Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Which Is Better For Terrorists: GOP or Dem Victory on 7 November? Subtitle: Is The W, Rove And Co. Banking On Winning Elections By Spreading Fear?

There has been a fair amount of hot headed political rhetoric spewed about in the last day or so. Certainly, there's an election on. The President and his propaganda machine are trying to spin this as a vote for Dems is a vote for terrorist victory in Iraq.

That's an enticing line to buy, particularly if you believe that the W, Rove and Co plan for "victory" is working. But really, isn't that approach paramount to using terrorism as a lever for political gain?

It appears to me that the symbiotic relationship that the W, Rove and Co has been developing since Nine Eleven rests on a very parasitic principle. What's good for the terrorists is good for the GOP politically.

I have a more substantial question to pose that can be argued either way, unlike the GOP dualistic rhetorical argument where there is really on one viable option. That is...drum roll please...Call this...

Windspike's Hot Political Question Du Jour
  • Which would be better for the terrorists?
  1. The GOP retains the majority on 7 November?
  2. The Dems unseat enough republicans to tip the majority out of GOP Hands.
  • Discuss

Here's the slice from today's Whitehouse press briefing that spurred my thinking on this:

Q In his campaign speech, he's being very clear about kind of linking a vote for the Democrats to the insurgents and how important it is, therefore, to vote for the Republicans. And in a TV interview in the last couple of days, Vice President Cheney was even more blunt about this. Is it the position of the President that, in fact, the Democratic Party is the party of the insurgents and the party of al Qaeda?

MR. SNOW: No, it's the position of the President that the Democratic policies -- he doesn't think for a minute the Democrats are sitting around saying, "go, bin Laden." People understand -- but what he does think is that the policies are simply flat wrong. And if you think through them, you come to the conclusion that the idea, for instance, of withdrawal without any recognition of conditions on the ground, withdrawal without an assurance of victory in Iraq is a recipe for the kind of disaster I outlined before. That's an important distinction to make.

In that sense, yes, it would be good for terrorists because they would have safe haven in Iraq. On the other hand, what he's not saying -- and I'm glad you asked the question -- he's certainly not going to accuse people of running around with "I love bin Laden" t-shirts. It's important to know that people -- you can be patriotic, but you can also be wrong on something very important. And the President hasn't questioned the patriotism of Democrats, and he's certainly not going to accuse them of climbing in bed with bin Laden. But he will be clear that if you follow these policies, or, as I've been saying, really the lack of a policy to its logical conclusion, it could get you in real trouble.

Q Tony, when the President and Vice President talk about how insurgents and volatile forces are watching this election, is there an inference there that they would hope Democrats prevail?

MR. SNOW: Well, I don't -- you know, I'll let you draw your own conclusions on that. He's not trying to --

Q Are you guys polling in the Tora Bora Mountains or -- seriously.

MR. SNOW: That's a good line. That's cute. That's why I didn't answer the question. I don't have a clue. I mean, I've said many times I'm not going to know the thoughts of them, which is why I didn't take that extra leap, Dick.

Q But if you assert they're influencing -- influencing to what end?

MR. SNOW: Influencing?

Q The election process. You've said it. The President and the Vice President have said it.

MR. SNOW: Now you're getting into a separate issue here, which is terrorists who have committed certain acts of terror may try to influence elections by, among other things, shaping media coverage, so that we have a concentration not on what American men and women have been achieving in Iraq, but instead, acts of violence that give the appearance of defeat at a time when, again, to repeat what General Casey said, they have not lost a single engagement, and there has been -- at least according to the Prime Minister, considerable progress within Iraq, which is why the war is more popular in Iraq than it is in the United States. So to that -- in terms of a -- but that's as much a discussion of propaganda as a tool in a time of war is anything else. Go ahead.

Q A tool to what end, though? Are you suggesting by discussing this now over a period of days that that influence is intended to unseat Republicans?

MR. SNOW: No, I'm suggesting that that influence is designed to try to weaken American will to finish the job. It's a separate and unrelated item in that sense. But what is -- what I'm also saying is, don't you think Democrats -- and a number of you have written stories about this -- don't you think, on this issue that they consider of such paramount importance, that they ought to be able to get their act together long enough to come up with a plan? If it's that important, you got to figure out what you're going to do?

Q -- the President have a plan?

Q Tony, let me just ask your plan about this idea of -- I believe it was called withdrawal without assurance of victory in Iraq, which I think was the summary of the Democrats' position. And it gets back to this notion of this being a referendum, because isn't what the President putting forward -- is to stay without an assurance of victory in Iraq?

MR. SNOW: No, it's to stay with a determination of victory.

Q There's no assurance of victory in Iraq.

MR. SNOW: Well, Jim, are you saying that you don't think our troops are going to be able to complete the job?

Q I'm not saying -- it doesn't matter what I'm saying. It only matters what you folks are saying.

MR. SNOW: Okay, here's -- let me put it this way. If you'd asked the same question in World War II, people would have looked at you like you were crazy, because even when times looked toughest, there was a national determination to win. And there is a national determination to win in Iraq. And so the assurance I'm giving you is based on the quality and determination not only of U.S. forces, but also the Iraqis who are fighting with them. And the question is not if, but when.

Q But why isn't it a fair reading of this, if the President is going to throw the idea out that what Democrats are doing is advocating leaving without an assurance of victory, why isn't it a fair reading of the situation to say, on one hand, you have leaving without assurance, and on the other hand, you have staying without an assurance?

MR. SNOW: Because to leave is to create a vacuum and there is really not much doubt of what the result is going to be. To stay, with victory as your determination, ensures that you're going to have the ability over time to do what you want to achieve. It seems to me that you're trying to draw -- let me get to the back rows a little bit first, and then we'll get back up here.

Should The President Apologize?

I rarely disagree with the Helen Thomas' approach to asking questions of Tony the Snow job. But today, I think she's beating around the bush a little too much.

In my book, you shouldn't ask a question where you already know the answer. Of course, the president is not going to issue an apology for saying that Dems are for the terrorists yesterday. It's not in his nature to apologize for anything. The point is well taken, even so.

The question I would ask follows down a bit further in Helen's follow up. What's the W, Rove and Co plan for winning and does Tony provide an adequate answer?

You be the judge:
Q Does the President owe the Democrats an apology for saying that the terrorists -- that they will appease the terrorists?

MR. SNOW: No. Let's take -- you know what's interesting, Helen, and I've said this before --

Q How bellicose was he?

MR. SNOW: I don't think it's bellicose. Look, let's listen to what the Democrats -- or let's think about what Democrats are doing in this election campaign. When it comes to winning the war on terror, what is their plan? They've not said. They have talked about withdrawal --

Q -- 101 in Iraq --

MR. SNOW: -- they've talked about a whole series of things, in terms of complaining -- looking back over their shoulders and complaining about past decisions. But when it comes to the key issue, how do you achieve victory -- they say they want to achieve it, but they won't tell you how. They will tell you what they oppose what the President is doing. They oppose the Patriot Act; they have opposed the Terrorist Surveillance Program; they oppose the program by which we detain, question and bring to justice the worst of the terrorists. So they have opposed all of those things, so we know what they oppose, but we don't know what they're going to do.

Q How does the President propose to win? How does the President -- 101 in October dying --

MR. SNOW: The President understands that it is difficult. This is a man who signs each and every condolence note. He is absolutely aware of the human cost. And he grieves for every family and every person that we've lost. But on the other hand, he also knows two things. First, as General Casey said last week, there is not a single military engagement that we have not won, and we don't give our soldiers credit for that.

Secondly, he also understands that if we were to walk away short of victory it would give terrorists the opportunity to turn Iraq into a stronghold in which they would have access to the world's second largest reserves of petroleum; that they would be able to use oil as a political weapon against the United States, Europe, Asia, could pit the industrialized nations against one another; they could also work in concert with Iran and Syria, which have been active supporters of terror; they no doubt would try to go after Israel, after the Arabian peninsula, perhaps after Egypt.

In other words, the consequences of walking out and leaving a failed state are absolutely catastrophic, and the President understands that. But he also understands the promise of a democratic Iraq. And if you take a look at what's happened -- the Prime Minister, being assertive about what he wants to achieve -- and there has been progress, economically and politically, throughout much of Iraq, not ignoring the difficulties especially around Baghdad and the fierce fighting -- you take a look at that, the promise is if you have a democracy, and when you have a democracy that stands up in Iraq, that sends a powerful message.

Helen, you and I have been students of the region long enough to know that everybody is watching -- everybody is watching. And the way they see it in the region is either terrorists win or democracy wins. And the President is absolutely determined that democracy wins.
As to the fact that Tony suggest W grieves, I call that out as deeply misleading the public here. I've not detected one iota of grief for the pain W's decisions have caused the people of America or the people of the globe. But I digress.

Incidentally, The "if we walk away," gambit is not a substitute for an actual plan for winning that works. So what's the plan Tony? Thus far, is the W, Rove and Co plan working? The jury is out and the verdict will be returned on 7 November.

"We Will Win This Election Because..."

The W, Rove and Co Presidential Propaganda Catapult (PPC) is fully loaded and on full tilt spin mode. They've pulled out all the stops in a desperate attempt to retain the majority in congress.

No doubt, W goes to Crawford TX to cast his vote and cool his heals at his hobby ranch on 7 Nov. He deserves another vacation don't you think?

Let's have a look at what they've loaded the PPC with at the most recent PR junket to Georgia.
We will win this election because Republicans understand the values and priorities of the American people. We will win this election because our priorities and our values do not shift with the latest political opinion poll or focus group. (Applause.) We will win this election because we got a good record to run on.
Really, any one disagree?
When it comes to listening to the terrorists, what's the Democrats' answer? It's, just say no. When it comes to detaining terrorists, what is the Democrats' answer? Just say no. When it comes to questioning terrorists, what's the Democrats' answer?

AUDIENCE: Just say no!

THE PRESIDENT: When it comes to trying the terrorists, what's the Democrats' answer?

AUDIENCE: Just say no!

THE PRESIDENT: So when the Democrats ask for your vote, what's your answer?

AUDIENCE: Just say no! (Applause.)
But, W, it's not about taping the phones of terrorists, it's about violating the Constitution and conducting warrant-less wire taps on people that are not involved. Moreover, what ever happened to innocent until proven otherwise? So, if you are for violating the constitutional rights of most American's you should vote for the GOP incumbents.

He's so much in denial that he is even confused by his own rhetorical spin:
I want you to hear the words of a senior Democrat in the House of Representatives. She said, the President says fighting them there makes it less likely we will fight them here. The opposite is true, she said, because we are fighting them there, it may become more likely that we have to fight them there [sic].
You do not create terrorists by fighting the terrorists.
Prove it. By the way, are there not more terrorists in Iraq now than there were before we got there? So, just by simple math, the president is proven wrong.
However they put it, the Democrat approach in Iraq comes down to this: The terrorists win and America loses.
That sure is a wild prediction from a man who suggests that he is not about speaking in hypotheticals, isn't it?
That's what's at stake in this election. The Democrat goal is to get out of Iraq. The Republican goal is to win in Iraq. (Applause.)
But these are not equivalent juxtaposed ideas. Even so, the smear rhetoric is designed robustly to keep the faithful faithful, and confuse the rest of the public.

Trouble is they are good at it and there are still some folks who can't see beyond the smoke and mirrors. They lap it up like chips and dip during the Superbowl.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The ROI In Iraq Equals...

The ROI In Iraq = Tears, many, many tears.

The Iraq ROI: Is It Worth The Outlay?

In business, companies measure the worth of a particular investment by examining the return on investment (ROI). I have a few questions, in light of today's tragic tally of 1010American's KIA in Iraq during the month of October (and October is not over yet).

  1. Is the ROI worth the outlay?

  2. If so, what is that return?

  3. And, why is it worth it?

  4. If you had it to do it all over again, would you make the same investment?

I've been arguing for a great long while that the Iraq conflagration is indeed not and never has been worth the outlay (counted in taxpayer dollars exhausted, bodies KIA, and wounded, etc...). I need some help understanding how any one can justify the great expense. Can some one from the other side explain why the war in Iraq is worth the outlay?

The Big Fish Flop Harder After They Flip

A friend forwarded some interesting links. How's this for a giant flip-flop by our Veep, the Big Dick Cheney as he justified not going all the way to Bahgdad in the first Bush War:
Cheney said in '92:

"I would guess if we had gone in there, I would still have forces in Baghdad today. We'd be running the country. We would not have been able to get everybody out and bring everybody home.

"And the final point that I think needs to be made is this question of casualties. I don't think you could have done all of that without significant additional U.S. casualties. And while everybody was tremendously impressed with the low cost of the (1991) conflict, for the 146 Americans who were killed in action and for their families, it wasn't a cheap war.

"And the question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam (Hussein) worth? And the answer is not that damned many. So, I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the president made the decision that we'd achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq."

How -- given what he said then -- does Cheney get off challenging the judgment and strength of those who argue that we are bogged down and shedding blood today?
And so, what makes Iraq 2006 so different from Iraq 1992?

Mr. Bush's Secret Tax On The American People

In case you didn't already know that money borrowed to pay for the Iraq war translates to exponentially larger tax burdens for future generations, here's another hidden tax that W doesn't extoll on his many PR junkets:
One of President Bush’s be-very-afraid lines this campaign season is that Democrats, if elected, will raise taxes. What he doesn’t say is that if you are one of tens of millions of Americans who make between $75,000 and $500,000 a year, your taxes are already scheduled to rise starting next year — because of laws that Mr. Bush championed and other actions he failed to take.

The higher taxes stem from the alternative minimum tax, a levy that is supposed to snare multimillionaires who would otherwise get away with using excessive tax shelters to wipe out their tax bills. But these days, the alternative tax is snaring many upper-middle-income filers.

Mr. Bush set the trap in 2001 — and in 2003, 2004 and 2006. In each of those years, he flogged for new tax cuts without requiring corresponding long-term changes in the existing rules for the alternative tax. It was well known that failure to update the alternative tax would create perverse interactions with the new tax cuts, causing filers’ tax bills to drop because of the cuts, only to shoot back up again from the alternative levy.

Mr. Bush said he would vanquish the problem through tax reform. Didn’t happen. Congress never wrestled with lasting solutions. The truth is, the president and lawmakers are paralyzed. To fix the alternative tax while keeping the Bush tax cuts on the books would result in the loss of some $800 billion in revenue over 10 years, blowing a hole in the federal budget and exposing how utterly unaffordable the tax cuts of the last five years really are.

The taxpayers wrongly afflicted by the alternative tax are not tax dodgers. For the most part, they are couples with children who have broken into the ranks of six-figure earners, and who live in high-tax states like New York and California. They are being penalized, in effect, for claiming everyday deductions — like write-offs for dependents and property taxes — which, under the alternative tax rules, are viewed as excessive shelters.

Meanwhile, multimillionaires are not being snared at nearly the same rate as other filers. In part, that’s because much of the income of the superrich comes from investments. The tax breaks for investments — the grail of the administration’s tax-cutting crusade — are not counted as shelters under the alternative tax the way, say, children are.

For the past few years, Congress has papered over the mess by passing temporary relief measures to shield most — though not all — upper-middle-income taxpayers from having to pay the alternative tax. The latest stopgap expires at the end of this year, leaving taxpayers exposed at ever lower income levels. Congress could pass another temporary stay, and it will probably do so.

But stopgaps do little to protect the families already being unfairly clobbered by the alternative tax. And they make the nation’s underlying budget problems worse. Like the Bush tax cuts themselves, they result in less tax revenue than is needed, requiring the government to borrow heavily. The mounting debt of the Bush years — all of which must be paid back with interest — makes tax increases or budget cuts, or both, inevitable.

The president wants to push off the day of reckoning until he leaves the White House, while whipping up voter fear of future tax increases. But the reality is that he and his supporters have laid the groundwork for higher taxes and hamstrung government, no matter who is in office in the months and years to come.
Does this sound like fiscal conservatism that the GOP used to be known for?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

"Any Day Is A Great Day To Raise Taxes" And The Mythology Spread By Karl Rove

Uncle Karl's been very busy over the last few days. If you are brave enough, you can listen to his speech delivered in support of Tom Reynolds (caught in the Foley scandal, btw) the other day. The speech is littered with the usual references to Nine Eleven, WW II, and all sorts of heroic behavior they suggest they've perpetrated.

In it, he's on full spin mode and even suggests we buy a book of the written by Osama Bin Laden (Message to the World). Now if you ask me, any one at that level of the government that advocates that we read the messages of OBL is delivering the devil to our doorstep. Who is serving whom?

You have to ask how much of the speech is myth and pure fabrication. For people who are openly abject to speaking about hypothetical situations, Rove and his pals sure are prone to soothsaying and prophesizing about the future should the Dems win in November. Garry Trudeau has a fantastic comic strip this Sunday that identifies their strategy quite plainly.

Watch for Rove's hand in the spin and attempt to control the debate by dishing the usual dualistic rhetoric where one side is not viable and selling it as the Dems desires. It's plain, it's real, and it's divisive. And that's the point:
This week, Rove and his staff will turn to their endgame.

They will oversee a mobilization of political employees from Cabinet agencies, Capitol Hill and lobbying firms — many of them skilled campaign veterans — to more than a dozen battleground states. Many will act as "marshals," supervising the "72-hour plan" developed by Rove in 2001 with Ken Mehlman, the former White House political director who now heads the Republican National Committee
By the way, just one small question Uncle Karl, if I may: What's the difference between taxing us today and growing our debt to pay for the Iraq war? The latter are just taxes deferred. The former if more fiscally responsible and your way doesn't seem remotely conservative whatsoever.

Quick: What's the Scariest Halloween Costume You Can Think Of?

Dick Cheny with a rifle in a blaze orange vest?

GWB with his finger on the button?

OBL in the cockpit of a 777?

Your turn...

Saturday, October 28, 2006

I Love A Vice President Who Doesn't Say Anything, Don't You?

Since when does saying it's a "no brainer" not saying anything?
Q Well, listen, we appreciate you taking a couple of minutes. I guess, just as an initial matter we'd like to ask you to clarify those comments that have now been in the news today concerning --

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I was being interviewed by a talk show host. I don't talk about techniques and I wouldn't. I have said that the interrogation program for a select number of detainees is very important. It has been I think one of the most valuable intelligence programs we have. And I believe it has allowed us to prevent terrorist attacks against the United States. I did not talk about specific techniques involved --

Q So it was not about water boarding, even though he asked you about dunking in the water?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I didn't say anything about water boarding. Those were all his comments. He didn't even use that phrase.

Q He said dunking in the water.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I didn't say anything, he did.
In behavioral circles, people who respond to questions are saying something. Now what exactly he meant is up for debate because he is clearly not going to tell us what he meant.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Fitzmas May Come In Fits And Starts, But This Rainmaker Is About To Turn On The Faucets

If you have been starving for news about the further prosocution of the leakers (that W said would not be tollerated in his administration), here's a quick update:
With withering and methodical dispatch, White House nemesis and prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald yesterday sliced up the first person called to the stand on behalf of the vice president's former chief of staff.

If I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was not afraid of the special counsel before, the former Cheney aide, who will face Fitzgerald in a trial beginning Jan. 11, had ample reason to start quaking after yesterday's Ginsu-like legal performance.

It's A "No Brainer:" They Must Have Installed A New Prisoners Only Pool At Gitmo.

So, dunking your enemies in water is a "no brainer," eh Mr. Big Dick Cheney? Looks like the president is going to avoid backing you up on that:
Q Sir, do you agree with the Vice President that a dunk in the water is a "no brainer" when it comes to interrogating a terror suspect?

PRESIDENT BUSH: This country doesn't torture, we're not going to torture. We will interrogate people we pick up off the battlefield to determine whether or not they've got information that will be helpful to protect the country.
This leads me to another good question: Is dunking a prisoner in water torture?
I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't leverage information out of folks, particularly those who are suspected of plotting terrorism or know where OBL lives. But, I just want to understand two things.

  1. If W says we are not going to torture but do, what does that say about this country's leadership?

  2. Where are the brains? If dunking some one in water is not a form of torture, I don't know what is. Just ask any skinny kid who has been hazed by the school bully and dunked in a toilet as to whether or not he feels like he is being tortured.

Have a look at how Tony the Snow job tries to spin his way out of this one. Really, you can't make this shit up. It's very entertaining.

When you read through this slice, ask yourself the following: What was the Big Dick Cheney refering to when he said a dunk in the water is a "no brainer?" Forget about the political spin job that is sponsored by your taxpayer dollors and be truthful. What did the Veep mean?
MR. SNOW: I'll tell you what he said. He was asked the question, "You dunk somebody's head in the water to save a life, is it a no-brainer?" And also, if you read the rest of the answer, he also -- the Vice President, who earlier had also been asked about torture, he said, "We don't torture."

Let me give you the no-brainers here. No-brainer number one is, we don't torture. No-brainer number two: We don't break the law, our own or international law. No-brainer number three: The Vice President doesn't give away questioning techniques. And number four, the administration does believe in legal questioning techniques of known killers whose questioning can, in fact, be used to save American lives. The Vice President says he was talking in general terms about a questioning program that is legal to save American lives, and he was not referring to water boarding.

Q Then how can you say that he's not referring to water boarding, when it was very clear, when you look at the whole context, not only that specific question --

MR. SNOW: Does the word --

Q -- but the one before?

MR. SNOW: Did the word "water boarding" appear?

Q It came up in the context of talking about interrogation techniques and the entire debate that has been conducted in this country.

MR. SNOW: I understand that. I'll tell you what the Vice President said. You can push all you want, wasn't referring to water boarding and would not talk about techniques.

Q Let's back it up here for a second, because what we're saying is -- and I've got the transcript -- "Would you agree a dunk in water is a 'no-brainer' that can save lives?" Vice President: "It's a 'no-brainer' for me." Tony --

MR. SNOW: Read the rest of the answer.

Q What could "dunk in the water" refer to if not water boarding?

MR. SNOW: I'm just telling you -- I'm telling you the Vice President's position. I will let you draw your own conclusions, because you clearly have. He says he wasn't talking --

Q I haven't drawn any conclusions. I'm asking for an explanation about what "dunk in the water" could mean.

MR. SNOW: How about a dunk in the water?

Q So, wait a minute, so "dunk in the water" means what, we have a pool now at Guantanamo, and they go swimming?

MR. SNOW: Are you doing stand up? (Laughter.)

Q I'm asking -- well, let's start with something basic. Dunk in the water refers to what? If it doesn't refer to water boarding, tell me what it could possibly refer to?

MR. SNOW: No, because the transcript is there. You read it, you interpret it. I'm telling you what the Vice President says. He says he wasn't referring --

Q What other way is there to interpret this?

MR. SNOW: What you're saying is the Vice President is wrong in reporting what he says. I'm sorry. I'm telling you what the Vice President says. I can't go any further, and I'm not going to engage in what-could-he-mean because he said what he meant. He said -- he said he wasn't talking about water boarding.

And furthermore, what you didn't read was the rest of the answer, which I asked you to do --

Q Which says what?

MR. SNOW: Where he talks about -- we don't torture, we obey the laws, and that sort of thing. And it also came up regularly within the context of that conversation. So I know it's inviting to say, "The Vice President confirms water boarding. He's talking about water boarding." Just -- it's not there.

Q One follow on this, because what you said in the morning was, "You think Dick Cheney is going to slip up on something like this?" Is it possible that he's not slipping up at all --


Q -- but that he's winking to the base and saying --


Q -- "of course we water board, and of course we'll do anything we need to to get the information because he knows that what they do --

MR. SNOW: I think you just won the cynical question of the year award. No, I don't.

Q How is that cynical?

Q No, no, no. There are more.

Q I'm a rookie. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: Jim, you can bang away as much as you want. I'm telling you what the Vice President's -- I talked to Lea Anne about it. She says no, he wasn't referring to water boarding; he was referring to using a program of questioning -- not talking about water boarding.

Let me put it this way. You got Dick Cheney, who had been head of an intelligence committee. He's been the Secretary of Defense. He's been the Vice President. He's not a guy who slips up, and he's also not a guy who does winks and nods about things that involve matters that you don't talk about for political reasons. Sorry.

Q Why did the Vice President then, when the inference was clearly there from the questioner, who more than once referred to a dunk in the water --

MR. SNOW: I believe that his office is --

Q Let me finish. He, in the questioning, talked about how his radio listeners believe that this is a useful tool. "If it takes dunking someone in order to save lives, isn't it a silly debate to even be questioning that?" The Vice President says, "I do agree," later says, "That's been a very important tool that we've been able to secure the nation" -- referring to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

If the Vice President is so careful, why did he allow himself to answer a question in which "dunking in the water" was a part of that question?

MR. SNOW: The answer -- look, he was answering a question. And also as you know, he went on to talk about torture. Look, I've said what I'm going to say on it. I can't -- I really -- what you're asking me to do is to deconstruct something. I've asked what he meant. I've told you what he said he meant. I can't go any further than that, so you can ask all the whys and wherefores. But I want you to think -- let's go back to the "no brainer" part here.

The Vice President is not somebody who's going to reveal techniques. He's been in this business for a very long time.

Q He was asked about a technique, and he responded to a technique, and said that he agreed --

MR. SNOW: No, he was not asked -- he was not asked, no.

Q Informally, he did.

MR. SNOW: No, informally doesn't work.

Q It does in the context of a radio interview --

Q You're quibbling over semantics, to borrow your phrase. You're quibbling over semantics.

MR. SNOW: I know. But, no, I think -- I actually think --

Q He's in a conversation with a radio audience to speak to the American people.

MR. SNOW: I understand all that.

Q It doesn't have to be legally precise. The Vice President understood what the questioner was asking.

MR. SNOW: I'm telling you -- and I will tell you once again -- the Vice President says that he refers to the fact that when you're questioning people, you don't torture. You obey the law, and you protect the American people. We're not going to go any further.

Q Tony, is it not possible that the two are not mutually exclusive? In other words, that the Vice President does not construe water boarding as torture, and therefore, to him --

MR. SNOW: No, no, no, no --

Q -- it's the same sentence --

Q So he does construe water boarding as torture?

MR. SNOW: No, what he does -- he doesn't talk about water boarding. And he also -- what he does say is that the techniques that the Americans use do not qualify as torture, and he is not going to talk about specific techniques.

Q So we know from this that a "dunk in the water" does not qualify as torture, right? And the Vice President is saying we're not involved in torture, and a dunk in the water is a "no brainer" for him.

MR. SNOW: Okay, and I will let you --

Q Is he saying --

MR. SNOW: I will let you deconstruct. The text speaks for itself. Let's change --

Q Did you talk to him?

MR. SNOW: No, I didn't. I talked to Lea Anne.

Q You had a cut-out.

MR. SNOW: I had a cut-out?

Q Yes.

MR. SNOW: I'll be happy to talk to him. Okay, I'll talk to him for you, okay? Everybody happy?

Q Yes.

Q Will you tell us what he says? (Laughter.)

Q -- when he says "dunk in the water," that's a serious question. You can't just sort of beg off and say, I'm sorry, I'm not going to deconstruct it.

MR. SNOW: No, but, Jennifer -- Jennifer, you've listened -- there have been statements out of that office for two consecutive days that say they don't talk about water boarding, they don't talk about torture, they don't condone torture. They're not going to talk about techniques.

Q All we're asking is, what's a "dunk in the water"?

Q He agrees with it. We want to know what that means.

MR. SNOW: All right.

Q If he agrees with a "dunk in the water," then --

MR. SNOW: All right, talk about a dunk in the water.

Q But you need to deconstruct it, not us. That's why we're asking you.

MR. SNOW: Okay, well, I've told you what deconstruction I've had. Yes, Anne.

Q Tony, this administration has, indeed, talked about specifics, including after Abu Ghraib, President Bush condemning that kind of behavior.

MR. SNOW: Right.

Q And he did talk about specifics, saying that was not --

MR. SNOW: Wait a minute, he was talking about -- he was talking about specific breaches of the law. He was not talking about lawful techniques, which we will not disclose for obvious reasons of security.

Q To say that Vice President Cheney doesn't make mistakes like this, he did go up and curse a senator to his face on the Senate floor, and accidentally shot his friend, so he's not perfect. (Laughter.)

Q He never slips up?

MR. SNOW: No, I mean, it's just -- that's -- that's a great line, but it's not germane. Yes, Helen.
I love it when he calls on Helen to swing her cast iron skillet one more time. And, she faithfully does. Have a look:
Q Is the emphasis on "we don't torture" when we send captives to notorious places that do torture? Does that absolve you?

MR. SNOW: No, it's -- as we've said many times, when we move people to another place, we have to have assurances that there will be no torture, and the treatment will be in accordance with international law.

Q Why do you send them there? Why? Why don't you keep them in your own captivity?

MR. SNOW: Well, wait a minute, I thought you guys wanted to close off Guantanamo. The only way you do that -- we quite often try to repatriate people to places --

Q No, this was going on before you even had any intention, or you certainly don't now.

MR. SNOW: Let me just make it clear again. We don't condone torture. We don't participate in torture. We don't do torture.

Q How can we believe you when there's so much indication otherwise? Cheney went to the Hill to convince them they should not vote for a ban on torture.

MR. SNOW: Well, the people on the Hill have expressed their will, and furthermore, the administration has always said that we don't conduct acts of torture. And we don't condone torture.

Q I think the larger issue is credibility -- yours and the White House's. We're talking both in this instance and yesterday about very clear -- about specific language where you refute the semantic differences within the language and refuse to acknowledge what's very clear.

MR. SNOW: No, I can understand that people will look at this and draw the conclusions that you're trying to draw, as for yesterday. Those are two entirely different issues, and I think I've explained that on the issues of Prime Minister Maliki in the United States, we're playing off the same playbook.

I understand this. We will try to deal with it. I think you guys are -- maybe it's the end of the week. You're getting whipped into a frenzy.

Q Do you have contempt for the American people, do you think they don't understand?

Q That's not fair.

MR. SNOW: No, what I'm saying -- no, I think it is because you guys know Dick Cheney. You know the issue. I will go back and I will try to find some language for you.

Q We don't know him.

Q That's a logical fallacy.

Q Will he disavow dunking people in water as a part of the robust interrogation --

MR. SNOW: I think what he will disavow is torture, and he will not talk about specific techniques.

Q Okay. But just the wish list for us, in terms of question, is this notion of what did he mean when he said dunking the terrorists in water -- if it wasn't water boarding?

MR. SNOW: I will tell you -- and I will tell you what the office has said, and I will ask him directly. But what they've said is he was talking generally about a program, without referring to dunking in the water, that is used to interrogate people and to get important information that's going to save American lives.

The other thing you need to think about is that, again, the Vice President talking about a program that has now passed congressional scrutiny, been through a long debate and a thoughtful debate about how you can question people and save American lives, that really was the topic they were discussing.

Q That's not what we're asking about, though, now.

MR. SNOW: I know. Well, actually it is what you're asking about. It was the conversation. Look, we're going to go round the merry-go-round. Let me just get you some answers that will be more acceptable to you.

Is The Policy of "Isolation" A Viable Means Of Diplomacy?

Today, the President confirmed that he does not learn history's lessons and tends to only repeat his past mistakes as well as those of his predecessors. W's posturing today leaves me with one question: Is a policy of "isolation" a viable means of diplomacy?

Certainly, we have seen that W's rhetorical bullying and threats of "isolation" doesn't seem to work, does it?

It didn't get Saddam to cooperate and look what that brought us. It hasn't stopped Korea from testing their weapons. It hasn't changed Cuba. What makes him think it will work when dealing with Iran?
Q Thank you, sir. What does it say to you that Iran is doubling its enrichment capacity?

THE PRESIDENT: It says to me that we must double our effort to work with the international community to persuade the Iranians that there is only isolation from the world if they continue working forward on such a program. And I've read the speculation about that that's what they may be doing, but whether they've doubled it or not, the idea of Iran having a nuclear weapon is unacceptable, and it's unacceptable to the United States and it's unacceptable to nations we're working with in the United Nations to send a common message.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Since When Has Wasting Money Become A GOP Hallmark?

Please be seated. I'm pleased that you all are here to witness the signature of the Secure Fence Act of 2006. This bill will help protect the American people. This bill will make our borders more secure. It is an important step toward immigration reform.
Am I the only one that thinks putting up a fence along the Mexico border is a giant waste of money? Sure, I'm in favor of legal immigration - that's how my family got here. But a fence? That isn't going to solve the problem.

Given the propensity for graft amongst our politicians, I can't help but wonder who is going to be the big winner when the fence building contract is awarded and what connections some politicians will have with that company.

This leads me to the real topic of this post - since when has wasting taxpayer dollars become a GOP hallmark and modus operandi? I thought the very definition of "conservative" meant that the GOP would be the party of parsimonious expenditures with policy expedited with a miserly akin to Ebenezer Scrooge. But alas, I am unrequited.

The NYTimes Editorial staff puts it this way:
When the full encyclopedia of Bush administration misfeasance in Iraq is compiled, it will have to include a lengthy section on the contracting fiascos that wasted billions of taxpayer dollars in the name of rebuilding the country. It isn’t only money that was lost. Washington’s disgraceful failure to deliver on its promises to restore electricity, water and oil distribution, and to rebuild education and health facilities, turned millions of once sympathetic Iraqis against the American presence.

Their discovery that the world’s richest, most technologically advanced country could not restore basic services to minimal prewar levels left an impression of American weakness and, worse, of indifference to the well-being of ordinary Iraqis. That further poisoned a situation already soured by White House intelligence breakdowns, military misjudgments and political blunders.

The latest contracting revelations came in a report issued Tuesday by the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. The office reviewed records covering $1.3 billion out of the $18.4 billion that Congress voted for Iraq reconstruction two years ago. Reported overhead costs ran from a low of 11 percent for several contracts awarded to Lucent to a high of 55 percent for, you guessed it, the Halliburton subsidiary, KBR Inc.

On similar projects in the United States, overhead is typically just a few percent. Given the difficult security environment in Iraq, overhead was expected to run closer to 10 percent. But in many of the contracts examined, it ran much, much higher, in some cases consuming over half the allocated funds. And the report may have actually underestimated total overhead because the government agencies that were supposed to be supervising these reconstruction projects sometimes failed to systematically track overhead expenses.

The main explanation for these excessive overhead rates turned out to be not special security costs but simply the costly down time that resulted from sending workers and equipment to Iraq months before there was any actual work for them to do. That is yet another example of the shoddy contract writing, lax oversight and absent supervision that has consistently characterized Washington’s approach to Iraq reconstruction from the start.

Bush administration incompetence, not corporate greed, is the chief culprit. Still, these charges are one more example of how the favored American companies lucky enough to be awarded reconstruction contracts made large sums of money while the Iraqis failed to get most of the promised benefits.

As Americans now look for explanations of how things went so horribly wrong in Iraq, they should not overlook the shameful breakdowns in reconstruction contracting. They need to insist that Congress impose tough new rules on the Pentagon to ensure more competitive bidding, tighter contract writing and more rigorous supervision. That is the best way to ensure that such a costly and damaging failure never happens again.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Video The Vote

Here's an intersting idea:
Last month we told you about GNN's new film American Blackout that uncovers the issue of voter disenfranchisement that occurred in the past presidential elections. Many of you expressed your outrage after watching the film. Now there is something you can do about it as a part of the End The Blackout Campaign for the '06 mid-term elections.

On November 7th, join us as we "Video the Vote"--a team of everyday Americans dispatched with cameras to capture problems with the vote as they happen, and pushing them through the media on Election Day. To participate, all you need is a video camera, a cell phone, and the ability to get to problematic places on Election Day, should something
happen. No camera? You can still volunteer to help dispatch videographers or with logistics. Join us as we enter a new stage for GNN, working together as an active community of citizen journalists. Watch the promo video and sign up today at:


-- American Blackout Team

The Big Iraq Gamble: Is The Return Worth The Bet, Or Should We Get A New Set Of Dealers For The House?

I don't like gamblers. They take giant risks and often lose huge sums of money. That's fine when the loss is constrained to their own coffers. But when people borrow to make bets, and then lose, they deserve what's coming to them.

Unfortunately for us, the W, Rove and Co made a huge gamble that the Iraq conflagration would turn in our favor using a super-sized jumbo loan borrowed on the backs of the American Taxpayer for generations to come, not to mention the lives of many lost for their "noble cause." The question is, has the bet paid off?

Today, in an every widening and ratcheting up set of PR junkets, the President is in a desperate frenzy to prove to the American people that he and his party have lead us to the right craps table. I remain unconvinced.

Let's have a look Wednesday's Presidential Press Briefing and make a judgment of our own as to whether or not we think the sizable bet the W, Rove and Co. laid down has yielded any kind of return.

Let's look at the newly articulated "strategy" that W is trying to spin his way:
First, we're working with political and religious leaders across Iraq, urging them to take steps to restrain their followers and stop sectarian violence.

Second, we're helping Iraqi leaders to complete work on a national compact to resolve the most difficult issues dividing their country. The new Iraqi government has condemned violence from all quarters and agreed to a schedule for resolving issues, such as disarming illegal militias and death squads, sharing oil revenues, amending the Iraqi constitution, and reforming the de-Baathification process.

Third, we're reaching out to Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan, and asking them to support the Iraqi government's efforts to persuade Sunni insurgents to lay down their arms and accept national reconciliation.
I see. Is that working? Judging by the intensity and frequency with which the sectarian factions are killing each other, I would have to say: nope.
We're pressing Iraq's leaders to take bold measures to save their country. We're making it clear that America's patient [sic] is not unlimited.
Well, that we are not an infinite pool of patients is correct, but I'm not certain that the wagging middle finger of blame should point solely at the Iraqi's here. I thought W had repeatedly billed us as the Iraqi's saviors, no? But wait, there's hope.
A distinguished independent panel of Republicans and Democrats, led by former Secretary of State Jim Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton, is taking a fresh look at the situation in Iraq and will make recommendations to help achieve our goals. I welcome all these efforts. My administration will carefully consider any proposal that will help us achieve victory.
Excuse me for a second here? I thought that W was only going to be making decisions about tactics based on feedback from generals in Iraq? What happened to the credibility of those boots-on-the-ground?

Ah, but let's have some fear tossed at us so we can see how clearly W is able to predict the future and get us to toss more money onto the Iraqi craps table:
If we do not defeat the terrorists or extremists in Iraq, they will gain access to vast oil reserves, and use Iraq as a base to overthrow moderate governments across the broader Middle East. They will launch new attacks on America from this new safe haven. They will pursue their goal of a radical Islamic empire that stretches from Spain to Indonesia.
Really? Nothing makes a gambler place a new bet faster than the fear of losing. But do you think Saudi Arabia will allow that to happen?

But where is the proof that the bet is paying off?
Q Are we winning?

THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely, we're winning. Al qaeda is on the run. As a matter of fact, the mastermind, or the people who they think is the mastermind of the September the 11th attacks is in our custody. We've now got a procedure for this person to go on trial, to be held for his account. Most of al Qaeda that planned the attacks on September the 11th have been brought to justice.
I thought OBL was the lynchpin to this whole thing? What about him?

And if victory is certain, why can't we set a time line or time table?
Q What about the 12 to 18 month estimate?

THE PRESIDENT: It's a condition, a base estimate. And that's important for the American people to know. This notion about, you know, fixed timetable of withdrawal, in my judgment, is a -- means defeat. You can't leave until the job is done. Our mission is to get the job done as quickly as possible.

Let's see here -- David.

Q Mr. President, for several years you have been saying that America will stay the course in Iraq; you were committed to the policy. And now you say that, no, you're not saying, stay the course, that you're adapting to win, that you're showing flexibility. And as you mentioned, out of Baghdad we're now hearing about benchmarks and timetables from the Iraqi government, as relayed by American officials, to stop the sectarian violence.

In the past, Democrats and other critics of the war who talked about benchmarks and timetables were labeled as defeatists, defeat-o-crats, or people who wanted to cut and run. So why shouldn't the American people conclude that this is nothing from you other than semantic, rhetorical games and all politics two weeks before an election?

THE PRESIDENT: David, there is a significant difference between benchmarks for a government to achieve and a timetable for withdrawal. You're talking about -- when you're talking about the benchmarks, he's talking about the fact that we're working with the Iraqi government to have certain benchmarks to meet as a way to determine whether or not they're making the hard decisions necessary to achieve peace. I believe that's what you're referring to. And we're working with the Iraqi government to come up with benchmarks.

Listen, this is a sovereign government. It was elected by the people of Iraq. What we're asking them to do is to say, when do you think you're going to get this done, when can you get this done, so the people themselves in Iraq can see that the government is moving forward with a reconciliation plan and plans necessary to unify this government.

That is substantially different, David, from people saying, we want a time certain to get out of Iraq. As a matter of fact, the benchmarks will make it more likely we win. Withdrawing on an artificial timetable means we lose.

Now, I'm giving the speech -- you're asking me why I'm giving this speech today -- because there's -- I think I owe an explanation to the American people, and will continue to make explanations. The people need to know that we have a plan for victory. Like I said in my opening comments, I fully understand if the people think we don't have a plan for victory, they're not going to support the effort. And so I'll continue to speak out about our way forward.
So, which is it? A time line or time table means defeat or victory? What's the difference between benchmarks and a time line? Can you clarify for us Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. First, this is back to the question that David asked about benchmarks. You called it "timetables."

Q He did, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay, he called it "timetables," excuse me. I think he was referring to the benchmarks that we're developing that show a way forward to the Iraqi people, and the American people for that matter, about how this unity government is going to solve problems and bring the people together. And if his point is, is that those benchmarks, or the way forward can't be imposed upon Iraq by an outside force, he's right. This is a sovereign government. But we're working closely with the government to be able to say, here's what's going to happen then, here's what we expect to happen now, here's what should be expected in the future.
Huh? If we can't force a way forward for Iraq, why did we go there in the first place?

But let's shift gears to think about what's the best way out of the Iraq mess. Should we stick with Rummy as the house dealer?
Q When you first ran for President, sir, you talked about the importance of accountability. We learned from Bob Woodward's recent book that Secretary Card, on two occasions, suggested that you replace Secretary Rumsfeld, and both times you said, no. Given that the war in Iraq is not going as well as you want, and given that you're not satisfied as you just told us today, why hasn't anybody been held accountable? Should somebody be held accountable?

THE PRESIDENT: Peter, you're asking me why I believe Secretary Rumsfeld is doing a good job, I think, if I might decipher through the Washington code.

Q -- or someone else --

THE PRESIDENT: Well, let's start with Rumsfeld, Secretary Rumsfeld. I've asked him to do some difficult tasks as the Secretary of Defense -- one, wage war in two different theaters of this war on terror, Afghanistan and Iraq, and at the same time, asked him to transform our military posture around the world and our military readiness here at home. In other words, the transformation effort into itself is a big project for any Secretary to handle. But to compound the job he has, he's got to do that and, at the same time, wage war. And I'm satisfied of how he's done all his jobs.

He is a smart, tough, capable administrator. As importantly, he understands that the best way to fight this war, whether it be in Iraq or anywhere else around the world, is to make sure our troops are ready, that morale is high, that we transform the nature of our military to meet the threats, and that we give our commanders on the ground the flexibility necessary to make the tactical changes to achieve victory.

This is a tough war in Iraq. I mean, it's a hard fight, no question about it. All you've got to do is turn on your TV. But I believe that the military strategy we have is going to work. That's what I believe, Peter. And so we've made changes throughout the war, we'll continue to make changes throughout the war. But the important thing is whether or not we have the right strategy and the tactics necessary to achieve that goal. And I believe we do.
Well, but I thought you were telling us you were planning a new way out? Let's see, can we talk about some hypotheticals here?
Q What if there is a civil war?

THE PRESIDENT: You're asking me hypotheticals. Our job is to make sure there's not one, see. You been around here five-and-a-half years, you know I won't answer hypotheticals. Occasionally slip up, but --
But wait a minute, this is not true, Mr. President. Just one question before this one, you present a hypothetical yourself. Have a look:
Q What about --

THE PRESIDENT: Let me finish. I view that this is a struggle between radicals and extremists who are trying to prevent there to be a democracy, for a variety of reasons. And it's in our interest that the forces of moderation prevail in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. A defeat there -- in other words, if we were to withdraw before the job is done, it would embolden extremists. They would say, you know, we were right about America in the first place, that America did not have the will necessary to do the hard work. That's precisely what Osama bin Laden has said, for example. A defeat there would make it easier for people to be able to recruit extremists and kids, to be able to use their tactics to destroy innocent life. A defeat there would dispirit people throughout the Middle East who wonder whether America is genuine in our commitment to moderation and democracy.

And I told you what the scenario, Dick, could look like, 20 or 30 years from now, if we leave before the job is done. It's a serious business. And that's why I say it's the call of this generation. And I understand how tough it is, see, but I also said in my remarks, just because the enemy has been able to make some progress doesn't mean we should leave. Quite the contrary; we ought to do everything we can to help prevent them from making progress. And that is what our strategy is.
Does that sounds like a hypothetical prediction of the future or not?
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Does the United States want to maintain permanent bases in Iraq? And I would follow that by asking, are you willing to renounce a claim on permanent bases in Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT: Jim, any decisions about permanency in Iraq will be made by the Iraqi government. And, frankly, it's not in much of a position to be thinking about what the world is going to look like five or 10 years from now. They are working to make sure that we succeed in the short-term. And they need our help. And that's where our focus is.
But wait a minute. Just a hand full of questions above, you were predicting what it would look like if we did pull out? Can't you also talk about what it might look like in the opposite case?
Q What happens if that patience runs out?

THE PRESIDENT: See, that's that hypothetical Keil is trying to get me to answer. Why do we work to see to it that it doesn't work out -- run out? That's the whole objective. That's what positive people do. They say, we're going to put something in place and we'll work to achieve it.
Oh, I see. If we plan for contingencies, we are not positive?

So, if we are not going to plan for contingencies or possible scenarios, what exactly is your plan for bringing troops home Mr. President?
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Your comment earlier that last spring you believed that troops would be able to come home early next year --


Q -- I wonder if you could talk to us about how you came to believe that, and over what period of time, or whether it was a single development because you realized that wasn't feasible.

THE PRESIDENT: No, no, no, look, Mike, here's the way it works. I meet with our -- or talk to our generals all the time. And the security situation looked like at that point in time that beginning next year, we could reduce our troop presence. That's what we felt -- until the conditions on the ground changed. And when they changed, our generals changed their attitude. And when their attitude changed, my attitude changed.

Look, I want to get our troops home as fast as we can. But I do not want to leave before we achieve victory. And the best way to do that is to make sure we have a strategy that works, tactics that adjust to the enemy, and commanders that feel confident making recommendations to the Secretary and to the Commander-in-Chief. And that's how that happened. In other words, they're saying it looks like things are positive, things are stepping up. The security situation is -- looks like it could be this way. And then when it change, we changed. And that's important for the American people to know, that we're constantly changing tactics to meet the situation on the ground.
Seems like the President is stumbling over himself to stay bellied up to the Iraq craps table:
Q I just wanted to ask you quickly, sir, if you believe that Iraq will be able to defend, sustain and govern itself by the time you leave office?

THE PRESIDENT: Mike, I believe Iraq will be able to defend, govern and sustain itself; otherwise, I'd pull our troops out. See, you all got to understand that. And the parents of our troops must understand, that if I didn't believe we could succeed, and didn't believe it was necessary for the security of this country to succeed, I wouldn't have your loved ones there. That's what I want these parents to hear.

And that's a backhanded way of getting me to put a timetable. My answer is, we'll work as fast as we can get the job done.
Is that the "or else" issued to the Iraqi people? We came, we saw, and if you don't deliver, we'll pull out? That's not the vini vide vici that I know.

What say you? Shall we let it ride, and up the ante, or get us a new set of dealers for the USA House?

Don't forget to vote 7 November, and blog on friends. Blog on all.

Another Sign The W, Rove And Co Have Their Heads Screwed On Sideways

Today's SFGate posted another article that proves the W, Rove and Co. have their heads twisted on sideways. When it comes to educating our children, I don't think single gender environments are the right way to go. How many of you opperate through out your day in a single gender environment?

Teaching children in artificially constructed single gender settings is may set them up for dysfunctional behavior when they eventually enter into mixed environments. Minimally, they will face an awkward socialization process as they jump from single gendered school spaces to mixed social situations.
The Bush administration is giving public school districts broad new latitude to expand the number of single-sex classes, and even schools, in what is widely considered the most significant policy change in coeducational education since a landmark federal law barring sex discrimination in education more than 30 years ago.
Why are they doing this? Are they trying to skirt another law that they don't like because of their twisted moral value system?

Think about the single gendered organizations that you are familiar with and ask yourself how functional those organizations are? The priesthood, fraternities, sororities, exclusive clubs? Are they healthy for it? Why would you subject your child to an artificially gender separated environment?

Fun Video Clip From24 Hrs On Craigslist


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Is The President In Denial, Or Is His Spokesmodel Lying?

In case you didn't notice, President Bush is visiting Florida again. He's doing some of that hard, political fund raising for his GOP pals. How much this costs the American taxpayers is unclear, but it can't be cheep. I digress.

In Friday's press gaggle Tony Fratto - pinch speaking for Tony the Snow job - gives us the glimmer of a very interesting question. Have a look and I'll raise the question afterward:
Q It's been reported that in some of these meetings [chief of staff planning meetings for next year] the President doesn't want people to talk about the prospect of planning in the event that the Democrats take over Congress. Is that correct?

MR. FRATTO: I think the President has been very clear that he's preparing for a Congress that has Republican leadership, and that's the way we'll continue to proceed. It's the only way to proceed.
This leads me to a hand full of questions:
  1. Is the President in denial about the possibility of a Congressional change in leadership? And,

  2. If not, then could he not be remotely thinking or talking about how he will proceed going forward if the Republicans trade places with the Dems in November? Which case, Tony would be lying, no? And finally;

  3. Could this be a bigger window that offers a look at the reasons why W didn't have a real concrete plan to get us out of Iraq - he doesn't plan in advance for contingencies?
Look at the way Tony does his best to obfuscate his way out of this mess and then tell us what you think:
Q You said that it's the only way to proceed, to prepare for a Republican-controlled Congress. With such a close election, and with both parties recognizing how close it's going to be, why not at least consider both alternatives?

MR. FRATTO: We're still in the game, and -- if you're in the game, you're in it to win.

Q But you don't know the outcome of the game any more than I do, and --

MR. FRATTO: We feel confident about the outcome, and that's the way we're going to proceed.

Q Continuing the analogy, but government isn't a game, and you are governing, and so your responsibility is to prepare for how to govern regardless of how it turns out. So it may be a game in the political sense, but it's really not a game to Americans who want their government to be ready to do what needs to be done.

MR. FRATTO: He'll be ready.

Q That means you're preparing for the other outcome?

MR. FRATTO: We are ready. We are ready for -- we're ready for a -- we're ready to work with a Republican Congress. Nice try, Jennifer.

Q That would suggest not ready for a Democratic Congress.

Monday, October 23, 2006

So, When The Administration Does It, The Time Line Is Not "Artificial?"

The Whitehouse has said ad nauseum that they were not about to set some kind of "artificial time line," but usually in response to some query from the press. You may ask yourself how do they define "artificial?" A legitimate question given the vagaries of the politicians in charge of our government these days.

It appears that when other folks would wish a time line upon them, it would be politically beneficial to suggest it was "artificial." What exactly are they doing at the Whitehouse today and the next few? Hmmm...set a few "time tables?" What differntiates that from the "artificial" variety they have been balking at for so long?

You be the judge:
Q The Times story reported that top generals and Ambassador Khalilzad were crafting a timetable of sorts for disarming militia. Do you dispute the story --

MR. SNOW: No, the Iraqis themselves have set a timetable for trying to disarm the militia. They want to do so by the end of the year.

Q That's not what the Times is reporting --

MR. SNOW: I know. What the Times was reporting I think reflects the ongoing efforts of the joint committee. But the United States has not said, this is a date.

Q There's no crafting of a timetable going on right now among top generals?

MR. SNOW: I am sure that there is a crafting of timetables going on, drafting of goals --

Q To disarm the militia?

MR. SNOW: To work toward disarming the militia. That is something --

Q Can you give us a sense of what that might be?


Sunday, October 22, 2006

It Figures

I know that the announcement pasted below from Sunday's LA Times will not be shocking in the least bit. And that, in and of itself, is a dismal statement about the connection between politics and big business.

The lesson: If you are fortunate enough to snag a political seat of some substantial authority in our government, you can make serious sums of cash for you and yours by constructing new policy. "Make hay while the sun shines," they say. But ethically, this cuts across the moral grain straight to the heart of the rotten moral core of the US Government.
A company headed by President Bush's brother and partly owned by his parents is benefiting from Republican connections and federal dollars targeted for economically disadvantaged students under the No Child Left Behind Act.

With investments from his parents, George H.W. and Barbara Bush, and other backers, Neil Bush's company, Ignite! Learning, has placed its products in 40 U.S. school districts and now plans to market internationally.

At least 13 U.S. school districts have used federal funds available through the president's signature education reform, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, to buy Ignite's portable learning centers at $3,800 apiece.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

More Violence Rather Than Less: Seems Counter Intuitive If You Listen To The President

I might be wrong to feel this way, but when the president says things like the following, I get very disgusted and feel like there is no way at all to win the war in Iraq the current way we are fighting it. Have a look at another snip from yet another Presidential Radio Address (that no one seems to listen to, so why do we spend the cash to have him do them?):
There are a number of reasons for this increase in violence. One reason is that Coalition and Iraqi forces have been conducting focused operations to bring security to Baghdad.
This is a lot like when there is a serious round up of bad guys and the terror level goes up instead of down. It seems counter intuitive. Shouldn't there be less violence if they are conducting more "focused operations?"

Friday, October 20, 2006

Condi, Your Political Freudian Slip Is Showing

Have a look at this exchange from Friday's Whitehouse press briefing and let me know what you think:
Q One network, WorldNetDaily, quotes two newspapers, AgapePress and The Washington Blade, reporting that at the swearing in of Mark Dybul as an AIDS Ambassador, Secretary of State Rice referred to the mother of a gay partner as, mother-in-law. And my question: How does this adhere to the President's belief in policy that marriage is between one man and one woman?

MR. SNOW: The Secretary said what she said, and she was showing due deference to the people involved.

Might The Term "Balkanizing" Be An Inappropriate Reference For Iraq?

Tony the Snow job was trying to spin his way out of some tight jams in Friday's press briefing at the Whitehouse.

When some one refers to the problems related to "balkanization," might the historical reference be obsolete at this date given how well Clinton's work in that area has succeeded? Really, the Yugoslavian model may be a way to go in Iraq.

Based on Tony's answer, I don't gather much about why it's a "non-starter" for the W, Rove and Co. Can you?

Really, the reporter who asks the original question follows up with a bite, but lets Tony off the hook here:
Q On the partition question, you said yesterday it was a non-starter; today you said the President doesn't want to think about it. You have prominent Republicans like Senator Hutchison and Senator Santorum saying that it should be looked at. Why does the administration --

MR. SNOW: It has been looked at. It has been looked at.

Q Why is it not -- why is it a non-starter?

MR. SNOW: It's a non-starter because you don't want to recreate the Balkans. What you have is -- within Iraq there is a sense of national identity, and it was expressed at considerable risk by 12 million Iraqis last year. They made it clear that they consider themselves part of a nation. And the idea of breaking them into pieces raises the prospect in the south that you're going to have pressure from Iran on the largely Shia south; you're going to have difficulties in the north with the Kurds, with the Turks and the Syrians, who are worried about a greater Kurdistan; and then if you have in the middle a Sunni population that has been cut out of the prosperity by oil to the north and south, you have a recipe for a tinderbox.

It makes a lot more sense to continue, rather than saying to everybody, go to your separate corners and be different people, to build on the sense of Iraqi identity that was expressed by people who went forward and voted, which is an -- at times when a lot of people were saying, they aren't going to vote, the Sunnis aren't going to participate -- remember all these predictions that were made last year? They turned out not to be true.

And so it makes perfect sense to try to work with the Iraqis for what they want, rather than to insist that they follow a path that people in Washington may think is more politically convenient.

Q Just to follow on that, pressed on the Balkans issue, Balkanizing Iraq, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison said, well, the Balkans appear a lot more safe than Iraq is right now.

MR. SNOW: Well, again, we stand by our position. We love and respect Senator Hutchison, but on this one we just disagree.

What's Wrong With The President's Argument?

The president is on a wild PR junket ride through to the November poll dates. As we get closer to the vote, his rhetoric gets more and more slick, and pushes people further down the false but slippery dualistic slope. Certainly, we have a choice in November, but I have to disagree with the president's characterization of the options.

Certainly, he is a politician and completely interested in winning votes. But that's where the trouble begins, not ends. Because he is pushing the debate forward in his own words, he does a direct and malicious disservice to every one involved in winning the war in Iraq.

First, he paints the Iraqi people as if they had a choice in the matter. Certainly they are a resilient people, but they are currently witnessing almost as much bloodshed or more than when Saddam was in charge.

Second, when he suggests that democrats are of one unified vision on the war in Iraq, he is wrong. Since when is the Democratic Party unified at all on any position? That hasn't been my impression of the party for a long while.

Third, by painting only two options, it suggests to me that he doesn't have a viable option either. Rhetoric does nothing to win the war on terror and fix the mess he started in Iraq. The President flaps his gums because he is not willing to do what it takes to actually win the war in Iraq because that would most certainly cost the GOP victory in November.

Why do you think they want to hold back Jim Baker's report until after the election? It's because it is going to cost us more lives, more troops, and heaping sums of good money after bad to solve this problem - for which there is no good solutions to choose from either. And dare I say it, no matter what crafty solution some one is able to extract from the morass of bad choices, it may well result in new taxes to pay for this solution (and lets not be fooled by the increased national debt disguise). That's not going to win any elections, now is it.

Because W continues to paint the situation in a dualistic mode, it shows us that he only has his interests in mind. He wants his party to win this election at any cost, even to the detriment of improving plans for the solving the problem he gave us in Iraq.

There is much more wrong with the President's speechifying, but I'll let you flesh it out. The above is just my two cents worth of initial reaction to these short paragraphs in yet another shot from the Presidential Political Propaganda Catapult.

The same Democrats that doubt and don't believe this is a part of the war on terror also argue that we should pull out our troops before the job is done. The person I ran against for President said there ought to be a date certain for withdrawal. That means it doesn't matter what's happening on the ground, it just means, get out. You've had a leader in the House say, well, the best way to deal with this is to put our troops on an island some 5,000 miles away from Iraq. There's all kinds of difference of opinions, but none of them are, let's do the hard work necessary to secure America.

We have a difference of opinion. And that's why I have said that the Democrat Party, the party that -- where some leaders have said we shouldn't spend another dime on Iraq, others have said get out now; others said get out in a couple of months -- that's why they are the party of cut and run. (Applause.)

It's a difference of opinion, but it's a fundamental issue in this campaign. The voters out there need to ask the question, which political party will support the brave men and women who wear our uniform when they do their job of protecting America? Which political party is willing to give our professionals the tools necessary to protect the American people? Which political party has a strategy for victory in this war on terror?

Listen, I fully understand it's a tough fight in Iraq. I know it, you know it, and our troops know it. Last week -- or earlier this week, I spoke with the Prime Minister of Iraq, Prime Minister Maliki, and we discussed the violence in his country. I told him I was -- I was amazed at how tough the Iraqis are when it comes to violence. Think about that. They haven't abandoned their hopes for a government of, by, and for the people; 12 million people voted, they still long to live in a free society. Yet they're putting up with unspeakable violence.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Two More Signs November Is Going To Suck For The GOP

Iraq is going to be the undoing of the GOP this November. Particularly given these two facts found in the news today:
At least 12 U.S. troops were killed during a 48-hour period ending Wednesday, putting October on track to be the deadliest month for Americans in Iraq since Marines stormed insurgent-controlled Fallouja in November 2004.

“As the Iraq war gets more unpopular, the environment for Republican candidates erodes,” said Mark Campbell, a Republican strategist who represents several Congressional candidates, including Representative Jim Gerlach of Pennsylvania, who is fighting for re-election in one of the toughest races.

Only in an election year this complicated can Republicans be happy that Mark Foley knocked the Iraq war off the front page,” Mr. Campbell said.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

And The Most Important Question Of The Day Is...

Regarding the US policy on secret prisions and torture of terrorism "suspects:"
Q And some are questioning the accountability -- who's checking to make sure you're following this law.

MR. SNOW: Well, again, if you take a look at the techniques that have been laid out -- let me put it this way: I think, for any of you who have been out working with, dealing with the men and women who are in the American military, you're impressed by the professionalism. The people who are involved in these programs are the most mature of folks involved in this kind of activity, and they take very seriously their professional charge. I think it is reasonable to assume that if something bad happens, you'd find out about it.
Good enough answer for you?

But wait, there's more. Tony the Snow job tries to sell us a bill of goods later on as the Whitehouse beat reporters press him on the issue:
Q Exactly. How do you -- how can you enforce the law if you --

MR. SNOW: Well, again, because you do have accountability. You have outside actors looking in on every juncture. It is built in. And therefore, there are measures that are taken within this.

Q Who are the outside actors?

MR. SNOW: They are independent of the questioning that's going on. But they've also been trained in taking a look at what the proper guidelines are for interrogation under the law, trying to make sure that people do not go beyond the boundaries of a proper interrogation.

Q You won't say who they are --

MR. SNOW: These are people who work for the federal government who are charged with doing it.

Q They're not independent if they're working for the federal government.

MR. SNOW: They're independent of the questioning. Let me -- well, never mind. Go ahead.

Q No, what were you going to say?

MR. SNOW: No, it's -- it would be snarky, and that's not worthy of me.
But really, will this present any great hardship on the President of the United States? Nope:
Q Do you think -- this has been described as a compromise. The President basically got everything he wanted, didn't he?

MR. SNOW: Pretty much, yes.
Really, is this self policing form of oversight something we are willing to let the president get away with?
Q I'm trying to develop some sense of a way to get my arms around this. If you have a police department in the United States conducting interrogations, and they police themselves, and the public never has any idea about what's going on behind their closed doors -- of interrogation techniques, there probably wouldn't -- it doesn't smack of something that's American. It probably runs -- and to question those police officers is not an un-American thing, is it, to question --

Bad Day For Fans Of Waterboarding?

Really, you can't make this shit up. Tuesday's whitehouse press briefing witnessed a cavalcade of interesting questions that recieved mediocre answers from Tony the Snow job.

Fore example, Helen Thomas asks some legit questions. And Tony the Snow job is stuck defending an untenable position. It's much like the "When did you stop beating your wife" kind of question...

...Only you know that our government has been waterboarding fine folk who it is questionable as to whether or not they have any connection with terrorists at all (remember, Saddam and Nine Eleven?).

So, you be the judge. Did Tony defend his administration faithfully? Are the actions of the US Government going forward honorable with regard to interrogating suspects that have yet to be charged with respect and dignity?
Q Tony, can you tell us how quickly the CIA interrogators will begin resuming their questioning?

MR. SNOW: No. Let me explain -- go ahead.

Q -- references to the CIA program.

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q That mean you're going to continue secret prisons and torture?

MR. SNOW: Number one -- first --

Q Torture as we know it, not as you interpret it --

MR. SNOW: No, I don't think --

Q -- which is water-boarding, deprivation of sleep and so forth.

MR. SNOW: First, as you know, torture is illegal. Furthermore --

Q I didn't say that. But we've seen photographs, we've seen the horror of it all.

MR. SNOW: What photograph have you seen of --

Q Abu Ghraib and so forth.

MR. SNOW: Abu Ghraib is something that was a criminal -- was, in fact, a criminal infraction for which people were charged.

Q How do we know it doesn't go on above --

MR. SNOW: Are you saying that the people -- the U.S. servicemen --

Q I'm saying to you that there have been allegations all the way through that we don't treat -- that we coerce testimony.

MR. SNOW: On the other hand, the International Committee of the Red Cross regularly visits Guantanamo and talks to everyone there, and has, in fact, seen the high-value detainees. The United States has made it possible -- interestingly, many of the people making these particular allegations have refused to go to Guantanamo and assess for themselves what's going on; instead, they've based it on hearsay testimony.

The United States has set up a system -- and General Hayden talked about this -- that goes through extraordinary lengths to make sure that the questioning is done in a way that is effective and also humane.

Q Well, how do we know that? What kind of checks do the American people have?

MR. SNOW: Well, Helen, I'm not sure that you're going to trust anything that people tell you in good faith. It's the law. And the people who engage in this are very proud of their professionalism and the steps they take. For instance -- I'll go back through it again, because it's probably worth reminding people. You have folks who have to have demonstrated maturity before they're even allowed to get into the questioning program. There are 250 hours of original training, plus you have to have 40 hours working with somebody who has already been authorized to do training before you can engage in an interrogation. Also, in any interrogation, there is an outside observer who, at any point, for any reason, can interrupt the questioning, saying that they think that it's inappropriate and it can --

Q Can we know what the guidelines are in terms of how they're enforced or interrogated --

MR. SNOW: No, the government will not tell you the precise questioning techniques, for the reasons that have been outlined many times before, which is that you do not want to give those who are apprehended, or terrorists, the ability to plan in advance for techniques that might be used. However, there are pretty extensive guidelines not only in this particular legislation, but also in U.S. law and international treaty obligations, that not only -- torture is completely out of the question, but also so-called grave offenses that have been outlined in the Geneva Conventions, and in fact, are mentioned in this law, as well.

For instance, cruel or inhumane treatment; performing biological experiments; murder and mutilation and intentionally causing serious bodily injury; rape, sexual assault or abuse; taking hostages. Those are obviously the gravest infractions, but there are also -- within the law, in Section 6 of the law, that govern ways in which people may conduct these things.

Q But you're not suggesting this is an easy question-and-answer session?

MR. SNOW: No, I'm not suggesting anything. You may have seen one of the stories where one of the most effective interrogators was described as a grandmotherly person who made people friends. Keep in mind that ultimately you want to have the condition where they are going to be cooperative. And beyond that, I'm simply not going to --

Q You would need special legislation for that?

MR. SNOW: Don't know.

Q You said that it's classified on whether we believe in water-boarding.

MR. SNOW: No, I said I'm not going to talk about water-boarding, nor am I going to talk about any other technique, real or imagined. That's been our position from the start.

Q So how will the President convince Americans that the kind of interrogation and the kind of pursuit of terrorists is something they can be proud of?

MR. SNOW: Well, the question is -- it's interesting, if you live in an atmosphere where people are automatically going to assume that people who are serving their nation are doing so dishonorably -- and that would have to be the assumption here, the people doing the questioning, in fact, are rogue actors and not people acting scrupulously within the law and proud of what they do -- then there's absolutely no way to persuade somebody. People are not going to be able to see this. However, we have tried to make it as transparent as possible by inviting in regularly the International Committee of the Red Cross. You guys can go to Guantanamo any time you want; many of you have been there.

Q What will be published in the Federal Register?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, that is one of the things that is going to be -- we're now at the stage where, in consultation with the Department of Justice, you figure out the proper way to enact the law, and I can't tell you.

Q But what is it? It's not lists of behavior, it's rough guidelines? What will be --

MR. SNOW: Well, again, I would refer you to the language I just read to you, because that is the language that determines what would be published in the Federal Register.

To Issue An Executive Order Or To Not Issue An Executive Order

All bets are on. Which do you think it will be? The President issues an executive order to constrain his definition of torture, or not?

...I'm betting not. The president doesn't like to have others construe the law for him. He likes to use things like signing statements to do that trick. The bonus of Tuesday's bill signing is that Congress gave him the lattitude to define his own job without their oversight one more time (which is just what it seems the republicans wish for in their government, no presidential oversight).

But this is the object of much discussion at today's whitehouse press briefing. Have a look.

Q And the interpretations that were required by the law, that are to be published in an executive order --

MR. SNOW: What it says is the President is authorized to do an executive order. I'll read you the language in a moment. The President's senior advisors are going to make recommendations as to the appropriate steps. Once you have a law passed, then you have the people in the executive branch try to interpret how to make it happen. So there will be further consultations with Congress and consideration of additional legal guidelines in issuance of an executive order. So they're going to try to walk through all the --

Q It says the executive order is published in the Federal Register, right? Your intention is --

MR. SNOW: Let me just -- let me read to you, because -- I'll just read you the language. It sort of speaks for itself, but it's worth going through, with your forbearance. It says: "As provided by the Constitution in this section, the President has the authority for the United States to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions and to promulgate higher standards and administrative regulations for violations of treaty obligations which are not grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.

"The President shall issue interpretations described by Sub-paragraph A" -- which I just read to you -- "by executive order published in the Federal Register. Any executive order published in this paragraph shall be authoritative except as to grave breaches under Common Article III," and so on. So that's the language.

Q So he does have to, then, publish an executive order, isn't that right?

MR. SNOW: Well, again -- well, we'll see. This says he's authorized to do so.

But there is more...do you agree or disagree with Senator Feingold that this day is a "stain" on the history of America?
Q On the signing, there have been a flurry of press releases from prominent Democrats who voted against this, including Senator Feingold who said, "We'll look back on this day as a stain on our nation's history." Would you like to respond to any of those?

MR. SNOW: Senator Feingold thinks it is a stain to detain people who have killed thousands of Americans, to question them, to put together -- on the basis of that questioning, to intervene in a number of terrorist plots that could have killed many more Americans, and now have a process that's not only consistent with international law, but with our statutes; to bring people to justice, to question them -- to detain them, to question them, and to try them? That hardly seems a stain on our national honor. As a matter of fact, it's an example of the way in which the United States does care for the rights of people who don't care for ours.

Q Senator Feingold, in his release, said, "This law allows the government to seize individuals on American soil, detain them indefinitely, with no opportunity to challenge their detention in court, and permits an individual to be convicted on the basis of coerced testimony -- convicted under these rules to be put to --

Monday, October 16, 2006

A Quick Political Question

Should Whitehouse press secretaries be involved in political stumping and fundraising for people in their party? Why or why not?
*As of today, Mr. Snow has participated or is scheduled to participate in a total of 20 political events: 17 fundraisers and three get-out-the-vote events. More events could be added before the midterm election.

Oh, btw, here's a glimpse of the things Tony likes to share with people who pay to see him speechify:
“Yesterday,” Mr. Snow declared, “I was in the Oval Office with the president ——”

He cut himself off, took a perfectly calibrated three-second pause and switched into an aw-shucks voice for dramatic effect: “I just looove saying that! Yeaaah, I was in the Oval Office. Just meeee and the president. Nooooobody else.” The crowd lapped it up.
Aw, shucks Tony, you must be better than the rest of us fershure.

"...A Final Arbiter On Torture"

Mark this down as a job title I wouldn't want to have: "The Final Arbiter of Torture."

Helen swings her cast iron skillet once again at the head of Tony the Snow job, and comes up empty. The point of "homework" is that you do it before, not after class, Mr. Snow (see his comments below).

Incidentally, is anyone else slightly freaked out that the president will be one to decide what is and what is not torture? Does he have the moral and ethical fiber to do so justly?
Helen, you've had your hand up, sorry.

Q I wanted to talk about the bill the President will sign tomorrow.

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q It makes him a final arbiter on torture.

MR. SNOW: Right.

Q Does he have any guidelines, does he have any advisory group? And how will he know?

MR. SNOW: What I've actually -- Helen, in response to your question, I called White House legal counsel --

Q Can you repeat the question?

MR. SNOW: Yes, how will the President know when it's torture and when it's not, and avoid having torture.

Q And how will he approach these cases?

MR. SNOW: And how will he approach the cases.

The White House Office of Legal Counsel is actually putting together a paper so that -- I knew that this would come up. What they will do is help me describe to you, as accurately as possible. It's a very complex series of issues, but there are definitions that outline what constitutes torture, and I will be happy to share those. And I'll get them for you tomorrow.

Q When are you going to release those?

MR. SNOW: I'm not going to release it. I'll share it with you tomorrow. It's not like a formal release, it's just me trying to do my homework, and I don't have it done yet.