Saturday, March 31, 2007

David Hicks & The Stench of Hypocrisy

Word comes from Australia that under the plea bargain struck by lawyers for convicted Al Qaeda supporter David Hicks, he will soon be transferred from Guantánamo Bay to Australia and after serving an nine-sentence will be freed from an Adelaide jail on New Year's Day.
The stench of hypocrisy emanating from the White House and Canberra on this one is overwhelming.
Unlike his fellow “enemy combatants” at the flagship of the Rumsfeld Gulag, where he received a recommended seven-year sentence (down from a threatened life sentence), Hicks soon will be free for two reasons:

First, because he is a caucasian from a country that has slavishly supported the U.S. in Iraq and the so-called War on Terror’ lengthy incarceration.

Second and most importantly, his lengthy incarceration without trial and questions about his treatment had become a political liability for the Conservative government of Prime Minister John Howard.

In agreeing to the sweetheart deal, Hicks stipulated he had "never been illegally treated" while in U.S. custody, although his father said his son would say anything just to get out of Gitmo.

Said Terry Hicks:

"It's a real shame David had to go through this way to get released. The Americans made David sign a paper to say he was never abused . . . when we knew he has been -- David told us."
More here.

Cartoon by Peter Nicholson

Land of the Free. Home of the Cowardly

Despite the fact that many of the 385 prisoners at Guantánamo Bay have been there for five years, only 10 have been formally charged and only one -- the aforementioned David Hicks -- has been tried.

That outrage is setting up another likely showdown between lawyers for many of these so-called enemy combatants and the Bush administration in the Supreme Court, and it is my belief that the White House is in line for a rebuke such as that it received in the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case.
At issue again is the constitutionality of a new law passed as a result of the Hamdan decision that stripped the federal courts of jurisdiction to hear challenges to the validity of the detainees’ confinement. The law is central to the Bush administration's cowardly strategy of holding prisoners captured in the wake of the 9/11 attacks outside the U.S. and the scrutiny of the federal courts -- and public that it claims it is so vigorously defending.
The ultimate irony, of course, is that the War on Terror is being fought to protect the very values that the Bush administration has sought to destroy, in this instance including bypassing the federal court system.

More here.

Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere

Your chariot is ready. More here.

The US has lost its position as the world's primary engine of technology innovation, according to a report by the World Economic Forum.

The US is now ranked seventh in the body's league table measuring the impact of technology on the development of nations.

A deterioration of the political and regulatory environment in the US prompted the fall, the report said.

The top spot went for the first time to Denmark, followed by Sweden.

-- BBC

What the leftist and media critics get wrong about Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush is that they screwed up by going in halfhearted and without demanding real sacrifice upfront from the American people.


We must keep talking to the Iranians, offering carrots even when these are contemptuously tossed into the gutter, because there is no credible alternative. Even threats of economic sanctions must be considered cautiously. Their most likely consequence would be to feed Iranian paranoia, to strengthen the hand of Tehran’s extremists. A state of declared Western encirclement could suit President Ahmadinejad very well indeed.

No sensible Westerner, committed to the pursuit of international harmony, could welcome any of this. Iran represents a menace to the security of us all, not to mention what it must be like to live under that reprehensible regime. But, in the wake of the Iraq catastrophe, never has the overwhelming military power of the United States seemed less relevant to confronting a large, relatively rich nation that enjoys considerable grassroots support in the Islamic world for its defiance of the West.


Does everyone in the Bush administration have amnesia?

In recent times US grand strategy has been guided by a new kind of doctrine, named after not its author but its exemplar: the Costanza Doctrine.

This doctrine, which had its heyday in 2002-2004 but remains influential, recalls the classic episode of the TV comedy Seinfeld, "The Opposite," in which George Costanza temporarily improves his fortunes by rejecting all the principles according to which he has lived his life and doing the opposite of what his training indicates he should do. As Jerry tells him: "If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right."


Lapses in using a digital medical record system for tracking wounded soldiers have led to medical mistakes and delays in care, and have kept thousands of injured troops from getting benefits, according to former defense and military medical officials.


My fiance will kill me, but I urge everyone to vote foir Sanjaya in American Idol. It's very, very important to subvert this compulsive but far too self-important show. Help can be found here.

Photograph by Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Friday, March 30, 2007

The U.S. Attorney Scandal As Black Hole

Scandals have a way of becoming black hole-like in that they suck any associated dirty linen into their maws and spit it out for all the world to see.

The O.J. Simpson case is the Bigfoot of this phenomenon. Before The Juice's criminal and civil trials were over, practically everyone associated with the sordid affair had been revealed as everything ranging from drug addicts, unfit mothers and serial philanderers to turnstile jumpers, shoplifters and jaywalkers.

And so it is with the ongoing U.S. attorney firing scandal, the one that Republicans claimed would quickly sink with nary a whimper.
All sorts of associated dirty linen is being aired because of the scandal, but my favorite to date is the unauthorized flyover of Air National Guard fighter jets at the grand opening of a Toyota dealership owned by a Republican Party big in Roswell, New Mexico.
This Only in America moment has now gotten a second life because of an anti-David Iglesias radio ad running in New Mexico, as well as that Josh Marshall fella.

Iglesias, of course, is the U.S. attorney infamously axed for not kissing the backsides of a New Mexico Republican senator and congresswoman who wanted him to get tough with Democrats before the crucial November 2006 mid-term election. Marshall, of course, is the blogger that kept the scandal from dying because of doggedly digging into its roots with the help of his readers at Talking Point Memo.

Anyhow, the radio ad is being run by a group called New Mexicans for Honest Courts (sic).

The website of the group (sic) says that its chairman is Linda Chavez Krumland, who is a major Republican contributor, was an at-large delegate to the 2004 Republican National Convention, and owns Roswell Toyota.

Her husband, Tom Krumland, also a 2004 RNC delegate, hit a rough patch after he and Dan Foley, a Republican state representative, snookered the New Mexico Air National Guard into arranging an F-16 flyover at the grand opening of the dealership the day before Veterans Day 2005 when the commanding general thought it was for something else altogether.

This gross misuse of taxpayer money might have gone unnoticed except that Tom Krumland forgot to invite local veterans groups to the festivities and they raised heck.

Krumland's initial response to the controversy didn't help:

"If we offended anybody, then they’re unpatriotic."
He later apologized (sic).

Is the Surge Working? You Must Be Joking.

Aftermath of a suicide bombing near a Mahmudiya hospital
The keys to the success of President Bush's "surge" strategy are ending the orgy of sectarian violence while bringing the government of Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki to heel.

Well, it has been an awful week for both objectives:
In the northern city of Tal Afar, a bombing in a Shiite neighborhood by Sunnis killed 70 people and a reprisal massacre of Sunnis by Shiite police officers left 70 more dead. Al Maliki ordered the obligatory "investigation," but 18 police officers suspected of participating in the massacre were released after being briefly detained.

In Baghdad, at least 60 people, mostly women and children, were killed when a man with an explosive belt walked into a crowded street market the Shaab neighborhood and detonated it.

Elsewhere in the capital, a bomb placed on a popular shopping street in the Baya district killed 10 people, while a suicide car bomber detonated himself at an Iraqi Army checkpoint in the Jamiya district, killing three soldiers. Meanwhile, at least 25 bodies were found throughout the city.

In the predominately Shiite town of Khalis in bloody Diyala Province, a coordinated attack involving three suicide car bombers killed at least 28 people, including women and children.

In Mahmudiya, a car bomb exploded near a hospital, killing four people.

Now no one said that the surge would work overnight, but if there are genuine signs of progress, not merely a few good days in a row, I keep missing them.

It's real simple:

There cannot be a military solution without a social solution and there cannot be a social solution without a military solution. This week was a notable setback for both efforts.
More here.

Photograph by Ibrahim Sultan/Reuters

A Good Reason to Boycott Circuit City

Circuit City is sending a message to its best paid employees: Hit the bricks.

The electronics retailer has laid off 3,400 people who the chain says earned "well above" the local market rate for the kinds of jobs they held.
Not to worry though: They''ll be able to apply for their old positions -- at lower hourly wages.
No word on how many executives who are overpaid will be asked to quit.
More here.

Hat tip to Kevin Drum at The Political Animal

Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere

Cheddarvision allows you to watch cheese age. More here.

Is environmentalism becoming a form of religion? This is a meme sometimes found on the anti-enviro right, and in some extreme cases, they have a point. There is something fundamentalist about those who think of the earth as somehow an entity to be obeyed rather than a place to be simply lived in. The totalism of some animal rights activists has the smack of rigid orthodoxy. We all know how green the roots of the Nazi party were.

But this is an extreme fringe. For the vast majority of people who care about the environment, the impulse is usually to preserve something we love. At its root, this is a conservative impulse. In America, in particular, love of the land has long been a part of patriotism. And where religious faith appears, it isn't necessarily a paean to Gaia. "America, The Beautiful" is an environmentalist hymn. America's greatest poets, Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, are intoxicated with the natural beauty of this continent. Part of their intoxication is their sense of the divine saturating the natural. Read Thoreau or Emerson and the same American interaction with nature is palpable. Americans, after all, forged a relationship with wilderness more recently than any Europeans. And there is, therefore, a deeply patriotic form of green thought in America that has been overly neglected by environmentalists and that can and should be reclaimed by political leaders, especially on the right.


In the beloved Iraq, the bloodshed is continuing under an illegal foreign occupation and detestable sectarianism. The blame should fall on us, the leaders of the Arab nation, with our ongoing differences, our refusal to walk the path of unity. All that has made the nation lose its confidence in us.


Victory is no longer an option in Iraq, if it ever was. The only rational objective left is to responsibly organize America’s inevitable exit. That is exactly what Mr. Bush is not doing and what the House and Senate bills try to do.


The one thing we’ve learned but Mr. Bush has not, is that depending on whom you do it to, lying can be a crime even if you are not under oath. Mr. Bush knows that if his in-house liars, of whom he has an abundance from whom to select, lie under oath they may be subject to criminal prosecution. He thinks if they are not under oath when they lie to Congress it’s not a crime. There’s a reason for his confusion. He told the biggest lie of all and has not been prosecuted for it. What he doesn’t realize is that’s not because he was not under oath. It’s because he didn’t tell it to a Congressional committee. He told it to the entire world and that’s not a crime even though to date it’s gotten 3400 American soldiers killed, more than 25,000 American soldiers wounded and depending on what reports you choose to read, between 200,000 and 600,000 Iraqis killed. Mr. Bush’s lie is the lie that continues to give, as more soldiers and Iraqis die and are grievously wounded daily. All Mr. Bush has to do to educate himself on the two methods of criminally lying is to examine two guilty pleas entered by two former members of his administration.


Hear me now, Obama supporters -- the style versus substance rap is something Obama will have to deal with throughout the campaign. Get used to it.

The possibility of Bill Clinton returning to the White House he left six years ago raises some questions that are far touchier than whether Americans are ready for a “first gentleman.” As an ex-president, how much influence would he have in his wife’s administration? Will memories of the Monica Lewinsky scandal haunt Hillary Clinton’s campaign and drive away voters? What’s the status of the Clintons’ marriage — and does it matter?


Allegations of voter fraud -- someone sneaking into the polls to cast an illicit vote -- have been pushed in recent years by partisans seeking to justify proof-of-citizenship and other restrictive ID requirements as a condition of voting. Scare stories abound on the Internet and on editorial pages, and they quickly become accepted wisdom.

But the notion of widespread voter fraud, as these prosecutors found out, is itself a fraud. Firing a prosecutor for failing to find wide voter fraud is like firing a park ranger for failing to find Sasquatch.


I spent more than 35 years in the department enforcing federal civil rights laws -- particularly voting rights. Before leaving in 2005, I worked for attorneys general with dramatically different political philosophies -- from John Mitchell to Ed Meese to Janet Reno. Regardless of the administration, the political appointees had respect for the experience and judgment of longtime civil servants.

Under the Bush administration, however, all that changed. Over the last six years, this Justice Department has ignored the advice of its staff and skewed aspects of law enforcement in ways that clearly were intended to influence the outcome of elections.


What little credibility Gonzales had is gone. All that now keeps him in office, save the friendship of the president, is the conviction of many Republicans that removing him would embolden the Democrats. It is an overblown fear. The Democrats will pursue scandals, real or invented, whether or not Gonzales stays. But they have an especially inviting target in Gonzales. He cannot defend the administration and its policies even when they deserve defense. Alberto Gonzales should resign. The Justice Department needs a fresh start.


After putting in place "watch lists" that, if abused, might keep you from getting a job or insuring your family, we hear about the Treasury Department's list of "specially designated nationals." Intended to control the activities of suspected terrorists, the list maintained by the Office of Foreign Asset Control, is now being used by a range of businesses--from auto dealers to mortgage companies--to deny ordinary citizens access to loans and capital items.


If my critique of the Bush administration could be expressed in a single sentence, it would be this -- they ignore and attack restraints on their power. This is the foundational conceptual thread that binds together so many of the scandals and controversies we've seen over the past few years. International law constraining your actions? Ignore it. War crimes statute limiting your interrogation methods? Ignore it (then delete it). Don’t like part of a congressionally-enacted statute? Issue a signing statement and ignore it. Pesky FISA cramping your style? Declare it unconstitutional. Geneva Convention got you down? Call it quaint. Is your habeas flaring up again? Delete it. Having problems with a special prosecutor? Lie to him. Are certain Democrats political threats? Prosecute them, or suppress their political base through fraud investigations or through not enforcing the Voting Rights Act. And if U.S. Attorneys refuse to go along? Fire them.


The Bush administration has started legacy hunting, and it has fixed its sights on immigration reform. The one issue where George Bush and the Democrats have common ground will get immediate attention . . . a development that will concern border-security conservatives.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Time To Pass the Equal Rights Amendment

It seems like just the other day I was saying that recent proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution weren't worth the powder to blown themselves up with.

Geez! It was just the other day.
These conservative agenda-driven amendments have included bans on American flag burning and same -sex marriage, authorizing school prayer and the right to use the word "God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, and that moldy oldie -- making English the "official" language.

Mercifully, all have crashed and burned in Congress before they could even be sent down to the states to begin the ratification process.
The far more deserving Equal Rights Amendment zipped through Congress in 1972 but fell three states short of the required approval by 38 state legislatures.

Now Senate and House Democrats have reintroduced the measure and vow to bring it to a vote by the end of the current session.

Said Senator Barbara Boxer of California:
"Elections have consequences, and isn't it true those consequences are good right now? We are turning this country around, bit by bit, to put it in a more progressive direction."
In my view, the ERA isn't so much progressive than commonsensical.

Women were granted the right to vote with ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, but nowhere has it been codified that they also have equal rights, which of course they often do not. Hence the unambiguous language in the ERA:
"Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
What may be commonsensical for you and I is, of course, anathema for people who believe that anything liberals believe in is baaaad. And that an Equal Rights Amendment will open the door to a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah, if not an armed takeover by radical lesbians. Then there are the folks with rose-colored glasses who believe that there have been so many societal advances for women that an ERA isn't necessary anymore.

As Shakespeare's Sister notes:
"Of course, the usual suspects are reemerging to fight it, just like they did last time: In the 1970s, [Phyllis] Schlafly and others argued that the ERA would lead to women being drafted by the military and to public unisex bathrooms. Today, she warns lawmakers that its passage would compel courts to approve same-sex marriages and deny Social Security benefits for housewives and widows. The real issue buried in all that nonsense is, of course, same-sex marriages. Other opponents are all fidgety because courts in two states have ruled that equal-rights amendments in state constitutions justify state funding for abortion.

"Yeah, who knows what will happen when we finally recognize women as equals? Maybe frogs will fall from the fucking sky!"
Well, it's long past time to find out.

Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere

Flight deck crew prepares U.S. fighter jet launch in Persian Gulf

The executions [in Tal Afar] mark the first evidence of total failure of the surge plan because up to now the Shiites have acted with restraint, despite the provocations of Sunni militants. All of the evidence of the "success" of the surge at this point has to do with Shi’ite militias standing down and leaving the Sunnis alone. Perhaps that is still the case in Baghdad - though who knows for how much longer. But in Tal Afar, an example cited not only by President Bush but also by General Petraeus in his new counterinsurgency document as successful, the Shiite revenge attacks seem to be rapidly increasing. All of this suggests that either the U.S. surge plan would have worked if it included 200,000 troops instead of 28,000, or that it would not have worked regardless of how many troops were added to the mix.


You can never win. First critics said the surge would never work. Now that US and Iraqi forces have started rounding up terror suspects by the hundreds as a result of the improved security plan, the critics now complain that we've captured too many.


If you’re looking for a bellwether state in the Iraq debate, consider Nebraska. Those cornhuskers live in the center of the national map, and their two senators – as evidenced by their actions yesterday - are living proof that opposition to President Bush’s open-ended war is now the centrist stance in American politics.

Without crucial assists from conservative Democrat Ben Nelson and maverick Republican Chuck Hagel, the narrowly Democratic Senate would have failed yesterday to set a troop withdrawal date. Their support proved pivotal – the final vote was 50 to 48 – thus enabling the Senate to rebuke Bush for the first time and declare that America should essentially end, next year, its combat mission in Iraq.


Here's a postscript to today's Iraq vote in the Senate: Joe Lieberman accidentally laid bare his repeated dissembling about Iraq for all the world to see! Yes, yes, what else is new. But seriously -- what other option is there but to point this stuff out every time it happens?

On the Senate floor today, Lieberman implored his fellow Senators to vote Yes on the amendment to nix withdrawal timetables. He argued that for the "first time in a long time" there is now finally reason for optimism about Iraq -- even though he's been steadily arguing for months and months in the recent past that there was cause for such optimism.

If this is the "first time in a long time" that there's been "reason for optimism," does that mean Lieberman didn't mean it all those other times in the recent past when he suggested there was reason for optimism about Iraq?


I haven't been paying much attention to Condoleezza Rice's trip to Israel-Palestine. Why? Because I don't think she has a chance in hell of waging a solution to the conflict. The problem lies with the fact that the Bush administration has zero credibility amongst Palestinians. American officials have put relentless pressure on the Palestinian government to stop all violence against Israelis, to recognize Israel, to marginalize Hamas, and to agree to previous peace agreements. Meanwhile, the Israeli government has not been asked to do much of anything. They haven't been asked to recognize the Palestinian state, to end the occupation of Palestinian land, to stop building the separation wall on Palestinian territory, nor to deconstruct their settlements in the West Bank. The Bush administration's biased approach towards this conflict is likely to doom Rice's attempt to broker a peace between the two sides.


[T]he Saudis, too, know how to read election returns. They see Bush swimming against a tide of scandal and stench that engulfs his most trusted aides. In the traditional Saudi worldview, this is a moment to hedge, not to indulge in the kind of leadership needed to break the Israeli-Palestinian deadlock or the deadly morass of Iraq.

The Iran/Iraq maritime boundary shown on the British government map does not exist. It has been drawn up by the British Government. Only Iraq and Iran can agree their bilateral boundary, and they never have done this in the Gulf, only inside the Shatt because there it is the land border too. This published boundary is a fake with no legal force.

At least 471 cases of pet kidney failure have been reported in the 10 days since a nationwide recall of dog and cat food and 104 of those pets have died, a veterinarians’ information service said. Paul Pion, founder of the Veterinary Information Network, which counts 30,000 veterinarians and veterinary students as members, said the number of reported kidney failure cases had already grown even higher but said he would not have an updated tally for a few days. The maker of the recalled pet food has confirmed the deaths of 16 pets.


We kill lots of animals — the ones we find annoying, destructive or unsafe. We regularly employ toxic substances against rats, insects, prairie dogs, coyotes and invasive fish, and yet we are shocked when those same lethal substances affect us.

Americans are giving up everything that made us a country to be admired, to be emulated, to be a place where you can hope for a better life. We have operated with a might makes right approach to the rest of the world, while forgetting that the meek are supposed to inherit the earth. Not only do we not care for the least of us, we care not for ourselves. We are willing to believe that the government (that was supposed to be made small enough to drown in a bathtub, remember that line?) will make us safe from terrorists by making it difficult for suspicious people to conduct their lives legitimately. Sounds good until you realize that the definition of suspicious includes everyone not in the inner circle. Everyone. And the inner circle is secret.

-- DEB

Have We Got a Blogstorm For You!

A newspaper is a boat, a highly evolved mechanism designed and built to float in water. Blogs are bikes, built to cruise in another environment. Now, you can pull a bunch of planking off a boat and add wheels and pedals, but that won't make it as light and maneuverable as a bike.
-- Terry McDermott, L.A. Times staff writer
An obedient child, I heeded my mother’s advice to never play with matches. Except for blowing up the mailbox of a customer on my rural paper route who wouldn't pay me, I stayed true to her admonition.

But a funny thing happens if you’re not careful when you grow up and become a blogger:

You get drawn into flame wars involving other bloggers with whom you may differ, and the online equivalent of playing with matches can get you burned.
Exhibit A in this regard is Ms. Ann Althouse, a University of Wisconsin law school professor and feminist when she is feeling set upon, which is fairly regularly. As a result, Ms. Ann Althouse's epynonymous blog is a kind of Magnetic North for flaming.

Boy did I ever learn that the hard way! Last year, I found myself in the eye of a growing blogstorm triggered by a post in which I had speculated in the course of a musing on presidential wannabe Mitt Romney as to whether he wore Mormon church-approved underwear.

I never found out whether he did, but as I noted in an essay that I wrote after I had recovered enough to be transferred from the ICU at my local hospital, this particular blogstorm reached a hurricane-force Category 5 because of the insistence of Ms. Ann Althouse to talk past me and then blow a fuse when I didn’t kiss her Ferragamos.

Eric Alterman refers to of what I speak in commenting on Ms. Ann Althouse's latest attack, this time on an unsuspecting Garance Franke-Ruta of The American Prospect and captured on video for posterity:
"A few months ago, Bob Wright asked me to do a BHTV [Bloggingheads TV] with Ms. Althouse. I knew nothing about her at all, except that she accused a female liberal blogger who met with Bill Clinton of having breasts . . . or something. I never could figure out what it was really. I said 'OK,' with the caveat that I wanted her to talk about why she, as a woman, thought it appropriate to call attention to the fact that another woman standing near Clinton happen to have breasts. I mean, my daughter will have breasts one day, and I want to be able to prepare her in case she needs to apologize for them. When Althouse emailed me to discuss potential topics, I said what I said to Bob, which was that we could talk about anything, as long as it included that topic. She got all huffy and pulled out of the discussion. Then she attacked me on her blog and again on the op-ed page of The New York Times. Here, she flips out -- is there any other word? -- with Garance when the latter merely refers to it. Garance is duly surprised by the hysteria -- as will you be if you watch it, I imagine -- but the fact is, she is getting crazy about the fact that she says Garance did not prepare the topic in advance. I tried to do that, and she flipped out as well."
Ms. Ann Althouse's response -- make that multiple responses -- are all over the map, but this one, oddly titled Things I'm Not Talking About, seems to sum up her feelings while showing a wee bit of contrition:
"Many characters in the leftosphere used the two-minute segment where I get mad to rake over the old flame war that I spent those two minutes saying I wouldn't be dragged into talking about again.

"I may be sorry I got as mad as I did -- but I think showing some anger in an argument is not a huge deal. There's so much repression and passive aggression out there. It's so easy to process your emotions with those grim tools. It's what we usually do. The notion that it's crazy to display emotion is. . . . crazy."
Inadvertent as it may be, Ms. Ann Althouse hits on why those leftobloggers can't help but return her compliments. (Hint: It's a two-word term with a total of 12 letters.)

My mother also taught me to let bygones be bygones, and like a chump I reached out a couple of times to Ms. Ann Althouse after my wounds had completely healed, one time to ask if she could point me in the direction of one of her legal eagle colleagues for comment on a tricky legal situation right in her own back yard. No response.
I did not sulk about this silent treatment and suppose that I should be flattered by the attention Ms. Ann Althhouse paid me in the first place. But then that would be like saying that it felt good to be run over by Mr. Dick Cheney's limousine.
Death threats against a popular tech blogger have ignited an online debate about free speech, civility and sexism on the Internet.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that:
"The threats against Kathy Sierra, an author who promotes the notion of emphasizing the needs of the user in Web site design, have sparked a Webwide debate on the nature of online discourse.

"The incident and its aftermath have drawn back the curtain on a computer culture in which the more outrageous the comment, the more attention it gets. It's a world that many women in particular see as still dominated by men and where personal attacks often are defended on grounds of free speech."

More here.

Holly in Cincinnati has a round-up of bad blog behavior at The Moderate Voice, which includes the aforementioned death threats, hate mail, making fun of people with cancer . . . you get the idea.

More here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Iraq & The Looming Constitutional Crisis

There have been two constitutional crises in my lifetime – a Vietnam era debate over whether the president can unilaterally declare war and the Watergate scandal. The table is now being set for a third over President Bush’s refusal to bow to the American people and a Congressional majority on his Iraq war policy.

The republic survived the first two crises.

In the first, which was a legacy of President Johnson bypassing Congress to take the U.S. to war in Vietnam, Congress put restrictions on a president’s ability to unilaterally declare war, although only after Johnson had left office and it overrode a Nixon veto.

President Nixon himself defused the second by resigning rather than face impeachment for orchestrating an extralegal power grab that included a White House dirty tricks team, refusing to hand over evidence to Congress and, in twin echoes of current scandals, politicalization of the Justice Department and misuse of executive privilege.

Not unlike these crises, the focal point of the forthcoming one is an implacable president who seems to welcome a confrontation with a congressional majority that has the support of most Americans; in this case on finding a way to end the Iraq war sooner rather than later.
The stage has been set for this crisis because the Democrats in both House and Senate have managed to overcome ideological infighting and forge a consensus.

The engine for the Democratic initiative is the mandate the party was given in the mid-term election and the fuel the House vote last week imposing a deadline in a supplemental funding bill for the withdrawal of American troops by August 2008, if not earlier if certain benchmarks are not met. Senate Democrats yesterday beat back an effort by Republicans to remove a March 2008 deadline from their version of the bill and will now have to work in conference with their House counterparts to try to iron out differences in the two bills and draft compromise legislation that can clear both chambers and be sent to the White House.

The president’s apologists will bewail the fact that this showdown looms at precisely the time when there at last seems to be some progress in Iraq.

My short response is: Tough shit. My longer response is: Too little too late, and most Americans agree with me. Their patience is finite and they are sick and tired of being repeatedly diddled by talk that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
It is, of course, George Bush himself who is making matters worse because of his numbingly strident rhetoric against anyone opposed to a four year-plus war and occupation that should not have happened in the first place and was wretchedly executed when it did.

I can only presume that the republic will survive this crisis, as well. The keys to how protracted it will be, as well as how (or whether) it is resolved are:

* Whether Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will be able to keep Democrats in line.

* What Republicans who have long marched to the White House beat will do.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that his caucus is weary of playing procedural paddy cake with filibuster threats and cloture battles. The Republicans are not about to cave in to the Democrats, but apparently will leave it to the president to make good on his veto threat when a bill curbing his war powers by legislating funding limits does reach the Oval Office.

Then there is the question of how many Republicans from the party’s re-emergent moderate bloc conclude that listening to their war-weary constituents is smarter than listening to a president who is setting up the party for another electoral defeat in 2008.

It is difficult to image this Senate ever sending a bill to this president with a veto-proof majority.

But the war in Iraq has taken so many unexpected twists and turns and George Bush is so wounded that it would be foolhardy to rule out a resolution to this constitutional crisis that hastens the end of the greatest foreign policy blunder in American history.

Photograph by Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Hidely Ho, Maldives!

At some point overnight, probably while my snoring was keeping the cats awake, there was a knock at the door of Kiko's House and we welcomed a visitor from the Maldives, the 100th country we've logged in the 16 months this wee blog has existed.
The Maldives, for the geographically impaired, is a nation consisting of 26 natural atolls comprising of 1,192 islands. Since ancient times, the Maldives have been ruled by kings, sultans and sultanas and have an importance beyond their flea-speck size because of their strategic location on major shipping routes in the Indian Ocean.
Kiko's House has been a rather international blog in outlook from the outset, and roughly one in three of our readers hail from outside the U.S. on most days.
The other 99 countries at that have seats at our table include:
Albania Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Bermuda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Georgia, Greece, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakistan, Kenya, Korea, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Mauritius, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, Mozambique Nepal, Netherlands, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Romania, Russian Federation, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia and Montenegro, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, USA, Venezuela, Vietnam.

Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere

The fourth year has arrived. And counting. My biggest fear is that I will be sitting on a chair every year, posting about the fifth year, seventh year, 20th year of occupation and it's harvest of blood, pain and disappointment.

The policy and decision makers of the United States of American has turned into the most arrogant idiots, drunk with power to the point that they can't drive their way home from Iraq anymore.


There is not sufficient space, as well, for me to refute some of the arguments made in Slate over the past week against intervention, arguments made, I have noticed, by people with limited experience in the Middle East (Their lack of experience causes them to reach the naive conclusion that an invasion of Iraq will cause America to be loathed in the Middle East, rather than respected).


Yesterday I received an email from the [Iraqi] Prime Minister's office presenting his condolences for losing [a friend's] sister, as she had passed away; the cause of the death was natural causes. That reminded me of what I did a few weeks ago when my father-in-law told me that someone I knew had passed away by natural causes; I spontaneously responded and said "Oh thank God."

Then I realized that that was a stupid thing to say; and I started to think why I said that; I said it because it's been a long time since I heard anyone die of natural causes; no car bomb? No IED? No kidnapping nor arrest by security forces then found dead on a street corner?


The difference between then and now is that then, Bush was strong and he had a loyal Republican Congress, and now he’s not and he doesn’t, and these two things are not unrelated. Fifteen months ago that nauseating little bitch Lindsey Graham was primarily concerned with making sure that Leader had the right to revoke habeus corpus whenever he felt like it; now, he’s troubled that the President didn’t follow the usual protocol in replacing some civil servants. Furrow your brow, Lindsey! Furrow it with sincere concern for everyone to see! Because you can read the polls as well as anyone, and you know that anyone who sticks by Bush these days is fucked.


Not to put too fine a point on it, the officers and generals lied. They lied to the Tillman family about how Pat Tillman died. They lied to the American public about how Pat Tillman died. They lied in official recommendations that Pat Tillman be awarded a Silver Star. They lied in order to cynically and shamelessly exploit his death for propaganda purposes.

That used to be called conduct unbecoming an officer. That used to be a serious source of shame before your peers. Now it’s an error. And — for propaganda purposes, no doubt — they have gone ahead and labelled it a critical error. But does anyone who is not on the buyer’s side of the market for bridges and steel towers seriously expect the punishment to fit this PR label?


We have such a strange, conflicted attitude toward death in this country. And when someone is stricken with something like cancer, we (the societal we) rush to the barricades and insist on an all-out fight -- well, to the death, which seems to me is only a form of denial. How dare we have room in our lives for anything else?

We are a generation of control freaks, convinced we can master anything with enough effort. We can fix it, or we can wish it away. And when you get cancer, people seem to expect that it should become a full-time job.

We forget this is not a binary choice. We are not living or dying; we are living and dying. . . . The only difference with a terminal illness is, we now have the advantage of seeing land on the horizon.)

So why is it so unthinkable that Elizabeth Edwards has decided to live while she is dying?


I’ve read every transcript of every briefing [White House press secretary Tony] Snow has led, and as regular readers know, I’m not shy about taking him to task when I disagree with his remarks.

But people obviously come before politics. I’m pulling for him, I applaud his courage and tenacity, and I extend my best wishes to him and his family.

Tony, if you see this, I have a good-natured message for you: Get back to work — so I can go back to telling everyone how wrong I think you are.


The news that Monica Goodling, counsel to the attorney general and liaison to the White House, is invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination takes the United States attorney scandal to a new level. Ms. Goodling’s decision comes just days after the Justice Department released documents strongly suggesting that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has not been honest about his own role in the firing of eight federal prosecutors.


By the way, Goodling, 33, is a 1995 graduate Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., an institution that describes itself as "committed to embracing an evangelical spirit."

She received her law degree at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. Regent, founded by Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson, says its mission is "to produce Christian leaders who will make a difference, who will change the world." Christians are not supposed to lie, are they??


Christians are not supposed to lie. But just like Bush says, "After 9/11 everything has changed."


Bush administration officials throughout the government have engaged in White House-directed efforts to stifle, delay or dampen the release of climate change research that casts the White House or its policies in a bad light, says a new report that purports to be the most comprehensive assessment to date of the subject.


Quantum mechanics is the girl you meet at the poetry reading. Everyone thinks she's really interesting and people you don't know are obsessed about her. You go out. It turns out that she's pretty complicated and has some issues. Later, after you've broken up, you wonder if her aura of mystery is actually just confusion.


Cartoon by Tony Auth/Philadelphia Inquirer

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Hicks Cops a Plea; Bush Cops a Victory

David Hicks sits with his lawyer at Guantánamo Bay
Freedom loving people can applaud Australian David Hicks' guilty plea, the first time a Guantánamo Bay prisoner has admitted to supporting Al Qaeda since the flagship prison of the Rumsfeld Gulag opened more than five years ago. The plea to one charge of material support for terrorism is a victory for the Bush administration, but it carries with it a large asterisk.
This is because Hicks's case, unlike those of hundreds of prisoners from Muslim countries, had become a hot button, and as a consequence his lawyer was able to plea bargain with prosecutors and cop a plea to a lesser offense.

Hicks' lengthy incarceration and questions about his treatment are contentious issues in Australia. The controversy was becoming a political liability for the Conservative government of Prime Minister John Howard, who after British PM Tony Blair has been the U.S.'s most steadfast ally in the War on Terror and the war in Iraq
A full military commissions jury panel will meet to decide on Hicks' sentence. Although he faces a possible life term, prosecutors have said they probably will not seek a term longer than 20 years and that term will be served in Australia.
You can be rest assured that other enemy combatants will not be cut that kind of slack.
Hicks, 31, a former kangaroo skinner, entered a plea of guilty to one specification of providing material support for terrorism and pleaded not guilty to one specification of supporting terrorist acts. Prosecutors alleged that Hicks trained with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and met Osama bin Laden, but they were not prepared to present evidence that Hicks attempted to kill anyone.

Hicks' father Terry
says that the guilty plea was the only way he could get out of the prison:
"No one's going to help him, the Australian government couldn't care, they don't care. . . . It's a way to get home, and that's what he's told us. He just wants to get home.

"He's had five years of absolute hell and I think anyone in that position, if they were offered anything, they would possibly take it."

More here.

Drawing by Janet Hamlin/The Associated Press

Can Monica Hide Behind the Fifth?

The Fifth was good enough for Ken. Why not Monica?
Does Department of Justice White House liaison Monica Goodling have the right to invoke the Fifth Amendment against self incrimination in the U.S. attorney scandal.

But has Goodling properly invoked the Fifth?
Maybe not.
This is because Goodling’s lawyer is claiming that she is ready, willing and able to tell the truth, but will take the Fifth not to avoid incriminating herself, but because he is fearful that she will be hit with a perjury rap because the Democratic-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee is on a witch hunt.

The Fifth Amendment states that:

"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

I'm not a lawyer (and I didn’t stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night), but there’s nothing there regarding partisanship or perjury. By this wacko reasoning, Scooter Libby wouldn’t have gotten in so much trouble if he had taken the Fifth.

Besides which, isn’t it downright inexcusable for an Justice Department official to plead the Fifth as if she was a white-collar thug like Ken Lay or some murderous Mafiosi?

There’s a lively discussion going on over at Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo about this key point. We have Josh, of course, to thank for doggedly pursuing a scandal that Republicans claimed was much ado about nothing.

Was Pope Pius XII Also a Racist?

Despite years of excuse making and historic revisionism by the Holy See, it is beyond dispute to me that Pope Pius XII did not speak out forcefully against the Holocaust and did little to stop the slaughter of six million Jews, gypsies and others.

Now comes a war of words between two Italian newspapers over whether the pope was racist.

The opening volley was fired by La Repubblica, the liberal daily, which reported that historian Umberto Gentiloni Silveri had found a telegram sent to London by the then British ambassador to the Holy See, Sir D'Arcy Osborne, on January 26, 1944, reporting on a conservation he had had with the pontiff after the Allied landings at Anzio and Nettuo, south of the capital.

Sir D'Arcy wrote that
"The pope hopes that there will not be Allied coloured troops among the units deployed in Rome."
And then added with a hint of sarcasm:
"[The pontiff] had hastened to add that the Holy See has not fixed a limit to the range of colours."
Silveri, who is researching a book on the Allies' deliberations on whether to bomb Rome (it wasn't) told La Repubblica that the pope's "embarrassing" appeal reflected the view of the Holy See throughout the conflict that Rome was:
A "symbol of Western culture . . . a patrimony to be entrusted to the care of the white race."
Then Il Giorale, a conservative paper, responded with an article that insisted Pius XII was not in any way racist, but had good reason to fear the arrival of troops from North Africa:
"As apostolic nuncio in Bavaria, immediately after the end of the [First World] War, he had been a witness to what happened in the regions of the Rhineland and Ruhr, which were occupied by French troops."
That would be largely exaggerated claims that non-white North African soldiers were accused of numerous rapes.

John Hooper, The Guardian's Rome correspondent, finds Il Giornale's explanation lacking in two respects:
"Why, if the pope was worried about North African soldiers, did he not make that clear to the British ambassador?

"And, if he was concerned about a repetition of what had happened in Germany, why should he want the French troops kept out of Rome? Surely they could wreak far more havoc out in the countryside than under the eye of their officers in a city."
To which I would add the following:
Why was Pius XII so concerned about the potential conduct of non-white French troops and apparently unconcerned about the conduct of the vast majority of other troops?

Perhaps his view was merely symptomatic of the times, but it certainly does not reflect well on this enigmatic man.
More here.

Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere

Hillary Clinton still talks regularly with her husband's senior foreign policy team, whose generally hawkish slant may help to explain why Hillary has been far slower than her Democratic rivals to shift left on the war. . . . Hillary's campaign still lacks a formally structured foreign policy team, perhaps in part because her lasting personal friendships provide much of the advice she needs.


Has anyone noticed that yet another "regime change" accomplished with U.S. military assistance is now collapsing into savage – and entirely predictable – internecine conflict?

The Washington Post has certainly noticed. They put this story about the growing insurgency in
Somalia and the brutal reprisals against the Bush-backed, Bush-trained Ethiopian occupiers and the Somali government that they installed way up near almost the very front . . . page 15. The story . . . exposes – with the hard facts of that "reality" thing that Bush and his sycophantic followers, like Fred Hiatt, have such a hard time getting a handle on – the blood soaked chaos that follows everywhere in the wake of Bush's "Global War on Terror."

If you have a reputation for being a Machiavellian, you aren’t one. That was Machiavelli’s view, at least. The key to all successful power-mongers, he argued, is the appearance of innocence, and a reputation for honesty and benevolence. Underneath, of course, you’re stitching the system up.

So it doesn't take a genius to realise that if Niccolo were around today he would laugh heartily at the idea that Karl Rove is a master of the art of ruthless politics.


Despoiling democracy and honor while emulating a Soviet/Communist Commissariat model government is the legacy of our governing thugs.

If politicizing the Justice Department finally brings out the backbones of our legislators, Republican and Democrat alike, shout hosannas. Citizens of the entire planet sincerely want the America that strives for honor, equality and equal treatment under the law to reappear.


Any president who says "I don't care" or "I will not respond to what the people of this country are saying about Iraq or anything else" or "I don't care what the Congress does, I am going to proceed" — if a president really believes that, then there are . . . .ways to deal with that.


You know, you really have two choices here. I mean, either you push forward with the things that you were doing yesterday or you start dying. That seems to be your only two choices. If I had given up everything that my life was about – first of all, I'd let cancer win before it needed to. You know, maybe eventually it will win. But I'd let it win before I needed to. And I'd just basically start dying. I don't want to do that. I want to live. And I want to do the work that I want next year to look like last year and... and the year after that and the year after that. And the only way to do that is to say I'm going to keep on with my life.


A little under one-third of U.S. households have no Internet access and do not plan to get it, with most of the holdouts seeing little use for it in their lives, according to a survey . . . [T]he main reason potential customers say they do not subscribe to the Internet is because of the low value to their daily lives they perceive rather than concerns over cost.

Last week millions of nervous Americans gathered around their televisions to see if Sanjaya Malakar, the 17-year-old Indian-American contestant with the face of an angel and the voice of . . . something else, would finally be kicked off of American Idol. But once again Sanjaya defied all expectations and common sense and survived another round in the contest that defines this country as much as Nascar, the Superbowl, presidential elections and monster trucks. It is finally time to acknowledge that the inexplicable and frightening Sanjaya juggernaut has reached crisis proportions and something must be done about it before it is too late.


Cartoon by Glenn McCoy/Universal Press Syndicate