Saturday, January 20, 2007
John McCain's been all over the map when it comes to Iraq for a long time. Cliff Schecter notes that way back in 1990, two and a half weeks after Iraq had invaded Kuwait, McCain said that Americans shouldn't support a ground war in the Middle East because "we cannot even contemplate, in my view, trading American blood for Iraqi blood." Less than two months later, though, McCain not only contemplated the possibility, he voted to go to war on behalf of Kuwait.Link.
As the war drums sounded for the current fiasco, McCain, echoing Dick Cheney and the administration's legion of half-baked neocons, promised a cakewalk. In September of 2002, he warned us that there might be a few casualties: "As successful as I believe we will be, and I believe that the success will be fairly easy, we will still lose some American young men or women." That same month, he told CNN, "We're not going to get into house-to-house fighting in Baghdad … we're not going to have a bloodletting of trading American bodies for Iraqi bodies." And in early 2003, he promised viewers of MCNBC, "We will win this conflict. We will win it easily."
This month, though, he told MSNBC that he knew all along the Iraq war was "probably going to be long and hard and tough," and that he was "sorry" for those who voted for the war believing it would be "some kind of an easy task." "Maybe they didn't know what they were voting for," he said.
In October, John McCain was just as sure that 20,000 more U.S. troops would do the trick in Iraq -- bringing about stability, democracy and prosperity, and restoring America's image in the world (or something) -- as he had been about the ease with which it would be prosecuted in 2003. When reporters asked him to elaborate on his statement about the need for more combat troops in Iraq to quell a "classic insurgency," McCain said: "Another 20,000 troops in Iraq, but that means expanding the Army and the Marine Corps."
In November, McCain said again: "I believe victory is still attainable," adding: "But without additional combat forces, we will not win this war."
But if McCain thought that he was safe in advocating a troop buildup -- safe because Bush would never be insane enough to call for escalating an unpopular war just a couple of months after American voters delivered his party a powerful message that they had lost confidence in those running it -- he underestimated the president's capacity for stubborn self-delusion.
When it became clear that Bush was in fact going to call for an increase in troops, John Edwards, sensing an opportunity to get out ahead of the curve on McCain, who's considered a strong challenger for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, termed the escalation the "McCain Doctrine," effectively hanging the policy around the senator's neck.
And McCain's been squirming ever since. In early January, he said that the plan would require, specifically, 30,000 troops, adding, "a small size [deployment] would be the worst of all options to exercise, in my view." Just a day later, he went to the American Enterprise Institute with his friend Joe Lieberman and said: "We are not specific on numbers, we don't have -- we are talking about three or four combat brigades, in Baghdad, and one or two more in Anbar province. We are not that much detailed-oriented."
As blogger Steve Benen points out, McCain's been moving the goalposts in an attempt to preemptively distance himself from a policy that's all but guaranteed to fail.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Of course, he hates questions and being questioned....
Mr. President, Sir, when reporter Bob Woodward asked you if you had consulted with your father before ordering our army into Iraq you said, "No, he's not the father you call on a decision like this. I talked to my heavenly Father above." My question, Mr. President: If God asked you to bombard, invade and occupy Iraq for four years, why did he send an opposite message to the Pope? Did you not know that your father, George Bush, Sr., his Secretary of State James Baker and his National Security Advisor General Scowcroft were all opposed to your invasion? Wouldn't you, our troops, the American people and the Iraqis all be much better off if you had listened to your more experienced elders including your earthly father? Instead of blaming God for the awful catastrophe you have unleashed in Iraq, wouldn't it have been less self-righteous if you had fallen back on the oft-quoted explanation of wrongdoing, "The devil made me do it?"Link.
And Mr. President, after the 9/11 hit against the Twin Towers in New York, which gained us the sympathy and support of the entire world, why did you then order the invasion of Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11? Are you aware that your actions destroyed the international reservoir of good will towards the United States? What is the cost to America of shattering the standing and influence of our country in the eyes of the world?
Why, Mr. President did you pressure the CIA to report falsely that Iraq was building weapons of mass destruction including nuclear weapons? And when you ordered your Secretary of State, Colin Powell, to go to New York and present to the UN the Administration's "evidence" that Iraq was an imminent nuclear threat to the United States, were you aware that after reading this deceitful statement to the UN, Mr. Powell told an aid that the so-called evidence was "bullshit"?
Is it reasonable to you, President Bush, that Colin Powell told you near the end of your first term that he would not be in your Administration if you were to receive a second term? What decent person could survive two full terms of forced lying and deceit?
And Mr. President, how do you enjoy your leisure time, and how can you sleep at night knowing that 3,014 young Americans have died in a war you mistakenly ordered? What do you say to the 48,000 young Americans who have been crippled for life in mind or body? What is your reaction to the conclusion of the leading British medical journal (Lancet) that since you ordered the bombardment and occupation of Iraq four years ago, 600,000 Iraqi men, women and children have been killed? What do you think of the destruction of the Iraqi's homes, their electrical and water systems, their public buildings?
And Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, while neither of you has ever been in combat (Mr. Cheney asking and receiving five deferments from the Vietnam War), have you not at least read or been briefed on the terrible costs of that ill-advised and seemingly endless American war in tiny Vietnam? Do you realize that another Texas President, Lyndon Baines Johnson, declined to seek a second term in part because he had lost his credibility over the disastrous war in Vietnam? Are you aware that one of the chief architects of that war, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, resigned his office and years later published a book declaring that the war was all a tragic mistake? Do you know this recent history in which 58,000 young Americans died in the process of killing 2 million Vietnamese men, women and children? If you do not know about this terrible blunder in Vietnam, are you not ignoring the conclusion of one of our great philosophers: "Those who are ignorant of history are condemned to repeat it." And, Mr. President, in your ignorance of the lessons of Vietnam, are you not condemning our troops and our people to repeat the same tragedy in Iraq?
During the long years between 1963 and 1975 when I fought to end the American war in Vietnam, first as a US Senator from South Dakota and then as my party's nominee for President, my four daughters ganged up on my one night. "Dad, why don't you give up this battle? You've been speaking out against this crazy war since we were little kids. When you won the Democratic presidential nomination, you got snowed under by President Nixon." In reply I said, "Just remember that sometimes in history even a tragic mistake produces something good. The good about Vietnam is that it is such a terrible blunder, we'll never go down that road again." Mr. President, we're going down that road again. So, what do I tell my daughters? And what do you tell your daughters?
Mr. President, I do not speak either as a pacifist or a draft dodger. I speak as one who after the attack on Pearl Harbor, volunteered at the age of nineteen for the Army Air Corps and flew thirty-five missions as a B-24 bomber. I believed in that war then and I still do sixty-five years later. And so did the rest of America. Mr. President, are you missing the intellectual and moral capacity to know the difference between a justified war and a war of folly in Vietnam or Iraq?
Public opinion polls indicate that two-thirds of the American people think that the war in Iraq has been a mistake on your part. It is widely believed that this war was the central reason Democrats captured control of both houses of Congress. Polls among the people of Iraq indicate that nearly all Iraqis want our military presence in their country for the last four years to end now. Why do you persist in defying public opinion in both the United States and Iraq and throughout the other countries around the globe? Do you see yourself as omniscient? What is your view of the doctrine of self-determination, which we Americans hold dear?
And wonder of wonders, Mr. President, after such needless death and destruction, first in the Vietnamese jungle and now in the Arabian desert, how can you order 21,500 more American troops to Iraq? Are you aware that as the war in Vietnam went from bad to worse, our leaders sent in more troops and wasted more billions of dollars until we had 550,000 US troops in that little country? It makes me shudder as an aging bomber pilot to remember that we dropped more bombs on the Vietnamese and their country than the total of all the bombs dropped by all the air forces around the world in World War II. Do you, Mr. President, honestly believe that we need tens of thousands of additional troops plus a supplemental military appropriation of $200 billion before we can bring our troops home from this nightmare in ancient Baghdad?
In your initial campaign for the Presidency, Mr. Bush, you described yourself as a "compassionate conservative". What is compassionate about consigning America's youth to a needless and seemingly endless war that has now lasted longer than World War II? And what is conservative about reducing the taxes needed to finance this war and instead running our national debt to nine trillion dollars with money borrowed from China, Japan, Germany and Britain? Is this wild deficit financing your idea of conservatism? Mr. President, how can a true conservative be indifferent to the steadily rising cost of a war that claims over $7 billion a month, $237 million every day? Are you troubled to know as a conservative that just the interest on our skyrocketing national debt is $760,000 every day. Mr. President, our Nobel Prize-winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, estimates that if the war were to continue until 2010 as you have indicated it might, the cost would be over a trillion dollars.
Perhaps, Mr. President, you should ponder the words of a genuine conservative - England's nineteenth-century member of Parliament, Edmund Burke: "A conscientious man would be cautious how he dealt in blood".
And, Mr. President at a time when your most respected generals have concluded that the chaos and conflict in Iraq cannot be resolved by more American dollars and more American young bodies, do you ever consider the needs here at home of our own anxious and troubled society? What about the words of another true conservative, General and President Dwight Eisenhower who said that, "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed."
And, Mr. President, would not you and all the rest of us do well to ponder the farewell words of President Eisenhower: "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of the unwarranted influence of the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."
Finally, Mr. President, I ask have you kept your oath of office to uphold the Constitution when you use what you call the war on terrorism to undermine the Bill of Rights? On what constitutional theory do you seize and imprison suspects without charge, sometimes torturing them in foreign jails? On what constitutional or legal basis have you tapped the phones of Americans without approval of the courts as required by law? Are you above the Constitution, above the law, and above the Geneva accords? If we are fighting for freedom in Iraq as you say, why are you so indifferent to protecting liberty here in America?
Fact Checking 101
How Skeptic magazine was Duped
by an Environmental Activist Group
by Michael Shermer
In last week’s eSkeptic , we published highlights from a press release issued by PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility), a Washington D.C.-based environmental watchdog group. That press release, dated December 28, 2006, was headlined:
HOW OLD IS THE GRAND CANYON? PARK SERVICE WON’T SAY
Orders to Cater to Creationists Makes National Park Agnostic on Geology
The first sentence of the release reads:
Washington, DC — Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees.
Unfortunately, in our eagerness to find additional examples of the inappropriate intrusion of religion in American public life (as if we actually needed more), we accepted this claim by PEER without calling the National Park Service (NPS) or the Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP) to check it. As a testimony to the quality of our readers, however, dozens immediately phoned both NPS and GCNP, only to discover that the claim is absolutely false. Callers were told that the Grand Canyon is millions of years old, that no one is being pressured from Bush administration appointees — or by anyone else — to withhold scientific information, and all were referred to a statement by David Barna, Chief of Public Affairs, National Park Service as to the park’s official position. “Therefore, our interpretive talks, way-side exhibits, visitor center films, etc. use the following explanation for the age of the geologic features at Grand Canyon,” the document explains.
If asked the age of the Grand Canyon, our rangers use the following answer: ‘The principal consensus among geologists is that the Colorado River basin has developed in the past 40 million years and that the Grand Canyon itself is probably less than five to six million years old. The result of all this erosion is one of the most complete geologic columns on the planet.’
Understandably, many of our readers were outraged by both the duplicity of the claim and our failure to fact check it. One park ranger wrote us:
You’re a day late and a dollar short on this one. As a national park ranger, I found most of PEER’s findings to be bogus. So have others: http://parkrangerx.blogspot.com
A Grand Canyon park interpreter wrote:
This is incorrect. I have NEVER been told to present non-science based programs. In fact, I received “talking points” demanding that Grand Canyon employees present programs BASED ON SCIENCE and that we must use the scientific version supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Academy of Sciences. As an interpreter I have shared the “creation” story of the Hopi people and the Paiute people because it is culturally relative. I used these stories as a tool to introduce the scientific story. Be confident there are good people running government, too.
One of our readers directly challenged Jeff Ruch, the Executive Director of PEER:
When I challenged that PEER guy to show me some evidence and provided him evidence to the contrary, he didn’t have much. I would say PEER did more than jump the gun. I’d say they are spreading misinformation.
Another Grand Canyon park interpreter offered this explanation:
Ruch’s attempts to insinuate a conspiratorial link between the NPS and organized religion are misguided and founded in fervent anti-Christian opposition, not reason or the law. Ruch’s anti-Judeo-Christian bias is evidence by his lack of opposition to GCA’s selling of Native American creation myths. His misinformation campaign aims to tarnish the reputation of the NPS to leverage his position that creationism books should not be sold in the GCA bookstore. I’ve emailed a few of my contacts at GRCA, and so far, all deny any conspiracy and all freely give the canyon’s age in education programs (as does all official GRCA print material). I’ll post updates as information becomes available. Until then, don’t believe everything you read.
The reference to the creationism book being sold in the Grand Canyon bookstore — Grand Canyon: A Different View by Tom Vail — is true. It is sold in the “inspiration” section of the bookstore, alongside other books of myth and spirituality. In any case, the story is an old one now, and completely irrelevant to the claim that NPS employees are withholding information about the age of the canyon, and/or are being pressured to do so by Bush administration appointees.
Embarrassed and angered by all of this, I promptly phoned Jeff Ruch myself and inquired what evidence he has to support this claim. He initially pointed to the creationism book and the fact that the NPS has failed to address numerous challenges to the sale of same in their bookstore. When I pointed out that this is irrelevant to the claim in the press release, he then reminded me of the biblical passages that have been posted at places along the rim of the canyon. Again, I admonished, this is not evidence for his central claim. We went round and round on the phone until I finally gave up and hung up, convinced that he simply made up the claim out of whole cloth.
Not wishing to simply call Ruch a liar, and allowing myself to calm down a bit, I emailed him and asked:
Can you tell us who in the Bush administration put pressure on park service employees? Can you name one person in the GCNP staff who says that they are not permitted to give the official estimate of the age of the canyon?
I do not know — it is at the Director’s level or above. We have been trying to find out for three years.
Julie Cart, Los Angeles Times.
I contacted Julie Cart at the Los Angeles Times, who was out of town on assignment, and got her editor, Frank Clifford, on the phone. Clifford knew all about the creationism book and the biblical passages on the rim of the canyon, but said that he had heard nothing about this new claim of Bush administration appointees silencing park service staff, and that if Julie knew of such a thing the Times would be most interested in following up with the story. I then reached Julie by email, who said that she too knew of no such silence on the part of park staffers regarding the age of the canyon.
Once again outraged and enraged , I emailed Ruch to ask him why he referenced Cart, who denied his central claim. He responded:
I referred you to Julie because of the response she got from the superintendent’s office when she covered the issue earlier — not for any new claim.
Thanks a lot. I wasted several hours tracking down that false lead. Now at my wit’s end with this guy, I point blank asked him if he made it all up. He responded:
The interpretive staff at GCNP we are working with do not want to be identified and have gone into deep underground as the atmosphere at the park is now somewhat volatile.
Well, it would have been nice (not to mention ethical) if he would have said so in the first place. (I have now wasted about 10 hours of research time on this instead of other projects.) The referencing of sources who wish to remain anonymous is quite common in journalism and, in fact, there are laws protecting whistleblowers . The fact that no such reference was made until I pointedly accused Ruch of flatout lying makes me, well, skeptical of this explanation. His final statement to me doesn’t make me any less skeptical:
We are issuing an amended release today that
deletes reference to what interpretive staff can and cannot say and
features the NPS official statement that they provide geological information to the public.
Then why did PEER issue that statement in the first place? In my opinion, this is why:
PEER is an anti-Bush, anti-religion liberal activist watchdog group in search of demons to exorcise and dragons to slay. On one level, that’s how the system works in a free society, and there are plenty of pro-Bush, pro-religion conservative activist watchdog groups who do the same thing on the other side. Maybe in a Hegelian process of thesis-antithesis-synthesis we find truth that way; at least at the level of talk radio. But journalistic standards and scholarly ethics still hold sway at all levels of discourse that matter, and to that end I believe we were duped by an activist group who at the very least exaggerated a claim and published it in order to gain notoriety for itself, or worse, simply made it up.
To that end I apologize to all of our readers for not fact checking this story before publishing it on eSkeptic and www.skeptic.com. Shame on us. But shame on you too, Mr. Ruch, and shame on PEER, for this egregious display of poor judgment and unethical behavior.
Publisher, Skeptic magazine
Executive Director, the Skeptics Society
McCain's political colleagues, however, know another side of the action hero -- a volatile man with a hair-trigger temper, who shouted at Sen. Ted Kennedy on the Senate floor to "shut up," called his fellow Republican senators "shithead," "fucking jerk," "asshole," and joked in 1998 at a Republican fundraiser about the teenage daughter of President Clinton, "Do you know why Chelsea Clinton is so ugly? Because Janet Reno is her father." As recently as a few months ago, McCain suddenly rushed up to a friend of mine, a prominent Washington attorney, at a social event, and threatened to beat him up because he represented a client McCain happened to dislike, and then, just as suddenly, profusely and tearfully apologized.Link.
Within the Republican Party nearly everyone who has had serious dealings with McCain distrusts him (including traditional Republican moderates, not just conservatives). While taking right-wing positions on social issues like abortion and gay marriage, his simmering resentment of Bush led him to virtually caucus with the Democrats in early 2001 (before Sept. 11), using the Democratic Leadership Council as his back channel. Then, abruptly, he rushed to embrace Bush.
McCain's political advisors believe that though he would easily be elected president in 2008 if he captured the nomination, he might not get the nomination. In 2000, McCain did not win a primary state where the voting was restricted only to Republicans. So McCain decided to let the general election take care of itself as he won over the party faithful. He campaigned enthusiastically for Bush in 2004. He sought to reconcile with the religious right, whose leaders he had called "agents of intolerance" in 2000, speaking on May 13, 2006, at the Rev. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, and hiring its debate coach as a communications aide.
McCain had belatedly taken the lead in opposing Bush's torture policy, an issue that could not be more personal for him. But after the Supreme Court last year declared Bush's secret tribunals for detainees and use of extreme interrogation techniques illegal, Bush sought congressional approval of his revised version of the program. At first, McCain fought Bush, but the right attacked him, in a campaign some of his advisors said they had reason to believe Karl Rove had whipped up. McCain quickly capitulated, even agreeing to suspension of habeas corpus. McCain, as someone close to him explained to me, figured he could continue to play the issue when he became chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee in the next Congress. Asked about the chance the Democrats might take control, McCain declared, "I think I'd just commit suicide."
As the neoconservatives abandoned Bush's sinking ship, McCain welcomed them aboard. "McCain began reading The Weekly Standard and conferring with its editors, particularly Bill Kristol," the New Republic magazine reported. And he hired a board member of the neocon Project for the New American Century, Randy Scheunemann, as his foreign policy aide.
McCain positioned himself as consistently belligerent, even to Bush's right: in favor of bombing Iran and North Korea. He also proposed a "surge" of troops into Iraq, an idea gleaned from the neocons. If Bush adopted the Iraq Study Group's approach of diplomacy and redeployment, which McCain assailed as "dispiriting," the right would hail McCain as a prophet with honor. Unfortunately, McCain's strategy depended on Bush's not adopting his proposal. Importuned by the same neocons who had sold it to McCain, Bush seized upon the "surge."
McCain had trapped himself. And he has finally succeeded in chaining himself to Bush. As Bush's war has escalated, McCain's popularity has nose-dived. Still the front-runner for the Republican nomination, he might have made himself more acceptable to the base, but his political strategy has shattered his own myth. Bearing the burden of Bush he may have become unelectable.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Monday, January 15, 2007
Whatever I might believe about the degree to which Our Beloved Leader actually leads -- I don't buy that he is really the "decider" of anything important -- (yes, yes, I'm faith-based on this issue!), this cartoon has some truth to it; that I do no doubt....
Whatever I might believe about the degree to which Our Beloved Leader actually leads -- I don't buy that he is really the "decider" of anything important -- (yes, yes, I'm faith-based on this issue!), this cartoon has some truth to it; that I do no doubt....
Sunday, January 14, 2007
An administration lawyer who is against criminal defendants having competent counsel. Of course, Our Leaders do not believe in the American system of law of their personal Randian system of fiat.