December 10, 2005

The case for war

More great analysis and links concerning the run-up to Iraq from WaPo's Emily Messner.

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Light reading

Here are two more looks at the ridiculous "War on Christmas" from Washington Post writers Colbert King and Ruth Marcus. As I said the other day, this "issue" is nonsensical at best - and the combatants in this phony dispute would be wise to remember the true meaning of the phrase "peace on Earth, and good will to men."

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Conspiracy to torture

The Nation magazine devotes its December 26th issue to the torture debate. Read its overview of the topic here.

In the wake of Condi Rice's carefully parsed (and poorly received) remarks recently about U.S. "policy", it seems to me that now, more than ever, the time has come for a clear, definitive statement from the Administration opposing this most heinous of practices. As The Nation notes, "The acceptance of torture amounts to a crisis of democratic culture."

(Also, check out related articles by Anthony Lewis and Karen Greenberg.)

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December 09, 2005

Two thoughts

Yesterday, Wisconsin joined the shameful ranks of those states dedicated to legislating bigotry in the name of "protecting" wedded bliss. Maybe someday, someone can explain to me the logic and humanity in prohibiting our gay citizens from entering into long-term, loving, committed, monogamous relationships. Maybe. But I doubt it.

Almost simultaneously, the State government voted to allow residents to carry concealed weapons, overturning a 133-year-old ban. The bill's lead sponsor, Republican David Zien, said that the move would "save lives." Yeah, I'll just bet it will.

Maybe I'm looking at it all wrong. Maybe, a pissed-off, secretly armed gay and lesbian population which has been denied legally-wedded status, health insurance, and custody rights is just the thing Wisconsin conservatives need to confront on a daily basis. Maybe it will give a moment's pause to those bigots tempted to hurl the word "fag" or "dyke" at a fellow human being, especially knowing that their intended victim might just be packin'.

God, I hope so.

- - - - -

Meanwhile, the Kansas school system doggedly continues its march backward in time. The Washington Post reports on a high school student summarily suspended for the crime of speaking Spanish in the hallway. Adios mio...

There are two broader issues inadvertently raised by this idiotic action that bear discussion, though. Numero uno: The dominant language in America is English. Now, we don't need a special act of Congress to make it officially so - it just is the common tongue. I have to agree with Arnold when he states, "As an immigrant, I know the importance of mastering English as quickly and as comprehensively as possible." After all, if I move to France, I expect to have to speak French.

But, at the same time, Numero dos: If "20 percent of the U.S. school-age population is Latino," there should be no resistance to making our English-speaking children bilingual. What could possibly be the rationale for opposing the broadening of our children's minds with a required second language? I mean, that's what we're talking about here, isn't it? Is bilingualism such a frightful thing to native born Americans, just because they might have to exert a little mental effort?

Both sides in the language debate need to take a deep breath, and realize that absorbing elements of a new culture doesn't automatically translate into a betrayal of one's native origin and customs. Bilingual ability is always a valuable tool, and can only make us stronger, smarter, better members of the global community. Seems like resisting that knowledge, from either side of the ethnic coin, is a ridiculous position to defend.

As for Kansas... Well, maybe 49 stars wouldn't look so bad on our flag after all.

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Credibility?

Can it get any clearer, America?

The New York Times reports today that key "intelligence" trumpeted by the Bush Administration as a rationale for the invasion of Iraq was, in fact, fabricated by a single captive to avoid torture - and the White House knew this in February 2002! The Times writes:
[Government] officials said the captive, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, provided his most specific and elaborate accounts about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda only after he was secretly handed over to Egypt by the United States in January 2002, in a process known as rendition.

The new disclosure provides the first public evidence that bad intelligence on Iraq may have resulted partly from the administration's heavy reliance on third countries to carry out interrogations of Qaeda members and others detained as part of American counterterrorism efforts...

Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, made public last month unclassified passages from the [Defense Intelligence Agency's] February 2002 document, which said it was probable that Mr. Libi "was intentionally misleading the debriefers."

The document showed that the Defense Intelligence Agency had identified Mr. Libi as a probable fabricator months before the Bush administration began to use his statements as the foundation for its claims about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda involving illicit weapons.
It would be one thing if there actually had been a connection between al Qaeda and Iraq, and the U.S. had faced genuine peril three years ago. It would be another thing if the ultimately faulty intelligence delivered to the Bushies had been unanimously verified by all agencies involved, and the President had unknowingly committed to a mistaken course of action, which he was now "working hard" to correct and refine.

But how much more proof do Administration apologists need that the inexcusable mess we've made of Iraq is neither of those things?!?!

From the beginning of Mr. Bush's 2000 campaign and before, he and his minions have had a nation-building dream centered on Iraq. 9/11 provided the excuse needed to turn that dream into an actionable reality. And so, with allegedly coerced information it knew to be potentially unreliable, the Administration shamelessly played on America's fear and the still-open wound of our 3000 dead to abandon the logical mission in Afghanistan, and launch an illegitimate act of aggression against a nation that was no longer a threat to anyone, least of all the U.S..

They knew, and yet they went ahead anyway, to the tune of 2,200 more Americans dead, tens of thousands maimed, countless Iraqi's slaughtered, hundreds of billions spent, a nation (and possibly a region) thrown into de facto religious civil war. They did it by crafting a magnificent piece of theater. A work of fiction. A masterful sales job.

A deliberate lie.

The Times article also notes:
Mr. Libi was returned to American custody in February 2003, when he was transferred to the American detention center in Guantanamo Bay... He withdrew his claims about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda in January 2004, and his current location is not known.
I don't remember hearing much about that little revelation during the last Presidential election campaign either. So much for liberal media bias.

There are many who say that there is little point in rehashing just how we got entangled in Iraq, that it serves no purpose because... well, because we're there, and like it or not our united goal must now be "complete victory". In a very real way, we do need serious, intelligent leaders to look forward, and find a solution to the chaos we've created down Baghdad way.

But the members of this Administration are not those leaders. And the value of examining the run-up to "Shock and Awe" is in what it says about the character, vision, and trustworthiness of the individuals in power. In what it demonstrates about the ability of this Administration to evaluate the complexities of the information at its disposal, and then lead this nation in the right direction.

And, obviously, what it says is that we simply cannot afford three more years with this group at the helm - no matter how accommodating Mr. Lieberman believes we ought to be. "Undermining the President's credibility" indeed!

This Administration has no credibility. The first intelligent step toward resolving our nightmare in Iraq should be the removal of the dishonest architects at the top. To do anything less will only leave us more globally reviled, less domestically secure, and collectively responsible for whatever terrible consequences lie ahead with these same "leaders" calling the shots.

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December 08, 2005

The Congressman from Vermont

Here's a must-read interview of Vermont Congressman Bernie Sanders, conducted by The Progressive's Ruth Coniff. Among a host of other insightful observations, Mr. Sanders says:
In my view this happens to be one of the most dangerous moments in American history. These guys are not just reactionaries. They are changing the rules of the game so they will stay in power for the indefinite future. We see this abuse of power on the floor of the House. They kept the voting rolls open for three hours to pass the Medicare prescription drug bill. I had an amendment, which won, on the Patriot Act. They kept the voting open twenty minutes longer to defeat it. They break the rules. It's like having a football game go into the fifth quarter because you don't like the results at the end of the fourth quarter.
The Congressman also raises the issue of having a viable third political party. I think the times demand it. Do we have the courage, the common sense, and the will, America?

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In memoriam

I'm sick and tired of hearing things
From uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocritics
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth

I've had enough of reading things
By neurotic, psychotic, pig-headed politicians
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth

--John Lennon (from the "Imagine" album)
25 years ago today. Can so much time really have passed since that terrible evening?

Sweet dreams, John, wherever you are. We miss you. And we're still waiting for the truth.

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December 07, 2005

Economic fallacies

Here's another great read, courtesy of Think Progress, about the fallacies of Mr. Bush's glowing reports on the economy, from Clinton-era National Economic Adviser Gene Sperling.

(Also check out Paul Krugman's terrific editorial, "The Joyless Economy", reprinted in my December 5th post titled "Grumbling".)

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Permanent vacation

In an article today about the desire of House Republicans to replace Tom DeLay as majority leader, the Boston Globe notes:
In addition, (Speaker of the House Dennis) Hastert has scheduled the first House session of 2006 for Jan. 31 -- after a holiday break of more than a month, and two weeks after senators are due to return to Washington. The late start gives DeLay, a Texas Republican, a greater amount of time with which to dispose of the charges, as new leadership elections could not occur until the House is back in session.
This, to me, is simply outrageous. If we lived in a time of peace, security, and general prosperity, the extended vacation time of our elected officials might not be a big deal, though it would still be a slap in the face to most working Americans who are lucky to see two weeks' break per year.

But we don't live in such an era of tranquility. And the amount of vacation days our leaders continue to grant themselves, especially when done for partisan political purposes, is inexcusable. I'm sorry if times are tough, and our representatives might have to sacrifice a little R & R in order to address the problems, largely of their own making, that plague the nation today.

But that's the job for which they were hired in the first place.

During those extra weeks away from the office, untold thousands of Americans will continue to suffer and die as a result of unsolved issues initiated by this Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress. And if Mr. Hastert and his ilk don't believe that those issues are worth a little overtime, maybe we should give them all a permanent vacation.

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A date which will live in infamy

On this, the 64th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, a different kind of infamy continues in the world. Today, however, it is not only America's enemy that is guilty of such reprehensible action, but also the U.S. itself. Courtesy of the New York Times, two reports concerning the Bush Administration's ongoing, immoral, contemptible dishonesty about its policy of torture.

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Oy vey!

Good grief! This "War on Christmas" nonsense is spinning out of control.

You all know me, and know the tenor of this site. I've expressed on numerous occasions my belief that, while Mr. Bush may be a "real nice guy", his entire Administration has more than proven its duplicity and incompetence, and should, for the safety of the nation, be removed by special election.

And yet, amazingly, I now find that I simply must rise to his defense.

The Washington Post reports today that George and Laura's Christmas cards (which wish supporters a happy "holiday season") are under attack by conservative Christian groups as not Christian enough. Sorry, but I thought there was an acceptance of the separation of Church and State among all you strict Constitutionalists.

And what's so wrong about wishing our fellow citizens "Happy Holidays" anyway? Seems pretty Christian to me. WaPo notes:
"This clearly demonstrates that the Bush administration has suffered a loss of will and that they have capitulated to the worst elements in our culture," said William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.
Oy vey! Can someone please put a stop to this farce? I don't want to drive to Canada to enjoy a Christmas season free of stupidity - but I will if I have to.

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December 06, 2005

The phony War on Christmas

The New York Times reports today that even Samuel Alito has been dragged into the fabricated "War on Christmas", via a series of moronic conservative radio ads. Not to dampen anyone's Christm- er, I mean holiday spirit, but on days like this I think our society has finally gone over the edge of reason - and it's no longer even worth the time to throw it a rope.

Both sides in this farce that has come to be an annoying annual sign of the Christmas season need to get a life. To begin with, the extremist voices of the Great God of Political Correctness need to accept the fact that as long as we've decided to adopt this day as a national vacation day, we should also accept the specific Christian origins of the holiday without fear of "prejudice", or "disrespect", or whatever current pejorative label is being affixed to the religious aspect of Christmas. If we're going to hum along to the strains of "Away In A Manger" while riding in the company elevator, then objections to an animated display of the three wise men in the town square are ridiculously paranoid.

And I say that as a non-Christian, bordering on agnosticism. I guess I'd like to have faith in some miraculous, omniscient, benevolent spirit, but I've inherited too many of my father's persistent doubts and insistence on common sense. Besides, even a perfunctory glance at human history demonstrates clearly that organized religion is divisive at best - and responsible for heinous acts of barbarity, intolerance, and war at its worst.

But, for God's sake (pun intended), Christmas is, at its core, about... well, Christmas! In a democratic nation that is almost 77 percent Christian, manger scenes and "Merry Christmas" salutations do not constitute a conspiracy of bigotry and disenfranchisement. I love this time of year, more for its secular spirit of giving and good will than the whole Messiah thing, but I'm certainly not so immaturely insecure or radically PC as to be insulted by true signs of the holiday itself. What's next - restrictions on Fourth of July speeches, celebrations and icons, lest we "marginalize" our English-born citizens and visitors?!

Saying or displaying the word "Christmas" at this time of year does not promote fanatic religious prejudices. At the same time, however, wishing passersby "Happy Holidays" does not connote an attack on Jesus or religious faith in general.

Which brings us to the flip side of the debate. Aside from a scant few over-zealous acts of political correctness around the nation, there simply is no "War on Christmas", and it's certainly not the huge, dangerous, important news story that the usual gang of shrill conservatives would have their followers believe. At this most magical time of the year, do Christians really want as their spokespersons the demonstrably intolerant, untruthful, vain, hypocritical, unholy trinity of Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and John Gibson?

When conservative groups advocate the boycott of stores that use the word "Holiday", I have to wonder - to which holiday do they think these retailers are referring? And what's so wrong with a little Christian inclusiveness anyway? Do conservatives really believe that Christmas is irreversibly endangered by a few generic signs, and some courteous acknowledgement of that other 23 percent of our citizens?

I wasn't aware that Christianity was in such a weakened condition.

C'mon gang, lighten up. Are we going to cite traditional songs like "Happy Holidays" and "Frosty the Snowman" as egregious insults to Jesus' day of birth? What about "Joy To The World"? If I remember correctly, there's a lot of king and savior and rules the world imagery, but no explicit mention of "Christmas".

This is a non-issue, and people of intelligence should emphatically tell both sides in this phony war to zip it. Even I've allowed myself to be sucked into the nonsensical debate, and I've afforded it far too much time and space here today. So, Happy Holidays everyone.

And I mean that in a really Christmas-y way.

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December 05, 2005

Propaganda 101

Echoing a recurring concern of mine over dangerous, and misleading, hyperbole directed at Iran, blogger Arthur Silber at "Once Upon A Time..." submits this dissection of Matt Drudge's latest reprehensible act. With the President's poll numbers still sinking faster than a 20-pound stone, what better way to distract the American people than to start those ol' war drums beating again.

(Previous posts: Dorothy, Familiar, Bully, Liar, Groundwork, Dance, Put Up, Seats, Analysis, Tehran)

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Grumbling

Monday. I think Congress (the House, that is) may even be coming back to the office today. Hope they all had a nice break - while scores died in Iraq, hundreds joined the ranks of the unemployed and uninsured, and thousands continued to suffer from the ineptitude of FEMA's response to Katrina.

Glad to hear that there's never anything so important going on that it might require our elected representatives to cut a vacation short, or (gasp) break with tradition and work over a holiday. Can't say I've ever been that lucky in my career. Or as divorced from reality. I'll bet you haven't either.

But enough of my grumbling. Here are some choice items to start the day - so you can grumble for yourself:
From the New York Times, a scathing indictment of the Bush Administration's use of the Justice Department to "strip citizens of their rights, politicize the judicial system (and) rig the election process to keep itself in office."

A brilliant WaPo editorial by former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, concerning the dangerous inconsistency of the President's current Islamophobic rhetoric.

Take note, Kansas. Even conservatives aren't racing to jump on the Intelligent Design bandwagon. Two surprisingly critical editorials from Fort Wayne, Indiana's News Sentinel and the Science & Theology News.

And as the President heads to North Carolina today to tout America's "booming" financial growth as a sign of his terrific leadership, the New York Times' Paul Krugman explains why we're just not buyin' it - and why the average citizen accurately perceives this as a "joyless economy."
(NOTE: For those of you who are not yet subscribers to the NYT's "Times Select", Mr. Krugman's article is reprinted in the comments section below. Click "add your opinion" to access the full editorial.

Click here for details on purchasing "Times Select", and obtaining a 14-day free trial.)

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At great risk

Well this makes me feel a lot better.

On Sunday, the Associated Press reported that, according to former 9/11 Commissioners Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, "[t]he U.S. is at great risk for more terrorist attacks because Congress and the White House have failed to enact several strong security measures." I had to wonder after reading this item just what our elected officials in Washington have been up to all this time - or at least the time they've actually spent working, and not campaigning, golfing, or clearing brush. And then, of course, it hit me.

They've been fightin' 'em over there so we don't have to fight' em here. And recklessly endangering us all in the process.

Confirming yet again that our inexcusable war in Iraq - and, to a large extent, our inept occupation strategy in Afghanistan - has nothing to do with the "war on terror", the AP continues:
[T]he government has stalled on other ideas, including improving communication among emergency responders and shifting federal terrorism-fighting money so it goes to states based on risk level.

"There is a lack of a sense of urgency," Hamilton said. "There are so many competing priorities. We've got three wars going on: one in Afghanistan, one in Iraq and the war against terror. And it's awfully hard to keep people focused on something like this."
Mr. Bush's trumped-up, unnecessary, irresponsible invasion and occupation of Iraq has exhausted our military, emptied our coffers, divided our people. It has needlessly killed thousands of our children, and has galvanized anti-American hatred. It has strained our collective will and sapped our individual strengths.

And all the while, our ports are still unsecured, our chemical plants remain unguarded, our first-responders continue to be underfunded. As Katrina demonstrated all too well, our government's level of preparedness for disaster is shamefully appalling. There has been no broad call for citizen involvement in civil defense, no demand for uniform disaster planning, no bi-partisan agreement to put only the best people in powerful and important decision-making positions.

Are you scared yet? Outraged? Convinced, finally, of what many of us have been saying all along about this President, his cronies, and his dangerous agenda? You'd damn well better be.

It's long past time to demand that this Administration and the Party in power get back to doing precisely what they keep telling us they're doing - protecting the American people. And if they are unwilling to address the real struggle against terror, then they must be removed from office at once.

After all, it's only our lives that are at stake.

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December 04, 2005

Snow day

(As all of you could tell, I took 24 hours off from the news of the world today. Sorry, but even a curmudgeon like myself needs a break every now and then.

Besides, we had our first snow of the season this morning, and in this household that means only one thing. Well, OK, more than one - but they all add up to a single, joyous thought.

Snow day!!! Shoveling, coffee, and conversation with our terrific neighbors. Chopping a little wood, and building a warming fire. Snowmen and snowball fights. Good food and hot cocoa, and watching a movie with the kids. Or two. And some recreational reading for a change.

Hope you had a great Sunday as well. Now, back to work...)


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