Saturday, July 08, 2006

What else is Bush hiding from the American people?

And from their representatives in Congress. It seems that even Republican Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a defender of both the NSA's domestic surveillance program and the Treasury Department's financial tracking program, has some concerns:

In a sharply worded letter to President Bush in May, an important Congressional ally charged that the administration might have violated the law by failing to inform Congress of some secret intelligence programs and risked losing Republican support on national security matters.

The letter from Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan... did not specify the intelligence activities that he believed had been hidden from Congress.

But Mr. Hoekstra... clearly was referring to programs that have not been publicly revealed.

(Emphasis added.)

Here's more from the letter: "I have learned of some alleged intelligence community activities about which our committee has not been briefed. If these allegations are true, they may represent a breach of responsibility by the administration, a violation of the law, and, just as importantly, a direct affront to me and the members of this committee who have so ardently supported efforts to collect information on our enemies."

And: "The U.S. Congress simply should not have to play Twenty Questions to get the information that it deserves under our Constitution."

No, it shouldn't. But that, we know, is not how the Bush Administration operates. It evidently wants to conduct the war on terror -- broadly defined, both at home and abroad -- without Congressional or judicial oversight. The Supreme Court recently pushed back, determining that enough is enough at least with respect to the treatment of Gitmo detainees, but the attack on the free press continues.

Obviously, the American people shouldn't know every last detail of the war on terror, but isn't it a problem for any free society when the press is threatened for reporting the truth and the people's representatives are kept in the dark by an executive that seeks to rule with an authoritarian hand? Indeed, isn't it the case that a society without a free press and without effective democratic representation isn't really free at all?

When even Peter Hoekstra has some concerns, you know something must be seriously wrong with what Bush is doing, and how he's doing it.

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Partisans, a love story (revisited): The Bush-Abramoff affair

It was back in January that I wrote a post on "the financial relationship of George Bush and Jack Abramoff". The White House was trying to distance itself (and Bush himself) from the disgraced lobbyist, but the relationship between Bush and Abramoff was much closer than we are being led to believe it was.

Here's what I wrote: "Abramoff was a big-time fundraiser for Bush, just as he was a big-time lobbyist on K Street. The White House (and the campaigns that got Bush there) were quite happy to know him (and to take his money) before his recent fall from grace. It makes sense why the White House would want to have nothing to do with him anymore, and why Abramoff is now such an embarrassment in Washington, but Bush and his cronies are merely re-writing history (i.e., lying) for the sake of political expediency (i.e., to avoid charges of comingling with corruption -- corruption that has wormed its way throughout Republican Washington).

Then, in April, co-blogger J. Kingston Pierce wrote this: "[A]s the Jack Abramoff influence-buying scandal heated up, then-White House spokesperson “Stonewall Scotty” McClellan tried to distance the prez from the disgraced Republican lobbyist by saying, dismissively, that the closest Abramoff had ever gotten to Bush was when he attended a couple of crowded holiday receptions and a few insignificant “staff-level meetings.” (“The President does not know him, nor does the President recall ever meeting him,” McClellan said.) Not long afterward, The Washingtonian and Time magazines reported that they’d seen photographs of the two men in much closer and more chummy contact." (JKP wrote a follow-up post in May.)


The White House spin boomeranged, which is usually does once the truth comes out, and now The Washington Post is reporting that Abramoff was once, pre-scandal, a frequent guest at the White House:

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff had a half-dozen White House appointments in the early months of the Bush administration, according to logs released yesterday by the U.S. Secret Service.

The appointments included a meeting with a domestic policy aide to Vice President Cheney and a meeting in the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives attended by about 40 people. The logs also reflect that Abramoff attended one or more social events, as well as a gathering of Indian tribal officials and state legislators at which President Bush appeared.

Abramoff met with Karl Rove himself in March 2001, and "[t]he new data, combined with the two visits disclosed in May, show that Abramoff had appointments to attend White House events or meetings on seven occasions -- six in 2001 and a seventh in January 2004, on Inauguration Day".

But Bush doesn't know him, right? Just like he didn't know Ken Lay.

The White House can deny it all it wants, but Bush is right at home in the Republican Washington of Jack Abramoff. After all, partisans like Abramoff helped put Bush in the White House in the first place.

(For more on Abramoff, see here, here, and here.)

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Laura's complaint

In an interview with Larry King a couple of days ago, according to E&P, Laura Bush said that "you don't see good polls on the front page".

Uh... what "good polls"?

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Shrinking dreams

By Creature

Bush Lieberman on Iraq:

The situation in Iraq is a lot better, different than it was a year ago. The Iraqis held three elections. They formed a unity government. They are on the way to building a free and independent Iraq. Their military -- two-thirds of their military is now ready, on their own, to lead the fight with some logistical backing from the U.S. or stand up on their own totally. That's progress.

Iraq without the rose colored glasses:

The report, marked “for official use only,” also goes on to describe Baghdad as a city without spirit. “Baghdad looks so exhausted these days and so do her people; the relentless violence, the lack of basic services and the scorching heat abolishes human desire to do anything or to even think of anything,” says the daily report, which is compiled by SOC-SMG Inc., a Nevada-based contractor. “Living for many Iraqis was reduced to existence a long time ago; dreams and desires are shrinking under the heavy shadows of the situation.”

(Hat tip to The Raw Story.)

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Did North Korea target Hawaii?

Yes, says The Jerusalem Post (reporting on a Japanese newspaper report):

The long-range Taepodong-2 was part of a barrage of seven missiles test-fired by North Korea on Wednesday. They all fell harmlessly into the Sea of Japan, but South Korean officials said the long-range missile had malfunctioned, suggesting it was intended for a more remote target.

Japan's conservative mainstream daily Sankei said that Japanese and US defense officials have concluded that the Taepodong-2 had targeted US state of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean, after analyzing data collected from their intelligence equipment.

The newspaper quoted unidentified Japanese and US government officials.

Ah, what to believe here? Would North Korea really fire a missile at the U.S. -- even if just to show that it can, that is, if not necessarily to hit the U.S? Does this conservative Japanese newspaper have some sort of ulterior motive in reporting this? Does it want the escalation to continue? Who are these unnamed American and Japanese officials?

Will anyone in any position to do so confirm this report?

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Calderon squeaks through in Mexico

Has the rightist, Fox-backed Calderon finally defeated the leftist, Chavez-backed Lopez Obrador in Mexico's presidential election? It looks like it, however narrow the result. Here's the L.A. Times:

Conservative Felipe Calderon won Mexico's presidential election by less than a percentage point today, defeating leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador after more than three days of vote counting and recounting.


Lopez Obrador immediately denounced irregularities in the vote count and said he would launch a "peaceful and legal" effort to overturn Calderon's victory before Mexico's Federal Electoral Tribunal — and in the court of public opinion.

Just how close was it?

With all 41 million votes cast in Sunday's presidential election counted, Calderon defeated Lopez Obrador by about 230,000 votes, or 0.57 percentage points.

In other words, it may not be over quite yet. (Although Calderon's victory looks more and more certain.)

For more, let me refer you to election expert Matthew Shugart of the University of California at San Diego. He knows a lot more about Mexican politics, and this election, than I. His latest post, on this latest news of Calderon's victory, is here. His collected posts on Mexico can be found here. I recommend them highly.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Update: Order in New Jersey

New Jersey, my former home state, has government again. Hoo-wah! It was without government, sort of, after Governor Corzine shut it down last weekend, but now:

New Jersey's governor and lawmakers reached a deal Thursday on a new state budget, six days into a state government shutdown that shuttered casinos and threw more than 80,000 people out of work.

[Gov. Corzine] said the shutdown could end by late Friday or early Saturday if budget bills pass the Senate and Assembly. The legislation will be considered Friday by committees in both houses, allowing final budget votes as soon as late Friday.

Phew. The state of anarchy is over. All is well with the world.


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DeLay on the ballot

It's odd, but the retired Tom DeLay will be on the ballot in his home district this November. From the Houston Chronicle:

A federal judge ruled today that Republicans cannot replace former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay on the ballot for the 22nd Congressional District race.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, a Republican appointee, ruled that DeLay must appear on the Nov. 7 ballot as the GOP nominee for the congressional seat that he abandoned last month.

Lindsay B., who once tracked DeLay's "perp walk," makes a good point: "The Texas legislators who fled to Ardmore, Oklahoma in an attempt to prevent DeLay's redistricting are probably having a good laugh right now.

We should all have a good laugh.

My friend Steve Benen says this "couldn't have happened to a more appropriate person": "DeLay hasn't been raising money or campaigning, of course, because he didn't think he'd have to. If this ruling stands, DeLay not only have to convince voters to overlook his multiple legal and ethical scandals, he'll have to ask them to forgive him from resigning and he'll have to take on a well-funded and well-liked Democrat, former Rep. Nick Lampson, who never stopped running for the seat."

Wouldn't it be great to see DeLay lose? Honestly, aside from the Democrats taking both the Senate and the House, what else could you wish for this November?

(See also Amanda Marcotte, Tim F. at Balloon Juice (who looks at Republican sleaze), Swing State Project, and, on the other side, James Joyner.)

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Crisis cocktail

By Creature

As the world crumbles around them, they still don't get it.
From deteriorating security in Afghanistan and Somalia to mayhem in the Middle East, confrontation with Iran and eroding relations with Russia, the White House suddenly sees crisis in every direction.

Throw in a bit of North Korea and you've got one heck of a crisis cocktail. And how does the Bush administration react to a world gone wild? With spin, of course.

Hadley agreed that there are "a lot of issues in motion right now" on the international front. "In some sense, it was destined to be, because we have a president that wants to take on the big issues and see if he could solve them on his watch."

The president doesn't want to solve crap on his watch. The only "big issue" this "driven" president wanted to take on was Saddam, and that was more about greed, hubris, and revenge, than it was about solving any kind of issue. Further, Hadley's spin forgets that the president has already coped to the idea that Iraq will be invariably left for others to solve on their watch. But, that's okay, because diplomatically we really are in a better place.

Senior administration officials said the United States is in a much stronger diplomatic position than it has been in the past in dealing with adversaries such as North Korea and Iran.

If the administration truly believes that United States is in a stronger diplomatic position, then they certainly are out of touch. Iraq has weakened whatever hand the United States still has to play, and all the spin in the world will not change the reality of a weakened America on George Bush's watch.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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North Korea set to launch more missiles


North Korea has three or four more missiles on launch pads, and the South Korean defense minister warned that further tests were possible, South Korean media reported Thursday.

The seven missiles tested yesterday "apparently fell into the sea without causing damage or injuries". Nonetheless, the situation remains tense. So tense -- and so worrisome -- that, as usual, there seems to be no agreement at the U.N.:

Japan, with support from key allies the United States and Britain, called for sanctions against North Korea Wednesday in response to its barrage of missile launches but immediately ran into opposition from China and Russia.

True, North Korea could view sanctions as "a declaration of war," and "a U.N. demand for such measures [could] only make the current situation worse and delay a return to six-party talks," as Russia and China suggest, but at what point do we say enough is enough? This isn't about North Korea's "sovereignty," after all, nor even about weapons testing. This is about North Korea's determined escalation to war. A game of chicken, perhaps, an attempt to force the U.S. to the bargaining table, but still the prelude to war. Nuclear war, to be more specific. The tests themselves are an act of aggression. If you were South Korea or Japan, how would you respond? If North Korea really does have the capacity to launch a long-range missile at the U.S., what should Washington do?

No, bombing North Korea may not be the best option at present, but at some point something drastic may have to be done about this very real threat.

And I'm not talking about more talks.

(For more, see Creature's reaction to Bush's reaction to North Korea's missile tests here.)

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Ann Coulter: Gettin' rich and famous by way of plagiarism

Ann Coulter is a dangerous idiot, a bigot, and quite possibly a felon, but is she also a plagiarist? There have been allegations, and a good deal of speculation, but would it surprise you? Do you really think this is a woman guided in any way by ethics of the kind we might admire?

TPM Muckraker's Justin Rood is on the case here.

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Rush Limbaugh: Gettin' hard with a lot of help from Viagra

Fine, fine, Rush the Blowhard won't be charged over the Viagra switcheroo recently uncovered at Palm Beach International Airport, as both James Joyner and Sister Toldjah emphasize. (And nor should he be, it seems.)

But it's damn funny.

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Joe Lieberman: Gettin' by with a little help from his friends

Yesterday, Creature commented on Senator (for now) Lieberman's lame attempt to distance himself from President Bush (and to vilify his "zealous" pro-Lamont critics -- presumably those in the Kossack blogosphere). That's a tough triangulation play. I don't think it'll work. Lieberman is indeed "out of touch," and his unwillingness (or inability) to take responsibility for hovering between the two parties (his own and the one that loves to promote him as a renegade), as well as for cozying up to Bush over Iraq, is, well, distasteful (to put it nicely).

Regardless, I'm not as anti-Lieberman as some of my friends and colleagues in and around my corner of the blogosphere. Not that I support him, mind you. I just haven't signed up yet for the bandwagon to run him out of town. I realize there's no turning back for some of Lieberman's harsher critics, and I respect their commitment to a Democratic Party that doesn't compromise its values and principles, but I would urge caution before cheering on his prospective demise.

And, it seems, I'm not alone in this. The Post reports: "Sens. Joe Biden of Delaware, Barbara Boxer of California and Ken Salazar of Colorado plan to campaign in Connecticut for Lieberman between now and the Aug. 8 primary. Their goal is to reassure the party faithful of the three-term senator's loyalty to Democratic causes, including women's issues, labor and the environment." Similarly: "Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, have pledged support for Lieberman in the primary."

Now, look, before you get the wrong idea, let me say as clearly as I can that I'm not a Lieberman apologist. I just don't think he's "pond scum," as one friend put it to me recently. Like Senators Clinton and Kerry (you know what states they're from), I wouldn't support Lieberman as an independent candidate. If he loses to Lamont in the primary, I'll go with Lamont from there. (And I may yet go with Lamont in the primary.) It bothers me that Lieberman seems to be hedging his bets, just as he did back in 2000, when he ran for re-election to the Senate even as he stood alongside Gore as his vice-presidential nominee. He should have picked one office or the other back then and he should pick the Democratic Party or an independent candidacy now. It's that simple.

Many of you, no doubt, have already made up your minds. And, I suspect, many of you are firmly in the Lamont camp. That's fine. Lieberman has done little to win over Democrats in recent years, and, as I mentioned, his cozying up to Bush (as if he's some sort of Zell Miller lite, a tell-it-like-it-is maverick akin to John McCain, a quasi-Democrat who, rhetorically, rises above partisanship and places love of country before love of party -- well, that's how he wants to be seen, it seems, minus the Miller comparison, although cozying up to Bush, a shameless partisan, hardly amounts to rising above partisanship (it just enables it) and working for the national interest (it lets Bush define it) has been quite the revolting spectacle.

And, furthermore, there is no issue like Iraq, and that's precisely where Lieberman has shown the most independence (to put it nicely once again), the most Bush-friendly tendencies.

But Lieberman isn't some crazy Republican (even on Iraq). He's no Ted Kennedy, of course, but nor is he anti-liberal. From all the bashing he's been getting from his critics on the left, you'd think he was Rick Santorum's Democratic clone. Sure, it would be better, I suppose, to have a more liberal senator from the fairly liberal state of Connecticut, just as Republican senators from extremely conservative states tend to be themselves extremely conservative. If Republicans go extreme for safe seats, shouldn't Democrats?

Well, let's see how this plays out. While I do not wish to see values and principles compromised, I consider myself to be a big-tent Democrat. Our party should be big enough and broad enough to allow someone like Lieberman, hardly a conservative, to coexist alongside, say, Kossacks (and I have posted diary entries at Kos myself).

For now, Lieberman still has some powerful friends. I hope they know what they're doing and that they, his colleagues, are comfortable with him at their side in this divided Senate. (Does their support mean nothing?) And I hope Democrats -- all Democrats -- support him if he beats Lamont in the primary and faces the electorate once again in November.

Support Lamont if you so choose -- and by all means criticize Lieberman's pathetic attempt to have it both ways -- but don't forget that Joe Lieberman is still a Democrat and, generally, a liberal. In other words, he isn't all bad.

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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Stay the course

By Creature

Looks like the Bush administration has decided to stay the course with North Korea as well.

In Washington, President Bush said the missile tests have further isolated North Korea from the rest of the world, which he said was "sad for the people of North Korea." In a low-key response to the tests, he called on the Pyongyang government to "verifiably abandon" its nuclear weapons program and indicated that the United States would continue to work with other nations -- including China and Russia -- to find a diplomatic solution to the issue.

So, the president gave a "low-key" response. I guess The New York Times gets the president much more riled up than a little missile launch. You know, call me crazy, but maybe the Bush administration should try a different course in North Korea since the present course of more nukes and missile tests is working out so well. I don't know what the change in course should be -- I make my cash Bush bashing, not figuring out foreign policy -- but maybe even face to face talks could be an option. I'm not saying it's the best idea, and I do believe it's really up to China to rein in Kim Jung-il, all I'm saying is change the damn course already.

I also find it interesting that the Bush administration is trying so hard to portray this as an international incident, where diplomacy is key. The difference between the march to war in Iraq and the stumbling to talks in North Korea is truly striking.

Mr. Bush's remarks, delivered as he met in the Oval Office with President Mikhail Saakasvili of Georgia, seemed calibrated to point out a failure in the North Korean experiment while reiterating the United States' concern over the launches. [emphasis me]

If Saddam had launched these missiles, whether they failed or not, the administration would be touting the launch as Armageddon. There would be mushroom clouds on Meet the Press. And there would be a Secretary of State addressing the world with a no-options-but-war message. But no, this is crazy Kim Jung-il, he's the uncle you have a laugh over, but war, nah. This crazy ol' uncle has no oil.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Out of touch

By Creature

Not to get too fixated on sore loser Lieberman but, c'mon, Joe, you have got to be kidding me.
"My challenger is backed by a group of very zealous people and they are using me to get at President Bush," Lieberman said. "I know President Bush. I wouldn’t say he’s a friend of mine. and trust me, I am no President Bush."

No, Joe, no one is using you to get back at anyone. It's your own political posturing, and your continued lap-dog defense of president Bush, that people don't like. When the administration needs a token Democrat to score political points against the party he turns to you. Time after time, Joe, he turns to you. You hurt the party. The party needs leaders who won't kiss the president's ass at every turn. The party needs people who won't undermine their efforts. No one says all Democrats have to agree. There is a general dislike of Hillary because of her stand on the Iraq war, but you don't see anyone starting a grass-roots campaign to get her seat. No, Joe, it's you. Stop passing the damn buck. Stop letting them use you.

Oh, and, Joe, if you do win the primary, and if you do win your golden seat back, then you better prove to the party, once and for all, that you are "no President Bush". We'll be watching.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Question of the day (sort of)

By Creature

Ken Lay, the man who brought us the first corporate downfall in a string of corporate downfalls -- how simple life was back then, is dead. The recently convicted Enron founder was admitted to the hospital with a massive coronary and died soon after. Here is what Michael Ramsey, Lay's lead attorney, recently had to say regarding his client and the fall of Enron:
"He lost a fortune, his family lost a fortune, he can certainly feel the pain of the people that lost money in it, he will feel that till the day he dies," Ramsey said.

"Feel that till the day he dies." Bastard got off easy then.

Paul the Spud asks the mother of all questions over at Shake's place:

I wonder if Bush will attend the funeral?

Exactly, if Bush doesn't go pay his respects to Kenny Boy's family, then Bush is officially the biggest political tool ever.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Stand by your party

By Creature

This is what every member of the Democratic party should be saying loud and clear:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), a longtime supporter of Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, said Tuesday that she will not back the Connecticut Democrat's bid for reelection if he loses their party's primary. [ . . . ]

"But I want to be clear that I will support the nominee chosen by Connecticut Democrats in their primary," Clinton added. "I believe in the Democratic Party, and I believe we must honor the decisions made by Democratic primary voters."

If only Sen. Lieberman would honor the decisions made by Democratic primary voters. Hillary gains a notch in my book because of this statement. I wonder if this is Peter Daou's influence at work.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

On the Fourth of July (2006)

From The Reaction, a happy Fourth of July to our American friends and family. And, of course, to all of our American readers, too. We hope you're having a wonderful day.

More to come soon on Mexico, North Korea, and a whole lot more.

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The Flag Desecrator in Chief

By Vivek Krishnamurthy

Sorry to be such a spoiler on Independence Day, but I feel it my patriotic duty to report that the President of the United States attempted to desecrate Old Glory today. Some of you will probably think that there are more significant issues facing America on the 230th anniversary of its independence than a polemic about national symbols, but when so great a man as Sen. Orrin Hatch declares that flag desecration is the most important question in America today, I listen and spring into action.

Here's what happened: after addressing the troops at Fort Bragg, NC in his trademark monosyllables, President Bush retired to the mess hall for a spot of lunch (fried chicken according to press reports), whereupon several of America's finest men and women in uniform presented him with a birthday cake decorated with the stars and stripes. The soldiers had already defaced the flag by placing some candles upon it which the President blew out, but what Mr. Bush did next is nothing less than an attempt by the Commander in Chief to deface that star-spangled banner. CBS News reports the President as exclaiming, "Give me a knife and I'll cut it! Anybody want a piece?"

If the constitutional amendment to empower Congress to ban defacing the flag had indeed passed, and the Congress had enacted laws pursuant to this power to criminalize flag-defacing, the President's behaviour today would constitute an attempt to deface the flag. The law of attempt is not codified in federal criminal law as it is in most state penal codes, but it is a well-settled legal principle that an actor must (1) take a significant step towards the commission of a crime; and (2) have the purpose or intent to commit the wrongful act in order to be convicted of an attempt. President Bush clearly meets both requirements for the successful prosecution of an attempt, as his solicitation of a knife by which to cut the cake is a substantial step in the commission of the crime, and his words clearly indicate an intent to cut up the flag-motif cake, if only he had a knife.

President Bush will surely argue that his words were taken out of context, and that he meant no harm. Such a defence would be disingenuous, however, for President Bush has long advocated judges limiting their deliberations to the "plain meaning" of legal texts, rather than interpreting the Constitution and other laws in light of modern conditions.

(Now do you see why liberals should get behind the flag-desecration amendment?)

Happy Fourth of July, folks!

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Happy Happy

By Creature

Happy 4th, everyone! It's a freedom thing.

(Cartoon cross-posted at you know where.)

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Monday, July 03, 2006

So much for the "Special Relationship"

There is still friendship at the highest level -- that is, between the White House and 10 Downing Street, Bush and Blair and all who support their adventures in Iraq -- but the "special relationship" that has long existed between Britain and America seems to be under a good deal of strain these days, at least on the British side.

A new poll, according to the Telegraph, shows that "Britons have never had such a low opinion of the leadership of the United States". Consider:

[O]nly 12 per cent of Britons trust [Americans] to act wisely on the global stage. This is half the number who had faith in the Vietnam-scarred White House of 1975.


More than two-thirds who offered an opinion said America is essentially an imperial power seeking world domination. And 81 per cent of those who took a view said President George W Bush hypocritically championed democracy as a cover for the pursuit of American self-interests.

In other words:

Most Britons see America as a cruel, vulgar, arrogant society, riven by class and racism, crime-ridden, obsessed with money and led by an incompetent hypocrite.

Polls are polls, and a lot depends on how the questions are phrased and framed, but it's hard not to see this as a damning indictment of America's leadership and global presence by the people (if not the leadership) of a staunch ally, a "special" friend.

I do not report these numbers with pleasure -- except insofar as I, too, share this British loathing of President Bush and his "leadership" both at home and abroad. Is Bush "an incompetent hypocrite"? Yes, perhaps. (Well, yes.) But I'm hardly as negative towards American society as these British respondents seem to be.

I am both Canadian and British, in terms of citizenship, but much of my ancestry is American. (I can even trace my family history back to Davy Crockett.) And I lived in the U.S. for seven years, attending high school in New Jersey and college in Massachusetts. All of which is to say that I find these poll results troubling. If Bush has turned off the British, who else are left? Canadians? Many Canadians, as I know well, share these anti-American sentiments.

What concerns me about Bush is not just what he's done domestically but what he's done to America's reputation around the world. Has another president so lowered America's image and credibility? Has another president so weakened America's ability and capacity to act for good, to resolve global and regional crises, to lead the international community through uncertain times?

I suspect not. On the eve of July 4, I can say without shame that I love America and loathe her enemies. Yet I also loathe, in a rather different way, her leadership, Bush at one end of Pennsylvania Avenue and the Republicans at the other. This leadership has taken America in the wrong direction both at home and abroad.

America's enemies wish to destroy her. America's leadership has weakened her at a time when strength, and not just military strength, is most needed.

Just listen to the British.

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Al Qaeda and MI5

According to the BBC:

Al-Qaeda sympathisers have been trying to infiltrate the British security service MI5...

But those with al-Qaeda sympathies had been weeded out during a six- to eight- month vetting process.

Well, that's good. (The BBC piece also includes an update on the ongoing 7/7 bombing investigations.)

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Sunday, July 02, 2006

Defending Hillary

In The Washington Post today, key Clintonites James Carville and Mark Penn respond to all the Hillary-bashing out there, from Democrats and Republicans alike, and argue that she can, in fact, win in '08.

Their argument contains these elements: Americans overwhelmingly describe Hillary as "a strong leader". She has "strong convictions". Plus, "she's tough enough to handle the viciousness of a national campaign and the challenges of the presidency itself". This is a crucial characteristic given the usual effectiveness of the Republican spin-and-smear machine. As Carville and Penn put it: "One thing we know about Clinton campaigns: Nobody gets Swift Boated." In other words, Hillary's no John Kerry. And she proved herself back in 2000, when the opposition "spent $60 million against her" and "she endured press scrutiny that would have wilted most candidates". Leading Democrats all face the obstacle of "high negative ratings, but "[t]he difference with Hillary is the intensity of her support".

And it gets better (in the view of these two key Clintonites): "Hillary is uniquely capable of getting... swing voters back to the Democratic column." Indeed:

Hillary's candidacy has the potential to reshape the electoral map for Democrats. Others argue they can add to John Kerry's 20 states and 252 electoral votes by adding Southern states, or Western or Midwestern, depending on their background. Hillary has the potential to mobilize people in every region of the country.

Certainly she could win the states John Kerry did. But with the pathbreaking possibility of this country's first female president, we could see an explosion of women voting -- and voting Democratic. States that were close in the past, from Arkansas to Colorado to Florida to Ohio, could well move to the Democratic column. It takes only one more state to win.

True enough (which is one reason why I've never thought Democrats were in such bad shape nationally), and I agree that "she is squarely in the mainstream of America" and that "she represents the kind of change the country is yearning for: a smart, strong leader."

I suppose I would describe myself as ambivalent about Hillary. If she wins the Democratic nomination, I will, of course, support her. But I'm not sure just how much I support her now. Certainly I wouldn't describe my support as "intense". At most, I admire and respect her. But who knows who will run? I prefer Gore and Edwards, at least right now, but neither is a declared candidate. And as for the other possibilities -- Warner, Richardson, Feingold, Kerry, Bayh, Biden, Vilsack, Clark -- well, I'm just taking a wait-and-see approach. They're all good men, but it's far too early to rank them in comparison to Hillary (except perhaps Kerry, whom I supported enthusiastically in '04 -- for more, see here and here).

All of which is to say that I'm keeping an open mind with respect to Hillary and her likely '08 candidacy. To me, she is neither villain nor saviour. Rather, she looks like a formidable candidate with a lot of baggage.

The key, for any Democratic candidate, will be to stand up to the Republican spin-and-smear machine, to articulate a vision of responsible leadership that will guide America through the challenges ahead, and, yes, to win at least one more state to tip the balance back towards the Democrats.

(Fore more, see Taylor Marsh, BooMan, Oliver Willis, and Jeralyn Merritt.)

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Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore

By Creature

Frank Rich, so dangerous to democracy that he must be kept at the undisclosed location known as TimesSelect, pulls back the wizard's curtain to reveal that the White House really wasn't all that angry at the treasonous NYT after all, go figure.
The history of that scapegoating begins on the Friday morning, June 23, that The Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal all published accounts of the Swift program first posted on the Web the night before. In his press briefing that morning, Tony Snow fielded many questions about the program's legality. But revealingly, for all his opportunities, he never attacked the news media.

Far from Swift-boating the Swift reportage, he offered tentative praise. "It's interesting," he said, "because I think there's a fair amount of balance in the story in that you do have concrete benefits and you do have the kind of abstract harms that were mentioned in there." He noted that there had been "no allegation of illegality" in the Times article.

This was accurate. The story was balanced, just as Mr. Snow said. And it was no cause for a national-security alarm for the simple reason that since 9/11, our government has repeatedly advertised that it is following the terrorists' money trail, a tactic enhanced by the broad new powers over financial institutions that Mr. Bush sought and received.

But given a little time, and a few good reasons to make political hay, eventually the White House and their blood-thirsty minions came out swinging.

By Monday, the president had entered the fray and Mr. Snow was accusing The Times of putting the "public's right to know" over "somebody's right to live." What had happened over the weekend to prompt this escalation of hysteria? The same stuff that always happens when the White House scapegoats the press (or anyone else): bad and embarrassing news that the White House wants to drown out.

Such bad and embarrassing news included: the Miami seven revealed for what they were, the barely wannabe seven; a cut-and-run general backing the Democratic position on troop withdrawal; hearings being held by the Democrats in Congress regarding prewar intelligence -- thanks for nothing Senator Roberts.

This cover-up list doesn't even take into consideration that a good ol' NYT bashing party serves as great political fodder as well. NYT + liberal + Democrats = traitors. The math is so simple, except it doesn't add up. The only people hampering the war on terror, are the people in charge of the war on terror. And that would be the shrill GOP. Remember, whoever screams the loudest, has the most to hide.

You gotta pay, but the rest of Frank Rich can be found here.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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What a jerk

What can you say about Eddie Griffin? Consider this:

On March 30, Minnesota Timberwolves center Eddie Griffin was drunk and masturbating when he crashed his luxury SUV into a parked Suburban outside a store in Minneapolis, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by the man whose Suburban was hit in the crash...

Several of the 911 callers that night said Griffin was drunk. One witness said Griffin told him he was watching pornography in a DVD player mounted on the dashboard of his Cadillac Escalade SUV when he struck a Chevy Suburban parked on University Avenue Southeast.

Are shame and embarrassment enough of a punishment? Probably not. But: An NBA player, albeit a highly mediocre one, masturbating to porn while driving drunk? He'll get his day(s) in court, but I wonder how this will play in the locker room.

The Star Tribune has more here and here.

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