Saturday, February 28, 2009

speculation deleted - rant remains

For the record, every death I hear about in the Iraq war, and every sacrifice made by our troops, I get madder and madder.  This must stop.  If I could wish, I would wish all our troops out of harm's way today, and not a single injury further on behalf of President Bush's imperial misadventure.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

idiotic commentary

Washington Times:
Newly elected Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele plans an “off the hook” public relations offensive to attract younger voters

I don't care that this idiom is new to political speech.  English is a living language, and phrases like that will clearly become more and more part of everyday usage.  I also have no sense of whether Mr. Steele uses the phrase often in his discussions.  (If Dick Cheney had made a point of using it in his recent interview, I think it would have been much more notable as we all would have seen it as obviously affected.)  I care much more that Mr. Steele said "government doesn't create jobs," for instance.

I hope that young voters aren't so easily swayed by P.R. and that they actually examine policy stands when choosing a political party. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

trust but verify

I am hopeful the American Assistance and Recovery Act will help mitigate the worst aspects of this recession, and the launch of looks like it may be helpful.  If we had had transparency like this five years ago, we may not have lost that $9 billion in Iraq.
However, the website appears to be more design than substance at the moment.  I like the graphs, but wish they had more drill-down;  and I'm having trouble actually getting the text of the bill.
I hope the functionality of the website increases and that all citizens get informed on what the effect of the huge spending bill actually comes out to be.

phone call diplomacy

With Secretary Clinton in Asia currently, American press are completely uninterested in the phone calls President Obama is making with various European and Middle Eastern leaders.  
Given the past skirmishing between Turkey and the Kurdish terrorists hiding in Northern Iraq, I was hoping for some details regarding our current stance on the PKK.  The report at TurkishPress is the only report I've found to mention it:
Obama also expressed his willingness to work with Turkey on such issues as peace in the Middle East, ending PKK terrorism, and relations with Armenia.

Overall, all reports say the president had positive discussions on the relations between our two countries, and given the recent strained relations, that is good news; I hope that positive discussions lead to productive actions.
AFP reminds us:
In January, President Gul urged Obama to make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a priority, saying an active US engagement was needed to reach a settlement.
I find it interesting that Turkey places such a strong emphasis on U.S. brokering of Israeli/Palestininan peace, but I have no background to opine on that subject, so I'll just note it.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

American Hero

Paul Rieckhoff, for those of you who don't know, served as a 1st Lieutenant in Iraq.  In addition to that service to his country, he's used his degree in Political Science to found the non-profit group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.  Their website is

IAVA just completed a political event they called "Storm the Hill" meeting with lawmakers in D.C., lobbying for a change in the manner that our country funds the Veterans' Administration.  Mr. Rieckhoff, appearing on Rachel Maddow Show last Thursday, explained that simply funding the VA a year in advance, the way our government does with other departments, would allow the VA forward planning in their budget and lessen the amount of rationing of care currently going on.  I hope to post the video when MSNBC uploads it; it's well worth watching.  The IAVA lobbying effort lead broad bipartisan support and I hope a bill passes quickly.

There can be no argument that our country is not doing enough to support its veterans.  A large part of my disgust for the Bush administration is over their incompetence in dealing with the repercussions of their war of choice in Iraq, and the mishandling of Afghanistan.  I seriously, vehemently disagreed with them on the policy issues; but what really raises my bile is the cavalier and careless way they looked after the troops who fought their wars for them.  The VA and the DOD are playing catch-up with the severe cases of PTSD coming back from the front.  

Mr. Rieckhoff also called for the Obama administration to organize a volunteer service effort among our nation's mental health-care professionals to boost the service even a fully-funded VA could provide.  The need is desperate, immediate, and frankly, years late.

When I get depressed about our country, I remember that it produces citizens such as Mr. Rieckhoff, and hope returns.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Quick response

Susan Duclos (reviewing a sampling of outrage over the Holder DOJ invoking Bush's "state secrets" legal strategy): 
NEWSFLASH for the far left.... you got what you asked for, you believed all the change hype and you were told it was all crap, so quit acting all offended and surprised.
Obamas [sic] most ardent supporters, three weeks into his presidency, are now turning on him like he is the enemy.....
now THAT is change I can believe in!!!!!!!!!!!! [emphasis in original]
In order to say "You got what you asked for" to Americans who voted for Obama, aren't you implying that we should have voted for McCain instead? 

Does anyone doubt that a McCain administration would have continued to hide the U.S. torture regime and protect the torturers? 

The left, unlike most of the right, has no fear in taking government officials to task no matter what their party. When the president does something wrong, he needs to be called on it; and a universal denial of the use of torture is something all Americans should work for.

Finally, I'll point out that Ms. Duclos includes Andrew Sullivan in a group she calls "far far left liberal bloggers". Aside from his vocal opposition to torture and equally vocal support of gay marriage, Mr. Sullivan is about as far to the right as anyone should be. The opposition of torture and the persecution of its perpetrators is a noble effort and should be the goal of all Americans.
[updated for typo]

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Charles Krauthammer's op-ed last Friday starts off with Rovian politics. Accuse your opponents of your own failings:

So much for the president who in his inaugural address two weeks earlier declared "we have chosen hope over fear." Until, that is, you need fear to pass a bill.

No, fear-mongering is exploiting the terror attacks of 9/11/01 to mount support for an unnecessary war. Fear-mongering is cooking the intelligence to persuade Americans that Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons. Fear-mongering is "
We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

Here is a graph showing the facts:

The U.S. economy lost
2.6 million jobs in 2008. According to the President, another 2.8 million people had to take part-time work instead of full-time work - think about the strain on their health care, let alone the rest of the tough decisions they need to make. These are hard, verifiable facts, that we all are aware of.

Mr. Krauthammer, when President Obama says "A failure to act, and act now, will turn a crisis into a catastrophe" - that's not fear-mongering, that's reporting.

Another POV

AJ Strata saw the same Telegraph article I did, but has a completely different take on it.   He(?) also knows who to blame:

This news leak/article deserves a good fisking to illustrate how Obama may be leading this year's Darwin Awards, for the act of taking a whole nation to the brink of extinction...

We are now all being let in on  Obama's intelligence briefings - how wonderful...

And whoever is yapping across The Pond has exposed the fact that 40% of the CIA's assets are now in the UK, leaving many other areas less covered, if covered at all.  This kind of information is strategic gold (if true).

It seems like the right-wing is just thrilled that they lost the 2008 elections, because now everything wrong with our country is squarely and only the fault of the Democrats, personified by President Obama.  Armchair spooks like AJ Strata probably know much more about the state of national intelligence than I do, but I note that back in 2002, people who questioned the Commander-in-Chief were called traitors.  People who do that now are patriotic Americans, of course, because IOKIYAR.  And shut up.

Back to AJ Strata:
One thing no one would argue is that President George W Bush kept this country safe.

Indeed, no one should argue that; it's clear that he didn't.  "Ok, now you've covered your ass."

And his team did so by quietly - well outside the limelight - chasing down our enemies and disrupting their plans. He did this quietly so we had a chance of catching them, never letting on we had them in our sites, never bragging about how we got them so they could learn to evade out security nets.

Sure, we never heard anything about the LA Library Tower, the blow-torching of the Brooklyn Bridge, or the al-Qaeda cell in Florida.  

I'm not partisan for the sake of partisanship, I support President Obama because his policies are much closer to mine than those of the neo-cons; but there's no sense in being "bipartisan" when people are just plain wrong, or if by "bipartisan" they mean "capitulation".

Meet Binyam Mohamed

Tomorrow, the ACLU is bringing a case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco - Mohamed vs. Jeppesen Dataplan.  They charge that Jeppesen, a subsidiary of the Boeing Corp., "knowingly provided logistical services that aid the CIA's 'extraordinary rendition' program."  This is the current Dept. of Justice's first opportunity to show whether it will repudiate or cover up the torture regime created by former President George W. Bush.

The Bush administration in 2007 filed for dismissal based on "state secrets", despite of all the information already in the public domain.  In similar cases, the U.S. government has chosen to release detainees rather than give them any kind of hearing. The only reasonable conclusion is that the administration wanted to hide their criminal acts of torture more than they wanted to bring suspected terrorists to justice.  In this case, despite a request from the UK for Mr. Mohamed's release in 2006, he still remains at Guantánamo Bay. [edited for factual error]

Following up on a campaign promise, President Obama signed a series of executive orders in his first week in office that, in no uncertain terms, ordered the close of Guantánamo Bay and all the CIA "Black Sites" around the globe.  Another order specified the use of the Army Field Manual as the guidelines for interrogation for all agencies.  I took that as a sign that the U.S. torture regime had ended, and that I could once again fly my country's flag.

However, last week, the BBC reported that UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband "disputed claims...that the US threatened to stop sharing intelligence with the UK over an alleged torture case."  (This is in regards to a UK court case alleging Mohamed, a British citizen, was tortured.) And in response to Mr. Miliband's position, 

In a statement, the White House said it "thanked the UK government for its continued commitment to protect sensitive national security information".

It added that this would "preserve the long-standing intelligence sharing relationship that enables both countries to protect their citizens".

That statement, from Obama's White House, made me question his commitment to erasing the stain of torture.  Those worries were enhanced by Attorney General Holder's confirmation hearings. 

However, the Sunday Telegraph reported yesterday that David Davis alleges "the information being held back is [protecting] the British government, where at least two cabinet ministers have denied any complicity whatsoever.  It is very clear who stands to be embarrassed by this and who is being protected by this secrecy.  It is not the Americans, it is Labour ministers."  I read that as distancing the current U.S. government from the travesty of justice evidenced by preventing Mr. Mohamed from presenting evidence of his torture in a court of law;  the current UK government has just as much motivation to hide that evidence as the former Bush administration did.

I'm extremely interested in finding out if Mr. Holder's DOJ will plead "state secrets" tomorrow.

UPDATE: (10:47am)

Via Susan Duclos,  I see that the CIA is working their propaganda machine again, this time avoiding breaking U.S. law by dumping the article in the UK Telegraph

They believe that a British-born Pakistani extremist entering the US under the visa waiver programme is the most likely source of another terrorist spectacular on American soil.

Intelligence briefings for Mr Obama have detailed a dramatic escalation in American espionage in Britain, where the CIA has recruited record numbers of informants in the Pakistani community to monitor the 2,000 terrorist suspects identified by MI5, the British security service.

I'm not a spy, the report may very well be factually true.  But why is this reported today?

For the record, Binyam Mohamed was born in Ethiopia.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Problems to fix

I've been busy reading blogs for a couple of years now. Recently I've realized that the comments I have been leaving on other peoples' blogs are far too long, and if I really have that much to say, I should do it on my own space, not theirs, and give links to the stuff I'm reading - whether I agree with it or not.

Here are the problems with the U.S.A. that get me fired up (in rough order of descending crisis at the moment):

Ending the U.S. torture regime (h/t Cernig)
Finding a winning strategy against violent extremism (h/t Abu Muqawama)
Restoring sensible economic policy (h/t White House)
Restoring the Rule of Law (h/t Greenwald)
Supporting union activity and organization (h/t Working Life)
Equality for all
Reducing the waste in the military/industrial complex

That's by no means a comprehensive list, but it's a good enough start for now.