Consider this an open thread.
I know I said I would take a break from politics, but this post is not really about politics, but to share with you a post I wrote on my family history blog. I had a conversation with an adjunct professor last week about life in Romania under Ceausescu’s dictatorial regime. He had said that life must have been really hard. I thought about it and, at least for me, as a child, life was normal. When you see things a certain way for all your life, that tends to be the norm.
So in any case, I wrote this post with pictures of life in Romania in the 1970s. These are family pictures. Please take a look, and comment if you wish.
I am going to try to take a break from politics for a week. I will not post, or read, anything that deals with politics this entire next week. Politics today is no fun. There is nothing enjoyable about it. There’s too much hate and violence.
We’ve ‘disappeared’ many people since Bush took power. This is the kind of thing we used to use as an excuse to attack other nations. Now we do it ourselves.
In the typical Rovian neo-conservative fashion and strategy, the Bush administration and its allies are saying today that the best way to prevent war with Iran is to support war with Iran! Or as they said in 2002, the best way to avoid war with Iraq is to support war with Iraq!
In 2002 they said:
Moreover, unlike 1991, passage of the resolution does not mean that a war is imminent. Indeed, as the vote neared, Bush and members of his administration in recent days have deliberately toned down their tough rhetoric. The notion that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein must be toppled has been shoved in the background, while instead officials argue that the best way to prevent a war is strong support from Congress and the U.N. Security Council for a possible war, because it will demonstrate to Hussein that he has no choice but to give up his weapons of mass destruction.
In 2007 they said:
In approving far-reaching, new unilateral sanctions against Iran, President Bush signaled yesterday that he intends to pursue a strategy of gradually escalating financial, diplomatic and political pressure on Tehran, aimed not at starting a new war in the Middle East, his advisers said, but at preventing one.
Bush believes Tehran will not seriously discuss limiting its nuclear ambitions or pulling back from its involvement in Iraq unless it experiences significantly more pressure than the United States and the international community have been able to exert so far, according to administration officials and others familiar with the president’s thinking.
You ready for another war, America. You ready to sacrifice more of your sons and daughters for, well…not sure what exactly.
So the Glorious Surge is supposed to REDUCE violence and death. It has succeeded in reducing Americans killed, but not for the reasons one would think. It’s not as if our enemies have stopped fighting us. It’s actually because our military has gone against their own counterinsurgency principles and are using airstrikes to kill “bad guys” which inevitably also kill numerous civilians. But using those airstrikes ensures fewer Americans killed.
What does it take to raise the level of discourse of these Republican candidates for president? Here we have Mitt Romney responding on the new sanctions placed on Iran that he is in favor of “a military blockade or “bombardment of some kind” to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon.”
A bombardment of some kind? A military blockade? Just what in the hell will those do? Are Republicans really this far unhinged? This shows a real poor understanding of foreign policy on Mitt Romney. It shows that he would rather pander to an out of touch political Right than state things as they are. Com’on Mr. Romney, you were a stake president for Pete’s sake!
Keep an eye on this administration, everybody. They are slowly setting the stage for what will be called a “no-brainer” in Cheney’s words: war with Iran. We talk about it so much it will soon become an inexorable inevitability.
The Bush administration will announce a long-debated policy of new sanctions against Iran on Thursday, accusing the elite Quds division of the Revolutionary Guard Corps of supporting terrorism, administration officials said Wednesday night.
The administration also plans to accuse the entire Revolutionary Guard Corps of proliferating weapons of mass destruction, the officials said. While the United States has long labeled Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism, the decision to single out the Guard reflects increased frustration in the administration with the slow pace of diplomatic negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program.
Both designations will put into play unilateral sanctions intended to impede the Revolutionary Guard and those who do business with it. This is the first time that the United States has taken such steps against the armed forces of any sovereign government.
The action against the Revolutionary Guard, first reported by The Washington Post, would set in motion a series of automatic sanctions that would make it easier for the United States to block financial accounts and other assets controlled by the Guard. In particular, the action would freeze any assets the Guard has in the United States, although it is unlikely that the Guard maintains much in the way of assets in American banks or other institutions.
The decision will be announced jointly on Thursday by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, the administration officials said. “This is going to be a broad and wide-ranging effort,” a senior administration official said. “We will be freezing assets, and there will be ripple effects of where we can go from there.”
And that is EXACTLY the point of this move. Where do you think they can go from here? The more the Bush administration takes these steps, the easier it will be for them to argue with Americans that that secret attack on Iranians they will be taking in a few months was absolutely necessary for your safety, America, even though it had nothing to do with your safety.
You are being bamboozled again.
See, the problem is that because of centuries of gerrymandering there are particular districts in each state that are safely in one camp or the other, and there is no getting around it. What Republicans want to do is steal California delegate votes. They want the 20 or so votes from safe Republican districts (which will tilt the overall vote count). The problem is that these Republicans do not want to do this nationally (say in Texas or Florida or Ohio), just California, the biggest electorate prize.
Of course if this is done nationally, then it would wholly ruin democracy, as the only districts that will even get candidates to show up are the very very few that still happen to be competitive. As it is right now, because of the outdated electoral college system, only a few states actually count in the general election (Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, etc). Voters in states like Massachusetts, Texas, New York, and California (not to mention all the small states like Rhode Island—very liberal—or Wyoming—very conservative—that will also not get any candidates stopping by, even though that was supposedly the purpose of the electoral college—to make smaller states competitive), do not count.
I believe that we must remove the electoral college system from our election process. Make the election truly representative of the plurality of voters.
Was this purposeful?
During a speech today, former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) said, “Actually, just look at what Osam — Barack Obama — said just yesterday. Barack Obama, calling on radicals, jihadists of all different types, to come together in Iraq.” Kevin Madden, a Romney spokesman, claimed Romney “misspoke” both times. “He was referring to the audiotape of Osama bin Laden and misspoke.”
Is this the quality of a presidential candidate, who lowers himself to childish 7th grade insults? He is supposedly talking about Osama Bin Laden’s tape, but says Barack Obama’s name TWICE! This was no “misspeak.” Are you really that childish, Mr. Romney? You were a stake president for crying out loud! Is this how a stake president acts? What a dope.
Dang, they make this too easy:
IT IS NOT merely statesmanlike restraint or responsiveness to
U.S., European and Arabevery sane person’s appeals that have so far prevented Turkeythe United States from launching a military invasion of northern Iraq.Iran. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoganPresident George W. Bush and his military commanders are also acutely aware that such an operation would play into the hands of the Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK,Iranian Republican Guard the insurgent group that is dug into the rugged, mountainous terrain along the Turkish-Iraqi border. Twelve Turkish soldiers were killed and eight others captured in a PKK ambush inside Turkey on Sunday; if there were an invasion, Ankara’s losses would be much higher, while the chances that PKKIranian Republican Guard bases inside IraqIran could be wiped out are small. Meanwhile, Turkey’sAmerica’s gains in integrating its ethnic KurdIranian population [in the world community]– a large part of which voted for Mr. Erdogan’s party in recent elections— could be nullified.
It really is too easy. One wonders why war proponents don’t want Turkey to go after terrorists who killed Turkish soldiers, but are so quick to want to invade and destroy Iran. Hypocrites!
“I think there is a handful of people who hate America. Unfortunately for them, a lot of them are losing their homes in a forest fire today.”
This guy is a Mormon?
So Turkey wants to invade Iraq to kill or capture those who killed its soldiers. Sounds like a fairly reasonable demand, seeing that Kurdish terrorists are killing Turks. I mean, don’t we find any excuse possible to want to attack Iran?
But no, the Bush administration is urging Turkey to restrain its activities:
The United States continued efforts today to steer Turkey away from a military incursion into northern Iraq, after a cross-border raid by Kurdish rebels on Sunday killed 17 Turkish soldiers and raised the prospect of an escalating conflict.
The State Department is great at highlighting our own hypocrisy and I’ll let Mr. McCormack do the talking:
As tension increased in Turkey and scattered groups of protesters gathered to demand retaliation, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the U.S. had opened what he called a “full-court press” to keep the situation from deteriorating.
“We want to see an outcome where you have the Turks and the Iraqis working together, and we will do what we can to resolve the issue without a Turkish cross-border incursion,” McCormack said.
Huh, let’s change those words just slightly and see if it makes any sense:
“We want to see an outcome where you have the
TurksAmericans and the IraqisIranians working together, and we will do what we can to resolve the issue without a TurkishAmerican cross-border incursion [into Iran],” McCormack said.
Makes good sense to me. Doesn’t it to you?
Yeah, I know I live in New York City right now, and am married to a New York Yankees fan, but I lived in Boston in 2004 and caught the fever of that magical year.
…only “insurgents,” “bad guys,” “militants,” “criminals,” “terrorists,” etc. There are no women and children to protect. If there are women and children (which of course there aren’t in Iraq), then it’s their fault for being in the way of America’s goals of this week’s bad guy of the week. In the eyes of our military, it is okay to kill 45 people in the search/hunt of one “suspected” bad guy. This week’s Bad Guy of the Week is “Special Groups”:
“Special Groups are Shiia extremist militant groups trained, funded and supplied primarily by Iran through the Islamic Revolutionary Guards — Quds Force,” said U.S. Army Lt. Justin Cole.
“Special Groups have evolved over the past three years into insurgent elements using a cellular structure and operating independently.”
“Special Groups operate throughout Iraq,” Cole said. “They plan and execute bombings, kidnappings, sectarian murders and more against Iraqi citizens, Iraqi forces and coalition personnel.”
See, Al-Qaeda is no longer our Bad Guy of the Week. It no longer is the Sadr Army. No, now our enemy of the week is this shadowy individual who goes around Iraq arming Shi’ite militias to fight, well, whoever. Huh, I thought we used to do that. In any case, it sure sucks for Iraqis that they chose to be born in Iraq, to be of that culture. They should have been born American instead. Maybe then their lives would be a little more valuable to the occupying force constantly taking their lives…
Because he declined to name waterboarding torture. Because he thinks the President of the United States can effectively be above the law if the President so believes it is necessary. This is evil stuff.
Matt calls him “completely unacceptable.” Having read the testimony, I’m afraid I have to abandon my early hopes and agree. An attorney general who believes a president has a permanent right to ignore the rule of law because peacetime is now wartime for ever, is an attorney-general defending the rule of one man over the rule of law. If I were a Senator, (heh, indeed) I’d vote no. This is the faultline of our time. If we are redefining war as a permanent state of being, and redefining presidential authority to give him/her extra-legal and extra-constitutional power to what s/he wants anywhere in the world, including the United States and to its citizenry, then American liberty is in extreme peril. To approve an attorney general who does not dissent from this position is a terrible precedent.
Don’t people see that this is what Cheney is doing? He is setting precedent after precedent for totalist, secret executive power. And with each precedent for unchecked, uncontrollable executive power – including the power to detain and torture within the United States – the America we have known is being surrendered. This is the other war – a constitutional war at home against American liberty and the Constitution – as dangerous in a different way as Islamism. One attacks our freedom from the outside; the other hollows out our freedom from within. The fight against both is the calling of the time.
I think we’re in denial about this. Following Mukasey’s statements with confirmation would set a precedent we may well deeply regret. Think of another terrorist attack. Think of the Cheney precedents. Think of Giuliani in the White House. Now think of what would be left of democracy and the Constitution the day after.
Mukasey had a good start the other day, telling the Senate that we didn’t liberate Nazi concentration camps “so we could then duplicate it ourselves.” Unfortunately, when the questioning got a little more specific, it turned out he wasn’t entirely sure what counted as torture and what didn’t.
This just shouldn’t be hard stuff. It’s a sign of the moral decay of the Bush era that we even find ourselves arguing about it.
I understand Mukasey is supposed to be a reasonably good guy, by comparison with the run of Bush appointees. But if Mukasey won’t say that waterboarding is torture and claims that the President has some undefined power to violate statute law — even criminal laws, such as the ban on torture and other war crimes — under his “Article II powers,” then why should the Senate Judiciary Committee even bring his nomination to a vote? If he says he hasn’t read the latest torture memos or decided whether waterboarding is torture, Sen. Leahy ought to tell him to read the memos and observe a waterboarding session and come back when he’s done his homework.
I see no disadvantage in the Senate Democrats taking a firm stand on the rule of law and human decency.
(courtesy of Stefan Zaklin/European Pressphoto Agency)
This man should NOT be even considered as an Attorney General. Take a stand for what is right, Senators!
Glenn Greenwald writes:
I wrote about many of yesterday’s developments concerning telecom amnesty and warrantless surveillance in this morning’s post, but I want separately to highlight one critical fact. Citing various media reports, Jane Hamsher last night noted that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — in violation of all Senate customs and rules — apparently intends, in essence, simply to ignore the “hold” placed on the FISA bill by Chris Dodd and bring the bill to the floor for a vote (and certain passage).
I was somewhat skeptical of that interpretation. The one “principle” which all Senators share is the sacred holiness of their customs and institutional prerogatives. As Jane notes, Reid has never dishonored a “hold” before from his own caucus, and virtually never dishonors “holds” even when placed by the most far-right Republicans Senators. It seemed inconceivable that he would simply refuse to recognize a “hold” by one of the Senate’s most senior members on a bill of this importance, and the media accounts seemed vague on that score.
As a result, I emailed Reid’s office to ask if they actually intended to override and ignore Dodd’s “hold” and this is the patronizing (though crystal clear) dismissal I received back as a “response” from Reid’s spokesman, Jim Manley:
Reid will work with Dodd and other Senators to correct the deep flaws in the Protect America Act.
Clearly, Reid has nothing but contempt for Dodd’s principled stand, which was generated by (and in response to) the actions of tens of thousands of Americans concerned about our constitutional liberties and the rule of law. Reid is dismissively brushing that all to the side — as usual — to ensure the safe and smooth passage of a Draconian bill jointly demanded by the Bush administration, the telecom industry, and their lobbyists.
There is a reason that the Democratic Congress has been as accommodating to the Bush agenda, if not more so, than even the GOP Congress led by Bill Frist and Denny Hastert. It is because that is what their leadership, repeatedly, chooses to do. Dodd needs to demonstrate that yesterday was not a one-time event by demanding that his “hold” be honored, and the other Democratic candidates, as well as others in the Senate who claim to want to stop this bill, ought to do more than issue empty, right-worded statements and stand with Dodd to block this bill by any means available.
Why, Senator Reid, why? Why do you wish to provide telecom companies with RETROACTIVE IMMUNITY? Clearly because you wish to provide them immunity retroactively, it clearly implies there was some lawbreaking in the past by these companies, the kind of lawbreaking that will get these telecom companies into some serious trouble, and could even bring them down. Stand for your principles, man! Stop accepting their money! Don’t be like the Republicans! Shame on you, Mr. Harry Reid. You really are no better than the Republicans.
Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan and just like that, bombs went off close to her convoy killing many Pakistanis.
Two explosions ripped through this city late Thursday night, killing dozens of people, after Benazir Bhutto, the Pakistani opposition leader and twice prime minister, returned from exile to her home city.
Her celebratory welcome, with hundreds of thousands of people lining the streets and dancing atop vehicles, turned chaotic when the blasts went off near a truck carrying the former prime minister, who was returning after eight years in exile.
The Associated Press, reporting on the explosions, said Ms. Bhutto herself was unhurt, although at least 30 people were killed and 100 wounded.
An Associated Press photographer at the scene said he saw 50 to 60 dead or badly wounded people. He said some of the bodies were ripped apart.
After an initial small explosion, a huge blast came just feet from the front of the truck carrying Ms. Bhutto during a procession through Karachi. The blast shattered windows in her vehicle, The A.P. said.
Televised views of the scene showed bodies in the nighttime city streets, crowds running through traffic that is at a standstill and the noises of sirens and people screaming.
This is really not good.
It seems the number dead has climbed well past 100. The updated article has the death toll at 126 with over 250 injured.
Marty Lederman responds to Judge Mukasey who hedged when asked point blank if waterboarding was torture. Marty writes:
Just now, in response to repeated questions, he insisted that he did not know enough to say whether waterboarding, or any other technique, is torture, cruel treatment under Common Article 3, or otherwise unlawful. It’s really remarkable how far we have fallen when a jurist of Judge Mukasey’s caliber cannot answer such questions without hesitation.
Mukasey said this in response to questions from Senator Whitehouse:
MUKASEY: If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional. […]
WHITEHOUSE: If it’s torture. That’s a massive hedge. I mean, it either is or it isn’t. Do you have an opinion on whether waterboarding…is constitutional?
MUKASEY: If it amounts to torture, it is not constitutional.
WHITEHOUSE: I’m very disappointed in that answer. I think it is purely semantic.
MUKASEY: I’m sorry.
Indeed it is very disappointing. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves as a country.
What in the heck did George W. Bush mean when he warned that if Iran progresses further in their nuclear technology that there would be World War III? Let’s read the account first:
Q [Putin] said — well, at least the quote said that — and he also said, “He sees no evidence to suggest Iran wants to build a nuclear bomb.” Were you disappointed with that message? And does that indicate possibly that international pressure is not as great as you once thought against Iran abandoning its nuclear program?
THE PRESIDENT: I — as I said, I look forward to — if those are, in fact, his comments, I look forward to having him clarify those, because when I visited with him, he understands that it’s in the world’s interest to make sure that Iran does not have the capacity to make a nuclear weapon. And that’s why, on — in the first round at the U.N., he joined us, and second round, we joined together to send a message. I mean, if he wasn’t concerned about it, Bret, then why did we have such good progress at the United Nations in round one and round two?
And so I will visit with him about it. I have not yet been briefed yet by Condi or Bob Gates about, you know, their visit with Vladimir Putin.
Q But you definitively believe Iran wants to build a nuclear weapon?
THE PRESIDENT: I think so long — until they suspend and/or make it clear that they — that their statements aren’t real, yeah, I believe they want to have the capacity, the knowledge, in order to make a nuclear weapon. And I know it’s in the world’s interest to prevent them from doing so. I believe that the Iranian — if Iran had a nuclear weapon, it would be a dangerous threat to world peace.
But this — we got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel. So I’ve told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. I take the threat of Iran with a nuclear weapon very seriously. And we’ll continue to work with all nations about the seriousness of this threat.
Note the threat there. If we supposedly want to avoid World War III, we need to prevent Iran from having “the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.” It’s no longer even a matter of them having nuclear weapons, but they can’t even go on track to have them.
So let’s get into Bush’s insane and childish logic here. First of all, Iran is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which specifically allows countries to proceed with nuclear technology. (note importantly that India is NOT, yet Bush signed a massive deal with them to share our nuclear technology—but hey we were never fair in terms of following international law, so why start now, right?). The NPT specifically, and most importantly, legally allows a country like Iran to have a nuclear energy program. George W. Bush would have the United States of America violate the Non-Proliferation Treaty by taking away from Iran what is rightfully and legally theirs: access to nuclear energy. Now, if George W. Bush feels the NPT is not a good treaty, he can order the United States to relinquish its terms to the treaty (as he did with the ABM treaty so long ago). After all, we’re already violating the spirit of the NPT by signing the deal with India, who does NOT belong to the NPT and probably never will.
Secondly, why would George W. Bush think that if Iran would gain nuclear technology and knowledge it would lead to a WORLD war? When you talk about World Wars, you’re talking about something along the lines of what we saw in the 1910s and 1940s. Is George W. Bush saying that multiple countries will be involved in a prolonged conflict that will lead to the deaths of millions of people?
Think about this, if Iran merely has the knowledge of nuclear technology, they can’t USE that knowledge to start wars. Knowledge in and of itself is practically useless. It must be put into PRACTICE in order for it to become forceful. So how could the KNOWLEDGE of nuclear technology lead Iran to START a world war? It couldn’t. So who would be STARTING that next World War?
Just follow George W. Bush’s own logic, guys. He is basically telling you that HE AND THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA will be STARTING THE NEXT WORLD WAR. We will be the instigators of WORLD WAR THREE.