September 30, 2006

Reid on the Torture Bill, Thom Hartmann speaks

Thanks to the Las Vegas Gleaner for publishing Senator Reid's floor speech objecting to the detainee atrocity passed on Thursday.

On a bright and sunny September morning five years ago, history changed in an instant. Our nation was attacked, nearly 3,000 of our citizens were murdered, and our lives as we knew them were changed forever.

The family members of those who died that day -- and we, their fellow Americans -- have been waiting five years for those who masterminded that outrageous terrorist attack to be brought to justice.

Osama bin-Laden, the man who has been seen on videotape bragging and laughing about his role in conceiving this deed, remains at large five years later. The American people are justifiably frustrated that he has not been caught. And they have a right to ask whether our military and intelligence resources were unwisely diverted from that solemn task.

But some of bin-Laden’s lieutenants were captured overseas years ago. There is no disagreement whatsoever between Republicans and Democrats on the need to bring these people to justice. We all want to make sure the President has the tools he needs to make this happen.

For five years, Democrats stood ready to work with the President and the Republican Congress to establish sound procedures for military tribunals. Senator Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, introduced a bill in 2002 to do just that.

Unfortunately, President Bush chose to ignore the Congress and ignore the advice of uniformed military professionals. He set up a flawed and imbalanced military tribunal system that failed to prosecute a single terrorist. Not surprisingly, it was ruled unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court.

Forced by the Court decision to ask Congress for help, the Bush administration initially asked us to rubberstamp basically the same system that the Supreme Court struck down. Their proposal for one-sided trials and murky interrogation rules was opposed by such well-respected leaders as General Colin Powell and former Secretary of State George Schultz.

A handful of principled Republican senators forced the White House to back down from the worst elements of its extreme proposal. I admire the courage of these senators, and I appreciate the improvements they managed to make in this bill.

However, since those Senators announced their agreement with the Administration last Friday, the compromise has become much worse. The bill before us now looks more and more like the administration bill these senators fought so hard against.

I believe the bill approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee would have given the President all necessary authority. It was supported by the Chairman and by a bipartisan majority of that committee, as well as by our nation’s uniformed military lawyers.

The bill before us diverges from the Committee bill in at least two important respects.


First, it makes less clear that the United States will abide by our obligations under the Geneva Conventions. The President says the United States does not engage in torture, and there should be no ambiguity on that point. But this bill gives the president authority to reinterpret our obligations, and limits judicial oversight of that process, putting our own troops at risk on the battlefield.

As Colin Powell has written:

“The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. To redefine Common Article 3 would add to those doubts. Furthermore, it would put our own troops at risk.”

Second, this bill authorizes a vast expansion of the President’s power to detain people – even U.S. citizens – indefinitely and without charge. No procedures for doing so are specified, no due process is provided, and no time limit on the detention is set.

At the same time, the bill would generally deprive federal judges of the power to review the legality of many such detentions. This is true even in the case of a lawful permanent resident arrested and held in the United States, and even if that person happens to be completely innocent.

The Framers of our Constitution understood the need for checks and balances, but this bill discards them.

Many of the worst provisions were not in the Committee-reported bill, and were not in the compromise announced last Friday. They were added over the weekend after backroom meetings with White House lawyers.

We have tried to improve this legislation. Senator Levin proposed to substitute the bipartisan bill that was reported by the Armed Services Committee. That amendment was rejected.

Senators Specter and Leahy offered an amendment to restore the right to judicial review – that amendment was rejected.

Senator Rockefeller offered an amendment to improve congressional oversight of CIA programs – that amendment was rejected.

Senator Kennedy offered an amendment to clarify that inhumane interrogation tactics prohibited by the Army Field manual could not be used on Americans or on others – that amendment was rejected.

And Senator Byrd offered an amendment to sunset military commissions so that Congress would simply be required to reconsider this far-reaching authority after five years of experience. Even that amendment was rejected.

I strongly believe this legislation is unconstitutional. It will almost certainly be struck down by the Supreme Court. And when that happens, we’ll be back here several years from now debating how to bring terrorists to justice.

The families of the 9/11 victims and the nation have been waiting five years for the perpetrators of these attacks to be brought to justice. They should not have to wait longer. We should get this right now – and we are not doing so by passing this bill.

The National security policies of this administration and Republican Congress may have been tough, but they haven’t been smart. The American people are paying a price for their mistakes.

History will judge our actions here today. I am convinced that future generations will view passage of this bill as a grave error. I wish to be recorded as one who voted against taking this step.

And for more reading, check out this article by Thom Hartmann. He read this on the air yesterday when guest hosting for Rachel Maddow on Air America.

September 29, 2006

Don't really know what to say today...

To say that I am sick to my stomach about the atrocity that took place in the hallowed halls of Congress in the last two days would not even come close to the disgust, fear, and grief that I feel today. The image above shows Senators McCain, Warner and Graham leaving a news conference after the passage of the bill that strips from people labeled as "enemy combantants" the most basic judicial rights:

  1. If detained by the authorities, being told why you are being detained, and if not told, having the right to go before a judge to find out
  2. If detained, charges must be filed against you within a certain amount of time, or you must be set free (You've all watched Law and Order, haven't you?)
  3. When you are finally tried, to see the evidence against you so that you can DEFEND YOURSELF
  4. And finally, the evidence against you cannot be heresay or the result of coercion or torture.
Well, that's all out the window now. If the "gentlemen" in the above picture look ashamed as they walk away from their press conference, they should. And we should all be appalled.

And I don't want to hear anyone screeching, "But these are terrorists! They want to k-i-l-l us! Mommy!!!!"

Really? How do we know they are terrorists? Do they have a special tattoo? A membership card? Isn't that what courts are supposed to decide? Not one man. Not one woman. The courts. You know, where evidence is presented and a judge (and usually a jury) looks at the evidence and decides, "Hey yeah, this guy is a bad dude, he needs to be locked up for a long time." OR "Holy crap, did the prosecution get this one wrong."

And what terrifies me the most is the idea that one man, George W. Bush, is allowed to determine who is a "terrorist" or "enemy combatant."

The law allows for the detention of anyone suspected of committing or conspiring to commit terrorist acts to be held indefinitely, with no charges ever being brought against them in a court of law, but also the detention of those who are suspected of supplying "material support" of such activities.

The problem is that there is all this vague language flying around, and I'm not refering to the Geneva Conventions proscription against attacks on human dignity that Dear Leader can't seem to wrap HIS head around. What part of human dignity is so hard to get? No. I am talking about words like "enemy combatant" or "material support." Could we get a legal definition please? What activities make one an enemy combatant? What is material support?

Because I have heard a lot of rhetoric from the right-wing section of the country, and especially from Republican leaders, including Dear Leader, that pushes the idea that people like me, who question their policy, are providing aid and comfort to the enemy. I suppose that would make me an enemy combatant in some circles. Who gets to decide? According to this legislation: George W. Bush.

And so one of these days, under this new law, I could be picked up off the street, hauled into jail, never be told WHY they are "detaining" me, have no opportunity to go before a judge and ask why I am being held, be subject to "alternative interrogation techniques (torture)," and be brought to trial under a confession I made after being subjected to these techniques. Worse, I may be brought to trial based on someone else's confession extracted by torture, or someone's hearsay testimony, and I wouldn't be allowed to see the evidence against me because it's a national security "secret."

Today it feels like the terrorists have won. I'm just not sure anymore who are the real terrorists; the ones in the caves, or the ones in suits and ties. Because if those suits could throw away 230 years of American jucicial law and 900 years of the right of Habeus Corpus because of some cave dwellers in Pakistan, then what the hell is America anyway?

We no longer have a country based on the rule of law. Yesterday the US Senate made George W. Bush king.

September 26, 2006

Tuesday Tidbits

  • If you missed Keith Olbermann's Special Comment last night go here.


  • Thom Hartman, a man with more knowledge of history in his pinkie finger than I have in my entire body, is interviewed over at BuzzFlash over his new book, Screwed, The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class and What We Can Do About It. His closing comments:
  • BuzzFlash: Let me close with one recollection, which certainly is a telling moment that speaks to your book. Bush had one of his many staged townhall meetings. There was a woman on stage with him and he was asking her what her family life was like, and did she work? And yes, she worked three jobs. She needed to work three jobs. And he said, “That’s fantastic. That’s so American,” or something to that effect. Here is a woman working three jobs just to get by, and Bush praises her for being such a good American. It used to be the dream of the middle class that if you worked one solid job, you had the night with your family. You had weekends off. You could afford your kid’s college tuition. You could save for retirement. Bush's new role model is a woman with a family who works three jobs. What does that say to you?

    Thom Hartmann: It perfectly crystallizes the entire thing. George W. Bush was born a multi-millionaire and feels the entitlements of being a member of the ruling class economically and politically. He apparently was not raised with the sense of noblesse oblige that, at least, Joe Kennedy was good enough to impart to his children -- that if you’re wealthy, you have some obligation to society. And so you’re just seeing it in a very raw form -- the belief that there are rulers and there are the ruled. There is the overclass and there is the underclass. And there’s really no need for a middle class in Bush’s world, in the conservative world.

    BuzzFlash: And the role of the underclass is to work three jobs.

    Thom Hartmann: That’s right. Because if you’re working three jobs, you’re not going to be politically active. You’re not going to be a pain in the butt. You’re not going to be uppity. You’re not going to be problematic for the political and economic forces that are running the country. You’re not going to be in anybody’s way because you’re out there working. So let’s just pat them on the head and say, yeah, keep it up. That is the conservative role model.

    Excellent interview. Read it all.

  • Local reactions to the Titus-Gibbons debate last night here, here, here, and here. My opinion? Though Titus started out with the UNLV gaffe, she recovered and, in contrast to her opponent, gave specific answers to questions starting with "What would you do..." All Gibbons could do was declare Titus would raise our taxes, and then speak in generalities and platitudes. By the way, Dina's right. It doesn't matter whether you fund education first, last, or at any other time. What matters is what you are funding, and how much you are allocating and where. If we fund education first and it turns out we need more money for education, is education S.O.L.?

September 24, 2006

Never Give Up! Never Surrender!

BlueInKansas over at DailyKos gives us all a needed boost and kick in the rear.

He fought. I fought. I never, EVER regret that I had hope that he would survive. I don't regret giving up my home or my car. I can look myself in the mirror every day knowing that I did everything I possibly could to save his life.

Now you are probably wondering what the hell this has to do with anything. Please allow me to explain. Our beloved country is in grave peril. She is breathing her dying breath. There is a treatment that may save her. That treatment is to get the Democratic party into power. It doesn't matter how crappy you think your Democratic candidate is. We need them. It is a crucial part of the treatment for the cancer eating this country at an ever frantic pace. The party has an agenda. It has no forum to bring it to light. By giving them congress we get our voices heard. They will work for us.

I am tired. I am exhausted. Every person who frequents this forum and works their asses off for our cause is tired. Don't take your eye off the ball now. Not when we are this close. Falling apart now IS NOT AN OPTION.

When my husband was facing death, I didn't wring my hands and move to Canada. I fought.

FIGHT DAMN IT! Suck it up one last time. We are soooo close to saving her. Don't abandon her now. She needs us all standing shoulder to shoulder, with our petty grievences with one another laid aside.

Read the comments too. This one especially got me:
We were fortunate to be born here, to be defended by the noblest Americans our military can muster, to be able to stand on the shoulders of ancestors who fought and died, over and over for the privilege we are finally living. And now we have the great task, privilege and responsibility, really, to "fight them [Bush cabal and cronies] here", rather than there. Who said any heroes ever thought they had a choice? Did the colonists and soldiers in the Revolutionary Army? Did the Founding Fathers? Can you imagine Crispus Attucks, Paul Revere, Patrick Henry equivocating, deliberating about whether to defend what they held most dear? How about civil rights marchers? Or anti-Vietnam protesters? No? NO.

Respectfully, anyone who posts here or elsewhere about dashing to Canada or elsewhere in the face of the Bush/Cheney/Rove onslaught, or who whines about giving up on the Democratic party's efforts in this CRUCIAL election just because they're human and make mistakes, or who gets upset about our country's dire future under Bush should be labeled an "Anxiety Troll". This label would join "Concern Troll" and the good old, conflict-seeking "Troll".

Legitimate, constructive criticism of the Democratic Party's mistaken strategeries, and so forth, have their place here, because we all want to support our party to do it right, do it well. But whiny, critical diaries and posts that offer no counterbalancing hope or practical solutions/resources are "anxiety trolls" at work, as far as I'm concerned.

May I second that? I hear from people who have plenty to tell me on how the Democratic Party is doing it wrong and how "they" should do this or that. The thing is, I never see these people walking neighborhoods, reaching out to their friends and neighbors, registering voters, stuffing lit packets, staffing county Dem offices or any thing. I don't even see their $$ supporting local parties. Do they not see that the Democratic Party isn't a monolithic entity over THERE. It is us. And like any family, we are bound to have our differences. Like any family, there are going to be times when some of us are on the ropes and counting on the rest to pick up our slack. But, my goodness, consider the alternative people. Two more years of George W. Bush and his band of thieves wreaking havoc on our country with no one to hold him in check? I will do everything I can to make sure that doesn't happen. Will you?


Who do we report Dean Heller to?

JWH over on Say NO to Dawn and Jim Gibbons says Dean Heller is breaking NDOT rules of the road for political signs.

That isn't the only law he is breaking. He is breaking Nevada election law regarding the CONTENT of campaign signs. Take a good look at his signs. Tell me if you can see a "For" or "Elect" anywhere on his signs. No. They just say, "Dean Heller Congress" on them. The thing is, signs like that imply incumbency, and that is against Nevada election law.

NRS 294A.340 Creating implication that candidate is incumbent. A person shall not use the name of a candidate in a way that implies that the candidate is the incumbent in office in any material, statement or publication supporting the election of a candidate unless:

1. The candidate is qualified to use the term “reelect” pursuant to NRS 294A.330; or

2. The candidate:

(a) Was appointed to the identical office with the same district number, if any, after the most recent election to fill that office; and

(b) Is serving and has served continuously in that office since the date of appointment.

(Added to NRS by 1989, 961)—(Substituted in revision for NRS 294A.058)

Hmmm...I haven't been around a very long time, but every candidate I have ever spoken to understands this to mean that you must say "For" or "Elect" on your campaign signs if you have never held that office before. In fact, the State of Nevada Campaign Guide 2006, provided by Dean Heller, Secretary of State, says just that on page 6:
It is recommended that candidates use the term "elect," "for," or other identifier so as not to create the implication of incumbency.
Methinks Dean Heller thinks he has a lock on this Congressional seat and therefore doesn't need to do what other candidates do to get elected, like, you know, follow the rules, or even tell you what they stand for. What else could explain his hollow web site? Go take a look. Tell me if you can find an issues page or anything else resembling a position on any issue whatsoever. So, on one side we have a candidate with solid credentials and positions on the issues of the day and on the other side an empty suit who thinks the rules don't apply to him and has no discernible postion on anything. I guess he really is George W. Bush's boy!

September 23, 2006

Basking in the glow

As is our habit, sweetie and I make dinner and then settle in to watch our TiVo'd version of that day's Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Last night's edition was a keeper, if only for the roller coaster aspect of the show. On the one hand, you had Jonathan Turley (no transcript or video yet available), libertarian Constitutional scholar commenting on the "compromise" torture bill that basically gives the Bush administration everything it wants and, as far as I can tell, is no compromise at all. (Can anyone tell me why we are even having a discussion on "acceptable" torture techniques, excuse me, alternative interrogation techniques?) The interview left me literally sick to my stomach and grieving for my country. "So when do you want to move to Canada?" I asked my dearest.

On the other hand, KO's interview of former (sigh) President Clinton was absolutely wonderful. You can find the full transcript here. Links to video of the interview can be found on the same page.

Sweetie and I both just about cried at the end of the interview. Such intellect. Such articulation. Such a willingness to reach out to anyone will to work for good. God. I miss Bill.

Thank God for him. I am ready to stick it out. Canada is not an option.

September 22, 2006

If you aren't walking or talking...why not?

Hey folks, there are plenty of opportunities for you to get out and help candidates this weekend.

Let's start as close to home as I can get. Lyon County Dems will be walking tomorrow morning for our entire slate. Lit bags and walk lists are ready. Meet at the Dem office (15 E Main Street, Suite 5) in Fernley at 9:30am to get your list and instructions, walk the neighborhood between 10 and noon, and you still have the rest of the day with your family! Email the Lyon County Dems for more information.

Can't walk? Can you talk on the phone? Callers needed to contact voters in our area! Contact Carissa Snedeker for more information.

In Douglas County, they are walking for Dina Titus.

Churchill County is walking Precinct 19. Email Tom and Janet Blankenship for more information.

Washoe County is walking for Jill Derby.

Channel 8 examines Gibbons' "Dina Taxes" ad


Adwatch: Titus/Gibbons

Channel 8 takes on Gibbons' "Dina Taxes" ad.

And, as soon as they post it, I will link to their answer to Gibbons' "licenses to illegal aliens" ad. (Hint, he's lying again.) It may take awhile. Looks like they are behind on posting videos.

September 21, 2006

Media Coverage of Fernley Candidates Night

First off, I'd like to thank Betty Aleck for sitting through the three hours of candidates speeches and Q & A last week at Fernley Elementary School in Fernley. For the most part, we sat in a hot room and listened. I also appreciate the Leader-Courier's extensive coverage of the local candidates and even printing verbatim, School Board Trustee Candidate Joe Slabbinck's written statement to the group. The article does not appear to have made it to the online version of the Leader-Courier, so I cannot link to it.

However, I am quite disappointed that the Leader-Courier (and I don't assume this was Aleck's decision) chose to ignore both our State Senate candidates and our State Assembly candidates, as well as the fact that the only candidates running for any state constitutional offices who bothered to make an appearance were Democrats Catherine Cortez Masto (candidate for Attorney General) and Kim Wallin (candidate for State Controller). I know that both women specifically travelled to northern Nevada to attend this candidates night and it's a shame that they were ignored by our local media.

Aside from a snarky comment by Larry McPherson inferring that Charles Lawson is a couch potato, the only sparks that flew that night were between Assembly District 38 incumbent Tom Grady and challenger Cathylee James. You would never have known that reading the Leader-Courier article yesterday. James challenged Grady's record in the Assembly, but not a peep out of the Leader-Courier.

In the State Senate race, this is the battle of the preachers! Both candidates are either current or retired ministers and both present differing visions for the future of Nevada. Again...silence from the Leader-Courier.

Finally, both Catherine Cortez Masto and Kim Wallin were articulate and engaging and took questions from the audience regarding their qualifications and goals for their respective offices. Not a word from the Leader-Courier.

Perhaps I have missed something and the Leader-Courier intends to cover these candidates in a later issue, but it did not say so in the article, so I have to assume that there will be no coverage.

Oh, and for the record, Charlie Lawson and I may not agree on everything, but Charlie walked this entire county and knocked on every Democrat's door that he could find to ask them for their vote in the primary - couch potato he is not.

Playground Politics

I don't know if any of you have been paying attention to the U.N. over the past few days, but they been letting the world's leaders give fifteen minute speeches. The media has been focused on the US's George W. Bush, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. Dear God, between the three of them I couldn't tell if I was listening to world leaders or five-year-olds (apologies to five-year-olds everywhere). Between Bush's lecturing tone, Ahmadinehad's spew and Chavez' name-calling, I thought I had wandered into a world-stage version of "I know you are but who am I?" contest.

Worse yet, Bush and Ahmadinejad worked diligently to avoid accidentally running into each other, with Bush's Secret Service guys going so far as to get on the same radio frequency of Ahmadinejad's security detail so they could monitor Ahmadinejad whereabouts in order to avoid the two of them possibly running into each other in the lunch line or the men's room. What the hell is this, junior high???

If this is the caliber of our leadership, honest to God, we're doomed. And it begs the question...Bush, Ahmadinejad, and Chavez were democratically elected. Maybe this says more about us than them? Is this really what we want?

September 18, 2006

How serious is the threat?

George Bush has declared that the "War on Terror "™ is the "decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century, and the calling of our generation." Really? Like World War II? All this talk of Hitler and (Islamo)Fascism has me and a whole lot of people wondering. If this really IS the struggle that George W. Bush and his apologists say it is, why are we not mobilizing like they did in WWII? If you don't know what that was like, go have a chat with someone in the 70-90 age range. They will tell you of food and gas rationing, of women giving up their nylon stockings, of women going off to work in the factories while the men went to war, of Liberty Bonds, Victory Gardens, rolling bandages, and the like. The nation was unified and EVERYONE sacrificed.

Instead, in this struggle no one is asked to sacrifice, save the families of our brave men and women in the military. As Frank Rich puts it in his September 17th column, The Longer the War, the Larger the Lies (behind the NYT firewall):

Perhaps the only way to strike back against this fresh deluge of fiction is to call the White House’s bluff. On Monday night, for instance, Mr. Bush flatly declared that “the safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad.” He once again invoked Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, asking, “Do we have the confidence to do in the Middle East what our fathers and grandfathers accomplished in Europe and Asia?”

Rather than tune this bluster out, as the country now does, let’s try a thought experiment. Let’s pretend everything Mr. Bush said is actually true and then hold him to his word. If the safety of America really depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad, then our safety is in grave peril because we are losing that battle. The security crackdown announced with great fanfare by Mr. Bush and Mr. Maliki in June is failing. Rosy American claims of dramatically falling murder rates are being challenged by the Baghdad morgue. Perhaps most tellingly, the Pentagon has nowstopped including in its own tally the large numbers of victims killed by car bombings and mortar attacks in sectarian warfare.

And that’s the good news. Another large slice of Iraq, Anbar Province (almost a third of the country), is slipping away so fast that a senior military official told NBC News last week that 50,000 to 60,000 additional ground forces were needed to secure it, despite our huge sacrifice in two savage battles for Falluja. The Iraqi troops “standing up” in Anbar are deserting at a rate as high as 40 percent.

“Even the most sanguine optimist cannot yet conclude we are winning,” John Lehman, the former Reagan Navy secretary, wrote of the Iraq war last month. So what do we do next? Given that the current course is a fiasco, and that the White House demonizes any plan or timetable for eventual withdrawal as “cut and run,” there’s only one immediate alternative: add more manpower, and fast. Last week two conservative war supporters, William Kristol and Rich Lowry, called for exactly that — “substantially more troops.” These pundits at least have the courage of Mr. Bush’s convictions. Shouldn’t Republicans in Congress as well?

After all, if what the president says is true about the stakes in Baghdad, it’s tantamount to treason if Bill Frist, Rick Santorum and John Boehner fail to rally their party’s Congressional majority to stave off defeat there. We can’t emulate our fathers and grandfathers and whip today’s Nazis and Communists with 145,000 troops. Roosevelt and Truman would have regarded those troop levels as defeatism.

The trouble, of course, is that we don’t have any more troops, and supporters of the war, starting with Mr. Bush, don’t want to ask American voters to make any sacrifices to provide them. They don’t want to ask because they know the voters will tell them no. In the end, that is the hard truth the White House is determined to obscure, at least until Election Day, by carpet-bombing America with still more fictions about Iraq.

Rolling Stone has an excellent article on Bush's Phony War on Terror, with the sub-title: President Bush not only created a fake "War on Terror" to scare voters into supporting his policies -- he is failing to address the real threat facing America. The article goes on to list the five lessons that George W. Bush needs to learn:
  1. AL QAEDA HAS VIRTUALLY BEEN ELIMINATED AS A THREAT
  2. WHAT WE DON'T KNOW ABOUT AL QAEDA CAN STILL HURT US
  3. THE THREAT HAS GONE VIRAL
  4. FIGHTING TERRORISM IS FOR COPS, AND SPIES, NOT SOLDIERS
  5. TERRORISM CAN'T BE DEFEATED - EVER

Each point provides interesting information (especially #1) but I wanted to especially call out the last point. Under # 5, the author, Robert Dreyfuss explains, and is a point with which I heartily concur:
Terrorism is not an enemy, but a method. As such, it can never be defeated -- only contained and reduced. Even if the United States were to wipe out every terrorist cell in the world today, terrorism would be back tomorrow, because new grievances and new cries for revenge will continue to create new terrorists. In addition, there will always be violence-prone, armed insurgent groups that use terrorist methods in conflicts around the world, from Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon to rebel and dissident groups in Kashmir, Chechnya, Sri Lanka, Spain, Colombia, the Philippines and the Congo.

In the short term, the cops and spies can continue to do their best to watch for terrorist threats as they emerge, and occasionally, as in London, they will succeed. But they are the first to admit that stopping a plot before it can unfold involves, more than anything, plain dumb luck. In the end, the advantage is with the conspirators. "Stopping a terrorist plot before it happens is rare," says Pillar, the government's former chief Middle East analyst. "It's tremendously satisfying, but rare. It's a mistake to think we can improve our intelligence specifically to come up with that sort of prevention."

Rather than waging a global war, experts say, the United States needs to work closely with foreign intelligence services that know the lay of the land in their own countries to take down terrorists one by one. "Progress is measured one terrorist at a time, one cell at a time," says Pillar. "We will be attacked. But there's a chance that we will be attacked less often, and less lethally." As unsatisfying as it sounds, that approach suggests a definition of "victory" in battling terrorism: The best we can do is to reduce the threat of terrorism to that of an ugly nuisance.

But back to my original point. If this is as serious a struggle as they insist it is, what sacrifices are being made here at home? None. Zero. Zip. Nada. Why are revenues not being raised to fund the army we need to "win" this war? Why have we not reinstituted the draft? Why are billionaires being given tax cuts while our veterans benefits are being cut?

And why are our leaders determined to make us as fearful as possible instead of assuring us that we can overcome this "enemy?" Because it's not about preventing terrorists attacks, it's about keeping us as scared as possible so that we won't question anything they do. It's about winning the election and keeping the political power they have. This isn't about protecting the American people or the Bush administration would long ago have made it possible for our early responders to communicate with each other, protected our chemical and nuclear plants, and they would have apprehended Osama bin Laden...not let him roam free for five years.

Instead they choose to grab as much power as they can, pee on the Constitution while doing it, and fail to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. A fearful population is an unthinking population. It's time for us to call their bluff.

September 14, 2006

I can't even remember any more...reflections on 9/11

Been catching up on some reading this morning and I got pointed in the direction of Dan Froomkin's column from 9/11 of this year. The fifth anniversary has been well covered by others. Froomkin's column and the comments of others that he links to got me thinking about the feelings we all had that fateful day and in the weeks that followed. More to the point, Froomkin discusses how the Bush administration took an event that unified the whole country (and the world, really) and used it to their own political ends. And it isn't over. Addressing Bush's comments on the fifth anniversary of 9/11 (not his speech later that evening) Froomkin muses:

And -- while this is more speculative -- his comment about making the relatives whole could be the first sign of a White House PR campaign to use select Sept. 11 families to cast opponents of Bush's controversial anti-terror tactics as delaying justice for the victims.

What's also telling, as usual, is what Bush didn't say yesterday, and doesn't say, period.

He doesn't say we won't allow ourselves to be terrorized, and we won't be afraid. (That would run counter to the central Republican game plan for the mid-term election.) He doesn't say that in our zeal to fight the terrorists, we won't give up the qualities that make America great. He acknowledges no mistakes, he calls for no sacrifice, he refuses to reach out to those who disagree with him.


Quoting others:

Andrew Sullivan blogs for Time: "Next week, I'm informed via troubled White House sources, will see the full unveiling of Karl Rove's fall election strategy. He's intending to line up 9/11 families to accuse [dissenting Republican Senators John] McCain, [John] Warner and [Lindsey] Graham of delaying justice for the perpetrators of that atrocity, because they want to uphold the ancient judicial traditions of the U.S. military and abide by the Constitution. He will use the families as an argument for legalizing torture, setting up kangaroo courts for military prisoners, and giving war crime impunity for his own aides and cronies. This is his 'Hail Mary' move for November; it's brutally exploitative of Sept. 11; it's pure partisanship; and it's designed to enable an untrammeled executive."

[...]

Michael Tomasky blogs for the American Prospect: "Both the Times and the Post note this morning that Bush laid two wreaths at ground zero last night in the company of George Pataki, Mike Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani. The Post goes well out of its way to remark that the event 'left aside the partisan rancor' that . . . well, that Bush & Co. have enforced on the country since about 9-14.

"If this event was so nonpartisan, where were [Democratic Senators] Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton? . . .

"In what sense does an event that features four Republicans but excludes the two senators who were representing New York at the time of the event, but who happen to be Democrats, leave aside partisan rancor?"

You know, like an abused spouse who can't remember the joy and hope of her wedding day, I have completely forgotten how I felt on 9/11/2001. It's just been beat out of me by a war based on lies, warrantless wiretapping, suspension of habeus corpus for all intents and purposes, torture, being told Democrats are "weak" on national security when all along they have tried to introduce bills to REALLY enforce our national secuirty rather than window-dress. I'm tired of being accused of siding with the terrorists if I so much as raise my hand to ask a question, being called unpatriotic because I don't agree with current administration policy, or because I don't think burning a flag is tantamount to treason, especially when I see the other side stomping all over the Constitution. And I am really, really tired of George W. Bush telling me that his "job" is to protect the American people. The presidential oath says nothing about protecting the American people. It says he is to uphold and defend the Constitution. It is the Constitution, not our borders, not our flag, not the Pledge of Allegiance, that makes us Americans. I would like George W. Bush to remember that. But I don't think he ever knew it in the first place.

So, for the numbness I feel on this fifth anniversary (three days removed) of 9/11, thank you George W. Bush and Co.

September 9, 2006

Titus takes on Gibbons' negative ad

Right out of the gate Jim Gibbons goes negative. My first thought at seeing his negative ad was, "Does he think we're stupid? The governor can't raise taxes all by herself. It takes the Senate and the Assembly to do that."

The Titus campaign responds:

Gibbons' record reveals further hypocrisy: Congressman voted for legislation cited in negative ad
September 5, 2006

Congressman Jim Gibbons, accusing State Senator Dina Titus of voting for fee hikes in a negative campaign television spot, voted for the exact same increases in marriage license, motor vehicle and hunting and fishing license fees while he was in the Nevada Legislature, research of Gibbons’ voting record has found.

The Gibbons commercial cites the following three pieces of legislation from 1989 and 1993:

- SB 410 (1989), increased fee for certified copy of a marriage license to $5; passed the Nevada Assembly 42-0 with Gibbons voting for it.

- SB 542 (1989), hiked motor vehicle registration fees by $1; passed the Nevada Assembly 42-0 with Gibbons voting for it.

- SB 122 (1993), increased the fee for a duplicate license for fishing and hunting to $5; passed the Nevada Assembly 41-0 with Gibbons voting for it.

During his tenure in the Nevada Legislature, Congressman Gibbons voted more than 100 times to raise taxes and fees – or to authorize others to raise them.

In the same attack ad, Gibbons also misrepresents Titus votes which took place after his tenure in the Nevada Legislature. The campaign commercial says Dina Titus “even taxed us on using the county swimming pool” and cites AB 208 in 2003 as evidence. That legislation reads as follows: “The board of county commissioners of any county whose population is less than 15,000 may enact an ordinance imposing a tax to support the operation and maintenance of a swimming pool.” AB 208 passed unanimously in the Republican-controlled Nevada Senate.

The Gibbons commercial also cites SB 468 in 2001, which authorized county commissioners to vote on a real property transfer tax hike to control invasive weeds. That measure passed the Nevada Senate by 18-2, including support from Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio.

During his tenure as a congressman, Gibbons cast the deciding vote in 2002 (final vote: 215-214) to increase the national debt limit by $450 billion to $6.4 trillion (the largest increase in history at that time). His vote allowed the Republican-controlled administration to resume deficit spending after four previous years of balanced budgets.

“My opponent speaks in platitudes about conservatism and small government,” said Titus, “but Nevada voters know that he has not practiced what he has preached.”

“Now the congressman is distorting my record, and even using legislation that he himself supported to do so. I am confident that Nevadans will see through the name-calling and negative posturing, and instead focus on our actual records and plans to address the most important issues in this state.”

New Ensign Ad

Thanks be to Nevada Up North for his annotated version of John Ensign's nausea inducing ad. It's laugh out loud good. Here's my question, why does John Ensign have to introduce himself to Nevada voters? Hasn't he been "our" senator for six years? Or has he been George W. Bush's?

September 1, 2006

Rendevous with destiny or oblivion?

You all know my not-so-secret crush on Thomas Frank who hs been as a guest columnist over at the NYT in August (yes my dears, it is now officially September). His column yesterday was fantastic as usual. Taking on the "New Democrats" Franks excoriates their triangulation and embrace of corporate spin. Here it is, from behind the firewall:

Over the last month I have tried to describe conservative power in Washington, but with a small change of emphasis I could just as well have been describing the failure of liberalism: the center-left’s inability to comprehend the current political situation or to draw upon what is most vital in its own history.

What we have watched unfold for a few decades, I have argued, is a broad reversion to 19th-century political form, with free-market economics understood as the state of nature, plutocracy as the default social condition, and, enthroned as the nation’s necessary vice, an institutionalized corruption surpassing anything we have seen for 80 years. All that is missing is a return to the gold standard and a war to Christianize the Philippines.

Historically, liberalism was a fighting response to precisely these conditions. Look through the foundational texts of American liberalism and you can find everything you need to derail the conservative juggernaut. But don’t expect liberal leaders in Washington to use those things. They are “New Democrats” now, enlightened and entrepreneurial and barely able to get out of bed in the morning, let alone muster the strength to deliver some Rooseveltian stemwinder against “economic royalists.”

Mounting a campaign against plutocracy makes as much sense to the typical Washington liberal as would circulating a petition against gravity. What our modernized liberal leaders offer — that is, when they’re not gushing about the glory of it all at Davos — is not confrontation but a kind of therapy for those flattened by the free-market hurricane: they counsel us to accept the inevitability of the situation and to try to understand how we might retrain or re-educate ourselves so we will fit in better next time.

This last point was a priority for the Clinton administration. But in “The Disposable American,” a disturbing history of job security, Louis Uchitelle points out that the New Democrats’ emphasis on retraining (as opposed to broader solutions that Old Democrats used to favor) is merely a kinder version of the 19th-century view of unemployment, in which economic dislocation always boils down to the fitness of the unemployed person himself.

Or take the “inevitability” of recent economic changes, a word that the centrist liberals of the Washington school like to pair with “globalization.” We are told to regard the “free-trade” deals that have hammered the working class almost as acts of nature. As the economist Dean Baker points out, however, we could just as easily have crafted “free-trade” agreements that protected manufacturing while exposing professions like law, journalism and even medicine to ruinous foreign competition, losing nothing in quality but saving consumers far more than Nafta did.

When you view the world from the satisfied environs of Washington — a place where lawyers outnumber machinists 27 to 1 and where five suburban counties rank among the seven wealthiest in the nation — the fantasies of postindustrial liberalism make perfect sense. The reign of the “knowledge workers” seems noble.

Seen from almost anywhere else, however, these are lousy times. The latest data confirms that as the productivity of workers has increased, the ones reaping the benefits are stockholders. Census data tells us that the only reason family income is keeping up with inflation is that more family members are working.

Everything I have written about in this space points to the same conclusion: Democratic leaders must learn to talk about class issues again. But they won’t on their own. So pressure must come from traditional liberal constituencies and the grass roots, like the much-vilified bloggers. Liberalism also needs strong, well-funded institutions fighting the rhetorical battle. Laying out policy objectives is all well and good, but the reason the right has prevailed is its army of journalists and public intellectuals. Moving the economic debate to the right are dozens if not hundreds of well-funded Washington think tanks, lobbying outfits and news media outlets. Pushing the other way are perhaps 10.

The more comfortable option for Democrats is to maintain their present course, gaming out each election with political science and a little triangulation magic, their relevance slowly ebbing as memories of the middle-class republic fade.
I had to click on Franks' "stemwinder"link and it took me to Franklin Roosevelt's address to the 1936 Democratic Convention. Click on the link! Read it! Just a teaser:
For out of this modern civilization economic royalists carved new dynasties. New kingdoms were built upon concentration of control over material things. Through new uses of corporations, banks and securities, new machinery of industry and agriculture, of labor and capital-all undreamed of by the fathers-the whole structure of modern life was impressed into this royal service.

There was no place among this royalty for our many thousands of small business men and merchants who sought to make a worthy use of the American system of initiative and profit. They were no more free than the worker or the farmer. Even honest and progressive-minded men of wealth, aware of their obligation to their generation, could never know just where they fitted into this dynastic scheme of things.

It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control over Government itself. They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction. In its service new mercenaries sought to regiment the people, their labor, and their property. And as a result the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man.

The hours men and women worked, the wages they received, the conditions of their labor-these had passed beyond the control of the people, and were imposed by this new industrial dictatorship. The savings of the average family, the capital of the small business man, the investments set aside for old age-other people's money-these were tools which the new economic royalty used to dig itself in.

Those who tilled the soil no longer reaped the rewards which were their right. The small measure of their gains was decreed by men in distant cities.

Throughout the Nation, opportunity was limited by monopoly. Individual initiative was crushed in the cogs of a great machine. The field open for free business was more and more restricted. Private enterprise, indeed, became too private. It became privileged enterprise, not free enterprise.