Sunday, February 25, 2007

You Don't Know Dick, part II

It's fascinating. We have Darth Cheney half a world away, saying that Nancy Pelosi's plan would embolden the terrorists, and when Pelosi gets a little miffed, saying that Cheney is questioning her patriotism, he refuses to back down from his statement, saying that "I didn't question her patriotism. I questioned her judgment."

Well, gee. That makes it all better, doesn't it?

It also showed that he wasn't listening to what she said.
"You cannot say as the president of the United States, 'I welcome disagreement in a time of war,' and then have the vice president of the United States go out of the country and mischaracterize a position of the speaker of the House and in a manner that says that person in that position of authority is acting against the national security of our country," the speaker said.
By the way, the President wasn't willing to talk to her. She only managed to talk to Josh Bolton, Bush's chief of staff.

And Frank Rich raised some interesting points about the "War on Terra."
Who is losing the war on terrorism?

The record so far suggests that this White House has done so twice. The first defeat, of course, began in early December 2001, when we lost Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora. The public would not learn about that failure until April 2002 (when it was uncovered by The Washington Post), but it's revealing that the administration started its bait-and-switch trick to relocate the enemy in Iraq just as bin Laden slipped away. It was on Dec. 9, 2001, that Dick Cheney first floated the idea on "Meet the Press" that Saddam had something to do with 9/11. It was "pretty well confirmed," he said (though it was not), that bin Laden's operative Mohamed Atta had met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague months before Atta flew a hijacked plane into the World Trade Center...

The president now says his government never hyped any 9/11-Iraq links. "Nobody has ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq," he said last August after finally conceding that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. In fact everyone in the administration insinuated it constantly, including him. Mr. Bush told of "high-level" Iraq-Qaeda contacts "that go back a decade" in the same notorious October 2002 speech that gave us Saddam's imminent mushroom clouds. So effective was this propaganda that by 2003 some 44 percent of Americans believed (incorrectly) that the 9/11 hijackers had been Iraqis; only 3 percent had seen an Iraq link right after 9/11.

Though the nonexistent connection was even more specious than the nonexistent nuclear W.M.D., Mr. Bush still leans on it today even while denying that he does so. He has to. His litanies that we are "on the offense" by pursuing the war in Iraq and "fighting terrorists over there, so that we don't have to fight them here" depend on the premise that we went into that country in the first place to vanquish Al Qaeda and that it is still the "central front" in the war on terror. In January's State of the Union address hawking the so-called surge, Mr. Bush did it again, warning that to leave Iraq "would be to ignore the lessons of September the 11th and invite tragedy."

But now more than ever, the opposite is true. It is precisely by pouring still more of our finite military and intelligence resources down the drain in Iraq that we are tragically ignoring the lessons of 9/11. Instead of showing resolve, as Mr. Bush supposes, his botch of the Iraq war has revealed American weakness. Our catastrophic occupation spawned terrorists in a country where they didn't used to be, and to pretend that Iraq is now their central front only adds to the disaster. As Mr. Scheuer, the former C.I.A. official, reiterated last week: "Al Qaeda is in Afghanistan and Pakistan. If you want to address the threat to America, that's where it is." It's typical of Mr. Bush's self-righteousness, however, that he would rather punt on that threat than own up to a mistake.

That mistake - dropping the ball on Al Qaeda - was compounded last fall when Mr. Bush committed his second major blunder in the war on terror. The occasion was the September revelation that our supposed ally, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, president of Pakistan, had negotiated a "truce" with the Taliban in North Waziristan, a tribal region in his country at the Afghanistan border. This truce was actually a retreat by Pakistan, which even released Qaeda prisoners in its custody. Yet the Bush White House denied any of this was happening. "This deal is not at all with the Taliban," the president said, claiming that "this is against the Taliban, actually."
(OK, if you want to read the source article and really don't want to deal with TimesSelect and their "14-day free trial," read most of the column here, here or here.)

(In the course of his flip-flopping on Osama, Bush swung to both extremes: from completely ignoring him one moment, to telling the late Ariel Sharon, prime minister of Israel, that if he ever caught bin Laden, "I will screw him in the ass!" Isn't that a lovely visual? Our boy Bush is always such a cultured, well-spoken representative of the United States, isn't he?)

During his interview in Australia, Cheney also said something kind of startling.
In the interview, Cheney also said Britain's plans to withdraw about 1,600 troops from Iraq — while the United States adds more troops — was a positive step. "I look at it and see it is actually an affirmation that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well," the vice president said.
As Jay Leno put it, "The British announced they were pulling their troops out of the Iraq. Dick Cheney immediately called it good news. He said, 'It's a sign that we're winning.' How come when our allies pick up and leave, that's a victory for us? But when we leave, it's a victory for al Qaeda? How does that work?"

So let me just come right out and say it. I don't believe that George Bush, the inarticulate C-student, would be as destructive as he has been, if he didn't have Cheney leading him around on a leash. Dick Cheney has consistently lied to the American people about Iraq, about the Al Qaeda, and now about Iran. While he was second-in-command in America, Halliburton was enriched to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, which consequently made Dick Cheney massive amounts of money. American actions in the Middle East under his watch have destroyed the international respect for our country, beggared our treasury, and has spawned a massive groundswell of terrorists in the Middle East who did not exist before.

More American citizens have now died in Iraq than were killed in the World Trade Center. Who, then, is the bigger threat to America? Al Qaeda, or Dick Cheney?

I definitely question Dick Cheney's judgement. And I also question his patriotism.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Is this the kind of winner we want to see in office?

Rudolph William Louis "Rudy" Giuliani III was born May 28, 1944. He first rose to prominence in the US Attorney's office, successfully prosecuting Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken for insider trading, and indicting eleven organized crime figures, including the heads of New York's "Five Families," under the RICO Act. He also was the first prosecutor to successfully use the RICO act against non-organized crime, indicting Marc Rich and Pincus Green for tax evasion and making illegal oil deals with Iran during the hostage crisis (which, oddly, led to presidential pardons for both of them).

As Mayor of New York City, he reduced crime in the city, continued his fight against organized crime, and agressively attempted a program of urban renewal (including his work to turn Times Square into more of a tourist destination).

On September 11, 2001, it was Rudy's actions leading the response to the World Trade Center attack that seemed to cement his position as "America's Mayor" (and Time Magazine's 2001 "Person of the Year).

And now, Rudy Giuliani™(© 2006) has declared his candidacy for President of the United States (although most people already knew it was coming).

Oddly, though, not everybody seems to appreciate this paragon on virtue and leadership. Jonathen Alter explains in Newsweek why Rudy's temperament might make him a risky pick for president. Ezra Klein suggested that Rudy might be a bit autocratic for the job. And over on Blah3, they expand on that point to highlight evidence that the man is thin-skinned, autocratic, and prone to using the power of his office to pummel his opponents. Even the lower-profile blogs are digging up fascinating information on the man, like his role as a George Bush cheerleader ever since 2001.

And during the 2004 election, Jimmy Breslin, whose name is practically synonymous with New York City, had this to say about Rudy.
He was a nobody as a mayor and in one day he became a hero. This sudden career, this door opening to a room of gold, all started for Rudolph Giuliani when his indestructible bunker in World Trade Center building blew up. He had personally selected it, high in the sky, and with tons of diesel fuel to give emergency power.

And Guiliani walks on. He walks from his bunker, up Barclay Street and went on television. Went on and announced his heroism and then came back every hour or so until he became a star, a great figure, a national hero, the mayor who saved New York.

Most of this comes from these dazed Pekingese of the Press. As this was being written on Friday night, the television announcers kept saying that Martha Stewart would go to a country club federal prison. The fools. Try any jail on any day. At five o'clock, you can't go home. Giuliani was a hero with these news people. He did not pick up a piece of steel or help carry one of the injured off.
Can America's Mayor become America's President? (Or might he make a better First Lady?)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

John McCain - Weathervane

You know, there was a time when I respected John McCain. That time is long gone.

He seemed like that rarity, an honest politician. A Vietnam vet and former POW, he stood up to the Religious Right for their intolerance, and to the Swift Boat Veterans for their lies. He seemed like one of the few Republicans I could vote for.

But the more I learn about him, the more I discover that it's all a front.

In 2000, when we listened to Candidate McCain, we heard things like this:
McCain said he hoped his February comments about the "agents of intolerance" of the Christian Right did not "alienate the voters of so-called Christian Right...I value their commitment to moral values and family standards but I as a person want our party to be an inclusive party."

"I don't believe the leadership of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson is healthy for my party...I want a party that says we care about everyone, a party of addition not division."
Almost a year ago, on Meet the Press, Tim Russert called him on his spin.
MR. RUSSERT: You came out and said we should teach intelligent design in classes as well as evolution. Jerry Falwell... you’re now giving the commencement address at Liberty University in May. This is what you said about Jerry Falwell in February of 2000. Let’s watch.

(Videotape, February 28, 2000):

SEN. McCAIN: Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: "Agents of intolerance." And you were asked about that speech and you said this: "I must not and will not retract anything that I said in that speech at Virginia Beach. It was carefully crafted. It was carefully thought out." Based on that, do you believe that Jerry Falwell is still an agent of intolerance?


SEN. McCAIN: I met with Reverend Falwell, he came to see me in Washington. We, we agreed to disagree on certain issues and we agreed to move forward. I believe that speaking at Liberty University is no different from speaking at the New College or Ohio State University...

MR. RUSSERT: But Senator, when you were on here in 2000, I asked you about Jerry Falwell, and this is what you said.

(Videotape, March 5, 2000):

SEN. McCAIN: Governor Bush swung far to the right and sought out the base support of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. That’s—those aren’t the ideas that I think are good for the Republican Party.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Do you think that Jerry Falwell’s ideas are now good for the Republican Party?

SEN. McCAIN: I believe that the... "Christian right" has a major role to play in the Republican Party. One reason is, is because they’re so active, and their... followers are. And I believe they have a right to be a part of our party. I don’t have to agree with everything they stand for, nor do I have to agree with everything that’s on the liberal side of the Republican Party...

MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe that Jerry Falwell is still an agent of intolerance?

SEN. McCAIN: No, I don’t. I think that Jerry Falwell can explain to you his views on this program when you have him on.

MR. RUSSERT: After September 11th... Reverend Falwell had [this] to say. "What we saw on [September 11th ], as terrible as it is, could be miniscule if, in fact, God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve. ... I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle... I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.' " ...Are you embracing that?

SEN. McCAIN: I am speaking at the, at the graduation of his, his university. I’m not embracing all of the tenets that are expressed at the New College in New York City, nor other liberal universities and institutions that I have spoke at.
So what happened to the "Straight Talk Express"? Did it run off the rails?
The Arizona Republican told The Dallas Morning News that he has "established a very good relationship" with the Rev. Jerry Falwell and has reached out to Richard Land, a one-time Criswell College professor who heads the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.
In Texas, Mr. McCain said, he has met with San Antonio evangelist John Hagee to express a shared "commitment to the state of Israel."
Let's go over those names again.

Jerry Falwell: Well, I think enough was said about him during the Meet the Press transcript up above. An egotistical hypocrite, but one who's managed to make himself rich off the donations of his flock (which, incidentally, is true of the next two guys, too).

Richard Land: One of Bush's closest advisors, Richard Land is also outspokenly homophobic and violently opposed to abortion. He called the FDA's approval of the Plan B pill a "sad day for America;" however, Plan B prevents the release or fertilization of an egg, which means that Land is opposed to an option that would prevent the abortion of fetuses. Go figure.

John Hagee: One of the highest-paid evangelists in America, Hagee blames the sinful people of New Orleans for Hurricane Rita, he supports the idea of a nuclear war in the Middle East, because he's an ardent believer in the coming Rapture.

These sanctimonious Dominionists are the people John McCain is sucking up to? That's bad enough to lose my respect for the man. And I didn't even touch on McCain's flip-flops on other issues. Like backing off of a torture ban after initially proposing it. Or hiring the company that produced the "Swift Boat Veterans" ads, who he once called "dishonest and dishonorable."

(Russert mentions several of McCain's sudden reversals in the MTP interview above. Go read it.)

I don't have time for McCain. He points whichever way the wind is blowing. Let's elect people willing to stand up for what's right this time around.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

It's not "Global Warming"! It's just "Climate Change"!

In his State of the Union speech, Bush said something that must have hurt, just to feel it in his mouth. "America is on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us to live our lives less dependent on oil. And these technologies will help us be better stewards of the environment, and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change."

We have top scientists telling us that the amount of carbon dioxide in the air is the highest it's been in two-thirds of a million years! Let's be clear on that. The scientists are telling us that the carbon dioxide is higher than it's been in longer than the biblical scholars believe that the earth has existed!

I'm thinking that this tells us that God doesn't want the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to be this high. Somebody else might have other ideas what this means, but they just make the baby Jesus cry.

Anyway, since the President is now willing to admit that global warming... oh, sorry, "climate change" exists, his chief advisors are suddenly willing to tell the truth.
The human role in climate change is no longer debatable, U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said today...

"Human activity is contributing to changes in the Earth's climate," Bodman said at a press conference in Washington. "That issue is no longer up for debate."
Yeah, but meanwhile, despite the fact that it's not debatable, apparently the debate rages on.
Despite a strongly worded global warming report from the world's top climate scientists, the Bush administration expressed continued opposition today to mandatory reductions in heat-trapping "greenhouse" gases.
I'd say that the record profits posted by the gas companies might have something to do with this non-policy change, but that would be rude, wouldn't it?

I mean, let's consider the spectacular record that Bush has on the environment. I mean, after all, he...

No, really, he...

OK, so he kind of sucks on environmental issues. Consider mercury poisoning.

In March of 2005, the agency set limits on the amounts of mercury that could be emitted by power plants. At the time, the EPA said that they couldn't make the limits more "aggressive" because the cost to the industry was already more than the public health benefit.

Which would have been true, if they weren't ignoring a study by Harvard University that said that slightly greater limits would have health benefits worth more than five billion dollars per year, but would cost the industry three quarters of a billion dollars.

This was a study that the EPA had paid for, that was co-authored by an EPA scientist, and that was peer-reviewed by two other EPA scientists. In common language, the EPA wasted our tax dollars to ignore a study that might have made Americans healthier.

At first, the EPA claimed that the study results didn't get to them in time for their deadline. When interviews and documents proved that to be a lie, they switched their stories, and claimed that the Harvard study was using "flawed" data about the heart problems caused by mercury contamination. They did manage to stick by their original claim that the health benefits would only be around fifty million dollars, though.

The government's action lends an interesting light to the fact that the EPA dismantled a previous working group on mercury, just as they were about to require much more stringent regulations from all coal-burning power plants in America.

With their new ruling, the EPA completely ignored previous studies that showed that mercury contamination in seafood caused irreversible damage not only to the hearts of adults, but to brain functions in infants.

Let's repeat the most important word there: "irreversible." As in "can't be fixed."

The EPA had accepted those studies at the time, and as a result, had already suggested that pregnant women limit their intake of seafood to no more than twelve ounces per week.

Of course, that was then. This is now. The Bush administration now seems to be quite happy with the idea of a brain-damaged electorate. I wonder why that is?

They'll probably be telling us to eat more seafood next.