Saturday, February 18, 2006

Rumsfeld, Iraq, and 9/11

Thanks to the FOIA, Outraged Moderates has acquired "DoD staffer Steven Cambone's notes from meetings with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the afternoon of September 11, 2001".

PDF versions of those notes are available. Click on the link above.

They provide further evidence, pretty strong evidence, that 9/11 provided the best pretext possible for an attack on Iraq -- even if Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

Why isn't there more outrage out there? Essentially, the Bush Administration used 9/11 -- a terrorist attack on U.S. soil that took the lives of thousands of Americans -- as an excuse to launch a full-out invasion and occupation in Iraq, that is, according to the so-called Bush Doctrine, to start a pre-emptive war against a rogue regime, one that posed little if any immediate threat to U.S. national security. And we know where that's gotten us, right?

(Tip: The Impolitic -- a great blog in its own right.)

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The unbearable lightness of blogging

I've been meaning to link to this excellent post at Thou Shall Not Suck for some time now -- and now I'm finally getting around to it:

The Politics of Blogging.

Check it out (especially if you're a fellow blogger, or if you're interested in blogs, or if you're just curious, or whatever).

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The Cheney shooting -- a few loose ends

I hope you're all having a nice weekend.

For your reading pleasure, here's more on The Shooting:

The Carpetbagger Report: "This is a controversy that's wrapping up with plenty of question marks." Indeed.

MoxieGrrrl: "He goes to a lobbyist's ranch, shoots a man accidentally, and is not placed under the same investigative scrutiny as average Joes. Law enforcement did not meet with Cheney directly until the next morning. Seems to me that if there was nothing to hide, the authorities should have been contacted immediately and given the full cooperation of everyone involved the second Whittington was hurt."

Booman Tribune: "Hey, I know this'll probably go nowhere fast. But, as we've discussed here this last week, it's part of the pattern. Most egegriously, a lack of responsibility. Then there's the carelessness, the lack of consideration or even consciousness of other human beings' lives, the self-serving lies and cover-ups, and the callousness."

Firedoglake has a lot on Cheney (and Libby), too.

And here's a photo from The All Spin Zone:

This is what you look like when the Vice President of the United States shoots you in the face and chest during a canned quail hunt in Texas.

(Now take a moment to ponder the meaning(lessness) of existence...)

Pleasant thoughts, my friends. It's an unpleasant world. Go watch the Olympics -- or do whatever you need to do to convince yourself that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Cheney, Whittington, and the triumph of truthiness

Alright, so the victim of Cheney's recklessness, Harry Whittington, has spoken out -- and he feels sorry for causing Cheney so much trouble: "This past weekend encompassed all of us in a cloud of misfortune and sadness that is not easy to explain, especially to those who are not familiar with the great sport of quail hunting". And more: "We all assume certain risks in whatever we do, whatever activities we pursue. And regardless of how experienced, careful and dedicated we are, accidents do and will happen. And that's what happened."

First, the great sport of quail hunting? How exactly is it great? How exactly it is a sport? Shooting small farm-raised birds in what's known as a canned hunt? Honestly, I wish the quail could fire back.

Second, no one has seriously suggested that the shooting wasn't an accident. Sure, it was an accident. A serious enough one to send the victim to hospital and for said victim to suffer a heart attack as a result of the shooting. But is that part of the risk of the canned hunt? That your fellow hunter will turn and fire recklessly in your direction? Does the shooter bear no responsibility whatsoever for what happened? I mean, if you get in your car, pull out of your driveway without looking, and hit a biker, is that not your responsibility? It may be an accident, but do you deserve no blame whatsoever? Lack of intent does not excuse reckless behaviour.

And how has the whole incident become "a cloud of misfortune and sadness"? The Vice President of the United States shot someone. That someone may be a loyal Republican, a friend of the shooter, and he may want to deflect blame away from the shooter, but is that enough? Is that it?

Look, there doesn't seems to be anything criminal here. And, yes, the story will likely go away soon -- it's already almost dead. But let's not go the other way, buying into the latest spin from Cheney and his apologists, and pretend that nothing significant happened.

Here's how Michelle Cottle puts it in an excellent piece at The New Republic: "None of which is to say that Cheney, Bush, or anyone else involved in this little debacle necessarily will suffer lasting damage. (Except poor Harry Whittington, of course.) But just because a scandal doesn't bring down an administration doesn't mean it isn't instructive or illuminating--not to mention absolutely worthy of media overkill. Some times a hunting accident is just a hunting accident. Other times, it is the perfect metaphor for why the nation's leadership is such a disaster."

Exactly. This little episode, this accident, this "cloud of misfortune and sadness" has been nothing if not instructive. It may very well be that the media (including the blogosphere) are turning away from the story, but, as Steve Benen puts it at The Carpetbagger Report, "some of the lingering questions still deserve answers".

We likely won't get them, but we should at least continue to ask them. Otherwise, we'll be left with nothing but the usual Republican spin and the growing disinterest of the worn-out mainstream media.

And that's truthiness, not truth.

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Ann Coulter -- felon?

We know she's an idiot and a bigot -- but is she also a felon?


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Cheney the tyrannical declassifier

In that friendly interview with Brit Hume on Wednesday, Cheney claimed that he has the authority, via executive order, to declassify information (needless to say, this is related to Scooter's recent claim).

But does he actually have that authority? Steve Clemons: "There is NOTHING HERE [in the executive order in question] that indicates that the Vice President has any embedded authority to be a declassification machine unto himself."

Hence: "Cheney is engaged in Executive Branch over-reach again, implying he has a power that is not designated."

How convenient it must be to circumvent the Constitution, to determine the extent of one's own power, at will.

There a word for that. It's called tyranny.

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Bad news from Greenland

According to the Post, "Greenland's glaciers are melting into the sea twice as fast as previously believed, the result of a warming trend that renders obsolete predictions of how quickly Earth's oceans will rise over the next century".


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Environmentalism, Japanese-style

Yes, Japan knows how to save energy: "The country embarked on a major effort to wean itself off oil. Japan now imports 16 percent less oil than it did in 1973, although the economy has more than doubled. Billions of dollars were invested in converting oil-reliant electricity-generation systems into ones powered by natural gas, coal, nuclear energy or alternative fuels. Japan, for instance, now accounts for 48 percent of the globe's solar power generation -- compared with 15 percent in the United States."

Two of my favourite film directors (Ozu and Kurosawa) and two of my favourite novelists (Kawabata and Tanizaki) are Japanese.

Here's another reason to love Japan.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

To be critical of critical thinking; or, a return to Socrates

And now for some philosophy...

Aspazia at Mad Melancholic Feminista has written a thoughtful post (cross-posted at Majikthise, a blog written by a fellow Tuftonian) expressing ambivalence towards 20th-century continental philosophy -- the phenomenological, ontological, proto-existentialist philosophy of Husserl, Heidegger, and others: "I would rather read people's stories and personal accounts than I would read Heidegger or Husserl."

And so would I. In their post-Nietzschean efforts to articulate a conception of Being that transcends history, that explains history, these postmodern philosophers neglected the real-world experiences that form the basis for philosophizing in its most comprehensive form.

So you think critically? But what kind of a human being are you? Do you truly understand the human condition? How do you seek to understand the human condition without turning to actual human experience?

As usual, such questions turn me back to Socrates, via Plato. Socrates, more than any other, understood what it means to be human. No other book has influenced me like Plato's Republic.

Be sure to check out Aspazia's post.

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On the NSA scandal

Get all the latest on Bush's domestic eavesdropping program, the NSA scandal, from Gleen Greenwald -- always a must-read, especially on this story. Key passage:

The more the Administration tries to cover-up what it did and block the various investigations, the longer this scandal will endure.

And shouldn't it be painfully obvious to all of those frightened Democrats that the chest-beating claim by Bush followers that this scandal benefits Republicans is a complete bluff and sham? If it were the case that this scandal helps Republicans, they would be doing everything they could to ensure that this scandal persists and that there were as many hearings held as possible. They are doing the opposite -- they are doing everything they can to kill the scandal and make it go away. Isn't it obvious that they fear the scandal and realize it has the potential to do great harm? Why else would they be trying to suppress these investigations? Is Karl Rove's childish bravado really that blinding that it can erase basic logic?

He addresses a few other topics here, but check back regularly for updates.

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Swann song

You know, I used to love Lynn Swann, back when Bradshaw was throwing him the ball, back when as a young boy in Montreal I couldn't get enough of the Steelers and their dynasty of the mid- to late-'70s.

Bradshaw, Swann, Stallworth, Harris, Webster, Greene, Greenwood, Lambert, Ham, Blount, Shell... what a team!

Swann may not have voted much, and that may not matter, but I certainly wouldn't vote for him now. Why didn't he just stick to football?

How sad when one of your favourite players turns out to be a Republican.

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Death to the Iranian Danish!

So the Danish is now a "Rose of the Prophet Mohammed" -- in Iran, at least. From the AP: "Bakeries across the capital were covering up their ads for Danish pastries Thursday after the confectioners' union ordered the name change in retaliation for caricatures of the Muslim prophet published in a Danish newspaper."

Nothing against the Prophet Mohammed or any of his roses, but how silly (if predictable). I mean, changing the name of a food item out of political spite? Who does that?


What are those fried potato sticks called again? Ask your Congressman.

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Terrorism and the politics of the Bushies

Here's another good post from the good people at State of the Day, this time from contributor Bagelradio: "Spinning Terror for Political Gain." Here's how it begins:

Despite an almost total lack of investigative, thought-provoking reporting from the US mainstream media, we know the Bushists have been expertly exploiting the terrorist bogeyman for political gain: exaggerating the threat of Al Qaeda, using "Terror Alerts" to terrorize the country leading up to the 2004 presidential election, trotting out a half-baked story about how the Bush boys foiled a 2002 terrorist plot against Los Angeles to distract the public from actual news (record budget deficit, "Scooter" Libby singing about how his boss Darth Cheney directed him to leak the name Valerie Plame, the damning Congressional report about the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina, the domestic spying scandal... take your pick), etc.

Check it out.

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Torture on television: Prisoner abuse and the tarnishing of America

An Australian television program has released what the BBC calls "previously unpublished images showing apparent US abuse of prisoners in Iraq's Abu Ghraib jail in 2003".

The Washington Post reports here.

Do I even need to get into how sickening this is?

No. I'll defer to Andrew Sullivan: "These images should tear at the heart of everyone who cares about America, the West, and the honor of the vast majority of soldiers in the military, men and women ordered to implement policies that violate the most basic ethical rules and up-end decades of American decency. Just remember what this president has said: 'We do not torture.' That blood you see below will be explained away. More scapegoating of low-level grunts will occur. 'We do not torture.' Who are you going to believe? The president or your lying eyes?"

A few of my past posts on torture are here, here, here, and here.


Let me repeat what I wrote back on June 24 of last year:


President Bush stands atop that hierarchy. These atrocities have occurred on his watch. Ultimately, he is responsible. He has allowed America's image to be tarnished.

This is his legacy.

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The Cheney interview

Okay, okay, so he took responsibility. More or less. A few days late. And only after much pressure was applied by pretty much everyone. Only after joke after joke on late-night TV (Jon Stewart's been absolutely hilarious this week). Only after not allowing himself to be questioned by local law enforcement. Only after rumours of alcohol imbibement. Only after trying to cover up or bury or otherwise manipulate the story. Only after that long delay in reporting it. Well, having someone report it to the local paper and keeping the White House, including his boss (loosely speaking), in the dark.

Only after the poor man's heart attack!


Ah, it goes on and on -- see here and here.

But could he have picked a softer interviewer and a safer forum? Brit Hume? Fox News? Lynne would have been tougher on him. Hell, Rush probably would have been tougher.

But -- so what? No, this isn't the biggest, most important story of the year. Yes, we should be focusing on more salient stories like Libby's claim that Cheney authorized the leaking of classified information (see here) and Pillar's claim that the White House "cherry-picked" evidence to back up its preconceived case for war in Iraq (see here).

But the truth remains: The Vice President of the United States shot a guy in the face and chest.

That's not just the characteristic truthiness of the Bush Administration. And there's no spin that can save him from the wicked jabs of Jon Stewart and the utter contempt of people like me, of bloggers big and small alike.

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Ann Coulter's conservative bigotry

Last week, at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Ann Coulter, whom we already know is a dangerous idiot, called Muslims "ragheads" -- see Max Blumenthal at The Raw Story. Even Michelle Malkin, ever-so-sensitive defender of the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, called Coulter's remarks "spectacularly ill-chosen and ill-timed" (more on Malkin below).

Was Coulter's slur "ill-chosen" and "ill-timed"? Sure. But how about bigoted? Isn't that what it really was? Simply: bigotry. If a fellow conservative like Malkin wants to distance herself and her ideology from such bigotry, then why not call Coulter out on this? Why don't other conservatives, influential or otherwise, put Coulter in her rightful place among the extremists of American society?

Take Wizbang, for example, a prominent (and hugely popular) conservative blog. In a recent post, one of Wizbang's bloggers, Jeff Harrell, sought to isolate Coulter from the conservative movement. Harrell describes Coulter as a "controversial conservative columnist and author" -- which, of course, is something of a euphemism (Coulter's not a bigot, just controversial; Osama's not a genocidal terrorist, just passionate and determined).

But at least Harrell has the decency and good sense to call Coulter out in a way that Malkin does not: "Coulter sailed right past the bounds of good taste, past her usual tactlessness, past the furthest extent of what could be considered socially acceptable discourse."

And, indeed, Harrell does say that he wishes Coulter would "just shut up".

And: "But seriously, do we really want to include people who think that the best way to address geopolitical tensions is to throw the word 'raghead' around? Are these the people we really want to invite to our party?"

Well, it's their party and they can invite whomever they want. And Coulter has been a regular guest at their party, a celebrated participant in the conservative movement, a prominent mouthpiece for the conservative cause. Where were her fellow conservatives when she was gleefully equating liberalism with treason, liberals with terrorists? Or when she was on the cover of Time -- just last year? Surely conservatives were applauding her extremist rhetoric -- to them, it was hardly extreme; it was, and still is, their mainstream. She was their blonde bombshell, and she could get away with it.

Which is not to say that Harrell isn't sincere, nor that other conservatives -- the principled, serious ones -- aren't repelled by Coulter's ways. It's hard to imagine that, say, John McCain or George Will thinks fondly of her. Or that the principled, serious conservative bloggers do (bloggers like Ed Morrissey, Sister Toldjah, John Cole, Alexandra von Maltzan, Stephen Bainbridge, Eugene Volokh, James Joyner, John Bambenek, and Steven Taylor).

But do we believe this from Harrell: "Yes, conservatism is the big tent. Yes, ours is the political philosophy of pluralism and tolerance. Yes, we advocate a marketplace of ideas, where any reasonable position deserves to be heard and included."

Is it? But then how do you explain Coulter, among others? It's nice to say that conservatism embraces pluralism and tolerance and the marketplace of ideas -- as a Straussian and former conservative, back when I was growing up in the late-'80s and when I was an undergraduate at Tufts in the early-'90s (even though I supported Clinton in '92) -- but isn't that just wishful thinking, delusional rhetoric?

After all, there's a reason Coulter is regularly held up as "an icon of the entire conservative movement," as a conservative "rock star". Liberals didn't do that. Her fellow conservatives did. And there's a reason why "[s]he gets thunderous applause from the members of her audience" -- from her conservative audience. She's a bigot, and her bigotry appeals to many of her fellow conservatives -- if not so much to the big-time pundits and bloggers, then at least to many in the grassroots.

Her popularity isn't an accident.

But Harrell isn't alone. Malkin says it, too: "The Left side of the blogosphere is working itself up into a lather, calling on conservatives to condemn Ann's remarks. But as I have noted many times, the Right is far more self-critical than the sanctimonious liberals who never say a peep about the routine hatred and poisonous ethnic / racial / religious identity politics exhibited by their own. We don't need your prodding."

Sanctimonious liberals? Is it sanctimonious to reject bigotry? And since when is the right "self-critical"? These days, and most days, conservatives are ideologues, partisans, apologists for their own. And what is this "routine hatred" coming from liberals? Sure, I detest much of what passes for identity politics, too -- hence my conservatism at places like Tufts. But I reject identity politics on liberal grounds and, like many other liberals, I seek to rise above the prejudice of division and divisiveness. Many conservatives also reject identity politics on liberal grounds (even if they call them conservative), but some of them, as Coulter and her applauders show over and over again, promote a far more noxious form of bigotry -- not the soft bigotry of division, the reduction of individuals to artificial categories, but the hard bigotry of hate, of "us" and "them".

Coulter is a member of the conservative establishment, a mainstream conservative, like it or not. Who in the liberal establishment, what mainstream liberal, spews such hate?

Yes, there is bigotry on both sides of the spectrum. I do not deny that. And where there is liberal bigotry, I condemn it. Malkin may indeed receive some nasty e-mails from hateful readers, but her vituperative e-mailers aren't Ann Coulter.

They may not like it, but she's one of them. And her popularity and ongoing celebrity speak volumes about the current state of American conservatism.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Conservative bias on Sundays

Not in houses of worship across America but on the network talk shows.

In an important, comprehensive new study that confirms what so many of us have suspected for so long, Media Matters for America has examined the Sunday morning talk shows on NBC, CBS, and ABC from 1997-2005 and found that "conservative voices significantly outnumber progressive voices" on those shows.

Click on the link above for the executive summary (and from there for the full report).

Here's one of the key findings: "In every year examined by the study... more panels tilted right (a greater number of Republicans / conservatives than Democrats / progressives) than tilted left. In some years, there were two, three, or even four times as many righttitled panels as left-tilted panels."

No surprise. None whatsoever. But it's good to have the bias quantitatively proven.

Yet the myth of liberal bias in the media will no doubt live on.


A friendly tip of the hat to Steve Benen: "Let's all say it together, 'What liberal media?'"

See also Kevin Drum (who asks why "the anti-war side get shunned so badly by the talk shows"), Digby ("none of this is surprising to those of us who have been watching this stuff from our side of the aisle for the last decade or so"), Atrios (scroll down for several posts on the report), and Maha (read it all -- it's really good).

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DICK CHENEY QUAIL HUNT (the game) + an update

Given ongoing interest in this story -- wholly justifiable, in my view -- I've moved this post up the main page and republished it for today. My two previous posts on the Cheney shooting are here and here. To go to the main page, click here.


You want funny? This is funny.


Of course, this is not funny. Not at all. Cheney's victim, 78-year old Republican attorney Harry Whittington, "suffered a 'minor heart attack' this morning after a piece of birdshot moved and lodged in his heart" -- the Post reports here.

What else is going on?

Also at the Post, Dana Milbank notes that "press secretary Scott McClellan reloaded this morning and took aim at Dick Cheney himself" (who knew McClellan had such a good sense of humour?).

In a great piece at Time, Mike Allen reveals this: "Vice President Cheney overruled the advice of several members of the White House staff and insisted on sticking to a plan for releasing information about his hunting accident that resulted in a 20-hour, overnight delay in public confirmation of the startling incident, according to several Republican sources." Be sure to read the whole thing.

Crooks and Liars has a couple of good round-ups here and here (the former begins with a link to my post here -- thanks, as always, to the great guys at C&L).

At the Journal, Brooks Barnes has a round-up of late-night humour from Stewart, Letterman, Leno, and Kimmel. Funny stuff. I can't wait for tonight's Daily Show.

The L.A. Times reminds us that Cheney "did not have proper hunting credentials," namely, "the required $7 stamp for bird hunting". Hey, when you're bombing the crap out of Iraq, what's a $7 stamp?

Once again, check out all that latest at Memeorandum.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A new fish

The past few days have brought us news that the Vice President of the United States gets his kicks shooting defenceless little birds (and, in the process, a defenceless 78-year old Republican lawyer).

But how's this for a more uplifting story: "Scientists have discovered what they believe is a new fish species and at least 20 types of previously unknown seaweeds during a recent expedition to one of the Caribbean's most diverse marine areas — a coral-covered underwater mountain off the Dutch island of Saba."

No, fellow Simpsons fans, it doesn't have three eyes.

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The Olympic spirit, from Turin to Darfur

I'm rooting for the Canadians, of course, but, in this case, good for Cheek. That's the real spirit of the Olympics.

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Torture at Gitmo

Call it stating the obvious, but, according to the BBC, a new U.N. draft report suggests that the "[t]reatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay constitutes torture in some cases and violates international law".

More: "The report suggests some of the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay meets the definition of torture under the UN Convention Against Torture."

Not that the Bush Administration cares much about such international conventions. Whatever McCain might say, torture is, well, quite presidential.

We don't torture... except when we do.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Cheney's got a gun...

(Think Aerosmith... Hey, I came up with that before Jon Stewart came on tonight. He just flashed the same headline on the screen. At least I'm in good company.)

In case you missed it, Cheney shot someone.

And it's the story of the day -- check out the latest at Memeorandum.

Here's the deal: Michelle Malkin thinks it's just a "media feeding frenzy," but even National Review Online's John Podhoretz thinks the "story is a very big deal"; indeed, continues Podhoretz, Cheney could "be damaged goods for the remainder of the Bush presidency".

Al Franken finds some humour in the story. The Carpetbagger reports on how the story is "piquing the nation's interest" and Firedoglake has post after post on the ins and outs of the shooting and its aftermath. Taylor Marsh looks at Dick's "bad news day" and provides some useful links.

The Raw Story shows just how the White House press corps went after Scott McClellan today and Editor & Publisher reveals that Bush was told about the shooting but not until much later about Cheney's key role in said shooting.

CBS News and The New York Times report on the lag between the shooting and the reporting of said shooting. TalkLeft asks some interesting questions that, in my view, deserve some equally interesting answers. And from Shakespeare's Sister, this: "[I]f Cheney had decided that the media shouldn’t be notified, would we ever have known?" Hmmm.

Skippy points to the other victims of this whole madness, the quails. Absolutely. Cheney's just a thug. He sets up the world so that he can take out his deep-rooted anger on those who are weaker than he is. Hence the invasion of Iraq on trumped-up fears, hence hunting farm-raised quail who don't stand a chance.

Kevin Drum, ever perceptive, examines "the meta-Cheney narrative": "Can this episode get any more ridiculous? The Veep's office can't rouse itself to say even a single word about what happened, but somehow they have the time to assure us that Cheney is good for the seven bucks he failed to pay for an upland game bird stamp? Are they trying to cement his reputation as a callous and scary reactionary, or what?"

I think his reputation can do without any more cementing. It is what it is. We already know he's "a callous and scary reactionary".

There's a lot of great stuff I haven't included here, much of it by bloggers I really, really like. Go to Memeorandum and have some fun.

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Congress vs. the White House -- spygate heats up

Make sure to check out this piece in Newsweek on Congress's growing concern over Bush's domestic eavesdropping program.

Key passage: "It is not yet clear how the public feels about warrantless wiretapping. As usual, the answer depends on the question. Asked if they approve of government eavesdropping on U.S. citizens, most people say no; asked if they approve of eavesdropping to catch terrorists, most people say yes. More-sophisticated polls show a roughly even split in opinion, so it's hard to know how the issue will cut in the 2006 elections. But there is no question that the solons of Capitol Hill -- and, increasingly, those in the Republican Party -- are growing restless and ready to challenge the authority of the Bush White House."

I previously wrote about Gonzales's SJC testimony here and here.

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Dick Cheney, hunter extraordinaire

From the pages of The Onion... er, no... from the pages of the Post:

Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and wounded a companion during a weekend quail hunting trip in Texas, spraying the fellow hunter in the face and chest with shotgun pellets.

Harry Whittington, a millionaire attorney from Austin, was "alert and doing fine" in a Corpus Christi hospital Sunday after he was shot by Cheney on a ranch in south Texas...

What can I possibly say in response to this? Hunting itself is quite ridiculous, in my view, but hunting quail is pretty much as lame as it gets. Is it really that challenging, that much a reflection of one's masculinity, to shoot defenceless little birds?

And then to shoot a hunting companion in the process?

Pathetic. Truly, utterly pathetic.


Update: For more, see The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune's The Swamp, Editor & Publisher, Talking Points Memo, The Carpetbagger Report, TBogg, Booman Tribune, Firedoglake, and The Left Coaster.

As usual, The Moderate Voice has a great round-up (with updates).

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Religion in the military and the overthrow of American liberal democracy

So let me get this straight: Gays and lesbians -- loyal, honourable Americans willing to die for their country -- aren't allowed in the military, at least not openly. But evangelical Christians, for example, are now allowed to speak openly about their religious beliefs?

The Post reports: "The Air Force, under pressure from evangelical Christian groups and members of Congress, softened its guidelines on religious expression yesterday to emphasize that superior officers may discuss their faith with subordinates and that chaplains will not be required to offer nonsectarian prayers."

Yes, there is something to be said for the free religious expression. But this is the military. It isn't a marketplace of ideas, where different beliefs and opinions can be expressed openly and evaluated freely. It's an organization with a rigid hierarchy, a chain of command, orders to be obeyed, superiors and subordinates. Free religious expression works in a horizontal organization, but not necessarily in a vertical one, where subordinates may experience real or imagined pressure to conform to certain beliefs, to obey not just a superior's orders but his or her private religious beliefs.

One hopes that superior officers will be "sensitive" to the concerns of subordinates, but will that always be the case? What if free religious expression is perceived in some cases as insensitivity? Does the military need that? After all: "The guidelines were first issued in late August after allegations that evangelical Christian commanders, coaches and cadets at the Air Force Academy had pressured cadets of other faiths."

This is obviously a victory for groups like Focus on the Family, which pressured the military to amend the original guidelines. Can everyone see that the religious right is seeking to take over the country? Whether it's the Supreme Court or the Air Force, their dreams of theocracy, of the overthrow of American liberal democracy, are fast becoming reality.

(See also The Carpetbagger Report, Echidne of the Snakes, TalkLeft, and Alternate Brain.)

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