Wednesday, January 31, 2007

It pains me to write that the great Molly Ivins has died at age 62. She was a tenacious voice for fairness and justice and a true tell-it-like-it-is journalist -- a rare breed these days. She will be missed.
"Give it a chance to work," implored Bush in his SOTU address, requesting that Congress show some patience with his "surge" plan.

Days later, we hear Admiral William Fallon testify before the Senate, "I believe the situation in Iraq can be turned around, but time is short."

Be patient and give it a chance to work -- but time is short.

The schizophrenia within this administration has reached epidemic proportions. And these are the guys running the show.... Scary indeed.
Gotta love Maureen Dowd's latest:
Delusional is far too mild a word to describe Dick Cheney. Delusional doesn’t begin to capture the profound, transcendental one-flew-over daftness of the man.

Has anyone in the history of the United States ever been so singularly wrong and misguided about such phenomenally important events and continued to insist he’s right in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary?

It requires an exquisite kind of lunacy to spend hundreds of billions destroying America’s reputation in the world, exhausting the U.S. military, failing to catch Osama, enhancing Iran’s power in the Middle East and sending American kids to train and arm Iraqi forces so they can work against American interests.

Only someone with an inspired alienation from reality could, under the guise of exorcising the trauma of Vietnam, replicate the trauma of Vietnam.

You must have a real talent for derangement to stay wrong every step of the way, to remain in complete denial about Iraq’s civil war, to have a total misunderstanding of Arab culture, to be completely oblivious to the American mood and to be absolutely blind to how democracy works.

In a democracy, when you run a campaign that panders to homophobia by attacking gay marriage and then your lesbian daughter writes a book about politics and decides to have a baby with her partner, you cannot tell Wolf Blitzer he’s “out of line” when he gingerly raises the hypocrisy of your position.
Yes, that all sounds 100% accurate. Oh, but regarding Cheney's hypocrisy, I would add that apparently it's A-OK to illegally violate our constitutional right to privacy via the eavesdropping program, but it's very much not A-OK for Blitzer to ask him, an elected public figure, a question about his gay daughter -- one who is likewise very public. Nope, then he plays the privacy card.
Dan Froomkin writes:
National security adviser Stephen J. Hadley writes in a Washington Post op-ed that Bush "concluded that the strategy with the best chance of success must have a plan for securing Baghdad. Without such a plan, the Iraqi government and its security institutions could fracture under the pressure of widespread sectarian violence, ethnic cleansing and mass killings. Chaos would then spread throughout the country -- and throughout the region. The al-Qaeda movement would be strengthened by the flight of Sunnis from Baghdad and an accelerated cycle of sectarian bloodletting. Iran would be emboldened and could be expected to provide more lethal aid for extremist groups. The Kurdish north would be isolated, inviting separation and regional interference. Terrorists could gain pockets of sanctuary throughout Iraq. . . . "

Note to Hadley: That's all happening already.
In Paul Krugman's latest column, he illustrates how even when Bush seemingly goes "green," it's very much a farce:
In the United States, ethanol comes overwhelmingly from corn, a much less suitable raw material. In fact, corn is such a poor source of ethanol that researchers at the University of Minnesota estimate that converting the entire U.S. corn crop — the sum of all our ears — into ethanol would replace only 12 percent of our gasoline consumption.

Still, doesn’t every little bit help? Well, this little bit would come at a very high price compared with the obvious alternative — conservation. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that reducing gasoline consumption 10 percent through an increase in fuel economy standards would cost producers and consumers about $3.6 billion a year. Achieving the same result by expanding ethanol production would cost taxpayers at least $10 billion a year, based on the subsidies ethanol already receives — and probably much more, because expanding production would require higher subsidies.

What’s more, ethanol production has hidden costs. Even the Department of Energy, which is relatively optimistic, says that the net energy savings from replacing a gallon of gasoline with ethanol are only the equivalent of about a quarter of a gallon, because of the energy used to grow corn, transport it, run ethanol plants, and so on. And these energy inputs come almost entirely from fossil fuels, so it’s not clear whether promoting ethanol does anything to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Meanwhile, conservation doesn’t have anything like the same natural political mojo. Where’s the organized, powerful constituency for tougher fuel economy standards, a higher gasoline tax, or a cap-and-trade system on carbon dioxide emissions?

Can anything be done to promote good energy policy? Public education is a necessary first step, which is why Al Gore deserves all the praise he’s getting. It would also help to have a president who gets scientific advice from scientists, not oil company executives and novelists.
The right will argue, "Man, even when Bush attempts to do something good environmentally, the left just doesn't cut him a break!" That's because given the choices, he always chooses the least effective or the ones backed by industry (in this case, Archer Daniels Midland). As Krugman states, why not the much more powerful alternative, conservation? Because it doesn't have the backing of big business and it's too wimpy -- not macho enough for these swaggering idiots.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Talking about GW's SOTU speech, Fred Kaplan brings up a very good point:
What is most head-shaking of all is that, after four years of this war, the president once more fell short of making its case. As in the past, he said that it's very important—"a decisive ideological struggle," he called it, adding, "nothing is more important at this moment in our history than for America to succeed." And yet he also said that America's commitment to the war is "not open-ended." How can both claims be true? If nothing is more important, it must be open-ended. If it's not open-ended, it can't be all that important.
Bingo -- but it's not the first time GW has said something that makes little sense once you probe it a bit.
Referring to the 100% bogus story about Obama and his schooling as a child, circulated by right-wing "news" channels, Norm Ornstein from the non-liberal AEI lays out how the right's smear-and-distort machine works:
"There's now almost a predictable process here. People have learned how to get things covered, even when they shouldn't be covered" said Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute.

"You either start with a revelation in the Drudge Report or Insight magazine, then that gets picked up by the New York Post or The Wall Street Journal and Fox News and by the blogs, and before long there's enough noise out there and enough buzz that comes from it that everybody from The New York Times to The Washington Post to the network news broadcasts decide they have to cover it. And it doesn't matter if it's true or not," Ornstein said.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

GW has apparently befuddled Nancy Pelosi:
In an interview, Pelosi also said she was puzzled by what she considered the president's minimalist explanation for his confidence in the new surge of 21,500 U.S. troops that he has presented as the crux of a new "way forward" for U.S. forces in Iraq.

"He's tried this two times — it's failed twice,"the California Democrat said. "I asked him at the White House, 'Mr. President, why do you think this time it's going to work?' And he said, 'Because I told them it had to.'"

Asked if the president had elaborated, she added that he simply said, "'I told them that they had to.' That was the end of it. That's the way it is."
Nancy, what's not to understand? The King has spoken, thus it shall get done, end of story.

But also, as Bush recalls with St. Louis Cardinal manager Tony La Russa and the team's eventual World Series win, GW likely believes this time it will be different, and therefore it will work. (I suppose the other two times, he simply didn't believe it as much).
Over at TPM, David Kurtz offers an absolute must-read entry on the Iraq war, specifically addressing the well-intended though misguided criticisms about tactics vs. focusing on that which is strategic, i.e. imploring that we see the forest rather than the trees. Again, I urge everyone to stop over and read it.

Friday, January 26, 2007

  • As the Washington Post reports regarding GW's SOTU speech, "[Bush] appeared unchastened last night and took no responsibility for his party's defeat or errors in office....his approach contrasted with the last two presidents to address an opposition Congress after their parties lost midterm elections. Ronald Reagan conceded 'serious mistakes' in 1987, as did Bill Clinton in 1995."

    Once again, Reagan comes off less like a "true" conservative....

  • Apparently the latest reason for why we're in Iraq, or remain there, is due to concerns that "the violence in the country would turn contagious, spread beyond Iraq’s borders and inflame the entire Middle East." The similar domino-theory scenario played up during Vietnam.

    Well let's see how Bush's reasons for being in Iraq have changed. The list in loose order: 9/11, WMDs, rid Saddam, fight them over there, establish democracy, stop Iraq from becoming a breeding ground for terrorists, just stabilize the country (Condi Rice recently) -- and now, try to contain the violence to just Iraq! What next?

  • More slimey, small-print foolery from this administration. Bush's proposed 20% reduction in gasoline use by 2017 is not 20% from today's level of consumption, but rather based on projections of annual usage, meaning little will change from today's levels. The deception continues; it's what they do.

  • Just how much hope is there if the Iraqis themselves are losing faith?
    [Iraqi] Parliament in recent months has been at a standstill. Nearly every session since November has been adjourned because as few as 65 members made it to work, even as they and the absentees earned salaries and benefits worth about $120,000. Part of the problem is security, but Iraqi officials also said they feared that members were losing confidence in the institution and in the country’s fragile democracy. As chaos has deepened, Parliament’s relevance has gradually receded.
    How can a democracy take hold if government officials refuse to show up for work? And mind you, being paid a very high salary for Iraq (nearly equal to what lawmakers earn in this country!).
  • Imagine if Clinton was still president....

    And he was responsible for the decision to invade Iraq and all the incompetence that went with it, taking a budget surplus and allowing it to be frittered away into a deficit, bungling Katrina and New Orleans and its reconstruction, presiding over an administration riddled with corruption and liars, making it a habit to attach hundreds of signing statements to bills signed into law, being caught using a secret eavesdropping program, approving of torture resulting in Gitmo and Abu Ghraib, allowing Afghanistan to be heavily run by Al Qaida once again, failing to find Osama bin Laden after 5+ years, refusing to admit mistakes, repeatedly mispronouncing words, proposing this last-ditch effort tagged a "surge" (which very much resembles Germany's orchestrated Battle of the Bulge in WWII, a desperate attempt to reverse the failing course of events, only to backfire with many dead)....

    Just imagine the GOP reaction.

    Wednesday, January 24, 2007

    Here we go again:
    In his speech this month outlining the new U.S. strategy in Iraq, President Bush promised to "seek out and destroy" Iranian networks that he said were providing "advanced weaponry and training to our enemies." He is expected to strike a similar note in tonight's State of the Union speech.

    For all the aggressive rhetoric, however, the Bush administration has provided scant evidence to support these claims. Nor have reporters traveling with U.S. troops seen extensive signs of Iranian involvement. During a recent sweep through a stronghold of Sunni insurgents here, a single Iranian machine gun turned up among dozens of arms caches U.S. troops uncovered. British officials have similarly accused Iran of meddling in Iraqi affairs, but say they have not found Iranian-made weapons in areas they patrol.

    The lack of publicly disclosed evidence has led to questions about whether the administration is overstating its case. Some suggest Bush and his aides are pointing to Iran to deflect blame for U.S. setbacks in Iraq. Others suggest they are laying the foundation for a military strike against Iran.

    Before invading Iraq, the administration warned repeatedly that Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Those statements proved wrong. The administration's charges about Iran sound uncomfortably familiar to some. "To be quite honest, I'm a little concerned that it's Iraq again," Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said last week, referring to the administration's comments on Iran.
    We've seen this movie before. As Kevin Drum writes, "we certainly shouldn't be at war [with Iran] over wildly exaggerated claims from an administration that's demonstrated conclusively that it can't be trusted with such claims."

    That's the problem when you're credibility is blown: from then on you can't be trusted. They made their bed....

    But more importantly, such crippled trust affects authority and endangers the country. What if Iran truly is an imminent threat? The fact we feel the need to second-guess this administration based on past transgressions potentially exposes us to more harm due to lack of action and a constant feeling of uncertainty about what's real.

    During a time of war, you don't cut taxes and you don't lie and distort incessantly. Lessons learned?
    Prior to the SOTU speech, Bush's approval rating reached a new low, 28%, on par with Nixon at the height of the Watergate fallout. Astounding.

    Tuesday, January 23, 2007

    In tonight's SOTU address, Bush is expected to admit global warming exists and will mention a few (tepid) ideas to stem pollution.

    Why his sudden conversion regarding global warming and pollution? Could it be that he no longer has a rubber-stamping congress? No more crazy Inhofe to block any pro-environment legislation?

    Could it be because Pelosi has sternly warned Bush that congress will act on global warming, whether or not he cares to help?

    Even corporations are turning against him on this issue! I thought they were funding his resistance? Who/what is left on his side?

    Like with so many other issues, has Bush become the lone believer? The isolated king who simply decrees from his throne?

    And like his year-ago call to wean us from oil's addiction, will his "ideas" once again amount to nothing more than bloated rhetoric with no action?
    About two weeks ago, I wrote, "GW's escalation (surge) plan will force more bipartisan cooperation in Congress." Well, it's happening.

    Bush is serving as the catalyst for this bipartisan cooperation as his fellow Republicans realize this lame duck is not their friend with 2008 fast approaching, and thus they will flee the sinking ship that is this administration.

    Monday, January 22, 2007

    I didn't know that the grandfather of 24's Kiefer Sutherland was none other than the founder of Canada's health care system, Tommy Douglas.

    But even more amazing to me, just three years ago, Douglas was voted "The Greatest Canadian" of all time.

    Hmm, but I thought Canada's health care sucked -- at least if you listen to many supposed experts here in America??

    Sunday, January 21, 2007

    Please, please don't tell me Bush really believes this:
    [Bush said] he had dinner with [Cardinals manager] La Russa in August, during a tough stretch for the team, and afterward remarked to an aide that the Cardinals were going to win the championship because their manager believed they would.
    Serving as a telling punchline:
    La Russa conceded later that he wanted to end that August meeting on an optimistic note. "I was just trying to say something positive as a last impression," he said. "I didn't really believe it."
    Tony La Russa just wanted to end the meeting, tossing GW an absurd "high note" bone to chew on. Yet, King George believes the Cardinals won the World Series because "their manager believed they would." What?!

    Needless to say, what's truly frightening about this anecdote is Bush then likely believes we'll win in Iraq simply because we have a "manager" who believes we'll win.

    What can one say anymore?
    Jack Balkin writes about the schoolyard bully tactics of this administration in light of the supposed FISA court flip-flop:
    There is a remarkable similarity between the Administration's behavior in the Padilla case and its behavior here. Recall that the Administration held Padilla in a military prison for three years and insisted that he could not speak to anyone-- much less have the basic rights in the Bill of Rights-- because to do so would put our country at grave risk. Once the Administration realized that the Supreme Court would likely reject its theory of Presidential power, it backtracked and placed Padilla in the criminal justice system-- thus undermining all of its predictions and assertions. It moved Padilla out of a military prison and brought an entirely different set of charges against him, hoping to moot the challenge to what it had done to Padilla earlier and prevent an authoritative rejection of its implausible claims about the powers of the Presidency.

    Similarly, in this case, the Administration insisted for months that the President did not need to follow the procedures in FISA, either because of the AUMF or because of inherent Presidential authority. Apparently, it has now retreated from that legally untenable position, hoping to moot, or at the very least disarm, federal litigation challenging the legality of the NSA program. Once again, the goal is to prevent a court from stating clearly that the President acted illegally and that his theories of executive power are self-serving hokum.

    When we put these two stories together, a pattern emerges: the Administration repeatedly takes unreasonable positions about its powers. It insists that obedience to these views is necessary to the very survival of the Republic and that those who would dare to disagree are jeopardizing national security. It makes these aggressive claims repeatedly in every venue, hoping that others, cowed by its aggressive self-confidence and patriotic appeals, will be overawed and simply give in. It struts and boasts and threatens and exaggerates until its bluff is called, at which point its previous assertions simply become-- as they once put it in the Nixon Administration-- inoperative. Put another way, the Administration's stance on Presidential power has resembled nothing so much as an altogether familiar character, the neighborhood bully.

    If that is so, the best policy for Congressional Democrats and those who oppose the President's high-handedness is not to give in to the Administration's exaggerated and aggressive views about its own power, but rather to repeatedly call the President to account whenever he overreaches. The only way to deal with a bully, it seems, is to stand up to him.
    The above paragraphs perfectly describe not just an administration, but rather more explicitly a person: VP Cheney. He's the monster in the box.

    But as for the flip-flop, did Bush really pull a reversal concerning the eavesdropping program? Did he actually retreat? Darn if I know, and frankly I would doubt anyone who claims otherwise. We know no more now than we did months ago or even a year ago. Don't fall for the hype -- the program remains a constitutional mystery.
    Regarding the left getting blamed for failed wars, Spencer Ackerman wrote the following about a month ago:
    It goes a little something like this (hit it): Democrats take over Congress in 2007. Bush begins a troop increase, allegedly in the name of bringing the war to a desirable conclusion. It has all sorts of anticipated ill effects: increased deaths, increased chaos, mounting strain on the military. Bush demonstrates no willingness to back down. Increasingly, liberal anti-war legislators in safely blue precincts calculate that the only way they can stop the war is to stop funding it. When other Democrats in the House and the Senate start equivocating on a funding cut-off, liberal activists start recruiting primary challengers who endorse the plan. Bush comes out swinging: "If they really want to end the war," he says again and again, "they should show where they stand and vote against funding the war." Karl Rove's plan is a simple one: facing a rising popular tide against the war in general, he needs to force the opposition into an antiwar position that isn't popular in particular -- like cutting off funding while the troops are in the field.

    Let's say the Democrats do it. Congress cuts off the funding; the Dems win in 2008 as the Republicans descend into an acrimonious inter-party feud about the meaning of Iraq. With the Democrats in power, the troops come home, but the expected human calamity for the Iraqis materializes. Bush, in exile, starts saying how the war was on the verge of being turned around, but then the radical Democrats, in an anti-American frenzy, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Instantly, this becomes the Republican and conservative line -- the unprovable counterfactual that the war was about to be won. Over the next fifteen years, this becomes accepted wisdom. A younger generation of liberals, tired of being bludgeoned with the charge, more or less accepts it themselves.
    An extremely convincing scenario. In fact, Bush is likely chomping at the bit to utter such words, "the war was on the verge of being won...." Of course, at this point no one in their right mind would believe such a statement, but that's what the "surge" is all about, to get Iraq to a point where it appears to be turning the corner. Deep down, both Bush and Cheney know that Iraq's fate is out of their hands, so best to get things at least heading in a direction that they can spin and distort enough to make Americans believe the once grave situation there has miraculously reversed course for the better.

    Given the awful degree to which Iraq has descended, in contrast it will only help to make the case of improvement resulting from the additional 20K+ troops. As bad as the KC Royals are in MLB, they're much better than a single-A baseball team -- point being, it's all relative. So look for Rove & Co. to reappear on the scene in about a year to repackage the Iraq story, to spin it as a resuscitated close-failure, a once thought of "cracked egg," now reborn and on its way to success. But alas, it's all packaged hype and in reality Iraq is still a mess, soon to once again become the disaster of not too long ago. Only now when it reverts back to being a debacle, Rove/Bush/Cheney will then spin again, this time blaming the reversion, Iraq's slipping back to mayhem, on the Democrats.

    The current Dem leadership appears to be resisting any motion to cut off funding, at least when it comes to anything involving non-"surge" troops. But what is the alternative for the Dems, to go lukewarm and just moderately support measured withdrawal or redeployment -- thus, allowing the slaughter to continue all for the sake of dodging the "defeatist" label? Won't the GOP try to blame the Dems anyway, regardless? Isn't it what they do, to distort and blame, to take no responsibility, no accountability, no admission of mistakes?

    Isn't one of the big pet peeves of non-establishment Dems is that the party is already too wishy-washy and non-committal about issues that they should be embracing with passion, clarity, and volume cranked up to "11"? When does the timidity end?

    Wednesday, January 17, 2007

    This past Sunday, Cheney was interviewed on FOX News (surprise!) and had this to say:
    We have these meetings with members of Congress, and they all agree we can't fail; the consequences of failure would be too great. But then they end up critical of what we're trying to do, advocating withdrawal or so-called redeployment of force, but they have absolutely nothing to offer in its place. I have yet to hear a coherent policy out of the Democratic side, with respect to an alternative.
    David Brooks and Cheney are reading from the same talking points. It's the latest GOP mantra, the Dems have never offered an alternative option.

    Well, what about measured withdrawal and/or redeployment of forces, two options Cheney actually mentioned? Just because Cheney may not agree with them doesn't disqualify them from being valid alternatives. And they don't equate necessarily to "losing."

    Their so-called "stay the course" (and isn't a "surge" staying true to "stay the course"?) plan has amounted to four years of losing, and shows no signs of reversing, i.e. continued losing and many, many more extinguished American lives.

    Cheney goes on to state:
    If we were to follow their guidance — the comments, for example, that a lot of them made during the last campaign about withdrawing U.S. forces — we simply go back and revalidate the strategy that Osama bin Laden has been following from day one, that if you kill enough Americans, you can force them to quit.
    I thought bin Laden's strategy related more to that key video he released during the week prior to the 2004 election, thus helping Bush get re-elected over Kerry. Hmm, the strategy seems to be to keep Bush/Cheney in power, since they're all for the continued war and bloodshed -- which Osama uses as effective recruiting propaganda.

    The fact is bin Laden doesn't want us to quit, i.e. exactly opposite Cheney's contention (surprise!).
    From an interview with many gems, the following is my favorite:
    60 Minutes' Pelley: "You know that there's a perception in some quarters of the country that you're stubborn."

    Bush: "Oh, yeah. Well."

    Asked if agrees with that, the president asks, "Do I agree that I’m stubborn or do I agree that people think I’m stubborn?"

    Pelley: "People think you do. What do you think?"

    Bush: "I think I’m a flexible, open-minded person. I really do. I really do."
    Hold on (slapping knee), I'll be with you in a second (can't breathe, laughing too hard).... (falling off chair)....
    After years of the GOP-controlled congress running up the tab and spending taxpayer money like drunken sailors, Bush has decided enough is enough. With the Dems now taking over things, GW has suddenly become fiscally responsible and desires balancing the budget.

    What a joke. This coming from a president who never used his veto power as a threat regarding record spending in the prior six years, and who also slashed taxes several times -- during wartime, no less -- further contributing to the ballooning deficit. But Bush is changing his tune:
    The administration appears to be stepping away from an economic argument that has worked well for Republicans throughout Bush's presidency: that federal deficits, though at record levels, are not especially large as a percentage of the economy and therefore offer little cause for concern, a view famously encapsulated in 2002 when Vice President Cheney told Paul H. O'Neill, then the Treasury secretary: "Deficits don't matter."
    Ah yes, but with the Dems in control, now deficits do seem to matter. Good to see it's all about prudent policy and what's good for the country, as opposed to just craven partisan politics.
    Sec. of State Rice has made it clear that "stability, not democracy" is the primary goal in Iraq right now.

    Since when? This administration criticizes the media for not communicating enough the good side of Iraq and yet it's apparently not so "good" there to the point where democracy is no longer the #1 objective, rather just stabilizing the place has become Job One....
    With this second botched execution in Iraq, is it too much to ask: why hangings? If the U.S. is leaning on, pressuring, and strongly influencing Iraq in so many facets of its existence, why not add this to the list? Perhaps suggest lethal injection or the electric chair.

    Not that I'm for capital punishment, but in this instance these hangings will result in even more deaths due to the inflamed reaction leading to violent protests and likely future attacks.

    Just a thought.
    On Keith Olbermann's "Countdown," esteemed law professor Jonathan Turley had this to say about Charles Stimson's McCarthy-like comments:
    It‘s outrageous. I mean, you know, this guy is some type of troglodyte. But what worries me is that the troglodytes feel comfortable coming out and saying things like this.

    It‘s horrible. And the question is—should not be whether they‘re distancing themselves from his comments. He should be fired. I mean, I don‘t understand what it takes to be fired in this country—in this administration. But he‘s in charge of detainees in a place that has become the symbol of abuse, of American hypocrisy.

    And he goes out on the air and clearly tries to get companies and CEOs to put pressure on lawyers not to represent these people, not to make sure the rule of law is followed. What does it take to get fired in the Bush administration?
    I think that lawyers around the country are going to respond, particularly the ABA, to this type of statement. I mean, this really violates a central covenant that we all have as lawyers. And it‘s something that we learned in law school, that having representation‘s essential to our system of government.

    What Stimson is saying is that clients shouldn‘t have allowed John Adams to represent them, because he represented people in the Boston Massacre, who were just as unpopular as the people at Gitmo. So according to Stimson, John Adams should have been treated as a pariah.

    It is un-American. And it takes more, I think, more of an obligation of the administration to simply say, He‘s not speaking for us. He is the leading official in charge of these detainees. What he said wasn‘t just (INAUDIBLE) wrong, it was positively vile for a lawyer to say such things.

    Sunday, January 14, 2007

    Bush is bringing back the worst of our past. Robber barons, an Industrial Revolution attitude towards pollution, Watergate-like secrecy and breaking of laws, Vietnam mistakes, and now the McCarthy era:
    The senior Pentagon official in charge of military detainees suspected of terrorism said in an interview this week that he was dismayed that lawyers at many of the nation’s top firms were representing prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and that the firms’ corporate clients should consider ending their business ties.

    The comments by Charles D. Stimson, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, produced an instant torrent of anger from lawyers, legal ethics specialists and bar association officials, who said Friday that his comments were repellent and displayed an ignorance of the duties of lawyers to represent people in legal trouble.

    “This is prejudicial to the administration of justice,” said Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University and an authority on legal ethics. “It’s possible that lawyers willing to undertake what has been long viewed as an admirable chore will decline to do so for fear of antagonizing important clients.

    “We have a senior government official suggesting that representing these people somehow compromises American interests, and he even names the firms, giving a target to corporate America.”
    In his radio interview, Mr. Stimson said: “I think the news story that you’re really going to start seeing in the next couple of weeks is this: As a result of a FOIA request through a major news organization, somebody asked, ‘Who are the lawyers around this country representing detainees down there?’ and you know what, it’s shocking.” The F.O.I.A. reference was to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Monica Crowley, a conservative syndicated talk show host, asking for the names of all the lawyers and law firms representing Guantánamo detainees in federal court cases.

    Mr. Stimson, who is himself a lawyer, then went on to name more than a dozen of the firms listed on the 14-page report provided to Ms. Crowley, describing them as “the major law firms in this country.” He said, “I think, quite honestly, when corporate C.E.O.’s see that those firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001, those C.E.O.’s are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms, and I think that is going to have major play in the next few weeks. And we want to watch that play out.”

    Karen J. Mathis, a Denver lawyer who is president of the American Bar Association, said: “Lawyers represent people in criminal cases to fulfill a core American value: the treatment of all people equally before the law. To impugn those who are doing this critical work — and doing it on a volunteer basis — is deeply offensive to members of the legal profession, and we hope to all Americans.”
    Let the blacklisting begin!
    Terrific commentary from Nicholas Kristof:
    Once again the White House is seeking military solutions that are likely to rebound and hurt us. Sending more young Americans into that maelstrom may well have three consequences: inflaming Iraqi nationalism, bolstering Shiite and Sunni extremists alike, and killing more young Americans.

    A U.S. military study in 1999, recently declassified and in the National Security Archive, concluded that even 400,000 American troops might not be able to stabilize a post-Saddam Iraq. The study emphasized the importance of diplomacy to engage Iraq’s neighbors.

    But President Bush is moving in the opposite direction. Most worrying, he is hinting at engaging Syria and Iran not diplomatically but militarily. We are careering down a road that may ultimately lead to military strikes on Iran — a disaster.

    What would a better strategy look like? A good bit like the one advocated by the Iraq Study Group. It would emphasize engaging neighbors, a big push for political compromises within Iraq, steps toward troop withdrawals and an intensive effort to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace. (Condi Rice is planning this last effort.)

    Would this strategy work in Iraq? No one knows. But such a bipartisan plan might at least bring a bit of healing to the U.S.

    Meanwhile, history comes around in other ways. The Rev. Bob Edgar, the general secretary of the National Council of Churches, recalls that as a young congressman in April 1975, he encountered a similar presidential request for a surge of troops. It was a demand by President Gerald Ford for more U.S. forces to stabilize Saigon.

    A White House photo captures Ford conferring with two of the architects of that request: senior administration officials named Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

    Saturday, January 13, 2007

    Is the "surge" more about Iran than Iraq?

    Post-GW speech, it seems as if many a blogger has written as much about Iran as they have about Iraq. Iran was a key mention in the speech and we do have raids in the news.

    I tend to agree that perhaps Bush’s "surge” plan in reality is a move to get more troops in the region, esp. given the story I wrote about a few days ago regarding Israel, apparently set and ready to take out Iran’s uranium facilities. Such a strike would clearly result in fairly massive geopolitical disruption / fallout in that entire part of the world. I can't imagine this fact being lost on Cheney -- uh, I mean Bush.

    Scary times indeed.

    Friday, January 12, 2007

    I've said it before, I'll say it again, David Brooks is truly a moron.

    In his column yesterday, he laments, "If the Democrats don’t like the U.S. policy on Iraq over the next six months, they have themselves partly to blame. There were millions of disaffected Republicans and independents ready to coalesce around some alternative way forward, but the Democrats never came up with anything remotely serious."

    What a bucket of horse dung. Apart from some kind of measured withdrawal, which many if not most Dems have proposed and supported, what "alternative way" is there? What miracle plan exists that the Dems somehow overlooked or just didn't think of? Why doesn't Brooks suggest a few?

    This Republican president and his lackeys -- which includes the GOP-controlled Congress that did nothing but serve as a rubber-stamping, fawning echo chamber for Bush's every whim -- put this country into one of the worst foreign policy debacles in memory, screwing it up at every turn, firing those who correctly spoke out with prescient warnings and promoting those who said what the powers-that-be wanted to hear. To paraphrase Colin Powell, they broke it and now they (we) own it.

    But Brooks has the gall to criticize the Dems for not completing the Hail Mary pass into the endzone to win the game, to not suddenly grab the wheel and hopelessly steer the Titanic clear from harms way. How ludicrous.

    And why the Dems? Why doesn't Brooks criticize Republicans for not coming up with an "alternative way"? What, are they all mindless drones, joined at the hip, forced to go along with whatever GW decides? Needless to say, it's their party that was in complete control and presided over our government when this disaster unfolded, shouldn't they at least feel the need to offer alternatives? At least a few Republicans have not agreed with Bush, so where's the miracle plan from them?

    But because the Dems have not pulled a magical solution out of their bag of tricks, one that will rectify the many wrongs with the Iraq situation, then according to Brooks they have no right to criticize U.S. policy on Iraq. And yet Brooks apparently has the right to criticize them.

    Yup, he's a blithering dolt who unfortunately makes one long for the days of Safire's column (gads).
    It's Vietnam all over again.
    The military's new strategy for Iraq envisions creating "gated communities" in Baghdad — sealing off discrete areas and forcibly removing insurgents, then stationing American units in the neighborhood to keep the peace and working to create jobs for residents.

    The U.S. so far has found it impossible to secure the sprawling city. But by focusing an increased number of troops in selected neighborhoods, the military hopes it can create islands of security segregated from the chaos beyond.

    The gated communities plan has been tried — with mixed success — in other wars. In Vietnam, the enclaves were called "strategic hamlets" and were a spectacular failure.
    A Washington Post story offers quotes from those who were around in government during the Vietnam war:
    "The administration is making the same mistakes now that we made in Vietnam and I'm really sorry about that," said Jack J. Valenti, an aide to President Lyndon B. Johnson. "I learned in Vietnam when the public loses support for a war, forget about it -- it's all over."

    Harry McPherson recalled the March 1968 speech he wrote that shifted the direction of the war and that Johnson used to end his reelection bid. Like then, McPherson said, there are no good options. "Many of the same consequences are being bruited about. What happens if we pull out of there? What happens if they win in Iraq? What happens to American prestige in the world? That's what we talked about all the time."

    Thursday, January 11, 2007

    So apparently the mastermind and creator of Bush's "surge" strategy, Frederick Kagan, has stated 1) 20K troops are not enough, 2) the troops should remain in Iraq for a long time, and 3) he doesn't like its name ("surge").

    Bush has managed to defy the military commanders on the ground, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the ISG, most military strategy experts, most members of Congress, the majority of Americans, and he has defied the guy who hatched the plan to begin with.

    And some will argue that GW's not the worst president in our history?! Incredible.

    Wednesday, January 10, 2007

    GW's escalation (surge) plan will force more bipartisan cooperation in Congress.

    Why? Because as I've mentioned ("The surge, or rather escalation, will surely fail and it will not bode well for any GOP presidential contender. If the public was pissed off in 2006, imagine what they'll be like in 2008. It could set the stage for the most dramatic single-party purging in decades."), Republicans will eventually realize GW is throwing the party overboard in an attempt to selfishly salvage what he can concerning his legacy.

    Iraq is being punted with a near-certain failure move and it will only spike the ire of the voting public against the president's party. Look for Republicans to one by one abandon Bush and begin to side with Dems to save their own political skin. (Especially since many of them just squeaked by in the 2006 election, making them a very vulnerable and nervous party).
    Kevin Drum recently wrote about making an attempt at diplomacy in Iraq, stating "it's never been obvious to me that Iraq's neighbors -- primarily Iran and Saudi Arabia -- have enough influence to stop the violence in Baghdad even if they were fully committed to trying."

    Well, if this NY Post story is to be believed (a big "if"), which lays out how Iran is actively supporting the insurgents, call me overly cynical but I don't think we can count on Iran to help put a halt to the mayhem.

    Israel for one is not buying it as they have reportedly already drawn up plans to destroy Iran's uranium enrichment facilities. Combined with GW's escalation (surge), look for this region to erupt in the next several months.

    Monday, January 08, 2007

    Looks like Michelle Malkin (who I believe is conducting a private contest with Ann Coulter to see who can be the #1 female nutjob on the right) must eat sh*t for the 8,478th time.
    Three months ago, Bush loved Abizaid. Now this "really great thinker" of a general has been kicked to the curb.

    At what point does this alarming schizophrenia finally provoke the public and MSM into no-holds-bar criticism and outrage?

    Sunday, January 07, 2007

    The Surge In 2007, The Purge In 2008

    From Frank Rich's column in today's NY Times:
    America cannot regain its pride by refighting a war that is finished as far as America is concerned and, for that matter, as far as Iraq is concerned. By large margins, the citizens of both countries want us not to escalate but to start disengaging. So do America’s top military commanders, who are now being cast aside just as Gen. Eric Shinseki was when he dared assert before the invasion that securing Iraq would require several hundred thousand troops. It would still take that many troops, not the 20,000 we might scrape together now.
    The “surge,” then, is a sham. It is not meant to achieve that undefined “victory” Mr. Bush keeps talking about but to serve his own political spin. His real mission is to float the “we’re not winning, we’re not losing” status quo until Jan. 20, 2009. After that, as Joseph Biden put it last week, a new president will “be the guy landing helicopters inside the Green Zone, taking people off the roof.”
    Two months after Americans spoke decisively on Election Day, the president is determined to overrule them. Our long national nightmare in Iraq, far from being over, is about to get a second wind.
    That sounds about right for this perma-failure of an MBA president, to f*ck up and then leave the mess for someone else to fix or clean up. In the past, it's been his dad who has served the savior role. Daddy tried again this time with the ISG but his efforts were spurned by Junior. Apparently, Iraq is going to be dumped on the next president.

    It's now plainly obvious that this president is all about passing the buck. For his first six years, he refused to make difficult choices that would require using his veto power. (Of course, only now with the Dems in power does he threaten to use it, demanding a line-item veto). But for pressing problems such as the growing federal deficit, global warming, and our energy dependency to name a few, his lack of any sense of urgency or action speaks volumes. He'd rather simply punt, and that's what we now see with the Iraq situation.

    All of these important concerns require hard work, hours and hours of study, careful consideration and thought -- draining and trying effort that's not fun.

    And thus, this frat-boy, dim-bulb president has no interest in taking them on in earnest. Easier to just take a gutless pass.

    His own party can't be happy about this tendency. The surge, or rather escalation, will surely fail and it will not bode well for any GOP presidential contender. If the public was pissed off in 2006, imagine what they'll be like in 2008. It could set the stage for the most dramatic single-party purging in decades.

    Good riddance.

    Saturday, January 06, 2007

    A few months ago, I wrote about how the Dem primary schedule appeared to favor Edwards over Hillary. Apparently, Edwards leads Hillary in the early polls in Iowa -- a key plus for Edwards. Further making it difficult for Clinton in this state will be her vote against ethanol.

    Among the many things she's going to have to defend against heading into 2008, make this just one more.
    Here's one of the most idiotic quotes uttered in quite some time (and that's saying something):
    MR. RUSSERT: Let me talk about Iraq and we’re going to talk about Mr. Safire’s office pool, the various options you lay out. But first, because this is a program of accountability, let me—Bill—bring Bill Safire back, January 2nd, 2005. Two years ago, his prediction about Iraq. Let’s read.

    “I think we’re going to win in Iraq. I think by the end of next year,” that would be the end of ‘06, “we’ll have begun to withdraw our forces. We won’t have them out, but we’ll have begun to withdraw. ... I don’t see a long civil war there.”

    How do you plead?

    MR. SAFIRE: Optimistic, and frankly, that was as well-sourced a prediction as I’ve ever had.... But one of these days I’m going to be right.
    Wow, what astounding wisdom! You know, one day the KC Royals will win the World Series, and even a broken watch is right twice in 24 hours.

    Yet, what's most astounding is that Meet The Press continues to invite back this know-nothing, condescending blowhard.

    Friday, January 05, 2007

    It would be nice if someone in the press would try to get McCain to state just how many troops exactly we should send to Iraq. If you attempt to Google an answer to this question, you'll find quite a wide range of figures mentioned, and more often than not no figures discussed.

    There's the possibility that McCain is likely to snooker a win-win gambit here. If Iraq somehow miraculously turns around thanks to GW's surge, McCain can proclaim a "I told you!" victory cry. However, if more likely Bush's escalation fails and Iraq descends further into chaos, McCain can then counter that not enough troops were sent.

    So would someone please try to corner Mr. "Straight Talk Express" on this point?
    Excellent points raised by Dan Froomkin:
    The American voters in November made it clear that it's time to start withdrawing from Iraq. Political leaders from both parties and any number of experts are increasingly coming to the realization that American soldiers are dying, day in and day out, in pursuit of an unattainable goal.

    So what is President Bush about to do? By all indications: escalate. His "new way forward" in Iraq appears to call for more troops -- along with a series of other measures that might have helped if he'd taken them three years ago.

    News reports suggest that Bush's plan is not likely to win enthusiastic support, even from within his own party. But my question is: Where's the outrage?

    If the vox populi and the cognoscenti agree that throwing more American bodies at the problem will only result in more American deaths, then how is the apparent Bush plan anything short of a betrayal of the troops and an expression of contempt for the will of the people?

    Monday, January 01, 2007

    Regarding John Edwards running for president in 2008, I just remind that I wrote about this unsurprising news back in August and in October.

    Do not underestimate his chances. It appears as if the party is rooting for him.
    With the ringing in of 2007, the number of dead U.S. soldiers in Iraq now totals 3,000.

    Happy New Year!