting what it says. I find it paints a picture of an ugly, vindictive god who would do such things as torment a good person (such as Job) simply to make a point to 'satan' (so god makes good people suffer so he can prove a point to the devil? Seems awfully vain to a rational person). It includes specific instructions on how and when to sell your children into sexual slavery… decrees to slaughter entire cities except for the virgins which were to be taken as spoils… the list goes on.
I do not doubt your intelligence, but I cannot understand how anyone who has put an effort into studying the foundations of the Christian belief system ( i.e. – the bible) could profess faith in such barbarism. And to deny the wisdom of the most brilliant people of an age (the founders) because their codification of that wisdom (separation of church and state) is legally debatable misses the larger lesson of history – which this country is well on it's way to repeating.
Friday, October 14, 2005
What must make this irony especially painful for Bush is that he knew how good Witt was. In fact, Bush knew it coming and going. When he was helping run his father's 1992 re-election campaign, he saw the miserable federal response from FEMA when it was still a dumping ground for political hacks. As a governor, Bush was so impressed by the agency's renaissance under Witt that he singled him out for praise in his first presidential debate with Al Gore:
You know, as governor, one of the things you have to deal with is catastrophe. I can remember the fires that swept Parker County, Texas. I remember the floods that swept our state. I remember going down to Del Rio, Texas. I have to pay the administration a compliment. James Lee Witt of FEMA has done a really good job of working with governors during times of crisis.
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee,
My name is Bill Clark, and I am the deputy Director of the Office of Emergency Preparedness (OEP) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). I have over 40 years of experience at the city, county, state and federal level in emergency services. I am pleased to appear before you today to discuss the Nation's readiness to medically respond to acts of biological terrorism against civilian populations within the United States .
How about the Bush appointee for Deputy Secretary U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Alex Michael Azar
Prior to joining HHS, Azar was a partner with the firm Wiley, Rein & Fielding in Washington, D.C., where he specialized in litigation and appellate practice involving white collar criminal defense and internal investigations, congressional investigations, government ethics, administrative law and employment counseling.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Yet the system, at every level of government, was not well-coordinated, and was overwhelmed in the first few days. It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces -- the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment's notice.
From the US Military's Northern Command website:
So, what are we looking into with regard to a military role in disaster relief/preparedness? Isn't their support already authorized.
The Department of Defense established U.S. Northern Command in 2002 to consolidate under a single unified command existing missions that were previously executed by other military organizations.
The command's mission is homeland defense and civil support, specifically:
- Conduct operations to deter, prevent, and defeat threats and aggression aimed at the United States, its territories, and interests within the assigned area of responsibility; and
- As directed by the President or Secretary of Defense, provide defense support of civil authorities including consequence management operations.
U.S. Northern Command plans, organizes, and executes homeland defense and civil support missions, but has few permanently assigned forces. The command will be assigned forces whenever necessary to execute missions as ordered by the President.
The organization that moves known child molesters from parish to parish says that boxing is immoral.
Religion is an act of intellectual cowardice. Preaching it fire-and-brimstone style is philosophical terrorism. No amount of fervor can change a belief into a fact. Only hard questions and competent experimentation can do that. Faith, the acceptance of belief without question, renders all errors permanent. Most churches institutionalize ignorance.
In characteristic style our administration has a crony, Stewart Simonson, as Assistant Secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness at HHS. You guessed it: looks like his only qualifications for the job are his connections. He previously worked as a corporate secretary and counsel for AMTRAK... Before that, he was as a staff lawyer for Wisconsin Gov Tommy Thomson (before Tommy became the HHS Secretary).
So Simonson, a lawyer from the transit industry, is the point man for health emergencies in this country.
Sounds like just the man to make sure we're prepared for a biological and public health emergency doesn't it?
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Americans, by and large, have a fundamental need to feel like they are part of something great, above the fray and beyond the rest of the world. They are fed American exceptionalism with mother's milk, and will fight like rabid wolverines to avoid being forced to believe otherwise. Anyone mystified by the public support Bush has enjoyed until very recently, despite the endless litany of disasters that have befallen us, can look to this bone-deep need as the main reason for that support. It isn't just about 9/11. Americans need to feel good about America in the same way fish need water. Americans need to believe, and will thrash around like boated marlin if that belief is undercut. That belief serves as a kind of ideological Prozac, shoving bad thoughts to the background.
Iraq. Afghanistan. The continued freedom enjoyed by Osama bin Laden. Katrina. Abu Ghraib. Frist and insider stock trading. DeLay and a handful of indictments. Rove and Libby staring down the barrel of more indictments. Bush's approval ratings are plummeting, and the entire country is beginning to wilt under the depressing reality that we are, in fact, getting screwed with our pants on. Any conceits of moral authority being put forth by the White House and the Republican Party have been washed away in a flood of graft, death, lies and corruption.
Our supply of Prozac is running short. The belief in American excellence so desperately necessary to the mental balance of the populace is being eroded by the hour, and there will be hell to pay because of it
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
The Dept is not interested in the opinions or beliefs of US citizens. Our jurisdiction only extends to actions... and only when those actions violate the law.
When Stone appointed J. Edgar Hoover as Acting Director of the Bureau of Investigation, he instructed Hoover to adhere to this standard:
The activities of the Bureau are to be limited strictly to investigations of violations of law, under my direction or under the direction of an Assistant Attorney General regularly conducting the work of the Department of Justice.
Nevertheless, beginning in the mid-thirties, at White House direction, the FBI reentered the realm of collecting intelligence about ideas and associations.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Today, the White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said that President Bush will likely veto the defense budget if the amendment remains part of the spending bill.
"We have put out a Statement of Administration Policy saying that his advisors would recommend that he vetoes it if it contains such language," said Mr. McClellan.
More than two dozen retired senior military officers, including Colin L. Powell and John M. Shalikashvili, two former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, endorsed the amendment, which would ban use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" against anyone in United States government custody.
Mr. McCain, who was a prisoner of war in the Vietnam War, added in closing Wednesday night: "Many of my comrades were subjected to very cruel, very inhumane and degrading treatment, a few of them even unto death. But every one of us - every single one of us - knew and took great strength from the belief that we were different from our enemies."
Apparently some Americans still believe we are different from our enemies... I only wish our president was one of them.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
I thought conservatism was about small, financially responsible government that left matters of conscience to individuals and their families... But once again, we see this administration is NOT conservative: it is theocratic and hell-bent (irony intended!) on dictating your morals...
Monday, October 03, 2005
What passes for political analysis is really just partisan spin. David Frum tries to point out that "The corporations that forked over the cash to DeLay's PAC did so not because their hearts were filled with affection for those particular Texas legislative candidates but because they recognized DeLay's power over federal legislation." (Italics addes.)
But next comes the asinine part:
"The case against DeLay charges that he conspired with corporations to help them circumvent this law by routing the money through political action committees he controlled. But as Dionne [WashPost] acknowledges, the corporations in question did not care about Texas politics. They wanted to give to DeLay's political action committees, which was perfectly legal."
Of course: most of these corporations didn't give a rat's-ass about TX politics... What they DO give a hoot about was maintaining a Republican majority in congress... A majority controlled by The Hammer... Could that be the purpose behind supporting the election of Republican representatives not from your state? Of course!!
If this spinner (Frum) successfully passes himself off as a political analysts we're in more trouble than I originally though.
Think people! Think!