Saturday, March 18, 2006

Stating the obvious about Bush's deception

The AP -- more specifically, the AP's Jennifer Loven -- has published an article about Bush's use of "the straw man device" in his speeches: "The device usually is code for Democrats or other White House opponents. In describing what they advocate, Bush often omits an important nuance or substitutes an extreme stance that bears little resemblance to their actual position."

Well, duh. Has Bush ever made a case for anything on its merits? Has he ever been truly honest in making a case for anything? No. His whole presidency, and not just his speechifying, has relied on misrepresentation and deception.

This is obvious, isn't it? Unfortunately not.

Upon reading this article, and upon beginning this post, my first inclination was to ask, How is this news? Well, it isn't really news, but, as far as I'm concerned, any attempt to expose Bush for what he is and how he operates should be welcomed. Too many people out there remain in the dark on even this most obvious of points.

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The pros and cons of censuring the president

In a Friday editorial, The New York Times argues that Senator Feingold's "censure proposal is a bad idea". However: "We'd be applauding Mr. Feingold if he'd proposed creating a bipartisan panel to determine whether the domestic spying operation that Mr. Bush has acknowledged violates the 1978 surveillance law, as it certainly seems to do. The Senate should also force the disclosure of any other spying Mr. Bush is conducting outside the law. (Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has strongly hinted that is happening.)"

The Times is right that there should be an investigation into "the domestic spying operation". There is obviously much that we don't know. Indeed, I suspect that what we do know is just the tip of the iceberg.

And it's certainly true that Senator Feingold's censure resolution has put some of his fellow Democrats in a bind, with some of them "[running] for cover". It has also changed the subject at a time when Republicans themselves were on the run after weeks of bad news. And it has, to a certain extent, united Republicans at a time when they were deeply divided over issues like Iraq and Portgate.

But do you see what's going on here? I wonder if the Times does. Once again, Democrats are giving in to fear, backing down just when they should be taking the offensive. Just as they refused to take on Alito, so are they now refusing to take on Bush on "the lawlessness and incompetence of his administration," on what the Times admits is an illegal program, even as all those Republican in Congress are "too busy trying to give legal cover to the president's trampling on the law and the Constitution".

Yes, by all means, get the facts straight. Investigate. But Bush must be held accountable for what he's done, for what is being done on his watch. While most of his colleagues are playing politics and thinking too much about what will hurt them and what will help them going forward, hoping that the Republicans will just self-destruct and that Bush's approval ratings will sink even further, Senator Feingold took a stand. He at least wants to hold this president accountable.

This isn't about impeachment, as the Republicans would like you to believe, it's about censure. There is much with which to find fault in Bush's five-plus years in office. (Much of it has been blogged about here.) But with this domestic spying program, and perhaps with other domestic spying that as yet we know nothing about, Bush has clearly crossed a line. Manipulating the intelligence in order to make a largely fabricated case for war is extraordinarily troubling, don't get me wrong, but this is about breaking the law. It is about the abuse of power. It is about debasing the Constitution. For that, President Bush deserves to be censured.

Democrats do need to think about how best to get elected this fall. They do need to think about the optics of censure. But they also need to do the right thing, to stand up for what's right over and against what's politically expedient. They haven't -- and won't -- but they need to stand with Senator Feingold.

Courage, Democrats, courage. You will be rewarded for it.

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The lies of Operation Swarmer

We were led to believe that Operation Swarmer marked a huge step forward in the ongoing struggle against the Iraqi insurgency.

We were led to believe that Iraqi forces stood side-by-side with their American counterparts and, for once, took the lead in that struggle.

We were led to believe that "the 'largest air assault since 2003' in Iraq using over 50 helicopters to put 1500 Iraqi and U.S. troops on the ground had netted 48 suspected insurgents".

We were led to believe that there was light at the end of the tunnel, that things were getting better.

What we were led to believe was a lie. Time is now reporting this:

But contrary to what many many television networks erroneously reported, the operation was by no means the largest use of airpower since the start of the war. ("Air Assault" is a military term that refers specifically to transporting troops into an area.) In fact, there were no airstrikes and no leading insurgents were nabbed in an operation that some skeptical military analysts described as little more than a photo op. What’s more, there were no shots fired at all and the units had met no resistance, said the U.S. and Iraqi commanders.

Yes, U.S. and Iraq forces found some weaponry and related paraphernalia in that farming community, but: "Before loading up into the helicopters for a return trip to Baghdad, Iraqi and American soldiers and some reporters helped themselves to the woman’s freshly baked bread, tearing bits off and chewing it as they wandered among the cows. For most of them, it was the only thing worthwhile they’d found all day."

It's good that those weapons were found. Whether you support the war or not, whether you want U.S. forces to come home or not, there's no good reason at all to wish the insurgency well.

But what is real and what is spin? The problem with much of this war, from the case its proponents initially made right through to Operation Swarmer, is that it's been waged on the basis of lies, on the basis of a distorting spin that makes it all look so much better than it really is. Is it any wonder Americans have lost so much confidence in their political leadership? It's precisely that leadership that continues to lie to them.

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Friday, March 17, 2006


By The (liberal)Girl Next Door

I had an interesting question posed to me during the last Drinking Liberally podcast. With the polar ice caps melting and the environment in crisis, why are we focusing on abortion? In other words, if the country were suddenly underwater, what difference would it make whether or not women had access to abortion? My initial reaction to this question was to jump all over poor Gavin Shearer, who posed it. The first thing that ran through my mind was, if I am to be forced to surrender sovereignty over my own body to the government, then I’d rather drown in melting ice caps. I tend to focus on the most immediate threat first and with South Dakota banning all abortions in a clear attempt to force the issue up the ladder to the Supreme Court in the hopes of overturning Roe v. Wade, that felt at the time like the most immediate threat. Upon further reflection and without my knee jerking so fast it short circuits my reasoning, I understand the point Gavin was trying to make. But I still think there’s another environmental concern that trumps even global warming.

President Bush’s hometown paper, the Lone Star Iconoclast, has put together an amazing collection of articles and interviews shedding some much needed light on the use of depleted uranium in Iraq by U.S. forces. It is a sobering read, but well worth the time. Leading scientists from around the world agree that depleted uranium and low-level emissions from nuclear power plants are doing serious damage to the planet and its inhabitants. Rises in thyroid cancer, breast cancer even obesity and diabetes can be linked to the aerosol sized particles released from DU munitions and nuclear reactors that travel far and wide and are easily inhaled by people and animals and contaminate water and soil. The implications of this are frightening, yet few people know much about it.

Dr. Chris Busby, Ph.D., has served on the European Committee on Radiation Risk and recently completed a study that contends depleted uranium from the “shock and awe” start to the Iraq war, traveled all the way to Britain by means of wind currents. The evidence of this was found in higher levels of radiation that were recorded by the British government in the days following the initial strikes in Iraq and we know from Chernobyl that radioactive contaminants can crisscross the globe causing damage for years to come. Nothing in his study or in the opinions expressed by the other scientists came as much of a surprise. I think we all know in our bones that nuclear contamination is real and that even so-called “acceptable” amounts of low-level emissions from nuclear power plants have measurable negative impacts on those exposed. But what is surprising is how little is being done to minimize the impact, let alone eradicate it all together. Some European countries are taking action by converting their energy sources away from nuclear power and towards a variety of other, less harmful sources like wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. Here in America on the other hand, we are being urged in the direction of more nuclear power by our President and we, through the use of depleted uranium munitions around the world, continue to be the source of the problem, rather than the cure.

With news today that the US has launched the largest air assault since the beginning of the war, we should all be concerned about what those bombs being dropped are doing to the Iraqi people, but we should also recognize that there is likely to be very real and immediate blowback for us. There is little doubt that innocents will get caught in the crossfire which will only further damage our standing in the world, but beyond the political blowback, we are unleashing uranium aerosols that will travel far and wide and indiscriminately do damage to people, including us, and to the planet that we share. It is quite possible that the strikes on Iraq could easily meld into strikes on Iran. We keep hearing from our President that “all options are on the table” in regards to Iran, and we know what that is shorthand for. There have been reports that the US will use “tactical nukes” to take out Iranian nuclear facilities, and when I read that these nuclear weapons are safe, produce less fallout and reduce collateral damage, it somehow doesn’t quite ring true. If depleted uranium from conventional weapons can travel from Iraq to Britain, it seems likely that fallout from “tactical nukes” could have an even wider reach. I guess it comes down to what “collateral damage” means and how much of it is acceptable. I don’t imagine that what is acceptable to this administration in this regard would be acceptable to most Americans. I guess that’s why we’re not seeing much discussion about mini-nukes and depleted uranium on our televisions or reading about it in our hometown newspapers. Nothing new there, though, that’s for sure.

(Cross-posted at The (liberal)Girl Next Door.)

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Post #1,000

This has been a period of milestones at The Reaction: 100,000 hits and now our 1,000th post (the 500th wasn't all that long ago, it seems).

This one is #1,000.

I'm very proud of what we've accomplished here, but, as I've said before, I couldn't do it without all of you. Thank you.


Blogger has been out for much of today. I had planned 3-4 new posts, but I'm only now, at this late hour, able to publish. I'll save those posts for tomorrow (or later today, depending on your time zone). In the meantime, watch for new posts from my excellent co-bloggers. And do take the time to scroll down to read what we've posted recently. There's some awfully good stuff down there, if I do say so myself.

Good night, and good blogging.

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It's March Madness, baby!

Just for the record, here are my picks for the Final Four: Duke, Connecticut, Villanova, and UCLA. I have Duke and Connecticut in the championship, with Connecticut winning 78-70.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

I am naive

By Creature

I am naive. Before this morning I really thought the rhetoric against Iran was just that, rhetoric. I did not think our leaders could be seriously contemplating a new war. Today I think differently.

President Bush plans to issue a new national security strategy today reaffirming his doctrine of preemptive war against terrorists and hostile states with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, despite the troubled experience in Iraq.
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The preemption doctrine generated fierce debate at the time, and many critics believe the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq fatally undermined an essential assumption of the strategy -- that intelligence about an enemy's capabilities and intentions can be sufficient to justify preventive war.
- - -
"If necessary, however, under long-standing principles of self defense, we do not rule out use of force before attacks occur, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy's attack," the document continues. "When the consequences of an attack with WMD are potentially so devastating, we cannot afford to stand idly by as grave dangers materialize."

Such language could be seen as provocative at a time when the United States and its European allies have brought Iran before the U.N. Security Council to answer allegations that it is secretly developing nuclear weapons. At a news conference in January, Bush described an Iran with nuclear arms as a "grave threat to the security of the world." [Read More]

However, it is not the restatement of the I-will-blow-you-up-before-you-blow-me-up (based-on-cherry-picked-intelligence) doctrine that has me feeling a bit off balance this morning. Take the doctrine above, add to it this quote by our unstable U.N. Ambassador Bolton, and I can't help but believe that the megalomaniacs that run this country are damn serious about blowing Iran to smithereens.

"Just like September 11, only with nuclear weapons this time, that's the threat. I think that is the threat," Bolton told ABC News' Nightline program.

"I think it's just facing reality. It's not a happy reality, but it's reality and if you don't deal with it, it will become even more unpleasant." [Read More]

My awakening does not even take into consideration the accusations leveled by the President himself on Monday that Iran is supplying IED components to the Iraqi insurgency. A charge that itself had no basis in fact and was eerily similar to the discredited sixteen words from the 2003 State of the Union address.

While I myself have no solution for the mess that is Iran, I would prefer that bombs not be part of the equation. I cannot imagine that we are prepared for the fallout that would occur if we choose the path of aggression against Iran. And aggression is a choice. Please, let Iraq be a lesson for the American people, Congress, and the media. As the drum-beat intensifies we must not allow this administration to take us to war once again.

I am awake now. I am fearful. And I am not happy.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

By The (liberal)Girl Next Door

How many more examples do we need that George W. Bush doesn’t give a damn about the Constitution or the American people? When he gets caught breaking the law with his domestic surveillance program, what does he do? He hustles up support from his lapdogs on the hill and gets the investigation shut down, then quickly launches efforts to change the law and tosses in a provision to make further reporting on the program a crime punishable by up to a million dollars and 15 years in jail. Isn’t open and accountable government great?

As if that wasn’t enough, it appears that Bush now feels it is within his power to sign a Budget Reconciliation Act into law regardless of whether or not both houses of Congress have passed it. I’m not a Constitutional scholar, but I’m pretty sure that’s not a power the President has. Can’t you just see him in the Oval Office, looking at a budget act that requires Medicare to provide wheelchairs for seniors for up to 36 months and snarling at his aide, “This is way too much, that’ll cost us $2 billion that would be better spent on my tax cuts. Didn’t I see another draft around here that said only 13 months? Get me that one, I’ll sign that, but I ain’t givin’ them deadbeats three years worth of free travel, what am I, a charity?”

According to Rep. Henry Waxman, a call was made to the White House before the bill was signed alerting them to the problem. Bushie boy clearly didn’t give a good god damn because he signed it anyway, in direct violation of the Constitution. I was recently given a hard time for proposing the “slippery slope theory” with regards to overreaching by this administration. If it looks like a slope, and things are passing by real fast, chances are you’re moving downhill fast. My experience as a parent has taught me that children need firm boundaries so that when they test them, they know exactly what they’re going to get. If they get away with trespassing once without punishment, they’ll do it again and again until there are consequences they don’t like. I’d say our dear leader is a spoiled child out of control and the parents are on a permanent vacation. No one will say no to him, no one will stop him, are we really surprised that he keeps pushing the envelope? The first Constitutional transgression is the hardest, the rest just glide right by.

With Bush’s approval numbers at another all time low of 33% according to the most recent Pew Research Poll, it seems the American people have had enough. The most common word used to describe Bush in this poll was “incompetent” followed closely by “idiot” and “liar”. That’s a far cry from “honest,” “good,” and “integrity” that led the list a year ago. Even Bush voters seem to be wiping the crud from their eyes, taking a second look at this loser and questioning whether they made a mistake. At this point, the only thing propping up this President is Congress. While it’s understandable that Republicans would continue to help him keep a lid on the truth, he is one of them after all, but it makes no sense for the Democrats to stand shoulder to shoulder with them. The American people are done with Bush and we’re clamoring for any opportunity to cut this disaster a little short, but it appears that we’re the only ones and clearly not the voices that matter.

With near complete support from the Democratic base, strong support from moderates and increasing support from Bush voters, there is no excuse for Democrats not to support Senator Feingold’s attempt at censure at the very least. Hell, that’s too much of a compromise already. We’ve reached the point where the only ones responsible for keeping Bush in office and allowing him to run this country into the ground are the Democrats. Unless they want to continue to be saddled with the labels “complicit,” “weak,” and “worthless,” they'd better stop earning them and start doing their job. As far as I’m concerned, there are only three Senators fulfilling their oaths of office, Russ Feingold and now Barbara Boxer and Senator Harkin who have signed on to the resolution to censure Bush. Would anyone else like to earn his or her pay? Anyone? We’re waiting.

(Cross-posted at The (liberal)Girl Next Door.)

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Cynical optimism; or, to panic or not to panic with regards to the current state of American democracy?

I hope you've liked the first two posts from my great new co-bloggers, Creature and The (liberal) Girl Next Door. Both posts stimulated some thoughtful commentary. Indeed, there are at present 13 comments to The LGND's post, "When is it time to panic?" -- you can find it (and the comments) here. I encourage you to check out the interesting exchange between the author of the post and Nate, one of our long-time readers and commenters. Both make solid points and, in the end, I suspect that they agree more than they disagree.


Over at one of my favourite reads, The Countess, Trish Wilson, The Countess herself, kindly linked to The LGND's post and suggested that a recent post by her other half, The Count, is "a nice companion piece". She's right, and you can find The Count's post here.

I encourage you to read it in full. His general argument is that "[o]ur tradition of democracy should not be underestimated". And he makes this excellent point, cutting through the disease of extremist partisanship that afflicts American democracy:

The neoconservative thinkers (and I don't mean the wingnut op-ed folks) are a more interesting situation. I do not believe they are out and out evil or bad... not most of them anyway. I think they believe in what they say as a way to honestly better this country. I just happen to disagree with their means to that end. I think it is very telling (obviously) that even they see what Bush is doing as wrong and is perverting their ideas. In fact, we do need these thinkers to do what they do, because in a democracy all sides need to be heard, all sides need to contribute, all sides need to be equal for the whole thing to work. Extremism from either side is not good for the body politic.

This is a point that I've made before, often from the perspective of a Straussian with connections to neoconservatism. More publicly, it's a point that Jon Stewart has made many times before. There may very well be "evil" out there. Some on the right may even be "bad". But there are also many intelligent voices on the right -- some of them are linked in my blogroll -- and it's with them that we must keep up an open dialogue. They believe what they believe. And some of their beliefs are quite sound.

For example, neoconservatives generally believe that American foreign and military policy should be directed towards the spread of democracy and liberalism to parts of the globe that are largely neither democratic nor liberal. Is that bad or evil? Well, their means may often be bad, which is to say, they may often be wrong, and we may not necessarily approve of their specific vision of a new world order based on American values and military might. And domestically we may certainly disapprove of their general attempt to roll back the liberal state. But they themselves are not evil.

As many of you know, I do not pull my punches here at The Reaction. And nor do my co-bloggers. Like our opponents on the right -- indeed, like our opponents all across the political spectrum -- we have our deeply-held opinions and we are not afraid to let them be known.

I agree with The Count on this key point: American democracy is strong. Yet I worry about what the Bush Administration has done, is doing, and likely will continue to do. American democracy is strong, but it is weaker for George W. Bush. We can argue over whether there is a slope and, if so, how slippery it is, what lies at the bottom of it, and whether America is currently sliding down it, but, ultimately, I remain a cynic. Or, rather, I remain a realist: Bush has not been good for America, nor for the wider world beyond. As far as I'm concerned, there is a slope, it's quite slippery, and America is sliding down it. At the bottom may not lie fascism, at least not as we understand it after the last century, but that doesn't mean that we should take comfort in its absence. A degraded, debased state of American democracy, a farce of a democracy, isn't exactly where we want to end up.

So let's have that debate. Let's argue civilly. Let's engage our opponents, not define them all as enemies with whom we have absolutely nothing in common and with whom we have nothing but venom. But let's not just think of this as some rhetorical game (don't misunderstand me, I do not accuse The Count of suggesting that it is). Believe it or not, I do listen to alternative views and I do respect many on the right. I even agree with some of them from time to time. I even -- dare I say it? -- admire some of them. Take Bill Kristol, for example. I don't often agree with him, but I read him and listen to him and respect him and take him seriously. So, too, David Brooks. So, too, my preferred conservative bloggers. And so on.

But, in the end, this is all too important not to take with the utmost seriousness. When the other side -- more accurately, when the current political leadership, both in the White House and in Congress, is so wrong, when it places America on that slippery slope and even gives it a good push or two (or ten, or whatever we're up to), we are fully justified to fight back. With civility, to be sure, but also with every ounce of reason and passion at our disposal.

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The return of Al Gore?

Marshall "Bull Moose" Whittmann is predicting that "it is only a matter of time for the Draft Al movement to begin":

There is a huge vacuum in the Democratic Party and only the former Veep can fill it. The donkey has a big itch and only Al can scratch it...

It is unfathomable that the left will find itself unrepresented by a major candidate in the '08 race. Perhaps Feingold or a newly minted lefty John Edwards will fill the bill. However, the Moose thinks that the lefties will not be satisfied with near beer.

They want the old time religion preached by Reverend Al (Gore, that is).

Interesting. I like Gore a great deal -- I wrote about a potential '08 candidacy here -- but of course I also like Feingold and Edwards a great deal. And I don't necessarily think that the '08 candidate needs to come from the left (as the left is commonly understood). There are fine candidates, possible candidates, throughout the Democratic Party.

All of which is to say that I'm withholding any further commentary at the moment. There will be plenty of time for Democrats to debate amongst ourselves which way the party should go in '08. I look forward to it. In '06, however, with the midterms looming on the horizon, we need to remain united in opposition to the leadership at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

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The point of no return on global warming

(Thanks to my friend Holly, one of The Moderate Voice's co-bloggers, for sending me the story linked below.)

ABC News is reporting on the potential irreversibility of global warming: "Human-fueled global warming has reached a 'tipping point,' according to a new survey of scientific research that found warming would continue even if greenhouse gas emissions halted immediately."

This is bad, very bad. Essentially, "a kind of thermal inertia would ensure that global temperatures continue their upward trend". Or, to put it another way, we started the fire, but we can't put it out, at least not completely.

There is still much that can be done to prevent a worsening of the situation -- after all, the rate of global warming may yet slow down with increased environmental responsibility, that is, with more responsible stewardship of our environment. That should at least give us some hope in the wake of such a dire prediction.

Concerted efforts to reduce carbon emissions are needed. To many of us, that's obvious -- so obvious it shouldn't even have to be said, let alone argued, anymore. Unfortunately, too many of those in positions to do anything about the problem, including those at the very top, don't take it seriously, if they even recognize it at all. In the end, we may all suffer for their neglect of what is perhaps the most far-reaching crisis of our time.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Disengaged and uninvolved: The non-leadership of George W. Bush

Right-wing regurgitator Insight, which recently reported that Vice President Cheney may retire after the '06 midterms, is claiming that "President Bush has decided to stay out of the lion's share of decisions made by his administration," instead preferring to focus exclusively on "Iraq and the Republican congressional campaign in the 2006 elections".

One would think that the disengagement of such an inept president has been good for America, but "sources" say that "Bush's lack of involvement on most issues has led to numerous errors in judgment".

Okay, fine, but hasn't his involvement also "led to numerous errors in judgment". Like Iraq itself? Like, on the domestic front, social security?

Does it even matter anymore if this president is engaged and involved in the day-to-day affairs of state? So what if he focuses exclusively on Iraq? Has that focus improved the situation on the ground in Iraq? Has it averted bloodshed? Has it prevented Iraq from sinking into civil war?

Or is that not the problem? Perhaps the situation would improve if he were to disengage and delegate. Or perhaps not. Perhaps there's nothing he can do to clean up the mess he's made. Either way, it's time for a president who actually cares about what's going on in the world, both at home and abroad, a president who doesn't obsess about his legacy (achieving some semblance of success in Iraq and maintaining the Republican majorities in Congress), a president who doesn't ignore every other serious problem out there, who doesn't delegate responsibility to unelected officials, a president who actually knows what he's doing.

Too bad we've got almost three years left of this one.

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Pushing democracy in Iran

From The Washington Post: "Prominent activists inside Iran say President Bush's plan to spend tens of millions of dollars to promote democracy here is the kind of help they don't need, warning that mere announcement of the U.S. program endangers human rights advocates by tainting them as American agents."

I'm not sure what to do about Iran. Who is? Given the recent collapse of Russia's uranium-enrichment proposal, the likelihood of eventual military action seems to have increased.

But beyond military action, beyond the emergence of a viable diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis, it is certainly in our long-term interest for Iran to reform in the direction of liberal democracy. There is already a widespread reform movement within Iran, whatever the recent electoral success of President Ahmadinejad's illiberal populism, not to mention a youth culture that is unabashedly pro-American. But Iranians are also, by and large, fervently nationalist. Whatever their attraction to the West, they tend to resist excessive Western intervention. (As do most non-Westerners.) They may ultimately turn their country into a relatively progressive liberal democracy, but they surely want that accomplishment to be their own.

This is not to say that the U.S. shouldn't do what it can to promote democracy, liberal democracy, in Iran. It just needs to find a less direct and less obvious way to do it. Indeed, a less condescending way.

I'm confident, given what I know of the situation, that Iranians will listen to us and may even choose in important respects to be like us. But not if they're forced to.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

When is it time to panic?

By The (liberal)Girl Next Door

I have been a reader of The Reaction for a while now and I was happy to accept Mr. Stickings’ invitation to blog at his fine site. The two greatest fringe benefits to blogging (the main benefits being the venting of frustration and kicking a little Republican ass) are getting to know other bloggers and having a dialogue with the readers. Most of the time, you can give as good as we can and I always appreciate that. Now let’s get down to it, shall we?


Someone recently told me that it’s not quite time to panic, that things in this country may be bad, but we haven’t yet reached the point of no return. So I’d just like to toss out the question. When is it time to panic? When does mere concern turn urgent, and will we all recognize the signs in time?

Is it time to panic when the press is used as the propaganda arm of the administration, when reporters take money from the government to promote their agenda? Apparently not considering that Armstrong Williams and Jeff Gannon were exposed as paid propagandists and the General Accounting Office found that the Bush administration’s distribution of “news” stories in support of their policies violated the law, yet they continue to use them.

Is it time to panic when they use their influence with a separate branch of government to quash any investigation into crimes they may have committed? We are still waiting for phase II of the Congressional investigation into pre-war intelligence that was clearly cherry picked, manipulated and in some cases down right manufactured. The Democrats in the Senate made headlines last year when they forced a closed session in an attempt to draw attention to the stalled investigation. Bill Frist came on television and blasted Democrats for pulling this “stunt” and promised that the investigation would go forward, that they had intended all along to do so. The closed session was called on November 1, 2005 and ended with the promise that Phase II would be completed. Five months later and still nothing has been done.

Is it time to panic when the Bush administration can violate the law and possibly the Constitutional rights of American citizens without repercussion? I guess not, considering that last week, Republicans in the formerly separate branch of government known as the Senate, refused to open an investigation into possible violations of law by the Bush administration in its secretive NSA warrantless surveillance program. Even with the presence of whistleblowers from within the NSA who are willing to testify under oath to the Senate, the truth continues to be buried by partisans on the hill. So much for checks and balances and the people’s right to know.

Is it time to panic when this administration starts attacking sovereign nations without provocation? We have already done so in Iraq and the propaganda machine is in overdrive selling the next pre-emptive strike on Iran. Support for tactical strikes (possibly using nuclear weapons) are being sold to the people via the same means and methods employed before invading Iraq. There is no reason to think that the con job won’t work just as well the second time around. It’s not as if being proven wrong on weapons of mass destruction will carry any penalties.

Is it time to panic when the Bush administration ignores treaties and violates international law? We’ve seen the pictures from Abu Ghraib prison, read the reports on Gitmo and heard the tales of rendition. Instead of owning up to abuse and torture, the Bush administration has twisted the law and declared the Geneva Conventions “quaint”. We may be disgusted by what is being done in our name, but there has been no price to pay for those who formulate the policy. Only those who implemented the policy at the bottom of the chain of command have paid any price at all.

Is it time to panic when our votes are counted in secret? Like Stalin said, “Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything.” We are allowing our votes to be tabulated by machines that run on proprietary software, that are easily manipulated and in most cases unverifiable. Whether or not elections have already been rigged is not as important as whether or not they could be. If there is no integrity to our voting process, there is no integrity in the outcome.

Is it time to panic when the rubber stamp Congress tries to criminalize reporting? Instead of investigating the warrantless surveillance being conducted by the NSA, Congress has decided to pass new legislation that will simply make the illegal program legal. In doing so, they may also be making it a crime for reporters to report on the program at all. According to The Washington Post, “The draft would add to the criminal penalties for anyone who ‘intentionally discloses information identifying or describing’ the Bush administration's terrorist surveillance program or any other eavesdropping program conducted under a 1978 surveillance law.” Senator DeWine, R-Ohio, assures us that it is not the intention of the bill to silence reporters and that if need be, they will patch the problem language. I don’t know about you, but Senator DeWine’s words give me little comfort.

Or is it time to panic when, as Patricia Goldsmith suggests, there is no opposition left? It has long been the case that our two party system is nothing more than political theater. We have two political parties feeding from the same corporate troughs and serving the same corporate interests. If we continue to buy into the lies of either side and continue to separate from one another reducing public discourse to screaming at one another from opposite sides of the wedges driven between us, we give the only power we have left away to leaders who will only abuse it. If we willfully divide ourselves, we will be easily conquered.

I don’t want to panic before it is warranted, but I sometimes wonder if we will recognize the last straw. Don’t we remember that in Germany, the Nazis took control of government, not in a violent coup, but by passing laws that gave them increasing power and control over the people and the news they received? We keep hearing that it’s not time to panic just yet, but if history has a lesson for us right now, it’s that panicking too late won’t do a damn bit of good. Do we really, as a country, want to sit idly by watching evil become a way of life? Most of us judge the German people not as victims, but rather as willing accomplices. Will we judge ourselves the same?

I have been wary of using the Nazi comparison, but since Sandra Day O’Connor, the voice of reason on our high court for decades, feels comfortable warning of a dictatorship, I guess I feel justified. We are being fed propaganda, our government is becoming increasingly secretive, dissenting voices are routinely being silenced, and this administration appears to be accountable to no one. If it isn’t quite yet time to panic, I fear the time is fast approaching.

(Cross-posted at The (liberal)Girl Next Door.)

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By Creature

I'm disappointed already. Senator Feingold's censure resolution is not even a day old and the debate has already been framed. The Democrats are overreaching. The Democrats are weak on national security. Will anybody mention that the president broke the law? This is not a debatable point. How is the President getting away with this? My answer is simple. I blame the Democrats. The Republicans are being allowed to frame the issue because the Democrats are not standing behind Senator Feingold. The Democrats should be pounding the President with the "he broke the law" meme. But no, they waffle, they cower, they play politics when the issue is clear:

Throughout the day, Feingold's fellow Democrats said they understood his frustration but they held back overt support for the resolution.

Several said they wanted first to see the Senate Intelligence Committee finish an investigation of the warrantless wiretapping program that Bush authorized as part of his war on terrorism.

Asked at a news conference whether he would vote for the censure resolution, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada declined to endorse it and said he hadn't read it.

The Democrats are living in a fantasy world where they think compromise is possible. There are no compromises. There is no middle ground. The "investigation" by the Senate Intelligence Committee is a partisan farce. The President gets away with breaking the law because the Democrats are complicit. I'm tired of middle-of-the-road Democrats. Please, just get out of the road and let people with true convictions take control of the wheel.


P.S. I bet John Murtha will come out and support Senator Feingold. If anyone knows what it's like to be abandoned by your own party, Murtha does.

(Cross-posted at
State of the Day.)


For even more censure perspective, please stop by Glenn Greenwald's
Unclaimed Territory. The great Anonymous Liberal has a must-read and "reasonable" post breaking down the entire debate.

Contributor Note: Hello Reaction readers. I just wanted to take this opportunity, on my maiden Reaction post, to thank Michael for allowing my words to reach all of you. Thanks Michael, your support is appreciated.

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New co-bloggers at The Reaction

I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome two new co-bloggers to The Reaction:

As you may know, there are already three other co-bloggers here: Vivek, Grace, and James. All three have contributed excellent posts. Grace continues to blog, mostly on Canadian politics, but Vivek and James have other commitments that limit how much they can do -- law school and teaching, respectively. Which is why I'm bringing on these two fantastic bloggers, both of whom I like a great deal, to add their distinctive voices and perspectives to what we already have.

It is not my intention that The Reaction become a group blog. I will continue to do the bulk of the posting, usually anywhere between 2 and 8 posts a day, and I will continue to be responsible for all content as editor. Creature and The LGND will likely submit 1-2 posts a week, perhaps more, on a variety of topics that fit in with my overall approach and with the general tone of this blog. However, you will see right away the high quality of their work, and it is very much my pleasure to have them here. I hope you take the time to read their posts, to comment should you so desire, and, of course, to visit their own blogs regularly.

I may still bring on one more co-blogger, though I'll take some time to allow Creature and The LGND to become regular co-bloggers before I do so. In addition, I may begin to feature guest posts by different bloggers. (If you're a blogger, and you'd care to submit a post for consideration, please contact me.)

There are a couple of different reasons for this: As The Reaction has gotten bigger, as more blogs have linked here and as traffic has increased, I want to be able to provide more and more diverse content for readers. With new co-bloggers posting regularly and eventually with occasional guest posts, each and every day will bring you a good deal of new and interesting content. If you check back regularly throughout the day, and then from day to day, there should always be something good to read.

Plus, the Koufax Awards, which introduced me to many, many new blogs, reminded me that blogging is very much about community. We read each other, we link to each other, and we support each other. So why not blog with each other? Sure, blogging is done alone, more often than not, but I want to bring that sense to community to The Reaction, that very real friendship that thrives in our virtual world, as least as much as possible without losing my own distinctive voice.

So please join me in welcoming Creature and The (liberal) Girl Next Door to my humble blog. Let their blogging begin.

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Barricades at the Sorbonne (update)

On Saturday -- see here -- I reported on the latest student protests in France, this time in response to a new government employment policy that would make it easier for companies to fire younger employees (like Sorbonne dropouts).

Well, the situation is still quite serious, as Reuters reports: "French students prepared to step up protests on Tuesday against a job reform championed by conservative Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, whose authority has been hit by popular discontent over the measure." De Villepin's plan aims to reduce unemployment, but, needless to say, the students don't quite see it that way: "He says the reform would encourage firms to hire young people, but opponents say it would make it easier to fire them."

The Guardian has the nastier details: "The students swarmed into the College de France, one of France's most prestigious research and teaching institutions, hurling stones and metal barricades at riot police who used teargas to try to disperse the chanting crowd." And here's the problem at the root of all this: "One in four young people in France is unemployed, but the figures rise to 50% in the poor suburbs."

Students are "on strike" at universities all around the country. The prediction here is that de Villepin, who is planning to run for the presidency next year, will blink first.

Whether withdrawing the policy will do anything to alleviate unemployment among France's young people, rather than just reinforce the status quo, is another matter. This may not have been the right policy at the right time -- I'll let French labour experts debate that -- but it should be clear that desperate times call for a new way of doing things. Unfortunately, these barricade-building students, descendents of far nobler protesters against authority, can't see the economic forest for the trees of their short-term self-interest.

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Monday, March 13, 2006

I love George Clooney

"I am a liberal. And I make no apologies for it. Hell, I'm proud of it."

-- George Clooney, The Huffington Post

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The sinking of a presidency

This is getting rather repetitive, isn't it?

Here are the latest numbers: "Growing dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq has driven President Bush's approval rating to a new low of 36 percent, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Monday."

As for Iraq itself: "Only 38 percent said they believe the nearly 3-year-old war was going well for the United States, down from 46 percent in January, while 60 percent said they believed the war was going poorly. Nearly half of those polled said they believe Democrats would do a better job of managing the war -- even though only a quarter of them said the opposition party has a clear plan for resolving the situation."

Since it's already repetitive, let me repeat that:

Bush's approval rating stands at 36 percent.

I realize that there is a tendency to place far too much emphasis on polls, which at best measure transient and usually fickle public opinion, but, looking back over 5+ years, can we not with confidence conclude that Bush has been a failure?

Or is there some nuance to Bush's astonishing unpopularity that I'm missing?

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Abortion extremism and Republican anxiety

At Newsweek, Howard Fineman and Evan Thomas report on Republican anxiety over abortion in the wake of a recent pro-life victory in South Dakota and of similar pro-life momentum in states like Mississippi.

I can only repeat what I've written before (see here, for example): Republican over-reach on abortion, including a possible overturning of Roe by a more conservative Supreme Court, could end up backfiring. Indeed, Democrats would likely benefit from the overturning of Roe insofar as the Republicans would finally be exposed for what many of them are, which is rabidly and unapologetically anti-choice.

Republicans have long used abortion as a wedge issue to paint Democrats as pro-choice extremists and to mobilize their own base. A majority of Americans are in some way "moderate" on abortion, if moderation is defined as opposition to abortion on demand. This is why Republicans were able to use abortion so effectively as an issue. It's also why the pro-life movement has been able to chip away at abortion laws around the country.

But Americans are not pro-life. Indeed, whatever their moderation, they lean more pro-choice than pro-life. They may accept limitations on abortion on demand, but they do not want abortion rights to be repealed. And this is why the success of the pro-life movement in South Dakota -- the success of extremism, not moderation -- could blow the Republican strategy on abortion to smithereens, a strategy built around extreme speech and moderate deed, a strategy that appealed both to the base and, at least in its perceived form, to moderate and independent voters.

But let us delude ourselves no longer. This has been the end-game all along. This is what the pro-life movement is all about. And this is what Republicans, like it or not, have been working towards. Be careful what you wish for? Well, here you go. If you keep pandering to the anti-abortion right, if you keep electing conservative legislators in all those red states, and if you keep up your efforts to stack the Supreme Court and the federal benches with conservative justices, this is the result. It's no longer just speech, it's deed. States will continue to roll back abortion rights and abortion cases will head on up to the new Roberts Court.

Republicans should be anxious. It serves them right. For the first time in a long time, Democrats may have the upper hand on abortion as an issue. With the extremism of Republicans now fully exposed, it's up to Democrats to speak both to their own pro-choice base and to all those moderate Americans who are uncomfortable with abortion on demand. And, indeed, whatever strategy they pursue, it's up to Democrats to prevent America from plunging back into darkness.

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Feingold looks to censure Bush on NSA wiretaps

Well, it's not impeachment, but: "In an exclusive interview on 'This Week with George Stephanopoulos,' Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold called on the Senate to publicly admonish President Bush for approving domestic wiretaps on American citizens without first seeking a legally required court order."

In my view, the illegal NSA wiretapping program deserves a presidential censure at the very least. But let's not kid ourselves. This won't go anywhere in Bill Frist's Senate.

The Raw Story has the transcript of Feingold's interview. Crooks and Liars has the video of Frist's response.

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'Twas a grand ol' party in Memphis this weekend

Should any of us care about this weekend's annual Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Memphis? No, not really, even if it more or less marked the beginning of the '08 campaign. Which is why so many Inside-the-Beltway types were there, apparently with nothing better to do, or talk about. What, are Bush and his laugh-a-minute presidency not giving them enough material? Or are simple minds simply more attracted to the bright lights of the horse race than to the nuts and bolts of policy. Is tough, hard-nosed reporting simply too much for them?

Well, duh.

Should you care at all, and I might as well link to the article in the Post, the winner was no less a political giant than local favourite Bill Frist, who secured 36.9 percent of the vote. Surprisingly, Mitt Romney finished second with 14.4 percent. John McCain finished fifth, behind George Allen and Bush himself, with 4.6 percent, though from what I understand McCain asked his supporters to vote for Bush as a show of support for their commander-in-chief. How transparently self-aggrandizing of the good senator from Arizona.

I'm sure good times were had by all. What could be more enjoyable than a weekend in Memphis with the leading lights of the Republican Party (minus Rice and Giuliani)?

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The ignominious perseverance of Katherine Harris

From the Orlando Sentinel: "Rep. Katherine Harris fueled already rampant speculation about the status of her campaign for the U.S. Senate when she released a statement Saturday promising a 'major announcement' about her future this week."

Needless to say, I hope she sticks it out. Given her insidious role in the 2000 Florida recount, she has her rabid admirers among the Republican faithful, but she's pure poison for the Republicans state-wide. Indeed: "In the latest Quinnipiac survey, she trailed [incumbent Democratic Senator Bill] Nelson by 22 percentage points. And that was before a defense contractor admitted giving her illegal campaign donations while asking her to help him win $10 million in federal aid."

(Katherine Harris -- embroiled in controversy and scandal? Fascinating.)

Alright, so we'll have to wait for this "major announcement". But how about this doozy from Saturday's statement: "I will continue to look to our founding fathers, who pursued their vision with integrity and perseverance, to discern the best course of action for the state of Florida and our nation."

I'll give her perseverance, but integrity? I think not. And if the founding fathers had known of Katherine Harris, I suspect they would have shed a tear for the future of their noble experiment.

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Daschle... Tom Daschle...

I'm not terribly excited about any of the major Democratic contenders for '08 -- Clinton, Biden, Warner, Feingold, Richardson -- but... Tom Daschle?

Can't you just feel the excitement?!

(I don't want to get ahead of myself, but Gore-Obama sounds really good at the moment.)

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Iran, Russia, and uranium enrichment 2

A couple of weeks ago, there seemed to emerge a possible breakthrough in the ongoing Iranian nuclear crisis, with Iran agreeing in principle to a Russian proposal for a joint Iranian-Russian uranium-enrichment program.

But, alas, there has been no such breakthrough.

The Washington Post reports: "Iran rejected a Russian proposal to enrich uranium on its behalf Sunday, closing the door on what had been the most promising diplomatic resolution to international concerns over its nuclear program." Indeed: "Iran had dismissed the Russian overture when it was first offered last year, insisting that any deal allow uranium enrichment on Iranian soil." Which would, of course, defeat the purpose.

So what now? Are we ready for the other options?

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The end of the Cheney era

For us at The Reaction, this one qualifies for three of our ongoing series:

  • Must-reads of the day;
  • Signs of the Renaissance; and
  • Things to be Happy About.


According to David Rothkopf, writing in The Washington Post: "The Dick Cheney era of foreign policy is over."

What's happened? Consider this: "Cheney's influence has waned. He's lost his top aide, his public approval ratings are dismal, and his network of supporters inside the administration has dissolved." He's now "a role player," no longer "the puppetmaster" running the show over and above even the president. His main ally, Rumsfeld, "has lost a lot of his clout". His boss, once the foreign policy neophyte, "is better schooled, more experienced and more confident" (hard as that may be to believe). Rice, once Bush's tutor, "is now more policy architect than presidential aide" at the State Department, which is more influential now than it ever was under Powell, even with Bolton moved to the U.N. She is "the un-Cheney". And the National Security Council, since Kissinger a hub of power, has receded under Hadley (which may not be a good thing).

Yes, this is something to be happy about. And yet: "The result is a kinder, gentler face on foreign policy, but also a void in the Bush administration foreign policy apparatus just where it matters most -- the White House."

Which means that we've gone from a realist hawk aligned with neoconservative idealism to a "void". Nothing may indeed be better than something if that something is Cheney and his inner circle, but, like it or not, there are still just under three years left of the Bush presidency. Given Iraq, Iran, Israel and Palestine, Darfur, North Korea, China, India and Pakistan, and every other hotspot around the globe, not to mention the far more nebulous specter of terrorism, just what direction will the de-Cheneyfied White House take? After all, there may be something quite pleasurable in watching Bush fall flat on his face, but: "Being better than the last term is not enough." The challenges facing America are simply too grave to ignore, or to subject to partisanship.

Come to think about, this isn't a sign of any Renaissance and, honestly, I'm not nearly as happy about it as I thought I was. But Rothkopf's piece is still a must-read.

Now let me get back to David Gilmour before the gloom and doom really sets in tonight.

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