Friday, December 24, 2004

Rumsfeld And The Iraq Quagmire

This isn't going to be some massive discussion of the Iraq War and Donald Rumsfeld's culpability in it becoming the quagmire it's rapidly turned in to. I just noticed something rather curious about Rumsfeld's surprise Christmas Eve trip to Iraq that I felt the need to point out.

"When it looks bleak, when one worries how it's going to come out, when one reads and hears the naysayers and doubters who say it can't be done, and that we're in a quagmire here, the fact is there have always been people throughout every conflict in the history of the world who said it couldn't be done," he told the troops.
If there's one thing I've learned from George Lakoff, it's that you never discuss something using the frames of the opposition. With this in mind, I was stunned to see Rumsfeld even utter the word "quagmire" in his speech to the troops. That's one hell of a loaded word, and it speaks volumes that Rumsfeld would even say it, even if only to disagree with it.

posted by Scott | 12/24/2004 | |

Harold Ford, Jr. - Why, Oh Why, Oh Why?

I had such hope for the Congressman from Tennessee. In fact, I still do. But why does he want to gut Social Security?

Here's Ford talking about why he wants to privatize Social Security at a forum in late March:

MORT KONDRACKE...First, would you be supportive of a bill like Senator Graham’s, with personal accounts in Social Security?

REPRESENTATIVE FORD. Yes, I would, provided we could pay for the transition costs without running up bigger deficits. I’m not an expert on all the details, but I think his bill has good anti-poverty protections, and matching funds for lower-income workers. The personal accounts are progressive, which is good. And in the long run, it keeps Social Security costs down to about where they are now, which we can afford. In this budget environment, however, it will be very hard to pay for the transition costs of the accounts.
I can't speak for everyone, but I certainly know that my problem with gutting Social Security is not that gutting it will be too expensive. My problem with gutting Social Security is that the program is getting gutted. There are already too many holes in the social safety net. The last thing we need to do is cut it up some more.

Still, Ford's heart seems to be in the right place when it comes to encouraging savings at every level of society. But I think Obama's proposal, which I only had a minimal awareness of before reading this post, is much more sound.

U.S. Senate candidate Barack Obama proposed a tax credit for working families Wednesday that he said would give them incentives to save for retirement.

The Democrat, running unopposed since Republican Jack Ryan dropped out of the race two weeks ago, said the Bush administration has ignored the nation's working families while giving tax cuts to those who need them least.

He said his plan would give people making less than $50,000 a year a 50 percent tax credit for contributions of up to $2,000 to an IRA or 401(k).

Obama, a state senator from Chicago's South Side, said too many American families have so much trouble just making ends meet that they don't save for retirement.

"Unfortunately, the Bush administration has only made things worse," he said. "They've given away billions in tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans - the people who have the least to worry about saving for retirement."

Obama said the cost of his proposed Working Families Savings Accounts could be covered by ending five corporate tax breaks, which he estimated could bring in $100 billion over 10 years. Among the loopholes he cited were breaks for doing business overseas and for what he called excessive pensions, benefits and pay for executives.
If Ford is smart, he'll revoke his support for DeMint and Graham's Social Security destruction proposals and get behind Obama's plan. Hell, if the whole Democratic Party and the GOP skeptics of Social Security privatization are smart, they'll all get behind the Obama plan. Working Families Savings Accounts leaves Social Security intact, but still allows low-to-middle income workers to save for the future without having to sacrifice too much on their most urgent needs. And it offers an incentive for young workers, quite likely to be making less than $50k/year, to get into private retirement savings plans.

My endorsement of Ford for Frist's Senate seat still stands, mostly because I think he can win it, but also because he seems to be a smart enough guy to figure out that gutting Social Security, even under the guise of 'partial-privatization', is a bad idea. But I suppose we'll find out if I'm right about that.

posted by Scott | 12/24/2004 | |

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Myers The Liar

For the life of me, I cannot understand what anyone gains by lying to the American people, claiming that Iraqis had anything to do with the September 11 attacks. I understood before the war that people who wanted war with Iraq were going to use 9/11 as a rallying cry to gin up support, flat-out lying if they felt they had to, but mostly just implying false connections.

So why is General Richard Myers now continuing the lie that Iraq was involved with 9/11?

This attack, of course, is the responsibility of insurgents, the same insurgents who attacked on 9/11, the same type of insurgents who attacked in Beirut, the same insurgents who -- type of insurgents who attacked the Cole, Khobar Towers, and the list goes on.
Maybe he meant to say "the same type of insurgents" all along. But I would still take issue with the comparison. In each one of the instances Myers refers to, the targets were all military -- the base in Mosul, the Marine barracks in Beirut, the USS Cole, and Khobar Towers. It could be said objectively that these attacks were all carried out by 'insurgents', or rebels who engage in fighting a dominant force.

However, the attack of 9/11 -- at least the attack on the World Trade Center -- was not an act of insurgency or rebellion. It was an act of terror and mayhem. To the extent that some would argue that 9/11 was carried out by insurgents, they certainly did not have the same motivations as the current crop of Iraqi insurgents.

So why the lie?

posted by Scott | 12/23/2004 | |

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Wartime Inaugurals - Then And Now


(From Bull Moose Blog, quoted whole-hog)

The Moose notes that recent Republican Presidents are fond of quoting their Democratic predecessors, perhaps they should emulate one.

"At the height of WWII, Franklin D. Roosevelt's fourth Inauguration was simple and austere with no fanfare or formal celebration following the event.There was no parade because of gas rationing and a lumber shortage."

From the site of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies

(From the AP - Energy Firms Lavish Funds on Inauguration)

More than $4.5 million from the corporate world has flowed to President Bush's inauguration fund, much of it from the energy industry and some of its executives in contributions of $250,000 each.
Occidental Petroleum Corp., whose business stands to benefit from the president's actions concerning Libya, donated $250,000, as did Exxon Mobil, the world's largest publicly traded oil company. Exxon Mobil reported record third-quarter profits, thanks to higher prices for oil and natural gas.

In April, Bush took steps to restore normal trade and investment ties with Libya, enabling four American oil companies, including Occidental, to resume commercial activities there after an 18-year absence.
Ugh... and to think that I didn't put a barf bag on my Christmas list.

posted by Scott | 12/22/2004 | |

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

$9 Million Needed NOW for Refugees in Kenya

From Reuters AlertNet:

NAIROBI, Dec 17 (Reuters) - The World Food Programme (WFP) appealed on Friday for $9 million to maintain food aid for 224,000 refugees sheltering in Kenya whose rations have already been cut by 12 percent.

Rations were reduced in November when WFP ran out of wheat flour, and the U.N. food agency warned that by April it will have exhausted available commodities for the refugees, who are mainly from Sudan and Somalia.
When I heard this story this morning, I immediately thought about the fundraising power the blogosphere displayed this election cycle...

This June, John Kerry raised $12.1 million through the internet, $5 million all coming in two record shattering days (6/29 and 6/30). Readers of Daily Kos, MyDD, and Atrios have donated nearly $800,000 to Democratic campaigns. (More if you consider that every reader who donates isn't donating through blogs.)

Well, the election is over, but the giving does not have to stop. We're all being swamped with fundraising requests this time of year from any number of organizations who are engaged in great work around the world. But the problems facing the World Food Programme in Kenya are right here, right now. Hundreds of thousands of lives are at stake.

Immediate food aid is not going to solve the core problems causing this crisis -- war, political and religious persecution, drought. Everyone knows that. Organizations like Oxfam, The Carter Center, and Heifer International are all doing great work in the field of promoting sustainable living and deserve our support. Still, long term solutions mean little if there's no one left to carry them out.

If we all get together and commit to this, I think we can make a real impact. If nothing else, I'd just like to see the blogosphere flex its muscle in a way that proves we're capable of so much more than we've been given credit for.

Here is a link to donate online to the World Food Programme -

Remember to click the button for "WFP operation(s) in" and chose "Kenya" from the drop-down menu. In the comments, you can mention or that you were referred by an American blog, but that really isn't necessary. The important part is that they get the money -- not that we get the credit.

PS - As this is not a partisan problem, please make everyone you know aware of the World Food Programme's crisis in Kenya. Conservative money is just as good as progressive money.

Note: This has been cross-posted as a diary at both Daily Kos and MyDD. I didn't think you'd mind.

posted by Scott | 12/21/2004 | |

Monday, December 20, 2004

Proof Bush Authorized Mistreatment Of Iraqi Detainees?

An FBI memo, released through a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU, repeatedly mentions an Executive Order, signed by George W. Bush, that authorized questionable interrogation techniques to be used against Iraqi prisoners.

We are aware that prior to a revision in policy last week, an Executive Order signed by President Bush authorized the following interrogation techniques among others sleep "management," use of MWDs (military working dogs), "stress positions" such as half squats, "environmental manipulation" such as the use of loud music, sensory deprivation through the use of hoods, etc.
Already, the White House is claiming that the Executive Order, specifically mentioned at least eleven times specifically in the FBI memo, does not exist and furthermore, that the White House has nothing to do with interrogations anyway.

A senior Bush administration official said, "The FBI agent was mistaken regarding the existence of an executive order on interrogation techniques. No such executive order exists or has ever existed. The Defense Department determines the methods of interrogation of military detainees in the Iraq conflict," said the official, who asked not to be named.
However, one would wonder why White House counsel was issuing memos on the treatment of detainees in the Afghan war if such an issue was not in their domain. According to the Department of Defense the White House does indeed "set the guidelines for detainee operations in the war on terrorism," which, as we've repeatedly been told, Iraq is a part of.

Development and approval of interrogation techniques is done in a deliberate manner with strict legal and policy reviews to ensure the protection of the detainees, our institutions, and our troops responsible for carrying out these operations. The President's February 2002 determination set the guidelines for detainee operations in the war on terrorism. The processes and procedures that followed reflected America's values and called for all detainees in the war on terrorism in our custody to be treated humanely, and to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of the Geneva Convention.
Even the White House, in defending their treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, has said that the President has the ability to assert his authority over the troops in the field.

I hereby reaffirm the order previously issued by the Secretary of Defense to the United States Armed Forces requiring that the detainees be created humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva.
What else has the White House had to say about the use of torture by Americans in the 'War on Terror'?

May 3, 2004:

The U.S. government is deeply sorry for what has happened to some Abu Ghraib prisoners.

People worldwide should be assured that President Bush is determined to learn the full truth of the prisoner torture reports in Iraq.

President Bush is determined to learn if there is a wider problem than what happened at Abu Ghraib. He has told Defense Secretary Rumsfeld that he expects an investigation and a full accounting of the situation. Responsible parties will be punished.
May 5, 2004:

President Bush views the Abu Ghraib prison abuses as abhorrent.

What took place at Abu Ghraib does not represent America, which is a compassionate country that believes in freedom. America sent troops into Iraq to promote freedom.

In a democracy, everything is not perfect and mistakes are made. But also in a democracy, those mistakes will be investigated and people will be brought to justice. We are an open society that is willing to fully investigate what took place in Abu Ghraib.
President Bush has instructed Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to find the truth and then tell the Iraqi people and world the truth. Then, to address the problems in a forthright, up-front manner.
So if responsibility for giving the go-ahead to torture was held by the DOD, how exactly can Rumsfeld be trusted "to find the truth"?

June 26, 2004:

The United States also remains steadfastly committed to upholding the Geneva Conventions, which have been the bedrock of protection in armed conflict for more than 50 years. These Conventions provide important protections designed to reduce human suffering in armed conflict. We expect other nations to treat our service members and civilians in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. Our Armed Forces are committed to complying with them and to holding accountable those in our military who do not.

The American people were horrified by the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. These acts were wrong. They were inconsistent with our policies and our values as a Nation. I have directed a full accounting for the abuse of the Abu Ghraib detainees, and investigations are underway to review detention operations in Iraq and elsewhere.
If this Executive Order indeed exists... it sounds like Bush would be all for his own impeachment.

posted by Scott | 12/20/2004 | |

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Gov. Schwarzenegger: Great Retail Politician, Horrible Statistician

From USA Today:

In an interview with Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily, Schwarzenegger said that "the Republican Party currently covers only the spectrum from the right wing to the middle, and the Democratic Party covers the spectrum from the left to the middle."

"I would like the Republican Party to cross this line, move a little further left and place more weight on the center," he was quoted as saying. "This would immediately give the party 5% more votes without it losing anything elsewhere."
I would, of course, love it if the political spectrum recalibrated itself so that today's 'liberal' positions would be considered 'moderate' tomorrow.

But does Schwarzenegger really think there's a snowball's chance in hell of the current Republican Party -- dominated as it is by pro-business, anti-government radicals and hyper-conservative religious fundamentalists -- undertaking a move to the left? What really cracks me up is the idea that the GOP would gain "5% more votes without it losing anything elsewhere." What?!?!

It's called the Christian Right, Governator. They abandoned Bush, Sr. because they didn't think he was on their side. Don't think they won't do it to the rest of you, too.

posted by Scott | 12/19/2004 | |
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