Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Do You Like Apples?

America is under attack from cowardly terrorists. They are attacking us because they hate freedom. These terrorists use fear and violence in their quest to overthrow the secular governments in their region and seek to replace them with a twisted and extremist version of the dominant religion.

Naturally, I'm talking about Republicans.

For far too long, neocons have been projecting their own secret self-image onto others, and labeling everyone around them as enemies. They continue to insist upon falsities so blatant they could come right out of Alice in Wonderland: warrantless wiretaps "have oversight," we are "winning the war" in Iraq. I would not be suprised at this point to see Dick Cheney on Face The Nation stating categorically that up is down. The world simply has not seen this level of nonsensical babble in public discourse since the height of Soviet Communism.

It's high time that we simply took their insane statements and threw them back in their faces. There's more support for it. Consider the following points:

Republicans are radical extremists

This first point is tricky, because they try to confuse us with this one all the time. Typically, the neocons like to scream that any centrist position is "far-left extremism" and that their position is the "middle." But they have forgotten what real far-left extremism actually looks like. Earth First! and the Animal Liberation Front are examples of extreme leftism. Hillary Clinton is decidedly not. Walter Cronkite and Jim Lehrer are examples of the political middle. Bill O'Reilly and Neil Cavuto are not.

As it stands presently, the Democratic party has been dragged far from its left wing and now stands solidly in the middle; no major Democrat even bothers to try to agitate for actual liberal positions these days (except for perhaps Dennis Kucinich). On the other hand, the Republican party has been held captive by their most extremist elements for a long time now. Compared to them, even Ronald Reagan would count as a "left-wing radical."

Republicans are cowards

They react to danger from a position of fear, rather than one of confidence. A courageous response to 9/11 would have been to take a comprehensive and intelligent analysis of the causes of attacks on the U.S. and then to face those causes directly. Instead, we invaded Iraq, overreaching wildly and inappropriately to the actual threat. A natural response to fear and confusion is to lash out blindly; we have done, and continue to do, just that.

To make this point more clearly, ask yourself: what would a brave leader look like? A brave leader would have calmed the nation, and made the nature of the threat clear and thoroughly understood. A brave leader would have used all the tools at his or her disposal to deal with that threat: not only military retaliation, but also international police cooperation, improved port security, careful intelligence, and diplomatic engagement. Compared to such a creature, Bush is clearly its antithesis: a coward.

Republicans raise taxes

Economics 101: if you spend money, you have to get enough money to pay for it. You can either pay for it now or add some of it towards your debt. Either way, it has to be paid for. And if you add it to your debt, it will cost you more to pay it off than you got. The government gets its income through taxation. So when the government spends lots of money, youre taxes get increased, whether now or at some point in the future with interest.

In 2000, the Republicans inherited a country with a balanced budget, and have since then increased the national debt to 8.6 trillion dollars. That's 8.6 trillion dollars that will have to be paid by us with our taxes. Dividing per capita, the Republicans have raised your lifetime tax burden by $28,666 and counting.

So before you parrot "Democrats raise taxes" you should ask yourself exactly when was the last time that the policies of a Democrat-controlled government led to stagnant economic growth and relatively high taxes? The 1970's? Certainly not the Clinton years. But when was the last time the policies of a Republican-controlled government led to exactly the same situation? Right now!

Republicans are terrorists

Merriam-Webster defines terrorism as "the systematic use of terror (a state of intense fear), especially as a means of coercion." The Republican party has been attempting to coerce us into maintaining their power using a state of intense fear for the past five years. Therefore they are terrorists, as the word is correctly defined.

Now, I'm not one of those who claims that the Bush administration ever knocked down any of our own buildings. But the fact remains that he has knocked down the buildings of another country without provocation. He has killed people in order to support his own power base. Shock and awe.

That's terrorism.

Republicans hate freedom

See warrantless wiretaps, torture, and suspension of habeus corpus, just for starters. The protections of individual rights are viewed as obstacles to a party which lacks the ability to deal with foreign threats without violating our freedoms. Thus, their ineptitude becomes totalitarianism. Such protections as are afforded by individuals against the state in the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions are labeled as "quaint" by those who see us as operating under a "new paradigm."

Such a paradigm, if one asserts that it exists, could only be called "post-American."

Republicans hate Democracy

The "plenary executive" argument is a demonstration of just that. Bush himself has stated that he would prefer to be a dictator. Everyone involved in the Bush administration has at one time or another expressed the feeling that they have the ability to defy other branches of government. Cheney has stated that he intends to refuse the subpeona power of Congress.

And then there's the electronic voting thing, and the gerrymandering, and the voter suppression, and the 2000 election intervention by the Supreme Court, and so on ad nauseum.

Al Qaeda wants you to vote Republican

The Bush administration blunders and overreacts to every provocation, while behaving as a caricature of the "great Satan" enemy that Islamic extremists would have America portray. By doing so, this administration, and the Republicans who consistently support their actions provide material aid and comfort to other extremist terrorist groups who need someone to play "bad guy" for their recruiting efforts.

Seriously, if you were Osama Bin Laden, would you rather have Bush in office mired in Iraq continuously while leaving America undefended in any reasonable way, or someone like John Kerry, who would most likely make intelligent choices right off the bat? Would you rather have someone who refuses to engage in dialogue with the Middle East or someone who might very likely attempt to sway the region towards moderation? So long as Bush stays in office, a large subset of the Islamic world is given a clear example supporting every one of Bin Laden's talking points.

Republicans are in league with the Devil

Most end-time Millenial Christian scenarios involve our secular institutions of power falling under the sway of someone who pretends to be a Christian while at the same time fomenting war, poverty and hatred throughout the world. Bush presents himself as a Christian while at the same time fomenting war, poverty and hatred throughout the world.

Jesus didn't have much to say about abortion or gay marriage; in fact, he said exactly nothing about either of those issues. But he did talk quite a lot about social justice, equating wealth itself with a state of sin, and excoriated the heresy involved in striving to appear publicly pious. He promoted the peaceful resolution of conflict, as well as respect for people of different faiths. Today's Republican party attempts to fool Christians into believing that their own religion is less about the issues Jesus actually spoke about and more about divisive issues of their own making.

As classically defined, the Devil is an entity who attempts to lie to Christians about what their own religion entails so that they will go against its original precepts. Republicans do this. Therefore, they do the Devil's work.

In Conclusion

Now, one might say "I'm a Republican but I don't do those things." You might say that while you decry certain actions or subsets of the Republican party, you still feel that overall they're the good guys. But that's a cop-out. Because the Republican Congress of the last twelve years has repeatedly and consistently appointed the worst among them to positions of leadership. If they get caught, they try to change the rules to keep their lawbreakers in power. The Republican Congress has refused Bush nothing, and has supported him at every turn. They have actively dismantled institutions in charge of investigating executive malfeasance and misappropriation.

Whenever you vote for any Republican, you vote for those who either are, or who themselves support, these radical extremist, cowardly, freedom-hating, tax-and-spend Satanic terrorists. Whenever you call yourselves a Republican, or give your voice to their positions, you lend material aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States of America. The Republican Party itself constitutes a clear and present danger to the security of our nation.

Republicans are evil, as evil is defined.

How do you like them apples?


Monday, November 27, 2006

Half a Billion For Swift Boat and "The Pet Goat"

With two years still remaining in his term, it seems that George W. Bush already wants his friends to give him $500,000,000.00 for his Presidential library, fully twice what he raised for his own re-election in 2004.

Lest you think such a sum is par for the course, consider that Reagan's library cost a mere $57 million dollars, and that includes storage hangars for both his versions of Air Force 1 and 2, which were decommissioned at the end of his term. The previous high water mark is Clinton's library, which cost $165 million dollars and is designed to look like a giant mobile home jacked up on concrete blocks (I'm not kidding).

This would have been a perfect opportunity to make Clinton look like a spendthrift by comparison, to make his party look good on paper, but W. apparently can't bring himself to do it. Not only does he want to spend half a billion dollars on the thing, but they've already begun evicting people to make room for it. Using eminent domain, no less.

One of the functions of Presidential libraries is to try to make a President's legacy look good after they leave office, but Bush's image is going to need a lot of work. To this end, his plan is explicitly designed to include a new right-wing think tank solely dedicated to figuring out how to continue to advance the neocon agenda after Bush is gone.

I can't imagine that very much of the $500m is going to be spent on books or other documentation, since this most secretive administration in the nation's history is likely to classify nearly everything of interest to scholars and citizens. About the only thing that scholars are likely to be allowed to examine is a single copy of "The Pet Goat" that Bush continued to read on September 11th after the second plane hit. And maybe some White House Christmas cards. The portion of the facility dedicated to making presidential documents available to the public should probably take up about the space of a broom closet.

Other than the function of maintaining public records, many libraries also have a function which gives something back to their community or to the nation. For example, Bush Sr's library endowment includes an entire College of Public Service which is managed by Texas A & M University. Typically the idea seems to be to display exhibits or give back to the nation in such a way as to make a president look good as a side effect. But W. is never that subtle. His plan is not a college, nor a museum, but a think tank of all things. This endowment is designed to see to it that people will remain employed to apologize for this administration's mistakes not only now, but far into the future.

For some time now, I've been looking forward to a future where W. is loathed and held up as an example of what not to do. An inevitable consequence of healing the intensely partisan divide that he created would be for the broad mainstream of both parties to see clearly what he has done to our nation, and hopefully to resolve never to allow ourselves to be so divided and manipulated again. But in order to fulfill their mission, Bush's Presidential Library think tank would have to continue to work to keep the nation as partisan and divided as it can, because the moment that most of America comes together to look at the facts, Bush's "legacy" will go up in a puff of smoke. Therefore, unlike even the most far-right think tanks to date, this one will not have even the most flimsy of other excuses for existing, such as attempting to craft public policy that they think is good for America. They will be openly and completely devoted to keeping partisan hack jobs alive forever, swift-boating our political system for eternity.

In other words, it looks like most of a half a billion dollars is going to be spent through the Presidential Library system, in order to fund yet more right-wing neocon hackery to invent further ways to pervert our national discussion. W. has finally figured out a way to politicize the last remaining institution of American Democracy that was supposed to be above politics.

I, for one, can think of no more fitting tribute for this President.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Penguin Agenda

Neil Cavuto of FOX News says that the animated movie "Happy Feet" is offensive to him. Not for the usual reasons that crazy pundits find movies offensive, but because it references man-made ecological challenges that the protagonist penguins must face. Said Cavuto, "I though it was like an animated 'Inconvenient Truth.' I half expected to see an animated version of Al Gore to pop-up."

Tellingly, nowhere in the exchange between Cavuto and Holly McClure (the wingnuts' current pet movie reviewer since Michael Medved moved into full time punditry) does anyone make any claim regarding human activities and the environment. That is, they never even bother to argue that overfishing and garbage dumping aren't a problem. Their point is rather that these facts are somehow partisan, and should therefore not be "foisted" on children.

I just don't know where to start with the crazy. First of all, FOX News has been pulling a partisan bait-and-switch game since they launched, by pretending to be a news channel when they are actually a propaganda machine. But let's be specific about that. According to his bio on their website, Cavuto is "anchor of Your World With Cavuto, the No.1 business news show on cable." Anchor of a news show, it says. About business. Actual news anchors are supposed to commit to the practice of "journalism," a central tenet of which involves the elimination of "bias." I don't want political opinions foisted on me when I sit down to find out what's going on in business news. And I can't imagine what looking for supposed political bias in a children's movie could possibly have to do with either news or business.

Secondly, whether or not penguins and other wildlife are negatively impacted by oil drilling, garbage or overfishing is a question of fact, not opinion. In other words, Cavuto explicitly states that he objects to children being exposed to facts. This itself should be sufficient to discredit him as anyone whose opinion should be listened to for advertising profit.

The conflation of opinion with fact is a longstanding wingnut trick. They like to preface their statements with "I believe," as in "I believe that we are winning the war on terror." If opinions are substituted with facts, then one is free to lie at will. You're not really a deceiving bastard, just a little out of touch with reality!

But regarding animated movies and environmental messages, they have always been intertwined. Remember Bambi? "Man is in the forest!" This admixture isnt' because of a secret Jewi - er, leftist conspiracy running Hollywood, it's simple logic. If a child is going to go watch a movie about anthropomorphic talking animals in the wild, he or she may take an interest about actual animals in the wild. This may lead to information about challenges those animals face, such as predators. The greatest challenges nearly all wild animals face at present are related to human activities. That's just how it is. So if you want to present a reasonably consistent story, you would have your protagonist anthropomorphic animals facing such challenges in the movie.

Besides, there's nothing Cavuto can really do about it. Penguins are well known leftist agitators, and the penguin conspiracy is far too broad at this point for even FOX news to stop. In addition to shilling for Al Gore, penguins promote the gay agenda. Penguins are also used promote open source software, which is clearly a communist utopian movement that harms corporate profits. Not to mention Sparky. So, Mr. Cavuto, as you can see, it's not Hollywood that's out to push the radical leftist agenda.

It's the penguins.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Modest Proposal for Iraq

(With thanks and apologies to Jonathan Swift)

It is a sad state of affairs to those who walk through Baghdad or watch the evening news to see the streets of such a great and ancient nation awash in garbage and murder, seemingly without end. The citizenry, instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are virtual prisoners in their own homes, subject to unpredictable power outages as well as random searches and seizures by any one of a number of factions. As their youth become inured to such circumstance, they inevitably turn to the insurgency for employment, or else sell themselves to the militias and death squads. These insurgents, militias, and American soldiers each strike at one another whenever they gain the least opportunity, thus sustaining the violence which keeps so many honest Iraqis trapped beneath an unceasing crossfire.

I think it is agreed by all parties that this violence, unpredictable and random as it is, is in the present deplorable state of the country a very great additional grievance; and, therefore, whoever could find out a fair, cheap, and easy method of bringing any form of order to Iraq would deserve so well of the public as to get his own cable TV show.

But my intention is very far from being confined to provide only for the disaffected youth of Iraq; it is of a much greater extent, and shall take in the entirety of the present conflict in the Middle East, as well as America's tarnished image upon the world stage.

As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for some years upon this important subject, and maturely weighed the several schemes of other projectors, I have always found them grossly mistaken in the computation. The recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, for example, consist entirely of halfway measures and belated suggestions for which the appropriate time has long since passed. Calls to either increase troop levels or withdraw entirely are likewise too simplistic to retain any real goal of stability. Beggaring all sense, some people currently call for both of these "solutions" at once! Although "outside the box" thinking is most certainly required here, taking simultaneous contradictory actions at once is perhaps a bit too far out.

The key to the problem is that the stability of the government and economy of Iraq cannot be established without infrastructure; and that infrastructure cannot be rebuilt without peace. In turn, without the stability of government and economy which enforces and maintains peace, the various factions involved will continue to require the blood of one or another in order to assuage their sense of purpose and duty.

A straightforward approach begins with the statistics. By looking at the magnitude of the problem itself, we can best see how to mitigate it in service of our ultimate stated goal of bringing order and stability to Iraq.

The number of American soldiers present in Iraq being usually reckoned one hundred forty thousand, of these it is calculated that twenty-eight thousand have died in the forty-five months since our army first set foot upon their soil. By dividing one into the other, I find that on the average, 63 Americans die in Iraq per month, only slightly over 2 per day. In addition, twenty-one and a half thousand Americans have been wounded in the same period. That amounts to 477 per month, or approximately 15 per day.

During this amount of time, the United States has spent an estimated three hundred and forty billion of its dollars directly on this effort, which amounts to seven and a half billion dollars per month, or nearly two hundred and fifty million dollars per day. This figure certainly does not include the much higher sum being siphoned to various contractors hired to repair the infrastructure of Iraq, as their people and equipment sit idle, drawing wages and lease payments while unable to complete their mission due to the random violence which continues in that country.

I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection.

A cease-fire between all parties involved in such a confrontation is the only possible first step. However, it could be negotiated provided only that the ends which all of these parties seek are met. The Americans require order and stability. The insurgents and militias require the death of their foes, whether they be one another or American soldiers. All of these ends must be guaranteed in any sustainable cease-fire agreement.

In addition, many Arab nations find that public execution is a most excellent method of keeping the civic peace. It is furthermore commonly known that all Muslims desire the death of Americans, and that this alone may assuage their inevitable bloodlust, which might otherwise lead to terrorist atrocities taking place upon our own shores. To quote our illustrious President, "we fight them over there so that we don't have to fight them here."

I do therefore humbly offer it to public consideration that we immediately negotiate a cease-fire with the insurgents and militias, with the contingency that one American soldier shall be offered up each day for public execution in a convenient outdoor square of Baghdad. This step alone will cut our flow of casualties almost exactly by half in one fell swoop (if you will pardon the pun). Furthermore, those Iraqis who desire to witness the death of Americans need only stroll downtown in safety to confirm that their ends have been met before their very eyes, no longer needing to subject themselves to any personal risk of life and limb to do so.

The American to die each day may be chosen by lot, perhaps by employing a system similar to that used to determine draftees during the Vietnam conflict. These soldiers may then be informed of their selection by the quaint but traditional means of being handed a piece of paper containing only a black spot upon it. They will then be removed by Military Police and placed in holding to prepare for the following day's sport.

A variety of common and entertaining methods of execution may be employed in order to maximize the degree of fulfillment which swells the Muslim breast upon witnessing American blood spilt upon their soil. On one day, the American sacrifice may be beheaded, on another stoned. Upon the next, two Americans may be chosen and forced to fight one another to the death, with the survivor earning a discharge home. The mighty power of Democracy may be employed here by polling the populace as to which methods of execution they might prefer to see next. A wide variety of options are available, including drowning by waterboard, asphyxiation brought on by forced stress positions, and the simple but satisfying method of beating one of our own soldiers to death while they are tied to a chair.

Perhaps contests could be held by which a lucky native may be allowed to administer the execution personally. A regular lottery or auction would not only increase the entertainment value of this sport, but also go far towards mitigating the costs of the occupation.

I have too long digressed, and therefore shall return to my subject. I think the advantages by the proposal which I have made are obvious and many, as well as of the highest importance.

For first, and most urgently, it would greatly lessen the concern weighing upon our politicians today that fluctuations in the level of violence in Iraq might be employed by those enemies in order to influence our own elections at home. This grave worry that our own casualties might be employed to subvert Democracy itself clearly rests heavy upon the furrowed brows of our leaders and pundits, as it forms the body of many of their speeches today. With this solution, the number of American dead in any given month will be fixed at a predictable rate, allowing our political strategists to rest easy knowing that no suprises from abroad might spoil their skillfully crafted calculations.

Secondly, once the American populace becomes accustomed to this procedure, it will no longer be newsworthy at all. Our pundits and news organizations will no longer need to report to us the number of Americans who died in Iraq on a given day, as it will always be exactly one! The mere fulfillment of a predictable policy hardly constitutes news. This will lessen the worry of the average American citizen, since we will no longer need to be presented with the details of this war. As such, we will be free to turn our national attention towards more pressing domestic issues, such as abortion, immigration, flag burning and gay marriage.

Thirdly, since this would be drawn randomly from a selection of all the soldiers stationed in Iraq, one's chances of actually dying there would remain at a tolerably low level at all times, improving morale. Regardless of a given soldier's activities or orders, on any given day they would still have the same less than one-half percent chance of dying! These are excellent odds for the survival of any soldier in wartime, and our troops should be given to appreciate how very, very lucky they are compared with the soldiery of any other war in human history.

Fourthly, by broadcasting the executions towards outlying areas of Iraq, we can pacify those regions as well. This will in turn further facilitate the demand for rebuilding the power grid and communications networks throughout the country. Laying cable TV lines to a given area will be seen as a security priority rather than merely an unneccessary luxury for the native folk.

Fifthly, the general peace in the area will free our contractors to complete their work in rebuilding the basic infrastructure of Iraq. Consistent power may be restored, garbage may be collected, and police trained in relative peace. Most importantly, this will allow our contractors to realize greater profits, by reducing those costs related to security concerns.

Sixthly, by killing only one American soldier per day, no soldiers at all need suffer any wounds or debilitating injuries! This alone will save our Veterans Administration untold billions of dollars over the future lifetime of those soldiers who might have otherwise needlessly burdened our society. It bears mentioning again that this expedient also reduces our casualties fully by half, saving greatly on funeral-related expenses.

Many other advantages might be enumerated. Aftermarket DVD sales of executions could bring further income to the families that our sacrificed soldiers leave behind. Broadcasts to other countries, such as Afghanistan and Iran could bring yet more peace and good will between Arabs and Americans everywhere. Given current world opinion, a broader worldwide market of supplying Americans for execution would certainly be developed as a result, which would bring years of entertainment and pleasure to people of every creed across the globe. Finally, we presently have such a supply of soldiers in Iraq that we could stably sustain the occupation in this manner for over three hundred and eighty years!

A small portion of the proceeds from related lotteries and gambling collected in Iraq, in addition to the vast savings to be realized in contracted work could then be paid to the doomed soldier's family. This sum would certainly be a much higher amount than they could hope to receive from the Department of Defense alone for the sacrifice of their child to the noble goal of expanding freedom throughout the Middle East. In fact, even ten million dollars per American soldier sacrificed would be little more than an afterthought, given the vast opportunities for savings brought about by this plan. Such a sum would surely be a great benefit to that soldier's family, at once raising them to a future life of luxury and plenty. By paying out such amounts we will also purchase further peace at home, as those family members will be less likely to raise protests or otherwise annoy our leaders with unreasonable questions and demands.

I can think of no one objection that will possibly be raised against this proposal, unless it should be urged that the number of American soldiers stationed in Iraq will be thereby much lessened. This I freely own, and it was indeed one principal design in offering it to the world. Moderate politicians in both of our parties claim to desire the reduction of our troop levels there, but only within a cautiously extended time frame, and certainly not with any appearance of defeat. By employing this simple measure, we can actually draw down our forces without suffering the ignominity of retreating from the country! Therefore let no one talk to me of other expedients: of crafting a set of rationally achievable goals and meeting them one by one; of setting a reasonable timetable connecting withdrawal levels to the achievement of those goals, and keeping to it; of reaching out to other regional powers to assist in maintaining the political stability of their neighbor; of employing local and regional workers to assist with the rebuilding effort rather than contracting those jobs to American companies; of learning to view Iraqis, as well as Arabs and Muslims in general as human beings rather than as a problem to be solved. Lastly, of crafting foreign policy in terms of our permanent American principles rather than in terms of passing "American interests," as if we were nothing more than another in the long line of mercantile empires to trample Arab soil in pursuit of mere profit.

Therefore I repeat, let no one talk to me of these and the like expedients, until there is at least some glimpse of hope that there will ever be a hearty and sincere attempt to put them into practice.

But, as for myself, having been wearied out for these last three-and-a-quarter years with offering vain, idle, visionary thoughts, and at length utterly despairing of success, I fortunately fell upon this proposal which, as it is wholly new, so it also has something solid and real, of no expense and little trouble, full in our own power, and from which we can incur no danger of either escalated casualties or ignoble retreat. For by converting our casualties into a manageable commodity, we thus bring the most effective hallmarks of American capitalism to bear upon our current problem: ingenuity, control and profit.

After all, I am not so thoroughly bent upon my own opinion as to reject any offer proposed by others, which shall be found equally entertaining, profitable and effective. But before something of that kind shall be advanced in contradiction to my scheme and offering a better, I desire the author or authors will maturely consider two points. First, as things now stand, how can any politician or party bear the ignominity of going down in history as having either lost or greatly escalated this war? And secondly, how otherwise may we achieve our aims and thus declare "victory" when the work crews required to provide the requisite stability face certain death the moment they set out to work? I desire of those politicians who dislike my overture, and who may perhaps be so bold as to attempt an answer, that they will first ask the parents of our slain American soldiers whether they would not think it better that their child had died to meet any concrete goal at all, be it a single completed power transformer or reconstructed sewer line, rather than having died to achieve no purpose whatsoever?

I profess, in the sincerity of my heart, that I have not the least personal interest in endeavoring to promote this necessary work, having no other motive than the public good of my country, by advancing the aims of our coalition, providing for stable Democracy in the Middle East, relieving the violence, and giving some pleasure to the humble citizenry of Iraq. I myself have no children who might be sent to Iraq by which I can propose to get a single penny, my only being nine years old, and myself well past draft age.


Monday, November 20, 2006

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Impeachment

Speaker Pelosi says that impeachment is off the table, which has prompted cautious sighs among Republicans who feel that it would somehow be unfair to hold the Bush administration accountable for their actions, as well as cautious resentment among the neo-Internet Democrats who feel that it's far beyond time we started actually fighting using the same down 'n dirty (lack of) rules that our foes have employed since 1994. But it isn't much fun to be in the position of hoping that your party's leaders are lying to you. Fortunately for us all (including the long-term health of the Republican Party), everyone seems to be forgetting a few things.

First of all, this "on/off the table" phrase is incredibly misleading. As it has been most recently employed by Bush to hint that he might like to nuke Iran, one would think that taking something "off the table" must amount to a solemn vow that you would never, ever do it. In reality, it merely means that you don't have the intention of doing it right now. Grown-ups understand that things can be taken off and put back on "the table" as circumstances require. Before even using "the i word," testimony must be brought to Congress.

Secondly, everybody knows that Democrats are "flip floppers." Unlike Republicans, upon getting new information, Democrats actually have the ability to change their minds, utilizing a process known as "thinking." Therefore, for a Democrat, declaring an intention not to impeach at the present time in no way rules out impeachment at a future date. In fact it would be irresponsible of any Congress to merely start a fishing expedition for evidence to support a desired outcome. It would similarly be irresponsible for Pelosi to state that she had such a goal in mind until the appropriate processes were completed first. Take a close look, Republicans - this is what a responsible Congress looks like, in stark contrast to previous Congressional hearings into subjects such as Whitewater and Vince Foster's suicide.

So, out of the vast array of Congressional hearings waiting in the wings, which would be most likely to bear the delicious, juicy fruit of a Presidential impeachment? Let's look at a choice few:

9/11 Commission II

Almost as if they were frightened to complete their duty, the 9/11 commission famously tabled the question regarding whether intelligence had been manipulated to lead us into Iraq and adjourned indefinitely. The resumption of this commission under a Democratic chair to finish its assignment will inevitably uncover how one gets from scads of CIA-collected rumors which their own analysts discounted, to a final CIA summary stating that they know for a fact that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Numerous other instances have occurred whereas items that the CIA had excised entirely from their reports later turned up in the mouths of our elected leaders.

Unfortunately, this one is going to go down like Iran-Contra. Sure, it's big. In fact, lying to get us into war is the one thing that lefties hate Bush for the most, but it won't stick. The administration will be able to shed a thick ablative shield of flunky scapegoats and then paint themselves as the mere victims of their own incompetent underlings. We'll all know it's a lie, but there won't be any smoking guns here. Still, this should hopefully discredit him to Nixonian levels, as well as root out the politicized bureaucracy installed in our intelligence services in favor of people actually willing to do their jobs.

Secret Prisons

On this, they are going to try to get away with their "law is unclear" game, dancing around on definitions (Does it apply to this foreigner? On that soil?) and employing delay tactics until no one is sure precisely why it's illegal.

Here's why it's illegal: when these occurred, the obligation of the U.S. Government to abide by Habeas Corpus was not a matter of Geneva Conventions or international treaty, but simply of Article 1, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution which simply states that "The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." As we are not presently in a state of either rebellion or invasion, claims regarding public safety are not relevant. Furthermore, this section of the Constitution notably does not refer to the legal or citizenship "status" of the person held. Habeas Corpus is not a right of citizens but rather a requirement placed upon the behavior of the Executive Branch. There are no other exceptions to this requirement, and no context which could change its meaning.

But wait! What about The Military Commissions Act of 2006? Didn't Bush get permission from the Republican Congress after the fact? Well, setting aside the fact that no Act of Congress can override an Article of the Constitution, the MCA attempts to absolve Bush's actions retroactively. In legal terms, that makes it an Ex Post Facto law. However, this is also explicitly verboten by the very same Article 1, Section 9 of the very same Constitution: "No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed."

Dadburn pesky Founders, they thought of damn near everything. Dadburn pesky Constitution. Bush probably should have read the silly thing before he took an oath to uphold it. Now, whether or not this constitutes a crime per se may be a difficult point of law, but whether or not Bush violated his Oath of Office is quite clear. That oath was to uphold the Constitution. The Constitution told him to uphold Habeas Corpus. He chose to do otherwise, so he broak his oath.

Warrantless Wiretaps

This one is a slam dunk. The Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act which governs this area of law explictly states that wiretaps require a warrant from a court. Bush has publicly stated that he authorized wiretaps without such warrants. There's no wiggle room on this. There are no legal exceptions or loopholes that he could possibly employ to get through or around the requirement for warrants. "Speedy" Gonzales & friends may talk around it all they like, but there's really no legal question on this whatsoever. And it doesn't matter what rhetoric he employs to appeal to the public that he should have been allowed to do what he did. The law is the law. This law is very clear. The President violated this very clear law. Presidents who violate laws get impeached. Period.

And so:

For each of the above points (and others), the pertinent facts will be placed before Congress, on the record. Once that is done, it would be a gross dereliction of duty for them not to impeach.

But even with all of this, until fairly recently I was filled with a vague sense of unease whenever the subject of impeachment came to mind. Not that I wasn't all for the impeachment of Bush, Cheney and whoever they care to cast off in their wake, but somehow I felt just a little bit like a partisan hack to admit it. Call it another form of liberal guilt, if you will. Here's what changed my mind and made it all easier: I merely asked myself "what about the Presidency itself?"

It would be one thing if all of the mean people currently in charge of the country wandered off into retirement and allowed saner heads get back to the business of putting the United States back together. Perhaps it would be better if we just moved on in 2008 and turned our backs on this ugly chapter of American history. After all, I'm a bleeding heart liberal softy ain't I? Give the poor schmucks a break and just put 'em out to pasture.

Unfortunately, that would set a precedent most foul. History would be written that these actions taken by these people went unpunished, leaving open-ended legal questions that a future President might exploit (maybe even a Democrat). We would always know what could happen, and that we did nothing to stop it last time. Thus, it is essential to the future health of the Union that all participants in the malfeasance of this administration be legally smacked so damn hard that it echoes forward throughout history, such that future generations of Chief Executives won't dare even think about trying to place themselves above the law for an instant.

Ultimately, no piece of paper, however venerable, has the power to enforce itself. The Constitution only "works" when the people in charge of executing it actually follow its precepts. This very thin point is all that stands between the United States and pure totalitarianism. When a President simply refuses to do what the Constitution says, the Union is forever imperiled. As such, violation of the Presidential Oath of Office itself must be considered an impeachable offense or else our Constitution may as well be written on toilet paper. This is why impeachment is necessary, completely irrespective of whether it is desireable.

So, whether you're a vaguely guilty moonbat or a panicky terrified wingnut, don't worry about the inevitable impeachment. It won't happen just because Bush is an idiot and a jerk, and it won't happen just because his lies are killing people. It won't happen because he is outnumbered by Democrats, and it certainly won't happen as revenge for Clinton. This is far, far more serious than the little partisan tit-for-tat games so beloved and feared by shrill Republican "strategists." Rather, impeachment will happen solely because it is a necessary step towards restoring freedom and liberty to America.

So relax. After all, freedom and liberty were supposed to be bipartisan concerns, right?



Of Foxes and Henhouses

To characterize Bush's tendency to appoint extremists to oversee agencies that those extremists hate as "alarming," would be putting things mildly. The fact that he continues to do so directly after the Democratic victory in both houses of Congress is nothing less than a warning shot across their bow that, for all his talk of being "above the fray," Bush intends to continue to politicize every aspect of American life at all levels. As if that point weren't made quite clearly by the very fact that Bush's campaign manager continues to oversee policy in any official capacity, Bush now enters his lame duck phase continuing to overstock the bureaucracy with partisan hacks. Although this most recent appointment does not require Senate confirmation, Bush presents the heretofore unconsidered counterexample as to why it should.

Ahem: Eric Keroack has been appointed to head the family planning services for the Department of Health and Human Services. As such, he will be responsible for any federal programs regarding the promotion and distribution of birth control. And what experience qualifies this worthy for such a position? Simply that he was previously director of "A Women's Concern," a group which opposes the promotion and distribution of birth control.

Setting aside for the moment all of the obvious arguments regarding the relationship between restricting birth control and the occurrence of abortion, it would seem shocking that a sitting president should appoint someone to oversee an agency who would obviously like to see that agency razed to the ground... if this weren't merely another instance in a long line of exactly that behavior. Bush has a tendency to put foxes in charge of henhouses, apparently for no other reason than that he is not fond of hens. It's like putting the enemy's generals in charge of your own army because you want to lose - but Iraq is another story.

The first thing that comes to mind is, what if the shoe were on the other foot? What if a Democrat in office put Tre Arrow in charge of the Department of the Interior? Ann Berlin in charge of Agriculture? How about Ralph Nader in charge of Commerce? Obviously the right-wingers would rightly scream that such a President had gone mad, and was instituting a dangerous policy that would lead directly to the destruction of the American economy. But there would be essentially no difference between that and the current administration's appointments, in that putting single-issue radicals in charge of their governmental nemeses is, to put it gently, an irresponsible pattern of behavior. Adjusting the mandate of governmental agencies is a job which should only appropriately be done via the legislature, as it should involve debate and public consideration. But to do so merely by executive appointment is nothing more or less than dereliction of duty, committed by both the appointee and the President himself.

However, this raises a larger and more difficult issue: what can be the proper political response to those who run for office with the intent of destroying government from within? It's not like we didn't have warning. The Rand/Goldwater/Reagan/Bush philosophy has been presented clearly and thoroughly enough before now, even as it has become increasingly strident and extremist over the past 50 years. These Republicans have stated loudly and at every possible moment that they would prefer to see all government agencies ground to a complete halt, and will work to do so whenever they can get away with it. The complete destruction of government itself (except for the military) has been explicitly and openly stated in platforms and campaign promises. And now, with this appointment and others, with every incompetent misstep and failure to act, we see those promises fulfilled. We can hardly say that we shouldn't have been expected to see it coming. Inept, unworkable government is both the premise and agenda of neoconservatism, after all. The apparent ineptitude of the Bush administration is therefore a matter of intentional philosophy, not of accident. They mean to screw everything up, and are doing so on purpose.

It isn't really possible to scold someone for destroying (or "reforming," to use the Gingrichese) that which they believe it is their moral duty to destroy. One can't shame these people into feeling bad for razing necessary governmental programs which they strongly believe are not only unnecessary, but actively harmful as well. To a lesser extent, they believe the same of all government (except for the military). Bush and his ilk are simply not cognizant of concepts such as the responsibility and duty of governmental bodies to perform their office faithfully. To the neocon right wing, all of government is nothing more than a pit into which their heroes are willing to descend in order to slay its monsters. It is not going out on a limb to state that such persons are well out of contact with reality, and should be kept as far as possible from holding offices in the government that they purport to hate so fervently. Unfortunately, the rest of us still have to deal with them, at least for the time being. The question is, how? After all, it's not like Congress can use the "power of the purse" against agencies that this administration is trying to throttle to death anyway.

First of all, these "bomb-thrower" appointees must be literally called to task. They may cackle with glee now that they hold the reins of their most hated enemies, but the oversight capacity of Congress must now hold them to executing the duties of their new offices faithfully, completely, and accurately. As such, they must be forced to actually perform their hated jobs correctly, or face indictment for abandoning their job responsibilities. For in order to act on their obvious intent they would have to break actual laws, either by neglecting their specified duties or by hiding or falsifying information gathered by their agency. As such, the forthcoming congressional hearings into wiretapping and manipulated intelligence will prove to be only the tip of a vast bureaucratic iceberg of malfeasance within nearly every government agency. I find it difficult to believe that such persons have been doing their jobs properly, given that they loathe those jobs as a matter of philosophical and/or religious dogma.

Now that we have a Congress prepared to actually exercize the oversight responsibility delegated to it by the Constitution, two years saturated with scandals as yet unknown are simply inevitable. Don't say you weren't warned. The only way we've avoided hearing about what's been crawling around under these rocks so far has been to avoid looking under rocks. But hopefully with enough such hearings, those who campaign against government agencies will become considerably more hesitant in the future to apply for or to accept positions running those agencies. If forced to actually do their jobs, they would either have to become what they purport to hate or reverse their stated convictions entirely.

In the long run, it is high time that those of us to the left of the new center took the time to make the case for government. If these Ayn Rand conservatives would characterize us as Socialists (or even Communists) merely for suggesting that certain functions of government are useful and necessary in order to define the limits and bounds within which individual enterprise may best flourish, then it is far more powerful to make the argument that their extremist call for no government (except for the military) leads ultimately to pure economic anarchy under the rule of a fascist junta. Just look at any third-world banana republic for the inevitable end result of their philosophy: the military is 90% of government, a handful of people have all the wealth, all infrastructure is privatized (that is, nonexistent) and the middle class has been completely eroded, leaving behind nothing but a vast - er, "affordable labor market" to be either exploited or discarded by the aforementioned wealthy. There are many examples of such economic wastelands available for comparison today. Each constitutes the antithesis of everything that America stands for.

And don't let the neocons try to tell you that this is not truly their aim. The fact that they haven't thought out the end result of their political dogma does not mean that they can disavow it so easily. Everything may be mere fun and games when it's all just rhetoric, but now that they have been stupid and insane enough to turn it all into policy, the real results of this creed are becoming clear to the electorate. If we could have a proper discussion of which functions of government should be exercized to what degree, then that would be sane. But to always call for "smaller government" regardless of the current actual size of the government, and regardless of its current activities or our current needs, constitutes merely a thinly veiled call for precisely such a form of pure economic anarchy. And even that thin veil is rapidly dropping.

But let's allow the fascists and the communists to fight out their extremist philosophies in other countries than ours. Among other things, America was supposed to be the land of the sane. Anybody who tries to tell you that we should be completely to either side of any philosophical scale merely in order to fulfill the purity of their vision is a raving lunatic and needs to be called so immediately whenever they dare open their bleating yap. It's time that we brought a new sense of shame to those who would dare to make a virtue out of dereliction of duty. That is not the American way, and these madmen are no patriots.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Iraq and a Hard Place

To me, this is mixed news. Bush has received a four-point "victory study" from the Iraq Study Group, which specifies actual goals for what constitutes "victory." To say that it's about time would be a gross understatement. If we had done this, say, three years ago we might have actually met some actual goals by now. And such goals as remain might also not have to be quite as modest as they've become.

What's been really driving me nuts is that Bush & co. have been saying since the start that they won't leave until they "win," or achieve "victory." At the same time, they constantly refuse to define what those words actually mean. Other than our President, I know of no other employee of any kind who has ever gotten away with the argument that benchmarks on his job performance are to be avoided on the grounds that they will harm his job performance. Such breathtaking chutzpah as this would get you fired like a shot from any burger joint in the world. And yet Bush & co. roll on.

At this point, I'm generally inclined to believe that anything the Iraq Study Group says is a relatively good idea, compared to the other options available to us at this late date. Even if we were to begin withdrawal now, we would hypothetically want defined goals for what to achieve on the way out. But since we're already in the quagmire, we might as well listen to some actual foreign policy professionals who know how to define goals and meet them.

Here's what they want Bush to do:

1. Increase US troop levels by up to 20,000 to secure Baghdad and allow redeployments elsewhere in Iraq

Setting aside the blood pressure spike I feel on reading this, it's simply a stupid idea. Escalating troop levels, like not having invaded Iraq at all, is an idea that's well past its time. If we had started the occupation with more troops initially, we might have done somewhat better than we have. Nevertheless, its far too late to fix everything merely by increasing forces on the ground by less than 15 percent. That's too little, too late to turn things around in Iraq. Yet at the same time, it's more than enough to further inflame the electorate in America. So McCain is an idiot for suggesting the same thing, especially if he thinks he's got a shot at 2008 after caving on torture. As if this conflict didn't fit the Vietnam profile enough as it is (and does anybody else remember them insisting "this won't be another Vietnam" over and over again?) troop escalation fits even further. The only thing (short of Bush putting on a Nixon mask) that would make this look exactly like 1970 would be to reinstate the draft - and I wouldn't put that past him at this point.

2. Focus on regional cooperation with international conference and/or direct diplomatic involvement of countries such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia

This is a good one. Contrary to the Bush policy regarding pre-invasion Iraq, North Korea, Iran, and the whole damn United Nations, it is never too late to conduct diplomacy. Only regional networks can provide long-term stability to fragmented areas (see Kosovo). And maybe this will actually push Bush into at least talking with Iran and Syria, rather than the usual policy of rattling sabres at them. That would be nice.

3. Revive reconciliation process between Sunni, Shia and others

Well, duh. I wasn't actually aware that we'd actually stopped any specific "process," but this explains a lot. The Iraqi government's gradual polarization into competing death squads has always seemed to me to be something that was completely avoidable from the start. As it turns out, it was.

4. Increase resources from Congress to fund training and equipment of Iraqi security forces

And here's where we come to the tough choice. The last thing the newly Democratic Congress needs is to bend over the way that the Republicans have for the last six years. However, using the "power of the purse" to starve the war effort is only going to hurt troops, which is the last thing that anybody wants to do. Bush has already demonstrated a willingness to put soldiers into harm's way without sufficient equipment, and he's not likely to change his spots this late in the game. But Dems will get the blame if they don't continue to pony up. The smart thing for the Democratic legislature to do would be to attach amendments to any Iraq appropriations bills rolling back such foul stains as the provisions of PATRIOT Act and the Military Commisions Act. That puts Bush in the position of either allowing Congress to repair the Constitution or to take responsibility himself for overextending the existing military budget.

In drafting this document, the Iraq Study Group also pretty much threw out insistence on maintaining "Western-style" democracy (whatever that means), and that's a good thing. Democracy can't be imposed from without, by definition. Whatever Iraq becomes, for us to try to change it again would naturally be undemocratic. But then, every time a right-winger refers to "freedom" or "liberty" these days (and they do it a lot) I am reminded of this quote from the movie The Princess Bride: "You keep saying that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

It's going to be a long, hard two years with Bush continuing to fight for his "war" to the very end. He fights against Iraq, against the world, and against America. Even fighting against common sense, he stubbornly continues to refuse to withdraw from the endless progression of fights that he picks.

It's time that America at least started fighting back.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

What we're dealing with here

Day 1: Register a domain name. Yay!

Day 4: Realize I need hosting to do anything. Look up hosting services, pick one. Point the domain thingy at the host thingy. Then forget about it completely.

Day 73: Oh yeah, don't I have a website?

Day 74: Play with various PhP blog packages. Decide I don't like any of them.

Day 91: Hey, didn't Google resurrect Blogger from the dotcom graveyard? I used to like them, until they were down to one employee and nothing worked.

Day 95: Try various combinations of ancient usernames and passwords from the hazy mists of my memory. Get one to work. What is this "beta" business? Grr.

Day 113: Point the blog thingy at the ftp thingy. Bang my head against templates all day. Back in my day, they didn't have that law saying you have to use "div" tags instead of tables for layout. But I'll be damned if I'm going to show myself as some kind of pre-bubble dinosaur. I'm hip to the new code. I'm down. I'll get this to work eventually. Now I just need to figure out what it is that I'm trying to with it in the first place. Attempt to do twelve ridiculous things at once. My personal site will be all things to all people! I will be the new The Google! Sketch a bazillion ridiculous ideas on a piece of paper until it's mostly ink. Since when did clean design get so complicated?

Day 114: Oh yeah, content. I should probably actually post something, huh? I hear that self-referentiality is clever.

Day 1263: Hey, I notice that I used to have some blog posts. Maybe I should do something with that. Forget this domain name business, let's just go ahead and trust Google for now.