Saturday, August 19


Mark Kleiman quotes RAND terrorism and security advisor Brian Jenkins and suggests this is the tone Democrats should take. He's absolutely right.

As the United States faces a new array of threats that arose at the end of the Cold War and were so stunningly clarified on September 11, 2001, Americans are again summoned to demonstrate courage, to draw on deep traditions of determination in the face of risk, to show self-reliance and resiliency. There has been too much fear-mongering since 9/11. We are not a nation of victims cowering under the kitchen table. We cannot expect protection against all risk. Too many Americans have died defending liberty for us to easily surrender it now to terror.

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The RNC are delighted to shift the focus from the crock in Iraq to a debate about the NSA warrantless wiretapping program. See, the war is unpopular (and becoming increasingly so) among voters, and Republican politicians are starting to distance themselves from Dubya's meaningless and vapid "stay the course" policy in order to retain their seats in Congress. The Rethug leadership sees the ruling against the NSA program as an opportunity to both slime "liberal judges" and to accuse Democrats of being weak on national security matters. It's all fodder for the great rally-the-base conservative noise machine.

On Thursday, Rep. Michael G. Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) wrote a letter to constituents declaring that he was saying no to "President Bush's 'stay-the-course' strategy" in Iraq. That followed a Fitzpatrick statement earlier this month saying: "When it comes to the war in Iraq, President Bush has been bold, principled, resolute, but mistaken in crucial ways."

Amid such discord, Republicans welcomed a return to debating the NSA's warrantless surveillance program. With no quick resolution of the case in sight, the judicial decision is likely to remain an issue. The Justice Department filed its notice of appeal in the case Thursday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati. But no deadline had been set as of yesterday afternoon for submitting briefs, a Justice Department official said.

"It's an opportunity, as we see it, to highlight the fundamental choice between the two parties," RNC spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt said, "between a party that understands the need for post-9/11 tools in a post-9/11 world and a party that questions giving law enforcement the tools they need to be successful."

However the issue is settled in the courts, it will take backing from the Congress to make it stick.

If the United States is still celebrating its constitutional freedoms at age 250, we will owe a profound debt to federal judges who faced down the Bush Administration's exaggerated claims of national security power. Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, who yesterday ordered a halt to the NSA's Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP), will be one of them.

What Judge Taylor's opinion shows most convincingly, however, is that Congress and the judiciary must act together if there are to be meaningful curbs on presidential overreaching.

That's only one of the myriad reasons why it is crucial for Democrats to seize control of both the Senate and the House in this fall's midterm elections.

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Joe Sestak, a former Navy vice admiral who's running against wingnut incumbent Curt Weldon (R-PA) for his seat in the House, delivered the response today to the pResident's weekly radio address:

Sestak said ending the U.S. presence in Iraq would free up money and energy to concentrate on other dangers, such as nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran and bolstering homeland security protections. Two days of spending in Iraq would pay for screening all air cargo on passenger planes, while five days of Iraq costs would fund the screening of all cargo coming into the nation’s ports, he said.

Just think about that for a minute. We're hemorrhaging taxpayer dollars in Iraq that could be used to TRULY make us safer. Yet the boy king wants us to believe that a multi-generational project of creating democracies in the Middle East is making us safer today and will save us from terrorism in the future.

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Friday, August 18


Rolling Stone has the right mantra for Democrats: “Republicans Would Rather Keep You Scared Than Keep You Safe”

The Democratic party has nothing to hide from in its record fighting terror.

Meanwhile it’s the GOP led Congress and the War President who received all those D’s and F’s from the 9/11 Commission, it’s the Republican leadership that has identified more terror targets in Indiana than New York City or California, it’s the Department of Homeland Security that couldn’t protect the citizens of New Orleans from a strike by WMD — weather of mass destruction — despite nearly a week of advance warning.

The one thing the Republican party does seem skilled at however is playing the fear card, making Amercians believe that they’re the only ones committed to the nation’s safety and that Democratic rule will mean death for your children.

Forget that ports are unprotected and still do not have the detection equipment needed to guard against the import of nuclear materials, that chemical company lobbyists win out over your kids when it comes to safeguarding the transport and storage of chlorine and other toxics that could be transformed into chemical weapons with a well placed bomb, that the a far greater threat than Iran’s nuclear ambitions are those thousands of loose nukes the administration has failed to secure in former Soviet states, or that, oh yeah, Osama bin Laden is still at large.

But watch out for those Democrats. They’ll kill you.

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I must have missed this. Watching Hardball this afternoon, Lt. Gen. Robert G. Gard, Jr., one of the signatories of the "open letter" to Bush that his foreign policy has actually undermined U.S. security, referred to an offer from Iran delivered to the U.S. by the Swiss ambassador to negotiate a comprehensive agreement under which Iran would disarm Hezbollah and convert it to a social and political entity, that the Bush administration spurned. Gen. Gard said the Bushies expressed displeasure at the "audacity" of the Swiss.

So I Googled it.

The official, who saw the document, said it indicated that Iran wanted to negotiate a grand political bargain with the United States that would include everything from Iran's nuclear program to its support for groups that Washington regards as terrorist.

"The Iranians acknowledged that WMD and support for terror were serious causes of concern for us, and they were willing to negotiate," said Flynt Leverett, a former senior director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council who said he read the document. "The message had been approved by all the highest levels of authority. They wanted us to deal with sanctions, security guarantees, normalization of relations, and support for integration of Iran into the World Trade Organization."
But the Bush administration was in no mood for conversation or grand political bargains, the former officials said. According to Leverett, who left government in mid-2003, the administration rejected the Iranian probe and instead sent a complaint to Swiss Ambassador Tim Guldimann, saying he had overstepped his role as an intermediary by passing it on in the first place.

Critics, including the two former Bush administration officials, European diplomats, and policy experts, say the United States may have squandered an opportunity to negotiate an end to Iran's nuclear program by not talking with Tehran. According to both Leverett and Pillar, the administration's priority was to avoid negotiations with the regime, out of concern it would imply acceptance of its continuation in office. Since then, Iran's government has become even more conservative, making the prospect of further negotiations more problematic.
"What we took was exactly the wrong approach," said one U.S. military official with extensive knowledge of U.S. relations with Iran. "Our military had made the point to everyone in the region. If Iran is ready to come to the table, then you come to the table. Do it with distrust but get them to the table and get them engaged. We wasted an opportunity."

Have these guys done ANYTHING right over the past six years? My stars, the generals and foreign policy experts are right. Bush has squandered opportunity after opportunity to ensure peace and security for America and the world with his cowboy tactics.

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A major new report from CorpWatch concludes that "Well connected corporations are growing rich off of no-bid contracts while the sub-contractors - the people who actually perform the work - often do so for peanuts, if they get paid at all."

The study reveals that the three states most affected by Katrina damage -- Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama -- have received just 10% to, most recently, 16.6% of reconstruction contracts. In addition, it appears that the big companies awarded the contracts hire local companies to do the actual work, giving them a tiny pittance of the taxpayer money, while the big dogs reap the big profits. Easy money!

“One year after disaster struck, the slow-motion rebuilding of the Gulf Coast region looks identical to what has happened to date in Afghanistan and Iraq. We see a pattern of profiteering, waste and failure - due to the same flawed contracting system and even many of the same players" says CorpWatch Director Pratap Chatterjee. "The process of getting Katrina-stricken areas back on their feet is needlessly behind schedule, in part, due to the shunning of local business people in favor of politically connected corporations from elsewhere in the U.S. that have used their clout to win lucrative no-bid contracts with little or no accountability and who have done little or no work while ripping off the taxpayer."

Of course we've known for some time that Bush-Cheney cronies got the big contracts. And we weren't at all surprised.

You know, I haven't visited the Gulf Coast since Katrina did her worst. It's my home. I grew up in northwest Florida, lived a number of years in Biloxi, have tons of connections with Mobile and New Orleans, etc. Many of my family members worked in the immediate aftermath of Katrina in humanitarian missions from Mobile to Gulfport.

Every time The Sage and I drive home to Panama City from Dallas for a visit, we take the Gulf Coast route -- Shreveport to New Orleans to Biloxi to Mobile to P.C. -- and take a sentimental journey, retelling our family stories to the kids and reliving them. But my visits this past year have been by air. Next week we do the long drive thing. It will be my first opportunity to see the damage for myself, but I find the prospect so depressing that I've been idly researching different routes. In the end, though, I think I have to face it. I just expect that I'll be arriving home an angry, frustrated individual.

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Thursday, August 17


Whoo boy! When a conservative mouthpiece like Joe Scarborough asks the question, "Is Bush an idiot?" you know that Dubya's in trouble.

For the past six years George W. Bush has been the target of ridicule from liberal circles. But now, instead of laughing at Democrats’ ill-directed arrogance, Republicans are quietly joining the left in questioning the President’s intellectual prowess.
So does it matter in the end whether our president is articulate and intelligent?

You bet your life, it does. I’m not saying we need to elect a dork like Michael Dukakis, who famously spent vacations at the beach reading books on Swedish land use or was so overwhelmed with the details of the old SALT treaties that he would sulk off to bed depressed.

But when America is fighting a global war on terror where the battle is for hearts and minds instead of beachheads and landing strips, we need a leader who can explain to friend and foe alike why America is in Iraq, why we keep sending arms to Israel and why liberal democracy really is preferable to Islamic fascism.

Right now, George W. Bush is not that leader.

I don't believe Dubya is stupid. I think he's lazy, intellectually incurious, and has an ego that won't brook dissent or criticism, implied or overt. I see him as a son of privilege who has never experienced want, who has always had someone to bail him out of any uncomfortable situation, who has no knowledge of, curiosity about, or empathy with, anything outside of his entitled, advantaged experience.

But for now, I'll gratefully accept "Regular Joe's" contribution.

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Chuck Todd of National Journal caught my eye with this super-whopper:

It's no secret that the problems for the GOP stem from one issue: Iraq.

It's the reason why President Bush's job-approval ratings haven't risen out of the 30s, even in a week when he and his chief global ally, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, helped thwart another Sept. 11.
[Emphasis mine]

Yeah, right, AS IF Bush "helped thwart" anything except the brush growing on his Prairie Chapel Ranch, where he was vacationing.

As Larisa Alexandrovna says on The Huffington Post, "We know that the White House only had scant details of this plot until late last week and only more into the weekend. The investigation is alleged to have been going on abroad since late last year, yet the arrests were made within days of the White House briefing."

Yeah, Bush got briefed, his minions -- Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and Tony Snow -- got busy on the phones with reporters and Joe Lieberman, and then "presto!" the announcement of arrests and the plot followed.

Read the rest of Larisa's post.

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A good argument for campaign finance reform.

Governor Goodhair is an empty shirt who in 1989, after serving several terms in the Texas legislature as a Democrat, announced that he was joining the Republican Party because "as a conservative white male he had no future as a Democrat [while the] Republicans promised him statewide office."



Judge nixes warrantless wiretaps.

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit became the first judge to strike down the National Security Agency's program, which she says violates the rights to free speech and privacy as well as the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution.

"Plaintiffs have prevailed, and the public interest is clear, in this matter. It is the upholding of our Constitution," Taylor wrote in her 43-page opinion.

As Shayana Kadidal said in a piece on The Huffington Post, "One hopes this will put a halt to the various Congressional attempts to whitewash the program by passing a statute purporting to legalize it, since Congress can't rubber-stamp a program that violates the Constitution."

UPDATE: Right-wing talk show hosts seem supremely confident that the Circuit Court will reverse the ruling. They may be right. This enlightening Detroit Free Press profile on Judge Taylor includes the caveat:

But even if Taylor harpoons the spying program, experts said, the decision likely would be overturned by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

"Given the composition of the 6th Circuit and its previous rulings in related areas, it seems more likely to favor national security over civil liberties if that issue is squarely presented," said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia. "And that's what this case is all about."

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Wednesday, August 16


Bill and Melinda Gates speak forcefully about Bush administration policies towards AIDS prevention and control.

Man, Melinda sure has had a great influence on Bill. (I confess, I'm a Mac person.)

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President Bush said yesterday that, "America is safer than it has been. But it's not yet safe." Bill Clinton responded:

Mr Clinton, who generally refrains from criticising Mr Bush by name, said Republicans have been "trying to play politics" with the London arrests. "They seem to be anxious to tie it to al-Qaeda," he told America's ABC News. "If that's true, how come we've got seven times as many troops in Iraq as in Afghanistan?"

Hardball aired a clip from a Tony Snow show (otherwise known as a press gaggle), where Tony responded to Clinton's comments by saying, "He doesn't know what we're doing." Tony added, we're not publicizing what we're doing.

That riposte didn't exactly address Clinton's point. Clinton made a factual statement. Snow didn't, couldn't, refute it.

The fact is, Bush and his Congressional Republicans have opposed implementation of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations. They've favored tax cuts and an expensive adventure in non-threatening Iraq over providing better security for our people, then whined that we had no money with which to protect our nation. How any voter can approve their leadership is absolutely beyond me.

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Tuesday, August 15


Sparse posting lately. I've got major simultaneous projects at work that are keeping me busy.

I've been dismayed to hear the pResident and his fellow Republicans ramping up the rhetoric against Muslims, condemning an entire religion, practiced by a fifth of the world's population (1.3 billion people) and growing, by linking it with fascism and thereby the despicable Nazis.

Once again, the Rethugs are beating the drum of fear and hatred with an eye to winning elections. Right-wing wackos are suggesting, as I heard on Darrell Ankarlo's show this morning, that we should round up all U.S. Muslims in a manner similar to the Japanese American internment during World War II. The sentiment was, "If Muslims don't stop the terrorists in their midst, they're complicit in their acts."

Where was a similar outrage against Christians when Eric Rudolph, the Lord's Resistance Army, and other "Christian" terrorists. And weren't the German Nazis "Christian"? Certainly they claimed to be! Thank God there wasn't a global condemnation of our faith and isolation of the faithful as a result of any of these bizarro defilers of our sacred scriptures and the teachings of our Lord.

I can't help but think of the really, really nice and helpful Muslims at the 7-11, the taxi drivers I encounter, the guys who cut my lawn, all of whom go to great pains to tell me how much they love, appreciate and revere America and the ideals we represent(ed). Some of them are Arab, some are immigrants from India, some from African countries. I had a couple of really great discussions with them during the presidential election of 2004. One Afghani cab driver told me he was conflicted because his wife was for Kerry but his daughters were firmly in the Bush camp because Dubya trumpeted the advances for women his invasion of Afghanistan (supposedly) accomplished. I also had really good discussions with the guys at the 7-11 (I wore a Kerry button all through the campaign season) who expressed their love of our nation and their dismay at being lumped with terrorists of whom who they didn't at all approve or support.

I think the majority of Americans are finally tired of being encouraged to demonize whole categories of people because of certain terrorist elements who have in common with them a religion, an economic category or a nationality, whether African-Americans, Latinos (especially immigrants, or illegal immigrants), or the new "evils," Muslims. When I was a teenager, there were many incidents of terrorism by anglo Europeans, particularly Germans (like the Baider-Meinhof gang) who were aligned with Palestinian terrorists. Where was THEIR religious ideology? They were "Christians" who sympathized with the "plight" of the Palestinians. We (and the world) survived their attacks -- foiled by intelligence and law enforcement.
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