Friday, September 29, 2006

Democrats For Torture

This NYT article focuses on the torture bill vote as a sign of strength for the Dems, but I'd like to review the flip side. What's not discussed is why 12 Democrats voted for the torture bill.

Now, maybe some actually thought it was good legislation. Let's leave that aside, and assume the vote was cast for political reasons, so GOPs couldn't accuse them of being soft on terrorism. (Not too far a leap to make, I think...)

Politically, did this vote make sense?

Are these Dems still scared of the Bush/GOP smear machine? Even in their states, they must have a sense that Independents, and even some GOPs, have had their fill of the Bush Administration and the Republican one-party rule, and see we need some accountability in DC.

We're not just talking NE and SD. It's NJ, DE, FL and MI. (CT, we all know about...)

Couldn't this vote be framed -- given Iraq, given WMD, given the incompetence -- as the Bush Administration going to far? Is there no way of positioning this vote in a way that works for their constituents? Again, this isn't 1994, or 2000 or 2004. There is a long record of failure in the Bush Administration to run against. As TPM reader noted over on Josh's site: "Basically, their entire argument is that if we don’t stick with their failures, they will become bigger failures."

Most important -- how can any of these Dems now use the "rubber-stamp Congress" frame against their opponents? This vote has now neutralized that (very valid) line of attack.

Are these Democrats truly tied by their constituencies, or are they just demonstrating a lack of imagination around the politics of national security?

Friday, September 08, 2006

GOPs Dedicate Entire Site To Strawman

The GOPs have a new section of their web site, called "demfacts," apparently dedicated to strawman arguments and proving Democrats correct. Take this page, in which they compare statements of prominent Democrats before and after the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Here's an example:

Chairman Dean's Prewar Statements:

DNC Chairman Howard Dean: "There's no question that Saddam Hussein is a threat to the United States and to our allies. ... [I]f Saddam persists in thumbing his nose at the inspectors, then we're clearly going to have to do something about it." (CBS' "Face The Nation," 9/29/02)

Chairman Dean In 2005:

Chairman Dean: "Saddam Hussein was never a threat to the United States." (MSNBC's "Hardball," 6/29/05)

First of all, none of the Democratic statements, things like "we have to do something about it," mean unilaterally bombing and occupying another nation.

But, more importantly, aren't these statements entirely explainable by the fact that we, those of us in the reality-based community, now know the White House completely fabricated the "facts" on the threat from Iraq? They cherry-picked the intel, they leaked it to the press, and then they referred to those press reports when giving backup regarding why Saddam was a threat.

In effect, now that we all know it's bull, this site just proves how only the Democrats are saying the things that most people believe -- the Iraq war was a mistake, that Bush is handling it all wrong, and we never should have invaded in the first place, and we need a timetable to get out.

Now, sure, this page is intended to play to their base. But, even so -- if this is the best the GOPs have got, they're in worse shape then I thought.


Senate Report Refutes All Bush Admin Lies

Well, it's obvious why the GOPs pushed this one back until after the 2004 election. In a devastating report, released today, the Senate tears down every White House Talking Point on Iraq. The document is a PDF, available here. It is locked down, so no copy/paste is available. What follows below is a paraphrase of each of the major conclusions, for future reference.

I am still stunned the GOPs actually released this. It refutes not only everything the White House said about Iraq in the past, but what Cheney and Santorum and Stephen Hayes continue to peddle as "fact" even today.


The Intelligence Committee's conclusions fall into two broad categories -- Iraq's links to WMD and Iraq's links to Al-Qaeda.

Iraq's WMD Capabilities

Conclusion 1: Findings do not support the 2002 NIE judgment that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program.

Conclusion 2: Findings do not support the 2002 NIE assessment that Iraq's acquisition of high-strength aluminum tubes was intended for an Iraqi nuclear program.

Conclusion 3: Findings do not support the 2002 NIE assessment that Iraq was "vigorously trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake" from Africa.

Conclusion 4: Findings do not support the 2002 NIE assessment that "Iraq has biological weapons."

Conclusion 5: Findings do not support the 2002 NIE assessment that Iraq possessed, or ever developed, mobile facilities for producing biological warfare agents.

Conclusion 6: Concerns about the doubts raised on the accuracy of "CURVE BALL" were never conveyed to policymakers. Investigation continues into CURVE BALL's credibility.

Conclusion 7: Findings do not support the 2002 NIE assessment that Iraq "has chemical weapons" or "is expanding its chemical industry to support chemical weapons."

Conclusion 8: Findings do not support the 2002 NIE assessment that Iraq likely retained covert SCUD SRBMs.

Conclusion 9: Findings do not support the 2002 NIE assessment that Iraq and developed a program for an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to deliver biological agents.

Iraqi Links to WMD

Conclusion 1: Saddam Hussein was distrustful of al-Qaeda and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat, refusing all requests from al-Qaeda to provide material or operational support.

Conclusion 2: Postwar findings identified only one meeting between representatives of Iraq and al-Qaeda. Two other attempted meetings were rebuffed by Saddam Hussein. The Intelligence Community has not found any other evidence of meetings between al-Qaeda and Iraq. All of the contacts were initiated by al-Qaeda.

Conclusion 3: Postwar findings support the DIA assessment that Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi was likely intentionally misleading his debriefers when he said that Iraq provided al-Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training. No evidence has been found of CBW training.

Conclusion 4: Findings support the DIA assessment that there was no credible reporting on al-Qaeda training at Salman Pak or anywhere else in Iraq.

Conclusion 5: al-Zaraqawi was indeed in Baghdad in 2002. Postwar information indicates Saddam Hussein attempted, unsuccessfully, to locate and capture al-Zarqawi and that the regime did not have a relationship with, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi.

Conclusion 6: Intel accurately assessed that al-Qaeda affiliate ground Ansar al-Islam did operate in Kurdish-controlled Iraq, an area that Saddam Hussein had not controlled since 1991. Baghdad viewed Ansar al-Islam as a threat.

Conclusion 7: No credible information that Iraq had any knowledge of or involvement in the September 11th attacks. No such meeting between Mohammad Atta and Iraqi intelligence ever occurred in Prague.

Conclusion 8: No postwar information indicates Iraq intended to use al-Qaeda or any other terrorist group to strike the U.S. homeland during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Conclusion 9: While document exploitation continues, additional reviews of documents recovered in Iraq are unlikely to provide information that would contradict the Committee's findings or conclusion.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Wrong Analogy

Here's Allesandra Stanley (from the NYT) with a review of the PT911 show:

In 2001 President Bush and his newly appointed aides had ample warning, including a briefing paper titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.,” and they failed to take it seriously enough, but their missteps are not equal. It’s like focusing blame for a school shooting at the beginning of the school year on the student’s new home room teacher; the adults who watched the boy torment classmates and poison small animals knew better.

Sorry, but it seems to me the Bush Administration's "missteps" are actually much worse -- they ignored the adults who told them the boy was poisoning small animals because they thought they knew better.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Perhaps this really is a trend, perhaps the amuse-bouche "has arrived" at dinner parties.

If you come to my place for dinner, though, there will be no espresso cups filled with a puree of seasonal vegetables, or lovely tidbits of meat or fish on a pretty little saucer, or seviche, avocado tartare, or tiny cubes of watermelon and feta delightfully placed on a spoon.

Don't get me wrong: you'll eat well. But home cooking is no place for pretension.

If I want pretension, I'll pay for it, dammit.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Surreal Life

Alberto Gonzales, in Iraq:

''This president has been very clear. This government has not engaged in torture,'' Gonzales said.

The Times reports he was there discussing the use of ''extraordinary measures'' for prisoners.

Perhaps he brought a copy of his memo.



Moral Confusion


In unusually explicit terms, Rumsfeld portrayed the administration's critics as suffering from ''moral or intellectual confusion'' about what threatens the nation's security.

Yes, because torture offers us so much moral clarity.

Friday, August 25, 2006

People-powered Book Movement

Audiobooks for your ipod, based on public domain works from project gutenberg:

LibriVox is the largest of several emerging collectives that offer free or inexpensive audiobooks of works whose copyrights have expired, from Plato to “The Wind in the Willows.” (In the United States, this generally means anything published or registered for copyright before 1923.) The results range from solo readings done by amateurs in makeshift home studios to high-quality recordings read by actors or professional voice talent.

At its worst a free audiobook can sound like a teenager reading aloud in high school English class. At its best it can offer excellent sound quality and skilled narration infused with a passion for the text. In between is a world of competent readings, sometimes spiced with affected accents, mumbled words and distant car horns and reflecting all manner of literary interpretations.

Reminds me of that final scene in Fahrenheit 451...

Friday, August 18, 2006

Bush Vows: Must Retain Unfettered Control

Bush continues to press on:
“I would say that those who herald this decision simply do not understand the nature of the world in which we live,” Mr. Bush said in a question-answer session at Camp David, Md. “I strongly disagree with that decision, strongly disagree. That’s why I instructed the Justice Department to appeal immediately. And I believe our appeals will be upheld.”

“We believe, strongly believe, it’s constitutional,” the president added.
Bush forgot to mention how much of a liberal that judge was.

You see, the nature of the world in which we live is one where spying without a warrant is fine, liberals are always wrong, and all you have to do is strongly, STRONGLY believe something to be true, and it is!

(Closing my eyes now...wishing for a pony...)